Bread – Sin

February 6, 2017


Psalm 51

Have mercy on me, O God, according to Your steadfast love; according to Your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions.  Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!”  Ps. 51:1-2

The context of this Psalm is that it is written by David after his adultery with Bathsheba, his murder of her husband, and his confrontation by Nathan the prophet.   His evil thoughts and acts revealed, David writes this Psalm, beginning with his plea to God for mercy.

The sins of adultery and murder in the Old Testament were what we might call today “mortal” sins.  The judgment for these sins was death.  Just so that we didn’t miss it, David doubled down on death by committing both sins together.  But for God’s mercy, David was doomed even though he was a king.  But for God’s mercy, David’s penalty imposed by Mosaic law for his actions was death.

 

What is sin?  In these two verses, we have three words for it – transgressions, iniquity, and sin.  We often talk about “sin” as missing the mark, as an arrow misses the bullseye.  And, indeed, sin can be described as our failure to obey God’s laws and regulations for good, righteous living.    We know we cannot meet God’s standards because they are so high and we are so weak, but using this concept of “sin” alone we are left with the idea that we are basically good people who, with a little bit of training and grace, can hit the bullseye.  Much of modern thinking is built upon this narrow and weak view of sin.

But this meaning, that of “missing the mark,” is not the meaning of either “transgressions” or “iniquity.”  When we transgress against someone, we cross the line and become enemies of that person.  The idea is that we transgress when we rebel against the law.  It is not enough that we “miss the mark” by trying, but in our transgressions we don’t even try.  God’s law apply to me?  You’ve got to be kidding!  That is rebellion; that is transgression.  In “sinning” we break the law essentially because of inability or by accident; in transgressing, we break the law on purpose because we are enemies of God.  In transgressing, we exalt ourselves to either ruling over God (we judge Him) or considering ourselves equal to God (we negotiate with Him).

In the word “iniquity,” we look at sin as a state of natural man, as a perversion of God’s plan.  Some might call “iniquity” as our original sin, born of disobedience in Adam and Eve.

So, “sin” in the complete way of thinking is (a) our state (born in iniquity), (b) our position vis a vis God (His enemy), and (c)  our actions or inactions when measured against perfection.

David sees clearly after his confrontation with Nathan that what he has done arises from iniquity, marks his position as an enemy of God, and falls seriously short of God’s moral law.

So David approaches God out of the box, in verse 1, relying solely on God’s mercy.  He is not good enough to merit God’s forgiveness.  He has not done enough good things to merit God’s forgiveness.  He cannot tell God what to do and he cannot negotiate with God as His equal.  He has one choice and one choice only, and that is to fall on his knees in front of God, confessing his sin, his transgressions, and his iniquity,  and plead for mercy.

From great degradation can come great deliverance.  From great depravity can come great transformation.  From great sorrow can come great healing.

And from a great God will come great mercy because of His “steadfast love.”

And for that, we confess our sin and are grateful.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bread – Disease

August 17, 2016


Psalm 31

I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul…Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.  For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” Ps. 31:7,9-10

A child has a form of strep infection which causes their skin to slough off, and requires treatment as if they had been burned.  Another child develops an infection in his bone.  A young adult dies at 39 from some kind of a stroke; another dies from a drug overdose; another dies from suicide, for some reason giving up on themselves and us.   An older adult finds out that they have a particularly aggressive kind of cancer.  Another is told that they need to start taking pain medications so that, as they die, they will not hurt so bad.  Another is attacked by shingles, another by pneumonia, another by some new bacteria or virus floating in the air.  And then there are those of us whose self is disappearing in the arms of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

Disease is around us and in us.  Some of it is curable, at least to some degree, and other is not, at least by modern medicine.  To some are granted the miracle of recovery and to others, not.

David, our Psalmist, talks about some kind of disease which has overtaken him.  Whether it is the disease of depression, the disease of cancer, the disease of heartache, the disease of fear, the disease of the heart or of the bone or of the eye or the ear, we do not know.  Whatever it is, it is causing him great sorrow and distress to the point that he is spending his years with sighing.  He is feeling sorry for himself and that is OK, because he is sick, he is diseased, he is hurting, and he cannot figure a way out.

