Bread – Speak

August 31, 2016


Psalm 33

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!  For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Ps. 33:8-9

Don’t you sometimes wish that, when you speak, people did what you commanded?  Or when you have to take out the garbage, wouldn’t it be nice to just tell the garbage to leave and it left?

We laugh because we know that we have no power to effect anything by our speech, except maybe stir up the flame of the tongue.  We can destroy with the tongue, but even then the world does not obey our spoken word.  It is harder to build up with speech, but it is possible.  Even then, though, the world does not obey our speech.  We can tell someone to care for themselves when they are ignoring personal hygiene and they won’t; we can tell them to care for others when they are being selfish, and they won’t.  Even if we have some power over them (like a place to live or a place to work), at best we stand a 50-50 chance that, when we speak, we will be heard and our commands will be obeyed.

But God is not like us.  His power is beyond our imagination.  “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”  He speaks and it happens.

If God who spoke into creation is willing to commune with us through His Word, His sacraments, and His presence through the Holy Spirit, why don’t we let Him?  After all, if He speaks into our lives, we will come to be in His strength.  If He speaks to us in our time of need (and in our time of plenty), we will stand firm in the evil day.

God’s Word creates, it encourages, it restores, it satisfies, and it saves.  When God speaks, it comes to be.  What He says goes.  What He says be, it is.  What He says ends, ends.

Do we not want that creative, loving, powerful, encouraging, hopeful voice of God in our lives?

Lord, speak to me so that I might hear?  No.

Lord, speak to me that I might be.  Be free, be happy, be content in all things, be strong, be persevering, be confident, be full of grace, love, and wisdom … in other words, be me.

Do we feel free?  Are we happy?  Are we content, strong, persevering, confident?  Are we full of grace, love, hope and wisdom?  Are we fully we?  No… then maybe it is because God needs to speak to us.  Are we going to let Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Loud

August 29, 2016


Psalm 33

Shout for joy in the Lord, O you righteous!  Praise befits the upright…Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully on the strings, with loud shouts.”  Ps. 33:1,3

I was at a non-profit banquet the other day when the speaker said to us, “stand up and shout!”  I thought she was crazy and, looking around, I think that most of the people around me had a similar opinion.  But, obediently, we stood up and, after some further prompting, we sort let out a loud-ish kind of sound, which was pretty pathetic given the number of people in the room.  She then called for more enthusiasm, which was not forthcoming.  She then said to all the men in the room, “imagine yourself in a battle line and you want to scare the people you are against…Yell as loud as you can!”  At that point there was a great shout from the room which might have well been heard throughout the venue.

And what was amazing about that was that I no longer felt foolish or stupid, but I felt powerful.  I no longer had a downcast countenance, but I was looking up at the speaker.  I was no longer embarrassed, but strong.  And, again, looking around the room, I think most people joined me in those feelings.

But what was even more amazing was that people were smiling.  What was a tone of seriousness and contemplation turned into a ruckus and a tone of joy, excitement, and, actually, even happiness among everyone.  And when we sat down we were more attentive to what the speaker had to say.  We were more open to each other and to her.

We have a lot of names for this.  “Get out of your comfort zone.”  “Step out in faith.”  “Get out of your shell.”  “Turn outward, not inward.”  And probably 10,000 more ways of saying the same thing.

The Psalmist even says it – Shout to the Lord, Sing a new song – Do it all with loud shouts.

Now I was in a crowded room where I was surrounded by a lot of people yelling at the top of their lungs, so it was easy for me to do the same thing.  In a church where I am surrounded by joy, it is easy to sing a new song (one from the heart, even if the words are already printed).

But think about this…Isn’t a word spoken about Christ and love to an unknown person in an elevator a shout of joy into the silence?  Isn’t the stopping and taking time to listen to someone who needs an ear a shout of love into that person’s life?

Why don’t we do it?  Are we afraid of looking out of place, of appearing to be crazy, of not being serious or restrained enough?

Or are we afraid of the explosion of happiness and wonder which might happen when we shout out our joy into the people and circumstances of our lives?

Are we afraid of failure or, really, are we afraid of success?

“Praise befits the upright.”  Stuffed in the middle of our verse today is a profound statement.  Normally, we think of the upright as reserved, formal, or “proper.”  If we are upright, we are well-behaved which means, in company, that we follow the etiquette of the situation.  But upright here means, in its simplest sense, saved for eternity.  We are upright not because of us but because of Jesus Christ.

And what the Psalmist tells us is that, if we are upright before God, in Christ, then “praise” befits us, it fits us…it is part of us…it follows from our position in Christ.

So, this week, I think we need to ask ourselves a question in every circumstance we find ourselves … are we being loud enough as befits our position as saved?  And this doesn’t necessarily mean yelling out “Christ is King” in a crowded theater – what it may mean is speaking about the gospel in a way which will be heard to someone who needs to hear it.

Sometimes just speaking is shouting.  Sometimes just touching is shouting.  Sometimes just loving is shouting.  And sometimes shouting is shouting.

Lord, help us to discern the amount of shout of praise we need to speak into every circumstances, and Lord help us to actually do it.  Amen.

_________

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

 

Bread – Iniquity

August 29, 2016


Psalm 32

Bless is the man against whom the Lord counts no iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit.”  Ps. 32:2

This is the last of the three types of sin which the Lord deals with through and in Jesus Christ.  The first one on Monday was the sin of transgression, the idea that we personally rebel against God and His authority.  We transgress God, we personally rebel against Him, every time we attempt to place ourselves above Him or treat Him as our equal or place Him under our judgment and evaluation.  This sin is in the context of our relationship to God and offends Him.  This sin God forgives through Jesus Christ.

The second type of sin we discussed on Wednesday was the one of failing to meet God’s plumb line of righteousness, of obedience to His law.  This is the idea of missing the mark, failing to hit the bulls-eye in archery.   This sin is in the context of our relationship to God’s law, His standards for our lives.  This sin God covers in the blood of Jesus Christ.

The third type of sin in our reading today on Friday completes the trio.  That is the sin of character, of corruptness, of being crooked in our ways and in our walk.  It is called “iniquity” and is often translated simply as “sin.”  This sin is in the context of our relationship with ourselves, where we corrupt the image of God imprinted on us into something ugly, something twisted.  In study, we might call this the fight between the old man (outside of Christ) and the new man (inside of Christ).  It shows up in inconsistency and in doing what we know we ought not to do.

What does God do with this sin?  He ignores it; actually, as the Psalm says, He does not “count” it against us.  Why not?  Because for those who believe in Christ, Christ’s righteousness is counted in place of our own unrighteousness, our own iniquity.  God does not count our iniquity against us because He counts Christ’s righteousness instead.

Our offense against God, our offense against the law, our offense against ourselves – all of these are forgiven, covered, and not counted against us when we believe in Jesus Christ.

So, what’s stopping us?

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Missed

August 24, 2016


Psalm 32

Blessed is the one … whose sin is covered.”  Ps. 32:1

In the first Bread this week, we looked at God’s forgiving our transgression, our disobedience.

In this Bread, we look at the type of sin which is “missing the mark” (which is why this Bread is called “Missed”), or falling short of expectations.  In the first, we know God’s command for our lives and we deliberately or negligently disobey it.  In this one, we look at actions taken in obedience which fall short of God’s standards set forth in His Word.  And, of course, this means that we look at everything we do, because we all fall short.

So that you know that I am not making this up, the word translated “sin” in the quote above is the Hebrew word for falling short or missing the mark.  The idea is our actions being like an arrow which is aimed at the center of God’s law, the bullseye, but always drops off before it gets there or goes to the left or the right.  There is only one person who hit the bullseye all the time and that Jesus Christ.

This idea of sin is critical to understanding the reason why salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.  We cannot get there by good works, because we all miss the mark.  Even if you assume that the law of Moses is completely superseded by the New Testament, the truth is who among us has followed Jesus’ law of treating your neighbor as yourself, to perfection?  No one.

