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Jason Silver

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2020 | 2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016 | 2015 |

Thoughts and Reflections on Scripture

2020

January February March

March

Friday, March 27th, 2020
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I awakened at 1AM again last night, and since my friend overseas is in a time zone twelve hours away, I sent him a quick message. "Can't sleep, what's up?"

Like the wonderfully true friend he is, he asked me some questions about what might be keeping me awake. "What was I thinking about;" he asked, "what was the first thing on your mind when you woke up?"

I told him about some of my worries, and his response was so wise, so insightful, that I asked him if I could share it with all of you.

He said, "Since before all of this started with the coronavirus, I've been thinking a lot about mental health, (because of my teaching and some new projects I'm working on).

"The three most common mental health issues are depression, anxiety and addiction," he affirmed. "Not surprisingly, these are just amplified versions of emotions everyone struggles with." He told me about a counseling professor he knows, who said that depression and anxiety are the "common cold and flu" of the psychology world. "Everyone gets them at some point, and sometimes the symptoms are more severe than other times."

I agreed, saying that I've struggled with each of these in varying degrees.

He continued: "What's been percolating in my mind is the spiritual side of all this. Whatever your worldview, most people could agree that depression isn't the lack of joy, but it's the absence of hope. It drags your focus into the disappointments and regrets of the past."

"Yeah," I said. "That's been true for me."

"Anxiety is really the lack of peace," he said. "If we're not at peace about things we can't control, then it drags us into worries of the future that haven't even happened yet (and in many cases are unlikely to ever happen)."

"OK, that seems right," I agreed.

"Finally, addiction is the absence of joy," he said. "We can't find (or are unwilling to find) happiness, or pleasure, or satisfaction with our `lot in life.' Our solution is to find ways to numb ourselves, or escape the pain by focusing or fantasizing on anything else. These addictions drag us away from our pain and our monotony. It ends up sucking all of our time into something else that may give us temporary `joy,' but with diminishing returns."

"That makes a lot of sense," I said. And then he pulled it all together with this amazing sentence:

"In all three cases, the painful emotions of depression, anxiety, and addiction pull us away from living in the present moment. Depression drags us into the past, anxiety into the future, and addiction into some kind of alternative present. We are preventing ourselves from really living in the here and now– whether intentionally or not."

As I considered what he had to say, he reminded me that it's not just depression and anxiety one gets from being in isolation. So many of us our addicted to constant social media, addicted to staying ahead of the news, addicted to any number of vices in an effort to be distracted from reality.

So how do we respond? I think we need to make every effort to stay in the moment, and trust that God knows our past and our future, as it says in today's Psalm. God is acquainted with all of our ways! Even before a word is on our tongue, he knows it completely.

Can you trust him? Can you let him worry about the future, can you give him your past? Can you live in the moment, as a child of the Father?

Amen.

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Friday, March 20th, 2020
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What would happen if the world collapsed around us? That possibility doesn't seem so unlikely of late, considering the infections, the deaths, the financial collapses, the shortages, the quarantines, and the frantic panic just below the surface.

More than ever, people feel alone. Not only are we forced into isolation, but we fear that if we don't stock up on essentials, even hoard what we may need, then we could be left abandoned and hopeless.

This is a very strange time. Our natural urges to self-protect may outweigh our enlightened senses to love, share, and assist.

It's times like these when we should keep our eyes fixed on what's right, what's good, and what's true. None of us want our world to descend into chaos and anarchy. It's times like these when God's word is an essential standard on which to set our unwavering gaze.

That's one reason I love Psalm 119. Look at the verses 9 to 16, from today's Psalm: we see the writer imploring us to use God's law to stay on track, to fix our eyes on it, to stay focused. We're reminded to meditate on God's law, to not forget it.

I believe that the more we make scripture a part of our everyday life, memorizing and integrating God's word into our daily routine, then the bigger the change we'll see. We'll be filled with the fruit of God's spirit, and become people of love, joy, hope, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control!

