Bread – Kings

May 25, 2016


Psalm 21

.“His [the king’s] glory is great through Your salvation; splendor and majesty You bestow on him.  For You make him most blessed forever; You make him glad with joy of Your presence.  For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.”  Ps. 21:5-7

Which king is the Psalmist talking about?

One answer could be the author of this Psalm, King David himself.  If this is the case, he is speaking of himself in the third person, but that is not unusual if David was intending to turn himself as king into the object of God’s pleasure.

Another answer could be Jesus Christ Himself, King of Glory.  One reason it could be him is that the Psalmist says “You make him most blessed forever.”  And who is most blessed, except the Son of God Himself.  Another reason could be that He bestows “splendor and majesty on him.”  And who has the most splendor and majesty except the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  However, I do not think it is a reference to the Messiah because David starts off by saying that the king’s glory is great through “Your salvation.”  Although in one sense it is God Almighty who brings salvation to His people, Jesus Christ as God did not need to be saved – He is Savior; He saves.  Jesus’ glory pre-existed His death and resurrection and preceded creation itself.

So who else could David be talking about?  You … and me.

Think about it for minute.  Why not?

To the extent we reflect glory, it is made great through His salvation of us.

To the extent we reflect splendor and majesty in what we do and who we are, it is God who gives it to us.

To the extent we are blessed, it is because God has made us “most blessed.”  And since we are saved by God’s might, He has made us “most blessed forever.”

To the extent we are thankful for our blessings, it is through the power of God in us that we can even see the source of those blessings, much less be glad in His presence.

And how is it that we reflect glory, are bestowed with honor, splendor and majesty, receive our blessings, and become joyful in the presence of the living God?  It is because “the king trusts in the Lord.”

And finally and most importantly, to the extent we are unmoved by the world, by the opinions of others, by our own carnal desires, it is because of “the steadfast love of the Most High.”  If we stand strong in the evil day, it is because the God we worship is Himself steadfast in power, holiness, and love.

So personalize this psalm: “My glory is great through His salvation; splendor and majesty have been bestowed upon me by Him.  He has made me most blessed forever; and I have been made by Him to be glad and joyful in His presence.  It is because I trust in the Lord, and I shall not be moved from the rock because He is steadfast in His love for me.”

We are kings because He is King.

Now, do we behave like it?

_________

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

 

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Bread – Sources

January 6, 2016


Introduction

You are receiving this e-mail because you were on the original mailing list for my original Bread, which were my thoughts on God’s Word for the day, based upon Scripture specified by the Anglican Book of Common Prayer for what is called the “Daily Office.”  I stopped writing that about three months ago as I fell into the modern (and ancient) trap of business and busyness (which are really the same thing).

Many of my Christian friends are presently using the Psalms for their reflective time and it seemed to me good that I do so also in this Phase II of Bread.

Lucky for me and for you, God has many names, some of which are Grace, Mercy, Restoration, and Forgiveness.  And so, what I find as I sit back down again to engage Him through His Word is that, while I wandered off, He never left and is here.  I hope and pray that as I write Bread it will be a blessing to those who read it and that, through my meager attempts to speak truth in love, you will discover or rediscover Him in your life and will eat and be filled of the Bread of eternal life, the Word in Scripture and the Word in Christ.

And so we begin Phase II of Bread at the beginning, with Psalm 1.

Psalm 1

“Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night.”  Ps. 1:1-2

I need some money to buy something.  Where do I go?  A bank, my piggybank, a friendly neighbor?  If you need money, you go to the place where money is.

The term “Blessed” used here translates well to “happiness.”  So, where do we go acquire happiness, to become happy?  To become blessed?

The Psalmist points out that there are two places we can go.  One is to go to other people, whose thoughts and philosophies and solutions are written down and described in many books and articles filling many libraries and many university courses.  Since we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God (having been disobedient to the point of ejection from the place of perfect relationship to God to estrangement from Him), the “wicked,” “sinners” and “scoffers” referred to are us, the world.    We can seek our happiness from the wisdom of the world, we can find counsel with the wicked, we can associate with sinners, and we can teach others to do the same, joining voices with those who reject God  (“sit in the seat of scoffers”), but blessedness (happiness) does not come from there.   When we go there for the secrets to happiness, we are drawing not from an empty well, but a poisoned well.

