Bread – Apparent

October 26, 2016


Psalm 38

“O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You.”  Ps. 38:9

I have been justly accused of not being very observant.  In a crowded room, my best friend might be standing three feet away from me and I might not see him.  My wife might have put on a brand new dress which complements her wonderfully, and I might not notice it for eight hours or so, if then.  Terrible, terrible, terrible.  But very very human.

And this happens to me (and I daresay you) on a regular basis even when the things we are (not) looking at are apparent, even when they are obvious.

We are commanded as Christians to love one another.  I think we often believe that this is complicated.  It probably isn’t.  In fact, we might begin by just training ourselves to be attentive to the apparent, the obvious, and then react to it.  If we look at a person’s face instead of looking through them to our next agenda item, we might notice the apparent hurt or sadness or anger or frustration.  And then having seen the obvious, we have an opportunity at least to react to it in a way which loves the person we are looking at.

But if we cannot see the obvious and apparent in that which is around us and can be touched, seen, and heard, then how are we to ever become aware of the apparent and the obvious which belong in the spiritual realm?

What strikes me as so powerful about this verse from Psalm 38 is that it states the obvious, which is not so apparent to most people.  Are you in trouble?  God knows it.  Are you sick?  God knows it.  Is there a longing in your heart which is unsatisfied?  God knows it.  Are you sighing?  God hears it.

God is not us.  We ignore the apparent.  God sees both the apparent and the hidden.

So why prayer, when God already knows it?  Maybe it is because you don’t know it.  Speaking our sighing before God makes us focus on the apparent (and hidden) causes of that sighing.  Speaking our sighing before God reminds us that God loves us, that He hears us, and that He has mercy on us.   Speaking our sighing before God reminds us that we are in fact sighing, that we are broken, hurt, fallen down, people, that are sinful and that we fall short in every way imaginable.  Speaking our sighing before God transfers that burden from us to Him, because now that we have recognized our error and recognized the Person who can heal us, we can cast our cares upon Him.

But before we can get there, we must acknowledge the most apparent thing in the room, and that is God.  But we will not see him because  we do not see apparent things unless we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  And for that we need to be trained and to be best trained, we need a trainer.  And so we begin the process of seeing the apparent by praying, “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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Bread – Sick

October 24, 2016


Psalm 38

“There is no soundness in my flesh…there is no health in my bones…My wounds stink and fester…I am utterly bowed down and prostrate…For sides are filled with burning…I am feeble and crushed…My heart throbs; my strength fails me…”  Ps. 38:3-10

As I write this, I am sick from the change of weather, something blowing in the wind, and a vicious attack on my sinuses.

As I write this, our nation is sick as well, suffering from excess, from ignorance, from selfishness, from dishonesty.  It is well on its way to being “feeble and crushed,” with “no health in [its] bones.”

There are distinct causes of these sicknesses described in this Psalm, basically boiling down to our sin and our resulting chasing after the ways of the world rather than the ways of God.  “There is no health in my bones because of my sin…My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness…”  Ps. 38:3b,5a

We have three choices when we are sick: one is to lay on our bed in defeat, another is to help ourselves get better, and the third is to turn to someone else to help us get better.  It is interesting that we seem to follow these alternatives as steps in a process.  When we first get sick, we tend to wallow around in it feeling sorry for ourselves.  Then, we get out of bed and start rummaging around in our medicine chests trying to find some remedy which we think (or know) worked in the past [we self-medicate].  Finally, if retreat and self-treatment have not worked, we finally work up the courage to go see a health care professional, knowing there is a 50-50 chance that we will be throwing our money away on the advice to retreat until we get better [go back to bed] or will get an unpleasant shot or maybe a prescription for medicines which stand a 50-50 chance of working and cost a small fortune.

But, if we have read Psalm 38, we know that there is a fourth step we can take.  That is to recognize that the Lord knows what is going on [“my sighing is not hidden from You” Ps. 38:9b] and ask Him for mercy to relieve you of your circumstances.

Sometimes the simplest prayers are the best – “Lord, I am sick.  Please have mercy on me and heal me.”

Knowing that, when we are sick, why do we not pray this simple prayer?  Maybe it is because we are afraid God will show up.  Maybe it is because we forget that we don’t have to go through the retreat, to the self-medication, and to the help of the world – we can jump to step four.  But to do that we have to raise our eyes to heaven, from whence cometh our help.

And that is so hard to do when all we can think about is how sick we are.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Fret

October 10, 2016


Psalm 37

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of evildoers!…fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!…Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Ps. 37:1,7-8

The “frets” of a guitar are the little ridges along the handle which are used to tighten the string when they are pressed down to produce a higher note.

The “frets” of this life are similar.  They are the little things which, when pressed by us or by others, cause the strings of our lives to tighten, producing higher and higher, shriller and shriller notes.  Whereas the frets on the guitar are used deliberately to produce chords and melodies, the frets of our life are pushed by us and others haphazardly to produce shrillness and dissonance and non-chords, or discord.

What are these frets of our lives?  Primarily, they arise when we start comparing ourselves to others.  “Be not envious of evildoers?”  Why would we be envious?  Because many, many sinful people manipulate our society very well, producing great temporary wealth, position, and fame.  We look around and see the big houses we do not have, the nice cars we do not drive, the retirement accounts we do not have, the clubs we do not belong to, the schools we do not attend … and we fret about our well-being, we worry.  We say to ourselves, “why do the wicked prosper” and, in the process, the haphazardly push the frets of our lives, bringing discord and disharmony unnecessarily to our self-assurance, our friendships, our family, and our relationship to God.  And Satan smiles.

What happens when we worry about getting ahead in the world, of keeping up with the Joneses, of making sure that we too have the big house, the expensive clothes, the nice car, and idyllic lifestyle of the rich and famous?  The Psalm is clear — “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”  When we fret over what we do not have (or what other people have), we tend to want to copy them … and since they sin and do evil (in all likelihood), so might we.

So we have a choice this week.  Fret and pay the consequences, or trust in the Lord and receive the blessings.

Fret or trust, worry or faith.  One leads to discord; the other to concord.  One leads to disharmony; the other to good music.  One takes on the burdens of life; the unloads the burdens of life onto someone more capable of carrying them.

What are you fretting about today?  Is it helping?

To fret or not to fret?  That is the question.  What is your answer?

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Speaker

October 5, 2016


Psalm 36

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  Ps. 36:1

If we are listening in our minds, in our hearts, or in our souls (depending upon your philosophical bent), then who is speaking?  Who is the speaker who talks to us, guides us, and guards us?  Who do we listen to?

What led me to this question today is actually a translation issue with this verse.  In the ESV, which echoes the King James Version of the Bible, the speaker is “transgression.”  The wicked listen to their transgressions; sin speaks to them in ways that they want to hear and need to hear.

But there is a second translation of this verse.  It is contained in the New International Version translation and goes like this – “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Here the speaker is an “oracle” which abides in the writer’s heart.  However, this itself is not complete, because the the Hebrew tie-in to “oracle” is “wickedness.” Instead of an oracle of God or an oracle of wisdom, here we have an oracle of wickedness.

Whereas “transgression,” representing an act of disobedience (blind or deliberate, doesn’t matter), relates to a “thing,” the word “oracle” most often relates to a person, an actual speaker for a deity.  People speak with the oracle to obtain wisdom from the deity behind the oracle, or to obtain favors from the deity, or to avoid trouble.   Therefore, the “oracle of wickedness” must relate to the fundamental source of disobedience, of transgression, the spiritual being behind the oracle.  In Christianity, this spiritual being is Satan.

So, is the speaker to the wicked the wicked’s sin (transgression) or is it Satan working through the transgression?

Because of the translation issue, it is possible to conclude that it is both.  However, I think that, to interpret the message properly, to hear the communication, one needs to know who and what the speaker is.  If the speaker sounds like he is speaking the truth but behind him or her is the Prince of Lies, then chances are the apparent truth is not the real truth, but a carefully orchestrated lie.

The second half of the verse though is where the rubber meets the road.  For the wicked, it is clear who the speaker is not – the speaker is not the Lord because “there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  How can one listen to a speaker whose very existence is denied?  It is not that God is not speaking; it is that the wicked is not listening.  The wicked is not listening because “there is no fear [recognition, apprehension, understanding] before his eyes.”

We can let books speak to us, movies speak to us, radio and television speak to us, our next door neighbor speak to us, our own life experiences speak to us.  Those are the apparent speakers, the ones directly in front of us.  Just like in this verse, the thing is before us (our transgression) and that thing speaks to us.  But who is the speaker behind the speaker?

Christianity has an answer to that question.  The speakers behind the speakers are either God or Satan.

When we are confused by the messages we are receiving, perhaps we should ask ourselves who the speaker of those messages is.  God’s speech leads to eternal life; Satan’s speech leads to eternal death.  God’s speech leads to victory in the worse circumstances; Satan’s speech leads to defeat in the best circumstances.

Who is the speaker you are listening to?

_________

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

 

 

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