Bread – Wilderness

June 7, 2017


Psalm 68

O God, when You went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness,  Selah…” Ps. 68:7

The word “Selah” appears from time to time in the Psalms as a way of saying, “stop, pay attention, meditate on what you just read.”

What is interesting here is that the word “Selah” follows a sentence fragment. I actually appears right after the comma.  Therefore, we stop and think about what we just read.

There are two parts to this sentence fragment which stand out to me.  One is the word “wilderness.”  The other is the word “when.”

Who reading this has not been in a wilderness of their lives?  A long time ago, when I was much younger, I backpacked in the Weminuche  Wilderness of Colorado.   And I really tried hard, too.  I was carrying a 70 pound backpack, trying to climb up the trail of scree rock, sliding one or two steps back for every two or three steps forward, up a steep incline, with no one to help (I was very slow compared to my companions).  I was hot, tired, thirsty (even though I brought plenty of water) and extremely aggravated.  My legs and feet were killing me.   I wondered why I even started the journey.

This physical experience is similar to the emotional and psychological experiences we go through as we try to navigate life, raise a family, make money, and plan for the future.  We carry our burdens on our back, whether it addiction, anger, fear, worry, disappointment, depression, and a bunch of other maladies.  It seems like we are always on slippery stones, sliding backwards more often than going forward.  We feel like we are always going uphill.  We get tired.  We get hungry and thirsty.  We long for a better life, and sometimes we even wonder why we started the fool trip to begin with.  Finally, we feel like we are all alone on this fight for life.  Although we may claim a relationship with God, when we are in the wilderness of life He sometimes seems to have abandoned us too.

The second word is “when.”  “When You went out before Your people.”  “When You marched through the wilderness.”

Not “if,” but “when.”  Concrete in reality; provable in the events of history.  A real presence in a real time of need.  The “You” is God, not me.  “When God went out before His people.”

In the Old Testament, God led His people Israel through the wilderness into the promised land.  Today, for those brought by God into His sheepfold, He goes out before us into and through the wildernesses of life to bring us to victory.

We will not be able to avoid the wildernesses of life.  To think we can is to fail to understand that our broken world which creates such wildernesses is our fault, due to our rebellion against God and our sinful state.  But, while we are in those wildernesses, we can remember “when God.”   And realize that the same God that led Israel is the same God who leads us.  He goes out before us.  He marches through the wilderness with us.

One of the interesting things about my wilderness hike I now remember is that I was always looking down, trying to make sure I was planting my feet on solid ground so that I would not slide backwards.  But to find God, I cannot look at my feet but must look at Him.  And when I looked up from my feet and looked around, I saw not the rocks but the mountain flowers, the streams of water off the mountain, the mountain itself, and the sky.

The nature of wildernesses is that we are inclined to look down.  God is the God of “when.”  So can we see Him?  To do that, we need to look up. And when we do, we see Him.  And we trust.  And, as any good hiker will tell you, when we trust we will find that that mountain can be climbed, the danger can be overcome, and the wilderness will become a place of joy rather than a place of burden.

Think about it.  Selah.

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

 

 

Bread – Fortress

January 2, 2017


Psalm 46

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble… Selah.”  Ps. 46:1

The title of this Psalm is “God is our Fortress.”  James Boice in his commentary on the Psalms notes that this Psalm was on of Martin Luther’s favorites, from which he wrote “A Mighty Fortress is Our God.”

My focus today is not so much whether God is a fortress or what kind of fortress is He, but where this fortress is.  What is its location?  Where on a map may it be found?

We tend to intellectualize Scripture and God, and so our first response might well be to say that the fortress who is God is “up there,” and point to the heavens.  And, indeed, there is much in this Psalm to suggest that God’s fortress is the New Jerusalem, which will descend in the end times to bring in the thousand year reign of Christ.  “God is our refuge and strength” suggests a place of refuge, a place where we can physically go for protection.  Perhaps the image comes to mind of a high mountain redoubt, armed to the hilt with massive guns, which provides us peace and safety if we can only get there.  Perhaps we recall the place of fortress called the “shadow of His wings,” where we can hide under Him and let life’s travails flow over us, leaving us untouched and unscathed.  Perhaps we have a view of heaven with the heavenly hosts surrounding God’s throne and bring ourselves to the place of refuge there.  Perhaps we climb in our imaginations to the peak of the mountain where the transfiguration occurred, and in the presence of God’s glory revealed.

But the second part of our reading today says “God is … a very present help in trouble.”  How can one be “very present” when one is “over there” or “up there.”  The only way one can be “very present” is to be here, in the place where the calamity exists, in the place of worry and fear.

And so we realize that God is not only “over there” or “up there” but also “right here.”  He is “very present.”

Which means this, if God is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me, then the fortress is in me, beneath me, above me, and around me.  If I am in God and He is in me, then I am in the fortress right now.

If that is true, then why do we worry?  Why do feel defeat in calamity?  Why do we yield to trouble instead of just looking at it as it flies by our fortress, which is God in us?

I really don’t know the answer to that question, because I do it too.  I look at a problem and say to myself, “I am in trouble,” instead of sitting under God’s wing, in His fortress, and say to God, “look at this problem and help me solve it, or, better yet, solve it yourself.”

But the implications of our failure to recognize that the fortress to which we can retreat is in us go well beyond us.  The reason is simple … if we, as God’s ambassadors, act like we live in a fortress who is God, then those who need healing, those who need help, those who need love, will find shelter in us.  The beacon of light we should be not only shines light in darkness, but it reveals the fortress from which the light comes.

Imagine for a moment if people said “God’s people are our refuge and strength,  a very present help in trouble.”

Whether or not it has happened to you yet, calamity will come upon us all.  We suffer in this fallen world from disease, death, disaster, pain, and loss.  And where will we turn?  Will we turn to the empty promises of the world or the true promises of Christ?  Will we run to the fortress in heaven in our mind, or run across the street to our Christian neighbor who stands in the evil day and is a fortress of hope, of light, of help, of friendship, and of  strength?  If we claim to follow Christ, we should be that fortress in the storm, we ought to be that fortress in the storm, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can be that fortress in the storm for our neighbor.

“A mighty fortress is our God …”  And, to the extent He lives in us, so are we.  Let’s act like it … and let our light so shine before men that they will see our good works and praise not us, but our Father in heaven.  Amen.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Despair

March 28, 2016


Psalm 13

“How long, O Lord?  Will Your forget me forever?  How long will You hide Your face from me?  How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?  Ps. 13:1-2

There are many titles I could have given this Bread.  “Depression” is one.  “Lost” is another.  “Abandoned” is a third.

I think, though, that the word “despair” says it best.  In depression there is knowledge that there will be a better day.  In being lost there is the built in hope of being found.  “Abandoned” is closer to the word “despair,” but even being abandoned one has the sense of being found, sort of like when one is lost.  But “despair?”  When we despair, we are at bottom.  When we despair, all choices of better evaporate.  When we despair, we are at the bottom of the well of life and there is, seemingly, no way out.

When we are forgotten by our family or friends, surrounded by real and imagined enemies, at the end of our rope, there is still God.  But when He has apparently disappeared as well, never to again touch or soothe or protect or empower us, then despair sets in.  Abandon all hope, ye who enter into the chamber of despair.

And when we despair and see no way out, when we feel that both God and man have abandoned us, when our personal reserves of energy, vitality, and life are consumed … what then?  A minute in despair feels like an eternity.  An hour in despair tears down the mind.  A day in despair shuts down our bodies.  A week in despair destroys our spiritual self.  What about a month of despair?  A year of despair?  The mere thought crushes life, desire, and action.  The mere thought of prolonged despair is more than we can imagine, more than we can stand.

So is it any wonder that David says, four times, “How long, O Lord?”  The darkness of despair is so intense that it does not matter how long in reality it is, it is always too long and we ask, “How long, O Lord?  Will You forget me forever?”

Who has not been to the place of despair, of the blackest thoughts, the deepest depression, the midnight of the soul?  Abandoned by God and man, beaten down by our adversaries, submerged under the flood of bad things, left to our thoughts and sorrows, crushed by life, lost to the world, at our wit’s end.  Bottom.

Now that I’ve put you in the mood, think for a moment about what Jesus felt on the cross when He was abandoned by the Father, left in despair, on His own without spiritual support.

When Jesus was abandoned, He too cried out “How long, O Lord?” It was in the form of “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  Matt. 27:46.  But regardless of the form, it was a cry of despair to God the Father who appeared to have forgotten Jesus, who appeared to have hidden His face from Jesus, who had let Jesus’ enemies be exalted over Him.

When we despair, when we feel abandoned and alone, we can always bring to mind that we are in good company – Jesus felt the same way for the same reason, and God raised Him from despair and death unto life.  And through His despair, death, and resurrection, as our advocate before the Father, Jesus does the same for us when we cannot do it for ourselves.

If it feels that God has abandoned me, has He?  If it feels that I am at the bottom of the well with no way out, is this true?

We cannot deny our feelings and we may in fact be in despair, feeling that we are abandoned by God, lost from God’s favor, stepped on by our enemies, left to our own sorrowful devices and thoughts.  And we, too, can cry out like David and yell at God, “How long?”

It’s OK.  Jesus did it, and God answered Him.  And He will answer you, too.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Wasted

November 3, 2014


Readings for Monday, November 3, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 14:1-13; Luke 12:49-59; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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In today’s reading from Psalm 56, we read “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in Your bottle.” Ps. 56:8

This is the same Psalm which contains the famous words “…in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Ps. 56:11. It is this phrase which often draws attention. However, for some reason today the words about “tossings” and “bottle” just caught my attention.

What is it about tossings and tears? First, they represent how we handle worry and loss. We toss all night, barraged by nightmares, because we do not sleep well. We do not sleep well because we are worried about something – the job, no job, money, the children, old age, lack of opportunity, poor health, fear of failure, fear of life … the list goes on. Loss brings on tears (there are sometimes tears of joy, but today I am speaking about tears of sadness, melancholy, loss, failure, etc.). Grief overwhelms us and tears flow.

We are all familiar with tossings and tears. We have all experienced them and we know others who have experienced them as well.

The second characteristic of tossings and tears is that they are lonely events. Tossings take place while we are in bed. We may sleep next to our wife or husband, but they generally occur in the dead of night and we try to control our tossings so that we will not disturb our spouse’s sleep. We try to leave them out of the picture, whatever that picture is which is causing us to toss and turn, and in the process suffer our tossings alone. Likewise, people can try to comfort us as we cry, but crying is something we do, alone. It does not take two people for me to cry; I can cry on my own just fine, thank you! Tossings and tears are lonely events, or so they would seem.

The third characteristic of tossings and tears is, according to the Psalm, that God pays attention to them. He counts my tossings. Rather than let my tears fall empty to the ground, He puts them into bottles.

Why would God do this? Because He cares and He loves us.

See, we do not toss and turn and cry by ourselves, alone without love and support. We toss and cry in front of God. He notices, He cares, and He preserves. We are not alone because God is with us.

I call this Bread “wasted” because we know intellectually that tossing does not solve problems and that tears do not cause losses to disappear. The problems and losses remain after we have completed as much worrying about them as we can stand. We would therefore think that “tossings” and “tears” are wasted actions.

But they are not wasted. They are so valuable that God counts the tossings and bottles the tears. Both are preserved by God.

Why preserve such things?

I think to demonstrate to us that nothing is wasted which happens to us. No disaster, no loss, no trouble, no injury which befalls us is wasted by God. If we will let Him, God will preserve us through the disaster, loss, trouble, or injury, and He will bring us victorious to our end with Him.

When God is God of our lives, nothing we do is wasted. Ever.

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Punishment

August 9, 2013


Readings for Friday, August 9, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 12:1-14; Acts 19:21-41; Mark 9:14-29; Psalms 88,91,92

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In today’s reading from Samuel, we have the story of the aftermath of David and Bathsheba. Bathsheba was the wife of Uriah, but David saw her, thought she was very beautiful, and took her, killing Uriah by a trick in the process. Sort of like what we might do to get something we want.

God sends Nathan the prophet to confront David with his sin by telling David about a rich man who took a baby lamb from a poor man who had nothing so that the rich man could entertain his neighbor. In hearing this story, David of course rises up in righteous anger and says, essentially, “who could do such a thing?” Nathan then says, simply, “You are the man.”

How many stories could be told which, when we hear them, we would be angry about such an injustice, only to have God or our conscience tell us, in our quiet of reflection, that “you are the man.” “You are the evil doer.” “You are the one who has answered viciously, plotted for advantage, conducted murder in your heart, etc.

Yes, we are the people who are involved in these sordid stories of our lives. And we are responsible. And we are guilty. And we are sinful.

David hears Nathan and says “I have sinned against the Lord.” 2 Sam. 12:13. And in this he is right. Yes, his sin was against Uriah (who he killed), Bathsheba (who he turned into an adulteress), and even his own subjects (who he let down by his lack of integrity and honesty). But first and foremost it was against God. It was against His holy standard of behavior, of right and wrong, of His perfection.

Likewise, our sins are against others, but primarily they are against God’s will in our lives and His rules for living. They are violations of God’s holiness. They are insults hurled at God by us.

For which we deserve punishment. For those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, who have not repented and turned to Him in faith, it means punishment in this world and the next, for all time. For those who are saved by God’s mercy and in His sovereign will through faith in Jesus Christ, there is a different outcome.

Oh, there is punishment, but of a different sort.

Immediately after David has confessed his sin, Nathan has this to say – listen in very carefully: “And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.’” 2 Sam. 12:13-14.

In Christ Jesus, we are like David. The Lord has put away our sin by His sovereign grace, His mercy extended to us who are utterly undeserving of it but receive it anyway. However, God does not take insults lightly and there are consequences. In David’s case, the loss of a child. In our case, punishment may be less or more, but it will be.

When we are saved in Christ, we will receive punishment for our sins in this life, with perhaps even the reduction of rewards in heaven, but “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.” Salvation is assured. And so is punishment for our sins. We do not avoid punishment for our sins by the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross; we avoid destruction in the lake of fire. We do not avoid the consequences of our sin, but we do not die either.

God was not happy with David, and He punished him for his sins against Him. But God was merciful and spared his life, just like He is merciful to those whom He brings to Christ.

Isn’t this the “good news,” actually the best news? Through Jesus Christ the permanent consequences of our sin, death, is overcome and we will live forever in the presence of the Lord. The permanent punishment of death for all eternity is held back because God has mercy and took out His wrath on His Son and our Savior. However, the temporal consequences of sin are real. God will not be scorned. And, for our sins against God, we will be like David, saved and punished – which beats punished and dead for eternity all day long.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Tests

May 6, 2013


Readings for Monday, May 6, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27; Psalms 77,79,80

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The reading from James today begins this way – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2

I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time equating “joy” to “tests” and “trials.” It seems to me that tests were always something we had to have in school to advance to the next level or to graduate, but they were never anything I was joyful about (except, of course, when finished). Trials are even worse; who has joy in trials?

And, yet, that is what God calls us to.

Now I thought of a way out of this dilemma – maybe “joy” doesn’t mean a good feeling, just an attitude, an orientation. So I looked it up. The word used by James for “joy” means to rejoice because you have received a gift from God. So it means both an action and an orientation – the act of rejoicing caused by or resulting in an attitude of joy. We get there by recognizing that our tests today, our trials today, are in fact gifts of God.

And, indeed, our reading from Deuteronomy emphasizes this – “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart…And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna … that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you…For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…” Deut. 8:2-7

Testing is a time of discipline; discipline is a sign of love. We are tested because the Lord loves us and has in mind for us a “good land,” a place we are going after having gone through the time of testing.

This is all easy to say but very hard to live when we are preparing for or taking the test. When we are in the middle of a trial, we are tired, depressed, worn out, at a loss for what to do, sad, confused, doubting, angry, and a bunch of other things all tied up into one. The Lord says to us – “Have joy in the test and during the test, rejoice because I Am and I care enough about you to discipline you.”

Rejoice because we see God’s blessing, purpose, and love in the trial we face, in the trial we are in. How can we do this?

We can do this only because the same God who tests is the same God who loves who is the same God who saves and who is the same God who, in His sovereignty and according to His purposes, has chosen to reveal Himself and His purposes to us. In our reading today from Luke, Christ ask the disciples who He is and Peter responds “The Christ of God.” Matthew reports something else that Jesus’ said – “Blessed are you, [Peter] for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 16:17 We can have joy in bad circumstances, in times of testing and trial, because we have wisdom about our circumstances when we ask God for such wisdom in faith that He will reveal it to us (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith…” James 1:5-6).

Joy in trial; joy during the test. Rejoicing in our heart arising from Godly wisdom that our trial today, the test we are taking, is a blessing, a gift from God.

This is not natural; it is supernatural. This is not normal; this is supernormal. This is not the natural state of man; this is the new man created by God when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. This is not the work of man; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thus our tests are a double blessing. The first blessing is that the trial exists at all, that God so loves us that He disciplines us as a father would discipline a son. The second blessing is that we are given both the faith in Christ and the faith to ask for wisdom without doubting, so that we may have the wisdom to see the trial and the test for what it is.

