One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek Him in His temple. Psalm 27:4 NIV
David knew all about anxiety, with his life and reputation under threat even from those close to him. But he also knew God and His goodness. He knew where to find peace. We are better equipped to practice the presence of God, even in our busy lives — we have the Holy Spirit, the Helper, who will always lead us to finds heaven’s perspective on our situation.
Life is stressful, unpredictable, full of anxiety — any casual conversation will settle into this theme at some point. At a time of objective uncertainties — an epidemic which is still glaring up, no certainty about future protection and no actual cure, economic collapse and no roadmap for recovery — there is plenty to be anxious about. But David, whose life and reputation was continually threatened, had a way of regaining personal security.
David, writing this poem, was concerned with security. He became idolised by Jews as their greatest and most God-fearing king, which is partly why it was so significant that the Messiah was of David’s line.
David, we could say, was Israel’s best king but he had the worst enemies, and some of them were in his own court! Security was important to a man who was constantly under threat of being murdered, physically or verbally.
Security in God’s will
And for David, security was first and foremost about being close to God, in His will and tracking His guidance.
The “one thing” for Him is “dwelling in the house of the Lord”. So how does that translate? Becoming a cathedral verger?
For David, the place of God’s presence was the tabernacle. He didn’t get to build the actual temple — Solomon did. But under the Old Covenant, the sense of place was important. The Samaritan woman took issue with Jesus about which mountain was the place to offer God worship — Mt Gerazim for the Samaritans, Mt Zion for the Jews.
In Christianity it is a quite an extreme ‘high church’ view to see a church building as the place of the presence of God. Those who have come into a personal relationship with God through receiving Jesus have a freedom to experience God through their personal relationship, and their reading of His word. That’s any place, any time, and no need for an intermediary.
We live in the presence and awareness of God through having given our lives to the One who gave His life for us — Jesus.
We can live in the presence of the Lord, to be aware of the beauty of the Lord, and to seek Him by asking the Holy Spirit to be our connection with heaven. And this is our security.
The context of David’s words are full of “the day of trouble” with armies besieging, the wicked advancing, and false witnesses making malicious accusations. There were plenty of people around to give him a rough ride! When we feel insecure, it is that same feeling of being surrounded, of not being in a safe place.
David knew God was for him
But David knew that God was bigger, and he knew that God was for him. He had God’s covenant promises. He knew His call — it had been delayed, opposed, with frequent attempts on his life, before the actual coronation. His security was knowing God in His life and listening to Him, not the rattling spears of his enemies.
We can translate that into our world. Our God is the same faithful God. It’s easier for us to draw close to Him because of Jesus. If we draw near to Him, He draws close to us and reassures us that we a re His.
Perhaps it’s a bit more difficult for us to hear His voice, with all the noise and distractions of life, broadcasts, media, travelling and general busyness — but that is an area we can control. We can create some quiet, give God some space. It is up to us to seek Him, to be living in His presence and seeking the true perspective which the Holy Spirit shows us.
That’s God’s remedy for anxiety, and there’s no kind of lockdown that can keep us from that.
The good news is that we can ask Jesus into our heart and life and make that transition to knowing God personally. We don’t have to find Him in His temple because we ourselves become a temple of the Holy Spirit.
Lord, I feel assaulted by life, and fear and anxieties keep pressing in.
But I come to You in Jesus and I ask You this: that I might draw close to You, to know Your presence and gain Your true perspective.
Thank You so much that I have privileged access to You at any time, and I have Your promises all the time.Remind me again, as I regard Your beauty, Your kindness — and Your wisdom. Amen.
Design a way that works for you, to create some ‘holy space’ when you can talk to God and He can talk to you.
