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!   Like when you’re talking with someone who can’t wait to jump in and cut you off with their own story.  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 thing.  Nothing.  She wanted me to listen to her.

From Psalm 81, we discover that God is good at listening.  It’s what He does.  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.  Every year’s best-seller.  Unfortunately, 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?  Distractions and entertainments sap our time with Him.  Today is Christmas Eve.  Focus on Jesus, God’s precious gift.  Listen to Him.  Will we?

I love 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 believers are His sheep.  Hear Him.  Pay attention.  Hang onto His every Word.  Not keeping our Bibles in ‘mint condition’.  Give Him the time He’s due.  Really putting Christ in Christmas.  Hear that?

Merry Christmas!

Lord, thank you for hearing us.  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 rent in Hadzor, Droitwich Spa, Worcestershire, England.  Everywhere we drive,  sheep safely graze.

Jesus says that He is ‘the door of the sheep’ (John 10:7).  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 warns 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 lock the gate behind us.  If not, those sheep will get out!

It was such fun watching those sheep graze our back fields.   Sheep safely grazing.  Within their boundaries, they’re well-fed and cared for.  But once outside, trouble looms.

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 can be like sheep safely grazing.

All following the same Shepherd.  All roaming freely within.  Comforts abound within His boundaries.

Like the 10 Commandments.  Stay within them.  Step outside and it’s a 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!

Dear God, we need to stay close to Jesus to be safe.  Amen.

 

A DIFFERENT TAKE…Philippians 4: 10-20

One of the challenges of moving is finding a new church home.  Whether it’s the music or what the pastor preached about, it’s a difficult decision.

We attended yet another church recently.   The young pastor was preaching on Paul’s letter to the Philippians chapter 4–about giving.  Oh no!  Lock my wallet!

Nevertheless, a good message.  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 the Philippians have given him (v.18).  Never refers to money, though that can 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, returning to the States to retire.  What we are now giving them?  Our prayers, love and genuine interest.  Those will be gifts.  Imagine someone showing honest-to-goodness fascination with your life?  Little gifts 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!

Lord, for all the love in the universe wrapped up in Jesus, we thank you.  In His name.  Amen.

 

 

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

In 2 Samuel 7, 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 brings God’s message.  Not telling them what they want to hear.  But that’s what Nathan does.

He has a lesson to learn:  speak only what God tell you.  In 2 Samuel 11 we observe obedient Nathan.  With a message no one would ever want to give anyone, let alone the king!

Chapters 11 and 12 tell the story of David with Bathsheba, who is almost always referred to in the Bible as ‘the wife of Uriah the Hittite’.  The King has committed murder and adultery.  He’s lied, coveted  and stolen.  Nathan must now confront him.

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

King David can’t believe what he’s hearing.   Such mercenary selfishness .  He wants that thief to pay with his life.  ‘Who is he?’

Nathan says– ‘You are the man!’ (12:7).  King David, you are the thief… you are the liar… you are the murderer!  You!

David collapses… in confession and repentance.  The outcome could have been rather bleak for Nathan.  It wasn’t.

There’s no guarantee that if we receive this gift of courage, and speak out for Him, that the outcome will always be good.   May be laughed at and derided.  Lose our job or business.  Neighbors and family turn their backs on us.  Or much worse.

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

Lord, give us backbone for You.  Amen.