Bread – Mine

May 8, 2017


Psalm 63

O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Ps. 63:1

A few years ago I was in the Texas panhandle during the heavy drought.  There was nothing green for miles.  One place I went struck me particularly hard.  It was a bridge over a waterway which was easily a football field wide, which obviously was designed to cross over a flowing large creek or small river.  There was nothing in this creekbed and there had been nothing in it so long that the ground of it was hard and cracked.  Why was the bridge there?  In times of plenty it was the way across a large flowing stream of water.  In time of drought, it looked odd.

In speaking with a rancher there, he was telling me about the extraordinary lengths he was going through to save his cows, digging deeper wells, bringing in water, and, most remarkably, purchasing hay from Indiana because none could grow on his ranch.

I asked him when and if he would decide to give up and sell out.  He basically said never, because the land was his father’s and grandfather’s.  The land was his and he would not abandon it.

There was an old Golden book I read, first as a child and then to my children.  It was about firemen.  One statement in that book has always stayed with me.  There was a fire and the family was rescued by the firemen.  The family’s house was burned to the ground.  And the family was standing outside looking at the burning house, each of them holding something.  One person, a boy, was holding a pillow.  The statement was something to the effect that “Each of them stood there holding the thing that was most valuable to them.”  I always thought it was funny that someone would hold onto a pillow as their most valuable thing to rescue from a fire.

In the middle of the drought, the thing most valuable to the rancher was his land, because it was “his.”  In the fire, the thing most valuable to the boy was his pillow, because it was “his.”

When will we treat our Lord that way?  When will we so possess Him that He is “mine?”  When will we consider Him so valuable that in the drought, we will take Him as ours; in the fire, we will leave with Him as our most valuable possession?

As I think about that question and look around my home office, I see many things which I might grab if my house were burning to the ground.  Among those things are my laptop computer, my files with important financial information, and my boxes of family history.  Would I care enough about God to take His Word, a Bible, with me?

I like to say that God is mine, just like I am sure you do.  But do we see God as “mine?”  Do we consider our relationship  with Him the most valuable relationship we have?  To we consider His Word to be the only fountain of wisdom in our library?  Do we seek Him in the morning, during the day, and at night?  Do we seek Him in the times of plenty and the times of drought?

If our house caught fire, would He be the first thing on our mind or the last?

As this Psalm shows, there is a whole lot of difference between thinking God is mine and acting like He’s mine, and there is a whole lot of difference between acting like God is mine sometimes and acting like He is mine all the time.

Lord, I know You have made me Yours.  Now, Lord, so increase my love of You that I have made You mine.  Amen.

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

 

 

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Bread – Refocus

January 20, 2016


Psalm 3

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”  Ps. 3:3

In the last Bread, we found David evicted from his palace by his son, hiding in the desert, surrounded by many enemies, many foes.  And we ended there, with the word “Selah,” which I interpret as meaning stop, listen, think, meditate.  And so that is where we stopped, in the middle of contemplation of all of the real troubles we face every day – debt, worry, income, torn family relations, unethical co-workers and supervisors, the daily scramble for shelter, transportation, and food, defending ourselves constantly from the naysayers while attempting to make progress.  Abandoned perhaps by our perceived friends and, maybe even, our family.  And we hide or strike out in anger or confusion, not knowing which way to turn.

Selah!  Stop, think, recall, remember, look back so you can look forward.  Refocus.

Refocus on what or who?  Follow what David did … in the midst of his troubles, surrounded by many foes, he remembered God and refocused on Him.

Look at the transition from many foes and people saying “there is no salvation for him (David) from God” to the very next line, “But You, O Lord..”

And what does David remember?  That the Lord is (1) a shield, (2) his glory, and (3) the lifter of his head.

How often, when we look back and remember, has the Lord been our shield in time of trouble, bringing us through the valleys, walking with us, speaking to us in words which are unspeakable but are real nonetheless?  How often has this shield caused the darts of the enemy to fall to the ground?  If we believe in Jesus Christ, we know that He is the greatest shield of all, protecting us from God the Father’s just wrath upon us for our sin, for our disobedience.  He is the shield for us from eternal death.

But is He our glory?  Do we shine when we are before Him, on our knees, in obedience and worship?  I think that, if we are in touch with our souls, the answer is “yes.”  Because He is light, when we are in His presence we reflect His light.  Because He is holiness, when we are in His presence we reflect His holiness.  Because He is glory, when we are in His presence we reflect His glory.  When have you been happiest?  When you got the big promotion, when you graduated from school, when you got married, when you got your first dog or cat?  I daresay not even those things have made us really happy, although we are inclined to say so.  I daresay that the date you were the happiest was the date you met our Lord Jesus and knew in your heart that on that day, you were born again into eternal life.  I daresay the date when you are the happiest now is when some great truth from God, some great wisdom, penetrates into your soul, waking you up with His power to do His will in His way.  So, yes, He is not only our shield, but He is our glory.

And, finally, David acknowledges that He is the lifter of David’s head.  When we are burdened down with the bricks and stones which the world throws at us, when we are covered up, by what strength do we look for the new day?  By what strength do we laugh at death and destruction?  By what strength do we lift our own head?  It is not our strength and it is not by our act that we have hope.  It is by God who lifts our head for us.  He provides the power and the action.  All we have to do is to remember, refocus, and trust.

When we are so focused on our troubles that all we can think of is to hide, retreat, cover up, protect ourselves, or maybe strike in anger or reaction, what is the solution?  Selah!  Remember, refocus, and trust.

Instead of looking at our foes and meditating on how powerful they are, David’s message to us is that we need to look at God and meditate on powerful He is.

How do we refocus?  Let God be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head.

Now this verse 3 (and 4) are followed by another “Selah!”  And so we stop again, this time to meditate upon God instead of our foes, to meditate on our blessings instead of our curses, to meditate on the eternal as opposed to the temporal, to meditate with our eyes to the hills whence cometh our help instead to the ground, to meditate on the trustworthiness of God instead of the untrustworthy nature of the world.

Is you day going poorly?  Refocus on the truth instead of the lie, on the victory instead of the defeat, on God instead of yourself and the world.

And watch how quickly your shield, your glory, and your lifter of your head comes to be all three.

Selah!

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

 

 

 

Bread – Tests

May 6, 2013


Readings for Monday, May 6, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27; Psalms 77,79,80

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The reading from James today begins this way – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2

I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time equating “joy” to “tests” and “trials.” It seems to me that tests were always something we had to have in school to advance to the next level or to graduate, but they were never anything I was joyful about (except, of course, when finished). Trials are even worse; who has joy in trials?

And, yet, that is what God calls us to.

Now I thought of a way out of this dilemma – maybe “joy” doesn’t mean a good feeling, just an attitude, an orientation. So I looked it up. The word used by James for “joy” means to rejoice because you have received a gift from God. So it means both an action and an orientation – the act of rejoicing caused by or resulting in an attitude of joy. We get there by recognizing that our tests today, our trials today, are in fact gifts of God.

And, indeed, our reading from Deuteronomy emphasizes this – “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart…And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna … that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you…For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…” Deut. 8:2-7

Testing is a time of discipline; discipline is a sign of love. We are tested because the Lord loves us and has in mind for us a “good land,” a place we are going after having gone through the time of testing.

This is all easy to say but very hard to live when we are preparing for or taking the test. When we are in the middle of a trial, we are tired, depressed, worn out, at a loss for what to do, sad, confused, doubting, angry, and a bunch of other things all tied up into one. The Lord says to us – “Have joy in the test and during the test, rejoice because I Am and I care enough about you to discipline you.”

Rejoice because we see God’s blessing, purpose, and love in the trial we face, in the trial we are in. How can we do this?

We can do this only because the same God who tests is the same God who loves who is the same God who saves and who is the same God who, in His sovereignty and according to His purposes, has chosen to reveal Himself and His purposes to us. In our reading today from Luke, Christ ask the disciples who He is and Peter responds “The Christ of God.” Matthew reports something else that Jesus’ said – “Blessed are you, [Peter] for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 16:17 We can have joy in bad circumstances, in times of testing and trial, because we have wisdom about our circumstances when we ask God for such wisdom in faith that He will reveal it to us (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith…” James 1:5-6).

Joy in trial; joy during the test. Rejoicing in our heart arising from Godly wisdom that our trial today, the test we are taking, is a blessing, a gift from God.

This is not natural; it is supernatural. This is not normal; this is supernormal. This is not the natural state of man; this is the new man created by God when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. This is not the work of man; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thus our tests are a double blessing. The first blessing is that the trial exists at all, that God so loves us that He disciplines us as a father would discipline a son. The second blessing is that we are given both the faith in Christ and the faith to ask for wisdom without doubting, so that we may have the wisdom to see the trial and the test for what it is.

Double blessing. Now isn’t that a reason for joy, for rejoicing, if there ever was one?

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© 2013 GBF

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