1 Samuel 15

1 Samuel 15 (NLT)

Today I was reading in 1 Samuel, and God really put some verses on my heart. Basically the story so far in 1 Samuel 15 (verses 1-23) is that God led Saul to attack and destroy the Amalekites (every single person and animal). Saul took it upon himself to spare the life of the king and to save many of the best looking animals. Saul claimed that he was going to sacrifice the animals to God and that he followed God's commands, for the most part... the problem is that he made his own exceptions against God's will. I think this is easy to do, and I've found myself doing this many times before. When God commands something, I need to obey Him 100%. I can't make exceptions based on my own desires. This is a very dangerous display of pride, and it can be difficult to recognize. It's so easy to justify doing things I want, even if they go against what God wants... it's much harder to deny myself in order to obey God, but I know the payoff will be well worth it.

Samuel says in verses 22-23,
"What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice,
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams.
Rebellion is as sinful as witchcraft,
and stubbornness as bad as worshiping idols."

In reading further (verses 24-31), I'm seeing that Saul blamed the people for his disobedience to God. He said that he was afraid of them and did what they demanded. It's hard to do the right thing when you are surrounded by people who are doing the wrong thing. It's ultimately a product of fear (fear of not fitting in, fear of being rejected, possibly even fear of getting hurt or losing your life), but it's important to realize that if you lean on God, together you can conquer your fear. This is something I have yet to master, but I pray that I will choose God's way in the future when I am confronted with the choice between His way and my way (or other people's ways).


1 Thessalonians 5

1 Thessalonians 5 (NLT)

Some things from 1 Thessalonians 5...

v 9-10: "For God chose to save us through our Lord Jesus Christ, not to pour out his anger on us. Christ died for us so that whether we are dead or alive when he returns, we can live with him forever."

I'm so thankful for God's continual mercy on me. He is not angry with me, He only wants me to be saved through Him and to have a loving, genuine relationship with Him. I am hopeful and cannot wait to spend an eternity with Him!

v. 24: "God will make this happen, for he who calls you is faithful."

How wonderful to know that I serve a God who is faithful to His Word and He will do as He promises! No one else in this world can always be faithful and uphold promises made... I should trust in the Lord above all else!

v. 25: "Dear brothers and sisters, pray for us."

Again, here is another call for prayer. One thing that hit me when I read this is that everyone needs prayer, even those people who seem to have it all together. Paul (one of the biggest writers in the New Testament!) recognized his need for prayer and asked the Thessalonians to remember him in their prayers.

Back to verse 11: "So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing."

I've noticed that encouraging others is a reoccurring theme in 1 Thessalonians. Here is a list (taken, in part, from a chart in my bible) of practical ways to encourage others (from verses 11-18)...

The format is:
Bible verse - Way of encouraging - Suggested application

  • v. 11 - Build each other up - Point out to someone a quality you appreciate in him or her.
  • v. 12 - Honor leaders - Look for ways to cooperate.
  • v. 13 - Show leaders great respect - Hold back your next critical comments about those in positions of responsibility. Say "thank you" to your leaders for their efforts.
  • v. 13 - Live in peace - Search for ways to get along with others.
  • v. 14 - Warn the lazy - Challenge someone to join you in a project.
  • v. 14 - Encourage the timid - Encourage those who are timid by reminding them of God's promises.
  • v. 14 - Help the weak - Support those who are weak by loving them and praying for them.
  • v. 14 - Be patient - Think of a situation that tries your patience, and plan ahead of time how you can stay calm.
  • v. 15 - Resist revenge - Instead of planning to get even with those who mistreat you, do good to them.
  • v. 16 - Be joyful - Remember that even in the midst of turmoil, God is in control.
  • v. 17 - Pray continually - God is always with you-talk to him.
  • v. 18 - Give thanks - Make a list of all the gifts God has given you, giving thanks to God for each one.

Verses 16-18 are some of my favorites within the whole bible. Be joyful always. Pray continually. Give thanks in all circumstances. Definitely easier said than done, but these are some things I really want to work towards in my life.


1 Thessalonians 3 & 4

1 Thessalonians 3 (NLT)

1 Thessalonians 4 (NLT)

What I learned today...

Ch. 3:

v. 3-5, 7-8: "...and to keep you from being shaken by the troubles you were going through. But you know what we are destined for such troubles. Even while we were with you, we warned you that troubles would soon come-and they did, as you well know. That is why, when I could bear it no longer, I sent Timothy to find out whether your faith was still strong. I was afraid that the tempter had gotten the best of you and that our work had been useless." "So we have been greatly encouraged in the midst of our troubles and suffering, dear brothers and sisters, because you have remained strong in your faith. It gives us new life to know that you are standing firm in the Lord."

It is important for me to remain strong in faith in the Lord, even when I'm struggling and suffering. I never really thought about this before, but it's not only for me... I could be an encouragement for others in this also.

v. 10: "Night and day we pray earnestly for you..."

