Bread – Old

February 28, 2018


Psalm 98

Oh sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done marvelous things!”  Ps. 98:1

So begins one of my favorite Psalms because I like to sing and the Psalm is incredibly full of descriptive language, demonstrating how the entirety of life joins in making a “joyful noise.”  Somehow the phrase “Let the rivers clap their hands” strikes me as amazingly rich in the image it raises up, both to the eye and the ear.

So why call this Bread “Old?”

Because I wanted to ask the question, why does the Psalmist ask us to sing a “new” song?  Surely the old hymns (psalms) are good enough, rich enough, full enough of theology and truth, stating the great themes of the faith?

Apparently the old is not good enough – the song we sing to the Lord must be “new.”

And indeed it must.  What we face today is different than what we faced yesterday and what we will face tomorrow.  Yes, the old teaches us and those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, but each day should be a new, renewed celebration of our relationship with our Savior, a joyous union of confession, prayer, forgiveness, love, and action expressed in obedience and good works.  Each day is new and saying that I went to church yesterday, I prayed yesterday, I cared yesterday, I did a good work yesterday, does not work for today – the day the Lord has given us as a gift.

Not only that, but we have a “New” Testament for a reason.  God did something new for us when He built the bridge back to Himself on the striped back and the pierced hands of Himself, Jesus Christ.   In the power of the Holy Spirit, we take on the newness of life and that life, eternal, when we accept Jesus as our Savior.  We are born “anew.”  This new miracle deserves a new song.

Even more than the Psalmist, who had only a vision of something to come in the future, we know that “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.”  Ps. 98:3b  We have seen it because it happened on a cross a long time ago, and it happened in our lives when the reality of Jesus Christ came crashing into us, when we were enveloped in His love and forgiveness, when we were made strong in the Holy Spirit to live in the world as ambassadors of His kingdom, but avoid being poisoned by the world.

So, what new song am I singing today?  Is the song of old or is the song of today?

There may be some of you who are asking themselves the question, what is wrong with that question?  What is wrong with it is the failure to recognize the third choice, that the old song is the new song.

Because just as the Psalmist many many years before the birth and death of Christ saw the salvation which comes from the Lord and wrote his Psalm and sang his song, we get to experience that joy every day.  His song of salvation is our song of salvation.  His God is our God.

See, it is not the song which is sung but the heart which sings it.

One of our prayers said in church contains the phrase “Lord, renew a right spirit within me.”  Yes, “Lord, renew a right spirit within me so that I may sing a new song … every day, for the rest of my life on earth, and in heaven.”

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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Bread – Sown

February 22, 2018


Psalm 97

The Lord reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!…Light is sown for the righteous, and joy for the upright in heart.”  Ps. 97:1,11

I was originally going to write about the visual image of coastlands being glad and the earth rejoicing.  Then I read this – “Light is sown for the righteous…”

We normally think of something that is sown as buried (like seed), to then come into visual display some time later after the passage of certain events, like time, warm weather, and rain.  In other words, when we sow something we plant it inside of something else.  Seed is hidden until it springs forth as a flower or other plant.  Wisdom is hidden until revealed.

We normally also think of God and light in terms of His creating it and casting it into darkness, lighting up the world.

But what if God actually “sows” light?

If God sows light, where is it planted and when and under what conditions is it revealed to the world?

Some of this answer is obvious.  Light is sown into the greater and lesser lights, the sun and the other stars, and returned to us on a daily basis as it is radiated by these celestial objects.  In this sense, God has sown into the material world the chemical composition capable of producing light once pressure or temperature is applied.  Old wood, for example, has been sown with light, revealed when set on fire by a match.

Some of this answer is not obvious.

I am fond of pointing out that God does not light our path far enough ahead to see where the end is, but only enough to see where the next step is.  But what if that is not exactly true?  What if it is necessary for us to take the first step into darkness in faith, believing in God’s truth and promises, and by doing so the light which has been sown by God into the path lights the next step?

Perhaps this is where so many Christians are weak.  We sit around waiting for God to light the path we are to take, when He has already sown the light in the path, revealed once we step out into the darkness in faith?  In this way of thinking, we are obedient to the command to act without really seeing if the path is correct, only believing it is because God has told us it is.  But when we believe and take that step, something happens to confirm our way.  Something lights up; something “dawns” on us.

But perhaps even more profoundly, we understand that the light has been sown in us when we were fashioned at the beginning of the world for relationship with God and God’s glory.  Perhaps that “God hole” in our heart, mind, and soul referred to by Pascal is the place where the light is sown, and our wanderings into various forms of spirituality are merely attempts to figure out how to cause it to reveal itself.

This would help explain our striving, but it also reveals the flaw in our reasoning.  When we chase after the world’s forms of spirituality to activate the “sown light” in us, we chase after phantoms.  After all, doesn’t it make the most sense to chase after the One who created the light, who planted the light, and who has come to earth and died for our sins that we might have the Light of the World and that in abundance?

Much like wood has light sown into it, which cannot be revealed until the match is struck (thereby generating its own light), our sown light is itself not ignited until touched by the flame of the Holy Spirit, which occurs only when and if God does it.

There is an old Christian, sort of charismatic, ditty which goes “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine…”  Like so many things, this is true and not true at the same time.  It is true that I have a light sown into me by God, and it is true that my light is “little” compared with God’s own great light.  However, the light that shines forth is not truly mine, it is God’s.  It is God’s created light, it is God’s sown light, and it is God’s revealed light, if it does indeed shine forth.  And in one sense, I am the one who decides whether to let it shine.  But in another sense, since it is God who planted it, God who created it, God who activated it by enabling my belief in Jesus, and God who uses it in the power of the Holy Spirit for His glory, it is really God who decides.

Just like the seed may be strong but the plant produced by it may be weak when it is not cared for, our light sown into us by God may be strong but its actual projection into the world may be dim if we are not feeding it with the Word and energizing it with maintaining our relationship to God.

Light is sown in us to be used in darkness.  How bright a beam proceeds from us?

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Glory

February 16, 2018


Psalm 96

Oh sing to the Lord a new song … Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples!”  Ps. 96:1,3

There are some words we use all the time and yet I wonder if we have a clue about what they really mean.  One of these words is “glory.”

Do we really known what “glory” means in its fullest sense?

We may have glimpse from time to time of glory.  For example, the sun coming up in the morning, spraying its rays of golden shafts of light throughout the morning, may strike us as glorious.  In the fields of wildflowers there may be great beauty and variety such that we have an idea of what glory is.  The majestic tall mountains and the pounding of the surf of the sea may bring us into a place of wonder.  The birth of a new baby may bring us to a similar place.

My personal best “experience” of a glimpse of glory was actually in a Mexican church, when a beam of noonday light through a tall window hit a statue of Jesus dressed in gold leaf and the entire cathedral was instantly bathed in the brightest natural light imaginable.  Breath-taking.  Glorious.  An instant in time but forever seared into my brain.

But, other than somehow intellectually, does Western man even have a glimmer of God’s glory?

Glory cannot be easily defined and I am not sure the brain can absorb it – glory is something which is experienced.  It is demonstrated.  It is felt.  It may be seen by the eyes but it affects the heart.  The brain may be enlightened by glory, but it is the soul which is made enlivened by glory.

As I described the mountains, the sea, the new birth, the sun, the fields, and the golden statue, maybe you could identify with those moments and come up with your own.

But would I, or you, describe God the same way?

He is brighter than the sun, more majestic than the mountains, more eternal than the sea, more light-generating than a golden statue, more life-enabling than a live birth.  Of all of our experiences that we might say are “glorious,” He is more.

It is said that our purpose as Christians is to, through our good works, bring Him glory.

How do we do that when we don’t even begin to think of Him in this way? – “Spendor and majesty are before Him; strength and beauty are His sanctuary.”  Ps. 96:6

How do we bring Him glory when we have the merest glimmer of what glory is and who He is?

I think the answer to that may lay in that Mexican church, with the golden statue and the shaft of light.  If we understand that the Word (written and incarnate in Jesus Christ) is fine gold and we wrap ourselves in it, then when God’s light shines on us, the light reflected brings glory to all the dark places.  And the people’s attention will turn not to the statue but to the Light, to the Light of the World.

And they too will be amazed, and God, the Light of the World, will be glorified.

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

Bread – Love

February 14, 2018


Matthew

And He [Jesus] said to him [the lawyer], ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”   Mt. 22:37-40

Today is Valentine’s Day, where everyone in reaching distance of a card and candy display, shows their “love” by doing nice things for their “significant others.”

Because it is Valentine’s Day, I broke with the pattern of writing from the Psalms and instead write today about love, quoting Jesus’ summary addressed to the lawyers among us who want rules and guidelines.  Besides, when I woke up this morning I had a definite impression that I was supposed to write about love.

And what can I say which is different than what Scripture says or God says or even Hallmark cards, for that matter?

Well, I can try to answer the question about what love is, because it finally dawned on me this morning.

Love is not a feeling.  And it is not really words or actions, although these do flow from love.

Love is an attitude.  (attitude = disposition toward life)

We speak often in Christian circles of an “attitude of gratitude.”  It has poetic ring and it makes a point, which is that we should be grateful in all things for the blessings we have received, not the least of which is our salvation.

But we never speak of an “attitude of love.”  And yet, isn’t that what Jesus is saying.  Be turned always toward God and be disposed toward Him, seeking His glory in all things, seeking to be obedient to His desires, His Word, His commandments, His law, seeking to reflect the love He showed us by dying on the cross for our sins so that we might have life and that, eternally.  Be turned also toward others and be disposed toward them, that each person we deal with is treated, not only as our neighbor and as friend, but as better and more important than we are.

The brilliance of the Hallmark Holiday called “Valentine’s Day” is that the entire marketing machine of modern enterprise is focused on our having an attitude of love for a few minutes.

The brilliance of the Jesus Life called “today” is that our heart, having been transformed by the workings of the Holy Spirit, ought to also be disposed toward God and others.

Love as a Christian is not how we feel today or even what we do or say today, it is who we are today?

As we walk through today, I urge myself and each person reading this to try harder to shed our attitude of self and put on an attitude of love.  Remarkable things will happen when we do.  First, we will be walking in God’s will.  Second, we will be walking with God’s power.  Third, we will be demonstrating God’s glory in our lives.  And fourth, who knows … we will find rest, we will find contentment, we will find security, we will find miracles, and we will find joy and life.

An attitude of gratitude is great.  An attitude of love is better.

Hey, it’s Valentine’s Day!  Let’s look beyond ourselves and love.

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

Bread – Sing

February 7, 2018


Psalm 95

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!  Let us come into His presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to Him with songs of praise! “ Ps. 95:1-2

So begins one of my favorite Psalms and the basis for the Venite, which is said in many liturgical churches on a regular basis.

As I write this, I am reminded that it has been three weeks since I last wrote a Bread.  How can I have so delayed writing about one of my favorite Psalms?  Either it is not one of my favorite Psalms or something else is going on.

What is going on?  I know and you know.  It is Satan’s work, through diversion and busyness, through the cares and objectives of the world, through the importance of others and ourselves over God, through misdirection and outright deception – that, since he (Satan) cannot steal our salvation, he will do his best to steal our joy.

I sing in the shower and in the car, particularly when there is a good song playing in the background.  That is a form of joy and worship, when it is a song of praise to the Lord, so isn’t that enough?

No, it is not.  The Psalmist says “let us.”  “Let us” sing.  “Let us” make a joyful noise.  “Let us” come into His presence.  “Let us” make a joyful noise.

Our singing to the Lord can occur in the privacy of our home, but it is fully revealed in the singing of the entire body of Christ gathered to worship.

You want to know how effectively Satan has been keeping you from Psalm 95, from worshiping in truth and in spirit, from “singing” and making a “joyful noise?”  Ask yourself when was the last time you (a) attended a body of believers gathered together in worship and (b) sang joyfully at that event.  Even if you showed up, if you did not participate, it was not “us” singing to the Lord, it was “them.”  Listening to a beautiful choir and a majestic organ may put us in a good mood, but this Psalm invites us to active participation, not passive observation.

Satan has many tricks.  One of them is to keep us from church services at all.  The other is to let us go to church services but then talk us out of participating by whispering such things as “You sing terrible,” “if everyone sings, then it will just sound like a lot of noise,” “you don’t like the music,” and “that person next to me is singing so loudly and raising his hands, I’m embarrassed.”

So, Satan kept me from writing Bread for three weeks – so it is his fault, right?  No, sadly it is my fault.  And who do we defeat by letting the world dictate the level of our devotion to our King?  We.

Every minute of every day, we have a choice of which Kingdom rules to obey, since we are citizens of the kingdom of heaven but reside in the world.  And how we make that choice dictates the degree to which our Lord is reflected through and in us.  Whether to worship in the congregation by attendance and participation are two choices (attendance is a choice as well as participation).

“Let us sing to the Lord … For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods…”

Let us do so, beginning with me.

_______

© 2018 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

 

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