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.

________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Beginnings

June 21, 2017


Psalm 71

“…You have given the command to save me…Upon You have I leaned from before my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb.”  Ps. 71:3b,6

When did our relationship with the Lord God Almighty begin?

Some of us may remember vividly the day we “accepted” Jesus as our Lord and Savior.  Perhaps we said the sinner’s prayer in response to an altar call or at an evangelistic event.  Perhaps it was at an early age when we believed the Bible stories we were being told.  Perhaps it was at a God-appearance, either audibly or visually or perhaps maybe in a dream.  Perhaps it was at a time at the laying on of hands by some people praying over us.  Some of us may not have a moment in time, but our relationship grew over a period of time and, one day, we looked back and realized that we had gone from the side of the ledger of unbelief to the side of the ledger we call belief.

But the truth is, whatever our memory, it is in one sense false.  The reason our memory is in one sense false is that our awareness of our relationship may be at one point in time, but our relationship was actually established well before that.

David in this Psalm acknowledges that before he was born, he leaned on God; he had a relationship with the Almighty.  David knows that it was God who delivered him into the world, just as it is God who sustains him in the world and it is God who has redeemed him from the world.

I juxtaposed two verses on purpose.  God gives the command to save me.  I do not give the command to God, nor to myself.  God gives the command.  And I have leaned on Him before I was even born, whether I was aware of it or not.  I can lean on Him before I was even born because God the command to save me.  When?  Before I was born.

Can we trace our beginnings of our relationship with Jesus Christ?  Yes we can.  One trace is through knowledge and that leads us to the date we professed with our mouth that Jesus was Lord.  The other trace is through faith and that leads us to the real beginning, God’s beginning of His command, before we were born.

The only way we know that our beginnings with God predate our physical birth is by faith in the power of God’s command.

If we are weak in our faith, I think it is because we somehow have the belief that we are the ones who give the commands.  In this view, God has a relationship with us because we commanded it or at least cooperated with God’s command.  But does God need our agreement for His command to be effective?  If so, we have a small view of God and an even smaller view of the power of God’s command to result in the outcome He desires.

But, if the beginnings our relationship with God pre-existed our birth, then how did the effectiveness of God’s command to establish that relationship depend upon us at all?

Our natural way of thinking begins with us and turns outwards toward them (the community) and then the heavens (God).   But beginnings do not begin with us, they begin with Him.  Think about it.

________

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

 

Bread – Mine

May 8, 2017


Psalm 63

O God, You are my God; earnestly I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”  Ps. 63:1

A few years ago I was in the Texas panhandle during the heavy drought.  There was nothing green for miles.  One place I went struck me particularly hard.  It was a bridge over a waterway which was easily a football field wide, which obviously was designed to cross over a flowing large creek or small river.  There was nothing in this creekbed and there had been nothing in it so long that the ground of it was hard and cracked.  Why was the bridge there?  In times of plenty it was the way across a large flowing stream of water.  In time of drought, it looked odd.

In speaking with a rancher there, he was telling me about the extraordinary lengths he was going through to save his cows, digging deeper wells, bringing in water, and, most remarkably, purchasing hay from Indiana because none could grow on his ranch.

I asked him when and if he would decide to give up and sell out.  He basically said never, because the land was his father’s and grandfather’s.  The land was his and he would not abandon it.

There was an old Golden book I read, first as a child and then to my children.  It was about firemen.  One statement in that book has always stayed with me.  There was a fire and the family was rescued by the firemen.  The family’s house was burned to the ground.  And the family was standing outside looking at the burning house, each of them holding something.  One person, a boy, was holding a pillow.  The statement was something to the effect that “Each of them stood there holding the thing that was most valuable to them.”  I always thought it was funny that someone would hold onto a pillow as their most valuable thing to rescue from a fire.

In the middle of the drought, the thing most valuable to the rancher was his land, because it was “his.”  In the fire, the thing most valuable to the boy was his pillow, because it was “his.”

When will we treat our Lord that way?  When will we so possess Him that He is “mine?”  When will we consider Him so valuable that in the drought, we will take Him as ours; in the fire, we will leave with Him as our most valuable possession?

As I think about that question and look around my home office, I see many things which I might grab if my house were burning to the ground.  Among those things are my laptop computer, my files with important financial information, and my boxes of family history.  Would I care enough about God to take His Word, a Bible, with me?

I like to say that God is mine, just like I am sure you do.  But do we see God as “mine?”  Do we consider our relationship  with Him the most valuable relationship we have?  To we consider His Word to be the only fountain of wisdom in our library?  Do we seek Him in the morning, during the day, and at night?  Do we seek Him in the times of plenty and the times of drought?

If our house caught fire, would He be the first thing on our mind or the last?

As this Psalm shows, there is a whole lot of difference between thinking God is mine and acting like He’s mine, and there is a whole lot of difference between acting like God is mine sometimes and acting like He is mine all the time.

Lord, I know You have made me Yours.  Now, Lord, so increase my love of You that I have made You mine.  Amen.

________

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

 

 

Bread – Righteousness

January 18, 2017


Psalm 48

We have thought on Your steadfast love, O God,…Your right hand is filled with righteousness.”  Ps. 48:9,10b

“Righteousness” is one of those words which I always think I know what it means until I start really thinking about it.  What is “righteousness?’

The Hebrew word translated “righteousness” in this passage means “the right thing (whether nationally, morally or legally); equity (in an abstract sense); prosperity (in a figurative sense); straightness (in a physical sense); rectitude (in an ethical sense); … justness, honesty, integrity … liberation.” From The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB) (Zodhiates, Ed. 1990).  The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament (Intervarsity 2004) takes 21 pages to give examples, but summarizes the word “righteousness” this way: “In Biblical thought the idea of justice or righteousness generally expresses conformity to God’s will in all areas of life: law, government, covenant loyalty, ethical integrity or gracious actions.  When humans adhere to God’s will as expressed in His law, they are considered just or righteous.  Jesus taught that those who conform their lives to His teachings are also just or righteous.”

Well, I am not sure if these definitions help or hurt me in trying to understand what righteousness is.  However, the other day someone summarized righteousness for me as “right relationships.”  I find this definition nowhere in my materials, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me.  After all, if we lives of justice, of doing right toward others and ourselves and our God, don’t we find ourselves in a “right (correct, beneficial, loving) relationship?”  When we are fair toward others, don’t we find ourselves in right relationships with others?  When we are obedient to God’s law expressed in Scripture, don’t we find ourselves in right relationships with others?

What, then, does it mean for God to have “righteousness” in his “right hand?”  Before we go there, I think it is important to recall that our right hand (for many people) is the hand of power.  It is the hand which holds the sword of vengeance, the hammer of anger, the book of wisdom, the item being offered as a gift or a sacrifice.  We shake right hands because, by doing so, we demonstrate our hand is empty of any weapon which could cause harm.

Because of His steadfast love toward us, God holds in His hand of power the key to right relationships with Him, with each other, and within ourselves.  Thinking of what He holds as merely the law is not sufficient because mere compliance with the law out of avoidance of punishment does not, in itself, create good relationships.  Thinking of what He holds as merely love is not sufficient because mere love which is not bounded by truth does not, in itself, create good relationships.  It is righteousness which creates good relationships – obedience, honor of God’s rules and His ways of living, loving others as He has first loved us.

God wants to have a right relationship with us and, therefore, His right hand holds the mystery to accomplishing that.  His right hand holds righteousness.

And He extends that gift, that gift of righteousness, to us through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate before the Father.  Through Jesus we have His righteousness, the righteousness carried in the right hand of God, and with that we can properly order our lives between us and God, between us and others, and within ourselves.

Are your relationships good?  If not, maybe you need a dose of what God holds in His right hand, a dose of righteousness.   For those who worship Jesus, the wisdom to build right relationships is brought to us by the Holy Spirit – Come Holy Spirit!  For those who do not know Jesus, righteousness is available from He who is Himself righteous, the Creator of the world, Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Fear

June 22, 2016


Psalm 25

“Who is the man who fears the Lord?  Him will He instruct in the way that he should choose.  His soul shall abide in well-being…The friendship of the Lord is for those who fear Him, and He makes known to them His covenant.”  Ps. 25:12-14

“Fear” is an interesting word because of how we think about it.  When we think of “fear,” most often we think of the places where fear is most likely to occur and our reaction to the things which cause fear.

We know the places which make us fearful.  For some people, it is the place of loud noise or angry, yelling people.  For others, it may be a dark room or a tall place.  Our fear antenna goes up when we are walking alone on a poorly lighted street late at night, or when we see a group of mean-looking people harassing others.  We fear bullies and we may fear people with guns and knives.  Some of us are so skittish we may be afraid of our own shadow.  That is the kind of fear which causes our heart rate to go up and, often, causes a panic reaction.

