Monday, July 18, 2016


My Life Group lesson for July 17, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...


What qualities do you look for when choosing a leader?

When we think of what makes someone a good leader, we usually consider things such as impressive résumés, rugged good looks, intellectual competence, courageous innovation, and impeccable communication skills. Names like William Wallace, Winston Churchill, and Ronald Reagan might come to mind.

How much does a person’s physical and outward appearance contribute to your perception of him or her as a leader?

(Don't blame me, but ...) Research indicates that there is a correlation between a person’s height and the salary he or she earns. This is particularly true in occupations where the perception of others is crucial, such as sales and management.

It is also documented that height is seen as a social asset and perceived as indicative of a person’s competence. Of course, no research suggests that taller people actually fulfill these perceptions. It is merely indicative of the way we often judge people.

Since 1900, Americans have elected the taller presidential candidate about 2/3 of the time.

Even Samuel the prophet was not immune to the persuasion of outward appearance. Saul, the first king of Israel, was taller than most of his peers (1 Sam. 9:2).

In contrast, God seems rather unimpressed by the things that impress us. God prefers to find a man or woman after God’s own heart.


1 Samuel 16:1-23

*** Saul has been king of Israel for many years, and grew from a timid young man hiding among the people's luggage (10:20-22) to a victorious leader in battle.

*** Unfortunately, by the time we get to 1 Samuel 16, Saul is a different man. He became so determined to hold onto power that Samuel feared that Saul would kill him in order to hold on to his throne (16:2).

*** Samuel is appointed by God to anoint a new king.


4 Samuel did what the LORD directed and went to Bethlehem. When the elders of the town met him, they trembled and asked, “Do you come in peace?” 5 “In peace,” he replied. “I’ve come to sacrifice to the LORD. Consecrate yourselves and come with me to the sacrifice.” Then he consecrated Jesse and his sons and invited them to the sacrifice.

*** High Noon.

--- Showing up unexpectedly in Bethlehem certainly panicked the people, like a Western movie when trouble comes to town and all the people flee indoors and duck down, like in “High Noon.”

--- Prophets had a history of bringing bad news with them – messages of doom and judgment – so people preferred they stay away.

--- For example, when Elijah turned up at the court of Ahab, he received the greeting, “Is that you, you destroyer of Israel?” (1 Kings 18:17).

*** Just here for a sacrifice. Yeah, that's the ticket.

--- God actually commands Samuel to use a bit of sleight of hand to find and anoint a new king among the sons of Jesse.

--- God had rejected Saul, but the king wasn’t going to go quietly.

--- Samuel had feared that he would be killed by Saul for selecting a new king.

--- God replied that Samuel should take a young cow with him and tell people that he had come to Bethlehem to make a sacrifice (which he did, but only as part of the story).

--- Despite his fear of Saul, Samuel trusted God and did what the Lord directed.

--- As it turned out, it was too soon for Israel to be made aware of David’s anointing.

--- David would first need to build up the people’s confidence by his great deeds, such as the slaying of Goliath.

--- Apart from how Saul would react to hearing that this boy in Bethlehem had been anointed, the people of Israel as of yet had no reason to embrace young David as their king.

--- At this time, even David’s brothers had little use for him (see 17:28).

*** Question – Like Samuel coming to town and causing fear, leadership roles can often lead the leader to a place of isolation. In what ways does pursuing the call of God upon one’s life bring isolation from others? What are the risks and rewards of such a pursuit?

GOD’S CRITERIA (1 SAM. 16:6-10)

6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and said, “Certainly the LORD’s anointed one is here before Him.” 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not look at his appearance or his stature, because I have rejected him. Man does not see what the LORD sees, for man sees what is visible, but the LORD sees the heart.” 8 Jesse called Abinadab and presented him to Samuel. “The LORD hasn’t chosen this one either,” Samuel said. 9 Then Jesse presented Shammah, but Samuel said, “The LORD hasn’t chosen this one either.” 10 After Jesse presented seven of his sons to him, Samuel told Jesse, “The LORD hasn’t chosen any of these.”

