What Can We Learn From Ziklag

I Samuel 30:1-8

David, in running away from Saul, did some pretty ignorant things.  None was more suspect than leaving Ziklag, the city that he and his men had claimed for their own, to go and fight for the Philistines against Israel.  God would not let that happen; in fact, the princes of the Philistines refused to allow him in their ranks, even though their leader favored him.  God would not let the anointed King of Israel take up arms against His people.

Unfortunately, God did not let this failing of David’s go to waste.  He used it as a learning opportunity.  He taught David and his men a few valuable lessons after this.

Ziklag was burned to the ground.

The Amalekites had come in and invaded, stealing everything they had, including their wives and children.  David’s men, on seeing this, began discussing stoning him.  In the midst of this, David did not make a knee-jerk reaction.  Instead, his men see him do what al followers should see their leaders do: he asked God’s direction.

With God’s blessing, he was able to take off after those that had robbed him and his men of their livelihoods.

They also learned that there was a limit to human endurance.  About two hundred of the six hundred men were too weak to follow to the battle, and had to stay by the brook Besor.

They learned about redemption.  They found an Egyptian that had been a servant to the leader of the Amalekites.  He was left by the side of the road after getting too sick to continue on.  His master no longer wanted him, but David had room for everyone that turned their life around.  David showed his men about grace, and forgiveness.

They learned about God’s providence.  After battling with the Amalekites, they found that there was not one thing lost of all that the enemy had taken from them.  Neither child nor wife nor piece of silver was missing.  They received other spoil as well.

They learned about sharing.  Some of David’s men decided that because the other men were too faint to follow, they should not share in the spoil.  David was having none of it.  He gave an equal portion to those that stayed by the stuff while the rest went to battle.  He recognized that it was God that delivered the enemy to them, and provided the spoil, so it was fitting that the blessing be shared with them all.

Finally, they learned about hope.  David had been promised the kingdom of Israel years before.  God had used this time, as well as his absence from the war with the Philistines, to finally remove Saul from the throne of Israel, leaving David to the crown.  They had hoped for this day for years, and now, their patience was paying off.

Isn’t it just amazing what we can gather from the Bible?  In a single chapter, there is so many lessons that we can learn.  Sure, it was a lesson to those men to be sure, but how much more a lesson to us now that we can read about their trials?  The Bible is much more than a bunch of stories and proverbs; it is alive, and it is food for the soul, and water for a weary heart.  Read it and allow God to feed you from it.


John 9

I’ve been challenged on a local conservative talk forum to take the lead on the discussion of the book of John.  While my conversations there are usually much shorter than this, I decided I really needed to write this.  Let me say, I love the book of John.  Sure, there is a lot to love in the Bible, but the book of John just holds a special place for me.  This book shows Christ in all His glory, not just the Son of God, but God Himself.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

I’ve started at chapter 9 because that is where the discussion on the forum had gotten to before I got there.  I will endeavor to go back to the first chapter and cover the first eight here as well, but for now, I give you my thoughts on chapter 9.

What strikes me first is the disciples’ attitude towards this blind man.  The Jewish culture at this time regarded any malformation as a result of sin.  Now, in the broader sense, that our human bodies are full of sin and are therefore no longer perfect, yes, that is the case.  Every disease, every deformity, every chemical imbalance is caused by Adam allowing sin into his life.  We have lived around 6000 years since that time, and our bodies have become weaker and weaker over time, genetically.  Sin has taken a toll on the human race.

However, that is not what the disciples were talking about.  They wanted to know specifically who sinned a sin so grievous that this man was blinded.  They actually blamed the man himself for sinning so badly that he was born blind!  Can you imagine the indoctrination and tradition that would be required to think this?  The man did not sin, neither his parents.  That’s what Jesus said.  Now, in the sense that we are all sinners, yes, they were as well, however this case of blindness was not caused by any of their specific sins.

But notice it was not just the disciples that believed this man or his parents sinned to cause the blindness.  If you go to verse 34 of the same chapter, the Pharisees that were questioning him, not willing to hear the truth, told him, “Thou wast altogether born in sins, and dost thou teach us?”  This is a fact; all men are born in sin, as Romans 3:23 points out;  “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.”  However, the rulers at the synagogue were pointing out that this man was somehow less than them because he was “born in sins,” as if somehow they were not.  They were obviously referencing the fact that he had been born blind.

This shows the arrogance and religious superiority that these Pharisees felt about themselves.  They knew the truth, they were educated, and they were the end of the discussion when it came to spiritual or doctrinal matters.  When they were confronted with the truth, they more or less stuck their fingers in their ears and said, “I can’t hear you.”  It was as effective as what they actually did.  They called the man names, dismissed his testimony as worthless, and sent him away.

Can you think of anyone who does this today?  Many “theologians” today are confronted with the truth, and yet dismiss it.  If a man speaks against homosexuality, saying truthfully that the Bible speaks against it, these educated men and women say, “Well, Jesus never actually spoke against it.”  Jesus did speak up in favor of traditional marriage, however, because he was against divorce and polygamy, as we can see in Matthew 19.  Those were the issues of the time.  Homosexuality was a known deviance, and He would not have spoken out about it, because the Jews wouldn’t have confronted Him with it.

I’ve often said that if Jesus is the Word, as John states, then the entire Word is what Jesus said.  Jesus is the living Word, and the entire Bible is His Word.  The Holy Spirit, who is equal with Jesus as part of the trinity, and they two equal with God, then when Paul writes against homosexuality in the epistles, under the authority of the Holy Spirit, then he is writing what Jesus wants to be written.

I only bring up that issue because it is the issue of the day.  There are many more sins which people these days want to let slide because they “aren’t that big a deal,” or because “Jesus never spoke on that.”  The Bible is clear; “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”  That was Paul in II Timothy 3:16.  That verse cuts to the quick.  You either believe in all of the Bible, or you cannot believe in any of it.  Because all of it is given by inspiration of God.  You say, “Well how do we know that Paul was really inspired by God?”

If he wasn’t, then you can’t believe anything he wrote.  And if you can’t believe Paul, then what makes you think you can believe James, John, Peter, or even Moses and Isaiah?  Why should you believe David?

I’ve run the rabbit trail enough.  The focus is this.  Jesus Christ healed a blind man.  The man or his parents did not cause his blindness through sin.  God wanted to show his power.  God wanted to show his glory.  God caused the man’s blindness to prove a point.  That is the crux of this blog today.  What we believe about our religion cannot be confused with what our Bible actually teaches.  People believe all kinds of things that aren’t in the Bible.

The problem is, many people don’t actually know what is in the Bible, because they haven’t picked one up in years.  They simply rely on the Pastor, or the evangelist, or the televangelist.   They rely on blogs like this one (not this one, because I have pitifully few followers), or they rely on some website that puts lists together and says they’re “Christian.”

These Pharisees thought they had eternal life in the scriptures, but like Jesus told them, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.”  The scripture, Old Testament and New, speak about Jesus.  Sure, in the Old it was hidden; that’s why Jesus said search.  The New Testament speaks openly about Jesus, and tells us exactly how to worship, what He did, and how we ought to live our lives.

I’ll say it again, though I’ve said it before; “Search the scriptures.”  I constantly tell my congregation, “If I say something against what the Bible says, call me on it.  I don’t want to teach something wrong.”  Likewise, before every service, I pray to God to guard my lips against saying anything that would offend Him.  It is how we ought to live daily; do things to show the work of Jesus.  Say those things that would edify the saints, and promote Jesus in the lives of others.  And, seriously, search the scriptures.  That’s where you find Jesus.  The scriptures testify of Him.


America Needs Revival

Revival is Needed

Pastor Michael Black

Josiah was only eight years old when he became king of Judah.  After eighteen years, he had had enough of seeing the temple in such a sorry state of condition, and told the priests to gather up the silver and gold in the temple treasury and give it to the workers to fix the temple of God.  (Reference, II Kings 22-23)

While they were searching out the money, they found the “Book of the Law.”  This was the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses.  Josiah had the law read to him, and he realized what had happened in his land.  What was the first thing he did?

He inquired of God.  God sent His messenger to tell the scribes and priests what was going to happen.  There would be wrath poured out on Judah, as it had been on Israel (the ten northern tribes), and the land would not be theirs to inhabit anymore.  Others would take their places.  However, because Josiah had a tender heart and wanted to do God’s will, He (God) would not destroy the land until Josiah was dead.

Even though God had already given him what amounted to a pass, Josiah still turned his nation around.  He gathered up the priests and elders, and mad a covenant to the Lord.  He promised that as long as he lived, he would walk after the Lord and keep the commandments, the testimonies, and the covenants which were in the Book of the Law.

He began by getting the idols out of the house of God.  There were vessels there made for the worship of false gods in the temple; he commanded the priests to get rid of them.  They didn’t just take them out and melt them down to reuse the metal; they burned them with fire and spread the ashes.  He didn’t just remove the priests that led the worship of the false idols; he put them down.

He killed them.

He took out the grove, which was a wooden image to a specific god or goddess, probably Ashtoreth, which Solomon had put up for one of his wives.  II Kings 23:7 says, “And he brake down the houses of the sodomites, that were by the house of the LORD, where the women wove hangings for the grove.”  The sodomites were designated by their behavior, not their nationality.  Sodom had been destroyed many centuries at this point.  They were forbidden to help in the worship of the Lord.  Notice, he did not kill or persecute the sodomites; but he also did not allow them to stay where they were.  They were not to have anything to do with the temple worship.

Notice also, the sodomites were associated with idol worship.

Josiah defiled the places where false worship was taking place.  He got rid of the priests that taught false doctrine and led the children of Israel astray.

This is what America has to do.  As Josiah turned to the Lord and turned Israel back to Him, we need to turn back to Christ.  Some say America needs revival; I say that churches need revival.  America is just a country; Christianity survived 1800 years before America got here, and it will survive if America falls.

As Israel did, so do we need to do.

Get rid of those things in our lives that cause us to worship other gods.  Idolitry can be anything; anything that keeps us from worshipping the God of the Bible. Get rid of the “vessels” that cause you to sin.  It could be as simple as the television, or movies, or books, or your computer.  Get people out of your life that cause you to sin.  We all have those friends that don’t like it when we’re in church.  There are sometimes family members that try to pull us down.  Even personalities in the church that might take the place of God in our lives.

In the church we have to get rid of teachers of false doctrine.  Paul tells us in II Timothy 4 about the dangers of those teaching something other than the truth of God’s word.  They don’t care for your soul; many care only for their wallet.  We have to get rid of false teachers.

We need to get rid of those that are in blatant sin.  I’m guessing that when preachers start preaching the truth of God’s word, those people in blatant sin will move themselves out the door, because the pew has suddenly become rather uncomfortable.  Don’t ignore the problem of sin; do something about it.  They need to repent; only then can we bring them back in to the fold.  If they do not repent, admonish them to leave until they get it right.  (Reference: Titus 3:10-11)

Get rid of anything in the church that can lead to idol worship.  New age dogma comes to mind, but really, any teaching that strays from the Word of God.  This includes famous books.  If there is heresy in it, it needs to go.

America’s churches do need revival.  However, revival takes place in the heart of each and every Christian.  We need to have personal revival before we can start to influence others into reviving their hearts towards God.

Our Mediator

I Timothy 2:5-6  “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

Jesus Christ is our savior.  He gave His life on Mount Calvary, shedding His precious blood, and paying for our sins.  Jesus gave us new life in Him, and He is ever merciful and full of grace.

He is all of this, but that is not all He is.  He is the propitiation of our sins.  That means that all of our sins are paid for.  Not just the ones we committed yesterday, or the ones we committed before we got saved, but every sin we ever committed, and ever will commit.  Jesus paid for all of our sins.

But aside from that, He is our mediator.  God cannot be touched by iniquity.  He cannot look at our sin.  Jesus, having lived as a man, mediates between us and God.  When we pray to God, we pray in Jesus’s name.  Why?  Because He is our intermediary.  He loves us, and He wants us to have a relationship with God the Father.

The Old Testament Jew did not have the personal relationship that we can have with God.  They could pray to Him, they could sacrifice to Him, and they could worship Him.  However, their sin was always before them.  The High Priest, once a year on the Day of Atonement, could enter the Most Holy Place and pour the sacrificial blood on the Mercy Seat.  But there was always a veil separating God from His people.

Today, the veil has been torn down, and the only thing between us and God is our sin.  When we confess our sins, God is “faithful and just” to forgive us our sins.  But Jesus is our mediator.  He is there to take our petitions to God.  He tells God, “Okay, they sinned.  They’re confessing, so it’s time for forgiveness.  The relationship is restored.”  If we didn’t have that mediator, who would do that?

The Bible also says that we have an advocate with the Father, which is Jesus.  He wants us to restore that relationship that we damage whenever we decide we want to live in sin.  Just as when our own children do something to break fellowship with us, we are rooting for them to come back and restore that lost relationship, Jesus is letting the Father know that we are ready.

I have lost relationship with the Heavenly Father before.  The Holy Bible and prayer, with a heavy dose of old-fashioned preaching of the Word, brought me back to the point where I wanted that fellowship again.  Thank God that Jesus was there to tell the Father that I was ready.  Like the prodigal son, I just had to come to myself, and then go to the father to seek forgiveness.  He was waiting for me.

Jesus is our only mediator. The Bible mentions nothing of Patron Saints or angels or other people acting as mediators on our behalf. The verse in I Timothy says that there is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus. Thank the Lord that He is there, and that He advocates for us.

Pardon the Application

Isaiah 55:6-7 brings home a message that many people have trouble with.  Not just unsaved people, but professing Christians, born again believers, and devout church goers.  “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”

You say, “How could someone have trouble with that verse?  The wicked need to come to God.  That’s the cornerstone of our faith!”

Sure, Christians have no problem applying that sentiment to the world.  Those we know are lost, while not in what society would call wickedness, are nevertheless counted as sinners before God, and need forgiveness and salvation lest the spend eternity in hell.  They need our Saviour to cleanse them of all unrighteousness.  They need the mercy of the LORD.

Christians tend to have a problem applying the same verse to themselves.

“But preacher, we’re not wicked?”  “God has already pardoned us; we don’t need mercy anymore.”

My Bible says in Lamentations 3:22-23 “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.”

In Romans 8, Paul lays out the struggles we have being born again.  We have the Spirit in us, we are new creatures in the sight of God, and yes, when He looks at us He sees the blood applied.  But this same Spirit we have in us, this new creature, is constantly in battle with our flesh.  This rotten old body, dead in trespasses and sins, can give us more trouble than we can handle.  Like the story of the lost son, there is in every Christian the possibility of looking at the world and taking what God has to offer us and leaving.  The Father waits for us, and when we come home, He welcomes us with open arms.

We need only seek Him while He may be found.  Seek his mercy, turn from our wickedness, and accept that He’s been waiting for us to come back to his welcoming arms.  It is a sad commentary on Christianity that oftentimes we act like the lost son’s older brother.  “God, why do you let that guy come back after what he’s done?”  “God, I’ve never left you.  Why such a celebration when that wicked one comes back to church?”

“God will abundantly pardon.”  Our Bibles say the same thing, right?  Luke 7:47 says, “Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.”  Hey, we all sin, and some of us sin more than others.  That Christian that has left the fold and comes back, well, he/she may not have a ministry anymore, they may not have the testimony they used to have, but God has abundantly pardoned them.

Just like He has abundantly pardoned you.  And me.  And all those that judge a person based on what we can see, instead of what is in the heart.

Maybe I’m just rambling now, but I’d like to think that Christians, those that have stayed faithful, those that haven’t left for the pleasures of this world, would have the spirituality to forgive as God forgives, and to bring those prodigals back into the fold with rejoicing, and with love and acceptance.  We don’t have to like what they’ve done.  We don’t even have to pretend we don’t know what they’ve done.  All we are required to do is love.  Love them like Jesus loves them.  God is the ultimate judge.

The Lord will lead His people back to the fold, and just as they need to forsake the wicked acts and unrighteous thoughts on their way back to the Lord, those that are faithful to His house, those that have never left the fold, should forsake the wickedness of being judgmental and the unrighteous thoughts of non-acceptance.  They’ve been away from God, and they need your love, not your condescension.  Jesus said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”

Love the brethren, brethren.  Jesus commands it.

Be Ye Kind

Ephesians 4:31-32 “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as Go for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you.”

It is not always easy to forgive someone.  That’s a pretty “duh” statement, if I do say so myself, but as I think about it, I realize it is much more than being “hard to forgive.”

Jesus forgave us before we were even born.  We put Him on the cross, and it was our sin that kept Him there, and our sin that He paid for by dying.  Yet, He forgave us.  When your neighbor accidentally lets dandelions get out of hand and they spread to your lawn, how about forgiving him.  When that guy cuts you off in traffic, why not just let it go.  And when your boss yells at you for no apparent reason?  Well, let’s say that might not be that big a deal.  In the grand scheme of things, what is all of that compared to what Jesus Christ forgave us for?  How many times have you actually told Jesus you were sorry for taking His name in vain, or saying something untoward to the cars in your way?  How many times do we daily fail Jesus, and forget that it was that sin right there that put Him on the cross.

Don’t be bitter.  If someone did something to bother you, let them know about it.  They may not know they offended you.  In fact, the first thing you should probably do is take a long hard look at the situation and figure out if you should even be offended.  It’s probably not that big a deal.  But, if you come away from it feeling as if you have a right to be offended, or upset, go to that person, and let them know.  Letting those feelings sit inside of you only allows the sore to fester and eventually you will become bitter.  In fact, you may blow that situation into something that keeps you from enjoying yourself while that person is around, all the while they have no idea why you have begun to act strangely around them.  Bitterness destroys your own attitude, as well as your fellowship with others.  Put away the bitterness.

Get rid of your anger and wrath.  You mad bro?  Let it go.  Paul says to be angry and sin not in another passage, but here he says to just put away the anger.  There he is speaking of righteous anger, and doing something constructive, not destructive.  Here, he is talking about interpersonal relationships.  Anger hurts everyone in the situation, but it hurts worst the person that is angry.  I’ve dealt with this.  Often, there is a way to alleviate the anger; remove yourself from the situation.  If that doesn’t work, then it might be something you’ll have to give up to God, and request His assistance giving up.  After all, He is the one telling you to put it away.  He can show you how to get rid of that anger.

Be kind.  Paul is talking about Christian relationships here, but I think we can be kind to everyone.  Jesus said that you would know His disciples by their fruit; kindness is a fruit.  The old saying is right:  People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.  Your heart should be tender to those in your community, whether or not they be of the household of faith.,  Who knows if one day they might come to church with you just so they can see more people who are as kind as you are?  That is truly what people are looking for in this day.  They want to know people care about them.  Especially young people.

There is a generation of kids growing up out there without parents that care.  I see it all the time.  They want something to latch on to, and they want to know that someone cares what they’re doing.  Jesus cares, and because of that, we ought to care.  Be kind, and tenderhearted to those that otherwise might never hear a kind word or have anyone to show them kindness.

And just be a kind person.  That’s really all Jesus is asking of us.  Is that so hard?

Just Be Still

Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth.”
It has been a busy few days, and I’ve not had a chance to post.  That was a mistake on my part, because I read this verse, and became convicted of my lapse.
There comes a point in a day where you literally (correct usage here) cannot do anything else.  The end of the month is pretty hectic around a bank, with people calling in getting last minute payments in, yelling at you because they didn’t make a payment adjustment and are now short, and basically blaming you for their mess ups.  Yeah, people do that.  On top of that, reports have to be filed, reports have to be pulled from the investor, invoices have to be taken care of, and there are any number of things that generally have to get done “by the end of the month.”
Add to that the business of home, preparing lessons for Sunday School and for my pastor friends that still work full time jobs, preparing to preach three times a week.  This is sometimes called being too busy.  God has words of wisdom for this.
“Be still, and know that I am God:”
It is nearly impossible to really forget that God is God.  However, sometimes we forget all that God is.  Our lives get so busy we forget that God is our Father, our confidante, and provider.  He can help you through the tough times if you would ask Him.  He will fight your battles for you, if you just sit still for a minute and tell Him your troubles.  Yes, He knows them.  Yes, He sees the way through before you even tell Him what you’re going through.  However, He wants you to come to Him and tell Him your worries and your cares.  He wants you to be still.
In the midst of your busy day, don’t forget to sit down and take some time to just remember that God is not just some faraway “man upstairs,” He’s a personal God, and He wants you to talk to Him.  Show the world that even though life is hectic, God can bring you peace in the storm.  Then, He will be exalted.  Even the lost among your co-workers and acquaintances will see that there is something different.