1 Samuel 12:20 | Don’t Give Up

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I have a few flaws. Serious character defects that I have spent a lifetime working trying to prevent from making me a living disaster. Everyone, even perfect people, have their own defects and demons to wrestle with. Some flaws are very visible and others are more easily hidden. No one wants to list their sins and hang ups because we want the world to think we have it all together. I don’t have it all together. I have sins that interrupt my relationship with God. Anxiety is first. I replay my past stupid actions over and over in my mind each day. Failures especially where others were hurt or I embarrassed myself accuse me to no end. Anxiety wears me down and keeps me from interacting with others as I should. Another issue for me is Lust. Food and fun where I am all about making myself full searching to consume everything around me. I am always thinking about what I can purchase or pursue next. Lusts of the world overpower the contentment I should have in Christ. These are the broad strokes on my defects my sins. The problem with these defects is that I choose them over a relationship with God. I don’t pray or get still to listen to God like I should or to the depth that I want because these are always before me.

I share these to make a point that all people are sinners. If you dear reader are thinking “I am a good person” and there is nothing to worry about then I have a challenge for you. First know that all people are flawed and all people are sinners. There are no exceptions.

There’s nobody living right, not even one, nobody who knows the score, nobody alert for God. They’ve all taken the wrong turn; they’ve all wandered down blind alleys. No one’s living right; I can’t find a single one. Romans 3:10-11 MSG

So here is the challenge. Take some time to get quiet. Go to a closet, a remote hiking trail, a car parked away from the crowd and ask God to show you the blind alley you have traveled down. Ask God to reveal the wrong turns taken. Ask God to reveal to you the flaws and defects that are sins against family and against Him. He will open you heart and eyes to the reality of your issues.

Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! 24 And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting! Psalms 139:23-24 ESV

The people of Israel wanted a king other than God. God relented and set them up with a King but he made it clear that what they asked for was evil and wrong because by asking to be like every other nation they were rejecting God as king. They took a wrong turn and found themselves in a blind alley.

20 And Samuel said to the people, “Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. 21 And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. 1 Samuel 12:20-21 ESV

I think about my lusts and all the stuff I want. Samuel is speaking to me “things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty”. Is Christ not enough? Is a relationship with God not enough? Can I not trust him to be all fulfilling? The thing about lust is that it is never satisfied. People chase all the things of this world but those things leave them empty. What I am doing is evil. Yet Samuel also speaks to me. Don’t be afraid. Don’t give up. Don’t turn away from God. You may be chasing something or hiding from something but continue to desire God. Continue to serve Him. Peter preached a similar word in a famous sermon at the dawn of the Christian church.

36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36 – 38 ESV

Whatever my personal sins, defects, and character flaws may be and no matter how grievous they have been to others, myself, and God they have all been forgiven. Jesus Christ died to give me forgiveness. Even though I have broken the laws he has given me a presidential pardon.

Do not turn aside. Do not give up. Repent every time. Serve God not yourself. Rest in the name of Jesus and listen to the Holy Spirit that is a gift from him. Submit and serve Jesus he makes you righteous even with your flaws.

for the righteous falls seven times and rises again Psalms 24:16a ESV

1 Thessalonians 4:1 | Self Help

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Growth and maturity are aspirations of the self help and be all that you can be motivational speakers. With education and wealth that most in free societies have in abundance, growth and maturity would seem to be a waste if not taken advantage of even in small measure. Within this space some pastors write books or sermons themed on how to have the best life. Even more motivational speakers outside of religion will focus on the power of positive thinking. If you can dream it you can do it they preach. None of this is wrong within limits, but when taken to selfish extremes self help and achieving dreams are a trap. Paul in his letter to the church in Thessalonica did not have much to correct in their behavior. The reports he received must have been glowing, compared to some of the other early churches at least. Paul challenges this church asking them to have growth and maturity in two key areas. If one is looking for self help and big dreams then Paul’s words are the God inspired way to approach life. For the contemporary church that means following the teaching of the Bible which is a record of what the apostles taught to the early church.

First Paul challenges the church to grow more and more in their sexual ethic. To please God one must recognize right and wrong in this area. This challenge from Paul is not some rule that men have made up to stop people from loving or having fun as they see fit but it is an expectation from God himself and will save many from a life of loneliness and regret.

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 1 Thessalonians 4:1; 3-8 ESV

The sexual liberation of current society is nothing new. Lust fulfilled through pornography, affairs, and a hookup culture are a hollow gratification that is championed by those who are dead inside. You want a better you? You want to please God? Then submit your body to Christ. Stop polluting your heart, soul, and mind with dishonor and impurity. God is holy and pure so we should at least acknowledge what is right even if doing right is near impossible. What we know is impossible is pleasing God when selfish desires rule every waking moment. Paul put these words into another form in his letter to the Roman church.

6 For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Romans 8:6-8 ESV

If your life is self-centered and self-accommodating you are living in the “flesh”. This is death because our flesh leads us away from God. Much of God’s law is in place to confirm to us that our selfish fleshly desires should not rule over our lives.

Second Paul challenges the church to grow more and more in how we live our daily lives as citizens in a country and community.

9 Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, 10 for that indeed is what you are doing to all the brothers throughout Macedonia. But we urge you, brothers, to do this more and more, 11 and to aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you, 12 so that you may walk properly before outsiders and be dependent on no one. 1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 ESV

For the woke brothers and sisters (both white and black) and for the conservative evangelical brothers and sisters this challenge from Paul needs to be front and center at all times. Where is our brotherly love? Paul found no need to write to the Thessalonians on this topic because they had love for others. They served others without judgment. But Paul wanted them to grow more and more. So if you think you have this kind of love in place then Paul says go further. Seek the welfare of others over self. Seek not to be dependent on the government. Seek not to be so concerned with the affairs of others. I can’t change someone else any more than the government can force people to change. True change only comes from the Spirit given to us by Christ. And why does Paul want more and more of this? So that we would walk properly before outsiders for God’s glory. Sadly, at this moment much of the outside world sees sides pitted against each other competing for worldly influence apart from Christ.

Finally, some of you reading this will reject it all. This post is not the typical kind of self help because Paul wants yourself to be put aside. The best help one could ever provide to self is to let self-die and be made alive in Christ.

Some of you reading will agree but are afraid of what putting away the self will mean when it comes to your job, your friends, and your community. It is true you may lose all of those things but God is so much more important than anything else.

42 Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in [Jesus], but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43 for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God. John 4:42-43 ESV

*original photo by Scott Webb from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/colorful-plant-pot-rocks-395676/