Practice makes perfect

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

Psalm 16 (NIVUK): ”Keep me safe, my God, for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, ‘You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.’

I say of the holy people who are in the land, ‘They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.’ Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more. I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup; you make my lot secure. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance.

I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With him at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, nor will you let your faithful one see decay.

You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.”

Selwyn writes the following on this last day of looking at the issue: ‘The Presence of God’.

“On this our last day together we ask: What are some of the benefits that flow from an increased awareness of God’s presence in our lives? The first benefit is that it makes us stronger in faith. … The second benefit is that it makes us stronger in hope. … A third benefit is that it makes us stronger in love. The more we gaze upon God, the more we will love Him – the more we love Him, the more we will gaze upon Him.

The more willing we are to take measures to experience His presence, the more acutely we will feel His presence. … Like all things in life – practice makes perfect. So go out now and from this time forward determine to experience God’s presence in your life to a greater extent than you have ever done before.”

It’s important to remember that God loves us so much that He wants us to experience His presence more and more; consequently, through persistent prayer and the employment of the useful ideas that Selwyn has been talking about for the past two months, we will enjoy the presence of Jesus in our lives. There is no doubt about it.

Do you agree?

The still small voice

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

1 Kings 19:9-18 (NIVUK): ”There Elijah went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the Lord came to him: ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’

He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’

The Lord said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’

Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.

Then a voice said to him, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He replied, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.’

The Lord said to him, ‘Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel – all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.’”

Selwyn continues to discuss the importance of spending a few minutes’ reflection every day on our experience of God during the waking hours, so that we may increase our awareness of God’s presence in our lives.

The point he makes today is that we often restrict ourselves by only searching for God in the big events of our life. Selwyn recommends that we should ‘close our eyes and sit quietly and listen to what the Spirit was saying during moments of quiet reflection‘. It’s developing an expectant attitude that is expressed through a prayer, such as, ‘Speak Lord, Your servant is listening.’

In the reading today, we see that God’s voice was heard by Elijah as a gentle whisper, not as a loud voice in a fierce wind, earthquake or fire. And it’s the same with us, God will speak to us, even during quiet times of reflection and meditation.

Selwyn concludes, as follows: “Have you ever prayed that prayer and sat still for a while in God’s presence? There is nothing more wonderful than not only feeling His presence but hearing His voice in your soul also.”

Now, that a suggestion to consider.

Any comments?

The perfect end to a day

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

Psalm 119:145-152 (NIVUK): ”I call with all my heart; answer me, Lord, and I will obey your decrees. I call out to you; save me and I will keep your statutes.

I rise before dawn and cry for help; I have put my hope in your word.

My eyes stay open through the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your promises. Hear my voice in accordance with your love; preserve my life, Lord, according to your laws.

Those who devise wicked schemes are near, but they are far from your law.

Yet you are near, Lord, and all your commands are true. Long ago I learned from your statutes that you established them to last for ever.”

Well, I think that today’s study is very good because it contains a very important message concerning belief (bible based) and spiritual experience. These two aspects of a Christian’s life should always be kept in balance with a fairly equal priority being assigned to each of these areas.

Unfortunately, in the area where I live, there has been a fairly negative view expressed (in particular, by Sydney Anglicans), concerning the role of spiritual experience. A view, which I don’t share.

I think I’ll leave it to Selwyn to cover this issue in greater detail.

He writes, in his introduction: “Those who recommend ending the day with an examination of consciousness (of whom I am one) say that we should always be ready to do two things in particular. One is to share with Jesus our sorrow that we were not more aware of His presence, and the other is to pray for His help in being more aware of His presence in the day that is to come.”

In regard to spiritual experience, he had this to say: “From the early days of my Christian life I has been taught to forget about experience and concentrate on beliefs. ‘You are what you believe,’ I was told, ‘and if you look to experience you may well be disappointed.’

Now I have come to see that this advice, though given with good intentions, was flawed. In attempting to direct me away from seeking to experience God, my spiritual advisors had deprived me of something that would have been of great benefit to my soul.”

As I said at the start of my commentary, there always needs to be a balance between beliefs and spiritual experiences; and there never will be a legitimate case when a spiritual experience is in conflict with a biblical truth. This is an important area of discernment for a Christian seeking to faithfully follow Jesus and to also experience His presence in their daily lives.

Any comments?

‘Centring prayer’

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

Ecclesiastes 9:1-10 (NIVUK): ”So I reflected on all this and concluded that the righteous and the wise and what they do are in God’s hands, but no one knows whether love or hate awaits them.

All share a common destiny – the righteous and the wicked, the good and the bad, the clean and the unclean, those who offer sacrifices and those who do not.

As it is with the good, so with the sinful; as it is with those who take oaths, so with those who are afraid to take them.

This is the evil in everything that happens under the sun: The same destiny overtakes all.

The hearts of people, moreover, are full of evil and there is madness in their hearts while they live, and afterwards they join the dead. Anyone who is among the living has hope – even a live dog is better off than a dead lion!

For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing; they have no further reward, and even their name is forgotten. Their love, their hate and their jealousy have long since vanished; never again will they have a part in anything that happens under the sun.

Go, eat your food with gladness, and drink your wine with a joyful heart, for God has already approved what you do. Always be clothed in white, and always anoint your head with oil. Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun – all your meaningless days.

For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labour under the sun. Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.”

Ecclesiastes in another book, which I must admit does not fill me with a lot of encouragement – when the author talks about, ‘all the days of this meaningless life’ – I’m afraid I don’t immediately identify with the idea of meaninglessness, except in the context that life without God is a life without ‘meaning’ or purpose. What do you think of this book?

Perhaps, it comes to follow, that I didn’t get a lot out of today’s study. However, I did like this part: “I have found that one of the greatest spiritual difficulties people have is sitting still in the presence of God and listening to what He has to say. When I was a young man, my pastor gave me some advice that helped me overcome this difficulty.

He told me, ‘Whenever you find you mind drifting then simply say the name of Jesus and it will bring you back on track.’ This has worked for me.”

Any thoughts on today’s study?

 

Ending each day with God

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

Psalm 63 (NIVUK): ”You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you; I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you, in a dry and parched land where there is no water.

I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory. Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you. I will praise you as long as I live, and in your name I will lift up my hands. I will be satisfied as with the richest of foods; with singing lips my mouth will praise you.

On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings. I cling to you; your right hand upholds me.

Those who want to kill me will be destroyed; they will go down to the depths of the earth. They will be given over to the sword and become food for jackals.

But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him, while the mouths of liars will be silenced.”

Selwyn starts by saying: “Now we come to the last of my suggestions for increasing our awareness of God’s presence in our lives: end every day with a few minutes’ reflection on your experiences of God during the waking hours.”

Basically, it is setting aside some time each and every day, sitting down with Jesus and going through the events of our day, inviting Him (through prayer) to review our words, actions and inactions that made up our day.

It is an examination of the quality of our walk with Jesus, and we open up our hearts for Him to review what we have done; and how we may have done some things better, if it becomes clear that we failed to give God glory, at any time during the day.

I know this is one activity that I don’t do enough of; hopefully after today, I will do more with the help of His Holy Spirit.

Any comments?

Think about it

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

Matthew 6:25-34 (NIVUK): ”Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labour or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendour was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you – you of little faith?

So do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

This is a part of today’s study that I really like: “Martyn Lloyd-Jones in his writings on the Sermon on the Mount, asks this question: ‘What is faith?’ This is what he says: ‘Faith … is primarily thinking.’ He quotes the words of Jesus found in today’s reading and points out that here Jesus is saying, ‘Look at the birds, think about them and draw your deductions. Look at the grass , look at the lilies of the field, consider them’.

After years of Christian experience I can tell you that the more I think about how God thinks about me, how much He loves me and how much I mean to Him, the more my thoughts affect my feelings, and in those feelings His presence can be felt. … Sometimes when I think about how God thinks about me tears begin to fill my eyes.”

I think the amount of time we spend thinking about God, is an indication of the strength of our relationship with Jesus. If you only spend a few hours each Sunday thinking about God then I’m not sure you will survive all that well in this troublesome world.  Worry will be your constant companion.

Your thoughts?

 

Never forgotten

To Follow Jesus

My notes on Every Day with Jesus, written by Selwyn Hughes; revised and updated by Mick Brooks, published by CWR.

May/June 2016 Issue –  The Presence of God‘You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’ Psalm 16:11

The text set for today’s reading and meditation (the key verse is highlighted):

Isaiah 49:8-15 (NIVUK): ”This is what the Lord says: ‘In the time of my favour I will answer you, and in the day of salvation I will help you; I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people, to restore the land and to reassign its desolate inheritances, to say to the captives, “Come out,” and to those in darkness, “Be free!”

They will feed beside the roads and find pasture on every barren hill. They will neither hunger nor thirst, nor will the desert heat or the sun beat down on them. He who has compassion on them will guide them and lead them beside springs of water.

I will turn all my mountains into roads, and my highways will be raised up. See, they will come from afar – some from the north, some from the west, some from the region of Aswan.’

Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne. Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

We continuing looking at the truth that we, the children of God, are never out of His mind.

I think that Selwyn’s conclusion is rather special, it really spoke to me and I’ll repeat it here so that you may be blessed in the same way.

He writes: “I happen to believe that the most exciting thing about my life is not that I know God but that He knows me. Of course, I am excited that I know Him, but I’m more excited by the fact that He knows me.

And why? Because my knowledge of Him is based on His knowledge of me. If He didn’t know me then I would never have come to know Him (as He truly is).

I once made that remark – that my knowledge of God is based on His knowledge of me – to a woman and she subsequently said it changed her life. I hope it does the same for someone reading these lines today.”

In Matthew 11:27-28, we hear Jesus say: “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

From the above verse, we are told that we cannot know God unless Jesus has chosen us. This means that God has looked at each one of us and chosen us to be members of His holy family. That is, He has to have known us – to choose us – as a child of His. How great is that!