Today we pray for the Nation of Cuba and Meditate on the Glory of God

Today we are praying for the country of Cuba.  Please help us  lift up this nation to the Lord today.  You can follow the two links below to learn more about the nation and its unreached people groups.  You can watch the video below to help guide you in your prayers.  

If you haven't noticed yet, we are including a devotion from a source beside myself this week.  This is a new development.  In the coming weeks and months we will be introducing devotions/articles from new contributors.  Some of these contributors are pastors, former missionaries, and current missionaries (some in very hostile nations).  I know that you are going to benefit greatly from these additional contributors!  
 

Please pray for the nation of Cuba by joining in prayer with the video below.

As a Coast Guard boat bears down on a boatload of Cubans crossing the Straits of Florida, it signals the end of a dream: to find freedom in the United States. In 2011, over one thousand similar attempts to escape failed. The warmth and beauty of this tropical island masks harsh repression, endemic poverty, and religious persecution.

 

Today's Devotional Thought

When Will The Glory Return?

1 Samuel 7:1-14

By now we know the story well. Eli knew his sons didn’t have priestly character or convictions, but he appointed them to serve as priests of Israel anyway. He heard the bad reports from the people about the questionable behavior and profane acts of his sons in the tabernacle, but Eli didn’t restrain them or remove them from office. And even though God warned him to get his house in order or face certain judgment, Eli still did nothing.

Then judgment day came. They lost 4,000 of Israel’s best young men in battle with the Philistines. They called for the sons of Eli to bring the Ark of the Covenant to the battlefield and presumed that this symbol of God’s power and presence with His people would guarantee victory in the next battle. Instead, the Philistines killed 30,000 more of Israel’s finest, and they killed the two sons of Eli, and they took the Ark of the Covenant. This bad news from the battle shocked Eli so much that he fell from his stool and broke his neck. And his daughter-in-law was shocked into labor and died while giving birth to her son. But just before her death she expended her last bit of energy to name her son “Ichabod”. The name means “the glory is departed”. It can also be expressed in a question, “Where is the glory?” 

Now, to finish the story I’d like you to take a moment to read 1 Samuel 7:1-14. . . .  As we work through the last part of this story here in chapter 7, please note that it is 20 years later. According to chapters 5 and 6, the Philistines sent the Ark of the Covenant back to Israel to get relief from the wrath of God that killed a bunch of them and made the others sick with tumors. Still the procrastination that caused Israel to lose the Ark of the Covenant and forfeit the manifestation of the glory of God in their midst continued for 20 more years. For some reason they finally woke up and decided it was time to seek God and His glory once again. And God didn’t disappoint His people. By the end of this chapter the glory returns to Israel and the people are restored. 

How does this happen? Can it happen for you and me? Can it happen for our churches? When will the glory of God return to our hearts, our homes and our churches in full force? I’ll use these four words to describe the steps that are necessary for the return of God’s glory to His people: 1) Remorse (v. 2); 2) Repentance (vv. 3-4); 3) Resolve (vv. 5-11) and 4) Restoration (vv. 13-14).

To bring the glory of God back to our hearts and our churches in full force we must start with the remorse described in verse 2. The Bible says all the house of Israel lamented after the Lord. Another version says they were sad and begged God for help. Remember it was 20 years later. Many of the people in that day weren’t personally responsible for what happened in the time of Eli and his sons. They didn’t agree with it nor participate in it. Some of them weren’t even born yet. They didn’t cause the deplorable spiritual condition in Israel. But they were still suffering because of it. And they took personal responsibility to do something about it. They admitted it. They regretted it. And they expressed their remorse by begging God for help.

In the same way, if we sense that the glorious manifestation of God’s presence, personality and power has diminished in our hearts, our homes and our churches, we should know that the glory will not return until we do something about it. The problems may have started 5 years ago, or 10 years ago or 20 years ago as it did with Israel, and we may not feel personally responsible for it. However, we still suffer the consequences. And our children suffer. And our grandchildren suffer. And our friends and neighbors suffer. And, if we want to fix it, like Israel, we should own it and admit it and regret it and express our remorse over it by begging God to forgive His people and help us today.

For God’s glory to return to our hearts, our homes and our churches, we must start with the remorse described in verse 2. Then that remorse must lead to the repentance described in verses 3-4.  Notice how Samuel’s call for repentance in verse 3 is a great description of biblical repentance. Look at the elements of repentance mentioned by Samuel: “return. . . put away. . . prepare your hearts. . . serve Him only.” Now, that’s real repentance. 

