DON’T TRY SO HARD Psalm 81

For most of my Christian life, I’ve felt the need to earn my salvation.  After all, I know I’m not good enough for God’s  love.  My faith falters.  Feeble on good days.  I try to be what He wants.  Fail more often than not, leaving me frustrated and defeated.

That’s why I need Psalm 81:1–‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt; open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.’  Nothing here (nor anywhere else in the Bible) about deserving salvation.  Israel is delivered out of slavery in Egypt only because the Lord does it for them.  Like leading a scared child to safety, so the Lord guides His people out of Egypt.  He does it.  He leads.  They follow.

What this psalm tells me is to shut my mouth, listen to Him, and then open it so He can fill me.  With what?  Fatty foods and all?  I do that in abundance without help.  No.  In my case, knowing my emotional background, God wants to fill me with His reassurance and acceptance.  Why?  He knows my needs.  His choice to care.  Mine to open my mouth, allowing Him to fill me.

Don’t try so hard.  Sit back and be fed.  Relax.  Take the pot off the heat.  Cool down.  The harder we try, the worse off we’ll be.  At least when it comes to receiving God’s gifts.  His mercy and love.  Don’t try so hard.

Remember what was called the Chinese Finger Trap?  This entwined gag, in which you insert both index fingers, which then becomes impossible to get out of the harder you try.  Pull and pull harder–no escape.  Relax.  Take off the pressure and out you go.  A lesson there?

Quicksand.  They say if you panic, using all your strength to break out and escape, you’ll only be locked deeper and tighter in its grip.  But relaxing eases your body to freedom.  Don’t try so hard.  A lesson there?

Sand.  Someone tells me the tighter you grip a handful of sand, the less you’ll have.  But open your hand, scoop up a large handful, resting the grains freely on your open palm, and you’ll hold more than you can imagine.  Held loosely.  A lesson here?

Don’t try so hard!

 

Thank you, Lord, for all you do for us.  In Jesus’ name.  Amen.

 

 

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WHY THEM? Daniel 8

Why do the wicked prosper?  Why them?  The Bible asks the same question.  Our hearts also cry out wondering why.  Politicians get away with almost everything you or I dare not try.  One false step and the book is thrown our way.  Don’t have to do much and that green-eyed monster rises up in others, looking askance at me, wishing me to fall hard and fast.  And this is family and friends!

The Old Testament prophet Daniel has visions that raise questions as well.  Terrifying dreams.  About despicable invaders who trample on and destroy everything in their path, especially what’s good and godly.  Ruination of God’s nation in the forecast.  As Daniel says, ‘It (evil goat) prospered in everything it did, and truth was thrown to the ground’ (v. 12).

Why does evil triumph?  Leaving God’s own people trampled.  God’s truth heaved to the ground, mingled with manure and mud.  Walked all over.  Scorned with a sinister sneer.  Then in verse 24–‘He will cause astounding devastation and will succeed in everything he does.  He will destroy…the holy people.’  Why them?

Everywhere he looks, Daniel sees injustice taking first prize.  Blue ribbons awarded to evil losers.  We know how that feels.  We shake our collective heads at all the news that so alarms us.  We fret over the world our children and grandchildren will inhabit and inherit, if Jesus doesn’t come back soon (and we pray He does!).  What terrors will confront them?  Why them?

But what should we do in the meantime?  Here’s where Daniel helps.  What does he do?  Read verse 27.  Clear as a bell.  Gets on with his life.  Eases nail-biting fears by doing what’s usual and normal.  Daniel 8: 27– ‘I, Daniel, was exhausted and lay ill for several days.  Then I got up and went about the king’s business’.

Keep on keeping on, says Daniel.  Do what you do.  Don’t be deterred from what the Lord has for you right now.  Head held high.  Pray continually.  Keep sharing Jesus as best you can.  Look for His windows opening up with fresh air in a polluted world.

See the door in front of you?  It’s opening.  Get up and go about the King’s business!

 

Thank you, Jesus, for life worth living.  Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

 

OF LITTLE BOATS AND CATTLE! Mark 4: 35-41

What fun to discover a new detail in the story of Jesus.  I’m amazed at how many fresh findings I make reading the same old stories for the umpteenth time.  Like the one about Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus shares some parables before telling the disciples to get in their boat and head to the other side.  Both Matthew and Luke relate the same story.

We know what happens.  A fierce storm stampedes through the surrounding hills, sucking through that 680′ below sea level lake, whose whitecapped waves toss the boat around as all on-board fear imminent death.  Except for Jesus.  He stills the storm.  And teaches who is Lord of Creation.  He is!

So, what about that new find?  All details, located in those three Gospels, match.  Except for one.  I’ve never noticed it before.  It’s at the end of Mark 4:36.  Nothing really earthshattering.  Only an addendum about ‘other boats’ heading across the lake.  Not just the one with Jesus and the Twelve on board.  ‘Other boats’.

So what?  Big deal?  It is to me.  What I see here is God’s mercy to others.  Not just to those in His group alone.  Like the Lord saving the ultra-pagan city of Ninevah in Jonah’s story.  Its last verse reveals the heart of God, concerned about those hundreds of thousands of Ninevites, along with all their cattle.  Cattle?  Cows?  So what?  Where’s the beef?!

Yes, God cares about everything in His creation.  From soup to nuts.  Even boatloads of others also in danger.  Animals.  Needy people then and today.  Those tossed and pitched about in life’s storms.  Me and you.

He loves us.  Not only those Twelve of years gone by, but certainly believers of generations to come, if Jesus delays His second coming a bit longer.

That’s little old me in one of those ‘other boats’ plying turbulent waters behind the Master.  You too!  We’re about to drown.  But Jesus calms the storm for us as well.  For those in ‘other boats’.

I’m happy to be in a tiny skiff in His wake.  Don’t need to be in first-class accommodations.  No special dining reservations for me.  No.  I’m grinning from ear-to-ear just to see Jesus.

When life’s seas get rough and tumble, He calms them.  Not only for the Twelve, but also for those in ‘other boats’ nearby.  Even for ‘…many cattle as well’ (Jonah 4:11).

 

Thank you, Lord, for mercy beyond measure.  In Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

 

MUST BE CRAZY! John 10: 1-30

I must be crazy!  Lost it.  Out of my gourd.  Flipped my lid.  Certifiably loony bin!  You get the point.  And no thanks to all who shouted a boisterous ‘amen’!

Let’s get serious.  I’ve been reading the Heidelberg Catechism, written in the 16th century.  Why?  Out of curiosity mainly.  A document still cherished by much of Christendom.  Which, sad to say, I’ve neglected to darken its doorway until now.

It opens on the highest note of biblical truth.  By the way, a catechism is a way of learning through a question-and-answer format.  Those raised Roman Catholic know all about this.  Previous generation Protestants would also be familiar, but no longer.  We’ve become touchy-feely.  Games dominate.  Catchy graphics and heavy-beat tunes wear the pants today.

Back to Heidelberg’s high note.  First question hits the nail-on-the-head–‘What is your only comfort, in life and in death?’  Chew on that for awhile.  What gives you comfort in life?  And in death?  What pleasures do you cherish, which capture your time and thoughts?

This catechism’s answer is precious.  Grabs me when I’m off-kilter and pulls me right back on-track.  Helps me to stand up after falling flat-on-my-face by varied distractions and time-wasters.

Here’s that answer to Heidelberg Catechism’s first question–‘That I belong–body and soul, in life and in death, not to myself but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ…’  There’s more, but this is the gist that grabs me and won’t let me go.

I’m His.  Belonging to Jesus.  He purchases me by His blood on the cross and resurrection from the dead.  Purchased–not as in human slave-trafficking– but with a faithfulness that will not let me go.  Which holds on matter what.  For dear life…and death.

I’m His.  So are you if you’re in Christ.  Comforting thought?  He is our sole comfort.  Period.  Who could ask for anything more?

Thank you for Jesus, our faithful comforter and Savior.  Amen.