Bread – Associates

June 29, 2016


Psalm 26

“I do not sit with men of falsehood, nor do I consort with hypocrites.  I hate the assembly of evildoers, and I will not sit with the wicked.”  Ps. 26:4-5

Who do you associate with?

In the background of my mind, there is an echo of something my mother once said – “You are known by the company you keep.”  I’ll bet your parents gave you very similar advice.

Let’s break this down.  Do we sit with liars?  Do we have any truck with people who do not tell the truth?  If you are honest, the answer to that question is probably “yes.”   We work within our employment, and I know that as an attorney I meet many, many people in all walks of life who are truth-tellers and who are liars.  Your workplace probably has a few in the latter category.  In fact, we may be becoming a nation of liars if you consider the fact that the effort never to take responsibility for mistakes is to speak a lie, and the effort to sugarcoat (make politically correct) every event is itself is “misspeak.”  We never call a lie a lie anymore; instead we say that we have “misspoken” or “incorrectly misstated” or “made an error of judgment.”  Yeah, you did, but you also lied.  Because we lie as well from time to time (for various reasons), one might be inclined to think that there is never a way to follow in the Psalmist’s footsteps.  However, “men of falsehood” could very well be considered to be people who have a character of falsehood; that is, they not only lie from time to time, but lying is an art form to them which is integrated into how they think and behave.  Engage each other; beware and avoid men of falsehood.

 

Second, do we consort with hypocrites?  Again, honesty compels me to say that I am a hypocrite and most of the people, but not all, are also hypocrites in one part of their life or another.  Perhaps a better way of asking the same question is to ask, do we consort with people of integrity?  People of integrity do not say one thing and do another.  They do not profess to have a standard for their life and then fail to even try to achieve it (no one achieves it perfectly).  Again, the Psalmist is talking about character, our structure.  Do we strive for integrity or do we fall into chronic hypocrisy; do we consort with people who are aiming for integrity or who are satisfied with being hypocrites?  The first group of people pleases God; the second does not.  Which group are you in; which group are your friends and associates in?

Third, do we sit in the assembly of evildoers?  Quite frankly, I have a hard time with this because I do not sit in any assembly of murderers, thieves, or generally “bad” people, and I don’t know anyone who does.  But … if this were rare, why would the Psalmist include it?  Maybe we are looking at this wrong.  Maybe the question of “evildoers” is not a question of what we consider to be bad, but what God considers to be bad.  When we realize that, but for the grace of God and His salvation through Jesus Christ, we sin and do evil all the time, the assembly of evildoers becomes much bigger much faster.  So, what assembly do we sit in?  Do we sit in the assembly of the legislature or the university, or do we sit in assembly in the study of God’s Word and the worship of God in congregation?  On any given day in any given hour, what assembly will you find us in?  A strategy meeting at work or a prayer session?

Fourth, do we sit with the wicked?  I think this is the culmination of the first three, and so the answer is both “yes” and “no.”

So maybe the question being placed by the Psalmist is not whether we spend our time in poor places, but how much time do we spend there?  How much time is spent with the wicked and how much time with the godly?  Are we in balance or out of balance?

The Psalmist asks this question:  “Are we sold out to the world or to God?”

We are known by the company we keep … which is who?

_________

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Testing

June 27, 2016


Psalm 26

“Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”  Ps. 26:2

This is a Monday and to begin the week is almost test enough without asking the Lord to step in and put me through my paces so that He can prove me to be His.

But are our weekly travails test enough?

Probably not, because these are the tests we live with on a daily basis, whereas perhaps the test of the Lord is one which we need to prepare for.

The test we know is coming is one which we prepare for.  If there is a final exam coming in a class, we will study for it (maybe waiting to the last minute, but we still will make a stab at advanced preparation).  Some people will begin preparing for the test at the very beginning of the course.  We know these people are wise, but we rarely do likewise.

