Psalm 89

I’ve been taught many times to start prayers with praising God since this is how the Lord’s Prayer starts. Through my own experience, I’ve learned that when I focus on God’s holiness, “bigness”, faithfulness or other incredible quality at the beginning of a prayer, what I thought I would pray about suddenly changes. My perspective transforms when I realize the one listening to my prayer can still the ocean’s wildest waves. I appreciate this psalm because it starts with a beautiful acknowledgement of who God is. Not only is God greater than any being on earth, He is greater than any being in heaven. So much greater that the heavens praise Him. He is not great and powerful like a dictator (although He has the power to do that if He wanted), but loving and kind like a father. He cares about His people and makes promises to them that He doesn’t break.

God also offers the kind of relationship with His people that allows them to communicate with Him about distressing times. I really appreciate this psalm. It demonstrates that when I praise God for His mightiness and acknowledge His faithfulness, it is okay if I still have something that is causing me to feel cast out, weak, forgotten. I can know that these feelings aren’t because I’m not praying enough or not close enough with God. Instead, I can know those feelings are a part of human life and part of the walk with God. I can know that God is with me always.

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Prayer of wholeness

Holy Father. All praise, nothing but worship, to Your precious name. Your fullness is all around us, tangible and intangible, in pleasure and in pain. You offer the wholeness we crave, the meaning for our limited amount of time. You offer boundaries and freedom in perfect balance. You offer love, mercy, grace, forgiveness and companionship overflowing. You don’t expect us to be perfect or uniform or anything else, but instead You hope and yearn for us in all things to turn to You. You are always near, waiting for us to turn and come closer to You. We come to You with all that we have, our joys and our pain, our gratitude and our requests, our fears and our hopes, our lament and our praise. And You are with us in all of them. You know them intimately. You listen as we share them. You occupy the space that creates relationship. You make us full of awe as we think that the Eternal Creator and Sustainer of all is here to listen, to guide, to fill us up, to reconcile with us so that we can be in relationship. You are King of my days and all that is in them. I will worship You forever. Please help me live by faith. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Psalm 77

Reading this psalm, I immediately remembered a time when I thought that I was so far from God, I didn’t know if He would ever take me back. Actually at the time, I thought God had left me, just like the psalmist states in vs. 7-9.

I eventually realized God had not left, and I hadn’t really left either. God was re-centering my faith and changing everything I thought I knew. It’s not that my faith before was wrong, it was very devoted and well-intentioned. But it was based on what I did, on checking off boxes that I thought God wanted me to check off. Over a few years, God showed me (and is still showing me) the difference between self-reliance and a faith that feels deeper, a faith which depends on Him by waking up each morning to His new mercies and realizing that He is always faithful, He is always near. The difference between the two perspectives for me was like the difference between standing on my feet with little struggle to balance and doing a handstand that requires constant attention and adjustment to stay balanced. Letting go of my check boxes was painful because I no longer had any answers, I needed to constantly pay attention to God and make adjustments in my heart to figure out what to do. For a time, I thought I was being a bad Christian. I knew many people I loved would consider me a bad Christian or not a Christian at all if I let go of those check boxes. I respect these people for their dedication and zeal to their beliefs. But my conscience would not let me follow the boxes anymore. I felt a need to repent from the black and white rules. Not because I decided to rebel, but because I kept having life experiences that did not fit inside the black and white lines. I slowly realized God was leading me out of the place where I stand on my own feet and into one that feels deeper for me. Maybe this place isn’t for everyone, but it is what I need and where I will stay, at least until God leads me to the next place.

While vs. 7-9 vividly bring back the pain in that experience, the rest of the psalm reminds me of the comfort God provided during that time and ever since. Starting in verse 10, “Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds…” No matter what place we’re in, we can always remember God’s works, whether it’s those recorded in the Bible or those from our own lives or the lives of others. We don’t need to have debates, try to sway people to our beliefs or try to get all the answers because God is mighty, faithful, just, loving and always here for us.

Prayer of prescence

Father, loving Father, always here. In my need You draw me near. You are here in the tension of opposing forces trying to establish balance. You are here in every circumstance, sick or well, good or bad. You are here despite my lack of faithfulness and understanding. You are here offering to awake me to the fulness of Your grace, love and light, Your kindness and generosity, You security and meaning. You are here, You always have been and always will be. I don’t need to worry about the future because You will be there. Help me open up to You each moment. Help me seek You and find You, ask You and hear/ receive from You, knock on Your door and enter when You open it. Thank You. I love You. All in Your will. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Exodus 13

In this chapter, the Lord dictates to Moses new rituals– a feast, sacrificing first born animals and redeeming first born sons. I’ve often questioned why God gave instructions for so many rituals in the Old Testament. I’ve also wondered if it is cultural differences that explain the need for them at that time and reducing their prominence in today’s time. I know that the Lord’s Supper is meant to be a reminder of Jesus’ sacrifice and a reminder to self-evaluate, but I’ve had trouble understanding other rituals in the Bible and rituals practiced by religious groups that I am unfamiliar with.

It is clear in this chapter that the rituals are meant to remind the people and their children of God’s salvation for them, just like the Lord’s Supper. It is so easy for me to forget what God has done for me. This chapter helped me better understand the importance of incorporating reminders, both in my daily life and in weekly worship. After reading about different religious groups that regularly practice fasting and have ritualistic worship, I can understand why those practices could be very helpful to spiritual growth. Rituals can help teach, refocus and while they might not inspire passion every time, they do have the ability reignite passion when practiced with a willing heart.

Joshua 13

God provides land for each of the tribes, except the Levites. They will live off the sacrifices the other tribes make and have “the Lord God of Israel is their inheritance, just as he said to them”. God is certainly providing for all the other tribes, but there is something special about how he is providing for the Levites. He’s giving them himself. I’m not sure of the scholarly meaning of that phrase or how it actually played out for the Levites, but I think there is an obvious correlation to Jesus’s sacrifice and the Holy Spirit living in us today. The Levites didn’t have access to these two gifts, but God literally gives of himself in both of them. Not to mention him providing for all of our physical needs too, in addition to these spiritual needs.

How amazing it is that we share the Levites’ inheritance–the priests, the chosen elites of Jewish society–in ways they probably didn’t even imagine. It’s just as amazing to think that God has given himself to us and provides for us in ways we can’t imagine, and he will continue to exceed our imaginations for eternity.

Jeremiah 31

Verses 31-37 of this chapter contain one of God’s most beautiful promises to us. It’s the kind of promise that compels a response from the recipients. It also illustrates God’s justice, mercy, grace, love and forgiveness and how all of those qualities work together. God previously made a covenant with his people (see Exodus for several chapters that describe God’s covenant), but they broke it even though he was faithful (v.32). The new covenant God is proposing is much more intimate than the list of rules for life and worship he had previously given. In this covenant, God lets us know him (v.34) and have his law written on our hearts in the process (v.33). Really knowing God results in us following his ways (same idea as “the beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord” in Proverbs). We don’t need to consult a rule book, manual or argue over the interpretation of laws and legislation. Instead, he draws us near to the point that we live in him and he in us. What is more powerful or more perfect than that? There is actually an answer to that question and it is in the last sentence of v. 34 and the verses following- “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” He knows we will fail, but he won’t leave us when we do. That kind of faithfulness inspires more devotion rather than habitually displeasing him and taking advantage of grace.

The painting of this beautiful picture continues. Verses 35-36 are an analogy between the perfect order of God’s creation and his perfect grace and faithfulness within this new covenant. Verse 37 is an analogy between the vastness of God’s creation and the vastness of his mercy and forgiveness. We can trust in this covenant because it’s creator is the Creator. There is no one greater than God that can vouch for him, so he uses his creation (which is so much bigger than us) to testify for him. There is no one more worthy of our trust.

Exodus 40

Summary:

The people used the talents God gave them to build a temple designated to the Holiness of the LORD. His glory filled it. He lived among them and was evident to them by a pillar of cloud by day and fire by night.

Thoughts:

I was fascinated by God’s revelation of himself as fire in this passage (and in other places, such as Moses and the burning bush). We associate fire with the devil and hell, but God is also a consuming fire. And He is light. He is the fire that leads Israel and the fire that consumes Sodom and Gomorrah. He seems to be made up of contradictions. Or is that just an earthly way of understanding Him? God doesn’t live in time or space, the two things that rule our earthly lives. Does he also exist outside of our binary realm where everything is either good or bad, black or white, agree or disagree? Maybe the gray areas in our lives are glimpses of how God can be both a guiding light and a consuming fire.

Psalm 40

Even before Jesus came, David praised God for his faithfulness, salvation and deliverance. The first part of the Psalm (v.1-5) praises God and offers gratitude for salvation. It reinforces David’s trust in God. V. 6-11 detail what action David takes on behalf of his meditation in vs. 1-5. Unlike the strong personal resolve he spoke about in Psalm 39, David ends with a plea for help from God rather than the idea that he can manage everything on his own. Oh, what I can learn from David. I think following this pattern of praise and gratitude, meditation on God that leads to action and dependence on God rather than myself to take that action is a good summary of what I can strive for everyday.