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Acts 24:21 Questions

Acts 24:21 Questions

Paul’s Trial before Felix – Our hope concerning the resurrection of the dead

Acts 24:1-27 KV:21
1. Summarize the previous passage’s events (23). Who accompanied the High Priest to the trial (1)? What were the 3 charges against Paul (3-6)? What does it show that the accusers brought a lawyer instead of eye witnesses? What was the religious leaders hope for the trial?

2. How did Paul respond before Felix (10)? How did Paul defend against the first charge (11-13)? When charged with leading a new illegal religion how did Paul respond (14-15)? What was Paul’s conclusion (16)?

3. How did Paul respond to the third charge (17-19)? What did Paul say the real reason for his trial (20)? What does it mean to have a hope in the resurrection of the dead (21) (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) (Colossians 1:17-19) (Psalm 16:10) (Isaiah 53:9-10) (Romans 6:23)? Do you have a hope in the resurrection of the dead (John 11:23-26)?

4. What hint makes you think that Governor Felix thought Paul was innocent (23)? Was Felix interested in justice in this case (26)? What was the result of Felix’s corruption (25, 27)? What can we learn about the potential fate of those who have faith in the resurrection of the dead? Where is your hope and faith?

Acts 12:12 Answers

Acts 12:12 Answers

Many People had gathered and were Praying
Acts 12:1-25
KV 12:12

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1. Who arrested James the Apostle (1,2)?
“It was about this time that King Herod arrested some who belonged to the church, intending to persecute them. 2 He had James, the brother of John, put to death with the sword.”

King Herod had James the Apostle arrested and put to death.

How had King Herod treated Jesus previously (Lk 23:6-7,11)?

“ On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate.”

King Herod had only been interested in seeing Jesus and having him perform a miracle. King Herod had no interest in listening to Jesus and the message of the Messiah. Herod could have let Jesus go – but instead ridiculed him, mocked him, beat him up, dressed him in a elegant robe, and sent him back to Pilate, knowing full well his fate. Herod could have ended this by releasing Jesus but did not. In the same way James was arrested and killed not out of conviction but out of political expediency.

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Acts 12:12 Questions

Acts 12:12 Questions

Many People had gathered and were Praying
Acts 12:1-25
KV 12:12

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1. Who arrested James the Apostle (1)? How had King Herod treated Jesus previously (Lk 23:6-7,11)? Who was arrested next and why (3)? Why was Peter guarded by 4 squads of soldiers (Acts 5:18,19)?

2. When the angel came to help Peter escape what did Peter think was happening (11)? Where did he go after he realized this was not a dream (12a)? What were the people doing there (12b)? Why (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)? What can we learn about the early believer’s faith through this event (Matthew 17:19-21)?

3. When Peter to came the door how did people initially react (14, 15)? Why were they astonished (16)? What can we learn about the power of prayer and God’s purposes (Mt 6:31-33) (Deuteronomy 31:8)? What does King Herod’s reaction show us about his regard for the work of God (19a)?

4. Why did King Herod go to Caesarea (19-20)? When King Herod spoke to the people how did they describe his speech (22)? Did King Herod redirect this praise to God or to himself (23a)? What can we learn here about taking praise and glory that belongs to God (23b) (Deuteronomy 6:14-16) (Matthew 4:10)? Who joined Barnabas and Paul on their mission journey and what did he write? Despite James death, what happened to the gospel ministry (24)?

Acts 11:1-30 Message

Acts 11:1-30 Message

Remain True to the Lord With all Your Heart
Acts 11:1-30
KV 23

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“When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.”

Last week we learned from the Scripture on how God accepts men from all nations who fear him and do what is right. God does not show favoritism between Jew and Gentile.. In our minds we exclude and call people unclean or unworthy of the Gospel, but God declares, “Do not call anything I have made impure or unclean.” Peter said in Acts 10:34, 35 ““I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”

This week we want to learn about the ramifications of Peter’s gospel work. We want to learn from Barnabas how we can remain true to the Lord with all our heart. That seems pretty obvious as we only have one heart and when we think about all the amazing grace we have received from God it should be a “no-brainer.” Yet we live in a pluralistic society where the issue is not belief it is fractured and untrue faith in the Lord from our heart. Let us today learn from the Scripture the way to remain true to the Lord with all our hearts.

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Acts 9:1-31 Questions

Acts 9:1-31 Questions

SAUL’S CONVERSION

Acts 9:1-31 KV: 15, 16

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1.Read 7:58-8:3; 9:1-2. What effect did the death of Stephen have on Saul? How might Stephen’s prayer have contributed to his conversion? What was Saul’s purpose in going to Damascus?

2. Read verses 3-9. What happened to him as he neared Damascus? Describe his encounter with the Risen Jesus. How does Jesus’ visit show God’s one-sided grace? (1Ti 1:15b; 1Co 15:10)

3. Read verses 10-19a. Who was Ananias and what did the Lord tell him to do? Why did he hesitate? What did the Lord tell him about Saul? How did Ananias help Saul? What does this show about his faith?

4. Read verses 15-16 again. How did the Risen Christ see Saul? What mission did the Risen Christ give Saul? What does this teach about his purpose in saving Saul? About God’s sovereignty in world mission work?

5. Read verses 19b-25. What did Paul do after his conversion? What was the content of his message? (20, 22) How did his listeners respond? What happened to Saul? What kind of opposition arose? How did Saul escape?

6. Read verses 26-30. Why was it hard for Christians in Jerusalem to accept him? Who helped him? Why? What are some ways in which his encounter with the Risen Jesus changed him? Read verse 31. What happened to the church?

John 5:1-9a Message

John 5:1-9a Message

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GET UP!

John 5:1-9a, Key Verse: 8

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.'”

Happy Easter! Yesterday through Hannah’s message we learned that Jesus came to give us living water welling up to eternal life. In today’s passage there is a man who had lived hopelessly for 38 years. Even though the man almost gives up on himself, Jesus heals him with his life-giving word, ‘Get up’. May Jesus help us to know who you are through our Easter Bible School!

Part I: Welcome to Bethesda (1-4)

Look at verse 1. “Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews.” It was the time to celebrate a feast of the Jews. Every adult over 12 years old went to Jerusalem. It was a national cerebration, full of delicious food, beautiful music, and joyful dance. People were all joyful and happy, remembering God’s deliverance from the bandage of Egypt. But there were many disabled people who could not participate in this joyous festival.

Look at verses 2-3. “Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. Here a great number of disabled people used to lie-the blind, the lame, the paralyzed.” When I hear the word “Bethesda,” I think of Bethesda Hospital in Uganda of Africa, established by our UBF missionaries. Many people in Uganda have blessed by our Bethesda clinic because our medical missionaries could treat their infections and disease. Even Hannah is praying to go there as a short-term missionary if God opens the way for her. But in the time of Jesus, there was no Hospital. Instead they had a pool called Bethesda on the east side of Jerusalem. All kinds of disabled people went there in the hope of being healed.

From time to time an angel would come and stir up the water, and when the water moved, the first one into the pool would be cured of whatever disease he had. It is unscientific; therefore, it cannot be true. Well, there are many things that cannot be explained by science. This pool certainly attracted a lot of attention. A huge number of disabled people crowded around the pool, waiting for a chance to climb into the water. Getting to the pool first was like winning the lottery. The chance that any one of them could be healed was slim to none. But these people had nowhere else to go and nothing else to put their hope in. Day after day they hung around the pool, sympathizing about their sufferings. They tried to be friendly and share one another’s concerns like homeless people at COD Lounge.

But soon arguments and fights would often break out. Lucky was the man who managed to sit in the front row, right at the water’s edge. But if he ever got up to go to the restroom, he would immediately lose his spot and have to move to the back. It became one endurance contest to see who could go the longest without eating or sleeping or going to the restroom. And whenever the waters started to move, it became “every man for himself.” There would be pushing and yelling. One lucky person would jump in first, leaving everyone else behind in disappointment and despair.

The writer John’s description of this tragic scene is a brilliant picture of our human condition. Each of us has some kind of handicap that makes us unhappy. Life is not fair. Some people are born into privilege and rich, others are born into poverty. Some have amazing natural talents. Some have abilities or intelligence; they are able to do things easily, while the rest of us struggle to keep up. Some are physically attractive, while others look weird or funny. Some are naturally outgoing and confident, while others are full of anxiety and self-doubt. We may not be physically disabled like the people at the Bethesda. But at the end of the day, we are weak human beings, controlled by infirmity and despairing in our limitation.

Like the people at the Bethesda, we live in competition with one another. Outwardly people try to be considerate and nice. But once those waters start to move, watch out! Brothers and sisters will fight to the death over who gets the last bowl of Captain Crunch. Shoppers at the mall will fight over who gets to buy the last Nintendo Wii. Eminent scientists and researchers will fight over who gets to be first writer on a published paper.

And like the disabled people at the pool of Bethesda, so many of us are waiting for something to make our lives better. We know that we have a problem. But instead of getting up and doing something about it, we passively lie around, denying the problem or hoping against hope that it will get better all by itself. Instead of putting our faith in God and working to solve the problem, we begin complaining that it is just too hard, and that no one is helping us. We blame others. We blame our parents. We blame the politicians. We blame “the system.” When we do this, we are ultimately blaming God.

All of our human illness can be traced back to the original sin of our forefather Adam. When Adam sinned, the first thing he did was to run and hide. The next thing he did was to blame the situation on his wife and on God (Ge 3:8-12). Life has dealt each person a set of cards. No two people have the same cards. But God is sovereign over all human life. No matter who we are, no matter what the situation may be, he can bless us and work for our good (Ro 8:28). The Lord can turn our darkness into light (2Sa 22:29). Yet in practice, this can be so difficult to believe. Instead of applying our faith in God, how easy it is to just lie down at the pool and despair. Now, Jesus tells us, “Welcome to Bethesda.”

Part II: “Do you want to get well?” (5-6)

Ever since the original sin of Adam, this pool of Bethesda has been our universal human condition. But everything was changed by the arrival of Jesus. Look at verses 5-6. “One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'” As Jesus walked around the pool, he must have been overwhelmed by the disgusting odor of disease and waste. He must have been overwhelmed by the depths of despair and human sorrow. During last year’s presidential campaign, some people had been saying, “Jesus was a community organizer.” If Jesus were a community organizer, he would have gathered up the disabled people, convinced them that their misery was caused by bad government, and marched with them to the governor to demand more funding for health care.

But Jesus is not a community organizer. Jesus is the Savior of the world. As the Savior of the world, what did he do in response to this tragedy? He quietly found one person and helped him very personally. The man that Jesus found had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. Thirty-eight years is practically a lifetime. In thirty-eight years, the world changes many times over. Thirty-eight years ago, Richard Nixon was in the White House; the Beatles disbanded; young people were protesting the Vietnam War. But I do not know what the most popular TV show in America because I was in Korea. This poor invalid man had been lying on his mat year after year, watching all his life opportunities slip away. He was too old to get a job. He was too old to get married. He was completely washed up. Yet he remained by the poolside, still waiting for something to happen, even though his mind told him it was useless.

Look again at verse 6. “When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, ‘Do you want to get well?'” The question Jesus asked was simple. The man could have said, “Why do you think I’m here?” But this question of Jesus is truly profound. This question penetrates to the depths of the soul. On one level, of course this man wanted to get well. But on a deeper level, did he really want to get well? Did he really think he could get well? Did he have even a spark of hope?

Hope is the food of the human spirit. If we have hope, we live; without hope, we die. The disabled people in this passage were desperate. Society did not help them and medical science could not cure them. But they were not ready to despair. They were human beings with an instinct to live. They looked for something, anything, to put their hope in. They desperately wanted their lives to change. By going to the pool each day, they could escape into a convenient fantasy. Each one imagined how wonderful it would be if he were the lucky one.

After 38 years, this man had grown accustomed to his misery. He was becoming a man without hope. When Jesus asked him, “Do you want to get well?”, Jesus was working to reawaken his hope. Jesus wanted to ignite in his heart a new passion and a burning desire to be healed. Jesus wanted to give him a vision that he could really be changed and experience a new and joyful life. Jesus, the Son of God, could easily heal his broken body. But Jesus wanted to repair his broken soul by giving him hope. If a man has a hope, then he can thrive even if his body is sick and dying. Jesus is asking us, “Do you want to get well?”

Part III: “Get up!” (7-9a).

How did the man respond? Look at verse 7. “Sir, I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.” This man did not answer Jesus’ question. Instead, he complained about heartless people who did nothing to help him. He blamed the other disabled people who got in ahead of him. He spoke words of bitterness and defeat. Failures in life are truly painful and bitter. After failure, many of us give in to mediocrity. But we must never allow a defeated spirit to remain in us. We must never look at our past failures. We must never conclude that victory is impossible.

How did Jesus help the man who was overwhelmed by a spirit of defeat? Look at verse 8. “Then Jesus said to him, ‘Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.'” “Get up!” It sounds like a rebuke. That’s exactly what it was. Jesus was rebuking the physical disability. Jesus was also rebuking his hopelessness and lack of faith. Jesus was rebuking his dim view of God, for thinking that God could not or would not help him. Jesus spoke this command with the full authority of the Creator. “Get up!” Jesus’ word overpowered this man and gave his weak will the power to get up. It looked like this man borrowed Jesus’ will for a moment. Philippians 2:13 says, “…for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” Jesus can restore our weak wills and make us strong in our decisions to do well. Jesus says to each of us, “Get up!” to restore our willpower by the power of his word.

Jesus also told this man to pick up his mat. Jesus made it very clear that he should not be a burden to others any longer. Jesus commanded him to begin a new life as a responsible man and a blessing to others. Jesus wanted him to get a proper job to support himself and give generously to the work of God and pay his taxes. Jesus wanted him to live for the glory of God and display the work of God in his life. When this man heard Jesus’ words, the paralysis was driven from his body. His withered muscles became thick and powerful. His chicken-leg bones became like steel. By the strength of the word of Jesus, he got up, picked up his mat and walked.

One man is overweight. He did not always weigh 400 pounds. Not so long ago, he was an undergraduate in his final year at his college, just a few credits away from a degree. But something happened in his senior year. Perhaps he became discouraged by one or more small failures. He decided to take time off from his studies and work at the bookstore. In his depression, he also began to overeat. He believed that he would go back and finish his college degree, but it did not happen. As the years went by, the field of his study changed rapidly and most of his credits no longer counted. He imagined that one day he would go on a diet and lose his extra pounds. But that didn’t happen either. As his weight increased, he lost one job, then another, and then lost his apartment. He considered himself a victim and wanted to sue his former employer. He applied for benefits from the state and was classified as “permanently disabled.” Doctors recommended surgery to reduce the size of his stomach. But he didn’t want to lose the joy of eating. Now he stays in his basement and can walk only a few steps at a time. He still struggles against despair. But he has also given in to his unbearable condition.

This is a sad story. But in many ways I am not much different from him. When my Bible students do not commit themselves to Jesus and his ministry even though they have studied for a long time, I have a tendency to say, “Well, that’s just the way they are,” and I lose hope for them. While preparing this message, I realized that when I have no hope for them, Jesus has hope for them. The desire to better my ministry does not come from my human passion. It comes from the voice of Jesus, the God of Hope. Now Jesus is asking me, “David, Do you want to get well? Do you want to have a successful ministry? Then, do not look at your students. But look at me who has a great hope for each of them. David, now get up!” “Lord! I repent of my lack of faith. Please help me to look at you and listen to your voice and have a great hope for your precious children. Now I believe that Jesus who called me as a Pastor of this ministry will raise up 120 disciples of Jesus. Amen!”

*Conclusion: Benjamin Franklin said, “God helps those who help themselves.” This expresses the wonderful spirit of independence and self-reliance that Americans are known for. It also reminds us of a deep spiritual truth: God really does help us when we depend on him. In these times of economic uncertainty, we cannot look to the government to help us, because the government has no money. We should not fantasize about winning the lottery, because in the end money is just worthless paper. We must entrust our lives to Jesus. We must listen to the voice of Jesus. Obeying Jesus is never easy. But Jesus will give us all the strength we need to get up. I pray that you may listen to Jesus’ voice, “Get up!” and live a victorious life. Praise Jesus who has power to heal us with his word. Jesus! You are our Lord and our God. May God bless our EBS 2009 abundantly!

1 Samuel 7:1-17 Message

1 Samuel 7:1-17 Message

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COMMIT YOURSELVES TO THE LORD

1 Samuel 7:1-17, Key verse: 3

“And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’”

Happy New Year! Thank God who blessed us to see the beautiful image of ‘Heavenly Worship’ through Revelation study last week! When I was a teenager, I would never have imagined the huge influence of computers and cell phones. We did not even have color television. But now we have it all in God’s grace. So at this point I want to imagine what kind of more and more amazing things will show up in the future. Our future will be full of wonders, joys, and especially many changes. Let’s welcome our future lives!

However there is one thing that can never be changed. It is God our Creator. Because God is the only source of human delight and energy from the beginning, we will never fail but be victorious whatever we do. Today, we learn from Samuel how we can defeat our enemies and earn the true victory and success in God’s grace and power. May God open our hearts and help us listen to Samuel’s teaching! May God grant our DuPage UBF very clear New Year’s Direction through today’s passage!

Part I: Commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only (1-6)

Today’s story takes place about 1,100 B.C. Israel had been settled in Canaan for 300 years after their Exodus from Egypt by now. God raised judges during those years to lead the Israelites. Samuel was the last judge in Israel’s history. At that time, the main issue was how to move the ark to the proper place. Look at verse 2. “It was a long time, twenty years in all, that the ark remained at Kiriath Jearim, and all the people of Israel mourned and sought after the LORD.” In those days, the ark of the LORD meant the LORD himself to the Israelites. But the Israelites could not find the proper place for the ark after receiving it back from the Philistines. They also feared to move the ark because they knew how God had punished people when they tried to move it their own way.

So the ark had remained in the Levite Abinadab’s house for 20 years because the men of Kiriath Jearim had placed it there. Then, what happened in the Israel people’s minds? As we see in verse 2b, they ‘mourned and sought after the LORD.’ What does this mean? This means that all the people of Israel realized that dishonoring the ark of God was wrong and really wanted to repent of their carelessness and began to feel spiritual hunger and thirst. They wanted to receive God’s mercy and love. They wanted to place the ark of the LORD in their own hearts and in their own people, not in a house in Kiriath Jearim. So they mourned and sought for the ark of the LORD.

The Israelites became settled in Canaan and comfortable but they were seeking God because they had no true happiness in their hearts. Here we can see that some material things in the world cannot fully satisfy us. In this world, we can become rich and successful without God, but they have nothing to do with our spiritual satisfaction. Why? It is because without God, there is no home for our souls. The Israelites mourned and sought after the Lord because of their spiritual hunger. In this world, we need God’s love and grace whatever we do or wherever we are. In the New Year, 2011, we are very hopeful because we start with our own New Year’s Key Verses and we have God in our hearts. May God bless your studies, jobs, and relationships in His Words!

Then, how could the Israelites come to God and find spiritual peace? Read verse 3. “And Samuel said to the whole house of Israel, ‘If you are returning to the LORD with all your hearts, then rid yourselves of the foreign gods and the Ashtoreths and commit yourselves to the LORD and serve him only, and he will deliver you out of the hand of the Philistines.’” In order to come to God and find spiritual peace, the Israelites had to get rid of all the foreign gods. It means cleaning up their hearts and their spiritual environments. In fact, they had been spiritually contaminated by the foreign gods in the Promised Land. Especially they were very familiar with the Ashtoreths; female fertility sex gods.

They were just like today’s young people, who do not physically bow down to idols, but are still contaminated by pornographies and materialism. Judge Samuel said to them, “Rid yourselves of all the foreign gods and commit yourselves to the LORD!” I know of one student who at one time had a problem with Ashtoreths. He had a large collection of inappropriate movies and cartoons. He could not rid himself of these things, but he asked his shepherd to help him. They gathered up his collection of movies and carried it to the shepherd’s house and placed all the items in a big metal drum in the garage. Next they doused the pile and they lit the whole thing on fire.

If we want to have God in our hearts, first we must rid ourselves of all the foreign gods and then commit ourselves to God. What does ‘commit’ mean? ‘Commit’ means ‘absolute devotion’. When we are committed to sinful pleasure, we only think about how to enjoy more pleasures. When we are committed to money, we only think about how to make more money. But when we are committed to God, we only think about how to serve God throughout our lives. Then why must we commit ourselves to the LORD only? It is because only He is the creator God. He is the only real God. Only God is the Redeemer and Eternal King. This is a very important point. Serving God only is not a problem of choice, but a problem of truth. We have no choice about serving our real Creator God because God is the only truth. Only God can satisfy our spiritual thirst and hunger. Only God is worthy of our worship.

So what was the response of the Israelites to Samuel’s spiritual advice? Read verse 4. “So the Israelites put away their Baals and Ashtoreths, and served the LORD only.” The Israelites put away not only their Ashtoreths, female sex gods, but also their Baals, male sex gods and served the LORD only. It means that their young people repented of not only watching pornographies and materialism but also enjoying homosexual and idol worshipping sins. It means that they really repented of their sins from the bottom of their hearts. They were just like our young disciples who repented all of their sins with tears after listening to our sincere YDC messages and life testimonies. It means that they really wanted to return to God for their spiritual restoration. They obeyed and got ready to follow Samuel’s message. They committed themselves to the LORD.

Then what did Samuel do for them? Look at verse 5. “Then Samuel said, ‘Assemble all Israel at Mizpah and I will intercede with the LORD for you.’” When they were committed to the LORD, Samuel asked all of them to stand before God at Mizpah. Mizpah was a small eastern city between the Lake of Galilee and the Dead Sea. What did the Israelites do there? Look at verse 6. “When they had assembled at Mizpah, they drew water and poured it out before the LORD. On that day they fasted and there they confessed, ‘We have sinned against the LORD.’ Now Samuel was serving as leader of Israel at Mizpah.” After the cleansing ceremony, they fasted and prayed before God. They abstained from food for the purpose of focusing on God. I believe the power of fasting as it relates to prayer is the spiritual atomic bomb that our Lord has given us to destroy the strongholds of evil and usher in a great spiritual revival.

The Israelites confessed, “We have sinned against the LORD!” “We have sinned against the LORD!” They really admitted their sins before God from their hearts and confessed all kinds of their past sins, especially idol worshiping sins before the Lord. Why is ‘idol worship’ such a serious sin to God? Idol worship is one of the most disgusting sins to God because God hates ‘idol worship’ and a person who worships idols faces the greatest displeasure of God. The punishment is wrath and God says he will punish the children to the third and fourth generation (Ex 20:5). Nations like North Korea have suffered poverty, war, and famine because generation after generation continues in idolatry. The Israelites knew the consequence of their idolatry, so they repented of their sins before God. God accepted their confession of sins and repentance. Then, God had mercy on them and forgave their sins. God blessed them to restore their spiritual joy.

Verse 6c says, “And Samuel was leader of Israel at Mizpah.” This tells us that Samuel, the leader, also repented of his sins together with his people and through leading this repentant movement, God blessed him to stand firm as a real spiritual leader among his people. What can you learn from this great spiritual revival movement? When you feel any spiritual pain, hunger, thirst, or any doubt, instead of trying to change others or environments, please consider Samuel’s spiritual advice, ‘Rid yourselves of foreign gods and commit yourselves to the LORD!’ You should focus on changing your inner heart first through getting rid of foreign gods. Then ‘Commit yourselves to the LORD!’ This is the only way of restoring your spirituality and love relationship with God.

Other gods, Ashtoreths, or Baals cannot do that. Philosophies, psychology, or technology cannot do that. Your friends or your uncle cannot do that. Why? It is because the LORD is the only God who created this world and people; he is able to restore our spirituality and love relationship with him. Remember that our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead while we were still sinners. Whoever believes in him restores his love relationship with God once and for all by his grace. When we stand before God, we find our sins. This is normal because He is the perfect God and we cannot hide our sins before the Holy God. But don’t worry about confessing your sins before God. He already knows you and will forgive your sins and heal you and restore you completely in Jesus Christ. Amen!

Part II: He named it Ebenezer (7-17)

In part I, we learned how Samuel helped the Israelites to commit to the LORD. When they followed Samuel’s spiritual advice, they became the people of God once again. But as you know well, this world is very tough. The enemies of God never stop attacking the people of God. Look at verse 7. ”When the Philistines heard that Israel had assembled at Mizpah, the rulers of the Philistines came up to attack them. And when the Israelites heard of it, they were afraid because of the Philistines.” Here we can see that even though we might have spiritual restoration and inner happiness, that doesn’t mean we are excused from our enemies or our practical duties.

Who were the Philistines? They were a people who occupied the southern coast of Canaan, above all as Israel’s worst enemies. Their presence in the days of the last judges was a serious threat to the southernmost Israelite tribes in particular. Now they were very worried and upset by the Israelites’ national gathering at Mizpah. In a word, they were jerks. As the Israelites gathered to pray and repent, the Philistines gathered to attack and destroy them. A few years ago while there was a severe drought in Georgia, the governor and other state officials gathered to repent and pray for rain. Instead of joining in the prayer meeting or just ignoring it, the Georgia atheist’s society showed up to protest and disrupt the event. My friends! Do not forget this; ‘Enemy is enemy, again and again!’ The Philistines had been Israel’s enemy before and after.

In the past, the Israelites ran away or hid themselves in caves or in the mountains as soon as they heard the news about their enemy’s attacks. But this time, after returning to God, the Israelites began to respond differently than before. How? Look at verse 8. “They said to Samuel, ‘Do not stop crying out to the LORD our God for us, that he may rescue us from the hand of the Philistines.’” They asked for God’s help through God’s servant, Samuel’s intercessory prayer. This time they believed that God is Almighty. They firmly believed that God would protect his people. They believed in the power of intercessory prayer of God’s servant. Samuel was so happy that he wanted to pray for his people’s salvation from their worst enemies.

Then what did Samuel do first in this national crisis? Did he train his people with the weapons? No! Look at verse 9. “Then Samuel took a suckling lamb and sacrificed it as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. He cried out to the LORD on Israel’s behalf, and the LORD answered him.” Samuel first took a baby lamb and offered it up as a whole burnt offering to the LORD. Then he cried out to the LORD for his people. “Lord, please have mercy on my people! Save them from their enemies!” In verse 10, when Samuel was sacrificing the burnt offering, the LORD thundered with loud thunder against the Philistines, “Boom! Boom!” and threw them into such a panic that they were routed before the Israelites.

In verse 11, the men of Israel rushed out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, slaughtering them along the way to a point below Beth Car. Here we can see that after returning to God, the Israelites became very courageous and powerful. They became spiritually strong again and physically much strengthened. They became like mighty conquerors as God’s army. This was because the Almighty God was with them. God is the source of our power, victory, and success; ‘If God is with us, who can be against us?’ Some people think raising disciples of Jesus is almost impossible in this postmodern, compromising, and secularized generation. Some people think that raising disciples of Jesus from suburban colleges is almost impossible. But it is not true. If we get rid of our idols, God will be with us. If God is with us, he will choose his people through us and raise 120 disciples.

Look at verse 12. “Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen. He named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far has the LORD helped us.’” In fact, this victory was so big and great that the Philistines and other neighbor countries could not invade Israel in Samuel’s lifetime (13-14). Samuel was very powerful and spiritual when he set up a stone and named it Ebenezer. He helped all Israel to remember their ‘commitment to God’ and their ‘great spiritual awakening’ at Mizpah forever. He praised God who blessed their spiritual restoration. Verse 16 tells us that Samuel was not complacent after this great victory. He did not calculate about his future retirement plan. He went on a circuit, a periodical journey, from place to place, to perform certain duties, to hold courts, especially to teach the words of God for his people (15-17).

*Conclusion: We are now standing at the starting point of a brand new year and a new decade. You must have many plans and dreams for yourself this whole year or for your next 10 years. Today I want to tell you only one thing according to today’s word from God, ‘Commit yourselves to the Lord and serve him only.’ I say to you like this because only God can help you spiritually and practically. Only God will defeat your enemies in his great power and wisdom. I realized most of my worries and insecurities of life come from holding back my time and love for God.  But God loves me and committed to me, giving me love and eternal life and salvation through Jesus.  I repent for not committing my life to him fully when God gave everything to me. May God help me to commit myself to God this year!

Let me suggest to you 2 prayer topics for our ministry; one is our beautiful co-working in Jesus. The other is raising 12 excellent bible teachers. I personally have 2 prayer topics this year; my message preparation, and raising 3 disciples of Jesus by having 12 one-to-ones each week. Dear my friends! Let us follow the example of the Israelites who committed themselves to the LORD, and serve God only. Then we will be safe and very fruitful and successful whatever we do. May God make America a kingdom of priests and a holy nation through our DuPage UBF!