Bread – When

March 15, 2017


Psalm 56

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Ps. 56:3-4

This verse is preceded by David complaining that man steps on him and attacks him all the time.

Which then leads to the “when I am afraid…” verse.

My first reaction to this (and the reason Bread is called “When”) was this — isn’t it true that we never trust God in the good times, but only the desperate?  Men were trampling David and beating him up, and he was OK doing battle with them on his own.  But when the odds became overwhelming to him, when he became afraid, that is when he trusted God.  “When I am afraid …” could mean that I trust God when I am afraid, suggesting that I do not trust Him when I am not afraid.  This led me to an easy conclusion for this Bread, namely that we should trust God all the time.

However, when I started thinking about being afraid, being truly afraid, I asked myself what the typical human reaction is.  That reaction is either “fight or flight,” according to the psychologists.  When we are afraid, our natural reaction, our womanly or manly reaction, is to either run away and escape (flight) or become incredibly angry and somewhat crazy and fight (fight).  When we are afraid of losing an argument, we double down (fight) or admit defeat (flight).  When we are in a hostile zone where people do not like us or may be even trying to hurt us, we try to hurt them first (fight – the best defense is a good offense, right?) or we exit stage left (flight).

But God tells us that there is a third thing we can do.  Rather than exit the difficulty (flight) or put on our boxing gloves (fight), we can trust God.

How can Christians love their enemies when their enemies hate them?  By trusting in God and neither leaving the fight (flight) nor adding flames to it (fight).

How can Christians both speak the truth in love and not back down in the face of opposition, all without increasing hatred and anger?  By trusting in God and neither backing down in the name of tolerance (flight) or engaging in a knockdown, drag out fight over who is right and who is wrong (fight).

How do Christians stand in the evil day?  By trusting in God and neither retiring to their sanctuaries (homes or churches, flight) nor heaping curses upon those who do not believe (fight).

When put in this perspective, the simple statement that David makes when he says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” is not so simple after all.

We will be in danger and will be afraid many times today.  We may have to talk to the stranger in the elevator.  We may have to explain to a disbelieving colleague why we are a Christian.  We may be in economic circumstances which cause us to wonder whether we will eat tonight or make the rent tomorrow.  We may have just received a bad diagnosis from a doctor.  We may be in the middle of losing an argument or some other kind of fight which we believe in our heart we must win.

What will we do?  Will we run away from the fight?  Will we jump in the middle of the fight with our weapons of words, fists, or other devices?  Or will we reject man’s solutions of fight or flight and, instead, put on the full armor of God and trust in Him?

When do we trust in Him?  When will we?

________

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

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Bread – Terror

February 24, 2017


Psalm 53

There they [the wicked] are, in great terror, where there is no terror!”  Ps. 53:5

I probably read this passage three times before I realized that there was a “no” in front of terror.  The Psalmist is telling the people who work evil that they are in “great terror,” even though there isn’t any.

Is terror real or is it a figment of our imagination?

I think the answer to that is “yes” (to both).  There can be a very real danger to our safety and security which causes us to be afraid and terrified (which is the real part), and we are terrified because …. (this is the imagination part).

Why are we terrified of anything?  I think it is because we have no control in the moment or perhaps our very existence is threatened or because we are confronted with the ugliness of our ourselves.  But we are terrified because the “I” is at extreme risk.  The danger may very well be real and we may die from the encounter or be seriously hurt, but we are afraid only because we hate losing, we hate being hurt, we hate the thought of dying, we hate the thought of homelessness or misery or becoming penniless.  We are terrified because the “I” is at risk.

Yes, the evil ones, the doers of iniquity and wickedness – yes, these folks are terrified of God’s judgment on their lives, because they know that God’s judgment will destroy the “I.”  “I did I my way” will one day run into the wall of judgment, and the “I” will in fact be gone, dead to sin.

But God says in this simple line, but they should not be terrified because there is no terror.

Why is there no terror, according to God.  The answer is simple and profound.  There is no terror for those who believe in Christ because Christ took that terror, that wrath of God, upon Himself.  He invites those of us who abide with Him into a place of shelter.  Though we may be seriously injured, though we made be made poor, though we may in fact die a physical death, we have no terror because there is none to be had.  We live in Christ and Christ in us.  There is no “I” to destroy and therefore there is no need to be afraid.

“Though I walk in the shadow of death, I will fear no …”  How can we say this and mean it?  Because the same God which causes terror in the wicked because of who they are has forgiven us because of who He is.

To those who do not believe in Christ, there are many terrors.  For those who do believe in Christ, there are none.

Now, let’s live like it – in boldness, in freedom, in obedience, in the name and power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Fear

July 6, 2016


Psalm 27

“The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?”  Ps. 27:1

Fear surrounds us, invades us, and is reflected by us in our avoidances and our doings.

We fear the disapproval of others.  Why do we wear certain clothing over others, attend certain events over others, associate with certain people over others, drive certain cars over others, live in certain places over others, or act in certain ways over others?  I daresay that for most people, it is fear which drives their decisions.  We fear being left out, we fear being found  boring, we fear being discovered biased or prejudiced, we fear being unloved (which we equate to lack of attention or acceptance), we fear not being in the “in crowd,” we fear being “wrong” in the eyes of the world, we fear being considered stupid or “out of touch” or uncool.

We fear that our work will be rejected, ignored, criticized, made fun of, or stolen by others for their glory.

We fear having too much wealth and thereby being considered greedy or having too little wealth and thereby being considered irrelevant.  We fear being too successful and we fear being unsuccessful.

We fear being incompetent, of not being “up to the task,” of failing others expectations of our performance.

We fear life and we fear death.

We fear bugs and technology we don’t understand.  We fear people who do not look like us, talk like us, or pray like us.

Why?  Why do we fear?  The Psalmist says clearly that, because the Lord guides me (is my light), delivers me (salvation), and protects me (the “stronghold of my life”), I can clearly ask the question – then who or what shall I fear?

Why do we fear?  Perhaps it is because the Lord is not our light, because we do not follow His ways (or even study His word to know what His ways are).  Perhaps it is because we know so little about His ways that we fear going into strange paths.  Perhaps we know His ways but fear the light itself, preferring to hide in darkness.  Perhaps we are deliberately disobedient and, knowing that, rightly fear His wrath or, if we are saved, His disappointment.

Why do we fear?  Perhaps it is because we do not believe that the Lord has delivered us from ourselves, from our sin, to live life eternal with Him.  If we believe that we can lose our salvation because we are responsible for winning our salvation with good works, then, because we all fail and fall short, perhaps fear here is justified.  If we believe, though, that Jesus is sovereign and by the Trinity’s will saves in spite of ourselves (exercising grace, mercy, and election), and we still fear that we can lose our deliverance, perhaps we fear because we do not understand God in His fullness of power, authority, and holiness.  Or perhaps we know and believe all those things but still fear because, although we say we believe, we harbor a little doubt.

Why do we fear?  Perhaps it is because we do not seek shelter in the Almighty, but seek it with others or in places of our making rather than God’s.

Why are Christians not powerful?  Why do we not pray for others with expectation of fulfillment?

I am going to answer that question personally.  I have a very difficult time praying for people who are sick and the reason is not what you think.  The reason I have a hard time praying for someone who is sick is that God might answer my prayers and heal that person … and what would that mean?

See, I fear the answer to that question.  It is because I would then be confronted with all the other times I have been commanded to pray for someone, to intervene in their lives, to walk through a particular door loving that person…and I did not.  To confront the depth of the harm I have caused others because I have been disobedient to my call as a Christian is to confront the reality of who I am and the depth of my depravity as a human being born of Adam’s disobedience.  But on the flip side, in the depths of such self-analysis, in the valley of self-knowledge, I also then see the miracle of grace that God reached down and saved me for Him, and I see the miracle of new birth that I have been snatched from the valley of death and placed on the mountaintop to be and to learn “new things.”

Who do we fear most of all?  Ourselves.  But even that is overcome when we are guided by the light, saved by grace, and sheltered in the wings of the Most High.

When we are guided by the Most High, saved by the Most High, and protected by the Most High, who is there to fear?  No one, not even ourselves.

Thank you, Lord.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Fear

June 22, 2016


Psalm 25

“Who is the man who fears the Lord?  Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose.  His soul shall abide in well-being…The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.”  Ps. 25:12-14

“Fear” is an interesting word because of how we think about it.  When we think of “fear,” most often we think of the places where fear is most likely to occur and our reaction to the things which cause fear.

We know the places which make us fearful.  For some people, it is the place of loud noise or angry, yelling people.  For others, it may be a dark room or a tall place.  Our fear antenna goes up when we are walking alone on a poorly lighted street late at night, or when we see a group of mean-looking people harassing others.  We fear bullies and we may fear people with guns and knives.  Some of us are so skittish we may be afraid of our own shadow.  That is the kind of fear which causes our heart rate to go up and, often, causes a panic reaction.

Then there is the place of fear which is more psychological, where we fear being the one left out of the pickup ball game, or fear wearing the wrong clothes or having the wrong set of friends.  This is more of a social fear, but the panic can be just as overwhelming.

As I mentioned, when we think of fear and our own fear in particular, we often think of our reaction to it.  And our reaction to fear is most often to run away from the thing or the person or the situation causing it, to hide, or to not go there to begin with, to avoid the cause.

If we have the proper amount of fear, we are careful.  If we have a little too much fear, we are fretful.  If we have a lot of fear, we cower or run.  Part of becoming an adult is learning how to have a proper amount of fear and how to channel our reactions to it so that our reactions are appropriate in the circumstances.  For example, while our natural reaction to fear of an unruly crowd is to avoid them or run away, we might be trained in crowd control and so we actually confront our fears and engage the unruly crowd.  In the first instance, our fear is unmanaged; in the second, it is managed.

Why do we run away from God?  Why do we deny Him?  Why do we hide from Him?  Why, having accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, do we not fully exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit and engage our friends and neighbors with the truth of the gospel?  Some would say that it is our pride and our arrogance, believing that there is no God or, even if we admit that there may be a God, believing that we don’t need Him.  I think the closer answer might be because we have either an unhealthy fear of Him or a fear of having to confront ourselves if what He says is true.  We first fear to know God and, when we finally bypass that fear to learn about Him, we then fear Jesus.  Once we bypass our fear of Jesus and come to know Him, we then fear the Holy Spirit and His effect on our lives.  When we fear God in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.  When we fear Jesus Christ in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.  When we fear the Holy Spirit in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.

But this Psalm tells us to fear God first and then good things will happen.  The reason is simply that, in order to have a proper understanding of God, we need to recognize that He is not a teddy bear, He is not a clown, He is not our best friend, He is not our equal … He is holy, He is righteous, He is wrathful, He is judge, jury, and executioner, He is all-powerful, He is full of awe-inspiring wonder, He is above all things, He is creator of all things, He is Lord of all things, He is perfect – He is not us; He is God.  Knowing that God is all these things, the only proper place to be is on the ground, face down and covered, hoping that He does not burn us up and throw us into the fires of Hell where, but for His mercy, we belong.

This fear which comes from knowing our place in the world and from knowing God is a healthy fear.  It puts us in the right place, knowing that in all things we did not go to Him; He came to us.

But from that healthy fear, that knowledge that when we are in His presence we are in the presence of God Almighty and not God-of-man’s-invention, we are now ready to listen (to hear God’s instruction “in the way that [we] should choose.”  From that healthy fear, our souls will “abide in well-being” because we know that the God who has saved our souls and who protects our souls is able to deliver our souls into eternal life.  From that healthy fear, we know that God can and will deliver on every one of His promises.

And from a position of healthy fear of the Lord, we shall have the “friendship of the Lord.”  The word “friendship” here actually means a couch, a pillow, a place for a conversation or a consultation.   And, indeed, when we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we are ready to meet Him in prayer, in meditation, in His Scripture, whenever we are ready and He chooses.  In this conversation, with a healthy fear we understand that it is not a conversation among equals, but between master and slave, God and man, Savior and saved, Teacher and disciple.  It is when we have fear of the Lord that we are ready to speak to Him boldly, not because we are equal but because He has given us permission.  It is when we have fear of the Lord that we are ready to grow up.

The phrase “Have no fear” does not mean what it says.  Fear is a good thing and it will lead us to eternal life.  Better it is said “Have no unhealthy fear … and prosper.”

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

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