Sunday, December 9, 2012

Greetings Friends,

The Bible is a spiritual book.  It is a living book. It is quick and powerful and sharper than any two-edged sword.  And too often people read and study the Bible simply for its content.  They gain knowledge of the scriptures, but they often fail to enter into the spiritual life of the message.

They fail to enter into personal intimacy and worship of our God and Savior.  Did you know that the word Hallelujah in any language means "Praise the LORD!"  Did you know that the Father is actively seeking those who will worship HIM in Spirit and in truth.  When was the last time you used the word Hallelujah or Praise the Lord?  Worship is a key element in personal growth, as well as, the corporate growth of a church.  If we fail to worship God in Spirit and in truth, we become easy prey for the enticements of the world and these enticements steal our hearts and affections from the LORD.  The enemy comes in like a flood and we are defeated. Families are defeated as children depart from the faith.  Churches are defeated as church members loose their convictions concerning faithfulness to the LORD.  And beloved, when families are defeated and churches are defeated, the community begins to crumble from within.

In 1 Samuel 7, Israel is in a dire situation.  The Philistines have taken away the ark of the covenant which was the symbol of God‘s presence.  The ark was the focus of their worship and power. The glory of God had left Israel and the Philistines are oppressing them continually defeating them and taking away their possessions.  The community has crumbled.

1 Sam 7:3-12  3 And Samuel spake unto all the house of Israel, saying, If ye do return unto the LORD with all your hearts, then put away the strange gods and Ashtaroth from among you, and prepare your hearts unto the LORD, and serve him only: and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines. 4 Then the children of Israel did put away Baalim and Ashtaroth, and served the LORD only. 5 And Samuel said, Gather all Israel to Mizpeh, and I will pray for you unto the LORD. 6 And they gathered together to Mizpeh, and drew water, and poured it out before the LORD, and fasted on that day, and said there, We have sinned against the LORD. And Samuel judged the children of Israel in Mizpeh. 7 And when the Philistines heard that the children of Israel were gathered together to Mizpeh, the lords of the Philistines went up against Israel. And when the children of Israel heard it, they were afraid of the Philistines. 8 And the children of Israel said to Samuel, Cease not to cry unto the LORD our God for us, that he will save us out of the hand of the Philistines. 9 And Samuel took a sucking lamb, and offered it for a burnt offering wholly unto the LORD: and Samuel cried unto the LORD for Israel; and the LORD heard him. 10 And as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel: but the LORD thundered with a great thunder on that day upon the Philistines, and discomfited them; and they were smitten before Israel. 11 And the men of Israel went out of Mizpeh, and pursued the Philistines, and smote them, until they came under Bethcar. 12 Then Samuel took a stone, and set it between Mizpeh and Shen, and called the name of it Ebenezer, saying, Hitherto hath the LORD helped us. (KJV)

Israel was still going through the motions of worship.  They still practiced the rites and rituals that were laid down in scripture, but they were also worshipping strange gods; Baal and Ashtaroth.  Baal and Ashtaroth were the King and Queen gods of the Philistines and they promoted the doctrine of plenty. Israel was more concerned with the gods of plenty than they were with the God of power.  They had been in this powerless position for almost 20 years.

Saved - Oh yes, these are the children of the Lord. Going to church - Oh yes, they are faithful in their sacrifices and offerings.  But are they worshipping the true and living God.  NO!  They are going through the motions of their religion, but in the reality they long for the gods of plenty.  But things are about to change as the Prophet Samuel leads them to repentance.  And while they are in the very midst of this service of repentance, the enemy again comes upon them.

The enemy is coming to take away their possessions. The enemy is coming to take away their wives and children and to make them slaves. They are coming to take away their city and to bring great havoc in their lives.  But on this occasion, God intervenes.  And it is the Philistines who go down into defeat. And Samuel places a great stone in that place as a reminder to all generations that the LORD hath helped them. This is the record of an actual historical event that occurred in the life of the nation of Israel.  But beloved, it is more than that.  It is an illustration of our own need and the biblical solution for that need.

If we are to truly repent, and turn from the false gods that steal our affections from the true and living God, we must go to those stones of remembrance that mark our spiritual heritage. Times when the HOLY ONE of Israel visited our lives.  Have you ever stopped to rejoice in the fact that God chose to give you life?  Mankind is so blessed to be the very crown of God's creation.  There are times when I view the birds soaring through the sky, but I am certainly glad that God did not make me a bird. I was fishing one time at Yosemite National Park and the mountain streams were clear as crystal.  You could see brilliantly colored stones 30 feet down. And as a boy, I almost envied those fish having the privilege to swim so freely in all of that beauty. But beloved, I thank God, that he didn't make me a fish.

I know I may be exaggerating the point a little bit, but can you imagine those rocks that lined the road to Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.

Luke 19:38-40 38 Saying, Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven, and glory in the highest. 39 And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples. 40 And he answered and said unto them, I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out. (KJV)

I believe those stones were probably ready to explode in praise to our God. "Come on Jesus, Give us a chance to praise you.  We'll show these Pharisees what real praise and worship is all about.

Beloved, thank God that we are alive today. Thank God that we have been made in the image and likeness of God and that one day we shall bask in the sunlight of his glory.  Oh Friend, do you remember when the Spirit of God first began to deal with your heart about your need of Christ?  Do you remember the wooing of the Spirit upon your soul and the convicting power of the Spirit.  Oh, was there not a continual knocking at your hearts door until you said yes to the Savior.

How tragic it is to be outside the covenant of grace to be lost and without Christ.  Do you remember those days before you put your faith and trust in the Savior.  But now in Christ, the joy of the LORD that floods your soul as the light of truth pierces the darkness and we realize that Christ is mine and I am HIS!  Stones of remembrance that we must not forget.  The touch of God upon our lives that gives to us hope and strength and courage to face each day.

And are there not other meetings with God?  Are there not other times when the Spirit of God settles down upon our hearts to draw us close to our God and Savior?  Beloved friends should we not say Hallelujah to the Lamb and Praise the LORD for HIS coming to our hearts!

Let us reclaim our worship and our love for Christ as we give ourselves a fresh and a new to HIM in surrender this day.

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