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David – the heart of the matter

We live in an increasingly visual age, what with all the selfies that are taken and shared, videos that are put online, films and TV programmes we consume. We are very quick to make judgments based on what we see, but looks can be deceiving. Right now, one of the most popular TV shows in the UK is Love Island, where beautiful girls sashay around in bikinis alongside muscular young men, and people watch to see who will pair off with who, and which fledgling relationship will last the course of the programme. Impressionable young people who tune in must think that in order to get a girl/boyfriend, they too must achieve a “perfect” body, toned and tanned to the extreme. The reality is that most people will never fit into this mould, so it sets them up to fail from the beginning.

God had a mission for Samuel to visit Jesse and his family in Bethlehem where one of his sons was to be anointed as king (1 Samuel Ch 16 v1 – 13). Samuel was still grieving for Saul and his failed kingship. Back in Ch 8 we are told that the people had rejected God as their King and instead demanded a human king, just like the other nations. When Samuel prayed to the Lord about it, He told him to give the people what they wanted while first warning them what it would cost them. The people were adamant that they wanted this king, so Saul was chosen. The Bible tells us that Saul was a “handsome young man” from a wealthy background, who was taller than anyone else. Perhaps he would fit in to Love Island very well!

However, Saul didn’t obey God when it mattered. He failed to wait for Samuel to offer a burnt offering to God and did it himself (1 Sam Ch 13). He was not reverent towards the holy things of the Lord and the divinely appointed priestly role. This led to a downward spiral and eventually the Lord removed His Spirit from Saul, hence the need for a new king. Now the Lord said to Samuel that He had provided Himself a king from the sons of Jesse, rather than letting the people have what they thought they wanted with another like Saul.

When Eliab, the first of Jesse’s sons came toward Samuel, he thought that this must surely be the one! But the Lord said to him that despite appearances he wasn’t –

“The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” (v7)

Six more of Jesse’s sons passed Samuel by, but each one was rejected by God. Finally he had to ask Jesse if he had seen all of his sons, but there was one more, the youngest, who was out watching the sheep. Perhaps he seemed the least significant since Jesse hadn’t brought him along to the sacrifice with Samuel. As soon as Samuel laid eyes on David, the Lord spoke to him saying “Rise and anoint him; this is the one”.

Perhaps many times we feel insignificant in the grand scheme of things. We don’t look like models, have a wealthy background or spectacular gifts. Yet it’s often the insignificant that Jesus chooses to work with. Many of his miracles involved those who had been rejected by their own people and lived on the fringes of society. Jesus healed lepers, blind men, a woman who had bled for 12 years. He freed the demon-possessed, was merciful to a woman caught in adultery and forgave the thief on the cross. The disciples that he chose were not special men from privileged backgrounds. They were ordinary, hard-working people who often struggled to understand where Jesus was coming from.

Let’s not get caught up in spending most of our time, effort and money on these outward things that will only fade away. We can’t stave off the ageing process forever, whatever “skincare experts” like to tell us! Remember Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians Ch 4 v16 – 18:

“Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”


Moses and his fear of public speaking

What comes to mind when you think of Moses? Heroic leader of God’s people; author of the first five books of the Bible? The man who met with God on Mount Sinai as He dictated His laws, and came down with a radiant face?

Let’s go back to the call of Moses when he didn’t seem so brave or likely as such a leader. God’s people had been enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, and things only seemed to be getting worse. Their cries had reached the Lord (Exodus Ch 2 v 23 – 24), and God had appeared to Moses in the burning bush out in the wilderness near Horeb, the mountain of the Lord. God spoke to Moses saying that He had seen and heard His people’s distress and that Moses himself would be the instrument by which the Israelites would be delivered!

The last time Moses was in Egypt things hadn’t gone so well. Some 40 years earlier, he had seen the hardship of the Hebrew slaves and had struck and killed an Egyptian slave driver. He was spotted doing this by a couple of the slaves and feared what would happen should the news spread, so he ran away to Midian where he had settled and lived ever since. Now the Lord Himself wanted to send him back there? What could He be thinking?!

