Bread – Needy

June 30, 2017


Psalm 72

For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.”  Ps. 72:12-13

There are three actors in these verses, two apparent and one disguised.

The first apparent actor is described as both a noun and an adjective.  Man is both the “needy” (the noun) and the “needy (man)” (the adjective).

Who are these needy and what do they need so badly that they are needy.  When we answer the what, it will identify the who.  When we think of need, we most often think of physical issues have to do with money.  He or she needs a job, needs a shelter, and/or needs food and water.  We have a famous researcher who has described a ‘hierarchy of needs,” and these needs for shelter and food are first on the list.  At the top of the list is the need to be appreciated, to be wanted or desired, to have our pride stroked.  In between are the needs for safety and security (free from worry) and companionship.

We make a big mistake when we believe that the only needy people are the ones in the food lines.  The truth is that all of us are needy of these things, but also things like hope, safety, security, friendship, and dignity.

So the answer to the “who are the needy” question is “Everyone.”  You, me, them … everyone is needy.

So now that we have identified who the needy person is, who is the the second obvious actor.  It is the “he” in the sentence, which relates back to an earlier verse, the first verse, where the “he” is the king, which in the case of this specific Psalm could have been Solomon.

Since the “king” today is the government, perhaps these verses could be interpreted as a command that us, the needy, are to turn to the government (the king) for the fulfillment of our needs, to fulfill our need for food and health care, our need for safety and security, our need for dignity in the word, and our need for companionship.  And so, in the mad rush to fill our needs, our world would have us turn to the “obvious” king for deliverance, to the state.

And so the natural course of man is to give to the state the power to “help” them, and in so doing give up their individual rights to the collective.

Entire civilizations and philosophies are founded on this principal, that it is the “king” who protects, to delivers good things, who feeds, etc. his needy people.

But to do so ignores the silent actor in these verses, the disguised actor.  Who is this?  Well, I think it becomes obvious when we remove the written attempts to bring God to our level and change the verses so that they now read: “For He delivers the needy when he calls, and poor and him who have no helper.  He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy.”  What have I changed?  One letter in one word.  I changed “For he…” to “For He…

And now you know the rest of the story.  The “He” who delivers is the King of the Psalm, the Messiah, Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  It is not the man-king but the God-King.

Because we are needy, we will look to a king to deliver us from those needs, to save us.  If we are secular and have no faith in Christ, the king is the state and we will want the state to feed us, teach us, raise us, nurture us, build us into communities of the king’s making, and love us.  This is slavery unto death but it is the choice of needy people who only see the little “king.”

If we believe in Christ as our Lord and Savior, we are still needy but the source of our deliverance is a different king, a King Jesus, Creator of the world.  Our King is King and we will look to Him, Father, and Holy Spirit to feed us, teach us, raise us, build us into communities of His making, and love us.  This is slavery unto life and is the choice of those who see the big “King.”

You are needy.  Which king will deliver you?

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Rulers

June 27, 2017


Psalm 72

Give the king Your justice, O God, and Your righteousness to the royal son!  … Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people…May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass…In his day may the righteous flourish…” Ps. 72:1-7

We have all experienced the situation where we know we ought to pray for people in power, our President or, if another country, maybe our king, prime minister, or dictator, but for whatever reason we don’t want to.  Maybe we see him or her as evil.  Maybe we him or her as grossly incompetent.  Maybe we don’t agree with his or her politics.  But we are commanded in all circumstances to be subject to and pray for those in authority.  Rom. 13:1.   To accomplish this command and yet maintain our anger (upset) toward our particular ruler, I am reminded of that famous prayer by Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he prayed: “God bless and keep the Tsar far away from us.”

But if we are inclined to really follow the commandment that we honor our rulers and when we are missing words, Psalm 72 is a great prayer to read, because it exalts the ruler, the king.  “May [the king] be like rain that falls on the mown grass.”  What a wonderful image of the true blessings a great ruler can have upon his or her country or dominion, when he or she is subject to God.

But this gives rise to wonder, what ruler is David (or the Psalm-writer, if not him) talking about?

Like so much of Scripture, there is a sense of it being present (the local king at the time) and future (the future King).  Who is the future king?  I think that verses 17 through 19 say it by description: “May His Name endure forever, His fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in Him, and all nations call Him blessed!  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory!  Amen and Amen!”

