Bread – Defense

September 19, 2017


Psalm 83

O God, do not keep silence; do not hold Your peace or be still, O God!  For behold, Your enemies make an uproar; those who hate You have raised their heads….As fire consumes the forest, as the flame sets the mountains ablaze, so may You pursue them …”  Ps. 83: 1-2, 14-15

The English Standard Version’s Study Bible’s (copy. 2008, Crossway Bibles) notes on this Psalm say that it is “a community lament, geared to a situation in which God’s people are threatened by Gentile enemies who aim to destroy them….Christians would use this this psalm … in cases where their persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith.”

In many parts of the world, sounds like now.

But then again, when people want to be their own god and follow the ways of the world, they hate God and all those who claim Him, so the circumstances described (“where persecutors would destroy them and all traces of their faith”) actually describes recorded history.

Sometimes this attempted destruction takes the form of weapons, guns, knives and poisons.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is political, driving Christians from positions of power and influence.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is corrosion, bringing into play anti-Christs who preach messages which tickle the ears and destroy the soul.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is intellectual, to place Christianity into the dustbin of history and marginalize faith as being unreasonable, illogical, or just plain stupid.  Sometimes the attempted destruction is merely to try to shut us up by exclusion from debate or, worse, by shouting us down by calling us names.

What defense do we make in this time of destruction?  Maybe the better question is “What effective defense do we make in this time of destruction?”

One idea might be to fortify ourselves with wisdom and knowledge so that we can always make “a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” 1 Pet. 3:15.  However, we know that no-one whose eyes and ears are closed will ever be argued into the kingdom of God.  The fact that we are to make defense to someone who asks shows that God has already intervened to cause that person to ask, and we are merely at that moment to continue a good work already begun by God.

Another idea might be to attack (the best defense being a good offense) by preaching the Word in all places, but although that world might see that as an attack, all we are really doing is what we are told to do – go and make disciples of all nations.  Matt. 28:19.  We are not attacking anyone when we follow our commission; but we certainly are proclaiming.  But even then, although we might obey by planting the seed, God is the one in charge of raising the seed up into good fruit.

Finally, we might defend ourselves by accessing positions of power and being in charge of everything.  But, as history has shown us, every time we do that we fall subject to the corrosion of the world and its corruption.

So, then, how do we defend ourselves?  The Psalmist has the answer.  We let God do it.  We ask God to step in and handle it.

Our problem is that, to us, it sounds like a cop-out, like we are giving up.  But when we do that, we are not giving up, we are giving in … to Him.  And when we do, we are strong; and when we do not, we are weak.

O, when someone attacks me with gun and knife, I can well defend myself with similar weapons.  But when the spirit of the age attacks me with the desire to destroy “all trace of my faith,” then there is only one defense and one defender.  At that time and now, our best defense is this – “O God, do not keep silence …”

_______

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Idols

September 6, 2017


Psalm 81

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!  There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.”  Ps. 81:8b-9

What got me thinking about idols this morning was actually not the quoted verse above, but actually the title of the Psalm – “…according to the Gittith of Asaph.”

Now there is nothing about idols in this title; really all it is an instruction about how to read or sing the Psalm, the word “Gittith” likely meaning something musical.  However, the oddness of the phrase got me to thinking about how we are always referring to oracles of modernity as authoritative, as if they somehow had something to say worthwhile.  For example, when Tom Cruise speaks, many people listen because, after all, he is a successful actor.

If we are not very, very careful, when we place undue authority in a person or a document, we are lifting that person or document up as an idol as much as if we had a totem in our house surrounded by candles.  When we place the word of the preacher over the Word of God, we are raising up an idol.  When we place the Declaration of Independence over the Word of God, we are raising up an idol.

And this is what strikes me about our reading today.  One way to read this is to think of two complete thoughts.  The first is a lament “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!”  The second thought is a command “There shall be no strange god among you…”  And we might be inclined to read it this way because the two sentences are separated by an exclamation mark.

But another way to read it is as a continuous thought – “O Israel, if you would but listen to me there shall be no strange god among you…”  If…then.

