Might Not Sin (Re-post)

Do you want to sin against God? The obvious answer is no! No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does. Yet, what steps do we take to …

Might Not Sin

Might Not Sin

Do you want to sin against God? The obvious answer is no! No one who calls themselves a follower of Jesus Christ does. Yet, what steps do we take to avoid the trap of sin in our lives? If we do nothing, then we will find ourselves drifting into sin’s clutches. To avoid sin, we must be deliberate and decisive.

There are many reasons to read the Bible, and here is a compelling one from Psalm 119.

I have hidden your word in my heart
that I might not sin against you.

Psalm 119:11 (NIV)

My post today may be short, simple and straight to the point. If you want to avoid sin, then you must be dedicated to God’s Word.

The one who spends their time storing God’s Word in their heart is the one who will have the best chance of defeating temptation and not falling into sin.

In God’s Word we learn what is and is not sin, and how we – as His people – should conduct our lives. We also gain spiritual nourishment so that we might be strong in our faith. As we read and study the Bible, our minds are renewed and the better we think, the better we will act.

You will never grow as a Christian if you do not take the time necessary to get to know God’s Word.

Hide it in your heart, and speak it out of your mouth. Memorise it, meditate on it, and marinate in it!

Sin is deadly. Do not be deceived, and do not falsely believe you can “get away” with it. Jesus defeated the temptation of the devil by quoting the Scriptures. When you are likewise tempted, you too can draw on the Scriptures you have stored in your heart.

Reading a few verses on a Sunday in church isn’t enough. Take time each and every day to consume the Bible. It takes effort, of course, but it is well worth it!

May God bless you richly as you engage with the Word today.

How Long?

How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

5 But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
6 I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.

Psalm 13 (NIV)

How long, Lord! David cries out in the opening words of this psalm. How many of you have ever felt like that? I know that I have. We face trouble or trial, and we cry out to the Lord wondering where He is or what we’ve done wrong.

David’s words are challenging. He pulls no punches when he speaks with His God. Few of us might dare to speak to God with such fervour. He borders on irreverence it seems, demanding an answer from the God who has seemingly let him down.

In the press we read of celebrities who mock our Lord. Stephen Fry is a well known example of this; only a wicked or evil God could allow such hatred and suffering in the world, he says. He boldly claims that he will demand answers from God when he stands before Him, if He even exists… Yet the sheer hubris of this is galling. To even imagine that we could stand before the Creator of all things and “demand answers” would be amusing if not so sad. We will demand nothing from God when we stand before Him. We will bow the knee, willingly or not, before the One who shaped the universe with His very words.

David asks God why He is hiding from him. He asks the Lord how long He will allow his enemies to triumph. In verse 3, David even insists the Lord answer him. IS David another Stephen Fry – certainly not!

Intimacy

So how can the psalmist speak to God with such words? Firstly, he speaks from a position of intimacy. David is not complaining about God to another person, rather is engaging directly with the God he knows and loves.

David can be so bold and so honest because he has relationship with God. This is not some foreign or unknown god, but the One who sticks closer than a brother (see Proverbs 18:24). Such words are not permitted between strangers. Imagine if I walked up to someone on the street I did not know, and informed them that I did not like their outfit. How do you think they would react? Not well! Yet, if I had a close friend, I might be in a position to offer advice or opinion (appropriately of course) without causing offence.

We, too, can be honest with our Lord. We can tell Him how we feel, and part of being in close relationship with Him is all about sharing ourselves with Him.

Security

Intimacy is not the only prerequisite for David being able to speak to God in this way. The other is security. David knows that God is not easily offended, nor is He likely to react badly to his uncovered feelings. The psalmist is secure in His relationship with God. He knows that God knows precisely what is happening, and won’t reject David for his cries of anguish.

David’s security came from his intimacy with God. Only one who knew God so well could be so vulnerable before Him. Similarly, we have that same security, and if anything, ours is even more secure. We have security in Christ. Unlike David, we know that God came down as a Man and bled and died for each of us. A God who would do that for us, Who has experienced the same pains that we face, will not turn His back on us or reject us.

Turnaround

Verse 5 of this little psalm sees a sudden turn around. David, having poured out his heart before God, suddenly shifts gears. The psalm turns on a single word – “But…” All of what David has said in verses 1-4 remain true, “but” David knows other truths as well.

Despite his circumstances, and despite his obvious pain, David places his trust in God’s unfailing love. This is no whimsical love that comes and goes with the wind, this is a love that never changes or shifts. David draws on that love to enjoy that security we discussed a moment ago. Despite the circumstances he faces, David knows that God’s love conquers all.

When we face such trouble and pain, we may well ask “Does God not love me anymore?” The answer to this question is that He absolutely does love us! He proved that love at the cross of Calvary. The trouble is indeed real, as is the pain, and yet God’s love is far more so. David can survive this trial by placing his trust in the unchanging love of God.

Alongside God’s love, David rejoices in the salvation of the Lord. David knows that he will indeed see God’s salvation; salvation from his enemies, from his sorrowful thoughts and from all the other things he mentions in the opening verses. Perhaps David had in mind an earthly salvation, that is that he believed God would save him from his enemies and worldly problems.

For us, we too can trust in God’s saving work. Because of what Christ did at the cross, we know that no matter the troubles of this life, all will be restored in the next. That is not to say our life here must be terrible and we’ll enjoy the wonders of heaven, but even if this life is indeed truly awful, we know that heaven is ample compensation.

David, having focused on the unfailing love of God and His salvation, responds by singing praises to God. We may not be able to sing in our church right now (due to COVID) but we can sing in our hearts and in our homes. If we turn our focus off of our problems and on to the Lord, then we can lift our voices in true joy and thanksgiving.

David does not minimise or dismiss his troubles, and lays them out before God. He does not stop there though, and having done it, turns to the goodness of God. We can do the same. By all means, be honest with God and share your feelings with Him. Once you have done so though, remember His love, salvation and goodness, and use it as a vehicle to shape your praise.

Thank God for being good to us all!

He is Our Rock (Psalm 92 #3)

This is the third and final post on Psalm 92. If you missed them, you can read the first one here – Praise in the morning, praise in the evening– and the second one here – You Thrill Me.

We left off last time discussing that although evil may flourish for a time, it will ultimately be destroyed. The psalmist compares evil to the weeds or grass, which appears rapidly but does not last.

But you, O Lord, will be exalted forever.
9 Your enemies, Lord, will surely perish;
all evildoers will be scattered.
10 But you have made me as strong as a wild ox.
You have anointed me with the finest oil.
11 My eyes have seen the downfall of my enemies;
my ears have heard the defeat of my wicked opponents.
12 But the godly will flourish like palm trees
and grow strong like the cedars of Lebanon.
13 For they are transplanted to the Lord’s own house.
They flourish in the courts of our God.
14 Even in old age they will still produce fruit;
they will remain vital and green.
15 They will declare, “The Lord is just!
He is my rock!
There is no evil in him!”

Psalm 92:8-15 (NLT)

Exalted Forever

Unlike evil, which has a definite end in sight, God’s praise and worship will continue for all eternity. He is worthy, and eternal exaltation is hardly enough to worship the Living God.

For those who worry that Heaven will somehow be like a never ending worship service, please do not be afraid! IF the thought of just singing for all eternity fills you a sense of dread, then please let me reassure you.

I love to sing, and especially so to the Lord. However, Heaven offers more than just unending choirs and instrumental praise. Worship is far more than singing. Singing is a vehicle certainly, but it is just one vehicle.

We worship God with our very breath. Every day while you work, serve, rest or play, you can worship God Most High. How? We do that by putting Him at the centre of everything we do. When we work, we work to the Lord. When we rest, we rest in His presence. When we walk, we walk with Him. Anything you can can be done with worship in your heart.

Heaven will be life – eternal life – and a life lived in worship and exaltation to our deserving King.

Strong as an Ox

Verse 10 gives thanks to God for giving us the strength of an ox. Interestingly, some translations render this “unicorn” rather than “wild ox,” but the point is the same.

Our strength is found in relationship with God. When times get tough, and they do, we must turn to God and draw on His power. We cannot do it all ourselves or in our own strength. Instead, we must rely on Him and be fully dedicated to prayer.

Do you feel as strong as an ox? If you are like me, then you perhaps must admit to not feeling quite so vibrant most days. My strength fades when I take my eyes off of Christ. After a sleepless night with a child, it is very easy to give in to the temptation of being pitiful, or being snappy or grumpy.

What’s the solution? The latter part of verse 10 tells us. The Lord God has anointed us with finest oil. Oil in the Bible is often a symbol of the Holy Spirit. When our strength is lacking, we must seek the refreshing presence of the Holy Spirit who renews and rejuvenates us. While this can be physical of course, primarily I am thinking of an inward refreshing.

Praise the Lord for sending us His Comforter and Strengthener!

Like a Palm Tree

In verse 7 of this psalm (not quoted above) the evildoer is compared to the weeds or grass, and we should take from this that it is short-lived. Grass and weeds seem to sprout as if from nowhere, and yet a hot summer or hard frost (more likely here in the UK!) and they are gone.

In contrast, the godly are compared to the palm tree or the cedars of Lebanon in verse 12. Times of heat or cold won’t destroy us. For the godly, rooted and anchored in God’s love, we have the staying power to outlast this world and its difficulties.

I love the imagery of the godly trees being transplanted into God’s garden from verse 13. We were all once lost and part of the world, yet God saved us and transferred us into His Kingdom where can flourish in His presence.

For he has rescued us from the kingdom of darkness and transferred us into the Kingdom of his dear Son,

Colossians 1:13 (NLT)

Evil is a temporary weed, but the godly are trees forever transplanted into the court of our God.

The Final Word

The psalm concludes with two key points. Firstly, that God is our Rock. The second that there is no evil in Him at all.

Let’s take the latter first.

God is not evil, nor is there any evil in Him at all. Some accuse Him of this but this comes only from our own human ignorance. I do not mean to sound harsh there, but as verses 5 and 6 remind us – God’s thoughts are very deep, and only those who lack understanding believe that evildoers escape judgement.

When tragedy befalls us, it can be easy to point at God and blame Him. We may say, “If God is so good, then why did so-and-so have to die so young?” These are natural questions, and yet ones that can never be answered satisfactorily. If we knew what God knows, then we would be able to answer.

God’s love is demonstrated at the cross of Jesus Christ. He took on all the pain and suffering of this world, taking our place so that we can go free. That is love!

I am not saying that trouble is easy to cope with, nor that you should not grieve when you lose a loved one. The pain of loss makes us feel all kinds of things, and I would not presume to quarrel with yu over it. However, please do not doubt God’s love.

God is good, and there is no evil in Him. And He is our Rock. Rocks do not change. They are stable. Large enough ones cannot be moved or shifted. Likewise, God does not change, He is stable, and He cannot be moved.

Let us exalt Him this day and sing for joy at the work of His hands!

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!

Promises, promises (Psalm 91 part 2)

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler,
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
Under his wings you will take refuge.
His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
and ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes,
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made Yahweh your refuge,
and the Most High your dwelling place,
10 no evil shall happen to you,
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
11 For he will put his angels in charge of you,
to guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
so that you won’t dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and cobra.
You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love on me, therefore I will deliver him.
I will set him on high, because he has known my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him in trouble.
I will deliver him, and honor him.
16 I will satisfy him with long life,
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91 (WEB)

This is a second post on Psalm 91, and you can read the first part here – Read the Bible… literally?

Last time, we started to think about whether the Bible should be read literally or not. And the answer was “It depends…”

Some passages are clearly poetic or allegorical and should not be taken literally. Likewise, other passages of Scripture are definite instructions that should be followed as such.

Psalm 91 has some amazing promises, and at this time in the world, there are many Christians quoting these promises of protection against the Corona virus. Is that appropriate however?

Can we interpret these verses as meaning God will protect us from harm, violence, pestilence and the like? Or is there more going on here?

We really want to be able to believe these promises and interpret them literally. Wouldn’t it be fantastic to have total protection against these things at all times? But us wanting it to be true is not the same as it being true.

I recently heard someone preaching on these verses and essentially saying that if you have sufficient faith, then you can accept these verses at face value and it only fails to work for those who fail to trust God sufficiently.

That’s the risk. We read these verses and if they seem untrue in our lives, then we conclude we don’t have enough faith. When we water down God’s Word to the point where we say, “If we do this, then that will happen…” We make the Bible a scientific formula in a way it was never intended to be. 

Look at the evidence of your life. If you are reading this, then chances are you are probably a believing Christian. Can you say you are without trouble, violence or illness at all times? If not, then is that because you have failed to trust God? Again, I doubt it.

When Jesus was being tempted by the devil, the enemy quoted these exact verses to the Lord.

Then the devil took him into the holy city. He set him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6 and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,

‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and,
‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you don’t dash your foot against a stone.’”Psalm 91:11-12

7 Jesus said to him, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not test the Lord, your God.’”Deuteronomy 6:16

Matthew 4:5-7 (WEB)

It seems to me that the devil was trying to tempt Jesus into believing that these verses were literally true. He was enticing Him to test God by forcing Him to uphold the promise. If Jesus leapt from the roof, then angels would have to be issued to stop Him dashing His foot or on a stone.

Jesus responds perfectly and says you should not put God to the test.

If the devil is trying to get Jesus to test this promise, and He refuses, why do we think we can get away with it?

Similarly, if it was a matter of how much we trust God, then Jesus has us beaten. None of us can claim to trust the Father to the same degree that Jesus did. Jesus trusted His Father perfectly. If that’s the case, and if these promises are literal, then Jesus should have been able to draw upon them.

The psalm itself gives us a hint that there is more to these words than just their face value. Verse 15 says, “He will call on me, and I will answer him. I will be with him in trouble.” Be with us “in trouble”? But don’t the earlier promises suggest we won’t have any trouble?

So, where does this leave us? 

We must understand this passage in the light of other passages. Indeed, all Scripture must be understood in its proper place among the context of the Bible. 

Take Job. He lost everything; his health, his wealth and his family. As he sat down with his three friends, they essentially told him that all this happened because he did not trust in God. That is exactly what we are tempted to think when trouble comes to us. Yet, at the end, God appeared and pronounced that the friends had not represented Him well at all. 

Likewise, Jesus Himself said:

I have told you these things, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have trouble; but cheer up! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33 (WEB)

Jesus says it plainly. While we live in this world, we will have trouble. He was neither ignorant of Psalm 91 nor contradictory of it. 

It is my belief therefore that this Psalm is about God’s faithfulness to His people. He does offer protection, refuge and defence, but often in the midst of the trouble befalling us. Our faith is not a weapon allowing us to remove every difficult and unpleasant thing in our path. Rather it connects us to the One who has overcome all of that, and walks through the trouble with us. 

I wish I could promise you that the Corona virus, or indeed any illness, will never affect you. Some teach that. Healing is very real, and I’ve have both heard and seen amazing miracles banishing sickness from someone. I do not believe God wants us to be sick, but neither do I think God’s primary concern is our comfort. 

God is more concerned about our eternal destiny, than our present and temporary trials. 

In our limited human minds, it is very difficult to try to grasp God’s wider purposes, especially when it comes to times of trouble. That’s where the trust comes in. God doesn’t reward our trust by removing all problems. Our trust in Him reminds us that He is in control, even when things go wrong. 

God is our refuge. He is most certainly our fortress. Life may get difficult, and it may even come to an end. God takes the long view however. This life is not all that there is, and eternity is a very long time in comparison. 

let this psalm inspire you. Let these wonderful words bring you into a place of praise and trust of our Heavenly Father. Ask Him to protect you from harm of course, but trust him if it does not happen as you had hoped. Don’t test God by putting yourself in harm’s way and demanding God rescue you. Instead, use your God-given brain and the leading of the Holy Spirit to avoid trouble where possible. If it comes, continue to rejoice in Him and your witness will speak volumes to a frightened world. 

The Sinfulness of my Sin

I acknowledged my sin to thee, and my iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions to the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.

Psalm 32:5 (WEB)

The sinfulness of my sin… captivating title right? And I know what you are thinking – two blog posts in two days? What’s gotten into Andy?!

I’m pleased to report that all is well, and I’m not self-isolating with nothing to do. In fact, I am very conscious of how everyone is feeling right now, and hoping that a few extra blog posts will be well received.

A few weeks ago I spoke on Psalm 32. You can listen to that message here. It is a wonderful Psalm and I only had a short time to discuss it. This post covers one of the things I did not have time to explore.

The totality of the Psalm is about sin and repentance. It points out the depth of our wrongdoing, the wonder outs grace of God and our responsibility to confess and acknowledge our sin.

There is an interesting little phrase in verse 5 which says God forgives the “iniquity of our sin.” We might say the “sinfulness of our sin.”

Some translations of the Bible render this as the “guilt of our sin,” but this doesn’t quite cover it in my view.

If God forgives our sin, then what does it mean for Him to forgive the iniquity of our sin?

It is like saying the “saltiness of salt,” or the “chocolatey-ness of chocolate…” What is the psalmist getting at here?

Often when we say “Sorry,” we are not really sorry for what we did, but rather are sorry we got caught. When we see hardened criminals breaking down in tears in the dock of the courtroom, it is often about the loss of their freedom, money or reputation. Being sorry for the consequences of sin is of course very natural, and a great reason not to do it in the first place. But are we sorry for the sin itself? If we never got caught, are we truly repentant for the thing we did?

The sinfulness of our sin is the badness of our sin. It is to recognise that sin is wrong, not because it has terrible consequences, but because it is wrong in the sight of God.

When we are truly repentant, we are sorry to God for falling short of His perfection. We are saying that the thing we did – the things we all do – are very wrong irrespective of consequence and punishment.

God forgives us not just from the punishment of sin through Jesus’ death at the cross, but for sin’s sinfulness also. God forgives us for the wickedness of our sin, and all of its consequences. That is not to say that we are free from any consequence on Earth of course, just rob a bank to see what I mean. God can forgive a robber, but they’ll still go to jail for it.

The point is that we need to recognise that our sin is wrong. It is wrong in and of itself. The consequences are indeed terrible, if facing them without Christ, but the sinfulness alone is wicked before God.

As you reflect on and confess your own sins, ask yourself if you are sorry for what they are, or for their consequence.

Spend some time this week to reflect on where you have fallen short, and on the One who forgives all of your sins and covers all of your iniquity. Come to Jesus at the cross and surrender your whole life to Him. It will be the best decision you ever made!

