Keeping Pure through God’s Words

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, November 9, 2017

Psa 119-9 young man, words

Keeping Pure through God’s Words

How to stay clean? Pure? Unblemished? The psalmist of Psalm 119 says it’s by reading God’s words. Paying close attention to what God’s words have to say.

The more Pharisaic part of me says, “Of course! That is what we all need to do. What we all should do!” (Notice the “we” in this statement. Almost as bad as “you.”) That’s the elder-brother part of me, the righteous, goody-two-shoes part. Or—is it the self-righteous, judgmental part?

Let’s look at the verse for today, verse 119:9 –

How does a young man cleanse his way?

By keep to Your words.

The version I am more familiar with talks about the psalmist keeping “his way pure.” Very similar wording. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, this is not “the question of an older person looking at the evils of youth. This question grows out of personal experiences of temptation and personal encounters with the Word of God.” [1] This is certainly from a young man (as evidenced by vv. 99-100 of this same psalm).

Ah, but I am willful and prone to wander. So often, I am determined to do it my way! I know I am a great example of the younger brother from the parable from Luke, the Prodigal. (At least, I was a great example, some years ago. I like to think I’ve cleaned up my act a little bit.) There is a part—an uncomfortably large part—of me that sticks out my lower lip, crosses my arms across my chest, and turns away. Pouting adolescent, much?

Ah, Pastor Bonhoeffer, I admit it. I admit I do not want to learn about life and guilt from personal experience. Yet, how can I not help it when I run off the rails sometimes? Yet, “in asking the question about the cleansing of his way, [our psalmist] acknowledges the sin that dwells within him. Otherwise he would not need to ask.” [2]

Yes, indeed. Like the psalmist, I badly need God’s help to stay clean. Only God can help both of us, me and the psalmist, deal with sin. (Maybe God can help you, too.) God and God’s words can lead us and give us grace, day by day. One day at a time. Thank You, Jesus!

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 114.

[2] Ibid, 115.

Trying to Keep God’s Statutes

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, November 9, 2017

Psa 119-8 keep statutes, bible

Trying to Keep God’s Statutes

As I return to the anthology of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s shorter writings, I was drawn up short by his reflections on Psalm 119:8 –

I will keep Your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Bonhoeffer is struck by the words “I will.” He does not want to misinterpret them, or especially to try to take or use those words in a perverse way. As he says, “We must first unlearn the way in which we say ‘I will’ before the Holy Spirit can teach us to say it in a new and right way.” [1]

Oh, you and I can twist and manipulate words and phrases in any number of ways. Especially through justifying our actions (either beforehand or after the fact) and making ourselves to look pure and guiltless. “In matters of piety, the ‘I will’ can cause the greatest harm: ‘I will be devout, I will be holy, I will keep the commandments.’” [2]

I know God understands my motives and (even) needs to justify myself, and cause myself to be viewed as the good guy. However, aren’t you—aren’t I fearful of separation from God, even when God might be angry with us? Isn’t using self-righteousness as a defensive weapon hurtful to our own insides? In particular, our spiritual and relational insides?

Plus, I know I am basically sinful. (Remember Romans 3:23—I just gave a mini-series from Romans for my sermons on the “Solas” of the Reformation for the month of October.) I thank God that I am accepted in His sight, and the Scripture is a great resource to assist me to follow God. So, we “pray for a steadfast heart that keeps itself in God’s commandments, and we know that this can only be achieved by grace.” [3]

Yes, following God’s statutes seems, at first glance, all about Law. Unflinching and rigid, Law comes down on the necks of those who attempt to follow it. However, we follow God’s ways because we want to be delivered from this burden and bankruptcy of the Law. Then, by a marvelous gift of God, everything is grace. God’s grace makes it all possible. It’s grace that frees us from the Law, “grace puts us on the way [of God], and it is grace for which we pray from step to step.” [4] Hallelujah, what a Savior.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 112.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid, 113.

[4] Ibid, 114.

Martin Luther and #Reformation500

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 29, 2017

Martin Luther stained glass

Martin Luther and #Reformation500

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran minister, theologian and seminary professor. I am not certain, but I suspect he might have been pleased to celebrate with much of the Protestant world this year. Celebrate what? Martin Luther and his posting of the 95 theses, of course.

Today is a festive day in the church. Reformation Sunday, the last Sunday in October every year when we remember the bravery and determination of Father Martin Luther, Professor of Theology at the University of Wittenberg in Germany. He was brave and determined for nailing up the 95 theses (or, grievances) against the Catholic Church on the door of the Wittenberg chapel on All Hallow’s Eve, October 31, 1517.

500 years! A huge anniversary, indeed. I care very much about this celebration. I was baptized and confirmed a Lutheran and spent two full years studying Luther’s Small Catechism in confirmation preparation. Yes, Martin Luther and his theology are important to me and to my personal history of faith.

I’ve preached on the five “Solas” (or, “onlies”) of the Protestant Reformation throughout the month of October. I started the month with Sola Scriptura, then Soli Deo Gloria on October 8th. Solus Christus on October 15th, Sola Gratia on October 22nd, and today—Reformation Sunday—my text was Romans 3:28, and I preached on Sola Fide. These phrases are the hallmarks of the Reformation! I was so pleased to research these important scriptural ideas and preach messages on them to commemorate such a foundational event.

The posting of the 95 Theses was not supposed to cause a rift in Christianity. No, Martin wanted to reform his beloved Church from the inside. However, due to many internal and some external reasons, it did not happen. Luther founded the denomination that bears his name to this day. (Also, several other streams of Protestants sprang forth at this turbulent time of the 1500’s. Sadly, many bloody battles were fought over religious and theological differences. This has not stopped today. However, new cries for ecumenism have been heard for the past few decades. After several hundred years of separation, now, at least, there are also calls for joining together.

Perhaps fractured Christianity might come closer together, in our time. One can dream. One can hope.

Let us pray, using the words of President Abraham Lincoln (adapted): “Grant, O merciful God, that with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as You give us to see the right, we may strive to finish the work we are in, to bind up the world’s wounds….to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all the world, through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

Thanks and Praise, and Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Monday, October 16, 2017

Psa 119-7 praise You, words

Thanks and Praise, and Psalm 119

Dietrich Bonhoeffer certainly has a way of coming straight to the point. In this series of meditations and commentary on the beginnings of Psalm 119, he does not pull punches. Regarding 119:7 –

I will thank You with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned Your righteous judgments.

Bonhoeffer begins, “How could one begin to give thanks to God and not concern oneself with His Word? What kind of thanks would be to receive the gifts but refuse the required obedience to the giver?” [1] How, indeed?

As Pastor Dietrich insists, we need to be immersed in the study of the divine Word. It is only in this way that we begin to understand what God wishes, how best to walk in God’s ways, and how to treat others as God would treat them.

It is after we have learned (or, are continuing to learn) God’s righteous judgments that we can come to God in thanksgiving. However, Bonhoeffer is quick to point out that “the thanksgiving of the world refers always to the self…. By giving thanks, one gains the satisfaction of feeling that the gifts received are now one’s rightful possession.” [2] How wrong-headed! What a way to self-inflate and self-delude.

Instead, we are to give thanks to God because we want to learn and know the things God has for us to do, and the ways in which God wants us to walk. Yes, we are still learning. Hopefully, you and I will continue to learn until life’s end. What a continuing road that is laid out, the road God has planned for us, aiding us to experience the righteousness God intends for each of us.

Dear God, thank You for the directions You have put in Your Word. Help me—help us to follow You more nearly and love You more dearly through regular study of the Bible. As Pastor Dietrich instructs us, help us to immerse ourselves in Your Word. Dear Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 110.

[2] Ibid, 111.

God’s Commands and Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Psalm 119 word cloud

God’s Commands and Psalm 119

It amazed me, some years ago, that Psalm 119 could have so many things to say about God’s Word, the Bible. It still amazes me. When I think that—at this time in the continuing writing of the Bible—there wasn’t all that much written at this particular stage or date, it amazes me still more. No New Testament at all (obviously). And, whole books in the Hebrew Scriptures that still weren’t composed, either.

Our author talks about being put to shame, in verse 6. (Rather, not being put to shame.) Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s take on that? “To be put to shame is the opposite of happiness. My life is ruined if that on which I relied collapses;” [1] Bonhoeffer mentions several sentences later that the world has absolutely no compunction at mocking one of its own. I know how difficult it can be to be laughed at and mocked today. I suspect it was just as painful and hurtful at the time of the writing of this Psalm, too.

Bonhoeffer’s understanding at how he is able to succeed? He mentions that he no longer regards “other human beings, honor, or possessions, but God’s commandments alone, then I will not be put to shame, because God’s commandments cannot fail.” [2]

Wow. Wow, again.

As you and I are putting our total faith and trust in God, Bonhoeffer reminds us that God’s power holds those commands fast. The God who made heaven and earth is the guarantor of the Word of God. The faithful, merciful God is the God who regards you and me as beloved children, too.

Dear Lord, gracious God, thank You for Your marvelous words. Thank You for causing Psalm 119 to be written down, and transmitted. Even for me and others across the world, who receive comfort and encouragement from this psalm’s straightforward words and actions.

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 109.

[2] Ibid.

@chaplaineliza

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

A Straight Way in Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, October 5, 2017

Psa 119-5 steadfast ways, bible

A Straight Way in Psalm 119

Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s devotional writing is often heartfelt, sometimes earnest. As I make my way through this anthology of briefer devotional writings, I am struck again and again by phrases used in a particularly apt way. Or, some word or phrase Bonhoeffer might mention convicts me—sneaking up on me in an unexpected manner.

It was that way with Bonhoeffer’s commentary on verse 5 of Psalm 119:

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

That I might keep Your statutes!

The first point he addressed was the difference between wishes and prayers. “One proceeds from our need as we ourselves understand it, the other proceeds from our need as God has taught us to see it. The one is desperate and demanding, the other is humble and confident.” [1] Ah, such a difference. Some might imagine it to be subtle. However, the more I think about it, the more I tend to think that needy people who wish for things might just be anxious and fearful, possibly oblivious of others, or angry with life—perhaps even secretly disappointed or angry with themselves.

Ah, but prayer? People who pray? Bonhoeffer contrasts these needy, desperate ones with humble people who request from God in confidence, with (some) patience, and above all, knowing that God’s ways are sure, direct and straight. What a contrast. What conviction sneaks up on my heart, knowing that I am—occasionally—a whiny brat, throwing a tantrum before my Heavenly Father. (Dear Lord, I am sorry. I really, really am. I will try my best to do better. Truly.)

But, wait! Bonhoeffer has more for us in this commentary! “Out of the crooked and twisted a straight way shall emerge, which is not ‘blocked and made crooked by human doctrine’ (Luther). God’s statutes alone remain firm, drawn up by Him for all times.” [2] Here he quotes from Martin Luther. Yes, faulty people can botch things up. Even well-meaning pastors and theologians can goof and get things wrong. If people keep their eyes on God’s Word, and search out God’s ways, then a straight path can emerge. It is not always easy, but it is almost always clearly marked.

Dear God, You so clearly mark the way I am to travel with You. Thank You for Your Word, Your statutes, and Your confidence that You offer so freely. Help me—help us all to receive Your Word with gratitude. Lord, in Your mercy, hear all of our prayers.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 107.

[2] Ibid, 108.

God’s Commandments in Psalm 119

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, October 1, 2017

Psa 119- 4-5 precepts, script

God’s Commandments in Psalm 119

I appreciate Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s words so much. His commentary on the beginnings of Psalm 119 hit home to me. We are considering verse 4:

You laid down Your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

I was particularly intrigued by his description of “the Hebrew word for ‘commandments’ in this verse. It is a word that cannot be translated by a single word of ours.” [1] I am fascinated by these types of words that cannot be translated, word-for-word. Instead, translators are forced to find approximate definitions and translations.

I appreciate the candor of some translators and commentators when they honestly state their difficulties in translation and interpretation. And, sometimes, a word in one language takes a phrase or even a sentence to define it in another language. (Again, I think this is fascinating!) The word translated as “commandments” is one such word, “that cannot be translated by a single word of ours. It derives from the verb for seeking, visiting, paying attention to. Hence, the commandments are what God looks at, pays attention to, and the means by which He seeks and visits the human being.” [2] (The NIV translation is “precepts,” which conveys much similar ideas.)

Bonhoeffer considered God’s commandment to be a permanent thing, in fact, a continual thing. As Bonhoeffer mentions, God’s commands are not just for an instant, or for a short period of time. No, they are for a good long time. What’s more, God “laid them down.” God established the commandments as one lays a cornerstone for a building.

What a marvelous image! God meant the commandments to be permanent, laid as a foundation or cornerstone. Thank You, God, for giving us the gracious gift of Your Scriptures—Your commandments.

@chaplaineliza

 

Like what you read? Disagree? Share your thoughts with your loved ones and continue the conversation.

Why not visit my companion blogs, “the best of” A Year of Being Kind.  #PursuePEACE. My Facebook page, Pursuing Peace – Thanks! And, read my sermons from Pastor, Preacher Pray-er

[1] Meditating on the Word, Dietrich Bonhöffer, edited by David McI. Gracie. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Cowley Publications, 2000, 106.

[2] Ibid.