[After teaching the crowd by the Lake with various parables, and talking to the disciples about why he spoke to the crowds with parables, Jesus asked them] ‘Have you understood all of this?’ They answered ‘Yes’.
Do we hear God when He asks whether we have understood what He has been teaching us? And when He asks whether we have understood what He has been teaching us, can we answer ‘yes’? Do we realise that God is teaching us through events in our lives, or through what we are reading?
Father God, thank you that you teach me in so many different ways, through Your word in scripture, through events in my life and the lives of others, through Your spirit within in me, guiding and encouraging, and through my conversations with You in prayer. Help me to listen and look for Your teaching and guidance in my everyday life. Amen.
Psalm 68 vv19-20: “Praise the Lord, who carries our burdens day after day; he is the God who saves us. Our God is a God who saves; He is the Lord, our Lord, who rescues us from death.”
Okay, so this is fairly standard Psalms’ language. It may even seem a bit too familiar? My reason for highlighting it is the tense. It comes in the middle of a psalm headed “A National Song of Triumph”. It is all about thanksgiving and celebration for what has happened at God’s hand. The righteous are glad because God has done this and that. Our two verses are in the present tense. God has done great things, and it will always be good to rejoice for that reason. Yet, God does this on a daily, ongoing basis. It is in His nature to go on acting on our behalf, and not stopping.
Firstly, God carries our burdens (physical, financial, personal). Amen. He does that, and is ever willing to do that, because of who He is. So, why am I still carrying them myself? I had a good conversation with a Christian friend a few weeks back (we’d been talking about prayer!) about how good it was to simply focus on God, rather than the need or care. Let Him carry them! Secondly, He is the God who saves us. So good, he says it twice! I’ve not been threatened with death recently, if ever, but the point is there is no limit to his saving power, except any that I have put there.
Father, please enable me to focus completely on you, rather than what is bothering me. I ask you to carry these burdens…and I thank you for doing so. Remind me of your help and power in a real, tangible way. Amen.
Yesterday Dennis shared about God being God of the ordinary, and the fact that for most of the time life is ordinary. As he mentioned, the exciting things in the lives of people in the Bible only happened on one or perhaps two or three occasions in their lives and the rest of their lives were ordinary. On Wednesday Peter shared about reading good Christian books and many of the people in those books also lived ordinary lives with just the occasional extraordinary events in them.
At the moment we might be finding life extra ordinary – ‘even more’ ordinary than usual – as we cannot go out much, cannot have people round to our homes as we used to, cannot meet at church, etc. But extra-ordinary can also mean the opposite – outside or beyond the ordinary and yes, life at the moment is that too. Who would have thought lockdown would be imposed across the world – unprecedented, extraordinary! Let us make the most of the ordinary and the extraordinary, the opportunity to do those boring little jobs that we’ve not had time to do or procrastinated over for ages and the new things we’ve wanted to have time to try. Let us have our regular, daily time with God and give him that extra time to really listen to what he is saying to us and allow the extraordinary to happen in our lives.
Father God, thank you for your love for and patience with us. Thank you that you are the God of our ordinary lives, and that you can make them extraordinary if we allow you to. Amen.
So if you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.
I was really struck by this passage on Sunday when it was read as part of our service, and the phrase ‘hidden with Christ in God’. What did that mean? I checked several different translations and they all use that same phrase. The picture that came to my mind was Clark Kent transforming into Superman; Clark Kent is still there inside Superman, but the rest of the world only sees Superman. As we are Christians we are transformed into ‘Christ in God’; we are still there on the inside but we are ‘hidden in Christ in God’ and are his witnesses here on earth, doing his work, performing his miracles and saving the world!
Thank you, Father, that I am hidden in you, that I do not have to do anything in my own strength, that you are my shield and defender and I can do your work in your strength and show your glory to the world. Amen.
Proverbs 27:1 – Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.
Matthew 6:34 – So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
Solomon and Jesus tell us not to boast or worry about tomorrow. Solomon tells us not to plan what we are going to do as we don’t know what will happen – and I know from experience that as I go to work with a plan of what I need to achieve in the next seven hours I often open my e-mails or get a phone call and my plans go completely out of the window. Jesus’ advice seems rather negative talking about worries and troubles, but this is part of the Sermon on the Mount and follows a positive passage about being cared for by God who provides for all our needs and this is what the message is about – relying on God. They are not telling us not to make plans, but not to make our own plans, and to rely on God. As we spend more time talking and listening to God and relying on His guidance for our lives, the plans we make will be His plans, and will bring joy rather than worries and troubles.
Father God, thank you that you care about every detail of my life, what I wear, what I eat, what I need, and what I will do. Help me to rely more and more on you and less on myself. Draw me closer to you in all aspects of my life. Amen.
The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight;
for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young – let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance – for understanding proverbs and parables, for sayings and riddles of the wise.
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and discipline.
This is the Prologue: Purpose and Theme of what we know as the Book of Proverbs, that collection of pithy two liners we sometimes refer to but probably wouldn’t read as a ‘book’. But there are several sections of prose and the first is this 7-verse explanation of what the book is about. Read it through again, and again, slowly, thinking about the Prologue (first line), the Purpose (lines 2-6) and the Theme (final line). It is a passage that deserves daily meditation as a prologue to any other scripture we read, and as a prologue to our daily lives.
Father God, teach me afresh how to fear you as well as love you, so that I may know and understand you better and your purpose for my life. Amen.
Thinking about some of the devotions earlier this week, about being weary and coming to Jesus for rest, and the difficulty of thriving spiritually while putting our energies into survival brought an aria from Mendelsohn’s version of the story of Elijah to mind: O rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him, and He shall give thee thy heart’s desires. Commit thy way unto Him, and trust in Him, and fret not thyself because of evildoers. O rest in the Lord; wait patiently for Him, and He shall give thee thy heart’s desires.
It also chimed with something I heard on YouTube from the recent Theology Slam event (to find new, exciting, young theologians of today) when one of the finalists talked about Theology and disability, and how working at a L’Arche community had taught him to slow down, to appreciate the ‘slow’ pace of life of some people with disabilities, who can only take one thing at a time. We are keen to show how well we can multi-task but that isn’t necessarily always a good thing. Sometimes we need to concentrate on one thing only and make sure we give it our undivided attention, to do it to the best of our abilities, and to the glory of God.
Father God, help me to slow down, instead of rushing through life. Help me to concentrate on the things that really are important and, like Elijah, to rest in You. Give me your peace that all the other things crowding my diary will get done in due time – in Your time, as I give You priority in all areas of my life. Amen.
Psalm 110 – a psalm of David
1: The Lord says to my lord, ‘Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool.’
We don’t think about having enemies like David, as king of Israel, did but I suspect we can all think of some if we try hard enough. They may not be people but could be things which tempt us and which we can’t resist, or our own attitudes, or apathy such as when we sit in front of the TV knowing we should be writing the next daily devotion but seem unable to press the off button. It might help us to think about sitting next to God while he makes those things our footstool. This is an active, ongoing thing. God doesn’t just do it immediately and we have to wait until He has done it, not because He cannot do it immediately but because He has to wait until we are ready to have those things dealt with.
Father, thank you that I may sit at your right hand, to be helped, guided and comforted by you as you work with me in identifying the enemies I have, in giving me the desire to overcome them, and in helping me to victory over them. Amen.
It is good to give thanks to the Lord, to sing praises to your name, O Most High; to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night, to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre. For you, O Lord, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.
How often do we read a text like Psalm 92 and find it hard to respond? We know that it is good to give thanks to the Lord, and know that we should, but just aren’t in the right mood. As we feel bored and fed up of being shut in, but at the same time worried that restrictions are being lifted too soon and are fearful of going out, it is hard to feel like singing for joy. Some of the most powerful songs we can sing at such times are spirituals, a legacy of slavery, of racism, the other main topic of the news today. Now, as when first sung, these can lift us above the trials and tribulations of today to the steadfast love of God in the morning, and his faithfulness at night, looking to the hope of a better world to come.
O Lord, every time I feel the Spirit moving in my heart, I will pray. I will sing your praises even when I feel tired and low, and know that you will lift me to see beyond my own small world to the greatness of your world, to see that the needs of others are much greater than mine, and that you are sufficient for all. Amen.
Psalm 8, verses 3-8 in particular:
O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. Out of the mouths of babes and infants you have founded a bulwark because of your foes, to silence the enemy and the avenger. When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars that you have established; what are human beings that you are mindful of them, mortals that you care for them? Ye you have made them a little lower than God, and crowned them with glory and honour. You have given them dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under their feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the seas whatever passes along the paths of the seas. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
Last Friday we heard God talking to Job, asking Job if humans were equal to God, and thought about God’s creative divinity and human’s inability to control the sea monsters. Today we read David’s psalm acknowledging God’s divine sovereignty and marvelling that while we are not equal to God He has, nevertheless, given us dominion over the rest of God’s creation; we do not control creation, but we do have dominion over it. Allowing us to tame it to our needs, He has also entrusted us with responsibility to care for it.
Father God, help us to take our responsibilities seriously, seeking your guidance as to how you want us to care for your world as we use its resources for our sustenance and comfort. Thank you that fuel consumption has reduced and air quality improved with less traffic on the roads at this time. Thank you that more people are learning how to grow some of their own food, enjoying fresh produce and the satisfaction that they have grown it, while reducing the environmental damage of food travel miles and saving on wasteful packaging. O Lord, our Sovereign, how majestic is your name in all the earth!