Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Meditation on the 23rd Psalm

Every now and again God’s good gifts come knocking at your door and, instead of politely waiting to be invited in, crash through the door in an overwhelming flood. I am still reeling from the fact that in just a few weeks time I will, by God’s grace, have the opportunity to meet face to face with some of my dearest online friends. This is truly a gift beyond gifts. To say I am excited about this is an understatement. I prefer the word “verklempt”.

In this frame of mind, I have been struggling to find any clarity of thought to write a blog post. I thought it would be fitting to share with you instead an article written by the greatest gift God has given me in my life, my dear husband Pete. Next month we celebrate 17 years of married life together, and his love for me has been demonstrated by his providing me with this gift of meeting up with my friends. He is truly, as his name means, my rock.


The LORD is my shepherd, I’ll not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I fear no evil, for you are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You have anointed my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and loving-kindness will follow me all the days of my life,
And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.

The LORD is the personal name of God and was first given to the Jews through the prophet Moses. However, this name has not been pronounced by the Jews because of reverence for the great sacredness of the divine name. It has often been transliterated Yahweh but the actual pronunciation is uncertain. Consequently it is translated the LORD in our bibles. Its meaning ‘I AM that I AM’ carries the sense that God is saying that He will be the ever present ever faithful God. Actually these very qualities are attributed to Jesus in the book of Hebrews where it says that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. In short the nearest one word English equivalent is the word always.

In the bible there are seven occasions when this precious and beautiful name of God is linked with another word in the Scriptures. Each of these names reveals some aspect of the nature and character of God - who He is and what He wants to be or do in our lives. The meaning of each of these names is revealed throughout this well known and greatly loved psalm.

Yahweh Rohi actually means Yahweh (The LORD) is my shepherd.
Yahweh Jireh means Yahweh is my provider. And if God is my provider then truly I shall not want!
Yahweh Rapha means Yahweh is my healer, the One who restores my soul.
Yahweh Shalom means Yahweh is my peace. The One who makes me rest by still waters.
Yahweh Tsikendhu means Yahweh is my righteousness. He is the One who can lead me in paths of righteousness.
Yahweh Shammah means Yahweh is ever present even when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
Yahweh Nissi means Yahweh is my banner the one who prepares a table for me in the presence of my enemies.

I believe that it is a great shame that we do not know how to say God’s personal name, a name that he graciously gave to mankind, a name to be used in the context of a loving family or the closest of friendships. As such it is a lovely reminder of the relationship Christians have with God. We are His slaves, friends and even more wonderfully, sons and daughters. To enjoy this relationship and come to know him as Father, as Jesus taught us, we need to acknowledge that our desire to rule our own lives (what the bible calls sin) has cut us off from this relationship. However, the good news of the gospel is that if we come to him in repentance; acknowledging that He has the right to rule our lives and that He loves us as a Father who truly knows and wants what is best for us, then this relationship can be restored because Jesus died so that our rebellion (sin) against Him can be forgiven.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Love, laughter and friends

Even in laughter the heart may ache.... Proverbs 14:13

A friend recently shared on Facebook how Spurgeon thanked God for the gift of laughter:

“Rev. Theodore L. Cuyler, the celebrated Brooklyn divine, was visiting the famous London preacher, Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon. After a hard day of work and serious discussion, these two mighty men of God went out into the country together for a holiday. They roamed the fields in high spirits like boys let loose from school, chatting and laughing and free from care. Dr. Cuyler had just told a story at which Mr. Spurgeon laughed uproariously. Then suddenly he turned to Dr. Cuyler and exclaimed, ‘Theodore, let’s kneel down and thank God for laughter!’ And there, on the green carpet of grass, under the trees, two of the world’s greatest men knelt and thanked the dear Lord for the bright and joyous gift of laughter.”

I likewise thank my God for the bright and joyous gift of laughter. It has been my absolute joy to laugh along with my dear friends in recent days. It has been a pure tonic for my soul, and I trust it has for them too.

For we are living in strange times. I have come to the point where I hesitate before turning on the news, almost bracing myself as I wonder what I’m going to discover has happened in the world overnight. Uprisings in the Middle East, western nations on the verge of economic collapse, natural disasters affecting every part of the globe.

I live in a nation which has turned its back on the ways and statutes of the Lord God Almighty, where the idols of the land are sport and celebrity, and I have never felt more like an “alien and stranger in the world” (1 Pe 2:11).

I watch the church turning its back on the Holiness and Awesomeness of God Almighty in favour of embracing God All-matey and a burden grows in my heart that cannot be shifted. Finding like-minded pilgrims seems to be a much harder task these days, and a loneliness grows in my spirit.

I read of the increasing persecution of the church worldwide, I see pictures of the faces of families living in fear of their lives for claiming the Name of Christ in a land where Islam is the dominant religion, and I am haunted by those faces and I suffer with them.

Closer to home, I daily battle against indwelling sin, even whilst knowing that in Christ I have died to sin. I witness loved ones struggling to cope with the everyday routines of life, and I long for that day when there will be no more death, mourning, crying or pain.

