October 24 | Finish Well

Text: Hebrews 12.1-2

As we look back over the life of Samuel, we see a man who finished well. He lived his life with integrity, continuity, and faithfulness (1 Samuel 12.1-5). When those around him faltered, he stayed the course.

In fact, as we look at many of the leaders in the Bible, few stayed the course through the beginning, middle, and end as Samuel did. David started and ended well, but had a period of faithlessness in the middle. Solomon started well, but ended poorly. Paul started poorly but ended well.

“Holy redundancy” is the phrase Pastor Manion used to describe Samuel’s life. He went through the circuit of his responsibilities day after day, year after year. His pattern of faithfulness not only served others well, but served him well. When he faced countless crises as the last “judge” of Israel, he knew how to trust God out of habit.

May it one day be said that you lived a life of “holy redundancy.”

Today, read Hebrews 12.1-2 and memorize 12.1.

May we all, like Paul as he faced execution, be able to say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4.7).

October 23 | Your Legacy

Text: Ephesians 4.1-5

Once David is anointed as king, Samuel takes more of a “back seat” in the remainder of 1 Samuel. But in 1 Samuel 28.3 some important information is slipped in, “Now Samuel was dead, and all Israel mourned for him and buried him in his own town of Ramah.” Samuel left behind an amazing legacy of service and faithfulness.

From the day he was dedicated to the temple by his mother, until the day he died, he modeled consistent and steadfast faith toward the call of God’s purpose in his life. He lived in such a way that the whole country mourned his passing and felt his absence.

As believers and followers of Christ we also have a calling and purpose. Read Ephesians 4.1-5 today and consider the calling and purpose God has given you. Consider how your absence would be received if you were removed from your family, job, and church. Take some time to write your own legacy, how you want to be remembered. Then consider how you need to live in order to fulfill what you’ve written.

October 22 | Daily Cleansing

Text: 1 John 1.8-9

Sadly, King Saul has become an example to us of a man who took action motivated by fear rather than faith in God’s Word. Full of self-deception, lies, and excuses, he blatantly disobeyed God and said, “I have carried out the Lord’s instructions” (1 Samuel 15.13).

But when God looked into his heart, he saw fear that led to disobedience. God tells Samuel he is looking for “a man after his own heart” (1 Samuel 13.14); a man who has a heart that beats with God’s heart.

In reality we’re no different than Saul. We have thoughts and fears that stray far from the heart of God. If we aren’t careful we, too, can become self-deceived and full of excuses. Keeping a short account with God opens us to experience the cleansing forgiveness offered to us by the blood of Jesus shed for our sins.

We can experience the inner growth that comes from the power of the Holy Spirit working within us (Ephesians 3.16-19).

Today, begin the habit of daily cleansing, called “confession.” Ask God to show you even the sins you may not be aware of (Psalm 139.23-24), and then trust him to cleanse you as you sincerely confess them (1 John 1.8-9). Doing this is an act of obedience that shows God how much you love him and releases his power into your life.

October 21 | Heart Matters

Text : 1 Samuel 16.2-13

God removed Saul as King of Israel because “he has turned away from me and has not carried out my instructions” (1 Samuel 15.11). By rejecting the “word of the Lord” (15.23), Saul revealed a heart of fear and a lack of love and obedience for the God who made him king.

So God sends Samuel to anoint a new king from one of Jesse’s seven sons. When Samuel sees the oldest son he assumes, based on his appearance, he is the new king. But after seeing this son and six more, God lets Samuel know, “The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (16.7b).

We often tend to be like Samuel: evaluating by physical appearance, skills, and intelligence. We tend to look at the immediate and external and are so easily fooled we can even fool ourselves! But God sees our heart. The impressions we leave may be an unreliable criteria of our spiritual health.

While we may exhibit pure motives, devotion to him, and a humility of spirit, God may actually be seeing resentment, competition, envy, pride, and a heart turned inward toward “self.”

Today, take some time to consider this week’s One Big Question. . .What areas of growth or change would move you closer to reflecting the heart of God? Then read Psalm 139 and pray for God to “search me and know my heart….and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalm 139.23-24).

October 20 | Beyond Grief

Text: 1 Samuel 16.1

Grief knocks the wind out of you. Devastated by Saul’s failure to obey God’s instructions, (whose failure was evidence of a heart that didn’t love God and resulted in God rejecting Saul as king) Samuel spiraled into a deep period of mourning. So much so God eventually asks him, “How long will you mourn for Saul. . . ? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way…” (1 Samuel 16.1). God was calling Samuel to a hope beyond his grief.

God created us to grieve. It’s important for our emotional health. There should be a period of mourning when we experience the loss of a family member, career, or even a dream. But there will come a day when we need to say “enough,” put the Kleenex box aside, and move forward.

Senior Teaching Pastor Jeff Manion tells us God doesn’t just want us to move on, but forward. God wants us to give him our broken heart in such a way that we’re drawn deeper and closer into his presence as he uses our grief for his good. Imagine the good God can bring from your grief (remember Hannah in 1 Samuel 1.1-20).

There may be something you are grieving. As you welcome God into your week and day, listen to “Oceans” by Hillsong United and soak in these words: “Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger, in the presence of my Savior.”  As you do, trust God for the hope that comes from him through your grief.

October 17 | Repentance

Text: Psalm 51

Repentance, by definition, is to simply “turn around.” But when it comes to sinful habits, it’s significantly easier to say than it is to do—especially those habits and patterns we’ve developed over the years.

When we realize we’re walking down a path contrary to God’s desire for our lives, he wants us to “turn around” and starting walking after him. King David, in Psalm 51, gives us an excellent example of what repentance looks like. David had just committed some major moral mistakes and his prayer of repentance gives us insight on what real repentance involves.

Repentance can be broken down into three C’s: contrition, confession, and change. True repentance starts with contrition—a broken heart over sinning against God. Then we must confess to God our error. The truth is, he already knows; but there’s power in verbalizing and owning our fault before God. It frees us from the power of secrecy. Finally, we must change our actions and begin to obey.

Repentance comes full circle when we’re actually obeying God from our hearts: obeying him because we want to.

Today, memorize Psalm 51.17 which talks about the beginning of repentance: having a broken and contrite heart. Ask God to break your heart for the things that break his as you daily turn back to him and away from sin.

October 16 | Patterns

Text: 1 Samuel 15.24-35

As Jeff Manion, senior teaching pastor, said, “We can choose our sin, but we can’t choose our consequences.” King Saul made two monumental mistakes: offering an unlawful sacrifice and not fulfilling his mission to wipe out the Amalekites and all their possessions (1 Samuel 13.8-14; 15.1-9).

Surely Saul did not anticipate his consequences being so harsh. God rejected Saul as king and ripped the kingdom from his hands (1 Samuel 15.6-28). Not only did Saul lose the kingdom, but he also learned if he had obeyed, God would have established his kingdom over Israel forever—a reality Saul forfeited by his rebellious activity (1 Samuel 13.13-14).

Our habits and patterns eventually reap either rich blessing or devastating consequences, outcomes over which we have no control—that task is God’s alone. Patterns of arrogance and self-reliance can utterly ruin us, whereas humility and selflessness spanning a lifetime can reap the richest blessings.

We may think we’re getting away with a deviant habit today, but we’re actually building a case against our own character and ensuring heavy consequences.

As you welcome God into your day, complete this exercise: jot down on a piece of paper the top three or four qualities you hope to be remembered for;  such as faithful, joyful, patient, loving, or generous. Then consider what daily habits or actions would build a case for the embodiment of those attributes. Be specific and think small! It’s often the unnoticed, everyday actions that build a character modeled after Jesus.

October 15 | Fear

Text: 1 Samuel 15.24

After Samuel confronts Saul for bringing back livestock he was supposed to destroy, Saul responds with a simple confession revealing his true motive: “I violated the Lord’s command and your instructions. I was afraid of the people and so I gave in to them” (1 Samuel 15.24). Saul’s fear of his own men caused him to disregard God’s clear commands in his life.

Fear prevents us from accomplishing our most significant tasks in our most important roles. This was utterly true for Saul—fear crippled him from leading God’s people in an hour when they desperately needed him—and it rings equally true for each of us. We live in various roles: parent, spouse, child, employee, friend and fear can easily cripple us in those areas if we give way to it.

But this isn’t God’s plan for your life. Throughout Scripture God reminds us over and over he’s the bringer and establisher of peace.

God tells Joshua, an Old Testament leader over God’s people, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1.9). Jesus tells his disciples on the eve of his arrest, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you…Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14.27).

God’s plan for each of us is to live in peace and confidence, not fear and doubt.

This week’s One Big Question is…In what area of your life are you tempted to live in fear? Take time to discuss this with your small group or a close friend. As you identify those areas, encourage one another to invite God into those moments and ask him to deliver you. God is with you and he is not afraid; he is your peace and your hope today.

October 14 | Heart

Text: 1 Samuel 15.1-23

King Saul was given the task of taking care of some unfinished business: completely annihilating the Amalekites. Early in Israel’s history the Amalekites had cruelly slaughtered many of Israel’s weak and unarmed, so God vowed to “blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven” (Deuteronomy 25.17-19).

Samuel’s instructions to “totally destroy all that belongs to them” (1 Samuel 15.3) may seem harsh, but this was God’s fulfillment of justice on a people who inflicted incredible injustice on his people. Saul’s job was simple and clear: don’t leave anything or anyone behind.

Saul successfully began his mission by defeating the Amalekites. But somewhere in the course of his conquest he suffered a change of heart—he thought it might be a good idea to spare the best of the livestock and the Amalekite King, Agag. His excuse for this change of heart: he wanted to use the livestock for sacrifices (1 Samuel 15.15).

Samuel’s rebuke is powerful: “to obey is better than sacrifice” (1 Samuel 15.22b). In other words: God wants your obedient heart more than he wants religious activity.

Living for God [religious activity] without having a relationship with God is a dangerous reality we can easily fall prey to. Attending church services, giving gifts of gratitude, and serving are all good things, but God doesn’t need our sacrifices. God really wants our hearts! In fact, other passages in Scripture point to the fact that God disdains our religious activity when our hearts are far from him (Hosea 6.6; Matthew 9.13). True worship starts in the heart.

Reflect on the song “The Heart of Worship,” performed by Sonic Flood, and consider ways you may have elevated your religious activity above simply giving God your whole heart. Ask God to strip away any pretenses of a religious activity and to help you grow in real relationship with him.

October 13 | Fear vs. Faith

Text: 1 Samuel 13.1-15

King Saul has problems. . .big ones! He has a massive and well-armed Philistine army preparing to wipe out him and his ragtag band of soldiers. His problems only get more complicated when his soldiers start deserting and hiding in “caves and thickets, among the rocks, and in pits and cisterns” — not really a picture of bravery and courage (1 Samuel 13.6b).

Samuel told Saul to wait for him seven days at Gilgal (1 Samuel 10.8) so Samuel could properly offer sacrifices. But when Saul saw his men running and hiding, he acted out of fear and offered the sacrifices on his own, without Samuel.

While Saul needed to trust God’s plan and promises in the midst of his trials, his fear-based decision-making ultimately ruined him. God had promised Israel if they would obey and follow him, he [the God of all creation] would fight for them. Saul needed only to remember the Israelites’ history to realize God makes it a priority to come through on his promises.

We, too, can be easily paralyzed by the enormity of the conflicts around us. But our response should be grounded in faith, not fear. We can embrace each circumstance with the conviction God’s going to treat us according to his promises and character.

As you welcome God into your day, take a moment to list the circumstances you regularly face that cause you to react with fear. Then take a moment to pray over your list, releasing those fears to God and asking him to help you trust his promises.