“Choose God”

1 Samuel 8:6-9 (NIV)
But when they said, “Give us a king to lead us,” this displeased Samuel; so he prayed to the LORD.
And the LORD told him: “Listen to all that the people are saying to you; it is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.  As they have done from the day I brought them up out of Egypt until this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are doing to you.  Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.”


God’s heart must have ached in hearing the pleas of His people.  They demanded a king.  They looked around at the other nations and coveted what they had.  God had provided them food and protection in a barren land during the exodus, and He had provided them lands to call their own, but still they strayed from Him.  Still they wanted more.  Enemies were vanquished before His people, provisions were met and yet they took it all for granted.  

When they cried out for a king in the setting sun of Samuel’s leadership, God reminded him that it was aimed at the Almighty.  “It is not you they have rejected, but they have rejected me as their king.”  (1 Samuel 8:7)  Imagine for a moment giving up the One who was their fortress of protection.  Imagine saying to God, your wealth, though it outnumbers the stars in the sky, is not enough for me…we want something else.  God had poured out His love upon His people and they had rejected it again and again.  

If there was ever a governmental system in this world that could stand the test of time it was and still is God’s model.  No other form of government has ever before or ever will prove more pure and selfless than His.  No other form of democracy will ever remain without being tainted by man’s selfish ambitions for power, prestige and wealth.  Yet His people chose a lower form of government because other nation’s systems looked more appealing.  The lure of other gods and openly degenerate moralistic standards appealed to the people of God.  How awful Samuel, God’s prophet must have felt.  How hurt and heartsick with grief Samuel must have been.  

Have you ever felt the sting of rejection?  I have a time or two.  It is an emotion that without a doubt begs never to be repeated in the human heart.  Though this went much deeper than a single person being rejected, God was rejected by the entirety of His chosen people!  They turned their backs on Him.  They decided that He couldn’t support their needs any longer and so a king would better suit their pleasures.  

I imagine through pain, disdain and hurt God tells Samuel to give the people what they want.  But He also warns Samuel to tell them what the results will be of their betrayal and choice.   “Now listen to them; but warn them solemnly and let them know what the king who will reign over them will do.” (1 Samuel 8:9) The idea of a king was far more appealing to the people of God than actually considering the consequences of their choice.  The king would reign over them, not like a loving, understanding and all knowing God, but like a man driven by selfish intentions and sin this would be how they would be ruled over.  

God allowed them to choose.  We are a created with this free-will within us.  We are not compelled or forced to love and serve God.  Yet when we choose to reject Him and His hand upon our lives we soon find that in our folly the devastating consequences of life without Him!  I am not advocating for one form of government over another today, nor am I renouncing any leadership within our government (Scripture clearly says: “Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God. 17 Honor everyone. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor.” (1 Peter 2:13-17))  But what I am saying is this; above everything choose Him.  Don’t turn from the One who created us and has preserved our lives.  Choose God.  Serve Him, love Him and make Him Lord of your life above and before all else.  

-Just a thought for today.


The Biblical Twilight Zone…


My children got sucked in today by an old black and white television show. The show in question? The Twilight Zone. This morning before going to school, waking up with sleep caked eyes they flipped on the TV and they were drawn in. Not by expensive special effects or famous actors, but a well scripted haunting scenario. My kids journeyed with the characters on the episode identified with the actors as they uncovered a truth so hard to accept…they weren’t on Earth at all…they were someplace else.

To some degree the disciples had to have felt like actors on horrifying episode of the twilight zone. They had just finished their meal and went for a walk with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Imagine their tired eyes, filled stomachs and then Jesus tells them to sit at a place in the garden while He went up just a little further to pray. The effects of good food and the tranquil setting must have taken effect because the gospel of Mark records that Peter, James and John fell asleep instead of the Lord’s command of “keep watch”. They fall asleep, and sleep soundly as Jesus prays earnestly for His Father in Heaven to take the cup from Him (v36). Jesus displays his humanity in this moment, because He understood what needed to take place and His very human nature pleads for it to not take place.

Three times, Jesus comes to them and three times He finds them sleeping on the job. Jesus, in this difficult moment, tells them that they have to stand guard so that they didn’t fall into temptation because the spirit is willing, but the body is weak. (v.38) But because of their deep exhaustion they can’t keep their eyes open. In Jesus’ toughest struggle in his human existence, even beyond his temptation in the wilderness, His hand selected disciples couldn’t support Him in this trial. They fell asleep three times…I don’t believe in numerology but this repetitive notion of three is evident in the crucifixion story. Peter denies Jesus three times, the rooster crowed three times, the disciples including Peter, fell asleep three times and three times Jesus has to wake them up. Jesus in His death and resurrection took the span of three days. Post resurrected Jesus asks Peter how much He loved Him…you guessed it three times.

The Twilight Zone Moment:

After Jesus finishes His prayer conversation with the Father, He awakens His disciples for the last time and says, “Rise! Let us go! Here comes my betrayers!”(v.42) Here is when their reality is turned upside down. Within this very moment an alternative reality seems to present itself and it strikes literal fear in the disciples. One of their own, Judas enters the scene, and as a sign of identification places a kiss on the cheek of Jesus, as if to say ‘this is the one you want’. Peter’s eyes grow wide in surprise, as does James and John’s. How can this be? Why would Judas do such a thing? He was our brother! They all feel the bottom drop out in their stomach as this new reality sinks in. Peter reaches for his sword…where he got it, the Bible doesn’t say, but he uses it poorly it would seem as he slices off the ear of a servant to the high priest. I don’t think Peter planned to use it, his strike wasn’t premeditated but reactionary instead. This twilight zone will lead to an illegal midnight trial.

