Saturday, 30 April 2011

Whiter than snow

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. - Psalm 51v7

While I don't necessarily like the inconvenience that comes with snowfall I have to admit that it is amazingly beautiful. This winter just passed we had the two heaviest snowfalls we have ever seen in Ireland. Ireland is already beautiful, but the snow made it even more so. In fact, the snow even made the normally ugly places beautiful.

David knew the reality of ugliness. He knew the ugliness of his own sin. He knew that there was nothing he could do about that ugliness apart from the Lord.

'Wash me,' he wrote, 'and I will be whiter than snow.' A passage in Isaiah reminds us that though our sins be 'as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.'

Only the Lord can turn our ugliness into beauty. Praise God for the knowledge that He can take the ugliest heart and make it as white as the purest snow. 

Friday, 29 April 2011

And in sin

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, And in sin my mother conceived me. - Psalm 51v5

Man is sick. He has a very serious illness that is part of his DNA. It is a common trait to all of mankind from the very beginning. Every ancestor in every person's past has the same incurable illness.

David knew all about it. He did not think that he was a sinner because he sinned. He knew that he sinned because he was a sinner. It was a part of his nature. He was rotten to the core. He knew that his problem went a whole lot deeper that a moment of pleasure with Bathsheba.

Sin is the most fatal of all fatal diseases. Sin entered the world through one man. Because of Adam's sin death was passed on to every generation and all men are sinners.

Because David knew that his problem was a problem from birth he knew that there was really nothing he could do about it. He knew that only God could solve that problem. That is why he threw himself on the mercy of God.

We are the same. We can't 'fix it.' Our only hope is a full reliance on the finished work of Christ on the cross. Though David may not have clearly seen the cross, he did know that he had to have God's mercy to have any hope.

Praise God for His cure for the illness we were born with!  

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Against You

For I acknowledge my transgressions, And my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, And done this evil in Your sight— That You may be found just when You speak, And blameless when You judge. - Psalm 51v3-4

One of the biggest problems in dealing with sin is that we forget who we sin against. We think that we sin against ourselves. That is bad, but we can rationalise it because only we are hurt. We think we sin against others, and we can even rationalise that in our selfishness.

But, the truth is, the one we rally sin against is the God who created and sustains us. We sin against the one who died for us. Our sin is a slap in His face.

'My sin is always before me. Against You, You only have I sinned and done this evil.'

If we could ever realise who we are sinning against I think things would be different. If every time we sinned we saw the face of Christ on the cross we would have to check ourselves.

What temptation are we going to face today? What sin are we going to be drawn to commit? Whatever it is, lets remember the One against whom we are going to sin and act accordingly. 

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Throwing ourselves on His mercy

Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions. - Psalm 51v1

Psalm 51 is an amazing psalm. It was written after David's sin with Bathsheba had been exposed. Nathan had said those immortal words 'you are the man!' David knew that he had been caught. The gig was up. He was busted.

He had a few choices. He could have made excuses. He could have begged for understanding. He could have had a pity party. We could have gone to counselling. He could have gone to group therapy.

But he didn't do any of that. His immediate response to Nathan was simple - 'I have sinned against the Lord.' In this psalm he gave a more detailed account of his response.

'Have mercy on me, O God,' is the start of his response. He knew that there was no hope in himself, his friends, or anyone else. He knew that his only hope was the mercy of God. He knew that he could only depend on God's lovingkindness and the multitude of His mercies.

What an example of how we should respond to sin in our lives. We can make all the excuses that we want. We try to get everyone to understand how hard it is to deal with sin. We can beg people to be patient with us while we continue to dally with our sin.

Or we can do what David did. We can simply admit our sin and throw ourselves on His mercy and depend on his lovingkindness.

It is a pretty clear option. 

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

The power of the grave vs the power of the cross

But God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive me. Selah. - Psalm 49v15

We have just come through Easter weekend where we are reminded once again of the greatest event of all time, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

For most people there is no greater fear than death. The power of the grave seems to be a power that no one has any control over. After all, we all die. No one, no matter how powerful or rich or famous or popular or great is going to have power over the grave.

And yet there is a power that is greater than death. There is a power that Job knew of when he said 'Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.' It is the power that allowed this psalmist to write 'God will redeem my soul from the power of the grave, He will receive me.' It is the power that allowed Paul to write 'O grave, where is your victory, O death, where is your sting?'

What power conquers death and the grave? I think Keith Getty words it perfectly words the answer perfectly'

Oh, to see my name
Written in the wounds,
For through Your suffering I am free.
Death is crushed to death;
Life is mine to live,
Won through Your selfless love.

This, the pow'r of the cross:
Son of God—slain for us.
What a love! What a cost!
We stand forgiven at the cross.

I am moved every time I hear or sing those words 'death is crushed to death. The power of the grave was 'crushed to death' once for all by the power of the cross! Death is swallowed up in victory through Jesus Christ. Death is already beaten.

So how do we respond to death's defeat? Paul continues from above in 1 Corinthians 15.

'Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.' The power of the cross, the power that have crushed death to death is the power that keeps us going!

How can we quit? 

Monday, 25 April 2011

No matter what

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah. - Psalm 46v1-3

I think we can summarise this is wonderful passage with the simple words 'God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble – no matter what. The psalmist takes the issue to the furthest extreme.

I love disaster films. In a recent one, '2012', the earth literally shifts on its axis. In 'The Day After Tomorrow' global warming causes the Northern Hemisphere to enter a new ice age. In another the earth's core shuts down. Great stuff and great disasters!

All of these take cataclysmic to an extreme. It is like what the psalmist says here – 'If the earth is removed and the mountains are carried into the scene (there is a great scene of that in '2012') and the waters roar and the mountains shake...

So what is the rest of the story when all of that happens? Even in the worst of the worst and '2012' and 'The Day After Tomorrow' and 'Deep Impact' and all the rest happen at one time we have a certainty – God is our refuge and strength. He is our very present help in times of trouble.

Of course, I hyperbolise, but so does the psalmist. From the little I know about Hebrew poetry I understand that is a common tool.

The point is pretty clear – God is our strength and our help no matter what comes our way. If He would be with us when the earth's poles shift don't you think He can be with you with that challenge you face today? 

Sunday, 24 April 2011


Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever. Why do You hide Your face, And forget our affliction and our oppression? For our soul is bowed down to the dust; Our body clings to the ground. Arise for our help, And redeem us for Your mercies' sake. - Psalm 44v23-26

What a great Easter verse! How the disciples and followers could have identified with the psalmist while Jesus was in the grave. Their Lord was dead. All of their hopes were shattered. They felt dejected and that despite all the great promises He was gone.

So their plea would have been as simple as the psalmist's – 'Arise! You came and offered so much hope, but now you are gone. You have forgotten all about us. Why did You let this happen. We are defeated. Please, arise and help us. Redeem us.'

The wonderful truth is that He did awake from the sleep of death. 'Low in the grave He lay, Jesus our Saviour. Waiting the coming day, Jesus our Lord,' was not the end. 'Up from the grave He arose, with a mighty triumph o'er His foes.'

He did arise to help and redeem. He did awake. He did and does deliver. 'He arose a victor from the dark domain and He lives forever with His saints to reign. He arose! He arose! Hallelujah Christ arose.'

We don't have to cry 'Awake, rise up and help us,' for those marvellous of words were spoken so long ago – 'He is risen!' 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

That's My King!

Thou art my King, O God: command deliverances for Jacob. - Psalm 44v4

I could not possibly compete with Dr S.M. Lockeridge for thoughts on 'My King' so I am just going to let him speak.

From a sermon in Detroit in 1976. The audio and text are slightly different

My King was born King. The Bible says He's a Seven Way King. He's the King of the Jews - that's an Ethnic King. He's the King of Israel - that's a National King. He's the King of righteousness. He's the King of the ages. He's the King of Heaven. He's the King of glory. He's the King of kings and He is the Lord of lords. Now that's my King.

Well, I wonder if you know Him. Do you know Him? Don't try to mislead me. Do you know my King? David said the Heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. My King is the only one of whom there are no means of measure that can define His limitless love. No far seeing telescope can bring into visibility the coastline of the shore of His supplies. No barriers can hinder Him from pouring out His blessing. He's enduringly strong. He's entirely sincere. He's eternally steadfast. He's immortally graceful. He's imperially powerful. He's impartially merciful. That's my King.

He's God's Son. He's the sinner's saviour. He's the centrepiece of civilization. He stands alone in Himself. He's honest. He's unique. He's unparalleled. He's unprecedented. He's supreme. He's pre-eminent. He's the grandest idea in literature. He's the highest personality in philosophy. He's the supreme problem in higher criticism. He's the fundamental doctrine of historic theology. He's the carnal necessity of spiritual religion. That's my King.

He's the miracle of the age. He's the superlative of everything good that you choose to call Him. He's the only one able to supply all our needs simultaneously. He supplies strength for the weak. He's available for the tempted and the tried. He sympathizes and He saves. He's the Almighty God who guides and keeps all his people. He heals the sick. He cleanses the lepers. He forgives sinners. He discharged debtors. He delivers the captives. He defends the feeble. He blesses the young. He serves the unfortunate. He regards the aged. He rewards the diligent and He beautifies the meek. That's my King.

Do you know Him? Well, my King is a King of knowledge. He's the wellspring of wisdom. He's the doorway of deliverance. He's the pathway of peace. He's the roadway of righteousness. He's the highway of holiness. He's the gateway of glory. He's the master of the mighty. He's the captain of the conquerors. He's the head of the heroes. He's the leader of the legislatures. He's the overseer of the overcomers. He's the governor of governors. He's the prince of princes. He's the King of kings and He's the Lord of lords. That's my King.

His office is manifold. His promise is sure. His light is matchless. His goodness is limitless. His mercy is everlasting. His love never changes. His Word is enough. His grace is sufficient. His reign is righteous. His yoke is easy and His burden is light. I wish I could describe Him to you . . .but He's indescribable. He's indescribable. That's my King.

He's incomprehensible. He's invincible. He's irresistible. I'm coming to tell you this, that the heavens of heavens can't contain Him, let alone some man explain Him. You can't get Him out of your mind. You can't get Him off of your hands. You can't outlive Him and you can't live without Him. The Pharisees couldn't stand Him, but they found out they couldn't stop Him. Pilate couldn't find any fault in Him. The witnesses couldn't get their testimonies to agree about Him. Herod couldn't kill Him. Death couldn't handle Him and the grave couldn't hold Him. That's my King.

He always has been and He always will be. I'm talking about the fact that He had no predecessor and He'll have no successor. There's nobody before Him and there'll be nobody after Him. You can't impeach Him and He's not going to resign. That's my King! That's my King!

Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory. Well, all the power belongs to my King. We're around here talking about black power and white power and green power, but in the end all that matters is God's power. Thine is the power. Yeah. And the glory. We try to get prestige and honour and glory for ourselves, but the glory is all His. Yes. Thine is the Kingdom and the power and glory, forever and ever and ever and ever. How long is that? And ever and ever and ever and ever. And when you get through with all of the 'ever's, then . . .Amen.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Therefore I will remember

Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him For the help of His countenance. O my God, my soul is cast down within me; Therefore I will remember You from the land of the Jordan, And from the heights of Hermon, From the Hill Mizar. - Psalm 42v5-6

This verse, or a version of it, pops up a few times in Psalm 42-43. I think it is repeated several times because it was so real to the psalmist. He had to keep reminding himself of this vital truth.

At times we all find ourselves cast down and disquieted. By the way, I like that word 'disquieted.' I wish I could use it more often. It just sounds like what it means. It means 'in a state of tumult and loud noise; a commotion.'

I can certainly understand that feeling. This is the alarm clock that wakes me up at night. It is the clamour that rings in my head and blocks everything else out. Sometimes it can drown out everything else. The disquiet comes from placing my hope for current trials and difficulties and hardships in my own resources and my own ability to solve them.

So what was the psalmist's solution to despair and disquiet?

Remember God, hope in Him, and praise Him.

This is appropriate on this Good Friday. We can only imagine the disquiet that fell upon the followers of Christ on this, the darkest day. We can only imagine how cast down they felt. We know in retrospect that they need not have done so. He had told them all about it, that He would be crucified and that He would rise again. Apparently they did not really believe either one.

We can do the same thing. In the dark days we too can forget the promises. We can fall into that horrible state of disquiet.

Our solution is simple enough if we would juts apply it. Hope in Him, not us. Praise Him even before the answers come. And keep remembering Him.

Don't be disquieted with the Good Friday story. Sunday is coming! 

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Thirsty deer and a thirsty man

As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. - Psalm 42v1

I have never seen a thirsty deer. I don't know very much about deer. I also am quite certain that I have never been truly, death threatening thirsty.

I do however think I came close the being truly thirsty a couple of times. Once, way back in the early eighties I was doing sheet metal work and duct installation. We were working in an attic somewhere in south Huntsville in the middle of the summer. Now, unless you have been in an attic in Alabama in the middle of the summer you probably don't get the impact of that statement. The air conditioning technician left his thermometer in the attic. As I crawled by trying to keep on the joists I noticed the temperature. It was close to 130F (55C). Needless to say, it was just hot. When you work in that kind of heat you are supposed to rotate with your work mate every 10 minutes or so. I was of course sweating profusely.

I knew I should have stopped, but I was back in a corner and thought I would just finish off one little piece of work. Suddenly I realised I wasn't sweating. Anyone who has lived in a hot climate knows that is not good news. My vision was getting dodgy and had a hard to time getting to the attic access ladder. I finally got there and started down, but fell the last 3-4 rungs. I knew I had to get water into my system. At that moment water was the most important thing in the world to me.

I was not strong enough to walk, but I saw a bathroom just down the hall. I crawled to it and dragged myself up looking for something drink from. It was the kid's bathroom so they had little tiny paper cups at the sink. I grabbed one and began filling, drinking, and refilling tiny cups of water. Finally I began to cool down and made my way outside to a shade tree where I rested until I cooled off. I was to sick to continue so we had to leave the job site. By the time we got the the shop it was almost quitting time and I thought I was better.

I was going to give blood that day so I stopped by the centre. The nurse took my temperature twice, and would not take my blood because my temperature was still over 104F (40C). I am still amazed when I think of that day, because I have no idea how I did not go into heat stroke.

I say all that to point out one thing – my desperate desire for water when I was at the bottom of the ladder.

If that is the kind of thirst God is talking about here I am terribly convicted. I don't know that I have ever thirsted for God with that kind of thirst. I think of Christians around the world who cannot read their Bibles or go to church like we can. I think of their thirst to read their Bible or go to church and I think how I can take those things for granted.

I hope we don't need God to take those things away to give us that thirst. 

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Unrestrained lips

I have proclaimed the good news of righteousness In the great assembly; Indeed, I do not restrain my lips, O LORD, You Yourself know. - Psalm 40v9

While sometimes the Bible speaks of keeping our mouths shut, it can also speak sometimes of the importance of speaking out. My problem tends to be that I get it backwards. I talk about the things I should not talk about and I don't talk about the things that I should.

While we are supposed to have muzzled lips when it comes to evil speech, the psalmist here speaks of having having unrestrained lips when it comes to speaking of the goodness and righteousness of the Lord.

I know that it is much easier for me to gossip than it is to praise. I know that I have a much easier time defending myself than defending my Lord.

Why is it that people like me have no problem expressing our views on sports or politics or the news or almost any other topic, but such a hard time talking about our Lord?

That really bothers me. If we indeed talk about the things that are most important to us, and speak so much more about things that relate to me than things that relate to the Lord, what does that say about how important He really is to me? 

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Muzzled lips

I said, "I will guard my ways, Lest I sin with my tongue; I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, While the wicked are before me." - Psalm 39v1

As I read this passage I sit here and think back and recollect some of the times that I have well and truly blown it with my words. I think about words hastily spoken in anger or frustration or just without thought. I admire men who know how to keep their mouths shut. I have a couple of guys in mind who rarely speak out in conversations. Because of that, when they speak, they are listened to. Sadly, I am not one of those guys.

Another advantage these guys create for themselves is that they avoid all kinds of problems that I get myself into. The proverb tells us 'Even a fool is counted when he holds his peace; When he shuts his lips, he is considered perceptive.' Not that these guys are fools of course, but maybe their example could help guys like me to be considered as perceptive as them.

Silence has a lot of advantages. The psalmist knew that. 'I will guard my way,' he said, 'so that I don't sin with my tongue.' Then he gives great illustration - 'I will restrain my mouth with a muzzle, while the wicked are before me.'

I often see dogs muzzled while I am out for a walk. The owners muzzle their dogs because they know that their mouths are dangerous. They know the damage that can be done. The muzzle is a prevention device – it keeps the dogs from doing what they naturally do.

I think the picture is, as we say, bang on. I know the damage that my mouth can do. I mentioned above that I have plenty of experience. I have said things that I regretted as soon as they were out. But, they were out and they can never be recalled. Words always have an impact. Relationships can be destroyed with one simple statement. Testimonies can be destroyed with one little outbursts.

There are times that I wish I had been wearing a mouth muzzle. That's not practical though. Since I can't wear one on the outside I need to apply one on the inside. The truth is that we speak what is in our hearts, so we muzzle our mouths by fixing our hearts.

May God give me the grace to muzzle my lips by guarding my heart. 

Monday, 18 April 2011

Strength in trouble

And the LORD shall help them and deliver them; He shall deliver them from the wicked, And save them, Because they trust in Him. - Psalm 37v40

One of the many amazing things about the word of God is how it often has immediate, practical, tangible, and personal application for the time and place where it was written while at the same same time containing a spiritual and eternal truth for us today.

Today's passage is one of those times. For the psalmist he was speaking of very real and very current physical danger. He was trusting the Lord for physical deliverance from his current opposition. He trusted that God would deliver him from the enemy that he was facing at the moment because he trusted God to do so.

Today we have learned that it is not always God's will to deliver us from current physical circumstances. We have seen that Christians have died because of persecution. Sometimes, we now know, the bad guys win and God's people die or suffer life-long persecutions.

So is this verse still true? Does it apply to us today?

Of course it is true. God's word doesn't change.

And it still applies to us. We can take comfort that one day we will be delivered from this mess. He will deliver us from the wicked – what a day that will be. We will be saved out of all this.

What I really like is the little hint at our salvation by faith alone. Why does God save His people? Is it because we deserve it? Is it because of what we do?

Nope. He will save us because we trust in Him. Full stop. That's it. He will save us because we trust Him.

Those of us who trust Him can be assured that our deliverance is coming. Hold on. It will be here! 

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Yet he passed away

I have seen the wicked in great power, And spreading himself like a native green tree. Yet he passed away, and behold, he was no more; Indeed I sought him, but he could not be found. - Psalm 37v35-36

Many wicked have thought themselves great. They all seem to think that they are the ones who are going to be different. Many of them have been obsessed with the idea of long-life or eternal youth.

I like Star Trek, especially the original series. One of the episodes is called Space Seed. The villian in the episode is Khan Noonien Singh. Kahn had been an evil world ruler during the Eugenics Wars of the 1990s. When things went badly he had himself and a crew put into suspended animation and launched into space with the intent of being revived and coming back to power. After being revived by the crew of the Enterprise Khan tries to take it over, but of course is defeated by Kirk and Crew and exiled to Ceti Alpha V. Fifteen year later Kahn escapes to seek revenge on Kirk, but is defeated and dies in the film Wrath of Kahn.

Kahn is typical of evil rulers. Their empires grow and expand like a massive green tree. It seems like nothing can defeat them. Our kids grew up playing in the shadow of a massive tree that was a least 200 years old. It was big and strong and sturdy and seemed invincible, but one night recently during a wind storm I was awaken by a massive crack. The tree had blown over, and within days was reduced to a pile of sawdust. Now, grass is growing there and soon all remnants will be forgotten.

We can be encouraged that no matter how powerful and mighty and invincible the wicked are they are all going to pass away one day. They, no matter how much they wish, cannot go on forever.

Praise God that He will never pass away.

I have seen polls asking the question 'Who is the most influential man who ever lived?' The answers may vary, but only one really fits the bill. Only One of them is still alive today! 

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The steps of a good man

The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD, And He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the LORD upholds him with His hand. - Psalm 37v23-24

A good man allows his steps to be ordered by the Lord.
A good man delights in walking God's way.
A good man might just fall.
A good man gets back up.
A good man is upheld by God's hand.

Wow! That really says a lot doesn't it?

In the first place we see what determines a good man's walk. He doesn't set his own pace. He doesn't go his own way. He runs with patience the race that God lays out before him. He knows that his way and God's ways are often not the same, for God's ways are far above his own.

Not only that he delights in doing it God's way. When he walks on his ordered path he doesn't whinge and complain. He takes pleasure in doing it God's way.

But, on the path he is going to trip up. Sometimes he is going to fall. But he gets back up. Not only that he keeps getting back because 'A righteous man falls seven times and gets back up again.'

How does all this happen? A good man is upheld by the almighty hand of God. He doesn't go on in his own strength.

Help me walk my path as a 'good man' dear Father. 

Friday, 15 April 2011

Little is much

A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked. - Psalm 37v16

'Does the place you’re called to labour
Seem too small and little known?
It is great if God is in it,
And He’ll not forget His own.

Little is much, when God is in it.
Labour not, for wealth or fame.
There is a crown - and you can win it
If you go in Jesus' name.

The classic gospel song was written in 1924 by Kittie Suffield. I am sure that there are things we could pick apart in this song, but is expresses and great Bible truth that can be of great comfort. 'The little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked..'

When David and Jonathan faced the enemy back to back they knew that God could deliver 'by many or by few.' When the temple was rebuilt and people were crying that it was not what it used to be Haggai reminded them that they are too rejoice because God was going to His greatest work there. It only took five loaves and two fish to feed a multitude. 'Where two or three are gathered together in my name,' Jesus said, 'I am in their midst.'

Our little is indeed much if God is in it. Though our eyes tell us that we cannot compete with the 'much' of the world God uses it mightily if we are yielded to Him.

It is of great comfort to know that God's little is far better than man's much!  

Thursday, 14 April 2011

God laughs at him

The wicked plots against the just, And gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, For He sees that his day is coming. - Psalm 37v12-13

Man seems to think that he can just go on doing whatever he wants. The wicked plot against the righteous. The wicked gnash at the righteous with his teeth. This is the norm. The world has never accepted God's way or His people.

Most of us in the West don't know a whole lot about this. Most of us have enjoyed several hundred years of relative peace and safety. We have had governments and societies that basically 'like' us and have had laws and freedoms that support and protect our way of lives.

But that is changing. With incredible speed the world is returning to its norm. We are losing the supports and freedoms that we have grown so accustomed to. It is clear that the wicked are plotting against the righteous. We can almost see them chomping at the bit and hoping to finish us off.

It can be more than a little scary. We can be intimidating. The forces of evil are closing in for the kill.

But we only see a part of the picture. 'Up in heaven' God sees the whole thing. He is not unaware. And while He is there is chuckles and evil man's vain attempt to destroy the righteous. God knows the end result. He knows that the very gates of hell will not prevail against His church, much less puny man.

Evil can almost sense the victory. Everything seems to be going its way. But we know something they don't know. God is laughing, because He knows the end of the story. And so do we. 

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Anger and worry

Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; Do not fret—it only causes harm. - Psalm 37v8

It is easy to get angry. It is one of those emotions that just jumps up and bites you before you know what is happening. Anger in and of itself is not a sin. God even mentions that we are going to be angry.

The problem is what we do with that anger. In Ephesians we are told to be angry, but not to sin in that anger. Here we are told to cease from anger and to forsake wrath. The point seems to be that we must control our anger when it appears and deal with it quickly. Wrath we are to forsake completely. Anger is an emotion to be controlled, dealt with, and put aside quickly. Wrath is a sin which should not be a part of our lives.

While we are here there is another issue to deal with. 'Don't fret—it only cause harm.' Here we are back again and an issue with which I struggle. The Lord has done a great work, but fretting and worry are still something that I battle regularly.

The word of God is clear about worry. 'Be care-ful for nothing.' 'Take not thought of the morrow.' 'Cast all your cares on Him.'

Jesus tells us that worry does no good. We can't get taller by fretting about it. The psalmist tells us that fretting only does damage.

With the Bible being so clear why is it so hard for us to deal with anger and worry? I think it all comes back to me. I get angry because I sense an injustice. I worry because I think I have to sort things out.

Maybe I need to look back a couple of verse to 'rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.'  

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Rest and wait

Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him; Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. - Psalm 37v7

This is like part two from yesterday's post. Remember the question – 'What do we do now?' The answer is extended.

Commit your way to the Lord.
Trust Him.
He will bring it to pass.
Rest in the Lord.
Wait patiently for Him.
Don't fret at what you see.

Resting and waiting do not come easily for me. 'Not fretting' does not come easy for me. I want to do something, anything, when things are not going the way I like. Surely there has to be something I can do to 'fix it.' If I can't fix it, surely my fretting will help.

More on fretting tomorrow.

These are some great passages on our emotions and how to deal with them. Emotions can be a great blessing, but they can also be terribly destructive if we let them get out of hand. When I have problems with my emotions it is usually because I am seeking a human solution to my problems. I am still holding situations and problems in my hands. I want things to go my way. I want it to work out now. I want my answers as quickly as I want my pizza to arrive at the door.

God does work that way. I see life in terms of a 70-80 year time segment. Even worse than that I see time in terms of right here and right now. God sees situations in the light of eternity.

Commit. Trust. Rest. Wait.

If only I would really practice those habits.  

Monday, 11 April 2011

Commit and trust

Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, And He shall bring it to pass.- Psalm 37v5

'So, where do we go next?'

We all find ourselves at times like this when it seems like we have tried everything and nothing seems to be working. We have exercised all of our options and nothing has changed. We just don't know what to do.

I am grateful that the Lord knows that tendency and has an answer to those situations. He knows that we are going to go through those times.

Commit your way to the Lord.
Trust Him.
He will bring it to pass.

Committing and trusting go hand in hand, don't they? It is impossible to truly commit without trusting. We don't trust unless there is some kind of commitment.

Trust means trust even when I can't see results. It is the evidence of things unseen.

So what so we do next? We do everything we can do, we commit it to Him, and we trust Him the the results.  

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Delight yourself

Delight yourself also in the LORD, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.- Psalm 37v4

Now this sounds like a really great promise. If I delight myself in God He will give me whatever I want. Folks can take this and run with it and think that if I just live for God He I can have all my greatest wishes. It can be almost like a genie in a bottle with unlimited wishes!

Obviously, this can't be true. God is not going to give us whatever we desire. Our desires are not always right. Our desires can be harmful and destructive. We would be fools if we gave our children or grandchildren everything they asked us to give them no matter how delightful they are.

Delighting ourselves in the Lord is just what it sounds like. It means that we are striving, in all we do, to please Him. It means that we are not delighting in our flesh. It means that we are not delighting in all the world's allures. It means that all we care about is delighting in the things of God.

Now, if I am truly delighting myself in the Lord what am I going to desire? My desires are going to change. My desires no longer are about what pleases me, but what causes Him delight. In other words, if I am truly delighting in the Lord my desires are going to change. God is going to give me new desires as I learn to delight in Him and doing His will.

When I delight in the Lord He gives me the right desires of my heart. My desires change from a focus on me to a focus on Him.

If our 'delighter' is right our 'desirer' will follow.  

Saturday, 9 April 2011

All day long

And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness And of Your praise all the day long. - Psalm 35v28

It is amazing what we get preoccupied with. It is amazing what we allow ourselves to become obsessed with. There is so much out there to distract us and if we are not careful those distractions become obsessions. We can get obsessed with sports teams, or video games, or the news, or Facebook, or Twitter, television, or books, or hobbies, or entertainment, or fitness, or any number of things. Everyone seems to have something that occupies a great deal of their time.

The psalmist here appears to have his own obsession. 'My tongue shall speak of your righteousness and of Your praise all day long.'

Notice that phrase – 'all day long.' I suspect that if someone today spoke of the Lord all day long people, even Christians, would think anyone who spoke of the Lord 'all day long' was just a little over the top.

It is interesting that someone can be a sports freak or a fitness nut or a gamer or a soap fan or whatever else and no one gives it a second thought. It is an interesting quirk, but that’s about it.

I remember way back to the 60s-70s when a subculture developed. Hippies and pacifists and greens and all kinds of young people were called Jesus Freaks. These folks associated themselves, sometimes loosely and sometimes deeply with Jesus Christ. The term started out as a pejorative, but was soon embraced by the Jesus Freaks themselves. They gave away tracts and New Testaments. I am sure that many of these folks were just trying something else in those days of wild experimentation. However, I am certain that many were truly saved in this movement.

It is interesting though that what was meant to be a criticism became a badge of pride. Jesus Freaks did not care that they were called Jesus Freaks, they embraced it.

I am not so sure, given the current climate, that I would want to be called a Jesus Freak, but if we were like the psalmist and spoke of the Lord all day long we would be sure to be criticised and made fun of and even Christians would wonder about us.

However, would that not be better than never even bringing up the name of our Saviour? I know that I can let days go by where I never bring up His name.

So they call us 'born agains' or some other term they consider to be an attack.

Is that really worse than them never even knowing we are believers?  

Friday, 8 April 2011

The Lord is near

The LORD is near to those who have a broken heart, And saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.
- Psalm 34v18-19

I think, if we were to brutally honest, we would all have to acknowledge that we ask ourselves, 'Where is God?'

That sounds terrible, doesn't it? Even seeing it in print is just a little bothersome. I have a book on my shelf titled' 'Where is God when it hurts?' Someone wrote that book because they knew the reality of wondering where God was when things we not working out.

It is easy to sense God's presence when we see Him all around, the bills are paid, the kids are well, the sun is shining, and everything is right with the world. We talk about the blessings of God and knowing His presence and how wonderful it is to be walking in the light.

But what about when it is dark and dreary and that heavy clouds is hanging over our heads. What happens when the bills are going into arrears or the kids get sick or a loved one dies or our ministries struggle. Where is God then?

The answer is right here. He is near us when our hearts are broken. He is able to deliver us. The problem is that we are looking the wrong place for solutions and answers.

We are forewarned – 'many are the afflictions of the righteous.' So it is going to be a fact of life – things are going to be hard. But in those struggles we have the promise – 'The Lord delivers them all.'

'Where is God?' He is right here no matter what the troubles. It is up to us to choose to acknowledge His presence or ignore Him and go on our own way.  

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Evil, good, and peace

Depart from evil and do good; Seek peace and pursue it. - Psalm 34v14

It sure sounds simple doesn't it?

Depart from evil.
Do good.
Seek and pursue peace.

How can something that sounds so easy be so difficult to carry out? None of these sound like they would be hard to carry out. We can all understand 'depart from evil.' We all know what 'do good' means. We all know the importance of 'seeking peace.'

The problem is that these things don't always suit our flesh and our desires. Us ugly and abhorrent as evil is it still has quite a draw. Doing good often means that I have to sacrifice my ways and my desires. Peace is not always easy to pursue.

The sad thing is that the root problem is obvious. Pride and self get in the way of departing from evil, doing good, and chasing peace. When evil looks appealing we want it no matter what. When good is difficult or inconvenient we don't want to do it. When peace gets in the way of our desires we ignore it.

When we have problems in these areas it is because we are focused on ourselves. Serving others and pleasing God are not always convenient to us. These things don't always please me and if they don’t please me than I can't be bothered.

Maybe its about time that we get ourselves out of the way and just do the right thing – depart from evil, do good, seek peace, and pursue it.  

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Vain hope

A horse is a vain hope for safety; Neither shall it deliver any by its great strength. - Psalm 33v17

People and their nations trust all kinds of thing for their safety. For example, part of the reason for the US Constitution, according to its preamble, was to 'provide for the common defence.' All nations have military or national defence forces. We have police departments and fire departments to keep us safe. We elect government officials to make decisions that are supposed to be for the public good.

Human protection and safety provisions are fine. They are fine and there is nothing wrong with them. God put government is place for the very purpose of doing some of these things.

The 'horse' is a vain hope for safety. It cannot deliver by its great strength. It doesn't take much to realise that the horse is a picture of military or policing might.

Because of the relative peace and security that Christians in the West have had for the last couple of hundreds of years we have come to think that the government and it's 'horses' should be on our side. We expect the government to protect and defend our Christian way of life and principles. We expect legislation to enforce our way of life.

Things are changing quickly in the West. We had better get used to it. Our faith cannot be in our government or its leaders to defend or protect us and our way of life. Society now seems intent on going against Christian principles and those who hold to them are mocked, deprived of rights, and in the very near future may face imprisonment.

The sooner we realise that our confidence in horses is misplaced the better. The time has come to quit trusting in 'vain hope' for safety and start trusting the One who can protect us.

Monday, 4 April 2011

The best laid plans of mice and men

The LORD brings the counsel of the nations to nothing; He makes the plans of the peoples of no effect. - Psalm 33v10

But little Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Thus wrote Robert Burns in his classic poem, 'To a Mouse.' The poem is, in essence, about the vanity of effort. Everything the mouse does seems to be at the capricious whim of fate and nature.

But, as Burns points out, that doesn't just apply to the mouse. We set out all of our great plans and ambitions and we set our own goals and set about achieving them without ever thinking about what God might want.

We don't always ignore God in our plans though. Sometimes we make plans with the best at heart and a desire to do the right thing.

I have learned though that a lot of times God's plans are not our plans. Even, as Burns wrote, the best laid plans are often doomed to go askew. Things don't often work out the way we planned them.

The difference between what Burns wrote and the Christian life is that we still have that hope of he 'promised joy' one day. Though we may go through grief and pain to get there, and our own foresight may be in vain, we have the blessed hope of eternal joy.

After all, are the best laid plans of the omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent, eternal, and immutable God certain to be far better than the best laid plans of mice and men?

Bible it!

For the word of the LORD is right, And all His work is done in truth. - Psalm 33v4

How do we know right from wrong? That is a question we all wonder about at times. With the information superhighway running through our homes and offices and even telephones we are inundated with more potential knowledge than we ever thought possible. Millions of facts are at our fingertips. 'Google it' has become the keyword for anyone looking for anything. My wife teases me that the only reason I bought an iPhone was so that I could Google it to see if something that some one told me was right or wrong.

The problem there is that obviously one 'can't believe everything you see on the internet.' Sources can be and are sometimes just flat out wrong. Sometimes it is intentional and sometimes not, but one thing is sure – just because it is on the internet does not make it right.

I love Googling. I love the ability to find answers on the spot, but I know that I have to be careful when trying to find right and wrong on line.

There is however one place that we can be assured that we will always get the right answer. 'The word of the Lord is right.' God's word is not some Wikipedia where anyone can put something up and claim it as fact. It cannot be edited and it does not need a 'citation needed' disclaimer.

The Bible is right. Whatever God does in done in truth because He is the Truth.

If we can turn 'Google' from a noun into a verb maybe we can do the same with the word of God.

Want to know if it is right or wrong? Want to know how to handle the situation you are facing today?

Bible it!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Dumb Mule

Do not be like the horse or like the mule, Which have no understanding, Which must be harnessed with bit and bridle, Else they will not come near you. - Psalm 32v9

They say that sheep are dumb animals, but this verse mentions a couple of animals that might be even dumber and warns against following their example.

'Don't be like a horse or a mule. They have no understanding and must constantly be led about with a bit and a bridle. They won't follow you unless you drag them to you.'

Sheep are different. At least they have the sense to know that their shepherd loves them and cares for them so they know enough to follow the shepherd.

How often we can be like that dumb mule talked about in the verse. We get set in our own way. We are kind of like a mule that is sitting on a railroad track with a train approaching and its owner trying to pull him out of danger. The mule is too dumb to know that his owner knows best.

How dumb I can be. I can be so set in my ways that I hunker down and insist that my way and my solutions must be the best way.

So, how about it. How often are we even dumber than dumb sheep?

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Be brave

Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the LORD. - Psalm 31v24

When our children are little we often have to encourage them to 'be brave' when they face situations that are scary to them. They are afraid because they don't is going to happen next. They face uncertainty. Uncertainty, by the very nature of what it is, is scary.

The bad thing is that that fear of the unknown never leaves us. At lot of times it is not as bad as we think it is going to be, but the reality is that sometimes it is so much worse that we expected.

My Valley of Vision reading for this morning was titled 'Year's End.' I just read them consequentially so often the title does not necessarily fit the day, but today was just right for me. It dealt with a new calendar year ahead, but it fits any time, especially when we don't know what is coming next.

'I bless thee that thou hast veiled my eyes to the waters ahead;

If thou hast appointed me storms of of tribulation, thou wilt be with me in them;

If I have to pass through tempests of persecution and temptation, I shall not drown;

If I am to die, I shall see thy face the sooner;

If a painful end is to be my lot, grant me the grace that I fail not;

If I am to be cast aside from the service I love, I can make no stipulation;

Only glorify thyself in me whether in comfort or trial, as a chosen vessel always meet for thy use.'

Even as I type those words I can feel that anxious feeling in my gut. These are scary words to put down on paper. They are words that I don't really know whether I can say or not. They are words that I really don't want to deal with.

Why? Because they make me afraid. It is scary to pray that sort of prayer.

But God says, like a loving parent, 'Be of good courage.' He will give us the strength we need to face every situation. If we really trust Him like we say we do we can pray those words above because our confidence to get through the unknown is on Him, not us.

'Because He lives, I can face tomorrow. Because He lives, all fear is gone. Because I know He holds the the future. I can face uncertain days, because He lives.'

It sounds great. It makes a lovely song. But do we have the faith to really believe it?

Friday, 1 April 2011

Sighing times

Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! For my life is spent with grief, And my years with sighing; My strength fails because of my iniquity, And my bones waste away. - Psalm 31v9-10

One of the things that I really like about the Bible is the way it addresses real feelings and real situations in a way we can all understand.

David found in a time of great trouble. Though our reasons may be very different we all find ourselves in situations where we seem consumed with various troubles may be emotional, physical, spiritual, familial, or financial. The cause does not matter, but I think we can all identify with 'I am in trouble. Grief consumes my eyes and soul and body and indeed my life. I spend all my time sighing...'

You know what those sighing times are are. Those are the moments or days or weeks when we start thinking about circumstances, we rub our hands across our faces, and we let out a sigh that verges on frustration, despair, pain, or discouragement.

Scientists seem to differ on what physically cause this kind of sigh. There seems to be some agreement that there is a relation between stress and involuntary sighing. We may be a need to draw in extra oxygen to relieve a build-up of C02 which has built up do over breathing. Think of that tight chested, 'I can't breath' feeling that comes with stress. Our body senses that and draws in an extra deep breath to battle it.

Troubles are sure to bring about stress. People have all kinds of way to deal with stress. Some just give up and crawl back under the duvet. Some become angry with others. Some become morose and useless. Some try to get busy. Some just quit.

The psalmist had an answer to the sighing days. 'Have mercy on me O Lord.'

A dependence on God's mercy is the only real solution to troublesome days. May each of us exercise the faith in God's mercy in times of stress and despair.