Friday, August 31, 2007

Random Thoughts


1 Kings 5:1-6:1, 7
Today I noted verse 5, a part of the message that Solomon sent to King Hiram of Tyre. “So I intend to build a house for the name of the Lord my God, as the Lord said to my father David, ‘Your son, whom I will set on your throne in your place, shall build the house for my name.’” The house that Solomon intended to build was not for God, but for the name of God. The temple, then, would not be understood to contain God, but would point to God and to Israel’s relationship with God. (Later when Isaiah saw God in the temple, the hem of God’s robe filled up the space and the vision seemed to spill over into the heavenly court.)

Acts 28:1-16
I took comfort from verse 15. “The believers from there, when they heard of us, came as far as the Forum of Appius and Three Taverns to meet us. On seeing them, Paul thanked God and took courage.” Again, the Christian faith is seen to be a corporate faith, one that creates communities and relationships, not an individual faith that can be practiced in isolation. Paul, who himself had offered encouragement to those on the ship, now receives encouragement himself. The main reason that we gather to worship on a regular basis is to praise God, but one of the effects is mutual support and accountability. Even Paul needed to know that others were standing with him.

Mark 14:27-42
Verse 36 is poignant. “(Jesus) said, ‘Abba, Father, for you all things are possible; remove this cup from me; yet, not what I want, but what you want.’” Jesus, at a moment of real crisis, a time of personal torment, is able and willing to express his preference for a different outcome, but to also turn his life over to God. This is a part of Jesus’ perfect obedience that we talk about. That doesn’t mean that Jesus always liked what he was called to do, but he was willing to do it anyway and to trust God in the process. Incidentally, it is very appropriate for us to express our concerns to God, to badger and pester ever, but our effort should be to do God’s will, even when we disagree or don’t understand.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Random Thoughts


1 Kings 3:16-28
What a great story! What Debbie and I commented on this morning is that neither of us remembered that the two women were prostitutes. And yet, as low in society as they were, they had access to Solomon’s counsel. The story also has that great moment when the real mother offers to give up the child rather than see it killed, which provides Solomon with all the evidence he needed.

Acts 27:27-44
Verse 35 is interesting. “After (Paul) had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat.” Paul was not celebrating the Lord’s supper per se, but notice the words that are used. Paul “took bread”, offered “thanks to God”, “broke” the bread, and began to eat. Very similar to accounts of the Lord’s supper. And clearly Paul is mindful of God’s presence in the events transpiring around him. But every meal we eat should remind us of the Lord’s supper and of God’s gracious love for us made manifest in Jesus Christ.

Mark 14:12-26
Verses 18 and 19 struck me this morning. “And when they had taken their places and were eating, Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.’ They began to be distressed and to say to him one after another, ‘Surely, not I?’” Only Judas had formed any intent at this point to betray Jesus, but all of the disciples were “distressed” that it might be they of whom Jesus was speaking, and so none of them, according to Mark, denied Jesus’ assertion very strongly. Our sinful nature leads us to this situation, to the point that we realize what we are capable of, even betrayal against God’s will and purpose. If we are honest we’ll recognize our potential to turn away from God. But we will also recognize God’s grace and mercy in forgiving and loving us nonetheless.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wisdom and Encouragement


1 Kings 3:1-15
Verse 9 struck me today. “Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?” This was the request that Solomon made to God, the wisdom necessary to govern well. I hope (or wish) it is the prayer of all those who govern or who seek to govern. Humility before God and all people and the wisdom necessary to recognize good from evil can make a huge difference in the quality of governance in any nation. Perhaps we should offer this prayer ourselves for those who govern us or who seek elected office, especially at this time when our nation is as divided as it is. May God bless our leaders with the wisdom to know right from wrong, and the humility to govern fairly.

Acts 27:9-26
Paul encouraged the passengers and crew of the ship on which he was sailing as they endured a horrific storm at sea. “So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that is will be exactly as I have been told” (verse 26). This is sort of a counterpoint to story of the stilling of the storm as told in the gospels. In that case Jesus caused the wind and waves to cease while marveling at how little faith the disciples had. In this case, Paul displays faith in God even though the storm continues unabated. In our stormy lives it would do us well to trust God to do exactly what God has promised. (This will be our primary text for worship tonight, and I plan to use it conjunction with one of the gospel texts on the stilling of the storm. We'll see how it goes.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Crossing the Kidron, Tee Shirts, etc.


