Watching Daily At Wisdom's Gates

A Yorkshireman's take on life, death, and eternity

Month: July, 2016

Fear

The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27 : 1

Darkness is a fearful place to be in. Spiritual darkness, once you realise you’re in it, is a terrifying place to be in that leads to the outer and utter darkness of hell. But the Lord can and wants to dispel the darkness in our souls and shine his light in our hearts. That’s what he did for David, myself, and I hope you too.

The Lord was David’s salvation. He wasn’t trusting in his deeds: defeating God’s enemies, writing scripture and governing God’s people well. He was trusting in the Lord to save him. Because the Lord was David’s light and salvation he had nothing to fear.

The Lord was the stronghold of David’s life. He was the secret of his strength. He was the reason he had victory over his enemies. As Christians, our enemies aren’t flesh and blood but the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. But we don’t even need to fear demonic powers because the Lord has defeated them.

Are you afraid? If you’re not a Christian, maybe you need to be. But if you come to the Lord he will take your fears away. If you are afraid as a Christian, that stems from unbelief in God to look after you and needs to be repented of!

“Lord my light, forgive me for those times I fear, because with you as my salvation I have no need to be afraid. Help me have confidence in you who has never let me down, and thank you for being the stronghold of my life, in Jesus’ name, amen”

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Seek

Uzziah set himself to seek God in the days of Zechariah, who instructed him in the fear of God, and as long as he sought the Lord, God made him prosper.
2 Chronicles 26:5

I wonder if you can remember a time when you first set yourself to seek the Lord. For Uzziah it was in the days of Zechariah. For me it was as an 8 year old boy.

I wonder if you can remember the person who first taught you about the Lord. Zechariah instructed Uzziah in the fear of God. My parents were the ones who first taught me the need to trust in God for myself.

As long as we seek the Lord, we will prosper. Not necessarily economically, health wise, or in happiness, but we will do well spiritually. We will thrive at times in spite of our circumstances. Uzziah had a successful reign as long as he sought the Lord.

Sadly Uzziah, like many, didn’t end well. He grew proud and fancied himself as a priest, although there was a clear separation of powers in the Israelite constitution. As a punishment God gave him leprosy and he ended his days in quarantine.

We are to seek God and fear him all of our days. Not just when we have godly instruction. Not just when we’re starting out and we’re aware of our need for help, but at all times.

“Lord my God, help me to seek you all of my days. Forgive me for the times I don’t fear you as I should. And thank you that you are gracious to me even when I don’t. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
Psalm 23 : 1

These words are so familiar that something of their shock value is lost on us. To a devout Israelite 3000 years ago it would have seemed almost blasphemous! Shepherds were smelly, humble, insignificant people in Israelite society.

And yet for David to call God shepherd was highly significant, for he too had been a shepherd before God had graciously called him to kingship. Shepherding might be a humble task, but the amazing thing is that God himself is humble, and condescends to care for scatty sheep like us.

A shepherd needs to precede- to lead to good pasture. He needs to protect- his rod and staff can comfort. And he needs to provide the quiet waters to refresh his flock. Similarly the Lord precedes, protects and provides for us.

As if the Lord being our shepherd wasn’t shocking enough, Jesus said “I am the good shepherd”. He was saying “I am” the God of Moses, and of David; “I am” the one who precedes, protects and provides for his people.

Jesus preceded us to glory via the cross, by which he protects us from death and provides a way of salvation. Is he your good shepherd? Hear his words today and come to Him to look after you all of your days.

“Lord my shepherd, thank you for preceding, protecting and providing for me. Forgive me that I often go astray, and help me to keep close to you. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Prayer

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place and there he prayed.
Mark 1 : 35

This was Jesus’ regular practice. He got up earlier than he would have otherwise, went to a private place, and prayed, probably aloud. His close relationship with the Father was his secret of why his ministry was so successful.

Note that he didn’t just read scripture or meditate on it. This wasn’t just an intellectual pursuit for Jesus, this was fellowship with his heavenly Father. Neither did he always pray with others, this was a highly personal and intimate relationship he had with God.

What about us? Do we get up early, especially to spend time with God? Do we find a private place where we can commune with him? If God means anything to us this will be the case.

And prayer is not just about us as individuals and God. Jesus will have been praying for his public ministry and his followers. When we pray we can commit our lives and loved ones to him.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for this priviledge to come to you in prayer. Help me to prioritise my relationship with you in my life, and forgive me for the times that I don’t. In Christ’s name, amen”

Forsaken

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?
Psalm 22 : 1

Jesus quotes the first half of this verse on the cross. However, in his agony he wasn’t showing off his Bible knowledge but expressing his anguish of heart. The Son, who had been in the closest relationship with the Father, was forsaken by him on the cross.

This is perhaps the greatest mystery of them all: why would God the Father forsake God the Son? If a man forsook his faithful, loving wife we would conclude that he was a rogue: but we daren’t blaspheme God in this matter. The answer only deepens the mystery: God forsook his Son for us, his enemies, to reconcile us to himself and adopt us into his family!

God loved us so much that he was willing to be forsaken for us. The one through whom all things were made became as the scum of the earth for rebels like us: taking the punishment we deserve. Eternity cannot suffice to fathom the depths of God’s love for us in Christ.

If you belong to Christ, it doesn’t matter what you go through, even if it were to be martyrdom, you will never have to go through what he did. You will never be forsaken by God the Father. He promises “never will I leave you, never will I forsake you”. We might leave and forsake God at times but if we belong to him he will never abandon us!

