Friday, 23 July 2021

Hiding from evil

"Hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked, from the plots of evildoers." - Psalm 64:2

It is very easy for us as South Africans to draw a parallel from today's reading, to the recent events of looting and violence in our country. It seems clear that those behind the actions plotted and conspired to bring maximum destruction to our communities. 

So, in light of these events, how do read David's words and what do we make of them? Would this mean that we hope God can hide us from the physical evildoers, or is he asking for protection from the fallout of their actions? Or is it a little of both? It is clear that as Christ-followers we will not be exempt from suffering, but what can we expect from God during these times? 

I realise these are tough questions, but they are on everyone's minds at the moment. Perhaps my response is too simplistic for some, but I want to believe that I can turn to God for help in my time of need and that God will protect me from the 'evil one.' This doesn't mean that I will never face trials or sorrow, but I see it as God's promise to keep my 'soul/spirit/life' safe from the clutches of the enemy. Even in ultimate death I can know that I am in the strong hands of my loving Saviour.

"Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings." - Psalm 17:8

Living in Grace


Thursday, 22 July 2021

Healthy Complaining

Is there even such a thing as 'healthy complaining?' I am not 100% sure, but what I do note from the Psalms is that David (and the other authors) feel very comfortable to cry out to God in their times of need. Perhaps their complaining is more a 'prayer' than anything else, but they certainly feel that they are able to voice their hearts cry. 

"Hear me, my God, as I voice my complaint; protect my life from the threat of the enemy." - Psalm 64:1

Sadly, I have been witnessing a lot of complaining online lately and most of these complaints are anything but prayers. It seems that anyone who has a computer or phone is now an expert in every single matter under the sun. In my opinion, most of these complaints are addressed at belittling others instead of calling out to God.

Charles Spurgeon wrote that: "We shall act wisely if we make prayer to God our first and best trusted resource in every hour of need." He also said," Prayers which are unheard on earth may be among the best heard in heaven." 

Perhaps David's advice to us would be 'pour out your complaints and issues to the Lord. He knows what is going on and God will be able to provide a way through our tough circumstances.'

Is this just a oversimplification of our complaints? Have I missed the mark in some way? Share your thoughts with me if you have a minute. Thanks.

Living in Grace


Wednesday, 21 July 2021

Fragile plans

Life teaches us that all of our best made plans are merely fragile attempts at ordering our lives. 

"But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of his heart through all generations." - Psalm 33:11

When the Psalmist wrote these words I wonder what was going through his mind and what was happening all around him?

We have come back from an interesting trip to KwaZulu-Natal, that began as a celebration, but ended up with a huge dose of stress, anxiety and uncertainty. The whole experience has reminded me that often our best made plans don't come to fruition, but does that mean we shouldn't even make plans? Well, I believe that we all need (have to) make plans, but we also need to realise that we have to surrender these 'ideals' into the hands of our loving God. 

When I reflect on Psalm 33, I believe that the plans of the Lord that David was speaking about refer to the 'heart' of God and not necessarily how this will unfold. 

What I mean is this: 

I see it that God has always planned to show us his love, mercy and grace and this 'plan/purpose' will never change, even if circumstances change around us. God's plan of redemption will stand forever and so will the purposes of God's heart. This reassures us that 'come what may' God will not change his mind about how he loves us.

What do you think?

Living in Grace


Thursday, 15 July 2021

Some will sing, while song will be silenced

In his parting words of Psalm 63, David tells people that he (as King) will continue to praise God. He implies that the mouths of liars will not silence him, but rather will be silenced themselves.

"But the king will rejoice in God; all who swear by God will glory in him,
while the mouths of liars will be silenced." - Psalm 63:11

Is this something that you find easy or hard to do? I mean - trusting in the Lord even when things haven't yet been resolved? I find it hard at times, but am learning more and more to 'rejoice in the Lord' and leave the results to him.

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 14 July 2021

Tables turned

"Those who want to kill me will be destroyed;
they will go down to the depths of the earth.
They will be given over to the sword
and become food for jackals." - Psalm 63:9-10

In these verses David reminds his listeners (and his enemies) that those who plot against the Lord will end up on the losing end. This reminds me that even when it seems that evil is winning, we must remain hopeful and remember that God has already won the battle for us.

Who is seeking to hurt you at the moment? Does today's scripture give you any hope?

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 13 July 2021

Cling to?

"I cling to you; your right hand upholds me." - Psalm 63:8

I think that we all cling to something in our lives, even if we don't really think so. Another way of putting it, is things that we lean on when times get tough. We turn to a person, or a habit or even a ritual. These are things that help us through the seas of trial and turmoil.

David tells us that he clings to God and when he does that then we feels secure and protected.

Who do you turn to?

Living in Grace


Monday, 12 July 2021

Remembering God through the night

"On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night. Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings." - Psalm 63:6-7

The first impression I get from these verses is of David struggling to sleep. As he lies awake at night - perhaps fearing for his life or just thinking about his troubles, so he turns to God. He remembers God and that God has been with him in the past. We also know that the 'night' was considered to a symbol of evil and the demonic world, so David allows his thoughts to turn to God in these dark times, rather than dwell on the evil around him.

The picture of a tiny bird singing in the shelter of her mother's wings comes to my mind as I read through the second part of the passage. The chick is vulnerable and afraid, yet it is able to sing because it has the reassurance of its mother close by. 

How does this make you feel at the moment? Can you relate in anyway?

Eugene Peterson paraphrases these verses in this way:

If I’m sleepless at midnight,
    I spend the hours in grateful reflection.
Because you’ve always stood up for me,
    I’m free to run and play.

Living in Grace


Sunday, 11 July 2021

Fully satisfied


"I will praise you as long as I live,
    and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
    with singing lips my mouth will praise you." - Psalm 63:4-5

David's pledge to God is that he will worship him for as long as he has breath. The act of lifting holy hands is a sign of surrender and an offering to the Lord. The word 'praise' in the New International Version can also read "honour", which is a nice way of committing our allegiance to the Lord. We will live to honour God and to bring praise to his name. 

The 5th verse of Psalm 63 has nothing to do with eating food, but rather with the comparison of knowing God. David would have known the joy of eating delightful foods and being hosted at great banquets, however he is arguing that none of those feasts could satisfy him like knowing God has.

The idea of being fully satisfied or have a full stomach implies that you don't want to eat anymore. Because you are full, you will not go looking for more food. The connection is the same with God - if we are feeling satisfied through the Holy Spirit, then we will have no need for other sources of spiritual food.

Are you 'satisfied' in your relationship with God at the moment? Why or why not?

Living in Grace


Saturday, 10 July 2021

Better than life

"I have seen you in the sanctuary and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life, my lips will glorify you." - Psalm 63:2-3

In calling out to God for help David reminds himself (and the Lord) that he has already experience the power and glory of God in the sanctuary. This could be a way of reassuring himself that God is 'alive' and able to make himself known to his people. When you feel all alone and you struggle to see when God will show up, it is good to look back and be reminded that God is always present with us. This can in the temple or in the desert. Anyway, actually. 

Verse 3 is David's way of saying that knowing the unfailing love of God is worth more to him than surviving his current ordeal. This knowledge would allow David to push through the pain of his trials. Or as one author states: 

"Life without God is worse than death itself" (A. Anderson)

Living in Grace

Friday, 9 July 2021

Longing for God - Psalm 63

"You, God, are my God, earnestly I seek you;I thirst for you, my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land where there is no water."
- Psalm 63:1

There is a part of us that resonates with David's cry for God. We sometimes feel dry or barren in our spirit and we long for an experience of God. It feels as if there is no water in sight and that we may die of spiritual thirst. 

This can happen when we go through difficult times or face big disappointments in our lives. It can even happen out of the blue or when things are going fine. I believe we shouldn't beat ourselves up over this, but rather cry out to the Lord and trust that he will quench our thirst in time.

It is thought that David was actually hiding out in the desert while he wrote these words, so he is comparing his thirst for God with his actual thirst in the desert. 

It is interesting how our personal experiences can help us see God in a new light.

