Bread – See

March 30, 2016


Psalm 13

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” Ps. 13:3

In the last Bread, we dealt with the condition of despair, where we lay at the bottom of the barrel, in the dark, with no hope ahead.  A lonely place, an unfriendly place, a wild place, a place where none of us want to go and yet, in business, in the home or in the family, with spouse or children, in spiritual affairs – we have been there.

How did we get out of it?  Medicine (science) would say that our brain chemistry was bad and that we were brought up from darkness to light by the miracle of modern drugs and therapy.  The religious atheists who believe in the essential goodness of self over all other things would say that we got out of the pit of despair by our own bootstraps, by looking to the future rather than the past, by slogging through the difficulties one step at a time, by thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones, or, as Dr. Seuss might say it, by thinking on “fluffy things.”    The “group first” people would probably say that we were pulled out of our despair by a group of people around us who love us and who lift us up … after all, “it takes a village.”

But David had a different answer.  He knew that, in the despair of life and sin, in thrall to the world and the prince of darkness, Satan, we stand no chance without God.  When we are dead (the “sleep of death”), we have no hope for life except by the exercise of a power outside ourselves.  In the socialists world view, that outside power is the village, or society.  In the Christian world view, that outside power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The first, the village, relies on blind men to guide blind men, relies on broken people to fix broken people, relies upon an irrational belief that, if you have a bunch of defective parts, when you combine them the whole is not defective.  The second, the Christian world view, relies upon the rock of ages, the creator, the promise-keeper, one who has not sinned and is perfect.  The socialist relies upon shifting sand while the Christian relies upon the foundations of the earth.

That is why David pleads to God “Light up my eyes.”  He knows that, if God does not light up our eyes, our eyes will remain dark.  He knows that, if God does not give us power, we have none except the counterfeit kind, the appearance of power with no strength to persevere.  He knows that wisdom comes from God and not from man, except perhaps in a negative way (teaching us what not to do).

And so David, while wallowing in despair, does one thing and one thing only – and that is plead with God that God consider where he is and that God answer him, light up his eyes, and guide him out of that dark place into a place of light and joy.

Perhaps, today, your joy is gone, happiness is a memory, hope is distant, and the pit seems bigger and bigger.  Have you stopped to ask God for answers, for wisdom, for consideration, for hope, for joy, for gratitude?  Have you stopped to pray … not just a short “God help me” but a long pause in the day where you can be with Him, hear Him, learn from Him, be infilled with Him, and be empowered by Him?

What is the foundation of our day?  How do we begin it?  With our important activities like dressing and cleaning up and eating breakfast and reviewing the daily task list and appointments, by running through our mind what we will say to those important people we will meet, practicing how we will behave and what we will do, rehearsing so that we will be successful and have lots of respect, position, power, wealth, and things?  Or with the most important activity of all – getting in touch with the Foundation, God?

David’s got it right.  When we are in despair, do not look to our own or society’s devices but to look to maintaining the relationship with God.

If we do not ask God to light up our eyes, we will remain in the sleep of death – perhaps successful by the world’s standards but in the sleep of death anyway.  If we ask Him … well, read the rest of Psalm 13 … and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Despair

March 28, 2016


Psalm 13

“How long, O Lord?  Will Your forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  Ps. 13:1-2

There are many titles I could have given this Bread.  “Depression” is one.  “Lost” is another.  “Abandoned” is a third.

I think, though, that the word “despair” says it best.  In depression there is knowledge that there will be a better day.  In being lost there is the built in hope of being found.  “Abandoned” is closer to the word “despair,” but even being abandoned one has the sense of being found, sort of like when one is lost.  But “despair?”  When we despair, we are at bottom.  When we despair, all choices of better evaporate.  When we despair, we are at the bottom of the well of life and there is, seemingly, no way out.

When we are forgotten by our family or friends, surrounded by real and imagined enemies, at the end of our rope, there is still God.  But when He has apparently disappeared as well, never to again touch or soothe or protect or empower us, then despair sets in.  Abandon all hope, ye who enter into the chamber of despair.

And when we despair and see no way out, when we feel that both God and man have abandoned us, when our personal reserves of energy, vitality, and life are consumed … what then?  A minute in despair feels like an eternity.  An hour in despair tears down the mind.  A day in despair shuts down our bodies.  A week in despair destroys our spiritual self.  What about a month of despair?  A year of despair?  The mere thought crushes life, desire, and action.  The mere thought of prolonged despair is more than we can imagine, more than we can stand.

So is it any wonder that David says, four times, “How long, O Lord?”  The darkness of despair is so intense that it does not matter how long in reality it is, it is always too long and we ask, “How long, O Lord?  Will You forget me forever?”

Who has not been to the place of despair, of the blackest thoughts, the deepest depression, the midnight of the soul?  Abandoned by God and man, beaten down by our adversaries, submerged under the flood of bad things, left to our thoughts and sorrows, crushed by life, lost to the world, at our wit’s end.  Bottom.

Now that I’ve put you in the mood, think for a moment about what Jesus felt on the cross when He was abandoned by the Father, left in despair, on His own without spiritual support.

When Jesus was abandoned, He too cried out “How long, O Lord?” It was in the form of “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Matt. 27:46.  But regardless of the form, it was a cry of despair to God the Father who appeared to have forgotten Jesus, who appeared to have hidden His face from Jesus, who had let Jesus’ enemies be exalted over Him.

When we despair, when we feel abandoned and alone, we can always bring to mind that we are in good company – Jesus felt the same way for the same reason, and God raised Him from despair and death unto life.  And through His despair, death, and resurrection, as our advocate before the Father, Jesus does the same for us when we cannot do it for ourselves.

If it feels that God has abandoned me, has He?  If it feels that I am at the bottom of the well with no way out, is this true?

We cannot deny our feelings and we may in fact be in despair, feeling that we are abandoned by God, lost from God’s favor, stepped on by our enemies, left to our own sorrowful devices and thoughts.  And we, too, can cry out like David and yell at God, “How long?”

It’s OK.  Jesus did it, and God answered Him.  And He will answer you, too.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Refined

March 25, 2016


Psalm 12

“The words of the Lord are pure words, like silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times.”  Ps. 12:6

I almost called this Bread “Pure,” but the truth is that we have a hard time comprehending what “pure” means, much less coming up with a “pure” example.  We have a saying, “pure as wind-driven snow.”  We say that because that kind of snow is white, soft and fluffy.  But is snow really pure?  We know it isn’t because we know that snow strips the pollutants from the air, it lands on the dirt on the ground, and we (filled with germs) touch it.

However, we know two things.  We know that metal which has been heated to high temperature boils off the impurities, leaving the elemental metal, unmixed with anything else.  We also know the more we do this, the purer the metal gets.

And the Bible tells us that God’s Word is pure.  And to make sure we understand how pure God’s Word really is, it is “like” metal which has been melted and the dross removed, not once, not twice, but seven times.  If seven is a symbol of completeness or perfection, then the Psalmist is saying that the God’s Word is the highest definition of pure we can dream up.

What will it take for us to be refined into purity?

If we had to be heated up seven times to become pure, we would not like it.  In fact, we complain when it heats up just a little in our lives.  When trouble is happening at work, at home, or among our friends, we are the first to complain.  What if we had to go through the fire of refinement seven times to have our dross, our sin removed?

There is another way for us to be refined, and that is to immerse ourselves in what is pure – God’s Word written, Scripture, and God’s Word enfleshed, Jesus Christ.  When we engage the pure, the Word of God, it may hurt, it may challenge, it may even condemn, but it is not the lake of fire.  A fire sufficient to make us pure would kill us.  God’s Holy Spirit, the fire which convicts us, trains us, empowers us, and helps us, is a fire which would make us live.