But there is a deeper disease, affecting all of mankind, and David acknowledges this in this phrase – “my strength fails because of my iniquity.”  The Hebrew word “iniquity” here means depravity; it is sin.   “My strength fails because of my sinfulness, because I am full of sin.”

We know this from the entirety of Scripture.  All were cast down from perfection by Adam’s disobedience; all are full of iniquity (sin), all fall short.  We are all filled with the disease of exile from Eden, and with the disease caused by our own disobedience to God and caused by the brokenness of the world, caused by disobedience to God.

So, when we are diseased and are suffering and God appears to do nothing about it, should we be mad at Him, particularly when we claim to follow Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, live in Him?  If we are loyal to God by attending church and praying and worshiping and reading His Word, shouldn’t we be blessed with protection from disease?  Shouldn’t we be able to summon up a miracle on demand?

David knows better and so do we.  David is rejoicing because he knows that God knows his suffering, He knows “the distress of my soul.”  And David says the only thing he, and we can say, “Be gracious to me, O Lord.”  We tend to think of being gracious as being nice.  It is not being nice – being gracious is being merciful.  Our disease is the natural result of the state within which exists because of Adam and because of us.  God has no obligation to us.  We cannot earn His good pleasure, His mercy, His graciousness.  It is only mercy because it is freely given, in God’s sovereignty, when He wants and for the purpose He intends.

If you think about it, the biggest disease we suffer is our own belief that we deserve something, when we in fact deserve nothing.  All is a gift of God, a gracious act by Him.  If we are rich, it is God’s gift to us.  If we are powerful, it is because God has set us in this place.  If we are saved, it is because God has acted to save us.

You want to get rid of disease?  Kneel before the Lord, Your God.  Trust in Him.  Follow Him.  Obey Him.

And if we suffer from a medical condition, that suffering will not matter because it will fade into the glory of God’s presence in our lives.   His presence with us in suffering will be enough, because He is enough.

How is this possible?  Because we give up the me and the we … and follow the He.

_________

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

Bread – Judgment

July 13, 2016


Psalm 28

“Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.  Because they do not regard the work of the Lord or the work of His hands, He will tear them down and build them up no more.”  Ps. 28:4-5

When I write Bread, I am never sure if I am writing for my immediate audience or someone far distant in place and time.  As a result, I try not to use current events because, although the reference is readily understood today, it is probably not going to be understood tomorrow.

However, one current event repeats itself so often, my mention of it today will likely resonate tomorrow as well.  It is the senseless, evil killing of five policemen in Dallas last week.   I was asked by several people to publish something on this shortly after it occurred, but I confess I could not.  I could not because my anger was so deep, my desire for revenge so strong, my readiness to blame others so immediate, that I realized that nothing I would be willing to say would be the proper thing to say to bring glory to God.  I was ready to judge and in so doing react by giving back double the horror of the moment.

At a much milder level, we are faced with this every day.  Someone does us a wrong, and we react in immediate defense and anger.  Someone says something bad about us, and we immediately attribute bad motives to someone who we now perceive is our enemy.   We are so ready to judge right from wrong, good from bad, and pure from impure.

Now I am not saying that we should not use God’s plumb line to assess right from wrong, truth from untruth, pure from impure, good from bad.  In fact, knowing God’s Word helps us to discern these things which we must understand in order to do right and to resist wrong.  We can speak the truth to evil without condemning evil.

Boy, this last statement is hard.  When we know what is good, should we not condemn the bad?  No.  Instead, we should always be ready to show mercy, having been shown mercy ourselves.

The portion of the Psalm quoted above shows who is charge of judging, who is in charge of condemnation.    Maybe it becomes clearly by understanding that David is praying to the Lord and essentially says this – “[You-the Lord] give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; [You-the Lord] give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.” Ps. 28:4

Judgment belongs to Him.

I want to condemn the man who shot those policemen to hell; I do.  But that is not my job.  My job is showing unmerited mercy to those who would do evil, just like I have been shown unmerited mercy by my Savior when I was in the same position, doing evil all the time, opposed to God.

