Posts Tagged ‘Psalms’
Devotion that Keeps Me From Straying
“They are a people whose heart goes astray, and they do not regard my ways.” (Psalm 95:10)
As I begin this journey into the Lenten season, there are a few things I need to be aware of—a caution or two that I will add to those I mentioned from yesterday. When I read the line above from the psalm this morning, my immediate response was a bit judgmental and flavored with disdain. You know, something like, “How could those ungrateful people be so quickly led astray from God?” It didn’t take very long before the Spirit began to unravel some of my judgmental attitude and reflect it back to me. We can all become fragmented in our attention and led astray. Emilie Griffith speaks to this with her words here:
“For many of us the constant onslaught of errands and duties may pile up until it becomes a wall between us and God. We do not consciously turn away from God. Instead, we drift away, like ships without rudders, with no particular aim in mind. Therefore, one thing we can do in Lent is to make a deliberate return.” -Emilie Griffith; Small Surrenders
Little by little, the worries and distractions of life can turn our attentions away from devotion to God. We think we are still being attentive to Him by acknowledging Him with our lips, but the reality of our living and lifestyle do not reflect one who regards His ways. We think, like Peter did, with the mind of man… and this earned him a rebuke from Jesus, who called Peter “Satan.”
“Christians who permit themselves to be shaped by secular culture are guilty, not only of betraying God, but losing their own true selves. -W. Paul Jones
What is the remedy for this? I believe the first step is awareness; knowing that the possibility of distraction is real and can affect even the most resolute person of faith. Secondly, I think having a regimen or established discipline is helpful to keep us tethered or grounded in our devotion. Some of these disciplines can seemingly become rote acts of devotion, even appearing to be dry, lifeless, and fruitless. I suppose that can be a real concern, but in my life’s experience I have found even in the rote acts I am tied to the God I am devoted. This devotion stems from a desire to follow Him and know Him with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength. Through faith, I believe He honors that devotion…even if it is sometimes shared in a rote act. That action, no matter how dry it might be, is still an act of devotion born of the desire to remain connected to the God who created me and it keeps me from becoming so distracted that I stray and fail to regard His ways.
“Suppose there are prophets among you or those who dream dreams about the future, and they promise you signs or miracles, and the predicted signs or miracles occur. If they then say, ‘Come, let us worship other gods’—gods you have not known before—do not listen to them. The Lord your God is testing you to see if you truly love him with all your heart and soul.” -Deut. 13:1-3
This is kind of scary; maybe it even seems a little tricky and unfair to us. The LORD says He will test us to see if we will stray. He will test our love and devotion. This provides me with all the incentive I need to stay on my toes and remain alert. It is precisely the reason that I need disciplines…rote or otherwise to keep me rooted, grounded, tethered, and anchored to the God of my faith.
A couple of other thoughts occurred to me while I was in Scripture today. While reading a text from John’s Gospel, these words stirred me: “When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them, ‘What are you looking for?’” (John 1:38)
I found these words encouraging. As I follow Jesus into this season of repentance and reset, I hear him asking me; “What are you looking for?” I believe as we journey together, I will be able to identify what I am looking for…and I will be able to communicate that to him. Actually, I believe as I walk with Jesus, he will help me to realize what I’m looking for…and realize I have found it fully and completely in Him.
“God’s way can be grasped only in prayer. The more you listen to God speaking within you, the sooner you will hear that voice inviting you to follow the way of Jesus. For Jesus’ way is God’s way and God’s way is not for Jesus only but for everyone who is truly seeking God. Here we come up against the hard truth that the descending way of Jesus is also the way for us to find God. Jesus doesn’t hesitate for a moment to make that clear.” -Henri Nouwen
Finally, another word, this from the apostle Paul to the Titus, lifted my spirits as well. I know; experience has shown me, that I will get tired during these 40-days. I will go through a bout or few of depression and even may get a bit discouraged by my own weaknesses. I may begin to doubt that I will accomplish what God desires for me. These following words will serve me as a reminder to be encouraged during these low times:
12 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all, 12 training us to renounce impiety and worldly passions, and in the present age to live lives that are self-controlled, upright, and godly, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope and the manifestation of the glory of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13 NRSV)
Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord have mercy.
