Hearing God’s Voice and Obeying in Our Sorrows

By Kelly M. Williams -May 18, 2021

We have to dedicate the darkest places of our lives to God’s miraculous power.

A 19th century poem by William Ross Wallace asserts, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.” He must have been thinking about the story of Hannah and Samuel in 1 Samuel when he wrote that.

Hannah was a barren woman who longed to have children. She cried to God in her sorrows. God wants to meet us in our sorrows.

Maybe you feel “small” today in your life. Maybe the circumstances of your life are huge and overwhelming. Good! God’s about to do something through you that will amaze you. I pray you allow Hannah’s life to inspire you.

We meet Hannah for the first time in 1 Samuel 1:2. She is described as, “Hannah who had no children.” She was known by her sorrow.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 1:3 that Hannah’s husband would go up to the city every year to worship God and give thanks to God for his goodness and blessings to them. Because Hannah was barren, her husband had taken another wife in order to have children. This was a common practice in that day similar to surrogacy today. However, her surrogate often tormented her that she could not have children. It was a painful visit for Hannah to go and worship the Lord and give thanks in the midst of her sorrows.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 1:6 that Hannah couldn’t have children because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb. It is very difficult to give glory to God when God is the source of your greatest sorrow.

You are supposed to be giving glory to God today for his goodness to you and all you can think about is the blessing God has withheld from you. This is truly the dilemma of life.

Maybe you find yourself there today. I know I have been there. What do you do? These next seven words are crushing to a spirit that is already struggling. 1 Samuel 1:7 says, “So it went on year by year.”

Not only was she barren at a festival in the presence of her rival, where she was supposed to give glory to God for his blessings, but it went on year after year.

I find that a lot of people stop showing up for church for this very reason. They are tired of seeing God bless others before them. Can you relate? You are happy for them, but you want to say to the Lord, Where’s my blessing, Lord?

It is important in these seasons that we keep leaning into God in the midst of our sorrows.

Hannah’s pain was great, ongoing and unrelenting.

In the midst of Hannah’s hopelessness, she kept inviting God into these dark and hopeless spaces. She does this in 1 Samuel 1:11 when she said to God, “O Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your servant and remember me and not forget your servant, but will give to your servant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life.”

I remember as a kid my mom telling me she prayed this prayer over me when I was two years old, sick and dying in a hospital bed in Louisville, Kentucky. My parents were told there was no hope for me to live. My mom knelt by my bed and prayed this prayer that Hannah prayed. I didn’t miraculously get up out of the bed that day, but I started getting better from that day forward.

If you and I are going to hear and obey God in our sorrows, we have to dedicate the darkest places of our lives to God’s miraculous power.

Hannah stays after it. Hannah says to Eli the Priest in 1 Samuel 1:15–16, “I have been pouring out my soul before the Lord. I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.”

I love Eli’s response to Hannah, 1 Samuel 1:17, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to him.” I love Hannah’s response to Eli’s in 1 Samuel 1:18, “‘Let your servant find favor in your eyes.’ Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.”

Can you say that and do that? If so, we should follow Hannah’s example. The next day 1 Samuel 1:19 tells us, “She rose early in the morning and worshipped before the Lord.”

Hannah didn’t allow her pain to define her practice of worship.

The Bible tells us in 1 Samuel 1:20 that in due time God gave Hannah a son. She named him Samuel because that means “I asked for him from the Lord.” She wanted Samuel to know he was from the Lord. The loudest human voice in my head is my mom’s voice. She told me the story of my life when I was too young to remember it. She told me how God blessed my life and saved me. But the blessing wasn’t the end of the story. She reminded me of God’s faithfulness to me and she told me of God’s purpose for me.

God doesn’t bless us so we can be blessed. He blesses us so we can live out his purpose for our existence.

Do you see the blessings of God as your means to fulfill your purpose?

After Hannah weaned Samuel, she took him back to the house of God where God heard her cry and answered her. She said to God in 1 Samuel 1:28, “As long as Samuel lives, he is lent to the Lord.”

My mom went to heaven 29 years ago, but her dedication of me to God like Hannah did Samuel, still carries great weight and fulfillment through my life and ministry today.

Keep obeying God’s voice in your life. Dedicate your sorrows to God like Hannah, and in due time, he will fulfill his eternal purpose through it.

Blessing Can Become a Curse

The Spiritual Perils of Earthly Success

Article by Marshall Segal Staff writer, desiringGod.org

Some of the darkest, most irresistible temptations come in the wake of blessing. As we enjoy some provision or breakthrough or triumph, whether in life, or work, or ministry, our spiritual defenses often come down. We might coast. We may begin neglecting disciplines and relationships that have kept us close to and dependent on Jesus.

Suffering, by comparison, often has the opposite effect. Suffering simultaneously raises our defenses (vigilance), and brings us to our knees (humility). Suffering disabuses us of self-reliance, and removes the luster of earthly pleasures and indulgences. Suffering often makes spiritual and eternal reality more vivid and tangible, putting the urgency of earthly life in greater perspective and focus.

“Some of the darkest, most irresistible temptations come in the wake of blessing.”

But blessing, ironically, can dull our spiritual senses and deplete our spiritual resolves. And it can open us to new and subtle temptations. Powerful men fall into this trap over the histories of Scripture. King David, for instance, defeated his tens of thousands with a heart like God’s, only then to crumble before another man’s wife while he enjoyed the comforts and spoils of his victories. The adversity and vulnerability of caves drew the best out of him, while the luxury of his palace exposed the worst.

Another king’s fall, however, provides a uniquely enlightening (and cautionary) map to failure in the midst of blessing.

Illusion of Strength

As Daniel 4 begins, our spiritual alarms should be sounding loudly: “I, Nebuchadnezzar, was at ease in my house and prospering in my palace” (Daniel 4:4). Nebuchadnezzar had himself witnessed God rescue three men from a raging furnace, leading the proud king to humble himself and worship God (Daniel 3:28–29). Such an experience should have produced an enduring awe and vigilance against his former arrogance, but instead we find the king lounging in complacency, allowing the luxuries of his kingdom to feed and stroke his pride. So God attempts to shake his soul awake with a dream (Daniel 4:5).

No magician or astrologer could make sense of the terrifying dream — a giant, beautiful, and fruitful tree suddenly being cut down. And so, Nebuchadnazzer calls Daniel, who had interpreted his dreams before (Daniel 2:30). This new dream is too intense and unsettling, even for Daniel (Daniel 4:19). He warns the king, “It is you, O king, who have grown and become strong. Your greatness has grown and reaches to heaven, and your dominion to the ends of the earth” (Daniel 4:22). You will be chopped down. You will be driven from your throne and home. You will lose your sanity, bending down to eat grass like an animal (Daniel 4:1625). And this disastrous madness will plague you for years.

Nebuchadnezzar had been richly blessed, with wealth and power beyond anyone in the world at that time, and yet blessing had become for him a curse. “Therefore, O king,” Daniel pleads, “let my counsel be acceptable to you: break off your sins by practicing righteousness, and your iniquities by showing mercy to the oppressed, that there may perhaps be a lengthening of your prosperity” (Daniel 4:27).

How Not to Respond to Blessing

King Nebuchadnezzar had been humbled twice already and confessed to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings” (Daniel 2:47). With all that he now knew and had seen, as he lounged at ease in his home, how would he respond to this new and more severe warning? As he walked along the roof of his palace several months later, he marveled to himself,

Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty? (Daniel 4:30)

If you want a recipe for how not to respond to blessing and success, look no further than the blindness and foolishness of this man’s pride. The ingredients are warnings to each of us for days when God prospers the work of our hands.

Pride

Is not this great Babylon, which I have built . . .

Pride receives the blessing of God as something earned and deserved. Like Nebuchadnezzar, it looks out on the family we have, the work we have, the reputation and influence we have, the ministry we have, and quietly says to itself, Look what I have built. Pride inflames arrogance and coddles insecurity. “Of course God would give you all of this. How could he not? Look how strategic, articulate, hard-working, and charismatic you are.”

Humility sees any progress or provision, any success or expertise, for what it really is: a gift. “A person cannot receive even one thing,” John the Baptist wisely says, “unless it is given him from heaven” (John 3:27James 1:17). Not one thing. Nothing good you have or do is ultimately owing to you, but to God.

SELF-RELIANCE

Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power . . .

Self-reliance receives the blessing of God as proof of our own strength and ability. The sinful impulse certainly overlaps with (and is rooted in) pride, but notice how it peeks out in the king’s words: by my mighty power. He doesn’t merely take credit, but boasts in himself — not just my power, but my mighty power. He has seen God, with his own eyes, save three men from a blazing furnace, and yet he’s still flaunting the pitifully little he can do.

Those who have tasted the grace of God in Jesus, however, develop an allergy to boasting. When blessing comes, they say instead, with Paul, “By the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10). They work hard, but credit God. “What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:71 Chronicles 29:14).

SELF-INDULGENCE

Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence . . .

“Humility sees any progress or provision, any success or expertise, for what it really is: a gift.”TweetShare on Facebook

Self-indulgence receives the blessing of God as a warrant for selfishness. When Nebuchadnezzar looks out on Babylon, he sees a royal residence — a place of comfort and satisfaction for the king, for himself. He sees his whole world as a means of fulfilling his own cravings. We have watched this kind of mindset corrupt and ruin ministry after ministry, haven’t we? How many pastors or leaders have risen in prominence, and eventually taken advantage of their influence to serve themselves (losing their reputations in the process)?

Grace, on the other hand, receives blessing as an opportunity for love. “As each has received a gift,” Peter charges the blessed, “use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace” (1 Peter 4:10). Paul also writes, “You were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). The humble learn to follow Jesus, who used his power and position to lift others up, even when that meant lowering himself “to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8). In Christ, God blesses us so that we are equipped and motivated to bless others (2 Corinthians 1:3–4).

VAINGLORY

Is not this great Babylon, which I have built by my mighty power as a royal residence and for the glory of my majesty?

Vainglory receives the blessing of God and bows to worship self. Nebuchadnezzar looked out on what God had given — what God had enabled to be built and to prosper — and he mistook it all for his own glory. While the wise sang, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork” (Psalm 19:1), the king also stopped to marvel: “Look how majestic I am.” A later king would be struck dead for the same sin (Acts 12:23).

We might think Nebuchadnezzar a strange and tragic anomaly if we had not tasted the same temptation at some point in our family, job, or ministry. If we had not gloated to ourselves over this achievement or that possession, over this good deed or that wise word. How often have we, whether we would ever say it out loud, stopped to bask for a moment in the false sense of our own majesty?

Again, grace does worship, but it never worships self, and never has any illusions of its own majesty. Grace gladly sings, “Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory, for the sake of your steadfast love and your faithfulness!” (Psalm 115:1). The godly serve and work and love “by the strength that God supplies — in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 4:11).

So, whether you eat or drink, succeed or fail, experience abundance or need, do all — and receive all — to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31). Refuse the foolish seduction that felled King Nebuchadnezzar, and enjoy the satisfying and fulfilling reward of knowing that all we have, and all we do, is from God, through God, and to God.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/blessing-can-become-a-curse

Aim All You Have at Heaven

How God Inspires Ambitious Generosity

Article by Marshall Segal Staff writer, desiringGod.org

If we do not learn how to lay up treasures in heaven, we will inevitably settle for the treasures of earth — and miss out on something far more lasting and satisfying.

When we hear, “Lay up treasures in heaven,” it might sound like, “Make sure you put some money away in your 401(k).” “Prioritize long-term financial security over short-term gains and purchases.” Jesus, however, is not selling life insurance or dealing retirement plans here. Investing in heaven does not mean forfeiting present happiness. It means relocating and deepening our happiness — now and in eternity.

Whenever we make earthly sacrifices in the process, Jesus says,

Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29–30)

Any investment we make in heaven at the expense of some experience on earth will be handsomely rewarded now in this time — and in the age to come. A hundredfold now in this time. Do you believe God will do that when you give what you have away?

Again, Jesus says, “It is more blessed” — now, today, in this moment — “to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). When we lay up treasures in heaven, we are not hedging for the future; we are seizing blessing now and in the future. The happiest people in the world are not those who spend and buy for themselves — we see this over and over again in the headlines of our consumer society — but those who spend and give for the good of others.

Pursuing happiness in this way, however, will make us aliens in a world of buyers, spenders, and savers. Those who have stored their treasures in heaven will confuse, and likely offend, those clinging to what they have here on earth.

What Have You Been Given?

Our treasure, here and elsewhere in Scripture, is whatever we earn or acquire for ourselves with what we’ve been given by God. What do we spend our money, time, and energy to have?

So, first, what has God given you? Well, everything you have. “What do you have that you did not receive?” the apostle Paul asks. “If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). We far too easily begin taking the gifts of God for granted until we eventually start taking credit for them. Faithful stewardship begins with a conviction that all we have, we have been given (James 1:17), and that all we have been given, we have been given in order to make much of God (1 Corinthians 10:31).

So, again, what has God given you? He “gives to all mankind life and breath and everything” (Acts 17:25). First, he has given you life, a breathtaking and immeasurable gift with enormous potential. Assuming you survive the day, God will have given you another 20,000 breaths. And, if he wills, he will give you another 20,000 tomorrow. What will you spend those breaths to have?

“Investing in heaven does not mean forfeiting present happiness. It means relocating and deepening our happiness.”

God has given you life and breath and everything. If you have it, God gave it. Every dime in every paycheck. Every square inch of your home. Every piece of cotton in your closet. Every last cent in your savings. And one day, we will each give an account for how we spent and used all we had — and most of us, especially in the West, have been given much. What will our much have purchased? What will our much say about what we really treasured and pursued? Will our much suggest that we lived for heaven on earth, or that we quietly wished heaven would let us have a few more years here first?

Remember the Poor

What does it mean to lay up treasures in heaven? It means to give all we can on earth for the good of others in the name of Jesus. Jesus says,

Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Luke 12:33–34)

Do you want a treasure that never fails? Do you want financial accounts that never atrophy? Do you want a security, freedom, and pleasure that swells and spreads long after you have died? Then sell what you have to give to those who have not. Jesus says elsewhere to one wealthy young man, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (Matthew 19:21). We cannot begin to lay up treasure in heaven if we’re not ready to sacrifice our earthly treasures for those in need.

Obeying Jesus really does begin here: providing for the poor. This will look different from family to family, city to city, century to century, but Jesus assured us, “You always have the poor with you” (Mark 14:7). And so it has been, even in the most affluent nations. And as the apostles charged Paul, so God charges us: “Remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10). So who are the poor where you are, and how might what you have meet them where their needs are?

Ambitious Generosity

Beyond the poor (never overlooking or avoiding the poor), we lay up treasures in a wide variety of generosities.

We give to other kinds of needs around us, especially of believers — opening our homes in hospitality, covering bills in a crisis, providing meals after a surgery, surprising someone with a thoughtful gift. We support the spread of the gospel, first through our own churches, but then far beyond, through world missions. Do any dollars produce more treasure in heaven than those that help welcome the unreached into the kingdom?

We give, and we also do good — spending time with the lonely, carrying boxes during a move, teaching Sunday school, babysitting for weary parents, helping someone with house projects, baking for a neighbor. “Let us not grow weary of doing good,” Paul says, “for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up” (Galatians 6:9). So, laying up treasures in heaven sometimes means lending our time and hands instead of our money.

The calling here is not just a lifestyle of generosity, but of ambitious generosity. Not, “Make sure you cover your bases, and then see if you have some left over to give away,” but, Lay up treasures in heaven. Chase this treasure. Search for creative ways to obtain more of this treasure. Do whatever you can to have this treasure. Not leftover generosity, but radical generosity — the kind that only makes sense if Jesus really died, really rose, and will really reward those who give and sacrifice in these ways. Don’t simply include heaven in your budget, but aim your budget — your whole budget — at heaven.

Fear Not

Where does this kind of ambitious generosity come from? How do we fight the fears that make us selfish, shortsighted, and stingy? Notice what Jesus says immediately before he calls us to give all we have:

Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. (Luke 12:32–33)

If you struggle to lay up treasures in heaven, remember, first, that you have a Father in heaven. In Christ, the ruler of the heaven awaiting is not merely your compassionate king or merciful judge, but he has made you his own child. The one holding your inheritance for you (1 Peter 1:4), and you for your inheritance (1 Peter 1:5), loves you with the love of a devoted and adoring Father.

“Ambitious generosity grows in the imaginations and pockets of those awed by the generosity of God.”

And your Father is not stingy, but generous. He wants to give you the kingdom. If you are his, “all things are yours, whether . . . the world or life or death or the present or the future — all are yours, and you are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s” (1 Corinthians 3:21–23). How insane of us, when we are confronted with a real, pressing need, to cling to a few hundred dollars or a few unexpected hours while God holds out everything to us in Christ? He literally will withhold nothing. Ambitious generosity grows in the imaginations and pockets of those awed by the generosity of God. Meditate on all that God will give you. You will never be able to count or quantify what he has promised.

Not only is your Father generous, but he is glad to give you the kingdom. He gives not reluctantly, but eagerly and cheerfully. With the greatest, most warming smile. Why does God love a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7)? The next verse tells us: because God himself is a cheerful and generous giver (2 Corinthians 9:8). Glad generosity in us burns bright with the joyful generosity of heaven toward us.

In the end, God will not only reward us for laying up treasure in heaven, but he will be the great reward of heaven. Like the persecuted believers in Hebrews, we can joyfully give what we have on earth for those in need, and even accept the plundering of our property, since we know that we have “a better possession and an abiding one” (Hebrews 10:34). And the better and abiding possession is not ultimately something he gives, but Someone he is.

Marshall Segal (@marshallsegal) is a writer and managing editor at desiringGod.org. He’s the author of Not Yet Married: The Pursuit of Joy in Singleness & Dating. He graduated from Bethlehem College & Seminary. He and his wife, Faye, have two children and live in Minneapolis.

https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/aim-all-you-have-at-heaven

He Waited: A Short Story

He Waited

“He Waited” is A Thought-Provoking Short Story about how patient God truly is and how the choice lies with us.

A woman died and walked up to the pearly gates guarded by two, 12 ft. angels. The woman smiled and asked, “Could you let me in now?”

One of the angels was holding a huge book in his hand. He responded, “Please wait while I search for your name in the Book of Life. If it’s here, we will open the gates for you. ”

While waiting for the angel, the woman gazed around and couldn’t get over how beautiful the land was. She gushed, “This is gorgeous! The colors here are so beautiful and vibrant…nothing like anything I’d seen while on Earth!” She then lifted her nose and inhaled the air long and slow, “Mmmm, what’s that smell? It’s the most pleasant scent I have ever smelled!”

“It’s the scent of Heaven,” an angel flying by responded in joy, “It comes from our Lord Jesus!”

“Hmmm, Jesus?” the woman thought.

Getting more excited just thinking about everything else she would see, smell and explore in this wonderful place, the woman ran to the angels at the tall gates, glanced at them back and forth, and asked vigorously, “Find it yet?!”

The angel looked sad, “I’m sorry. Your name is not here” He replied.

“Look again”, the woman pleaded.

The angel looked a second time and confirmed, “I can officially say your name has not been recorded in the Book of Life. Again, I’m sorry.”

“What do you mean?!” the woman gasped in shock and disbelief! “This can’t be! What am I supposed to do now?! Where am I supposed to go?”

Realizing the woman’s frustration, the angel holding the Book of Life urged the other angel, “Call the King!”

At the speed of thought, Jesus appeared instantaneously before the woman, face to face. The woman blurted out, “So it is true! You really are God!”

“Yes, I am,” Jesus smiled.

The woman looked into His eyes which were full of love, a love she had never felt before, and with a genuine heart, she asked, “Jesus, why haven’t you written my name in the Book of Life? I want to be here.”

Then Jesus replied, “When I created you, I was so pleased! I made you special. You were My wonderful creation, but you never chose to become my child. This is My home, and when My children leave Earth, they always come home to Me. And here, I have prepared a place for each and every one of them. I have given them mansions, each customized to their personal taste. Every desire of their heart I have fulfilled here…for My children. But you never chose to become My child. You just chose to remain as My creation.”

Trying to take everything in, the woman could only slowly respond with an incomplete, “But…..?”

Jesus continued, “Your parents didn’t know me when you were a child and they never brought you to church, but when you got to high school, you heard fellow classmates speak of Me and My name, but you followed the crowd and mocked them. When you got to college, you experimented with things you should not have and lost control of your life. It hurt my heart and I cried. I waited for you to call My name so I could help you, but you never did. I waited.“

“When your parents passed away, that was the first time I heard you cry out to Me. I ran to comfort you because I loved you…as I still do. It wasn’t until 10 years later that I would hear you say my name again, but it was only to criticize your children for choosing to follow Me. When they brought you to church, your children prayed to Me to soften your heart in efforts that you would give your heart to Me…so I did, but you began to battle in your mind whether I really died for you or even if I existed. So you focused on their church and judged them for their many members, the beauty of the architecture, and how much the pastor profited. I waited.”

“You questioned, “How could a loving God send anyone to Hell, or allow someone to go there?” So, I had your friends explain to you that I don’t send anyone to Hell, they send themselves by rejecting Me, the One and Only True God. I am the Way. And as there are only two places for you to go when your Earthly body expires, your soul is either drawn to the home of sin or salvation.”

“You tried filling your life with traveling, activities, material things, and relationships. You remained an empty, thirsting cup waiting to be filled. I was willing to fill it, but you never called on Me. I waited.

“Eventually, you looked at the world and said you believed there was a god, but didn’t know Who He was. I would soon after send many people your way to tell you of My love for you, but you rejected Me. You must understand that I am a gentleman and will never force you to love Me.”

Two days ago, I whispered sweet love songs in your ear as you slept, and you heard. You thought in your heart you would possibly give your life to Me when you reached your death bed, but you never made it there. I waited for you to become My child so I could welcome you home to be with me forever and enjoy eternal life. I waited.”

The woman felt ashamed for being so foolish. “Well, Jesus, can I have another chance?”

“I love you, and will ALWAYS love you, but Salvation is only granted on Earth.”

A tear fell down Jesus’ cheek as He knew He would have to say goodbye to the woman, the beautiful creation that He loved so dearly. She felt His sorrow and realized that it wasn’t His choice. It was hers for 45 years…but she rejected Him.

Then, just as quickly as Jesus appeared, that’s how fast He vanished!

The woman looked down and cried to herself, “He waited.”

-by Jennifer Bagnaschi

Please Pass the Blessings

Gordon Robertson – President and CEO, CBN

The story of Jacob sounds like a soap opera, yet God was in the midst of it. Jacob and Esau were the twin sons of Isaac and grandsons of Abraham. Before their birth, God told Rebekah,

“Two nations are in your womb … and the older shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23).

Jacob tried to be first from the beginning, grabbing Esau’s heel as he was born; thus his name means heel-grabber.

Jacob was also a good cook, and it was for a bowl of his stew that Esau traded away his birthright as the eldest son. Later, Esau took two Hittite wives who were a grief to his parents. Rebekah then helped Jacob trick Isaac into blessing him instead of Esau. When Esau planned to kill Jacob, Rebekah convinced Isaac to send Jacob away to find a wife among her relatives.

Genesis 28:10 tells us, Jacob went out from Beersheba. Often, when you take that first step of faith on a journey, God meets you there. Jacob dreamed of a ladder from earth to heaven—and there God spoke to him.

Although he fell in love with Rachel, Jacob the trickster was tricked by his Uncle Laban into marrying her older sister first. The two wives were bitter rivals, involving their servants in a race to have children—twelve sons total. When Jacob finally headed home with his family, he didn’t know if Esau still wanted him dead.

He wrestled all night with God, who said,

“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have struggled with God and with men, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32:28).

If life had been easy, would he have persevered and prevailed?

The key is that Isaac had blessed Jacob:

“May God Almighty bless you and give you many children. And may your descendants multiply and become many nations! May God pass on to you and your descendants the blessings he promised to Abraham” (Genesis 28:3-4 NLT).

This was God’s plan. The blessings God gave Abraham were passed to Isaac, who bestowed them on Jacob. Through him came the twelve tribes of Israel, then the Messiah.

So always give thanks for what God has done, then pray over your family and bless them all. Pass along the wonderful blessings that God has freely given to you. As Galatians 3:14 says,

“Through Christ Jesus, God has blessed the Gentiles with the same blessing he promised to Abraham” (NLT).

God bless you.

Scripture is NKJV except as noted.

Copyright © 2018 Gordon Robertson.

Can God change your life?

God has made it possible for you to know Him and experience an amazing change in your own life. Discover how you can find peace with God. You can also send us your prayer requests.

https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/please-pass-the-blessings

7 Blessings In Having God’s Presence With Us

September 6, 2019 hepsibahgarden

The angel of the Lord encampeth round about them that fear him, and delivereth them.

O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him. Psalms‬ ‭34:7-8‬

God led the Israelites throughout their wilderness journey as a Pillar of Cloud by day and a Pillar of Fire by night. (Note: These people once had to endure the hard bondage of slavery in Egypt, under the cruel regime of Pharoah, for 400 years); However their desperate cry for help was not in vain. God heard them and sent His man Moses — thus began the great journey of deliverance of the Israelites to the Promised Land of Canaan.

By His mighty and ever out-stretched Arms, performing mighty wonders and miracles before Pharaoh and his kingdom, God wonderfully brought His people out. As they entered the wilderness, the Pillar of Cloud always hovered above them. They halted when the cloud halted and kept moving when the cloud moved. In short, when God is with His people, the journey is never difficult.

For Christian Life to be a happy and joyous onward journey, we need to have God’s presence with us without fail, every day. This was King David’s confession of enjoying His Presence around him wherever he went. He kept winning and won great victories. The Lord leads us by sending the Angel of His Presence till we reach our destination.

THERE ARE 7 BLESSINGS OF HAVING GOD’S PRESENCE WITH US:

1. Problems that are like mountains melt away like wax when His Presence is with us. Psalms 97:5. A stony heart ceases to remain as it is where God is present. When the sinner woman in the city got to know that Jesus was in a house nearby, she ran to him and began wiping his feet with her hair. She shed tears and anointed His feet. She was delivered of her sinful life.

2. We receive God’s counsel for our daily life when His Presence is with us. Moses got the 10 commandments in the presence of the Lord. In the New Testament those 10 were made into 2 (laws of love). God’s laws and counsels are of love and not grievous.

3. We receive daily bread from God’s Presence. In the Tabernacle, every Sabbath the priests had to layout 12 shewbread on the Table. These bread refers to the apostolic truths and doctrines (strong meat) which we need to eat and abide by. The weak cannot have strong meat nor can they survive on milk alone.

4. We get life and are revived by having God’s Presence with us. Numbers 17:1-8. Aaron’s rod budded and flowered and brought forth almonds, when it was kept in the Presence of God. It was a normal rod before, but staying in His Presence brought the difference.

5. In His Presence there is fullness of joy. Psalms 16:11. There is life and peace as well.

6. His Presence preserves us. Psalms 31:20. Those having a life of prayer and praising are upheld in His Presence and are saved from the schemes of the enemy.

7. His Presence makes us ready to get to the Most Holy Place. This place is The Holiest of holies in the Tabernacle, and God’s dwelling place inEternity. David says he pants for presenting himself before God like the deer pants for the water brooks. Psalms 42:1.

May the Lord help us to desire His Presence in our lives always and enjoy these blessings being there.

Be blessed 💕

Original here

12 Blessings Promised By God In Psalm 91!

October 15, 2019 by hepsibahgarden

 

Wishing all of you a blessed and happy day ahead!!🌸🌼

Just wanted to share with you the amazing and wonderful blessings in Psalms 91! Let me tell you: God’s promises are Yea and Amen! 2 Corinthians 1:20. What God promises, He fulfils. Well then! Go ahead; read through entirely and claim your blessings for the day and life ahead!!

12 Blessings God promises us in Psalms 91:

  • A person who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty!! Hallelujah! (Ps 91:1)
  • He will deliver you from the snare/trap of the fowler/hunter and from the noisome pestilence/deadly diseases – referring to the devil and his wickedness. (Ps 91:3)
  • He will cover you with His feathers and being there trust Him completely. (Ps 91:4) and His truth will be your shield and buckler. (Ps 91:4)
  • A thousand shall fall at your side, and ten thousand at your right hand; but it shall not approach you. (Ps 91:7‬)
  • You will only look on with your eyes And see the recompense of the wicked. (Ps‬ ‭91:8)
  • No evil will befall you, Nor will any plague come near your tent/home. (Ps 91:10‬)
  • For He will give His angels charge concerning you, To guard you in all your ways. (Ps ‭91:11‬)
  • They will bear you up in their hands, That you do not strike your foot against a stone. (Ps‬ ‭91:12‬)
  • You will tread upon the lion and cobra, The young lion and the serpent you will trample down. ‭‭(Ps‬ ‭91:13‬)
  • He will deliver you because you’ve placed your love on Him and set you securely on high because you’ve known His name! (Ps 91:14)
  • He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. (Ps 91:15‬)
  • With a long life I will satisfy him And let him see My salvation. (Ps 91:16‬)

9 Things to be done on our part:

  • Desire to live in the secret place of the Most High/being in His Presence – referring to having a life of prayer and praising. (Ps 91:1)
  • Acknowledge Him as your Refuge and Fortress and God (Ps 91:2)
  • Place your trust on Him (Ps 91:3)
  • Don’t be afraid of the terror of the night; sudden attacks during the day. (Ps 91:5)
  • Also don’t be afraid of the plagues that strike in the dark; nor the evils that kill in daylight. (Ps 91:6)
  • Accept Him as your place of habitation (Ps 91:9)
  • Set your love upon Him (Psalms 91:14)
  • Know His Name/Who He is! (Ps 91:14)
  • Call upon Him/call Him up in the day of trouble (Ps 91: 15)

May God help us.

Be blessed

Original here

Kings of Israel and Judah, Prophets, and Nations in the Old Testament

Chronology of Kings, Prophets, and Nations in the Old Testament

2 Chronicles 36:22 – Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD spoken by the mouth of Jeremiah might be accomplished, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing.

The prophets of ancient Israel spoke about the events mentioned in the Old Testament long before they actually happened. Israel was confronted with the choice of blessings or curses. Blessings if they followed the LORD and curses if they forsook him. Moses their great leader warned the people of Israel not to disobey the LORD or else:

Deuteronomy 28:49-50 – “The LORD will bring a nation against you from far, from the end of the earth, as the eagle flies; a nation whose language you will not understand; a nation of fierce facial expressions, that doesn’t respect the elderly, nor show favor to the young.”

Jesus confirmed all of the events mentioned in the Old Testament (Luke 11:49-51).

Below is a list of the kings and prophets of Israel and Judah and also the kings of the surrounding nations, Assyria, Babylon, and Persia.

Ancient World Timeline

List of the Kings of Israel and Judah, Prophets, and Nations

Deuteronomy 28:62-64 – You will be left few in number, even though you were as the stars of the sky for multitude; because you didn’t listen to the LORD your God’s voice. It will happen that as the LORD rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you, so the LORD will rejoice over you to cause you to perish, and to destroy you. You will be plucked from off of the land where you go in to possess it. The LORD will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other end of the earth. There you will serve other gods, which you have not known, you nor your fathers, even wood and stone.

https://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/kings-prophets-nations.html


The Kings of Israel

2 Kings 17:16 – And they left all the commandments of the LORD their God, and made them molten images, [even] two calves, and made a grove, and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served Baal.

List of the Kings of Israel
Kings of Israel Dynasty Faith Years Date* Books of Kings Book of Chr
Jeroboam I Yes Evil 22 930-909 BC I Kings 12:19 II Chr 10:2
Nadab Evil 2 909-908 BC I Kings 15:25
Baasha Yes Evil 24 908-885 BC I Kings 15:27
Elah Evil 2 884-884 BC I Kings 16:8
Zimri Evil 7 Days 884 BC I Kings 16:9
Omri Yes Evil 12 884-881 BC I Kings 16:17
Ahab Evil 22 873-852 BC I Kings 16:29 II Chr 18:1
Ahaziah Evil 2 852-851 BC I Kings 22:40
Jehoram Evil 12 851-841 BC II Kings 3:1 II Chr 22:7
Jehu Yes Evil 28 841-814 BC II Kings 9:2 II Chr 22:7
Jehoahaz Evil 17 814-798 BC II Kings 13:1
Joash Evil 16 798-782 BC II Kings 13:10 II Chr 25:7
Jeroboam II Evil 41 782-745 BC II Kings 14:16
Zachariah Evil 6 Months 745 BC II Kings 14:29
Shallum Evil 1 Month 745 BC II Kings 15:10
Menahem Yes Evil 10 745-736 BC II Kings 15:14
Pekahiah Evil 2 736-735 BC II Kings 15:22
Pekah Evil 20 735-732 BC II Kings 15:25
Hoshea Evil 9 732-724 BC II Kings 15:30
Assyrian Captivity 722 BC II Kings 17:1
The Kings of Israel reigned from 930 BC – 722 BC (208 years) and were all evil
*Exact dates are uncertain and may vary

The kings of the northern kingdom of Israel were all evil. They followed in the ways of the first king Jeroboam I who was an idol worshipper. God finally cast them out of His sight, the Assyrians deported them away in 722 BC.

2 Kings 17:13 – Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, [and by] all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments [and] my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.

https://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/kings-israel.html


The Kings of Judah

1 Kings 12:17 – But [as for] the children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them.

The Southern Kingdom consisted of 2 tribes (Judah and Benjamin). The kingdom extended in the north as far as Bethel, while in the south it ended in the dry area known as the Negev. Its eastern and western boundaries were the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Jerusalem was its capital and it lasted from about 922-586 B.C.

List of the Kings of Judah
Kings of Judah Good or Bad Years of Reign Books of Kings II Chronicles
Rehoboam Bad 17 years I Kings 12:1 II Chronicles 10:1
Abijah Bad 3 years I Kings 15:1 II Chronicles 13:1
Asa Good 41 years I Kings 15:9 II Chronicles 14:1
Jehoshaphat Good 25 years I Kings 22:41 II Chronicles 17:1
Jehoram Bad 8 years I Kings 22:50 II Chronicles 21:1
Ahaziah Bad 1 years II Kings 8:24 II Chronicles 22:1
Athaliah II Kings 11:1 II Chronicles 22:10
Joash Good 40 years II Kings 11:4 II Chronicles 23:1
Amaziah Good 29 years II Kings 14:1 II Chronicles 25:1
Uzziah Good 52 years II Kings 15:1 II Chronicles 26:1
Jotham Good 16 years II Kings 15:32 II Chronicles 27:1
Ahaz Bad 16 years II Kings 15:38 II Chronicles 28:1
Hezekiah Good 29 years II Kings 18:1 II Chronicles 29:1
Manasseh Bad 55 years II Kings 21:1 II Chronicles 33:1
Amon Bad 2 years II Kings 21:19 II Chronicles 33:21
Josiah Good 31 years II Kings 22:1 II Chronicles 34:1
Jehoahaz Bad 3 months II Kings 23:31 II Chronicles 36:1
Jehoiakim Bad 11 years II Kings 23:36 II Chronicles 36:4
Jehoiakin Bad 3 months II Kings 24:6 II Chronicles 36:9
Zedekiah Bad 11 years II Kings 24:17 II Chronicles 36:11
The Babylonian Captivity 586 BC II Kings 25:1 II Chronicles 36:13
Kings of Judah 8 Good, 11 Bad 387 Years

There were 8 good kings ruling the southern kingdom of Judah, the rest were all evil. After Josiah reigned there was no hope for Judah, the last 3 kings were evil. The Babylonians came and captured Jerusalem in 597 BC. A second attack led to Jerusalem’s second defeat in 586 BC. Captives from both campaigns were taken to Babylonia to mark the captivity of the Southern Kingdom.

2 Kings 17:13 – Yet the LORD testified against Israel, and against Judah, by all the prophets, [and by] all the seers, saying, Turn ye from your evil ways, and keep my commandments [and] my statutes, according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you by my servants the prophets.

https://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/kings-judah.html


Nations Mentioned in the Old Testament

Isaiah 49:6 – And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.

List of Gentile Nations Named in the Old Testament. This chart contains a long list of the gentile “heathen” nations that are mentioned in Old Testament times. Click on the Bible verse to read the background information.

List of Gentile Nations in the Old Testament
Gentile Nations Bible Verses
Arabia Isaiah 21Jeremiah 251 Kings 10
Aram Genesis 10Numbers 23
Ararat Jeremiah 51
Armenia Isaiah 37
Arvad Ezekiel 27
Asshur Ezekiel 2732Hosea 14
Assyria Isaiah 7
Buz Jeremiah 25
Chaldea Jeremiah 5051Ezekiel 1623
Chittim Isaiah 23Jeremiah 2Ezekiel 27Daniel 11
Cush Isaiah 11
Dumah Isaiah 21Genesis 25
Dedan Isaiah 21Ezekiel 2738
Edom Isaiah 1134Jeremiah 2549
Egypt 2 Kings 17:4Psalm 46:7;  Psalm 81Etc.
Elam Isaiah 112122Jeremiah 2549
Ethiopia Isaiah 18204345Ezekiel 30Nahum 3
Grecia Daniel 81011Joel  3
Isles of the Gentiles Zephaniah 2
Isles of Elisha Ezekiel 27
Kedar Isaiah 214260Jeremiah 2Ezekiel 27;  Songs 1
Libya Ezekiel 3038
Lud Isaiah 66;  Ezekiel 27
Lydia Ezekiel 30
Madai Genesis 10
Magog Ezekiel 3839
Medes Isaiah 13Jeremiah 2551Daniel 56911
Media Isaiah 21Daniel 82 Kings 17
Mesech Ezekiel 27323839
Mesopotamia Genesis 24
Minni Jeremiah 51
Mizraim Genesis 10
Nebaioth Genesis 25Isaiah 601 Chronicles 1
Ophir Isaiah 13
Padan Aram Genesis 25
Palestine Joel  3
Pathros Isaiah 11Jeremiah 44Ezekiel 2930
Persia Ezekiel 2738Daniel 81011
Phut Ezekiel 27Nahum 3
Raamah Ezekiel 27
Seba Psalm 72
Seir Isaiah 21
Sheba Isaiah 60Jeremiah 6Ezekiel 2738
Shinar Isaiah 11Daniel 1Zechariah 5
Sihor Isaiah 23Jeremiah 2Joshua 13
Susa Esther 12
Tema Isaiah 21Jeremiah 25Hosea 12Amos 1
Tarshish Isaiah 2236066Jeremiah 10Ezekiel 27Jonah 1
Togarmah Ezekiel 2738Genesis 101 Chronicles 1
Uz Jeremiah 25Lamentations 4
The River Chebar Ezekiel 1
The River Euphrates Jeremiah 134651
The Great Sea Numbers 34Joshua 19Ezekiel 47
The River Hiddekel Genesis 2
Helbon Ezekiel 27
Nineveh Jonah 1
Noph Isaiah 19Jeremiah 24446Ezekiel 30
Zoan Isaiah 1930Ezekiel 30

 

https://www.bible-history.com/old-testament/nations.html


Choose Life!

May 9, 2019 by Dr Michael Brown

More than three-thousand years ago, Moses urged the children of Israel to “choose life.” He said to them:

“I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life—if you and your offspring would live” (Deuteronomy 30:19, NJPS).

But why would anyone choose death? Why would anyone choose to be cursed rather than blessed?

The answer is that God’s ways lead to life and blessing, but many people would rather die than follow Him.

They view God’s ways as restrictive. Oppressive. Antiquated. Harmful.

In reality, God’s ways lead to human thriving. To liberty. To freedom. To fullness.

As Jesus said:

“I have come that they might have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10).

To be sure, God’s ways require discipline. And obedience. And denial of the flesh.

But fleshly habits bring bondage. Discipline sets us free.

Indulging our earthly desires brings dullness and addiction. Obedience lifts us into a higher realm, far above our animal appetites.

God is a God of life, and in Him is life beyond description. That’s why Jesus could say:

“I am the resurrection and the life. . . . I am the bread of life. . . . . Whoever follows Me . . . will have the light of life” (John 11:24; 6:35; 8:12). And that’s why John called Him “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).

Tragically, in recent decades, America has increasingly chosen a path of death, from abortion to violent video games, and from euthanasia to TV shows glorifying vampires and zombies. How can we turn the tide?

Here are some practical suggestions.

First, go about your normal daily activities, watching and reading and listening to what you normally watch and read and listen to, but this time take note of how much death is involved. How many images of the dead and dying? How many corpses? How much graphic violence? How much death are you seeing (by choice, not by necessity) over the course of a week?

Second, if you realize that you’re being influenced by a culture of death, then take a thirty-day break from all forms of death-related media entertainment, be it video games or favorite TV shows or gratuitously violent novels.

Third, immerse yourself in words of life. I would encourage you to read several chapters from Proverbs and the Gospel of John each day, noticing the constant emphasis on life. As the voice of wisdom says in Proverbs 8:

“For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, but he who fails to find me injures himself; all who hate me love death” (Prov. 8:35-36).

Fourth, when you spend time in prayer, ask God to flood your heart with His life and to give you the perspective of life, to see the world as He would have you see it.

Fifth, after thirty days, ask the Lord how He would have you to live. You might be surprised to see how your perspectives have changed. In the words of Paul:

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable– if anything is excellent or praiseworthy– think about such things (Phil. 4:8, NIV).

If you’d like to take this even further, then consider three more steps.

First, get involved in the pro-life movement and work against abortion on demand in our nation. If Mother Teresa and others are right, this strikes at a major root of our culture of death, and by joining together as pro-life Christians, we can see the nation impacted.

Second, we can affirm the dignity of every human life by reaching out to the elderly, who are some of the most forgotten and neglected people in our society.

Third, get involved with another group that society discards, the poor and the hurting. Many churches have ministries to the poor and the needy, and every city has feeding programs and the like, and for the most part, they are greatly understaffed.

We celebrate life when we bring meaning and hope into the lives of the hurting, and we reaffirm that they too are created in the image of God, therefore of inestimable value and worth. It is something near and dear to the Lord’s heart.

The good news is that, across our nation, Americans are choosing life. In fact, already in March, a New York Times headline declared:

“Georgia Is Latest State to Pass Fetal Heartbeat Bill as Part of Growing Trend.”

The article noted that:

“The governors in Mississippi and Kentucky signed fetal heartbeat measures into law in recent weeks, and other states — including Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas — are expected to approve similar measures this year.”

May our nation choose life, that we and our offspring might live!

(Some of the material in this article was excerpted and adapted from my book Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation.)

 

Original here

A Pilgrimage to Secure Boundaries

by Jack Hayford

 

“Lift your eyes now and look from the place where you are—northward, southward, eastward, and westward; for all the land which you see I give to you and your descendants forever…Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you.” (Genesis 13:14b-15, 17)

This was the first time that I have ever referred to one of our trips to the Holy Land as a “pilgrimage,” but it was just that—a mandate from the Lord to go and pray in Israel. We were a group under God’s hands, joining in prayer with multitudes also praying for the peace of Jerusalem. We knew somehow that our actions in the invisible realm were pivotal, invoking through prayer the rule of God Almighty. Never have I felt involved in a more significant venture. Believers and secular people alike in Israel were deeply moved by our visit.

We went with a sense of mission to exercise the practice of prophetic prayer, literally moving through the land to touch the North, South, East, and West. As a prayer team, we built altars at each of these boundaries of the nation, where we lifted up key issues to be proclaimed over the land. These are the same issues that need to be raised up over your life—kingdom principles that apply to all of us.

In the South, we built the Altar of TRUTH (Psalm 119:165), praying that Israel will honor the Word; that the Word be made alive—a veil removed to see more than words; to see truth: “You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).

In the East, we built the Altar of LIFE (Ezekiel 37:9,14), praying that there would come an outpouring of the Spirit according to Zechariah 12:10: “I will pour on Israel the Spirit of grace and supplication, and they will look upon Me whom they pierced.”

In the North, we built the Altar of WORSHIP (Zechariah 14:16-18), praying in intercession that all who worship the Lord now in spirit and in truth would become a token invoking further grace, including breaking the drought in this land.

In the West, we built the Altar of PRAISE (Psalm 113:1-3), praying praise to drive back the darkness; praise for what has begun; and praise that Israel’s boundaries not only be secured but expanded in her mission to mankind.

I gained three convictions from this divinely appointed visit to Israel. First, the Spirit of prophecy is ready to come upon people who will rise in faith, obey with action, and work with discernment. Second, the Spirit of life is breathing with force ready to break down walls and bring salvation. Finally, the Spirit of harvest is calling for prayer warriors who will resist the Adversary and contend for God’s boundaries of intended blessing.

More than ever, there’s reason for us as the people of the Lord to let our hearts be quickened with anticipation and stirred with a sense of accountable duty. We are called to occupy until Jesus comes, and that responsibility centers on intercessory prayer and a faithful life of service that shows the love of God in everything we do. As the world faces uncertainty, let us march forward in full confidence that He has called us to action in prayer that will result in the securing and expansion of boundaries of intended blessing in our world and in each of our lives.

Original here