Oxymorons

James 1

James 1 9 (1)

I am a dad and as such enjoy the occasional (or perhaps not so occasional) dad joke. I also like to see the look on someone’s face as they decipher the unexpected oxymoron. Some of these are so common that we don’t even realize when we say them. Others take a moment to realize what has been said.

Here are some examples:

  • Act naturally – Is it really natural if it is an act, or is it natural to act, or … WHAT?
  • Random order – Which is it random or in order?
  • Original copy – By definition if it is a copy it cannot be the original.
  • Only Choice – If it is the only one it is not a choice.
  • Jumbo Shrimp – Enough said

I am clearly confused by all of these oxymorons.

James, although known to be quite practical in his writing starts out using a couple of oxymorons.

The first he uses is in the second verse, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials.” I am usually not saying, “Thank you for this traffic jam” or, “I am so glad I just stubbed my toe.” James is not saying that we will or should enjoy pain or difficulties. He is saying that as our faith is tested it becomes stronger, just like we do when we go to the gym.

Next he writes of Humble Pride. James 1:9-10 says,

9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away.

How can one in humble circumstances glory in his high position? The trick is we are not boasting or glorifying ourselves, but we are glorifying our God. Jesus tells us in Luke 10:42-45 that the one who wishes to become great must become least. As we serve others, we show that we are not focused on the desires of our flesh but instead we are caring for others. This shows true humility. After telling us that we are to be doing the word of God and not just hearing it James ends this chapter by telling us that pure and undefiled religion is to serve widows and orphans while keeping yourself unstained.

Sometimes when you do the right thing it may just confuse someone enough to cause them to ask why you did it. Let’s live in a way that inspires others to seek God and His Kingdom!

-Bill Dunn

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Are You Eagerly Waiting?

Hebrews 9

Hebrews 9 15

I asked you a question yesterday as we considered some passages in Hebrew 8.  That question was for you to decide what kind of heart you have.  The reason that is important is because the kind of heart that you have determines what other people see in you.  Do they see a person who loves God?  Do they see a person with a heart for serving Jesus and others?  Do people see a person who trusts God no matter what might happen in your life?  Or, are you like the Israelites?  Do people see a person overcome by sin?  A person impatient with God, who wants things right now?  Do they see a person who is willing to give up everything for all the wrong reasons?  What we learned was that God’s laws and commandments don’t change us unless we allow God to write them in our minds and write them on our hearts.

But allowing God to write on our hearts and in our minds is not easy.  Taking out our old heart of stone and replacing it with one of flesh, required a blood sacrifice.  It always had, but now we know that no more blood is required.  In the past the blood of goats and calves was used to obtain purification and forgiveness for people.  But this ritual had to be repeated regularly and often.  That is, until Christ.  Christ was the perfect sacrifice; He was the only sacrifice without blemish.  His sacrifice was able to totally purify our conscience (minds and hearts) from dead works in order to serve the living God!

Because of Christ’s once and for all sacrifice, He was able to enter heaven itself in the presence of God Himself.  There, Christ, our high priest, continually intercedes on our behalf, to put away our sin.

End of story.  Right?

No.  Not the end of the story.  There is much more good news for us.

Take your Bible out.  Take your pen or highlighter and mark this verse: “So Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with (your) sin, but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”  (Hebrews 9:28)

Today’s question:  Are you eagerly waiting for Him?

Luke Elwell

 

Agents of Hope

Psalm 37 37

Happy Saturday!  Some of you have been walking with me on this slow and steady journey through Psalm 37.

We started reading and chewing on and praying and resting with God in these verses on Sunday.  Hopefully you have found times when you were able to delight in God.

Today we come to the final portion of this magnificent Psalm.

Once again, let us read it Lectio Divina Style: Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.

1.  Read through verses 35-40 slowly, at least 3 times.

35 I have seen a wicked and ruthless man

flourishing like a luxuriant native tree,

36 but he soon passed away and was no more;

though I looked for him, he could not be found.

37 Consider the blameless, observe the upright;

a future awaits those who seek peace.

38 But all sinners will be destroyed;

there will be no future for the wicked.

39 The salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

40 The Lord helps them and delivers them;

he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,

because they take refuge in him.

