Can't Trust Yourself? Trust God.

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips. Psalm 141: 3

Hoping that everyone had a holy and blessed Easter. In today’s text David prays to God to control his mouth. I don’t think David was concerned with what was going into his mouth. There is no evidence that he had a problem keeping the kosher law. His concern was more with what came out of his mouth. David was a praying and a singing man. The many Psalms attributed to him bears witness to this. His mouth was therefore a praying mouth and his lips were praising lips. He is fearful however, realizing how easily prayer can be replaced by personal undertakings and praise by pride. He recognizes that the mouth can easily become defiled with untruth, or pride, or wrath thus he prays that God would protect him from such failings. David seemed to accept the truth that no matter how watchful we are, we are prone to slip ups, so he begs the Lord to guard him against falling into such sins. He knew that if God secured him there would be nothing to worry about. He is the one who had said: “Unless the LORD watches over the city, the guards stand watch in vain.” Psalm 127: 1b. He recognized his limitations even in keeping his speech pure but also knew that he could depend on God’s keeping. David learnt to trust God where he couldn't trust himself.

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Stay the Course!

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her, all you who love her! Rejoice with her in joy, all you who mourn over her. Isaiah 66: 10

The preceding verses to the text tells of the displeasure and judgment of God on those who seek to ignore His call to repentance. There is a word of assurance however for those who hear and are fearful at God's call. Those who love Jerusalem and those who mourn for her are assured that the coming judgment would not be for them. The God who judges will also restore those who look to Him in faith. Sorrows will soon become joy for them because of their love for God, and interest in God's people. They are therefore encouraged to rejoice with Jerusalem. Those that mourn will soon have cause to rejoice and those mourning with them will also rejoice with them. We learn from this that when God blesses his people, all who are connected to God's people will be blessed. We are not to give up then, but stay the course knowing that if we suffer with Christ and sorrow with his church, we shall reign with Him and rejoice with her.
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God Sees, Hears and Acts.

The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their cry. Psalm 34:15

‘Where is God in all this?’ seems to be a common cry of today’s society which has become so proof oriented that it has fast lost its faith. With everything that is happening in a society divorced from religion and righteousness, we sometimes wonder at the proximity of our God. Today’s text is therefore both a reassurance and a reminder of God’s role in our everyday existence. We are reminded of two important activities of God towards us as we go from day to day.

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Living as Witnesses.

I, I am the Lord, and besides me there is no savior. Isaiah 43:11

We live in an idolatrous age. We pledge allegiance to powers and systems that cannot do for us what the one true God can. We give excessive admiration or love – praise – to individuals or objects which are ultimately powerless of themselves. We spend countless hours in devotion – worship – to possessions, situations and persons that we hold dear, often choosing to neglect the one who created both us and our possessions. It is no wonder that God challenged the people in Isaiah 43 to prove the spiritual value of that which they had chosen over Him. The fact is that God had an unmatched track record with the Israelites. It was this record that Joshua stood on when he stated to the Hebrew people: “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24: 15. None other had done for them what He had, thus he could speak with force of authority and conviction. Joshua stood as a witness for God before the people.

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God's Purpose and Intent Will Prevail!

God says, "My purpose shall stand, and I will fulfill my intention." Isaiah 46:10

I find this to be a very forceful and purposeful statement. Forceful because it depicts command, confidence and clarity. Purposeful because it portrays a God who knows what He is about and who refuses to bow to challenge or be affected by lack of support of devotion. It tells me that the God I serve is an intentional God who speaks and carries through His words. There can be no doubting our God because He has and will always be true to His words. Here we hear God speak through the prophet Isaiah a declaration of His intent. The idols worshipped by the nations around Israel are incomparable to God. God alone is God and he has been proven through time. From the beginning of time He predicted the end of time. Regardless of what any may say or do, God's purpose will not change and God's intention will triumph in the end with or without mankind's help.

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How Do You Spend Your Time in Worship?

Blessed are those whose strength is in you, whose hearts are set on pilgrimage. Psalm 84:5

Following immediately upon the proclamation of blessedness of those who reside in the house of the Lord, the Psalmist in today’s text declares the blessedness of those who make it their duty to journey to the temple periodically. The Psalmist refers here to those who attended the religious festivals. These worshipers made the trip with the intention to get as much as possible out of the experience of worshiping. The distance was far for some and treacherous for others but that did not deter them. For them it was a journey of the heart in which they gave full participation, expecting to reap the blessings of their effort. ‘The blessedness of sacred worship belongs not to half-hearted, listless worshipers, but to those who throw all their energies into it. Neither prayer, nor praise, nor the hearing of the word will be pleasant or profitable to persons who have left their hearts behind them.’ The blessing was not in the amount of time spent in the temple, but the quality of the time spent. How do you spend your time in worship?
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The Way Up is Down.

God called to Moses, "Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground." Ex. 3: 5

Moses and the burning bush is one of the many fascinating accounts of the Bible. Moses is commanded by God to remove his sandals and approach his presence. The removal of the sandals did not alter the place where Moses was. Rather it altered Moses himself as he approached the presence of God in humility and meekness. It is believed that Eastern religions developed the practice of removing their footwear before entering a holy place from this encounter of Moses with God. This is how they show reverence for their place of worship. In western society, reverence is shown by the removal of hats by men. I recently saw a gentleman remove his hat on the streets and stand still as a funeral procession rolled by. That was out of respect. We don't necessarily have to be disrespectful to not show respect to God. Our indifference to the presence of God is in itself a lack of respect. The comforts of life often cause us to forget the God we serve. When we approach God's presence we are expected to put aside the comforts of this world in order to be completely focused. God call us to put down in order that we may be able to pick up at His command.
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There Will Be Peace.

All the boots of the tramping warriors and all the garments rolled in blood shall be burned as fuel for the fire. Isaiah 9:5

Imagine a time when there shall be no news reports of wars or terrorist attacks. No car bombing or bank robberies. A time when the security forces will have no need to recruit new members and weapons of chemical warfare and mass destruction will become things of the past. Imagine with me friends, a time of peace such as the world has never known since the fall of humankind. Isaiah's statement was prophetic in a number of ways. Firstly it gave hope in the face of imminent threat to Israel's wellbeing. God was promising them a victory that would be complete and certain. Secondly, it promised a sure future for God's people. If the enemies would not destroy them it meant God's words were true and everlasting as promised to them through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Thirdly, it meant that they would be able to live in peace since the destruction of the armors of war was a sign of the complete destruction of their enemies, the Midianites. Fourthly, it was a promise of the quick and easy victory the Christ would accomplish over sin and the devil. Devilish actions and destruction would come to an abrupt end through the intervention of God on behalf of His promised people. There would be peace.

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Speak Softly!

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. Proverbs 15: 1
The saying “the pen is mightier than the sword” is as timeless as it is true. It speaks to the power that words hold over the wielder of weapons any day. The universe in which we exist was created through the spoken words of God. That represents our introduction to the power of the spoken word. No wonder we are warned about the use of our words in the Word of God. Proverbs 21: 23 tell us: Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. Trouble always seems to follow those who cannot tame the tongue. James 3: 2 – 10 tells us that the tongue is a small member of the body but it possesses the power, if left unbridled, to put the entire body in trouble. We need therefore to be in control of our tongue. Those who know me will know that I always say “if you have nothing good to say, shut up!” Proverbs 18: 21 tells us: Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits. Words are powerful and the person who has a good command of their vocabulary will always find themselves at an advantage.
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Elect of God

I will take you as my people and I will be your God. Exodus 6: 7

Moses has returned to Egypt and his people with the message of deliverance from God. God is unfolding a plan for their freedom. He has gone to Pharaoh as sent but it has somehow made the situation worse for the children of Israel. Rather than things suddenly getting better with the arrival of Moses, GodÂ’s sent messenger, the opposite has taken place. Pharaoh stands defiant in the face of the message of God and the cries of the burdened people of God have gotten louder. How could this be? HavenÂ’t they endured enough?

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Wisdom on Giving.

