Anticipating something can create anxiety for most of us. This anxiety increases if we do not know the timing of whatever we are anticipating. You might recall as a young child on a road trip the way you nagged your parents with the question, “Are we there yet?” Maybe you had a child who consistently would ask that question, or ask “when?” We think that by knowing the timing, we can manage our anxiety better. Unfortunately, this is seldom the case.
We witness the annely of the disciples in today’s passage. Jesus tells them that the large, revered temple will be reduced to rubble and they want to know when. Jesus warns them that some people will come and try to convince them that the end is near based upon events which they see around them. He tells them not to be fooled because those events are just a part of the status of the world. Jesus says the wickedness in the world will increase but they are to stand strong in love. When others no longer live in and by love, Jesus’s followers are to do the opposite as a testimony of the kingdom in the world.
Since Jesus spoke these words, history has recorded individuals trying to convince people that the end of the world is close at hand. Even today we experience leaders, speakers, preachers, and public figures trying to equate natural or human-created events as signs of the end times. Whether it is true or not, our focus should not be on timing but instead our focus should be on remaining solid in love. Jesus clearly tells us that whatever is occurring around us, whatever wickedness is flooding the world, we are to not acquire a cold heart. The love which we daily receive from the Lord must create our foundation. This love surrounding us is also what we are to be sharing with others.
Leave the timing of the world’s demise to God. Do not let the world’s wickedness steal the love from you. Make love an alternative to the events of the world. By doing so, you will be testifying to the kingdom for others to see, a kingdom which is defined by love.
There exist many times in life when two opposing views present themselves. These views are usually based upon our perception. Is the glass half full, or is it half empty? This question is often quoted to show the concepts of pessimism and optimism. We also eventually realize that life generally resides somewhere in the middle of opposing views.
In the familiar passage for today, we see this challenge of contrasts. The Israelites are seeing their lives solely from the perspective of what they do not have. This perspective leads to complaining and an amnesia in regards to all which the Lord has given them. God shows the people abundance in quail and manna. They had all that they needed, and an abundance remained.
We can often have a perspective like the Israelites. We look at the world around us, complaining about all the things we do not have. Quickly, we can forget what we have thanks to the love, grace, and mercy of our Lord. All of which we truly need is provided by our God, and there is an abundance to share with others. Let each of us strive to achieve an attitude of abundance. If we succeed, it might just lead to less complaining and more gratitude.
Highly successful college basketball coach, John Wooden, is quoted as saying, “It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.” Wooden’s quote reminds us of the importance of always being in a learning mindset. Similarly, Albert Einstein said, “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” These successful and brilliant men stress the importance of spending a lifetime learning. They also remind us that no matter how wise or knowledgeable one may appear, there is always something more which can, and should, be learned.
When it comes to our faith and understanding of God, this could not be more true. Our passage for today comes from the book of the Bible named Proverbs. A Google search of the word proverb gives this definition: “a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.” The proverbs found in this book are usually credited to Solomon who was considered to be the wisest king of the Israeli people. It is a collection of sayings and insights intended to assist the people of God in learning who God is, who they are, and how Gad intends them to live. These first verses are encouragement for the people to continue to always be learning.
We have not only the book of Proverbs but the Bible as a whole which invites us to continue to learn about our faith, our God, and ourselves. Add to this the insights provided by mothers and fathers in our faith and we have no limits in what is available to us from which to learn. Fellow believers and faith leaders of today continue to add to the lessons available to us.
None of us know all. Every day we are given the opportunity to learn and grow in our faith. Praise be to our Lord for the people and the learning given to us throughout our lives.
Today in the Western church, we mark this day as a festival day, Sts. Peter and Paul Festival Day. Christians remember two pillars of the early Church. Saint Peter was the apostle which Jesus said the church would be built upon. Saint Paul provided writings which helped the church discover what it meant to live into being the church. Both of these early church leaders looked toward the day when the Kingdom would exist in fullness in the world.
The writer of John’s revelation gives us a glimpse of the scene when Peter and Paul’s expectations come to fruition. The writer speaks of “a new heaven and a new earth.” This is not a redesign of our current temporal existence but instead it is a perfection of everything in and around creation. The imperfect, which came into existence when humanity unlocked sin in the world, is transformed by the full presence of God. The removal of the sea denotes the end of chaos which sin has unleashed on the world. No longer will suffering be a part of creation. A new, perfect way of existing without death is now the reality of the world.
Just as Peter, Paul, and all believers past and present, we eagerly anticipate this perfected reality. We await God dwelling with all of creation absent of any barriers. Our hope resides in the knowledge that in God’s perfect timing this new way of being will be fully experienced.
A saying which one of my instructors stated frequently to my class was, “say what you mean and do what you say.” He was impressing upon us the importance of carrying through on what we say we are going to do. In his view, this was a component of personal integrity. Our integrity is the basis upon which trust can be built.
Jesus wished to impress the importance of following through on expectations when he shared the story of the two sons. In the story one son refuses to do what the father asks but then ends up fulfilling the request. The second son does exactly the opposite. The people before Jesus as he tells the story indicate the first son did what the father wanted. This gives Jesus the opportunity to point out that the Jewish leaders who had questioned his authority are like the second son while those condemned by these leaders were like the first son. They demonstrated integrity and pleased the Father because they repented from their initial error and believed.
This story can be disturbing for any of us who follow the pattern of the second son. How often do we sit in the midst of worship or during our devotion time and commit to the Lord that we are going to follow the Lord’s direction? Maybe we commit to change a behavior or reach out to another in some fashion. Do we carry through with what we say we will do or do we create an excuse not to do so? Are we doing as the Father wants? We must complete what the Lord asks whether we initially accept or reject it. We must do what we say we will do.
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:
Strive always to never have the need to hide from God.
Remember that you are never alone because the Lord is always with you.
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.
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.
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.
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.