Rejoicing the Heart – Psalm 19

Who doesn’t need some joy in their hearts? Life seems to be so full of stress and strain, of duties and obligations, of pleasant responsibilities and necessary employment. In the thick of it we can all too easily lose our joy and peace, that which keeps us centred both spiritually and emotionally. For those willing to stop and look there is abundant evidence in the world around us of our Creator God – the heavens are telling the glory of God, and the skies do show his handiwork. And yet there is a natural progression from seeing God in the world around us to wanting to know him more deeply.

This Psalm makes that transition. The law of the Lord in its perfection will revive my soul; his testimony brings me wisdom; his precepts rejoice my heart; his pure command brings light to my eye. This kind of fear of the Lord is cleansing and enduring.

These decrees of the Lord are both true and righteous. This should be my ultimate desire – to seek after and to find the word of the Lord active in my life, bringing revival, wisdom, rejoicing, light – hope. This love of the Lord and seeking to know him through his word is what will ultimately preserve me, guard me, and bring me great joy.

May this attitude of heart fill my desires, and may this constitute my thoughts and my speech in the light of the knowledge of and in the presence of my God, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

Rejoicing the Heart – Psalm 19

Finding our Purpose

Difficult times can hit us in so many ways: job worries, family worries, health concerns. Perhaps the hardest part of any of these is the not knowing the end – not being able to recognise a purpose in that trying time. For Christians in particular it can add to the burden when we are walking a difficult path. We are to live by faith, and we do, but still that faith seeks out a purpose, a reason for the hardships that we suffer. If only we knew why, it would help us stand up under the pressure. And yet, God does not often reveal his purposes at this specific level.

Job suffered catastrophic loss, and yet we know from his story in Scripture that the heavenly goings on were never revealed to him during his life on earth. His faith is the ultimate example. I suspect our wanting to have a specific purpose for suffering is actually a lack of faith. We want to approve whatever it is that God is doing, it’s an attempt to wrest back some sort of control over our lives and our destinies: “Lord, work out your purposes, but please just run it by me first.” But that is original sin, it is pride and it is lack of faith and we must repent of it.

All through the Bible we read of God’s plan and intent in all that he does. The whole universe was made for his purposes, and we are a part of that. God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world according to his good pleasure – God has taken pleasure in his plans for us! That universal plan has a definite purpose and a definite end. In Ephesians 1:10 we are told that God is going to one day bring life, the universe and everything to its ultimate conclusion. That’s a concept that we need to keep at the forefront of out minds as we walk through any difficult time.

We don’t often know the specifics of God’s plan for us before it happens, and often we don’t understand as it happens, but we do know that there is a purpose.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Ephesians 2:10

That is sufficient!

In the book of Ephesians Paul uses some incredible terms to describe what God is doing in his created universe. Each and every one of us plays their part in God’s plan. Paul’s purpose was to reveal the mystery of the Gospel, that was previously hidden, but now revealed in Christ Jesus. But every individual has a part to play. So, let us take up all the equipment that God has given us and press on, not insisting on knowing the specifics, but understanding we are here specifically to play our part.

so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
Ephesians 3:10

The first couple of words in the verse above translate a small Greek word, and possibly my favourite word in the Greek New Testament: hina. It literally means ‘in order that’. Right through God’s Word he is reassuring us that what he is doing, he is doing ‘in order that’, and that includes us. The Church is here in order that we might make known the manifold wisdom of God, not just here in this world, but to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places too – now, there’s an incredible purpose.

So, when the hard times come and we wonder why we look to a greater purpose that we do know. We don’t minimise our present troubles, but we don’t seek to take control from God’s ultimate purpose, we trust, we endure, we look in faith and in hope to that ultimate consummation of all things when our Creator God recreates, redeems and fulfils all his promises and plans. Even so, come Lord Jesus.

Finding our Purpose

Don’t Linger, Don’t Look Back

When Abraham and Lot parted company, Lot thought he had got the better deal. That thought was driven by his own desires for the good life. Lot eventually settled on the plain of Jordan, and as we know gravitated towards Sodom. The Bible tells us that Lot was righteous and greatly disturbed by the behaviour of the residents of Sodom (2 Peter 2:7), but not enough to leave.

When, at Abraham’s intercession, the angels went into the city to warn Lot of the coming judgement, he still wavered. It’s an indication of how far a righteous man can go, when in the wrong environment that when the city, to a man come with the intention of raping the angels Lot offers his virgin daughters as an alternative.

Deep down in many of us there is a gnawing hunger for the world. There is a desire to be a part of it, and to enjoy the benefits of living, as the world does, for ourselves and for our own pleasure. We have more in common with Lot than with Abraham. Now, Lot was righteous; Lot knew the danger or remaining; and yet Lot still lingered. He had to be physically dragged from the impending judgement. Is that you?

This world has nothing of value to us. More than that it is deeply harmful to our souls, it lures and entices and offers nothing in return, yet still we linger! Don’t linger, don’t look back! Turn away from the world and seek out the Lord God, who alone offers forgiveness, hope, peace, and a future.

Even as Lot’s family fled, his wife looked back once too often and she lost the ability to flee. God forgive us for looking back and longing for that which has no value when we can flee to the One who has all to give and have offered it freely, no charge, not because it is of no value, but because we cannot afford the price.

God is a gracious and loving and merciful and patient God, who offers forgiveness to all who will flee to him. But don’t linger, don’t look back, because the time that you look back may be the last opportunity that you have.

It was from Abraham that God’s family, his people was to come. Choose to live in the wilderness with God, rather than in the world – the wilderness with God is a much safer place to be.

Don’t Linger, Don’t Look Back

Remember your Identity

9-5 ThesesWe’re a generation living with an identity crisis. We have been told that we can choose to be whoever we are, and with that choice, for most of us comes confusion. Where does that leave us? Identity comes from where we come from, where we’re going, who we belong to. It is a complex thing, and not one that is always consciously understood, and yet it still defines us.

I remember that it was only once I had left home and began to live in a different country to the one that I was born in that I became more interested in family history – my origins. Subconsciously I was trying to establish my identity, and that identity had roots. If we decide that we can arbitrarily change that identity we are in effect cutting off our roots. But roots are the very thing in which we thrive. A tree without roots is mere wood. A person without roots doesn’t know where they are going or where they have come from.

The Bible, cover to cover is given to explain not just our roots, but also our destination. The Bible makes explicit what we can see in part as we look at the universe in which we live. The Bible also makes clear that we are God’s and he is ours. He made us, he has plans for us, he has plans for this entire universe.

And so, our identity is bound up in God. We cannot choose it and more than we can choose our parents. And yet, just as a child can disown his parents and walk away from them, we too can walk away from God. The story of the Bible, and of Jesus in particular is that God is not willing to walk away from us. He sent his Son, Jesus to win us back, to open the door to a restored relationship.

It is neatly summed up in the Apostle Peter’s first letter (2:10):

“Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, now you have received mercy.”

Our identity, our belonging, our hope and destiny is all bound up in a loving God who has shown mercy, who has at great cost opened the door to forgiveness and reconciliation for all. Our God has offered to include us in his people – that’s our identity.

In the book of Hebrews we’re told of a new covenant. The single word translated by these two literally means a ‘together covenant’ – the idea being that of bringing all things together: a consummating covenant. This is the ultimate goal that God has for this universe – a people that belong to him, loved, prepared, as a bride for a groom and kept for all eternity!

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days declares the Lord. I will put my laws into their minds and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” Hebrews 8:10

Remember your Identity