Tuesday, August 31, 2010

August 31

OT: Job 37:1-39:30

Elihu goes on and on and on, and finally, God interrupts him.

God then unleashes a torrent of words at Job, a series of questions designed to show Job what the difference is between him and God. God asks, "Did you do this," "Do you know this," "Were you there when," and the answer is always no. My favorite question is in verse 38:36:

"Who endowed the heart with wisdom
or gave understanding to the mind?"

The bottom line for those who believe in God is that every ounce of your logic and understanding comes from Him. When we rail against God or accuse Him of unfairness or injustice, we are using the mental tools that He created. Ultimately then, it just strikes me as useless to rail against God's "unfairness." I believe wholeheartedly in questioning Him in order to learn and to understand Him, but I fully understand that my very means of questioning Him is a gift from Him.

NT: 2 Cor. 4:13-5:10

I love verses 16-18:

"Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving a for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

LOVE it. It is always a good reminder that my biggest worries and worst fears are actually "light and momentary troubles." In those times, it is such a comfort to think about heaven, where all the suffering on earth will have passed away.

I also love the analogy of our bodies being a tent. Since right now I happen to have a splitting headache, I am very much in agreement with such an analogy:).

Psalm 44:9-26

David sounds very much like Job today, questioning God's harsh treatment even though "we had not forgotten you or been false to your covenant" (17). He ends by begging God to help him.

Proverbs 22:13

Apparently, this is a proverb about a lazy person's excuses not to go outside.

Monday, August 30, 2010

August 30

OT: Job 34:1-36:33

Man, apparently Elihu has a lot of pent up thoughts from being silent for so long! He just keeps on going...and he gets more and more tiresome as he goes. I thought that the real low point of the monologue was in 36:4, in which the youth declares,

"Be assured that my words are not false;
one perfect in knowledge is with you."


Hearing Elihu rehash all the old arguments (God is good; Job is bad; God rewards righteousness and punishes wickedness) kind of opened my eyes to the bigger picture here. Elihu and company are not completely wrong about God (He is good, after all). Rather, their view of Him is too narrow. For God to be "good" in their eyes, He must reward the righteous here on earth, and must punish the wicked here on earth. That is how God works. That is how God has to work, in their minds. And when Job claims that his experience doesn't fit that mold, well, in their mind (and in Job's, to be fair), either God is wrong or Job is wrong. And clearly, God cannot be wrong, so Job has to be wrong.

But...maybe neither God nor Job is wrong; maybe their perception of God is wrong. Apparently, that possibility doesn't occur to them. They are so used to viewing their own theology as the embodiment of absolute truth that, when presented evidence to the contrary, they are forced to deny the evidence, rather than give up their cherished beliefs.

The mistake of Job's friends is humbling to me. In our adult Sunday school class, we have discussed how every generation of Christians (and people in general, really) think that they have found "the truth." They have arrived; everyone before them was wrong; they are the ones who understand. And such arrogance can be so dangerous, not only to our own spiritual lives, but to the church as a whole. It takes humility to see that your pet view of God might not match up with the factual experiences of those around you (or even to the Bible itself), and then to reexamine your views accordingly. I know that I personally like the comfort of established beliefs. I want to figure God out and know Him. And yet, we can't ever figure God out. It's when we think that we have that we start sounding like Job's friends. In those situations, we are unable to respond to others whose experiences don't fit our preconceived notions of how God and His world work.

NT: 2 Cor. 4:1-12

Paul continues to semi-defend himself, or at least to take pains to declare his upright methods in spreading the gospel. Tucked into this defense are some real gems, though. I especially love verses 6-7:

"For God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."

These verses together highlight the paradox of Christianity. On the one hand, we Christians have God's Holy Spirit dwelling within us as we ourselves dwell in and serve God's powerful kingdom. On the other hand, we are still lowly humans, who mess up and struggle and fail and suffer just like everyone else. The juxtaposition of God's Spirit in a human "tent" is jarring, to say the least. But hopefully, it highlights to those around us that the good in us, the light in us, is from God.

You know how I love "dying to self" verses, and verse 11 is one: "For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, sot hat his life may be revealed in our mortal body." Now, full disclosure: I don't really know what that means. I sense that Paul is talking about specific situations that are way more harrowing than I personally ever experience. That said, I do think that the general principle of the verse is that when we die to ourselves, our wants, our needs for the sake of God, then we show him to others.

Psalm 44: 1-8

Thinking of all of God's past works helps David trust in God in his present struggles.

Proverbs 22:10-12

I was intrigued by the first part of verse 12:

"The eyes of the Lord keep watch over knowledge..."

That's an interesting image.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

August 29

OT: Job 31:1-33:33

Job continues his long, increasingly emotional speech by dwelling on the various aspects of his personal righteousness. He spends most of his words today trying to fully establish that he has done nothing--nothing--wrong. Some of his words seem a little over-the-top:

"If I have kept my bread to myself,
not sharing it with the fatherless--
but from my youth I reared him as would a father,
and from my birth I guided the widow--" (31:17-18).

As a child, Job raised orphans? From his birth, he guided the widow? Huh? You could argue that Job is simply using a bit of poetic license here, but that at least raises the question of how much of this whole speech is poetic license? Was Job really that righteous? Is that even possible? Hmmm. I could follow this trail of bread crumbs, but I sense it leading me to some highly debatable territory, so I am going to move on.

I did think it was interesting that his three friends finally stopped responding, not b/c they had decided that Job was, in fact, righteous, but that "he was righteous in his own eyes" (32:1). Truly, there is not much to say to a man who is that righteous in his own eyes!

However, a young onlooker named Elihu does finally speak up. After spending 22 verses explaining that he was about to speak (32:6-33:5), he finally gets to it. Unfortunately, his inexperience shows through his words, as much of what he says has kind of a rambling incoherence to it. I did like the heart of his defense of God:

"For God does speak--now one way, now another--
though man may not perceive it" (33:14).

His two examples of God speaking are through dreams and through suffering. I would add that God speaks through nature, through circumstances, through other people, through the Bible...basically through anything. As a Christian, much of my faith rests on the idea that God speaks to us humans. And as Jesus said, "He who has ears, let him hear!"

NT: 2 Corinthians 3:1-18

It's kind of weird: these past few days, I have had no idea what Paul is talking about. I mean, I get the individual ideas, but I am not picking up on the flow of the letter. Maybe it is because I have just been reading such a little bit at a time, but this letter is just not working for me this time around.

I do like some of the ideas, though. In today's reading, for example, I love the idea that people are to be the result of our work, not accolades or praise. Changed lives are the end to which we labor. In light of that reality, Paul eschews the need for a letter of recommendation, saying, "You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everybody. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2-3). I loved those lines even before I became a minister's wife, but they are even dearer to me now. After nine years serving with Greg in youth ministry, I have so many teens in my heart. When I think of whether I have done anything of worth in these past nine years, I inevitably think of them.

Another reason that makes this letter a bit hard to follow is that it is apparently the letter of flowing metaphors. The metaphor of tablets of stone continues in a different way in verse 7, in which it represents the old Law. In this new metaphor, the glory of God through the old covenant is contrasted with the increased glory that must come from the new, superior covenant. The recipient of the old covenant, Moses, was so filled with glory that he put a veil over his face to keep people from staring at him (7). In this new covenant, we have even more glory from God, and yet we are so bold as to refuse to wear a veil to hide this glory (12-13). But wait! The veil then flows into yet another metaphor, b/c the Jews still have a "veil" over their hearts when the old covenant is read. And so, "whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away" (16). Paul then ties the subsequent freedom from the veil removal back into his first veil metaphor, concluding, "And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the spirit" (18). I love that verse, and as convoluted as Paul's metaphor(s) are here, I do like the section as a whole.

Psalm 43:1-5

David is in the dumps and pleads to God to lift him up.

Proverbs 22:8-9

One against wickedness; another for generosity.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

August 28

OT: Job 28:1-30:31

Well, I was a little disoriented today when I plunged into Job's discourse on mining. After 11 verses of poetic tribute to the art of getting jewels from the ground, Job contrasts the success of finding precious stones with the futility of finding wisdom. In verse 20, Job asks,

"Where then does wisdom come from?
Where does understanding dwell?"

In verse 28, he gives God's answer:

"'The fear of the Lord--that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.'"

Simple, yet effective.

What got me today was when Job took a stroll down memory lane. Specifically, I was sobered by Job's lament in 29:4-6:

"Oh, for the days when I was in my prime,
when God's intimate friendship blessed my house,
when the Almighty was still with me
and my children were around me,
when my path was drenched with cream
and the rock poured out for me streams of olive oil."

Those words gave me pause, b/c they pretty much describe how I feel right now. I feel very much in my prime; God's friendship blesses my house; my children are around me; my path is drenched with blessing; and I often imagine that God daily pours the oil of blessing on my head. That is an actual recurring image I have.

