Bread – Reflections

May 31, 2017


Psalm 67

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make His face to shine upon us, that Your way may be known on earth…” Ps. 67:1-2

As I think about God’s face shining on me, the image of Moses coming down the mountain comes to mind.  “When Moses came down from Mount Sinai…[he] did not know that the skin of his face shone because he had been talking with God.”  Ex. 34:29

In that event, the people knew that Moses had been with God because his face reflected it.

Does my face reflect God’s shining upon me?  Does my face reflect His graciousness, His love, His blessings in my life?

When the sun shines upon us, we will reflect either a suntan or a burn, but it will be obvious to everyone that we have been in the presence of the sun.  When the Son shines upon us, what do we reflect?  Do we reflect hope, charity, love, peace, or any other virtue?

One of the things we learned in school was that there were some surfaces which reflect light and others that absorb it.  For example, a plain stone absorbs light.  Polished granite, however,  reflects it.

Evil absorbs.  Good projects and reflects.

Anger absorbs.  Love reflects.

Worry absorbs.  Hope reflects.

Does my face reflect the hope that is in me, or does it merely absorb God’s light in a feeble attempt to recharge my internal batteries?  Am I outward focused (reflecting and projecting) or inward focused (absorbing and retaining)?

Another way of asking the same question is to ask whether it is my problems which I focus on (inward, absorbing) or the problems of my neighbor which I focus on (outward, reflecting)?

If God’s face has truly shined upon us, how can we not show it in our countenance (to use an old-fashioned word)?  How can we not show it in our faces, in our lives?

The truth is that we are very adept at receiving God’s blessings, of having God’s face shine on our lives, and then keeping it for ourselves.

If our skin reflects when we have been in the presence of the sun, then how much more should our face reflect when we have been in the presence of the Creator of the sun?

What blessing will we reflect today … that His way may be known upon the earth?

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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Bread – Awake

May 22, 2017


Psalm 66

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; give to Him glorious praise!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds!’”  Ps. 66:1-3

This morning, when I got out of bed, I made coffee, got the newspaper, showered, shaved, and prepared for the day.  Very routine, almost tiring.  And probably something very similar to what you did this morning.

And then I sat down to write Bread and read Psalm 66, the first three verses of which are quoted above.

And the first thought I had after reading “Shout for joy to God…” was, “How would my day be different if I woke up shouting for joy to God?  Instead of the mundane and the routine, what if I woke up every day with praise on my lips for the new day ahead of me, reveling in the majesty of God’s creation?

I think that if I awoke with a “shout for joy” on my lips, I would have started the day truly awake.  I would have been awake to the possibilities.  I would have been awake to the miracles.  I would have been awake to the overflowing blessings of God in my life and through my family and friends.  I would be awake to the mighty roar of welcome which the Lord presents us every day in His sunrise.

What does it take to be truly awake in this life our ours?  I think it is all contained in our quote for the day.  If we shout for joy at the awesomeness of God’s deeds, we will be very, very awake.  The other people around us are likely to be awakened as well.

Satan would have us fall into the trap of daily grind, making the rounds of the daily newspaper, the daily coffee, the daily teeth brushing, and the daily dressing for work.  Satan would have us focus on our “to do list” and all the labors before us, grinding us into submission and joylessness.

God on the other hand would have us wake up to Him and His – His creation, His majesty, His glory, His hope, His blessings, and His creatures – me and you.

“Rise up like a lion in the service of the Lord!”  This should be our war cry every morning.  But to even make this, we need to be awake to the glory of God around us, in us, and through us.  If we wake up with a shout for joy, we can then follow with a shout for service.  If we wake up with a shout of truth, we can then follow with a shout of love.

“Wake up and hear the birds sing?”

No.  Wake up and know God.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Vows

May 19, 2017


Psalm 65

Praise is due to You, O God, in Zion, and to You shall vows be performed.”  Ps. 65:1

Basically, a “vow” is a solemn promise.  “I promise to take out the garbage” is not a vow, nor often is it much of a promise.  It is more like a statement of good intent, but by making a “promise” and not keeping it we cheapen the term.  In fact, the word “promise” has so lost its substance in many respects that, when some promises to do something for us, we are happy when it is done but we know that the likelihood of the promise being fulfilled is, well, highly dependent on the trustworthiness of the person making the promise.  Which basically means, for most of us, that the promise is somewhat unreliable.

