Thursday, 31 March 2011

Into Your hand

Into Your hand I commit my spirit; You have redeemed me, O LORD God of truth. - Psalm 31v5

This verse is best known as one of Jesus' last words on the cross. That is a great place to think of it because it pictures, in some humanly incomprehensible way, the total submission of God the Son to God the Father.

The psalmist speaks of pleading to God for help. 'In You I put my trust. Deliver me. Listen to me. You are my rock and fortress.' Lead me and guide me. You are my strength.'

The psalmist expresses his faith clearly. But he doesn't stop there. He acts on his faith because, as he puts it, 'he unreservedly commits his spirit to the Lord.'

The psalmist expresses a Romans 12v1-2 spirit here. It an 'all on the altar' attitude. It is a 'here I am Lord' spirit.

Most of all it is a spirit of absolute surrender, submission, and trust. It means that no matter how bad it gets or what the circumstances are I leave my life in His control.

There can be no denying that this is not easy. It is hard to take our hands off an leave it up to Him.

Are we willing to say, not matter what our current crisis, 'Lord, into you hands, I commit my spirit?'

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Joy comes in the morning

For His anger is but for a moment, His favour is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning. - Psalm 30v5

'Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning,
Weeping only lasts for the night
Hold on my child, joy comes in the morning,
The darkest hour means dawn is just in sight'

I like this old gospel song. Though sometimes we do weep in the day and sometimes the 'darkest hour' means that it is only going to stay dark for a while, I like the sentiment expressed.

The song is based on this passage, which is Bible truth. It is a picture of the general truth that no matter how bad it gets, better days are coming.

It does seem sometimes that the bad news just keep on coming. I wish I could say that things are going to get better while we are still here, but we are never promised that. We are promised God presence and protection in the darkness. We are promised His light to guide and direct us. We are promised His love and companionship. We are not however promised earthly deliverance from troubles.

But, as the song says, there is a better day coming. There is a day coming when we will be able to wake up with Him in our eternal home.

Hold on. The day is coming. Our weeping will one day be replaced with His joy.

Hold on.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

The voice of the Lord

The voice of the LORD is over the waters; The God of glory thunders; The LORD is over many waters. The voice of the LORD is powerful; The voice of the LORD is full of majesty. The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars, Yes, the LORD splinters the cedars of Lebanon. He makes them also skip like a calf, Lebanon and Sirion like a young wild ox. The voice of the LORD divides the flames of fire. The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; The LORD shakes the Wilderness of Kadesh. The voice of the LORD makes the deer give birth, And strips the forests bare; And in His temple everyone says, "Glory!" - Psalm 29v3-9

There are a lot of voices calling out to us these days. It is like we are in a crowded room and everyone is screaming out for our attention. The picture that comes to mind is when a celebrity appears before the press and all the the reporters are doing all they can to ask their own question. It is utter chaos.

It can be hard to know which voice to pay attention to.

There is however one voice that stand out from the crowd.

'The voice if the Lord is powerful. The voice of the Lord is full of majesty.'

It is the still small voice that spoke to Elijah in his state of severe depression. It is powerful. It is full of majesty. But it doesn't have to be loud. By it very quietness it demands attention. A true voice of authority does not have to scream. It is the voice that simply says, 'let there be light.'

The voice of the Lord is the voice of the Shepherd calling His sheep.

It is that voice that we choose to follow.

'My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.'

Whose voice are we going to heed today?

Monday, 28 March 2011

The false and the true

Do not take me away with the wicked And with the workers of iniquity, Who speak peace to their neighbours, But evil is in their hearts. - Psalm 28v3

This is a wonderful psalm and a plea for God's protection. As a part of that plea the psalmist makes a very profound state about society.

'Don't let me be taken away with the wicked. The speak peace, but there is evil in their hearts.'

I like this warning. The world is a tremendous source of counterfeit truth. A friend was preaching about this yesterday and had a great illustration. He is from South Africa and he had a fifty rand note in his hand. He offered it to me and told me that it was worth the same as a fifty euro note. He was not telling me that fifty rand is only worth about five euro. He was purposefully giving a false impression of the value of the note. Though I would not mind having the five euro, it is not what it was it seemed.

Our world is full of this kind of offers. Here, specifically the topic is peace. The wicked 'speak peace with their neighbours.' In Isaiah we read of the the wicked crying out 'Peace! Peace' while there is no peace. Jesus speaks of a peace that the world gives.

There is a danger in relying on the world's peace. We may stop armies from fighting and nations from warring for a time, but there is never real, true, abiding peace. There is not the 'peace that passes all understanding.' Man, apart from Christ, will always return to conflict in both body and soul.

The word of God does have the genuine thing. Jesus said that he came to bring a peace that the world cannot bring. We are told that by trusting Christ we can have the 'peace that passes all understanding.

May we not be drawn away by false offers of peace.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

I would have quit

I would have lost heart, unless I had believed That I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living. Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! - Psalm 27v13-14

Sometimes when doing devotional thoughts you go along and get little blessings and thoughts that just kind of encourage you along the way. Other times you get something that is just like it is written for your personally and delivered on just the right day.

I have been battling some discouragement of late. I love the ministry God has given us. The few people that God allows us to work with our the greatest in the world. But despite all the talk about 'spiritual growth' and things like that I can be tempted to 'lose heart' as the psalmist puts it when I see just how few we are. It seems like the world is falling apart and that wickedness is getting worse and worse. It seems like no one in the world has time or interest in anything to do with God. It seems like we need great numbers, and yet the number of believers in our little church struggles to even stay level. Jobs are sparse and folks are forced to think of emigration or returning to homelands to find work.

This is the reality of some very dark days in a very dark country.

I can identify with, 'I would have lost heart, or fainted, or given up, or quit...'

The problem is when we get focused there. That is where I find myself sometimes.

But the psalmist goes on with that wonderful word 'unless.'

'I would have given up, but I remembered.' The psalmist chose to remember that God would show His goodness 'in the land of the living.'

I can't help but be drawn to another verse that has been a bog part of my life. 'Be not weary in well-doing, for in due season you will reap if you do not faint.'

'Wait on the Lord,' the psalmist writes, 'Be of good courage, He will strengthen your heart, wait, I say, on the Lord.'

Though I don't necessarily 'like' this response to what I perceive as my emotional needs, I am grateful to know that God is not unaware, that He is working, and He cares enough to teach me.

Thanks, Lord, for remembering me. Help me to remember you.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

One desire

One thing I have desired of the LORD, That will I seek: That I may dwell in the house of the LORD All the days of my life, To behold the beauty of the LORD, And to inquire in His temple. - Psalm 27v4

It is interesting that I came across this verse the same day that my reading in The Valley of Vision was called 'Desires.'

Here are a couple of highlights:

'Let him produce in me wise desires by which I may ask for tight things, then I will know that thou hearest me.'

'May I seek first thy kingdom and His righteousness.'

'May I value things in relation to eternity.'

Then there is this one especially in the light of today's verse:

'May I regard the world as dreams, lies, vanities and vexation of spirit, and desire to depart from it.'

It would be interesting to do a poll, even among Christians, to ask the question 'What is your desire?' I am sure that the answers would vary widely. Some might say wealth or possessions or any number of things. There is nothing essentially wrong with these things, but if that is our primary desire, there is something wrong.

Some might say something like love or peace or happiness. All of these are good things and worthy desires. It would be hard to be critical of these, but they still miss the point slightly.

What should our desire be? I think the psalmist nails it – 'to dwell in the house of the Lord forever.'

If our desire was truly to 'dwell in His house' forever, both now and for eternity we would live our lives today as though we were living in His house. When we live in His house we 'play by his rules.' That changes all of our desires. We live now not in the light of now, but of eternity instead. We see things, not in the light of the temporary and earthly, but in the light of eternity.

That changes our lives. Our desire become to seek His way and His righteousness. It means I trust God to take care of me since I am living in His house. I sleep securely because He takes care of me. I don't have to fret because I am His child living in His house.

If my life is the litmus test, do I have the right desire?

Friday, 25 March 2011

It is great

For Your name's sake, O LORD, Pardon my iniquity, for it is great. - Psalm 25v11

We live in society which has seemingly adopted the philosophy of 'I'm OK, you're OK.' That phrase was popularised in a book by Thomas Harris titled that published back in 1969. (Has it really been that long?)

The basic idea of the book was that we are indeed OK. If we got together we could realise that we are all OK and would realise that if got together and just talked it out.

What has really endured though is the philosophy expressed in the title. We definitely live in an 'I'm OK, you're OK' culture. It is always somebody else's fault. Even Christians have a 'reason' for their sin. 'Somebody did or said this or that. That is why I did what I did.'

The psalmist didn't try that cop-out. He simply went to the Lord. 'Pardon my iniquity Lord, for it is great.' Notice he said the pardon 'my' iniquity. He was willing to take the full weight in his shoulders. He knew that it was his sin was great and that no one else could take the blame.

'For your sake,' the psalmist writes, 'forgive my iniquities...' He knew that his great sin was not only against himself or his neighbour, but against God. His sin brought a reproach on God's name.

May each of us have the same awareness of our sin. Apart for the grace of God and mercy displayed on the cross I really am not OK, and neither are you.'

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Ways and paths

Show me Your ways, O LORD; Teach me Your paths. Lead me in Your truth and teach me, For You are the God of my salvation; On You I wait all the day. - Psalm 25v4-5

I often come to times in my life when I need direction. It just doesn't seem like I can find the right road. Sometimes it seems like the road comes to a dead end and other times there seems to be an infinite number of paths to take. I find myself saying something like, 'Okay, what am I supposed to do next?'

The psalmist had the only right answer for times like that. It comes from a yielding to the Holy Spirit's direction. 'Show me your ways. Teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth. Teach me.'

Rather than getting frustrated or discouraged or discontent at times like this we have a prefect opportunity to let God teach us something. There are always lessons there if we are willing to look for them and accept them.

When the road ahead is not clear, or seems muddled or confusing it is the perfect time to look to the Lord for direction and instruction.

The tough part is at the end of verse five – 'On you I wait all the day long.'

It is tough to wait on direction. That waiting is often part of the teaching. But in the end it is better to wait on Hid direction than to rush off on our own path.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Only Jesus

Who may ascend into the hill of the LORD? Or who may stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol, Nor sworn deceitfully. - Psalm 24v3-4

Psalm 24 is an interesting Psalm in which I only recently, I think, gained the proper perspective on it. I thought for a long time that it was a description of a man who had been made right through salvation, and I guess that is not a bad application.

However, I think this is really a rhetorical question. The answer to the questions is actually that no person alive qualifies to 'ascend to the hill of the Lord.' No one can stand in God's holy place because no one has 'clean hands and a pure heart.'

The only One who qualifies is Jesus Christ. He is the one who provides our access. He is the captain of our salvation who led the way that everyone must follow. Only because of Jesus as our great High Priest can we confidently enter God's throne room.

Only Jesus can approach that holy hill. Praise God that He has opened a way for me!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Goodness and mercy

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever. - Psalm 23v6

This beautiful psalm ends in a beautiful manner. It presents us with the wonderful truth that our Shepherd cares for us both now while we are on earth and He will care for us in eternity.

There are times in this life when we feel somewhat companionless. In reality though, no matter what the circumstances we need not ever feel alone or neglected. God has provided two constant companions for us while we are here. The twin sisters of Goodness and Mercy are always there by our sides.

God is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble. He knows those who trust Him. The Lord's mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness to us.

As a friend often reminds me, 'God is good; everyday, all the time.'

While the world may be rotten and things we trust in here may fall apart we can rest in the knowledge that God's goodness and His mercy persevere even in the worst times.

Not only do we have God's goodness and mercy to accompany us here, we have the knowledge that we will live with Him in His house forever. Jesus promised before He left that He was going to prepare a place for us.

Praise God for His goodness and mercy now and for His dwelling place forever.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Fu an skailin

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
- Psalm 23v5

'Fu an skailin, fu an skailin, my wee bicker's fu an skailin. Since the Lord saved me I'm as blithesome as can be. My wee bicker's fu an skailin.'

This goes a little chorus we sing some times. According to the Low Country Boys from Northern Ireland that is the Scottish version of the song most of us better know as 'Running Over.'

It is a fun little feel-good song, and I have no problem with those. They certainly have their place and can be a great little boost. They are far better than just wallowing in pity party pit.

And yet it is hard to say with total honesty that 'since the Lord saved me I am blithesome (happy) as can be. Sometimes I am not happy. Sometimes not only is my cup not 'fu an skailin' sometimes my 'wee bicker (beaker, cup) is as dry as a bone.

So how can David say 'My cup runneth over' and Roger say 'My cup is bone dry?'David by no means had it made. Shepherding is hard work. He always had to be on guard for wild animals or thieves. He has to watch for dangers. He had plenty of stress. We don't know for sure when he wrote this psalm, there is no record, but he wrote a lot while being by pursued and his armies. When we read about 'the presence of my enemies' and the 'valley of the shadow of death' it appears that he is facing the same kind of opposition here.

And yet, David could say, 'My cup runneth over.'

I think the difference is clear. David had his eyes in the right direction. He was focused heavenward despite all of the the bad stuff around him. The point is that our 'wee bicker' can be 'fu an skailin' no matter what the circumstances.

How? The word of God answers that too. 'Don't look at the things you can see, but the things you cannot see. The things you can see are temporary, they are going to all pass away. The things you cannot see are eternal with eternal benefits.'

'Set your thoughts and attentions and desires are the things that are above, not on things on the earth.'

If I could just keep my attention there my cup would always be running over. When I think of he end and of eternity my heart will fill with joy and that joy should be enough to help me through the worst of times here.

'Lord, I do believe. Help my unbelief. Help me to see my cup as 'fu an skailin' even in the darkest days.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Ready to die

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. - Psalm 23v4

I have to admit that I am at the age where I think occasionally about death. According to one of the many death calculators on the internet I am going to die on 1 July 2032. Another one (I like this one better) says I will die in 2036-37. Another one specifies 15 August, 2037. Chances are that short of an accident of unexpected illness these are pretty accurate. If things go well I probably have another 25-30 years left. That can be a little scary, because even 1981 seems like yesterday!

I think we fear death because it is the one great unknown. I have heard all the stories and read the accounts of those who supposedly died and came back, but in reality we really don't know what it is going to be like. Our view of death is based only on faith. Therefore, it is always just a little scary.

And yet David tells us how to have confidence. We may go through 'the valley of the shadow of death' during our lifetime. There may be times when we have to look death in the face. A little over a year ago our Michelle was very much in that 'valley of the shadow' of death. We did not know from day to day if she would make it to the next day.

So what do we do, how do we handle those days?

We must find comfort in words like David uses here. 'Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me,' David writes. The shepherd's rod fought off the enemy. His staff drew them from danger.

We may not make it through the next valley of the shadow of death. Even then though we can trust in the Shepherd's rod to guard us and His staff to rescue us to our ultimate rescue. We need not fear the prospect of death, for our Shepherd will not let us face it alone.

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Paths of righteousness

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. - Psalm 23v3

I for one certainly need leadership when it comes to walking in the paths of righteousness. It certainly does not come naturally to me. My life-walk tends to be anything but righteous when I try it on my own. My flesh and true righteousness are not compatible on their own.

It is not always a matter of open, visible, rebellious sin, though I am not immune to even that. My problem tends to just be with everyday living and my every day path. When things don't go my way I get discouraged and disappointed. I want things to suit my way. In a sense that is just as bad as the obvious kinds of wicked living because they are both based on a focus on me.

The Great Shepherd leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake, not mine. His paths are always the right paths. Notice that word there, 'right' paths. If my path is truly right it will also be righteous. There is a promise here that He will lead me in the paths of righteousness, the right way.

The reason that they don't always seem compatible is that His ways are not my way. His ways and His thoughts are far above my ways and my thoughts. He leads me in righteous path, not for my sake but for 'His name's sake.'

It is not about me. It is all about Him. It is all about the One who loved me enough to send His Son to die for me.

His paths are the right paths. They serve to glorify His name. Should I not return the love He showed me on Calvary and be willing to follow His leadership?

Friday, 18 March 2011

Soul restoration

He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake. - Psalm 23v3

All of us, at times, find ourselves in need of soul restoration. There are times when we get weary, discouraged, depressed, fed up, worn out, in a funk, put out, distressed, anxious, tired, and just flat out ready to pull the duvet over our heads and go back to sleep.

Other times we are like the sheep who sees a little bit of greener grass and wanders from the fold. Before we know it we have drifted to the point where we are no longer under the supervision of the Shepherd.

No matter what the reason for the need, we all face times we need to have our souls restored to the place of closeness, comfort, and the protection of the shepherd.

The parable of the lost sheep reminds us of the Great Shepherd's willingness to go out of the way to restore us. Only one sheep out of a hundred was missing, yet it was worth the shepherd's time to risk life and limb to go out for the one. Though the parable primarily deals with the value of one lost soul, it does remind us of how much Jesus cares for each one.

It is a wonderful comfort for us to know that the Lord is the great Soul Restorer. Whether we are down and discouraged or whether we have wandered from the fold the Shepherd will restore us.

We are still His. He still cares. He is still our Shepherd. He will restore us.

Thursday, 17 March 2011


He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. - Psalm 23v2

What a time of turmoil. It just seems to get more and more unreal. The Middle East is in turmoil, the Irish economy is still in free fall, damaged nuclear plants threaten the Far East with serious radiation exposure, petrol is over €1.50 a litre, and on and on.

In addition to all that there are the 'diverse temptations' and trials that we all go through on a daily basis. We fret about our own needs. We worry about our children and grand children. We are anxious because we don't know what is going to happen next.

And yet, in all that we are told to be 'care-ful' for nothing. We are told to cast all our cares on Him, because He cares for us.

We think things are so much worse, but people have always had trouble. The psalmist knew this and made an application. I don't think Spurgeon is far off when he writes that the 'green pastures' refer to the food provided by the word of God and the 'still waters' illustrate the influence of the Holy Spirit.

Our great Shepherd will always feed us and provide water for us no matter how bad it gets. We can lie down in those refreshing green pastures. We can drink from the fresh still waters no matter what the head lines say.

Oh that we could all flee to those wonderful pastures and those sweet still waters as the bad news assails us and find our rest, comfort, and nourishment in our Great Shepherd.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

I shall not want

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. - Psalm 23v1

This short little sentence says so much. At the same time it is a great challenge.

The theme of contentment runs through the Bible. 'Godliness with contentment is great gain' 'You shall not covet.' 'Be content with what you have, for He will never leave you or forsake you.'

When you watch sheep you see them following their shepherd you see them going to the pastures he leads them. The drink the water he provides. The trust him to take them to the wintering sheds. In essence they simply trust him.

'I shall not want' is the prefect expression of contentment. 'I shall not want' means that I am trusting my shepherd no matter what the circumstances. 'I shall not want' means just that, with Jesus as my Shepherd I will not want – full stop.

I won't want because I trust that He loves me and He knows what is best for me at every moment of every day in every circumstance. 'My sheep hear my voice,' Jesus said, 'and they follow me.'

Will I follow Him? Can I do so without wanting? Do I trust Him enough to do that?

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

My Shepherd

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. - Psalm 23v1

Psalm 23 is quite possibly be the best known and most familiar passage in all of scripture. It is indeed and beautiful song of rest and comfort and assurance. It is hard to comment on this wonderful song because chances are that anything that might be said already has been said.

However, I think it always good to be reminded of the thoughts and words expressed here.

The psalm starts with a very simple phrase – 'The Lord is my shepherd...'

As I read that this time through I remembered the one day in my life when I worked with a family who owned sheep. I am so glad I did that because now I have my own 'shepherd stories.' Anyway, the job that days was to move the sheep from the fields into the wintering shed. They told me that day to dress in 'work clothes' and their warning was not without reason.

This family went into the field with their oldest clothes. They wore wellies and rugged farm gear. The reason was that dealing with sheep was dirty work. When we see picture of David relaxed, dressed in a spotless white robe, playing on his harp with spotless white sheep in the background we miss the point. There are plenty of sheep in this country and as you drive by them you realise that they are not bleached white. They are dirty and mud encrusted. Waste clings to their coats. They stink. They ignore anyone but their shepherd.

And yet this is the analogy God uses over and over to illustrate His relationship to man. It is especially used in reference to Jesus Christ.

That is an astounding truth. The LORD – Jehovah – the Creator and Sustainer is a shepherd. The High and Lofty One who inhabits eternity is a shepherd. The spotless One enters the field with the dirty, grungy, filth encrusted sheep that make up humanity. He does that because He loves His sheep.

Not only that. Not only is The holy, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-present, unchangeable Lord is not not a shepherd.

He is MY shepherd.


Monday, 14 March 2011

He rules

For the kingdom is the LORD's, And He rules over the nations. - Psalm 22v28

It seems at times that man just can't get it right. We look at government and politics and if we are not careful we can get very cynical and very discouraged. It seems that they are 'all' crooks at best and evil at worst. Even when the best men or women get elected they are either corrupted by the system or they are run off by those in power.

It doesn't give us much confidence. Men always blow and we are ruled by men (and women of course) so it is really pretty hopeless. We might as well not even try. Right?

In fact, those folks who keep messing things up really are not in control. To a certain extent they do make the laws and execute them. They do make decisions that affect the people. Sometimes they make wise decisions and sometimes they make foolish ones. Some times they even make disastrous decisions.

But we can have confidence. It is a confidence that is based on faith and not sight.

'The Most High rules in the kingdom of men. He gives it to whomever He chooses.'

'The powers that be are ordained by God.'

'The kingdom is the Lord's, He rules over the nations.'

It can be hard to reconcile these truths to the reality of what we see. Wicked, vile, and despicable acts have been and are being carried on by governments. As hard as this is to understand, the truth is that ultimately God is in control. While it may seem to us in our limited scope that there is no hope, God is carrying out and will carry out His perfect plan. Man is permitted to sin and sadly to suffer the consequences of sin.

It is a step of faith for us to look at this and trust God. We are limited by time and space. Just because we can't make sense of it does not mean that it is not right.

The Lord is in His holy temple. He is still there. God is love and God so loved the world that He gave His son to die for it. He is working out His perfect loving purpose.

Can we trust Him enough to rule even when we don't understand?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Fear and praise

...In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! - Psalm 22v22-23

Here is it Sunday morning again. It is the day we set apart to assemble with the saints for mutual edification, fellowship, praise, worship, and teaching. We have somewhat changed the meaning of 'praise and worship' and just slotted that in to a part of our service. We may have 'praise and prayer' time. Those are fine as long as we really use those time to praise and not just consider it a part of our formality.

Praise is not something we just do during 'praise and worship.' It is not something we just mention during 'praise and prayer' time. It is much more integral to life. It is something that we just are. As the psalmist mentions we are to praise God in the assembly, but it is based on something else the psalmist mentions.

'You who fear the Lord praise Him.'

Fear of the Lord and praise go hand in hand. When we fear the Lord we realise who He is. It is the opposite of taking Him for granted. When we don't fear the Lord we can see Him as our genie in a bottle who is at our beck and call. When we see God that way we only praise Him when He suits us.

When we really fear the Lord we praise Him in every situation. We know who He is and we acknowledge that what He does is best. Therefore praise is continuous. Therefore those who really fear Him will praise, it will be a part of our lives.

Do we fear Him enough to praise Him?

Saturday, 12 March 2011

I will declare

I will declare Your name to My brethren... - Psalm 22v22

Psalm 22 is clearly a messianic psalm. Many of the words recorded here are also spoken by Jesus on the cross.

'My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent. But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed. But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, "He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!"'

Though written by David in a time of great distress they foretold the agony that Jesus would feel on the cross. The express the despair of David, a man after God's own heart, when he did not sense God's deliverance. 'Our fathers trusted You, and you delivered them, but I am getting no response from you.'

Jesus on the cross in some mysterious way that we will not understand while here on earth, was forsaken by God the Father as He turned away from Jesus while He bore the sins of the world. How this happened is far beyond my ken, but it happened.

And yet, the psalmist David in this passage and Jesus in a very real and literal sense, laid that aside and said - 'I will declare Your name to the brethren...'

How do I do in declaring God's name when it seems like I am all alone. This is clearly a faith decision and I have to ask myself if I have the faith to declare God's name no matter what. Do I declare Him, or do I blame Him?

Can we decide and determine by His strength to declare Him no matter what comes our way?

Friday, 11 March 2011

Trusting in chariots

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the LORD our God. - Psalm 20v7

'Some trust in chariots' says a lot. In fact it may just describe the attitude of the world as a whole, the condition of many Christians, and the weakness of us all at times.

The concept is clear. Man has a tendency to trust in the things we can see and touch. Chariots were probably the most powerful means of transport for battle and amazingly effective on the battlefield. Armies were ranked on the number of chariots in their force.

I am sure that the mighty Egyptian army had great faith in their chariots as the chased Israel into the Red Sea.

But something happened to them. God stepped in, they wheels got stuck in the mud and fell off. When the sea rolled back in they were trapped. Their mighty chariots had let them down.

Obviously, most of our chariots are not pulled by horses of have two wheels. Our chariots and our horse may be our country, or our bank accounts, our churches, or our families. Like Pharaoh's chariots ours too will one day fail us.

But we don't have to put our faith in chariots or horses. As the psalmist puts it 'we will remember the name of the Lord our God.'

As the wheels come off of our various chariots, let us remember and put our faith in Him.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A daily prayer

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer. - Psalm 19v14

I have always liked this little prayer or meditation, I only wish I liked it enough to really make it a daily part of my life.

Think about it for minute. How would our lives be different if every thought we think and every word we speak was acceptable in God's sight? How would people see us if all of our thoughts and all of our words we God-thoughts and God-words?

I know I struggle with these things. A lot of the time I can control the words of my mouth. Fortunately I have learned how to make sure that most of my words would be acceptable to Him, but even there I can fall short. I hate it when that happens.

The problem comes with the words that are not said out loud, but may be muttered under my breath.

Even worse than that are the words that may not may make it to my mouth, but instead are formed as thoughts in my mind. I fear that these are often not quite so acceptable. Sometimes they are not quite so nice. Sometimes they can be mean spirited. Sometimes they can be ungodly. Sometimes they can be downright deplorable.

I think the reason that the psalmist talks about the words of his mouth and the meditation of his heart is that they go together. If the meditations of our hearts were right it only makes sense that the words of our mouth are also going to be right and acceptable.

As a part of our daily prayer life would it not be wise if we asked God for strength in allowing the words of our mouths AND the meditations of our heart to be acceptable to God?

We can't do that in our own strength. We all know what happens when we try that. But with God's help and our yieldedness we can have victory over our thoughts and our words.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Moreover by them Your servant is warned, And in keeping them there is great reward. Who can understand his errors? Cleanse me from secret faults. Keep back Your servant also from presumptuous sins; Let them not have dominion over me. Then I shall be blameless, And I shall be innocent of great transgression. - Psalm 19v11-13

David continues on to give the benefits of God’s word. Here he deals with the very real universal problem of sin.

By God’s word we find warning. There is great reward in keeping them. Apart from them we can’t really understand our errors. There are secret faults that only God’s word can reveal. We can sin by presumption, and only God’s word can hold us back from them. Sin will have dominion apart from God’s word. It is only in the word of God that we can find blamelessness and the ability to be innocent.

I think that one of the reasons that we have so much trouble with win is that we do not heed the warnings in scripture. The reason we do not heed the warnings of scripture is that we don’t spend enough time there. This is especially true when it comes to the sins of the heart that no one else really knows about.

Sin need not have dominion over us. It has no power over us. Therefore if we are having sin problems there is something we are doing wrong. Our first step to overcoming that is to spend time daily in the word of God. Preaching is great. Teaching is wonderful. Bible studies are fantastic. They all help.

But there is nothing to compare to our own personal study of God’s word. It is in those times that God can deal with the secrets faults and presumptuous sins in our lives. It is there that we discover our own errors.

In keeping the word of God there is great reward. The reward is much more profitable than any amount of gold. There is much more satisfaction than the sweetest honey.

What sort of rewards are we going after today?

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Better than gold

The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb. - Psalm 19v9-10

God’s word, referred to here as His judgments, is precious. We can forget that when most of us have shelves worth of Bibles lying around the house. I recently saw a video that reminded me of how precious God’s word should be. It showed a community in New Guiana as they awaited the arrival of their translation of the New Testament. It was a great celebration as they danced and sang and waited.

Suddenly a plane appeared and you could see the excitement. The people interviewed were in tears as they waited for the plane to land. It finally arrived and taxied and the doors were opened. Crates of Bibles were unloaded and everyone wanted to touch them as thy came off the plane.

The crates were carried a short distance to where a local pastor opened a crate and prayed. They talked about how they had previously depended on translations, but now they had the word of God in their own language. The celebration was muted for the prayer, but then things really broke lose.

It was the kind of celebration we are accustomed to seeing when a sports team wins a championship.

These folks knew the reality Psalm 19v10. It is more to be desired that gold. It is sweeter than honey and the honeycomb. Do we see God that way, or is it something we can take or leave?

Check it out:

Monday, 7 March 2011

Special revelation

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. - Psalm 19v7-9

Whenever I look at Psalm 19 I go back to the experience of Robinson Crusoe. Though he knew that creation could not have come about by itself and required the intervention of ‘Intelligent Design’ he still did not know the Designer. He remembered the Bible being a part of his growing up and found one in a trunk from off the ship. He had given it a cursory look a couple of times, but is had not really ‘clicked’ yet. I have enclosed most of his entry for the fourth of July as an illustration of the importance of God’s revelation of Himself through his Word.

July 4. - In the morning I took the Bible; and beginning at the New Testament, I began seriously to read it, and imposed upon myself to read a while every morning and every night; not tying myself to the number of chapters, but long as my thoughts should engage me. It was not long after I set seriously to this work till I found my heart more deeply and sincerely affected with the wickedness of my past life. The impression of my dream revived; and the words, "All these things have not brought thee to repentance," ran seriously through my thoughts. I was earnestly begging of God to give me repentance, when it happened providentially, the very day, that, reading the Scripture, I came to these words: "He is exalted a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance and to give remission." I threw down the book; and with my heart as well as my hands lifted up to heaven, in a kind of ecstasy of joy, I cried out aloud, "Jesus, thou son of David! Jesus, thou exalted Prince and Saviour! give me repentance!" This was the first time I could say, in the true sense of the words, that I prayed in all my life; for now I prayed with a sense of my condition, and a true Scripture view of hope, founded on the encouragement of the Word of God; and from this time, I may say, I began to hope that God would hear me.

Now I began to construe the words mentioned above, "Call on Me, and I will deliver thee," in a different sense from what I had ever done before; for then I had no notion of anything being called deliverance, but my being delivered from the captivity I was in; for though I was indeed at large in the place, yet the island was certainly a prison to me, and that in the worse sense in the world. But now I learned to take it in another sense: now I looked back upon my past life with such horror, and my sins appeared so dreadful, that my soul sought nothing of God but deliverance from the load of guilt that bore down all my comfort. As for my solitary life, it was nothing. I did not so much as pray to be delivered from it or think of it; it was all of no consideration in comparison to this. And I add this part here, to hint to whoever shall read it, that whenever they come to a true sense of things, they will find deliverance from sin a much greater blessing than deliverance from affliction.

God tells is that He reveals Himself through creation. He also tells us that the soul is only converted through His word, that it gives wisdom to the simple, it enlightens the eyes, and it gives rejoicing of heart. God’s word endures forever and it is true and righteous.

As we read through this journal entry we see each of these points illustrated. Crusoe had his eyes opened to God’s existence through creation, but it he did not meet the Creator and turn to Him until he read about Christ in His word.

How wonderful that we God chose to reveal Himself to us in just a clear way and that He speaks to us through it!

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Natural revelation

The heavens declare the glory of God; And the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, And night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language Where their voice is not heard. - Psalm 19v1-3

The heavens declare the glory of God. Ain’t that the truth?

I wish everyone could experience Ireland in the spring. Excuse the expression, but there is a certain ‘magic’ about the place. After months of cold, dark, wet weather when it looks like absolute deadness everything start to come back to life. The birds are singing, there is a freshness to the air. The days stretch out both morning and night. And there are those marvellous daffodils. Daffodils are so much a part of life that the Irish Cancer Society has a ‘Daffodil Day’ in March to raise funds. One can almost see how the pre-Christian residents of this marvellous island could look to the false gods and goddesses of nature when they saw the change from winter to spring.

The very fact that these ancient peoples invented gods and goddesses of nature proves the point of Psalm 19 and Romans 1. These folks, long before they ever heard of the God of the Bible knew that something had to create all of this. Somebody did it, and they wanted to please and appease whoever did. They just did not know where to look.

My favourite novel is Robinson Crusoe. It is a novel about the spiritual journey of a man ship wrecked on an island for 28 years. Crusoe had been raised in a godly home, but had gone the way of the world. After his shipwreck he became very ill. Eventually he recovered and struggled to the beach. As he sat there he thought.

‘What is earth and see of which I have seen so much, whence is it produced, and what am I, and all the other creatures, wild and tame, human and brutal, whence are we? Sure we are all made by some secret power, who form’d the earth and sea, the air and sky, and who is that?’

Where the original Irish turned to their invented gods Crusoe now got it right.

‘The it followed most naturally, It is God that has made it all; Well but then it came on strangely, if God has made all these things, He guides and governs them all, and all things that concern them…’

He then goes on the reason in his heart that the God who is so clearly seen in creation cares about His creation and desires to be commune with it, but more on that later.

The point of today’s thought is pretty simple. All of creation calls out that there is a Creator. Romans 1 tells us that because of this the world is without excuse. God reveals Himself through His creation and it is enough to draw men to Him.

For a personal application we might remember that the God Who gives us an Irish Spring is the same God who cares about whatever we are going through. Shall we let Him declare His glory in us?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Lord lives!

The LORD lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted. – Psalm 18v46

As simple as it sounds and as obvious as it appears here is a truth that is far too easy to forget.

We all face hard times. We are all going to hear bad news. 'THAT' phone call or 'THAT' text ot 'THAT' email or 'THAT' letter can arrive at any moment. Chances are that we can all look back and remember exactly what I am talking about. Remember the feeling in the pit of your stomach, the fear of what might happen next, and the feeling of despair?

I think back myself to those situations. When they do it is so easy to forget the one thing that could and should carry us through.

The Lord lives.

So simple, so true, and so obvious.

And do easy to forget.

No matter what news comes our way, it is vital to remember that all important truth. The Lord lives. He has not died. He is not asleep. He is still on His throne and still in control.

Not only that, he is a Rock. More than that He is MY Rock. He is my place of stability.

Therefore let the God of my salvation, not my trials, be exalted.

Friday, 4 March 2011

Over the top

For by You I can run against a troop, By my God I can leap over a wall. – Psalm 18v29

What a simple yet powerful statement of faith! This great faith psalm is a real confidence builder.

Much of World War I was fought in the trenches. Both sides just dug in and lived in utterly miserable conditions waiting for a break. They would lob grenades and shoot mortars, but basically it was a very inefficient and wasteful way to fight. The only progress came in the very dangerous step of going ‘over the top’ out of the trenches and into the face of the enemy. This was often a suicide mission and it was always a terrifying experience.

Often our spiritual life is like trench warfare. We can get to the point where we just dig in an hold on, maybe lobbing a grenade or taking a pot shot, but really not getting much accomplished.

But look at this wonderful verse! By God’s strength I can run straight into battle! Because of Him I can leap over the walls! With God by my side I can go over the top and run into the battle, but instead of fear I can do it in confidence!

This verse begins a whole series of statements about God’s strength and His ability to deliver. Much of this is a battle analogy. I think it best just to post the entire passage because it so clearly describes the battle.

He teaches my hands to make war, So that my arms can bend a bow of bronze. You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great. You enlarged my path under me, So my feet did not slip. I have pursued my enemies and overtaken them; Neither did I turn back again till they were destroyed. I have wounded them, So that they could not rise; They have fallen under my feet. For You have armed me with strength for the battle; You have subdued under me those who rose up against me. You have also given me the necks of my enemies, So that I destroyed those who hated me. They cried out, but there was none to save; Even to the LORD, but He did not answer them. Then I beat them as fine as the dust before the wind; I cast them out like dirt in the streets. You have delivered me from the strivings of the people; You have made me the head of the nations; A people I have not known shall serve me. As soon as they hear of me they obey me; The foreigners submit to me. The foreigners fade away, And come frightened from their hideouts.

We need not cower in our trenches and be afraid of the enemy. We have the power to go over the top, run to the battle, and leap over the walls of opposition! Lets get going!

Thursday, 3 March 2011

The Lord was my stay

They confronted me in the day of my calamity, But the LORD was my support. - Psalm 18v18

Psalm 18 is a psalm of great comfort. The psalmist digs down deep and continues to find reasons why he should trust the Lord instead of being overwhelmed by his circumstances. Here, in the middle of the psalm, we find a wonderful little expression of confidence.

Though somewhat archaic to our 21st century ears I like the way the KJV ends this verse – ‘…but the Lord was my stay.’ When I read this I immediately thought of a collar stay. In case the word is too archaic a collar stay in that little slab of plastic that keep a collar on a dress shirt from getting soft and keeps it in shape. It is a stiffener or a support. This English use of the word, actually originally meant a ‘strong rope used to hold a ship in place.’

I really like that picture. The Hebrew word here is well served by that definition. When we face opposition the Lord is indeed our stay. He is the one Who holds us in place and gives us strength. He will not let our ship be dragged away by the storms that come.

Praise God that He is my stay. He is the only one who is able to keep me in place. How exciting to have that stay.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

I will call upon the Lord

The LORD is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer; My God, my strength, in whom I will trust; My shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold. I will call upon the LORD, who is worthy to be praised; So shall I be saved from my enemies. - Psalm 18v2-3

I realise that is an oft repeated phrase and that it has made its share of appearances in these thoughts. I repeat it today simply because it spoke to my heart in my reading.

Though the little things we are going through are tiny compared to what some people endure, there is just a lot happening at the moment that require keeping our eyes on the One who is our Stability.

David made no bones about it. You can almost hear him recalling to mind just Who he is serving. The Lord is my rock. The Lord is my fortress. The Lord is my deliverer. The Lord is my God. The Lord is my strength. The Lord is the one I trust. The Lord is my shield. The Lord is my horn of salvation. The Lord is my stronghold.

I will call on the Lord. The Lord is worthy to be praised. I will be saved.

I don’t know – I just love the way the confidence builds as we see the machine gun like way that David proclaims his faith and how he reminds himself of all that he has in the Lord.

Because the Lord is my rock/fortress/deliverer/God/strength/trust/shield/salvation/stronghold I will call on Him. I will praise Him. I will one day be delivered.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011


As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness. - Psalm 17v15

Rock music has never been one of my favourite genres. It had very little to do religious convictions or preaching that I heard, I just didn’t like it. It was easy for me to ‘amen’ when preachers preached against it! I found it loud and noisy and disruptive, I still do. Of course there were a few songs that I liked and there are songs that were such a part of culture that they stick in our heads.

One of these was ‘(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.’ I had to double check this morning, but it was performed by the Rolling Stones. The song is about discontentment with life. It starts with these words – ‘I can't get no satisfaction. I can't get no satisfaction. 'Cause I try and I try and I try and I try. I can't get no, I can't get no.’

That sentiment from the 60’s was carried on by U2 in the 80s. Again, I don’t like U2, but a refrain from one of their songs rings through my head ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’

Music often reflects culture. I still don’t ‘like’ most rock music. I do think however that Songs like this are more than just hit songs and money makers. They reflect man’s desire for satisfaction. U2’s song even reflects the knowledge that there is something more to the supposed satisfaction that this life provides. U2 even mention that satisfaction might be found in ‘Kingdom Come’, but it ends with the sad refrain, ‘I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.’

Both of these songs reflect a yearning for satisfaction as to why we are here and what we are doing. Solomon could certainly understand this yearning as reflecting in the book of Ecclesiastes. He tried everything – but still could not find satisfaction. He still could not find what he was looking for.

But there was a difference in Solomon. It was the same difference found by the psalmist. ‘I will be satisfied when I awake in Your righteousness.’

The wonderful truth is that we can have satisfaction. What we are looking for is there. True satisfaction comes in the knowledge that one day we will awake in God’s perfect righteousness. Solomon ‘got it’ when he wrote this – ‘Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man.’ This is the only place to find true satisfaction.