Bread – Good

January 29, 2016


Psalm 4

“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!’

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Ps. 4:6-8

When I first read this, I misread it.  I thought that the many said “Who will show us some good?” and it was the Psalmist, David, who answered “Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!”

But that is an incorrect reading because it is the many who say both the question and the response?

But is the response the answer.  In order for us to see good, must the Lord lift up the light of His face upon us?  What if He doesn’t, for the moment.  Can we not see good?

I guess it depends upon your definition of “good.”  It turns out that “good” is one of those words, like “truth.”  We can think of it as an absolute term … there is truth and there is not; there is good and there is not.  Or we can think about it in relative terms, where the meaning shifts depending upon us.  What is truth (to us)?  What is good (to us)?

I think the answer to the “truth” question is easier, in one sense, because we have a sense that “truth” is an absolute, that there is God’s truth, which is absolute, and then our truths, which can vary depending upon our mood of the day.  But we are not so sure about “good.”  Is there an absolute “good” or is “good” just a situation where one thing is “better” than another and, therefore, “good?”

Normally, when I have these questions and I turn to God’s Word for answers, I look up the Hebrew or Greek (or Aramaic) definitions.  In this case, the Hebrew word for “good” doesn’t necessarily help.  “Good” as used in this Psalm is actually an adjective and not a noun, suggesting the phrase “some good” has a blank after it, to be filled in…”Who will show us some good [things, ideas, life, food, etc.].  And the meaning is pleasant, beautiful, excellent, lovely, delightful, convenient, joyful, fruitful, precious, sound, cheerful, kind, correct, righteous, virtue, happiness, practical or economic benefits, wisdom, and moral good.

So perhaps the idea of “good” is fundamentally an idea about which gives us the greater benefit.

And so the rest of the Psalm really begins to take on meaning because David essentially is telling the many who question, “Yes, you have it right!  If you want to see some good [things] come into your life, ask the Lord.”

I say that because David immediately tells the Lord that He is the One who has put more joy (benefit, happiness, good) into his heart than anybody else has even when their “grain and wine abound.”  Even when the world lavishes us out of its bounty with good things, the pleasant, beautiful, excellent, and lovely things it can give us, these pale in comparison to the joy (good, pleasant, beautiful, excellent) things which God gives us.

And what is the best good of all?  David hints at it in the last verse where he says “For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”   We may have riches, friends, power, position, plenty to eat … everything the modern world offers and then some.  And is that as good as the sense of safety, of peace, of love, of rest.  When we have a good night’s sleep, don’t we (generally) feel good the next day?  When we dwell in safety, aren’t we really the happiest.

Where do you look for your good?  Is to yourself, your friends, your job, your family, your business?  Or do you look to God?  Are you one of the many who ask the Lord to “lift up the light of His countenance upon them” or one of the many who don’t?

As I end this, I am reminded that in asking these questions, I find myself in the role of the early disciples, who asked Jesus “what good deed must I do?” And Jesus answered, “Why do you ask Me what is good?  There is only One who is good.  If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  Matt. 19:16-17

David is saying the same thing.  When we have a question about good, there is one place to look and we will experience the rest which comes from knowing good, from knowing Him who created good, from the One who defines good, and from the only One, Jesus Christ, capable of giving the good sacrifice which guarantees us the true good, that we can lie down and sleep “for You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”  … for all eternity

Do you want to see the good, experience the good, rest in true safety?  “Offer right sacrifices [the obedience of the heart to Jesus Christ and His commands], and put your trust in the Lord.” Ps. 4:5  And watch the good abound in your life and in the lives of those you touch.

__________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Anger

January 27, 2016


Psalm 4

“Be angry and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.  Selah.”  Ps. 4:4

We know that “Selah” means, in part, to stop and reflect on what we just read.  So as hard as this passage may be to understand, we need to stop and think about it.

When somebody steps on us physically, emotionally, or spiritually, our natural response is anger.  The “step on us” can be something as simple as a misplaced word or a misinterpreted word from someone close or it can be as complicated as being bypassed for a promotion because someone else is more politically correct within the organization.  Somebody can hit us and somebody can accuse us and our natural response, almost our animal response is anger.  We show this anger in harsh words, by striking back, by stomping off, by yelling, by pouting, by silence, by throwing whatever object happens to be close by (a golf club comes to mind).  We are insulted and, d…n it, someone “is going to pay through the nose.”

It is suggested by Jesus that anger is the equivalent of murder (compare Matt. 5:21 and 5:22).  And yet the Psalmist, David, tells us to “be angry” and, at the same time, do not sin.  How is that possible?

One way is to deal with your anger Scripturally.  Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  In other words, one way to deal with your anger Scripturally is to recognize it for what it is, hold your tongue so that it does not add to the fire (“…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” Js. 1:20), and release it so that it does not hold you down.  Do not carry it with you to bed, so that it torments you all night and deprives you of your rest.

A second way is to realize that the Hebrew word translated as “anger” in the ESV can also be translated as “tremble,” which is how it is translated in the NASB: “Tremble and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” Ps. 4:4 (NASB)

Now being angry makes me tremble, and so the words are closely related.  But we are also expected to tremble before God and His holiness.  (“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled…” Ex. 20:18).

Now, if you think about it, when we get angry and begin to sin in our thoughts and even our actions, who is more angry?  God hates sin, all sin.  When we respond in anger to the slights of others, we would be deserving to suffer God’s wrath upon us.

When we tremble in our anger, ready to strike out and revenge our honor, perhaps if we thought about God at the same time, we would also be trembling before Him, reminding ourselves that if anyone should be angry, it should be Him.

So, there are two ways to deal with our anger … in our own strength by biting our tongue and leaving the gun in the closet, or trembling also before God, awed by both His righteousness and His mercy in not taking us out right then.

When we think about God first in our response, we recall His mercy on us and, in turn, we can, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, give mercy to others.  To they deserve our condemnation for their insults upon us which make us angry?  Yes they do, but then so do we before a Holy God.

In our anger, we tremble.  Maybe, just maybe, this is a physical message from God to remind us that the only person we should be trembling before is Him, not out of anger but out of holy awe and fear.

How can we be angry and not sin?  Tremble before the right Person and let Him handle it.  And, somehow, we will find that we are no longer angry.  Why?  Because we have been saved from God’s own anger at us by His own Son, and, being mindful of this, recalling this in our anger, we can no longer be angry, but grateful.

__________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Reputation

January 25, 2016


Psalm 4

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!…O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?”  Ps. 4:1-2

In the first century B.C., Syrus said “A good reputation is more valuable than money.”  This is a knock-off of an even older quote, from Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than precious ointment…”

So, knowing this, we protect our reputations like a tiger.

This is what David is referring to when he says that his “honor” has been turned into “shame.”  His reputation (honor) is being attacked unfairly.  And he is fighting back by appealing to the Lord to intervene.

When was the last time your reputation was attacked?  Probably pretty recently.  You consider yourself honest and someone falsely accuses you of lying.  You have avoided sexual sin resolutely and are accused by an employee you did not promote of committing retaliation because you wanted a romantic encounter and he/she refused.  You are honest in your sales and a customer accuses you of shorting the shipment.  You love your neighbors and you hear gossip that some people are saying that you are cheap and selfish.  I am sure you can fill in the blank.

When our reputations are attacked, what do we do typically?  We usually protest immediately, of course – “I did not say (do) that!”  And we might actually start a counter-slander campaign … “Oh, you know, the person saying that is known as a liar … is crazy …. Is out to get me because …”  Or we might retreat and dress our wounds, nursing our anger for just the right moment for counterstrike.

But we would rarely go to the Lord and ask Him to intervene.  After all, what is He going to do?  Put the genie back in the bottle?  Cause my defamer to get laryngitis and die?  Cause the lies and the deceit to disappear?  Cause the libelous statement in the newspaper to evaporate?  Open the world’s eyes to the lie behind the defamer’s statements and the truth behind my own?

So we don’t go to God typically in response to an attack on our reputation.  Instead, we figure out how to deal with it.  We may even go so far as hiring a public relations expert, people artful in the campaign of public words.  We may do lots of things … but we hardly ever go to the Lord.

Why not?  Why don’t we go to Him first?

Maybe it is because we know the truth, and the truth is that our reputation is tarnished.  We tell the truth except when we don’t.  We pay our taxes except when we don’t.  We speak well of others except when we don’t.  We trust in the Lord except when we don’t.  We are honest businesspersons except when we aren’t.  We avoid sexual sin except when we don’t.  We hold our tongue except when we don’t.

