Monthly Archives: April 2015

A Character Created for God’s Story (Life Journal – 4/29/2015)

Scripture

For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well.
 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be. (Psalm 139:13-16)

Observation

David has just spoken of the fact that he cannot go anywhere that God cannot see, that God cannot find.

Even our creation, our beginning, is known to God. We are God’s works (vs. 14)

The NET says “your deeds are awesome and amazing” rather than “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” putting the emphasis back on God’s works.

If God can every where and every thing, then human beings made by God must be good – fearful and wonderful.

Application

To think that I am made by God – made wonderfully, fearfully as David says. Or as the NET suggests ‘awesome and amazing.” God has made me, has made everyone who lives. By itself it is an amazing thought – we are not accidents of nature, not the random coming together of two cells or going to the distant human past some chemicals in a puddle that came to life. We are made, we are formed, we are known. The first creation of human beings is recreated in every human who lives.

These are more than just self-esteem boosting, meme appropriate positive thoughts. We are made purposefully – with days “ordained” from their beginning. The idea of our lives being written in a book is more about their having a purpose, a narrative, an end rather than a fatalistic idea of their being decided in advance.

Prayer

Creator who made Adam and Eve – and who made me: let me live into the wonder and joy of my creation by you. May I remember that every person I see and with whom I interact today is also made in your wonder and with your purpose. And may I live out the narrative, the purpose you have for me. As I choose each word of today’s story may I choose that tale, may I follow that plot, that you have designed for me. Amen.

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Spiritual Vomit (Life Journal – 4/28/2015)

Scripture

16 “Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them. 17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Matthew 15:16-20)

Observation

Jesus contrasts what goes into the mouth and out of the body with what goes into the heart and comes out of the mouth.

Is Jesus making a joke – a sort of “vomiting from the heart” in describing all these things?

Where do these things originate that “infect” the heart?

Application

I can’t escape the (admittedly) unpleasant imagery which I think Jesus intended. If we eat “unclean” things, it passed out the other end… if we have “uncleanness” in our hearts, we end up vomiting that unpleasantness out of our mouths. Perhaps it isn’t what Jesus meant.. but it sure strikes close to where I live.

Oh to have a heart free of such nastiness… free of the vileness that spews forth at times. It seems, too, that Jesus is speaking to those who fret over other’s uncleanness. Worried about those people eating with unwashed hands? How about the garbage coming out of you?

Prayer

O Lord, as David prayed long ago, create in me a clean heart. May I worry not about what others do that seems unclean to me – may I worry instead about what is in my heart, about what I ingest that defiles me and comes out as surely as the food I eat will. In the name of the one who sees my heart, who knows what is truly clean and not, Jesus, I pray. Amen.

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Compassion Reaction (Life Journal – 4/27/2015)

Scripture

13 When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick. (Matthew 14:13-14)

Observation

“When” refers to the execution of John the Baptist as told in 14:1-12.

Why did the crowds follow when he withdrew following John’s death? Why does Jesus withdraw in response to John’s death?

Another “when” — this time referring to Jesus’ arrival.  Compassion is expressed in healing the sick.

Application

Sometimes compassion is not my first response to “the crowds.” I get the desire to withdraw, to be apart. But when I do so and find my desire to retire is frustrated, my reaction is almost never compassion. Frustration. Anger. Bitterness.

Jesus responds of out compassion when what he wants, perhaps even needs, is not possible. This compassion is God’s gift, an overflowing of divine compassion into each of us who follow Christ.

The battle inside is what will react? The me that is growing (hopefully) more and more into the image of Christ. Or the me that is frustrated? Let compassion always trump frustration, words and offers of healing over anger.

Prayer

God of Compassion, the needs around us are insistent. Not even time away can shield us from the hurt and the wandering. May we react out of your compassion and not our sense of frustrated longing. May the longing of others elicit your longing to bless in us as we seek to follow the one who healed, Jesus. Amen.

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Words To Be Heard, Hands To Be Lifted (Life Journal – 4/23/2015)

Scripture

I call upon you, O Lord; come quickly to me;
    give ear to my voice when I call to you.
Let my prayer be counted as incense before you,
    and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice.

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord;
    keep watch over the door of my lips.
Do not turn my heart to any evil,
    to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with those who work iniquity;
    do not let me eat of their delicacies. (Psalm 141:1-4)

Observation

David as a “temple” – incense in prayers, sacrifices in lifting of his hands, door of his lips. Imagery of cleanness of word and heart.

Counted suggest substitution – can David not worship as God expects or David thinks God wants?

Lots of body allusions in all of this – ear, voice, hands, mouth, lips.

David’s actions are yielded to God’s control – set a guard, keep watch, do not turn. But David also expects / asks God to act, to respond.

Application

The beauty of the Psalms is their applicability to every mood, every phase, every experience of life and the spirit. Something in the Psalms speaks to where we are at this moment whether exultation or depression, unspeakable joy or bottomless doubt.

Today is a reminder to expect God to respond, to approach the Almighty as one who will hear and act. David sings boldly that God would respond even though his words are not accompanied by incense and sacrifice in the temple.

Are my words inadequate? Is my heart not as quiet as I would like? Is my life not reflective of what I know God wants? Pray anyway. Ask anyway. Lift hands and voice and ask God to hear.

Prayer

O Lord, hear my voice. O Lord, accept my prayers. May this mouth that prays to you speak always as if I am speaking to you. May my heart be turned to you and my deeds to your good. In the name of Christ who always please you and always did your will… Amen.

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Thirsting for the One Thing I Can Always Have (Life Journal – 4/22/2015)

Scripture

O God, you are my God, I seek you,
    my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
 So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
    beholding your power and glory.
 Because your steadfast love is better than life,
    my lips will praise you.
 So I will bless you as long as I live;
    I will lift up my hands and call on your name.

 My soul is satisfied as with a rich feast,
    and my mouth praises you with joyful lips
 when I think of you on 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 sing for joy.
 My soul clings to you;
    your right hand upholds me. (Psalm 63:1-8)

Observation

Imagery of food/nourishment/sustenance: “thirsts,” “flesh faints,” “rich feast”

Also repetition of body and physical images – hands, lips, wings

The ascription here is that David was in the wilderness when he wrote these words

Application

These words bring to mind Jesus’ temptation where he answers Satan ““It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” (Matthew 4:4)

David is in the wilderness and so sets up the longing for food, for shelter (the wings of God in vs. 7). So much of our longing is for things and for things of the world… desires meant to teach us to long for something higher, something more satisfying.

How many of our prayers ask for things that the world can give us – rather than praying to experience God? My own longings are far too often for something other than God: recognition, acceptance, influence, yes sometimes money too.

But oh to thirst for God! And to realize as David sings here that these other things may never come – but longing for the best and the highest, the Most High, is a longing that every one can have satisfied!

Prayer

Satisfy me today, Most High, with Yourself. Come and feed me, come and satisfy my thirst. May I long even more for that which is better than life and more abundant than all life offers. Amen.

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Shelter Not An Explanation Or An Answer (Life Journal – 4/21/2015)

Scripture

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
    for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
    until the destroying storms pass by.
I cry to God Most High,
    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me,
    he will put to shame those who trample on me.Selah
God will send forth his steadfast love and his faithfulness. (Psalm 57:1-3)

Observation

David cries for God’s mercy because God is his soul’s refuge.

Much of the imagery here is lofty – God Most High, heaven, wings, even storms.

The images are both of sheltering and saving.

Application

Here recently I have experienced one of those seasons of setbacks – things that not only did not go my way (those are bad enough for my tender ego) but full-blown disasters that have left me reeling. Things I probably cannot fix. Inevitabilities that I dread but are headed my way anyway.

These words from Psalm 57 spoke to me in today’s daily readings. David writes them in response to his hiding in a cave from Saul who seeks his capture and death. No one is trying to kill me but these personal challenges of the moment seem overwhelming and as dangerous in some ways.

David sings eloquently of God’s sheltering presence and saving action. Unlike my refrain of “why” (which matters little when the storm is blowing!), God shelters and saves. Which is exactly what I need today. Probably tomorrow too!

Prayer

God Most High, shelter me in your wings today as the storms of this moment blow about me. Shelter me from the flood and the fierce winds of life. And hasten to save me, those I love, too. May I, with your servant David, know your sheltering and saving presence. Amen.

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Yoda Was Right! (Life Journal – 4/20/2015)

Scripture

Now they told David, “The Philistines are fighting against Keilah, and are robbing the threshing floors.”  David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go and attack these Philistines?” The Lord said to David, “Go and attack the Philistines and save Keilah.”  But David’s men said to him, “Look, we are afraid here in Judah; how much more then if we go to Keilah against the armies of the Philistines?” Then David inquired of the Lord again. The Lord answered him, “Yes, go down to Keilah; for I will give the Philistines into your hand. So David and his men went to Keilah, fought with the Philistines, brought away their livestock, and dealt them a heavy defeat. Thus David rescued the inhabitants of Keilah.”  (1 Samuel 23:1-5 NRSV)

Observation

Circumstance -> David inquires of God -> God directs

Reaction -> David inquires of God -> God directs again

David asks God twice before he leads his men to Keilah to fight and win

Application

In the Star Wars films, Yoda says at a critical moment ““Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”

Yoda is right – at least about the dark power of fear. It is fear that makes David’s men pause. It is fear that causes David to return and ask God again if they should do what God has already said to do!

The good news seems to be that God understands and affirms the answer to go. God doesn’t chastise David – only adds “Yes” to the response.

Sometimes as leaders we need to hear and respond to people’s fears. Fear doesn’t mean we don’t move or don’t decide – but fear is real and its power is immense.

As followers of Jesus… we should not let our fear keep us from following. Sometimes we need an affirmation, a bit of a push. When Gd says “yes” then fear’s power is broken if we move forward in following the One who says “Yes!”

Prayer

Lord, sometimes – often – I am afraid. Even when I am sure you have guided me to a decision; even when you have said to do something or not do it so I need not ask. May I learn to acknowledge that fear in me but press on for your assurance and to follow. May I lead more as you would have me lead by responding to the fears of others but also by remaining faithful. Amen.

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Mandatory Testing (Life Journal – 4/17/2015)

Scripture

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. (Matthew 4:1-2)

Observation

  • The Spirit leads Jesus (1) to the wilderness and (2) for the purpose of being tempted
  • The Amplified Bible also has Jesus led to (1) the desert and (2) to be tested and tried.
  • Strong’s suggests that the wilderness is more testing and trying than tempting?
  • “Then” links back to Jesus’ affirmation at this baptism

Application

God led Jesus to be tempted or rather tested. The scene that follows is one of testing – is Jesus the One? is he the Messiah? Will he follow the path laid before him at his baptism or will he follow another path?

If the Spirit leads Jesus to be tested… and we follow Jesus… then it seems we, too, will be led to be tested. We will be tested on the same things – are we committed to God’s will above ours? Is God the source of our life and vitality? Will we worship God and God alone?

The way of Christ is a way of testing. We are not saved by this testing – far from it. We are, however, refined and im-proved by it as God’s Spirit works in us.

Prayer

Lord, test me today. Show me where I am not following your Son and your Spirit faithfully. Show me where my character is not on the road of Christ. Show me where I worship things other than you. Test me, try me. All out of your great love… Amen.

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Life Journal (4/15/2015) – Matter of Heart

Scripture

When the words that David spoke were heard, they repeated them before Saul; and he sent for him. David said to Saul, “Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:31-32)

Observation

In yesterday’s reading, Samuel learns that God looks on the heart – here David speaks of the heart. His brother accuses him of having evil in his heart (vs. 18)

Translation footnotes have vs. 32 as literally in Hebrew – “Let not the heart of a man fall upon him.”

Application

In 1 Samuel’s picture of David, “heart” is a repeated theme. He is selected by God because, as the Lord tells Samuel, he is a man after his (God’s) heart and then when he goes to anoint the next king the Lord again says this to him.

Here, David speaks of the hearts of this fellow Israelites – perhaps his own as well. Some translations suggest that the one whose heart is failing at the challenge of Goliath is Saul rather than Israel generally.

How do we cultivate a heart like David’s – that faces challenge without failing? How do we confront challenge without fear, without surrendering?

Perhaps the answer lies in the earlier assertion that David is “a man after his own heart.” To be after God’s heart is to have heart that wants what God wants, that loves as God loves, that is transformed by the desires of God and therefore – as David says here- need neither fear nor fail.

Prayer

Lord, give me a heart after your own heart. Make my heart anew today into a heart like David’s that can face the world without fearing, without failing, because it wants what you want and loves what you love. In the name of the one whose heart was yours, Jesus, the Christ. Amen.

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Life Journal (4/14/2015) – Inside Information

Scripture

When they came, he looked on Eliab and thought, “Surely the Lord’s anointed is now before the Lord.” But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:6-7)

Observation

Samuel’s standards are not God’s – Samuel cannot see as God sees.

“Surely” is an assumption God repeatedly fails to meet.

Samuel is not to look on his appearance BECAUSE God has rejected him (David is later described as handsome).

Application

I love numbers, things that can be quantified and measured. Math in my later college years became my favorite subject. But God’s reality is not measurable in any meaningful way – it is not an objective reality like temperature or even softly scientific like the consumer price index.

God’s judging the heart is meant here as a positive thing. God will not evaluate us based on our observable merit to do or be but on our hearts. Our external qualifications do matter. I don’t think God would ever call me to sing, for instance.

But the heart is where God measures. And every person can cultivate a heart pleasing to God! It has nothing to do with money or appearance, natural talent or valuable experience. The heart is where God sees and where God best and most works.

I will never attain the measurable goals that haunt me. I will never be someone whom the world would judge successful or influential. But God, who sees my heart, can find me acceptable and can, in truth, make me so despite all evidence and appearances.

Prayer

O God who sees – I am anxious sometimes that you can see my heart, can pierce the veil of my mind. But the heart you see and the mind you can measure can change in ways my outward person cannot. You can mold me, shape me, grow me inside – sometimes in utter contrast to what can be seen or judged. May I live today as one who wants a heart that you will find pleasing and let the outer things that cause me such inner pain fade away. Amen.

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