Wednesday, 28 December 2011
The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks with his friend. Exod. 33.11a
These words create a most wonderful picture for me. God is meeting with Moses. He speaks with him and the relationship is like that of a man with his friend. The friendship between men can be powerful, sweet and loving. The friendship between God and man might be all of this, but intensified so much more. No wonder Moses’ face was radiant after he had met with God. He radiated the love and the power of God, freely manifest in him through the relationship he enjoyed with the Lord God.
This was not a “once-only” event:
The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” (v14)
What a wonderful assurance these words would have given Moses. He knew the presence of the Lord. More than this, he knew the intimacy of friendship with the Almighty. And now he is being assured of the continuance of this relationship. God is with him, and will go with him. He will receive rest from God. He will rest in God. I dare to believe that this gracious and most wonderful rest would have been available for him at any time that he was willing to turn fully to his Lord. And what of this rest! It is the exquisite place of complete trust and confidence in our supreme maker. It releases us from all stress and pressure. It relaxes us in His full protection whilst we are being fed with His great and wonderful enabling.
So, what about me? How I long to know and experience God as Moses did; to walk and talk with Him and to know that I am regarded by Almighty God as a man regards a close friend. Yes, this, and even more. I believe I have received a personal assurance that God will be with me. Maybe this entails a sweet and lasting relationship.
I thank You for the relationship that Moses enjoyed with You, and that I can share of this as I read Your Holy Scriptures.
I am mindful of my own walk with You. I receive, with deep gratitude, Your assurance that You will be with me. But I ask for more. I seek a sweet, deep and lasting relationship. I yearn to know You as Moses did, to walk and talk with You in the intimacy of a close friendship. You encourage me through Your Word to ask. And so I ask. I ask that I might know You more, that I may meet with You often and regularly and share the joys of friendship with You. Further, may I be equipped by You to lead others into friendship with You.
I give myself over to Your full and perfect will. Receive me, Lord, as a friend. Use me as a faithful worker, in Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.
Friday, 23 December 2011
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb. 12.2
We are running a race, the race of life. In any race it behoves to fix your sights on the goal. This has many advantages. It helps to keep us focused; it shows us the way; it also encourages us for we can see clearly what we are aiming for and we can delight and be strengthened when we see ourselves progress toward the goal.
With Jesus as our goal, and fixing our eyes upon Him we receive another benefit. We benefit from the knowledge of His witness. In the preceding chapter of Hebrews we have read of the great witnesses of faith who have run this race before us. We are reminded, in the start of this present chapter, that we are surrounded by this great cloud of witnesses. It is as if they fill the stadium where we are running our race. They are all about us. They cheer us on, they lift us up, and they encourage us. They are perfectly qualified to do this for they have – each one of them – run their own race. They have struggled with similar issues to those that we struggle with. They have wrestled with their own sins. They have each won their race. They have overcome. They stand now in witness and in constant encouragement to us.
With all this encouragement, we steadily fix our eyes upon Him. And He is the greatest witness and greatest encouragement of all. He endured the utmost humiliation through betrayal, false witness, persecution, torture and the ultimate horror of the basest execution. He was scorned and He was shamed. He was stripped of all dignity. And He could have stopped it all. He chose this way, the way of the cross, so that we might know freedom and restoration with a loving God. He is the most excellent witness and encouragement.
We fix our eyes on Jesus. Our faith starts with Him. We have received Him. We have committed to Him. We have invited Him into our inmost being. He is the author of all we want and desire. He is also the means. He starts and He completes. As I have started in Him, so I will be complete in Him. He is everything for me. He is my all.
In any race it is possible to weary, sometimes to the point of dropping out. I cannot drop out of this race. To do so would be to lose everything. He knows this, and He encourages me:
Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart (v.3).
If my eyes are fixed upon Him constantly then I am safe. He will lead me. He is my perfect example. The stadium is packed with the most wonderful, amazing witnesses. They exhort and encourage and they point the way – each and every one of them – to Him. He is all I need.
I fix my eyes upon Jesus. I look to Him for everything. I want nothing else, nothing less.
I thank You for the mighty cloud of witnesses that surrounds me. I feel their encouragement. I know I have but to open Your Book and their stories and testimonies overwhelm me.
But it’s You I want. Sweet Saviour, I desire a closer walk, a much closer walk with You. Lead me in You. Show me the way, Your way. As I make daily progress in this race, let me ever see You. Be my guide, constant and sure. Be my companion, faithful and true. Be my goal, both there and here. Thank You, Lord. Amen.
Monday, 19 December 2011
So Gideon took the men down to the water. Judges 7.5
I find this to be a most remarkable statement in the story of Gideon. Gideon saw himself as least in his family which was part of the weakest clan in Manasseh. Yet God had commissioned him as a mighty warrior. God’s purpose for Gideon was that he should annihilate the forces of Midian.
Before Gideon’s troops are amassed we read that ‘the Spirit of the Lord came upon’ him.
Thirty two thousand men had assembled under Gideon. This in itself is quite a statement of support for the least son of a weak family! God did not want the battle waged with such a high number of combatants else the Israelites might think they had won by their own power. God sought to reduce the Israelite numbers. In the first purge, twenty two thousand troops went home, leaving ten thousand with Gideon. This was a dramatic reduction. I wonder what effect it had on Gideon’s confidence. He could well have said, “Phew, that’s quite a reduction. Let’s leave it at that!”