When in such a position, Job "thought, 'I will die in my own house, my days as numerous as the grains of sand. My roots will reach to the water, and the dew will lie all night on my branches'" (18-19). It is so easy for me to become deluded into thinking that this state of blessing will last forever. And yet, I know full well that it probably won't. In fact, one of the reasons I blog regularly about my family and why I take a borderline obsessive amount of pictures is because I view such activities as somehow cupping my hands and saving a small amount of that oil of blessing. I bottle the oil in my blogs and my scrapbooks to have at a later date, should I ever be in need. I am all about planning ahead.

And until that day, I want to never take for granted this time of my life. I pray to God that a Job-like scenario never comes to pass, but if it does, I don't want to look back with regret. I don't want to rue, like Job does here, my prideful assumption that such blessings would last forever. Instead, I want to treasure them as the temporary joys that they probably are.

2 Cor. 2: 12-17

Wow, six verses. That is a record!

I like verses 14-15: "But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." I like that imagery.

Psalm 42:1-11

We have a popular song based on verses 1-2 of this psalm. I think, though, that my understanding of those opening verses is deepened by the context of the whole song. The reason that David thirsts so desperately for God is that he is in the midst of sorrow and struggle. As much as I tend to want to avoid sorrow and struggle (see: my OT thoughts), I do recognize that they tend to be powerful conduits between man and God.
As much as we would avoid them if we could, our darkest times often end up blessing us by connecting us much more deeply with God.

Proverbs 22:7

"The rich rule over the poor,
and the borrower is servant to the lender."

As one who has been fantasizing lately about paying off my mortgage, I can vouch for the second part of that proverb:).

Friday, August 27, 2010

August 27

OT: Job 23: 1-27:3

Strangely, the stubborn berating of Job's friends seems to have had the effect of pointing him back toward God and even toward traditional understandings of the fate of the wicked. First, he expresses optimism toward the idea of bringing his case before God:

"Would he oppose me with great power?
Now, he would not press charges against me.
There an upright man could present his case before him,
and I would be delivered forever from my judge" (6-7).

These sentiments definitely represent an evolution from his earlier feelings of hopelessness and helplessness before God. And then, though he repeats his earlier assertions of the success of the wicked and the suffering of the innocent (24:2-17), he also speaks of their inevitable doom at the hand of God (18-24). Perhaps biblical scholars think that these reversals have been edited in later (I have no idea whether they do, but I have heard similar arguments regarding other passages). To me, however, Job's evolving thinking is typical. I often go around and around in my head, breaking out of preconceived notions, and then running back to them, then challenging them again, and then ultimately affirming them. People don't always think linearly, especially when they are strained by emotions.

Bildad cuts in with a bit more on the sinfulness of man, and then Job takes the floor again. When I was a teenager, my preacher used Job's words in 26: 7-14 to demonstrate the power and might of God. In the context of the discussion, his positive use of the passage was probably a bit awkward, but I do think it contains a beautiful description of God's might. In fact, I had it memorized for awhile, and thought about it when I looked at nature. Though much of it has since slipped out of my mind, I don't think I'll ever forget the last verse:

"And these are but the outer fringe of his works;
how faint the whisper we hear of him!
Who then can understand the thunder of his power?"

I think of those words often when I witness a particularly breathtaking view of God's creation.

Lastly, Job again maintains his innocence, while continuing to acknowledge that in general, God does punish the wicked.

NT: 2 Cor. 1:12-2:11

This passage has always been a little weird to me. Paul seems a little defensive, first declaring his "holiness and sincerity," and then giving excuses for not visiting them (12, 15-17). I also don't really get the part about "yes and no," though my interpretation is that Paul is engaging in a little wordplay. The gospel is not wishy-washy or changing, and God always keeps his promises. That is the basic message I get from the "yes and no" discussion in 17-20.

I have always understood and loved verses 21-22: "Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come." I am not a Calvinist, but I have been known to have some of that classic Puritan angst in me. Beginning in Jr. High, I have periodically grappled with doubt regarding my salvation. It took finding verses like these to help me move past my doubts and to begin to come before God with confidence. Though I still sometimes waver in insecurity when I compare my life to the high standards set by Jesus, I am learning more and more to fully rely on the guarantee of the Spirit within me.

Paul's words in 1:23-2:11 are just kind of weird and confusing to me. He seems to acknowledge that he wrote harshly to the Corinthians in his first letter, and seems to admit that he has been avoiding them out of a fear that he will be too harsh in person. Then, he appears to advocate mercy toward fellow Christians who have "caused grief" (5). Now, I don't know what he's talking about, but my mind jumped back to 1 Cor. 5, where Paul instructs the church to expel the sexually immoral believer and to not associate with any sexually immoral believers. Perhaps the Corinthians have taken his advice too far? Regardless, he now seems to be advocating mercy and forgiveness to the wayward brother, just as he himself has forgiven him. Specifically, Paul writes, "If you forgive anyone, I also forgive him. And what I have forgiven--if there was anything to forgive--I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake" (10). Compare that to 1 Cor. 5:3, which says, "Even though I am not physically present, I am with you in spirit. And I have already passed judgment on the one who did this, just as if I were present." Doesn't this passage in 2 Corinthians seem like a follow-up to the implementation of his earlier instructions? I don't know....they just seem related to me.

Psalm 41:1-13

I like the first verse:

"Blessed is he who has regard for the weak;
the Lord delivers him in times of trouble."

In the rest of the psalm, David pleads for mercy for his sins and resulting troubles.

Prov. 22:5-6

Verse 6 is extremely popular, and rightly so, for it seems to provides a promise to which many parents cling:

"Train a child in the way he should go,
and when he is old he will not turn from it."

Like all proverbs, of course, this is a general truth, not a cast iron promise. However, it still gives hope to parents who seek to raise their children to love and serve God.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

August 26

OT: Job 20:1-22:30

OH MY GOODNESS! I am getting so tired of the broken record that is Job's friends. First of all, they are being so selfish. Zophar complains, "I hear a rebuke that dishonors me, and my understanding inspires me to reply" (20:3). Dishonors me? Zophar, look around. Of the four of you, who has lost everything he has, including his children and his health? Who is racked by overwhelming physical and emotional pain? I don't think your first concern here should be whether his words "dishonor" you!

We then must hear again about the wicked getting their due. As far as I can tell, the only distinctive aspect of Zophar's speech is his, um, colorful, gastrointestinal imagery. Here is a sample:

"[The wicked man] will spit out the riches he swallowed;
God will make his stomach vomit them up.
He will suck the poison of serpents;
the fangs of an adder will kill him" (15-16).

In short, Zophar himself regurgitates all the earlier arguments in a more dramatic form.

In response, Job tries a new tack. Instead of focusing on his innocent suffering, which is clearly getting nowhere, he tries to highlight the flip side. Namely, Job elaborates on the prosperity of the wicked (21:7-21). What's funny is that these men apparently have very limited social circles, and so none of them can give specific examples of what are apparently theoretical concepts to them. Job himself admits that he doesn't specifically know any prospering wicked, although he has certainly heard of them:

"I know full well what you are thinking...
You say, 'Where now is the great man's house,
the tents where wicked men lived?'
Have you never questioned those who travel?
Have you paid no regard to their accounts--
that the evil man is spared from the day of calamity,
that he is delivered from the day of wrath?" (27-30).

Not the strongest piece of evidence, but oh well. I did think Job made a good point when he questioned God's apparent policy of punishing descendants for the sins of the father:

"It is said, 'God stores up a man's punishment for his sons.'
Let him repay the man himself, so that he will know it!
Let his own eyes see his destruction;
let him drink the wrath of the Almighty.
For what does he care about the family he leaves behind
when his allotted months come to an end?" (19-21).

Seems like a valid question.

After Job stops, Eliphaz responds dramatically to Job's implied challenge to name a wicked person who is suffering:

"Is not your wickedness great?
Are not your sins endless?" (5).

He then goes on to fabricate a lengthy list of Job's wrongdoings (6-15). In essence, he plugs Job's name into all the same trite formulations that he and his friends have been offering. Nice.

NT: 2 Cor. 1:1-11

I love the idea that God brings good out of our troubles by teaching us how to reach out to and comfort others during their trouble. As Job has found out, trouble is a part of life. It comes on us all, regardless of our personal righteousness. Thus, it is a blessing that, not only does God bring us through our troubles, but He gives us the resources to bring His comfort to others, as well.

Paul then tells the Corinthians about the "hardships we suffered in the province of Asia," to the point where he and his companions were sure they were going to die (8,9). Two phrases have always captured my attention here. The first is, "We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure" (8). And the second is, "But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves, but on God" (9). Clearly, Paul and his friends have had a harrowing, death-defying experience. Now, to take that very extreme and deadly situation and apply to to something totally mundane, let me say that I often feel these concepts in my own life. Now, keep in mind that I am blessed beyond belief and that I have absolutely nothing to complain about. That said, there are many times when I get to the early evening and am just exhausted. I am so tired from the busyness of my day, and I am overwhelmed by all that still has to be done. Now, I can do it, no problem. It's not rocket science. But to do it as a person full of love and joy and peace and patience? No way! For me, fatigue equals snappiness and impatience. And it is times like those when I realize oh-so-well that Kim is not so great at this Christian thing on her own. I am a fairly disciplined person, relatively speaking, but I simply cannot manufacture the fruits of the Spirit in my life on anything like a consistent basis. And at least once a day, I tend to arrive at the end of my own strength and run into a wall of selfishness, where I just want to do what I want to do. And in those times, my weakness reminds me not to rely on myself, but on God. When I pray in those times and ask God's Spirit to fill me, it is amazing how I usually can then proceed as a Spirit-filled person, something that I was totally not five minutes ago.