Similarly, if we know that we have to pass a test of endurance, like climbing a mountain, we will begin to prepare for the test well in advance by doing long walks, using a treadmill which can create an incline to run up, wear heavy shoes and knapsack while we prepare so that we will be used to lifting heavy things and walking with them, and perhaps even taking some short trips to mountain-like areas to practice our ability to walk uphill.

But as Christians, do we really ever take the time or the effort to prepare for the test to come?  David the Psalmist invites the Lord to prove him, to test both his heart (his love) and his mind (his truth).   Are we ready to invite the Lord to do the same to us?

There will be a time of testing of our heart and mind by the Lord; we just don’t know when it will be.  Then, why aren’t we preparing?

Maybe we don’t prepare because we don’t care what kind of grade we get.  If we feel this way because we know we are saved by God’s grace, then do we not care because Jesus’ death on the cross for us was cheap?  Do we not care because we do not value the gift?  If so, then maybe we don’t understand the value of the gift or the price which was paid by the Giver.

Maybe we don’t care about the time of testing because, since we don’t know when it will be, there is no target.  If that is the case, we do not understand the immediacy of death; it may happen tomorrow but it can happen today.

Maybe we don’t care about our performance in the day of testing because we don’t care to impress God with how much we love Him, or maybe we don’t love Him at all – because don’t we go out of way to work hard to please those we love.   Do we really believe God honors sloth?

What am I going to do to get ready for the test?  The Psalmist suggests two things in the first verse, “…for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.”  Ps. 26:1  And he suggests two things in the third verse, “For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.”  Ps. 26:3

If you think about it, whether we can walk in integrity, whether we can trust in the Lord without reservation or wavering, whether we are always cognizant of the Lord’s steadfast love, and whether we can walk in God’s faithfulness … that is both the preparation for the test and the test itself.

Out challenge for the rest of the day, the rest of this week, the rest of this year, and the rest of our lives is to take the test every day – act like Christians, believe like Christians, love like Christians, and hold onto God like Christians.

So that when we have run the race, the Teacher gives us our grade, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Fear

June 22, 2016


Psalm 25

“Who is the man who fears the Lord?  Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose.  His soul shall abide in well-being…The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.”  Ps. 25:12-14

“Fear” is an interesting word because of how we think about it.  When we think of “fear,” most often we think of the places where fear is most likely to occur and our reaction to the things which cause fear.

We know the places which make us fearful.  For some people, it is the place of loud noise or angry, yelling people.  For others, it may be a dark room or a tall place.  Our fear antenna goes up when we are walking alone on a poorly lighted street late at night, or when we see a group of mean-looking people harassing others.  We fear bullies and we may fear people with guns and knives.  Some of us are so skittish we may be afraid of our own shadow.  That is the kind of fear which causes our heart rate to go up and, often, causes a panic reaction.

Then there is the place of fear which is more psychological, where we fear being the one left out of the pickup ball game, or fear wearing the wrong clothes or having the wrong set of friends.  This is more of a social fear, but the panic can be just as overwhelming.

As I mentioned, when we think of fear and our own fear in particular, we often think of our reaction to it.  And our reaction to fear is most often to run away from the thing or the person or the situation causing it, to hide, or to not go there to begin with, to avoid the cause.

If we have the proper amount of fear, we are careful.  If we have a little too much fear, we are fretful.  If we have a lot of fear, we cower or run.  Part of becoming an adult is learning how to have a proper amount of fear and how to channel our reactions to it so that our reactions are appropriate in the circumstances.  For example, while our natural reaction to fear of an unruly crowd is to avoid them or run away, we might be trained in crowd control and so we actually confront our fears and engage the unruly crowd.  In the first instance, our fear is unmanaged; in the second, it is managed.

Why do we run away from God?  Why do we deny Him?  Why do we hide from Him?  Why, having accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, do we not fully exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit and engage our friends and neighbors with the truth of the gospel?  Some would say that it is our pride and our arrogance, believing that there is no God or, even if we admit that there may be a God, believing that we don’t need Him.  I think the closer answer might be because we have either an unhealthy fear of Him or a fear of having to confront ourselves if what He says is true.  We first fear to know God and, when we finally bypass that fear to learn about Him, we then fear Jesus.  Once we bypass our fear of Jesus and come to know Him, we then fear the Holy Spirit and His effect on our lives.  When we fear God in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.  When we fear Jesus Christ in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.  When we fear the Holy Spirit in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.

