A New Song

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”

(Psalm 33:3)

The psalm opens with a call to praise God; to sing a “new song” to him. Those words ‘new song’ could be a little bit confusing to someone who doesn’t consider themselves to be particularly musical. But the psalmist isn’t suggesting we all turn into composers overnight, it’ more of a “heart thing.”

It isn’t that there’s anything wrong with the old songs, or that God is bored with them. There are some wonderful songs, both old and new that we use in our churches for corporate worship.

‘New song’ simply means that every song of praise we sing to God, privately or corporately, emerges from a fresh, daily awareness of God’s goodness, grace, mercy, loving kindness and steadfast love.

After all, God’s mercies are “new every morning” (Lam 3:23) so surely it’s befitting that our awareness of this should be new every day too, resulting in hearts that overflow with praise to the God whose steadfast love fills the whole earth! (Psalm 33:5).

Jill 💜

Practicing Intentional Rest (Step 4) Meditating on Scripture.

Our hearts, are a little bit like campfires. We all have times when we burn furiously and brightly, then, left untended our hearts begin to cool; ‘dampen’ I think is the correct term, until we become ashy and needy for God’s Spirit to breathe on us again.

One of the ways — actually the primary way— God does this, is through his Word.

What is Scripture Meditation?

“Oh, the joys of those who do not follow the advice of the wicked, or stand around with sinners, or join in with mockers. But they delight in the law of the Lord, meditating on it day and night. They are like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit each season. Their leaves never wither, and they prosper in all they do.”

(Psalm 1:1-3 )

The meditation spoken of here is not the kind that might immediately spring to mind when you hear the word ‘meditation’. It is the same as yoga or other forms of meditation, where a person might be encouraged to posture oneself quietly and ‘empty your mind,’ while concentrating on the inhaling and exhaling of your breath.

Biblical meditation is actually the opposite. It requires engaging the mind, not emptying it. It calls for deep thought and reflection. And most importantly, our own breathing features very little, but instead we focus our thoughts on God’s breathed out words on the pages of the Bible, and as we do, the embers of our hearts begin to glow and burn bright again.

How to Meditate on Scripture.

Meditating on scripture isn’t as mysterious and mystical as it sounds. It is simply choosing a portion of Scripture that is meaningful to you, and thinking about it, reading it to yourself out loud, pondering it, allowing it to run through your mind until your heart grasps hold of the reality of it.

In Psalm 1:2, we can clearly see this is the lifestyle of the Psalmist. “Day and night” he thinks on, ponders and focusses his energy towards understanding God’s Word. He leans in, presses God’s revealed truth into his very soul, knowing that the “Law of the Lord” is the sap that runs through every part of his being, causing him to thrive like a tree, planted by a riverbank.

Here are some very simple steps towards Scripture meditation. In your ‘designated quiet place’, (See Step 1) choose the passage of Scripture you want to meditate on.

I must digress slightly here and say that Scripture meditation and Bible reading or study are not the same thing, although both are very important.

For me personally, meditation often begins when I’m reading a passage of scripture and am suddenly arrested by a little nugget within that portion; I pause to ponder over it — the sheer glory of it. Often, if I’m pleasantly ‘distracted’ in this way in my Bible reading, I sometimes go with the detour. Other times I make a little note, finish what I was reading, and then return to that specific little portion that so captured my attention, in order to examine more deeply, observe, search and understand.

As an example, I’ll use Psalm 23:1, because Psalm 23 is one of my favourite Psalms, and within that Psalm, verse 1 is possibly my favourite verse. My mind frequently goes to this Scripture and I say it to myself in exactly the manner described below.

1. Read it out loud, a few times, just as it is written: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” And for the duration of your “intentional rest” time, whether ten minutes or thirty minutes, ponder this verse, allow it to sink deep in.

2. For the rest of the day, as you go about your usual routine, let your mind return frequently to the verse, thinking over each word. Say it out loud to yourself.

3. Change the emphasis of the words. This is such an effective way of deeply ingraining Scripture into the heart and mind: “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” Say this to yourself, over and over again, with the emphasis on “Lord”, linger over the word “Lord,” until your heart remembers who your Shepherd is; it’s not yourself, or any other person you might look to in times of need. It’s the Lord and him only.

4. Then affirm it to yourself: “The Lord IS my shepherd.” He is! No matter how I might feel today. Whatever anyone or any circumstance might say to the contrary. God IS my Shepherd, and he cares for me.

5. Then, in the same way try: “The Lord is MY shepherd.”

6. “The Lord is my SHEPHERD.”

Wherever possible, read or quote the scripture you are meditating on out loud. This might feel a bit strange at first if you aren’t used to doing it, but it’s an important part of meditation because it helps to combat distraction. Have you ever noticed how you can be meditating on God’s love one moment, and the next moment you realise that for the past few moments you have been thinking about what to make for dinner, or the parcel that needs to be posted later?

Speaking and reading God’s Word out loud to ourselves can help to focus our attention. The word for ‘meditate’ in Scripture often carries within it the idea of speech; for example, notice how God says to Joshua, “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night.” Joshua 1:8

Ask God To Teach You.

If you struggle with concentration and focus, or you battle to understand concepts in the Bible, don’t be afraid to ask God to help you, as the Psalmist did. He was determined to “meditate on [God’s] precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.” (Psalm 119:15).