*** Check the merch.

--- Samuel's wasn’t picking the king. God had already done that.

--- God could have told Samuel ahead of time which son to anoint, but He allowed Samuel to discover God's will.

--- Samuel anticipates incorrectly, though, that God would choose Eliab, someone similar in stature to Saul (i.e,, tall, dark and handsome).

--- It turns out, moreover, that Eliab did not have a particularly strong character. In the Goliath episode, Eliab proved himself to be petty and jealous. He said to David, “Why did you come down here? … Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness? I know your arrogance and your evil heart—you came down to see the battle!” (17:28). A man who could be so unfair and spiteful toward his own brother would not refrain from vengeful recriminations against anyone else. He would not have been a good king. In the same measure God rejected all the sons of Jesse who were present at the sacrifice.

*** But he has a great personality.

--- It is easy, even among God’s people, to be attracted to charismatic, celebrity-type leaders, assuming that God must be just as impressed as we are by their charms.

--- But God has a different criterion for selecting His leaders.

--- God is not interested in outward appearances but the inner workings of the heart. Man looks outside. God looks inside.

--- God chooses the foolish, the weak, the insignificant, and the despised so that no man may boast before the Lord’s presence.

--- 1 Corinthians 1:26-31 - 26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.

--- Consider a church that is evaluating two men for the job of pastor. Each comes with good recommendations and with support from the search committee. They both preach to the congregation, and both have good content and good delivery. One is tall, athletic looking, and strikingly handsome, but the other is overweight and physically unimpressive. Which one is likely to get the call? How might someone justify voting for the more handsome candidate?

*** Does anyone have an experience in which the Lord allowed you to explore different possibilities before leading you to the right direction for your life? (Ex.: Searching for different jobs, looking at cities to move to, or trying different opportunities for service in the church.)


11 Samuel asked him, “Are these all the sons you have?” “There is still the youngest,” he answered, “but right now he’s tending the sheep.” Samuel told Jesse, “Send for him. We won’t sit down to eat until he gets here.” 12 So Jesse sent for him. He had beautiful eyes and a healthy, handsome appearance. Then the LORD said, “Anoint him, for he is the one.” 13 So Samuel took the horn of oil, anointed him in the presence of his brothers, and the Spirit of the LORD took control of David from that day forward. Then Samuel set out and went to Ramah.

*** The No. 1 pick in the draft.

--- Jesse didn’t even bother to bring David to the draft, assuming that he was unworthy to be anointed, too young and small compared to his brothers.

--- Shepherds were considered near the bottom of the society’s totem pole. But it was there that David learned to worship, hunt and protect the sheep from enemies (1 Samuel 17:36).

--- The pasture was God’s training ground for the making of a king.

--- Samuel wasn’t having any of Jesse’s excuses, so he said that they’d just twiddle their thumbs until David arrived. (No eating, even! Don’t touch those cocktail weenies!)

*** That’s him. That’s the one.

--- Apparently as soon as he saw the boy Samuel heard the voice of God telling him that this was the one to anoint.

--- The main lesson is that the choice of David was entirely God’s; Samuel was merely the agent for designating him as the next king.

--- You might have noticed that, right after telling us that people look on external appearance but that God looks on the heart (v. 7), the passage says that David “had beautiful eyes and a healthy, handsome appearance.” The implication may be that God had so endowed David as a concession to human weakness. God chose David to be the next king, but the people probably would not have accepted him if he had been plain or homely.

After the monarchy and a system of succession were well established, the physical appearance of a king was of less importance. It is no doubt significant that Absalom, David’s son, who with popular support illegally seized the throne, was a man of striking physical beauty (2 Sam. 14:25).

*** We’ve got Spirit, how ‘bout you?

--- Note that after being anointed, David was guided by the Holy Spirit from then on.

--- David’s anointing was precursor to the coming King of kings who would be a descendant of David. Jesus is the ultimate King and leader who is also the Shepherd of His people.

