Reasons to sing when the wind is howling

Psalm 95

Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord;
    let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before him with thanksgiving
    and extol him with music and song.

For the Lord is the great God,
    the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth,
    and the mountain peaks belong to him.
The sea is his, for he made it,
    and his hands formed the dry land.

Come, let us bow down in worship,
    let us kneel before the Lord our Maker;
for he is our God
    and we are the people of his pasture,
    the flock under his care.

Here in these opening verses of Psalm 95, we come face-to-face with a whole raft of reasons to sing when the wind is howling:

  • V3 – Our God is a great God.
  • V3 – Our God is the King above all gods.
  • V4 – Our God is the creator of everything earthen.
  • V5 – Our God is the creator of everything oceanic.

However, the crescendo of this riff of praise is the best:

  • V7 – Our God is our God!
  • V7 – Our God has made us his people and we live under his good care.

 

Restore, revive, replenish…

There is wonderful prayer from Eugene Peterson, to pray at the start of today. It is based upon Psalm 126:6

“those that go out weeping,

bearing the seed for sowing,

shall come home with shouts of joy,

carrying their sheaves.”

 

Prayer: Let the rain of your Spirit fall on the dry soil of my heart, O God. Bring to blossom the seeds which have been dormant in my desert body. Restore, revive, replenish so that I may be a harvest field of “shouts of joy” for Jesus’ sake. Amen

The Mirror & the Cross (Psalm 26)

“Vindicate me, Lord, for I have led a blameless life; I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered. Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” verses 1-2
The Psalms have an amazing ability to strip away any form of pretence or religious ‘make up’ that we try to cake ourselves in. Here at the start of Psalm 26, it feels to me, like I’m stood in front of a full length mirror and the sight is not very pretty! What do I mean by that? Well for starters, I certainly can’t pray with confidence for God to Vindicate me… [because] I have led a blameless life”. Come to think of it I don’t think I’ve even led a blaneless day, let alone life! The mirror just keeps on exposing the naked reality of my life, for it says “I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered”… err… nope I’ve faltered and if I’m honest I continue to falter in my trust. Like a cruel group of school kids, peering and jeering as they look over my shoulder at my exposed relality, the Psalm continues; “I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness.” Oh how I wish that was true! However, there are just so many moments I can look back on when I did anything and everything but remember the unfailing love of God and as a response lean back into his faithfulness.
So what do I do with this Psalm? Try and avoid it? Whisper the words very quietly hoping that no one, especially God, will hear me? No! This mirror-like work of this Psalm is a good thing! It leads me to some sobering and soaring realities. Firstly, I’m a man desperately in need of a saviour. When I look back at my life, fragility and failing are the constant drumbeat. However, gloriously this Psalm also throws me into the arms of one who has lived a blameless life, who never faltered in his trust of his Heavenly Father, and one who enjoyed and lived in the unfailing love of his father in heaven and who was able to face everything, even the cross, because he relied upon his father’s faithfulness. Yes one who is even greater than King David. His name, if you’d not already guessed, is Jesus.
As these truth settle afresh in my heart, it centers my life back on Jesus. It reminds me that everything that I see in the full length mirror was totally dealt with by him at the cross. My sin-smeared life exchanged for his blameless life. My faithless wonderings replaced by his trust-filled obedience. My spiritual blindness to the love of God replaced by a big neon sign saying loved and chosen before the foundation of the world.

