Monday, 28 February 2011

The apple of His eye

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; Hide me under the shadow of Your wings, From the wicked who oppress me, From my deadly enemies who surround me. - Psalm 17v8-9

Though we all understand what the ‘apple of the eye’ means and it is a beautiful phrase, the origin of this old English word misses the point of what the psalmist was saying. The phrase seems to have come from the shape of what we now call the pupil of our eye and it was by King Alfred in its modern figurative sense as far back as the 10th century. Apparently the Anglo-Saxons coined the word because the literal pupil of the eye was spherical, like an apple. Since the eye is so well protected in the head and so carefully guarded the phrase developed to mean anything that was precious and protected, something that was very dear.

A little look at the phrase will help us understand more of why it means what it does to us. It pictured someone who is precious and dear. Hebrew literature used ‘daughter of the eye’ and Arabic used the phrase ‘the little man of the eye.’ This is the literal sense of the Hebrew used here. The use of the word comes from the fact that the image of one being looked at supposedly can be seen is a mirror image on the eye of the beholder.

Believe or not the modern word ‘pupil’ actually captures the idea better even though we don’t normally connect it. It comes from a Latin word which means the ‘little boy’ or ‘little girl’ of the eye. We can now see the connection when we think of pupils in a classroom.

Anyway, back to the verse. I love to look at how our phrases develop and sometimes get caught up in that.

The blessing is obvious. As God’s children we are the ‘little people of His eye.’ It pictures the fact that He is always watching us and watching out for us. We are like the ‘daughter of His eye’ in the fact that we are precious to Him.

‘Jesus loves the little children, all the children of world. Red and yellow, black and white, we are precious in His sight…’

Thank God that we are the ‘little children’ of His eye.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

God's vindication

Let my vindication come from Your presence; Let Your eyes look on the things that are upright. - Psalm 17v2

It is natural for us to seek vindication for what we do and say and even who we are. We like to know that we have a purpose and a reason for being here. Sometimes, when things are going slow or difficult we want some kind of vindication to show us that there is a purpose for what we are doing and that we are not just wasting time and taking up space.

We may seek vindication from others. We may seek vindication from results. We may seek vindication from ourselves. But we always want vindication.

I am not so sure that is wrong. We do need to have something to keep us motivated. We do need to know that there is a purpose for our being here. If we don’t have that, then we will just give up. There does need to be a reason for going on.

I think that the difficulty comes, not so much when we are facing great opposition or persecution, but when it seems like nothing is really happening or just slipping away. We can wonder, ‘What is the use? Why bother?’

The psalmist has an answer here – ‘Let my vindication come from Your presence.’ We need to learn that our vindication need not be circumstantial, popular, or even personal. What we need to learn to depend on is holy vindication.

Our vindication needs to come from knowing that God is with us. If that is true and we are faithfully serving and following Him than that is all the vindication we really need.

May be learn to be content with God’s holy vindication.

Saturday, 26 February 2011

At my right hand

I have set the LORD always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved. Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope. For You will not leave my soul in Sheol, Nor will You allow Your Holy One to see corruption. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. - Psalm 16v8-11

I remember many years ago when Beth and Stacie were very young. Their relationship was really, really close. You could not separate them. They went everywhere together. When the Shavers went some place Beth went. When we went some place Stacie went.

I remember this especially when they went some place that was unfamiliar. If they were in the least uncomfortable they held hands and stuck together like glue. You could not separate them. They needed each other to get through scary times.

We live in very scary times ourselves. If you are watching the news it seems like it is some kind of end times Hollywood production. We never know what we are going to see on our news feeds. What could possibly be next?

So how do we do it? How do we face the next bad news?

We need someone to hold our hand and walk by our side. We need someone to give us hope and confidence.

We have Someone. Not only that our Someone can do a lot more than Beth and Stacie could do for each other.

Our Someone cannot be moved. Our Someone allows us to rest in the assurance that He will see us through. Our Someone will keep us from corruption. Our Someone provides true pleasures that will last forever.

Praise God that He is the One going through these scary and uncertain times with us.

Friday, 25 February 2011

I have a good inheritance

O LORD, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup; You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance. – Psalm 16v5-6

Psalm 16 is certainly a song of faith. Many Bible students consider this psalm a particular gem, some calling it ‘The Golden Psalm.’ It can be read from the perspective of David himself, of Jesus Christ, and of the saints.

I am going to approach it from this last perspective, its application to us. I hate to skip the first couple of verses because they are so packed with faith, but I don’t want to be too repetitive in these thoughts.

When we pick up in verse five we find some wonderful words of comfort reminding us that the Lord is our portion of the eternal inheritance. He is our daily cup of provision. He is our maintainer. Our borders contain pleasant places. We have a good heritage or inheritance laid up for us.

The general thought here is that our earthly place has very little real meaning. What counts is that no matter what our physical lot in life we have so much more.

Every possession or lot that we have in this life are going to fade away. Nothing here, no matter how shiny or tempting or appealing, is going to last forever. It will all one day pass away.

But Christ is our inheritance. The blessing is that we can begin enjoying the blessings of that inheritance here and now.

While the world may have this or that here and now we can rest with the assurance that God has left us a good heritage. He is our potion. He is our lot in life.

What more could we really want?

Thursday, 24 February 2011

My goodness is nothing

O my soul, you have said to the LORD, "You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You." – Psalm 16v2

There is no one good, no not one. That really kind of summarise man’s standing before God. I think most people. If we are really honest, know that we are not good. We know that we can try to be good, but we also know that we blow it.

We are kind of like children who really need to be good. You can watch them really, really trying. They do a good job for a while, but then something happens and they are back to being a normal kids. Being good by our standards is quite a task. Even when they think they are good, they still fall short of what we want or expect.

We can be like that – we think that we do a pretty good job in being good people.

But that is good by our standards, not His. In reality we are not really capable of being good or doing good according to God’s standard because there is no good in us. Our nature is to sin and not do good. Adam and Eve proved that at the very start.

But praise God that in Christ there is no condemnation. In Christ we inherit His goodness so that our good is replaced by His.

My goodness is nothing. But praise the Lord that He is my Lord and I have His goodness through Christ.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

The character of godliness

LORD, who may abide in Your tabernacle? Who may dwell in Your holy hill? He who walks uprightly, And works righteousness, And speaks the truth in his heart; He who does not backbite with his tongue, Nor does evil to his neighbor, Nor does he take up a reproach against his friend; In whose eyes a vile person is despised, But he honors those who fear the LORD; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change; He who does not put out his money at usury, Nor does he take a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things shall never be moved. – Psalm 15

Psalm 15 is one of those great little psalms that gives us a clear picture about how the man of God is characterised. Though this cannot be a tick list, it does give us a good chance to compare our own lives to how God describes the man who lives in His ‘holy hill.’

The godly man is marked by his righteous character and upright walk. He is honest. He controls his tongue. He treats his friends and neighbours properly. He does not tolerate evil. He honours those who fear God. He is fair in his business dealings.

When you look at that it really makes a lot of sense. It is a nice mixture of ‘spiritual’ and ‘secular’ character traits. I say that because the secular/sacred dichotomy is a false one that we can too easily perpetuate.

There is no difference in the sacred and the secular. All of our lives are sacred. All of our lives, not just the sacred, reflect our godly character. It is not enough just to go to church and prayer and read the Bible. That is not what true righteousness is.

No single passage of scripture can allow us to examine ourselves and say 'If I can tick these boxes, it means I am godly.'

However, there are places like this where I can look and examine my life to see how I am measuring up. I look at this and say something like, 'When I read this do I really see me?' If I can say 'For the most part, yes,' that does not necessarily I am spiritual. However, if I say 'no' then I know I have some things to work on.'

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The fool

The fool has said in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good. The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God. They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, no not one - Psalm 14v1-3

So often the Bible is the place we turn to find words of comfort and assurance. For those who trust God and put their faith in Christ it is indeed the place to find peace and comfort. Even those who don’t really care about Christ can find some comfort there. The Bible has become such a part of our culture that everyone can find something in it to give them peace.

Sometimes, however, we find a reality check. Psalm 14 is one of those places. Psalm 14 lets us know that those who deny God cannot hope to find any comfort in Him. The words are quite harsh. ‘The fool says there is no God. The evil are corrupt. They do abominable works. They do not good. Nobody seems to get it. They are turned aside from God. They are corrupt. There is no one who can do good. Not one.

In Romans Paul uses virtually these same words to describe the world apart from Christ. He summarise it with – ‘All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.’ The tragedy of this is that ‘the wages of sin is death.’

Man is doomed. He cannot be good enough to satisfy God.

But there is good news. The wages of sin are indeed death, but ‘the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ’ because ‘God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. That whoever believes will not perish, but have eternal life.’

Interesting, isn’t it, that even the harshest of Bible words is only part of a greater message of love and comfort?

Monday, 21 February 2011

Pure words v bold words

The words of the LORD are pure words, Like silver tried in a furnace of earth, Purified seven times. – Psalm 12v6

I like some of the subtle differences that come with living in another English speaking country. We don’t quite speak the same language that we left in the US. For example, we use the term ‘bold words’ to describe curse words or off colour language. We teach children not to use bold words and I even use the term to deal with teenagers.

The problem is that ‘bold words’ are far too often the norm. I work with some teens on a pretty regular basis and every other word out of their mouths are often bold words. This kind of language is not permitted in that place, but it is still there. When I confront them with it I get the typical response (and I wish I could type in the accent), ‘Sorry Roger, I can’t help it.’

If the truth were to be known I am somewhat sympathetic because chances are that is all they do know. That is all many of them hear at home and among their friends. Those words come out of their mouths because that is the language they have learned.

Sadly, with constant exposure to those words it is easy enough to get them in our heads and we need to guard our lips to keep them under control. These crude words with their coarseness and worldly attachments would do nothing to help our testimony. Our speech is often a determining factor in showing the world a difference in God’s people.

But there is a way to solve the problem. We are told here that the ‘words of the Lord are pure words…’ Since these words are pure words, tried by God in the fire, they are the words that should fill and control our minds. These are the words that should live in our heads and pour out of our lips. These are the words that will really make a difference.

So how do we get them into our heads? How do we make sure that pure words dwell there?

It is really pretty simple. We need to make sure that we spend time in God’s word. We need to meditate and memorise the pure words so that they can displace the bold words.

We are going to be exposed to the bold words. We must choose to expand our exposure to the pure words so that they win what has been called ‘the battle for our minds.’

Sunday, 20 February 2011

God and righteousness

For the LORD is righteous, He loves righteousness; His countenance beholds the upright. - Psalm 11v7

This is a powerful little verse that makes it abundantly clear how God feels about righteousness. It really encapsulates the importance. It leaves no doubt in our minds about the central position of a righteous God, of righteousness in and of itself, and of practicing righteousness.

Spurgeon worded it this way in ‘The Treasury of David’ in the section ‘Notes for the village preacher – ‘The Lord possesses righteousness as a personal attribute, loves it in the abstract, and blesses those who practise it.’

Righteousness is a pretty simple word. The older English word for it was ‘right-wise-ness.’ It is simply all about being right.

It is obvious in scripture that righteousness is a godly virtue. No man can achieve it apart from Him. Because God is righteous as a part of His nature He will always love righteousness. Because He loves righteousness He pays special attention to those who practice His righteousness.

Our righteous character is impossible apart from a personal relationship from the Righteous One. It does not come naturally. It is a gift which is a part of our salvation.

Since the righteous God loves righteousness and He watches out for the righteous, doesn’t it just make sense for us to practice it?

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The Lord is in His holy temple

If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. – Psalm 11v3-4

Today's thought goes a long way to explain why yesterday's is possible. How do we just keep on going when the foundations are destroyed. How do we respond with 'what can we not do' instead what are we going to do'?

The Lord is in His holy temple.

The Lord's throne is in heaven

The Lord doesn't miss anything

When everything else falls apart there is something that we can hold on to. History is in a constant state of flux. Sometimes wickedness reigns and sometimes there is relative morality and 'rightness.' One thing we know for sure is that there is no stability in the things and ways of the world. There is no earthly foundation that we can trust.

But God is in His holy temple. While everything else changes and falls apart God is still in His temple. While the foundations collapse God is still on His throne. When we think all is lost God is still watching out for His own.

We can keep on going because God keeps on going with us. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. When the foundations collapse the Lord is still in control.

Friday, 18 February 2011

If the foundations are destroyed…

If the foundations are destroyed, What can the righteous do? The LORD is in His holy temple, The LORD's throne is in heaven; His eyes behold, His eyelids test the sons of men. – Psalm 11v3-4

I recently preached on this passage and I was impressed by the timeliness of its message. ‘If the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?’

It does seem, in many ways, that we have seen a destruction of the foundations of western culture. There was a time, not too long ago, when there a generally accepted consensus of right and wrong. Most people in western countries agreed that certain actions were wrong and many passed laws to protect this sense of right and wrong. It gave believers a sense of comfort and security. It was nice. Society was in many ways compatible with our believers.

However in the last number of years things have changed. Standards of right and wrong have seemingly been wiped out of our public consciousness. Everything that was once stable is now under threat. Family, church, and state all seem to be on unstable footing.

Where does this leave us? It might leave us in fear and doubt. The church has lost her friends on the outside. We can no longer depend on society to help us in our cause.

So what can we do?

Spurgeon put it this way –

[David] could brave the dangers, could escape the enemies, and defy the injustice which surrounded him. His answer to the question, “What can the righteous do?” would be the counter-question, “What cannot they do?” When prayer engages God on our side, and when faith secures the fulfilment of the promise, what cause can there be for … There is no such word as “impossibility” in the language of faith; that martial grace knows how to fight and conquer, but she knows not how to flee.

At times like this, when the false foundations are all broken down, we have our opportunity to shine. Those foundations were not rock solid anyway. There is only one real Foundation and that is found in Christ. No matter what foundations are gone, our Foundation stands secure!

Paul assured Timothy with these words – ‘Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: "The Lord knows those who are His," and, "Let everyone who names the name of Christ depart from iniquity."’

So what can the righteous so when the foundations are destroyed? We can ‘depart from iniquity’ as Paul puts it.

Spurgeon’s ‘Treasury of David’ summarises this nicely.

If all earthly things fail, and the very state fall to pieces, what can we do? We can suffer joyfully, hope cheerfully, wait patiently, pray earnestly, believe confidently, and triumph finally.”

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Nothing but men

Put them in fear, O LORD, That the nations may know themselves to be but men. Selah – Psalm 9v20

Mankind tends to think that it is really something. From the earliest days man has thought more highly of himself than he ought to think. On the plains of Shinar man decided to build a tower to make a name for himself. Man is still a tower builder. We build great cities. We conquer illness. We explore every corner of the earth, dive to the deepest depths of the oceans, and fly to the furthest expanses of space. We have certainly made a name for ourselves.

One of the problems with this is that men forget all about God. Mankind outgrows Him. The evolutionary process moves beyond a god-need. Man decides that he can just kill God off.

That is where man tends to find himself.

But man forgets one thing – man is nothing but man. He is not God. He cannot replace God.

The psalmist’s prayer nails it. There is only solution to man’s perception of his own god-ness. Man needs the fear of God. The fear of God comes in many ways. Sometimes man does wake up to his need of God until app the props are taken out from under him. Sometimes the fear of God comes from seeing Him work in a mighty way. Either way, man will not see his man-ness until the fear of God allows him to see God’s God-ness.

Our prayer for those we love should be that God will allow them to experience the fear of God so that they will see thy are only men.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

And the son of man…

… And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen— Even the beasts of the field, The birds of the air, And the fish of the sea That pass through the paths of the seas. – Psalm 8v4-8

The psalmist turns immediately from man to the son of man. It is a subtle change in the words used, but the jump could hardly be any bigger. ‘What is man that You should be mindful of him?’ Leads into ‘And the son of man that You visit Him?’ We go from being mindful of mankind to attending to the Son of Man. That may not be too profound at first look, but we know that Jesus claimed the Bible title of ‘Son of Man.’ So we go from being mindful of man to attending to the God/man.

I don’t even try any more to figure out the interaction of the Trinity. I just trust that I know it happens. In this passage we see that God somehow pays special attention to Jesus as He ministers on Earth. He was made to take on human form, yet be clothed with glory and honour. Jesus was given dominion over all the works of God’s hands. All things are under His feet. He has control over all creation.

I am greatly encouraged that these two concepts are placed together. God proves that He is mindful of man by Jesus becoming a man. The One who has dominion over everything became one of us only because ‘God so loved the world.’

Praise God that He is mindful of us and that He attends to the ministry of the Son of Man.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

What is man?

What is man that You are mindful of him, And the son of man that You visit him? – Psalm 8v4

‘What is man that You are mindful of him?’ must be one of the great questions on scripture. Who indeed is man that God should pay any attention to us? When we think of who God is and who we are it makes you wonder.

God is our creator. He sustains us. He provides all we need for life. He maintains the world we need to live in. He holds everything together. He made man in His image. He loves us. He gave His son to die on the cross for us.

Man, on the other hand, has rejected Him. All men have sinned and fallen short of His glory. Mankind treats Him with contempt. Man is at enmity with God.

Why then does God bother? Why has He for millennia continued to pursue man who keeps running from Him?

There is only one reason – God is love. We can only love Him because He first loved us.

What is man that God is mindful of him?

Man is the object of God’s love.

Monday, 14 February 2011

According to His righteousness

I will praise the LORD according to His righteousness, And will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. – Psalm 7v17

Sometimes it is hard to praise God. When things have gone all wrong and all we see our troubles and disappointments it can be hard to be a praiser. We try and be faithful in our praise and thanksgiving, but the realities of life can get in the way.

When that happens it does so because we are basing our praise on the wrong foundation. We find it easy to praise God when things are going well, but not when they are going poorly. The problem is that we are limited by our one place in time and space and cannot see how our circumstances play out in the eternal scheme.

There is, however, and way to praise God that is clear and continuing and consistent. David had that mind set when he wrote ‘I will praise the Lord according to His righteousness.’ His praise was not based on his circumstances, but on our sovereign God who always does what is right.

Our problem that is the vast of ocean of time and space we are on one tiny island. All we can see is right here and right now. We can’t comprehend all the rest. Even if we could we would only see it from our own perspective. We are not the best judges of what is best or right.

The reality is that God is right. God is righteous. God always does rightly.

If we ever get to that point we can praise God for His righteousness and we can praise Him for our circumstances because they are part of His righteous plan.

Praise God because He loves us, because He is good, and because He is always right.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Tired of hurting

I am weary with my groaning; All night I make my bed swim; I drench my couch with my tears. My eye wastes away because of grief; It grows old because of all my enemies. Depart from me, all you workers of iniquity; For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping. The LORD has heard my supplication; The LORD will receive my prayer. – Psalm 6v6-9

This passage does not take a whole lot of explanation. Anyone reading this who is in the situation understands immediately.

I am tired of hurting. I am drowning. My bed is soaked with my tears. My eyes are worn out from crying.

David was a man in great pain and in great fear. He was at the point of absolute despair. He was tired of hurting.

Anyone who has been there, or is there no understands this. We get to the point where we are just cried out. We have nothing left. It seems like we cannot go on.

And yet, from somewhere deep inside the psalmist digs up more faith and trust. ‘The Lord has heard my voice of my weeping. He has heard my supplication. He will receive my prayer.’

The psalmist’s fears may have been mostly caused by physical enemies, but that does not make our enemies of illness, pain, distress, anxiety, discouragement, depression, financial owes, or anything else any less real.

We have the same hope when we are tired of hurting. When can dig down deep and trust the One who hears our prayers as well.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

To be

But let all those rejoice who put their trust in You; Let them ever shout for joy, because You defend them; Let those also who love Your name Be joyful in You. For You, O LORD, will bless the righteous; With favour You will surround him as with a shield. – Psalm 5v11-12

‘To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The Slings and Arrows of outrageous fortune;
Or to take Armes against a Sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them: To die, to sleep
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to? 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep
To sleep, perchance to dream; Aye, there's the rub,’

‘To be or not to be’ is not really the question at all. If we are here, we are indeed ‘to be’ and while we are being we are going to go through all of which Hamlet speaks. Among those things are the ‘sling and arrows of outrageous fortune.’ I think there is a lot that we can identify with in this famous soliloquy. Later Hamlet asks himself of ‘For who would bear the Whips and Scorns of time, The Oppressor's wrong, the proud man's Contumely, The pangs of disprized love, the Lawes delay, The insolence of Office, and the Spurns…’

When I read these words I can’t help but think of what Paul calls the ‘fiery darts of the wicked one.’ We see a difference in Hamlet and Paul though. Hamlet wrote of the despairs of life and of ‘the undiscovered country from whose Bourne no traveller returns.’ Paul writes of a confident warrior going forth to do battle with life holding on the assurance of his eternal fate.

What makes the difference? It is pretty simple. Paul wrote of the ‘shield of faith’ that protects us from the wicked one.

The psalmist was also aware of that shield. In the midst of the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’ those who trust God can rejoice and shout for joy because we have a Defender.

To be or not to be? It might be a classic piece of literature which captures the essence of life in a brilliant manner, but it doesn’t have to describe the life of the believer. We can indeed ‘be’ and be with confidence and joy as we trust in our shield.

Friday, 11 February 2011

In the morning

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O LORD; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up. – Psalm 5v3

I am a morning person. No matter what happens or how I feel I have a hard time having a ‘lie on.’ I sometime envy people who can sleep till all hours of the day. If I sleep till seven o’clock I feel like I have overslept.

But there is an advantage. When I get up the house is quiet. There is nothing going on. There is a wonderful stillness. Some mornings I just step outside and enjoy the quiet.

I have always tried to do my devotional time first thing in the morning. I normally make a cup of tea and a piece of toast. I sit down with my Bible, my journal, and my copy of The Valley of Vision. There I try to meet with God and see what He has for me for the day. Most days I have already done a Bible reading and had a time of prayer.

For me I need that. I understand why the psalmist writes – ‘My voice you will hear in the morning. I will direct my voice to You and I will look up to you.’

That seems to encapsulate what devotional time should be; lifting our voices to heaven and then looking to Him for an answer. For me the best time for that is in those quiet hours when no one else is stirring.

Now, there is no real right or wrong time for doing it, and while that is best for me I think the most important thing here is doing what the psalmist did. The key is the prayer and the looking for an answer.

We spend our days in all the work and tasks and busy-ness that make up our lives. So much of this is necessary and must be done. The problem is that during the other times we can be drawn by all kinds of entertainment and other trivial things. If we are not careful we end up spending the whole day without lifting our voices heavenward and looking there for answers to our prayers.

I have to spend that time first thing because otherwise I would get distracted and never get back to it. I appreciate those who have the discipline to do it later in the day or at night as way to wrap up the day.

The important thing is that we do it. Do we spend part of our day lifting our voices the God – then looking heavenward?

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Sacrifices of righteousness

Offer the sacrifices of righteousness, And put your trust in the LORD.- Psalm 4v5

I am somewhat intrigued by the concept of a ‘sacrifice of righteousness.’ It seems that righteousness something that we should desire and that it should not be something to be seen as a sacrifice. Surely we as Christians should not have to consider righteousness a sacrifice.

When I thought about my mind was drawn to the book of Romans and things started to make sense.

The first thing to come to mind is Romans 12v1-2 where Paul begs Christians to ‘present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.’ This is called our ‘reasonable service.’ We go on to read that this involves not be conformed to this world, but to be ‘transformed by the renewing of our minds.’

I think this ties in with the teaching in Romans 6 where we are told to stop yielding our lives to unrighteousness. Before salvation we had no problem giving ourselves over to wickedness. After salvation we still must live in the flesh and that flesh cries out for attention. Paul calls us to pursue righteousness with the same intensity that we used to pursue unrighteousness.

Our ‘sacrifice of righteousness’ seems to be what is often called ‘laying your all on the altar.’ It is offering our bodies as a living sacrifice. It means that we sacrifice our own wills, plans, desires, and our ambitions to submit ourselves to God perfectly righteous will.

The only question is whether or not we will offer that sacrifice of righteousness.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Meditate within your heart

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah – Psalm 4v4

To be honest I don't know enough about Hebrew sentence structure to know whether or not the second part of Psalm 4v4 is connected to the first part ot not. I don't think that really affects the application though.

Being, as I mentioned before, not much of a sleeper I often find myself awake in my bed. All kinds of things can happen at those times. I can lay there and think until I find something to worry about. I can let my mind wander until it goes into all kinds of wrong places. In the context of the previous sentence I can even myself dredging up real or perceived offences or injuries caused by others.

I like the principle applied here though. There is no more quiet and 'alone' time than when we are laying in our beds when no one else is up and there are no other distractions. Since then I have learned to treasure those times and use them to 'be still and meditate within my heart.' Of course, I am not perfect at this, but some of my best times with God now come in the middle of the night when I can't sleep.

This has a couple of benefits. I don't really dread those times now like I used to. I get to spend some quality tile with God when no one is going to disturb me. I also find a more practical result. Often, after 15-20 miunutes with God I find myself able to relax and go back to sleep.

I think there is a lot to this concept of quiet communication with God. I know that it has been a blessing to me.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Be angry, but don’t sin

Be angry, and do not sin. Meditate within your heart on your bed, and be still. Selah – Psalm 4v4

We all know that anger is a part of life. Uncontrolled anger can be a severe problem. Anger can lead to all kinds of unreasonable thoughts, words, and action. Because of that sometimes we might think that anger is a sin or that we displease God every time we are angry.

And yet here God tells us to be angry. The same words are repeated in the book of Ephesians. It is obvious from these words that anger itself is not sin.

Sin is an emotion. It is a part of our make-up. Anger is a part of who we are and it can be a positive and beneficial thing. Anger can lead us to deal with injustice. Anger can motivate us to sort out situations that we might never deal with otherwise. Anger can be righteous when it motives us to deal with sin in our own lives or even to deal with situations outside of our own lives.

However, it is an emotion that must be controlled. Be angry, but do not sin. Ephesians goes on to give us a clear application on how to apply this – ‘don’t let the sun go down on your wrath.’

Anger is one thing. Allowing it to degenerate and develop into a seething wrath.

So be anger with the right attitude, but never use anger as an excuse to sin. Never allow anger to grow into wrath.

Be angry, but deal with it. Don't go to bed angry.

Monday, 7 February 2011

Set apart

But know that the LORD has set apart for Himself him who is godly; The LORD will hear when I call to Him. – Psalm 4v3

This world is in big big trouble. It always has been. Man keeps deluding himself to think that we are making things better and that there is the great man-made utopia coming someday. Man thinks that the evolutionary process has allowed us to outgrow God and that if we just keep working at it the air will be fresh, the water will be pure, the birds will be singing, health ills will be abolished, and there will be peace on earth.

But it is not going to work. Things are not going to get better. Evil men and seducers will get worse and worse as the day of the Lord approaches. One day God’s judgement is going to come down on the earth and God’s wrath will be finally and justly poured out on the wicked.

This looks like some kind of fatalist doomsday scenario – and indeed it is.

However, God offers hope. Those who are godly will be set apart. In fact, the godly are already set apart. No man can achieve godliness on his own, that godliness is only possible through Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.

Praise the Lord that He continues to provide a way become one of the godly and to be set apart from the rest of the world and God’s day of wrath. Praise God that those who have been delivered from their sin through Jesus Christ are set apart by God’s marvellous grace.

So how does one become one of the ‘set apart?’ One must simply accept the free gift of salvation that was provided by Jesus on the cross. Then they will join the ranks of those who are godly in Christ and enjoy the blessings on being set apart now and for eternity.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

A good night’s sleep

I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the LORD sustained me. – Psalm 3v5

I have never been a good sleeper. I hear about people who sleep all night and I am amazed that anyone can do it. I wake up for a couple of reasons, but one of them is that for years I severely battled worry and internal anxiety. I was so bad that I could get rashes due to my worry. I could spend night after night tossing and turning and worrying and fretting and thinking.

God has helped me a great deal in this area, but it seems like my body must just have adapted to that kind of sleep cycle. Though I don’t have the same kind of anxieties that I used to have, I can still find myself in those small hours fretting and getting anxious, then getting frustrated with myself because I was anxious, and the hours meant for sleeping slowly pass away.

David apparently didn’t have that problem. In the midst of being chased by the king and his army David could say – ‘I lay down and slept, for the Lord sustained me.’

The terrible truth is that the source of all of our worry and stress is because we are missing the second part of the verse in our lives. When we are occupied with worry and care it is, in reality, because we don’t really believe that the Lord is going to sustain us. We are too dependent on our own sustenance.

‘Be care-ful for nothing.’ Cast all your cares on Him because He cares for you.’ ‘The Lord sustains me.’

Why is it so hard to accept that our loving heavenly Father is really watching out for us?

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Rejoice with trembling

Serve the LORD with fear, And rejoice with trembling. – Psalm 2v11

This is an interesting saying. Psalm 2 is a Messianic Psalm, but it is also a song that deals with a world that generally opposes God. In this section it appears that God is telling the world, including His opponents, how they can turn things around.

The point, I think, is clear. Serving the Lord and following Him is not something to be taken lightly. Yes, there is a great blessing in serving the Lord, but at the same time we don’t enter into a life of following Him without the knowledge of who we are following. He is a righteous and holy God. It is not enough for one just to jump on the God bandwagon and go along for the ride.

When we decide to finally follow the Lord we do so with a holy fear and reverence. It is a truly, in the literal sense, and awesome thing to serve a holy God.

The verse goes on to say that we are to ‘rejoice with trembling.’ I think this gives is a real picture of what true joy is. True joy is not some trivial emotion that we can stir up. True joy is mixed with the knowledge that it is totally based on what God has done for us. It is a holy joy based on God’s holiness and our unworthiness.

Joyful service comes with fearful trembling. May the Lord teach us that balance.

Friday, 4 February 2011

When God laughs

The kings of the earth set themselves, And the rulers take counsel together, Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying, "Let us break Their bonds in pieces And cast away Their cords from us." He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; The LORD shall hold them in derision. – Psalm 2v2-4

It is sort of strange to hear about God laughing at people in derision, but here it seems appropriate. While there is obviously an eschatological meaning here, I think there is also a contemporary application.

It is obvious that at the end of time, on the final Day of the Lord all of the nations of the world will gather themselves together to do war against God. We know that from several other places in Scripture. We also know that they will be defeated merely by Jesus Christ speaking a word. They will be powerless against Him.

But it is really no different today. We live in a day when people have tried to cast off God. The world, in so many ways, has declared God dead. It is not politically correct or morally expedient to speak of God and His role. It is old-fashioned. We are told that we have outgrown God.

God is loving and patient and kind. At the same time no one can every stand up to God or oppose Him. It is something like a small child standing up to God and trying to sort Him out.

While the world draws itself together against God He stands back in all of His power and strength. Is it really that far-fetched to imagine God laughing at man’s futile opposition?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

His delight

But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. – Psalm 1v2

How do we measure our delight? How do people who watch us know what we delight in? How do we know what is the source of our delight?

The blessed man delights in the law of the Lord. How does he prove it? ‘In His law he meditates day and night.’

This is a good test of our delight, isn’t it? Can’t we measure what we treasure by what we think about all day.

Some folks are consumed by sports and spend all their time thinking about their favourite teams and stats and facts and figures. Some folks are consumed things like the weather and spend all their time studying and researching it. Some are consumed by politics and that dominates their thoughts and conversations.

The same is true when it comes to the blessed man. He is consumed by his delight, and his delight is the law of the Lord. He meditates day and night. The root of this word is ‘to murmur.’ When I think about someone who is obsessed by something I can almost see him sitting them mumbling about the thing that consumes him.

This is the mind that the blessed man had. He is so consumed by the law of the Lord that he can hardly contain it. It is what he talks about all the time. It is what defines him.

When I think of that I am challenged. I know that there are times when I am not consumed by the ‘law of the Lord.’ I often find those thoughts crowded out by the everyday stuff and that consumes my thinking. Some times I even allow silly stuff to control my thinking. Sadly, some times it is even worse than that.

God give me a heart that delights in Your word, and remind me to spend my time there.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Blessed living

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; – Psalm 1v1

Like everyone else who knows the Bible, and many who don’t, I love the Psalms. One could spend several lifetimes there and still not run the fountain dry.

I realise that the ordering to the Psalms is man-made. I know there is nothing special about our Psalm 1 being the first Psalm, but I certainly like the way it sets the tone for the rest of the book.

God defines right away the contrast between the godly and the ungodly. Who is the blessed man? It is the man who does not walk according the world’s counsel and advice. He doesn’t take and stand with the sinners. He doesn’t sit down with the scorners.

I think we can summarise it this way – the blessed man is the one who does not find his home or his comfort zone with the world. He always feels slightly out of place. Therefore the godly man chooses his walk, his stand, and his seat carefully.

How am I going to walk today? Where will I take my stand? With whom will I sit? Will I reflect the blessed man?

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Lord blessed

Now the LORD blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning; for he had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand female donkeys. He also had seven sons and three daughters. And he called the name of the first Jemimah, the name of the second Keziah, and the name of the third Keren-Happuch. In all the land were found no women so beautiful as the daughters of Job; and their father gave them an inheritance among their brothers. After this Job lived one hundred and forty years, and saw his children and grandchildren for four generations. So Job died, old and full of days. – Job 42v12-17

And so we come once again to the end of the Job saga. Every time I read this astounding story I am more and more amazed, challenged, and convicted by this man’s life.

This is the part that is exciting. After all of the trials and lessons and discouragements we read that ‘the Lord blessed Job.’ Not only that, we go on to read that He blessed Job ‘more than his beginning.’ He got everything back and then some. He had ten more children and his daughters were the most beautiful in the land. He saw four generations of grandchildren. He died old and full of days.

I think the lesson for us is clear. There are brighter days coming. Our brighter days may not be like Job’s and take place on earth, but our Saviour is busy preparing a place for us.

Stay faithful. Stay at it. Be steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord. Don’t be weary in well doing. Better days are coming.