Again, I know that I am totally ripping Paul's words from the context of his situation, but that basic idea of relying on God when I am past my ability to endure is something to which I can definitely relate.

Psalm 40:11-17

David continues to beg God to come to his rescue.

Prov. 22:2-4

God is the maker of both rich and poor; prudent men can avoid trouble; and humility and fear of God are rewarding.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

August 25

I feel compelled to note my utter exhaustion, b/c last time I wrote when I was this tired, I confused Joash and Josiah. So if I start calling Job, Joseph, or talking about something we didn't read, just ignore me.

OT: Job 16:1-19:29

Job's speech today focuses on how betrayed he is feeling by his friends. He claims that if their situations were reversed, he would not "make fine speeches against you" or "shake my head at you," but instead would "encourage you" and "bring you relief" (16:4,5). In fact, their lack of mercy is actually making God look a whole lot better. Though Job still makes clear that God has treated him brutally (7-18), he begins to suspect that he has a better chance finding sympathy in heaven than on earth. In yet another Christian-sounding sentiment, he muses that,

"Even now my witness is in heaven;
my advocate is on high.
My intercessor is my friend
as my eyes pour out tears to God;
on behalf of a man he pleads with God
as a man pleads for his friend" (18-22).

This hypothetical figure sounds like the direct opposite of the satan (and oh, if Job only knew about the satan. He would be soooo ticked).

Next, Job accuses his friends of mocking his pain, and his accusations sound reminiscent of the ones David makes against his wicked enemies. Of course, we know that those words are not going to go over well, and they don't. Unfortunately, Bildad and co. are getting tiresome, even to me. They don't seem to evolve in their arguments at all, and if anything, they seem to be getting harsher, to be hardening into their positions. This stubbornness tells a lot about their hearts and their motives. Furthermore, their repetitive accusations seem to push Job more and more into despair, until he is reduced to abject sorrow in his responses.

NT: 1 Cor. 16:1-24

Paul wraps up his letter to the Corinthians, as usual, with some business items. First, he gives instructions about the collection they need to be taking for him. Next, he discusses his travel plans and his hopes to visit them. He tells them that he is sending them Timothy and Apollos; he gives them some last minute advice; and he gives some shout outs to men who "deserve recognition" (18). Lastly, he passes on greetings and says farewell.

Well, since that was so short, I am going to share a quote. Verse 14 says, "Do everything in love." The "everything" reminded me of a great quote I read today from Thomas Merton: "A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire." I agree whole-heartedly with that holistic way of looking at life. And that's how I understand these instructions to "do everything in love" or to do everything to the glory of God. When you live a life of love, that love becomes the purpose of everything you do, from praying to washing the dishes, to spending time with your family, to doing the work required of you each day. It doesn't mean that you sustain warm fuzzy feelings of happiness throughout the day (who can?), but it does mean that you view every, single thing you do as being motivated by love. Everything we do should be glorifying to God. And if it is not glorifying, then don't do it.

I cannot tell you how many useless things and activities this mindset has helped me cut out, which has been soooo refreshing. Yet, on the flip side, it has also exposed many of the darker and more selfish desires of my heart. And although I really don't appreciate my sin being brought up to the surface, I know that it is a necessary part of transformation.

Psalm 40:1-10

David is in a "post-Job" position here. Unlike Job, he has felt God's rescue.

Proverbs 22:1

On the value of a good reputation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

August 24

OT: Job 16:1-19:29

Well. Job is hacked by the patent answers that his friends keep spitting back at him. He says,

"I have a mind as well as you;
I am not inferior to you.
Who does not know all these things."

In other words, I was in Sunday school, too, guys.

Then he turns their allusions to nature back on them. You wanna talk nature, Job asks. Yeah, why don't you take a look at nature? Nature will tell you all about the power of God and the havoc He wreaks (12:7-10, 14-15). And for that matter, God wreaks havoc on people, too! (17-25).

Job next turns to personally attack his friends and their advice. He tells them,

"If you would be altogether silent!
For you, that would be wisdom" (13:5).

Ouch! Job thinks their silence would be preferable because

"Your maxims are proverbs of ashes;
your defenses are defenses of clay" (12).

In other words, your advice sucks, and your arguments don't hold up. In fact, with friends like these, Job decides that he is better off in God's hands after all. At least God is not an idiot like his friends are. He says,

"Keep silent and let me speak;
then let come what may...
Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him;
I will surely defend my ways to his face" (13, 15).

Job would rather face an all-powerful God, who at least knows the truth, rather than listen to the babbling of his foolish friends.

And again, as a Christian, I see several concepts in Job's speech that have deeper meaning to me, knowing the gospels. At one point, Job asks,

"If a man dies, will he live again?
All the days of my hard service
I will wait for my renewal to come.
You will call and I will answer you;
you will long for the creature your hands have made.
Surely then you will count my steps
but not keep track of my sin.
My offenses will be sealed up in a bag;
you will cover my sin" (14:14-17)

The ideas of resurrection, renewal, reconciliation, and forgiveness, of course, all feature prominently in the NT, as they were all accomplished in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Meanwhile, Eliphaz is peeved at Job's outburst, and the dialogue continues to degenerate. Like Job, he does not hold back the ad hominem attacks, claiming that

"You even undermine piety
and hinder devotion to God.
Your sin prompts your mouth;
you adopt the tongue of the crafty" (4-5).

The bottom line is, even faced with the conundrum of Job, Eliphaz chooses to cling to the beliefs of his ancestors.

NT: I Cor. 15:29-58

Paul elaborates on why he believes the Christian life is pitiable apart from heaven. If there is no resurrection, why does he put himself in danger each day (30)? Why does he die to his own wants and needs every day (31)? If there is no hope of heaven, then why not be a hedonist (32)? Why sacrifice? Why serve?

And on one level, I really can see that. However, I truly do believe that the truth that sets us free is that Christ came to save us from ourselves. When we respond to the invitation to die to ourselves, and to live for Him, we are free. In sacrifice and service, we find freedom. At least, that's what I've found in my life.

And what was up with the whole baptizing for the dead thing (29)? What on earth?

Next, Paul elaborates on the transformation that will happen when we die. According to him, "The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body" (42-44).

And of course, our very resurrection will defeat death, which allows us to say,

"Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?" (55).

I love that phrase.

I also love verse 58: "Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain." Just last week, I had gotten overwhelmed by the darkness of the world, the pain and brokenness and suffering. And my own tiny light seemed incredibly inadequate, to the point where I wondered if I was doing any good at all. I wondered to myself, "Am I running like a man running aimlessly? Am I fighting like a man beating the air? Am I building a house out of gold and precious stones? Or am I building out of wood and straw?" This verse gives me my answer. When I give myself to the work of the Lord, I can have the faith and assurance that my labor is not in vain.

Psalm 39:1-13

I love all the "life is but a breath" imagery (4-6).

Proverbs 21:30-31

These proverbs articulate the very truth that Job has been ranting: God is in charge, He does what He wants, and it is not up to man's wisdom or might.

Monday, August 23, 2010

August 23

OT: Job 8:1-11:20

You know, I thought Eliphaz could have been a little more gentle, but he has nothing on ol' Bildad! Now, perhaps Bildad is just a harsh guy. But also, perhaps Job's speeches are rocking his worldview, and he doesn't like it. Perhaps he likes the world in black and white, and he doesn't appreciate the moral ambiguity produced by Job's scenario. Regardless, in his impassioned speech, Bildad reverts to black and white logic. As such, he relies heavily on concrete imagery, intended to invoke the simple, immutable laws of nature:

"Can papyrus grow tall where there is no marsh?
Can reeds thrive without water?
While still growing and uncut,
they wither more quickly than grass.
Such is the destiny of all who forget God;
so perishes the hope of the godless" (8: 11-13).

See, Job?? This is how the world works! The suffering of the wicked is just as concrete and reliable of a truth as the necessary growing conditions for papyrus! And conversely,

"Surely God does not reject a blameless man
or strengthen the hand of evil doers" (20).

In other words: Bad things happen to bad people. Good things happen to good people. Why are you throwing a monkey wrench into our means of understanding existence??

And in that worldview, Bildad, like Eliphaz, does find hope for Job, which he attempts to share:

"He will yet fill your mouth with laughter
and your lips with shouts of joy" (21).

If Job confesses his sin, of course.

The weird thing is, both Eliphaz and Bildad are correct that it is all going to end up "okay" for Job (not that you could ever fully recover from this). However, they are wrong in their assumption that this disaster was brought on by Job's sin. Apparently, the idea of suffering happening arbitrarily is just too foreign--and probably terrifying--a concept for them to entertain.

Job replies with several interesting points. First of all, he says,

"Indeed, I know that this is true.
But how can a mortal be righteous before God?" (9:2).

This argument has been used by many, many people in explaining suffering. Job seems to suggest that as righteous as the most righteous man is, he can never be truly righteous before God. And yet, that explanation doesn't satisfy Job. God is a bully, plain and simple. He is big and powerful (3-14), and yet he torments poor man (10:6-7) even though He knows that man could never stand up to Him (9:15-20).

And you know what?, Job says. Scratch that earlier statement. I am innocent, daggone it (10:7)! He is not. happy. with God.

One kind of cool thing that comes out of Job's mouth during his rant is found in 9:33-35:

"If only there were someone to arbitrate between us,
to lay his hand upon us both,
someone to remove God's rod from me,
so that his terror would frighten me no more.
Then I would speak up without fear of him,
but as it now stands with me, I cannot."

Thank God that He did eventually send someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God's rod from us, so that we no longer have to be terrified of God's wrath. Thank God that He did one day "have eyes of flesh" and that He did "see as a mortal sees," that his days were "those of a mortal" (4-5). In his suffering, it turns out that Job was keenly aware of the deepest need of mankind.

Unfortunately for Job's position, one thing Christ did not do was eliminate the suffering of the innocent. In fact, He worked to prepare His disciples to suffer even more....

NT: 1 Cor. 15:1-28

In this chapter, Paul recaps the basic gospel message. I kind of trailed off in my tracking of the gospel, and I know that Paul fully articulated our version in Romans, but I saw the succinct version today in verses 3-4: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that He was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures."

He admonishes the Christians to stand firm and to believe in the resurrection. In fact, according to Paul, "if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile" (17a). I have heard several people talk about how great the Christian life is, and that even if it is not true, it's still a better life than most lives. And I honestly agree that the Christian life is amazing. I love my life. I love the deep meaning, the hope, the confidence, the joy, the peace, the love that I have. I love that my days have purpose, that my life has a clear direction, and that my path is marked by love and goodness. And so, I am inclined to agree that the Christian life is a great life, even in this life. Paul, on the other hand, firmly disagrees. He declares, "If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men" (19). I wonder if part of that sentiment had to do with the adverse position that Christians were in at the time. Or perhaps I'm doing it wrong, and this Christian thing should be a lot harder. Or maybe it's that Paul just hated the idea of living his life for something that was not true. I hate that idea, also, but I do believe that my life contrasts favorably with so many people who are floundering for meaning and who are suffering from a lifestyle of selfish choices.

Psalm 38:1-22

David sounds a lot like Job today, only he is firmly convinced that his own sin lies at the root of his troubles.

Proverbs 21:28-29

I like verse 29:

"A wicked man puts up a bold front,
but an upright man gives thought to his ways."

I'm not sure what the first part means, but I like the idea of thinking about our actions and living with purpose.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August 22

OT: Job 4:1-7:21

Wow, Job is a pretty powerful book. The only other time I read the whole thing through, I remember being on the edge of my seat the whole time, and I can see why. We all grapple at some point or another with these core issues of pain and suffering, and Job and his friends articulate our thoughts, our questions, and our explanations quite eloquently.

Is it bad that I can relate more to Job's friends than Job? I guess it is b/c I have played that role more than the Job role. In today's reading, Eliphaz steps up to the plate to answer Job's overwhelming outpouring of sorrow and bitterness. Though it seems that he is trying to be gentle, his words are a little too direct (which is also a problem of mine). The bottom line, though, is that Eliphaz is trying to give hope. Faced with the choice between God being wrong and Job being wrong, he has to assume that Job is wrong (4:7-9, 5: 3-7). After all, "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his maker?" (17). It's honestly a good point. As evidence, Eliphaz makes many proclamations about God protecting the righteous and punishing the wicked, all of which seem very psalm-like. It is almost like he is rehashing everything he has heard before in "church." Perhaps his personal knowledge of Job's apparent righteousness (4:3-4) causes him to also delve deeper. Rather than stick at psalm level, he reflects on the fact that no man, even the most righteous, could stand before the perfection of God (4: 18-21).

And yet, the whole book makes clear that Job is not being punished for his sin. Rather, he is ultimately being tormented to bring glory to God. Now, I can see how that sounds perverse. And yet, when you accept the premise that there is an omnipotent, omniscient God who created man, I guess you also have to accept that He can do whatever He wants. It reminds me of the guy in the Gospels who was blind (either that, or lame). And Jesus' disciples asked who sinned to make the man blind. Jesus responded that his blindness was not a punishment for sin; rather, he was blind in order to bring God glory. Job's case seems like a more dramatic version of that same principle.

Meanwhile, Eliphaz keeps groping about, trying to figure it all out. Despite the sternness of what He calls God's "discipline," he firmly asserts that God will ultimately bring healing to Job. He says, "For he wounds, but he also binds up; he injures, but his hands also heal" (5:18). And actually, he is not too far from the truth on that one.

Job, however, is not having any of it. The poor man--he is far too miserable to have someone preach to him, even if the accusations were true, which they were not. He spends his time trying to explain to Eliphaz that his pain and suffering is far too great to reason through it, and it would be soooo much better if he would just die. He wonders out loud what kind of God would let him suffer like this and yet not put him out of his misery.

And in fairness, those all seem like good points.

1 Cor. 14: 18-40

Oooooo....today, my three readers each have a shot to clear up what has been for me an insoluble mystery. Paul is still contrasting speaking in tongues with prophecy. In verse 22, he clearly states that "tongues...are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is for believers, not for unbelievers." You got that? Tongues for unbelievers, prophecy for believers. "SO...." begins the next verse, "SO if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and some who do not understand or some unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of you mind? But if an unbeliever or someone who does not understand comes in while everybody is prophesying, he will be convinced by all that he is a sinner and...he will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, 'God is really among you!'" (23-25). So to paraphrase, "Tongues are a sign for unbelievers. But if they hear you speaking in them, they are going to think you are crazy. Prophecy is for believers, not unbelievers. But if an unbeliever hears prophecies, he will repent and come to God." Huh? Wouldn't that mean that prophecy was a sign for unbelievers, and not tongues? Am I being nitpicky here? That just seems to me like a direct contradiction. Maybe I'm reading it wrong. Someone enlighten me, please! I have stumbled over this passage every time I've ever read it, and then gone back and read it several more times without ever getting the slightest bit of insight.

Then there's some verses on the importance of an orderly worship service, "for God is not a God of disorder, but of peace" (33). Next, there is a stern admonition that "women should remain silent in churches...for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church" (34-5). Ouch. I'd love to gloss over that or to give some explanation that makes it seem less painful, but there really is none that comes to mind. All I can say is that Paul sure does word things harshly.

Oh, and I had mistakenly referred to the "women should be silent" passage in an earlier discussion on women's roles. This is not the one I was thinking about. It must be the one that says that women are not to have any authority over men. So stay tuned for that one....

Actually, you know what? Let's do this thing. I am going to try to steer a middle course, but for me, that usually means that I will simply offend people on both sides of the issue. All I can say is...please be gentle with me:).

In an age where a woman can plausibly run for President of the most powerful country in the world, these type of instructions seem...dated. Their seeming incongruity with how our society functions has led many Christians to argue that, like greeting each other with a holy kiss or women wearing head coverings, these instructions can fit under the category of "cultural." In that culture, it would have been "disgraceful" for women to speak or to not wear head coverings. In this culture, not so much. And honestly, I see their point.

One reason I have heard that the verses to women are still applicable is that Paul often refers back to creation to make his point. For example, in I Timothy 2:12-14, he argues, "I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner." See, the reason goes back to Adam and Eve, not to contemporary cultural mores.

But here is the thing with that. Paul makes the same type of argument with head coverings. He says, "A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. For this reason, and because of the angels, the woman ought to have a sign of authority on her head" (I Cor. 11: 7-10). That goes back to creation, too! So, if we apply the argument consistently, then women should wear head coverings, too, shouldn't they?

I don't know; it all gets confusing to me. All I know is that I don't want to wear head coverings, and come to think of it, I don't have any desire to do announcements or a Lord's supper talk in church:). And I don't want to "oppress" women, or to repel women who need God, but can't stomach what they view as unfair gender rules. BUT...I also don't want to start explaining away the Bible's teachings as "cultural," just because they happen to contrast with my particular culture. The Bible is a hard book. Yes, ignoring parts of it make it more palatable, but if I was to start ignoring offensive parts, the first bit I would cut out was the "turning the other cheek part," followed by all the stuffiness about sexual immorality (actually, I do like that part, but cutting it out would make our position a lot easier), and I would probably conclude by axing the Old Testament, while I'm at it. The stifling instructions regarding women's roles would be but one of many on my list.

So instead, I try my best not to cut out any of it.

Except for greeting with a holy kiss and head coverings. Those, I am good with ignoring:). (It's not the most consistent position in the world, but I do try...)

Psalm 37: 30-40

The psalm finally concludes today. It is a great one, but long!

