Psalm 103.

Today’s (Sun 04/02/2018) FDR is Psalm 103.

Writing for this blog is a joy, whether blogger or incidental commentator.  But more so the readings of Scripture and the growth in understanding that is opened to us all as we study in God’s name and under the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

Today, this psalm says all I want to say.  Enjoy.

Psalm 103

Of David.

Praise the Lord, my soul;
    all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
    and forget not all his benefits –
who forgives all your sins
    and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
    and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
    so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

The Lord works righteousness
    and justice for all the oppressed.

He made known his ways to Moses,
    his deeds to the people of Israel:
the Lord is compassionate and gracious,
    slow to anger, abounding in love.
He will not always accuse,
    nor will he harbour his anger for ever;
10 he does not treat us as our sins deserve
    or repay us according to our iniquities.
11 For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
    so great is his love for those who fear him;
12 as far as the east is from the west,
    so far has he removed our transgressions from us.

13 As a father has compassion on his children,
    so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him;
14 for he knows how we are formed,
    he remembers that we are dust.
15 The life of mortals is like grass,
    they flourish like a flower of the field;
16 the wind blows over it and it is gone,
    and its place remembers it no more.
17 But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children –
18 with those who keep his covenant
    and remember to obey his precepts.

19 The Lord has established his throne in heaven,
    and his kingdom rules over all.

20 Praise the Lord, you his angels,
    you mighty ones who do his bidding,
    who obey his word.
21 Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts,
    you his servants who do his will.
22 Praise the Lord, all his works
    everywhere in his dominion.

Praise the Lord, my soul.


Singing as we live our lives before us.

Ten Thousand Reasons (Bless the Lord oh my soul.)

Thanks to biblegateway for this Psalm.
Thanks to youtube for this beautiful hymn written by Matt Redman.

Fellowship with God

Psalm 15

 “O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill?” (Ps 15:1)

These opening questions that David asks in Psalm 15 point us to the heart and goal of human existence, the very reason why we were made – and that is to dwell with and have fellowship with God himself. What an incredible goal! But if we know anything about God’s holiness (see Hab 1:13), and our unrighteousness (Rom 3:10-12), the prospect of dwelling with him should actually leave us trembling with fear.

“Where angels bow with veiled faces, how shall man be able to worship at all?” (C. H. Spurgeon)

Some people think it’s a very easy thing to approach God in worship. But this Psalm helps us to see that not everyone can do so. In fact, for the Israelites, only the righteous person, the one who walked “blamelessly”, was fit to worship God in the tabernacle. And it’s the same today, only the righteous person is fit to come before God in worship.

This poses a huge problem for us though, because all of us, without exception, are unrighteous sinners. How can we approach the throne of our supremely holy God?

“There are only two ways that God’s justice can be satisfied with respect to your sin. Either you satisfy it or Christ satisfies it. You can satisfy it by being banished from God’s presence forever. Or you can accept the satisfaction that Jesus Christ has made.” (R. C. Sproul)

For the Israelites and for us today, it’s ultimately Jesus’ righteousness that makes us worthy to come and sojourn in the tent of God. Jesus has made it possible for us to commune with God now, if we trust in his saving work on our behalf. And one day we will have the unbelievable privilege and unimaginable joy of fellowship with God face to face (Rev 22:4)!

As we gather to worship today, we should remember the work of Jesus, and delight in him who has cleansed us from our sin, and so freed us to sojourn in the tent of God.


Behind the Veil

Exodus 34

Here at last we witness God cementing the covenant with Israel, being reconciled to His people after the disastrous calf episode. God proclaims the things that are core to His identity – namely love, faithfulness and justice. Amazingly while the relationship is yet uncertain Moses intercedes for the population again saying “let the Lord go with us”. The Lord then confirms the covenant and explains a whole lot of expectations He has of His people for pure spiritual worship and celebration and sacrifice. To paraphrase quite a lot, it’s a Quick Guide to Worshipping Right – No more, no less.

Beginning with purity – leave no compromise on your borders, entertain no idols! The resulting promise is for security and peace. Israel were called to separate their desires from polluters and idols, then to engage their body and soul with feasts of godly celebration – feasts that recalled God’s salvation in the exodus and those that celebrate God’s ongoing new life. By seeking to follow those principles we too can be marking our salvation from sin and embrace the new life that sustains us. We too should involve our whole self in celebrations of purity and life without sin. Exodus 34 invites us to enjoy life that is rich and so avoid being enslaved to the desire for everything lavish. Commentator John Schultz said the celebration of these feasts will be the best protection against “the imitations that the enemy offers in his celebrations of corruption and death”.

James 3:13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.”

