Feeling the Lack

Perhaps that seems like an odd title, so I’ll try and explain! For the last six months or so, with all the Covid restrictions and changes that have happened in my life, I have really felt the lack of, I don’t know, general stability, purpose and Christian fellowship in my life. I find that this sense of a lack of whatever it may be drives me back to the Lord. It reminds me that I need Him and that without a relationship with Him there is nothing to fill the void.

This isn’t always a smooth process where once I’ve felt and understood the sense of a lack, I turn immediately to the Lord. Sometimes it takes time to work out exactly what it is that I feel that I’m lacking. Perhaps there is a general sense of unease or joylessness. Where is that coming from? What is the source? This pandemic has stripped away those things that were giving me focus and purpose. Most of these things could be described as “good” things, but when they are taken away, it exposes what is left behind. If that is a sense of inadequacy, does that mean that I was finding my purpose in these activities rather than in the Lord Himself?

Over the course of the pandemic restrictions I decided to leave my home church, where I had been going for almost 40 years since my early childhood. It wasn’t something that only occurred to me then, it was something that I’d thought about on and off for years. My children who are aged 16 and 20 had both stopped coming to church and my husband found attending church hard. I felt that perhaps if I went to a believing church of a different denomination it might be easier for at least one member of my family to come along. Of course, joining a new church in a pandemic is not easy, and it has taken a lot of prayer and perhaps courage to step into a new setting where I barely know anyone.

At my old church, people (well, some people!) knew who I was and I was trusted to do certain things, such as leading a small group of ladies in a Bible study. Where I have gone I am an unknown quantity, and apart from meeting with the minister a couple of times and having brief chats with a few people, that remains the case. I look forward to the autumn when more opportunities will be open to me for getting to know others.

Over the many months of the pandemic restrictions it has dawned on me that although I have done this and taken a step of faith into a new church setting, it may change nothing at home. I will probably still be the only practising Christian in my home unless God does step in and perform a miracle. Of course this is a real possibility, but I am powerless to make it happen. That made me feel quite downhearted, and I felt the complete lack of ability to do anything about that. Where could I go with these feelings? Maybe the fact that I thought I could change things myself shows that I wasn’t trusting God in the first place. I have to accept that I have done all that I can now, and other than continuing to pray for my loved ones and using opportunities wisely, it is out of my hands. It was hard to come to terms with those feelings, but I know that God is ultimately in control, and that thought comforts me.

I have had the benefit of attending an online BSF class, so I enjoyed some months of fellowship and Bible study through that provision. I have also enjoyed reading a couple of books and going through them with a Christian friend via the internet. We read firstly “None Like Him” by Jen Wilkin about the attributes of God that He alone has. I found it good to take my mind off self and the problems of this life and to focus on these attributes of God, including His omnipotence and sovereignty.

Secondly, we have been going through “Deeper Still” by Linda Allcock about the practise of Biblical meditation and how it can contribute to our growth as Christians and to our mental stability. I like that she is very real about the problems we can encounter in our lives, but encourages us to hide God’s word away in our hearts for the very purpose of helping us through those tough times and pointing us to Him.

I also read a book myself that I found very helpful, called “If Only…” by Jennie Pollock. The author is a single lady who had always wanted to marry and have a family, yet has found herself remaining single thus far, beyond the years when having a family would be possible. She writes honestly and movingly about her own feelings and also the situations of other people whose lives have turned out to be very different than they would have hoped. Some people find themselves floored by ill health and simply unable to do all that they hoped they would do in life. Some couples are unable to have much longed-for children and have to come to terms with that. Yet other couples have children but later find that they will have life-long needs and need to cope with that. Really, many of us could say that our lives have not turned out as we would have hoped. Where do we go with all of this? Do we allow ourselves to grow bitter and jealous of others who do have what we long for? Or do we look to the unfailing God who promises to be with us and never leave us? These are hard things to accept and come to terms with, yet the Bible is realistic about our struggles. It doesn’t say anywhere that if we follow Him all our problems will go away and life will be plain sailing. In fact, Jesus says,

“In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world!” John 16:33

That seems to me to be the only solution to life’s “lacks”. Look to the Overcomer Himself, who gave up so much in order to give us that new life which not even the worst circumstances can take away. His love for us is an everlasting love, and we can never plough its depths or understand its breadth, but we can praise and thank Him for His sacrifice and all that this means for us.

If we are at a time where no words can really express all that we are feeling, the Bible says that “the Spirit Himself intercedes for us through wordless groans” (Romans 8:26). That is also such an encouragement, to know that the Helper is with us, doing just that. I really don’t know how many people will make it to the end of this article, but thank you for reading and I pray that you would know God’s blessing in your life however you are feeling right now, whether the way ahead looks clear or is hidden from you. We can trust Him more than we will ever know.


