Sunday, 26 March 2017

If not for the Lord

"If it had not been the LORD who was on our side, When men rose up against us, Then they would have swallowed us alive, When their wrath was kindled against us; Then the waters would have overwhelmed us, The stream would have gone over our soul; Then the swollen waters Would have gone over our soul." – Psalm 124.2-5

‘If not for the Lord.’ What thought provoking words these are. It is an easy verse to personalise – ‘if not for the Lord where would I be?’

This was used for Israel here – but we might well ask ourselves the same question, ‘if not for the Lord’ where would I be.

I hate to even think. In 1973 I was on a downhill course. I had moved far from home for the first time and found myself in a party school for a college. Drink was everywhere, including in the basement of my dorm. I had experimented with drink in high school but it was not a major part of my life.

But now, well, things got bad quickly. With drink everywhere I took full advantage. Before long I was losing weekends and once was accused of theft when I could say nothing because I had no memory of the night. I was almost kicked out of this school where rules meant little. I started drinking to get over a hangover.

But then God stepped in. He saved me and turned my life around. Still, I was not done and backslid into that same nonsense again. Again God stepped in and turned me back on the right path. I stopped the drink completely and changed schools to a Christian college. I met Mary and He directed us into Christian service. Eventually that led to the life we have today.

So if not for the Lord where indeed would I be? Who knows? Maybe I would have dealt with the drink and got my act together, people do that. But I do know that when God stepped He saved me, then He accepted me back when I wandered from Him, then He kept me a preserved from the path drink was taking me down.

It is was His work. If not for the Lord who knows where I would be. But I do know I would not have the life I have today. I know that I would not have the wife and family and friends I have today. And if not for the LOrd my eternity would not be secure.

Thank God that don’t have to know where I would be ‘if not for the Lord?’

Saturday, 25 March 2017

I will lift up my eyes

Unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in the heavens. Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, As the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress, So our eyes look to the LORD our  God, Until He has mercy on us. – Psalm 123.1-2

There are few things worse than a down-hearted Christian who is full of gloom. It is easy to get downcast when we look at all the stuff going on around us. If all we do is look down at all this we are certainly going to be discouraged.

The Bible has the solution there. David said ‘unto You I lift up my eyes, O You who dwell in heaven.’ That reminds me of where Paul wrote to the Colossians that if they are truly in Christ they ought to set their affections, and eyes, on heavenly things and not earthly things. Instead of focusing on the difficulties that line our race of life we ought to be looking at Jesus as the Author and Finisher of our faith standing at the finish line.

So much of how we deal with our life is what we tend to focus on. It is up to you and me to decide if we are going to get caught up in all this mess or if we are going to look to Jesus as our hope.

I think of Peter walking on the water. He did fine until he focused on the problems, but when he sank he looked to Jesus and cried out ‘save me!’

When Stephen was being martyred he cried out that he saw Jesus standing at the Father’s right hand.

In our times of trouble instead of being downcast we ought to, so to say, pick up our chins, look up, and gaze on the face of Jesus as our hope to carry us through.

Friday, 24 March 2017

Let us go to the house of the Lord

I was glad when they said to me,
“Let us go into the house of the Lord.”
Our feet have been standing
Within your gates, O Jerusalem!
Jerusalem is built
As a city that is compact together,
Where the tribes go up,
The tribes of the Lord,
To the Testimony of Israel,
To give thanks to the name of the Lord. – Psalm 122.1-4

I like the phrase ‘the house of the Lord.’ In the Old Testament it referred to the Temple or the tabernacle where God literally dwelt. When the psalmist wrote ‘let us go to the house of the Lord’ that is what he meant.

But it was more than that as well. This is the place where the people have committed to be together. It is the place where people were committed to their testimony and to give thanks to the Lord.

The building itself is not the special place – it is special because that is where God’s people meet together. It is what Paul meant when he wrote to Ephesus that Jewish and Gentile believers together make up ‘the household of God.’

There is no greater joy than being together with the household of God. The weekend is just about upon us. Sunday morning we will have a choice, will something else get in the way or we will say ‘let us go the house of the Lord and let us meet with His household, our family?’ 

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Never slumbers

My help comes from the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to be moved;
He who keeps you will not slumber.
Behold, He who keeps Israel
Shall neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord is your keeper;
The Lord is your shade at your right hand. – Psalm 121.2-5

I love this psalm. It is one of my favourite to preach on. The psalm speaks of Israel returning to Jerusalem and looking up to the hills of Jerusalem. As they did they considered where their help really came from. It wasn’t Jerusalem – ‘my help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth.’

Then follows a great description of who that Lord is.

The Maker of heaven and earth
The one who gives us stability
And the Keeper of Israel

Now I do understand that we cannot take every promise to Israel and claim them for the church, but here Israel only illustrates that God keeps His people, and the church is God’s people.

I could write for a while here about the various aspects of ‘the Keeper’ but I want to centre on the idea of our keeper’s vigilance.

Not only does our keeper not fall asleep, He won’t even slumber.

We all know what it is like to slumber. It is the same notion as what it means to doze off. Slumbering, or dozing off, is something that I am well practised at. I do pretty well in conversation, normally, but I am a notorious dozer when it comes to television.

Mary and I like to watch ‘Murder She Wrote’ when it was on television here. Well, I should say Mary like to watch and I like to try to watch. It seems like every single episode I would doze off just as the key event happened or at the end when Jessica was explaining it. I have so many times had to ask, ‘what happened, I missed it?’ Or sometimes I just do without and fake it.

This passage reminds us that God doesn’t doze off. He doesn’t miss anything. He doesn’t miss the key events. He never has to say ‘what did I miss?’ Nothing, ever, is going to catch Him off guard. He is our keeper.

No matter what is going on in our lives, or what has gone on in the past, or what is going to come in the future, catches God having a doze. Our keeper always keeps.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

In my distress

In my distress I cried to the Lord,
And He heard me. – Psalm 120.1

This world is in distress. Do you have any doubts? Check out your favourite newsfeed and look at the stories there. The uncertainly of the future in 2017 can be a scary and anxious thing.

Not only that, we have our own times of distress. We become distressed over deaths and illnesses and loss of jobs and financial. Sometimes our distress can come suddenly it can knock us off our feet and we can act before we even have time to think. When those distressing events happen to me before the news is even complete my mind goes into ‘fix it’ mode and I can act before I even consider things or pray about it.

The psalmist had is right – ‘in my distress I cried to the Lord’ and when he did that the right thing happened ‘and He heard me.’

Too often my distress comes in the middle of the night and I spend hours fretting and stressing out over them. Instead of wasting that time and putting myself under that emotional I need to learn to do the only logical thing.

Every March I casually read through ‘The Confession’ by Patrick. For part of his life Patrick was a slave caring for sheep. He knew his life was a mess. As he recounts that time he quotes this verse – ‘in my distress I called on the Lord and He heard me.’ God delivered him and used him to carry the gospel of Jesus Christ back to the Irish people.

We are foolish to let distress ruin our lives when we can cry out to the One who is in control

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

My tongue shall speak

My tongue shall speak of Your word,
For all Your commandments are righteousness. – Psalm 119.172

I am one of those irritating people who likes to talk. The topic makes no difference, if I have the slightest knowledge about it I will join in the conversation. Actually sometimes I don’t even have to know anything to jump it.

I like to talks sports and politics and the weather and just about anything else. I am not even afraid to express opposing viewpoints and some say I even relish those conversations more than others.

But then, what happens when it is time to talk about the Lord? I can speak with what sounds like authority even when I don’t really know what I talking about in most situations. But, when it comes to the Lord my words get tangled and my thoughts get disoriented and I stammer and stutter. It is not too bad when I am preaching or teaching, but one on one is a whole different story.

This is quite a challenge to me. To speak of God’s word requires a measure of boldness. Even Paul asked for prayer that he would have the boldness to speak of the Lord. But if we don’t know it nobody will. Of all the ways God could have chosen to get His word out He chose us. We must be the ones to speak of God’s word because people are not just going to come across it.

Lord, amongst the many things my tongue will speak of today, may Your word be predominate. 

Monday, 20 March 2017

Great peace

Great peace have those who love Your law,
And nothing causes them to stumble. – Psalm 119.165

Don’t we all seek after peace? Wouldn’t we all love a little peace in our lives?

And yet, try as it might, this world is not, has never been, and will not ever be a place of peace.  It is just  a world that is too broken. People want what they want for themselves more than they want peace. We war and we fight because we lust after all the things that gratify us.

The same basic thing is true within our own lives. God offers peace, Jesus promised it, the word of God uses the word peace all the time, and yet we don’t have peace for one basic reason – we are trying so hard to get our own way and do things our own way that we won’t stop and trust God to give us what we need and be happy with what He gives us.

Great peace have they that love Your law, nothing will cause them to stumble.
Don’t be so full of cares, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your request be made known to God and His peace, which passes all understanding will keep Your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

There is no true, lasting, eternal, forever peace apart from God. The world cries out ‘peace, peace’ but there is no real peace. The peace the world offers is not real peace. Only Jesus brings the deep abiding peace that lasts forever.