Bread – Number

November 27, 2017


Psalm 90

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Ps. 90:12

I was in the car the other day with my grandson, who has learned to count to a hundred.  He counted to seventy and then asked me to count to forty as fast as I could.  I had gotten to twenty-one when he yelled out “times up!”  Of course, this was a game and he made up the rules, so I would always run out of time before I achieved the objective.

What are our objectives for today, this week, and the rest of this year (it now being November 27)?  Our time management experts would suggest that we take the time every day to review our mission and our goals and lay out achievable things to do which will help us achieve those objectives, checking them off as we go through our day buffeted by the winds of other people’s agendas.

So is that what God is telling us to do through Moses, the Psalmist, in Psalm 90?  If, by the grace of God, we are able to realize that our days are few and numbered, are we to achieve a heart of wisdom by daily effort?

A reasonable response to this question might well be yes, on the idea that, if we belong to God, we know that our mission is to honor and love Him and, in the process, to then love and honor our neighbor as ourselves.  This requires prayer, study, and work of the heart, mind, and hands.  And some people consider wisdom to be knowing the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons.

But it is not the only response to the question.  It seems to me that there is a reason the phrase is this – “So teach … that we may get….”  The words are not “tell” and they are not “achieve.”  The words are “teach” and “may get.”  The emphasis seems not to be on us deciding and doing, but upon us listening and receiving.

There is a question sometimes asked which is “If you knew this were your last four hours (1 day, 2 days, 2 weeks, one month) on earth, what would you do?”  People’s answers are rarely that they would review their to do list and go into work.  Instead, most people answer that they would spend time with friends and family, surrounded by those they love and who love him or her.  Most people would spend their last days, if they knew they were their last days, in “being in the moment.”

Yes, we need to plan.  Yes, we need to do.  But, also yes, we need to be in the moment, sensitive to the relationship before us.  Perhaps that relationship in our quiet time is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Perhaps that relationship on the elevator is the person who needs to know that someone cares.  Perhaps that relationship in our house is with our wife or husband or children.

Start counting and sooner or later a little voice from the backseat will yell out “times up.”  Knowing that, we are prepared to receive a heart of wisdom from God.  Wisdom not for knowing what to do, but for who to be.  Not for knowing what to say, but for knowing how to love.  Not for knowing how to plan for the future, but for knowing how to live in the present.  Not for knowing who we are, but for knowing Whose we are.   Wisdom in time, for all time.

Our days are numbered; the counting has begun.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

Bread – Mine

June 6, 2016


Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd…”  Ps. 23:1

There is a movie about a fish which goes on a long journey in search of his lost son.  At one point, this fish is on a dock, surrounded by seagulls, all of whom start saying “mine, mine, mine, mine” and start snapping at each other, distracted while the fish gets away.

I always laugh about this image because we often start fights over what is “mine,” and this scene reminds me of that contest for what is “mine.”

I memorized this Psalm as a young child and can still quote it from memory because of the comfort is provides me, knowing that God looks out after me, a sheep of His fold.  I can visualize walking through the valley of the shadow of death with His voice comforting me through it.  All of the power of this Psalm I can visualize.

But, as we know, there is a mile between our head, where our thoughts and visualizations are, to our heart, where our hope and true knowledge are.

The difference is between “sort of mine” and “actually mine.”

What does it take for us to fully know and appreciate that Yahweh, the great “I am,” is in fact “my” shepherd?

Not “a” shepherd, not even “the” shepherd, but “my” shepherd.

Before we pass too glibly over this question, are we willing to fight to make Jesus “mine?”  Is He my shepherd to the point that I will walk with Him all the time, communicate with Him all the time, and follow Him all the time?  Is He permanently mine or just mine when I want Him to be?

How do I know that He is mine?

Actually, Jesus gave us the answer to the this question when He said: “My sheep hear My voice.”  Jn. 10:27

There are many ways to hear, one is with the ears and another is with the heart.  There are many people who have never heard Jesus speak words into their ears, but have heard Jesus speak through Scripture into their minds, into their souls, and into their hearts.

Do you hear His voice calling you in the wilderness of your life?  If so, just answer “Yes, Lord.”  And you can then say with certainty that “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

_________

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

 

Bread – It

June 3, 2016


 

Psalm 22

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

This is actually a fairly simple and straightforward Bread.  Who is “he” and what is “it?”

This is a long quotation from Psalm 22 because it tells of an event in history, one which you should recognize in the telling.  All of these events are significant because they happened at Golgotha and on the way there, but perhaps the phrases “they pierced my hands and feet,” and “they divide my garments…and for my clothing they cast lots” will bring to mind Jesus and the cross and death and resurrection.

