RED AND YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE

You’ve heard the children’s song many times. “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world, red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” It is a great song. If you changed the words from children to adults or people it is still just as true. “God so loved the world that the gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” You can’t find a race or color of people that God didn’t love so much that he was will to allow Jesus to take their sins upon him and be punished for their sins so that they could be totally forgiven and live in a close, personal relationship with Him.

No wonder Jesus’ invitation was “Come unto me all of you who are weary and burdened down and I will give you rest for my yoke is easy and my burden is light. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am gentle and lowly of heart and you will find rest to your souls” is s powerful. You never met a group of people who were more racist than the Jews of that day. They were certain they were God’s chosen people and that God really only cared about them. They hated Gentiles, Samaritans and anyone else that you could fit in that didn’t have a Jewish background. Yet Jesus came on the scene, going to Samaria and teaching a Samaritan woman the gospel and when she brought the whole town out to meet him he taught them, staying two extra days to tell them the good news of salvation in him. He healed the son and servant of Gentile soldiers. He went into the Gentile areas to cast out the demons from a man known as legion and then turned him into a missionary to the area by saying, “Go back home and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you.”

When he was giving the great commission to the disciples it was “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved. He who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15-16). Matthew’s account is literally, “All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth, as you go therefore into all the world, make disciples of every ethnic group, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you and I will be with you always even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20). Jesus died on the cross for every person according to Hebrews 2:9. You could go all over the world and find every kind of person imaginable and one thing I can guarantee is that you won’t find a single person God doesn’t love and Jesus didn’t die to save.

What does that have to do with me? Well if I am calling myself a Christian and I am not interested in people of every race and background coming to know Christ then I have missed the very biggest point of Jesus coming into the world. I don’t have the heart of Jesus at all. When you consider that we all originated from one man and that we are all made in the image and likeness of God there is absolutely no place for racism of any kind among those who claim to follow Christ.

My greatest longing for every person is that they would come to know Jesus Christ and believe in him to submit their lives to him obediently for the salvation of their souls. You can be a murderer like Saul of Tarsus that Jesus not only saved but turned into the great apostle Paul. You can be a denier like Simon Peter and turn into the great preacher that would lead thousands to Jesus. You can be a prostitute like Mary Magdalene out of whom Jesus cast seven demons and be converted and become a close friend with Jesus and the first to see him after his resurrection from the dead.

Jesus doesn’t care at all about the color of your skin, but about the condition of your heart. When our hearts are changed and formed by Christ it begins to take on his way of seeing things and way of feeling about things and people. It changes my whole way of looking at life. Suddenly the most important thing in the world to me is how can I live and act in a way that would help another person, no matter their background to come to know Jesus as their savior and Lord. You will then attempt to do those things in your every day life so you can be the salt of the earth and the light of the world that can lead one more to the Savior.

People talk about “White supremacy” or “Black lives matter” or who knows what all else. There is no superior race. We become part of the chosen generation, royal priesthood, holy nation, and God’s own special people when we give our lives to Christ and begin to influence others for him. Of course, black lives matter, because every life matters and when people feel that they have been put down and no one cares about them, no wonder they would come up with a slogan to say “we matter” in the world. Every life matters to God and had better matter to us if we wish to be like him in our daily lives. Just think today as you head home that every person you meet is of great importance to God and he is depending on you as a Christian to reach out to them to show them the way to change and live for him.

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STAYING ON MISSION

One of the most difficult things for a church, business or even a family is to stay on mission. Mission drift has led to the failure of tons of businesses that have at times been great companies doing business all over the world. Too often a business in one area that they know well and are very successful in will suddenly turn around and purchase a business that has no relationship to what they are doing and what they really know a lot about. More times and not that business will become a drain on the business that had been succeeding well as long as they knew their mission and stayed on the mission.

How many times have you watched or even participated in a family where the marriage was going well and there was a great family as long as they understood what the family was all about and what was really important for the family, until there became a drift from the real mission. Suddenly, God and worship to God became less important than trips, vacations, sports or business and the family begins to drift first away from God and the church, but it isn’t long before you begin to see the drift inside the family itself. The mission of being devoted Christians who put God first in their life and were determined to bring up their family with the same devotion has slipped and now life turns around things, money, the kids fitting in and a long list of other things. One day someone in the family realizes we have drifted apart and things aren’t what they used to be. God stated the mission for the family well in Malachi 2 as he described the reason for his making two people one, “So that they may raise up a godly seed.” There is a world of difference between God’s mission and one of bringing our children up to be successful, powerful, popular or star players on some team. Can one do both? Yes, but only if the real mission is held clearly in front and all decisions rise from the godly mission.