I have often wondered whether our Lord, who was a “man of sorrows” (Isa 53:3), laughed with his friends. Matthew Henry notes that "We never read that He laughed, but often that He wept".  RC Sproul takes this view: "In the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament—for example, in Ecclesiastes—we’re told that certain things are appropriate at certain times. There’s a time to plant, a time to reap, a time to build, a time to tear down; there’s a time to dance, a time to sing, a time to laugh, a time to cry. Since God has, in his seasons, appointed appropriate times for laughter, and Jesus always did what was appropriate, it would seem to me that when it was time to laugh, he laughed

I thank 
my God that in His great mercy and love He has provided me with a group of friends whom I love dearly, for we share a tie that can never be broken - the precious blood of Christ; who share the same sorrows; and yet with whom I can share the occasional moment of laughter, sometimes even with tears rolling down my cheeks whilst I do so.

But as for the burden and the ache in my heart, that will remain until He returns or calls me home.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

I will trust in You

At one time, trust came so easily. Trusting in God was just a natural heart-response to who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised He will do in the future. I didn’t even have to think about it – I simply trusted Him.

Today….well, as one who believes that we should be honest with ourselves, with God and with others…it is something I am having to choose to do. Not because I doubt God and His character - but because I am allowing myself to become too distracted by circumstances. The account of Peter’s response to Jesus walking on water springs to mind.

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. 'It's a ghost', they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid'. 'Lord, if it's you', Peter replied, 'tell me to come to you on the water'. 'Come', he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came towards Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, 'Lord, save me!' Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. 'You of little faith', he said, 'why did you doubt?' And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshipped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God'.” (Mt 14:25-33)

Like Peter, my eyes have dwelt too long on the wind. I look at the wind blowing in my personal circumstances and I become afraid; I look at the wind blowing in worldwide situations and I become afraid. I need to fill my vision up with Christ, the One who has the power to cause the wind to die down, and Who triumphs over all.

I’m currently reading The Attributes of God by Arthur W. Pink - thanks to Diane Bucknell and her recent book giveaway :) Today I read this passage on the faithfulness of God, which really encouraged me, especially as it contains a verse which a dear friend recently shared with me.

“There are seasons in the lives of all when it is not easy, no not even for Christians, to believe that God is faithful. Our faith is sorely tried, our eyes bedimmed with tears, and we can no longer trace the outworkings of His love. Our ears are distracted with the noises of the world, harassed by the atheistic whisperings of Satan, and we can no longer hear the sweet accents of His still small voice. Cherished plans have been thwarted, friends on whom we relied have failed us, a professed brother or sister in Christ has betrayed us. We are staggered. We sought to be faithful to God, and now a dark cloud hides Him from us. We find it difficult, yes, impossible, for carnal reason to harmonize His frowning providence with His gracious promises. Ah, faltering soul, severely tried fellow pilgrim, seek grace to heed Isaiah 50:10, "Who among you fears the Lord and obeys the word of his servant? Let him who walks in the dark, who has no light, trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God."

Christine Pack shared this quote today on Facebook: ‎"In short, God in his mercy to you, will put you in a place where you cannot control the circumstances and you have no choice but to cry out to him for help...The next time you are in what appears to be an impossible situation, think less about yourself and what you are losing and more about God and what you gain by trusting and resting in him." - The Counseling Solutions Group.

So as I shift my focus from my circumstances and instead contemplate God and who He is, what He has done, and what He has promised to do, my heart can only cry out in response to His asking me “Do you trust Me?” with the words of the psalmist:

Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.
Psalm 73:25-26

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Peace with God

"When trouble comes, whether external or internal threats to our physical or spiritual welfare, we are to turn inside out. Our first inclination at these times is the opposite. Like a turtle withdrawing into its shell at the sign of danger, we turn inward and grab hold of our own resources to sustain us. But as counterintuitive as it is for us, we must turn outward at precisely these times and hope only in the Lord, whatever our conscience threatens, whatever blandishments Satan offers, whatever our experience tells us is the obvious case" (Michael Horton, A Place for Weakness, p.176/7).


Restless searching of my heart, striving for its goal
To find the one thing that it lacked - peace within my soul.
I thought I’d found it once, you see, and nothing could now come
To take away my peace with God through Jesus, His Own Son.

Eyes were lifted high to see the Glorious King of Kings,
Ears echoed with the gospel promise that only Jesus brings,
How sweet the taste of God’s own Word , pure honey on my lips
A heart transformed from stone to flesh, locked in Heaven’s grip.

My heart o’erflowed with peace and hope as I stood on mountain peaks,
By God’s grace He held me close, such joy I couldn’t speak;
And dimmer grew the memory of a darker, harder walk,
And lighter was the grip I held of helmet, shield and sword.

One well-judged blow from the enemy sent me crashing to the ground
I lay there dazed and wounded, armour scattered all around
But what caused me the greatest grief as I tried to stand once more
Was feeling that my peace was gone, peace with my Loving Lord.

How can this be? I asked myself, tears streaming down my face
For God’s elect always have peace once given by His grace –
I drew a sad conclusion then that filled my heart with fear
I’d never really known His peace, never been drawn near.

But then through dark and brooding clouds I heard a distant cry
The voice of saints exhorting me - “Pick up your sword and fight!”
Eyes now growing clearer, I grasped that precious blade
And once I felt it in my hands my soul was less afraid.

For now I saw that God’s own Word speaks Truth for all to hear
Defeating lies of enemies and driving out my fear
“Since we’ve been justified by faith, we have peace with God!”
The sword had done its work once more, my feet stood on firm Rock.

Oh! peace with God! Such blessed peace! ‘tis sweeter now I see
That what I thought I’d lost I’ve found, was never gone from me!
I pray I might be wiser now, as I firmly hold my sword
Not trusting in my feelings – but the Word of my Lord.