Ep.269: Inheritance Sale.

Ep.269: Hebrews 12: Inheritance Sale.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Hebrews 12 says:
Make every effort to live in peace with everyone
     and to be holy;. . .
See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God
       and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.
See that no one is sexually immoral,
    or is godless like Esau,
    who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son.
Afterwards. . . when he wanted to inherit this blessing,
    he was rejected.
    Even though he sought the blessing with tears,
      he could not change what he had done (Heb 12:14-17). 

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone. That’s a broad statement. I can list lots of people I don’t need to be at peace with–drug dealers, motorcycle gangs, people who stage anti-vaccine rallies outside hospitals. 

And what about those who have left the faith? Like Esau, who was in line to inherit the blessing God gave Abraham, but swapped it for lunch when he was hungry.

I make three comments on this passage. 

First, we need to exert ourselves to build and maintain peaceful relationships. “Make every effort,” the passage says. It’s helpful to be a peacemaker. It’s unhelpful to stir up dissension. 

Second, a lot of trouble in relationships comes from a lack of inner peace. If I know I’m right and you’re wrong about vaccines or masking or politics or religion, it’s very difficult for me to engage in peaceful discussion. I want to prove a point instead of engaging in dialog. I’d rather list your faults than hear your heart. I need a Facebook moderator inside me to edit out the shouting and suggest I start listening. 

Third, the author of Hebrews describes Esau as sexually immoral, godless, and with messed up priorities. The author’s solution to Esau’s character, and to mine, is his statement,
  See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God
      and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. 

There’s the solution: don’t fall short of God’s grace. Instead, receive his grace whatever your calling–whether the elder son inheriting the blessing or the younger son in submission to others. Resist the bitter thought that life hasn’t treated you well or that God shortchanged you. Being at peace with others starts by being at peace with yourself.

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we release to you the bitterness in our lives. Our lack of progress in becoming spiritual, our inability to be at peace with ourselves and you, our need to project our problems onto others. 

Help us not to fall short of your grace as Esau did. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.268: Psalm 131: Like a Child.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 131 says: 
  My heart is not proud, Lord,
      nor my eyes haughty;
  I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
  I have calmed and quieted my soul,
      like a weaned child with its mother;
      my soul is a weaned child within me (vv. 1-3).

In Ecclesiastes, the preacher said, “There is a time for everything” (Eccl 3:1a). The poet in today’s psalm talks about a time to be quiet, a time to let go of ambition, a time to be content with our lot. Perhaps it is a time to set aside our endless questions and doubts, a time to rest in the answers we have, even if they are incomplete and ambiguous.We can rest from organizing and categorizing our lives and our thoughts and theology. It is a  time to simply be still in God’s presence.  

Our lives are full of unread books, people we should have coffee with, social media to review, and incessant debates about politics and religion and war. But the poet suggests we won’t solve the world’s problems this week. Let’s give ourselves a break from being grown-ups. It’s time to be still like a child.

Like a weaned child with its mother–not desperate to find a meal, not concerned about taxes or pandemics or enemies of the state. Just peaceful and calm in the mother’s arms, trusting her care, content in her love.

Do you ever find a quiet place like that with God? Or are you always asking, doing, seeking, striving? 

Let’s pray. 

Our father, we settle quietly into your presence. As thoughts disturb us, we let them go. 
– We release to you the problems of nuclear proliferation and ballistic missile testing
– We release to you our obsession with COVID
– We release to you our fears for our children and their future
– We release to you our anxiety about aging 

We rest in your arms, God, like a child with its mother. We trust you to watch over us today and tomorrow. We trust you to gather our small thoughts into your big thoughts, to collect our small works into the big work of your kingdom. 

We trust you to hold the world together. We trust you to hold us together as we rest in you. Teach us to live in the sabbath of your eternal rest. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.267: Psalm 130: Out of the Depths.

Ep267_Psalm130. Out of the Depths.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 130 begins with the well-known phrase, “Out of the depths”. The psalm says:  
   Out of the depths I cry to you, Lord;
      Lord, hear my voice,
    Let your ears be attentive
      to my cry for mercy (vv. 1-2). 

Out of the depths I cry to the Lord. When I pray that phrase, I sometimes experience a sinking feeling in my stomach. A feeling that things have gone wrong again; this time, to the depths of my being. And I am unable to fix it. 

Part of the poet’s genius is that he doesn’t describe the depths he was experiencing. He creates space for us to bring our depths to the psalm and to God. In the poet’s world, the deepest depth was the primeval sea of chaos that God conquered at creation. That ancient sea serves as metaphor and mirror for chaos in the poet’s personaI, national, and international experience. Maybe it works for us too, as we bring our modern depths to the ancient poem. Think about some of the things we might bring.
 
  – We bring to the psalm the chaos of  politics and wars, recently highlighted in America’s withdrawal from Afghanistan.

  – We bring to the psalm the COVID chaos, a disease of the body that has inspired a disease of the mind with conspiracy theories about blame and control and loss of freedoms and microchips in vaccines.

  – We bring to the psalm people hunkering down in survival mode as they and their friends grow old and forgetful and sick.

  – We bring people who pray from depths of regret for past mistakes, whose present is filled with confusion, and whose future is bleak. 

Gillian Welsh sang about the depths, saying:
  There’s a world of trouble
  trying to take its turn.
  I can hear it shaking underground. 

        (David Rawlings and Gillian Welsh. Lyrics to “One and Only”. Revival, 1996.)

Let’s pray. 

Out of the depths we cry to you O Lord. We have tried to organize and control our lives, to calm our troubled sea and ignore its black depths. But we sense, like Gillian Welsh, a world of trouble shaking underground. The monsters in our sea churn the waters. Unresolved troubles pull us under. Violence and war cause fear. Tension and disharmony sadden us. 

O gracious Lord, walk with us. Lift us from the depths that confound us. Calm our troubled waters. Heal the diseases we cannot cure. 

With the poet,
   We wait for you, Lord,
      more than watchmen wait for the morning,
      more than watchmen wait for the morning (v. 6).

As we wait and watch through our dark night, we hear your promise of morning. We wait patiently for your help. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.266: Scourging, Training, and Discipline.

Ep.266: Hebrews 12: Scourging, Training, and Discipline.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray With Me”.

Hebrews 12 says:
The Lord trains those he loves
    and chastens all his children (v. 6). 
Our human fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best,
    but God trains us for our good,
    so that we may share in his holiness.
Training is painful, not pleasant.
    But it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace (vv. 10-11).
Therefore strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees.
    Make level paths for your feet,
     so that what is lame may not be disabled, but healed (v 12).      

When I was young and full of fear, I tried my hardest to be a good Christian. My efforts had an unintended result: instead of getting better, I got worse. I discovered that my sin problem ran so deep in mind and body and soul that I could not eradicate it. The harder I tried, the more I failed, and the more discouraged I got. 

And then I encountered Hebrews 12 in my King James Bible: 
  Whom the Lord loves, he chastens,
      and scourges every son he receives (v. 6). 

Comforting thought, that. God loves me so much he’s getting his whip ready to scourge me? Maybe that would help with the sin problem. 

Or maybe not. 

Then I found author Martyn Lloyd-Jones. He wrote a chapter on Hebrews 12, giving it the title, “In God’s Gymnasium” (Lloyd-Jones, Martyn. Spiritual Depression: Its Causes and Cure. London: Pickering and Inglis, 1965). His point: God did not want to scourge me, but train me. Perhaps I was right about the depth of my problems. But the solution was not pain and punishment, it was an exercise program. As exercise can strengthen and heal feeble arms and weak knees, so God’s training of my inner life can bring restoration and healing.

Let’s pray. 

Our father, it makes a difference whether we think of you as actively punishing us to correct our sins, or if we see you as our personal trainer in the gym, promoting exercise and a healthy diet. 

Forgive us where we have wrongly felt you judge harshly and punish vigorously.  Teach us to embrace your training program that will grow our capacity to hear and obey your  word, correcting our confused thinking, and helping us run the race you have set before us.

Amen. 

I’m Daniel, on the channel “Pray with Me”.  

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube

Ep.265: Psalm 129: The Anti-Harvest.

Hello, I’m Daniel Westfall on the channel “Pray with Me”.

Psalm 129 says:  

 They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
    but they have not gained the victory over me.
  Ploughmen have ploughed my back
      and made their furrows long.
  but the Lord is righteous;
      he has cut me free from the cords of the wicked (vv. 2-4). 

This psalm returns to a frequent theme: oppression and persecution. The poet uses a striking agricultural image: his enemies have ploughed a furrow in his back. Despite this cruel and inhuman treatment, God has seen and rescued him. 

The second part of the psalm invites God to punish the wicked ploughmen. It says:
  May all who hate Zion
    be turned back in shame.
  May they be like grass on the roof,
    which withers before it can grow;
  a reaper cannot fill his hands with it,
    nor one who gathers fill his arms (vv. 5-7). 

Using grass to thatch a roof or sod to waterproof it doesn’t produce a harvest. The grass dries up and withers. The hopeful reaper finds the opposite of harvest–no grain to rub in his hands, no stalks to gather into sheaves.That’s how the poet wants God to deal with his enemies: uproot them from their native soil, place them where there is no opportunity for growth, no hope of harvest, no joy and blessing from arms full of produce. 

Let’s pray. 

Ou father, with the poet we pray:
  They have greatly oppressed me from my youth,
      but they have not gained the victory over me (v. 2). 

We invite you to sustain us in our long battle against things that oppress us.
– When we sink into depression, draw us into joy
– When we react in anger, teach us peace
– When we isolate ourselves, restore us to community
– When we are lazy, help us to show initiative
– When we are critical, teach us to be helpful

May the grass of our old life dry up and wither, producing no harvest. May the new life you give us find rich soil and grow. We do not curse our enemies as the poet does, but we pray that you will prevent harvests of evil, and bless a harvest of good.

We ask you to break every curse against us. Where family or teachers or preachers have thought ill of us and highlighted our failures, grant us justice. Define our present and future by your promises, our growth by the good rain you send on us. May our lives yield a harvest of righteousness. 

Amen. 

I’m Daniel on the channel “Pray with Me”. 

YouTube channel: Pray with Me – YouTube