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Feeling Under-Qualified? Excellent! Make a Start!

Reading: Judges 6

Scripture

When the angel of the Lord appeared to Gideon, he said, “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior. ” “But sir,” Gideon replied… Judges 6:12-13a NIV

Observations

“But sir…” Surely you have made a mistake? How can you say “the Lord is with you” when we are being so oppressed by all these Midianites? We are impoverished! Our land is being ravaged!

And sir, how can you call me “mighty warrior”? “My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family.”

The “facts” of the situation, at least as Gideon perceived them, did not seem to line up with this truth that God was speaking.

Gideon's version of the truth was clearly based on things other than God's word to him: His circumstances, his fears, his experiences up to that point. All of these things caused him to doubt.

But God was insistent: “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian's hand. Am I not sending you?” (Judges 6:14). God seemed to be speaking from some 'alternative reality' that Gideon was not yet able to see. The story as it goes on reveals that Gideon took quite some convincing before he finally mustered enough courage to take God at his word and obey him fully.

But obey him he did. Despite feeling supremely under-qualified, Gideon made a start. And having made that start, “Then the Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon, and he blew a trumpet, summoning the Abiezrites to follow him.” (Judges 6:34).

It was the beginning of a wonderful victory where two things became abundantly clear: The Lord was indeed with Gideon, and Gideon was indeed a mighty warrior. Who would have thought!

Application

Romans 4:17 tells me this: Our God is a God who “calls things that are not as though they were.” If God calls me to do something, he will equip me. It doesn't matter what my circumstances are. It doesn't matter what experiences (or lack of them) I have had up to that point. It doesn't matter how under-qualified I feel. If God calls me to do something, he will equip me.

It's up to me to obey by simply making a start. The rest is up to him.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for your calling on my life. Thank you for your promises and for the potential that they hold. Thank you that the truths revealed in your Word are so much more solid than the apparent 'facts' of my current experience. I choose to believe those truths, to declare them out loud, and to step out in faith as you call me to obey.

 

And the Antidote to Stress is…

Reading: Psalm 138

Scripture

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes, with your right hand you save me. Psalm 138:7 NIV

Observations

I love this verse. I imagine myself walking calmly through a storm, surrounded by dangers and troubles, with “baddies” coming at me from all directions. And God is there walking along beside me, swatting them all away!

God never promises me a life free of trouble. Quite the opposite, in fact! If I am truly following in Jesus' footsteps, I can expect the same opposition and persecution he faced.

But, “Though I walk in the midst of trouble, [God will] preserve my life; [he will] stretch out [his] hand against the anger of my foes, with [his] right hand [he will] save me.” I need never fear trouble, nor the anger of those who would oppose me because of my faith, because God is with me, and he is good. Always.

Application

If I'm to expect trouble, I might as well prepare for it. Walking through a time of trouble can feel like walking through a minefield. Yes, God promises to be with me, and to guide my every step, but all those problems can be stressful. How should I deal with that?

With thankfulness. It's my secret weapon against fear and anxiety! There is always something to be thankful for. And when I thank God for all the good things in my life, my focus moves off my problems and onto God's goodness. Instead of being overwhelmed by my problems, I can be overjoyed by God's love!

I can thank God not just for the good I have experienced, but for his promises. Thankfulness is a great way to declare truth. The promises of God are always greater than my “light and momentary troubles”, and declaring them can turn apparent defeat into glorious victory.

The truth of God is always greater than the 'facts' of my current circumstances.

No wonder Paul says, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I have so much to thank you for. I choose to focus not on my problems, but on your goodness. Help me to develop a one-track mind which turns by habit immediately to thankfulness.

 

Out of the Book, and Into Our Mouth!

Scripture

Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth… Joshua 1:8a NIV

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17 NIV

Observations

God's Word is made up of words! The Holy Spirit wields those words as I read and invite him to speak into my life.

But I too can wield those words, by speaking them out. They are a sword in my mouth, to attack and defend. They have power to counter the discouragement and lies of the evil one, and to action things in the spiritual realm. Along with my other armour, they allow me to stand firm.

Application

One thing is certain: For the Word of God to become my sword, its words need to get out of the Book and into my mouth! I need to speak them! Out loud! Which means I have to know them. Or at least know of them and be able to find them.

New Christians need a few key Bible verses from Day 1 to establish their faith and deal with the inevitable attack of the enemy.

Those who receive healing, whether emotional or physical, need to be given scriptures they can speak out in order to keep what they have received. The enemy is all too happy to steal our healing back. Let's fend him off!

We all need Scripture in our mouths as we pray, so that we truly pray in the authority God has given us. Let's not be ineffectual in our prayers.

And whenever we read the Word, speaking it out helps us to action it. In good times and in hard times.

I recall a friend telling me of a dark time in her life, when all her foundations seemed to be falling away. During that time, God gave her the 23rd Psalm. It became her lifeline. She read it over and over. It was in her heart and in her mouth, and in time she passed through that dark valley to once again enjoy the light.

God's word can't stay in the Book. It needs to get into our hearts, and out through our mouths. Only then can it truly change our lives, and those of others.

Prayer

Praise be to you, O Lord; teach me your decrees. With my lips I recount all the laws that come from your mouth. I rejoice in following your statutes as one rejoices in great riches. I meditate on your precepts and consider your ways. I delight in your decrees; I will not neglect your word. Psalm 119:12-16 NIV

For some great ideas about how to get the best from your time in the Bible, you might like to check out The Bible: Where Do I Start? and What is SOAP? Or perhaps you have some great tips yourself you'd like to share. Why not share them on one of these pages!

 

Re-Calibrating Me

Reading: Colossians 3:1-17

Scripture

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Colossians 3:1-4 (NIV)

Observations

The old me is dead. I “died with Christ” (Colossians 2:20), and then three days later, I was “raised with Christ” (Colossians 3:1). This happened at a specific moment in history nearly 2,000 years ago, but I got to “share in it” when I made my own personal decision to accept Jesus as my Lord, and be baptised. With that burial and resurrection, I became a brand new person, a “new creation”. Home is no longer where it was. My new permanent address is now “hidden with Christ in God”.

But with this monumental shift in the spiritual realm comes the realisation that all my old settings need to be re calibrated – the way I think, the way I respond, my priorities, my focus, the things I pursue – everything.

Calibrate: Correlate the readings (of an instrument) with those of a standard in order to check the instrument's accuracy; adjust to take external factors into account; carefully assess, set or adjust.

Application

It's still happening, this Re-calibration. In fact, the more time goes by, the more I discover in my heart and mind that doesn't correlate with those of the 'Standard'. As I read my Bible, I keep becoming aware of things in me that don't line up with the way that Jesus is, or his expectations of me.

Yet I don't feel guilt. Rather I feel hunger. I find that I am wearing some old attitude that I suddenly, desperately want to get rid of. I see a standard of faith that I fall woefully short of, and I desperately want my faith to grow to meet that new standard. I discover once again that God desires intimacy with me, and I long to go deeper in my relationship with him.

What a wonderful privilege to have the Spirit of God doing this work in me. He really is re-calibrating me. It's as I turn my heart and my thoughts toward him that he truly can have full reign to do his work. Coming before him as I read my Bible, setting aside time to walk and talk with him, and choosing in all my decisions to honour my declared devotion to him – these things open the way for God to reset and restore everything in my life that needs putting right. How good is that!

Prayer

Holy Spirit, I offer myself into your hands, and say, “Have your way.” Please re-calibrate me so that I might be like Jesus. I want to love like him, and be pure in every thought and motivation. Jesus, I thank you that my future is now in your hands, and for the privilege of being able to walk with you now, and every day. Come, Lord Jesus!

 

All the Treasures of Wisdom and Knowledge…

Reading: Colossians 2

Scripture

…that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2a-3 (NIV)

Observations

To discover Jesus is to discover “the mystery of God”. He is “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints [that's us who have believed]. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27).

I picture this mystery of God as being like a bulb in the ground which over “ages and generations” sent up its shoot and grew. In time a plump flower head developed, and all who sought God wondered, “What will the flower look like?” Not until Jesus came and died and then rose from the dead did the flower finally open fully to reveal God's wonderful plan for us. And the plan was Jesus. In him, a living intimate relationship with God can begin as we discover the “surpassing riches of God's grace.”

In hindsight, the plan of God can be seen right through the Old Testament, but how wonderful it is to discover for ourselves the “glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in [us], the hope of glory.”

Application

It's interesting that “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are “hidden” in Christ. They are not just 'lying on the ground' waiting to be casually picked up. They are only found as I earnestly seek Jesus, searching the written Word to discover the “living Word”, reaching out for him in prayer, and looking to the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Jesus to me.

There is so much more to this “mystery of God” than just the initial discovery. Having found Jesus, I am like an explorer in the desert who has discovered a great archaeological treasure protruding through the sand. Having found it, I start to dig to discover more of what lies hidden below, initially with an excavator, then a spade, then a small trowel, and finally a brush as the beauty and intricacy of the treasure is revealed.

This is not some small artefact to be added to my collection of wisdom and knowledge, but a whole kingdom, a lifetime's worth of treasure hidden in Christ and waiting for me to uncover and enjoy and marvel at.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, what a privilege that you should open the way for me to know you. I long to know more of you. Thank you for your written Word. I pray that as I read it and ponder on it, you would reveal yourself to me in increasing measure, and bless me with the wisdom and knowledge that are to be found in you.

 

God’s Increasing Revelation of Himself

Reading: Luke 7:1 – 8:18

Scripture

“And the seeds that fell on the good soil represent honest, good-hearted people who hear God’s word, cling to it, and patiently produce a huge harvest.

“No one lights a lamp and then covers it with a bowl or hides it under a bed. A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house. For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.

“So pay attention to how you hear. To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” Luke 8:14-18 (NLT)

Observations

In Matthew 5, when Jesus talks about not hiding a lamp under a bowl, he is encouraging me to 'let my light shine before men'. But in Luke, the 'lamp under a bowl' illustration is used in a different context, being just one part of a longer passage on listening and responding to the word of God. (See Luke 8:4-18).

Jesus starts with the Parable of the Sower, about how four different types of “soil” respond to the word of God (the “Good News about the Kingdom of God” which Jesus is “sowing” as he travels around). He then uses the lamp under the bowl illustration to say that God has no intention of hiding his light from me. One day, all will be revealed, but His clear intention is to increasingly reveal his light to me now.

In view of this, Jesus challenges me to consider carefully how I listen. Because, “To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what they think they understand will be taken away from them.” So this whole passage is really about God's initial and ongoing revelation of himself to me, and how I respond to that revelation.

Application

“To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given.” What a wonderful promise! The more I seek to know and understand God, the more God will reveal himself to me. The more I meditate on his word, the more understanding I will be given. God doesn't reveal all of himself to me at once, but in greater and greater measure as I seek him and respond to him. And the closer I get to the light, the brighter it becomes. “The path of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, shining ever brighter till the full light of day.” (Proverbs 4:18).

The result of all this will be fruitfulness, “a crop that [will be] a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Luke 8:8).

Prayer

Lord God, I am hungry to know you more! Thank you that your purpose is to reveal yourself to me. I want this! I don't just want to know about you – I want to know you personally, and deeply. Please draw me closer in my walk with you each day, and as I get to know you more, may my mind and my heart be transformed, and that transformation be outworked in my everyday life.

“You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:13

“For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” Matthew 7:8

For more on listening and responding to God's word, see What is SOAP? and Nourishing the Inner Man – George Müller inspires me!

 

Nourishing the Inner Man – George Müller inspires me!

Recently I read a biography of a wonderful man of faith, George Müller, who lived from 1805 to 1898. His life “mission” was to show the world that God is the same God today that he always was, and that we can trust him for everything. Over the course of his lifetime, he built orphanages that housed over 2000 children at once, not to mention feeding them and providing for all their needs. 121,000 pupils studied at schools that he funded through a society he set up; 281,000 Bibles and 1.4 million New Testaments were printed and distributed; several hundred missionaries were financially supported to varying degrees; and he funded the printing and distribution of 111 million Scriptural books, pamphlets and tracts.

He was able to do all this despite having no formal income. He never had a salary, and never asked anyone for money. He never publicised his needs, and never took up an offering. Instead, he simply prayed in faith and asked God directly for everything he needed. And God answered him. The orphanages themselves were a testimony to his generation that God is alive and that he does indeed supply our needs when we pray in faith, and many were inspired to a more vital and living faith in their God. I too am inspired, having read his story.

Though published in 1898 (the copy I read was 101 years old), this book for me has been a treasure trove of inspiration, and I wanted to share one of the keys which he found so valuable in his relationship with God. Here it is, in his own words:

“Whilst I was staying at Nailsworth (1841) it pleased the Lord to teach me a truth irrespective of human instrumentality, as far as I know. The point is this – I saw more clearly than ever that the first great and primary business to which I ought to attend every day was to have my soul happy in the Lord. The first thing to be concerned about was not how much I could serve the Lord, how I might glorify the Lord, but how I might get my soul into a happy state, and how my inner man might be nourished. For I might seek to set the truth before the unconverted, I might seek to benefit believers, I might seek to relieve the distressed, I might in other ways seek to behave myself as becomes a child of God in this world, and yet, not being happy in the Lord, and not being nourished and strengthened in my inner man day by day, all this might not be attended to in a right spirit.

Before this time my practice had been, at least for ten years previously, to give myself to prayer after dressing myself in the morning. Now I saw that the most important thing I had to do was to give myself to the reading of the word of God and to meditation on it that thus my heart might be comforted, encouraged, warned, reproved, instructed, and that thus, by means of the word of God, whilst meditating on it, my heart might be brought into experimental communion with the Lord.

I began therefore to meditate on the New Testament from the beginning early in the morning. The first thing I did, after having asked in a few words the Lord's blessing upon His precious word, was to begin to meditate on the word of God, searching as it were into every verse to get blessing out of it, not for the sake of the public ministry of the word, not for the sake of preaching on what I had meditated upon, but for the sake of obtaining good for my own soul.

The result I have found to be almost invariably this, that very soon my soul has been led to confession, or to thanksgiving, or to intercession, or to supplication – so that, though I did not, as it were, give myself to prayer, but to meditation, yet it turned almost immediately more or less into prayer. When thus I have been for a while making confession, or intercession, or supplication, or have given thanks, I go on to the next word or verse, turning all as I go on into prayer for myself and others, as the word may lead to it, but still continually keeping before me that food for my own soul is the object of my meditation.

The result of this is that there is always a good deal of confession, thanksgiving, supplication, or intercession mingled with my meditation, and that my inner man almost invariably is even sensibly nourished and strengthened, and that by breakfast time, with rare exceptions, I am in a peaceful, if not happy, state of heart.

Thus also the Lord is pleased to communicate unto me that which, either very soon after or at a later time, I have found to become food for other believers, though it was not for the sake of the public ministry of the word that I gave myself to meditation, but for the profit of my own inner man . . . I dwell so particularly on this point because of the immense spiritual profit and refreshment I am conscious of having derived from it myself, and I affectionately and solemnly beseech all my fellow believers to ponder this matter.”

– George Müller (1805-1898), from the book “George Müller, The Modern Apostle of Faith” by Frederick G. Warne, published 1898.

 

Walking in “Promise Land”

Reading: Joshua 14

Scripture

So on that day Moses swore to me, ‘The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance and that of your children forever, because you have followed the Lord my God wholeheartedly. Joshua 14:9 (NIV)

Observations

The land on which Caleb's feet had walked was the very land God had promised to Abraham and his descendants hundreds of years earlier. Twelve men were sent out by Moses to spy out that land – Caleb, Joshua and ten others. Two of them had seen a land of opportunity, “flowing with milk and honey”. But the other ten had seen men like giants living in fortified cities, and their report made the hearts of the people “melt with fear”.

Whereas Joshua and Caleb viewed everything in the light of God's promise, their colleagues' eyes were darkened by fear and doubt. Perhaps they just didn't know God well enough to trust him. Perhaps they hadn't truly yielded themselves to God despite the amazing miracles they had seen him perform.

Nonetheless, the same promise of God was made to them all. Joshua and Caleb took the promise to heart, and prepared to take it in hand. They acted on their wholehearted belief that God was faithful, and their faith was richly rewarded. But the half-hearted were left empty-handed.

Application

What a difference it makes to view the world in the light of God's promises! It changes my perspective completely, like a new pair of glasses, bringing a confidence and hope that draws me out of my comfort zone, out beyond what I can achieve in my own strength, and into all the plans and purposes that God has for my life.

As I write this, I am aware of how quickly I jumped to condemn the ten fearful men, from the comfort of my armchair… Would I have acted differently? How am I responding myself to the promises of God as revealed in his Word? I suspect there is much “promise land” I have yet to walk on. And yet my strong desire is to walk there. Lead me on, Lord!

