The Psalms have several recurrent themes. One of them is that God’s protection is around those who trust in Him. I have found that trust is an active thing on my part – I have to actively trust God by committing things to Him, praying to Him, spending time with Him and, very importantly, obeying what I believe He is saying to me. I can’t just carry on my own way and then say that I am trusting God.
There are things I have to do deliberately to ensure that I am trusting Him. One of these is to discipline my time so that I have set aside times in the day and the week to spend time praying alone with Him and reading the Scriptures. Another is to obey the commands that I am not to worry or be afraid, that I am to rejoice always, pray without ceasing and in everything to give thanks. These are not always easy commands to obey and work is required to carry them out.
We have just finished a series of studies of James at Open Arms. Works and faith go hand in hand.
Spirit Radio’s word for today was from Proverbs: “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23.
I’m reading through the bible again and again there is this ongoing theme throughout about the first commandment: Love God above all and first of all.
Time and again (and again and again) the message comes through “Don’t worship false idols”. This is a matter of the heart’s direction. Take it from me, after 35 years I know what this means. My heart and its leanings have determined the course of my life. It is the same for everyone.
So what does it mean to “Guard your heart”? To me it seems obvious that it means to keep it focused on obeying those commandments that Jesus said sums up every commandment:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart……”
What direction are you going in?
There is a wonderful Hebrew word called “aman” from which we get our word “amen”. According to Strong’s Concordance it means “Be established, firm”. But it can also mean “Believe” and shows the connection between stability and faith that James talks about in James 1:
“6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.”
There is a place for being absolutely dogged and firm when it comes to doing and thinking what we believe is right. Faith, in a deep sense, means to stand firm (cf. Ephesians 6).
Wouldn’t it be great if our wills and God’s were always perfectly aligned like Jesus’ will is?
Oh, wait, he did say “Not my will but yours be done” on one occasion. I guess then that makes him more like us than would otherwise be the case.
“Not my will but yours be done” I’ve said to my Father about a thing I don’t want to do.
Just so you know, it doesn’t compare in any way with what Jesus had to go through, in fact if I told you what it was you would think, wow, can I do it instead if you don’t want to? In fact I am competing to do it. The only similarity is that I don’t want to do it but I believe my Father wants me to do it. Mind you that wouldn’t be the first time that happened sadly.
No one – except God – can really share your pain and neither can anyone really know your joy. We are all so different. But His love surrounds us when our thoughts wage war and all our emotions are like a volcano inside. He is the Prince of Peace.
Not my will but Yours be done!
Yesterday I posted an Old Testament command to not allow feelings of depression to overcome me. Or at least that is the way I interpreted Joshua 1:9 and, with some success but also some failure, put into practice yesterday. Being brave and not allowing myself to be discouraged certainly beats moping about all day (or even moping for an hour or any amount of time). This morning the Lord brought to my mind the New Testament command (by the Spirit through Paul in 1 Thess. 5:16-18) to:
- Rejoice always
- Pray without ceasing
- In everything give thanks
Which is a step up on what I was putting into practice yesterday.
The Holy Spirit in us is our hope and one of the fruits of the Spirit is self control. If God is commanding this then it must be possible. I’m looking forward to seeing how this works out.
This is God’s Word and it is either living and active to you or it is not. If this word is living and active to you then why not put it into practice? He wouldn’t have brought it to your attention unless He wanted to give you the strength to also do it.
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9).
If God commands then it must be possible to do:
- Be strong
- Be brave
- Do not be afraid
- Do not be dismayed
And the reason? The all powerful Holy Spirit will be with us wherever we go.
The eight beatitudes are nearly the first thing Jesus says in the Gospels. They reveal His heart.
These are the types of people God has time for:
The poor in spirit. People with this attitude are the opposite to the pushy, showy type that is always in your face and who is full of self importance. We all know someone who is “poor in spirit” but filled with the Spirit. That’s because the Holy Spirit is, like Jesus, humble and gentle at heart. These are the type of people that get into heaven.
Those who mourn. In this life there will always be mourners. At some stage we all are likely to mourn the loss of someone we love. Jesus knows that and says He will comfort us.
Those who are humble. I’m not sure what the difference between these are and the poor in spirit. Nor do I know why they inherit the earth specifically. Perhaps there isn’t supposed to be a difference. The lowly in heart get both heaven and the earth.
Those who hunger and thirst for justice. Jesus knew these guys would be satisfied. He also knew at what cost that would be to Him. There will be justice also for those who refuse to receive the grace of God and create injustice.
The merciful. This is something we should all do. We will all need mercy.
The pure in heart. These will see God.
The peacemakers. Peacemakers are not looking out for their own wants, but are involved in reconciling opposing parties. Everyone can see that they are children of the God of peace.
Those who do what is right. You don’t have to explicitly do something in the name of Christ for this to apply to you. Anyone who stands up for the oppressed or does what Jesus would do might be persecuted for it. These also are the types of courageous people God wants with Him in heaven.
Jesus’ followers. Be prepared to be mocked, persecuted and lied about. But be very happy about it when you are!
As the KJV of the bible quaintly puts it (in 1 Corinthians 13), when it comes to heavenly things “we see as in a glass darkly”. Or as the NLT puts it more clearly (pun intended): “we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror”.
I wonder, though, which unseen world we see more clearly, this physical one or the heavenly spiritual one?
The reason I ask is because scientists tell us that the world is mainly empty space.
Even the most solid of things contain more emptiness than substance. The main guy to find this out was Ernest Rutherford. We can probably trust him and the others who have observed and proved this for many years now
The bible says that God fills all in all.
So what are you seeing? The world as it is, filled with God’s Spirit and not much else?
Or just the really, really insubstantial physical things around you?
And what are you trusting in? The evidence of your eyes or the Truth?
Jesus said: “I am the Truth…” (John 14:6)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The opening account of the creation in Genesis 1 is surprisingly non informative when it comes to the creation of the heavens. On the fourth day an aspect of the first heaven is mentioned – sun, moon and stars – but there is no mention at all of the second and third heavens (2 Cor. 12:2). The emphasis in Genesis 1 is almost entirely on the earth.
In v. 3 Light is spoken into being and that is that as far as the first day is concerned. The chaotic and dark substance that everything earthly will be created from is water. Water is not spoken into existence but just seems to be there when God created the heavens and the earth. Time starts with the first day.
Water is such an important substance that Day 2 is taken up with separating it into two and thereby creating the air and sky and nothing else.
On Day 3 the waters are gathered together into one place and by that action the dry land appears. It is as if the land was always there but just needed to have the waters moved out of the way for it to be seen. Another way of looking at is to see the original ball of water as having suspended in it all the dust needed to produce the earth (and perhaps also the other planets). Once a lot of the water is put into the pre-flood water canopy and the clouds on Day 2, the ball of water and soil is less diluted. When the waters are gathered into oceans and seas on Day 3 the muddy material is sufficiently coalesced to form dry ground and to bring forth the vegetation that appears to have been scattered through it in the form of seeds which now sprout. When it comes to understanding this in the light of our knowledge about the structure of the earth, I think it is helpful to think in very large terms. There is no sun at the centre of this ball of water vapour and the other planets are not mentioned so they could all have spun of this earthly creation process. In Second Peter chapter 3, he says: “God made the heavens by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water.”
On Day 4 God creates the sun, moon and stars which establish times and seasons and festivals. Light was there before the sun which seems strange but perhaps if the sun, moon and stars were extinguished we might be surprised at how much light was still present (cosmic background radiation perhaps?). Also the planets could have been formed on this day since they were always understood to be wandering stars.
On Day 5 God creates the sea creatures of all sorts and sizes and the birds. Amazing imagination.
On Day 6 God creates all the land animals and man. This seems to have been a busy day since, unless Eve was created after Day 7 which seems unlikely, Adam gave names to the animals that day also.
And on Day 7 God, satisfied with His work, rested.
Resting in light and water is nearly everyone’s idea of a holiday.
Everything changes for the people of Israel after Exodus 32. God’s anger is clear and more, and more detailed, laws are added in after this incident. Before that we have the Ten Commandments, some instructions about altars and goading oxen and how to treat Hebrew love slaves. After this incident we have 600+ others.
One refrain that occurs throughout the incident is that “the people cast off restraint”. The advantage of giving up an all knowing, all seeing God for a blind and inanimate idol is that there is no sense that it is watching you. So you can do what you want. Unfortunately for a lot of weak and vulnerable members in the Israeli society at the time what a lot of bullies and too many stronger members wanted was to exploit them – egged on by the demons behind the idol of course. If that had been left to take its course then the all too repetitive and tragic pattern of oppression, corruption and lawlessness played out in too many societies before and since would have been their lot too. God, and Moses, weren’t about to let that happen.
I’m thankful that I have a God that watches over me. I’m also thankful that His character is relentlessly unchanging. Faith in Him and these facts about Him – I know what He is like and what He wants – keeps me pure.