The words of the Lord are pure words.  They have meaning, they have power, they heal, and they save.  Pure words save … and there is only one source of them.    The Lord.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Vanished

March 23, 2016


Psalm 12

 “Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;…” Ps. 12:1

My ESV translation has Psalm 12 titled “The Faithful Have Vanished.”  That got me to thinking about what would happen when the “godly one is gone,” when the “faithful have vanished.”

We know sooner or later it will happen, because God in Revelation speaks about it.

But just imagine, if you can, what will happen when the godly one vanishes, when the faithful are no more to be found, when God removes His restraining hand from the affairs of man and lets us have our own way, in every way devised by man and dreamed by him.

Sodom and Gomorrah may be picnics by comparison.

What if there were no one around who cared about you, but only cared about themselves?  What if there was no one left to print Bibles, much less read them, much less speak truth from them?  What if there were no Bible studies, where men and women attempt to conform their lives to God’s will and His Word?  What if the foundations of our laws, the rule of law built upon God’s law, were to evaporate and the law became what the strongest among us decided it was?

What if there were no boundaries, no markings of where the road begins and where it ends, no hope, no limits, no eternity … just the here and now, just those with power and those without, just those with food and those without, just those battling for their place in the march of evolution?  Would there be any old people, any people of a different background or color or race or religion, any disabled people, any caregivers?

Think about just that last category – caregivers.  These are people who care for the sick and infirm, those who cannot care for themselves.  What if they were not givers but takers?  What if, when you were sick in your house, your neighbors break in and take what they want?

When it is your rights which are being taken away, your property being stolen, your liberty imprisoned, your life in jeopardy … why would you be upset?  After all, the faithful have vanished.  And what we cherish … love, growth, hope, opportunity, happiness, life, property, liberty …. all will be gone in an instant, because whese things do not rest on the foundation of man but the foundation of God, and when the faithful have vanished, we can only hope and pray that God has not vanished with them.

Many say, let’s get God out of our lives, let’s drive the faithful to their places of worship and ban them from the public square of life, government, and business.  If the faithful have vanished to their places of worship, where will we be?

When the Shepherd is gone, the wolves have their way with the sheep.

God forbid that the faithful ever vanish.  God forbid that the godly one is gone.  But if they are, then our prayer needs to be “Save, O Lord.”  Because He will be the only One left who can save us, because we cannot save ourselves.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Meaning

March 21, 2016


Psalm 12

“Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone; for the faithful have vanished from among the children of man.  Everyone utters lies to his neighbor; with flattering lips and a double heart they speak.”  Ps. 12:1-2

At first blush, this verse seems like so many we have already read.  It is an observation that there appear to be very few righteous people left, that God needs to enter our circumstances and save us, and that the people who are left tell lies, deceive us by flattery, and speak with a “double heart.”  Even though we may have heard this before, to many it sounds like an accurate description of where we are today, where people are tired of distortions and want to hear the “truth.”  Unfortunately, many want to turn to people who are themselves deceivers but who appear to speak the truth instead of turning to God, saying “Save, O Lord” and listening to the One who speaks nothing but the truth.

Sometimes our plain reading of Scripture causes us to rush through it without really savoring the depth of what we are being told.  This happened to me today.  After all, “lies” are lies and “flattery” is flattery, right?

Well, as usual, the underlying original words have a greater depth of meaning.  For example, “lies” does not mean just an untruth, but more.  The Hebrew word translated “lies,” means nothingness, emptiness, vanity, anything which disappoints the hope which rests on it, falsehood, wickedness, sin, iniquity, calamity, destruction, profanity, using the Lord’s name lightly, meaningless repetition (in prayer), thoughtlessness, anything which is not substantial, is not real, or is morally or materially worthless.

If you realize that “double heart” is a Hebrew expression for double-minded, or talking out of both sides of one’s mouth, then lies, flattery, and double-talk begin to look like a lot of the same thing – statements which are intended to mean something which, in the light of day, mean little or nothing.

One of the ways we kill ourselves morally is by so weakening and changing the meaning of words that everything which is spoken becomes less true, less relevant, less specific, and, really, less useful.  When our words have become morally or materially worth less, then ultimately they become morally and materially worthless.

Do we resemble these first two verses?  Have all of our words and sentences and paragraphs become a series of lies, spoken with double-meaning, flattering to the hearer but deceptive in reality?

Think about even the word “lie.”  Even if it means not telling the truth, so what?  If I have a philosophy that truth is what I make it to be, then none of my lies are failures to tell the truth … but they are lies nonetheless because, since there is no absolute reference for truth, but only what I make it, the meaning of my words is “nothingness.”  When there is no absolute standard by which to judge love, then my statement “I love you” is probably a statement which will disappoint the hope which rests on it.

We like to disguise the fact that we are a nation of liars by talking about the necessity of telling “white lies” so that we will not hurt people’s feelings.  Even talking about “white lies” suggests that there are lies which are wrong and some which are right.  But if there is not some absolute reference point to judge truth, then the statement “Everyone utters lies to his neighbor” is probably totally accurate.

How do we fix this problem of the meaning of words?  How do we get to a place in our lives, in our society, where things are spoken which are not empty, which are not morally or materially worthless, which do not disappoint the hope which the listener places in them?

Well, the answer to this question resides in the first part of today’s reading … “Save, O Lord…”  Save us from those who lie.  Save us from ourselves who lie.  Save us from I who lies.  Save us, because only You can.  Save us and teach us Your truth … and then give us a spirit of obedience and the power to speak that truth into a world hungry for a rock upon which it can stand – not the shifting sands of lies, flattery, and double-speak — but the the truth of ages, the truth of God, the truth of Christ.

Everyone does not need to include you and me.  But it will include you and me if we do not find truth where it is to be found, do not rest in truth, do not abide in truth, and do not bow our knee to truth … God’s revelation to us in His Word written, Scripture, and His Word made flesh in Jesus Christ.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Foundation

March 16, 2016


Psalm 11

“…if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”  Ps. 11:3

This verse is quoted a lot among my political friends, because they (and I) see the crumbling of the society arising from the increasing secularization of our culture, the redefinition of language, the rise of selfishness over selflessness, the increasing dominance of government in our lives, the loss of liberty to security, and the removal of God from the public square.

When the universities no longer teach but propagandize, when the churches no longer proclaim but entertain, when government no longer protects but burdens … when the foundations are destroyed, what can we, the righteous, do?

Our inclination is to become even more involved in civic affairs, from attending organizing meetings to listening to speakers about topics of interest, reading more books, showing up to vote, and discussing the state of affairs with our friends.  Our inclination is to run to the rescue, to try to shore up the foundation with various designs to give it strength and stability, to patch the cracked foundation to keep it from cracking further, and to enlist our friends in the rebuilding effort.

And for many of us, we respond to the clarion call to fix the foundation by saying, “we can do it.”

But, of course, we can’t.  If the foundations are destroyed because sin runs rampant, the solution is to turn to the Lord and let Him solve the problem, if He will.  If the foundations are destroyed because people are becoming more selfish, the solution is to turn to the Lord and let Him solve the problem, if He will.  If the foundations are destroyed because we see our society, our life, running off the cliff, the solution is to turn to the Lord and let Him solve the problem, if He will.

The righteous can do  what they are called by God to do.  They can proclaim Jesus Christ, they can live lives which gives honor to Him, they can teach others, they can pray and they can love their neighbors.

That’s it.  That’s what the righteous can do.  And, oh, one more thing.  The righteous can stand on the one foundation which can never be destroyed, Jesus Christ, God the Father, and the Holy Spirit.

