Bread – Hope

May 30, 2016


Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…” Ps. 22:1-4

How often have we felt like this?  Out in the middle of our trials and tribulations, surrounded by events not of our (apparent) doing and surrounded by people we would rather not be associated with, we feel really, really alone.  Where are our friends?  Where is our family?  Where is God?

Perhaps the closest we can come from feeling like we have been totally abandoned is if we are a small child and both parents are killed or disappear, or we have some terrible disease fall upon us which is horribly contagious, and all of our friends and family melt away.  But even then, the small child may be helped by some people who come alongside of him.  The contagious disease-ridden person, may see the nurses and doctors surrounding them and they may even see their loved ones outside the windows, aching to get in.

But what if we have fallen to the bottom of the well and the voices of the searchers have wandered away to be replaced by the sounds of the night and by the predators who wander it?

Or we find ourselves alone in a desert, accompanied only by scorpions and drenching heat?

But even in those circumstances we may have memories to attach to, to fill our longing for companionship.

The fact is that, even when we feel like we have been forsaken, there is a part of us which knows that we have not.  The Psalmist joins us in this knowledge, reflecting that, even In the worst of times, we know that God has been faithful to those who believe in Him – “In You our fathers trusted.”

And, yet, as we read this and apply it to ourselves, perhaps there is a “gong” going off in the back of our mind, that we have read or heard those same words before.

And, the answer is, “yes, you have.”  You have heard these words before because they are the same words spoken by Jesus on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  Matt. 27:46

This Psalm is known as the “Psalm of the Cross” by some people because it is a prophecy, written by David at a time when crucifixion was unknown, of a crucifixion, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In order for God the Father to forgive our sins, there had to be a perfect atonement.  Because Jesus took on our sins, the sins of the world, and because sin is abhorrent to God, an affront to His holiness, God left Jesus and Jesus was truly forsaken.   For a moment in time, all connection, all love, all relationship, between Jesus and the Father was broken.

And in the moment of that separation, in the agony of being abandoned by the Father, what did Jesus remember?  Did He, as the Psalmist suggests, remember that God was faithful historically and, by extension, would be faithful to Him?  We were not there and we do not know, but why not?  He of all people knew the character of God the Father – the very character that had to separate from Jesus because of sin was also the same character which had shown Himself time and time again would not forever abandon His people.  The connection between God the Father and God the Son had to be broken because of wrath, because of sin, and the connection would be restored because of love.

In the moment of His greatest desperation, when Jesus was separated from the Father, because He knew His Father’s character, Jesus also had the greatest hope.

We may and probably will feel abandoned by many around us.  We may also feel so abandoned that we cry forth “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And in that moment, instead of despair, perhaps in this we will find hope – the God who rescued Israel is the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who has saved us from death eternal to life everlasting.    For those who trust Jesus, we may feel abandoned but we are not, we may feel forsaken but we are not, we may feel unforgiven but we are not.

We have hope in spite of ourselves, in spite of circumstances … because we remember.

_________

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

 

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Bread – Fire

May 27, 2016


Psalm 21

“Your hand will find out all Your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate You.  You will make them as a blazing oven when You appear.  The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will consume them…Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength!  We will sing and praise Your power.”  Ps. 21:8-9,13

We all have experience with fire.  On camp outs, the fire warms us and cooks our marshmallows.  We have all been burned by a hot stove, even though our mothers warned us against touching them.  Some of us have seen the partial or full destruction of a building or car or other thing from fire.  I even personally experienced being in the middle of a wildfire in a national park, and being rapidly shown the exit by the park police while the fire licked the ridge of the hill about a hundred yards away.

 

But no one knows fires like a fireman.  He or she responds immediately to a fire, dons heavy clothing which only partially protects them, and enters the fire to destroy it and save others.  These people can probably report how hot , how destructive, and how deadly a fire truly is.

