The Selah Struggle

God’s Hardest Commandment for Me to Keep

Would a loving God ever tell His people to “shut up and listen”? Well, that’s basically the meaning of a word that occurs 74 times in the Bible.

Although scholars aren’t certain the precise meaning of the word Selah, the best suggestions are “pause and think about it” or “stop and listen.” The Hebrew word is generally used in the context of songs or poetry, and it seems to denote a time to stop singing and let the words sink in.

Why does God have to tell us 74 times  to be quiet and ponder what we’ve heard? Probably because listening is so hard  for us! Well, at least it’s hard for me. Maybe you’ve mastered the art of silence, but I know I haven’t.

Often I mindlessly read the Scriptures, sing worship songs, or listen to sermons. The words don’t sink in, because I’ve never paused to meditate on what they really mean.

The Selah  commandment seems harder in the 21st century than it has ever been before. We are so time-conscious that we don’t want to waste even a second to stop and listen…ponder…reflect.

Life has become an endless stream of activity, conversation, and noise. No time to pause and take it all in. Never a moment to consider what it all means. No, we’re wired for sound every waking moment.

Yet Selah  was never meant to be an option. God commands us to take Selah  moments to pause and reflect on who He is and what He is saying to us.

In the course of just 11 verses, Psalm 46 tells us three times to Selah. Verse 10 famously puts Selah  in context: “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

When was the last time you quieted your heart enough to know—to really  know—that He is God, and that He will ultimately be exalted in all the earth? What a life-changing habit that would be.

Other translations of “be still”  have been offered: cease striving…let go…relax. Can you think of anything more therapeutic than a good dose of Selah  every day? I can’t.

So I encourage you to take time to Selah  today. It will surely change your life.

 

 

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Could We Really Have It ALL?

British pop singer Adele has an intriguing line in her hit song, “Rolling in the Deep.” You’ve no doubt heard it blare from a restaurant or department store sound system at one point or another, even if you didn’t pay any attention at the time.

The catchy hook says, “We could have had it all.” I found myself humming that line recently and then reflected on whether it’s a true statement of God’s will for believers. Does our Heavenly Father want His children to “have it all ”?

On the one hand, I’ve seen lots of people destroy their lives by trying to “have it all.” Some of them thought they could enjoy the Lord’s blessings, even while hanging on to worldly addictions and pleasures that were outside of His will. “Having it all,” in such cases, is simply a form of spiritual compromise, which never results in true peace, fulfillment, or fruitfulness.

Another misguided form of attempting to “have it all” is to lead an unfocused life, never really sure of our true calling and purpose. This kind of mistake is typified by such things as multiple careers, multiple ministries, or engaging in a revolving door of personal relationships. Trying to have it “all,” we end up like a butterfly flitting from flower to flower, never staying with one thing long enough to make a lasting impact.

But the Bible speaks of another kind of “having it all,” and this one is much more positive. The Prodigal Son’s older brother became outraged at how the father lavishly greeted his wayward brother who had returned from feeding the pigs in a faraway country (Luke 15:11-32). He angrily told his father, All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!” (vs. 29-30)

It just didn’t seem fair. The older brother felt deprived when he compared his situation to the love showered on the prodigal. For all of his hard work, there was no sense of celebration or joy. It had been years since he’d experienced the father’s loving embrace—if he had experienced it all.

The father gave the older brother a startling reply to his complaint: “My son…you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found  (vs. 31-32).

Wow. Did you catch what the father said here? The older brother had rightful access to EVERYTHING the father owned—yet he felt deprived, because he wasn’t experiencing  the abundance, intimacy, and joy he was entitled to. While the prodigal was squandering his inheritance in a life of sin, the older brother was squandering his in a life of religious drudgery.

As this story illustrates, we really can  “have it all”—not through sin or religion, but by walking in an intimate relationship with our Heavenly Father. He didn’t withhold His beloved Son from us, so “how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us ALL things?”  (Romans 8:32)

You see, when you have Jesus, you already have it ALL! “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…has blessed us in the heavenly realms with EVERY spiritual blessing in Christ”  (Ephesians 1:3).

So the next time you hear Adele sing “We could have had it all,” remember this: Although the older brother could have  had it all, he sadly missed out—just as so many Christians are missing out today.

Never forget: You have it all  if you have Jesus! But make sure you aren’t like the older brother—slavishly serving, but never experiencing the blessings available in the father’s house. The celebration has begun, my friend, and the Father is beckoning you to enter in.

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Chelsea Clinton, Income Inequality & the 2016 Election

Politico recently made the stunning revelation that Chelsea’s Clinton’s salary as a novice, part-time news correspondent for NBC News is $600,000. In contrast, entry-level correspondents normally make between $100K and $200K if their name isn’t connected to American political royalty. And most correspondents for a major network only snag such a job after years of tireless coverage of local news.

According to one of Politico’s sources, “That salary figure is going to make other NBC correspondents’ heads spin right off their shoulders.” In other words, we just can’t help it: It bothers us when other people make more than we do, especially if they don’t seem to be working nearly as hard.

Of course, news correspondents sometimes put in hard work and long hours. One of NBC’s correspondents, Tom Costello, has done 413 stories since Chelsea started at the network in 2011. However, during that same period, Chelsea has done just 20 stories, as far as anyone can tell.

NBC has assigned Chelsea a smattering of feel-good stories. Notable among them was her interview of the Geico gecko, asking him such hard-hitting questions as, “Is there a downside to all this fame?”

So why should we care about Chelsea Clinton’s salary or her workload? We shouldn’t, of course. To quote Chelsea’s mom (in an entirely different context), “What difference does it make?!”

But we live in a day when “income inequality” is a big political and cultural issue. “The 1%” are routinely portrayed as greedy, unethical, and often lazy oppressors who make their money on the backs of the 99%. And people are increasingly calling for justice in the workplace: equal pay for equal work.

In Chelsea’s case, there seems to be exorbitant pay for fairly little work. And, I would argue, it’s rather substandard work at that. Chelsea has long way to go before her interviewing skills approach the level of a Barbara Walters.

But I ask again: Why should we care what another person makes, or how hard or how competently they work?

Somehow we can’t help ourselves from caring, and this is illustrated in a story Jesus told in Matthew 20:1-16. Instead of describing equal pay for equal work, Jesus told about a hypothetical case of equal pay for extremely unequal  work. The laborers in a vineyard all got exactly the same pay, whether they worked all day or showed up at 5 p.m.

Clearly unfair, don’t you think? Those who had started working early in the morning certainly thought so when they found out. They understandably complained to the landowner that those who worked only an hour shouldn’t receive the same pay as they did.

But the landowner rebuked these workers for their envy, reminding them that they received exactly the amount he had agreed to pay them. Why should they care if he generously paid others the same amount to do less work?

Hmmm… As Paul points out in 2 Corinthians 10:12, it’s unwise, and often upsetting, to compare ourselves to others. Yet we can’t seem to help ourselves.

Does it make any difference how much Chelsea Clinton earns or how hard she works? Not really. But I predict that things like this will  make a difference if Hillary Clinton decides to run for President in 2016. We just can’t help feeling upset when privilege triumphs over merit.

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If God Were a Blogger…Would He Write Every Day?

 

I’m struggling with something and wonder if you can give me some perspective. It has been several weeks since I’ve posted a new blog at JimBuchan.com. I’m feeling pretty guilty about this, but I don’t know if I should or not.

It’s not as if I have nothing to say. I’ve ghostwritten thousands of words for various clients. I’ve preached twice. I’ve sent out numerous tweets to my nearly 35K followers @BestBibleTweets.

But I just haven’t felt inspired to write any new blog posts, and I’m rather bummed out about it.

This uncomfortable experience has given me flashbacks from 30+ years ago, when I heard the strangest sermon I’ve ever heard. Art Katz was the guest preacher in our church, and he started his message by saying, “I don’t have any message from the Lord today…”

Wow. I couldn’t believe he said that. Although I’ve heard countless sermons over the years that didn’t seem to be a “word from the Lord,” I’ve never heard a preacher admit  that fact!

While I don’t remember everything that transpired after Art Katz shared his stunning announcement, I do remember this: Before long, the altar was filled with people on their faces before God, crying out for a fresh outpouring of His Spirit.

Art Katz helped me see that it’s smart to shut up when God hasn’t given you anything to say. Sometimes that gives Him a chance to say things directly to His people, without any chatter from you in the background.

I’ve also been questioning the common assumption that God is constantly  speaking, even if we aren’t constantly listening. What if He chooses to be silent for a time? What if He decides to hide His face so we are caused to seek Him again? This was David’s experience in Psalm 30:6-8, prompting him shake off his complacency and cry out to the Lord more than ever.

And what about the 400 “silent years” between the end of Malachi and the beginning of Matthew? Surely God must have been speaking to His servants during that time. But it seems He had given up blogging for a while. So maybe I should feel guilty after all.

What do you think? Have you had similar experiences to Art Katz? To David? To me?

 

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