Tough love – Psalm 66

We’ve all come across one of those obnoxious kids that have been spoiled rotten, and don’t seem to value either the stuff they’ve got, or anybody else. Sadly, parents have all too often substituted spending money in place of spending good quality time with their kids, and they’ve not taken the trouble to furnish them with boundaries.

That’s not how our Father God handles us, his children. He is a good, good Father. One way he demonstrates it is hidden in Psalm 66. He keeps our feet from slipping (v9). And how does he do this? By testing and refining us; putting us through all sorts of challenges. The ‘Duke of Edinburgh Award Scheme’ does the same sort of thing – presents young people with many challenges to work their way through, to help them become fitter, wiser, more capable human beings.

It’s tough love: but flabby, overindulged children do not have the wherewithal to make good Christian soldiers. The testing times you experience are just that – testing times. But with the grace of God, and the power of the Holy Spirit, you can rise through these experiences to become an effective, useful member of God’s Kingdom here on earth. Hang in there, you can do it. God doesn’t plan for any of us to fail; he’ll show the way.

Praise be to God who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me! (v20)

Psalm 66:1-8Psalm 66:9-20

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Oh joy! – Psalm 65

See a beautiful sunset; watch waving fields of sweet, ripe corn; enjoy the rippled reflection of a mountain in a lake. These things do us good! Few of us don’t find some peace and joy entering our souls when we observe and meditate on the beauties of nature.

Psalm 65 tells us why, I think. Verse 8 “…where morning dawns and evening fades you call forth songs of joy.” Verses 9-13 then go on to describe so many ways God blesses the land. That’s the way he planned it – blessed to be a blessing. Such abundance! “They shout for joy and sing.” All this God made, to be a song of joy to the Maker. It makes God smile! No wonder it does us good too!

But we are part of God’s creation too. He calls forth songs of joy from us, also. And he blesses us so that we can be a blessing to others.

There are times we don’t feel joyful. There are times when nature doesn’t look very attractive – the pruned tree, the field after harvest, when the weather has been unkind, or some disaster has struck.

Habakkuk wrote: “Though the fig-tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, YET I WILL REJOICE  in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.” (Habakkuk 3:17)

At those times, the song of joy is special to God: a sacrifice of praise. Joy is not about our situation, it’s about our trust. Even when the blessings are hidden.

Psalm 65:1-10Psalm 65:11-13

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Feeling vulnerable – Psalm 64

A few weeks ago, the story emerged that some students at Warwick University had group texted, encouraging each other to rape particular women. With encrypted systems, they’d thought their chat was impregnable. That story came sharply to mind as I read Psalm 64. Those women must have felt something similar to David’s vulnerability.

The big difference in the two stories is in verse 7. BUT GOD. Warwick University did not adequately protect the women students, and there was much protesting about it. BUT GOD will protect. BUT GOD will bring justice. BUT GOD will work wonders, and all mankind will fear, and proclaim his works. Ultimately, he, and he alone, is my safe place, and I can take refuge in him.

Some of the things we can feel vulnerable about might not be quite as visible as those David, or the Warwick women students faced. I know a few people who are struggling with benefits claims, illness, redundancy, immigration issues, and who knows what else. Fear comes uninvited. BUT GOD. His ways of dealing with issues may not be the paths we would choose, but he will surely work things out if we ask him. He is a great big God, and he’s on our side. And at the end of it all, “we will proclaim the works of God and ponder what he has done. Let the righteous rejoice in the Lord, and take refuge in him; let all the upright in heart praise him!”

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O for a taste! – Psalm 63

I love French bread. And ‘pain au raisin’ – when I stayed in France for a little while, I got TOTALLY hooked on them, and I discovered the best patisseries for them. Now I can only think back and drool! The best are nowhere close here in UK!

But my craving is nothing compared to the tortuous, parching thirst suffered by someone lost in a desert. That’s the sort of desperation David was talking about in Psalm 63. But it wasn’t water he was in need of – though he had doubtless suffered that lack from time to time – but the presence of God.

If I’m honest, that heart-aching longing is not something I experience much of. More often, I have to exercise self-discipline to persuade myself to spend time with God. With a comfortable western lifestyle, it’s easy to be satiated, or distracted, and just not desperate enough.

But maybe there is a clue in verse 2 – “I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and you’re glory…” The more we taste and experience God, the more we want it; the more hungry we get for his presence. That is when his love is better than life itself: when we get lost in wonder, love and praise. Pressing in to God, pushing through any barriers to discovering his presence, will give us a taste. As we persevere to cling to him, his hand will draw us in to himself (v8). Then, we will, like David, never want to let go. Only then will we discover how richly satisfying is his precious love and awesome presence –  like nothing else we can ever taste on this earth.

Psalm 63

Psalm 63

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The need most desperate – Psalm 63

What is it you really, really want? For the teenager sitting an exam, it’s to pass. For the lonely, it’s someone to share life with. Some needs are desperate. But one of our most pressing requirements for life itself, is water. In the UK, we are rarely more than an hour away from a tap; we have no idea of the urgent, burning, desperate need experienced by the truly thirsty, “in a dry and weary land where there is no water”, as described in Psalm 63.

David, the psalmist, had spent time in the wilderness. He knew the searing sensation of what it was like not to have access to this vital commodity. And that was how desperately he wanted God’s presence.

Those of us who live in the relative luxury of comfortable western civilisation, have little idea of what it is to truly ‘need’. Maybe that is why we don’t long for God either, with that deep, desperate longing that David had. I’m praying that God puts that thirst, that hunger, that desperate need within me, for his presence. Because I know that when I do, “my soul will be satisfied as with the richest of foods.” 

I’ve had glimpses of times, when I “think of him through the watches of the night”, knowing his help, “singing in the shadow of his wings.” But so far, they’ve only been a taster.

I want more, please Lord!

Psalm 63

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Rest for the weary – Psalm 62

Exhausted beyond coping. Bone weary. Wondering if I can make it up the stairs one more time. Many of us go through periods of life feeling like that, either through illness, or having to care for someone, or from too many demands. I remember clearly one phase giving 24 hour care unabating, week in, week out. Feeling that total drain, putting one foot in front of the other.

Then I would stop, and call out to God. Just wait there, until his strength came. And come it did. Every time. I would feel that sense of his presence like at no other time in my life: lifting, supporting, enabling. Then I’d go on, and climb those stairs again.

Choosing a case for my phone, the words from the beginning of Psalm 62 spoke out clearly. Great to have these words close by me, reminding me that when the going gets tough, the Word remains true. Thank you Lord!

This psalm speaks, too, of another sort of rest – freedom from fear. Verses 11 and 12 are so encouraging. God is big enough to deal with anything. He loves me, and knows where I’m at. He can sort it. Rest – it’s OK.

Psalm 62

Psalm 62

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Don’t wait for trouble – Psalm 61

When a plane is about to crash, there aren’t many atheists on board. There are times in life, when it is instinctive to cry out to God.

In difficult times, we will either turn to God and improve our prayer life, or turn away and blame him for our misfortunes. But in times of full-on disaster there’s no time for ambivalence. When we know God is our only hope, it’s natural to run to him and discover his loving arms waiting for us.

This is where David was in Psalm 61. What comfort seeking refuge in the ‘Rock that is higher than I’. How grateful that he had been brought up in a culture that introduced him to such a loving God. How earnest that he might use the rest of his appointed days to praise and serve the One who loved and protected him.

Being in a place of utmost danger is a wake-up call that makes you realise these things. But why wait for that? Right now, problems or not, we can enjoy the refuge and shelter from the harsher aspects of life he provides us with; we can bask in the warmth of his love and protection; we can revel in worshipping the One who has done so much for us. Don’t wait for trouble; don’t waste a minute.Psalm 61

 

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