So one of the reasons we may not go to the Lord is that we know, in our heart, that the “slander” is not true of us, but neither is it totally false.  And so, why go to the Lord for the protection of our reputation when we know that His response may well be “Come on, now, you may not have lied to the accuser but you have lied, today, to someone, haven’t you?”  We just know in our heart that we are unworthy to ask for the Lord’s intervention; therefore, we don’t.

But we are wrong to think so.  Just before verse 2 of Psalm 4, David prays to God “Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”  Ps. 4:1c

David is asking God to be merciful to him, not because he is worthy but because he is God’s child (“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself…” Ps. 4:3).

The truth is that our reputation lies in the hands of others, because what they say about us is what they say about us.  Our honor and glory, however, lies in the hands of God and in the degree of our obedience to His commands.

The only reputation that matters is our reputation before God and that is good.  It is not a good reputation because we are good; it is a good reputation because Jesus is good.

Christians have had their reputations sullied throughout the years and many have died because of that travesty.  However, they have gone to be with the Lord with their real reputation, their identity in Christ, preserved.

If we look to God first, our reputation becomes irrelevant to how we think of ourselves and, ultimately, how others think of us as we become obedient to God’s Word.  If we look to others for our fulfillment, then our reputation means everything because the approval of others is everything.

Who do we look to for our approval, for our help in time of need?  We know David’s answer.  What is ours?

__________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

Bread – Save

January 22, 2016


Psalm 3

“Arise, O Lord!  Save me, O my God … Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be on Your people!”  Ps. 3:7-8

Before the first “Selah!” of Psalm 3, David (and we) were focused on our troubles, on our enemies, on our poor condition and place.  After that and before the second “Selah!,” we refocused our attention from ourselves and our situation to the Lord and His power to be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our heads in times of trouble.

Now we arrive at the third part and it is a fitting way to end the week.  In this third part, David cries out to God “Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God…” and he ends with the familiar phrase “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

The question of the day is what is God saving us from?  The phrase “Arise, O Lord!” is noted by the commentators as the familiar invocation of God to assist the Israelites in war.  In this context, and given David’s dire situation in the desert, running away from his treacherous son, the word “save” here could well mean that David is asking God to save him from his physical, present circumstances … to help him defeat his enemies, overcome his son, re-enter the palace, and take back his throne.

When we pray to God to rescue us, to save us, isn’t it often in this context?  We have found ourselves lost and we ask to be found.  We have found ourselves in a bad situation surrounded by enemies and we ask God to defeat the enemies and restore us to our place.  We lose our job and we pray to God that He rise up and find you a job.  We expose ourselves to sin over and over and, when we are reaping what we sow, we ask God to rescue us.  We become ill from a deadly disease and ask for healing, for saving from the disease.   David may well be doing the same thing.

But, immediately, David changes from a focus on rescue from a bad place in specific to eternal rescue, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”  From “rescue me from this pit” to “rescue me for all time.”

And that is what we are inclined to do.  Know that Christ has saved us eternally and ask from time to time that God save us from a bad situation we find ourselves in.

From physical save to theological, eternal save in one easy step.

But the problem is, we have all asked God to save us from X, only to find out that the next morning X is still there.  Where is God?  Why hasn’t He arisen to save me?   And in that reality, in that truth that God does not always show up in the time, way, and effect which we want, we come up with any number of explanations, from “God doesn’t love me” to “I am unworthy” to “it wasn’t in God’s will” to “there is some unrepented of sin.”  And a thousand other explanations.

There have been many books written about how to deal with the unanswered prayer.

But I want us today to stand back and think a little further.  Isn’t there a third way that God saves us.  We are taught the eternal salvation.  We ask for the physical salvation.  But doesn’t God always, always, always save us from ourselves?  Doesn’t He always save us from our emotions when we let Him?

Maybe the third way God saves us is by rescuing us from our emotions.

When we ask God for healing from our illness and nothing physical changes … we are just as sick as we were, has anything changed?  I think if we look into our hearts when we have asked for something and not gotten it, we know that something has changed.  Our emotions have changed from fear and anxiety to peace and joy.  Our bitterness toward the person harming us has melted away into forgiveness.  Our self-righteous attitude that says we deserve everything has converted to a honest appraisal of ourselves that says we deserve nothing.  Our love of self transforms into a love of others.  Prosperity defined by money and power is recreated by God’s power into prosperity defined by relationships.

When David prays “Arise O Lord!  Save me, O my God,” is he praying, really, for physical deliverance or emotional deliverance?

When you are in trouble because your car won’t start and you cry out to the Lord to start your car and, presto, it still doesn’t start, has God shown up and saved you?  I think the answer to that is “yes,” not because He started the car but because He changed how you respond to the car not starting.  He has changed your emotional reaction to one of worry and hurry to one of, “Oh well, this too shall pass.”  He has changed your attitude toward the problem.  He has changed you.  He has saved you from yourself.

So when we pray to be saved from our affliction and our affliction remains, has God shown up?  If the answer is that hope has replaced despair, promise has replaced worry, life has replaced death, caring about others has replaced caring about yourself, and solutions have replaced problems, then, “yes” God has saved you.

We can and we will ask God to rescue us from our enemies.  And sometimes He will and sometimes He will appear not to have.  But the miracle is not that He rescues us from our enemies, but that He rescues us from ourselves, from captivity to our emotions and selfishness.  That is the miracle.

Arise, O Lord.  Save me, O my God!  Because You have, You are, and You will.  Thanks be to God!

__________

© 2016 GBF     All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Refocus

January 20, 2016


Psalm 3

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”  Ps. 3:3

In the last Bread, we found David evicted from his palace by his son, hiding in the desert, surrounded by many enemies, many foes.  And we ended there, with the word “Selah,” which I interpret as meaning stop, listen, think, meditate.  And so that is where we stopped, in the middle of contemplation of all of the real troubles we face every day – debt, worry, income, torn family relations, unethical co-workers and supervisors, the daily scramble for shelter, transportation, and food, defending ourselves constantly from the naysayers while attempting to make progress.  Abandoned perhaps by our perceived friends and, maybe even, our family.  And we hide or strike out in anger or confusion, not knowing which way to turn.

Selah!  Stop, think, recall, remember, look back so you can look forward.  Refocus.

Refocus on what or who?  Follow what David did … in the midst of his troubles, surrounded by many foes, he remembered God and refocused on Him.

Look at the transition from many foes and people saying “there is no salvation for him (David) from God” to the very next line, “But You, O Lord..”

And what does David remember?  That the Lord is (1) a shield, (2) his glory, and (3) the lifter of his head.

How often, when we look back and remember, has the Lord been our shield in time of trouble, bringing us through the valleys, walking with us, speaking to us in words which are unspeakable but are real nonetheless?  How often has this shield caused the darts of the enemy to fall to the ground?  If we believe in Jesus Christ, we know that He is the greatest shield of all, protecting us from God the Father’s just wrath upon us for our sin, for our disobedience.  He is the shield for us from eternal death.

But is He our glory?  Do we shine when we are before Him, on our knees, in obedience and worship?  I think that, if we are in touch with our souls, the answer is “yes.”  Because He is light, when we are in His presence we reflect His light.  Because He is holiness, when we are in His presence we reflect His holiness.  Because He is glory, when we are in His presence we reflect His glory.  When have you been happiest?  When you got the big promotion, when you graduated from school, when you got married, when you got your first dog or cat?  I daresay not even those things have made us really happy, although we are inclined to say so.  I daresay that the date you were the happiest was the date you met our Lord Jesus and knew in your heart that on that day, you were born again into eternal life.  I daresay the date when you are the happiest now is when some great truth from God, some great wisdom, penetrates into your soul, waking you up with His power to do His will in His way.  So, yes, He is not only our shield, but He is our glory.

And, finally, David acknowledges that He is the lifter of David’s head.  When we are burdened down with the bricks and stones which the world throws at us, when we are covered up, by what strength do we look for the new day?  By what strength do we laugh at death and destruction?  By what strength do we lift our own head?  It is not our strength and it is not by our act that we have hope.  It is by God who lifts our head for us.  He provides the power and the action.  All we have to do is to remember, refocus, and trust.

When we are so focused on our troubles that all we can think of is to hide, retreat, cover up, protect ourselves, or maybe strike in anger or reaction, what is the solution?  Selah!  Remember, refocus, and trust.

Instead of looking at our foes and meditating on how powerful they are, David’s message to us is that we need to look at God and meditate on powerful He is.

How do we refocus?  Let God be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head.

Now this verse 3 (and 4) are followed by another “Selah!”  And so we stop again, this time to meditate upon God instead of our foes, to meditate on our blessings instead of our curses, to meditate on the eternal as opposed to the temporal, to meditate with our eyes to the hills whence cometh our help instead to the ground, to meditate on the trustworthiness of God instead of the untrustworthy nature of the world.

Is you day going poorly?  Refocus on the truth instead of the lie, on the victory instead of the defeat, on God instead of yourself and the world.

And watch how quickly your shield, your glory, and your lifter of your head comes to be all three.

Selah!

———————————————–

© 2016 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Concrete

January 18, 2016


Psalm 3

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

“O Lord, how many are my foes!  Many are rising up against me…”  Ps. 3:1

There is a tendency among all of us to intellectualize God and His role in our lives.  We thinks of enemies in the abstract.  We think of difficulties in general.  Except when we are sick, maybe, we tend not to put a specific point on our ideas about help from God.  We talk about mountains and valleys, but we rarely talk about the mountain or the valley.

That is why I call this Bread “concrete.”  This Psalm is not about David’s enemies in general as an idea but about Absalom, David’s son, who led a revolt against David and caused him to run away for his life.  In case you doubt the concreteness of this event, read 2 Samuel, chapters 15 and 16, for a blow by blow.

This Psalm is about a concrete event resulting in David’s fearing for his life, his safety, and his future.

We have been attacked.  Perhaps by a neighbor, a friend, a co-worker, a boss, an employee, a customer, our spouse, our children, and someone else.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s Monday and the sharp knives are out.  You are doing the best you can and are now in full retreat, running for your life as fast as you can.  What did you do to cause it?  Maybe a word.  Maybe an action.  Maybe something building up over a long period of time.  Maybe nothing.  Doesn’t matter … you are being attacked, you are in full retreat, you are feeling overwhelmed and you might in fact be overwhelmed (feelings sometimes do reflect reality).

What do we do?  Perhaps we retreat and cower in fear of what will happen next?  Perhaps we behave like the peacock or gorilla, making ourselves seen or heard for long distances, making ourselves seem bigger, bolder, stronger, and braver than we really are.  Perhaps we plot the counter-attack.  Perhaps we start making calls to find ourselves some allies, some fellow soldiers, so that we can build an army and take back what is ours.  Perhaps we respond in anger and counter-attack immediately, setting fire to the relationships and the situation by our tongue and by our arm.

This is the set-up.  This is the concrete deal.  This is where the rubber meets the road.  All we can see is our foes, our enemies.  All we can see is what we have lost.  All we can see is how much ground we have to get back to put us even or to get even or both.

David was driven out of his home by his own son.  His own son was trying to kill him.  His own son had spread gossip around so that people who David thought were his friends were not, but were hostile to him.  All this came upon David so fast that he ran for the Mount of Olives, the desert, without his shoes (2 Sam. 15:30).

And so in such concrete circumstances, we like David lament, “how many are my foes.”  The cataclysm in our lives is so big that all we can do is shake our head at our situation, convinced in our heart that hope is gone.

And then we, in this Psalm, run into the “Selah.”  No one knows what this means, exactly, but I have noticed that, where it appears in the Psalms, it is like an exclamation point, saying stop … look … and listen.  Sort of God’s ways of saying, in the Psalms, “Pay attention!” or “Stop and watch and listen.”

And so in our reading today, in the concrete moment of disaster, when the only thing occupying our minds is the depth, breadth, number, and power of our foes … God (and the Psalmist) say “Selah!”

How often in the midst of our daily grind do we feel under attack?  How many times are we actually under attack?  In all these circumstances, we can be like David and lament our situation, whine about the strength of our enemies, and be miserable.  But as Christ’s own, once we are done there is a moment when God says to us “Selah!”  And with that we know the next chapter has begun.

Selah!

——————

© 2016 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

Bread – Kiss

January 15, 2016


Psalm 2

“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled.  Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”  Ps. 2:12

I have been thinking about this all week, and as I write this I am no closer to deep insight about what this means.

In today’s modern Western culture, the word “kiss” is basically known as the intimate actions before sexual intercourse.  So there is that blockage to understanding.  On top of that, how do you kiss God?  Have a hard time figuring this one out too.  Then there is the connection between kissing and avoiding wrath.  Why should God be mad with me when I don’t do what I can’t do anyway?

Yet, there it is.  “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry.”  So, we have to deal with it.

