2020 Bible Reflections

April 30th 2020: Psalm 73

Psalm 73

A psalm of Asaph.

Truly God is good to Israel,
    to those whose hearts are pure.
But as for me, I almost lost my footing.
    My feet were slipping, and I was almost gone.
For I envied the proud
    when I saw them prosper despite their wickedness.
They seem to live such painless lives;
    their bodies are so healthy and strong.
They don’t have troubles like other people;
    they’re not plagued with problems like everyone else.
They wear pride like a jeweled necklace
    and clothe themselves with cruelty.
These fat cats have everything
    their hearts could ever wish for!
They scoff and speak only evil;
    in their pride they seek to crush others.
They boast against the very heavens,
    and their words strut throughout the earth.
10 And so the people are dismayed and confused,
    drinking in all their words.
11 “What does God know?” they ask.
    “Does the Most High even know what’s happening?”
12 Look at these wicked people—
    enjoying a life of ease while their riches multiply.

13 Did I keep my heart pure for nothing?
    Did I keep myself innocent for no reason?
14 I get nothing but trouble all day long;
    every morning brings me pain.

15 If I had really spoken this way to others,
    I would have been a traitor to your people.
16 So I tried to understand why the wicked prosper.
    But what a difficult task it is!
17 Then I went into your sanctuary, O God,
    and I finally understood the destiny of the wicked.
18 Truly, you put them on a slippery path
    and send them sliding over the cliff to destruction.
19 In an instant they are destroyed,
    completely swept away by terrors.
20 When you arise, O Lord,
    you will laugh at their silly ideas
    as a person laughs at dreams in the morning.

21 Then I realized that my heart was bitter,
    and I was all torn up inside.
22 I was so foolish and ignorant—
    I must have seemed like a senseless animal to you.
23 Yet I still belong to you;
    you hold my right hand.
24 You guide me with your counsel,
    leading me to a glorious destiny.
25 Whom have I in heaven but you?
    I desire you more than anything on earth.
26 My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak,
    but God remains the strength of my heart;
    he is mine forever.

27 Those who desert him will perish,
    for you destroy those who abandon you.
28 But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
    I have made the Sovereign Lord my shelter,
    and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things you do.

As April draws to a close, here is a psalm which says some of the things that I most certainly most needed to hear. I wonder if I am the only one who needed to hear them or if there are others besides me.

‘My health may fail, and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart; he is mine forever.’

Yes, indeed, I certainly can empathise with the first half of that phrase. My health might fail and we’re being presented daily with opportunities to consider the potential of failing health, either our own or of those around us. If health diminishes or your spirit grows weak (you get worn out with the struggle, perhaps) will you still be able to say ‘God remains the strength of my heart’? It’s a battle, for sure. It’s easy to give in and to say no, that God isn’t my strength, he’s not my shelter, my refuge, my help in time of need. It would be anyway, if it were true. I suppose there’s a reason why faith comes down so often to the question of trust. I can repeat these phrases until I’m blue in the face but what it really ends up being about is whether I am willing to trust that God is willing and able to be the strength of my heart. If I’m not, I know in the part of my not affected by emotion that he remains my heart’s strength anyway, but if I spend too long trusting things other than God I miss out on so much and waste so much time and energy.

There is a warming here for those who abandon their faith and trust in God with finality. It’s strong and it’s stark and we should pay attention to it.

But we should also remember that God’s heart is for those who are prodigal, those who have wondered away but who realise their need for him and the things that only he can bring.

In these days of shielding, how good it is to remember that God is our greatest shield of all.

Something To Do

Take a health check. How are you feeling? Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually? What could you do with some help with today? What do you have to celebrate?

Something To Pray

Pray that God would shield you today and give you time to rest and be refreshed.

March 2016

March 10th 2016: Hebrews 10:19-25

You can follow today’s reading by clicking on this sentence.

One of the primary points of this series of blogs is encapsulated in this passage. As we live the life of faith, as we wonder and question, as we doubt, let’s be people who are provoked to, and provokers of, love and good deeds. Love and good deeds are not the exclusive preserve of those who have a Christian faith, but as Christians, it seems logical that they should be something that flow from us as the joyful obedience of our relationship with Jesus Christ, and the value we place on one another and ourselves as we are able to see people from the Spirit’s point of view.

And then, look at verse 25! Even in the days of the preparation of the New Testament, it seems that there were people who had designed that meeting together as Church wasn’t for them, for whatever reason. Some things never change. I’m increasingly convinced of the importance of gathering together as the family of faith, to eat, to worship, to pray, to have fellowship. We can’t be one as Jesus and the Father are one and not be together. People get hurt by Churches (usually people within Churches who take on the visage of representing the whole organisation). Churches are not perfect. They never will be. Recently I watched the film Spotlight. It’s a harrowing portrayal of an institution which failed in every conceivable way. The Church, with a big C, failed. It is no surprise that people want to have nothing to do with a Church that behaves this way, nor with the God that they purport to represent. Spotlight is an extreme example, but many of us have had things happen to us that might well justify us never darkening the doors of a Church again. There are days when the last place I would choose to be is in Church, honestly. While each person’s experience is their own, I do get why Church is a very difficult place for a lot of people to be in.

The closest I’ve come to seeing perfection enacted in a Church is watching people from virtually all walks of life and experiences gathered together around the table at Communion. It’s here that we remember that Jesus has broken every barrier down. Churches will fail. We will find reasons to leave. Sometimes they will be good, entirely understandable. And yet, ‘all are welcome, all are welcome, all are welcome in this place’, as the song (repetititively) goes. We who are the Church have a huge job to do to make our families welcoming and accessible to all. Particularly so because any barriers that exist now are those which we have erected ourselves. God took them all away. Nothing should stand in the way of people coming together to worship him.

Don’t exclude yourself from one of the most important, and best, elements of being a follower of Jesus. Changing things from the inside is always more satisfying in the end anyway.