Bread – Dark

May 12, 2017


Psalm 63

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips, when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate upon You in the watches of the night.”  Ps. 63:5-6

If I used multi-word descriptions of Bread in the title, this would have been “watches of the night,” but I settled on “dark” because that is close.  One thing you can say about the “watches of the night” is that it is dark…and lonely.  Particularly if you are the only one awake, or are the sentinel on the outpost, or hunched over last minute study or work.

Who among us has not woken up at a terrible time at night, two or three in the morning, either too cold or too hot, too worried or too energized.  Perhaps a “bad dream” has awakened us.  Perhaps our brain has been working on a problem at work on overdrive.  Perhaps we drank a caffeinated beverage too late in the evening, or ate a bowl of ice cream which contained enough for three people.

For whatever reason, however, we are awake in the watches of the night, in the dark, alone and thinking.

What are we thinking about?  For many of us, we are probably thinking about how we can go back to sleep, maybe by reading a boring book or counting sheep.

For David, the Psalmist, though, the time of the dark, when alone in the quiet of the watches of the night, was a perfect time to meditate upon God and with God.

I say meditate “with” God on purpose.  We may actually meditate upon our blessings or, even, upon our sins, and we may think about how grateful we are for our blessings in “this life and in the age to come.”  When we are doing this, we are meditating about ourselves and about God, both of which may be good things.  But is the best thing?  What about meditating with God and letting Him lead our thoughts and our prayers and our self-examination.  Instead of saying to God, “I know how to meditate, I’ll handle it,” what if we said to God, “It is dark and I am alone.  I want You.  Lead me into Your thoughts that they may become mine.”

What would happen when we meditated with God instead of about Him?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into thinking about others instead of ourselves, into places of service rather than places of blessing, into examination of opportunities for being Christ to our neighbor?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into Scripture in a new way, exposing wisdom which we sorely need for the day and the week and the month and the year?

When we eat at the table which the Lord has prepared for us, our soul is satisfied “as” with a complete meal (“fat and rich food”).

In many older Roman and other liturgical churches, the priest at communion would stand with his back to the congregation, at the communion altar which is a sliver of stone stuck to the wall.  That always struck me as odd growing up, because why would you turn away from the congregation?  In fact, in more “modern” churches, the altar for communion is located where the celebrant can face the congregation.  One day, as an adult, someone told me why and it made all the sense in the world.  The priest, when his back is turned to the audience, preparing communion on the sliver of stone stuck to the wall, is actually standing in front of the congregation which is facing the same way, and the sliver of stone is the edge of the communion table which stretches into eternity, at which the saints sit for meal, for communion, with us.

In the dark, in the watches of the night, when we are alone we are not, for when we meditate with God, when we meditate on Him, we join the generations who have preceded and who will follow in celebration of our eternal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The way has been prepared.  All we have to do is listen and follow instructions.    After all, we are in the dark.  Why not meditate with God?  Instead of reading a good book, why not read the “best” book?  Instead of going back to sleep, why not enter life?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Silence

May 1, 2017


Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; …” Ps. 62:1a

Silence is a rare commodity.  We work all day in the environment of chatter from people and machines.  We spend our evenings in the presence of radio and television, or computer games.  We are interrupted by the chime of e-mails and the ringing of phone calls.  We sleep at night to the sound of “white noise,” which is sound deliberately generated to cancel out other sound.  And when we, perhaps, find a moment alone without the attendance of other people, the Internet, or the television, when we find external silence, we are interrupted by a cacophony of noise emanating from our brains, things like recalling the day’s events, dreaming of tomorrow, and review of “to do” lists.  And even when our mind is silent our soul and emotions may be roiling with worries, concerns, fears, and anxieties.

There are really two times, I think, when our soul lives in silence.

