Justice Starts Within

Scripture Focus: Psalm 37.1-6
1 Do not fret because of those who are evil
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the Lord and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Take delight in the Lord,
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the Lord;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn,
your vindication like the noonday sun.

Reflection: Justice Starts Within
By John Tillman 

We often experience evil that is external to ourselves and acts upon us. This evil, whether the direct actions of humans or not, is a reflection and repercussion of individual and collective sin.

Christianity simultaneously holds an extraordinarily high view of human nature and an extraordinarily low view. Humans are “gods,” Jesus quotes (John 10.34-36; Psalm 82.6) and just lower than the angels. (Hebrews 2.5-8; Psalm 8.5) Yet, we are also rebellious and broken. Evil infects and corrupts our best intentions. (Romans 3.10-12; Psalms 14.1-3; 53.1-3; Ecclesiastes 7.20) Creation itself is cursed because of our sin. (Genesis 3.17; Romans 8.20-23) At the peak of human righteousness, we stand dressed in filth rather than finery. (Romans 3.10; Isaiah 64.6; Psalm 143.2)

If evil were just a few regrettable actions by a few misguided people, we’d be “god” enough to handle it. We could just “do better,” as many voices on social media tell us to do, and lock up the “bad apples” who fail this charge.

The problem with evil is that it is not isolated in bad apples. Evil is insidiously embedded in humanity. Solzhenitsyn said, “The line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?” Paul said, “I want to do good, evil is right there with me…who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7.21-25)

Justice must start within. Jesus confronts our tainted hearts, comforting us when suffering under wickedness while simultaneously discomforting us by attacking our wickedness. Christ delivers us from an inner evil nature through sanctification. (Luke 11.20-22) If we allow him to, he will go beyond destroying the evil piece of our heart. He will give us a brand new heart that will grieve injustice and work for justice, both inwardly and outwardly. 

We join our voices and bend our backs to the suffering and working of all God’s people for justice. (Revelation 6.9-11) There is evil without and evil within, but greater is Jesus than any evil. (1 John 4.4) God is with us through any suffering and his grace to us is sufficient to work in and through us. 

As the Holy Spirit within us contests our inner evils, he also spurs us to act in Christ’s name on behalf of justice against evils that go beyond personal or individual. Justice starts within. It doesn’t stop there.

May we answer the call, becoming agents of Christ, seeking out darkness and shining a light of justice and truth.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Call to Prayer
I will call upon God, and the Lord will deliver me.
God, who is enthroned of old, will hear me. — Psalm 55.17, 20

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 7 (Listen 2:21)
Psalm 37 (Listen 4:21)

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 8 (Listen 3:26Psalm 38 (Listen 2:14)
Proverbs 9 (Listen 1:50Psalm 39 (Listen 1:49)

Read more about Hope for Marred Pots
God, understanding Jeremiah’s grief, sends him to a place he can see that there is hope for marred and broken things—the potter’s house.

Read more about Pause To Read
Today’s episode is the final episode in our series on Lady Folly, Lady Wisdom, and RSVP to Wisdom or Folly. Share this series with a friend who needs wisdom.

Meeting Fire with Love

Scripture Focus: Psalm 35.11-15
11 Ruthless witnesses come forward;
     they question me on things I know nothing about.
 12 They repay me evil for good
     and leave me like one bereaved.
 13 Yet when they were ill, I put on sackcloth
     and humbled myself with fasting.
 When my prayers returned to me unanswered,
 14     I went about mourning
     as though for my friend or brother.
 I bowed my head in grief
     as though weeping for my mother.
 15 But when I stumbled, they gathered in glee;
     assailants gathered against me without my knowledge.
     They slandered me without ceasing.

Reflection: Meeting Fire with Love
By Erin Newton

My youngest child had a fierce toddler stage, which meant crying 98% of the day. There were developmental reasons, so we grew accustomed to his persistence. One day, however, I was met with the harsh glare of another person at the park. She walked over to me and began to tell me how terrible of a mother I was.

A year or two ago, a man set out to organize resources for a group of abuse victims. The day began with phone calls and text messages. Sitting down to his computer and logging into social media, he was met with a series of notifications. In reply after reply to his post for help was someone who questioned his motivations and demeaned the cause.

This past week a woman was met with the all too familiar attacks on her words. Replies and posts looked for ways to discredit and discourage her from speaking openly again.

When David was met with accolades of great success, Saul was angry towards him and vowed, “I’ll pin David to the wall” (1 Samuel 18.11).

Sometimes, we enter the arena of life and are met with swinging fists. No matter what good is done, some people are determined to fight. In school, we call them “bullies,” and online, we call them “trolls.” In workplaces, we call them “toxic.” In churches, we call them “brother” and “sister.”

