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.

 

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Bread – Fear

August 4, 2017


Psalm 76

But You [God], You are to be feared!  Who can stand before You … when God arose to establish judgment, to save the humble of the earth.  Selah.”  Ps. 76:7,9

As we have noted before, in the Psalms when the word “Selah” appears, it is time to stop our speed reading, take a breath, read more slowly and hear what God is saying to us in His revelation, the Bible.

Fear is one of those emotions which can be short term or long term and in either case can cause us to make wise decisions or foolish ones.  When our fear is short term and arises from the circumstances ahead of us, we recognize it by our reaction, which is an immediate heightened awareness of our surroundings and an immediate readiness to either attack to eliminate the cause of our fear or to run away and get as far away as possible.  This kind of fear is legitimate and arises from our desire to protect ourselves from the coming disaster.  For example, I was on the Dallas North toll road yesterday driving about 65 miles an hour with cars to either side of me at the same speed when a car about four car lengths in front of me blew (shredded) a tire.  Not only were there flying tire parts everywhere but there was a real danger that the car would lose control, flip over, and that I would be in the middle of the mess in a couple of seconds.  I was afraid of what was going to happen, my flight or fight reaction set in, and I was lucky that, not only did my brakes work, but the drivers to either side of me and behind me were also paying attention and their brakes worked too.

But then there is the fear which is long term and which debilitates us over time, causing us to behave poorly.  I grew up with a lazy eye, which was not corrected by surgery until I was in my late 50’s.  For most of my adult life, I was afraid that people would see me and laugh, and so I avoided eye contact.  I developed lots of defensive behaviors to make it appear I was not doing this, but I did it anyway.  My fear of ridicule (unfounded by the way) caused me to live a lot of my adult life unengaged from those around me.

We have lots of fears which drive us to poor decisions.  We have the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule, the fear of loss, the fear of not being loved, the fear of insecurity, the fear of loneliness, the fear of crowds, the fear of small places and large places, the fear of appearing (or being) stupid.  These fears can drive us into living lives of quiet desperation, living lives depressed, living lives full of fears about the next shoe to drop, the next Murphy’s law to appear, the next slight to bear, the next failure to deal with.

But the Psalmist points out something which we really should pay more attention to.  That point is that God is person we should be fearful of, because He is the one who judges according to His standard, which we cannot meet on our own.  “But You, You are to be feared!”

But if we see clearly that God is to be feared, does that lead us into permanent depressed state?  No It does not.  Unlike most long-term fears, which drive us into poor decisions, the fear of God does exactly the opposite – it drives us to good decisions!  Because when God arises to establish judgment He also arises to save “all the humble” of the earth.  Who are the humble – those who fear God!

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Pr. 1:7  “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  Pr. 29:25

In man’s way of thinking, to fear God would mean to fear everything, because God is Creator of everything.  In God’s revelation to us, this truth stands firm – fear God and worship Him and Him only, and we will fear nothing.  Because when we fear Him, when we see Him who He is and we see ourselves for who we are, we are protected by Him into eternal life.

So, as we tackle our world today, let us fear Him and only Him … and, then fearing the only God who is to be feared, let us then live life in victory, free from fear, as He has promised.

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Needy

June 30, 2017


Psalm 72

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.”  Ps. 72:12-13

There are three actors in these verses, two apparent and one disguised.

The first apparent actor is described as both a noun and an adjective.  Man is both the “needy” (the noun) and the “needy (man)” (the adjective).

Who are these needy and what do they need so badly that they are needy.  When we answer the what, it will identify the who.  When we think of need, we most often think of physical issues have to do with money.  He or she needs a job, needs a shelter, and/or needs food and water.  We have a famous researcher who has described a ‘hierarchy of needs,” and these needs for shelter and food are first on the list.  At the top of the list is the need to be appreciated, to be wanted or desired, to have our pride stroked.  In between are the needs for safety and security (free from worry) and companionship.

We make a big mistake when we believe that the only needy people are the ones in the food lines.  The truth is that all of us are needy of these things, but also things like hope, safety, security, friendship, and dignity.

