Bread – Apparent

October 25, 2017

Psalm 88

Is Your steadfast love declared in the grave…Are Your wonders known in the darkness, or Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”  Ps. 88:11-12

The Psalmist finds himself in deep trouble and God apparently does not feel to him to be present in the psalmist’s dark days.

So the questions being asked by the Psalmist in the quoted passage may well be a type of argument or urging to God, suggesting that because, once a person dies God’s grace is no longer available, when a person sits in darkness God’s wonders are far away, or once a person forgets God then God’s righteousness disappears to them, He should always endeavor to bring us from our darkness into light so that we can see His steadfast love, His wonders, and His righteousness.  Otherwise would argue the Psalmist, perhaps, then God’s steadfast love, wonders, and righteousness will never be revealed.

And, indeed, much of the Bible talks about bringing man from darkness into light, shining light in dark places, and so forth, as if God is absent in the dark and that, as long as we are in the dark, we cannot know God.

Which really raises the question of “when is God apparent to us?”  On first blush, we know the answer to the question?  He is apparent in nature, in His Word written, and in His Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.  He is apparent in order.  He is apparent in the light.  When we can see His miracles, experience His basking love, sit under His shelter, and engage in strong, good fellowship, God is apparent to us.

So the Psalmist would say, perhaps, that God is not apparent in the dark.  While we are in the valley of despair, the Psalmist would say that God’s steadfast love is not seen, His wonders are not observed, and His righteousness is merely a theory.

Is the Psalmist right in his implication?  I would suggest that he is not.

Western society has been criticized to some extent, perhaps justifiably, by relying on the senses, the observable, rather than the spirit, the unobservable.  If we can’t see, hear, touch, feel, taste, or smell it, to our Western minds it does not exist.  We can see Jesus on the cross; we can see Him dies; we can hear His agony; we can see the empty tomb (all of which is in the light) – and therefore it is real.

So, in the dark, when our senses are cut off, when we cannot taste, see, hear, smell, or touch, to us God may well not be apparent.  It takes eyes to see His wonders, touch to sense His steadfast love, and hearing to know His righteousness – doesn’t it?

Well, other cultures know that there is another “sense” by which we can operate.  I hesitate to call it “spirit” but prefer to describe it as a knowing which occurs in our heart, not because of our sense or knowledge, but because of our faith.

How does this knowing occur?

I will answer this question this way – “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us live together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…”  Eph. 2:5  While we were in the grave, God’s steadfast love toward us became apparent to us and in our heart, we knew Him.

We may be in the dark, in sickness, despair, worry, depression, loss, and grief a long, long time, just like the Psalmist.  It may be that, while we sit there, God has shown us no way out and, to our senses, He is missing.  But He is apparent, even in the darkness, if we have a heart of faith.  In the darkness His steadfast love is apparent, His wonders are apparent, and His righteousness are apparent – if we have a heart of faith.

How do we obtain this heart of faith?  First, it is not obtained but given.  Second, we can begin this way – “Come Holy Spirit and, today, renew a right spirit within me.”  The spirit of faith.  Even in the dark.


© 2017 GBF

Bread – Cities

October 18, 2017

Psalm 87

On the holy mount stands the city He founded; the Lord loves the gates of Zion…Among those who know me I mention Rahab (Egypt) …” Ps. 87:1-2,4

The Psalmist here is speaking in his own day about a city he knew, called then Zion; a place today which is likely Jerusalem.

We know from other Scripture that there is also a holy city in the heavens which will be brought to earth in the last days.  (“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, … And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, …”  Rev.21:1-2

But the Psalmist could also be talking  about a type of modern city, a city on a hill which shines forth the glory of the Lord, is inhabited by believers, and is sustained by the power of God.  This city Jesus referred to in Matthew, where He said: “You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden…In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your people in heaven.”  Matt. 5:14,16

There are three “places” we can live in.  We can live in the past and look to Jerusalem.  We can live in the heavens and look to the holy city in heaven, waiting for the end.  Or we live in the present, in the place we are planted, in the city we can call home.

We are here as ambassadors of the kingdom of God.  But we are also here as citizens of our city.

Does our city, comprised of God-fearing citizens, shine forth the light of Christ?

Probably not and so we have two solutions to that.  One solution requires us to use the city-power to tax and spend, pretending to shine a light by government-sponsored and operated “good works.”  By this “solution,” we try to use our political and economic power to create a pseudo-light, a light-lite so to speak.  Because this light is generated by a city comprised of men acting as men, it sputters and dims, sometimes going out completely, and never quite reaching the places of darkness for which it is intended.

The second solution requires us to use God-power to change us and by changing us, transform our relationships, actions, and our entire lives into light sources.  Since we, by living in close proximity together, are the city, our transformed lives and individual lights then give light to the entire city.  Because this light is generated by a city comprised of men acting as saints, it does not fade, it does not die, and it reaches into a dark world.

We do not change a city by edict or rule but by changing ourselves, by becoming lights which, when combined, create a city which shines forth in the darkness, becoming a beacon of hope.

America is a beacon of hope to many.  It is not a beacon of hope because it intended to be a beacon of hope.  It is not a beacon of hope because of governmental programs.  It is not even a beacon of hope because of economic theory.

America is a beacon of hope because each citizen who follows Christ is himself or herself strong light sources.  And we live in cities, and we live in a nation.

If the people are good, the city is good – not so vice versa.

Do we want to live in places of light, hope, charity, love and peace?  Then let’s begin by looking at ourselves in the mirror and asking ourselves, today, whether we will shine with the light of Christ, today.  As we do that, we may one day look back and see that, indeed, we did live in the city on the hill which is the lighthouse of the world.


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






Bread – United

October 13, 2017

Psalm 86

“…You alone are God.  Teach me Your way, O Lord, that I may walk in Your truth; unite my heart to fear Your name.”  Ps. 86: 10b-11

Every so often out of the middle of Scripture jumps a word which seems out of place.  In this case, the word is “unite.”  We understand asking God to teach (tell) us His way so that we know the way we should follow (“walk in His truth”).  But why is it necessary to ask God to “unite” our heart in order to “fear Him?”

Everyone is familiar with the phrase “United we stand; divided we fall.”  But who is familiar with the phrase “United we fear; divided we don’t?”

And yet the two phrases are in fact the same.  With God we can stand in the evil day; without Him, we cannot.  With God our house is built on solid rock and can withstand the storm; without God our house is built on shifting sand and will blow down when adversity comes.

And, yet, as we sit and study our heart, our innermost feelings and thoughts, the “heart of the matter,” our core … are we united in our thinking or divided?

I think that if we answer this question honestly, while we may wish we were united and consistent in our thinking, we realize that we are not.  Today we think one way and tomorrow another.  Our principles are not standards we latch hold of, but merely guideposts as we slalom down the ski slope of life.  Our reliance on God is more a theory than a fact.  We trust Him … sort of, mostly.

We have doubts and we call those doubts the effect of rational thought, so that we can have an excuse to avoid being united in our heart.

God tells us to flee sin, but instead we flee commitments.  The reason we flee commitments is that the making of a commitment is an act of being united in heart.  Once a commitment is made, if it is indeed truly made, then doubts about it are the fuel of mischief.

The Psalmist asks God to unite his heart because he knows that God is the only one with power to do it.

Another version of this same request is – “My Father, Who art in heaven … but deliver me from evil.”  What evil – a divided heart.  With a divided heart we cannot adequately fear God, we cannot adequately hear God, we cannot adequately follow God, and we cannot adequately worship Him.    Satan’s weapon of choice (other than lies) is the seed of doubt (which is another version of a lie).

Like so many Psalms, there is a great truth locked into this little verse.  Do we want to walk in God’s truth?  Do we want to hear Him and follow Him?  Do we want to be taught His ways?  Then we must first have a united heart, one wholly devoted to Him.

Who can unite our heart?  There is only one, the only one, for “You alone are God.”  Ps. 86:10.

And so, to fulfill our desire that we follow in His way and His truth, two things must be true and are bookended here.  The first is that we must know that God alone is God and the second is that we must have a united heart around that knowledge.

Unite my heart, O Lord, that I might fear You and know that You are God.  Then I will be ready to be taught and to follow.

United we stand; divided we fall.


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




Bread – Steadfast

October 11, 2017

Psalm 86

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am poor and needy…For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”  Ps. 86:1,5

We pray to God for help in times of need … why?  Do we believe He pays attention?  Do we believe He cares?  Do we believe that He will in fact intervene to save us in our distress?  Do we believe He is able?  Do we believe that He is God?

We know that we do not bring before God the first fruits of our labor.  We do not spend time with Him.  We do not thoroughly study His Word, although we actually have a Bible on our bookshelf.  We may acknowledge His existence in some kind of reality, but we routinely ignore Him, blithely going about our lives wrapped up in ourselves.

Maybe we pray to Him in times of need as reflex action.  Maybe we do it because, having reached the ends of ropes of our making, we think that there can be no harm and, who knows, there may be some good.

Sounds all pretty cynical, doesn’t it?

I write this way to make a point.  We do not really understand what “steadfast” means because we, ourselves, are driven by the mood of the day, the breakfast we ate, the quality of the relationships we have, our title, our possessions, the need of the moment, the crisis before us, the weather, and 10,000 other things which drive us to and fro, from the heights of victory to the valley of despair, from left to right.  We do not understand what “steadfast” is because we ourselves are naturally built of sticks upon sand, constantly changing our direction based upon the direction of the wind.

And what is our reference point, if not us?

This is the ancient and modern fallacy of thinking.  If we are indeed the reference point, then the concept of steadfast has no meaning because we ourselves are steadfast for maybe a few minutes a day.

To understand steadfastness, we need to have an absolute reference point – and that is God.  We may pray out of need, but we pray to God because we know who He is.  We know Him as Creator and Savior.  We know Him as the only God.  We know Him as full of grace (mercy).  We know Him as One who is steadfast.

If we understand steadfastness at all, it is because we kneel before the One who invented the concept, who is the concept, who demonstrates the concept.

Where in our lives does God show steadfast love?  We are still denied the promotion, the salary increase, the wished for and dreamed about opportunity, the miraculous healing from cancer.  We are not happy clappy, so where is this so-called “steadfast” love?

It is shown quite simply in that we are forgiven our sins (trespasses) against Him, that we are saved from ourselves and in spite of ourselves, for all eternity, in Jesus Christ.

Regardless of whether we are in the valley of our failures or the mountaintops of our successes, God’s steadfast love does not move, it is not shaken, it is not compromised, it does not wane, it does not lose intensity, it does not diminish, it does not go away.  It remains, through thick and thin, darkness and light, worry and elation.

We, too, can be steadfast in our faith, in our love, in our devotion … if we will but stand on the solid rock, the absolute steadfastness of God.  All else is sinking sand.


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









Bread – R

October 6, 2017

Psalm 85

Restore us again, O God of our salvation … Will You not revive us again … Show us Your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us Your salvation.  Let me hear what God the Lord shall speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints; but let them not turn back to folly.  Surely His salvation is near to those who fear Him, that glory may dwell in our land.”  Ps. 85:4,6-7, 8-9

This Bread is called “R” because this Psalm reveals so many of the “R” words which matter to us in our Christian walk as individuals, as people, and as a nation.

These “R” words are Remember, Restore, Revive, Reveal, Resist, and Rest.

Remember, because this Psalm requires us to remember who we are as sinners and who God is as creator and savior.

Restore, because without a right relationship with God and to God, we have no connection.  Restoration of our relationship to each other begins with restoration of our relationship to God.  Restoration of our relationship with our surroundings, our earth, begins with restoration of our relationship to God.  Restoration of our rightful places, as righteous rulers of the earth, as heads of our households, as workers in the fields of life, as saints, and as obedient bondservants begins with restoration of a right relationship with God.  And who is in charge of that restoration?  In a sense we are as prodigal sons who must look up from our piggeries and see the home where we belong.  But, more importantly, the person who is in charge of that restoration is the same person who is charge of our salvation – and that is God Himself.  He is the One who must restore, because but for His love, His forgiveness, and His power, we would have no position to do it ourselves.

Revive, because we need a fresh infusion of God’s Holy Spirit on a minute-by-minute basis to avoid falling into Satan’s pits of confusion, despair, and forgetfulness.

Reveal – “Let me hear what God the Lord shall speak.”  God has spoken in his written Word and in Jesus Christ.  Both the fact and the content of that need to be revealed to us by God.  We have a job to show up, to read and study, and to try to understand.  But while we try God works in us to reveal His truth and His love.

Resist, because when we know what is right because we have been restored and revived, and God’s truth has been revealed to us, it is time for Satan to get involved, to drag us back and defeat us.  “Let them not turn back to folly” is a reminder that the choice to return to foolishness is ours to make; to avoid it, we must flee sin, we must resist.

And finally, Rest.  Where does that word in this Psalm come from?  It comes from this – “Surely His salvation is close…that glory may dwell in the land.”  If God’s glory dwelt fully in the United States, what would we be doing today?  If God’s glory is present in its fullness, then we have surrendered fully.  Once we have surrendered fully and acknowledged that He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords, we may dwell with Him in safety.  What is that?  Rest.

Given the problems of the day, the difficulties of life, and circumstances of a fallen world, the encroachment of sin, and the sounds and sights of war and destruction, what we all need and want is rest.

Restore me again, o Lord of my salvation.  Revive my spirit.  Teach me Your ways, so that You might be fully revealed to me.  Help me to resist Satan.  And bring me Lord to that place of rest, where you dwell in glory.

What more can we ask for?


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


Bread – Blessings

October 4, 2017

Psalm 85

Lord, You were favorable to Your land; You restored the fortunes of Jacob.  You forgave the iniquity of Your people; You covered all their sin.  You withdrew all Your wrath; You turned from Your hot anger.”  Ps. 85:1-3

All this is the past tense.  What is the Psalmist doing.  He is remembering the blessings the Lord has bestowed upon His land and His people.  Lest we be inclined to limit this to Israel (since the Psalms were directed at the time to Israel), who can deny that the Lord has been generous to the United States, that He has multiplied the fortunes of its peoples many times over, and that, through His Son Jesus Christ, He has covered the sins of those who have faith in Him and withdrawn His wrath?  Although the Psalmist wrote in his generation to those who read and listened, he also wrote God’s revelation to us today.

There is a commentary on the Psalms I refer to from time to time and which said something today which is not only striking but also why I called this Bread “Blessings.”  The author said “If God gives us good health, a happy and supporting family, a good job, and praise from our employer and friends, we think we are blessed.  If we lack any one of these things, we begin to suppose that God has somehow forgotten us or does not care.  We do not think how blessed we are to have our sins forgiven …”  Boice, James, An Expositional Commentary Psalms 42-106 (Baker Books 1996) (pg. 696).

As a country, we have recently been through times of great hurricanes and the destruction of lives and property which goes with those events, we have been through never-ending bouts of criticism from inside and outside the country, we are living under the threat of nuclear war by rogue insanity, and we have recently been victim to the Las Vegas shootings by an “ordinary” man.  Many of us may be forgetting our blessings and believing that God has somehow forgotten us or does not care.

What this “ordinary” man has shown us, again, is how wide, deep, and long our sin is.  There is an old saying which goes something like, “There, but for the grace of God, go I.”  Because of our sin, we all have the capacity for great cruelty and depravity unless we are retained, sustained, and restrained by a greater power.

And this greater power is not the state.  The state may punish evil, but it cannot restrain evil.  In fact, unfortunately, once evil has taken the reins of state power, evil can be amplified by the state as we have seen most recently in North Korea and, not so long ago, in Germany, Italy, Cambodia, and many, many more places.

No, our greatest blessings are not in the soundness of our sleep, the depth of our bank account, the size of our real estate, the sparkle of our jewels, the titles we bear, or the power we exert.  Our greatest blessings are that, in spite of ourselves, God loves us, He cares for us, He sustains us, and, for those who believe in Jesus Christ, He saves us from our sin for all eternity.

The first three verses of our Psalm today cause us to recall our real blessings so that we may walk confidently in the love and power of God into today.

We are blessed.  Let’s act like it.


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

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