“Fear Not”

This year has been a difficult time for many people around the world. For those of us who live in the Western nations, the shock of the Covid and all the attendant restrictions on our lives and businesses has been tough to take. We generally live in peaceful societies with functioning governments and have not been used to difficulties on this scale in many years. There is also the sense that worse is to come in terms of the growth in unemployment and all the problems that go along with that.

Two weeks ago on a Bible course I’m doing we were given Isaiah 41:10 to memorize:

Fear not, for I am with you;
be not dismayed, for I am your God;
I will strengthen you, I will help you, 
I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

I have needed that these past few weeks! Where I live, Covid restrictions are soon to be tightened. Who knows how long that will go on for or what it will mean for the local economy. Hospitals are said to be seeing an increase in patients. Infection rates are growing. Where am I to look in times like this? This verse points me to God Himself, through Jesus Christ my Lord and Saviour. When we put our trust in Jesus, He never leaves us and He is always with us, both within and by our side.

'...He has said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you."  So we can confidently say,
"The Lord is my helper;
I will not fear;
What can man do to me?"'

Hebrews 13:5b, 6 

Last week a friend sent me a text saying he was fed up of the current restrictions and he just wanted things to go back to normal. He asked me when I thought they would get better. Of course I had to tell him that I have no idea, but I was able to point him to the Lord, the One who does indeed know all things. I shared the memory verse with him.

During this past week my mother-in-law was taken ill and sadly died. It was all very quick. This time last week my husband and daughter had gone to visit her and sit in her garden. Everything seemed as normal; she appeared to be well and her usual self. The next day my brother-in-law went to her house after lunch and saw that the curtains were all closed and realised she hadn’t got up that day. He called my husband and they both went there together, going in and finding her on the floor of her bedroom. She had been sick overnight and was too weak to get back into bed. They waited four hours for an ambulance to come, and when she got to hospital they thought she just had an infection. Antibiotics were given, but her body failed to respond. Two days later she died.

While she was in the hospital, I passed on the memory verse to my husband and he was able to share it with his Mum. I do not know if she knew the Lord as her own Friend and Saviour, but many prayers were said for her over the years and I prayed that this verse would even then prompt her to turn to the Lord.

The next day I sent a message to a friend whose own mother is very ill and only has a short time left here. Once again the memory verse came in useful, and I was able to share it with her.

In these uncertain times we need an anchor for our souls, something to base our lives on that is solid and immovable, which won’t let us down or fail us. I propose to you, whoever you are reading this today, that this anchor is none other than the Lord Jesus Christ. None of us knows what the future holds; we aren’t guaranteed easy lives here and some of us will know mostly trouble in these earthly lives. If we look at the world around us there are only temporary fixes on offer.

Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa 53:3). He bore our griefs and our sorrows upon the cross, taking the penalty for all of our wrong thoughts, words and deeds so that we might be at peace with God Himself. There is such love there in that act, love for you and for me, all so that we might have that eternal security and be partakers of His glory. When we have trusted Him, we can know the blessing of that promise in our own lives, whatever circumstances we are facing today:

“fear not, for I am with you”.

Paul’s “Thorn in the Flesh” and the Grace of God

Paul had a painful problem that he asked God to take away, not once, not twice, but three times. No one is exactly sure what this problem was, whether it was physical, mental, emotional or relational, but what we do know is that it caused Paul considerable distress. You don’t plead with God to take something away unless it’s causing a lot of pain or difficulty. Paul even goes so far as to describe this “thorn” as a “messenger of Satan” (2 Corinthians 12:7).

What thorns are there in your life? Perhaps it is an ongoing physical problem from which there is little relief. Maybe it is a difficult home life which causes considerable emotional distress, but because you honour the Lord you choose to stay. Could it be the pain of mental illness and the anguish that this causes? There are so many things that cause us pain in this life.

Often we don’t know why these problems have come our way. We might spend a lot of time asking “why?” only to find the silence deafening. How was Paul able to go on despite the thorn that caused him so much distress? After pleading with the Lord to take it away, He said to Paul:

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

There are many Bible characters who suffered unjustly. Think of Joseph back in Genesis 39-40. Sold into slavery by his own brothers, he was then falsely accused of rape by his master’s wife and languished in a prison cell for many years. In his darker moments he must have feared that he would never get out of that prison, and imagine his distress when the cupbearer whose dream he had interpreted forgot all about him for two whole years! Yet in all that time the Lord never left Joseph. In fact He was with him and “showed him steadfast love”, giving him favour in the eyes of first Potiphar and then the prison keeper.

