Bread – Intend

February 29, 2016


Psalm 9

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in You;

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.”  Ps. 9:1-2

“I will” are perhaps the most abused words in the English language.  “I will pray for you.”  How many of us have said that and then not?  “I will take out the garbage.”  How many of us have said that and then not?  “I will call him/her/it when I get a chance.”  How many of us have said that and then not?

When I read this Psalm, which is described by many as a “praise” Psalm, I asked myself the question of why David didn’t just do it.  Why didn’t he say “I give…,” “I recount….,” “I am glad…,” and “I sing…”?  Why did David say “I will” when he could have just done it?

There are perhaps several potential answers to this question.  One is that David may have been thinking about the future, about a variety of circumstances to occur in the future, and in a sense be committing himself now to praising God in those circumstances then, because he knew himself and knew that, in those future circumstances, he would not be inclined to praise God unless he remembered that he said he would.   And, indeed, that is a good thing – for us to contemplate today what may happen tomorrow and to steel ourselves today for what we will do tomorrow when something bad happens.  For example, if a bad person says to you “Deny Jesus Christ or die by having your head chopped off,”  what will you do then?  Rather than waiting for that to happen and then thinking about it, it might be a good time today to ask of yourself whether, in a crisis, you would deny Jesus.  Just like we plan today for tomorrow in our personal and business lives, maybe we should plan today for tomorrow in our spiritual lives.

Another potential answer is that David meant something by the word “will.”  I used the word “intend” to describe Bread today because, in modern English, there has been a softening of the word “will” to mean “intend.”  Today, when we say we “will” do something, it often means that we “intend” to do it, so it is OK if we don’t.  In David’s time and in our not-so-far distant past, the word “will” though meant something much more like a “firm intent,” a “promise,” a declaration of what we will do “come what may, in all circumstances.”  At a time when a promise means something, then to say “I will” is a form of “bond oath” which will not be broken if at all possible.  Today, we might even say that people of integrity will keep a promise, pay a debt, do what they say they “will” do, no matter what.  But if you only “intend” to do it, then it is OK if you change your mind or just forget.  Therefore, for modern man, it is easier for us to say “I will” when we really mean “I intend” than it is to say “I will” and mean it.  For David, however, the statement “I will” probably meant something like “You can count on me to do it no matter what.”

But neither thinking and planning for the future nor a discussion of the strength of the commitment of “I will” really deals with the question of, if David says “I will,” then why didn’t he also then just do it.  Rather than say, “I will pray for you,” why not just pray for the person?  Rather than say, “I will take out the garbage,” why not just take out the garbage?

This is typically where I begin to wonder if the translation is complete and so I go to more basic sources.  However, in this matter, I hit the wall on my ability to use the Hebrew reference materials I have access to.   Although I was able to find the Hebrew symbols and a simple English letter translation of those symbols, I could not find a translation of the “words” themselves which I could understand.

So, like so many things, we are left to wonder – when David said, “I will,” is the correct interpretation that he will in the future or that he has in the past, is in the present, and will in the future?

And then it hit me, what difference does it make?  God is a God of new beginnings.  If I have not praised Him in the past and am not in the present, then what is keeping me from doing it tomorrow?  Nothing, really … unless I only “intend” to and am using tomorrow as the opportunity to avoid today.  And why would I do that if my “I will” has meaning?  If my “I will” has meaning, then now is the perfect time.  If “I will” is but a wisp of a promise, then tomorrow will never come.

And then I realized the truth – “I will” means now, this minute.

“Will”you praise God now, or only intend to tomorrow?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Dominion

February 26, 2016


Psalm 8

“..You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; and You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea…”  Ps. 8:5-8

The word “dominion” is also translated “rule” in the NASB translation of the Bible.

So, Psalm 8 reflects what happens in Genesis, when man was given rule over everything on earth.  When man was cast out of the Garden of Eden for disobedience, this charge, this appointment, was not revoked.  Instead, what was added to man’s life was the necessity to work and what was subtracted from his life was his total integration with God.

Instead of ruling over a perfect world, when man disobeyed God and followed the serpent, he was set over as ruler of an imperfect world.

