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.

 

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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 – 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.

 

 

 

 

Bread – Vengeance

January 17, 2018


Psalm 94

O Lord, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!…the Lord our God will wipe them out.”  Ps. 94:1,23

When I went to label this Bread, I almost called it “revenge” because we tend to think of “revenge” and “vengeance” together.  However, they are two separate things.  Revenge is an act of passion, committed in anger.  Vengeance is an act of justice, committed with thoughtful action focused on redress of wrong.  “Injuries are revenged, crimes are avenged.” [Spurgeon, The Treasury of David, Zondervan 1966; citing Dr. Samuel Johnson].

Here the Psalmist is asking God to deliberately redress the wrong of those people, fools in the Biblical sense, who deny God and oppress His people.

Of course, we wish God to exercise vengeance in our time, according to our schedule and for our purpose.  He will do so, but in His time and according to His purpose.

And, indeed, the wicked will be wiped out, as we know from having read the biblical prophets, including John, the author of Revelation.

But, seeing where God sometimes appears to not care, we are inclined to exercise God’s vengeance ourselves.  Instead of asking God for it and being content to let God do what He will do when He does it, we like to accelerate the process and “help” God along.  But we are told not to.  “As far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.  Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath [vengeance], for it is written ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay.’”  Rom. 12:18-19 (NIV).

We will be wronged today.  The method and degree may be uncertain, but the fact is not.  The wrong may be to our ego or it may be to our person, including assault, or property, including theft.

Like so many things, the only question will be our response.  Will we react in revenge, making sure that we get even.  Or will we respond with mercy, praying to God to avenge or seeking God’s agent on earth, the magistrate, to deliver vengeance.

We are inclined to say “vengeance is mine.”  But the Lord says that vengeance is His.

When we are ready to deliver the blow, fight for our rights, or deliver the cruel verbal punchline which our tormentor deserves, what will we do?  Will we ignore God once again and turn to our own devices to secure our own revenge?  Or will we rely on Him who is faithful, and wait for His action on our behalf?

The truth is we don’t wait well.  But maybe the process of waiting for justice is its own schoolhouse of faith, driving us even further toward the true King, Jesus, and denying ourselves?

Tough call.  Even tougher obedience.  But necessary if we do in fact believe God is King and we are not.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Moving

January 5, 2018


Psalm 93

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.”  Ps. 93:1b

As I read this, I also read in the newspaper and hear on radio and television about the major fires occurring in California, the major cold spell which has dropped across the United States, and the major “bomb cyclone” (whatever that is) which is terrorizing the East Coast.  And I here that Mount St. Helens is rumbling again, threatening major volcanic explosion.

Surely from our perspective the world is not established in any kind of recognizable pattern and it is moving all over the place.  Even the magnetic North Pole moves on a regular basis.

So what on earth (literally) is the Psalmist saying?  Is it nonsense?

Just like the first sentence of this Psalm sets a pivot point for understanding God and ourselves (who reigns, God or man?), this second sentence confronts us with choosing who we believe.  The choice is this – Do we believe with our senses (and, by extension, our “science”) or do we believe in God?

This is a tough question, because all I can sense is what I can see, read, touch, hear, smell, and taste.  Everything else is, literally, an explanation or a theory I have to take on faith.  For example, the “law” of gravity is really no more than a theory which has been demonstrated to be accurate in a broad variety of circumstances over a long period of time.  Because we can verify the outcome of the “law” of gravity with our senses (we see the apple fall from the tree; we feel the attraction of a mass bigger than we are; we are “stuck” on the earth), we might harden the theory of gravity into the “fact” of gravity, but at its heart it is still a theory – an explanation if you will which makes sense to our senses.

So, when we use our senses to probe the world, we would logically conclude that the world is not established and that can and is being moved.  As a result, if we are the standard, the plumb line of truth, then we must conclude that the Psalmist speaks nonsense.  Or, if we want to be more charitable, “his” science was not as good when he lived as “our” science is today.  That is really no more than saying that he, the Psalmist, is excused for being stupid because we are smarter.

So, we are left with only two conclusions – he (the Psalmist) is the fool for believing that, because God reigns, the world is established, or we are the fool for believing our own senses over God’s revelation, concluding that the world is not established.

The Psalmist believes that God reigns and, as a result, the world must be established because it is God’s world, created by Him, reigned over by Him.  To the extent the Psalmist’s senses tell him otherwise, he would conclude that his senses are wrong or, if not wrong, limited (God’s ways are higher than his).

And indeed the Psalmist later in the Psalm realizes that the seas are a tempest, saying in conclusion “Mightier than the thunders of many waters … the Lord on high is mighty!”

Are you moving in your thoughts, in your ideas, in your perceptions of the world?  Are you tossed about on the angry seas of apparent inconsistencies, observable disasters, images of rack and ruin?

Maybe it is because you are not anchored to the God who reigns.  Maybe it is because you do not conclude, therefore, that the world as created by God, as reigned over by God, is in fact established by God for all time.  Because once you realize that the world is indeed anchored by God and you stand with Him, then though the tempest blows and magnetic poles shift, then though the volcanoes erupt and the ice falls from the sky, then though the deluge swamps our homes and the fire rages, we will not move because we stand on solid rock.

Chicken Little says the sky is falling because, indeed, by his senses it is.  Those who stand on the rock say “Yes, but the world is established, the Lord reigns.”

Where do you stand?

_______

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

Bread – Reign

January 3, 2018


Psalm 93

The Lord reigns; He is robed in majesty;…Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.”  Ps. 93:1

This single thought, that “the Lord reigns,” may very well be the most significant pivot point in the Bible.

The reason is simple.  Either God is in control (reigns) and man is not, or man is in control (reigns) and God is not.  There may very well be some thinking of co-regency, where both God and man reign together, in some kind of partnership, but that is the thinking of a man who wants to remain in control and sort of nod (instead of bow) toward God.

All things follow from this.  If God is Creator but does not reign, then we have the vision of the uninvolved God, who does not know and does not care.  If God is a figment of our imagination, then we may say He reigns, but we really don’t believe it because, if we can think Him up, then we can unthink Him as well.

If we don’t think God reigns, then He becomes to us nothing more than a genie in a bottle, to be conjured up from time to time as needed using the magic incantations we learn in church.  If God reigns, though, then His Holy Spirit moves as it will.

If we reign, then we have control over whether or not we believe in God.  If God reigns, He must first act to cause us to see and believe.  If God reigns, our salvation in Jesus Christ is assured.  If we reign, our salvation depends upon the mood of the day.

Do we actually believe that God is King over us, that He reigns over us and the entirety of space and time?  If so, and we say we are His, then why do we not know His laws, why do we not spend time getting to know Him and His ways better, why do we not draw daily strength from His power?

At the time I write this, new year’s celebration has just passed.  Because it is the beginning of the new year, many people resolve to do certain things.  What about this resolution – I resolve that the Lord reigns?

Does the fact that I resolve it make it true, or is it true because He does reign.

See, the thing we have to come to grips with is that the Lord reigns whether I resolve it or not, whether I believe it or not, whether I deny it or not.   Therefore, the better resolution is this – “I resolve to get to know the Lord who reigns.”

Now that is a resolution worthy of the rest of our lives.

_______

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

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.

 

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.

_______

© 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.
_______
© 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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