The Lord is Not Restrained

I have written before in this blog about my affinity for heroic stories, especially those found in Scripture. I find the idea of standing bravely in the face of (seemingly) overwhelming odds for a noble cause to be inspiring.

On the other hand, many find themselves in that position, not because of some noble motive, but simply because of life’s circumstances. Is there a word of encouragement for them?

In 1 Samuel 14, King Saul’s son Jonathan had an idea to take on some Philistines without his father’s knowledge. With only his armor bearer, he snuck over to the enemy’s camp. What he said to the young man with him gives us our word of encouragement. He said, “…perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few” (1 Samuel 14:6). Even though the enemy saw them coming, these two young men killed twenty of the enemy.

It may seem that you are facing 10-1 odds in your struggles in life, but the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few. You, with Him by your side, can overcome.

Remember, God loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

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Who May Abide?

One of the saddest characteristics of discouragement is the feeling that one is not worthy enough for God’s grace. That feeling very often leads to despair and resignation in the face of sin and temptation. If one has no hope, why try to do right?

Well, on the subject of not being worthy enough, ease your mind. None of the rest of us is worthy enough, either! Jesus died on the cross for us while we were helpless, sinners, even enemies of God (Romans 5:6-10).

So, if none of us deserves God’s grace, how does anyone receive it? Many are the passages telling us what we must do, and we must take the whole of what Scripture says. However, there are a number of passages that boil it down for us into more general terms. One I ran across this morning is: O Lord, who may abide in Your tent? Who may dwell on Your holy hill? He who walks with integrity, and works righteousness, and speaks truth in his heart (Psalm 15:1, 2).

God’s grace is offered to you, if you submit to His idea of integrity, righteousness and truth! Praise God!! Remember, He loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

That We May Not Die

When the Israelites saw that the nations around them had a king, they wanted one, too. Up to this point, God had led Israel through men He raised up to judge them. Now, they were rejecting God as their King for a man (1 Samuel 8:7).

In 1 Samuel 12 Samuel explained that the nation had done evil in this decision, but there was still hope. The statement Israel made is one that echoes down through the centuries: “Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, so that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil by asking for a king” (1 Samuel 12:19).

Have you ever thought of your sins this way? Samuel does not excuse their sin and neither should we. Sin put Jesus on the cross. Samuel’s response, however, should give us hope: “Do not fear. You have committed…evil, yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart” (1 Samuel 12:20).

The New Testament tells us how to serve Him with all our heart. We now have hope to avoid eternal death because God loves you and I wanted you to know that, because I love you, too.

Donnie Bates

Flee as a Bird

I love the song “Flee As a Bird” for the music, but the message is a great one about where to turn to find true cleansing. Although the title comes from Psalm 11, that psalm actually wonders why anyone would counsel fleeing as a bird in the face of adversity. Psalm 11:1, 2: In the Lord I take refuge; how can you say to my soul, “Flee as a bird to your mountain; for, behold, the wicked bend the bow…”

There is no need to “flee as a bird” because the Lord is in His holy temple; He is on the job! His eyes behold all that is happening (11:4).  He is against the one who torments the righteous and He will return their torment upon them (11:5, 6). The righteous, who depend on Him, rather than fleeing, will behold His face (11:7).

I do not mean this to be an indictment of a great song; the message of the song is true to a message of hope. However, when hard times come, don’t flee as a bird (i.e. turn your back to the enemy). Stand strong and depend on Him Who can deliver you!

Remember, He loves you and so do I!

Donnie Bates

Be Gracious to Me, O God

I want to thank Neal Pollard for a tremendous Bible Class on Psalm 51 which inspired my thoughts for today’s post. As we covered the text in class, on handling guilt, I could not help but think how rich this study is for those we want most to encourage through these Barnabas Notes.

The background of this psalm was the sin of David in lusting after another man’s wife, committing adultery with her, conceiving a child, trying unsuccessfully to deceive her husband into thinking the child was his and, ultimately, having him murdered. Can you imagine the guilt David must have felt?

David acknowledges that guilt by saying, “…I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me” (51:3). One has but to read through the psalm to understand the pain of guilt felt by David. His plea for redemption is plaintive and heartbreaking.

Have you felt this kind of guilt for things you have done? Do you carry your sins ever before you? What God wants is a broken heart, a broken spirit (51:17). If you come to Him on His terms, your guilt can be lifted from your shoulders.

Remember, He loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

By Grace, Through Faith

Paul said: You were dead in your trespasses and sins… (Ephesians 2:1). Further down in the chapter he gives us an explanation of what it means to be dead in this manner: …you were at that time separate from Christ…having no hope and without God… (2:12).

Notice some key observations Paul makes: the spiritually dead were being led by Satan (the prince of the power of the air) (verse 2); we were all in this condition (verse 3); but a merciful God made us alive together with Christ (verses 4, 5).

For this morning’s word of encouragement I want to focus on Paul’s words in verse 8: For by grace you have been saved through faith… There is a lot more to be said about this statement than we will have room to discuss here, but consider the powerful encouragement contained in those few words. God made an offer of life when we were dead. We were not just dead spiritually, but hopelessly so. What is necessary from us is a faithful response to His offer of grace. The New Testament is full of the particulars of that faithful response, but, praise God, we have it to make!

Remember, He loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates

If You Return

It would be insulting, not to mention just wrong, to say that all suffering is the consequence of some evil done by the one who is suffering. That was the problem with Job’s “friends.”

On the other hand, sometimes our suffering is a direct consequence of the bad, sometimes sinful, choices we make. The prophet Samuel offers us some good advice, though we must understand it in a more general way than he intended it for sinful Israel. He said: “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” (1 Samuel 7:3).

Scripture does not promise that we will receive relief from physical suffering in this life. What Scripture promises is a crown of life if we remain faithful until death (Revelation 2:10). So, whether you suffer as a result of your own bad choices, or those of someone else, return to (or stand with) the Lord with all your heart, faithfully obeying His commands, and He will deliver you.

Remember, He loves you and so do I.

Donnie Bates