Monday, April 25, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Know and Live in God's Will


One of the most important ways to experience peace in your life is to live in God's will. But knowing what God's will is can be a stumbling block and is one of the most frequently asked questions.

          Today I'm referring you to a great message I heard given by Dr. David Jeremiah, a pastor in Southern California. To access the online message go to and then click on his April 12, 2016 message: "When God Leads (Pt 2)". When you know God's will, and you're living in it, your heart will be in true Shalom!

          After a full week of Chaplaincy Training (while battling bronchitis and a nasty sinus infection), I am enjoying some much-needed shalom and recreation with a friend in Nevada. I'll be back next week with a full message of peace for you!



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Monday, April 18, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Practice the Three R’s

            The ugly truth is that sometimes nations must go to war against evil oppressors—and win the battle—in order to experience genuine, long-lasting peace. The clue to exactly how the peace sometimes comes about is provided for us in today’s study. We’ll also discover one of the reasons behind our lack of peace. And we’ll learn how to practice the three R’s so critical to having, and maintaining Shalom.

            Today we’ll look specifically at the book of 1 Samuel 7:13-14, but we’ll need to go back to verses 1 thru 4 to get the backstory for the clues to achieving peace.

Unanswered Prayers and Lack of Peace
            The first thing we learn in this chapter is that Israel has had the ark of the LORD returned to them. The ark was so many things to the Israelites, most especially the identifying item reminding them that God was with them and dwelt in their midst.
            But even though the Israelites had their precious ark back, life wasn’t going so well for them. The text says that for twenty years, “the house of Israel lamented after the LORD.” They cried out to and for Him. They probably wept great buckets of frustrated tears. They may have beat their breasts in anguish and showy piety as they called out “Why, why, why!?”
            And that’s a very good question: Why? Twenty years is a long time. An entire generation. Wasn’t God listening to their forlorn pleas? Did He no longer care about them? Had He given up on them? What’s the problem here?
            We find the answer to their problem in verse 3:

            Then Samuel spoke to all the house of Israel, saying, “If you return to the LORD with 
            all your hearts, then put away the foreign gods and the Ashteroths from among you, 
            and prepare your hearts for the LORD, and serve Him only; and He will deliver you 
            from the hand of the Philistines.” (Ashteroth was considered by surrounding countries 
            to be the supreme goddess and was associated with love and war. Israel was now
            worshiping this pagan goddess.)

Being Honest About Ourselves
            So, there we see the heart of the problem: The people of Israel had turned their hearts away from God toward the world and were worshiping the world’s idols and gods. They were not satisfied to be a set-apart people; they wanted to look like the surrounding countries. They had compromised. While they cried out to God, their hearts were far from Him. And they were still expecting all of the blessings while rejecting the relationship. And God calls that “playing the harlot.”
            Ouch! Even though they had sworn to be in a committed relationship with Jehovah God, the people had really committed spiritual (and physical) adultery. How could they then expect any blessings or protection from God when they and their lives were drenched in compromising sin? That’s pretty presumptuous, isn’t it? Like a married woman who plays around and then comes home expecting all of the love, attention and blessings a faithful husband can give her, they were engaging in sins of both commission (doing what they shouldn’t be doing) and omission (not doing what they should be doing). They were not giving God what He rightly deserved, and they had gone looking for, and finding, other “lovers.”
            Samuel (Hannah’s boy who is now all grown up and judging the nation Israel) tells them what they need to do to turn this oppression around. They need to destroy those idols, physically and spiritually, place all of their faith in God and their energies into worshiping Him, and Him alone.
            In verse 4 we see that the Israelites do just that. “So the children of Israel put away the Baals (the male god) and the Ashteroths and served the LORD only.”

The Need to Repent
            In verses 5 and 6 we see Samuel and the Israelites gathering en masse (a congregation) to pour out water before the LORD—a sign of repentance—and confessing their sin aloud, saying, “We have sinned against the LORD.”
            So what does God do then? In a nutshell, the Israelites gathering together like that spooks the Philistines, who must think the Israelites have gathered in force to attack them. Alarmed, the Philistines assemble an army for battle. The Israelites get news of that Philistine assembly, and they, in turn, are frightened. They now have no choice but to go to battle against the Philistines. They beg Samuel to keep praying to God for them to be saved from the Philistines when they meet on the battlefield. (This is all pre-David and Goliath.) We read of the next chain of events—and about how God intervenes—in verses 9-13.
            And Samuel took a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering
            to the LORD. Then Samuel cried out to the LORD for Israel, and the LORD
            answered him. Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the
            Philistines drew near to battle against Israel. But the LORD thundered with
            a loud thunder upon the Philistines that day, and so confused them that they
            were overcome before Israel. And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and
            pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car. Then
            Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen, and called its
            name Ebenezer, saying, “Thus far the LORD has helped us.”

            So the Philistines were subdued, and they did not come anymore into the
            territory of Israel. And the hand of the LORD was against the Philistines all
            the days of Samuel.

            Wow! Is that not awesome? God blasted the Philistines with such a loud, thunderous noise that they were confused and overcome; and evidently the Israelites didn’t even have to throw a javelin! The vision is almost hilarious—brave, mighty warriors yelling unheard commands; warriors running helter-skelter in the field, trampling one another to escape.
            The Israelites run them down and chase them far away. The Philistines are subdued. Only then were the Israelites able to enjoy true Shalom—rest, prosperity, happiness. All because they
            1) recognized their sin,
            2) repented, and
            3) relied on God to redeem them.
            Recognize, repent and rely on God. Sounds like a perfect formula for all of us to follow, if we truly want to live in Shalom.

Questions to Ponder

1. Do you feel as though you’ve been unsuccessfully crying out to God for what seems like months, years, or decades to be relieved of some kind of oppression? (Remember: The Israelites were wailing for 20 years!) Does it feel as though your cries to Him have been futile?
Think about the specific things you’ve been crying out to God over. What prayers seem to continually go “unanswered”? (Keep in mind that sometimes “no” is the answer, and we don’t like “no” so we keep praying for a “yes”.)

2. While it is not always the case, often our oppression continues because of sin in
our life, either sins of omission (not doing something you should do) or commission (doing something you shouldn’t do). Their hearts had followed other gods. Their actions indicated they had placed their faith in these pagan gods. They had compromised their faith and relationship.

            Right now, ask God to search your heart and reveal to you the areas of your life you have compromised. You might want to go through the following checklist:

            a. Check your spiritual life and make an honest assessment of where you may
            have compromised. Have you watered down your theology and accepted beliefs
            and practices that are contrary to scripture? Have you stopped gathering together
            with believers who can be your “iron sharpeners” and accountability partners?      
            How is your prayer life? How would you rate your spiritual life in general, and
            how do you arrive at that rating? Does your checklist look more godly or worldly?                               
            How much time do you actually spend with God in prayer, in thought? How are   
            you serving Him? Or are you spending more time serving yourself and your           
            personal, “unauthorized” goals? How would you describe your relationship with    
            the Lord at this time in your life? How committed are you to Him? (What is an
            authorized goal? It is any goal that  God has not specifically placed in your heart. 
            It may be a good thing, but it is not something God has asked you to do or 
            expected you to do. And doing it may be bringing your heart and life great
            agony or frustration.)

            Most important, are there any areas in your life in which you may be 
            compromising that precious relationship and sinning against Him through sins of 
            commission or sins of omission? 

            b. Be honest with yourself and God and confess your sins to Him. When you do
            so, you can be assured that He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and
            cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

            And when you do finally confess, continue to pray and ask others to pray for you.      
            (You should always have an army of faithful prayer warriors, even a small army is 
            good—those on whom you can depend for intercessory prayer.) And look for God 
            to move mightily in your life, right your wrongs, ease your pained heart, cleanse 
            your spirit and heart, and move in such a way that may confuse and subdue your 

            Go forth recognizing, repenting, and relying so you may enjoy peace!

Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!

In Christ’s love and peace,


When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

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Monday, April 11, 2016

Do You Want Peace? Pray Earnestly and Be Prepared to Defend Yourself!

Has an event or person in your life succeeded in robbing you of your peace? Today’s study will show us how praying earnestly, and sometimes defending ourselves, can lead to peace, and blessing!

            This week, in our continual quest for peace, we will open the book of Samuel and begin right away in Chapter 1, verse 8. But let me give you a little backstory first to get a better understanding of our star players.
            We’re immediately introduced to a mountain dweller named Elkanah who has two wives, Hannah and Peninnah. Peninnah has born Elkanah children, but Hannah is barren—a deficit that tortures Hannah’s heart and marks her as a pitied woman.
            Every year Elkanah journeys north to the secluded city, Shiloh—which can be translated “the peaceful one”—to present his peace sacrifices to the Lord. (Not to be confused with the type of peace we’re studying, and which we’ll get to later.) This is an edible offering, and Elkanah doles out portions for his wives and children to present. But he plays favorites with Hannah by giving her double portions. Why does he do that? The text says he does it because “he loved Hannah” in spite of the fact that “the LORD had closed her womb.”

           Elkanah’s favoritism in all likelihood doesn’t play out well with Peninnah, (who wants to be the wife who isn’t loved, even though in that society she has more value because she’s fertile!?), and she makes Hannah’s life miserable by severely provoking her for her baby-bearing deficit. Peninnah taunts Hannah. (No happy “sister wives” saga in this polygamous household!) Year after year after year, the family packs up and goes to Shiloh, Elkanah doles out the offerings, plays favorites by giving Hannah a double portion, (which everyone witnesses), and Hannah endures ridicule from her husband’s other wife, a woman she has to live with on a daily basis. Ugh! 
            (As a footnote here, it is likely that Hannah was Elkanah’s first wife, and he married Peninnah for utility reasons when he discovered Hannah couldn’t bare children.)
            Well, all of this upsets Hannah so much that she weeps and refuses to eat. It must have been heartbreaking for her. Weeks before the trip, she must have felt stressed and physically ill at the anticipation of the unrelenting mean treatment she knew she’d receive.  The reminder—in that society—she wasn’t a fulfilled, or valued woman.
            And it’s at this point that we enter the action, at verse 8.

            “Then Elkanah her husband said to her, ‘Hannah, why do you weep? Why
            do you not eat? And why is your heart grieved? Am I not better to you than
            ten sons?’

            “So Hannah arose after they had finished eating, and drinking in Shiloh. Now
            Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the tabernacle of the
            LORD.  And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the LORD and wept in 
            anguish. Then she made a vow and said, ‘O LORD of hosts,  if You will indeed
            look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget
            Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give
            him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.’

            “And it happened, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli watched
            her mouth. Now Hannah spoke in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice
            was not heard. Therefore Eli thought she was drunk, so Eli said to her, ‘How
            long will you be drunk? Put your wine away from you!’

            “But Hannah answered and said, ‘No, my lord, I am a woman of sorrowful
            spirit. I have drunk neither wine nor intoxicating drink, but have poured out my
            soul before the LORD. Do not consider your maidservant a wicked woman, for
            out of the abundance of my complaint and grief I have spoken until now.’

            “Then Eli answered and said, ‘Go in Shalom, and the God of Israel grant your        
            petition which you have asked of Him.’

            “And she said, ‘Let your maidservant find favor in your sight.’ So the woman        
            went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”

            Before we meditate on this passage, let me just interject—because, as a woman, I just can’t help myself—that Elkanah’s response to Hannah is self-absorbed and clueless, and it didn’t do anything to help her or lighten her burden, but that’s a talking point for another post, or sermon!

Want Peace? Really Pour Out Your Heart to God
            Old Eli, the high priest and judge in Israel, 
is eyeballing Hannah, thinking she’s a drunk making                

a spectacle of herself in the temple. He’s so upset about            
it that he pads over and chastises her. (Note that he’s 
pretty quick to judge before finding out all of the 
facts!) But Hannah graciously, patiently, and articulately 
defends herself and denies his charges against her.

            Eli listens to her pour out her heart and speaks 
a gentle word of peace to her: “Go in Shalom, and the 
God of Israel grant your petition, which you have asked 
of Him.” Eli prays for her and blesses her with a priestly 

What’s the Message Here?

            What can we learn from this? First, God saw and heard Hannah's troubled soul. Her anguished thoughts and heart pleas were as good as spoken words to Him. It was a sincere, earnest, secret prayer mouthed in a public place, and Hannah was not ashamed to be seen demonstrating her anguish. She did not let pious pride deter her from pouring out her desires and frustrations to the One who could do something about them.
            Hannah is first chastised by her husband. Evidently he’s frustrated by her sad countenance, and her refusal to eat and enjoy the peace offering, and the fighting going on in his household, especially during the times when they’re making peace offerings to the LORD and are supposed to be happy and thankful!
            Then she makes a vow to the LORD to give her child in service to Him, if he’s a male. She specifically prays for the baby to be a boy and promises to give him up to the LORD’s service forever, if He’ll but grant this request for her. (The “no razor coming upon the head” part denotes that he will be forever marked as a man of God, totally given over to the LORD, like John the Baptist.)
            While she’s praying this prayer, Eli the priest watches her, misinterprets her behavior (I’m sure none of the rest of us have ever done that!), and pads over to chew her out for what he is sure is sinful behavior needing correction. But when she defends herself (kudos to Eli for listening and humbling himself about his mistake), Eli changes his heart about her and blesses her.
            Hannah’s reaction is significant. Her outpouring in prayer seems to have cleansed her soul. Eli’s words of blessing seem to have quieted and uplifted her heart. Refreshed, relieved and contended, she leaves her petition at the throne of grace, confident that it is in good hands. She seems satisfied that the God of the Universe will do what is right and just.
            The happy ending is that Hannah does conceive a boy, whom she dedicates to the Lord. He, Samuel, grows up to be the priest and mighty prophet in Israel during the time of Saul and King David. And Hannah goes on to have five more babies, three sons and two daughters, after receiving another word of blessing from Eli for her sacrificial gift of giving her firstborn son to the Lord’s service.
             For years, though, Hannah’s heart lacked Shalom until she prayed fervently, turned her petition over to the LORD, and received a word of blessing from a man of God. (And, she made a promise to God that she kept!)

Questions to Ponder

1. Have you ever been so distressed about something that you couldn’t eat and couldn’t contain your tears? Has someone close to you worsened your emotional and spiritual agony by her taunts about it? Has this problem or burden wiped out your peace?

If you find yourself in that situation, employ Hannah’s example. Take your agony to the Lord in prayer. Cry buckets of tears at his feet and speak with your heart. Mouth your words if you can’t speak them aloud. Do not be ashamed of your suffering. If you feel compelled to do so, pour out your heart to God right now. And when you’ve done it, trust the God of the Universe to manage the problem in the best way possible.

2. And don’t be afraid of doing that in a public place, maybe before your congregation, before the church elders. While it is not always the case, perhaps you need to “share” your burden with them so they can see your agony, and understand it. So they can say a prayer for you and a blessing over you. So you can depart in peace.

Is there a situation in your life that needs sharing? Do you have someone with whom you can share it, someone who will listen and pray with you? Find someone. Their worth is as precious as gold! They can help you restore your peace.

3. But when you pray in agony in public, do not be surprised if your behavior or intentions are misunderstood. And be prepared to give a patient, gracious word of self-defense. As Matthew Henry says in his commentary on this passage:
           “When we are unjustly censured we should endeavor, not only to clear ourselves, 
           but to satisfy our brethren, by giving them a just and true account of that which 
           they misapprehended.”

Sometimes it is, indeed, helpful and warranted to speak a word of self-defense. But we must be gracious in our speech when we do so. Henry goes on to say:
            “By our meek and humble carriage towards those that reproach us because they 
            do not know us, we may perhaps make them our friends, and turn their censures 
            of us into prayers for us.”

Have patience with those who don’t know or understand you. Help them to understand you. Turn their naysaying into a blessing for you, and enlist them as prayer warrior partners. Your gentle word may turn away their wrath.

Is there someone who has misunderstood you that you need to explain yourself to? Do that as soon, and as graciously as possible. And pray that God goes ahead of you to prepare their heart for listening and understanding!

Doing all of these things has the potential to help restore your peace of heart and peace of mind, and add mighty blessings to your life! Hannah ended up being blessed six times over!

And by the way, the name Hannah means “grace.” How appropriate it is that a woman named “Grace” would end up receiving so much of it after suffering for so long…

But now I will ask the tough question: Is there someone in your life for whom you have been a peace-stealer because of your insensitivity toward his plight or because of your chastising words directed at him? Even snide little comments and digs that indicate your displeasure toward them? Ask the Lord to reveal them to you and go to that person to ask forgiveness. Ask them to share their heart and pray for them. Give them a gentle, patient word of blessing. And set a guard over your lips.

Until next Monday, may your week be full of blessings that you receive and give, your heart be full of joy and thankfulness, and your days be filled with laughter! Build a little heaven in your life right now, and watch your heavenly garden grow!

In Christ’s love and peace,


When the eyes of the soul looking out meet the eyes of God looking in, heaven has begun right here on earth. ~ A. W. Tozer

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