Bible Verses

Expect Great Things…

William Carey used to say, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” It was a pattern for his own life as he founded a missionary society at a time when others were of the opinion that the Good Lord would save the heathen in His own good time – a way to excuse complacency that still strikes a chord today when we see social injustice, ignorance and superstition continuing to bind up so many around the world.

Carey was inspired by Isaiah ch.54 v.2-3, which is certainly a good place to start. But I’m going to focus on Psalm 37 v.4, which tells us, “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.” It sounds so syrupy, conjuring an image of a loving and benevolent God who exists to indulge his adoring children.

However, it’s far more than that. It’s an instruction, a direct, imperative command – not merely a positive suggestion. It is a clear precondition that states unequivocally that if you wish to have your desires fulfilled, you must get your priorities in order. Your relationship with your creator is at the root of your personal success.  To try to see it any other way, to seek the goodies  for their own sake is to miss the point spectacularly – the phrase “putting the cart before the horse” comes to mind. It just doesn’t work, no matter how hard we try to convince ourselves otherwise.

There are two important issues that are addressed by getting your attitude and relationship to God sorted, before seeking the benefits arising from this. The first is that our motives are purified. The Apostle James put it a little more bluntly when he told his readers in chapter 4 of his letter, “You ask, and you don’t get, because you pray with selfish motives.” If God truly delights us, then our hearts’ desires will be focussed on what will please Him. Which brings me to the second point.  Your heart’s desire must be specific – otherwise, how will you know you have received it?

It is of little point, to go around talking of “great things”, believing God for “great things”, positively confessing that He will do “great things” and eagerly anticipating “great things” with a sincere heart that delights in the Lord if you cannot put into words what those “great things” are.

If you believe that God wants to turn lives around in your neighbourhood, bring people to a real, personal faith in Him, heal broken hearts and bodies, give direction and purpose to those who feel an empty void – then make these specific things the desire of your heart. Expect Him to intervene, and act on His prompting.

Bible Verses

Psalm 23 – an anthem to prosperity?

I have been thinking about that much-loved part of the Bible that many of us are over-familiar with. It is actually a revolutionary text when you consider the implications of what it so simply, and poetically states.

We’re told in the first verse that, because the Lord is our shepherd, we lack nothing. This is David’s experience, and he’s so convinced about the ability of God to provide his needs, that he inspires us to believe the same. The Good Shepherd who supplies all his needs is the same Good Shepherd who cares for us.

However, there is an important proviso. This Good Shepherd leads and guides – he prompts and directs David into a position where he can experience God’s provision. If we find ourselves thinking, “Well, where is the God who promised to provide my needs?”, it may be time to assess whether we are truly led by Him.

Self-examination is good. It is Biblical. It has a clear purpose and goal: to determine whether we are living our lives in the benefit of the revelation God has given us through His Word, and whether we have a clear vision of His purpose for our individual lives.

Bible Verses

Exactly who can ascend the Hill of the Lord?

Psalm 24 v.3 asks a question: who can ascend the hill of the Lord? The answer is given in the following verse: he who has clean hands and a pure heart.

There is a false dichotomy in some people’s thinking that attempts to subdivide a life of faith into either the pursuit of personal piety or social justice – as if the two are mutually exclusive.

In reality, righteousness and justice don’t merely co-exist, they are both essential foundations for authentic spirituality to be lived out effectively in our lives. This is why Psalm 89 v.14 refer to them both as the foundations of His throne. Without one, the base for His authority would crumble – his throne would topple.

A lifestyle that stresses one at the expense of the other is doomed to wallow in legalistic hypocrisy or antinomian irrationality. However, by embracing both streams we can find a balanced way to live.

We have our hearts cleansed so that we may live with an inward attitude to do what is right. Not only for ourselves – but living to redeem our communities, to bring about positive change in the lives of those we touch.

D0ing this brings God’s rule and God’s presence into our surroundings. Once again clearly demonstrating the upside-down values we live by to subvert the world around us. Instead of us ascending a hill – separating ourselves from the rest of the world in order find God, we bring our world to Him in order to make it holy.