One can almost imagine the screen flickering in black and white as the camera zooms in on the actor and an expression of sheer disbelief and horror is magnified as the scenario is unveiled for the first time. This Maundy Thursday ended seemingly in a different dimension for the disciples. Way too much drama, too much loss, too little strength to do anything but sleep, cut off an ear and run away.

Don’t be too quick to judge though, perhaps if we were to place our feet into the disciples’ sandals for a moment without the foreknowledge that we have as we view this story from the outside, would we really have done anything different? Probably not.

Welcome to the Biblical Twilight Zone…Beyond it is another dimension – a dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You’re moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. You’ve just crossed over into the Biblical Twilight Zone.

The Judas Problem


Jesus had just dropped a bomb shell on his disciples…well all but one.  Someone in this very room would betray Him.  Just minutes before this shocking revelation the ambiance in the room had bathed everyone in euphoric celebratory mood, but now no longer.  One moment the meal was satisfying and filling the next the bitter taste of bile and anger shattered all hope of joy and mirth.  “How can this be?”; they must have wondered.  Still others probably looked from one face to the next considering who it might be.  Could this be true?  Why would someone betray the Lord, let alone a disciple?  As each heart sunk , one in particular panicked   Judas, must have thought to himself, “well I’ve been found out, surely Jesus is going to reveal who it is and I will have to make a run for it”.  Afterall, though Judas loved money, he hadn’t really done it for the money.  Jesus was taking a long time in declaring himself Messiah, in Judas’ eyes he needed a little push and then all the chips would fall into place.  The people would then see that there was hope of revolution in Israel and freedom from Roman oppression.  At least that’s what Judas hoped would take place once Jesus’ secret was revealed.  But was it really a secret?  Hadn’t Jesus revealed who he was countless times through miracles and even through his own words?  Yet Judas was convinced that this time things would become crystal clear for those in Jerusalem.  Preparing his heart for this ‘betrayal’ was no easy feat, yet in his eyes it had to be done.  What was a little sacrifice for freedom or for being the one to reveal Messiah to the masses?

As Judas got up from the table, he couldn’t quite force himself to look his Teacher in the eyes.  A passing glance as he left the room revealed to Judas that there was disappointment on Jesus’ face.  As Judas then made his way out of the home that they were dining he must have told himself over and over again that he was doing the ‘right’ thing .  With this twisted conviction in his mind, he went and sought out the teachers of the law who would promise payment upon delivery.

Judas, at first must have thought that he could control the outcome, make a scene after Jesus’ arrest and force Jesus to declare himself King with His power as Messiah.  Afterall Judas had witnessed that power over a stormy sea and had seen many people healed with mere words from Jesus or a single touch.  Taking power and assuming His rightful place as King of Israel wouldn’t be that difficult.  All Judas had to do was force his hand…and force he did, but the outcome left Judas distraught and utterly demoralized.  Things had not gone according to plan.  He had assumed that they would hold a trial in public during the day, but that very night an illegal trial had taken place.  Judas also assumed that Jesus would defend his claim with power and might, but seemingly like a sheep to the slaughter Jesus was silent at first and even meek when He finally responded to their questions of His lineage as Son of God.  Again he knew he had made the wrong choice when the crowd, prompted by the Pharisees cried out for Barnabas rather than see an innocent man released.  Judas knew his plan had failed, and this very large gamble was going to leave him broke.  When Jesus was sentenced to death, Judas lost all hope of any kind of reprieve from this awful decision of betrayal.  Those thirty pieces of silver in his pouch seemed to weigh heavily on his conscience and in his coat pocket.  They almost seemed to cry out into his ear “this is how much your teacher’s life was worth to you?”

As bitterness and regret took the place of schemeing and plotting, Judas was left with nothing but emptiness inside his heart.  Nothing had gone according to plan and now having to face the consequences of his choice, Judas hated what he had become.  Standing in the light of his own guilt and shame Judas felt as if there was nothing left to live for.  All hope was gone.  Judas took out the thirty pieces of silver, blood money that he had been given for his part in the betrayal and threw it in the temple.  Feeling empty, broken and alone compiled with the remorse that he felt – there was no hope of salvation anymore for him – or so he thought.  He would end it…and end it he did by hanging himself.

Such a Shakespearean tale wrought with love, plotting, betrayal and an ending that leaves you wondering what might have been?
Yet we know often that perhaps there are still moments in our lives when we have betrayed Jesus.  When we have held our thirty pieces of silver in our hands and tossed a kiss Jesus’ way.  We might want to quickly condemn Judas for his actions, and rightly so, but we’ve all been Judas one time or another.  The only difference that I hope we can declare here is that we have been redeemed, that we yet have hope and that our lives are no longer cold and empty.  Though we can identify with our shortcomings in our faith and with our relationship to Jesus, He still comes back to us and says I love you…do you love me?   May our response to Jesus be one of love and victory because we were once lost but now Jesus has found us again.  That, my friends is an Amazing grace!
Happy Easter to you all!

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