day 54 (trek 2): put a psalm in my heart

We read six more brief psalms today: Psalm 126-131. Let’s do like we did yesterday: reading the first pair of psalms this morning, the middle pair around noon, and the last two tonight.

I’ll sketch a bundle of sheaves, a quiver full of arrows, a vine, a plow, a check mark, and an hourglass.

This morning. Psalm 126-127. Bundle of sheaves and a quiver full of arrows.

“He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.” (126.6)

“Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one’s youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.” (127.4-5)

Noon. Psalm 128-129. Vine and plow.

“Your wife will be like a fruitful vine within your house; your children will be like olive shoots around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed who fears the Lord.” (128.3-4)

“The plowers plowed upon my back; they made long their furrows.” (129.3)

This evening. Psalm 130-131. Check mark and hour glass.

“If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?” (130.3)

“O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” (131.3)

day 29 (trek 2): put a psalm in my heart

We focus on Psalm 75-77 today … and find ourselves led to sketch something of what we find in our focus.

This morning we read Ps. 75. I’m sketching a pair of pillars.

“You say, ‘I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity. When the earth and all its people quake, it is I who hold its pillars firm. To the arrogant I say, ‘Boast no more,’ and to the wicked, ‘Do not lift up your horns. Do not lift your horns against heaven; do not speak so defiantly.’” (75.2-5)

Around mid-day Psalm 76 is where we find ourselves. I doodle a drawing of a gift.

“Make vows to the Lord your God and fulfill them; let all the neighboring lands bring gifts to the One to be feared.” (76.11)

Near the end of today we read Psalm 77. My pencil draws a lightning bolt.

“Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind, your lightning lit up the world; the earth trembled and quaked. Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.” (77.18-20)

day 7 (trek 2): put a psalm in my heart

Psalm 19-21 make up our reading today in the Put a Psalm in My Heart reading and reflection project.

And so, I have a sun to sketch as we read Psalm 19.

“… the sun … comes out like a bridegroom leaving his chamber, and, like a strong man, runs its course with joy. Its rising is from the end of the heavens, and its circuit to the end of them, and there is nothing hidden from its heat.” (19.6)

And a chariot, as we read Psalm 20.

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” (20.7)

And, having read Psalm 21, an oven.

“You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The Lord will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.” (21.9)

day 4 – put a psalm in my heart

Today’s reading is comprised of three psalms: Psalm 12 (this morning), Psalm 13 (noon), and Psalm 14 (tonight).

Note. All three of today’s psalms are pleas for help. However, while Ps. 13 is an individual’s complaint like we’ve encountered before (cf. Ps. 3-7), Ps. 12 and Ps. 14 are a bit different; they are cries on the part of, or for, a group of people (a community lament). Psalms such as these two “group groans” show up nearly a dozen and a half times in the Psalms, but these two are the first to appear.

Morning. Psalm 12 is an expression of grief to God due to reflection on a people permeated with problems; a society owned by sin. As you read this psalm, make a list of the specific matters that trouble the psalmist (vs. 1-5). Do these same matters break your heart about our society today? And if so, do you talk with God about it all?

When it seems to you that no one does right anymore (vs. 1), do you complain to people or do you do the holy thing – gripe to God? Don’t try to carry the weight of the world yourself. Take the weight of this world to the One who made us all.

Noon. When troubles come, we all want them to be over and done with quickly. The individual who cries out to God in Psalm 13 was no exception; they have had to wrestle with the weight of their burden for an extended period of time, and worse still, there appears to be no end in sight (vs.1-4). We’ll all been there at one time or another, haven’t we? Which makes the psalmist’s word of trust all the more of a blessing and instruction to us (vs. 5-6)!

Let me ask you: do your complaints to God conclude with this sort of celebration of God or are you only praying “half a psalm?” Praise him with trust now, not merely pouring out your troubles to him.

Night. Psalm 14 is very similar to Ps. 12 in trajectory. Two notes. First, you’ve likely heard the first half of this psalm many times, but might not have known that it was a psalm that you were hearing. How so? Paul quotes the opening of this psalm (vs. 1-3) in the book of Romans (3.10-18).

