Friday, September 28, 2012

Zealous Prayer

Have you ever reached that point where you can't even find the words to pray because you are so overwhelmed?  Or maybe you have witnessed it...  I have seen it a few times.  When humans face problems and difficulties beyond our comprehension, it is sometimes impossible to find the right words, to find any words.  But thankfully, we don't need words for God hears our hearts.

1 Samuel 1:13 - As for Hannah, she was speaking in her heart, only her lips were moving, but her voice was not heard.  So Eli thought she was drunk.

If you haven't read my previous blog on Hannah, I suggest starting here.  It will give you a good background.  This verse takes place between the time Elkanah spoke with Hannah and the time when their prayers are answered with the birth of their son, Samuel.

I read that verse and I can picture it clearly in my mind, I find it extremely relateable.  Even though Hannah wasn't speaking out loud and her passion was so vivid that Eli thought she was drunk, God still heard her prayer.  He hears our hearts, not our words - "Thoughts are words to Him" (Henry).  By praying without speaking, by engaging her whole heart, "she testified her belief of God's knowledge of the heart and its desires" (Henry).  

What would happen if we always approached Him with such a passion?  What if we always engaged our whole heart when speaking to the Father?  I think our communication with God would be on a whole new level and thus, our relationship would be also!

I challenge you today to approach our Savior with your whole heart, with a zealous passion.  The next time you pray, remember to engage your whole heart.  

He will listen...even if you don't speak.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sinful Sorrow

Right after my husband and I got engaged, I went through a really rough patch.  My heart was hurting immensely over the loss of a very good friend.  Though both parties had been wrong, it was devastating to me that whatever happened couldn't be fixed.  It affected my entire being.  Justin and I were only engaged for 5 months before our wedding...but even after that there were still many nights I cried myself to sleep or days he would get home from work and I would just be lying on the couch where he left me that morning because I was too broken to get up and do anything.  I let my sorrow control my life in a very negative way.  I missed out on the blessings around me because I let my sorrow invade every inch of me.  Don't get me wrong, there were many days when Justin didn't understand and he became very frustrated.  But I treasured those moments that he would hold me close while I cried or when he would be angry for me - he was hurting because I was hurting.

1 Samuel 1:8 - Then Elkanah her husband said to her, "Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad?  Am I not better to you than ten sons?"

You see, the Lord had closed Hannah's womb (vs. 5).  She desperately wanted a child and was completely unable.  On top of that, Elkanah's other wife taunted her over the matter, just to irritate her (vs. 6).  

I have not yet had the experience of trying for a child, but I know many women that have.  And I know a few who tried for years with no success - I have seen the pain and sorrow.  I truly believe it is one of the most difficult burdens to bear in our world, a world where abortions are the norm and thousands, probably millions, of children are not taken care of properly and are only around because they bring their parents an extra check each month.

It would be so easy for anyone in this situation, for Hannah, to let the sorrow overwhelm her and become a sin.  Yes, I said a sin - "Our sorrow upon any account is sinful and inordinate when it diverts us from our duty to God....when it makes us unthankful for the mercies we enjoy and distrustful of the goodness of God...when it casts a damp upon our joy in Christ..." (Henry).  Any time we let anything get in the way of our relationship with God, our reliance on Him, and our duty to is a sin.

Elkanah saw that this was happening with Hannah and he gently came to her side.  He was hurting, if for no other reason, because she was - "Those that by marriage are made one flesh ought thus far to be of one spirit too, to share in each other's troubles so that one cannot be easy while the other is uneasy."  Yet, he still let her know that she had other things to be thankful for (his love for her, which was very favorable, vs. 5).  The next verse even goes onto say that she ate and drank!  Elkanah must have talked some sense into her!

I look back now and I know that my hurt, my anguish became sinful.  I let it interfere with my duty to serve God to my fullest and I became unthankful for the wonderful husband God had JUST placed in my life.  While Justin did hurt for and with me, there were many times when he told me I was being ridiculous.  He was constantly reminding me to live in the present and not the past.  Because of his encouragement and the encouragement of many others I was able to overcome my overwhelming sorrow.

And, if you don't already know, the story ends well for Hannah too.  She finally turns to the Lord in her desperation (vs. 10-17) and He answers her prayers with the birth of her son, Samuel (vs. 20).

I'm not saying that being sad is a sin, it only becomes a sin when you let that sorrow consume your life and interfere with the relationship between you and God.  I challenge you today to remember this the next time you are faced with overwhelming sorrow.  Give those sorrows to Him that He may comfort you and bring you joy when it seems impossible.  If you are in the midst of a sorrow so deep you can't see the light of day, tell someone.  We are created for community - do not travel this road alone.  God has given us people to help us through the dark places.  And always remember that your spouse is one of those people!  Lean on your spouse for support - they should hurt with you AND be able to tell you when enough is enough, just like Elkanah.

...Weeping may last for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning - Psalm 30:5

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Last Words

Have you ever heard the phrase, "Live like you were dying?"  It makes you stop and think for a second doesn't it?  Here's another question, along those same lines: What would your last words be if you were to die today?

Joshua 23:14 - Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed."

When Joshua says that he is going the way of all the earth he is basically saying that he is about to die (Clarke).  'Way' in the Hebrew is derek meaning "way, road, distance, journey, manner" (Strong's H1870).  So, Joshua is going on the journey that everyone must go on.  

And these are the beginning of his last words.  I love that his last words are a reminder of the awesomeness of God.  It isn't about him, it never was.  He knew what was important and he wanted to make sure that the people he cared about knew that as well.  Joshua was a great example of the "I'm Third" mentality.  He put God first, others second, and himself last...even on his death bed.

I hope and pray that my last words, my last actions are a reminder to the rest of the world of what is truly important.  But the thing is, I cannot know when that moment will be.  I could die a death of natural causes 60 years from now and live a full life or a bizarre accident could take my life today.  So, yes, maybe we should live like we are dying.  My every action, my every word should show the world what is important - it should show them that I am third.

I challenge you today to live like you are third at ALL times.  If your life ended tomorrow would you be happy with the way you lived today?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


If I placed a ticking bomb in front of you right now and told you to disarm it - would you rush through the process and not think about it?  Or would you take your time and think about each step in order to make sure you got it right?  I mean, we wouldn't want to confuse the red and blue wires now would we?  It would be in our best interest if you were very careful!

Joshua 22:5 - Only be very careful to observe the commandment and the law which Moses the servant of the Lord commanded you, to love the Lord your God and walk in all His ways and keep His commandments and hold fast to Him and serve Him will all your heart and with all your soul.

Did you see all of those "ands" in there??  That is one long sentence.  But I want you to catch something: Only be very careful to...with all your heart and with all your soul.  Everything in the middle there (the dot, dot, dot) is framed by be very careful and with all your heart and soul.  So let's put it this way:

Only be very careful to:
  • Observe the commandment and law
  • Love the Lord your God
  • Walk in all His ways
  • Keep His commandments
  • Hold fast to Him
  • Serve Him
And do ALL of these things with all your heart and with all your soul. Or as Wesley puts it, "with the whole strength of your minds, and wills, and affections."  

You see, these aren't options.  This is God telling us how to be, how to live - "What good counsel was here given to them is given to us all.  God give us grace to take it" (Henry).  This verse doesn't just say "be careful."  It says "be  very careful."  'Very' in the Hebrew is the word m@ 'od which means "exceedingly. much" (Strong's H3966).  'Exceedingly' holds the idea of going above and beyond the norm.  We should be following these instructions as if we were disarming a bomb!  We should be thinking through all of our actions, making sure we get each step right...  

Clarke states that "they must ever consider that their prosperity and continued possession of the [promised] land depended on their fidelity and obedience to God."  In the same way, our promise of eternal life and glorification depend upon our fidelity and obedience to God!  We can't live our lives ignoring the law, neglecting our relationship with God, and serving everyone but Him.  We must be exceedingly careful to observe His commandments, to love Him, to walk in His ways, to keep His commandments, to hold fast to Him, and to serve Him with ALL of our hearts and souls!  Our very lives depend on it!

Look back up at the list again.  Which of those 6 things do you struggle with the most?  Take some time today and focus on that weak link.  Look at that link as if it were a bomb about to explode.  Give it the attention it needs today to be secure tomorrow!  Take it one step at a time....

Monday, September 10, 2012

Standing on the Narrow Road

I remember the first time I was heart broken over how blind the world is.  I was in a high school biology class.  We had been discussing ethics like stem cell research, cloning, etc.  For each topic, we had to raise our hands to show which side we were on.  It was fun.  Until the teacher asked us how we felt about helping the poor in third world countries.  He basically gave a statement saying that we should keep our own resources and let nature take its course in those environments.  Then posed the question - who all thinks we should stop aiding these people, these countries?  A lot of hands went up.  It was a sad moment.  Then he asked the opposite side:  Who thinks we should continue to help them?  My hand was the only hand raised.  I slowly looked around the room, letting my eyes rest on a boy I went to church with.  He just looked away.  My heart broke.  After class, the teacher gave me props to sticking to what I believed in.  But as I told my parents what happened that night, there were tears in my eyes.  Not for being singled out, but for realizing how much people didn't care.  I knew what God wanted, so I stuck to this day, I'm glad I did.

Joshua 14:7-8 - 7 I was forty years old when Moses the servant of the Lord sent me from Kadesh-barnea to spy out the land, and I brought back word to him as it was in my heart.  8 Nevertheless my brethern who went up with me made the heart of the people melt with fear; but I followed the Lord my God fully.

If you don't know the original story, it can be found in Numbers 13 and 14.  But here is a brief run down: Moses sent a man from each tribe to spy out the promised land.  When they returned, all but two of the spies were severely pessimistic saying that the men of the land were too strong, of great size - we became like grasshoppers in our own sight...they talked of how the city was fortified and very large.  Basically, they reported back that it was impossible to take over the land and suggested that they shouldn't even try.  Meanwhile, Caleb and Joshua tried their best to convince the people otherwise.  Caleb says outright, "We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it" (Numbers 13:30).  

Caleb is the one speaking again in Joshua 14:7-8.  Can you imagine going to spy the land you are about to take over and seeing giants?  Real, live giants??  The thought instantly gives me butterflies.  I'm sure that Caleb was at least a little scared.  But he didn't let that fear persuade him.  And he didn't let the pessimism of those around him persuade him either: "Neither fear nor favour influenced him on the occasion; he told what he believed to be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth" (Wesley).  "From a full conviction of the truth of what he said and a firm belief of the divine promise," Caleb told Moses what he knew in his heart to be true (Henry)!  He stood firm in his convictions and took the narrow road.

How easy is it for us to let go of our convictions because of the people around us?  Or what about our own fear consuming us to the point that we forget the PROMISE of God!?!  We must know and believe what is in our hearts so that neither man nor fear can influence us.

Are you doubting a promise of God because of your fear today?

Have you let your convictions fall to the wayside because of the influences of other people?

Examine your actions and thoughts today.  Then stand up for what you know is true!  God doesn't back down from a promise!  And we shouldn't back down from what we know to be true!  

Here's to standing on the rock!