Monday, 21 November 2011
The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane”. Acts 10.15
Peter has received a vision from God. It is obvious that God desires Peter’s attention and wishes to show him something of great significance.
What Peter sees is a large sheet coming down from heaven and containing all kinds of four-footed creatures, reptiles and birds. Peter is encouraged to eat from what is offered, but he recoils. He remonstrates that he has never eaten anything that is profane or unclean. It is then that God reminds him that He has made things clean.
The trance illustration seems to be about food but it is clear that God extends his cleansing power to mankind as well. When Peter addresses the Roman centurion Cornelius and his friends and relatives he tells them, “...God has shown me that I should not call anyone profane or unclean.”
As I read of the vision Peter received in his trance, I see, in my mind’s eye, an enormous sheet being lowered from heaven containing all manner of human life – all races, all social classes, law-abiding and otherwise, privileged and abused, healthy and not so healthy, and all denominations – and I hear a voice from heaven saying, “These are my beloved. Go into all the world and love them as I have commanded you.”
Peter’s vision resulted in the first salvations among the Gentiles. What, I wonder, will my vision lead to? I don’t think I need to know. I simply need to be obedient, to be willing to go where He sends me, and to do His full and perfect will. O yes! Hallelujah!
I am mindful that You have made me clean. Your love has cleansed me. Your love continues to purify me, for I surely continue to get myself dirty.
I look to You for vision. And I look to You for the outworking of any vision You would give me. I want to serve You and I want to do so with all of my being. But, like Peter, I am likely to recoil. In my weakness, then, I offer myself. Take me, show me and lead me, in Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.
Tuesday, 15 November 2011
Be still and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
I will be exalted in the earth. Psalm 46.10
The New American Standard Bible has ‘cease striving’ for ‘be still’. This reminds me of the day some time ago when I awoke to hear God say to me: “Stop striving.”
I will not know God’s power on this earth by striving to find it and to see it. God’s might among the nations will be ‘revealed’ to me as I am still and as I acknowledge the Almighty as all-mighty.
I thank You for this reminder of who You are. I thank You that this has come to me in the stillness of the early morning. I truly feel as if I am not striving, yet I am aware of Your greatness.
I marvel as the light slowly reveals the day. The shadows disappear and Your creation is unveiled. The birds start singing. Are they the first to exalt You? Today is Sunday. All over the world people will be singing praises to You and glorifying Your name.
Great God, I bow down before you in worship and adoration. I declare You my Lord Almighty. Hallelujah! Amen.
Wednesday, 9 November 2011
For the LORD has poured out upon you a spirit of deep sleep; he has closed your eyes, you prophets, and covered your heads, you seers.
The vision of all this has become for you like the words of a sealed document. If it is given to those who can read, with the command , “Read this, “ they say, “We cannot, for it is sealed.” And if it is given to those who cannot read, saying, “Read this,” they say, “We cannot read.”
It seems to me that these words apply to much of the world today. God acts, but people do not see God in the action. Indeed, they don’t want to see God anywhere.
The instance from Isaiah is where God has shut off recognition of His doings from humanity. His work is like a sealed document which, when offered for reading and understanding, is met with one of two responses. Either the recipient cannot read or they see the document as sealed and themselves unable to open the seal. The result, either way, is that God’s work and His participation in human affairs is not seen. Consequently it cannot be recognised, nor accepted or encouraged, nor sought.
I would suggest that much of the world today is closed to God and unwilling to allow Him in, unwilling to look to Him for His way. Can I do anything about this?
On a small scale I can be encouraging to those who seek my help. Perhaps these are “the converted”, but we can all benefit from Godly support and, if I am open to Him, I know He will work through me to assist others. So I can be willing to be used by Him in those times He orchestrates. And I can pray. Against the immensity of the perceived task my prayer really can count. I must not be deterred by thinking I am too small. I believe God hears every prayer. If I withhold, then the prayer will not be offered, and He will not hear or respond.
Apart from the world, I have choices to make in my own life and actions. Such choices are part of the fabric of everyday living. It would be helpful if I could say, once and for all time, “Lord, let me be fully open to You. Let me lay my life before You to be led by You. Let me see clearly and hear unhindered what You would have of me. And let this be so for all time.”
