Bread – Conditions

September 28, 2016


Psalm 35

Let destruction come upon him [my or our enemy] when he does not know it! And let the net that he hid [for me] ensnare him; let him fall into it – to his destruction!  Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord, exulting in His salvation.”  Ps. 35:8-10

In these three verses, it sounds a whole lot like David is conditioning his rejoicing in the Lord to the Lord doing something for him, namely destroying his enemy or setting up things so that his enemy falls into a trap of his enemy’s own making.

How often do we fall into this same temptation, making our love of the Lord or our response to Him somehow conditional on what He does for us in response to our prayers or our asking?  We ask for and we get not, and we have downcast faces wondering why the Lord is ignoring us.  We send up our order for a tasty meal (as if God is a cosmic cook) and then get no answer – do we praise Him then?  Probably not.

We connect the “if” and the “then.”  If God fills me with good things, then I will rejoice.  If God blesses me, then I will act like I’m blessed.

One of the things I love about the Psalms is that David is me.  Sometimes he is king; sometimes he is not.  Sometimes he behaves; sometimes he doesn’t.  Sometimes he does not like the Lord very much; other times he loves Him without reservation.  So the “if … then” nature of this Psalm does not surprise me.  David is human, and so are we.  David is angry at his enemies and wants the Lord to take them out.  To help the Lord make His decision, David essentially says that then David will be a great mouthpiece for the Lord … “Then my soul…”

But we know that that is not David’s true heart because we have read other Psalms where, in spite of receiving no answer or “no” for an answer, David comes around and praises the Lord anyway, because David knows in his core, in his soul, that all true power comes from the Lord, all true hope comes from the Lord, all life comes from Him.  David knows these things and, for the most part, acts them out, but he is human and, every so often (like in this Psalm 35), he puts conditions on the relationship – I will love You if You kill my enemies.  I will praise You if You destroy the people who oppress me.

The reason Bread is called “Conditions” today is that there are three types of conditions being talked about.  The first are conditions we try to build into our relationship with God, the “if You do this, then I will do that” kinds of conditions.  God is sovereign, He is king, and He quite frankly probably doesn’t care what our conditions are.  He saved us by His sovereign choice and He will act toward us in accordance with His sovereignty and character, and how we behave toward Him is how we behave.

The second set of conditions are those which are created by our environment, sometimes self-imposed and sometimes imposed by others, by the forces of nature, or by our true enemy.  For example, we might live in the condition of poverty or we might live in the condition of worry or hatred or anger.  What this Psalm may be saying as well is that our ability to praise God is released when we are not burdened by the conditions of this life, by our own fears or phobias, or by the approval of others.  When we are depressed (a condition), we may find it very very hard to lift our head toward the heavens and find hope.  So, although it sounds like David is saying, if You wipe out my enemies, I will praise You, it may be that what he is really saying is “If You wipe out my enemies, I can (I am released to) praise You.”  Although these sound alike, they are totally different with respect to our attitude toward prayer and God.  If I say to God “I will not praise You until …,” I am the one setting the rules and I have exalted myself as king over God.  If I say to God, “I cannot praise You until …,” that is no more than a recognition of our poor condition, our condition of sin and being needful of a savior.

So, what is the third type or set of conditions?  They are conditions imposed by God on our relationship with Him?  What are those conditions?  We want to answer this question in all kinds of complicated ways.  We come up with rules and works conditions, we come up with love conditions, we come up with self-awareness and other psychological conditions, we come up with faith conditions … we come up with all kinds of things we must do or say or think in order to have a relationship with Him.  And, yes, the Bible is full of things to do with regard to the relationship – you must recognize your sinfulness, turn toward God and repent; you must confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior; you must be baptized; you must pray….  And, yet, the answer to the question of what conditions are imposed by God on our relationship with Him is that there is one, that He chose us unto eternal life.  God’s choice establishes the relationship; the quality of the relationship is built on the other principles.

We can choose to accept God’s sovereignty in all things, including our belief in Him, and there are no conditions on where we can go in our relationship with Him, with each other, and with the world.  Or we can choose to deny God’s sovereignty, in which case everything is conditional on how we or He or the world behaves.

God puts no conditions on His love for us, so why should we put conditions on our love for Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Crushed

September 14, 2016


Psalm 34

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Ps. 34:18

How many of us are “crushed in spirit?”  For a salesman, it may be the big sale that you just knew you were going to make, but don’t … and there goes your commission.  For a trial lawyer, it may be the big case you know you are going to win, except you don’t … and there goes your confidence.  For someone asking someone else to marry them and they are sure the other person will say “yes,” and they don’t … and there goes your hope.  For the investor who just knows he or she has discovered the next wealth-generating investment, and the stock tanks … and there goes your ideas of wealth.

Those are the easy ones, but what about the person who goes out day by day to do battle with the world and comes home one day, realizing that the promotion, the big house, the opportunity for fame, the contented family, the loving children, the happy spouse, the attainment of the dream … just isn’t going to be there, at least to the degree wanted, dreamed for, or imagined?   What about those people who live their lives in silent despair?

What happens to them?

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is near to those people who know Him and trust Him, and that He “saves the crushed in spirit.”

We think that when a person is crushed in spirit, they are down and out.  But the Lord who saves says “you may say you are down and out, but I say that you may feel down but you are raised up.”  In the world’s view, when you are crushed you are crushed.  In God’s view, when you are crushed you are saved.

