The Psalms Bucket

Today is Friday, May 26, 2017. Day 21,624. EIGHT days until our Oregon vacation!

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” ~ Arthur C. Clarke, “Profiles of The Future”, 1961 (Clarke’s third law)
(From The Quotations Page)

Backronym ~ an existing word turned into an acronym by creating an apt phrase whose initial letters match the word, as to help remember it or offer a theory of its origin. For example, rap has been said to be a backronym of “rhythm and poetry.”

Today is Dracula Day. And, being Friday, it would be really easy to “celebrate” by having an all-night Dracula movie binge. There are so many of them.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only eight days until we head to Oregon. We’re actually having a hard time not planning too many things on this trip. After all, we want to be able to spend some days doing nothing but enjoying the sights and sounds of the Pacific coast, you know.

This weekend is Memorial Day in the U.S. We get Monday off, for a long weekend. We don’t have much planned. We did reach out to another family to see if they want to go bowling after church on Sunday, and they said yes, sounds like fun. But, as far as Monday goes, I’m thinking it will be simply a day of relaxation. Maybe some movie watching if we can find something we want to see.

The Red Sox swept the Rangers, winning last night’s game 6-2. They play Seattle next, who is in last place in the AL West. The Rangers move on to a newly formed rivalry with the Boo Jays.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

(From The Divine Hours)

Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD, give praise, O servants of the LORD, 
who stand in the house of the LORD, in the courts of the house of our God! 
Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good; sing to his name, for it is pleasant!

Psalm 135:1-3
I say to the LORD, You are my God; give ear to the voice of my pleas for mercy, O LORD!
Psalm 140:6
For you, O LORD, are most high over all the earth; you are exalted far above all gods.
Psalm 97:9
Then all mankind fears; they tell what God has brought about and ponder what he has done.
Psalm 64:9

(From Living the Message)

We all have the impulse to pray. Even those who claim that they don’t believe in a God surely have, at some points in their lives, some impulse to pray . . . toward somewhere. There is certainly no lack of things to pray for and about, especially in the lives of Christ-followers. “Desire and demand keep the matter of prayer before us constantly.”

So why is prayerlessness such an issue? Eugene H. Peterson says that the answer is that “‘the well is deep and you have nothing to draw with.'” That’s right. We need a bucket. We need something that “holds water. Desires and demands are a sieve.”

“The Psalms are such a bucket.”

The reading ends there. But I will add my agreement to Peterson’s statement. I have long been fascinated and drawn to the Psalms, the central book in most Bibles. And I have long had the opinion that this is no accident. For, in the Psalms, you will find pretty much any topic you need help with in prayer. In Psalms, we even see the darkest emotions being displayed in prayer. I firmly believe that there is absolutely nothing wrong with praying Psalms verbatim back to God. Many well-meaning people believe that all of our prayers must be original, coming from our own souls. Yet, there stand the Psalms, in the middle of our sacred Scriptures, crying out to be prayed, to be recited, to be read back to the One from whom they originated.

Pray the Psalms. Take them to God. Your own prayers will spring forth from them as you do so. The Psalms are a good “bucket.”

Father, every day, I bring my prayers to you in the bucket that is the Psalms. Help me to draw deeply from the well through them. Help me to find my own soul in them, that I might, then, cry out to you with my own words. In the meantime, let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Charged With Hope

Today is Tuesday, May 23, 2017. Day 21,621. The countdown still says eleven days until our Oregon vacation. That’s because I did my blog so late in the morning, yesterday. So, yes. Eleven.

Quote of the Day

“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into the sun.” ~ Pablo Picasso

Word of the Day

Nudnik ~ a person who is a bore or nuisance.

Today is Title Track Day, referring to those great albums that were defined by a track with the same name as the album. Which ones are your favorites? Tarkus, by Emerson, Lake & Palmer, comes to mind. In the realm of worship music, I immediately think of Shout To the Lord, the album that launched Hillsongs into notoriety.

We had nice day, yesterday. After C took care of some business in the early afternoon, we watched some TV while eating lunch. After that, the three of us headed up to the local bowling alley, got a ball drilled for me and for S, then bowled a couple of games. It was great fun. C won the first game, while I struggled to get some kind of decent form and keep my ball on the right side of the head pin. Then she let me win the second game. S did better with her very own ball, drilled just for her, and improved in the second game. It was great fun.

I did not go to band practice last night, so I won’t be back there until June 10. Next Monday is Memorial Day, and the Monday after that, we plan to be in Oregon.

The Texas Rangers will be in Boston for the next three days, causing division in our household. Hahaha! Not too much, though. I’ll just cheer for whoever does something good! It will be Cashner vs. Porcello on the mound.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are ESV unless otherwise indicated

(From The Divine Hours)

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.
Psalm 51:15
Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.
Psalm 119:18
I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.
Psalm 86:12
For who is God, but the LORD? And who is a rock, except our God?
Psalm 18:31
Righteous are you, O LORD, and right are your rules. 
You have appointed your testimonies in righteousness and in all faithfulness. 
My zeal consumes me, because my foes forget your words. 
Your promise is well tried, and your servant loves it. 
I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your precepts. 
Your righteousness is righteous forever, and your law is true. 
Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your commandments are my delight. 
Your testimonies are righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

Psalm 119:137-144
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy upon me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

Agnus Dei

(From Living the Message)

“The way we conceive the future sculpts the present, gives contour and tone to nearly every action and thought through the day,” writes Eugene H. Peterson, in today’s reading, called, simply, “The Future.”

The way some people lives indicates that they have no thought, whatsoever, of the future. “If our sense of future is weak, we live listlessly.” There is a lot of mental illness surrounding the lack of hope for any future. Sometimes, this results in the tragedy of suicide. The entire concept of worry revolves around a lack of confidence in what the future will bring.

As believers in Jesus, our future is “characterized [or at least should be] by a strong and focused sense of future, with belief in the Second Coming of Jesus as the most distinctive detail.” It is the focal point of our future.

“The practical effect of this belief is to charge each moment of the present with hope. For if the future is dominated by the coming again of Jesus, there is little room left on the screen for projecting our anxieties and fantasies.” We have freedom to be more spontaneous in our responses to both God and people. It frees us to celebrate life.

He who testifies to all these things says it again: “I’m on my way! I’ll be there soon!”
Yes! Come, Master Jesus!

Revelation 22:20 (The Message)

Father, remind me through this day of the hope and assurance that we have as believers; the hope that Jesus Christ will one day return to take us home to the place he has prepared for us.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Why Do We Go To Church?

Today is Friday, May 19, 2017. One more day until our family reunion.

Quote of the Day

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” ~ Joseph Addison

Word of the Day

Purloin ~ to take dishonestly; steal; filch; pilfer.

Today is Pizza Party Day! Sadly, it appears that I will not likely celebrate today. Perhaps next year.

Friday has arrived. This evening, after work, I will be driving to Mineral Wells to pick up my mother for our weekend in east Texas. We’ll be leaving as early as we can manage, tomorrow morning. I don’t know if all the cousins will be there tomorrow or Sunday, or even both. Whatever happens will be great.

The Rangers continued their winning streak yesterday afternoon, beating the Phillies 8-4. They have now won nine consecutive games. This evening, they will face the Tigers in Detroit, with Martinez on the mound. The Tigers are 20-19, while the Rangers are 22-20, so they are very close. They remain in second place, 7.5 games out.

The Red Sox, sadly, lost to the Athletics in Oakland, 8-3. They will play again tonight, with Chris Sale on the mound for Boston. They remain in third place, four games out.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are ESV unless otherwise noted

Seek the LORD and his strength; seek his presence continually!
Psalm 105:4
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, have mercy on me.
O Lamb of God, that takes away the sins of the world, grant me your peace.

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.
Psalm 69:5
When iniquities prevail against me, you atone for our transgressions.
Psalm 65:3
Remember your mercy, O LORD, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. 
Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O LORD! 
Good and upright is the LORD; therefore he instructs sinners in the way.
For your name’s sake, O LORD, pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Psalm 25:6-8, 11

(From Living the Message)

Our pastor once asked us, “Why do we go to church?”

“The people in our congregations are, in fact, out shopping for idols. They enter our churches with the same mind-set in which they go to the shopping mall, to get something that will please them or satisfy an appetite or need,” says Eugene H. Peterson.

Theologian John Calvin considered the heart as “a relentlessly efficient factory for producing idols.” The pastor is usually thought of as the “quality-control engineer” of the factory.

While it is true that the folks who gather in our churches are looking for help through difficult times or meaning and significance to their lives, they want God on their own terms. They don’t want the “jealous God, and probably not even the “‘God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ Mostly they want to be their own god and stay in control but have ancillary idol assistance for the hard parts, which the pastor can show them how to get.”

“John Calvin’s insight plus Henry Ford’s technology equals North American Religion.” Sadly, in our culture today, the pastors have the same success rate as Aaron did in Exodus 32.

“Be wary of false preachers who smile a lot, dripping with practiced sincerity. Chances are they are out to rip you off some way or other. Don’t be impressed with charisma; look for character. Who preachers are is the main thing, not what they say. A genuine leader will never exploit your emotions or your pocketbook. These diseased trees with their bad apples are going to be chopped down and burned.”
Matthew 7:15-16 (The Message)

Father, teach us the truth in our churches. May we be people who are seeking you and your strength, seeking your presence continually, as Psalm 105:4 tells us to do. May we not be seeking idols, nothing more than a panacea for everything that ails us. May we be seeking you and you alone, for you alone are worthy of our worship and praise. I like to think that our own little gathering of “saints” is different, but I fear that many of the people who come suffer from the same issues described above. Help our pastor to change them in your strength. I pray for our church; I pray for all churches, that the truth may be taught as presented by Jesus. Let us follow his words and his actions, obeying what he told us to do, rather than simply hoping for a band-aid to soothe our latest foible.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Training, Not Trying

Today is Thursday, May 18, 2017. Two days until our family reunion.

Quote of the Day

“It’s not the having, it’s the getting.” ~ Elizabeth Taylor

Word of the Day

Slacktivism ~ actions taken to bring about political or social change but requiring only minimal commitment, effort, or risk. Signing an online petition, for example.

Today is Notebook Day, which celebrates the benefits of journaling. I like journaling; some folks don’t. That’s okay. It’s not for everyone. Some people feel like they are supposed to be doing it, especially in the spiritual community, but that’s not a burden anyone should assume. If you like it, by all means do it. If you don’t, then don’t do it; don’t even try. Being miserable does not make you a better person.

In the shocking news category, I was greeted, this morning, by the news that Chris Cornell, of Soundgarden and Audioslave, has passed away at the age of 52. This is totally unexpected, according to news reports, and, as of now, no cause of death has been identified. I have a friend at work who was excited about an upcoming concert with Soundgarden, his favorite band.

More sadly, and more close to home, I report that C’s good friend and work associate, Theresa, passed away Tuesday night, after a painful battle with cancer. We are saddened, but, at the same time, glad that she no longer suffers. In addition, she was confident in her Savior’s ability to keep her, so we are confident in her ultimate destination, which is far better than even the best circumstances in our world. As Dallas Willard said, things are much better than you could ever imagine, in the kingdom of God.

For some happy news, the Rangers beat the Phillies quite soundly, last night, 9-3. At one point, it was 9-0. The starting pitcher got the win, which is always good. They now have an eight game winning streak, and one more game with the Phillies this afternoon. Hopefully, the rain will hold off until after the game. Unfortunately, the Astros won again, too, so the Rangers continue to be in second place, eight games out.

The Red Sox beat the Cardinals again, too, in thirteen innings, 5-4. They remain in third place, four games behind the Yankees. They gained a game on the second place Orioles, though. They begin a weekend series in Oakland, tonight.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS
All Scriptures are ESV, unless otherwise noted

Rejoice in the LORD, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!
Psalm 97:12
Incline your ear, O LORD, and answer me, for I am poor and needy. 
Preserve my life, for I am godly; save your servant, who trusts in you—you are my God.

Psalm 86:1-2
Blessed be the LORD! For he has heard the voice of my pleas for mercy.
Psalm 28:6
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
Matthew 5:6
And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!
Luke 11:9-13

(From Living the Message)

“Spirituality requires context,” writes Eugene H. Peterson. “Always. Boundaries, borders, limits.”

There are people who believe that just by becoming less material, they automatically become more spiritual. This is, of course, not true. “No one becomes exalted by ascending in a gloriously colored hot-air balloon.” To become mature, spiritually, requires what Peterson calls “askesis.” What is askesis? “A training program custom-designed for each individual-in-community.” Training, not trying, as Dallas Willard would say.

The way we train is through the Spiritual Disciplines. And what makes it “custom-designed” is that no two people need the same program of disciplines in their lives. Some people may not need to practice the discipline of silence as much as I need to. And boy do I need to! We all need to determine which disciplines we need most in our lives in order to reach our potential, spiritually. Spiritual maturity cannot be “mechanically imposed from without.” I can’t become more spiritual simply by getting rid of all my stuff. While that might not hurt anything, it doesn’t, by itself, serve any purpose.

Askesis must be context sensitive.”

You have bedded me down in lush meadows, you find me quiet pools to drink from. 
True to your word, you let me catch my breath and send me in the right direction.

