Are You Happy?

Psalm 1

1:1      Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

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

1:3      He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

1:4      The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

1:5      Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

1:6      for the LORD knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

The Psalmist asks us the basic question “Are you happy?” Some translations used the word blessed, others fortunate, and still others happy. After a long days work, after a great work out, after a lovely meal, or wonderful family visit we are still left with the question. “Are you happy?” The Psalmist says that no matter of comparison, conspiring or contriving will bring about our happiness. The only thing that will bring us happiness is God’s covenant love.

Words tantalize, mesmerize, entice and invite. This Psalm considers the power of words. The first psalm serves as the gateway into the entire book of Psalms, stressing that those who would worship God genuinely must embrace his Law (or Torah), i.e., his covenant instruction.

It does not have a particular historical or social setting.  In both the early Jewish(Berakhot 9a) and Christian (Acts 13:33) traditions, it was believed to have been joined to  Ps 2, and the two psalms together were considered to be the first psalm of the Psalter. What both Psalm 1 and 2 accomplish poetically (Psalm 1) and prophetically (Psalm 2), are to remind the reader that in the end there are really only two ways to live.

This Psalm is divided into two parts (1-3) showing what the model human life should look like and its fruit (3-6).

The New Testament further outlines what true happiness looks like in Matthew 5 with the list of beatitudes [Latin for happy or blest]. Jesus takes that first word “Happy!” expounds it and intensifies its meaning. The happiness Jesus offers is literally too good to be true. It is too lofty, too ideal, too amazing to actually achieve. Paul rightly recognizes this quoting Psalm 1:2 in Romans 7:22 “I delight in the law of the Lord in my inmost being.” Unfortunately Paul goes on to say that he cannot live up to this beautiful ideal of happiness, but “thanks be to God through Jesus Christ”(Rom 7:25) in whom we total and complete happiness. Jesus is the one who for Love walked in the council of the wicked, stood in the way of sinners, sat in the seat of scoffers so that we would not be driven out like chaff or wither and waste but experience happiness and fruitfulness.

How does Jesus invite us into this Happiness on a daily basis? The Psalmist uses the word meditate (hagah in Hebrew), it is the same word that Isaiah uses to say when a Lion enjoys his dinner (Isaiah 31:4). Has God’s love so melted us that obedience to him is no longer a duty but a delight.  When seeing the Law fulfilled by Christ we no longer see obedience as a duty but as delight and devotion.

As the English hymn-wright and poet put it…

“Love Constrained to Obedience”
William Cowper

How long beneath the law I lay
In bondage and distress;
I toll’d the precept to obey,
But toil’d without success.

To see the law by Christ fulfilled
And hear His pardoning voice,
Changes a slave into a child,
And duty into choice.

The Cockroach in the Room

Psalm 112

1 Praise the LORD!
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD,
who greatly delights in his commandments!

7 He is not afraid of bad news;
his heart is firm, trusting in the LORD.

A Fearing Man

Often we hear the words “fear of God” and “fear of man” and our minds are triggered as though by some pavlovian response to indulge in religious jargon and lose the very nature of the “fear of God.”(v.1) Have you ever been afraid of insects, or known someone who is afraid of insects. I remember walking into a room with someone who was afraid of cockroaches. As we turned the light on, their only and chief concern in the room was the cockroach. My friend could not fuction, think or do anything else than think about the cockroach. This is a much more helpful illustration with regards to the fear of God than any religious jargon or vocabulary can offer.

Such is the story of this “Blessed Man” who fears the Lord.

 A Fearless Man

The Psalm goes on to enumerate all the other things that may be in the “room” of his life, but do not fill his attention span. We see family (v.2), wealth, success and money (v.3), personal morality and business ethics (v.5), or piety (v.9). Most of the furniture in this “Blessed Man’s” room is good. We should think focusing on this would not be a bad thing. Surely a little bit of fear with regards to how one’s family runs, how successful one is, or how one conducts business and life in an all-around moral way is not a bad focus fear.

What is it that makes this “Blessed Man” afraid of God but not afraid of failure or bad news?

The fearless man fears God. In other words he worships God, not success. He worships God, not family. He worships God, not success. The Psalmist tells us that this blessed person is utterly fearless with regard to bad news, because he does not worship success.

So what is the source of his fearlessness?

A Feared God

God is the only object of worship who when you fail him he will forgive you. All other objects of worship can become hard task masters. The reason why the Psalmist is fearless is that he knows his great debt has been paid. You can almost hear this Psalm echoing these words “with you there is forgiveness [therefore] you are feared.”(Psalm 130:4) V8.

God is feared, not because of his power, but because of his mercy. That is the awe inspiring truth. Jesus had no reason to go to Golgotha and suffers the scars of the scourge, except to bring about our forgiveness. Once the Psalmist experiences forgiveness, his only response is awe.

Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.

Born Thy people to deliver,
Born a child and yet a King,
Born to reign in us forever,
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring.
By Thine own eternal Spirit
Rule in all our hearts alone;
By Thine all sufficient merit,
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

Christy Nockels







Come Thou Long Expected Jesus performed by Christy Nockels.

In most Christian Calendars we have a season of five weeks known as Advent. These are the weeks leading up to Christmas in which we sing about our once and future king. Advent derives its name from the Latin “ad + venire” “to come.” This Advent Hymn’s words were penned by Charles Wesley.

One of the earliest Christian expressions was the word Marantha. Greeks, Romans, Jews, Scythians, and barbarians left this word untranslated. (see 1 Cor 16:22) Such was the early Christian expectation in 56AD. Jesus would return to fix His broken world. It encapsulates the hopes, dreams, fears, aspirations and longings of every human being. Christ’s first and second coming bring the wiping away of tears, no more sickness and no more war. Maranatha! Our Lord, Come!

Each advent song speaks of our exile from a perfectly running world, a longing for a True King, and a hope that all will be set right. The Christian doctrine of Advent offers this in one fell swoop. God, in Christ, came to redeem us from slavery of sin, become our True King as he was crowned with thorns, and deliver us from darkness into the kingdom of light.

These next weeks let us reflect on what it means to have a Once and Future King.

Collect for the First Sunday of Advent

Almighty God,
give us grace to cast away the works of darkness
and to put on the armour of light,
now in the time of this mortal life,
in which your Son Jesus Christ came to us in great humility;
that on the last day,
when he shall come again in his glorious majesty
to judge the living and the dead,
we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.




Liquid Courage

Psa. 108
1 My heart is steadfast, O God!
I will sing and make melody with all my being!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!

5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth!
6That your beloved ones may be delivered,
give salvation by your right hand and answer me!

11 Have you not rejected us, O God?
You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Oh grant us help against the foe,
for vain is the salvation of man!
13 With God we shall do valiantly;
it is he who will tread down our foes.

Liquid Courage

No single human being has ever been free from a little bit of stage fright. This psalm of David is actually a combination of 57:7–11 and 60:5–12. Both of these Psalms focus on dealing with fear. David is singing this Psalm knowing that he is about to enter into the performance of his lifetime—a battlefield. He ends the psalm with a prayer to deal with his fears and anxieties, “Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man! With God we shall do valiantly.”(v13)

There are two ways to deal with his “stage fright” or being performance driven. One method to deal with our fears is to give ourselves a coaching session or “pep talk.” In it you will remind yourself how you actually possess all the qualities necessary to conquer your fears. You will begin to puff yourself up and become unrealistic about your limitations. In fact the way we often deal with fear is by appealing to an indirect form of pride. St Paul talks about this in Philippians 2:3 when he admonishes us to do nothing out of “vainglory” or “conceit.”

David tells us that the one way of dealing with our fears is very much how Goliath dealt with them. It is the way of empty glory and false courage.

The Christian way of dealing with fear is not a path of empty glory, but of glory emptying. As Shakespeare put it, we must “divest ourselves of borrowed glories”(Henry V). We need to acknowledge that any glory we may have was never actually our own. It was only on loan from the Glorious One. David acknowledges this saying, “Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth! That your beloved ones may be delivered,” (v5-6).

Unfortunately, we easily can take this glory-emptying as another task we need to accomplish. But David tells us that we cannot deliver ourselves. In fact is it God that does the deliverance. Just as Israel needed a champion to defeat Goliath, so we need a champion to defeat our fears. If you remember the story of David and Goliath, it is about two champions meeting on the field of battle. Whichever Champion wins, his victories will be imputed to that people group. The vicarious warrior who loses will representatively impute his loses to all his people. When Jesus performs the ultimate self-emptying he is giving us his glory. All our defeats become his and all his glories become ours. (Phil 2:5-11)

David prays that his Champion will impute His victories, His glories and His wins to his people –without them ever lifting a finger. May our trust in our Champion Jesus be credited as righteousness, glory and courage.

Forget Me Not

Psa. 106:1 Praise the LORD!
Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
2 Who can utter the mighty deeds of the LORD,
or declare all his praise?
Psalm 106:21 They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt,

10 years ago on the 7th of November, 2003, one of my roommates was shot down whilst piloting his Blackhawk Helicopter in Tikrit, Iraq.

Remembrance Day just flew by. It is a day in which we remember soldiers who made the supreme sacrifice so that we could enjoy the current liberties we so easily take for granted.

This whole psalm is one of thanksgiving. It remembers God’s special care and ransom. But it also painfully recounts the community’s forgetfulness. We often forget unimportant things – and it is not a big deal. When we forget the important things of life we engage in a very subtle form of ungratefulness.

At the military academy my roomates and I chose inscriptions on our class rings that read, “Greater love has no man than this that he lay down his life for his friends.”(John 15:13). Though heartwarming it is nothing compared to the One who truly uttered those words.

This Psalm is a hymn of praise to a God of redeeming, sacrificial love. In spite of all the ungratefulness, God pursues, God redeems, God forgives. “Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. For their sake he remembered his covenant,”(v44-45).

For all its exposure of man’s ingratitude, this is a psalm of praise, for it is God’s extraordinary longsuffering that emerges as the real theme.

It is in this Psalm we see the Captain of our Salvation (Heb 2:10), the one who will spare no expense and regardless of the remembrance or thankfulness of those rescued. He punches a whole through death and accomplishes His great rescue. Let us pause and remember the Great Captain of our Salvation.

Holding your breath

Psalm 104

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul!
O LORD my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
2 covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent.
3 He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
he makes the clouds his chariot;
he rides on the wings of the wind;
4 he makes his messengers winds,
his ministers a flaming fire.

27 These all look to you,
to give them their food in due season.
28 When you give it to them,
they gather it up; when you open your hand,
they are filled with good things.
29 When you hide your face,
they are dismayed;
when you take away their breath,
they die and return to their dust.
30 When you send forth your Spirit,
they are created, and you renew the face of the ground.
31 May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
may the LORD rejoice in his works,

One of our finest hymns, Sir Robert Grant’s O worship the King, takes its origin from this psalm. This Psalm is literally breath-taking. It takes us on a speedy tour through creation. The imagery and poetry of this Psalm capture the reader in rapture, wonder and delight of our Creator.  We hear of the sheer pleasure of God in creating the universe. We catch a small glimpse of what it must have meant for God’s creative act to be the spilling over and out of the delight of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Their creative acts are not born out of need; they are born out sheer pleasure and enjoyment.

The Psalmist responds with worship. For him it is poetry. For others it may be music, still others it may be the glee of figuring out a small bit of this puzzle called the universe. Whichever way you express worship never lose the wonder of praise.

Behind all this, the subject of this whole Psalm is the outflowing energy of God which holds all things in being. The breath, or spirit, of every living thing depends on his Spirit, or breath; the same word is used in 29 and 30 for both. The Psalmist leaves us with a paradox, if we do not respond in breath-taking wonder(v1-27) we will experience breathless wandering(v29). This, so far from implicating him in our misdeeds, deepens our accountability, since we handle only what is his. (see Dan. 5:23: ‘The God in whose hand is your breath … you have not honoured.’)

The stunning thing about Grace is that the God that gave us breath gives up His breath on the cross. In exhaling “Father into your hands do I commit my Spirit,” he breathes his last breath and we breath our first. He gives up His Spirit that we may receive the Holy Spirit.


O Worship the King

by Robert Grant (1779-1838) and
Johann Michael Haydn (1737-1806)

O worship the King, all glorious above,
O gratefully sing God’s power and God’s love;
our Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days,
pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise. 
O tell of God’s might, O sing of God’s grace, 
whose robe is the light, whose canopy space, 
whose chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
and dark is God’s path on the wings of the storm.
Frail children of dust, and feeble as frail,
in thee do we trust, nor find thee to fail;
thy mercies how tender, how firm to the end,
our Maker, Defender, Redeemer, and Friend.

Faded Jeans and Worn Out Clothes

Psa. 102

1 Hear my prayer, O LORD;
let my cry for help come to you.

2 Do not hide your face from me
when I am in distress.

Turn your ear to me;
when I call, answer me quickly.

25 In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.

Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey







At the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring Bilbo Baggins quips, “I feel thin, sort of stretched, like butter scraped over too much bread.” This is how this Psalmist, “an afflicted man,” describes his situation. Some of the language that the Psalmist is using is physical distress, whist other language describes his emotional turmoil. A nice piece of clothing, no matter how careful we are, gets worn out and the fibres fray.

This is in fact the cry of one whose sufferings are unexplained, like Job’s. As the title implies, it is a prayer which others who are near the end of their endurance can echo, finding words here that lead them ‘into a large place’.

The troubles, to begin with, are private griefs, but later they are transcended by concern for Zion, whose destiny is glorious yet painfully slow in coming to fulfilment. A final passage draws out the contrast between the human time-scale and the Lord’s eternity, bringing the psalm to a majestic conclusion which is quoted in praise of Christ in the opening chapter of Hebrews.

So the psalm, we learn, is Messianic; and in the light of that, the sufferings and the world-embracing vision of the speaker lead the mind to Psalm 22. For the ground on which Hebrews 1:10–12 discerns the Son of God here. Hebrews 1:10–12 quotes verses 25–27 word for word (as Septuagint, including the added ‘Lord’ in 25a), with one minor change of word-order; and verse 27 (you are the same) may also underlie the great saying of Hebrews 13:8, ‘Jesus Christ … the same …’. The epistle opens our eyes to what would otherwise be brought out only by the Septuagint of verses 23 and following, namely that the Father is here replying to the Son, ‘through whom all things were made’; and this implies that the sufferer throughout the psalm is also the Son incarnate.

Are you feeling worn out? Look to the Grand Weaver who faithfully renews all things. Look to the one who on the cross was stripped naked that we might be clothed with his righteousness.

The Fluffy Friends and Faithful Shepherd

Psalm 100

A psalm for thanksgiving.
1 Raise a shout to Yahweh, all the earth!
2 Serve Yahweh with gladness;
come before him with joyful songs,
3 Acknowledge that Yahweh, he is God.
He made us, and we are indeed
his people and the flock he shepherds,
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise;
give thanks to him, and bless his name!
5 For Yahweh is good; his loyal-love is forever,
and to generation after generation is his faithfulness.

Two of the biggest needs of the human heart are to know that we belong and that we are cared for. God lets us know that this is met in the simple word “Shepherd.” God chose to hide behind this word and in hiding reveals himself as Carer.

Why is it that God wishes to be known as a Shepherd? In the Old Testament he speaks of Himself as the Shepherd of Israel. In the New Testament he calls Himself the Good Shepherd. It is not enough that he simply care, guide and keep his sheep? He is the Good Shepherd who demonstrates his “loyal-love” and will spare no cost to rescue his sheep. In predicting his suffering on the cross Jesus declares, “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”(John 10:11)

Jesus then commissions us as believers to take care of one another, even in the midst of our failures and frailties (see John 21:15-17). Charging us to care for one another and to tend to each other’s needs.

The only fitting response of heart is to “raise a shout,” “give thanks,” and give “praise.” The loyal-love, that stunning blend of law and love(v5) triggers in us a faithful response of absolute joy and praise.

In this knowledge of his great covenant love let us care for one another with joy.

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. (Heb. 13:20-21)

Happy, Clappy

Psa. 98:1 Oh sing to the LORD a new song,
for he has done marvelous things!
His right hand and his holy arm
have worked salvation for him.
Psa. 98:2
The LORD has made known his salvation;

he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations.

Psa. 98:7 Let the sea roar, and all that fills it;
the world and those who dwell in it!
Psa. 98:8 Let the rivers clap their hands;
let the hills sing for joy together
Psa. 98:9 before the LORD, for he comes
to judge the earth.
He will judge the world with righteousness,
and the peoples with equity.

I remember hearing this Psalm fairly regularly in chapel at seminary. The Book of Common prayer places it in our evening devotional prayers. It was the jam that sandwiched and held together the Old Testament and New Testament readings. “Sing to the Lord for he has done great things!” When Archbishop Cranmer put together the Book of Common prayer he wanted us to respond in awe and wonder to God’s self-disclosure and vindication throughout history.Here there are no comparisons, no instructions in right worship: all is joy and exhilaration.

As the years went on in seminary, some of my professors tried to downplay the beautiful, wonderful and sometimes mysterious God of the Old Testament. Often they would describe Him as being a God who just did not take his medication. Thankfully, by the time Jesus came around, God learned to be merciful and nice. Though it sounded like a great idea to some of the folks in lectures. This jam sandwich would not let us escape the awesome beauty of this Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Something in me knew that this Creator had always been loving and always been lovingly indisposed towards that which harms his beautiful creation. The last two verses of this psalm (v 8, 9) speak of the chorus of nature finally able to rejoice again. Paul echoes this very motif in Romans 8:19. This praise is artless and inarticulate, unlike the praise of man. But it too can be heard already, since the whole earth even now is full of God’s glory.

Nature will not come into its own until man himself, its proper master, is ruled in righteousness and equity. It is a truth which modern man is learning by default and with alarm.

The joyful noise of verses 4 and 6 meets us elsewhere as the spontaneous shout that might greet a king or a moment of victory. It is the word translated ‘shout aloud’ in Zechariah 9:9, the prophecy that was fulfilled on Palm Sunday. Jesus came not only to bring Judgement, but also to bear it(v.8,9). Let us erupt in praise at the story of this beautiful rescue. The price to Justice has been paid and we are redeemed.



Praise to the Lord, The Almighty


Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
The King of creation
O my soul, praise Him
For He is thy health and salvation
All ye who hear, now to His temple draw near
Praise Him in glad adoration

Praise to the Lord
Who o’er all things so wonderfully reigneth
Shelters thee under His wings
Yea, so gladly sustaineth
Hast thou not seen how thy desires e’er have been
Granted in what He ordaineth

Praise to the Lord
Who doth prosper they work and defend thee
Surely His goodness and mercy here daily attend thee
Ponder anew what the Almighty can do
If with His love He befriend thee

Praise to the Lord, O let all that is in me adore Him
All that hath life and breath
Come now with praises before Him
Let the ‘amen’ sound from His people again
Gladly for aye we adore Him

Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah

Listen here

Joachim Neander. His life was short—he died at the age of thirty—and many of his hymns seem to have been written in the last few months before his death; but the influence he exerted on the subsequent hymnody of his Church was remarkable.

Neander’s hymns are preeminently hymns of praise. Their jubilant tone and smooth rhythmical flow are at once an invitation to sing them.

Joachim Neander was born in Bremen, Germany, in 1650. He came from a distinguished line of clergymen, his father, grandfather, great grandfather and great great grandfather having been pastors, and all of them bearing the name Joachim Neander.

But simply being born to Christian parents did not make him a Christian. In the year 1670, when Neander was twenty years old, he chanced to attend services in St. Martin’s church, Bremen, where Theodore Under-Eyck had recently come as pastor. Two other students accompanied Neander, their main purpose being to criticize and scoff at the sermon. However, they had not reckoned with the Spirit of God. The burning words of Under-Eyck made a powerful impression on the mind and heart of the youthful Neander, and he who went to scoff came away to pray.

It proved the turning point in the spiritual life of the young student. Under the guidance of Under-Eyck he was led to embrace Christ as his Saviour, and from that time he and Under-Eyck were life-long friends.

At age 29 his friend and mentor Under-Eyck invited him to pastor in Bremen. he gladly accepted this post. Within six months he fell ill. During his illness he experienced severe spiritual struggles, but he found comfort in the words, “It is better to hope unto death than to die in unbelief.” On the day of his death he requested that Hebrews 7:9 be read to him. When asked how he felt, he replied: “The Lord has settled my account. Lord Jesus, make also me ready.” A little later he said in a whisper: “It is well with me. The mountains shall be moved, and the hills shall tremble, yet the grace of God shall not depart from me, and His covenant of peace shall not be moved.”