1 Samuel 8:5 | Not my President

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Leadership is a valued focus of the world we live in. Books on leadership are endlessly published. At the university level there are entire classes focused on leadership. The Kindergarten teacher recommended my daughter be held back not because she was deficient in the core academic competencies but because she was immature and lacked leadership skills. We spend billions every four years to pick a leader for the country.

In the Old Testament God laid out a very strange culture and government for the nation of Israel. It was a culture that was an anti-leadership program. The government was decentralized where families and communities lived their lives free of a King. As needed the Israelite life relied on judges. These judges were not voted into office. They did not come from prescribed class or family. Sometimes they were male and sometimes female. They were priests and they were average joes. Judges were chosen by God according to his will as they were needed. They were imperfect people with all their own strengths and weaknesses. Notable judges like Samson was hardly a model citizen. Deborah a woman. Gideon came from a small insignificant family. And Samuel served as priest as well as a judge. These men and women came and went. No family dynasties. No privilege was created to carry over into succeeding generations. This type of non government is outside of human nature and must have been very difficult for the populace to accept.

4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 1 Samuel 8:4-5 ESV

This was not the first time the people wanted to install a king. Gideon had been so successful as a judge that the people tried to make him a king. They were desperate to install a family dynasty to rule over them.

22 Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, you and your son and your grandson also, for you have saved us from the hand of Midian.” Judges 8:22 ESV

It seems so very strange. But is it? History class told me that Americans wanted to make George Washington a king and he refused. Look at modern government today. If we had polling numbers how big would the percentage be that would want President Obama to be King and rule for the rest of his life? Or how many people would want President Trump to set up a kingship with his children to rule over us into the future? I bet those percentages would be more than expected. The desire I think is born out of insecurity.

19 But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, 20 that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.” 1 Samuel 8:19-20 ESV

So why did Israel not have a King like “all the nations” around them? Both Gideon and Samuel answer that question and it is an answer that all of us living even today should take to heart. The reasons they provide apply just as directly to how we live our life and how we approach the world, church, and even our own governments.

23 Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, and my son will not rule over you; the Lord will rule over you.” Judges 8:22-23 ESV

6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 1 Samuel 8:6-7 ESV

God organized the government into Judges because He is the King. God is the only King. The people did not need a king to rule them or to fight their battles. They had access to the very creator of the universe. When we cry out for leaders to rule over us (take ear evangelicals that are desperate for Trump to save Christianity from a liberal society! Take ear those who are woke and want government to lead society into the promised land of perfect morality and reparations!) we are rejecting the King of Kings. We are rejecting the true ruler of all things. We are clamoring for a god made in our own image and it is an evil selfish image. Salvation will not be found in books on leadership or the people who wrote them. Salvation will not be found in wall street or the mega church. Salvation will not be found in Republicans or Democrats. Salvation and true leadership will only be found in God through Jesus the King of Kings.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17 ESV

Creation, Laws, and Christ

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God, the maker of heaven and earth is present and draws men and women to himself. He is drawing people to himself because in our rebellion we have distanced ourselves from His perfect holiness. But God made a way and He…

4 desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 1 Timothy 2:4-6 ESV

The knowledge of truth God wishes is for all people to know Him. Understanding God’s desire from the following facts may lead to a restored relationship with God. These truths while boiled down to the following statements here does not mean an easy answer and there is no simple prescription when it comes to God because each person is unique in how they react to these truths. In fact, Jesus claimed few people will navigate this narrow road.

13 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. 14 For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Matthew 7:13-14 ESV

To know God and reconcile with Him the following three key truths must be understood, believed, and embraced. Each of the following facts are progressive and many reading this may find each successive truth more difficult to agree with but Christianity and salvation require all three.

Where there is a Creator there is a creation.

Creation is an irreducible truth it is not an accident or a random occurrence. The humanist champions of science worship the order and the repeatable laws that make up the scientific method. But those same worshiper’s state that random nothing created the perfect order of science. An atheist worldview is such an odd paradox. And truth be told most people assume and accept some type of Creator be him personal or impersonal.

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. Romans 1:20 ESV

Where there is a Law there is a Law Giver.

