They received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so. (Acts 17:11b) How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. I have stored up … Continue reading
My husband and I have been busy working summer camps with high school summer missionaries for over a month. This means we are spending the majority of our time out at camp, and not home. We had some fresh garlic … Continue reading
I have loved the #shereadstruth bible studies and community for some time now. (If you’ve never seen them, go check them out here.)
We are currently working through a study called ‘A Fresh Start’.
One of the things that really stood out to me today was in Genesis 2:4. Up until that point, the bible only calls God “God” or “Elohim“, meaning the God of power. But in that verse, we see a new name, “Lord God” for the first time. Lord, or Jehovah, means the God of perfection. So when we call Him “Lord God”, we are calling Him the God of both power and perfection.
Isn’t that a beautiful thing?! I spent some time thinking about that truth. Think of something incredibly powerful. My mind jumped to a ruler, like Hitler- someone powerful but corrupt and far from perfection. Now think of something incredibly perfect. I imagined a snowflake, the kind you rarely see that looks exactly like a snowflake should! (Like this!) definitely perfect, but fragile and delicate.
I can hardly wrap my mind around the Lord God who is both incredibly perfect and incredibly powerful! How awesome is He!?
Qu’est-ce que c’est le point?
What is the point of it all? Why bother? Is it really worth it? What is the meaning of this?
Life can be a little bit (or a lot a bit) dreary depending on your circumstance. Sometimes its easy to sit back and question the purpose of our motives. Does it matter if I go to work? Why should I finish off this degree? Is it worth getting married? Should I buy a house? Why bother?
I’ve been captivated by Ecclesiastes lately. And like many before me, I’ve been wondering if the Bible screening committee missed that one when they filtered out the books that deserved to be part of the canon.
We’re taken through a vast history of God’s people starting in Genesis, leading into powerful, beautiful books of wisdom like Psalms and Proverbs. Then, we hit a little bump. Before the beautiful woman of Proverbs 31 even leaves our mind, we are smacked in the face with a very Squidward-esque and seemly grumpy author of Ecclesiastes.
He, who is referred to as Teacher, opens up stating that everything is meaningless. Everything is pointless. I think the HCSB says it best: everything is futile.
Futile: incapable of producing any useful result
Go ahead and say it. “Absolutely futile! Everything is futile.” (On a personal note, I prefer the UK pronunciation of fyoo-tai-el to the US fyoo-tul when exclaiming this, but was called a “word nerd” for feeling as such.) Again, I picture Squidward (yes, the Nickelodeon character.. no condemnation!) throwing his tentacles in the air and exclaiming such a phrase as he watches “commoners” such as Spongebob and Patrick enjoying their day.
Could that be so? Would our loving, purposeful God ordain such a statement to be made about the life He created for humanity? Yes. As a matter of fact, I think it is in that realization that we can truly understand and come alongside Christ in His calling to us in Luke 9:23-25:
Then He said to them all, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. What is a man benefited if he gains the whole world, yet loses or forfeits himself?
To better understand this, we need to unmask the Teacher. Most Biblical scholars would argue that this is none other than the wise King Solomon speaking. But who is Solomon to make such pessimistic and forward claims? What authority does he have? In 1 Kings 3:5-12 we meet Solomon and see how he receives God’s favor. When God appears in a dream and asks him what he would like, Solomon responds, “give Your servant an obedient heart to judge Your people and to discern between good and evil.” I can see God’s face. Nothing surprises Him- but I’m sure He was nonetheless impressed. After all, Solomon was merely a youth with a powerful dad who held the world in his hands. He didn’t ask for money. He didn’t ask for a girlfriend. He didn’t ask for better abs. This pleased God. So God rewarded Solomon with wisdom- so that there will never be anyone like [him] before and never will be again (v 12).
Back to Ecclesiastes… So Solomon is given this undeniable wisdom beyond that of anyone around him. As he surveys the world and the toilsome efforts of his peers, he exasperates “Absolutely futile!”
This stumped me until I thought of it in the context of a message I heard this weekend. It was on Luke 14, a scripture I’ve studied many times before, but never in this way. Jesus was getting pretty popular. He had started to attract crowds of people following Him, some for different intentions than others. I can best understand this when I think of my Facebook friends. Of the 558 people I can call my “friend”, maybe 100 are people I’d say truly know me, 50 are people I’d invite to a party, 20 are friends I will text on their birthday, and 10 are people I could call in tears. And those numbers might be generous.
So likewise, Jesus had to “de-friend” a few of his followers by laying down some truth and letting them know just what they were getting into. Jesus says in Luke 14: 26:
If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his own father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, and even his own life—he cannot be My disciple.
Hate. Whoah. Jesus wants us to hate people? No. I am lead to believe that Jesus uses the term hate to exemplify how vividly we need to love Him, that the amount of love we have for other things pales so much in comparison, that it looks like hate. Then Jesus goes on to say in verse 27:
Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.
That takes us back to Luke 9. I believe that King Solomon was attune to this wisdom and understanding as he spoke in Ecclesiastes. In comparison to our purpose and commission in Christ, life is meaningless, purposeless, futile. I think of the popular song by Steven Curtis Chapman “Do Everything”. Our purpose in this life is to glorify God in everything we do and in doing so we both intentionally and unintentionally further the Gospel. That is the key. That is the purpose. That is why its worthwhile. And outside of Christ, everything is futile.
Give us your heart for the world, that as we go about our daily lives we are reminded that everything is worthless outside of your purpose. It is in You that we live and move and have our being. Help us to focus on what is eternal- our eternal purpose- and to have wisdom and discernment like our brother Solomon to see the brevity of life and the insignificance of worldly pleasures. Amen.