Proverbs 21:27

God does not accept the sacrifices of the wicked.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 21

OT: Job 1:1-3:26

I've heard the story of Job a million times, and by that I mean, I've heard the beginning, received a quick gloss over that middle stuff, and heard the end. Yet, today, the story struck me freshly. My brother's birthday is coming up, and I remember a specific quote from a video testimony that he gave that said, "And then I started reading Job, and saw what He did to Job, and I started getting angry with God..." I think that Mike's conviction that he was an innocent sufferer like Job is casting this book in a more profound, urgent light than I normally read it.

I read Harris' commentary on Job in Understanding the Bible, and then I wrote a long, borderline incoherent response. Then I mercifully deleted it. Perhaps I can sum it up in a few sentence: Although I firmly believe that following God and living a life of love means that you will have a better life than if you were to live in selfishness and sin, it is also abundantly clear that the righteous and innocent do suffer in this fallen world. Thus, I am very thankful to have a book of the Bible that openly addresses the idea of the righteous suffering.

From what I can tell from the first few chapters, the answer to the question, "Why do the righteous suffer," can be boiled down to "because God is God, and we are not." The Bible has made very clear thus far that God does directly cause at least some amount of the suffering of the world.

NT: 1 Cor. 14:1-17

No one I know speaks in tongues or prophecies, so a lot of this chapter does not relate directly to my life. That said, I found the depiction of speaking in tongues to be interesting. From this chapter, I get the impression that when a person spoke in tongues, he or she was overwhelmed with God's Spirit and propelled by that Spirit to pour forth words to God in an unintelligible language only understood by God. Apparently, the speaker didn't even understand what he was saying, unless God revealed it to him.

Thus, even though Paul likes the idea of speaking in tongues, he recognizes that it doesn't have a ton of practical value. For one thing, it does nothing to edify the church at large, unlike prophecy. For that reason, Paul places prophecy above speaking in tongues, and he urges his audience to "excel in gifts that build up the church" (12).

When you think of the value of gifts in those terms, it is easy to see why love is the greatest gift. It builds up the church the most.

As a person who does not naturally exalt emotions, Paul's reasoning here makes sense to me. I am the type of person who, for example, would rather do something practical for God than worship Him through song. Don't get me wrong--I do love singing. I understand that it is a valuable act of worship, and I love the way that it connects me to God on a deep, emotional level. Service just makes more sense to me. Thus, I am going to interpret this passage as backing up my feelings on service verses worship:). Service builds up the church more, while singing is mostly for the singer.

I could give caveats, but I think that instead, I'll leave the door wide open for anyone who wants to disagree:).

Psalm 37:12-29

David continues to express His assurance of God's faithfulness, despite all appearances to the contrary. Reading over this psalm kind of opened my eyes to something. My Harris book contrasts the theology of Job (bad things happen to good people) with Deuteronomy, Proverbs, and Ezekiel (good things happen to good people; bad things happen to bad people). And yet, in the Psalms, we see the melding of both these theories. David understands good and well that the righteous suffer through no fault of their own. He considers himself Exhibit A of that phenomenon. And yet, he also has faith that, ultimately, justice will prevail. Despite the fact that sorrows befall him regularly, He still maintains faith in the idea that the righteous are never forsaken (25).

Proverbs 21:25-6

Two proverbs against laziness.

Friday, August 20, 2010

August 20

OT: Esther 8:1-10:3

It's odd--this is our last day of Esther, and so apparently there are only three verses in verse 10. It's weird that I hadn't noticed that before.

To my defense, though, I probably hadn't noticed it b/c I think my childhood Sunday school classes glossed over the last three chapters of Esther. I have firm, detailed memories of the story until Haman gets killed, but then it gets fuzzy (or at least it did, before I did that Beth Moore Bible study). Because of that, I always think of Esther as a nice, neat story, but actually, it is quite messy. For one thing, it turns out that you can't reverse an irreversible order. And for another, King Xerxes is apparently incapable of fathoming the pain of others, or caring about anyone but himself. After he kills Haman (and gives all his stuff to Esther), he apparently thinks that all is well and good, despite the fact that a race of people are still doomed to annihilation. Esther has to intervene yet again, and obtain permission for Mordecai to write a new edict. Although he cannot change the original edict, he can give the Jews permission to fight back.

And fight back they do. Apparently, as the months pass until the two edicts go into effect, the Jews gain a lot of psychological momentum, to the point where they completely have the upper hand on "doomsday." They ravage their enemies, and then Esther asks for another day to continue the killing. Yikes! Afterward, the days of their victory are made into a national holiday for their people.

Oddly, reading this story today made me sad more than anything else. So much killing and carnage came from the hatred of one person. Or two people, if you believe that it was Mordecai's hatred for Haman that kept him from bowing. Because of the power of their positions, the personal hatred of Haman and Mordecai snowballed to the point where thousands of people died. And along the way, Esther was able to step in and bring more justice to the situation, but you could even argue that that justice was flawed. I mean, why ask for an extra day to kill?

I guess my thoughts today wandered to "big picture" proportions, and I saw the whole, sad story as a microcosm of the state of the world. Our view from down here is so fallen and flawed, that often, the best we can do is eke out some limited measure of justice from irredeemable situations. A parent abuses a child, and we take the child away and throw the person in prison. We call that justice. But is it justice for the child, who is still just as damaged, and now has no parent? Is it justice for the broken abuser, who was probably abused him- or herself? No, but it is the best we can do. Or on a national scale, we win a war and celebrate, much like the Jews in today's reading. I'm thinking of World War II, for instance. We overcame the Nazis--wasn't that great? Yeah, I guess it was. It was the best we could do. But really, the whole thing was sad. So much death. Did victory over the Nazi's bring justice? How could it? How do you bring justice to that situation?

And from that same, distant perspective, I look at the "justice" that the Jews obtained over their enemies. And I guess it was good that they stopped their oppressors. But really, from this distance, the whole thing is just kind of sad to me.

Another reason that I see this story as a microcosm for our world is that God is never mentioned. The people are left to figure out as best they could what God would have them do. "Who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" Mordecai asked Esther. Who knows? Not them--they could only guess. They could only pray and do the best they knew. And yet, you do see the hand of God working. He works through the flawed, messiness of man, but He is there, guiding people and events. As Christians, we have faith that He is still guiding history, as messy as it may be.

NT: 1 Cor. 12:27-13:13

My childhood preacher (he of the "little toe" illustration from yesterday) was the first to point out to me the continuity between Paul's discussion of spiritual gifts in chapter 12, and the famous "love" chapter. And it is cool to realize that love is a spiritual gift, as much as teaching or prophesying or healing or speaking in tongues. In fact, it is better than all those things. Paul segues between those gifts and his discussion of love by saying, "But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way" (12:31). I like that phrase, "the most excellent way." It's very Bill and Ted-ish, but it also puts love in its proper place. Love is the most excellent way. You know all those cliches: Love makes the world go 'round? Love is the answer? Well, it's almost like the Bible is the same way. God is love. The greatest command is love. Love is the most excellent way. Wow--love really is the answer!:)

The first three verses of chapter 13 firmly establish love as supreme among all talents and acts. What really gets me is verse three. The idea that it is even possible to give away all your possessions and lay down your life for God blows my mind. Is that possible, or is Paul just trying to make a larger point? I tend to define love more by actions than feelings. And so, if someone is loving others in actions and in truth, if they are giving their possessions to the poor and are willing to die for God, then can't they set their heart at rest in God's presence (1 John 3:18-19)?

In verses 4-7, Paul gives a laundry list of the characteristics of love, all of which are wonderful. At different times, I have been attached to different characteristics, but my current favorite is "love always protects." My childhood preacher (who has apparently been my seminal spiritual influence, judging from all my references to him) talked about this verse at my wedding. He explained that when you are married to a person, you grow to know more about them than anyone else. As such, you become keenly aware of their weaknesses. And you can use that knowledge to expose their weaknesses to others, or you can protect them. Greg and I both have weaknesses, and I am so thankful that he doesn't expose mine, nor I his. Instead, and without negating the importance of personal growth, we have grown to cover each other's weaknesses. In so many ways, we make up what is lacking in each other. And that's always what I think of when I think of "love always protects."

The last third of the chapter focuses on the ultimate triumph of love, which will last even when all else passes away. I especially love verse 12: "Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known." As a borderline-obsessive lover of knowledge, I cannot tell you how gratifying this verse is to me. I love the KJV's wording of the poor reflection. It says that we see "through a glass darkly." I think of that phrase often as I ponder my own confusion here on earth, and especially as I have thoughts such as the ones I had today, regarding the story of Esther.

Psalm 37: 1-11

David is so calm today. So reflective, so full of faith. He tells us not to worry when bad things are happening around us. He tells us to commit ourselves to God, and that God will take care of us. I love all that. And I love this psalm. It gives me a lot of hope. I also know, though, that David can attest to the difficulty of remaining calm in crisis situations. That said, I do believe in the power of faith to help us weather storms much more calmly than we would otherwise.

Proverbs 21:23-24

"He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity" (23).

So true:).

Thursday, August 19, 2010

August 19

OT: Esther 4:1-7:10

Whoa! We are just zipping through Esther! It's only our second day of reading, and we have already hanged Haman!

Part of me always wants Mordecai to be more stoic in the face of Haman's edict. I know, of course, that a calm reaction would be ridiculous. I mean, the man has just learned that his entire race is going to be annihilated. That's not the type of thing you take casually. I guess it's just that it is exactly the reaction Haman wanted, and I hate to think of Haman reveling in Mordecai's grief. What Mordecai's reaction does show is that he is certainly not too proud. He may not bow to Haman, but he will certainly bow (and weep and wail) before God.

Regardless, Mordecai has recovered his usual calm demeanor by 5:9. Perhaps he has gone back to ignoring Haman because he has a plan in the works.

My favorite part of the story, though, is not Mordecai's role, but Esther's. I love--love--her line, "And if I perish, I perish" (16). I was just thinking of that line a couple of weeks ago, and was trying to figure out where it was from. Was it a movie? A book I had read? I finally figured out that it was from Esther! I love that courage. And it's very in line with the courage of the NT Christians.

I also love Mordecai's question to her, the one that ultimately spurs her to action. After declaring his faith in God's deliverance, with or without Esther, he asks rhetorically, "And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?" I think we all want to know why we are here. And even though the Bible gives us the general picture, we want to know why God specifically placed us in this particular life, this place, this time, this set of circumstances. Or maybe that's just me. The idea that there is an overarching reason for our specific lives, that we might indeed have a personal destiny, is very alluring to me. This is random, but I read an interview with some of the actors and creators of the show, LOST. The show was always shrouded in mystery, and one of the actors was relating their relief when they finally got a script telling them who they were ( meaning their character). That prompted one of the creators to say, "I'm still waiting for a script telling me who I am." By rhetorically framing his plea in terms of Esther's personal destiny, Mordecai was, in essence, handing her a script telling her who she was. He takes all the ambiguity out of it by insinuating that in this one specific act is her reason for living. In this one act is the answer to all of her "why's." Why was she an orphan? Why was she born into captivity? Why was she taken into the king's harem? And so on. And it seems like the possibility of finding a specific purpose and meaning is enough for her to risk her very existence.

Oh, and she'll get to save her people, too, so there's that...

NT: I Cor. 12:1-26

I love the metaphor of the church being the body of Christ. In some ways, it is even better than the family metaphor, though I love families, too. But a body, wow. That is some unity! And the comparison is so perfect when it comes to spiritual gifts, which is how Paul is currently applying it. People tend to look at their gifts, and then look at others' gifts, and make judgments. Often, wee either are not satisfied with the gifts we have and want someone else's, or we are too satisfied with the gifts we have, and think we are better than others. The body metaphor highlights the ridiculousness of these tendencies. Why would a foot want to be a hand? Or an ear want to be an eye? Each of the roles played by these body parts are indispensable. Why would one not be satisfied with an indispensable role? And like Paul says, even the parts that are less visible still have vital functions, I mean, especially when you consider the internal organs. (Except for the appendix. Poor appendix.) Anyway, the point is, I like this metaphor.

And I particularly like the last application: "If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it" (26). My preacher once demonstrated this point by talking about stubbing your little toe. Your little toe is quite small, physically speaking, and yet, its pain brings the whole body into commiseration with it. I thought that was a great example, and I always think of it when I read this verse.

Psalm 36:1-12

I found verse 2 to be a potent warning: "For in his own eyes he flatters himself too much to detect or hate his sin." Yikes. Verses like these really make you want to do an honest self-evaluation!

Proverbs 21:21-22

I loved verse 21:

"He who pursues righteousness and love
finds life, prosperity and honor."

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August 18

OT: Esther 1:1-3:15

Yay! We are in Esther! It is late, so I haven't looked Esther up, but I did complete Beth Moore's 9-week study on the book at the beginning of this year. From what I remember from Moore, the story of Esther takes place after Cyrus lets the exiles return. Thus, Mordecai and Esther are among the Jews who choose to stay in Medo-Persia.

It's weird, though. Because I have recently studied Esther so intensely, and b/c the story has long since been familiar, I find that I don't have a ton to write about it. In Moore's study, she focused on every verse individually and had all sorts of things to say about Xerxes, about the banquet, about Vashti, and about everyone's motivations. There was definitely a lot of psychoanalysis going on in that study. Yet, I don't really feel a need to recap it here, simply b/c there would just be so much to recap.

Instead, I just focused on the story today. More than usual, I found myself appalled at Xerxes' behavior, his reckless and easily manipulated way of doing business. And I was equally appalled by the idea of the "beauty pageant," in which the "lucky" ladies had no choice but to participate. In fact, most everything about the story made me glad that I live in a very different time.

I also found Mordecai to be more stubborn than usual today (even though I did love that he took Esther in as his own daughter). I guess my interpretation is based on Moore's claim that Mordecai's animosity to Haman was because he was an Agagite, and apparently, there is some bad blood b/t Jews and Agagites (I just looked up Agag on biblegateway, and all I got was that he was the king that they didn't kill when they were supposed to). Anyway, based on Moore's extensive explanation, it seems that Mordecai's intractability toward Haman stemmed more from a personal hatred than some principle against bowing to anyone but God (which is subconsciously how I've always read it). Regardless, Haman is a bad dude, even if Mordecai did slight him.

NT: 1 Cor. 11:17-34

Paul's writings today provide a unique window into the practice of the Lord's Supper. And when I look through that window, I don't see "our" Lord's Supper. I see something quite different. In Corinthians, the Lord's Supper was a meal that could both fill your stomach up with food and get you drunk (21). In contrast, no one is going to get filled up by the little wafer we eat every Sunday, and it categorically impossible to get drunk from a thimble-full of grape juice. And as a Christian in a church which seeks to replicate the New Testament practices as closely as possible, I'm a bit bothered by the discrepancy b/t Paul's words and our customs.

Even though we don't often quote verses 20-22 in our Lord's Supper talks, we do refer frequently to verses 23-29. They provide the standard explanation of the practice of observing the Lord's Supper, and they also give a stern warning about the state of the hearts of the participants. When we take the Lord's Supper, we must use that time to focus on Christ's death. Specifically, "anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself" (29). I have always interpreted this verse as talking about recognizing the symbolism of the bread and the wine, which represent Christ's body and blood. Thinking about the interpretation of my Catholic neighbors, though, makes me realize that they probably take the verse as saying, "If you don't recognize that the bread and wine are physically Christ's body, then you are drinking judgment on yourself." I can see why they would view Protestants, who don't believe in transubstantiation, as eating and drinking judgment on themselves, b/c, literally speaking, we do not recognize that as Christ's body.

That said, I stand by the symbolic interpretation of both the act and this verse.

Psalm 35: 17-28

David continues to ask God to save him from his enemies.

Proverbs 21:19-20

The first verse is about "quarrelsome and ill-tempered" wives, and the second maintains that the homes of the wise will have "stores of choice food and oil." As a wife who seeks to be peacemaking and even-tempered, and as a couponer who knows the value of a good stockpile, I see both of these verses as applying directly to me.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August 17

OT: Neh. 12:27-13:31

If I could sum up today's reading in one word, it would be "harsh."

After dedicating the wall and reading the Law aloud, Nehemiah describes some of his efforts to make the Israelites follow the Law. Here are some of his initiatives:

Initiative 1: Expel all foreigners from Israel (Neh. 13:1-3). (Well, actually, this wasn't just Nehemiah. It was all the people). First of all, I looked up the verse that inspired them, and it was Deut. 23:3, which says, " No Ammonite or Moabite or any of his descendants may enter the assembly of the LORD, even down to the tenth generation." Okay, fair enough. But to expel all foreigners? The Law clearly allows for foreigners to be a part of Israel! It repeatedly tells Israel to be kind to foreigners. This clearly seems like an example where zeal for the Law pushed the people too far.

Initiative 2: Throw Tobiah out of the room Eliashib gave him (13:4-9). You don't rent out God's rooms, or even give them away from free. I can see where Nehemiah is coming from on this one.

Initiative 3: Make sure the Levites and singers get their portions (13:10-13). Good job.

Initiative 4: Stop people from selling goods on the Sabbath (13:15-22). This involved rebuking them, locking the gates to the city, posting guards, and threatening bodily harm. Nehemiah got harsh at the end, but he made his point.

Initiative 5: Stopping the intermarriage with foreigners (13:23-28). Nehemiah didn't just threaten bodily harm here; he inflicted it. He "beat some of the men [who had intermarried] and pulled out their hair" (25b). He also drove an offending high priest away from him (28). Hmmmm. Now, I'm not really down with beating and hair-pulling, so this strikes me as "too far." But then again, Jesus went at the money lenders in the temple with a whip. And His disciples remembered that it was written that "zeal for your house will consume me." I guess you could say that Nehemiah had zeal for God's house.

So...what to think of Nehemiah's tactics? Clearly, he thinks we should regard them as positive. He even asks God specifically to remember these things that he has done (13: 14, 22, 29, 31). And I guess that they are good (minus the first one)--again, they just seem pretty harsh.

