Being an Example

My life is an example to many,
because you have been my strength and protection.
That is why I can never stop praising you;
I declare your glory all day long.
Psalm 71:7-8

Who can say, as David did in this Psalm, “My life is an example to many”. But how can he have the utter cheek to make such a claim after his very public and disgraceful affair with Bathsheba? Is he saying that anyone can behave in that way and it’s no big deal? Before we answer that question, it might be worth considering another similar occasion. When Peter was caught out by Jesus after denying Him, in His time of need, not just once, but three times. We can read the passage in Matthew 26. This wasn’t just a private occurrence – Peter made his denials publicly in front of a group of people. And we can read in John 21 how the risen Jesus took Peter through repentance to becoming a rock, on which Jesus said He would build His church.

So back to David. He also repented of his terrible sins and received God’s forgiveness. There are no sins that God will not cleanse us from. We have not done anything so bad that Jesus will refuse to pardon us. And like David, we too can be an example to many. In our communities we can be an example to our friends and neighbours, and by our lives we may the only glimpse of Jesus that many people will ever see. 

Those of us who have repented of our sins can stand before God wearing the righteousness of Jesus. How do I know? The Bible says so in 2 Corinthians 5:21, “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God“. So if God declares me righteous, as He did with David and Peter and countless others, I too can be an example to many. I have blogged before about the Pastor of a church in Glasgow, who was a drug dealer, imprisoned for his crime, saved through the ministry of Teen Challenge, and who returned to the very community in which he dealt drugs as their Minister and Pastor. I’m sure, at least initially, the community scoffed at him, as they did with Jesus when He preached in His home town of Nazareth. But the reformed drug dealer is now an amazing testimony to the grace of God. Like David, he too can say his life is an example to many. 

And so the challenge to us is this – as reformed sinners can we too be examples to those around us, telling about God’s strength and protection, and declaring His glory all day long? A thought for today?

Answered Prayer

You who answer prayer,
to you all people will come.
When we were overwhelmed by sins,
you forgave our transgressions.
Psalm 65:2-3 NIV

Another Davidic Psalm. He was certainly a prolific Psalmist, but so much of his writings bubble up out of a heart firmly fixed and grounded in his Father God. In verse 2 of this Psalm, David drops in the unequivocal statement that God answers prayer. In Matthew 21:22, Jesus said, “If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer“. There’s the story of a woman living in the coal belt in Wales, who got so fed up with a slag heap located behind her house that she took the words of Jesus at face value and prayed one night for God to remove the mountain. The next morning it was still there. Her response was, “I didn’t think prayer would work anyway”. An example of unbelieving prayer? When Jesus spoke about asking for something in prayer, there is implied within the request the assurance that what is being asked for is in accordance with God’s will. There is also the implied requirement for having faith that God is who He says He is, and that He will grant the request. Sometimes we try and pray beyond our faith. For example if I pray for revival to break out in my nation, is that within the faith that I have? Perhaps I need to start with praying for my next door neighbour, developing my faith muscles in the process. Both belief and faith required a living, breathing relationship with our Heavenly Father. In Matthew 7:7, Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you…”. The word ask in this context means to keep on asking, being persistent in prayer. 

But after all this, we have to accept that our believing, faith-filled, persistent prayer requests may not be answered in the way, or with the result, we hoped for. These are the times when we need to trust God, because only He knows what is best for us. However, there is one prayer that God always answers with a resounding “Yes”. That is the prayer for forgiveness for all our sins. In 1 John 1:9, the Apostle John wrote, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” We need never be overwhelmed by our sins again. We can live a life free of guilt and sin. Thank You Lord!

No-one Does Good

The Lord looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God. 
All have turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.
Psalm 14:2-3

This is a depressing Psalm in some ways, but full of hope in another. The phrase, “there is no-one who does good” appears in two places, in verses 1 and 3. And that’s the depressing bit, because David, the Psalmist, was perhaps meditating on what it must have been like to be God and, from his own experience of society, came to the conclusion that goodness was a quality severely lacking in the human race. Worse, he sees his fellow men as being “fools” because they deny that God exists and instead are riddled with corruption and do things he calls “vile”. Some of their nasty behaviour is listed further down in the Psalm.

The hopeful part of this Psalm appears in verses 5 and 7. In verse 5 David is comforted by the thought that one day, the evildoers will be terrified when they find out that, actually, there is a God, and He will be found in the presence of those who are righteous. But David’s cry in verse 7 was a prophetic glimpse, through the murk and mists of time, that there needs to be a Rescuer, from God’s mountain, who will restore His people. He was looking forward in time through a prophetic looking glass, yearning for the day when God’s plan of salvation would be enacted. We have the privilege of being able to look back in time to see that God sent His son, Jesus, who restored all those who put their faith in Him. The Apostle John wrote down the words of Jesus in John 3:16-17, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”  This was the fulfilment of the plan in God’s heart, that David only had a glimpse of all those years before. 

