May/jun 201 1
Closer Encounters ‘Therefore I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.’ Hosea 2:14
Selwyn Hughes Revised and updated by Mick Brooks Further Study: Ian Sewter © CWR 2011. Dated text previously published as Every Day with Jesus: The Divine Alluring (May/June 2001) by CWR. This edition revised and updated for 2011 by Mick Brooks. CWR, Waverley Abbey House, Waverley Lane, Farnham, Surrey GU9 8EP, UK Tel: 01252 784700 Email: email@example.com Registered Charity No. 294387. Registered Limited Company No. 1990308. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of CWR. Unless otherwise stated all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © International Bible Society. Cover image: Getty/Stone/David Tsay Quiet Time image: istockphoto.com/InnaSidorova Printed in England by Linney Print
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A word of introduction …
was in Kolkata, India, as part of the team involved in filming our DVD The Impossible Dream? We were privileged to see first hand the wonderful work of the charity Compassion among some of the poorest communities. On leaving one project, we asked the director how we could we pray for him and his team. We were not prepared for his answer. ‘Please pray that life doesn’t become too comfortable,’ he replied. ‘When we are persecuted and harassed for our faith, we pray more, we read our Bibles more, we want fellowship more, we leave the petty differences behind and seek God more.’ We were all suitably challenged by his words. It struck us that, when life is ‘going well’, it is all too easy to move away from God and seek to do things in our own strength. In this issue, Selwyn draws on his experience of counselling people who have found themselves in a spiritually dry and desert place. He identified a number of consistent and recurring themes in the lives of those to whom he ministered. To draw out these themes, he invites us to explore with him the intriguing verse from Hosea on the cover of this issue, which seems to imply that God, at times, may Himself lead us into a spiritual desert. None of us in Kolkata found we could pray for persecution for the Christians we met – life already seemed to hold enough challenges for them. My prayer is that if you find yourself in a difficult or ‘dry’ place at this time, that God will use the words that follow to ‘speak tenderly to you’, and that your experience will result in a ‘closer encounter of the God kind’. Sincerely yours, in His name Mick Brooks Consulting Editor
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A second betrothal
Sun 1 May
For reading & meditation – Hosea 2:14–23
‘… I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly to her.’ (v.14)
ooner or later most Christians will ﬁnd themselves in a spiritual desert. Discovering why this is so is one of the most important spiritual lessons we can learn. In this issue it is my aim to help you prepare for a time when you might ﬁnd yourself experiencing a spiritual desert – what some call ‘a dry patch’. During such a time God seems to be far away and you feel bereft of His presence. Spiritual emptiness may come about as a result of unconfessed sin, but that is not the kind of condition I am talking about now. So, what do I mean when I speak of a spiritual desert? It is a place to which God draws us in order to regain Further our attention to enable us to draw closer to Him. Study Today’s reading helps bring this concept more fully Songs 1:1–17; into focus. When God says, ‘I am now going to allure 1 John 4:16 her; I will lead her into the desert and speak tenderly 1. Describe the to her’, He has in mind His beloved Israel, who had emotions of moved from dependence on Him to reliance on her the lovers. own resources. He longs for the relationship He had 2. Describe God. with His people before they were tempted by the pagan gods of Canaan. He yearns for a second betrothal. Since they had missed the path of God-dependence, He set about slowing them down so that once again He could get their attention. There, in the desert, He promised He would speak tenderly to them. Tenderly – notice that. He did not say He would shout at them but, in the tenderest of tones, say something like this: ‘I’m not mad at you. I’m just sad that your heart is ﬁlled with things other than Myself. I made you for a relationship with Me. No one can provide for you what I can give you. When the desert helps you understand this, it will be time to move on again.’ My Father and my God, help me understand that the stops as well as the steps of Your children are ordered by You. Deepen the assurance within me that the divine allurings are designed not to hurt me but to help me. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
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Mon 2 May
The intolerable compliment For reading & meditation – Hosea 11:1–11
‘How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?’ (v.8)
esterday, we said that when God allures us into the desert He does so not because He is mad at us, but because He wishes to gain our attention. Some of us may think we have a good relationship with God but often, when we examine our relationship carefully, we ﬁnd that we are depending far too much on our own resources rather than on His. Over and over again we need to be reminded that it is ‘“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty”’ (Zech. 4:6). At the outset of our meditations, then, we must accept the fact that God’s intentions with regard to His children Further Study are always good. St Augustine, when going through a difﬁcult period in his life, was told by one of his Isa. 62:1–5; 2 Cor. 11:2; spiritual advisers that the position in which he found Eph. 5:22–33 himself was evidence that a loving God was at work. His reply was this: ‘Then, O Lord … love me less.’ C.S. Lewis 1. How does God rejoice over us? put the same thought in this form: ‘God has paid us the intolerable compliment of loving us, in the deepest, 2. What is the profound most tragic, most inexorable sense.’ We want a loving mystery? God and we have one, ‘not,’ as Lewis says, ‘a senile benevolence that drowsily wishes you to be happy in your own way, not the cold philanthropy of a conscientious magistrate … but the consuming ﬁre Himself, the Love that made the worlds, persistent as the artist’s love for his work.’* Why God should love us like this is beyond me, but He does. Listen to today’s text once again: ‘How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?’ Can you hear the passion, the concern, the longing for restoration in these words? This mighty and beneﬁcent Creator loves us. And how! O Father, help me rest in the knowledge that all Your dealings – including Your disciplines – are motivated by love. You love me too much to let me get away with what is not good for me. Help me understand this and stand upon it. Amen. *C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain , copyright © C.S. Lewis Pte Ltd, 1940. Extract reprinted by permission.
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Loved as we are but …
Tues 3 May
For reading & meditation – Revelation 4:1–11
‘… for you created all things, and by your will they were created and have their being.’ (v.11)
e need to spend another day reﬂecting on the truth that all God’s dealings with us are motivated by love. If we do not grasp this then we may respond badly to the divine disciplines. Yesterday we said that when St Augustine was told God’s dealings with him were the outcome of divine love he responded, ‘O Lord … love me less.’ But to ask that God should love us less is to ask that God should cease to be God. God, being who He is, will always seek to make us like Himself – perfect love. Theologians often debate the question: Did God create us that we might love Him or that He might love us? The proper Further answer to that question is, I think, that primarily God Study made us to be loved by Him. We were made to be the subject of His benevolence, and His great desire for us is Ezek. 16:1–14; that we might become the sons and daughters in whom John 8:1–11 He is well pleased. The Authorised Version translates 1. How did today’s text in this way: ‘… thou hast created all things, God view the despised child? and for thy pleasure they are and were created.’ To some that might sound as if God is interested only in 2. How did Jesus relate to His pleasure, but it is in pleasing Him that we reach our the adulteress? highest potential. His pleasure is our pleasure. To expect, however, that God should remain content with us when we are shot through with self-centredness is to misunderstand the nature of divine love. We may regard the divine love as possessive or selﬁsh, but actually it is the purest love possible. It is the kind of love that cannot rest until the object of that love is as pure as the initiating love. We were made to be loved – loved by the One who loves us perfectly – and when we love as we are loved, that is when we will ﬁnd our greatest happiness.
O loving Lord, how reassuring it is to know that Your love is constant and consistent. You can never love me less. The comfort and encouragement this gives me is more than I can tell. May I rest for ever in this glorious fact. Amen.
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Wed 4 May
Things! Things! Things! For reading & meditation – Matthew 6:25–34
‘But seek ﬁrst his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.’ (v.33)
he ﬁrst time I found myself in a spiritual desert I wondered what had gone wrong. I remember saying to myself, ‘When I became a Christian I thought I would continuously enjoy “abundant life”. So why am I not experiencing it any more?’ In time, though, I came to see that there is no contradiction between possessing abundant life and being in a spiritual desert. The desert opens up the way for the life of Christ within us to become even more abundant. I propose now, and throughout the rest of this issue, to come to grips with some of the reasons why God allures us Further Study into the desert, the ﬁrst being this: to wean us from the terrible attachment to things. There is a strange 1 Kings 21:1–29 fondness in the normal human heart to material 1. Why did King possessions. The main aim in life for millions of the Ahab, living in a general population (and some followers of Christ) is to palace, covet a vineyard? acquire things. In a sense this is very natural. We live in a material world and depend to a large extent on 2. What were God’s responses material things. But there is a tremendous difference to his actions? between owning things and being owned by them. One person has expressed it like this: ‘When something you own takes over your life so that you cannot conceive of ever being without it, you don’t own it; it owns you.’ We cannot despise material things, but we are in danger spiritually when we allow them to dominate our minds. Necessary and elemental as some material things are, they have a way of elbowing out everything else. When God sees that our souls are susceptible to this danger He will draw us into the desert and say, ‘Let’s talk. Your soul is under threat. I don’t want you to despise things, but I don’t want you to be dominated by them either.’ Save me I pray, dear Lord, from the terrible attachment to things. If I have been ensnared by them, do whatever is necessary to wean me from them. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
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CWR Ministry Events Please pray for the team Date
Event [All held at Waverley Abbey House]
10 May Successfully Navigating the Teenage Years 11 May The Bible in a Day 16 May Christ Empowered Living 18 May From Bible Text to Engaging Sermon 20 May Understanding Yourself, Understanding Others (MBTI Basic) 21 May Counselling Training Enquirers’ Afternoon 23 May Discovering More About God’s Story 24 May How to Meditate on the Bible 25 May Pastoring People on the Fringe 3–5 Jun Women’s Weekend – Intimacy with God (Song of Solomon) 9–10 Jun Supervision of Christian Counselling Level 1 10–12 Jun Preparation for Marriage 13–14 Jun Spiritual Formation 15 Jun Faith, Hope, Love and Everything in Between 16 Jun Reaching and Keeping Teenagers 20–24 Jun Introduction to Biblical Counselling 27 Jun Insight into Perfectionism 28 Jun Women’s Summer Evening 29 Jun Personality and Spirituality 1–3 Jul Bible Discovery Weekend – God’s Empowering Presence 4 Jul The Guided Life
Presenter(s) Owen Ashley Andy Peck Mick & Lynette Brooks Andy Peck Lynn & Andrew Penson Counselling Training Team Philip Greenslade Lynn Penson Andy Peck and Hugo Anson Women at Waverley Team Heather Churchill Mick & Lynette Brooks, Lynn & Andrew Penson Andy Peck Mick Brooks Andy Peck & Martin Saunders Waverley Team Chris Ledger Fiona Castle Lynn Penson Philip Greenslade Andy Peck
Please also pray for students and tutors on our ongoing BA in Counselling programme at Waverley and our Certificate and Diploma of Christian Counselling and MA in Integrative Psychotherapy held at London School of Theology. For full details phone 01252 784719, international +44 (0)1252 784719 or see the CWR website for further information www.cwr.org.uk
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Thurs 5 May
‘Drink up’ For reading & meditation – John 21:1–19
‘When they landed, they saw a ﬁre of burning coals there with ﬁsh on it, and some bread.’ (v.9)
esterday we were reﬂecting on the fact that the normal human heart has a terrible attachment to things. But we must be balanced about this matter. Common sense tells us that we cannot preach effectively to men and women who are hungry. People must be given a meal ﬁrst and then the message afterwards. In the passage we have read today we see that Jesus, before speaking to Simon Peter about some important spiritual issues, made sure that ﬁrst he had a cooked breakfast. Then: ‘When they had ﬁnished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter …’ (v.15, my emphasis). The body may not be of prime importance, Further Study but it must have its due. Man cannot live by bread alone, but he cannot live without it either. 2 Cor. 8:9; ‘How much we are dependent on material things Phil. 4:10–13 is fully known only to those who have to go without 1. What is them,’ said Leslie Weatherhead, a well-known London the example of Jesus? preacher. He tells how when ministering in the streets of East London at a time when there was great poverty, 2. What was Paul’s there he gave a glass of milk to a child. She took a sip declaration? of it, looked up at him, sipped again, and looked up once more. Encouragingly he said, ‘Go on, drink up.’ With wide eyes she asked in an awed voice: ‘What! Can I drink to the bottom?’ Years of deprivation prompted that astonished enquiry. Behind an innocent childlike question like that we see the bitter denial of sweet and wholesome joys – joys which God meant for every child and which are withheld sometimes for want of a few coins. We live in a material world and depend in part on material things, and none but the unbalanced can be indifferent to them. Some material things are important, but they must not be all-important. My Father and my God, I accept that I must be balanced on this issue. I must not allow material things to dominate me, but I must not despise them either. Help me to understand this. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Fri 6 May
For reading & meditation – Luke 12:13–21
‘Be on your guard against … greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.’ (v.15)
ith most people the desire for things ﬁnds its focus in the pursuit of money. If you have money, people believe, you can get everything else. Though the inability of money to satisfy the heart has been demonstrated in every age, people are still caught by its lure. The story is told of a poor man who had just enough money to support himself and his family, and who spent his days enjoying modest pleasures and helping others. He came into contact with an extremely rich man who was immersed in his business, worked 18 hours a day, and was a slave to acquisition. Further The poor man commented to the wealthy man, ‘I am Study richer than you are.’ ‘How can you possibly say that?’ 1 Tim. 6:16–19; exclaimed the rich man. ‘Well,’ replied the poor man, ‘I Titus 2:11–14 have as much money as I want and you haven’t.’ 1. What was Sadly, the domination of things extends beyond Paul’s warning? individuals to whole communities, even nations. The 2. What does competing economic systems of the world illustrate how the grace of things can master us. Frankly, our standards nowadays God teach us? are far too high and materialistic. The majority in some nations seem to care less about the moral rectitude of their leaders than the fact that their economy is thriving. Professor W.E. Hocking has argued that we cannot have a sound society unless we have a sufﬁcient number of men and women who cannot be bought. He calls them ‘unpurchasable people’. Jesus calls us to be such people, and He calls us to be such people even if He has to allure us into the desert to achieve this. No good, happy and harmonious social life is possible unless there is a quorum of men and women of integrity, men and women who cannot be bought by anything.
O God, I pray with all my heart that You will make me such a person. Grant that all the remaining days of my life I shall be unpurchasable, someone who can never be bought – not for any price. This I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
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Sat 7 May
Where is your treasure? For reading & meditation – Luke 12:22–34
‘For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (v.34)
e continue reﬂecting on the danger of allowing our souls to be mastered by material things. When Cain killed Abel, God’s decision was swift, clear and ﬁrm. Cain was to become ‘a restless wanderer on the earth’ (Gen. 4:12), which meant he would never settle down in a community of people. Having abused the nature of community by murdering his brother, he was now to face the consequences and become outcast from the joys of living in a community. He would sleep every night in a different place, never having anywhere to call home. Cain resisted the consequences of his actions and, Further we are told, when his wife gave birth to their ﬁrst son, Study Enoch, he was busily working to build a city (Gen. Prov. 27:20; 1 Pet. 1:18–2:12 4:17). There was a spirit in Cain which drove him to get for himself the things God would not give him. 1. Why do And there is something of that same spirit in you and possessions never bring me. To the extent we are not aware of it, to that extent total our souls are in danger. We tend to want possessions satisfaction? for their own sake, not for how they can be used to 2. What is the extend the kingdom of God. Multitudes of Christians greatest are so caught up in the pursuit of possessions that they treasure? are mastered by them. The sinister, deadly character of things is that they can buy a soul, take integrity, corrupt the sense of decency, and destroy people from within. In the Ten Commandments covetousness is forbidden along with murder, adultery, theft, and slander. Often in the New Testament covetousness and adultery are classed together. ‘Isn’t it strange,’ said one preacher, ‘that in the long history of the Christian Church adultery should have retained its heinousness, and covetousness almost disguised itself as a noble thing.’ O Father, save me from this form of corruption. Help me not to get so caught up in the pursuit of possessions that I become mastered by them. I know You do not want me to lack ambition, but that ambition must always be surrendered to You. Amen.
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