Monday, December 31, 2007

Devotional Thought : 1 Samuel 27:1

This is the third in a series of 8 devotional thoughts about David. It looks at how the third beatitude, "Blessed are the meek", is seen in David's life and considers David's preparedness to accept God's agenda and timetable.

"But David thought to himself, "One of these days I will be destroyed by the hand of Saul. The best thing I can do is to escape to the land of the Philistines." 1 Samuel 27:1

In this verse we see that David is feeling discouraged by Saul continued attempts to kill him. Prior to this there have been two incidents recorded where David had the opportunity to kill Saul. "Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul's robe." (1 Samuel 24:4) and "So David took the spear and water jug near Saul's head, and they left" (1 Samuel 26:12). David had already been anointed by Samuel and knew that God wanted him to be king and he had ample opportunity to bring it about. Yet David knew it would be wrong to take matters into his own hands and kill Saul. David said, "The Lord himself will strike him (Saul); either his time will come and he will die, or he will go into battle and perish. But the Lord forbid that I should lay a hand on the Lord's anointed" (1 Samuel 26:10).

This is such a different attitude to the one Abraham had in Genesis 16:1-3. Abraham took circumstances into his own hands and had a child by Hagar, in order to bring God's promises into existence by human means. Abraham created much hatred and tension because he didn't wait for God's timetable.

David became king in God's time and according to God's agenda. In Psalm 27:14 David encourages us to "Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord." How encouraging it is to reflect on David's experience of having to wait to be made king when we need to wait for God's timing.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

Devotional Thought : Psalm 109:6

This is the second in a series of 8 devotional thoughts about David. It looks at how the second beatitude, "Blessed are those who mourn", is seen in David's life and considers David's emotional honesty.

"Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right hand". Psalm 109:6

David was never afraid to express his emotions to God as many of the psalms would indicate. This one in particular David is not afraid to tell God exactly what he thinks God should do with this "wicked and deceitful" person". David goes on, "may his days be few" ... "may his children be fatherless" ... "may a creditor seize all he has" ... "may no one extend kindness to him". David is obviously very angry with this person and he is not hiding it.

There are other incidents in David's life where he shows his emotions. He wept many tears over his friendship with Jonathan as seen in 1 Samuel 20:41, "Then they kissed each other and wept together - but David wept the most".

David wasn't afraid to show his emotions but Christians I find are often more guarded. God knows how we feel whether we choose to tell Him or not and nothing we feel ever comes as a surprise to Him. Opening ourselves up to God with our negative emotions gives God the opportunity to pour His comfort and healing into our lives. If we don't admit we are mourning or hurting we can't receive His comfort.

Somehow we have a strange idea that we as Christians we need to always appear like we have no problems. But God never said we wouldn't have problems He promised His presence, strength and grace to be with us whatever we were going through. If we put on a happy face we often come across as not being genuine. Jesus never faked it. He admitted to anguish, sorrow, hunger, thirst, tiredness. We need to follow his example and be emotionally honest.

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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Devotional Thought : 2 Samuel 7:18-19

This is the first in a series of 8 devotional thoughts about David. Each thought is loosely based on one of the beatitudes, looking at how each of the beatitudes were displayed in David's life. The first one looks at humility in line with "Blessed are the poor in spirit."

"Who am I, O Sovereign Lord, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far? ... Is this your usual way of dealing with man, O Sovereign Lord?" 2 Samuel 7:18-19

This prayer of David is a response to Nathan's report where God makes this promise to David, "Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me, your throne will be established forever" (v.16). David is amazed God would bless him like this.

David never forgot where he came from. Remembering where we have come from tends to make us either humble or proud. Humble if we recognize God's hand or pride if we think we have achieved in our own strength. David acknowledges all he is and has is the result of God's will and purpose (v.21).

David humility was evident too earlier in his life when his mighty men broke through Philistine lines to drew water from the well near the gate of Bethlehem (2 Samuel 23:15-17). But David's men didn't realize that David request for this water wasn't to be taken literally. David would not drink the water his men brought for him and poured it out before the Lord. His response made seem ungrateful but he didn't want his men unnecessarily risking their lives for him. In pouring out the water before the Lord, David is saying only God is worthy of the sort of risk his men took. I am just a man like you.

