Wednesday, August 28, 2019

word

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he mediates day and night.  He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither.  Whatever he does prospers.” (Psalm 1:2-3)

The scriptures are not merely an ancient book of wisdom, or a self-help guide, or a proof-text for a certain brand of theology; they are the very words of God himself.  They are not a text book, but a love letter.  Therefore, they must be read in a different way than what we are used to.

They are one of the most tangible places we encounter the Living God.  They are living and active, they are powerful and authoritative, they are God-breathed and God-saturated.  They are the most audible and reliable voice of God that we’ve got.  They guide, they correct, they encourage, and (by the power of the Spirit) they transform.

The words of the scriptures are deeply relevant and personal, they speak to each life specifically and to each community corporately.  They tell us what God is like and show us how to live like him.  They are like a javelin aimed at the target of the human heart, always hitting their mark with their life-giving power.

When we delight in the words of the scriptures, and meditate on them day and night, they produce the fruit of life and love and freedom within us.  They plant us in solid soil and keep us from being blown around by the winds of mood and whim and circumstance.  They make us more into the people God intended us to be.  They make us more able to love the way God intended for us to love.

Thus, when we ignore or dismiss or belittle the words of the scriptures—when we make them less than they were intended to be—we do so at our own expense.  If we untether ourselves from their power and their authority, and become the authority ourselves, we drift aimlessly into our own version of the truth, which is not really truth at all.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

the fourth watch

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Matthew 14:25)

Why the fourth watch?  Why did Jesus wait so long to go out to them?  After all, they had been out on the lake, buffeted by the wind and the waves for as many as twelve hours.  Why not go out to them sooner?  Why wait until they had been bruised and battered and beaten?

Do you ever ask that question?  Do you ever wonder why God seems to let the storms of life go on for so long before he eventually shows up in the midst of them?  Is he testing our belief?  Is he trying to see if we really believe that he is able to calm the storm?  Or is he trying to see if we really believe that he is willing to?  I know that I have little trouble believing that he can, but much more difficulty believing that he will. 

Regardless of the reason, I have found that Jesus is a fourth-watch-kind-of-a-God.  He tends to wait a while before he comes out to us.  And even when he does, sometimes our circumstances are so chaotic that we still cannot recognize him.

The fourth watch is the point where we just cannot do it anymore.  It is the place in time when we can row no more.  The fourth watch is the time when we finally cry, "Uncle!"  When we say, “I just cannot do this anymore.  I’ve got nothing left.”  It is the time when we have finally been brought to the point of total desperation and absolute dependence.  It is the time when we have finally come to the end of ourselves.  And unfortunately, for most of us, that is a long, long journey.  For there is something God is trying to do deep within us and bringing us to the end of ourselves is the only way to make it happen.  Otherwise we would just keep on rowing and rowing and rowing.

It’s like God finally says: “I want you to trust me.  Not me and your own gifts and efforts, not me and your circumstances, not even me and your friends and family; but me alone.  And you will never trust me alone until all of the other things have been stripped away.  Until you have come to the end of yourself and there is nothing else, and no one else, left to cling to but me.  That’s when I’ve finally got you where I want you.  That’s when true growth and transformation can take place.  That’s when you finally reach the point where you can become all that I dreamt you to be.”

So if it takes until the fourth watch to get me there, then I suppose it’s worth it, huh?

Lord Jesus, help me to know that when you wait until the fourth watch to come out to me, you are not just being difficult.  You are trying to accomplish something very good in me.  Help me to never let the storms of this life, or the timing of your coming, make me doubt the goodness of your heart.