My help comes from the Lord,
who made heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot be moved;
The One who keeps you will not slumber.
The Lord who keeps Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep. – Psalm 121:2-4
Most people, from time to time or even regularly, lament that the Lord SEEMS absent, or slumbering, sleeping. If our spirit suspects that God is not present or is sound asleep, we may wonder, “In that unaware or detached state, how can God be attentive, protective,
proactive?” Painful question, except that what feels or seems to be true is not always true.
At times of such emptiness we rely, as the Psalmist does, on the fact of our faith. Our help comes from the Lord, and though our feelings may lie to us, God is wide awake. And surely, God is with us.
David has confessed his sin and is assured of God’s pardon, as we can be, and proclaims his gratitude (see Psalm 32:1-5), then:
Therefore let all who are faithful
offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
shall not reach them.
You are a hiding place for me;
you preserve me from trouble;
you surround me with glad cries of deliverance. – Psalm 32:6-7
Perhaps in recent days you have felt the rush of mighty waters attempting to reach you, threatening to overcome you. At this, and every other time of distress, forgiven people can offer prayer to God and be reminded of the precious promise: God is a hiding place for me; the Lord preserves me; ultimately, despite the stormy trial, God surrounds me with joy.
Pray through the deep distress and expect our faithful God’s deliverance. Amen.
The Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why has your countenance fallen?If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.” – Genesis 4:6-7
Cain was about to “take matters into his own hand,” leaving this conversation with God to go murder his brother, Abel. No one ever mastered sin that way! Becoming more absorbed in self – what I want, what I have convinced myself I need, what I think I deserve – renders me unable to see the gracious opportunity God always gives me to overcome lurking sin and step into the light of loving my brothers and sisters.
We will overcome temptation with the help of the Overcomer, who was tested, as we are, yet without sin! (see Hebrews 4:15)
Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. – Hebrews 2:18
It’s wonderful to celebrate everything Jesus is able to do! He is able to heal. He is able to intercede. He is able to conquer death. The list goes on; Jesus is able!
And because Jesus is a real human being who endured what he had to endure, and in those trials was tested, he not only understands us, he is ABLE to HELP us. And we are tested each day, in various ways.
For we have [a high priest] who in every respect has been tested as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:15-16 Jesus is able!
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and put a new and right spirit within me.
Do not cast me away from your presence,
and do not take your holy spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
and sustain in me a willing spirit. – Psalm 51:10-12
If we have ever felt spiritless or abandoned (by God or others), we especially can relate to David’s impassioned plea: “Don’t cast me away; don’t take your Spirit from me!”
When after reflection and confession God puts a new and right spirit within us, that now-willing spirit must be sustained. Otherwise we may forget God’s graciousness and generosity in restoring us, in remaining NEAR us, in allowing the holy Spirit to stay WITH us.
The clean heart God is creating in us yearns to be united with God, to stay with God. May it be so for us today. Amen.
For you have no delight in sacrifice;
if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.
The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. – Psalm 51:16-17
It simply isn’t about externals, outward things we can do, like acts of sacrifice. Those behaviors only take on true meaning when the heart is ready to be open, to be broken. We can’t earn the grace of God by doing, doing, doing.
As we begin the Lenten season we ask, how is our BEING? What is the condition of our heart? Are we willing to reflect on the distance between where we are and God’s holiness? Are we then willing to offer to God what the penitent David called an acceptable sacrifice? God’s heart longs to restore and heal our broken hearts as we turn to him in repentance.
Biblical fasting is not really ABOUT abstaining from food. Abstaining is a necessary part of the “how,” but thy “why” is much deeper, much more beautiful, and much more challenging. The “why” is God’s great invitation to us to be like Christ, as Isaiah 58 shows us:
Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, undo the thongs of the yoke, let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly…Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer; you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am. – fromIsaiah 58:6-9
Reidland UMC will gather tonight at 6 to remember who we are, whose we are, and what we are called to be. Hope to see you there.
God said (to Elijah), “Stand on the mountain, for the Lord is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. – 1 Kings 19:11-12
Other versions say “still, small voice,” or “gentle whisper,” but the NRSV translates it “a sound of sheer silence.” Not through dreadful wind, earthquake or fire – instead God speaks to the prophet’s heart.
We know this: It doesn’t have to be loud. It doesn’t have to grab the crowds’ attention. When God speaks the room can be filled with “sheer silence.” So today we can choose to spend some time in stillness and silence. Listen. God will speak.
“…he ascended into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of God the Father Almighty…”
Hebrews 4-7 teaches about our great High Priest, Jesus. Then, Hebrews 8:1-2:
Now the main point is this: we have such a High Priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent that the Lord, and not any mortal, has set up.
The incredible truth of what Jesus has done (and does) fills us with hope and awe. He ascended to God. And as a human high priest would do, Jesus – Jesus himself! – intercedes (prays for) us (see Romans 8); and as a human priest would have done, Jesus MADE an offering – not repeatedly, as a human priest needed to do, but, as Hebrews likes to say, “once for all.”
Praise God from Whom all blessings flow! And the greatest blessing of all is our High Priest, Jesus.