In many ways it seems to me that the church of all three stands in the greatest danger of losing it’s mission to accomplish other things that are seen as being of great value. One reason Jesus was so successful in accomplishing everything God sent him to do on the earth was that he kept his sense of mission clearly in front of him at all times. In the early days of his ministry, in Capernaum, he healed lots of people with all kinds of sickness and diseases and cast out many demons. The next morning he arose a long while before day and went out to a solitary place to pray. The disciples came looking for him saying everyone was looking for him to come back to heal more people. Jesus response was “Let us go somewhere else – to near villages – so I can preach there also. THAT IS WHY I CAME.” In Luke 19 when Jesus came to Jericho and a tax collector, named Zaccheus lived there who was hated by most of the people who considered him a cheat and a traitor to the nation. He was short so he ran ahead of the people and climbed a tree to get to see Jesus. When Jesus got there he stopped and told him to come down from the tree that he was going to dine at his house today. The people couldn’t understand, but Zaccheus changed his whole life. He promised to give half his goods to the poor and if he had taken anything falsely to return it four times over. Jesus said salvation had come to this house, then stated his purpose or mission as “The Son of man has come to seek and save the lost.”

The church as the body of Christ shares that same mission in the world. We are to be witnesses from where we are now to the areas around us to the ends of the earth for Jesus. Our mission is to go to every ethnic group making disciples for Jesus, baptizing them into the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that he commands and he promises to be with us all days when we are on that mission. But mission drift happens in church when we move from the goal of bearing witness for Jesus, of making disciples for him and seeking and saving the lost. We usually move to very good things as people wanted Jesus to do. They wanted him to focus on healing all their sickness and diseases. We determine it is our place to solve all the social problems of the world or to get involved in political issues of the day. We decide there is some issue in the Bible that we must put the focus on to make sure is done right. Often in the efforts to accomplish good things, Satan moves in to tell us how right we are in what we are doing and to stand firm on it no matter what it does to our mission or the unity of the church. One day we wake up to see a divided church, focused on what is wrong with each other and suspicious of everything that is done or said.

Let me plead with you that whatever we do that pulls us from the mission God gives us and leads to division rather than unity that leads people to believe in Jesus, that causes us to stop loving each other as Christ loved us so the world can see that we are disciples of Jesus, is off mission and headed in the wrong direction. I believe it is right to re-think and re-study every issue in the word of God. But my interpretation of the Scripture shouldn’t lead the church from what God meant us to be, ever!

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I WANTED, BUT

dI wonder how many times in life I’ve said to someone, “I wanted to do something and had full intention of carrying it out today, but something came up and I won’t be able to do it. The little, short book of Jude begins with just such a statement. In verse 3 he said, “Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt compelled to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God’s holy people.” As someone who has spent lots of time in life writing both books and articles about things that I felt that were needed at a particular time, I think I understand what he was saying. There are tons of times when one is eager to write about something that they really believe in strongly and believe that it would do lots of good. But something comes up, either at church or in more general life and suddenly the very thing you felt so eager to write about seems to be of less importance now but that you need to focus your attention on some problem or issue that has arisen that seems far more like an emergency that must be handled right now.c

Picture Jude, who identified himself as a servant of Jesus Christ and a brother of James. It demonstrates humility on his part since he was also, a half brother of Jesus the same as James. But instead of using the family background to claim physical kin to Jesus he simply pictured himself as the brother of James who was a more well known disciple of Jesus. He addressed his letter to those who had been called, who are loved in God the Father and kept for Jesus Christ. That is a powerful way to describe any group of people as called, loved and kept by members of the Godhead.

of Focus for a moment on his eagerness to write about the salvation he shared with the people he was writing too. Salvation is an exciting word in just about any context. If one is terribly ill and the doctors work on him and give him the very medicine he needs to overcome the illness it is a form of salvation from the illness. If one is under some kind of attack by an enemy but another rushes in to help and saves the person from being beaten or abused by the crowd it is a form of salvation from some enemy. But it wasn’t that type of salvation that Jude had in mind. He was thinking of the salvation that he shared with the brethren who had been called by God, loved in Christ and were being kept by the Lord for their ultimate salvation in Christ.

This shared salvation relates to the reality that every person in the world has a sin problem. When we are small children God doesn’t hold us accountable for our sins until we reach the time of life we are capable of knowing right from wrong in life. But even as children we mess us and do the wrong things it just isn’t marked up against us by our loving and grace-filled God. The reality is that “All have sinned and fallen short of the will of God.” Every person is under sin and in need of the salvation that comes in Christ Jesus our Lord. Because of God’s grace he made the plan through which anyone who wants to be saved can follow the simple plan by faith in Jesus and have total salvation, their sins completely forgiven and become totally new Creatures in Christ Jesus. Our longing from that point on is to live in a way that pleases the God who saved us. We make mistakes and fail the Lord at times but we long to grow more like him and have the heart of Jesus so others can see the difference in us as his saved person in Christ. It would seem natural that God would want him to write about such a great topic to encourage them in their salvation.

But there was a greater need at the moment that God called him to write about. He felt th e compelling power of God to urge these Christians to contend for the faith that had been entrusted to them as God’s holy people. While being grateful for our redemption and salvation in Christ is vital and we should express ourselves with. a “Thank God” often in life, there is also a tremendous need for us to be able to stand up for the truth of God’s word no matter who we may have to stand against. Jesus made the point to the early followers that they would be called before rulers and authorities to defend their faith. He told them when such a thing happened not to worry about what they were going to say. It would be given to them in the very hour needed. God’s word would be given to them to defend the faith by which they were saved.

I have little doubt in life that many times we hold our peace when God’s word is under attack because we fear we will embarrass the faith in the Lord even more because we don’t know all the answers to things that people may raise against the cause of Jesus. But the salvation for all has been placed in the hands of those who are called, loved and kept. We must trust in God and believe his word to the degree we can stand on his truth all the time and be the people who stand strong on the faith in Jesus. There have been a few times in life when the word of God has been under greater attack than today. We need to go back and read the little book of Jude and make our stand on the truth there given so that we know the Lord and help others to come to that salvation like no other that will bring us to the ultimate redemption in him.

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WHO PUT ME IN CHARGE OF THAT

How many times in life have you either asked or wanted to ask the question, “Who put me in charge of that? I suspect everyone when they train for a job or even when they look over the requirements for a new job become settled in their mind what their duties are going to be and think to themselves that they can learn and do those without a real problem. But one day out of the blue someone over you asked or tells you to do something that is completely outside the realm of what you thought was your responsibility. How do you react? You could say, “That’s not my job.” Of course, the response might be, “Well you no longer have a job so do whatever you want.” You could go ahead and do the job and then resent having to do it every time you are asked to do it again. You could complain to anyone that will listen that you are being pushed to do a job that isn’t yours. But the truth is, in every job that comes along there will be things that come up that you are needed to do that didn’t fit into any resume and no one ever thought to explain that it might come up in your work.

On one occasion in Jesus ministry we see him face just such a dilemma. He had been teaching in Luke 12 about a variety of things involved in living for him all the way from avoiding the hypocrisy of the Pharisees to not fearing those who kill the body and can’t do anything more, but to fear God who has authority to both kill the body and throw one into hell. He talked about God’s amazing care of us to the degree that when five sparrows are sold for two pennies they are not forgotten by God. He said, the very hairs of our head are numbered so don’t be afraid, you are of much more value than sparrows. He promised them that if one acknowledged him before men they would be acknowledged by him before the angels in heaven. But he also warned that while they could blaspheme him and be forgiven that if they blasphemed the Holy Spirit they would not be forgiven. He told them when they were brought before rulers and authorities not to worry about how to defend themselves or what to say, “for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”

Right in the middle of all this great teaching about life and service to God someone in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.” I can imaging Jesus doing a double take that this question would come up in the middle of such an important discussion. Probably, every preacher that has preached for any length of time has had something like this to take place. You would be preaching along with all your power on some huge topic that was trying to convict people of sin in their lives and turn them toward God when out of the blue someone would ask if we can’t turn the air conditioning down that it is getting too hot in the building or to turn it up because they are getting cold. To say that it takes the wind out of your discussion is the understatement of the year. It is difficult to get back on track and there have been a few times when I just closed the service with some lame comment about not being able to get back to where we were.

Look at Jesus response to the man’s interruption. “Jesus replied, ‘Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?” Then he added, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist of an abundance of possessions.” I don’t know what the man was expecting Jesus to say or do. Probably his brother was in the crowd and he thought that Jesus as a great teacher would tell him to be fair and share the inheritance with him. Maybe he believed the Master would give his brother a good lesson on sharing or not being selfish. Let’s face it we can get all kinds of things up in our minds that will happen if we just asked the right person to help.

I suspect he and the brother, if he was there, were shocked with Jesus response. Probably the whole crowd was taken by surprise both by the interruption and by Jesus response. Jesus is God in the flesh. He will later declare that “All authority in heaven and on earth are given to him.” But here he makes it clear that somethings just aren’t part of his mission on this earth. He came into the world to seek and save the lost. He came to heal the sick, raise the dead, cause the blind to see, release the prisoners and to make sure the poor had the gospel preached to them. But to settle financial disagreements among brothers, wasn’t part of his mission. There is a powerful lesson it seems to me in Jesus answer to the man. He was on an important mission, teaching vital truths to people who needed to hear them. He refused to be drawn from that mission to deal with a minor offense between brothers. It seems to me that Satan is constantly working to pull us from the mission God gives us to spend our time doing things that we aren’t really equipped to do to begin with, so while we get involved in trying to solve that problem the big things where we are needed fall by the wayside.

But notice that Jesus didn’t stop with asking the question, “Who appointed me a judge or arbiter between you?” He went on from the interruption to teach both the man, his brother and the whole crowd a huge lesson about life. “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” He turned the silly question into a vital teaching for everyone including us.

The beginning of the answer, “Watch out!” shouts the message that what is about to be said is of extreme importance and everyone needs to listen up. Every person that lives need to be on guard against all kinds of greed. Few things are more dangerous for us as Christians than greed. When we begin to base the success or even the joy and blessings of our life on the abundance of possessions we are walking away from the heart Jesus wants us to have. One can be right with God and have many possessions and one can be right with God and have few to no possessions. One can be wrong with God and destined to hell with lots of possessions and one can be wrong with God and destined to hell with few to no possessions. Things in life aren’t what matters. What matters is our relationship with God.

We live in a time when it is hard to keep greed from getting a foothold in our lives. We see what others have that are in our age group or have similar situations to us and we begin to feel we have somehow failed because we don’t have as much. One of the prime reasons God teaches us to be givers and generous with what we have is to overcome greed. “The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil” is still true.

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THE SONG OF SONGS

Have you read the Song of Songs or Song of Solomon lately? It is unique among all the Books of the Bible. The uniqueness of the Book has often caused people to wonder and even challenge its place in the Bible. Through much of history even those who accepted its place in Scripture couldn’t believe it could possible be taken as really about the love relationship between two people that often involved very sexual scenes and descriptions. The result was that for many years the Jewish scholars taught it was an allegory of God’s love and relationship with Israel. When the church was established, most early scholars among the Christians took the same interpretation but applied it to the love of Christ for the church. If you look at some of the older songs that were popular years ago such as “The Lily of the Valley” or “The Rose of Sharon” you see the application of some of the love poems in this book applied to Christ and the church. The point of being called the “Song of songs” is that it is the epitome of what a great song would be.

I often encourage married couples or those getting married to make a habit on their anniversary of reading the book together with the husband reading the parts that are spoken by the man and the wife reading the parts spoken by the woman. Why would God put such a graphic set of love poems in the Bible? I’m sure I don’t know all the reasons, but one thing for certain is that God wanted us to know he wanted us to see love, marriage, and sex in the marriage as something He is for and is part of his plan for those made in his image and likeness. While this book is unique the message about the love and sexual relationship in marriage isn’t unique at all. God made the woman and brought her to the man and they were both naked and unashamed. The plan of God was that they would become one flesh. It was sin, that caused them to begin to see something about themselves that needed to be hidden. God’s command to them and to the generations after them was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. I don’t know of a way that could be done without there being sexual relationships going on. In the New Testament Paul told the Christians in Corinth that marriage was God’s plan to prevent immorality and that the wife’s body belonged to her husband and the husband’s body belonged to his wife and they were not to withhold themselves from one another. In Hebrews 13:4 it says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.”