Tell Him about your two or three biggest anxieties right now. Resolve that during the day, you are going to be mindful of what He may be saying to you, or showing you, about them
How precious to me are Your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand — when I awake, I am still with you. Psalm 139:17–18 NIV
Once we have become friends with God through Jesus, we have a conversation going with Him. But a listening attitude is important if we are going to hear His voice — not pretending we know best. Agreeing that His thoughts are precious is a good way of seeking His wisdom for our lives.
Conversation with God
Some people are better at conversation than others. A couple of things that are the mark of every good conversationalist, are the ability to ask good conversational questions, which empower the response of others… and listening to them.
And one of the most common of those empowering phrases is: “What do you think? Or the variant, “What did you think of…?”
People find it easy (too easy, sometimes) to give their opinion, and asking for their opinion is honouring. God doesn’t need our help in conversation… or does He? He speaks all the time. But like the quiet participant in a noisy group, He doesn’t always have opportunity to say what He thinks, to give His perspective.
“What do You think? What are You saying, about what is on my mind?” In conversation generally, we need to draw out the quiet person. We have to show that we are listening. We have all been trapped in situations where no one is listening and we don’t see any point in putting forward a view just to be shouted down.
Does God struggle with our strong opinions and prejudices? Because it is as if we don’t care about His perspective.
Have you ever tried to participate in a conversation where you held the high ground in terms of knowledge or experience, but no one would listen? They were all too busy offering their theories, over-assertive as people who are unsure of themselves often are. It’s like a hospital doctor trying to help someone who is full of having consulted “Dr Google”, or a traffic cop trying to talk down gently someone three times over the limit.
That can be our approach to God, which blocks His wisdom and disrespects His all-seeing, all-knowing higher perspective.
When we agree “How precious to me are YOUR thoughts” we are putting ourselves in the right place to listen.
How does God share His thoughts with us? The first way is through His word. Often He draws our attention to what He has already said, and giving it a sense of how it applies to us. So to make this prayer approach, we need a Bible (or online Bible or app) ready.
God is always speaking and the second way is by an impression in our spirit. Occasionally this can be so strong that it is almost audible, but often it is more of a whisper. We’ll need to check it out in the word — He never contradicts Himself — but God also uses the principle of “two or three witnesses”, in other words, He repeats Himself and uses more than one avenue. When we are hearing the same thing from slightly different sources, this gives us confidence to believe what God is saying.
The third way is through other people who love Him and hear Him. It could be a Christian friend, a preacher, or through spiritual gifts.
“How precious are Your thoughts” is a way of asking for God’s wisdom. James, in his letter, says we should ask but should not doubt what we hear, but act on it James 1:5–8.
It all starts with our relationship with Him. This needs to be the Jesus kind of relationship, the personal belief and trust and connection. This is how we count His thoughts precious and receive them as life-giving.
O God, Your thoughts are precious, of incomparable value by the measure of man’s wisdom. You see all, understand all, and know the end from the beginning.
Help me to be a hearer and a doer of Your Word1. Where my thoughts crowd in — my anxieties and doubts, my wrong judgments and the opinions I proudly uphold‚ forgive me, help me to quiet my soul and — to make space for You to speak and me to hear.
My way too often proves to be no way, but Your way is life and salvation. Your words are like gold2 and taste sweeter than honey3.
Thank You, holy and Almighty God, that You delight in speaking to me as I come to You in Jesus. Amen.
Find a time and place to be quiet. It could be at home, out for a walk, even driving the car — or a quiet spot in a church building.
List your most pressing concerns — the thoughts You are full of — and park them with God.
Commit the listening time to Him, ask the Holy Spirit to help you and read the Scriptures mentioned again. And note down whatever God shows you, whether it seems to make sense or not.
Be open to God speaking to you subsequently and give you confirmations, like Scriptures that go with what you sense you are hearing. To share this with a pastor or trusted Christian friend can be very helpful.
Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 1 Corinthians 16:13 NIV
Paul doesn’t end his letter to the church in Corinth with a cheery “Keep up the good work” but something Churchill could have said in 1940 when threat of invasion was all the talk.
What are we standing firm against?
If we agree that this is God’s word and therefore timeless, speaking to us today as it did to believers in the first century, what are we standing firm against and on our guard to challenge?
Our world is bigger than our everyday lives, what the BBC defines as news, and the government and institutions.
The spiritual realm — and added dimension
We are spiritual people, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, belonging to a Saviour and Lord who doesn’t live in a building and who is not recognised when He makes an appearance. For us, there is a spiritual dimension that has a considerable bearing on our lives and communities, both for good and for evil.
Occasionally in the Bible someone has a visitation from an angel, or an impression of one in a dream or vision. Abraham had some signpost moments like this and Jacob was injured in a wrestling match with an angel. Joshua was given detailed instruction by an angel before the conquest of Jericho. Isaiah encountered an angel as part of his call to speak to the hard-hearted. Joseph received vital direction from an angel three times. Angels at the tomb announced Christ’s resurrection, others reminded the disciples of Jesus’ return, and sprang Peter from prison1
What does this tell us? That these people of giant faith were specially chosen to be visited?
Step back a moment and consider what is happening. Even if angels do appear to specially favoured people (some were, some were not) this mainly tells us that what is happening in the heavenlies, needs to be communicated to someone on earth… to the person who needed to know God’s strategy at that time.
What happens in heaven is not divided from what happens on earth
The heavenly realm is mostly unseen. That does not make it unreal
We have a real, active and vindictive enemy — completely real in Jesus experience and teaching — out to to spoil what he can get his hands on. He and his demons inhabit the spiritual realm unseen, and prey on our thoughts and lives where we are
We also have help from the heavenly realm, accessible to us because we can ask for it through Jesus. And that’s the point of this verse, this closing reminder from Paul:
“Be on your guard“ “Stand firm in faith“ “Be courageous“ “Be strong“
He is saying, don’t forget the battle that is going on over every righteous Jesus-centred action you take. Thoughts as well! And so expect some push-back — but stand firm and don’t give in to it.
This is different from the gentle church-orientated religion many of us were brought up in. Those four instructions are not gentle. And this is not about church, so much as the One who said “I will build My church“.
He will. And He does it in partnership with us — as we stay alert and on our guard, spiritually.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 1 John 4:10 (NIV)
Why should God love me?
“If you really knew me… knew what was in my life behind the front that I put up … If you really knew me (I suppose God knows me like that) you wouldn’t expect God to love me.”
It’s not a real quote but I have heard a version of that comment many times as a pastor.
The way we see ourselves and the way God sees us, are not the same. The way we value ourselves and the way God values us are not the same.
We work on the premise that our relationship with God works like the way we get to know anyone else. God has to get to know us, and hopefully He will see some things He likes and over time, become warm to us.
Wrong. God loved and accepted us first.
He may not love and accept all our attitudes or behaviour… but He created us and sent His Son Jesus to be the “atoning sacrifice”, to pay the high price to make things right for us.
Is this automatic? The fact of God’s love for us is not a maybe — that’s established. What is not automatic is our love for God, and our acceptance of Jesus for who He is. That requires us to make a choice!
We agree with Jesus about who He is and what He has done in our behalf. What He did was costly. Our decision also has a cost to it – the cost of our independence, of giving someone else a higher place in our lives. But now we realise the extent of God’s love for us that was there all along. We just had to make our move, to receive it.
As the Passion Translation puts it:
“This is love: He loved us long before we loved Him. It was His love, not ours. He proved it by sending His Son to be the pleasing sacrificial offering to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:10 TPT
When hard pressed, I cried to the Lord; He brought me into a spacious place. Psalm 118:5 NIV
Q. Does God care? Is He there for me?
A. There’s an old saying, which probably originated in Yorkshire, along the lines of: “If you don’t ask, you’ll never get owt”…
…The so-called Lord’s Prayer, actually the model for disciples to pray, has that kind of “tell it like it is” Yorkshire flavour, mixing declarations, “Thy kingdom come…” with some pretty direct asking in “Give us this day our daily bread“. Luke’s version of the prayer1 looks like a prayer you pray as it is: “When you pray, say….” while Matthew’s2 looks more like an outline of headings for our own expressions of prayer. Either way, it assumes a robust relationship with the One addressed with familiarity as “Father”.