After questioning God’s identity and being assured that He would be with him in this mission, Moses has some further objections. What if the people wouldn’t listen to him? God gave him some signs to prove to the people Who it was that was really behind this rescue mission. Moses’s rod became a snake when thrown to the ground and returned to normal when picked up again; his hand became leprous when put inside his coat and was restored when the same thing was repeated. If water from the river was poured out onto dry land it would become blood.

Not content with these signs, Moses told God he just wasn’t very good at speaking in public. The Lord said that He Himself would give Moses the words to say. Finally, Moses said “Please send someone else”!

Have you ever felt that way? “Please, God, just send someone else. I’m not up to this task You’ve given me. I’m no good in this situation. Please get me out of this!” I know I’ve felt that way myself. “I just don’t have the skills to deal with this; can’t You just give me an easier life?”

God was angered by Moses’s repeated objections to His will, but He was very gracious with him. Instead of punishing him, he told him that his brother Aaron would do the talking in Egypt. He didn’t let Moses off the hook, so to speak. Moses was still to go to Egypt and meet with the Pharaoh, but he wouldn’t be doing it alone. He would have had the All Powerful God with him anyway, but now he had a human companion and mouthpiece in the form of his brother, Aaron.

If we look on in the Book of Exodus, we see that Aaron didn’t need to continue in this role as Moses’s spokesman for too long. At the end of Ch 19 after Moses had been on the mountain with the Lord we read the words “So Moses went down to the people and spoke to them.” (v25) God graciously provided Moses with the support of his brother Aaron, but He lovingly brought him on and developed him in his role as leader.

Similarly God knows our weaknesses and is gracious with us. Did you notice that when Moses was fearful he was focusing on these difficulties rather than the great I AM who was going to be with him? How often that can happen in our lives! Perhaps there is an opportunity to say something – anything – about Jesus or our faith, but we fluff it. We become scared about what to say, so we keep our mouths closed and go on to bitterly regret the missed opportunity. Perhaps meditating on the fact that this same God is with us today in the person of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit will cause us to lift our eyes upwards instead of inwards.

When Jesus was speaking to His disciples in the days leading up to His death, resurrection and ascension, He promised them “another Helper” (John Ch 14v16) who would be with them always. This Helper would dwell with them and in them, leading them into all truth. The Helper would teach them all things bringing to memory His own words. Praise God that all believers have this same Helper within, and even when we are scared He never leaves us nor forsakes us. Moses learned to trust God and speak His words to the Israelites, and this gives us hope that we too can be used by the living God for His purposes in whatever situation He has put us in.

The Cross of Christ

I realised having typed my first post last night that I hadn’t mentioned the cross of Christ in my story of becoming a Christian. As a child growing up I was taught from a young age about Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for sinners, that He had borne the wrath of God against sin so that all those who believe in Him no longer have to face this punishment. As a nine year old coming to Him and asking for forgiveness, I went knowing about this and on the basis of Jesus’ death on the cross. However I didn’t fully understand the love of the Father in this sacrifice and the lengths to which He was prepared to go in order to win us back from sin and death.

I am thankful then for the experience I had in my early 30s when I felt such a failure and wanted to give up on life. Different things at that time revealed the love of God to me in a heart-felt way, such as the Pastor running after me mentioned in my last post and things the counsellor said when I met with her. As a child I came to Christ through fear of hell; I never really had a heart-felt experience of His love. I did have that during the dark and difficult time in my 30s, and that is what has sustained me to this day. The Bible has always been a source of instruction and encouragement to me, but I found it came alive in a new way following my adult experiences. I learnt that I had to take God at His word, trusting that His promises are true.

Even times of suffering can be turned to joy in His grace and mercy, and I’m thankful for that dark time because of all that I learnt through it.

Hello and welcome

Thank you for choosing to look at this blog! I am completely new to blogging and anything of this sort, so it’s been a bit of a faltering start so far on the tech side, but I hope the actual content makes up for that!

Well I’ll begin by introducing myself and what I’m hoping to achieve. I’m Carolyn, a Christian, a wife, mother of two teenage children and a growth group leader at my church. I don’t claim to have any special or superior knowledge, just 30 plus years of living the Christian life and a love of Bible study.

What do I mean when I say that I’m a Christian? Well, for me I was taken to church from birth by my Mum and Dad, and back then there was no Sunday school or Junior church for children to go to, so I was in the services listening to the sermons. I’m an introvert and a deep thinker, so at the age of nine soon after a sermon about the need to be forgiven by Jesus for our sins or face the eternal reality of hell, I was scared and wanted to come to Jesus for forgiveness. I prayed a simple prayer, saying sorry for the things I’d done wrong and asking Jesus to forgive me and come into my heart. I remember that at that time I wasn’t sure if God had heard me so I kept praying a similar prayer every night for quite a while, until I thought to myself that I was sure He’d heard by then!

Life is never all plain sailing, so there were challenges growing up, of bullying, for example, but God was merciful and I kept trusting Him and in the truth of His word. I found that the real challenges began once I’d left school and struggled to live up to all that teachers had told me I would achieve. This all culminated in a crisis point in my early 30s when I felt that all I’d done up to that point had been a failure. I got to the point where I didn’t want to go on anymore. I felt that my life here was a waste and that I’d rather be with the Lord in heaven. During this time, I kept praying and asking God where was the love, joy and peace that I believed should be part of the Christian experience? God answered my prayers with an almost miraculous situation where the pastor at my church ran out after me following a meeting and asked a very pertinent question. I knew then that God could see me as I cried out to Him and that He did indeed love me very much. I sought help from a Christian counsellor and learned a lot of things about myself and the love of God. I had made an idol of different things, academic success, for example, and when things went wrong I was devastated. I had not taken to heart Bible passages about how much He loved me. My perspective on life changed after this time, and I acknowledged that my life was His to do with as He pleased. He had placed me in the circumstances I was in for His own purposes.

At that time the following verses from Psalm 73 came to mean so much to me:

“Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” (v23-26)

There have been many challenges since that time, but now I feel the security of His love and it’s got me through some difficult times. I admit that I struggle with the fast pace of 21st century life, and I don’t feel myself to have a strong personality. In fact I’m very much like the highly sensitive person described by Dr Elaine Aron! The purpose of this blog then is to share stories of how God can take and use faltering, nervous Christians today, just as He used weak and stumbling people in the Bible. It always encourages me to see that many of the Bible personalities were deeply flawed individuals, but God in His mercy and grace used them to achieve His purposes. In future posts I will look at some of these characters so that we can gain encouragement for our own lives.

Thank you very much for your time, look forward to posting again in the next week or so.

Introduce Yourself (Example Post)

This is an example post, originally published as part of Blogging University. Enroll in one of our ten programs, and start your blog right.

You’re going to publish a post today. Don’t worry about how your blog looks. Don’t worry if you haven’t given it a name yet, or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Just click the “New Post” button, and tell us why you’re here.

Why do this?

  • Because it gives new readers context. What are you about? Why should they read your blog?
  • Because it will help you focus you own ideas about your blog and what you’d like to do with it.

The post can be short or long, a personal intro to your life or a bloggy mission statement, a manifesto for the future or a simple outline of your the types of things you hope to publish.

To help you get started, here are a few questions:

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?
  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?
  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?
  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

You’re not locked into any of this; one of the wonderful things about blogs is how they constantly evolve as we learn, grow, and interact with one another — but it’s good to know where and why you started, and articulating your goals may just give you a few other post ideas.

Can’t think how to get started? Just write the first thing that pops into your head. Anne Lamott, author of a book on writing we love, says that you need to give yourself permission to write a “crappy first draft”. Anne makes a great point — just start writing, and worry about editing it later.

When you’re ready to publish, give your post three to five tags that describe your blog’s focus — writing, photography, fiction, parenting, food, cars, movies, sports, whatever. These tags will help others who care about your topics find you in the Reader. Make sure one of the tags is “zerotohero,” so other new bloggers can find you, too.