Bread – Short

November 10, 2017


Psalm 89

How long, O Lord? … Remember how short my time is! … Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.”  Ps. 89:46-48 (excerpts)

The Psalmist finds himself in dire straits, at the bottom of the pit, without it appearing to him that God is in sight or even cares.  He yells out to God, “Hey, how long are You going to be before You show up!” And, then, just to make sure God really understands, he yells out “Hey, remember that I’m here on earth on a short period of time!”

Sort of funny, if you think about it, that a man is yelling at God to remember what He created.

He is yelling at God to remember when what he should really be doing is yelling at himself in the mirror to remember.

Remember what?  Well the answers to that question are in our quotation for today.

We need to remember that our time on earth is short and ask ourselves, what are we doing with today?  How are we spending our time?

And we need to remember that the answer to the question of “who can deliver my soul from the power of Sheol” is Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten not made, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father…

What is truly amazing about this whole set of questions is that, by man yelling at God, he is actually praying to God and God does respond to prayer often by bouncing the question right back.  When the Psalmist yells at God, “How long, O Lord?” the question rebounds upon man by God asking “How long, O Man, will you ignore Me, disobey Me, dishonor Me, and reject Me.”  When the Psalmist yells at God “Remember how short my time is,” the yell echoes back onto man, saying to man “Do you remember how short your time is.”  When the psalmist yells at God “Who can deliver his [man’s] soul from the power of Sheol,” God throws back the question and says “Who do I [God] say it is.”

This Psalm ends with “Blessed be the Lord forever!  Amen and amen.”  How does a person go from yelling at God in verses just prior to saying Amen and Amen to “Blessed be the Lord forever?”

Maybe because, by praying (yelling) to (at) God, the psalmist is now prepared to hear the response –  “Yes, your time is short.  The who is Jesus.  The when is now.”

_______

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

 

Advertisements

Bread – Permanence

July 10, 2017


Psalm 73

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You.  Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.”  Ps. 73:2-3,21-24

I almost coined a new word for this Bread, “permaninity,” meaning the state of being permanent, but “permanence” will have to do.

What is permanent?  We actually have a very hard time answering that question, because we have no reference point.  To a young kid in time out, permanent may mean three minutes.  To a young adult used to immediate gratification from the Internet, video games, Google, and Amazon, “permanent” may mean six months.  To us older adults, perhaps permanent is a house more than a hundred years old.  For those of us who have visited other places and have seen paint on ancient walls more than 1,000 years old, permanent may seem like a 1,000 years.  For those who study rocks and believe them to be very old, “permanent” may mean a million years.

In this Psalm today, we have object evidence of permanence.  Who does not find in the Psalmists words today great insight into ourselves.  We may have faith but that faith runs constantly into the bumps of doubt.  When we look abroad at the world and immediately around us, we see corruption in so-called Christians, we see cruelty, we see hatred, we see liars, we see thieves, we see charlatans and con men (and women), we see sexual perversion, we see the proud wealthy, we see those hungry for power, we see huge imbalances in living conditions, we see unfairness, and we see hopelessness.  In the face of all that, we are tempted mightily to cry out “Where are you God?  Where is Your proof?  Where is Your righteous indignation?  When is Your judgment upon all these terrible people?”    As the Psalmist, our soul becomes embittered and we become cold, “like a beast,” toward God.

So where is the evidence of permanence, other than the apparently permanent ascendancy of the wicked?

The evidence of permanence is in this – In all this, He holds our right hand.  He guides us with His revelation and truth.  And, in the end, He will receive us, for those who believe, to glory in eternity.

While we may jump from thought to thought and feeling to feeling and while we believe and yet doubt, God is there, permanent in His intent toward His chosen.  When we are conceived, He is there.  When we are born, He is there.  When we are ready to believe, He is there.  When we are ready to let Him lead, He is there.  When we are ready for wise counsel, He is there.  When we are ready to take up our cross and follow Him, He is there.  When we are ready to find rest under His wings, He is there.  When we are on our deathbed and ready to join Him, He is there.

He is.