Read the Bible… literally? (Psalm 91 part 1)

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 I will say of Yahweh, “He is my refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
3 For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler,
and from the deadly pestilence.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
Under his wings you will take refuge.
His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.
5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night,
nor of the arrow that flies by day,
6 nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness,
nor of the destruction that wastes at noonday.
7 A thousand may fall at your side,
and ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
8 You will only look with your eyes,
and see the recompense of the wicked.
9 Because you have made Yahweh your refuge,
and the Most High your dwelling place,
10 no evil shall happen to you,
neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.
11 For he will put his angels in charge of you,
to guard you in all your ways.
12 They will bear you up in their hands,
so that you won’t dash your foot against a stone.
13 You will tread on the lion and cobra.
You will trample the young lion and the serpent underfoot.
14 “Because he has set his love on me, therefore I will deliver him.
I will set him on high, because he has known my name.
15 He will call on me, and I will answer him.
I will be with him in trouble.
I will deliver him, and honor him.
16 I will satisfy him with long life,
and show him my salvation.”

Psalm 91 (WEB)

A cursory read of this Psalm and you might think all of your problems are over. The psalmist sings of God’s refuge, deliverance from deadly pestilence and being shielded in times of terror and violence. 

In the recent days where world governments have taken drastic measures to ward off the Corona-virus, I’ve seen many Christians quoting and meditating on the verses of this Psalm. But does this passage really suggest God will protect us from all illness, violence and trouble? If so, then why do we all face such troubled times in our lives? Let’s explore that in part two (to follow in the coming days).

For now, let’s think about taking the Bible literally. I recently heard a non-Christian source describing the “Pentacostals.” They were fairly general in their terms and what they said might have applied to any number of Christian denominations, whether they would consider themselves Pentacostal or not. One thin they said was that Pentacostals take the Bible literally – word-for-word. My ears pricked up at this. 

Is the Bible meant to be taken literally? It is not a Yes or No question i’m afraid. 

I hold Scripture in very high esteem. I believe that the Bible is inspired by God, and every Word can be trusted and relied upon. I base my entire life and eternity on the hope of the Bible. I know God and His Son Jesus Christ as revealed in the pages of Scripture. It is exactly as God intended it, and it without fault or mistake. 

Every Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness,

2 Timothy 3:16 (WEB)

Does that mean I take the Bible literally? Sometimes yes, and sometimes no. 

The Bible is not a simple book. It is made up of all kinds of different writing styles. Some of the Bible is poetic, some of it is historic, some is prophetic, and some of it is made up of letters written from Christians to churches or other ministers. 

Where the Bible is giving instruction, it is certainly meant to be taken literally. 

Passages containing poetry or allegory are more than likely not meant to be taken literally. 

Psalm 91 is one of those poetic passages, and we know that some parts at least, are not intended to be read literally. How can I say this for sure? Just read verse 4 with me:

He will cover you with his feathers.
Under his wings you will take refuge.
His faithfulness is your shield and rampart.

Psalm 91:4 (WEB)

Does God have wings? How about feathers? I’ve studied the Bible for years, and read many books about it, and i’ve yet to hear anyone claim that God is a winged or feathered Being. This is a picture. It suggests a mother hen covering her vulnerable chicks under the protection of her wings. That’s the message the Psalmist is trying to create here. He is not trying to communicate that God literally has wings. 

It is therefore important when reading the Bible to try to discern whether a passage is meant to be read literally. Sometimes it is clear and sometimes not. Genesis 1 is a classic example of this. There are those who say it is a literal account of the creation, while others that it is just a poetic picture of how God did it. Whether you agree Genesis 1 is a scientific text or not, you catch my meaning (I hope!)

So, can we take the promises of Psalm 91 at face value? I hope that I have shown above that some parts of this psalm at least, are not intended to be taken literally. But can we claim the promises for our own? I will discuss this next time. Look out for part two!

Did you know you can subscribe to this blog? You can do so via WordPress or by entering your email address. Then you will be automatically notified of part two when it arrives! 

Psalm 32

Andy recently spoke at a Holy Communion service at St. John’s Church, Great Clacton. He spoke on Psalm 32, one of thhe Penitential Psalms, and you can see the text of the passage and listen to the sermon audio below.


By David. A contemplative psalm.

Blessed is he whose disobedience is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
2
Blessed is the man to whom Yahweh doesn’t impute iniquity,
in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3
When I kept silence, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4
For day and night your hand was heavy on me.
My strength was sapped in the heat of summer. Selah.
5
I acknowledged my sin to you.
I didn’t hide my iniquity.
I said, I will confess my transgressions to Yahweh,
and you forgave the iniquity of my sin. Selah.
6
For this, let everyone who is godly pray to you in a time when you may be found.
Surely when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach to him.
7
You are my hiding place.
You will preserve me from trouble.
You will surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah.
8
I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you shall go.
I will counsel you with my eye on you.
9
Don’t be like the horse, or like the mule, which have no understanding,
who are controlled by bit and bridle, or else they will not come near to you.
10
Many sorrows come to the wicked,
but loving kindness shall surround him who trusts in Yahweh.
11
Be glad in Yahweh, and rejoice, you righteous!
Shout for joy, all you who are upright in heart!

Psalm 32 (WEB)


Is it God’s Will to Heal?

In my recent post – “Healing is in the Word” – I set out some of my beliefs about healing. I did not, in that post, try to explain my views with backing from the Bible. I want to try to do that over the next few posts.

As I said last time, I know some of you will not agree with my position. That’s ok. Please give me the grace to be wrong if I am. I hope to show you why I believe what I do, and if nothing else, get you to think about what you believe.

As a starting point, we must ask if it is God’s will to heal today.

I am willing

In the first chapter of Mark, we read the following account. This account is also mirrored in Matthew’s Gospel in chapter 8.

Then a leper came to Jesus and began pleading with him. He fell on his knees and told him, “If you want to, you can make me clean.”

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out his hand, touched him, and told him, “I do want to. Be made clean!” 42 Instantly the leprosy left him, and he was clean.

Mark 1:40-42 (ISV)

A leper comes to Jesus seeking healing. He asks essentially what we are asking today – is it your will to heal? He does not question Jesus’ ability – in fact, that is assumed – “you can make me clean” but asks if He is willing. Before healing the man, Jesus corrects his thinking by confirming that indeed, “I am willing”.

It is never a good thing to take a single verse and make a doctrine out of it. We must interpret God’s Word in the light of other Scripture, not in the light of our experience or our pre-existing beliefs. My belief is that it is God’s will to heal, and I’ve used the above to demonstrate that. However, it could be that Jesus was speaking specifically to this man alone, and we cannot apply it to ourselves.

Are there other Scriptures we can look to?

I want you to be in health

3 John 2 says:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

3 John 2 (ESV)

John, speaking by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, writes that it is his will for the recipient of his third letter (Gaius) to not only prosper, but be in good health. Again, it could be that this only applies to the addressee, but it is at least another example.

Does it refer to physical health?

The word “prosper” here may make us think of wealth. While that is certainly connected to material wealth, money or possessions alone do not make us “prosperous”. How prosperous is a billionaire whose marriage is breaking down, or whose children are estranged or who has a terminal illness? Wealth alone does not make one prosperous.

The word “health” here is the Greek word – hygiaino. This means “sound,” “well,” or “whole.” We might recognise the phrase to be “safe and sound,” or “safe and well.” This word conveys that same meaning. It can be used in the sense of “sound” or “wholesome” teaching or doctrine, but is used in Luke 7:10 to refer to the healing of the sick.

And they that were sent, returning to the house, found the servant whole that had been sick.

Luke 7:10 (KJV)

John says “that you would prosper and be in health, even as your soul prospers.” This “health” he refers to cannot therefore be related to the “soul”. The “even as” part suggests that is a given, and he infers that he wants health and prosperity in other respects as well as the soul. Physical health it may well be therefore.

Gifts of healing

In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul lists a number of spiritual gifts – special endowments of the Holy Spirit given to the church for the benefit of the church.

Verse 9 says:

…to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit

1 Corinthians 12:9 (ESV, emphasis added)

So we see that some of the gifts given to the church by the Holy Spirit are for healing. And not just one “gift” but “gifts” – plural – of healing.

It stands to reason that if God did not want us well, then He would not have provided gifts of healing to us.

Elders should pray for the sick

In his letter, James writes:

Is anyone among you sick? He must call for the elders (spiritual leaders) of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; 15 and the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up; and if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.

James 5:14-15 (Amp)

So if we are sick, we are instructed to seek the elders or leaders of the church to come and to pray for us. Again, why would we do this if it was not God’s will to make us healthy?

James not only instructs us to seek healing and prayer support from the church leaders, but in verse 15 says that “the prayer of faith will restore the one who is sick.” It is not an empty prayer, but one of power. James expected there to be results of this prayer for healing. Do we expect the same thing?

Sadly, when we pray for healing, we only “hope” it will work, and if honest, we have little expectation that it actually will.

Why? Because we are not convinced it actually is God’s will to heal. 

One of the benefits of believing

In my recent series, “All the Benefits of Believing,” I spent a good many weeks teaching on Psalm 103 verse by verse.

Verse 3 tells us that one of the many benefits to believing is:

who forgives all your iniquity,
who heals all your diseases,

Psalm 103:3 (ESV, emphasis added)

Not some of our diseases, but all of them. And the word translated as “diseases” there is the Hebrew word – tachaluw – and it means… well, diseases!

You can read more in the blog post called Trusting the Unseen.

Other Psalms also speak of the Lord healing His people. Psalm 107:20 which i discussed last week, says God send forth His word and heals them. Also, Psalm 91:9-10 says that for those who belong to the Lord, no plague will come near their tent.

Jesus’ Ministry

Jesus spent much of His ministry on Earth healing the sick who were brought to Him. There were several occasions when every single person brought to Christ was healed of whatever ailment they were afflicted with. He never turned anyone away and there were even times when just grasping the hem of His cloak was enough to release healing virtue.

It may be one thing for Jesus to go about healing people, but what about us?

Firstly, if Jesus did it, then we must understand that it was His will, and subsequently His Father’s will to heal people.

Secondly, Jesus gave that same authority to His disciples. In Matthew 10, we read:

Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority andpower over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness.

Matthew 10:1 (Amp)

Jesus bestowed His authority and power to heal the sick to His disciples. And they then went throughout the towns of Israel healing in the name of Jesus.

But does this apply to us? On the face of it, Jesus is clearly speaking here to the twelve disciples. The word “twelve” is present, and unless you are over 2,000 years old and a close personal friend of Jesus – you and I are not one of them.

I could not argue with this view if Matthew 10 closed there. Clearly, much of what Jesus goes on to tell His disciples is meant for them and then alone. But Jesus also widens His teaching, talking of imprisonment, beating and that ultimately they would not reach all of the towns of Israel before He returns. Returns? He had not yet left at this point! It’s clear therefore that Jesus was referring to times beyond the twelve apostles alone.

The Great Commission

I want to close this post by thinking about the Great Commission. Most of us think of the book of Matthew when we hear this phrase, and Jesus lasting command to His people to share the Gospel and make disciples of all they can.

Mark also records the Great Commission in his Gospel, and it can be found in Mark 16:

Then he told them, “As you go into the entire world, proclaim the gospel to everyone. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever doesn’t believe will be condemned. 17 These are the signs that will accompany those who believe: In my name they’ll drive out demons. they’ll speak in new languages, 18 and they’ll pick up snakes with their hands. Even if they drink any deadly poison, it won’t hurt them, and they’ll place their hands on the sick, and they’ll recover.

Mark 16:15-18 (ISV, emphasis added)

Most churches I’ve been involved in take the preaching of the Gospel very seriously – and rightly so. Very few seem to take the responsibility for laying hands and the sick, and seeing them recover.

Concluding thoughts

What I have said here is by no means a definitive argument. Many of you will rightly point out that there are other Scriptures not mentioned here which may paint a different view. I agree completely. I hope, next time, to select some of those Scriptures and examine them to see what we can learn from them.

Equally though, what I have mentioned above is just a handful of places in the Bible that suggest it is indeed God’s will to heal. I stop this post here, not because I run out of Scriptures, but because it is already long enough.

I hope that as you read these thoughts and the accompanying Scriptures, that you will consider your own position. Do I believe in healing? Do I believe it is God’s will to heal? Do I base by belief on a whole view of the Bible, or on my own experiences?

Before I close, I want to add that just because it is God’s will to heal, it does not mean it happens in every case. I am not ignorant, and completely understand that there are times when we pray or lay hands, and for some reason healing does not come. It is a tragedy when that happens, and it has happened to me too.

It does not mean that God chose not to heal that individual. It may surprise you to learn that God does not always get what He wants. But that’s a topic for another day.

For now, pray about this subject. Consider the verses here and others you know of. Seek the Lord in this matter and ask Him, “Is it your will to heal Father?”

Healing is in the Word

He sent His word and healed them, And delivered them from their destructions.

Psalm 107:20 (NKJV)

I’ve been thinking a lot about healing lately. I know it is a somewhat controversial subject for some, but it has long been a passion of mine to minister healing to the sick.

I know that not everyone believes the same thing that I do, and some believe healing died with the apostles or at least cannot be relied upon today. I struggle with this view, and in my studies feel there is a pretty strong case for healing in the Bible.

Of course there is no specific verse that says “God promises physical healing,” although that would certainly clear things up! But looking at the ministry of Jesus and taking the Bible as a whole, sickness is just not a good thing. We don’t see Jesus refusing to heal, or putting sickness on anyone, nor do we see anywhere sickness described as anything other than a curse.

I’m equally against those who say “you don’t have enough faith to be healed,” as it is not as simple as that. You can have faith for healing, and still not be healed. Having faith in it is not the only thing that counts, as our unbelief or doubt can hinder faith from working also.

I suppose my biggest struggle in this matter is not whether God’s Word does or does not say this or that, although it should be the primary issue. Instead I find myself debating our experiences. We don’t see healing, even when asking for it, as much as we would like and so we draw the conclusion that God does not heal today. Or that He chooses to heal some and not others.

I don’t want my faith to be driven by my circumstances or experiences. I want it governed by the Word of God. If the Bible says it, then it is true, no matter what my experience tells me.

An extreme view that may be, but I’m basing my life on what God has said in His Word.

As I’ve said before, I do not write this as someone who has it all figured out. I have a health issue that I have struggled with for years. But i’m not giving up…

I share the above verse today because I believe God spoke it to me just yesterday. I felt He was telling me that this verse is a life verse for me – and perhaps it is for you also?

God sent His Word and healed them. What a statement!

There is no bad way to get healed

God can heal us in a number of ways. He may very well use doctors and medicines, and thank Him that He does! Healing may come through what we would describe as a miracle; progressive or instantaneous. It may come through the laying on of hands, or the anointing with oil. As our verse for today tells us though, it may come through His Word. And there is no “bad way” to get healed!

For me personally, I’ve come to a place where I believe my healing will manifest through faith in His Word. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being healed through a spiritual gift (or indeed any other way), but my spirit witnesses that, for me at least, the Word is how it will come.

I’ve waited in prayer lines before and had people pray for me. Thank God for people like that. We need those with gifts of the Spirit to minister to those who do not know God’s Word sufficiently to put faith in it.

Imagine a scenario where a non-believer turns to God in the midst of a terminal illness. They may not have time to understand and meditate on the Word of God and so would need someone else to minister to them.

I praise God for those who minister to others, and we absolutely need them. The problem can be however, that we start to lean on them and put our faith in them and their gift, rather than the Giver.

Let’s say you are healed of some condition by the laying on of hands from an Elder at your church. What do you do the next time you fall ill? You can go back to that Elder and receive healing again, but what if they are away, or have moved on to a new church? Do you seek them out and track them down?

Sometimes we chase after the donkey, instead of Christ riding on the donkey’s back!

Reading this post back, I must admit it is not strictly Bible teaching… and I must hold up my hands and admit to pouring out my heart a little here. It is not my intention to convince you of my position, but rather to simply state it. Perhaps you agree, and perhaps you do not, but either way I hope this gives you something to think about.

I suppose these are things I have been pondering on for a few days, and setting them out in a blog post like this is helpful – to me if not anyone else!

I love God’s Word, and in many respects it is not possible to separate God from His Word. In recent days whenever I have asked God about healing (in my particular situation) He has repeatedly said, “Study My Word.” The answer, for me at least, can be found in the pages of the Bible. It may take me a long time to find them, but I will never stop looking.

If what I have written today has challenged you in any way, either because you totally disagree or because it resonates with some situation in your own life, then I’m glad I’ve shared it. I don’t seek to offend or upset, and I know many of you will be facing or have faced terribly difficult situations with regard to physical health.

When I have preached in recent times, I sometimes sit down afterwards and get a sense that I held back. I did not say all that was in my heart to say – and often because of the “fear of man”. I would worry what people would think, or that I would not articulate things correctly. I want to put that right. Both here in the written word and in the spoken.

Something changed in me this week, and a new determination or “grit” for want of a better term rose up in me.

I’m not putting up with sickness anymore. Not in my life, and not in the lives of my family and friends.

I do not promise miracles or instant healing, but I do promise to dig deep into God’s Word and believe it with all of my heart.

I can’t promise miracles, but I can expect them.

I will not be moved any longer by circumstances or experience. When I pray, I expect results. Because I’m so great? Hardly! But because God is! He is so great, so amazing, so wonderful that even my imperfect prayers (presented in the name of Jesus) will bring tremendous results.

Since making this commitment, I’ve felt a definite increase in resistance from the enemy. The devil is real, and will try to hinder us from making progress with God. As much as I know this, I was not prepared for the opposition I felt and did not deal with it as I should have. I’m aware of it now though, and set my mind on Christ.

Proverbs 4 tells us that God’s Word is “medicine”. I’ve never liked taking pills or medication, but I make an exception this time! A good dose, at least three times a day, and with every meal! No harmful side effects, but I reckon can be addictive!

Don’t forget to take the Gos-pill! (Terrible gag, I know!)

I remember the first time I preached the Gospel, waving my Bible at the crowd and encouraging them to read the Word. My message has not changed in all of these years. Read the Bible! Study it! It was meant for you!

God sends forth His Word and heals them – and I believe Him.

Retune Your Receiver (Audio)

Here is one of Andy’s past sermons called “Return Your Receiver”. We hope you enjoy it!