Bread – Away

April 24, 2017


Psalm 61

Hear my cry, O God, listen to my prayer; from the end of the earth I call to You when my heart is faint.”  Ps. 61:1-2a

Perhaps I should have called this Bread “Far Away,” but that would have violated my one word summary rule.  However, the “away” in the title today is meant to convey that sense of distance, far distance, from wherever you want to be or whomever you want to be with.  Our Psalmist uses the phrases “from the end of the earth.”

Wrapped up in this image of being “away” are, of course, our ideas of geographic distance.  If I live in Texas but am presently visiting China, then I am indeed “far away.”  But also wrapped up in this image is emotional distance.  I can be “far away” from my spouse sitting in a chair next to him or her.  I can be far away from my studies by daydreaming.  So there is physical distance, emotional distance, mental distance, and, as we know from our tumultuous relationship with God, spiritual distance.

We may not even be aware that we are “away.”  I remember that when I first went to college, the sights and sounds of Boston and the university were so exciting that I forgot I was away from home … until I became homesick a couple of months later.  We may be so wrapped up in our daydream that we aren’t even aware that we have wandered away mentally.  We may get so caught up in the routine of life that we become emotionally detached or “away” from our significant others and not even realize it.  We may become so self-dependent, powerful, rich, respected, educated, that we lose track of how far away we are from God.  We become so lost in the ways of the world that we drift away from the laws of the Kingdom of God.

The fact that we become unaware of how far away we are is reflected, actually, in the quoted verse from our Psalm today.  David did not call upon God because he was far away; he called upon God because his “heart is faint.”  When his heart became faint and he became aware it was time to pray to God, he was at the “end of the earth.”  In his self-focus, he had gone away from God, but it took an event to make him realize it.

In college, that event of homesickness may come upon us when we realize that we haven’t eaten a particular food in a while, when we walk into our dormitory room and find that it is empty, when we call home and no one answers, or when we recall some fond memory of good times.  In studying, we may realize that we have wandered away in our daydream when our head hits the desk because we just fell asleep.  In our relationships with each other, it may in fact be a heart moment when we realize how far we are away emotionally from our loved ones.

Sometimes we go away to a far place on purpose, but most of the time it is because we drift on open waters with no direction in mind, permitting our boat to be carried on the random winds and waves of the seas.   The prodigal son deliberately left his father and went to a far place where he ate with the pigs, but we tend to end up far away due to inattention, negligence, slothfulness, and aimless wandering.

In such times, we may be inclined to say to ourselves “How did we get here?”  But that is the wrong question, because “here,” “away” you are.  The right question is “How do we get back to where we should be?”

In a very natural way, David the Psalmist tells us.  The way back from being away is to come near.  When we are far away from God, the way back is to talk to Him, to pray to Him, and to let Him help you back.  If I wake up in China but belong in Texas, what do I do?  I get on the next airplane.  Well God has given us a transport mechanism to get back to Him from the end of the earth, and that is prayer.

Are you away from God today?  Have you gone to a faraway place from Him?  The journey of a 1,000 miles begins with the first step.  That first step is prayer.  Start now!

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© 2017 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 – See

March 30, 2016


Psalm 13

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” Ps. 13:3

In the last Bread, we dealt with the condition of despair, where we lay at the bottom of the barrel, in the dark, with no hope ahead.  A lonely place, an unfriendly place, a wild place, a place where none of us want to go and yet, in business, in the home or in the family, with spouse or children, in spiritual affairs – we have been there.

How did we get out of it?  Medicine (science) would say that our brain chemistry was bad and that we were brought up from darkness to light by the miracle of modern drugs and therapy.  The religious atheists who believe in the essential goodness of self over all other things would say that we got out of the pit of despair by our own bootstraps, by looking to the future rather than the past, by slogging through the difficulties one step at a time, by thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones, or, as Dr. Seuss might say it, by thinking on “fluffy things.”    The “group first” people would probably say that we were pulled out of our despair by a group of people around us who love us and who lift us up … after all, “it takes a village.”

But David had a different answer.  He knew that, in the despair of life and sin, in thrall to the world and the prince of darkness, Satan, we stand no chance without God.  When we are dead (the “sleep of death”), we have no hope for life except by the exercise of a power outside ourselves.  In the socialists world view, that outside power is the village, or society.  In the Christian world view, that outside power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The first, the village, relies on blind men to guide blind men, relies on broken people to fix broken people, relies upon an irrational belief that, if you have a bunch of defective parts, when you combine them the whole is not defective.  The second, the Christian world view, relies upon the rock of ages, the creator, the promise-keeper, one who has not sinned and is perfect.  The socialist relies upon shifting sand while the Christian relies upon the foundations of the earth.

That is why David pleads to God “Light up my eyes.”  He knows that, if God does not light up our eyes, our eyes will remain dark.  He knows that, if God does not give us power, we have none except the counterfeit kind, the appearance of power with no strength to persevere.  He knows that wisdom comes from God and not from man, except perhaps in a negative way (teaching us what not to do).

And so David, while wallowing in despair, does one thing and one thing only – and that is plead with God that God consider where he is and that God answer him, light up his eyes, and guide him out of that dark place into a place of light and joy.

Perhaps, today, your joy is gone, happiness is a memory, hope is distant, and the pit seems bigger and bigger.  Have you stopped to ask God for answers, for wisdom, for consideration, for hope, for joy, for gratitude?  Have you stopped to pray … not just a short “God help me” but a long pause in the day where you can be with Him, hear Him, learn from Him, be infilled with Him, and be empowered by Him?

What is the foundation of our day?  How do we begin it?  With our important activities like dressing and cleaning up and eating breakfast and reviewing the daily task list and appointments, by running through our mind what we will say to those important people we will meet, practicing how we will behave and what we will do, rehearsing so that we will be successful and have lots of respect, position, power, wealth, and things?  Or with the most important activity of all – getting in touch with the Foundation, God?

David’s got it right.  When we are in despair, do not look to our own or society’s devices but to look to maintaining the relationship with God.

If we do not ask God to light up our eyes, we will remain in the sleep of death – perhaps successful by the world’s standards but in the sleep of death anyway.  If we ask Him … well, read the rest of Psalm 13 … and be grateful.

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

 

 

Bread – Advocate

February 17, 2016


Psalm 7

“Arise O Lord in Your anger, lift Yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; You have appointed a judgment.  Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about You; over it return on high.”  Ps. 7:6-7

I like the word “advocate” because it is both a noun and a verb.  As the verb, I advocate (fight for, promote, argue in favor of, plead on behalf of) for myself and others.  When I advocate, I am an advocate.

Shifting to the Psalm, I have to admit that this section of the Psalm befuddled me.  I understand David calling on the Lord to rise up and defend David against the fury of David’s enemies, but why follow this immediately with the “Let the assemblies of the people be gathered…”?  How are they connected, if at all?

I was talking to someone yesterday about the Psalms and they reminded me of something that I had not locked onto – David is not only himself but he is also the king.  When he speaks of his enemies, in his role as king he is also speaking about the enemies of his kingdom.

That got me thinking about who I am as well.  David was an advocate for himself and his people.  I (and we) are advocates for ourselves, for our families, for our friends and neighbors, for our bosses and subordinates, for our businesses, for our government, for our position as leader, preacher, evangelist, prophet, manager, director, and every other office you can image.

We are not only advocates in the present for people in the present, but we are also advocates for those who come after us – our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, and those who are to be born and are not yet born.

We are not only advocates in the present age for people we know, but for people we don’t know – for those who are poor and lonely, for those who have insufficient food, for those stuck in place without opportunity, for those who are in their mother’s womb and have no voice, for those enslaved, for those unjustly accused, for the saints in general.

Think it.  As we stand before God, there is a train of beneficiaries which flow behind us and for whom we may there only advocate.  We may be the only one who cares.

When David asks God to destroy his enemies, we sort of say to ourselves that he is probably overreacting, that the situation is not as important as David is making it out to be.  However, when we rise up and realize the thousands of people who are in the wake of David’s prayer, who are also confronted by the same enemies, then the prayer takes on a much more serious tone and the necessity of God rising up and taking over becomes much more necessary and more urgent.

How much more urgently would we pray for God to take over and rise up if we realized that our enemies who would destroy us would also destroy the generations which follow, the people who we are put on earth to defend, to protect, to love, and to advocate for?

How much more would we plead for God’s intervention if we realized that, when we ask for ourselves, we also ask for who we advocate for?

How much more would we plead for God’s holy power to descend with might upon us and our situation if we really were advocates for others, for our spouse, our children, our children yet to be, and for all generations to follow?

As I write this, I am acutely aware of how I have failed to fully appreciate my job as a Christian, of how I have wasted my opportunities to sit before the Creator and make my case for my people, of how I have prayed weakly because I have not stood for those who God has placed within my reach.

But the failure yesterday and the failure today does not require the failure tomorrow.  David advocated for himself and his people.  I can do no less.  Can you?

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

 

 

 

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