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Archive for March, 2012

“For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ”.  Philippians 2:21.  We are all experts at seeking our own interests.  We aim for an easier life with more comforts.  We don’t like things out with our ‘comfort zones’.  This is only natural to our own natures.  To seek another’s interests rather than our own is considered strange at the very least.  We are not even so good at seeking the interests of Jesus.  Let us make every effort to learn and seek the interests of our LORD Jesus, after all He has done so much for us.  So what are His interests?  The Bible is full of clues and ideas.  Matthew 25 (ESV) says “34 Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  In this passage the rewarded followers of Jesus will be those who looked out for other people in various practical and spiritual ways.   Jesus goes on to say ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’  Regardless of where we look in the Bible, it is clear that God’s interests are in us looking after other people.  When we care about those in need and the lost, we are caring about the interests of Jesus.

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Praising God

“I will praise God’s name in song and glorify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox, more than a bull with its horns and hooves”. Psalm 69, verses 30 and 31.  Giving to God is good and an appropriate way of saying thank you for all that He has done for us.  Of course, we are only giving to God what is already His when we do so.  We should never deceive ourselves that we are ever giving something of ours to God, as it is his to begin with.  We also should not think that God needs our gifts, He can, and does fulfil his purposes without our time, money or efforts.  God gives us the opportunity to give to Him as an act of thanksgiving.  It is for our benefit.  There are so many things we gain from giving right now, not to mention that God rewards those who live for others in this life, in eternity.  But let us not forget that God values something above our gifts, and that is our gratefulness and praise.  Nothing pleases God more than a grateful heart and praise of His name and what He has done for us.  Take heart if you are poor in time or money, you can still give God the most precious gift:  your praise and appreciation.

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“So the king appointed an official for her, saying, “Restore all that was hers, together with all the produce of the fields from the day that she left the land until now.” 2 Kings, chapter 8 and verse 6.  The Shunammite woman was wise.  It was her, rather than her husband, who suggested making room for Elisha the prophet.  They regularly used to host him, and when famine came to the land, he suggested the move out.  This they did, avoiding the worst of the hardships that came on the country.  It was seven years that they were away from home and when they returned they found their land and house had been taken by another.  They went to the king, who was talking with Elisha’s assistant.  They happened to be talking about this woman and how she used to look after Elisha the prophet.  This was no coincidence.  God works through circumstances and he is often preparing not only situations but people’s hearts before we even arrive.  When she arrived and presented her request to the king; that her land be restored to her, the king was only too pleased to grant her request.  He not only did so, but went far beyond what she asked for or deserved, giving her not only what was due but also the profits of the produce of her land for the last seven years she had been absent!  For those God loves he loves greatly.  He takes joy in giving us so more than we deserve.   We for our part should recognise His abundant blessings and give all the praise and thanks due to Him.

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Ever wished you could fly away?

The writer of Psalm 55 did. He writes, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove! I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; Selah. I would hurry to find a shelter from the raging wind and tempest.”
It is a natural desire in difficult circumstances to wish to get away. People say they need a break. If we could just get away for a while we could get some rest and feel so much better. Or maybe the problems are more permanent and we’d like to move somewhere else to stay. These feelings come very naturally to us. I personally often thought about how good it would be to, just like the dove, live in the wilderness far away from people. The problem is that we cannot get a way. We are not like the dove, and there is nowhere to flee to. Perhaps we could go on holiday, but we would need to come back. As the saying goes, ‘we can’t run away from our problems’.
The Psalmist finds the solution though. “Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you; he will never permit the righteous to be moved”. God’s gift to those who trust and love him is not to remove us from the world, or often our problems, but to sustain us in them. He will bring us through and sustain us. We need not flee anywhere, for He is near.

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Psalm 116 speaks of some very difficult times in the life of the Psalm writer.  Then verse seven says : “Return to your rest, my soul, for the LORD has been good to you”.  There are hard times in everyone’s life.  But often God will rescue us from those situations or circumstances and we find ourselves in a place of peace, the storm having passed.  We should be thankful for those times.  We should also be thankful in the storms.  Just think of Paul and Silas giving thanks and singing in a horrible Roman jail (see Acts 16).  They had not only been treated injustly, they could have been having a good moan about that, but had also been beaten as part of their punishment.  They would have been cold, sore, tired, thirsty and feeling physically quite awful.  Yet they still praised.  How much more should we praise God when things are well for us.

But when we have some though a hard time, we should also remember to return our hearts to a place of rest.  If we are in Christ, why are our souls troubled? If there is one thing worse than worrying in times of trouble, it is worrying in times of ease.  We need to learn to trust in God completely.  In doing so we will not only have peace in the storms, but also in the calm.  Having been though a storm we should be all the more grateful for the peace that God has given to us.

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“Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake or your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” 1.   The writer of the Psalm repeats the phrase twice, not to us.  Not to us be the glory, the credit given, but to God.  Make God look good, not us.  Show the world that it is all down to Him, not us.  Don’t even attempt to give me credit, it was all of God.  Is that our attitude?  If there is anything good in me, anything I have done well, any success or achievement that has made a difference, then it is to the credit, to the glory of God himself, it was not of my doing.  In the book of 1st Kings, we read of King David wishing to build a temple for the nation.  God was pleased that he wished to build a temple and asked him to start making preparations and gathering the required materials, but it would be his son King Solomon that actually constructed the temple.  On taking the throne he wasted no time and got to work on temple construction.  Solomon himself took charge of the making of all the gold furnishings 2, and on completion of this vast project a dedication service was held.  King Solomon said something very interesting at this service: “Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who with his hand has fulfilled what he promised with his mouth to David my father…” 3.  Solomon gave God all the credit for the building of the temple.  While acknowledging that his father and he had a role in carrying out the project, the fact that it had happened was all due to God.  In everything we do, we should do so to the glory of God (see 1 Corinthians 10, verse 31).  This is the natural expression of thanks and gratitude in the life of a Christian.  The child may help make dinner but she thanks her parents for providing the food, house and skill to actually make it happen.  So it is with us, we know where our blessings and abilities come from and our desire is to make God look good by what we do.  May we always be conscious to give the credit for our successes to God.

1 Psalm 115, verse 1.
2 1 Kings chapter 7, between verses 48 and 51
3  1 Kings chapter 8, verse 15
All quotations are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

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