Knowing God

“The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know Your name trust in You, for You, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek You.” Psalms‬ ‭9:9-10‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

The phrase “know Your name” isn’t something superficial. It implies a depth of understanding about who God is. It can only come with the experience of having walked with God through difficult times, where He has held your hand, even carried you in His arms, through circumstances that have almost overpowered you. The deeper our knowledge of God, the more we will trust Him, and our trust in Him will withstand the hardest times.

What is oppressing you? What is giving you trouble? A difficult boss at work? A family member caught up in drug addiction, or sick with an incurable illness? The possibilities for oppression and trouble are endless. But no matter what we are facing into, we have a loving Heavenly Father who, if we seek Him, will always be there for us. He will never leave us or forsake us. Ever!

The Jews

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.” ’
“On that day, when all the nations of the earth are gathered against her, I will make Jerusalem an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves.” Zechariah‬ ‭8:23, 12:3‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬
“So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive His mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it most.”Hebrews‬ ‭4:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In an age blighted by anti-semitism, the above verses from Zechariah quietly state God’s blessing and protection for His people. It’s not clear when Zechariah’s prophetic word was going to come to pass, but it will happen! But what is clear is that all peoples, regardless of their origins, their genealogy, will one day recognise that there is a God who is infinitely superior to all other gods, and that they want to be blessed by Him. And they will see that one way to approach Him will be through God’s chosen people, the Jews. In Zechariah 12 we see that God will protect His people. History reveals many attempts to annihilate the Jews, but without success. And often things have not ended well for the persecuting forces or nations.

But there is another way to approach God, and that is through Jesus. Because of His willingness to forgive our confessed sins, there is nothing to impede our proximity to His throne. O how we need His grace and mercy in this sinful world. O how we need to remain close to Him as we traverse the mortal minefields blocking our paths, avoiding the sinful snares that conspire to trap us. Instead we have a gracious God always willing to help us in times of need.

The paths of history crossed at Calvary and one day they will cross again, when God unites His peoples everywhere. Come Lord Jesus!

Our Divine Heart Surgeon

“My shield is God Most High, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, a God who displays His wrath every day.”
Psalms‬ ‭7:10-11‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬
“I will thank the Lord because he is just; I will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High.”
Psalms‬ ‭7:17‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We so often think of God as our loving Heavenly Father. As our Creator God, the Lord Almighty, who loved us so much that He sent His only Son to die for us at Calvary. But we sometimes forget that God is also a righteous Judge, who cannot turn His back on sin and sinful people. Sooner or later there will have to be a time of judgement. The Psalmist sees God at work in the courts of Heaven deliberating on the affairs of man on a daily basis, dispensing judgements as He thinks fit. It could be argued that perhaps the Psalmist was making a connection between local catastrophes, illnesses and accidents, and what he assumed was the judgement of God. But that would describe a capricious God that we know is not true because he is a righteous judge. So we never have to fear an outcome that is unjust in His displays of wrath.

God has our best interests at heart. In the first part of this verse the Psalmist sees God as His protector, saving him and everyone else who is righteous, saving those who are “upright in heart”. What a lovely phrase! So many situations in which we find ourselves boil down to the conditions of our hearts, and particular what we call the “issues of heart”. The “heart” is where our control room, our CPU, is located. It’s where our thoughts and emotions are processed to produce actions and attitudes. It’s where our lives, our characters, our personalities are shaped. It’s where the things that we allow into our hearts through our senses will be processed to produce responses that can be good or bad.

Back in my early IT days, a common phrase often quoted when computers behaved in unpredictable ways, was “garbage in, garbage out”. It also applies to our minds. If we constantly fill our minds with garbage then that is what will come out. In our minds our thoughts, if we let them, can get out of control and produce an emotional or mental meltdown that will not end well. We need to allow God to shine a light into the deepest corners of our hearts and help us throw out the festering junk that lurks there. Some of it has been there for so long that it has even shaped our hearts into entities that God never intended. But for hearts that are misshapen, deformed and malfunctioning, or just needing a spring clean, we can call upon our Heavenly “Heart Surgeon” who can put things right. No heart condition is too difficult for Doctor Jesus to heal.