That is permanence.

________

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

 

 

 

Bread – They

February 20, 2017


Psalm 53

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”  Ps. 53:1

Who is “they?”  There is an inclination to say that it is those people who are “fools,” but the reference may in fact be to everyone.  Later, in the same Psalm, God looks down on the “children of man” and says, again, “there is none who does good, not even one.”

 

But even if we limit the reference of “they” to “fools,” the real question then is “who are the fools?” and “Am I a fool too?”

A “fool” in biblical terms is a person who says in his heart, “There is no God.”  Of course we, as Christians, would look at this and say that “we know there is a God; therefore, we are not a fool.”  But not so fast.

We can acknowledge there is a God with our mind and even have accepted Him as Lord and Savior in our hearts and souls, and yet think and act on a daily basis as if there is no God.  Do I do that?  Do we do that?  Have I acknowledged God with my lips and by baptism and by attendance at worship, and yet act throughout the entire day like He doesn’t exist?

Of course I do, and so I will bet do you.   Let me ask some simple questions.

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, as something that we do minute by minute as we disobey the commands of Christ to love each other and love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, in all of its forms, mild and strong, as an absolute affront to a holy God?

Do I (we) blow off sin in our lives as something which is minor, or inconsequential, or, worse, forgiven and therefore acceptable or necessary?

Do I (we) encourage sin in others, ignoring the consequences of bringing others into ruin?

Do I (we) consider sin a mere weakness in the circumstances or imperfection which can be worked out by better education, better food, a better environment, better schools, or just the best of what the world has to offer?

Do I (we) pay more attention to what is in front of us or beneath us rather than above us?

Do I (we) believe that television is important or the news or our bank account or the car we drive or the job we have or the college degrees on our wall?

Do I (we) spend more time pursuing excellence or the treasure at the end of the rainbow or more knowledge than building relationships with our neighbors, with our family, and with God?

There are more questions, but I think I (we) get the drift.  We may not be total fools because we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, but we may be fools nonetheless because, although we know who our Savior is, we often think and act like God does not exist.

Every time we minimize God in our lives by ignoring Him and His commands, we are saying in our heart, in that moment, that God does not exist.

The “they” is me and the “they” is us.  Even though we know the truth and have exclaimed the truth, we do not live in the truth.  But, thanks be to God, while we are weak, He is strong.  While we are the “fool,” He is the fool-redeemer.  While we forget Him, He does not forget us.  When we forget who He is and what He has done, He calls us to remember and to restoration to Him.

It is sort of funny that the world would call us believers “fools” for our belief.  They are right, but not in the way they think.  For we are all fools, fallen short of the glory of God.  For we are all fools, demonstrating this daily as we walk in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of God.  But, as the redeemed, we are a special kind of fool, one who has been transformed in our minds enough to know that sin is sin, that sin results in death, that we are sinners saved by God’s mercy and purchased by blood on the cross by Christ, and that every day, as we walk in faith into the opportunities which God creates, we are growing and maturing toward that day when we will be made perfect.

And that makes all the difference.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Power

September 2, 2016


Psalm 33

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”  Ps. 33:16-20

Where is power located?  Where can it be found?

When I was getting my Masters of Business Administration, I took a course in power (of course, it wasn’t called that – it was called leadership).  We talked about a lot of things and looked at a number of psychological studies.  These showed things like how to arrange furniture to project power, where to stand, how to talk, etc.  We talked about technical power which comes from knowledge – engineers who know what they are doing have technical power because people absolutely rely on them to do things well so that bridges do not fall down, generators work, etc.  We talked about positional power, where a person’s power comes from the position they occupy, like a president has more positional power than does the bookkeeper; however, we learned that positional power is tricky, because the assistant who controls access to the president may have more positional power than even the president in some organizations.  Then we talked about situational power, where power is essentially derived from the group of people you are working with (where they voluntarily surrender power to you).  And we also talked about personal power, which arises from force of personality, drive, vision, charisma, and the such like.  I am sure new names have been attached to these and other similar concepts, but you get the drift.