Accepting a Creator is an easy first step with religions and people the world over finding peace with this truth. Where the specific truths of Christianity become complicated and many find objection is in man’s relation to the law. The scientific method assumes natural laws are in effect. Force and friction are mathematically measurable. Violating those laws of nature will not allow society to create the combustion engine. In the same way God of the creation has put in place laws of human nature and violating those laws causes death and failure of the engine, our body and soul. The well-known Ten Commandments are a perfect representation of God’s laws and the recognizable effects of their violation. Do not steal, or lie, or kill. Also worship God and God alone are examples and yet people break these laws and know in their heart what they have done is wrong. All men and women have fallen short of God’s standard (be honest) and Paul writes the penalty is death. Sinners (you and me both) deserve death because all have broken the laws of God. Each person has a broken fellowship with the Creator and He sits in judgment on our crimes.

28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:28-32 ESV

Where there is Christ there is Salvation.

While most people accept “god” in the first truth about creation few agree with the second point that they have broken the laws of God and are therefore guilty sinners deserving of death and punishment. As stated in the intro being Christian is not an easy road. Sadly, people in a dwindling percentage agree and accept the second truth about sin and law breaking. Because of that even fewer will listen for the final truth the best truth of the three which is the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus resurrected from death and Peter’s first Christian sermon on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem more than 2,000 years ago states the final key perfectly. If you accept God and you acknowledge you are a sinner breaking God’s laws then listen now to the greatest news ever told.

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. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” Acts 2:36-39 ESV

Gamer Evangelism

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18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. Isaiah 1:18 ESV

I have been a gamer since the day my father brought home an Atari back in the early 80’s. I would rather be behind a computer on a game than at a party (sad I know). I have always been drawn to the computer screen. In college I saw something new a first person shooter, Doom, played across a local network in the dorm. It was glorious. And then I found a way to play X-Wing vs. Tie-Fighter over dial up with a friend. The online world exploded the intensity and fun of gaming. This world became fully realized when I first signed up for x-box live to play Halo2. I was hooked fighting in ranked matches on this FPS (first person shooter) gaming platform and it was awesome. I am older now and do not play any of these kinds of games anymore because it seems there is a season to everything and my season of life has moved on. I do have an admission to make however. There is a new game I am hooked on. It has been a long time since a game has entertained me for any length of time. I am almost embarrassed to admit that a grown man is playing Pokémon Go but hey it is true. I like the novelty of it not being a game that one sits in their home to play. It is a game that encourages people to explore and move outside in the sunlight. To be honest I look forward to where this kind of platform will go in the future.

As with everything we do in life moderation is required. If you drink, drink in moderation. If you watch TV, watch in moderation, If you facebook, facebook in moderation. Same with games. Everything has a time and place. And this brings me to the point of this post beyond reminiscing about past gamer days. What was the witness left along the way or was it only a diversion of empty hours wasted?

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When I played Halo online my gamer tag was a Bible verse. This tag stuck out and created endless opportunities to connect with other Christians and more importantly allowed an opening for conversations about Christ. Typically I would get a question what does Romans 9:16 mean? My response “it does not therefore depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy” (I have carried that tradition into this very blog Human Effort). Or I would get immediate insults for bringing anything Christian into the game. I remember one young man that as soon as he saw my tag in the party started mocking me for being Christian. He was spouting what could have been written on any Atheist propaganda web site. I answered a few of his mocking questions and then he turned serious. Several hours of in game conversation moved quickly as he asked and I answered questions in a real meaningful way. He had never been in a conversation like that and I could tell it moved him. I don’t know his name or more of his story in real life but I do pray that it was ground plowed in a God honoring way.

One other aspect of those halo days was the discipleship I received from another gamer who has the spiritual gift of evangelism and he used that gift online. I am now friends in real life with this brother. I have been to his home and he has been to mine even though we live in different parts of the country. Our bond in Christ is real, strong, and has endured for over 10 years. He repeatedly shared the gospel in game and kids responded praying to accept Christ. I was blown away every time it happened. It was amazing to hear him use words I could have said and then to see a response in ways that I never experienced. I witnessed his gift and gravitas lift up Christ and then the Holy Spirit moved on these hearts. Hearing this first hand over and over opened my eyes and changed my walk with Christ.

