This was part of my morning readings. A good reminder to start the day and to start off a busy week full of who knows what.
Psalm 36: 5 to 10
Your unfailing love, O LORD, is as vast as the heavens;
your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your justice like the ocean depths.
You care for people and animals alike, O LORD.
How precious is your unfailing love, O God!
All humanity finds shelter
in the shadow of your wings.
You feed them from the abundance of your own house,
letting them drink from your rivers of delight.
For you are the fountain of life,
the light by which we see.
Pour out your unfailing love on those who love you;
give justice to those with honest hearts.
1 The heavens tell of the glory of God.
The skies display his marvelous craftsmanship.
Day after day they continue to speak;
night after night they make him known.
They speak without a sound or a word;
their voice is silent in the skies;
4 yet their message has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to all the world.
The sun lives in the heavens
where God placed it.
It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom
after his wedding.
It rejoices like a great athlete
eager to run the race.
The sun rises at one end of the heavens
and follows its course to the other end.
Nothing can hide from its heat.
The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The decrees of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.
The commandments of the LORD are right,
bringing joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are clear,
giving insight to life.
Reverence for the LORD is pure,
The laws of the LORD are true;
each one is fair.
They are more desirable than gold,
even the finest gold.
They are sweeter than honey,
even honey dripping from the comb.
They are a warning to those who hear them;
there is great reward for those who obey them.
How can I know all the sins lurking in my heart?
Cleanse me from these hidden faults.
Keep me from deliberate sins!
Don’t let them control me.
Then I will be free of guilt
and innocent of great sin.
May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart
be pleasing to you,
O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.
This Psalm was part of my daily readings for yesterday. And the day fit the psalm.
As I have been thinking about it, I can picture David on a day as he describes in the psalm, maybe with the hot sun in the sky, sitting somewhere contemplating God in the midst of the nature all around him. Sort of like I was doing while I was out walking yesterday. God’s majesty is easy to see in nature some days.
Then I think David is brought back to his relationship with the Creator, his God. The God that knows him and what he is really like, and David knows he needs to constantly seek forgiveness and he needs God’s presence to keep him from his sins – both the unwilled and the willed ones – just like we do.
My reading of Matthew has brought me to chapter 23. The whole chapter is about the Pharisees and how and why not to be like them. Jesus exposes their religiosity for what it is – a meaningless show.
It is easy to read this putting it into it’s historical perspective and criticize them.
“So practice and obey whatever they say to you, butdon’t follow their example. For they don’t practice what they teach. They crush you with impossible religious demands and never lift a finger to help ease the burden.” Matthew 23: 3 and 4
“You look like upright people outwardly, but inside your hearts are filled with hypocrisy and lawlessness.” verse 28
“How terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. Hypocrites! For you won’t let others enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and you won’t go in yourselves. Yes, how terrible it will be for you teachers of religious law and you Pharisees. For you cross land and sea to make one convert, and then you turn him into twice the son of hell as you yourselves are.” verses 13 to 15
But did the Pharisees have a bigger problem with this than we as “conservative” evangelical Christians do now? Are we – wanting to appear so correctly religious – todays Pharisees? Are we crushing people with our religious demands and also being crushed by them ourselves (but not admitting it) as we find ourselves unable to live by what we teach? Are we just nice looking empty shells as we sit politely in our pews on Sunday when on the inside we are filled with stuff we cannot be proud of? Are we trying to turn the people of the other cultures we encounter into carbon copies of ourselves? Are we directing others to Christ or to our own preconceived (mostly western/european middle class) notions of what a Christian should be like?
I do not want to be a Pharisee. I do not want to be holding up a flawed church organization with all it’s built in expectations and unwritten rules as the ideal I point people to. We need to allow newcomers to this company of faith become new Christians not new Pharisees.
Free me from all my own misconceptions of what you are. Become the centre of my turbulant world – the lifechanging God that you are. Give me the grace to become more like you – to become more of a mirror where others will see your reflection. Help me to keep the mirror free from the fog of cultural expectations so that no matter who looks in it, they will see more of you and less of me. Keep reminding me of this when I tend to fog up the mirror. And don’t let me rest from this quest even if it stretches me beyond my comfort level. Keep me in it to the end – please God.
I have been dialoging with Leighton on his The Cost of Community. Then this morning my reading was this: Matthew 13: 24 to 30.
Here is another story Jesus told: “The kingdom of Heaven is like a farmer who planted good seed in his field. But that night as everyone slept, his enemy came and planted weeds among the wheat. When the crop began to grow and produce grain, the weeds also grew. The farmers servants came and told him,’Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds!’
” ‘An enemy has done it!’ the farmer exclaimed.
” ‘ Shall we pull out the weeds?’ they asked.
“He replied, ‘No, you’ll hurt the wheat if you do. Let both grow together until the harvest. Then I will tell the harvesters to sort out the weeds and burn them and to put the wheat in the barn.’ “
Healing and Wisdom
These seem to be the themes from my morning readings. Matthew 9 describes a whole chain of similar events – healings – both physical, spiritual and emotional. They all seem to point to Jesus meeting the deepest need of the person he addresses.
The paralyzed man needed forgiveness.
Matthew needed acceptance.
The woman with the hemorrhage needed encouragement.
They needed physical healing as well but got more than that.
I’ve recently started reading though Proverbs as well. The wisdom of this book is sort of scary. Proverbs 1: 20-33 tells how if wisdom is rejected she will laugh at you in times of trouble.
“They rejected my advice (wisdom) and paid no attention when I corrected them. That is why they must eat the bitter fruit of living their own way. They must experience the full terror of the path they have chosen.”
Am I ever glad Jesus is compassionate enough to forgive and rescue us from the results of our own stupidity.
Today my devotional reading included Getting out of the Faith Ghetto by Dan Buck. It’s in a little book called Deeper Walk by Relevant
“Trying to be spiritual away from the rest of life is like trying to eat without any food or like trying to be a really good driver without ever going down the road. We get in and study the steering wheel and gauges, then we get out of the car and start walking down the road. It’s in everyday life that our spirituality can be exercised.”
My day, my week at work and at home is about to begin. There’s going to be lots of everyday life this week for me to exercise my spirituality. I know that without God in me I will not make it through the week intact – and chances are the people around me will be the ones to suffer if I don’t. So God – live in me and through me and please don’t let me make too many mistakes this week!
One of the passages I read lately was from Matthew 8: 1 to 4. In this story, Jesus is dealing with a man who comes to him to be healed of his leprosy. He asks and Jesus says “I want to.” “Be healed”.
I come to Jesus bringing my acts of stupidity and ignorance and anger and say “Jesus please take these and make me clean again.” And he says “I want to…Be healed” And then instead of acting like I have been made clean and doing the necessary stuff to verify this act of God, I hang onto my problems. I do not say I am sorry, I keep repeating the same ignorant or angry acts. I hesitate to leave his presence looking like a healed person, acting like a changed person.
I forget to keep my eyes on Jesus and instead look inside myself. I lose sight of where he wants me to go.
I need to learn to let things go and move on in him. After all he has done, after all the examples of his forgiveness and healing, it is still hard to let him have the stuff he wants to take away.
One of my weakest areas is just accepting this and moving on. I tend to go over and over my mistakes. I may have no one to even apologize to. My stupidity begins to consume my introverted, introspective mind and become more important than it should be. I just need to take up my life, leave my foolish mistakes in his hands and move on to where he wants me to go next.
Help me to actually follow my own advice God!