But, in that entire course, we never talked about what David is talking about, the source of real power, God.

When we are in trouble, what do we fall back on?  Do we fall back on our great wealth, our family, our friends, our position, our intelligence, our native abilities, our talents, our knowledge?  To the extent we fall back on these things, and all of us do, we are demonstrating that we believe that real power comes from us or our surroundings or others somehow.  If only we could tap into the power source of self-awareness, self-assurance, or self-reliance, then we can dig our way out.  Of course, the operative word here is “self.”  When we fall back on ourselves or others, we have fallen into the arms of the world to give us the power we need to be saved, to survive the famine.

But David says that “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men … don’t hold a candle to the living God.” (or something like that)

The king is not saved by the king’s power nor his kingdom’s power; He is saved by the strong arm of the Lord and His kingdom’s power.

Where do you truly believe real power comes from?  Does it come from the sources we have been taught, or does it come from the Source which has been revealed to us by the Word written and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ?

No doubt about it, there is a battle afoot.  There is a war.  It is the battle for ideas, the battle for resources, the battle for territory, the battle for position, the battle for truth, the battle for our families, the battle for our country, and the actual wars which grow out of these battles.  We cannot escape them.  They are here and we are players.

The question is, what kind of players are we?  Are we the players who plot and scheme and lead the charge (or follow the leader), who rely on ourselves and our fellow man and their resources, or are we players who are citizens of a different world, who know where real power lays, who rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, Father, and Holy Spirit are “our help and our shield?”

The time for testing is coming.  In whose army shall we fight?

_________

© 2016 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 – Testing

June 27, 2016


Psalm 26

“Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”  Ps. 26:2

This is a Monday and to begin the week is almost test enough without asking the Lord to step in and put me through my paces so that He can prove me to be His.

But are our weekly travails test enough?

Probably not, because these are the tests we live with on a daily basis, whereas perhaps the test of the Lord is one which we need to prepare for.

The test we know is coming is one which we prepare for.  If there is a final exam coming in a class, we will study for it (maybe waiting to the last minute, but we still will make a stab at advanced preparation).  Some people will begin preparing for the test at the very beginning of the course.  We know these people are wise, but we rarely do likewise.

Similarly, if we know that we have to pass a test of endurance, like climbing a mountain, we will begin to prepare for the test well in advance by doing long walks, using a treadmill which can create an incline to run up, wear heavy shoes and knapsack while we prepare so that we will be used to lifting heavy things and walking with them, and perhaps even taking some short trips to mountain-like areas to practice our ability to walk uphill.

But as Christians, do we really ever take the time or the effort to prepare for the test to come?  David the Psalmist invites the Lord to prove him, to test both his heart (his love) and his mind (his truth).   Are we ready to invite the Lord to do the same to us?

There will be a time of testing of our heart and mind by the Lord; we just don’t know when it will be.  Then, why aren’t we preparing?

Maybe we don’t prepare because we don’t care what kind of grade we get.  If we feel this way because we know we are saved by God’s grace, then do we not care because Jesus’ death on the cross for us was cheap?  Do we not care because we do not value the gift?  If so, then maybe we don’t understand the value of the gift or the price which was paid by the Giver.

Maybe we don’t care about the time of testing because, since we don’t know when it will be, there is no target.  If that is the case, we do not understand the immediacy of death; it may happen tomorrow but it can happen today.

Maybe we don’t care about our performance in the day of testing because we don’t care to impress God with how much we love Him, or maybe we don’t love Him at all – because don’t we go out of way to work hard to please those we love.   Do we really believe God honors sloth?

What am I going to do to get ready for the test?  The Psalmist suggests two things in the first verse, “…for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.”  Ps. 26:1  And he suggests two things in the third verse, “For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.”  Ps. 26:3

If you think about it, whether we can walk in integrity, whether we can trust in the Lord without reservation or wavering, whether we are always cognizant of the Lord’s steadfast love, and whether we can walk in God’s faithfulness … that is both the preparation for the test and the test itself.

