God holds God’s breath

Here’s a suggestion about keeping your daily devotions fresh. Read the scripture in a Bible version different than your usual one. This is how a favorite Psalm recently gave me some encouragement.

In my regular old NRSV Psalm 5:3 reads:

Oh Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I plead my case to you and watch.

It’s a very sweet reminder; regularly present my needs to God and then stand back and watch God handle the situation.

But the other morning I read Psalm 5 from the Jerusalem Bible, and I noticed a different emphasis:

I say this prayer to you, Yahweh, for at daybreak you listen for my voice; and at dawn I hold myself in readiness for you, I watch for you.

“…for at daybreak you listen for my voice.” God doesn’t just hear your case, God actually is eager to hear the words you will speak; almost holding his breath in anticipation of receiving you and your prayers. Yahweh is not indifferent toward you; like a parent listening for the sound of her child awakening in the morning, God stands at the door of your heart waiting for an invitation to enter.

Your response is to “hold yourself in readiness.” The NRSV sounds rather passive, “I watch.” This translation  suggests an alertness, a readiness to spring into action, an anticipation that God will act and you need to be good to go.

Such a mutuality. God, eager to listen; you eager to respond. Yay, God! and Yay, You!

Wisdom’s promise of refreshment

Wisdom’s promise of refreshment

Wisdom speaks:

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance. I have grown tall as a cedar in Lebanon, as a cypress on Mt. Hermon; I have grown tall as a palm in Engedi, as the rose bushes of Jericho; as a fine olive in the plain, as a plane tree I have grown tall.

Sirach 24:12-14

plane treejpegI have grown tall as a Plane tree

A tree that grows beside the water. It sheds its outer bark, the hebrew word means naked.

A responsive prayer:

May I grow beside the living water, staying close to the source of life for the refreshment of my soul. May I  live vulnerably, not hiding behind a veneer.

Wisdom’s promise of maturity

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance.
I have grown tall as a cedar in Lebanon, as a cypress on Mt. Hermon; I have grown tall as a palm in Engedi, as the rose bushes of Jericho; as a fine olive in the plain, as a plane tree I have grown tall.
Sirach 24:12-14

olivetreejpegAn olive tree in the plain

is cultivated for its important fruit; it is slow to mature, so it requires peaceful conditions to let it grow. Fragrant, with a pleasing odor, is an emblem of prosperity, beauty and regions of privilege.

A responsive prayer:

May I produce important, valuable fruit, be patient with myself and with others, recognizing it takes time and peaceful conditions for my fruit to mature.

What would your response be?

Tomorrow we’ll look at Wisdom’s promise of refreshment.

 

Wisdom’s promise of restoration

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance.
I have grown tall as a cedar in Lebanon, as a cypress on Mt. Hermon; I have grown tall as a palm in Engedi, as the rose bushes of Jericho; as a fine olive in the plain, as a plane tree I have grown tall.
Sirach 24:12-14

rose of jerichojpeg

Rosebushes in Jericho are also known as the Resurrection flower. For long periods, these ‘roses’ live in desert regions, growing and reproducing as any other plant until the environment no longer supports an adequate existence. When this happens they lose moisture and the drying branches curl inwards, forming a round ball. They retract their roots from the soil and allow the desert winds to carry them across the desert, until one day they arrive in a damp place where they can continue to grow and spread. The ball then expands again, opens flat on the ground and deposits its seeds, which germinate. Once watered, the dried-up looking young plants soon begin to bud. Even after 50 years without water the plant will resurrect.

A Responsive prayer:

May I trust the trust the dryness of my spirit is God’s readying me to move to a new place where his moisture will allow me to flourish.

Next we’ll look at Wisdom’s promise of maturity

Wisdom’s promise of victory (and so much more)

Wisdom speaks:

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance. I have grown tall as a cedar in Lebanon, as a cypress on Mt. Hermon; I have grown tall as a palm in Engedi, as the rose bushes of Jericho; as a fine olive in the plain, as a plane tree I have grown tall.

Sirach 24:12-14

palm tree jpeg

A palm tree is grown mainly for its fruit; its branches are a symbol of victory, It attracts the eye because of it’s height. The palm leaves are braided into baskets, mats, ropes, brooms etc.

A responsive prayer:

May I grow tall and noticeable, attracting others to my space. May I offer nourishment and delight to others and be victorious for God’s glory. Lord, all me to be useful in serving your kingdom and your beloved people.

Tomorrow we will look at Wisdom’s promise of restoration.

Wisdom’s promise of Solidity

Wisdom’s promise of Solidity

Wisdom speaks:

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance.
I have grown tall as a cedar in Lebanon, as a cypress on Mt. Hermon; I have grown tall as a palm in Engedi, as the rose bushes of Jericho; as a fine olive in the plain, as a plane tree
I have grown tall.
Sirach 24:12-14

cypress jpeg A Cypress on Mount Hermon is used to build floors/doors of royal houses and temples. Its hard wood was used to make spears. It is fragrant and very durable. It has dark foliage and is gloomy, planted in cemeteries, it is a funeral tree.

A responsive prayer:

May I be a solid foundation upon which saints can stand, may I be a door through which people enter God’s presence, may my words be like a spear, targeting the enemy, my presence a fragrance blessing those around me, and let me be a person that can bear with the grief of the world.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Wisdom’s promise of victory.

Wisdom’s promise of value

Wisdom speaks:

I have taken root in a privileged people, in the Lord’s property, in his inheritance.
I have grown tall as a cedar in Lebanon, as a cypress on Mt. Hermon; I have grown tall as a palm in Engedi, as the rose bushes of Jericho; as a fine olive in the plain, as a plane tree
I have grown tall.
Sirach 24:12-14

 

photo credit www.pfaf

 

 

A cedar of Lebanon – a valuable tree in the middle east. It is used to construct walls of royal houses and temples.

A responsive prayer:

May I grow into a cedar of Lebanon. Lord, make me valued and sought after as a container for the hearts of righteous people and the praise of God.

 

Tomorrow we’ll consider Wisdom’s promise of solidity.

A beauty tip

Psalm 34

I will bless the Lord at all times, his praise always on my lips.

photo-on-9-7-16-at-8-06-amRecently a discoloration has developed on my lower lip. I should have it looked at by a dermotologist, but I haven’t yet. Believe it or not (hehe), I am self-conscious about it. I attempt to hide the spot by always wearing lipstick. Otherwise, I’m thinking you are looking at the spot on my lip and not at me. Wearing lipstick covers an embarrassing blemish and with my flaw hidden, I can take my focus off of me and enjoy being with you.

Does the Lord’s praise on our lips do the same thing? Does the Lord’s praise cover our flaws, so that we don’t have to attempt to cover them ourselves? hmmm. Does the Lord’s praise free us to consider the other’s interests, to attend to their words, their person? Does the Lord’s praise allow our beauty to shine? hmmm.

Worship as a spectator sport

Isaiah 29:9-16

Worship that pleases God requires your whole person to be involved.

All too often we show up on Sunday mornings because it’s our habit, or we have obligations to fulfill, or our spouse expects it of us. Our bodies are in the sanctuary, but our minds, hearts and spirits are far, far away. We repeat the words of scripture, we sing the songs, we politely listen to the sermon and we depart. We showed up, but we weren’t present to the wonder of worship.

Annie Dillard, in her book Teaching a Stone to Talk hits the nail on the head.

On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside of the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake someday and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.

God issues a warning that should be heeded –  Worshipping with only your lips and words without your heart being involved causes the voice of God to be quieted.

During the worship service, don’t just hear the words, listen to the voice of God. Expect to be shown some wonder of God’s majesty; don’t tune out when prayers are offered from the front of the sanctuary, let your spirit connect with the Holy Spirit as the prayers rise up as incense into God’s presence.  Jesus is here, ready to meet you. He says “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” Listen with your heart.

Answer this question honestly, Why do you go to church? How will your worship experience be different if you draw near to God with your heart? Do you find the church service boring? Try praying for the singers as they lead, for the preacher as the word is shared. Get involved with the service. Worship is not meant to be a spectator sport.

 

Are you ready for some worship?

“In the year that King Uzziah died….” Isaiah 6:1

King Uzziah began his reign as a good king, doing what was favorable in the sight of the Lord and as a result God prospered and strengthened him. But “when he became strong he grew proud” and considered himself sufficient to carry out the priestly duty of standing before the holy God and offering sacrifices. In his pride he thought he was good enough, clean enough to face God’s holiness. He didn’t need the priests, he could handle it.

Wrong! When confronted by God’s priests with the truth of his apostasy, he raged and was struck with leprosy, living in isolation and disease until his death. (2 Chron 26)

Isaiah had a very different response to the holy God.

“Woe is me…” Isaiah 6:5

In the presence of the holiness and the glory of God, Isaiah realized his lack. He knew he had the stain of sin on his lips and supposed he was lost. Uzziah assumed he was enough; Isaiah knew he was not.

God graciously gives glimpses of his holiness so we can recognize the infinite gap between his greatness and our smallness; this awareness is the beginning of true worship.

The true way to be humble is not to stoop till thou art smaller than thyself, but to stand at thy real height against some higher nature that will show thee what the real smallness of thy greatness is. …. Phillips Brooks

It’s amazing, isn’t it? The holy God, the one who lives in unapproachable light comes to you as he came to Isaiah. What other response is possible but to trust his grace?

Don’t be like Uzziah, taking your connection with God for granted and forgetting that you need God’s mediator standing between your unholiness and God’s perfection.

God’s purifying fire of love touches your sin-stained lips, imparting his worthiness to you through Jesus Christ. When you are touched and transformed by such a fire, you are able to hear God’s call and you are ready to respond with a willing and eager heart.

  • When have you had a glimpse of God’s greatness? How did it feel? What was your response?
  • It’s easy to forget in whose presence we stand when we enter worship. How can you ensure you don’t take God for granted?
  • What prevents you from saying, like Isaiah, “Here am I; send me!”?

Originally written for CBC’s weekly devotional thought.