These quotations describe a crucifixion in detail, and Jesus’ crucifixion in particular.

So the “he” is obvious, but as you know, I think that all personal pronoun references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be capitalized to raise them up to their proper place above us ordinary persons.  And because the Psalm could arguably relate to anyone (after all, the “me” is lower cased in modern translations of Scripture), the “who is he” question is more easily answered by restating the quotation this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet – I can count all My bones – they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn that He has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

The other day I had a person ask me where there is, in the Old Testament, a plain statement predicting Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Well, here at least is a plain prediction of Jesus’ death.  And isn’t that made more obvious by elevating Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit by capitalizing references to them?

This is prophesy in its purest form, and less one thinks David is describing something in the present, in his time, then think about this – this is a detailed description of a crucifixion and crucifixion was unknown in the time of David.  David is reciting details about a form of torture that did not exist when it was written.  It is detailed, it is accurate, and the description was fulfilled by Jesus.  And it was written some 1000 years before Christ’s death.

Then what does it mean that “He has done it?”  To understand this, one needs to recognize that Psalm 22 ends with that statement – “He had done it.”  And it begins with this statement – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It is the crucifixion of Christ, He has been forsaken by God as He takes on our sins and separation from God is the price of sin, and at the end that relationship is restored because He is is the perfect offering of His blood for our sin.  “He has done it” means simply that Jesus paid the price of sin and the offering of His life for ours was accepted by God the Father.

He has done it means that the bridge between us and God, destroyed by Adam’s sin, has been rebuilt by Jesus’ obedience to the cross.

From the depth of despair (why have You forsaken Me) to the height of victory (He has done it) through the cross (described in the middle of Psalm 22).

That “He has done it” means that we don’t have to.  Jesus did the “good work” of perfect obedience to the Law, of perfectly bearing our sin, of perfectly satisfying the demands of the Father for payment (sacrifice) for sin.

But what we do need to do is recognize who He is and what He has done, turn to Him in repentance, and trust in Him for our salvation.  Easily said, but impossible to do without God.  And, so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

_________

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

 

Bread – Hope

May 30, 2016


Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…” Ps. 22:1-4

How often have we felt like this?  Out in the middle of our trials and tribulations, surrounded by events not of our (apparent) doing and surrounded by people we would rather not be associated with, we feel really, really alone.  Where are our friends?  Where is our family?  Where is God?

Perhaps the closest we can come from feeling like we have been totally abandoned is if we are a small child and both parents are killed or disappear, or we have some terrible disease fall upon us which is horribly contagious, and all of our friends and family melt away.  But even then, the small child may be helped by some people who come alongside of him.  The contagious disease-ridden person, may see the nurses and doctors surrounding them and they may even see their loved ones outside the windows, aching to get in.

But what if we have fallen to the bottom of the well and the voices of the searchers have wandered away to be replaced by the sounds of the night and by the predators who wander it?

Or we find ourselves alone in a desert, accompanied only by scorpions and drenching heat?

But even in those circumstances we may have memories to attach to, to fill our longing for companionship.

The fact is that, even when we feel like we have been forsaken, there is a part of us which knows that we have not.  The Psalmist joins us in this knowledge, reflecting that, even In the worst of times, we know that God has been faithful to those who believe in Him – “In You our fathers trusted.”

And, yet, as we read this and apply it to ourselves, perhaps there is a “gong” going off in the back of our mind, that we have read or heard those same words before.

And, the answer is, “yes, you have.”  You have heard these words before because they are the same words spoken by Jesus on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  Matt. 27:46

This Psalm is known as the “Psalm of the Cross” by some people because it is a prophecy, written by David at a time when crucifixion was unknown, of a crucifixion, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In order for God the Father to forgive our sins, there had to be a perfect atonement.  Because Jesus took on our sins, the sins of the world, and because sin is abhorrent to God, an affront to His holiness, God left Jesus and Jesus was truly forsaken.   For a moment in time, all connection, all love, all relationship, between Jesus and the Father was broken.

And in the moment of that separation, in the agony of being abandoned by the Father, what did Jesus remember?  Did He, as the Psalmist suggests, remember that God was faithful historically and, by extension, would be faithful to Him?  We were not there and we do not know, but why not?  He of all people knew the character of God the Father – the very character that had to separate from Jesus because of sin was also the same character which had shown Himself time and time again would not forever abandon His people.  The connection between God the Father and God the Son had to be broken because of wrath, because of sin, and the connection would be restored because of love.