If we but listen to God, if we read His Scripture, pray to Him, listen to Him and follow Him, if we worship Him … then our likelihood of following idols is greatly diminished.  But, if we are not engaged in God’s Word, are not testing our thoughts against His thoughts and our actions against His desires for us, if we are not listening to Him, then the chances of us chasing after idols is greatly enhanced.

Are we today preoccupied with listening to our oracles of the day, following the trail of fame, fortune, and futility, ever-engaged in the climb up the ladder?  What idols have we hooked onto?  What idols do we worship?

The answer to the idol problem is not in obeying God’s rules but in listening to Him.

What time have we spent today in listening to God?  How does that compare to the idols we are listening to?

________

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

 

 

Bread – Praise

June 2, 2017


Psalm 67

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You!  The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Ps. 67:5-7

The first verse of these three verses ends in “praise You” and the last verse ends in “fear Him.”  There is a structure here, like two bookends between which is repeated twice, “God shall bless us.”

We normally connect the word “praise” with joyful outpouring of emotion in a happy, exuberant way; and we normally connect the word “fear” with the exact opposite, where we shrink or run away in terror.  With praise we approach the throne of God in our minds; with fear we run away from the throne of God, again in our minds.

We praise either in thanksgiving for our blessings or in anticipation of them.  Since we have gotten those blessings, are getting them now, and will get them in the future, praise of our Benefactor is to be expected.

We fear in comparison to power.  When someone has a gun pointed at us and we don’t, our natural and appropriate reaction is to fear.  When we contemplate our sinfulness in comparison against a holy God, our Judge, then fear may well be an appropriate response.

So why are blessings in the middle between praise and fear?  It is because that is where they belong.

We cannot fear that which we do not comprehend.  We fear a pointed gun because we understand its power, having seen its use on television.  We fear a mighty God if we understand His power; we understand His power in comparison to us if we are given wisdom to see by the same God.  When God gives us the power to see Him, we see ourselves for who we are in comparison, and the natural reaction then is fear of condemnation.  We are unworthy; He is worthy.  We are sinful; He is not.  We are promise-breakers; He is a promise-keeper.  We make some things; He makes everything.  We think in time; His thoughts are timeless, for all eternity.  When we see what God ought to do to us, we are rightly fearful and in awe of the coming Judgment.

But once we fear Him, once we fully comprehend who He is and who we are, His grace and mercy appears to us through Jesus Christ.  And once we understand the eternal blessing we have received through faith in Him, our fear turns to praise.  We may properly fear God for what He could do and what He should do, and simultaneously we may exult in joyful praise God because He has turned is righteous wrath away from us and dumped it on Jesus Christ, who stands with us, for us, and in us for eternity.  What God could do to me and should do to me because of my sinfulness, He chooses not to do because of the death of Jesus for my sins.  All I have to do is to recognize Him and have faith in Him, which I could not do but for God’s power.

The very thing which causes me to fear God is the very thing which causes me to praise Him, which is why fear and praise are bookends to blessing.

Now, why call this “Bread” “Praise” instead of “Fear?”  It is for a simple reason.  We cannot fear God unless we see Him and acknowledge Him for who He is.  And what better way to praise God than to recognize who He is in the world and in me?

We think of praise as raising joyful hands, but praise is also on our knees, in awe of Him, bowed before our King.

“Let the peoples praise You, O God … God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him.”  Between praise which acknowledges the sovereignty of God (fear) and praise which acknowledges the graciousness of God (praise), there is a double blessing.

Thank You, Jesus.

________

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

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!

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Foundations

April 3, 2017


Psalm 59

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; … For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me.  For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. .. You, Lord Gods of hosts, are God of Israel.”  Ps. 59:1-5

What foundations need to be laid to boldly go to God in prayer?  The quoted verses above suggest that there are three.

The first foundation of prayer is need.  In this case, it is David’s dire circumstances facing people who have been sent by Saul to David’s home to kill him.  These are the people laying in wait, stirring up strife.  But in our situation, it may not be people who are hounding us, it may be just bad circumstances – perhaps a loss of a job or a failure in some aspect of life, perhaps the discovery of a painful illness.  It can be both physical or emotional, but the first foundation to be laid is the recognition that we need God’s help.  Of course, David was alert to this need because men were coming to kill him, but we ought to be alert to our needs all the time, because they are many.  God knows we have needs, but we need to tell Him our needs anyway, in part to remind ourselves that we radically dependent upon Him for all good things.

The second foundation of prayer is our own position vis a vis our neighbor.  Have we caused our neighbor harm; we need to go make it right.  Have we spoken hastily and meanly; we need to apologize.  David makes sure that he approaches God with a clean conscience (“…for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.”)   Perhaps our dire circumstances are our own fault, arising from our own trespass upon others.  When we come before God in effective prayer, we need to lay the foundation of self-examination and self-awareness.  We in all likelihood will need God’s help to clean up the mess we made, but at least then we can lay the blame honestly before Him as an offering of a contrite heart.

The third foundation of prayer is the character of God Himself.  In speaking of “You, Lord God of Hosts, are God of Israel,” David speaks of Yahweh, the great “I am,” Elohim Sabaoth, the great God who commands the mighty hosts of heaven to victory, and Elohi Israel, the God who makes covenant with His people Israel and, in the New Testament, His people the Church.  The character of God is the personal, holy God of revelation (Yahweh), the commander of the forces of heaven and earth (Elohim Sabaoth), and the promise-keeper (Elohi Israel).  We can speak to Him because He is, we can rest in His power because He commands heaven and earth, and we can rely upon Him because He keeps His promises to His people.

With a real need, a clean heart, and the aid of God Almighty, the foundations have been laid for a really good prayer session.

Let’s go!

________

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

 

Bread – Enthusiasm

January 9, 2017


Psalm 47

Clap your hands, all peoples!  Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”  Ps. 47:1

When I woke up this morning, on a Monday, I was in dreary shape.  I had a list of to-dos, I had meetings to prepare for, my allergies were acting up, and I had a headache from sleeping in some kind of awkward position.  I need gas in my car.

And then I read this … Have enthusiasm for the Lord, clap your hands, jump up and down, shout with loud songs of great joy!  Wonderful.  How can one have enthusiasm in the midst of common experience?

Wake up!

How indeed are we to have enthusiasm in the midst of trouble, in the midst of obstacles, in the midst of daily living?  How are we to clap our hands when there is no music?

It struck me while I was thinking about these things that my enthusiasm, my joy, tends to come from external sources – the compliments of a friend or a boss, the kindness of a stranger, a good meal, the achievement of some goal, the playing of good music on the radio, the visual stimulation of a bird on the roof of my house, the touch of a loved one, a “good” worship service, some great comedy from television or the newspaper.  These are all external stimuli and I respond to them.

But we read and are told that God in us, the internal source, is our strength.  Our joy ought to come from inside because of our residence in the kingdom of God; we should emanate joy out and become a source of enthusiasm and not reflect the world around us.  When our joy, our enthusiasm, is based on the external situation, we are but a reflection of what is going on around us.  When our joy, our enthusiasm, is based on the internal situation, on God in us, we project that joy and enthusiasm into a world sorely needing it.

Are we a reflector of enthusiasm or a generator of enthusiasm?  Are we a reflector of joy or a generator of joy?

Perhaps one test of the degree of our dependence upon the Lord is the degree we generate joy.

A long time ago I heard about a prayer to be said first thing in the morning – “Rise up like a lion in the service of the Lord!”  A lion roars, a lion is enthusiastic.

To make this prayer, though, you have to know who you are talking to and why this is a prayer.  Are you talking to yourself (a little self-improvement), are you talking to God, or are you talking to an empty room?  Why is this a prayer?  Because we have no capacity on our own to do anything – if we are to rise up like a lion it is because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.  That requires a request.  The implied words before “Rise up…” are “Let me [rise up…]”  This requires that we begin each day with our Maker, in prayer, in communion.

Where is our enthusiasm and our joy this Monday?  Forgotten alongside our forgotten time of prayer with the Lord.

Now, one of the great things about our relationship with the Lord is that, while we wander off, He does not.  So the fact that I did not begin today properly is no obstacle to my beginning now properly.  And so, Lord, three hours later, I pray “Let me rise up like a lion in Your service.  Amen.”

And now I’m enthusiastic.

_________

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

 

Bread – Beginnings

November 28, 2016


Psalm 43

Send out Your light and Your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your dwelling!”  Ps. 43:3

Yesterday, Sunday, began the first Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the church calendar according to many denominations, the four Sundays aiming for Christmas.  It is a time of anticipation as well as self-examination, a so-called “penitential season” which precedes the “joyful” season of Christmas.  Of course, we should be both penitent and joyful all the time as Christians, but it is helpful to emphasize some emotional states over others at different times.

It is also useful to remind ourselves that now is a time of preparation, not by racing to the stores to get the best bargains so we can give the biggest gifts, but to prepare ourselves to receive the biggest gift ever given – the Lord Jesus Himself.

Sometimes in the simplest of words there is the most profound meaning.  “Send out Your light and Your truth…”  These are some words from today’s Psalm, but they are profound.

Why?

Well, first it is God who does the sending.  The request (prayer) from the sons of Korah (presumably, since this Psalm ties to Psalm 42) is that “[God] send…”  It is by the sovereign act of God that His light enters the world; it is by the sovereign act of God that we see the light and follow it to God’s dwelling, into His presence.  No one else is available to do the sending of light.  We can by a laser send a point light to a location, and by the illumination of an electric bulb can fill a room with light.  But we did not place the sun in orbit to give the world earthly light; and we did not place Jesus Christ on earth to the be the spiritual light of the world.  God did it.

Second, the light is sent “out.”  If we were writing this, we might rephrase this to say that God sends the light “to.”  To His people, to me, to my fellow Christians, to the world. But since God is Himself the source of light, the light is sent out from Him and it hits all, but is only recognized by those whom God has enabled to behold it.

Third, the light is His – “Your light.”  It is not our light which is refocused or enhanced by some kind of God-prism or God-reflector.  It is His light.  He is the source; He is the generator; He is His light.

Fourth, light and truth go hand in hand.  “Send out Your light and Your truth…”  Not first one and then the other.  Not truth first and then light to illuminate it.  Not light first and then truth to focus it.  But both together, at the same time.  They do go together.  To those who say they have no truth or truth is relative to what they think (if they think it is truth, then it is), I would ask whether they have light.  They may say that they are enlightened, but if there is a light which they follow it is a false light, a half-light, a man-made light with a beginning and an end, which will fade into oblivion when the batteries run out.  God’s truth accompanies God’s light, and God’s light accompanies God’s truth.

We are beginning the race downhill toward Christmas, toward celebration of the moment when God indeed sent out His light and His truth in the substance of God the Son.

Let us prepare to behold the light and the truth as we again visit that manger scene and marvel about how God began his rescue operation for us.  In light.  And in truth.

_________

© 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 – Pounding

June 10, 2016


Psalm 23

“He leads me beside still waters.”  Ps. 23:2b

Our roof, like so many in North Texas, suffered hail damage and has to be replaced.  The replacement is occurring while I write this, and directly over my head is constant pounding upon the roof.  Pounding, like an oncoming headache type of pounding.

And, so, the Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters, being stirred up by the pounding of replacement and repairs, by the world’s hammering on my ears, body, mind, and soul.

Very distracting, these turbulent waters.  So turbulent, in fact, that I can think of nothing else.

Isn’t this the way we wake up every day?  Oh the pounding may not be as physical and we may turn the pounding of life into the more politically correct “drumbeat” of life, but don’t we wake up every day to the drumbeat of demands, the commands of the agenda, the rigors of dealing with the troubles of life, being pulled this way and that way, hurry up and move along?  Get up, get bathed, get dressed, get ready, get gone?  And when we get to the end of the day, who is not exhausted from all of the things we have had to pack into our day … the meetings, the telephone calls, the e-mails, the text messages, the posts to various Internet applications, the “to do” lists, the animals in the three ring circus of life which don’t behave, the demands of bosses who expect too much and know too little, the pressure for profit, and the self-improvement reading of the day.  And, of course, the daily pounding we take from computers which don’t work and all of the gadgets which are supposed to improve our lives, but need to be daily cared for and fixed!

And here I am, writing another Bread which may add to your daily pounding of things to do.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, it begins with my statement “The Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters.”

The reason is that this statement is both right and wrong.  It is right in the sense that God is sovereign and may well have led me beside noisy waters, but his character, according to the Psalm today, is that He leads me beside still waters, not noisy waters.  His intervention in my life straightens out my crooked path; it does not my path more difficult.  His speaking to me calms my soul; it does not induce pounding headaches.  No, the real author of confusion, pounding, storms, distractions, and busyness is the current prince of the world, Satan.  Satan’s purpose is easy to see.  If he can keep me distracted, then I have no time to walk with God and let Him lead me beside still waters.Sheep need still waters in order to drink.  They will not drink from loud, running, pounding waters.  And they need water to live, just like we do.  The reason God leads His sheep by still waters is so that they can live, so that they can be refreshed, and so that they can be restored.

We know we are sheep.  We know we need to drink deeply of the water of life in order to fully live and not just survive.  We know these things and yet we let the world intrude upon our relationship with God.  We let Satan’s pounding distract us from Godly relationship.  We are so busy trying to grab a swallow from the river of life that we do not let God guide us to the still waters where we can rest in peace, being fully refreshed.

We talk about prayer time all the time, and for many it is another pounding, another slot to fill in an already busy day.  How can I allocate 15 minutes to God when I have to get the kids to school, when I have an important meeting, when I need to finish this memo, when I have to get ready for the exam?

Let’s stop talking about prayer time for a minute and talk instead about still waters.

Do you not want to drink beside still waters.  Let God take you there.  How?  Talk to Him and let Him talk to you … however long it takes.  And when you have finished drinking from the water of life, then let the day begin.  You can look back and call it prayer time if you want, but other names that come to mind are peace time, soul time, refreshment time, living time, and loving time.

And for peace, soul, life, refreshment, living, and loving we should take time.  Walk with God, talk with God, and drink from the still waters of heavens.

And the pounding will go away.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Blessing

May 18, 2016


Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!  May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!  May we shout for joy over your salvation…” Ps. 20:1,4-5a

I struggled with what to name this Bread, because the words above and the first half of this Psalm evoke several thoughts.  One, this is a prayer such that a leader might make over his or her people.  So I could have called this “prayer” and I would have been accurate.  Two, this could have been called “love,” because it expresses a desire that someone other than the speaker received many, many positive things in life.  We call these positive things “blessings,” and so that is why I named this Bread “blessing.”

It is indeed a blessing upon our lives when people who matter to us speak words of encouragement into our lives, speak words of hope and joy and happiness.  It is indeed a blessing to us when our leaders speak words of peace, and when their words cause peace.  It is indeed a blessing in our lives when we feel safe, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, surrounded by the Lord of hosts and the hosts themselves, armed for battle.  It is indeed a blessing for us to be satisfied, not by the accumulation of wealth, but by the accumulation of love and relationships and wisdom and peace.

But what is also happening here is that the person giving the blessing, offering up the prayer of hope and encouragement, is also being blessed at the same time.  When we speak peace into someone’s lives, we live peace.  When we speak hope into people’s lives, we live hope.  When we offer up our sincere wishes for our neighbor’s success in the evil day, we also wish the same upon ourselves because if our neighbor is successful, so are we.  I am fond of saying “a rising tide raises all ships.”  Well, the outpouring of “may you” in our prayers is a rising tide of invocation of the name of God, of His character, of His might and power.  We can and will overcome because God was, is, and always will be.

But in the midst of all of the prayers for blessing on our fellow man, read this … “May we shout for joy over your salvation…”

In these verses, this is the first “may” which changes from “you” to “we.”  And think about it, who would not want to join in the celebration over one person saved.  The angels in heaven do it; we should too.  And notice that is not a prayer that you be saved, because that is assumed.  After all, David is writing to his people, Israel.  They had been saved many times, both individually and as a group.  Now that Jesus Christ has come, died, and has risen, we are in the same boat as Israel.  For those whom God has chosen, salvation will come.  But what is our response … “get it out of my sight,” “ho hum,” or “kill the fatted calf and have a party.”

See, what God does on earth is a great blessing, but only if we see it, acknowledge where it came from, and revel in thanksgiving for the mighty work.

And so I end with the modern day version.  “May we shout for joy over our blessings from God, our salvation, our rock, our fortress, in the day of trouble.  Amen.”

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

 

 

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