Monday, May 31: 1Samuel 27-Conflicted by the text.

I’m conflicted reading this text. On the one hand David shows incredible cunning, escaping to the Philistines and concocting the story about raiding Israel all the while David and his men are raiding non-Israeli towns. A brilliant plan that was shrewd and resourceful.

And then there is part of me that shakes my head in disgust. How is David providing for his men? He is raiding and killing innocent men, women and children and stealing their possessions. David and his men are desert pirates and marauders. My disconnect is how do I square this with the 10 Commandments… You shall not murder or steal…?????

And so I sit this morning, God’s word in hand, with a conflict raging in my mind as I try to understand and listen and learn from the Lord. I found no relief through my own pondering alone, so I consulted some commentaries. One older, well respected commentary, Keil and Delitzsch writes this:

From Ziklag David made an attack upon the Geshurites, Gerzites, and Amalekites, smote them without leaving a man alive, and returned with much booty. The occasion of this attack is not mentioned, as being a matter of indifference in relation to the chief object of the history; but it is no doubt to be sought for in plundering incursions made by these tribes into the land of Israel. For David would hardly have entered upon such a war in the situation in which he was placed at that time without some such occasion, seeing that it would be almost sure to bring him into suspicion with Achish, and endanger his safety. The Amalekites were the remnant of this old hereditary foe of the Israelites, who had taken to flight on Saul's war of extermination, and had now assembled again (see at 1 Samuel 15:8-9). "For they inhabit the land, where you go from of old to Shur, even to the land of Egypt."

One possible resolution to my conflict is that David was marching against people who were raiding Israel. I will need to ponder this some more.

Lord, the KJV version of 2Tim 2:15 says, “Study to shew theyself approved unto God….” The NIV translates it “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman …who correctly handles the word of truth.”

Lord, sometimes to correctly handle Your word, I need more than simple pondering and reading. I need to study it, to dig deeply and learn from those who know far more than I, in terms of history and language of Scripture. Thank You for Your Word O, God. Help me to go deeply into it so that I might know You more and more that I might live more and more faithfully to You. In Jesus name, I pray…



Saturday, May 29: 1Samuel 26-Consistency

I’ve been pondering this chapter for a while now.  What is it you need for me to hear, Lord?

The single word ‘consistency’ came to mind. David was incredibly consistent. For the second time he finds Saul in a vulnerable position where he could kill Saul, who is trying to kill him. And for the second time David withholds his hand. David will not attack the Lord’s anointed.

What I observe with David is that he rises to the occasion again and again. He is steeped in God and living honorably before God.  And he consistently chosing the way of God…

Consistency is a hallmark of David’s life. “Is it true of me?” the gentle nudge of the Spirit inquirers.

Is it? I ponder and examine my life for a while before I pray…

Consistency. My thesaurus adds words like: steadiness, reliability, stability, regularity. Am I? Am I that way in my living for the Lord?

Lord, examine me and where I fall short, correct and build me up. And where I am stronger, build me up all the more so that my life might consistently honor You.  Lord of my life and Savior of my soul.  Amen.



Friday, May 28: 1Samuel 25-Have you learned?

As the first words, Now Samuel died… entered my eyes, I immediately thought, “Did he learn? Did David learn?”

The day comes for all of us.  Will we stand on our own two feet or will we fall? Saul, you may remember,  fell when he couldn’t wait and offered unauthorized sacrifice himself.

For some people the day comes when we leave our parents home. For others it is when a trusted mentor or life-coach dies or moves away. Whatever our particular case, there comes a day when we learn if we can stand on our own two feet,  if what we have been taught, if how we have been mentored, sticks. That day was here for David.

Over the next weeks we will watch David and learn if he learned. But God in His usual manner turns the table from the character in the Bible to me (and you). Have you, have I, learned to live for Jesus on your, my own? Do I choose to resist evil? Do I seek God for direction and answers to life situations? Do I read and study to show myself approved (See 2Tim 2:15)? Have I learned to take responsibility for my choices and decisions?  Are they God honoring?

Questions like this tumbled. God was probing me.  Is God probing you?

Spend some time this morning evaluating your spiritual life. What is your maturity level and is it where it should be, given the number of years you have been a Christ-follower?

O God- Father, Son and Holy Spirit –I pray that by Your grace I will never stop growing. That I will never be satisfied with my maturity level and put my faith in neutral. O, Lord, place in me a desire to grow, to know You more and better daily, weekly, yearly.  And to live out my growing maturity through growing obedience to Your will, Your way, and Your leadings… In Jesus’ name. Amen.



Thursday, May 27: 1Samuel 24-Integrity and honor

How do we deal with those who are ‘out to get us?” Believe me David’s case is different than most of ours. David was being tracked and hunted by the man God anointed king, Saul. God’s anointed, as David refers to him, therefore to kill him would have been an act against God Himself, in David’s eyes.

David is given a huge test. Saul is delivered right to David and yet David refused to kill him.  Honor and integrity displayed in an enormous way. This act of integrity and honor set an incredible tone for David’s life and David’s leadership for the remainder of his life & career.

How we deal with those ‘out to get’ us is huge!

In the workplace, in the community, in the church, in school, whatever group we are in, whenever there is potential for power plays and political maneuverings, people can be at odds. Dealing with our enemies is a true test of character.

