Bread – Steadfast

October 11, 2017


Psalm 86

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am poor and needy…For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”  Ps. 86:1,5

We pray to God for help in times of need … why?  Do we believe He pays attention?  Do we believe He cares?  Do we believe that He will in fact intervene to save us in our distress?  Do we believe He is able?  Do we believe that He is God?

We know that we do not bring before God the first fruits of our labor.  We do not spend time with Him.  We do not thoroughly study His Word, although we actually have a Bible on our bookshelf.  We may acknowledge His existence in some kind of reality, but we routinely ignore Him, blithely going about our lives wrapped up in ourselves.

Maybe we pray to Him in times of need as reflex action.  Maybe we do it because, having reached the ends of ropes of our making, we think that there can be no harm and, who knows, there may be some good.

Sounds all pretty cynical, doesn’t it?

I write this way to make a point.  We do not really understand what “steadfast” means because we, ourselves, are driven by the mood of the day, the breakfast we ate, the quality of the relationships we have, our title, our possessions, the need of the moment, the crisis before us, the weather, and 10,000 other things which drive us to and fro, from the heights of victory to the valley of despair, from left to right.  We do not understand what “steadfast” is because we ourselves are naturally built of sticks upon sand, constantly changing our direction based upon the direction of the wind.

And what is our reference point, if not us?

This is the ancient and modern fallacy of thinking.  If we are indeed the reference point, then the concept of steadfast has no meaning because we ourselves are steadfast for maybe a few minutes a day.

To understand steadfastness, we need to have an absolute reference point – and that is God.  We may pray out of need, but we pray to God because we know who He is.  We know Him as Creator and Savior.  We know Him as the only God.  We know Him as full of grace (mercy).  We know Him as One who is steadfast.

If we understand steadfastness at all, it is because we kneel before the One who invented the concept, who is the concept, who demonstrates the concept.

Where in our lives does God show steadfast love?  We are still denied the promotion, the salary increase, the wished for and dreamed about opportunity, the miraculous healing from cancer.  We are not happy clappy, so where is this so-called “steadfast” love?

It is shown quite simply in that we are forgiven our sins (trespasses) against Him, that we are saved from ourselves and in spite of ourselves, for all eternity, in Jesus Christ.

Regardless of whether we are in the valley of our failures or the mountaintops of our successes, God’s steadfast love does not move, it is not shaken, it is not compromised, it does not wane, it does not lose intensity, it does not diminish, it does not go away.  It remains, through thick and thin, darkness and light, worry and elation.

We, too, can be steadfast in our faith, in our love, in our devotion … if we will but stand on the solid rock, the absolute steadfastness of God.  All else is sinking sand.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Permanence

July 10, 2017


Psalm 73

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You.  Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.”  Ps. 73:2-3,21-24

I almost coined a new word for this Bread, “permaninity,” meaning the state of being permanent, but “permanence” will have to do.

What is permanent?  We actually have a very hard time answering that question, because we have no reference point.  To a young kid in time out, permanent may mean three minutes.  To a young adult used to immediate gratification from the Internet, video games, Google, and Amazon, “permanent” may mean six months.  To us older adults, perhaps permanent is a house more than a hundred years old.  For those of us who have visited other places and have seen paint on ancient walls more than 1,000 years old, permanent may seem like a 1,000 years.  For those who study rocks and believe them to be very old, “permanent” may mean a million years.

In this Psalm today, we have object evidence of permanence.  Who does not find in the Psalmists words today great insight into ourselves.  We may have faith but that faith runs constantly into the bumps of doubt.  When we look abroad at the world and immediately around us, we see corruption in so-called Christians, we see cruelty, we see hatred, we see liars, we see thieves, we see charlatans and con men (and women), we see sexual perversion, we see the proud wealthy, we see those hungry for power, we see huge imbalances in living conditions, we see unfairness, and we see hopelessness.  In the face of all that, we are tempted mightily to cry out “Where are you God?  Where is Your proof?  Where is Your righteous indignation?  When is Your judgment upon all these terrible people?”    As the Psalmist, our soul becomes embittered and we become cold, “like a beast,” toward God.

So where is the evidence of permanence, other than the apparently permanent ascendancy of the wicked?

The evidence of permanence is in this – In all this, He holds our right hand.  He guides us with His revelation and truth.  And, in the end, He will receive us, for those who believe, to glory in eternity.

While we may jump from thought to thought and feeling to feeling and while we believe and yet doubt, God is there, permanent in His intent toward His chosen.  When we are conceived, He is there.  When we are born, He is there.  When we are ready to believe, He is there.  When we are ready to let Him lead, He is there.  When we are ready for wise counsel, He is there.  When we are ready to take up our cross and follow Him, He is there.  When we are ready to find rest under His wings, He is there.  When we are on our deathbed and ready to join Him, He is there.

He is.

That is permanence.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Budge

April 15, 2016


Psalm 15

“He who does these things shall never be moved.”  Ps. 15:5b

There are two questions built into this verse.  One is, what are “these things?”  Well, the answer to that is in the Psalm and you can read it.  But, in the interest of moving to the question of the day, “these things” are walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in your heart, not slandering with your tongue, doing no evil to your neighbor, not taking up a reproach against your friend, despising a vile person, honoring those who fear the Lord, swearing to your own hurt, not changing, not loaning to brothers in need at interest, and doing justice (not taking a bribe against the innocent).

The second question is what does it mean to never be “moved?”

I call this Bread “Budged” because we probably think of movement from one position to another, but I think the meaning is closer to being budged, even a little, off the mark.   Perhaps a better translation is the one contained in the NASB version, which says that a person who does “these things” “shall never be shaken.”  Being shaken is the merest of movements, but from the beginning of a rock rolling down the hillside comes the avalanche.  In fact, the movement from one position to another begins with the smallest doubt, the smallest “budge” from certainty, the smallest “shaken.”

The best analogy I can think of is an earthquake.  The mountain appears to be immovable until an earthquake occurs, at which time it moves, an avalanche occurs, and damage to the mountain and anyone and anything who the mountain supports results.

An example of an earthquake in our personal life is the loss of a job, the death of a child or another closely loved one, the betrayal of a friend.  These events challenge our very view of the world.  These events attack our foundations and cause us to shake.  If our foundation is built on the sands of man, our house and our faith will not stand.  If our foundation is built on the sold rock of faith in Jesus Christ, our house and our faith will be challenged and we may be shaken, but we will not budge, we will not fall, and we will stand in the evil day.

But why does doing “these things” help us to keep from budging, keep from being shaken, keep from being moved, keep from collapsing, and keep us on the solid rock of faith?

I think it is because each of “these things” is practical and is done day-to-day.  Doing each of these things is actually counter-cultural and counter to our own instincts.  Doing of each of these things builds up our spiritual muscles and is exercise against the earthquake to come.  And doing each of these things is a minute-by-minute exercise in radical dependence upon God for our guidance and His Holy Spirit for our strength?

How does one “walk blamelessly” on a regular basis, all the time, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How does one “do what is right” on a regular basis, all the time, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How does one keep from slandering with our tongue, keep from doing evil to our neighbor, keep from repeating gossip about our friends, identifying and hating vile people while identifying and raising up people who fear the Lord, or any of these things, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How do we, as Christians, maintain the course through life, advocate well as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, love without fear, and walk exercise self-control, except through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

If we practice running, then when we need to run we can.  If we practice endurance, then when we need endurance we have it.

And so, as we practice relying on Christ in the present, in the little things, we strengthen ourselves to rely on Him in the future, in the evil day, when all is at risk, when the foundations are challenged by the earthquakes of life.

If you “do these things,” you will not be budged, you will not be shaken, you will not be moved…but only if we remember that it is not in our power to do these things, except in, through, and by Christ …. And rest upon Him, the solid rock.

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

 

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