Psalm 103: Praise The Lord

It is certainly difficult to go through this Psalm without recognising the call to praise. The beginning and the ending couch this Psalm in words to encourage praise.

Note how personal the writer King David is as he expresses himself.

“Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits” in v1-2.

And in v20-22,

“Praise the Lord, you his angels, you mighty ones who do his bidding, who obey his word. Praise the Lord, all his heavenly hosts, you his servants who do his will. Praise the Lord, all his works everywhere in his dominion. Praise the Lord, my soul.”

This is something deeply personal, something coming deep from within here. It is like David is willing himself to praise.

There are times, aren’t there, when we have to will ourselves to do something. Whether it is chores around the house to trying to work through our emotions in a lockdown due to a global pandemic. Here David sounds like he is willing himself to praise. Like the marathon runner willing herself to get to the finish line so too David is willing himself to praise.

Often praise, encouragement and thanks don’t come easy. Often we can be so consumed with our own self and all the problems we have to deal with that we soon forget or fall out of habit of praise, of thankfulness, of gratitude. Here we get the sense of David, writing in reflection from years of experience, willing himself to praise God for who he is and what he has done.

For David realises all of what God has done. Not only for him personally, but also for the whole of humanity. He remembers God and all his deeds and dwells on the action of his compassionate God, which in turn draws him to praise.

As we close this three-part series on Psalm 103 I encourage you to remember, dwell, and praise God this week.

It has been a tough 12 months.

You may have taken the opportunity to sit with God and spend more time with him this year. But, in the conversations I’m having with people I suspect the majority have not. And so I wonder whether this might be a good time to spend some time with the Lord.

If you’re one who is in a habit of doing so, I encourage you to keep going.

But, if you’re one who hasn’t sat with God, opened his scriptures, read and thought of the things of God in a while then I encourage you to do so this week.

Take 30-60 minutes. Open a Psalm, maybe even this one. Write down a few things that strike you as you read it. Pray about what is on your heart. Express those fears and worries and anxieties to God. And dwell for a period of time, something we’re not used to, on your compassionate God who is slow to anger and abounding in love.

Because when you do, experience tells me that the Lord will meet you where you are at and will draw you toward praise just as David is here.

It will do your soul and your life much benefit.


This is the third of a three-part series on Psalm 103. The first post, ‘Remember The Lord’, can be found here. And the second, ‘Dwell on The Lord’, is here.

Psalm 103: Remember The Lord

In Psalm 103 we come to a psalm of thanksgiving, perhaps better described as a hymn of gratitude, as the writer, King David, moves from heartfelt personal praise to inviting all of Israel and all of God’s people to remember the Lord, dwell on what he has done, and give him praise. 

In v2 we read, “Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits…”

I’m not sure about you but it’s very easy to forget things. I would’ve forgotten more of my life than remembered it. I’m sure you are the same. 

I mean, we all like to think we’ve got good memories and can remember a lot, which of course our amazing brains can. But we’re also not all blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a photographic memory. And so we remember many things we’ve done, sights we’ve seen, and words we’ve listened to. But the reality is that we forget more than we remember. Which to me seems like one of the Lord’s graces toward us. 

Who wants to remember those really embarrassing comments we’ve made to colleagues or others we don’t know so well? Who wants to remember that embarrassing experience we had in high school or going through those years of puberty? Who wants to remember the acute grief we experience when a loved one passes away? There is actually plenty in life that we don’t want to remember.

But, there is also the negative side to forgetting things. We find ourselves forgetting names, numbers, faces, people, dates and times. And as we get older this can have repercussions on our quality of life. 

But David’s point in this Psalm is not a negative one, it’s a positive one. It’s the encouragement to remember what the Lord has done, to remember the benefits that come with knowing God. For there are plenty of benefits that the Lord has given us and when we remember these things we are led to praise and gratitude for them and for him. 

This whole Psalm seems to list the benefits available to us, but in v1-6 we read specific benefits of: 

  • The forgiveness of sin
  • The healing of disease
  • The redemption of life from pit
  • The crowning of love and compassion upon us
  • The satisfaction of our desires
  • The righteousness and justice of God

In the busyness of life it is easy to forget the benefits that come with being crowned a child of God. And these are incredible benefits! Even David, considered to be a ‘man after God’s own heart’(Acts 13:22) evidently needs to be reminded of these things. 

