Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Stirring Spirit

“...and the Spirit of the Lord began to stir him.”  Judges 13:25

It is said that all great movements begin, not with a bang or the clashing of drums or the shouts of the mighty, but with a whisper.  Such it is in this passage as we read of the birth of Samson, the promised son whom God has chosen to use to begin the release of the chosen people of Israel from persecution by the Philistines.  And such it is in our own lives.

When God calls a person to ministry, the call begins as a small, still voice from deep inside.  A stirring.  A whisper.  A nudge.  God does not force Himself on those He calls, but His call is relentless, nevertheless.  The person being called becomes aware of the stirring in his soul, and immediately knows the Source.  When God stirs your life and calls you to mission, His call is unmistakable.  It will not be loud.  It will not be forceful.  But it will be persistent as it begins to stir you to action.

When God called me into the ministry, I felt the stirring of His hand within my soul.  His voice spoke to me through the messages at church, through the songs on the radio, through the words leaping from the scriptures.  I knew the calling was there, and like most who feel the Spirit of the Lord beginning to stir them, I resisted the call.

Looking back at my response to the stirring of the Lord’s Spirit from within, I believe now that the response of resistance is a moment of preparation.  None of us are ready for God’s call.  None of us are adequate or capable or talented enough to serve the Lord of Lords and the King of Kings.  Certainly Samson, despite his legendary strength and the promises of deliverance through him, was not ready to be the leader who would begin to shatter the Philistine’s bonds. 

The resistance is an internal response to our smallness, an awareness of our inadequacy, and it’s a time for God to move within our lives to prepare us for the ministry He has in mind.  It is through the resisting that we both find and lose ourselves for Him.  It is through the resisting that we come to realize that there is a God, and we are not Him, and that to serve Him, we must release ourselves and become empty in order to be filled with His presence.  It is through the resisting that we are molded and formed by the Potter into the men and women He has called us to be.

The resistance takes many forms.  For Samson, the resistance took the form of pursuing his own desires and fulfilling his many lusts.  It meant using his God-given strength for his own gain.  It meant literally sleeping with the enemy and doing life in his own power.  It was only after he was subdued and humbled that he was able to become the man God called him to be.  It was only after he was shorn of his locks and humbled by his lack of strength, blinded and ridiculed by his tormentors, that he realized it was only in God that strength in truly found.  It was in that moment that Samson called out to God, the only time he called out to God in the story of his life, that he might serve God by destroying the Philistine’s temple and idols, thereby bringing glory to God.

My form of resistance was a reluctance to move and to accept the call.  Even as God stirred my spirit and called me to move, I dug in and resisted, to the point where I quit praying and quit reading the Word for fear of what I would hear.  But as those around me confirmed the call, and as God spoke to me through other means, I reached the point where I could resist no longer.  As it says in Jeremiah 20:9, “But if I say, "I will not mention his word or speak anymore in his name," his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.”  Resistance is futile if one is to remain a follower of Christ.  As the Lord stirs, as the Lord calls, so His people follow.

The calling of God and the stirring of the Lord’s Spirit upon a person’s life begins with a whisper, but once that person gives in to the call of God, once they realize that they can only live and move and experience God’s presence through surrender, the stirring ends with the manifest power of God and the world responds with amazement.

Listen for God’s stirring in your soul tonight as you go to Him through prayer, through the scriptures, or through His people, the church.  Prepare yourself for His presence and surrender to the call, and go forth and do great things for Him.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


12 February 2017

I.  Introduction
            -- turn in Bibles to 2 Samuel 11:1-5

2 Samuel 11:1-5 (NIV)

1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace. From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful, 3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, “She is Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite.” 4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her monthly uncleanness.) Then she went back home. 5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, “I am pregnant.”

            -- a couple of years ago, I ran across some strange structures out on a remote part of Moody AFB called Dudley’s Hammock -- in the middle of the woods, there were brick ramps and concrete pads and piping -- and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out what they were from or what their purpose was -- this is a very isolated part of the base that has no development and no human activity -- I could tell these things were decades old and had apparently been constructed out there for a reason and then later abandoned, so I got curious about them
            -- I sent photos out to all my archeologist friends, but no one had ever seen anything like it -- but one person pointed out that since these items were recent in terms of history, that maybe I should take the base historian out and see if he had any idea or any record of what these might be
            -- so one fine spring day I found myself leading an expedition of sorts out to Dudley’s Hammock to show the historian these structures -- like I said, these structures were in the middle of the woods, right on the edge of the wetlands, and they weren’t marked at all -- so I led the way through the forest -- pushing through the thick vegetation -- stepping over logs -- and trying to find a path back to the area that everyone could follow -- all the while I was scanning the area around me, looking for the structures
            -- at one point I stopped at the edge of a clearing and was waiting for everyone else to catch up -- as everyone made their way through the woods to the clearing, I started to step forward again, but the guy beside me caught my arm -- he pointed to the ground and said, “Watch out -- you almost stepped on him”
            -- I looked down, and there was a canebrake rattlesnake about three feet from me, crawling past in the clearing -- now I pride myself on being a woodsman -- on knowing the forest and being observant of the things around me -- of knowing the animals and the plants and the habits of each, and keeping a keen eye out for wildlife as I wander through the woods -- but I never saw that snake until my friend grabbed my arm
            -- I was looking for something else -- I was singularly focused on finding the site where the strange structures were located, and I wasn’t paying attention to the things around me like I usually do -- I was distracted -- complacent -- and simply didn’t watch where I was putting my feet and hands to make sure I was safely leading the people through the forests -- and, as a result, I almost stepped on a rattlesnake

