Bread – Foundations

April 3, 2017


Psalm 59

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; … For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me.  For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. .. You, Lord Gods of hosts, are God of Israel.”  Ps. 59:1-5

What foundations need to be laid to boldly go to God in prayer?  The quoted verses above suggest that there are three.

The first foundation of prayer is need.  In this case, it is David’s dire circumstances facing people who have been sent by Saul to David’s home to kill him.  These are the people laying in wait, stirring up strife.  But in our situation, it may not be people who are hounding us, it may be just bad circumstances – perhaps a loss of a job or a failure in some aspect of life, perhaps the discovery of a painful illness.  It can be both physical or emotional, but the first foundation to be laid is the recognition that we need God’s help.  Of course, David was alert to this need because men were coming to kill him, but we ought to be alert to our needs all the time, because they are many.  God knows we have needs, but we need to tell Him our needs anyway, in part to remind ourselves that we radically dependent upon Him for all good things.

The second foundation of prayer is our own position vis a vis our neighbor.  Have we caused our neighbor harm; we need to go make it right.  Have we spoken hastily and meanly; we need to apologize.  David makes sure that he approaches God with a clean conscience (“…for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.”)   Perhaps our dire circumstances are our own fault, arising from our own trespass upon others.  When we come before God in effective prayer, we need to lay the foundation of self-examination and self-awareness.  We in all likelihood will need God’s help to clean up the mess we made, but at least then we can lay the blame honestly before Him as an offering of a contrite heart.

The third foundation of prayer is the character of God Himself.  In speaking of “You, Lord God of Hosts, are God of Israel,” David speaks of Yahweh, the great “I am,” Elohim Sabaoth, the great God who commands the mighty hosts of heaven to victory, and Elohi Israel, the God who makes covenant with His people Israel and, in the New Testament, His people the Church.  The character of God is the personal, holy God of revelation (Yahweh), the commander of the forces of heaven and earth (Elohim Sabaoth), and the promise-keeper (Elohi Israel).  We can speak to Him because He is, we can rest in His power because He commands heaven and earth, and we can rely upon Him because He keeps His promises to His people.

With a real need, a clean heart, and the aid of God Almighty, the foundations have been laid for a really good prayer session.

Let’s go!

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

 

Bread – Broken

February 10, 2017


Psalm 51

…let the bones You have broken rejoice….The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:8b,17

This Psalm has so much in it, so much exalted language and so many truths, it is almost impossible to write about.  I could have written about “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me,” (Ps. 51:10) or “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” (Ps. 51:15).  I could write about what God does to lift us up, to give us a clean heart, to open our lips, to exalt our praise of Him, to empower us to good works in loving our neighbor.  All this would be very uplifting and it would all be true and it would be a great way to end the week.

 

But instead I quote two separated passages where the Psalmist talks about broken bones, a broken heart, and a broken spirit.   Why?

 

In our journey as Christians, we may be brought up in the church and raised as Christians.  We may read Scripture and be able to recite it at will.  We may go to Sunday School and receive instruction and debate the fineries of theology and religion.  We may think deeply, act nobly, and speak gracefully.  We may do all these things, but it is not until we realize that we were dead on arrival, dead in our sins, dead in our trespasses, fundamentally broken in disobedience, that we truly understand the worth of the gift of salvation which God gave us on the cross.

We must be broken first before we can be healed.  We must know first that we are broken before we can comprehend, appreciate, and grab onto God’s mercy in taking us from our pit and setting us on firm foundation.

If we can walk and we break our leg, we can no longer walk.  Once the broken bone has healed, we can walk again.  And when we do, we end up in a place where we remember the broken bone, we remember the healing process, we appreciate the healer, and we are grateful for the simple thing – walking – which we previously took for granted.  And, in the process, we become more obedient to the rules which keep us from getting a broken leg to begin with (like, don’t jump from the roof of a house to the ground).

What I just said works if we know what health is (we previously walked).  But what if we are broken from the beginning; how do we know we are broken and in need of a healer?

Deep in our spirit is a longing for a better place, and we know that place exists.  The question is how do we get there?  The world answers that question by saying we can build ourselves up and out, we can make ourselves better people, and by our ingenuity and hard work we can achieve that better place.  This theory relies on the person who is broken to heal himself, partly on the idea that “I broke it, so I can fix it.”  Some religions answer this question by a variation on theme of the world, saying that you are broken because you fall short of God’s expectations, but you can climb the ladder of good works into that better place, the place of non-brokenness.  Both the world and these religions rely on man to fix himself, to repair his brokenness.

But the Psalmist says something different.  He says “let the bones You have broken rejoice.”  The Psalmist says that we are broken, but that our broken state was caused by God on purpose, on His purpose.

This may sound cruel at first, but it is actually very good.  Because of God broke the bone, the spirit, and the heart, He can heal it.  If we broke it, we can heal it; if God broke it, He can heal it.

And when we realize that we are broken and that we have no power to fix it, we turn to the only One who can.

There are many ways to say it – broken, lost, dead – but only one truth.  The One who has broken us is the One who heals us.  How?  By becoming broken Himself on the cross for us, paying the penalty for our disobedience we cannot pay ourselves.  That One is Jesus, the Christ.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Sacrifice

February 1, 2016


Psalm 5

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.

Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice to You and watch.”  Ps. 5:1-3

What morning sacrifice is David preparing?

Because this is the Old Testament, one answer might well be a slain lamb or a grain offering.

However, isn’t this Psalm, this prayer, really the sacrifice?  Isn’t the time David is spending with the Lord his morning sacrifice?

Before we slough this off as too easy an answer, think about your own morning sacrifice to God.

When you are in bed and before you arise, are your first thoughts of God or of breakfast, a shower, and for men, a shave?  Before we get out of bed in the morning, are we saying to God “Give ear to my words, O Lord,” or are we making out our mental “to do” list for the day’s affairs?  Where do our priorities lie before we get up in the morning?

Now we have risen from bed.  We have turned off the alarm.  Do we fall on our knees in fear of the Lord, asking Him to intercede for us in the evil day … or do we go into the kitchen to turn on the coffee and either go outside to get the newspaper (for us older folks) or fire up our tablet to look at the news online?

Now we have gotten our newspaper and our coffee.  Do we drink our coffee while we read God’s Word and meditate on it, or do we go back into the bedroom and the bathroom to get ready for the day.

After we get ready for the day, what do we do next?  Do we spend a half hour with God in prayer in our chair or on our couch, or are we listening to talk radio in the car as we go to work?

What kind of sacrifice to we make to the Creator of the Universe on a regular daily morning?

But notice that David doesn’t just say that he “sacrifices” to God.  He says that he “prepares” a sacrifice.

The idea of preparing a sacrifice as opposed to just sacrificing suggests a higher level of intentionality, and a higher and more intent use of time.  To prepare for something, we have to think about it, we have to gather the ingredients, and we have to put the ingredients together.

What are the ingredients for preparation of a sacrifice?

Some people say that they can pray in bed in the morning.  I cannot.  In order for me to write Bread or pray or do anything else with a focus on God, I have to (a) decide to do it, (b) get out of bed, (c) walk to the room and the chair where I meet God, (d) sit down, (e) deliberately turn my thinking from “I don’t have time for this” to God, and (f) start.  And a lot of times, I start just like David does here … “Give ear to my words, O Lord.”  “And, Lord, if I have no words, then as David said ‘consider my groanings.’”

But is this the sacrifice?  Most people would say “yes” because time and effort is being sacrificed to God.  However, the answer is “no.”  The reason is that all this, including the prayer, is only preparation for the sacrifice.

Then what is the sacrifice?  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:17

In our world, when we are in “control,” when we are the master of our ship, how will we ever appear before God, today, this morning, with a “contrite heart,” with an acceptable sacrifice, without preparation, without taking the time and making the effort to come to God and asking Him to love us, to listen to us, to forgive our trespasses, and to fill us with His Holy Spirit that we may in turn love others, listen to others, and forgive others?

When we begin our day thinking first of God and preparing for our sacrifice by meeting Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, and loving Him, then we will, with a good preparation, know by what grace, by what mercy, we are even given the right to do what we are doing.  And when that awe settles over us, well then the sacrifice of a contrite heart has begun.

Before the sacrifice is the preparation.  What have you done today to prepare?  What time have you set aside; what time have you spent in prayer, in communion with your Savior?  What morning preparation have you made to give to God your sacrifice of your heart?

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

 

 

 

 

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