As destructive as earthly fires are, as deadly as they are, God can still deliver us from them if He will and if we have faith.  The best example of this are my three friends of the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, when asked by the king of the world “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands,” answered by saying “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  Dan. 3:15-18.

But this fire made by Nebuchadnezzar in the furnace was a fire made by the world, by man.  Who will save us when God shows up like is described in Psalm 21, finding out those who hate Him, swallowing those people up in His wrath, consuming them with holy fire?

We are promised throughout the Bible, throughout God’s revelation of Himself, that there will come a time when God’s wrath will be poured out against those who hate Him, when He will throw them into the lake of fire and burn them to a crisp.

But who hates God?  In our natural state, we do … all of us.  We are the ones who will be destroyed by fire at a time when God chooses, unless ….

Scripture is also clear about what comes after the “unless.”  How is it that we can be transformed from our natural state which hates God to an unnatural state, a supernatural state, where we love God?  Through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and resurrected.

And how does that occur?  Again, the God who saves the three men of old from the fiery furnace is the author of our salvation, through no work of ours but through His mercy and grace.  “[Our] glory is great through Your salvation…For the king trusts in the Lord.”  Ps. 21:5,7.

I do not know who reads Bread, so I do not know if this reaches those who do not know Christ.  But if you do not, the fire of God’s wrath is your end unless you turn toward Him and trust in Him.  How does that occur?  Through man nothing is possible, but through God all things are.

Therefore, we pray “Father, have mercy upon me, a sinner.  Son, save me.  Holy Spirit, give me strength, power, courage, and wisdom to seek the Son and through Him, the Father.   Take me to the cross of Christ that I may witness to the truth, that Jesus has died for me, that He has been resurrected so that I can be with Him forever, that my sins have been forgiven by the Father because of His work and not mine, and that I am saved and forgiven by Your grace, Your mercy, and Your power.  Amen.”

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Kings

May 25, 2016


Psalm 21

.“His [the king’s] glory is great through Your salvation; splendor and majesty You bestow on him.  For You make him most blessed forever; You make him glad with joy of Your presence.  For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.”  Ps. 21:5-7

Which king is the Psalmist talking about?

One answer could be the author of this Psalm, King David himself.  If this is the case, he is speaking of himself in the third person, but that is not unusual if David was intending to turn himself as king into the object of God’s pleasure.

Another answer could be Jesus Christ Himself, King of Glory.  One reason it could be him is that the Psalmist says “You make him most blessed forever.”  And who is most blessed, except the Son of God Himself.  Another reason could be that He bestows “splendor and majesty on him.”  And who has the most splendor and majesty except the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  However, I do not think it is a reference to the Messiah because David starts off by saying that the king’s glory is great through “Your salvation.”  Although in one sense it is God Almighty who brings salvation to His people, Jesus Christ as God did not need to be saved – He is Savior; He saves.  Jesus’ glory pre-existed His death and resurrection and preceded creation itself.

So who else could David be talking about?  You … and me.

Think about it for minute.  Why not?

To the extent we reflect glory, it is made great through His salvation of us.

To the extent we reflect splendor and majesty in what we do and who we are, it is God who gives it to us.

To the extent we are blessed, it is because God has made us “most blessed.”  And since we are saved by God’s might, He has made us “most blessed forever.”

To the extent we are thankful for our blessings, it is through the power of God in us that we can even see the source of those blessings, much less be glad in His presence.

And how is it that we reflect glory, are bestowed with honor, splendor and majesty, receive our blessings, and become joyful in the presence of the living God?  It is because “the king trusts in the Lord.”

And finally and most importantly, to the extent we are unmoved by the world, by the opinions of others, by our own carnal desires, it is because of “the steadfast love of the Most High.”  If we stand strong in the evil day, it is because the God we worship is Himself steadfast in power, holiness, and love.

So personalize this psalm: “My glory is great through His salvation; splendor and majesty have been bestowed upon me by Him.  He has made me most blessed forever; and I have been made by Him to be glad and joyful in His presence.  It is because I trust in the Lord, and I shall not be moved from the rock because He is steadfast in His love for me.”

We are kings because He is King.

Now, do we behave like it?

_________

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

 

Bread – Gold

May 23, 2016


Psalm 21

“O Lord, in Your strength the king rejoices … For You meet him with rich blessings,; You set a crown of fine gold upon his head.”  Ps. 21:1,3

A town close to us holds an art festival in the spring.  It is quite large and my wife and I often go to it to see the new art work.  While we are there, we spend a lot of time looking at jewelry.  Jewelry is made with all kinds of gold.  There is yellow gold and white gold.  There is some kind of pink gold.  There is fourteen carat and eighteen carat gold.  Gold is often integral to the ring or necklace, but sometimes it is no more than a covering of some other metal underneath.  In any event, there are all kinds of gold.

One shop in particular stood out.  The jeweler there answered our question about the quality by saying that his rings were made of the finest gold which could be purchased, but that as a result they could be dented.  That is because fine gold is soft since it is free of other metals.

Fine gold is not only soft and malleable, but it is also an efficient conductor of electricity and heat.  Furthermore, it does not interact with the air around it; it does not tarnish.

How much should we strive to be fine gold?  If the Christian is ready to take up his or her cross and following Jesus where He leads, he or she is leading a soft life, one which can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This means that the Christian is malleable by God.  Furthermore, Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world.  How can we do so unless we are efficient conductors of His power into the world, keeping none of it for ourselves but passing on the gift in its unadulterated form.  Finally, we are ambassadors of the kingdom of God, living daily in the soup of the world.  If we are to reflect God’s light into the world, we cannot tarnish – we cannot be changed by the environment we live in; we cannot tarnish, because if we do we are proof that our lives have not been changed; we are proof that we do not bear the crown of fine gold.  In fact, if we permit ourselves to be changed by the world, we may become radioactive, just as gold can be turned radioactive by taking away or adding to part of fine gold.

In Mexico, I was standing in a church built a long time ago, with high windows along the walls next to the ceiling, but a dark interior.  There were statues of various people, and one of Jesus Christ who appeared to be wrapped in something.  At that moment, a shaft of light from the noonday sun entered the room from one of the high windows, struck the statue of Jesus, and immediately the entire sanctuary was filled with His glory.  What I was looking at was the reflection of the sun off a statue of gold leaf.

We know that Jesus Christ is the only person who ever lived who could be analogized to the finest of gold, and that the blinding light I witnessed in that sanctuary that day was merely a poor example of the true light which we will be surrounded by before the throne of God.  But, still, in knowing this there is also this promise – that God gives us rich blessings; He puts a crown of fine gold upon our head.

Will we wear it and so shine before men that they will see our good works and worship our Father in heaven?

Will we give thanks for our blessings?

Will we kneel before our God and let Him form us as He wishes, as the potter forms the clay, and be malleable and useful in His hands?

Will we conduct the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit into a dying world?

Will we remain untarnished by the world and its lures?

Will we accept a crown of gold, knowing that Jesus Christ wore His crown of thorns first, for our sake, so that He would suffer death on the cross for us, taking on His crown of gold in His rightful place as King?

Will we?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Strong

May 20, 2016


Psalm 20

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.  They collapse and fall, but we rise and stand upright.”  Ps. 20:7-8

This is high poetry and I am carried away with its simple beauty.  But this is one of those passages which seems to speak to us today, but refers to old things – “chariots and horses.”  Why chariots and horses?  Don’t they go together?  Doesn’t take a horse to draw a chariot?  So why just believe in the chariot alone or, for that matter, the horse alone?

If you think about it, the beauty of this passage is that, in a few words, the Psalmist has basically set out the only things we can choose to rely upon.

Chariots can stand for those things which man as creator has made.  We make our tools, we make the Internet, we make books, we make airplanes, we make factories, we make houses to live in, we make cars, boats, and all kinds of means of talking, walking, and otherwise going.

And don’t we daily trust in the things we have made?  We trust our car will start.  We trust our lights will come on.  We trust our house will hold up in the storm.  We trust our chair to be sturdy when we sit in it.  We trust our technology to work.

Horses can stand for those things which God the creator has made.  God has made all of the animals and the birds and the insects, the rocks and the earth, the sky and the air, the universe and the stars.

And don’t we daily trust in the things God has made?  We trust our dog will bark.  We trust a snake will bite.  We trust a wasp will sting.  We trust water to run downhill.  We trust that there is air to breathe.  We trust that the sun will come up every morning.  We trust that night will come.  We trust that the stars are there even though clouds might hide them.  And we trust each other, we trust other people whom God has made.

So, the Psalmist is saying, more eloquently than I, that some people trust in what they have made  while other people trust in what God has made.

And, yet, there is a third place we can put our trust … a superior place … and that is in God Himself, in the “name” of God.  When we place our trust in the “name” of God, we are trusting everything that “name” embodies … Savior, King, Creator, Truth, Steadfastness, Promise-Keeper, Holy, Almighty, Eternal.

Who do we trust in?  Well, I suspect that if how we spend our time is any indicator, we spend 49% of our time trusting the things man has made, 49% of the time trusting the things God has made (including our fellow man), and 2% (and this generous) trusting God Himself.

And yet, the Psalmist reminds us that the things man has made will collapse, and at the end of time the things God has made will fall, but He Himself is strong and those who believe in Him will “rise and stand upright.”

Why do we spend so much time in fellowship with the weak, when we have an opportunity to spend eternity with the strong?

Maybe it is because we believe in ourselves so much that we believe that we are the creator, and thus we trust those things we have made, and we believe in ourselves and what is around us so much that we forget that those things too are made, just not by us.  But in a moment, they will be be gone and what will remain will be God and His people.

Trust in God first and everything else follows.  Trust in our toys, ourselves, or nature first, and nothing else follows.

_________

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

 

Bread – Blessing

May 18, 2016


Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!  May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!  May we shout for joy over your salvation…” Ps. 20:1,4-5a

I struggled with what to name this Bread, because the words above and the first half of this Psalm evoke several thoughts.  One, this is a prayer such that a leader might make over his or her people.  So I could have called this “prayer” and I would have been accurate.  Two, this could have been called “love,” because it expresses a desire that someone other than the speaker received many, many positive things in life.  We call these positive things “blessings,” and so that is why I named this Bread “blessing.”

It is indeed a blessing upon our lives when people who matter to us speak words of encouragement into our lives, speak words of hope and joy and happiness.  It is indeed a blessing to us when our leaders speak words of peace, and when their words cause peace.  It is indeed a blessing in our lives when we feel safe, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, surrounded by the Lord of hosts and the hosts themselves, armed for battle.  It is indeed a blessing for us to be satisfied, not by the accumulation of wealth, but by the accumulation of love and relationships and wisdom and peace.

But what is also happening here is that the person giving the blessing, offering up the prayer of hope and encouragement, is also being blessed at the same time.  When we speak peace into someone’s lives, we live peace.  When we speak hope into people’s lives, we live hope.  When we offer up our sincere wishes for our neighbor’s success in the evil day, we also wish the same upon ourselves because if our neighbor is successful, so are we.  I am fond of saying “a rising tide raises all ships.”  Well, the outpouring of “may you” in our prayers is a rising tide of invocation of the name of God, of His character, of His might and power.  We can and will overcome because God was, is, and always will be.

But in the midst of all of the prayers for blessing on our fellow man, read this … “May we shout for joy over your salvation…”

In these verses, this is the first “may” which changes from “you” to “we.”  And think about it, who would not want to join in the celebration over one person saved.  The angels in heaven do it; we should too.  And notice that is not a prayer that you be saved, because that is assumed.  After all, David is writing to his people, Israel.  They had been saved many times, both individually and as a group.  Now that Jesus Christ has come, died, and has risen, we are in the same boat as Israel.  For those whom God has chosen, salvation will come.  But what is our response … “get it out of my sight,” “ho hum,” or “kill the fatted calf and have a party.”