Whereas promises are made to each other, when a vow is made there is a third persons involved, namely God.  As the Psalmist says, it is to God that a vow is performed.

We often forget this.  We vow to tell the truth and then don’t.  Who have we failed to honor by breaking our vow?  God, because it is to Him the duty is owed.  We vow to honor our spouse and then don’t.  Who have we failed to honor by breaking our vow?  It is God (and our spouse).

We may sit under judgment of others every day, but those judgments are temporal.  God’s judgment is eternal.

God’s judgment is eternal but then, so are His own vows, His own covenants.  And luckily for us, God’s performance of His covenant toward us, when He has chosen us, is not dependent upon our performance of our vows to Him.  “Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts!”  Ps. 65:4

Blessed indeed we are, which is another reason we should stand steadfast in performance of our vows.  To the One to whom we owe our eternal lives in Christ, should we not honor by our diligent performance of our vows?

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

Bread – Dark

May 12, 2017


Psalm 63

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips, when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate upon You in the watches of the night.”  Ps. 63:5-6

If I used multi-word descriptions of Bread in the title, this would have been “watches of the night,” but I settled on “dark” because that is close.  One thing you can say about the “watches of the night” is that it is dark…and lonely.  Particularly if you are the only one awake, or are the sentinel on the outpost, or hunched over last minute study or work.

Who among us has not woken up at a terrible time at night, two or three in the morning, either too cold or too hot, too worried or too energized.  Perhaps a “bad dream” has awakened us.  Perhaps our brain has been working on a problem at work on overdrive.  Perhaps we drank a caffeinated beverage too late in the evening, or ate a bowl of ice cream which contained enough for three people.

For whatever reason, however, we are awake in the watches of the night, in the dark, alone and thinking.

What are we thinking about?  For many of us, we are probably thinking about how we can go back to sleep, maybe by reading a boring book or counting sheep.

For David, the Psalmist, though, the time of the dark, when alone in the quiet of the watches of the night, was a perfect time to meditate upon God and with God.

I say meditate “with” God on purpose.  We may actually meditate upon our blessings or, even, upon our sins, and we may think about how grateful we are for our blessings in “this life and in the age to come.”  When we are doing this, we are meditating about ourselves and about God, both of which may be good things.  But is the best thing?  What about meditating with God and letting Him lead our thoughts and our prayers and our self-examination.  Instead of saying to God, “I know how to meditate, I’ll handle it,” what if we said to God, “It is dark and I am alone.  I want You.  Lead me into Your thoughts that they may become mine.”

What would happen when we meditated with God instead of about Him?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into thinking about others instead of ourselves, into places of service rather than places of blessing, into examination of opportunities for being Christ to our neighbor?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into Scripture in a new way, exposing wisdom which we sorely need for the day and the week and the month and the year?

When we eat at the table which the Lord has prepared for us, our soul is satisfied “as” with a complete meal (“fat and rich food”).

In many older Roman and other liturgical churches, the priest at communion would stand with his back to the congregation, at the communion altar which is a sliver of stone stuck to the wall.  That always struck me as odd growing up, because why would you turn away from the congregation?  In fact, in more “modern” churches, the altar for communion is located where the celebrant can face the congregation.  One day, as an adult, someone told me why and it made all the sense in the world.  The priest, when his back is turned to the audience, preparing communion on the sliver of stone stuck to the wall, is actually standing in front of the congregation which is facing the same way, and the sliver of stone is the edge of the communion table which stretches into eternity, at which the saints sit for meal, for communion, with us.

In the dark, in the watches of the night, when we are alone we are not, for when we meditate with God, when we meditate on Him, we join the generations who have preceded and who will follow in celebration of our eternal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The way has been prepared.  All we have to do is listen and follow instructions.    After all, we are in the dark.  Why not meditate with God?  Instead of reading a good book, why not read the “best” book?  Instead of going back to sleep, why not enter life?