But this Psalm tells us to fear God first and then good things will happen.  The reason is simply that, in order to have a proper understanding of God, we need to recognize that He is not a teddy bear, He is not a clown, He is not our best friend, He is not our equal … He is holy, He is righteous, He is wrathful, He is judge, jury, and executioner, He is all-powerful, He is full of awe-inspiring wonder, He is above all things, He is creator of all things, He is Lord of all things, He is perfect – He is not us; He is God.  Knowing that God is all these things, the only proper place to be is on the ground, face down and covered, hoping that He does not burn us up and throw us into the fires of Hell where, but for His mercy, we belong.

This fear which comes from knowing our place in the world and from knowing God is a healthy fear.  It puts us in the right place, knowing that in all things we did not go to Him; He came to us.

But from that healthy fear, that knowledge that when we are in His presence we are in the presence of God Almighty and not God-of-man’s-invention, we are now ready to listen (to hear God’s instruction “in the way that [we] should choose.”  From that healthy fear, our souls will “abide in well-being” because we know that the God who has saved our souls and who protects our souls is able to deliver our souls into eternal life.  From that healthy fear, we know that God can and will deliver on every one of His promises.

And from a position of healthy fear of the Lord, we shall have the “friendship of the Lord.”  The word “friendship” here actually means a couch, a pillow, a place for a conversation or a consultation.   And, indeed, when we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we are ready to meet Him in prayer, in meditation, in His Scripture, whenever we are ready and He chooses.  In this conversation, with a healthy fear we understand that it is not a conversation among equals, but between master and slave, God and man, Savior and saved, Teacher and disciple.  It is when we have fear of the Lord that we are ready to speak to Him boldly, not because we are equal but because He has given us permission.  It is when we have fear of the Lord that we are ready to grow up.

The phrase “Have no fear” does not mean what it says.  Fear is a good thing and it will lead us to eternal life.  Better it is said “Have no unhealthy fear … and prosper.”

_________

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

 

Bread – Humble

June 20, 2016


Psalm 25

“To You, O Lord, I life up my soul.  O my God, in You I trust…Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths…He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.”  Ps. 25:1-2,4,9

It is so easy to be full of our own importance.  Our work needs us, our customers need us, our boss needs us, our family needs us.  We wake up in the morning, put on our power clothing, ready to tackle the day and bring it to its knees.  My grandson is learning about the city and as we drove by a 10 story building the other day, he pointed to it and said “tall building.”  I said “yes, it is,” and he said “It reaches the sky.”  I was filled with pride for what we have done.  We have built cities and we have built tall buildings which reach the sky to populate these cities.  Boy, aren’t we important people.

And what about us who have titles?  Maybe we are the President of this or that, or the chief “go-to” guy, or the office tech wizard, or are on the board of some organization, or are the winner of some race or some sports event and have the ring or the trophy to prove it?  Maybe we are the best we can be, with a huge bank account, powerful friends, and electronic access to secret places?

It is the proud who win the worldly race of life; it is the humble who learn from God “His way.”

In our church we kneel at certain times, generally having to do with prayer.  Like all exercises, if we approach it with an attitude of formality or routine or simply following what everyone else is doing (going along with the crowd), then we miss the opportunity to recognize that by kneeling we are humbling ourselves, that we are doing physically what we ought to be doing mentally – and that is in recognizing that, just because God has reached out to us with His gift of salvation, He is not our buddy … He is our God.  He is creator and we are His creation.  We are dust and to dust we shall return.

As I read today’s opening lines in Psalm 25, I was lifted up and who could not be – “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul…Make me to know Your ways, O Lord…”  We are turning to God and lifting our souls up to Him, which is very good of us because we are so important.  We are almost telling God to teach us His secrets, as well He should, because we are so important!

And God responds, “I will…when your heart is right.”  “When you are humble, you will be ready to learn what is right; you are ready to be taught My way.”

To end this Bread today, I tried to find a definition of “humble” which would fit and I found this instead – “It is possible to be too big for God to use you, but never too small.”

It is the beginning of the week and we may be searching for God’s way for us today.  Many of us will say we can’t find it.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are acting like the master when we are in fact the student, that we are acting like we are the important person in the room when we are not.  Maybe it is time to kneel before God in prayer, not because we have to or because we should, but because we want to, knowing that He is Creator and we are created, He is master and we are slave, He is teacher and we are student, He is God and we are man, and He is Savior and we are saved.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Presence

June 16, 2016


Psalm 24

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  Ps. 24:3-4

It is a rare occasion, but a few times in my life I have been the presence of a truly holy person.  It is the classic you know it when you see it.   My best example is a bishop of Nigeria, who I was in a prayer meeting with just before he was going to speak to a bunch of folks.  While I was there, he received word that his house had been attacked by Muslims and burned.  When asked if he wanted to put off speaking, his response was simply that the Lord was taking care of his family, that his house could be rebuilt, and that there were souls in the audience who needed to hear the gospel.  He then stood up, walked out, and delivered the truth to those hungry to hear it.   The reason I say he was holy was really nothing he said; it was the way he said it.  He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, he lived without fear, and he knew whose he was and what his job was.  Every word he spoke he believed; there was no doubt.  And to say the least, I was lifted up, honored, and humbled at the experience.

We may say that we would like to be like him, but is that really true.  Can we live our lives in absolute trust in the Lord to preserve us and our loved ones?  Can we suffer the complete loss of our possessions on earth so that we obtain possessions in heaven?  Are we willing to truly leave everything on the table to follow Christ?  Are we willing and able to preach the gospel in and out of season?

I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is something always held back, something always reserved for ourselves.  We are willing to sacrifice our time, but are we willing to sacrifice our life?

In one sense, though, we Christians are all set apart for God and we are all in that sense holy.  But this bishop was truly holier than me.

And yet, as holy as this man was, could he ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place?  Does even this bishop, this holy one, have clean hands and a pure heart?

The answer is “no.”  He may be a holy man but he is a man and therefore a sinner, made able to climb God’s hill and appear in God’s throne room only because Jesus Christ precedes him and saves him.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who has clean hands and a pure heart?  It is those whose hands have been made clean and who have a new heart as a result of new spiritual birth, all made possible by Jesus’ obedience to the cross, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension to the Father.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  If you are a Christian, you know the answer to that question.  If you do not know the answer, it is in the gospel of John, 14:6, where Jesus says simply “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who shall be in the presence of the Lord?  Will you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Fullness

June 13, 2016


Psalm 24

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” Ps. 24:1a

Because we have eyes and ears, we tend to think about what we see and about what we hear.  In that respect, we are concrete thinkers because if it does not exist before us, it does not exist at all.  Some people are stuck in concrete thinking, so focused on what is apparent that they lose touch with what is equally real but is not apparent.  Most people can also think through what they see and hear to come with concepts, ideas, visions, and analyses.  They can see beyond what is in front of their noses.  In that respect, we are abstract thinkers and it is equally true that some people are stuck in abstract thinking.  They are so busy thinking lofty thoughts that they cannot get out of the way of the train bearing down on them.

In the idea of “fullness” there is an entirety of meaning.  For the concrete thinkers, the Psalmist says that we can comprehend “fullness” in terms of rocks and trees, hills and valleys, water and dirt, people and animals, sun and moon, darkness and light.  For the abstract thinkers, the Psalmist says that we can comprehend “fullness” in terms of the perfect balance which exists between life and environment, life and our place in the universe, mathematics, science, knowledge, wisdom, cause and effect, the supernatural interacting with the natural, randomness and consistency, spirit and our ability to think about thinking (sentience).

Fullness includes not only the things but how the things are connected, how they are ordered and formed into systems of interdependency.  Fullness includes the micro-verse, where the littlest things (like nanotubes) we can see or imagine exists, and the macro-verse, where the expanses of the universe and space-time exists.  Fullness includes the laws by which the worlds operate, things like gravity and anti-matter.

Your car, the gasoline which runs your car, the oil from which the gasoline derived, the rocks under which the oil lives until brought to the surface, the electricity which powers your car and fires the gas, the technology which goes into your car, the mechanics of your body by which you can steer and brake at the same time, the sight by which you see and the sound by which you hear – all of this is the fullness which “is the Lord’s,” … and we haven’t even left the garage.

Quite frankly, the fullness of the earth is something that even our best abstract thinkers have a hard time totally comprehending.  I have given examples, but they are weak examples compared to the fullness of the meaning of the word “fullness.”

When we begin our week acknowledging that God is Creator of the world and all that is in it, that the earth and all who dwell in it are the Lord’s and the Lord’s alone, including the fullness of those things, we begin it in the right place.

This Psalm opens with us getting right in our thinking.  God owns the earth and the fullness thereof; we do not.  God is God; we are not.  We possess a slice of the fullness for a short period of time; God possesses the fullness for eternity.

If God were any less, if He possessed any less, He would be flawed, just like we are only a little more powerful.  But we can rely upon Him because He has no flaw, no defect – He possesses the fullness.  And He lends it to us, freely.  If we only turn away from ourselves and the world toward Him, if we ask, and if we accept (trust) Him.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Pounding

June 10, 2016


Psalm 23

“He leads me beside still waters.”  Ps. 23:2b

Our roof, like so many in North Texas, suffered hail damage and has to be replaced.  The replacement is occurring while I write this, and directly over my head is constant pounding upon the roof.  Pounding, like an oncoming headache type of pounding.

And, so, the Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters, being stirred up by the pounding of replacement and repairs, by the world’s hammering on my ears, body, mind, and soul.

Very distracting, these turbulent waters.  So turbulent, in fact, that I can think of nothing else.

Isn’t this the way we wake up every day?  Oh the pounding may not be as physical and we may turn the pounding of life into the more politically correct “drumbeat” of life, but don’t we wake up every day to the drumbeat of demands, the commands of the agenda, the rigors of dealing with the troubles of life, being pulled this way and that way, hurry up and move along?  Get up, get bathed, get dressed, get ready, get gone?  And when we get to the end of the day, who is not exhausted from all of the things we have had to pack into our day … the meetings, the telephone calls, the e-mails, the text messages, the posts to various Internet applications, the “to do” lists, the animals in the three ring circus of life which don’t behave, the demands of bosses who expect too much and know too little, the pressure for profit, and the self-improvement reading of the day.  And, of course, the daily pounding we take from computers which don’t work and all of the gadgets which are supposed to improve our lives, but need to be daily cared for and fixed!

And here I am, writing another Bread which may add to your daily pounding of things to do.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, it begins with my statement “The Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters.”

The reason is that this statement is both right and wrong.  It is right in the sense that God is sovereign and may well have led me beside noisy waters, but his character, according to the Psalm today, is that He leads me beside still waters, not noisy waters.  His intervention in my life straightens out my crooked path; it does not my path more difficult.  His speaking to me calms my soul; it does not induce pounding headaches.  No, the real author of confusion, pounding, storms, distractions, and busyness is the current prince of the world, Satan.  Satan’s purpose is easy to see.  If he can keep me distracted, then I have no time to walk with God and let Him lead me beside still waters.Sheep need still waters in order to drink.  They will not drink from loud, running, pounding waters.  And they need water to live, just like we do.  The reason God leads His sheep by still waters is so that they can live, so that they can be refreshed, and so that they can be restored.

