Bread – Gloating

June 14, 2017


Psalm 70

Make haste, O God, to deliver me!…Let them turn back because of their shame who say, “Aha, Aha!”  Ps. 70:1,3

“Gloating” is one of those words which is almost painful to say; saying it almost puts your teeth on edge.  It seems to form the mouth into an unnatural shape to utter the word “gloating.”

We may not say the word, but we do it all the time.  When someone has made a mistake and is paying the consequences of failure, aren’t we always ready with the “Didn’t I tell you that ….”  We are gloating in that instance, because we are standing in our superior position of knowledge, expertise, decision-making skill, wisdom, and just plain good sense.  And we are driving home the point just so the other person, who so desperately needs our help, will listen “next time.”

Or maybe we just won something, like a sports game.  We are all puffed up with pride at that very moment, gloating over our obvious superiority to the “also rans.”  Now you may not admit that you do this, because someone will call you “conceited,” so your public persona may be different, but in the silence of your bedroom or study you are saying to yourself…”Yes!”  That is gloating.

Now, in our reading today, the Psalmist David has obviously done something which is causing other people to stand around him and gloat, saying “Aha, Aha!”

And David does two things in response.  First, he calls those people shameful (“Let them turn back because of their shame.”).  Why is their behavior shameful?  I think the reason is captured in God’s command to us in Leviticus 19:18 (“…but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.”).  When we fail, do we gloat over ourselves?  No.  Then why should we gloat over the failings of other people?

But the second thing he does is call upon God’s help.

When we are dealing with the emotional baggage of someone else who is gloating over our failures or our bad choices, do we ask for God’s help in dealing with that person?  Before we respond to the gloater in anger or in retreat, do we listen to the Lord’s advice about loving them and about coming to Him first as the solution rather than last?

We will fail and, when we do, there will be some in the world who delight in our hurt, in our failure, and who say “Aha, look at him!”  The world tells us that there are two solutions to this, either respond in anger by telling them where they can go or respond in retreat, by accepting their criticism and slinking off to feel sorry for ourselves.  God tells us there is a third choice – come to Him.

Go to God for comfort.  Go to God for truth.  Go to God for healing.  Go to God for judgment.

When confronted with the laughter of the world, rather than retreat into ourselves or explode in reaction there is another place of safety, wisdom, and power.  Go to God.

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

 

 

Bread – Testing

June 27, 2016


Psalm 26

“Prove me, O Lord, and try me; test my heart and my mind.”  Ps. 26:2

This is a Monday and to begin the week is almost test enough without asking the Lord to step in and put me through my paces so that He can prove me to be His.

But are our weekly travails test enough?

Probably not, because these are the tests we live with on a daily basis, whereas perhaps the test of the Lord is one which we need to prepare for.

The test we know is coming is one which we prepare for.  If there is a final exam coming in a class, we will study for it (maybe waiting to the last minute, but we still will make a stab at advanced preparation).  Some people will begin preparing for the test at the very beginning of the course.  We know these people are wise, but we rarely do likewise.

Similarly, if we know that we have to pass a test of endurance, like climbing a mountain, we will begin to prepare for the test well in advance by doing long walks, using a treadmill which can create an incline to run up, wear heavy shoes and knapsack while we prepare so that we will be used to lifting heavy things and walking with them, and perhaps even taking some short trips to mountain-like areas to practice our ability to walk uphill.

But as Christians, do we really ever take the time or the effort to prepare for the test to come?  David the Psalmist invites the Lord to prove him, to test both his heart (his love) and his mind (his truth).   Are we ready to invite the Lord to do the same to us?

There will be a time of testing of our heart and mind by the Lord; we just don’t know when it will be.  Then, why aren’t we preparing?

Maybe we don’t prepare because we don’t care what kind of grade we get.  If we feel this way because we know we are saved by God’s grace, then do we not care because Jesus’ death on the cross for us was cheap?  Do we not care because we do not value the gift?  If so, then maybe we don’t understand the value of the gift or the price which was paid by the Giver.

