Posts Tagged ‘trust God’

Job 2: Satan

Corrado Giaquinto: Satan Before the Lord

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

We cannot leave this book of wisdom without pausing to confront the evil that sets this story into motion. If we have time today, we will want to listen to an On Being conversation hosted by Krista Tippet with Rabbi Sarah Bassin, and Imam Abdullah Antepli. The discussion is entitled Holy Envy, and it opens a method for confronting evil in our world.

Once again the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.

The image of evil hiding among faithful servants is an unsettling thought.  We go about our work or we rest in fallow time, trusting that all will be well, hoping to be children of light rather than the dark. The image of Satan lurking among the holy ones might unnerve us enough to re-examine the opening chapters of this story so that we might see a few details we have previously ignored. Satan reports that he has been patrolling his domain – – – the earth; yet God expresses confidence in the faithful, patient Job.

We do not like to think about evil, and we too often turn away when it enters the comfort zone we have carefully set up for ourselves.  Usually we believe that we must avoid evil at all costs, or we believe it is a force that only God can handle.  Because we feel powerless, we may not spend much time thinking about what evil is or where it comes from.  Yet we must take it seriously while at the same time not allowing it to paralyze us.

Several summers ago, I read a fascinating novel about how the devil takes up residence in our hearts almost without our noticing.  The Angels’ Game is a remarkable story and well worth reading.  The author, Carlos Luis Zafón, deftly weaves a tale that at once terrifies and holds us in dreadful yet delicious anticipation of what we know the end to be when we align with malignancy.  The story is terrifying in that the reader does not feel God’s presence specifically; rather the reader finds goodness in individual people and from literature itself.  In Zafón’s tale, God is found in books and stories, and there is a spell-binding quality to the plot.  As I closed the last page, I gave thanks for being in a well-loved vacation place with well-loved and loving people. The force of goodness and God-ness through them put my mind at ease. And it is this goodness and God-ness that Job brings to us today. Job’s fidelity and faith not only make him a target of the envious devil, they also save him. And so we are left to reflect . . .

Once again the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.

God is so good that God does not banish Satan from his presence.

God is so good that God does not allow Satan to have the last word.

God is so good that God rescues, saves, heals and restores.

Job puts all of his trust in this God.

Job refuses to bow to social pressure and to pretend that he is guilty of something he has not done.

Job speaks directly to God, and argues with God, asking for answers.

Once again the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came with them.

We must not fret about evil, yet we must not forget its presence.  When we find ourselves up against one who is a fallen angel, we cannot think that we, on our own, can win against the overwhelming power of Satan.  We must place all of our faith, all of our hope, and all of our trust in the Lord.  Only this one has the power to convert the aftermath of evil into the goodness of love. Only this one has the compassion to love us beyond the arguing.

Adapted from a reflection written on July 22, 2009.

See a review of The Angel’s Game at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/28/books/review/Rafferty-t.html 

For more on Zafón and his work, visit: https://frandi.wordpress.com/2016/04/27/the-angels-game-by-carlos-ruiz-zafon-a-book-review/ 


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1 Thessalonians 5:23-24: Seek Wholeness – Freedom

Monday, December 4, 2017

May the God who gives us peace make you holy in every way and keep your whole being—spirit, soul, and body free from every fault at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you will do it, because he is faithful.

God says: You do not need to look for the pieces you believe are missing from your life. All that you believe you lack, you have. You have only to relax into me and you will slowly perceive these missing bits of your persona. You have only to rely on Christ and you will feel the presence of the courage you believe you lack. You have only to rest in the Holy Spirit and you will sense healing and consolation. Reality is not what you see with your eyes, touch with your hands, or hear with your ears. Reality is my full and transforming presence in you that dwells in you since before your conception, and will continue in you long after your temporal death. You can trust my promise. You can trust my action in your life. You can trust my love.

When we compare varying versions of these verses, we discover a new freedom in our wholeness and oneness with God.

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The Nativity of Jesus

Isaiah 9:6: Seek Wholeness

First Sunday of Advent, December 3, 2017

For a child has been born for us,
    a son given to us;
authority rests upon his shoulders;
    and he is named
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

In this special time of year we may well want to consider where and how to find the wholeness we seek; and we need do nothing more than remember God’s gift of self in the form of a vulnerable child.

