Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. Psalm 16:9-10 (NIV)
Seven days from now it will be Easter 2013.
Many people will seize the long weekend as an opportunity to enjoy a mini-vacation or to visit relatives and friends in distant towns.
Thousands will take to the roads to reach their destinations in the limited time available. If previous years are anything to go by, the traffic will be heavy. Accidents will occur and the carnage on our roads will increase.
Thousands too, will pack churches as regular and casual churchgoers gather to worship during this the most holy week in the Christian calendar.
Good Friday is when we think of the death of our Lord Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. We think of the physical suffering and the agony and humiliation of the most righteous man who ever lived. What love he has for us. He, who had no sin, took our sin on himself so that our redemption could be ensured.
There on that first Easter Sunday our Lord Jesus Christ rose from the grave. His bodily resurrection is the cornerstone on which our faith is founded. Because of him, we too can pass from death to life and rise again in resurrected bodies on the Last Day.
Before he ascended into heaven the resurrected Lord Jesus had a special message for his disciples: “…Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms. …This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations,…” Luke 24:44&46
God loves us so much, it does not matter who or what we are or how messed up our lives may be. God wants to, and will give us a new start if we turn to him for forgiveness and strength. Bear that thought in mind during the coming week.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, in love you sent your Son who laid down his life so that we may be reconciled to you and inherit eternal life. May we, this Easter, through our own witness to others bring glory to your name. For Jesus sake. Amen
How happy are the people who worship you with songs, who live in the light of your kindness! Psalm 89:15 (GNB)
Where do you most like to sing - in church, at concerts, in sports stadiums or in your shower? Singing appeals to all of us because it enables one to give vent to our inner emotions.
Songs have been an integral part of divine worship for a long time. In Exodus we read how Moses and the Israelites sang to the Lord (Exodus 15:1) and in the same chapter (Exodus 15:15) the song of Miriam is recorded.
Psalms are literally songs of praise. In our gem for today, the psalmist describes people who worship God in song, as happy. The reason for their happiness is God’s kindness to them.
Sacred songs can really be uplifting, particularly when sung with others. Who can fail to be stirred by the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah, which is sung with such fervour every Easter? Modern technology such as DVDs and Cds ensure that even people who live alone or live in isolated places can praise God in song.
What we must never lose sight of is the reason for our happiness. Paul, who was himself in chains at the time and had every reason to be unhappy, explained it so well in his letter to the Colossians. “You are the people of God; he loved you and chose you for his own.” (Colossians 3:12) “Christ’s message in all its richness must live in your hearts. Teach and instruct each other with all wisdom. Sing psalms, hymns and sacred songs: sing to God with thanksgiving in your heart.” (Colossians 3:16)
Knowing that God’s message via Paul applies to us too, is reason enough for us to sing with joy wherever we are.
Prayer: Almighty God, you have shown us the fullness of your love. Anoint us with your Holy Spirit so that through our witness in word and deed, we bring glory to your name. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, so far from the words of my groaning? Psalm 22:1 (NIV)
Today is Good Friday. The day our Lord Jesus Christ laid down his life so that we could be put right with God.
Picture the first Good Friday. Our Lord Jesus Christ had been reviled, mocked, whipped, degraded and sentenced to death. Then he was nailed to a cross. He hung there in excruciating pain.
His cry, "My God, my God why have you forsaken me?" still comes ringing down through the ages. It is the most desolate plea ever uttered and every Good Friday it pierces our hearts anew.
At this, the lowest point of his life on earth, Jesus draws strength from the Psalms. It is something we would do well to remember when we undergo absolute hardship.
In his extremity Jesus did not plea for clemency from his oppressors or cry for help from his disciples, all but one of them had in any event deserted him. He cried out direct to God.
When we reach a crisis point in life, we seldom make praying to God our first priority. We prefer first to look for other avenues of support.
Jesus in his cry to God opens himself completely to God. He expresses his innermost feelings fully and frankly to God.
I have a suspicion that we tend to be too embarrassed to be frank in our prayers. We prefer to use traditional utterances and well-worn phrases rather than to say what is really on our mind to our Father.
Our Heavenly Father sees straight into our hearts and for our own sake, we need to be absolutely transparent when we talk to him.
Prayer: Almighty God, in our prayers rid us of all pretence. Through the Holy Spirit give us courage to lay ourselves open to you and to talk to you fully and frankly as a child to their parent. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
How wonderful it is, how pleasant, for God’s people to live together in harmony! Psalm 133:1 (GNB)
It is mind boggling to think that every human being who has ever trod on this planet, was. or is, a person in their own right with a unique personality and distinctive traits. Our individual fingerprints are proof that we are all different.