“Heavenly Father, we praise you for forsaking your beloved Son for us. We cannot comprehend the vastness of your love, we are overwhelmed by it. Forgive us for those times we leave you, but thank you that you will never forsake us. In Jesus name, amen”

Watchfulness

Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak
Matthew 26 : 41

Here Jesus gives a secret as to how to defeat temptation. Note that he doesn’t say how you can avoid temptation, but how you can not enter into it. Jesus was tempted not to go to the cross, but he watched, prayed, and didn’t fall into the temptation.

Jesus was seeking God’s will. And much of God’s will is that we seek his will! It was the Father’s will to crush the Son for our sakes, but Jesus could only go through with it if he watched and prayed. So it is with us.

Most of us will not be required to give up our lives for Christ, but we are told to take up our cross and deny ourselves. Following him will require self sacrifice that we can only achieve if we watch and pray. For the disciples, the temptation was to abandon their Lord in his hour of need. Sadly they gave in.

Note how gracious the Lord is though, knowing that his followers will abandon him. He said “the spirit is willing”- he knew they wanted to be faithful to him; “but the flesh is weak”- they were shattered. He doesn’t excuse their sin but he understands how they are feeling.

“Lord God, thank you for understanding how I feel. But please give me strength to watch and pray that I might not fall into temptation. Forgive me for those times that I’m weak and fall, in Jesus’ name, amen”

Works

And the King will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me’.
Matthew 25:40

This is part of the parable of the sheep and the goats, where the King addresses the sheep. The King is Jesus and the sheep are his people. We know we’re his people if we seek to bless him.

But how can we bless Jesus if he’s in heaven? How can we satisfy his hunger, quench his thirst, welcome him, clothe him or visit him? We might not be able to literally do so, but this verse tells us a sense in which we can.

If we feed, quench, welcome, clothe or visit our brothers and sisters in Christ, we do so to him. After all, the church is the body of Christ on earth. This isn’t to justify us before God but simply a mark of our faith in him.

On the other hand however, if we fail to feed, quench, welcome, clothe or visit our brothers and sisters in Christ, then we have no works to evidence our faith. If that is the case, as the parable goes on to say, we are destined for eternal punishment.

So let this parable be an encouragement and a warning. An encouragement to serve the brethren; and a warning to not live selfishly. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling. Faith without works is dead.

“Heavenly Father, thank you that you have saved me to do good works, which you have prepared in advance for me to do. Help me to fulfil them for your glory, and forgive me for those times I live selfishly. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Acceptability

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer.
Psalm 19 : 14

A friend of mine quoted this verse before he preached. But it’s not just for when we preach or lead worship. We want our words and thoughts to be acceptable to God at all times.

If everything we ever said was acceptable to God, we would be perfect, because it’s out of the heart that we speak. Sadly we stumble in what we say in many ways. If God wasn’t our rock and our redeemer, we would be hopeless.

This Psalm gives us a clue what we should be meditating on and talking about. The first half is about the beauty of creation; and the second half about the treasure of God’s word. If we make these our meditation and delight we won’t go far wrong.

This verse could be the theme for my devotionals. They are born out of my meditations on the word, and I want them to be acceptable in God’s sight. Ultimately, it is only because he is my rock and my redeemer that this is the case.

“Oh Lord, my rock and my redeemer, let my thoughts, words and deeds be acceptable in your sight. In Jesus’ name, amen”

Promise

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
2 Chronicles 7:14

This was God’s response to Solomon ‘ s prayer of committal for the temple. It was a very different context to ours. God’s people were a nation: Israel. Today God’s people make up the kingdom of heaven rather than any earthly polity. Just because a nation has lots of Christians in it doesn’t make it a Christian country. In fact there is no such thing because God’s kingdom transcends nations.

Having said all that, there remains a lot of truth to what God told the Israelites. If our nations are going through hard times, we as God’s people may well be responsible for turning our backs on God. Therefore we would do well to heed God’s promise here.

If we’re proud, prayerless and wicked as God’s people we need to repent. We need to humble ourselves, pray and turn from our evil ways. If we do, God promises that he will hear from heaven and forgive our sin and heal our land. If we’re called by God’s name, we should live like it as well!

“Heavenly Father, as someone called by the name of your Son as a Christian, help me to live in the light of your calling. Help me humble myself, pray, and repent of wickedness. Cause us all as a church to do the same and let us see the nations transformed by the gospel. For Jesus’ sake, amen”

Dwelling

But will God indeed dwell with man on earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, how much less this house that I have built!
2 Chronicles 6 : 18

Solomon had just built one of the wonders of the ancient world, the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem. Then he prayed a prayer of dedication at the opening ceremony. It wasn’t some self congratulatory speel, but rather an intercession, a pleading with God for his people.

God had promised that a son of David would reign forever. Solomon knew that this wasn’t him, but he asked God to fulfil his promise. But all the while he prayed, Solomon had a clear understanding of the greatness of God and the insignificance of his people.

Why should God have regard for his people? And how could the infinite God ever dwell with his people? These are tricky questions. It wasn’t like God needed a home on earth to dwell in: the whole universe can’t contain his glory!

But in our days we have come to understand a staggering truth. Not that God decided to display his glory within a temple in Bethlehem. But that God chose to set his infinite glory within a virgin’s womb. God becoming a man is far more staggering than if a man became something he had created, like a robot.

Why would the Almighty Lord of the universe chose to become one of us? So that he could display his love for the rebels that we are, by placing our punishment upon his Son, so that we could be reconciled to God. This is a mystery that Solomon couldn’t have imagined and that angels long to look into!

“Almighty Lord, what a wondrous thing that you should chose to set your love upon sinners like us. Thank you so much for sending your Son to save me. Help me to live my life for him, for your glory, amen”