We can easily imagine how easy it is to reject the idea that an infant might be a Wonderful Counselor and yet Jesus reminded us that we will want to be innocent as children if we want to enter the New Kingdom. How might we surrender to God’s care of us this week?

It is equally impossible to think of the child as Mighty God when we see him in swaddling clothes in a poor stable because there is no room for him in a proper inn or home. How might we rely on God’s strength in us this week?

An Everlasting Father has the power to save, to renew and transform. Again, we wonder how a child might rescue us from a strange and conflicted world. How might we trust in God this week as we unburden ourselves to the Creator?

As Prince of Peace Jesus brings healing and consolation. Yet again, we marvel at these simple gifts that are freely given. How might we seek wholeness this week as we reveal our worries and woes, our pain and suffering to this small yet marvelous child?

Each day this week, we reflect on the concept of Wholeness in God, in Christ and in the Spirit as we enter this first dark week of the Advent Season.

To watch the London Symphony Orchestra from Handel’s Messiah, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MS3vpAWW2Zc

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Nehemiah 6: Doing a Great Work

Jerusalem: The Golden Gate

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

This Chapter in Nehemiah’s story is interesting. The good work he is doing brings suspicion, envy and even anger from certain quarters. What does this builder do? He refuses to put aside the great work he is doing, and when her finds himself in a precarious position he does not hide; but rather, he prays. All the forces of Sanballat, Tobiah and Gesham are no match for this man and his God. The prophetess Noadiah holds no sway over the builder. We hear the story in Nehemiah’s voice.

Now when it was reported to Sanballat and Tobiah and to Geshem the Arab and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall and that there was no gap left in it (though up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, “Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.” But they intended to do me harm. (NSRV)

When Nehemiah declines to neglect the great work he is about, his enemies persist.

Sanvalat and Geshem sent me a message which said, “Come, let’s meet together in one of the villages of the Ono Valley.” But they were planning to do me harm; so I sent them messengers with this message: “I’m too busy with important work to come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?” They kept sending this sort of message to me — four times — and I answered them the same way. (CJB)

But Nehemiah sees through the ruse.

I knew they were scheming to hurt me so I sent messengers back with this: “I’m doing a great work; I can’t come down. Why should the work come to a standstill just so I can come down to see you?” (MSG)

Nehemiah sees their deceit.

They were trying to frighten us into stopping work. I prayed, “But now, God, make me strong!” (GNT)

Nehemiah remains firm.

I answered, “I’m not the kind of person that runs and hides. Do you think I would try to save my life by hiding in the Temple? I won’t do it.” (GNT)

Nehemiah asks help of the one who brings good out of harm.

“O my God, don’t let Tobiah and Sanballat get by with all the mischief they’ve done. And the same goes for the prophetess Noadiah and the other prophets who have been trying to undermine my confidence.” (MSG)

Nehemiah remains in the arms of God and does not fear the enemies who unite against him.

After fifty-two days of work the entire wall was finished on the twenty-fifth day of the month of Elul. When our enemies in the surrounding nations heard this, they realized that they had lost face, since everyone knew that the work had been done with God’s help . . . People would talk in front of me about all the good deeds Tobiah had done and would tell him everything I said. And he kept sending me letters to try to frighten me. (GNT)

Nehemiah lives out his trust in the Lord, knowing that he is doing the Lord’s great work.

Tomorrow, an assembly of clans.

When we use the scripture link to compare translations of this story, we come to understand the value of fidelity, steadfastness, and trust in the Lord.

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Nehemiah 1 and 2: Arrival in Jerusalem

Friday, October 13, 2017

Jerusalem wall today

Yesterday we reflected on Nehemiah’s exit from captivity and his arrival in Jerusalem. Today we pause to explore how Nehemiah begins the Lord’s restoration.

  • When Nehemiah arrives in Jerusalem, he rests three days before he set[s] out at night with only a few other men. Three days . . . a few other men . . . apparent ruin, death and destruction . . . three days . . . restoration. Jesus fulfills the promise of restoration three days after his death.
  • Nehemiah had not spoken to anyone of his total plan for Jerusalem. He goes at night to investigate and when he does, the ruin is so complete that he has to dismount and continue on foot because there is too much rubble for his horse to traverse. He speaks to the magistrates and others of his plan and they reply: Let us be up and building!  Those who have been left behind amid the bleak destruction respond to God’s call of hope which arrives with the administrator, Nehemiah.  This is our season of Hope.
  • The hopeful are ridiculed and mocked by the aggressors; yet they maintain their newly found energy to rebuild. Nehemiah responds to the jeering: It is the God of Heaven who will grant us success. We, his servants, shall set about the rebuilding.  They put their trust where it belongs . . . in God.