This is tough.  But no one ever said being a Christian was easy, did they?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Presence

June 16, 2016


Psalm 24

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  Ps. 24:3-4

It is a rare occasion, but a few times in my life I have been the presence of a truly holy person.  It is the classic you know it when you see it.   My best example is a bishop of Nigeria, who I was in a prayer meeting with just before he was going to speak to a bunch of folks.  While I was there, he received word that his house had been attacked by Muslims and burned.  When asked if he wanted to put off speaking, his response was simply that the Lord was taking care of his family, that his house could be rebuilt, and that there were souls in the audience who needed to hear the gospel.  He then stood up, walked out, and delivered the truth to those hungry to hear it.   The reason I say he was holy was really nothing he said; it was the way he said it.  He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, he lived without fear, and he knew whose he was and what his job was.  Every word he spoke he believed; there was no doubt.  And to say the least, I was lifted up, honored, and humbled at the experience.

We may say that we would like to be like him, but is that really true.  Can we live our lives in absolute trust in the Lord to preserve us and our loved ones?  Can we suffer the complete loss of our possessions on earth so that we obtain possessions in heaven?  Are we willing to truly leave everything on the table to follow Christ?  Are we willing and able to preach the gospel in and out of season?

I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is something always held back, something always reserved for ourselves.  We are willing to sacrifice our time, but are we willing to sacrifice our life?

In one sense, though, we Christians are all set apart for God and we are all in that sense holy.  But this bishop was truly holier than me.

And yet, as holy as this man was, could he ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place?  Does even this bishop, this holy one, have clean hands and a pure heart?

The answer is “no.”  He may be a holy man but he is a man and therefore a sinner, made able to climb God’s hill and appear in God’s throne room only because Jesus Christ precedes him and saves him.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who has clean hands and a pure heart?  It is those whose hands have been made clean and who have a new heart as a result of new spiritual birth, all made possible by Jesus’ obedience to the cross, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension to the Father.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  If you are a Christian, you know the answer to that question.  If you do not know the answer, it is in the gospel of John, 14:6, where Jesus says simply “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who shall be in the presence of the Lord?  Will you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Fire

May 27, 2016


Psalm 21

“Your hand will find out all Your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate You.  You will make them as a blazing oven when You appear.  The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will consume them…Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength!  We will sing and praise Your power.”  Ps. 21:8-9,13

We all have experience with fire.  On camp outs, the fire warms us and cooks our marshmallows.  We have all been burned by a hot stove, even though our mothers warned us against touching them.  Some of us have seen the partial or full destruction of a building or car or other thing from fire.  I even personally experienced being in the middle of a wildfire in a national park, and being rapidly shown the exit by the park police while the fire licked the ridge of the hill about a hundred yards away.

 

But no one knows fires like a fireman.  He or she responds immediately to a fire, dons heavy clothing which only partially protects them, and enters the fire to destroy it and save others.  These people can probably report how hot , how destructive, and how deadly a fire truly is.

As destructive as earthly fires are, as deadly as they are, God can still deliver us from them if He will and if we have faith.  The best example of this are my three friends of the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, when asked by the king of the world “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands,” answered by saying “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  Dan. 3:15-18.

But this fire made by Nebuchadnezzar in the furnace was a fire made by the world, by man.  Who will save us when God shows up like is described in Psalm 21, finding out those who hate Him, swallowing those people up in His wrath, consuming them with holy fire?

We are promised throughout the Bible, throughout God’s revelation of Himself, that there will come a time when God’s wrath will be poured out against those who hate Him, when He will throw them into the lake of fire and burn them to a crisp.

But who hates God?  In our natural state, we do … all of us.  We are the ones who will be destroyed by fire at a time when God chooses, unless ….

Scripture is also clear about what comes after the “unless.”  How is it that we can be transformed from our natural state which hates God to an unnatural state, a supernatural state, where we love God?  Through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and resurrected.

And how does that occur?  Again, the God who saves the three men of old from the fiery furnace is the author of our salvation, through no work of ours but through His mercy and grace.  “[Our] glory is great through Your salvation…For the king trusts in the Lord.”  Ps. 21:5,7.

