The LORD came, stood there, and called as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel responded, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:10, HCSB
Sometimes as a husband I am accused of "seeming to pay attention" as my wife speaks to me but, not really listening to anything being said. Though I do not concur with that assessment (LOL), there is a lesson learned from that illustration we need to learn.
In order to really listen, the husband who is guilty of such action, must focus his attention on what his wife is saying. Sometimes, this simple act requires a great deal of effort to accomplish.
In the scripture above, Samuel could not remotely imagine that one night God was calling him. Samuel thought it was Eli the priest who called his name since the voice was so personal. Eli helped young Samuel understand God was speaking. We need to understand that God IS speaking to us these days as well! Just as intimately as the personal call on young Samuel. I pray we will hear Him!
Samuel took Eli’s advice and promptly answered God correctly. There is a LOT in that statement. Samuel LISTENED to the sagely advice being afforded him. We need to be open to the counsel of God's people (and even those that might not be walking as they should currently) as they remind us that God IS talking and we should listen to Him/for Him.
Some of us may have never heard the voice of God in such a personal manner. Although we may never hear Him audibly, we must develop an attitude of careful listening if we are to hear God calling our name speaking to us. We must learn to focus all of our attention on God. Then, in the stillness of our souls, we will recognize His voice. At times, we must be willing to seek guidance from our spiritual leaders in order for this personal encounter to take place.
My prayer this day (as I prepare to head out for worship with my church family) is this -- Father, focus my attention so I can listen to You. Perhaps I will add---Father, touch my heart so I WILL listen to You!
Then a voice came from the cloud, saying "This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!” Luke 9:35, HCSB
Peter had been taught well! His Jewish upbringing comes to the forefront and his heart is divided as a result. He wants to keep Moses, representing the Law; Elijah, representing the Prophets; and Jesus, representing the new revelation, all on the same level. His response was, "Let us make three tabernacles"
It is of great significance that IMMEDIATELY following Peter’s statement, a cloud descended and "they became afraid as they entered the cloud." This was far more serious than we might realize not being a part of this culture. The entire future was bound up with the question of whether Jesus was final and whether supreme allegiance should be given to Him. Who is the “final authority” and “who deserves our complete allegiance?” We all have to answer these in the affirmative for Christ Jesus in order to become completely sold out to His LORDSHIP in every aspect of our lives!
Where there is division, there will always be clouds. We have to admit, there are clouds over our churches. We fear as we enter those clouds. Why are we afraid? The answer is simple - division. Ephesians 4 encourages each of us, as members of the church to do all we can to preserve the unity of the body. John 15 vividly details the importance and the imperativeness of our ABIDING in Christ!
In the midst of this cloud – and I contend countless others - comes a Voice. God speaks! The Voice is one of evaluation and invitation. God said, "This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35). The clouds will never lift and the fears will never depart until we LISTEN to Christ. John 17 details what He is saying, "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You" (John 17:21). Christ must be first, and the unity of His Body must take priority over any other allegiances we might have.
It is my prayer that it will not be long before we who share Christ's Name truly become one. For the church to more effectively achieve its purpose, we must abide in Him and become one as Christ prayed for us to become,
Philippians 4: 4 reads, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice.” Not a bad verse to reflect upon at the beginning of each day! There is reason for believers to REJOICE regardless of the circumstances that prevail in our lives. We have REASON to rejoice in and through Christ Jesus, and – under His light, it is INDEED, “all good!”
When I recall these words, I am always reminded of the verses before it where Paul urges people in the church to help some women that are not living in harmony. He admonishes the church members to “help these women” see the error of their ways and live/work/serve in harmony. THEN he says, REJOICE in the LORD always. There is an imperative in his words!
There’s a familiar hymn we sing, "Count Your Blessings.” In part, it reads:
When upon life's billows you are tempest tossed,
When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost,
Count your many blessings, name them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.
There's wisdom for all of us in that old hymn! Sometimes life becomes so hectic. Trials and troubles push their way into our lives and we become overwhelmed with the “stuff of life.” Our focus becomes the circumstance and not the God who has promised to walk with us and sustain us in and through EVERY circumstance. When we focus on our problems, we lose sight of the good things in our lives. We “miss” God’s hand at work in the midst of our circumstance.
It is as though we are under a gigantic cloud that blocks out the sun. We get irritable, depressed, and worst of all, we lose all perspective. At times like this, we need to MAKE time to “count our blessings,” review all the reasons God has given us for rejoicing.
For me, I have discovered I start playing my “poor, pitiful me” collection at times when I should NOT be discouraged at all – right after a “spiritual high.” That’s why my life needs the spiritual constant of time alone with God DAILY!
If you are under the cloud today and about ready to pull out your “poor, pitiful me” collection, instead make the deliberate choice to COUNT your blessings! It WILL surprise (astonish, amaze, astound, blow you away) what the LORD has done! Try not to grumble and complain. Count your blessings instead. Below is a list to get you started – just reflect upon these truths and allow them to spark other reasons to praise Him this day:
God has indeed blessed us! It IS ALL good, because Jesus IS LORD!
"A good name is to be chosen over great wealth; favor is better than silver and gold.” Proverbs 22:1, HCSB
Think for a few minutes of the culture we live in as Americans. In our “postmodern society” (which I often call a pagan culture), it is “cool” to be “bad.” People with little regard for biblical principles – in fact almost “blaspheme” - are held in high regard by many, including professing Christians. A type of “glorification” of a bad, promiscuous, profane lifestyle/reputation has become the norm in our society. All one has to do is look at our commercials, listen to our popular songs, and observe the t-shirts we are wearing to church. With this “bad is good” culture that has invaded our culture (including the fringe of the church), what is a Christ-follower to do?
The writer of Proverbs gives us some tried and true advice. His piercing “one-liners” have withstood the test of time. Our reputation is a reflection of character. As believers, it is a reflection of who we are in Christ.
LISTEN (hear in a biblical sense) to what Proverbs continues to teach us in the 21st Century. Riches, or lack thereof, still try our prejudice. Prudence is still the mark of a successful person. Humility still trumps pride. The fear of the Lord is still the starting place for the most wonderful journey any human can take. Thorns and snares are still on the daily route for all.
You and I are wise to pay attention to the advice of the ancient sage. If we are to confront—with the truths of Proverbs—the upside-down, downward-moving, immoral, mainstream culture we inhabit, we must possess courage. In so doing we mirror (reflect, copy, emulate, imitate) and exalt the life of Jesus.
Take some time today to reflect upon where you are in Christ. Pray that God will help us in our daily efforts to reflect the life of Christ in our culture. Pray that others will see Jesus in us and come to know Him as their personal savior and Lord of all.
Do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. Matthew 6:13, HCSB
In recent weeks, God has shown me His presence through various scripture passages. Among them was the book of Nehemiah. Rebuilding the walls and securing the gates has taken new life in my mind as I seek God’s Will. Each year I choose a theme for the life and work of Tar River Baptist Association. A time will come--or may have come already--when you find yourself facing intense temptation. As I shared my struggle with several this year, I often joked that it should be “Whatever It Takes To Be Acts 1: 8.” What did NAMB choose for the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering but “Whatever It Takes.”
In reading Nehemiah, I began to sense what Nehemiah had determined to do when God called him to the task. Whatever it would take to accomplish the task, he would not be distracted by his enemies and neglect his responsibility. In Nehemiah 6: 3 he sent the message that he should not leave the important work he’d been called to do to respond to their distraction- their overall purpose was to destroy him.
In the end, I determined the 2012 theme would be based on Nehemiah 6: 3. The theme is “This ONE Thing: Whatever It Takes To BE Acts 1: 8.” TRBA must do all that we can to assist the local church, to strengthen it and help it impact the lostness of THIS generation. The “all caps” is not by accident. “ONE thing implies the singular priority of Christ. The necessity of being obedient to the commands of God to do the work that He has called us to do.
Then the emphasis becomes the word “BE.” Whatever it takes, we must be faithful to the call/obedient to the command to BE the church. What does it mean to BE the church? It means we are to ABIDE in Him and from our abiding in Him, the NATURAL result will be the production of fruit that remains.
The scripture I listed at the beginning should be our prayer as we seek to be obedient to the commands of Christ. Deliverance from the evil one may not always be a “dramatic escape.” Instead, it could be a subtle nudge of the Holy Spirit to remain faithful instead of yielding to temptation or compromising biblical principles to do “good thing” as opposed to the “God things” He has commanded.
Even when we do not deliberately go out looking for it, the powerful voice of temptation can still call you and lure you to be disobedient to God’s call upon your life. We are OFTEN asked to compromise in the area of sex, lying, or stealing. People may pressure us to get into alcohol, drugs, or gambling. It could be anything and if we are not careful, the enemy will simply lure us “off track.” We can quickly come to the edge of giving in, so we must ABIDE in Him.
Sin is a serious thing. We must never forget that. It is the goal of the enemy to destroy us, our witness. It is Satan’s desire to completely destroy us, but if that is not possible he is content for us to simply drift away a little and “miss the mark.” I was taught the definition of sin is “missing the mark.” Sin, whether it is “big” or “small” is SIN. And SIN keeps us from being all that God would have us to BE in Him.
Too often, we “play with sin.” Too often, we like to get as close to temptation as we can. We justify our actions because “after all, it isn’t________________ like real sinners do.” Sin is sin—we don’t need to “flirt” with it. Often times, our “innocent flirtations” bring disastrous results as we do not pull back at the last minute and fall into deeper sin. We are NOT strong enough to pull back at the last minute. Then to our dismay, we discover that temptation is not as easily resisted as we thought. Sin is a much more powerful foe than we realize. WE have to ABIDE in Him!
Don't walk blindly through life, spiritually weak and unprepared for the temptations you'll meet. Every day when you pray, look to the Model prayer of Jesus:
For background, I encourage you to read and meditate on Matthew 6: 9 – 15, Nehemiah 6: 1 – 14 (maybe at least the first 6 chapters of Nehemiah for full context), Psalm 27: 1 – 3, John 15, and Ephesians 6: 10 – end of chapter.
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!