Psalm 12

The Lords’ promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over.

Psalm 12:6, New Living Translation

Have you ever experienced God test you? In the Psalm 11, says that God tests or examines the righteous and the wicked. But we know that the difference between the righteous and the wicked is that the righteous are like a tree planted by a river bank (Psalm 1) that weathers all seasons and bears good fruit. King David in this psalm compares the words and promises of God as being like silver purified seven times in the furnace. They are flawless. They have no imperfections. They are perfect. When we’re being tested by God, it’s the process he uses to find the flaws and work them out.

A few weeks ago, I was really struggling with some pain in my leg. I tried everything I could at home, I stretched it, I used foam rollers, I tried heat treatment and cold treatment. The pain got worse. So I went to see a Physiotherapist. They examined my leg, they found that the muscles through my leg and lower back had gotten so tight and knotted that they were pinching my sciatic nerve. No wonder it hurt! They set about working out the tension and knots in those muscles, needless to say it hurts. At one point the physio was putting pressure onto a particular problem area, I felt a jolt of pain shoot through me, except it never let up, she was keeping the pressure on. She asked me if it hurt. I thought to myself, somewhat sarcastically, ‘no, I only flinch when I’m enjoying myself’ but said a muted ‘Yes a little’ through gritted teeth. A sheepish ‘sorry’ was the reply, but no let up in pressure. A few days of stretching (doing the right ones this time) and using heat treatment (in the right places) led to the pain subsiding completely. It turned out that to ease my suffering, I had to go through some pain first.

We know that ‘in all things God works for the good of those who love him’ (Romans 8:28) and sometimes, unfortunately, that means we have to go through the fires and furnaces, through the pain in order to become the person God is calling us to be.

Prayer

Dear God thank you that you have a plan for all of us, that you know who we are and who we can be better than we do. Thank you that your words are true and pure and that you want to make us pure too. Please let it not hurt too much! Amen.

Psalm 10

For the righteous Lord loves justice. The virtuous will see his face

Psalm 11:7 New Living Translation

Can you think of a time when you’ve felt truly helpless? We live in such a comfortable part of the world that sometimes it’s easy to forget how hard life can really be. Yet we have all had difficult times and certainly will face more when we don’t know what to do or where to turn. It might the loss of a loved one, financial struggles, health concerns, redundancy, it might be that you can’t make the progress you want to, the list could go on and on.

Bear Grylls famously describes his faith as his backbone. I like this analogy, without our backbones we’d have little to define us as human beings. We physically would look a mess and we’d be incapable of most things we take for granted day to day. If our faith in God is our backbone then without it we know we’re not very capable at all. There’s a few things we can manage on our own, but probably not very well. We’re helpless!

But there’s good news, God knows the hope of the helpless and he hears us and comforts us. We know from our jounrey through the Psalms to date that God is stronger than we know and is willing to act with and for us. HE knows what we need for the best and he will provide.

Prayer

Dear God thank you that you know our hope. That you hear our cries and want to comfort us. Help us to put ourselves aside, come to the full realisation that without you, we’re nothing. But with you, we have everything. Amen.

Psalm 9 – Marvellous Things

I will praise you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all the marvelous things you have done. I will be filled with joy because of you. I will sing praises to your name, O Most High.

Psalm 9:1&2, New Living Translation

When is the last time you told someone about a marvellous thing God did? Or the last time someone told you? Are you happy with how long it’s been?

I often struggle with this. I am genuinely a joyful person, it’s just it’s on the inside. However I’m often a lot quicker it be able to think of things I’d like God to do that he hasn’t done yet rather than the things he has done for me. At work, I was recently leading my team meeting, I challenged my team as to why we’re always quick to point out what’s going wrong with what we do and so slow to shout about the brilliant work our teams do – they genuinely do amazing things every day but no one ever hears about it. One person immediately said to me “it’s just human nature isn’t it, to see the negative.”. A challenge for you and me might be to stop focusing on what we think God hasn’t done but to start seeing clearly the things he has. I bet there’s a lot more of them than we think there are.

Prayer

Dear God thank you for all the amazing things you do for us. For our homes, our families, our jobs, our health and so, so much more. Help us to have a positive outlook, to avoid ‘human nature’ and see the all the marvellous things you do for us every day, I know there’s loads, but open my eyes to them. Amen.

Psalm 8 – Grace not Grief

what are mere mortals that you should think about them, human beings that you should care for them?

Psalm 8:4, New Living Translation

There’s nothing quite like being put in your place is there? In the last post I reflected on needing to stop trying to be gods and let God be in charge. And here we are now, in our right place, recognising that the creator, of everything around us from the stones and dust on the ground up to the furthest stars and everything in between, cares about us! Not only does he care about us, but later in the psalm we’re reminded that he gave us charge of everything, everything is under our authority.

I remember discovering the Cycle of Grace and the Cycle of Grief devised by Frank Lake and Emil Brunner based on Jesus’ life. My old youth pastor first told me about this and it was brought to my attention again at Bible college a few years later. Our normal pattern is in the Cycle of Grief. In the diagram below this starts on the left hand side with Achievement. You’re only as good as your last job, what you do defines who you are. We end up with workaholics, stressed out because they aren’t achieving as much as they used to and therefore their acceptance, sustenance and status feel smaller. Yet when we live in the Cycle of Grace (God’s cycle) which whilst based on Jesus’ life, there are very strong links to scripture in Ephesians 2 as well. We start instead at acceptance – we are accepted by God as his children and we’re raised to life in Jesus, we’re sustained by Him and have status as his child – before we do anything! We’re not even capable of doing that as we see so often when we try to do it out own way instead. We’re then in a position to keep on trying and achieving (we’ll still get it wrong sometimes, but that’s okay as long as we try) without the risk of losing everything else. Ephesians 2 says that “we are God’s masterpiece, he has created us to anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.” (New Living Translation).

Cycle of Grace and the Cycle of Grief devised by Frank Lake and Emil Brunner. Graphic created by Andy Hood.

Prayer

Dear God thank you that you accept us, sustain us and give us status as your children. Send us out to do the good things you have planned for us. Amen.

Psalm 7 – A True Heart

God is my shield, saving those whose hearts are true and right.

Psalm 7:10, New Living Translation

Keeping our hearts true and right is clearly important. But what does it really mean! It’s easy to say and easy to intend to do, but how do you actually do it?

Let’s begin with what is our heart? Like the Lion in the Wizard of Oz, who discovered he already had a heart, our heart says more about our character than our anatomy in this sense. And in thinking of character we know what makes a true character, namely the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians. Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness and Self-Control. When we truly live in the spirit, we see these fruit in our character, attitudes and actions. The target cannot be the fruit itself, but as Paul says earlier in Galatians 5:16 “let the Holy Spirit guide your lives”. He goes on to point out the perils of choosing to live by our sinful nature. As we reflected in a previous post about Psalm 6 this is about choosing daily to submit to the will of God and allowing him to take control. To stop trying to be gods ourselves but choosing to yield to God’s lead.

Prayer

Thank you God that you care so deeply about each of us. Make your way clear to us, lead us in the right way and give us courage to put aside our own ways and follow yours. Amen.

Psalm 6 – Submitting

The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.

Psalm 6:9, New Living Translation

Psalm 6 starts as a bit of a sad story, evidently David is not having a good day. Yet he turn it round to faith by the end of 10 short verses. I find faith a tricky thing at times. When things are going well it’s all to easy to become complacent, thinking you’re doing well on your own. When things are going bad, my first reaction is what can I do to fix this, not how can I trust God in this situation. It’s only when something goes really wrong that I’m straight to God.

Throughout the current Coronavirus Pandemic, there’s been a lot of people turning to God in prayers, whether they’re Christians or otherwise. There’s something in us that recognizes that there is a point where we simply can’t do it on our own. I need to become someone who doesn’t need that threshold to know and act in a way that trusts God above all else, even me. I think this quote from Pete Greig sums it up well.

The good bit is we know that God will listen and hear us, no matter how much we waffle or how mundane we feel we must sound. This isn’t one of those things where we get to fix it once and call it job done. This is a daily choice to submit to God, putting his will and strength so far above our own that we just abandon our own.

Prayer

Thank you God that you always listen and always hear us. Thank that your way is so much better than our own, even when we don’t see it. Today I put aside my own will and choose yours instead. Lead me in your way. Amen.

Psalm 5 -Entering God’s House

Because of our unfailing love, I can enter your house;

Psalm 5:7a, New Living Translation

We take a lot for granted. Currently in the UK we’re in lock down due to the world wide crisis caused by the corona virus. And you don’t realise how much we take for granted until you no longer have it. I used to never think anything of taking my kids to the local park, so much so that I probably didn’t do it enough as we could always do it tomorrow. Now we can’t and we really miss it! I read a story the other day of an older gentleman in Italy (I have no idea if this story is true but I like it anyway) who was admitted to the ICU because he was struggling to breath due to the corona virus. He needed to use a ventilator for a day to help him breath and was hooked up to tanks of oxygen to make sure he stayed alive. After he’d recovered and was being discharged from the hospital he was given the bill for the use of the ventilator, the equivalent of about £500. He started to cry. The nurse discharging him offered him support and started to explain about payment options to ease the burden. He stopped her and said that he didn’t have a problem paying the bill, it’s just that he couldn’t believe how much he must owe God for the breath he’d taken every other day.

I certainly took it for granted that I could go to church, worship God and lead others in worship. You’d hear of other governments saying that religious gatherings weren’t allowed yet here we are in the UK not able to meet as the church and finding new ways to be and do church.

Fortunately we don’t need to rely on a physical space or place to enter God’s house. We know that under the new covenant in Jesus that we are living temples and that God dwells in us. But how amazing that any time and in any moment we can enter God’s presence.

Prayer

Thank you God that you are give us so much so freely. Thank you for the air we breath, the food we eat and the world you created. Thank you that we can enter your presence wherever we are. Help us to remember this and not take this for granted! Amen.

Psalm 4 – Joy

You have given me greater joy thank those who have abundant harvests of grain and new wine.

Psalm 4:7, New Living Translation

I often struggle with idea of joy. What really is it? I know it’s a bit like happiness but I also know there’s so much more to it than that. According to dictionary.com; Joy means “the emotion of great delight or happiness caused by something exceptionally good or satisfying; keen pleasure; elation”

However, I prefer John Piper’s description in this article: “Christian joy is a good feeling in the soul, produced by the Holy Spirit, as he causes us to see the beauty of Christ in the word and in the world.”

So when we think and reflect on this psalm and King David’s words that God has given him greater joy, we know that what he means is that he is seeing the beauty of God, and even though he hasn’t come to earth yet, Christ, all around him even more than those who live in abundance in an earthly sense.

I think that joy also comes from submitting to the will of God. When we know that God is ultimately in control of our lives. That we have handed over the controls and know, with complete confidence, that when all is said and done everything is going to work out exactly as it should for us and choosing to praise and worship God even when it doesn’t feel like it in the moment. I believe this only comes through the intervention of the Holy Spirit working in our lives.

Prayer

Thank you God that you are give us joy. I invite you to take control of my life. Please help me to trust your way more than mine! Amen.

Psalm 3 – My Shield

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one holds my head high.

Psalm 3:3, New Living Translation

Steve Rogers is a small weak kid with a big strong heart. He ends up the subject of a science experiment and becomes Captain America. A seemingly unstoppable hero. Unlike some of the other heroes on the Marvel Universe like Thor and Iron Man who have a magic hammer from another world or an array of weapons at their disposal, Captain America only carries a shield. His shield is both his defence and his attack.

Psalm 3 is a great testimony to the power and strength of God. Written by King David about a time when he was fleeing his own son who had turned on him. David makes great statements of faith after declaring God as his shield. ‘I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies..'(verse 6) and ‘Victory comes from you, O Lord…’ (verse 8)

It’s easy to forget that there is a battle raging constantly all around us. It’s one that we can’t see, it’s one between heaven and hell, fought in a realm that we can’t see. It’s a battle fighting for all of our hearts and souls.

God is our shield. He is both our defender and the one leading the charge against the enemy.

Prayer

Thank you God that you are my shield. If you are for me, who can possibly stand against me. Help me to stay true to you and your calling on my life and to trust in your strength not mine. Amen.