Of Cheeks and Teeth

Psalm 3 
A Psalm of David, when he fled from his son Absalom.

O Lord, how many are my foes!
    Many are rising against me;
many are saying to me,
    “There is no help for you in God.”                      Selah

But you, O Lord, are a shield around me,
    my glory, and the one who lifts up my head.
I cry aloud to the Lord,
    and he answers me from his holy hill.                Selah

I lie down and sleep;
    I wake again, for the Lord sustains me.
I am not afraid of ten thousands of people
    who have set themselves against me all around.

Rise up, O Lord!
    Deliver me, O my God!
For you strike all my enemies on the cheek;
    you break the teeth of the wicked.

Deliverance belongs to the Lord;
    may your blessing be on your people!             Selah

By John Grimm

David’s problem was of his own making.  The fallout from David taking Uriah’s wife as his own was evidenced in David’s own family being torn apart.  Absalom wanting his father’s throne was part of the reason David was fleeing from Absalom.  Now, David must find a way through this situation.

Yes, David had confessed his sin regarding the murder of Uriah and the rape of Uriah’s wife.  Yet, we read David’s foes tell him: “There is no help for you in God.”  David has known otherwise for his whole life.  Whether David’s foe was Saul, Absalom, or others, God delivered David.  This deliverance by God is what David is waiting for now.

How do we know he is waiting for God to act?  Selah.  This term is known as a signal for rest in Jewish poetry.  Notice where David rests.  He rests after hearing the foes speak of the lack of deliverance.  David rests when he cries to the Lord.  He rests in full assurance that God will bring deliverance to him and blessings upon God’s people.

When do we rest?  Do we follow the same pattern?  Or do we wait until we have struck our enemies on the cheek and broken the teeth of the wicked, in our own strength?  Maybe we are afraid that the Lord will not act.  Do we not remember that God has acted for our benefit, previously in our lives?  When it comes to our foes, God can and does provide deliverance for us.  Can we rest while we wait for the Lord to do so?

God, yes, we need a Selah or two in our lives.  You will deliver us from our foes.  We have known you to do so in the past and we trust you to do so now.  We know that you have forgiven us, delivered us from our sins.  We can trust you to deliver us from the sins of our foes.  In the name of Jesus Christ, bless your people through all the means that you find necessary.  Amen.

The Simple Approach

Micah 6:6-8 (NRSV)

“With what shall I come before the Lord,
    and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt offerings,
    with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
    with ten thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
    the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?”
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?

By Chuck Griffin

I just returned to work after taking a couple of weeks’ vacation, something I highly recommend. “Duh,” some of you might be saying, but you would be surprised how hard it is for a lot of pastors to make the decision to take a vacation, or even an appropriate amount of time off during the week.

If for no other reason, it is important that we take that time so we maintain perspective. And so often, it seems that perspective is largely a matter of remembering what is important, and then focusing on what is important by employing the “KISS” principle—Keep It Simple, Stupid.

My first Monday back at work was a good example of how my vocation, like a lot of jobs, can become a series of unexpected, frustrating exercises. I’ll not go into a lot of detail, but when I got home, I invoked the memory of an old ’80s commercial when I said to my wife, “I’m not a lawyer, but I apparently play one at church. I’m also not an IT guy, a psychologist, a human resources director or a financial planner, but I play those at church, too.” I did manage to teach a Bible study on Monday.

Vacation is good because it allows us to get our heads out of the swirl of the extraneous for a while and remember who we truly are. As children of God, we always will have distractions, but our service to God has to be a priority.

Micah reminds us that serving God doesn’t have to become an overly elaborate or painfully ritualized activity. Mainly, it’s about getting our hearts right. Countering injustice, showing kindness, and humbly remembering who we are in relation to God are God-honoring ways to live.

I’ll try to remember that as the work week progresses.

Lord, whatever we are doing, please let us find ways to make what we do about you and your plan of salvation. Amen.

Stop

Genesis 2:1-3 (NLT)

So the creation of the heavens and the earth and everything in them was completed. On the seventh day God had finished his work of creation, so he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and declared it holy, because it was the day when he rested from all his work of creation.


By Chuck Griffin

When did you last stop?

I’m talking about a deliberate stop, a scheduled pause, a planned interruption where there is nothing going on except what transpires between you and God.

Those moments are critically important. Let me tell you one of Satan’s best tricks—making our lives busier and busier and busier, ensuring we don’t stop and engage with his mortal enemy, our creator, savior and comforter.

As we see in the creation story, stopping to rest is built into the very fabric of the universe. There is the very important idea of a weekly sabbath, of course, that day where we put aside worldly activities and rest in our love for God and each other. But there also is that need to stop at times each day, as Jesus so often did in the midst of his astonishingly busy ministry.

Taking time to be at rest and talk with God actually can cause our worldly efforts to be more effective. Martin Luther, when asked about his plans for a busy day, is said to have replied, “Work, work from early until late. In fact, I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer.”

If necessary, make it a new item on your to-do list. Stop!

Lord, as we stop, settle our minds and souls so we truly rest in your presence, bringing you our troubles and worries and letting your peace and love shape what happens next. Amen.

Psalm 23: Content and Rested

By Chuck Griffin
LifeTalk Editor

This Sunday, Lord willing, I will preach on the 23rd Psalm at Holston View United Methodist Church. I want to invite you to spend the rest of our week meditating on this “Psalm of David.” To jolt our thought processes a little, I’m using a less-familiar translation, the New Living Translation.

These meditations are based on devotionals I wrote for Luminary UMC in April, during the early days of the pandemic continuing to affect us. If you want, you can split each day into two devotionals, one for morning and one for evening.

Verse 1
The Lord is my shepherd;
    I have all that I need.

What a beautiful opening. But is this what we really believe?

One of the most difficult mindsets to achieve in this life is contentment, the ability to say, “My needs are covered.” And as the psalmist is trying to tell us, there is but one place to find contentment.

By calling the Lord “shepherd,” we say we trust God to care for our needs. We declare that what he gives us will be enough.

We understand the folly of listening to other voices, worldly shepherds telling us, “It’s really better over here. Happiness is on my side of the fence.”

False shepherds call to us for their own selfish reasons. Perhaps they need our votes or they need us to consume for their own profit, regardless of whether our consumption is good for us. Follow them, and in the end we likely find ourselves used up and alone.

It is best to be content in the care of the one who loves us so much that he will seek us out wherever we are.

Verses 2-3a
He lets me rest in green meadows;
    he leads me beside peaceful streams.
    He renews my strength.

Certainly, the shepherd urges us forward from time to time, for our own benefit and for the larger benefit of the kingdom. (Never forget, our shepherd is also a king!) Following him, we can grow tired. But there always is rest.

The need for contemplative rest—Sabbath—is built into the very fabric of the universe. And if we trust God’s plan, we can gain much from the times of rest we are offered.

There is sustenance in God’s word, as rich and spiritually nutritious to us as green meadows are to the sheep. By consuming what we find there, we grow. We also drink from the stream of life when we open ourselves to his grace, poured out through a variety of openings. Our prayers, our time in communion, and our fellowship with one another are just a few examples, and enough grace pours forth through these encounters to soak us thoroughly.

In the right cycle of service and rest, we grow spiritually stronger over time, even as our physical vigor fades. God always is willing to give us more than we have given. We simply must remember to stop and receive.

Lord, help me to recognize when you place opportunities for contentment and rest before me, and allow me to grow in my delight of you through the influence of your Spirit. Amen.