So the answer to the “who are the needy” question is “Everyone.”  You, me, them … everyone is needy.

So now that we have identified who the needy person is, who is the the second obvious actor.  It is the “he” in the sentence, which relates back to an earlier verse, the first verse, where the “he” is the king, which in the case of this specific Psalm could have been Solomon.

Since the “king” today is the government, perhaps these verses could be interpreted as a command that us, the needy, are to turn to the government (the king) for the fulfillment of our needs, to fulfill our need for food and health care, our need for safety and security, our need for dignity in the word, and our need for companionship.  And so, in the mad rush to fill our needs, our world would have us turn to the “obvious” king for deliverance, to the state.

And so the natural course of man is to give to the state the power to “help” them, and in so doing give up their individual rights to the collective.

Entire civilizations and philosophies are founded on this principal, that it is the “king” who protects, to delivers good things, who feeds, etc. his needy people.

But to do so ignores the silent actor in these verses, the disguised actor.  Who is this?  Well, I think it becomes obvious when we remove the written attempts to bring God to our level and change the verses so that they now read: “For He delivers the needy when he calls, and poor and him who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.”  What have I changed?  One letter in one word.  I changed “For he…” to “For He…

And now you know the rest of the story.  The “He” who delivers is the King of the Psalm, the Messiah, Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  It is not the man-king but the God-King.

Because we are needy, we will look to a king to deliver us from those needs, to save us.  If we are secular and have no faith in Christ, the king is the state and we will want the state to feed us, teach us, raise us, nurture us, build us into communities of the king’s making, and love us.  This is slavery unto death but it is the choice of needy people who only see the little “king.”

If we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are still needy but the source of our deliverance is a different king, a King Jesus, Creator of the world.  Our King is King and we will look to Him, Father, and Holy Spirit to feed us, teach us, raise us, build us into communities of His making, and love us.  This is slavery unto life and is the choice of those who see the big “King.”

You are needy.  Which king will deliver you?

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Bread – Fortress

January 2, 2017


Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… Selah.”  Ps. 46:1

The title of this Psalm is “God is our Fortress.”  James Boice in his commentary on the Psalms notes that this Psalm was on of Martin Luther’s favorites, from which he wrote “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

My focus today is not so much whether God is a fortress or what kind of fortress is He, but where this fortress is.  What is its location?  Where on a map may it be found?

We tend to intellectualize Scripture and God, and so our first response might well be to say that the fortress who is God is “up there,” and point to the heavens.  And, indeed, there is much in this Psalm to suggest that God’s fortress is the New Jerusalem, which will descend in the end times to bring in the thousand year reign of Christ.  “God is our refuge and strength” suggests a place of refuge, a place where we can physically go for protection.  Perhaps the image comes to mind of a high mountain redoubt, armed to the hilt with massive guns, which provides us peace and safety if we can only get there.  Perhaps we recall the place of fortress called the “shadow of His wings,” where we can hide under Him and let life’s travails flow over us, leaving us untouched and unscathed.  Perhaps we have a view of heaven with the heavenly hosts surrounding God’s throne and bring ourselves to the place of refuge there.  Perhaps we climb in our imaginations to the peak of the mountain where the transfiguration occurred, and in the presence of God’s glory revealed.

But the second part of our reading today says “God is … a very present help in trouble.”  How can one be “very present” when one is “over there” or “up there.”  The only way one can be “very present” is to be here, in the place where the calamity exists, in the place of worry and fear.

And so we realize that God is not only “over there” or “up there” but also “right here.”  He is “very present.”

Which means this, if God is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me, then the fortress is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me.  If I am in God and He is in me, then I am in the fortress right now.

If that is true, then why do we worry?  Why do feel defeat in calamity?  Why do we yield to trouble instead of just looking at it as it flies by our fortress, which is God in us?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, because I do it too.  I look at a problem and say to myself, “I am in trouble,” instead of sitting under God’s wing, in His fortress, and say to God, “look at this problem and help me solve it, or, better yet, solve it yourself.”

