“The Times for Telling of Thy Wondrous Works”

Early Morning by Assen Alekov

The Times for Telling of Thy Wondrous Works

The times for telling of Thy wondrous works
are measured in mysterious cups of gold,
in ladles of the cauldron’s spicéd broth,
in teaspoons of the leaven for the bread.

There comes a daylight for the larks to sing,
a nighttime darkness for the silent sigh,
when eyes shed tears that sparkle with the stars,
awaken ‘midst the dewdrops on the grass.

Unknown to me tomorrow’s  paths to take,
You guide me with Your ever loving Eye,
and step by step with laughter will I take,
I walk beneath the shadow of Thy wings.

The times for telling of Thy wondrous works
are numbered with life’s tapestry of threads,
of countries and of people I have met,
the times, I know, my times are in Thy Hand.

D. G. Vachal © 2014

*** Photography Credit: Early Morning by Assen Alekov

“Faith on Trial: Drawing Near to God”

Apostle Islands
Faith on Trial: Drawing Near to God

… a synopsis of the writing of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

In Psalm 73, the Psalmist laments at the prosperity of the wicked, and undertakes a journey of self-examination and reflection. Having completed a review of the past, and as he faces the  future, he arrives at a resolution:  “It is good for me to draw near to God.”

Living in this world sometimes makes us focus intently on our need for certain things, and we are led to believe that our happiness depends upon favorable events and circumstances. It was because of this line of thinking that the Psalmist fell into a state of misery. He witnessed the prosperity of the ungodly while he was suffering, and this brought him to the depths of self-pity and despair. Upon further thought, he eventually realized that he had not been keeping close to God.

The moment we move away from God, we lose our bearings like a ship at sea that loses sight of the North Star, or when its navigation aids fail.

At the sanctuary of God, the Psalmist became enlightened and he discovered that there is only one thing that matters: our relationship to God.  “If I am near to God, it does not matter what happens to me; if I am far from God, nothing can eventually be right.” ¹ This was his profound conclusion.

The Psalmist contemplates upon God’s character: His goodness, majesty and glory are among its many facets. If we can comprehend the character of God, there would be nothing in the world we would desire more than to be in His presence. Amidst all the instability and uncertainty in this world, it is wonderful to know that in Christ, we can enter into the presence of the “Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” ²

Being near to God is also the place of safety and deliverance. He holds every blessing that we need, He is the Giver of “every good and perfect gift”. He has put them all in Christ, and He has given Christ to us. When we draw close to God, we know our sins are forgiven. We are aware of His love, and He gives us a joy that the world cannot give nor take away.

Finally, the Psalmist wants to draw near to God in order that he may declare all of God’s wondrous works.  Experiencing God’s character, His salvation, peace and joy eventually leads us to praise and glorify God, and to testify about Him to others and to the world.

Scripture Reference:
“But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord Godthat I may declare all thy works. “ Psalm 73:28

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1965), Faith on Trial, Grand Rapids, Michigan: WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, pp. 116-124

1 Martyn Lloyd Jones, Faith on Trial, p. 117
2 James 2:17, King James Version

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

Chaff in the Wind

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.  The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.” Psalm 1:3-4

In comparing the wise man with the foolish man, Jesus used the illustration of two houses: one built upon the rock, and the other upon the sand.  Contrasting the godly with the ungodly, however, King David used two profoundly disparate symbols: a tree by rivers of water, and chaff.

Why did King David compare the ungodly with chaff? Perhaps we can infer how he appraised them by considering the characteristics of chaff.

It is what remains when the grain is removed, a relic of something that was once alive. The ungodly are like husk, King David said; everything that is vital and of value is gone. They are separated from God, the source of life.

Chaff has no form, consistency, or structure.  In the same way, the ungodly have no pattern in their lives; they seem to be ever changing with the whims of the world, the fashion of the times.  They are people who are difficult to define.

Chaff has no roots.  A heap of chaff can be scattered by the wind or trodden underfoot, with no definable shape; it follows where it is moved.  Likewise, the ungodly have no foundation, living a life with no definitive principles.

Chaff cannot bear fruit. A godless life finds out in the end that all the dazzling prizes of the world are nothing but a heap of empty shells.  A life without God cannot give satisfaction and joy to the human soul.

Such is the life of a man or a woman without God.  But the good news is that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, came into this world as a human being to “seek and save that which is lost”.  He came to rescue the ruins of the soul by dying on the cross and bearing the punishment for our sins. Through faith in Him, we become a new creation:  we receive new life, the sustaining grain and power within the husk.

* Reference: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “True Happiness”, Gwasg Bryntiron Press, Wales, UK, 1967, pp. 29-50

* Photograph: Lonesome Tree by Rove

The Quest for Happiness

“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. “ Psalm 1:2

Is true happiness attainable? The longer we live in this world, the more we are exposed to the harsh realities of life, leading many to a sense of utter desperation.  Still, others go beyond despair to a state of cynicism. Both perspectives ultimately hold the view that true happiness is beyond grasp in this world.

The Bible addresses these two impressions with the assertion that yes, life can be tragic, but these ways of thinking leave out the most important factor: God.  The Book of Psalms starts out with the words “Blessed (happy, fortunate, prosperous, enviable) is the man who…”.  Therefore, it is possible for a person to attain happiness.

The first psalm shows the way.  It starts by laying out the things one must avoid.  What are these things?

First, do not walk in the counsel of the ungodly.  If you want to be happy, the first thing you must do is to stop listening to the outlook of the world: that which disregards and excludes God, the view that is opposed to God.  The counsel of the ungodly solicits the trust in one’s own knowledge and understanding. The word “ungodly” as translated implies a sense of restlessness; they must be restless because their knowledge is man’s knowledge, and therefore contingent and transitory.  Consider science theories decades ago that have now been discarded and replaced; consider the changing whims of fashion: what is fashionable today may be considered ludicrous in a few years.

Second, do not stand in the way of sinners.  This admonition requires little explanation.  If you want to be happy, you must avoid the way of the world, the way of the sinner, the way he only lives to satisfy the flesh.  This will never bring true happiness.

Third, do not sit in the seat of the scorners. These are people who hold everything that is holy in derision, people who laugh at God and religion and the sanctities of life, people who scoff at morality and decency.

The retrogression from walking, standing and sitting is clear in this first verse and illustrates the increasing grip of sin upon the soul.  Another aspect of this is how it causes the finest things in a person to degenerate to a state of immobility,  accomplishing  and affecting nothing, just sitting and muttering out their own conceived cleverness. Scoffers and scorners are so far removed from happiness, with no hope, paralyzed by evil and sin.

The other side of the prescription for happiness is a positive instruction.  Here is the secret of true happiness: it is that a man or woman ‘delights in the law of the Lord’, not in the wisdom of philosophers and thinkers, not in following the ungodly, but in the law of the Lord — the Bible.  Here is everything we need, God’s way to happiness.  But notice that those who are blessed delight in God’s law; they do not simply have an intellectual interest in it, or a religious compulsion to do so, but they have great pleasure in knowing it.

What makes a person delight in God’s Word?  We cannot attain this ourselves; it is a process wherein God takes the first step in showing the way to true happiness.  Amidst the tragedies of life, the desperation, the evil in this sinful world, God sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to bear the punishment for our sins, reconciling us to God, and making us heirs to eternal bliss. Our part is to acknowledge our sins and put our faith in Jesus, believe that He has paid the price for us.  Once we believe and make Jesus the Lord of our lives, we become a new creation; we discover that we do indeed ‘delight in the law of the Lord’, we will lose our taste for the world and its temporal pleasures, we will desire to know more about God and His eternal truths.

Do you have this blessedness, this happiness?  Do you delight in God and His Word? Do you take pleasure in meditating about the joys and glories of eternity? If so, then it does not matter what you experience in this world, you will continually be blessed, and nothing can take this happiness away from you.

* Reference: D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, “True Happiness”, Gwasg Bryntiron Press, Wales, UK, 1967, pp.1-27

*Photograph: Panoramic Sunset over St. Finian’s Bay by Jean Winters Olkonen