Perhaps that is why man feels like he, and he alone, is in charge of making the world perfect again.  Part of the desire of man for the environment is to protect as a steward what God has given us, to be a good king over the bounty of God’s creation.  But another part of the desire of man for the environment is to exercise the iron fist of control, to be “in charge,” to “fix” the world, to “repair” what he broke.

The desire to fix what you broke is a common desire, but the effort makes us begin to believe that we are “masters of our lives,” kings over our destiny, ruler of the earth, exercising power and dominion in all phases of our lives. To be the king, we think we must act like the king and wage war against the enemies of the kingdom – poverty, ignorance, bullying, racial profiling, individualism to the extent of harming the community, etc.  [Does this begin to sound familiar?]

In a sense, this is a partial explanation for man’s current fascination with “global warming” or “climate change.”  Rather than face the reality that the earth is broken from our own sin and that God’s creation will operate in the way He has ordained, man’s understanding of his own dominion over the earth and all that is in it extends to the climate.  If it is broken, it must be man who broke it and, as king, then it is up to us to fix it.

Another aspect of dominion, in addition to believing that we as king can solve all problems, is that we get to dress like a king and live in places like kings live.  And so, in our pride as ruler of the universe, we build greater and greater monuments to ourselves, we collect more and more wealth, we surround ourselves with the riches of things, and we wear pretty and expensive clothing and jewelry, with a little perfume (cologne) thrown in for good measure.  We look good, we smell good … so, doggone it, we must be good.  Right?

Well, yes we have been tasked with exercising dominion over the earth (note, not the universe).

But does that put us on first?  No.

“You have made him [us] a little lower than the heavenly beings.”  So, the “heavenly beings” are higher than us.  And who are they?

One problem with translations is that, unless we reach under them, we can be quickly misled.  When I first read this, I assumed that “heavenly beings” meant angels.  This fits nicely into my predisposition to create hierarchies in heaven and on earth and so I am happy with my conclusion.  However, when I read the NASB version, it reads “…Thou hast made him a little lower than God..”  Ps. 8:5 (NASB).  And it turns out that the underlying Hebrew word is “Elohim,” which reflects the Genesis “…let us…”  In other words, there are two possible meanings, one being angels and the other meaning God Himself, likely in the form of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But, whatever, it is clear that we are not boss.  At best, we are regents, we are appointed agents of God, to rule in accordance with God’s principles and according to His instructions.

What are God’s instructions to us as His regents on earth?  How are we to exercise dominion?

Some might say that the way we exercise dominion is through rules and regulations, much like in the Old Testament.  Others would say that we exercise dominion through the exercise of love and servant leadership, much like in the New Testament.  And indeed, Jesus tells His disciples that His followers are not to “lord” it over others.

So should we exercise dominion by the sword (the Law) or by the candy Valentine’s heart (Love)?

I think the answer to this, when we think about it, is “Yes.”  Exercising the law tempered by love and love strengthened by law results in  a balanced kingship, a way to be obedient the command “Love God first and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And it brings honor to God to raise up the entirety of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.  And it brings success to us, because now we have a plan to follow.

A heavenly plan, designed by God and not by man, over which we are in charge of implementing the earthly part.

We are kings but subjects, rulers but servants, leaders but disciples, helping others while seeking help from God.

Can you imagine what it would be like to exercise dominion without God’s plan, strength, power, and grace?  I can’t … and yet I do it every day.  Do you want to imagine what mess we would really be in if we were really the “top dog?”  Well look around, the evidence surrounds us.

God gave us dominion over the earth and, doggone it, we will exercise that dominion.  The only question is how – with God or without Him.  I think “with God” is the better choice.  What say you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Mindful

February 24, 2016


Psalm 8

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?”  Ps. 8:3-4

To personalize the question asked by David in this Psalm, “Who am I that You are mindful of me?”

Great question, isn’t it?

