Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The tender voice of God

From today's reading: In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you.' Mark 1:35-37

Whenever I read from the first chapter of Mark, I always end up focusing on these verses. First, I love the idea of Jesus getting up in the early morning to go out and pray. It provides a pattern for us - early morning prayer - not so much the hour, as being in a place of no distraction. And as I write this, the back door is open and I can hear the birds singing to greet the morning. Distraction - maybe, but I think one of God. It allows my mind to go to the goodness of God that is found inherent in His creation. There are any number of things that often occupy my mind. Quite often the only time my mind gets quiet enough for God to get through is in the early hours of the morning.

The second thing that strikes me is that "everyone is searching for Jesus." I believe that to be true - we are all searching from something in this life - something that is bigger than we are, something that has power where we don't. Ultimately, I believe, we are looking for something that gives our life meaning. Something beyond what we may perceive as our mundane existence. And we are looking for acceptance. As we came from God and are created in his image, our desire is to return to that place from whence we came.

We seek in life to hear the voice of God. Too often we busy ourselves with all kinds of activities, maybe seeking validation through them, but they only serve to block out the voice of God. There is a reason that Psalm 46:10 says, "Be still and know that I am God." It is in the stillness that we hear the tender voice of God as it whispers to us of love and joy and acceptance.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

This is a God worth knowing.

From today's reading: For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. 1 Cor. 1:21-24

There is a quote, I don't have a clue who said it, "God so loved the world that he didn't send a committee." The ages old debate between Christians asks if we know God through the intellect or through experience. I even got into that argument with a collegue in the teacher's lounge one day years ago. It's an arguement that can't be won because we are all different and we "experience God" in different ways. In the days of Jesus, the Greeks loved to stand around and argue the merits of one philosophy or another. The gods were simply another philosophy to debate. Their beliefs were tempered by the intellectual merits of that belief. The Jews on the other hand experienced their God in a different way - they told the stories of their ancestors and talked about how they experienced their God and the signs that were understood to be from God.

By the time this letter was written to the Corinthians, the story of Jesus' death (and resurrection) were being told in many places. What kind of God or leader chooses to die for those who follow and believe in him? It didn't make sense to either side. The sign was a symbol of death/defeat to the Jews. It wasn't worth the merit of debate to the Greeks. But to those who were looking for new meaning to life, to those who needed something to hold on to; a God who cared enough to come down from heaven and to experience the human condition, who walked among us and cared for us and healed us, that God was worth knowing.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Dream big, but take care of the little things.

From today's reading: [Joseph] had another dream, and told it to his brothers, saying, 'Look, I have had another dream: the sun, the moon, and eleven stars were bowing down to me.' But when he told it to his father and to his brothers, his father rebuked him, and said to him, 'What kind of dream is this that you have had? Shall we indeed come, I and your mother and your brothers, and bow to the ground before you?' So his brothers were jealous of him, but his father kept the matter in mind. Genesis 37:9-11

Through the whole story of Joseph, which spans 40% of the book of Genesis, Joseph goes about living his life. He tends the sheep, he's given a gift of a special coat, he tells his dreams, he's assaulted and sold into slavery. He's bought by a prominent man and works his way up to head of the household. He is falsely accused of attempted rape and wastes away in prison. There he meets the king's baker who later remembers his kindness. Joseph is eventually released because he has a gift of interpreting dreams. He is placed in charge of the program to save the people from famine and eventually his brothers and his father come to Egypt and bow down before him. The initial dreams are fulfilled.

God worked through this whole story to bring about salvation for Jacob's family. Both the good things and the bad things that happened to Joseph were part of the plan to place Joseph in a position to help, not only his family, but also a whole nation to survive the severe famine. And in the meantime, wherever Joseph was, he did the tasks set before him and accepted whatever came as a part of God's providence.

Today is the day set aside to remember George Herbert, a parish priest, poet and author. Part of the prayer for his remembrance says: Give us grace, we pray, joyfully to perform the tasks you give us to do, knowing that nothing is menial or common that is done for your sake. That could also be said about Joseph. The Bible tells us that if we are faithful in the small things, God will bless us and will entrust us with greater things.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Whatever is good, think on these things.

From today's reading: Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phil. 4:8

Last night I heard someone challenge us to go 3 months without listening to or watching the news. I understand where they are coming from, but I also realized that there are some things we need to be aware of. A number of years ago, when the kids were small, we had gone camping and were determined not to let the world impinge on our family time together. As we were rafting down the Guadalupe River, we pulled in at a food store to get drinks and found out that there was a hurricane bearing down on the Gulf Coast. We just barely had time to break camp, get home and board up the house before it hit.

There is so much negative in the news these days. But today's scripture is an admonition to not dwell on all the negative reports that we hear in the news, or even the negative things that happen in our lives. Instead we should dwell on those things that are positive and uplifting. The negative can eat away at our very soul, dragging us down and holding us captive. It can lead to depression and feelings of defeat. But if we can look at the positive aspects of life and what is happening around us, it makes a difference in how our day goes and even our outlook on life itself. We can either be the person who brings everyone down, or we can be the person who lifts everyone up and affirms the goodness in life.

I offer the following for use with prayer beads or as a meditation verse.
Psalm 80:18 Restore us, O LORD God of hosts; *
show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

I Will Rejoice

From today's reading: Though the fig tree does not blossom, and no fruit is on the vines; though the produce of the olive fails and the fields yield no food; though the flock is cut off from the fold and there is no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will exult in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18.

There is a song based on this scripture called "I will rejoice in the Lord Alway." In my experience, you either love it because it's fun to sing (and maybe it speaks to your experience) or you hate it because of what it says. It basically says that you are to rejoice in the Lord in all things - even when your life appears to be going to hell in a hand-basket.

I believe part of what we have to understand is that things happen in this life that are not good and do not seem to come from God. We will not always get our own way, and outside influences on us can have bad - even disastrous - effects. These are the times when we begin to question if God really cares. I'm sure when Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and later sitting in jail in Egypt without any hope of getting out, that it wasn't always easy to believe God was going to redeem that situation. But He did, and He used it to place Joseph where he needed to be in order to save his brothers and his whole extended family.

When we have no control over our circumstances, we have to remember that God really does care what is happening to us. And if we place our trust in Him, He will make us strong enough to meet the challenge and will ultimately bring about blessing and good from this experience; maybe not immediately, but eventually. What we can rejoice in is that even when we are powerless, God is still God and He does care what happens to us.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday - Now is the acceptable time.

From today's reading: Yet even now, says the LORD, return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; rend your hearts and not your clothing. Return to the LORD, your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and relents from punishing. Joel 2:12-13

This pretty much says it all. Now is the time to come to the Lord. We are made worthy to stand before God, not because of anything that we have done or said or offered, but because Jesus Christ died on the cross to pay the price of our sins. It is never too late, it is never too soon. When we turn to him with sincere hearts, he responds with mercy, and grace, and love.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. This is an acceptable time (2 Cor. 6:2b) to begin a closer walk with the Lord. It is about opening our hearts to Him, so that He might become more accessible to us. For me, this means daily devotionals, readings and writings. May God bless you as you find the way that you are to open your heart to Him during this season of growing closer.