But the implications of our failure to recognize that the fortress to which we can retreat is in us go well beyond us.  The reason is simple … if we, as God’s ambassadors, act like we live in a fortress who is God, then those who need healing, those who need help, those who need love, will find shelter in us.  The beacon of light we should be not only shines light in darkness, but it reveals the fortress from which the light comes.

Imagine for a moment if people said “God’s people are our refuge and strength,  a very present help in trouble.”

Whether or not it has happened to you yet, calamity will come upon us all.  We suffer in this fallen world from disease, death, disaster, pain, and loss.  And where will we turn?  Will we turn to the empty promises of the world or the true promises of Christ?  Will we run to the fortress in heaven in our mind, or run across the street to our Christian neighbor who stands in the evil day and is a fortress of hope, of light, of help, of friendship, and of  strength?  If we claim to follow Christ, we should be that fortress in the storm, we ought to be that fortress in the storm, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be that fortress in the storm for our neighbor.

“A mighty fortress is our God …”  And, to the extent He lives in us, so are we.  Let’s act like it … and let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and praise not us, but our Father in heaven.  Amen.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Fret

October 10, 2016


Psalm 37

Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of evildoers!…fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way, over the man who carries out evil devices!…Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.” Ps. 37:1,7-8

The “frets” of a guitar are the little ridges along the handle which are used to tighten the string when they are pressed down to produce a higher note.

The “frets” of this life are similar.  They are the little things which, when pressed by us or by others, cause the strings of our lives to tighten, producing higher and higher, shriller and shriller notes.  Whereas the frets on the guitar are used deliberately to produce chords and melodies, the frets of our life are pushed by us and others haphazardly to produce shrillness and dissonance and non-chords, or discord.

What are these frets of our lives?  Primarily, they arise when we start comparing ourselves to others.  “Be not envious of evildoers?”  Why would we be envious?  Because many, many sinful people manipulate our society very well, producing great temporary wealth, position, and fame.  We look around and see the big houses we do not have, the nice cars we do not drive, the retirement accounts we do not have, the clubs we do not belong to, the schools we do not attend … and we fret about our well-being, we worry.  We say to ourselves, “why do the wicked prosper” and, in the process, the haphazardly push the frets of our lives, bringing discord and disharmony unnecessarily to our self-assurance, our friendships, our family, and our relationship to God.  And Satan smiles.

What happens when we worry about getting ahead in the world, of keeping up with the Joneses, of making sure that we too have the big house, the expensive clothes, the nice car, and idyllic lifestyle of the rich and famous?  The Psalm is clear — “Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”  When we fret over what we do not have (or what other people have), we tend to want to copy them … and since they sin and do evil (in all likelihood), so might we.

So we have a choice this week.  Fret and pay the consequences, or trust in the Lord and receive the blessings.

Fret or trust, worry or faith.  One leads to discord; the other to concord.  One leads to disharmony; the other to good music.  One takes on the burdens of life; the unloads the burdens of life onto someone more capable of carrying them.

What are you fretting about today?  Is it helping?

To fret or not to fret?  That is the question.  What is your answer?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Crushed

September 14, 2016


Psalm 34

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Ps. 34:18

How many of us are “crushed in spirit?”  For a salesman, it may be the big sale that you just knew you were going to make, but don’t … and there goes your commission.  For a trial lawyer, it may be the big case you know you are going to win, except you don’t … and there goes your confidence.  For someone asking someone else to marry them and they are sure the other person will say “yes,” and they don’t … and there goes your hope.  For the investor who just knows he or she has discovered the next wealth-generating investment, and the stock tanks … and there goes your ideas of wealth.

Those are the easy ones, but what about the person who goes out day by day to do battle with the world and comes home one day, realizing that the promotion, the big house, the opportunity for fame, the contented family, the loving children, the happy spouse, the attainment of the dream … just isn’t going to be there, at least to the degree wanted, dreamed for, or imagined?   What about those people who live their lives in silent despair?

What happens to them?

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is near to those people who know Him and trust Him, and that He “saves the crushed in spirit.”

