Bread – Number

November 27, 2017


Psalm 90

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Ps. 90:12

I was in the car the other day with my grandson, who has learned to count to a hundred.  He counted to seventy and then asked me to count to forty as fast as I could.  I had gotten to twenty-one when he yelled out “times up!”  Of course, this was a game and he made up the rules, so I would always run out of time before I achieved the objective.

What are our objectives for today, this week, and the rest of this year (it now being November 27)?  Our time management experts would suggest that we take the time every day to review our mission and our goals and lay out achievable things to do which will help us achieve those objectives, checking them off as we go through our day buffeted by the winds of other people’s agendas.

So is that what God is telling us to do through Moses, the Psalmist, in Psalm 90?  If, by the grace of God, we are able to realize that our days are few and numbered, are we to achieve a heart of wisdom by daily effort?

A reasonable response to this question might well be yes, on the idea that, if we belong to God, we know that our mission is to honor and love Him and, in the process, to then love and honor our neighbor as ourselves.  This requires prayer, study, and work of the heart, mind, and hands.  And some people consider wisdom to be knowing the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons.

But it is not the only response to the question.  It seems to me that there is a reason the phrase is this – “So teach … that we may get….”  The words are not “tell” and they are not “achieve.”  The words are “teach” and “may get.”  The emphasis seems not to be on us deciding and doing, but upon us listening and receiving.

There is a question sometimes asked which is “If you knew this were your last four hours (1 day, 2 days, 2 weeks, one month) on earth, what would you do?”  People’s answers are rarely that they would review their to do list and go into work.  Instead, most people answer that they would spend time with friends and family, surrounded by those they love and who love him or her.  Most people would spend their last days, if they knew they were their last days, in “being in the moment.”

Yes, we need to plan.  Yes, we need to do.  But, also yes, we need to be in the moment, sensitive to the relationship before us.  Perhaps that relationship in our quiet time is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Perhaps that relationship on the elevator is the person who needs to know that someone cares.  Perhaps that relationship in our house is with our wife or husband or children.

Start counting and sooner or later a little voice from the backseat will yell out “times up.”  Knowing that, we are prepared to receive a heart of wisdom from God.  Wisdom not for knowing what to do, but for who to be.  Not for knowing what to say, but for knowing how to love.  Not for knowing how to plan for the future, but for knowing how to live in the present.  Not for knowing who we are, but for knowing Whose we are.   Wisdom in time, for all time.

Our days are numbered; the counting has begun.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bread – Short

November 10, 2017


Psalm 89

How long, O Lord? … Remember how short my time is! … Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.”  Ps. 89:46-48 (excerpts)

The Psalmist finds himself in dire straits, at the bottom of the pit, without it appearing to him that God is in sight or even cares.  He yells out to God, “Hey, how long are You going to be before You show up!” And, then, just to make sure God really understands, he yells out “Hey, remember that I’m here on earth on a short period of time!”

Sort of funny, if you think about it, that a man is yelling at God to remember what He created.

He is yelling at God to remember when what he should really be doing is yelling at himself in the mirror to remember.

Remember what?  Well the answers to that question are in our quotation for today.

We need to remember that our time on earth is short and ask ourselves, what are we doing with today?  How are we spending our time?

And we need to remember that the answer to the question of “who can deliver my soul from the power of Sheol” is Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten not made, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father…

What is truly amazing about this whole set of questions is that, by man yelling at God, he is actually praying to God and God does respond to prayer often by bouncing the question right back.  When the Psalmist yells at God, “How long, O Lord?” the question rebounds upon man by God asking “How long, O Man, will you ignore Me, disobey Me, dishonor Me, and reject Me.”  When the Psalmist yells at God “Remember how short my time is,” the yell echoes back onto man, saying to man “Do you remember how short your time is.”  When the psalmist yells at God “Who can deliver his [man’s] soul from the power of Sheol,” God throws back the question and says “Who do I [God] say it is.”

This Psalm ends with “Blessed be the Lord forever!  Amen and amen.”  How does a person go from yelling at God in verses just prior to saying Amen and Amen to “Blessed be the Lord forever?”

Maybe because, by praying (yelling) to (at) God, the psalmist is now prepared to hear the response –  “Yes, your time is short.  The who is Jesus.  The when is now.”

_______

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

 

Bread – Building

November 8, 2017


Psalm 89

For I said, “Steadfast love will be built up forever.”  Ps. 89:2

The nature of Scripture is that, as you look for one thing, you find another revealed to you by the Holy Spirit.  So it is today.

What I was looking for was the word “forever.”  In Psalm 89, the word “forever” occurs eight times, even trumping the word “faithfulness” (seven times).

And in the process of looking at the use of the word “forever,” I stumbled across the words which preceded it – “will be built up.”

When we think of God’s steadfast love toward us, we think of a constant, stable and unchanging through time.  We don’t think of it being “built up.”

So, in which way is God’s steadfast love toward us “built up?”

There are at least three different ways (and probably many more) we can answer this question.

One way is to say that, although God’s love toward us is constant, stable, unending, forever, He doles it out to us as we can take it or as we can use it.  In this view, God’s love is a giant reservoir of water and God controls the spigot, letting out so much at a time.  I think this view is unsatisfactory because it somehow suggests that God’s steadfast love is not so steadfast, but only comes to us in pieces and in intensity as He wills it.  I think sometimes when we get mad at God because He has not “helped” us in the way we want or need, we think this way – that God controls the amount of love from He we get.  This kind of thinking can also lead us into believing that, because God has appointed His “priests” as His representatives on earth, they (the priest) have their hand on the faucet of God’s love and can either grant or deny us access to it (as received in the sacraments, particularly of communion).

Another way we can answer the question of how God’s steadfast love “will be built up” is to answer it from our perspective.  As we become more mature as Christians, even in our darkest hour we learn how to take more and more of God’s love into us to sustain us.  In this point of view, God’s steadfast love is the reservoir, but we control the valve which lets it into our lives.  As we become less afraid, stronger in the Lord, we become more willing and able to turn the faucet on full blast.  From this point of view, when we are in the valley of despair and we do not sense or believe that God loves us, perhaps it is because we have forgotten to turn on the water of life or, more likely, Satan with his tricks has convinced us to turn the faucet knob the wrong way, closing it off rather than opening it up.

But I actually prefer a third point of view.  That is to look at our life as a building, one which begins with the foundation on solid rock of faith and is built over the years with loving hands into a man or woman able and willing to do good works which bring honor and glory to God.  With a building in mind, the phrase “steadfast love will be built up” suggests that there is no spigot or restriction on God’s love, but that as we are able to hold more of God’s love (because our building is bigger), God’s steadfast love [in us] will be built up into larger and larger quantities.

There are two delightful results from the building concept.  The first are the words “will be.”  As we walk in our Christian faith, it “will be.”  Not “may” be, but “will be.”  The result is certain – God’s steadfast love will be built up [in me].  The second delightful result is that there are now two reservoirs of God’s steadfast love.  The first reservoir we have talked about.  The second is the reservoir of God’s steadfast love which has been built up in us.  It is a reservoir which, because it draws on an unlimited supply, can be shared with others.  We can draw freely from God’s reservoir in us of His steadfast love to give freely to others.

As Christians, we often think of sharing “our” love with others.  That is nice, but our love has a limit – His love is unlimited.   Perhaps we love so poorly and so rarely because we are drawing on the wrong source.

As we are being built today to hold God’s steadfast love, let us help build up others so that they, too, can be filled … forever.

_______

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

 

 

Bread – Journeys

November 7, 2017


Psalm 89

I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever … You have cut short the days of his youth, You have covered him with shame.  How long, O Lord?  Will You hide Yourself forever?…Blessed be the Lord forever!  Amen and Amen.”  Ps. 89:1,45-46,52

This is a long psalm in part because it describes a long saga, a long journey of the Psalmists observations of God’s faithfulness through time.  The only problem is that the Psalmist sees what to him is a failing of that covenant because bad things have happened and there appears to be no end in sight.

When we are born of woman, we begin a journey which, from our perspective, begins at the delivery table.  For our mother and father, though, that journey began at conception, working through nine months of development.  For our Father in heaven, that journey began when we were conceived at the beginning of the world.  When we are born again by God, our spiritual journey with and in Him begins at that moment of infusion into us of the mercy of faith and our subsequent response to that gift.

When we are born of woman, our journey ends at death.  When we are born of God, our journey lasts a lot longer.

But what happens in between our beginning and our end?  This is the journey of life on earth, in time, among others, in and out of community, toward or away from earthly wealth and pleasures.

It is a journey of mountaintops and valleys.

We have a lot of choices about how we take or manage that journey.  We can go by ourselves, in our own strength, using our own intelligence and talents, walking or running as the sole runner in a race laid out for just me.  We can go with others, sharing our hopes and fears, our heights and our depths, either in covenant relationship (like marriage) or buddy relationships (friends), but then being bound by the thoughts, moods, and desires of others, subject to “group think” and going in the direction set by the community.   In community, both our highs and lows are buffered by the averaging which occurs in groups, by having others’ shoulders to “cry on” or “celebrate with.”  And finally, we can go on our journey with God, suffering the intensities of lows (as did the Psalm 89 psalmist) but having a companion to lean on, learn from, rest under, and be empowered for perseverance by.

Who is your companion on your journey today?  Do you not have one because you are a free spirit and independent?  Do you have many because you are a friendly person, naturally surrounding yourself with your networking groups?  Or do you have One, the One?

If you are on your journey with Jesus Christ as your savior, you might well feel like the Psalmist, thinking that in the ruin and destruction surrounding you that God has abandoned His covenant, that God has somehow proven unfaithful to you.  But, truly, in your heart, in your soul, you know better.  The Psalmist says today “Lord, where is Your steadfast love of old,…Blessed be the Lord forever!”  (Ps. 89:49,52).  How can he say that?  How can you say that?

Both the psalmist and you who know the Lord can say it because, while He may have appeared to have abandoned you, He has not.  Even in the valley of your journey He lifts you up and carries you.  And He will carry you because He was, is, and forever will be.  Blessed be the Lord forever!

To which we reply during our journey of faith into the fearful and unknown, “Amen and Amen.”

_______

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

 

%d bloggers like this: