My wonderful wife is a very frugal person about many things (good thing, because I’m more of a spendthrift- God knew what he was doing when he gave me her). This is evident in the way she handles toothpaste. She waits until every bit of toothpaste is squeezed out of that tube before she discards it and pulls out a new tube. Sometimes, just brushing my teeth turns into a session in strength training as I try to squeeze a blop of toothpaste onto my brush before I’m allowed to throw it away and she rewards me with a fresh and easy squeezy tube.
Lectio Divina* helps us to squeeze every drop out of the Bible. There is some benefit to reading quickly through the Bible. If you read about 4 chapters a day you can read through the entire Bible in a year. My Dad used to read the Bible straight through every year using a different translation. I’ve done that as well and there is benefit to doing that.
About 30 years ago I really ratcheted it up and spent 2 full weeks reading the Bible 8 hours a day and writing a brief summary of each chapter as I read. I was able to read the entire Bible Genesis to Revelation in 2 weeks. It was a great experience and showed me the “big picture” and full scope of God’s salvation plan that anticipated the coming of his Messiah and the fulfillment of his coming and the hope of his future return and the fullness of the Kingdom of God. Just absolutely wonderful! But as good as that way of reading the Bible can be, I want to also commend to you Lectio Divina- slow, deep reading… squeeze every drop out of a passage of scripture.
This week we’ve been going through Psalm 37. Let’s squeeze the tube a bit more today and see how much is still in there. Psalm 37:23-29
Read, Meditate, Pray, Rest in God.
1. Read slowly through the passage at least 3 times. Look for a word or phrase that speaks to you.
23 The Lord makes firm the steps
of the one who delights in him;
24 though he may stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
25 I was young and now I am old,
yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken
or their children begging bread.
26 They are always generous and lend freely;
their children will be a blessing.
27 Turn from evil and do good;
then you will dwell in the land forever.
28 For the Lord loves the just
and will not forsake his faithful ones.
Wrongdoers will be completely destroyed;
the offspring of the wicked will perish.
29 The righteous will inherit the land
and dwell in it forever.
For me, I chose thoughts from verse 23 and 26 “the one who delights in him [God]” and “their children will be a blessing.”
- Spend some time meditating upon the word or phrase you choose. For me, I recall that on Sunday I meditated on vs. 4 and what it means to delight in God. Here the Psalmist takes up that theme again and gives a kind of cause/effect relationship. The one who delights in God will produce children who will be a blessing.
In vs. 25 the psalmist says “I was young and now I am old…” He has lived long enough to gain some valuable perspective as he looks back on his life. According to my teenage children I’m also qualified as old. I guess when you’re 15 years old 55 seems ancient. I’m old enough to also be able to look back and gain some perspective about those things that truly matter in life.
Compared to many successful people I haven’t accomplished that much in my life. I didn’t invent Facebook like Mark Zuckerberg. I didn’t turn Apple into a multi-trillion dollar business like Steve Jobs. I didn’t change the retail world like Jeff Bezos with Amazon. I’ve never been elected president and I don’t have loads of money in the bank. I don’t pastor a 20,000 member Church and have a tv show like Joel Osteen and I don’t fly on private jets like Kenneth Copeland. I’ve been a youth pastor and pastored a few small churches. I served briefly as a missionary and Church planting pastor in England and didn’t have much success. I’ve managed to go to several colleges and gotten several academic degrees and passed the arduous process of becoming not only a pastor but a board certified chaplain and a certified spiritual director. I’ve helped a few people over 35 years of ministry. And every Sunday I preach and the rest of the week I visit the sick, needy and broken and share the love of Jesus with them. I hope that I live long enough and stay healthy enough to help a lot more people. I’ve got ideas for 3 books that I’m currently working on and getting ready to pursue a doctoral degree. I’m not ready to hang it up yet and want to stay active into my really old age. (I’d like to put in another 40 useful years of ministry).
With all that being said, what I feel best about in my life as I look back is continuing to delight in God. I haven’t done it perfectly to be sure, but I have managed to stay connected to God, even during dark times, even when I’ve wrestled with temptation, sin and guilt, I’ve remained connected to God and continued to delight in God. I’ve also stayed true to my promise to love my wife “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Trust me, I don’t take much credit for this because at times I’ve been a huge pain in the rear end to my wonderful wife. But even during my worst struggles, I remembered that I made a promise to God and to her and stuck with it (and to her credit, she has continued to be a loving and faithful wife, even when she didn’t like me very much because I was acting like a jerk). So I am blessed beyond measure and now enjoy the benefits of having gone through some rough times in marriage and find myself closer and more in love with my wife than I was nearly 35 years ago.
But the thing I take the most pride in is my children. A few of them are still home and are still works in progress, but I can say that the greatest blessing of my life and the thing I take the most joy and pride in is that I have tried as a Dad to point them toward delighting in God and following Jesus. At times I have failed miserably to be the kind of godly example that I wanted to be or should have been, but even when I’ve blown it I’ve tried to show them that God’s grace and mercy is there for us and not to give up on God.
Now most of my children are adults, several are married, several now have children of their own. I am able to see them in their various roles- one is himself a pastor, several lead worship in their churches, some have gone on mission trips, others sing in worship or teach classes and write devotions, and now they teach my grandchildren. All are good workers. They have become good people and I see them in their various churches and communities blessing others. That makes me very happy and very proud. This year at FUEL three of my sons were on the worship team, Joel was the worship leader who did a great job and even wrote worship songs to support the theme of FUEL, JJ was playing lead guitar with great skill and Jon was killing it on the drums. I couldn’t have been more pleased and more delighted to see them blessing others by helping lead them in worshipping and delighting in God.
So as I meditate upon this portion of Psalm 37, that’s what comes to mind for me. Even though I’m deeply flawed and have failed to do so much of what I may have hoped or dreamed I might do, I have given myself to delighting in God and I have been blessed by God with children who are now blessing others. If I accomplish nothing else in my life, I can know that I along with my wonderful wife who has done 99% of the hard work, have launched some tremendous blessings into the world.
That’s what emerged for me as I meditated upon this part of Psalm 37. What comes up for you as you chew on it?
- Spend some time in prayer. What questions do you have to bring to God that emerged from your meditation? Is there something you need to confess to God? Is there something you want to change in your life as a result of what you have read and meditated upon? Ask God what he wants you to know or do.
- Rest in God. After you speak to and listen to God, spend some time resting in God’s love and presence. Delight in God, God delights in you.
-Pastor Jeff Fletcher
*If you are unfamiliar with the Lectio Divina method of prayer/scripture study please refer back to the Sunday, August 11th devotion.