Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Our great reward - Is 48:11

For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this.
How can I let myself be defamed?
I will not yield my glory to another.

Do you still remember the summer Olympics? I was so impressed by the cyclists. Even the most unsporting of us has ridden a bicycle and knows how tough it can be. Its hard, hard work.

If you heard them interviewed about their training, you will remember hearing about their training regime, the time they put in on the training field in all weather, the huge number of miles cycled each day, the incredible muscle building sprint work that leaves them rolling on the ground in agony, their dedication to their sport, and their commitment to being the best.

We rightly admire them for all their effort.

And after the olympics we have see them proudly display their medals, go on TV shows to talk about their success, and we have held them up in our admiration for all their achievements.

However, the reality was that they were not there for themselves. They were there for their team and country. It should not have been for their own medal gain that they compete, but for their country and the glory of their nation.

In Is 48 God has pointed out again the peoples failure. He tells them that He has sought to refine them, to make them into the people they should be. But he reminds them that the reason that He does this is not first of all their good or glory, though we know that He does delight in His people and rejoice over them (Zeph 3). No, the primary reason is because of His name and His glory. "For my own sake, for my own sake, I do this".

And that is far, far better for us. For why should we welcome His discipline if only for ourselves, even if we keep our eyes on His desire for our best, to transform us to be all He intended us to be (Rom 12:1-3)? We could be satisfied with 'doing alright'. But its not for us alone, and not merely for our lifespan. Its for His glory and His eternal honour! Its so that, beyond our time-frame, in the reaches of eternity, God might say, as he said of Job, 'Have you considered my servant...', and, amazingly, God is glorified in us.

Isn't that a far better purpose and reward?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Prayer from the heart - Isaiah 33:22

Isaiah 33.2 NIV

"Lord, be gracious to us;
we long for you.
Be our strength every morning,
our salvation in time of distress."

I guess that we've all heard the phrase 'you are what you eat'. Its hardly true, but it sounds right. However, a truer phrase might be 'you are what you pray', or perhaps less catchy but more correct: 'you reveal your heart towards God in what you pray'.

This little prayer reveals so clearly the reality of the love for God and trust of God in the heart of it's writer.  In the middle of huge trouble, of the judgement coming upon Israel that God has promised, there is a right cry for God's mercy and grace.  But it doesn't come from a survival instinct, from worry about my own safety or my own security.  There's a much deeper, better motivation.  There's a greater heart cry beneath it.

The heart cry that is the real motivation is simply this:  "we long for you."  Isn't that the heart cry that God longs for in all of us?  Isn't that the heart cry of the redeemed - those who realise the wonder of God's amazing love for them, who understand that all they are, even their next breath, is a gift from Him, whose heart has been won by God, who love Him with all their heart, mind, soul and strength.  This is the heart cry, like Paul's cry "I want to know you", of one who loves Him!

And, when we're taken up with His love, then we realise His protection - how can He turn His back on those who He has brought at such a great price?;  then we understand His care - are we not the sheep of His pasture?;  then we know that, no matter what our eyes see, we are the constant beneficiaries of His goodness.  And so we pray, just like we see in this verse, for Him - 'You be our strength every morning' ... how could we want any other strength?;  'You be our salvation in time of distress' ... how could we run to any other?

You see - our prayers not only show, but come from the true desire of our heart.  If we love Him with the deep love that we should have in the light of our great salvation, then our prayers will always be for Him!  And then He gives us the delight of our heart!!

Friday, 28 September 2012

Do The Right Thing! - Is 22:11

Isaiah 22:11 NIV

"You built a reservoir between the two walls
for the water of the Old Pool,
but you did not look to the One who made it,
or have regard for the One who planned it long ago."

There was so much busyness! All around was frantic effort. It looked good; it looked necessary; it looked appropriate. But they'd got something utterly wrong.

The population in Jerusalem were responding to the destruction that was ongoing around them of Jerusalem. Walls had fallen, and they were even choosing houses to pull down to reinforce the walls. Water storage was being over-run, and they were building new water storage areas.

What they were doing wasn't silly ... it was actually just what they needed to do to survive. They had to prevent the invaders getting in. They had to ensure that the water supply would remain. It was all so necessary.

And yet, it was all so wrong.

You see, it was necessary, but it wasn't the first necessity.  It was only the first and most important thing if they were relying on themselves and not on God.

I'm so like them. Things are difficult and so I rush around trying to fix things. Yes, that's right, that's required, but it's not the most urgent. The most urgent thing I should do is to turn to God. The most urgent is to seek His face, to pour out my anxieties and my situation to Him who knows it all and is sovereign over it all. The most urgent is to find rest in him, not in what I will do. The most urgent is to obey His voice, not rush after my way.

How I need to learn to look to the one who made it all, who planned it long ago!