So what then is the alternative source?  If we cannot become blessed (happy) by learning from the wicked (“walks in the counsel of the wicked”), by associating with sinners (“stands in the way of sinners”), and by adopting the world’s way of doing and thinking (“sits in the seat of scoffers”), then where can we go?  What bank can we go to to draw out the resources we need for blessedness in this life and beyond, to eternal life?

The answer is clear.  God.  And where is God’s revelation of Himself? – Scripture.  And what is the description of Scripture? – “the law of the Lord.”  Law here is not just a set of rules for living, a set of heavenly statutes, but is the reflection and revelation of God Himself.   The blessed man meditates on the law day and night not because he is studying for a law school exam so he can repeat line and verse of “thou shalt not,” but because through such meditation he can gain an understanding of the Creator, of the message behind the “law.”

Two sources of what we need, what we want.  The first, the world, promises life and delivers death.  The second, God through His Word, promises life and delivers it, both in the present and for all time.

In a few words the Psalmist presents the question of the day.  What source do you go to for happiness, blessedness, peace, truth, love, power, hope, an overflowing life?

The choice is clear and we make it every day when we pick up the newest self-help book rather than the Bible.

Is it any wonder that we are miserable when we go to the source of misery first rather than the source of life?

What well are you drinking out of today?

__________

© 2016 GBF

 

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

Bread – Cursed

March 27, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, March 27, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 17:5-10,14-17; Phil. 4:1-13; John 12:27-36; Psalms 55,74

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From Jeremiah in today’s readings – “…Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” Jer. 17:5,7

What does “cursed” mean. Well, in my mind it means that bad things are going to happen all the time, but it turns out that this is one of those English words which we think has a unitary meaning when back in Old Testament days it took six different Hebrew words to describe “curse” or “cursed.” The Hebrew word used in today’s passage [Strong’s 779] is generally interpreted to mean “to bind (with a spell), to hem in with obstacles, to render powerless to resist.”* Paraphrased then, today’s passage from Jeremiah means that, if you trust in man and man’s ways, you are going to be limited, hemmed in, confronted with obstacles to fully living life, powerless to resist temptation and evil, locked into a prison of your making from which there is no escape.

Think about this for a minute. What man says he wants more than anything is free will, to be free to decide and to live. This is what society pushes and we think of as the high life. And, yet, if we trust in man and man’s ways, our will is in fact circumscribed. By striving to do it our way, we make sure that we can never have it our way. The very thing we do in our own strength and the strength of others does not free us, it binds us and imprisons us. What looks good to us is in fact bad for us.

In other words, when we rely on ourselves and others, we are cursed – bounded and limited by the mirage of doing it our way.

But, if we surrender to Christ, if we trust in the Lord, if we give up our “rights,” we are set free to live fully, productively, excellently, and completely.

What does the blessing from trust in Christ, what does this freedom look like? In today’s reading from Paul’s letter to Philippi we have a taste. “Rejoice … Let your reasonableness be known…do not be anxious about anything … And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:4-7

What keeps us from acting in love toward our fellow man? Is it because we are anxious – if we give our money away, we won’t have any for tomorrow; if we share our food we will have less; if we give up our time, we won’t get things done which need to get done; if we love freely, we will get hurt? There are many negatives to see from man’s perspective, and they hem us in and render us powerless. Is it because we cannot be reasonable, because if we are reasonable, then people will think that we are weak-willed or weak-kneed or of weak conviction or too willing to surrender the truth? Isn’t being unreasonable, to prove our strength, actually proving our weakness and putting us into a prison of our making, hemming ourselves in with our own obstacles?

The truth is that Christians are often hemmed in by anxiety, by unreasonableness, by fear, by turmoil and strife, by selfishness, and by the world. Why?

As we believe, so we think. As we think, so we act. Jesus has said to us that He has chosen us and has saved us and that His promises to us are trustworthy. Satan has murmured to us, “No, you are still cursed.” Are your actions reflections of being cursed or being blessed? Whom do you believe? “Cursed is the man who trusts in man … Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.” Jer. 17:5,7. And just to make sure you get the point, this quotation from Jeremiah begins with “Thus says the Lord:…” Jer. 17:5.

As a nation, our money says “In God We Trust.” Today it might well say “In Man We Trust.” Is it any wonder that we feel hemmed in, powerless to resist the inevitable forces which seem to surround us, anxious, cursed?

What’s your motto, “In God I Trust” or “In Man I Trust?” And whichever it is, do you live it?

_____________________

© 2013 GBF.  *The quotation is taken from “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament” in the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, N.A.S.B. (Ed. Zodhiates, AMG Publishers 1990).

Bread – Blessed

February 25, 2013


Readings for Monday, February 25, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 1:1-14; 2 Cor. 1:12-22; Matt. 5:1-12; Psalm 106

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In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus begins his “Sermon on the Mount” with the Beatitudes. In one sermon a long time ago, these were referred to as the “Attitudes” you should “Be.” Every one of them is a description of who in the kingdom of God is “blessed” – those who are “poor in spirit,” who “mourn,” or “are meek,” who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” who are “merciful,” who are “pure in heart,” who are “peacemakers,” and “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Matt. 5:1-12.

Blessedness has a common denominator – you, with God’s help, put pride in its place, subordinated to an “attitude of gratitude.” Blessed people are people who know where their bread really comes from, where their safety really comes from, where their life (both now and hereafter) really comes from, where their wealth, honor, power, and hope really comes from. They don’t necessary have answers to every problem, but they know that the answer does not lie in themselves. They are blessed because God blesses them and because they do not act in ways which block or interfere with receipt of the blessing. They take their blessings from God and not from themselves or their neighbors or the world, and they are therefore truly blessed.

This does not mean they live well according to worldly standards. In today’s reading from Ruth, a Moabite pagan (more than likely, because Naomi tells her to go home to her family and her “gods”) chooses to subordinate her life to that of Naomi, the Jewish mother-in-law, and to support her. This requires Ruth to “glean” the fields (a poor person’s way of permissible self-help) without expectation of any real thanks or benefit, other than having enough food to live another day. Yet in her “poverty of spirit,” Ruth is blessed with being redeemed by “type” of Christ, a kinsman-redeemer who runs the risk of sacrificing his good name to bring Ruth into the family of God, an integration so complete that Ruth is in the line of genealogy for King David and Christ Jesus.

But it does mean that they live well according to eternal standards.

It is very easy to read the story of Ruth and say that that is nice for her, but hard for me. It is very easy to read the list of Beatitudes and say that that is nice for them but hard for me. After all, it is hard to be “poor in spirit” when we are well-educated according to worldly standards, when we are wealthy according to worldly standards, when we are powerful according to worldly standards, when we are important according to worldly standards.

It is very hard, because we want so much to believe that we are it, that we are the stuff out of which the universe is made, that we are king. The world tells us that these things are important and then organizes our life so that slowly but surely, what we have is discovered to be a chimera, here today and gone tomorrow. Over time, what appears to be real power, real wealth, real importance, turns to dust. God tells us the exact opposite, that these things are not important. When we adopt the beatitudes, the way of blessing, and realize that these things are not important, God then so organizes our life so that slowly but surely, we get them – but this time for real. Instead of the “here today, gone tomorrow” promise of the world, we get the “gone today, here tomorrow” reality of God. Over time, what appears to be a life absent of wealth, power, and importance in God turns to a real life of real wealth, real power, and real, eternal importance. With God, we turn in the fake to obtain the real. With the world, we surrender the real to the fake.

The world knows that it is a shill selling lies, and therefore it attempts to ridicule those people of God who give the truth away for free. The theory goes that, if people are thought of as silly or stupid, then no-one will listen to them.

But there is a problem with this because when we repeat God’s words, it is God who speaks and not us. So we can be reviled all day long, but the truth will still poke through the smokescreen of insults. All we have to do is to remember that it is not our battle to win because it has already been won on the cross.

Are you feeling blessed today? No? Why not? Maybe it is because you are not “being” the right “attitude.” When we deserve the worse (which we do) but are given the best (because God wants to), then how can we be anything but blessed?

Are you feeling blessed today? No? Maybe you need to change positions by subordinating your will to God’s, by exchanging a spirit of “heart-richness” for a spirit of “heart-poorness,” by stepping down from your throne of self-actualization and handing it to God, who really is a better King than we are.

Are you feeling blessed today? No? Maybe it is time for this prayer – “Come Holy Spirit and take over….now!”

_________________________

© 2013 GBF

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