I’ve just finished an extended time of rest with my family and friends, away from the regular demands of ministry (and the rest of life, for that matter). One of the benefits of time away is the break it creates with normal routines. You have the luxury of space in your day. A slower pace. Unplanned and unhurried time, opening the way to new rhythms as you get some distance from how you’d been living, maybe in ways that weren’t healthy, sustainable, intentional, or enjoyable.
One of the greatest joys of my time of rest were daily appointments of communion with God that had no boundaries. I could just read his Word. I could just sit quietly, letting the RPMs of my mind cycle down to almost zero. I could just talk to him with a freedom flowing from an empty iCal.
This new rhythm revealed how unhealthy my regular, not-on-vacation rhythm of communion with God had become. Hurried. Distracted. Restless. Anxious. Bounded. Enter this morning, the dawn of a new day, Monday morning, post-vacation communion with God. A reading of and meditation upon Psalm 55. A Psalm that Alex Motyer titles “The Balanced Life.”
That’s God timing for you, folks.
In this Psalm, King David writes this:
“As for me,
I will call out to God,
and Yahweh himself will save me.
Evening and morning and noonday,
I will muse and murmur,
and he is sure to hear my voice.
In peace he has ransomed my soul from the battle I had…
The transcendent God will hear…”
(Psalm 55:16-19, Motyer’s translation)
See it there? The rhythm David discovered?
‘Evening and morning and noonday, I will muse and murmur…’
That, my friend, is a rhythm, and a healthy one at that. Unbounded—David isn’t relegating his praying and his pursuing to any one portion of the day; rather, he will enter into communion with his Father throughout the day. He is confident that God will hear his voice, God himself will save.
That’s so good.
But it’s worth thinking about this further. Digging a little deeper. Alex Motyer offers this ‘Pause for Thought’ in his daily devotional of the Psalms. I quote it at length, because its that helpful. And it is my prayer that it will help you in your pursuit of our Father, in the name of the Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Regularity, setting specific times apart for prayer—and keeping to them in a disciplined way—is something the Bible encourages. We all find the story of Daniel’s practice in prayer moving to read (see Daniel 6:10). How, in spite of the king’s foolish, self-glorifying edict, he went to his upper room, with its windows towards Jerusalem, and knelt down three times a day. We sense not only the old man’s yearning heart for the city of God, but his confidence in prayer and his commitment.
I wonder if Daniel had caught the vision of the threefold discipline from Psalm 55:17, ‘evening and morning and noonday’? How to end one day, and begin another; how to stop in the middle of a busy life and turn to God.
Isaiah made a forecast that the Servant of [Yahweh]—Jesus—would practice the discipline of what we used to call ‘the morning watch’ (see Isaiah 50:4), and Mark 1:35 records an occasion when he did just that. In Acts 3:1 we find Peter and John keeping the statutory hour of prayer, the ninth hour, and the devout Cornelius testifies to the same prayer discipline (see Acts 10:30).
Should we be ‘evening, morning, and noon’ people? The answer is, ‘Why not?’
Two truths are important before we make excuses about the busyness of life today. First, prayer is a simple thing, not necessarily prolonged (see Matthew 6:7-8), and secondly, none of the passages we have referred to says anything about the time when we pray or for what length of time. As soon as we think of starting the day with God, our minds begin thinking about four or five a.m. or some other unearthly hour—because we read somewhere that some great prayer-warrior was always up and about by then!
‘Setting aside time’ means just that—doing what is possible for us within our God-given day and our God-given abilities.
Time to read a verse of the Bible; time to call upon God.
And here’s a final thought: Psalm 55 begins with prayer (Psalm 55:1) and ends with trust (Psalm 55:23). If we say we are those who trust, those who are saved by faith, then a primary way this shows itself is to balance life’s demands with life’s prayers.
(Alex Motyer, Psalms by the Day: A New Devotional Translation, p. 147, paragraphing and emphasis mine)
Turn your ear, O God, to my prayer,
and do not hide yourself from my plea for grace.
And, for my part, [O God],
I keep trusting in you.
We Are Calvary
To say that we live in times of rapid change may be the very height of understatement. Our culture, and its norms, is changing at an unprecedented rate, making it increasingly challenging for the church to remain relevant—and faithful—in proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God, in a way that will bring about the expansion of that kingdom.
This past Sunday we (finally) made it out of the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, and stepped into the Return from Exile of the people of God. Our first look into this aspect of the redemptive drama comes via three courageous servants of Yahweh—Zerrubabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah. There story is found in the book of Ezra-Nehemiah (although our English Bibles separate them, through the centuries the Jewish people have always treated them as one book; so we will too.)
Especially When You Don't Feel Like It
Sunday is just about my favorite day of the week (“just about”…because my day off each week, our family’s Sabbath Saturday, is a tie or really close second). I love getting up that morning, making my smoothie, sitting in my favorite chair in our fireplace room, and pulling my Bible onto my lap. I relish the time spent listening to my Father speak, and I delight in those moments spent talking with him about the morning’s ministry, the people in our gathering that I hope he will transform, as well as the eleven other pastors (and their congregations) on whom I pray his blessing every Sunday.
This past Sunday we completed our journey through the weighty, dark, somber, and serious writings of the Prophets of the Exile, focusing our study on Ezekiel. We discovered in Ezekiel a book filled with dark visions and confrontational language. And one of the visions (probably the central, controlling metaphor of the book) Ezekiel presents is Israel as a beautiful bride who turns against her bridegroom, God, and breaks all the stipulations of her covenant.
Day Thirty: Vistas of Wisdom
I am very near the end of this little writing experiment called “31 Proverbs.” While I’m unsure how helpful it has been to how ever many have read it, I know that the process of sitting down six days each week to read, ponder, and then ponder some more by plunking on a keyboard has helped me grow in my understanding of wisdom.
Day Thirty-Two: A Mother's Wisdom (part two)
Yesterday, we heard from what was likely King Solomon’s mother imparting worthy words of wisdom in the area of leadership. For the sayings of wisdom we find here are those “which his mother taught him” (Proverbs 31:1). And she now turns her attention to the search for a woman of virtue and noble character, suitable to be a wife and mother.
Day Twenty-Nine: Please—Quietly Hold Your Tongue
Anger. noun. “a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility.” (New Oxford American Dictionary) As I entered day twenty-nine of Proverbs this morning, and came to 29:11, it struck me that this book has quite a bit to say about anger, strife, wrath, quarreling, fights, and rage. It is a theme that Solomon keeps coming back to, probably because he knows that it is a theme woven through humanity and history. Sometimes the best way to see a theme is to pull on that string so all the wisdom he has offered comes together for our observation. The accumulation helps us feel the weight of it.