Bleating of the Sheep

Bleating of the Sheep

By Pat Knight

Historically, God’s chosen people displayed a chronic disobedience pattern. Nearly as soon as God communicated a new decree, the Israelites either ignored or blatantly disobeyed His command. Few people took God seriously; fewer still took His laws seriously. The punishment for breaking God’s laws was particularly severe: disease, plagues, capture by enemy forces, and sometimes immediate death. Yet the grave consequences were not sufficient to motivate the Israelites to consistently obey their God.

The prophet, Samuel, relayed God’s instructions to King Saul: “‘Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys’” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites were descendants of Esau, named after Esau’s grandson, Amalek. The directions were simple in terms of clarity. King Saul understood explicitly.

God’s edict may seem excessively harsh punishment to us, but God and the Israelites knew the Amalekite people to be ruthless, merciless, and savage. They were predatory, attacking the Israelites during their wilderness walk. From the rear of the traveling camp, the Amalekites stalked and killed the weak and the elderly as they traveled from Egypt. Their treatment of Israel was spontaneous and vicious, causing Moses centuries earlier to prophesy:  “‘When you were weak and worn out, they {Amalekites} met you on your journey and attacked all who were lagging behind; they had no fear of God. When the Lord your God gives you a rest from all the enemies around you in the land he is giving you to possess as an inheritance, you shall blot out the name of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!’” (Deuteronomy 25: 18-19).

God had been generously patient with the Amalekites, giving them over five hundred years to change their barbaric ways. Our heavenly Father is the supreme judge, adjudicating wrong and evil. He does not forget!

With thousands of soldiers, King Saul staged an ambush for the Amalekites. Saul was given the opportunity to demonstrate his allegiance to the Lord by obeying the assigned task of eliminating the Amalekite tribe. Instead of wiping out all life, “Saul and the army spared Agag {the Amalekite king), and the best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs—everything that was good;. These they were unwilling to destroy completely but everything that was despised and weak they totally destroyed” (1 Samuel 15:9).

God then spoke to the prophet, Samuel, expressing His sorrow that He had ever made Saul king of His people, for Saul refused to follow God’s instructions, relying on his own instincts and greed instead. When Samuel traveled to confront King Saul, he discovered the king had set up a monument in his own honor. From disobedience to false image worshipping, King Saul was puffed up with self-importance. Yet even before Samuel questioned him, Saul offered, “‘I have carried out the Lord’s instructions’” (1 Samuel 15:13). Saul actually believed his actions were justified, but sinning against God is neither wise nor justified.

Samuel retorted, “What then is this bleating of the sheep I hear?
What is this lowing of the cattle I hear?”

1 Samuel 15:14

Saul shifted responsibility, blaming the soldiers for sparing the best animals to use as temple sacrifices for the Lord. Samuel then replied, “‘Enough!’

I can envision the prophet abruptly gesturing with his hand protesting Saul’s weak excuses. Samuel asked King Saul, “‘Why did you not obey the Lord? Why did you pounce on the plunder and do evil in the eyes of the Lord? (vs. 19). Saul actually felt merit in completing his assigned military orders from God. It appears the details of God’s commands were irrelevant as long as Saul met his own selfish needs. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17).

Our Lord values humility, repentance, and grief for sin. Saul’s heart was full of pride. Chief among the seven things God hates the most is pride, followed next in line by a lying tongue (Proverbs 6:16-19). Saul had employed both of the shameful priorities, masterfully disguising his rebellion and disobedience. Samuel replied with this rebuttal to Saul’s actions: “‘To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams’” (1 Samuel 15:22). God removed His Spirit from Saul, dethroned him as king of Israel, and anointed another king in his place.

Upon self-examination, do we discover ourselves to be as shrewd as Saul, crafting insidious excuses for disobeying God? What personal justification do we use when God confronts us with our sin? We have ready access to all of God’s commands in His Living Word, through which He speaks to us. God commands that we love Him and others more highly than ourselves, discouraging our selfish motives.

It is possible that fear of reprisal prevents us from sinning on a regular basis, but we occasionally fall into temptation that is hard to resist. That is when our obedient devotion and love of God is paramount to  empower us to follow His words and His will. He has shown you. O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). It is the most compelling principle of behavior, defining a right relationship of men with Almighty God.

