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Posts Tagged ‘trust God’


Psalm 15: Fearlessness

Saturday, June 1, 2019

Whoever acts like this will not be shaken.

Again today we hear the theme of standing firm in faith and refusing to succumb to panic.  Most of the errors we commit we commit in fear – fear of discovery, fear of not surviving, fear of loss, fear of pain.  If we wish to live as Jesus does, we must learn to place all of our terrors in his capable hands.  This frees us to do the work we are called to do as we build the kingdom.

This psalm is brief yet it contains an easy litany we might repeat when our vision is fogged.

Walk without blame . . .

Do what is right . . .

Speak truth from the heart . . .

Do not slander another . . .

Do no harm . . .

Do not defame . . .

Stay away from the wicked . . .

Remain with those who stand in awe of the Lord . . .

Keep all promises despite the cost . . .

Lend no money at interest . . .

Accept no bribes against the innocent . . .

This is a short but demanding list, and it requires that we place all of our trust and hope in God.  It asks us to be fearless in Christ.  When we feel our energy ebbing, when our resources are low, we might turn back to Paul’s words to the Thessalonians to pray them as we read Psalm 15 . . .

Be joyful always, pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Test everything.  Hold onto what is good.

Do not be shaken out of your minds or alarmed.  Let no one deceive you in any way.  Stand firm and hold fast to the true traditions that you were taught.

And may our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our father, who has loved us and given us everlasting encouragement and good hope through his grace, encourage your hearts and strengthen them in every good deed and word. 

Amen. 


A re-post from May 18, 2012.

For more on 2 Thessalonians see the Lawlessness page on this blog.

Image from: http://www.aliveinthefire.com/2010/11/focus-forward-friday-be-fearless.html

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Daniel 1-6: Tales from the Diaspora Part III

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Rembrandt: Return of the Prodigal Son

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Today we conclude our reflection on stories of those who find themselves in alien places struggling against insurmountable odds; and we hear an important message that we will want to carry with us always.   At times in life we are the prodigal son who returns home.  At times we are the jealous brother who remained and who does not understand the father’s joy.  And at times we are the grateful parent who runs to meet the returned lost sheep.   All of these stories are the tales of our own captivity, our own exile and our own Diaspora.

We all find ourselves in pagan lands from time to time, seized and taken captive, dragged from our places of sanctuary . . . from the people who guide us, the codes that protect us . . . unfamiliar with the language and not understanding what is happening to us in this new and strange terrain, we can become lost for a time, we can follow the wrong voice.  In the end, we are all Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah at least once in our lives . . . cut off, set adrift, surrounded by hostile people who covet our relationship with God . . . who wish to bend us to their own will . . . who make sport of belittling their fellow creatures . . . who experience a rush when they are controlling and manipulating others.  This will happen when we respond to the Lorelei voices that would lead us astray but this will also happen when we witness to Light and Truth.  This will happen to disciples who hear the Call and respond in faith and hope and love.  In all times of aloneness, frustration and difficulty we must do as these young people do . . . trust God . . . remain faithful to God . . . even if it means our extinction from this life.  Why?  Let us look at the words of Azariah and pray with him who admits his nation’s guilt of turning away . . . and who seeks to return to Yahweh . . .

For you are just in all you have done; all your deeds are faultless, all your ways right, and all your judgments proper . . . For we have sinned and transgressed by departing from you . . . For we are reduced, O Lord, beyond any other nation, brought low everywhere in the world this day because of our sins . . . But with contrite heart and humble spirit let us be received; as though it were holocausts of rams and bullocks, or thousands of fat lambs, so let our sacrifice be in your presence today as we follow you unreservedly; for those who trust in you cannot be put to shame.

In Easter joy in this season of thanksgiving, let us sing with Hanaiah, Mishael, and Azariah as we turn and return to God . . .

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . . for he has delivered us from the netherworld, and saved us from the power of death; he has freed us from the raging fire.  Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, for his mercy endures forever. 

Bless the Lord, all you works of the Lord, praise and exalt him above all forever . . .

Amen.


A re-post from April 19, 2012. 