I do not know who reads Bread, so I do not know if this reaches those who do not know Christ.  But if you do not, the fire of God’s wrath is your end unless you turn toward Him and trust in Him.  How does that occur?  Through man nothing is possible, but through God all things are.

Therefore, we pray “Father, have mercy upon me, a sinner.  Son, save me.  Holy Spirit, give me strength, power, courage, and wisdom to seek the Son and through Him, the Father.   Take me to the cross of Christ that I may witness to the truth, that Jesus has died for me, that He has been resurrected so that I can be with Him forever, that my sins have been forgiven by the Father because of His work and not mine, and that I am saved and forgiven by Your grace, Your mercy, and Your power.  Amen.”

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Wrath

March 4, 2016


Psalm 9

“The nations have sunk in the pit that they have made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.  The Lord has made Himself known; He has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.  The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.  For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.  Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before You!  Put them in fear, O Lord!  Let the nations know that they are but men!”  Ps. 9:15-20

We have all seen God’s wrath because we watch the movies and we know, at least from the movie “The Ten Commandments,” that when the Israelites built the golden calf to worship because God (and Moses) had taken His sweet time to get back to them and they thought He had taken too long, God (through Moses) threw His law at them and burnt them all up, etcetera, etcetera.  That, in our mind’s eye, is God’s wrath upon us, His judgment upon us, caught up in sparks of lightning, the destruction of fire, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  All very visual and very cinema graphic, and very exciting.  And then we leave the theater and pick up in our lives where we had left them.

I think it is because we have such a visual view of God’s wrath that we do not recognize it so easily in our own lives and in the lives of our cities, counties, states, and country.  This is because God’s wrath is not expressed in the cataclysmic but in the erosion; it is not expressed in the immediate but in the course of time; it is not expressed in noise and thunder but in the barely discernible day-by-day breakage of the foundation.  One we can see and avoid; the other is under our feet and we are so busy looking in the mirror at ourselves, we miss it altogether.

This Psalm is unusual because, at least in the previous eight Psalms, David has ended them on a high note (Ps. 1: “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous;” Ps. 2:”Blessed are all who take refuge in Him;” Ps. 3:”Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessings be on Your people!; Ps. 4: “for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety;” Ps. 5: “You cover him with favor as with a shield;” Ps. 6: “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer;” Ps. 7: “I will give the Lord the thanks due His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High;” Ps. 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”).  However, this Psalm, Psalm 9, is ended on a low note – “Put them in fear, O Lord!”

It is a strange way to end the week, ending on the curse “Put them in fear, O Lord!”

But, really, is the request for the visitation of the wrath of God a curse or a blessing?

Let’s personalize it.  Let’s apply the curse to ourselves – “Put me in fear, O Lord!  Let me know that I am but a man!”

Now, have I called down a curse upon myself or a blessing?  If God intervenes in my life to show me that I am but a man and He is God, isn’t this the first step toward repentance and from repentance to acceptance of God’s mercy and from the acceptance of God’s mercy for all time in Jesus Christ, to eternal life?

See, when the nation has reaped its reward for its own actions, for its own avoidance of God’s law, for its willful disobedience, for its destruction of life, for its exaltation of the self and of the power of wealth over the power of the Almighty, it will die.  It will get caught up in its own traps and it will return to Sheol (Hell).  In the vernacular, the nation will go to hell.

Just like we will unless …

And that is where David leaves us – “Lord, visit Your wrath upon us!”  To what end?  That we go to hell?  No.  The purpose of the Psalm is not to condemn but to wake up, not to hide but to reveal, not to destroy but to build.

Because it is not until we know there is a God and that He hates sin of all kinds, degrees, shapes, and dimension, and that He hates it so much that He will destroy us … it is not until we know this that we understand the need for God the merciful, God the Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is not until we can recognize the wrath of God that we can accept the gift of God, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for my benefit, for my life, for my ransom, for my sentence.

It is not until we see clearly the path we are on to destruction that we can also see the path to life.

David starts off Psalm 9 with “I will give thanks to the Lord” and ends with “Put them in fear, O Lord!”  He ends that way because his heart is that the people who are the end see that they are at the end and join him at the beginning.