2.  Meditate.  Choose a word or phrase and spend some time thinking deeply about what it says and what it means.

For me, two contrasting phrases stand out and speak loudest to me.  “A future awaits those who seek peace” and “there will be no future for the wicked.”

I have spent a considerable amount of time in recent months studying the phenomena of despair and the state of depression.  Life expectancy in the United States has declined for three consecutive years.  More younger people are dying from what has been labeled “deaths of despair.”  These are deaths that result from drug addiction, alcohol related deaths and suicide.  The rate of deaths of despair is massively increasing.  Despair can kill a person.

In the story, The Inferno, Dante has the gates of hell have a sign over it that says “abandon hope all ye who enter.”  Dante wasn’t really talking about an afterlife here, but more likely a state of being.  Hell is where people find themselves when they are living without hope.  The absence of hope is despair.  When a person lives without a meaningful hope for the future it is soul destroying.  As I see it, as followers of Jesus Christ we are called to be agents of hope who are called to share that hope with a world of people who are in despair.

In a world in despair and hopelessness we bring with us a message of hope and with that, the opportunity to bring people into a state of shalom or peace.  People need not live in alienation from God, from others or from themselves.  People can be reconciled to God, to others and selves.  They can be made whole.  They can experience salvation/wholeness from God which results in healing and hope.  The Psalmist rightly says “the salvation of the righteous comes from the Lord.”  Only God can save us, heal us, make us whole and bring an end to our existential despair.

God, I want to continue to be one who lives life with a hopeful future.  I want to be one who seeks peace/shalom.  Jesus was probably thinking about this Psalm when he spoke in his Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the children of God” (See Matthew 5:9).

3.  Pray.  Whatever your meditation brings up, bring that to God in prayer.  For me I pray- “God, am I living as a peacemaker?  Am I acting as an agent of your shalom/healing/wholeness/salvation in this world.  Am I living life out of the deep well of hope?  In what ways do you still want me to seek peace in my home, in my church, in my workplace, in my neighborhood and community, in my country and in this world?

4.  Rest in God.  Living as a peacemaker and an agent of hope in this divided and despair filled world can be spiritually and emotionally (as well as physically) exhausting at times.  We need to draw our strength from the deep well of God’s love and mercy.  As you prepare for whatever the day may bring you as you prepare to be a peacemaker, spend a few moments resting in God’s love.

This concludes our slow and deep reading of Psalm 37.  We have divided the 40 verse Psalm into 7 smaller sections and, within each section we have read, meditated, prayed and rested in God.  I hope that you have come to appreciate how this form of reading and praying the Bible can deeply enrich your spiritual life as you seek to serve God.  I encourage you to practice Lectio Divina prayer/scripture reading on a regular basis and note how it helps strengthen your life of prayer with God.

Pastor Jeff Fletcher

[Insert Your Name] Here

Psalm 37 31.png

We continue this intentionally slow journey through Psalm 37.  I use the word “intentionally” intentionally (see what I did there?)  Why intentionally slow?

            Maybe it is just my own personal preference.  Most of the time I’m more of a plodder.  I tell people “if you ever see me running, you should run too ‘cause something really bad must be about to happen and I’m trying to get away.”  When I walk with my wife I’m forever telling her to “slow down!” She has one speed and it’s always full throttle.  Someone sent me an article one time that said science has proven that people who walk faster usually live longer than people who walk slower.  If that’s the case my wife will be around for a long time.

            Walking fast may be better for your physical health, but when it comes to your spiritual health and reading the Bible, I find it pays to slow down.  Lectio Divina* forces you to slow down.  Think of it as a fancy, 5 course meal.  Don’t rush through it.  Take your time to slowly savor and enjoy each bite.

  1.  Read Psalm 37:30-34  slowly at least 3 times…

30 The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom,
and their tongues speak what is just.
31 The law of their God is in their hearts;
their feet do not slip.

32 The wicked lie in wait for the righteous,
intent on putting them to death;
33 but the Lord will not leave them in the power of the wicked
or let them be condemned when brought to trial.

34 Hope in the Lord
and keep his way.
He will exalt you to inherit the land;
when the wicked are destroyed, you will see it.

  1.  Meditate- choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time ruminating on what it says and what it means.

As an example: As I was meditating on this portion of the Psalm, I saw it on one level as a prophetic picture of Jesus.  Instead of “the righteous” I insert “Jesus”.