Our Lord loves us beyond measure, demonstrated by the gift of His Son, who died to set us free, creating a sovereign relationship that bridges between finite man and the infinite God. With God’s overwhelming love and attention to every detail in our lives, why would we even consider disobeying Him with the intention of indulging in self-desires? Why do we settle for second best when God is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us?” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

We cannot come to God without faith in Him; faith leads to obedience. We want to please our Savior by serving Him. It grieves our Lord when we wander outside the boundaries He has established for us. “‘You are my friends if you do what I command. I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you’” (John 15:14-15). It is astounding that human friendship with Almighty God is even possible, deeming it imperative that we not react to His gracious gift with apathy or scorn exhibited by disobedience.

Instead of reacting like King Saul, blaming others for rebellion against God’s commands, let us take personal responsibility for sin, redirecting our energy to serve our Savior as His friends and fellow workers, seeking to consistently pursue His righteousness and faithfulness.

Obedience to God is palpable evidence of our faith. God considers our personal submission to His will so expressive of our love for Him that He accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. What assurance!

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

Here is another excellent article from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Act Justly, Love Mercy, Walk Humbly

He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Mic. 6:8).

This mandate in Scripture has shaped my passion for seeking justice in our broken world. The clarity of these words leaves us with no doubt as to how God wants us to spend our time on earth.

Act justly; love mercy; walk humbly with your God. I’ve always focused my primary attention on the acting justly and loving mercy portions of this command. These two seem challenging enough. It’s often overwhelming to navigate how to live out justice and mercy to the world around me.

There are millions of people worldwide experiencing injustice. How can I, a stay-at-home mom, give justice to the oppressed? It’s also so easy to feel personally entitled to mercy and yet deny giving it to others. How do I extend forgiveness to others when my flesh is not ready to release the offense? My own weakness renders me incapable of obedience.

As I’ve wrestled with the weightiness of how to act justly and love mercy, I’ve realized that it’s only possible to obey these commands in light of the gospel when we walk humbly with our God.

Humility is dependence on God. Walking in humility displays our reliance on His strength in our weakness to obey. Our obedience to God’s good commands must come from a place of humility as we rely on Him to accomplish it.

Humility in Acting Justly

Because of sin, we live in an unjust world. We are transgressors of God’s law and the consequence for our rebellion is death. But God sent His Son to live the life we could not live and die the death we should have died. God poured out His just wrath on His Son instead of on us. This great grace should humble us.

As image-bearers of the God of justice (Isa. 30:18) and recipients of our just status in Christ (Rom. 5:1), we reflect His heart to the world when we seek justice for all people.

Seeking justice can be overwhelming, considering the effects of sin in our world:

  • 150 million children are vulnerable in our world today due to fatherlessness and poverty.
  • 45 million image-bearers are living in modern-day slavery.
  • 65 million refugees are currently seeking refuge after fleeing their homes due to war, famine, and persecution.
  • Every year, over 50 million babies are murdered in their mothers’ wombs.

I look at those numbers, and then I look at me. I don’t see any way for me to make a difference. This is what my enemy wants me to think. He wants me to keep my focus on me and my strength so that I’ll believe that I can’t do anything to help. And if I were depending on myself to accomplish justice for the vulnerable, that would be true.

Read the rest here.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

This is another excellent article from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

Pride is universal—something we all deal with, as ancient as Adam and as relevant as the morning news. Yet we don’t always see our own pride, which weaves like weeds around our lives.

Oh, we see it in the obvious ways, but we can be blind to its deceptive, subversive way in our hearts. We know the disease, but we don’t recognize the symptoms. And that’s why we need the insight of our spiritual Great Physician to reveal symptoms of pride and rescue us from it.

Seven Symptoms of a Prideful Heart

Here are seven symptoms of pride I’ve been seeing in God’s Word as his Spirit works in my own life:

1. Fear

Pride is at the root of fear and anxiety, when we refuse to humbly rest in God’s sovereign care. Fear simultaneously reveals our lack of trust and our poisonous self-reliance. We fear because we don’t have faith in the Lord, we are enormously preoccupied with ourselves, and we don’t have control.

When Peter stepped out on the stormy sea to come to Jesus, he was walking in humble faith. But when his gaze shifted to his circumstances and self-preservation, he trusted in himself, became afraid, and began to sink. It was Jesus who saved him, while admonishing him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31).

2. Entitlement

Self-sacrifice stems from a humble heart. Entitlement is rooted in a prideful heart. The core of the gospel is that we are not entitled to anything, except just punishment for our sins (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Yet we deceive ourselves into thinking we’re better than we are, so we deserve better than we have. We think we deserve God’s mercy. We think we deserve people’s praise. We think we deserve love, success, comfort, accolades. We certainly don’t think we deserve suffering, heartbreak, or discipline.

But when we do experience these things, we grow bitter, frustrated, and disturbed because we believe we’re entitled to more. We forget that apart from Jesus Christ we are sinners who deserve condemnation.

The disciples wrestled with entitlement many times. On one occasion, they were arguing about who was the greatest. They selfishly thought they deserved honor and glory. But Jesus’ response to them was a rebuke: “Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves” (Luke 22:26).

Read the rest here.

Humility or Pride

Humility or Pride

By Patricia Knight

Prov11-2-Owl-50--AMP

When pride comes, then comes disgrace,
but with humility comes wisdom” (Proverbs 11:2).  

In Old Testament times, Naaman was the military commander of the Syrian army, a valiant soldier, highly respected by his associates and enemies alike. Although Naaman’s military career was soaring, he suffered from leprosy, a chronic infectious skin disease characterized by skin sores, pain, and disfigurement. Leprosy alienated victims by defining them as social and religious outcasts.

There were no treatments available for leprosy. Naaman knew he would only respond to a miracle. With his opulent chariots filled to the brim with gold, silver, and elegant clothing, Naaman thought his proud, commanding presence would impress the Israeli prophet and influence his healing with gifts and grandeur. But when Naaman’s entourage pulled up in front of Elisha’s modest dwelling, the prophet didn’t show Naaman the proper hospitality by greeting his visitor. To demonstrate to Naaman that it was God, not man, who healed miraculously, Elisha refused to appear to Naaman, instead sending instructions by his servant. “‘Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan {River} and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleaned’”(2 Kings 5:10)

The directions were repulsive to Naaman, especially the thought of dipping in the notoriously muddy Jordan River. Furious, Naaman stormed off toward home in a rage at the ludicrous directions. Naaman was a decorated commander in Syria. He had even gained some victories in warfare over Israel, so Naaman naturally expected royal treatment. Naaman’s attitude came through in a blaze of arrogance; of personal entitlement due to his military rank and wealth.

God hates pride, but promotes humility. Pride is defined as excessive self-esteem. Pride is the difference between what you are and what you think you are. —J. Vernon McGee

Man’s pride runs counter with God’s plan. Whenever the two attitudes meet, there is repulsion, similar to the rejection of two like magnetic poles. Pride is a conceited sense of one’s superiority. Naaman defined pride in its best form.

Naaman was beyond human help. There was no cure for leprosy, the dreaded skin disease that created outcasts of its victims and panic in fellow citizens. Only a miracle could save Naaman from shame and disfigurement. Because Naaman was too proud to accept such a simple, but humbling method of healing, he stomped off and headed home.

God was requiring that Naaman reset his priorities. Even though Naaman was desperate for healing, he hadn’t reached the point of complete submission to God and his will. Until Naaman could yield totally to Jesus’ value system, he tightly held onto his self-assuredness. Naaman was willing to conform to Jesus’ ways as long as he could remain in control of the circumstances.

2Kings15-5-JordanRiver

After Naaman’s traveling servants held a motivational discussion with their master, Naaman hesitantly relinquished his pride. Once he followed instructions to dip seven times in the Jordan River, Naaman was healed. Radiant and with pure skin once again, Naaman stood before Elisha and said, “‘Now I know there is no god in all the world except in Israel’” (2 Kings 5:15).

Humility isn’t a natural response; it seems we must first assume arrogance. Then when pride proves useless and embarrassing, we recall the examples and teachings of Jesus. No one personifies humility more than our Savior. He was born in humble circumstances, lived an unpretentious life, and died on a shameful cross (but arose in glory) as the supreme example of humility.

“God hates pride but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Humility magnifies modesty and meekness, all personality traits of our heavenly Father. Humility is freedom from arrogance or pride; the knowledge that all we have and all we are is a gift from God. By ourselves we are inadequate, without dignity and value. There is never cause to boast of our own accomplishments. Yet because we are created in Christ’s image, we have infinite worth and dignity. True humility does not produce pride but gratitude to the God, who is both our Creator and Redeemer. Our righteousness and existence depend upon Him.

As Naaman learned, no human effort can contribute to our salvation; it is the gift of God through His grace and mercy. “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy (Titus 3:4-5). There is no provision for pride in that formula!

Humility is an important component of discipleship. We must humble our will in submission to Jesus, then deny self—realign our desires and impulses to totally trust Jesus’ values.  We are to love, but avoid judging others; to think of others more highly than ourselves, and to realize each of us has much more growth and knowledge to acquire in our Christian walk. We cannot accomplish humility by ourselves, but only in Christ, as we demonstrate lowliness of mind and heart, inspired by the love and grace with which Jesus lavishes us.

Micah-6-8-ShadyWoodlandPath--AMP

Amazing things occur when we humble our hearts before our merciful Lord. “He has shown you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). And, that provides us with the instruction for a proper relationship with our Lord.

BlogSL2-smallest

Please and Thank You

Please-ThankYou-Arrows--AMP

A couple of weeks ago I encouraged you to try the Thank You Challenge 2015. I didn’t remember until recently how and when my own thank you lifestyle began, so I want to share that with you today.
 
Back in the late 90’s, I served as a counselor at Royal Family Kids camp, for abused and abandoned children. On the last night of camp when all counselors and administration staff gathered to pray, we counselors were surprised to receive a special gift. Although we didn’t know it, the camp administration team had been watching all of us counselors as we interacted with each of the children in our charge. They met each night to search the Scriptures and find just the right verse to describe each of us.
 
To my utter surprise, Hebrews 11:1 was given to me.
Heb11-1-FoggyMtnTop-sm--AMP

God called me to this ministry even though I felt totally unprepared and uneducated for the task. I tried to ignore God’s call on my heart but He kept showing me that He wanted me to go there. I resisted, until one night at a prayer meeting I heard Him whisper to my anguished heart, “I want you to do this for Me.”

How could I ignore that?

One of the little girls in my charge was a particularly tough case. This sweet little 8-year-old had been shuffled from one foster home to another. She was certain of only one thing: that she could expect abuse or negative treatment on a regular basis. Like so many of these abused children, she learned to bury her true emotions and instead developed a defensive posture, along with the frequent tendency to declare “No!” in response to any suggestions, fun or not. 

Her stubbornness was not easy for any of us to deal with. Whenever we were to start anything new, whether it was crafts, chapel, or even games, her standard response was “No!” She would literally crouch down and keep shouting this over and over again. I found myself praying almost constantly that entire week. My prayers would start, “Please, God…” and as the Lord helped me deal with each difficulty, they then became, “Thank you, God…” 

Our goal was to give these children a week of carefree fun, but her tantrums kept testing my patience and that of the camp directors. After a couple of days of this negative behavior, we had a discussion about sending her home early which greatly upset me. How could we take away this one week of fun from someone who rarely had the chance to do anything enjoyable? I pleaded with the directors to give her another chance and they agreed. 

That night I asked God what I could say or do to help her adjust better because I wanted her to enjoy her camping experience. He showed me that her life was full of commands. She was never asked about anything. He then gave me one word: choices. 

Even at camp she was expected to adhere to rules and a schedule, which in itself is not a bad thing, but difficult for her to deal with considering what the rest of her life was like. As I prayed about all of this, God showed me that if she was given some limited choices, her responses might be different. 

That week at camp was a mixture of faith and fear, trust and anxiety, exhilaration and fatigue. God heard my Please and Thank You prayers and honored them as I faced each new challenge. The completely awesome part of this whole story is that before camp week was over, my stubborn yet sweet little charge asked Jesus Christ into her heart. And not only that, but a few years later, I heard that she was a counselor-in-training there! 

Beloved, Please and Thank You are very powerful words. They bless the giver as much or maybe more than the receiver.

 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
—James 4:10

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought,
and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder.

—G.K. Chesterton

Anna-Coffee2The advertising which may appear below is not placed by the author and is not to be considered as a part of this post or an expression of my views.

OUR SELFLESS SAVIOR [REPOST]

So far this summer—which actually felt like it began last April—has felt like a roller coaster ride. And I hate roller coasters! I unexpectedly have a good day so of course I do more than I probably should, and then spend several days to a week or more in recovery/payback mode.

As I’ve stated before, summer is the most difficult time of year for me. Although I cherish the rain we sorely need here in the northern Arizona desert, the monsoon weather taxes my body to the utmost. Last week I felt like I was about 95 as I S-L-O-W-L-Y pushed my shopping cart through the store. My migraine shrieked its presence as every single joint cried out in pain.

No worries though. God’s always got my back and I am forever thankful for that. He gives me just enough energy to do what He has planned for me, so I’ll ride out this monsoon season as best I can and thank Him for anything I can do to share His message of faith, love, joy and hope.

Life is full of challenges for all of us but my challenges are sometimes measured in minutes or hours. Instead of completely shutting down this blog, I have made the hard decision to prioritize rest by not writing as much as I would like to. Instead, I’ll be sharing more of my previous posts with you, along with posting some uplifting images from time to time. I pray you’ll understand and bear with me.

