Red Lines

“Vindicate me, my God, and plead my cause against an unfaithful nation. Rescue me from those who are deceitful and wicked.” Psalms‬ ‭43:1‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

What is my cause? What am I so deeply committed to that I am prepared to defend it no matter the cost? Some principle that has a red line, across which I cannot cross and which I believe the society around me shouldn’t cross either? Or a stand I am taking in the work place against dubious practices?  In the business realm, dodgy practices abound with the hope that a quick buck can be made, or that the taxman won’t find out. In the world of relationships marriage has been redefined. Even the God-created male and female genders have been replaced by many more. In our Western societies there is an “anything goes” mentality. “If it feels good then just do it” is applied across all demographics and age groups. But such is the language of a society that has lost its moral compass. And our political rulers, smitten by their liberal and secular ideals, nibble at the boundaries of our Christian legal and moral legacy by introducing legislation that erodes the principles God’s people adhere to.  Surely the “unfaithful nation“ in which the Psalmist lived is as true today, if not worse, than it was in his lifetime.

So what do we do? Ignore the “deceitful and wicked” practices that are occurring around us, as so many do? Or do we take a stand against them, asking God to vindicate us in the process. Realising that such a stand will potentially have a cost – remembering that John the Baptist was imprisoned and eventually beheaded because he took a stand against his local ruler’s immoral behaviour.

So I ask myself today – what is my cause? What principle or principles do I have that I consider sacrosanct? Holy Scriptures provide me with many “red lines” that I wouldn’t dream of crossing, and would hope that my society wouldn’t either. So I pray for God to protect His laws and precepts and show me how He wants me to be His voice upholding His principles. Remembering that my God-given mission is to be “salt and light” in my community.

The House of God

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng.” Psalms‬ ‭42:4‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” Phil 13b-14 NIVUK

One thing that has happened during the pandemic is that many churches have experienced a drop in attendance. Bluntly, people who faithfully went to church every Sunday don’t go anymore. Their commitment has failed to survive the hassles of lockdowns, and a transition to services being live-streamed or held using Zoom. But what about their commitment to God and His people? There will always be things trying to get in the way of our God-worship, and difficulties will often expose what is in people’s hearts.

The Apostle Paul suffered greatly in his missionary journeys – many of his challenges are listed in 2 Corinthians 11 – but nothing ever stopped him from doing what he knew God had asked him to do. So he pressed on to fulfil his mission in life. We may not be high profile missionaries like Paul, or evangelists like Billy Graham, but we too have a mission in life and responsibilities to God and His people. And so in this continuing pandemic season, there is perhaps an opportunity for a reset, for forgetting the difficulties of the past 18 months or so. Those anxieties, griefs, and worries, the lockdowns, that have blighted our lives. Instead we must reach out to God for a fresh infilling of His Spirit and remember that today is the first day of the rest of our lives. We cannot change the past but we can ensure that our future is aligned to God’s will and purposes.

Righteousness

“The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry;
The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; He delivers them from all their troubles.
The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all; He protects all his bones, not one of them will be broken.”

Psalms‬ ‭34:15, 17, 19-20‬ ‭NIVUK‬‬

Who or what is a righteous person? Does such a person exist? And why does he or she have troubles? These are questions that aren’t easy to answer, especially in a short blog post. From a Christian perspective, people are made righteous through their faith in Jesus. We believe that Jesus was, and is, the Son of God, both human and divine, and that He came to this earth with one mission – to manifest God’s love for mankind by saving them from the consequences of their repented sins, by His sacrificial death on a Roman cross at a place called Calvary. Jesus took onto Himself our sins and in return gave us His righteousness. The faith that we hold, through a continuing trusting relationship with God, in our righteous state, brings us to a place where we can cry out to God and He will answer us. The verses before us today don’t say that we won’t have troubles. But it does say that God will deliver us from them. Sometimes, this deliverance happens quickly. But at other times it will only come after we die. But the faith and trust that we have in God will sustain us through all our troubles.

In the news this morning is yet another story of a person with Motor Neurone disease who wants to end his life through assisted suicide. A person without hope for the future. A person without a belief in God. A person who thinks that only blackness awaits him after death. But a person who will find that there is a worse place to be than this life here on earth. God has compassion and love for all mankind and it must break His heart to see such a person in such a hopeless state, rejecting the very One who will deliver him from his troubles. As Christians we must pass on God’s love to everyone we meet, not just those in such dire needs, in the hope that they too will embrace our wonderful Saviour and find that His righteousness is available to everyone

True Heroes

“The godly people in the land are my true heroes! I take pleasure in them!”Psalms‬ ‭16:3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We have just had a political election in Scotland, and it has culminated in a new 5-year parliament which will meet in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Such events always seem to bring out the best and worst in the voting population, but mainly the latter. Emotions are stirred. Virtues of one person over another are extolled. Interminable interviews pick over a candidate’s good and bad points, and their track record in politics, if they have one, is exposed for all to see. But where, in our political landscape, are the true heroes that the Psalmist, David, referred to in our verse today? Plenty of public spats, name calling, sleazy acts, but anything heroic? It is mostly away from politics that our true heroes can be found. Unseen and unheard godly men and women who quietly work away in their communities, making a difference in the lives of those around them. These are the true heroes. There are always opportunities in our communities to reach out to those around us. Sometimes all that is needed is a kind, cheerful word. At other times it is help with a neighbour’s children, or doing an old person’s shopping. Giving someone a lift. Walking a neighbour’s dog. The possibilities are endless.

James 2 says much about faith and works. Here’s an extract, “What good is it, dear brothers and sisters, if you say you have faith but don’t show it by your actions? Can that kind of faith save anyone? Suppose you see a brother or sister who has no food or clothing, and you say, “Good-bye and have a good day; stay warm and eat well”—but then you don’t give that person any food or clothing. What good does that do?”

Let’s look for an opportunity to be a “hero” today. We never know – we may be the only way God can be seen in our community.

Psalm 15

Who may worship in Your sanctuary, Lord? Who may enter Your presence on Your holy hill? Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.” Psalms‬ ‭15:1-2‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 15 is a short Psalm, with just five verses. It considers the importance of who can enter the presence of God for worship. And the conclusion is in verse 2, where three qualities are deemed essential – being blameless, righteous and truthful. The Psalmist, David, takes it for granted, rightly in my opinion, that worshiping God is one of the most important things, perhaps the most important, that a person can do. And he continues in verses 3-5 to identify important qualities, both negative and positive, that help in an individual’s approach to God.
David starts by highlighting the importance of right relationships with others. He is saying that you cannot have a right relationship with God if you are not in a right relationship with those round you. So who have you fallen out with lately? Before you come into God’s presence you will have to restore that broken relationship with your neighbour. That argument with a friend.
Next David considers the importance of avoiding contact with what the NLT calls “flagrant sinners”. God’s people will reach out and help those in a hard place, because that is the essence of the Gospel, but in the process, they must be very careful to discern, and subsequently avoid, acts that will draw them into sin. As an example, being employed in a company engaged in sinful activities or practices might be unwise because inevitably you will be drawn into sin. And in the remainder of verse 4 David goes on to highlight the importance of keeping promises and honouring God’s people.
Finally, in verse 5, David concludes by mentioning the importance of being honest in financial dealings. Money is a great servant, but a terrible master, and the wrong attitude to money will stand in the way of entering into God’s presence.

A short Psalm, but so profound. Yet another Biblical nugget of gold to help us in our pilgrimage through life.