Happy New Year

"I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will guide you with My eye." Psalm 32:8

The prospect of a new year can be both disquieting and exciting. It can be exciting because it could be a year filled with new possibilities and opportunities and, at the same time, disquieting if you face the unknown future with anxiety, wondering whether the problems and trials of the past will repeat themselves.

When we reflect on the future, it is a rather common mistake to allow the events of the past to cloud our vision. Personal struggles and disappointments tend to dictate our pattern of thought when we ponder the possible outcomes for us.

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Right in Their Own Eyes

There is a common phenomenon known as “buyer’s remorse.” This usually takes place after a hasty or poorly considered purchase. (Those of us who have bid for an item on eBay have sometimes experienced this shortly after entering the winning bid.) Having purchased a particular item we later wish that we had not been so hasty. “Why in the world did I ever decide to buy this?” We wonder.

Having zealously waged war on the Benjamites, they had succeeded in nearly wiping them out. What would they do now – what could they do now – to keep the Benjamites from extinction? This was unthinkable for an Israelite.

In the course of waging war with the Benjamites, the Israelites made several vows, the first of which they have come to regret. They had vowed that they would never allow one of their daughters to marry a Benjamite. The second vow had possibilities of being used to their advantage. They had vowed that they would execute anyone who did not appear for battle against the Benjamites.

They cleverly devised a plan whereby they would play one vow against the other. They would diligently keep the second vow, which enabled them to circumvent the first. Their second vow was to execute those who failed to join them in their battle against the Benjamites:

The Israelites asked, “Who from all the Israelite tribes has not assembled before the Lord?” They had made a solemn oath that whoever did not assemble before the Lord at Mizpah must certainly be executed (Judges 21:5).

They inquired and found that no one from Jabesh Gilead had assembled for war at Mizpah. In order to “keep their vow,” they assembled 12,000 warriors and attacked Jabesh Gilead (in the tribal region of GAD), killing every man and woman, sparing only the young virgins. This left 400 virgins who could be given to the surviving men of Benjamin. (Technically, this was not breaking their vow since none of the men of Jabesh Gilead had assembled for battle, and thus none of them had vowed not to give their daughters to the Benjamites.)


The Israelites’ dedication to keep one vow has enabled them to circumvent the other. So far, they have succeeded in providing 400 wives for the remaining 600 Benjamite men. But there still remain 200 Benjamites who are without wives, and thus they cannot bear offspring to perpetuate their tribe. The Israelites conclude that something else must be done to provide wives for the remaining 200 Benjamites. They shrewdly concocted yet another devious plan. The Israelite men had vowed that they would not give any of their daughters to the Benjamites as wives. Nothing had been said about any virgin being taken from among their daughters.

An annual festival was soon to be celebrated by the Israelites at Shiloh. At this celebration, there would be dancing by the virgin daughters of Shiloh. The unwed Benjamites were commanded to hide out in the vineyards, and when the Israelite virgins came near to dance, they were to seize one of them for a wife. And so it happened. The Benjamite bachelors did as they were instructed. They each seized an Israelite virgin and “made her his wife.” Two hundred young women were taken, thus providing every Benjamite with a wife. With this accomplished, everyone returned to his home. With this, the book closes with this now familiar statement:

In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes. (Judges 21:25).

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A House Divided

Mark 3:25: “And if a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

Today – we are in Judges 20 and a Civil War is about to break out in the land of Israel. We have covered almost 300 years of Israel’s history and today’s message took place around 1070 BC (about 60 years before King David). In fact, King Saul will take the throne about 18 years after the events that will read about today in 1052 BC. Samuel, our author, is about 34 years old when the events we are reading about today occurred and Saul was 12 years old. So, he was already considered a man when Israel goes through this Civil War. Saul will be 30 years old when he will be crowned the first king – 18 years from the events in Judges 20. Remember these dates are estimates. We can almost accurately say that the Exodus took place between 1446-1440 BC and that Saul was crowned in 1052 BC. So, the 400 years in between are estimated dates according to the duration of each judge and the events that took place during their time of giving judgment.