Some give freely, yet grow all the richer; others withhold what is due, and only suffer want. Proverbs 11:24

Every culture has its own set of proverbs or wise sayings that preserves wisdom that is important to teach new generations. We all can think of the sayings we grew up with. Having had to do cross cultural ministry I discovered that most of these sayings are repeated with slight variations or in different ways in most if not all cultures. The Book of Proverbs is a collection of similar sayings. While the book itself is attributed to Solomon, not all the proverbs are original to him even though it begins "The Proverbs of Solomon, Son of David, King of Israel." In 1 Kings 4: 32 we are told that Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs. That means there were many wise sayings credited to him that did not make it into the Book of Proverbs. Verse 34 of 1 Kings 4 says many kings came to hear Solomon speak. I am sure that this was not just a one sided conversation but that they shared and compared these sayings even as he was learning. In the Book of Proverbs therefore we have some 300 sayings of Solomon from Ch. 10: 1 – ch. 22: 16. These are believed to originate from him. Another 130 sayings were added to the book during the reign of King Hezekiah, years later. The others however are thought to be from the community and from those who visited him. Others are attributed to other kings and at least one king’s mother. The main focus of the Book of Proverbs is to share wisdom by which we can live morally strong and righteous lives.

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God Preserves His Church.

Often have they attacked me from my youth, yet they have not prevailed against me. Ps 129: 2

Psalm 129 is one of the many Psalms that was used as the Israelites marched up to the temple to worship. It was sung as they gave thanks to God as well as declared their trust in Him. Here they thank God for His protection in the light of the many attempts by those around them to destroy them as a people, to wipe their memory from the face of the earth. “They endeavored to annihilate us as a people; but God still preserves us as his own nation.” The first part of verse two is a repeat of verse one. Israel turns her sorrow into song, her misery into music. We read in the Old Testament of the many times that they suffered as a people. Enslaved many times, cities destroyed, displaced and exiled for years, but never destroyed as a people. It is with confidence therefore that they can sing, yet they have not prevailed against me. They have been kept, preserved through it all. Remember that Israel, their forefather, over the angel of the covenant as they wrestled at Bethel. Who or what then could stand in her way? If God is for us, who can be against us? God preserves his chosen.

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God Commits Himself to His Promises.

I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you. Genesis 28:15

We all should remember the chorus ‘we are climbing Jacob’s ladder’. It is about the dream he had as he journeyed from Beersheba to Harran in search of a wife in his uncle Laban’s household. As he slept on the cold ground with a rock for his pillow, he had the dream of the steps up to heaven, angels going up and down and the Lord himself at the very top. The promise of the land is given to him even as it had been given to his grandfather Abraham before him. The Lord closes off by assuring Jacob of his presence until the all that was promised had happened. In other words, not only was God making the promise, but also a commitment to see it happen. God’s promises come with God’s commitment.

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God is Merciful Towards Us.

Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress. Psalm 31: 9

In Psalm 31 David has written a song that describes his distress as well as his dependence on God in times of trouble. He is quick to point out that he is at fault and not God and as such he throws himself on God’s mercy. The text is in the first section of the song. The man of God describes and pleads his sorrowful case. ‘He unbosoms his heart, lays bare his wounds, and expresses his inward desolation’. There could be no better way of laying himself at the mercy of God. God understands a heart broken with grief and sorrow because of sin. Misery moves mercy - no more reasoning is needed. The King James Version puts it thus: “Have mercy I am in trouble.” The prayer is short but deeply pleading thus far reaching. The argument, or reason for the prayer, is as prevalent as it is plain and personal. The depth and soul of our prayers reach much further than its length.

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Teach Our Children to Serve God.

Serve Him with single mind and willing heart; for the Lord searches every mind. 1 Chronicles 28: 9

David presents his son Solomon as the new king of Judah, the one who will succeed him in ruling the people of God. Even as he presents him, he also gives him instructions on how he will be a successful king. He points his son and successor to the God who sustained him throughout his reign. Be mindful that David knows that Solomon will be the one to fulfill his dream of building a house of worship for God. He seeks to keep him established in a good relationship with God. If the house of God is to have the splendor it deserves, then the one who spearheads the building must be close to God. David the father teaches his son how to remain close to God. There must be single mind and willing heart. Another translation says ‘perfect heart and willing mind’. The bottom line is that those who serve God must put both heart and mind in it fully.

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