This goes along with some things posted yesterday about praying. It's important to recognize "night and day" as well as "earnestly."

v. 12: "And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows."

This verse doesn't boast of minimal love... overflowing love is on an entirely different level. My commentary book referenced John 13:35... "Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples." This kind of ups the ante and brings a whole new importance to the act of love. I desperately want others to see Jesus through me, and it's extremely clear here that one way to do this is through showing overflowing love to others.

Ch. 4:

v. 8: "Therefore, anyone who refuses to live by these rules is not disobeying human teaching but is rejecting God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you."

The thought of rejecting God puts more fear in me than just the thought of disobeying Him. This is a great reminder of the seriousness of disobeying God!

v. 10: "Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more."

The Thessalonians were known for their faith and the love they showed for Christ and for others (Ch. 1-3), but Paul encourages them to love even more. We can never love too much!

v. 14-18: "For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words."

The last verse really caught my attention. I believe that all of this will happen, and I very much look forward to it.. it's something that is engrained in my heart... but do I encourage others with it? Possibly, but definitely not enough. It's something that brings so much joy to my heart, and I wish for everyone else to experience it also, but I'm not doing my part in sharing that joy.


1 Thessalonians 1 & 2

1 Thessalonians 1 (NLT)

1 Thessalonians 2 (NLT)

Some things I learned in my reading today...

Ch. 1:

  • V. 2 states, "We always thank God for all of you and pray for you constantly." - I need to think of others more when I am praying. I should thank God for them and pray constantly for them and their struggles. Whenever I feel like I don't know what to pray about, I need to take the focus off myself and move it to others, because outside of my own little world is an abundance of things and people that need prayer.

  • Part of v. 5 says, "And you know of our concern for you from the way we lived when we were with you." - I need to show concern for others by the way I live with them... it's through my actions, not just empty words!

  • Portions of v. 6-8: "In this way, you imitated both us and the Lord. As a result, you have become an example to all believers..." "...wherever we go we find people telling us about your faith in God." - When I imitate the Lord, I never know who I might be affecting. It may seem like no one is noticing if I am living by God's word, but in reality I could be speaking loudly through my actions to others. This is some major encouragement to stay in line with God's will, even if I don't think it's making a difference!

Ch. 2:

  • Portions of v. 4 & 6: "Our purpose is to please God, not people. He alone examines the motives of our hearts." "As for human praise, we have never sought it from you or anyone else." - This is something I need to remember always. I can't use other people as an excuse for disobeying God; I need to choose his will over all else.

  • V. 8: "We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God's Good News but our own lives, too." - To truly show love to others, I need to share my life with them. It's hard to really love someone if you keep them at an arm's length and resist getting involved with them. To share my time and really get involved in the lives of others is a true testament of love. I feel blessed to have a very recent example in my life on this. It's something that I really need to work on, and I'm seeing a Godly woman live this out in her own life!

  • Part of v. 12: "We pleaded with you, encouraged you, and urged you to live your lives in a way that God would consider worthy." - I think it's important to urge others around you to live righteous lives (I also think it's one of the hardest things to do sometimes.. but that's another story), but this made me realize that we can't just crack down on them to change how they live. We need to encourage them in this! I can only imagine how much of a difference this one little step would make!


Job 31 and Sins

Job 31 (NLT)

I know that I am supposed to confess my sins and God will forgive me, but sometimes it's hard for me to recognize what my sins are. Of course it's easy to recognize obvious sins, such as murder, adultery, etc, etc... but let's be honest, there are less obvious sins that are committed much more often. Since I don't go around committing murder or adultery, it can be hard for me to see my sins. But today God used Job 31 to point out many of the less obvious sins to me.

Job 31:1
"I made a covenant with my eyes
not to look with lust at a young woman."

Lust is one of the more well-known sins. It's not right to act on or entertain sexual desires when outside of a marriage. This also means looking at pornography. I have a feeling this is a sin that affects men more so than women, but that's not always the case.

Job 31:5
"Have I lied to anyone
or deceived anyone?"

I think most people consider lying a sin, but may not consider little white lies or omissions as lies.
But lying is lying, period. It doesn't matter how serious or big of a lie it is. Purposely leaving out or avoiding information can be considered lying, even if every word that comes out of your mouth is truth. This is where it gets tricky, and it's easy to convince yourself that you're not lying.

Job 31:16-17
"Have I refused to help the poor,
or crushed the hopes of widows?
Have I been stingy with my food
and refused to share it with orphans?"

Ok, these things are definitely easy to overlook as sins. Sins aren't always things that I have done, they can also be things that I haven't done. Basically, if I walk past a homeless person and turn my head the other way, instead of offering help, I am sinning. Ignoring the needy can be so easy to do sometimes... especially if I am so wrapped up in my own agenda. I should be more aware and more focused on other people.