If you haven’t heard it, I can highly recommend Geoff’s sermon yesterday on this passage. James has just been writing to teachers, but this book applies to everyone. He was especially writing to churches that were in the midst of conflict. There’s a strong implication in this verse that some of the recipients of James’ letter were not living up to the lofty heights of their own sermons. If James was writing today he might say “You’ve heard the saying ‘Do as I say and not as I do’? Well I’m saying – do the opposite! Don’t trust what I say unless you see me doing it.” It’s easy to sound wise, but much harder to prove right teaching with good conduct. Yes, the bible is again calling you and me to travel the harder road. Another thought – If wisdom is the way that knowledge fits together, then what an awesome extension it would be to say “you only truly know something once you are living it out!”

v.13b “Deeds done in humility”

A wise person has their strength under control by submitting to God’s Spirit. Did you know that Moses was described as more humble than anyone on the face of the earth? (Numbers 12:3). It reminds me that in today’s Exodus verse God proclaimed himself to be long-suffering, good and stable. “[God] delays the execution of his justice, he waits to be gracious” (John Wesley). Compare this with James’ emphasis on strength restrained and truth embedded in humility.

James does not say to neglect telling truths, but to be careful how we wield that sword. I hate being “bible-slammed” by someone – it hurts because they have ignored the less intellectual parts of me! A godly truth sandwich consists of purity in the middle and peace on each side. Getting it wrong will either compromise the truth or deliver it harshly. Applying this chapter it could even be reasonable for us to evaluate a teacher’s wisdom by the peaceful relationships that surround him or her. Check out v.17 where the word for mercy carries with it the meaning of “tempered justice” – I love that!

So we can see some more overlap between the calls to maturity in ancient Israel, James chapter 1 and James chapter 3. Living a godly life is to strike the right balance between areas that so often get misaligned or cause us to vacillate. By seeking maturity we can find a middle road – a life of faith matched with deeds; covenant relationship matched with acts of whole-hearted worship. We might even begin to notice that godly wisdom is subtle; it’s not the loudest or cleverest argument that wins. True wisdom results in subtle fruit that sustains peaceful relationships. Just as healthy joints in your body will not cause pain, so a wise Christian will not seek to gain attention. Then we might find new depth in Paul’s statement:

“And we all, with unveiled faces, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18)

Ps. I’ve gained much in this piece from the commentaries of John Schultz, John Wesley and Stephen J. Cole.

We’re not worthy

Today’s life Journal readings are from Ezekiel 8-11 and Revelation 4.

Wayne and Garth (in the movie “Wayne’s World”) made famous the phrase “we’re not worthy!!!” as they fumbled about in the presence of musical greats Alice Cooper and Aerosmith. Many of us have probably used the same phrase, with similar joviality, to describe moments in life when we’re in the presence of someone great. But mostly, it remains light and soon passes. To continue on with such talk would very soon become awkward – unless of course they really were of obvious and incredible worth.

In Revelation 4, we get a glimpse into the heavenly throne room (4:2), where we see one seated on the throne surrounded by 4 living creatures (4:6) and 24 elders (also on thrones – 4:4). Whatever we make of all these beings (Matthew Henry says the living creatures are the true ministers of Gods people and the 24 elders are representative of Gods people… 2 lots of twelve representing old and new covenants… Fullness of God’s people) they are obviously significant in the scheme of things – they are after all in the throne room of God!

Rather than speculate on who they all are, it strikes me that in their greatness, they see someone who is obviously greater. These 4 awesome living creatures are so enticed and overwhelmed by the Glory of God that they worship him with never ceasing worship, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty,
who was and is and is to come!”
(Rev 4:8).

They don’t stop. These are the closest beings to the living God. Rather than engage in a casual conversation they are consumed by incomparable holiness and respond with worship!

And Heaven joins in!

As the living creatures lead, the elders follow.

“Worthy are you, our Lord and God,
to receive glory and honour and power,
for you created all things,
and by your will they existed and were created.”
(Rev 4:11)

But in the midst of this wild worship, don’t overlook the small but amazing action of the elders as the enter into worship. In Revelation 4:10 the twenty-four elders fall down and cast their crowns before the throne. In ascribing worth to the one true God, the one who is truly worthy, they also give up their own right to any crown. It is nothing before him. You can almost hear them, as they cast down their crowns proclaiming “we’re not worthy!!!”

What crown do you carry? What crowns are important to us in our community at FAC? Are we concerned more for our own glory than the Glory of the one who sits on the throne? Or, are we so captivated by the holiness of God, with the complete and utter worthiness of him that we cast our crowns before his throne proclaiming the worth of the one who was and is and is to come?

And will we do that thankfully, voluntarily and unceasingly?

Ron Irving.