Bread – High

April 26, 2017


Psalm 61

[God] Lead me to the rock that is higher than I, for You have been my refuge, a strong tower against the enemy.”  Ps. 61:2b-3

Over my life, I have been fortunate to be exposed to great adventure, perhaps none so strengthening of endurance and spirit than climbing mountains.  Sometimes the climbs were part of a week of backpacking and sometimes they were what is thrown into the concept of “day hikes,” but they all had one thing in common.  After a great deal of exertion and many moments when I wanted to stop and turn around and go back down the mountain, I reached the top or “summit.”  I was high up and from that vantage point, I felt like I could see forever.  Sometimes, depending upon the weather, I would actually be above the clouds.  Other than being wrapped in a commercial jet, that is the highest I have ever been.

 

But being high is relative in some sense.  My grandson is working with concepts and he is fond of pointing at my ceiling fan and saying “high.”  He is correct.  My ceiling is high compared to my floor, but not so high that I can’t lift him up and let him touch the fan.

There is a natural part of us which longs to climb higher and to touch the face of God (as stated in our armed forces commercial).  We want to be geographically, emotionally, and spiritually “high” and we will do what it takes to get there.

And built into all this is an assumption, and that is that, through careful planning, exercise, the right diet, building strength and endurance, and with the right equipment made by man, we can in fact climb to the summit, we can in fact reach God.  If we can reach the moon, then we can reach God.  Built into us as part of us being made in the image of God is the native knowledge that we find our pleasure in that high place, in communion with God.  Built into us as part of our sinful nature is the idea that we can do it, if only we try hard enough, study hard enough, plan smart enough, invent well enough, and desire it enough.

Notice that David in the Psalm does not speak of himself climbing to the rock or summiting the peak of the mountain.  There are two parts to his request and both are significant.

The first part is the request is that God “lead me to the rock…”  Unless God reveals truth to us and unless He empowers us with His Holy Spirit, we know neither where the rock is or how to get to it.  God goes ahead so that we may follow.  God reveals Himself (who is the Rock) so that we may hold tight to the summit of life, a right relationship with Him because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and ascension.

But the second part of this request is critical to full appreciation of what is going on, because David says “…the rock that is higher than I [am]…”  When we reach God the Father in our relationship, in our prayers, in our study of His revelation in Scripture and His Son, we are not at the summit of the rock because the rock is “higher than I.”  The reason is simple.  God is sovereign and He is king.  He is higher than we are and always will be.

We may climb far in our relationship with God and we may in fact reach a plateau of self-satisfaction about our holiness.  We may in fact believe that we are at the summit of wisdom, of peace, of prosperity, of life.  But we are not.  When God has brought us to the rock which is higher than ourselves, there is a simple truth.  It is higher than us.  And at that point, two things should come to mind.  The first is that we should recognize that God is God and we are not.  The second is that we should be eternally grateful that He has brought us to that place, because we could never have gotten there on our own.

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

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Bread – Insides

September 12, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, September 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 29:1, 30:1-2,16-31; Acts 14:19-28; John 11:1-16; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In the reading from Job today, we find him focused on how his insides feel, and how hopeless his illness and difficulties are making him feel. He begins with “And now my sould is poured out within me; …” Job 30:16. How often have we felt like our soul, our inmost self, is just leaking away somewhere inside. Instead of being poured out in worship or in good deeds or in love, we sense that our soul is just leaking away into never-never land. Enthusiasm wanes, excitement dims, the light of our soul fades … and it is all poured out within us, making us empty and poor of spirit.

Job also discusses other parts of his insides. “The night racks my bones, and the pain that gnaws me takes no rest.” Job 30:17. Chronic pain in the neck, in the back, in the legs, in the arms, in muscles, sinew and bone. Chronic pain, the pain that gnaws me and takes no rest. Job describes it perfectly. And how I feel stiff in the morning, like my bones have been on a rack. Yes, Job’s insides are a mess, and I can identify with him. His insides don’t feel good; in fact they feel bad.

Job also discusses, indirectly, the problem with our insides (and our outsides) getting fat – Isn’t this the perfect description of the creeping clothes’ sizes: “With great force my garment is disfigured; it binds me about like the collar of my tunic.” Job 30:18. My insides have gotten so big my clothes just don’t fit!

And all this leads to turmoil on the inside, in our soul, our mind, and our heart. Again, hear the words of Job – “My inward parts are in turmoil and never still; days of affliction come to meet me. I go about darkened, but not by the sun…” Job 30:27-28a It is the insides which are messed up. It is the insides which are all mixed up. It is the insides which are dark. We are ill prepared for the external afflictions because our insides are not right.

And when our insides are in disarray and in darkness, there is not help from others. As Job points out, while he is feeling this way he notes that he is related to “jackals” (people who will pick on him to get the last morsel of life) and is a friend of “ostriches” (people who stick their head in the sand). When Job’s insides are in turmoil, his perspective of the outside world is that no one cares and no one, including God, is willing to do anything except make matters worse. We know this is not the case, but our insides have such an influence on our view of reality, when our insides are messed up we can see or hear nothing clearly.

It is the state of our insides which affect our outsides. It is the state of our insides which will determine our outsides.

In John today, Lazarus has died and been buried in the tomb for four days. In translation, this means that he was truly dead. Jesus restores him to life, saying these words which transform the world: “I [Jesus] am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:25-26.

When Job was miserable, he was examining his insides from his perspective. When Job had hope, he was examining Jesus (“I know my Redeemer lives”) from inside out. When Job had wisdom and peace, he was living in God and looking at his insides through Jesus’ lenses.

We can remain inwardly focused and be overwhelmed with our insides, our internal afflictions. We can turn outwardly focused and see the Savior. We can “live [in Me] and believe in Me [Jesus]” and be healed of death of the soul. Our soul looks all messed up through our eyes, just as it looked messed up through Job’s. When we live in Jesus, abiding in the vine, we can look through Jesus’ eyes, past our present circumstances, and into eternal life.

How do we get from point A, where we are mired in ourselves, to point B, where we celebrate freedom from death? We must answer the question which Jesus posed – “Do you believe this?” Do you believe Jesus is the resurrection and the life? Do you believe that, if you live and believe in Him, you will never die?” Do you believe in Jesus? If so, let His power deal with your insides while you live in Him. He can and He will.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Me

April 9, 2012


Readings for Monday, April 9, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 12:14-27; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8; Psalms 66, 93, 98

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“”But by the grace of God I am what I am…” 1 Cor. 15:10. So says Paul about himself.

The context of this statement is Paul’s recounting to the Corinthians his passage from persecutor of the Church to apostle for Jesus Christ, from radical disbelief in the person, position, and power of Jesus Christ to radical belief in Him, from hatred to love, from worldly power and position to spiritual power and position. After he notes that he has been made an apostle by the appearance of Jesus to him and was unworthy for the position, he notes, however, that “but for the grace of God I am what I am.”

I have called this Bread “Me” not because it is about me, the writer, but because it is about us as individual pilgrims. Each of us who would claim victory in the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the “Me” today.

Can we say to ourselves in the mirror that “By the grace of God I am what I am…?” If so, why do we dwell so much on our worries, our self-doubts, our poor circumstances, our seeming ineffectiveness, our unattractiveness, etcetera?

If I am what I am by the grace of God, then who I am and am becoming, what I am and am becoming, and how I am and am becoming are a gift from God. My position in life is by the grace of God. My marriage or singleness, my children (if any), my job or joblessness, my situation no matter how pleasant or desperate is who I am, by the grace of God.

How can we say this in the face of misery, in the face of trouble, in the face of calamity, in the face of hatred, in the face of opposition, in the face of lovelessness, in the face of poverty? To say that I am what I am by the grace of God appears to sometimes be the height of foolishness. In our most trying moments we almost want to say that, if I am what I am by the grace of God, then God turn off the grace so I can be someone else.

We can say what Paul said in the worse of circumstances because when we have Jesus Christ as our Lord we have treasure far exceeding our misery, joy which knows no bounds, love which never ends, the power of God in all circumstances.

There is a second aspect to this, as well, however. By the grace of God I am what I am but also by the grace of God I am not who I am becoming. Immediately following Paul’s statement that he is what he is by the grace of God, he then says “I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.” 1 Cor. 15:10b The grace of God makes me who I am, but the grace of God working hard within me makes me who I am becoming.

There are two tendencies on Monday morning. The first is to look in the mirror and be depressed. The second is to look in the mirror and smile.

Knowing that we are who we are by the grace of God, sustained by His power for good works, infused by God with the spirits of power, love, and self-discipline, which tendency do you think we will engage the Monday morning mirror with?

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