Samuel says we must return to the Lord. That means turning away from our sin and returning to our Savior. Samuel also says we must put away the foreign gods. Repentance is not just admitting our sin. It’s also abandoning our sin. We must put away the idols and put away the old attitudes and actions. We must put away going to the wrong places, hanging out with the wrong crowd and doing the wrong things. Then Samuel says we must prepare our hearts for the Lord. We must return to our first love and love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength. And then Samuel says we should serve God only. We should be ready to worship the Lord and serve Him every day.  

 We could all nod our head and say “amen” to Samuel’s forceful call for repentance in verse 3, but I’ve got a word of caution for us. Just nodding our head and saying “amen” to this call for repentance in verse 3 changes nothing. The Israelites could have patted Samuel on the back and said, “Great message, preacher. You’re the greatest prophet ever.” But if they did nothing else, nothing would have changed.

Thankfully, verse 4 says, “So the children of Israel put away the Baals and the Ashtoreths, and served the Lord only.” Israel not only shook their head and said “amen” to Samuel’s call for repentance in verse 3. They also repented. They also obeyed the word of the Lord. They put away their idols and served God only. And their remorse that led to true repentance set in motion the return of God’s glory to His people. 

If we want to see change in our personal walk with Jesus, and change for the better in our homes, and if we want the manifest glory of God to return in full force to our churches, we can’t just camp out at verse 3 nodding our head and saying “amen”. We must get to verse 4! Our remorse must lead us to true repentance. We must put away our idols and our sin. And we must serve the Lord Jesus Christ and Him alone. 

Now we get to verses 5-11 and the word “resolve”. To bring God’s glory back to our hearts, our homes and our church, we must follow through on our remorse and repentance with great resolve. Sometimes we think that kneeling at an altar of repentance and making things right with God will remove all the problems from our life. We believe it will be smooth sailing from then on. But look what happened to the Israelites. Samuel called all the Israelites to gather at Mizpah. They drew water from the well and poured it out as a drink offering before the Lord. They fasted and prayed. Samuel judged the people and told them how to make things right with God and each other. Then Samuel prepared a suckling lamb and offered it as a whole burnt offering to the Lord. Then verse 10 says, “Now as Samuel was offering up the burnt offering, the Philistines drew near to battle against Israel.” 

Make sure you get this! At the same time Samuel was offering the burnt offering and the children of Israel were completing their repentance, the Philistines showed up again. Thank God they were right with God this time, and God displayed His glory and power on behalf of Israel. Very loud thunder confused the Philistines and routed the army. Then verse 11 says, “And the men of Israel went out of Mizpah and pursued the Philistines, and drove them back as far as below Beth Car.” The remorse and repentance of the Israelites gave them the resolve to meet the resistance of the enemy with the power of God. 

In the same way, I hope today that we’ll meet God on our knees in remorseful and repentant prayer. I hope we’ll get before God hungry and thirsty to see the manifest glory of God in our lives again. But I also hope and pray that all will know that as we seek God and cry out for His help, at the same time the devil will be revising his strategy and making his plans to knock us back down again as soon as we stand up. Every move of God guarantees a countermove by Satan. And, folks, we must be ready to meet the devil’s resistance with the resolve that we will not give up, or give in, or give out. We must have the faith and resolve to follow through on our remorse and repentance with daily obedience.  

Now this brings us to the last word. Look at the restoration of Israel in verses 13-14.  Make sure you get it all! The Lord subdued the Philistines all the days of Samuel, and they could not enter the territory of Israel. All the cities and territories lost during those years of sin and rebellion were restored to the control of Israel. And the Lord gave His people peace. What a mighty God we serve! 

Do you believe God will do that for us? Can we believe together that God will do for us what He did for Israel? Can we expect God to fully restore us as He did Israel? Dare we believe that the best is yet to come for us and for our churches? If we will express our regret and remorse for any lack of God’s manifest glory through true repentance, and then be resolved to press on and move forward together despite the opposition from the devil, I believe we can expect a glorious, gracious outpouring of God’s glory on His people again. If we do what we are supposed to do, then God will do what He has promised to do. So, are you ready to say “amen” to verse 3 and camp out at verse 4, seeking the Lord until the glory of God falls on you, and your house and your church again? 

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Gene Pickern has been a pastor and missionary for more than 40 years.  He was the first pastor of Unity Baptist Church in Atmore, AL, served as a missionary with the IMB to the Dominican Republic, and currently pastors Beulah Church in Millsap, TX.  

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