Ruminations

Lamentations 3: 22 – 23       NRSV

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I have a new journal, a gift from a friend. This morning I turned to the page with this verse and found myself pondering it. As I turned it over in my mind, I wondered if this might provide a good opportunity to show you what meditation can look like. Now I know some of you are old hands at meditating on scripture but bear with the rest of us for today.

Meditating on scriptures is where I receive a lot of revelation. Many Words of the Day come out of this process. In fact, tomorrow I will share with you what came out of my meditation on this scripture. Pondering scripture is where I connect with God and He shows me a deeper view of a scripture or a different aspect of it.

Reading this scripture, you might stop on the word “steadfast”. What does that word mean? What does it mean to you? What synonym could you replace it with. I didn’t stop there, but maybe someday I will. I was arrested by “never ceases.” I began to replace “never ceases” with other words: eternal, abundant, they overflow, unending . . . you get the idea. As I thought about those words an idea began to form about this bottomless well, the cup of coffee that has no bottom.

You might want to stop and think about “His mercies.” What is the author talking about here? What are God’s never ending mercies? Compassion is one of the synonyms you will find in other versions. What word or words would you use?

This never ending, renewable resource had me fascinated this morning. His mercies are inexhaustible. None the less, He gives us a fresh supply every morning. I guess, like the manna in the desert, God does not want us living on day old bread. He gives us a fresh, new stock of His compassion every morning.

All I did with this scripture, was to play the synonym game. That yielded a fuller understanding and developed into ideas and a visual image, which is what I will share tomorrow. There is nothing special about what I did. I just let the Holy Spirit lead my mind and spirit on a journey. It is quite fun, actually. Give it a try on this scripture. I would love for you to send me your impressions. Remember, there is no right or wrong. We all see from slightly different vantage points and that is a good thing.

Prophetic Utterance

Deuteronomy 18:15       Complete Jewish Bible 

ADONAI will raise up for you a prophet like me from among yourselves, from your own kinsmen. You are to pay attention to him.”

I have been looking at this verse for some time now. What do you think of it? One of my reactions to it goes back to yesterday’s verse. People are so easily offended these days that it makes the job of a pastor a challenge. How do you say what people need to hear if they so easily take offense?

I have also noticed a general sense of bringing everyone down to a uniform level. We don’t honor experts any longer. People with advanced degrees are not called by their honorific title. We act as though we know more than our doctors, lawyers and yes, even our prophets. That increases the difficulty for clergy to offer an “expert” opinion.

First, it is important that we take responsibility for our own lives as it relates to our health and our spiritual health. We should not rely on our medical doctors or our pastors solely. It is not because they are not competent. It’s just that we have the ultimate responsibility for our lives, including our health and spiritual growth. With that caveat out of the way, there is one other point one might make about this verse. We are in a different dispensation than those to whom Deuteronomy was first directed. None the less, this verse in in our Bible for a reason. God didn’t take it out when He made the Christian Bible. He didn’t relegate it to the Jews. Therefore, it must still have some meaning for us.

In this new dispensation, we are allowed and welcome to go into the Father’s presence for ourselves. You do not need me, or any other intermediary, in order for you to have a jolly good time in the presence of the Lord. You can walk with Him, talk with Him and spend your entire day with Him. I have heard it said that anyone with a computer and a search engine can become a Bible expert. I think that comment speaks directly to this issue of what makes a spiritual leader. “Professional” clergy are probably feeling frustrated and perhaps not very appreciated. They see uncredentialed people teaching and there is some push back. My question is, how has that changed? Sure, technology is a major asset, but couldn’t you say of the old days, “Anyone with a Bible can be an expert.”

So, who should you listen to? Perhaps no one other than yourself? Afterall, you have admittance to the throne room. “As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him,” (1 John 2: 27). John recognizes the Spirit within you and your own access to God’s wisdom. However, look at this comment from Hebrews 5: 12, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come to need milk and not solid food.” You are not babies, but truth be told, we all have need of learning and guidance.

Well, I have done the typical lawyer thing to you. I have argued both sides of the issue. Now, I would like to give you my thoughts on the matter. I think there is only one credential which makes someone worthy to be your teacher. It is the beginning of today’s verse, “ADONAI will raise up for you a prophet.” Only God makes a person qualified as a teacher. I don’t think having a seminary degree or an advanced degree in theology qualifies a person to be a spiritual leader, teacher or advisor and I most certainly do not think anyone should call themselves a prophet unless Yahweh, Himself, has appointed and anointed them to that role.

My greater concern is this, it’s that we wouldn’t recognize a prophet if one fell on us and further, we wouldn’t know what to do with them. I do believe God is still giving us spiritual leaders and that we are well advised to follow them, even if we don’t always agree with them, perhaps especially when we don’t agree. My concern is that we get wrapped up in the world around us and do not listen to the teachers and prophets God is sending us. Even preachers are fools, to my way of thinking, if they don’t receive teaching from other anointed preachers. I have seen ministers who only take their own counsel and, unfortunately, some of them don’t last when that happens. It can be very tragic. I don’t want that for you.

Has God dropped some prophets into your society? How about into your life? I bet He has. Sure, use your discernment regarding whose counsel you receive, but don’t be your own preacher. Go to God in your own time, definitely. Get wise counsel from Him directly. You are entitled to that and He wants the Holy Spirit to be your teacher. But, don’t discount that God is raising up prophets in this day and time and we are supposed to pay attention to them.

Peace, Patience, Tolerance

Proverbs 19:11

A man’s discretion makes him slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook a transgression.

I am studying “glory” which is how I found this verse. I wrote it down and came back to it today. Apparently, it is to our glory to overlook offense. That’s not something I have heard often. You will be very blessed by reading this verse in several other translations but let me share one more with you. This is the God’s Word version, “A person with good sense is patient, and it is to his credit that he overlooks an offense.” Did Solomon, the author of the proverbs, just accuse me of not having good sense? I believe he did! I wish I could argue with him, but I must admit that I sometimes lack patience.

This version reminded me of an expression I used to hear people use to describe someone they find lacking in some way. They would say, “He hasn’t got any sense,” or the country version, for those of you speak it, “He ain’t got good sense.” Often this described a person with no common sense. It could be used to describe someone with intelligence but who lacks common life skills. At first, thinking of that old country expression made me giggle but you know what, this proverb, and that old saying, describe me and a couple of million other folks.

If there is any generality you can confidently express about modern society it is that we are easily offended, easily angered. Slow to anger? What a joke! Accidentally cut in on someone on the road or worst still, let someone cut you off. I can’t say I am slow to anger. Just this morning I was getting aggravated trying to blow dry my hair. The blow dryer cord was getting tangled up and snagged on the bottom of the cabinet and I dropped one of my hairbrushes and couldn’t get the other one out of the drawer. How can such a simple thing cause me to begin to lose my peace? Societal norms have shifted so that it is okay to act like an idiot if someone intentional or even unintentionally offended you. Watch a reality show and tell me if this is a society that honors gentility and patience.

Around the world there is increasing pressure to restrict gun purchases because people are so angry and don’t have sufficient coping skills to deal with their frustrations. As an aside, that is another reason to exercise. It helps to alleviate stress. A good game of racquetball can certainly help.

Of course, if you read yesterday’s Word of the Day, you know the best treatment for anger issues, Psalm 85: 8, listen to what the Lord will say to you for He will speak peace to your heart. Isn’t that right? We need better coping skills and we are not going to get them from the world. It is not okay to lash out in anger. It is not acceptable to cuss and fuss and create a disturbance. And it is certainly not the sign of mature Christianity. I know for myself, when I show lack of patience and tolerance it is a clear sign that I have not been spending enough time with my Father. He gives me peace when I hang out with Him and I am sure He has the same effect on you.

Speak Yahweh

Psalm 85: 8

I will hear what God the Lord will say; for He will speak peace to His people, to His godly ones; but let them not turn back to folly.

I hope you are enjoying Psalm Mondays. The psalms seem to be providing a good start to the week. Hearing God is a good way to begin the week too. As you read through different Bible versions for today’s scripture you gain a perspective that hearing God is an intentional act. In other words, the psalmists determined to listen to God and we can too.

Another thing I find interesting is not only has this psalmist decided to listen to God, but he fully expects to hear. This expectation of hearing God speak is common in the Bible. People heard God speaking to them in many ways but there never seems to be surprise at hearing His voice. People were startled and frightened when angels appeared but apparently accustomed to hearing the voice of God.

I find that so amazing because I do not believe that is our experience today. The Bible says God doesn’t change. If he voiced His thoughts and messages to people in the past, we should expect Him to speak to us now. My experience leads me to conclude that most everyday Christians not only don’t hear God speaking to them but they don’t expect to either. In fact, I am sure there are a great many of us who never stop to listen simply because we don’t expect God to speak to us. Additionally, we don’t stop to listen because we live fast paced lives. Our lives do not contain the quiet, contemplative time of old. Lives used to be slower and quieter. Now we have machines continually filling the space with sound and there is ever so much to available to occupy our time.

I would challenge you to talk with the Lord and expect Him to answer. Stop for a while and listen to the silence. In a few moments you may hear some whispers inside you. One of the ways I recognize God’s voice is when I am thinking of something and an entirely different thought comes to me. If you will hang out in some quiet solitude, I have no doubt that you will hear God speaking to you. He has been talking to you daily. The trick is in the hearing and that begins with an expectation followed by listening and practice. Soon, you could be like this psalmist, just waiting to hear God speak peace into your life.

Night Watches

Psalm 63: 5

When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches.

I thought I would share the secret of David’s success for those who wish to know it. It’s two-fold. First, David remembered the Lord. That’s a very good start. He thought about the Lord. He remembered that the Lord, our God, was his constant companion and his strong right arm. So, at night, when he had bedded down the sheep, he remembered God.

Part two – when David remembered God, he then meditated on Him. What does that mean? He didn’t just have a fleeting thought about God and move on. He remembered Yahweh and when he did, he stopped and contemplated who God is and what roles God played in his life. That was likely when David also pondered the promises God had previously made to him personally and through the Word. It was likely the time when he would consider his future and what God wanted to do with him.

Those quiet night watches made David a king. God chose him, and even had Samuel anoint him with oil as the future king. Then David went back to tending sheep. How lonely that must have felt. Here you have this huge calling on your life and the anointing to boot but you are on the backside of nowhere tending a small, seemingly inconsequential flock. Sound familiar? Well, don’t worry. The promotion is in those quiet times of just you and Yahweh. It is in those times that no one sees.

I would be willing to bet that many of you who receive this Word of the Day, are being called into a deeper prayer life this year. Furthermore, I bet God isn’t asking you for a typical prayer life as much as He is asking you to spend quiet, contemplative time with Him. Is this you? Write me and let me know. I will add your prayer time to the prayer list and encourage you too.

Fullness of Joy

Psalm 16:11

You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

There are easily several messages contained in this passage. The one that shouts most loudly to me today is there is fullness of joy in His presence. There is joy in Jesus, which means there is an answer to depression. I want to say it this way, there is no need to be depressed. Here me though, this isn’t to make light of depression and anxiety. Rather, the purpose of my comments is to extend hope and compassion. Jesus came that we might have life in its fullest expression, and one cannot enjoy abundant life while plagued with depression. Jesus also said that he came to proclaim liberty to the captives, and I would hope that my ministry might be known as setting people free. There are all kinds of bondages which weigh us down in life. Living with depression is certainly an unwelcomed burden. Jesus came to set us free from the oppression of depression.

Today’s verse does not say there is no such thing as depression for Christians. And, I do not wish for you to judge yourself or feel any sense of guilt because you sometimes suffer from depression. What this verse says that in the presence of our Lord, there is no depression because there is fullness of joy.

Understand that joy and happiness are not the same thing. I am not after happiness today as much as joy. Joy is a deep-seated belief that all is well. It has to do with Shalom, perfect peace, nothing missing, nothing broken. When we are conscious of being in the presence of Jesus or our beloved Father, then the worries, anxiety and fear of the troubles of this world fade away. The more we bask in the light of His presence, the more the worldly issues dissipate. Depression is dark and gloomy. Jesus’ presence is light. Remember that our God and Father is our sun. He is shining the glory of His presence and the warmth of His love upon us every time we move into His presence. Now, how do we partake of His presence.

When you are down or depressed, it is hard to reach out and touch the joy of the Lord. It is difficult to connect with His presence. Of course, deep meditation will take you right into the Lord’s presence but if you are in a state where that is a challenge, the best thing to do is to get out of your house and into a Spirit filled worship service. Sometimes even leaving the house is a challenge but getting out of the house is often a major help. Still, if that is impossible, there is so much online content these days that it is easy to reach out for music, praise, worship and teachings. You can become a member of church groups online. You can call prayer lines and talk with an actual human. There are resources which we can employ to help bring us into the Lord’s presence.

One of my favorite blue funk day tools is music. Please understand that I am not comparing a blue funk with clinical depression. None the less, the power of praise music should not be underestimated. I especially like songs about the blood but there is so much opportunity, musically, that everyone can find something that speaks to them.

As you praise, focus your attention on the presence of Jesus and the angelic host all around you. Let the light begin to penetrate your body and your consciousness. Release your tension to that flow of light and music. Relax all the stress from your body and then release it from your mind and spirit. Be at peace and enjoy the presence of the Lord.

Don’t let the devil steal your joy. He sure wants to. Get into the presence of our beloved and allow Him to fill you to overflowing. Remember, Jesus came to bring abundance, not a little trickle.

Mostly, please don’t feel alone. There are people, including myself, who care about you. Reach out to others. Get together with a group of believers, go to a church service, or just call someone. Don’t isolate yourself. God has promised He will never leave you nor forsake you. He is with you right now and in His presence is fullness of joy. Let this, and Him, minister to you.

Presence

Hebrews 13: 5                  Passion Translation

Don’t be obsessed with money but live content with what you have, for you always have God’s presence. For hasn’t he promised you, “I will never leave you alone, never! And I will not loosen my grip on your life!”

I was listening to some old music the other day when Desperado by the Eagles played. I was only half listening, but this line grabbed my attention, “Your prison is walking through this world all alone.” I reacted, “How true but we need never be alone.” Our Father has promised to be with us always, and He is.

The Amplified Bible is even more effusive on this point, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!” How do you like that? By no means, will He ever leave you or forsake you, not even for a moment. Now you might say privately, “I don’t think God is always with me. I don’t feel Him or see Him.” Many people would agree with you. We seldom have a consciousness of “God with us.” Here is where your theology comes to a test and you have to make a decision. In what do you place your trust, what you feel or what the Word says. You are not alone if you do not feel that God is always with you. Many people believe this Bible promise intellectually but their hearts are unconvinced. You may believe it but you still feel alone at times.

Living the Bible is very different from believing it. Further, there are levels of what we call belief. At the first level, we mentally accept or agree. In other words, there is no conflict in your mind about what the Word says. That is not to say, however, that your heart holds these to be absolute truths. At this first level your mind engages in simple acceptance and that is all. The second level is when your mind is convinced. You become intellectually, mentally persuaded that the Word is true on a given point. That’s great! Your mind begins to become a strong tool for you. At this level, though, your heart may still call you a liar. A good example of this is when you believe what the Word says about healing. Your mind is intellectually persuaded that “by his stripes you are healed.” You know the scriptures on healing and feel very strong about them. However, your heart is still calling you a liar. It says, “Sure you believe that but I am still sick.” You will find an internal conflict if you pay attention to it.

That is where you may be with this idea that God is always with you. If you believe that in your heart, you will never be lonely. In fact, you will begin to develop a very strong sense of God with you. For example, even when you are “alone” you may excuse yourself for a rudeness. This is where your consciousness of “God with you” has trumped all other information. Another example of your God consciousness is when you find yourself speaking to Him, not praying mind you, just speaking as if He is walking along with you.

Ultimately, the test of this scripture is whether or not it will prevail in your life. Will you come to KNOW God is with you all the time or will these be words that you accept without debate but do not live. I pray you know God with you. I hope you increasingly have the sense that He is with you every moment. And, I pray you derive much comfort from that truth.