Good and Pleasant

Day 242

Prayer for the day

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his mercy endures for ever.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 132-134, 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

“How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

What a beautiful (and true) sentiment the Psalmist proffers to the people of Israel. How beautiful it is when the people of God live together in unity. Unity is something that the modern Christian community has certainly sought, but also something that we’ve missed. We seek for unity, but we miss it so often.

The Psalmist encourages the Israelites by letting them know how important it is that they understand how they belong to one another, and that their love and care for each other actually pleases God. It’s not simply good for them, it’s not simply that it makes THEM happy, but their unity is a blessing to the nations around them, it is a blessing to them, and it glorifies the God they claim to serve.

Paul takes the concept of unity to a very specific point as he seeks to correct the excesses and inequalities present in the church in Corinth. Their problem had to do largely with their inability to recognize the inherent connection between all of them, the humility that required them to treat each other as they would want to be treated.

Jesus taught his disciples what we now call the Golden Rule, that we ought to treat others how we want to be treated, but Paul’s application of this principle takes a very severe turn as he chastises the Christians of Corinth for treating one another very poorly.

They had been eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper improperly, refusing to wait for the poorer and getting drunk and full before others could begin to eat because of their poverty.

Paul demands that they start to look at each other as Christ sees them, in the same boat, totally reliant on God for everything they are.

His words echo down to us today. May we glorify God in how we treat each other.

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What to do

Day 241

Prayer for the day

The LORD lives! Blessed is my Rock! Exalted is the God of my salvation!

Scripture for the day

Psalm 129-131, 1 Corinthians 11:1-16

1 Corinthians presents us with some of the most difficult-to-interpret instructions in the Second Testament. The Apostle Paul speaks about proper dress and behaviour in worship, desiring to teach the Christians in Corinth what the context of worship demands, what will please God.

Theologians, pastors, and other Christians have argued about whether Paul was simply describing a cultural norm and giving it theological rationale or whether he was giving a command for all time, prescribing exactly how Christians should always act regardless of culture.

While these conversations can be interesting, it remains that Paul’s main point is that he is seeking to follow Christ in his worship, that he is seeking to imitate Jesus. His call to the Corinthians is to imitate him as he does so. As long as Paul imitates Jesus, the Corinthians are supposed to mimic his action and speech. In this way they will learn to please God and worship him in the way God desires them to worship.

In imitating Paul, the Corinthians are able to see what worship looks like in their own context, by people who live where they do, people who look like them and pray like them and live like them.

The Psalms are largely a collection of a similar type of literature. In the Psalms today, we see directions on how the Israelites are to worship, what the Israelites are o do with this God they follow. They are to bow to him, put their trust in him, and order the entirety of their lives around his commands, desires, and love.

Like Paul, let us strive to imitate the god we serve. May those around us learn what it means to worship the God of the universe, and may God receive the glory.

Doing it all…

Day 240

Prayer for the day

Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 126-128, 1 Corinthians 10:10-33

Have you ever thought about your life? Really thought about it? About every aspect, every single thing that you do, and whether or not it has some sort of purpose?

For most of us, it’s easy to get caught up in the routine of our lives, easy to move through our days unthinking, unreflective.

The things that we do on a regular basis, the things that we do without thought…the scriptures tell us that everything has a purpose, that everything we do ought to have something to do with who we are and who we serve.

The Psalmist speaks of obedience. He says that it’s the true joy and blessing, that the greatest thing in life is to learn obedience to the commands of God.

The obedience he talks about, the way to true life, is resting secure in the life that God designs for us, a life that is bent to the will of God.

Paul talks about this life as a life of service to God through service to others. Paul’s understanding of the life devoted to God is that everything we do, every single thing we encounter and attempt in our lives, ought to be dedicated to the glory of God. The lives we live need to be not just dedicated, but fully surrendered to God’s service.

Every single thing we do, says Paul, is something that is surrendered to God, something that we’re doing to serve God in some way. We give thanks for the things that we eat, the things that we do, the things that we wear and see. And in that giving thanks, God’s glory is revealed.

May what we do and see and say bring glory and honour to our God as we seek to serve him through serving others.

Standing

Day 239

Prayer for the day

Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down; touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 123-125, 1 Corinthians 10:1-18

Some days you just want to give up. Some days it feels like it’d just be easier to throw in the towel than to stand up and stay up. And it’s rare, on those days, to be “bucked up” by self-help books or psychobabble. In those days, reading little books or watching movies don’t really help. There are few things that do help. There are few things that can offer comfort in the face of such hopelessness.

Yet both the Psalmist and the Apostle Paul speak regularly of the ability to stand up beyond what we think we’re able.

The Psalmist offers succour to the people of Israel, speaking of the comfort they receive even in the midst of difficulty. The relief, the comfort they connect with, is the comfort and trust they take in God. He says that they are made strong, made like rocks and fortresses, when they trust in their God. When they give themselves to God and surrender to his will and his ways, they are made firm, and are able to stand against both temptation and danger.