God knew about our propensity to allow garbage into our hearts, which is why we can find verses such as Proverbs 4:34, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Note that God won’t guard our hearts. It’s a personal thing. About personal responsibilities. He will help of course, but the choices we make will prevail in the end. We have to be sensitive to the good and bad in our information overloaded society, filtering out all those things that will cause damage to our hearts. Not forgetting that sin constantly lurks at the doors to our hearts, waiting for an opportunity to gain entry and create a foothold.

So we need to pray that we will always be “upright of heart” asking God to help us process all the information that bombards us daily. Asking God to forgive us when we err, and cleanse us from our sins. And by doing so we will be, as the Psalmist said, “saved”. In a safe place. Secure in the knowledge that God is protecting us. How amazing He is! He is so aware of our humanity that He sent Jesus to die for us and take on board our sins at Calvary, so that we can be “upright of heart”, righteous before God. And just to make sure, He sent the Holy Spirit to be our constant Helper and Counsellor, always there for us 24/7. Too good to be true? It’s too good not to be true!

The Psalmist ends the Psalm thanking God. It was important to him that God is just and he finishes in an attitude of praise. Perhaps that is an indication for how we should end our prayers. Always in a place that acknowledges our amazing Heavenly Father, lost in praise and wonder, overwhelmed with a grateful heart.

Message of Hope

“Return, O Lord, and rescue me. Save me because of your unfailing love.

The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord will answer my prayer.”

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭6:4, 9‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 6 is not a cheery Psalm. It describes the sorry state of a man in torment, even to the point of spending nights weeping. A picture of debilitating depression? But there are two nuggets within it, verses 4 and 9. The Psalmist cries out to God for rescue, for salvation, from his predicament, reminding God of His love for him. And a bit later on he records his assurance that his prayers have been heard and that his faith in God will lead to an answer.

My thoughts turn to the countless people who will have woken up this morning, depressed to the point of despair, perhaps after a night of weeping. People not knowing where to turn. Looking at a life, or circumstances, that seem to be without hope. People who are perhaps casualties of the culture in which we live, where secularism and capitalism rule unchallenged, or perhaps they are locked into an incurable medical condition, racked with pain to the point where life is unbearable. I meet people on my morning walks in the community who put on a brave face, making light of situations that, without God, seem hopeless. The lady down the road, always in pain, left almost immobile while she waits for a new hip, her name on a Covid-delayed waiting list. Another lady two doors away, who is bedridden in the final stages of cancer, to the point where her husband has given up work to look after her. There is a lonely man who slowly walks around the park each lunchtime, bowed, it seems, by the weight of the world. And another man, living alone with his pal, an overweight chocolate labrador, that recently needed expensive surgery for which he had to borrow heavily to fund, leaving him worried about the future.

But as a Christian I have a message of hope, and I try and share it with everyone I can. I know about, and feel within me, God’s love for me. I know from my own testimony how gracious, loving and kind He is. I know He, and He alone, has the remedy for a society that has lost its way. Only He has the words of eternal life. Only He has the touch that can bring freedom and healing to those suffering from illnesses or incurable conditions. Sometimes all I can share is an encouraging and positive word, to counter the negative spirits that seem to exude, almost in a tangible way, from people I meet. At other times I find opportunities to share with someone the love of Jesus. And when I do, there is sometimes a flicker of hope crossing their faces, before the circumstances, the negative conditions, crash back in, erasing the message of hope and love like a wave washing away footprints in the sand. But I must keep trying, because the God I know so loved the men and women He created, that He sent His Son Jesus to save them, both in this world and for the next. And He has asked me and entrusted me along with all fellow brothers and sisters in Christ, to share His mission and message of Good News to mankind.

But back to Psalm 6. Here was a man who found God even in negative circumstances. I pray for the people I meet, that this amazing God will be found by them as well, transforming their lives from darkness to light in the process.

Awe and Righteousness

“But I enter your house by the abundance of your faithful love; I bow down toward your holy temple in reverential awe of you. Lord, lead me in your righteousness because of my adversaries; make your way straight before me.” Psalms‬ ‭5:7-8‬ ‭CSB‬‬

These verses use two key words – awe and righteousness. Two words at first sight unconnected but they speak of a relationship with God that is so profound that it is strikingly counter-cultural.

The word “awe” in 21st Century society, at least in the affluent West, is usually connected with something tangible but rare, something that is considered to contain qualities that are much desired, for example a rare piece of art. To use the word “awe” in connection with God describes how we approach the Creator of everything; it affects and moulds our mental and physical demeanour before Him. The Psalmist acknowledges that it is through God’s abundant love that he is able to enter into God’s presence and he tags on the word “reverential” to try and expand the meaning of the word “awe”, trying to express something that a single word cannot fully describe. In a religious sense, the awe of God, so often inspired by the rich trappings of an altar and stained glass windows, so often inspired by the respectful, almost tangible, echoing silence within the confines of the chancel, is often sadly replaced, in a non-conformist setting, by a flippancy that demeans both the church-goer and His Creator. Though many people find an awe of God in a man-made building lined and populated with religious artefacts, I personally find an awe of God in His creation, in my tree lined early morning walks. And I often find myself bowing before Him in wonder at the sights around me, the sounds of bird song, the occasional contact with animals such as deer and foxes, rabbits and voles, the sprouting growth of new vegetation, all reaching out in a display of a life that expresses praise and gratitude to their Creator. And so often an awe of God can develop through my relationships with fellow brothers and sisters, through sharing remarkable testimonies of His greatness. Only an awesome Creator can change lives the way He does.

But without an appreciation of God in all His completeness, without an attitude of awe and reverential respect, I cannot hope to understand how I can ever be allowed to come close to Him. Thankfully, through His grace and mercy, through God’s forgiveness for my sins, I am declared righteous through His Son, Jesus. Just think about it, I stand before my amazing Creator, forgiven and adopted into His family. But the connection between “awe” and “righteousness” can only come by having an appreciation of how great he is, an appreciation expressing and acknowledging Him with a respect that is ultra-awesome.

I will never fully and completely appreciate the extent of God’s awesomeness in this life. But I can try to the best of my ability to connect with my loving Heavenly Father in the here and now, in my everyday situations, spending time with Him. Appreciating His presence. Feeling His love. And today I bow before Him, in true awe of the One who cares for me.

Expectant Prayer

“O Lord, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for I pray to no one but You. Listen to my voice in the morning, Lord. Each morning I bring my requests to You and wait expectantly.” Psalms‬ ‭5:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

I love Psalm 5. There is something about the words and content that resonates with the way I think, the way I feel. David, the Psalmist, is very open with God, and he expresses his thoughts in a way that helps all those in a similar place and with similar feelings, emboldening faith in, and communication with, God Himself.
But what were his early morning groans all about? Were they related to the dawning realisation that the problems taken to his pillow the night before were still there when he awoke? Or was he in some sort of pain, perhaps from an injury or wound? One thing for sure though, and that was his expression of absolute dependency on his God, who was the focus of his prayers, expressed first thing in the morning. His prayerful cries for help were the first thing on his mind as the new day dawned, but his petitions were not just launched into a void, lost and forgotten. David waited for an answer. We would do well to do the same. Too often I pray without any real expectation that an answer was on its way. Too often my morning prayers lack any real sense of a need for God’s help. Too often I take things for granted, not even bothering to thank the Lord who made all things possible. My bed of comfort replaces David’s bed of groans. Please help me, Lord, to enter David’s zone of expectant and powerful prayers.


“O Lord, I have so many enemies; so many are against me. So many are saying, “God will never rescue him!” But you, O Lord, are a shield around me; you are my glory, the one who holds my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain.”
Psalms‬ ‭3:1-4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In my lockdown prayer walks in my community I have met many people. Dog walkers, joggers, cyclists, families out for a stroll and so on. Each with their own purpose, each with their own reasons for being out and about. In fact it is almost impossible to go anywhere without meeting up with someone, even in rural Scotland. According to the latest statistics, the population density in the UK is 723 people per square mile, which, surprisingly to me at least, is much greater than that recorded for China (396 people per square mile). But thankfully the UK society in which we live is one of peace and mutual acceptance, so we rest assured that there are no physical enemies around us, looking for an opportunity to do us harm.

The Psalmist knew he lived in a hostile environment but he was relaxed and secure in his relationship with God. But it was not something he took for granted and he recorded that his cries to God were answered and that the Living God was his shield. In 21st Century Britain we take for granted our physical security, reliant on laws and social cohesion. Even though dysfunctional members of our society will occasionally indulge in antisocial behaviour or worse, it is not the norm. But we must never take for granted our safety and security, physical or otherwise. Thankfully, our loving Heavenly Father is always there for us. Daily I pray for the safety of my wife and family, thanking Him for all He has done for me. Yes, I have encountered problems and challenges in my life, even physical danger, but, with the Psalmist, I can claim that He answered me from His “holy mountain”, bringing me the ultimate security – my relationship with Him.


“The king proclaims the Lord’s decree: “The Lord said to me, ‘You are my son. Today I have become your Father. Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance, the whole earth as your possession.”‭‭
Psalms‬ ‭2:7-8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

“Furthermore, because we are united with Christ, we have received an inheritance from God, for he chose us in advance, and he makes everything work out according to his plan.”
Ephesians‬ ‭1:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Through the Spirit, did the Psalmist record a prophetic invitation to Jesus, Father to Son, making available to Him the salvation of the nations as His inheritance? There for the asking? I’m so glad that through His love and grace He gladly and willingly accepted the offer, bringing into fruition our inheritance and salvation, uniting us with Him as His brothers and sisters, all through His death at Calvary for our sins. But this wasn’t a spontaneous act, it was planned out in advance, with a people chosen “before the foundation of the world”. And regardless of circumstances, God makes it all happen, just as He planned it.
How are we feeling today? Do negative thoughts and emotions flow through us as we adapt to the constantly changing society and circumstances around us in our Covid communities? We have no need to be anxious though; we can rest in His presence. In, as Spurgeon once said, His “arms that change the world”. He loves us so much that whatever is before us He is going to fulfil His plan for each one of us. No crisis. No drama. Just His wonderful grace and love.

Expect the Unexpected

“He stooped and looked in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he didn’t go in. Then Simon Peter arrived and went inside. He also noticed the linen wrappings lying there,
She saw two white-robed angels, one sitting at the head and the other at the foot of the place where the body of Jesus had been lying.
Mary Magdalene found the disciples and told them, “I have seen the Lord!” Then she gave them his message.”
‭‭John‬ ‭20:5-6, 12, 18‬ ‭NLT‬‬

In John’s account of the Resurrection of Jesus, the experiences of the first to arrive at the empty tomb couldn’t have been more different. Peter and John saw an empty tomb. Mary saw a vision of angels. And the differences continue afterwards – the men return to their lodgings, Mary hangs around and sees the risen Jesus.

I don’t believe for a minute that women are more spiritually sensitive than men, though that may be the case sometimes. But I’m sure there’s something in these experiences of the early disciples that apply today to us all. Perhaps we should all be more diligent in expecting the unexpected. What do we expect when we pray or read the Bible? What do we expect when we meet together as a community of faith? You never know – the Holy Spirit might show up in a totally unexpected way if we wait in His presence. We might even find an angel or two next to us or in our midst. Or even the risen Jesus. We must never rule out what God can do in response to our prayers, within our seemingly ordinary life experiences. He is the God of the unexpected.