Job 31:24-25
"Have I put my trust in money
or felt secure because of my gold?
Have I gloated about my wealth
and all that I own?"

It's a sin to put my trust in my material possessions or to be prideful for the things I own. I need to remember (and act accordingly) that everything that I own is actually God's. Basically, He's lending it to me to use while I'm on this earth, but He can take it away at any time. I need to find my security in God and His Son who saves me for eternity.

Job 31:29
"Have I ever rejoiced when disaster struck my enemies,
or become excited when harm came their way?"

How easy is it to want revenge against someone who has wronged me and treated me unfairly? Or to think that they deserve it when something bad happens to them? Probably the easiest way for me to sin in this way is when I'm driving. If someone cuts me off or if someone speeds past me, it's really easy to automatically wish there was a police officer near by to pull them over. Since this is a sin that I've made myself aware of in the past, I really try not to revert to that kind of thinking, but sometimes it's hard to stop what automatically pops into my head. Instead of wishing they would get caught, now I try to pray for their safety.


Genesis 26

Genesis 26 (NLT)

Verses 26-31
26One day King Abimelech came from Gerar with his advisor, Ahuzzath, and also Phicol, his army commander. 27"Why have you come here?" Isaac asked. "You obviously hate me, since you kicked me off your land." 28They replied, "We can plainly see that the LORD is with you. So we want to enter into a sworn treaty with you. Let's make a covenant. 29Swear that you will not harm us, just as we have never troubled you. We have always treated you well, and we sent you away from us in peace. And now look how the LORD has blessed you!" 30So Isaac prepared a covenant feast to celebrate the treaty, and they ate and drank together. 31Early the next morning, they each took a solemn oath not to interfere with each other. Then Isaac sent them home again, and they left him in peace.

When Isaac was living among Abimelech's people (the Philistines) he became very wealthy, and the Philistines became very jealous of him. Because of this jealousy, Isaac was sent out of their land. Isaac looked at these people as his enemy, and Abimelech came to him for a peace treaty. As far as I can tell, Isaac didn't even hesitate to accept this motion. I think this is what God wants of me, as a Christian. Not that I really have "enemies," but there are people in my past with whom my relationship ended on a bad note. If any one of these people would approach me today and want to make peace, God would want me to accept and live peacefully with them.


Genesis 21 & 22

"14So Abraham got up early the next morning, prepared food and a container of water, and strapped them on Hagar's shoulders. Then he sent her away with their son, and she wandered aimlessly in the wilderness of Beersheba. 15When the water was gone, she put the boy in the shade of a bush. 16Then she went and sat down by herself about a hundred yards away. 'I don't want to watch the boy die,' she said, as she burst into tears. 17But God heard the boy crying, and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, 'Hagar, what's wrong? Do not be afraid! God has heard the boy crying as he lies there. 18Go to him and comfort him, for I will make a great nation from his descendants.' 19Then God opened Hagar's eyes, and she saw a well full of water. She quickly filled her water container and gave the boy a drink."

This story just tugs at my heart. It's hard to imagine ever being in a situation like this, but I can get a glimpse of Hagar's despair and hopelessness. These verses remind me that God is always with me, no matter how bad my circumstances are or how upset I am. He is always there for me, and if I'm willing to listen to Him, He will comfort me and provide me with enough to get me through.

"1Some time later, God tested Abraham's faith. 'Abraham!' God called.
'Yes,' he replied. 'Here I am.'
2'Take your son, your only son--yes, Isaac, whom you love so much--and go to the land of Moriah. Go and sacrifice him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains, which I will show you.'
3The next morning Abraham got up early. He saddled his donkey and took two of his servants with him, along with his son, Isaac. Then he chopped wood for a fire for a burnt offering and set out for the place God had told him about."

"9When they arrived at the place where God had told them to go, Abraham built an altar and arranged the wood on it. Then he tied his son, Isaac, and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. 10And Abraham picked up the knife to kill his son as a sacrifice. 11At that moment the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, 'Abraham! Abraham!'
'Yes,' Abraham replied. 'Here I am!'
12'Don't lay a hand on the boy!' the angel said. 'Do not hurt him in any way, for now I know that you truly fear God. You have not withheld from me even your son, your only son.'

Abraham had such strong faith in God. He waited a long time to have his son Isaac (he was born when Abraham was 100 years old). Then God asks Abraham to give Isaac up as a sacrifice. I don't have any children yet, but I still can't imagine having to sacrifice my own child. Abraham didn't even hesitate. He left the next morning to go to the place where God had called him. When God calls me to do something, I need to obey Him immediately. It's really easy for me to put things off for later, but God wants immediate action. I can't relate as much with the sacrifice part of this, but I could translate it over to helping people. When I see people who need help, I need to attend to them right away. God doesn't want me to wait until it's more convenient, and He especially doesn't want me to put it off until I completely forget about it.