Reading: Deuteronomy 5 — 8
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
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?
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.
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.
Reading: Judges 13 — 15
Because he was very thirsty, he cried out to the Lord, “You have given your servant this great victory. Must I now die of thirst and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?”
Then God opened up the hollow place in Lehi, and water came out of it. When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived. So the spring was called En Hakkore, and it is still there in Lehi. Judges 15:18-19 NIV
Samson was a one-man army. Often, he is depicted as big and muscular, but if that were the case, why would people have asked him, “What is the source of your strength?” It would have been obvious. No, his strength was not natural — it was a “superhuman” strength given to him as the Spirit of God enabled him.
In the story in Judges 15, Samson had been doing the Lord's work. (Who would have thought that singlehandedly taking on a foreign army armed with nothing but the jawbone of a donkey constituted doing the Lord's work?!!)
Now Samson wasn't exactly the most noble of heroes, but God had chosen him even before he was conceived to be the means of rescuing his people from the Philistines. And it seems Samson's lack of maturity didn't put God off.
But doing the Lord's work — even when done in his strength — can be tiring, even exhausting. How did Samson respond in his moment of exhaustion? He cried out to God. And how did God respond? He opened up a spring of refreshment, and “When Samson drank, his strength returned and he revived.”
Walking in obedience to God can be hard work, even though I be led by the Spirit. If I'm following Jesus, I should expect at times to feel tired, overwhelmed, maybe even exhausted. Even Jesus experienced the weariness of ministry.
But God knows what I am capable of. “As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust.“ (Psalm 103:13-14).
Just as God chose Samson before he was even born to rescue his people, and gave him the strength required for the task, God has work for me to do — as an individual, and together with his people. “For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Ephesians 2:10). And when God calls, he also equips.
So in those moments when the cost of following Jesus weighs heavily, relief is to be found not in complaining, or in giving up, but in crying out to God. He is my source of refreshment. He is the one who “makes me lie down in green pastures; [who] leads me beside quiet waters, [who] restores my soul.” (Psalm 23:2-3a). It is to him I must turn.
But I am not just blessed by God for my own benefit. I am “blessed to be a blessing”. God may call me to be a spring of refreshment for others — for those who are working hard for the Lord, in his strength, but are simply in need of rest and replenishment. What a privilege it would be to be the answer to someone else's prayer for help.
Thank you Lord that in you, I can find both strength and refreshment. Help me not to rely on my own feeble efforts, but to draw my strength from you. In my moments of weariness and exhaustion, I will turn to you. And may I also be a conduit for you, to provide blessing and refreshment to others.
See also, But Those Who Hope in the Lord…
Reading: Judges 7 and 8
Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family. Judges 8:27 NIV
Gideon, I'd love to know exactly what you were thinking when you decided to make that ephod. I was really enjoying the story up to that point. When you put 120,000 enemy soldiers to flight with only 300 men of your own, that was totally awesome. Four hundred of them for every one of you, and you still sent them packing. Of course, you had God on your side. But still, it must have been terrifying, and exhilarating! I found myself thinking, “Wow, with God, nothing is impossible!”
But then Gideon, you stumbled, and made that ephod that became an object of worship. And what made it such a let down was that after your victory, you were perfectly placed to turn Israel away from their love affair with idols and foreign gods, and back to the One who truly loved them. That was the reason God called you.
I wonder how you feel about it now, looking back? What would you have done differently? And what wisdom would you pass on to me to help me avoid the same trap, the same snare?
Snare: A trap for catching birds or mammals, typically one containing a noose of wire or cord; a thing likely to lure or tempt someone into harm or error.
Nobody intentionally walks into a trap. If someone is caught in a snare, they are generally caught unaware. In the case of Gideon, I suspect that rather than intentionally doing something foolish or wrong, he simply didn't realise that making something from gold to help in the worship of God was the wrong thing to do. He had grown up surrounded by idol worship — perhaps he had never seen God being worshiped in the way God had prescribed, and was simply in error.
But I wonder, did Gideon seek counsel? And did he take heed of the gentle prompting of the Spirit of God as he assumed his leadership role over Israel?
Leadership requires humility. If I am to lead well in whatever role I find myself, whether great or small, two things will keep me from error.
First, I need to humble myself before God and seek his voice, his direction. And second, I need to seek counsel from wise and godly people, that I might not get carried away with my own ideas and somehow stray from the path God would have me to walk.
“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Hebrews 12:1 NIV
Thank you Lord that with you, nothing is impossible. Help me always to seek your voice and your guidance, through prayer and through your Word. But I ask too that in this season of my life, and in the seasons to come, you would place around me godly people to advise me and help me stay true to the calling you have placed on my life.
Reading: Psalms 140 to 150
For the Lord takes delight in his people; he crowns the humble with salvation. Let the saints rejoice in this honour and sing for joy on their beds. Psalm 149:4-5 NIV
…the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love. Psalm 147:11 NIV
When the day is done, and it's time to pause from all my chores, what is it that comes floating to the surface of my mind? And what is the emotion that triumphs over all others as I lay in my bed at night?
I'd really like for it to be joy. And here is just one more reason for joy to well up: The Lord delights in me! What an honour! Not only does he know me, but he enjoys me! Even while I lay sleeping, God is thinking about me.
And, he delights not just in me as an individual, but in us as his people — the whole family of those who have put their hope in his unfailing love. As we grow together in love and maturity, we are for God a source of very great pleasure!
All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.
