Bread – Fool

December 13, 2017


Psalm 92

The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:  that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever…” Ps. 92:6-7

We may be highly intelligent and well-educated according to worldly standards, know many things, and yet understand little.  Understanding requires wisdom and wisdom comes from God.  As a result, we may know much, be wise according to the world and yet still be a fool according to God.

Because the word “fool” has such a negative connotation and we are in the season of Christmas, I resisted using the word in the title.  And yet this Psalm clearly hits the nail on the head.  The fool may know much, but he or she does not grasp that success in this world does not equate success for eternity, and that, while success in this world, according to this world, may reside in man’s hands, eternity resides in God’s.  One might say that the fool sees the truth (and is therefore not stupid) but does not understand the truth of what he sees.

An example of this from the physical sciences could be gravity.  Everyone for all time saw apples falling from trees (and therefore knows that apples fall from trees) but it took Newton to point out the reason (gravity).  And, even then, from a Christian perspective, even this leap in knowledge was just that, a process from being more stupid to less stupid.  It still did not impart wisdom as to who was behind the curtain, the Author/Creator of not only the apple and the tree and the person to observe both, but of the rule of gravitation (God) and the laws of nature as well.

But since I didn’t like the word “fool,” I went to look for the original Hebrew word or phrase so translated.  Not having that particular resource at my disposal, however, I came across the NASB (New American Standard Bible) translation, which actually to me better expresses the verses: “A senseless man has no knowledge; Nor does a stupid man understand this:  That when the wicked sprouted up like grass, and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore.”  Maybe “senseless” is a little less harsh than “fool.”

So, where do we go with this today?  I suggest we go to prayer – “Lord, as we go through the rest of the week, open our hearts and minds to Your wisdom.  Do not let us be the fool the Psalmist is talking about.  Help us to understand, help us to hear, help us to see, help us to love. And while the wicked perish, bring us every day deeper and deeper into relationship with You so that we may glimpse the glory which awaits us in eternity.  Amen.”

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

 

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Bread – Joy

December 12, 2017


Psalm 92

It is good to give thanks to the Lord,…”  Ps. 92:1

The context of this Psalm is contained in its title, “A Song for the Sabbath.”  Therefore, the first line of the first verse could almost be phrased “On the Sabbath, it is good to give thanks to the Lord…”

For most Christians, Sabbath translates to Sunday, so another way of saying this is “On Sunday, it is good to give thanks to the Lord….”

Of course, it is good to always give thanks to the Lord, but for this Psalm and this Bread, let’s just focus on Sunday church.

Why is this Bread called “Joy” when the focus of this verse seems to be “good” and “thanks.”  One might well ask why giving thanks on Sunday is “good.”  Good for what?

Well, there are a lot of answers in “good for what.”  Good to restore our souls, good to bring rest, good to increase our awareness of God’s presence and His benevolence toward us, good to bring together God’s community so that we can better know how to love and be good neighbors, good for uplifting music, good for hearing informed preaching, etc.

But I wonder if that is what the real good is.  I wonder if the real good in giving thanks to the Lord on Sunday is that it brings us joy.

But, you say, “my Sunday does not bring me joy.”  I have to get up out my cozy bed; I have to get the kids fed and dressed; I have to hear everyone’s whining about “why do we have to go to Sunday School;”  I have to be nice to people when I get there; I have to pretend like I’m listening to the sermon; I have to put up with the restless child next to me, wondering why his or her parents didn’t put them in solitary; I have to try to sing even though my singing is best described as a resounding gong; and I have to look at my watch wondering if I will have time to cut the yard, play golf, watch the football game, drink with my buddies, work on the car, fix the light which just went out that morning.  What joy exists in those things?

We are in the middle of Advent, during a time of waiting for Christmas, at which time we will sing “Joy to the World.”  Who is this joy and what is this joy when the Sunday is not fun; it is work.

What our Psalm reminds us of is that each Sunday can be, if we will but open our hearts and minds, a mini-Christmas.  It can be celebration of our life in Christ and His community on earth.  It can be time of rest and renewal.  It can bring gladness, renew hope, fill us up with courage, outfit us with the clothing of the Holy Spirit, remind us of our eternal salvation by and through God’s grace, having nothing to do with our works.  In other words, it is good for us to give thanks to the Lord because it will bring us joy.

There is joy at Christmas because of the anticipation, because we see the target, because of Advent, because of the time before the event to get ready.

Let me make a suggestion.  Today and every day this week, let’s think about Sunday in anticipation of the truth it will bring, the love which will be felt and given, the communion which will shared, the opportunity to give thanks to the Lord, the hope it will instill, and the power of God which will be present and which infill us anew.

Instead of looking at the coming Sunday with dread, let us look at the coming Sunday with expectation of something exciting coming our way.

It is good on Sunday to give thanks to the Lord.  Why?  Because we will have a great blessing – joy.    Why?  Because Christ will be born anew in our hearts.  And we will worship.  And we will be blessed.  And that is very good indeed.

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

 

 

Bread – Love

December 8, 2017


Psalm 91

For He will deliver you from the snare of the fowler and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with His pinions, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and buckler. You will not fear the terror of the night, nor the arrow that flies by day …” Ps. 91:3-5

A friend of mine who was in the military told me that Psalm 91 was what he and some of his fellow soldiers recited in the midst of danger. And, indeed, the imagery of this Psalm is powerful to demonstrate for us that the Lord is our Protector and our source of the spiritual clothing which we need to stand in the evil day.