One huge lesson every Christian needs to get is that while sexual sin is a huge problem in the world and that we need to keep ourselves away from such sin, that sex in the marriage is holy, right and good and meant for the pleasure of the couple to pull them closer together.

Song of Songs is a series of love poems most of which were written by the young woman who says of herself that she is dark and lovely. While Solomon is mentioned in the book and the first verse declares it to be “Solomon’s Song of Songs” it is questionable if he is the actual author of the poems attributed to the man in the book or if it is of the type poems that Solomon wrote. It is very much about a young couple expressing their love for each other in powerful ways. It isn’t given in chronological order so one can’t simply read it and think it is telling the story of the couple from dating to marriage to their life together.

We should certainly learn that love needs expressing. It is obvious this couple knew how to tell each other how beautiful, handsome, and desirous each was to the other. They described the fragrances of each other and their longing for each other. In these poems it also described how the brothers of the young woman wanted to protect her from going too far in her affection before the marriage. They sent her out to take care of their vineyards to the neglect of her own. Later it mentions them attempting to build a wall around her. This is about the family trying to be sure the girl doesn’t become sexually active before her marriage. She ultimately tells them that she has a wall of her own.

It also describes two different instances when the couple had arguments, after their wedding and both involved the sexual relationship. He wanted to have sex at one point when she didn’t and he gave up and left then she became interested and sought to find him. It is a way of describing what goes on in any marriage and that even when people love each other dearly it doesn’t mean that everything goes smoothly or that their sexual relations always go right. But the poems emphasize their coming back together each time making up and their love growing even more.

It is far too easy in marriage to get into our routines and stop taking the time to tell each other of the love we have, describing the beauty of each to the other and allow the love to grow dim. Read the Song of Songs one more time and think about how to express your love and devotion in marriage.

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IT’S ALL ABOUT ME AND MINE

“What’s in it for me?” This seems to be the question that drives so much of life today. I sometimes wonder what has happened from the times when I was growing up when everyone knew their neighbor and if word got around the area that someone was in need people came together to take care of the one who was struggling. I remember the day when if a farmer near us was sick or having problems it was normal for others to gather to plow his fields, plant his crop and take care of it until he was better. It wasn’t seen as something to get credit for but of what it meant to be a friend or neighbor to others. In such times churches were ready to go out of their way to meet people’s needs even when they didn’t have big bank accounts to work from. It usually involved people coming together to work rather than offering a contribution and thinking I had done my part.

There is a small two chapter book in the Old Testament that deals with this very point. The children of Israel had completed their seventy years of captivity under the Babylonians and the Persian Empire, under God’s influence was offering for the people to return to Jerusalem, rebuild the walls of the city and rebuild the temple so that people might again gather to worship and serve the God who led them out of Egyptian bondage and had blessed them as a nation until their sin and idolatry led them completely away from the Lord. There were different waves of Israelites to return to Jerusalem to build homes, establish new lives and with the full intent of rebuilding the city of Jerusalem with its temple. But, as with anything one wants to do that is right and good, there was opposition to them doing what God wanted them to do. The people around them raised opposition. They accused them of wanting to destroy the people around them and raise up a king to rule the whole area. Construction stopped on the temple even though God offered them tremendous blessings to carry out his mission.

Haggai the prophet was sent to them with a strong message that they needed to trust God and carry out the mission he had given them. In verse 2 of chapter one, Haggai said, “This is what the Lord Almighty says, ‘These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s temple.” I suppose they had tons of reasons why this wasn’t the right time to do what God said, but notice Haggai’s message, “Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains in ruin? Now, this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Give careful thought to your ways, you have planted much, but harvested little. You eat but never have enough. You drink but never have your fill. You put on clothes but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”

One thing is certain about the work of the Lord in our time and any other time. When God’s people become selfish and lose concern for both God’s will and the care for others who are having troubles we are in for some tough times. Far too often we don’t have the time to help others who are struggling in some way in life because we have filled our schedule totally with our own family and our needs, wants and dreams. When our whole lives become centered on providing for our family and our things, we move into our paneled houses with great jobs making lots of money but can’t figure out why our plans never seem to work out as planned, we may be like Israel putting our money into a bag with holes in it.

