Thursday, 19 July 2012

How long....

A friend recently counselled when dealing with pain “Be real”.

As a Christian who firmly believes in the sovereignty of Almighty God, I confess I sometimes find this difficult. Knowing that God is in control and allows all things for His glory and His purposes, I so often push aside my pain and ask God to give me the strength to deal with the situation that He has ordained.

I want to jump straight in and shout out Habbakuk’s cry of faith

“Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” 
(Hab 3:17-18).

I have been redirected to the opening chapters of Habbakuk.

Back up. I have been redirected to considering what the name Habbakuk means. To “embrace” or “wrestle”. Here is a prophet who wrestled with God.

And how he wrestled with God in laying bare his heart in verses 2-4 of the opening chapter. “How long?” ;“you do not listen”; “you do not save”.

This is no angry fist-waving, which God forbid we ever do! These are words of a man who has a clear understanding of the nature and character of God. He knows God is a God who listens, who saves, who is a God of justice, does not tolerate wrong, who punishes the wicked and ensures that righteousness prevails. He also has a clear understanding of the wickedness and injustice of the situation he sees around him. These are the words of a man who understands that our God is a relational God, a personal God, a God who says to Isaiah “come now, let us reason together” (Isa 1:18). A God who says “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Abraham was a friend of God (Isa 41:8), and the LORD would speak with Moses “face to face, as a man speaks with his friend” (Ex 33:11). All these men understood the Holiness of God. They also understood that is only through being honest about their lack of understanding that they could hope to understand more of His ways.

Maybe I’ve been content with my lack of understanding.

I’m starting to see that by faith, there is something more. Ask, seek, knock. If you lack wisdom, ask God.

Habbakuk wasn’t criticised for his questions. The LORD stooped to answer him. Yet the answer Habbakuk received grieved him mightily. “I heard and my heart pounded, my lips quivered at the sound; decay crept into my bones and my legs trembled” (Hab 3:16). When we have the faith to seek to understand more of God, we will receive greater understanding of His awesome nature. It may increase our mourning, our lament. Our heart and our flesh may fail – BUT GOD is the strength of our hearts and our portion forever. And it is He who will give us the strength to shout out with all of our heart, mind and soul Habakkuk’s cry of faith.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

My God, my Rock

During our time of worshipping our God through song last Sunday, I was overcome by the words “you are my God” in one of the songs. This Holy, Holy, Holy God, this Almighty God, creator of the heavens and the universe, who reigns above all in majesty, this Sovereign God who works all things for His pleasure – He has stooped to reveal Himself to me – wretched sinner that I am – has opened my eyes to Him, and has had me brought before Him so that I can call Him “my God”. Mine. I know Him!

Truly, everything in this world pales in comparison to knowing that you know God, that you are known by Him. He is my treasure. He is my reward. In Christ I have everything I need. What a God!

What is man that You’re mindful of him?
For You dwell in a High Holy place –
Yet when this poor wretch called You answered me
And now I can feel Your embrace.

My God, my Rock, my Lord, my King
My hiding place - my soul must sing!
My shield and refuge, my Reward,
My heart and flesh cry out for my Lord!

What is man that You’re mindful of him?
For Your ears are attentive to my cry
You revive lowly spirits and contrite hearts
And now I can stand on the heights.

What is man that You’re mindful of him?
You record the tears of my lament
But in Christ, how my comfort overflows!
The joy of the Lord is my strength.

Scripture references: 
Ps 8:4; Isa 57:15; Ps 34:6,15; Ps 18:2,33; Ps 32:7; Ps 84:2; Ps 56:8; 2 Cor 1:5; Neh 8:10

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Citius, Altius, Fortius

You were wearied by all your ways,
    but you would not say, ‘It is hopeless.’
You found renewal of your strength,
    and so you did not faint.
Isaiah 57:10

I remember as a child being inspired by stories of endurance. From a young age, marathon runners who pushed themselves beyond the limit to finish their race had a special affection in my heart. As I grew older and watched Olympic Games come and go, one event that captured my attention was the rowing races – every 4 years I would cheer on Sir Steve Redgrave as he helped to row his crew to a gold medal – at 5 consecutive Olympic Games. Gripped by the desire to experience the satisfaction that comes from having pushed yourself to the limit and overcome all temptation to give up, I took up rowing myself, at a time in my life when I was willing to push my body beyond its limits. I became hooked on the feeling of pride that would swell inside whenever I beat my previous best time, pushing myself harder than ever before.

As London prepares to host the Olympic Games at the end of the month, the motto of the Olympics springs to mind: Citius, Altius, Fortius – a Latin expression meaning “Faster, Higher, Stronger”. The Olympic creed as coined by Pierre de Coubertin reads “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

Don’t we like to fight well? When faced with weariness to dig deep, to tap into those inner resources, to pull ourselves up by the bootlaces when all looks lost, to renew our strength when we are about to faint. "Keep Calm and Carry On."

It takes a lot to crush the human spirit.

It takes an act of God to crush the human spirit.

I speak from experience. He had to crush mine.

Yet, frighteningly, His Word tells us that even being crushed by Almighty God does not always bring man to repentance.

O Lord, do not your eyes look for truth?
    You struck them, but they felt no pain;
    you crushed them, but they refused correction.
They made their faces harder than stone
    and refused to repent.
Jeremiah 5:3

Yet it is an act of mercy, of kindness, for God to crush the human spirit – that we might recognise our spiritual bankruptcy, our inability to offer Him anything of righteousness in and of ourselves – and cry out for mercy and grace.

And oh! How that grace flows when we come to this blessed place!

For this is what the high and lofty One says—
    he who lives forever, whose name is holy:
“I live in a high and holy place,
    but also with him who is contrite and lowly in spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly
    and to revive the heart of the contrite.”
Isaiah 57:15

Sometimes, the strongest thing we can ever do is to cry out “Lord, it is hopeless!”