Archive for July, 2010

Resting at the River's Edge Logo 2010-2011

So Many Books, So Little Time

Well, it’s many books, but it’s not really much time. We’ll finish six books and start two others in August, but we’ll do it at the same pace as we’ve been travelling throughout the year – three chapters each day, Monday through Friday.

I’ve had a number of conversations about reading through the Bible recently. It seems that many people have the misconception that they just can’t do it. “I’m not much of a reader,” is what I’ve been hearing.

The good news is that:

(1)  You don’t have to be much of a reader to read through the New Testament in a year. All it takes is reading one chapter each day, five days a week. Even if you are a slow reader, you can probably do that in less than ten minutes. Increase that time to thirty or forty minutes each weekday and you can follow our Resting at the River’s Edge schedule. Over a two year period, you’ll read through the entire Old Testament once and the New Testament twice.

(2)  There are many modern language translations available. You can check out different translations online. Read from several different versions. If you find one you like, head on over to ChristianBook.com and pick it up.

(3)  It’s the inspired Word of God. I confess – sometimes it doesn’t feel like it! But when it does, it’s magical! (That would be magical in the sense of “wow!” and “cool” and “how does God do that?”, not magical in the sense of sorcery of course).

Reading through the whole New Testament and/or the whole Bible pulls the story of God’s plan together in a way that isn’t grasped by reading less methodically. So even if you haven’t been reading along with us yet, I invite you to join us in August.

In August we’ll finish 1 & 2 Samuel – the story of David’s life. God called David a man after His own heart – that seems like reason enough to study his life. In the New Testament we’ll read Collossians, Philemon, and Hebrews. In the book of Hebrews we’ll read about how Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of all that is taught in the Old Testament – He is our sacrificial lamb; His blood was poured out for the forgiveness of sins; He is our great high priest. Mr. T used to say “I love it when a good plan comes together.” Hebrews pulls God’s plan together and spells it out for those of us who didn’t catch it on our own!

May God whisper in your ear as you read with us this month!

The recommended reading schedule is below.

To download a PDF of August’s recommended reading plan, click here.

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If you’ve not seen this, take a coffee or tea break to watch it. If you have seen it, you’ll recognize it and probably still want to take that coffee or tea break.

To God be the glory, great things He has done!

According to the bio on her website, she was born in 2002, her mother died of ovarian cancer in 2008, she came to know Jesus personally in 2009. A tremendous talent, pray for this little girl as she blesses you with her song.

This video has being going around the internet apparently, but my thanks go to my sister-in-law, June, and cousin Dee Dee, for sending it to me.

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I read an unusual book a few weeks ago. Unusual in that it does such an excellent job of mixing business and faith. Written by Guy Richards, Talkable, describes itself as a book about “building your brand from the inside out” – but it’s about so much more than that. Richards is not the least bit shy about including comments that point to a Savior in the mist of a discussion about successful branding and marketing. Finding spiritual potato chips (i.e., making people thirsty) in the middle of business discussions is far from the norm.

In the interest of full disclosure, let me tell you that I received a free pre-release copy of Richard’s book on the promise that I would write a review of it on my blog. Beyond that, there were no stipulations or requirements placed on me to write a positive review. The book is being released in August.

I confess…I have an innate suspicion of marketing and branding. It comes from seeing inferior products win marketshare because of flashy marketing campaigns. And it comes from working with designers for whom how something looks is more important than how it functions. I am a hard-core “form follows function” advocate – figure out how to make something work efficiently, then make it look appealing.

The world according to Sandy: Pretty is good. Practical is better. Pretty and practical is the jackpot.

So I found Richard’s book incredibly refreshing. His entire premise is that uniqueness, quality, and integrity (as in deliver what you promise) is what makes a brand “talkable.” “Being positively Talkable means that your brand delivers such a uniquely great experience that the person on the receiving end can’t help but talk about it.” (back cover)

Richards delivers sixty short lessons in branding, leading with integrity and choosing God. In all honesty, I found his lessons in branding to be a bit weak at times, but I enjoyed the messages of faith and integrity so much, and the fact that they were combined with discussions about marketing, that overall I found the book to be encouraging, challenging and motivating. Richards, who owns a company named Abiah (which means God is our Father), is a man I’d like to get to know.

In a chapter called “The Art of Measurement” He talks about measuring ourselves against the “best of” whatever our category is. That’s how most people operate. But the “gifted visionary can paint the canvas of ‘GREAT’” that “pushes the bar of best-case scenario forever.” (p. 29) Then he follows with this paragraph:

No longer do the innovations of the competition cause the visionary business owner to fret. It’s because the measurement of this person is using is so far ahead of the standard that they are looking to God for what is possible. (p. 29)

Wow! I marketing book that inspires me! I want to be that visionary owner if for no other reason than I want to be the person who looks to God for what is possible instead of being satisfied with what is the best I can do or hope for.

Then he sucker punches the reader with the question “What is your life’s measurement standard?” (p. 29) I consider myself a person who pursues God daily (ok, almost every day) and who has a relatively high desire to apprehend all that He has for me – yet Richards’ question gave me pause. Do I set the bar in our business so high that I am looking to God to achieve our goals? Ummmm…..no. (forgive me, Lord)

This is a marketing and branding book I can like!

He discusses decision-making in a chapter titled “The Fork in the Road.” This is one of his blatantly God-centered chapters. He has a three-step approach:

  1. Ask God for wisdom.
  2. Evaluate your motives.
  3. “Err on the side that will make God smile.” (p. 55)

I like that. Lord, I want to err on the side that makes You smile.

And in a chapter that ostensibly has nothing to do with faith, Richards ends with this sentence: “Weak conviction = weak culture.” He’s talking about the culture associated with brands. A group’s culture, he says, is set “by the depth of the leadership’s conviction of their values. Weak conviction = weak culture.” The Holy Spirit whispered into my ear “How strong is your (God) culture?”

Learn more about Guy Richards at http://www.abiah.com/

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The Apostle Paul ends both chapters 1 and 3 of Ephesians with prayers for the believers in that city. And what great prayers they are. Let’s look at them together:

16I have never stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly, 17asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you might grow in your knowledge of God. 18I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the wonderful future he has promised to those he called. I want you to realize what a rich and glorious inheritance he has given to his people.

19I pray that you will begin to understand the incredible greatness of his power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms.

…..

16I pray that from his glorious, unlimited resources he will give you mighty inner strength through his Holy Spirit. 17And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love. 18And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is. 19May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Ephesians 1:16-20, 3:14-19 (NLT)

16I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. 17I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. 18I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, 20which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms,

…..

16I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 1:16-20, 3:16-19 (NIV)

My New Living Translation refers to Paul’s first prayer as “Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Wisdom and the second as “Paul’s Prayer for Spiritual Empowering.” I want some of that action! I want it for myself and I want it for my fellow believers. I even want it for those who are not yet believers – may they come to know Christ and grow in spiritual wisdom and empowerment!

But you know what? I am guilty of not praying like Paul prayed. I, like others, fall into the trap of praying more for (1) physical needs and (2) issues of comfort and provision. There’s nothing wrong with these prayers, but when they occupy the bulk of our prayer time, I think we are short circuiting God’s best plan for us and those around us.

Look at this list of things Paul asked God to give the Ephesians:

For Spiritual Wisdom

  • Spiritual wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Revelation
  • That they might grow in their knowledge of God
  • That they might know Him better
  • That their hearts would be flooded with light so that they can understand the wonderful future He has promised them.
  • That they would know the hope to which they have been called.
  • That they might realize what a rich and glorious inheritance God has given them.
  • That they would understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us believers


For Spiritual Empowerment

  • Inner strength (through His Holy Spirit)
  • That Christ would dwell in their hearts through faith – that He would be more and more at home in their hearts
  • Deep roots in the soil of God’s love
  • Power to understand (to grasp) how wide, long, high and deep God’s love really is
  • That they would know God’s love that surpasses knowledge
  • That they would be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God (filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God)

Who are you praying for? How would their life be different if you prayed radical prayers – for wisdom and revelation, that they might grow in their knowledge and experience of god, for power to grasp how much god loves them, and that they would be filled with the fullness of life and power in God?

Here’s your assignment:

  1. Write down 3 names – you can include your own if you like. Including your spouse or your pastor would be a great idea. Perhaps including that person in the office (or your neighbor) who is really getting on your nerves is a better idea!
  2. Now write down three things from the above list that you will pray for these people. If you prefer (i.e., if you’re excited about what God can do), you might select different things from the above list to pray for each name on your list.
  3. Find a way to keep this list in front of you. Use Post-Its or an index card in your pocket or tack it on your fridge or your mirror. I’ll keep mine on the top of my monitor at work and near the chair where I study and relax.
  4. Pray for these things for these people between now and Labor Day – that’s about six weeks.
  5. Expect God to respond to prayers that are in accordance with His will.