We think that when a person is crushed in spirit, they are down and out.  But the Lord who saves says “you may say you are down and out, but I say that you may feel down but you are raised up.”  In the world’s view, when you are crushed you are crushed.  In God’s view, when you are crushed you are saved.

We may feel crushed in either event, whether we take our view or God’s view, whether we trust God or we trust ourselves or the world.  So what is the difference?  When we trust in God, we are saved out of our condition of being crushed in spirit; when we do not trust in God, we are still there.

When I was writing this and trying to think about what is means to feel crushed and be saved at the same time, an analogy came to mind.  If I am wandering in a swamp and get stuck in deep mud, I have mud all over me.  I am crushed in spirit, reflected by the amount of mud I have all over my clothes and my body.  If I remain stuck in the swamp and in the mud, I am imprisoned by the mud and have no freedom and no life, except to wallow in the mud.  If my savior, though, comes and pulls me out of the mud, I still have mud all over me but I am now free.  I am free to continue to wear the symbol of crushedness, the mud, or I am free to act like it never existed by having God help me wash it off.

When God saves the “crushed in spirit,” they may still feel crushed, but they are not.

You are depressed; you are crushed in spirit.  God says He saves you in that condition.  Do you believe Him?  Do you believe in Him?  If so, the Holy Spirit is right there ready to help you wash the mud of despair from your clothes.  Just ask.

And, oh, by the way, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. Now that’s down and out … for the count.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Fears

September 12, 2016


Psalm 34

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  Ps. 34:4

What do we really fear?  For some of us, it is the phobias of the world – fear of falling, fear of heights, fear of snakes and bugs, fear of closed in spaces.  For others of us, it is the fear of failure – fear of loss of position or power, fear of loss of wealth, fear of loss of reputation.  And then there are the fears related to our emotions – fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of separation, fear of being disliked, fear of being unappreciated.  There are lots of fears out there, to the point that we have a lot of fear classifications.

One that has always fascinated me is fear of success.  I think closely allied to that is fear of the unknown.  If we are comfortable with living a life of poverty, then our greatest fear may be of getting a successful job and all the change which will occur because of that.  The Bible says that we get not because we ask not.  I think that, behind the not asking, is a real desire not to receive.  What if we asked for wisdom and then we got it … maybe we are afraid that, if we had wisdom, we would actually have to be wise, which then means that we would have to change the way we live and change the way we interact with others.

It is much easier to stay where we are than to change.  We never have to answer the “what if” if we are afraid to try, to reach out, and to grow up.

If you think about it, the essence of the new man promised by God when we trust in Jesus Christ is really the removal of fear of being a new creation.  For us to love others, it is not necessary that we first love ourselves, it is necessary that we have our fears of love, exposure, and others eliminated.  One of the miracles of new birth is the destruction of fear by the power of God.  One of Satan’s greatest tools to keep us enslaved to him is fear; one of God’s greatest tools to release us from bondage is to release us from fear of freedom.

Are you ready to be fearless this week?  Seek the Lord.   And when the Lord shows up, take His deliverance of you from all your fears … and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Heard

February 12, 2016


Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing … The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”  Ps. 6:1-2a, 9

Psalm 6 begins with an urgent prayer for God not to be mad at David but be merciful because David is depressed and in the pits.  It ends with an acknowledgement by David that the Lord has heard him and that all of his enemies, the ones who have driven him into depression presumably, “shall be ashamed.”  Note the use of the word “shall” as opposed to the word “could” or “might” or even “will.”  There is a sense that they are defeated today, even though it may not be obvious until tomorrow.  There is a sense in the word “shall” that David’s prayer has been immediately answered, regardless of what appears to him to be the case.

So, my question is, what has changed?

There are at least three ways to answer this question, one from the perspective of a third person looking in at the facts, the second from God’s perspective, and the third from David’s.

From the third party’s perspective, the stranger (us) looking in, the answer is nothing, nothing has changed!  Have David’s enemies left the field of battle?  No.   Is David still in the pits?  Yes.  Has any word of God been audibly spoken so that we can hear?  No.  Has sunlight broken through the clouds in rays of glory?   No.  To us, from an objective perspective, nothing has changed and, if God was mad, He still is; if David was depressed, he still is; and if the enemies are surrounding David, they still are.

From God’s perspective, what has changed?  I realize I am reaching high to even begin to ask that question, must less answer it, but I will, at least from my understanding of who God is.  My answer to the question of, from God’s perspective, what has changed, is … nothing has changed.  God was angry at David’s sin, but He was from the beginning of time merciful and gracious unto David, choosing him for salvation and redemption and restoration.  God will remain angry at David’s sin forever, but He will lay aside that anger and accept David because the penalty for that sin has been paid by God.  God is wrath and love at the same time.  God’s attitude toward sin does not change.  He does not change.  Also, David’s situation has not changed.  David is subject to sin, although being rescued from it.  Whether David’s sin results in depression, illness, or even fleeting happiness is merely the moment’s passing of human emotional response to circumstances.  But whether David is as happy as a clam or as defeated as a skunk, he has not changed in God’s eyes and neither has his situation.  Finally, has God’s acceptance of David’s prayer changed?  The answer is “no.”  David, being saved by grace and not by works, can always have effective prayer before God and God hears his (and our) pleas and accepts his (and our) prayer in faith.

So, if anything has changed, it is from David’s perspective.  And, of course, David represents us.  And, man, look at what has changed in David’s life!  First, he has changed from a focus on himself to a focus on God.  Second, he has changed from a focus on his enemies (my enemies are overwhelming to me) to a focus on God (God will handle his enemies).  Third, he has changed in his attitude toward God – God the angry to God the merciful to God the savior.

So what has changed?  In one sense, nothing has changed.  David is in the pits and his enemies are at the door.  In another sense, everything has changed.  David is in the pits with no friend in God to David is in the pits with the knowledge that his Savior has won the day for him.  From defeat to victory; from death to life.

Why?  How?  Because in praying to God, in yelling at God, in submitting to God, in listening to God, in just talking to God, David has moved from himself to God, from weak to strong, from disturbance to peace, from horror to wonder, from loss to joy, from despair to hope.

David is us and we are there.  We need everything that David needed … love, mercy, rescue, favor, success, life, joy, happiness, hope.  And everything is available because God has heard our prayers …. when we turn to Him, even a little bit.

So, have you turned to God today, even a little bit, to acknowledge His presence, to acknowledge His power, to acknowledge His love, to acknowledge His glory, to acknowledge His rescue and salvation?

If not, why not?  If you need any motivation, look at what you are leaving on the table by not having that conversation with God.  “God has heard my plea.”  Yes, but only if you plea.  But only if you turn to Him.

_________

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

 

Bread – Mysteries

May 13, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, May 13, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31; Psalm 119:97-120

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There is a difference between our mysteries and God’s. In our typical mystery, there are characters acting in a plot, typically trying to solve why something happened or why something is the way it is. It can be a murder mystery or a science mystery, but the setup is the same – something has happened which is, on the surface, unexplainable; trained, intelligent, and curious people undertake a detailed investigation of all of the facts leading up to and surrounding the mystery; and the ending is appropriate – the great Holmes solves the murder or the great

Einstein solves the equation … and we are done. Man’s reason and worldly wisdom has solved the mystery, proving that man is in control.

In God’s typical mystery, there is an unexplainable event in which both man and God play some kind of part. Man is instructed by God what to do and what to say, how to behave, and God acts in His sovereign way of decision. Man does his part and sometimes the result is good and sometimes it is not, sometimes it is effective and sometimes it is not, sometimes God shows up and sometimes He does not. The mystery is this – we have done what God has told us to do and yet, there is the sovereign work of God in the mix. This sovereign work is in one sense predictable (fulfillment of God’s promise) and in another sense it is not predictable (God’s sovereign will in the circumstances does not necessarily align with ours). The mystery surrounding why this is, the explanation sought in man’s mysteries, is and cannot be solved by man. The solution lies just out of reach. Man’s mind and his efforts cannot reach it; God’s mysteries are and remain mysterious. To a rational man full of worldly education and wisdom, this is nuts. To his thinking, everything can be explained if but we knew all the facts and knew how things logically work together. To a faithful man full of heavenly wisdom, the mystery lays as it should … at the feet of God.

God’s mysteries abound through the Bible. We are responsible for our sin (because it comes from our disobedience) and yet is the sovereign work of God who saves us from death to sin. In God’s economy, 90% (what we have left after the tithe) is worth more than 100%. We are commanded to preach the Gospel in the world and work in the fields where the harvest is great, but it is God who delivers saved lives.

Today our readings deliver to us two such mysteries. The first, in James, is the instruction to Christians regarding sickness. “Is any among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.” James 5:14-15 Now, we know from personal experience that when the elders of the church pray over a sick person, sometimes they get well and sometimes they don’t. That is the mystery. However, our instructions are clear – We need to pray for those who are sick in full expectation (faith) that they will be healed. That is our job … We are to pray in faith. But it is not our prayer of faith which delivers the result, it is God in His sovereignty deciding how and when this Christian will be healed. Whether the sickness is healed in life or in death, it will be healed – that is the prayer of faith. But delivery of the results – that is the action of God. The mystery is how these two interact (the prayer of faith and the sovereignty of God). This mystery cannot be solved because God cannot be compelled to obey our prayers; but we are to pray in faith in full expectation that He will listen and that He will act. Can this be explained by human wisdom? No. We have reached the edge of rationality and stepped into faith and obedience – obedience to do what God through James has commanded, and faith that God will act upon those prayers.

The second mystery is in Luke. Jesus says in Luke today not to be anxious, knowing that God will deliver you what you need when you need it. Instead of worrying, Jesus says “…seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” Luke 12:31. The reason this is a mystery is that we are commanded elsewhere to work, to invest and use our talents unto the Lord, and to share our wealth with those in need. To do this in today’s world, we cannot sit back on our couches in reliance upon other people to feed and clothe us, and we cannot leave our wealth to winning the lottery. On the other hand, God says not to worry, because God will fulfill our needs. So isn’t that a mystery? We are supposed to work hard as unto the Lord and yet, it is not our labor that produces wealth for us, it is God’s grace, mercy, and benevolence toward us. If we make a fortune in business, it is us who made it or God who gave it to us? The mystery is wrapped up in the answer to that question, which is “yes.” “Yes” we made it and “no” we didn’t. Somehow, our industriousness and God’s blessing combine to provide us what we need. The illusion of the world is that we produce our own wealth; the mystery of God is that it comes from God, but we cannot sit in the corner and anticipate those blessings. The mystery is that we do not work for our blessings but somehow the blessings are tied to our obedience to the Lord, which means we work. If we work alone without God, we work in vain even though we may have wealth by worldly standards. The cost of our work in this case is worry and anxiety, because if it depends on us, then we are in big trouble. However, if we sit over in the corner doing nothing, we are not obedient to God and the cost of our laziness is presumption toward God, resulting in little if any blessing. Are work and blessing connected? No, but the mystery is that, in some way, they are connected. We need not worry because God will give us what we need; we need to be obedient and work because we have been commanded to do so. Somehow, in combination with our work and God’s gifts, we become wealthy in spirit and maybe in goods and possessions as well. This mystery is unexplainable and must be embraced, not with our mind, but with our heart of faith.

Mysteries. There are many, many, many of these we will run across in our walk as Christians with Jesus our Lord. Will we run around trying to solve them or will we just accept them in faith and keep on trucking down God’s path for our life.

It is a waste of time for us to try to solve God’s mysteries because we are not God. It is not a waste of time to accept these mysteries, these miracles, in faith and to resolutely set our face toward God and walk in the path laid out for us. And while we are at it, we can contemplate the greatest mystery of all – why God bothered to come in flesh to save us, to die for us on the cross, and to give us mercy when we deserve none. And be thankful.

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© 2015 GBF

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