Paul echoes his (several thousand year) forbears by speaking of their difficulty and how the Corinthians are supposed to look to the experiences of the Israelites. The Christians in Corinth were supposed to look at how difficult the Israelites had it, how some of them stood firm in their faith and were honoured by God and how others were unfaithful and were destroyed. They were supposed to see those examples, and they were supposed to stand firm in the person of Jesus Christ. Paul says that this is the only way to stand firm.

What are you facing? Does it feel too difficult to stand? Have you thought about casting your cares on and placing your trust in Jesus?

All for the Gospel

Day 238

Prayer for the day

I will walk in the presence of the LORD in the land of the living.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 120-122, 1 Corinthians 9

There aren’t many people nowadays who would say that they do everything they do for the sake of the gospel. Sure, we might want to say that. We might even believe it’s true every once in awhile. But few of us actually believe it of our entire lives. Maybe that’s why Paul is such a polarizing figure. We think that somehow he must be lying, because nobody does EVERYTHING for the sake of the gospel. Paul must be putting on airs, talking himself up, and making himself look a lot better than he really is.

Yet Paul seems convinced that everything he does, all of his methods, all of his travel and all of his speaking, is directly linked to his love of the gospel, the good news, that Jesus Christ is king. He doesn’t take money for his preaching in order that no one would accuse him of any motive other than the preaching and love of the gospel. Paul is so committed that he has not insisted on his rights, not lived the way he wanted to live in order that people would hear, see, and believe.

The Psalmist may not have known the gospel of Jesus Christ, but sprinkled liberally throughout his writing is the same commitment to God. The things of this earth, as the song goes, have grown strangely dim when he looks upon the goodness of God and his law. The Psalmist recognizes that everything that he does, the life he lives, the songs he writes, the people he cares for and defends, all of it is in service to the God he serves.

May we have the temerity, the fortitude, and the dedication to say the same.

All

Day 237

Prayer for the day

O LORD our governor, how exalted is your Name in all the world.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 119:89-176, 1 Corinthians 8

It’s very easy to constrain our “spiritual life” to Sunday morning, particularly if we work in situations where God is not honoured. It’s easy to think of Sunday as “God day” and the rest of the week as “our time.”

This is not a new temptation. It’s part of the reason that Psalm 119 is written the way it is. Those weird squiggles that precede the different portions of scripture are Hebrew letters. Psalm 119 is an enormous acrostic poem, where each stanza begins with a new Hebrew letter until the entire Hebrew alphabet (alephbet) is used.

This accounts for the whole Hebrew language, and it is written this way to give us the sense that the law of God is all-encompassing. The law of God (the main focus of Psalm 119) is supposed to cover every aspect of life because the reign of God is supposed to cover every aspect of life. There is nothing in our lives that is exempt from the rule and care of God, and the Psalmist tries to reflect this even in the structure of his writing.

Paul, while not using the same structure as the Psalmist, certainly seeks to make the same point. He’s talked about marriage, he’s talked about singleness, he’s talked about what we drink and how we treat each other and now he touches on how the Corinthians care for one another with regard to eating meat sacrificed to idols. It may seem a silly argument to have, particularly when we read it from a 21st century vantage point, but the point remains in Paul’s mind and finds us several thousand years later: God is not a God only of the big ideas; God is a God of details. God wants an all-encompassing rule in order to bless us perfectly.

We have only to surrender and receive!

Undivided

Day 236

Prayer for the day

O LORD, my God, my Savior, by day and night I cry to you. Let my prayer enter into your presence; incline your ear to my lamentation.

Scripture for the day

Psalm 119:1-88, 1 Corinthians 7:20-40

Total Devotion. It’s what Paul has in mind when he gives his instructions about marriage and sexuality, about the current times and how best to serve God.

Many people have read 1 Corinthians and assumed that Paul was against marriage, or hated women, or despised the love of women. However, a close reading shows nothing of the sort. A close reading shows that Paul’s main concern, indeed Paul’s only concern, is purity of heart in relation to God. Paul’s concern is undivided devotion to the Lord.

He claims that our devotion is divided whenever we have other attachments. And he’s right. He says that we are not sinning if we marry or if we seek out marriage, but he makes the plain case that it’s difficult to assign your entire heart to God when some of it is held in reserve for spouse, children, or any other affection. His point is not to force divorce or chastity, but to encourage people to focus on what really matters: their love and care for God and his statutes.

Love and care for the law of God is what the Psalmist is all about. Even a quick read through the 119th Psalm (the longest in the Psalter) shows a deep and abiding care and love for the law of God. This kind of devotion is rare in Israel, rare in any who seek God, but it is particularly powerful because the Psalmist says these things in situations of pain and despair. The ability to say that one loves the law of God even as he is being punished is the mark of a heart devoted totally to God.

May we exemplify that devotion together!