Bread – Moving

January 5, 2018


Psalm 93

Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.”  Ps. 93:1b

As I read this, I also read in the newspaper and hear on radio and television about the major fires occurring in California, the major cold spell which has dropped across the United States, and the major “bomb cyclone” (whatever that is) which is terrorizing the East Coast.  And I here that Mount St. Helens is rumbling again, threatening major volcanic explosion.

Surely from our perspective the world is not established in any kind of recognizable pattern and it is moving all over the place.  Even the magnetic North Pole moves on a regular basis.

So what on earth (literally) is the Psalmist saying?  Is it nonsense?

Just like the first sentence of this Psalm sets a pivot point for understanding God and ourselves (who reigns, God or man?), this second sentence confronts us with choosing who we believe.  The choice is this – Do we believe with our senses (and, by extension, our “science”) or do we believe in God?

This is a tough question, because all I can sense is what I can see, read, touch, hear, smell, and taste.  Everything else is, literally, an explanation or a theory I have to take on faith.  For example, the “law” of gravity is really no more than a theory which has been demonstrated to be accurate in a broad variety of circumstances over a long period of time.  Because we can verify the outcome of the “law” of gravity with our senses (we see the apple fall from the tree; we feel the attraction of a mass bigger than we are; we are “stuck” on the earth), we might harden the theory of gravity into the “fact” of gravity, but at its heart it is still a theory – an explanation if you will which makes sense to our senses.

So, when we use our senses to probe the world, we would logically conclude that the world is not established and that can and is being moved.  As a result, if we are the standard, the plumb line of truth, then we must conclude that the Psalmist speaks nonsense.  Or, if we want to be more charitable, “his” science was not as good when he lived as “our” science is today.  That is really no more than saying that he, the Psalmist, is excused for being stupid because we are smarter.

So, we are left with only two conclusions – he (the Psalmist) is the fool for believing that, because God reigns, the world is established, or we are the fool for believing our own senses over God’s revelation, concluding that the world is not established.

The Psalmist believes that God reigns and, as a result, the world must be established because it is God’s world, created by Him, reigned over by Him.  To the extent the Psalmist’s senses tell him otherwise, he would conclude that his senses are wrong or, if not wrong, limited (God’s ways are higher than his).

And indeed the Psalmist later in the Psalm realizes that the seas are a tempest, saying in conclusion “Mightier than the thunders of many waters … the Lord on high is mighty!”

Are you moving in your thoughts, in your ideas, in your perceptions of the world?  Are you tossed about on the angry seas of apparent inconsistencies, observable disasters, images of rack and ruin?

Maybe it is because you are not anchored to the God who reigns.  Maybe it is because you do not conclude, therefore, that the world as created by God, as reigned over by God, is in fact established by God for all time.  Because once you realize that the world is indeed anchored by God and you stand with Him, then though the tempest blows and magnetic poles shift, then though the volcanoes erupt and the ice falls from the sky, then though the deluge swamps our homes and the fire rages, we will not move because we stand on solid rock.

Chicken Little says the sky is falling because, indeed, by his senses it is.  Those who stand on the rock say “Yes, but the world is established, the Lord reigns.”

Where do you stand?

_______

© 2018 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

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Bread – Short

November 10, 2017


Psalm 89

How long, O Lord? … Remember how short my time is! … Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.”  Ps. 89:46-48 (excerpts)

The Psalmist finds himself in dire straits, at the bottom of the pit, without it appearing to him that God is in sight or even cares.  He yells out to God, “Hey, how long are You going to be before You show up!” And, then, just to make sure God really understands, he yells out “Hey, remember that I’m here on earth on a short period of time!”

Sort of funny, if you think about it, that a man is yelling at God to remember what He created.

He is yelling at God to remember when what he should really be doing is yelling at himself in the mirror to remember.

Remember what?  Well the answers to that question are in our quotation for today.

We need to remember that our time on earth is short and ask ourselves, what are we doing with today?  How are we spending our time?

And we need to remember that the answer to the question of “who can deliver my soul from the power of Sheol” is Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten not made, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father…

What is truly amazing about this whole set of questions is that, by man yelling at God, he is actually praying to God and God does respond to prayer often by bouncing the question right back.  When the Psalmist yells at God, “How long, O Lord?” the question rebounds upon man by God asking “How long, O Man, will you ignore Me, disobey Me, dishonor Me, and reject Me.”  When the Psalmist yells at God “Remember how short my time is,” the yell echoes back onto man, saying to man “Do you remember how short your time is.”  When the psalmist yells at God “Who can deliver his [man’s] soul from the power of Sheol,” God throws back the question and says “Who do I [God] say it is.”

This Psalm ends with “Blessed be the Lord forever!  Amen and amen.”  How does a person go from yelling at God in verses just prior to saying Amen and Amen to “Blessed be the Lord forever?”

Maybe because, by praying (yelling) to (at) God, the psalmist is now prepared to hear the response –  “Yes, your time is short.  The who is Jesus.  The when is now.”

_______

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

 

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 – Apparent

October 25, 2017


Psalm 88

Is Your steadfast love declared in the grave…Are Your wonders known in the darkness, or Your righteousness in the land of forgetfulness?”  Ps. 88:11-12

The Psalmist finds himself in deep trouble and God apparently does not feel to him to be present in the psalmist’s dark days.

So the questions being asked by the Psalmist in the quoted passage may well be a type of argument or urging to God, suggesting that because, once a person dies God’s grace is no longer available, when a person sits in darkness God’s wonders are far away, or once a person forgets God then God’s righteousness disappears to them, He should always endeavor to bring us from our darkness into light so that we can see His steadfast love, His wonders, and His righteousness.  Otherwise would argue the Psalmist, perhaps, then God’s steadfast love, wonders, and righteousness will never be revealed.

And, indeed, much of the Bible talks about bringing man from darkness into light, shining light in dark places, and so forth, as if God is absent in the dark and that, as long as we are in the dark, we cannot know God.

Which really raises the question of “when is God apparent to us?”  On first blush, we know the answer to the question?  He is apparent in nature, in His Word written, and in His Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.  He is apparent in order.  He is apparent in the light.  When we can see His miracles, experience His basking love, sit under His shelter, and engage in strong, good fellowship, God is apparent to us.

So the Psalmist would say, perhaps, that God is not apparent in the dark.  While we are in the valley of despair, the Psalmist would say that God’s steadfast love is not seen, His wonders are not observed, and His righteousness is merely a theory.

Is the Psalmist right in his implication?  I would suggest that he is not.

Western society has been criticized to some extent, perhaps justifiably, by relying on the senses, the observable, rather than the spirit, the unobservable.  If we can’t see, hear, touch, feel, taste, or smell it, to our Western minds it does not exist.  We can see Jesus on the cross; we can see Him dies; we can hear His agony; we can see the empty tomb (all of which is in the light) – and therefore it is real.

So, in the dark, when our senses are cut off, when we cannot taste, see, hear, smell, or touch, to us God may well not be apparent.  It takes eyes to see His wonders, touch to sense His steadfast love, and hearing to know His righteousness – doesn’t it?

Well, other cultures know that there is another “sense” by which we can operate.  I hesitate to call it “spirit” but prefer to describe it as a knowing which occurs in our heart, not because of our sense or knowledge, but because of our faith.

How does this knowing occur?

I will answer this question this way – “even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us live together with Christ – by grace you have been saved…”  Eph. 2:5  While we were in the grave, God’s steadfast love toward us became apparent to us and in our heart, we knew Him.

We may be in the dark, in sickness, despair, worry, depression, loss, and grief a long, long time, just like the Psalmist.  It may be that, while we sit there, God has shown us no way out and, to our senses, He is missing.  But He is apparent, even in the darkness, if we have a heart of faith.  In the darkness His steadfast love is apparent, His wonders are apparent, and His righteousness are apparent – if we have a heart of faith.

How do we obtain this heart of faith?  First, it is not obtained but given.  Second, we can begin this way – “Come Holy Spirit and, today, renew a right spirit within me.”  The spirit of faith.  Even in the dark.

_______

© 2017 GBF

Bread – Defense

September 19, 2017


Psalm 83

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold Your peace or be still, O God!  For behold, Your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have raised their heads….As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may You pursue them …”  Ps. 83: 1-2, 14-15

The English Standard Version’s Study Bible’s (copy. 2008, Crossway Bibles) notes on this Psalm say that it is “a community lament, geared to a situation in which God’s people are threatened by Gentile enemies who aim to destroy them….Christians would use this this psalm … in cases where their persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith.”

In many parts of the world, sounds like now.

But then again, when people want to be their own god and follow the ways of the world, they hate God and all those who claim Him, so the circumstances described (“where persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith”) actually describes recorded history.

Sometimes this attempted destruction takes the form of weapons, guns, knives and poisons.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is political, driving Christians from positions of power and influence.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is corrosion, bringing into play anti-Christs who preach messages which tickle the ears and destroy the soul.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is intellectual, to place Christianity into the dustbin of history and marginalize faith as being unreasonable, illogical, or just plain stupid.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is merely to try to shut us up by exclusion from debate or, worse, by shouting us down by calling us names.

What defense do we make in this time of destruction?  Maybe the better question is “What effective defense do we make in this time of destruction?”

One idea might be to fortify ourselves with wisdom and knowledge so that we can always make “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Pet. 3:15.  However, we know that no-one whose eyes and ears are closed will ever be argued into the kingdom of God.  The fact that we are to make defense to someone who asks shows that God has already intervened to cause that person to ask, and we are merely at that moment to continue a good work already begun by God.

Another idea might be to attack (the best defense being a good offense) by preaching the Word in all places, but although that world might see that as an attack, all we are really doing is what we are told to do – go and make disciples of all nations.  Matt. 28:19.  We are not attacking anyone when we follow our commission; but we certainly are proclaiming.  But even then, although we might obey by planting the seed, God is the one in charge of raising the seed up into good fruit.

Finally, we might defend ourselves by accessing positions of power and being in charge of everything.  But, as history has shown us, every time we do that we fall subject to the corrosion of the world and its corruption.

So, then, how do we defend ourselves?  The Psalmist has the answer.  We let God do it.  We ask God to step in and handle it.

Our problem is that, to us, it sounds like a cop-out, like we are giving up.  But when we do that, we are not giving up, we are giving in … to Him.  And when we do, we are strong; and when we do not, we are weak.

O, when someone attacks me with gun and knife, I can well defend myself with similar weapons.  But when the spirit of the age attacks me with the desire to destroy “all trace of my faith,” then there is only one defense and one defender.  At that time and now, our best defense is this – “O God, do not keep silence …”

_______

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Night

July 19, 2017


Psalm 74

“You [God] split open springs and brooks; You dried up ever-flowing streams.  Yours is the day, Yours also the night;…”  Ps. 74:15-16

In every book I have ever read and every television show I have ever watched, it is the night when bad things typically happen.  The bats, the secretive people, the trolls, and such ilk always show up at night.  We even have the idea of vampires, where the slightest touch of the sun causes them to melt away.  Night dwellers, night crawlers – when we add the word “night” in front of a word, it automatically casts a sinister shadow.

Our general operating philosophy is that God rules the day and Satan (or evil) rules the night.  We think like that and we act like that.  We are wrong.

In this Psalm, God is missing but He is remembered.  Asaph, the acknowledged Psalmist, acknowledges that God is Creator and that He owns and controls both the day and the night, having invented them both.

It may very well be the hardest reality to swallow as a Christian – that God is God over everything, good and bad, day and night.  It is hard for us to swallow because we want to offer an escape hatch for God, feeling like He needs to be defended by us.  If the night belongs to Satan, then we can understand why God has not stopped evil at night.  But if the night belongs to God, we are left with the question “why is God [apparently] missing?”  It is hard for us to swallow because we know that God is good, but we see what we perceive to be bad things happening and are then left with the question, “if God is good, then why ….?”

Whether we are trying to find an escape hatch for God or attempting to assess God’s purpose according to our own standards, we are engaged in the same sport.  We are either acting as God’s judge (“You, Sir, are doing wrong.  Straighten up!”) or as His partner and coach (“Hey, God, this is not what we agreed to,” or “Hey God, if You did it this way, we would be better off.”)  In both instances, we have either elevated ourselves to be equal to God (His partner, friend, coach) or above Him (His judge).

The end of logic is this – if God is sovereign over all, then He is sovereign over both day and night, good and bad, ups and downs.

But this is also the end of faith – If God is sovereign over all, and I do not understand why He has or has not acted the way He has, then I must stand down and trust in Him.  He is God and I am not.

We may very well be in the night of our lives, where nothing is clear and everything is a threat.  God is in control.  We know this logically because He is sovereign king over all, which includes the night, and we know this by faith because we trust in Him.

When we are in the night and we acknowledge the presence of God, worshiping Him in all circumstances, it would not surprise me for someone to ask the question – who turned on the light?

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Beginnings

June 21, 2017


Psalm 71

“…You have given the command to save me…Upon You have I leaned from before my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb.”  Ps. 71:3b,6

When did our relationship with the Lord God Almighty begin?

Some of us may remember vividly the day we “accepted” Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Perhaps we said the sinner’s prayer in response to an altar call or at an evangelistic event.  Perhaps it was at an early age when we believed the Bible stories we were being told.  Perhaps it was at a God-appearance, either audibly or visually or perhaps maybe in a dream.  Perhaps it was at a time at the laying on of hands by some people praying over us.  Some of us may not have a moment in time, but our relationship grew over a period of time and, one day, we looked back and realized that we had gone from the side of the ledger of unbelief to the side of the ledger we call belief.

But the truth is, whatever our memory, it is in one sense false.  The reason our memory is in one sense false is that our awareness of our relationship may be at one point in time, but our relationship was actually established well before that.

David in this Psalm acknowledges that before he was born, he leaned on God; he had a relationship with the Almighty.  David knows that it was God who delivered him into the world, just as it is God who sustains him in the world and it is God who has redeemed him from the world.

I juxtaposed two verses on purpose.  God gives the command to save me.  I do not give the command to God, nor to myself.  God gives the command.  And I have leaned on Him before I was even born, whether I was aware of it or not.  I can lean on Him before I was even born because God the command to save me.  When?  Before I was born.

Can we trace our beginnings of our relationship with Jesus Christ?  Yes we can.  One trace is through knowledge and that leads us to the date we professed with our mouth that Jesus was Lord.  The other trace is through faith and that leads us to the real beginning, God’s beginning of His command, before we were born.

The only way we know that our beginnings with God predate our physical birth is by faith in the power of God’s command.

If we are weak in our faith, I think it is because we somehow have the belief that we are the ones who give the commands.  In this view, God has a relationship with us because we commanded it or at least cooperated with God’s command.  But does God need our agreement for His command to be effective?  If so, we have a small view of God and an even smaller view of the power of God’s command to result in the outcome He desires.

But, if the beginnings our relationship with God pre-existed our birth, then how did the effectiveness of God’s command to establish that relationship depend upon us at all?

Our natural way of thinking begins with us and turns outwards toward them (the community) and then the heavens (God).   But beginnings do not begin with us, they begin with Him.  Think about it.

________

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

 

Bread – They

February 20, 2017


Psalm 53

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”  Ps. 53:1

Who is “they?”  There is an inclination to say that it is those people who are “fools,” but the reference may in fact be to everyone.  Later, in the same Psalm, God looks down on the “children of man” and says, again, “there is none who does good, not even one.”

 

But even if we limit the reference of “they” to “fools,” the real question then is “who are the fools?” and “Am I a fool too?”

A “fool” in biblical terms is a person who says in his heart, “There is no God.”  Of course we, as Christians, would look at this and say that “we know there is a God; therefore, we are not a fool.”  But not so fast.

We can acknowledge there is a God with our mind and even have accepted Him as Lord and Savior in our hearts and souls, and yet think and act on a daily basis as if there is no God.  Do I do that?  Do we do that?  Have I acknowledged God with my lips and by baptism and by attendance at worship, and yet act throughout the entire day like He doesn’t exist?

Of course I do, and so I will bet do you.   Let me ask some simple questions.

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, as something that we do minute by minute as we disobey the commands of Christ to love each other and love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, in all of its forms, mild and strong, as an absolute affront to a holy God?

Do I (we) blow off sin in our lives as something which is minor, or inconsequential, or, worse, forgiven and therefore acceptable or necessary?

Do I (we) encourage sin in others, ignoring the consequences of bringing others into ruin?

Do I (we) consider sin a mere weakness in the circumstances or imperfection which can be worked out by better education, better food, a better environment, better schools, or just the best of what the world has to offer?

Do I (we) pay more attention to what is in front of us or beneath us rather than above us?

Do I (we) believe that television is important or the news or our bank account or the car we drive or the job we have or the college degrees on our wall?

Do I (we) spend more time pursuing excellence or the treasure at the end of the rainbow or more knowledge than building relationships with our neighbors, with our family, and with God?

There are more questions, but I think I (we) get the drift.  We may not be total fools because we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, but we may be fools nonetheless because, although we know who our Savior is, we often think and act like God does not exist.

Every time we minimize God in our lives by ignoring Him and His commands, we are saying in our heart, in that moment, that God does not exist.

The “they” is me and the “they” is us.  Even though we know the truth and have exclaimed the truth, we do not live in the truth.  But, thanks be to God, while we are weak, He is strong.  While we are the “fool,” He is the fool-redeemer.  While we forget Him, He does not forget us.  When we forget who He is and what He has done, He calls us to remember and to restoration to Him.

It is sort of funny that the world would call us believers “fools” for our belief.  They are right, but not in the way they think.  For we are all fools, fallen short of the glory of God.  For we are all fools, demonstrating this daily as we walk in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of God.  But, as the redeemed, we are a special kind of fool, one who has been transformed in our minds enough to know that sin is sin, that sin results in death, that we are sinners saved by God’s mercy and purchased by blood on the cross by Christ, and that every day, as we walk in faith into the opportunities which God creates, we are growing and maturing toward that day when we will be made perfect.

And that makes all the difference.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Resolved

December 30, 2016


Psalm 45

Hear, O daughter, and consider … Since He is your Lord, bow to Him.”   Ps. 45:10-11

This is the third step in the process of our glorification as Christ’s bride.  The pre-step is God’s choice of His bride.  The first step was for us to hear and incline ourselves toward God.  The second step is then for us to forget our past, pick up our cross, and follow Him.

This third step is encapsulated in the Psalmist’s simple statement that we, as Christ’s bride, should “bow to Him,” since He is our Lord.

 

This simple command sounds strange to Western ears, and particularly to Americans, where we say proudly that “we bow down to no man.”  But, of course, Jesus is God, so he is not mere man.  But, still, we like to think of ourselves as equal to God and, therefore, it is easier in our mindset to call Him “friend” then it is to call Him “Lord.”

But for the wedding feast to be truly glorious, for the bride to enjoy all of the benefits of hope, peace, love, and charity which God brings into the relationship, the bride must bow, the bride must be obedient to the Lord’s commands.

As we reach the end of the year and look forward to the new year, it is time for reflection and resolution, reflection on the past and resolution for the future.

As we look over the past year in our walk with God, have we really, really been obedient to His call on our lives, to His commands for life, or to His personal request that we become holy like He is?  We may have heard the good news of Christ and inclined our ear, and we may have gathered around us our church friends, leaving our past behind, but have we really “bowed to Him?”  Have we given up our selfish ways?  Have we subordinated self to His glory, His ways, His truth, and His life?  Instead of just asking ourselves “What would Jesus do,” have we actually done what Jesus has told us to do?

Many of us, myself included, are weak Christians.  We talk a game, but we do not walk it.  We have heard the good news and proclaim trust in Christ, but we trust ourselves and our friends and our wealth and the world more.  We do not walk in holiness; in fact, if we are honest, we barely make acquaintance with the concept.

But that is the past, and it need not be the future.  The work of God is to transform us, first by giving us a new life in Him and then training us, bringing us up from infants into maturity as His disciples.

Let’s all take on a New Year’s resolution that very well may be the hardest thing we have ever done.  Let us resolve to begin each day by “bowing to Him.”  Let’s be obedient to our Lord.

What does this look like?  I think it is simpler than we think.  If He says love, we love.  If He says rest, we rest.  If He says talk to Me, we talk to Him.  If He says “walk through that door,” we take the step of faith into the unknown (to us).

Resolved, that I put Him first and me second.  And for that, we need help.  Come Holy Spirit!

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Conflicts

November 30, 2016


Psalm 43

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause …For You are the God in whom I take refuge; why have You rejected me?”  Ps. 43:1-2

We hate conflict and most of us avoid it whenever possible.  In just these two short versus, the Psalmist discloses that he is suffering through three conflicts at the same time.

The first conflict is with other persons.  The Psalmist is asking God to defend his cause.  Elsewhere in the same verse, the Psalmist describe this type of opponent who creates conflict as “the deceitful and unjust man.”  These types of people create nothing but conflict because instead of loving someone and doing their best for them, they use that someone and do their worse for them.  But one thing the Psalmist forgets to ask is whether he himself is one of those “deceitful and unjust” men.  The character he throws on his enemy may well apply to himself.  But, in any event, he is involved in an outward struggle with people who he considers to be bad, and he is asking God to go show them who’s boss.

The second conflict is internal and is self to self.  This is a little subtle, but I see it in the Psalmist’s reference to “For You are the God …”  In the times of the Psalmist, as today, there are many philosophies, people, religions, and contenders for “God.”  So, here, the Psalmist is a little irritated and maybe in conflict with his choice.  After all, he (the Psalmist) picked God out of the lineup to be his (the Psalmist’s) choice, and now he is saying to God … I picked You – now, where are you?  You should be more grateful that I picked you, God!  This internal conflict will always come to pass if we have picked God as “the God” out of many for reasons known to us.  Perhaps we claim to have picked God because He is generous to us, or because we want eternal life, or because we are medically sick and want to become well, or because our best friend did and we want to please our friend.  Perhaps we picked God because we just wanted to get the preacher-man off our back.  We are bound to have a conflict over this sooner or later because we will be sitting in a corner one day and the God whom we picked just won’t “bother” to show up.  And we will begin to doubt our choice – perhaps God is ineffective or perhaps He doesn’t care or perhaps He just wound up the world and is letting us go like wound-up dolls or perhaps He doesn’t know what to do or perhaps He is busy.  This subtle but real conflict arises because, by asserting that we have chosen God (for our respective reasons), we have set ourselves either over God (we will tell Him what He should do because He should be grateful we picked Him) or at least beside Him as His best buddy.

The third conflict is directly with God Himself.  I (the Psalmist) called and You (God) did not answer.  I prayed and nothing happened (that I could see or appreciate).  I asked you to go strike dead my enemy and he seems to be doing quite fine, thank you very much.

The first kind of conflict is terrible because it only exists when the self (you, me) cares about winning according to the rules of the world.  That kind of conflict will never end until the rules of the Kingdom of God are the ones being followed and not the rules of the world.

The second kind of conflict is terrible because our doubts about what to do and how to act will freeze us into inaction.

The third kind of conflict can be good because it shows that we have a real relationship with our Father.  After all, what child when he does not get what he wants from his earthly father will not first ask again, then ask his mother, then whine and pout, then stomp off in a fit, and then wander off, think about it, and either accept it or come back for rounds two, three, etc.  As long as they are talking, even if in conflict, good things ultimately happen.

The conflict with others is unnecessary, the conflict within ourselves is debilitating, the conflict with God ultimately strengthens our obedience, our wisdom, our perseverance, and our love for Him.

I can almost guarantee that you have had your conflicts with others and with yourself today already.

But have you had your conflict with God?  Isn’t it time?

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

 

 

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