Prayer for the weary

How has your week been? How about your day today? I feel led to pray for the weary this evening. Is that you? It certainly is me!

Heavenly Father, we give you thanks and praise for your wonderful, never ending love for each one of us. Whether this week has been good or bad, we thank you that you have been with us through every step of it.

As we approach the weekend, I want to pray for all who feel weary or heavy laden at the moment.

Lord, I ask you to give them strength. I pray that they may know that your yoke is easy and your burden is light.

If there are those who have come to the end of their strength, May they draw on your infinite resources.

If need be loving God, then do carry them through this moment.

Increase their joy, heavenly father, as we know joy is our strength. let them draw on your piece which surpasses all understanding.

You know the burdens we all carry Lord, so do help us to know that we do not carry them alone. let us also know the height, depth, length, and breadth of your unfailing love!

When it is time to sleep this evening, may that sleep be sweet and peaceful. Watch over us as we rest, so we might serve you all the better tomorrow.

We thank you that you have heard our prayers. we lift them before you in the mighty name of Jesus Christ!

Amen!

Beloved Christians (Psalm 100 #6)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (ESV)

Today we conclude our short series on Psalm 100. Verse five culminates in a crescendo of praise and focusses solely on our Heavenly Father.

The Lord is good

Verse five tells us a simple truth – that the Lord is good. When things get difficult, or we look at the problems of the world, it can be easy to forget this fact. If God is so good, then why… <insert here>? We have all asked this at times, and there are no answers that can satisfy this side of heaven I believe.

The suffering of the world, and the pain we experience, does not disprove the existence of a “good” God. This world is broken, corrupted by sin and far removed from what God had originally intended. Yet He has not left us in this mess, alone and uncared for. The cross has said it all. God is indeed good because He came down into this fallen place, lived perfectly and died for each of us.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

James 1:17 (NIV)

This verse from James not only tells us that God is the source of every good thing, but that He is ever unchanging. He is good now, and will always be.

Enduring Love

Psalm 100:5 goes on to say that God’s steadfast love endures forever. This continues the theme of the verse from James above, in that God is unchanging. The word “steadfast” (describing God’s love) can be defined as “fixed in direction.” God’s love is not whimsical. It depends not on our behaviour, and His mood. He loves you today, and He will love you just the same tomorrow. You can count on it!

I have sometimes heard Christians say, and probably been guilty of saying it myself, “I just don’t feel that God loves me…” God’s love is not dependent on mere feelings. When your feelings are in disagreement with God’s Word, it is your feelings that are wrong, not the Bible. Whether you feel the love of Christ or not, you can know without a shadow of a doubt that it is true. This is but one of many verses which extol the permanence and endurance of God’s love for all of the saints.

For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Ephesians 3:14-19 (NIV)

What a prayer! And I pray it for you dear reader, and please do pray it for me!

Faithful to all generations

Psalm 100 closes with words about God’s faithfulness. God is faithful to His people, and we can rely on Him and His Word without question. God is true to His Word, and if He has said it, you can consider it done.

God is not just faithful to us however, but also to the generations that come after us. This is another sign of His steadfastness and consistency. We can rely on the fact that God is no respecter of persons, and that He will bless my children in the same way He has blessed me. Too few of us take a generational view, thinking primarily of our own lives. If the Lord tarries however, then a new generation will rise up after us and we are responsible to them.

We can trust in the goodness of God, and we can know that God’s faithfulness will remain for those who come after us.

Summary

Psalm 100 may only be short, but I hope it has encouraged you as we have plumbed its depths in the last few posts. It is no doubt a Psalm of praise and thanksgiving to our Creator God, and I want you to come way with many reasons to “shout for joy!”

You are a “Beloved Christian!” That is the culmination of this psalm. God’s love endures, and as a result we have much to thank and worship Him for. God’s love for each of us is reciprocated, and in turn we live to serve Him with gladness. We belong to Him, marked as His people, and so live our lives in gratitude for all that He has done for us.

Are there parts of this passage which really stand out to you? Is God saying something in particular to you during this season of your life? As we read and study the Bible, it should often lead to some form of change in our lives. This might be a specific action you take – like starting all of your prayers with words of thanks – or it may be less tangible than that. Has this psalm provoked you to action? I’d love to hear from you if it has.

Serve the Lord with gladness! Give thanks unto Him, and bless His Name!

Further posts in this series, if you wish to read more, are:

Shouting Christians #1

Serving Christians #2

Singing Christians #3

Created Christians #4

Thankful Christians #5

Thankful Christians (Psalm 100 #5)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (ESV)

Thankful Christians…? Is there any other kind? A Christian who does not give thanks, is like a Christian who does not pray!

This psalm directs us to enter the gates of our God with thanksgiving. Even in the midst of terrible trouble, we have much to be grateful for. It should not take us long to reel off a list of things we can thank the Lord for.

It was a privilege recently to record an interview with “understand the Bible.” When the video comes out, I’ll share it here so you can see it. One of the questions I was asked was, “Why do Christians pray?” Had you never heard of prayer, and studied our prayer lives to find the answer, what would you say? If you are anything like me, one might study my prayer life and say that prayer is “asking God for things.” Of course, this is woefully inadequate, and yet our prayer lives reflect little more than “petition” at times.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll no doubt say it again, but in our prayer lives, our praise should always outweigh our petition. We should thank God and worship Him with far greater frequency than we make demands of Him.

As we “enter His gates” why not use this as the primary way to start off your prayer time. Enter the prayer time with thanksgiving. Tell God what you are especially grateful for right now, and let that overflow into praise.

Verse four concludes by again telling us to give thanks, but also to “bless His name!” Could it be that by giving thanks, we are blessing His name? Is it a blessing to the Lord when He hears His people expressing their gratitude? I think so.

Being thankful is an admission of how good we have it. It helps us remember that no matter whatever else is going on, we do have some positives to focus on. The Bible is full of exhortations to thank God, and I for one am convicted that I should be doing it all the more.

How about you? On a scale of 1-10, how thankful would you rate yourself? Be honest…

Let us all get into a habit of being grateful. Help each other by commenting below with tings you are grateful for. It doesn’t have to be long, even one-word answers will inspire each of us to say “thank you!” to God for something.

It must go deeper than just saying the words however. I train my children to say “thank you,” after we give them something they have asked for. For a long time (even years) they may repeat the words out of pure habit. Hopefully, sooner or later though, they will learn that thankfulness is in actuality an attitude of the heart.

A heart which is not thankful is one which is arrogant. It demands, or even, expects to have whatever it wants. A humble heart though gives thanks for even the smallest of contributions. One who is humble and thankful recognises what others have done, and acknowledges it.

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good and His mercy endures forever! Amen!

Further posts in this series, if you wish to read more, are:

Shouting Christians #1

Serving Christians #2

Singing Christians #3

Created Christians #4

Created Christians (Psalm 100 #4)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100 (ESV)

We pick up where we left off at verse three of this fantastic psalm. We have so far thought about us shouting and singing to the Lord, and also how we can serve Him with gladness. Today we turn our thoughts to who God is, and the fact that He made each one of us.

Verse three in the ESV Bible (as above) tells us to know the Lord, he is God! This word “Lord” here is again the Holy Name of God – Yahweh – which is often rendered Lord or LORD in other Bibles.

In our society, we use the word “God” a great deal. Sometimes it is a simple curse, but other times just a flippant throw away term. Other religions use the same word – God. Christians believe in “God” but so do Muslims or Jews, and then other religions such as Hinduism believe in more than one god.

My point is that we may all use those same three letters, but we mean very different things by it. The God of the Bible, of both the Old and New Testament, is the LORD – Yahweh, and He is God!

We, Christians, must never fall into the trap of believing that any religion that claims to follow God is actually doing so. There is One God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and He is the One this psalm sings of.

This God is the One Who made us – we are Created Christians.

The Bible opens with the words, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” (see Genesis 1:1). Understanding and accepting that truth is critical in grasping the full extent of the Gospel. As our society strays further and further away from this truth, we fall further from God and deeper into sinfulness.

If we are indeed “created,” then we are not the top of the food chain. We are not the masters of our own destiny, nor are we supreme or sovereign. Humanity may be the pinnacle of all created things, made in the very image of God, yet we are not equal to God Himself. We have a Creator, and we are His (see verse three above, again!).

If we really did just evolve from the ether, then humanity is nothing more than the mere product of chance. And, may I add, the “chance” is so small you would have better odds of winning the lottery every week for the rest of your life in comparison! Spontaneous life without a Creator has no meaning. We are no more than animals who come and go, and life has no meaning.

Thank the Lord God this is not so! We were made by a Loving Creator, we belong to Him and we belong to each other. Verse three also tells us that we are His people. We are not individuals, but a crowd. We are a people who belong, and belong to Him!

The Bible often uses the analogy of sheep and their Shepherd.

As above:

    It is he who made us, and we are his;

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Psalm 100:3 (ESV)

And here:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Psalm 23:1 (NKJV)

And perhaps the ultimate example:

I am the good shepherd. (Isaiah 40:11; Ezekiel 34:11-12,15,22) The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn’t own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. 13 The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn’t care for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I’m known by my own;

John 10:11-14 (WEB)

I have left in a couple of the references which also point to Scriptures about sheep and Shepherds.

Jesus is our Good Shepherd, and we are the sheep of His pasture. He laid down His life for each of us, bearing our burdens and sin on His very own shoulders that we might go free. The world may not value you, but Christ does! If you ever feel worthless, remember that Jesus poured out His blood for you.

Now that makes we want to shout (or make a joyful noise at least!)

We thank You Lord Jesus that You died for us! Thank You that You became as one of Your created beings, suffered and died that we might live. We shout for joy to You today! Praise Your Holy Name! We recognise that You are indeed God, the Creator of all things. We humbly surrender to You and Your Lordship. In the Name of our Saviour and Lord, Jesus Christ! Amen!

Further posts in this series, if you wish to read more, are:

Shouting Christians #1

Serving Christians #2

Singing Christians #3

Singing Christians (Psalm 100 #3)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

Today, we continue our look at Psalm 100 and it might only be a short one, as I intend to focus only on the second part of verse two! If you want to catch up on the previous posts in this series, then the first was Shouting Christians and the second was Serving Christians.

Verse two continues “Come into his presence with singing!”

It is a simple and straightforward phrase, but we should not gloss over it without thought. It directs us to enter the presence of Almighty God… that ought to make us pause!

Imagine a royal throne room, its grandeur and splendour, and a great king or queen seated on a high throne above the crowd. Whatever picture you have in your mind, it pales in comparison to the heavenly throne room where the King of kings is sat at the right hand of God! This is the place we are directed to enter – the very presence of God! I imagine myself almost crawling in, wearing filthy clothes and my head bowed so far departed do I feel from the holiness of that place.

And yet…

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Hebrews 4:14-16 (ESV)

And:

For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And it was not paid with mere gold or silver, which lose their value. 19 It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.

1 Peter 1:18-19 (NLT)

We enter that throne room, and into the very presence of God, not on our own merit, but because we have been bathed in the precious blood of Christ. We have been made righteous by inheriting His Righteousness, and we are made holy, set apart and consecrated for Him. Sin cannot dwell in the presence of God, so it must be dealt with at the cross. Once done, it is done forever and we can walk with confidence before Him.

We come in not quietly, but in song! We are “Singing Christians!”

Singing is somehow universal. All people from all manner of places sing. They may use different languages or styles, but singing is not unfamiliar to any group of people. Singing is somehow or other built into us. Perhaps because God Himself is a Singer?

For the Lord your God is living among you.

    He is a mighty saviour.

He will take delight in you with gladness.

    With his love, he will calm all your fears.

    He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.”

Zephaniah 3:17 (NLT)

Notice that last line – He will rejoice over you with joyful songs! The Lord our God loves to sing, and He has put that same desire in our hearts too.

Singing with others is a bit alien to new believers however. We all sing in the shower, or along with the radio, but where outside of church, do you get together with others and just sing? Unless you are part of a choir (or rugby team!) you probably don’t sing all that much outside of church. We must bear that in mind when we welcome new people into our fellowships, as some of the things we do may seem strange to them!

Singing is not the same as worship, but certainly it can be a vehicle to doing so. God has placed songs in our heart for Him, and irrespective of how good or bad your singing voice may be, each of us can raise our voices in praise of our God.

We sing to God, and we sing to each other about how great our God is. We are singing Christians! Whatever you are doing today, set aside some time to come into the Lord’s presence, and sing your heart out before Him.

Praise His Holy Name!

P.S. – perhaps this post wasn’t as short as I’d led you to believe! Apologies!

Serving Christians (Psalm 100 #2)

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!

2     Serve the Lord with gladness!

    Come into his presence with singing!

3 Know that the Lord, he is God!

    It is he who made us, and we are his;[a]

    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

    and his courts with praise!

    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

5 For the Lord is good;

    his steadfast love endures forever,

    and his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:1-5 (ESV)

Yesterday, in my post – Shouting Christians – I began talking about Psalm 100. The psalm opens with an encouragement to “shout” or if you are reading from the ESV (as above), then to “make a joyful noise to the Lord!” Before we continue thinking about the next part of the passage, why not pause for a moment and offer the Lord a word or shout of praise?

Verse two instructs us to “Serve the Lord with gladness!” Christians are (or should be) marked out by their acts or even lives of service. We are to be a people known for serving others. The world looks only after itself and its own, whereas we are to put others before ourselves. We sacrifice that others may have.

Bearing that in mind, it is a poor reflection on our society that really does look down on those who would serve. Whether it’s waiting staff in a restaurant, or noble care staff meeting the most basic needs a person can have, it is so sad that such individuals are often looked down upon. We must recognise the massive contribution such “servants” make to our families and our communities.

During the height of the COVID pandemic in the UK, people were encouraged to step outside and onto their front doorstep at 8pm each Thursday evening. There, we would clap and applause our health service staff showing them a small token of our appreciation for their hard work during a very troubling time.

Christians should be serving Christians… but none of this is what this Psalm is really talking about.

Verse two directs us not just to serve, but to serve the Lord. How do we do that? How do we serve the Sovereign God who needs nothing from us? There are a few ways in which I can suggest.

Worship

First and foremost, we serve the Lord by worshipping Him.  This is indeed a psalm which encourages us to do that in myriad ways. There is no shortage of things to thank God for, and studying His character will give you a thousand more reasons.

So many people float through life without purpose. I have been watching a TV show about people who gave up their “normal” lives to live in wild or far-flung places. The show tells their stories; the pain they felt, the reasons they changed everything in their lives, and the dreams they sought and fought for. Yet so many of them, once the battle was over and they had their dreams in their hands, felt lost and unfulfilled. Having achieved all they wanted, they had nothing left to live for.

Not so for the serving Christian! We were created for a specific purpose. Our very nature is established to worship the Living God. If we achieve nothing else in life, we have lived life well if we’ve lived a life dedicated to worshipping Father, Son and Holy Spirit!

Dying to Self

I know that the phrase “dying to self” isn’t exactly an exciting one, and neither its alternative “crucifying the flesh.” In simple terms, it means killing off our old sinful nature and its whims. We die to self by starving it of its power. We deny our fleshly desires, and instead choose to follow Christ.

Jesus said:

23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23 (ESV)

We serve God and follow Christ when we deny ourselves, and put God and others first. This is not easy, and as Jesus says above, is a daily exercise of our faith. You cannot deny yourself one time and it be dealt with, instead it takes a lifetime.

With Gladness

Verse two isn’t just about serving God however, but serving Him with gladness. This means to do so cheerfully, and not begrudgingly.

I’ve only given two examples of serving the Lord above, and yet each can be very difficult to do with gladness at certain times. Denying ourselves is rarely easy, but there are times and seasons in life where worship may be a sacrifice. When all is well in our lives, it may be easy to lift up holy hands to the Lord. In times of trial or despair however, it may be a real effort to worship.

Serving God is a privilege that not all accept or relish. We are indeed privileged and humbled to know and be known by the Creator of all things. We are a chosen people, and a Holy Priesthood dedicated an set apart to serve the Lord. The eternal promise of heaven should be more than enough to make us “glad!”

I commented yesterday that I do not find joy the most natural of things (or maybe I cut that out during editing!) I’m not the most exuberant of people, so the idea of shouting for joy isn’t all that easy for me. Joy is a cousin of gladness of course, and so as we turn our attention onto our loving Heavenly Father and off of ourselves and our problems, gladness will soon follow.

What might your service of God look like? It may be slightly different for each of us. If yesterday I encouraged you to be a “shouting Christian,” then today let me exhort you to be a serving one.

Two posts in, and we’ve not yet completed verse two! More from this fabulous psalm another day! God bless.

Shouting Christians (Psalm 100 #1)

Shout for joy to Yahweh, all you lands!

2     Serve Yahweh with gladness.

    Come before his presence with singing.

3 Know that Yahweh, he is God.

    It is he who has made us, and we are his.

    We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,

    and into his courts with praise.

    Give thanks to him, and bless his name.

5 For Yahweh is good.

    His loving kindness endures forever,

    his faithfulness to all generations.

Psalm 100:1-5 (WEB)

This wonderful psalm came up as part of the Course in Christian Studies I have been following recently. It is a clear song of praise to our God, and so I thought I would focus at least one blog post on it… perhaps more!

Shouting is not generally considered a good thing. If I asked you to picture someone shouting, you might imagine a stressed school teacher yelling at their class or an angry driver hollering out of their window at a passer-by for not paying more attention. In London last weekend, it was reported that a group of individuals were driving around the city shouting antisemitic abuse, supposedly fuelled by the escalating conflict in Israel and Gaza. Such shouting is indeed a very bad thing and totally unacceptable. 

The dictionary definition of shouting is somewhat less negative however – “To call or cry out loudly and vigorously.” While this can certainly be in a negative manner, it does not always have to be.

Psalm 100 opens with a call to shout. Not to abuse or to yell at anyone, but instead to shout for joy!

Shouting for joy is clearly a way of expressing great delight in the Lord. Joy goes far beyond mere happiness, which comes and goes with circumstances. Instead, joy is a Fruit of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:22-23) and is rooted in us when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us. Joy is also a spectrum ranging from a calm, peacefulness to an overflowing, exhuberant delight!

This is also not some general shout, but it is directed to Someone very specific. In the WEB translation above, it names God as Yahweh. Other translations, such as the NIV, will simply render the name as “LORD”. This is the God of the Bible; Father, Son and Holy Spirit – One God in Three Persons.

We might shout when our favourite team scores a goal, or when our child wins the race on sports day, but would we really shout for joy to the Lord? I find myself a little humbled on this point. I suppose I’m rather British (he says with a smile) and so I am not known for my vocal outbursts or dancing before the altar… I imagine my children would pray for the earth to open up and swallow them if I did!

What greater reason is there to shout for joy? If I am not self-conscious at a concert or sporting event, why would I be in church? Calling out in praise is the most natural thing a believer can do, and if we spent our time really focussed on what God has done for us, then I suppose we would have little trouble in stirring ourselves up in that way.

Now please do not misunderstand me here. It is biblical to act in an orderly manner in church. Please do not “shout for joy because Andy said so” during your pastor’s next sermon (live or livestream!) In times of worship however, it may be appropriate to call out to God, praising Him for who He is and what He has done for you.

To complete verse one, and perhaps this post as well, the direction to shout to the Lord is given to “all you lands!” Maybe the writer here was thinking of all the lands of Israel, or even the entirety of the earth. Either way, this is a direction to shout and praise for all peoples. God is the God of all, not just those who choose to follow Him. A day will come when all, willingly or unwillingly, will bow their knee before Him and confess His Lordship.

The shout of the Christian church is meant to carry throughout the world. We are to raise Christ as a Banner, proclaiming His Name wherever we go. As we go out, the world ought to hear us coming a mile off as they hear our shout from afar.

When he had taken counsel with the people, he appointed those who were to sing to Yahweh, and give praise in holy array, as they go out before the army, and say, “Give thanks to Yahweh; for his loving kindness endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 20:21 (WEB)

Let our shouts of joy go before us. Let us be known as a people of praise! Let each of us show a bit of enthusiasm for our God who has rescued us from the power of sin and death. He is worthy! His love endures forever! God be praised in the highest heavens! Let “all you lands” worship Him!

Keep on shouting and we will pick up the rest of this psalm another day.

Potatoes, Eggs and Coffee

I recently heard an interesting illustration I thought I would share with you today.

If you take some potatoes and put them in a pan of boiling water, after a short while, they will become soft and you can even crush them. Take that same pan of water, but instead, add eggs. After a time, the eggs, unlike the potatoes, will go hard. Finally, if you added coffee beans instead to that very same pan of boiling water, this time wonderful flavours and aromas of coffee will begin to emerge.

The point – we are react differently to times of trial. In our illustration, the rolling hot water represents a time of testing for us. If we are like the potatoes, we will become softened and ultimately crushed by the trial. If like the eggs, we would become hard and impliable. Or finally, we could be like the coffee, using the trial to produce something new and wonderful.

Which are you?

In the Bible, James says this:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters,[a] whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

James 1:2-3 (NIV)

Consider it pure joy James, come on! Who of us can ever face a time of great difficulty and be joyful in the midst of it? A Christian can, drawing on the strength of God.

No trial is enjoyable, let’s be honest, but we endure it because we know it has a purpose. Here, James points out that our testing and trials produce perseverance. There is a reason for the trials we face, even if we do not see it at the time.

James asks us to be joyful, and not happy. That is an important distinction. Happiness comes from the word “happenstance” meaning circumstances. We are happy when all of our circumstances are how we want them. Joy is not so dependent on such fickle things. Joy is a Fruit of the Holy Spirit (see Galations 5:22-23). We have joy not because our present circumstances are good, but because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our hearts.

Fruit must be cultivated and developed. I am no gardener, but we do have a small group of fruit trees. I’ve lost several over the years due to not properly taking care of them. The more I care for the tree, the better the fruit I get and the more abundant it is. If you lack joy, is it because you are not taking care of it?

I do not know what trials you face right now, but I do know you have a choice about how you handle them. Don’t let them crush you like the potatoes, nor let them make you hard like the eggs. Use them, don’t waste them! Lean on your Heavenly Father to get through them and be like the coffee, letting those times of difficulty bring out something new in you.

And do let me pray for you. Leave a comment below or on the social media links and I’ll be glad to pray for you and your situation.

Are you a potato, egg or delicious cup of coffee?

You Thrill Me (Psalm 92 #2)

Yesterday I wrote about the first few verses of Psalm 92, and so today i thought I would just carry on and talk about more of this great song of praise.

You can read yesterday’s post here – Praise in the morning, praise in the evening.

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
to sing praises to the Most High.
2 It is good to proclaim your unfailing love in the morning,
your faithfulness in the evening,
3 accompanied by a ten-stringed instrument, a harp,
and the melody of a lyre.

4 You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what you have done.
5 O Lord, what great works you do!
And how deep are your thoughts.
6 Only a simpleton would not know,
and only a fool would not understand this:
7 Though the wicked sprout like weeds
and evildoers flourish,
they will be destroyed forever.

Psalm 92:1-7 (NLT)

All He has done

Verses 1-3 encourage us to worship God for particular aspects of His character. It points us toward God’s unfailing love and His faithfulness. Verse 4 turns our attention to the good things God has done as a result of His wonderful character.

I once heard it said that worship is about recognising who God is, whereas praise is about the things He has done. Perhaps the definitions aren’t so rigid, but it is a helpful way to look at it. The psalm, in that case, turns worship into praise.

The New Living Translation, quoted above, uses the word “thrill,” which is a powerful term. God’s work should thrill us! We associate the word thrill or thrilling with something like a roller-coaster or extreme sport. I suppose in some ways our Christian lives can be a lot like that at times!

We are thrilled, or excited, by god’s wonderful works. Think of all He has done for you! We can look at Creation and see its complexity and beauty. We can look at the blessings we receive on a daily basis. Most of all we can focus on the saving work of Jesus Christ and the immense grace shown to us who believe.

Again, we are encouraged to sing in response to the kindness of God. Not just sing though, but sing for joy!

Joy is something I feel I lack. I’m happy, don’t get me wrong, but I find it hard to grasp joy in my inner man at times. Even as I write these words, I hear the Spirit’s whisper that it is because I do not do what the psalmist is instructing us here. I do not consider what God has done often enough. All too frequently I am caught up in the concerns of this life – work, family, or even recreation, and not nearly enough on the things of eternity.

The solution to lack of joy:

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. 2 Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth.

Colossians 3:1-2 (NLT)

Does this apply to you also?

Flourishing Evil

Verses 5-7 are really quite interesting. Verse 5 directs us to consider how deep the thoughts of God are. I am truly humbled by the times I have questioned God or what He has done. How dare I even imagine that I could fathom His reasons or actions with my limited mind?

When my children repeat over and over, “Why, dad, why?” I try to explain as best I can, but sometimes the answer is simply because I know things they do not. I cannot ask my six year old to understand the economic impacts of COVID-19 nor explain to my two year old about genetics or astrophysics. Some things are just beyond them.

The same is true for me. God’s thoughts and ways are sometimes so far above our comprehension, it is rather comical that we try to figure it out. God wants us to use our brain and to understand what we can, but we must also know our limits.

Verses 6 and 7 have some tough words for us. It says that only a simpleton would not understand this – that evildoers may flourish like weeds but they will be destroyed forever.

The psalmist is adamant. He tells us it is as plain as day! Yes evil may well flourish around us and be as abundant as weeds in a neglected garden, but they will not get away with it. Evil will not go unpunished. Why not? Because there is a just God in heaven!

Some people ask how a loving God could punish people in an eternal hell. The answer is simple, if not easy. A loving God must also be a just God. If God were to simply ignore sin and evil, then the result of that would not be “loving” for all. Imagine if someone committed a horrendous crime against someone you dearly loved, and the police just let them go. Would you feel loved? No, you would want justice!

The problem we have though, is that we are all guilty of sin and evil. So God, to be just, must punish us all. But thank God for His mercy and “deep thoughts”!

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:16 (NLT)

God has done something astonishingly amazing. He could have just left us to face the punishment of our sin but He didn’t – He had a plan. God came down and became human. We call Him Jesus. He never once failed to do good, and never once sinned against God or man. Yet He took the full punishment we deserve. He became our substitute so we can go free.

This thrills me!

God’s justice is fulfilled in Christ’s death. God’s love is demonstrated in the same way. Only a fool or a simpleton would accuse God of injustice or a lack of love towards His creation.

Evil may flourish for a lifetime on Earth, but eternity is a very long time.

Let the God of love and justice thrill you this day! Sing for joy for the things He has done! And another day we will complete this stunning psalm.

Have a great weekend!

Any Excuse To Celebrate

The blog passed a few minor milestones over the last couple of days. We exceeded the number of views we had for the whole of 2019, which is not bad for mid-April. Now, of course, it helps that I’ve posted much more in 2020 than I did last year, but it’s still an achievement!

This is in fact day 35 of daily posts, which may not be much to some, but I’m pleased to have kept the momentum going this long.

Additionally, I’ve written over 25,000 words on the blog so far this year, which is the equivalent of a short novel.

The blog has picked up more followers and more likes, and I want to take the opportunity to say a huge thank you to everyone who has read any of this over the last few months. I really hope you have enjoyed it and it has encouraged you to draw closer to Jesus even in a small way.

Every word is worth it if it helps you to understand the Bible a little better or build up your relationship with God.

So I also take this opportunity to celebrate this small success. God gets all of the glory of course, but it is right to recognise achievements along the way and take time to reflect on them.

There is much to be down about in the world today, and it can be all too easy to shrug off reasons to celebrate. For instance, perhaps you’ve had a birthday or anniversary during the lockdown period. I imagine it was hard to mark the occasion and enjoy it as you normally might.

Even in the midst of all the issues right now though, we must enjoy our lives. We will never get this time back, and so should not just throw it away in hope of better times to come. It is not ideal I know, but we can make the best of it.

In the Bible, the Israelites were commanded to celebrate at various feasts throughout the year. Some would argue that “scheduled fun” is no fun at all, but equally if we on’t make time for celebration, it generally won’t happen. God instructed he people of Israel to remember certain events and hold festivals to mark various occasions.

The Lord gave Moses 2 the following regulations for the religious festivals, when the people of Israel are to gather for worship.

Leviticus 23:1-2 (GNT)

The Sabbath, which occurred on a weekly basis, was a day set aside for the people of Israel to do no work, and to focus on God. Some feasts or festivals were celebrated annually, such as the Passover, where they remembered and rejoiced at their escape from Egypt.

There were many other feasts, including the Feast of the Tabernacles, Feast of Trumpets and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Some people suggest that each of these feast days ordained in the Old Testament point to different aspects of Christ. It is an interesting study, but one for another day.

My point today is to remind you to stop and take stock. Find a reason to be joyful and to celebrate in your life. Make a special effort to do so right now. Find any excuse to celebrate, and it does not have to be something big.

Make a special meal. Send someone (or yourself) a gift. Decorate the house with something colourful. Do something to lift your spirits and mark an achievement or just another Tuesday!

Take time to celebrate God too. He really is the most important part of life. In “normal” life, we get lost in the hustle and bustle and can lose sight of Him. In lockdown life, we can take additional time to be with Jesus.

Celebration can boost our joy. Joy is important, not just because it is a wonderful Fruit of the Spirit but because it is a source of strength too.

Now go home and have a feast. Share your food and wine with those who don’t have enough. Today is holy to our Lord, so don’t be sad. The joy that the Lord gives you will make you strong.”

Nehemiah 8:10 (GNT)

Don’t get bogged down in negativity today, instead celebrate the Lord and all He has done for you!

Why not leave a comment and tell me what you are celebrating today?