      The mouth of Jesus utters wisdom.

      Jesus speaks with his tongue what is just.

      The law of God is in Jesus’ heart.

      Jesus’ feet do not slip.

      The wicked lie in wait for Jesus (think of the scribes and Pharisees, and Judas).

      The wicked are intent on putting Jesus to death.

But the LORD (YWHW) will not leave Jesus in the power of the wicked (Jesus was only temporarily in the grave under the control of the wicked.  God rolled away the stone and set him free to everlasting life.)

Or let Jesus be condemned when brought to trial (Remember, Pontius Pilate said “I find no guilt in this man.” Jesus had done nothing worthy of condemnation. His death was due to the sinful hearts of others, not his own guilt.)

Jesus hoped in the LORD and kept God’s way (without sin).

He will exalt Jesus (At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess Jesus as Lord)

To inherit the land (Jesus will rule as King over all the earth).

When the wicked are destroyed Jesus will see it (In the end, Jesus rules as King, the wicked come to their final judgment).

            As I continue to meditate on how Jesus fulfills every bit of this Psalm, I’m led to think about what Jesus calls me to be and to do.  Jesus says “follow me.”  Jesus says “deny yourself, take up your cross and follow me.”  Jesus said to Peter “get behind me.”  I want to follow the path that Jesus laid out.  To be a follower or disciple (student) of Jesus means to hear his word and do what he says.  If I do that, then that which was prophetically spoken of Jesus here in Psalm 37 will also be true of me:

            “The mouth of Jeff utters wisdom”

            “Jeff speaks with his tongue what is just”

            “The Law of God is in Jeff’s heart.”

            “Jeff’s feet do not slip.”

            “The wicked lie in wait for Jeff and are intent on putting Jeff to death”

“The LORD will not leave Jeff in the power of the wicked or let Jeff be condemned when brought to trial”

“Jeff hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt Jeff to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed Jeff will see it.”

Now, it’s your turn.  Insert your name or personalize it…

The mouth of ________________ utters wisdom (or my mouth utters wisdom)

“_____________speaks with his tongue what is just”

 “The Law of God is in _______________’s heart.”

 “__________________’s  feet do not slip.”

“The wicked lie in wait for _________________ and are intent on putting _________ to death”

“The LORD will not leave _________________ in the power of the wicked or let __________ be condemned when brought to trial”

“__________ hopes in the Lord and keeps his way”

“God will exalt ____________ to inherit the land.”

“When the wicked are destroyed _________ will see it.”

See how reading slowly and savoring it opens up all kinds of new flavors?

What emerges for you as you meditate on this part of Psalm 37?

  1.  Pray- As you go through this reading, what does it stir up within you?  Thoughts? Questions?  Concerns?  Does it make you want to raise your hands and worship God?  Does it make you want to fall on your knees and confess your sin?  Does it drive you to go to Jesus and seek his mercy?  Does it make you want to follow Jesus more closely in your daily walk?  Bring those things to God in prayer.

  1.  Rest in God.  After you have brought these things to God in pray, simply enter into his rest.  Be present to God as God is present to you.

Now go follow in Jesus’ footsteps today.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

Launching Blessings

Psalm 37 23

 

My wonderful wife is a very frugal person about many things (good thing, because I’m more of a spendthrift- God knew what he was doing when he gave me her).  This is evident in the way she handles toothpaste.  She waits until every bit of toothpaste is squeezed out of that tube before she discards it and pulls out a new tube.  Sometimes, just brushing my teeth turns into a session in strength training as I try to squeeze a blop of toothpaste onto my brush before I’m allowed to throw it away and she rewards me with a fresh and easy squeezy tube.

            Lectio Divina* helps us to squeeze every drop out of the Bible.  There is some benefit to reading quickly through the Bible.  If you read about 4 chapters a day you can read through the entire Bible in a year.  My Dad used to read the Bible straight through every year using a different translation.  I’ve done that as well and there is benefit to doing that.

            About 30 years ago I really ratcheted it up and spent 2 full weeks reading the Bible 8 hours a day and writing a brief summary of each chapter as I read.  I was able to read the entire Bible Genesis to Revelation in 2 weeks.  It was a great experience and showed me the “big picture” and full scope of God’s salvation plan that anticipated the coming of his Messiah and the fulfillment of his coming and the hope of his future return and the fullness of the Kingdom of God.  Just absolutely wonderful!  But as good as that way of reading the Bible can be, I want to also commend to you Lectio Divina- slow, deep reading… squeeze every drop out of a passage of scripture.

            This week we’ve been going through Psalm 37.  Let’s squeeze the tube a bit more today and see how much is still in there.  Psalm 37:23-29

            Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.

    1. Read slowly through the passage at least 3 times.  Look for a word or phrase that speaks to you.

23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.

25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.

27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.

Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.

For me, I chose thoughts from verse 23 and 26  “the one who delights in him [God]” and “their children will be a blessing.”

  1. Spend some time meditating upon the word or phrase you choose.  For me, I recall that on Sunday I meditated on vs. 4 and what it means to delight in God.  Here the Psalmist takes up that theme again and gives a kind of cause/effect relationship.  The one who delights in God will produce children who will be a blessing.

In vs. 25 the psalmist says “I was young and now I am old…”  He has lived long enough to gain some valuable perspective as he looks back on his life.  According to my teenage children I’m also qualified as old.  I guess when you’re 15 years old 55 seems ancient.  I’m old enough to also be able to look back and gain some perspective about those things that truly matter in life.

Compared to many successful people I haven’t accomplished that much in my life.  I didn’t invent Facebook like Mark Zuckerberg.  I didn’t turn Apple into a multi-trillion dollar business like Steve Jobs.  I didn’t change the retail world like Jeff Bezos with Amazon.  I’ve never been elected president and I don’t have loads of money in the bank.  I don’t pastor a 20,000 member Church and have a tv show like Joel Osteen and I don’t fly on private jets like Kenneth Copeland.  I’ve been a youth pastor and pastored a few small churches.  I served briefly as a missionary and Church planting pastor in England and didn’t have much success.  I’ve managed to go to several colleges and gotten several academic degrees and passed the arduous process of becoming not only a pastor but a board certified chaplain and a certified spiritual director.  I’ve helped a few people over 35 years of ministry.  And every Sunday I preach and the rest of the week I visit the sick, needy and broken and share the love of Jesus with them.  I hope that I live long enough and stay healthy enough to help a lot more people.  I’ve got ideas for 3 books that I’m currently working on and getting ready to pursue a doctoral degree.  I’m not ready to hang it up yet and want to stay active into my really old age. (I’d like to put in another 40 useful years of ministry).

With all that being said, what I feel best about in my life as I look back is continuing to delight in God.  I haven’t done it perfectly to be sure, but I have managed to stay connected to God, even during dark times, even when I’ve wrestled with temptation, sin and guilt, I’ve remained connected to God and continued to delight in God.  I’ve also stayed true to my promise to love my wife “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.”  Trust me, I don’t take much credit for this because at times I’ve been a huge pain in the rear end to my wonderful wife.  But even during my worst struggles, I remembered that I made a promise to God and to her and stuck with it (and to her credit, she has continued to be a loving and faithful wife, even when she didn’t like me very much because I was acting like a jerk).  So I am blessed beyond measure and now enjoy the benefits of having gone through some rough times in marriage and find myself closer and more in love with my wife than I was nearly 35 years ago.

But the thing I take the most pride in is my children.  A few of them are still home and are still works in progress, but I can say that the greatest blessing of my life and the thing I take the most joy and pride in is that I have tried as a Dad to point them toward delighting in God and following Jesus.  At times I have failed miserably to be the kind of godly example that I wanted to be or should have been, but even when I’ve blown it I’ve tried to show them that God’s grace and mercy is there for us and not to give up on God.

Now most of my children are adults, several are married, several now have children of their own. I am able to see them in their various roles- one is himself a pastor, several lead worship in their churches, some have gone on mission trips, others sing in worship or teach classes and write devotions, and now they teach my grandchildren.  All are good workers.  They have become good people and I see them in their various churches and communities blessing others.  That makes me very happy and very proud.  This year at FUEL three of my sons were on the worship team, Joel was the worship leader who did a great job and even wrote worship songs to support the theme of FUEL, JJ was playing lead guitar with great skill and Jon was killing it on the drums.  I couldn’t have been more pleased and more delighted to see them blessing others by helping lead them in worshipping and delighting in God.

So as I meditate upon this portion of Psalm 37, that’s what comes to mind for me.  Even though I’m deeply flawed and have failed to do so much of what I may have hoped or dreamed I might do, I have given myself to delighting in God and I have been blessed by God with children who are now blessing others.  If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I can know that I along with my wonderful wife who has done 99% of the hard work, have launched some tremendous blessings into the world.

That’s what emerged for me as I meditated upon this part of Psalm 37.  What comes up for you as you chew on it?

  1. Spend some time in prayer.  What questions do you have to bring to God that emerged from your meditation?  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Is there something you want to change in your life as a result of what you have read and meditated upon?  Ask God what he wants you to know or do.
  2. Rest in God.  After you speak to and listen to God, spend some time resting in God’s love and presence.  Delight in God, God delights in you.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer back to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.

Tâmîym, ʼâbad, kâlâh and kârath

Psalm 37 22

            Today, we are in the middle of the week and we find ourselves in the middle of our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading) of Psalm 37.* Today’s reading is a little more in-depth, so if you’re in a hurry you might wish to come back to this at a time later today when you can invest a few minutes into reading/praying.  My goal here is not just to give you a fish and feed you for a day but to teach you how to fish so you can learn to feed yourself for the rest of your life (and feed others).

            Remember, the purpose of Lectio is to draw us into God’s presence and rest through reading, meditating upon and praying with the Bible.  While the goal is not simply intellectual understanding, but relationship with God, it is still important that when we read and meditate we are doing so correctly.  We want to be as accurate as possible about the meaning of God’s Word.  We want to think about what it actually says and what it meant when it was written and what it means for us today.  It wouldn’t make much sense to spend a lot of time meditating upon something that was not correct.

            If you have internet access, there are some tools readily available which cost nothing and can help you.

            One tool is Bible Gateway.  I began working in a Christian bookstore when I was attending George Mason University back in 1982.  I became aware of a lot of different Bible translations that were available (beyond the King James).  I started building a library of various Bible translations and nearly 40 years later I have over 50 different translations on my bookshelves.  You can now get almost every one of those translations (and many more) on Bible Gateway.  Choose the text you wish to study, and choose which translations you wish to use and you can see a side by side comparison of the texts.  This can be helpful when you are studying a Biblical passage.  It can help you understand the nuances of meaning.  Some translations are more or less word for word, while others are more thought for thought.  There are also paraphrase versions which attempt to convey the meaning in modern contextual language.

            The second tool is Blue Letter Bible.  While the available translations are fewer than on Bible Gateway, BLB allows you to do a detailed analysis and word study of various words.  You can look up the original Hebrew/Aramaic or Greek words and see some of the various ways that word is used in the Bible and have a greater understanding of what the Bible was saying back when originally written and you bridge that into modern day language/ways of thinking and speaking.

            With that said, I’ve identified 4 key words that are used in today’s reading and give you a summary of the word meaning and usage in the Bible:

תָּמִים tâmîym, taw-meem’;  entire (literally, figuratively or morally); also   integrity, truth:—without blemish, complete, full, perfect, sincerely, sound, without spot, undefiled, upright, whole.

אָבַד ʼâbad, aw-bad’; to wander away, i.e. lose oneself; by implication to perish:—break, destroy(-uction), not escape, fail, lose, (cause to, make) perish, spend, be undone, utterly, be void of, have no way to flee.

כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’; to end, to cease, be finished, perish, consume, destroy (utterly), be done, , expire, fail, faint, finish, fulfill, wholly reap, make clean riddance, spend, take away, waste.

כָּרַת kârath, kaw-rath’; to cut off, down or asunder, by implication, to destroy or consume; destroy, fail, lose, perish.

With that background in place, you are ready to proceed with today’s Lectio Divina reading of Psalm 37:18-22.

  1. Read.  Read through the passage slowly, at least 3 times:

18 The blameless (תָּמִים tâmîym, taw-meem’) spend their days under the Lord’s care,
and their inheritance will endure forever.
19 In times of disaster they will not wither;
in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

20 But the wicked will perish (אָבַד ʼâbad, aw-bad’):
Though the Lord’s enemies are like the flowers of the field,
they will be consumed (כָּלָה kâlâh, kaw-law’), they will go up in smoke.

