Bread – Birth

June 1, 2016


Psalm 22

“Yet You are He who took me from the womb…”  Ps. 22:9

This morning, I read an e-mail from a pregnancy counseling center I support which asked me to pray for the birth of babies, that they would not be aborted by their mothers and that they would be born healthy, free of drugs and other medical and mental issues.

I read that e-mail before I re-read the quote above from Psalm 22 – “Yet You are He who took me from the womb…”

And quite frankly, I became quite upset.  One would think that I would be upset at the injustice of a world which would deny babies their lives for the sake of convenience.  But it was more personal than that – I was upset at the depth of my ingratitude for the blessings which have been heaped upon. me to overflowing by my Father.  I was upset that I had never recognized that it was God who had delivered me into life in the first place.

We, as Christians, are so wrapped up in the new man, the new birth caused when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior and when we turn from our ways to His ways, we forget that we have been blessed by being physically born in the first place.

Those of us who have witnessed a live birth know it is a miracle.  Yes, it is completely natural and predictable and yes, there is a lot of science behind how to take care of the baby during the first nine months, how to take care of it during birth, and how to take care of it after birth.  But at the end of the day, I think we know in our heart that each new birth is a tiny miracle.

But do we think much of our own birth, about what a miraculous blessing it is to us that we are standing here today, reading this Bread?  No we do not.  Just like we start our car without thanking God for the blessing of transportation, we wake up every morning without thanking God that we were born and that we are living.

We like to thank God for our transformation from lost to saved, and well we should.  But we forget to thank Him that we were born at all.

“Yet You are He who took me from my mother’s womb…”  Indeed He is.  He has delivered us physically from our mothers’ wombs into temporal life, and He has delivered us spiritually from the womb of death into eternal life.

Both of our births come from Him, the first and the second.

For which we should be grateful.  Are we?

_________

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

 

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Bread – Blessing

May 18, 2016


Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!  May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!  May we shout for joy over your salvation…” Ps. 20:1,4-5a

I struggled with what to name this Bread, because the words above and the first half of this Psalm evoke several thoughts.  One, this is a prayer such that a leader might make over his or her people.  So I could have called this “prayer” and I would have been accurate.  Two, this could have been called “love,” because it expresses a desire that someone other than the speaker received many, many positive things in life.  We call these positive things “blessings,” and so that is why I named this Bread “blessing.”

It is indeed a blessing upon our lives when people who matter to us speak words of encouragement into our lives, speak words of hope and joy and happiness.  It is indeed a blessing to us when our leaders speak words of peace, and when their words cause peace.  It is indeed a blessing in our lives when we feel safe, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, surrounded by the Lord of hosts and the hosts themselves, armed for battle.  It is indeed a blessing for us to be satisfied, not by the accumulation of wealth, but by the accumulation of love and relationships and wisdom and peace.

But what is also happening here is that the person giving the blessing, offering up the prayer of hope and encouragement, is also being blessed at the same time.  When we speak peace into someone’s lives, we live peace.  When we speak hope into people’s lives, we live hope.  When we offer up our sincere wishes for our neighbor’s success in the evil day, we also wish the same upon ourselves because if our neighbor is successful, so are we.  I am fond of saying “a rising tide raises all ships.”  Well, the outpouring of “may you” in our prayers is a rising tide of invocation of the name of God, of His character, of His might and power.  We can and will overcome because God was, is, and always will be.

But in the midst of all of the prayers for blessing on our fellow man, read this … “May we shout for joy over your salvation…”

In these verses, this is the first “may” which changes from “you” to “we.”  And think about it, who would not want to join in the celebration over one person saved.  The angels in heaven do it; we should too.  And notice that is not a prayer that you be saved, because that is assumed.  After all, David is writing to his people, Israel.  They had been saved many times, both individually and as a group.  Now that Jesus Christ has come, died, and has risen, we are in the same boat as Israel.  For those whom God has chosen, salvation will come.  But what is our response … “get it out of my sight,” “ho hum,” or “kill the fatted calf and have a party.”

See, what God does on earth is a great blessing, but only if we see it, acknowledge where it came from, and revel in thanksgiving for the mighty work.

And so I end with the modern day version.  “May we shout for joy over our blessings from God, our salvation, our rock, our fortress, in the day of trouble.  Amen.”

