The Heart of the Matter

“But the LORD said to Samuel, ‘Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7)
 
When you look in the mirror do you like what you see? Maybe you do, maybe you don’t.
 
Either way, it doesn’t matter.
 
What you see in the mirror isn’t you. We spend far too much time fashioning our bodies when we should be fashioning our characters. Our outer man gets all the attention and then we wonder why our lives are unfulfilled and our hearts are weak and anxious. We wonder what happened to bravery, honor, selflessness, gratitude, virtue, and true love and we yearn for people to be better and stronger, but then we spend as much money on cosmetics as the average yearly wage in some countries.
 
We hate how selfish the world is and stop to take another selfie.
 
Character is not born, it is made. And the LORD looks at the heart because He knows that is the only thing that is important about who you are.
 
“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”
(Proverbs 4:23)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

An Inconvenient Truth

“I regret that I have made Saul king, for he has turned back from following Me and has not carried out My commands.” (1 Sam. 15:11)

God told Saul to destroy all of the Amalekite nation, a nation whose sins were “full” (see Gen. 15:16 for God’s statements about when He marked nations for destruction).  Saul went to war, destroyed the people (the part most of us would consider the most difficult aspect) and then saved the spoils of war and their king.  In short, Saul followed as much of the command as he wanted to.

Saul would say, “I have carried out the command of the Lord.” (1 Sam. 15:13), but God said he hadn’t. When we only follow the parts of the Bible that we want to follow, we aren’t carrying out His commands.  It doesn’t count as obedience if we only obey when we want to – it counts as rebellion (1 Sam. 15:23).

As you study the Bible, you will find portions of it that are inconvenient and include teachings that challenge your self-interests and preconceived ideas but living by God’s authority means we take the whole counsel of God.  The Bible isn’t a salad bar that we pick and choose the parts we want – it’s the Christian constitution.

“You shall not add to the word that I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God that I command you.” (Deut. 4:2)

Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Spoken Too Soon

“Then one of the people said, ‘Your father strictly put the people under oath, saying, “Cursed be the man who eats food today.” ‘ Then Jonathan said, ‘My father has troubled the land. See now, now how my eyes have brightened because I tasted a little of this honey.’ ” (1 Sam. 14:28-29)
 
King Saul’s leadership was often impulsive and without restraint. He drove the people to fight without eating, not because it was wise, but because he had the power. His hard oath may have made him look strong, but it made his people weak and as his own son said, “troubled the land.”
 
Rash judgment is a lot like a rash – irritating and distracting. It gets attention, but for all the wrong reasons.
 
In contrast, good leadership is thoughtful and measured. As James says, “let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (Jas 1:19). Power and authority are a responsibility and a privilege that should be exercised with care and diligence. Get all the facts and consider all the consequences first, and only then speak. Any fool can open his mouth. It takes a wise man to keep it closed.
 
“There is one whose rash words are like sword thrusts, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” (Pr. 12:28)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Be Bravely Good

“Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, ‘Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the LORD will work for us, for the LORD is not restrained to save by many or by few.'” (1 Sam 14:6)
 
Most decision-making involves three elements: value, practicality, and ethics. We ask what we will get out of the choice (What’s in it for me?), then we ask whether it is practical (What would it cost me to make this happen?), and then we ask whether we should (What would God say about this?).
 
Jonathan reversed that order. He asked what God would have him do even if it seemed impractical (or impossible!) and without regard for personal injury. Ethics first. Practicality second. Self-interest last.
 
This is faithful decision-making. If it is right, who cares if it is practical? The right thing is rarely practical, and it seldom lines up with our selfish interests.
 
Be a Jonathan. Be bravely good.
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Taking Responsibility

But Samuel said, ‘What have you done?’ And Saul said, ‘Because I saw that the people were scattering from me, and that you did not come within the appointed days, and that the Philistines were assembling at Michmash…” (1 Sam 13:11)

If you want to understand Saul’s demise – all you have to do is watch the nouns.  “The people were scattering”, “you did not come”, “the Philistines were assembling”.

Perhaps the people were scattering, and for some reason Samuel was late, and the Philistines were armed to the teeth… but all of those are things happening to Saul.  He is the melodramatic center of a universe where everyone else’s choices forced his hand.  He never talks about his power and authority to choose (he’s the king for crying out loud!).

Some people really are victims that are dealt an undeserved blow that they could never have prepared for, but many times we cry “victim” simply because we find it easier to focus on everyone else’s problems.

God held Saul accountable for his choices at Michmash because Saul wasn’t a victim.  Some people really are victims, but let’s save the term for those who really are weak, vulnerable, and oppressed.  Saul was none of those things.  He was just a man that didn’t want to take responsibility for himself.

Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Put Down the Shovel

“He has dug a pit and hollowed it out, and has fallen into the hole which he made. His mischief will return upon his own head, and his violence will descend upon his own pate” (Ps 7:15-16)
 
The above verse is a description of the man who won’t repent. We all sin, but the worst thing you can do when you sin is to continue. If sin digs us a hole, repentance stops us before it gets too deep. Yet, far too often pride or covetousness urge us to defend an indefensible position.
 
If you’ve sinned – own it. The sooner the better.
 
Apologize, make restitution, confess, and change course.
 
Unchecked sin digs your own grave. Put the shovel down.
 
“The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent…” (Acts 17:30)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Prayer for Troubled Times

“Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the LORD by ceasing to pray for you; but I will instruct you in the good and right way.” (1 Sam. 12:23)

Samuel’s attitude toward Israel was the essence of “love hopes all things” (1 Cor. 13:7).  He knew the nation had just rejected God by requesting a king and the expectation is that things would only get worse… and yet, Samuel prayed for them.

He didn’t pray for them because they were good, but because he was responsible for them.  He considered praying for the nation his sacred duty – part of his responsibility as a judge of Israel.

The world would be a better place if Christians viewed prayer that way.  Our children, our parents, our friends, our enemies, our national leaders… all of these groups need us to pray for them regularly. Far be it for us to sin against the LORD by not praying for people we are responsible for.  We live in troublesome times where darkness often reigns in the public square.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Tim 2:1-4)

Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

The Plans of God

“Now a day before Saul’s coming, the LORD had revealed this to Samuel saying, ‘About this time tomorrow I will send you a man from the land of Benjamin…” (1 Sam. 9:15-16)
 
Sometimes the Bible gives us little hints at the power of God in unexpected places. The story of Samuel’s anointing of Saul as king begins with the phrase “Now a day before”. Before Samuel knew he was coming and before Saul knew he was leaving, God was orchestrating a plan. Two people that didn’t know each other were about to be brought together by Jehovah’s awesome foresight.
 
A good way to make your brain hurt is to sit back and think about what God is planning for your life that you don’t know about. How will He direct your steps tomorrow? What people will He connect you with to let your light shine and share His good word with? What opportunities to grow and to serve are awaiting just around the unseen corner of tomorrow’s clock?
 
Forget about your plans – get excited about His!
 
“The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” (Pr 16:9)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Earn Your Sleep

“How long will you lie down, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep? A little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest.” (Pr 6:9-10)
 
Imagine laziness from God’s perspective. He creates you a heart that beats flawlessly day after day for decades, eyes that can see, hands that can grasp, and lungs that can flood your body with oxygen and vigor. He endows us with strength and vitality and we choose to sleep away that life.
 
Laziness is a waste of the gift of life. It is a choice to squander what He breathed into us. God’s gift is wasted because we cut corners, do things halfway, procrastinate, and don’t follow through.
 
Rest is a beautiful thing if it is earned. We rest after we work, not instead of working. Stolen rest leaves us with regret and shame. We feel bad about ourselves and rightfully so. However, if we work while there is light and give our best effort, we can enjoy rest at the end of the day having given ourselves fully to the day the Lord has given to us.
 
“The sleep of a laboring man is sweet, whether he eat little or much” (Ecclesiastes 5:12a)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites

Real Love

A friend loves at all times; and a brother is born for adversity. (Pr 17:17)
 
The strength of love is not measured in kisses, but in tears. Deep love that stands the test of time has enjoyed the ‘health’, but more importantly, has held the hand through ‘sickness’. It is ‘richer’ for the ‘poorer’ times, and that had given it to strength to part only in death.
 
Love and friendship, your tribe and your family are those that you endure the heartache and the loss with and come out the stronger for it. Love is the strength for the darkness.
 
Greater love has no one than this, that someone lays down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
 
Matt. 4:4 #Biblebites