The first time is when we are dead – spiritually.  When we are dead spiritually, our soul is dead too, meaning that there is no noise for it to respond to, no sound, just silence.  At that moment, when we are dead spiritually, our sould waits in silence for only one thing – God alone.  When God speaks to that dead soul, that dead body, we are awakened unto life.

At the time of our death, we are totally dependent upon God and we wait for Him to act to fill us with His Spirit so that we may know Him and love Him.

The second time our soul listens in silence is when we can reach that place where we have become totally dependent upon Him, not just partially dependent.  While we are partially dependent on Him, we are also dependent on ourselves and others, on our world, and as a result our soul cannot be completely silent because it is not at complete rest.  We know we cannot rely on the world or other people, and knowing that, we worry and our soul does not rest.

But when we can bring ourselves to radical dependence upon God, when our soul is silent, it is true then that we wait for God alone.  We can wait in silence in the firm knowledge that God will appear.

In one of the commentaries I read in preparation for this Bread, it emphasized that we do not often rely upon God alone.  We like to say we do, but we do not.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”  Lord, help us to achieve such silence that we know You and rely upon You alone.  Amen.

________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Silence

July 13, 2016


Psalm 28

“To You, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit.”  Ps. 28:1

When we are surrounded by the noise of the day, the honking of horns, the constant drone of televisions, the jabbering of voices … sometimes we say that all we want is silence.  But do we?

A long time ago I participated in a type of spiritual retreat called a “silent” retreat.  Unlike some “silent” retreats, it wasn’t totally silent because we could talk during mealtimes, but it was silent enough.  During the first day or so of that retreat, I thought I would go crazy.  Why?  Because I am used to filling my mind with external sound, living with a perpetual state of noise, which crowds out thinking and reflection.   So, when confronted with silence, I have no inputs whatsoever, except whatever my mind fills up with.

And if you’ve never tried it, go to a place of silence for a while.  Phase 1 is a high level of discomfort, Phase 2 is wondering what you are going to “do” next, and Phase 3 is your mind cluttering your thoughts with all kinds of thoughts, many of which are random and disorganized.

When your mind realizes that it is not getting external noise, it will try to generate noise of its own, which is Phase 3 above.

Most people fear Phase 3, the noise generated by the mind, and so retreat rapidly from silence back to the safe shores of external stimulation.

But there is a place beyond the noise of the mind where the mind becomes ready to listen and to observe.  At that stage, there is no noise coming from outside of you and there is no noise coming from inside of you – there is awareness, readiness, and at attitude of hearing, of listening, and not telling.

And at the stage, if we can get through the discomfort of silence, we are ready to hear.  Hear what?  Maybe it is the sound of a bird singing outside; maybe it is the soft rustle of the wind.  Maybe it is the gentle beat of the ceiling fan.  But, at some point, you are ready to hear the still, small voice of God reaching out to you through your prayers, your readings of His Word, or maybe even direct communication.   And when we hear it, because God is both holy and merciful, that sound strikes us with a combination of fear, wonder, excitement, and peace.

But what if, after a while, that still, small voice ceased for a while?  What if you asked God to speak and He did not, even though you are ready to hear (having readied yourself in silence)?

This is what the Psalmist is talking about.  That dead, spiritual silence when you have silenced the outside world, you have silenced the internal mind, and are ready to hear God – and He does not speak?

What happens then?  There is a tendency to misread this verse and to suggest that David is saying to the Lord that, if God does not speak to him, that he (David) will go down to hell (the pit).  However, what it really says is that “it will be like that.”  That makes sense.  Having been saved by grace, we do not lose our salvation because God is silent, but God’s silence toward us makes us feel like we are abandoned to our doom.

At this time, when God is silent, there are two responses we can make (there is a third response – believing that you are in hell, but we’ll skip that one).  One is to say to God, “well, you had your chance” and then return to the sound and fury of the world.  This is the attitude which says that “God has not spoken and He won’t any time soon.”  The other approach is to say to God, “I will wait in expectation.”  This is the attitude that says “God has not spoken yet but He will.”

The first response lets us return to the safety of noise.  The second response suspends us in the discomfort of silence.  The first response releases us back to the world.  The second response creates a radical dependence upon God – not because He has spoken but because He has promised that He will and because He has left us His Word to comfort and instruct us in the meantime.

Have you ever wondered how some people are always smiling, that nothing ever seems to faze them?  Maybe it is because they do not live in the land of noise, but rest in the heaven of silence.

Silence is a wonderful thing, but only if you are ready to meet God.  Are you?

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Appearances

May 4, 2016


Psalm 18

“With the merciful You show Yourself merciful; with the blameless man You show Yourself blameless; with the purified You show Yourself pure; with the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous.”  Ps. 18:25-26

How does God seem or appear to you?  Loving?  Mean?  Nice?  Powerful?  Caring?  Remote?

The Psalmist here seems to be suggesting that the way God appears to us has a lot to do with who we are.  In other words, God appears to us through the glasses we wear.  We see God through rose-colored glasses of our making.

If we are merciful, God appears to us to be merciful.  If we are hateful, God appears to us angry.  If we are crooked, then God appears to us to be complicated.  If we are loving, then God appears to be a loving God.

So we impose on God ourselves.  If we have a loathing self-image, then God appears to us as someone who does not like us very much.    If we have an exalted image of ourselves, then God appears to us as someone who loves us very much.

So, if we want to change how God appears to us, the answer would be for us to change ourselves?

If we think this way, then God is merely a mirror, reflecting back to us who we are.  With this approach, when we see God we see ourselves, which then makes us God.

There is a another way of reading the same passage.  That way would reverse the order – God appears to us as merciful; therefore we are merciful.  God appears to us to be loving; therefore we are loving.

In this way, we conform to the image of God we have rather than God conforming to the image we have of ourselves.

And we know this is true of life in general.  When we are in the mountains and we look out over a peaceful meadow with butterflies, if we are at peace the scene becomes more peaceful to us, but the reverse is even more true.  By gazing over a peaceful scene, we become more at peace ourselves.

So if our image of God affects who and how we are, how are we to gain an accurate image of God?

Quite frankly, this is where the rubber meets the road and where we so often fall down.  Where do you get your image of God?  From the movies, from friends, from books about God, from famous authors, from your grandmother, from the thoughts which flood your mind on a daily basis, from an amalgam of pagan, Christian, New Age, animalist, orthodox, far east and near east, or western philosophies or writings?  Do you get your image of God from what the world tells you about Him?

Or do you get your image of God from Him through His revelation to you – from God revealed in Scripture and revealed in the flesh, in Jesus Christ?

If you want to see anyone’s true appearance, you have to look at him and not at what people say about him.

As we gaze upon the appearance of God in Scripture and in Jesus Christ, as He really is and not as He is reported to be, something will happen to us.  As we see Him as the loving God who sacrificed Himself for us, we in turn become more able to sacrifice for others.  As we see Him as the merciful God who has given us the gift of life although we deserved nothing, we in turn become merciful to those who have hurt us.

All this comes to a head with the last phrase of today’s quote – “to the crooked You make Yourself seem tortuous.”  Are they crooked because they see God as crooked?  Perhaps … but if so, then they have an inaccurate perception of God.  And where did they get that from?  Not from Scripture, not from Christ, and therefore not from God.  They see God improperly because they are crooked and they are crooked because they see God improperly.

So what is the solution for the crooked?  To see God clearly, from His Word and not from Satan’s world, from Christ the King and not the prince of darkness.

But how can the blind see?  With man it is not possible, but with God…well.

God is not who He appears to be.  God is who He is.

Our job is to find out who He is by meeting Him in the place where He is to be found … in His Word written and His Word in the flesh in Jesus Christ.

And then appearances will match reality.

_________

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

 

 

 

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