Out challenge for the rest of the day, the rest of this week, the rest of this year, and the rest of our lives is to take the test every day – act like Christians, believe like Christians, love like Christians, and hold onto God like Christians.

So that when we have run the race, the Teacher gives us our grade, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Presence

June 16, 2016


Psalm 24

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  Ps. 24:3-4

It is a rare occasion, but a few times in my life I have been the presence of a truly holy person.  It is the classic you know it when you see it.   My best example is a bishop of Nigeria, who I was in a prayer meeting with just before he was going to speak to a bunch of folks.  While I was there, he received word that his house had been attacked by Muslims and burned.  When asked if he wanted to put off speaking, his response was simply that the Lord was taking care of his family, that his house could be rebuilt, and that there were souls in the audience who needed to hear the gospel.  He then stood up, walked out, and delivered the truth to those hungry to hear it.   The reason I say he was holy was really nothing he said; it was the way he said it.  He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, he lived without fear, and he knew whose he was and what his job was.  Every word he spoke he believed; there was no doubt.  And to say the least, I was lifted up, honored, and humbled at the experience.

We may say that we would like to be like him, but is that really true.  Can we live our lives in absolute trust in the Lord to preserve us and our loved ones?  Can we suffer the complete loss of our possessions on earth so that we obtain possessions in heaven?  Are we willing to truly leave everything on the table to follow Christ?  Are we willing and able to preach the gospel in and out of season?

I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is something always held back, something always reserved for ourselves.  We are willing to sacrifice our time, but are we willing to sacrifice our life?

In one sense, though, we Christians are all set apart for God and we are all in that sense holy.  But this bishop was truly holier than me.

And yet, as holy as this man was, could he ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place?  Does even this bishop, this holy one, have clean hands and a pure heart?

The answer is “no.”  He may be a holy man but he is a man and therefore a sinner, made able to climb God’s hill and appear in God’s throne room only because Jesus Christ precedes him and saves him.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who has clean hands and a pure heart?  It is those whose hands have been made clean and who have a new heart as a result of new spiritual birth, all made possible by Jesus’ obedience to the cross, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension to the Father.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  If you are a Christian, you know the answer to that question.  If you do not know the answer, it is in the gospel of John, 14:6, where Jesus says simply “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who shall be in the presence of the Lord?  Will you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Fool

April 4, 2016


Psalm 14

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  Ps. 14:1

When I write Bread, I do not read ahead to the next week.  Last week, when I wrote about Psalm 13, I only read Psalm 13, not Psalm 14.  And yet, on Friday of last week, I noted that Psalm 13 contained an unlucky number and that Friday was April Fool’s day, and I ended with this:

“The Bible does say that those people who do not seek after God are fools.  But we do not need to go there on April Fool’s day.  Instead, all we need to do is to know that we are not, and be grateful to the One who has brought us to the point where “our heart(s) shall rejoice in Your salvation.” Ps. 13:5”

And, so, when I sit down this morning to read Psalm 14 for the week, I am shocked when the first line is “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.”  Ps. 14:1

There is a tendency on our part to look at this statement and either recoil that such a harsh word, “fool,” is used, or to say, “Thank God, I am not like one of those fools.”  But both reactions would be wrong.

First, those who deny the existence of God, His eternal power and divinity, are fools because they know there is a God and yet choose to ignore that knowledge to follow their own paths.  Paul in Romans speaks to this when he says that “What may be known about God [from nature] is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Rom. 1:19-20  We know God exists because creation surrounds us and is obvious to us.  The explanation of “science” is that a tree came to be by the passage of time and the application of probability to random mutations of something.  The plain explanation is that a tree exists because it does, because the intricate nature of its structure … the cells, roots, branches, fruit, bark – are of such detailed and balanced structure, both at the observable level and at the electron microscopic level, that it is like a finely made watch – it does not exist independent of its Creator, because only a creator can create.  The fool sees the intricacy and the fine balance which makes a tree a tree, and turns from the obvious conclusion, that it was made, and instead builds a theory (which he calls fact) that it came from nothing to become itself.