So why is this Bread labeled “love?”

As Christians, what do we fear? What is the “terror of the night” or the “arrow that flies by day?”

When the danger is upon us from our enemies, like in war, the “terror of the night” and the “arrow that flies by day” are obvious. The fear is that we will be horribly disfigured or killed.

And in these circumstances, it is easy to apply this Psalm because, for most Christians, the truth is that we may never be on a real battlefield with enemies with real guns and knives. As a result, we can rationalize the “since we have overcome death through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we do not fear death.”

But we as Christians are commanded to go to the battlefield and there love. The place is the battlefield of our work and our homes, our clubs and our churches, our world.

And on that battlefield we fear much, but primarily we fear that we will pour ourselves out in love to our spouse, our children, our bosses and subordinates, our co-workers, our friends and our acquaintances and we will receive back … the terrors of wondering in the night how they will react and the arrow shot at us by the very people we are trying to love by day. We are on the battlefield of life where our love will be met by indifference, by hostility, by blame, by anger, by ….

In our battle in life, the fowler is the person which will keep us from flying as birds with free spirit and the deadly pestilence is the disease of needing other people’s approval or thanks.

When we are in this battle, the only way we succeed in loving in the night of adversity is to recognize, as does our Psalmist, that it is God who delivers us from the bondage of the fowler and sets us free to fly victoriously, it is God who heals us of our sorrow of rejection and provides us the medicinal elixir of His love to recharge our batteries, it is God covers us with His wings and gives us rest, it is God who is faithful, it is God who equips us, and it is God who can overcome our fear, if we but ask and accept His Holy Spirit.

Why are weak Christians? Perhaps it is because we do fear what we do not know and what we do know, because we still want the respect and love of others.

There are many kinds of death. There is the death of life caused by gunshot. There is the death of life caused by the thousand cuts of uncaring friends, forgetful spouses, ungrateful children and parents, petty bosses, and a variety of people and events we can easily blame.

These are snares, these are diseases, these are terrors, these are arrows which pierce our heart and cause us to wallow in defeat. But they are overcome – by God.

While we live under the shelter of the Most High, we overcome and can love without acknowledgment or return. While we wear the armor provided by God, we overcome and can love without acknowledgement or return.

If we do not fly there is no one for the fowler to catch. If we do not enter the dark places, there are no terrors to confront. If we do not stand in the evil day, there is no one to shoot an arrow at.

So why don’t we just retreat? It is because we are called elsewhere; we are called out into the world to do battle. And in doing so God will free us from our chains, give us powerful medicine to ward off Satan’s disease, give us our daily bread, clothe us for the job, calm us in the day of terror, and give us rest. All we have to do is show up and love without condition … and God has and will do the rest.
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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Personal

December 6, 2017


Psalm 91

Because you have made the Lord your dwelling place – the Most High who is my refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you…”   Ps. 91:9-10

Psalm 91 is a wonderful psalm, much memorized, which is comprised of three parts, the “I” part, the “you” part, and the “I am” part.

The quoted Scripture today comes from the “you” part and I am quoting it because it is inconsistent in that it says that “because you” … “my refuge.”  To achieve consistency in the reading, one would think that the Psalm should say “…The Most High who is your refuge – no evil shall be allowed to befall you.”  No, instead, the Psalmist makes sure that he is using the word “my.”  Why?

I think the answer is actually in the structure of the entire Psalm.  It begins with I, it proceeds to you, and beyond it proceeds to God.

This is the inverse of how we think.  We tend to think first in the abstract – God.  We then tend to think in how that abstract applies to others – you.  And finally, if we really have to, kicking and screaming, we will apply the abstract to ourselves.  So, if we were to write this Psalm, we would likely start with the God statements, then proceed to apply the God statements to you, and then proceed to application to me.

If you think about it, this way of thinking results in two things, neither of which is good.  First, if we begin with the abstract we may stay there, which is a very safe place to be.  It is safe because it is of the mind, the intellect, and we can play “mind games” with it to the fullest extent of our training, education, and ability.  The second reason this way of thinking is not good is because it is selfish – we end up looking at ourselves last, meaning that we are looking down and looking inward, quite satisfied that we have ended up in the most important place in the room – with ourselves.

But this Psalmist, out of heart of gratitude for what the Lord has done for him, speaks first of himself and then looks outward to others and then to the heavens.

When we speak from the mind, we speak from the abstract to ourselves.  When we speak from the heart, from the core of our person, we speak from ourselves outward.

I think what the Psalmist has done is to say indirectly that he cannot speak to you about who the Lord is until he, the Psalmist, knows Him personally.  That is why the Psalmist immediately sticks the “my” in the reading today.  The Lord Almighty is your refuge and I know this because He is personal to me, He is the Most High, He is my refuge.”

Our job today may be to speak out in favor of God and to act in ways which bring glory to Him.  But we cannot do this effectively until our heart is right, and our heart is not made right without a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

We tend to preach at people, telling them that God should be their refuge.  Maybe the better evangel is the simple statement that God is “my” refuge, proven in our acts as we live life victoriously with abundance of love and charity.    At some point, when people see your heart in Christ, they will ask you why … and then you can say simply because I know Him personally … and then when they asked you how… you can say simply “because He first loved me and saved me.”

Make it personal.  Because it is.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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