To get perspective, we have to follow David by looking to the heavens, which we can do by ourselves late at night in the country under a cloudless sky, through computer programs which show the alignment of stars, through telescopes which bring home star clusters immense distances apart, and through other sciences.  Black holes, worm holes, quantum mechanics, string theory, nebulas, galaxies, planets, moons, gas giants … and we wonder who else could be out there?  What else could be out there?  And whatever our mind can investigate through science, one thing becomes clear.  It is in order.  It is magnificent.  It is awe-inspiring.  It appears to be infinite.  It is the work of a Creator, it is the work of God.

But, unlike David, we have machines and tools which will let us look into the smallest aspect of matter.  Unfortunately, we can’t see it by laying out at night under the stars, but we can see it through microscopes and other gadgets.  And what we see astounds us.  We see (or at least science suggests) atoms, neutrons, electrons, positrons, anti-matter, quarks, the cell, cellular structure, tiny organized factories within cells processing nutrients for our body, blood, nano-things, clathrates, vitamins, hormones, proteins, and ten thousand other things with strange names and even stranger properties.  But no matter how deep we go into the micro-sphere (as I call it), one thing becomes clear.  It is in order.  It is magnificent.  It is awe-inspiring.  There always seems to be deeper to go, smaller and smaller things to see, all of which are in order, complexly organized to achieve certain results.  It is the work of a Creator; it is the work of God.

What we do know is that we are here, on this planet Earth, surrounded by just the right balance of temperature, humidity, oxygen, and other minerals to sustain life, to sustain us.

What we do know is that God has given us a set of rules, of standards, of laws, of truths by which we can live fulfilling lives.

What we do know is that God Himself came to earth, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered to make a right sacrifice to God for our shortcomings, for our sins, raised from the dead unto His rightful place, to come again to rule over all things as King.  He created the universe, He created the micro-sphere, He created the earth and the moon, and He created us.  And, at the end of the day, He came to save us so that all who believed in Him would have everlasting life.

Why?  Why did God create?  Why did He breathe life into Adam?  Why did He make us in His likeness?  Why did He speak to us through His prophets and His Scripture?  Why did He die on the cross for us?

Given all these things, the wonder, depth, and breadth of creation, who am I that God is mindful of me?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  But I do know this…God is mindful of me.  He has created all things, me included.  His has filled me with spirit, life, and breath.  He has given me an inquiring mind.  He has given me relationships and love.  He has died for me.  He has empowered me with His Holy Spirit.

God is mindful of me and for that I am eternally grateful.

God is mindful of you as well.  Why?  Because He is.  And for that, are you grateful?  And for that, are you mindful of Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Peal

February 22, 2016


Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”  Ps. 8:1

It is in verses like this where I see the value (to myself) of capitalizing all references to God.  By capitalizing “Your Name,” God is emphasized both at the beginning and at the end.  “Your Name,” God’s name, is not something to be trifled with, ignored, subordinated, brought to earth … but exalted, raised up, worshiped and adored!

The word “peal” struck me because we normally use it in the phrase “peal of thunder,” but this one sentence strikes me as a “peal of praise.”  It is a word typically used with the sound of bells and generally a loud ringing of bells.  So thunder is a loud noise, a peal.  So praise as expressed by David is a loud outcry, a loud worship, a loud statement of truth, a proclamation – it is a peal.

The dictionary actually says that the word “peal” means not only loud, but prolonged.  In other words, it lasts a long time.

And, indeed, the phrase “How majestic is Your Name in all the earth” does seem to prolong itself in our mind as we listen to it – it seems to bounce off the recesses of our soul and echo deep within.  It is not just a fleeting statement, but one which resonates over and over and over again as we say it, as we speak it, as we sing it, as we shout it, as we yell it.

What a great way to begin the week!  With a peal of praise from our mouths.  “O Lord, our Lord, You are majestic, holy, and Your train fills the temple!”

What vision do we have of “majesty.”  What visions do we apply the word “majestic” to?

When I think of “majestic,” I think of the mountains, reaching to the sky, standing in permanence, full of color and life, full of adventure and opportunity.  Others may think of the sea, its vastness and regularity, its depth and breadth, its power and, in the times of storms, its unruliness.  Others may think of the stars and planets of the universe, their number and distance and balance and seeming endlessness.

What a way to begin the week!  Offering a peal of praise to our Maker, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Restorer, our God.