See, what God does on earth is a great blessing, but only if we see it, acknowledge where it came from, and revel in thanksgiving for the mighty work.

And so I end with the modern day version.  “May we shout for joy over our blessings from God, our salvation, our rock, our fortress, in the day of trouble.  Amen.”

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Revival

May 11, 2016


Psalm 19

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul … Moreover, by them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  Ps. 19:7, 11

How can God’s law revive the soul, as stated by the Psalmist?

I think there are three ways.

The first is that we like boundaries.  Although we would protest otherwise, boundaries give us comfort because we know where the path is and where it goes, boundaries help to define who we are (as compared to other people, who we are separated from by boundaries), and boundaries provide us protection from the claims of others.  So, when we see boundaries, understand them, and appreciate them for their benefits,  our countenance improves, our feet walk lighter, and our soul is revived.

The second way the law revives the soul is that it provides us a standard by which we can live our lives, if we will but trust the Lord and let His Holy Spirit reside in us.  Now, admittedly, this is a standard which we will never achieve short of heaven, but it is a standard which we can see and we can grow toward.  As we grow toward God’s standards, we are more able to withstand the troubles in life, we are more able to focus on things that matter, and we can look back and see how far we have come from our dark days to the present.  God’s law does not cause us to belittle ourselves for our failures, but gives us the real opportunity to revel in the freedom which comes from obedience to the Master.  In being able to see a standard which is higher than ourselves, we can, with the support of the Holy Spirit, rise to the occasion.

The third way the law revives the soul is that it provides us a shield from the darts of the enemy.  As the last part of the section of the Psalm says, “By them, is Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  By negative implication, the law of the Lord, by telling us what to do, also then warns us about what not to do.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” tells us that the opposite, loving idols and other substitutes for God (including ourselves), results in loss of self, loss of others, and loss of society.  Not only does God’s law give us what we should aspire to by way of behavior and character, it also gives us what we should avoid.  And knowing what we should avoid means that, when we avoid it, our soul, our very nature, is revived.

There are two kinds of revival.  One is captured in movies and the public imagination, and is full of emotion and “glories to God.”  This kind of revival generally has a short life.   The second is the kind which takes place over a long period of time and occurs because God has reached into our place of death, has brought us into life and relationship with Him, and has taught us His way through His Word, empowering us to live life in the present to the fullest.  This kind of revival is real.  This kind of revival is long-lasting.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”  This is real revival.  The permanent kind.  God’s kind.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Pollution

May 9, 2016


Psalm 19

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”  Ps. 19:1

Really?  When I was a little boy and I looked up at the sky at night while I was on my back, the enormity of the universe pressed its presence into my mind.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of stars looked down on me through the black night, some large and some small, some dim and some bright.  And some were so numerous and so close together that they formed bands of light which formed a wave through the sky.  I learned later that this was the constellation of stars known as the Milky Way.  All this was apparent from the naked eye because I had no telescope and no means to obtain one.  But that was OK, because all of it was apparent to me.  And as a young boy, I marveled and wondered.  And through this wondering, I began to come to an understanding of the Creator, whose glory filled the night skies.

However, today, when I look at the night sky, I might see a few stars poking through, maybe the moon, and maybe an airplane with its lights on.  Is the glory of God, the evidence of His power and majesty, gone?  Has it been diminished through the years so that the Maker of the universe is now only capable of putting out only a few stars at night?

Well, the reason I can’t see the heavens anymore from my front yard is that I live in North Texas, home to millions of people and their lights.  So the sky suffers with what is called “light pollution” and the glory of God is diminished by the works of man.

And isn’t this just the perfect example of how man is always interfering with God’s revelation to us?  God reveals Himself in the heavens and His glory is apparent to everyone, until man floods the night sky with man-made lights, man-made pollution.

And the wonder of God fills the mind of a little boy, until the boy receives the world’s education, the world’s “science teaching,” the world’s way of looking at things, and the glory of God is clouded in a mist of pollution created by man, His presence and power and glory diminished by man’s works, by man’s pollution.

We pollute God’s Work with our ideas, our explanations, our theories, our “facts,” our conclusions, our logic, our education, our knowledge, and our “wisdom.”  Is it any wonder that we see God dimly through the dense fog of man’s doings?

And yet, what happens when we leave the city for the country and we get away from the light pollution?  Voila!  The universe reappears with all of its stars, and the apparent power, wisdom, glory, and love of God in creating such a lightshow for us becomes, again, apparent.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,…,” but only if you can see them.  And to do that, you have to escape the pollution, escape the world, and then you have to look up with the eyes of a little boy or girl, unencumbered by the world’s education, knowledge, and “science.”

When we take the time from our busy lives to make a place for us and God to meet in fellowship, it is as if we have escaped to the country, shed our pollution, and stared into the Creation and its Maker.  What a wonderful place this is?  Full of wonder and simplicity and acceptance and power and majesty!  Full of the presence of God.

When we stare up to heaven through our light-polluted night skies, we do not see nothing.  We may only see a couple of stars, but those are a foretaste of what lays beyond.

God may penetrate the fog of our pollution with only a couple of points of light, but they are there as evidence of something greater beyond.

We may be in a fog of light pollution and can only see a couple of stars, but we know that there is more where those came from.  We may be in a fog of depression and can only see a couple of points of light, shadows of hope, but they are there and there is more where those came from.  We may be in the darkness of man’s teaching and man’s wisdom and can only see a couple of pieces of evidence of something beyond us, but those pieces of light are there and there is more where those came from.

The evidence for God is there to be seen if we have but eyes to see.  To begin, escape the pollution, regard the universe, look up … and revel in God’s revelation of Himself to you!

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Blameless

May 6, 2016


Psalm 18

“For who is God, but the Lord?  And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”  Ps. 18:31-32

When I began preparing this Bread, I thought that there may be some merit in looking at the words translated “God” and “Lord” in these verses, but in the process of doing that I noticed a notation in front of the word “blameless” and the notation was that the word “blameless” has multiple meanings, including the words “complete” and “having integrity.”

And, like most aspects of Scripture, when you dig deeper into God’s Word, the Holy Spirit operates to expand self-understanding, self-analysis, and self-application.

Now think about this:  “the God who … made my way blameless;” “the God who … made my way complete;” and “the God who … made my way so that I have integrity.”

We normally think of the word “blameless” as being “without sin,” and we then proceed to the immediate conclusion that, yes, God does make our way blameless but only because He sees us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who stands between us and God the Father so that all the Father sees is the blamelessness of Christ.  To use more “theological” words, God sees me as blameless because Jesus’ blamelessness is “imputed” to me.  Wonderful, but I am still sinning (less, maybe, but sinning nonetheless), even though I have been saved by grace (mercy).

But what if I substitute the words “complete” and “with integrity” for “blameless.”  Now what?

Well, it is not so easy now to shove off responsibility for my behavior upon Christ, saying that I am a sinner no matter what.  The reason is that I can, when I have the strength and the perseverance, complete a task.  And I can, with strength of character and resolve, operate “with integrity.”  So I have no excuses.  I cannot lay this off on Jesus Christ as my stand-in because I have experiences in my own life where I completed the task or I acted with integrity.

So, if I am not complete, if I have not completed the task, perhaps it is because I do not have a radical reliance upon God to “make my way complete.”  So, if I do not walk with integrity, perhaps it is because I do not have a radical reliance upon God to “make my way with integrity.”

See, there are really only two choices.  I can walk the walk or I can lean on God and let Him make my way straight, make my way complete.  I can strive to live a life of integrity or I can lean on God to make my way one of integrity.

And how can I do either?  How can I both do it and rely radically upon God to do it for me?  The answer is in the first part of the verse: “the God who equipped me with strength…”

Do I walk with integrity, complete the tasks laid before me, and am blameless?  There is a way I can, but it is not the way of man or the world; it is the way of Jesus Christ.

Do I wake up in the morning saying “My will, my way, in my strength” or do I wake up in the morning saying “Your will, Your way, in Your strength.”

The first is weak and will soon result in loss of integrity, incomplete results, and many reasons to blame ourselves and others.  The second is strong and will result in a blameless way, complete and full of integrity.

How do you wake up in the morning?  Whose will do you follow?  Whose way do you use?  In whose strength do you act?

_________

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

 

Bread – Appearances

May 4, 2016


Psalm 18

“With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You show Yourself pure; with the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous.”  Ps. 18:25-26

How does God seem or appear to you?  Loving?  Mean?  Nice?  Powerful?  Caring?  Remote?

The Psalmist here seems to be suggesting that the way God appears to us has a lot to do with who we are.  In other words, God appears to us through the glasses we wear.  We see God through rose-colored glasses of our making.

If we are merciful, God appears to us to be merciful.  If we are hateful, God appears to us angry.  If we are crooked, then God appears to us to be complicated.  If we are loving, then God appears to be a loving God.

So we impose on God ourselves.  If we have a loathing self-image, then God appears to us as someone who does not like us very much.    If we have an exalted image of ourselves, then God appears to us as someone who loves us very much.

So, if we want to change how God appears to us, the answer would be for us to change ourselves?

If we think this way, then God is merely a mirror, reflecting back to us who we are.  With this approach, when we see God we see ourselves, which then makes us God.

There is a another way of reading the same passage.  That way would reverse the order – God appears to us as merciful; therefore we are merciful.  God appears to us to be loving; therefore we are loving.

In this way, we conform to the image of God we have rather than God conforming to the image we have of ourselves.

And we know this is true of life in general.  When we are in the mountains and we look out over a peaceful meadow with butterflies, if we are at peace the scene becomes more peaceful to us, but the reverse is even more true.  By gazing over a peaceful scene, we become more at peace ourselves.

So if our image of God affects who and how we are, how are we to gain an accurate image of God?

Quite frankly, this is where the rubber meets the road and where we so often fall down.  Where do you get your image of God?  From the movies, from friends, from books about God, from famous authors, from your grandmother, from the thoughts which flood your mind on a daily basis, from an amalgam of pagan, Christian, New Age, animalist, orthodox, far east and near east, or western philosophies or writings?  Do you get your image of God from what the world tells you about Him?

Or do you get your image of God from Him through His revelation to you – from God revealed in Scripture and revealed in the flesh, in Jesus Christ?

If you want to see anyone’s true appearance, you have to look at him and not at what people say about him.

As we gaze upon the appearance of God in Scripture and in Jesus Christ, as He really is and not as He is reported to be, something will happen to us.  As we see Him as the loving God who sacrificed Himself for us, we in turn become more able to sacrifice for others.  As we see Him as the merciful God who has given us the gift of life although we deserved nothing, we in turn become merciful to those who have hurt us.

All this comes to a head with the last phrase of today’s quote – “to the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous.”  Are they crooked because they see God as crooked?  Perhaps … but if so, then they have an inaccurate perception of God.  And where did they get that from?  Not from Scripture, not from Christ, and therefore not from God.  They see God improperly because they are crooked and they are crooked because they see God improperly.

So what is the solution for the crooked?  To see God clearly, from His Word and not from Satan’s world, from Christ the King and not the prince of darkness.

But how can the blind see?  With man it is not possible, but with God…well.

God is not who He appears to be.  God is who He is.

Our job is to find out who He is by meeting Him in the place where He is to be found … in His Word written and His Word in the flesh in Jesus Christ.

And then appearances will match reality.

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

 

 

 

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