In a season that anticipates a time of Light and Hope, Restoration and Rebuilding, Turning and Returning to God, we have the opportunity to practice boldness in Christ Jesus. Let us respond to our Call together with the love of the Holy Spirit; and let us place our Trust in the one who most deserves that confidence, in God alone.

For with God all things are possible . . . even the gathering of the dispersed remnant from the farthest corners of the earth . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name.  For with God all things are possible . . . even resurrection after devastating and annihilating ruin . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name. 

For with God all things are possible . . . even the fulfillment of all of those dreams which seem so crazily and utterly hopeless . . . to be gathered into the promised dwelling place . . . the place of God’s name. 

For with God all things are possible . . . for this is the season of Hope.  Amen.

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2 Chronicles 20Invasion

Jehoshaphat Defeats Moab and Ammon

Friday, September 29, 2017

A Favorite from September 24, 2009.

There are so many ways to invade, so many ways to be invaded.  None of us is impervious to others, no matter how thick or high we build walls.  And once we are pierced, once we lose what we believe to be our identity or our footing, we will need both a strong foundation to stand and recovery strategies.  Jehoshaphat today shows us what to do when even what is rightfully ours is taken away or ruined.

They rose early in the morning . . .

Oh how many times do I wish that my day did not begin before the sun rises; yet this early rising gives me the quiet edge I need to pray and reflect . . . and to begin well.

They went out into the wilderness . . .

Oh how I wish that I were not so often alone with such little sustenance; yet this leaving behind of all comfort gives me the proper feeling of dependence on God . . . a trusting child before a loving parent.

Believe in the Lord your God and you will be established . . .

Countless times do I pray the Creed – I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth . . .; yet still I need the encouragement from God to trust God’s plan.

Believe his prophets . . .

Countless times do we hear prophetic words and want to turn away from them because they call us to a place of discomfort; yet we follow for we know that there is no other Way to the eternal.

Give thanks to the Lord for his steadfast love endures forever . . .

Endlessly do we praise God for his careful providence in healing our willful ways and waywardness.

And the realm of Jehoshaphat was quiet, for his God gave him rest all around . . .

Endlessly do we shelter from the violent storm beneath the altar of sacrifice for our God . . . and after the violence has passed . . . we rise again to find that we have weathered the invasion . . . and that we are saved.

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Romans 12: The Concrete Reality of Jesus

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Adapted from a Favorite written on May 25, 2011.

In a previous post, we reflected on how and why we watch Jesus – on what and when we learn from him – on where we encounter him.  Today we reflect on the fact that The Word is not ambiguous.  The words of Jesus tell us how we are to act, and what we are to do.  Paul tells the Romans – and us – that we are to conform to the world of Jesus rather than the world we see around us.  This is as concrete as can be.  There is no doubt that we are born to be transformed in and by the Spirit.

Also in this portion of his letter, Paul reminds us that our diversity is pleasing to God.  We are to struggle against our desire to see everyone and everything conform to our will.  And we are struggle with our ego so that we make room for others in this mystical body we form with Christ.  Peace, harmony, service to others, clinging to what is good and avoiding what is not good, blessing our persecutors rather than cursing them – these are the marks of one who ardently follows the Christ.  We must put aside thoughts of revenge or even the delight in someone else’s downfall.  We are to leave all moral judgment to God.

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

What a simple and elegant rule to follow. Oh so clear and clean. Oh so difficult to realize.

If we persist in looking for reasons why this rule does not work, we walk away from Jesus.  If we continue to exempt ourselves from this rule, we walk away from life.  If we persevere in seeing the world as a dark and ugly place, we walk away from the light.  If we insist on controlling everything and everyone around us, we walk away from serenity. 

Vincent Van Gogh: Wheat Field

When we watch Jesus we see the important lesson that healing and controversy are often entwined.  In the Parable of the Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30) we hear that God does not pull up the weeds from the garden when they appear because this disrupts the soil and damages the fruit-bearing crop before harvest time.  God trusts us to put down deep roots into the rich soil of our lives, and to lift strong arms to the sun in order that we bear fruit – no matter the circumstance of our planting.  So let us trust God to tend to the weeds in our own hearts and the weeds among as we struggle to grow, for God is trustworthy. God is capable. God is loving, generous, just and kind.

Rather than becoming overcome by the evil with which our lives are entwined, let us allow God to overcome evil through us . . . by doing good. 

For another reflection on the Parable of the Weeds, click on the image above of weeds and wheat, or visit: https://millennialpastor.net/2017/07/23/there-is-life-in-the-wheat-and-weeds/ 

To visit the Watching Jesus post, go to: https://thenoontimes.com/2015/09/04/mark-31-6-watching-jesus/

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Proverbs 17: A Whack on the Head 

Sunday, August 6, 2017

A friend of mine once spoke of her belief that God has to get louder when we persist in ignoring the voice that calls us. God may have to hit us over the head, she once observed, if that is the only way we will listen. This Chapter of Proverbs seems to affirm that belief. In THE MESSAGE translation of verses 1-16, we find the subtitle, A Whack on the Head. The verses we find there are nuggets of gold in present societies around the world.

Whitewashing bad people and throwing mud on good people
    are equally abhorrent to God.

Too many political, social and religious leaders step forward with the hope that their followers will make excuses for serious conflicts of interest and lack of expertise. Too many followers are happy to oblige.

What’s this? Fools out shopping for wisdom!
    They wouldn’t recognize it if they saw it!

So many hopeful leaders put aside the school of life and ignore the lessons life brings them. So many followers look for information that affirms their already-established views rather than winnowing through too much information and then making sound decisions.

Verses 17-28 of this Chapter carry the subtitle, One Who Knows Much Says Little. How wise we might be if we took the advice we find here. We spend a great deal of time, energy, and funds looking for wisdom when it is so often close at hand. We travel great distances searching for gurus and sages. We spend large amounts of our physical, fiscal and mental resources looking for quick fixes when the simple strategy of trusting God is always at hand.

The perceptive find wisdom in their own front yard;
    fools look for it everywhere but right here.

We avoid conflict or bull our way through tumult rather than allowing God to carry us in Christ’s open and generous arms. We put aside our relationship with the Spirit in order to spend more time with the world. This Chapter of proverbs has advice that is well worth our time and energy.

Even dunces who keep quiet are thought to be wise;
    as long as they keep their mouths shut, they’re smart.

Today, let us consider the words we think and say, and the actions we do and do not complete. And let us determine to live always by trusting the wisdom of God more than we trust our own.

When we compare varying translations of these verses, we allow them to awaken us as if they were a whack on the head.

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Proverbs 3:1-12: Knowing It All

Friday, July 21, 2017

The writer of the opening Chapters of Proverbs treats us as a close associate.

Good friend, don’t forget all I’ve taught you;
    take to heart my commands.
They’ll help you live a long, long time,
    a long life lived full and well.

We are warned to keep our feet on the ground and our hearts open.

Don’t lose your grip on Love and Loyalty.
    Tie them around your neck; carve their initials on your heart.
Earn a reputation for living well
    in God’s eyes and the eyes of the people.

A close relationship with God is paramount for one who wants to be eternally at peace.

Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
    don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
    God’s the one who will keep you on track.

Humility is a trait we will want to nurture.

Don’t assume that you know it all.
    Run to God! Run from evil!
Your body will glow with health,
    your very bones will vibrate with life!

The rewards of a trusting relationship with God go beyond our spiritual health.

Honor God with everything you own;
    give him the first and the best.
Your barns will burst,
    your wine vats will brim over.

The rewards of practicing fidelity are greater and more powerful than we have imagined.

But don’t, dear friend, resent God’s discipline;
    don’t sulk under God’s loving correction.
It’s the child God loves that God corrects;
    a parent’s delight is behind all this.

God’s loving presence in our lives may at times be difficult . . . but it will also be gratifying, enlightening, and transforming. When we consider these words, we recognize that in truth we have much to learn. No matter our status, power or wealth, we do not know all.

When we spend time with other translations of these verses, we gain understand the power of humility, fidelity and love.

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