And how we can deal with it is to realize that there is an older, deeper meaning to the action of kissing.  Kissing is also the act of showing homage or obedience.  We still do that today.  In some cultures, kissing shows respect and friendship.  In some churches today, we may kiss the ring of a church official or may kiss an icon to show deference to the church or its officials or to Christ, the son.  In Romans, Paul says to the Christians to greet each other with a holy kiss.  Rom. 16:16.

And, indeed, there are Scripture translations which substitute “homage” for “kiss.”  For example, the NASB says “Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry…” Ps. 2:12.

But somehow, I still find this unhelpful, so I asked myself what goes into kissing.  First of all, it is personal.  To do it, we have to engage the other thing or person we are kissing, look at it or the person, and contemplate it.   We have to make a decision about what is the best way to do it in the circumstances.  We have to be deliberate.  We have to be accurate (it does no good to miss the thing we are aiming at to kiss).

Yes, kissing the Son shows respect, caring, and obedience in the old sense of the word.  But it also demonstrates something more.  To kiss the Son, we have to recognize that He is there, we have to be deliberate in our intent to honor Him, we have to put ourselves out of our position and exercise initiative, we have to set aside perhaps our pride, and we have to use our mouths.

I said earlier that, how is it possible to kiss God?  Well, God never gives us a command that we have no means of fulfilling, because He provides the power and the means.  So by what power and by what means does Christ give us the ability to kiss Him?

And then I started to chuckle, because the answer is before us every Sunday.  He said it Himself – “Take, eat; this is My body.”  Matt. 26:26

We call it communion.  How do we kiss Jesus.  We follow His command to participate in the Lord’s supper.

We do not have to just kiss Jesus mentally or emotionally, He has given us the means to kiss Him physically.

Holy communion.  Holy kissing.  The command of the Psalm made possible by the command of Christ instituting the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) and made complete by our obedience.

Our homage to Christ is our obedience to His commands.  Our obedience to His commands includes participation in His meal.  Our participation in His meal is kissing the Son.

Come, let us adore Him and pay homage to Him and kiss Him and eat of the bread and wine, His body and blood.  And be grateful.

__________

© 2016 GBF

All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Bonds

January 13, 2016


Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves … against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”  Ps. 2:1-3

What “bonds” are they talking about?  Why do the rulers of the people, the ones who are ordained by God to execute justice and rule honestly in the land, want to throw off “their bonds” (the “their” referring to the Lord and His Anointed)?

There are four kinds of bonds which I think the writer has in mind.  The first are the bonds of rules and regulations (the Law).  As Jews in the Old Testament, they were bound to follow the Law and in fact invented broader, deeper, and more detailed laws than God dictated.

The second kind of bonds are the bonds of relationship.  We live in a covenant relationship with God, where He has shown love to us by His death on the cross and His payment of our debt of sin, and in turn we have promised obedience.  This obedience though is not to a set of rules and regulations, but a set of the requirements of love in a relationship – love of the Father, love of our neighbor, love for the lost.  When we get married we make a covenant with our spouse, and everyone who is married understands the bonds of relationship.

The third kind of bonds are the bonds of society, or the rules of civility, of tolerance, of kindness.  Sometimes these are rooted in the bonds of the law and sometimes in the bonds of relationship, but I think that society itself places its own bonds upon us.  These may show up in rules and regulations, but most often they show up in phrases like “out of date,” “out of touch,” “un-stylish,” etc.  These are the bonds created by society to make us look like we belong.

The fourth kind of bonds are the bonds of the past and the future.  We may feel like we are shackled by our past, but if one believes prophecy, then to a certain extent we are subject to the bonds of God’s plan for us and for the world.  We are bound to the end times, whether we witness them or not.

So when the rulers want to cast away “their bonds,” they are essentially saying to God, “I want to cast away Your Law, Your Relationship with me, Your relationship in the community of the saints, and Your Future.

When the rulers do that, it is so that they can run their own game.  When the rulers cast off the Law of God, what do they have left?  The tyranny of man, unmoored from standards, morality, truth, integrity, honor.

When the rulers cast off the Presence of God, the Relationship with God, what do they have left?  Hopelessness because death is the only end.  A hole in their heart originally filled by God.  Lovelessness, hatred, anger, bitterness, anxiety, loss, depression.

When the rulers cast off God’s community, what do they have left?  “Friends” borne of convenience, treachery, isolation, withdrawal, bitterness.  Lack of accountability for anything they do or say.

