Thursday, 30 June 2011

Open my eyes

Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law. – Psalm 119v18

‘Troublesome times are here, filling men’s hearts with fear…’ I thought about this morning on my walk as I was listening to the ’60 Minutes’ podcast. This particular segment dealt with homeless children in America. The story was bad enough, but it started me thinking about just how tough things are all over the world if 25% of America’s children will soon be homeless.

There are not many ‘wondrous’ things to see around us. Dr Seuss reminded us, ‘It’s a troublesome world and the people who are in it are troubled with troubles almost every minute.’ As usual, Dr Seuss got it right. Though we live in a beautiful world and have been provided for so well, it has been pretty much wrecked by wicked people.

So we are not going to find much to call wondrous in the newspapers, on the telly, or on the internet. Why is it then that we spend so much time there?

The psalmist prayed ‘open my eyes that I may see wondrous things from Your law.’ With all of the information around us today it is easy enough to neglect the one certain source of wonder. We have a source that will never fail us. When we approach God’s word we must do so with the psalmist’s attitude – ‘Open my eyes today Lord. Please show me the wondrous truths in Your words!’ It is there where we need to focus our hearts. Instead of looking at the visible stuff that is so obvious and temporal we need to look at the wonders of God revealed in His word. These are the eternal invisible things that must control our daily walk and attitude.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Dealing with dirt

How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed according to Your word. With my whole heart I have sought You; Oh, let me not wander from Your commandments! Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You.  – Psalm 119v9-11

We live in a dirty old world. Living in a dirty old world chances are we are going to get dirty. It’s just like the kids playing outside in nice weather – they are going to usually find a way to get dirty. Kids not only brush up against dirt to get dirty, too often they seek out the dirt! All four of the grandkids who live nearby are dirt magnets. No, it is worse than that, magnets just draw- our kids go after the dirt.

Once they get dirty it is a chore to get them cleaned up. Kids seem to have a knack of getting dirty at the worst possible time and clean-up is usually a real pain. But, it has to be done.

Christians can be like that. We spend time with the Lord, we go to church, we fellowship with other believers, and we feel pretty good and, well, clean.

Then we go out into that dirty old world we talked about earlier. Sometimes we brush up against some dirt or step in a mud puddle by mistake. Those things happen, so we clean up and go on. We can’t always avoid the filth of sin, so we have to do our best to deal with it when it comes.

Other times we are like our children or grandchildren. We can find ourselves going out of our way to get dirty. We even be guilty of searching out the dirt, like the kids, just to get dirty.

We can excuse kids and they dirt because they are kids – but there is no excuse for us to purposefully get dirty with sin.

Psalm 119v9-11 tells us how to deal with this.

How can a young (or old) man (or woman) clean up his way? We pay attention to God’s word.
How do we avoid sin? We hide God’s word in our hearts.
We seek God and His way. We don’t wander off from His commandments. We keep them close to our hearts.

Doesn’t getting dirty get old after a while? 

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

My ways

Oh, that my ways were directed to keep Your statutes! – Psalm 119v5

I love gadgets. One of my favourite and most practical gadgets is a satnav or GPS device for the car. We finally bought one last autumn when Beth had Kian. It was amazing. We collected the car at the airport, hooked up the satnav, typed in Beth and Ronnie’s address, and followed it through the dark German night on unfamiliar roads. After about an hour we pulled into the drive as we heard the words ‘arriving at bethronnie on right.’ A couple of weeks ago I even drove into Dublin City Centre following the directions. One of the amazing features is that if you get off track or can’t follow the prescribed road you can hit ‘detour’ and it will direct you back to the right path.

There are times in our lives when we could all use a spiritual satnav. We go into an unfamiliar situation and don’t know where to turn next. We get off track and we need to get back on course. Sometimes we might even get lost.

We are blessed to already have that satnav. We have the word of God and we have the indwelling Holy Spirit to guide us on our way.

While the satnav is not perfect, I have found myself a couple of times taking matters in my own hand and wishing I hadn’t. When you miss a turn the device keeps telling you how to get on track. You have to ignore it to go on your own way.

God’s word, along with the Holy Spirit, does the same thing for us. The difference is that His word is never wrong, it never gives a less than perfect option. God’s satnav system is perfect. All we have to do is follow it. 

Monday, 27 June 2011

Strength and song and salvation

The LORD is my strength and song, And He has become my salvation. – Psalm 118v14

I don’t feel much like this phrase from Psalm 118 today. That was a bit blunt, wasn’t it? The truth is, however, that I don’t always feel strong. I don’t always feel like singing. I don’t always feel delivered. That is how it has felt the last few days.

Do you see the problem there? There are two words that pop up over and over in that statement – ‘I’ and ‘feel.’ Though God created us to be have feelings and emotions it is not feelings and emotions that should dictate my attitude toward life and circumstances.

When I get like this the problem is not God’s. He has not changed. He is still my strength and my song and my salvation. He is still there. The problem is that I am ignoring the One who is my strength and song and salvation. It happens when I try to base my strength and my song and my salvation on my situations and circumstances.

A friend posted, in jest, on Facebook yesterday that it was time to get off of Facebook and get back to the real world. I made a statement, most in jest, that the ‘real world ain’t so great’ most of the time. That was all in fun, but in reality the ‘real world ain’t so great’ when I look to it for my strength and song and salvation. It falls far short of the Lord who is those things if I will just get out of the way.

The Lord is still my strength. He still is my song. He is my salvation. Help me Lord to remember that today. 

Sunday, 26 June 2011


It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in man. It is better to trust in the LORD than to put confidence in princes. – Psalm 118v8-9

The first message I ever preached was at a nursing home on Easter, 1975. I found the tape of that message on our recent trip to the States. I am not sure I want to listen to it now (insert a grin here). Though I had a few other opportunities to preach in various place, I think the first time I preached in a church service was in August of 1977. I was preaching at Mt Olive Baptist Church near Dayton, Tennessee. It was shortly after Elvis died. Magazine covers and newspaper headlines told us that ‘The King is Dead.’ Trying to be relevant I preached from Psalm 118v8-9 and I called the message ‘My King is Alive.’

I hate to think what I might have said during that message. I am sure it was full of misapplications and trite sayings.

However the point of the passage and the point of the message have not changed. I spoke about how the whole world was distraught over Elvis’ death. I remember news reports about how some people were saying that life was not worth living now that Elvis was dead. That is, of course, if he was dead, but that is another story (insert another grin here). I spoke of how too often people placed their hopes and desires and focus on humans instead of on God. I spoke of how instead of placing our confidence in God we placed in frail, broken sinners.

The basic truth has not changed. Only One is worthy of our full confidence. Men and governments are bound to let us down.  Christians have become accustomed to relying on the government to protect their supposed rights and liberties. We fail to see that God is the only one in control and He is the only one worthy of our confidence.

Maybe that message was not as bad as I remember it (yet one more grin). 

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Mercy that keeps on mercying

Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let Israel now say, "His mercy endures forever." Let the house of Aaron now say, "His mercy endures forever." Let those who fear the LORD now say, "His mercy endures forever."  - Psalm 118v1-4

It seems like we talk about the mercy of the Lord a lot. I guess that is because the mercy of the Lord is a theme that comes up over and over in the Bible. This Psalm starts out repeating ‘His mercy endures forever’ three or four times. Psalm 136, I believe, repeats ‘His mercy endures forever’ in every single verse. The phrase is often preceded by the words ‘Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good…’

I think the reason that we hear this phrase so often is probably because we need to hear it. It is easy enough, in the midst of reality, to forget that God is truly good and that His mercy just keeps on and on. Like the Energiser (Duracell) bunny in the old ads, God’s mercy just keeps on going and going and going.

One would think that we might be able to use up God’s mercy. I was listening to a podcast recently about the potential for electric cars based on lithium. Lithium is a plentiful element which has the potential to make batteries both cheaper and less costly. The nice thing about lithium is that it is reusable, unlike fossil fuels which may one day run out and cannot be replaced; lithium batteries can be used over and over. It is a power source that won’t run dry.

Of course any illustration has its weaknesses, but this illustrates God’s mercy. We have all we need and it just keeps on working. Unlike batteries though God’s mercy never needs to be recharged – it just keeps on mercying because God is good. He is the energy source for His mercy and He is all powerful and unchanging.

Praise God for mercy which just keeps mercying. 

Friday, 24 June 2011

The shortest psalm

Praise the LORD, all you Gentiles! Laud Him, all you peoples! For His merciful kindness is great toward us, And the truth of the LORD endures forever. Praise the LORD! - Psalm 117v1-2

People like to play with numbers. Psalm 117 is an example of that. If you count things right it is supposed to be the middle chapter of the Bible and the middle words of the middle chapter are ‘the Lord.’ This is supposed to signify a truth we already know – ‘the Lord’ is the centre of the Bible.

That’s a lot of fun and it is a nice little titbit to throw out there. I guess there is nothing wrong with that kind of thing.

One thing that cannot be questioned though is the simple truth that Psalm 117 is near the middle of most English Bibles and it is the shortest ‘chapter’ in the Bible.

The simple truths in this psalm are wonderful. God is to be praised. He shows us His merciful kindness. His truth endures forever.

I have looked at praise the last couple of days (now to apply it.) I will look at mercy tomorrow. That leaves ‘the truth of the Lord endures forever.

In my short life time a lot of things have changed. Things that appalled us back in the 60s and 70s are commonplace today. Words never spoken in public are used by even decent Christian people. The sense of what is right and what is wrong have taken a hammering. This is nothing new – it goes on generation after generation. It is going to continue because ‘evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse as we see the day of the Lord approaching.

But one thing never changes. There is a truth that we can use to anchor our lives. It is indeed the only truth. God’s truth never changes. No matter how society develops and morphs and changes God’s truth never does.

The world has changed a lot since by salvation in 1974. But the gospel that saved me hasn’t. Praise God for His unchangeable truth!

Thursday, 23 June 2011

But we will

The dead do not praise the LORD, Nor any who go down into silence. But we will bless the LORD From this time forth and forevermore. Praise the LORD! - Psalm 115v17-18

The dead cannot praise God – it will then be too late. Praise is an awesome thing. I asked the Lord yesterday to remind me to make it a day of praise from sunrise to sunset. Several times through the day He reminded me to stop and praise. Best of all, just as the ‘going down of the sun,’ was about to take place my pastor posted on Facebook that his parents had been saved after more than 43 years of witnessing and praying. What a blessing and what a blessing to praise at the end of the day!

It is easy to praise God at those times – but what we need to work on his constant praise. In that regard I like what Rick Warren tweated this morning –‘It's both arrogant & foolish for me to tell GOD which of his actions are loving & just & which ones aren’t. I mean, come on! 

God is worthy of our praise simply because He is God – we don’t need to worry or wonder about if His actions fit our ideas of goodness. His thoughts are so far above our thoughts that we can’t even grasp the difference. We can’t measure His ways by ours. Indeed, come on!

Praise is a choice. It is a decision. The dead cannot praise the Lord – but we will bless Him forever from this very moment.

Can we make that decision to praise the only One who is worthy to be praised? Come on, how arrogant and foolish for us to do otherwise! 

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

All Day Long

From the rising of the sun to its going down The LORD's name is to be praised. - Psalm 113v3
We can never praise God too much. The psalmist writes of praising God the sunrise to sunset.

I don’t have much to say about this today, except for the fact that I am really convicted by it. The Lord’s name is to be praised from sunrise to sunset. As I sit here this morning I think about how seldom during a day that real heartfelt praise comes to mind. It seems I have time for everything else, but how often do I just stop and praise?

I can let my thoughts run to fears and frets and worries and concerns. All of those are the opposite of praise. They all imply that God isn’t strong enough to deal with my concerns so I need to shoulder them myself.

I do all of the everyday stuff; working on messages, getting ready for outreaches, trying to witness, being there for the church, and sorts of necessary things. Those are all the good. But should I do them to the exclusion of praise?

I spend time with my family. I talk to the kids and read and play with the grandchildren. These too are good things, Biblical things indeed. But I can do with selfishly and without regard to praise.

I watch the television, play games, browse the internet, and post of Facebook. These are not bad things either.

The point is not that any of these things are good or bad, except the worrying of course – that is just sin. The point is that we can get so caught up in the everyday stuff that we forget about praise.

Instead of worrying could I not turn my thoughts to trusting and praising? While I involved in the business could I not praise God for the chance to serve Him? While doing all of those family things I should praise God that He has given me a family. Even in my leisure time I should praise God by the things I choose to do.

I guess the simple test should be this – do I do all I do in a way that ultimately is done in His praise?

Help me remember Lord to praise you all day today. It is a long time from sunrise to sunset in Ireland on June 22. What a perfect day to try out praising Him all day! 

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Useless help

Give us help from trouble, For the help of man is useless.  - Psalm 108v12

Where do we go for help? What do we do in times of trouble? Hopefully we all generally look to the Lord for help in time of trouble. That just makes sense for God’s children, if we need help we call on our Father.

Of course we also seek help from our friends and associates. We seek help from our pastors and other mentors. There is nothing wrong with that, the Bible tells us that there is safety in a multitude of counsellors.

The problem arises when we look at the help itself. Just because we seek help from godly people does not mean that the advice is always going to be godly. There are times when man’s advice might seem more practical or applicable than God’s advice.

But God’s word is perfect. He is always right. His help is always the right help. Man may give the most ‘logical’ advice, but unless it is based on God’s help then it is indeed, as the psalmist said – useless.

Is those days of trouble there is only one way out – God’s help. Everything else is going to be useless at best. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Whoever is wise

The righteous see it and rejoice, And all iniquity stops its mouth. Whoever is wise will observe these things, And they will understand the lovingkindness of the LORD. - Psalm 107v42-43

This psalm was written in the context of Israel and their turning from God while Moses was away. He was gone longer than they thought he should be gone so they figured that God must not be working. A few jerks came along and convinced them that since God wasn't working, they needed a new god. They gave up on God and took matters into their own hands.

The previous verses all tell us about how great God is. They speak of His mercy and provision and goodness. These things get forgotten when things go downhill. We go so caught up in God not working the way we want that we forget to see that He is working in His way.

But theses verses remind us of the truth. The righteous see God work and rejoice. Whoever is wise understands God's lovingkindness. And all iniquity is stopped.

Sometimes we all get caught in the trap of failing to see God. If we are walking in righteousness we choose to see God at work and rejoice. If we are wise we understand His lovingkindness.

How do we handle these things when we see them? Do we see them in the light of worldly wisdom, or do we choose to be wise in God's eyes?

It could make all the difference in the world. 

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Broken chains

Those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, Bound in affliction and irons—Because they rebelled against the words of God, And despised the counsel of the Most High, Therefore He brought down their heart with labour; They fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, And He saved them out of their distresses. He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death, And broke their chains in pieces. - Psalm 107v10-14

These few verse are an amazing picture of the love and mercy of God. It speaks for the nation of Israel, but it also speaks of us. These people, and indeed we, were trapped in the chains and shackles of sin. These chains were of our own making. We, and they, put on these irons because of rebellion against God's word and despising and rejecting His counsel.

It would be one thing if someone else had chained us and then we had been delivered. That would be the norm. But we put on our own chains and shackles and prison irons. And we kept putting on more and more locks and more and more chains.

But God brought us out of that prison. He saved us from our distress. He brought us out of the darkness of our prison cell. He smashed our chains to pieces.

Why would He do that? Because of His love and grace and mercy -because that is who He is. He did it because He is love.

What did this great work take – there was no one else to help so we called out to Him. He allowed us to suffer the consequences of our chains so that we would call out, and when we did He acted.

Our chains are smashed. Sins no longer bind us. Praise God for that kind of love and mercy. 

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Oh that men would give thanks

Oh, that men would give thanks to the LORD for His goodness, And for His wonderful works to the children of men! - Psalm 107v8

Oh that men would give thanks. What a wonderful thought. Psalm 107 is very much a psalm of thanksgiving. While I was reading through it I came across these words in 'The Valley of Vision.'

'Thanks be to thee for my high and holy calling.
I bless thee for ministering angels, for the comfort of thy Word, for the ordinances of the church, for the teaching of the Spirit, for thy holy sacraments, for the communion of the saints, for Christian fellowship, for the recorded annals of holy lives, for examples sweet to allure, for beacons sad to deter.'

Like the psalmist in Psalm 107 the writer of these words decides to focus his thoughts on thanksgiving. A lot of people have prayer lists, but I wonder how many of us have a thanks list.'

Oh that we would learn how to give thanks. God is work. He does His wonderful works to the children of men. Sometimes it might help us to keep a list of those wonderful works and give him thanks from our thanks list.

My prayer life is not perfect. What makes it worse is that in my prayer time I too often get so focused in the asking that I forget about the thanking.

In everything give thanks. Be care-ful for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving... Giving thanks always.

We could go on and on.

Oh that I would remember to give thanks. My God certainly deserves it. 

Friday, 17 June 2011

They forgot God

They forgot God their Saviour, Who had done great things in Egypt, Wondrous works in the land of Ham, Awesome things by the Red Sea. - Psalm 106v21-22

Here we find the children of Israel camped in Sinai. Moses went up into the mountain to talk to God and he was gone longer than they expected and some of them thought it was time to take matters into their own hands. They melted gold and shaped a great golden ox to worship. They forgot God the saviour. They forgot his works in Egypt. They forgot the miracles. They forgot the awesome things He had done at the Red Sea.

How could they do that?' we might ask, 'How could they forget the plagues and the provision and the amazing parting of the Red Sea? How could they forget all these wonders?'

We can say that because it is much easier for us to point fingers than to look at our own hearts. How often do you and I face a crisis when things don't go the way we want? How often do we forget God when He doesn't move as fast as we want? We may not mould a golden ox, but we worship the gods of our our minds. We turn to the gods of self reliance and self sufficiency and submit to them with worries and frets and fears.

Self reliance is a terrible god. When I worship it with my prayers of worry and fear I am as guilty of forgetting God as these people were. God forgive me. 

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Seek the Lord!

Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD! Seek the LORD and His strength; Seek His face evermore! - Psalm 105v3-4

It seems like folks will look almost anywhere for help advice and counsel. This is nothing new, but there seems to be a real resurgence of fortune tellers, clairvoyants, mystics, and all kinds of sources to get advice on how to handle the future or what to do next.

Times of trouble tend to push people to these things, trying to find some kind of hope. Normally they get some kind of vague reason to have hope that things are going to get better, that good news is going to come. Then people leave satisfied that everything is going to be grand.

It is almost uncanny that in seeking all this help people too seldom seek the One who really has the answers. With all of this kind of stuff going on people are still turning their backs on the only one who can really help.

It is sad that though God's children may not go to that extreme, we still tend to look everywhere for help or advice on how to handle a situation. We look to a book or visit a website or post a status on Facebook trying to figure out what to do next. While, obviously, there is wisdom in seeking godly advice, there are times when we might depend more on that advice than on the source of advice Himself.

Let the hearts of those who rejoice who seek the Lord. Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore.'

Maybe this morning is just the right time to seek the Lord's face for that challenge ahead. 

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Sweet meditation

May my meditation be sweet to Him; I will be glad in the LORD. - Psalm 104v34

These words just sort of caught my eye. I like the sound of these 'sweet meditations' and those sweet meditations would let me 'be glad in the Lord.'

I also find this convicting. I think about those times of sweet meditations, when my contemplations about God and what He has done are so pleasant to be almost overwhelming. But then I think of all those hours spent is rotten meditation. I am amazed at where my mind can go when it is not trained and focused on my Saviour. Instead of sweet meditations and pleasant contemplations sometimes I have the ugliest of mediations and fleshly horrible contemplations.

Why is that? Why is it that when I KNOW that my sweetest and most pleasant meditations are on the Lord do I wander off into all that other junk? Why do I do that when I always feel miserable afterwards and I always feel miserable after my fleshly meditations.

Of course we know the answer – we still have to live in the flesh. That is why the psalmist prayed that his meditations would be sweet to God. When we are tempted to meditate on the filth of this present world may we ask God for His help to meditate on those sweet and precious thoughts of Him and His wonderful works.

May I have sweet meditations on my Lord throughout today. 

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

A father's love

As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. - Psalm 103v13

Sometimes the word picture painted in the Bible just really say it all. As a long time parent and now grandparent I am pretty familiar with the relationship between parents and their children. The verse reminds us of that relationship.

When we, well at least when I read the word 'pity' today I tend to think of the idea of feeling sorry for someone and taking that into account in how they treat them. It also draws up images of someone being pitiful and miserable.

Pity is not really too far off from that. It does not have to have a negative connotation. Pity is the ability to see the needs of one and take compassion in dealing with them. That kind of pity describe the proper relationship between parents and their children.

None of us like to see our children hurt. That doesn't mean that we always do whatever they want done. It means that we see them with pity, or, of you will, an abundance of compassion when we deal with them.

This kind of pity doesn't change. It endures. It is the same compassion that God has for His children.

George Strait said it well in his song about a father's love. It speaks of a son 'in trouble' with his dad.
I got sent home from school one day with a shiner on my eye
Fighting was against the rules and it didnt matter why
When Dad got home I told that story just like Id rehearsed
Then stood there on those trembling knees and waited for the worst 

And they said, Let me tell you a secret, about a fathers love
A secret that my daddy said was just between us
You see daddies don't just love their children every now and then
Its a love without end, amen, its a love without end, amen 

I don't have any idea about Strait's theology, but he goes on to relate this incident to dying and wondering what would happen with all of his sins. He speaks of 'standing at the pearly gates' and hearing the words of the chorus from inside heaven.

I think we can illustrate the truth of Psalm 103v13 with those words. Indeed daddies don't just love their children every now and then. Its a love without end. Amen and amen. That includes our heavenly Daddy. 

Monday, 13 June 2011

East and west

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, Nor punished us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him; As far as the east is from the west, So far has He removed our transgressions from us. - Psalm 103v10-12
'God has dealt with us according to our sins.' We could just stop there if we wanted. Those words alone should cause us to stop and contemplate their meaning. 'The wages of sin is death.' That is all that we deserve. If God dealt with us according to our sins we would long ago be dead and burning in the pits of hell. That is how ugly sin is – that is the consequence of sin. That is what we should have.

But He didn't do that. As we know now He provided a payment. Through Jesus Christ the penalty for our sins has been paid.

'As the heavens are higher than the earth...' The heavens go on for infinity, there is no end to them. That is how great God's mercy are, there is no end to them. They just keep on keeping on.

How far are our sins separated? 'As far as the east is from the west, that's how far God has separated our sins from us. I don't think it is a mistake or by coincidence that God used east-west instead of north-south.

If I we are pilot and could get a flight plan to fly due north for an unrestricted time I would head out of Dublin. I would soon be headed across the Northern Ireland, then some of the islands of Scotland. Then I would be on the open sea. I would cross the Arctic Circle, and depending on the time of year and iced flow I would fly over some measure of ice until I reached the North Pole. Then I would be stuck. I could no longer fly north. No matter what direction I went I would have to fly south. 'North' would have run out.

But if I came back home and filed a flight plan to fly east as far as I could it would be a different story. I would cross the Irish Sea into the UK. I would cut across Poland and Belarus, then I would spend a long time flying across Russia. I would cross the Pacific, possibly crossing the Aleutian Islands of Alaska, then spend some time flying over Canada. Once I crossed the Atlantic I would again be over Ireland, and then Dublin again. No matter how far I flew eat I would never run out of east.

That is how far God has separated our sins from us. God's mercy is infinite and He separates our sins by infinity.

What a merciful God we have. 

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Who satisfies

Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle's. - Psalm 103v5

It seems like we are on a constant chase for satisfaction. The problem is that we tend to seek it in all the wrong places. We look for satisfaction in our jobs or our bank accounts or in friends or in fitness or even in all the terribly wrong places. Some folks looks for satisfaction in sex or drugs or any number of sinful activities.

'I can't get no satisfaction' is more than just a phrase in a rock song. It can sometimes seem to be almost a societal theme song as folks spend their whole lives trying to find that elusive thing called 'satisfaction.'

The desire to have more and more is a kind of hunger. Sometimes it might be sated, sometimes we might be full, but the hunger always comes back.

The problem is that we can only have perfect satisfaction and perfect contentment when we have the right goals and desires. The problem is that we hunger after all the wrong things. Haggai wrote of this hunger in Haggai 1 – 'You have sown much, but you bring in little. You eat, but you are not full. You drink, but you are still thirsty. You buy new clothes, but you are not warm. You make are you wages, but it is like you have a money bag with holes in it.'

Of course God's word has the answer. 'Bless the Lord...who satisfies your mouth with good things.' This fits in perfectly with the constant Bible theme of contentment. We have to fix our wanter if we hope to find contentment and satisfaction.

The Lord is the true source of true satisfaction. Only He can satisfy and make us whole.

So bless the Lord. Only He can satisfy with the good things that give us the strength to keep on keep on.  

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Don't forget

Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, - Psalm 103v2-4

I can't say that I have had an especially busy week. It has been pretty normal in the things that had to be done, and I was not overwhelmed with work. Saying that, it has been a busy week in my head. When I get these weeks where my mind is full of thoughts and concerns and frets and ideas and worries it is easy to forget the more important things.

Maybe that is why God allows us to have wonderful reminders such as found in Psalm 103. 'Give blessing to the Lord, O my soul. Don't forget the benefits He provides. He forgives and heals, He redeems our lives from destruction. He crowns us with His livingkindness and with His tender mercies.'

When we forget this we are going to get down and discouraged. We are going to seem defeated. But if we can choose to remember the right things we can lay those things aside and keep moving on.

Sometimes I have to dig down real deep into the area of my life called 'raw faith.' Sometimes our comfort might only be that we can rest in the knowledge that no matter what else we have been redeemed from the destruction that our sin deserves. In that we can find the strength to keep on going.

Most of us are never going to receive any kind of earthly crown or recognition. We might as well get used to that truth.

However, because He has redeemed us we have His crowns of lovingkindness and tender mercy. That is all the crown I need. So when it gets busy and our minds our racing, let us be sure that we don't forget His marvellous benefits. 

Friday, 10 June 2011


They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end. - Psalm 102v26-27

There are a lot of wonderful attributes of God. I used to try and figure out which was the 'most important' but I have since come to realise that trying to do so demeans the others, and in reality all of them contribute to God being who He is.

With that disclaimer I do have times when certain attributes of God seem kind of special. One of the attributes that sticks out to personally at times is what we call His attribute of immutability – the knowledge that God never changes, even in the slightest.

As I read through my Bible I see the picture of a marvellous all powerful, all knowing, all seeing, ever present God. I see the God who said 'let their be light.' I see the God who parted the Red Sea. I see the God who delivered His people. I see the God who healed the sick and raised the dead. I see the God who sent His son, permitted Him to be crucified,and raised Him from the dead.

Sometimes I can see the power of God bound my the pages of my Bible. Then I am reminded of this marvellous truth. 'You are the same.' 'I am the Lord, I change not.' 'Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.'

Everything else is transitory. Things change. Just this morning I took friends to the airport who are moving back to America. These kind of changes just happen. Every time I go to the States things have changed. Ireland is not the country it was when we first visited twenty years ago.

Things change. God does not. He is the same God today that He was in the days of old. He is the God who did all the things mentioned above. 'Immortal, invisible, God only wise, in light inaccessible hid from our eyes, most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days, almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise. Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light, nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might; thy justice like mountains high soaring above thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.'

This is still the God we serve today! Maybe my problems are not so big after all. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Guarding the eyegate

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes; I hate the work of those who fall away; It shall not cling to me. - Psalm 101v3

We all know the wisdom on taking note of what we allow into our minds. We can't always help what gets in. Sometimes we are going along walking down the road, watching the television, working online, or whatever and something pops up. It is there, it is in your mind, and there is nothing we can do about it. By God's grace we can lay those things aside and move on.

But let's be honest, shall we. I don't think that we always avoid the opportunities. There are times when we are tempted to put ourselves in situations where we know that we are going input things into our lives that don't belong there.

The psalmist knew of this draw. There was all kinds of wickedness going on around him. He wrote about walking uprightly, doing the right thing starting at home, and setting no wicked thing before his eyes. He strove to walk uprightly and part of that was watched what he, well, watched.

We live in a day full of visual images. Everywhere we turn there are thing that we see that tempt us to be drawn away. We don't need to add to those images of our own volition. The psalmist's advice to 'set no wicked thing before our eyes' is probably more valuable and needed today than it has ever been. 

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

He is coming

For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth. - Psalm 96v13

Hold on folks – He is coming! We thinking about the coming of Christ mostly in a New Testament context, but God's people have been looking for Him to come for a ling time. Even Job knew that his Redeemer would one day stand on the earth. The prophets wrote about Messiah reigning physically on the earth. Jesus told the disciples that He was going to get a place ready and that He would be back for them. The angels told the disciples that Jesus would be coming back. John wrote 'even so come Lord Jesus.'

Something that the Old Testament folks, but that we are privy to, is that Jesus' coming was in two parts. I don't think we can totally blame them for their disappointment when His first coming didn't do all the expected. Though the scriptures did teach that Messiah had to suffer, die, and rise again most of them missed it.

We know the truth now. We know that He is still coming back to sort things out one day. It seems like a long, long time for us, but God doesn't work in our time frame. He is eternal and operates with an eternal mindset.

As bad as it seems we just need to hold on – He is coming back. In the meantime all we are to do is keep living for Him and sharing the gospel with others while we still have the time. 

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

A hardened heart

For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand. Today, if you will hear His voice: "Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion, As in the day of trial in the wilderness, - Psalm 95v7-8

'Today, if you will hear God's voice, do not harden your hearts.' As Mary and I were out cycling yesterday I thought about Christian friends and others who I know of who seemingly have just hardened their hearts to the working of God in their lives. Folks can find a sin that they just seemingly can't forsake. Their affection for that sin hardens their hearts to the point that their lives get worse and worse.

It is easy to sit back and shake our heads and say 'how sad' when we see this. That suits us because it is them, not us, who are guilty.

Yet, before we get too smug, maybe we should look in the mirror. Though the extent may vary we need to ask ourselves a simple question – 'Is a hard hearted attitude ever right?'

'What do you mean, Roger?' you might ask.

I think back to times in my life when I make the wrong choose and decide to go ahead with my sin. It can be almost like the cartoon of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. When I make my choice to allow sin to take control I have to ignore the working of God. I must harden my heart to what is right and do what is wrong.

Does that kind of hardness please God any more than the more dramatic kind?

Somehow I doubt it. 

Monday, 6 June 2011

Shall He not see?

He who planted the ear, shall He not hear? He who formed the eye, shall He not see? He who instructs the nations, shall He not correct, He who teaches man knowledge? The LORD knows the thoughts of man, That they are futile. - Psalm 94v9-11

This world seems to think that God is sort of passe. I heard a podcast the other day where a man was explaining the reasons why we may or may not need or invent god or some something else to beleive in. Various sources have declared the the past that God was dead. Nietzsche wrote that God was dead, and that we had killed Him. Those ideas seemingly and become a part of life. We have written God out of our lives. We have outgrown God.

Because we have outgrown God we now ignore Him. We think we can go on our way without any regard for Him. It is kind of like the parents being gone and the kids at home are running amok.

The problem is not so much what the world is doing, but what happens when we allow their thinking to creep in our minds. We can get so distracted with all the stuff that we forget that God really hasn't moved or changed.

The God who invented hearing hears. The God who made the eye sees. The God who rules over and directs nations will teach. The God who teaches man everything knows the thoughts of men. He also knows that they are futile.

God still sees and hears and teaches and knows. We all need to remember that the next time we get, as folks used to say in the American south, 'too big for our britches.' 

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Taking refuge

He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. - Psalm 91v4

It has been a bad year for tornadoes in America. There are hundreds of stories about compassion and caring that have come out of these stories. Tornadoes have been popping up in the strangest places. Last week a couple of them struck the state of Massachusetts which is normally not prone to tornadoes.

After that storm an amazing and tragic story came forth. For those who don't know about these storms there are certain precautions that you are supposed to take. One of them is that you should go to a room with no windows, like an interior bathroom. Then you are supposed to get into the bathtub and try to cover yourself with blankets or cushions. This does not provide the refuge that a cellar or storm shelter provides, but it is something.

In this case a mother heeded the advice. She took her young child into the bathtub and shielded the child with her body. Their home took a direct hit. When rescuers arrived, they found the child alive and well, but the mother who had used her own body to shield her child was dead. She literally gave her life to protect her child.

Now, while this illustration, like all others is not perfect, it does give us something of a picture of what God says in Psalm 91v4.

'He shall cover you with His feathers, under His wings you shall take refuge, His truth will be your shield and buckler.'

We live in a stormy world. Those tornadoes of life are always on the radar. Sometimes those sirens sound out. The wonderful thing is that during those storms we have the perfect place of refuge. The Lord is our Rock. In Him we can hide. He is that perfect shelter in the time of storm. 

Saturday, 4 June 2011

This old life

The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, Yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; For it is soon cut off, and we fly away. - Psalm 90v10

Seventy or eighty years. That's about it. That's about all we can really expect. Years have passed, science has progresses, life spans have changed. But still when it comes right down to seventy or eighty years here is about all we can expect.

I am about to turn 56 years old. I realise that unless I get sick or have an accident I probably have 15 or 20 or so years left. Science being what it is I may have a bit longer, but chances are I have lived the majority of my life on earth already.

That's kind of discouraging in a way. And then we read the rest of the verse – 'yet their boast is only labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, then we die.'

Yuck. I thought we read the psalms for encouragement.

I get to live seventy or eighty years. Those years are full of work and sorrow. And then I die.

Life stinks. As I used to tell students when they said 'that's not fair.' I would reply, 'Life's not fair, then you die.' Or, as Westley replied to Buttercup in 'The Princess Bride' when he 'mocked her pain' – 'Life is pain. Anybody who says different is trying to sell you something.'

That might be how it seems if we are looking in the wrong place. As Christians we can find things, in a sense, even worse. The world seems to prosper and go on their merry way. We try to live for the Lord and life is still of labour and sorrow and the day of out cut off gets closer and closer.

In the great Resurrection Chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 Paul addressed this issue. It is the resurrection of Christ that turns this all around. Without it, live would really and truly stink. Paul wrote 'If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.'

Life is tough. Sure, it has its good moments. We have those golden fleeting moments when everything just seems right with the world and we are totally at peace and contentment.

But that doesn't last. Bad stuff happens. Life is labour and sorrow – and then we die.

But we do have a hope. The same resurrection that declared Jesus to be the Son of God gives us the promise of new life beyond this hard and sorrowful one.

I skipped something on purpose. I like the way the psalmist refers to death – 'then we will fly away.'

Because it has become a part of our culture anyone who reads words are drawn to an old gospel song.

Some glad morning when this life is o'er,
I'll fly away;
To a home on God's celestial shore,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).

When the shadows of this life have gone,
I'll fly away;
Like a bird from prison bars has flown,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).

Just a few more weary days and then,
I'll fly away;
To a land where joy shall never end,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away)

I'll fly away, Oh Glory
I'll fly away; (in the morning)
When I die, Hallelujah, by and by,
I'll fly away (I'll fly away).

Life is tough – but I am looking forward to the day when we get to fly away! 

Friday, 3 June 2011

Those secret sins

You have set our iniquities before You, Our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. - Psalm 90v8

What about those rotten little sins that we think we get away with? If we are not dealing with any of these at the moment, I suspect we all know about those 'secret sins.' Sometimes they may be obvious, physical, external sins that we think we have pulled off when no one is watching. Afterwards we think that, because no one saw us, we are okay and we 'got away with it it.' On a brief side note here, it amazes me what well known people do in this regard. Are sometimes their stupidity amazes me. The dumb stunts they pull off seem unreal, and they have to know they are going to get caught!

More often though I suspect that these secret sins are sins of the heart and mind. We allow sinful thoughts and ideas to roil in our heads and think that we can control them. Lust, anger, covetousness, bitterness, and jealousy are among those kinds of sins. Unless we 'blow it' we think that nobody knows.

On second thought, maybe my note about famous people was not just a side note. Eventually these folks get caught by the media or some enemy exposes them or someone trying to make a name for themselves posts something on Twitter or Facebook or YouTube and then the whole world knows. We then wonder if they have any sense at all.

Really those, when we think that we can keep our sins secret was are just as foolish as these people, if not more so. While they have to worry about the media or their enemies or whatever they might just pull it off. They might no get caught. They might just get away with it.

We, on the other hand, have someone even more knowing that the media. We have someone who does not have to depend on a slip up or us taking the wrong step. Here is what the psalmist says about God and our sins.

'You have set our iniquities before you. Our secret sins are exposed to the light of Your countenance.'

God does not need Twitter or Facebook or YouTube. He already sees those secret sins. We, like the celebrities who get caught, can try to explain things away. But God has seen it all.

Now who seems like the fool?

There is an answer. Deal with those sins, confess and forsake them, and let God permanently erase them.