David was God's anointed king and David knew he had not got there by his own good management or good deeds. It was God's appointment. We too need to remember all we have, even our next breath, is the result of God's blessing on our lives.

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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas

A few weeks ago I wrote my annual Christmas letter to family and friends it started like this:

I thought I would send my Christmas letter early this year to let you know our change of address as well as the many other changes in our lives this year. Our family has grown from five to seven with two marriages, we have all moved house and most of the family has had a major change of occupation – which is rather a lot of changes for one year!

So it has been a jam-packed year and I am really looking forward to a break. In January this year we arranged to have three weeks holiday directly after this Christmas (which is the summer school holidays in Australia). This was unusual for us since these days we don't have children at home, but we had decided to go to Perth for the Hopman Cup (tennis tournament). Therefore I'm not going to around here much over the next few weeks. However I wanted to keep posting to my blog during this time so I have revamped a series of devotional articles I wrote about David. Some time ago I was studying the Beatitudes and figured if David was a man after God's own heart then the beatitudes should be evident in David's life. My plan is to post one of these thoughts every 3 or 4 days providing I am able to find an internet connection. Well, that's the plan …

Best wishes for Christmas to all who come by here.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Devotional Thought : 1 Timothy 3:16

Beyond all question, the mystery of godliness is great: He appeared in a body … 1 Timothy 3:16

At Christmas we celebrate Jesus coming in a body as a baby. Yet if we stop and ask why, we face a great mystery. Why would God pinpoint a time in the history of the world to send His Son from the glories of heaven to a world wrecked by sin? It is not a question with a straightforward answer.

God's investment of time and effort on the human race seems completely unwarranted. The cost is high – the life of His Son and the returns seem low – so many rejected Him then and they reject Him now. We conclude it is because of God's great love yet we need to pray for the power "to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ" Ephesians 3:18. For such love has no parallel in human history.

How do we explain to a disbelieving world that there is a God who loves so deeply? A holy being who would dare to come to earth and be treated so poorly without retaliation. A majestic being who would identify so totally with his creation and suffer massive humiliation. A divine being who could demand allegiance but instead prefers to woo his creation.

In the film, Keeping Mum, Rowan Atkinson plays the part of a minister and delivers a surprisingly good sermon on God's mysterious ways. He quotes from Isaiah 55, "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways" then Atkinson remarks "God is saying, 'I’m mysterious. Live with it!'"

The only thing to do with such mystery is to marvel. This Christmas lets marvel again – The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. John 1:14

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Monday, December 17, 2007

Devotional Thought : Colossians 2:23

Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. Colossians 2:23

Paul is referring to "human commands and teachings" and hits on the reason why man made rules are so attractive - they have the appearance of wisdom. They appear to be spiritual. They appear to be beneficial. We think by legislating for good behaviour we are promoting God's cause. However God has a higher goal.

Consider the impact of rule keeping on people's lives. If we manage to do what we perceive as good we easily become proud and self-righteous. If we fail to do what we perceive as good we condemn and disqualify ourselves. Neither outcome is what God intends. Man made rules turn out to be grossly lacking in value.

I read this quote by Dwight Edwards recently: The key to the Christian life is not obedience to God's standards. That statement may sound like out-and-out heresy to you, so let me hasten to say that obedience to God's standards is a hugely important part of Christian living. One cannot honestly read the New Testament without coming to this conclusion. But in true spirituality, obedience to God's standards is the by-product and inevitable result of something that's centrally more important …God's foremost calling for your life is a passionate and deepening love affair with His Son. When this is in place, God's standards will take care of themselves.

We need to place the priorities where God places them. Not on an outward adherence to standards of behaviour that has the appearance of wisdom but rather on an heart relationship with Jesus where His love permeates everything we do.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Book Review : Shattered Dreams, pt 2



Larry Crabb draws on the story of Naomi from the book of Ruth as a backdrop for his book, Shattered Dreams : God's unexpected pathway to joy (WaterBrook Press, 2001). Naomi returns to Bethlehem with her dreams of domestic bliss in tatters. Her husband is dead and so are both her sons. Yet we find God is still working in her life and by the end of the story she is a contented grandmother. Crabb writes about why God allows our dreams to be shattered and about His purposes when we go through times of suffering.

Knowing how I felt when my own dreams have been shattered it was encouraging to reflect and realize God has indeed been doing a work in my life during those difficult times. God's goal is to help us towards a deeper relationship with Himself whereas we would simply like a comfortable pain free life. When God does not relieve our pain in the way we think He ought it pushes us on a journey towards a more authentic faith. Our pain no matter how excruciating is only temporary in God's larger scheme of things. Crabb tells many stories of people he has met plus incidents from the Bible to explain his message.

A bit heavy going at times but overall a good read.

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Monday, December 10, 2007

Devotional Thought : Colossians 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God. Colossians 1:15

This thought is repeated in the next chapter v.9 "For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form" and again in Hebrews 1:3 "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being."

Sometimes we struggle with this. We view Jesus as kind and compassionate but we read the Old Testament and conclude God is stern and callous. Yet Jesus is the exact representation of God. How can this be?

Shortly after becoming a Christian I was encouraged to read the whole Bible in my first year, which I did. I remember reading the prophets but because of my lack of knowledge of Jewish history I incorrectly assumed that God's people were constantly being sent into exile. It seemed to me that God was constantly warning them and they were not responding. In my mind's eye I saw God's people walking back and forward across the desert being taken into captivity and then being released. It was years later that I learnt there were only two exiles and each group of God's people was only exiled once. I was surprised. It made me realize how compassionate and merciful God was – just like Jesus.

Our minds seem to gravitate towards occasions in the Old Testament where God enact His judgement. We are shocked with the brutality of His actions because we overlook His deep offence at people's sin. We are so accustom to our sins and His forgiveness that our minds fail to notice the more numerous times where He shows mercy.

A day is coming when we will again see God enact His judgement. However we can trust in God's character, He will act justly but He is also compassionate and merciful.

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Friday, December 07, 2007

Book Review : Shattered Dreams, pt 1

This morning while working at the library I found Larry Crabb's book, Shattered Dreams (WaterBrook Press, 2001) on the shelf which was a surprise. (Not many genuine Christian books find their way onto the shelves of an Australian public library). So I borrowed it and at lunchtime I read the introduction. This is part of what I read:

We have our own ideas about what a good God should do in the middle of our circumstances, ideas that stretch all the way from opening a space in a crowded parking lot near the mall's entrance to funding our ministry dreams to straightening out our kids to giving us a negative biopsy report. It's those ideas that get in the way of our realizing what goodness really is … The highest dream we could ever dream, the wish that if granted would make us happier than any other blessing, is to know God, to actually experience Him. The problem is that we don't believe this idea is true. We assent to it in our heads. But we don't feel it in our hearts.

Crabb begins his book by saying there are three ideas that fill his mind as he writes. These are:
1. God wants to bless us
2. The deepest pleasure we're capable of experiencing is a direct encounter with God
3. God uses the pain of shattered dreams to help us discover our desire for God, to help us begin dreaming the highest dream.

So far Crabb has aroused my curiosity, let's hope he delivers.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Devotional Thought : Philippians 4:8

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right … if anything is excellent or praiseworthy think about such things. Philippians 4:8

We see a small example of this in Hebrews 11:19 where Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead. Abraham had never seen God raise the dead but he was thinking about what was true about God. Nothing is impossible to God so Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead.

In difficult times it helps to focus on those things God can do rather than on all the problems. God can raise the dead; He can calm the storms; He can make time stand still; He can create everything or anything out of nothing; He can restore the years the locusts have eaten away. Nothing is too difficult for God. He can make a way when there appears to be no way.

Paul gives us good advice in this verse from Philippians. Think about the positives. It helps encourages our faith and promotes creative ideas. If we think something is a lost cause our minds don't even consider a positive outcome.

If we need to forgive someone, we can think of the positives. Often people who hurt us have no idea they have done so, it helps to say, like Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34)."

If our prayers seem unanswered, we can remember trials come so that our faith may be proved genuine (1 Peter 1:7). So we think about the truth that God has something good in mind. God is treating us like true sons and not illegitimate children (Hebrews 12:8).

So today I would encourage you to think about those things which are true, noble, right and generally positive.

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