From going to hell to being in fear of the Lord to giving thanks to the Lord is a journey with a beginning and an end.  Psalm 9 begins with life and ends in death, but in so doing there is the invitation – begin in death and end in life.  “Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.”

Thank You, O Lord, for Your wrath in my life, that I might turn toward You and return to You, and thereby join with David in giving thanks to You for Your great glory, mercy, peace, and forgiveness!  Amen.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Payday

February 19, 2016


Psalm 7

“Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.  His mischief returns upon his own head, and his own skull his violence descends.”  Ps. 7:14-16

Psalm 7 actually begins and ends positively, beginning with “O Lord my God, in you do I take refuge…” and ending with “…and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.”

That being the case and this being Friday, February 19, 2016, why don’t I focus on ending the week on an up note rather than a down note talking about wicked men, evil, mischief, lies, pits, and violence?

Maybe because both are reality, often at the same time, and to appreciate the good we need to also understand the bad.

Ask yourself this question, when you have done something bad, when you have conceived evil, been pregnant with mischief (don’t you love the imagery!), birthed your own lies, dug your own pit and fallen into it, have you ever not been caught?

Before you say “yes,” I want you to think about pits and falling into them.  When you have fallen into a pit, hasn’t it usually been (and probably always been) of your own making?  Oh, you may have had help – assistants, co-conspirators, aiders, abetters, and the like – but when you fall into a pit, haven’t you always had a hand in digging it?

So, how often have you gotten away from the consequences of your evil, your mischief, your lies, your own pits and violence?

I would daresay never for the following reasons: (a) someone has caught you and challenged you with it, (b) you have caught yourself and either have let it cause you to come to repentance or you have let its poison filter throughout your life and relationships until you are miserable (falling into your own pit), or (c) God has caught you.

We answer to others, we answer to ourselves, and we answer to God.  We never answer to nobody.

And in case we miss the real point, when we think we have gotten away with it (whatever “it” is), we may have done so in the short term (because our pit is shallow and really not very obvious, particularly if we don’t look at it).  And we may have gotten away with it in the medium term (because our pit, although deep, can be avoided by giving wide berth to it and walking around it).  But we never get away with it in the long term because of a simple concept called “judgment.”

There will be a payday for our evil, our mischief, our lies, our violence, and our pit-digging.  It may be tonight while we try to go to sleep and what is brought to mind are amends we need to make.  I may be tomorrow morning while we confess our sins before our God who knows them already anyway.  It may be next year while we try to deal with an ulcer, a failed marriage or family relationship, addiction, depression, or other pit we may have fallen into.  It may not be until we die and confront judgment.

But one day there will be a payday.

On that payday, will we receive the wages of sin or the gift of life?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Heard

February 12, 2016


Psalm 6

“O Lord, rebuke me not in Your anger, nor discipline me in Your wrath.  Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing … The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.”  Ps. 6:1-2a, 9

Psalm 6 begins with an urgent prayer for God not to be mad at David but be merciful because David is depressed and in the pits.  It ends with an acknowledgement by David that the Lord has heard him and that all of his enemies, the ones who have driven him into depression presumably, “shall be ashamed.”  Note the use of the word “shall” as opposed to the word “could” or “might” or even “will.”  There is a sense that they are defeated today, even though it may not be obvious until tomorrow.  There is a sense in the word “shall” that David’s prayer has been immediately answered, regardless of what appears to him to be the case.

So, my question is, what has changed?

There are at least three ways to answer this question, one from the perspective of a third person looking in at the facts, the second from God’s perspective, and the third from David’s.

From the third party’s perspective, the stranger (us) looking in, the answer is nothing, nothing has changed!  Have David’s enemies left the field of battle?  No.   Is David still in the pits?  Yes.  Has any word of God been audibly spoken so that we can hear?  No.  Has sunlight broken through the clouds in rays of glory?   No.  To us, from an objective perspective, nothing has changed and, if God was mad, He still is; if David was depressed, he still is; and if the enemies are surrounding David, they still are.

From God’s perspective, what has changed?  I realize I am reaching high to even begin to ask that question, must less answer it, but I will, at least from my understanding of who God is.  My answer to the question of, from God’s perspective, what has changed, is … nothing has changed.  God was angry at David’s sin, but He was from the beginning of time merciful and gracious unto David, choosing him for salvation and redemption and restoration.  God will remain angry at David’s sin forever, but He will lay aside that anger and accept David because the penalty for that sin has been paid by God.  God is wrath and love at the same time.  God’s attitude toward sin does not change.  He does not change.  Also, David’s situation has not changed.  David is subject to sin, although being rescued from it.  Whether David’s sin results in depression, illness, or even fleeting happiness is merely the moment’s passing of human emotional response to circumstances.  But whether David is as happy as a clam or as defeated as a skunk, he has not changed in God’s eyes and neither has his situation.  Finally, has God’s acceptance of David’s prayer changed?  The answer is “no.”  David, being saved by grace and not by works, can always have effective prayer before God and God hears his (and our) pleas and accepts his (and our) prayer in faith.

So, if anything has changed, it is from David’s perspective.  And, of course, David represents us.  And, man, look at what has changed in David’s life!  First, he has changed from a focus on himself to a focus on God.  Second, he has changed from a focus on his enemies (my enemies are overwhelming to me) to a focus on God (God will handle his enemies).  Third, he has changed in his attitude toward God – God the angry to God the merciful to God the savior.

So what has changed?  In one sense, nothing has changed.  David is in the pits and his enemies are at the door.  In another sense, everything has changed.  David is in the pits with no friend in God to David is in the pits with the knowledge that his Savior has won the day for him.  From defeat to victory; from death to life.

Why?  How?  Because in praying to God, in yelling at God, in submitting to God, in listening to God, in just talking to God, David has moved from himself to God, from weak to strong, from disturbance to peace, from horror to wonder, from loss to joy, from despair to hope.

David is us and we are there.  We need everything that David needed … love, mercy, rescue, favor, success, life, joy, happiness, hope.  And everything is available because God has heard our prayers …. when we turn to Him, even a little bit.

So, have you turned to God today, even a little bit, to acknowledge His presence, to acknowledge His power, to acknowledge His love, to acknowledge His glory, to acknowledge His rescue and salvation?

If not, why not?  If you need any motivation, look at what you are leaving on the table by not having that conversation with God.  “God has heard my plea.”  Yes, but only if you plea.  But only if you turn to Him.

_________

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

 

Bread – Turn

February 11, 2016


Psalm 6

“Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of Your steadfast love…I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.  My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.”  Ps. 6:4,6-7

Just before David says, “Turn, O Lord,” he asks God to be gracious to him because he is “languishing.”  In our first Bread on this Psalm, we talked about depression  and how we all find ourselves in trouble, when God seems angry with us.

This is a continuation of that same thought, where David is asking the Lord to turn and then repeats how depressed he is, stating that he is weary, that he is moaning our of his weariness, that his eyes fail because of his grief, and he feels surrounded by enemies, real and imagined.

The image is one of God having turned his back to David and David begging with him to turn around, comprehend David, and in turn be merciful to David “for the sake of [God’s] steadfast love.

My question is, is this the right image?

Certainly it is from our perspective.  We are depressed, we feel lonely, we feel abandoned, our eyes and bones hurt, we cry, we moan … and God has left the station, He has left us behind.

We say this because it feels to us like God has left us.

But is that true?  Who has turned their back to whom?  Who has left whom?

In other words, has God left us or have we left God?  Has God turned His back to us or have we turned our back to God?

When David prays that the Lord return to him, is it the Lord who returns to David or David who returns to the Lord?

What is interesting about this question is that it brings back images of the prodigal son, where it was the son who realized that his position with the pigs, with the depression, was caused by his disobedience, and things did not begin to get better until he (the prodigal) returned to the father.  And, actually, because the father saw the son from far off and ran to him, it was really the intention of the son to return to the father which starts the avalanche of restoration of relationship.

So recalling this parable, one is immediately inclined to jump on board the idea that it was really David who needed to return, that God was where He had always been.

But, now I want to argue against myself – maybe David is right.  Maybe in David’s dilapidated state, depressed, moaning, sore of bone and spirit, languishing, he cannot turn to the Lord, much less return to Him.  In other words, for David to be rescued from himself and his situation, can he even take the initiative or must God take the initiative?

We like to think that it is us, and that is where most of us begin and end.  It is all on us.  We lift ourselves out of the pits by returning to the Lord.

But the truth is, the greater truth, the deeper truth, is that salvation belongs to the Lord and the Lord alone.  If we are to be rescued, it must be God who turns toward us and not us toward God.

“Be gracious to me, O Lord…”  Lord, show me Your mercy by rescuing me even though I deserve Your wrath because of my disobedience.

So, built into this simple request from David are two turns.  The first turn is from David taking his focus off of his troubles to turn to God and address Him for help.  And the second is God, in His sovereignty and from a heart of love and mercy, turning toward David to rescue him.

And the remarkable thing about all this is that by the time David asks the Lord to turn toward him, He already has.  How do we know that?  Because there is no power in David to ask but for God’s power to make it so.

David can ask God to turn toward him and save him because God has first turned toward David and saved him.

So, when David cries from the pits for God to turn and save his life, God can truly answer and say, “Son, I already have.”

__________

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

 

 

Bread – Anger

January 27, 2016


Psalm 4

“Be angry and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.  Selah.”  Ps. 4:4

We know that “Selah” means, in part, to stop and reflect on what we just read.  So as hard as this passage may be to understand, we need to stop and think about it.

When somebody steps on us physically, emotionally, or spiritually, our natural response is anger.  The “step on us” can be something as simple as a misplaced word or a misinterpreted word from someone close or it can be as complicated as being bypassed for a promotion because someone else is more politically correct within the organization.  Somebody can hit us and somebody can accuse us and our natural response, almost our animal response is anger.  We show this anger in harsh words, by striking back, by stomping off, by yelling, by pouting, by silence, by throwing whatever object happens to be close by (a golf club comes to mind).  We are insulted and, d…n it, someone “is going to pay through the nose.”

It is suggested by Jesus that anger is the equivalent of murder (compare Matt. 5:21 and 5:22).  And yet the Psalmist, David, tells us to “be angry” and, at the same time, do not sin.  How is that possible?

One way is to deal with your anger Scripturally.  Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  In other words, one way to deal with your anger Scripturally is to recognize it for what it is, hold your tongue so that it does not add to the fire (“…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” Js. 1:20), and release it so that it does not hold you down.  Do not carry it with you to bed, so that it torments you all night and deprives you of your rest.

A second way is to realize that the Hebrew word translated as “anger” in the ESV can also be translated as “tremble,” which is how it is translated in the NASB: “Tremble and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” Ps. 4:4 (NASB)

Now being angry makes me tremble, and so the words are closely related.  But we are also expected to tremble before God and His holiness.  (“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled…” Ex. 20:18).

Now, if you think about it, when we get angry and begin to sin in our thoughts and even our actions, who is more angry?  God hates sin, all sin.  When we respond in anger to the slights of others, we would be deserving to suffer God’s wrath upon us.

When we tremble in our anger, ready to strike out and revenge our honor, perhaps if we thought about God at the same time, we would also be trembling before Him, reminding ourselves that if anyone should be angry, it should be Him.

So, there are two ways to deal with our anger … in our own strength by biting our tongue and leaving the gun in the closet, or trembling also before God, awed by both His righteousness and His mercy in not taking us out right then.

When we think about God first in our response, we recall His mercy on us and, in turn, we can, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, give mercy to others.  To they deserve our condemnation for their insults upon us which make us angry?  Yes they do, but then so do we before a Holy God.

In our anger, we tremble.  Maybe, just maybe, this is a physical message from God to remind us that the only person we should be trembling before is Him, not out of anger but out of holy awe and fear.

How can we be angry and not sin?  Tremble before the right Person and let Him handle it.  And, somehow, we will find that we are no longer angry.  Why?  Because we have been saved from God’s own anger at us by His own Son, and, being mindful of this, recalling this in our anger, we can no longer be angry, but grateful.

__________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

%d bloggers like this: