Praising in the valley’s shadow

When I woke up in the middle of the night  with uncontrollable shaking, all clenched up – I was in deep deep distress.  My muscles were clenched  so tightly I worried about breaking some dental work.  I couldn’t talk, couldn’t breath, sweating buckets yet freezing and my heart was racing.  Oddly there was no fear just deep distress in my flesh.  I knew I was in trouble and so did my wife who was tending to me.  As she phoned 911 and prayed over me I also knew we weren’t alone.  There was no fear in my spirit.  God was with us.psalm23-1-6-copy1

Some would say this couldn’t be – I must have been afraid for my life. Many well-meaning and sympathetic  people have said; ‘Oh, you must have been so afraid.’  They don’t understand.  King David does.  His beautiful psalm declares; “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; For You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)  I know the truth of this Scripture – I’ve walked that walk.

When the ambulance got me to the emergency ward I felt like I couldn’t get enough air.  I was panting and my heart was racing.  They gave me oxygen and I praised the Lord for it.  My blood pressure was bottoming out and they gave me all kinds of intravenous stuff. I praised the Lord for His many blessings including a good medical system.  And when they started talking about sending me to Ottawa General in an air ambulance I was perplexed –  could the situation be getting more serious.  But there was no fear – God was at my side.  Jesus was there; the Good Shepherd wasn’t going to let the devil’s disease have me.

I lay in the intensive care unit for two days getting the infection in my blood scrubbed out by heavy-duty antibiotics and my leaking vascular system firmed up by other kinds of medications.   As the nurses and doctors ministered to my body, the Holy Spirit was ministering directly to my spirit – upholding me by His word; “The spirit of a man will sustain him in sickness, but who can bear a broken spirit?” (Proverbs 18:14) I was held together because the Holy Spirit held my spirit firmly in His love.

No doubt as I live the rest of my life my flesh will be distressed again.  Some day my body will die but His word assures me – I won’t ever die;  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  King David expressed my confidence so beautifully when he wrote: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever.” (Psalm 23:6)

I praise the Lord in good times and I praise the Lord in  tough times because He is Lord of them all!

Thankyou Jesus!

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Trust – there’s that word again!

How many times is the word ‘trust’ used in the book of Psalms?  In the King James version the word ‘trust’ or some form of it appears 71 times.  Recall that trust is a ‘firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something.’  You’re only fooling yourself if you think you can live without trust.  We all have to trust someone or something many times over on a daily basis.  The only question is what and who do you trust?do-not-let-your-hearts-be-troubled-trust-in-god-trust-also-in-me-jesus-christ

The Psalmist declares; “Some trust in chariots, and some in horses; But we will remember the name of the Lord our God.” (Psalm 20:7)  People make their way through life struggling between two extremes  of trust –  trusting  in  God and  trusting in anyone else but God.  Which end of the spectrum do you tend to work around most of the time?  The apostle Peter was pretty clear that our eternal salvation depends on trusting Jesus; “Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) That was (and is) a very extreme statement to make before the religious authorities. Peter was an extreme kind of guy!

Jesus told us that Christian life is all about trust and belief; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me.” (John 14:1) Trust empowers our actions as His disciples; “Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.” (John 14:12) Complete trust opens up a whole new kingdom of possibilies; “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.” (John 14:13) Jesus keeps His Word!

Do you trust Him?

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The heavens declare . . .

Some say that since the heavens operate by universal laws, they are therefore understandable by human minds. Neil Degrasse Tyson states; “When Newton breached this philosophical barrier by rendering all motion comprehensible and predictable, some theologians criticized him for leaving nothing for the Creator to do.”  On that point, Tyson is as mistaken as the theologians he refers to but not for the same reasons.  Tyson misses the mark when he ascribes the final say to God’s handiwork and not God.  My finished carvings do not in any way indicate that I am finished as an artist.  And the theologians, Tyson refers to ignore Scripture.ta1

The Psalmist understood the dynamics of the heavenly declaration; “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge.” (Psalm 19:1,2) God speaks through the heavens, to mankind. This communication is one of revelation which changes the mind and transforms understanding. This dynamic communication speaks to all humans and cultures everywhere; “There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line[a] has gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world.” (v.3,4) God’s revelation isn’t confined to western scientific minds.

The revelation from God through the declaration of the heavens have a positive and profound effect upon the human condition; “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes . . . ” (v.7,8) Anyone who claims to know everything about God’s creation from their understanding of universal laws of science ‘knows’ nothing.  A humble mind is made simple by the profound depth and mystery of the heavens.

Scripture tells us plainly where we stand in relation to cosmic history. God asks; “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell Me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements? Surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? To what were its foundations fastened? Or who laid its cornerstone, When the morning stars sang together, And all the sons of God shouted for joy?” (Job 38:4-7) I only know what the Bible tells me. The cosmos was patterned after Jesus who holds it together daily; “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16,17)  That is the beginning and the end of human knowledge.

“‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.'” (Revelation 1:8)

Praise the Lord!

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Cry out!

Many of my generation have been taught to keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ in times of adversity.   When faced with overwhelming trouble we try to ‘buck up’ and ‘tough it out’.  It doesn’t work.  Inevitably this brittle kind of hardness fails.   Gradually thousands of tiny cracks of stress open up across your tough exterior and then everything starts to let go. Sometimes dramatically with cascading health problems or a complete emotional break down; while others go though a ‘slow motion’ demolition that is hard to watch by those that care.hear_my_cry_o_lord_wide_t_nv

David,   the great warrior king,  didn’t live like  that.  He lived with constant threats and crisis; “The pangs of death surrounded me, and the floods of ungodliness made me afraid. The sorrows of Sheol surrounded me; The snares of death confronted me.” (Psalm 18:4,5). And he wasn’t afraid to admit it and cry out; “In my distress I called upon the Lord, And cried out to my God; He heard my voice from His temple, And my cry came before Him, even to His ears.” (v. 6)  David wasn’t afraid to admit his fear or too tough to pray for help.  Why are we?  Why do a lot of men hold back and not pray openly to God about what is pressing in on them?

Sometimes we don’t want to  look bad or weak.  Fake masculine pride hinders and cuts a man off from God who is always there waiting to be called on.  God didn’t let David down; “He sent from above, He took me; He drew me out of many waters. He delivered me from my strong enemy, From those who hated me, for they were too strong for me.: (v. 16, 17) David just had to acknowledge that some situations were more than he could handle. Why is it so hard for us to admit it when we are overwhelmed?

A lack of belief and trust will also hinder a man from crying out to God. If you live a life believing in only yourself and trusting in your own strength then why would you turn to God when things get too tough. King David knew why; “As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him.” (v. 30) As a warrior king, David’s faith in God made him great; “You have also given me the shield of Your salvation; Your right hand has held me up, Your gentleness has made me great.” (v. 35)  David was so tough in the Lord, he wasn’t afraid to be gentle!

King David sums everything up; “The Lord lives! Blessed be my Rock! Let the God of my salvation be exalted.” (v. 46) A prayer of total deliverance and celebration.

What better prayer for Easter come and gone!

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Surrounded but not defeated

This is a tough time to be a Christian.  In far away lands, Christians are being slaughtered.  Here, Christians are being spitefully marginalized from all aspects of public life including politics.  Rex Murphy, a journalist, writes; “As things now are, a truly religious person must actually stay out of politics — must forgo an active role in democratic government — because in our brazen and new age, he or she will be faced with irreconcilable moral choices. If elected, he or she will be required to betray their faith and themselves, and on those very issues that matter most: issues of life, family, autonomy and the dignity of persons.”  The affluent public won’t put up with anyone with Christian convictions.john_16-33_nkjv_wallpaper

The words of the Psalmist reflect our times ; “They have closed up their fat hearts; with their mouths they speak proudly. They have now surrounded us in our steps; they have set their eyes, crouching down to the earth, . . .” (Psalm 17:10,11)  People are ready to pounce on any person who speaks up for Jesus and Christian values.   Like a bad dream, the Psalmist hopes to awaken from, so is our encircled existence in the public arena.   King David knew that he would awaken from the nightmare; “As for me, I will see Your face in righteousness;  I shall be satisfied when I awake in Your likeness.” (v. 15) We too stand  on the solid rock of  our hope in Him.

The apostle Paul experienced this kind of opposition and his words exhort us today; “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed — always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)  Opposition drives our roots deeper into the Word of God.

Jesus tells us; “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

And we will awake from these troubled times – satisfied in His likeness!

Amen!

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It’s all about trust

We all have to trust someone.  Nobody can live their life devoid of any kind of trust.   Daily living is all about trusting.  We trust other drivers on the road to follow traffic laws. If we are taking a bus, we trust the bus driver with our life.  We trust dentists with our teeth,  doctors with our health, and teachers with our children.trust-god-s-plan-for-your-life

Yet  many balk at trusting God for life and spiritual direction; preferring astrology, self-help books,  advice of friends or even strangers.  We know less about our dentist than we do about  God.  You trust your dentist with far less evidence of qualification and ability. The first time you let your dentist drill into a tooth, you did so because he or she ‘looked’ like a dentist or did you examine their CV?  God is an ‘open book’.  If you want to know what He is like, read His Word – the Holy Bible.

King David, trusted God, because he knew He needed Him; “Preserve me, O God, for in You I put my trust. O my soul, you have said to the Lord,’You are my Lord, my goodness is nothing apart from You.” (Psalm 16:1,2)  And God never let him down; “O Lord, You are the portion of my inheritance and my cup;  You maintain my lot. The lines have fallen to me in pleasant places; Yes, I have a good inheritance.” (v. 5,6)

We give our dentist far more ‘slack’ than God because when he has to pull a tooth we take his word for it – that it is for the best.  When God takes away how often to we lament the ‘unfairness’ of it.  King David had far more trust in God; “I will bless the Lord who has given me counsel; My heart also instructs me in the night seasons. I have set the Lord always before me; Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved.” (v. 7,8)

We can trust God as King David did.  We can be blessed as this good king was; “Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices; My flesh also will rest in hope…. You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (v. 9,11)  All we have to do is trust Him at least as much as our dentist (or just a little bit more).

Jesus calls us out of fear into belief; “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in Me.” (John 14:1)

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The kind of person God wants in His neighborhood

We all like good neighbors around us.  People who keep their property up and don’t make too much noise.  A nice car or two in the driveway is good  – but not better than ours.  Appearances are everything and it’s important to keep property values up!a9630f8b5a0ffdcd6faa43a9488bb400

God has preferences as well.  The Psalmist considers the question – who does God want in His neighborhood?  David ponders; “Lord, who may abide in Your tabernacle?  Who may dwell in Your holy hill?” (Psalm 15:1) God wants honest and open people who treat others right; “He who walks uprightly, and works righteousness, and speaks the truth in his heart.” (v. 2) God doesn’t want vindictive gossips on His street; “He who does not backbite with his tongue, nor does evil to his neighbor, nor does he take up a reproach against his friend.” (v. 3)

The guy next door to God has to have standards which he applies first and foremost to himself. He has to keep his promises even when they cost him; “In whose eyes a vile person is despised, but he honors those who fear the Lord; He who swears to his own hurt and does not change.” (v. 4) God loves the guy next door who can’t be bought and doesn’t take advantage of others; “He who does not put out his money at usury, nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.” (v. 5) That kind of neighbor will never be kicked off His street; “He who does these things shall never be moved.” (v.5)

Is God your neighbor? Try the ‘Jesus test’ to find out. Ask yourself if you would approve of your neighbor having a noisy BBQ for all kinds of disadvantaged people; “But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind . . . ” (Luke 14:13) Are you worried about the ‘shady’ characters your neighbor hangs out with; “The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at this glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors of sinners!’” (Matthew 11:19) Does your neighbor get too ‘friendly’ with ‘loose’ women? “As she stood behind Him at His feet weeping, she began to wet His with feet her tears and wipe them with her hair. Then she kissed His feet and anointed them with the perfume.” (Luke 7:38) If you’re vigilant about these kinds of things don’t worry  – God isn’t in your neighborhood.

Although He may be living right next door; hoping the next time He knocks, you’ll answer your door.

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