2020 Bible Reflections

May 4th 2020: Psalm 112

Praise the Lord.

Blessed are those who fear the Lord,
    who find great delight in his commands.

Their children will be mighty in the land;
    the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in their houses,
    and their righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
    for those who are gracious and compassionate and righteous.
Good will come to those who are generous and lend freely,
    who conduct their affairs with justice.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken;
    they will be remembered forever.
They will have no fear of bad news;
    their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord.
Their hearts are secure, they will have no fear;
    in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.
They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor,
    their righteousness endures forever;
    their horn[c] will be lifted high in honor.

10 The wicked will see and be vexed,
    they will gnash their teeth and waste away;
    the longings of the wicked will come to nothing.

Surely the righteous will never be shaken….
How do you know if you’re one of the ‘righteous’? It’s a real challenge for many of us who are people of faith. The confidence, the trust, the relative certainty needed to know that you are in the right place, facing in the right direction, living in the right direction, being the kind of follower of God that will enable you to know and trust that all is ok, that you are ok, that people around you are ok. It causes a lot of people real angst when they aren’t sure. Is there anything we can do to help them?
I think so. When talking about people who speak of God and the way we should live, Jesus said ‘you will recognise them by their fruit’, that is, does your life and the way you live, what you say about God, end up with good outcomes? Are people helped? Are they shown love? Are they welcomed? Are they pointed to the hope and freedom that only God can give, ultimately? If, to one extent or another you can say these things about your life, then I think you can be counted as one of the righteous. If your trust isn’t just in yourself only, but in God, then ultimately that is the greatest sign of all that you are one of his people. We are told that faith that is planted first as a seed can grow in people so that they become oaks of righteousness, planted in the Lord as a display of his splendour (Isaiah 61:3). Later in the Bible we’re told that God himself is the gardener (John 15:1). If you put your trust in God, a seed of faith is planted, a new creation is made, the old has gone and the new has come  (2 Corinthians 5:17). If that is the case, God tends the seed and watches it grow and you are never out of his sight (in a good way). Seeds that God is tending may get pruned sometimes and the bad bits that bear no fruit thrown in to the fire, but they are never forgotten or given up on.
Put your trust in God and you can know that when a storm comes, it might make you wobble, it might make it seem like you are flailing about with barely anything to hold on to, but the true foundation at the core of your life will never be shaken or uprooted. That is the power of the love, mercy and passion of God, that we might grow up as trees bearing good fruit and be displays of His splendour, to point people to him.
Something to Do
What ‘branches’ of you are there to celebrate today? What do you think might need to be pruned off?
Something to Pray
Pray for all those afraid today, including you if you are, asking God to bring peace and calm. Maybe someone comes to mind as you pray. Get in touch with them and ask them how they are.
2020 Bible Reflections

May 1st 2020: Psalm 149

Psalm 149

Praise the Lord!

Sing to the Lord a new song.
    Sing his praises in the assembly of the faithful.

O Israel, rejoice in your Maker.
    O people of Jerusalem, exult in your King.
Praise his name with dancing,
    accompanied by tambourine and harp.
For the Lord delights in his people;
    he crowns the humble with victory.
Let the faithful rejoice that he honors them.
    Let them sing for joy as they lie on their beds.

Let the praises of God be in their mouths,
    and a sharp sword in their hands—
to execute vengeance on the nations
    and punishment on the peoples,
to bind their kings with shackles
    and their leaders with iron chains,
to execute the judgment written against them.
    This is the glorious privilege of his faithful ones.

Praise the Lord!

There’s no denying it: some Psalms are troubling. The first half of this is great. Just the kind of thing you want to sing in the words of a song at Church on Sunday. From the second half of verse 6? Well, yes, quite so.

I never really know how to make any kind of definitive statement about pieces of Scripture like this. The people of God had been taught and shown through the stories of their history that it was their role to be the judges of those who opposed God, or them. This isn’t very palatable in our day – I wonder if it was then, to be honest – and any group setting themselves up as being justified in behaving in executing judgement against anyone else rightly is quickly to desist.

But there is a key point at stake here. In the new relationship between God and people that is possible because of all that Jesus did and who he was, we are reminded that God is a judge, that he judged humanity, found that it fell short and that justice needed to be satisfied in a different way. And so, Jesus and all that he did and all that he was. Judgement doesn’t go away just because we are no longer living in Old Testament times. What I think is offered to us now in the days that we live in is the opportunity to be clear and certain that we have hope, that we are forgiven and free and to invite anyone else who needs or wants to be forgiven and free to trust in God’s offer of salvation.

Because that is what the first two thirds of this is about. It’s about God’s goodness, which is so very good that all we can do rejoice and dance around thanking him for his kindness and mercy. It’s about realising that God crowns the humble (or, in other translations, the poor) with victory. It’s a sign that what might look or feel like victory in this life often isn’t, but that what looks like weakness, putting our hope and our trust in a God who might be largely unseen but who is most certainly not unknown or unknowable, for safety and salvation will ultimately lead to the kind of peace and the kind of life that this world that we live in simply cannot offer on its own. So in one set of key ways, we are to be judgemental. We’re to be judgemental about choosing love, choosing hope, choosing to pray for those who call us their enemy, choosing to speak good news in love and not to back down, choosing to trust in God for salvation, and choosing to be ok with the now and not-yet of receiving love from God now but realising that we won’t receive a final reward until later. ‘Well done good and faithful servant’ has to wait until we have proved to be good, and faithful. Keep going, my friends.

Something To Do

Check: if you are judging about something, is it because of a kingdom-related reason? Does judging this thing help you to love God, other people and yourself more?

Something To Pray

God, help me to judge rightly the way that you want me to live, the person you want me to be and please give me what I need to be just that kind of person today.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 30th 2020: Psalm 73

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

Truly God is good to Israel,
    to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
    My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
    when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives;
    their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don’t have troubles like other people;
    they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
They wear pride like a jeweled necklace
    and clothe themselves with cruelty.
These fat cats have everything
    their hearts could ever wish for!
They scoff and speak only evil;
    in their pride they seek to crush others.
They boast against the very heavens,
    and their words strut throughout the earth.
10 And so the people are dismayed and confused,
    drinking in all their words.
11 “What does God know?” they ask.
    “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
12 Look at these wicked people—
    enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
    Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;
    every morning brings me pain.

15 If I had really spoken this way to others,
    I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
    But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
    and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
    and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord,
    you will laugh at their silly ideas
    as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

27 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

As April draws to a close, here is a psalm which says some of the things that I most certainly most needed to hear. I wonder if I am the only one who needed to hear them or if there are others besides me.

‘My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.’

Yes, indeed, I certainly can empathise with the first half of that phrase. My health might fail and we’re being presented daily with opportunities to consider the potential of failing health, either our own or of those around us. If health diminishes or your spirit grows weak (you get worn out with the struggle, perhaps) will you still be able to say ‘God remains the strength of my heart’? It’s a battle, for sure. It’s easy to give in and to say no, that God isn’t my strength, he’s not my shelter, my refuge, my help in time of need. It would be anyway, if it were true. I suppose there’s a reason why faith comes down so often to the question of trust. I can repeat these phrases until I’m blue in the face but what it really ends up being about is whether I am willing to trust that God is willing and able to be the strength of my heart. If I’m not, I know in the part of my not affected by emotion that he remains my heart’s strength anyway, but if I spend too long trusting things other than God I miss out on so much and waste so much time and energy.

There is a warming here for those who abandon their faith and trust in God with finality. It’s strong and it’s stark and we should pay attention to it.

But we should also remember that God’s heart is for those who are prodigal, those who have wondered away but who realise their need for him and the things that only he can bring.

In these days of shielding, how good it is to remember that God is our greatest shield of all.

Something To Do

Take a health check. How are you feeling? Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? What could you do with some help with today? What do you have to celebrate?

Something To Pray

Pray that God would shield you today and give you time to rest and be refreshed.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 29th 2020: Psalm 67

It’s Time to Praise Him

67 For the Pure and Shining One
A poetic song of praise for guitar
God, keep us near your mercy-fountain and bless us!
And when you look down on us, may your face beam with joy!
Pause in his presence
Send us out all over the world so that everyone everywhere
will discover your ways and know who you are
and see your power to save.
Let all the nations burst forth with praise;
let everyone everywhere love and enjoy you!
Then how glad the nations will be when you are their King.
They will sing, they will shout, for you give true justice to the people.
Yes! You, Lord, are the shepherd of the nations!
Pause in his presence
No wonder the peoples praise you!
Let all the people praise you more!
The harvest of the earth is here!
God, the very God we worship,
keeps us satisfied at his banquet of blessings.
And the blessings keep coming!
Then all the ends of the earth will give him
the honor he deserves and be in awe of him!

