Jehovah was not in the wind. And after the wind, an earthquake: Jehovah was not in the earthquake.
And after the earthquake, a fire: Jehovah was not in the fire. And after the fire, a soft gentle voice. (1Kings 19:11-12)

Friday, July 28, 2017

The One Way To Get What Your Heart Desires

It was my grandma’s. It hung in her house for as long as I can remember. I carried it home with me from the nursing home, held it close to my heart, after her breath had rattled and hers days had ended and I said good-bye.

It’s a piece of antique wall art, carved wood with gilded letters and pink roses, and in the midst of fresh grief, without much thought, I hung it on an empty nail in our ensuite. It hangs not so much for decor but more as a daily reminder. It has lost it’s lustre with old dust that needs to be scrubbed from the crevices, but the truth of those ancient words will never fade.

You can pass down truth like that. You can cling to truth that steers your life into a life that is worth living.

That old wall hanging, it won’t last. This life here, as we know it, it will pass. But, truth . . .truth is eternal. And the truth is, intimacy with God is what makes living most satisfying, most real, most true.

The old-fashioned letters etched in the wood and covered in gold paint that decorate my wall are words quoted from a hymn, a psalm, a poem that King David wrote. They are words that come from an old man who has the advantage of looking back over many years and speaking wisdom to countless restless souls longing to find rest and peace.

They are words for souls that need to be exhorted to “Fret not yourself” and instructed to: “Trust in the Lord”.

These words are truth that nourishes souls that, all through the ages, must be reminded that the Lord upholds and will not forsake the righteous.

We not only need these words as reminders, we need this truth that urges the faithful to patiently, earnestly seek the Lord with all your heart.

David knew this truth and sang these words in his poem, recorded in Psalm 37:

“Delight yourself in the Lord and He shall give you the desires of your heart.”
I look upon these ancient words day after day. There is much to take our eyes away from the beauty of the Lord. My heart needs to heed this message that is as true today as the day David sang it. There are fears, evil, injustice, and wickedness. But, the Psalmist presses in to deal with all those fears because He knows nothing can frustrate God’s plan. God doesn’t change. His truth does not change.

It is the soul that delights in God that is fully satisfied. It is the heart that delights in God that finds true happiness.

It is the heart that is soft and tender toward God that discovers that the ultimate desire is to delight in God and His glory. God will not forsake the righteous and will shape your heart to desire exactly what He desires you to have: more of Him.

Charles Spurgeon wrote:

“Make God’s glory your object in life; live in His sight; dwell close to him; seek for fellowship with Him; and thou has ‘godliness’”.
A life that makes God’s glory the object in life is a life that will know the joy of the Lord and that joy is our strength in the face of whatever trial or difficultly may arise.

To delight in the Lord is not to live a life of ease or full of prosperity or free from challenging circumstances. But, God shapes your heart to desire the right things: to live a life that “trusts in the Lord”, “commits your way to the Lord”, to “be still before the Lord” and “wait patiently for the Lord”.

In the shaping, the Potter takes the clay and forms it with his hands to be fit for that which He has purposed.

Look to the Lord. Make God’s glory the object of your life. Delight in the Lord. Make God be what your heart desires.

Make your living worth living.

Horatius Bonar, a poet and hymn writer from Scotland in the 19th century, wrote a little book called “Follow the Lamb”. In it he encourages the young Christian:

“Your life is a Book; it may be a volume of larger or smaller size; and conversion is but the title-page or the preface. The Book itself remains to be written; and your years and weeks and days are its chapters and leaves and lines. It is a Book written for eternity; see that it be written well.”
A life written well is a life that can say my absolute delight is the Lord. A life that is truly living is one that my heart’s desires are met in God alone. God perfectly sets in place the desires of my heart and I find I am fully satisfied in Him.

He gives us the desires of our hearts when the deepest beat of our heart is for Him alone.

In the “Valley of Vision”, we have a prayer of a Puritan who prayed this prayer with this heartbeat:


Thy throne of grace
is the pleasure ground of my soul.
Here I obtain mercy in time of need,
here see the smile of thy reconciled face,
here joy pleads the name of Jesus,
here I sharpen the sword of the Spirit,
anoint the shield of faith,
put on the helmet of salvation,
gather manna from thy Word,
am strengthened for each conflict,
nerved for the upward race,
empowered to conquer every foe;
Help me to come to Christ
as the fountain head of descending blessings,
as a wide open flood-gate of mercy . . . 

Quicken me, stir me, fill me with holy zeal.
Strengthen me that I may cling to thee
and not let thee go.
May thy Spirit within me draw all blessings
from thy hand. . . . 

Impress on my mind the shortness of time,
the work to be engaged in,
the account to be rendered,
the nearness of eternity,
the fearful sin of despising thy Spirit.
May I never forget that
thy eye always sees,
thy ear always hears,
thy recording hand always writes.
May I never give thee rest until Christ is
the pulse of my heart . . . ”

Friday, July 21, 2017

When You Pass Through the Impassable

Have you ever come to the edge of an impassable situation?

When the circumstances that lie before you bring life to a frightful halt?

Somehow you must go forward, but there is no foreseeable way to get to the other side of the obstacle surging ahead.

To do so requires more strength and courage than your weak body and weary soul could muster.

Have you ever stood on the brink of rushing waters with a longing to get to the other side, but with absolutely no sensible way to cross?

It’s easier to turn around and give up, give in to the cowardice that creeps in the corners of every heart.

But, there is hope. There is a sure way. There is obedience. There is trust.

There is this way that quiets the cowardice and builds strength and brings forth courage. It is the way of obedience. It is the way of faith. It is the way one walks when the Lord your God is with you.

When you are sure of the presence of the Lord you will pass though the impassible.

When you trust in the Lord God you will walk across your Jordon River on dry ground.

After Moses died, the Lord exalted Joshua to lead His people to the Promised Land. They had to cross the Jordon River to get to their place of rest. God had promised that He would give them this land to possess and He had shown Himself faithful to them over and over.

The Lord said to Joshua:

The assurance that the Lord is with you is the strength you need to walk in obedience and the courage to pass the impassible and come to the place of rest.

I had come to an impassable place. I looked ahead and could not see a way forward. My body was frail. It had let me down. My mind was troubled. My soul was weary.

It was then that I longed to go clear across Canada to stand at the Pacific Ocean: the mighty ocean that means, “the peaceful sea”. Lying in the hospital in great turmoil, I wanted to feel the sand between my toes and breathe in the salt air and take our children across a beautiful land to show them all the mighty things God has done.

But, I couldn’t even walk to the end of a hospital bed. I could not breathe on my own and no one knew if I ever would again.

My heart had to heal from surgery. And bones had to regrow and nerves had to repair. My mind had to be restored.

I had to be strong and courageous. I had to stop the grumbling and see the good things God had done. I had to trust the Lord and know that He is with me.

He brings us to the brink of the Jordon to trust Him; to lead us to find our rest in Him.

Once the people of Israel crossed the Jordon, the Lord told Joshua to take twelve men—one man from each tribe--to take twelve stones out of the midst of the Jordon River and lay them down as a memorial. So that, in time, when their children would ask, “What do these stones mean?” they would say:
“‘Israel passed over the Jordon on dry ground. For the LORD your God dried up the waters of the Jordon for you until you passed over, as the LORD your God did to the Red Sea, which he dried up for us until we passed over, so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the hand of the LORD is mighty, that you may fear the LORD your God forever.’”
When we pass through the impassible, others see the mighty hand of God and we know without a doubt that it was God--and God alone--that brought us through. We are not to cower in fear at our circumstances, but we are to stand in awe of God’s majesty and acknowledge His goodness and worship Him forever.

Whatever is looming ahead, God is with you.

Whatever may seem impassible, God will make the way to pass through.

You must trust Him and obediently follow. It is a laying down of self. It’s the way of surrender. It’s the walk of faith.

That’s what I knew when I dipped my feet in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Vancouver Island on the last day of June this year--the year Canada turned 150. The icy water at Long Beach stabbed at my toes and the soles of my feet turned numb as the sea-water splashed at my shins. My family plunged into the salty cold ocean, tried to ride a few waves on their bellies and shrieked with stunned laughter as every inch of their bodies tingled from being alive.

The wind whipped sand and strings of hair into my face as I turned out toward the vast ocean and knew that God, in His mercy, had brought me to this place. I can sing along with Horatio Gates Spafford:

“When peace like a river attendeth my way,
when sorrows like sea billows roll;
whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
let this blest assurance control:
that Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
and has shed his own blood for my soul. 

My sin oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
my sin, not in part, but the whole,
is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more;
praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul! 

O Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
the clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
the trump shall resound and the Lord shall descend;
even so, it is well with my soul.”

By the work of Christ, He has brought us to rest in Him. We were without hope. We were without a way to pass through. But Christ has brought us back to Himself and gives us life, fills us with hope.

See what the Lord has done? He brings us to the impassible and leads us to the place of rest.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Learning From the Life of Hannah: A Woman with Serious Problems {Part 5}

{This is Part 5 in a series on the Life of Hannah.

