Hannah’s Prayer

This week in Sunday School, we took a look at Hannah’s prayer. Hannah was one of two wives of Elkanah and we find her story in the first chapter of 1 Samuel. Peninnah was the other wife and part of the source of Hannah’s problem. Hannah had no children and Peninnah had given children to Elkanah. The fact that she had no children was making Hannah depressed and as the scriptures tell us, she had a bitterness of her soul. She was hurt very deeply. Verses 3 through 8 tell us how that Elkanah would go once a year to Shiloh to worship and offer sacrifice to the Lord of Hosts, and he would give meat to Peninnah for her sons and daughters and he would give a double portion to Hannah, even though the Lord had kept her from conceiving. Peninnah would taunt her because the Lord had kept her from conceiving. So, each year, Hannah would be reminded how she was barren and be taunted so much that she all she could do was cry and she would not eat. She had a husband who loved her but her life was incomplete without children.

As I was preparing to teach this lesson, I was reading the Bible and something stood out to me that I thought was a little odd. First in verse 9 we read that Hannah got up after they had eaten and then immediately we are told that the priest Eli was sitting in a chair by the doorpost of the Lords temple. My first thought was what does the priest sitting in a chair have to do with Hannah getting up? Verses 10 and 11 record her prayer and the vow that she made to God. Then in verse 12, I found this. Eli the priest was watching her pray, specifically watching her mouth. Her lips were moving but she made no sound. This looked so weird to Eli that he thought she was drunk and told her to get rid of her wine. Now I was hooked. Sometimes I have to stop and ask God why he included certain pieces of information in the scriptures. This is one of those times. Why mention the priest, where he was sitting, and even the part about him watching Hannah pray? Seemed weird to me to include that.

Then it hit me. Hannah was praying in an animated way. She was pouring out her heart to God and talking to God in a personal, this is me and I have a big problem kind of way. I was reminded of a day that I had experienced some bad stuff and I wanted so much for God to come and help me that I prayed with much emotion. So much that I was even using hand gestures. All this while driving down the road. I’m sure that if someone had seen me, they would have thought the same as Eli thought about Hannah, or probably worse. But I started to thinking about how  we pray. So often we are so worried about our outward look that it influences our inward praying. Like when we feel the need to go to the altar to pray but we refuse because we don’t want the rest of the people there to know I have a problem. We are more concerned about the world around us than we are the God above us. Hannah had gotten to the point that she no longer cared about ritual, habits, or whatever. She just wanted to reach God.  And here’s the most important part. She was praying to a God that she knew loved her, a God that would help her, and that she didn’t need to worry about how God would receive her prayer. So often we think that God’s response to us is determined by our lives. But it’s not. God has a plan for each of us. And that plan is to draw us closer to Him. There’s a gazillion ways that God uses circumstances in our lives to accomplish His plan in our lives. We just need to learn to pray to a heavenly Father that loves us and trust that His will is enough.  After Hannah prayed, she returned and ate and no longer looked despondent. She was trusting God to work things out. And later in the chapter, we read about the birth of Samuel, Hannah’s son.  Thanks to God for loving us and for hearing us when we pray. And I for one want my prayers to be like Hannah’s prayer. Filled with trust in God.

 

Be Perfect……..

WOW, what a thought. Be perfect. A while back,  my Sunday School class studied the Sermon on the Mount that Jesus preached and Matthew recorded in chapter 5 of his book. For sure Jesus laid down some pretty hard directions for us to follow. He took outward actions and placed them in our hearts. For instance it’s not enough just to follow the do not murder rule, Jesus said to not even entertain anger. Don’t commit adultery became don’t even look and lust about it. He was changing the way we understood what God wanted us to do and how he wanted us to act. His point was to go beyond outward obedience and change our hearts inside. When you think about it, all actions are a reflection of the condition of our hearts.

But then Jesus ended the sermon with these words. Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

I thought about that for a while. There was no way I could be perfect. But Jesus said for me to be just that. I believe that my heavenly Father is perfect in every way you can list. He has never made a mistake, never been wrong, never falsely accused anyone of anything, never missed an opportunity to help someone, never failed to love anyone. He is perfect. And I am not.

But here’s what Jesus wants us to know. Remember that he said early in the sermon that unless our righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, we would never enter the kingdom of heaven. The scribes and Pharisees had the actions down pat. But they only applied them to outward expressions. He was telling us that we need to train our hearts and minds to be better than our actions.  And in doing so, our actions could move up to the next level and would become closer to what God wanted for us. He wanted us to understand that our hearts (mind) controls our actions. He wanted us to be intentional in our actions. Not reacting to what happens around us but reacting in a manner that would show God’s power and love to those around us. He wants us to be salt and light so that we can make a difference in this world.

I can’t explain God’s love for us. But I do know one thing for sure. God’s love towards me and you is intentional. He chose to love us. As much as I wish that I could point to something good inside of me and say “That’s why God loves ME!” I can’t.  I was un-loveable. Sinful. Selfish. Yet, God CHOSE to love me. And you.

And He wants us to be perfect. This isn’t possible for us in this world the way most would think of perfect.

But what if perfect meant to be mature and intentional in making our thoughts Godly?

Most of the time, without even thinking about it, we reflect our earthly parents. My granddaughter is her mother made over. She has her actions, her expressions, her attitude. She also has some of her father’s actions, expressions and attitudes. Some people claim they can see me when my granddaughter looks a certain way or does something in a particular way. And she’s only 5 years old so I am sure that she isn’t aware of all this. But she reflects her parents.

Jesus wanted us to learn to reflect our heavenly Father in the same way. When we are intentional in following Jesus’s teaching in the way we treat others, and we love as God commanded us to, I believe that we are approaching what Jesus meant when He said to be perfect. We reflect the love of our heavenly Father. We reflect the grace given to us. We let the world see Jesus through our actions and our intentions. This should be a Christian’s goal:  To accurately reflect the grace and love of our heavenly Father. Strive to be perfect in doing that and I believe we will be doing what Jesus said to do.

Old Fashioned Revival

We just finished holding an old fashioned revival at my church, Higher Ground Baptist in Kingsport, Tennessee. In addition to the prayers that God would send revival, there was a huge amount of work that went into the preparations for this revival.  First was setting up the tent, a stage had to be made, chairs placed, a generator set up to provide electricity for sound and lights and many other things. I guess that’s one thing that made it old fashioned. Several people were involved in the preparations and not just showing up to hear a preacher. It seems that today we are so rushed that we barely have time to go to church. But here is an event that has God’s people working together asking God to work in their lives and the life of our church family. Pastor Ronnie brought sermons that challenged our faith from the beginning point of salvation all the way through to living Godly lives. The weather was great and God truly blessed us with His presence. Some folks were saved, some were challenged and wanted to draw closer to God as they walk through life with Him. One answered a call to the ministry during this revival. All these are elements of what most remember as old fashioned revivals. God working and calling people into a relationship with Him. All in all, there’s a lot to be said for God’s people working together and seeking God’s presence in our lives.

 

Here’s a link to all the photos that I have of the revival. God Bless.

Mountain Top

This is an image that I got a few years ago from Clingman’s Dome on top of the Smoky Mountains in East Tn. It was a good clear day and I was blessed with several clouds to enhance the photo in the blue sky. The processing is a mostly Lightroom and some slight HDR effects with Photoshop. This is the first of a plan to use me images to decorate our new kitchen. I hope to challenge myself from time to time to go to a particular place and take a particular photo for the kitchen. Should be fun. I hope you enjoy the Mountain Top as much as I do. Thanks for looking.

 

mountaintn_top_small

The “Sinner’s Prayer”

Here’s a link to an interesting article by David Platt and a sermon that he presented on the “Sinner’s Prayer”. This should give all of us something to think about as we share the gospel of Jesus Christ. The quote below is from the article and the link below  is to Christianity Today.

My concerns are not about prayer or election, but about authentic conversion and regenerate church membership.

Source: David Platt: What I Really Think About the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ Conversion, Mission, and Deception | Christianity Today

Side Car Final Ride

Lately I have been going through some of my older photos and just generally cleaning up old files and hard drives and etc…..deleting some of the older files and getting organized with others. Deciding what to keep and what to let go. I was surprised to learn that I did have quite a bit of stuff that I had worked on that I no longer need. So, in the process of doing this, I found an old USB drive that I used to carry with me at all times. Back in the old days I kept photos, web site info, files and folders of work that I did for various places and people with me constantly on this USB drive. Now I use drop box as it works just as good and since I can access it on all my devices (and I don’t have to carry it around) makes it pretty convenient.

As I was going through the USB, I found some photos that I did for a friend that was trying to get into the motorcycle hearse business. He had someone take a side car frame and modify it to allow a casket to be placed on it and locked down. Then he would drive the casket to the cemetery and it would give the deceased one last ride on a motorcycle. I don’t know how all this worked out for him, but I had an opportunity to get some really different type of photos. This is something you don’t see every day.

Riding Into The Graveyard
Riding Into The Graveyard

As you can see, this was a very unusual sight. This is the shot that we used to help advertise what he was doing. I liked this shot as we were able to get there and take advantage of the angle of the sun from behind and the shadows that helped create inside the gate. This helped set the mood for the photo and I was pleased. But then I shot a photo of the river.

River Ride!
River Ride!

I didn’t really mean to combine the two but as you can see, I added the river to the scene. For some reason I never finished this shot as I should have added the river under the bike and casket. I don’t know how I came to even think about adding the river to the cemetery shot, but here it is. I like it because it’s not something that you’d expect to see in every day life. And the water doesn’t really make you think of a river. I’ts more like a flooded street. But the water adds an element that for some reason I like to the photo. Maybe it just sort of calms the photo or something like that. Anyway, this is just a photo that I made and wanted to share here today. I hope you liked it and that you have a great weekend.

A Look Back

For a while now I have been wanting to just get out ramble around and take some photos with no rhyme or reason. Haven’t found the time to do that though so I’m gonna post these. This will have to do for now, but I hope to get time to get out and take some new photos soon. I guess I’m getting a little nostalgic today or maybe just don’t want the cold weather of winter to come. Whatever it is, here’s some of my old shots of dowtown Rogersville, Tennessee.