Second. The specific people who have the psalmist’s heart in this psalm (vs. 6), the people dealt misery by this society that grieves the psalm writer, are “the poor” (cf. Ps. 12.5). Is your heart truly burdened by the massive weight the poor in our society must carry – as was the case with this psalmist) or do you fail to rightly and sincerely pray to God for the poor among us, reasoning that if they’re poor it is of their own making and fault?

Consider afresh tonight the frustrations of the poor (vs. 6), putting your feet into the sandals of their prayers.

Here’s a Psalm 12-14 (NIV) to today’s reading.

sermon follow-up: 28 acts of generously giving good in Acts

 

My sermon this past Sunday morning (Nov. 6) was in regard to the sixth aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: generosity/goodness.

Each of my sermons in the series of which this sermon was a part (Acts: The Way, It Works) makes some connection with the fruit of the Spirit and the lives of Christ-followers in the book of Acts. However, I deliberately left the connection with Acts missing from this past Sunday’s sermon … until now.

Even just a quick skim of Acts reveals a multitude of instances of generosity/goodness recorded by the book’s author (Luke). Following are twenty-eight examples, one from each of the Acts’ twenty-eight chapters.

1. Giving the community of faith your presence for the sake of united prayer.

“They all joined together constantly in prayer …” (Acts 1.14)

2. Giving your heart and your possessions to those in need.

“They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need.” (Acts 2.45)

3. Giving your attention to those who have become virtually invisible to others.

“Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money. Peter looked straight at him …” (Acts 3.2-4a)

4. Giving the word of God to others, freely and without fear.

“… they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.” (Acts 4.31)

5. Giving encouragement to others by having a healthy attitude about the things you suffer.

“The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” (Acts 5.41)

6. Giving welcome and acceptance to those new to faith in Christ.

“The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.” (Acts 6.7)

7. Giving grace to those who misunderstand you, hate you, and work your harm.

“While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed … ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep.” (Acts 7.59-60)

8. Giving obvious evidence of your faith by sticking with God and taking your faith with you through all of life’s changes.

“On that day a great persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. … Those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went.” (Acts 8.1,4)

9. Giving your talents and skills over to the Lord’s disposal for the blessing of others.

“… showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made …” (Acts 9.39)

10. Giving your mind over to God for him to teach you new things as to your perspective of, and way toward, others who are very much unlike you.

“… God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” (Acts 10.28)

11. Giving others the gift of an open mind as to their understanding of things.

“… when Peter went up to Jerusalem, the circumcised believers criticized him … Starting from the beginning, Peter told them the whole story … When they heard this, they had no further objections and praised God …” (Acts 11.1,4,18)

12. Giving room for others to join you in your service to Christ.

“When Barnabas and Saul had finished their mission, they returned from Jerusalem, taking with them John, also called Mark.” (Acts 12.25)

13. Giving energy and morivation to others to keep on keeping on with God.

“… Paul and Barnabas, who talked with them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.” (Acts 13.43)

14. Giving inspiration to fellow Christ-followers by sharing the generous good you have experienced thru God in your life.

“… they gathered the church together and reported all that God had done through them …” (Acts 14.27)

15. Giving well-timed use of conciliatory statements in moments of tension.

“We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are.” (Acts 15.11)

16. Giving of your home to bless other believers.

“When she and the members of her household were baptized, she invited us to her home. ‘If you consider me a believer in the Lord,’ she said, ‘come and stay at my house.’ And she persuaded us.” (Acts 16.15)

17. Giving credit where credit is due, particularly when you see those yet to believe catch a glimpse of what is true and right about God and people.

“From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’” (Acts 17.26-28)

18. Giving the grace of real connection and helpful guidance rather than the world’s way of criticism and complaining, which only breeds problems and distance.

“Apollos … was a learned man, with a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately, though he knew only the baptism of John. … When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately.” (Acts 18.24-27)

19. Giving your sinful habits up in public confession and repentance so as to solidify your commitment and to give testimony of the Lord’s work in your life.

“Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done. A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. [nearly 150 years’ wages for the average worker] In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.” (Acts 19.18-20)

20. Giving your daily existence completely over to the Lord so as to not only free yourself from fear and dread, but to lead others to do likewise.

“… I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.” (Acts 20.24)

21. Giving yourself over to full establishment of faith in the lives of your children.

“… Philip the evangelist, one of the Seven … had four unmarried daughters who prophesied.” (Acts 21.8-9)

22. Giving clear thought as to how you can best share with those who could benefit from knowing why you are a Christian and how you became one.

“You will be his witness to all people of what you have seen and heard. And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.” (Acts 22.15-16)

23. Giving yourself over to intervening for the lives of others.

“The next morning some Jews formed a conspiracy and bound themselves with an oath not to eat or drink until they had killed Paul. … But when the son of Paul’s sister heard of this plot, he went into the barracks and told Paul.” (Acts 23.12,16)

24. Giving respect to whom respect his due.

“When the governor motioned for him to speak, Paul replied: ‘I know that for a number of years you have been a judge over this nation; so I gladly make my defense.'” (Acts 24.10)

25. Giving others the courage of your convictions and standing up for your true rights.

“Paul answered: ‘I am now standing before Caesar’s court, where I ought to be tried. I have not done any wrong to the Jews, as you yourself know very well. If, however, I am guilty of doing anything deserving death, I do not refuse to die. But if the charges brought against me by these Jews are not true, no one has the right to hand me over to them. I appeal to Caesar!'” (Acts 25.10-11)

26. Giving prayer to God for others come to faith in God, to become disciples of Christ.

“Agrippa said to Paul, ‘Do you think that in such a short time you can persuade me to be a Christian?’ Paul replied, ‘Short time or long—I pray to God that not only you but all who are listening to me today may become what I am, except for these chains.'” (Acts 26.28-29)

27. Giving thanks to God, openly and sincerely, whether in the presence of believers or not.

“… he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.” (Acts 27.35)

28. Giving kindness to others in the ways they need most in the moment.

“Once safely on shore, we found out that the island was called Malta. The islanders showed us unusual kindness. They built a fire and welcomed us all because it was raining and cold.” (Acts 28.1-2)

And so, let us make our faith practical. Let us practice what we preach, namely that “God is good, all of the time.” Let us do and give good, generously so, to others, every day, in the name of, and by, the Spirit of Christ Jesus our Lord and Savior. For his glory, not our own.

Amen.

this is the word you want to be

 

 
There’s a word you’re listening for; listening for with all of your heart. The doctor might give you ten thousand words, but no other stands out like this one; none gives you such clarity and relief. It is the kindest word of all.
 
Benign.
 
Upon hearing that single word, one of two things happens. We hear – and hear with truer clarity – what follows far better than we ever could. Or, all of the other words now fade for we have heard what we wanted and needed to hear most of all; we have heard what matters most.
 
“The results show the mass is such and such … and is benign … blah, blah, blah …”
 
Benign.
 
You turn the word over and over, again and again, in your mind. It simply will not go away, and how glad you are for that fact. You think: is there a more beautiful word?
 
One wonders.
 
You have likely heard of the name John Wycliffe, a Christian in the 1300’s. He was the first to translate the New Testament into English. And for doing so, remarkably, he was reviled. By many. With great power. So much so that even nearly half a century after his death, religious authorities had the remains of his body dug up and burned.
 
Is there even a word for that sort of darkness? If there is, surely it is …
 
Malignancy.
 
Which leads me to note: when John Wycliffe translated the texts in the New Testament that speak of the thought of kindness, he used the word “benign.”
 
* “… love ye your enemies, and do ye well, and lend ye, hoping nothing thereof, and your meed shall be much, and ye shall be the sons of the Highest, for he is benign on unkind men and evil men.” (Luke 6.35)
 
* “Knowest thou not, that the benignity of God leadeth thee to repenting?” (Rom. 2.4)
 
* “Charity is patient, it is benign …” (1 Cor. 13.4)
 
* “… the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy … benignity …” (Gal. 5.22)
 
* “… be ye together benign, merciful, forgiving together, as also God forgave to you in Christ.” (Eph. 4.32)
 
* “Therefore ye, as the chosen of God, holy and loved, clothe you with the entrails of mercy, benignity …” (Col. 3.12)
 
Benign is beautiful for benignity is godly.
 
And so, let us choose not to be malignant to others in any way today, or any day the One true and kind living God gives us. Let us seek to be benign/kind in every big and small way, fleeing from every desire, impulse, thought, word, or way that even hints of anything malignant.
 
For in doing so, we will not merely bring better health to ourselves, or even give relief – great relief – to others, but will do what we were made to do in the beginning and are being remade in Christ to be now …
 
Bearers of the likeness of the Christ who is kind to us.