Posted in Encouragement, Personal Helps, Stories & Studies

Unspoken Request

Do you have an “unspoken request”?

It’s so unspoken that you’ll never raise your hand in prayer meeting about it. You rarely speak of it, although those closest to you may suspect it. It feels foolish to express it aloud, or someone’s bound to launch into a clichéd pep talk. And honestly, your desire is something everyone else already seems to have. How did you get left out? Was God passing out “dreams-come-true” and skipped you somehow?

Hannah, in I Samuel 1, just wants the most commonplace, ordinary thing a woman can have – a child. She lives in a culture in which you prove your worth and preserve your legacy by raising children. Her peers all have kids already. In these days, bigamy is still legal, and her husband’s other wife has already given him several children. Hannah has clearly got a lot going for her – not only has she earned first place in Elkanah’s affections, she’s also a God-fearing woman during a godless period wracked with idolatry and civil war, when every man did that which was right in his own eyes. Of all the women to miss the boat, why Hannah?

She’s discouraged and frustrated, and continually provoked by the other wife. This dream that never came true is a constant sorrow to her. Elkanah tries to cheer her up – “Look on the bright side! You have me, right?” (Observation: men haven’t remotely changed in the past 3,000 years.) And she does have a lot to be thankful for. It’s a good life, secure, free from poverty and danger. And, if her peers are anything like some of mine, she’s frequently reminded how easy and carefree her life must be without all the responsibility of children. Be happy, Hannah! The grass is always greener, girl! She’s in the temple beating down the doors of heaven for an answer when Eli the priest catches sight of her. Eli doesn’t even recognize fervent prayer anymore; at first he mistakes Hannah for a dysfunctional trainwreck like his own kids out on the temple steps.

God needed a new priest to stand as a critical turning point in Israel’s history, rock-solid enough to survive the carnality of Eli’s house while he was being trained. Raising such a child was an enormous task that had to be done within a couple of years. The mothers of Israel were churning out godless, ungovernable children. This was a task, not for the ordinary woman, but for someone already completely yielded to Him. Hannah missed out on normalcy because she wasn’t the “norm”.

And, beautifully, God fulfills His own need by fulfilling Hannah’s. At last He gives her a son, Samuel, “Because I have asked him of the LORD.” Hannah has finally been given everything she desired, the dream fulfilled, the validation of who she is as a woman, the culmination of everything she’s ever wanted to do… but she still won’t be “living the dream”. She’s already determined to hand the whole thing back to Him.

Somewhere along the way, at some point during that long sorrow, she realized what her own “unspoken request” really was. Had she really desired a child to fulfil her natural craving? To fit in and live a normal life? To create her own legacy? Her prayer of praise in I Samuel 2 seems odd for a new mom – God the great Leveler, the ultimate Judge who weighs the actions of mankind. But she’s beginning to see through His eyes – the one who has learned to value what others take for granted, is the only one who can give it all back as a willing sacrifice.  “…We know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. … And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:26-28) Her unspoken request had made room for His.

What is your “Samuel”?

What’s it worth to you? Is it worth handing back in its entirety, with nothing for you to keep? Hannah would get to see her son every year, but she’d always leave him behind, knowing that his guardian had raised these perverts she was stepping past on her way into the temple. This wasn’t a one-time sacrifice. This would last the rest of her life.

I don’t know why God says “No.” I don’t know why He says “Not yet.” I don’t know why sometimes He says neither and leaves you wondering if He heard you at all. But I do know, in Hannah’s words, that “There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside Thee: neither is there any rock like our God. Talk no more so exceeding proudly; let not arrogancy come out of your mouth: for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.” Wait and see – perhaps He is holding back the ordinary life because what He needs is the extraordinary.

Posted in Encouragement, Personal Helps, Proactive Faith, Stories & Studies

I Saw a Ghost on Galilee

I have to laugh when kids come dragging into school in the morning complaining that they’re still tired from things that happened two days ago. Every day is recovery from the day before, and every mistake made is simply blamed on being tired – regardless of having more energy at this age than they ever will have again. In our college naiveté we used to dream of the days when we could “set our own schedule” and sleep ten hours a night and not have to be responsible for twenty-seven things at the same time. (We’re still dreaming.) And life is busy and frankly exhausting, if you’re living it well. “Tired” is a fact of life, whether you’re a student, a mother, a caregiver, an employee, or anything else. In a proper cycle of expending and restoring energy, it’s a good thing.

But when the cycle is unbalanced for too long and we end up overworked, sleep-deprived, and bumbling like zombies from one task to the next, the brain starts doing some odd things. You make

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Posted in Personal Helps, Proactive Faith, Stories & Studies

I Hear You… But I’m Not Listening

“And I will purge out from among you the rebels, and them that transgress against me…” (Ezekiel 20)

The Lord has just finished warning Israel, through the prophet Ezekiel, that He would wipe out the very land because of their sin. It’s some serious reading. They professed to worship the God of heaven, but they worshiped like pagans, enforced some arbitrary traditions and ignored other laws altogether, were eager to impress surrounding godless nations, oppressed the poor, sacrificed their children on their own altars to idols. Sure, there were individuals scattered throughout the nation that did sincerely seek the Lord, who were doubtless horrified at the way things were – but the vast majority paid them no heed.

Ezekiel delivers this dire rebuke to the elders, but he returns to the Lord fuming, “Ah, Lord GOD! they say of me, Doth he not speak parables?” “They nod their heads and holler Amen at everything I say because they think I’m being figurative!”

Read the news. Listen to the powerful warnings from the pulpit. Hear the concerned voices of government watchdogs, law enforcement, and Christian legal groups. What they are saying is getting tangled up in the threads of what we’re hearing – not what the media is twisting, not what news outlets choose to release, but in how we choose to hear the message. We shake our heads at the state of the nation, but we get up the next morning and live precisely the same way with the same worldview and the same level of spiritual detachment that we did the day before.

Ezekiel’s message hit the ball out of the park while Israel nodded and clapped politely and watched it sail right over their heads. What he said was very little like what they heard. They stood for truth, all right! – and did absolutely nothing about it.

Take the message literally. Be hyper-specific. Apply it to YOU.
I am a wimpy, inconsistent witness to my coworkers.
My unproductive and worldly browser history is destroying the nation.
My soulwinning efforts are the hope of America.
I’m bringing my country closer to judgment because I’m a prayer slacker.
My failure to voluntarily help with others’ needs is a reproach to my God.

It’s not enough to say that someone else is responsible for what goes on; I have to do all I can in my own sphere of influence to prevent it. It’s not Facebook politics where talk is cheap, it’s not what I say I believe, it’s not comparative morality, “us vs. them”. It’s my own practical, lived-out-in-realtime actions – and changes – that make a difference.

It’s time I read the Bible asking the Holy Spirit to show me – not what “the church” needs – but what I need… and take it literally enough to yield, instead of holler “Amen” and walk away unchanged.

Posted in Personal Helps, Proactive Faith, Stories & Studies

In the Real Hero’s Shadow

Caleb’s name has been passed down through the ages as a courageous hero. His beloved Hebron is immortalized on thousands of church signs. You sing “I Want That Mountain” in church, inspired by his story. You know at least a few people named for him. But what if Caleb was… your dad?

You know the story. Joshua and Caleb were among those spying out Canaan, and would be the only two adults in faithless Israel to get to enter. Fast-forward 45 years: Joshua is now Moses’s successor, and is busy conquering Canaan. Caleb is now an old man, trying very hard to be patient as his tribe waits their turn for land allotments. He tells Joshua, “Moses promised me Hebron. I have been faithful to God and He’s kept me going. I’m still ready to fight. Can I please just have it now?” And Caleb the 85-year-old giant-killer charges into Hebron and possesses that thing.

Achsah (pronounced “ak-sa”) is Caleb’s daughter. Imagine growing up in Caleb’s shadow. You’ve heard him talk about giants and victory and Hebron your entire life. He spends his evenings telling you – again – about the amazing things he saw there. He’s ingrained it into you that fear, disobedience, and complaining are all roads to failure and misery. He’s stubbornly supported everything Moses and Joshua have ever said or done. You never get home from the tabernacle before dark because Dad’s volunteering the family for everything. But for all his annoying cheerfulness, you know unquestioningly that he is the greatest man you’ve ever known. He’s a hero to you – especially when he finally gets to defeat the sons of the giants and claim his beloved Hebron.

Continue reading “In the Real Hero’s Shadow”