I find The Passion translation of the Bible useful as a counterpoint to some that I usually use – there’s so much life to it – and when we’re looking at a piece of joyful poetry like today’s Psalm it’s perfect.
Some of the phrasing is so evocative. ‘keep us near your mercy-fountain’ is such a powerful image of the way that God keeps pouring out daily mercy to people who seek it from him. Whether we think it should or not, it flows freely, it keeps on flowing and it would only stop flowing if God chose to make it stop. Except God doesn’t choose to make it stop. This might seem odd, or even stupid to us, but that’s the choice that God has made.
Do you ever stop to think about God and end up thinking, ‘no wonder people praise you’? If not, you’re probably thinking about a conception of god which is not God at all, but some other kind of less-than, false god. It’s easy for any of us to create an image of God as a frustrated parent, an absent guardian, a school teacher with a cane ready to discipline us for a small or larger step out of line. It’s easy for us to decide that the things that happen in our lives or in the wider world are because of the defective character of this god, or the demands that this god makes.
I said last week in the Emmanuel Sunday service, that if you’ve met Jesus, you know. It’s hard to describe in mere words. All the good theology, good translation of scripture, good thinking, learning, attention to doctrinal detail and everything else that are all good elements of a life of faith, enquiry and honouring the one we love only work and make sense if they are aligned with an experience of a living relationship with God. It is this God that the psalmist is praising in our reading today. It is this God who does bring justice to the people and it’s to this God that the people shout for joy and lift up their praise. No need for counterfeit gods here. The real God, giving love and justice, mercy and peace, hope and joy to all who ask for it and put their trust in Him, is the only one worth following.
Something To Do
Spend a bit of time seeing if your God is the real God. This might sound silly, but spend a bit of time working out if the God that you follow causes you to overflow with joy and praise, even in the hardest and most pressing of times, like the Psalmist here says the living God does. If you’re not in that place today, think again about whether you’re really relating to the living God. That’s not to say life won’t be hard. That’s not to say that we can’t be angry or disappointed, or ask questions, all at the same time as praising…
Something To Pray
Pray that God would fill you with His joy and keep you near his mercy-fountain.
2020 Bible Reflections

April 28th 2020: Psalm 71

Psalm 71

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;
    let me never be put to shame.
In your righteousness, rescue me and deliver me;
    turn your ear to me and save me.
Be my rock of refuge,
    to which I can always go;
give the command to save me,
    for you are my rock and my fortress.
Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
    from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.

For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
    my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
    you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
    I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
    you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
    declaring your splendor all day long.

Do not cast me away when I am old;
    do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
10 For my enemies speak against me;
    those who wait to kill me conspire together.
11 They say, “God has forsaken him;
    pursue him and seize him,
    for no one will rescue him.”
12 Do not be far from me, my God;
    come quickly, God, to help me.
13 May my accusers perish in shame;
    may those who want to harm me
    be covered with scorn and disgrace.

14 As for me, I will always have hope;
    I will praise you more and more.

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous deeds,
    of your saving acts all day long—
    though I know not how to relate them all.
16 I will come and proclaim your mighty acts, Sovereign Lord;
    I will proclaim your righteous deeds, yours alone.
17 Since my youth, God, you have taught me,
    and to this day I declare your marvelous deeds.
18 Even when I am old and gray,
    do not forsake me, my God,
till I declare your power to the next generation,
    your mighty acts to all who are to come.

19 Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens,
    you who have done great things.
    Who is like you, God?
20 Though you have made me see troubles,
    many and bitter,
    you will restore my life again;
from the depths of the earth
    you will again bring me up.
21 You will increase my honor
    and comfort me once more.

22 I will praise you with the harp
    for your faithfulness, my God;
I will sing praise to you with the lyre,
    Holy One of Israel.
23 My lips will shout for joy
    when I sing praise to you—
    I whom you have delivered.
24 My tongue will tell of your righteous acts
    all day long,
for those who wanted to harm me
    have been put to shame and confusion.