Sadly, I know this is not the case. Whilst I believe I read quite well, I sense there are times when I might say, “Don’t ask me to read this, for I cannot read.” There might also be times when my response is, “Lord, this is sealed, and I can’t break the seal.”
My prayer is that there will be no impediment of my making to prevent God leading me and having His way with me. I pray that He will bless me to see all I need to see, with no vision hidden because I am in a “deep sleep”. I pray for alertness to all that God may be doing.
I come to You in thankfulness for a new day and the opportunity to live this day in You. I offer myself to be used by You. My strong desire is to serve You. I lay my life before You and invite You to lead me into Your purposes. Let me neither construct nor allow any impediment that would keep me from Your will for me. I boldly ask that You bless me to see mighty things in and of You. May I travel deeper into You? May I be privy to divine secrets previously undisclosed to me?
I cry out for the salvation and sanctification of the world. Draw us back to You, Lord. Use us as You will to minister Your amazing and unlimited love to those who desperately need it, but can’t see the source.
You love the world. Lead us forward to a fuller life in You, in Jesus, name I ask. Amen.
Thursday, 3 November 2011
But the Lord is faithful; he will strengthen you and guard you from the evil one. And we have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will go on doing the things that we command. 2 Thess. 3.3,4
In this letter Paul has already pointed out to the Thessalonians some of their shortcomings. He will further this before the letter ends. He also gives then directions for overcoming. He tells them clearly here that he expects them to obey his instructions.
But also, as Paul does regularly in his writings, he turns away from our difficulties to the God upon whom we must all depend. In using the very name of the Lord, he reminds us of the One who deserves, and indeed demands, that position of authority and guardianship in our lives. Yes, the Lord is my guardian. He will look after me. I can feel safe for He protects me, He directs and guides me, He is the way for me.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians, and us, that our great and gracious Lord is faithful. For me this means, firstly, that He is always there, and He will always be there. But His faithfulness is not restricted to His presence with me. In His Word He has set out many promises to me. His faithfulness is such that He will, in time, fulfil each and every promise.
He will strengthen me. He will guard me from the evil one. This is so encouraging. So often when I tussle with the contrary thoughts in my mind, the leanings of the sinful nature that seek to draw me into Satan’s power, I feel as if the fight is my personal challenge. Of course, I am not up to it, and so I struggle. I need to realise, and walk in the knowledge that God is with me. He knows all the grubby details of my thoughts and He will help me. He will fight with me. Indeed, He is ready to do this at any time.
I think it might be this knowledge of God’s intimate involvement in all of our life, the clean and the not-so-clean, that prompts Paul to state his confidence in the Lord that we will do the right thing.
I cannot ignore or minimise the difficulties that confront me and will continue to confront me. But I can lay hold of the character of my Lord God and know that He is greater than my lack of will power or my total integrity. He is greater than any of the wiles of the devil.
On Paul’s encouraging, I choose to place my confidence in the Lord and not in my own feeble nature and insufficient ability.
There are several prayers that Paul breaks into at different stages of this letter to the Thessalonians that I feel to record. In the midst of his identifying of difficulties with the Thessalonians, and his issuing of directions to them, Paul spontaneously opens in prayer for them. There is an immediate focus to this prayer, a focus that I adopt for myself today.
Now may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loved us and through grace gave us eternal comfort and good hope, comfort your hearts and strengthen them in every good work and word. (2 Thess. 2.16,17)
May the Lord direct your hearts to the love of God and to the steadfastness of Christ.
(2 Thess. 3.5)
Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in all ways. The Lord be with all of you. (2 Thess. 3.16)
The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with all of you. (2 Thess. 3.18)
I salute You and honour You as I come before You in this time of prayer. I offer myself fully to Your Lordship. I ask You to be Lord of all of me: Lord of my mind and all of my thoughts; Lord of my emotions and all of my feelings and reactions; Lord of my will and all of my behaviour; Lord of my spirit and my relationship with you.
I look to Your many promises to me, and I claim each and every one. I ask You to strengthen me. I know You do, and you will. Guard me, Lord, from the evil one and empower me to fight, with You, against his wiles, his deceits, and his dishonesty. The truth is: I am a child of God. I am Your son. My Dear Father, I bow before You in grateful thanks. Amen.