That is exactly what we need in such tumultuous times! When we're unsure of the future, it's even more important to depend on what has been unchanging for millennia!

Amen

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Friday, March 13th, 2020
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The novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19), has been dominating the news for a few weeks now, and is probably on everyone's mind. I'm slightly amazed by the varied, and often fearful responses we've seen.

For example, I've heard of individuals lashing out in fear, doing and saying unkind things to others because they are afraid that they might become infected. I've heard of racism directed to people because they are Chinese! This is not how we should behave.

How should we react as Christians? What would God have us do, and how would Jesus behave? Should we protect ourselves and our families from becoming infected, or should we attempt to care for the sick just as Jesus cared for those who had communicable diseases like leprosy?

This is an easy answer: we should be motivated by love, not by fear. We should consider our own needs as secondary to the needs of others.

It was reported a few days ago that Pope Francis is telling priests to get out and comfort the sick, even while Italy is urging her citizens to stay home. I believe Pope Francis is modeling Christ here. We live in a world that is predominantly motivated by fear, and so this decision is in sharp contrast. Of course, Christians should be directed by love, compassion, and faith.

Listen to the words of Psalm 145: The Lord is near to all who call on him in truth! He hears their cry and saves them! He is just in all his ways, he watches over all who love him! Wouldn't it be amazing if, as described in verse 4, the next generation of humanity looks back to remember the work of God through his people?

As brothers and sisters of Christ, let's be the hands of Jesus, embracing those who are unwell. Let's reach out to those who need our touch.

You may think it is foolish to do so, but I would rather be foolish in sharing God's generous love, than to miss an opportunity to be Jesus to my neighbour.

Amen

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Friday, March 6th, 2020
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One of the things I've noticed that seems to be universal wherever you go, is that people are lonely, and hunger for deeper, more meaningful relationships.

Some of these individuals fill up their lives with activites, in order to distract themselves from the pain of emptiness. Maybe they make lots of friends, and focus on having as good of a time as they can possibly manufacture. Other people try the opposite strategy, and retreat into a silent, inner life. They convince themselves that this is their choice, so as to soften the pang of abandonment or insignificance.

In both situations one thing is true: there's no escaping loneliness, there's no escaping pain.

Isn't it fascinating? We are such social creatures, building vast networks of roads, cables, and computers just to speed up our ability to connect to one another, and yet, that connection is often painful, disappointing, and lonely. There's no satisfying that inner hunger for friendship and fellowship.

Even King David! As talented as he was in music, as able as he was in war, and despite being a gifted leader, David felt like he had no one really taking notice of him. He had no protector, standing at his right hand; no one who really cared for him.

No one, that is, except for God.

So what does he do? He cries out to God! He uses his voice, to plead with God, and affirms his trust in God to know the way, even when their are hidden traps meant to finish him. When there is no refuge for him, he looks to God to be his refuge.

Have you ever cried out to God in desperation, pouring out your pains and needs to him, like David? If so, I encourage you to finish your prayer with his same confidence of faith! He knows that the righteous ones will surround him, and that God will deal lavishly with him!

God will deal lavishly with you too! Make him your refuge, pour out your complaints before him, tell your troubles to him. He is your God.

Amen.

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February

Friday, February 28th, 2020
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Do you observe Lent?

Lent is the practice of giving up something for the 40 days leading to Easter. It is an opportunity to make a personal sacrifice, meant to draw us into deeper relationship with God.

Many times we give up cookies or potato chips, but forget what the real purpose of the sacrifice even is. Is it just self-denial, or is there something deeper going on? Why Lent, and why give up anything at all?

Historically, Lent has been called a spiritual journey into a spiritual desert. It is useful to understand that in the Judeo-Christian tradition, the desert is a place of betrothal between God and his people, as well as a place of spiritual battle.

