Bread – Particularize

April 30, 2016


Psalm 17

“He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush.  Arise, O Lord!  Confront him, subdue him!”  Ps. 17:12-13

In our prayer life, we are so often ready to generalize, to talk about “evil” in the abstract, to talk about “evil people” in the collective, to talk about “them” or “us.”

But the truth is that rarely do we deal with the collective or the abstract – most often we are dealing with a particular situation or a particular person.  The person we are dealing with may be part of a greater whole or may well represent that greater whole or the idea, but the contest before us is between “me” and the other person, not the other philosophy or the other abstraction.  Situations are concrete and people are concrete.  We may think abstractly, but we deal concretely.

We must deal with the person and the situation before us.

David was confronted with a particular person in this Psalm.  This particular person was out to get him; he (David’s adversary) was “lurking” around trying to catch David unawares, pounce on him, and, most likely, kill him.

So, in a moment of clarity, David stops praying to God about the wicked people (“They close their heart to pity”) and speaks directly and personally about the wicked person (“Confront him!”)

Sure David might pray to God to deal with the entire category of lions and to soften their anger and bring to their mind a friendship with man, but there came a moment when David realized that God had to deal with a particular lion, one who was going to kill David if God didn’t intervene against that single, solitary man-lion.

Do we personalize our prayers like this?  Do we pray to an abstract God, one which resides in our minds as an idea, or to a personal God, one who resides in our hearts as our Savior?  Do we pray to God about things in general, or about situations in particular?  Do we pray to God about fixing the problems of a nation, or do we pray to Him about the particular guy or gal who is giving us fits?

We love to read the Psalms because of their overarching majesty in representing the prayer and song life of those who wrote them, in reflecting the great struggles between understanding a God who is sovereign, holy, loving, and faithful and His dealing (or, from our perspective, not dealing) with our particular needs and the needs of others.

However, which portion of David’s prayer of Psalm 17 was closest to David’s heart and, therefore, God’s desires for him … “keep me from them” or “keep me from him, the lion?”

There was an old pastor-priest friend of mine, now deceased, who told me one time that, as he drove down the street to get to a meeting with a parishioner, he always prayed as he reached each stoplight that God would turn it green so that he could drive unimpeded.  I told him that wouldn’t it make more sense for him to pray that God just get him to the appointment on time, and he said, “no,” because God was quite capable of taking care of each stoplight and the accumulation of each stoplight would result in him getting to where he needed to go in the time appointed for him to get there.

In reading this Psalm today and hearing David ask God to “stop that man,” I am reminded that each event, each person, each situation, each minute by minute occurrence in our life, is an opportunity for us to ask God for help and for Him to show up with a little demonstration of His power.  We so much want the light show that we don’t realize the opportunity for prayer when we turn on the light and hope the light bulb turns on.

Can you imagine the power by which we would lead our lives if we could personalize and particularize everything as an opportunity to speak to God about our need, right then?

And if we particularized our prayers down to the specific before us, wouldn’t we also then live our lives in constant gratitude for the things fulfilled?

When we pray to God for a good journey, we get to thank Him at the end of that good journey.  When my friend prayed to God for a green stoplight, he got to thank God for that green stoplight when it occurred.  But what we forget is that he also got to thank God for the red stoplight as well because it gave him an opportunity to think about why God might not have turned it to green – was it to protect him?  Give thanks.  Was it to give him an opportunity to make that phone call he needed to make and had forgotten?  Give thanks.  Was it to give him an opportunity for rest from a frustrating drive?  Give thanks.

If we want to witness God in every moment of our lives, if we want to live our lives in power, if we want to have an attitude of gratitude, maybe we need to particularize our prayers more, realizing that every moment in life is both an opportunity to pray and, regardless of the outcome, an opportunity to give thanks.

Then, instead of praying and giving thanks once or twice a day, we would be doing it thousands of times a day.

And, maybe then, we would truly walk with Him, talk with Him, be with Him, and do His will.

_________

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

 

Bread – Frustration

April 27, 2016


Psalm 17

“Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!  Deliver my soul … from men by Your hand, O Lord, from men of the world …You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.”  Ps. 17:13-14

You can almost hear the frustration in David’s voice.  Confront the evildoers, God…these are the same people who You fill with treasure, bring them an inheritance through children, and let them pass their wealth to future generations!