            -- there’s a lesson there in my experience for us this morning about our spiritual lives -- as Spurgeon points out, “those who think themselves secure are more exposed to danger than any others -- the armor-bearer of Sin is Self-confidence”
            -- and as the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “If you think you’re standing firm -- if you think you’re standing strong -- be careful that you don’t fall”
            -- a few years ago there were several prominent Christian pastors and leaders who fell from their position because of dramatic sin -- what was it that caused these men to fall? -- what was it that led to their spiritual downfall?
            -- it was complacency -- it was self-confidence -- they thought they had made it spiritually and that they were above any petty temptations or desires that would lead to sin -- they thought they were secure, and just like me with that rattlesnake, they were more exposed to danger than those around them -- they let their guard down and temptation and sin flooded through the door and, before they knew what was going on, they found themselves fallen, given into sin
            -- that’s the exact same thing we see here in the familiar story of David and Bathsheba -- let’s look at it together and see what we can learn from David’s example that we might apply to our own lives -- because we’re never as far from temptation or sin as we think we might be -- and we need to learn to guard our hearts and our spirits from the dangers around us

II.  Scripture Lesson -- The Story of David and Bathsheba
            -- look back with me at 2 Samuel 11:1

2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)
1 In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king's men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem.

            -- as this chapter opens, David has finally been firmly established as Israel's king -- former King Saul has been defeated -- most of Israel's enemies surrounding them had either been destroyed or subjugated and were now paying tribute to Israel with money and manpower annually -- David had established his palace and throne in God's holy city of Jerusalem -- and, to borrow a phrase from the musical Porgie and Bess, it's summertime -- or spring, in this case -- and the living is easy -- David has it made in the shade
            -- David apparently has decided it's time to enjoy the fruits of his labor -- instead of going out to war with his army as he had in the past, he sends them out with Joab and stays home alone
            -- here we see the first step in David's journey to sin -- he abdicates his responsibility and instead of doing what he should be doing as the leader of Israel, he stays behind to rest and relax and enjoy himself

            -- verse 2a

2 One evening David got up from his bed and walked around on the roof of the palace.

            -- let's stop there and consider for a moment what is not being said in this verse -- why? -- why did David get up from his bed and walk around the roof of the palace -- most commentators say David did so to enjoy the cool evening air on the roof -- and maybe there's some truth to that, but I think this verse implies more
            -- first, you have to ask why David was in bed anyway -- the text indicates it was in the evening, not at night -- he obviously had taken to his bed earlier than normal -- maybe he was tired and decided to take a nap -- but I think something else was going on
            -- I think David was bored -- I think he was bored and restless, and just like a lot of us, when we get bored, we just sit there and do nothing or we take a nap or we just mindlessly veg out in front of the TV
            -- there's nothing wrong with taking a break from your labors -- for resting and just taking a moment and letting your mind and your spirit and your body be revived and restored -- science has shown we are much more productive if we will take a break from our labors periodically to do just that -- that's the purpose of vacations and of the Sabbath -- it's to give us time to recover from the stresses of our work
            -- but the text implies David was doing more than just taking a day off or even a week off -- it implies David was done with work -- he had retired -- and when a person who is used to being active and doing stuff on a routine basis takes too much time off, they get bored and restless and look for something to do -- and that's when trouble starts
            -- as the old proverb says, "Idle hands are a devil's workshop" -- and I think that's exactly what was going on with David when he got up from bed and went for a walk on his rooftop that night

            -- look at the second part of verse 2b-5

2b From the roof he saw a woman bathing. The woman was very beautiful,
3 and David sent someone to find out about her. The man said, "Isn't this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam and the wife of Uriah the Hittite?"
4 Then David sent messengers to get her. She came to him, and he slept with her. (She had purified herself from her uncleanness.) Then she went back home.
5 The woman conceived and sent word to David, saying, "I am pregnant."