The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
James 5:16b (NIV)

The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and wonderful results.
James 5:16b (NLT)

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6So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son. 7He is so rich in kindness that he purchased our freedom through the blood of his Son, and our sins are forgiven. 8He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:6-8 (NLT)

6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
Ephesians 1:6-8 (NIV)

Can there be any other response to being blessed and chosen? We praise God! When our focus is on the spiritual blessings He has given us, on our status as adopted children of God, and on the God who bestows those blessings and makes the adoption possible, praising comes much more easily than when our focus is on bills and work challenges and health issues and relationship struggles. “So we praise God for the wonderful kindness He has poured out on us”“to the praise of His glorious grace!”

To God be the glory, great things He has done.
So loved He the world that He gave us His Son.
Who yielded His life an atonement for sin
And opened the life gate that all may go in!

“To God be the Glory” written by Fanny Crosby

God’s Son gave His life so that we might be forgiven – no more guilt and shame – instead, “He has showered His kindness on us” and “lavished” His grace upon us. Oh, and He threw in “all wisdom and understanding” as well. What a God!

As I’ve thought about this passage, what I noticed is that Paul’s praise is so specific. He’s not just saying “Praise the Lord!” He’s saying “Praise the Lord because…” or “Praise the Lord for…” I find that I sometimes get lazy in my praise and default to “Praise the Lord!” He is so much more honored when I am specific. I’m not saying it’s wrong to simply praise Him – it’s what the shout “Hallelujah!” does. But I am saying that it’s important to add times when we praise Him specifically.

Sometimes my husband will look at me and say “I love you!” That’s a really good thing. But when he says “I love the way you smile at me” or “I love you for making our house ‘home’” or “I love you for being such a hard worker to build our company” – that’s even more special – not because I am earning his love, but because it says that he actually notices the things I do and he appreciates them.

It’s important to praise God in such a way that He knows we actually notice what He’s done and we appreciate it. If we never do this, our praise quickly becomes hollow – words with no depth to them.

What has God been doing in your life that has gone unnoticed? What has He lavished upon you that has gone without praise? Praise Him!

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In my last blog, we looked at Ephesians 1:3 and learned that we have been blessed beyond our understanding – “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms” simply “because we belong to Christ.” (NLT) I know that I don’t begin to understand the heights and depths of those blessings. I don’t begin to understand how those blessings impact my life even today – although I sure enjoyed meditating on the passage yesterday. Another verse that came to mind – one that we looked at just a week or so ago:

1Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits at God’s right hand in the place of honor and power. 2Let heaven fill your thoughts. Do not think only about things down here on earth.
Colossians 3:1-2 (NIV)

It’s how I want to live my life – so confident of the realities of heaven, so confident that this world is not my home, that the things of this world have less and less power to drag me down. That was the message and application of Ephesians 1:3 for me. Now let’s move on to verses 4 and 6. I’d like to continue looking at the verses in two different translations, the New International Version (NIV) and the New Living Translation (NLT):

4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
Ephesians 1:4-6 (NIV)

4Long ago, even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5His unchanging plan has always been to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. And this gave him great pleasure.

6So we praise God for the wonderful kindness he has poured out on us because we belong to his dearly loved Son.
Ephesians 1:4-6 (NLT)

When I read these passages, several words stand out to me, and they make the verses have very personal meanings:

“chosen” – Before the creation of the world (“before the foundation of the world” is how it reads in the King James Version) God chose me. I am not in Christ because of some fluke accident. I am in Christ because I was predestined to be in Christ. Now I’m not going to get into doctrinal discussions about predestination vs. free will because I don’t believe we can fully reconcile the passages in Scripture that address both subjects – but I believe they are reconciled in God. (God’s mind is so much bigger than mine, which is quite a comforting thought!) Suffice it to say that I am fully confident that it is not God’s desire for anyone to perish but for all to come to the point of repenting for their sins and turning to Christ for forgiveness (2 Peter 3:9). Furthermore, I’m confident that I have been “chosen before the creation of the world” and that knowledge changes me. It does something in the core of my being that changes how I view myself and the world around me.