O God, Maker of all mankind, give the rewards of joy, grant the gifts of graces, dissolve the chains of quarreling, and bind fast the agreements of peace. Almighty God, ever-lasting Father, your love was poured forth upon our world from the cross. As we have come to know the grace of our Lord’s resurrection, grant that, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we may rise with him to new life. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ your Son. Amen.
Advent 1st Sunday: Year C [02DEC12]
Theme for week 1—Waiting & Hope
“Show me the right path, O LORD;
All day long I put my hope in you.” Ps. 25:4-5
Advent is in many ways the most beautiful and profound time of the Christian year. Advent means “coming,” and the season is about our waiting for the most mysterious and wonderful coming of all, into the heart of our lives, our needy lives. The words of St. Paul are relevant: “It is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light” (Romans 13:11-12). So over and over, from the heart of the Christian people, and down through the centuries, the prayer has gone up: “Show us, Lord, your steadfast love, and grant us your salvation” and “Come, Lord, and bring us peace. Let us rejoice before you with sincere hearts.” We can pray now: “Lord help us to wait, with patience, with longing, for your coming—your coming into our poor lives. As once your people waited, and you came in our midst as a child to be among us—so help us now to wait, hope, and love what we wait for: your coming, and your peace.” (From Sacred Space: The Prayer Book 2013)
“Watch Out! Don’t let your hearts be dulled by the worries of this life. Don’t let that day catch you unaware. Keep alert at all times—and pray that you might be strong enough to escape these coming horrors and stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21)
Jesus makes an important point with his teaching from Luke 21, the day of redemption draws near. Surely ass he has promised, he will come with all power and glory…again. We should live as people waiting for what is sure—living alert and living wisely—living as if each minute matters. Waiting…watching…hoping in and for his return.
“Show me the right path, O LORD;
All day long I put my hope in you.” Ps. 25:4-5
Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility: that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer)
Promises – Promises
I’ve had Psalm 119:50 pinned with a post-it note to the screen of my laptop computer for a couple of weeks now. I haven’t wanted to take it down as I continue to receive “comfort” and fresh insight from it.
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.” Psalm 119:50 NRSV
What are the promises that give me comfort? Well, there are many, to be sure, but in particular, there are two specific promises that have become my anchor. There is one promise that I call the promise of eternity past and another I refer to as the promise of eternity future; eternal promises that give me life today…on this side of eternity, while we wait.
The First Promise
The first promise or what I refer to as a promise is the world as God originally created it. This is the world of Eden as depicted in the early chapters of Genesis (Genesis 1:26-31). This is the world before sin entered. Regardless of whether you accept these passages as literal or metaphorical, the intent of the story is clear; this is a world and humanity that is created in the image of God and in its present state is perfect and able to share complete fellowship with its Creator. I suppose the “state of something” is not technically a promise, but it occurs to me that to know this was God’s intent for His creation is to also accept this as a plan or destiny for all His people, “Be fruitful and multiply…fill the earth…” (Genesis 1:28). The first promise is God’s intention of peace, perfection, and eternal fellowship with the Holy “Us” (Genesis 1:26).
The Second Promise
Promise number two is found in Revelation 21:1-22:7. Again, this is more a state of being than it is a contractual promise. In this account, we are taught that the fulfillment of all things has taken place and a new heaven and new earth have been ordered. “The home of God is now among His people; death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (Rev. 21:4). This is something the Lord promises will happen; He says, “These words are trustworthy and true…” (Rev. 22:6).
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.”
If these “promises” are my comfort, what is my distress?