And how does God treat the sin of missing the mark; He “covers” it.  What does cover mean?  Throw a blanket over it?  No, actually, the answer lies in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, our sin of missing the mark (Israel’s sin) was atoned for by the killing of an innocent animal and the sprinkling of its blood on the mercy seat of God, on top of the Ark of the Covenant.  Inside the Ark was the broken law of God.  The lamb’s blood was shed as a covering, shielding God who lived above the Ark and the broken law inside the Ark, which represents sinners.  We were protected by the blood of the lamb which stood between what we deserve for our sin (the wrath of God) and us.

In the New Testament the covering is the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, which because He was God was a sufficient sacrifice for all time for all people whom God has chosen and have believed in Him.  The temple sacrifice of the lamb to atone for sins had to happen over and over again; because Jesus is God, His sacrifice for us on the cross, His shedding of blood, only needed to occur once for all time for all sins of those who believe.  The shorthand for this is that we are “covered in the blood of Christ.”  We are covered by God in His sovereign mercy to protect us from our sin of failure to meet God’s standards.

Amazing, isn’t it, that all this is contained in the simple phrase “Blessed is the one ….whose sin is covered.”  Whose sin is covered by the lamb of God, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give thanks in all things, because while even in our obedience we fall short of the mark, God makes up the difference through the blood shed by Jesus Christ which covers us.  Amen.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Disobey

August 22, 2016


Psalm 32

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven…” Ps. 32:1

The three Breads this week will focus on the three types of sins which David talks about and the three ways in which God deals with those sins for those who turn to Him in repentance and believe in Jesus Christ.  Because of the use of words and Jewish poetic parallelism, these three distinctive forms of sin and God’s work with each type are almost lost in the speed with which David delivers them.  But they are important enough that they need to be broken apart.  This week, therefore, we will not go beyond the first two verses, where it all is.

What is a “transgression.”  I admit that my normal automatic interpretation of this is to think that it means a violation of God’s law.  It does not.  It means a stepping upon God’s person, His authority, His righteousness, His kingship.  It means a rebellion against God and His authority over all.  This transgression first occurred in the garden of Eden, before there was law.  There was one simple command, meant to maintain a proper relationship between God and man.  And that instruction was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  And that request by God was ignored by man, Adam and Eve ate, and man’s relationship with God was torn to pieces.

There can be all kinds of disobedience to God, some having to do with His law but most having to do with our relationship with Him.  God asks us to step through a door in faith, perhaps to pray for sick person or engage in a new job, and we resist in doubt and worry.  Is there any law in this?  No.  Is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Yes,  God asks us to live our lives to bring glory to Him.  Is there any law to this?  No.  When we follow our own paths to act in ways which bring glory to ourselves, is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Is the failure to trust God and follow Him transgressing His good name, denying His authority and power, and placing Him either beside or beneath us, instead of over us, a transgression?  Yes it is.

And what does God do about these transgressions to His person when we do them and we return to Him, confessing our sins against His Majesty?  David says that the transgressions are forgiven.  The Hebrew word for “forgiven” in this Psalm means to “lift off.”  When we disobey God, we know it.  O we may hide it in a dark closet where we put away our worse memories, or we may bury it in a flurry of busy-ness, or we may discount it by saying that my disobedience was trivial compared to other people’s or compared to some standard of my making, but we know it.  And because we know it, it is a burden which drags us down.  We lose our sense of the Lord’s presence.  Satan finds the hole to discourage us.  We begin to wonder if He cares.  We find excuses to run further and further away.  We either undervalue our disobedience or over inflate it.  All of our disobedience, no matter how silly to us or how serious, is a horror to God.

And yet what does God do with our sin of transgression, of disobedience?  He lifts it from our shoulders and throws it away when we come to the cross of Christ in repentance.

And the amazing thing is that God does it immediately.  David says in verse 5b: “I said ‘ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  Ps. 32:5b

In Jesus parable of the prodigal son, the son is far away from the father, steeped in his transgressions against his father’s will … and he turns toward the father and says “I will go back and say to my father, I have sinned …”  What happens?  The father, while the son is on the way back, starts up the party and is waiting for him.  As soon as he turned and acknowledged that his transgressions needed to be confessed and forgiven, they were forgiven.”

The pressures of life this week will cause us to bend and stoop and will pile up on our backs without slowing down. But these burdens are nothing compared to the burdens we carry around as weighted stones, due entirely to our desire to disobey God, to transgress against Him.  When we sin, we do not just violate a law, we step on God Himself.  These burdens can get so severe that they cause us to look at the ground as we plod away, step by step.  And yet, in the midst of this, if we will but turn toward Him and raise our eyes to hills from whence cometh our help, He is ready to forgive us, to lift the burden from our back for all time, and to place us on solid rock where we may stand free.

How crazy glorious and amazing is this!  And yet there is more to come.

But you can begin right here, right now.  If you have been disobedient to God (and you know you have), turn to Him now in repentance and He will forgive you your trespasses against Him.  You can count on it.

_________

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

 

Bread – Strife

August 19, 2016


Psalm 31

In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men; You store them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues.”  Ps. 31:20

I was planning to write on something else today, when the words “You store them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues” leaped out at me.

In this political season, I think we can safely say that we all suffer from the “strife of tongues.”  The idea of strife is that of bitter arguing or bitter fighting.  Strife arises from our desire to be in control, to be right, and to win.  And our vehicle for fighting bitterly in ancient and modern times both is with action (weapons) and speech (tongues).

It seems like all people everywhere suffer the “strife of tongues.”  We are condemned by the tongue, spoken rudely to by the tongue, criticized by the tongue, and contended with by the tongue.  If anyone is angry or upset with us, they let us know through the tongue.  If anyone disagrees with us, they let us know through the tongue.  Even the church fathers had problems with this – as James said, “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things.  How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire?  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell…no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  Js. 3:5-8  I think you get the point.

So what do we do when we are confronted with someone else’s tongue?  We generally do one of two things; we either respond in kind or we retreat.  God says, through David, abide in Me and you will do neither – you will not respond in kind (but with kindness) and your will not retreat (stand firm in the evil day).  To neither respond in kind nor retreat is a supernatural thing – it is only through God’s power and His protection in our lives that we slough off the strife of the tongue.

But what about the “strife of the tongue” which we ourselves initiate.  We are condemning in our speech, violent in our speech, angry in our speech – what about the fires that we set with our own tongues?  How do we deal with that?  God says, through David, abide in Me and you will have no need to create strife, but can speak truth with love.  To not speak our mind in all things, but to speak God’s mind is a supernatural thing – it is only through God’s power and our sense of safety in His arms and under His wings that we slough off our need to defend ourselves in all things, and are therefore able to speak truth in love, avoiding the strife of the tongue.

There is much talk in today’s world about “coming together” and “speaking kindly” and all those other good things which we believe in Utopia will exist.  These things cannot exist because of the nature of man (and the nature of nature), unless and until we find shelter in the same place – in the arms of Jesus, of God.

In the meantime, as Christians, what are we to do with the “strife of the tongue.”  Well, first, because we are under the shelter of the Most High, we can be quiet when that will have a positive effect and we can speak truth in love when that is what is needed.  And second, we can stand.  When the storm of the strife of tongues encircles us, under the shelter of the Most High we stand in the center, in the eye of the hurricane.  From there we have peace.  From there we have options.  From there we can change the “strife of tongues” into the “peace of tongues.”

The opposite of strife is peace.  And peace does not begin with the tongue.  It begins where we have shelter.   If we want peace and seek the shelter the world provides, we will have no peace.  Peace is to be found in the shelter of God.

May you, today, find that shelter and that peace, and thereby be protected from the “strife of tongues.”

