Freely Given

“Be sure to fear the LORD and serve him faithfully with all your heart;
consider what great things he has done for you”

(1 Samuel 12:24)

Reflection:
If we were not so caught up in the modern attitude of self-absorption we might be able to see more clearly and with far more appreciation.

The essential person within each of us is unique and a gift from God. The created order in which we live is a gift from God. Our ability to see it, and appreciate it, and understand it, and work within and with it are gifts from God. Each one of our senses is a gift from God. Our abilities and talents are gifts from God. Our sensitivities and emotions are gifts from God. Our abilities to know, understand and communicate with each other are gifts from God. Love is a gift from God.

Things like electricity, plumbing, computers, television, smartphones, microwaves, medicines, medical equipment, motor vehicles, aeroplanes, ships and so many other things are gifts from God – built into the created order that He has made available to us.

The sun, the moon and the stars are gifts from God. Birds and bird-song, the fish of the seas and the animals of the earth are gifts from God. Plants, grass and crops are a gift from God. Rain and wind are gifts from God. The seasons are gifts from God. The towering mountains and the shaded valleys, the rivers and the seas, the forests and the plains are gifts from God.

God is a gift from God. Jesus Christ is a gift from God. The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. Our relationship to the Father as His sons and daughters is a gift from God. The Holy Bible is a gift from God. The Cross, the Resurrection, the Ascension and the Second Coming are gifts from God. Salvation is a gift from God.

Response:
“Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.” (1 Chronicles 29:14)

Prayer:

Lord open my eyes that I may see, marvel and be grateful. Amen.

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Who am I?

2015.10.26

“Then the LORD said,
“Rise and anoint him; he is the one.”
(1 Samuel 16:12)

Reflection:
David went from being a nameless shepherd of sheep to the greatest of the Kings of Israel. He was not perfect and experienced many challenges and threats. Yet he lived his life with God, was ready to acknowledge and confess his sins, and had a vision and understanding of God that are a constant encouragement to us still. He never forgot who he was – the called and anointed of God. That kept him going, even when he got things terribly wrong.

Jesus knew who He was. At the age of twelve He declared Himself to be the Son of His heavenly Father – and stepped from dependent childhood into manhood. At His Baptism in the Jordan His identity and relationship with the Father were affirmed and He was filled with the Spirit. At His temptation in the desert He was attacked at the point of His identity and challenged to prove who He was. However He did not have to prove it to Himself because He knew already. And so at the end of His life He could give Himself into the Father’s hands.

As Christians we need to know who we are – not in terms of our human ancestry and current society but in terms of the most important relationship of all – with God. Once we have that knowledge and faith it gives us a peace, strength and purpose which we can never get from the world. It helps us to cope with whatever we may have to face, and it keeps bringing us back to Him even when we have failed miserably. When the world and even we ourselves seem ready to write us off and discard us we remain who we really are – the daughters and sons of the wonderful and ever-loving Father.

Response:
Acknowledge your Christian identity and keep reminding yourself who you are in Christ.

Prayer:

Lord I believe and trust in Jesus as my Saviour and my Lord. Help me please to acknowledge and live in the knowledge that I am a son/daughter of the Living God. Amen

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Real Mountain

Reflections

“David asked the men standing near him…
“Who is this uncircumcised Philistine”

(1 Samuel 17:26)

Reflection:
All mountains need to be faced. If this is where God has brought us then it is unhelpful to turn away or camp forever in its shadow. God wishes to deal with it.

To face a mountain means to acknowledge its existence, define it and admit it as an obstacle. It will include probing and admitting our reaction to it – everything from fear and horror to lust and longing. We may need to ask ourselves why it is there and what we are able or unable to do about it.

To face a mountain is to see its naked truth and to admit ours as well. A mountain hidden tends to keep growing. A mountain defined has boundaries. Jesus said that it was the truth that would set us free. We may now enter into that truth with Him.

Response:
Look at your mountain with new eyes – and yourself as well

Prayer:

Lord you said that it is the truth that sets us free –help me to allow You to show me the Truth in all my situations. Amen.

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Obedience better than sacrifice

“But Samuel replied: “Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the LORD? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination, and arrogance like the evil of idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.”

(1 Samuel 15:22-23)

Reflection:

Saul had everything going for him. He was the first king of Israel, chosen by God and with the prophet Samuel on his side. After being anointed by Samuel he was told,

“The Spirit of the LORD will come upon you in power, and you will prophesy with them; and you will be changed into a different person. Once these signs are fulfilled, do whatever your hand finds to do, for God is with you.”  (1 Samuel 10:6-7)

 Here was the man chosen by God to institute the monarchy and to represent within himself the royal rule of the Almighty God over His people. However, after a good start he began to turn away from the Lord and into himself. He became disobedient to the known instructions of God, he was inflamed with jealousy for David and on a number of occasions tried to kill him, he patronised the superstitions that he had forbidden earlier and finally he was wounded in battle and committed suicide.

 Samuel, in fact, only returned to him twice and on both occasions it was to remonstrate with him for disobeying God. The first was when through impatience Saul took upon himself the priestly office and offered a sacrifice. For this his rejection was prophesied. The second brought upon him the truth set out above and confirmed his rejection as king by God. God’s favour is not won through sacrifices but through obedience. Obedience shows a true acknowledgement of and trust in God. Disobedience actually diminishes God and elevates the sinner – it is an arrogance that is likened to idolatry, putting someone or something else before God.

For all that Saul reigned for forty-two years they were clearly neither happy nor personally successful years. He not only missed out on his opportunities but abused them. Pride, egotism and the abuse of power led to moral degradation and ruin.  It still happens at many different levels today where the truth is that God is no longer ‘Number One’.