My distresses are often petty things like unmet expectations, self-imposed religious rules, and judgmental performance metrics for me and for others who “aren’t like me.” My distresses are sometimes significant and serious things like wondering how to pay a doctor bill when there’s no insurance, trying to figure a way to get a child home for the holidays from college when there’s no money in the bank, and the ever constant battles involved with “denying self” daily. Then there are the tragic distresses that rage daily, broken relationships, sickness, death…deceit, the oppression of people and children, poverty, famine, and war. It can be, and often is, so tiring and overwhelming.
We’re hopeful people though, we Christians. We wake up and try hard to do the right things with expectations that things will get better, but sometimes they don’t. We raise our children in the church with the hopes they will follow the way of Jesus on their own someday… some kids do, while others do not. We hope by “right living” and honoring God that it will go well with us; meaning, we will live prosperous, healthy, and meaningful lives—sometimes this is true for people and other times it is not.
We tell ourselves and try to believe that God is with us. Somewhere deep within, our soul we say, bears a witness that God is with us… “we know that we know that we know” or something like that. When we read or hear God’s Word, there is a resonance that it is True, but God is invisible…except for the tangible things He has provided (air, gravity, water…etc.). Faith is tough and can be the source of distress sometime. Jesus said it was better for Him to leave us, so the Holy Spirit would come to indwell each and every believer. I believe this is true. I believe God indwells me. I believe God directs me, guides me, comforts me, and “speaks” to me. But all of this can be a source of distress to me at times.
I have been created in the form of flesh. I have multiple senses; touch, taste, sight, smell, hearing… God created and God given. So many times though we speak of God in esoteric terms and we act as though Invisible God is the normal way for Christian believers to interact with God and speak of Him. We end up living our lives in some weirded-out metaphor. I think speaking honestly about our state of present being is better than trying to deceive ourselves into believing otherwise. I realize my words sound depressing, but really they are not.
My distresses are real, but so are my joys and so is my hope. My hope and my joy are found in the promises I mentioned earlier where the promise of eternity past and the promise of eternity future are reconciled and joined. In the middle of this time… between the bookends of these promises, I learn to live with an attitude of holy indifference knowing that God is present even if I do not see Him. God loves me even when I do not feel His hug. I learn to look for the presence of Christ in the smells, words, and actions of others; His Spirit, after all, animates them. I learn to accept the down payment of promise of eternity future in the things I can accept today. I live as a kingdom citizen today while I wait for the kingdom of tomorrow. When I grow weary I remember the way things were and the way things will be.
“This is my comfort in my distress, that your promise gives me life.”
Maranatha, Come Lord Jesus, Come.
Book Review: Psalms – The Prayer Book of the Bible
Author: Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Publisher: Augsburg Fortress ISBN: 9780806614397
“God’s speech in Jesus Christ meets us in the Holy Scriptures. If we wish to pray with confidence and gladness, then the words of Holy Scripture will have to be the solid basis of our prayer. For here we know that Jesus Christ, the Word of God, teach us to pray. The words which come from God become, then, the steps on which we find our way to God.” And, claims Bonhoeffer, there is no better place to find these steps than in the Prayer Book of the Bible, the Psalms.
This is a tiny book, seriously. It’s like a dwarf star in content though. There is much “bang for the buck” where it involves depth of teaching about the Prayer Book of the Bible. The first few chapters, Bonhoeffer lays out the design and form of the Psalms. He shares this thought regarding our learning to pray with these songs, hymns, and prayers:
“If we want to read and to pray the prayers of the Bible and especially the Psalms, therefore, we must not ask first what they have to do with us, but what they have to do with Jesus Christ.”
This thought might be a bit controversial or even contrary to the individualistic approach that most modernistic Westerners come to the Bible and its interpretation. Bonhoeffer goes on, adding to his thought above:
“It does not depend, therefore, on whether the Psalms express adequately that which we feel at a given moment in our heart. If we are to pray aright, perhaps it is quite necessary that we pray contrary to our own heart. Not what we want to pray is important, but what God wants us to pray.”