But what some people call obvious may not be to those who have no exposure to truth.  Some time ago I had the opportunity to speak with a young Chinese student who was obtaining her doctorate in astrophysics from a local university.  She spoke English well and I asked her if she believed in God.  She said “no” and that she had been taught that God was a creation of our minds to justify ourselves.   And I asked her whether she had studied the universe and had studied, as well, the microscopic, to which she obviously replied “yes.”  I then asked her whether things became simpler as you reached into the macro-sphere and the micro-sphere, and she said “no, more complex.”  And then I looked at her, smiling, and said “Does complexity suggest a creative mind or a random series of events?”  And she said “a creative mind.”  And then I said “and you have just proven the existence of God.”  And the point of the story is this … she looked at me and said “I have never heard of God explained this way; I need to think about it.”

What is plain to a neutral observer may no longer be plain to an observer whose sight and sound have been corrupted by the world.  We are surrounded by fools, but they are not fools we should ignore, but fools who we should love.

Second, when we say “Thank God, I am not like one of those fools,” we are making a grave error, because we too can behave exactly like them.   Now we may say there is a God, but do we put God first?  Do we act in everything we do as if there is a God?  Do we devour His written Word about how we should lead our lives.  Do we hold captive every thought to the gospel, to God’s word written and made flesh in Jesus Christ?

Perhaps our disobedience does not put us in the category of fools and I am being too harsh, but it certainly puts us in the category of foolish.  And how many foolish things must we do before we are counted among the fools?

The fact is that we do enough foolish things, sinful things, that we could be counted among the fools by God?  Why aren’t we?  Because God has enlightened us, because God is His sovereign power has granted us mercy, because God has saved us.

We are like the fool but we are not the fool, not because of anything we did, but because of what He did, does, and will do.  Thank you, Jesus.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Recover

April 3, 2016


Psalm 13

“But I have trusted in Your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.  I will sing to the Lord because He has dealt bountifully with me.” Ps. 13:5-6

Today is April 1, April Fool’s day, and I have been thinking all week about how I could bring together this fact together with the fact that this is the 13th Psalm, and, therefore, the presumably “unlucky” Psalm, together.

We began the week with whining .. “How long, O Lord.  Will You forget me forever?” Ps. 13:1  We then began the process of prayer, reaching out to God in the knowledge that unless God “light up my eyes,” we will “sleep the sleep of death.”  Ps. 13:3  While we are in the pit of despair, we may feel like we are dying, but without God lighting up our eyes, we really are dying.

And so we end the week singing to the Lord, because “He has dealt bountifully with me.”

What has changed?  Have our circumstances changed?  We don’t know, but probably not.  If we were in the pit of despair because we had no money and no food, we probably still have no money and no food while we acknowledge our trust in God because He has dealt bountifully in the past.  Are situation has not changed, but our attitude about our situation has.

When we turn from our problems and face God, our problems are still there, but our depression has made way to hope, our fear to courage, and our anger to love.

Well, it is April Fool’s Day and this is the 13th Psalm, so is there a joke in here somewhere.

The world would say that there is a joke and it is on us.  They would point to the problems which drove us to despair and say, “See, the problems are still there.  Your faith is empty.  It has produced no solutions.  Now follow the ways of the world, get up and get moving, and start earning your way to prosperity.

Are they right?  In their own mind, they are and we are a bunch of fools for believing in who cannot be seen.  And they would be right but for one thing.  The God who gives us His steadfast love, whose promises are sure, who has dealt “bountifully with us,” is the same God, who in His sovereignty, in His majesty, in His mercy, and in His power has lit up our eyes so that we will not be asleep in the sleep of death, but awake to life, life now and life eternal.

Our faith is not something which we learn, we grow into, we acquire, we build, or we invent.  Our faith is given to us by God who loves us, so that, when we find ourselves staring at our problems, at our lives lived poorly, at opportunities wasted, at loss and ruin, we may turn to Him and, in so doing, remind ourselves that we have trusted in God and His steadfast love and that He has in the past dealt “bountifully” with us.