Sometimes those differences can lead to tensions, bickering and quarrelling even between God’s people. Yet there can also be strength in diversity. “Each one does the work which the Lord gave him to do. I (Paul) sowed the seed, Apollos watered the plant, but it was God who made the plant grow.” 1 Corinthians 3:5-6
Only the devil’s interests are served when believers argue and put each other down.
The persons who serve God best are the ones who develop the qualities they have been given. Rather than arguing with other Christians they should also be encouraging them to develop their God given talents.
A thought to ponder: Christians should never forget who is also present when they meet. “For where two or three come together in my name, I am there with them.”Matthew 18:20.
Prayer: Almighty God by whose grace alone we are accepted and called to your service. Strengthen us by your Holy Spirit that we may discern your hand in all your works and your likeness in all your children. Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen
The Lord is our God; and his commands are for all the world. Psalm 105:7 (GNB)
Our gem for today is from a psalm praising the greatness of God. It recounts the story of the Israelites until their entry into the promised land.
Inspired by the Holy Spirit, the psalmist wrote better than he realised, for his psalm applies to everyone whom God has redeemed even to today.
The truth of St Augustine’s saying – “The new is in the old concealed, the old is in the new revealed” – is very evident in the book of Psalms. Like Augustine, we too can, in the light of the New Testament, see that in our Lord Jesus Christ the full significance of the Old Testament is revealed.
In our verse today, the psalmist tells us that the Lord is our God; and his commands are for all the world. The message is clear. He is our God and we are to proclaim his greatness to the world.
That is a challenge to all Christians. How can we be part of our Lord’s great commission and be faithful to his command? “Go then, to all people everywhere and make them my disciples…” Matthew 28:19
God may not have called us to be full time missionaries, but we can still fulfil an indispensable role in reaching out to the nations.
One method is through the Bible Society’s Bible-a-Month club. Through this outreach one ensures people throughout the world receive Bibles telling them of the greatness of God and what he has done through his son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
“It (my word) will not fail to do what I plan for it; it will do everything I send it to do.” Isaiah 55:11
Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for your great love for me. Show me how best I can share your love with others so that they too will turn to you and proclaim your greatness. This I ask in Jesus name who reigns with you in unity with the Holy Spirit. One God now and forever. Amen
He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret – it leads only to evil. Psalm 37:6-8 (NIV)
Today is Human Rights Day in South Africa. Human Rights Day marks the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations. The day focuses attention on human rights issues.
Ever since sin entered the world, there has been a constant clash between good and evil. Wickedness can be found both in the corridors of power and in every other sphere of human activity.
One becomes aware of despotic leaders who abuse their powers and reduce their nations to poverty before going into exile, with millions amassed in foreign banks.
It is the abuse inflicted on individuals, particularly women and children, that most touch the heart strings and can have us seething with righteous anger. Sometimes the abuse is so heinous, so utterly evil and depraved that one itches to avenge it. The psalmist warns against such vigilante action –“it leads only to evil”.
Do not fret we are told. Instead we are exhorted to be patient and wait for the Lord to act. The Lord has his own timetable. We can remain confident that he is in control. Evil will be countered and justice will ultimately triumph.
Prayer: Heavenly Father, teach us your ways. So often when we experience injustice we want to strike back in similar vein. Empower us through the Holy Spirit to counter evil with good and in so doing, reveal the knowledge of your glory. Through Jesus Christ Our Lord.
Praise the Lord, all your nations; extol him, all you peoples. For great is his love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord. Psalm 117:1-2 (NIV)
This gem is the shortest of all the Psalms and the shortest chapter in the Bible, but its’ appeal knows no boundaries. It is a worldwide call to everyone in every nation to praise God. It is a call to you and to me.
It was never God’s intention to limit his family to one nation. God made that quite clear when he first called Abraham and promised him that “…all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” Genesis 12:3
Paul who described himself as a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles quoted this very Psalm (Romans 15:11) when pleading with the Jewish believers in Rome to accept the Gentiles. “Accept one another then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God. For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs so that the Gentiles may glorify God for his mercy.” Romans 15:7-9
Many people today feel unloved and unwanted. Many people are lonely. Psalm 117 is a personal invitation from God to them, and to us all. We are the children of God’s mercy, we are the children of God’s promise.
God’s love for us is so strong “…that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
God loves us. God wants us. He will never desert us, for his faithfulness is for all eternity. Praise the Lord.
Prayer: Almighty God, thank you for the assurance that whilst we may be alone in life, we will never be lonely. Thank you for your great love for us. Amen
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me. Psalm 51:10-12 (NIV)
Lust, adultery, a planned hit, the victim killed, the mastermind behind the plot, when taken to task admits his guilt and is so sorry. A typical major media report to turn this Monday morning blue.
Only this story will never make banner headlines, even though the guilty party was a famous king. It happened too long ago. You can read the full report in your Bible, 2 Samuel chapters 11 and 12.
The king concerned was none other than King David, a brilliant and complex man who by the grace of God, became Israel’s greatest king.
It was Nathan, the prophet, who confronted David about his adultery with Bathsheba and his murder of her husband, Uriah, the Hittite, and what the consequences would be, even though the Lord had forgiven David.
David felt so debased and defiled by the sin he had committed against God, that he penned Psalm 51, the finest gem in my personal treasure chest of Psalms.
God forgave him but David needed more. So he desperately pleads with God to purge him of all evil. He begs God – wash me, cleanse me, teach me, blot out all my iniquities and then in our text for the day: “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.” Psalm 51:10-12
David loved and walked with God who had blessed him beyond imagining. Now the evil David had done had greatly angered God. David was distraught, even though he had been forgiven. David needed to be convinced within himself that he was right with God.
David was not unique in this aspect. We all make mistakes and stumble, that’s when we need first to turn to our Heavenly Father and say “O, God I am so sorry” even before we redress our wrongdoing. Then we can, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, move forward in faith with peace in our soul.
Prayer: Almighty God we love you, yet we let you down time and time again. Forgive us our sins, Father for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
“Be still and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)
Among the many precious gems to be found in the treasure chest of the Psalms, our verse for today, especially the first line must rank on everyone’s list of favourites. “Be still and know that I am God.”
Psalm 46 has been a source of strength and inspiration for believers through the ages. Martin Luther, among others, composed his great hymn, “A mighty fortress is our God” based on Psalm 46.
Although the earth may be a cosmic catastrophe and the nations all at war, the Lord Almighty whose power is absolute is with us. He is our refuge and strength and ever ready to intervene on our behalf.
The psalmist has boundless trust in God’s power. The earth may be tottering but there is one unshakable Rock, God. God is all the security we need. Self confidence in our own abilities to provide for ourselves can be an admirable virtue but not if in planning our security, we leave God out of the equation.
Be still can often be misunderstood as a request to focus on what is being said. It has a much deeper implication than that. It is a divine command. "Stop what you are doing and confess that I am God."
Unfortunately it often takes a major blow, a sudden tragedy or serious operation to shock us into reality. We should not wait for a crisis to spur us to action. There is no better time than now.
Prayer: Eternal Father, you are my God and Saviour, my shield and my strength. I put my trust in you. Make me worthy of your love through Jesus Christ, your Son, my Lord, who is alive and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen
Lord who may lodge in your tent? Who may dwell on your holy mountain? Psalm 15:1 (REB)
David is asking God who may have access to his presence and enter into fellowship with him on his holy mountain.
Mountains, by their very grandeur hold a fascination for us all. They dominate the skyline and have us looking heavenwards. In the Bible it is often the place where God and his chosen messengers met.
It was on Mount Sinai that God gave Moses the Ten Commandments.
It was on a high mountain too, that Peter, James and John witnessed the transfiguration of Jesus in the presence of Moses and Elijah.
Mount Zion is described as God’s holy mountain in the Bible. Mount Zion was the citadel of Jerusalem, captured by King David. David took up his residence there making it his capital city. Later he would move the Ark there and house it in a tent where people went to worship God. Mount Zion was greatly revered. It was the place of worship where pilgrims from all over the land met with God.
The Bible describes the place that Mount Zion held in the hearts of the believers so beautifully, Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise in the city of our God. His holy mountain is fair and lofty, the joy of the whole earth. The mountain of Zion, the far recesses of the north, is the city of the great King. Psalm 48:1-2
In Psalm 15 David sets out what he believes God requires from those who want to worship him – a blameless life, righteousness and sincerity and honesty when dealing with others.
It is a wonderful code of conduct to which to aspire. Unfortunately try as we might, not one of us is capable of achieving it. That is the terrifying truth.
Praise God for our Lord Jesus Christ. Though we are totally undeserving, he laid down his life on the cross for us. No matter what we may be guilty of, if we are truly contrite and seek his grace, we will be forgiven and pardoned. Only then do we experience God’s unconditional love and enter into fellowship with him.
Prayer: Almighty God, may the Holy Spirit inspire, guide and empower us to conduct our lives according to your will and for your glory. This I pray through Jesus name. Amen