King David will take the throne at around 1010 BC. I Samuel 13:1 tells us that Saul ruled for 42 years. I Kings 2:11 tells us that King David ruled for 40 years. We can follow these duration cycles all the way to the temple, which is a time marker. The first temple will be constructed by Solomon in 960 BC (about 100 years after the events will read about today). In fact, the date of the Temple by Solomon is how we measure all of the Biblical Timeline from the Temple all the way to Adam. Because the Bible doesn’t give years – it tells us durations. King Saul was 30 years old and reigned for 42 years. We can add all of that up, but we need a firm marker date to start from. So 1 Kings 6:1 tells us that the Exodus occurred 480 years after the Temple was constructed. So, that means we can know the date of the Exodus if we can know the date of the first temple. In fact, we can count all the back to Adam if we know the date of the temple. The closest we can get is between 966-957 BC.

I would encourage you to get a hold of our study of chapter 19 because today’s teaching is the continuation of that story.  This is our second to last chapter in the book of Judges. We will see that everyone is doing what is right in their own eyes vs. what is right according to God’s eyes – this in fact will be the last verse in Judges. Then there is a book called Ruth that will follow where we see how God moves to bring about what will ultimately be the birth of King David through his grandfather Boaz and grandmother Ruth.

So, here we are in Judges 20. I am going to actually take this chapter verse by verse. Often I will read sections and summarize, but this is one we need to take apart to understand.

Last week, you heard from Pastor Liborio as he covered one of the hardest chapters in all of Scripture. There is rape and murder with the body being disbursed to all the tribes of Israel to make a point that blood is on our hands. Sin had corrupted the entire nation. Like the American Civil War – they were separate states but they were one nation and the sin of their leaders, the Levites, demonstrates the corruption that permeated the nation as a whole. In fact, Israel is a case-study for nations that are a democracy under a theocracy. We are, here in the United States of America, ONE NATION, UNDER GOD – and so was Israel. They had representatives of the tribes (states) and they brought their matters to the Levites and to God Almighty, who served as their true King.

Israel has progressively fallen away. The people have turned to foreign gods. Their pastors (Levites) have lost their way. One tribe (Dan) has abandoned its position in the land and taken a different land, leaving the rest of the tribes vulnerable to the Philistines (who will then grow in power and will be a formidable opponent to King Saul), and now we will see a civil war. They didn’t get to this position overnight. No they have taken step after step away from God and they are now a lost people acting out as a people who are only doing right in their own eyes. Turn on the news today and you will find that our nation is doing the same.

Out of curiosity, does anyone know how many Civil Wars are going on right now around the world? There are more than 18 taking place as we speak. Since the year 2000, there have been 43 Civil Wars. In total, there have been more than 220 Civil Wars recorded since 400 BC. When we think of Civil War – we think of the American Civil War (1861-1865) that cost nearly 1,100,000 casualties and claimed more than 620,000 lives (almost as many deaths as the rest of the U.S. wars thereafter combined).

WWI: 116,000, WWII: 405,000, Korea: 36,516, Vietnam: 58,209, Iraq: 4,500

In chapter 20, the tribes of Israel gather together in unison because of the threat of Civil War and they prepare to pour out their wrath on the evil men of Gibeah. They take three vows:

(1) No one will go home until Gibeah is attacked and destroyed.

(2) Anyone who does not join against Gibeah will be killed.

(3) No one will allow his daughter to marry a Benjaminite.

Ironically, Israel is finally unified as “one man.” However, they are unified in their quest for vengeance. Unfortunately, the Levite testifies against the men of Gibeah without owning his sin. Naturally, not knowing the full story, the Israelites are all the more infuriated. When the Israelites approach the Benjamites, they refuse to hand over the men who committed the atrocity. Instead, they decide to go to war with Israel. So 26,000 plus Benjamites go to war with over 400,000 Israelites! While this civil war is certainly not God’s will, the men of Gibeah are evil men and have to be punished before the Lord could be pleased with His people and cleanse His land. When sin isn’t exposed, confessed, and punished, it pollutes society and defiles the land. “One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, even his prayer is an abomination.” (Proverbs 28:9) The wicked men of Gibeah are like a cancerous tumor in the body that has to be cut out. When God’s people refuse to obey God’s Word, the results are always tragic. The spiritual life of a church is crippled and eventually destroyed when the congregation shuts its eyes to sin and will not discipline offenders. There can never be unity among the people of God if sin is not addressed. This is true in our personal life with God – within the church and within a nation.

In fact, as we look at A House Divided in Israel, you can cross examine this from a personal level as well. If the husband and wife are not unified, then this impacts the economics of the home, the impact of the home, the future of the home and impacts the children in the home. If they walk away from God, they will not have a fruitful relationship, they will create distance between them and God and this will impact everything. So, let’s begin.