The next eleven short chapters are spent detailing and classifying the types of prayers included in the Psalms. Bonhoeffer arranges these prayers according to the subjects dealt with in the following manner: the creation; the law; holy history; the Messiah; the church; life; suffering; guilt; enemies; and the end. Bonhoeffer states that, “It would not be difficult to arrange these subjects according the Lord’s Prayer and show how the Psalter is totally absorbed in the prayer of Jesus.”
The final two chapters, Bonhoeffer uses strong words of encouragement to motivate his reader to begin praying the Psalms always and regularly beginning in the morning at the first order of the day. He writes; “The entire day receives order and discipline when it acquires unity. This unity must be sought and found in morning prayer. It is confirmed in work. The morning prayer determines the day. Squandered time of which we are ashamed, temptations to which we succumb, weaknesses and lack of courage in work, disorganization and lack of discipline in our thoughts and in our conversation with other men, all have their origin most often in the neglect of morning prayer.”
For those who are not familiar with the person Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there is a short biographical sketch of his life at the end of this book. This is a wonderful insight into the value of the Psalms as well as a view into the value this great theologian placed upon them as a prayer lifestyle. Psalms: the Prayer Book of the Bible is a small, but weighty little book…immeasurably full of insight and wisdom. A must read.
The Daily Office—Ponder Points & Prayers
Exposure or Contact or Touching
I consider the woman with the issue of blood (Luke 8:43) and I think she must have set out with premeditated intent to “get close” and to “touch” Jesus. I note that in reading the account that many people may have made contact with Jesus, but these “pressers” and “bumpers” didn’t “touch” him in a meaningful way such that power was released into their lives. It is so sad that this phenomenon is still active today—many people are exposed to Jesus, encountering him through bumping and pressing into him—still not being intentional and deliberate enough to touch him and have his power released into their lives. What’s the point in that? I’m so thankful that Jesus drew me close enough to Himself that I was able to reach out and touch him with intention… He stopped the hemorrhaging of my life from slipping away to nothingness and filled me with the gift of Himself. Yes, power went out from Him and came into me! Praise God for the indwelling Spirit of the Living God, the Resurrected King, Jesus!
Reading the opening lines from the Book of Jonah:
The LORD gave this message to Jonah; “Get up and go…” But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the LORD. -Jonah 1:1-4
I say to myself with my head in my hands; “O God, how often have I been Jonah…?”
Lord Jesus, take my mind and think through me, take my hands and bless through me, take my mouth and speak through me, above all, Lord Jesus, take my spirit and pray in me; so that it is you who move and have your being in me. (Book of the Hours) O LORD, hear me as I pray; pay attention to my groaning. Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God for I pray to no one but you. Listen to my voice in the morning, LORD. Each morning I bring my requests to you and wait expectantly. LORD, make your way plain for me to follow. (Psalm 5:1-3, 8) I will look to the LORD, I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. (Micah 7:7) Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.
“They Despised the Pleasant Land” (Psalm 106:24)
“Yet he saved them for his Name’s sake… He saved them from the hand of the foe… Then they believed his words; they sang his praise, but they soon forgot his works; and they did not wait for his counsel. They had a wanton craving… He gave them what they asked, but sent a wasting disease among them. Then they despised the pleasant land, for they wouldn’t believe his promise to care for them. Instead, they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord.” Ps. 106:8-15, 24-25
My goodness! There is a lot here to chew on.
Talk about making yourself vulnerable… Here our omniscient, all-knowing God determines to reveal himself in power, in presence, and in deed to a people who will receive him, and worship him, adore him and reject him, praise him…and forget him. He knows this, but he draws near anyway. He makes promises and delivers on them for his own Name’s sake. He makes covenant with himself because he knows the people he wishes to covenant with won’t keep the promise. Who are these forgetful and tasteless people? Let’s point a finger. Let us also be sure we are in front of the mirror before we point; however, because we are those people.
The people the psalmist reminds us of are the Hebrew people making their exodus from Egypt. Here they escape the oppression and bondage of many generations of slavery. Their God had promised their ancestor, Abraham, possession of a beautiful land and prosperous community—the object of their dreams for centuries—here it was before them.
As beautiful as some dreams may be, most of them are only realized through a cost that is sometimes proportional to the dream itself (ie., the bigger the dream, the bigger the cost). I’m not saying this is some divine law, but it seems to be a somewhat common experience. In this case and particularly in the case of those who profess the way of Judeo-Christian faith, there are some additional dynamics to consider.
Most Christians confess that God is omnipotent, sovereign, good, omniscient, and loving. In the case of the Hebrew people, God had shared a plan that he had expressed to Abraham (the patriarch of the Hebrew people) that was good. We believe God knew every detail of his plan and was in the very details himself. Most Christians believe that God even knew how people would respond at each point of the unfolding of his plan. God had promised Abraham his progeny would be blessed; he had promised an inheritance to Abraham’s offspring that would include land, prosperity, and much more. The cost of this blessed inheritance would be patience, trust, and faith in all the confessed attributes and promises of the God who was a friend of father Abraham. The point to remember here is this; God is good and promised good and although the specifics and the path to the “goodness” might be costly and difficult, in the end, all would be good according to the character and Name’s sake of God.
Repeatedly the Hebrew people complained and distrusted God. They were even willing and eager to return to slavery under the Egyptians. Ultimately, they not only rejected the Promised Land God had delivered them to, and it to them, they outright refused to obey the commands of God; “they grumbled in their tents and refused to obey the Lord.“
The irony of this situation is found in our ability to identify the fault of the Hebrew people without seeing the parallel and similarities in our personal journeys and exodus delivery with God.
I do not think I stand alone when I consider the times that I have refused to wait upon the LORD and moved ahead with my own plans and agenda when God was not moving fast enough for me. I suppose had I been in the company of Hebrew people leaving Egypt, I might have been content to wander and find my own land to settle in or maybe I would have ran back to Egypt like many were suggesting. I know when times have been tough (work, family, relationships, economy, etc.), I have often been quick to blame and complain about leadership—not trusting God with a plan, not being patient and developing a mature faith—not very different than the Hebrew people I’ve criticized as being weak.
I know there have been countless times when I have cried out to God with “wanton” cravings, impatient and dissatisfied with what He has provided me. I wonder; how many times did God give to me what I asked for and a wasting disease creeped into my life with my “answered prayer.”
I do not want to reflect or consider that I stood before a “promised land” in my life and looked upon it with disdain refusing to walk into it. It may have been an opportunity of some sort, a change in life direction, a career change, new relationships, or any other myriad circumstance… but I was hardheaded and hard-hearted. I saw the prospect before me as difficult…filled with warrior giants… I didn’t want to work for the promises much less trust a God who made me wait without clarity—a God who gave me what was good for me and not what I wanted. How many times did I turn around from the beautiful promises of God, stumble back into my tent to grumble and complain against Him?
The saddest thing of all in this reflection is realizing the countless times I may have done this without even realizing it. This thought terrifies me. I never want to miss another direction or opportunity to know God more. I’m thankful for the presence of God in my life now who teaches me to hear his voice and learn his gentle guiding ways. I am prayerfully hopeful that I will not be one who ever “despises the pleasant land again.” By His grace, I pray this.
My prayer today from the prayer book of the Irish Jesuits:
In the silence of my innermost being, in the fragments of my yearned-for wholeness, can I hear the whispers of God’s presence? Can I remember when I felt God’s nearness?—when we walked together and I let myself be embraced by God’s love. I ask for grace to let go of my own concerns and be open to what God is asking of me, to let myself be guided and formed by my loving Creator. I exist in a web of relationships—links to nature, people, God. I trace out these links, giving thanks for the life that flows through them. Some links are twisted or broken: I may feel regret, anger, and disappointment. I pray for the gift of acceptance and forgiveness. Remembering that I am in God’s presence, I imagine Jesus standing or sitting by me, I turn to him and I ask his forgiveness for the times I have despised him in my ignorance or in my awareness. I ask for his assistance to help me become the person he desires me to be. I ask him to help me learn what it means to be in relationship with him that is whole and eternally life giving. I praise him and I thank him for the wonderful gift he is to me.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, Ass it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, World without end. Amen.
Earlier this week Laurie and I were reading Scripture together and one of our readings came from Psalm 78:1-39. There were several verses that kick-started some thoughts that follow.
“Give ear, O my people, to my teaching; incline your ears to the word of my mouth.” (Psalm 78:1)
“Set your hope on God; do not forget his mighty works.” (Psalm 78:7)
As followers of Christ, we cannot afford to have “spirits that are not faithful to God” or “hearts that are not steadfast.” The psalmist writes about the spiritual attitudes of the Hebrew people…it seems we may not have learned or changed much during the past few thousand years.
“They sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food that they craved…” (Psalm 78:17-18)
“…They had no faith in God, and did not trust his saving power.” (Psalm 78:22)
“He gave them what they craved… While the food was still in their mouths, he killed the strongest of them.” (Psalm 78:29-31)
In the Bible, the desert often serves as the place of testing and trial. The account mentioned in the Psalms is both literal and metaphorical in its application; it is literal with the historical account of the Hebrew people and it is metaphorical in how it applies to us. It seems this chronicle could have been written about almost any generation of people, ours included. The saying goes; “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” I don’t think my experience is unique; the human nature has an unrelenting tendency to want what it wants and damned be anything that gets in the way of that…
and that includes God much of the time.
Arthur Boers writes the following:
“When we put our own particular priorities at the center of everything, it becomes harder and harder to acknowledge God or any factor that might be beyond our control and prediction… We think of idolatry as bizarre practices involving fire and sacrifices, gaudy statues, and frenzied dancing, but the concept is still relevant because it involves, among other things, attributing too much importance to the wrong priorities. Idolatry can mean thinking something is more valuable or powerful or fearful than it truly is.” -Arthur Boers, Living Into Focus; pp.88-89
“Their heart was not steadfast toward him… their spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:8)
How can our hearts be steadfast for God when they are more steadfast for us and our personal interests? I get this; it was my problem for much of the first four decades of my life. I wanted to have the blessing and promises of God in and upon my life, but I wanted them according to my terms and my timing. All this, of course, dictated by a heart that was steadfast for itself. Yeah. How about that?
I don’t think I stand alone and I don’t think I stand in small company either. I have found that almost anyone can be steadfast in their love and obedience to God in a season of good and plenty, but bring on a season of “desert wilderness” and watch the lips and feet start to drag. It seems the wilderness seasons of our lives are our proving grounds…not to God, but to ourselves. The desert proves our weakness, by either breaking us from what we are or by building us to what we are supposed to become. In either event, we will hold on to our own hearts or we will learn to release our hearts entirely to God.
The wilderness reveals our idolatry and the things we truly value…and in whom we place our trust. Do we trust God or will we reveal that it is ourselves whom we really trust after all? This is what the desert wilderness proves. Can we wait until God brings water from a stone or will we dig our own well? Will we be content to eat the food of angels or will we demand the things that we crave? The lives we presently live are not much different from the examples shared with us from Scripture; there are precious few people who have learned to truly wait upon the Lord and place all their trust in Him. So many times, I have heard people expressing their frustrations and anger at God because “things didn’t turn out like they expected.” I wonder where these thoughts come from. I cannot speak to the thoughts or heart of others, but when I used to feel this way, it was because of my own self-idolatry. Then I learned about the path of Jesus, who said; “Whoever does not deny himself, carry the cross, and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:25-27). And, “Very truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me” (John 12:24-25).
These are hard words. These are desert wilderness words that will prove how steadfast our hearts are for Jesus. Our reality boils down to this; how much do we embrace the single greatest command of God given to us? When asked, Jesus said the most important thing for any human being was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:28-30). We give the most minimal of lip service to this most important command, dancing around it most of the time, hoping that it isn’t something we really have to talk about. Many people whom I’ve spoken with about this commandment seem to think it is impossible to love God to the degree in which he commands us. I find this interesting, because failure to believe the veracity of this commandment of God is failure to believe and trust the God who issues the command. What does that tell us about our faith? I think what it says is this; “The command to love God with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength is impossible as long as I love me with all my heart, all my soul, all my mind, and all my strength.” This is our struggle. It is the original struggle from as early as the Genesis account of Adam and Eve. They doubted God’s goodness. They trusted their own devices and thinking over the instructions of God. They cut the trail we have continued to follow… as the psalmist writes; “They sinned still more against him, rebelling against the Most High in the desert. They tested God in their heart by demanding the food that they craved…” (Psalm 78:17-18) “…They had no faith in God, and did not trust his saving power.” (Psalm 78:22) “He gave them what they craved… (Psalm 78:29). “Their heart was not steadfast toward him… their spirit was not faithful to God.” (Psalm 78:8).
Isn’t it time we broke the cycle? I want my heart to be ever steadfast for my God, a faithful and obedient lover of Jesus.
Book Review: Psalms for All Seasons
Publisher: Brazos Press ISBN: 9781587433160
Brazos Press calls the Psalms for All Seasons the most comprehensive Psalms worship resource available. I will say, after having spent some time getting to know this resource that I concur in a very big way. I don’t think comprehensive does the work justice though. The diversity of psalmody is incredibly broad and rich, both historically and demographically. I was surprised by amount of formats offered to the reader-practitioner for engaging with these ancient prayers and songs… almost to the point of being overwhelmed. This, in a good way, of course.
I own a number of sources that have helped me to worship along with the Psalms and to understand them from an academic perspective as well. I have used commentaries, various prayer books, as well as a host of other complementary books and guides to assist my personal worship and my corporate worship. This Psalter will bind them together and make them more than the sum of their respective parts.
I think Psalms for All Seasons will provide me a lifetime of plumbing the depths and riches of God’s Word through praise, prayer, hymn, and song. This is a monumental work academically, artistically, and liturgically. It will appeal equally to the expert and the novice, the congregation or the individual, and the traditionalist or the contemporary worshiper. This is sure to become one of the definitive resources for leading congregations in responsorial worship and liturgical prayer.
From the publisher’s website:
Psalms for All Seasons includes all 150 psalms, most in multiple formats. For each psalm, this volume includes:
- The complete New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) text of the psalm, presented with alternating regular and boldfaced type for responsive readings and red markings that enable the chanting of the psalm.
- A Christian prayer that responds to a theme, imagery, or basic intent of the psalm.
- A brief footnote which identifies the psalm’s genre or type, highlights significant features of its form or imagery, and suggests a range of uses in Christian worship.
- One or more settings of the psalm, most of which are musical settings for congregational use.
This range of material means that the book is well-suited to a variety of uses:
- Corporate worship—to be placed in the hands of worship leaders, choirs, and, ideally, all worshipers.
- Daily prayer at morning, noon, evening, and/or night.
- Personal and family devotion.
- A resource for bible study.
- For preachers, as a commentary on the book of Psalms.
- To inspire composers in a wide range of cultures and traditions to imagine new, vital, and faithful ways of rendering psalms.
[23APRIL2012] Eastertide Devotional Series
I will be posting this devotional series as part of my Eastertide reflections for the next three weeks (see this link for other installments in the series). Each week of this devotional series focuses on a specific theme (week one: brokenness, week two: repentance, and week three: renewal). I hope you’ll enjoy the series and I invite you to comment here on the blog or email me direct; I would love to hear your thoughts.