            -- once again, there's a whole lot implied in these verses -- now get the picture -- David is walking around the roof and he looks down and he sees a woman bathing -- now if we saw that going on, most of us would turn away -- that's a natural reaction -- we'd see it -- we'd realize what was going on -- and we'd look away
            -- and knowing David as well as we do through his Psalms and through the biographies of his life in the Bible -- knowing that David is described by God as a man after God's own heart -- I feel that in normal circumstances David would have done the same -- he had already shown his honor by turning away his wrath from Nabal and not taking Abigail as his own wife when he clearly desired her in 1 Samuel 25 -- David respected God's law and the covenant of marriage, but not this time
            -- David didn't see a woman bathing and turn away -- he saw a woman bathing and his gaze lingered -- it lingered long enough that he saw she was very beautiful -- and he desired her -- he lusted after her
            -- he was bored -- he was lonely -- he saw something that attracted his attention -- and he decided he wanted it, regardless of the cost or the rightness of his actions
            -- even after finding out Bathsheba was married -- and married to one of his own mighty men of valor, Uriah the Hittite -- David said, "I don't care -- I want her -- go get her"
            -- Bathsheba came to David -- they slept together and she became pregnant -- the penalty for this sin under the law of Moses was death for both of them
            -- David's story doesn't end here -- deadly sins like lust can result in more and greater sin in our lives -- when David realized he was caught, he tried to cover his tracks -- he had Uriah brought back from the war to Jerusalem under the pretense of giving a report to David on the status of the battle -- you see, David hoped Uriah would go home and sleep with Bathsheba and they could claim the child was his -- but Uriah was more honorable than David and did not go home, despite all of David's attempts to get him to do so
            -- when that failed, David had Uriah killed through in a battle so he could marry Bathsheba and they could claim the child had been conceived lawfully

            -- skip down to verse 27 and let's end the story there

2 Samuel 11:27 (NIV)
27 After the time of mourning was over, David had her brought to his house, and she became his wife and bore him a son. But the thing David had done displeased the LORD.

            -- David thought he had gotten away with it -- only Joab knew the truth, and he wouldn't tell because of his relationship to David -- but you never really get away with sin -- David’s actions displeased the Lord and the consequences of David’s sin were enormous -- his lust had destroyed a marriage, ended in murder, and eventually resulted in the death of his son from this union

III.  Living in Godliness
            -- James gives us the pattern of sin in his epistle -- James 1:14-15 says, "each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed -- Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin -- and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death."
            -- which begs the question, "What do we do about it?"

            -- the best way to avoid sin is to remain vigilant -- to not become complacent -- to not let down our guard or think we’re protected from the risks of temptation and sin because we are standing firm at the moment
            -- we need to constantly guard our hearts from temptation and prepare our spirits to resist evil desires and temptations when they come our way
            -- here’s some ways we can do that:

1.  Think clearly -- don’t empty your mind
2.  Guard your eyes -- Spirit-filled Life Bible: one pattern of attack on our moral purity comes through the improper glance that lodges in the mind -- guard your eyes -- be warned that a lustful gaze will often lead to lustful thoughts and can result in immoral action
2.  Focus on Jesus and the call of God in our lives -- don’t be complacent
3.  Don’t indulge yourself
4.  Flee temptation -- be certain that you are always where God wants you to be or you put yourself in jeopardy -- if you find yourself in a place where temptations occur, flee -- that can mean a physical, spiritual, or emotional place -- divert yourself from your own evil desires -- flee that place -- playing Tetris causes people to forget hunger -- use Tetris or other diversions to distract from your desires
5.  Realize that we make our own actions -- choose not to sin
6.  Tell the truth -- don’t hide behind lies or hypocrisy
7.  When you attack a person, you attack God -- be a friend to God
8.  Remember God is watching -- seek godliness and a Godly life -- “you should be separate from the world in your actions -- walk worthy of your high calling and dignity” [Spurgeon]
9.  Remember the sting of guilt -- don’t receive the sting in exchange for a few minutes of self-pleasure
10.  Repent of sin -- Spirit-filled Life Bible: confess and repent of known sins -- do not hide them -- doing so usually leads to greater sin -- understand that continued refusal to deal with sin can lead to serious, even fatal consequences, such as what happened to David and the effects it had on Uriah, Bathsheba, and David’s illegitimate child

            -- Godliness is living by God’s Spirit -- in the fear of God -- under the eye of God -- according to the will of God -- with an uninterrupted consciousness of God’s indwelling presence -- living this way will keep us from much trouble and tragedy [Spirit-Filled Life Bible]
            -- let us pray