Did a medium really conjure up the spirit of Samuel?

Our men’s Thursday morning bible study was deep into our study of 1 Samuel when we got to the account of Saul finding a medium to conjure up the spirit of the prophet Samuel who had died (1 Samuel 28:3-19).

Saul is in a bad spot. The Philistines have gathered to attack. Saul has exhausted every way he knows to contact the Lord, to no avail. Now what? He tells his servants to find a medium, so he can contact the departed spirit of Samuel and find out what’s going to happen.

Even though Saul has eradicated all the mediums and “fortune-tellers” from the land, his servants find a medium in Endor. According to the text, she conjures up the spirit of Samuel, who gives Saul the bad news: Israel is going to lose the battle to the Philistines, and you and your sons will die.

Here’s my question: did the medium really get in contact with the spirit of Samuel? Is that even possible? What is really going on here?

First of all, this is not a permissible practice. In Deuteronomy 18:9-14 God commands his people not to do this. They are not to consult mediums or spiritualists (Leviticus 19::31).

But it seems that the medium had indeed summoned the spirit of Samuel. Saul recognized Samuel. And the spirit’s prediction came true: Israel was defeated and Saul was killed. So God allowed this to happen? It seems so.

Well, that opens up a can of worms. Are spirits real? Are mediums real? Is there validity to those who read palms and gaze into crystal balls? In just about every town I’ve ever been to you can find a fortune-teller who is able to afford a storefront from those who pay for this kind of information. Is this real? A scam? Just business?

Here are a few things I’ve learned and concluded:

  • The spirit world is real. Satan’s minions were ejected from heaven when they lost their battle to Michael and the angels. Jesus dealt with demons in his ministry. They may be on a short leash, but they are real.
  • God has a handle on our future. When I surveyed the class, asking, “Would you want to know the day of your death?” all answered, “No.” Who wants to live in the shadow of their death? It’s better not to ask.
  • God wants us to trust him. Nothing can separate us from his love, so what else do you need to know. Just enjoy the ride. You may be surprised. You may scream. You may throw up. You might just love it. But it’s worth it. You were made for this.

When it come to the occult, I am very quickly over my head. Not a place I want to be. I’ll trust God with my future, thank you very much.

My Good Friday Bible

Today, I dusted off what I call my “Good Friday” bible and took it into the sanctuary in preparation for tonight’s Tenebrae (darkness) worship service. I call it my “Good Friday” bible because that is the one day a year when I use this massive volume. It measures about 12″x9″x3″ and weighs about 8 pounds, easily the largest book on my shelves. It has more than enough power for the end of the worship service when in complete darkness I slam it on the altar, reminding us of the closing up of Jesus’ tomb.

I received this bible from my mom and dad on my wedding day, nearly thirty-four years ago. They, too had a large bible like this at home that had been given to them. I don’t remember ever reading from it much. We had plenty of other bibles that we used for our personal and family devotions. The large bible contained a little bit of family tree names and dates, plus a couple of inspirational bookmarks.

I have slammed this bible on the altar thirty-two times, the number of years I have been a pastor and led worship on Good Friday. You can tell from the cracked binding that this book was only designed to be slammed about twenty-five times.

As I opened it up, I saw the dedication page written by my mom, with the reference to Psalm 18:30-36 and her blessing and prayer, “May your children give you as much joy as you have me.”

This psalm reference contains one of her favorite scriptural images, “He maketh my feet like hinds’ feet, and setteth me upon my high places” (Psalm 18:33 KJV). One of my mom’s favorite books was Hannah Hurnard’s Hinds’ Feet on High Places, “a timeless allegory dramatizing the yearning of God’s children to be led to new heights of love, joy, and victory” (Amazon.com). She purchased and gave away dozens of those books. She knew well the difficult life in the trenches as a mom, wife and nurse. But she also knew joy. She knew the thrill of skipping sure-footedly across the mountains of God’s promises to see the past, present and future from a whole new perspective. I am thankful that she passed that thrill along to me.

By grace, God heard and answered her prayer many times over. My children and now my grandchildren continue to fill my life with so much joy! Thirty-four years later, I understand what mom was talking about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why is it so hard to understand?

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Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

Throughout the Bible, whenever God speak to people, they understand him. Adam: “Where are you?” Noah: “Build a boat.” Abram: “Leave…go…a great nation.” All the prophets. God spoke in their language. They may not have liked it, but they got it.

But now, we have to translate God’s word into the language of the people, so they can understand. Why is that? At Pentecost, everyone from all over the world heard and understood the word spoken by the disciples. After that, it gets more complicated.

It took a long time, and a lot of sweat and tears to learn Greek and Hebrew, so I could read, hear and understand God in the original languages.  But even with a wide variety of English translations, I still struggle to figure out what God is talking about. Why is it so hard now?

Some possibilities: God spoke to fewer people back then. Like one at a time. God spoke to one nation. Israel. God spoke through one person: Jesus. Now, since Pentecost, the word has been unleashed in the world and for the world and for me.

It’s worth the effort.

Sounds of heaven

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Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

A couple of days ago I waded into the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. From previous readings, I knew there would be much I wouldn’t understand. But as always happens, something would capture my imagination. Something would resonate.

In the very first chapter, Ezekiel’s visions include creatures with faces and wings within earshot of the voice of God. “As they flew, their wings sounded to me like waves crashing against the shore” (Ezekiel 1:24 NLT). I’ve heard that sound lots of times. Could it mean that  I’ve heard some of the sounds of heaven?

That would be awesome. Heaven always seems so far away, so remote, so distant. Yet if some of its sounds echo in our world, it might not be so far away after all. Are there any other sounds? Sure there are: thunder, a mighty rushing wind, a river, silence. Those are some that immediately come to mind. I’m sure there are more. I’ve heard all these. I’ve heard the sounds of heaven.

Maybe we should spend more time just listening.

It’s not the end of the world.

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Photo by William Bossen on Unsplash

Oops.

Today is not the end of the world, as David Meade has been saying. What he meant to say is that September 23 would be the beginning of catastrophic events to occur when Planet X passes by the earth. Whatever.

Here’s my question. Why do people choose to listen to doomsayers like David Meade, but completely ignore Jesus and what he had to say? He spoke of the end times and what that would look like, and most simply dismiss his words. Anyone else can make a prediction of the world’s end and get a headline in the Washington Post or Fox news. The media rarely shares Christ’s words with us.  Continue reading

What if all you had was a bible?

a-worshiper-holds-a-small-bible-640x480Today in church I asked the question, “What would you do if you only had a bible?”

We get so much spiritual input from Google, TV and radio, devotional books, bible study books, study bibles, well-meaning friends and family, and our own experiences. All those things are helpful, blessings and important to our understanding of God’s word. But what if we didn’t have any of those things. What if all we had were a bible? Continue reading