Wednesday, April 7, 2010

April 7

OT: Deut. 31:1-32:27

I love it when there are themes that run through the different passages. One of the ideas present in the OT, NT, and Psalms today was the idea of God's protection. The concept was closely related to fear and worry, especially in the OT and NT. In the OT, Moses tells the people to be strong and courageous once and Joshua twice. The reason that the people and Joshua are to be strong and courageous is because "the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you or forsake you" (31:6).

Today at the pool, the kids and I ventured into the "big" pool for the first time this year instead of the baby pool. Luke had water wings on, and he could touch the ground in the shallowest part of the pool. He refused, however, to take his feet off the ground and kick. And if he even got a tiny bit beyond his depth, he freaked out. The craziest thing is that I was right there with him the whole time. I had my hands held out for him to swim the two inches to me, and I constantly assured him that both his water wings and I would keep him from sinking. Nothing helped. He became hysterical. I reached out and grabbed him and tried to help him swim back to shore, but he was clinging to me with all his might and crying. At one point, I even tried to get him to float on his back--again with me holding him firmly and with him wearing water wings. He would have none of it. What was baffling to me was his total refusal to take me at my word that I wouldn't let anything happen to him. I kept saying, "Luke, what do you think is going to happen, buddy?" I had repeatedly assured him that he would not sink and that he would not go under water. It was a little disturbing b/c I thought, "Have I not been able to build up at least a little trust in this boy over the last almost four years? Have I not met all his needs? What reason have I given him not to trust me? How can he have so little faith in me?"

The analogy is clear. Surely, God is disturbed when He sees His children quaking in fear. Has He not earned our trust by now? What do we think is going to happen that is so terrifying? What is it that can separate us from the love of Christ? I know that Luke gets his scaredy-cat tendencies at least partially from me. I fear disaster; I fear death (my family's, not mine); I fear suffering; I fear the future; I fear financial ruin; I fear the unknown. I fear goofy things. How sad it must make God feel when He sees me fearing. How little faith do I have, if I am fearing all of these things?

Before I continue this thread in the NT, let me break away and say something unrelated about the Deuteronomy reading. In general, I feel like a total Debbie Downer about humanity, and I see more and more how my low expectations are biblically based:). For me, my horrendous view of humanity is not exactly depressing; I just treat it like a fact, and I'm used to it. I view people as sooooo easily corruptible; my faith in them is almost nil. And so, I am not a bit surprised when, after he pours his heart out to the people for thirty chapters, God lets Moses know that it was essentially all for naught. Moses' "choose life" finale seemed so hopeful about humanity, so full of possibility for goodness and peace and love. Alas. God is quick to tell him that that is not going to happen. Poor Moses. And poor God, for that matter.

NT: Luke 12:8-34

Before I get back to the talk about fear and worry, I just have to note that much of Jesus' material from today, as well as some from yesterday, is seemingly from the Sermon on the Mount. There are two possibilities as to why Jesus says identical things in completely different contexts in the different Gospels. First, perhaps He really did say the same things over and over, and the different writers record different instances of the speeches. That makes sense. Jesus is a traveling preacher, after all. He tells the same things to different audiences, and he arranges them differently depending on the occasion and the audience. The second possibility is that the authors of the Gospels arrange Jesus' sayings to suit their own narrative. Matthew might group them one way, Mark another way, and Luke a third way. And considering the wide belief that Matthew and Luke's very source for these materials was Mark, that idea makes even more sense to me. From my perspective on the Bible, I am cool with the idea of the second scenario (and the first, of course), though I can see why it might disturb some people who believe that every detail of the Bible must be written exactly as it happened. Even though I am cool with it, however, it does make me a little sad to think that the Sermon on the Mount might have been pieced together by Matthew, that it might not have been a literal sermon. So, because I don't want to be sad, I like to go with the first explanation.

Okay, on to the fear and worry stuff. Jesus takes what Moses was saying and makes it more real for my life. The Israelites had "good" reason to fear (though no reason is truly good, considering who our God is); after all, they were about to engage in bloody battles against a fearsome enemy. Death, destruction, suffering, and loss of loved ones were all very viable possibilities. Whenever I even think of being in a similar situation, or any situation where my very life is endangered by enemies who hate me and want to see me suffer and die, I feel a hint of the fear they must have felt. Jesus' words, on the other hand, apply a little more directly to my situation. I don't fear my enemies killing me, but I do tend to worry about meeting our budget, about being financially "sustainable" and making sure we are putting into savings every month. And sometimes my worry hinders me from working in the Kingdom. Just today, I was driving and thinking of a former youth grouper from TN who has had a hellish few months. She is currently facing severe financial peril, unemployment, a cross-country move, and housing difficulties while coping with the sudden loss of her mother and brother and expecting her first child in a few months. I was actually crying (and praying) thinking about her and her husband, and I realized that I needed to do something to help them out. Sadly, after imagining some things that we could do to help, my next thought was, "But my budget is so tight right now!" But then I came home and read, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also" (32-34). Clearly, that is just what I needed to hear. It pointed me in the direction I should go.

Psalms 78: 32-55

Speaking of "little flocks," today's psalm recalls how God "brought his people out like a flock; he led them like sheep through the desert. He guided them safely, so they were unafraid" (52-53a). Like I said, I love it when our readings intertwine. Asaph is discussing the same events that Moses has been discussing, and in the same context. And he even uses Jesus' sheep imagery. So cool.

Proverbs 12:21-23

My favorite verse today was verse 23: "A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly." But the world needs to know my knowledge!:) Oh, so many times I have blurted out folly because I wanted to sound smart, instead of keeping my big mouth shut. Yep, this proverb is so true...


  1. I think in our modern culture we tend not to take God seriously. (Okay, yes, understatement, I know.) :) I mean, even Christians don't usually take God literally. "Be strong and corageous" sounds really nice, but we don't really believe that God would really, literally detroy and keep us safe from our enemies, right? We don't really believe that, if we completely focus on doing things for "The Kingdom," He will give us actual food and clothing, do we? Well, it sounds like we should. I have heard lots of stories from others and, lately, have experienced enough things myself to believe in my head that God is completely literal about these kinds of things. I do believe it. It's just so hard to break out of my comfort zone, I guess. I'm really trying to change my mindset so that I expect God to do great things for me, but it's hard when the rest of society (and even many fellow Christians) don't believe it.

    Some other, random things:

    I love that God wrote a song. I totally believe that He is the one who inspires all music, art, etc. I have had things come in my head that I know I didn't just think up myself.

    Speaking of the song, I really like verse 11: "Like an eagle that rouses her chicks and hovers over her young, so he spread his wings to take them in and carried them aloft on his pinions."

    Yeah, I also really liked how this whole reading tied together today.

  2. I think that a lot of people's problems (including my own) is that I HAVE believed very, very deeply, and have been around large groups of people who believed very, very deeply and who prayed long and hard and consistently for physical protection, healing, etc., and it didn't happen. And so then you ask, Why DIDN'T God protect that person? Why didn't He heal them?

    Eventually, after seeing similar scenarios playing out over and over, you come to the conclusion that God's ways are not our ways, and that you just have to have faith that He knows best. And so, even if you or someone you love suffers or dies from a horrible disease, even if you lose the things that are most valuable to you, well, then that is what is best. God is in control.

    But here's the thing: you know that God is in control, but you still don't want those things to happen. I don't want horrible things to happen to my family, and yet I've seen that horrible things DO happen to Christian families who rely on God. And so I sometimes fear that bad things will happen to me. That's where my fear comes in. I am afraid that one day God will want me to walk through the fire, metaphorically speaking. And I am cognitively prepared to do that, if it happens. And my faith is ready for it. But...the possibility is still frightening.

    I don't want to give the impression that I am living my life in fear or anything. It's just that I would like my life to be COMPLETELY without fear, and it is just not. There are still some things I fear. And I want to have the faith in God that I not only can endure walking through the fire, but that I can do so without fear. Does that make sense?