Living in Grace

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

Anyway - a remarkable poem

This poem is so remarkable and inspiring that I feel it is worth sharing again. The world in which we find ourselves now is in need of love, kindness and grace. Despite the negativity that surrounds us let us 'live for God' anyway. Enjoy these words:

"People are often unreasonable, illogical and self centered;
Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives;
Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies;
Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and frank, people may cheat you;
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight;
Build anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, they may be jealous;
Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, people will often forget tomorrow;
Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough;
Give the world the best you've got anyway.
You see, in the final analysis, it is between you and your God;
It was never between you and them anyway." - Mother Theresa

Living in Grace

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

Fighting for unity in the church

I had the privilege of writing an article for the Scripture Union magazine a while ago and it was published last week. It is around 'fighting for unity in the church' - if you find the time please click on this link and have a read of the article. There are some other great articles from other authors there too.

Click here to read the article 

Ephesians 4:3 - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

Living in Grace


Monday, 5 July 2021

Blue Monday

Monday's can be a little depressing for many people. A lot of this has to do with it being the first day of the week for many folk and so it marks the return to the 'grind-stone.' However, today is a 'Blue Monday' for me for a number of different reasons. Let me share these with you and then make a reflection.

In the main, it has been a deeply sad day because I have heard of a number of deaths today. Two colleagues of mine from the Methodist Church passed away due to Covid - they were both in the prime of their lives, but contracted the virus. I grieve for their loss, for their families, their communities and the loss for the church. 

I also heard of two other deaths - both deeply saddening and traumatic. I grieve for each member of those families and for their overwhelming sorrow and loss. It all seems too much. 

So, where do we turn and how do we recover from such grief? We can turn to the pages of the Scriptures, as well as the wisdom of those who have also endured great loss, and yet have had the strength to carry on. One of these people is St. Augustine. In his work "The City of God" he writes of heaven:

"We shall rest and we shall see,
we shall see and we shall love,
we shall love and we shall praise,
in the end, which is no end."

If you have also had to deal with grief during this time of the pandemic, I urge you to remember that God is still with us. God never let's us go, despite what our circumstances may tell us.

John 17:1-4 - You put him (the Messiah) in charge of everything human, so he might give real and eternal life to all in his care. And this is the real and eternal life: That they know you, The one and only true God, And Jesus Christ, whom you sent. (The Message)

Living in Grace

Sunday, 4 July 2021

Comfort is here

How often do you think of Jesus as Comfort

I know that we speak of the Holy Spirit as the 'comforter', but what about Jesus? As he reflects on the life of Christ, Bernard of Clairvaux writes:

"Comfort is here; help has come down from heaven. The kindness and humanity of God our Saviour have appeared. The kindness of God was always there, for the Lord's mercy is from everlasting; but it was hidden till the 'humanity' had appeared."

I think it is a beautiful picture of Jesus - not only is he the one who sends the 'comforter', but he is also Comfort.

"... who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God." - 2 Corinthians 1:4

Living in Grace


Thursday, 1 July 2021

Why not me?

When Christopher Reeve was thrown from his horse and broke his neck in 1995, many people wondered how such a tragedy could befall a famous actor like him. Christopher response was something along the lines of "why not me?" His point was that anyone can suffer. Suffering is not reserved only for the poor, the outcast, the sinner. Everyone suffers at some point in our lives.

This point was driven home to me when reading through Mark 5. Suffering is universal – rich and poor encounter it. Just because we have social status like Jairus (the leader of the Synagogue) doesn’t preclude us from suffering. 

This is the one thing that Covid has also shown us. People from all walks of life have suffered and even died – doctors, lawyers, teachers, pastors, clerks, the homeless etc.

It is interesting that we somehow think that the rich don’t encounter trials and difficulties – but we are wrong. We were watching the movie about the life of Steve Jobs the other evening –he was the founder of Apple. This is what he said towards the end of his life, as he was dying of Cancer.

Steve Jobs - “At this moment, lying on the bed, sick and remembering all my life, I realize that all my recognition and wealth that I have is meaningless in the face of imminent death… In other eyes, my life is the essence of success, but aside from work, I have a little joy.”

As we go through our own periods of trials and testing let us remember we are not alone. Others can relate to us and certainly God is with us. 

Mark 5:22-23 - Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.”  So Jesus went with him.

Living in Grace