1 Kings 1:32-2:46
Admittedly this passage sounds like something out of a Godfather movie, with all of Solomon’s enemies being killed off, one by one. But I have always been fascinated by one detail in particular. In 1:37 Solomon tells Shimei, “on the day you go out, and cross the Wadi Kidron, know for certain that you shall die…” The reasons for this are immaterial. What is interesting is that according to John 18:1, “After Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron valley to a place where there was a garden…”, and shortly thereafter Judas betrays Jesus. I can’t believe that it is a coincidence that in each case crossing the Kidron means death. For Shimei or Jesus to have remained in Jerusalem would have meant protection. It seems Jesus knew that leaving Jerusalem meant making himself vulnerable, that like Shimei, he would be killed by the authorities. As to the rest of the passage in 1 Kings, Solomon was doing what kings did to secure their power and to tighten their grasp on the throne.

Acts 26:24-27:8
I focused on 1:29 this morning. “Paul replied, ‘Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.’” Three things strike me here. One is that even in bondage Paul speaks of the true freedom found in Jesus Christ. Secondly, Paul understands that God alone can accomplish the transformation of lives. Paul might be a part of the process, but God is the one who will bring it about. And thirdly, while Paul might have used his circumstances to plead for mercy or to try to escape imprisonment—which might have happened had he played his cards right—he instead uses this opportunity to proclaim the gospel to an ever extending range of people.

Mark 13:28-37
Today I underlined verse 37, “And what I (Jesus) say to you I say to all: Keep awake.” It reminds me of a tee-shirt I saw a long time ago that said, “Be alert. The world needs more lerts.” Actually, I think Jesus’ words are an interesting way to express the gospel. Keep awake. Pay attention. Take nothing for granted. Be actively engaged in the work of the kingdom, because that is what God’s people are to do. It is impossible to be a static Christian. To be a Christian is to be at attention, to be busy. Like the bumper sticker says, “Faith is a verb.” To relax, to doze off is to miss one’s calling in the faith. Or to put it another way, be a disciple of Christ, the world needs more Christians.

Monday, August 27, 2007

God's Help in Times of Struggle


There is an idea at work in the 1 Kings and Acts passages that provides comfort when we reach the words in the Mark passage.

1 Kings 1:1-31
Verse 29 says, “The king [David] swore, saying, ‘As the Lord lives, who has saved my life from every adversity…’” David readily recognizes God’s presence in his life during times of turmoil and struggle, and also recognizes that it was by God’s grace that he has survived. No matter what the challenge, be it Saul’s attempts to kill him, or Absalom’s treason, or any other event, God has been with David as a source of strength and comfort, and so, near the end of his life, David can describe God as the one who has brought him through “every adversity.”

Acts 26:1-23
Paul, on trial before King Agrippa, made a similar claim saying (in verse 22), “To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great…” Looking back on his life Paul knew that it was by God’s grace that he had accomplished what he had, that God had preserved him in times of challenge and struggle. This confidence motivated him as he looked toward the future and what might await him. Paul is not afraid.

Mark 13:14-27
Confidence in times of struggle is something to which Christians should lay claim. According to Jesus, “in those days there will be suffering, such as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now…” Being a Christian does not remove struggle from one’s life. Struggle, adversity, difficulty are never completely removed from the life of the believer. Whatever the truth about Mother Teresa and her faith, it is clear that she faced times of doubt and conflict. We all do. Jesus seems to promise nothing less. But David and Paul each knew what we must hold on to, that in God is our ultimate deliverance, that, in the words of the psalmist, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth (Psalm 121:2).” When we face times of trial, we may lean on God’s grace and providence for help.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Finding God in David and Jesus


2 Samuel 18:19-33
Maybe it’s because I am a father, or maybe it’s because I have recently witnessed a father grieving at the death of his son; whatever the reason, I find a great poignancy in these verses today. David’s grief at the death of Absalom, despite Absalom’s treachery, is touching. For me, though, the real poignancy of David’s grief lies in it’s resonance with the grief that God suffers, not in the death of Jesus––though that surely grieved God as Father––but in the disobedience that we, God’s people, continue to demonstrate. In this context then, David’s words in verse 33 become a foreshadowing of God’s actions in Jesus Christ: “Would I had died instead of you…” That’s exactly what God does in the crucifixion.

Mark 12:13-27
Verses 24 and 27 struck me today: “Jesus said to them, ‘Is not this the reason you are wrong, that you know neither the scriptures nor the power of God?…He is God not of the dead, but of the living; you are quite wrong.’” The argument in this passage is about a very minor point in relation to the resurrection. Jesus quashes the conversation by claiming that his opponents are not well-informed about scripture or about the power of God. God is not at work in the minutia of arcane debate, but in the daily miracles of life and the grace that we experience. If we really paid attention to what God was doing we would not worry about issues such as this one (to whom will a woman be married in the resurrection?) but would rejoice and live in love and in community with God and with one another.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007



The readings today all have something to do with authority and what it is that motivates people to act one way or another.

2 Samuel 18:9-18
David had strictly forbidden anyone to harm Absalom, even thought Absalom was in open conflict with his father. But Joab, hearing that Absalom was stuck in a tree, took matters into his own hands and participated in killing the young man. He was doing the thing that made the most sense. A lot of societies and nations believe that traitors should die for their crimes, for putting the society or nation at risk, for turning their backs on those who trust them. And Absalom was a traitor, no mistake about it. But the king’s will was different from the “common sense” action, and here, I believe, David mirrors the actions of God in like circumstances, which is to say that David sought a different course of action, one that put him at odds with “common sense.” I think that doing God’s will can often put us on the side opposed to “what makes sense” to the world. That’s why it requires so much courage.

Acts 23:12-24
A group of 40 Jews wanted to murder Paul and so took an oath not to eat or drink until they had accomplished the task. This act of what they considered to be devotion to God would have put them at odds the Roman civil government. But it also put them at odds with the will of God. In our desire to see things done “right” we sometimes assume that we know God’s will, even if we don’t, or worse, that God would agree with our actions because there are the right thing to do. What is needed is patience on our part and hearts that are attentive to God’s voice so that we can understand what God is up to and not work against it.

Mark 11:27-12:12
In this reading, the issue of authority is spelled out unambiguously. The people who believe they represent God are unable to recognize the one who has been sent by God. For them, authority is about power and control. For Jesus, authority is about healing, saving, and calling. Authority for Jesus is about service. It is about sharing. It is about recognizing God’s love and compassion for all people and acting in accordance with it. The tenants believed they could control the vineyard, and they used all mean necessary to do so. But in the end there would be no way to escape the true authority of God as the creator of the vineyard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Keeping Focus

There is a lot of preoccupation in the readings today, a lot of issues that kept folks from focusing on God and God’s work in the world.

2 Samuel 14:21-33
The relationship between Absalom and David rivals the plots of most daytime soap operas. Burning the field of Joab in order to get the man’s attention strikes me as harsh. But it worked, and Absalom finally got an audience with his father. If Absalom had spent half that energy and imagination seeking God’s will in his life, think what he could have accomplished. But instead he was preoccupied with other matters.

Acts 21:15-26
The elders in Jerusalem warned Paul about the reputation he had developed among those who might try to do him harm. It was said that Paul led Jews away from the law of Moses. The elders suggested that Paul participate in a rite of purification so as to demonstrate his righteousness and disprove the rumors. Had the people of Jerusalem concentrated on what God was doing in Paul, think of what could have been accomplished. But instead they were preoccupied with other matters.

Mark 10:17-31
The man who approached Jesus and asked how to inherit eternal life was saddened by what Jesus told him. “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (v. 21). According to Mark, “When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions” (v. 22). In other words he was preoccupied with what he had and was unable to focus on his relationship with God and with others.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

God's Will Be Done

Acts 21:1-14
I think verse 14 sets a theme of sorts for the readings this morning. Paul was insisting on going to Jerusalem even if it meant imprisonment or death. Verse 14 says, “Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, ‘The Lord’s will be done.’” Sometimes that’s all we can say. Sometimes that’s all we know to do. Jesus taught his disciples these words as a part of what we call the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We pray, we lift up our concerns to God, we work hard for what we believe to be right, but in the end we have faith that things will be done according to the divine desire.

2 Samuel 14:1-21
This is a somewhat confusing passage, to be perfectly honest. But the bottom line is this. Because of Absalom’s actions (murdering his half-brother Amnon because Amnon had raped Absalom’s sister Tamar) David was not sure if he should accept Absalom back into his life. Those around him, however, including Joab and “a wise woman” from Tekoa, conspire to convince David to reach out to Absalom. My question would be, where is the will of God in all of this? And frankly, I don’t know. But Those around David are acting out of strong convictions; they believe in what they are doing and believe that it is for the best. Until the will of God is made manifest, they are not remaining idle. Do they risk being at odds with God’s will? Yes. Does that make it wrong to act? No. God calls us each to use all our skills and talents as best we can, and our ability to reason and to comprehend events is a gift from God, too. In the end, things will get much worse between David and Absalom, but in the mean time, there are those who believe that reconciliation is the best path to take.

Mark 10:1-16
Here is another tricky passage that needs careful consideration. Jesus answered a question about divorce by saying that anyone who puts away a wife and marries another commits adultery against her (and vice versa). In verse 9 Jesus says, “Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” In other words, “The Lord’s will be done.” Does this mean that divorce is a sin or that it should not be allowed among Christians? I would suggest that it is God’s will that those who marry should do so with every intention of remaining married. I believe that it is God’s will that all people should seek to live in faithful covenant, being accountable to one another and putting the needs of others first (loving our neighbors as ourselves—and who is more of a “neighbor” than a spouse?). But all human institutions are prone to sin, marriage among them. In the case that Jesus was addressing, men were divorcing their wives and essentially leaving them uncared for and without any recourse. It was a cruel thing to do in that day and age. But most churches recognize that mistakes are made, that relationships may become broken beyond the human capacity to repair, that sometimes it is necessary for a couple to divorce in order for each of them to seek a fuller, more joyful life. This is not exactly what Jesus was talking about. But the fact remains, God blesses the covenant of marriage, and when it is treated with respect and with care marriage is a tremendous blessing for those who enter in to it. God’s will would be for all marriages to be so loving and mutually respectful. When they aren’t, however, it may be necessary for the couple to seek healing and wholeness by stepping apart.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

God Can Use Anybody!


Today's readings help to prove, over and over agian, that God can use anybody to accomplish the devine will.

2 Samuel 11:1-27
When the people of Israel had first pressed God to establish a king for them, Samuel warned them what it would mean. Among other things he told them that a king would take their young men and their young women to do as he wished (1 Samuel 8). This chapter shows David doing exactly that. Verses 1 and 2 show David sending his army under command of Joab out to fight, “In the spring of the year, the time when kings go out to do battle.” Then comes the unseemly story of David and Bathsheba, the wife of Uriah the Hittite. Samuel’s words have come true. And according to verse 27, “the thing that David had done displeased the Lord.” David might have had authority over his people, to require their service as he saw fit, but God remained truly sovereign, and David would be held accountable.

Acts 19:11-20
Verse 11 says that “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul…” My first thought was whether there is such a thing as an “ordinary miracle”. But disregarding that odd turn of phrase it seems clear that, as God did with David, an adulterer, so God could do with Paul, a man who had persecuted the church, and that is to accomplish God’s will. God constantly works through the most unlikely of folks: a shepherd who stutters; a reluctant prophet who runs in the other direction; a dresser of sycamore tress; a young girl about to be married; and many others. David and Paul are just two among many who find themselves enabled to serve God despite their failings or their sinfulness. We, too, have our roles to play, despite our sinful condition and despite our failings.

Mark 9:2-13
Even thick-skulled disciples like Peter, James, and John have a role to play in the coming reign of God. Why do I say they are thick-skulled? Verse 10 says, “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.” Jesus had revealed to these three disciples that his identity would only become clear in his crucifixion and resurrection. But they simply did not understand. Still, it was with folks like Peter, James, and John, that the early church took shape and began the spread of the gospel throughout the world, a phenomenon that continues to this day.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Word of God


There is a connection running through most of the readings having to do with the word of God as opposed to the words of people.

Psalm 12
Language is a powerful tool, both positively and negatively. Verses 3 and 4 say, “May the Lord cut off all flattering lips, the tongue that makes great boasts, those who say, ‘With our tongues we will prevail; our lips are our own—who is our master?’” It reminded me of a song by the band the Police from many years ago:

Poets, priests and politicians
Have words to thank for their positions
Words that scream for your submission
And no one's jamming their transmission

The writer of the song has his own opinions about the use of words. While I somewhat resent having clergy types lumped in with politicians, I understand the point. Words are important and those who use words should do so with great care. After all it was by the divine word that God created the universe and by the same word pronounced it “good.” The church should be very careful in how it uses language, making sure that the messages we convey are what God would have us say, not our own ideas, and that our words help to build community and not drive people apart.

2 Samuel 7:18-29
In verse 28, David points to the authority of God’s word, “And now, O Lord God, you are God, and your words are true…” David looks forward to God fulfilling the divine promise. He concludes in verse 29 by saying, “For you, O Lord God, have spoken, and with your blessing shall the house of your servant be blessed forever.” God’s words are a source of blessing. God’s words can be trusted. God’s words should stand at the center of all we do as God’s people.

Acts 18:12-28
Verse 26 says, “but when Priscilla and Aquilla heard him (Apollos), they took him aside and explained the Way of God to him more accurately.” Here, words are shown to be a powerful tool in the hands of God’s people to educate and inform, to correct and to encourage. But the words that Priscilla and Aqilla used were the words of God. (Apollos, too, was very adept at using the word of God to spread the gospel.)

Mark 8:22-33
Here we see the Word of God––in this case Jesus Christ, God’s Word made flesh–– active in other ways. As the Word of God, Jesus heals a blind man and teaches the disciples.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Tents, Houses, and Yeast


2 Samuel 7:1-17
When David aspires to build a temple for the ark of the covenant God intervenes through the voice of the prophet Nathan. The last part of verse 11 says, “Moreover the Lord declares to you that the Lord will make you a house.” There is a bit of a pun involved, of course. David was going to build a “house” for the ark, but instead God will build a “house” or dynasty for or of David. Perhaps David wanted the glory of a grand temple to reflect on his kingship. God reminds him that whatever David achieves will be according to God’s will and will not be a product of his own efforts alone. Yesterday in my sermon I encouraged us to rely more on God and less on our own abilities (or anything else). Here is a good example. David needed to be patient and let God be God and to trust what God would do.

Acts 18:1-11
Verse 3 tells us what Paul (and Priscilla and Aquila) did for a living. “Paul went to see them, and, because he was of the same trade, he stayed with them, and they worked together—by trade they were tentmakers.” I don’t know about other denominations, but when a Presbyterian minister serves a church part-time and works in a secular job as well it is called a “tent-making ministry.” Paul was clearly an industrious fellow who worked hard. But he did not compartmentalize his life. Whether he was making a tent or arguing in the synagogue, Paul was always a Christian at work for the coming kingdom. We would do well to carry our Christian identity with us wherever we go and not try to leave it at the church door.

Mark 8:11-21
In verse 15 Jesus says, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” According to the Oxford Annotated Study Bible the yeast of the Pharisees is hypocrisy and the yeast of Herod is worldliness and irreligion. The point is to beware of those ideas or mindsets that will have an impact on all of one’s life, the way a little yeast causes the entire loaf of bread to rise. As Christians our yeast should be the love of God which in turn should affect everything that we do whether we are “tent making” or gathered for worship.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Random Thoughts


Psalm 88
This lament is so desperate that it reminds me of a song they used to sing on the old TV show, Hee-Haw.
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
Deep dark depression, excessive misery
If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all
Gloom, despair, and agony on me
There is a difference, though. The song from Hee-Haw expresses a complete lack of hope (and finds humor in the exaggerated level of misfortune). But the Psalmist, while showing no overt hope, is actually demonstrating confidence in what God can do, and is addressing God in an effort to find relief. “Every day I call on you, O Lord; I spread out my hands to you.” (v. 9) “But I, O Lord, cry out to you; in the morning my prayer comes before you.” (v. 13) The Psalmist is in desperate need of healing, but knows from where than healing comes and can envision a day when the healing will arrive.

2 Samuel 5:1-12
Verse 12 says, “David then perceived that the Lord had established him king over Israel, and that he had exalted his kingdom for the sake of his (God’s) people Israel.” A minister friend of ours says that his sense of call has always been seen best in hindsight, reflecting back on where he has been and seeing the hand of God at work. The same might be said of David who, in this passage, seems to have reflected on what had happened, his anointing by the people of Israel thus uniting Israel and Judah under his kingship, his successful conquest of Jerusalem, and the recognition he received from other kingdoms, and recognized the hand of God at work, not just for David’s sake, but for “the sake of his (God’s) people Israel.”

Acts 17:1-15
Verse 6 quotes the leaders of a mob in Thessalonica as saying, “These people who have been turning the world upside down have come here also…” Wow! When was the last time Christians were seen to be turning the world upside down? When was the last time we were known to be so revolutionary? Maybe it’s time that the church made a concerted effort to get back to what the Thessalonians accused us of! Maybe its time to let go of the way the world does things and began to live in accordance with God’s claim on our lives.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

The Orientation of the Heart


Mark 7:1-23
The gospel lesson for today really set the tone in helping me to appreciate the other two readings. Verses 21-23 say, “For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within and they defile a person.” In other words, your intentions or the orientation of your living are what determine your cleanliness before God, not the ritualized practices of religion. Some Pharisees felt that as long as they followed the letter of the law they would be exempt from the spirit of the law. Jesus said that what a person does with his or her life is what determines cleanliness.

2 Samuel 4:1-12
So here is an example of what Jesus was saying in Mark. Rechab and Baanah murdered Saul’s son Ishbaal as he lay on his couch and brought the head to David expecting a reward. But David renounced their actions. If he had killed an Amalakite (2 Samuel 1:15f) for assisting Saul to die (a not entirely dishonorable thing to do), “How much more then,” said David, “when wicked men have killed a righteous man on his bed in his own house!” The ends did not justify the means for David. The motivation that had driven Rechab and Baanah was impure and as a result their actions were tainted. The two had oriented their lives toward base gain and not toward righteousness and justice.

Acts 16:25-40
A proper orientation is described in the Acts passage. When the jailer asked, “Sirs, what much I do to be saved?”, (v. 30) Paul answered, “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.” (v. 31) The proper orientation for our living is toward God’s will, best demonstrated in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. “Believe on” Jesus, live as Jesus lived, do what Jesus did. Imitating Jesus leads to a life of cleanliness and to salvation while impure motives and their actions do not.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Satisfaction and Grace


I noticed the theme of human satisfaction versus God’s goodness and mercy running through a few of the readings today.

Psalm 65
I was struck by the words of verse 4 this morning: “Happy are those whom you choose and bring near to live in your courts. We shall be satisfied with the goodness of your house, your holy temple.” The Psalmist obviously had more optimism than the Rolling Stones who are famous for their song, “Satisfaction”: “I can’t get no satisfaction…though I try, and I try, and I try, and I try, I can’t get no satisfaction.” Our society teaches us not to be satisfied. It encourages us to want more and more, to strive for bigger cars and houses, for whiter teeth and clearer skin, for more money and more exciting friends. But in the house of the Lord, the people of God find happiness and satisfaction. What God offers is a relationship that fills us with joy and contentment if we will but allow it.

Acts 16:16-24
A slave girl, possessed by a spirit of divination, had been following Paul and Silas for several days, proclaiming in a loud voice that they were themselves “slaves of the Most High God.” This annoyed Paul so much that he ordered the spirit to leave her. Then comes verse 19: “But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.” Obviously the owners of the girl were not concerned with her well-being, but only with what profit it could generate for them. So instead of finding joy (or satisfaction) in her healing they became angry. They would rather have benefited from slavery than take joy at another’s liberation.

Mark 6:47-56
Verses 51 and 52 say, “And (the disciples) were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Because their faith was lacking the disciples were not able to understand all that Jesus was doing (like feeding 5,000 people or walking on water) or how important it was. I don’t think it’s too big a stretch to say that had they looked for fulfillment from Jesus, satisfaction or a sort, they would have recognized him for who he really was. But they were not at that point yet where they could believe in or trust Jesus fully. So they had not recognized spiritual satisfaction, though, like the house of God in Psalm 65, Jesus offered them joy and contentment. We, too, have the chance to embrace joy and contentment in Jesus. There will still be times when God startles us with things we don’t fully understand, and there will be headwinds that make rowing our boat more difficult. There will be times when we are astounded by what God is doing. But the opportunity to be filled by grace is there.