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Posts Tagged ‘the prophet Samuel’

Jo 12Isn’t it strange how we sometimes gain a perception of a role or occupation in society, then refuse to budge from there? Take ministers of religion, for instance. Over fifty years ago, when I introduced my husband, then training for ministry, to an aunt of mine, she burst out with the following comment: ‘Oh, so you are nice, after all!’ Did she expect him to look a particular way or be boring or not smile and joke, because he was at theological college? Hmm.

But only two weeks ago, I had a similar experience. I had just spoken at a particular club about my author journey and was standing at my book table, when two ladies came to chat.

‘I love your beautiful jumper,’ one of them said. ‘Where did you get it? It looks very jazzy indeed!’

‘Actually, it’s an op shop buy passed onto me by my sister!’ I told her.

But it was what the other lady said next that left me speechless.

‘Yes—and you don’t look anything at all like a minister’s wife!’

I was sorely tempted to ask her what she thought a minister’s wife looked like! However, I refrained, thinking I might embarrass her. Instead, I laughed and left it at that, yet her comment made me feel sad too. What had she meant? Did she think ministers’ wives always looked dowdy or old-fashioned or stern or colourless or such like? If so, where had she gained her perception of these poor, sad women? Of course, in old movies and even now on TV, ministers are often portrayed as weak and old-fashioned and prosy (think some Mr Bean-type character!). But what of their wives? I felt quite indignant when I thought about the many ministers’ wives I know (not to mention women ministers themselves!) who are always neatly and attractively dressed, have wonderful personalities and are interesting and able women all round.

I know God does not judge us by how we look, as Samuel tells us, and I am so thankful for that:

The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7

But because I also know how I myself often judge others by their outward appearance, just like those two women had, I always try to look as good as I can, particularly when speaking somewhere. To help with that, I frequent a great second-hand clothing shop that also sells brand new ‘ends of lines’, with labels still attached! I want my money to stretch as far as it can but, much more importantly, I want to honour God even through the way I look. I do not want my appearance to be a stumbling-block for my audience or anyone I will chat to on the day who does not as yet know God—I do not want them to judge God in any negative way because of how I present myself.

I’m so thankful for my lovely, ‘third-hand’, black and gold jumper that apparently helped smash those ladies’ image of what ministers’ wives look like! But more than that, I hope and pray it might have helped them begin to see God in a more attractive light too.

Sometimes appearances do matter, don’t you think?

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Jo 17‘They look so joyful!’ I commented rather cynically, while watching some people singing a hymn on TV about, of all things, the joy of the Lord, all the while with decidedly doleful expressions. Yet, even as I opened my mouth, I felt judgemental. Perhaps they were tired. Perhaps this was the tenth time they had sung this same hymn. Perhaps they had to get it perfect for this particular TV program. And perhaps they did mean what they were singing, but simply didn’t convey that in their faces.

‘They look so joyful!’ I commented again, as I watched various well-known singers, actors and TV personalities perform Christmas carols at the Sydney Carols in the Domain on TV.  And yes, most did indeed look joyful, smiling and with eyes glowing, as they sang with great gusto.

‘But do they really believe it?’ a certain even more sceptical member of our family asked.

‘Well … they might,’ I replied, remembering how some of the performers at least had publicly declared their faith in God in past times. ‘We don’t really know, do we? As for those people in the audience, they must love singing carols, if they’ve bothered to turn up—and they might truly love God too.’

‘If you go by the statistics though,’ was the response, ‘chances are only a small portion do have any real faith in God.’

I had to admit that probably was the truth. Yet, whether all those people believed what they were singing or not, I reflected, at least these carols that honour the coming of Jesus were being sung in our city and broadcast far and wide.

The next day, when I sat down to read my Bible, I found I was up to 1 Samuel 16, the account of how Samuel seeks to decide which of Jesse’s sons the Lord wants as the next king of Israel. As soon as Samuel sees Jesse’s oldest son, Eliab, he thinks he must surely be the one God had chosen. Yet in verse 7, we read:

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Hmm. Don’t judge by appearances. What a timely reminder! Yes, our cynical comments might have been true—but then again, they might not have!

We can often see how people are feeling by looking at their faces. We may notice, for example, whether someone is happy or frustrated or angry or sad or discouraged or embarrassed. And it’s important to be observant of others and try to discern where they are at. But sometimes we can jump to the wrong conclusion. Sometimes we can assume so much, merely by those outward appearances. Sometimes we can judge so easily—without knowing all the facts.

It’s true only God can know what is really going in someone’s life and heart. The Lord looks way beyond the outer surface, to the very core of a person. But I’d like to think I could become more like him in this regard in 2017 and look beyond those outward appearances more often. Perhaps then, the world would be a more grace-filled place, don’t you think?

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Jo 23You have to hand it to King David. So many times in the psalms, he doesn’t use any softly, softly approach when it comes to asking God for help. I have to say that’s a bit different from many of the prayers I’ve prayed over the years—and from some I’ve heard prayed aloud in public meetings at times.

‘Lord, we just ask you to heal her now, if that’s your will. But if it isn’t, please just show her what she needs to do to get better.’

‘Dear God, we invite you to be with us today. We welcome you to this place. We know you are here anyway, but please just be close to each one of us.’

Now I’ve discovered God is truly gracious and does hear and answer such prayers. Despite our slightly weird theology at times, God sees our hearts and knows what we need before we even ask (Matt 6:8). God isn’t confused by the words we use when we pray in public either. And David knew that, since in Psalm 139:4 we read: Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord.

But how refreshing it is to read those honest, gut-wrenching cries from David’s heart! Recently, I came across Psalm 35 again which begins:

Contend, O Lord, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me.

There I was, cheering David on as I read and thinking about how this prayer could apply to the challenges in my own life, when I was stopped dead by his words at the end of verse 3:

Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.”

Hmmm … could David actually be telling God what to tell him in return? It’s as if he’s saying to God: ‘I think you said you’d save me. I was convinced of that—but now I’m not so sure. I want to know that deep down inside me, so please tell me it’s true.’ In The Message version, Peterson puts it this way:

Reassure me: let me hear you say, “I’ll save you.”

But I think there might be a bit more to it too, given David’s bold approach in the rest of the psalm. It’s as if David is calling God to account—as if he’s saying something like: ‘God, this is what you told me you’d do for me, but it doesn’t look like that’s happening. So if you tell me you’re my salvation, you’d better make good on your promise—because if you don’t, then you won’t have lived up to your name!’

What a challenge David is to me in the way he talks with God! And God doesn’t seem to have been offended, but rather sees David as ‘a man after his own heart’ (1 Sam 12:14). Surely it is that David understood God’s heart very well and, because of that, knew he could be completely honest and that God would not turn him away.

I want to pray big, fat, bold prayers like David did. I want to be a person after God’s own heart. Don’t you?

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