Monthly Archives: November 2011

God’s Promise

“Once and for all I have promised by my holy name:  I will never lie to David.  He will always have descendants, and I will watch over his kingdom as long as the sun shines.  It will be as permanent as the moon, that faithful witness in the sky.”   Psalm 89: 35-37

 

As heirs in Christ, God promise to David is for us, too.  God promises to watch over his kingdom and guarantees, “that it will be as permanent as the moon, that faithful witness in the sky.”  From human observation, the moon – that faithful witness – looks anything but permanent.  Sometimes it appears gloriously full and luminous.  Sometimes it looks like a crescent-shaped sliver.  During an eclipse, it can disappear altogether.  But in spite of these perceived variations and the moon’s constant movement, there is permanence to its existence and stability in its rotation around the earth.

 

It’s like that with me, too.  Sometimes I feel gloriously aware of God’s presence and blessings.  Sometimes all I have is a dim perception of His hand in my circumstances, Other times I seem to lose sight of Him altogether.  But my changing perceptions have no power over God. He is equally present at all times. The times I can’t see Him but hang in there anyway might be the times my faith in His faithful witness is strongest of all.

 

Prayer:  Loving Creator, remind us Your promise remains strong in spite of our perceptions.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How does it feel to know that God is always with you, whether it seems like it or not?

Following Directions

“The holy God of Israel, the Lord who saves you, says: ‘I am the Lord your God, the one who wants to teach you for your own good and direct you in the way you should go.’”   Isaiah 48: 17

 

When I was a child, my defiant streak was pretty strong.  I saw my mother’s instructions as a power struggle.  Take homework, for example.  Although I generally did pretty well in most subjects, Math was my downfall. Mom always advised me to tackle my Math homework first to get it out of the way while I was fresh, and finish up with the easier subjects.  My ego wouldn’t let me surrender to her wisdom. I insisted on doing things my way because it was my way and it seemed better to postpone the unpleasantness of long division. It took a few more years of maturity to see Mom wasn’t directing me for her own good, but for mine.

 

It’s easy to mistake obedience to God’s will as a restriction and to balk at being told to do what we don’t want to do or refrain from doing what we feel like doing.  God’s not on a power trip.  He doesn’t need to be – He’s almighty. He wants to direct us for our sake, not for His.  I once heard a speaker compare God’s commandments to the parking lot of a restaurant located near the edge of a cliff.  Beyond the parking lot fence was a steep drop.  The sign on the fence said: No Parking Beyond This Point.  Like that sign, God’s restrictions can save us pain and trouble.

 

Prayer:  Loving Father, help me surrender to Your wise direction.

 

Reflection for Sharing:  What are some ways to move beyond short-sighted resistance to a Higher Plan?

Free Will Vs. Self-Will

“Someone will say, ‘I am allowed to do anything.’  Yes; but not everything is good for you.  I could say that I am allowed to do anything, but I am not going to let anything make me its slave.”  1 Corinthians 6: 12

 

If God loves us unconditionally, and in His Mercy will forgive us anything, why can’t we just do whatever we want?  What’s to stop us from doing whatever we feel like?  St. Paul points to one answer in his first letter to the Corinthians.

 

It is tempting to want to call the shots – at least for our own lives – but if we make our will the be-all and end-all, we may be in for a lesson in humility. Because God created us to have free will, we have choices. But those choices have consequences. If we repeatedly ignore the prompting of God’s Spirit within us, we might find ourselves pushed around by unrestrained self-will. It’s easy to fall prey to other powers greater than ourselves. Perfectionism, consumerism, and a host of compulsions or addictions can sneak in and take root in subtle but persistent ways. We may tell ourselves “I can stop any time I want to…I just don’t want to,” even if we suspect our “pleasures” have gotten the best of us.

 

We are allowed to do anything, but not everything is good for us. Yes, God gave us the gift of free will but its been said that the best thing we can do with it is give it back to Him.

 

Prayer:  Loving Creator, please protect me from slavery to my own will.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How is self-will keeping me from choosing to act in my own best interests today?