While I do not have that kind of online interaction anymore, I am working it out in real life serving others as Christ leads, I do want to interject Christ into anything I can in the public square. I have found a few ways to do that with Pokémon Go. I would encourage other Christians reading this to think about their own entertainments and diversions. Are you leaving a witness of Christ behind in that life and culture?

Because Pokémon Go forces the gamer out into the real world to stops and gyms it is easy to spot people playing the game. Even more interesting is that Churches seem to have a greater chance of being a gym where much of the action occurs in game. The beauty here is that people playing must come to that location in order to interact with the game. Imagine lost people willingly showing up at a Church. Christians must use this to their advantage.

First rename your Pokémon with a Bible verse. When you insert this Pokémon into a gym it will be recognized by other gamers and could be an encouragement to them. You never know what response the Holy Spirit is placing into the hearts of others.

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20 the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day. Acts 2:20 ESV

In the first picture of the Larpis I named Isaiah 1:18 the Pokémon is an ice type that has an attack of blizzard. So I felt that an appropriate verse might be that the blood of Jesus washes our sin white as snow. In this second picture I renamed the Vileplume to Acts 2:20 because this Pokémon’s primary attack is a moonblast. I wanted to remind the gamer that God is in control of all the elements and that these will fade away on the great day when He returns. For the faithful gamer immersed in the stats of a game world this kind of care and Biblical relation to where they are at might connect in a real way even if interaction is limited to a kind of Easter egg.

The second interaction is a truly evangelistic opportunity and it is physically meeting those people who are training their Pokémon in the gym at the same time and place as yourself. Observe people that might show up to the same gym each day or week. Pray in advance for an opportunity to speak with them and if the opportunity presents introduce yourself. Ask if they are one of the avatars in the Gym. Be ready to note who you are in game (my avatar is aSinnerSaved and that alone is a conversation starter) and see where the conversation will go. Maybe they will ask about the Bible verse that your Pokémon has been named for. Be prepared to know the verse. Most will want to know if you know what the verse is.

If you have practice sharing Christ with others then this is an easy call however some people reading this are intimidated by the idea that their game has now crossed over into real life people who live in the same community. That is understandable but engage, keep the conversation real, and know your story. You do not need to be a master of apologetics. Be ready to share, in a brief few minutes, who God is to you and why Christ maters in your life. You never know where that conversation will go. God and His Spirit are working in ways that I rarely expect.

I would love to hear stories or other ideas in regard to evangelism in the public square so do not be shy use this comments section!

John 4: Share the Gospel

John 4 contains the famous conversation between the woman at the well and Jesus. The conversation between Jesus and the woman starts off as a request from Jesus to her for water. This conversation is a model for followers of Christ. We should be intentional about waiting for others in public settings for an opportunity to engage in conversation. We should then use that conversation and turn it toward Christ and the Gospel message.

Jesus started the conversation on purpose and he directed it toward more and more spiritual detail even telling the woman based on the conversation that he is the Messiah. We also should be initiating conversations to direct people to Christ.

27 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” 28 So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, 29 “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” 30 They went out of the town and were coming to him. John 4:27-29 ESV

The outcome of this conversation was spirit directed and miraculous as any physical healing or resurrection from the dead.

39 Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:39-42 ESV

A mentor once told me that the best way to build a church was to study the words of Jesus in the four gospels and to study the book of Acts. In that same way it is instructive for all Christians to study how Jesus moved this dialog with the woman from a simple request for water to a life changing revelation of salvation.

Dialog

Jesus: 7 A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) John 4:7-8 ESV

Woman: 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) John 4:9 ESV

Jesus: 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” John 4:10 ESV

Woman: 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? John 4:11 ESV

Jesus: 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again.[b] The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” John 4:13-15 ESV

Woman: 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water.” John 4:15 ESV

Jesus: 16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” John 4:16 ESV

Woman: 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.”

Jesus: Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” John 4:17-18 ESV

Woman: 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” John 4:19-20 ESV

Jesus: 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:21-24 ESV

Woman: 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” John 4:25 ESV

Jesus: 26 Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.” John 4:26 ESV