VectorPageDivider

As I wrote you last Thursday, today begins the series on John 13 by my friend and mentor, Donna Baker. Again, thank you, Donna, for allowing me to share your heart with my readers.

 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. –John 13:1

This was not only the last night of Jesus’ life, but He knew in mere hours He would be tortured and crucified: the most cruel form of death.

And yet He spent His last hours fulfilling the will of His Father, in teaching and serving others.

If we faced that, would we be fulfilling our religious obligations, teaching others—calm, methodical, focused on the goal—or would we be ricocheting off the walls, focused on the end? It’s quite unlikely we would be calm. Maybe we’d even be crying and praying. Jesus did that too in the Garden of Gethsemane later that night.

He was after all, human.

He was obeying God and His written Word in spite of what faced Him.

It was the Feast of the Passover when all Jewish males were to go to Jerusalem to attend the Feast:

The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD’S appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—

My appointed times are these:…

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover.’”

—Leviticus 23:1-2, 5

Jesus was not only to go to the Feast, He was to be the Passover Lamb, the sacrifice for all the sin of all mankind. There are so many Scriptures that say this, but I only want to dwell now on the one in John 1, where John the Baptist foretold of Him:

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! —John 1:29

The Jews had wanted to kill Him for years, but they didn’t want to do it during the Passover. However God had other plans and His plans are never thwarted:

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

The Jews thought they were in control but reading about the last night of Jesus’ life should put that idea to rest with anyone who reads it. God caused all things to be as they were foretold in the Old Testament. There are too many to list here.

Be an Acts 17:11 Christian and look them up and you will be amazed at Your God!!

Now these were more noble-minded that those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. —Acts 17:11

God’s plan was in place. Jesus was in lockstep with His Father in spite of what He knew He was facing.

Beloved, as you pray today, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I in lockstep with God’s plan for me today?
  • Am I spending enough time listening to Him through His Word and in prayer?
  • Am I trusting God for my future even if it is a harsh future, or even death?
  • Am I praying and caring only for myself or for others as Jesus did in His last hours?

To be continued next Thursday…

 

 

The advertising which may appear below is not placed by the author and is not to be considered as a part of this post or an expression of my views.

OUR SELFLESS SAVIOR

As I wrote you last Thursday, today begins the series on John 13 by my friend and mentor, Donna Baker. Again, thank you, Donna, for allowing me to share your heart with my readers.

 Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. –John 13:1

This was not only the last night of Jesus’ life, but He knew in mere hours He would be tortured and crucified: the most cruel form of death.

And yet He spent His last hours fulfilling the will of His Father, in teaching and serving others.

If we faced that, would we be fulfilling our religious obligations, teaching others—calm, methodical, focused on the goal—or would we be ricocheting off the walls, focused on the end? It’s quite unlikely we would be calm. Maybe we’d even be crying and praying. Jesus did that too in the Garden of Gethsemane later that night.

He was after all, human.

He was obeying God and His written Word in spite of what faced Him.

It was the Feast of the Passover when all Jewish males were to go to Jerusalem to attend the Feast:

The LORD spoke again to Moses, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘The LORD’S appointed times which you shall proclaim as holy convocations—

My appointed times are these:…

In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at twilight is the LORD’s Passover.’”

—Leviticus 23:1-2, 5

Jesus was not only to go to the Feast, He was to be the Passover Lamb, the sacrifice for all the sin of all mankind. There are so many Scriptures that say this, but I only want to dwell now on the one in John 1, where John the Baptist foretold of Him:

Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! —John 1:29

The Jews had wanted to kill Him for years, but they didn’t want to do it during the Passover. However God had other plans and His plans are never thwarted:

I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. Job 42:2

The Jews thought they were in control but reading about the last night of Jesus’ life should put that idea to rest with anyone who reads it. God caused all things to be as they were foretold in the Old Testament. There are too many to list here.

Be an Acts 17:11 Christian and look them up and you will be amazed at Your God!!

Now these were more noble-minded that those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so. —Acts 17:11

God’s plan was in place. Jesus was in lockstep with His Father in spite of what He knew He was facing.

Beloved, as you pray today, ask yourself these questions:

  • Am I in lockstep with God’s plan for me today?

  • Am I spending enough time listening to Him through His Word and in prayer?

  • Am I trusting God for my future even if it is a harsh future, or even death?

  • Am I praying and caring only for myself or for others as Jesus did in His last hours?

To be continued next Thursday…