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Particularize

April 30, 2016


Psalm 17

“He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush.  Arise, O Lord!  Confront him, subdue him!”  Ps. 17:12-13

In our prayer life, we are so often ready to generalize, to talk about “evil” in the abstract, to talk about “evil people” in the collective, to talk about “them” or “us.”

But the truth is that rarely do we deal with the collective or the abstract – most often we are dealing with a particular situation or a particular person.  The person we are dealing with may be part of a greater whole or may well represent that greater whole or the idea, but the contest before us is between “me” and the other person, not the other philosophy or the other abstraction.  Situations are concrete and people are concrete.  We may think abstractly, but we deal concretely.

We must deal with the person and the situation before us.

David was confronted with a particular person in this Psalm.  This particular person was out to get him; he (David’s adversary) was “lurking” around trying to catch David unawares, pounce on him, and, most likely, kill him.

So, in a moment of clarity, David stops praying to God about the wicked people (“They close their heart to pity”) and speaks directly and personally about the wicked person (“Confront him!”)

Sure David might pray to God to deal with the entire category of lions and to soften their anger and bring to their mind a friendship with man, but there came a moment when David realized that God had to deal with a particular lion, one who was going to kill David if God didn’t intervene against that single, solitary man-lion.

Do we personalize our prayers like this?  Do we pray to an abstract God, one which resides in our minds as an idea, or to a personal God, one who resides in our hearts as our Savior?  Do we pray to God about things in general, or about situations in particular?  Do we pray to God about fixing the problems of a nation, or do we pray to Him about the particular guy or gal who is giving us fits?

We love to read the Psalms because of their overarching majesty in representing the prayer and song life of those who wrote them, in reflecting the great struggles between understanding a God who is sovereign, holy, loving, and faithful and His dealing (or, from our perspective, not dealing) with our particular needs and the needs of others.

However, which portion of David’s prayer of Psalm 17 was closest to David’s heart and, therefore, God’s desires for him … “keep me from them” or “keep me from him, the lion?”

There was an old pastor-priest friend of mine, now deceased, who told me one time that, as he drove down the street to get to a meeting with a parishioner, he always prayed as he reached each stoplight that God would turn it green so that he could drive unimpeded.  I told him that wouldn’t it make more sense for him to pray that God just get him to the appointment on time, and he said, “no,” because God was quite capable of taking care of each stoplight and the accumulation of each stoplight would result in him getting to where he needed to go in the time appointed for him to get there.

In reading this Psalm today and hearing David ask God to “stop that man,” I am reminded that each event, each person, each situation, each minute by minute occurrence in our life, is an opportunity for us to ask God for help and for Him to show up with a little demonstration of His power.  We so much want the light show that we don’t realize the opportunity for prayer when we turn on the light and hope the light bulb turns on.

Can you imagine the power by which we would lead our lives if we could personalize and particularize everything as an opportunity to speak to God about our need, right then?

And if we particularized our prayers down to the specific before us, wouldn’t we also then live our lives in constant gratitude for the things fulfilled?

When we pray to God for a good journey, we get to thank Him at the end of that good journey.  When my friend prayed to God for a green stoplight, he got to thank God for that green stoplight when it occurred.  But what we forget is that he also got to thank God for the red stoplight as well because it gave him an opportunity to think about why God might not have turned it to green – was it to protect him?  Give thanks.  Was it to give him an opportunity to make that phone call he needed to make and had forgotten?  Give thanks.  Was it to give him an opportunity for rest from a frustrating drive?  Give thanks.

If we want to witness God in every moment of our lives, if we want to live our lives in power, if we want to have an attitude of gratitude, maybe we need to particularize our prayers more, realizing that every moment in life is both an opportunity to pray and, regardless of the outcome, an opportunity to give thanks.

Then, instead of praying and giving thanks once or twice a day, we would be doing it thousands of times a day.

And, maybe then, we would truly walk with Him, talk with Him, be with Him, and do His will.

_________

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

 

Bread – Prayer

April 25, 2016


Psalm 17

“Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!  Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!…You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night, You have tested me, and You will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.  With regard to the works of man, by the word of Your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.  My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped.”  Ps. 17:1-5

This Bread is called “Prayer” because that is what this Psalm is called, “A Prayer of David.”

And look how it begins!  “Hey, God, here I am.  Listen to me because I am perfect?  You know I am because You know everything.  Hey, look at me; listen to me!”

Obviously this is both a paraphrase and something of an exaggeration, but not by much.  When we approach God, can we say that we are perfect, that we are sinless, that we can be examined by a holy God and found to be wanting in nothing?

The Christian might answer this question by saying that, “yes, because we are covered in the blood of the Lamb, we are deemed pure before God and able to stand before Him.”  That is true but it leads to a certain sloppiness in prayer because it means that we approach prayer as our three year old grandson might, stomping into the throne room of God and laying down our demand for candy without so much as a “Hi, grandpa!”

David is claiming the right to be in front of God because he claims obedience to the Father’s Law.

Can he rightly claim that, claim perfect obedience?  The answer is probably not, but he does anyway.  How?

How can we make a claim to perfect obedience, when it is impossible?

Might I suggest that it is not so much obedience in fact which matters to ordering our prayer life, but obedience in intent, obedience in desire and attitude.

We may be able to walk into the throne room of God with our prayers because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, but beyond that, doesn’t the power of our prayer depend in substantial part upon how much we want God, how much we want to obey Him and listen to Him and walk with Him.  The danger of casual prayer before an Almighty God made by a believer is not that we will be struck down, but that the results will be weak.  The strength of prayer made by a believer who tries his or her best to walk in obedience, who tries to speak with lips free of deceit, and who applies God’s Word to daily living lies not in the believer’s own righteousness, but it is certainly greatly increased in power by the believer’s own commitment to God and His ways.

So, if we are not to stomp into God’s throne room full of our own righteousness or maybe even a casual reliance upon our Savior, Jesus Christ, how are we to enter it?

What is not in this Psalm is what David did just prior to saying “Hear a just cause…”  What did David do to prepare for that opening volley of self-promotion?

I suspect that he examined his actions and his heart to see whether what he was going to say was true.  And, finding, like all men, that it was not completely true, he probably confessed it to God and asked God to forgive him his trespasses.  Preceded by confession, at the moment David said “Hear…,” it may very well be that his lips were “free of deceit.”

How do we walk into the throne room?  Do we just stomp in and say “Hey, God, listen to me, the great one!”  Or do we walk in with confidence, knowing that we bear the right attitude and the right gratitude, born of a desire for God, a desire for His truth, a desire for obedience, a desire to walk with Him, cloaked in the righteousness of Christ?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – See

March 30, 2016


Psalm 13

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” Ps. 13:3

In the last Bread, we dealt with the condition of despair, where we lay at the bottom of the barrel, in the dark, with no hope ahead.  A lonely place, an unfriendly place, a wild place, a place where none of us want to go and yet, in business, in the home or in the family, with spouse or children, in spiritual affairs – we have been there.

How did we get out of it?  Medicine (science) would say that our brain chemistry was bad and that we were brought up from darkness to light by the miracle of modern drugs and therapy.  The religious atheists who believe in the essential goodness of self over all other things would say that we got out of the pit of despair by our own bootstraps, by looking to the future rather than the past, by slogging through the difficulties one step at a time, by thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones, or, as Dr. Seuss might say it, by thinking on “fluffy things.”    The “group first” people would probably say that we were pulled out of our despair by a group of people around us who love us and who lift us up … after all, “it takes a village.”

But David had a different answer.  He knew that, in the despair of life and sin, in thrall to the world and the prince of darkness, Satan, we stand no chance without God.  When we are dead (the “sleep of death”), we have no hope for life except by the exercise of a power outside ourselves.  In the socialists world view, that outside power is the village, or society.  In the Christian world view, that outside power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The first, the village, relies on blind men to guide blind men, relies on broken people to fix broken people, relies upon an irrational belief that, if you have a bunch of defective parts, when you combine them the whole is not defective.  The second, the Christian world view, relies upon the rock of ages, the creator, the promise-keeper, one who has not sinned and is perfect.  The socialist relies upon shifting sand while the Christian relies upon the foundations of the earth.

That is why David pleads to God “Light up my eyes.”  He knows that, if God does not light up our eyes, our eyes will remain dark.  He knows that, if God does not give us power, we have none except the counterfeit kind, the appearance of power with no strength to persevere.  He knows that wisdom comes from God and not from man, except perhaps in a negative way (teaching us what not to do).

And so David, while wallowing in despair, does one thing and one thing only – and that is plead with God that God consider where he is and that God answer him, light up his eyes, and guide him out of that dark place into a place of light and joy.

Perhaps, today, your joy is gone, happiness is a memory, hope is distant, and the pit seems bigger and bigger.  Have you stopped to ask God for answers, for wisdom, for consideration, for hope, for joy, for gratitude?  Have you stopped to pray … not just a short “God help me” but a long pause in the day where you can be with Him, hear Him, learn from Him, be infilled with Him, and be empowered by Him?

What is the foundation of our day?  How do we begin it?  With our important activities like dressing and cleaning up and eating breakfast and reviewing the daily task list and appointments, by running through our mind what we will say to those important people we will meet, practicing how we will behave and what we will do, rehearsing so that we will be successful and have lots of respect, position, power, wealth, and things?  Or with the most important activity of all – getting in touch with the Foundation, God?

David’s got it right.  When we are in despair, do not look to our own or society’s devices but to look to maintaining the relationship with God.

If we do not ask God to light up our eyes, we will remain in the sleep of death – perhaps successful by the world’s standards but in the sleep of death anyway.  If we ask Him … well, read the rest of Psalm 13 … and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Prosperity

March 9, 2016


Psalm 10

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.”  His ways prosper at all times…He says in his heart ‘…throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.’”  Ps. 10:4-6

Isn’t it frustrating that it always seems like that wealth and prosperity gravitate to those who act as if there is no God, to those who excel at the ways of the world, sharp in business, strategic in their thinking, assertive in their acts.  Many, but not all, of these people have a “winner take all” mentality, taking advantage every legal (and, some, not so legal) way they can.  They seem to accumulate wealth easily and they seem to be able to keep it through all adversity and to preserve it for future generations.   If they do not live in leisure it is because there is always some mountain to climb, some competitor to crush, some business deal to win, some new amount of money or fame or position or thing to acquire.  They have many things and many houses and warehouses to store these things, and they have luxurious methods of transportation to visit their houses and warehouses, and they eat very well at the finest restaurants along the way.

When we sit over on the side and think of our own ways to obtain prosperity, particularly if we can get on top of the business deal or force those people we resent to “pay through the nose” (or, politically, “pay their fair share”) or cheat and scheme ourselves to fortune, aren’t we just like “them,” only not quite so good at playing the game of life?

And isn’t it interesting that we call it the “game of life?”

There is so much to be angry about in this passage.  If we are on the outside looking in, we get mad at the pride, the arrogance, the prosperity, and the apparent immunity from trouble which the people of the world have.  When we are on the inside looking out, we get mad that David would impugn our motives, that he would see our “being the best we can be” somehow a stick in the eye of God, that the naysayers would not look at us as good people doing good works (when we consider ourselves good people doing good works – after all, the insiders give to church, give to charities, give to those less fortunate, follow the rules of ethics in business, etcetera), that the people outside would not realize that we, the inside people, provide them prosperity as well through industry and jobs and payment of taxes, etcetera.

David is warning us that the game of life played this way, where we are not seeking Him as we build our prosperity, is really the game of death.

Now the Christian may note that salvation is the free gift of God into life after death and that Christians reap their rewards at their death, so why not play the game of life in between?  And, in fact, there are studies that show that a substantial majority of those who claim Christ as their savior play the game of life as if God does not exist in the present.

But doesn’t eternal life begin today, while we are still alive?

The entirety of Scripture says “Yes!”  Eternal life does begin today, if we slough off the old man and take on the new, if we raise up Christ in our lives rather than ourselves, if we following the pattern of good living established by God rather than the pattern of “good” living established by the world.

But it is up to us to let God rule in our lives, it is up to us to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives worthy of our calling as disciples of Christ, it is up to us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word rather than the world’s wisdom.

See, the game of life has two different sets of rules.  One, the rules set by the world, lead to prosperity of things and poverty of the heart.  One, the rules set by God, lead to prosperity of the heart and, if the Lord wills it in our lives, poverty of things.

If it is I who wins, I always lose.  If it is God who wins, so do I.

Are you mad at those who prosper?  Why?  They came about their wealth in one of two ways, either they won the game of life according to the world’s rules or God gave it to them to hold and to use as God’s agents and ambassadors on earth.  If they won by the world’s rules and you are inclined to play by the world’s rules, don’t get mad, get even.  If they won by the world’s rules and you are inclined to play by God’s rules, love them and walk away.  Psalm 10 tells us their end.  If they follow God’s rules and have prosperity of things as gifts from God, then pray for them that they will have God’s wisdom about how best to represent God in the world and will have the courage and strength of the Holy Spirit to do what He commands.

Choose this day who you will serve.  If yourself, then read Psalm 10 again.  If God, then rejoice in your prosperity of life, whether or not you have things…and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Time

January 28, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 28, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 49:1-12; Gal. 2:11-21; Mark 6:13-29; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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Time is an interesting concept because we live in time and yet we really only observe and measure it – we do not control it. Time passes whether we say “wait” or “go.” Time stops for no man. Yesterday was yesterday and we cannot recover it. Today is today and we can only live in it well or poorly. Tomorrow is tomorrow and may or may not occur according to our predictions, plans, and expectations.

Furthermore, time can be relative. Watching a boiled egg takes a long time if you are watching it and only a short time if you are not. We understand from science that as we reach the speed of light time would come to a crawl. We watch space movies and from that learn about time warps. Our mathematicians calculate various interaction between time and mass, energy, space, dimension, and momentum. We can envision all kinds of manipulation of time, and yet yesterday was yesterday, today is today, and tomorrow will be tomorrow. Time goes forward, never backward … but unfortunately for us, we do not necessarily do the same. While time is marching forward, we can go backwards, not in time but in everything else.

Outside of time there is God. He is the only thing outside of time because He made time. In our statement of what is called the Lord’s Prayer, we end with “for Thine is the kingdom, forever and ever, Amen.” I used to stop at “forever” because, from my point of view, that means all time and therefore means eternity. However, once I realized that God was outside of time, the “and ever” part made sense, because God is not only eternal, He is beyond eternal. He is not time bound like we are. We have limits; He does not.

Why all this talk about time today? From our reading today in Isaiah, God says “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you…” Isa. 49:8

Now this is a Messianic passage, but the phrase “time of favor” struck me.

When is our “time of favor” from the Lord? Well, let’s describe some possibilities. First, He knew us in our mother’s womb – “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Isa. 49:1b Surely at the time when we are most vulnerable, to be known by God is a ‘time of favor.” Second, He knew us in sin and did not reject us. Surely this is a time of favor. Third, He saved us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fourth, He sustains us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fifth, He refines us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord, although it may hurt at the time. Sixth, He delivers us from evil. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Seventh, He gives us our daily bread. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord.

Beginning to detect a pattern? Each of us can point to particular times when we stood on the mountaintop with God and those stick out in our minds as particular times of favor from the Lord. But isn’t every day of our lives full of blessing, opportunity, gifts, forgiveness and love, whether we feel it or not and whether we know it or not? Isn’t every minute of our lives a “time of favor” from the Lord?

Imagine with me how we would behave differently if we were aware that every moment of time in our lives is truly a “time of favor.” Would we respond in grumpiness, depression, and fear, or would we respond by dressing up for the occasion, looking forward rather than backward, full of joy and gratitude for the new day, full of joy and gratitude for the present time of favor?

The time today is a “time of favor.” How will we treat it? And how will we treat the One who gave it to us?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Wonderful

August 13, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, August 13, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 13:15-24; Acts 6:1-15; John 4:1-26; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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Wonderful, full of wonder. How many times have we really been confronted with something wonderful in our lives? I can think of at least two. One is being in the delivery room watching our first baby being born. A second is an answer to prayer, when I asked for the Lord to reveal Himself in my life and was confronted with a glorious crown while I was driving home into a setting sun casting its light into a cloud-crown. And, of course, now I begin to recall two, I can recall many, many more.

In our readings today, we are witnesses to three wonderful moments. In Judges, Samson’s mother and father are speaking to an angel. When they ask the angel’s name, the response is that the angel’s name is too wonderful to comprehend.

In Acts, Stephen is being tried to for blasphemy upon false allegations. While he was standing there, “all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:15

In John, the Samarian woman at the well is talking to Jesus and tells Him that she is aware of the coming of Messiah. Jesus responds “I who speak to you am He.” John 4:26.

In the first reading, the wonder is in the name of God’s emissary. In the second reading, the wonder is in the face of God’s disciple. In the third reading, the wonder is in the Word of God, spoken, written, and incarnate.

What can surpass these wonders – the day we discover that there is a God and His name is wonderful, the day we meet a Christian who is the face and hands of God on earth, and the day God engages=s us in a conversation with Him when He reveals Himself … and all pretense disappears into the reality of God-on-earth?

The day Jesus meets us at our well, the day He reaches out His sovereign hand to save us from our sin, the day we learn the reality of God, the day we look into our past and see what God has saved us from, the day we look into eternity and see what God has saved us to, the day we look in the mirror and see that God is transforming us into Him, just like He did Stephen – those are days of wonder, those are wonderful.

How many wonderful days have we had? The truth is that every day since we have been saved by grace has been wonderful.

Now, Lord, give us eyes to see….and be grateful.

______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Friday

June 14, 2013


Readings for Friday, June 14, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; 2 Cor. 12:11-21; Luke 19:41-48; Psalms 69,73

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TGIF – the acronym for “Thank God It’s Friday.” What is interesting is that many of the very people who use this phrase wouldn’t know God if He appeared before them. Others of us use this phrase as a throw-away, without realizing that if it is not truly from a heart of gratitude, the “Thank God” might well be an epithet and, as a result, a blasphemy against the God who saved us and provides for us.

Another interesting thing about this phrase is that we are apparently thanking God for getting us through the week to Friday. Why? Was our week not praiseworthy that we should be anxious for the next day? Of course, I ask the question tongue-in-cheek because we all suffer from the ups, downs, and sideways of daily life, and we are grateful to get to that portal to imagined rest called Friday. I say “imagined” because for many people, the weekend is no better than the work week.

In Psalm 69 from today’s reading, we have a look into what it means to have gratitude towards God at all times and in all circumstances. What is interesting in this Psalm is that David has many problems and he is asking God, “Why haven’t you done anything? Where are you?” But asking that, he basically tells God that he, David, is going to “buck up” and handle it. He then assumes the role of victim and blames other people for his misery, cursing them before God. I think his thinking is that, if God won’t help him, maybe God will punish someone whose hurting him. The Psalm ends with, apparently, no change in either David’s or his enemy’s condition, but with a change in David’s heart from self-pity to self-reliance to anger at others to praise for God’s provision and love.

Here it is (in part):

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” [Ps. 69:1-3]

“Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress,; make haste to answer me.” [Ps. 69:16-17]

“I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.” [Ps. 69:20b]

“Let their own before them become a snare; … Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.” [Ps. 69:22a,27-28]

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving…Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.” [Ps. 30,34]

Did God show up for David in this Psalm?

The obvious answer is “no,” because David was left in the waters, sinking in deep mire, with his enemies surrounding him. There is no evidence that his curses were granted by God. There is no evidence that God showed His face to David.

The less obvious answer is “yes.” Oh David was left in swamp of his life, all right, and his enemies kept on their terrible ways. Nothing appeared changed, except for one thing – David’s heart. His heart was changed from self-pity, to “help me,” to anger, to praise and thanksgiving. Who can make such a change in such circumstances?

“According to Your abundant mercy, turn to me.” Not according to my desires, demands, wishes, and prayers, but according to “Your” mercy, God’s mercy.

What is God’s mercy in our dire circumstances? Some people might believe that God’s mercy is delivering us from the week to Friday, which is why they say TGIF. However, isn’t God’s mercy a delivery “to” and not a delivery “from.” God in His mercy does not rescue us from daily life, but He equips us to handle it, He equips us to love in spite of the loveless, to praise in spite of misery, to live victoriously in the face of the worse circumstances.

For those who think God delivers from, then TGIF makes all the sense in the world. To those who find in their change of heart, their change of perspective, their change from self to Him and others, the delivery of God’s mercy into our life, then every day is a “Thank God” day.

So, is your motto “TGIF.” Or is it “TGFT,” “Thank God for Today?”

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*The Old Testament reading assigned for today is from the Apocrypha, and it is therefore omitted.

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Blessed

February 25, 2013


Readings for Monday, February 25, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ruth 1:1-14; 2 Cor. 1:12-22; Matt. 5:1-12; Psalm 106

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In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus begins his “Sermon on the Mount” with the Beatitudes. In one sermon a long time ago, these were referred to as the “Attitudes” you should “Be.” Every one of them is a description of who in the kingdom of God is “blessed” – those who are “poor in spirit,” who “mourn,” or “are meek,” who “hunger and thirst for righteousness,” who are “merciful,” who are “pure in heart,” who are “peacemakers,” and “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake.” Matt. 5:1-12.

Blessedness has a common denominator – you, with God’s help, put pride in its place, subordinated to an “attitude of gratitude.” Blessed people are people who know where their bread really comes from, where their safety really comes from, where their life (both now and hereafter) really comes from, where their wealth, honor, power, and hope really comes from. They don’t necessary have answers to every problem, but they know that the answer does not lie in themselves. They are blessed because God blesses them and because they do not act in ways which block or interfere with receipt of the blessing. They take their blessings from God and not from themselves or their neighbors or the world, and they are therefore truly blessed.

This does not mean they live well according to worldly standards. In today’s reading from Ruth, a Moabite pagan (more than likely, because Naomi tells her to go home to her family and her “gods”) chooses to subordinate her life to that of Naomi, the Jewish mother-in-law, and to support her. This requires Ruth to “glean” the fields (a poor person’s way of permissible self-help) without expectation of any real thanks or benefit, other than having enough food to live another day. Yet in her “poverty of spirit,” Ruth is blessed with being redeemed by “type” of Christ, a kinsman-redeemer who runs the risk of sacrificing his good name to bring Ruth into the family of God, an integration so complete that Ruth is in the line of genealogy for King David and Christ Jesus.

But it does mean that they live well according to eternal standards.

It is very easy to read the story of Ruth and say that that is nice for her, but hard for me. It is very easy to read the list of Beatitudes and say that that is nice for them but hard for me. After all, it is hard to be “poor in spirit” when we are well-educated according to worldly standards, when we are wealthy according to worldly standards, when we are powerful according to worldly standards, when we are important according to worldly standards.

It is very hard, because we want so much to believe that we are it, that we are the stuff out of which the universe is made, that we are king. The world tells us that these things are important and then organizes our life so that slowly but surely, what we have is discovered to be a chimera, here today and gone tomorrow. Over time, what appears to be real power, real wealth, real importance, turns to dust. God tells us the exact opposite, that these things are not important. When we adopt the beatitudes, the way of blessing, and realize that these things are not important, God then so organizes our life so that slowly but surely, we get them – but this time for real. Instead of the “here today, gone tomorrow” promise of the world, we get the “gone today, here tomorrow” reality of God. Over time, what appears to be a life absent of wealth, power, and importance in God turns to a real life of real wealth, real power, and real, eternal importance. With God, we turn in the fake to obtain the real. With the world, we surrender the real to the fake.

The world knows that it is a shill selling lies, and therefore it attempts to ridicule those people of God who give the truth away for free. The theory goes that, if people are thought of as silly or stupid, then no-one will listen to them.

But there is a problem with this because when we repeat God’s words, it is God who speaks and not us. So we can be reviled all day long, but the truth will still poke through the smokescreen of insults. All we have to do is to remember that it is not our battle to win because it has already been won on the cross.

Are you feeling blessed today? No? Why not? Maybe it is because you are not “being” the right “attitude.” When we deserve the worse (which we do) but are given the best (because God wants to), then how can we be anything but blessed?

Are you feeling blessed today? No? Maybe you need to change positions by subordinating your will to God’s, by exchanging a spirit of “heart-richness” for a spirit of “heart-poorness,” by stepping down from your throne of self-actualization and handing it to God, who really is a better King than we are.

Are you feeling blessed today? No? Maybe it is time for this prayer – “Come Holy Spirit and take over….now!”

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© 2013 GBF

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