F.O.M.O – Psalm 73

Not so long ago, when we could go to a restaurant as a family, we’d all make our choices, then wait…until the kitchen doors opened, and the meals were set before us, one by one. But – terrible thought – what if the meal I have chosen does not look as good as someone else’s…and I have to sit and watch them gorge their way through their delights, while I’m a bit disappointed in mine? Fear Of Missing Out. It can take all the joy out of of what should be a thoroughly pleasurable evening out!

We can do that in our lives too. Have I made the right career choice? Does someone else’s husband/wife seem so much better than the partner I selected? What if I’d chosen a different path? Have I messed up on life, made bad decisions, missed out on the best?

Do you ever wonder if all the effort of trying to live life as a Christian is really worth all the effort? Self-denial doesn’t come easily to most of us; then there’s the time and effort of spiritual disciplines like prayer and bible study, not to mention the pull on the wallet for tithes and offerings! Was this really the best choice for my life, compared to others, who live life free as birds, doing what they please, with no hidden deity to be accountable to?

This is the ‘oppressive’ (v16) question the writer of Psalm 73 was asking himself. The whole Psalm turns on v17, “till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny.” Coming into the presence of God cleared his head, and he could see it all. Like when you realise that glorious fluffy desert tastes of nothing. The people who live without God, are not free at all. They are on a slippery slope, with no-one to call out to when they run into trouble. The riches and power they have stored up for themselves are lost to them the minute they pass out of this world. There will be no-one to hold their hand then. Those who live for the present have that, nothing more.

What a contrast to the joy set before those who choose to follow Jesus, and chase after God! “But as for me, it is good to be near God. I have made the Sovereign Lord my refuge: I will tell of all your deeds!”

Psalm 73:1-9Psalm 73:10-22Psalm 73:23-28

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Followers – Psalm 72

I have a video of my grandchildren when they were quite small, all dressed up as rock stars, playing a variety of toy instruments. With the mandatory shades – so cute! Children automatically copy what they see. That’s why it’s so important they get the right role models.

Psalm 72 is thought to be David’s final blessing on his son, Solomon, who would succeed him as king. David had come to know God, through a lifetime of spending time in his presence. The things he prayed over Solomon, were the things he knew were in God’s nature – he was asking that this younger man might see God as his role model, and emulate his ways.

And isn’t that something we should all be doing – getting to know God and copying him? Those who have little people in their lives have an extra responsibility in this area. For who would have been Solomon’s first role model, if not his own father David? If our lives are not modelled on our Father God, what example are we setting to those who watch us? To be sure, they will copy what they see, say and experience. Matthew Henry commented on this Psalm – ‘The best we can ask of God for our children is, that God would give them wisdom and grace to know and to do their duty.’ how will they know ‘their duty’ if they have not seen it in us?

Young or old, with youngsters around or not, ask yourself – Who is my role-model? Because the one you are following determines your destination. Psalm 72:1-7Psalm 72:7-17Psalm 72:18-20

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Confidence – Psalm 71

The husband of a friend of mine was a shy, reticent guy. You’d see Martin shuffling down the street, head down, looking at no-one. He was a kind and loving husband and father, but he had no job, no qualifications, no connections, no references, no hope. Then one day, another friend’s husband, who had a managerial post, heard about his situation, decided to take a chance on him, and found him a job on the shop floor. A few weeks later I saw a guy who looked like Martin walking down the street, but this man stood erect, smartly dressed, and proudly holding his head high. It was the same person but what a difference the confidence of having employment made – I have never seen a man so transformed!

David, the writer of the Psalms had confidence. Fearless against bears, lions, giants, he also knew where to run when he felt out of his depth.  Psalm 71: 5 – “For you have been my hope, O Sovereign Lord, my confidence since my youth…” David faced more than his fair share of challenges in life, but what made him able to stand up tall in the face of the most dire circumstances, was the knowledge that, “Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. You will increase my honour and comfort me once more.” (v20-21)

When we are facing difficulties, our confidence easily ebbs away, we don’t want to face people, we stop believing in ourselves.We stop believing that things can ever be right again. One thing I like about Psalm 71, is the last verse. David was still praying about the difficulties, yet looked forward to the victory and joy, believing they were already his. That is confidence. It didn’t come because David was a good, capable bloke, but because he had grounded himself in getting to know God. He had come to understand that God was with him and for him…that God believed in him, and would work things out His way, in His time. God can transform our situations, and he can transform us.

Psalm 71:1-10Psalm 71:10-20Psalm 71:21-24

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Help! I’m under attack – Psalm 70

I only had one boss in my working life, who did not like me. She made my life difficult, in the hope I’d resign. She was also dishonest in her dealings, and the day of reckoning eventually came for her. It would have been easy to enjoy seeing her with egg on her face, but actually, it gave me no pleasure. She was just a human being who made mistakes, and God gave me the grace to forgive her, just as He has forgiven me. David’s attitude  towards his enemies in Psalm 70 was understandable. They didn’t just give him a hard time, they threatened his life.

The context of this Psalm is not mentioned, but I wonder if it happened before David’s sin with Bathsheba…before David realised that he himself needed God’s forgiveness. Psalm 51 was David’s prayer of repentance. There, his attitude towards wrong doers was to help them find repentance too – Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will turn back to you.” (Ps 51:13)

You cannot experience salvation unless you need saving from something. Those who ‘love your salvation’ (Ps 70:4) are those who recognise how much God has done for them, how he has rescued them, saved them. These are the ones who will rejoice and be glad in God, who will enjoy worshipping and exalting him at all times.

David saw that he himself was in need of saving. He was desperate.

Sometimes help comes by God dealing with our enemies – as David hoped. But sometimes help comes by God dealing with us – teaching us his way of forgiveness. And sometimes that may be why there seems to be a delay – because God needs us to get our salvation his way.

If you want a resolution to a problem, submission to God’s ways brings the best outcome. Seek him, (v4) then you may enjoy the freedom to rejoice and be glad, and say, “Let God be exalted!”Psalm 70 1-4

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What to do in scary moments – Psalm 69

I remember a very scary moment as a child. I’d walked out some distance across the wide sands towards the sea, then followed the shoreline for a while. There was a puddly stretch of sand between me and the others, who had continued in the same direction, but more inland. I decided it was not so deep, that I would paddle across it. A few steps in, and I realised I was in quick sand, already down to my knees. I must have read the right books, because I turned and flattened my whole body down across the surface of the watery sand, and by redistributing my weight, I was able to pull my legs out and crawl to safety – and then had to take the long way back round the water!

I was shaken enough from that experience – but I can’t imagine what it would be like to sink down to my neck in a mire. Yet that is where David felt himself to be in writing Psalm 69. Far beyond the point of being able to flatten and save himself, calling out to the only one who could rescue him. Almost beyond hope, overwhelmed by his enemies circling around him. Almost, but not. I love verse 13 – “…in your great love, O God, answer me with your sure salvation.”  God’s salvation is sure, rock solid beneath our feet.

But do you know what can undermine that? Self-pity. Feeling sorry for yourself in times of difficulty is the one thing that prevents God from helping us, because it’s a lack of trust. I’m sure David had his wobbly moments, but he knew where to run when the going got rough. V29 “I am in pain and distress; may your salvation, O God, protect me.” And that is why the Psalm has a happy ending – why David was able to praise God in and through the difficulties, and trust that a place of peace was  waiting with his name on it.

Psalm 69:1-4Psalm 69:4-15Psalm 69:15-28Psalm 69:29-36

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See the power, not the problem – Psalm 68

Thinking back to that day, when he was just a lad. What a day that was! A pivotal moment…life would never be the same again. He’d been so sure. So shocked, first, that not one of all those hardened warriors was chafing to stand up and finish off that arrogant heathen. Then determined that he at least, young as he was, would stand and fight for God, for Israel, for his king. One stone and a prayer. That’s all it had taken. Goliath was felled, the entire Philistine enemy scattered.

Now, an older man, having faced many foes, fought many battles, he was still sure. In writing Psalm 68, David was declaring the source of his confidence. When God is with you and for you, his power and strength are enough. Beyond and beyond enough…the enemy melts like wax, dissipates like smoke, flees in terror. Who can begin to guess the immensity of God’s army? Who can hold back from singing  his praise, proclaiming “the power of God, whose majesty is over Israel, whose power is in the skies”?

That certain knowledge that God ‘gives power and strength to his people’ was the bedrock of David’s life and kingship, for all that it was fraught with countless unenviable challenges. This was the wellspring of a heart overflowing with praise, worship and adoration.

That assurance is available, to us, now. It is yours for the asking. Call on God. He has the power to save, the authority to cause your enemies to be scattered, whatever shape they take, and however numerous they are. See the power, not the problem. And prepare to rejoice!

Psalm 68:1-4Psalm 68:5-16Psalm 68:17-27Psalm 68:28-35

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Pass it on! – Psalm 67

I went to an Orthodox service once. I loved the part towards the end, where the priest held a candle, and with it lit the candles of one or two people at the front of the church. They turned around and lit the candles of those near them, who in turn lit others’ candles; and the light spread out thus throughout the whole church. It was beautiful to watch.

God had a plan right from the start. He began its formulation with Abraham. This was it: start with one man. Bless him so much that he blesses others. Make him the father of a nation that is so blessed, it will pass on that blessing to the whole world. Then everyone, the world over, will come to know what an awesome, loving, blessing, wonderful God holds the world in His hands (Genesis 12:2-4). There was a proviso. In order to receive all that beautiful blessing, they needed to be obedient to God – since doing things the right way, the best way, His way was what brought about the blessing. And what a blessing it was!

Psalm 67 is all about that plan. I love verse 1. I love that when I am obedient and loving to God, he blesses me. Great. What I really love, is that when he looks at me, his face is beaming with joy. God just loves to bless us!

You and I, we are part of that big plan God is orchestrating. Is your candle lit? Are you passing it on to others, so that all the nations of the earth will be glad and sing for joy, and so that the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us?

Do you know how much God wants to bless us?IMG_2482 2

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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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