Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Righteous God

Reading: Psalm 119: 137-144

Verse 137: “Righteous are you, O Lord”.

There are several words used by the psalmist to describe God and the law in our verses for today. God is described as righteous. The law is described as right, trustworthy, tested, and true. The relationship between the psalmist and the law is also revealed in these verses. He loves the law, does not forget the law, is his delight, and gives him understanding. The psalmist clearly appreciates his relationship with the law. Conversely, he is distressed by those who do not have the same relationship with the law.

Many people relate to the feelings of the psalmist. I am one of them. My nature is to be a rule follower. Yet a part of me will also struggle with rules that seem unjust or that are just ends unto themselves. In general we have laws or rules to keep us safe, to keep us in right relationship with one another, to govern our society and our institutions. But when it feels like we are crossing the line into legalism, I struggle. Take, for example, our confirmation class at church. We have a covenant that the youth, parent(s), and I all sign. The covenant, of course, spells out the “responsibilities” we each have. In reality, it establishes the rules for being in confirmation. The process leads to being confirmed and likely to joining the church. At times it is necessary to re-emphasize one or more of the rules. Each and every time I do so I feel like I am stepping across the line of legalism. Yes, it is good and likely a positive thing to remind them to be in worship, to turn in their sermon notes, to read and come to class prepared for a discussion… But at some point I fear the loss of the love of God. The rules or law becomes a requirement instead of a means to fall more in love with God. The letter of the law replaces the forming of a relationship.

For me, the psalmist borders on this idea in our passage. The verses feel more about loving the law rather than loving the writer of the laws. Yes, the law comes from God and carries God’s authority. But we cannot reverse the order. We must follow and obey God’s laws because we love God. We do not love God because we follow and obey the laws. Loving God must come first. Living out and obeying the laws must flow from our love of God. Righteous are you, O Lord.

Prayer: Loving God, continue to pull me deeper and deeper into relationship with you. Grow my love of prayer and worship, of reading and study and meditation upon your love and your word. May it be so. Amen.

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Roaring Lion

Reading: Hosea 11: 8-11

Verse 8: “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused”.

Verse eight opens with a loving parent asking how they can even think about giving up on their children. God asks how he can hand them over to eternal condemnation. Admah and Zeboiim are two cities that were also wiped from the face of the earth when God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. The destruction of these cities was complete and it was final. God, as a loving parent, wonders how he can treat his children, his chosen people, like this. The good news is that God cannot.

In verse eight we also read, “My heart is changed within me; all my compassion is aroused”. God’s strong love overrides the hurt and rejection and disappointment. God’s love has taken over. Yes, punishment is necessary at times. Some behavior merits a consequence. This is true for Israel. Yet through Hosea these rebellious and defiant children are reminded that because of God’s great love and mercy, God’s heart is still full of compassion for his beloved children.

There are and there will be times when I hurt my relationship with God, when I reject God’s will and live for myself. Like any parent would be, I am sure God is hurt and feels disappointed with me. I am also equally sure that my God will never forget or abandon me. God is always at work to bring me to a place of conviction that leads to confession that leads to repentance. At that point, God’s mercy and love and grace restores and redeems me. Sometimes I too suffer the consequences of turning away and sometimes I am punished for my sins. At times God, my loving parent, deems these things necessary. They are part of the refining and reshaping of my faith. These things lead to growth in my faith.

In verse ten we read, “They will follow the Lord; he will roar like a lion”. When I have been brought back into a right relationship with God, I most clearly see the depth of God’s love for me. In those experiences, God’s love and mercy and compassion roar like a lion. The power draws me in. May you hear God roar like a lion today.

Prayer: Powerful God, you are such an amazing and awesome God. In my weakness and in my failures I see the depth of your love. It would be so much easier for you to just let me go, but you don’t ever do that. Thank you so much. Amen.

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Whenever Necessary

Reading: Psalm 32

Like the psalmist, sometimes we hold onto our sin.  We make a conscious choice not to come before God.  Sometimes this is because even though we know our sin, we hold onto it because we are not ready to repent or because we know that the temptation or the sin is still greater than our will or faith.  Sometimes we do not recognize our sin.  As our faith matures, the concept of what we see as sin also develops.  We come to realize more and more how far short we fall as we come to know and understand God more and more.

When we hold onto our sin, there are ramifications.  Not confessing our sin can weigh upon us emotionally and spiritually and can run us down physically.  Unconfessed sin is a barrier between God and us and inhibits a true relationship with God.  Our heart must be right with God before we can come to Him in prayer and worship.  If we try to do so with sin upon us, it is false prayer or worship.  Just as God could not look upon Jesus on the cross as He bore our sins, God cannot be in our presence if we are not righteous.  To be righteous we must be made clean.

The reality is that God already knows our sins.  The Lord of heaven is also the Lord of the earth.  There is nothing that escapes Him.  We may try to convince ourselves that God doe snot know our sins, but we are only fooling ourselves.  When we humble ourselves, come before God, and pour out our sins, we are blessed by His grace, mercy, and love.  Not only that.  God also removes the guilt and shame of our sins.

When we are in a right relationship with God, He blesses and instructs and loves us.  When we are in a right relationship with God, we wonder why we would ever lived any other way.  When sin is upon us, may we go to God often – whenever necessary – so that we may live all of our days in His presence and in the light of His love.

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Making Change

Change can be hard.  Sometimes we are forced to make a change due to circumstances and often those circumstances are beyond our control.  Usually, though, change must be made in order to continue on.  And almost always, change is for the better, even when it is hard to go through or when it is painful.  Once in a while we don’t see the change is good until some time has passed.

As we sense change is needed a common reaction is to long for the ‘good old days.’  We pine for a time when all was well in our institution or relationship.  But that time has passed.  Yet some may still staunchly want to hold onto something that once was but is no longer.  In these cases, the dying process that has begun simply continues along.

In many churches we find ourselves here.  The place isn’t quite what it used to be.  There is much great ministry that still goes on, but it is not quite what it once was.  People remember when things seemed much ‘better’ but are resistant to seeking God’s new direction and guidance.  It is Biblically clear that God directs us to share the good news and to help people grow in their faith.  These things occur in and through the church.  Our churches need to be alive and energetic places of welcome and love.  Yes, they may look different than they did yesterday, but as long as Christ is the center, the unquestioned reason for a church’s existence, then all will be well if we trust God and His leading.  Change is scary.  Change is hard.  But sometimes it is also necessary.

Scripture reference: Numbers 21: 4-9