Who is this person?  King Jesus of course.  His is the Name which endures through eternity.  His people are blessed “in” Him.  And one day, one day, when He returns in glory to rule on earth in His millennial kingdom, “all nations” will bow before Him and “call Him blessed.”

When you read Psalm 72, you are asking the earthly king to “be like rain.”  Sometimes that happens, but the truth is that man is fallen, our earthly kings are fallen, and even with the best intentions (which rarely exist), our earthly kings fall short and their “rain” does not bless, but tortures.

There is only one King who does all the things which the Psalmist prays for.  There is only one King who “alone [by Himself, without the help of anyone else] does wondrous things.”

And that is King Jesus.

Come, worship and adore Him!

________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Progression

February 27, 2017


Psalm 54

“O God, save me by Your Name, … Behold, God is my helper; … I will give thanks to Your Name, O Lord, for it is good.”  Ps. 54: 1,4,6b

Something that sometimes gets lost in the translation of “God” or “Lord” are the various names of God in the Old Testament.  In this Psalm, we have a progression of those names from the word often used by God (and implying His triune nature) to the word used intimately by those who have become obedient to Him as Lord to the name of God Himself.

What is interesting about this progression is that occurs in the heat of oppression, where David needs to be saved from his dire circumstances.

 

The first name of “God” used is the word “Elohim,” the predominant name of God in the Old Testament.  When we refer to God in general, this is the term we might often use.  As we are first introduced into the church and a life with Christ, this is the name by which we may relate to God.  He is the God of the community; He is the God we talk about in Sunday School.  He is the impersonal God, the third party God, the God of the group, the reference point.  Before we knew Christ, “Elohim” might be the name which we would have in mind when we say “they worship God.”

So David starts out his Psalm with a plea to God-Elohim, sort of like saying “O God [which you all know] …”

By the time we get to verse 4, God has become more personalized.  The name for God used here is “Adonai,” often translated “Lord.”  So, David in verse 4 says “God is my helper.”  “Adonai, my Lord, is my helper.”  With the idea of Adonai, we have a God who is our personal Lord and Savior.  He is our master.  We have a direct relationship with Him, can speak with Him, and can pray with Him.  We know Him to the point that we can say “He … that God right beside me … is my helper in time of trouble.”

And, indeed, in our Christian walk we go from understanding God in the abstract (Elohim) to knowing Him personally (Adonai), and we go from obedience to the law to obedience from love and gratitude.  Same God, but two different views or understandings arising from where we are in our walk with Him.

And, if you think about it, Psalm 54 is a particular kind of prayer, arising from deep need, but doesn’t our prayer life follow this.  We begin our prayer somewhat stiffly, praying to an objective God who we know by study, observation, and instruction, and we proceed as we pray into His throne room, into His presence, where He becomes highly personal and our Lord.

But the real name of God, the one given to Moses by God Himself, is left to the end of the Psalm, where David says “I will give thanks to Your name, O Lord (YHWH), for it is good.”  This is the name barely repeatable because of its holiness, its power.  The translation is given to use by God – “I am.”

To me, this last step in the progression of understanding of God is perhaps the hardest for me to understanding, because to understand it is to realize that God is not only Creator, Savior, and Lord – but He is sovereign in all things.  He has no beginning and no end; He has no need of anything; He is was, is, and will be forever; He is unchangeable.  Everything else about God we can relate to – we understand creators (think of a car maker); we understand kings and lords (we have a boss at work); we may even understand saviors at some level (someone rescued me from starving by fixing dinner).  But we do not understand forever, unchangeable, immutable, all powerful, all sufficient, ever existing.  We the finite do not really understand the infinite.

And yet, as we progress in our Christian walk, we come to understand God as others do, then as personal Lord and Savior, and then Him as He is.

And that, too, is how David progresses in his prayer in this Psalm and how we progress in ours.  We acknowledge God in the abstract and then talk to Him one-on-one.  And then, as we pour out our hearts and needs, we receive that peace which passes understanding, because our problem was just taken on by “I AM.”  All analogies fail at that moment, all negotiations cease, all of our thoughts become useless.  And we rest in knowing that the great “YHWH” has just appeared.

_________

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

 

Bread – King

August 1, 2016


Psalm 29

“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” Ps. 29:1-2

What do we ascribe to the Lord God?  What features does He have, in our mind?  What is His character?  Who is God?

These are important questions and how we answer them will result in different present actions and endings.

Interestingly, the choices we make in what characteristics we attribute to God are ours to make.  God presents the evidence and we must, from that evidence, conclude.  Our view of the truth may be distorted by sin or made clear by God’s sovereign act of grace to enable us to see, but it is still our view.  We possess the view, we attribute the characteristics, and we must live for all eternity with the consequences of those choices.

One feature which we could ascribe to God is fancifulness.  In other words, God is what we make Him up to be.  If we want Him to be a clown, then He is a clown.  This is the view of many atheists, who acknowledge that there may be a God, but that He is a figment of our imaginations.  This conclusion from our ascriptions to God is logical from our beginning point, our ascriptions, but leads to death for all time and beyond time.

Another feature we could describe to God is remoteness.  God sits on His holy hill and looks down at us uninvolved in our daily lives; God exists but He is remote.  From this ascription of remoteness to the Lord, we would easily conclude that, although there is a God, He is irrelevant for daily living.  We may respect Him and even fear Him, but we cannot love Him because there is no relationship – no involvement, no relationship.  The persons who ascribe remoteness to God may have the label of one religion or another, but they do not walk in the power of the presence, because there is no presence.   They tip their hats toward God in acknowledgment of His existence, but proceed to live their lives as they see fit because God doesn’t care and isn’t involved anyway.

The characteristics we ascribe to God matter, which is why the Psalmist begins with instructions to the angels about the characteristics they, and we, should ascribe to God.  Ascribe to Him “glory and strength” and the “glory due His name.”

What does this mean?  There is nothing friendly about this, loving about it, all-knowing about it, all-involved about it, or ever-present about it.

The meaning is simple and the reason this must come first is clear.  The meaning of glory is weight, honor, esteem, majesty, abundance and wealth.  These are the attributes of a King, of a sovereign.  These are the attributes of the King of Kings.

Why must this come first?  Because, at the end of the day, we will progress nowhere in our worship, our hope, our growth in maturity, our wisdom, our perseverance, or our love without first recognizing that (a) there is a king and (b) we are not that person.  “I am not the king over my life” is perhaps the most important conclusion we can ever come to.  And it begins with an attribution to God that He is full of glory, as the King of the universe should be.  Once we recognize that He is glory, we then come to the conclusion of the quoted verses today – “Worship the Lord in the splendor of [His] holiness.”

Now these are instructions to angels, who always sit before God worshipping Him in His glory, honor, and holiness.  So why do they need the reminder?  I don’t know, but knowing that Lucifer was a fallen angel, it might have something to do with the same phenomena which happens to us when we look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I am the master of my destiny.  Look at my things, look at my glory.”  As the angels reflect the glory of God they may begin to believe that they are the ones producing the glory, instead of just reflecting it, and in so doing forget that God is the sovereign one and they are not.

Our glory is not our own; our holiness is not ours.  Anything we have like that is because we reflect the Father’s glory and the Father’s holiness.

Why must we ascribe glory, honor, and power to God?  Because in doing so we take the first steps of acknowledging who the true King is, we grow in obedience and good works, and we can accept the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ the Son.

But how can we do this?  Though it be impossible for man, nothing is impossible for God.  Therefore, we pray, “come Holy Spirit and empower us to see You as you are so that we too, with the angels, may worship You and You alone in the splendor of Your Holiness.”

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Kings

May 25, 2016


Psalm 21

.“His [the king’s] glory is great through Your salvation; splendor and majesty You bestow on him.  For You make him most blessed forever; You make him glad with joy of Your presence.  For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.”  Ps. 21:5-7

Which king is the Psalmist talking about?

One answer could be the author of this Psalm, King David himself.  If this is the case, he is speaking of himself in the third person, but that is not unusual if David was intending to turn himself as king into the object of God’s pleasure.

Another answer could be Jesus Christ Himself, King of Glory.  One reason it could be him is that the Psalmist says “You make him most blessed forever.”  And who is most blessed, except the Son of God Himself.  Another reason could be that He bestows “splendor and majesty on him.”  And who has the most splendor and majesty except the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  However, I do not think it is a reference to the Messiah because David starts off by saying that the king’s glory is great through “Your salvation.”  Although in one sense it is God Almighty who brings salvation to His people, Jesus Christ as God did not need to be saved – He is Savior; He saves.  Jesus’ glory pre-existed His death and resurrection and preceded creation itself.

So who else could David be talking about?  You … and me.

Think about it for minute.  Why not?

To the extent we reflect glory, it is made great through His salvation of us.

To the extent we reflect splendor and majesty in what we do and who we are, it is God who gives it to us.

To the extent we are blessed, it is because God has made us “most blessed.”  And since we are saved by God’s might, He has made us “most blessed forever.”

To the extent we are thankful for our blessings, it is through the power of God in us that we can even see the source of those blessings, much less be glad in His presence.

And how is it that we reflect glory, are bestowed with honor, splendor and majesty, receive our blessings, and become joyful in the presence of the living God?  It is because “the king trusts in the Lord.”

And finally and most importantly, to the extent we are unmoved by the world, by the opinions of others, by our own carnal desires, it is because of “the steadfast love of the Most High.”  If we stand strong in the evil day, it is because the God we worship is Himself steadfast in power, holiness, and love.

So personalize this psalm: “My glory is great through His salvation; splendor and majesty have been bestowed upon me by Him.  He has made me most blessed forever; and I have been made by Him to be glad and joyful in His presence.  It is because I trust in the Lord, and I shall not be moved from the rock because He is steadfast in His love for me.”

We are kings because He is King.

Now, do we behave like it?

_________

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

 

Bread – Dominion

February 26, 2016


Psalm 8

“..You have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor.  You have given him dominion over the works of Your hands; and You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea…”  Ps. 8:5-8

The word “dominion” is also translated “rule” in the NASB translation of the Bible.

So, Psalm 8 reflects what happens in Genesis, when man was given rule over everything on earth.  When man was cast out of the Garden of Eden for disobedience, this charge, this appointment, was not revoked.  Instead, what was added to man’s life was the necessity to work and what was subtracted from his life was his total integration with God.

Instead of ruling over a perfect world, when man disobeyed God and followed the serpent, he was set over as ruler of an imperfect world.

Perhaps that is why man feels like he, and he alone, is in charge of making the world perfect again.  Part of the desire of man for the environment is to protect as a steward what God has given us, to be a good king over the bounty of God’s creation.  But another part of the desire of man for the environment is to exercise the iron fist of control, to be “in charge,” to “fix” the world, to “repair” what he broke.

The desire to fix what you broke is a common desire, but the effort makes us begin to believe that we are “masters of our lives,” kings over our destiny, ruler of the earth, exercising power and dominion in all phases of our lives. To be the king, we think we must act like the king and wage war against the enemies of the kingdom – poverty, ignorance, bullying, racial profiling, individualism to the extent of harming the community, etc.  [Does this begin to sound familiar?]

In a sense, this is a partial explanation for man’s current fascination with “global warming” or “climate change.”  Rather than face the reality that the earth is broken from our own sin and that God’s creation will operate in the way He has ordained, man’s understanding of his own dominion over the earth and all that is in it extends to the climate.  If it is broken, it must be man who broke it and, as king, then it is up to us to fix it.

Another aspect of dominion, in addition to believing that we as king can solve all problems, is that we get to dress like a king and live in places like kings live.  And so, in our pride as ruler of the universe, we build greater and greater monuments to ourselves, we collect more and more wealth, we surround ourselves with the riches of things, and we wear pretty and expensive clothing and jewelry, with a little perfume (cologne) thrown in for good measure.  We look good, we smell good … so, doggone it, we must be good.  Right?

Well, yes we have been tasked with exercising dominion over the earth (note, not the universe).

But does that put us on first?  No.

“You have made him [us] a little lower than the heavenly beings.”  So, the “heavenly beings” are higher than us.  And who are they?

One problem with translations is that, unless we reach under them, we can be quickly misled.  When I first read this, I assumed that “heavenly beings” meant angels.  This fits nicely into my predisposition to create hierarchies in heaven and on earth and so I am happy with my conclusion.  However, when I read the NASB version, it reads “…Thou hast made him a little lower than God..”  Ps. 8:5 (NASB).  And it turns out that the underlying Hebrew word is “Elohim,” which reflects the Genesis “…let us…”  In other words, there are two possible meanings, one being angels and the other meaning God Himself, likely in the form of the Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But, whatever, it is clear that we are not boss.  At best, we are regents, we are appointed agents of God, to rule in accordance with God’s principles and according to His instructions.

What are God’s instructions to us as His regents on earth?  How are we to exercise dominion?

Some might say that the way we exercise dominion is through rules and regulations, much like in the Old Testament.  Others would say that we exercise dominion through the exercise of love and servant leadership, much like in the New Testament.  And indeed, Jesus tells His disciples that His followers are not to “lord” it over others.

So should we exercise dominion by the sword (the Law) or by the candy Valentine’s heart (Love)?

I think the answer to this, when we think about it, is “Yes.”  Exercising the law tempered by love and love strengthened by law results in  a balanced kingship, a way to be obedient the command “Love God first and love your neighbor as yourself.”

And it brings honor to God to raise up the entirety of Scripture, both the Old and New Testaments.  And it brings success to us, because now we have a plan to follow.

A heavenly plan, designed by God and not by man, over which we are in charge of implementing the earthly part.

We are kings but subjects, rulers but servants, leaders but disciples, helping others while seeking help from God.

Can you imagine what it would be like to exercise dominion without God’s plan, strength, power, and grace?  I can’t … and yet I do it every day.  Do you want to imagine what mess we would really be in if we were really the “top dog?”  Well look around, the evidence surrounds us.

God gave us dominion over the earth and, doggone it, we will exercise that dominion.  The only question is how – with God or without Him.  I think “with God” is the better choice.  What say you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Peal

February 22, 2016


Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”  Ps. 8:1

It is in verses like this where I see the value (to myself) of capitalizing all references to God.  By capitalizing “Your Name,” God is emphasized both at the beginning and at the end.  “Your Name,” God’s name, is not something to be trifled with, ignored, subordinated, brought to earth … but exalted, raised up, worshiped and adored!

The word “peal” struck me because we normally use it in the phrase “peal of thunder,” but this one sentence strikes me as a “peal of praise.”  It is a word typically used with the sound of bells and generally a loud ringing of bells.  So thunder is a loud noise, a peal.  So praise as expressed by David is a loud outcry, a loud worship, a loud statement of truth, a proclamation – it is a peal.

The dictionary actually says that the word “peal” means not only loud, but prolonged.  In other words, it lasts a long time.

And, indeed, the phrase “How majestic is Your Name in all the earth” does seem to prolong itself in our mind as we listen to it – it seems to bounce off the recesses of our soul and echo deep within.  It is not just a fleeting statement, but one which resonates over and over and over again as we say it, as we speak it, as we sing it, as we shout it, as we yell it.

What a great way to begin the week!  With a peal of praise from our mouths.  “O Lord, our Lord, You are majestic, holy, and Your train fills the temple!”

What vision do we have of “majesty.”  What visions do we apply the word “majestic” to?

When I think of “majestic,” I think of the mountains, reaching to the sky, standing in permanence, full of color and life, full of adventure and opportunity.  Others may think of the sea, its vastness and regularity, its depth and breadth, its power and, in the times of storms, its unruliness.  Others may think of the stars and planets of the universe, their number and distance and balance and seeming endlessness.

What a way to begin the week!  Offering a peal of praise to our Maker, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Restorer, our God.

A reminder of who He is, who we are, and whose we are.  One we sorely need every day.  One to set us in our proper place.  One to set our compass correctly.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”

Amen.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Rebellion

August 13, 2015


Readings for Thursday, August 13, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 15:1-18; Acts 21:27-36; Mark 10:32-45; Psalm 105

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Absalom, David’s son, stands out in the public, at the gate to the city, telling the people coming into the city that king David is essentially not available to hear their pleas and their cases, but that if he were judge of the land (i.e. king of the land), then they would get justice and their day in court. “So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” 2 Sam. 15:6b

Now the gate is in a public place, so it is fair to assume that David, the king, heard what was going on. He could not have approved it, because Absalom, his son, was undermining David’s authority and setting himself up as king in place of David. And yet David did nothing to correct him and nothing to stop him.

Why does God tolerate our rebellion? We rebelled in the Garden of Eden by listening to Satan instead of hearing God. We rebel on a daily basis as we set ourselves up as king of the little kingdom of self and run our lives according to our wishes and lusts. We stand in the public square and pronounce to the world, “if I were in charge (or if my government were in charge), there would be justice in the world… so let me take over and rule.” All the while this is going on, God appears to be in retreat, seeming to disappear from the stage, exiting the hearts and minds of men to leave them to their own devices and to implement their own schemes. When man rebels and says to God, “I don’t want you anymore…go away!,” why does God appear to say “OK,” and then appears to exit stage left?

In today’s lesson from Daniel and Absalom, we begin to see how this develops. David decides to leave and those people who want to come with him he lets do so. These “disciples” of David abandon their home and become wanderers. Later, however, in another day’s lesson, we discover that Absalom reaches his full stage of rebellion and wickedness, dies in battle, and David returns to his rightful place. The faithful are displaced but never replaced and end up being victorious.

We are in rebellious times. The winnowing of the church is occurring. Will we follow the usurpers or stay with the King? Will we be displaced, knowing that our home is with Him and not with the world, or will we reap the temporary benefits of rebellion and suffer the eternal loss as well?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Sovereignty

January 12, 2015


Readings for Monday, January 12, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 40:12-23; Eph. 1:1-14; Mark 1:1-13; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

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Who is sovereign over our lives, us or God?

The knee-jerk reaction is to say, of course, God. But do we behave like that, or do we really behave like “God is sovereign over some things” and “I am sovereign over other things?”

Now, there is a difference between sovereignty and authority. God gave us authority over the earth, permitting us to name the animals, but did He relinquish His sovereignty in doing so? I think the answer is “no.” Now it is easy for us to forget that and think that, because we have started a successful business, somehow we are sovereign over that business. But are we really? Are we not really God’s appointee, His delegate, to build that business and run it as well as we can, in obedience to His will and His Word?

A while ago, I heard an author ask the question what some New Age person would sound like to God. In his highest, squeakiest, voice, the writer said the New Ager would yell at the heavens (in a high pitched, squeaky voice) “I’m God, I’m God, I’m God.” The person sounded ridiculous to me, so I can imagine what they sounded like to God. And yet, isn’t that what we do most of the day – yell at the world and at God, “I’m God….”

Isaiah asks some questions today which really put into context how ridiculous it is that we insist that we are “God” or even a “god” or “demigod.” Isaiah says:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows Him counsel? Who did He consult, and who made Him understand? Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding.” Isa. 40:12-14

The fact is that we dare to do it every day. We are the ones who would tell God what the best plan is, what the alternatives are that He should choose, what He should stay His hand from doing and what He should positively do. We are the ones who tell God what He should think, what virtues He should value, what works He should reward. We tell Him this in our prayers and we tell Him this when we ignore His Word on the matter. When we place Scripture through a filter of man’s understanding, we have stepped into the role of judge over the “rightness” of God’s position on things. When we don’t like what God has to say or we don’t want to do what He commands us to do, we create a version of God who better fits our ideas, who we better understand, and who we can better manipulate … and we worship the idol we have created rather than the God who created us.

Why harp on this today? The reason is our reading today from Ephesians – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…Blessed be the God ..who has blessed us in Christ … even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world … In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ …” Eph. 1:1-5 (emphasis added)

This is an old fight in the church … and I will not resurrect it here. But before those of us who bristle at the thought that we did not choose God, but He chose us … who is sovereign?

Who is sovereign? There are three choices – Him, me, or both Him and me.

How you answer that question will make all the difference in the world. If God is sovereign, then obedience is the only answer. If I am sovereign, then God and the Bible are irrelevant. The problem is in the middle, where we think that both God and we are sovereign. This is why we plead for our way, this is why we re-interpret God’s Word, this is why we obey when we feel it is appropriate, this is why we live defeated lives, this is why we doubt our salvation. If God and we are both sovereign at the same time, we have a mess … we have the world.

We listened to Satan, ate of the tree of knowledge, and now think that we share God’s sovereignty. And what has that gotten us.

In today’s reading from Mark, Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;…” Mk. 1:15 The kingdom of God has God as its sovereign, not us.

Recognizing this, we bend the knee and obey … sometimes. The rest of the time our self-image of ourselves as in control rises to the top and meets God on what we think is an even playing field. But as Isaiah implies in the quote above, the playing field is not even because there is only one King.

God wins. But, then, so do we. Not because of us, but because of Him. Because He is King and we are not, we get to live in His kingdom…forever. Not a bad exchange for giving up our sovereignty we think we have to the position of disciple and servant that we know we have. Not “I am because I am,” but “I am because You (Jesus) are.”

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Relationships

September 8, 2014


Readings for Monday, September 8, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 32:1-10, 19-33:1, 19-28; Acts 13:44-52; John 10:19-30; Psalms 41,44,52

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There are many relationships in the world. Some are defined by family: father-son, uncle-niece, grandmother-grandson, etc. Some are defined by economics or employment: boss-worker, president-vice president, director-officer, shareholder-director. Some are defined by politics: king-subject, office holder-citizen, senator-representative.

But these are roles. Most often when we talk about the word “relationship” we are not talking about a positional relationship but a “personal” relationship. In that respect, the relationship is often characterized by adjectives – cold, friendly, loving, uncaring, close, separate, estranged, etc.

But one thing which is sort of built into the American mindset about every relationship is that we are equal, equal in rights, opportunity, and standing. Somebody may be our boss in a particular circumstance, but otherwise we are the same. Each person is worthy. Each person’s opinion should be respected. Each person should be listened to. Each person should be treated fairly.

This is not the mindset of much of the world. In much of the world there is in operation something like a caste system, where you are born (created) into a particular position in life. This position defines your relationship and you may not get out of the position because you can’t. You were born into it and therefore, that is what you are. People are, in this relationship system, necessarily unequal because they were born into their categories unequally.

Thus, in feudal times, you were born into royalty or common. That was it. As royalty, you could be king. As common, you could be a serf. Unless there was a revolution, defining a new category of royalty, the serfs and the royalty did not eat together, they did not go to church together, they did not participate in the economic system in the same way. Their relationship was fundamentally unequal. Slavery represented another caste system. Islam’s treatment of women is another caste system.

Because we see relationships as free and equal, in spite of temporary role changes, there is a fundamental flaw in our relationship with God. When we talk about having a relationship with God, we think of it automatically as an equal relationship. God and I can get along because we are equal. God and I can talk to each other because we are equal. God will answer my prayers because we are equal. God and I are friends. God and I dialogue, communicate, participate, and work together for the kingdom. In fact, God looks to me to help Him build the kingdom because we are partners. God and I walk hand in hand. I choose God because He chose me.

These are our words … and they were Job’s words … and they were (and are) the wrong words.

Job’s friend Elihu says it simply but correctly in today’s reading – “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life…God is greater than man.” Job 33:4,12

In the relationship between man and God, there is a caste system. There is God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and then there is us. We are not God and He is not us. We are reflections of Him, but we are not Him.

If we are not equal to God, then what is our right relationship to Him? The entire Bible addresses this question. Are we family? Yes, but as adopted children through the sovereign work of God, we are not equal to God. We may speak boldly, but we must bow our head and bend our knee to His Kingship over us. Are we slaves? Yes, but as slaves in Jesus we bear a light yoke and have freedom well beyond that which we have following our own dictates. But in spite of our freedom, we are slave and He is master. Are we friends? Jesus calls us friends but, in our position vis a vis God, does that give us the right to call Him friend? To ask this question another way, if Jesus chooses to give us the best seat in the house at dinner, does that mean that we are entitled to the best seat in the house? Do we have any right to take God’s Word and place our interpretation on it? Can we subject God to our opinion, or must we conform our opinion to God’s truth?

Just because we are equal to each other as people does not mean that we are equal to God.

Our natural tendency to treat God as our equal will demonstrate itself in our interpretation of today’s reading in John – “…you do not believe because you are not part of My flock. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:26-30.

Now, reading that text, what does the phrase “My Father … has given them to Me” mean? Is there any element of man’s choice in that statement? Any element of man’s free will?

The answer to that question will say a lot about how you view your relationship with God. If your relationship with God is built upon equality, then your free choice becomes an essential element of the salvation transaction. If your relationship with God is built upon His sovereignty, His kingship, His glory, His power, and His work on the cross, then the caste-chasm has been breached, not by our choice, but by God’s.

So, what is your relationship with God? Is it based on position? Is it based upon choice? Is it based upon God’s sovereign work in your life? Want the answer? Read Job.

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© 2014 GBF

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