What is it?

Looking through my journals and email, I found out that I was wishing for a lot of good things to happen. I claimed to be “hoping,” but I did not/could not be confident the desired outcome would happen. That is not what hope is about. Hope is more than wishing. [Want to know more? Click here.]

Thursday, July 12, 2018

My Places of Worship


In rereading 1 Samuel 7 the last verse spoke to me: “But Samuel always went back to Ramah, where his home was. There he judged Israel and built an altar to the Lord” (New Century Version). I’m not sure why, but I have a fear of the idea of building an altar to the Lord as part of my spiritual practice. Maybe because many of the altars built in Scripture were to false gods and I don’t want to make that mistake.

Yet as I thought about this, I realized that in a way there is an “altar” in my heart. I’ve dedicated the core of my being to the Almighty God. This is not a stagnant place, but a growing, changing, dynamic aspect of my walk with God. As I bow before God, which I can do no matter where I am, I worship and remember Him. I can bring Him glory through my attitudes and behavior.

We are not required to offer Old Testament style sacrifices, so an actual altar built with stones and mortar is not necessary. This being said, God still desires our sacrifices – sacrifices of service. Romans 12:1 tells us about this kind of sacrifice: “Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” A living and holy, active and pure service to God is our new form of sacrifice. In order to follow through on the kind of sacrifices God wants from His New Testament followers, we need to be in service to Him.

Then I thought again about having an altar in my home. In a way I do have one. It’s my desk where I have my personal time with God each morning, use my prayer journal to pray, write my daily praises on Facebook, study God’s Word, and meditate and consider what to write in my weekly blog post. It’s where all my study materials are kept and used. It’s where I prayerfully conduct daily business, and write letters and work on writing books. I can’t approach my desk without thinking of and worshiping my God.

What’s the condition of your heart altar? Do you have a place set aside to worship and serve God? Consider making such altars in your world.

Thursday, July 5, 2018

Thanksgiving; 1 Samuel 7


In 1 Samuel 7, there’s the story of the Israelites gathering, at Samuel’s suggestion, to mark the occasion of returning to the Lord (20 years after the Ark had been returned to Israel). It took the people that long to “lament after the Lord” (vs. 2). Samuel’s recommendations were for the people to separate from their idols and to engage in service to God. As part of that service, Samuel had them “gather all Israel to Mizpah” (vs. 5), and he would pray for them.
The Philistines got worried thinking Israel had gathered as a rendezvous for war against them; however, they were just there to pray and worship God. The Israelites did not have weapons with them, and when they saw the Philistines posturing for battle against them, they became fearful. They asked Samuel to “cry to the Lord our God for us, that He may save us from the hand of the Philistines” (vs. 8). There’s a lesson here about relying on God as our only weapon, but that’s not what I’m going to talk about in this article.
God answered Samuel’s prayer and the Philistines ended up confused and routed by the Lord, without the Israelites doing a thing. The Israelites “pursued the Philistines, and struck them down as far as below Beth-car” (vs. 11). “Then Samuel took a stone and set it between Mizpah and Shen, and named it Ebenezer, saying, ‘Thus far the Lord has helped us’” (vs. 12). So, even though there was unfinished business in the political arena and the future of Israel (and their obedience to God) was yet unfinished, Samuel made sure they acknowledged what God had already done.
One commentator, Matthew Henry, also directed us to Acts 26:22 to see Paul’s reaction to similar circumstances (seeing God work and waiting to see what else will happen): “Having therefore obtained help from God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great . . .” (KJV). I’m convicted that my lack of thankfulness for what God’s already done, especially in some recent issues in my life, is hindering me from proceeding in faith in other areas of my life and ministry. I don’t give thanks and I worry. I don’t acknowledge what God has already done and fail to recognize what He can do in the future. My anxiety level increases and my joy decreases.
This is contrary to what I learned studying Philippians 4:4-9 where in verses 6-7 we are given the “formula” for less/no anxiety: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My prayers and supplications are not enough. They need to be done with thanksgiving – acknowledging what God has already accomplished in my life and situations – in order to experience the peace God offers. Also, doing that takes my mind off my own problems and allows me to better minister to others. So, I’m pausing right now to give thanks. Do you need to take the time to do the same?