For more on prodigal returnings, click the image above or go to: http://marikablogs.blogspot.com/2011/10/prodigals-paradigms-and-proof-that.html

For more on the Diaspora click the image below and explore the PBS FRONTLINE site: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/maps/jewish.html

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Isaiah 39Peace and Truth

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Hezekiah’s Tunnel

This chapter brings to a close the first portion of Isaiah’s prophecy and prepares us to hear what the prophet has to say in the rest of his prophecy.  We witness Hezekiah’s hospitality and hear the conversation he has with the prophet, Isaiah; and we want to know more about this man who becomes king at age 25, and who reforms his government and his people while reigning successfully for 29 years.  Today we also witness a harbinger of events to come . . . the invasion of Judah and the deportation of her people.  Hezekiah does not allow ominous omens to diminish his faith.  He does not waver from his belief that Yahweh saves.  And he makes certain to foster peace and truth in all that he proclaims and does.  To examine the story of Hezekiah more closely, we return to a reflection we shared on January 11, 2009 on 2 Kings 18 and 19 entitled Desperation. 

We have taken a look at Hezekiah, son of idolatrous Ahaz, a half-dozen times since we began our Noontime reflections; and each time we pause with him, I am always impressed by his fidelity and perseverance.  Having Ahaz as a father, Isaiah as a prophet, and Sennacherib as an adversary . . . Hezekiah seems doomed to a story of failure.  Yet he is not.  To read more about him, turn to Chronicles or go to these sites http://www.varchive.org/tac/hezekiah.htm http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/p82.htm and http://www.biblicalstudies.org.uk/article_hezekiah.html. Discover how the people build an amazing tunnel under his guidance to bring water to the besieged city.  Read about how he consults with the prophet Isaiah who speaks plainly about their dire straits.  Read about the odds that confront this man and this nation . . . and be amazed.  Through many trials Hezekiah is accompanied by the God who accompanies us.

We may want to review Chapter 18 of 2 Kings to understand where we are in the story.

  • Verse 3: Thus says Hezekiah: “This is a day of distress, of rebuke and of disgrace”.
  • Verse 4: So send up a prayer for the remnant that is here.
  • Verse 5: Thus says the Lord: “Do not be frightened by the words you have heard”.
  • Verses 15 – 19: Hezekiah prays in the Lord’s presence: “O Lord . . . incline your ear . . . and listen!  Open your eyes, O Lord and see!  . . . Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God”. 

    Pool of Siloam and the end of Hezekiah’s Tunnel

God hears the prayer and answers Hezekiah.  In Chapter 20, Hezekiah falls ill and God rescues him.  This ruler is destined to serve God and through perseverance he does so . . . and he does so quite well.  We can reflect on the life of this servant to compare it to our own.  When the Assyrians in our lives are at the gates, will we go immediately to the Lord God to ask him for help or will we rely on our own resources?  And when the Lord God has answered our prayers – no matter the response – do we give thanks and continue to trust in God?

We find ourselves in distress and disgrace . . . God hears our prayer and answers us.  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard.

We send up our prayer to God who accompanies Hezekiah and all the faithful . . . God hears our prayer and answers us.  Do not be frightened by the words you have heard.

We are desperate and tempted to turn to our own resources . . . but let us instead go up to the Temple of the Lord and enter the Holy of Holies . . . to lay our petition on the altar of the Lord our God . . . and let us say. . .

Save us . . . that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, O Lord, are God.  Amen. 


A re-post from January 16, 2012.

Images from: http://www.hellotravel.com/israel/walking-through-hezekiahs-tunnel and http://www.wildolive.co.uk/baptism.htm

For more information on the excavation of Hezekiah’s tunnel, see: http://www.bibleplaces.com/heztunnel.htm  and http://www.hellotravel.com/israel/walking-through-hezekiahs-tunnel

For other Noontime reflections on Hezekiah, see The Book of Micah: https://thenoontimes.com/the-book-of-our-life/micah-doom-and-hope-constancy/  and False Idols: https://thenoontimes.com/2011/10/29/false-idols/

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Job 10The Shining in the Dusk

Sunday, December 23, 2018

In the opening of this chapter, Job’s frustration is evident with the lack of answers from God for the fundamental question concerning his guilt or innocence. He is in the darkest yet brightest of places . . . he is in that luminal space between day and night, heaven and earth, joy and sorrow, well-being and pain.  He stands at the moment of a new creation . . . In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless wasteland, and darkness covered the abyss, while a mighty wind swept over the waters.  Then God said, “Let there be light”, and there was light.  God saw how good the light was.  God then separated the dark from the darkness. (Genesis 1:1-4Job yearns for God to separate him from the darkness that has descended upon him; Job wants to know if he is innocent or guilty.  Job wants to know why he is suffering so deeply.

Job sees a darkness yawning before him and does not know why he stands on this threshold.  “Discouraged, worn down by pain and by the assaults of friends and deity alike, [Job] closes his part of this cycle of speeches (v. 18) by returning to the theme of his beginning: ‘Why did you bring me out of the womb?’ In chap. 3 he thought it would be better to be dead, and in 7:16, 19 he proposed to be left alone.  He ends with a figure of the darkness to which we will go, ‘deep shadow, all disordered, which shines like dusk’ (10:22).  It is the mirror image of his beginning in 3:4: ‘That day, let there be darkness.’  But Job has come to a different point.  Then being alive was too terrible; now he wants to be dead because his structure of assumption has fallen apart.  Divine power is not correlated with divine justice, and, though he deserves the latter, he is subjected to the assaults of the former”.  (Mays 375)

We watch Job struggle and we are fascinated because we see our own flailing against pain in this story.  We see that he stands on the verge of complete exhaustion and decomposition.  We hear that he looks for an end to his existence. Job demands answers of God as night threatens, and as he sinks into deep despair he runs the risk of missing the luminosity of this moment between worlds. As the shadowy dusk approaches we suddenly see the smallest glint of light in the gathering darkness and we sense something here . . . Job stands not on the edge of destruction but rather on the brink of an incredible new beginning.  There is a shinning in the dusk that harbingers a new and indecipherable rebirth rather than a horrible and ignoble end.

Job’s suffering will end and he will experience God’s goodness in a way he had not imagined; but today we see him on a precipice of cataclysm, stunned by a belief that God’s power does not appear to be accompanied by mercy.  Job will struggle with the misguided advice from his companions; he will persist in searching for answers to his questions.  A new dawn will burst upon him instead of the nighttime he fears.  We know that Job will come to find that the bottomless well of nothing over which he is poised to fall is in fact a bottomless well of safety . . . surety . . . and limitless love.  This is the liminal space in which Job finds himself today.  It is a space that we too may sometime occupy.

With God, even the night sky holds a starry luminosity that guides us back to the light of day.  In God, all harm turns toward good, all disaster becomes rescue. Through God there is a shinning in the impending dusk because God separates the darkness from the light . . . and sees that it is good.

So let us remember and pray . . .

When we stand on the brink of disaster, let us close our eyes, fold our arms across our lungs that gasp for air, and allow ourselves to sink into the shining darkness of God’s arms.  And let us allow God to bring us out of the abyss into the eternal light of God’s love.  Amen.


Also see the “Falling Down the Well” page on this blog.

Mays, James L., ed.  HARPERCOLLINS BIBLE COMMENTARY. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1988. 375. Print.

A re-post from November 20, 2011.

Images from: http://reflectivedust.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html and http://deadpoet88.wordpress.com/category/love/

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Ezekiel 45:13-17Offerings

Friday, November 30, 2018

We have spent time with Ezekiel 45 before but today we focus on the offerings portion – what it is we offer back to God.  I am thinking about how much more meaning our lives might have if we were to each day give something back to God that we have produced.  What would it be?  In our ultra modern, techno-savvy, global, sophisticated way of living . . . what do we actually make with our hands, hearts and minds?  We have come so far from the primitive beings who first inhabited Africa and the Tigris-Euphrates areas of the prehistoric world that . . . I am wondering if we have not tricked ourselves into thinking that we do not need to trust God.

When early tribes were hunters and gatherers, it was clear who and what provided for them.  As they followed herds and crops they dealt with drought, deluge, scarcity and plenty.  They had to learn how to conserve and share.  They had to learn both the basics and complexities of survival, and then they passed these lessons on to their offspring.  I am wondering if we have not fooled ourselves into thinking that we have mastered nature . . . and so do not need to rely on God.

Our Western life is worlds away from the poor of the second and third worlds.  We may forget that only a small portion of the those of us living on the globe today have running water, enough food for our children, decent clothing and housing, and basic medical care.  Now that humanity has made so many advances in the fields of medicine, nutrition, and technology, I am wondering if some of us have made these our gods and have kept ourselves safe while not thinking about others . . . and I am wondering if we have not deluded ourselves into thinking that we do not need to love God as God exists in each and all of us.

Nicolaes Maes: Prayer Without End

I am wondering if we could each evening bring forth the products of our day in order to place them on the kitchen table as we sit to eat our evening meal if we would recognize what it is we have made.  And I am wondering what it is we would offer back to God . . . in gratitude for his care for us that day.  I am wondering if these offerings would come from our best.  I am wondering if these gifts would be found gracious in the eyes of God.

I am wondering . . .


A re-post from October 28, 2011.

Images from: http://thealderwoodtriptych.blogspot.com/ and http://locallocale.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/cro-magnon-education-open-letter-to-president-obama-on-education-reform-homeschool-unschool-cro-magnon-parenting/

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Ezra 3:3Despite Fear

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Several years ago we looked at the third chapter of Ezra to explore the options we have when we return from exile or a place of great sadness.  We read about how these chastened people return to a place that had once been special to them.  We see how they gather themselves after tragedy to find joy once more.  We understand that they come together in celebration to restore what was lost . . . despite their great fear.

Fear is clearly an obstacle but it also a strong motivator.  It can paralyze us and keep us from moving forward; it can also propel us into action without our knowing precisely where we are going or how we will get there.  We each know the sensation that stops us in our tracks when fear grips the heart and churns the stomach.  We also know the feeling of wild horror that urges us to escape and even run away when fear sends us into the blindness of panic.  Today we watch a people full of fear gather themselves to return to something they know to be sacred.  These people can show us how to return to what we once loved . . . even when we believe it to be lost forever.

They return from exile; they examine how and what they need to change; they thank God for their deliverance; they move forward with and in God.

They gather themselves; they take a head count; they take inventory together; they agree to a plan; they move forward with and in God.

They follow through with their plan; they rely on one another; they leave no one behind; they celebrate success; they move forward with and in God.

They who had been taken into exile now return cautiously; and they move forward with and in God.

They who had known only mourning are weighed down by pain; still they move forward with and in God.

They who wept for their loss yearn for new hope and restoration . . . and so they move forward with and in God.

They who know nothing but darkness look for peace and reunion . . . and so they move forward with and in God.

When we are bereft of all that once was familiar, when we have been carried away to a place that is alien, when we tremble with the coldness of a fear that strangles us, we – like the people we read about today – turn to God and the sureness of his mercy.  We call on this compassionate God to remove the bitter panic that grips us.  We ask this kind and gentle God to restore our confidence and joy.  And we follow this God – no matter where he leads – through the chill of the dark night to the warmth of a new presence and serenity . . . and we ask this despite all our fear.


A re-post from October 8, 2011.

Images from: http://www.greatjewishmusic.com/Moods/Serenity.htm

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Ezekiel 45:13-17Offerings

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Written on February 19 and posted today as a Favorite . . .

We have spent time with Ezekiel 45 before but today we focus on the offerings portion – what it is we offer back to God.  I am thinking about how much more meaning our lives might have if we were to each day give something back to God that we have produced.  What would it be?  In our ultra modern, techno-savvy, global, sophisticated way of living . . . what do we actually make with our hands, hearts and minds?  We have come so far from the primitive beings who first inhabited Africa and the Tigris-Euphrates areas of the prehistoric world that . . . I am wondering if we have not tricked ourselves into thinking that we do not need to trust God.

When early tribes were hunters and gatherers, it was clear who and what provided for them.  As they followed herds and crops they dealt with drought, deluge, scarcity and plenty.  They had to learn how to conserve and share.  They had to learn both the basics and complexities of survival, and then they passed these lessons on to their offspring.  I am wondering if we have not fooled ourselves into thinking that we have mastered nature . . . and so do not need to rely on God.

Our Western life is worlds away from the poor of the second and third worlds.  We may forget that only a small portion of the those of us living on the globe today have running water, enough food for our children, decent clothing and housing, and basic medical care.  Now that humanity has made so many advances in the fields of medicine, nutrition, and technology, I am wondering if some of us have made these our gods and have kept ourselves safe while not thinking about others . . . and I am wondering if we have not deluded ourselves into thinking that we do not need to love God as God exists in each and all of us.

I am wondering if we could each evening bring forth the products of our day in order to place them on the kitchen table as we sit to eat our evening meal if we would recognize what it is we have made.  And I am wondering what it is we would offer back to God . . . in gratitude for his care for us that day.  I am wondering if these offerings would come from our best.  I am wondering if these gifts would be found gracious in the eyes of God.

I am wondering . . .


A re-post from September 7, 2011.

Image from: http://jameswoodward.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/harvest/ 

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Genesis 43The Second Journey

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Bacchiacca: Joseph receives his brothers

Just when we think we have reached a plateau in our journey where we might walk along the flatland rather than clamber up and skitter down the mountain sides . . . we find that we have to go back to repeat a leg of our passage.  Just when we have begun to relax at the oasis where we have filled our water sacks and rested in the shade from the heat of the day . . . we are told that we must move on.  Just when we are beginning to become comfortable in the little fortress where we are hiding from our foes . . . we hear the voice that calls us to make a second journey.

Today we find ourselves in the Joseph story at the point where the brothers have returned home to Jacob to tell him that they must go back to Egypt . . . and this time they must take the favored son Benjamin with them.  Just when Jacob thought his problem of famine had been resolved . . . he is told that he must relinquish the last person who brings him comfort.  Despite his age and the litany of difficulties he has undergone, Jacob must trust God and allow himself to suffer again.  The brothers who had sold Joseph into slavery know that they must make a return trip to Egypt.  Little do they know that well-hidden secrets are about to be revealed, questions will be asked and answered, truths will be spoken.  They plan to go to Egypt to purchase food for their families.  They do not plan to encounter the brother they have delivered to slavery and death.  They do not know they are about to make a further journey.  We do not hear from Benjamin, the young boy whose full brother wields power second only to Pharaoh, but we can imagine that he feels both anxiety and excitement.  Everyone in this story will suffer.  Everyone in this story will be rewarded beyond their wildest imaginings.

I am reading a book by Richard Rohr which a friend gave to me.  In FALLING UPWARD, Rohr posits that in life each of us is given the gift of a second or further journey. “[I]n my opinion, this first-half of life task is no more than finding the starting gate.  It is merely the warm-up act, not the full journey.  It is the raft but not the shore . . . There is much evidence on several levels that there are at least two major tasks to human life.  The first task is to build a strong ‘container’ or identity; the second is to find the contents that the container was meant to hold.  The first task we take for granted as the very purpose of life, which does not mean that we do it well.  The second task, I am told, is more encountered than sought; few arrive at it with much preplanning, purpose, or passion”.   (Rohr viii and xiii)

Rohr cites W. H. Auden:  We would rather be ruined than changed.  We would rather die in our dread than climb the cross of the present and let our illusions die.  (Rohr 65)  And on page 73 we find this from Matthew 16:25-26: Anyone who wants to save his life must lose it.  Anyone who loses her life will find it.  What gain is there if you win the whole world and lose your very self?  What can you offer in exchange for your one life?”

Jacob believed that his sons were going to Egypt to purchase food that would save the family.  He did not know that his lost son Joseph would be their savior.  Joseph’s brothers thought they were purchasing food to save their lives . . . they did not know that they would also redeem their souls.

Just when we believe that we have convinced everyone of the reality of our illusions . . . we are given the opportunity to leave our comfort zone and enter the second half of our lives.  We are blessed with the gift of seeing clearly that we are created to love honestly and suffer well.  We are created to take the second journey of our lives . . . the journey that promises far more than suffering . . . the further journey that brings us more reward than we can ever imagine.


Rohr, Richard. FALLING UPWARD: A SPIRITUALITY FOR THE TWO HALVES OF LIFE. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2011. Print.

The painting above is housed at the UK National Gallery.  To see more detail, click on the image and follow the link.  A spy glass on the museum site will allow you to see detail by zeroing in.   You will also find a link to other scenes from the life of Joseph which may interest you. 

A re-post from August 16, 2011.

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Numbers 34The Lovely Paradox

Monday, September 3, 2018

We have tackled this theme before: The importance of knowing our appropriate limits.  We have reflected on the subtle ways in which vanity creeps into our lives, allowing us to believe that we do not need God or worse . . . that God does not exist at all.  We already know that if we are not prudent, humble and watchful, arrogance will make a stealthy entrance into our lives.  We preen a bit too much when we are complemented.  We allow ourselves to forget that it is God who creates us and fills us with the talents we so easily take for granted.  When we know our limits – and when we know God’s beneficence – we keep well away from the subtle snares of pride.

We may puzzle a bit over why the Lord is so particular about dividing the tribes into designated territories, and if so then we will want to recall that the land from the Wadi of Egypt to the Great River Euphrates is part of God’s covenant promise to Abraham in Genesis 15:18.  The Lord understands that unless demarcations are made we humans will constantly squabble over control.  The Lord also knows that once we relinquish ourselves to God’s boundaries, we learn to rely on God rather than ourselves.   

We may object to this laying out of lines and the designation of supervisors.  We may believe that God does not really understand what it feels like to be in our shoes.  We may think that our burdens are too heavy, our challenges to great.  We may even think that God does not understand us, and in this we would be incorrect.

For the lovely paradox is this . . .

When we learn to rely on God alone for everything we are and do, we will find it easier to remain within the human limits that define us.

When we learn to thank God for all that we have and all that we are, we will find it easier to empty ourselves so that God might enter.

When we learn to ask God for help in everything we do, we will find it easier to overcome the obstacles in our path.

In doing all of this, we hand ourselves over to God.

In doing all of this, we find our own divinity . . . and this is the lovely paradox.

A re-post from Wednesday, August 3, 2011.


Image from: http://midwestpoet.wordpress.com/2008/07/03/stones/ 

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