Given the chance, David doesn’t kill Saul but he does bring the injustice of his case into the light in a potentially redemptive way. We don’t know yet how Saul, the aggressor, will react in this case but David has showed his true colors.

God nudges me… “Bill, when your back is to the wall, do you trust yourself or do you trust in Me? Do you take matters into your own hands or do you trust Me, seek Me, do what is right in My eyes?” These pointed questions from the Holy Spirit are the cud for me to chew on today. How do I deal with my enemies?  Do I exhibit honor and integrity? Do you?

Lord, develop in me honor and integrity in ALL situations, even the worst ones. Even the hard ones, Lord, develop in me honor and integrity. I see Jesus before Pilate and the High Priest and the people screaming for His head and on the cross… honor and integrity and strength… Lord Jesus, lead me to be like You. Amen.


Wednesday, May 26: 1Samuel 23-A man after God's own heart

David is described in the Bible as a man after God’s own heart, not perfect, but a man after God’s own heart. I saw that character trait emerging in this morning’s reading.

On the run for his life, David develops the pattern of seeking God’s direction as a basic course of life. Four times, the text records David inquiring of the Lord about what to do or where to go. This speaks volumes about David and who he is at the core of his person.

God’s voice spoke into my heart, “Bill, learn from David. Seek Me. Inquire of Me. Make that a life-habit. I will guide you, I will show you the way I want you to go…”

It was an inspiration for me to watch David seek the Lord. God is grooming this future king of Israel and David is learning…

Lord, I am listening. Speak, lead, guide, and direct me… in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Tuesday, May 25 1Samuel 22-Two roads diverged

   David and Saul, so different were the paths they took...
Saul started off well but quickly veered away for the Lord and the ways of God. So divergent has Saul's path become that he kills the priest of the Lord for spite. King and defender of Israel, he kills those who stand between the people and God? How bad it has gotten, how far from God he has wandered!
   David on the other hand while fleeing for his life, has the forethought to take his extended family to safety... He is choosing wisely and caringly still.
   To men: both God's anointed, similar starting points but very different choices lead to very different paths with very different outcomes.
My thoughts reminded me of Jesus who taught about two paths/gates/ways (Matthew 7:13)... one narrow and one wide. The wide one leads to destruction and the narrow one leads to life.
   Where are my choices leading me? Where are your choices leading you... Choices matter. Choices determine paths and paths determine outcomes God asks me again: In what direction, toward what path are your choices leading you...
    Jesus help me to choose wisely in the big things Yes-absolutely, but also in the small choices... Amen.


Monday, May 24: 1Samuel 21-Following the Lord

I chewed on these verses a long time wondering, "What is my nourishment for today, Lord?" The chapter seems so benign, a historical vignette that is connecting other pieces of David's life, and yet I mulled.
I found myself thinking about how God leads us. Sometimes God's direction seems so clear, maybe like Samuel a few days ago God speaks in some recognizable way and tells us exactly what to do (remember the story about anointing David in chapter 16). Or maybe like Paul, God speaks to us in a dream (Acts 16) or like Peter in a vision (Acts 10). I have never had a specific directing dream or vision, never heard an audible voice but there are times I absolutely know God has directed me to do something.
And then there is the rest of life. This chapter struck me as a 'rest of life' story. David is forced to flee from Saul. Quite possibly he had some time to think what shall I do if I must run, There were a couple of days between his initial conversation with Jonathan and Jonathan's confrontation with his dad. Whatever the case, David is in flee mode. First he runs to the priest. Someone he can trust to not be on of Saul's cronies and who will have some food and possibly a weapon. The text is silent about God specifically directing him there. A thought, an idea in David's street-wise mind said "Go to Ahimelech." In fact the text is silent throughout about God giving specific direction to David.
   Next he runs to Achish king of Gath (one of Israel's neighbors and enemies I might add) to seek asylum. This doesn't fare so well, so David pretends to be insane in the hopes of being seen as harmless and sent away rather than be killed. It works and the chapter ends.
It is comforting when God gives specific direction and leading, but much if not most of my life is a series of decisions that I make by deciding based upon what I have observed, my intuition in the situation, my faith in Jesus and understanding of God's ways, some level of prayer and counsel of trusted friends when I have time and other factors depending upon the particular decision.
   What I realized is that God is there in the quiet... His sovereign hand always present. Sometimes my decisions work out... God is there. Sometimes they turn out to be 'not so good' God is there too helping me extricate me from any problems of my not-so-good decision caused.
Faith the writer of the Hebrews 11:1 tells us is, is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. God is not always vocal about what He wants me to do or where He wants me to go; by faith I trust that He is leading me all the time, often by using the faculties of my mind and life experiences No matter how God leads I need faith to trust Him.
    God thank You for the times You speak loudly and clearly and thank You for the intuitions and thinking faculties You have given me. I pray God that all my decisions bring You honor and glory... for You are my Lord God and savior of my life. Amen.

Saturday, May 22: 1Samuel 20-Street Savvy

An amazing story of friendship and loyalty is Jonathan and David’s story, best of friends in the face of palace intrigue and kingly succession. It never ceases to amaze me how real a portrait Scripture paints of the people within its’ pages.

Reading this morning I was struck how street savvy both Jonathan and David were. They faced a real dilemma, protecting their friendship and their lives, surviving the wrath of a jealous and driven king.

Clandestine meetings, cloaked messages, the intuition about the situation, and the ability to set up a situation to reveal the king’s true intentions.  Doing all this while keeping a low profile and providing Jonathan plausible deniability so the king’s wrath doesn’t turn on him.

Their story reminded me of Jesus’ words in Matthew 10:16: I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves. I, like most/many Christians, do the innocent part pretty well. But when it comes to being shrewd I (and we) am not so good. David and Jonathan did both sides of the equation well. They maintained their innocence/integrity before God yet they were quite shrewd in dealing with the world of palace intrigue. I marvel at their ingenuity.

I am wondering, Lord, about the application of this insight? Are there things for me to learn in the way of business dealings? Do I need to grow in certain interactions with people? Is there a street savvyness I need to learn? Is this a word for future mission trips I will be called to go on? I am not sure at this moment exactly what the Lord is teaching me but I have learned that God doesn’t waste teaching opportunities. Only time will tell.

Lord, You have planted a seed, a thought and  my sense is that I have to give it time to germinate. In the mean tim,e I trust You and will follow You. Lord, teach me the correct balance between innocence and shrewdness and help me to read situations so I  know the proper balance in every situation. Jesus, to live for You and to be used by You… that is my prayer. Amen



Friday, May 21: 1Samuel 19-Gift of friendship

David and Jonathan were friends, best friends in the truest sense of the word. Their friendship started in the last chapter and today we read more. Jonathan risks a confrontation with his father, the King, over his loyalty to David. It was a huge gamblebut Jonathan opted to go to bat for his friend, knowing David was innocent and his dad had it all wrong.

Friends step up when we need them. Friends help us out and are there at critical times in our lives. Friends watch our back. There are friends, Proverbs 18:24 reminds us, that stick closer than a brother, than a blood relative. David and Jonathan were that kind of friends.

My thoughts slide to my friends, friends who have stuck by me over the years; friends I can trust, who have watched my back, who have spoken hard truths to my face about me or a situation I was in.

This morning God seemed to invite me to bless my friends, to pray for my friends, to be thankful for the friends I have had over the years. You may want to do the same…

O, Lord God, thank You for ‘the Jonathans’, the friends I have had over the years. They have and are gifts. And I thank you for them, since “every good and perfect gift comes from You” (James 1:17). Amen.

PS… the thought occurred to me to drop a note to some friends…


Thursday, May 20: 1Samuel 18-Subtle shifts, dangerous changes, lousy outcomes.

   Verse 8: Saul was very angry; this refrain galled him. "They have credited David with tens of thousands," he thought, "but me with only thousands. What more can he get but the kingdom?"

Saul started out humble; almost embarrassed that he was chosen king. But the humility didn’t last long.  As power got its’ claws into Saul, humility melted away. Over the last chapters we have seen a shift in Saul from amazement at ‘what the Lord can do through me to it’s mine and I have to protect it.’

As David, Saul’s general, meets with more and more success, Saul grows more and more jealous. The underlined sentence above makes it clear that preservation of “his” kingdom is now Saul’s ultimate concern. God? Where is God in this picture? No where to be seen.

I have seen this tragedy play out in life more times than I care to recall. A church hires a youth director whose program grows to be wildly successful. Instead of rejoicing, the lead pastor grows suspicious and eventually the youth pastor gets ushered out the door. Sadly a number of my seminary contemporaries felt the wrath of an envious Sr. Pastor.

I have seen it in business where a young Jr. Executive begins to make a name for him/herself. Somewhere along the rise up the ladder, the other-centeredness of the executive is replaced with ‘watch out for #1’ and her/his best qualities are boiled out of their life by the heat of success.

Life is a gift; received and lived as such. We can do our best without letting our egos and self-preservation get in the way. God, after all, is in control. It is His favor, His connections and His blessing that allows us to succeed in the first place.  When we forget this and fall for the lie that it is all about ME, we are doomed to the pitiful life of Saul…

Think about it…

O, God, keep me ever mindful that You control the world, that You invite me to work in this little corner of it, and You provide the successes. It is about You, O Lord, and following Your lead and living for You. It never has and never will be about me. Teach me this lesson, O Lord, as many times as it takes for it to sink into the fabric of my life… amen.


Wednesday, May 19: 1Samuel 17-David v Goliath, some life lessons

Everybody knows this familiar story. In the run up to the NCAA men’s basketball final, Butler v Duke, commentators were routinely calling it David v Goliath. Everyone knows this story. As familiar as it is for me, it still inspires me every time I read it.

With God all things are possible…

God wins, God triumphs…

Not by our strength, but by the Lord’s we succeed…

These and other one-liners came to mind as I read this morning.

A few lines spoke loudest to me:

34-37 But David said to Saul, "Your servant has been keeping his father's sheep. When a lion or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock, I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized it by its hair, struck it and killed it. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine." Saul said to David, "Go, and the LORD be with you." Talents and abilities are transferable to new situations. No one would equate shepherding with military or killing a random wild animal with killing a well trained soldier. And yet, David took what he learned from fighting a wild beast and applied it to his one-on-one battle with Goliath. Abilities are often transferrable from one setting and one job to another. Don’t get stuck. Be creative, using your abilities for the Lord.

