PEACE AND QUIET… Psalm 122

Ah, for some peace and quiet!  When did you last say that?  Two minutes ago?!  Nothing quite like it…peace and quiet!

We live in a community with new homes going up all around us in varied stages of completion.  Foundations poured.  Framing going up.  Shingles nailed down.  Sheetrock put in place.  Painters spraying away in some of the most inclement weather.

All that noise rarely bothers me.  But throw in a loud radio, and I’m out like a banshee getting them to turn it down or off completely.  Deputized by the anti-blasted-radio brigade!  At night and on weekends, a welcome respite returns.

Reading Psalm 122, I notice that peace and quiet show up there as well.  Verses 6 and 7–‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!  May they be secure who love you!  Peace be with your walls and security within your towers!’  The Hebrew word for ‘peace’ is ‘shalom’, as you already know.  A big word in the Bible.  A great one to know; and, even better, to experience.

‘Security’ is the word ‘shala’ in Hebrew language.  It means to be at ease, to relax.  Secure and quiet.  When we find ourselves close to the Lord (we know when we are and when we’re not), we’ll discover peace and quiet as His gifts to us.

A security far more valuable than stocks or bonds.  Its value beyond measure.  Things money could never buy.  After all, they’re not for sale.  Gifts never are.  Ours to have, only for their grateful receiving.

Let me wish you a very Happy and Healthy New Year!  2017!  Filled with the Lord’s gifts of peace and quiet!  Enjoy them.  Snuggle up close to Him.  That’s where you’ll find them.

Happy New Year!

 

Prayer:  For all your gifts, our Lord, we thank you.  Mainly for Jesus.  Amen.

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THAT RARE ART FORM…Psalm 81

Psalm 81 highlights one of the rarest art forms.  Which one?  Why the art of listening, of course!  Hard to come by.  Not often experienced.

Like when you’re talking with someone who can’t wait to jump in and cut you off with their own story, usually something much better or much worse than what you’ve been sharing.  Or those who ask the same questions over-and-over again, letting the cat-out-of-the-bag that they never did listen to you in the first place.

Someone would write me long letters each week inspired by listening to my Sunday sermons.  I must have been utterly profound!  When I read her letters, I instantly realized that she hadn’t heard one point in my sermon.  Nothing.  She wanted me to listen to her.  Oh well…!

From Psalm 81, we discover that God is good at listening.  It’s what He does and what He wants from us.  Verse 7–‘In distress you called, and I delivered you;  I answered you…’  Verse 8–‘Hear, O my people…if you would listen to me!’  He listens.  Do we?

The Bible is where we hear directly from God.  The most purchased book by far.  Every year’s best-seller.  Yet, knowledge of God’s Word diminishes with each passing day.  Must be that people have shut their ears to the Lord.  Even believers know so little of the Bible.

Why is that?  Not rocket science to figure out that distractions and entertainments have sapped our time with Him.  Today is Christmas Eve.  Focus on Jesus, God’s precious gift.  Listen to Him.  Can we?  Will we?

Our church choir loved to sing this song– ‘Listen, Jesus is Calling You’?  Prods us to open our plugged ears. To hear Him.  As Jesus says in John 10:3–‘The sheep hear his voice…’  He is the Good Shepherd.  We, who believe in Him, are His sheep.

How are we primarily recognized?  By hearing Him.  Paying attention.  Hanging on to His every Word.  Not keeping our Bibles dusted, in ‘mint condition’.  But giving Him the time He’s due.  Really putting Christ in Christmas.  Did you hear that?

Merry Christmas!

Prayer:  Lord, we are so grateful that you hear us.  May we spend more time listening to you.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

SHEEP SAFELY GRAZING…John 10: 7-16

It’s amazing how many sheep graze on the hills of England!  Including the ones out our back door, penned in by the ancient Roman moat, at the 15th-century Old Manor House we rented in Hadzor, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, England.  Everywhere we drive, there are sheep safely grazing.

Jesus says in John 10:7 that He is ‘the door of the sheep’.  He’s the entryway.  Not one of many, all leading to good pasture.  No.  THE door.  As if there is no other.  By the way, there’s no ‘if’ about it!

The housekeeper at the Old Manor House warned us that when we walk through the adjacent fields, down to the dock on the Birmingham-Worcester Canal, to enjoy watching the narrow-boats go by, we had better close and lock the gate behind us.  If not, those sheep will get out and we’ll be in a world of trouble!

It was such fun watching those sheep graze our back fields, eating lots of grass and weeds, along with apples and plums munched and crunched by their large teeth.  Sheep safely grazing.

Within their boundaries, they are well-fed and cared for.  But once let loose outside, trouble looms on all fronts.  The same for you and me.  As long as we stay close to the Shepherd, our Lord Jesus, as long as we stay within the boundaries He has established for us, we also can be like sheep safely grazing.

All of us following the same Shepherd.  All of us roaming freely within.  Lots of good grazing land.   Comforts abound within His boundaries.

Like the 10 Commandments.  Stay within them.  Step outside and it’s a one-way, downward slope into varied addictions, sexual aberrations, greed, gossip, stealing.  Soon we’ll be sheep lost in strange and scary fields.  Lost…sometimes barely able to return home.

Stay close to Jesus.  Even as those shepherds did in the Christmas story.  Stay within His grazing fields.  Listen for our Shepherd’s voice and we’ll be His sheep safely grazing!

Prayer:  Dear God, we want to stay close to Jesus and be safe in Him.  Amen.

 

A DIFFERENT TAKE…Philippians 4: 10-20

One of the challenges of moving is finding a new church home.  All of you who have done such know what I mean.  Whether it’s the music or location or what the pastor preached about, it’s a difficult decision.  When I was writing my ‘Reflections’ devotional book,  I was so preoccupied that simply going to church was enough.

A friend has prodded us to now find that church home.  So we go here and there asking ourselves, on our way home, how we liked it.  Mostly positive.  Some not so.  Others we may try again.

We attended another new church a short time ago.  A large one with five services on Christmas Eve.  The first begins at 9am.  An early eve indeed!

The service we recently went to was a ‘normal’ one.  The young pastor was preaching on Paul’s letter to the Philippians chapter 4–about giving.  Oh no!  Why did we pick this Sunday?  Lock my wallet!  Would be most embarrassing to up and leave!

Nevertheless, a good message.  Balanced without any hint of heavy-handedness or spiritual ‘snake oil’.  He urged us to expand our giving, which would bless us, others, and most of all, the Lord.

As I read the Philippians’ passage, I perceive something different.  Paul talks about the gifts they have given him (v.18).  Never refers to money, though that could be implied.  What other gifts would they give him?  Any ideas?  Besides money.  And what gifts can we give?  Besides money.

Recently we stopped supporting a missionary couple I’ve known since Bible school days, as they are returning to the States to retire.  What we are now giving them is not monthly monies, but our continued prayers, love and genuine interest in their lives.  Those will be gifts.  Imagine someone showing honest-to-goodness fascination with your life!  Talk about a gift rarely given!  Something money can’t buy.

We did give a few ‘shekels’ to a friend and pastor, who was teaching briefly in Thailand and Vietnam.  More importantly,  daily prayers and e-mails were gifts given while he was away from home, connecting him to the Lord and us to him.  Little gifts that can mean a lot.

Wonder what you can give to someone this Christmas season, which costs only the thought behind it?  Any ideas?  I’ve decided to offer my devotional book to some who need a break on cost so they can give to someone they love.  All at no profit for me, sad to say!!  Within hours of the offer, thirty-two books were reserved and on their way.  And more since.

Think about what gifts you can give this Christmas season!  Think outside the box.  Things money can’t buy!

Prayer:  Dear Lord, all the love in the universe was wrapped up in Jesus at Christmas.  The best gift ever.  Thank you.   Amen.

 

 

A GIFT OF COURAGE…2 Samuel 11:26–12:13

In 2 Samuel 7, we read that the prophet Nathan is itching to give King David some good news.  ‘Go ahead with your plans, O King.  The Lord is with you!’  A prophet is to give God’s message.  Not ‘tickle ears’, telling them what they want to hear.  But that’s what Nathan does.

He has a lesson to learn:  speak only what the Lord tells you to say.  Here in 2 Samuel 11 we have an obedient Nathan.  With a message no one would ever want to give anyone, let alone the king!

Chapters 11 and 12 tell the appalling story of David with Bathsheba, who is almost always referred to in the Bible as ‘the wife of Uriah the Hittite’.  Years after Uriah has been murdered, years after David marries Bathsheba, God wants us to know the truth in this story.  The King of Israel has committed murder and adultery.  He’s lied, coveted  and stolen.  Nathan must now confront him.

God’s prophet tells King David a story, which takes courage for this may mean the end of his prophetic ministry or even his life.  But tell it he must.  No hiding.  No shading the truth.  Nothing to make it more palatable.  Nathan is to wield a ‘velvet hammer’.

Nathan goes to the King with a story about the theft, from a poor man, of a precious lamb.  The thief is wealthy but greedy, not satisfied to share one morsel of his abundant food with his guest.  No.  He steals, from this destitute man, a lamb that was more like his child than a mere animal.

King David is livid!  Can’t believe what he’s hearing.  The cruel heavy-handedness of this act of mercenary selfishness overwhelms him.  He wants that thief to pay with his life.  ‘Who is he?  Tell me!’

That’s when Nathan utters those immortal words– ‘You are the man!’ (12:7).  King David, you are the thief… you are the liar… you are the murderer!  You!

David collapses, as if to his knees, in confession and repentance.  The outcome could have been rather bleak for Nathan.  It wasn’t.

There’s no guarantee, from the Lord or anyone else, that if we receive this gift of courage, and speak out for Him, that the outcome will always be good.  May not be.  May be laughed at and derided.  Lose our jobs and business.  Ostracized from ‘good company’.  Neighbors and family turn their backs on us.  Or much worse.  Could be.

To obey our Lord requires His gift of courage.  Are you happy with your gift this Christmas?

Prayer:  Thank you, Lord, for your gift of courage.  For Jesus’ sake.  Amen.