But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.
Don’t you just love those days? The kind of days where if its not one thing, its another. If it can get messed up, it will be. For me, these are usually Mondays, especially ones proceeding an amazing, powerful Sunday. I wake up a little too tired, shower a little too long, make my coffee and forget it on the counter, and get out the door just in time to get stuck behind the school bus. Ah, yes. Those days.
I think David wrote Psalm 3 in the midst of one of those days. It seems like everyone is out to get him. Things are looking pretty grim, people are even questioning whether or not God can help the poor guy.
And then? Selah.
Selah. I spent a significant amount of time this week hunting down a meaning for that one little word. After consulting a multitude of pastors, biblical commentaries, and the handy-dandy Google, I’ve come to two conclusions:
- No one is really sure what “selah” means.
- God ordained it into the Word, so it must be significant.
I’m very fond of how one source defined it as “pause and reflect”. It is also summarized beautifully in this commentary:
…the subject to which the word is attached should be spread out, meditated on, and attentively considered by the reader.
In other words, God is saying, “Mmm, that was juicy. Go ahead and soak that up for a few.”
So David is going through a pretty tough time. He could break down and fall apart. He could react violently. He could throw his hands up and surrender. But what does he do? Selah. He pauses. He reflects. What he says next blows my mind!
“But You, Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the One who lifts up my head.” David has just considered his circumstance and chose to turn His eyes to the Lord. He doesn’t begin whining to God. He doesn’t start praying for his circumstance to change. He testifies what he knows to be true: God will protect me. He will glorify me. He will restore me.
There is so much that can be unpacked in that statement. He is your shield. He is the one who glorifies you, that He might be glorified. He is the one who lifts your head back up and sets you back on your feet. Selah. Spend some time just thinking about these truths. How would your tough days look different if you responded like David does?
Sometimes our circumstance is more than just a “bad day”. Sometimes its almost impossible to look up because the pain is just too intense. If that is your circumstance, I believe that verse 5 is for you. There were a few days this past autumn where I really disliked my circumstance. I had reached a realization that teaching was challenging and I was not nearly as good at it as I hoped to be. My family was experiencing significant hardship. We were also in the midst of recovery from Hurricane Sandy. My life was not what I thought it would be. I felt like a loser and a failure. Everything I knew was falling apart.
It is on those days were Psalm 3:5 may be all you can do. I lie down and sleep; I wake again because the Lord sustains me. Sometimes our days are a series of merely getting by and then finding the strength to get through the next one. But the Lord does sustain us. He is mighty. He is tireless. He is ruthless.
Regardless of what trouble lies ahead of you, choose to react in praise and know the Lord will sustain you.
Father God, Help us to remember to just ‘selah’ in the moments of trial we face. May we be quick to praise You and trust Your strength. May we rely on Your might to sustain us. Help us to find peace in You through all our storms, Your incredible peace which transcends all understanding. Amen.
A wise friend once told me, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.” I can imagine that is a splendid sound – God’s laughter.
Psalm 2 opens in the description of quite the hostile nation. The author, ascribed to be David in Acts 4, openly questions the futile efforts of the rulers. We see that this nation is all puffed up and feeling powerful as they are plotting and planning. This is the face of a people who are seeking freedom.
I recently saw Les Miserables, not once, but twice. Amidst all the heart-wrenching romance, I was surprised that the scene that brought me to tears wasn’t poor Éponine singing of lost love in the rain, but the ballad of the young boys giving their lives for freedom. Twice. Emotionally, I had joined the struggle of these boys, wanting them so badly to find the freedom they were fighting for. I watched as they stood up to a great nation of France, longing to be free. Freedom, a powerful gift to be acquired.
But what is the nation in Psalm 2 seeking freedom from? The Lord.
We all serve someone or something. It is a desire built into us to please and serve a master – the Master. But we perverse that with a longing to serve other masters (money, fame, pleasure). The problem, as seen in Matthew 6:24 is, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” So we have a choice – serve God or serve the world.
Don’t be deceived, a life serving the world is not a life of freedom. As a fish out of the water or a tree out of the soil is closer to death than freedom, likewise we are helpless when outside the life God calls us to. Let’s be clear: the only way to freedom is through God.
But in verse 4, we see God’s response: laughter. I don’t believe this is a cruel, maniacal laugh. I can imagine the gentle, almost sorrowful laugh of a father watching their child’s fruitless efforts to overpower them in strength or might. Just as a father knows the limitation of his own child, our Father knows our limitations. We cannot overpower the Omnipotent.
So David offers us some advice. He calls us to be wise and serve the Lord with a righteous fear. He tells us to “kiss the Son” (v. 12), a beautiful, symbolic gesture, meaning to fully surrender yourself to Him. The lyrics of a favorite song by Jeremy Riddle, Sweetly Broken, come to mind:
At the cross You beckon me
You draw me gently to my knees, and I am
Lost for words, so lost in love,
I’m sweetly broken, wholly surrendered.
How are you, like the nation of Psalm 2, trying to break away from God for freedom? What things are you fighting to hold on to? Beloved, it is never easy to surrender, but a life in Him is the only life of freedom.
Father God, You are omnipotent. You are the creator of all power, with the right to give it and take it away. Help me to recognize areas in my life where I am fighting You for power. Help me to be sweetly broken, wholly surrendered. Open my ears to Your laughter. Help me to serve You all my days and live a life of freedom. Father, it is only in You that we live and move and have our being. In Your mighty name, Amen.