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Smash Your Idols

A proud, young couple brought their newborn son to the pediatrician for his first checkup, and the doctor said, “You have a beautiful baby.” Smiling, the mom said, “I’ll bet you say that to all the new parents.”

“No,” the doctor replied, “just to those whose babies are really cute.” The mother responded, “So what do you say to the others?” The doctor replied, “I say, ‘He looks just like you.’”

This story hits close to home because as a follower of Jesus, I want to find creative ways of speaking the truth in love. I want to be positive and uplifting. I want to encourage others. Yet, there are times when I have to be brutally honest with other believers. Today, we are going to test the old adage: “Honesty is the best policy.” We will test this expression by working our way through the ugliest section in the entire Bible—Judges 17–21. Whew! Buckle your seatbelt because this is going to be a doozy!

The final five chapters of Judges function as an appendix to the entire book. Instead of focusing on the sins of Israel or of their judges, these chapters look closely at the lives of two Levites. Levites were the priestly tribe in Israel—the religious leadership of the nation. Sadly, we will discover that the religious leadership is not holding the nation accountable for its sin. Instead, the Levites are as messed up as the people they are supposed to lead! Their small, personal failures escalate to tribal and national dimensions and plunge Israel into political and moral anarchy. Thus, Judges concludes with a finger pointing in the face of the Levites. The overriding message is: When God goes, everything and anything goes.

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Down But Not Out

Judges 16


  1.      Strong man—weak will: I want it. I deserve it. I can handle it.
  2.      Satan loves to make strong men weak. God makes weak men strong.
  3.      Emotion driven not spirit led. Anger/Pride: I am the Main Character!
  4.      Let your need drive you to God—He will meet your deepest need.

Samson was thirsty and Cried out to God!


19 Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore (Spring of the Caller), and it is still there in Lehi. 20 Samson led Israel for twenty years in the days of the Philistines. Judg 15:19-20

He got on the right track and there was 20 years of peace, prosperity, relative freedom as a result! This is the best news so far! He falls, cries out to God and God lifts him up!

Looks like he put his problems behind him. But, we will soon find Samson with his eyes gouged out and he becomes a laughing stock!

So, how does Samson go from 20 years of victory to ruin?





Judges 16:1

One day Samson went to Gaza, where he saw a prostitute.

He was on the hilltop with God and then “one day”…

He is not alone, “one day”—David and Bathsheba (II Samuel 11)


Samson goes to Gaza—Philistine headquarters, Public enemy #1.

Gaza is 25 miles from Samson’s home town Zorah.

He traveled 25 miles to risk 20 years of faithfulness.


Who could be stupid enough to risk so much for so little?

Countless men do it every day.


3 For the lips of an adulteress drip honey, and her speech is smoother than oil; 4 but in the end she is bitter as gall, sharp as a double-edged sword. 5 Her feet go down to death; her steps lead straight to the grave. 6 She gives no thought to the way of life; her paths are crooked, but she knows it not. 7 Now then, my sons, listen to me; do not turn aside from what I say. 8 Keep to a path far from her, do not go near the door of her house, 9 lest you give your best strength to others and your years to one who is cruel, 10 lest strangers feast on your wealth and your toil enrich another man's house. 11 At the end of your life you will groan, when your flesh and body are spent. Prov 5:3-11

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In Need of God

Last week was a look into the heart of the Evangelist - the follower of Christ. In a similar way as Moses stood before God willing to give up his own eternal inheritance for the people of Israel who were blaspheming God (Exodus 32), God is testing our hearts as well.

Love is not compromise of truth and every day, soldiers who are Christians still have to shoot people so they are not compromising love by having to take a life. In fact, you may face someone breaking into your home to kill you and you may have to defend yourself - but our mission is to love people with truth on our lips.

God still allows death (including those of His own followers). Israel still had to fight and nations and cities were destroyed because God, as a holy perfect judge cannot tolerate nor allow us to continue in sin once we have the truth, for He is holy. But our battle is not against flesh and blood (Ephesians 4). However, if people are not with Jesus then by default they are, by sin, against God and thus susceptible to the enemy's influence.

“Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Matthew 12:30.”

Genesis 15:16 says there is a measure that God can only tolerate so much and Romans 1:32 says that once we have the truth and then defy the truth and even approve of the defiance - He must judge - because He is holy and the standard is perfection.