When the rulers cast off God’s future, what do they have left?  The future they create?  Barns filled with treasures stolen from others (or maybe earned, doesn’t matter), all of which is left behind at death.  No future.

What do you get when the rulers cast off ‘their bonds.”  The rise of man as boss, tyrant, murderer, and thief.  Unlovable and unloved.  Chaos.  Anarchy.  Death.  Destruction.  Disaster.

We as Americans have spent the last hundred years acting as the rulers who are busy “bursting their bonds.”  Has it bought us more freedom?  No.  Has it bought us more happiness?  No.  Has it brought us more riches of the eternal kind?  No.  Has it made us a more civil society?  No.  Has it made us love more?  No.  Has it helped our neighbor (if we even know who that is)?  No.

And God laughs and we suffer.  But there is a way to end the suffering.  There is a way to recovery.  Jesus says “Take My yoke (My bonds) upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke (My bonds) is (are) easy, and My burden (My bonds) is (are) light.”  Matt. 11:29-30

Embrace the bonds imposed by God and you will free and alive.  Burst the bonds of God and you will be both dead and miserable.   Our choice every day, and we will either suffer or rejoice in the consequences.

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© 2016 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Power

January 11, 2016


Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?…He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision…”  Ps. 2:1,4

One of the images which has always stuck with me was a television advertisement for something where this huge hulk of a man, probably a football center, guard or tackle, is holding in the crook of his hand a little baby.  To me, this is the perfect image of the gentle giant.  A person so powerful that he does not to demonstrate his power in holding a baby or talking to baby.

We are used to power arrangements.  For example, at work your boss likely sits behind a desk and perhaps even the chairs in front of the desk (for you) are uncomfortable.  The existence of the desk and the uninviting surroundings is designed to create a power relationship, where your boss is dominant and you are not.

But we also know that the most powerful statement a person can make about themselves is to show no power at all.  You know when you are in a powerful man’s office when there is no desk, no barrier to communication.  Instead, there may be two comfortable chairs or a sofa, making it clear that this person considers himself or herself to be equal in power to you.  And in those circumstances we know we are in the presence of a powerful person, because he or she does not need to demonstrate their power.  They have it and they know it, and so do you.

Psalm 2 introduces us to ourselves, the nations.  We rage against God and His creation and His Word, and we plot ways to make ourselves better and more powerful, all the while snubbing the “Big Man.”  Now, if you were God, what action would you take against yourself, the renegade, the derelict, the loathsome, the excluded, the nations who rage against God?  What would you do?  The word “smite” comes to mind – I would exercise my power and smite you.  If I were a boss I might fire you or write you up.  If I were a policeman I would arrest you and make sure you stayed in a prison worthy of your actions.  If I were a soldier, I would maim or kill you with bombs or guns or knives or other methods of destruction.  If I were a reporter, I would destroy you in the press.  If I were God, I would “smite” you, crush you, wipe you out.  And, indeed, there are many people who wonder why God, if He is so powerful, doesn’t do just that.

What does God do?  He just laughs (and this is apparently the only time God the Father ever does), but not in a jocular way but in a scoffing way.  He laughs because He has no need to show His power.  There is nothing these rulers who rage and plot can do to Him.  They cannot make Him go away.  They cannot make Him any less God.  They cannot smear His name.  They cannot fire Him.  They cannot put God in a box.  They cannot educate God away.  They cannot chase Him away.  They cannot even ignore Him away (which is why they rage and plot).  He is, He was, and He will be.  So the response to the raging and plotting is laughing, a form of us saying “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Do you rage against God for some perceived wrong or fault or act or failure to act which He has done to you?  Do you rage against God because He is a “superstition” or a “forgery.”   Do you rage against God because your life is out of control and, somehow, it is His fault (being that it could never be your fault, of course)?  Do you rage against God because you are afraid of appearing to be foolish among the people you hang out with?  Do you rage against God because you don’t have enough money, a job, a house, a car, an education, an opportunity?

Your raging will result in nothing.  God has done for you what He will at the time.  He has brought Him to your door through Scripture and through His Son, Jesus Christ.  He has sustained you through difficulty.

You want real power?  Go to the cross and bow your head to the Almighty.  Surrender.  Lay down your arms.  Drop your rage and anger.  Know that Jesus died and was resurrected, lives beside God the Father, and will come again.  And believe (trust) in Him.

Now that you are clothed with Christ’s righteousness, the world will rage at you.  And you, with the Father, can laugh, can say “You are kidding me, right,” because whether we die or live in poverty or in wealth, we will be with Him forever.   And that makes us the most powerful one in the room, because we know that, no matter what, we have won, even if we die.

The real power is demonstrated best when it does not need to be shown.  Our ability to laugh while the world rages is real power, because those who rage will look at us and ask “from whence cometh your strength, your peace, your joy, your happiness, your security?”  And we can answer truthfully because we know the truth and we are free.  And that, my friends, is real power.

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© 2016 GBF

All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Ways

January 8, 2016


Psalm 1

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”  Ps. 1:5-6

Yogi Berra is famous for saying “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

There is great wisdom in this statement and a great lie as well.

The wisdom is that, when you come to a place of division of the road, when the road divides into two places, the worse thing in the world you can do is sit there.  For while you are sitting there, double-minded about which way to take, which direction to go, which path to follow, you are in fact following a path of nothing.  No progress, no achievement (no risk of loss either), no having to put up with change, no nothing.  When we use the term “couch potato,” we are not only referring to someone who fills their day with dribble from the television, but we are also talking about someone who is stuck at the fork, going neither to the left nor the right.  So, the wisdom of Yogi Berra is that, when we are at a point of decision, make a decision and stick with it.  Go!  Do!  Choose!

Now that is the wisdom.  The lie is that the world treats either choice, to the left or the right, as equally valid, as equally appropriate.  See, the world says that you may not know where each road leaves, so just pick one and you will find out.  And if it was the wrong road, you can always come back and start over, and if was the right road, then you win.  But you can never win if you stay stuck at the fork.  That is the wisdom of the world.  And it is a lie.

God in His Word today has made clear that there are in fact two ways, two roads, and that we are always at a fork in the road, choosing which way to go.  But one way is the way to death (the way of the wicked) and the other is the way of to life (the way of the righteous).  Knowing that and seeing that, why do we continuously pick the way of the wicked?

The answer to this question is locked up in verse 5, the first half of this quote.    “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”  (emphasis added).  Verse 5 says that people who are “in the congregation of the righteous” and who sin will not stand in the judgment and Verse 6 says essentially that the righteous will not perish.  How can these be reconciled?

The difference is the difference between being “included” in the group of people who consider themselves to have a right relationship with God and being “counted” by God as righteous.  One is the way of man, where man reaches God through effort, which will always fail because every man (and woman) falls short of the glory of God and sins.  You and I both know that we are sinners, even though we may hold ourselves to be in group of righteous folk.  The other, being counted as righteous, is the way of God, the work of God, the power of God, and the grace and mercy of God.

The Bible has all kinds of ways of saying this, but isn’t it remarkable that locked in this first Psalm is not only the message of God’s revelation (His Law) of Himself on which we should meditate, but also the message of God’s grace and His salvation.

There are two ways and only two ways.  Being at the fork and being stuck there is the way of man and the world, where we are trapped in time between different philosophies and the demands of different people, including our family.  Being stuck at the fork is no different than taking the way of the wicked.  So the way of the wicked includes sitting at the fork.  But the way of the wicked also includes sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  If the way of the wicked includes people on that path, who are stuck at the fork, and who are sinners in the congregation of the righteous, then who is following the way of the righteous?  Who is saved?

The people who follow God.  Those people are not trapped between philosophies of life, because they know the law of the Life- and Law-Giver.  They do not follow the demands of different people because they follow the only Father, who does not change and is not double-minded.  Because they follow the right way, the way of the righteous, they bloom and perform good works, being like a “tree planted by streams of water that yield its fruit in season.”  Ps. 1:3

But to do that, we must be counted as righteous and there is only way to do that – through the narrow gate, down the narrow path, to rest in the arms of Jesus Christ, the only Righteous One.

There is only one way to get on the path of the way of the righteous, and that is to be carried by Jesus Christ.  As He bore the cross on His way to death and resurrection, so He bears us.  And it is the path of the righteous not because we are righteous, but because He is.

Revealed in Psalm 1 is Jesus Christ, because He is the way of the righteous.  Every other path is the way of wickedness, no matter how hard we try.

So we are at a fork in the road, what path do we take?  If we want to take the path of righteousness, we don’t.  Jesus does and we follow through the door God has opened for us onto the path which God lights up for us using the power which God gives us, all for His glory and His glory alone.

© 2016 GBF

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All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

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