This challenges the person who says (and who hasn’t, at some time), “I don’t pray because God never listens to me – He doesn’t answer.”
In our logic, those two statements are joined into one.
And answers seldom come, as it were, by return post, and we discount what doesn’t exactly fit with what we asked.
Yet we allow this in the rest of life. Politicians who have come under attack by journalists at the recent televised briefings commonly give a the answer they want to give, or at least a more nuanced response, to the questioner seeking to score points and get an angle for the story. We may not like the refusal to be drawn into a black and white argument but we accept that there is a bigger picture and that reality has many shades and soft edges.
The point behind the psalmist’s verse is about the first response to difficulty, the “what” that follows the “when”.
Our version would be more like: “When I was hard pressed, I did everything I knew to fix it. And when I couldn’t, I cried to the Lord.”
That puts more faith on our ability, and not very much faith or expectation on God as a “might as well” direction to try. How would you respond to such an approach.
Fortunately God, whose character in a word is merciful, is not too put off off by our behaviour (following the Yorkshire theme) being “daft”.
But He does expect us to come to Him out of some kind of relationship, prepared to trust and poised to expect. And when hard pressed, to let Him know all about it — first.
Lord, forgive me to placing more reliance on myself than on You. Forgive me for blaming You when I didn’t recognise what you were doing in a situation — or see the bigger picture of the spiritual battle, and where the discouragement was coming from.
Father, I turn to You again, and rely on You first. You may show me what I must do to be part of the answer to my prayer, but I share with You how I am being squeezed and how it feels to be hemmed in, this ‘no through road’ with nowhere I can see to get through or to turn.
You have the bigger picture and I say again “Your kingdom come”. You can and will bring me into that more spacious place. I trust You for that — and thank You in Jesus for hearing me again. Amen.
FOR many — if not most — of us, this warm dry weather has been one if the best things to offset the lockdown restrictions and gloom. At least we have been able to get out and enjoy clean air and beautiful countryside at a special time of year.
Fields are greening over with growing cereals and the cattle and sheep are clearly enjoying their pastures.
But there is a side that is not so positive for people whose livelihood comes from the land.
“Many farmers are already feeling the effects of a dry April and May”
After winter floods, one of the driest springs on record is threatening grass recovery and the supply of winter forage. And the spring-sown crops, just established and without root systems yet to give them resilience, are starting to show signs of being checked.
The Daily Telegraph reported yesterday (May 29): “…The dry weather is having a particularly bad effect in farmers, with many fearing an ‘extremely challenging’ season ahead.
“Stuart Roberts, the deputy president of the National Farmers’ Union, said: ‘Many farmers are already feeling the effects of a dry April and May, with some cereal crops already suffering from this early dry spell.’ “
Sheep farmer and Oasis church pastor Phil Arnold, over the river in Preston-on-Wye, is seriously concerned about the prolonged dry period and its effect on his grass recovery. He told me: “Two months ago after the floods I could hardly have imagined asking people to pray for rain again. But we desperately need it!”
TO REFLECT IN PRAISE
Psalm 147:5-11 NIV Great is our Lord and mighty in power; His understanding has no limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground. Sing to the Lord with grateful praise; make music to our God on the harp He covers the sky with clouds; He supplies the earth with rain and makes grass grow on the hills. He provides food for the cattle and for the young ravens when they call. His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor His delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.
PRAYER AND BLESSING
For the prayer that links to this, go to the associated prayer site www.glowweobley.com on this page