God was not satisfied. The remaining ten thousand men were far too many for God. This is when He said to Gideon, “Take them down to the water, and I will sift them for you there.” I could well understand Gideon remonstrating rather loudly at this point, perhaps saying, “Lord, that’s enough. I’ve already lost the greater proportion on my men.” Does he do this? No, in total obedience he ‘took the men down to the water.’
I see this brief phrase as the most amazing statement of faith. Gideon – the least of the weakest – is transformed into God’s warrior.
It’s not how I see me that matters. It’s how God sees me, and how I respond to Him. I can remonstrate with Him in disbelief or I can, in faith, offer myself completely to him and be led by Him, in total obedience, in all that I do.
I am Yours. I give myself fully to You. Whatever Your plans and purposes are for me, I will in faith follow You. I rejoice in You. Hallelujah! Amen.
Wednesday, 14 December 2011
I cry to you, O Lord; I say, “You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.” Psalm 142.5
The psalmist speaks of being faint in spirit. He talks of men hiding snares in his path to trap him, and bring him down. He complains that no one is concerned for him, he has no refuge, no one cares for his life.
Indeed, his plight is altogether similar to one that I have felt many times.
But it is almost as if this person pulls himself up, in the midst of his self-pity, and cries out to the Lord. He begs God to heed his cry in his desperate need. He pleads with God to rescue him from his unhealthy pursuers. He recognises that they are too strong for him. He asks God to set him free from his prison.
This is what I must do, and I need to do it with the same understanding that the psalmist had.
The psalmist knew he could call on God and be heard and answered. He knew this for, before seeking this help and deliverance from God, he declared:
You are my refuge, my portion in the land of the living.
God is indeed my refuge. He is the one place, the only place, where I am completely safe. He is the place for me to hide, to let go of everything, to relax and rest, to restore and refresh, to be filled anew with peace, power and strength, the strength of the Triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Together they love and care for me. Together they sustain me, they strengthen me, protect me, make every provision for me and lead me forward into life and living. God is my portion ‘in the land of the living’. In my present day-to-day living, God is there for me, with me, and in me. He is all I need. If I turn to Him with all of my being, He will fill me with all of His being.
I turn to You in thanksgiving and delight. I join with the psalmist and declare You to be my portion in the land of the living. I confess You as Lord of my life. I ask You to lead me forward in Your way. Direct my steps. Show me the way, the specific, carefully chosen way that You would have me go.
You are my portion, my only portion, in the land of the living. I ask You to fill me, and strengthen me to live patently in You, that all might see, and know, that I am Yours, that my only strength and sustenance is in You. I praise You. I rejoice that You are there for me, sinner that I am.
I come before You in confession and repentance. Forgive me my sins, O Lord. Set me free from the hold of evil, protect me from the attacks of the enemy. You are my portion. I loudly and strongly declare this. Lead me forward, in love and strength, in Jesus’ name I ask, Amen.
Saturday, 10 December 2011
Land that drinks in the rain often falling on it and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is farmed receives the blessing of God. Heb. 6.7
There is much for me to ponder in these words. I think of the rain falling on the land that is me, and that might lead me to produce a useful crop. This rain can easily appear to me with an extremely negative impact. At best it can be a nuisance, at worst it takes on the form of the most miserable, soul-destroying experience, that begs the question, “Why me?”
I can be tempted to see the effects of this rain as totally destructive to me and achieving nothing whatsoever for God or for anyone else. And this is where I am in danger of giving in to delusion.
The first words of this verse Land that drinks in the rain... suggest to me that the land has the option of receiving the rain or rejecting it. In the literal example of land, I see how a hard crust on the earth’s surface can cause the rain to run off and drain away rather than sink into the subsoil and impart nutrients and goodness.
Likewise I have the option, when it rains, to raise my protective covering and steel myself against the precipitation. This, of course would deny me receiving any goodness from it. In dire moments even a light shower can appear as the most dangerous storm. This intensifies my self-protective instinct to resist with all my being.
How then can I receive, and drink in the rain, enabling it to produce a crop useful to others? I see the way as that of surrender. I do not resist the rainfall, whether it comes as a brief shower or a sustained downpour. Neither do I surrender to the rain. Rather I yield and surrender myself and the wet weather to God. If I allow it, He will enable me to receive the rain, to drink it in such that goodness can come to me from it. God may then use this good crop to “feed”, to encourage, others. As this happens they will be blessed. So, also will I be blessed.
Returning to the literal illustration, as the land absorbs the rain, the rain disappears. It’s the land that benefits not the rain. As I give myself and my situation to God in trials and tribulations, the antagonistic element will, in time, be dealt with by God. And I will have been further formed by Him, and possibly released from bondages as He works in me. As in my every involvement with God, the choice is mine to make.
I thank You for this revelation of the good crop that can come from stormy weather. I surrender to You in all of my living, on fine days and foul. I particularly seek Your protection and leading when the weather turns bad. In these times give me the courage to come to You and trust You for the right outcome. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.