39-40: (Referring to Saul’s battle armor David said) "I cannot go in these because I am not used to them." So he took them off. Then he took his staff in his hand, chose five smooth stones from the stream, put them in the pouch of his shepherd's bag and, with his sling in his hand, approached the Philistine. God doesn’t ask us to be someone else. God made us who we are and we can do whatever God asks of us with the gifts, talents and experiences God has seen fit to give us. We don’t have to pretend to be someone else.

45-46 David said to the Philistine, "You come against me with sword and spear and javelin, but I come against you in the name of the LORD Almighty, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This day the LORD will hand you over to me… God was David’s strength not his training or his skills. Human ability is no match for the Spirit of God. In God’s strength we can and will accomplish everything God wills accomplished, but we will not succeed if we try to do it in our strength by itself.

Lord, as familiar as this passage is, You brought new thoughts and different angles to my mind and heart. Your word is so rich. I never know what You will shop me and where You will take me when I spend time with You in Your word. Thank You for this morning and for the real-life lessons. Go with me today and help me, Lord, to continue to practice being in Your presence all day long. Amen.


Tuesday, May 18 1Samuel 16-Talking with God

Tuesday, May 18 1Samuel 16-Talking with God

One of those rich mornings in the Word, a number of thoughts course around my mind:

·       The line from verse 7: The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.

·       How God ‘trains’ David to be king by placing him in Saul’s court, where he observes the king’s actions, affairs of state and military endeavors. God is preparing a shepherd to be king.

·       But what most attracted me this morning was the way Samuel and God related and spoke in the opening 13 verses.

As I read the story leading up to David’s anointing, I was fascinated by the regular and relaxed nature of Samuel and God’s relationship. God and Samuel talked and the dialogue could have been that of friends or buddies chatting at Starbucks. God initiates this conversation but I have the feeling that the conversation could have been started by either party. From its’ start, the chat simply flows… God to Samuel; Samuel to the Lord; back and forth. When Samuel reacts with a concern (2), God comes up with a solution. When the parade of Jesse’s sons begins, God reads Samuel’s thoughts and gives answers. This doesn’t come across as a violation of Samuel’s autonomy, but rather a best friend who might read my body language, see the glint in my eye and just know what I am thinking, so he responds.

The more I replay this scene in my mind, the more I envy Samuel; to have that depth yet simplicity of a relationship with God. To be directed like Samuel, yeah, that’s part of what I envy, but it is more. It is to have the familiarity and closeness with the Lord. That we can simply chat and even when God is revealing profound things (about Himself or what He wants me to do), they are accomplished naturally in the course of a regular conversation.

O, Lord, I am inspired by Samuel to know You more and more and deeper and deeper.  Also, to practice what Brother Lawrence called the “practice of presence” which is seeking to simply be present with You throughout the day, allowing You to speak and to be with me in life. Lord, for me this, in part, means that I need to bring myself into Your presence throughout the day instead of putting my life with You on the back burner when I close my Bible in a few moments.

O, God, help me to learn the art to keeping myself present to You all day and all life long. In Jesus name I pray, amen.



Monday, May 17: 1Samuel 15-Obedience!

Verses 22-23 encapsulate the heart of this chapter:

Samuel replied: "Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king."

Obedience is what God desires from us.  Obedience.

Saul’s slide into oblivion picks up speed. God said, “Kill everything belonging to the Amalekites.” A simple strait forward command, “Kill everything.” Instead, Saul saves the king and choice animals in order to sacrifice them to the Lord. (Remember sacrifices were burnt and portions eaten by the worshipper.)

Bottom line, Saul does not fully obey. By his own admission he caves to the pressure of his men and lets them keep these animals as sacrifices (24).

Honestly, it doesn’t matter whether the pressure to disobey was internal or external, Saul disobeyed a direct and clear word from the Lord. Saul rebelled.

Read the verses above again.

The third sentence knocks me. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Rebellion (direct disobedience) is like divination (seeking false gods)!

I came across that verse a handful of years ago and it still knocks me. God expects obedience.  To intentionally disobey is tantamount to worshipping false gods, seeking after idols rather than the Lord! That’s a strong word!

To obey God is to worship God. My thoughts jump to John 15 (9-15 especially, and other Jesus accounts) where Jesus calls his followers to obey His commands.

To obey is better than sacrifice.  Obedience is the primary way we worship God.

O, God, I fall short all the time. I am more like Saul than I care to admit. I don’t obey You fully. Yet for some reason You lavish, and lavish again, Your mercy and grace upon me, forgiving me and picking me up, dusting me off and sending me on again and again. I am reduced to two words…Thank You.

O, God, please send Your Holy Spirit.  Teach me to discern His voice readily and give me the strength to OBEY that I may worship You with my living and my words and my actions…

You, O, God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – are my God and I will worship You… amen.


Saturday, May 15: 1Samuel 14- Rash words

Saturday, May 15: 1Samuel 14- Rash words

Words are violently powerful… .  They have moved armies and convicted souls. They can motivate toward good or evil, build relationships or destroy them. Words are violently powerful.

Saul, sadly, let his words get the better of him. Twice in this chapter he speaks words impulsively to the detriment of his legacy and the country he leads as king.

"Cursed be any man who eats food before evening comes, before I have avenged myself on my enemies!" (24).

"Come here, all you who are leaders of the army, and let us find out what sin has been committed today. As surely as the LORD who rescues Israel lives, even if it lies with my son Jonathan, he must die" (38-39).

The first cost Israel a great victory. An impulsive curse cost Israel dearly. Famished, the men could not press the attack with vigor.   and Tthen when they ceased fighting for the day, they were so famished they didn’t prepare meat properly and they sinned by eating blood with the meat.

Secondly, it was Jonathan who ate. It was Jonathan who should have died, but Saul couldn’t follow through. His rash words put him in a terrible bind, ; break his word to God or kill his son. ? Saul chose the latter (unlike Jepthah in Judges 11).

The emerging pattern for Saul is rash, impulsive words… and words matter. Do you think Saul grew in the eyes of his men or shrunk? Clearly the latter, they learned he was an impulsive leader who could not be counted on to keep his word. He played favorites. And worse, before God he didn’t keep his word. Saul was quickly showing himself to be a man who could not be trusted.

The Spirit, not so gently, chimed in about my words, calling me to be a man of my word, and calling me to control the impulse of my tongue… .  Wwords and vows have power for good or for evil…

Lord, words slide so easily across my lips… . Ooften I do not give them the thought they deserve. Jesus, You say that every careless word will be judged, t and that is frightening. I have made promises I didn’t keep and have spoken harsh words I should have held. My tongue is hard to tame. Forgive me and help me. I need Your aid in this arena of my life… immensely. Amen.


Friday, May 14: 1Samuel 13-Tests will come

Every one of us will face various days and times when who we are is tested. On the job for a short time and the day will arrive when no one is looking, .Wwill we take a shortcut, pad an expense report, share a half-truth rather than the whole truth, take a sick day that really isn’t… ?  Yyou know the drill.

Married for 6-six months or a year, will you talk about those mixed feelings or hide it? It might not seem like much, but it is a test.  W will we drawer closer or grow more distant?

You are taking up the game of golf, . will Will you slide your ball to a better lie or play it where it is? If it is a friendly game with buddies and you are just getting some exercise… , no harm-no foul, but don’t count the score as real. If you are in a league where scores count, you have started down a dark path.

None of these are big deals at first or are they?

Tests come to each one of us; . Tthey reveal the inclination of the heart. Many times the first test doesn’t have life implications… but sometimes they do. Are you willing to take that chance?

Saul gambled and lost. He got nervous and didn’t wait for Samuel. Instead, he He sacrificed an offering, something only a priest could do. He panicked and acted impulsively, crossing God’s line and God removed His blessing.

I struggle with this story, “where Where is the mercy?” I want to cry. Saul is new to the job, doesn’t he get a mulligan? And yet he crossed the line…

And the more I think about this, the more I want Saul to receive mercy, not because of him but because of me. I want to presume on God’s grace and mercy so that I can play fast and loose with God’s rules when I want to… . Tthis is not a pleasant look into the interior of my life.

O, God, too often I presume on Your mercy and grace. Too often I live my life my way, rather than Your way. There is so much I don’t not fully understand… . Wwhy Your grace and mercy are so lavish with me and seem so stingy in comparison with Saul? Yet even this causes me to fall face down in thanks and adoration to the One who loves me so.

Jesus, Father send the Holy Spirit in ever deepening measure so that I grow to be more like Jesus all my life long until I see You face to face in glory. Amen.


Thursday, May 13: 1Samuel 12-The delicate tightrope of Mercy- not getting what we deserve.

How many times has Israel (and II) received mercy? Countless times…

Mercy is not getting what we deserve and this chapter is one gigantic gift of mercy. Samuel reminds the people how they have sinned by choosing a king to which they respond, "Pray to the LORD your God for your servants so that we will not die, for we have added to all our other sins the evil of asking for a king." Samuel, “ask God to have mercy on us!!!!”

"Do not be afraid," Samuel replied. "You have done all this evil; yet do not turn away from the LORD, but serve the LORD with all your heart (19-20). “Despite your sin, God will be merciful, but…,” replies Samuel.

The “but” is critical; . Samuel recognizes the delicate tightrope of mercy… . God is full of mercy, . He grants it lavishly to his people, . what What I noticed is the ‘but’… but serve the LORD with all your heart.

Mercy is God’s gift to start anew so we can work to get things right; . mMercy is not a “get out of jail free” card so we can keep on sinning.

Mercy is a gift that allows us an opportunity to change and to draw closer to God.

At this point the whisper of the Spirit gently nudges a change in direction in my morning thoughts. “Bill, have you used God’s many gifts of mercy well?” Other connected thoughts breeze in… “Bill, have you used your wife’s (childrens’, friends’, employers’) gifts of mercy well?”

O, God, sometimes ‘yes,’ many times ‘no.’ Lord. Lord, I am struck by how selfishly I live my life… . I have squandered extraordinary gifts of mercy. Forgive me, Lord.

As I write this prayer, I am realizing that today, this lesson, this moment with You is yet another gift of Your mercy. Lord God, You have forgiven me. and Ttoday You are inviting me to enter and use, positively, the mercy You have lavished and the mercy You are lavishing one me right now.

Blessed be the name of the Lord…

Blessed be the name of the Lord…

Blessed be the name of the Lord, most high!



Wednesday, May 12: 1Samuel 11-A good start

As I read about Saul’s first kingly action rescuing Jabesh Gilead, I found myself thinking, “what a good start.” Saul stepped up, rallied the country and saved a city. Way to go!

Starting is important. Sometimes I (and others I know) get stuck starting. Sometimes when I believe God has asked me to do a particular task or I sense a prompting from the Lord to do something, I hem and haw and neglect to start. Sometimes the task seems too big and I am immobilized by its size or scope and can’t seem to get started. Other times I am timid to follow God’s leading, because it might seem foolish. Then there are times when I sense a nudge from God.  I put off acting right away and before I know it other thoughts, ideas and things on my ‘to-do’ list pop up and I forget God’s earlier leading.

The above paragraph was a cathartic way of recognizing that Saul started. He jumped in and did what he believed God prompted him to do! “Yeah, Saul. Through your actions, God is reminding me that starting is important.”

When the Lord supplies a prompting, I need to check it out and then ACT, rather than wait around and avoid what God is asking me to do.”

O, God, it never fails to amaze me that You will speak with me every time I sit with You. You are a great and wonderful God. Lord, Your word stings a bit, I admit it. The list of nudges and promptings You have sent my way that I have avoided or neglected is too long for me to bear. Forgive me for my faithlessness, at times and help me through the presence of Your Holy Spirit to be more readily faithful to Your will and way and promptings… In Jesus name and for Your glory I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, May 11 1Samuel 10-Put in my place.

Two thoughts tumble about as I contemplate this reading.

The first is how we as humans are a mixed bag of emotions and motivations. Saul hides from the people as he is chosen to be king. Saul shows timidity, fear, self-consciousness, possibly other emotions all suggesting humility. Then in the last sentence Saul apparently keeps a record of all people who despised him and didn’t bring him gifts (27), suggesting arrogance and entitlement. We humans are a mixed bag, ; some good, some bad and everything in between.

Secondly, Verse 24: Samuel said to all the people, "Do you see the man the LORD has chosen? There is no one like him among all the people." Then the people shouted, "Long live the king!" Since I know that Saul will fail and become a king bent on evil, I wonder why God would choose a king like this for His people? Why would God choose a king that will fail His chosen people. ? All kinds of possible reasons tumble in my thoughts… . Was it a punishment for rejecting God as king? Did God simply give them the king they wanted… , just like all the other nations? And so on.

I am left this morning dancing the dance of faith. First, I am no great gift to humanity. At best I am a mixed bag with some good motivations and some ornery ones and a lot in between. Elizabeth Elliot was correct, “The best we can hope for is mixed motives.”

Then I balance that with the fact that I will never perfectly understand God’s ways. His ways are higher than mine (Is 55). And there are things about the sovereign will of God that I just have to submit to and continue to obey. I will never understand fully all things this side of eternity. Mine is to obey whether I understand or not.

O, God, forgive my sinful ways, my sinful motivations and grace me with Your Holy Spirit, that despite my failure and sin-stained nature I might obey Your leadings and Your ways, no matter what… . Tto the glory of Your name. Amen.


Addendum to the morning’s comments: I continued to think about today’s reading throughout my day and here are some further thoughts that emerged:

There are just those days when God puts me in my place and reminds me that I am not as good as I pretend I am and that I don’t understand His ways, . He is so much higher than I am. As I have mused and thought about today’s reading throughout the day, I have realized that today is one of those days when I have to face my own mixed motives and my own humanity. I am a sinner and I want things my way.

Also, today I had to face the truth that I don’t fully understand the ways of the Lord. How God could choose Saul is beyond me, .  However, but God is sovereign, not me.  and I have to bend to Him and to His will and never ‘make God” bend to me or my will.

Such were my continued musings from 1Samuel 10.


Monday, May 10: 1Samuel 9- Appearances .

It is so easy to judge others by appearances… too easy. The old adage remains true, “you cannot judge a book by its cover.” Appearances tell part of the story, but certainly not the most important part.

Israel asked for a king. Who will it be? I am fascinated by this first description of Saul, the soon-to-be, first king of Israel. “He had a son named Saul, an impressive young man without equal among the Israelites--a head taller than any of the others” (2). As I read that description I realized that it was all about appearances… “impressive young man,” “without equal,” “a head taller.” Okay he has great physical attributes but what about his character? What about his decision making ability? What about his faith, his teachability, his moral fiber and makeup?

Appearances are easy to spot,  but they don’t tell very much about the real person.

For the last three or so years I have become involved with an organization called PRMI (check out if you want to know more). Their emphasis is to teach about the power of the Holy Spirit in a balanced way. In their foundational course, “Gateways to Empowered Ministry,” they teach about the inner and outer work of the Holy Spirit. Inner work is building Christ-like character and the fruit Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:23-24) within the believer. The outer work of the Holy Spirit involves power ministries and gifts Gifts of the Spirit (see 1Cor 12, etc.). One point they make strongly is that Christ-followers need both, and to have one without the other is a truncated Christian faith.

Israel was enamored with Saul’s physical strength and physique… . the The Spirit pricks me, “And too often, Bill, you are too.”

O, Lord, forgive me when I make assumptions based on appearance…


Saturday, May 8: 1Samuel 8-The power of peer pressure

Telling words… "We want a king over us. Then we will be like all the other nations, with a king to lead us and to go out before us and fight our battles" (19-20).

Then we will be like all the other nations… if anyone doubts the power of peer pressure and the influence of others upon us, these words should eliminate all doubt! Why did Israel want a king? So they could look like everyone else!

This chapter reflects a sad day, the day when Israel rejected God as king. And Israel’s reason?  We want to look like everyone else. That thought just took my breadth away. How shallow and how sad.

How poignant and how true this is to this day. Some not so gentle nudges reminded me pressure to be like everyone else isn’t restricted to Israel; it is a human problem. I battle it. If you read this blog you battle it. We buy certain cars because of it. We dress the way we do because of it. It surrounds us and engulfs us and most often it leads us from, not toward, faithfulness to God.

Like a caution sign before a dangerous curve in a road, this text flashes CAUTION, CAUTION.  Examine your life, observe what influences you, beware…

O, Lord, walk with me through my life and shine Your light on those peer pressures, especially peer pressures that lure me in unhealthy directions. I know this will likely be painful, Lord, but Who else has the words of life? Speak, lead, illumine and guide me, Jesus, into the way of everlasting… amen.


Friday, May 7: 1Samuel 7-God enters my world

Towards the end of this chapter there was a phrase that seemed to step off the page and into my life. "Thus far has the LORD helped us" (12). After defeating the Philistines and driving them back, Samuel set up an altar demarking Israel’s land and that’s the name he gave the altar, "Thus far has the LORD helped us."

I found myself contemplating the many ways the Lord has helped me, ways He stepped into my life and showed Himself to be God my protector and my director.

Years ago, I completed an engineering master’s degree. About halfway through my two-year MS program, I clearly heard God’s call to seminary but I felt that the best way to honor the Lord was to complete my MS degree. The core of my degree was a research thesis. As my time was winding down, I just couldn’t make sense of the data. It looked like a shotgun pattern on a piece of paper… dots here and there with no rhyme or reason. I was frustrated and wondered if I would have to write up a “failed” research project, which is valid research. Not every theory works out. But my gut was not comfortable with that but the graduation date was looming and I needed my data to write the thesis.

I distinctly remember reviewing all my data one last time. I can still see where I was sitting, with data graphs all around me. I also remember in my frustration praying “O, God, what’s wrong, what am I missing…? Help me, God, I need Your help.”

Not long after that prayer of frustration, I packed up my stuff and went home for the night. The next day, laying out everything one more time for another review, I had this inspiration. What if I normalized the data points based on the volume of my material in my various experiment iterations (don’t worry if this makes no sense to you, I would have to layout my entire research plan for you to understand it).

My point is, as I began to re-run my data points based on this “inspiration” and the shotgun pattern began to narrow. It was like being at the eye doctor as he narrows in on the correct prescription, the chart comes into focus. By the time I finished re-running all my data points, there emerged positive helpful correlations. My professor was pleased and writing the thesis was a breeze.

I left with my engineering degree for seminary and about 9 months later I received an invitation to The Metallurgical Convention.  My thesis work, which was put in journal paper form by my professor, won the award and the best welding metallurgical research of the year. Not only that, I received a $125 check! Is God good or what?!

To this day, I am convinced that the Lord gave me that inspiration… Yes, I shout, “Thus far has the Lord helped me!”

Before prayer, take a few minutes to review times, places and ways the Lord has thus far helped you!

O, Lord, thank You for being there for me in SO many ways. This brief story is just one of ways You have stepped into my life and showed Yourself to be God. Thank You. I love You. I surrender to YOU! Amen.





Thursday, May 6: 1Samuel 6-

Most of my thinking and living is stuck in our natural world. With my science/engineering background, I am trained to examine the world as we know it, learn its laws and then act accordingly. All this is very rational and logical. Then I come to a text like this (not to mention the previous chapter, too) and my worldview is scrambled.

I supposed two, never-yoked cows could pull a cart along a path without incident from one place to another but honestly, is it likely? NO! Farmers took hours training oxen to pull evenly and to follow their lead so that they could furrow straight rows and/or drive product to and from town. And even trained oxen needed a driver to keep them on the path and to make the correct turns at forks in the road. No farmer would load his cart, tap the cows and leave them alone to drive the produce to market. It just wouldn’t happen. And yet, that is exactly what happened, two rookie cows pull a cart to a particular town without incident.

The understood answer of the text is that the Lord directed them. If it goes up to its own territory, toward Beth Shemesh, then the LORD has brought this great disaster on us (9).

I accept this account as a God-working from the Bible, yet, and here is my rub, I often neglect to bring similar possibilities into my 21st century world.

As I am pondering this thought, I am realizing how often my prayers limit what God can do. I pray for God to ‘work’ through natural ways rather than however He chooses to work, including super-natural ways. I am realizing anew (this is not the first time) how often I create boxes for God limiting how He will work within a given situation. And my boxes too often do not allow for God’s supernatural intervention in the world…

O, God, forgive me for limiting You… pagan statues fall before Your ark, ox-carts walk home by themselves. Jesus walks on water, calms the wind and waves, heals all kinds of diseases, raises the dead. Peter and Paul speak healing in Jesus’ name and Philip is teleported from one place to another. All of these are biblical accounts of God acting in our world in ways that are beyond natural law. O, God, forgive me for limiting You in my world, for silently thinking “O God wouldn’t…”

Lord, beyond forgiving me, please lead me to a faith that depends on You totally, trusts You completely and rests in You no matter how You choose to work or not work. Lord, You alone are God and I rest my life in Your Almighty hands… amen.


Wednesday, May 5: 1Samuel 5-God defends Himself.

Sometimes I get the crazy notion that I need to defend God. Is that the height of arrogance or what? That God would need me to defend Him!

This reading is a good reminder that God can and will defend Himself. I love it. The Philistines put the ark of the Lord, which was the tangible location of God with Israel, in their temple and come morning the Philistine god is laying down before the ark of the Lord. Is that a picture or what? The pagan god prostrate before Almighty God!

I am reminded of Philippians 2:10-11: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. There will be a day when everyone and everything will bow before the Lord.

Yes, God can and will defend Himself…

O, God, thank You for revealing Yourself to me now so that I can acknowledge You, Lord, out of love and devotion rather than conquest! Help me, Lord, to live for You, to speak up about my faith in You and point people to Jesus, the way the truth and the life… Savior of all who believe in Him.


Tuesday, May 4: 1Samuel 4-God keeps His word.

Two chapters ago God spoke to Eli and told him what would happen. That his family would be judged and his sons would die the same day. This chapter is the fulfillment of God’s judgment on Eli and his family. God fulfills His word down to the letter. God keeps His word!

That’s my simple devotional take-a-way from today’s reading. God keeps His word. When God gives His word, He keeps it. God speaks blessing… blessing will come. God speaks judgment or wrath… judgment or wrath will come.

Hold the Bible you are reading. God will keep every promise in it… no wavering, no doubt, no debate. God keeps His word.

O, Lord God, I am so thankful that You keep Your word. You are absolutely trustworthy. Lord, I place my life in Your hands because it is the safest place to be, because what You have said, You will being to pass. I trust You, Lord, and I love You, Lord… In the name of the Father and Son and Holy Spirit I pray, amen.


Monday, May 3: 1Samuel 3-Three characteristics of a disciple.

I love this story… so simple, so believable. It is a living word-picture.

Young Samuel hears someone calling his name during the night. Assuming it is Eli, his faith-father, he runs to Eli’s side immediately. Eager.  This young boy is so eager and willing to serve and obey.

Three times this happens and three times it is not Eli. Finally the savvy old man realizes it is the Lord and he instructs Samuel how to respond. When God calls a fourth time, Samuel responses exactly as instructed. Teachable. Samuel receives and follows Eli’s directions, showing that he is eminently teachable.

God then reveals His will for Eli and family. In the morning when the old priest asks the boy what God said, the boy hesitates (it must have been very unpleasant to tell bad news to Eli) but then he tells Eli everything. Obedient… Samuel listens carefully to the Lord and then obediently (to Eli and God) tells everything God has revealed.

Eager… teachable… obedient, three words that describe the young Samuel. Three words that describe anyone sold out to God. Three words I pray describe me as I walk with Jesus…

O, God, three powerful words for any Christ-follower. Lord, please develop these characteristics in me… eagerness to do Your will. Your will, first and foremost.

Teachable… Lord, break in me any know-it-all spirit and build in me a teachable heart, mind soul and body, so that I might learn from You!

Obedient… Lord, it comes down to doing, doing what you ask. May that be a characteristic of my life.

Lord, I surrender myself to You… In Jesus’ name, amen.


Saturday, May 1: 1Samuel 2-Thank you.

As soon as I opened the chapter, my eyes landed on Hannah’s prayer. Before my eyes focused on a particular word, I knew God’s voice would come from those words this morning.

Reading Hannah’s prayer, my soul sunk into God’s Word. As I pushed through the remainder of the chapter, I heard its’ lessons but my heart drew back to Hannah’s words… I reread her prayer.

There stood this mom, God’s miracle son standing next to her, a mere tot maybe 3 or so years old, and she was literally giving him to the Lord. From now on she would see him once a year… that’s it. No more lullabies at night, no more daily hugs or smiles, no phone or email to contact him throughout the day. This was pretty much ‘good bye, my son.’ I wondered what her words to her son were? But the text is silent on this.

What God chose to record was Mama’s parting prayer… a prayer of praise to God.

I wondered what I might have prayed. Immediately I went to thoughts of blessing upon the child. Now maybe Hannah prayed such a blessing. Maybe Elkanah and Hannah prayed before mom and son left home for Shiloh.   Again the text is silent. What God chose to record was Hannah’s praise to Him, Who gave her the child.

This prayer is totally God-centered. From first to last and everything in between, this prayer lauds and magnifies the Lord. It exalts God for Who He is and how He orchestrates life.

This prayer tells me where Hannah’s heart lives. It lives in the palm of Almighty God’s hand.

Where do I live?My morning challenge comes in that simple question.

Thinking back over my words and wonderings about what might have been spoken to the boy by mom or dad, the prayer of blessing that might have been prayed over the boy, I wonder, would I have been that full of praise for God? I wonder, do I give Jesus my all?

Jesus be the center be my source be my strength, Jesus.

Jesus be the center be my light be my life, Jesus…

Jesus I throw myself upon You… I love You… I devote myself to You, Jesus. Jesus…