When we play the game by the King’s rules, when we are surrounded by those who do not, and when the King rewards them and not us, what else are we supposed to feel except frustration, anger, confusion, and resentment?

Here, we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and we try to be obedient to His Word, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and yet the wicked prosper, often by taking it from us.  We appeal to the Lord and the wicked appear to prosper more.  We know God is sovereign, and therefore it is by His will that evil plays out, that the men of the world fill their caves with cash, live luxuriously, and dominate the affairs of man.

There are three answers to this frustration.  One is to be angry with God because it rains on both the just and the unjust, and the unjust have the just’ umbrellas.  When we do this, we need to accept the fact that we have elevated our will, our standards, our values, and our own belief about our importance over God, and stand in judgment of Him.

The second answer to this frustration is to join the other side, to reject God as uncaring or remote or, if present and caring, then impotent and unable to change the world.   If God is limited as we are, only able to influence outcome and not make outcome, then we might as well ally ourselves with the people having fun and wealth and worldly power.

The third answer to this frustration is to acknowledge our place – we are the subject, He is the King; we are the slave, He is the master; we are the saved, He is the Savior; our minds are limited, His mind is unlimited.  In other words, the third answer is to acknowledge the truth we see only partially, that His ways are not our ways, although we certainly would like Him to conform to our view of the world and our desires.

David picks this third way when he ends the Psalm in verse 15, immediately after expressing his frustration, as follows: “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.”  Ps. 17:15

To paraphrase, David is saying, “God, what you are doing makes no sense to me, but I am satisfied with You alone.”

When we have prayed and our prayers have come to naught as far as we can tell, when we become frustrated with God, what is our response?  Is it to stand in judgment of Him?  Is it to abandon Him to join the world?  Or is it to stay the course, knowing that His countenance is sufficient for the moment, for the day, and for our entire life?

Another way of asking the same question is, when we are frustrated with God because He seems to helping those who are against us more than He is helping us, do we (a) get mad and tell him to get right with the program, (b) start looking at the other side to see what we can satisfy ourselves with that the world offers, or (c) say “O Well, it is Your hands, O God, and not mine – thank you.”

The first results in anger, the second in worry, the third in peace.

What choose you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Prayer

April 25, 2016


Psalm 17

“Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!  Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!…You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night, You have tested me, and You will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.  With regard to the works of man, by the word of Your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.  My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped.”  Ps. 17:1-5

This Bread is called “Prayer” because that is what this Psalm is called, “A Prayer of David.”

And look how it begins!  “Hey, God, here I am.  Listen to me because I am perfect?  You know I am because You know everything.  Hey, look at me; listen to me!”

Obviously this is both a paraphrase and something of an exaggeration, but not by much.  When we approach God, can we say that we are perfect, that we are sinless, that we can be examined by a holy God and found to be wanting in nothing?

The Christian might answer this question by saying that, “yes, because we are covered in the blood of the Lamb, we are deemed pure before God and able to stand before Him.”  That is true but it leads to a certain sloppiness in prayer because it means that we approach prayer as our three year old grandson might, stomping into the throne room of God and laying down our demand for candy without so much as a “Hi, grandpa!”

David is claiming the right to be in front of God because he claims obedience to the Father’s Law.

Can he rightly claim that, claim perfect obedience?  The answer is probably not, but he does anyway.  How?

How can we make a claim to perfect obedience, when it is impossible?

Might I suggest that it is not so much obedience in fact which matters to ordering our prayer life, but obedience in intent, obedience in desire and attitude.

We may be able to walk into the throne room of God with our prayers because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, but beyond that, doesn’t the power of our prayer depend in substantial part upon how much we want God, how much we want to obey Him and listen to Him and walk with Him.  The danger of casual prayer before an Almighty God made by a believer is not that we will be struck down, but that the results will be weak.  The strength of prayer made by a believer who tries his or her best to walk in obedience, who tries to speak with lips free of deceit, and who applies God’s Word to daily living lies not in the believer’s own righteousness, but it is certainly greatly increased in power by the believer’s own commitment to God and His ways.

So, if we are not to stomp into God’s throne room full of our own righteousness or maybe even a casual reliance upon our Savior, Jesus Christ, how are we to enter it?

