Sunday, August 2, 2020

Psalm 5

What do you hope for?  During my life, my hopes have changed according to the desires of my heart.  In high school my hopes often revolved around boys, especially that I might be asked to a dance or other similar event.  In my young adulthood my hopes were often focused on employment, that I would get a raise or that I'd have certain perks from my work. These days my hopes are a little less tangible: I hope my kids are growing in maturity, that my husband and I grow continually closer to each other, and that my friends are well. None of these hope are intrinsically bad, but as I studied Psalm 5, I began to see how much I have misunderstood the biblical concept of hope:
Lord, listen to my words. 
Pay attention when I mourn.
My King and my God,
hear me when I cry for help. I pray to you.
Lord, in the morning you hear my voice.
In the morning I pray to you.
I wait for you in hope. 
(Psalm 5:1-3, NIRV)
Usually when I say hope, I mean that I am wishing for something to happen.  In Psalm 5:3, the word translated as "hope" is "tsaphah" which means "to look out or about, spy, keep watch."  Yes, hope is something much deeper than wanting something.  It is a trust something is going to happen. David  knew God was going to answer his prayers because he trusted God. “I wait for you in hope” really means that David is watching for something he knows is going to happen.   

When we plan to have visitors at our home, I sometimes find myself passing repeated by the front window of our home, waiting to see their car pull up. I know my friends are coming; I’m just not sure exactly when. That is the kind of hope that David had. He knew that God would answer his prayers, but he didn’t know when or how. As long as I'm being honest, I'll admit that my hopes don't always revolve around God.  I don't eagerly stand at the window of my life and watch for God's appearance.  How different my life would be if I started each day watching for God!

Friday, July 31, 2020

Bailout

With the American economy in the toilet (and, honestly, a good portion of the global economy), I reached into my file of "Random Things That I Probably Should Have Thrown Away A Long Time Ago" to share with you some thoughts I had last time we had a government bailout. There are lots of strong opinions floating around on the CARES Act, and there are also lot of strong opinions on whether there will (or should) be a second round of stimulus checks. This post is indifferent to the political nature of any bailout. Just have some fun with my theology. What else do we have to do these days?

Reason Why Jesus is Better than Any Bailout
  • The bailout is meant, largely, to preserve personal wealth and our global economy. But God gives us "an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you" (1 Peter 1:4).
  • Some say that the bailouts represent a fundamental shift in the way the U.S. economy works. Fortunately, we're taught, that "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
  • The "Bush Bailout" was supposed to fix our problems, and didn't. The "Obama Bailout" was supposed to fix our problems. The first bailout under Trump didn't either.  It leaves Average Joe asking how many bailouts will it take? But Scripture tells us Jesus saved us the first time: "For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God" (1 Peter 3:18).
  • Everything our government is discussing is only conjecture because we have never before had an economy like we are experiencing now, but our Savior is the same One who created the universe. He has told us: " 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future' " (Jeremiah 29:11, NIV).
And there you have it.

My goodness, I need to get out of my house for a while.  And soon...

FMF: Respect

Give to everyone what you owe them:
If you owe taxes, pay taxes;
if revenue, then revenue;
if respect, then respect;
if honor, then honor.
Romans 3:7, NIV


This seems like such a straightforward passage.  If you owe something to someone, give it to them.  It's pretty easy to apply the concept to taxes or revenue, but when I come to the second half of the verse it gets harder.  Too often, I want to chose who deserves my respect.  I want to decide who deserves my honor.  Yet, I see that the verse does not say, "Give to everyone what you THINK you owe them."

There are some people who by virtue of their position in your life that deserve respect.  Parents.  Bosses.  Government leaders.

Pause for a moment: Government leaders?  I never doubted if I should write this; it's just that, in today's political climate, this is a controversial statement.  Respecting government leaders was the essence of Paul's words here to the believers in Rome, so I'm guessing that it was controversial in Paul's time too.  Their country did not share their faith.  There must have been moments when it was challenging to respect leaders whose decisions seemed to fly in the face of what they believed.  At times their government was trying to kill them.  At times their government was killing them.  But that's what makes respect so powerful.

I'm sure that each of us struggles with respecting different people in our lives.  I know who I struggle with.  I am challenged to ask God if there are any less obvious people to whom I do not give proper respect.



This post is a prompt from Five Minute Friday and was written in approximately five minutes. For more information, visit fiveminutefriday.com.

Monday, July 20, 2020

Psalm 3

We usually credit David with writing the book of Psalms, but it turns out he only wrote about half of them. That's still a lot of psalms, and the most of any contributor. When you read the Psalms, you can know which were written by David because they are identified as "a psalm of David." I feel silly writing that, but I never paid attention to the byline at the top of many of the psalms. So, I will guess there are others that do the same.

As far as kings go, David was pretty awesome  Most of us know some things about him – like that he was a shepherd, or that he fought Goliath, or even the fact that he became king under pretty intense circumstances – but sometimes we miss or forget that David was also a musician, and he loved to write songs to God. Forgive the comparison, but when I think about David singing and dancing for God, I imagine a person sort of like Marshall Erikson from How I Met Your Mother.


In church, we often encourage believers to talk to God through prayer, but most of us don't talk to God in song.  Tell the truth, have you ever sung out to God?  David sang to God like we would talk to a friend. Look at how Psalm 3 begins:
Lord, I have so many enemies!
So many people are rising up against me!
Many are saying about me,
“God will not save him.”
(Psalm 3:1-2, NIRV)
Those aren't the words of someone who is fulfilling a religious obligation to talk to God.  David loved God, and he used his songs to stay close to Him. 

This post is about to get a little more interactive than it usually is. I'm going to ask you to do something that feels really strange.  Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, look away from your screen and sing something to God.  Do it.  Now.
  
Did you do it? A good place to practice this would be in the shower.  Most of us already sing there.  Why not sing to God?  Sometimes we get tripped up on what we should say when we talk to God. One thing that David told God was what he liked about Him. For example, Psalm 3:3 says: 
Lord, you are like a shield that keeps me safe.
You bring me honor. You help me win the battle.
Most of us have grown accustomed to wearing a mask when we go out in public.  Some people go above and beyond by wearing a full face shield.  You know what I mean, those plastic ones that look like the person just came from welding something.  They keep things away from your face. They believe the shield will protect them from infection. When David sang that God is like a shield, he meant that God is protecting him, sort of like a face shield.

There were lots of things happening to David that were dangerous, but he knew that God was with him. David wrote in verse 6: 
I won’t be afraid even though tens of thousands
attack me on every side.
David trusted God.  When he wrote that he was attacked by ten thousand, it was not figurative.  Remember, David wanted to build a temple for God, but he was a man of war (1 Chronicles 28:3). If David could trust God in every situation he faced, we can trust God in every situation we face.  And maybe we can express that faith like David, in song.

I am Apollos

What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, God’s building.
1 Corinthians 3:5-9, NASB


It's summer time in Southern California, a summer that I desperately needed.  In past years summer has meant a lot less to me.  For years I worked five days a week in an air conditioned building.  If it were 100 degrees outside, I was still leaving the house with a sweater.  I might get the chance to step outside for lunch and feel the warmth of the sun, but that sun was gone again as soon as my break was over. Since I stopped working full time, I have come to appreciate the seasons, mostly because I experience them now.
My first cucumber in early growth.

My newest joy is my garden.  Yes, I have had things growing my back yard (and front yard, actually) since we bought our home eight years ago.  I have written before about my benefiting from another's work.  When my yard got a major trim this month, I was sad at how much they cut off my fruit trees.  Then I reminded myself that I waste a lot of the fruit that is produced, and everything will grow back.  In fact, it will grow back stronger for the trimming that occurred.

Right now the shining gem of my garden is my single cucumber plant that I could easily take too much credit for.  It was my mother in law who showed up at my door with seeds and a trellis for the vines to creep up.  It was my son, under my mother in law's guidance, who turned the dirt.  It is me, though, who faithfully waters the plant.  Everyday.  Sometimes, twice a day.  As Paul wrote, it was God who made it grow.  There is nothing I could have done to make that plant grow.

Paul recognized his place in the hierarchy believers.  He was someone who said yes to God, one of many someones.  I love my cucumber plant, and I am looking forward to the fruit it produces. However, the plant would have grown for anyone who did the work that my family did.  The believers in Corinth did not understand this truth.

The modern church sometimes gets hung up on things that don't matter.  There are groups who believe they have exclusive access to God because of the day they worship, the age at which they baptize, who they accept in their priesthood, or the way they talk to God.  This is what Paul identifies as "jealousy and strife" in verse 3.

I am Apollos.  I can only take credit for watering my garden.  It would not have mattered if I used a bucket or a hose.  One may be appropriate for one part of my garden and the other more appropriate for another part of my garden.  Where seed is being sown, cultivated, and watered, God will do the rest.