 Response:

It is a time for reflection. Is our response to the amazing love and grace of Almighty God one of trust and obedience, or do we in reality think, act and respond in ‘my way’? Is Jesus truly Lord everywhere in my life?

 Prayer:

Help me to see it Lord, Your Way not mine, Your thoughts not mine, Your words not men’s. You. Amen.

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The Lord is Calling

“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

(1 Samuel 3:10)

Reflection:

Samuel was the last of the judges and the earliest of the prophets after Moses. Through his ministry God chose and anointed the first two kings of Israel, Saul and David, which would have been about 1020 – 1000 BC).

 Samuel was born as God’s answer to the desperate prayer of Hannah, a wife of Elkanah, who was childless. She promised God that if He gave her a son she would ‘give him to the Lord for all the days of his life.’ The Lord heard her prayer and Samuel was born. When he had been weaned she took him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh and gave him into the care of the priest named Eli. Every year she would ‘make him a little robe’ and take it to him there where he ‘ministered to the Lord under Eli the priest.’

 One night whilst Samuel was lying in the temple, near the ark of the covenant, God came to him and called him. Three times Samuel thought that it was Eli and ran to him. Eli realised what was happening and on the fourth occasion, as Eli had instructed him, Samuel said, ‘Speak, for your servant is listening.’ God then told Samuel what He was going to do, particularly in response to the sins of Eli’s sons. Thereafter,

“The LORD was with Samuel as he grew up, and he let none of his words fall to the ground. And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba recognized that Samuel was attested as a prophet of the LORD. The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.”  (1 Samuel 3:19-21)

 Samuel’s prophetic ministry was powerful and effective leading the nation to turn from its idolatry and also being set free from the Philistine yoke. He was also a powerful intercessor, exercised the ministry of a priest and acted as a judge ‘all the days of his life’ even under the monarchy. He was sent specifically by God to anoint Saul as the first king and, later, David as his successor after the Lord had rejected Saul because of his disobedience. That he listened to, and heard, God is very clear from the account of his anointing of David when on more than one occasion he was impressed by the physical appearance of one of David’s older brothers, only to hear the Lord say,

“Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

  Samuel is an example to us in a number of ways. He was born as an answer to prayer and himself interceded on behalf of the nation and of others. He heard God when He spoke the first time and listened for Him and to Him thereafter. He did not rely on his own judgement but, even when he thought he knew the answer, looked to the Lord for confirmation – as in the anointing of David. It is also clear that he was totally committed to the Lord and a man of great faith. He was of obvious integrity and was both respected and trusted by the nation, for when he died ‘all Israel assembled and mourned for him.’

 Response:

Train yourself to listen for God and to Him  – as you look at nature, read Scripture, and go about your daily routine and duties. Talk to Him and ask of Him. Sometimes just pause to be aware of Him.

 Prayer:

Father I am in Your presence all the time. Your eye is upon me, Your ear is open to me, and Your heart waits for me. Please help me to be aware of You and to respond to You. Amen.

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Journey to Christmas 12

“The LORD came and stood there, calling as at the other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” Then Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.”

(1 Samuel 3:10)

Reflection:

Samuel was a child when, in terms of her promise, his mother brought him to serve in the house of the Lord where Eli was a priest. One night when they were both in bed Samuel heard a voice calling him and ran to Eli, thinking it was he who had called. After this had happened three times Eli realised that it was the Lord calling Samuel, and told him how to respond. God’s call and presence were strong in Samuel’s life and he grew to be both a prophet and one of the Judges of Israel. He was held in very high regard and the whole nation mourned him when he died.

Samuel was also involved in the transition of Israel to being ruled by a king, at their own request, as were the nations around them. Saul was anointed as the first king and ruled for over 40 years. He was not faithful and God withdrew from him. Later God said to Samuel,

“How long will you mourn for Saul, since I have rejected him as king over Israel? Fill your horn with oil and be on your way; I am sending you to Jesse of Bethlehem. I have chosen one of his sons to be king.” (1 Samuel 16:1)

Samuel went to Jesse’s house, and although attracted to some of the sons that he saw was told by God that they were not whom He had chosen.

“But the LORD said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.”  (1 Samuel 16:7)

Eventually, after God had rejected all the sons present, Samuel established that there was still another one who was out looking after the sheep. He was sent for and, having been accepted by God, was anointed by Samuel. From that day God’s Spirit came upon him. This was David, destined to become the greatest of Israel’s kings and the one from whose line of descent, humanly speaking, the Messiah would come.

The account of Samuel’s life and service of God highlights two very important areas of Christian life. The first is that when God wants to speak to us He will do so in a way that can be perceived – and He will not give up if we do not recognise Him at first! If He wants us to hear Him He will communicate with us in a way that we can ‘hear’. That way might well differ from individual to individual.

The second is how vitally important it is to remain in contact with God at all times. Not only did Samuel need to hear the instruction for him to go to Jesse’s house to identify the new king, but he needed God to point out that person to him. He would have chosen one of the other brothers and was not even aware, to begin with, that the son God wanted was not present. How easy it would have been to get it wrong, and with painful – if not disastrous – consequences. Even Jesus, much later, would say that he only spoke the words and did the things that God told Him to!

God is not a distant observer but a very personal presence. The problem is not that He doesn’t speak but that, so often, we don’t ask or listen.

Response:

Speak to God continually. Ask for His involvement in every area of your life and activity. Ask Him to help you to listen and to hear.

Prayer:

Father God, in things both great and small, please guide me and help me to listen for and recognise Your guidance. Amen.

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