So therefore the point of Lent– the point of entering the spiritual desert– is to build the betrothal relationship with God, and to face the spiritual battles warring below the surface of our subconscious.

Maybe it surprises you to think of our God-relationship as a betrothal, but in fact, throughout the Bible God calls himself our bridegroom, and calls us the bride. He wants to build intimacy with us, to speak tenderly with us. He wants us to understand how faithful, loyal, and steadfast his love for us is, and to fully realize that he is the provider of our daily bread. It is he who leads us out of darkness, and strengthens us in the midst of our struggles and battles.

That still doesn't answer the question of how giving up little things like candy or coffee really help us?

I like to think of it as religious exercise, meant to build spiritual muscles. We are training to 'run the race' more effectively. We are practicing the whole idea of sacrifice, so we can be sacrificial in generosity, in kindness, in patience, and in love.

So if you're not participating in Lent formally this season, perhaps consider other ways to grow deeper in your spousal-relationship with God. Take the time to build those spiritual muscles, to improve in your sacrificial love and kindness.

Amen.

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Friday, February 21st, 2020
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In my younger years, I struggled with pride. I told myself that I was special, that I was better than other people. In retrospect, it was a ridiculous belief to hold (of course!): I was inferior to others in so many ways. I was not at all self confident, but rather, racked with insecurity! I magnified the importance of things I could do well, in order to diminish the things I was embarrassed about. Perhaps my pride was some sort of defense mechanism to cover up these feelings of inadequacy.

Whatever the reason for having pride, it is wrong. Not only is it untruthful, it is hateful at it's core: someone who thinks more highly of themselves than they should, necessarily thinks less of others!

When David wrote this song, was he referring to some specific moment when he was accused of being prideful? Perhaps when he was discovered as a shepherd boy, and anointed as King by Samuel? Maybe his brothers called him arrogant when he said he could kill Goliath? Maybe his wife Michal, the daughter of Saul had something to say about his attitude when he danced before the ark of the covenant?

Holding onto pride can be like a child holding onto a favourite blanket. Pride becomes a crutch for us- we think we need it to survive. We tell ourselves what we want to be true about our own value and importance, so we don't have to face our failings and our weaknesses. Pride actually becomes a substitute for faith!

So why do we hold on to it? Let's face it: pride is fake. It's inauthentic, it's lacking in vulnerability. It's a sure way to sabotage intimacy.

So what is the answer? Perhaps it's summed up in the last verse of this Psalm. Maybe instead of holding on to pride, we should seek to rest in hope.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
from this time on and for evermore.

Amen

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Friday, February 14th, 2020
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Have you ever seen the strength of a flood carry away vehicles, uproot trees, or break down homes? Whenever I see things like this, I'm taken aback by how powerful water is, amazed at how nothing can stand in it's wake.

In verse three, the writer of Psalm 93 may be referring to the "floods" of the ocean, but as I stood quite a bit too close to this icy, roaring, waterfall, (more than a little nervous that I'd be carried away), I could see how the thunder of mighty waters mentioned in verse four is a good metaphor for the power and kingship of God.

Waters scour everything they touch, even eroding rock over time. Water is called the universal solvent, because it dissolves more substances than any other liquid. In the same way, when God moves in us, he dissolves our selfishness, he breaks down our stubbornness, he erodes our pride, our greed, our anger, and replaces it with the lubricating oil of his Holy Spirit.

Waters also cleanse and purify. Whatever needs washing, it is best done with water. Similarly, God washes away our sins, making us more like Jesus, the Messiah.

Just like the Holy Spirit, water is a critical and essential part of life. In fact, without water, there is no life! Water molecules play a key role in ensuring that proteins behave properly. Consider this: without the Holy Spirit, we can be sure that we will not behave properly.

Additionally, water satisfies our thirst unlike anything else. We may think we want more of some other beverage, but our body craves and needs water. How is this like God? Just as we all seek satisfaction in things other than His holy presence, in the end, it is in Him that we find our true satisfaction.

