1 Samuel 9-10; Acts 8

A Tale of Two Sauls!

Today’s reading gives us glimpses into the lives of two Sauls. The first king of Israel was Saul from the tribe of Benjamin. The second Saul was a pharisee of pharisees. And as a result of the second Saul’s efforts the church was persecuted and scattered. Saul approved of the stoning of Stephen and the resulting actions were Saul’s dragging Christians from their homes and putting them in prison. And yet wonderful things happened as a result…

First, Philip ended up in Samaria and there was doing a great work with many people coming to Jesus. Second, Philip was spirited away to the desert where he met the Ethiopian Eunuch. He was reading from the prophet Isaiah. And through a conversation he was led to a saving knowledge of Jesus and baptized along the way. Church historians believe this eunuch took Christianity to Ethiopia and this began the church in the country that lasts till today. An act that has changed the lives of millions.

Although not in the readings in 1 Samuel this morning, but the first Saul starts out humble and pliable, but ends up a HUGE disappointment to God. Later in Acts, the second Saul becomes a Christ follower and changes the then known world for Jesus.

Whatever we do in the kingdom there will always be ripple affects. That was true even in evil intent. Many came to Jesus and were saved and are being saved today.

How bout you? What ripples are you making in the kingdom of God today? Even the smallest pebble thrown in a pond makes ripples. What will be your legacy? Hopefully for all of us it will be ripples that move through time bringing many to the Savior.

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1 Samuel 6-8; Acts 7

A great responsibility comes with choice. And I wonder how many people consider the cumulative or immediate consequences of a choice–from decisions over meals, activity, deadlines, to the influence of entertainment, relationships, culture.

Today, I read of Samuel plainly speaking, warning of the results of a choice:

10 So Samuel passed on the Lord’s warning to the people who were asking him for a king. 11 “This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. 12 Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. 13 The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. 14 He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. 15 He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. 16 He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. 17 He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. 18 When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the Lord will not help you.”

19 But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20 “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”

21 So Samuel repeated to the Lord what the people had said, 22 and the Lord replied, “Do as they say, and give them a king.” Then Samuel agreed and sent the people home. (1 Samuel 8:10-22, NLT, emphasis added)

Even though Samuel warned what it meant to have a king rule over them, the people wanted to be like everyone else; and they wanted one man to judge them and lead them. Those were the defining arguing points they made, over everything else they’d perhaps forfeit. And God said to let them have it.

I think long on freedom and choice, grateful and reverent of it.

As I read through Stephen’s recounting of history, two things stand out: man’s choice and God’s presence. Stephen reminds of God’s leading and man’s response, sometimes obedient and sometimes not.

51 “You stubborn people! You are heathen at heart and deaf to the truth. Must you forever resist the Holy Spirit? That’s what your ancestors did, and so do you! 52 Name one prophet your ancestors didn’t persecute! They even killed the ones who predicted the coming of the Righteous One—the Messiah whom you betrayed and murdered. 53 You deliberately disobeyed God’s law, even though you received it from the hands of angels.”

54 The Jewish leaders were infuriated by Stephen’s accusation, and they shook their fists at him in rage

57 Then they put their hands over their ears and began shouting. They rushed at him 58 and dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. His accusers took off their coats and laid them at the feet of a young man named Saul. (Acts 7:51-54, 57-58, NLT, emphasis added)

I wonder, Lord, does choice always come down to choosing or rejecting you? From what I eat for lunch, what I listen to, how I handle conflict, what I say between friends–where do I put you in all of this, even these seeming inconsequential things? And what of mercy, compassion, forgiveness?

Father God, thank you for choice and freedom. These are perhaps the most powerful permissions you have given mankind. Help me to be aware of my heart in the choices I make. I want to choose you. I want to follow you. Stephen’s last words were for mercy for his attackers. Lord, help me to keep your kingdom as my focus.

Courtney (66books365)

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1 Samuel 3-5; Psalm 23; Acts 6

1 Samuel 3-5 There is so much to learn from these three chapters which time will not permit us to cover them all. Here we see the beginning of Samuel ministry and how he learns under Eli’s mentorship. God calls out to Samuel and reveals certain plans about the future and how judgement is going to fall on Eli and his family. “For I told him that I would judge his family forever because of the sin he knew about; HIS SONS BLASPHEMED GOD, and HE FAILED TO RESTRAIN THEM.-1 Samuel 3:13 (NIV) In bold is the reason judgement was coming on Eli and His children. The lesson to learn here is God expects us to bring up your children in the ways of the Lord and this may require sharp rebuke in love when they do wrong.

The LORD was WITH SAMUEL as he grew up, and he let NONE of SAMUEL’S WORDS FALL TO THE GROUND.- 1 Samuel 3:19 NIV -.I learn here that when God is with you, He will honour your word because He knows you are in sync and in tune with Him like Samuel was here

The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he REVEALED HIMSELF to Samuel THROUGH HIS WORD.-1 Samuel 3:21 NIV – here I learn once again that when we read God’s word regularly He reveals His true nature to us..we begin to learn from His word His mindset and how He acts and thinks

Psalm 23 The Lord is my shepherd therefore I shall not want for direction neither shall I lack nothing because He will show and reveal to me His abundance as He leads me besides the quiet waters which symbolizes peace

He has promised in Psalms 23:4 that in the darkest Valley He will be there with me so I need not be afraid

In Psalm 23:5 God will display His divine abundance in my life even when the devil and his cohorts are onlookers and in verse 6 I have assurance that God’s goodness and love will be consistently evident in all areas of my life as I dwell in His house forever

Acts6 In this book I learn how important ministry to people’s physical needs back then was so important as part of the work of the church like it is today with Foodbanks spread all over the world today in my church and thousands of other churches!!.