Teach me your way (Psalm 27)

“Teach me your way, Lord; lead me in a straight path.” (v11)
Why is this such a provocative statement? Sandwiched in the middle of a Psalm about the Lord rescuing us from terrible and distressing situations, it would be easy for this verse to be replaced with “God, just get me out of here!” However, even in times and seasons of pain, setback, uncertainty and loss, there are things that the Lord is able to teach you. In fact, I would suggest to you that there are things that the Lord is only able to teach you in these unsettling times. However, I want to suggest that it takes a courageous heart to pray “teach me your way, Lord”.
Notice, the second part of this prayer, “lead me in a straight path.” I don’t know about you but when I’m under pressures, facing setbacks or even loss, my life can quite quickly unravel on the inside. I can start to wonder and daydream about a different life, a ‘get out’ plan. However, here in the midst of the distress, and uncertainty, David prays that the Lord would keep him on a straight course.
Lord, today, regardless of the circumstances that I am facing, I want to pray two things. Firstly, would you teach me your ways. I want to know you and your ways more deeply as a result of walking with you today. Secondly, would you keep me from wandering. Would you keep me on the straight path of your plans and your purposes! Amen.

Courage grows in the soil of encounter (Psalm 27)

“One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Verse 4
There is  a great danger with this Psalm!  It has a number of really familiar phrases that often get dislocated from the broader context and used as evidence to support a certain view of church and church life. However, when these different parts are left hanging together, the picture is truly amazing!
David begins the Psalms with some probing questions, which essentially go like this?  Will God be my light, my salvation and my stronghold and if so, is there anyone I should fear?   Clearly this leads us to the simple answer –  “No”!   However, if your life is anything like mine, it is slightly more complex than just a simple declaration of truth. That truth needs to be lived in the gritty reality of daily life and that’s where David directs our attention to next.
David’s gritty reality of daily life was pretty shocking.  He had the wicked advancing against him with the sole purpose of devouring him!  If that was not bad enough, his enemies have gathered around in such a way that he is besieged on all sides, meaning there is no natural means of escape!  He was scuppered!
David has not yet finished; in fact what he says next is the key to living with great confidence in the wonderful truths of verse 1.   Whilst walking through the battlefields of verse 2-3,  David says “one thing I ask of the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.” Here David gives us a life posture (or way of living) which has three aspects to it:
Dwell – not fleeting dashes into a religious building, hoping to curry favour with God for your latest crisis.  No, it’s  a life dwelling with God.  Since moving to Great Yarmouth, I love talking to people who have ‘dwelt’ here their whole lives.  Why? Because they are filled with ‘lived knowledge’ about the place.  Tiny facts that a newcomer like me would miss, suddenly gets revealed.  Why? Because they are people who have made their home here.  David says, even in the midst of crisis and battles, I want to be someone who dwells with my God.  What about you?
Gaze – To gaze upon something is to fix your attention on something to the point where other things ‘fade’ into the background.  David is showing us that to live in the midst of the battle we need to learn how to cultivate a gazing heart upon our God.  This type of gazing will be through reading the Bible, spending time in prayer, having a listening and attentive heart, and learning from others in the church family.  Only when God becomes the central focus of our lives will other things fade into the background, enabling us to live victorious lives.  Are you cultivating a gazing heart?
Seek – This is a deeply relational word, because David says he longs to be able to seek God.  To be a God seeker, we not only need to engage our time (dwell) and attention (gaze), but our whole hearts.  David is showing us that to live in the midst of the battles of life, we need to resist the pull of other things that are trying to win the battle for our heart.  Worry, anxiety and stress are often signs that other things have gained the upper hand in our hearts.  David is saying, that in the midst of all of this onslaught, he wants to give his heart to seeking after God. What about you?
Notice the result of living a dwelling, gazing and seeking life?
“Then my head will be exalted above the enemies who surround me…” (v6a)

The Mosquito Prayer

Have you ever felt like you or your prayers are tiny and ineffective? If so you are probably joining a vast and uncountable club. However, Josh Moody in his excellent book Journey to Joy (the Psalms of Ascent) tells of an African Proverb that says:

“try spending the night in a closed room with a mosquito”

Prayer may seem so utterly tiny in comparison to the massive global injustices that we see around us. However, the Psalms again and again show us that prayer is reaching out, feeble hands, to a might God, who is more than able to bring change and transformation.

Let’s pray lots of mosquito-like prayers.