A reminder of who He is, who we are, and whose we are.  One we sorely need every day.  One to set us in our proper place.  One to set our compass correctly.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”

Amen.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Payday

February 19, 2016


Psalm 7

“Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.  His mischief returns upon his own head, and his own skull his violence descends.”  Ps. 7:14-16

Psalm 7 actually begins and ends positively, beginning with “O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge…” and ending with “…and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.”

That being the case and this being Friday, February 19, 2016, why don’t I focus on ending the week on an up note rather than a down note talking about wicked men, evil, mischief, lies, pits, and violence?

Maybe because both are reality, often at the same time, and to appreciate the good we need to also understand the bad.

Ask yourself this question, when you have done something bad, when you have conceived evil, been pregnant with mischief (don’t you love the imagery!), birthed your own lies, dug your own pit and fallen into it, have you ever not been caught?

Before you say “yes,” I want you to think about pits and falling into them.  When you have fallen into a pit, hasn’t it usually been (and probably always been) of your own making?  Oh, you may have had help – assistants, co-conspirators, aiders, abetters, and the like – but when you fall into a pit, haven’t you always had a hand in digging it?

So, how often have you gotten away from the consequences of your evil, your mischief, your lies, your own pits and violence?

I would daresay never for the following reasons: (a) someone has caught you and challenged you with it, (b) you have caught yourself and either have let it cause you to come to repentance or you have let its poison filter throughout your life and relationships until you are miserable (falling into your own pit), or (c) God has caught you.

We answer to others, we answer to ourselves, and we answer to God.  We never answer to nobody.

And in case we miss the real point, when we think we have gotten away with it (whatever “it” is), we may have done so in the short term (because our pit is shallow and really not very obvious, particularly if we don’t look at it).  And we may have gotten away with it in the medium term (because our pit, although deep, can be avoided by giving wide berth to it and walking around it).  But we never get away with it in the long term because of a simple concept called “judgment.”

There will be a payday for our evil, our mischief, our lies, our violence, and our pit-digging.  It may be tonight while we try to go to sleep and what is brought to mind are amends we need to make.  I may be tomorrow morning while we confess our sins before our God who knows them already anyway.  It may be next year while we try to deal with an ulcer, a failed marriage or family relationship, addiction, depression, or other pit we may have fallen into.  It may not be until we die and confront judgment.

But one day there will be a payday.

On that payday, will we receive the wages of sin or the gift of life?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Advocate

February 17, 2016


Psalm 7

“Arise O Lord in Your anger, lift Yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; You have appointed a judgment.  Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about You; over it return on high.”  Ps. 7:6-7

I like the word “advocate” because it is both a noun and a verb.  As the verb, I advocate (fight for, promote, argue in favor of, plead on behalf of) for myself and others.  When I advocate, I am an advocate.

Shifting to the Psalm, I have to admit that this section of the Psalm befuddled me.  I understand David calling on the Lord to rise up and defend David against the fury of David’s enemies, but why follow this immediately with the “Let the assemblies of the people be gathered…”?  How are they connected, if at all?

I was talking to someone yesterday about the Psalms and they reminded me of something that I had not locked onto – David is not only himself but he is also the king.  When he speaks of his enemies, in his role as king he is also speaking about the enemies of his kingdom.

That got me thinking about who I am as well.  David was an advocate for himself and his people.  I (and we) are advocates for ourselves, for our families, for our friends and neighbors, for our bosses and subordinates, for our businesses, for our government, for our position as leader, preacher, evangelist, prophet, manager, director, and every other office you can image.

We are not only advocates in the present for people in the present, but we are also advocates for those who come after us – our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and those who are to be born and are not yet born.

We are not only advocates in the present age for people we know, but for people we don’t know – for those who are poor and lonely, for those who have insufficient food, for those stuck in place without opportunity, for those who are in their mother’s womb and have no voice, for those enslaved, for those unjustly accused, for the saints in general.

Think it.  As we stand before God, there is a train of beneficiaries which flow behind us and for whom we may there only advocate.  We may be the only one who cares.

When David asks God to destroy his enemies, we sort of say to ourselves that he is probably overreacting, that the situation is not as important as David is making it out to be.  However, when we rise up and realize the thousands of people who are in the wake of David’s prayer, who are also confronted by the same enemies, then the prayer takes on a much more serious tone and the necessity of God rising up and taking over becomes much more necessary and more urgent.

How much more urgently would we pray for God to take over and rise up if we realized that our enemies who would destroy us would also destroy the generations which follow, the people who we are put on earth to defend, to protect, to love, and to advocate for?

How much more would we plead for God’s intervention if we realized that, when we ask for ourselves, we also ask for who we advocate for?

How much more would we plead for God’s holy power to descend with might upon us and our situation if we really were advocates for others, for our spouse, our children, our children yet to be, and for all generations to follow?

As I write this, I am acutely aware of how I have failed to fully appreciate my job as a Christian, of how I have wasted my opportunities to sit before the Creator and make my case for my people, of how I have prayed weakly because I have not stood for those who God has placed within my reach.

But the failure yesterday and the failure today does not require the failure tomorrow.  David advocated for himself and his people.  I can do no less.  Can you?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Wrong

February 15, 2016


Psalm 7

“O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.  Selah.”  Ps. 7:3-5

This is not the beginning of the Psalm because David, at the beginning, has gone to the Lord as refuge to save him from his pursuers.  He then immediately shifts to the quoted verses, telling God that if he guilty, if he has committed wrong, then God should let them win and “trample” his life “to the ground.”

Seems sort of bold, doesn’t it?  After all, haven’t we all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?  Are we willing to go before the Lord and say, Lord, “if there is wrong in me then let my enemies crush me?”  Actually, if you are like me, you probably pray the exact opposite – “Even though there is wrong in me, O Lord, save me anyway!”

So what “wrong” is David referring to?  Before you can answer this question, notice the subtle shift in language I took when I moved from “what wrong have I done” to “I am sinful and fall short.”  That shift was deliberate, to draw us into thinking about being “wrong” in general (sinful, fallen short) to being “wrong” in the specific (did I really steal those cookies?).

It is obvious the way this Psalm begins that David has been attacked in a very specific way and he has come to the Lord saying, “Lord, if I have behaved the same specific way, then let them win … otherwise, let me win.”

Was it wrong of David to say that?  I think not.  We are often attacked for what we have said and done.  Sometimes what the attacker says is true and sometimes it is not true.  When it is not true, what is wrong with going to God and saying to Him – “God, search my heart.  I have done nothing wrong here, but if I have, judge me for that.”  Now, before you say it, it is probably a good idea that you have examined yourself to see if it is true, because if it is you do not want to invite the Lord’s punishment upon you for doing it, but if the accusation is false, isn’t it entirely appropriate to go to God and say just that!  “I did not steal.  I did not slander.  I did not murder.  [on that occasion]”

Some might say that, out of spirit of love, of meekness, of tenderness, of charity, that we should admit to fault where there is none, retreat from the battlefield when there is no reason, all on the general grounds that we know we are generally wrong (all fall short) anyway, so why not move on down the road?

I suggest to you that we can’t and call ourselves worthy of the kingdom.  Why?  Because there is a difference between right and wrong and the man (and woman) of integrity stands fast in the evil day and calls balls and strikes even though the world may say they have no “right” to.  Jesus tells us to consider the log in our own eye before we judge others, but He does not say that we cannot call evil when it occurs, we cannot call a theft when it occurs, we cannot call an unjust accusation when it occurs.   Instead, Jesus actually has a warning for Christians who would refuse to call balls and strikes by His criticism of the Pharisees – “But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe the mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.”  Luke 11:42 (see also Matt. 23:23).

There is right and there is wrong, and if we as Christians who know God’s standards, God’s law, do not know the difference, then who would?  And if we know the difference between right and wrong, then why are we in error by calling balls and strikes with a clear eye, first on ourselves and then on others?  And if we have judged ourselves correctly for an alleged wrongful act, then why aren’t we willing to stand before God and say just that …. “Lord, I have done nothing wrong here, but if I have, let my enemies win.”

So, this morning, if you are accused unjustly of having done or said something which you did not do and you know you did not do it, why not go to God and say “Strike my enemies to the ground for their slander of me.  And if what they accuse me of is true, then strike me down.”  If you do not, do you not trust God to do right?  If you do not, do you not trust yourself to clearly examine yourself, to know right from wrong?

If the answer to either question is “yes,” then you now know what your prayer should be.  “Lord, grant me faith.”  “Lord, grant me wisdom.”

And once you receive both faith and wisdom, then stand up and count those balls and strikes.  Justice awaits your willingness to do so.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Heard

February 12, 2016


Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing … The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”  Ps. 6:1-2a, 9

Psalm 6 begins with an urgent prayer for God not to be mad at David but be merciful because David is depressed and in the pits.  It ends with an acknowledgement by David that the Lord has heard him and that all of his enemies, the ones who have driven him into depression presumably, “shall be ashamed.”  Note the use of the word “shall” as opposed to the word “could” or “might” or even “will.”  There is a sense that they are defeated today, even though it may not be obvious until tomorrow.  There is a sense in the word “shall” that David’s prayer has been immediately answered, regardless of what appears to him to be the case.

So, my question is, what has changed?

There are at least three ways to answer this question, one from the perspective of a third person looking in at the facts, the second from God’s perspective, and the third from David’s.

From the third party’s perspective, the stranger (us) looking in, the answer is nothing, nothing has changed!  Have David’s enemies left the field of battle?  No.   Is David still in the pits?  Yes.  Has any word of God been audibly spoken so that we can hear?  No.  Has sunlight broken through the clouds in rays of glory?   No.  To us, from an objective perspective, nothing has changed and, if God was mad, He still is; if David was depressed, he still is; and if the enemies are surrounding David, they still are.

From God’s perspective, what has changed?  I realize I am reaching high to even begin to ask that question, must less answer it, but I will, at least from my understanding of who God is.  My answer to the question of, from God’s perspective, what has changed, is … nothing has changed.  God was angry at David’s sin, but He was from the beginning of time merciful and gracious unto David, choosing him for salvation and redemption and restoration.  God will remain angry at David’s sin forever, but He will lay aside that anger and accept David because the penalty for that sin has been paid by God.  God is wrath and love at the same time.  God’s attitude toward sin does not change.  He does not change.  Also, David’s situation has not changed.  David is subject to sin, although being rescued from it.  Whether David’s sin results in depression, illness, or even fleeting happiness is merely the moment’s passing of human emotional response to circumstances.  But whether David is as happy as a clam or as defeated as a skunk, he has not changed in God’s eyes and neither has his situation.  Finally, has God’s acceptance of David’s prayer changed?  The answer is “no.”  David, being saved by grace and not by works, can always have effective prayer before God and God hears his (and our) pleas and accepts his (and our) prayer in faith.

So, if anything has changed, it is from David’s perspective.  And, of course, David represents us.  And, man, look at what has changed in David’s life!  First, he has changed from a focus on himself to a focus on God.  Second, he has changed from a focus on his enemies (my enemies are overwhelming to me) to a focus on God (God will handle his enemies).  Third, he has changed in his attitude toward God – God the angry to God the merciful to God the savior.

So what has changed?  In one sense, nothing has changed.  David is in the pits and his enemies are at the door.  In another sense, everything has changed.  David is in the pits with no friend in God to David is in the pits with the knowledge that his Savior has won the day for him.  From defeat to victory; from death to life.

Why?  How?  Because in praying to God, in yelling at God, in submitting to God, in listening to God, in just talking to God, David has moved from himself to God, from weak to strong, from disturbance to peace, from horror to wonder, from loss to joy, from despair to hope.

David is us and we are there.  We need everything that David needed … love, mercy, rescue, favor, success, life, joy, happiness, hope.  And everything is available because God has heard our prayers …. when we turn to Him, even a little bit.

So, have you turned to God today, even a little bit, to acknowledge His presence, to acknowledge His power, to acknowledge His love, to acknowledge His glory, to acknowledge His rescue and salvation?

If not, why not?  If you need any motivation, look at what you are leaving on the table by not having that conversation with God.  “God has heard my plea.”  Yes, but only if you plea.  But only if you turn to Him.

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

 

Bread – Turn

February 11, 2016


Psalm 6

“Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love…I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Ps. 6:4,6-7

Just before David says, “Turn, O Lord,” he asks God to be gracious to him because he is “languishing.”  In our first Bread on this Psalm, we talked about depression  and how we all find ourselves in trouble, when God seems angry with us.

This is a continuation of that same thought, where David is asking the Lord to turn and then repeats how depressed he is, stating that he is weary, that he is moaning our of his weariness, that his eyes fail because of his grief, and he feels surrounded by enemies, real and imagined.

The image is one of God having turned his back to David and David begging with him to turn around, comprehend David, and in turn be merciful to David “for the sake of [God’s] steadfast love.

My question is, is this the right image?

Certainly it is from our perspective.  We are depressed, we feel lonely, we feel abandoned, our eyes and bones hurt, we cry, we moan … and God has left the station, He has left us behind.

We say this because it feels to us like God has left us.

But is that true?  Who has turned their back to whom?  Who has left whom?

In other words, has God left us or have we left God?  Has God turned His back to us or have we turned our back to God?

When David prays that the Lord return to him, is it the Lord who returns to David or David who returns to the Lord?

What is interesting about this question is that it brings back images of the prodigal son, where it was the son who realized that his position with the pigs, with the depression, was caused by his disobedience, and things did not begin to get better until he (the prodigal) returned to the father.  And, actually, because the father saw the son from far off and ran to him, it was really the intention of the son to return to the father which starts the avalanche of restoration of relationship.

So recalling this parable, one is immediately inclined to jump on board the idea that it was really David who needed to return, that God was where He had always been.

But, now I want to argue against myself – maybe David is right.  Maybe in David’s dilapidated state, depressed, moaning, sore of bone and spirit, languishing, he cannot turn to the Lord, much less return to Him.  In other words, for David to be rescued from himself and his situation, can he even take the initiative or must God take the initiative?

We like to think that it is us, and that is where most of us begin and end.  It is all on us.  We lift ourselves out of the pits by returning to the Lord.

But the truth is, the greater truth, the deeper truth, is that salvation belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone.  If we are to be rescued, it must be God who turns toward us and not us toward God.

“Be gracious to me, O Lord…”  Lord, show me Your mercy by rescuing me even though I deserve Your wrath because of my disobedience.

So, built into this simple request from David are two turns.  The first turn is from David taking his focus off of his troubles to turn to God and address Him for help.  And the second is God, in His sovereignty and from a heart of love and mercy, turning toward David to rescue him.

And the remarkable thing about all this is that by the time David asks the Lord to turn toward him, He already has.  How do we know that?  Because there is no power in David to ask but for God’s power to make it so.

David can ask God to turn toward him and save him because God has first turned toward David and saved him.

So, when David cries from the pits for God to turn and save his life, God can truly answer and say, “Son, I already have.”

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

 

 

Bread – Pits

February 8, 2016


Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious unto me, O Lord, for I am languishing…My soul also is greatly troubled.  But You, O Lord – how long?”  Ps. 6:1-3

As I write this, it is Monday morning, the depressing morning to a depressing week.  Why is it depressing? I don’t know … it just feels that it is starting that way.  I had trouble getting out of bed.  I had trouble getting started.  I had trouble praying.  I had trouble opening my Bible.  I am even having trouble writing this.

As David write this Psalm, one gets the distinct impression that it is Monday morning, he has a lot to do, and he is depressed.  For some reason (perhaps many reasons), he is in the pits.

And down in the pit, you look around and what do you see around you?  Nothing but walls.  You don’t necessarily know how you got down there, but there you are.  You are inclined to want to blame someone for throwing you down there, but you know in your heart that it was really you who climbed down there deliberately or fell down there because you weren’t paying attention or were attracted down there because you thought you saw something shiny and attractive at the bottom.

And when you are in the pits, when you are in the throes of depression, where is God?

One characteristic feeling we all have in these circumstances is that God is nowhere to be found.  That can be, in our minds eye, for all kinds of reasons.  Perhaps He is mad at us for ignoring His commandments and climbing down into the well.  Perhaps He is mad at us because we continue to live in and practice a life of sin as opposed to obedience.  Perhaps He is angry at us because we have chosen to go our own way and have not spent time with Him.  We know He hates sin and, therefore, maybe He hates us.

All of these thoughts were likely going through David’s mind while he sat in the pit.  That is why He says to God “rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me with Your wrath.”  Note that he assumes that God is angry with him, because (a) if he were God, he would be mad at himself and (b) it makes for a ready explanation for why he is in the pit, is stuck in the pit, and can’t get out of the pit.

“I fell in the pit because God is angry with me.”  “I am stuck in the pit because God is angry with me.”  “I can’t get out of the pit because God is angry with me.”  A convenient explanation which makes us the victim.  No wonder we might well say, “don’t be mad, God,” “don’t rebuke me, God,” “don’t discipline me, God.”  If we can get above our own depression, self-righteousness, and anger at God, we might even follow the preceding statements with “please.”

How do we know David is depressed, that he is in the pits?  Because he says so … he says that he is “languishing.”  The NASB translates this “pining away.”

So, we may find ourselves in the pits today.  Perhaps it is money which caused it.  Perhaps it is love.  Perhaps it is an unfair and ungrateful world, spouse, children, boss, co-workers, employees, clients, suppliers, customers, friends, stock market, etc., which caused it.  The cause is in a real sense irrelevant when it happens to us, because we are there and we are stuck.

So God is apparently appearing to ignore David (from David’s perspective) and he is wallowing in depression … what does he do to get out of the pits?

The answer is actually built into the quoted verses.  While he is asking the Lord not to rebuke him, complaining about his depression, asking God to heal him, and asking the Lord why He is taking so long, what is David doing which is improving his life, although he may not know it.

He is addressing God.  He is talking to God.  He is complaining to God.  He is asking God.  He is arguing with God.  He is so depressed that he knows nowhere else to turn, so he turns to God.

One of the commentators on this passage which I read points out that the word translated to “Lord” in the first three verses of this Psalm is the word “Jehovah,” which is a name of God suggesting Redeemer or Deliverer.

So, in a very real sense, although David senses that God is not present because He is, in David’s mind, angry with him, David still addresses Him in the role which He needs to play in David’s life right then, “Deliverer.”

Over what time period does this take place?  When we read these sentences together, the tendency is to think of the events in the Psalm as coming pretty close together.  David feels like he is in the pits, he sort of blames God but calls on his Deliverer anyway, and the Deliverer shows up (immediately).  But is this true?

There is nothing in the Psalm to indicate how quickly these events occurred.  The prayer “Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing” could have been made one time over the time span of 10 minutes, or 1,000 times over the span of ten years.

I would suggest that David was actually in the pits for quite a while.  The reason I say that is this – “But You, O Lord – how long?”  Ps. 6:3b  If God was answering David fast, why would David feel the need to groan “how long.”

The fact is that it doesn’t matter in one sense and matters a lot in another.  To a depressed person, whether you are in the pits 10 minutes or ten years, it feels like an eternity.  So it is entirely possible that David was only depressed for ten minutes before he yells out “Lord, how long?”  So, to David in his depressed state, it doesn’t matter how long it is.  However, where it does matter is in the area of perseverance.  How long would David keep going with his entreaty to God the Deliverer before he gave up, thinking that God would never show up?

I think the answer to that question is whether David did or did not have a real relationship with God.  If his relationship is one of convenience, then when God didn’t show up, David would have stopped calling upon Him pretty quickly.  However, David has created a relationship with God where he will talk to God whether he is mad with God or not, whether God is mad with him or not, whether he is in the pits or on a mountaintop, whether he has committed great sin or committed good works.  He is going to reach out to God, his Deliverer, regardless.

This week, when you are in the pits, how quickly will you give up calling upon the name of God in order to solve the problem yourself?

I suspect the answer to that question is tied to the larger answer to the larger question … who do you say He is, really?  A helper in time of trouble, an unreliable “go to” person who is sometimes there and sometimes not, a companion, a friend … or Creator, Redeemer, Savior?

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

 

 

 

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