Furthermore, I have been chosen for a purpose – to be “holy and blameless in His sight.” When I view myself as someone whom God has called, chosen and predestined to be holy and blameless, I act differently than when I view myself as someone who is called to a lower standard. I walk taller and am more aware of my actions. I want to please the One who chose me.

The New Living Translation doesn’t use the word “predestined” – instead, it describes it as God’s “unchanging plan.” We serve a God who never changes. His plan has been to bring us to Christ from the beginning of time. The Old Testament tells the same story as the New Testament. God has always made a way for people to find Him.

Why? Because it gives Him “great pleasure.” It boggles my mind that I give God great pleasure, but Scripture is clear about it. Psalm 147 is just one place that tells us that “the Lord takes delight in His people.” God takes delight in me. I love the word “delight.” If you look it up in a dictionary, you’ll find words like “extreme satisfaction,” “great pleasure” and “joy.” Adopting me into His family has given God great pleasure. I’m real good with that!

Lord, thank You! Thank You for adopting me into Your family. Thank You for purposing from the beginning of time – before you even created the world I would live in – that I would become holy and blameless in Your sight. Forgive me when I don’t live up to that calling. It is my great honor to please my King.

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I am so enjoying our Resting at the River’s Edge reading the past few weeks. The story told in 1 Samuel is capturing my attention and in many ways my heart. Then we began the book of Ephesians. We read the first chapter on Tuesday and I’ve been chomping at the bit to write a blog about it…but felt so inadequate to expound on the words of prayer and blessing written by the Apostle Paul. I’ve decided to take the challenge, though, so please join me as we look at Paul’s glorious prayer, praise and encouragement to the saints in Ephesus.

Before we begin, however, here are a few tidbits that make the story we’ll explore all the more sweet:

  1. Paul is writing this letter from prison. I am amazed at his ability to soar above his circumstances as he writes to the Ephesians.
  2. Paul had been arrested on the charge of bringing a Gentile into the Jewish Temple. Racial and cultural division between Jews and Gentiles was a major issue in the church of Ephesus. The Ephesians would have known about the charges against Paul, so this makes him uniquely qualified to write this letter to them.

Now, on to Paul’s glorious praise!

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 (NIV)

Paul starts out with a bang! Saints – believers in Jesus Christ – those who are faithful – can know that God has blessed them in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Wow! The New Living Translation phrases it like this:

How we praise God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we belong to Christ.
Ephesians 1:3 (NLT)

I see a difference in the translation:

  • we’re blessed in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing (available or that exists) in Christ (NIV), or
  • we’re blessed (presumably here on earth) with every blessing that exists in the heavenly realms (NLT)

Which translation is more accurate I don’t know, but I do know that the degree to which I’ve been blessed is beyond my understanding. Hallelujah! Thank You, God, for the blessings you have already given me – whether in heaven or here on earth, they are real, more real than the trials I faced yesterday and will face today and tomorrow.

I also know that I don’t focus on those blessings enough, nor do I praise God enough for them. Remember, Paul is writing this while being falsely accused and imprisoned! Yet he was able to recognize and appreciate the blessings God had given him. So much so that he was able to remind others about them. Yes, Paul was a pretty special guy, but God loves me as much as He loves the Apostle Paul and God can give me the same insights and faith. Lord, open my eyes the blessings you have given me!

I’ve only briefly looked at one of twenty verses here and already my blog is more than 500 words, so I believe I’ll turn this into a series on Ephesians 1. Come back tomorrow for the blessings found in verses 4 and 5, chosen friends.

In the meantime, I have an assignment for you and for me – let today be a day in which you meditate on – consider deeply – wonder at and mull over – keep your focus on – these thoughts:

If you are one of the “faithful in Christ” (verse 1):

  • you have been blessed in the heavenly realms
  • you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ
  • you have been blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms

If you are not yet one of the “faithful in Christ,” you can choose to become that today. The word translated “faithful” means trusting or full of trust. You can choose to trust Christ to forgive you of your sins and ask Him to become the One that you follow. You can choose to make Him Lord in your life. If you have questions, check out this blog and e-mail me at Sandy@ApprehendingGrace.com. I’d love to hear your questions and your story.

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From my last blog:

1Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 “There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

1 Samuel 2, V1-2:

The first two verses of a ten verse song of worship and praise! After giving Samuel to the Lord, “then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord.’” Wow!