For the last four weeks we have been examining the life of Hannah as told in 1 Samuel. As we come to the end of Hannah’s story today, we know God will be Eternally Glorified and we see that Hannah Erupts in Praise to the Supreme Ruler.

The God who Sovereignly Governs over all, Providentially Guides all circumstances, Graciously Gives all things is Eternally Glorified and “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”

I consider that the sufferings of this present time”, Paul said to the Romans, “are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”

Oh, He is worthy of our praise.

In Romans, Paul said: “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

Hannah knows the goodness of God in her life and understood that there is no one like our God who will graciously give us all things.

Hannah’s heart erupts in praise to the Lord. She takes what has happened in her life and she breaks forth in magnificent descriptions of the character and goodness of God.

Her joy is in the Giver, not the gift.

In 1 Samuel chapter two, we read Hannah’s prayer.

In her prayer, Hannah meditates on the extraordinary goodness of God to her with all of who she is, she rejoices in the strength His gives. Her heart leaps for joy at his salvation; his deliverance.

She proclaims his absolute holiness, and acknowledges there is none like Him. He is above all.

Hannah uses the metaphor of the “rock” and speaks of his majesty and might. She knows He is the safe dwelling place for his people.

She speaks of His omniscience, His sovereignty, His omnipotence and His power over life and death. Hannah declares He is Creator and Sustainer of all. That He upholds all things and directs all things.

He knows all things: He knows our heart, our thoughts, our actions.

He is the Supreme Ruler. His plans will come to pass.

She knows He is Just and merciful, gracious and faithful in His promises.

She tells of the promised Messiah.

These are the things Hannah’s heart knows. Do you know God like this? Does your heart leap for joy the way Hannah’s did?

Hannah’s tune changes from weeping over her problems with sorrow to rejoicing in the Lord with this song of praise.

The book of Samuel begins with Hannah praying for the son that God would use to lead the nation of Israel from the time of the judges to establish the Davidic monarchy. God promised a Messiah through the line of David and to establish David’s throne forever. Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, our Redeemer will reign forever.

Nothing can frustrate God’s plan.

Jesus Christ is the perfect substitutionary sacrifice and He bore the wrath of God for our sin that He might bring us to God.

The Supreme Ruler who Sovereignly Governs, Providentially Guides, and Graciously Gives, provides Hannah with three more sons and two daughters. Her future is secure.

In every way His will must prevail.

You may be women with serious problems, but we have a God who is Supreme over all. Because of His love He will graciously give you all things to conform you into the likeness of His Son to the praise of His glory.

With all your afflictions, sorrows, and anxieties find your joy in the Lord.

God Sovereignly Governs, Providentially Guides, Graciously Gives, and is Eternally Glorified.

Like Hannah, will you endure your problems, earnestly pour out your soul, entrust your Provider with all that He gives you and erupt in praise to your Saviour?

We have looked to the life of a woman with serious problems whose joy was ultimately in the Lord. We will conclude with these words Joseph Addison wrote in his hymn:

“Ten thousand thousand precious gifts
My daily thanks employ;
Nor is the least a cheerful heart
That tastes those gifts with joy.

Through every period of my life
Thy goodness I’ll pursue
And after death, in distant worlds,
The glorious theme renew.

Through all eternity to Thee
A joyful song I’ll raise;
For, oh, eternity’s too short
To utter all Thy praise!”

Monday, July 10, 2017

Learning From the Life of Hannah: A Woman with Serious Problems {Part 4}

{This is Part 4 in a series on the Life of Hannah.

For the past three weeks we have been gleaning truth about God from the life of a woman with serious problems.

Hannah is a woman with serious problems whose joy was ultimately in the Lord.

Hannah knew the Lord sovereignly governs over all and providentially guides all circumstances. She also knew God graciously gives all things and we see that Hannah entrusted her son to her Provider.

God desires our hearts to be fully devoted to Him.

Hannah has earnestly poured out her soul and promised her son. Eli, first misunderstanding her, stands corrected, and tells her “Go in peace, and let the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.”

Hannah, the woman of grace, replies, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.”

Hannah knows God will pour out His grace. Her circumstances have not yet changed, but she went her way and ate and her face was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord. They return to their house at Ramah. Elkanah knew his wife and the Lord remembered her: she conceived and bore a son and called his name Samuel. She said, “I have asked for Him from the LORD

She sees how God graciously provides and she trusts in His faithfulness to be able to keep her vow.

For all these years she wanted a son. He granted her petition and she would give him back to the Lord. He had given her a son; she could trust Him to secure her future.

Hannah doesn’t hold too tightly to what the Lord gives her. She enjoys the Provider more than the provision.

In the joy of the Lord, Hannah finds strength to move forward in what God had purposed for her: to give her son back to God.

Taking her focus off her problems and fixing her gaze on the Lord, Hannah trusts in the God who pours out His grace.

Do you remember these words?
“He giveth more grace when the burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength when the labors increase;
To added affliction He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials, His multiplied peace. 
When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources,
Our Father's full giving is only begun. 
His love has no limit, His grace has no measure;
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth and giveth and giveth again.”
Hannah knows God’s grace.

Hannah takes her son to minister to the Lord in a place where the priests—the two sons of Eli--were worthless men that did not know the Lord, doing evil things and their sin was very great in the sight of the Lord: they treated the offering of the Lord with contempt and they “lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting”.

And this was where her boy Samuel would grow in the presence of the Lord.

Although this was the vow Hannah had made to the Lord, Elkanah went along with it telling her “to do what seems best to you.”

So after Samuel was weaned, Hannah brings him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh and presents him there along with her offering. She has come back with an apparent peace offering and she presents the offering. She, who has known the peace—the wholeness of the Lord—, partakes of the feast now with praise and thanksgiving.

Hannah, a woman with serious problems, loves the Lord, surrenders herself to Him and He pours out His grace in her life and she finds peace and joy in Him.

God continually and graciously gives us all things to demonstrate that He is good and only in Him will our hearts truly find rest.

Take time this week and consider God’s grace in your life and come back next when we will conclude looking at the life of Hannah—a woman with serious problems.

{Continue to Part 5 here.}

Monday, July 3, 2017

Learning From the Life of Hannah: A Woman with Serious Problems {Part 3}

{This is Part 3 in a series on the Life of Hannah.

We have been learning from the life of Hannah as narrated in 1 Samuel. If you haven’t read the account recently, I encourage you to do so this week. In reading the account we see Hannah was a woman with some serious problems.

Many of us, it not all of us, can relate to such a woman. We will not escape problems in this life. There are hard roads to travel as we wait longingly for our eternal dwelling. We know that God sovereignly governs over all and we can rest in Him.

Come now and know that God Providentially Guides all circumstances and see how Hannah Earnestly Pours out her soul.

In 1 Samuel, we are told the Lord closed Hannah’s womb.

Don’t think for a moment that God is blind to your problems. Don’t believe that He is not present in your suffering. The LORD of hosts is with us. Whatever problems or suffering God brings into your life, you can be confident that he has a purpose for it.

Our suffering is hard to bear, but God will use it to bring us to Him to find the solution that He had in mind.

And so after they eat and drink, while in Shiloh, Hannah rises and earnestly pours out her soul to the One who providentially guides all of life’s circumstances.

E.M. Bounds wrote: “ . . . none but the earnest man gets access to the ear of God.”

In her distress, Hannah prays to the LORD of hosts. Not only has the nation of Israel reached its depths, she personally cannot go on without surrendering to the One who rules over all.

God brought her through the suffering to bring her to the place to vow the vow we read in 1 Samuel 1:11:
“O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.”
At that time, if a woman vowed a vow, on the day her husband heard of it he could oppose the vow she uttered and void it.

Eli, the priest could see Hannah as she prayed. But, she was speaking only in her heart. Her lips moved, but her voice was not heard, so her vow could not be voided.

But, Eli misunderstood her to be a drunk woman out of control rather than a devout woman completely surrendering herself to the Lord.

She has come to the Lord as a troubled woman, in great anxiety and vexation. She couldn’t save herself from her affliction, but she could surrender herself to the author of her joy.

Hannah’s barreness grievously distressed her. Hannah’s God graciously delivered her.

In her affliction, Hannah felt forgotten. In his faithfulness, God remembered Hannah.

If she had not had years of barrenness and suffering would she have so earnestly made this vow to the Lord?

Hannah pours out her soul to the Lord. The Lord grants her petition to give her a son.

God brought suffering into her life to bring her to a place of surrender so she would be prepared to give him back her son.

God knows what it will take to bring us to the place of surrender and He will by His providence guide us right to that place. He directs all things to accomplish exactly what he has, in advance, purposed to unfold.

William Cowper, a poet in the 1700’s, who suffered from grievous problems and sank into deep despair in his life, wrote these words:

“God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.”

We are to be a people who earnestly pray. Prayer and God’s providence go hand in hand. The one who trusts that the Lord providentially guides stands on a firm foundation.

Hannah had a problem, but she turned to the Lord and trusted in His plan.

Whatever problem you may be facing in your life right now, will you earnestly pour out your soul to the Lord?

Come back next week as we learn from Hannah that God graciously gives us all things.

{Continue to Part 4 here.}

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...