Song 4

woman sleeping
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/caseydavid/6169256357/">Casey Muir-Taylor</a>

Psalm 4

God, do right! Answer when I call.
When my hands were tied, you gave me wiggle room.
Now, listen to what I have to say.

As for you people,
How long must I endure you?
How long will you continue to be taken in by smooth talkers?
God will stick with those who stick with God.
When I talk, God listens.

When you’re desperate, don’t do wrong.
Better to keep quiet and sleep on it,
Offer what’s right,
Trust God.

Lots of people say,
“If only God would give us something good!
We wish we could see God’s face!”
You’ve given me more happiness
Than they have when their investments all pay off.

I can sleep at night,
Because I know God keeps me safe.

This poem is about grace under pressure.

Rather than take matters into one’s own hands, this poem’s advice is to take a step back, count to 10, sleep on it. Don’t take the first quick deal that comes along, just because it sounds good. And, above all, be true. In return, the wisdom of the poem offers divine protection, guidance, blessing, and peace.

The caveat is that sometimes one must wait quite a long time for divine vindication to come, and the longer the wait, the harder it is to resist the urge to react in unhealthy ways – letting anger get the better of us, taking a bad deal, losing our cool.

That doesn’t mean that one always remain passive. Rather, it means being responsive rather than reactive. It means acting in a way that remains true to who you really are, with intentionality, with authenticity. After all, when you go to sleep each night, how peacefully you sleep depends on how well aligned your actions are with what your dreams reveal to you.

Yes, but Do You Care?

Joyful face
Photo credit: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/backpackphotography/1234259576/">Backpack Photography</a>

1 Thessalonians 5:16-24

Be joyful. Pray. Be grateful. God wants you to be grateful. Don’t be a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm for God, but check everything carefully, keeping the good, rejecting the evil.

May the God of peace personally make you 100% dedicated to the cause. May you remain whole, body, soul, and spirit. And may you be blameless in the end.

Indeed, God who calls you will do this.

[See also, previous comments on 1 Thessalonians 5:12-22 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23-28.]

Last month, writing on this chapter, I wrote, “…you can’t command respect, let alone love. You can only earn it.”

Which, I believe is true. But there is something more. You can also give it. It’s called being gracious.

And you can give it – joy, love, respect, grace – even when it’s unearned.

Mostly, you give it by not being a wet blanket on the fires of enthusiasm. Whether that enthusiasm is for God, or for anything else. Nobody likes it when you rain on their parade. So, you think it’s crazy, or stupid, or you’re not really that interested in what someone is really excited about. So what! Most of the time, it’s not going to hurt anything to be gracious about it. Be happy for them.

You can also give it by giving what you do to the world around you. Do cook? Do you write? Do you clean? Do you sculpt? Do you teach? Do you make widgets? Whatever it is the difference between joy and drudgery comes down to this one question: Do you care? Even when nobody else is looking, are you 100% dedicated to the cause?

The whole gospel as Jesus presented it can be wrapped up in one simple idea: Jesus cared. And if you were to ask Jesus what he believed about God, he likely would have said: the only God worth believing in is the God who cares.

Or, as Paul says, “The God who calls you will do this.”

The Grace of Jesus Be with You

dog catching bubbles
Photo credit: Bill Blevins

1 Thessalonians 5:23-28

May the God of peace personally make you 100% dedicated to the cause.
May you remain whole, body, soul, and spirit.
And may you be blameless in the end.

Indeed, God who calls you will do this.

And, friends, pray for us. Greet one another with the kiss of righteousness. I order you, by God, to read this letter out loud to everyone there. The grace of Jesus be with you.

Paul’s letter ends with blessing. And, as harsh and as wrong as Paul’s words have been at times, he is right to make the last word a word of peace.

And, we might note that this blessing’s concern is for wholeness in at least four different aspects:

  1. Wholeness of purpose and dedication. May you be 100% dedicated to the cause. And not just any cause but a great and good one. May you not be second-guessing your purpose, or that you have the capacity to achieve it.
  2. Wholeness of the individual. Body, soul, and spirit. Functioning together, each complete and healthy in itself, but also implying that they are working in concert with each other. It takes the balance of each of these areas of one’s life to really be healthy and complete, and to be able to live well and to work effectively.
  3. Wholeness of character over time. In other words, when you get to the end, you can look back without regret. May the patterns of your life, even when things have come up unexpectedly, or have taken turns for the worse, reflect the kind of resilience and fortitude of character that make you a blessing to others, even when it seems there are no immediate blessings for you.
  4. Wholeness of the community. Greet each other with the kiss of righteousness is not just an ancient custom. But may every interaction with your neighbor, your family, your co-workers, or your church members be one in which you have done your best by them. Regardless of their actions, may yours be the right ones.

Do this, and the grace of Jesus will be with you. Not some magical pixie dust grace of Jesus from the outside. The grace, the goodness, the peace, that Jesus demonstrated in his life – that grace will be with you, lived out in you.