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Mine

May 8, 2017


Psalm 63

O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Ps. 63:1

A few years ago I was in the Texas panhandle during the heavy drought.  There was nothing green for miles.  One place I went struck me particularly hard.  It was a bridge over a waterway which was easily a football field wide, which obviously was designed to cross over a flowing large creek or small river.  There was nothing in this creekbed and there had been nothing in it so long that the ground of it was hard and cracked.  Why was the bridge there?  In times of plenty it was the way across a large flowing stream of water.  In time of drought, it looked odd.

In speaking with a rancher there, he was telling me about the extraordinary lengths he was going through to save his cows, digging deeper wells, bringing in water, and, most remarkably, purchasing hay from Indiana because none could grow on his ranch.

I asked him when and if he would decide to give up and sell out.  He basically said never, because the land was his father’s and grandfather’s.  The land was his and he would not abandon it.

There was an old Golden book I read, first as a child and then to my children.  It was about firemen.  One statement in that book has always stayed with me.  There was a fire and the family was rescued by the firemen.  The family’s house was burned to the ground.  And the family was standing outside looking at the burning house, each of them holding something.  One person, a boy, was holding a pillow.  The statement was something to the effect that “Each of them stood there holding the thing that was most valuable to them.”  I always thought it was funny that someone would hold onto a pillow as their most valuable thing to rescue from a fire.

In the middle of the drought, the thing most valuable to the rancher was his land, because it was “his.”  In the fire, the thing most valuable to the boy was his pillow, because it was “his.”

When will we treat our Lord that way?  When will we so possess Him that He is “mine?”  When will we consider Him so valuable that in the drought, we will take Him as ours; in the fire, we will leave with Him as our most valuable possession?

As I think about that question and look around my home office, I see many things which I might grab if my house were burning to the ground.  Among those things are my laptop computer, my files with important financial information, and my boxes of family history.  Would I care enough about God to take His Word, a Bible, with me?

I like to say that God is mine, just like I am sure you do.  But do we see God as “mine?”  Do we consider our relationship  with Him the most valuable relationship we have?  To we consider His Word to be the only fountain of wisdom in our library?  Do we seek Him in the morning, during the day, and at night?  Do we seek Him in the times of plenty and the times of drought?

If our house caught fire, would He be the first thing on our mind or the last?

As this Psalm shows, there is a whole lot of difference between thinking God is mine and acting like He’s mine, and there is a whole lot of difference between acting like God is mine sometimes and acting like He is mine all the time.

Lord, I know You have made me Yours.  Now, Lord, so increase my love of You that I have made You mine.  Amen.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Silence

May 1, 2017


Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; …” Ps. 62:1a

Silence is a rare commodity.  We work all day in the environment of chatter from people and machines.  We spend our evenings in the presence of radio and television, or computer games.  We are interrupted by the chime of e-mails and the ringing of phone calls.  We sleep at night to the sound of “white noise,” which is sound deliberately generated to cancel out other sound.  And when we, perhaps, find a moment alone without the attendance of other people, the Internet, or the television, when we find external silence, we are interrupted by a cacophony of noise emanating from our brains, things like recalling the day’s events, dreaming of tomorrow, and review of “to do” lists.  And even when our mind is silent our soul and emotions may be roiling with worries, concerns, fears, and anxieties.

There are really two times, I think, when our soul lives in silence.

The first time is when we are dead – spiritually.  When we are dead spiritually, our soul is dead too, meaning that there is no noise for it to respond to, no sound, just silence.  At that moment, when we are dead spiritually, our sould waits in silence for only one thing – God alone.  When God speaks to that dead soul, that dead body, we are awakened unto life.

At the time of our death, we are totally dependent upon God and we wait for Him to act to fill us with His Spirit so that we may know Him and love Him.

The second time our soul listens in silence is when we can reach that place where we have become totally dependent upon Him, not just partially dependent.  While we are partially dependent on Him, we are also dependent on ourselves and others, on our world, and as a result our soul cannot be completely silent because it is not at complete rest.  We know we cannot rely on the world or other people, and knowing that, we worry and our soul does not rest.

But when we can bring ourselves to radical dependence upon God, when our soul is silent, it is true then that we wait for God alone.  We can wait in silence in the firm knowledge that God will appear.

In one of the commentaries I read in preparation for this Bread, it emphasized that we do not often rely upon God alone.  We like to say we do, but we do not.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”  Lord, help us to achieve such silence that we know You and rely upon You alone.  Amen.

________

© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

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