Bread – Silence

July 13, 2016


Psalm 28

“To You, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit.”  Ps. 28:1

When we are surrounded by the noise of the day, the honking of horns, the constant drone of televisions, the jabbering of voices … sometimes we say that all we want is silence.  But do we?

A long time ago I participated in a type of spiritual retreat called a “silent” retreat.  Unlike some “silent” retreats, it wasn’t totally silent because we could talk during mealtimes, but it was silent enough.  During the first day or so of that retreat, I thought I would go crazy.  Why?  Because I am used to filling my mind with external sound, living with a perpetual state of noise, which crowds out thinking and reflection.   So, when confronted with silence, I have no inputs whatsoever, except whatever my mind fills up with.

And if you’ve never tried it, go to a place of silence for a while.  Phase 1 is a high level of discomfort, Phase 2 is wondering what you are going to “do” next, and Phase 3 is your mind cluttering your thoughts with all kinds of thoughts, many of which are random and disorganized.

When your mind realizes that it is not getting external noise, it will try to generate noise of its own, which is Phase 3 above.

Most people fear Phase 3, the noise generated by the mind, and so retreat rapidly from silence back to the safe shores of external stimulation.

But there is a place beyond the noise of the mind where the mind becomes ready to listen and to observe.  At that stage, there is no noise coming from outside of you and there is no noise coming from inside of you – there is awareness, readiness, and at attitude of hearing, of listening, and not telling.

And at the stage, if we can get through the discomfort of silence, we are ready to hear.  Hear what?  Maybe it is the sound of a bird singing outside; maybe it is the soft rustle of the wind.  Maybe it is the gentle beat of the ceiling fan.  But, at some point, you are ready to hear the still, small voice of God reaching out to you through your prayers, your readings of His Word, or maybe even direct communication.   And when we hear it, because God is both holy and merciful, that sound strikes us with a combination of fear, wonder, excitement, and peace.

But what if, after a while, that still, small voice ceased for a while?  What if you asked God to speak and He did not, even though you are ready to hear (having readied yourself in silence)?

This is what the Psalmist is talking about.  That dead, spiritual silence when you have silenced the outside world, you have silenced the internal mind, and are ready to hear God – and He does not speak?

What happens then?  There is a tendency to misread this verse and to suggest that David is saying to the Lord that, if God does not speak to him, that he (David) will go down to hell (the pit).  However, what it really says is that “it will be like that.”  That makes sense.  Having been saved by grace, we do not lose our salvation because God is silent, but God’s silence toward us makes us feel like we are abandoned to our doom.

At this time, when God is silent, there are two responses we can make (there is a third response – believing that you are in hell, but we’ll skip that one).  One is to say to God, “well, you had your chance” and then return to the sound and fury of the world.  This is the attitude which says that “God has not spoken and He won’t any time soon.”  The other approach is to say to God, “I will wait in expectation.”  This is the attitude that says “God has not spoken yet but He will.”

The first response lets us return to the safety of noise.  The second response suspends us in the discomfort of silence.  The first response releases us back to the world.  The second response creates a radical dependence upon God – not because He has spoken but because He has promised that He will and because He has left us His Word to comfort and instruct us in the meantime.

Have you ever wondered how some people are always smiling, that nothing ever seems to faze them?  Maybe it is because they do not live in the land of noise, but rest in the heaven of silence.

Silence is a wonderful thing, but only if you are ready to meet God.  Are you?

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Judgment

July 13, 2016


Psalm 28

“Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.  Because they do not regard the work of the Lord or the work of His hands, He will tear them down and build them up no more.”  Ps. 28:4-5

When I write Bread, I am never sure if I am writing for my immediate audience or someone far distant in place and time.  As a result, I try not to use current events because, although the reference is readily understood today, it is probably not going to be understood tomorrow.

However, one current event repeats itself so often, my mention of it today will likely resonate tomorrow as well.  It is the senseless, evil killing of five policemen in Dallas last week.   I was asked by several people to publish something on this shortly after it occurred, but I confess I could not.  I could not because my anger was so deep, my desire for revenge so strong, my readiness to blame others so immediate, that I realized that nothing I would be willing to say would be the proper thing to say to bring glory to God.  I was ready to judge and in so doing react by giving back double the horror of the moment.

At a much milder level, we are faced with this every day.  Someone does us a wrong, and we react in immediate defense and anger.  Someone says something bad about us, and we immediately attribute bad motives to someone who we now perceive is our enemy.   We are so ready to judge right from wrong, good from bad, and pure from impure.

Now I am not saying that we should not use God’s plumb line to assess right from wrong, truth from untruth, pure from impure, good from bad.  In fact, knowing God’s Word helps us to discern these things which we must understand in order to do right and to resist wrong.  We can speak the truth to evil without condemning evil.

Boy, this last statement is hard.  When we know what is good, should we not condemn the bad?  No.  Instead, we should always be ready to show mercy, having been shown mercy ourselves.

The portion of the Psalm quoted above shows who is charge of judging, who is in charge of condemnation.    Maybe it becomes clearly by understanding that David is praying to the Lord and essentially says this – “[You-the Lord] give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; [You-the Lord] give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.” Ps. 28:4

Judgment belongs to Him.

I want to condemn the man who shot those policemen to hell; I do.  But that is not my job.  My job is showing unmerited mercy to those who would do evil, just like I have been shown unmerited mercy by my Savior when I was in the same position, doing evil all the time, opposed to God.

This is tough.  But no one ever said being a Christian was easy, did they?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Fear

July 6, 2016


Psalm 27

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  Ps. 27:1

Fear surrounds us, invades us, and is reflected by us in our avoidances and our doings.

We fear the disapproval of others.  Why do we wear certain clothing over others, attend certain events over others, associate with certain people over others, drive certain cars over others, live in certain places over others, or act in certain ways over others?  I daresay that for most people, it is fear which drives their decisions.  We fear being left out, we fear being found  boring, we fear being discovered biased or prejudiced, we fear being unloved (which we equate to lack of attention or acceptance), we fear not being in the “in crowd,” we fear being “wrong” in the eyes of the world, we fear being considered stupid or “out of touch” or uncool.

We fear that our work will be rejected, ignored, criticized, made fun of, or stolen by others for their glory.

We fear having too much wealth and thereby being considered greedy or having too little wealth and thereby being considered irrelevant.  We fear being too successful and we fear being unsuccessful.

We fear being incompetent, of not being “up to the task,” of failing others expectations of our performance.

We fear life and we fear death.

We fear bugs and technology we don’t understand.  We fear people who do not look like us, talk like us, or pray like us.

Why?  Why do we fear?  The Psalmist says clearly that, because the Lord guides me (is my light), delivers me (salvation), and protects me (the “stronghold of my life”), I can clearly ask the question – then who or what shall I fear?

Why do we fear?  Perhaps it is because the Lord is not our light, because we do not follow His ways (or even study His word to know what His ways are).  Perhaps it is because we know so little about His ways that we fear going into strange paths.  Perhaps we know His ways but fear the light itself, preferring to hide in darkness.  Perhaps we are deliberately disobedient and, knowing that, rightly fear His wrath or, if we are saved, His disappointment.

Why do we fear?  Perhaps it is because we do not believe that the Lord has delivered us from ourselves, from our sin, to live life eternal with Him.  If we believe that we can lose our salvation because we are responsible for winning our salvation with good works, then, because we all fail and fall short, perhaps fear here is justified.  If we believe, though, that Jesus is sovereign and by the Trinity’s will saves in spite of ourselves (exercising grace, mercy, and election), and we still fear that we can lose our deliverance, perhaps we fear because we do not understand God in His fullness of power, authority, and holiness.  Or perhaps we know and believe all those things but still fear because, although we say we believe, we harbor a little doubt.

Why do we fear?  Perhaps it is because we do not seek shelter in the Almighty, but seek it with others or in places of our making rather than God’s.

Why are Christians not powerful?  Why do we not pray for others with expectation of fulfillment?

I am going to answer that question personally.  I have a very difficult time praying for people who are sick and the reason is not what you think.  The reason I have a hard time praying for someone who is sick is that God might answer my prayers and heal that person … and what would that mean?

See, I fear the answer to that question.  It is because I would then be confronted with all the other times I have been commanded to pray for someone, to intervene in their lives, to walk through a particular door loving that person…and I did not.  To confront the depth of the harm I have caused others because I have been disobedient to my call as a Christian is to confront the reality of who I am and the depth of my depravity as a human being born of Adam’s disobedience.  But on the flip side, in the depths of such self-analysis, in the valley of self-knowledge, I also then see the miracle of grace that God reached down and saved me for Him, and I see the miracle of new birth that I have been snatched from the valley of death and placed on the mountaintop to be and to learn “new things.”

Who do we fear most of all?  Ourselves.  But even that is overcome when we are guided by the light, saved by grace, and sheltered in the wings of the Most High.

When we are guided by the Most High, saved by the Most High, and protected by the Most High, who is there to fear?  No one, not even ourselves.

Thank you, Lord.

_________

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

 

 

 

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