We know we are sheep.  We know we need to drink deeply of the water of life in order to fully live and not just survive.  We know these things and yet we let the world intrude upon our relationship with God.  We let Satan’s pounding distract us from Godly relationship.  We are so busy trying to grab a swallow from the river of life that we do not let God guide us to the still waters where we can rest in peace, being fully refreshed.

We talk about prayer time all the time, and for many it is another pounding, another slot to fill in an already busy day.  How can I allocate 15 minutes to God when I have to get the kids to school, when I have an important meeting, when I need to finish this memo, when I have to get ready for the exam?

Let’s stop talking about prayer time for a minute and talk instead about still waters.

Do you not want to drink beside still waters.  Let God take you there.  How?  Talk to Him and let Him talk to you … however long it takes.  And when you have finished drinking from the water of life, then let the day begin.  You can look back and call it prayer time if you want, but other names that come to mind are peace time, soul time, refreshment time, living time, and loving time.

And for peace, soul, life, refreshment, living, and loving we should take time.  Walk with God, talk with God, and drink from the still waters of heavens.

And the pounding will go away.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Poverty

June 8, 2016


Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  Ps. 23:1

In our Declaration of Independence, three things are stated that man should strive for without the interference of king government:  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

At our deepest level, aren’t those the things we most strive for in life – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

What is the fullness of life?  Satisfaction of basic needs, like water, food, a dry place to sleep, a safe place to work and sleep, a way to get around (transportation)?  Or is it something more than that, the building of family and friends, good relationships with others, and perhaps doing something which leaves the world a little better than we found it?

What is the best evidence of liberty?  Freedom from fear, limitless opportunity for growth, power to act independently exercised in moderate ways, the ability to be in or out of community as best suits our temperament, the strength of mind and body to be able to say both yes and no as appropriate, courage to be alone and courage to be with others?

What evidence exists when we are able to pursue happiness?  Probably both life and liberty, because with both we are able then to chase after our dreams and grab hold of what builds us up and reject what tears us down.

“I shall not want.”  I shall not want for life, I shall not want for liberty, and I shall not want in my ability to pursue happiness.

When the Lord is my shepherd, my Lord who guides me, guards me, and guarantees my place in the flock, I shall not want for life, I shall not want for liberty, and I shall not want in my quest for happiness.  When He is not my shepherd, I will have wants in all these areas.  In Christ there are riches overflowing.  In the world there is poverty of life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness.

You notice that I have mentioned poverty in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but I have not mentioned poverty of things.

There is a reason for this.  If we follow the world’s ways, we will chase after gods of gold, power, and position, and we may be poor in these things or we may be rich in them.  But even if we have no poverty of things, we will want for the things that matter.  If we chase after the world, we will have poverty of life, of liberty, and of the pursuit of happiness.  The reason is simple … when we chase after things, after the ways of the world, we chase after slavery.  We cannot give of our wealth if we need our wealth to buy more things.  We cannot have relationships if we are bound up in business making more money.  We cannot have liberty if we must forever tend to the wheel of commerce to make sure that our things do not disappear.  We have no time to pursue happiness if we must instead use our time to gather more things.

When you are bound to Jesus, when He is your shepherd, you are subject to His authority, to His commands, to His guidance, to His way, to His rules, and, most importantly, to His love, protection, peace, mercy, and life.  And yet, as sheep, when we follow the Master we have the freedom to live, knowing that He will take us where we need to go to take care of our needs (“He leads beside still waters.”), knowing that we have the liberty to wander off because He knows where we are and will find us and will save us from ourselves, and knowing that pursuing Him first is pursuing happiness.

Do you suffer from poverty of spirit, of hope, of conviction, of life, of relationships, of growth, of love?   Then say (and mean it) that the Lord is my shepherd.  And when you do, the rest of the sentence will follow – “therefore, I shall not want.”

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Mine

June 6, 2016


Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd…”  Ps. 23:1

There is a movie about a fish which goes on a long journey in search of his lost son.  At one point, this fish is on a dock, surrounded by seagulls, all of whom start saying “mine, mine, mine, mine” and start snapping at each other, distracted while the fish gets away.