There’s so much in today’s Psalm. I would encourage you to take time with it today and see which verses reach out to you particularly or if it’s the sum of the whole that grabs your attention. Perhaps it’s because of how things are in our world at the moment and how I’m feeling personally too today, but the verse ‘From birth I have relied on you’ has particular resonance with me as I read this. So many Psalms declare faith and trust in God and repeat promises to praise and be thankful, ask God not to leave or let the writer be put to shame. So many make the point that God somehow ought to realise that the psalmist has kept commandments, been good, basically. It’s easy to gloss over these elements as they are repeated so often, but the acceptance that since birth the Psalmist has relied on God is something which is stated less often. I don’t think there’s ever been a period during my own life where I’ve been more aware that this life I live now won’t last forever. Every breath, every move I make (go on, sing along if you know it) I make with God. I need God. I can’t do it on my own. I could spend time thinking, wishing perhaps, that I could go it alone and sometimes that seems attractive. Sometimes the arguments of others about how silly it is to believe in God, or any kind of benevolent deity, how silly it is to praise God when all of life seems so unfair, sometimes that course of action is attractive. If you’ve been there or are there at the moment, most people who have honest faiths in God have been there too. I don’t personally think it’s anything to worry about. At some point, though, I come to realise that God has seen me through ever second, every single moment of my life so far and I still am relying on him. That doesn’t make me extra-special. I think it just makes me honest. With God, all things are possible. Without…Well that doesn’t really bear thinking about.

Something To Do Today

Are you comfortable relying on God? Work today on beginning to let go of your independent streak.

Something To Pray Today

Thank you that you are always reliable. Amen

2020 Bible Reflections

April 27th 2020: Psalm 61

Psalm 61

For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.

Hear my cry, O God;
    listen to my prayer.

From the ends of the earth I call to you,
    I call as my heart grows faint;
    lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge,
    a strong tower against the foe.

I long to dwell in your tent forever
    and take refuge in the shelter of your wings
For you, God, have heard my vows;
    you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.

Increase the days of the king’s life,
    his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
    appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.

Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
    and fulfill my vows day after day.

When you are ‘growing faint’, what do you do? For me, I often get to the end of a day and am so worn out, or weighed down by things that have happened during the day just gone, that I long for sleep. Not David, the psalmist and King though, no. As he seems to be reaching the end of himself, he is praying, desperate for God to listen, to hear, to answer, to save and free him.

I wonder, is there a model for those of us who pray to follow here? Rather than a quick prayer before a meal, in the morning and at bedtime, prayer can be something which we turn to throughout the day. We can turn to God at good times, bad times, all the times in between. If we pray, it’s because we want God to listen, whether we’re thanking him for something, asking him for something, lifting someone or something to him or any other reason you might be praying, follow David’s example. There is a rock that is higher and firmer than him, that’s what he realises. God is the rock. He is the rock that doesn’t change or fail, whatever else happens, whatever what is happening around us or inside us looks or feels like. God is the rock and firm foundation of the lives of the ones who trust him. We all need hope and a firm foundation. All of us.

Something To Do

How are you feeling today? Are you ok? Anxious? Happy? Joyful? Spend a few moments thinking about how you actually feel within yourself.

Something To Pray

‘lead me to yourself, the rock that is higher than I’.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 25th 2020: Psalm 148

Psalm 148

Praise the Lord.[a]

Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights above.
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his heavenly hosts.
Praise him, sun and moon;
    praise him, all you shining stars.
Praise him, you highest heavens
    and you waters above the skies.

Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for at his command they were created,
and he established them for ever and ever—
    he issued a decree that will never pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth,
    you great sea creatures and all ocean depths,
lightning and hail, snow and clouds,
    stormy winds that do his bidding,
you mountains and all hills,
    fruit trees and all cedars,
10 wild animals and all cattle,
    small creatures and flying birds,
11 kings of the earth and all nations,
    you princes and all rulers on earth,
12 young men and women,
    old men and children.

13 Let them praise the name of the Lord,
    for his name alone is exalted;
    his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
14 And he has raised up for his people a horn,[b]
    the praise of all his faithful servants,
    of Israel, the people close to his heart.

Praise the Lord.

Sometimes these reflections are more challenging to write than others. Today’s is pretty straightforward. Praise the Lord. Praise Him all the time. Whatever is going on. Good, bad, indifferent, the best ever, the downright most disgusting; praise God anyway, all the time, during the things that make up our days, at the times when we wish we could sleep but the past is playing like a movie, condemning us anew. Whatever, whenever, through all circumstances, praise the Lord.

It is only God and his name that is lifted up, higher than both the Earth and heaven (that’s pretty high, I’m sure you’ll agree). We are not God. We are friends of God if we trust in him. We are brothers and sisters of Jesus if we accept his invitation to be so, but we are not, we ourselves, God. I say this so that we get things in the right and proper order. When we praise God we are praising the one who made heaven and earth, the one who put the stars in their place, the one for whom we exist, the one who the earth and everything in it belongs to. That God. That’s the Lord who we are praising. He is high and lifted up. And deeply, massively and completely in love with each one of us. It seems silly, almost beyond comprehension that God would love us, but love us he does. He wants us to praise him not just because he is worth it, but because he has loved us from before we even knew anything about him, before we were born even, and called us to be his children. When we are praising always it is because that is absolutely the very least we can do. We praise in singing, in praying, in spending time reading psalms like this but also in how we live, what we make our priorities (put God and other people first and that will be a good start). And we praise God with where we place our trust. Is it in Him and Him alone, or are we keeping some of our trust for ourselves, other people, other relationships, other institutions? We’ll be truly free, truly who we’re meant to be, when our trust is in Him and Him alone.

Something To Do

Make a list of things from the last 24 hours that you are thankful for.

Something To Pray

Ask God to help you trust Him more.

2020 Bible Reflections

April 22nd 2020: Psalm 16

Psalm 16

A miktam[a] of David.

Keep me safe, my God,
    for in you I take refuge.

I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord;
    apart from you I have no good thing.”
I say of the holy people who are in the land,
    “They are the noble ones in whom is all my delight.”
Those who run after other gods will suffer more and more.
    I will not pour out libations of blood to such gods
    or take up their names on my lips.

Lord, you alone are my portion and my cup;
    you make my lot secure.
The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
    surely I have a delightful inheritance.
I will praise the Lord, who counsels me;
    even at night my heart instructs me.
I keep my eyes always on the Lord.
    With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Today’s Psalm of David is one where he is taking comfort in knowing that if he keeps his eyes fixed on God, then whatever comes his way will not throw him lastingly off course. Wouldn’t we love to have this confidence?
‘9 Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices;
    my body also will rest secure,
10 because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead,
    nor will you let your faithful[b] one see decay.
11 You make known to me the path of life;
    you will fill me with joy in your presence,
    with eternal pleasures at your right hand.’
This is such great comfort. David has, sometimes more successfully than others, worked hard to develop an intimacy of relationship with God which means that to the best of his knowledge and ability he is, the majority of the time at least, doing the things that God would ask of him in the ways that he ought to. The comfort of knowing that he is seeking to follow God’s lead gives David such confidence. He is filled with joy in the presence of God.
I wonder, how often are you filled with joy in the presence of the Lord? Sometimes I go through the motions somewhat with Church services and my life between them. This isn’t good. We have been saved and freed for joyful obedience. We can have God make his home in our hearts and serve him in the power of the Holy Spirit every day. We are in his presence every moment of our lives. I wonder, are we filled with joy every moment of our lives? Joy and happiness are not the same thing, of course. We can be joy-filled but not happy, because bad things happen, but our security remains in God. A time like the one we’re living through now is ripe for such a way of living. It’s hard for most of us to be happy during Covid-19, but there’s nothing whatsoever to stop us being joyful. We have God. He has us. We are His and, even more miraculously than that, He is ours. Be of good cheer today.
Something To Do
Think back to a time when you were filled with joy. What was special about it?
Something To Pray
Ask God that he might fill you with joy in his presence today.
2020 Bible Reflections

April 20th 2020: Psalm 139

You have searched me, Lord,
    and you know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise;
    you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down;
    you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue
    you, Lord, know it completely.
You hem me in behind and before,
    and you lay your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
    too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit?
    Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
    if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
    if I settle on the far side of the sea,
10 even there your hand will guide me,
    your right hand will hold me fast.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
    and the light become night around me,”
12 even the darkness will not be dark to you;
    the night will shine like the day,
    for darkness is as light to you.

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.

19 If only you, God, would slay the wicked!
    Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty!
20 They speak of you with evil intent;
    your adversaries misuse your name.
21 Do I not hate those who hate you, Lord,
    and abhor those who are in rebellion against you?
22 I have nothing but hatred for them;
    I count them my enemies.
23 Search me, God, and know my heart;
    test me and know my anxious thoughts.
24 See if there is any offensive way in me,
    and lead me in the way everlasting.

‘You’ve searched me and you’ve known me’. Can there be a more terrifying and comforting in equal measure opening phrase in all of Scripture. What if God actually sees straight into me and knows me for who I really am? What then? I think if I ever stopped to realise that I am completely known by God I would be completely undone. There is no hiding place. I’m not sure if I even want there to be one anyway. But what these few words say to me is that faith in God, loving God, knowing God, being known by God is not something to be over-relaxed about. This is serious stuff. When we come to pray, to sing, to worship, to talk about God and his Word, we are talking about the one who sees all that we are, individually and together as humanity and yet loves us just the same. Some days I can’t get my head around that at all.
But yet, a few verses later, we have
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
Fearfully in this context means amazingly, rather than in the sense of needing to be frightened. The handiwork of God is powerful and good and the writer of the psalm, the ones who sing this song, they thank God because they are wonderfully made and completely known. Have you been able to do that recently?
At the end of the psalm, the psalmist is so confident in who they are in God that they invite Him to again search and know them. And then the desire which I think most of us could join in with, ‘lead me in the way which is everlasting.’ I hope you will let God do that today.
Something To Do
Think about the aspect of yourself that you like the least. Even that bit of you is fearfully and wonderfully made. Be kind to yourself today.
Something To Pray
Pray for those who struggle with knowing they are enough, either enough for God, themselves or for other people. Ask God to use you to help them today.
2020 Bible Reflections

April 16th 2020: Luke 7:11-17

Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son

11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. 12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”

14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.

16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.” 17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

‘A great prophet has appeared among us’ the people said. I don’t know about you but I’m not too used to seeing people raised from the dead. These days we hear about it sometimes in parts of the Church (although not so often in the Western World, interestingly). Jesus raised the son of the widow. Why? I wonder if it was because the widow needed the son, as well as to show something of the glory of God. We’re told that Jesus’s heart went out to the widow. And so he did something utterly outrageous and overcame physics and biology to restore the lost son to her, to reverse the crushing pain of the defeat of losing her precious son.

And yet the people still didn’t see him as saviour or messiah. They saw him as a great prophet, in the line of great prophets that had spread through the history of Israel.

Who are the great prophets of our day, I wonder. A very subjective question indeed and I won’t speculate here, but it feels a similar time in a lot of ways to the time in which Jesus was ministering in person on Earth. A succession of men and women come along to point us to truth, hope, justice, just enough to get through the day and often they can be a great help to a world which so often feels like it needs resetting or cheering up. Even in this very moment there is a lot of talk about the Church needing a reset. Perhaps that’s what’s happening in 2020. Whatever is really going on and whoever is speaking truth to power, speaking truth in places where it isn’t often heard, the question that springs forward to me from this reading today is, are we so distracted looking for prophets and people to change things around that we miss the very Saviour of the world walking, moving, loving and serving in our midst? I hope not.

Jesus was moved for the widow and he restored to her what was lost, broken, and healed her pain. He remained so moved that he went to the cross, through all that came with that, which most of us cannot even imagine and defeated death, moved with compassion to see wrong made right, hurt turned to healing, loss turned to love. He did it because he knew his Father’s heart was filled with compassion for us. The Father’s heart is filled with compassion for you. You might not feel it, sense it or see it, but I promise you it is true.

Something To Do

Find a way of showing compassion to someone you meet today

Something To Pray

Ask God to show you his heart for you. Don’t be alarmed if it feels overwhelming when you do. And then ask him to show you his heart for those around you. If you feel invited to move and do something for others, go to it.