In a sense, this is a trick question because the one foundation which matters is the one which can never fail, and the many foundations built by man are temporal, weak, and capable of being destroyed.  And the question is not “if” the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do.  The question is “When the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do?”

The foundations will be destroyed; the Foundation will not.  Therefore, in season and out of season, the righteous need to do the same thing – praise God, glorify Him, grow toward Him, and proclaim Him … and God has promised that He will take care of the rest of the foundations.

—————-

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

 

 

Bread – Sanctuary

March 14, 2016


Psalm 11

“In the Lord I take refuge…Flee like a bird to your mountain…”  Ps. 11:1

One of the reasons I like to capitalize the personal pronouns which reference God is that the direction of the personal pronoun reference is more clearly seen.  For example, here the phrase “your mountain” does not refer to God’s mountain, but to David’s.

When we are in trouble today or this week, there are two basic sanctuaries we can seek out, our mountain and God.

“Our mountain” may not be a literal mountain, but simply a place.  And there are three types of places.  The first place is the one we go to most often, and yet we rarely think about it as a sanctuary – and that is ourselves, our minds.  How many times, when we are in the midst of difficulty, do we reach into ourselves for the solution?  In fact, we know that some people so retreat into their mind that they stay locked up in it, becoming withdrawn, recluses or hoarders, or evidencing psychological disturbances.  So one place of sanctuary is our mind.

The second type of mountain could be a collection of minds, or the society of others.  We do this every day.  When we are in trouble, we seek the advice of other people or, if not their advice, at least their friendship.  These groups may be family, best friends, co-workers, respected peers, or others with whom we find comfort and safety.  People then are our sanctuary.  But, like all people and people-groups, they are fickle and have their own issues, and so the reliability and effectiveness of the sanctuary may be in doubt from time to time.

The third type of mountain is more of a physical place, a true “mountain.”  Now this physical place may not be a literal mountain, but it has the same elements – perceived permanence, earthly, strong, defensible, calming, and peaceful.  Our mountain may be a favorite chair to which we run when we are in trouble.  Our mountain may be a particular room in the house where we can escape the various demands being put upon us.  Our mountain may be our office if we are escaping from the house, or our house if we are escaping from the office.  Our mountain may be the place we like to take vacation.  Our mountain may just be a place of respite, a fountain, a bench, a park, a museum, a gallery … any place where we can escape the troubles we have.

 

When we are in trouble, when our enemies surround us, when we are paying the consequences of our sin or others’ sin, how often do we seek the sanctuary of our mind, other people, or a special place?  I think, if we are honest, the answer is most of the time.  Although God may be found in every one of these places, atop every one of these mountains, He is not necessarily there if we are not seeking Him there.  The mountaintop house, perched over the valley, where we drink our coffee while we watch the world come to life is, in itself, a man-made place of refuge.  My mountain is my mountain.  It is a choice to seek refuge there, but God may or may not be present there unless I also seek Him.

Which then, of course, leads us to the second place of refuge – God Himself.  In this Psalm 11, someone is advising David to flee to his mountain, and David’s response is “In the Lord I take refuge.”

Can we say that?  Can we truly say that we take refuge in the Lord when we face difficulties, or do we try to work it out ourselves first?  When we are faced with danger, do we seek first a well-defended sanctuary made of brick and stone, of a well-defended fortress of well-armed men and women, or do we first seek the Lord?

As we begin today, Monday, there is an entire week when we will be attacked from every side, by people who we thought loved us and respected us, by people who we known neither love us nor respect us, by circumstances, by events, by sin, by trouble, by Satan himself.  When this happens and we need respite, where will we seek sanctuary?

Will we flee to the mountain (ourselves, our friends, our good places) or will we flee to God?

What I think I tend to do is to first seek the comfortable chair, the book, the place of peace … and then, if I think about it, I will talk to God.  And isn’t this our true selves, our true order of events.  Flee first to our mountain and, once we get there, talk to God, maybe?

What would happen if I first sought refuge “in the Lord?”  Would I then need the chair, the book, the drink, the conversation with a friend, the self-analysis?  Perhaps, but then it would be because God led me there and not because I led myself there.

Have you ever fled to your mountain to find that your place of sanctuary was not very helpful, that it did not protect you as well as you thought it would?  How often have we retreated to vacation only to return from vacation unrested?

Perhaps our failure to find true sanctuary, to find true refuge, is because we have it in the wrong order.  We flee first to our mountain and then, maybe, to God.  Instead, we should flee first to God and then, if He says, go find the place of His choosing to rest ourselves.

“In the Lord I take refuge.”  Is this a reality or just a motto?

_________

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

 

Bread – Evidence

March 11, 2016


Psalm 10

“The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from His land.” Ps. 10:16

This weekend has been beat down week.  On Monday, I wrote about the characteristics of the walking atheist, the person who claims to follow Christ but walks daily as if he and she do not believe He is present.  Unfortunately, as we apply those characteristics to ourselves [arrogance (boastfulness; pride), prosperity, apparent security, abusive speech, and aggression (violence)], we find that, although we are not atheists in the classic sense (no belief in God), we may act like atheists more than we think.

On Wednesday, I took one of these characteristics, prosperity, and built on it.  One of the reasons I did is that we live in place and a time of great prosperity, where great riches come to the people who are expert at the game of life.  But the game of life is played according to two sets of rules, and we pick which sets of rules we live by.   One set of rules are the rules of the game of life according to the world (which really means man, and behind man, Satan).  Those people who play by these rules often win and win big, and those of us who see that wonder where God’s judgment is on them because they always seem so prosperous.  The second set of rules are of the rules of the game of life according to God.  Those people who play by these rules experience prosperity of heart, and, depending upon the resources which God commits to them as stewards, may have much or little according to the prosperity of things.

Today, Friday, is the third beat down.  I’m sorry, but Psalm 10 is focused on the people of the world who claim God but do not follow His ways, the people who say they believe in Christ but do not integrate Him into their behavior.  It is focused on their characteristics and their behaviors flowing from their character, and it is focused on the seeming failure of God to show up to punish them (and us) for our transgressions of His law.

Today’s quote from Psalm 10 is close to the end of the Psalm and reminds us for the punishment which awaits those who say that there is a God but produce no good fruit in keeping with that statement.  It reminds us of who the creator is and who God is.  It tells us who our king, our ruler is.  And it tells us the end – “the nations perish from His land.”

There is an end to the story and, for the nations who walk separate from God, who claim to know God but ignore His rules of life, for the nations which in their arrogance point to their prosperity and say “we did this,” for the nations which step on the poor, for the nations whose speech and actions are debased and abusive, and for the nations who take what they want, when they want, from whom they want – for those nations, there is an end.  They will end; they will perish; they will be no more.

Now there will be a tendency of the reader to translate the word “nation” into “government,” and immediately point to the government as the problem.  It will be the government which does all these bad things and it will be the government which ends and perishes from the earth.  This would be a wrong translation.  The word “nations” means “people,” you and me.

“The Lord is king forever and ever; the (people) perish from His land.”  If you want to personalize it – “The Lord is king forever and ever; (I and my family) perish from His land.”

I think any sober person would, today, looking around, say “The United States is fast running downhill over the cliff.”  But who is the United States?  It is the people; it is you and me.

How we live the game of life does not save us because only Christ can do that, but it does produce either good or bad fruit.  And we know that true faith, being truly “born again,” results in a transformed life where we are not over God nor are we His equals, but we are His servants, kneeling before Him, with an overwhelming desire to follow Him and His rules of the game of life.

Which rules do we follow?  That is the question of the week.  As someone once said, if you were accused of being a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict you?  If we follow the game of life according to the world’s rules, quite frankly there will probably not be much evidence.  If we follow the game of life according to God’s rules, we will be convicted by clear and convincing evidence.  The nations will perish, but will we?

For those who believe in Christ, there is salvation from death and we will not perish.

We say we believe in Christ, but do we?

Do we play by His rules or ours?

If we play by our rules, where is the evidence that we truly believe in Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Prosperity

March 9, 2016


Psalm 10

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.”  His ways prosper at all times…He says in his heart ‘…throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.’”  Ps. 10:4-6

Isn’t it frustrating that it always seems like that wealth and prosperity gravitate to those who act as if there is no God, to those who excel at the ways of the world, sharp in business, strategic in their thinking, assertive in their acts.  Many, but not all, of these people have a “winner take all” mentality, taking advantage every legal (and, some, not so legal) way they can.  They seem to accumulate wealth easily and they seem to be able to keep it through all adversity and to preserve it for future generations.   If they do not live in leisure it is because there is always some mountain to climb, some competitor to crush, some business deal to win, some new amount of money or fame or position or thing to acquire.  They have many things and many houses and warehouses to store these things, and they have luxurious methods of transportation to visit their houses and warehouses, and they eat very well at the finest restaurants along the way.

When we sit over on the side and think of our own ways to obtain prosperity, particularly if we can get on top of the business deal or force those people we resent to “pay through the nose” (or, politically, “pay their fair share”) or cheat and scheme ourselves to fortune, aren’t we just like “them,” only not quite so good at playing the game of life?

And isn’t it interesting that we call it the “game of life?”

There is so much to be angry about in this passage.  If we are on the outside looking in, we get mad at the pride, the arrogance, the prosperity, and the apparent immunity from trouble which the people of the world have.  When we are on the inside looking out, we get mad that David would impugn our motives, that he would see our “being the best we can be” somehow a stick in the eye of God, that the naysayers would not look at us as good people doing good works (when we consider ourselves good people doing good works – after all, the insiders give to church, give to charities, give to those less fortunate, follow the rules of ethics in business, etcetera), that the people outside would not realize that we, the inside people, provide them prosperity as well through industry and jobs and payment of taxes, etcetera.

David is warning us that the game of life played this way, where we are not seeking Him as we build our prosperity, is really the game of death.

Now the Christian may note that salvation is the free gift of God into life after death and that Christians reap their rewards at their death, so why not play the game of life in between?  And, in fact, there are studies that show that a substantial majority of those who claim Christ as their savior play the game of life as if God does not exist in the present.

But doesn’t eternal life begin today, while we are still alive?

The entirety of Scripture says “Yes!”  Eternal life does begin today, if we slough off the old man and take on the new, if we raise up Christ in our lives rather than ourselves, if we following the pattern of good living established by God rather than the pattern of “good” living established by the world.

But it is up to us to let God rule in our lives, it is up to us to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives worthy of our calling as disciples of Christ, it is up to us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word rather than the world’s wisdom.

See, the game of life has two different sets of rules.  One, the rules set by the world, lead to prosperity of things and poverty of the heart.  One, the rules set by God, lead to prosperity of the heart and, if the Lord wills it in our lives, poverty of things.

If it is I who wins, I always lose.  If it is God who wins, so do I.

Are you mad at those who prosper?  Why?  They came about their wealth in one of two ways, either they won the game of life according to the world’s rules or God gave it to them to hold and to use as God’s agents and ambassadors on earth.  If they won by the world’s rules and you are inclined to play by the world’s rules, don’t get mad, get even.  If they won by the world’s rules and you are inclined to play by God’s rules, love them and walk away.  Psalm 10 tells us their end.  If they follow God’s rules and have prosperity of things as gifts from God, then pray for them that they will have God’s wisdom about how best to represent God in the world and will have the courage and strength of the Holy Spirit to do what He commands.

Choose this day who you will serve.  If yourself, then read Psalm 10 again.  If God, then rejoice in your prosperity of life, whether or not you have things…and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: