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

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bread — Weak

June 9, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, June 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 30:11-20; 2 Cor. 11:1-21a; Luke 19:1-10; Psalms 61, 62, 68

—————————————-

From our reading today in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth: “For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” 2 Cor. 11:19-21a.

When I was in school, we had many, many debates going late into the night about politics, various courses and professors, sports, and religion. Side by side with debates over whether we should be in Vietnam (today, that would be Iraq), we had debates over whether the “Virgin Mary” had to be a virgin when she bore Jesus.

We who were full of our education and full of ourselves readily argued like we knew what we were talking about. We were “wise” ourselves.

How much of that still goes on? Don’t we consider ourselves smart (wise, educated, knowledgeable) about science, literature, the nature of man, psychology, medicine, computers, technology, and, yes, religion? And because we are wise in the say the world is wise, we listen to other people who also sound wise to our ears. We listen to the great philosophers, the politicians, the experts, the professionals, the consultants, the salesmen, the people in authority, the people who speak authoritatively.

We listen to all of these people. We listen to fools.

And because we can rationalize, because we are on first, because we are pumped up with ourselves, we put up with the dictates of society – we let ourselves be enslaved (by television, by Apple, by government, by scientists, by the academy, by books, by music, by what other [more respected] people say); we put up with being consumed (devoured) by busyness and the commands of culture and business; we love to be around people who put on airs and we like to dress up for the occasion too, showing the world that we too have a suit or maybe even a tuxedo, wearing our fine clothes and finer jewelry; and we put up with people assaulting us with their advertising and their demands.

Why do we let these things happen? Paul’s answer is that it begins with us thinking ourselves as wise and therefore discerning and therefore capable of fighting the world on its terms.

What is the antidote to this misery? “I am too weak for that.” The strength we have from God is multiplied in our weakness and set aside when we are acting in our own strength.

The Bible is clear that when we are weak we are strong in Christ. We do not choose Christ, but He chose us (which when you think about it is the weakest thing we could ever say…that we had nothing to do with our salvation).

When we are weak we talk to God in prayer because we need Him for everything. When we are wise we get to ask the question “What is truth?” and miss the answer which is right before us but which we cannot see because at the very moment we are most wise in the world, we are most foolish for Godly things.

When we are weak we rest in the Almighty; when we are wise we rest in the newspaper, in our beds.

So we are beset on every side, worn down, beaten by the world. What is the solution? The world says be strong. Christ says be weak.

Who are you going to listen to?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Learning

February 13, 2015


Readings for Friday, February 13, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 61:1-9; 2 Tim. 3:1-17; Mark 10:32-45; Psalms 88,91,92

—————————————-

It is Friday the 13th and according to superstitious people, not a good day.

And yet in today’s readings there is a whole lot of “learning” to do which, quite frankly, I cannot even begin to cover even with broad strokes. I urge you, therefore, particularly today to read the readings. In Isaiah, we read of the Messiah beginning with these words – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives…” Isa. 61:1 In 2 Timothy we read about the comparison of God’s kingdom to the world’s, and in Mark we read Jesus’ statements about his death and resurrection and his urging to His disciples to be servants and slaves of all. Each one in itself a powerful reading and each one in itself thought-provoking, about where we are and what we are doing and whose we are.

But in all this beauty, vision, and truth something popped to the surface – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty…Avoid such people. For among them are those … always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth….so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” 2 Tim. 3:1,5b,7-8.

“Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…”

How that describes many people! How many people do we know who read magazines, newspapers, and books voraciously, who embrace all of the arts and the sciences, who have finely honed their rational thought, who can talk until the cows come home about politics, economics, the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, history, and other “learning” and yet have never been able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth?

How many people do we know that fill their entire day filling their brain with streaming data from the Internet, from their text messages, from their “selfie” photographs, from Facebook, Twitter, and a stream of consciousness wrapped up in miniature sound bites, having the appearance of information, analysis, and wisdom … and containing no wisdom, no information, no analysis, and little if any thought. This is today’s “learning.” Compared to yesterday’s form of “learning,” today’s may seem empty and vacuous, but Paul in writing to Timothy is telling him that the same is true of traditional “learning.” Thoughtfulness and the highest form of rationality does not equate to the truth, and we may well fill our heads with worldly wisdom and yet totally miss the point; we may describe all the trees is exquisite detail and miss the forest; we may believe that the room we live in is all there is, and miss the door to the outside, where there is much, much more than we will ever comprehend in ourselves.

Maybe if our learning is defective it is because our sources are defective. If we learn in short bursts of words delivered to our computer screen, do we believe, really believe, that the source is reliable? If we learn from ourselves, is the source reliable? If we learn through what others have observed, is the source reliable? If our “science” involves nothing but us – our observations, our calculations, our logic, our thoughts, our reasoning, our analysis, our conclusions – is the source reliable?

Our reading today from 2 Timothy, while telling us to avoid people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth,” also tells us a good source to go to, to help us arrive at a knowledge of the truth. It is God’s Word, Scripture. “But as for you, continue … with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:14-17

There are those who would say that Paul’s words to Timothy are a Friday the 13th trick. They would say that those who believe Paul, who believe that Scripture is God’s revealed Word, is a chasing after learning leading down a blind alley, never arriving at a knowledge of the truth.

Maybe this is where faith comes in, but maybe to evaluate this challenge we can also consider outcomes. While man’s learning has brought us better and better tools, what has it done to solve our “sin” nature? It is our learning from God’s Word which leads us to Christ and to that solution.

The real Friday the 13th trick is contained in man’s “learning,” that somehow the scientific description of the heavens someone leads us any closer to heaven, that somehow the rational creation of a new tool (the Internet comes to mind) somehow leads us to more righteous use of that tool, that somehow a better understanding of the “Id” and the “Ego” leads us to release from the imprisonment to our own lusts, our own sinfulness.

It is true that there is much learning which does not lead to the truth, but there is some learning which does. The question is where does this “learning” come from. If it comes from man, “beware!” If it comes from God, “embrace!”

Just that simple, and just that hard.

Today, are you “learning?” If so, what? If so, from where? If so, from whom?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Countenance

June 11, 2012


Readings for Monday, June 11 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Eccles. 7:1-14; Gal. 4:12-20; Matt. 15:21-28; Psalms 56, 57, 64, 65

—————————————-

Much is made of appearance. In fact, much of our time in the morning is spent in preparing ourselves for the day – washing ourselves in water, anointing our bodies with oils and lotions, taking on pleasant smells, doctoring our face to increase our attractiveness, selecting clothes which are appropriate for the tasks of the day.

As part of our appearance, we become practiced at what I will call “the smile,” the facial expressions which convey that all is right in the world and in our lives, that we are confident and ready, that we are smart, and that we are happy. “The smile” is something which we can put on at will, but is it truly reflective of our heart? Does “the smile” reflect our true condition, or is merely a type of wallpaper over a damaged wall?

There is a peculiar reading in Ecclesiastes today which caused me to stop and think. It is “…for by sadness of face the heart is made glad…the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.” Eccles. 7:3b, 4b This is the exact opposite of what we believe. We believe that putting on “the smile” helps us both feel and be better. Ecclesiastes says that the path to gladness in our innermost being, our heart, is “sadness of face.”

Although not in our reading today, what this recalls to me is Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, where He said “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” Matt. 5:3-4.

It then struck me that what Solomon is saying in Ecclesiastes is simply that the work of man is putting on “The smile” in the hope and expectation that his heart will be happy, whereas the work of God is to cause us to recognize our sin, cause us to recognize that the creation, our relationships with each other, our relationship with God, and even ourselves are broken. When we realize our true state, we put on the countenance (face) of sadness. But in so doing, the work of God is to give us Jesus Christ and in Him, then, gladness of heart.

Once this occurs, once we surrender our attempts to put on “The smile,” once we leave the “house of mirth” and come to saving faith in Jesus Christ, as we abide in Him and grow and mature in our Christian faith, an amazing thing happens. Our gladness of heart, our joy in living and being, our freedom in Christ becomes reflected in our countenance, in our face. We take on, not “The smile,” but instead the wholeness of countenance which glows, which is reflective of our heart.

We know this. We know this immediately when we are talking to the “used car salesman,” who has “The smile” but no gladness. We know this immediately when we see the person with lines of struggle in their face, demonstrating the hardship life has dished out to them, but who have the heart of joy reflected in the countenance of an angel.

We can see through the phony, but we do it anyway. We think that living in the “house of mirth (laughter)” is the solution, while the real solution is recognizing that we are lost, lonely, poor, and sad, letting that reality be reflected in our countenance and in our admission of guilt, and then letting God work His will in our lives, beginning with our acceptance of His gift to us in His Son, Jesus Christ.

Then we will abandon “The smile” for a face reflecting our joy. Then we can throw out “The smile” forever.

—————————————————–

Bread – Lost

October 1, 2010


Readings for Friday, October 1, designated by the Book of Common Prayer:

Hosea 10:1-15; Acts 21:37-22:16; Luke 6:12-26; Psalms 102, 107:1-32

—————————————————————————————-

Psalm 107 in our readings today present to us four forms of being lost, what one might call situations of “lostness.”

The first are – “Some wandered in desert wastelands, finding no way to a city where they could settle.” Psalm 107:4

These are the people who find themselves in Nowhereville. The desert provides nothing to eat or drink. People die in the desert from lack of nourishment. Most deserts are hot to the point of burning. One can find no shelter in the desert, no covering, no protection against the forces of nature. In the desert, one direction looks no better than the other. Which way to green pasture? Which way to life-giving brooks of water? Which way to comfort? In the middle of Nowhereville, in the middle of the desert, no one knows the way.

The second are – “Some sat in darkness and the deepest gloom, prisoners suffering in iron chains, for they had rebelled against the words of God and despised the counsel of the Most High.” Psalm 107:10

Since we are all children of Adam, we all have rebelled against the words of God and, therefore, at one time or another we all find ourselves lost in the dark. In the dark we are afraid, so afraid that in this passage we are actually just sitting rather than trying to find a way out. Our fear and our hopelessness drives us to depression (“deepest gloom”), so the lostness of dark may be just in our mind. We are surrounded by light but cannot see because our minds are imprisoned to the darkness of despair. While we are sitting in darkness, depressed and full of despair, hopeless, in chains to our misery, we cannot see a way out. We cannot see the solution to our problems. We cannot figure out which way is out. We are lost, we are in chains, we are in a miserable state. In the dark, one direction looks no better than the other. Which way to light? Which way to hope? We don’t know, and we won’t know because we are sitting in the dark, lost.

The third are – “Some became fools through their rebellious ways and suffered affliction because of their iniquities.” Psalm 107:17

We love to use our reason, so set our science and our thoughts on the pedestal of worship. In so doing, we ignore God’s commands because they are “old-fashioned,” “for another time, culture, and place,” or “written by ignorant people who only knew how to raise donkeys and knew nothing about the Internet.” In so doing, we rebel against God’s rules for our life, His instructions for our safety, and so find ourselves lost in the foolishness of the world’s wisdom. Once we get there, of what good is God? When we can think of all alternatives, achieve all possibilities if only we “think we can,” conquer life through intelligent use of technology, and dream up unnecessary complexities to justify our jobs and our existence, then we will one day find ourselves in a corner of our own logic, retired by obsolescence, destroyed by predictable mistakes, conquered by the next person with superior “reason.” In the sorry state of self-reliance, we are more lost than perhaps even when we are in the desert or in the dark. We may be more lost because, in our own minds and our own strengths, we do not even realize that we are lost. We are lost and don’t know it, so we are not even trying to find a way out. Like the frog boiled to death in the pot of water, one degree at a time, we become more lost as days go by, glorying in our knowledge, reason, and technology, not even realizing that we have no place to go, no real eternal hope, no real direction.

The fourth are – “Others went out on the sea in ships; they were merchants on the mighty waters…in their peril their courage melted away.” Psalm 107:23, 26

The fourth situation of lostness is where one is successful and adventurous, perhaps even guided by an accurate compass, but finds oneself in the middle of the storm, in the situation of great peril. We can become so overwhelmed by the storm we are in, by the complex perils of family life, by the negative situations in our jobs, by just the quakes of life, that we become lost. We are in the storm. What direction do we go in? What is the solution? Where is the hope? How do we get our way out of this mess? In the storm we are lost, we are afraid, we are frozen into inaction, we lack direction.

Maybe today you find yourself in one of these categories of lostness. Perhaps you are in the desert of life. Perhaps you are in the storm. Perhaps you are sitting in the dark. Perhaps you are so self-reliant that you don’t even know that you are lost. In all events, the solution is the same and is given in the same Psalm.

To the one lost in the desert, God says “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.” Psalm 107:6

To the one lost in the dark, God says “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.” Psalm 107:13

To the one lost in his foolishness, God says “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He saved them from their distress.” Psalm 107:19

To the one lost in his storm, God says “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brought them out of their distress.” Psalm 107:28

So what do you do when you are lost? I’ve got a great idea! What about calling out to the Lord? And He will bring you, He will carry you, He will deliver you, and He will save you.

——————————————————————————————————

Bread – Vanity

June 4, 2010


Readings for Friday, June 4 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Eccles. 5:1-7; Gal. 3:15-22; Matt. 14:22-36
    Psalms 40, 51, 54
———————————————————————————-

Have you ever thought about the appropriateness of the name which we call the table-mirror combination we stand or sit in front of every day – a "vanity?"  To be vain is "having or showing an excessively high regard of one’s self, looks, possessions, abilities, etc."  Webster’s New World Dictionary – Second College Edition (1976).  Surely every morning every one of us looks in the mirror and, in our most vain way, prepare ourselves for the day.

In our reading today from Ecclesiastes, there is a warning – "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  Go near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools…Much dreaming and many words are meaningless.  Therefore stand in awe of God." (Eccles. 5:1, 7 [NIV])

Why do we use many words in our prayers and in our worship of God?  Do we really believe that we can argue God into submission?  Do we really believe that we are worthy to stand before God as equals, subjecting His revelation to the confines of our reason, our thoughts and desires?

Unfortunately, many of us do.  We go to prayer or go to worship and "offer the sacrifice of fools," using many meaningless words.  Solomon tells us to go before the Lord to listen.  But why would we listen when we know everything or at least know what God should do for us today?  Many times we don’t listen, we don’t stand in reverential fear before an awesome God – instead, we engage in a conversation of our choosing, using our wisdom and our words and our plans as the content and structure of the dialogue.  And, as a result, often there is no dialogue, no insight, no "spiritual blessing," no nothing.

In another translation of the Bible, there is a different wording of the same quote from Ecclesiastes.  This translation comes from the English Standard Version as follows:  "Guard your steps when you go to the house of God.  To draw near to listen is better than to offer the sacrifice of fools … For when dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear."  (Eccles. 5:1,7 [ESV]"

"When dreams increase and words grow many, there is vanity; but God is the one you must fear."

There is one place on the throne, and it is either occupied by God or by me.  Of course, it can only be occupied by me in my dreams, because God is God and I am not.  But what vanity for me to believe I should occupy it, I am able to occupy it, or I am already occupying it!

Our vanity interferes with our worship of God.  It interferes with our communication with God.  It interferes with our ability to seize the benefits of the new life which Christ offers us.  It turns us into people who act from self-interest rather than love.  It turns us into people who would rather be thought of as nice than as truth-tellers.

There was a great Saturday Night Live skit where the comedian sat in front of the mirror and said something to the effect of "I’m smart, I’m good, I’m wonderful, and doggone it, people like me!"  We can stand in front of our vanity mirror in the morning and say the same thing, or we can say "Thank you Lord.  I’m ready to listen."

Which will it be for you today?

———————————————————————————–

%d bloggers like this: