Tuesday, 28 February 2017

That I might not sin

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 119.9-11

How do I deal with sin?
How do we avoid sin?

This is quite a pair of questions because sin is something that is always there and always needs dealt with. Even though we are free from sin’s penalty and free from sin’s power we are not yet free from it’s presence.

How can a young man live a clean and pure life?
By taking heed to the word of God.

How do we avoid sin?
By meditating on the word of God.

The word of God is our only hope. Self reformation, even for the Christian, is a waste. We can’t do it because it is like the blind leading the blind. A sinful creature can’t lead the way to holy choices.

Are you and I taking heed to the word of God? Is our meditation on it, or on all the things that can draw away our attention?

Victory over besetting sin is ours – if we are willing to seek it in the Bible.

Monday, 27 February 2017

That my ways were directed

You have commanded us
To keep Your precepts diligently.
Oh, that my ways were directed
To keep Your statutes!
Then I would not be ashamed,
When I look into all Your commandments. – Psalm 119.4-6

It can very hard to find direction on where to turn next. There are many times in our lives when we just wonder ‘what do I do next?’ Where do I turn?’ ‘Who do I turn to?’ Sometimes these decisions we have to make can be overwhelming to the point of despair.

There is an answer for us here in Psalm 119 – ‘Oh that my ways were directed to keep your statutes.’

Most of us who are saved any amount of time have some idea of what God’s word says. Most of us have a general sense of what we should or should not do. If we are in a place where someone has left their bicycle unlocked and we need a bike it doesn’t take much guidance to tell us to leave it there.

But not everything is quite so cut and dry. Some choices are neither back or white but are some shade of grey. It is then that we need God’s direction.

Fortunately God provides a signpost for us – and He provides a navigation tool as well. The signpost is the word of God. No matter what crossroads we come across God has the directions laid out clearly for us. Then as we travel along the way we are promised the Holy Spirit who will guide us into all truth. He is the one who says, ‘at the next roundabout, take the third exit.

Between the word of God to direct us and the one the sport guidance of the Holy Spirit we can have the direction we need to make the right decisions.

Now all we have to do is to follow.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

It is better to trust in the Lord

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 118.8-9

It can be so easy to misplace our trust. It is really easy to trust in our stuff. It is easy to trust our bank accounts. It is obviously very easy to put our trust in  leaders or governments. There is no shortage of things we can trust.

Here though David deals with putting our trust in others. I suspect he does that because we are so tempted to to trust other men and even easier to trust those in authority. We all are drawn to trust government leaders.

But God makes it clear – it is better to trust God than man. Indeed, it is better to trust in the Lord than in our government leaders.

Sometimes we can live like the most important thing in the world is how the next election is going to win. We can think our entire future rests on who the next taoiseach or prime minister or premier or president is going to be. If our choice loses we think it is the end of the world and if our choice wins we think everything is going to be fine.

But the reality is that it really doesn’t matter in the long run. It may make our temporary circumstances better or worse, but when it comes to eternity all that matters is that we trust God.

So let us keep our eyes on Him and our reliance on who He is. None of the rest of it really matters to the citizens of heaven.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Real truth endures

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 117

There is a lot of talking going on about what is and what is not truth. We are reading about facts and alternative facts. We are told to that we need to look to this person or this source to find out the truth and then realise that the ‘truth’ is always changing.

I have been rereading bits and pieces of Orwell lately. In his 1984 he relates a dystopian world where truth changes on a whim. Nothing is sure. The Ministry of Truth is in charge of lies. The whole premise is that truth is flexible and changeable and 2+2 can even equal 5.

That seems to be world’s view of truth today. Truth lasts as long as it is profitable.

 But God’s truth is different. The truth of the Lord simply endures forever. What God says is true 1,000, 2,000, and 3,000 years ago is still true day. It will be true tomorrow. It will be true 1,000, 2,000, 3,000 years from now and more.

Let us not discouraged by the redefining of truth. Truth is truth. God’s word is truth. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life.

Let us go forward leaning on the truth that truly endures.

Friday, 24 February 2017

I am your servant

O Lord, truly I am Your servant;
I am Your servant, the son of Your maidservant;
You have loosed my bonds.
I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And will call upon the name of the Lord. – Psalm 116.12-17

Being a servant is not something most of us would choose to do. The idea of being subject to someone else’s whims and desires certainly doesn’t appeal to me. War have been fought to free people from servanthood.

