Week 30: Don’t be afraid; just believe

Readings for the week: Psalm 86-87, Proverbs 1-16Luke 8-11Psalm 88, Listen to these passages

Opening Prayer:

Dear Lord, thank you for this day, for all you are doing. Thank you for your work in my life and in those around me. As we seek your will this week, lead us into truth and guide us away from falsehood. Help me to be aware of your work each moment and to watch for those times I can come alongside to help others along their way. Forgive me for when I stumble and when I just don’t know what to do. I want to learn each day what it means to walk with you and I am excited to see what you are doing all around me.  Amen.

1. Psalm 86-87

2. Reading through Proverbs 1-16

The Bible seems to have an interesting mix of the way things should be and the way things get out of order. Sin abounds, after all, and I love the Bible doesn’t shy away from that nor does it just say, “That’s life!”  It’s gritty at times, helping us to find a ways forward even when we’re lost and confused. It’s also sharp at times, calling out things that go wrong and the consequences. There’s grace–surprising and abundant grace–but God isn’t some kindly and oblivious grandpa who just overlooks problems and gives everyone candy. God is creator. God got this whole business started. God put everything into place and continues to sustain all of existence.

He knows how things should be. Things aren’t the way things should be. God knows how to lead all of creation back into wholeness. Everything groans in the midst of struggles and sins.  There’s these two roads then: the road of death that leads away from God and the road of life that leads toward God.

Proverbs is a map for this journey.  Like a map, it doesn’t give all the details but does give us key signs, basic directions, landmarks, and pointers.  This is a template for living life in light of God’s calling.  Now the tricky part is that sometimes life gets complicated in ways that don’t fit the map. Sometimes there’s construction on the route, sometimes a disaster, and sometimes (like we read with Job) there’s just something out of order that we may never know about.  But, that doesn’t mean the teaching is wrong. Wisdom has to start with some kind of framework, and Proverbs is this framework, inspiring wisdom and learning, from which we can also add discernment in particular situations.

We’re reading through Proverbs fast in this yearly task. In two weeks. That’s a lot of wisdom to absorb, and not enough time to sit with the teaching and consider it within the scope of our lives. That’s why many teachers and leaders have suggested reading Proverbs once a month. It’s 31 chapters, and many (though not all) months have 31 days.  Read a chapter a day, and it starts becoming a note in life that helps know when things are in tune and when things are out of tune.

With this, reading 5 Psalms a day and 1 Proverb a day can be a really good way to spark prayer and wisdom, repeating these books each month.

3. Reading Through Luke 8-11

Are you kidding me?  This stuff is so thick with good material where do I even start?  I mean, trying to add tips to reading Proverbs is already hard. It’s like, “Just read it, and it’s self-explanatory.”  Now, I get to these meaty chapters of Jesus’s ministry expressed in full.   Just read it.  Then read these chapters again. Maybe a third time.  Let them sink in.

The only thing I want to add is to realize how holistic the ministry of Jesus is. Throughout he is addressing different elements of human issues, at different stages of experiences, and in a diverse amount of ways. There’s no “one approach” even though there is clearly one message. Jesus is the way of life.  He’s proverbs in personal form, we might even say (which gets a little less heretical when we see Wisdom personified in proverbs, and this wisdom has often been connect to the Spirit).   This is what it means to be human, to be wise, to live in tune with God.

It also shows that even Jesus is opposed, that there’s people out there who think they speak for God, but don’t, and actually can lead people the wrong way.

There’s teachings to learn, desires to manage, tasks to do, even tips on prayer and mission. We are called to help others and called to be disciplined in our own desires. The Gospel reaches into physical needs, and spiritual needs, and social needs.  It shows us we are to help those around us and to be a new kind of person who bears fruit in our setting. It’s doesn’t pull us out of this world, it shows us how we are to be in this world, for this world, for it is for this world that Jesus was sent. God loves us!  What does this love look like in practice? What is God like? How does God respond to people, whether those caught in sin or driven by ambitions?

Read these chapters.  And don’t let anyone tell you that God is anything different than what you read here.

4. Psalm 88

I don’t usually add commentary to the Psalms readings each week, but I did happen to preach on this one last year, so here’s that sermon:

5. Respond

If you’ve fallen behind in the readings or haven’t started yet, don’t worry.  Reading the Bible isn’t a limited time offer. Jump in this week, and catch up with what you’ve missed in future years.

Also, I highly encourage you to share your thoughts with others in your family, or immediate community. Talk about this stuff! 

And, since I sometimes feel lonely, share your thoughts in the comment section.

Talking about your thoughts and questions is a very important part of the reading goal. Writing out our thoughts can help us remember what we read and keep our minds on the passage. It also is very helpful to share as we learn from each other.

Even our questions or confusion can bring us together, as we highlight what others may have missed or address what a lot of us are also wondering.   Don’t feel like you have to say or write a lot, or feel pressure to be profound. Respond with honesty and openness.

Just jump right in where you’re at, knowing that Christ invites you to respond without pressure or anxiety. It’s a journey not a performance.