What Great Things

So now they had a king!  Just as Moses had prophesied (Deuteronomy 17:14, 15), the children of Israel had demanded a king so they could be like the nations around them.

Samuel had some pretty harsh things to say about all this, but in his words we find encouragement.  Samuel said:  “Do not fear. You have committed all this evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12:20).

Our word of encouragement is that when we realize that we have gone too far and have sinned, we have this same option.  The things we must do are different now under the law of Christ than for the Israelites under the law of Moses, but the principle is the same.  Just a little further down, Samuel leaves the people with a choice and it is our choice, too.  “Only fear the Lord and serve Him in truth with all your heart; for consider what great things He has done for you.  But if you still do wickedly, both you and your king will be swept away” (1 Samuel 12:24, 25).

Remember, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Faithful Wounds

Have you ever wondered about the proverb that says:  Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy (Proverbs 27:6)?  What does that first part mean?  I mean, I get the second part; the kisses of the enemy are empty flattery that will wind up causing harm in the end, but why is my friend wounding me?

Perhaps the meaning is that sometimes we need to hear a painful truth and a true friend loves us enough to cause that pain for the greater good.  Still, it hurts!

Now, understand that we are not excusing insensitivity here.  However, very often when we receive any kind of painful attention, we react as though it were delivered out of insensitivity whether that is true or not.

Let us strive to be sensitive to the difficulty a true friend must feel in causing that pain, even if it is for a greater good.  Let us be encouraged to know that we have a friend who loves us enough to risk the friendship for our greater good.  That, my friends, is love!

And remember, as always, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

With All Your Heart

Things were bad in Israel.  The Philistines had tormented them for years.  Even the ark of the covenant had been lost, although the Philistines had returned it because of the problems it caused.  Apparently, they didn’t realize just what they were in for when they took the ark as a prize of war.  However, the return of the ark did not make things any better in Israel.

1 Samuel 1:7 says:  “If you return to the Lord with all your heart, remove the foreign gods and the Ashtaroth from among you and direct your hearts to the Lord and serve Him alone; and He will deliver you from the hand of the Philistines.”  I know, we don’t have Philistines to deal with these days, but is there something here to help us?

We may not actually have “foreign gods and the Ashtaroth” to put away, but the general application is the same.  We must return to the Lord with all our heart, putting away anything that keeps us from faithful obedience to Him, direct our hearts to Him and serve Him alone (not ourselves) and He will deliver us in the end.

Remember, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Her Face Was No Longer Sad

Hannah is one of those great Bible characters of faith.  You remember, she was the mother of Samuel.  She had been barren for years and was miserable, but she prayed to God.  And the priest Eli saw her, although he thought she was drunk at first.  When he learned the truth, he told her, “Go in peace; and may the God of Israel grant your petition that you have asked of Him” (1 Samuel 1:17).  And when she went home, the next verse says her face was no longer sad.

Her heart was lifted, but she knew she was only going to be able to keep him until he was weaned.  That must have been very difficult.  We know she saw him every year when the family went to worship in Shiloh.  We also know she had five more children, but she was leaving a toddler behind, her firstborn.  How could she be happy?

The answer is…her faith.  She didn’t give him away; she gave him to the Lord.  I don’t want to minimize her sacrifice, but her faith got her through.  Your faith will, too, if it is an obedient faith.  God loved Hannah and He loves you, too, and so do I.

Donnie Bates

The Wisdom of Peace

It is an encouragement to me to know that being a peaceable person is part of the wisdom of God (James 3:17).  Why would that be an encouragement?

There are those in the religious world who are easily provoked into a “heated” defense of what they believe.  The extreme would be those who actually kill (in defense of their doctrine) anyone who even appears to offer a challenge to their belief system.  By far the most common example, however, is an attitude that is looking for any kind of challenge so as to prove one’s faithfulness by the willingness to engage the enemy.

God’s wisdom is peaceable, among other things.  It does not look for a fight.  It remains at peace with all men as long as it is possible (Romans 12:18).  Faithful Christians are peacemakers (Matthew 5:9; Romans 5:1).

I find it encouraging to know that as I fight a spiritual battle with my real enemy (1 Peter 5:8), I do not have to be at war physically with his captives.  God loves them; died for them.  He loves you, too and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Surrounded with Favor

But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You.  For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield (Psalm 5:11, 12).  I love this passage.  It tells me that God knows me, whether I am righteous or not.  And it tells me how to receive His blessings; I must take refuge in Him, love His name and be righteous!

This is not a one-way street.  Receiving God’s blessings requires something of me.  God loves me enough to give me that freedom (i.e. to choose righteousness or unrighteousness), but I have to choose!

I understand that this blessing is a spiritual blessing.  The protection is not necessarily from physical harm, but spiritual protection is where I need His help the most.

I am so glad that God loves me enough to offer me the grace I need to help me overcome the sin in my life.  I hope you feel the same way because He loves you, too; and so do I.

Donnie Bates

Because He Followed the Lord

I love Caleb!  His story is one of faith and just a little bit of attitude.  By attitude, I mean that Caleb took it personally when Jehovah God was challenged.  He didn’t like it when his brethren decided that God’s plan to take the land of Canaan was impossible (Joshua 14:8).  Because of his faithful stance, Moses promised him that he would have the land he had spied out (Joshua 14:9); and it was precisely because he had been faithful to God.

Move forward 45 years and the children of Israel are taking the land of Canaan.  Caleb came to his old friend and ally Joshua and asked for the hill country around what is now Hebron and Joshua granted his request.

What is interesting to me is that Caleb asked for a place called, at that time, Kiriath-arba (city of Arba) because Arba was the greatest man among the Anakim (the giants, e.g. Goliath).  It’s as though Caleb took it personally that because of a fear of these giant men, his people had failed the Lord and Caleb was going to show everyone that with God on his side, the giants were no match.

Let our word of encouragement be that Caleb took Hebron, met the challenge, simply because he followed the Lord God of Israel fully (Joshua 14:14).  Remember, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates