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.

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Slipping

February 3, 2012


Readings for Friday, February 3, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 24:1-27; Heb. 12:3-11; John 7:1-13; Psalms 69, 73

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Psalm 73, ascribed as a “Psalm of Asaph,” says: “But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked.” Ps. 73:2-3

Who has not been in position of slipping? Sometimes it is because the way is treacherous, like with snow, ice, or “black ice.” Sometimes it is because we are so caught up with ourselves or our mission that we do not look where we are going. Sometimes it is because the way we have chosen to go is crooked, sloped, or just plain difficult. But more often than not, it is because we are paying attention to something or someone else – in the case of David (or Asaph) it was paying attention to the wealthy of the world, the “arrogant,” the prideful, the powerful people. In the case of a man or a woman, it might be a beautiful person. In the case of a worker, it might be a co-worker who seems to have it all together. In the case of the poor, it might be the wealthy.

What happens when we slip? The most obvious answer is that we fall or twist our ankle and hurt ourselves. A less obvious answer, but universally true, is that we lose our forward momentum. Wherever it was we were going, that journey has temporarily been suspended while we recover ourselves, tend to our wounds, and perhaps even focus more intently on the reason we slipped in the first place.

In fact, the last thing (increased focus), is what happened to David (or Asaph). Immediately, after saying that he had “almost slipped,” he describes the wealthy and prosperous in such detail that you know he remains focused on them: “They have no struggles; their bodies are healthy and strong. They are free from the burdens common to man; they are not plagued by human ills. Therefore pride is their necklace…Their mouths lay claim to heaven, and their tongues take possession of the earth.” Ps. 73:4-9 For all intents and purposes, he has slipped.

Now slipping in and of itself sounds like a bad thing and something to be avoided, but it appears like it may be inevitable for us who are human, who look at ourselves and others first rather than God, who are prideful, envious, and jealous. And so what is the effect? Are we lost, never to be recovered? Or are we merely distracted, temporarily disabled, still on the journey although waylayed?

There is great hope and assurance in today’s Psalm for those who are the Lord’s, who are God’s, who are followers of Christ, who are Christ-bearers.

While David (or Asaph) had slipped, and was focused on the wisdom and riches of the world, he realized two things. The first is important but the second is even more important. The first is that he recognizes that his heart is grieved and his spirit bitter, making him senseless and ignorant. The second is that he recognized that while he was in that state, he was a brute beast before God – “When my heart was grieved and my spirit embittered, I was senseless and ignorant; I was a brute beast before You [God].” Ps. 73:21-22

A brute beast before God – stupid, mindless, ignorant, incapable of godly thought, focused on urges and wants, succumbed to the basest instincts.

That was his standing before God while he was slipping.

But it didn’t matter because … “Yet I am always with You; You hold me by my right hand. You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will take me into glory…My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Ps. 73:23-26

I may and will slip, but God will not. God will sustain me through everything, He will take my brutishness and through His correction, His wise and true counsel, lift me up “into glory.” Period, end of story.

So, there is something here for today and for the rest of our life. We may slip on the sidewalk of life and find ourselves down on the ground, hurt body and ego, unable to regain our balance and get up. We may be really hurt. We may be merely shaken up. We may just have bruised pride. But luckily for us, reaching our destination does not depend upon us because we are held by our right hand by the mighty God, we have God’s guidance through His Word and Holy Spirit, and we will be taken in God’s time into glory.

Thank you, Jesus.

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Bread is sent to those people who have asked that it be sent to them.  If you are not on my mailing list and wish to be, please e-mail me at flintg@verizon.net.

Bread – Resentment

June 16, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, June 16th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Num. 11:24-35; Rom. 1:28-2:11; Matt. 18:1-9
    Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120
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In Numbers today, Moses gathers seventy elders in front of the Tent of Meeting and God gives them the Holy Spirit and they prophesy.  Two of the elders, however, did not attend because they were either lazy or had something else to do.  However, God blesses them with the Holy Spirit as well, and they also prophesy.  This upsets the elders who showed up and followed directions.

In Romans today, Paul is lecturing people who pass judgment, noting that the judges are guilty of the very sins and trespasses of the law they accuse the wrongdoers of.  Both groups are equal wrongdoers.

In Matthew today, Jesus warns those who would cause His children, the children of God, to cater to their old selves, to sin.  He pronounces woe upon those who cause others to sin.

We have in today’s lessons examples of (1) complainers, (2) judges, and (3) little devils (I call them "little devils" because they hover around you, suggesting all kinds of ways of sinning – you know the type).

What do all these have in common?  I would suggest that the common factor in all three types of people is that they are full of resentment, they resent what the other person has.

How does this show itself?  Well, the complainer complains because he or she feels that someone has received a blessing from God they do not deserve.  These blessed people have not worked as hard as I have for what they get.  They just seem to show up (or don’t show up at all), and without any effort get all the blessings (money, honor, power, etc.).  They have all the talent.  They have the good looks.  They have the position (undeserved, of course).  They are promoted even though they are lazy, stupid, obnoxious (and so forth).  You know them and you hate them!

The judge judges (the condemner condemns) because he or she thinks that, in order for him or her to feel good, the other party needs to be brought down a peg or two (I am not talking about Godly discipline of errant believers; I am talking about condemnation of others for the very things we do on a regular basis).  We make ourselves feel better by making others feel worse. I know I must be a good person because that other person is so bad.  We compare ourselves to others and find that they come up short.  Our resentment of others can be "fixed" by making sure that they are condemned for their sins while we are honored for ours.  We are made greater by them being made lesser.  How can we resent these moral inferiors?  Of course we can’t resent them, we must pity them – so our resentment is calmed and our day is complete.

And we act as little devils, encouraging the weak or the less mature or the less knowledgeable to leave the path of good works or the path of virtue and join us in our embrace of the world and its values.  If they don’t drink with us, we encourage them to drink.  If they don’t eat as much as we do, we encourage them to "eat up."  If they don’t think stealing is OK, we encourage them to go ahead and take the company pen home, saying "It’s OK, they will never miss it."  If they want to go to church and worship, we resist, saying how much better it would be to "sleep in" on Sunday.  Why do we do this, because we resent the fact that they do these things and we don’t and we attribute to them a superior attitude, which we can knock off by just having them join us in our "fun."  Our actions as little devils are not much different than our actions as judges – both are designed to satisfy our jealousy and resentment by bringing people down to our level or, preferably, below our level.

Does this sound mean?  I challenge you to monitor your speech and actions today and just see how often you fall into one of these three roles.  The reason we can read the examples I have given and laugh about it (sort of) is that we know these examples are truth – they come from our own experience, our own lives.

So what is the cure?  I suggest we counter our natural jealousy, our natural envy, and our natural resentment with two heaping teaspoons of (a) gratitude and (b) love.  Gratitude because God has shown us mercy and grace in such measure that, whatever other people have, it pales to the value of what we have been given by Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, and by what we have been given by the Holy Spirit (belief, wisdom, self-control, discernment, strength, perseverance, etc.).  Love because we understand where people are because we are there too.  Love because we can, because God first loved us by giving us Himself in His revelation of word (Scripture), creation, relationship (Jesus Christ), and wisdom (Holy Spirit).

When we realize what we have been given, how can we be jealous of anyone else?  When we know how sinful we are, when we know how dead to life we were before God rescued us, how can we condemn others of their sin?  When we appreciate how easily we have been fooled by the world and Satan, how can we join in the delusion by encouraging others to sin?

As you walk through life today, being tempted in every way to complain, to condemn, and to tempt others, my prescription is to raise up a barrier of memory, memory of Calvary and memory of who you once were.

That memory will stop resentment dead in its tracks.  And instead of words of complaint, condemnation, or temptation will come words of thanksgiving and praise.

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