And yet this is a term that is prominent throughout the word of God. ‘The servant of the Lord’ is an honoured title. Over and over again Paul refers to himself as the ‘bondservant’ of the Lord.

The great problem lies in the fact that we are all servants. We either serve self, sin, and Satan or we serve Christ. Salvation frees us from the power of sin over us. It can no longer be our master. We have a new Master in Christ and serving Him should be a joy because we serve a Master who only loves us and desires what is best for us.

Jesus has indeed loosed us from the bonds of sin and lovingly accepts us as His servants instead.

While there is only misery and emptiness in serving sin there is joy in serving Jesus.

Jesus Himself to took on the form of a servant – make me a servant like Jesus.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

The Lord is mindful

The Lord has been mindful of us;
He will bless us;
He will bless the house of Israel;
He will bless the house of Aaron.
He will bless those who fear the Lord,
Both small and great.
May the Lord give you increase more and more,
You and your children.
May you be blessed by the Lord,
Who made heaven and earth. – Psalm 115.12-15

Why in the world would God even bother with us? We have made a real muck of it. Adam and Eve’s sin has passed on to all of us and that sin has wrecked the world. To me it would absolute sense if God just wiped us all out.

The psalmist speaks to Israel, but we can just as surely, or even more surely, say with him ‘the Lord has been mindful of us.’

For us that mindfulness goes beyond just being declared His nation of His people. For us His mindfulness means that He sent His son to die for each and every one of us. It means that He knows each of us and that He knows just what we need.

It is only the love of God that can explain His mindfulness. Our rebellion against Him deserves nothing but His wrath.

But still He cares and His caring sent His Son. He is mindful of us and will bless us, even when we don’t deserve it.

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

The mighty power of God

And Israel His dominion.
The sea saw it and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
The little hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you fled?
O Jordan, that you turned back?
O mountains, that you skipped like rams?
O little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of waters. – Psalm 114

I think sometimes we can take the mighty power of God for granted. I think we miss out how just how great He is. When things get tough for us and we worry about the future it is because we don’t recognise just how great He is.

Here the psalmist speak of the world trembling at His power seen in His creation. God’s power parted the Red Sea. It parted the Jordan River. God’s power moves mountains and can put pools of water where there were once rocks. God’s power causes the very world to tremble.

The great Isaac Watts spoke of the power of God in his mighty hymn.

I sing the mighty power of God, that made the mountains rise,
That spread the flowing seas abroad, and built the lofty skies.
I sing the wisdom that ordained the sun to rule the day;
The moon shines full at God’s command, and all the stars obey.

I sing the goodness of the Lord, who filled the earth with food,
Who formed the creatures through the Word, and then pronounced them good.
Lord, how Thy wonders are displayed, where’er I turn my eye,
If I survey the ground I tread, or gaze upon the sky.

There’s not a plant or flower below, but makes Thy glories known,
And clouds arise, and tempests blow, by order from Thy throne;
While all that borrows life from Thee is ever in Thy care;
And everywhere that we can be, Thou, God art present there.

This psalm and Watts’ words remind us of the mighty power of God who is ready and willing to work in our lives. Since God can create the world, part the Red Sea, divide the Jordan River, deliver 6,000,000 people from captivity, and change the hearts of lives of people who turn to Him surely that is cause for me to trust Him with my future.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

He lifted me up

Who humbles Himself to behold
The things that are in the heavens and in the earth?
He raises the poor out of the dust,
And lifts the needy out of the ash heap,
That He may seat him with princes—
With the princes of His people. – Psalm 113.6-8

I preach a message on this passage called ‘From the Dung Heap to the Prince’s Seat’ or ‘From Gong Farmer to Prince.’ It is taken from the phrase ‘He lifts the needy out of the ash heap that He may seat him with princes.’

Let me explain. We are fortunate enough that we live in a land full of medieval castles. These castles of course did not have indoor plumbing, but they did have a version of an indoor toilet. This small alcoves were called garderobes. They were simply holes cut in the stone and covered by a plank of wood. The waste usually fell into a chamber at ground level.

The gong farmer was hired to come in and collect the waste to be hauled off for fertiliser. His work would also stir up ammonia which served as a disinfectant to kill lice and such in the clothes hanging in the garderobe.

I can’t imagine a worse job. It was truly the pits. Day after day of cleaning out that waste was a hopeless and thankless job. There really was no future.

Living in the castle above was the royal family. They enjoyed the benefits of the work of the gong farmer and other workers.

Now imagine the king going down one night to where the the gong farmer was getting ready to start work. ‘Put down your shovel, you are coming with me.’ The king took him, had the servants help clean him up, gave him a set of royal robes, and took him up to his new room in the royal chambers.

Imagine the gratitude of the man that night as he climbed into his new bed in the (relative) comfort of the castle.

Sounds a bit unreal, doesn’t it?

But that is exactly, precisely what the psalmist says here about what happens when God delivers one who trusts Him. It is what He did for us when He saved us. Paul even uses the same analogy when he talks about all the good works he used to were nothing but human waste in relation to his salvation. Jesus Christ called him out of that and lifted him up to a royal inheritance.

Ad as believers that is where you and I stand today. We were wallowing in the waste pit of our works and Jesus Christ lifted us up to walk with Him. Our eternity is secure, we have nothing to fear, and we are released from living in the stench.

He has lifted us up.

Monday, 20 February 2017

Being upright in a divisive world

Unto the upright there arises light in the darkness;
He is gracious, and full of compassion, and righteous.
A good man deals graciously and lends;
He will guide his affairs with discretion. – Psalm 112.4-5

What is the upright man?

I know we can talk about the virtues of the upright man and his character. The upright man is holy and just and righteous and he does what is right and he fear God and shuns evil and he goes to church and just does right in his religion.

But here we see a few more things about the upright man:

He is gracious
He is full of compassion
He deal with others graciously
He is generous
He lives a discreet life

How many people would see us as upright if this was a measuring rod? There seems to be a tendency today for a lot of God’s people to get entangled in the affairs of the world and when we do that we will often adopt the tools and the weapons of the world and fight the war in such a way that no one can tell is from the ‘bad guys.’

When we deal with the world we must always stand for the cause of Christ and we can never compromise on the truth of God’s word.

But there are other things that we are not called to battle over. There are areas where we are clearly instructed not to get entangled with the affairs of the world. There are times when we are told to avoid wasteful battles and arguments and ever warned that those discussions a will cause us to ‘bit and devour one another.’

In any case, in our daily life and in our discussions and debates (and Facebook posts and our tweets) we might always ask ourselves:

Am I gracious in my words?
Am I full of compassion in my views about others?
Do I deal with others graciously?
Am I generous in thinking the best of others?
Am I handling these issues with discretion?

If those are the acts of the upright, how are doing? 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

The power of His works

He has declared to His people the power of His works,
In giving them the heritage of the nations.
The works of His hands are verity and justice;
All His precepts are sure.
They stand fast forever and ever,
And are done in truth and uprightness.
He has sent redemption to His people;
He has commanded His covenant forever:
Holy and awesome is His name.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom;
A good understanding have all those who do His commandments.
His praise endures forever. – Psalm 111.6-10

God has declared to the people the power of His works.

This is one of the surest indications that God is who He says He is. He doesn’t just say who He is, He shows us who He is. The heavens declare the glory of God and the firmament shows His handiworks.

God’s shows His power through any number of wonderful works. He created the marvels of nature all around us. He holds it all together. He made us in His image. He made us in a ‘fearful and wonderful’ manner. He allows our lungs to pump air and our hearts to beat.

I live in a beautiful country and all around me I can see some of those marvellous works in the beauty of His creation.

God shows Himself to men by the power of His works, but as mentioned recently the most powerful of His works is what He does in the lives of those who accept Him as saviour.

Oh that men would praise the Lord for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men!

Saturday, 18 February 2017


Your people shall be volunteers
In the day of Your power;
In the beauties of holiness, from the womb of the morning,
You have the dew of Your youth. – Psalm 110.3

A call for loyal soldiers
Comes to one and all;
Soldiers for the conflict,
Will you heed the call?
Will you answer quickly,
With a ready cheer,
Will you be enlisted
As a volunteer?

A volunteer for Jesus,
A soldier true!
Others have enlisted,
Why not you?
Jesus is the Captain,
We will never fear,
Will you be enlisted
As a volunteer?

These are the words to a great old gospel song I have not heard in years. It is a stirring hymn calling God’s people to volunteer as soldiers for Christ. It is reminiscent of Paul’s call for us to ‘endure hardness as a good soldier for Jesus Christ.’ The song is a call for us to dedicate ourselves to God’s service.

God doesn’t force anyone to serve Him, but He does desire that His people will volunteer our lives to a life of serving Him.

But unlike earthly soldiers who are dedicated to some national power, God’s volunteers serve Him in the beauty of holiness. Volunteering for Him means that we give up our own wishes and desires to serve Him in holiness.

As we see things around us in confusion and despair it is more than time for us to step up as volunteers for Jesus and serve Him in the beauty of His holiness.

Friday, 17 February 2017

It was God who did it

Help me, O Lord my God!
Oh, save me according to Your mercy,
That they may know that this is Your hand—
That You, Lord, have done it!
Let them curse, but You bless;
When they arise, let them be ashamed,
But let Your servant rejoice. – Psalm 109.26—29

Help me O Lord…that they may know that You have done it.

I love it when God answers prayer and helps us and works in such a way that it is obvious that only God could have done it.

The clearest example of this kind of work is the very work of salvation from sin. When God works in salvation it is obviously God’s work. Only He could not only change a life, but create a new person. Only He could not only transform a life, but make a new life.

Time after time throughout history God has taken the very worst of society and created a new life in Him. God took a violent, vicious, vile slave trader and made him the author of ‘Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.’ God took a killer of Christians and participant in the first martyrdom and made him the greatest missionary the world has ever known.

One of the greatest picture I have ever seen in my life of God doing a work that only He could do was man. Growing up my dad was never a bad man, but at the same time he could be difficult to get along with. He could be very short and demanding and insistent on everything being done His way. He was never violent or abusive, but very demanding and short on praise.

But then the day came when he accepted Christ as His saviour. This rough, tough, gruff U.S. Army Master Sergeant was nearly overnight turned into a meek and gentle man. The man who was hard as nails become soft and pliable to the moulding of the Holy Spirit. The fighting soldier became a man of love and compassion.

At Dad's funeral my brother George made the point that anyone who knew my dad saw the change in his life when he became a believer.

My few Irish friends who met him only knew his as a meek and gentle spirit.

Indeed only God could have done that mighty work. There was no doubt in my dad’s life that it was ‘God who did it.’

Thursday, 16 February 2017

Help us

Give us help from trouble,
For the help of man is useless.
Through God we will do valiantly,
For it is He who shall tread down our enemies. – Psalm 108.12-13

It is pretty obvious that when we face this world we don’t have much power. We are weak and there is not much we can do. This passage reminds me of the time that Peter stepped out on to the water to walk to Jesus. The thing is that he made it for a while. But then he looked around and saw the storm around him, lost faith, and sank into the water. All he could do then was to cry out ‘Lord, save me.’

And Jesus reached out His hand to do just that. He helped Peter up out of the water and back into the boat.

Peter is not that much different from us. I think we all have, or have had, or will have times in our lives when we get off track or unexpected news comes or the bottom falls out or we just flat out reach the end of our ropes and we can’t see any good in our situations.

Those are the times when we, like Israel above, can cry out ‘give us help in our trouble.’

But I think the Christian’s clearest application here is what we read in Hebrew 2 -
‘Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.’

Jesus became like us so that He could help us in our struggles. His struggles let us know that He knows what it is like to suffer. We don’t have a high priest who doesn’t get it.

He does, and He came to help when we struggle.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Thankful for God's goodness

Oh, that men would give thanks to the Lord for His goodness,
And for His wonderful works to the children of men!
For He satisfies the longing soul,
And fills the hungry soul with goodness. – Psalm 107.8-9

We have so much to be thankful for it is hard to even imagine why we have such a hard time remembering to be thankful.

God is good every day and all the time. His goodness manifests itself in so many ways what His goodness should never be in doubt.

God’s goodness means that I have food to eat and a roof over my head and a bed to sleep in. His goodness has met my needs for forty-three years since my salvation. His wonderful works have given me a marvellous family and wonderful wife who sticks by my side despite my flaws and failures. His goodness and His wonderful works saved me and keeps me saved day after day. His goodness permits me to serve Him. God’s goodness has never failed me – not once.

That’s why I get so frustrated when I, consciously or not, question God’s goodness and His wonderful works for the future. God’s character does not change – and it won’t change. So, I can ask myself, what makes me think His goodness toward me will fail in the years to come?

God is good. He loves me. I belong to Him.

How can I, or how can any of us, fear the future when God has proved His goodness over and over again?

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

God gave them what they wanted

They soon forgot His works;
They did not wait for His counsel,
But lusted exceedingly in the wilderness,
And tested God in the desert.
And He gave them their request,
But sent leanness into their soul. – Psalm 106.13-15

The people of Israel were an ungrateful lot. Despite the provision of fresh water and manna they still were not satisfied. They kept crying and whinging and complaining.They wanted more – they wanted fresh meat and ‘lusted exceedingly in the wilderness.’

So God gave them what they wanted – but they found leanness in their souls.

People of all ages can be the same way. Sometimes people are so stubborn that no matter what they want their way. We know what God’s word says. We know what trusted friends tell us. We know what all the advice is. But still we want our way. And sometimes God lets us have want we do and do what we want to do just so we can learn from the consequences. When we lust exceedingly for things we are never going to be content. We are only going to find leanness in our souls. There will never be satisfaction.

God gave the people the quail they wanted – and more. He gave the quail until the suffocated them. God gave them exactly what they wanted. God knew what was best, but the people would not wait on Him and God did it their way. The consequences were disastrous.

This helps me question if I really want what I want or do I want what I think I want?

There is a way to overcome the wrong wants – if we delight ourselves in the Lord He will give us the desires that are best. When we do that we can be content with what we have because it will be what He knows is best.

Monday, 13 February 2017

He has brought us out

He brought out His people with joy,
His chosen ones with gladness. – Psalm 105.43

God has a way of delivering His people. The clearest picture of God’s bringing out His people of course is when God parted the Red Sea and brought out His people for captivity in Egypt. He did it with joy and gladness and they responded with joy and gladness.

But there is even a greater example of God bringing out His people with joy. When He saved us He redeemed us from the slave market of sin and set us free from the law of sin and death. Now, sin doesn’t have a power to rule over us. The only time sin reigns is when we yield to a power that has no power over us. He brought us out and we can rejoice at what He has. As we consider ourselves dead to sin’s power we can live for Him in gladness.

When God brought His people out of Egypt He parted the waters of the Red Sea to do it. What an amazing miracle.

But the miracle was even greater when He broke the that bound me to by sin and freed me to walk in Him.

No matter what happens in this life we can have joy and delight in the knowledge that our God has brought us out.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

All the days of my life

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
May my meditation be sweet to Him;
I will be glad in the Lord. – Psalm 104.33-34

We saw yesterday that our days are like the grass of the field passing on quickly and then blown away like the dust.

Our days are indeed short. The Bible talks about life spans of 70-80 years and even today that still is a pretty accurate picture of how long we can expect to live. 70-80 years can seem like forever until that time span get to be in sight. Let me assure that the years pass by in a flash.

So it really matters what we do with those years. Are we going to spend them in trivial and vain pursuits or are we going to use them wisely in the real fellowship with  and in the service of our Lord?

David said ‘as long as I live I will sing to the Lord and sing praises to His name. May my meditation be sweet and may I be glad in Him.’ As long as I live.

What a commitment from a man of God. What a challenge to my own heart. I don’t really have time to waste the time I have in self centredness and self focus. Let me spend all my days in praising Him.

The problem is that I can’t do that if I don’t trust Him and I can’t trust Him if I spend my life trusting me to sort things out.

With trust comes the ability to sing praises and meditate on Him – all the days of my life.

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Our days are like grass

For He knows our frame;
He remembers that we are dust.
As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children, - Psalm 103.14-17

Just recently I read a book about the terrible American Dust Bowl. It was all about the destruction of the Great American Plains and the beginning of the Great American Desert which began nearly one hundred years ago. It told the story of how unwise farming methods destroyed the so that the grasses dried up and turned the land to dust and then the winds came and blew the dust away. The dust caused problems from Oklahoma to the American east coast. It caused widespread death and destruction.

I imagined the images from that book as I thought about this passage. In just a short time the beautiful natural grasslands of the American west were wiped away.Where there was once life now there was nothing but death. Where there was once fertile ground there was not nothing but dust.

God uses that image to remind us of the brevity of our lives. We live our lives, we grow and flourish, and then we are gone and the dust returns to dust. All about man is temporary and is quickly gone.

But the mercy of God never goes away. It always remain. It goes on forever and ever. That is why Paul reminds us to keep our eyes on the invisible and eternal things of this world and not the temporary visible things.

All that we see around us and all the people we know will soon be gone.

So let us look to God's eternally abiding mercy.

Friday, 10 February 2017

No end

But You are the same,
And Your years will have no end.
The children of Your servants will continue,
And their descendants will be established before You.” – Psalm 102.27-28

Eventually everything comes to an end. The greatest leaders die. The great empires fall. Great economies collapse. Nothings lasts forever.

Except for God. And He stays the same.

The God who said ‘let there be light’ is still the same God today. The God who parted the Red Sea is just as powerful today. The God who healed the sick and raised the dead will continue on without ended. It only makes sense, He had no beginning and He will have no end.

So while the nations rage and everything goes crazy God continues on and one day He is going to sort it all out.

Not only that, we also have the promise that His people are going to stand forever. No matter how bad it seems the enemy cannot prevail.

No matter what today holds – God is already there and He always will be.

Thursday, 9 February 2017

No wicked thing

I will set nothing wicked before my eyes;
I hate the work of those who fall away;
It shall not cling to me. – Psalm 101.3

Sometimes the Bible is amazing in its simplicity.

The Bible is full of deep theology and amazing teachings that require great study and careful exegesis and precise hermeneutics. Every preacher and Bible teacher must use these tools to garner the great truth of God’s word.

But sometimes it is just simply making an obvious application.

How do we avoid evil and its temptations?

‘I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.’

There it is, the best way to avoid evil is to, well, avoid it. We must be careful to never knowingly put anything evil before our eyes.

But let us say that we can’t help it. Let’s say that it just appears before our eyes?

The same principle applies – when we see evil we don’t let it set itself as the focus of our attention. We turn away. I will set no wicked thing before my eye, and I will not allow anything to set there.

We can’t help what we see, but we can help what we look at.
– Psalm 101.3

Sometimes the Bible is amazing in its simplicity.

The Bible is full of deep theology and amazing teachings that require great study and careful exegesis and precise hermeneutics. Every preacher and Bible teacher must use these tools to garner the great truth of God’s word.

But sometimes it is just simply making an obvious application.

How do we avoid evil and its temptations?

‘I will set no wicked thing before my eyes.’

There it is, the best way to avoid evil is to, well, avoid it. We must be careful to never knowingly put anything evil before our eyes.

But let us say that we can’t help it. Let’s say that it just appears before our eyes?

The same principle applies – when we see evil we don’t let it set itself as the focus of our attention. We turn away. I will set no wicked thing before my eye, and I will not allow anything wicked to set there.

We can’t help what we see, but we can help what we look at.

Wednesday, 8 February 2017

With gladness

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands! Serve the LORD with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the LORD, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. – Psalm 100.1-3

I have to admit something right up front here.

Are you ready?

Though I serve the Lord I am afraid that I do not always do it with gladness.

There you have it. I wish I was stronger and more faithful and always on top of the world, but there are time when I just am not glad about how things are going. Dare I say that if I get my eyes in the wrong place that I can even see serving the Lord as a drudgery?

That is a tragic admission. But I think is can happen to all of us. It happens when we forget who we are serving. It happens when we get focused on ourselves and our situations and circumstances.

There is really no excuse for that kind of behaviour. Sure, we may get tired and down and discouraged, but that is no reason for us to to serve with a gladless heart instead of with gladness.

When I think about what Christ went through for me my heart should be stirred with that gladness. He died for ME, for MY sins, and He took MY place on the cross. How dare I begrudge Him whatever He asks me to do! I am HIS for now and for all eternity.

Give me a day of gladness today, and tomorrow, and the next day, and…

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

At His holy hill

Exalt the LORD our God, And worship at His holy hill; For the LORD our God is holy. – Psalm 99.9

Holiness is seemingly a lost art. It is a lost art not only in the world, but it is increasingly more and more rare even among believers. As the world has become more and more evil the church, while still staying apart from it, can allow itself to also be drawn away from God’s perfect holy standard. Holiness is surely in short order. We exalt ourselves or our countries or our stuff or our sports teams. All of this can lead us to a lack of holiness in our own lives.

‘Worship at God’s holy hill, for the Lord our God is holy.’

We need to be careful that we never get used to our personal or family or our corporate worship. We must never let it get old or mundane. We much always remember who we are worshipping. We worship a holy God. We worship a God who is holy in His nature, holy in His person, and wholly separate from sin.

God’s holiness should have an impact on us. “Be ye holy as I am holy’ God says. We already are made holy in Christ, but even though that is true we are to be striving after holiness in our daily lives.

As we approach God’s holy hill in worship we do so holy is Christ. However let us strive not just to approach Him in our positional holiness. Let us strive to approach in a practical, every day holiness that is reflected in our thoughts and words and actions and attitudes.

Monday, 6 February 2017

The Lord has made known His salvation

Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
For He has done marvelous things;
His right hand and His holy arm have gained Him the victory.
The Lord has made known His salvation;
His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations.
He has remembered His mercy and His faithfulness to the house of Israel;
All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.
Shout joyfully to the Lord, all the earth;
Break forth in song, rejoice, and sing praises. – Psalm 98.1-4

What a blessing to remember that God has made known to us His salvation. Without His making it known we would have no hope. God uses people to do it, but without the Holy Spirit making it known none of us would ever be drawn to the truth.

I remember the day that God made His salvation known to me. I grew up in Alabama and had heard the gospel many times. It made sense and all that and it seemed good, but until I went off to college and found an invitation to a Bible study that God made the truth known. Even the way I went was sent by Him. I saw a piece of paper on the ground and picked it up to bin it. It announced a Bible study in one of the basement of the beautiful library at Widener College in Chester, PA. I had nothing else going on, so I went, on what I thought was a whim but I now believe was God’s calling.

When I got to the Bible study the topic was about the love of God. I had a Bible my parents got me before I went to college. As the leader taught from 1 John 4 my eyes fell across the page on 1 John 5 and the words ‘these thing have I written to you that you can know you have eternal life.’ I sat there and realised that despite my church background I did not know that I had eternal life. The phrase before the one I saw says ‘these things I have written to those who believe. I then realised that I had never truly believed for myself the facts I knew.

So I did – right then and there I believed what God said, asked Christ to forgive my sins, and gave my life to Him.

God made His salvation known to me – and I was saved.

Thank God for making His salvation known. But if it had not been for that teacher being there leading the Bible study I may never have heard.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Love the Lord - hate evil

You who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked. – Psalm 97.10

Sadly evil is an ever present truth. It is everywhere. It would be nice if we could find some way to always avoid every instance of evil. It would be nice we didn’t have to even deal with evil, but we do. Evil is an ever present evil.

We need to know how we are going to handle evil when it appears. We are told that we should abstain whenever we come across evil. We ought to not get involved with it when it appears.

To put it plainly, like the psalmist does here, those of us who love the Lord are to hate evil. We are not to dabble with it. We are not to take it lightly. We are not to play games with it. We are to do one thing with evil – we are to hate it.

The bad thing about evil is that it doesn’t always look like evil. It can look good. It can appeal to our fleshly desires. It can appear to be something we can handle. But none of that is true – evil is something that deserves only our hate.

We are not often called on to hate. Our primary trait is to be the opposite – love. Hate is an emotion reserved to evil. Our hate ought to drive it away. Our hate for it ought to keep us away.

Lord, help me to hate evil as much as I love you.

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Day by day

Oh, sing to the LORD a new song! Sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless His name; Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day. Declare His glory among the nations, His wonders among all peoples. For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised; He is to be feared above all gods. – Psalm 96.1-4

What is the most important thing in our lives? What dominates our lives and thoughts and conversation and emotions and feelings from day to day?

Let me think about me. I love politics. I always have. Right now that is a bad things because there is so much politics that it is easy for that to dominate by days. What is going on today? What did this politician or that leader do yesterday? What is going on? I love it.

I like sports. Not like I used to love sports, but I still do. Six Nations rugby starts today. I am excited. It is my favourite sporting event and it will occupy a lot of the next few weeks. Fun times.

Of course, living in Ireland it goes without saying that I talk about the weather. Enough said.

We talk about work and our families and all kinds of things.

But are we faithfully proclaiming the salvation of the Lord day by day by day? Is Christ part of our everyday conversation? Does this describe you and me?

Sing to the Lord a new song! Bless the name of the Lord! Proclaim His salvation everyday. Declare God’s glory and His wonders and His praise.

Man, as I see that list I am smitten with conviction. Sure, I don’t deny my Lord, and if the opportunity presents itself I am happy to talk about Him. But do I, indeed do we, speak of God and His salvation day after day after day?

We talk about what is really important to us, and what is more important than our relationship to our God?

Lord, remind me everyday to speak of you everyday and help me to yield to the Holy Spirit when He speaks in my heart. Make me a witness.

Friday, 3 February 2017

The people of His pasture

For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
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:  - Psalms 95:3-7

As David wrote his psalms he must have remembered the days of minding his sheep when he was a shepherd. He remembered how he made sure that his sheep were cared for. He would have remembered leading them to pasture. He would have remembered caring for them and making sure they were fed and watered and that they could rest in safety. He would have remembered how he went out and rescued them when they wandered. He would have remembered how he treated them for their illnesses and their wounds.

Who better to write about the Lord as our shepherd and us as the people of Hs pasture? David often, most notably in the 23rd Psalm, mentions our Great Shepherd. Later on Jesus is going to refer to Himself as the Good Shepherd who is willing to even give His life for His sheep.

Not only are we His people on His pasture, but they are on His hills surrounded by His seas and with His skies above. It is all His and we are His. Sheep always trust their shepherd and as they trust Him to provide they are willing to follow Him. I had a chance one day to work with a shepherd and his family. As we moved them to the wintering shed they only followed the family. They would not follow me for anything. They knew that their shepherd would take care of them. They knew nothing about me.

And so it should be with us and our shepherd and the world system. We tend to follow after all kinds of false shepherds promising us all sorts. We know nothing about these false shepherds, they can do nothing for us, and still we follow them.

Jesus said that His sheep know His voice and follow Him. How do we match up to that standard?

Thursday, 2 February 2017

God as our teacher

Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, And teach out of Your law, That You may give him rest from the days of adversity, Until the pit is dug for the wicked. – Psalm 94.12-13

I always pause when I read anything about teaching. Being a teaching I will read nearly anything about teaching or teaches and students or any aspect of pedagogy. Not only that, I love teaching. Of all the joys of teaching the greatest is hearing from my former students who are now adults contacting me to thank me for being their teacher.

Here we read about the most wonderful teacher of all. ‘Blessed is the man You teach O Lord.’ We think of God has our God and our Lord and our Creator and our Shepherd and our Rock and our Shield, but how often do we think about Him as our teacher?

We should. People called Jesus ‘Teacher’ and when He prepared to leave He told us He would leave the Holy Spirit as our teacher. The prayer is that God would teach us out of His word and that because we are His students He will give us rest no matter what is going on around us.

The Lord is my teacher. The teacher/student relationship is one of the most special there is. I need to ask myself what kind of student I am.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

The Lord is mightier

The LORD reigns, He is clothed with majesty; The LORD is clothed, He has girded Himself with strength. Surely the world is established, so that it cannot be moved. Your throne is established from of old; You are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O LORD, The floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves. The LORD on high is mightier Than the noise of many waters, Than the mighty waves of the sea. Your testimonies are very sure; Holiness adorns Your house, O LORD, forever.  – Psalm 93.1-5

There are times when the opposition seems mighty mighty. Things are changing at an amazing pace and it is hard tell heads from tails. The forces of evil seem stronger and stronger and stronger and eviler and eviler and eviler.

We could easily despair if we a looking around at newspapers and news feeds. It doesn’t seem like there is any hope.

But then we are reminded of the great truths here. The Lord still reigns. He has girded Himself with majesty and nothing can happen to His world because He created and established it. He is mightier than all the powers on earth.

Our God is mightier than any politician or leader or government or economy or media source. Nothing can ever overrule His might.
There is nothing too hard for our God. There is nothing stronger than He is. He is mightier that the world. He is mightier than the devil. He is mightier than my flesh. Greater is He that is in me than He that is in the world.

Don’t despair. We still serve the Lord God omnipotent who still reigns.