So, is the 13th Psalm unlucky?  Yes, but not for us … for Satan.  For built into this Psalm is reminder of what to do when we despair … turn toward God, pray, and remember.  And in so doing we steal from Satan one of his primary tools to draw us away from God – discouragement, and lay it at the feet of Him who calls us into hope, joy, and life.

The Bible does say that those people who do not seek after God are fools.  But we do not need to go there on April Fool’s day.  Instead, all we need to do is to know that we are not, and be grateful to the One who has brought us to the point where “our heart(s) shall rejoice in Your salvation.” Ps. 13:5

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Evidence

March 11, 2016


Psalm 10

“The Lord is king forever and ever; the nations perish from His land.” Ps. 10:16

This weekend has been beat down week.  On Monday, I wrote about the characteristics of the walking atheist, the person who claims to follow Christ but walks daily as if he and she do not believe He is present.  Unfortunately, as we apply those characteristics to ourselves [arrogance (boastfulness; pride), prosperity, apparent security, abusive speech, and aggression (violence)], we find that, although we are not atheists in the classic sense (no belief in God), we may act like atheists more than we think.

On Wednesday, I took one of these characteristics, prosperity, and built on it.  One of the reasons I did is that we live in place and a time of great prosperity, where great riches come to the people who are expert at the game of life.  But the game of life is played according to two sets of rules, and we pick which sets of rules we live by.   One set of rules are the rules of the game of life according to the world (which really means man, and behind man, Satan).  Those people who play by these rules often win and win big, and those of us who see that wonder where God’s judgment is on them because they always seem so prosperous.  The second set of rules are of the rules of the game of life according to God.  Those people who play by these rules experience prosperity of heart, and, depending upon the resources which God commits to them as stewards, may have much or little according to the prosperity of things.

Today, Friday, is the third beat down.  I’m sorry, but Psalm 10 is focused on the people of the world who claim God but do not follow His ways, the people who say they believe in Christ but do not integrate Him into their behavior.  It is focused on their characteristics and their behaviors flowing from their character, and it is focused on the seeming failure of God to show up to punish them (and us) for our transgressions of His law.

Today’s quote from Psalm 10 is close to the end of the Psalm and reminds us for the punishment which awaits those who say that there is a God but produce no good fruit in keeping with that statement.  It reminds us of who the creator is and who God is.  It tells us who our king, our ruler is.  And it tells us the end – “the nations perish from His land.”

There is an end to the story and, for the nations who walk separate from God, who claim to know God but ignore His rules of life, for the nations which in their arrogance point to their prosperity and say “we did this,” for the nations which step on the poor, for the nations whose speech and actions are debased and abusive, and for the nations who take what they want, when they want, from whom they want – for those nations, there is an end.  They will end; they will perish; they will be no more.

Now there will be a tendency of the reader to translate the word “nation” into “government,” and immediately point to the government as the problem.  It will be the government which does all these bad things and it will be the government which ends and perishes from the earth.  This would be a wrong translation.  The word “nations” means “people,” you and me.

“The Lord is king forever and ever; the (people) perish from His land.”  If you want to personalize it – “The Lord is king forever and ever; (I and my family) perish from His land.”

I think any sober person would, today, looking around, say “The United States is fast running downhill over the cliff.”  But who is the United States?  It is the people; it is you and me.

How we live the game of life does not save us because only Christ can do that, but it does produce either good or bad fruit.  And we know that true faith, being truly “born again,” results in a transformed life where we are not over God nor are we His equals, but we are His servants, kneeling before Him, with an overwhelming desire to follow Him and His rules of the game of life.

Which rules do we follow?  That is the question of the week.  As someone once said, if you were accused of being a Christian, is there enough evidence to convict you?  If we follow the game of life according to the world’s rules, quite frankly there will probably not be much evidence.  If we follow the game of life according to God’s rules, we will be convicted by clear and convincing evidence.  The nations will perish, but will we?

For those who believe in Christ, there is salvation from death and we will not perish.

We say we believe in Christ, but do we?

Do we play by His rules or ours?

If we play by our rules, where is the evidence that we truly believe in Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: