Thursday, September 29, 2005

Psalm 25 - hang in there

David talks about the man that fears the Lord in v.12, where it says that the Lord will instruct him who fears the Lord, He will prosper him, He will confide in him and make His covenant known to him and David wants to be that man!

Throughout the psalm David has a strong desire to be led by God. He asks God: to show me your ways, teach me your paths, guide me in your truth and teach me. David affirms that God does instruct sinners in his ways, guides the humble and teaches them his way. David also seems to be very conscious of his sins, yet also of God's great mercy and love v.6. While David believes God will prosper him, it seems that he is not experiencing this at the time of his writing. Yet his hope is in God and he has a strong belief that God will come through for him. The psalm is a great encouragement to keep pressing on in the Christian life. We have the benefit of knowing from reading elsewhere in the Bible that God does indeed rescue David from his enemies; leads and guides him; confides in him and makes His covenant known to him (2 Samuel 7:18-21). Sometimes when you are in the midst of a difficult situation it is hard to see how it is going to work out, but like David we need to continue to put our hope and trust in God.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 57. I'll post about it next Thursday.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Rahab: she knew what God was doing!

On Sunday a guy at my church preached about Rahab who lived in Jericho, a heathen city, from Joshua 2:9-11. What amazing things Rahab knew about God and about God's people. She recognized that the Lord was acting on behalf of the Israelites (v.10 "the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea") and that they were powerful because of Him (v.10 "what you did to Sihon and Og ... whom you completely destroyed"). She also knew that the Lord had given the land to the Israelites v.9.

It is almost embarrassing or maybe just very humbling, when those who don't know God start telling you stuff about God that you haven't really got a handle on yourself. I had a similar experience the other day. I have been reading a book called "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. The author talks a lot about God but mostly, as a creative force, not as a personal God. Nevertheless she was saying things about God that were true that I hadn't given a lot of thought. For example she was writing about how extravagantly creative God is. He doesn't just create one pink flower but He created hundreds of pink flowers and in comparison we are often stingy with our own creativity. The author also writes about why we are so reluctant with our own creativity and said much that I identify with. Anyway while I'm trying to get my head around this author, who is mostly likely not a Christian, yet seems to know so much about God's creativity, along comes a preacher talking about Rahab, whom he described as a heathen who knew what God was doing!

Another interesting thing about this book, "The Artist's Way", is that while she is writing about the reasons why artists don't create as much as they could, I'm thinking does the devil try to block all creative projects? Does the devil try to stop anything that in any way reflects God's creativity?

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Saturday, September 24, 2005

Devotional Thought : Matthew 16:13-14

"'Who do people say the Son of Man is?' They replied, 'Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets'" Matthew 16:13-14.

Perhaps the disciples were too polite to say and some think you are out of your mind. "When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, 'He is out of his mind'" Mark 3:21. Why wouldn't his family at the very least think that Jesus was a prophet? They lived with Him for almost 30 years, why didn't they realize that there was something different about Jesus? Even those in his hometown didn't notice. "'Where did this man get these things?' they asked. 'What's this wisdom that has been given him, that he even does miracles! Isn't this the carpenter? Isn't this Mary's son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren't his sisters here with us?'" Mark 6:2-4.

So when Jesus began his public ministry no one says, "Oh, of course, Jesus, well he always was a little different from everyone else. Always was a bit of a goody-goody. Always was a bit too religious".

For 30 years Jesus lived a sinless life and no one noticed. Jesus did not stand out as being different and no one suspected that He was the Son of God. I think this says something quite profound about our understanding of a sinless life. A sinless life could go unnoticed amongst people of God because most of our sins are to do with our attitudes, our motives and our thoughts more than our actions. Jesus was sinless in His attitudes, motives and thoughts as well as His actions.

The challenge to us is to let God cleanse the unnoticed parts of our lives.

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Thursday, September 22, 2005

Psalm 2 - How does God see evil?

In the first three verses people are plotting evil against God and God's response in v.4 is rather surprising. He laughs. I guess it is a bit like the parent who laughs when their four year old stamps their foot and says, I'm leaving home! The parent knows a child hasn't the resources or knowledge to leave. In the same way those who plot evil against God don't have the resources or knowledge to do it, unless God allows it. Of course, God doesn't laugh at the outcome of evil but He laughs at the attitude that says, I can outsmart God or God won't notice me when I do wrong. The rest of the psalm makes it clear that God is control, He is running the show according to His agenda and timetable and one day the whole world will see it. In the meantime the advice to us is to "serve the Lord" v.11. We need to be aware that there is a Greater purpose going on then the one we can physically see and remember that it really is all about Jesus and His Kingdom.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 25. I'll post about it next Thursday.

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Saturday, September 17, 2005

To date or not to date

I have been reading bits and pieces of "Boundaries Before Marriage" by Cloud & Townsend. They have written this book in response to feedback and questions they were getting after the release of Joshua Harris' book, "I kissed dating good-bye". They found Harris' book to be rather over the top with its non-dating policy. But worse than that they have found some Christians/some churches have taken an even more extreme view than Harris and declared dating to be sinful!

It reminds me of a discussion on John's blog about drinking. I commented at the time, "It seems that Christians gave up drinking as the church reacted (or over reacted) to the growing problem of alcoholism in our society". It seems that now some Christians or some churches (mostly in America) are over reacting to some dating problems and are now making up rules about not dating. It is really quite amazing how Christians love to put restrictions around things that God has not. I wonder if it is because we find our freedom in Christ so overwhelming that we actually prefer to have rules. When there are rules we don't have to think about or pray through our response to individual issues.

Anyway getting back to "Boundaries Before Marriage", it seems to be a more balanced approach to dating, with some good advice for singles.

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Thursday, September 15, 2005

Psalm 33 - Unfailing love

Three times in this psalm God's love is described as "unfailing" V.5, v.18 and v.22. Things of earth may fail or not turn out as we wish but God's love is fail proof, something we can totally rely on. Our church use to sing a song called, "Unfailing Love" (I think it is from Hillsong). It says in part: When the darkness of my sins, or my blindness, or my burdens, or my memories so fill my thoughts that I begin to have doubts about God's love for me, then I need Jesus to come and reminded me again and again of His unfailing love.

V.1 says it is "fitting" for us to praise Him. It is the right and proper thing for us to do, regardless of whether we feel like it or not. The appropriate response is for us to praise the Lord, because the Lord is always worthy of our praises.

V.11 "the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations" … V.15 "He who forms the hearts of all, who considers everything they do". God is not taken by surprise. He knows what He is planning. He knows what others are planning. We can trust Him. "I know not what the future holds, but I know Who holds the future."

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 2 I'll post about it next Thursday.

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Monday, September 12, 2005

The Holiness of God

The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul (Tyndale House, 1985) expanded my thinking enormously. Previously I had this vague idea that God was a bit more holy than people. But no! God is so immeasurably more holy than I could ever imagine and what's more people are so more unholy than I ever understood before. Suddenly the gap between God's holiness and mine wasn't just a mere gap but a gigantic chasm the depth and width of which would make the Grand Canyon look like a mere crack.

Suddenly my faith had to stretch to encompass a God who would choose to bridge the enormous disparity between His holiness and my lack of holiness. My appreciation and understanding of what God achieved through the cross grew significantly.

A very challenging and instructive book that helped my faith grow.

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Saturday, September 10, 2005

From glory to glory

I wrote this for my church newsletter:

"The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house ... And in this place I will grant peace ..." Haggai 2:9

In Jeremiah 29:10-11 we read God's promise to His people before the exile. "When the seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my gracious promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you ... plans to prosper you and not to harm you plans to give you hope and a future." But not everyone came back to Jerusalem, not everyone was there to build the new temple. It had been seventy years, some would have died, some would be too old and some simply chose not to leave Babylon.

After their return we read that the foundation for the new temple was laid. "And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid, while many others shouted for joy" Ezra 3:11-13. Some wept, with all new things there is the letting go of the past. We need to mourn our losses so we can move on to the new thing God is doing. Some shouted with joy. There was still a lot of work to be done, after all, only the foundation had been laid. Yet there was much reason to rejoice. God had promised a greater glory in this new temple than in the old one.

This is also His promise to us, to continually change us from one degree of glory to another (2 Corinthians 3:18) and grant us His peace.

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Thursday, September 08, 2005

Proverbs 30

The thought that occurred to me when reading the first few verses of Proverbs 30 is that I think the writer actually does know God but is going through a period where he feels like he doesn't know God. In human relationships sometimes a friend will take us by surprise and do something we totally didn't expect e.g. move house, change jobs, quit uni and we are left with the feeling that we really didn't know them at all. Sometimes I think a similar thing can happen in our relationship with God. We expect God to do something in particular and it doesn't work out the way we thought it would and we are left feeling like we really don't know God at all. V.4 in particular expresses this thought that the writer feels like he has no knowledge of God. It seems unlikely, to me anyway, that this is his usual state of mind.

I like the way he uses illustrations in the rest of the proverb particularly in the "three things … four things". The examples of animals like ants, badgers, locusts, lizard are great word pictures that teach good values. I also like v.19 how do you explain why some people fall in love with each other? I also heard about a sermon someone preached about v.22 "a servant who becomes a king" and used it talk about how spiritual paupers like you and me become princes in Christ.

During this next week I'll be looking at Psalm 33. I'll post about it next Thursday

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Sunday, September 04, 2005

Creative enterprises

I often write down quotes from the books I read and usually I write down the name of the book. But I have come across this interesting quote about creative enterprises that I wrote down and all I can work out is that it was on page 263-264. But I don't know what book! Any ideas?

"The creative process is ... terrifying because you don't know exactly what's going to happen or where it is going to lead. You don't know what new dangers and challenges you'll find. It takes an enormous amount of internal security to begin with the spirit of adventure, the spirit of discovery, the spirit of creativity. Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness. You become a trailblazer, a pathfinder. You open new possibilities, new territories, new continents so that others can follow ... Most all creative endeavors are somewhat unpredictable. They often seem ambiguous, hit-or-miss, trail and error. And unless people have a high tolerance for ambiguity and get their security from integrity to principles and inner values they find it unnerving and unpleasant to be involved in highly creative enterprises. Their need for structure, certainty and predictability is too high."

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Thursday, September 01, 2005

Psalm 17 - Confident of God

The thing that struck me most in this psalm was David's confidence in God, especially in v.8 and v.15.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye" (v.8) implies David knew He was the apple of God's eye and wants to stay there. He knew he was greatly loved and was precious to God, and so are we.

"And I - in righteousness I will see your face; when I awake, I will be satisfied with seeing your likeness." (V.15). David was looking forward to the cross (whereas we look back to the cross) to obtain righteousness and David knew with certainity that he would see and would be satisfied. We also need that heart felt assurance.

I was reading Bill Hybels, "Becoming a Contagious Christian" and he said that to be a contagious Christian we must have a heart felt assurance that not only is our life better now than it was before we knew God, but the lives of others will be better too, even through the tough times. I know my own life is immeasurably better now than before I was a Christian.

During this next week I'll be looking at Proverbs 30 (by request). I'll post about it next Thursday.

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