Maybe we don’t care about the time of testing because, since we don’t know when it will be, there is no target.  If that is the case, we do not understand the immediacy of death; it may happen tomorrow but it can happen today.

Maybe we don’t care about our performance in the day of testing because we don’t care to impress God with how much we love Him, or maybe we don’t love Him at all – because don’t we go out of way to work hard to please those we love.   Do we really believe God honors sloth?

What am I going to do to get ready for the test?  The Psalmist suggests two things in the first verse, “…for I have walked in my integrity, and I have trusted in the Lord without wavering.”  Ps. 26:1  And he suggests two things in the third verse, “For Your steadfast love is before my eyes, and I walk in Your faithfulness.”  Ps. 26:3

If you think about it, whether we can walk in integrity, whether we can trust in the Lord without reservation or wavering, whether we are always cognizant of the Lord’s steadfast love, and whether we can walk in God’s faithfulness … that is both the preparation for the test and the test itself.

Out challenge for the rest of the day, the rest of this week, the rest of this year, and the rest of our lives is to take the test every day – act like Christians, believe like Christians, love like Christians, and hold onto God like Christians.

So that when we have run the race, the Teacher gives us our grade, saying “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

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

 

 

 

Bread – Tests

May 6, 2013


Readings for Monday, May 6, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27; Psalms 77,79,80

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The reading from James today begins this way – “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” James 1:2

I don’t know about you, but I have a very hard time equating “joy” to “tests” and “trials.” It seems to me that tests were always something we had to have in school to advance to the next level or to graduate, but they were never anything I was joyful about (except, of course, when finished). Trials are even worse; who has joy in trials?

And, yet, that is what God calls us to.

Now I thought of a way out of this dilemma – maybe “joy” doesn’t mean a good feeling, just an attitude, an orientation. So I looked it up. The word used by James for “joy” means to rejoice because you have received a gift from God. So it means both an action and an orientation – the act of rejoicing caused by or resulting in an attitude of joy. We get there by recognizing that our tests today, our trials today, are in fact gifts of God.

And, indeed, our reading from Deuteronomy emphasizes this – “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart…And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna … that He might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you…For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…” Deut. 8:2-7

Testing is a time of discipline; discipline is a sign of love. We are tested because the Lord loves us and has in mind for us a “good land,” a place we are going after having gone through the time of testing.

This is all easy to say but very hard to live when we are preparing for or taking the test. When we are in the middle of a trial, we are tired, depressed, worn out, at a loss for what to do, sad, confused, doubting, angry, and a bunch of other things all tied up into one. The Lord says to us – “Have joy in the test and during the test, rejoice because I Am and I care enough about you to discipline you.”

Rejoice because we see God’s blessing, purpose, and love in the trial we face, in the trial we are in. How can we do this?

We can do this only because the same God who tests is the same God who loves who is the same God who saves and who is the same God who, in His sovereignty and according to His purposes, has chosen to reveal Himself and His purposes to us. In our reading today from Luke, Christ ask the disciples who He is and Peter responds “The Christ of God.” Matthew reports something else that Jesus’ said – “Blessed are you, [Peter] for flesh and blood have not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Matt. 16:17 We can have joy in bad circumstances, in times of testing and trial, because we have wisdom about our circumstances when we ask God for such wisdom in faith that He will reveal it to us (“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God…and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith…” James 1:5-6).

Joy in trial; joy during the test. Rejoicing in our heart arising from Godly wisdom that our trial today, the test we are taking, is a blessing, a gift from God.

This is not natural; it is supernatural. This is not normal; this is supernormal. This is not the natural state of man; this is the new man created by God when he comes to faith in Jesus Christ. This is not the work of man; this is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Thus our tests are a double blessing. The first blessing is that the trial exists at all, that God so loves us that He disciplines us as a father would discipline a son. The second blessing is that we are given both the faith in Christ and the faith to ask for wisdom without doubting, so that we may have the wisdom to see the trial and the test for what it is.

Double blessing. Now isn’t that a reason for joy, for rejoicing, if there ever was one?

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© 2013 GBF

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