We can see that choosing people involved in serving the people’s physical needs had to be done through prayer and seeking God’s face. So we see the likes of Stephen and others being chosen to do this great work. This is an example to leaders of churches today to always prayerfully seek God’s face when appointing people to look after various arms of ministry and also that meeting people’s physical needs is also part of what The Lord expects from us like Jesus did with feeding the five thousand.

In Christ BM

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I Samuel 1-2; Psalm 120; Acts 5

And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. And in due time, Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said “I have asked for him from the Lord.” (I Samuel 1:19b-20, ESV)

Hannah was all too familiar with grief and sadness.  She had been unable to conceive for years.  And as she waited and hoped for a child, she watched her husband’s other wife, Peninah, give birth many times while she taunted and provoked Hannah for her childlessness.   

One of the most difficult parts of this passage for me is the phrase “because the Lord had closed her womb”.  Why was God was withholding from Hannah the one thing she wanted most? But “in due time”—when it was appropriate, and God determined that the time was right—He remembered Hannah.  He honored her faithfulness and answered her prayers.  He gave her a son, Samuel, who would himself be a deliverer for the nation of Israel.  Hannah was watching for a child, but God was watching His people and waiting for the perfect time to provide the leader He knew Israel would need. 

I am reminded that even when I think I know everything I need to know about any given situation, my knowledge is finite.  God sees the big picture; He designs every circumstance in my life to complete His perfect plan.  Occasionally, He graciously allows me a glimpse of His bigger plan but, most often, He simply asks me to trust.

In my distress I called to the Lord, and He answered me.  Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue. (Psalm 120:1, ESV)

Psalm 120 is the first of the “Psalms of Ascent”—a collection of songs (Psalms 120-134) that the Israelites sang as they travelled to Jerusalem for their annual feasts each year.  (They were kind of like those Spotify or Apply Music playlists we enjoy on road trips!)  Each Psalm of Ascent begins with the writer calling out to God for help and ends with praise to God for His goodness and deliverance. 

The unknown author of Psalm 120 was surrounded by liars and cheaters; he begins the song by begging God to save him.  And just like the Lord heard and remembered Hannah, he heard the Psalmist.  It’s interesting (and convicting!) to me that the author doesn’t ask God to help him deliver himself.  He simply asks God for deliverance.  How often do I pray assuming God needs Jennifer to accomplish whatever it is I’m asking for?  The Psalmist knew God could handle the liars and cheaters surrounding him.  Like Hannah, when he was distressed, he called out to God asking God to do what he knew God could do…remember, deliver, answer.  My prayers don’t need to be lengthy works of poetry or perfectly curated speeches.  God longs to hear from me.  A simple “Help me.” or “Deliver me.” is beautiful to Him.

“They left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus.” (Acts 5: 41-42, ESV)

In the final verses of Acts 5, after a miraculous release from prison and narrowly escaping being thrown right back in jail, the Apostles were beaten once more and sent on their way.  Just as God had delivered Hannah and the Psalmist, God delivered the Apostles.  And their response was to rejoice that they were worthy to suffer for Him and to continue—not just occasionally or once a week, but every day—teaching and preaching about Christ.

Today’s passages include various examples of God’s deliverance, but I also know that “deliverance” doesn’t always happen the way I pray that it will.  God always answers, but sometimes He answers with a “no” that I don’t understand.  Why didn’t He heal that friend or repair that relationship or provide what I thought was needed?  And I confess, in most of those situations, I don’t respond like Hannah or the Psalmist or the Apostles.  But thankfully, my sinful responses don’t change my God.  And, often, I can look back with the value of hindsight and see that what I prayed for and even thought I wanted was very small compared to God’s amazing plans for me. 

Father, thank you that You are unchanging, regardless of me.  Thank you for all the times You have taken my small, human desires and answered by delivering something so much better than I could have imagined.  Help me to be obedient like Hannah, trusting like the Psalmist, and joyful like the Apostles.  Deliver me from me, and make me more like You.  Amen.

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Ruth 3-4; Psalm 37; Acts 4

Morning Peace; Photo by Mandy Baldwin

“Do not fret because of those who are evil or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Psalms‬ ‭37:1-4‬ ‭NIV

How well do you trust?

For some, trust is easy. They have experienced the unconditional love and acceptance that leads them to trust. Others struggle to trust because of hurt and pain they have experienced in life. The Lord desires our trust and for me…that is hard!!

It is not just my hurt that gets in the way of trust, but the hurt of those I love. Walking with others through their pain can lead to complications in our own trust. And yet…I know I have a God who is good and loving and kind and trustworthy.

So how do I grow my trust in God? I think the passage above from Psalm 37 will help us with that. First, step away from the immediate pain and see the bigger picture. See where others are loving and kind. See how God is present in the circumstance. Notice where love is intersecting with your pain or the pain of another.

A second way to grow trust is to do good. For me this looks like being a trustworthy person. Saying what I mean and speaking truth. It looks like being honest with God and not trying to trick Him into doing what I want Him to do. We will have trouble trusting if we ourselves are not trustworthy.

A third way to grow trust is to practice. And just like practicing anything, sometimes it will go well and sometimes it won’t. We start small and work up to bigger things.

What is one step you can take today to work on trust…specifically trusting God?

Heavenly Father, you know how hard it can be for us to trust. You lived this life with all of its hurts and pains. You know what it feels like to have trusted another and then been betrayed by them. Meet us in our lack of trust and comfort us with your presence. Amen.

Mandy

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