Then there is the place of fear which is more psychological, where we fear being the one left out of the pickup ball game, or fear wearing the wrong clothes or having the wrong set of friends.  This is more of a social fear, but the panic can be just as overwhelming.

As I mentioned, when we think of fear and our own fear in particular, we often think of our reaction to it.  And our reaction to fear is most often to run away from the thing or the person or the situation causing it, to hide, or to not go there to begin with, to avoid the cause.

If we have the proper amount of fear, we are careful.  If we have a little too much fear, we are fretful.  If we have a lot of fear, we cower or run.  Part of becoming an adult is learning how to have a proper amount of fear and how to channel our reactions to it so that our reactions are appropriate in the circumstances.  For example, while our natural reaction to fear of an unruly crowd is to avoid them or run away, we might be trained in crowd control and so we actually confront our fears and engage the unruly crowd.  In the first instance, our fear is unmanaged; in the second, it is managed.

Why do we run away from God?  Why do we deny Him?  Why do we hide from Him?  Why, having accepted Christ as our Lord and Savior, do we not fully exercise the gifts of the Holy Spirit and engage our friends and neighbors with the truth of the gospel?  Some would say that it is our pride and our arrogance, believing that there is no God or, even if we admit that there may be a God, believing that we don’t need Him.  I think the closer answer might be because we have either an unhealthy fear of Him or a fear of having to confront ourselves if what He says is true.  We first fear to know God and, when we finally bypass that fear to learn about Him, we then fear Jesus.  Once we bypass our fear of Jesus and come to know Him, we then fear the Holy Spirit and His effect on our lives.  When we fear God in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.  When we fear Jesus Christ in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.  When we fear the Holy Spirit in this unhealthy way, we wall Him off.

But this Psalm tells us to fear God first and then good things will happen.  The reason is simply that, in order to have a proper understanding of God, we need to recognize that He is not a teddy bear, He is not a clown, He is not our best friend, He is not our equal … He is holy, He is righteous, He is wrathful, He is judge, jury, and executioner, He is all-powerful, He is full of awe-inspiring wonder, He is above all things, He is creator of all things, He is Lord of all things, He is perfect – He is not us; He is God.  Knowing that God is all these things, the only proper place to be is on the ground, face down and covered, hoping that He does not burn us up and throw us into the fires of Hell where, but for His mercy, we belong.

This fear which comes from knowing our place in the world and from knowing God is a healthy fear.  It puts us in the right place, knowing that in all things we did not go to Him; He came to us.

But from that healthy fear, that knowledge that when we are in His presence we are in the presence of God Almighty and not God-of-man’s-invention, we are now ready to listen (to hear God’s instruction “in the way that [we] should choose.”  From that healthy fear, our souls will “abide in well-being” because we know that the God who has saved our souls and who protects our souls is able to deliver our souls into eternal life.  From that healthy fear, we know that God can and will deliver on every one of His promises.

And from a position of healthy fear of the Lord, we shall have the “friendship of the Lord.”  The word “friendship” here actually means a couch, a pillow, a place for a conversation or a consultation.   And, indeed, when we have a healthy fear of the Lord, we are ready to meet Him in prayer, in meditation, in His Scripture, whenever we are ready and He chooses.  In this conversation, with a healthy fear we understand that it is not a conversation among equals, but between master and slave, God and man, Savior and saved, Teacher and disciple.  It is when we have fear of the Lord that we are ready to speak to Him boldly, not because we are equal but because He has given us permission.  It is when we have fear of the Lord that we are ready to grow up.

The phrase “Have no fear” does not mean what it says.  Fear is a good thing and it will lead us to eternal life.  Better it is said “Have no unhealthy fear … and prosper.”

_________

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

 

Bread – Poverty

June 8, 2016


Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.”  Ps. 23:1

In our Declaration of Independence, three things are stated that man should strive for without the interference of king government:  life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

At our deepest level, aren’t those the things we most strive for in life – life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

What is the fullness of life?  Satisfaction of basic needs, like water, food, a dry place to sleep, a safe place to work and sleep, a way to get around (transportation)?  Or is it something more than that, the building of family and friends, good relationships with others, and perhaps doing something which leaves the world a little better than we found it?

What is the best evidence of liberty?  Freedom from fear, limitless opportunity for growth, power to act independently exercised in moderate ways, the ability to be in or out of community as best suits our temperament, the strength of mind and body to be able to say both yes and no as appropriate, courage to be alone and courage to be with others?

What evidence exists when we are able to pursue happiness?  Probably both life and liberty, because with both we are able then to chase after our dreams and grab hold of what builds us up and reject what tears us down.

“I shall not want.”  I shall not want for life, I shall not want for liberty, and I shall not want in my ability to pursue happiness.

When the Lord is my shepherd, my Lord who guides me, guards me, and guarantees my place in the flock, I shall not want for life, I shall not want for liberty, and I shall not want in my quest for happiness.  When He is not my shepherd, I will have wants in all these areas.  In Christ there are riches overflowing.  In the world there is poverty of life, liberty, and the ability to pursue happiness.

You notice that I have mentioned poverty in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, but I have not mentioned poverty of things.

There is a reason for this.  If we follow the world’s ways, we will chase after gods of gold, power, and position, and we may be poor in these things or we may be rich in them.  But even if we have no poverty of things, we will want for the things that matter.  If we chase after the world, we will have poverty of life, of liberty, and of the pursuit of happiness.  The reason is simple … when we chase after things, after the ways of the world, we chase after slavery.  We cannot give of our wealth if we need our wealth to buy more things.  We cannot have relationships if we are bound up in business making more money.  We cannot have liberty if we must forever tend to the wheel of commerce to make sure that our things do not disappear.  We have no time to pursue happiness if we must instead use our time to gather more things.

When you are bound to Jesus, when He is your shepherd, you are subject to His authority, to His commands, to His guidance, to His way, to His rules, and, most importantly, to His love, protection, peace, mercy, and life.  And yet, as sheep, when we follow the Master we have the freedom to live, knowing that He will take us where we need to go to take care of our needs (“He leads beside still waters.”), knowing that we have the liberty to wander off because He knows where we are and will find us and will save us from ourselves, and knowing that pursuing Him first is pursuing happiness.

Do you suffer from poverty of spirit, of hope, of conviction, of life, of relationships, of growth, of love?   Then say (and mean it) that the Lord is my shepherd.  And when you do, the rest of the sentence will follow – “therefore, I shall not want.”

_________

© 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.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Bonds

January 13, 2016


Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves … against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”  Ps. 2:1-3

What “bonds” are they talking about?  Why do the rulers of the people, the ones who are ordained by God to execute justice and rule honestly in the land, want to throw off “their bonds” (the “their” referring to the Lord and His Anointed)?

There are four kinds of bonds which I think the writer has in mind.  The first are the bonds of rules and regulations (the Law).  As Jews in the Old Testament, they were bound to follow the Law and in fact invented broader, deeper, and more detailed laws than God dictated.

The second kind of bonds are the bonds of relationship.  We live in a covenant relationship with God, where He has shown love to us by His death on the cross and His payment of our debt of sin, and in turn we have promised obedience.  This obedience though is not to a set of rules and regulations, but a set of the requirements of love in a relationship – love of the Father, love of our neighbor, love for the lost.  When we get married we make a covenant with our spouse, and everyone who is married understands the bonds of relationship.

The third kind of bonds are the bonds of society, or the rules of civility, of tolerance, of kindness.  Sometimes these are rooted in the bonds of the law and sometimes in the bonds of relationship, but I think that society itself places its own bonds upon us.  These may show up in rules and regulations, but most often they show up in phrases like “out of date,” “out of touch,” “un-stylish,” etc.  These are the bonds created by society to make us look like we belong.

The fourth kind of bonds are the bonds of the past and the future.  We may feel like we are shackled by our past, but if one believes prophecy, then to a certain extent we are subject to the bonds of God’s plan for us and for the world.  We are bound to the end times, whether we witness them or not.

So when the rulers want to cast away “their bonds,” they are essentially saying to God, “I want to cast away Your Law, Your Relationship with me, Your relationship in the community of the saints, and Your Future.

When the rulers do that, it is so that they can run their own game.  When the rulers cast off the Law of God, what do they have left?  The tyranny of man, unmoored from standards, morality, truth, integrity, honor.

When the rulers cast off the Presence of God, the Relationship with God, what do they have left?  Hopelessness because death is the only end.  A hole in their heart originally filled by God.  Lovelessness, hatred, anger, bitterness, anxiety, loss, depression.

When the rulers cast off God’s community, what do they have left?  “Friends” borne of convenience, treachery, isolation, withdrawal, bitterness.  Lack of accountability for anything they do or say.

When the rulers cast off God’s future, what do they have left?  The future they create?  Barns filled with treasures stolen from others (or maybe earned, doesn’t matter), all of which is left behind at death.  No future.

What do you get when the rulers cast off ‘their bonds.”  The rise of man as boss, tyrant, murderer, and thief.  Unlovable and unloved.  Chaos.  Anarchy.  Death.  Destruction.  Disaster.

We as Americans have spent the last hundred years acting as the rulers who are busy “bursting their bonds.”  Has it bought us more freedom?  No.  Has it bought us more happiness?  No.  Has it brought us more riches of the eternal kind?  No.  Has it made us a more civil society?  No.  Has it made us love more?  No.  Has it helped our neighbor (if we even know who that is)?  No.

And God laughs and we suffer.  But there is a way to end the suffering.  There is a way to recovery.  Jesus says “Take My yoke (My bonds) upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke (My bonds) is (are) easy, and My burden (My bonds) is (are) light.”  Matt. 11:29-30

Embrace the bonds imposed by God and you will free and alive.  Burst the bonds of God and you will be both dead and miserable.   Our choice every day, and we will either suffer or rejoice in the consequences.

__________

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

 

Bread – Sense

January 26, 2015


Readings for Monday, January 26, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 48:1-11; Gal. 1:1-17; Mark 5:21-43; Psalms 41,44,52

—————————————-

From today’s reading in Mark: “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment….and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Mk. 5:27-29

We are familiar with the five senses of the body – touch, smell, taste, hearing, seeing.

We are also familiar with something called the sixth sense, having to do with our mind telling us that something is wrong although none of our other senses are picking up anything.

I would like to propose a seventh sense – a soul sense. This is the sense that is attuned to God, that lets us know when we are receiving His pleasure and when we have wandered afar from His presence. I propose that it was this seventh sense which is present in our reading today – “she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.”

What was her disease? Well, the Bible describes it as uncontrolled bleeding for twelve years. And in one sense a disease is the body not behaving the way it should because it has been thrown off the mark by virus or bacteria, by imbalance in exercise or caloric intake, by some part of the body refusing to work the way it is designed.

But in another sense, disease goes to everything which causes us not to rest. When we are resting, we are at ease. When “ease” is “dissed,” we get dis-ease. Sin is disease and it causes dis-ease. Sin shows up in our bodies as disease which can be cured by medicine, but sin also shows up in our seventh sense, our soul sense, as dis-ease, which cannot be healed by medicine. The dis-ease of the soul which causes the soul sense to behave poorly (showing itself in depression, anxiety, worry, anger, covetousness, jealousy, etc.) can only be healed in one way. You must touch the Master.

That’s it. It is just that simple. First you must hear the story of Jesus, which is the proclamation of the good news by all Christians whose soul sense is working in a positive direction. Second, you must seek Jesus and find Him. But, just like the woman in the story, she did not have to go far because He was right there, walking in front of her. Third, in faith, the same faith which drove you to find Jesus, must cause you to reach out to touch Him. The dis-ease of the soul sense is not cured by thinking about Jesus and it is not cured by reading about Jesus, it is healed by touching Him and, so doing, knowing Him. Instantly, at that point, the soul sense is set on the right path, its compass true.

Does the soul sense often send out warning signals. Of course it does. As we float farther away from the light of the world, our world gets darker. Our soul sense throws off warning signs and dis-ease. If not attended to, the dis-ease will reflect itself in bodily disease and the other senses will start becoming aware of the problem. They may not be able to identify the problem, but they know it is there.

If you are attentive to your soul sense, you know what you need to pray for. The soul sense reminds us daily to surrender to our Christ, to listen to Him, and to follow Him. The soul sense is at peace when you are properly aligned with the author of peace. The soul sense is quiet when you take up your rest under the shelter of the Most High.

Do you feel today that something is wrong, but you don’t know what it is? Maybe it is your soul sense sending you a message, telling you to re-attach to the vine, to reach out to the Lord in prayer, to be still and to know that Jesus is Lord. Of course, some people might just blow it off by saying it is something you had for breakfast which upset your stomach. And if that is what they have been blinded to see, then that is all that they will see.

But you, beloved of the Lord, saved by grace, strengthened in the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom from the Lord, know better. You know that sense of dis-ease arises from your fundamental disobedience to the One who made you. You know that your dis-ease is warning you of sin crouching at the door of your life.

So, when we hear our soul sense telling us something is awry, what is our reaction? Is it to ignore it until our life falls apart? For many that is often the case. Is it to suppress it with worldly wisdom of causation, so that the sense of wrongness is subordinated to the “I would feel better if I ate better” worldly wisdom?

Or is it to embrace the message from the soul sense to return home, to return to the vine, to return to God?

It is Monday, so it is a time to take stock of what we are going to be doing for the rest of the week. What about committing to feed our soul sense by having, this week, a strong relationship with the Master. What about praying instead of reading about prayer? What about telling people about Christ rather than reading about evangelism?

What about just taking the time to touch Jesus? The woman did and she was healed from top to bottom. We can too and in the process remove the dis-ease from our soul sense and begin improving our life.

Does this make sense, soul sense? If so, then let’s do it.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Relationships

September 8, 2014


Readings for Monday, September 8, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 32:1-10, 19-33:1, 19-28; Acts 13:44-52; John 10:19-30; Psalms 41,44,52

—————————————-

There are many relationships in the world. Some are defined by family: father-son, uncle-niece, grandmother-grandson, etc. Some are defined by economics or employment: boss-worker, president-vice president, director-officer, shareholder-director. Some are defined by politics: king-subject, office holder-citizen, senator-representative.

But these are roles. Most often when we talk about the word “relationship” we are not talking about a positional relationship but a “personal” relationship. In that respect, the relationship is often characterized by adjectives – cold, friendly, loving, uncaring, close, separate, estranged, etc.

But one thing which is sort of built into the American mindset about every relationship is that we are equal, equal in rights, opportunity, and standing. Somebody may be our boss in a particular circumstance, but otherwise we are the same. Each person is worthy. Each person’s opinion should be respected. Each person should be listened to. Each person should be treated fairly.

This is not the mindset of much of the world. In much of the world there is in operation something like a caste system, where you are born (created) into a particular position in life. This position defines your relationship and you may not get out of the position because you can’t. You were born into it and therefore, that is what you are. People are, in this relationship system, necessarily unequal because they were born into their categories unequally.

Thus, in feudal times, you were born into royalty or common. That was it. As royalty, you could be king. As common, you could be a serf. Unless there was a revolution, defining a new category of royalty, the serfs and the royalty did not eat together, they did not go to church together, they did not participate in the economic system in the same way. Their relationship was fundamentally unequal. Slavery represented another caste system. Islam’s treatment of women is another caste system.

Because we see relationships as free and equal, in spite of temporary role changes, there is a fundamental flaw in our relationship with God. When we talk about having a relationship with God, we think of it automatically as an equal relationship. God and I can get along because we are equal. God and I can talk to each other because we are equal. God will answer my prayers because we are equal. God and I are friends. God and I dialogue, communicate, participate, and work together for the kingdom. In fact, God looks to me to help Him build the kingdom because we are partners. God and I walk hand in hand. I choose God because He chose me.

These are our words … and they were Job’s words … and they were (and are) the wrong words.

Job’s friend Elihu says it simply but correctly in today’s reading – “The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life…God is greater than man.” Job 33:4,12

In the relationship between man and God, there is a caste system. There is God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) and then there is us. We are not God and He is not us. We are reflections of Him, but we are not Him.

If we are not equal to God, then what is our right relationship to Him? The entire Bible addresses this question. Are we family? Yes, but as adopted children through the sovereign work of God, we are not equal to God. We may speak boldly, but we must bow our head and bend our knee to His Kingship over us. Are we slaves? Yes, but as slaves in Jesus we bear a light yoke and have freedom well beyond that which we have following our own dictates. But in spite of our freedom, we are slave and He is master. Are we friends? Jesus calls us friends but, in our position vis a vis God, does that give us the right to call Him friend? To ask this question another way, if Jesus chooses to give us the best seat in the house at dinner, does that mean that we are entitled to the best seat in the house? Do we have any right to take God’s Word and place our interpretation on it? Can we subject God to our opinion, or must we conform our opinion to God’s truth?

Just because we are equal to each other as people does not mean that we are equal to God.

Our natural tendency to treat God as our equal will demonstrate itself in our interpretation of today’s reading in John – “…you do not believe because you are not part of My flock. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” John 10:26-30.

Now, reading that text, what does the phrase “My Father … has given them to Me” mean? Is there any element of man’s choice in that statement? Any element of man’s free will?

The answer to that question will say a lot about how you view your relationship with God. If your relationship with God is built upon equality, then your free choice becomes an essential element of the salvation transaction. If your relationship with God is built upon His sovereignty, His kingship, His glory, His power, and His work on the cross, then the caste-chasm has been breached, not by our choice, but by God’s.

So, what is your relationship with God? Is it based on position? Is it based upon choice? Is it based upon God’s sovereign work in your life? Want the answer? Read Job.

____________

© 2014 GBF

%d bloggers like this: