Persistent Praying

September 30, 2011 § Leave a comment

Exodus 4-7 consists of a rich dialogue between Moses and God.  Moses wavered and wobbled a lot during this dialogue, but the main thing he did right was to keep returning to God for more honest conversation.  And the wonder of God is how He always listens and responds to Moses.  God meets Moses where he is with all his concerns, addresses his arguments in a way that keeps Moses in the conversation, and equips him with what he needs to obey God’s call.  What we have in this dialogue is an excellent example of the significance of persistent prayer.  Prayer makes sense because we are in a dynamic relationship with God.  We can be honest with God, and trust God to listen and respond appropriately.  We can return to God at any time when things are not making sense to us, and trust God to be patient with us.  Above all, persistent prayer makes us aware that we are never left on our own, but that God is always present with us on the journey.

Confidence in What?

September 29, 2011 § Leave a comment

In Philippians 3:4-14, Paul warns against a false “confidence in the flesh” (3:2-4).  The danger lies in the many good reasons why we could or should have confidence in fleshly matters.  In fact, Paul identify many such matters as rooted in our cultural heritage that is dear to us and good things in itself.  Fleshly matters could be very important interests to which we are supposed to be very loyal.  For Paul it was being circumcised, being a Hebrew and part of a specific tribe, as well as being “faultless” in “legalistic righteousness” (3:6).  What is it for you and me?  Despite these important allegiances that all seem to be good things in itself, Paul had to make the crucial discovery in his life that these things are not the most important things when you are a follower of Jesus Christ.  He puts it in radical terms:  “But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.  What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things.  I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ…” (3:7-8).  In what do you put your confidence today?

Restoration

September 28, 2011 § 1 Comment

Psalm 80:7-15 reminds of Monday’s Scripture reading from Isaiah 5 by using the same metaphor of God’s people as a ruined, forsaken vine and vineyard.  The difference is that the Psalm does not argue the case from God’s perspective, but presents a human response to the failure of God’s grape people.  The proper response to failure is seeking God’s restoration (80:7) for the sake of wholeness.  Taking ownership of our mistakes and failures is part of the Christian response of repentance during which we refuse to find excuses or to shift the blame somewhere else.  Seeking God’s restoration when we repent is simply a way of reminding God of his salvation.  That is the way of Psalm 80:8-11.  It is a prayer of reciting God’s act of salvation.  It is a way of pleading to God to “return to us” (80:14).  Find a little bit of time somewhere today to acknowledge your mistakes and failures.  Ask God for forgiveness and remind God of his promise of forgiveness in Jesus Christ.  Plead with God for returning to you with his gift of restoration, and expect the power of his Spirit to transform your life.

The Parable of the Rejected and Vindicated Son

September 27, 2011 § Leave a comment

Somebody once said the parable in Matthew 21:33-46 should be called “the parable of the rejected and vindicated Son” rather than “the parable of the Tenants.”  Because, even though the tenants play a major role in the story, the parable intends mainly to clarify who Jesus is.  It continues Jesus’ response to the chief priests and elders who had questioned him about his protest in the temple (Matthew 21:12-17).  It clarifies Jesus’ authority (21:23).  Ira Driggers writes, “Who is Jesus according to this parable? He is the Son who has come to reclaim what rightfully belongs to his Father. He is the Son whose mission is violently rejected by the Father’s own tenants. He is the Son whose rejection is vindicated by the Father. And he is the Son whose vindication prompts the final judgment of the unfaithful tenants.”  The tragedy of the tenants is their selfishness that produces a blindness for who Jesus is.  Today can be either a day of preoccupation with our own selfish concerns, or it can be a day during which we steward the good things that God will be giving to us.  The first will result in blindness for His existence in our midst today, and the latter could open up the possibilities of embracing God’s amazing love and grace coming to us through other people and the unfolding of events in our lives.

Frustrating Expectations

September 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

Isaiah 5:1-7 is a song about frustrating expectations.  We all know the feeling when you have put everything into something and it does not deliver the results that you expected.  The disappointment of the “loved one” with his vineyard (5:1-2) turns into anger (5:5-7), because “what more could have been done”? (5:6).  This is already a sad story in its own right, but it becomes even worse in 5:7, because there we discover that this is a story about us.  This is a story about God’s disappointment with us.  He gives us everything we need to live full lives of abundance and to be His people in the world.  And yet, we squander his goodness with our selfishness and destroy His love and care for us with our recklessness.  Can we even begin to imagine God’s frustrating expectations for us?  Fortunately, there is hope for us when we read Isaiah 5 in context of the entire Gospel.  We also know how God dealt with His own frustrated expectations.  He replaced this disappointing vineyard with his own Son.  Christ became the vine.  We don’t have to be the vineyard anymore, but only the branches rooted in Christ as the vine (John 15).  May you and I find our life-giving sources from Christ today so that we can have a fruitful day!

Guide Me In Your Truth

September 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

“In you I trust”, starts Psalm 25.  And, “no one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame” (25:3).  Therefore, “show me your ways, O Lord, teach me your paths; guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (25:4-5).  For God to be a trustworthy God that guides us in His truth, He has to “remember his great mercy and love” and “remember not our sins” (25:6-7).  These wonderful first seven verses of Psalm 25 reminds me of part of a class prayer prayed by the Old Testament scholar, Walter Brueggemann, on January 14, 1999:  “You are the God of all truth, and now we bid you heed our truth, about which we will not bear false witness… the truth of grief unresolved, the truth of pain unacknowledged, the truth of fear too child-like, the truth of hate, as powerful as it is deep, the truth of being taken advantage of, and being used, and manipulated, and slandered.  We trust the great truth of your wondrous love… Our truth – heard by you – will make us free.”

Question of Authority

September 20, 2011 § 1 Comment

The entire Gospel about Jesus presents itself as a question of authority, namely whether He is acknowledged as our authority in life above anything or anybody else.  This is definitely one of the governing themes in the Gospel of Matthew, and specifically highlighted in Matthew 21:23-32.  In these verses, questions are asked all over the place: Religious authorities questioning Jesus’ authority (21:23); Jesus questioning the religious authorities about John the Baptist’s authority (21:24-25); the religious authorities questioning each other about the most politically appropriate response to Jesus (21:25-26); Jesus asking the religious authorities to solve a question with regard to a parable about two sons (21:28-31).  The questions of the religious authorities are self-serving questions as a means to resist the transformational power of Jesus’ authority.  Like these religious authorities, we also find all kinds of questions that will allow us to relativize and complicate the simple appeal of Jesus’ authority in our lives.  There are enough reasons why we can be in denial about the power of His presence through his Spirit, and why we cannot afford to trust His authority 100% in our ordinary lives.  The question of 21:23 to Jesus is in fact our question:  “By what authority are you doing…” what you are doing?

Where Am I?

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