And all these benefits we see fulfilled through our Lord Jesus. This baby Jesus we remember at Christmas, this God-child we read of through the Prophets and writings of scripture, this Son of God born to a teenager in a derelict town, is the one who fulfils all these benefits and provides us with all these benefits through his life and death on a cross. 

And so who would want to forget these things?

We take photos to remember the experiences we’ve had and the places we’ve been to. When we look back on photos we’ve taken, our memories take us back to what we’ve done and experienced. We don’t want to forget that sunrise, or that waterfall, or that animal we got up close to. We don’t want to forget that party with friends, or that dinner with family, or that person we met. And so we take a photo as a keepsake, to help us remember. 

This list here is a reminder for us, a keepsake, as is all of scripture, which helps us remember God for who he is and what he has done. 

Deliver Us From The Evil One

What comes to mind most often when I think of deliverance are horror movies that depict the spiritual exorcism of a child or young person. For some reason the narrative always includes a wayward young person who requires a priest to come and exorcise their perceived demons, mostly at the instigation of their parents! The priest comes along with their wooden cross, their garlic, and their special oil seeking to deliver this young person from their wrongful behaviour. And while it might be a good movie, and sadly a reflection on what happens in real life in some places, the truth is this isn’t what Jesus is teaching his disciples in the final line of the Lord’s Prayer.

However, there is something apt in concluding this prayer by asking God for deliverance, for deliverance from the evil one is something we all need. The only way we are delivered from evil is through the Lord. For he has not only provided a way out of the clutches of the evil one, but a person who has compassion and cares deeply for us. Through the power of his Son Jesus the Lord shows his heart for his people. Like a father toward his children he seeks their good. And one aspect of this good is deliverance from the evil one.

As mentioned in my previous post this phrase ‘Deliver us from the evil one’ is strongly linked with the prayer of help in temptation. Temptation and the evil one go hand in hand and we are in need of God’s help for us to remain apart from both.

Deliverance is often associated with something ultra-spiritual or cult like. The movie example is one aspect to that. But the reality is there is a spiritual battle going on that we are often quite unaware of. In our comfortable Western cities and societies we choose to ignore anything that isn’t tangible, that isn’t something we can smell, taste, touch, or feel; physically or emotionally. Even though it isn’t something we think about This, however, doesn’t excuse the reality of the spiritual battle taking place.

Paul the Apostle wrote about this reality in Ephesians 6:12. He writes, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” And so the reality we live in involves the reality of the spiritual realm, a world unseen to our human eyes and only known through the reality of our soul. It is a reality that requires deliverance from the evil one.

When Jesus encourages us to pray this prayer, and remember he is the one who is teaching us to pray here, he highlights the need for us to pray for deliverance. When we are tempted, when we are fearful, when we are in need of comfort, when we sin, then we are able to pray for deliverance. In regard to temptation, when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness in Matthew 4 by the evil one he relied on the Word of God to rebuff such approaches. So too, when we are tempted one helpful way for us to find deliverance from such temptation is to remember and rely on the Word of God. This is also the case when we are fearful, need comfort, or require the reminder of Jesus as our great Saviour from sin. While we may follow the evils of the world this prayer shows our need for God is great, and especially in the battle against the spiritual forces of the evil one.

In his commentary on this particular verse (Matthew 6:13), D.A. Carson writes,

“This petition is a hefty reminder that, just as we ought consciously to depend on God for physical sustenance, so also ought we to sense our dependence on him for moral triumph and spiritual victory. Indeed, to fail in this regard is already to have fallen, for it is part of that ugly effort at independence which refuses to recognise our position as creatures before God. As Christians grow in holy living, they sense their own inherent moral weakness and rejoice that whatever virtue they possess flourishes as the fruit of the Spirit. More and more they recognise the deceptive subtleties of their own hearts, and the malicious cunning of the evil one, and fervently request of the heavenly Father, ‘Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.’”

And perhaps that is an apt ending to not only this clause within this verse, but of the whole prayer itself.


This concludes our series in the Lord’s Prayer. All the posts in this series can be found at the following:

Podcast: #38 of The Sean & Jon Show

Well here it is folks, a year gone by,
We’ve battled, we’ve won, we’ve laughed we’ve cried.

And while it’s a tough year when we look to review,
It’s a year I’ve loved, just podcasting with you

We’ve talked COVID, Quarantine, and everything in between.
And our emotional state has always been easily seen.

Three weeks in and we were mourning being apart, 
We did not know the distance from the end to the start.

We’ve talked Lycra and pets,
Televangelists and awkward texts.
 