Verse 7 refers to Jacob and Israel rejoicing when salvation occurs. Perhaps there is a second part to David’s prophetic glimpse, and it is still to take place. That is the salvation of the nation Israel. But whatever our thoughts, we are truly a privileged people, living in an age of God’s favour. Let’s embrace it while we can.

Forgetful People

Don’t kill them, for my people soon forget such lessons; stagger them with Your power, and bring them to their knees, O Lord our shield.
‭Psalms‬ ‭59:11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Psalm 59 continues the epic journey of David and his thoughts as he focuses on avoiding Saul’s malign attempts to end his life. In this Psalm, David rants before God about the nasty people who are out to get him, waiting for him to return home. They are “criminals”, “murderers”, “vicious dogs”, people with “sinful lips”. David doesn’t have much good to say about them at all. But at the end of the Psalm he again lapses into the comfort of his relationship with God, waiting for Him to rescue him. 

But today’s verse is interesting. David knows what people and their memories and thought processes are like. He knew that if God killed David’s enemies it would be a warning to some at the time but then quickly forgotten. Human nature is still the same today. Take for example someone’s driving behaviour if they see a road traffic accident caused by speeding. Their driving style and speed might moderate for a few miles, but for how long will it stay that way? Sooner or later they will forget or ignore what happened and carry on as they did before. The reoffending rate of people imprisoned for burglary is another example. Many soon forget their period of incarceration and return to their old ways. It is a trait of human nature to forget sinful events committed by others or ourselves, adopting an “it will never happen to me” mentality, or ”I’ll be more careful next time and not get caught”.  

However, David appealed to God to “stagger [such people] with [His] power and bring them to their knees“. He knew that someone repenting of their sins, on their knees before God, would have a far greater impact on the society around them. I know a lovely man in Glasgow, jailed in his teens for a drug offence. He found God in prison and is now the Pastor of a church in the very same community where he committed his drug offences. What an impact he has had! He is a constant reminder to the people in that community of God’s grace being available for all sinners, even him. David knew, and recorded in his Psalm, that a life snuffed out will have no future value, but one redeemed from sin will last forever. If my Pastor friend had continued in a life of drugs and crime, there would have been no lasting legacy, no outpouring of God’s grace, no constant reminder that there is a God in Heaven who cares for all mankind, and particularly those in his community.

So we need to be gracious. We need to pray, and keep praying, for those in our communities, workplaces, families, circle of friends, anyone we know who may be causing us difficulties. These people may not be enemies in the way David describes, but they may be telling lies, or posting unfavourable comments on social media about us. They may be ignoring us in the street. They may even be unpleasant to our faces. But prayer changes things. As we pray God will work on their hearts, and give them the opportunity to kneel before Him, asking for His forgiveness. And as we pray, He will change our hearts too, helping us see these people through His eyes, even loving them as He loves us. I can only say in response to such a gracious God, “What a Saviour!” Do I hear an “Amen”?

Grace Unlimited

Have mercy on me, O God, because of your unfailing love. Because of your great compassion, blot out the stain of my sins. 
Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 
Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me.”
Psalms‬ ‭51:1, 7, 9-11‬ ‭NLT‬‬

David hasn’t done well. In fact, he has plumbed the depths of depravity beyond even godless people’s experiences. He has coveted another man’s wife, then committed adultery with her, and finally joined the ranks of murderers by arranging for her husband to be killed on the battlefield. And his self-deception was so complete that it took a brave prophet, Nathan, to point out his sins to him. But Psalm 51 is a record of his way back into God’s presence. Surely David’s sins were too great to be forgiven, we might think. Surely what he has done cannot just be atoned for by writing a Psalm. Surely he has to be banished from God’s presence forever. But this is where God’s unlimited grace comes into the picture. God will never turn His back on a truly repentant sinner. 

But we might think that it is unfair of God to forgive someone as sinful as David. After all, my sins are nowhere near as bad as David’s. I’ve never done any of the things David had. The problem is that none of us can live a perfect sinless life that matches up to God’s standard of righteousness. It doesn’t matter how grave the sin is – stealing a pencil from an employer or committing adultery are both sins and both will stop us entering God’s presence. Because of our sinful natures we cannot get into God’s presence through our own efforts. There is only one way into God’s presence and that is through Jesus. Look at the Scriptures. Jesus said in John 14:6, “‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’”. In Acts 4:12 the Apostle Peter said, “There is salvation in no one else! God has given no other name under heaven by which we must be saved.”” It is only by the repentance of our sins and our belief that Jesus died for us at Calvary, that will enable us to become righteous enough to enter God’s presence. 

Back in my Sunday School days we used to sing a song that went like this;

There’s a way back to God
from the dark paths of sin;
there’s a door that is open
and you may go in;
at Calvary’s cross is where you begin,
when you come as a sinner
to Jesus.

Through God’s grace there is forgiveness. Once we have truly confessed our sins, and taken on board Jesus’ righteousness, He doesn’t see our sins any more. They are, in the words of the Psalm, blotted out. They have been erased from His record book. What a wonderful God He is!

But there is then the issue of our memories. Perhaps you are like me and sometimes remember a particular sin, from way back in the past, or perhaps not so long ago. We have confessed it, repented of it and God has forgiven us of it. He has no more record of it, but it is still in our memories. So we try and confess it again, just in case we have forgotten something. But God looks up the sin in His record book and doesn’t find it so He asks us the question, “What sin are you talking about?” It has been covered by His grace and blotted out of His records. Our memories retain it though and this is perhaps what David was referring to when he referred to the stain of his guilt. Sins leave stains in our minds. These can become a constant reminder of God’s grace, so freely and generously given. But also something the enemy will use to torment us, it we let him. If God has forgiven us, why would we not forgive ourselves? Perhaps our lack of faith comes to the fore?

The thing that David feared most, though, was that there was no way back into God’s presence. Verses 9-11 of today’s Psalm express the anguish going on within him. David appealed to God in three ways; to not keeping looking at his sins, to not banish him from His presence and to not take away the Holy Spirit. David didn’t have access to the Son of God, Jesus, as we do today. But he knew his God and knew that His grace and mercy would never reject him.

I wonder if David’s biggest fear, though, was that the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come near him again. What a terrible thought? But, rationally, can I ask us all a question today. Would we know if the Holy Spirit had left us? That’s a question to ponder throughout the day. 

God’s DNA

“I take joy in doing Your will, my God, for Your instructions are written on my heart.” Psalms‬ ‭40:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

How is it that people seem to intuitively know when they do wrong? Even when there are no obvious rules, laws or regulations for them to break. The key could be in the verse we read today from Psalm 40. In the Genesis creation story we are told that man was made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26). Our God is a righteous God, the Creator of a universe that is founded on what is right, a moral universe within which mankind fits like a hand in a glove. That is, if the glove he chooses to fit his hand into is the one God designed. Unfortunately, in today’s Western society there are many people who make a living by manufacturing different gloves for people who have violated the basics of God’s moral design. Gloves for unfortunate and misguided people who are debilitated by their feelings of guilt and who, instead of going to their Creator, instead find a false god in the form of a psychiatrist or counsellor with the hope that they can help them appease their guilty conscience in a way that avoids bringing God into the remedy.

Am I generalising too much? Am I being too harsh about the psychiatric profession? Possibly, or even probably. But what I do know is that God’s moral DNA is inbuilt. It forms a part of us. It leads and guides us through and by our consciences in the way God has designed for us. David, the Psalmist, realised its importance when he wrote about God’s genetic instructions being written into our hearts, into our psyche. And, as the verse today says, by following His instructions, we will experience a joy not possible to achieve by godless methods.

The remedy for a guilty conscience is through repentance and turning to God. And when we are close to God with a conscience washed clean through Jesus’ blood, we will be hand in glove with the Creator who designed us. Experiencing His joy, love and peace. Set free to do His will.

God’s Master Plan

“O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us. Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal. If I tried to recite all Your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.” Psalms‬ ‭40:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Any attempt to unpick and drill down into this verse can only end up in becoming lost in the depths of our Creator God, full of grateful praise and worship. The bottom line is that God’s wonders, plans and deeds are uncountable because there are so many of them. For example, just take the environment in which we live. The number of conditions that combine to enable life as we know it on this planet are uncountable. And it was God’s plan to create a world where His plans could be developed. And look at the complexities of human life – how could two cells coming together in a mother’s womb ever develop into a human being capable of so much? It beggars belief that so many people believe the lie that our world and all its contents happened by chance. As the verse above points out, our Creator God has performed many wonders and deeds in implementing His plans.

But there is a wonder, a plan, a deed, that is far above anything else God has done for the human race. We find in the Genesis account that God created men and women in His image. And He wanted to have a relationship with them based on love and friendship. But things went horribly wrong with man’s response to God, as we can find in the early accounts of the Israelite nation. God wasn’t going to give up on His creation, though, and He devised a master plan to reconcile mankind back to Him. His love for us was so intense that he wasn’t going to let us continue in living a life less than how He designed it to be. A life without the ultimate richness of being a friend of God. We can read about God’s master plan through the words of Jesus in John 3. This is the Message version. “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.” That was God’s plan. To put the world back into the place He had designed it to be. He wasn’t going to give up on His creation and He never will. Through Jesus, God’s Master Plan, everyone person living on this planet can find out about God’s wonders, plans and deeds. If they want to. The choice is theirs. The choice is yours.

Mud and Clay

“I waited patiently for the Lord to help me, and he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. He has given me a new song to sing, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see what he has done and be amazed. They will put their trust in the Lord.” Psalms‬ ‭40:1-3‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Imagine the scene. You have wandered over some fields and come to a bank, down which you accidentally slip. You find yourself stuck in a bog, mud up to your knees and you are starting to sink further. Your cries for help are unheeded because of the remoteness of the place and very quickly the enormity of your predicament floods over you leaving an acute feeling of fear and despair. So you cry out to God for help, waiting with patience for Him to answer, full of assurance that He will do just that. And then, out of nowhere, a rope falls in front of you. You grab it and find a stranger at the other end who manages to pull you out, back up the bank, to a place of firm ground. God hears your cries and prayers for help and sends someone to rescue you.

Imagine the scene. After several days of heavy rain, the local river has burst its banks and your house is being flooded. The ground floor is now under water but you have managed to get onto the roof. You look anxiously around at the water-filled devastation, watching trees, rubbish, even cars, float past. Despair and fear increase. There is no-one to help. But God hears your prayers and sends a rescue helicopter, that quickly lifts you to a place of safety where you can wait for the flood waters to recede.

Imagine the scene. You realise that you are heading for a lost eternity because of your many sins. You are filled with fear and despair. Your situation appears to be hopeless because you realise you can’t save yourself. You cry out to God for help. But God has a plan. He loves you so much that He sends His Son, Jesus, to rescue you. But it’s a costly exercise – to rescue you Jesus has to become a sacrifice for your sins. There is no other way. And through His death on a cross, Jesus takes upon Himself all your sins, leaving you without guilt and shame, in right standing before God and able to say with confidence that your future with God in Heaven is secure. You have found a place of security. Solid ground on which to stand. Paul wrote in his Roman epistle, “When we were utterly helpless, Christ came at just the right time and died for us sinners.” (‭‭Romans‬ ‭5:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Three scenarios. Two of physical danger, one of spiritual danger. But all three a potential “pit of despair”. But after rescue what do you feel? Elation? Relief? Most probably an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to God for His rescue. A song you have never sung before comes from deep within you, as you sing grateful praises to God. A song that tells of God’s amazing works. A song that brings others into a trusting relationship with God too.

Far-fetched scenarios that don’t apply in real life today? God may, or may not, rescue us from all occasions of physical danger. It wouldn’t be danger if He always did. But we can have an assurance that God will always rescue a repentant sinner from spending eternity in that place Jesus called hell. How do I know? The Son of God, Jesus, told me. “For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” ‭‭John‬ ‭3:16-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬.


“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


“Therefore, let all the godly pray to You while there is still time, that they may not drown in the floodwaters of judgment.” Psalms‬ ‭32:6‬ ‭NLT‬‬

We live in an age of climate change. Whether or not we agree that global warming is caused through man’s actions, there seems to be evidence that the world is getting warmer. And there is a consequence in that sea levels are rising through the melting of the North and South ice caps. In addition, we also seem to be experiencing extreme weather events – droughts in some places but floods in others. Just over the past few weeks there have been severe floods resulting in loss of life in Europe and India. As in Noah’s day, such events underpin the reality that our lives and circumstances are things we cannot rely on. In one earthly day all will be well, but the next could be a disaster waiting to happen. An unduly negative view or the reality of life today? Thankfully there is a way to obtain life assurance, and insurance, by heeding the verse we have read today. It advises the godly (and the ungodly as well) to make their peace with God while they have that opportunity. Before their lives are snuffed out in the “floodwaters of judgement”, launching them into a future in which the choice about the location of their eternal home will be removed.

The philosopher and mathematician, Blaise Pascal, once said, “If I believe in God and life after death and you do not, and if there is no God, we both lose when we die. However, if there is a God, you still lose and I gain everything.” I know that God is alive and real, and so I would encourage you this morning to, “Seek the LORD while you can find him. Call on him now while he is near.” (Isaiah 55:6). You won’t regret it.