His answer for them was to get back on the task he had sent them to accomplish so that His blessings might fall on them again. He told them to go to the mountains and bring down timber and build the Lord’s house, the temple of the Lord. Expecting God’s blessings on our lives when we put our personal desires ahead of His work and his will is always like having money and putting it in a bag with a large hole in the bottom and then trying to figure out what happened to it all

God’s love is overwhelming for his people and his blessings pour on us abundantly when we put him first in our lives and our first thought is what does the Lord want from me rather than asking such a question way down the line after we have accomplished all our own things. The people did follow Haggai’s teaching and came back and rebuilt the temple as he wanted. As long as they served and followed his will his blessings were on them as his people.

Maybe it is time for us to think seriously about what it means to “Seek first, the kingdom of God and his righteousness so that the other things of life might be added to us by his generous heart.

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RUNNING THE LAST MILES

Great beginnings are extremely important. But if you run well to begin with and then either give up the race near the end or turn to run in a whole different direction at the end, it won’t matter much how well you did at the beginning. King Saul had such a great beginning. He was chosen by God, partly becasue of his humility and willingness to trust God. When Samuel had anointed him to become the first king over Israel, he was God’s chosen king for the people. Yet when the time for coronation came, they couldn’t find him. He was hidden among all the stuff and they had to seek him out to bring him before the people. Some thought he wasn’t up to the task, but God’s Spirit came upon him and he prophesied along with the prophets and was a great leaeder as long as he followed the Spirit’s lead. When he led the people at the beginning against the Philistines and they had God fighting on their side, he was seen as a great king and the right choice from the Lord for the people. But it didn’t take long for a different pattern to appear. Samuel the prophet told him to gather his men and wait for seven days for him to come and to offer the sacrifice to God and seek his blessings and guidance for the mission. Saul waited, the men began to complain and some even started to scatter as they waited for Samuel to arrive. On the seventh day when Samuel still had not arrived as he had promised, Saul became afraid that he would lose all his men and took it on himself to go ahead and offer the sacrifice that Samuel was to offer. Just as he finished his offering, Samuel arrived and asked Saul what he had done. He told him then that God’s plan to establish a dynasty around Saul’s family had been changed and he would raise up a king after his own heart.

But things got worse, as Saul grew older, he became horribly jealous of David because the women sang, “Saul has killed his thousands and David his ten-thousands.” A man who had been loyal to him to the hilt became his enemy that he sought to have destroyed. He sought in every way he knew to kill David.

Perhaps the worst time came when God told Saul and his army to go down against the Amelikites and utterly destory them because of the idolatry, the horrendously sinful behavior of the people. Saul went down in battle. He defeated the Amelikites, but failed to obey God’s command to utterly and completely destroy them. He brought back the best of the sheep and oxen and king Agag, alive. When God sent Samuel to talk to him, Saul acually came out to meet Samuel in a jovial way declaring how he had obeyed God. Samuel’s response was, “What then is the noise of bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen?” Saul began with excuses that they had utterly destoryed the Amelikites but the men wanted to save the best of the animals and wanted to bring back the king. Samuel informed Saul that to obey is better than to sacrifice and to listen to God is better thant he fat of rams. He demanded Agag be brought before him and immediately put him to death. Saul still sought Samuel’s blessing so he wouldn’t look back among the people.

A life of promise turned into a life of tragedy when he actually sought out a medium to call up Samuel to ask his advise. He died along with both his sons on the hill of Gilboa at the hands of the Philistines.

A great start, but pitiful ending to his life. Another man named Saul, whom we know better as Paul had a lousy beginning as a man wanting to destroy the church and anything that had to do with Jesus, but God changed his life and set him on the right course. Even though that course involved lots of hard, persecution, jail, prison and rejection by his own people, Paul remained faithful to the Lord to the very end of his life. As he reached the end of life his plea was, “I am now ready to be offered and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought the good fight. I have finnished the course. I have kept the faith. Henseforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord the righteous judge shall give to me and not to me only but to all those who love his appearing.”

Great starts are important. But a great finish is vital. There is no place to stop in our service to God until we reach that home with him in glory. Tell me something, are you getting closer to God, more on fire for him and more dedicated to doing his will as the years pass? The end hasn’t been written yet.

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