Scripture Reading: Psalm 51:5-13
“We must imitate Christ’s life and his ways if we are to be truly enlightened and set free from the darkness of our own hearts. Let it be the most important thing we do, then, to reflect on the life of Jesus Christ” -Thomas `a Kempis
Psalm 51: 5 I was born a sinner—yes, from the moment my mother conceived me. 6 But you desire honesty from the womb, teaching me wisdom even there. 7 Purify me from my sins, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow. 8 Oh, give me back my joy again; you have broken me—now let me rejoice. 9 Don’t keep looking at my sins. Remove the stain of my guilt. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God. Renew a loyal spirit within me. 11 Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. 13 Then I will teach your ways to rebels, and they will return to you
The past two weeks have been exercises in exploring and recognizing our brokenness and our need for repentance (realizing our need for change; turning around from our wrong, self-guided direction, and moving always and progressively on a path with God, and continually closer, toward God).
Spiritual renewal without the prerequisite acknowledgment of one’s brokenness and accompanying action of repentance is futile and impossible. A person might begin the outward expressions and disciplines for renewal, but without the aiding guidance of the indwelling Holy Spirit of God leading the way, those efforts will result in frustration, deception, and ultimately be disastrous.
Illustrated in the prayer of David (Psalm 51) we witness the broken and contrite heart of a man who understands his condition. David despairs over his emptiness of soul as he realizes he stands defiled and guilty before God. He cries out to God for restoration renewal, knowing that God alone is his source for salvation, purpose, and eternal fulfillment. We share the same plight and are in the same need of renewal. Our prayer and our plea should echo similarly as David’s prayer; “Do not banish me from your presence, and don’t take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and make me willing to obey you. Then I will teach your ways to those who rebel against you and do not know you…and they will return to you.”
Have you realized areas of your life that have “cooled” in their fervor for God? During the past couple weeks, have you sensed apathy, complacency, or indifference toward your own spirituality? Has your heart ever burned passionately for God? Does it still? Do you want to be “on fire” for God. Do you need renewal?
Our Prayer: Lord God, today I recognize my brokenness. I do not want to make excuses for the areas I have fallen short or failed. I want to be responsible and accountable for my actions and my lack of action. Therefore, today I profess my sin and my weakness as my own. And I make the prayer of David my own as well… (read the passages above from Psalm 51:5-13 and make them your own words and prayer).
[30MAR2012] Lent 2012: Day 38—Reflection and Meditation
“See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and lifted up, and shall be very high… Just as there were many who were astonished at him—so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of mortals—so he shall startle many nations; king shall shut their mouths because of him.”
John 10 34 Jesus replied, ”It is written in your own Scriptures that God said to certain leaders of the people, ‘I say, you are gods!’ 35 And you know that the Scriptures cannot be altered. So if those people who received God’s message were called ‘gods,’ 36 why do you call it blasphemy when I say, ‘I am the Son of God’? After all, the Father set me apart and sent me into the world.”
God said, “I say you are gods!” Amazing, but true…we are children of the Living Eternal God. He has given us everything we need to live a life as He (Jesus) has lived. Shouldn’t we live according to the measure for which we have been created? If we live less than we are capable, are we not disgracing the God who has created us and redeemed us? He says I am His child. I too was created to do good works that reflect His glory (Ephesians 2:10). There was a time I was lost and incapable walking as Jesus walked, but He says, “no more!” I am redeemed, reconciled, and seated with Him…filled with His Spirit for His Glory and for His Good. May my God’s Kingdom reign for ever! Even so, Come Lord Jesus!
Almighty, eternal, just, and merciful God, grant us… to be inwardly cleansed, interiorly enlightened and inflamed by the fire of the Holy Spirit… able to follow in the footprints of your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. (Prayer of St. Francis)
And after we have suffered for a little while the God of all grace, who has called us to eternal glory in Christ, will restore, support, strengthen and establish us. Therefore, let us pray as Jesus taught us: Our Father, who is in heaven, holy is Your Name. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one; for Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory for ever and ever. Amen.