Prayer

Yes Lord, lead me on! Cut me loose from my fears and insecurity, and help me to live my life on the strength of your promises. Thank you for your written Word the Bible, and for all the promises it contains. Infuse my heart with the truth those promises contain, and may they be fulfilled in my life.

“The land on which your feet have walked will be your inheritance…”

See also, Confidence and Tumbleweed (If Trees Could Walk)

 

Wisdom – the Never Ending Conversation

Reading: Psalm 106-111

Scripture

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all who follow his precepts have good understanding. To him belongs eternal praise. Psalm 111:10 (NIV)

Observations

From the moment I submit myself to God, he begins to renew and restore me. I begin to change! I start to understand things the way that God understands them. I start to think the way that God thinks. Wrong thinking makes way for truth as my mind is renewed, and my character becomes Christ-like. I'm not becoming more intelligent – I'm becoming wise.

In many ways, wisdom is akin to righteousness. It is thinking and behaving just as God intends. It's an inner condition that brings outer harmony. When wisdom and righteousness abound, everything works as designed and things are as they should be. There is wholeness and there is holiness. But wisdom isn't complete in me the moment I commit my life to God – the fear of the Lord is just “the beginning of wisdom”. Rather, it's the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit in my life that brings about this wonderful transformation.

Application

The more open communication there can be between God and me, the more opportunity there will be for my heart and mind to be transformed and for wisdom to grow. I can seek an audience with God! I can open my heart to God, inviting him to instruct me and counsel me (see Psalm 32:8). Though it seems unbelievable, I can even ask God to open his heart to me, that I might see and understand his thoughts and his ways.

Intimacy = “into me see”. I need to seek this intimacy with God not just as I read his Word, or spend focused time in prayer or worship, but also in the midst of every day, in all the goings-on of my life – a never ending conversation of love and transformation.

Prayer

Thank you Father that your good pleasure is to pour out your love and grace upon me. I welcome you, and ask that as you perfect holiness in me, you will adorn me not just with holiness but also with wisdom.

My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding, and if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God. For the Lord gives wisdom, and from his mouth come knowledge and understanding. Proverbs 2:1-6 (NIV)

For a wonderful read about the pursuit of wisdom, see Job 28.

See also, The Bible: Where Do I Start?

 

When There’s a Fire in Your Bones

Reading: Jeremiah 17:19 – 23:8

Scripture

But if I say, “I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,” his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot. Jeremiah 20:9-10 (NIV)

Observations

Poor Jeremiah. No doubt he's smiling now, but you really have to read “Jeremiah's Complaint” in Jeremiah 20:7-18 to appreciate how miserable he was. Yes, he was on fire, but everyone just wanted to put him out.

The people of God had lost their first love. “Yes yes, Lord,” they said, but their hearts were far away, worshiping other gods and letting justice fall by the wayside. And so it fell to Jeremiah to bring God's dire warnings to the people. They, however, appreciated neither the message nor the messenger, and had Jeremiah beaten and put in the stocks.

It's hardly surprising then that Jeremiah found himself feeling angry and depressed, and apparently reluctant at times to share what God gave him. Had the people listened and accepted God's message, it would have been a completely different story. How satisfying that would have been for Jeremiah, how rewarding to see the nation turning back to God. But instead, he was shunned, just as God was – the servant like his master.

Nevertheless, Jeremiah was no Jonah. He couldn't run away because he simply couldn't hold God's message in. It was like fire in his bones, and no matter how much he was mocked and ridiculed, no one could put the fire out, not even himself.

Application

It's reassuring to see that even some of God's “major prophets” struggled. As I get to know Jeremiah from his writings (Jeremiah and Lamentations), I find myself liking him very much. I would like to have been around to encourage him and stand with him. Even in the midst of loneliness and difficulty, his passion for God was unquenchable.

But in the midst of his anguish, I see that Jeremiah did two things: He committed his cause to God, and he took his complaints to God. I can do the same. There is simply no point in running away, or in seeking solace elsewhere. God is the only one worth running to, and the only one who can truly meet me at my point of need.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for Jeremiah. (I'd like to meet him one day!) As I walk this earth, please help me to never let go of you, and to always seek you first when I'm troubled. Hold me fast in that day so that like Jeremiah, I might finish the race, and finish it well.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” Lamentations 3:21-25 (NIV)

See also Thrown in the Deep End, and To Him Who Overcomes

 

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