Jesus called himself the source of living water. What a great metaphor to describe the various workings of God's spirit in us to scour, dissolve, clean, purify, give life, and satisfy thirst!

Amen.

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Friday, February 7th, 2020
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Recently I had a conversation with a young person who felt isolated and alone. This person sobbed before me, great big tears of pain. He was afraid that he would never find a friend that really understood. Faithful friends are few and far between, and with an imminent move coming, he worried that he would be separated from anyone who cared.

We all long to be known, to be valued, to be loved. Maybe you've been in that place. It's so hard to find someone who really understands us, and even when we do, there always seems to be a hole that cannot quite be filled, or a challenge to transparently communicate our hearts, or a fear of being judged and abandoned.

I recommended to this young fellow, that he think of our heavenly Father as that True Friend. God wants to hear about our pains and longings, not just our memorized prayers before dinner and bedtime; not just our shopping list of daily needs. I suggested he tell God exactly what he was worried about. Not only can God be that Friend, he will also meet our needs in surprising ways when we ask him to.

While this is all true, it can seem trite and empty when one feels distant from God. The writer of the Psalm today cries out to God, "Why have you cast me off?!" He also asks himself why he feels so "cast down and disquieted," when God is his exceeding joy! His answer to himself is absolutely correct: hope in God, for I shall again praise him!

Maybe you need to have a conversation with yourself? Maybe we each need to remind ourselves that God is our source of joy. When a person is hungry, they seek food. When thirsty, they drink. When bored, we seek stimulation, when tired we rest. Rarely would one forget to address a physical need.

But what about a spiritual need? Despite the protestations of atheists, each of us has a spiritual dimension. Our emotions, our loneliness, even our dissatisfaction with the physical reveal a deep spiritual hunger.

Go to the source, for he is your help and your God.

Amen

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January

Friday, January 31st, 2020
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"As the Deer" is a popular English worship song I sang as a teenager. It was also based on Psalm 42. I think it's a pretty little tune, and it really helps me express my longing for God.

However, it doesn't communicate the distress that Psalm 42 contains.

Look at verses 3, 5, 6, 9, and 10! We see phrases like, "My tears have been my food day and night," "Why are you cast down, O my soul," "[God,] Why have you forgotten me," and "Why must I walk about mournfully?"

Don't let the image of a majestic and solemn deer throw you off. This Psalm is the cry of someone desperately thirsty, perhaps even DEHYDRATED for God!

Unfortunately, many of us know exactly what it's like to drown in one's own tears, and to hear the voices of mockers saying, "Where is your God now?" It's the plight of being human, actually! Suffering is at the core of the meaning of life!

Scripture is our guidebook, and so we can see hope in these verses! We must tell ourselves the same thing this writer said in verse 5 and 12: "Hope in God; for I shall again praise him... [he is] my help and my God."

You see? The waters of life, those rivers of satisfaction, are found in God. They're found in praise! They're found in fellowship with other believers!

It's true: the Psalmist says in verse 4, when he's in the throng of worshippers, making their way to the house of God, shouting in joy and thanksgiving, then the distress becomes just a memory. We may not forget, but we can find help in God.

So don't push your pain away. Don't think that Christians mustn't suffer! Rather, find hope in Him as you worship Him! HE is your help, and your God!

Amen

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Friday, January 24th, 2020
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When I read Psalm 91, it sparks my imagination of what it might be like to have super-human powers!

It says that an individual who shelters in the shadow of Almighty God will be immune from sickness, invincible to arrows, avoid traps, and sidestep destruction! Their enemies will fall all around them, while they survive without even a mark! Invisible angels will guard this super-hero, preventing evil from even touching them! Poisonous snakes are no concern, neither are hungry lions!

Imagine that!

It reads like a secret booklet of knowledge that ancient warriors might use. I can picture them memorizing the words, to be recited when they need to be protected.

In fact, that's not far from reality!

Between the third and eighth centuries, this psalm was written inside amulets by both Jews and Christians. It was used as a kind of talisman for protection.

Even before that, the Talmud calls this psalm the "song of plagues" (shir shel pega'im or shir shel nega'im), for "one who recites it with faith in God will be helped by Him in time of danger". Apparently, "Since the times of the Geonim, this psalm was recited to drive away demons and evil spirits." According to midrashim, the psalm references many types of demons that threaten man, including the "Terror", "Arrow", "Pestilence", and "Destruction" mentioned in verses 5 and 6.

While I'm opposed to using scripture like a secret spell, the fact is, God does care about his children, and he has promised to protect us from harm! These verses are not magic, but they certainly are a reminder to what we expect from God. Anything is possible to Him! He cares deeply for each of his children.

However, I think the key to this Psalm is found in the last verse: God will show us his salvation. We should think carefully about who our biggest enemy is, and what me most need to be saved from. Perhaps we most need to be saved from ourselves: our deceits; our pride; our stubbornness; our anger and hatred?

Oh Lord, we make your our refuge and fortress! Save us as you have promised we pray!

Amen.

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Friday, January 17th, 2020
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When I was a kid, there were a few times in which I put God to the test. I told Him that if he would only show himself to me physically, then I would believe in Him! I bargained with God, saying "Wasn't my belief in him worth such a display?"

I could not understand why He wouldn't just do what I asked him to do.

Have you ever cried out to God, begging for proof? It may seem insolent, but I think it's pretty common.

The strange thing about thinking you need proof in order to have faith, is that the two are not compatible with each other. The very definition of the word is "strong belief in God or in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual understanding rather than proof."

Let's talk a bit about proof and faith, because I can hear some people saying, "I DO have proof of my faith in the way God has moved in my life, or done this or that."

In one sense, that's true: as I rely on my faith more and more, in other words, as I exercise it, this faith grows and deepens. You might say, "Isn't this a type of proof?" However, each person must build their own faith for themselves; I can't bestow my faith upon someone else by sharing my experiences (though this may encourage a person to try exercising faith for themselves). It's not like a mathematical or scientific proof that cannot be argued with.

Another problem with proof is that it's not always as convincing as we hoped it to be. For example, if we look at the children of Israel, it didn't seem to matter how much proof they were given, their faith always waned. Their hearts still longed for evil. As it says in verse 9, the ancestors of Israel put God to the proof, even though they had seem his works!

God says through the psalmist, "So don't harden your hearts! Come, sing to me! Give me thanks!"

Will you join with me in singing to our Lord?

Amen.

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Friday, January 10th, 2020
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"Out of the depths I cry to you."

This is the first line of Psalm 130, and a really vivid image of desperation. The depths of despair is a well-known alliteration; I think mostly because it's so apt! We've all been there: full of sadness, in an ocean of pain, a chasm of hopelessness. Depth is the perfect word!

Sometimes it takes us hitting the "depths of despair," before we decide to cry out to God! The temptation to depend upon our own strength is great, until we're forced to admit our strength is not enough.

I love the honesty this writer shows in evaluating his own worthiness: he realizes that if God was counting our mistakes, no one could ever please Him. He states that none could stand before him, which is a legal term meaning that none could claim innocence or guiltlessness. But innocence is not required. Fortunately for us, God's forgiveness is waiting for those who ask for it!

What a reason to praise him! He forgives us, even though we don't deserve it!

I love the way this Psalm ends! The Psalmist looks to the future, and makes the bold claim that God WILL forgive Israel from all sin! From this side of the ressurection, we now know that forgiveness is available, not just to Irael, but to the whole earth.

Are you at the bottom of a chasm? Have you finally reached the depths, and come to the place where you can admit your weakness? Do you see your own guilt? If so, what are you waiting for? Forgiveness is there for the taking! Turn from your old ways and enter a new life of freedom and hope!

Amen

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