21 The wicked borrow and do not repay,
but the righteous give generously;
22 those the Lord blesses will inherit the land,
but those he curses will be destroyed (כָּרַת kârath, kaw-rath’)

  1. Meditate.  Choose a word or phrase from the text to  meditate upon/ think deeply about.

For me, I chose 3 words- perish, consumed, and destroyed.  Those who are wicked will perish, be consumed and destroyed.  The Hebrew abad contains the idea of wander away, lose oneself, have no way to flee, be destroyed.

            As I think about what this means I’m reminded of the story of Christopher McCandless whose story is recounted in the book “Into the Wild” (and later movie) written by Jon Krakauer.  Chris was just a few years younger than me and grew up just a few miles from me in Northern Virginia.  After college he decided to ditch everything and walk into the wilderness of Alaska and live off the land.  Unfortunately, he did almost no preparation and he lacked the minimal survival skills necessary for such an adventure.  He crossed through a small stream and found temporary shelter in an abandoned school bus.  Unfortunately, within a short time the stream swelled to an un-crossable raging torrent and Chris was essentially trapped.  He spent weeks and months unable to escape that spot and soon ran out of food and was forced to forage.  He ended up dying of poisoning from eating poisonous berries.

            I tell that brief story because it illustrates the meaning of abad, kalah and karath.  He wandered away and got lost, trapped and had nowhere to flee to and his own foolishness ultimately destroyed his life.  That’s what the Psalm says is happening or will happen to the wicked.  I know that sometimes people have trouble thinking that a loving God would punish or destroy people.  As I think about this Psalm, the greater nuance emerges – God doesn’t choose to punish anyone.  Ultimately we end up punishing ourselves when we wander off the path that God has given us to life.  It’s a matter of cause and effect.

A few weeks ago I went hiking in Zion National Park in Utah.  A gorgeous place.  It had paths and the signs on the paths warned “stay on the path- it is dangerous and life threatening if you leave the path.”  I stayed on the path, it was difficult at times, but I remained safe and returned alive.  Had I veered off the path and ended up falling down a steep embankment to my death, then I alone would have been responsible for my destruction, not the park rangers, or God.

            This Psalm is like the sign on the path: stick to the path or you’ll destroy yourself.  But if you stick to the path, you’ll be blessed with a beautiful inheritance God has planned for you.

            As I personalize this reading I have to ask myself.  When have I gotten off the path God told me to stay on?  Have I ever wandered and gotten lost?  Isaiah 53 says that I, like everyone else, am like a sheep that sometimes wanders away.  How has Jesus, the good shepherd, come searching for me when I’ve wandered astray?  How does the Gospel reveal God’s merciful love and grace that sends his son to seek and save me when I’m lost.  How am I called by Jesus to do this same work of seeking those who are lost and leading them back to the path?

            You might choose a different word or phrase upon which to reflect, but that is an example of how my deep reading of a short part of this text raises some important issues in my mind and heart.

  1.  Pray– I pray a prayer of gratitude to God for loving me enough to go looking for me when I get off the path.  I pray a prayer of confession to God, for I am still “prone to wander” off the path.  I recognize the important mission that I’ve been given by God to join the search for others who have gone off the path and the responsibility I have to point the people in my care- my family, my Church, my co-workers, my community, to the one who guides them back to the right path and helps them stay on the path, Jesus.  I invite you to bring to prayer whatever you’ve been meditating upon.
  2. Rest in God.  I’m so grateful to God for his mercy and love.  I’ve been lost, but now I’m safely in the arms of my loving God.  I invite you to rest in God too.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer back to the Sunday, August 11th  devotion.

Wealthy?

psalm 37 16

Today, we continue with our Lectio Divina (Sacred Reading)* of Psalm 37.  Today we look at verses 12-17.

This section of the Psalm contrasts the way of the wicked and the way of the righteous.

The word wicked is an English translation of the Hebrew word רָשָׁע râshâʻ, raw-shaw’ which means  morally wrong, an (actively) bad person:— condemned, guilty, ungodly, wicked (man), that did wrong.

The word righteous is an English translation of the Hebrew word צַדִּיק tsaddîyq, tsad-deek’ meaning just:—just, lawful, righteous (man).

There are those who are actively bad, wicked, ungodly and those who are actively doing what is just or right in following God’s teachings found in the Bible.  With this in mind take some time to Read, Meditate, Pray and Rest in God utilizing this section of Psalm 37.

1. Read: Read the following sections slowly, at least 3 times:

12 The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
13 but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.

14 The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
15 But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

16 Better the little that the righteous have
than the wealth of many wicked;
17 for the power of the wicked will be broken,
but the Lord upholds the righteous.

 

2.  Meditate:  Choose a word or phrase that really speaks to you and spend some time meditating (thinking deeply about, chewing on it mentally, emotionally, spiritually).

The section that stood out to me today was verse 16: “Better the little that the righteous have than the wealth of many wicked.”  He seems to be linking the righteous to the poor and the wicked to having wealth.  I wonder why he makes those associations?  Are all wealthy people wicked, morally wrong, actively bad?

What about the rich young man who came to Jesus and asked Jesus what he had to do to inherit eternal life?  He apparently was a righteous man in that he kept all of the law/Torah that was required of a righteous Jewish person of his day.  Yet still there was something that was preventing him from experiencing the fullness of the life of the Age to Come/Kingdom of God/Eternal Life that Jesus was offering.  According to Jesus, it was his wealth.  He was unwilling to let go of his wealth and follow Jesus and it resulted in sadness. (If you want to read about that story it’s found in Luke 18:18-23 as well as in other Gospels).

In 1 Timothy 6:10 it says that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.”  So clearly throughout the Bible there is some sort of correlation between wealth and evil.  It would be a stretch to say that all wealthy people are evil, after all, Abraham was a man of God and he was righteous.  But we counter that with Judas, who sold Jesus for 30 pieces of silver because he was greedy.  So there certainly is a strong potential for wealth to be associated with wickedness.  Jesus said you can’t serve God and Mammon (Money).  If you love money it will prevent you from loving God rightly.

To personalize this a bit for myself I must ask: am I wealthy?  I live in a pretty nice house.  I have enough money to buy groceries.  I have access to excellent health benefits through my work.  I have money to go on a vacation. I have access to good, clean drinking water.  I have reliable transportation- my cars aren’t fancy but they get me where I need to go.  If you compare me to actors in Hollywood or hedge fund managers on Wall street, or Bill Gates or Warren Buffet or Sam Walton’s children, then I’m not wealthy.  If you compare me to most of the people living in places like Malawi and Mozambique, South America or India, yes, I’m very wealthy.  So in light of this Psalm I must ask, am I using my wealth in a just way, a right way, or am I using it in a wicked way, or have I used wicked means to obtain my wealth?

As you can see, meditating on one little verse can crack open a whole lot of questions and issues.  That is what it did for me.  Perhaps you spent time meditating on a different verse which cracked open a whole different set of questions or issues for you.  Maybe you were wrestling with verse 13.  What does it mean that the Lord “laughs at the wicked”?  Is that a scornful laugh? Is He laughing at them because he knows how ridiculous they are and that, in the end the righteous, who appear to be the losers in this worlds system will actually emerge as the winners in God’s kingdom?

 

3.  Pray:  Whatever verse you choose to meditate on – take the issue to God in prayer.  Talk it over with God.  Bring him your questions.  Bring him your complaints.  Bring him your fears.  Bring him your gratitude and joy.  Bring whatever comes up during your time of reading and meditating.  Do you have some sinful attitudes toward money that could potentially get you into trouble?  Is there something you need to confess to God?  Do not just speak, also take time to listen.  Sometimes God speaks to you in various ways, so pay attention.

 

4.  Rest in God:  As you come to an end of your prayer, spend some time resting in God.  Even if this produced unease, guilt, a need to repent, know that God’s grace is sufficient.  Remember Zacchaeus, the wicked and greedy tax collector.  He met Jesus and his grace and acceptance, it led Zacchaeus to repent and change his attitude toward money (he paid back those he had extorted and gave money to the poor), and then he went and had dinner with Jesus and I’m certain had a wonderful time visiting with our savior.  Through Jesus’ grace, you can spend time with God, our Father and rest in him.

-Pastor Jeff Fletcher

*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.