Bread – Broken

February 10, 2017


Psalm 51

…let the bones You have broken rejoice….The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:8b,17

This Psalm has so much in it, so much exalted language and so many truths, it is almost impossible to write about.  I could have written about “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me,” (Ps. 51:10) or “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” (Ps. 51:15).  I could write about what God does to lift us up, to give us a clean heart, to open our lips, to exalt our praise of Him, to empower us to good works in loving our neighbor.  All this would be very uplifting and it would all be true and it would be a great way to end the week.

 

But instead I quote two separated passages where the Psalmist talks about broken bones, a broken heart, and a broken spirit.   Why?

 

In our journey as Christians, we may be brought up in the church and raised as Christians.  We may read Scripture and be able to recite it at will.  We may go to Sunday School and receive instruction and debate the fineries of theology and religion.  We may think deeply, act nobly, and speak gracefully.  We may do all these things, but it is not until we realize that we were dead on arrival, dead in our sins, dead in our trespasses, fundamentally broken in disobedience, that we truly understand the worth of the gift of salvation which God gave us on the cross.

We must be broken first before we can be healed.  We must know first that we are broken before we can comprehend, appreciate, and grab onto God’s mercy in taking us from our pit and setting us on firm foundation.

If we can walk and we break our leg, we can no longer walk.  Once the broken bone has healed, we can walk again.  And when we do, we end up in a place where we remember the broken bone, we remember the healing process, we appreciate the healer, and we are grateful for the simple thing – walking – which we previously took for granted.  And, in the process, we become more obedient to the rules which keep us from getting a broken leg to begin with (like, don’t jump from the roof of a house to the ground).

What I just said works if we know what health is (we previously walked).  But what if we are broken from the beginning; how do we know we are broken and in need of a healer?

Deep in our spirit is a longing for a better place, and we know that place exists.  The question is how do we get there?  The world answers that question by saying we can build ourselves up and out, we can make ourselves better people, and by our ingenuity and hard work we can achieve that better place.  This theory relies on the person who is broken to heal himself, partly on the idea that “I broke it, so I can fix it.”  Some religions answer this question by a variation on theme of the world, saying that you are broken because you fall short of God’s expectations, but you can climb the ladder of good works into that better place, the place of non-brokenness.  Both the world and these religions rely on man to fix himself, to repair his brokenness.

But the Psalmist says something different.  He says “let the bones You have broken rejoice.”  The Psalmist says that we are broken, but that our broken state was caused by God on purpose, on His purpose.

This may sound cruel at first, but it is actually very good.  Because of God broke the bone, the spirit, and the heart, He can heal it.  If we broke it, we can heal it; if God broke it, He can heal it.

And when we realize that we are broken and that we have no power to fix it, we turn to the only One who can.

There are many ways to say it – broken, lost, dead – but only one truth.  The One who has broken us is the One who heals us.  How?  By becoming broken Himself on the cross for us, paying the penalty for our disobedience we cannot pay ourselves.  That One is Jesus, the Christ.

_________

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Meditation

January 25, 2017


Psalm 49

Hear this, all peoples!…My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.”  Ps. 49:1,3

In the introduction to Psalm 49, the herald calls out to the people and tells them that what is coming next out of his mouth is great wisdom.

What is interesting about this is the personal nature of the wisdom.  The wisdom is understanding, and that understanding comes from “meditation of my heart.”

Not the meditation of your heart or the meditation of his or her heart, but the meditation of “my” heart.

A common theme which runs through education is that we receive wisdom or understanding through external sources.  We receive them from books, from songs, from movies, and from the Internet.  When we need to understand something, most of us now reach for that great search engine in the sky, “Google™.”

We fail to separate information or data, which we do get from our surroundings, from wisdom or understanding, which is something which connects to us inside.  Of course, there are many “wisdoms” of the world which we can lock onto, but the wisdom of the Psalmist and the understanding of the Christian is the wisdom of God.

From whence do we get God’s wisdom?  Immediately Scripture comes to mind and some would say direct revelation, or God speaking to us directly.

I would suggest to you, however, that wisdom is not obtained that way.  Information about God (revelation of His character, His purposes, His glory and majesty) come from His Word and direct messages may help illuminate our next step in faith, but these are inputs.

What do we do with those inputs?  The Psalmist, in saying that understanding arises from the “meditation of my heart,” suggests that wisdom comes from thinking deeply about this information and appropriating it into our character (heart) and, therefore, behavior.

We cannot utter wisdom until we are wise; we cannot be wise without engaging in meditation of our hearts, and that is only effective when we are working with the raw material provided to us by God, seen through discerning eyes enabled by the Holy Spirit.

We must process our data to make sense of it, and we cannot guide others until we understand it.  That process does not take place in the head, but in the heart.  That process does not take place by merely thinking about it, but by deeply and carefully processing it.

Perhaps we are weak Christians because we fail to meditate in our hearts the things we have seen and heard, rather than just think in our heads about it.  For us as westerners, it is so easy to just take in the truth of Scripture and let it roll around in our head, analyzing it from every direction, putting it into our systems of thought so that we can intellectually comprehend it.  We call that wisdom and understanding, but it is not because the processing has taken place in the wrong location – it has taken place in the brain and not the heart.  Until we meditate in our hearts the truth we hear, we will not be transformed in our thinking and our acting.  Until we meditate in our hearts the truth that we hear, we will not have wisdom.

This process of meditation does not occur quickly because, being in the heart, it is driven by a different timetable and different processes.  Why pray?  In substantial part, the reason for prayer is to allow us to set time aside for the meditation of the heart, the opportunity for connecting at a base level, at the level of the soul, with our Creator and our Savior.  At that level, we may be unconscious (in our brain) of the changes which are occurring, but they are occurring for sure.

Why do our words have so little power?  Perhaps it is because they come from the knowledge of the brain instead of the meditation of the heart.  Perhaps because they arise from analysis and not wisdom.

Do you want the deeper wisdom this week from God?  Meditate on what God is saying.  Let Spirit (the Holy Spirit) speak to spirit (our spirit).  Let the Word of God dwell on our hearts, where it may penetrate deeply and empower mightily.

And then speak with wisdom into a world which desperately needs it.

_________

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

 

Bread – Recall

December 5, 2016


Psalm 44

O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds You performed in their days … You with You own hand drove out the nations, but them You planted…”  Ps. 44:1-2

This will be an interesting week because this Psalm begins one way and quickly turns to another.  A calamity has fallen on the people of Israel and they lament to God why?  But before the Psalmist writes about the calamity, he writes about God’s exercise of His power in the past to help Israel and its people.

There is a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  However, when it comes to God, those who forget history forget who God is.

Recall of God’s blessings upon our nation, our families, and each of us personally is critical to anchoring us in knowing God, in knowing His faithfulness through all generations.  It is not enough in our tumultuous lives that our anchor to God be set in emotions, in the high of the moment, or in mountaintops, but in the deep past, in the valleys of despair, in the memory of rescue, of salvation, of gifts, of blessings, of hope, and of love.

In order for our ship to be stable on the stormy waters of life, our anchor must be placed firmly in God.  And even though God is here today and will be here tomorrow, it is in the past where His glory, power, and authority has been exercised over and over again for our benefit, laid in stone of history, there for the viewing if we but recall.

We celebrate Christmas this year, recalling the advent of the Christ-child in history.  We will celebrate Easter this year, recalling Christ’s death on the cross in history.  The Psalmist recalls God’s great deeds, the blessing of Sarah with children, the exodus from Egypt, the burning bush, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and many more large and small, written down in the past.

So, as we begin this week, let us recall our history as God’s people, both the ups and the downs, the weaknesses and the strengths, the times of obedience and disobedience, the power and the grace and the blessings and, yes, the flood and forgiveness and the cross and the resurrection, and, yes, the birth of hope for the world in the birth of Jesus.  Let us recall not only the great history God’s people but our own history as God’s son or daughter.

Let us place these recollections firmly in our memory and anchor ourselves in them.

Why, because we will need these recollections to anchor us in the coming storm, to remind us that, when God seems absent and uncaring, He is neither.  And to remind us that, even in defeat, in Christ there is victory.

_________

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

 

Bread – Power

September 2, 2016


Psalm 33

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”  Ps. 33:16-20

Where is power located?  Where can it be found?

When I was getting my Masters of Business Administration, I took a course in power (of course, it wasn’t called that – it was called leadership).  We talked about a lot of things and looked at a number of psychological studies.  These showed things like how to arrange furniture to project power, where to stand, how to talk, etc.  We talked about technical power which comes from knowledge – engineers who know what they are doing have technical power because people absolutely rely on them to do things well so that bridges do not fall down, generators work, etc.  We talked about positional power, where a person’s power comes from the position they occupy, like a president has more positional power than does the bookkeeper; however, we learned that positional power is tricky, because the assistant who controls access to the president may have more positional power than even the president in some organizations.  Then we talked about situational power, where power is essentially derived from the group of people you are working with (where they voluntarily surrender power to you).  And we also talked about personal power, which arises from force of personality, drive, vision, charisma, and the such like.  I am sure new names have been attached to these and other similar concepts, but you get the drift.

But, in that entire course, we never talked about what David is talking about, the source of real power, God.

When we are in trouble, what do we fall back on?  Do we fall back on our great wealth, our family, our friends, our position, our intelligence, our native abilities, our talents, our knowledge?  To the extent we fall back on these things, and all of us do, we are demonstrating that we believe that real power comes from us or our surroundings or others somehow.  If only we could tap into the power source of self-awareness, self-assurance, or self-reliance, then we can dig our way out.  Of course, the operative word here is “self.”  When we fall back on ourselves or others, we have fallen into the arms of the world to give us the power we need to be saved, to survive the famine.

But David says that “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men … don’t hold a candle to the living God.” (or something like that)

The king is not saved by the king’s power nor his kingdom’s power; He is saved by the strong arm of the Lord and His kingdom’s power.

Where do you truly believe real power comes from?  Does it come from the sources we have been taught, or does it come from the Source which has been revealed to us by the Word written and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ?

No doubt about it, there is a battle afoot.  There is a war.  It is the battle for ideas, the battle for resources, the battle for territory, the battle for position, the battle for truth, the battle for our families, the battle for our country, and the actual wars which grow out of these battles.  We cannot escape them.  They are here and we are players.

The question is, what kind of players are we?  Are we the players who plot and scheme and lead the charge (or follow the leader), who rely on ourselves and our fellow man and their resources, or are we players who are citizens of a different world, who know where real power lays, who rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, Father, and Holy Spirit are “our help and our shield?”

The time for testing is coming.  In whose army shall we fight?

_________

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

Bread – Speak

August 31, 2016


Psalm 33

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!  For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Ps. 33:8-9

Don’t you sometimes wish that, when you speak, people did what you commanded?  Or when you have to take out the garbage, wouldn’t it be nice to just tell the garbage to leave and it left?

We laugh because we know that we have no power to effect anything by our speech, except maybe stir up the flame of the tongue.  We can destroy with the tongue, but even then the world does not obey our spoken word.  It is harder to build up with speech, but it is possible.  Even then, though, the world does not obey our speech.  We can tell someone to care for themselves when they are ignoring personal hygiene and they won’t; we can tell them to care for others when they are being selfish, and they won’t.  Even if we have some power over them (like a place to live or a place to work), at best we stand a 50-50 chance that, when we speak, we will be heard and our commands will be obeyed.

But God is not like us.  His power is beyond our imagination.  “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”  He speaks and it happens.

If God who spoke into creation is willing to commune with us through His Word, His sacraments, and His presence through the Holy Spirit, why don’t we let Him?  After all, if He speaks into our lives, we will come to be in His strength.  If He speaks to us in our time of need (and in our time of plenty), we will stand firm in the evil day.

God’s Word creates, it encourages, it restores, it satisfies, and it saves.  When God speaks, it comes to be.  What He says goes.  What He says be, it is.  What He says ends, ends.

Do we not want that creative, loving, powerful, encouraging, hopeful voice of God in our lives?

Lord, speak to me so that I might hear?  No.

Lord, speak to me that I might be.  Be free, be happy, be content in all things, be strong, be persevering, be confident, be full of grace, love, and wisdom … in other words, be me.

Do we feel free?  Are we happy?  Are we content, strong, persevering, confident?  Are we full of grace, love, hope and wisdom?  Are we fully we?  No… then maybe it is because God needs to speak to us.  Are we going to let Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – King

August 1, 2016


Psalm 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Gold

May 23, 2016


Psalm 21

“O Lord, in Your strength the king rejoices … For You meet him with rich blessings,; You set a crown of fine gold upon his head.”  Ps. 21:1,3

A town close to us holds an art festival in the spring.  It is quite large and my wife and I often go to it to see the new art work.  While we are there, we spend a lot of time looking at jewelry.  Jewelry is made with all kinds of gold.  There is yellow gold and white gold.  There is some kind of pink gold.  There is fourteen carat and eighteen carat gold.  Gold is often integral to the ring or necklace, but sometimes it is no more than a covering of some other metal underneath.  In any event, there are all kinds of gold.

One shop in particular stood out.  The jeweler there answered our question about the quality by saying that his rings were made of the finest gold which could be purchased, but that as a result they could be dented.  That is because fine gold is soft since it is free of other metals.

Fine gold is not only soft and malleable, but it is also an efficient conductor of electricity and heat.  Furthermore, it does not interact with the air around it; it does not tarnish.

How much should we strive to be fine gold?  If the Christian is ready to take up his or her cross and following Jesus where He leads, he or she is leading a soft life, one which can be changed by the power of the Holy Spirit.  This means that the Christian is malleable by God.  Furthermore, Jesus tells us to be salt and light in the world.  How can we do so unless we are efficient conductors of His power into the world, keeping none of it for ourselves but passing on the gift in its unadulterated form.  Finally, we are ambassadors of the kingdom of God, living daily in the soup of the world.  If we are to reflect God’s light into the world, we cannot tarnish – we cannot be changed by the environment we live in; we cannot tarnish, because if we do we are proof that our lives have not been changed; we are proof that we do not bear the crown of fine gold.  In fact, if we permit ourselves to be changed by the world, we may become radioactive, just as gold can be turned radioactive by taking away or adding to part of fine gold.

In Mexico, I was standing in a church built a long time ago, with high windows along the walls next to the ceiling, but a dark interior.  There were statues of various people, and one of Jesus Christ who appeared to be wrapped in something.  At that moment, a shaft of light from the noonday sun entered the room from one of the high windows, struck the statue of Jesus, and immediately the entire sanctuary was filled with His glory.  What I was looking at was the reflection of the sun off a statue of gold leaf.

We know that Jesus Christ is the only person who ever lived who could be analogized to the finest of gold, and that the blinding light I witnessed in that sanctuary that day was merely a poor example of the true light which we will be surrounded by before the throne of God.  But, still, in knowing this there is also this promise – that God gives us rich blessings; He puts a crown of fine gold upon our head.

Will we wear it and so shine before men that they will see our good works and worship our Father in heaven?

Will we give thanks for our blessings?

Will we kneel before our God and let Him form us as He wishes, as the potter forms the clay, and be malleable and useful in His hands?

Will we conduct the power of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit into a dying world?

Will we remain untarnished by the world and its lures?

Will we accept a crown of gold, knowing that Jesus Christ wore His crown of thorns first, for our sake, so that He would suffer death on the cross for us, taking on His crown of gold in His rightful place as King?

Will we?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Blameless

May 6, 2016


Psalm 18

“For who is God, but the Lord?  And who is a rock, except our God? – the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.”  Ps. 18:31-32

When I began preparing this Bread, I thought that there may be some merit in looking at the words translated “God” and “Lord” in these verses, but in the process of doing that I noticed a notation in front of the word “blameless” and the notation was that the word “blameless” has multiple meanings, including the words “complete” and “having integrity.”

And, like most aspects of Scripture, when you dig deeper into God’s Word, the Holy Spirit operates to expand self-understanding, self-analysis, and self-application.

Now think about this:  “the God who … made my way blameless;” “the God who … made my way complete;” and “the God who … made my way so that I have integrity.”

We normally think of the word “blameless” as being “without sin,” and we then proceed to the immediate conclusion that, yes, God does make our way blameless but only because He sees us through His Son, Jesus Christ, who stands between us and God the Father so that all the Father sees is the blamelessness of Christ.  To use more “theological” words, God sees me as blameless because Jesus’ blamelessness is “imputed” to me.  Wonderful, but I am still sinning (less, maybe, but sinning nonetheless), even though I have been saved by grace (mercy).

But what if I substitute the words “complete” and “with integrity” for “blameless.”  Now what?

Well, it is not so easy now to shove off responsibility for my behavior upon Christ, saying that I am a sinner no matter what.  The reason is that I can, when I have the strength and the perseverance, complete a task.  And I can, with strength of character and resolve, operate “with integrity.”  So I have no excuses.  I cannot lay this off on Jesus Christ as my stand-in because I have experiences in my own life where I completed the task or I acted with integrity.

So, if I am not complete, if I have not completed the task, perhaps it is because I do not have a radical reliance upon God to “make my way complete.”  So, if I do not walk with integrity, perhaps it is because I do not have a radical reliance upon God to “make my way with integrity.”

See, there are really only two choices.  I can walk the walk or I can lean on God and let Him make my way straight, make my way complete.  I can strive to live a life of integrity or I can lean on God to make my way one of integrity.

And how can I do either?  How can I both do it and rely radically upon God to do it for me?  The answer is in the first part of the verse: “the God who equipped me with strength…”

Do I walk with integrity, complete the tasks laid before me, and am blameless?  There is a way I can, but it is not the way of man or the world; it is the way of Jesus Christ.

Do I wake up in the morning saying “My will, my way, in my strength” or do I wake up in the morning saying “Your will, Your way, in Your strength.”

The first is weak and will soon result in loss of integrity, incomplete results, and many reasons to blame ourselves and others.  The second is strong and will result in a blameless way, complete and full of integrity.

How do you wake up in the morning?  Whose will do you follow?  Whose way do you use?  In whose strength do you act?

_________

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

 

Bread – Particularize

April 30, 2016


Psalm 17

“He is like a lion eager to tear, as a young lion lurking in ambush.  Arise, O Lord!  Confront him, subdue him!”  Ps. 17:12-13

In our prayer life, we are so often ready to generalize, to talk about “evil” in the abstract, to talk about “evil people” in the collective, to talk about “them” or “us.”

But the truth is that rarely do we deal with the collective or the abstract – most often we are dealing with a particular situation or a particular person.  The person we are dealing with may be part of a greater whole or may well represent that greater whole or the idea, but the contest before us is between “me” and the other person, not the other philosophy or the other abstraction.  Situations are concrete and people are concrete.  We may think abstractly, but we deal concretely.

We must deal with the person and the situation before us.

David was confronted with a particular person in this Psalm.  This particular person was out to get him; he (David’s adversary) was “lurking” around trying to catch David unawares, pounce on him, and, most likely, kill him.

So, in a moment of clarity, David stops praying to God about the wicked people (“They close their heart to pity”) and speaks directly and personally about the wicked person (“Confront him!”)

Sure David might pray to God to deal with the entire category of lions and to soften their anger and bring to their mind a friendship with man, but there came a moment when David realized that God had to deal with a particular lion, one who was going to kill David if God didn’t intervene against that single, solitary man-lion.

Do we personalize our prayers like this?  Do we pray to an abstract God, one which resides in our minds as an idea, or to a personal God, one who resides in our hearts as our Savior?  Do we pray to God about things in general, or about situations in particular?  Do we pray to God about fixing the problems of a nation, or do we pray to Him about the particular guy or gal who is giving us fits?

We love to read the Psalms because of their overarching majesty in representing the prayer and song life of those who wrote them, in reflecting the great struggles between understanding a God who is sovereign, holy, loving, and faithful and His dealing (or, from our perspective, not dealing) with our particular needs and the needs of others.

However, which portion of David’s prayer of Psalm 17 was closest to David’s heart and, therefore, God’s desires for him … “keep me from them” or “keep me from him, the lion?”

There was an old pastor-priest friend of mine, now deceased, who told me one time that, as he drove down the street to get to a meeting with a parishioner, he always prayed as he reached each stoplight that God would turn it green so that he could drive unimpeded.  I told him that wouldn’t it make more sense for him to pray that God just get him to the appointment on time, and he said, “no,” because God was quite capable of taking care of each stoplight and the accumulation of each stoplight would result in him getting to where he needed to go in the time appointed for him to get there.

In reading this Psalm today and hearing David ask God to “stop that man,” I am reminded that each event, each person, each situation, each minute by minute occurrence in our life, is an opportunity for us to ask God for help and for Him to show up with a little demonstration of His power.  We so much want the light show that we don’t realize the opportunity for prayer when we turn on the light and hope the light bulb turns on.

Can you imagine the power by which we would lead our lives if we could personalize and particularize everything as an opportunity to speak to God about our need, right then?

And if we particularized our prayers down to the specific before us, wouldn’t we also then live our lives in constant gratitude for the things fulfilled?

When we pray to God for a good journey, we get to thank Him at the end of that good journey.  When my friend prayed to God for a green stoplight, he got to thank God for that green stoplight when it occurred.  But what we forget is that he also got to thank God for the red stoplight as well because it gave him an opportunity to think about why God might not have turned it to green – was it to protect him?  Give thanks.  Was it to give him an opportunity to make that phone call he needed to make and had forgotten?  Give thanks.  Was it to give him an opportunity for rest from a frustrating drive?  Give thanks.

If we want to witness God in every moment of our lives, if we want to live our lives in power, if we want to have an attitude of gratitude, maybe we need to particularize our prayers more, realizing that every moment in life is both an opportunity to pray and, regardless of the outcome, an opportunity to give thanks.

Then, instead of praying and giving thanks once or twice a day, we would be doing it thousands of times a day.

And, maybe then, we would truly walk with Him, talk with Him, be with Him, and do His will.

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

 

Bread – Prosperity

March 9, 2016


Psalm 10

“In the pride of his face the wicked does not seek Him; all his thoughts are, ‘There is no God.”  His ways prosper at all times…He says in his heart ‘…throughout all generations I shall not meet adversity.’”  Ps. 10:4-6

Isn’t it frustrating that it always seems like that wealth and prosperity gravitate to those who act as if there is no God, to those who excel at the ways of the world, sharp in business, strategic in their thinking, assertive in their acts.  Many, but not all, of these people have a “winner take all” mentality, taking advantage every legal (and, some, not so legal) way they can.  They seem to accumulate wealth easily and they seem to be able to keep it through all adversity and to preserve it for future generations.   If they do not live in leisure it is because there is always some mountain to climb, some competitor to crush, some business deal to win, some new amount of money or fame or position or thing to acquire.  They have many things and many houses and warehouses to store these things, and they have luxurious methods of transportation to visit their houses and warehouses, and they eat very well at the finest restaurants along the way.

When we sit over on the side and think of our own ways to obtain prosperity, particularly if we can get on top of the business deal or force those people we resent to “pay through the nose” (or, politically, “pay their fair share”) or cheat and scheme ourselves to fortune, aren’t we just like “them,” only not quite so good at playing the game of life?

And isn’t it interesting that we call it the “game of life?”

There is so much to be angry about in this passage.  If we are on the outside looking in, we get mad at the pride, the arrogance, the prosperity, and the apparent immunity from trouble which the people of the world have.  When we are on the inside looking out, we get mad that David would impugn our motives, that he would see our “being the best we can be” somehow a stick in the eye of God, that the naysayers would not look at us as good people doing good works (when we consider ourselves good people doing good works – after all, the insiders give to church, give to charities, give to those less fortunate, follow the rules of ethics in business, etcetera), that the people outside would not realize that we, the inside people, provide them prosperity as well through industry and jobs and payment of taxes, etcetera.

David is warning us that the game of life played this way, where we are not seeking Him as we build our prosperity, is really the game of death.

Now the Christian may note that salvation is the free gift of God into life after death and that Christians reap their rewards at their death, so why not play the game of life in between?  And, in fact, there are studies that show that a substantial majority of those who claim Christ as their savior play the game of life as if God does not exist in the present.

But doesn’t eternal life begin today, while we are still alive?

The entirety of Scripture says “Yes!”  Eternal life does begin today, if we slough off the old man and take on the new, if we raise up Christ in our lives rather than ourselves, if we following the pattern of good living established by God rather than the pattern of “good” living established by the world.

But it is up to us to let God rule in our lives, it is up to us to appropriate the power of the Holy Spirit to live lives worthy of our calling as disciples of Christ, it is up to us to immerse ourselves in God’s Word rather than the world’s wisdom.

See, the game of life has two different sets of rules.  One, the rules set by the world, lead to prosperity of things and poverty of the heart.  One, the rules set by God, lead to prosperity of the heart and, if the Lord wills it in our lives, poverty of things.

If it is I who wins, I always lose.  If it is God who wins, so do I.

Are you mad at those who prosper?  Why?  They came about their wealth in one of two ways, either they won the game of life according to the world’s rules or God gave it to them to hold and to use as God’s agents and ambassadors on earth.  If they won by the world’s rules and you are inclined to play by the world’s rules, don’t get mad, get even.  If they won by the world’s rules and you are inclined to play by God’s rules, love them and walk away.  Psalm 10 tells us their end.  If they follow God’s rules and have prosperity of things as gifts from God, then pray for them that they will have God’s wisdom about how best to represent God in the world and will have the courage and strength of the Holy Spirit to do what He commands.

Choose this day who you will serve.  If yourself, then read Psalm 10 again.  If God, then rejoice in your prosperity of life, whether or not you have things…and be grateful.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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