In the moment of His greatest desperation, when Jesus was separated from the Father, because He knew His Father’s character, Jesus also had the greatest hope.

We may and probably will feel abandoned by many around us.  We may also feel so abandoned that we cry forth “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And in that moment, instead of despair, perhaps in this we will find hope – the God who rescued Israel is the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who has saved us from death eternal to life everlasting.    For those who trust Jesus, we may feel abandoned but we are not, we may feel forsaken but we are not, we may feel unforgiven but we are not.

We have hope in spite of ourselves, in spite of circumstances … because we remember.

_________

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

 

Bread – Fire

May 27, 2016


Psalm 21

“Your hand will find out all Your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate You.  You will make them as a blazing oven when You appear.  The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will consume them…Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength!  We will sing and praise Your power.”  Ps. 21:8-9,13

We all have experience with fire.  On camp outs, the fire warms us and cooks our marshmallows.  We have all been burned by a hot stove, even though our mothers warned us against touching them.  Some of us have seen the partial or full destruction of a building or car or other thing from fire.  I even personally experienced being in the middle of a wildfire in a national park, and being rapidly shown the exit by the park police while the fire licked the ridge of the hill about a hundred yards away.

 

But no one knows fires like a fireman.  He or she responds immediately to a fire, dons heavy clothing which only partially protects them, and enters the fire to destroy it and save others.  These people can probably report how hot , how destructive, and how deadly a fire truly is.

As destructive as earthly fires are, as deadly as they are, God can still deliver us from them if He will and if we have faith.  The best example of this are my three friends of the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, when asked by the king of the world “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands,” answered by saying “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  Dan. 3:15-18.

But this fire made by Nebuchadnezzar in the furnace was a fire made by the world, by man.  Who will save us when God shows up like is described in Psalm 21, finding out those who hate Him, swallowing those people up in His wrath, consuming them with holy fire?

We are promised throughout the Bible, throughout God’s revelation of Himself, that there will come a time when God’s wrath will be poured out against those who hate Him, when He will throw them into the lake of fire and burn them to a crisp.

But who hates God?  In our natural state, we do … all of us.  We are the ones who will be destroyed by fire at a time when God chooses, unless ….

Scripture is also clear about what comes after the “unless.”  How is it that we can be transformed from our natural state which hates God to an unnatural state, a supernatural state, where we love God?  Through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and resurrected.

And how does that occur?  Again, the God who saves the three men of old from the fiery furnace is the author of our salvation, through no work of ours but through His mercy and grace.  “[Our] glory is great through Your salvation…For the king trusts in the Lord.”  Ps. 21:5,7.

I do not know who reads Bread, so I do not know if this reaches those who do not know Christ.  But if you do not, the fire of God’s wrath is your end unless you turn toward Him and trust in Him.  How does that occur?  Through man nothing is possible, but through God all things are.

Therefore, we pray “Father, have mercy upon me, a sinner.  Son, save me.  Holy Spirit, give me strength, power, courage, and wisdom to seek the Son and through Him, the Father.   Take me to the cross of Christ that I may witness to the truth, that Jesus has died for me, that He has been resurrected so that I can be with Him forever, that my sins have been forgiven by the Father because of His work and not mine, and that I am saved and forgiven by Your grace, Your mercy, and Your power.  Amen.”

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Revival

May 11, 2016


Psalm 19

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul … Moreover, by them is Your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  Ps. 19:7, 11

How can God’s law revive the soul, as stated by the Psalmist?

I think there are three ways.

The first is that we like boundaries.  Although we would protest otherwise, boundaries give us comfort because we know where the path is and where it goes, boundaries help to define who we are (as compared to other people, who we are separated from by boundaries), and boundaries provide us protection from the claims of others.  So, when we see boundaries, understand them, and appreciate them for their benefits,  our countenance improves, our feet walk lighter, and our soul is revived.

The second way the law revives the soul is that it provides us a standard by which we can live our lives, if we will but trust the Lord and let His Holy Spirit reside in us.  Now, admittedly, this is a standard which we will never achieve short of heaven, but it is a standard which we can see and we can grow toward.  As we grow toward God’s standards, we are more able to withstand the troubles in life, we are more able to focus on things that matter, and we can look back and see how far we have come from our dark days to the present.  God’s law does not cause us to belittle ourselves for our failures, but gives us the real opportunity to revel in the freedom which comes from obedience to the Master.  In being able to see a standard which is higher than ourselves, we can, with the support of the Holy Spirit, rise to the occasion.

The third way the law revives the soul is that it provides us a shield from the darts of the enemy.  As the last part of the section of the Psalm says, “By them, is Your servant is warned; in keeping them there is great reward.”  By negative implication, the law of the Lord, by telling us what to do, also then warns us about what not to do.  “Love the Lord your God with all your heart…” tells us that the opposite, loving idols and other substitutes for God (including ourselves), results in loss of self, loss of others, and loss of society.  Not only does God’s law give us what we should aspire to by way of behavior and character, it also gives us what we should avoid.  And knowing what we should avoid means that, when we avoid it, our soul, our very nature, is revived.

There are two kinds of revival.  One is captured in movies and the public imagination, and is full of emotion and “glories to God.”  This kind of revival generally has a short life.   The second is the kind which takes place over a long period of time and occurs because God has reached into our place of death, has brought us into life and relationship with Him, and has taught us His way through His Word, empowering us to live life in the present to the fullest.  This kind of revival is real.  This kind of revival is long-lasting.

“The law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.”  This is real revival.  The permanent kind.  God’s kind.

_________

© 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 – 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.

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

 

Bread – Bonds

January 13, 2016


Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves … against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”  Ps. 2:1-3

What “bonds” are they talking about?  Why do the rulers of the people, the ones who are ordained by God to execute justice and rule honestly in the land, want to throw off “their bonds” (the “their” referring to the Lord and His Anointed)?

There are four kinds of bonds which I think the writer has in mind.  The first are the bonds of rules and regulations (the Law).  As Jews in the Old Testament, they were bound to follow the Law and in fact invented broader, deeper, and more detailed laws than God dictated.

The second kind of bonds are the bonds of relationship.  We live in a covenant relationship with God, where He has shown love to us by His death on the cross and His payment of our debt of sin, and in turn we have promised obedience.  This obedience though is not to a set of rules and regulations, but a set of the requirements of love in a relationship – love of the Father, love of our neighbor, love for the lost.  When we get married we make a covenant with our spouse, and everyone who is married understands the bonds of relationship.

The third kind of bonds are the bonds of society, or the rules of civility, of tolerance, of kindness.  Sometimes these are rooted in the bonds of the law and sometimes in the bonds of relationship, but I think that society itself places its own bonds upon us.  These may show up in rules and regulations, but most often they show up in phrases like “out of date,” “out of touch,” “un-stylish,” etc.  These are the bonds created by society to make us look like we belong.

The fourth kind of bonds are the bonds of the past and the future.  We may feel like we are shackled by our past, but if one believes prophecy, then to a certain extent we are subject to the bonds of God’s plan for us and for the world.  We are bound to the end times, whether we witness them or not.

So when the rulers want to cast away “their bonds,” they are essentially saying to God, “I want to cast away Your Law, Your Relationship with me, Your relationship in the community of the saints, and Your Future.

When the rulers do that, it is so that they can run their own game.  When the rulers cast off the Law of God, what do they have left?  The tyranny of man, unmoored from standards, morality, truth, integrity, honor.

When the rulers cast off the Presence of God, the Relationship with God, what do they have left?  Hopelessness because death is the only end.  A hole in their heart originally filled by God.  Lovelessness, hatred, anger, bitterness, anxiety, loss, depression.

When the rulers cast off God’s community, what do they have left?  “Friends” borne of convenience, treachery, isolation, withdrawal, bitterness.  Lack of accountability for anything they do or say.

When the rulers cast off God’s future, what do they have left?  The future they create?  Barns filled with treasures stolen from others (or maybe earned, doesn’t matter), all of which is left behind at death.  No future.

What do you get when the rulers cast off ‘their bonds.”  The rise of man as boss, tyrant, murderer, and thief.  Unlovable and unloved.  Chaos.  Anarchy.  Death.  Destruction.  Disaster.

We as Americans have spent the last hundred years acting as the rulers who are busy “bursting their bonds.”  Has it bought us more freedom?  No.  Has it bought us more happiness?  No.  Has it brought us more riches of the eternal kind?  No.  Has it made us a more civil society?  No.  Has it made us love more?  No.  Has it helped our neighbor (if we even know who that is)?  No.

And God laughs and we suffer.  But there is a way to end the suffering.  There is a way to recovery.  Jesus says “Take My yoke (My bonds) upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke (My bonds) is (are) easy, and My burden (My bonds) is (are) light.”  Matt. 11:29-30

Embrace the bonds imposed by God and you will free and alive.  Burst the bonds of God and you will be both dead and miserable.   Our choice every day, and we will either suffer or rejoice in the consequences.

__________

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

 

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