What is not in this Psalm is what David did just prior to saying “Hear a just cause…”  What did David do to prepare for that opening volley of self-promotion?

I suspect that he examined his actions and his heart to see whether what he was going to say was true.  And, finding, like all men, that it was not completely true, he probably confessed it to God and asked God to forgive him his trespasses.  Preceded by confession, at the moment David said “Hear…,” it may very well be that his lips were “free of deceit.”

How do we walk into the throne room?  Do we just stomp in and say “Hey, God, listen to me, the great one!”  Or do we walk in with confidence, knowing that we bear the right attitude and the right gratitude, born of a desire for God, a desire for His truth, a desire for obedience, a desire to walk with Him, cloaked in the righteousness of Christ?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Eat

April 22, 2016


Psalm 16

“The Lord is my chosen portion and my cup; You hold my lot.  The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance.”  Ps. 16:5

I have heard it said many times that you are what you eat.  We hear every day from some doctor, nutritionist, book author, trainer, life coach or government official that we will be healthy, wealthy, and wise, if we just eat better – e.g. less saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, refined sugar, processed flour, gluten, salt, caffeine, sugary drinks, diet drinks, and genetically modified foods of any kind.   We hear every day from the same people that we would be faster, have more strength, and have less pain if we but “eat” daily exercise like walking, stretching, running, bicycling, and dance.

Well, here the Psalmist David is saying that he eats of the Lord (“my chosen portion and my cup”) and that, as a result, the limitations of life “fall in pleasant places” and his inheritance, what he ultimately gets as his reward, is “beautiful.”

What David is talking about here is not the beautiful body which comes from good eating and nutrition, which is the outside, but the beautiful soul which comes from making God your chosen meal and drink, which is the inside.  And, of course, what is interesting is that we can make the outside beautiful all day long while the inside is miserable, but by making the inside beautiful we will also make the outside beautiful as well.

How can we tell what we are eating?  By looking at a plate.

How can we tell what our chosen portions are?  By looking at our calendar.  If we consider today (24 hours) a plate of food, how much on the plate is useless to good nutrition of the heart and soul?  How much on the plate lifts up our day by giving us power and energy, and how much on the plate of life brings down our day by giving us more burdens to bear, more worries to fret over, more opportunities for the world to tell us who we are.

We are what we eat.  Psalm 16 reminds us that we should be eating of the Lord and His Word, because by making Him our chosen portion and our cup, we live in a pleasant place, no matter our circumstances, and we have an even better inheritance, no matter what.

So, what’s on your plate?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Drilling

April 20, 2016


Psalm 16

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.”  Ps. 16:1-2

We often hear the word “drilling” in the context of mineral exploration, particularly of oil and gas.  It may, of course, also refer to the process of making a hole in a solid object.  The purpose of drilling seems to always be the process of breaking through a hard surface to get to the treasure underneath.  In the case of oil and gas drilling, it is piercing the earth to get to the oil.  In the case of drilling a hole, it is penetrating the wood or the metal or the plastic to get to the air underneath.

We lose so much in Scripture because we treat the translation as the hard surface, and read and rest there.  And yet, much of the power of Scripture lies beneath the hard surface, lies beneath the translation, and can only be extracted by the work of drilling through the hard surface to get to the real treasure.  But to do effective drilling, we have to be confident, have faith, that there is something beneath the surface of Scripture which is worth going after, worth drilling for.  And, quite frankly, that is a lot of work and, most of the time, I am too lazy to do it, if I even think about it.

For example, in today’s reading, on the hard surface of translated Scripture, I focused purely on the “refuge” and “no good apart” phrases and was ready to write about how, with belief in God, we have refuge and can overcome our sin nature to be able to demonstrate God’s goodness in the world, knowing that there is no good apart from Him.  And that would have been a good Bread, but I would have missed the whole point.

Fortunate for me, I also read a commentary, to give me a different perspective, and it was in that commentary that I learned something.

See, the English translation into our Bible of “God” and “Lord” fail to fully reflect the names of God actually being used in the Hebrew or Greek.

So, drilling through, I find that substituting the names of God into the translation results in this:  “Preserve me, O El, for in You I take refuge.  I say to Jehovah, ‘You are my Adonai; I have no good apart from You.’”

In the word for God “El,” there is the meaning of “strong one,” or what we might say “God Almighty.”  If God is all mighty, then He is the strong refuge, the strong sanctuary, where we may find peace, rest, and protection.  For in You, the Strong God, I take refuge makes all the sense in the world.  Furthermore, it refutes the idea of God as a disconnected, soft and “fluffy” God which dallies in the affairs of man but does not rule them.  God the Almighty rules and He is a strong fortress.  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

In the word for God “Jehovah,” there is a reference to the God of Moses, to the great “I Am.”  It is the I AM who made the covenant first, with the nation of Israel, and second with the Church, with us.  In a covenant relationship, we inherit the power, benefits, and blessings of the relationship.  The fact that, by the power and grace of God, we receive and can rely upon the promises of God.  The “apart from You” is an acknowledgment that we cannot survive without attachment to the True Vine, without being in relationship with Jesus Christ, without accepting the relationship which He offers to us.  God the great “I Am” has a relationship with us because of His doing and not ours, because of His power and not ours, because of the trueness of His promises and not ours.  Therefore, we have nothing of eternal worth “apart from You.”  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

In the word of God “Adonai,” there is the concept of God as my Master, as the Master.  Here there is the concept of God as King on earth as well as in heaven.  It is to the King, to Adonai, that we pledge our discipleship and our obedience because He is the Master of our lives.  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

So, let me paraphrase our reading today this way – “Preserve me, God Almighty, because in you I am saved.  I say to the great I AM, who has adopted me in a covenant which cannot be broken, ‘You are my Master and King; I have no good apart from what Your covenant relationship with me gives me.”

Isn’t that rich?  Isn’t that powerful?

And it is all laying just beneath the surface … but we need to be drilling into the Word to get to it.

There are three ways to read Scripture.  One is to read the highlights and, from that, you can discern the greatest story ever told, but the details are vague.  Another is to read the words (which takes a little longer), and from that you can learn what it means to be a disciple and many details about the story.  The details are sharp, the duty is clear, but there is something missing.  The third way is to drill into the Word, to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the richness beneath the surface (which takes a little longer), and from that you can begin to enjoy the relationship you have with God by virtue of His grace.  You might think of this as “top of mind” reading, “rational” mind reading, and deep heart reading.

Do you feel your relationship with God is weak, ineffective, and unsatisfying?  Perhaps it is because you need to drill more and scan less.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Budge

April 15, 2016


Psalm 15

“He who does these things shall never be moved.”  Ps. 15:5b

There are two questions built into this verse.  One is, what are “these things?”  Well, the answer to that is in the Psalm and you can read it.  But, in the interest of moving to the question of the day, “these things” are walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in your heart, not slandering with your tongue, doing no evil to your neighbor, not taking up a reproach against your friend, despising a vile person, honoring those who fear the Lord, swearing to your own hurt, not changing, not loaning to brothers in need at interest, and doing justice (not taking a bribe against the innocent).

The second question is what does it mean to never be “moved?”

I call this Bread “Budged” because we probably think of movement from one position to another, but I think the meaning is closer to being budged, even a little, off the mark.   Perhaps a better translation is the one contained in the NASB version, which says that a person who does “these things” “shall never be shaken.”  Being shaken is the merest of movements, but from the beginning of a rock rolling down the hillside comes the avalanche.  In fact, the movement from one position to another begins with the smallest doubt, the smallest “budge” from certainty, the smallest “shaken.”

The best analogy I can think of is an earthquake.  The mountain appears to be immovable until an earthquake occurs, at which time it moves, an avalanche occurs, and damage to the mountain and anyone and anything who the mountain supports results.

An example of an earthquake in our personal life is the loss of a job, the death of a child or another closely loved one, the betrayal of a friend.  These events challenge our very view of the world.  These events attack our foundations and cause us to shake.  If our foundation is built on the sands of man, our house and our faith will not stand.  If our foundation is built on the sold rock of faith in Jesus Christ, our house and our faith will be challenged and we may be shaken, but we will not budge, we will not fall, and we will stand in the evil day.

But why does doing “these things” help us to keep from budging, keep from being shaken, keep from being moved, keep from collapsing, and keep us on the solid rock of faith?

I think it is because each of “these things” is practical and is done day-to-day.  Doing each of these things is actually counter-cultural and counter to our own instincts.  Doing of each of these things builds up our spiritual muscles and is exercise against the earthquake to come.  And doing each of these things is a minute-by-minute exercise in radical dependence upon God for our guidance and His Holy Spirit for our strength?

How does one “walk blamelessly” on a regular basis, all the time, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How does one “do what is right” on a regular basis, all the time, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How does one keep from slandering with our tongue, keep from doing evil to our neighbor, keep from repeating gossip about our friends, identifying and hating vile people while identifying and raising up people who fear the Lord, or any of these things, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How do we, as Christians, maintain the course through life, advocate well as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, love without fear, and walk exercise self-control, except through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

If we practice running, then when we need to run we can.  If we practice endurance, then when we need endurance we have it.

And so, as we practice relying on Christ in the present, in the little things, we strengthen ourselves to rely on Him in the future, in the evil day, when all is at risk, when the foundations are challenged by the earthquakes of life.

If you “do these things,” you will not be budged, you will not be shaken, you will not be moved…but only if we remember that it is not in our power to do these things, except in, through, and by Christ …. And rest upon Him, the solid rock.

_________

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

 

Bread – Speech

April 13, 2016


Psalm 15

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in Your tent?…He who … speaks truth in his heart; and who does not slander with his tongue…” Ps. 15:1-3

I called this Bread “Speech” because the Psalm says “speak truth” and “no slander,” both of which are speech and both of which come from the tongue and the mouth.

However, the Psalm does not talk about the person who speaks truth to others through his mouth, but who speaks truth “in his heart.”  How do you speak truth “in” your heart?

Nowadays we tend to think of the center of man to be his mind.  The mind calculates, orders the tongue to speak, and the intended speech flows out.  The mind calculates, orders the limbs to move, and the intended movement occurs.

Because we exalt reason, we focus on the mind as what separates us from beasts and what enables us to be fully human.

But, historically and probably more accurately, the mind is not considered to be the center of a man, but the heart.    From the heart comes love over logic, emotion over rationality, integrity over decision, belief over analysis, courage over assessment, wellbeing over wealth.

When a man speaks truth “in his heart,” his character is formed around that characteristic.  While the mind may use truth as a weapon, the heart uses it as a standard.  While the mind adapts the truth to the circumstances, the heart where the truth “is in” adapts truth to nothing, because truth is not adaptable.  For the person who speaks truth “in” his heart, it is natural and probably even necessary that he speak truth from his mouth.  Because a man speaks truth “in his heart,” in his centermost being, in his core, we know him as reliable, as trustworthy, as a wise counselor, and as honest.  We trust those who speak the truth (even though we may not like them because we don’t like what they have to say or how they say it) and we distrust those who don’t (even though we may like them because they are telling us what we want to hear).

Once the truth is spoken “in his heart,” the man of God will not slander with his tongue.  Slander is a type of lie which has the added quality of being intended to hurt the object of the slander.    It is a lie designed to harm.  It does not reflect love of neighbor but hate of neighbor.

Somebody may now come forward and say, well, what about so-called “white lies,” the little lies we all tell when it is socially advantageous to do so.    We all know them and we all do them.  For example, for men, when a woman asks you whether she looks good in the dress she loves and she doesn’t look so good in it, what do you say?  For women, when a man asks you on a date who you do not want to go out with, how many times do you have a non-existent appointment which interferes with the proposed date?

What I think is interesting about this Psalm is that it speaks to truth as character, of being trustworthy, but does not say that that truth has to come out of your mouth every time.  It only says that we should not use our tongue to harm, to slander.  Perhaps the difference between someone who speaks truth “in” his heart and someone who doesn’t is this – the trustworthy man knows when he has said a little lie and has deliberately done so in order to avoid hurting someone’s feelings; the untrustworthy man does not care whether he utters a lie or not as long as the objective is achieved.  The trustworthy man knows when he has told a white lie and wonders whether it was the right thing to do; the untrustworthy man never does that.  For a trustworthy man to speak a small lie, it hurts; an untrustworthy man doesn’t feel a thing.

We tend to think of all speech as external, but as this Psalm shows, it is not.  The man who can walk with God is the man who speaks God in his heart; the man who can obey God is the man who speaks obedience to God in his heart; the man who can speak truth in all circumstances where it needs to be spoken must first of all have spoken that truth in his heart.

What language do you speak to and in your heart?  Is it the language of fear and defeat, or the language of life?  Is it the language of truth or the language of lies?  Is it the language of Satan or the language of God?  Is it the language of the heavens or the language of the world?

Jesus said “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”  Matt. 12:34b-35

What treasure is deposited in your heart?

Don’t like the answer?  Then start speaking truth in your heart … the truth of Jesus Christ, the truth of the gospel, the truth of Scripture, the truth of God … and see what happens.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Tent

April 11, 2016


Psalm 15

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in Your tent?”  Ps. 15:1

While I write this, I am in a hotel room in California, far away from my home in Texas.  The people here are just like me, but not.  They have a different outlook on life, live and let live is more the motto here than live according to the Word.

And it struck me in this land, while I read Psalm 14, that I was a sojourner here, a traveler, a temporary resident, going from point A to point B with a stopover in my life in this place, perhaps to return.

As representatives of the kingdom of God, we are fellow travelers here on earth, sojourners on the way to figuring out ourselves, the meaning of life, the existence and reality of God, our purpose on earth, and the kind of people we will be and who and what we will follow.

So where are we sojourning?

God is present in His sanctuary, and for the longest His sanctuary, His place of meeting on earth, was a tent.  The tent of meeting.  And the predominant feature of a tent is that it is portable, it is capable of travelling as well.  And for those of us who have climbed mountains, it is quite customary for us to carry our tent, our place of rest, with us on our back.  So a tent not only suggests portability, it suggests a place of rest, of sanctuary, and of meeting.

In this one sentence is a deep question.  When we go about our daily ways, our jobs, playing with our children, our life … do we carry God with us?  Do we seek sanctuary on a regular basis with Him?  Do we rest in His tent?

If you think about it, it is a remarkable thing to be able to say that, where I am, God is also.  In fact, it may seem presumptuous except for the fact that God has given us that promise when we are His.

On a broader scale, we could say that we always travel in God’s tent, because His tent is the creation, and we walk on earth.  But I don’t think that is what is meant here.  Instead, I think what is meant is that man has the opportunity to have God with him wherever he is, if he will but make sure that he is sojourning in His tent, with Him, in Him, and through Him.

“O Lord, who shall sojourn in Your tent?”  Your children, O Lord.  For wherever they are, wherever you are, wherever I am, You are also.

Amen.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – When

April 8, 2016


Psalm 14

“When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people…”  Ps. 14:7

It is in little words that major meaning turns.  The Psalmist ends his lament about the fool and about the absence of righteousness from the earth by saying, simply, “When …”  No “if,” but “when.”

How often do we hesitate in our commitment to God, our proclamation of the gospel, our requests in prayer, our acceptance of forgiveness, our rejection of restoration, our failure to live fully, with a whole life – how often do we hesitate because, in our mind, the sentence always begins with “if” rather than “when?”

Throughout the Bible there are example after example of God, having been doubted by men, lives up to His promise.  Sometimes the fulfillment of promise is in judgment, wrath, and destruction, and sometimes the fulfillment reflects itself in restoration, love, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, and life, but we can say that the Bible communicates an essential nature of God – His promises are true, His promises will be fulfilled, His promises are trustworthy.

And, yet, we most often precede everything we do with respect to God with “if.”  Why?

I think we are doubtful because we are concrete people.  Like Thomas in the New Testament, we will not believe unless we can see, taste, touch, hear, and fully comprehend.  And, even then, we wonder whether what we have observed is accurate.  We know from our observations that everything fails sooner or later.  Man disappoints.  Foundations of concrete and steel will ultimately weather and rot, or maybe even crack.  Trees will fall.  Fires will consume.  Weather is fickle.  Man is fickle.  Two plus two equals four, except when it doesn’t.

When everything we see is at daily risk of disappointing, then it is natural to assume that God is the same way, and therefore live our life by sentences preceded by the word “if.”

This is why faith cannot come from the heart of man, but from the mind of God.  This is why, when we are secure in our belief that we are saved, it is because we know that is not a question of “if” we will survive the lake of fire, but of when we are taken to be with the Lord.

Where does this certainty come from?  From our observations, from our reason, from our tradition, from our knowledge or wisdom?  No, it cannot … because if our certainty comes from these things, all of which are ours, then it is no certainty at all.

If we have certainty of our future, if we know in our hearts, minds, and souls that the question is not “If the Lord restores our fortunes,” but “When the Lord restores our fortunes,” we have it only because the Lord gave it to us.  It does not come from natural things,  the things and thoughts of man, but from supernatural things, the things and thoughts of God.

Is our life guided by the word “if” or the word “when?”

There is no question about “if” God will restore us to Him.  The only question is “when.”

And we need to be ready.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Crowd

April 6, 2016


Psalm 14

“They [children of man] have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  Have they no knowledge….”  Ps. 14:3-4

When I read the phrase “They have all,” it reminded me of two concepts.

The first goes back to my college days.  A group of friends and I were waiting to get into the cheap movie at the student center, and we had gotten there late and we were at the end of the line.  One of my friends said, “watch this,” and then proceeded to stand out from the line, walk brusquely to the front, and then started yelling at everyone that the line started where we were in the back.  Before even five minutes had gone by, the entire line of over a hundred people had shifted to behind us and, all of a sudden, we were now in the front of the line and got the primo seats.  This was my first real lesson in crowd-think, where someone with a strong enough voice and the air of authority could order people to change their entire lives and be happy about it.  And once the front of the line started moving, in response to my friend’s directions, the entire line moved out of the way.  The blind leading the blind from their position of prominence to their position of subservience.

How like Satan.  He and his minions come at us from all directions, shouting at us, and when the society begins to move, we do too.  When our friends start to run off the rails, most of the time we are not far behind.

When our leaders and friends and bosses and neighbors begin to reject God and His teachings, do we follow?  Much of the time, if we are honest with ourselves, the answer is “yes.”

The second concept which came to mind is actually quite new and it is called “crowd funding.”  If I have an idea which I want to promote and have people invest their money in, I can put it on a website and solicit contributions and, if lots of people send in $10 or $100, I am funded by the “crowd.”  Now, normally, if I want to raise money, I have to sell the idea to people who already have money and are quite capable of carefully analyzing my idea and deciding whether it is worthy.  However, the principle behind crowd funding is the crowd.  If you want to know what the latest and best ideas are, see who is attracting crowd funding.  After all, if 100 people agree that it is a good idea, it must be a good idea, right?  Whether the invention is sound, whether the financial plan is carefully thought out, whether the market is clearly defined – all that becomes irrelevant once the crowd likes you.

When I read the statement “They have all turned aside…[from the truth, from good behavior, from morality, from honesty, from hope … you name it],” how did that happen?  One simple answer could be that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God and, therefore, we all turn aside.  However, many of us claim to be saved and to be engaged in the transformation of our minds.  If that is the case, then how is it that we fall into the “they have all turned aside” category?

I think in each of my examples the answer to this question lays.  We go astray when we (a) do not take the time to understand what is going on, (b) we follow a strong leader who may or may not have our best interest at heart because he or she “sounds good,” and (c) we are afraid of the crowd and afraid to stand our ground when the crowd is going somewhere else.

Lack of understanding, following the wrong person, and fear of the crowd.  A trifecta leading to us turning aside, leading us to corruption and misery, leading us to no good.

If we fail as Christians in any of these three areas, it must be because we are not well-grounded in God’s Word.  The reason is that there is understanding aplenty in the Word, when illuminated by the Holy Spirit and built deep into our psyche and our lives by consuming it as the living water it is.  The reason is that God’s Word points to the right person, Jesus Christ, to follow, and gives us lots of examples of the wrong kind of people not to follow.  And, finally, the Word leads us to understand that, when we are saved, we need not fear death and, as a result, need not fear the opinion of others (the crowd).

You want an antidote to corruption, to falling away?  It is in the Word.

And what is interesting about the Word is that it is not a crowd thing.  Yes, it can be read at church in the congregation and it is.  And, yes, it can be read in small study groups and prayer groups, and it is.  But at the end of the day, it can only be grasped by a single person taking the time and the energy to be with God, to study God, and to learn from God.

“Have they no knowledge, the evildoers…?” Ps. 14:4.

No, they don’t.

Don’t you fall in the same trap.

_________

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

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