God as Parent

Photo from our family vacation in Jan 2019

S (Scripture): Psalm 30

When I was comfortable, I said,

    “I will never stumble.”

Because it pleased you, Lord,

    you made me a strong mountain.

But then you hid your presence.

    I was terrified.

I cried out to you, Lord.

    I begged my Lord for mercy:

“What is to be gained by my spilled blood,

    by my going down into the pit?

Does dust thank you?

    Does it proclaim your faithfulness?

10 

Lord, listen and have mercy on me!

    Lord, be my helper!”

11 

You changed my mourning into dancing.

    You took off my funeral clothes

        and dressed me up in joy

12 

    so that my whole being

    might sing praises to you and never stop.

Lord, my God, I will give thanks to you forever.

O (Observation): Does God hide Godself out of a sense of abandonment of the psalmist? Or is God nudging this follower out of the nest (so to speak)?

Is God abandoning or encouraging? Testing?

The follower is said to be comfortable and will never stumble. Perhaps in the follower’s lack of humility God allows the individual to go about their own way…without God’s help. Will the follower stumble? If so, what then?

Then, the follower senses a lack and cries out for mercy. And God makes Godself known to the follower again. And God’s renewed presence is like turning mourning into dancing.

The result: I will praise you Lord, and never assume I will never stumble.

A (Application): As my wife and I raise our three children, I can think of the many times we encourage our children. We help them see that they can ride a bike, cook a meal, wash their own clothes. We instruct and model for them how to do these tasks. Once they get a taste for it, the inevitable statement is: “I CAN DO IT BY MYSELF!”

Ok. Go for it.

Then comes the scraped knee, the burned toast, or the ruined clothes.

Then comes, “Why didn’t you tell me?” Or “Why didn’t you help?”

Ah. Parenthood.

I can only imagine what God continually goes through: Watching over us; entering our lives; encouraging us; setting us free…only to hear, “Where were you?” “Why didn’t you help?”

Sometimes we wish to be set free in order to prove we can make it on our own. Sometimes we wish to be set free to see how far we can fly with the gifts we’ve been given. Whether our desire to be set free comes from good intentions or selfish intentions, we can have a tendency to turn on God for the mistakes we make. “Couldn’t you have prevented this, God?”

As we cry out to God, God hears and comes to us. God has the immense capacity to absorb our selfishness and anger, and turn our sadness into joy.

What is left is whether or not we wish to receive God’s mercy and grace. When we do, the joy is indescribable.

May you call out to God in times of plenty and times of want. May you receive God’s merciful gift of grace. May God turn your mourning into dancing.

P (Prayer): Lord, we are selfish…we are set free…we are in need of your presence. Amen.

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Trust Me…I Got This

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): 2 Chronicles 20:2 Jehoshaphat was told, “A large army from beyond the sea, from Edom, is coming to attack you. They are already at Hazazon-tamar!” (that is, En-gedi). 3 Frightened, Jehoshaphat decided to seek the Lord’s help and proclaimed a fast for all Judah…

13 All Judah was standing before the Lord, even their little ones, wives, and children. 14 Then the Lord’s spirit came upon Jahaziel son of Zechariah son of Benaiah son of Jeiel son of Mattaniah, a Levite of the line of Asaph, as he stood in the middle of the assembly.

15 “Pay attention, all of Judah, every inhabitant of Jerusalem, and King Jehoshaphat,” Jahaziel said. “This is what the Lord says to you: Don’t be afraid or discouraged by this great army because the battle isn’t yours. It belongs to God! 16 March out against them tomorrow. Since they will be coming through the Ziz pass, meet them at the end of the valley that opens into the Jeruel wilderness. 17 You don’t need to fight this battle. Just take your places, stand ready, and watch how the Lord, who is with you, will deliver you, Judah and Jerusalem. Don’t be afraid or discouraged! Go out tomorrow and face them. The Lord will be with you.”

O (Observation): Battles are a regular thing in the Old Testament. This text points out a foreign country coming into the southern kingdom of Judah. The people are faithful to God. They fast and pray and stand before God’s temple. A prophet shares God’s word:

This is God’s battle. You will go out and watch, but you will not fight. God will win this victory!

Even without knowing the end of this scenario, God’s people believe this strategy will work. It must work. For God is to be trusted.

A (Application): I trust God, but I don’t know how well I trust myself. My hope is that as my days continue, I will continue to seek God to fight my battles for me. If a foreign kingdom was coming to conquer me, I don’t know how I’d handle that.

But in more practical terms, I will wrestle with finances, local politics, being a parent, and much more. In all of these, I ask God to help me.

But will I let go? Will I listen to the prophetic voices in my life? How can I trust those voices?

This all takes time and prayerful consideration. We discern to the best of our abilities. After that, we go on faith.

May you hear God’s word speaking to your struggles today! Amen.

P (Prayer): Lord, hear my cry! Amen.

God is in Love With You

  S (Scripture): Hebrews 8:6 But now Jesus has obtained a superior ministry, since the covenant that he mediates is also better and is enacted on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, no one would have looked for a second one…
13 When he speaks of a new covenant, he makes the first obsolete. Now what is growing obsolete and aging is about to disappear.

O (Observation): Jesus brings within his very self, a new covenant.  Jesus’s body and blood, death and resurrection, bring about a new covenant…a new promise for salvation.  

I left out vv. 8-12, which is the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah 31 – God’s law will be inscribed on the hearts and minds of God’s people.  

That was an extremely radical covenant.  God moves away from being just found in the temple, and at that moment in time, says that now God is found in the minds and hearts of all of God’s people.  God moves from being in a “place” (temple) to being in a “people.”

But now, with Jesus as the High Priest, the one who brings gifts and a sacrifice to God on our behalf, we have a new covenant…one that surpasses even the covenant from Jeremiah. 

Now, not just “a” people have access to God, but “ALL” people have access to God.   Granted, not everyone accepts the invitation, but the invitation is always there.  

God has established covenants time and again, always taking upon the full agreement to both sides of the covenant – ours and God’s.  Why?  Perhaps God had the foresight that we would fail and the patience and grace to step in when we need correction and mercy.  

A (Application):  Knowing that God has established a covenant with me and all of the baptized, I then feel like I’m called to live a holy life.  Then, when I don’t live a holy life, I can forget that my salvation is established through the covenant Christ made in me and on my behalf.  But then knowing I’m forgiven…I begin to take for granted that I’m forgiven.   Then, I feel guilty that I take that forgiveness for granted.  And the cycle can go on, ad infinitum. 

So, I have learned to live in a posture of gratitude towards God, with great humility – humility towards God and neighbor – knowing that everything I do will have a little bit of sin in it, but that God’s grace covers my sin.  

So, what is holding you back from believing?  Are you afraid that you will be called to live a life you aren’t worthy of?  Are you struggling with a God you cannot see?  Know this: God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love.   That’s the God that is madly in love with me.  That’s the God that wants to be in a relationship with you, too!  And as brothers and sisters in Christ, we can be here for one another. 

P (Prayer): Lord, we can get confused.  Help us to know that your love covers a multitude of sins.  Help us to see you in the here and now. Amen.