We’ve critiqued sermons and each other, 
Eaten spicy food, and disc golf with brothers,
 
Jon has gotten real old, and keeps getting older, 
While Sean is young Spurgeon, and his preaching gets bolder.
 
We have screamed from our porches, and felt the COVID dread,
As Jon demolished Supercoach and let it go to his head.
 
We have had guest speakers, and forgotten about Sean,
We’ve talked mental illness, and mowing our lawns.
 
We played table tennis to fight slavery, 
And seen how poor supervision let Jon’s hamsters be free.
 
We’ve talked Easter, Christmas, and swimming in seas,
We’ve gone from life, to lockdown, to finally being free.
 
Well what a time it has been, to grow through this season.
And as we look at each moment, it’s hard to see rhyme or reason.
 
But through it all, in every moment and strife,
We have seen God’s eternity meet ordinary life.
 
And through every trial we know we withstood,
Even in COVID, God is good.

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

As We Also Have Forgiven Our Debtors

In her fascinating longform essay, ‘Letting Go’, Amy Westervelt writes about the study of forgiveness in academia. And much of it aligns with what Christians have known for many centuries – that it’s good for us but that it’s incredibly hard. 

And in the continuation of our series on the Lord’s Prayer we come to one of the more challenging phrases in the prayer itself. After asking for forgiveness from God for our own individual debts, or sins, we now find ourselves stating to God that we are forgiving the debts of others. 

There are no two ways around this. The gospel calls on us to trust in our own forgiveness through Christ on the cross. Colossians 1:13-14 remind us, “He has rescued us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into the kingdom of the Son he loves. In him we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” But in turn, the gospel calls us to action; the forgiveness of others for their wrongdoing against us. 

And so “Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” has to be the hardest phrase of this prayer, the hardest action to put into practice. 

Who can so easily forgive those who have wronged us? 

Degrees of Forgiveness

In our world, like the justice system we operate by, we recognise there are degrees of wrongdoing and therefore find justification to argue for degrees of forgiveness to give. The person who calls us names in high school does not require the ‘same level’ of forgiveness as the spouse who commits adultery, or the sexual abuser of children, or the murderer? We would say, our humanity would say, that forgiveness for one over the other is dependent on the wrongdoing against us. Forgiveness may be easy or hard to give, but we often find ourselves doing so as long as justice has been metered out correctly. 

This is not to conflate justice into forgiveness. The Lord’s Prayer doesn’t make allowance for various levels of wrongdoing, nor does it speak of justice here either. Rather, it is a direct call to forgive others and encapsulates all types of wrongdoing in the process. We are to extend forgiveness to everyone. And of course, this is always a process. For some the giving of forgiveness will take longer than others, it isn’t easy reaching a place in your heart to forgive someone who has wronged us. Certain things are quick to forgive, other things seem to linger. 

Forgiving From The Heart

A particularly salient point this phrase brings up is the challenge of how quickly and how good we are at forgiveness. It sets forgiveness in the context of a spiritual practice, a spiritual discipline. Forgiveness is not something that means the person who wronged us gets away with everything they have done. No, there are still consequences for any wrongdoing. But whatever the case may be, forgiveness is an act of the heart.

And this is why following Jesus is often harder than first appears. For who forgives everybody who has wrong us from the heart? As Westervelt’s article affirms, forgiveness is a ‘change of heart’, a very apt definition in light of this prayer and what God has done for us. Yet so often the hurt and the pain has a long tail. Part of our nature is to hold onto hurts and wrongs and slights in a way that often leads to bitterness. And not only bitterness, but actual power. For when we hold onto the wrongdoing of others against us we give them power over us. They shape our thoughts and may even guide our actions. In the act of forgiveness we actually release the power others have over us because of their wrongdoing toward us.

Forgiveness is not easy, particularly if the wrong is significant or life altering. Yet, the good news is that we are able to be forgiven by God through Christ and as a result are shown the way of forgiveness.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Podcast: #37 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat James Bond, the end has come, and life in 2020 and beyond.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Finishing the season of podcast eps
  • Consistency
  • Sean’s new nickname
  • Shopping centre adventures
  • Disc golf success
  • Meeting new friends
  • TV watching
  • Social media
  • Friends together
  • Fashion Show success
  • We’re going back to in-person services!

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #36 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat driveway tears, changing careers, and Jon’s all-consuming-anger-spilling-forth-from-the-stresses of a COVID year!

Topics Discussed: 

  • Let’s get some sun
  • Meeting people in the flesh
  • Heading to the beach
  • Disc Golf…again
  • What would you do…?
  • Missing the sounds of the home
  • Accomplishing stuff
  • Angry drivers
  • What have we actually learnt about ourselves?
  • Growing in godliness

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Podcast: #35 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat heading to the beach, learning life lessons you can’t teach, and doing a little Christmas preach.

Topics Discussed: 

  • Gazing into your eyes
  • No stories, again.
  • Up to date with the podcast
  • The longest story ever 
  • The trials of travelling to the beach and back
  • Putting on weight during isolation
  • Time for a trim
  • Hitch-hiking
  • Growing in ourselves and with the Lord
  • Christmas as a growing experience
  • A messy Christmas
  • Being self-reflective

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

And Forgive Us Our Debts

Forgiveness is an issue central to the Christian faith. After all, Jesus’ primary mission through his life, death, and resurrection, was to bring forgiveness; a forgiveness that would repair the relationship between humanity and God. 

In the Lord’s Prayer of Matthew 6:9-13 Jesus teaches us how to pray, and in doing so teaches us to ask for forgiveness from God. After asking for ‘our daily bread’, that is, our needs, we are also taught to ask for God to ‘forgive us our debts’. 

To be clear, what Jesus is not teaching us here is that God will forgive our financial debts. So often we use the term ‘debt’ in a financial sense. This is the way the word is typically used today. Perhaps unfortunately for you, after praying this prayer you will still have your financial debts to pay. The mortgage will still be there, the car loan still needs to be paid this month, and the credit card bill continues to stack up. 

But this idea of financial debt gives us an illustration of the position we find ourselves in. We are in debt to God. 

We may ask, why am I in debt to God? 

Well, the Bible teaches us that we are in debt to God because of what is called ‘sin’. Essentially, we have disobeyed, fallen short, and rejected God in our lives. In doing so we find ourselves in debt to God. As Romans 3:23-24 says, 

“The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. They are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.”

Here we find the Apostle Paul highlighting how great our sin is, therefore how great a debt we have, but also how great a God we have who freely gives his grace to those who believe.

I am well aware this is not easy teaching to accept. To understand our need for forgiveness means we need to understand and accept our own wrongdoing toward God. And considering the hardness of life and injustice in our world there are times we are tempted to blame that on God himself. 

Yet, what God has done is actually grace. And that grace comes through the person and work of Jesus Christ. You see, forgiveness is achieved because Jesus has paid the debt we couldn’t pay. His death on the cross was the payment for our debt and covers all sin–past, present, and future. It is not through saying this prayer that brings forgiveness, through prayer we come recognising what has already been done for us–God has forgiven our debts through the death of his Son. 

In preaching on Ephesians 4:32, Charles Spurgeon remarks about forgiveness,

“[God] not only forgave us at the first all our sins, but he continues daily to forgive, for the act of forgiveness is a continuous one. I have sometimes heard it said that we were so forgiven when we first believed that there is no need to ask for further forgiveness; to which I reply—We were so completely forgiven when we first believed that we ought continually to ask for the perpetuity of that one far-reaching act, that the Lord may continue to exert towards us that fulness of forgiving grace which absolved us perfectly at the first, that we may continue to walk before him with a sense of that complete forgiveness, clear and unquestioned. I know I was forgiven when first I believed in Christ; and I am equally sure of it now: the one absolution continues to ring in my ears like joy-bells which never cease. Pardon once given continues to be given. When through doubt and anxiety I was not sure of my pardon, yet it was still true; for he that believeth on him is not condemned, even though he may write bitter things against himself. Beloved friend, catch hold of that, and do not let it go. Divine pardon is a continuous act.”

It is hard to understand the need for forgiveness from God if we don’t recognise our own brokenness and sin. And it is hard to understand grace because it is so undeserved. But amazingly, it is done. The call for us is to believe. 

And so when we pray this prayer, when we pray for God to forgive us our debts, we are to come with a humble heart, being self-aware enough to know our own brokenness and need for God.


This continues our series in the Lord’s Prayer. More posts can be found at the following:

Podcast: #34 of The Sean & Jon Show

This week we chat early morning swims, haircut trims, and a battle where the police wins.

Topics Discussed: 

  • No stories
  • Having people over
  • Visiting others
  • Getting into the pool for the first time this season
  • Conversations with others
  • Calling the cops over and over again
  • The Book of Joel
  • Repentance
  • God’s character
  • God’s work in COVID

You can listen here, and also subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.