Double blessing. Now isn’t that a reason for joy, for rejoicing, if there ever was one?

____________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Darkness

February 1, 2013


Readings for Friday, February 1, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 50:1-11; Gal. 3:15-22; Mk 6:47-56; Psalms 40,51,54

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There are many places where darkness dwells and many types of darkness which dwell there. Perhaps the place is the time of the loss of innocence, a time of sexual abuse, a time of loss of a loved one, a time of loss of a job, a time of depression, a time of loss of trust, a time of loss of love, or a time of addiction. Perhaps it appears in the form of anger, hatred, abuse of ourselves or others, depression, anxiety, worry, despair, hurt, melancholy, sadness, or fear. Wherever it is and whatever form it takes, it is fair to call that “darkness” or a “dark place” or a “dark time.” Light is missing – there is no path which is obvious, no clarity in view, no sense of belonging, no door to another place. It is dark and you cannot see. You cannot see what brought you to that place, you cannot see yourself, and you cannot see a way out. Why? Because it is dark.

When you are in the dark, there are two things, however, you can do. You can either rely on God or you can rely on yourself (the world). That is what today’s lesson from Isaiah addresses.

Isaiah 50:10b begins God’s pronouncement of these alternatives. First He says “Let him who walks in darkness and has no light trust in the name of the Lord and rely on his God.” Isa. 50:10b What happens when you do this? Good things. Our Psalm 40 reading today says “He [God] drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. He put a new song in my mouth … Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust.” Ps. 40:2-4. Some words have great images, and doesn’t the phrase “miry bog” just completely describe the place of darkness where many of us find ourselves all the time? Stuck, sinking, smelly, dark. And God brings us out into light, gives us a new song, and blesses us.

Isaiah keeps going to address the second alternative, reliance on man (the world) to bring us out of darkness into light. God says “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled! This you have from My hand: you shall lie down in torment.” Isa. 50:11 God through Isaiah says simply that you do have an alternative when you are in the dark – you can locate the light switch designed and built by man, flood the place with the light of man, and rely upon your science, your wisdom, your knowledge, your tools (your “fire”) to light up the place. And where does that ultimately take you? To hell (“you shall lie down in torment”).

When you find yourself in darkness, do you reach for man’s solutions or God’s solutions? Is your light the fake light of man or the real light of God?

But isn’t fake light real light? After all, light is light, right? Wrong. As I said earlier, there are many forms of darkness. Because the light which comes from man is its own form of darkness, it is possible to be “enlightened” and yet be sitting in the dark emotionally and spiritually. The Enlightenment was the beginning of a period where man woke up to the fact that he could create his own light and didn’t need God to create it for him. Tell me, is there more peace, love, integrity, or hope today because of that? I don’t think so. Man’s light is darkness, just in a different form.

So when you are in the dark, to whom will you turn? It makes all the difference.

___________________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Pits

October 17, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, October 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jonah 1:17-2:10; Acts 27:9-26; Luke 9:1-17; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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It sometimes helps us to understand something by visualizing it. So let us join Noah in the fish. He is sitting in the middle of no-where, bounded on all sides by engulfing waters, thrown into almost certain death by God (acting through the sailors), being transported to a place he does not want to go by a vehicle not of his choosing. The place must have been very dark and very wet. Because it was inside a fish, his surroundings may have had a certain unpleasant odor. Rejected by the sailors, in depression himself, in nasty circumstances, going to a place he hates. One might come out of this visualization saying that he was in the pits.

And, indeed, that is where Jonah thought he was. He described where he was as “the deep, into the heart of the seas” (Jonah 2:3), as “the belly of Sheol” (Jonah 2:2b), as at the “roots of the mountain, …the land whose bars closed upon me forever” (Jonah 2:6), and “the pit” (Jonah 2:6).

Jonah was in a terrible place, and what did he do? He gave thanks to God because God was using Jonah’s place, his circumstances, his pits, as the vehicle for his restoration to life and to his position as God’s prophet to the pagans in Nineveh.  Listen to him – “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and He answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice. For You cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas … yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the Lord, and my prayer came to You…Salvation belongs to the Lord!” Jonah 2:1-3, 6-7, 9.

This pattern of being thrown into the pit, recognizing God’s mercy, compassion, and providence even in such dire straits, and then giving thanks for life repeats itself in every reading today.

In Acts, the boat carrying 276 people, including Paul, was capsizing, but in the pit of despair while all worldly goods were being cast overboard, God spoke to Paul and told him that God was in control. Paul then said to everyone, stay in the boat, in the place of despair, because God will rescue. “And when he [Paul] had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they were all encouraged …And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, throwing out the wheat into the sea. These sailors so trusted the Lord that they gave thanks to the Lord in their despair and then threw out their food, so that they would be ready for their promised deliverance. In their pit, they threw themselves on the mercy of God, giving thanks in the midst of it all.

In Luke, the audience has gathered around Jesus in a “desolate place.” Lk. 9:12. They were in the middle of no-where with nothing to eat. They, however, were gathered around the Savior. Without food and in a desolate place, the people were in a pit. But Jesus did not fret, instead He “looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them [the five loaves and two fish].” “Then He broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets in broken pieces.” Lk. 9:16-17

In the pit of despair there is plenty of blessing to be had for the asking, because God is merciful, caring, compassionate, and long-suffering toward His people. God blessed the one (Jonah), the few (the people on the ship), and the many (the 5,000 in the desolate place).

There is a pattern here on purpose. The truth is that in this sinful world we live much of our lives in pits, in smelly circumstances, without sufficient resources (food) for our purposes, being taken places we don’t want to go, surrounded by deep waters, storms, and other calamities of life. What is striking about the people of God is that they see God in the pits, they see Him in their circumstances. They see Him and recognize that His hand protects them, carries them, caresses them, and leads them. They see Him and realize that, although they are currently in the pits, that is not where they will be; the pits is not their destination. And recognizing that, they pray, they give thanks, and they accept the gifts they have been given – a second chance, a rest from the storm, a rock to stand on, food for the road, a helping hand from a neighbor, joy, eternal life. They look to heaven and not their feet. They look up and not down.

This is what the people of God (Jonah, Paul, the disciples, the crowd) do in the pits. What do you do? What are you going to do?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Foundations

October 8, 2012


Readings for Monday, October 8, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Hosea 14:1-9; Acts 22:30-23:11; Luke 6:39-49; Psalm 106

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In today’s reading from Luke, Jesus says: “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you? Everyone who comes to Me and hears My words and does them, I will show you what he is like: he is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when a flood arose, the stream broke against the house and could not shake it, because it had been well built. But the one who hears and does not do them is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. When the stream broke against it, immediately it fell, and the ruin of that house was great.” Lk. 6:46-49

Throughout my legal carrier, there have been many people who have come to me with foundation problems with their houses. In fact, I have a foundation problem right now with my house.

Why do we have foundation problems with our houses? A glib answer would say it is because we live in North Texas. A more accurate answer is that either the foundation was not built originally as it should have been, with appropriate thickness and steel, or the ground underneath it has decayed because it has not been watered or it has otherwise not been taken care of properly. Another reason which is often given is that it does not rest upon rock, but instead floats on top of shifting soil.

Why do we have foundation problems in our walk? Jesus tells us that there are three reasons. The first reason, and the reason for those who are not Christians, is that they have not “come to Him.” A foundation to be solid needs to be tied into the rock of the earth. What better tie-in than to the creator of those rocks, Jesus Christ.

The second reason our life foundation may have stresses and cracks, and may not be able to support us adequately, is that we need to “hear His (Jesus’) words.” It is not enough to know about Him and, in and of itself, it is not enough to know Him as personal Lord and Savior. Jesus says that, for us to have a strong foundation, we must know His word, Holy Scripture. We must so digest it that it is part of us. Every Wednesday we read part of Psalm 119. This Psalm ends this way – “Let Your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen Your precepts. I long for Your salvation, O Lord, and Your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise You, and let Your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek Your servant, for I do not forget Your commandments.” Ps. 119:173-176 How can we say this if we do not know what His precepts are, what His law is, what His rules are, and what His commandments are? How do we know what these things are if we do not study them, digest them, and learn them, so they become our superstructure, our rules for action, integrated throughout our very being.

Then, finally, Jesus says that, if we are to have a strong foundation, we must “do” His words. It is not enough to know Him and it is not enough to have an intellectual appreciation for Scripture, we must implement what we learn. We must do it. We must walk the walk.

One more thing to note. Water runs downhill. As a result, think about where the house is built in Jesus’ story. It is built at the bottom of the hil; it is built in the valley, in the pit of life. The house is not built in a lofty place, above the fray. It is built in the world, where it will be hammered by the flood, where the world’s torrent of hatred, of fear, of aggression, and of hellish power will crash against it. It is built where people live. It is built were we live.

Do you feel that your house, your being, is built on solid rock or shifting earth? Is your house leaning or collapsing? Is your soul bending to life, or standing against it?

If your house is collapsing, you are not alone for two reasons. The first is that there are a lot of people in the same boat, sometimes only every so often and other times seemingly all of the time. The second is that Jesus has told you how to establish yourself for all time. He does not leave you alone to your own devices – He tells you what to do. First, come to Him. Second, listen to Him. Third, do what He says to do.

Why do we spend all of our time fixing our broken foundations, when we know what we need to do to build them right the first time?

Why do we spend all of our time trying to fix ourselves, when we have the roadmap to the place where no storm can overcome us, no evil befall us, no despair overtake us, no loss engulf us? Why do we just not do what Jesus says to do – come to Him; listen to Him; obey Him.

When we do these things, life will not be easier. The flood and the storm will still come and crash against our house. And the foundation may shake, but it will hold. And our house will stand … forever.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Insides

September 12, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, September 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 29:1, 30:1-2,16-31; Acts 14:19-28; John 11:1-16; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In the reading from Job today, we find him focused on how his insides feel, and how hopeless his illness and difficulties are making him feel. He begins with “And now my sould is poured out within me; …” Job 30:16. How often have we felt like our soul, our inmost self, is just leaking away somewhere inside. Instead of being poured out in worship or in good deeds or in love, we sense that our soul is just leaking away into never-never land. Enthusiasm wanes, excitement dims, the light of our soul fades … and it is all poured out within us, making us empty and poor of spirit.

Job also discusses other parts of his insides. “The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.” Job 30:17. Chronic pain in the neck, in the back, in the legs, in the arms, in muscles, sinew and bone. Chronic pain, the pain that gnaws me and takes no rest. Job describes it perfectly. And how I feel stiff in the morning, like my bones have been on a rack. Yes, Job’s insides are a mess, and I can identify with him. His insides don’t feel good; in fact they feel bad.

Job also discusses, indirectly, the problem with our insides (and our outsides) getting fat – Isn’t this the perfect description of the creeping clothes’ sizes: “With great force my garment is disfigured; it binds me about like the collar of my tunic.” Job 30:18. My insides have gotten so big my clothes just don’t fit!

And all this leads to turmoil on the inside, in our soul, our mind, and our heart. Again, hear the words of Job – “My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me. I go about darkened, but not by the sun…” Job 30:27-28a It is the insides which are messed up. It is the insides which are all mixed up. It is the insides which are dark. We are ill prepared for the external afflictions because our insides are not right.

And when our insides are in disarray and in darkness, there is not help from others. As Job points out, while he is feeling this way he notes that he is related to “jackals” (people who will pick on him to get the last morsel of life) and is a friend of “ostriches” (people who stick their head in the sand). When Job’s insides are in turmoil, his perspective of the outside world is that no one cares and no one, including God, is willing to do anything except make matters worse. We know this is not the case, but our insides have such an influence on our view of reality, when our insides are messed up we can see or hear nothing clearly.

It is the state of our insides which affect our outsides. It is the state of our insides which will determine our outsides.

In John today, Lazarus has died and been buried in the tomb for four days. In translation, this means that he was truly dead. Jesus restores him to life, saying these words which transform the world: “I [Jesus] am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.

When Job was miserable, he was examining his insides from his perspective. When Job had hope, he was examining Jesus (“I know my Redeemer lives”) from inside out. When Job had wisdom and peace, he was living in God and looking at his insides through Jesus’ lenses.

We can remain inwardly focused and be overwhelmed with our insides, our internal afflictions. We can turn outwardly focused and see the Savior. We can “live [in Me] and believe in Me [Jesus]” and be healed of death of the soul. Our soul looks all messed up through our eyes, just as it looked messed up through Job’s. When we live in Jesus, abiding in the vine, we can look through Jesus’ eyes, past our present circumstances, and into eternal life.

How do we get from point A, where we are mired in ourselves, to point B, where we celebrate freedom from death? We must answer the question which Jesus posed – “Do you believe this?” Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that, if you live and believe in Him, you will never die?” Do you believe in Jesus? If so, let His power deal with your insides while you live in Him. He can and He will.

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© 2012 GBF

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