The Bible tells us that calling evil good and good evil will bring disaster on those who do it (Isa. 5:20, Rom. 1:18-32) – “Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil,…If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land.” (Isaiah 1:4,10,12,15-17a, 19)

He could have wiped out Adam and Eve after the moment they sinned but in His love, He clothed them and cared for them despite themselves. That is parental discipline. Read 1st John for a greater overview of loving people, sinners, and yet being able to stand firm against sin.

We have a holy God who judges nations and like Jonah we have to remind them of truth - there is a hell and a heaven but our job is the mission field. Like Sodom and Gomorrah, God will even seek out 10 righteous so He doesn't have to destroy it, which is why we must be intentional to use our influence for His glory.

He is a God of justice (II Thess. 1:6) and sin cannot go unpunished no matter how much He loves us (Romans 3:25-26).

God sent Jonah to Nineveh - Iraq - but God still had to judge Nineveh for their disobedience after they knew the truth and lived in sin. Thus the city fell, with all 120,000 residents and 600,000 surrounding residents approximately 150 years (612 BC) after repentance and revival through Jonah’s message. The Loving Father still has to discipline through His love. He loves us too much to let us wallow in sin – and He will hear the prayers of His people being oppressed by another (Psalm 34:15; 1 Peter 3:12).

Like a parent who loves a prodigal - you still love the child but you cannot condone their sin. Thus we cannot support agendas or organizations that go against the Word of God but we can still have the heart of our God that all should be saved.

“…God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:3-4

“The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9

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Love Your Neighbor - Love Your Enemy

Headline reads –

“Lone Gunman kills 50 people – worst shooting in U.S. History”

What emotion do you feel?  Sadness or Alarm perhaps?

Then you read…

“ISIS Allegiance leads to shooting death of 50 people – Act of Terrorism largest since 9/11”

Fear and anger start to creep in as you think through all the statistics that permeate our minds - that the worlds fastest growing religion, Islam, has more than 1.6 billion members (23% of the world’s population) and of that group there are approximately 7% who would be considered radicals or 112 million people who pull their direction right from the Hadith and Quran (with over 109 verses contained therein) to destroy the infidels (Christians, Homosexuals, and Jews alike).

Then you read…

“Act of Terrorism takes the lives of 50 people in Gay Night Club”

How did your emotion change from line to line?

We went through a number of emotions the morning of June 12, 2016.

Police officers reported how the room was filled with dead bodies and the noise of cell phones still ringing from loved ones who were desperate to hear a voice on the other end – a voice that would never come.

We can ask ourselves – have we become desensitized to death? In Chicago there are 41 violent crimes for every 1,000 residents. It is becoming an epidemic in our nation and immediately we want to blame Islam, Guns, Christians, Polices, Law Enforcement, etc. We can’t call sin for what it is. The irony is that Cain killed Abel with a rock. Ted Kaczynski used the Post Office through a campaign of letter bombs he sent as the 'Unabomber' over a nearly 20-year period, resulting in 3 fatalities. Timothy James McVeigh used fertilizer to make a bomb that killed 168 people and injured over 600. Nawaf al-Hazmi, Mohamed Atta and their cohorts killed 2,996 people, injuring 6,000 more - using box cutters to seize airplanes.

We did not outlaw rocks, the Post Office, fertilizer or box cutters as a result of these horrific events.

The irony of the attack on guns as the source of the problem is that when Mohammed Amri and his cohorts killed 89 people at a concert hall in Paris, earlier this year, it was in a highly restricted, gun controlled area.

The problem – the epidemic – isn’t weapons. It is sin.

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Samson- Part II: Pride

Today we continue in our study of the final Judge in the book of Judges: Samson – whose name means “sun or little sun” – that’s SUN not SON. Last week we read of the silver spoon handed to Samson by God and we will now begin our study of what this called man will do with his many talents and gifts.


This is going to be a manly man kind of story and seems to be a good story to refine men (though women, you can benefit from this as well).


Tragically there has been a shortage of godly men so this is a time for God to pour into us to build up men after His own heart. Men of integrity, courage, honor, service to his bride and others, one who will impart spiritual truth to his children and others.


I looked for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand before me in the gap on behalf of the land so I would not have to destroy it, but I found none. Ezek 22:30




Samson: Accomplishments are legendary—so are his weaknesses.

Samson—like us—tremendous God-given potential—self-destructs.




Birth announced by an angel                           Compromise vow handful honey

Set apart and chosen to deliver                       Uncontrollable fits of anger

Massively empowered super strength              Killed 30 men pay off gambling

Tore apart a lion, killed 1000 men                    Insatiable weakness for women


Committed to work or gym—won’t commit woman.

