A Bible That Confronts

June26

Psalm 119.97
Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.

“Americans may love the Bible or loathe it,” wrote Ann Monroe in Mother Jones. “But for the most part, they read it the same (when they read it at all): as the manifesto of a God who has a lot of laws and a definite inclination to punish those who don’t follow them.” 

We may think that an authoritative text precludes intimacy, but a personal relationship requires someone who talks back. A one-sided relationship is exploitive, not personal. How can we pursue a relationship with God in which our will is crossed and our thoughts are contradicted?

The Psalmist celebrated the Word for its authority and ability to cross and contradict us. For the Lord’s wisdom transcends the wisdom of those from whom we traditionally seek it: “I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your testimonies are my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your precepts.”

In Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life, Donald Whitney writes, “No Spiritual Discipline is more important than the intake of God’s Word. Nothing can substitute for it. There is simply no healthy Christian life apart from a diet of the milk and meat of Scripture. The reasons for this are obvious. In the Bible God tells us about Himself, and especially about Jesus Christ, the incarnation of God. 

“The Bible unfolds the Law of God to us and shows us how we’ve all broken it. There we learn how Christ died as a sinless, willing Substitute for breakers of God’s Law and how we must repent and believe in Him to be right with God. In the Bible we learn the ways and will of the Lord. We find in Scripture how to live in a way that is pleasing to God as well as best and most fulfilling for ourselves. None of this eternally essential information can be found anywhere else except the Bible. Therefore if we would know God and be Godly, we must know the Word of God – intimately.”

Prayer
Lord, We need more than just words to survive. We need the Word himself. Since the Bible is the essential place to find him, we turn to it and long for a more disciplined intake of it. Make it our meditation all the day. Amen.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 31 (Listen – 4:57)
Psalm 119.97-120 (Listen)

Ancient Word in Modern Life
Part 5 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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TBT: Prevailing Prayer in Times of National Trouble

June25


Psalm 119.90
Your faithfulness endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. 

TBT: Prevailing Prayer in Times of National Trouble | by John Collins (c. 1632–1687)

Human strength and human wisdom may be able to do little; the power and policy of enemies may be too hard for the wisdom and strength of the godly: but when you can do least yourselves, you may engage God, by prayer, to do most. “He is wise in heart, and mighty in strength.”

Think, how many times have the prayers of the saints prevailed with God in the like cases. Moses’s prayers prevailed to deliver Israel, when the Egyptians so closely pursued them: “Why do you cry to me?” and at other times. Asa’s prayer prevailed against Zerah and his Ethiopian army, and Jehoshaphat’s against the Ammonites.

And if prayer has been so prevalent, why may it not be so still? It is an old, tried means, which has not failed: do not say that these were more eminent saints, and so could do more with God by prayer than you can. You have the same God to pray to that they had, and he delights as much in prayer now as then he did, and can do as much for us as he could for them.

You pray with the same kind of faith that they did. Your faith is grounded on the same promises; they are still the same. The Mediator, who is to present your petitions to God, is still the same. His interest in those that fear him, and his concern for them, is still the same as it was. Then why wouldn’t prayer prevail as much now as formerly?

If you do prevail, it will be both your honor and comfort, to have been instrumental in keeping off public judgments, and procuring public mercies. So far as your prayers have been of use for the obtaining such mercies, so far they are your mercies, and you will have comfort in them. Any mercy is sweet, when obtained by prayer; much more, such as are of advantage to others as well as yourselves. 

If you should not prevail for public deliverance your prayers shall not be lost. They shall “return into your own bosom,” in deliverance for yourselves. It will be no small comfort to have done your duty and to suffer without the guilt of negligence. 

If you that are godly do not prevail in prayer, none else are likely to do it.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 30 (Listen – 3:12)
Psalm 119.73-96 (Listen)

*Today’s devotional is abridged, with updated language, from, “How The Religious Of A Nation Are The Strength Of It.”

Ancient Word in Modern Life
Part 4 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Experiencing the Greatest Things

June24

Psalm 119.72
The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. 

Near the peak of the late-night ratings battle last December The Tonight Show hosted Jerry Seinfeld. Just prior to the comedy legend’s five minute set, the show had announced that everyone in the audience would receive a television as a prize for attending the taping.

Seinfeld began his set laughing that the audience was so happy about receiving a TV — it is likely everyone had one and absolute that every TV would, one day, end up in the trash. “All things on earth only exist in different stages of becoming garbage,” Seinfeld quipped.

He then challenged the audience to think about the journey nearly every object we buy takes. Most things start 

in a visible place then move to a closet or drawer, and before becoming trash many things make a stop in our garage or storage unit. He joked, “That’s why we have those, so we don’t have to see the huge mistakes that we’ve made.”

If we stop and think about the areas we’ve succeeded — whether money, possessions, accomplishment, or accolade — they almost always let us down. There is a “this is it?” moment when we realize that which we set our hearts upon is really just dust. 

“David had a great deal of gold and silver, far more than any of us have; but yet he thought very little of it in comparison with God’s law,” Charles Spurgeon notes in his commentary Psalm 119. “Many people despise gold and silver because they have not got any. The fox said the grapes were sour because they were beyond his reach. But here is a case, in which a man had as much gold and silver as he could ever want.” 

Success and riches are lovely things — how wonderful is it that God created us to experience them? But David also knew they were insufficient for the greater things God created our hearts to know. 

Seinfeld, in jest, suggests our solution is to become a “thrower-outer.” Adding, “I wish there was a store where I could buy something, pivot and just throw it down the incinerator.”

The Psalmist solution, in earnest, is that we love God more than our prize possessions and accomplishments. For, as Spurgeon concludes, “Riches often take to themselves wings, and fly away; even great wealth may soon be spent and gone; but God’s law never leaves those who love it, nor lets them lose it.”

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 29 (Listen – 4:14)
Psalm 119.49-72 (Listen)

Ancient Word in Modern Life
Part 3 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Economics and Christ

June23

Psalm 119.25
My soul clings to the dust; give me life according to your word! 

In his book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered, British economist E.F. Schumacher observes that the modern Western economist “is used to measuring the ‘standard of living’ by the amount of annual consumption, assuming all the time that a man who consumes more is ‘better off’ than a man who consumes less.”

Schumacher’s work, published during the 1973 oil crisis, reads like a manifesto against industrialism’s “bigger is better” mantra. “Since consumption is merely a means to human well-being, the aim should be to obtain the maximum of well-being with the minimum of consumption.”

The hero of the book is Buddhist economics — a term Schumacher coined after studying village-based economics. “The ownership and the consumption of goods is a means to an end, and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimum means.

“[Western] economics considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity, taking the factors of production — land, labor, and capital — as the means. The former, in short, tries to maximize human satisfactions by the optimal pattern of consumption, while the latter tries to maximize consumption by the optimal pattern of productive effort.”

Much of what Schumacher offers as a critique of western economics is engaging, if not refreshing. His solution of Buddhist economics is intriguing as well, but he places near-utopian hope in humankind (assuming we can figure out economics). “People who live in highly self-sufficient local communities are less likely to get involved in large-scale violence than people whose existence depends on worldwide systems of trade.”

The idea of Christians thoughtfully engaging faith in economics is a deeply biblical response to our call to cultivate. That image comes with the assumption that everything in creation, as significant and beautiful as it may be, is dust. Trying to solve humankind’s problems through dust is a smokescreen to hide our true actions of substituting God with ourselves. 

One of the privileges of the Christian life is responding to the glory of God’s word while we drive it deep into our hearts through prayer. This posture reorients our understanding and deepens our calling to engage thoughtfully with economic theory and practice while we simultaneously set our eyes on Christ as the greatest hope of the world.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 28.20-68 (Listen)
Psalm 119.25-48 (Listen)

Ancient Word in Modern Life
Part 2 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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Finding Words for Prayer

June22

Psalm 119.14-15
In the way of your testimonies I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your precepts and fix my eyes on your ways.

“The true source of prayer is not an emotion but an insight,” observes Abraham Joshua Heschel in Man’s Quest for God. Yet our sources for insight often prove inconsistent or even unreliable. Cultures wax and wane, emotions churn, even our personal perspectives evolve. Nothing can eviscerate a prayer life more quickly than locating our sole source for insight inside ourselves.

“It is the insight into the mystery of reality, the sense of the ineffable, that enables us to pray,” says Heschel. So too, the psalmist who composed the longest chapter in scripture, Psalm 119. The overtone of the psalm is the confession of God’s word as the source of vitality, joy, and meaning in life. The undertone is the way meaningful prayer is sparked and fueled by insights found in his transcendent word. 

The remedy for spiritual dryness is prayer saturated with scripture. When we pray the words of scripture they enliven our prayers by allowing God’s word to blossom inside our heart, mind, and soul. In An Exposition on Prayer in the Bible Jim Rosscup identified the psalmist’s record of this experience, verse-by-verse, in Psalm 119.

In regards to our daily experience, God’s words in prayer are, “purifying (verse 9), a treasure (11, 72), joy-inspiring (14), delighting (16), replete with wonderful things (18), counselors (24), enlivening (25), strengthening (28). They are freeing (45, 133), comforting (52), stimulating for melody (54), perfecting (80), life-encompassing (96), sweet dessert (103), light (105), an inheritance (111), and worth waiting for (114). Not only these, but they are protecting (117), provocative of hate toward evil (128), truthful (142), righteous (144), everlasting (160), awe-inspiring (161), peace-promoting (165), and love-kindling (167).”

To experience this first-hand, Rosscup suggest taking one eight-verse section of Psalm 119 and praying through it each day. “God saturates all the psalmist’s thoughts as he prays, and rekindles one’s passion for God just to pray the very verses as one’s own thoughts.”

Prayer
Father we pray for an effervescent prayer life. Bring your peace and joy to us through scripture. Correct us and guide us. Revive us and heal the wounds from which we suffer. Help us reclaim our identity in you each morning. Affirm the work of your spirit in us each evening. We pray this in Jesus name.

Today’s Readings
Deuteronomy 27-28.19 (Listen)
Psalm 119.1-24 (Listen)

Ancient Word in Modern Life
Part 1 of 5, read more on TheParkForum.org

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