Tuesday, 3 June 2014

God is at work, even in our darkest hours! ... 1 Samuel 28-30.

Saul was about to die.  David was in a really difficult position because he was required to go to battle against his own people.  He was there because he didn't trust in God's protection and stay in the Land God had promised.  And, we are meant to see that David could not have known that Saul was about to die ... it was revealed to Saul, far away at night.

Despite David's foolishness in being in this position, God arranged it that the other Philistine commanders should cause David to be sent away so he didn't have to fight against God's people.  Wow! ... God was at work protecting David and keeping him from the disastrous consequences of a foolish decision.  With what praise must David have been travelling back to Ziklag, where he was living amongst the Philistines!

But, just as they arrived back at Ziklag he found disaster ... the Amalekites had taken Ziklag and burnt it, taking all David and his men's possessions, their wives and children - everything.  It looked like total disaster!  They wept until they were exhausted with weeping.

David did the right thing - he enquired of the Lord.  And God told him to pursue after the Amalekites.

Well a lot of things happened, including finding a slave who the Amalekites just happened (!!) to leave behind who could tell them where they had gone.  So, David and his men came upon the Amalekites and not only took back their wives and children and all the things that had been taken from them, but also destroyed the Amalekites and took all the other plunder that the Amalekites had taken from many places.

Now, disaster turned into triumph.  But it was a triumph far, far greater than they even then could understand.

You see, David didn't know, but in 1 Sam 28 Saul had been told that he had failed by not destroying the Amalekites ... but David unwittingly did all that Saul hadn't done during this attack - the Amalekites were destroyed!

David didn't know that Saul had fallen in battle, but in defeating the Amalekites David was able to take the plunder the Amalekites had taken from Judah back to the people of Judah.  Now, as it happened, they were just about to start looking for the next King!  David didn't know it, but God was paving the way for David to find even greater favour in their eyes and be made King.

And David didn't know it, but God wanted him and his men to move from Ziklag back to God's promised land so he could become King ... and in the Philistine attack their homes in Ziklag had been destroyed, but God had now given them riches enough to re-establish back in Israel!

So, in the apparent disaster upon disaster that came from decisions that David shouldn't have made, God did far, far more than David could imagine or even see in the circumstances he was in.

David still had many tough years before he became King of Israel and defeated all the enemies.  But, in all the disaster of Ziklag, God was mightily at work and was preparing for the fulfilment of His promises to David and His Kingdom purposes for Israel and for our Salvation!

We need to know this in our disasters - God has far, far greater plans for us than we can possibly imagine!  Our present disasters are only a part of His greater triumphs, and He is still working things out, even in the disasters, in much greater ways than we could ever work out for ourselves.

How we need to see His greatness, trust in His sovereignty, rest in His purposes - even [particularly!] in the darkest times of our life.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

We have an Intercessor - Job 16:19-21

JOB 16:19-21 NIV

"Even now my witness is in heaven; my advocate is on high.   My intercessor is my friend  as my eyes pour out tears to God;   on behalf of a man he pleads with God as one pleads for a friend."

These are incredible words!

The preceding chapters have made it clear that it was God who permitted all that happened to Job, and though the actions were all Satan's doing (Job 1:12), God Himself says that He did it (Job 2:3) - God does not divorce His permission to Satan from His own sovereign rule. So, when Job, with spiritual wisdom, starts his discourse in Job 16, he rightly acknowledges that it was God who was over the terrible destruction and less that knew.

But, Job knows God as his Saviour.  And so this is not a complaint!  He can't understand why, he can't see why, but He is not daunted by or turned from God because of the terrors he has endured. Rather, because we knows deeply that his God is also his Saviour, He rests in God and His love.

Looking to Jesus, he recalls that he has an advocate! Beautifully he proclaims loudly 'my intercessor is my friend!'; he recalls that, though all earthly helpers have let him down, his Saviour pleads for him!

How we need to have our eyes set on Jesus like Job did! Jesus told us clearly that 'in this world you will have trouble'. But we are not left alone! He goes on to tell us 'but I have overcome the world'. And in our trouble and difficulty our overcomer is also our intercessor! I am never 'on my own'. He is continually speaking on my behalf to His Father who loves me with the same love. If only my eyes would see this and know the security that is mine in God my Father, Jesus my Saviour and His Spirit who is His presence, power and guarantee within! Then my heart would also cry out 'My intercessor is my friend!'

Friday, 24 January 2014

When I think 'I know best' - Gen 17:15-19

GEN 17:15-19 NIVUK
God also said to Abraham, ‘As for Sarai your wife, you are no longer to call her Sarai; her name will be Sarah. I will bless her and will surely give you a son by her. I will bless her so that she will be the mother of nations; kings of peoples will come from her.’   Abraham fell face down; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’   Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.
In some areas of life I am sure that I know my limitations. For example, I know that I can have a go at fixing minor things in my car, but if the garage tell me that the gear box is failing, I know that it's a job for them, not me. In fact, truth be told, even the minor jobs on the car are better left to the experts!
Isn't it strange, then, that I'm so foolish with how I react to what God says? God shows me clearly in His word what is wrong in my life, and He clearly tells me not only how He has already dealt with it in Jesus, but also how to live for Him in His strength as I go on. Yet, what do I do? I start working on my own way ahead, my own self-improvement programmes, my own ways of sorting things out. The reality is that like Abraham, I'm looking at God's way, telling myself it's impossible, and then telling God how He should do it!
It's really foolish if I stopped to think. Abraham thought that there was no way that Sarah could have a child, yet he had forgotten that it was our Creator who was promising him a child through Sarah. Abraham thought that a man's feeble mind could think through the problem and come up with the best solution, but he forgot that we are so finite and yet God who shows us the way to go is infinite in His wisdom. 
And what trouble Abraham's way has brought to many people through history. The consequences of his lack of trust in God continue to be felt today.
Yet God is so gracious... Even those other nations were used by Him to train His people in the way they should go. Our foolishness and sin never defeats His sovereignty! 
But we need to heed the warning... How I need to learn never to tell God what His way should be. Rather I need to bow my knees before Him, no matter how difficult or impossible His way may seem, and simply say 'Your will be done' and then get up to walk in His way by His strength.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged. - 1 Chronicles 22

I was reading this morning from 1 Chronicles 22.  In this passage David is instructing Solomon in regard to building the Temple.  David has already set aside all the resources needed.  But Solomon has been given the task from God of completing the work.  David encourages him with these words:

11 ‘Now, my son, the Lord be with you, and may you have success and build the house of the Lord your God, as he said you would. 12 May the Lord give you discretion and understanding when he puts you in command over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God. 13 Then you will have success if you are careful to observe the decrees and laws that the Lord gave to Moses for Israel. Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged.

I was so struck by a number of things
  • He has provided all we need, we just have to get on with the job (v14, [not quoted above])
  • Getting on with the job involves simply doing what He has already told us to do, and has said He would enable ("as He said you would", v11)
  • Getting on with the job involves keeping our hearts on Him and His way (v12).  But the Lord is the one who grants us the discretion and understanding to do so!
  • We've got to "Be strong and courageous."  Above all, and this is clearly emphasised: "Do not be afraid or discouraged."
He had no reason to be afraid of discouraged.  God had provided all that is needed.  God had said it would happen.  God has said that He would even provide the discernment and understanding to keep on walking with Him.

Yet, clearly God knows our hearts.  We're so easily put off by the task, so easily down-heartened, so easily distracted, so easily pulled away in our walk, so easily overwhelmed.  The difficulty of all we face so easily dominates our vision and plagues our minds, and we lose heart.

But God's call is clear - remember that He has called us to this work of His Kingdom,  remember that He provides all we need,  remember that it is His strength than enables us to walk the way,  and so Do not be afraid or discouraged, rather Be strong and courageous in Him!!

I'm reminded of Jonathan, who when the rest of the Israelite army were quaking in fear, realised that the enemy were only 'uncircumcised men' ... they did not have God with them.  And so he said "Nothing can hinder the Lord from saving, whether by many or by few" (1 Sam 14:6) and set out boldly in God's strength.  He struck down 20, but God routed 100's of thousands.  Yet the task had seemed impossible.  It was, without God.  But by taking Him at His word, throwing off fear and discouragement, and by looking to Him and by His Spirit putting on strength and courage, God brought about tremendous victory and encouraged the remainder of God's people to fight and triumph.

May God help us to again see His plans already laid out for us in our 'works of service already laid out for us to do' (Eph 2:10), to see that He has provided and will provide all we need, and so may we walk out boldly in His service, refuting fear and discouragement, but being strong and courageous in Him.

So, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged."

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

When righteous men strike - Ps 141:5

Psalm 141:5 NIV

Let a righteous man strike me—that is a kindness; let him rebuke me—that is oil on my head. My head will not refuse it, for my prayer will still be against the deeds of evildoers.

One of the hardest thing I ever have to do its to go to speak to people to deal with spiritual problems. Now, you might think that this is the 'bread and butter' of being a Pastor. Surely it should be what I'm good at. But its horrendously difficult.

No one likes to have problems pointed out. Even in other areas of life this is the case. I remember labouring hard to lay a new tiled floor only for my son to come in and point out that a tile right at the corner of the room wasn't quite level. He was right, but I was furious. It hit my pride, it frustrated me after all my effort, and it meant that all I had done wasn't as good as my ego told me. Now, of course, he could have been much more gentle with me in breaking the news, but the reality was that I needed to know about the problem then while I could rectify it and not later when the tile was grouted hard in place.

One of the greatest blessings we can have is a faithful brother or sister in Christ who is willing to say the difficult things and point out where we are not walking will with God. Of course, they need to do this in love with great humility of heart over their own lives (think of specks & planks!). But it is a huge help in our walk with God.

Yet, when those rebukes come, no matter how gentle and wise, they can seem to hit hard. It is like the 'righteous man striking me' of this Psalm... It hurts!!

But, when we see the blessing of it, when we understand the privilege of having someone prepared to say those difficult things, when we see that God has brought them to us just like God sent that Godly man Nathan to so wisely rebuke David, then realise the grace of God in the rebuke that hurts.

How we need to have hearts like David that realise the grace of God in the right rebuke of a Godly man or woman, and welcome it as sweet soothing healing oil on our heads.