 

Perfect Law, Perfect Love

 

 

“The law of the Lord is perfect; it gives new strength.” Psalm 19:1a

 

The psalm says, “The law of the Lord is perfect.”  It doesn’t say we’re perfect.  Because the psalms were written long before Jesus was born, the law probably refers to the Ten Commandments.  But Jesus said that loving God with all our heart, mind, and strength and loving our neighbor as ourselves were the most important commandments.  If the law is perfect and loving God, others, and ourselves is the summation of the law, then we do well to choose to love if we want to grow.

 

This perfect law gives new strength.  How can love give strength?  It often feels like love requires strength, especially if we are asked to love with everything we have.  On the other hand, what do we have that hasn’t been given to us first?  Are we able-bodied?  Smart?  Maybe both? A gift of genetics.  Do we have a strong work ethic or a knack for being a good listener?  No doubt we acquired these attitudes and skills from someone who encouraged us or who modeled these behaviors.  Recognizing our abilities as gifts leads us to gratitude toward the Giver.  Even though He is well aware of the weaknesses and shortcomings we all have, God loves us perfectly and has blessed us all with talents. 

 

Strengthened by confidence in God’s law of love rather than our own unsteady and imperfect abilities, we are able to love those we are called to love today.  Any time we feel weak or shaky, we can go back to the law of love and be renewed. We can drink in God’s love and, strengthened, go into our day to share it with others.

 

Prayer:  Strengthen me with your love, Lord.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How is God’s law of love strengthening me today?  How am I being called to use that strength?

Fellow Creatures

“You and I are the same in God’s sight, both of us were formed from clay.”  Job 33:6

 

What if we could remember that this same quote could be said by any one of us to any one of us and still be true?  What if we could remember that we are all fellow creatures – beloved of God – but creatures, nonetheless?  How would that change our interactions with and feelings about everyone we come in contact with today?

 

For one thing, our frame of reference would shift.  The mental pecking order we assign to others based on whether they help or frustrate our plans might change.  After all, those others in our lives are not just moving, talking scenery, but, like us, God’s beloved, with needs and goals of their own.

 

On the other hand, if we are all the same in God’s sight, that might eliminate the unhealthy, false humility that denies our own legitimate needs and considerations. We might lose our sense of intimidation, our fear of confrontation, and our reluctance to take initiative if we could remember that others, like ourselves, although cherished by God, were also formed of clay. 

 

We are neither better nor worse than anyone else on the planet. Affirming that simple statement would bring our perspective back to true North: the God who formed us, breathed life into us, and values each of us the same.  We are precious in His sight.

 

Prayer:  Loving Father, may I remember that you lovingly created me and all those I will encounter today. We are all the same in your sight.

 

Reflection for sharing:  What do you have to lose by looking at others as being the same in God’s sight as yourself?  What do you have to gain?

Battle Training

Praise the Lord, my protector!  He trains me for battle and prepares me for war.  Psalm 144:1

 

God is love.  Why would he train and prepare anyone for battle?  Speaking only for myself, I relate this to my personal interactions with others. While growing up, I somehow got the idea that being good meant not making any waves and always putting the wishes of others ahead of my own.  This misunderstanding translated into never standing up for myself.  I swallowed resentments and knuckled under to peer pressure.  What I called being nice was really lack of courage. There is a time keep silent, but there is also a time to speak the truth.  Being a doormat is not kind and loving. Enabling others to be domineering isn’t doing them any favors and damages our self-respect.  I’m learning that being a good Christian and being nice aren’t always the same thing. Despite his unfathomable love and compassion, Jesus did not conform to the demands of the Pharisees or back off from their challenges. 

 

Nevertheless, it’s uncomfortable to assert ourselves if we aren’t used to it. We may feel guilty. We may feel like we’re being selfish or obnoxious. We may fear that people won’t like us. Bullies aren’t only found in schoolyards. We may encounter them at work, at home, or even within our own hearts – negative self-talk can be very intimidating. There are times we need to take a stand. Wisdom and discernment is needed if there is any possibility of physical danger. In such cases, it’s important to get guidance and support from appropriate sources so that we don’t put ourselves or others in harm’s way. If we don’t know how to assert ourselves, resources can help us acquire the skills and ability. When holding firm is appropriate, I believe that God will guide and empower us. The Lord trains us for battle and prepares us for war.

 

Prayer:  Lord, teach me when and how You want me to take a stand.

 

Reflection for sharing:  Am I being called to take a stand on some situation today?

Completion in Love

“Lord, your love is eternal.  Complete the work that you have begun.”  Psalm 138:8b

 

Repeating this simple affirmation can melt the barrier of self-will we sometimes use to guard our hearts.

 

Lord, your love is eternal. Not only does God love us, His love is eternal – no beginning, no end – continual. He loved us before we knew about Him.  He loves us when we feel most unlovable.  He will never stop loving us, because God is love. As St. Paul tells us, nothing in heaven or on earth can ever separate us from God’s love.  That includes anything we do or fail to do. God’s love is there whether we can feel it or not, whether it seems apparent or not.  It will always be there.  That is the firm bedrock we build on as we reflect on the next sentence.

 

Complete the work that you have begun. You are a work in progress.  So am I.  No matter what our journey has looked like up until today, God knows all about it.  He sees and cares about every high point, every valley, and every detour.  He has a plan for us, and His plan is good – not always comfortable, not always the path we would have chosen – but a plan for our good and the good of others. Whether we’re at a crossroad with career choices, longing to be in or improve a relationship, or struggling to overcome a stubborn character defect, there’s a good chance our goals and aspirations began with our God-given hopes and talents.  He guides us, as we are willing to seek guidance.  He empowers us to do the necessary footwork.  Anchored in His love, we can feel safe enough to open our hearts to Him so that He can complete the work he has begun.

 

Prayer:  Loving God, come into my heart and complete the work you have begun.

 

Reflection for sharing:  Where do I feel incomplete within myself?  How can God’s love and guidance empower me to develop those areas?

Love and Beauty

How beautiful you are, my love; how your eyes shine with love!  Song of Songs 1:15

 

What’s a romantic love poem doing in the Bible?  The passionate exchange between ‘the man’ and ‘the woman’ found in Song of Songs (also called Song of Solomon) is often interpreted as an exchange between God and his people. With this in mind, the poem not only paints beautiful images of love, but also gives us deeper insight into our own relationship with God.  We are cherished.  God calls you and me his ‘love.’  God thinks we are beautiful.

 

Madison Avenue and Hollywood bombard us images of beauty that contradict the adage, “Beauty’s only skin deep.”  Maybe beauty is only skin deep for those who don’t look any deeper, but there’s another adage that says, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  What does God find beautiful when He beholds us?  We get a glimpse in the above quote.  “How beautiful you are…how your eyes shine with love.”

 

It’s been said that, “the eyes are the windows to the soul.”  When God looks at us, he sees past the blemishes and wrinkles on our faces and on our souls. One thing that makes us beautiful in God’s eyes is the love he sees reflected in our soul-windows. Maybe it is the spontaneous response of love we feel when we realize He loves us exactly as we are.  Maybe it’s the love He sees when we are genuinely concerned about or reach out to help someone else who is also His beloved, whether or not that person seems lovable to us.

 

God loves us – just as we are – always. When we pause long enough to wallow in that awareness, how can we help but shine with love?

 

Prayer:  I love you, Lord.  May I grow in love.

 

Reflection for sharing:  How does it feel to be cherished by God?

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Meditations

But Jesus answered “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone, but need every word that God speaks.’” (Matthew 4:4)

 

All Bible quotes are from the Good News Translation unless otherwise noted.

 

It is reassuring that Jesus called fishermen and tax collectors to be his followers. These were laymen, not Scripture experts. It is wise to seek guidance from religious scholars and clergy who have studied Scripture to avoid errors in interpretation. But the Bible is also a gift given to each of us, to use as a basis for prayer and meditation.

 

I’m not a Biblical scholar; I’m an expert only on my own experience. Following the Scripture passage is a brief meditation along with a question or two as a springboard for your own reflections. Please feel free to share your own thoughts or insights on the passage by adding a comment. All comments are moderated, so please allow some time for your comment to be posted.

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