Whether this psalm was penned by David or inspired by his life, we know those who rejoiced in his stumbling were his own people. The same people who worshiped with him later turned and sneered, mocked, gloated over him, and falsely accused him.

It is easier to meet fire with fire but that is not the way of our crucified Lord.

The woman this past week responded out of love. Instead of rising (or lowering) to the level of anger thrown her way, she spoke of the value and joy that existed within the other person. She spoke out of kindness and concern.

The man that day patiently answered questions or false assumptions. In a vow of transparency, books were opened and no deeds were covered in darkness.

I went home and prayed for that woman.

Like the silent lamb—our Christ—who uttered no response to his accusers, we are called to meet swinging fists with words of love. It is not easy and certainly not comfortable. They gloat; we intercede.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. — Psalm 31.1

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Proverbs 5 (Listen 2:08)
Psalm 35 (Listen 3:21)

Read more about Responding in Kind
There’s an old saying that we don’t have to attend every fight we are invited to. God doesn’t need our defense but he does desire our devotion.

Read The Bible With Us
Don’t dread your reading plan. Slow down with us and go deeper at a sustainable, two-year pace.


Waiting on the Lord, Loudly

Scripture Focus: Job 40.3-5
3 Then Job answered the Lord:
4 “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you?
     I put my hand over my mouth.
 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer—
     twice, but I will say no more.”

Psalm 27.13-14
13 I remain confident of this:
     I will see the goodness of the Lord
     in the land of the living.
 14 Wait for the Lord;
     be strong and take heart
     and wait for the Lord.

Reflection: Waiting on the Lord, Loudly
By Erin Newton

Waiting on the Lord is one of those phrases we use all the time, but what does it even mean?

We pray for someone to spend our lives with and wait on the Lord in singleness. We pray for the healing of our loved ones and wait on the Lord throughout treatments. We hope for a few quiet days after a difficult year and wait on the Lord while we pour a cup of coffee.

We assume that waiting on the Lord requires some sort of quiet compliance. After all, we ask children to “wait over there.” Customer service says, “Wait one moment” while they connect us. The crosswalk signs chant sternly, “Wait! Wait! Wait!” All of these are expected to happen without complaint, without a fuss, without questioning the person who told us.

Job has not been so quiet. In his suffering, he has made all his frustrations known. No words or feelings have been spared. When God answers him, he admits he has spoken freely but comes up short to finding an adequate answer.

He covers his mouth and resolves to say no more. Is this finally his attempt at waiting on the Lord?

We are tempted to say, “Aha! See, he finally repents and submits.” We have just read chapter after chapter of theological discussion between Job and his friends. Job has begged God to come and answer him. Does God delay because Job wasn’t waiting quietly? Surely not, for we know that even the persistent woman was granted justice against her adversaries (Luke 18).

But we are left with the question we started with: What does waiting on the Lord even mean?

Is waiting on the Lord some sort of spiritual quiet game? Is there no room for questions, complaints, and pleading?

Job has been waiting on the Lord since the first tragedy. Job has waited in the silence of grief. Job has waited in the disagreements with his wife. Job has waited in the heated debates with his friends. Job has waited while scraping the sores on his body. Job has waited even in his harsh words. And Job waits as God speaks in the end.

We are all waiting on the Lord for something. Its various expressions are rooted in this: We will see the goodness of God in the land of the living because God always speaks in the end.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Those who sowed with tears will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed, will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves. — Psalm 126.6-7

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 40 (Listen 2:09)
Psalm 26-27 (Listen 3:13)

Read more about God’s Sufficient Justice
Humans are capable of a certain level of justice and we are responsible before God to bring about justice.

Read more about Sitting with Sinners
The Christian life means we follow the narrow path of obedience, but we must also follow the way of love. It is possible to do both.

 Spiritual Instruments

Scripture Focus: Psalm 19.1-4
1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.
2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they reveal knowledge.
3 They have no speech, they use no words;
no sound is heard from them.
4 Yet their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.

Reflection: Spiritual Instruments
By John Tillman

Whatever scientific instruments we use, whether looking at evidence of black holes, at video from a helicopter on Mars, or deep within our own DNA, we find the fingerprints of God.

In Psalm 19, David tells us that the fingerprints of God are on the stars. Speech about God pours forth from the heavens in an unhearable voice that echoes through the Earth and to the “end of the world.” 

David wasn’t writing about the realities of physics but about spiritual realities. However, subatomic vibrations, unhearable to human ears, seem to testify to the creator. In a 2021 interview with Steven Colbert, physicist Michio Kaku said while explaining string theory, “The mind of god is cosmic music resonating through hyperspace.” (Interview, Part One; Interview, Part Two

Kaku is not a devotee of any religion. The “god” he describes is an impersonal “god of order,” not the God we know. However, the complexity and interconnectedness of what he can see tells him that there is more to see. What he can know tells him that there is more to know. 

Wonder about our universe is returning. With wonder comes seemingly contradictory truths about our humble state and our eternal destiny. We seem to be insignificant specks in the universe, yet the maker of that universe considers us not meaningless or trivial but glorious and of eternal worth.

This week, or whenever you look to the heavens, pray this prayer from 2019, reflecting on Psalm 19.

Humbled by the Heavens

God, we stand in awe on our tiny planet.

You have placed us here among deserts, seas, and mountains that seem incredibly vast, yet they are just imperceptible ridges on the tiny ball of our planet.

And, in the vast darkness of space, our tiny blue dot of light seems so insignificant compared to the other great lights of the sky that you have created.

Thank you for heavens that humble us, Lord.

Without words, let us hear your glory, see your law, experience your touch and your love.
Yet you gave us more than wordless wonder, Lord. You send your Word, your Son, Jesus, to clarify your commands and enlighten our understanding.

The commands of the Lord are radiant,
   giving light to the eyes.

Give our eyes your light, our actions, your love, our words, your persuasive persistence. 
Make us spiritual instruments through which the world can detect your magnificent presence.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
When your word goes forth it gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. — Psalm 119.130

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 35 (Listen 1:33)
Psalm 19 (Listen 2:22)

​This Weekend’s  Readings
Job 36 (Listen 3:04), Psalm 20-21 (Listen 5:47)
Job 37 (Listen 2:27), Psalm 22 (Listen 3:49)

Read more about Pause To Read
Today we begin a three-part series of related podcast episodes. This week, “Lady Folly” from Erin. Next, “Lady Wisdom” from John, followed by “RSVP to Wisdom or Folly.

Read more about The Materialist Cosmos
If the cosmos of the materialist is the real cosmos, it is not much of a cosmos. — GK Chesterton

Victory Over Violence

Scripture Focus: Psalm 18.47-49
47 He is the God who avenges me, 
who subdues nations under me, 
48    who saves me from my enemies. 
You exalted me above my foes; 
from a violent man you rescued me. 
49 Therefore I will praise you, Lord, among the nations; 
I will sing the praises of your name. 

Reflection: Victory Over Violence
By John Tillman

Psalm 18 is a victory song in which the weak, helped by God, have defeated the strong.

Violence is a complex topic in scripture, made more complex for those who have experienced it in their lives.

I experienced much small-scale violence growing up, either fighting back against my own bullies or intervening with violence to stop others from being bullied. Fights were common in school and not always immediately stopped. I think the idea was that if a fight had a clear victor, the disagreement would be “settled” and not pop up again. This unofficial policy may have worked occasionally but was certainly dangerous and unwise. 

In one memorable fight, I defeated my attacker using techniques learned in the elementary wrestling program. While we both awaited punishment outside the principal’s office, the other boy asked me where I learned “those moves.” He later joined the wrestling team. We never became friends, but we became teammates who practiced and competed together.

Violence is not a solution to disputes or conflicts. It normally escalates rather than de-escalates. It rarely turns combatants into teammates. The violence described in the psalm is not a small-scale schoolyard scuffle. It describes war and death.

Federico Villanueva comments on this victory psalm from the perspective of Filipinos, who have often experienced large-scale violence, including defeat and domination by foreign powers. “It is not easy to identify with the triumphant,” Villanueva says. However, “The vision of one who is powerful but at the same time willing to support the weak touches our hearts like no other.”

As someone who experienced and participated in violence, I’m shocked at the glorification of violent words and actions in our culture and among Christians. Those who would welcome a fight or a war rarely have deep experience with either. Those who threaten or enthusiastically support violence in the name of Jesus or “Christian” politics understand neither Jesus nor politics.

Victory psalms are not intended to glorify violence and war. They glorify the God who saves his people from both. Violence is sometimes thrust upon us in this world. In the next few years, we may all be touched by it. Let not violence deter us from being like Jesus. We must never shirk from standing between the wolf and the sheep, between the strong and the weak.

May God grant us victory over violence and from the temptation to glory in it.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Refrain for the Morning Lessons
Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. — Matthew 5.6

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Job 34 (Listen 3:26)
Psalm 18 (Listen 5:47)

Read more about Responding to Political Violence
For Christians to fail to condemn, or worse, to directly endorse this type of violence is a great moral and theological failing.

Read more about How Long?
Christ’s rule is not oppressive. Neither should ours be. His burden and yoke are easy and light. So should ours be.