Throughout that time God was preparing Joseph for his future role as second only to Pharaoh in all of Egypt. The Lord had trained Joseph in administration and management during his time with Potiphar and then in prison so that he had the skills to handle the distribution of food during seven years of famine. On being reunited with the brothers who had once hated him and sold him, Joseph was able to say to them;

“As for you, you meant evil against me but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Gen 50:20

Consider the persecution of the early church. Christians were raced around Roman amphitheatres on the wheels of chariots; they were set alight; they were fed to wild animals all for the entertainment of Caesar and his rich friends. What was the overall result of this terrible suffering? The Gospel spread and eventually came to people like us. Was it nice or comfortable for those Christians who experienced that suffering? Not in any imaginable way, but when they gave their lives and were martyred for their faith, they gained Heaven itself and the imminent presence of the Lord Jesus Christ.

When we are seeking to follow Jesus and become more Christ-like, He may choose to put us in a difficult situation in order to develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. Think about your life; have you learned the most in times of ease and comfort, or in difficulties and heartache?

“When we ask to be conformed to the image of Christ and to bear the fruit of the Spirit, we should not be surprised when God gives us the opportunity to exercise those Spirit-given gifts. What good is patience if we do not exercise it? What good is love if we do not, especially in the face of hatred and anger, show it to others? How are we to grow in our faith unless we are challenged, brought to an end of ourselves, and cry out to Christ for His grace? It is often the case that the trials and struggles of life are the crucible in which God conforms us to the holy image of His Son. The trials and struggles with sin are like the smelter’s fire where the Lord refines and purifies us, removing the dross of sin so that holiness and purity remain.” (J.V.Fesco, “The Fruit of the Spirit is…” p67-68)

What conclusion did Paul himself reach about his struggle with this “thorn in the flesh”?

“Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Cor 12:9b-11

Leah – Unloved by her husband, yet precious to the Lord

Have you ever been rejected by one who is supposed to love you and have your best interests at heart? This is the situation that Leah found herself in.

Her husband, Jacob, had taken his brother Esau’s birthright by lying to his father Isaac so that he received the blessing due to the firstborn rather than Esau. In time, he himself was deceived by his uncle Laban. He made a deal with him that he would work for seven years for him in exchange for his youngest daughter Rachel’s hand in marriage. The seven years quickly passed because of his love for Rachel, but Laban had other plans. He was not going to let Rachel marry before her elder sister Leah, and tricked Jacob by giving him Leah instead of Rachel at the wedding ceremony. (He was given Rachel a week later but then had to work a further seven years for Laban.)

This of course must have been a big shock to Jacob! I can only assume that brides wore heavy veils at that time so that the deception was relatively easy to carry out. Imagine how Leah herself must have felt. She had no say in the matter, and she probably already knew how much Jacob loved her sister. Imagine having to be given away to a man that didn’t love you, and always being the second choice. It was bad enough at that time that men seemed to have multiple wives, but think of the sibling rivalry in this case!

In Genesis Ch 29 v31, we read;

“When the Lord saw that Leah was not loved, he enabled her to conceive, but Rachel remained childless.”

I love that fact that “the Lord saw”. Just as He saw Leah in her sad and lonely situation, so He sees us. Here, He blesses her with the gift of children, while her sister was unable to conceive. This must have been a very tense and difficult domestic situation for the two sisters. Still, in Leah’s eyes Rachel had the thing she most desired; the love of her husband.

Leah gave birth to her firstborn, Reuben, and said:

“It is because the Lord has seen my misery. Surely my husband will love me now.” (v32b)

We can see she acknowledges that God has seen her situation, but her focus is still on getting Jacob to love her. She goes on to have another son, Simeon. This time she knows that the Lord has heard her misery:

“Because the Lord has heard that I am not loved, he gave me this one too.” (v33b)

We know that the Lord does not change (Malachi Ch 3 v6; James Ch 1 v17) and He is still the same God today as He was in Leah’s time, so we can be sure that He both sees and hears our sadness. Sometimes no-one else knows our difficult situation, but the Lord does.

Next Leah conceived and gave birth to Levi.

“Now at last my husband will become attached to me, because I have borne him three sons.” (v34)

Lastly in this chapter, Leah gives birth to Judah. Now she praises God and makes no mention of her need for Jacob’s love:

“This time I will praise the Lord.”

It seems there has been a change in Leah’s heart over the course of time. At first she longed for the love of her husband and hoped that the birth of his children would bring that to her. It seemed that this wasn’t the case because the three statements that she made after the births of her eldest sons make mention of the same desire to be loved by Jacob. By the time of Judah’s birth, however, she makes no mention of this, but rather turns her focus on the Lord.

Leah was particularly blessed in the birth of Judah because through his line the longed for Messiah would come. In Revelation Ch 5 v5, Jesus is referred to as “the Lion of the tribe of Judah” and “the Root of David”. So, unloved as she was, Leah played her part in the great salvation plan of the Lord.

There is more for us than finding our satisfaction and meaning in this life. Some difficult situations in our lives may never change. There may be an ongoing sadness or struggle that remains, no matter how hard we work to resolve the situation. Lift your eyes to the Lord, the lover of your soul.

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – He who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, He who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.” Psalm 121

Gutless Gideon and the gracious call of God

If you had to choose someone to lead your people in a battle against impossible odds, what characteristics would you look for? Boldness, decisiveness, physical strength? Confidence, good organisational skills? Where might you look for this person? Maybe you would go for a trained soldier, a commander with years of experience, someone highly respected in their field.

Well here we see once again that God’s ways are not our ways, and we simply can’t fathom His workings. Gideon seemed completely unsuited to leading God’s people against their enemies. The first time we meet him, he is threshing wheat in the wine press while hiding from the Midianites (Judges Ch 6 v11). This is where the angel of the Lord chose to call him for this important role:

“The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.”

Perhaps quite reasonably given the circumstances, Gideon asks him how the Lord could be with him given the current state of affairs. He and his people felt forsaken by God and the Midianites seemed to have the upper hand. They along with the Amalekites were ruining their crops and killing their livestock. There were so many of them that they seemed like a plague of locusts.

The Lord reminded Gideon of all He had done in saving the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and how he had continually worked to rescue them from their oppressors. But the Israelites had short memories. God had commanded them to drive out the surrounding nations when they took possession of the land of Canaan, but they failed to do this, leaving a continual temptation towards idolatry and constant threats against them. They had become trapped in a vicious cycle of disobedience, oppression, bitter cries to the Lord for help and God’s gracious provision of judges to lead them through their current conflict.

The Lord told Gideon to “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand. Am I not sending you?”

Gideon was ready with excuses, as we might have been in similar circumstances! How can I save Israel? Don’t you know that my clan is the weakest in Manasseh and actually I’m the lowest in my family? We can almost hear him saying “Just find someone else!”.

The Lord continued by saying that He would be with him and He would destroy the Midianites so that they were all dead. This assurance ought to have been enough for Gideon – the Lord Himself would be with him; victory was assured! There was no need to worry! Yet Gideon kept pressing for further reassurance, and the Lord was incredibly patient with him.

He went off and prepared a meal, and when he brought it back the angel gave him instructions to lay it all out on a rock, pouring the broth on top. After this the angel touched it and it was all burnt up and He vanished from sight. Rather than being completely amazed by what he had just seen, Gideon’s first thought was that now he’d seen the angel of the Lord his own death must surely be imminent. The patience of the Lord with Gideon was incredible; surely if we were dealing with Gideon many of us would have lost patience by now!

“Peace! Do not be afraid. You are not going to die.”

Gideon built an altar to the Lord calling it The Lord is Peace. Isn’t this so very comforting for us? I don’t know about you, but I can be a worrier. My mind goes down a trail of what I think will be certain negative outcomes to any given situation. Recently my Mum’s phone broke – it rang but no-one answered – and I couldn’t get in touch with her. I decided I would have to go and visit her to see if she was still alive! I pictured the terrible scene I might walk in on – perhaps she would be dead at the bottom of the stairs. How would I cope with that? Oh dear, how would I cope with arranging the funeral? My mind tends to go a long way on these fantasy worry tracks! Needless to say, I was sending up “arrow prayers” all the way there, and when I got there she was perfectly fine and in the middle of some housework. Does the Lord get fed up with me? Perhaps as He says to Gideon, He says to me “Peace! Do not be afraid.”

Gideon carried out his first assignment from the Lord by night, fearing the reaction of his family and neighbours when he destroyed their altar to Baal. After this successful mission, Gideon sought to test the Lord for further reassurance about his main battle with the Midianites. He laid out a fleece on the threshing floor and asked God to let dew fall on the fleece alone. The Lord did this for Gideon, even though He had already promised him success. Next time Gideon asked for a reversal – this time the fleece would remain dry and the ground around it would be damp. The Lord also did this for Gideon.

Did He have to do that? No, because He had already promised success to Gideon and assured him of His presence and strength. However He was very gracious with the faltering Gideon and continued to bear with him.

Is the “laying out of a fleece” an example for us to follow? No, because we are told not to put the Lord our God to the test (Deut. Ch 6 v16; Matthew Ch 4 v7; Luke Ch 4 v12). Gideon had already clearly been told that he would win the coming battle in the Lord’s strength; he was acting out of fear and delaying his obedience to God’s command. However, we can draw strength from the fact that God knows us through and through, and His patience with us is so great.

In Chapter 7, Gideon and only 300 men go on to defeat the massive Midianite army just as the Lord had said. His word is enough for us to go on and His promises are true, just as they were thousands of years ago. When we feel we are facing impossible odds, remember the story of Gideon and how God used a weak and faltering man to achieve His purposes. As my Bible teacher used to say, “God plus one is a majority”.

Naomi – from brokenness to blessing

We meet Naomi in the short Old Testament book of Ruth. Here is a woman who has lost everything. We read that she and her husband Elimilech and their two sons Mahlon and Chilion moved away from Bethlehem in Judah to Moab to escape the famine that was ravaging their homeland. It was a time when no-one was in charge of God’s people; the last verse of the book of Judges says,

“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.”

So not only was it a time of physical hardship, but spiritual darkness too.

In the course of time, her two sons married Moabite women named Orpah and Ruth. Tragedy struck, not once or twice but three times. Naomi was left a widow and both her sons died. Hearing that there was now food back in Bethlehem, she returned there with her loyal daughter-in-law, Ruth. Upon meeting the women of the town she declared,

“Do not call me Naomi [which means ‘pleasant’]; call me Mara [meaning ‘bitter’] for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me. I went away full, and the Lord has brought me back empty.”

Not many of us will ever know the tragedy that Naomi faced, but how many of us have felt despairing of life? How many of us have felt empty and bitter because of life’s circumstances? Perhaps we can’t understand why God has allowed these difficulties into our lives. Maybe we are angry with Him for the way things are shaping up, which are not at all how we envisaged our lives to be.

There is good news. Over the coming chapters there is a sea-change in Naomi’s circumstances and her state of mind. In Chapter 2 Ruth goes to glean in a man’s field and this happens to be a relative of Elimelech named Boaz. He proves himself to be a godly and a caring man, treating Ruth well and watching out for her. Naomi’s heart is encouraged by God’s provision through this man and she declares,

“May he be blessed by the Lord, whose kindness has not forsaken the living or the dead!”

She sees that despite all that she has suffered, God is still kind and still cares for her. She recognises that Boaz is one of their “redeemers” who may be able to buy back her husband’s land and ensure that his line continues. Naomi becomes something of a match-maker, recognising the value of a match between Ruth and Boaz. She comes up with a plan for Ruth to show Boaz that she is interested in being redeemed by him, which Ruth carries out to the letter.

After meeting with another relative who could have redeemed both Ruth and the land before him, Boaz is free to redeem her himself. He married Ruth and she gave birth to Obed, who would be the grandfather of King David. The women who had barely recognised Naomi at the beginning when she was deep in grief now rise up and bless the Lord…

…who has not left you this day without a redeemer and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age, for your daughter-in-law , who is more to you than seven sons, has given birth to him.”

Naomi, having lost everything, now nurses her grandson and holds him on her lap! Could she have ever believed that God would bless her in such a way on her return to Bethlehem, bowed down with grief, calling herself Mara instead of Naomi?

What of us? Some of us are in difficult circumstances that may never change. Naomi remained a widow and continued to suffer the loss of her sons, but she found that there is always hope with the Lord. He had not forgotten her, and neither has He forgotten us. Jesus came to be our Redeemer, paying the price for the things we do wrong. The Bible repeatedly tells us that He will never leave us nor forsake us, despite how we may sometimes feel. (See Hebrews Ch 13 v 5-6)

In John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, we read how Christian and his companion Hopeful are captured by Giant Despair and locked away in his dungeon. They are overcome by misery and they can only think of death as being a welcome relief compared to staying in that stinking dungeon for the rest of their days. After some time, they spend a night in prayer and it suddenly comes to Christian’s remembrance that he has a key called Promise that will open any lock in Doubting Castle. He feels foolish for forgetting this, and swiftly they use the key and are able to make their escape. When we find ourselves despairing of life and fearful of the future, we can turn to the true and faithful promises of His word. Naomi saw the fulfilment of promise in the birth of Obed, representing the continuance of the Messiah’s line. (See Matthew Ch 1)

Jesus promises that He has gone to prepare a place for us who believe.

“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” John Ch 14 v3

Our eternal future is secure; we can cope with this life by His grace and through His Spirit.

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.

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.