A good ambition to aim for. But, read a little further in this Psalm, just a few verses down in fact, and you’ll find that although the Psalmist is genuine in his desire to fix and focus his eyes on God, he also acknowledges his desperate need of God’s help in this lofty ambition.

He prays, asking God to: “Open my eyes,” “teach me,” “make me understand”strengthen me according to your word,” “put false ways far from me,” again he prays: “teach me.” He entreats, “enlarge my heart,” “give me understanding,” “lead me,” “incline my heart,” “turn my eyes.”

Psalm 119:18, 26, 27, 28, 29, 32, 34, 35-37

God will always answer these kind of prayers. Always.

Jill 💜

Practicing Intentional Rest (Step 3)

Have you ever noticed that when you go away on holiday it isn’t quite the rest you were hoping for? Your problems follow you, don’t they? And even if you manage to ignore them, they seem to be waiting when you get home. Proper rest alludes you, and you come home as tired as you were when you went.

People today are tired. Sleep disorders have become so much the norm that there are countless books, sleep-training apps and articles for dealing with this problem. 

Step 3: Soul Satisfaction

Although a holiday in a beautiful place or some and sleep training can definitely help a little bit, these are temporary fixes and will never truly satisfy the ache in our souls, or restore us fully. That’s because Jesus himself is our only true source of rest.

Remember Jesus’ invitation to come to him and find rest for your soul:

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” Matthew‬ ‭11:28-30‬ ‭

This kind of true, soul rest is available every day, even in the midst of the busiest life. Jesus practiced this kind of intentional rest, frequently going off on his own to pray and spend time in the Father’s presence. David also knew how to rest in God’s presence. And it’s a lifestyle we too can learn.

In Step 1 we looked at Psalm 63, where David, parched and weary in the wilderness, describes how every part of himself thirsts for God. He continues in verse 3:

“Because your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise you. So I will bless you as long as I live; in your name I will lift up my hands. My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips, when I remember you upon my bed, and meditate on you in the watches of the night; for you have been my help, and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Psalm‬ ‭63:3-8

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“Because your steadfast love is better than life”.

David knew God’s steadfast love, and this is what motivated his pursuit of God. God’s loving kindness meant more to David, than life itself. How often do we hear the phrase, “you only have one life.” In other words, grasp every bit of enjoyment and pleasure out of it that you can. But that wasn’t David’s philosophy for living. We only have to read Psalm 27 to see that everything within David longed for the presence of God. Where others might chase after enjoyment in life, David was content to enjoy God’s steadfast love.

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.

David knew that the exhaustion and thirst he experienced, both physically and spiritually could only be satisfied in a surrendered seeking of God, in receiving his great love, in praising him without reservation. It wasn’t religious ritual that motivated David, but real relationship with the Living God, whom David knew as his source of life, love, strength, power, provision, shelter, wisdom and goodness David knew that God alone could satisfy his soul, and time spent in God’s presence was like sitting down to a sumptuous feast of the richest, most nourishing foods, resulting in a satisfying fullness of his soul.

In five ways in this short passage of scripture David expresses his absolute delight in God: I will praise you, he says, I will bless you, I will sing for joy, I will lift up my hands, my mouth will praise you with joyful lips.

In Closing

David ends this particular portion by saying, “in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy. My soul clings to you; your right hand upholds me.”

Today, when you take time out in your designated quite place, focus on the great truth of who God is. Think about his steadfast love and faithfulness, and praise him out loud for being the place of the rest and shelter you long for.

Here are a few scriptures to help get you started:

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,” Psalm‬ ‭46:1-2

“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock.” Psalm‬ ‭27:5‬ ‭

“I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Psalm‬ ‭18:1-2‬ ‭

“This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.” Psalm‬ ‭18:30‬ ‭

“If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, “My foot slips,” your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, your consolations cheer my soul.” Psalm‬ ‭94:18-19‬ ‭

Jill 💜

The ‘Secret’ to Revival

Are You Longing For Revival?
Are you praying and yearning for the fire of God to be “re-lit” in your heart? As with every revival in Church history, most of us pray, “Lord, start with me.” I was praying that very thing this morning and reflecting on some of David’s Psalms in The Passion Translation. Here in Psalm 5, I was blown away by this simple, but powerful truth of the ‘secret’ to revival:

At each and every sunrise you will hear my voice as I prepare my sacrifice of prayer to you. Every morning I lay out the pieces of my life on the altar and wait for your fire to fall upon my heart.Psalm 5:3
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David had a devoted, obedient heart. And He was willing to let God into every deep, dark ‘corner’ of his heart, laying it all out before Him on the altar.
The Hebrew word used for “prepare” is ‘arak’, a priestly term for lighting the altar fire, preparing a sacrifice, and laying it out in order upon the altar to be consumed.

Revival begins when ….

EVERY SUNRISE, before the madness of the day begins, with all its distractions, we make a point to honour the Lord. When we dedicate the day to Him, it sets the tone for the entire day.
WE’RE WILLING TO MAKE THE SACRIFICE. Who doesn’t want that extra half hour in bed? And it’s hard not to check your phone for messages, especially when you can see that you have 57 new messages in your group chat. But surely, what the Lord will say to you in that precious time will be so much more enriching and life-changing!
EVERY PIECE OF MY LIFE is surrendered on the altar, out of a devoted heart, not from duty, religious fervour or some sense of “I must.”

God wants every part of us. Even (especially!) those parts we think are of no use to Him, unattractive, or kept secret.

Jill 💜

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