--- The very city in which David was anointed king (Bethlehem) would be the place which the prophet Micah prophesied would be the birthplace of the King of Kings, the Promised Messiah, Jesus Christ.

--- God’s leader is dependent on God’s Spirit.

--- We all have that power now as followers of Jesus.

--- We’re all anointed to do God’s work.

--- Romans 8:9 - You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ.


The Republican National Convention is this week in Cleveland.

There, delegates will likely nominate Donald Trump as their presidential candidate. The Democrats will nominate Hillary Clinton next week in Philly.

We would certainly be better off if voters used Exodus 18:21 as God’s directive for selecting leaders – “But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.”

Of course, some would say it’s too late to nominate someone worthy, so we’re stuck with what we’ve got. Maybe we’d be better off with a daily president like David Rice Atchison -- Forget what the history books say. The 12th president of the United States was David Rice Atchison, a man so obscure that Chester A. Arthur seems a household word by comparison. At exactly 12 noon on March 4, 1849, Zachary Taylor was scheduled to succeed James Polk as chief executive. But March 4 was a Sunday and Taylor, a devout old general, refused to take the oath of office on the Sabbath. Thus, under the Succession Act of 1792, Missouri Senator Atchison, as President ProTempore of the Senate, automatically became president.

Atchison was said to have taken the responsibilities of his office very much in stride. Tongue in cheek, he appointed a number of his cronies to high cabinet positions, then had a few drinks, and went to bed to sleep out the remainder of his brief administration. On Monday at noon Taylor took over the reins, but the nation can look back fondly on the Atchison presidency as a peaceful one, untainted by even a hint of corruption. (From

Does God already know who will be selected? (Yes)

What is God trying to teach His church through this presidential election cycle?

In today’s lesson, God had rejected Saul and Samuel had the task of anointing the new king.

God directs Samuel where to go with new instructions "don't look on the outside but look at the heart".

*** He has anointed each of us to do His great work and He has put His Spirit inside us to guide us and show us the way. The question is if we will yield or not.

*** God does not choose His leaders in the same way the world does. God’s criteria include a heart committed to Him.

*** We should pray about our choice when voting. But we should always remember that our leader, as Christians, is Jesus Christ, and He is in control regardless of the outcome!

Friday, July 01, 2016


My Life Group lesson for July 3, 2016, using Lifeway's "Explore the Bible" commentary as a guide ...


What are some of the most common phobias?

Check out this list and see how you compare:

Arachnophobia: The fear of spiders
Ophidiophobia: The fear of snakes
Acrophobia:The fear of heights
Pteromerhanophobia: The fear of flying
Mysophobia: The fear of germs or dirt
Astraphobia: The fear of thunder and lightning
Omphalophobia - Fear of navels (belly buttons)
Trypophobia - Fear of holes
Papaphobia - Fear of the pope
Somniphobia - Fear of falling asleep
Hylophobia - Fear of trees
Globophobia - Fear of balloons popping
Ergophobia - Fear of work
Chrometophobia - Fear of money
Triskaidekaphobia- fear of the number 13
Nomophobia - Fear of being without mobile phone coverage

The Oxford University Press cites more than 200 phobias.

Why are humans so fearful?

Today we’re going to examine the differences between fearing the Lord and fearing people or things.


1 Samuel 12:1-25

*** Through their early history, God had always saved Israel from their troubles. But last week we talked about the people demanding a king like all of the other pagan nations, despite Samuel's warning that it wouldn't go as well as they hoped.

*** In chapter 12, Samuel inaugurates Saul as their king and gives his farewell address to the nation.

*** Samuel’s last words to the people touched on what was most important. Israel’s demand for a king other than God revealed that that they had lost sight of the greatness and power of God.

The prophet called on the nation to renew their covenant with God, in fear and reverence to God.

But now that they were a monarchy, God’s judgment would reference the ruling kings. All of Israel would be evaluated by whether the king did good or evil in the eyes of the Lord (see 1 Kings 11:6; 15:26; 16:25; 2 Kings 8:18; 10:30).


12 “But when you saw that Nahash king of the Ammonites was coming against you, you said to me, ‘No, we must have a king rule over us’—even though the LORD your God is your king. 13 Now here is the king you’ve chosen, the one you requested. Look, this is the king the LORD has placed over you. 14 If you fear the LORD, worship and obey Him, and if you don’t rebel against the LORD’s command, then both you and the king who rules over you will follow the Lord your God. 15 However, if you disobey the LORD and rebel against His command, the LORD’s hand will be against you and against your ancestors.

*** We did the monster Nahash, it was a graveyard smash.

--- Israel went from having no central government to being a monarchy, mostly because the people were afraid of external threats such as Nahash the Ammonite.

--- The new king, Saul, was filled with the Spirit of God and routed Nahash.

*** The Lord's directives.

--- Though God had given the people the king they asked for, He did not walk away from them. He still had expectations.

--- They were to continue to fear the Lord, serve Him, and faithfully follow Him.

--- If they lived according to His standards, all would go well.

--- God still had a plan in spite of their rejection of Him.

--- God continued to relate to His people and they were to continue to relate to Him. Nothing had changed in what was expected of them. God was still their King, and His will was for Him to be their unfailing rule of life.

--- However, if the people and the king failed to meet those standards, the hand of God would be against them and their king.

*** It applies to us as well.

--- For the past 50 years America’s motto has been “If it feels good, do it.” We celebrate anti-authority figures and our culture celebrates abortion and gay marriage.

--- When we look around our society today, it doesn’t seem like there is much fear of the Lord.

--- Our fallen, sinful nature makes full obedience to God’s standards and His Law impossible, because no one is righteous (Rom. 3:10).

--- Therefore, it is impossible to be saved according to our own goodness, because we will always fall short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23).

--- The Bible tells us that genuine worship is like sweet incense to the Lord. So when you are sending up sin and negativity, how does that smell in heaven?

*** Fear and trust.

--- Fear played a big role in Israel's demand for a king.

--- But the people really needed to focus on "fear of the Lord."

--- "Fear of the Lord" was fundamental for blessings in Moses’ day (Deut. 6:2, 24; 10:12; 31:12, 13), in Joshua’s (Josh. 4:24; 24:14), and now in the new era of the monarchy.

--- “Fear of the Lord” means standing in awe of Him and giving Him the honor and obedience that is His due as God and gracious Father.

*** Question - How would you describe their relationship with God now that they had a king?

A SIGN DELIVERED (1 SAM. 12:16-18)

16 Now, therefore, present yourselves and see this great thing that the LORD will do before your eyes. 17 Isn’t the wheat harvest today? I will call on the LORD and He will send thunder and rain, so that you will know and see what a great evil you committed in the LORD’s sight by requesting a king for yourselves.” 18 Samuel called on the LORD, and on that day the LORD sent thunder and rain. As a result, all the people greatly feared the LORD and Samuel.

*** The thunder rolls, and the lightning strikes. (Another love grows cold, on a sleepless night.)

--- Samuel made his case against the people, and drives it home with a dramatic demonstration of God's power.

--- A thunderstorm would have been unexpected to the Israelites.

---Rain came to Israel in a predictable pattern. The rainy season in Israel began in late October and lasted until February. The wheat harvest probably took place in May and June, in Israel’s dry season.

--- Such a storm posed a threat to the yet-to-be harvested crops.

Proverbs 26:1 alludes to this: “Like snow in summer and rain at harvest, honor is inappropriate for a fool.”

If the fields were wet, it would be very difficult to cut, bind, carry, and thresh the heads of grain. Wet grain would be more likely to rot. And, of course, the crops could be badly damaged if the storms were severe.

Storms in May implied that the harvest would be ruined; by analogy, Israel’s request for a king would end badly. It could be an economic disaster. Samuel had warned the people that having a king would be economically ruinous for them. The king would seize their lands, their cattle, their servants, and even conscript their children (1 Sam. 8:11-18).

--- The storm demonstrated that God was ultimately in control of all things.

--- God could easily show them the power He holds in His hand, the destruction He could inflict on them and their property.

--- The sign works, and the people repent for their sins. They realized that they were dependent on the grace of God.

*** Question - Today, insurance companies still often use the phrase “acts of God” to describe catastrophic weather events. Why are people more likely to recognize God’s power after an unexpected weather occurrence?


19 They pleaded with Samuel, “Pray to the LORD your God for your servants, so we won’t die! For we have added to all our sins the evil of requesting a king for ourselves.” 20 Samuel replied, “Don’t be afraid. Even though you have committed all this evil, don’t turn away from following the LORD. Instead, worship the LORD with all your heart. 21 Don’t turn away to follow worthless things that can’t profit or deliver you; they are worthless. 22 The LORD will not abandon His people, because of His great name and because He has determined to make you His own people.”

*** Johnny Football.

--- The father of NFL quarterback and notorious partier Johnny Manziel has given up on helping his son:

"He's a druggie. It's not a secret that he's a druggie. I don't know what to say other than my son is a druggie and he needs help. He just hasn't seeked it yet. Hopefully he doesn't die before he comes to his senses. That's about all you can say. I don't know what else to say. I hate to say it but I hope he goes to jail. I mean, that would be the best place for him. So we'll see."

*** Question - Do you sometimes get so frustrated at decisions a family member, friend, or church member has made that you cease to pray for them?

--- In God’s name, Samuel showed grace to the Israelites despite their sins.

--- Samuel vowed that he keep praying for Israel and would not give up on the people.

--- Samuel did not deny that what the people of Israel had done was wrong. But he knew that God was forgiving and could redeem even bad decisions.

--- Just as God tells us over and over to not be afraid in life, but be strong and courageous, Samuel tells the people the same.

--- Samuel knew our weaknesses. He knew we turn away when we get discouraged and feel guilty for our sins.

*** Israel’s responsibility.

--- It is noteworthy that they did not try to take back their request for a king. They knew that what was done could not be undone. They instead asked Samuel to intercede for them.

--- The people still had to live up to their covenant, and Samuel said the Israelites would need to do two things:

--- First, they should remain loyal to God. They should not turn away from following Him. They should resolve to continue to serve God and to do what is right even though their actions make them feel unworthy.

--- Second, they should shun all idols, the “worthless things” in verse 21. Ancient peoples turned to idols for health, for prosperity, and for protection from enemies. If the people would simply place their trust in God, He would continue to watch over them and sustain them, king or no king.

--- Asking for a king was a sin, but it was not a fatal sin. Worshiping an idol was a fatal sin.

--- Sin does not have to have the last word. The Lord will not forsake His people because of who He is.

*** Question - How would you describe the difference between godly fear and sinful fear?


The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro begin August 5, but a lot of top athletes won't be there to represent their countries.

Many have already said they would stay home because of Zika, the virus spread by mosquitoes that has been linked to brain defects in newborn babies.

It's not just women, either. Men such as golfer Rory McIlroy have also pulled out.

If you had a chance to compete in this year's Olympics, would you go? How much concern would you have?

In today’s lesson the Israelites had ceased to have a healthy fear of God.

The Israelites made a bad decision that changed their nation forever.

But even very big, very bad decisions do not mean that our relationship with God is forever ruined.

God showed grace and mercy in the midst of the Israelites’ rebellion.

No matter what we have done, God’s marching orders for us remain unchanged: that we should believe and obey the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God does not forsake His people, and Jesus said so in John 10:25-29 - 25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand.

*** God’s love extends to us even after we have blown it big time. No matter how many times we fail God, we should never be afraid to run to Him.

*** While we will face consequences for the wrong choices we make, God still offers forgiveness and grace to those who turn back to Him.

*** He will not forsake us. Through His jealous love, God brings us to repentance, redemption, and restoration.