OK – I know I wrote this two days ago. But I woke up this morning and what shouted in my brain was that Hannah prayed after giving her son to the Lord!

There is no record of a song of praise when Hannah became pregnant after being barren so many years. There is no record of her rejoicing when God gave her the desire of her heart. I don’t doubt that she did praise God when she became pregnant with Samuel, but I find it significant that we have no record in Scripture of that. Instead, what we have a record of is her ten-verse song of praise when she gives her son back to the Lord. That’s the nice way of saying it. The earthly reality is that she was giving her son, the one she had longed for, to someone else to raise – someone who had raised two sons who were acting wickedly before the Lord. From this point on, Hannah would see her son only once a year. And She praised God – she said “There is no one holy like the Lord, here is no one besides you, there is no Rock like our God.”

What an amazing perspective she had!

  • She praised God that He had given her a son – instead of being angry that she had been given a son for such a short time.
  • She praised God that He had enabled her to give Him an offering – instead of being angry that He accepted her offering.
  • She praised God by faith for the future sons He would give her – instead of despairing that she may never have another son to hold in her arms.
  • She praised God because He is sovereign – He is the God of all Gods and He is victorious over all.

Throughout this story of Hannah’s desire for a child, her promise to God that she would give her child back to Him, her making good on that promise and rejoicing while doing so has challenged me. I’ve reached an age when my parents’ generation is dying. Grieving is hard. And as the deaths pile up, it’s easy for there to be a drag on my spirit. I remember something my mother-in-law said as she lived into her eighties – that she knew more people who were dead than living. Hannah’s son wasn’t dead, but she was sacrificing the life she would have had with her son – that life was essentially dying as she gave Samuel to the Lord. And she sang her heart out in praise.

I am challenged that I hold too tightly to things of this world and I don’t trust (rest in) God’s sovereignty enough. Singing that praise doesn’t always come easily to me. Perhaps it didn’t come easily to Hannah, but there’s no indication of that.

Lord, Thank You for the people you’ve put in my life, whether for a short time or a long time. Help me to release all of them to You and rejoice at Your great power and goodness.

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Our Resting at the River’s Edge reading of 1 Samuel 1 and 2 today has me wondering at Scripture. I don’t have fully formed thoughts yet, but I thought I’d share them with you. Sometimes incomplete thoughts cause our spirits to meditate on God’s Word to a deeper degree; sometimes the Holy Spirit uses them to spark something in us; sometimes they’re just musings that make you go “hmmm.”

2 Samuel 1:
V1-2:
Elkanah (husband), 2 wives – Peninnah had children; Hannah had none and desperately wanted children

V3:“Year after year” – Elkanah was a faithful man; the story is not one of a single prayer, but of ongoing petitions before the Lord.

V3: Elkanah worshipped and sacrified “where Hophni and Phinehas, the two sons of Eli, were priests” – Hophni and Phinehas were not righteous men; we learn later in the story that God used Samuel (the son that Hannah would have) to bring judgement against them – I love how the Lord works all the pieces of history together. I also find it interesting that Eli, who had raised 2 evil sons, was given the honor of raising Samuel – a man of humility and righteousness. Our God is so “the God of second chances!”

V4-8: Hannah longed for a child; not only did she have to bear the pain of life-long dreams unfulfilled, she had to endure the constant taunting from Peninnah.

V5-6: The phrase “The Lord had closed her womb” appears twice – it was not because of Hannah’s failings or sin that she was childless; it was the Lord’s decision – He was waiting until the timing was right for the accomplishment of His plans – Our lives are a working out of the Lord’s plans, not ours and not ours to direct.

V9-11: Hannah wept bitterly – this is a deep pain she is experiencing.

V9-11: She makes a vow that if God would give her a child, she would give the child back to God – I think God often waits for this moment in a person’s life to bless them – when they reach the point of giving all their hopes and dreams to Him.

V12-16: Hannah’s crying out to the Lord is so demonstrable that Eli thinks she is drunk – When we cry out to the Lord in anguish, it isn’t always pretty and respectable looking – and that’s OK! Sometimes we will look like a fool for the Lord and our focus ought to be on the Lord, not on how we look before others. Had Hannah not cried out to the Lord with all her heart because she was more concerned about what others would think, would God have responded at that time?

V17: Eli blesses Hannah – he accepts her story and changes his tone from rebuke to blessing (we ought to be willing to change our perspective so easily when we learn the truth)

V18: Hannah “went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.” Being in the presence of the Lord and receiving a blessing from the priest (or pastor) changes us – relieves our burdens, brings peace

V19a: “Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the LORD and then went back to their home at Ramah.” They had a long trip ahead of them, but they first worshipped the Lord. (How often do I have a long trip (or busy day) ahead of me and instead of worshipping the Lord jump right into it?)

V19b: “Elkanah lay with Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her.” I love the phrase “The Lord remembered her” – Lord, remember me!

V20: Hannah has a child and names him Samuel, which means “Remembered of the Lord” (I wonder if there’s a feminine version of this name? I’d sure like to have it! :-))

V21-23: Hannah raises the child until he is weaned. I’ve not done the research, but have heard preachers say that she probably raised him until he was at least 5 or 6 years old. There’s evidence in the verses that follow that Samuel wasn’t an infant when he was weaned. The point is Hannah had Samuel for several years at least.

V24-28: Hannah gives Samuel back to the Lord. How difficult this must have been! The desire of her heart, her lifelong dream – giving the dream (her son) back to the Lord – knowing that she would only enjoy him once a year and was seemingly giving him to another person to nurture and grow. She knew she was giving Him to the Lord, not Eli, but how very difficult this must have been – yet I see no evidence of remorse. Wow!

V28: “And he (Samuel) worshiped the Lord there.” Samuel was obviously old enough to have a basic understanding of worshiping the Lord. What must have been going through Samuel’s mind at this time? One would think hurt and pain at his mother abandoning him, but again Scripture gives no evidence of this – Samuel worshiped the Lord. God’s plan for us is sometimes painful, but it brings peace.

Chapter 2, V1-2:

1Then Hannah prayed and said:
“My heart rejoices in the LORD;
in the LORD my horn is lifted high.
My mouth boasts over my enemies,
for I delight in your deliverance.

2 “There is no one holy like the LORD;
there is no one besides you;
there is no Rock like our God.

The first two verses of a ten verse song of worship and praise! After giving Samuel to the Lord, “then Hannah prayed and said: ‘My heart rejoices in the Lord.’” Wow!

What jumps out at you as you read this compelling story? What is God speaking to your heart? For me, the overriding themes are:

  • The faithfulness and lifestyle of worship of Elkanah and Hannah while living a life of ups and downs – spending years with their deepest desire remaining unfulfilled, releasing the dream to God, then seeing it fulfilled and joyfully releasing the fulfillment of the dream back to God again. Wow!
  • The providence of God – acting throughout our life to fulfill His purposes. I so love that about him!

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16So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
2 Corinthians 5:16-17

Yep, I’m a bit behind in my Resting at the River’s Edge reading. (How in the world did that happen? Two weeks ago I was almost a week ahead? Well, it’s been a busy two weeks!) But I read this passage this morning and was surprised at verse 16.

I usually think about and quote verse 17 in a way that relates the verse to how we think about ourselves. In other words – I am a new creation in Christ! You are a new creation in Christ! Be encouraged! Live in what God has done for you! But I noticed this morning that it follows verse 16 and verse 16 tells me not to regard anyone from a worldly point of view, because anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. Just as I once regarded Christ from a worldly point of view and no longer do so, I am to no longer regard anyone who is in Christ from a worldly perspective. What does that mean? How should it change how I think about and respond to them? Several things come to mind and I wanted to share them with you.

  • It means that they have opened themselves up to being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit in a new and exciting (and powerful) way. I shouldn’t expect to see old behaviors, I should anticipate that they will be more loving, more kind, more hopeful, more like Christ. It’s easy to fall into patterns of expecting people to respond certain ways, especially if you’ve known the person for a long time and especially if they have a history of responding negatively. Scripture is saying that it’s important that we change our minds and attitudes and expect (in a positive way) that the new creation will in fact surprise us – that he or she will respond in a new way.
  • Just as I look for God’s blessings around me and praise and thank Him when I see them, I ought to look for signs of transformation in the new person and encourage them in their new growth. Growing and changing can be a scary thing. Acting differently from the way I’ve acted all my life makes me feel very vulnerable to others. I’m guessing that’s an almost universal response. Reward the growth and vulnerability you see in new creations by encouraging them and drawing them into your circle of friends.

So quit looking for the old ways in new creations – view them from a different perspective and watch them blossom and grow all the faster. “The old has gone, the new has come!”

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