I always laugh about this image because we often start fights over what is “mine,” and this scene reminds me of that contest for what is “mine.”

I memorized this Psalm as a young child and can still quote it from memory because of the comfort is provides me, knowing that God looks out after me, a sheep of His fold.  I can visualize walking through the valley of the shadow of death with His voice comforting me through it.  All of the power of this Psalm I can visualize.

But, as we know, there is a mile between our head, where our thoughts and visualizations are, to our heart, where our hope and true knowledge are.

The difference is between “sort of mine” and “actually mine.”

What does it take for us to fully know and appreciate that Yahweh, the great “I am,” is in fact “my” shepherd?

Not “a” shepherd, not even “the” shepherd, but “my” shepherd.

Before we pass too glibly over this question, are we willing to fight to make Jesus “mine?”  Is He my shepherd to the point that I will walk with Him all the time, communicate with Him all the time, and follow Him all the time?  Is He permanently mine or just mine when I want Him to be?

How do I know that He is mine?

Actually, Jesus gave us the answer to the this question when He said: “My sheep hear My voice.”  Jn. 10:27

There are many ways to hear, one is with the ears and another is with the heart.  There are many people who have never heard Jesus speak words into their ears, but have heard Jesus speak through Scripture into their minds, into their souls, and into their hearts.

Do you hear His voice calling you in the wilderness of your life?  If so, just answer “Yes, Lord.”  And you can then say with certainty that “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

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

 

Bread – It

June 3, 2016


 

Psalm 22

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

This is actually a fairly simple and straightforward Bread.  Who is “he” and what is “it?”

This is a long quotation from Psalm 22 because it tells of an event in history, one which you should recognize in the telling.  All of these events are significant because they happened at Golgotha and on the way there, but perhaps the phrases “they pierced my hands and feet,” and “they divide my garments…and for my clothing they cast lots” will bring to mind Jesus and the cross and death and resurrection.

These quotations describe a crucifixion in detail, and Jesus’ crucifixion in particular.

So the “he” is obvious, but as you know, I think that all personal pronoun references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be capitalized to raise them up to their proper place above us ordinary persons.  And because the Psalm could arguably relate to anyone (after all, the “me” is lower cased in modern translations of Scripture), the “who is he” question is more easily answered by restating the quotation this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet – I can count all My bones – they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn that He has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

The other day I had a person ask me where there is, in the Old Testament, a plain statement predicting Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Well, here at least is a plain prediction of Jesus’ death.  And isn’t that made more obvious by elevating Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit by capitalizing references to them?

This is prophesy in its purest form, and less one thinks David is describing something in the present, in his time, then think about this – this is a detailed description of a crucifixion and crucifixion was unknown in the time of David.  David is reciting details about a form of torture that did not exist when it was written.  It is detailed, it is accurate, and the description was fulfilled by Jesus.  And it was written some 1000 years before Christ’s death.

Then what does it mean that “He has done it?”  To understand this, one needs to recognize that Psalm 22 ends with that statement – “He had done it.”  And it begins with this statement – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It is the crucifixion of Christ, He has been forsaken by God as He takes on our sins and separation from God is the price of sin, and at the end that relationship is restored because He is is the perfect offering of His blood for our sin.  “He has done it” means simply that Jesus paid the price of sin and the offering of His life for ours was accepted by God the Father.

He has done it means that the bridge between us and God, destroyed by Adam’s sin, has been rebuilt by Jesus’ obedience to the cross.

From the depth of despair (why have You forsaken Me) to the height of victory (He has done it) through the cross (described in the middle of Psalm 22).

That “He has done it” means that we don’t have to.  Jesus did the “good work” of perfect obedience to the Law, of perfectly bearing our sin, of perfectly satisfying the demands of the Father for payment (sacrifice) for sin.

But what we do need to do is recognize who He is and what He has done, turn to Him in repentance, and trust in Him for our salvation.  Easily said, but impossible to do without God.  And, so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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

 

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