We may feel crushed in either event, whether we take our view or God’s view, whether we trust God or we trust ourselves or the world.  So what is the difference?  When we trust in God, we are saved out of our condition of being crushed in spirit; when we do not trust in God, we are still there.

When I was writing this and trying to think about what is means to feel crushed and be saved at the same time, an analogy came to mind.  If I am wandering in a swamp and get stuck in deep mud, I have mud all over me.  I am crushed in spirit, reflected by the amount of mud I have all over my clothes and my body.  If I remain stuck in the swamp and in the mud, I am imprisoned by the mud and have no freedom and no life, except to wallow in the mud.  If my savior, though, comes and pulls me out of the mud, I still have mud all over me but I am now free.  I am free to continue to wear the symbol of crushedness, the mud, or I am free to act like it never existed by having God help me wash it off.

When God saves the “crushed in spirit,” they may still feel crushed, but they are not.

You are depressed; you are crushed in spirit.  God says He saves you in that condition.  Do you believe Him?  Do you believe in Him?  If so, the Holy Spirit is right there ready to help you wash the mud of despair from your clothes.  Just ask.

And, oh, by the way, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. Now that’s down and out … for the count.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Fears

September 12, 2016


Psalm 34

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  Ps. 34:4

What do we really fear?  For some of us, it is the phobias of the world – fear of falling, fear of heights, fear of snakes and bugs, fear of closed in spaces.  For others of us, it is the fear of failure – fear of loss of position or power, fear of loss of wealth, fear of loss of reputation.  And then there are the fears related to our emotions – fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of separation, fear of being disliked, fear of being unappreciated.  There are lots of fears out there, to the point that we have a lot of fear classifications.

One that has always fascinated me is fear of success.  I think closely allied to that is fear of the unknown.  If we are comfortable with living a life of poverty, then our greatest fear may be of getting a successful job and all the change which will occur because of that.  The Bible says that we get not because we ask not.  I think that, behind the not asking, is a real desire not to receive.  What if we asked for wisdom and then we got it … maybe we are afraid that, if we had wisdom, we would actually have to be wise, which then means that we would have to change the way we live and change the way we interact with others.

It is much easier to stay where we are than to change.  We never have to answer the “what if” if we are afraid to try, to reach out, and to grow up.

If you think about it, the essence of the new man promised by God when we trust in Jesus Christ is really the removal of fear of being a new creation.  For us to love others, it is not necessary that we first love ourselves, it is necessary that we have our fears of love, exposure, and others eliminated.  One of the miracles of new birth is the destruction of fear by the power of God.  One of Satan’s greatest tools to keep us enslaved to him is fear; one of God’s greatest tools to release us from bondage is to release us from fear of freedom.

Are you ready to be fearless this week?  Seek the Lord.   And when the Lord shows up, take His deliverance of you from all your fears … and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Power

September 2, 2016


Psalm 33

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”  Ps. 33:16-20

Where is power located?  Where can it be found?

When I was getting my Masters of Business Administration, I took a course in power (of course, it wasn’t called that – it was called leadership).  We talked about a lot of things and looked at a number of psychological studies.  These showed things like how to arrange furniture to project power, where to stand, how to talk, etc.  We talked about technical power which comes from knowledge – engineers who know what they are doing have technical power because people absolutely rely on them to do things well so that bridges do not fall down, generators work, etc.  We talked about positional power, where a person’s power comes from the position they occupy, like a president has more positional power than does the bookkeeper; however, we learned that positional power is tricky, because the assistant who controls access to the president may have more positional power than even the president in some organizations.  Then we talked about situational power, where power is essentially derived from the group of people you are working with (where they voluntarily surrender power to you).  And we also talked about personal power, which arises from force of personality, drive, vision, charisma, and the such like.  I am sure new names have been attached to these and other similar concepts, but you get the drift.

But, in that entire course, we never talked about what David is talking about, the source of real power, God.

When we are in trouble, what do we fall back on?  Do we fall back on our great wealth, our family, our friends, our position, our intelligence, our native abilities, our talents, our knowledge?  To the extent we fall back on these things, and all of us do, we are demonstrating that we believe that real power comes from us or our surroundings or others somehow.  If only we could tap into the power source of self-awareness, self-assurance, or self-reliance, then we can dig our way out.  Of course, the operative word here is “self.”  When we fall back on ourselves or others, we have fallen into the arms of the world to give us the power we need to be saved, to survive the famine.

But David says that “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men … don’t hold a candle to the living God.” (or something like that)

The king is not saved by the king’s power nor his kingdom’s power; He is saved by the strong arm of the Lord and His kingdom’s power.

Where do you truly believe real power comes from?  Does it come from the sources we have been taught, or does it come from the Source which has been revealed to us by the Word written and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ?

No doubt about it, there is a battle afoot.  There is a war.  It is the battle for ideas, the battle for resources, the battle for territory, the battle for position, the battle for truth, the battle for our families, the battle for our country, and the actual wars which grow out of these battles.  We cannot escape them.  They are here and we are players.

The question is, what kind of players are we?  Are we the players who plot and scheme and lead the charge (or follow the leader), who rely on ourselves and our fellow man and their resources, or are we players who are citizens of a different world, who know where real power lays, who rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, Father, and Holy Spirit are “our help and our shield?”

The time for testing is coming.  In whose army shall we fight?

_________

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

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