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Disease

August 17, 2016


Psalm 31

I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul…Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.  For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” Ps. 31:7,9-10

A child has a form of strep infection which causes their skin to slough off, and requires treatment as if they had been burned.  Another child develops an infection in his bone.  A young adult dies at 39 from some kind of a stroke; another dies from a drug overdose; another dies from suicide, for some reason giving up on themselves and us.   An older adult finds out that they have a particularly aggressive kind of cancer.  Another is told that they need to start taking pain medications so that, as they die, they will not hurt so bad.  Another is attacked by shingles, another by pneumonia, another by some new bacteria or virus floating in the air.  And then there are those of us whose self is disappearing in the arms of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

Disease is around us and in us.  Some of it is curable, at least to some degree, and other is not, at least by modern medicine.  To some are granted the miracle of recovery and to others, not.

David, our Psalmist, talks about some kind of disease which has overtaken him.  Whether it is the disease of depression, the disease of cancer, the disease of heartache, the disease of fear, the disease of the heart or of the bone or of the eye or the ear, we do not know.  Whatever it is, it is causing him great sorrow and distress to the point that he is spending his years with sighing.  He is feeling sorry for himself and that is OK, because he is sick, he is diseased, he is hurting, and he cannot figure a way out.

But there is a deeper disease, affecting all of mankind, and David acknowledges this in this phrase – “my strength fails because of my iniquity.”  The Hebrew word “iniquity” here means depravity; it is sin.   “My strength fails because of my sinfulness, because I am full of sin.”

We know this from the entirety of Scripture.  All were cast down from perfection by Adam’s disobedience; all are full of iniquity (sin), all fall short.  We are all filled with the disease of exile from Eden, and with the disease caused by our own disobedience to God and caused by the brokenness of the world, caused by disobedience to God.

So, when we are diseased and are suffering and God appears to do nothing about it, should we be mad at Him, particularly when we claim to follow Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, live in Him?  If we are loyal to God by attending church and praying and worshiping and reading His Word, shouldn’t we be blessed with protection from disease?  Shouldn’t we be able to summon up a miracle on demand?

David knows better and so do we.  David is rejoicing because he knows that God knows his suffering, He knows “the distress of my soul.”  And David says the only thing he, and we can say, “Be gracious to me, O Lord.”  We tend to think of being gracious as being nice.  It is not being nice – being gracious is being merciful.  Our disease is the natural result of the state within which exists because of Adam and because of us.  God has no obligation to us.  We cannot earn His good pleasure, His mercy, His graciousness.  It is only mercy because it is freely given, in God’s sovereignty, when He wants and for the purpose He intends.

If you think about it, the biggest disease we suffer is our own belief that we deserve something, when we in fact deserve nothing.  All is a gift of God, a gracious act by Him.  If we are rich, it is God’s gift to us.  If we are powerful, it is because God has set us in this place.  If we are saved, it is because God has acted to save us.

You want to get rid of disease?  Kneel before the Lord, Your God.  Trust in Him.  Follow Him.  Obey Him.

And if we suffer from a medical condition, that suffering will not matter because it will fade into the glory of God’s presence in our lives.   His presence with us in suffering will be enough, because He is enough.

How is this possible?  Because we give up the me and the we … and follow the He.

_________

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

Bread – Refuge

August 15, 2016


Psalm 31

In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness deliver me!  Incline Your ear to me; rescue me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for me; a strong fortress to save me!  For You are My rock and my fortress…for You are my refuge.”  Ps. 31:1-4

A refuge is a place of safety from the world.  In the Bible, this refuge may be a strong castle with walls that cannot be breached and a wide moat which cannot be crossed; or it may be the shelter of a rocky cave, high above the fray, protected from the storm; or it may be the shelter of God’s wings which cradle us in times of emotional need.   In the world, a refuge may be a private room when one can gather his or her thoughts before the day begins; it may be a chair in that room which is incredibly comfortable and which holds us; it may be a book which is read in that chair which lets us imagine things beyond our current mess; or our refuge may be a person in whom we have great trust.

God through David says two things about being a refuge – “Be a rock of refuge” (verse 2b) and “For You are my rock and my fortress…” (verse 3).

If He “is” David’s refuge, then why is it necessary to ask God to “be” it?

One answer to this question has to do with continuity.  The refuge today may not be the refuge tomorrow.  The enemy discovers the cave; your private room is invaded by a ringing telephone.  Your book of refuge ends and you must find another.  The problem with this answer is that it flies in the face of God’s nature.  He is not changeable, in that today He is a fortress of refuge and tomorrow He is not.  No, He was a refuge, He is a refuge, and He always will be a refuge.  This is one of His characteristics, that of being a place of safety among the turmoil of the world.

So in what sense is David asking God to “be a rock of refuge?”  I think that this is really a prayer for David.  God is being asked by David to continue being a refuge for David.

Why would David have to ask this of God?  When a refuge disappears, it is either because the refuge has disappeared (and we know that is not in God’s nature) or because you (David) are no longer in the refuge.  If David is no longer in the refuge of God, why not?  Since he is no longer there, it can only be for three reasons – (1) the bad people came and kidnapped him; (2) God told him to leave; or (3) he left on his own accord.

We know that David would not leave God’s refuge because the people seeking him out have found and seized him, because what kind of refuge is that.  We know that God is mighty to save and His is a mighty fortress against which nothing can prevail.  So, if David is in God’s fortress, he is safe.  Option 1 is not the answer.

Option 2 is that God told him to leave.  There is only one refuge built by God which God told us to leave – and that was Eden and was due to our disobedience (sin).  And He created another refuge for us, Himself in Jesus Christ, where we may find safety if we profoundly believe in Him.  So, in that sense, God evicted us from a place of refuge so that we might find Him, the person of refuge.  David was not thrown out of God’s fortress by God.

This must mean that David either left the refuge on his own or knew that he would unless empowered by the Holy Spirit to stay.  The plea by David to God to “Be a rock of refuge for me” is really a request by David for God to help David not leave.

Are we, today, out in the rain of the world, getting wet and blown around from place to place?  Why?  It is because God has left us or because we have left Him?

But to have left something, you had to have found it in the first place.  So, the real question is, have you asked God to be your shelter from the storms of life, your strong place of refuge?  Have you found that place of protection, knowing that all is well because Christ is Lord and not you?  If not, what are you waiting for?  If so and you are outside the place of refuge, return.  If so and you are in that place, then give thanks.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Forgetfulness

August 12, 2016


Psalm 30

As for me, I said in my prosperity, I shall never be moved.  By Your favor, O Lord, You made my mountain stand strong…You have turned my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent.  O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!”  Ps. 30:6-7,11-12

As we go from mountaintop to valley and back again, it seems like we are either living in prosperity or in sackcloth and ashes.  Some days are great; some are not.  Sometimes we feel loved; sometimes we feel abandoned.  Some days we feel rich; other days we feel poor.  How we feel, of course, rides the waves of others and ourselves, our temperament and our body or brain chemistry at the time.  When we are feeling good, we try to hold onto those feelings, sometimes to the point of propping them up with “good’ books, “good” music, or “good” drugs.  When we are feeling poorly, we try to get away from that as fast as possible, to the point of suppressing those thoughts with “good” books, “good” music, or “good” drugs.

But the life of plenty in all circumstances, when we are prosperous and we are poor, when we are strong and when we are weak, when we are loved and when our love is lost, is not found in good books, good music, good friends, or good drugs … it is found in God, in Jesus Christ.

The reason I quoted the Psalm the way I did today is the great contrast between verses 6 and 7, when David is feeling prosperous, and verses 11 and 12, when he is glad even though having just returned from the valley of death (or at least it felt like it).

How did we go from feelings of prosperity to sackcloth and ashes?  What happened?

The answer to this question is not in the verses in between.  I think that the answer is locked up in verses 6 and 7.

“As for me, I said in my prosperity …”  Where is God in this statement?  How many times does David use the personal pronouns “I,” ‘my” and “me.”  Now, admittedly, in verse 7, David acknowledges that it is God’s favor which makes David’s mountain stand strong, but who does David think is the source of his prosperity?  Himself or God?

When we get to the end verses, it is clear that in adversity, it is only God’s action which saves and restores.  But who does David think is really responsible for the good times when he is prosperous?

Aren’t we guilty of the same trap?  When we are in trouble, we turn to God for relief.  When we are prosperous, we pat ourselves on the back for a job well done.

But isn’t God in both?  In fact, isn’t God the source of both?

How do we stand in the evil day and the good day?  Not in our own merit, but by the grace and power of God.

And the sooner we learn that and take it to heart, the sooner we will be free of doubt, pain, worry, and fear in and out of season, in the good times and the bad, in all phases of life.  Because when we stand on the foundation which God has laid, we stand on the rock of ages.

But, when we have power, influence, money, things, love, friends, position … how  quickly we forget and say to ourselves “As for me, I said in my prosperity I shall never be moved.”

When what we need to say is “As for me, I said in God’s prosperity I, with the help of God, shall never be moved.”

The first “as for me” is baloney; the second “as for me” is the truth.

So, as we go into the weekend, let us not forget whose we are, whose property we have custody over, and whose children we should love as we ourselves have been loved.  Who is “whose?”  Big hint – it’s not us, it is Him.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Peace

August 5, 2016


Psalm 29

The Lord sits enthroned over the flood; the Lord sits enthroned as king forever.  May the Lord give strength to His people!  May the Lord bless His people with peace!

This week, it may seem like that Noah’s flood, the end of the world, has overwhelmed you and sunk you and drowned you in a sea from which there is no escape.  God reigns over the flood and He is mighty to save His people from the consequences of their sin.

This week, it may seem like that weakness of heart or spirit or mind or body has overwhelmed you, driving you into the pit of depression, worry, and misery.  God provides strength to persevere in the hard times and strength to stand fast in the good times; when we are weak, He is strong for us.  He is the source of our strength and our salvation.

This week, it may seem like we have no peace.  There is the war of making a daily living in the midst of circumstances and people who seem to want to make sure that you can’t.  There is the war of words and ideas which flood every means of communication.  There is the war of the mind where we, every day, have to decide who we serve.  There is the war of the heart where we, every day, have to decide to love or to hate.  There is fighting with word and sword – death and defeat surround us.  God is a place of refuge, of sanctuary, during these times.  He is the source of peace, if we but want to drink of the water which flows from Him.

What is peace?  Is it the absence of war?  Most people think so and think that war is evidence of the lack of peace.  But how is it that we can have peace from war (and there have been times, although rare, where that is true), and yet have no peace in our lives.  To live is to contest the elements, the opposition, the thoughts of other people who decide just not to be cooperative that day.  Life is a contest and, as a result, there is no peace.

In fact, the Lord commands us to speak the truth in love to people who do not want to hear it and who oppose the truth.  Jesus warns us of persecutions.  He died on the cross.  Martyrs of the church through the ages have died by fire, by evisceration, by acid, by beheading, by torture, by sword and by the thousand cuts of scorn heaped upon them by the scoffers of the world.

Did these martyrs have peace?  Not by a worldly definition, not by a long shot.  But did they have peace?  We know they did.  Then what is peace?

Imagine for a moment being in the eye of the storm.  All around you is swirling fury and destruction, and yet you stand observing, watching, considering, thinking, loving – and unaffected.  In the storm there is no room for conversation, no place for reflection or thought, no opportunity for rest.  In the center of the storm, in its eye, one can speak calmly and openly, one can listen, and one can lay down and rest.

Maybe the Psalm should say “May the Lord bless His people by placing them in the eye of the storm.”  And, if you think about it, indeed he does.  When our soul is in Christ, it is He who leads us by still waters in the eye of the storm, it is He who speaks to us comforting words while we are surrounded by the swirling noise of the world, it is He who prepare a table for us in the midst of our enemies.

“May the Lord bless His people with peace.”  He has and His name is Christ Jesus, Son of God, Savior, Redeemer, King, Lord of Lords, Emmanuel – yes, Emmanuel, God is with us.  And when He is with us we stand in the middle of the storm in peace, not by our power but by His.

Want peace?  It is free at the foot of the cross.  It is free for the asking.  But you have to ask.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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