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.

Make me “usable” (PoW#20)

Pearl of Wisdom #20

Don’t seek to be used by God, instead seek to be usable.

Many of us want to be used by God in some special way to do a great work for Him. There is nothing wrong with such a goal, and it comes from our love for Him.

We ask God to use us, but often times God won’t answer this prayer. It’s not that He doesn’t want to, but rather He doesn’t want us to be harmed. God cares more about us, than about how He can use us. He loves us, not what we can do for Him.

Think of it this way; He will not put us into a situation we cannot handle, bringing harm to us and to others, just to get something done. He would rather help us grow to a point where we can serve Him in this world.

Don’t ask God to “use you”, instead ask Him to help develop your character so that He can use you. When we become “usable” we no longer need to worry about God putting us into positions of service. Once we are mature or have the experience we need, God will put us to work to bless others.

God loves you more than you know.