Psalm 23:2-3 (The Message)

Father, I am excited about where we are going in my life. I truly am. As I learn more about Spiritual Formation and the disciplines, I begin to see which ones I need to focus on. Immediately, I see the need for silence and solitude. Simplicity will probably be right on the horizon, as well. I’m sure occasional fasting would be beneficial to me, also. Teach me these things as I go. I would even pray that someone might come into my life who has a good handle on these things that could help lead me along. May your Spirit guide me in this “askesis.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

God, Work, and Reality

Today is Tuesday, May 16, 2017. Four days until our family reunion. I said six yesterday. That was wrong. Should have been five.

Quote of the Day

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread, for recognition as well as cash, for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.” ― Studs Terkel

Word of the Day

Forgettery ~ a faculty or facility for forgetting; faulty memory.

Today is Biographers Day. Truthfully, no matter what topic you are into, biographies can be inspiring to read.

Band practice was fun last night. We started rehearsing music for the July 3 concert, so there are a lot of marches, which are always fun for trombones. Plus we are doing an arrangement of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture, as well as a couple of Aaron Copland tunes, “Lincoln Portrait” and “Hoedown” from “Rodeo.” Good times.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

(From The Divine Hours)
All Scripture quotations are from the ESV unless otherwise noted

Love the LORD, all you his saints! The LORD preserves the faithful but abundantly repays the one who acts in pride.
Psalm 31:23
I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in your words.
Psalm 119:147
You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.
Psalm 118:28
Shout for joy in the LORD, O you righteous! Praise befits the upright.
For the word of the LORD is upright, and all his work is done in faithfulness. 
Behold, the eye of the LORD is on those who fear him, on those who hope in his steadfast love, 
that he may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine. 
Our soul waits for the LORD; he is our help and our shield. 
For our heart is glad in him, because we trust in his holy name. 
Let your steadfast love, O LORD, be upon us, even as we hope in you. 

Psalm 33:1, 4, 18-22
Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord, have mercy on us.

(From Living the Message)

This almost goes hand in hand with the Studs Terkel quote above. Eugene H. Peterson’s reading for today is called “God Constitutes Our Work.”

He says, “The moment we drift away from dealing with God primarily (and not merely peripherally), we are no longer living vocationally, no longer living in conscious, willing, participatory, relation with the vast reality that constitutes our lives and the entire world around us. The storm either exposes the futility of our work (as in Jonah) or confirms it (as in Paul). In either case, the storm forces the awareness that God constitutes our work, and it disabuses us of any suggestion that in our work we can avoid or manipulate God. Once that is established, we are ready to learn the spirituality that is adequate to our vocation, working truly, easily, fearlessly, without ambition or anxiety, without denial or sloth.”

Sounds very complex. but what I take from this is that we need to be willing to deal with God in every aspect of our lives, not just our “church life.” True reality is the kingdom of God. Until we recognize that, our lives are going to fall short.

So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it.
Philippians 3:15-15 (The Message)

Father, I have believed this to be true for a long time, yet I don’t always practice it or live as if I believe it. Help me, today and every day, live my life in the reality that you are all there is; your Kingdom is truth; your Kingdom is the only reality.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

“Prayer Is Suffering’s Best Result”

Today is Monday, May 8, 2017.

Word of the Day

Hypostatize ~ to treat or regard (a concept, idea, etc.) as a distinct substance or reality.

Today is No Socks Day. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could get away with that today. I didn’t wear any socks yesterday or Saturday, can that count?

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

My mouth is filled with your praise, and with your glory all the day. 
Psalm 71:8
O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
Psalm 71:17
This is the LORD’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.
Psalm 118:23
But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.
John 15:26-27
May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah. 
that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. 
Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 
Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth. Selah. 
  Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 
The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us. 
God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear him!

Psalm 67
Glory be to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, so it is now and so it shall ever be, world without end. Alleluia. Amen.
The Gloria

(From Living the Message)

Eugene H. Peterson continues on the topic of suffering. He makes note of the last verse of Lamentations, which says, unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us. (Lamentations 5:22)

It seems very blunt. But also note that this is an expression of prayer, what Peterson calls “the most personal of relationships.” And, indeed, it is. When I am praying, I am the closest to God, because I am involved in intimated conversation with him. I am not just reading off a grocery list of prayer requests. I am pouring out my heart to him.

“Prayer is suffering’s best result. In prayer, God’s anger is neither sentimentally glossed nor cynically debunked, but seized as a lever to pry open the doors of redemption.” The sufferer “does not ask God to think well of him or her, but asks that God will enact redemption.”

Satan’s angel did his best to get me down; what he in fact did was push me to my knees.
2 Corinthians 12:7 (The Message)

Father, when I find myself suffering, even for the simplest of reasons, draw me closer to you in prayer. When I find myself celebrating, no matter what the occasion, draw me closer to you in prayer. May I find myself in the state of “the most personal of relationships” constantly throughout the day. Help me to “pray without ceasing.”
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.

Suffering

Today is Saturday, May 6, 2017.

Quote of the Day

“If you saw a heat wave, would you wave back?” ~ Steven Wright

Word of the Day

Milliner ~ a person who designs, makes, or sells hats for women.

Today is Join Hands Day. Not so much about shaking hands or holding hands, Join Hands Day is about unifying older and younger generations in our communities. Believe it or not, we can both learn from each other.

The last several days, I have run out of time in the mornings, and since I have started doing the devotional portion first, that means either quotes, words, and holidays, or personal thoughts get left out. Sometimes, both.

Not that there has been much going on in our relatively normal lives, anyway. We are getting closer to our sort of “family reunion” weekend, which is May 20-21, at my uncle’s house in east Texas. We are taking my mother to visit her twin brother for a weekend. It will be short, as we will drive out on Saturday morning and come back Sunday evening. Mama’s going to stay at uncle’s house, and we’ll stay at a hotel in Henderson. I’m hoping all of my cousins can make it, as well as some of their kids. Looking forward to a great time. Especially looking forward to NOT having to attend a funeral.

We have mailed a check for our house rental in Oregon! That trip is less than a month away, now, and we are also excited about this one. We are looking forward to some peace and quiet on the Pacific Northwest coast, as well as some road trips to nearby waterfalls and other scenery.

Tonight, we are having our regular Night of Worship, but it will be at a nearby church facility that has opted to share their building with us, at least for this one event. There is a possibility, I guess, that we might continue there throughout the summer months, as well. We shall see.

Baseball hasn’t been very exciting, so far. The Rangers are playing poorly, and have yet to crack the .500 mark. They are in and out of last place by a half game or so. The Red Sox are playing mediocre baseball, hovering around third place. As of today, they are only one game over .500.

Oh, and the reason this is late, today, is that my Fitbit Alta quit connecting to the app on my phone, and I wasted about an hour and a half trying to fix it. No success. So I guess I’ll be Fitbitless for a while.

Update. While I was chatting online with a Fitbit representative, the fool thing just suddenly started working. Technology. Sigh.

TODAY’S DEVOTIONAL AND PRAYERS

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; worship the LORD in the splendor of holiness.
Psalm 29:2
O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
Psalm 63:1
O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds you performed in their days, in the days of old:
Psalm 44:1
Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
Psalm 82:4

(From Living the Message)

Today’s reading is “Where the Sufferer Is, God Is.”

“The biblical revelation neither explains nor eliminates suffering.” One result of this truth is a myriad of people (well-meaning people, even) making stuff up about suffering. That’s what we do, especially preachers. Not all of them, mind you. But there is a certain pride that tempts the preacher. Pride that makes him unable to ever say, “I don’t know.” So, when faced with a question that he doesn’t know, he makes up an answer. Then people listen to those made-up answers and begin to proclaim them as truth. This is where we get things like “God will never give you more than you can handle,” or, even worse, “God helps those who help themselves.” It’s where we get “All babies who die automatically go to heaven.” We don’t know that. We just don’t. But we pretend to, because it makes us feel better.

The same goes for suffering. In some camps, there is a prevalent idea that, if you’re suffering, you did something wrong. But, in the words of Eugene H. Peterson, “Scripture is not a lecture from God, pointing the finger at unfortunate sufferers and saying, ‘I told you so: here and here and here is where you went wrong; no you are paying for it.'” Scripture also does not provide us with a five-step easy solution to eliminate suffering from our lives. We don’t see a progression from “more to less suffering from Egyptian bondage to wilderness wandering, to kingless anarchy, to Assyrian siege, to Babylonian captivity, to Roman crucifixion, to Neronian/Domitian holocaust.” What Scripture does show us, though, is “God entering into the life of suffering humanity, accepting and sharing the suffering.”

“The suffering is there, and where the sufferer is, God is.”

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;
Isaiah 53:4 (ESV)

But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.
Romans 5:8 (The Message)

Father, may we be faithful to your Word when we address issues in our lives. May we not work so hard to understand suffering, but more to understand that, in the midst of suffering, you are there, even if, and especially if, we do not understand it. Help us to not make up answers that we don’t have, but to rely on your Spirit for wisdom and understanding. Take away any pride from us that would cause us to rely on our own, feeble, wisdom. Instead, help us to seek your wisdom in all things. Help us to seek first your kingdom, above all else.
Even so, come, Lord Jesus!

The LORD bless you and keep you; the LORD make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the LORD lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace.

Grace and peace, friends.