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Archive for Christianity

Refusing to be held back

I have always found the Old Testament very inspiring and in Judges 6 I read about how God’s people of Israel suffered at the hands of the Midianites. Due to their sin, God had removed His protection from His people, and so their enemies were able to raid their land and rob them of their livelihood.

It is in this situation that God calls Gideon to deliver Israel from their oppressors. Gideon was threshing wheat in his father’s winepress for fear of the raiding bands when an Angel appeared to him saying, “The LORD is with you, mighty man of valour”. Looking at his circumstances, Gideon would hardly have felt like a mighty man.

Rather than embracing what the angel has just said about him he responds with a question regarding the plight of his people as a whole (v.13): “If the LORD is with us, why then has this happened to us? Where are all His miracles ...?” At this point, the angel could have given Gideon an explanation for Israel’s plight, but he does not even answer Gideon’s question. Instead he turns the focus back on Gideon. “Go in this might of yours, and you shall save Israel from the hand of the Midianites. Have I not sent you?” (v.14)

For Gideon it was difficult to comprehend that he should be God’s choice. He had surely heard the stories about the great judges who had led Israel in victory over their enemies. These were great men (chapters 4-5) of God; but who was he to save Israel? After all, his family was insignificant, and he was the least in his father’s house! (v. 15)

I sometimes see that this happens to me and other people that we are often held back from what God wants us to be by the way we see ourselves. We may even act and talk as if we were confident in God, but deep down inside we do not believe that God can use us for his purposes.

Our background, our past failures, and the comments that others have made to us and about us - all these things add to a sense of inadequacy that makes us deaf to God’s call. And many of these influences will remain with us as long as we live. Even after Gideon’s victory some rebuked him, still convinced that God should have used them rather than him (Judges 8:1). By that time, however, Gideon had learnt to deal with such influences, because he had come to realise who he was in God (vv. 2-3). By that time, no one could rob him of God’s call.

Answering the call

This is a continuation of the post Seeing beyond circumstances posted earlier based around 1Kings and the prophet Elijah. As I continued to read 1Kings chapter 19 its interesting to see God sending Elijah on a final mission soon after saying he was only the only prophet left. He instructs him to anoint Hazael King over Aram, Jehu King over Israel, and Elisha to succeed him as prophet (vv. 15-16). Elijah obeys God’s instructions and finds Elisha ploughing a field.

He throws his cloak, a symbol of the anointing, around Elisha and calls him to follow him. Elisha immediately leaves his oxen and plough and runs after Elijah. Then, however, he asks the prophet for permission to kiss his family good-bye. I think for a moment, Elijah must have questioned whether God had sent him to the right person, for no-one who puts his hand to [God’s] plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God (Luke 9:62). Hence his reply, “Go back. What have I done to you?” (v.20)

Little did Elijah know that Elisha’s reason for going back was to burn his bridges: he went to kill the oxen with which he had been ploughing with and cooked them over a fire made with his ploughing equipment. He had heard God’s call and was willing to leave everything to answer that call. And not only that he was willing to follow on God’s terms and not on his own.

He actually faithfully served Elijah until the day when his master was taken up to heaven and the cloak of God’s anointing finally passed on to him (2Kings2).

God is never anxious about His purpose but I think its us who do sometimes. He never loses the plot. He alone has the overall picture. He knows what He is doing, and He will always find someone who is willing to leave what they are doing to answer His call and to be faithful to his purpose.

Seeing beyond circumstances

Just reading the Bible in 1 Kings from chapter 17 you find that the dominant figure becomes Elijah and you can see how God worked closely with him and yet in more demanding situations Elijah could feel like he was all on his own.

“What are you doing here, Elijah?” God asked the prophet in a gentle whisper (1 Kings 19:13). Elijah had just experienced his greatest triumph. On Mount Carmel, he had challenged the forces of evil before the whole nation and had seen the fire of God come from heaven to consume the sacrifice he had prepared. Seeing this, the people had turned back to God and had slaughtered the priests of Baal.

Immediately, God had opened the skies and had sent rain on the parched land of Israel. However, one threat from Queen Jezebel had caused him to flee into the desert and to Mount Horeb, where he now sat, wishing to die.

After we have experienced God’s power in a special way the enemy will seek to intimidate us and to rob us of the blessings we have just received. It is then easy to lose sight of God’s greatness and His calling for our lives, and to shift our focus onto the issues that suddenly confront us. In these situations, we need to find a place where we can once again hear the gentle whisper of God, reminding us that He is always in control.

Elijah’s response to God reveals how much he had lost the plot. I think all he could see was himself and his situation. He told God how he alone had been zealous for Him, and how everybody else was serving Baal and was therefore out to kill him. With his eyes on himself and his circumstances, he apparently forgot that God had demonstrated His sovereign power at Mount Carmel and that, as a result, thousands had turned back to Him.

I think it is easy for us too to lose sight of God’s purpose, to think like Elijah that we are the only ones left serving Him. Like Elijah, we may be looking for some comforting words, a pat on the shoulder and a “well done, my good and faithful servant.”

God’s reply to Elijah is not quite what the prophet would have expected: He tells Elijah that there are seven thousand others. Those seven thousand may not have stood in the limelight of mount Carmel (yet), but they loved God and refused to bow to Baal or to be intimidated by his followers. And one of these people was Elisha son of Shaphat. I will pick from there in another post when I have read 2 Kings.

Focussing on God's purpose

I was reading Acts 4 which from verse 23 to 31 tells how Peter and John return to their companions after being questioned by the Sanhedrin and report everything that had happened to them (Acts 4:23). Having heard the report, the church immediately called on the Lord in prayer.

Considering what they had been through and the threats they had received(v. 21), we may well have expected them to seek God for comfort and protection. We may even have expected them to ask God for understanding that they would now – faced with such adversity - have to “tone things down” a little. After all, their lives and the lives of their families were at stake.

These men and women of God, however, focus their prayer not and themselves and their situation, but on God and His purpose. They begin by proclaiming that their Lord is God, the Creator of all things (v. 24).

Next they focus on God’s purpose in sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross. They understand that their own suffering is merely an extension of the persecution suffered by the Son of God himself. He had repeatedly warned them that they too would be hated by the enemies of God (Matt. 10:24-25; Jn. 16:1-4). Mindful of this, they pray not for their own comfort, but for boldness to continue doing what they know to be their calling as followers of Jesus: preaching His word.

Finally, they ask God to stretch out His hand to heal through the name of Jesus as a confirmation of His word. As soon as they conclude their prayer, the place shakes by the power of God and the Holy Spirit comes upon them, granting them boldness to proclaim Jesus irrespective of all persecution.

What an amazing seven verses!

Walking with God

This morning I was reading the passage of Scripture in Genesis chapter 5. Its interesting to see in this chapter how the Bible chronicles the number of years that people lived like Jared who lived 962 years then later he died but then you notice something different with Enoch. Among the people listed, Enoch lived the least number of years and had children like most before him but it is then written that he walked with God.

I have read this passage a number of times before but for the first time I was just struck by the number of years that Enock lived, 365 which is the number of days in a year. This to me then poses the challenge of walking with God every day of the year.

Enoch's impact had nothing to do with the number of years he lived but the purpose thereof. Therefore he didn't go the way of all those before him but God took him away(v 24) and here we have the first record in the Bible of a person who didn't die.

A call to a new purpose

This morning as I was reading the Gospel of Luke I was captivated by the first eleven verses of chapter 5. In these first eleven verses I read about how Jesus calls Simon Peter to follow Him. While Simon Peter and his companions are cleaning their nets after a hard night’s work, Jesus appears at the lakeside and begins to teach a crowd of people who have gathered around Him.
Peter is evidently enthralled by the words of Jesus. Suddenly Jesus turns to him and challenges him to go out once more and let down his nets. To an experienced fisherman, casting out his nets after daybreak would have seemed a foolish thing to do, but Peter, recognising that this man was speaking with the divine authority, obeys.
What happens next is a miracle: when the fishermen draw in the nets, they are so full of fish that they begin to tear, and as the men empty them into the boat, the boat nearly sinks. Clearly the one standing in front of him is not just another itinerant preacher, of whom there were many at the time; only God Himself could have performed this miracle!
Standing in the presence of God, Peter can only respond by saying, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” In the light of God’s presence, we see ourselves not as we would like to be, but as we really are. Nothing can be hidden from Him. He reveals every deed and every thought. Like Peter, we cannot feel comfortable in His presence with our sin.
Jesus, however, does not leave Peter in this desperate state. God convicts us of sin, not to condemn us, but to set us free. He calls us to follow him and changes our lives into something new. Jesus responds to Peter, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.”
The most important thing I learnt is that if we confess our sins and failures to God, He forgives us and cleanses us, and He gives our lives a new purpose. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17). “He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.” (v.15).

Answer to prayer

A friend of mine called Maxwell send me this in an e-mail today and it blessed me so much:

If I answer your prayers at once, it is because I am testing your faith. If I did not answer your prayers at once, it is because I am testing your patience. If I did not answer your prayers at all it is because I have a better plan for you.
Remember GOD'S promises are Yes and Amen! HE is GOD not man, which explains why HE can never fail. Hold on, don't be discouraged, your miracle is knocking at the door of your heart. A little more faith is what you need to see all our needs met.
The Prayer Answering GOD is saying HE has met all your needs. GOD will respond speedily to your needs.