Archive | September, 2012

God has favorites

29 Sep

Psalm 21 makes it clear that God has favorites, and King David is a golden hair boy.  Elsewhere in the scripture is the line that, “rain falls on the just and the unjust.”  But, this psalm proclaims that the relationship between God and King David is one that brings both of them joy.

Your strength, God, is the king’s strength.
Helped, he’s hollering Hosannas.
You gave him exactly what he wanted;
you didn’t hold back.
You filled his arms with gifts;
you gave him a right royal welcome.
He wanted a good life; you gave it to him,
and then made it a long life as a bonus.
You lifted him high and bright as a cumulus cloud,
then dressed him in rainbow colors.
You pile blessings on him;
you make him glad when you smile.
Is it any wonder the king loves God?
that he’s sticking with the Best?

 

This is the relationship that make King David a great leader of Israel, even with all his faults.  The King understood that his strength was the strength that God gave him.  For me this psalm reflects any supportive relationship – the relationship between spouses, or parent and child, or good friends – where one seeks the other for strength and rejoices in their success.  Do you have relationship like that?  Is your relationship with God like that?

Finally, as the title implies, there are those who are not God’s favorites.  The second half of the psalm talks about God destroying the enemies of the King.

 

 With a fistful of enemies in one hand
and a fistful of haters in the other,
You radiate with such brilliance
that they cringe as before a furnace.
Now the furnace swallows them whole,
the fire eats them alive!
You purge the earth of their progeny,
you wipe the slate clean.
All their evil schemes, the plots they cook up,
have fizzled—every one.
You sent them packing;
they couldn’t face you.

 

God is the one who will rid the King of his enemies.  This is a part of the psalms, and scripture as a whole, that we don’t talk about a lot.  The people who wrote these texts had no problem with God destroying the ‘bad guys’.  We are not as comfortable with God smiting the enemy, yet it is throughout the Hebrew Scripture.  For this people enemies were real, they were fighting for land and resources, and a way of worship.  I think it is important to honor who they were and know that I do not face the same challenges.  Also, that they are counting on God to take care of the ‘bad guy’.

The psalm ends by saying, “ Show your strength, God, so no one can miss it.  We are out singing the good news!”  I like the singing out good news idea.  You could try it today.  I know you are God’s favorite.

 

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A card for graduates

26 Sep

I wonder why I have not seen it before; Psalm 20 is a prefect blessing for those who are graduating and going on to a new adventure.  The first line in The Message is, “God answer you on the day you crash, the name of God-of-Jacob put you out of harm’s reach, send reinforcements from Holy Hill”  We know, or at least I know, that our children or others will crash somewhere, sometime along the way and here is their psalm of encouragement.

The psalm goes on to say, “Dispatch from Zion fresh supplies, exclaim over your offerings, celebrate your sacrifices, give you what your heart desires, accomplish your plans.”  Aren’t these great words of encouragement to those we see striking out on their own path?

“When you win, we plan to raise the roof and lead the parade with our banners.  May all your wishes come true!

“That clinches it – help’s coming, an answer’s on the way, everything’s going to work out.”

The next section emphasizes those who put their energy and trust into things that are not God.

“See those people polishing their chariots, and those other grooming their horses?  But we’re making garlands for God our God.  The chariots will rust, those horses pull up lame – and we’ll be on our feet, standing tall.  Make the king a winner, God; the day we call, give us your answer.”

That last bit is about giving King David victory, but I think it still works for anyone we want to encourage.

As I have been writing this I have been thinking about “the Bunzy Mom”.  She is a great cheering section for all her kids and she loves the psalms.  She has probably discovered the power of this psalm years ago.

Well, I would encourage you to read through this psalm again in any translation and pray blessings and strength into the life of someone you love, particularly if they are on a new adventure in their life.

A bright new morning!

24 Sep

Psalm 19 is beautiful.  It has been a favorite for many years. I even know a song to goes to verses 7-10 in the New Revised Standard Version, however, I will be using The Message again for the quotes in my blog.  This psalm is especially wonderful on the beautiful Fall mornings we are having here in Maryland; crisp and clear with a lovely breeze.  The psalmist is again writing about the wonder and beauty of God and begins with God’s creation as marks of God’s nature.  Yet, this psalm’s purpose it to praise God’s law and how it puts all things in right relationship.

Yet, the psalm begins with creation showing the nature of God.  “God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon.  Madame Day holds classes every morning, Professor Night lectures each evening.  Their words aren’t herd, their voices aren’t recorded, but their silence fills the earth: unspoken truth is spoken everywhere.”    Have you ever looked at sunrise and sunset this way? . . imagining what  people without electric lights and alarm clocks experienced in their day?

The main body of the psalm is about God’s law.  It is a wonderful description of God’s instruction for our lives,

“The revelation of God is whole and pulls our lives together.

The signposts of God are clear and point out the right road.

The life-maps of God are right, showing the way to joy.

The directions of God are plain and easy on the eyes.

God’s reputation is twenty-four carat gold, with a lifetime guarantee.

The decisions of God are accurate down to the nth degree.

God’s Word is better than a diamond, better than a diamond set between emeralds.

You’ll like it better than strawberries in spring, better than red, ripe strawberries.”

This psalm rejoices in God’s way for our lives.  I wonder even as I write so much of this psalm into the blog whether you will have the patience to read it.  This is not a commentary on the reader, but on me, who has always been impatience in my reading.  Yet, it has been a joy to read the psalms slowly and meditate on what they mean in my life.

So, here is more of this great psalm that tells us the reason to pay attention to God’s word.
“There’s more; God’s Word warns us of danger and directs us to hidden treasure.  Otherwise how will we find our way?  Or know when we play the fool?  Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!  Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work; then I can start this day sun-washed, scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.”

I love the phrase, “Keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work”.  I think this might become one of my central prayers.   I wonder how much of life could be easier if we would remember this psalm and cling to God’s way each day.

This psalm ends with a familiar prayer.  In the NRSV it says, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”  Eugene Peterson puts it in a more definite way, “These are the words in my mouth; these are what I chew on and pray.  Accept them when I place them on morning altar, O God, my Altar-Rock, God, Priest-of My-Altar.”

I pray this give you something to chew on today.  To look at the beauty of this day, give thanks, and consider God’s way in each decision that you make.

I love you, God

23 Sep

This is the way Psalm 18 starts in The Message.  If you read this Psalm in the New Revised Standard Version you will find the lines of a great hymn.  “I will call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised.  So, shall I be saved from my enemies.”  I like Peterson paraphrase of this line, “I sing to God, the Praise Lofty, and find myself safe and saved.

This psalm is attributed to King David, as are many of the psalm.  It is a song of praise and thanksgiving and is joyful to read.  As I read through all the great images in this song of praise, I am once again amazed at people who take the Bible literally.  Did these people decide that the language of the psalms was symbolic and other description were literal??

Anyway, back to the really great stuff in this psalm.  I love this psalm because it reminds me of my life; how I found a life by looking for God in each moment of my life.  Here is the psalmist talking about God,

“But me he caught – reached all the way from sky to sea; he pulled me out of the ocean of hate, that enemy chaos, the void in which I was drowning.  They hit me when I was down, but God stuck by me.  He stood me up on a wide-open field; I stood there saved – surprised to be loved!”

This is one of my favorite lines in the psalm – “I stood there saved – surprised to be loved!”  Maybe it was because I start my intentional relationship with God when I was a teenager, but this is the way I felt – surprised to be loved.  Sometimes, I still feel this way.  This is not in a poor, poor pitiful me kind of way.  But because I am exactly who I want to be and doing what I want to do; and sometime trying not to say exactly what comes into my mind – and I am still loved.

Moving on in the psalm there is beautiful description of God in our lives; or at least for me.

“God made my life complete when I placed all the pieces before him.  When I got my act together, he gave me a fresh start.  Now I’m alert to God’s ways; I don’t take God for granted.  Every day I review the ways he works; I try not to miss a trick.  I feel put back together, and I’m watching my step.  God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes”

This part of the psalm reminds me of a sermon story I used sometimes.  It is the story of a child who breaks a toy.  Sadden and ashamed of what the child has done they hid the toy.  The child becomes more sad because they have now lost the toy and are keeping the secret from their parent.  Finally, in tears, the child confesses, and brings out the piece of the toy to their parent.  The parent takes the toy, fixes it, and tells the child that unless they let them see the brokeness, it can’t be mended.  For me it is a great image of an aspect of our relationship with God and echos the psalm’s great line, “God rewrote the text of my life when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.”

I will include one more section of this long psalm,

“The good people taste your goodness, the whole people taste your health, the true people taste your truth, the bad ones can’t figure you out.  You take the side of the down-and-out, but the stuck-up you take down a peg.”

So, where do you fit in this list from the psalmist.  I like that all kinds of people are included in the list.

I pray you find the joy waiting in your God-parent’s eyes

 

the front of your brain

21 Sep

I wonder what is in the front of your brain today.  It is the release date for the iPhone 5 and for many people who waited in line, or waited for the stock markets numbers, I am sure that was in the front of their brain.  For others, it may be a work issue or frustration with those who are closest to you (Actually, I have notice that joy with someone, does not take near the mental energy as being upset with someone.)  Maybe it is just that kind of differential that causes us to have so many psalms of distress.

In Psalm 17, the write is seeking God’s help with those who are against them.  It starts, “Listen while I build my case, God, the most honest prayer you’ll ever hear.  Show the world I am innocent — in your heart you know that I am.”   Running to God to have God know the truth and  fix the difficulties is a recurring theme in the Psalms.  If one is honest and God finds the truth hidden in the heart, then everything else in life will be alright.

The Psalm continues, “I call to you, God, because I’m sure of an answer.  So — answer!  bend your ear!  listen sharp!  Paint grace-graffiti on the fences; take in your frightened children who are running from the neighborhood bullies straight to you.”   I think we have lost a depth to our faith when we do not talk to God is this passionate way.  I remember years ago, going through a really tough time and just yelling at God that I wanted it fixed.  Of course, it was instantly fixed, but it felt good to yell about my deepest hurts.  And it was nice to know that God could take it – it made me feel closer to God.  In this section of the psalm, I also like the image of “paint grace-graffiti on the fences”.  Think about what that would look like.  Maybe we can spread some of that grace.

I think one of the frustrations of listening to the morning talk shows drool over the iPhone was that moments earlier there were news reports about people barely making ends meet in this economy.  I don’t think there is a sense of interrelationship in our world anymore.  There is a quote I think of often, “We need to live simply so others can simply live”.

As always, I have no answers; but I wonder about what I accumulate and what I believe I need; particularly since one of the other segments was on what you could buy for CHRISTMAS!!!

Life in God

20 Sep

I am surprised that I really didn’t know how many wonderful psalms there are, particularly when you use Peterson paraphrase in The Message.  I am again going to put the whole psalm in the blog because it is not too long, and it sounds just like my life.

“Keep me safe, O God, I’ve run for dear life to you.  I say to God, ‘Be my Lord!’  Without you, nothing makes sense.  And these God-chosen lives all around – – what splendid friends they make!

Don’t just go shopping for a god.  Gods are not for sale.  I swear I’ll never treat god-names like brand-names.

My choice is you God, first and only.  And now I find I’m your choice!  You set me up with a house and yard.  And then you made me your heir!

The wise counsel God gives when I’m awake is confirmed by my sleeping heart.  Day and night I’ll stick with God; I’ve got a good thing going and I’m not letting go.

I’m happy from the inside out, and from the outside in.  I’m firmly formed.  You canceled my ticket to hell — that’s not my destination!

Now you’ve got my feel on the life path, all radiant from the shining of your face.  Ever since you took my hand, I’m on the right way.

 

I love the imagines of this psalm, I wonder if you feel like the psalmist when they are talking to God and saying, ‘without you, nothing makes sense’.  I know I feel that way.  Not that life becomes clear, but that looking at a situation through a God perspective gives and me understanding and usually a gentler heart towards myself and others.  And I love the idea of God-chosen lives around me.  I have always loved hanging out at church and finding people who are stumbling along their faith journey as I am.

When I looked at the next line and thought who would use a god-name as a brand-name, I thought about all the political craziness that is out there right now.  I am usually not offended by bumper stickers, but today I saw one that actually said, “Do blame me, I vote white”.   It was hard to believe that someone would produce a bumper sticker like that and someone would buy it.  The saddest part is that probably this guy also considers himself a ‘good Christian’.

But, for me, I am just trying to make God my first and only choice.  Rejoicing each day that I am happy from the inside out.  There is so much I am grateful for; God is the source and grounding of that rejoicing.  I pray you are finding God’s joy in this day, even in the midst of stupid bumper stickers.

Keep your feet on the life path and talk with God; letting God know how your day is going.

Simple Invitation

19 Sep

It is amazing how easy it is for me to get off track with blogging.  But I am back again and hopefully can keep up my ‘dailyness’ for awhile.

We are up to psalm 15 and it is a great one.  Again, I think about this text being write about 3000 years ago, give or take a couple of hundred.  But, the idea about what kind of life is pleasing to God is so straight forward in this psalm.  Of course, I really do like it a lot from, The Message.

“God, who gets invited to dinner at your place?  How do we get on your guest list?

Walk straight, act right, tell the truth.

Don’t hurt your friend, don’t blame your neighbor, despise the despicable.

Keep your word even when it costs you, make an honest living, never take a bribe.

You’ll never get blacklisted if you live like this.”

 

Doesn’t this psalm seem like a simple invitation about how to live like God’s people.  There are no long rules about who is out and who is in.  There is no theological debate how God’s gender or trinity.  This is a call to live with integrity in human community and you will be in right relationship with God.

This psalm reminds me of Micah 6:8, “God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

It seems as though the faithful folks who wrote these scriptures have a pretty simply idea about being God’s people, and that being God’s people is lived out among human community.  

Here’s to not being blacklisted by God.