Psalm 33:12-22 – God Is Watching

sunshine of love

Happy is the nation whose God is the Lord, 
    the people whom he has chosen as his heritage. 

The Lord looks down from heaven; 
    he sees all humankind. 
From where he sits enthroned he watches 
    all the inhabitants of the earth— 
he who fashions the hearts of them all, 
    and observes all their deeds. 
A king is not saved by his great army; 
    a warrior is not delivered by his great strength. 
The war horse is a vain hope for victory, 
    and by its great might it cannot save. 

Truly the eye of the Lord is on those who fear him, 
    on those who hope in his steadfast love, 
to deliver their soul from death, 
    and to keep them alive in famine. 

Our soul waits for the Lord; 
    he is our help and shield. 
Our heart is glad in him, 
    because we trust in his holy name. 
Let your steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us, 
    even as we hope in you. (NRSV) 

God is in control of the world, and I am not. Although the myth of self-sufficiency and self-reliance thoroughly permeates individualist societies, this in no way lessens the transcendence of a big God. In today’s psalm, the scene of God looking down from heaven portrays him as above all, firmly in control, yet, attentive to all that is happening on the earth. Individual human creatures subscribing to a narrative of personal independence will inevitably run into the Creator God. 

Our success may give us the illusion that our own strength, intelligence, and/or ingenuity has brought us the good things we possess – not God. “I worked hard for my money and I will do whatever I want with it,” and the even more crass, “It wasn’t God who put food on my table,” are just a few of the power delusions I have heard from others, as if personal accomplishments are unconnected to any other force in the universe. 

In addition, our lack of success may also cause us to pause and wonder if God is really observing all our deeds, or not. Perhaps he is reclining in his La-z-God chair and watching old baseball game replays of the Angels. More likely, we have become so expectant of satisfactory service and immediate results as consumers in a capitalist culture that we fail to discern the virtue of patience – that God is not slow in keeping his promises as some would understand it. 

The bald fact of the matter is that we need God. What’s more, God feels no compulsion from us to be hurried along in his purposes for humanity. Since God is the divine gravity in this world, the only way of realizing the good life is to conform ourselves to him, and not the other way around.  

When we learn to exercise the inherent gifts of hope and patience which a gracious God has fashioned in our hearts, then we begin to discover persevering trust, enduring happiness, a settled sense of gladness, and steadfast love. We awaken to the true passion of God for us. Rather than a capricious or indifferent deity, the Lord God looks upon us with endearing faithfulness. In short, God’s heart is forever drawn to us. Therefore, we need not attempt to take all matters into our own hands, as if we are alone in the world. If we can see a vision of God high and lifted-up, observing us with a gaze of delight, then our spirits open to mercy and we find grace to help us in our time of need. The prophet Zephaniah allows us a glimpse into God’s feelings for us:  

The Lord your God is in your midst—a warrior bringing victory. He will create calm with his love; he will rejoice over you with singing. (Zephaniah 3:17, CEB)

God labors on our behalf. God has our backs. God establishes a safe environment for us. And, we must never forget: God delights in you so much that – this very minute – he is singing songs of joy over you. For trust and hope cannot be coerced by another or willed into being by the mind; it can only be generated through the deep conviction of God’s broad love for you and me. 

The best self-help program I know of is not self-help at all – it is the self-care of opening to a loving God and allowing God’s joy and delight to fill us. God is watching us, and it is the gaze of adoration, not condemnation. 

Dear God, the One who watches all, love comes from you. Anyone who loves is your child and knows you. And anyone who does not love does not know you, for God is love. Thank you for showing me love by sending your one and only Son into the world so that I might have eternal life through him. Dear God, since you loved me that much, I surely ought to love others. May you live in me and may the love of Jesus be brought to full expression in me through the power of the Spirit. Amen. 

2 Corinthian 2:12-17 – God Prepares the Way, Not Me

“When I went to Troas to preach the good news about Christ, I found that the Lord had already prepared the way.  But I was worried when I didn’t find my friend Titus there. So I left the other followers and went on to Macedonia.
I am grateful that God always makes it possible for Christ to lead us to victory. God also helps us spread the knowledge about Christ everywhere, and this knowledge is like the smell of perfume.   In fact, God thinks of us as a perfume that brings Christ to everyone. For people who are being saved, this perfume has a sweet smell and leads them to a better life. But for people who are lost, it has a bad smell and leads them to a horrible death.
No one really has what it takes to do this work.  A lot of people try to get rich from preaching God’s message. But we are God’s sincere messengers, and by the power of Christ we speak our message with God as our witness.” (Contemporary English Version)
 
            God is the One who calls people to himself.  God is the powerful sovereign ruler of the universe who prepares the way for people to proclaim the good news of deliverance in the name of Jesus.  God is the Being who dominates the Holy Scripture.  God is the main and principal actor in the unfolding drama of redemption of the Bible.  God is the Great Shepherd who calls, gathers, assures, forgives, teaches, leads, and sends people throughout the ages.  God is the diligent and careful farmer who enables the knowledge of Jesus to spread across the earth and cause a bloom of grace to flower.  God is the divine florist who produces the sweet smell of salvation from the rancid field of relational separation.
            You see, my friend, that unless we capture the vision of a God who orchestrates and animates his self-revealing to others,  you and I will muck around this world trying to live the Christian life in the misguided notion that leading others to Jesus Christ is on our shoulders – that somehow our ability, or lack thereof, determines whether another person is delivered from their brokenness and finds God.
            Oh, my goodness.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Those who are estranged from God, like vulnerable lost sheep in the world, are called by the shepherd, not us.  We simply go in the enablement of God’s power and blessing to pick up lost sheep and carry them back to the fold.
You and I are messengers, couriers from God with a life-giving message of forgiveness and deliverance for all whom the Lord calls – and His voice can be heard across the entire world.
We are field-hands who enter the harvest and enjoy the gathering of fresh grain into God’s great storehouse of grace.  You and I did not make anything grow.  God was really behind the planting, the growth, the given rain, and the producing of fruit.  In many ways, we’re just along for the tractor ride.
Many Christians put far too much emphasis on themselves – what they should and could be doing, as if the salvation of others depended on them.  But God is behind every good and beautiful thing in this earth.  Learning to trust his leading and power makes all the difference in a world needing Jesus.

 

Lord God, almighty and everlasting Father, you have brought me to the beginning of this day.  Preserve me with your mighty power that I might be an instrument in your grand orchestra of salvation, blowing the sound of Jesus Christ in melodious sounds of deliverance; with the breath of the Holy Spirit giving the wind.  Amen.

Romans 9:6-13

            I want to break this to you as gently as possible, but as straightforward as I can:  My friend, you are not in control!  Any semblance of control we think we have is only a delusion.  Now, before you push back on this its important to make the distinction between control and taking charge.  Taking charge of your life means that you own your decisions and take responsibility for their outcome.  The Bible describes this as “self-control.”
            But “control” is not your job – never was, isn’t, and never will be – that’s God’s business.  God makes his choices.  This was the Apostle Paul’s point to the church at Rome.  The congregation was a volatile mix of both Jew and Gentile.  There was some bad history between them that stretched back centuries.  Yet, here they were together in one church worshiping Jesus.
            Paul made his choice to step into the mess between them and let each group know something important: It is neither their choice about who’s in and who’s out as God’s people, nor their choice about how someone gets in to start with.  Again, this is God’s choice.
            The Jews needed to know that Gentiles are in because God did his work of calling and including; Gentiles are chosen just as much as Jews.  The Gentiles needed to know that they were not replacing Jews as chosen people.  The point? God chooses whomever he darn well pleases to choose, and its not up to you, my friend.
            This speaks on so many levels about how to conduct ourselves with one another in the church.  The foundation of all good church dynamics is the recognition that God is the one who calls and gathers people together in the church.  This needs to be the starting point in our relations with each other.

 

Sovereign God, you choose whomever you will to include in your kingdom.  Allow me to see Jesus in each person you call and save so that I can love and encourage them in the faith which is mutually and graciously given to us all; through Christ our Lord, and the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

John 5:19-29

            There are many things in this world of great importance:  how we govern ourselves as a free people in America; tackling issues of poverty, education, taxes, healthcare, terrorism, and international relations; local community relationships and business; the ability to go to work every day and make a decent contributive living; being a responsible citizen; and, loving and nurturing our families.  Yet, it is my unshakable conviction that the issue above all issues, the height of importance for every human being on planet earth, is our relation to God in Jesus Christ.  In short, people need the Lord.
 
            Jesus said, “I tell you for certain that everyone who hears my message and has faith in the one who sent me has eternal life and will never be condemned.  They have already gone from death to life.”  Seasons, eras, centuries, and even millennia come and go; people are born, live, and die; generations exist and then are no more; but Jesus is alive, and he continually lives bringing life from dust, beauty from ashes, and everlasting meaning from seeming meaninglessness.
 
            Today Jesus is still on the throne of all creation.  Right now Jesus remains attentive to people, even interceding for us at the right hand of his Father in heaven.  At this moment, God’s Holy Spirit roams the earth and continues to mysteriously and graciously apply all the redemptive consequences of Christ’s cross and resurrection to the lives of millions.  Sometimes we just need to remember what is really of ultimate significance in this old broken world.  If people need the Lord, then it only makes real sense to live in ways that foster connection with Jesus.  So, this morning I did what I do every morning:  began the day with Scripture reading, prayer, reflection, and gratitude – all done with the realization that Christ’s authority is real and pervasive, and his reign is supreme.
 

 

            Sovereign God, in Christ you rule all of creation, even when it feels like you are distant.  Your authority is both benevolent and all-powerful.  Thank you for deliverance from sin, life in the Spirit, and your eventual return.  To you be all glory, honor, and praise.  Amen.