God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. Ephesians 1:3-8 NLT
I find it so satisfying when I wake in the night or early in the morning to turn my thoughts toward God. It has become my regular habit. Now here is one more reason to feel joy in the quiet watches of the night — God takes delight in me!
I don't have to be someone I am not. God delights in me just as I am, and takes great pleasure in seeing how I am coming along as his Spirit continues his perfecting work in me. It's so good to be on the receiving end.
Knowing that God delights in me also makes me want to please him. And, it inevitably draws from me thankfulness. God is so good — sometimes all you can do is just soak it up.
What a wonderful privilege Lord, to bring you pleasure. My wife perhaps will not appreciate it if I “sing for joy on my bed” as the psalmist suggests, but Father, you can wake me any time you like, and I will relish the opportunity to rejoice in this honour — to bring you pleasure. Thank you so much!
Reading: Psalm 138
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
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.
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
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.
For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Habakkuk 2:14 NIV
The time is coming, perhaps soon, when everyone on the earth will know of God. Not just know about him, but know of his glory. They will see it. They will experience it. Everybody will know of someone who has been healed in Jesus' name. Miracles will be common place. The presence of God will be manifest as the Kingdom continues its advance.
“For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord…”
In the days of Jesus and then of the early church, God's glory was mostly revealed through healing, through “signs and wonders”, and through the casting out of demons. These manifestations of God's power came as first Jesus and then his disciples walked in obedience to the promptings of the Spirit.
It's so important that I submit completely to God. When I fail to act on the promptings of his Spirit, often because of fear, God is robbed of the glory that would otherwise be his.
Yet perfect love drives out all fear, and obeying God is my opportunity to tangibly demonstrate my love for him. Obedience always produces good fruit, and good fruit always glorifies God.
“This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John 15:8 NIV
Just imagine the blessing that is waiting on the other side of my obedience, and the glory that might revealed…
- …when I love my neighbour
- …when I offer to pray with someone
- …when I pray for healing
- …when I step out in faith beyond my natural abilities
- …when I share something that I feel Jesus is telling me
- …when I give of my resources
The God of the universe can actually be glorified through me! What an amazing thought! What a privilege! And it begins with me obeying him.
Lord God, I pray as Moses did, “Show me your glory.” Open my eyes to see you as you really are. Father, I offer myself completely to you, and ask that I might reflect your love and draw the eyes of others to your wonderful goodness and grace.
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 NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7 NIV
I love these scriptures. God has plans and purposes for every stage of my life, beginning, middle and end. And although I don't always know in advance what his will is, here in these scriptures are three things I can be certain are God's will for me, three good “buddies” that are always to be with me:
Be joyful always — no matter what the circumstances, I am to embrace joy, and never leave it for a less worthy partner — not fear, or anxiety or anguish. These latter things no longer have my permission to remain in residence!
Pray continually — I am always to be in conversation with God, my constant companion.
Give thanks in all circumstances — God is good, all the time. There is always something to be thankful for.
And then there's this “body guard” called Peace. As I bring all my worries and concerns to God in prayer, and keep an attitude of thankfulness, peace is there guarding my heart and my mind. The knot in my stomach is untied. My troubled thoughts are brought into order. This is what God has secured for me through my relationship with Jesus — Peace. Ah, thank you, Lord. This is something I can enjoy!
These three habits can be my default setting. It's God's will for me, so it must be possible! And whenever I find myself weighed down with worries or tied up in knots, I can simply turn to my three good buddies, Be joyful always, Pray continually, and Give thanks in all circumstances.
I like the following paraphrase of Philippians 4:6-9 from the Message:
“Don't fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God's wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.
“It's wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life. Summing it all up, friends, I'd say you'll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious — the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
“Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realised. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.” Philippians 4:6-9 MSG
Father, I'm so grateful that your plans for me are good. Help me to trust you with all my cares, and to live in that place of peace — right in the centre of your will.
Reading: Colossians 4:2-18
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. Colossians 4:2 NIV
The word “devote” is full of meaning. To devote something is to “set it apart” or dedicate it to a particular purpose. And what am I to set apart and dedicate? Myself. To prayer.
Just as people or things in old testament times were “consecrated” or set apart for holy purposes, I am to consecrate or set apart myself for this holy pursuit: That I might continually converse with and pursue God.
I like the way the NKJV translates the verse. It says I am to “Continue earnestly in prayer…” The Greek word being translated as “Devote yourself” and “Continue earnestly in” is “proskatereo”:
Proskatereo: To be earnest towards, i.e. (to a thing) to persevere, be constantly diligent, or (to a person) to adhere closely to (as one who serves):–attend (give self) continually (upon), continue (in, with), wait on (continually).
Even as I read this definition, I feel a hunger rising within me to reach out to God in prayer. The word “continually” implies that even in the normal activities of my day, my thoughts can be turned towards God.
But more than that, there is a hunger to spend dedicated time with God – to find a place of solitude and soak in his presence; to escape awhile the distractions of the day and enjoy walking and talking with my God.
This call to pray, and to dedicate myself anew to prayer, is one I can't ignore. God is calling, saying, “Come closer. Reach out to me. Drink in my words and search the depths of my love. Delight in me, and I will satisfy the desires of your heart.”
Lord God, I dedicate myself anew to seeking you in prayer. I am hungry. I want to come closer, and to know you more deeply. I want time with you to be at the centre of my life, not at the periphery. Please draw me closer, and let me commune with you here on earth as Jesus did, that I might enjoy your presence with me forever.
See also one of my favourite SOAPs, Sneaking Off With God.