Blog Archives

What God Yearns For — A Heart Inclined Toward Him

Reading: Deuteronomy 5 — 8

Scripture

Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever! Deuteronomy 5:29 NIV

Observations

God so wants to bless us! He yearns for it. “Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me … that it might go well with them…”

If my heart is “inclined” toward him — to delight in him, to please him, to obey the promptings of his Spirit — and as I persist with this, God will release his blessing and favour into my life. This is his heart-felt desire and purpose, as expressed in his words above, but it is the inclination of my heart that determines how much his desire for me is fulfilled.

It's as though his desire to bless and bestow favour is pent up, just waiting for the opportunity to be let out. And the inclination of my heart is the key that opens the flood gates of his goodness. No wonder God wants my devotion!

So how do I incline my heart toward God?

Application

Inclination: A disposition or bent, especially of the mind or will; a liking or preference; to deviate from the horizontal or vertical; to lean or bend in a particular direction.

That definition brings to mind certain flowers that turn toward the sun. They don't just stand stock still, pointing straight upwards and unmoved by the sun's presence. Instead, the flower head turns toward the sun and follows it as it moves across the sky. As it does so, the stalk is compelled to bend as well, so that the whole plant becomes inclined toward its glorious source of life and nourishment.

The more closely and consistently that flower can orient itself toward the sun, the greater the “blessing” it receives.

It's the same with me. Not that I can earn God's blessing — it comes as a free gift — but that the degree to which my heart is turned towards him will actually determine how much he is able to bless me.

Prayer

Father, when I hear your heart's cry for me, I can't help but want to respond — to offer my life wholeheartedly into your hands; to offer to you alone my affection and my devotion. Holy Spirit, help me to hear your voice and feel your promptings. I want my mind and my heart to be fully and always oriented to Jesus, to enjoy his presence and to obey him.

 

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.

 

“Speak To That Rock!” — On Praying With Authority

Reading: Numbers 20:1-13

Scripture

The Lord said to Moses, “Take the staff, and you and your brother Aaron gather the assembly together. Speak to that rock before their eyes and it will pour out its water. You will bring water out of the rock for the community so they and their livestock can drink.”

Then Moses raised his arm and struck the rock twice with his staff. Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank.

But the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honour me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.” Numbers 20:7-8, 11-12 NIV

Observations

Moses' good old staff was tried and tested. With it he had turned the Nile river to blood and parted the sea. It was familiar, and he trusted it. He knew that God was going to bring water out of the rock, and so hitting it with his trusty stick was well within his experience.

But God hadn't told Moses to strike the rock with his stick. He had told him to speak to the rock. This was something new — an authority Moses wasn't used to. I imagine him wondering, “Can I really do this? Would it be right? Will my spoken word alone actually be enough to release God's power?”

I note that God didn't tell Moses, “Pray and ask me to bring forth water.” He specifically told him, “Speak to that rock.” Jesus has something similar to say to us:

“I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, `Go, throw yourself into the sea,' and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.” Mark 11:23 NIV

It seems that in bringing things to pass, Jesus spent little time speaking about those things, and much time speaking to them. And just as God told Moses “Speak to that rock”, Jesus teaches us now to “Speak to that mountain.”

Application

Speaking to things instead of praying about them takes a bit of getting used to. Like a child standing on the edge of the garden shed roof in a Superman suit, there comes a nagging feeling, “Can I really fly?”

Can I really speak this mountain and have it move? Can I really speak to this sickness and command it to go? Do I really have authority to command a blessing, or to break the power of a stronghold?

For most of my life, I have simply asked God to work on my behalf. Just as Moses had his trusty staff, 'prayers of petition' have been mine — my tried and tested method. There's nothing wrong with having a trusty staff. Look at what God said to Moses: “Take your staff”. It was important. Just as my prayers of petition are.

But then God said something new: “Speak to the rock”. I feel that God is bringing the same command to his children today, revealing afresh the authority we have been given. The truth of that authority hasn't changed, but the appreciation of it has the potential to change everything.

Prayer

Lord God, I want to honour you with my obedience to your promptings. I pray for courage, that I might step out in faith at your command. Please teach me more of the authority I have in Jesus, and help me to walk in it, that your glory might be revealed to all.

See also an earlier post on this theme, Walking in Authority

 

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.

 

God is NOT like a WiFi Hotspot

Reading: Psalm 139

Scripture

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast. Psalm 139:7-11 (NIV)

Observations

The presence of God is not like a WiFi hotspot. I can go wherever I like, even to furthest-away places imaginable, and still be connected. And, I can go way beyond my comfort zone and be no less supported by God than if I was right here in my sweet spot. Yes, “even there [in the farthest reaches of my world], your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

The problem is, my sense of confidence is still partially founded on my own limited skill set rather than on God's infinite power. I know this to be the case because I have a “comfort zone”, and when I go beyond it, I get anxious.

If I really had fully accepted the truth of God's constant love and presence, I wouldn't have a comfort zone. Instead, I would feel comfortable everywhere. I would certainly still have a “competence zone”, but beyond that I could nonetheless rest in the knowledge that “even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.”

As it is, my competence actually comes from God anyway, whether I'm working within my own gifts and abilities or not.

So the current situation is this: The all-knowing all-powerful God of the universe loves me and is with me 24 hours per day, but my sense of competence and security is still, to some degree, based on my own limited natural abilities. Hmm…

Application

When I'm considering, “Can I do this thing?”, my default setting is to measure the task against the “possibility-limiting hurdle” of my own capabilities. But when I do this, it simply shuts me down, squashing my trust in God and capping the level of my obedience. I will never step into all that God has for me with this approach.

Clearly my default setting needs to be changed! What if I ask the question, “Can God do this thing?” The answer will invariably be “Yes!”, which really opens things up! Getting over my own inadequacy puts me in a much better position to decide what I should do. Because fear will no longer be part of the equation, nor my own limitations, but rather, God's enabling presence. What a refreshing place to be!

Prayer

Lord God, I want my confidence to be totally in you. I want to live the life of faith. I confess that fear has sometimes limited my obedience to your promptings. Please help me as I say, No more! Fear, be gone! Holy Spirit, I give you permission to lead me. Wherever we're going, whatever we're doing, I am willing.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. Psalm 139:23-24 (NIV)

Why not read the whole of Psalm 139! It's such a good reminder of God's constant presence, and of his intimate love and concern for each one of us.

 

Faith Isn’t Just Believing – It’s Expecting!

Reading: Luke 8:19-56

Scripture

The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” Luke 8:24-25 (NIV)

Observations

“Where is your faith?” [Didn't you know I could do that? You could have too with faith]. Jesus clearly expected his disciples to have faith. He often rebuked them for lack of it. Yet when faith was present, all heaven broke loose! People were healed. Miracles were performed. Hope was kindled where once there was despair.

All through the gospels I see that it was faith that released the power and presence of God. And Jesus makes it exceedingly clear that if I have faith to believe, I too can receive from God! Not only that, if I have faith to believe, I can in Jesus' name do the same things that he did, releasing his power to heal and to save. The very idea would be preposterous but for the fact that Jesus himself said it, and repeated it over and over. The power of God is released by our faith.

“According to your faith will it be done to you.” Matthew 9:29 (NIV)

I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. John 14:12-14 (NIV)

Application

Faith isn't just believing – it's expecting. There was another storm, presumably later, when Peter climbed right out of his boat, fully expecting to walk on the water, and he did! (For a short while anyway). He acted on the mustard seed of faith that he had, and the power of God was activated.

In the same way, my faith will only grow as I act on it. In the gospels, those who expected Jesus to heal them came to him and were healed. And as the faith of the disciples grew, especially after the coming of the Holy Spirit, they too learned to speak and act on the basis of expectation. Such is Jesus' expectation of me, that I would grow in my faith and act on it, releasing the power of heaven into the world in which I live.

Prayer

Lord Jesus, I want more faith! I ask that even at this very moment, you would in your grace impart faith into me. I receive it, and I thank you for it! And now I pray for opportunities to exercise that faith. Jesus, may I not be one of whom you say, “You of little faith”, but rather, one who steps out in faith and expectation, that you might be glorified and others might come to know your wonderful love and grace.

 

But those who hope in The Lord…

Reading: Psalm 130

Scripture

Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 130:1-6 (NIV)

Observations

To wait: To remain inactive or in a state of repose until something expected happens; to be available or in readiness; to look forward to eagerly.

When the psalmist talks here about waiting for the Lord, it's clear that no one else will do. No one else can satisfy the cry of his heart. If God doesn't come through for him, he is sunk. There is no plan B. I'm reminded of the lyrics of a Hillsong United song:

So I look to you
So I look to you
No one else will do
No one else will do

Application

It's often when I'm at my lowest that I get to truly appreciate how much I need God. “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice.” Because when all I delight myself in ceases to satisfy and the things I lean on give way, it's then I see with clarity my absolute need of God. Even those closest to me can't truly satisfy the deepest desires of my heart, but only the One who holds my very soul in his hands.

And yet, God is not 'the god of instant gratification'. He allows me to become hungry so I will come to his table. He allows me to become needy so I will seek provision from his hand. He even allows me to become desperate so my floundering feet will discover that he really is my Rock and upon him I can stand. Otherwise I might put my faith in what cannot deliver and my hope in what is doomed to fail.

But God can deliver, and in him my hope is secure. And so I can rest in that hope, I can “Be still and know that God is God”, and I can say with the psalmist:

“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope.”

Prayer

Father, you are good! I can trust you when my circumstances seem bleak and help isn't forthcoming, because you will never fail me. Help me to rest in your love as I wait for you, and never to lose my hope in you.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall;

but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:28-31 (NIV)

 

“The same works I have done, and even greater works…”

Reading: John 14

Scripture

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…” John 14:12 (NLT)

Observations

Right! The time has come to stop tiptoeing around the tulips, because here, Jesus is making such a clear and radical statement that a response is mandatory. “Anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…”

What works did Jesus do? He healed the sick. He restored sight to blind people. He said, “Stretch out your hand,” and the withered hand was made straight. He said, “Stand up and walk!” and people lame from birth began jumping with joy. He set people free from demons. He even raised people from the dead!

So who is Jesus addressing when he makes his statement? Just the twelve disciples sitting in front of him? No, “Anyone who believes in me…” That includes me! Is that really true, that I might pray for the blind and see their sight restored, and for the lame and see their limbs made strong? And even that dead people might be raised to life through my prayers?

“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works…”. There really can be no other conclusion. He even begins his statement by saying, “I tell you the truth!” It is clear then that with this statement, Jesus is telling me exactly what to expect of myself, and also what he is expecting of me! Jesus is now in heaven and has left us, his church, to continue the work he started – the same work done in the same way, and empowered by the same Spirit. “And, even greater works…”

Application

Long have I stumbled on this verse, believing it in my head and seeing it happening for others but not experiencing it firsthand, except in ways that are more “ordinary”. If I'm honest, those times when I have prayed and not seen healing have sapped my faith and watered down the boldness of my prayers.

Yet faith is rising, and I find myself hungry for the reality of God's kingdom to come to the place where I live. I don't think I can stand any longer to live in that place of spiritual impotence and feebleness, nor to let fear hold me back from stepping out in faith. The time is now here for faith to start bearing its fruit.

Prayer

Thank you Lord Jesus for your great commission, and for the expectation you have for your Church. Lord, we are your Body, and we want to function fully! Let faith rise in each one of us, Lord Jesus, and in us together as your people! May your Spirit move in power amongst us and your kingdom come, that those who are sick will be confronted by the power of your love, and the lost discover a life-changing relationship with you.

This week I took my first steps to being involved in a ministry called “Healing on the Streets”, which is soon to start in our city, God willing, and is already operating elsewhere. This ministry is very public but not “in your face”, and involves putting out a few chairs on the street, along with a “Healing on the Streets” banner, and simply inviting people who would like prayer to sit down and be prayed for. What an opportunity to share the life-changing love of Jesus with others! And so practical. Holy Spirit, let's go! You can read more about this ministry here: healingonthestreets.com

 

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.

 

Anakites?! Big gnarly inconvenient obstacles… (mutter, mutter)

Reading: Joshua 15-20

Scripture

In accordance with the Lord’s command to him, Joshua gave to Caleb son of Jephunneh a portion in Judah—Kiriath Arba, that is, Hebron. (Arba was the forefather of Anak.) From Hebron Caleb drove out the three Anakites—Sheshai, Ahiman and Talmai—descendants of Anak. Joshua 15:13-14 (NIV)

Observations

Joshua: Well, here's your promised inheritance Caleb – Kiriath Arba. The land is yours. Oh, and by the way, it comes with a few Anakites…

Caleb: No worries, Joshua, I'll sort them out.

And so he does. Caleb had been promised this forty five years earlier after spying out the land with eleven others. Only he and Joshua had believed that with God they could take the land. “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

Finally the time had arrived to claim that inheritance. “Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day,” says Caleb to Joshua. “You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.Joshua 14:12

Caleb sure had spirit, even at a young 85. As far as he was concerned, the promise had been made, the land was his, and nothing was going to stand in the way of him claiming it for his own.

Application

It strikes me that the promises of God often seem to come with “Anakites”. I wish that wasn't the case – I don't like big gnarly inconvenient obstacles parked all over my driveway. When I read in Isaiah 61 (for example) of those things that Jesus won for me at the cross, and then look at my actual situation (and those of others), it's clear that there are still a few gnarly old Anakites out there. Some of what has been promised to me through Jesus I have yet to claim. And I see others weighed down with burdens that, with his life, Jesus paid to remove.

Caleb is my teacher today. First and foremost, he took God at his word. Secondly, having spied out the land years earlier, he knew what had been promised to him, and had a clear picture of this in his mind. I too need to become completely familiar with God's promises, and then set about claiming those promises with the same spirit that Caleb had – one of faith and determination.

Thirdly, it's clear that although Caleb didn't focus on the Anakites, he did deal with them. As I deal with the “Anakites” in my life, and help others to deal with theirs, prayer is so vital, along with worship and time in the Word. By myself, I actually can't use these things, but with the ever-present help and guidance of the Holy Spirit, they are powerful in my hands. “The Lord helping me, I will drive [the Anakites] out just as he said.”

Prayer

God my Father, I pray for the faith and courage of Caleb. Help me Lord to truly be a man of prayer, and to take real action as I claim what you have promised me. As I spend time walking and talking with you, as I converse with you during the moments of my day, and as I talk and pray with others, may “your kingdom come, Lord; and your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

See also Walking in Authority and To Him Who Overcomes…

 

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