Always There

Read Psalm 139:7-12

There is a fact of human reality which is impossible to overcome-no one can be two places at one time. The limits of our human existence include the inability to be in more than one location at any given time. If you have the need to avoid or be hidden from another person, you may be grateful for this reality since it may help you to escape detection. The flip side of this truth is that when we have a need or desire to be in two different locales at the same time, we must choose because this is impossible for us.

Due to the spiritual nature of God, the human limits of time and place do not apply. God can, and is, everywhere at all times. The psalmist states this in today’s verses. The psalmist affirms that there is nowhere which a person can go, or be, that the Lord is not present.

Realizing that the observation in this psalm is absolutely true carries a mixed dynamic for us. If we feel a need to hide from the Lord (which Adam and Eve once did), we cannot be successful. Our God will be present wherever we may go. The other portion of this dynamic is comforting because for us it means the Lord is always present. We are never alone in facing any aspect of life. God is there, always desiring to provide whatever we may need in the time and place of our existence.

This portion of the ancient song gives us two truths to incorporate in our lives:

  1. Strive always to never have the need to hide from God.
  2. Remember that you are never alone because the Lord is always with you.

Fairness

Read Matthew 20:1-16

Many of us grew up with parents and grandparents who were committed to fairness in gift giving. Whether it was Christmas, birthdays, graduations, or any other opportunity to give a gift, these important people in our lives would strive to make sure that each child or grandchild received equally. As the receiver of the gifts, anytime we failed to see equity in the giving, we may have  had a tendency to exclaim that it was unfair.

The fairness of giving and receiving is addressed in the story which Jesus tells in our passage for today. Workers hired early in the day protest the fairness of receiving the same daily wage as those who were hired in the final hours of the work day. The vineyard owner is quick to point out that all the workers received exactly the wage for which they agreed to work. The owner continues by lifting up that it was his money being paid so he had the right to determine the amount as long as it was not lower than the agreed upon amount. Jesus was addressing some of the issues regarding the Jews versus the Gentiles in coming to believe. 

This battle of fairness can appear among believers today. People begin believing in the Lord at various points in their lives. There are some who develop a belief early in their lives, maybe because they have been raised in the fellowship of the Church. Others start developing their faith as young adults or even when they reach middle age. Still others may not come to believe until they are facing death. No matter when in life our belief begins, we all receive the fullness of our Lord’s promises fulfilled. In fact we receive this before we even begin to understand our belief. The grace given to all is the Lord’s to give. Instead of crying foul when a new believer accepts the gift of grace and promises fulfilled, we should celebrate.

Still

Read Psalm 46:10

There are people who relish quiet. Other people become uneasy when there is prolonged silence. A majority of individuals fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to a comfort level with quietness. I have discovered that time has changed my desires for silence. As I have aged, I covet quiet much more frequently than I did in my younger years.

Wherever you may currently fall in the quietness spectrum, there is a need to have mindful quiet time in our relationship with the Lord. During periods of silence we are given an opportunity of hearing the voice of our God. We have the chance to consider the magnitude of the One who created us.

Today’s passage is a message for us in our busy and noise-filled lives. We are invited by the words of the psalmist to be still and quiet. In this period of noise-free inactivity, we may come to know more of the nature of the Lord. We can be reminded of the love of the One who is in control.

Take time to deliberately be still and know that God is God.

Being Known

Read Psalm 8:4-8 and Ephesians 2:8-9

We live in a world where our accomplishments, status, background, and experiences define who we are in life. The lesson which is frequently taught, starting at a young age, is that we are the only ones who can make a name for ourselves. Each of us has a longing to be known. This longing drives us to expend a lot of energy and resources to establish our name among our peers.

There is one with whom we do not have to make our name known. In fact, none of our accomplishments, efforts, status or anything else can establish our identity with this one being. God knows who we are even better than we know ourselves. Our  true identity is found not in ourselves but in the Lord. Because we are known by God, we receive so much love and care from our Lord. When we remember that as a child of God, we are known, loved and have full acceptance, our striving to be known loses some importance. 

Casting Crowns have communicated this beautifully in their song, Who Am I. Take time to listen to this song and reflect upon how the Lord has established your name in the Book of Life.

Fear

Read Psalm 103:13

One of the most misunderstood words in the Bible is the word fear. Anyone who has studied the ancient languages of Hebrew and Greek realize that English translations of words from these two are challenging at best. Hebrew words require can understanding of the culture from which they derive. While it may be argued that this fact is true in regard to any language, it seems even more so when it comes to Hebrew because Hebrew words are emotive and convey different understandings based on the emotion being expressed at the time. It can be said that few English words accurately express what is actually being said in Hebrew. Culture and context must be considered when choosing an English equivalent but even then the true meaning is seldom captured.

This brings us back to our dilemma with the word fear. Often when this word is heard in English, the hearer understands it to mean an emotion which arises because someone or something is dangerous and may cause harm. Clearly this is the intent when we encounter this English word translated from some of the Greek on Hebrew passages. However, there exist times when this would be a misunderstanding of the original ancient word. The verse from Psalm 103 is one of many places in Scripture where this confusion can easily be demonstrated.  This verse speaks of God’s compassion. Compassion usually is not associated with an emotion arising from a perceived danger. God does not show compassion on those who are concerned about God being harmful toward them. So how are we to understand this word?

In this instance we have to look at the original Hebrew word. When we do so, we must realize that in their culture God is seen as extremely powerful and deserving of great reverence. The God which has given so much to and done so much for the Israelites is one who is deserving of all devotion, love and praise. Coming from this viewpoint, the Hebrew word here is better understood as worshiping or revering. This is not totally foreign to the English word fear, Webster lists as one definition of the word, “Extreme reverence or awe.”

The proper message being conveyed by the psalmist is that we experience great compassion from the God we have revered and stood in awe before.

Citizenship

Read Philippians 3:17-21

When an immigrant desires to become a citizen of the United States, there is quite a process which the person must complete. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services website lists the following:

  • Be at least 18 years of age at the time you file the application;
  • Have been a lawful permanent resident for the past three or five years (depending on which naturalization category you are applying under);
  • Have continuous residence and physical presence in the United States;
  • Be able to read, write, and speak basic English;
  • Demonstrate good moral character;
  • Demonstrate a knowledge and understanding of U.S. history and government;
  • Demonstrate a loyalty to the principles of the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Be willing to take the Oath of Allegiance.

This list causes one to wonder how many citizens by birth could make it through this process

In the passage from Philippians, Paul speaks of being citizens. He mentions that we are transformed to this citizenship through the power of Christ. Striving to follow the example of Jesus as witnessed in others is our responsibility as heavenly citizens.

Paul’s words speak valuable concepts to us. Being reminded that our citizenship is in heaven provides a proper perspective on our earthly one. With citizenship comes responsibility. This sense of responsibility should not be taken lightly. In both types of citizenship, our care for others is paramount. This is the example given to us by our Lord and is applicable in both arenas.

Having Hope

Read Romans 5:1-5

When difficult times surround us, it can be a challenge to maintain a sense of hope. The impossibilities appear stronger than the possibilities. Yet we have a faith which can provide us peace and hope. A hope which comes from perseverance and character is based on the love of God through Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit.

In the animated movie, The Prince of Egypt, this hope is spoken about in a song, When You Believe. May Lucy and Martha Thomas’s singing of that song remind you of the hope which is possible in our Lord.

Spreading the News

Read Isaiah 52:7-10

It was quite common in 18th century Europe and the American colonies to have town criers. These were individuals who would be employed by a city to make announcements and share vital news by shouting in the streets. The earliest recording of such individuals is found in an account in Britain around 1066. The sharing of information has changed a lot since town criers were city employees.

The prophet Isaiah speaks of a form of a town crier in today’s passage. The news being shared is about peace and salvation. These items are being brought to the people by none other than the Lord. This never will be celebrated and witnessed by all the nations.

Today, we understand this passage as a foretelling of what Jesus Christ will do in Jerusalem. The salvation and peace which Jesus ushered in for all people is the good news, or gospel. It is now upon us that the title of town crier falls. We are to be the ones who are bringing good news to the world. Our message is one of peace and salvation which the Lord has brought into our lives.

Grace or Law

Read Galatians 5:1-6

The passage chosen for today is part of a letter which Paul has written. Paul had received word that many of the believers in Galatia had started striving to live according to the Hebrew laws. They were concerned about earning righteousness with God. Someone had convinced them of the necessity to adhere to the law. This portion of Paul’s letter is to address this problem and redviert the people.

Paul outlines the problem with the idea of striving to adhere to the ancient law. By focusing on required performance and behavior, the believers are disregarding the grace secured for them by Christ. The direction which they have been taking places the spotlight on them and their actions instead of on Christ’s actions. Any behaviors which they follow should be in response to the grace which they received through Christ, not because they are trying to follow the law.

Even today there are people who fall into the same trap which the believers in Galatia had fallen into. They were confused by leaders who tried to convince them that their righteousness was based on their fidelity to the law. Some church leaders today make similar statements. Paul’s words in his letter are apropos for anyone who follows this pattern. The grace of Jesus Christ is sufficient for us. Any attempts at earning righteousness discredits belief in Christ’s all-sufficient grace. Our lives should be lived as a response to this grace.

The Return

Read Luke 15:11-32

There is a saying which gets spoken often that goes like this, “There is no going back home.” In many situations, this saying is applicable. A desire to return to some point in our lives has crept into almost everyone’s thoughts. We can become nostalgic for a different time in our lives which our memories fool us into thinking was easier and problem-free. However, if we are to honestly to recall exactly what our views were at the specific time, we would have to admit that even then we longed for something else, something better and problem-free. So to some degree, the saying is true that we cannot go back, even if we could, it would not be the same. We really would not want it to be the same.

There is an exception of sorts to what I just presented to you. The exception has to do with reconciliation and restored relations. Jesus presents this exception in the form of a story about a father and his two sons. The story’s focus character is the man’s youngest son who longs for something better. The son takes his future inheritance and hits the road in search of adventure, only to find himself destitute and longing to go back home. When he finally gets the courage to return, the son fully reconciles with his father and the relationship is completely restored.

Jesus tells this story to give us understanding into the promise of reconciliation and restoration offered by God. With the Father, we are more than able to go back home. Not only is the ability made possible by the Lord, it is greatly desired by God. The chance to reconcile our relation with God is one of the greatest signs of love given to us. This opportunity is available as many times as we need it.

The other son in Jesus’s story also provides an important lesson for us. Even though the father was ready to, and did, reconcile with his youngest son, the older brother responded the opposite way. How many times do we reject the offer of reconciliation from others? Jesus communicated here the need for us to always work for reconciliation with one another.