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He Is Your Life

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“I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.  Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days.”  Deuteronomy 30:19-20  (ESV)

Have you ever wished you could die?  Maybe a heart-wrenching break in a relationship, or the prospect of a long and painful illness, or a series of events that robbed you of your reputation and plans for the future was the reason.  Life on this earth just wasn’t worth living, and heaven is so much better.  The prophet Elijah, depressed by what seemed abject failure in his ministry and a death threat hanging over his head, said it this way: “I have had enough, Lord.  Take my life.  I’m no better than my ancestors.” (1 Kings 19:4)  Self-absorbed and at the end of his rope, Elijah wanted out.  I’ve been there.

Some 700 years earlier God prepared Israel for life and death choices in the land he was giving them.  Death, he said, was following your sinful inclinations and losing confidence in your God.  Isn’t that what happens when we want to die?  We measure the value of our life in terms of our happiness and our goals, the way we look at life.  Life, God says, is loving him enough to obey his will and trust his wisdom.  It’s hanging on to him for dear life when you’ve run out of ideas and strength. “HE IS YOUR LIFE” is the ultimate statement about the sanctity of life.  Look, if you’ll believe God’s promise of heaven, why wouldn’t you believe his promise to be with you now and never leave you no matter what?  If you’ve run out of reasons to go on living, why not hear his promise to strengthen you to face what lies ahead and to bail you out when you’re in way over your head?  He’s got your back and he’s got your future.  Jesus signed that promise in his blood.

So how did God respond to Elijah’s death wish?  First, an angel provided food and a good night’s sleep.  When we don’t value our life, one reason is often neglect of our physical needs.  When Elijah whined his reasons for wanting to die, God didn’t indulge the self-pity with a “There, there, Elijah; I know life is hard;” rather he challenged the prophet. He reminded Elijah that God is at work in our world quietly more often than with pyrotechnics. He assured Elijah that things weren’t as bleak as Elijah imagined and that God was still on top of things.  And then God gave Elijah an assignment, a reason to go on living.  When we remember that HE IS OUR LIFE, we’ll trust when we cannot see God’s hand in our world, and we’ll look for the people and possibilities that are his service projects to give meaning to our life.

Lord, you know my frustrations and fears.  Answer them with your word of promise and strengthen my faith to trust you and to see you at work in my life.  I know you want me to be with you in heaven one day; until then, guide and bless my life with you in the here and now.  Jesus is the reason I dare to ask this.  Amen.

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Psalm 119 (Part 2)

open book in shallow photography
 
In Your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth. [Psalm 119:88]
 
We continue in working through Psalm 119, seeing how every letter of the (Hebrew) alphabet sings the praise of our God and the power of His Word. An acrostic poem, we are guided through each sound, reminded that we can pick any word or letter and relate it back to God’s Word.
 
ח
Counting on you, I am sure I will have more than enough- forever.
Consider my ways – so much different from the wicked – as I walk, guided by your face.
Continue to fill me with your love, oh Lord, as the whole earth is filled with your love.
 
ט
Teach me knowledge, teach me goodness, teach me service.
Tainted, tarnished, tattered: when you afflicted me, God, it pushed me to trust in you even more.
Tons of cash, tireless fame, or time in the spotlight couldn’t keep me from keeping your decrees.
 
י
You are the maker of the earth, You are the giver of wisdom, You are the reason for hope and joy.
You love me without fail, even when others don’t.
You are life-giving, life-sustaining; give me life and sustain me. You are “I am.”
 
כ
“Keep going, keep going!” I tell myself, as I press on, tired, toward your salvation.
Kindness is a byword in the mouth of my enemies, and I’m tempted to say the same about you God…
Keep me in your Word and remind me of your love, especially in these troubling times.
ל
Lord, your word and faithfulness carry on forever.
Laws of yours endure unto eternity, preserving my life for just as long.
Limits are put on everything- wealth, fame, goodness- but your commands are without limit.
 
מ
Meditating on your words, Lord, brings such richness to my life.
More wisdom, more insight, more understanding, more life: all mine because of your word.
My mouth drips with honey when I taste the morsels of Truth and goodness found in your Book.
 
נ
Now I can see on my path, thanks to the light of your Word!
Not only do I struggle from my own faults, others are doing their best to knock me off your path.
Nevertheless, I have set my heart on keeping your decrees, on sticking to this path forever.
 
Prayer: Lord God, without You we have no chance at a meaningful and purposeful life. Speak life and power into all of our actions, and help us to ground every action, pattern, and behavior in Your Word, in Your Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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The Value of Human Life

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“Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life.”  Genesis 2:7  (ESV)  “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.”  Genesis 9:6  (ESV)

Are you really just a higher form of animal life, the most recent iteration on top of the evolutionary chart?  Think about what that means to the value of human life.  No transcendent purpose to your life.  No absolute moral principles to live by.  Nothing beyond the grave.  On an increasingly crowded planet life is cheap; and who determines which of us deserve to live?

God changes the calculus. Unlike the plant and animal life he spoke into existence, human life was hand-made.  The very breath of God animated Adam.  (Breath and spirit are the same word in Hebrew.)  We have a soul.  While the most important element of God’s image – perfect holiness – was lost in the fall into sin, there remains the reasoning and feeling echo of our God.  Love is the over-arching ethical principle that God bequeathed humanity, a reflection of himself.

Human life is so valuable that God protects it.  Only he has the right to end human life.  Capital punishment is the deterrent he mandated for the post-flood world, life for life.  That bit of divine irony confirms the sanctity of life.  There are no qualifiers to the value God placed on life, as though viability outside the womb or contribution to society establishes our worth. 

So priceless is human life that our Father in heaven sent his Son to death in our place, his blood shed to redeem us from everlasting death for our sins.  The sanctity of life established by the Creator is multiplied by the life given for us by the Savior.  You are worth the price God paid for you – the innocent blood of his Son.  That’s greater meaning to what you see in the mirror each morning.  And that changes how you see the people you meet during the day.

Forgive me, Lord, for demeaning the life you gave me and failing to care for it as your precious gift.  Forgive me, Lord, for diminishing the value that Jesus’ death has placed on the lives around me with thoughtless words and actions.  Thank you, Lord, for your love and for the significance you have given my life.  Guide my life with your Word and by your Spirit.  Amen.

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Psalm 119 (Part 1)

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Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the Lord! [Psalm 119:1]
 
Psalm 119 is long. Really long. 176 verses long. And this makes it a very intimidating Psalm to read.

But Psalm 119 is a beautiful poem, containing some beautiful truths about the Word of God. And, even though it takes 176 verses, the Psalm doesn’t exhaust how much can be said about God’s Word for us and to us.

And, tragically, our English Bibles hide some of the rich imagery of Psalm 119. You see, the poem is an acrostic of the entire alphabet. Eight verses dedicated to just one letter, then on to the next. Our vocabulary finds its fulfillment in the very vernacular of our God. From A to Z, Alpha to Omega, Aleph to Taw, our language is rooted in the loving law of God. So, what follows this week is an attempt at bringing some justice to the aspect of God’s all-encompassing Word to the poem, Psalm 119.
 
א
All your commands are good,
Anyone who perfectly keeps them- blessed.
Ah! If only I could… I will Lord, bless me!
 
ב
Boys have a huge hill to climb to get to holiness,
But I am doing it by dwelling on your word day and night.
Behind every action of mine is the desire to honor and praise you.
 
ג
Give me life, Lord, do good to me.
Going on this path, I see only what you show me, since my home is with you.
Governors and statesmen mock me, but I find my peace and delight in you.
 
ד
Deal with me, Lord, when I’m down in the dust and weary with worry.
Determining my path based on your word, my heart is set on understanding.
Don’t let me be bound up, for I run fast and free on the way of truth.
 
ה
Halt, stop, the evil within me, Lord, and turn me toward your righteous words and ways.
Here, right now, I demand you take me by the hand, instruct my head and heart in your holy decrees.
How I long, o Lord, for the fulfillment of your promise! Preserve my life in your righteousness.
 
ו
Words come at me from all directions, but I hold fast to yours Lord. Keep them coming!
Where obedience means freedom- that’s where I will walk.
Whenever words are demanded from me, I will put forth the ones I love- yours.
 
ז
Zeal for your ancient words brings me comfort, even when people are zealous for wickedness.
Zap my name, you arrogant mockers, but you cannot take away my hope and promise.
Zero songs will I sing, O Lord, if my song is not your decrees, your name, your Torah.
 
Prayer: Lord God, thank you for Your Word. It gives us life, guidance, peace, and hope. Lead us always by the power of Jesus, Your Word made flesh! Amen.

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Wait, Wait, There’s More! (Part 3)

blue book on white table

While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?” 36 Overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.” Mark 5:35-36

After you buy the miracle chopper, tube of caulk or knife set, there is one more problem. You did everything on a whim. You saw the commercial, heard that you would get two sets of knives if you ordered right now and so you did. You called and now you wait. For all that energy and immediate action, you would think that somehow the knives could show up this afternoon, or tomorrow at the latest. No. Remember the theme of these commercials: “Wait, wait, there’s more.” They meant it. Wait, wait, you’ll wait some more before they show up.

Jairus certainly knew about this. The miracle that he hoped for wasn’t working out. He had hoped that he could hurry Jesus along so that Jesus could heal his daughter. But he had to wait, wait for the healing of the woman who had touched Jesus and then was found to be reassured of her healing.  All this is well and good, but look at the time! Then the messengers come to say that his daughter has died. It’s all too late. All that waiting and he couldn’t deliver Jesus in time to his door.

But Jesus knew exactly the gifts he was bringing and that his delivery was perfectly on time. Don’t despair, Jairus, just believe. And so, Jesus calmly, fearlessly goes to the little girl, takes her hand and raises her up. Jairus hoped that Jesus would bring healing. But wait, there was far more in Jesus’ plan. He brings resurrection and a fearlessness even in the face of death.

When we ask for this year’s blessings, we are like Jairus. We ask for the blessings we’ve seen others receive and we hope that our share comes quickly. But perhaps the first gift is waiting, trusting God’s delivery plan. And then with faith, we see that God can provide all we need, both what we might have expected and also far more. Wait, wait, this new year, there’s more to what God can do.

Our heavenly Father, thank you for the first gift of your presence with us as we wait. Give us patience and trust in you as you bring all we need for this year, both what we expect and the more you have in mind. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


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