Friday, 29 June 2012
The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. 1 Sam. 16.7
Samuel is in the process of anointing a successor to Saul. God has led him to Jesse’s family. He sees Eliab, Jesse’s eldest son and he is convinced that this is the Lord’s anointed.
But the Lord says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him.”
Unfortunately his impressive outward features remind us of Saul who certainly “looked the part” but who turned out to be not of the “right stuff” inside.
The Lord is concerned with the inner disposition and character of a person. The heart is the centre of the man. The heart is all-significant. If the heart is truly for the Lord, then God has the whole person.
Furthermore, the heart will actually reflect in the outward appearance. If the heart is for God – open, true and joyful – the outward appearance will show such character.
To be sold out for God from the inside is the most wonderful state, and a place where I would like to live for all time.
Again I say, I want to be a man after Your own heart. I offer up my heart to you and ask You to make it Yours. Touch me, infuse me with the Father’s heart. Draw me close to You in friendship, truth and love.
And, with my heart, I give my whole self to You. I not only want You to fill the whole of the inside of me, I want you to shine out through every part of me. Show me Your ways. Lead me in them. Have your way completely in me, in Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.
Monday, 25 June 2012
In bitterness of soul Hannah wept much and prayed to the LORD...
“Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the LORD.” 1 Sam. 1.10,15
Hannah was desolate. Though her husband loved her dearly, her womb was closed. She had no children and this saddened her. Her husband’s other wife, Peninnah, who had many children, tormented and provoked her. During their annual visit to the temple to worship and sacrifice to the Lord, Hannah would be so upset and distraught that she found herself praying with much bitterness of soul. She was tormented by the lack of children in her life. It was obviously God’s will and it caused her so much pain. Consequently she would have spoken out of a mood that might seem hardly conducive to prayer. Indeed Eli the priest thought she was drunk. Her lips moved in prayer, but no sound came from her mouth. Eli told her to be rid of her wine. She replied by telling him of her deep distress. She was troubled. How difficult it must have been for her to hold these things in her heart and yet pray out to the Lord. But this is what she did. She poured out her soul to the Lord. I have a sense that, in her abject misery, she emptied her heart before God, dumping everything, possibly with the bitterest complaint directed to Him.
And the Lord responded in blessing. He heard Hannah’s cry. He opened her womb and blessed her with a child, not only a child but a son, most precious in those days. Hannah in her gratefulness, and in obedience to her prior promise, dedicated her son, Samuel, to the service of the Lord. And a mighty man of God ministered and witnessed to the world!
Why did God respond to Hannah’s prayer which came out of the bitterness of her heart? Maybe out of love and compassion! I sense that her honesty played a part. She was heartbroken and despairing, and possibly blaming the Lord. And it appears that she said so. God received her honesty, and responded in love.
I thank You that we can come to You whatever our state is. Even in the depths of bitterness we are able to cry out to You and to release our pain and anguish to You.
I thank You for the security and safety of being able to bring our deepest concerns and fears to You. But, more than this, I thank You that You respond to us in mercy, grace and love. You hear and You receive our heartaches, and You bring comfort and relief. In Hannah’s case You brought the blessing of a son.
Lord God, nothing is impossible for You. Your love saves and releases, empowers and blesses. May I ever live in the safe-keeping of Your love. May I know Your protection and guidance at all times, In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
Thursday, 21 June 2012
The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!”
Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” 1 Sam. 3.10
God came to Samuel. He stood by him and called him by name. Furthermore, the Lord had a long and lasting, faithful and powerful ministry for Samuel. This happened at a time when, we are clearly told (3.1) the Word of the Lord was rare and there were not many visions. Furthermore, Samuel was God’s answer to Hannah’s prayer birthed out of great anguish and grief, a prayer poured out to God in bitterness of soul.
God is truly amazing. He has a plan and He will unfold His plan notwithstanding the condition of those He chooses to use. Hannah was in great need, indeed in despair. In her despair she cried out to God. He heard her, and answered her in the most miraculous way. Israel was assuredly in a mess. Eli’s sons, wicked and debauched, treated the Lord with contempt and used his name in the vainest way. Eli, it seems, was helpless to change them. But God’s way will not be thwarted. Through the child He miraculously gave to Hannah He was going to minister to His people in power and grace. Samuel’s ministry would lead to the appointing and anointing of David as king over a united Israel and Judah.
I believe Hannah’s act of obedience in dedicating Samuel to the Lord’s service was instrumental in the unfolding of this powerful ministry. As she prayed, in misery and despair, Hannah promised the Lord that she would return to Him a son for His service if He would but give her a son. When God fulfilled her prayer, she kept her commitment to him.
God’s will combined with our obedience will achieve the most remarkable effects for the Kingdom of Heaven.
I marvel at the calling of Samuel. I see Hannah crying out to You in agony and despair, and possibly in anger too. But You heard her and answered her prayer with a miracle.
I see the sad state of Israel under the abuse of Hophni and Phinehas. I see the dryness of the land made manifest in the lack of the Word of the Lord and the absence of visions.
I see this, but I see also Your sovereign grace upholding and unfolding Your plan of redemption. I see the specific and special anointing You held for Samuel. I see the humble obedience of his mother, Hannah, and I thank You for her. I see the wonder of his growth and education in the temple as he is reared into the very ministry of serving you. I see that whatever might be lacking in the teaching of his earthly tutors is provided by You. I see all this and I marvel. I rejoice at Your wonderful plan for Samuel.
I rejoice also in knowing that You have a plan for my life. You have ordained purposes for me that will not be achieved by another. I pray Your plan for me will unfold, unhindered by me. Lord, have Your way in my life, and don’t let me get in the way. Amen.
Monday, 18 June 2012
We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Cor. 5.7
Here is a ground-breaking, totally life-changing verse. I feel God is further reinforcing His message to me. I link this verse, at this time, with two other Scriptures, one from the New Testament and one from the Old Testament. First, from the New Testament:
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Heb. 11.1)
I think I need to interpret this not as “What I am presently sure of. What I presently feel certain of that I do not see.” No, rather I take it as “What I want to live in surety of. What I want to be certain of that perhaps I do not see.” I have answered this with what I have written on a slip of paper I keep in my prayer journal: Yet not my will, but yours be done.
I want to live in God’s will. I want to live in full surrender to God. I want to trust in God for all things and to be led by Him in all that I do.
This leads me to the Old Testament verses:
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;
in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.
This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones. Prov. 3.5-8
I take this passage as a whole. In “Godly-foolishness” I do not look to my own abilities and devices but lean on Him, I rely on Him and look to Him in all things. This does not mean that I ignore the insights, talents, gifts and abilities that He has given me. But I subordinate them, and myself, to His sovereign will and direction.
Your way is perfect and true. Your way is best for me, and I know it. I want only to go Your way. This, truly, is my heart’s desire.
I commit to live by faith and not by sight. I want to trust in You with all my heart and with all my soul and with all my mind. I do not want to rely on my own understanding, but I want to rely – completely, totally, utterly – on You.
I acknowledge You in all my ways. I release all of my thoughts, words and actions to You and I ask You to place the whole of them, and all of me, under Your Lordship.
I seek not to be governed by my own abilities but, rather, believing they are given to me by You, to exercise them under the full guidance and control of your sovereignty. I look for straight paths in You. Amen.
Thursday, 14 June 2012
As God’s fellow workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says,
“In the time of my favour I heard you, and in the day of my salvation I helped you.”
I tell you, now is the time of God’s favour, now is the day of salvation. 2 Cor. 6.1,2
Why would Paul urge the Corinthians in this way? How might they receive God’s grace in vain? Paul had been talking about the reconciliation of man to God in the atoning work of Christ. He who knew no sin was made sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. In grace we are encouraged and enabled to follow Christ in simplicity and purity. To receive God’s grace in vain might be to deny committing to a Christian way of life, following Jesus in simple purity.
Paul tells us why he urges us to live in the fullness of God’s grace. He quotes God’s words spoken through Isaiah (49.8) that he heard us in the time of His favour and helped us in the day of salvation. Paul then tells us that the present time, this age of grace between the two comings of Christ, is the time of God’s favour and the day of salvation.
Now is the time to press forward in Christ. Now is the time to follow Him in simplicity and purity. Now is the time to cry out to God, to ask for and receive His help in following Christ, not only in our private personal behaviour but also in our public personal actions and speech. Jesus called us – He called me – to go into the world and make disciples of all nations. My first act as a disciple is to embrace Christ, to receive Him as my own, as Saviour and Lord. I commit to Him in true and lasting intimate relationship. I look to truly follow Him, to grow more like him in every way. I seek to bring others to Him, to show them His love and purity and to encourage them also to follow Him, embracing Him and adopting His ways.
I receive Your grace and seek the fullest measure and fruit of it in my life. I am a sinner, I know this too well. I come before You in my sinful state. I confess and repent of each blot and stain in my life. I ask Your forgiveness. I seek the way forward in Christ, the way of grace.
I acknowledge that I live in the time of Your favour. I rejoice in this. I know that You hear me and You help me. In confidence I speak out to You.
I want to be a true follower of the risen Christ. I pray that I might become more Christ-like each day. In my very essence I seek the Christ within. May Christ also be outwardly manifest in my life. I seek to show He who is in me to the whole world. May my actions, daily, grow more pleasing to You.
I ask also that I might draw others to You. I ask for a simple and pure boldness to introduce people to Jesus, to show them his love and compassion, and to demonstrate this fully in my thoughts, words and actions to them. Lord, hear my prayer, in Jesus’ name I ask. Amen.
Monday, 11 June 2012
Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. 2 Cor. 9.6
Paul had earlier been talking about the generosity of the Macedonians in regard to the financial gift he was organising for the church in Jerusalem. It is easy to read this verse in relation to that gift and, indeed, to financial generosity in particular. This may be so, but there are other resources with which we are endowed and many areas in which we can be generous.
A footnote to this verse refers to Luke 6.38:
Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.
In the prior verse, Jesus is urging us not to judge or condemn but to forgive. Encouragement, affirmation and forgiveness are all areas in which generosity may be exercised, with powerful, lasting and life-changing effect.
I hope I am not “sparing” when it comes to financial giving. I do not have as much to give as I would like to give, but may I be unsparing with what I have. May I also be generous in the other resources with which God has blessed me – time, listening, encouraging, uplifting, prayer, affirming, and freely forgiving, These, and whatever else, I pray will pour out of me with the fullest praise and glory to the one who gave them to me.
I thank You for Your every gift. I willingly receive all that You have for me. I pray that I am demonstrating God-given generosity in all that I do. I ask You to consolidate and increase this in me. Let me never withhold from those in need. Use me, to Your praise and glory.
Lord, I want only to serve You. Take me and lead me in Your service, in Jesus’ name I ask.