September 27 – October 3, 2016

WORD

19The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!  20My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.  21But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: 22The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; 23they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  24“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”  25The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.  26It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

Lamentations 3:19-26

Reading Scripture to Know:

  • What is happening/being said? (Observation)
  • Why is this happening/being said? (Interpretation)
  • What does the rest of Scripture say about it? (Evaluation)
  • What does it mean? (Understanding)
  • What does it mean for us? (Application)

Reading Scripture to Grow:

  • What words or phrases stand out to you? Why?
  • Where do you hear the voice of God in this Scripture?
  • How do you see the character of God reflected in this Scripture?
  • How does this Scripture reveal God?
  • How does this Scripture expose humanity and its need for God?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in your life?
  • How does this Scripture speak to what is happening in our world?
  • What might God want to communicate to you (us) this week through this Scripture?

Reflection: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

These words that Jeremiah wrote as a beautiful doxology to God are more profound when we realize the context in which they were written.  The first two verses of our passage gives us a hint as to their origin, as does the name of the book in which they are found: Lamentations.  Jeremiah wrote these words of trust in and praise to God after his homeland, Judah, had been destroyed in front of him.  He had watched as his people had been starved to death by siege, killed mercilessly by the Babylonian army, or taken captive to a foreign land.  Jeremiah himself would end his days living in exile in Egypt away from his home and his people.  Yet, he could speak so confidently and beautifully about God’s faithfulness and mercy.  Regardless of the bitterness of his situation and the downcast nature of his soul, he could remember God and trust in God’s timing and salvation.

We might never have been in a situation exactly like the one Jeremiah endured, but we have all experienced great sources of lamentation and sorrow.  In fact, we might have been in situations that seemed to be bitter beyond redemption, hopeless and desperate, life-threatening and frightening.  Our lives are often like the meandering stream in the image above, undulating back and forth between sorrow and joy.  The mercy and goodness of our faithful God rises over us as surely as the sun rises in the east every morning.

Gaze at the image above.  Consider the stream to be your life.  Where are you at right now in the path of that back-and-forth flow of life?  Wherever it is you find yourself right now, can you see the sun of God’s goodness and grace rising over you?  No matter how dark and cold the night has been, can you feel the warmth and light of God’s faithfulness shining into you?  The dark night of the soul remains for but a season; the newness of God’s mercy will soon reign over your day of hope.  All that is asked of you is to wait expectantly, knowing that God remains when all else fails us and fades away.

Daily Readings: 

  • Tuesday, September 27 – Esther 8
  • Wednesday, September 28 – Esther 9 & 10
  • Thursday, September 29 – Romans 1
  • Friday, September 30 – Romans 2
  • Saturday, October 1 – Romans 3
  • Sunday, October 2 – Romans 4
  • Monday, October 3 –  Romans 5

 

SPIRIT

Prayer Focus: The thought of my affliction and my homelessness is wormwood and gall!  My soul continually thinks of it and is bowed down within me.

The Church has too often ignored those who feel “bowed down within.”  We even say some things sometimes that sound holy but are damaging to people suffering from emotional or mental distress – things such as we once saw on a church sign in Warner Robins: “I am too blessed to be depressed.”  Followers of Jesus Christ suffer from mental and emotional distress the same as everyone else.  After all, here is a prophet of God confessing to these realities in his own life.  And was it not Jesus who proclaimed in the garden that he was “deeply grieved, even to death” (Matthew 26:38) and who, in his deep distress, sweated blood (Luke 22:44)?  Pray for a sensitivity to and compassion for those who experience mental and emotional distress on a regular basis.  Ask God how the Church worldwide and the local church might be places of healing, care, and hope for those who suffer in such ways.  Ask God to give strength to those who might be suffering from emotional and mental distress in your community or church.  The faithful God sees all of our hurts – spiritual, physical, mental, and emotional – and responds in mercy to us all, even in our weakest, most vulnerable states.

Meditation Focus: The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul that seeks him.  It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the Lord.

This week’s meditation might be somewhat challenging, even in its simplicity.  Go to a quiet place and sit.  Set an alarm for seven minutes, be it on your phone, watch, or clock.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth until you feel settled and at peace.  Then, in complete silence, wait upon God.  Likely you will be distracted with random thoughts and uneasiness for the first couple of minutes.  You might be preoccupied by mental reminders of what you must do and accomplish today.  However, submit to the silence and resist, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the pull of distraction.  Slowly, thoughts that are self-centered will fade into the background.  Eventually, thoughts that you would never think on your own will fill your mind.  Feelings that seem to be imparted from beyond you will fill your heart.  An awareness of the robust indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit will fill your soul.  These are the beginning evidences of a deeper connection to God.  As you experience this deeper communion, listen, feel, and know God.  Abandon yourself, your pretenses, and your prejudices.  What is God saying?  What is God showing you?  Where is God leading you?  Do not worry about time.  The alarm will bring you out of your deep silence in due time.  When it does, thank God for speaking to you and connecting with you in this good, quiet, and deep way.  Ask God to keep you connected throughout the rest of the day.  Then, try again another day for 8-10 minutes.  Continue increasing your times of silent waiting upon God as you feel led and able.  Wait upon the Lord.  Know the goodness of his salvation and communion.

Journaling Focus: But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope.

What is it about your relationship with God that brings you hope?  Think to a time in which you felt hopeless.  In what ways did your faith in God and God’s faithfulness provide you with hope?  Out of that experience, how have you come to define hope?  As you write, consider some of the world’s “hopeless” situations (poverty, war, hatred, etc.).  How might the faithfulness of God bring hope to those situations?  How might you be an agent of hope, sent out and employed by God in desperate situations?  Conclude your writing by conceiving of a phrase, breath prayer, or mantra that will remind you of and connect you to the hope of our faithful God as you whisper it in those overwhelming or dire moments of life.  Be encouraged, then, to share these words with others who might have trouble recalling the faithfulness of God in their own hearts and minds.

Breath Prayer: Father, rise over us in mercy.

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