Category Archives: Uncategorized

Instruct Me in God’s Laws?

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Thursday, December 7, 2017

Psa 119-12 teach me, words

Instruct Me in God’s Laws?

When I read this brief comment on Psalm 119:12, I sat back and thought about it for a while. Let’s get the verse in front of us, so we can see what Bonhoeffer is talking about.

Blessed are You, O Lord;

Instruct me in Your statutes.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer says, “Does the ‘I,’ which is so noticeably repeated in these psalm verses, signify preoccupation with the self in self-criticism and self-justification?” [1] I do not know about that. What I recognize is that the Psalms are one of the most personal and emotional books in the Bible. I always appreciated the fact that the different psalm writers had no problem expressing deep (and sometimes troubling) emotions.

I have never thought of this specific idea before. Does the psalmist have some hyper-sensitive preoccupation with the self? (I mean, unhealthy preoccupation. I am not talking about a normal self-concept here.) That is a fascinating idea, and one that is new to me. I simply cannot answer that right now.

However, I can agree with the psalmist and with Bonhoeffer on his other striking insight. “In blessing God, we confess what we have received. In making our request of God, we confess our poverty.” [2] Oh, my. I know very well how poor I am. I need God’s instruction, God’s wisdom, and especially God’s help. What can I do, but pray?

Gracious God, source of all wisdom, thank You for these words. Thank You for this psalm. Continue to impress these verses on my heart and mind. Please, Lord, help me to follow Your statutes and laws. I thank and praise Your blessed name, Lord. All glory be to You. Amen.

@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, 118.

[2] Ibid.

Treasure God’s Word in My Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Friday, December 1, 2017

Psa 119-11 hidden Your word, Bible

Treasure God’s Word in My Heart

We come to a verse that I memorized very early in my work of Scripture memorization. As I still remember Psalm 119:11, “Thy Word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee.” (The first number of verses I memorized came from the King James version of the Bible. A lovely, poetic version, but not always the most understandable.)

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer writes on this verse, he translates it “I treasure Your promise in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” Similar content, slightly different translation of the first section. Slightly different imagery, but still an awesome verse. I think this has been one of my favorite verses—and concepts—from the Hebrew Scriptures that I have ever committed to memory.

I absolutely agree with Bonhoeffer. Straight off, he says “I do not treasure God’s promise in my understanding but in my heart. It is not to be analyzed by my intellect but to be pondered in my heart.” [1] Yes, theological concepts can be analyzed. Certain weightier sections of Scripture benefit from a careful, clinical study. However, the psalmist here states plainly enough that God’s word needs to be pondered, and hid—or treasured in one’s heart.

How deeply do I need to allow God’s Words to penetrate into my innermost being? Bonhoeffer says “It must penetrate deep within us, dwell in us, like the Holy of Holies in the Sanctuary, so that we do not sin in thought, word, or deed.” [2]

Oh, dear Lord…those words of Pastor Bonhoeffer convict me to the heart. I am not even thinking of any specific sin, or shortcoming, or place where I need to mend my ways. However, I know that I very much need God’s Word in my heart. Oh, boy, do I need it!

While this verse is one of my all-time favorites, yet, it also convicts me. I hesitate, even, before allowing it onto my internal radar screen. Dear Lord, gracious God, help me to follow You more nearly and love You more dearly. Encourage me to hide Your word in my heart, because I do not want to sin against You, and do things (or think or say things) that displease You and even make You angry. Dear Lord, forgive my falling away, and my falling short. In Jesus’ precious, powerful name I pray, amen.

@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, 117.

[2] Ibid.

Seeking God with a Whole Heart

Matterofprayer: A Year of Everyday Prayers – Sunday, November 26, 2017

Psa 119-10 all my heart, hillside

Seeking God with a Whole Heart

This verse in Psalm 119 and its accompanying commentary by Dietrich Bonhoeffer really made me think. Of course, many of these from this Psalm strike home, and challenge me to strive to follow God more nearly and love God more dearly. However, this particular verse talks of following God “with my whole heart.” Here’s the whole of Psalm 119:10.

With my whole heart I seek You;

let me not stray from Your commandments.

When I think about following God with my whole heart, then I am striving to commit my life truly to the following of God. As Bonhoeffer says, “For with half a heart we might be seeking an idol, but never God Himself.” [1] If I only give half of myself—or even less of my attention, love, or service—to God, that is an extremely poor excuse of a gift to give to my Creator, my Shepherd, and my Savior. How could I even think to give a shoddy gift like that to my God?

Sadly, I am afraid I give that kind of gift to God on a regular basis…

I am surprised God doesn’t strike me down with a thunderbolt from heaven, for the really awful gifts I do end up giving to God. When I even think of giving gifts at all…

Dear Lord, I am sorry. I know I owe You so much more. As Bonhoeffer says, “If we are responding to God’s Word we will say ‘I seek You with my whole heart.’” [2] Gracious God, help me to seek You every day in such a way. You want nothing else from me but to seek You, to be in Your presence, and to rest in You. Help me to be constant and consistent in seeking You, Lord. So help me, God.

@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, 116.

[2] Ibid.

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.