Reflections

Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Reflection on Psalm 86:11-13
“Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever. For great is your steadfast love toward me; you have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.”

I was reflecting on this Psalm this week and praying it to God for myself and for others.

Teach me your way, O Lord, not my way. Teach me how you want me to live. Because it’s so easy to look to everything other than God for how we should live.

To others around us, to our parents, to the television. Truth be told there may be some good examples – there are – but no example will be perfect and many will be unhelpful.

We need the Lord to teach us how we are to live. We have no better teacher. One who is perfect and One who has given us His word so that we might know how it is that we are to live. Living lives that reflect His Son the Lord Jesus.

‘Unite my heart to fear your name’. To fear God is to take in the truth about God and respond in that light. To understand that God is holy and righteous and perfectly good and that we are not.

That He is mighty and that we deserve because of our sin to be cut off from Him forever – but that in His great and amazing love He sent His Son to save us from our sins and bring us back into relationship with Him.

So, this prayer is a prayer for a right response to Who God is and what He has done. It’s a response of awe, of wonder, of reverence.

Because when we understand how great His steadfast love is for us, undeserving as we are – that He has delivered our souls from death we can’t hold back from singing with the Psalmist: “O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.”

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Reflections

Words of encouragement and rebuke.

Reflection on Philippians 2:1-3
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.”

For me, these words are full of encouragement and rebuke.

Rebuke, because this idea of doing nothing from selfish ambition or conceit – nothing from the place of pride, self-interest and to promote myself – wow… this is full of rebuke for me.

I think also as human beings, we are all guilty of self-interest again and again. For those among us who follow Jesus, sadly this is something from our old nature that does not yet disappear. We still choose self-interest and self-promotion.

But here our model is Jesus. Paul goes on after these words to talk about the humility of Jesus who laid down His rights as the Eternal God and He humbled himself, and became a man.

Even more than that Jesus came and died as a man the death of a criminal the shame of the cross… but why?

Because it was the purpose of His Father to rescue sinners… It was the purpose of the Son to obey His father. He came and died for sinners… for me… and for you…

What humility… It is humility beyond belief. Would the monarch die for the slave? Or more accurately… would the monarch die for the prisoner – guilty of high treason?

And so, He did. The Monarch, King Jesus, died for the traitors.

The picture for the follower of Jesus here, is to think and so live this same way. In the interest of others. Putting others first. Laying our lives down to serve one another as Jesus did. Being united and filled with love for one another. Self-giving.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” (1 John 3:16).

Reflections

Taste and See His Goodness!

Reflection on Psalm 34:8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!

I love the psalms. They are so raw and real. They bring out both the highest expressions of thanksgiving and praise and the lowest valleys of distress and despair. David who seems to have penned a lot of these psalms was a human being like us. He had struggles like us, temptations like us, and he failed like us.

In fact, he committed murder and adultery. He was a man who knew both the depths of his own failings but also the riches of God’s mercy and forgiveness.

He had tasted and he seen that God is good. He says earlier: “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” And later he says: “The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”

If you are anything like me, and like David, then you are someone who has struggles, whether emotionally or physically or mentally. There are struggles. And more than that we are people who have failed to live lives that give God thanks and praise – in fact, left to ourselves we are much better at giving anything and everything else thanks and praise then to God.

But David had experienced God’s goodness. The God who had forgiven his sin, the God who had rescued him and helped him to trust in Him in the midst of his fears. Have you experienced the goodness and love of God?

God sent Jesus out of love. He died in love for you – to rescue you, to rescue me, from all our sin. How true are the words of David’s call, “Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

Those who choose to trust in Jesus for forgiveness and follow after Him as King – it is not that we won’t struggle (on the contrary!), but there will be such joy and praise that wells up in us and that is yet to come that will make anything experienced now somehow not even worth comparing with what is to come… (Romans 8:18).

Father in heaven, thank you, thank you, thank you for Jesus, help me to taste and see Your eternal goodness!

Reflections

In Christ the sinner is forgiven, freed and found righteous in Him.

A reflection on Romans 7:21-25
“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.”

I love this statement, question and answer by Paul. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Paul knew something about himself that is true about all of us. As religious as his life had been, seeking to do the right and avoid the wrong – he knew that his own heart was full of wrong in the eyes of God, who knows all.

His wrong motivations and self-seeking heart were never far away. In fact he says elsewhere, ‘by works of the of law no one will be justified’. No person on earth will stand before God and be righteous – or right in God’s eyes – by their own performance. Not you, not me, not Paul, not the Pope. Our deeds are like a polluted garment in God’s eyes.

The problem for us is that God sees our heart and he knows all the actions, words and thoughts that we would not want repeated to our best friend. He knows everything about us. And so who will deliver us from this body of death? What hope is there for me if there is no hope for the most religious to be made right with God by all their ‘good’ works?

Paul answers his own question with the most beautiful words… “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”…. “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!”The only hope that we have for full forgiveness and peace with God, for relationship and eternal joy in God. Our only hope is Jesus Christ.

Jesus died for our wrongdoing, our ‘polluted garments’. All of it… everything… He died so that by faith in Him we are given His own perfect righteousness as our garment to put on. In Christ the sinner is forgiven, freed and found righteous in Him.

All of God’s unmerited gift. All of grace.

If that truth does not lead us to worship and fruitful living… nothing can…

Reflections

Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

A reflection on Psalm 124

1 If the LORD had not been on our side– let Israel say– 2 if the LORD had not been on our side when men attacked us, 3 when their anger flared against us, they would have swallowed us alive; 4 the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, 5 the raging waters would have swept us away. 6 Praise be to the LORD, who has not let us be torn by their teeth. 7 We have escaped like a bird out of the fowler’s snare; the snare has been broken, and we have escaped. 8 Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Israel had much adversity and trouble. Mostly because of choosing roads to take that were damaging. Roads away from the good path that God had told them to walk down. We are not told here though what exactly is going on.

However, we are shown how the LORD God was on His people’s side, how He kept them from being ‘swallowed alive’ and how He stopped them being drowned by the ‘flood’ of those who were set against them. ‘Praise be to the LORD’ he says.

Here the psalmist talks about God’s rescue – that ‘our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth’. It is God who is the helper of His people.

Sometimes we might think of God as distant and uninvolved. How can He allow such things to go on in this world, in our lives? – we may think or ask. The truth is that God has done something about our greatest enemies – sin, death, and Satan. The fowler’s snare (so to speak) of sin, and death and Satan have been broken, and there is escape…

God is not distant, unmoved and uninvolved… on the contrary He is our great Help. He sent Jesus to bring the help that we could never provide for ourselves. He made a way for our forgiveness, a way for eternal life in His presence and the defeat of the great enemy of our souls.

God has done all this in Jesus. In His death in our place. In His resurrection from the dead. In His Spirit that comes to dwell within in us, Who is the promise of our eternal life to come.

We can forget that God has rescued His people from the greatest traps, we must remember this, and that in all things:

Our help is in the name of the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Reflections

Two great truths that are often distorted in our world.

A reflection on Acts 17:24-31

24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. 25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. 27 God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. 28 `For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, `We are his offspring.’ 29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone– an image made by man’s design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent.” 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.”

There are two great truths that are often distorted in our world.

Firstly, that we are like God. We are his offspring. He has made us in His image, in His likeness, His word tells us. We are relational creatures, emotional, spiritual, eternal. God has made us like him.

We can get this wrong by thinking we have no value, that we are just the same as animals when in fact we are the high point of God’s creation, made to rule over it. Given authority to care for it. We are made to reflect something of the God of all glory, made to reflect His splendour and beauty. Yet we are marred and do not do this well – so often.

Secondly, we are not God. We are not the creator. We are the creation. If we put all that is created to one side and all that is not created on the other side – it is God alone on the one and us, together with all other things created on the other.

So, it makes sense that God does not need us – we add nothing to Him by worshipping Him and we take nothing away by refusing to worship Him.

So too, it makes sense that God – the Creator – the Almighty One who created us and sustains us can and does call us to repent. To change the way we have been thinking.

Giving our delight and joys to other things in a way that reveals they are our gods – this is wrong. Giving our worship and praise to created things or even the attitude of living life to try to give things to God to gain from Him – we must see the sin of this and turn from it.

So, let’s turn away from all that, and turn towards this God. Turn towards His completely free gift of forgiveness to us in Jesus.

Turn towards the love of the Creator in His Son, in His invitation in Jesus to come back into relationship with the One you were made for – where true life is found.

Reflections

The sin of Un-thankfulness.

A reflection on Romans 1:18-21
“For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people who suppress the truth by their unrighteousness, because what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world his invisible attributes– his eternal power and divine nature– have been clearly seen, because they are understood through what has been made. So people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not glorify him as God or give him thanks, but they became futile in their thoughts and their senseless hearts were darkened.”

I find this passage of Scripture so helpful in a world that constantly says “there is no God” – words spoken by the fool the Psalmist tells us (Psalm 14).

Here we are reminded that God has not left us without evidence of Himself. His invisible attributes, eternal power and divine nature are in fact ‘clearly seen’ in what He has made.

But something that I have especially found helpful from this passage is one of the many pictures it gives us on what sin is. When you ask a High School Scripture class what sin is or ask a group of people, a lot of time people will give a list of things that are sin: lying, murder, stealing, adultery etc.

These are sins yes – but there is a picture here that we don’t often think about in our world as a concrete example of sin and that is the sin of unthankfulness. The lack of thanksgiving to God seen not just in the denial of His existence but by the worship of everything else in His place and by the giving of thanks to everything else other than Him.

If you are wondering what God’s will for your life is: ‘what does God want me to do?’, ‘How does He want me to live?’

Well, His Word tells us: “Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Under the category of ungodliness and unrighteousness are lives that do not stop to thank God, people who do not acknowledge the place that God’s Son King Jesus is to have in our lives. This is the great sin of unthankfulness.

The truth is, when we see the mercy and love of God for us in Jesus – when we stop and really take that in – we cannot grasp that truth and not be filled with thankfulness to God.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures forever.” (Psalm 118).

Reflections

Captivated by His glory

A reflection on Acts 7:55-60
“… Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep.

What allows someone who is being stoned to death to cry out in prayer ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them’? What fills someone with such selfless focus and love for those who are bringing about their death?

Surely it is what Stephen knew to be true and what he saw. “Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God…’ He was given a vision of the glory of God.

I think something we learn from Stephen here is that this life is not everything, but the glory of God that awaits followers of Jesus allows us to show mercy to those who wrong us.

We can forgive and be gracious to others because through Stephen’s experience we are drawn into behold something of the glory of God also.

The glory of God, his wonder, his awe, his power, his love, his greatness, his beauty. We see Stephen’s response to this vision was one of joy and delight that allowed his concern not to be to save his physical life but to care for the spiritual lives of those attacking him.

He wanted them to come to experience the transformation that he had experienced through Jesus death and resurrection to forgive his sins and grant him everlasting life.

And, what is so cool is that we see his prayer answered. We are told a man named Saul is here giving approval to Stephen’s death. God answers Stephen’s prayer for the mercy of his killers in the most remarkable way.

Jesus will transform this Saul and send him “to open… eyes, so that [people] may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God… receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in [Jesus”].

When were caught up in God’s beauty and power we see things differently, as He sees them. When were captivated by His glory we live for His purposes and experience joy that goes beyond what we could imagine.

Reflections

‘…he who is humble and contrite in spirit’

A reflection on Isaiah 66:1-2
“This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? 2 Has not my hand made all these things, and so they came into being?” declares the LORD. “This is the one I esteem: he who is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at my word.”

Doesn’t God value the things we so often do not value?
If you want to do well in our world it is often one’s pride in self and one’s importance that will get us ‘higher up the food chain’.
It is often the ability to assert ourselves and emphasize all our abilities and skills and importance that will impress others and get us the job or position of esteem. We don’t often value humility, contrition, let alone God’s word.

But here, that is exactly what God values: humility.
A true estimation of one’s self. Realising that we are created in the image of God but that He is the one it is all about – not us. Realising we only truly find ourselves – find who we were made to be –  in relationship to Him.

In fact, the greatest human example we have was the perfectly humble one – the incarnate Son of God who, “being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:6-8).

And it is this Jesus that his followers are told to have the same attitude as. He who had no sin, but chose to pay for ours.  We need to therefore be aware of our sin, humble before God – knowing He knows all our dark secrets, our most shameful missteps and still He says to us in Jesus:
come to Me.

Find forgiveness, find peace, find eternal life in Christ.
How can we not tremble at God’s word, the Almighty Creator who knows the depths of our wrongdoing and yet in Jesus He comes with love and mercy and offers us forgiveness and grace.

How can we not tremble at this God, and humbly worship Him, knowing His great love in Christ that covers all our sin? Come, come and enjoy His love both now and forever.

Reflections

I AM the True Vine… apart from Me you can do nothing.

A reflection on John 15:1-5 

Jesus said to his disciples: 1 “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.

You don’t have to be a gardener to know that branches separated from the vine – from the source of nourishment – the don’t last long. And all they are good for is to be picked up and thrown into the fire. Jesus (as He does often) makes an astounding claim here: I AM the True Vine.

 Jesus tells his disciples what he is telling all those who want to follow him: stay connected to me or wither. You will not flourish outside of relationship to me. ‘Remain in me’, abide, continue in me, just as a branch needs to remain connected to the vine or it will not produce its fruit so you need to remain connected to me.

Jesus disciples would face very soon after these words Jesus’ departure – his death and resurrection, but then after a little while with the Risen Jesus – he would leave them. And here is a reminder for them that trust in him, and reliance upon him and his power within them (through the Spirit he would give them) must be their focus.

God does ‘prune’ us, but it is so that we will ‘be even more fruitful’. God has not left us alone, but through his Spirit and his word we are able to stay connected to Jesus our King and so bear fruit in our lives that brings glory to our Father in heaven.

Don’t look within for fruit to grow, look to Jesus!