Be Still

BE STILL

“Be still before the Lord”.
Ps 37:7 NIV 

In modern society speed is vital. We live in a rush. When you ask many people how things are with them they will reply, “Hectic”. Some people, in trying to cope with “everything” compile lists of things they have to do. Then they tick them off one by one as they get done. Some even work out an “A” list and a “B” list. The A’s are even more urgent than the B’s. 

The psalmist didn’t live under that kind of pressure. Or at least we usually make that assumption. But even then it was easy and tempting to crowd God out of the agenda of life. Spiritual devotion always requires discipline and determination. It is far easier to mess about with trivialities than to turn to God. But he had also found how valuable it was, in the midst of the rush of life, to spend time in stillness and quiet in the presence of God. To do so, calms one’s anxious mind, makes one aware of the power and love of God, and helps one to bring a bit of order into the chaos and confusion that can otherwise overtake one. 

This applies every bit as much to the Christian believer today as it did to the ancient psalmist. Probably more so. Make a definite time just to be quiet and to recollect the presence of God. Have some help – a book of hymns to read, the Bible, or a collection of prayers. Don’t just dash off a hasty reading of one verse and call that your quiet time. Even if you can’t do it every day, do it now and again. You’ll be better able to cope with the rush. 

Lord, let me be still in your presence.

The River Of Goodness

THE RIVER OF GOODNESS

“You let us drink from the river of your goodness”. 
Ps 36:8 GNB 

Rivers are important features of nature. Egypt is the prime example. It is a long stretch of desert. Right through the middle of it flows the mighty river Nile, the longest river in Africa. Stand on a ship on the river and glance to both sides of the waterway. You see fields and farms being cultivated for about a hundred metres on each side, obviously irrigated by the river. Beyond that there is sheer desert stretching as far as the eye can see. Where there is the river there is life, activity and human habitation. Beyond that there is virtually nothing. 

The psalmist too lived much closer to nature two and a half thousand years ago than modern city dwellers do today. For him there was no turning on of a tap and just getting water. You had to live near a river to have it at all. Failing that you settled near a spring or a well. And it all came from nature – and from God. And whilst the person with no faith had no appreciation of the bounty of God, the believer did and rejoiced with gladness and thanksgiving. But it was more than just “water means life”. The water was symbolic of God’s overall goodness and love as well. 

Whilst modern town- and city-dwellers may seldom, if ever, see the river from which their tap-water comes, God is still regulating the rhythms of nature to ensure that there is water, and therefore life, for humanity. And Jesus described himself as the source of living water. That meant he was able to generate and sustain the spiritual life of believers. He still is. 

Lord, give me the water that will enable me to never thirst again.

An Outrageous Claim

An Outrageous Claim

“I did not come to abolish, but to fulfil.” – Matthew 5:17

One of the most outrageous claims ever made by a man was this: “Do you think I have come to abolish the law or the prophets? I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.”

The man who made that claim was Jesus and the law and the prophets He referred to was Scripture. Jesus claimed to be the fulfilment of how to live a good and moral life. He claimed to be the fulfillment of the prophets of old like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel. Wow! What a claim!

He showed this through His life, His death, and His resurrection from the dead. To believe Scripture is to believe Jesus. To believe Jesus is to believe He fulfills the Scripture. But even more, He shows us how to fulfil the commands of God.

When asked what the greatest commandment was He replied, “Love the Lord your God with your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbour as yourself.” You can’t obey one without the other. Jesus is the only one to perfectly fulfil God’s Word.

The Noonday Sun

THE NOONDAY SUN

“(God) will make your righteousness shine like the noonday sun”. 
Ps 37:6 GNB 

We sometimes refer to people who are obviously happy and positive as having “a sunny disposition”. They are a pleasure to have around. They seem to be heavily outnumbered by the doom-jonahs who spread misery and pessimism whenever they open their mouths. 

The poet of Psalm 37 was a man of deep faith and wide experience. He had seen that a strong faith in God tended to make people positive, hopeful and sensible. He had watched as believers surmounted difficulties, held on despite overwhelming odds, and came through lean periods stronger and deeper in their convictions. Moreover they were more caring and sensitive to others’ sufferings. He had witnessed, and probably known himself, “that confident joy of having peace of mind and refuge in God which fills the life of the godly person with sunshine. That person’s life is sustained by the hope that God’s salvation will rise over him like the sun, and that his just cause, which, after all, is nothing other than the cause of God, will triumph” (A. Weiser, The Psalms, p317). 

The Christian disciple will shine too, if, in the darkest night of human degradation he or she knows the presence and power of Jesus. Christians sing for joy when things are at their worst. They hold when others are breaking. They quietly move forward when other people are so confused and fearful that they don’t know which way to go. They hope when others have given in to despair. They care for others when caring costs time, effort and patience. Like Mother Theresa they go into places where there is darkness and suffering and bring light and relief. Wherever they go, God shines through them. 

Lord, help my faith to shine in others’ darkness.

Life And Light

LIFE AND LIGHT

“With you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light”. 
Ps 36:9 NIV 

What chaos we experience when a power cut puts out all the lights and we fumble around in the dark to find a torch or candle! We then wonder how people lived before electricity had been invented. We take light for granted – until our man-made lighting systems fail. 