Aggressive at work—passive/hands off at home.

3 hrs researching what you want to buy—not 5 minutes God’s word.

Love God, wife—trapped in a lustful secret world.

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Chosen by God

You were chosen – you know that right? If not, let me remind you:

Ephesians 1:3-6:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.

Matthew 22:14: "For many are invited, but few are chosen."

So, what does it mean to be chosen by God? Does it mean that we have a perfect life and make no mistakes? NOPE – in fact, I will make mistakes, we all will, but God is in the details, cares about this church, its work on this earth and will use it for His glory, mistakes and all.

Let’s turn to Judges 13.

Surely Samson would fall into the category of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Gideon claimed a disadvantage by virtue of being the youngest child in his family and being born into an insignificant clan. Abimelech had the disadvantage of 70 brothers who were born of his father’s wives, while he was the son of a concubine. Jephthah had the even greater disadvantage of having a mother who was a prostitute. But when we come to Samson in Judges 13, we find a man who is born into a godly family, whose miraculous birth was announced by a two-fold visit by the Angel of the Lord, and in whom the Spirit of God is at work. With such advantages, one can hardly imagine Samson being a failure.

The purpose of this message is to focus on the author’s rather lengthy introduction of Samson, one that requires all of Judges 13. This introduction is the most lengthy and detailed introduction of any of Israel’s judges. More attention is devoted to Samson than to any other judge in this book. We would do well to discover why the author felt this lengthy introduction was necessary. We should also note that Samson is the last of the judges that will be described in the Book of Judges.

I would make two suggestions to the reader who desires to get the most out of this text and the three chapters that follow (which are devoted to Samson). First, set aside almost everything you remember about Samson that you have learned from children’s Bible story books or Sunday School. They have “cleaned up” Samson to the point that we would not recognize him if we saw him. Second, read the account as though you are doing so for the first time. Try not to dwell on chapters 14-16 until after you have carefully considered chapter 13. This first lesson will concentrate on the author’s introduction to Samson in chapter 13. In the second and third lessons, I will focus on Samson and his failed love life with the woman at Timnah in chapters 14 and 15. In the fourth lesson on Samson, we will be dealing with Samson and Delilah and the consequences of this relationship as described in chapter 16.

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Words Matter

Today – we will continue in our study of Jephthah and we will also cover 3 more judges (though they are only mentioned in brief):

1) Othniel – half blood foreigner from the tribe of Judah, son of Kenaz, Caleb’s younger brother = 40 years of peace

2) Ehud – Left-handed man from a tribe called “of the right hand” (Benjamin) the two tribes who would inherit the land of Israel today (Judah and Benjamin) of the line of Rachel = 80 years of peace

3) Shamgar – Foreigner – slew 600 Philistines

4) Deborah – Woman Judge = 40 years of peace

5) Gideon – Timid servant = 40 years of peace

6) Tola, who will judge Israel for 23 years, from the tribe of Issachar and

7) Jair, who will judge Israel for 22 years, probably from the tribe of Manasseh

8) Jephthah, the eighth judge of the 12 covered in the book of Judges - also of the tribe of Manasseh – 6 years

9) Ibzan – from the tribe of Zebulun (most likely) – brings in 30 foreign women for his sons and we will read about that – 7 years

10) Elon – from the tribe of Zebulun – 10 years

11) Abdon – from the tribe of Ephraim – 8 years

Scene 5: Jephthah turns on his own people (12:1–7). Just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse, they do! The author of Judges writes in 12:1, “Then the men of Ephraim were summoned, and they crossed to Zaphon and said to Jephthah, ‘Why did you cross over to fight against the sons of Ammon without calling us to go with you?” The word “us” is emphatic in the Hebrew text. Ephraim’s gripe is that they are somebodies and you don’t treat somebodies like nobodies. This tribe wants to be on the front page of the Jerusalem Times. They are glory hounds! So in their outage, Ephraim exclaims, “We will burn your house down on you.” This statement is dripping with irony, for Jephthah just finished burning his own house (i.e., lineage) down. In 12:2–3, Jephthah responds by explaining that he had called on the Ephramites, but they had left him in the lurch. In fact, Ephraim had eighteen years (Judges 10:8) to step up and get involved in the battle, but they never did. Nevertheless, the Lord Himself gave Israel the victory over Ammon.

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