NT: 1 Cor. 11: 3-16

Ah yes. Here is the offensive Paul that I know and love. When I was fifteen, his words in this passage inspired a torrent of indignation in my journal, let me tell you. Man, and not Christ, is the head of woman? Woman is the glory of man? Woman was created for man?

I was not amused.

And I'm not going to lie: those statements, by themselves, still carry a bit of a sting. But, as my One Year Bible is so eager to point out, Paul does relent and speak with some reciprocity. Our highlighted verses for today are verses 11-12: "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God."

Thank you.

And lest we forget, these words do not form an independent treatise on gender roles; rather, they are part of an argument for the importance of head coverings. Apparently, women should cover their heads when they pray and prophesy. And in case you were wondering, I do not cover my head when I pray or prophesy. And actually, I don't prophesy.

So...why don't I cover my head when I pray?

Well, I've been told two things. One, I've been told that long hair is a woman's covering. Paul seems to say as much in verse 15: "For long hair is given to her as a covering." But not so fast. In verse 6, he says, "If a woman does not cover her head, she should have her hair cut off." So...if hair is the covering, then that verse could be reworded like this: "If a woman does not have long hair, she should have her hair cut off." Huh? That doesn't make sense. It really does seem like Paul is talking about a separate hair covering.

And even if he's not, there are a lot of women with short hair nowadays. My pappaw says they are wrong to have short hair. Is he correct? This brings me to the second thing I've heard. I have heard that head coverings were a cultural thing, b/c the only women who didn't cover their heads in those days were prostitutes. And okay, whatever. I'll go with that.

But remember this discussion. I'm going to refer back to it when we get to the whole "women should be silent" bit, and thinking about the reasons I've heard that that passage is applicable. We'll see if the logic holds up:).

Psalm 35: 1-16

Since I'm looking for harshness to complete my theme, David is a bit harsh in this psalm as he begs for God to wreak vengeance on his enemies. To his defense, though, his enemies are really mean.

Proverbs 21: 17-18

The first talks about how loving pleasure will make you poor. I have no idea what the second one means. But it sounds harsh (oh, okay. It doesn't. So much for my theme:)).

Monday, August 16, 2010

August 16

OT: Neh. 11:1-12:26

Lists, lists, lists. So many lists today. I'm a recorder myself, so I understand the compulsion, and I somewhat understand the usefulness, but it was still hard today. We read lists of all the people who stayed in Jerusalem, and of the priests and Levites who returned with Zerubbabel and Jeshua.

I thought it was weird that they had to cast lots to see who would stay in Jerusalem. You'd think that after all that building, they would want to stay in a fortified city, so close to the new temple. But apparently, the great majority of the people wanted to return to their towns.

NT: 1 Cor. 10:14-11:2

When I read the first part of this chapter, I was really confused b/c Paul seemed to be directly contradicting his earlier instructions regarding food sacrificed to idols. He quickly affirms, of course, "that a sacrifice offered to an idol is" nothing (19). But then he says that they are offered to demons, and he did not want Christians to take any part in that. Yet, then he says to "eat anything sold in the meat market without raising questions of conscience, for 'The earth is the Lord's and everything in it'" (25-26).

Okay, so I'm struggling a little to find the distinction. Either Paul is distinguishing b/t food sacrificed to idols and food sacrificed to demons, or he is distinguishing between buying the meat in the marketplace and participating in the ceremony. In either case, Paul says that the first is okay, but the second is not.

In verses 27-30, Paul reaffirms his instructions in Romans 14 and 1 Cor. 8, while also grappling with the some of the implications of those instructions. He tells his audience in verses 28 and 29 to abstain from meat that violates another's conscience. Yet, in 29-b and 30, he asks, "For why should my freedom be judged by another's conscience? If I take part in the meal with thankfulness, why am I denounced because of something I thank God for?" Umm...exactly? I'm not sure what Paul is saying here, but I definitely understand the questions, and have asked them myself.

I do love our highlighted verses for today: "So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God--even as I try to please everybody in every way. For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many, so that they may be saved" (31-33).

Psalm 34:11-22

Lots of good stuff here. My favorites are verse 14 and verse 19.

Verse 14 says, "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it."

Verse 19 says, "A righteous man may have many troubles, but eh Lord delivers him from them all."

Proverbs 21:14-16

On bribes, justice, and straying from understanding.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

August 15

OT: Neh. 9:22-10:29

The Levites finished their history-laced prayer today, which led me to marvel that, after all that has befallen this nation, they are still able to clearly see the guidance of the hand of God. I think that our temptation is often to see God in the good things, but to lose sight of Him and question Him in the bad things. The Israelites had had a lot of bad things happen to them, and yet they maintained both their faith and a coherent narrative that helped them understand what was going on. I think that is remarkable from both a religious and a secular perspective. From a Christian perspective, that example of tenacious faith is just inspiring. From a secular perspective, the ability to form a coherent life narrative that gives meaning and hope, even in the face of tragedy and adversity, is pretty cool, as well.

I also appreciated their renewed resolve to serve God. I don't know much about the intertestamental period, but it seems like the faith of the Israelites held up pretty well through that time. Now again, I don't know the history incredibly well (though I do know about the Maccabean revolt and the Hasmonean dynasty and all that), but since Nehemiah is the last book chronologically, and then the next non-apocryphal writings are the Gospels, I would theorize that there is a direct link between these well-intentioned Hebrews and the Pharisees of Jesus' day.

And I've been meaning to talk about the Pharisees, since I was recently accused of giving them a bad rap:). Last year, I actually read a fair amount of history about the rise of the sects of Judaism (Pharisee, Saducee, Zealot, Essene) that were present in Jesus' day. And from reading about the Pharisees, I gained a lot of sympathy for them. They were truly zealous for the Law, and in their passionate discussions about the Law (many of which were compiled into...is it the Talmud?), they sought to make the Law accessible to a culture very far removed from the culture to which it was originally written. In other words, the Law was given to a nomadic people. The Pharisees had to figure out how to still follow it while now settled in cities. In their intense study of the Law, they sought to make it applicable to their own time period, and accessible to all those living in similar circumstances. Bravo! Furthermore, b/c of their passion for the Law, they sought to put a "hedge around Torah" in order to keep from breaking it. Thus, they were willing to live by guidelines even more stringent than the Law out of a reverent desire not to break the Law. Again, bravo.

I will wholeheartedly agree that the Pharisees may have had the best of intentions, as perhaps evidenced by the Jewish zeal shown in today's reading. These people were excited, ready, and willing, to follow the Law. But I can also see how that same passion for God led to the caricature that is so often shown in the NT. I know that b/c I have grown up surrounded by people who love God very much, who fear Him incredibly, and who honestly seek to stay in His favor and to help other people stay in His favor. And while I love all of those motivations, I have also seen so often how those same great motivations have led people to become a caricature. I have seen those motivations lead to a state where people think it is wrong to do any dancing, to drink any alcohol, to play cards, to go swimming with members of the opposite sex, and so on and so on and so on. I'm not necessarily saying that those are bad ideas, but I don't think they are biblical laws. And it can get to the point where, in their earnestness, those people are condemning toward other people. They place heavy burdens on other people, telling them that this is how to be right with God. I have also seen cases where the human susceptibility to pride and self-righteousness creeps in, and where such people do become "whitewashed sepulchres," full of holiness on the outside, and malice and pride on the inside.

So...the reason I believe the Gospels rendition of the Pharisees is not because I hate the Pharisees. It is because I know the Pharisees. Heck, it is because I am the Pharisee, or have been so many different times in my life. (Full-disclosure: I still feel like a Pharisee on a regular basis. Part of me, for example, is just not sure that God is down with spaghetti straps, and sometimes this makes me judgmental. I know that sounds dumb, but I'm just keeping it real. Spaghetti straps aren't wrong in themselves...but can't they lead to lust? And yet, I know I probably wear things that others tsk-tsk at me about, and probably not unfairly! But what I'm wearing? That's fine. What others are wearing? That crosses the line. See? Do you see how I am a Pharisee? I'm not down on these people; I'm sobered by them.)

How does all that tie in with today's reading? Just this: I am excited for the renewed dedication of the Jews, here. I really am. I've been there myself so many times; I've even put it in writing, just like they are doing. But I also know that their battle has just begun. Facing down the demons of polytheism in one thing. Facing down the demons of the human heart is quite another.

NT: I Cor. 9:19-10:13

Wow, there is a lot here. First of all, Paul's "all things to all people" remarks have been seminal in guiding me on how to reach out to others. I love that Paul is able to adapt, to reach people where they are.

I also love the imagery of running in such a way to get the prize. I am not a runner, but I do have the drive to excel. And these verses motivate me and remind me that living for God is what is most worthy of my ambition and my drive for excellence. God does not want my leftovers; He wants all my passion and dedication to be directed to the object of glorifying Him. And I love the reminder that "I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air" (26). My life, my actions have eternal purpose. Sometimes in trying to be a light and to fight back the darkness, I do feel like a man beating the air. It feels like I am doing nothing worthwhile, nothing effective, nothing lasting. And yet, these verses bolster my faith and remind me that I am running and fighting for something real.

In 10:1-12, Paul explains that the OT was given as an example for us. And as crazy as my feeble mind finds God to be in the OT, I can get behind the idea that it exists to remind us to fear this awesome Being who breathed us into existence. The OT God is as much God as Jesus is. God is both mercy and might, grace and wrath. Sometimes, I have a tendency to play up one side at the expense of the other.

Lastly, verse 13 has provided hope for so, so many. First of all, it reminds us that we are not unique in our temptations. As much as we suffer from temptation, our suffering are simply a byproduct of being human. Secondly, the verse reminds us that God is with us when we are tempted and will give us a way out. And I have to say, I do always see a way out when I'm tempted. Now, choosing to take that way out, that's the hard part.

Psalm 34:1-10

This is another great psalm that I'm sure I wrote about well the first time:). I love verses 7-8...really, I love the whole thing. I do think it is interesting, though, that David wrote such an amazing psalm after he pretended to be insane before Abimelech, a successful tactic about which I was pretty ambivalent.

Provers 21:13

"If a man shuts his ears to the cry of the poor, he too will cry out and not be answered."


Saturday, August 14, 2010

August 14

OT: Neh. 7:61-9:21

We finished up the list of exiles that was started yesterday, and then moved on to the reading of the Law to all the people. Ezra stood up and read all morning to the people, and apparently, there was also a fair amount of translating and interpretation going on, as well (8). The result of this long public reading and explanation was that the people wept. Why did they weep? Were they overwhelmed by how much they fell short...or overwhelmed by the heavy burden that was being placed on them? I'm not going to lie: if I heard the whole Law at once and was told that I had to follow it, I would probably weep, too. It is just a lot to take in.

The priests, however, told them to celebrate, not to weep. They told the people to eat and drink, and to share their meals with those who did not have any. I feel like there is something symbolic there, but I am too tired to piece it together.

Apparently, the priests' advice, together with the good food, really lifted the people's spirits. The very next day (8:2, 13), they celebrated the festival of the booths (I think that's what it's called). I kind of got the impression that the people didn't have much of an idea what they were doing--but what they lacked in experience, they made up for in enthusiasm! For seven days, they lived in their booths, celebrated, and listened to Ezra read from the Law (8:16-18). Then, a couple weeks after that (9:1), they gathered together and repented of their sins. During this time, some of the Levites took the opportunity to recite some of Israel's history.

Again, I feel like there is a lot of symbolism in, not to mention lessons to be abstracted from, the Israelites' behavior, but I am too tired to make any applications. All I can say is that I felt a kind of kinship with them as they sought God as best they could. I admired their passion and their earnestness, and I hope to always share in that spirit.

NT: 1 Cor. 9:1-18

I have been thinking a lot lately about the idea that Greg is a paid minister. I love that he is able to dedicate his whole life to his passion of serving the church, and like him, I am fully committed to that task. In an ideal world, though, I think that Greg would get to do all this without relying on the church for income. To me, it just seems like a healthier relationship when it is done voluntarily and out of passion. Yet, here in the real world, if Greg got another job, then he wouldn't have nearly the amount of time to serve the church. Unless we were just independently wealthy or could afford to live on a part time salary (yeah....), it's not going to happen.

Reading this passage, though, shows me that it is not unhealthy to get a living from the church. Quite the contrary: Paul asserts that it is wholly acceptable, even to be expected. He even calls it a "right," and he spends a lot of verses giving various analogies to explain why it is so acceptable. Yet, he chooses not to use this right (12). And the reason is that he does not want to hinder the gospel of Christ in any way. Like I said, I think that, ideally, I'd want to follow the example of Paul. And yet, realistically, there is no way that Greg or I could pull in enough income and still do all that we are driven to do for the church and our family, respectively.

Win we win the lottery, though, we will totally work for free.

Of course, that means we would have to start actually playing the lottery:).

I was also intrigued by the idea that Paul thought that he was put in this world to preach. In his words, he is "compelled to preach" (16). For him, bragging is out of the question, b/c he is not going above and beyond by preaching the gospel; he is "simply discharging the trust committed to" him (17). I feel that way about certain things. I believe that there are certain things that I was put on this earth to do, that I am "compelled" to do. And though an outsider would think I had no obligation to do them, I know that they are what God wants me to do. And so, in doing them, I am not doing anything special. I am merely using the "talent" that the Master gave me to invest. In doing those tasks, I am merely doing my duty.

Psalm 33: 12-22

This psalm is a good reminder that a nation's fate is in God's hands, and not in its own.

Prov. 21:11-21

The first proverb states that it is easier for the wise to gain wisdom than fools, and the second notes God's displeasure with the wicked.

Friday, August 13, 2010

August 13

OT: Nehemiah 5:14-7:60

I will resist the urge to go big and metaphorical again today, even though I totally could. I love taking the metaphorical view, but I don't want to do disservice to the actual history here.

Plus, this seems like one of the few books we have read in which everything has gone well! I mean, there was that whole "marrying foreigners" thing, but the people truly repented of it. And some people were charging usury, but they repented, too. And Ezra and Nehemiah have seemed completely upright the whole time (though part of me wonders if the first person narration doesn't have something to do with that).

Rather than dwell on "big picture" implications today, I delighted in the details of the wording. For some reason, I loved when Nehemiah replied, "Nothing like what you are saying is happening; you are just making it up out of your head" (6:8). It was the phrase, "making it up out of your head" that got me. I also thought it was interesting when Nehemiah described Shemaiah as being "shut in at his home" (10). Is that where we get the phrase, "shut ins"? Was Shemaiah a "shut in" like we use the term? Was he too old/sick/weak to come out of his house? Because that question was on my mind as I read it, I did see that he proposed to meet Nehemiah in the temple, which makes me think he wasn't a total "shut in."

I also liked the description of Hanani, who "was a man of integrity and feared God more than most men do" (7:2).

And lastly, I liked that, like Solomon, the exiles rebuilt the temple and the walls first, and then worked on their own individual homes (4).

NT: 1 Cor. 8:1-13

I love these first three verses: "Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he out to know. But the man who loves God is known by God." Those verses encouraged me; they made me feel like it was okay that I feel like a complete idiot most of the time, who hardly knows a thing. And they reminded me of a similar quote that I recently read from John Adams, in a letter he wrote his granddaughter: "You are not singular in your suspicions that you know but little. The longer I live, the more I read, the more patiently I think, and the more anxiously I inquire, the less I seem to know...Do justly. Love mercy. Walk humbly. That is enough. So questions and so answers your affectionate grandfather." I love how both John Adams (who, of course, was alluding to the fabulous Micah 6:8) and Paul make similar points. They say that while knowledge is important, it is not the most important thing. And that's good, b/c we can't know, we will never know, all that we long to know. But we can love God and love others. And that is the most important thing.

But of course, as the chapter makes clear, those opening verses are not an argument in themselves, but rather a platform to discuss how Christians are supposed to exercise their beliefs within the church. Specifically, Paul is discussing the various views within the church on idols. As always, Paul refuses to be totally relativistic. He affirms that there is a truth in the situation, which is that "an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one" (4). At the same time, Paul claims that the objective truth is not the most important part of the situation. The most important part is people's hearts. He understands that "not everyone knows" the objective truth (7), and that it is the state of the heart, and not the objective truth itself, that determines whether or not someone sins or acts faithfully. According to Paul, even if you know the truth (that idols are nothing) and do the "right" thing (in good conscience, eat meat sacrificed to them), but have no regard for your weaker brothers, you sin. So...you can know the right answer and act according to the right answer, but still sin. It seems in this case, then, that the Christians were not judged by their knowledge of the objective right answer, but by their love for others.

I had to stop and let that sink in for a minute. That is profound.

At the same time, my ever-cantankerous brain has a question about this line of reasoning. The theme of this chapter, and of Romans 14, seems to be that those who are strong should serve the weaker brothers by respecting their erroneous, yet honest, beliefs. Okay, I got that. But...is there a line? Can't you get to a point with that logic where the weak essentially rule the church? Where we can't do anything new or bold b/c some "weaker brother" might object?

I guess that you can't really codify Paul's words here, and make them into a pat set of rules that apply in the same way to every situation. And I guess that's why God instituted the positions of elders and deacons to figure out how these words do apply in all the different situations that come up in the life of a congregation. And that is why I am so thankful that my church has great leadership, and why I pray often for the wisdom of those people. It is not always an easy job to apply the truth of scripture to the turbulence of real life.

Psalm 33:1-11

This is a happy psalm, and I especially love the imagery of God's creation. I especially love the image of God gathering "the waters of the sea into jars" and putting "the deep into storehouses" (8). Cool.

Proverbs 21:8-10

The first proverb seems so simple as to border on redundancy:

"The way of the guilty is devious,
but the conduct of the innocent is upright."

You think? And yet, even though that verse seemed totally obvious to me, I do see the application. First of all, it made me think of Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton was a brilliant man, and he had some good ideas, but the first sign to me that he was trouble was his deviousness. Maybe it is me, but when someone is sneaky and deceptive, it sends up a red flag, even if I agree with their beliefs. And I didn't agree with a lot that Hamilton said, but I have agreed with subsequent politicians, only to be dismayed by their underhanded tactics.