WEEK: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16
October 5: Verse 136--"My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your law." There are those in the blogosphere and elsewhere saying that by separating themselves from ABC-USA, PSW et al are going against Jesus' prayer for unity in John 17 and are going against Baptist distinctives. Well, as I see it here's the deal: the Word is the only sure revelation we have from God. Yes, Jesus is revelation and there are likely other forms, but the Scripture is stable. God's Word is the sure source of the content of our faith. When people do not hold to that content, then they are not believing what we believe. It is those who disbelieve God's Word who have broken unity. For those of us who remain, we must stand for truth, all the while shedding tears because of those who do not follow God's Word.
October 4: Verse 135--"Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your statutes." Back in February, I posted a paper on Identity Development as Facing. There I concluded:
Great care must be taken by those of us in ministry. We must take care to spend sufficient time gazing at the face of God. We must take care to discover and articulate the distortions we may have, leaving those distortions in the care of a healing God. We must take care to be the face of God for the other.We are formed as we gaze into the face of God. Where do we see that face? While there are many answers to that question, the primary--and crucial--place we see God's face is in his Word. Note that the psalmist connects facing God with learning God's statutes. I'm all for experience. I've had some amazing experiences with God, but the most amazing thing is getting a handle on the truth of his Word--the truth about him, about us, and about his love for his people. Too often our decisions are based on how we feel or what we want. It's a trap we all fall into. We must continually bring ourselves back to the Scripture, for it is the only clear revelation we have.
October 3: Verses 133-134--"Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man's oppression, that I may keep your precepts." Obedience itself is made possible by God's provision; apart from him I can do nothing. This, of course, does not negate our responsibility, but it does put our responsibility in perspective. It also eliminates holiness-by-bootstrap-pulling. There is a phrase that I either made up or found--I do not remember which--that has helped me and my students begin to understand holiness under the sun: Holiness is direction not destination. If holiness is a direction of the heart--a tending towards God--then our efforts should really focus on loving God.
October 2: Verse 132--"Turn to me and be gracious to me, as is your way with those who love your name." Once again, the psalmist turns to his knowledge of God and God's ways. There is great strength in knowing that God's usual way of dealing with his people is the way of grace. This reminds me of the lessons learned in Messy Spirituality.
October 1: Verse 131--"I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your commandments." This is the source of righteousness: an extravagant desire for God and God's ways. I don't think I can say what the psalmist says. I wish I could. What I can do is say with the father of the sick child, "I believe; help my unbelief!"
September 30: Verses 129-130--"Your testimonies are wonderful; therefore my soul keeps them. The unfolding of your words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple." If these verses are parallel (which they appear to be) what are the implications of the parallelism between keeping the wonderful testimonies and receiving understanding because God's words give light. It seems to me that this implies an earthed holiness--meaning a holiness that is completely intertwined with daily life. This is the very place where two main streams of Christianity get into trouble. On one side you have those who focus so much on living out God's ways that they forget God's truth. On the other side you have those who focus so much on God's truth that they forget to live God's ways. True God-following is both: we must declare and stand for righteousness and truth AND we must live out God's mercy and grace. Tod Bolsinger over at It Takes A Church has two quotes on the matter:
The command "Be ye perfect" is not idealistic gas. Nor is it a command to do the impossible. He is going to make us into creatures that can obey that command.
--C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
To be sure, law is not the source of righteousness, but it is forever the course of righteousness...(Jesus) knew that we cannot keep the law by trying to keep the law. To succeed in keeping the law one must aim at something other and something more. One must aim to become the kind of person from whom the deeds of the law naturally flow.
--Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy
September 29: Verses ALL--If the Word of God really is the Word of God, then our hearts should break when others willfully bring scorn or scandal to that Word. This month a separation began in the American Baptist Churches, USA. This separation takes place after years of discussion, revolving primarily around differences regarding the nature of God's Word. Some in the denomination have decided that their own opinions, motivated by experience and emotion, have more value than God's clear Word. Others have stood on the ground of sola scriptura. Between these two, there is no bridge. For each side, the view of the other is incomprehensible. But if we truly believe that the Word is indeed the Word, then we must stand for what it says and we must grieve when anyone casts scorn or scandal. As for me, I stand with those who stand for God's Word. I can do no other.
All verses are quoted from the ESV.
rev 100705 change Tom to Tod... oops.