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September 2006
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Closer Than A Brother

And Jonathan Saul's son arose, and went to David in the wood, and strengthened his hand in God.

And he said unto him, Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father shall not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel, and I shall be next unto thee; and that also Saul my father knoweth.

1 Samuel 23:16-17

Once again I find myself drawn to a couple of things - the words we say and the friendships we have.   As I read the above passage, God kept pointing me back to 1 Samuel 23:16 where it tells of how Jonathan strengthened David's hand "in God."  Do you have a friend that will come along beside you when things aren't going so well, take your hand and put it in the "hand" of Jesus?  Are you that kind of friend to someone else?

David needed his friend.  He was running literally for his life from a man whom he'd loyally served in his courts and in battle.  David had done nothing wrong to deserve Saul's wrath except have a heart to do what God told him to do.  Could David help it that God chose him to succeed Saul on the throne rather than Saul's son, Jonathan?  Was it David's fault that Saul repeatedly chose to disobey God by taking matters into his own hands and thus prematurely cost himself the kingdom?  I think not.  Saul was merely jealous of David and to top it all off, Saul's son Jonathan was David's best friend.   Go figure.

Yes, David needed his friend, and despite the potential wrath that Jonathan faced from his father for meeting David, Jonathan came.  More than once he came.  In previous passages we've seen Jonathan  weep with his friend.  In this though, we see Jonathan encouraging David in his faith.  He strengthened David's hand in the Lord.   Remember, that David was no spiritual baby.  Everyone needs to be "picked up" from time to time.  I wonder if David was crying in fear of his life when Jonathan said "Fear not: for the hand of Saul my father will not find thee; and thou shalt be king over Israel.." (1 Sam 23:17).   I can imagine, upon hearing these words of encouragement combined with the promises of God, David slowly gathering his composure as the tears stopped and his strength returned.  The comfort of a good friend is priceless, isn't it? 

I admire the loyalty of Jonathan.  I admire the availability of Jonathan.  Jonathan was a true friend.  After all, he didn't care that David would take Jonathan's place on the throne as king someday.  He didn't care that his father probably preferred he not be friends with Jonathan.  He was simply following his heart and possibly God's direction in being a support and a friend to a future king.  We all need friends like these.   Are you this kind of friend to someone?  I'm sure there is someone out there that needs you too.


Words

The words of our mouths are an interesting thing.  They can build up or tear down another person in a matter of seconds.  Seconds!  I'm sure we've all had times where we wish we could take something back that we have said.  I wrote in my last post that we should all not hesitate to exhort one another to press on in God's service.  However, we do need to be careful to speak the truth love and not judgment. 

Today, though, I'm reflecting on our ordinary conversation.  The times we spend with others whether we are in a group or one-on-one.  Have you stopped to think about the tone of your words or the attitude behind them lately?  The bible says to

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.  (Ephesians 4:29)

Now think about where you were yesterday.  Can you picture some conversations?  Were your words edifying or were they negative words?  Are you naturally an optimist or a pessimist?  Do the words you say leave people uplifted from being around you or do they leave deflated?  This is a hard self-examination, but I think a necessary one.  I was in a situation the other day where I felt like I was just brought down by one of the people I was around.  I asked myself, "Do I say things like that?" 

So how do we change if we find ourselves one of the lesser edifying people around?  God can change us if we spend time with Him daily in His word and in prayer asking for help.

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. (Colossians 3:16)

No, I'm not saying that we just need to be the star of a musical or opera and go around singing our conversation all of the time so that it will be more pleasant to the ears.  :)  Remember, some of us can't sing and plus, it would look a little weird!  But by spending daily time in the word of God, our bibles, and thinking about what we have learned throughout our day, we can have a song in our hearts and our words will no doubt come out sweeter.  My challenge for you today - and I'm going to do it too - is to really pay attention to not only the words of your mouth but the thoughts of your mind.  Try to find out what you really "sound" like to others. 


Dear Heavenly Father,

I pray right now that You will guide my mind today and help me to really examine the words I speak and the thoughts that I think.  Show me where I need to improve and show me also where I've hit the mark how You would like.  Thank You for giving me through Your Holy Spirit the power to change so that I'm not alone in my quest to be the person You would have me to be.  In Jesus name, Amen.


Today

Today is the day.  For what you may ask?  You name it.  A new chance, a change...a charge to move forward.  What have you been put off doing that you need to start doing?  What attitudes need to change in your life for improvements to be had?  Today.

The bible says in Hebrews 3:12-13

Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called "Today," lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin."

We all need a good swift kick in the pants from time to time to get moving or snap out of a funk from time to time don't we?  But have you ever thought what would happen if someone, even the Words in your bible, never strongly encouraged you to move on?  Personally, I believe that no matter how self-motivated we are (speaking to those type A's, of which I am one), we still all need a little "help" from our friends.

Those in Ezra's day needed help as well.  I wonder had the prophets Haggai and Zechariah not exhorted their people to start rebuilding the Jewish temple if they would ever had turned back to God.  They were getting pretty complacent and comfortable in their lives after all. (See Haggai 1-previous post).  But after the prophets spoke, they got to work.  In 24 days.   It also probably helped that along with the exhortation by the prophets, they did get some softer encouragement as well.  Haggai also spoke the words of God to the people "I am with you, says the LORD." (Ha 1:13). It never hurts to know that our good God will be right beside us on our way as we seek to please Him, now does it?

So today, I'm going to leave you with some questions to think about.  May they exhort you to move on to bigger and better things for God's glory in your life.  May they also bring about healing in whatever area you need it most.

To consider:

1) Is there a problem or concern in my life that I'm holding on to because I haven't given it over to God completely to change?

2) Is there a ministry opportunity that I'm not seeing because I'm so focused on myself that I'm not looking up to see God's hand?

3) When was the last time I encouraged someone with the truth of God's word?

Dear Lord,  exhort me today, while it is still today, that I may remain totally focused on who you are and the things you want me to do in my life.  Help me to order my priorities as You would see fit.  Show me when to exhort and and encourage my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ so that none of us will have hardened hearts.  May the words I speak be Your words and the thoughts I think also be Yours.  Amen.


Tribute to Friends

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking unto Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  (1 Samuel 18:1)

Upon reading this and the following few chapters in 1 Samuel, God kept bringing to my mind the friendship of Jonathan and David.  It was indeed a marvelous friendship, and I do believe that they were definitely soulmates.  So today, rather than give my own thoughts about friendship, I'm going to present some quotes out of John Maxwell's "The Treasure of Being a Friend", given to me by one of my soulmate friends a few years ago.  I hope you are blessed by them and that you are reminded to thank God for the blessings of true friendship God has put into your life.

A Friendship Prayer (from p. 78)

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the special gift, one that cannot be bought for any amount of money.
Thank you for a gift wrapped in beauty, that is wonderful in all seasons and times.
Thank you for a gift that is always near in times of need and brings great joy.
Thank you for the gift that sparkles with freshness every day.
Thank you for my friend.
May I never take this gift for granted.
Amen.

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My friends have made the story of my life.  In a thousand ways they have turned my limitations into beautiful privileges, and enabled me to walk serene and happy in the shadow cast by my deprivation. - Helen Keller.

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The happiest business in all the world is that of making friends;

and no investment on the street pays larger dividends,

for life is more than stocks and bonds,

and love than rate percent,

and he who gives in friendship's name shall reap what he has spent.

-  Anne S. Eaton

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Dear Lord, I thank you today for the gift of Your friendship to me; for the way you speak to me through your Word, for the way you listen to me when I cry out to You.  You are a true friend.  Thank you for the gift of friendship and for those you have put into my life, old and new, to bring joy into my heart.  May I never take Your precious gifts for granted. Amen.


A Sling, A Stone and A Slap

45 Then David said to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield: but I come to thee in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. 46 This day will the LORD deliver thee into mine hand...that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. 47 And all this assembly shall know that the LORD saveth not with sword and spear: for the battle is the LORD's, and he will give you into our hands. (1 Samuel 17:45-47)

A sling, a stone and a slap from God was all it took for David the shepherd boy to slay the 9 foot tall Goliath.  Incredible isn't it?  Not so incredible though when we consider that the hand of God was involved in this feat.  I love this story (1 Samuel 17) about how God can take an ordinary person with a heart to serve Him and accomplish the extraordinary.  Have you given thought as to the extraordinary thing that God wants you to be a part of?  Maybe you just haven't stumbled upon it yet.

I don't think that David planned on killing a giant that day.  He was just obeying his father by taking food to his brothers when David heard the taunting words of Goliath the Philistine.  I believe that David was a little bit irked upon hearing Goliath's trash talk.  David was upset that Goliath was bad mouthing God's armies.

...for who is this uncircumcised Philistine, that he should defy the armies of the living God? (1 Sam 17:26)

I believe that David was prompted by his love for God to fight the giant.   However, I also believe that David's biggest opposition in the battle was not Goliath, but the people who were supposedly on his "team".  How sad but true that this is often the case when we seek out to do something for God.  Have you had this happen to you?  If this happens, we can "fight" back, knowing that God is on our side, when we are truly attempting to fulfill God's will in our lives.  Let's look at some principles from this chapter:

1) Our motives might be questioned.  David's motive's were questioned by his own family. (1 Sam 17:28) but we saw that David's motives were pure in that he was just obeying his father by coming to the battle.  If we know that our motives are pure, we don't really have to have the approval of anyone else but God.  God knows our hearts.

2) Our qualifications might be questioned.  David was a nobody - a shepherd boy.  However he was a somebody in God's eyes.  Saul was doubtful that David could accomplish the task (1 Sam 17:33) and made sure that David knew of his doubt.  However, David was quick to draw on his past successes (slaying a lion and a bear - v 35-35) so that his confidence was not brought down by Saul's disbelief.

3) Our methods might be questioned.  David didn't want to fight the giant with traditional armor that he had never used before.  Saul obviously thought that David was ill-equipped with the sling and stone so he gave David his own armor to use.  (v 38-39) What Saul didn't understand - and he'd been struggling with this for awhile - was that God's power was sufficient to get the job done.  David understood fully that the source of his strength was God and was willing to give God all of the credit for his success.

We all know the end of the story, don't we?  David won and Goliath lost his head...literally.  If God is on our side, no one can prevail against us.  Our negative thoughts cannot win.  Others negative thoughts cannot win.  God can and will overcome because after all, He can best prove He is God when we give over complete control to Him.  What is the "Goliath" in your life?  Is it a new ministry opportunity?  A new job opportunity?  A challenge at home?  Remember Who you are to please, remember your past  victories, and remember that God is your chief resource. 


The One Shoe Question

Sometimes in life we just have to think really deeply about what takes place in the world around us.  A friend and I had one of those moments as we were coming home from the Kansas City Chiefs football game yesterday and it was a moment I just have to share.  I think that most of you, dear readers, can relate to this, but most of all, I'm hoping that someone can provide the answer to a couple of burning questions:

  1. When you see one shoe lying in the middle or on the side of the road how did it get there?
  2. Regarding the one shoe mentioned in #1, where is the other shoe?

Does anyone else ever wonder these things?  Does anyone have the answers?  I welcome your comments!!  :)


Obedience Better than Sacrifice

And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD?  Behold, to obey is better than sacrifce, and to hearken than the fat of rams.  1 Samuel 15:22

Saul just couldn't get it right, could he?  I wonder why he had such trouble hearing everything God said to him.  In 1 Samuel 15, we see the last straw for God regarding Saul and his kingdom reign.  Saul had been told to destroy the Amalekites entirely, including women, children, and all livestock.  However, Saul chose to partially obey, which is actually disobedience, and take the spoil of the land (1 Sam 15:9).  What intrigues me about the whole story is that when Saul was asked by Samuel why he didn't obey God, he said that he did but that the people didn't.

And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the LORD, and have gone the way which the LORD sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the LORD thy God in Gilgal. (1 Samuel 15:20-21)

Notice something with me here.  First of all, Saul was the leader, the King, yet blamed his disobedience upon his people.  Another thing that interested me was that in the last sentence of the verse above, Saul used the phrase "the LORD thy God".  Was not God his God too and not just Samuel's?  Does this reflect the innermost thoughts of Saul's heart?  Was God really Saul's god? 

God wants our obedience to Him more than any sacrifice we can give him to make up for our impure actions.  Samuel knew this as he spoke to Saul.  Saul did not seek the mind of God completely as he kept trying to insert his own strength and ideas into God's work.  I think that Saul was really worshipping himself.    He tried to lie to God, but God saw through it and soon thereafter rejected him from being king of Israel (1 Sam 15:26).  This story is sad to me that such talent was wasted by an impure heart. 

The important thing to remember here is that God doesn't want our perfection, He just wants us to obey Him wholeheartedly.    Yes, obedience is harder than our sacrifices - our good works for God - but it is what God wants, so it is this that we must give Him first. 

Questions for reflection:

1) What areas in my life am I partially obeying God?

2) Am I trying to appease God for my disobedience by doing more good things for Him?

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Janna Rust is a Life Coach and Speaker dedicated to encouraging others towards lives God intends for them.  For more information, visit her at www.purposefulpartnerships.com.


A God Without Limits

Are you feeling overwhelmed by a situation in your life?  We all are in that "boat" from time to time.  I can guarantee you that you would be if you were a newly annointed king whose armies had dwindled down to 600, had no weapons except for those you and your son had, and were surrounded an all sides by your enemies.  Now that would seem to be quite the helpless situation!  Saul found himself there as we are told in 1 Samuel 13:14.  Lucky for him, he had a son who had great faith in our God.

Jonathan, Saul's son, took it upon himself to try and rectify the situation.  Listening in on his conversation with his armor bearer, we hear the following:

Then Jonathan said to the young man who bore his armor, "Come, let us go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; it may be that the LORD will work for us.  For nothing restrains the LORD from saving by many or by few. (1 Samuel 14:6)

My first thought is that Jonathan is a little off his rocker for going out to take on the Philistines on his own.  However, note the faith that he has in God.  Jonathan knows that God can work wonders and is willing to step leap out of his comfort zone in order that a mighty miracle might take place.  Wow.   I wonder how history would have changed had this young man not taken that leap. 

The events that followed were indeed a miracle.  God allowed Jonathan and his armorbearer to slay 20 men because of their faith and trust in Him.  Jonathan even gave credit where credit was due - to God - when he acknowledged that the "LORD has delivered them into the hand of Israel" (1 Samuel 14:12).  God must have messed with the Philistines' minds big time, as they eventually turned on each other and killed each other off because of their confusion as to who they were fighting.

So the LORD saved Israel that day, and the battle shifted to Beth Aven. (1 Samuel 14:23)

There are so many miracles in the bible regarding how God delivers His people, that I can't even begin to name them all.  God took one man whose heart was pure and saved a nation.  Are you in a "day" where you need saving?  God can save you.  What initiatives are you putting off in your life because you are afraid?  God can help you overcome your fears.  Remember that there is nothing that God cannot take care of.  When things seem helpless to us, that is where the biggest miracles in our lives can occur.


How Can I Keep From Singing II

Hello everyone, I was going to post again from I Samuel, but saw a post I couldn't resist over at BooMama's.  She has posted a video of Chris Tomlin singing a new version of an old hymn "How Can I Keep From Singing".  This is probably my favorite praise song of late, and I posted my thoughts about the song here.  So please read my previous post again to put some scripture in your heart about the song, stop by and visit BooMama's video post and have a blessed day thanking God for who He is. 

Thank You, Lord, for keeping us singing!


Equipped By God

Have you ever been thrust into a position of leadership and wondered how on earth you were going to accomplish the task in front of you?  I know I have.  I bet that most people have in one form or another.  Remember that we all lead someone - whether it be in our homes, our jobs, our schools or our churches.  In 1 Samuel 10, Saul found himself in a position of leadership that he did not ask for.   As I mentioned yesterday, Saul had just been walking along minding his own business when he got approached by Samuel who told him the news that he would soon become king.

I wonder what I would do if I was told one day out of the blue that I was "chosen" to be in charge of the metropolitan area in which I live?  That would be a wee bit scary!  I would hope there would be some kind of training to guide me on my way.  With respect to Saul, God provided everything necessary for him to succeed.  Other than being tall and good looking, I'm not sure what other leadership skills that Saul possessed, but I do know that God took care of the rest, as He will also do for us.  Let's take a look at what God gave Saul.

1) A Foundation in God's Word. - Before Samuel anointed Saul, he told Saul that he wanted to show Him the word of God.

And as they were going down to the end of the city, Samuel said to Saul, Bid the servant pass on before us, ( and he passed on,) but stand thou still a while, that I may shew thee the word of God.  (1 Samuel 9:27)

I wonder how long Samuel and Saul talked about the word of God.  The principles in God's word are essential to effective leadership and productive lives.  (2 Tim 3:16)

2) A Change of Heart. - Samuel told Saul that he would be turned into another man by the Spirit of the Lord.  I wonder what exactly that meant in Saul's case.  Perhaps God gave him courage and compassion along with the wisdom and wherewithal to get the "job" done.  Remember, we are all turned into "another man" when we become Christians!  (2 Cor 5:17). 

And the Spirit of the Lord will come upon thee, and thou shalt prophesy with them, and shalt be turned into another man. (1 Samuel 10:6- Samuel's words to Saul)

And it was so, that when he had turned his back to go from Samuel, God gave him another heart: and all those signs came to pass that day. (1 Samuel 10:9)

(NOTE: This also reminds me of the New Testament Saul (aka Paul, as the "new man") in Acts 9:17)

3) A Leadership "Team" - It is definitely more fun and more productive to be in leadership if you have a good team of people around you.  We can get more done if we have the support structure of a team.  God provided the same for Saul.  What a great God we serve, huh?  God thinks of everything.  He touched the hearts of some local men to help Saul in his new "job".

And Saul also went home to Gibeah; and there went with him a band of men, whose hearts God had touched. (1 Samuel 10:26)

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Can you see how much God provides for us when we accept His plans for us?  I don't know who said this, but a quote I've heard before always sticks in my mind about these principles:

God doesn't always call the equipped but He always equips the called.

Is God calling you to service in a way that you feel unequipped?  God can equip you.  Are you afraid that you will be "going it alone"?  God will provide you with helpers too.  Most importantly, we need to keep praying and  waiting on God's timing before we set out on our own.  When God is ready for us, He will make us ready for Him.