Setting the Lord Always Before Us

“I have set the Lord always before me: because He is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.” Psalm 16:8 KJV

King David revealed one of the great secrets of his life, what kept him going in the midst of great adversities and tragic events: that he set the Lord always before him, being constantly aware of God’s nearness and presence. And we can say that this was also true of the Lord Jesus Christ, who lived a life of constant prayer and communion with the Father.

Let us consider what might be components of this significant guiding principle in life.

The first aspect is a determination, an act of the will, and a definite decision to practice this guideline.  We live busy lives in a world where “life seems to be organized for us”.  It is alarming how the years pass by so swiftly, and we often wonder if we have accomplished what we purposed to do.  We must insist, therefore, to take control of our lives and live it according to what we believe are the right paths, because if we do not, our lives will be governed by the tyranny of external events, the pressures of business, meetings, and day-to-day living, and we ultimately forget the needs of our immortal soul.

The second aspect of this practice is the art of recollection, speaking to ourselves and reminding ourselves of God and our relationship to Him.  Upon waking, we consciously dismiss thoughts of doubts and temptations and deliberately remind ourselves that we are children of God and heirs of eternity. And we meditate upon the implications and outcomes of belonging to God.

These components involve the action of diligently seeking the presence of God, to know that He is not simply a philosophical concept: He is a Person, and we can come before Him, speak and fellowship with Him.

One practical way we can attain this is to spend time reading the Bible, where God reveals Himself to us, and the more we read God’s Word, the more we are made aware of His Presence.  It must not be fitful, but rather a regular and systematic daily reading, to go through the book from Genesis to Revelation year by year. And we need to spend time in prayer, talking and listening to God.

These are the ways we set the Lord before us, and we must do it always, through trials and triumphs, through storms and calm, always.  And like King David, we shall not be moved, whatever befalls,  because the Lord is at our right hand.

Reference: David Martyn Lloyd-Jones Ssermon: Set the Lord Always Before Me

Photograph: Great Bear Lake by LCT

Limiting God

“Yes, they turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel.” Psalm 78:41

Asaph described the actions of the Israelites in Psalm 78 as “limiting the Holy One of Israel”.  What does it mean to “limit God”?   Are there limits to what God can do?

God is limited to His character.  He cannot sin.  He cannot lie.  And God has imposed certain limits on Himself, requiring certain actions from His creation before He will allow Himself to act.1 In this sense, we limit God through our actions, according to the limits He sets for Himself.

How then do we limit God? As we read the epistles, we find certain patterns and norms highlighting what God has made possible for a Christian in this life and in this world. To the extent that we are not living up to these standards, we are limiting God as to what He can do in our lives. And tragically, we limit the world’s perception of the God we profess by our shortcomings in these areas.

The first standard is the assurance of salvation, the confidence that our sins are forgiven.  Do we know God and feel His presence in an intimate and real sense? Are we absolutely certain of His love for us, and that we are joint heirs with Christ?  If there is uncertainty about the marks of this assurance of our salvation, then we are limiting God.

Second, we are meant to be a rejoicing people. Do we rejoice in tribulation, even in the very midst of trials?  Can we proclaim these words, as did the prophet Habakkuk:

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation.”  ?  (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

If we are miserable Christians and are still turning back to the world for our happiness, then we are limiting God and all the glorious possibilities He holds out before us.

Third, we are to delight in God and His commandments.  His commandments are not grievous (I John 5:4), because they are light and life to us, where the alternative is only darkness.  Filled with grumbling and complaining, the Israelites in the wilderness envied other nations and murmured against God and His commands. But God meant for us to enjoy His Word and His laws.  The psalmist declared his love for God’s law, and yet we as Christians are in a superior position than the psalmist because we share in the fullness of Christ. Do we find God’s commandments grievous?  If we consider our Christianity as merely a matter of duty, then we are limiting God.

Fourth, we are to enjoy the peace of God.  The Israelites were unhappy, restless and confused, not allowing God to give them His comfort and peace.  If we are in a true, loving relationship with God, we can know this peace that cannot be disturbed.  Not knowing this peace as a reality is to put a limit to what God has made available to us.

Finally, we are to rest in Him and in His all-sufficiency.  The apostle Paul learned in whatsoever state he was, to be content.  Is this our experience? Do we know Christ to be our all-sufficiency, that we can do all things through Him?  Do we know something about days of heaven upon earth, how it feels to have God in our midst?  If not, then we are limiting His power and His grace to have full reign in our lives.

All of these things are available and made possible for us through Christ. If we have come short of any of these ideals, we need to repent and run back to God the soonest we can:  to open our hearts, believe His promises,  to ask and expect great things from Him, for the enrichment of our souls, and for His glory.

*** 1 Martin G. Collins, Sermon: Limiting the Holy One of Israel Part 1: Examining Ourselves by God’s Standards

*** Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Sermon: Limiting God

*** Photograph: Stairs to the Sea by Queralt  jqmj @Flickr cc

Music of Childhood

… for my mother

Music of  Childhood

Play for me the melodies
of childhood
as the apricot glow turns
to voiles of lavender
and crickets chirp
in the coolness
of twilight —

come sit with me
on this piano bench.

Play not for the crowd
but for me alone,
in A-flat major —

let me watch your fingers
the ivory keys,
let my heart explode
with pounding octaves,
climb crescendos,
dance with staccatos —

Tell me how long time ago
before bedtime stories
and childhood dreams,
you dipped my spirit
in the romance of Liebestraum,
the sweetness of nocturnes,
of etudes and preludes —

Now, as your fingers tend
the autumn flowers,
come sit with me,
play the melodies,
the music
of my soul
once again.

© 2012  by D. G. Vachal

*** Photograph: Heart and Music by Dragan Todorovic