Words, words, words

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S (Scripture): Psalm 64

1

Listen to me when I complain, God!

    Protect my life from the enemy’s terror!

Hide me from the secret plots of wicked people;

    hide me from the schemes of evildoers

        who sharpen their tongues like swords.

They aim their arrow—a cruel word—

    from their hiding places

    so as to shoot an innocent person.

    They shoot without warning and without fear.

They encourage themselves with evil words.

    They plan on laying traps in secret.

O (Observation): The psalmist prays for God’s protection, giving great detail as to how the enemy is preparing for an attack: their tongues will be like swords, cruel words will be their weapons!

The psalmist trusts in God to tangle up the enemy, to ruin the plans of the enemy.

Maybe that is comfort enough.

A (Application): Sticks and stones, right? Our parents always said this…and yet what wars are we in? Word wars!

News cycles consistently quote our nation’s leaders, and on social media we tear one another apart over the words we use to explain ourselves and our positions.

Yet, in the end, the most important issue is relationships. Relationships with friends and those with whom we disagree is the birthplace of peace.

We pray that God would guide our words so that we might establish a constructive path forward towards peace, towards truth-telling, towards forgiveness and reconciliation.

P (Prayer): Lord, guise my words this day into the way of peace. Amen.

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The One Thing ☝🏼

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S (Scripture): Acts 20:21 You know I have testified to both Jews and Greeks that they must change their hearts and lives as they turn to God and have faith in our Lord Jesus. 22 Now, compelled by the Spirit, I’m going to Jerusalem. I don’t know what will happen to me there. 23 What I do know is that the Holy Spirit testifies to me from city to city that prisons and troubles await me. 24 But nothing, not even my life, is more important than my completing my mission. This is nothing other than the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus: to testify about the good news of God’s grace.

O (Observation): Paul knows the one thing that is most important, above all else:

To testify about the good news of God’s grace.

He knows that dangers lie ahead, and he testifies anyway. He testifies to both Jews and Greeks. And he does all of this based on his call to serve God.

Regardless of the danger that might befall him, Paul carries on.

A (Application): Ever seen City Slickers? You know, the movie with Billy Crystal and Jack Palance. Palance plays a rough and tough cowboy named Curly.

Curly keeps telling the city slickers that the most important thing was this: then he would hold up his hand in a fist and point his index finger skyward. He would say: “the one thing.” The one thing was the most important thing. The problem is, he doesn’t tell anyone what that ONE thing is.

The idea was that we all have “one thing” that is the most important thing in the world for each of us. And no one can tell you what your one thing is. Curly didn’t tell the city slickers what that one thing is for them, because they each had to discern that for themselves.

How about you? What is your one thing? We know what Paul’s was.

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to clarify our “one thing” that you have called us to. Amen.

Bonus: YouTube clip of the “one thing” conversation. (Disclaimer: foul language).

Ready or Not, Here I Come!

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S (Scripture): Mark 4:1 Jesus began to teach beside the lake again. Such a large crowd gathered that he climbed into a boat there on the lake. He sat in the boat while the whole crowd was nearby on the shore. He said many things to them in parables. While teaching them, he said, “Listen to this! A farmer went out to scatter seed. As he was scattering seed, some fell on the path; and the birds came and ate it. Other seed fell on rocky ground where the soil was shallow. They sprouted immediately because the soil wasn’t deep. When the sun came up, it scorched the plants; and they dried up because they had no roots. Other seed fell among thorny plants. The thorny plants grew and choked the seeds, and they produced nothing. Other seed fell into good soil and bore fruit. Upon growing and increasing, the seed produced in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case a yield of sixty to one, and in another case a yield of one hundred to one.”

10 When they were alone, the people around Jesus, along with the Twelve, asked him about the parables. 11 He said to them, “The secret of God’s kingdom has been given to you, but to those who are outside everything comes in parables. 12 This is so that they can look and see but have no insight, and they can hear but not understand. Otherwise, they might turn their lives around and be forgiven.

13 “Don’t you understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14  The farmer scatters the word. 15  This is the meaning of the seed that fell on the path: When the word is scattered and people hear it, right away Satan comes and steals the word that was planted in them. 16  Here’s the meaning of the seed that fell on rocky ground: When people hear the word, they immediately receive it joyfully. 17  Because they have no roots, they last for only a little while. When they experience distress or abuse because of the word, they immediately fall away. 18  Others are like the seed scattered among the thorny plants. These are the ones who have heard the word; 19  but the worries of this life, the false appeal of wealth, and the desire for more things break in and choke the word, and it bears no fruit. 20  The seed scattered on good soil are those who hear the word and embrace it. They bear fruit, in one case a yield of thirty to one, in another case sixty to one, and in another case one hundred to one.”

O (Observation): A confusing word from Jesus leaves the disciples a bit puzzled. Instead of trying to see this as insider information, Jesus is reminding these disciples that just because one is “on the inside” (that is, one who loves and fears God) does not mean that insiders get an advantage over others. Jesus doesn’t say the disciples are good soil. They might be the soil / ground in any of these 4 situations.

Jesus quotes Isaiah 6 here, reminding the original hearers that Jesus’ story is not his own, but God’s. After all, Jesus is talking about the Kingdom of God. He is simply helping to usher it in amongst God’s people while in the flesh.

Jesus says that the Kingdom comes, regardless of the state in which it is received. Humans are not in power over the soil / ground in which they find themselves. This is Good News for the oppressed and downtrodden. They just might be the good soil. And this is a word of caution to the haughty and the proud, for they just might be the path, the rocky ground, or the weeds.

A (Application): Why does this have to be so complicated? Can’t we just know? Not according to the Gospel of Mark!

Mark 1:1 – “The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.” This is how the Gospel of Mark starts. The Good News is coming. Salvation is coming. And no one can tell – not even the disciples – who can receive this Good News. The eyes and ears of the best of us can be covered up. We can all become blind to the Good News, even though we claim it every week.

We have all been surprised at one time or another in whom the Word takes root. We are also surprised – at times – that the Word does NOT take root in others. We just don’t know. So, we hope. We pray. We remain humble and glory in the fact that some who embrace the Word are fruit coming forth 30-fold, 60-fold, 100-fold.

That kind of growth is beyond our comprehension, but at least we can give thanks when it does happen.

P (Prayer): Lord, you usher in your Kingdom, whether we are ready or not. Bring it! Keep bringing it! May we have ears to hear. Amen.