Once again the psalm-writer repeats his statement that normal physical life depends on God. He is the source, or fountain, of life. It comes from him and is sustained by him. But in the story of creation the first action in creating was for God to create light. It is prior to anything else. Nothing can grow or survive without light. But the psalmist is thinking of more than the light of the sun. God’s glory is pure radiant light and the true life of faith is lived in communion with God so that we are exposed to – this – light when we are in fellowship with him. Without that- light we would be in real darkness and life would have no meaning. “Without God, man would be what the earth would be without the sun. Just as everything subsists on the sun’s light and heat, and just as the flower opens and blossoms in response to the sunbeams, so it is the ‘light’ of God, the heavenly light of the glory of his presence, which causes the life of humanity to grow and prosper joyously, and which gives it its meaning and transparency, its strength and stability. Without God man’s life is exposed to meaninglessness, darkness and destruction. In him and through him we live and move and have our being” (A. Weiser, The Psalms p311). 

Lord, help me, in your light to see light.

The Day I Died

The Day I Died

God takes sin seriously. Sin is a terrible thing in the Christian’s life. That is why God did not overlook sin, but dealt with it in one complete stroke of judgment by sending Christ to die for us on the cross.
Now that we have been saved by grace can we live any way we so please? Can we sin it up now that our fire insurance has been paid in full?

The apostle Paul responded to that arrogant attitude saying, “How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (Romans 6:2).
We died to sin. “Died” is in aorist past tense, indicating a once for all death in a judicial sense. We legally died (vv. 2, 6, 7, 8, 10, 13, 18). It refers to a single action that has taken place and has been completed in the past.

The idea of our death to sin is basic in this great chapter, and is essential to the sanctification of all believers.
“We died to sin.” When did you die?
The apostle Paul does not say we are going to die to sin, or we are presently dying to sin. He does not say we are continually to die to sin. The apostle has in mind a completed past action.

We “have died” to sin is already true of us if we have entered into a vital union with Christ. Charles Hodge notes, “it refers to a specific act in our past history.”

The apostle Paul tells us there is a watershed, a before Christ and after he came into our lives. Before Christ describes the old man, the old self, what I was like before my conversion. The after Christ came in describes the  new man, the new self, what my life has been like after I was made a new creation in Christ. The before Christ ended with the judicial death of the old self. I was a sinner. I deserved to die. I did die. I received my righteousness in my Substitute with whom I have become one. It describes my resurrection. My old life is finished, and a new life to God has begun.

Our continuing in sin is unthinkable says Paul because God by His grace took us from the position of being in Adam and transferred us into the kingdom of Christ. It is something God has already done. It is not something we do, or have done, but something God has done to us. We have been joined to Jesus Christ. The old life ended in that transaction, and a new life has begun at the same time.

In Romans 6:1-11 the apostle Paul compares our dying to sin to how Christ died to sin. Although He had never experienced personal sin, He died to sin by suffering its penalty on the cross. “The wages of sin is death.” He died as our substitute. He was punished for our sin in our place once for all on the cross. Jesus died to sin once for all. His relationship to sin is finished forever. By dying in our place on the cross He put an end to its claim upon us once for all.

Jesus died. That will never happen again. It will never be repeated. It is a completed action in the past. Paul makes this emphatically clear in verses 9-10, “knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.”

Moreover, Paul tells us that our old life of sin in Adam is over. We died. Just as Christ can never go back and die again, we can never go back to the old life in Adam. That part of our lives died. The result of our vital union with Christ in His death and resurrection is that our old life in Adam is past, over with, and we now have a new life in Christ.

Our life is divided into two parts at the point in which we believed on Christ and were born again. At a specific act in past history we accepted Christ as our Savior and we became new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).

Can you point to a time in your life and see the change before and after Christ separated by the new birth? When we put our faith in Christ as our Savior and were born again the old self died through union with Christ and was buried. The penalty of our sins was paid in full by Christ’s atoning death. At the same time the believer rose again from death, a new person, to live a new life in Christ. We were crucified with Christ and rose with Him to new life.

We died to the life of sin. God counts the utterly perfect righteousness of the risen Christ as ours. He sees us risen in Him. We live a new life in Christ. The old one died, and it was buried.

Does your life have a dividing line marked Christ?
“O for a thousand tongues to sing. . .” the triumph of His grace in a thousand different languages! 

Give Yourself

GIVE YOURSELF

“Give yourself to the Lord; trust in him and he will help you”. 
Ps 37:5 GNB 

We come into this world depending on our parents. Our attitude is, “How can I get what I want?” And most people, when they first come to know God, carry on that same mind-set. They want to know, “How can I get God to give me what I want out of him?” For many, prayer is regarded as a set of techniques for getting something out of God that he is reluctant to part with. 

The psalm-writer had advanced beyond that childish conception of God. For him, God was not a slot machine into which you put your coin, press a button and get out a chocolate. The essence of faith was giving yourself to God in commitment, come what may. In mature faith you have confidence in God, giving yourself to him and putting yourself at his disposal. Part of this relationship is finding that your faith is rewarded when God helps you surmount the difficulties and overcome the setbacks of life. Faith is not a technique to get. It is a way of life in which you give. 

The disciples of Jesus were to find this out later. When he beckoned to them and invited them to “Follow me” he was calling them to give themselves to him. Little did they know that by responding they were giving themselves to a way of life which, for some, would ultimately lead to martyrdom and death. Stop thinking of God as the great chocolate machine and start giving yourself, body, soul and spirit to Jesus Christ. Do not hold back, and if you have already given yourself and later drawn back, renew that commitment. NOW. 

Lord, you have called and I am ready to respond.