Bread – Wilderness

June 7, 2017


Psalm 68

O God, when You went out before Your people, when You marched through the wilderness,  Selah…” Ps. 68:7

The word “Selah” appears from time to time in the Psalms as a way of saying, “stop, pay attention, meditate on what you just read.”

What is interesting here is that the word “Selah” follows a sentence fragment. I actually appears right after the comma.  Therefore, we stop and think about what we just read.

There are two parts to this sentence fragment which stand out to me.  One is the word “wilderness.”  The other is the word “when.”

Who reading this has not been in a wilderness of their lives?  A long time ago, when I was much younger, I backpacked in the Weminuche  Wilderness of Colorado.   And I really tried hard, too.  I was carrying a 70 pound backpack, trying to climb up the trail of scree rock, sliding one or two steps back for every two or three steps forward, up a steep incline, with no one to help (I was very slow compared to my companions).  I was hot, tired, thirsty (even though I brought plenty of water) and extremely aggravated.  My legs and feet were killing me.   I wondered why I even started the journey.

This physical experience is similar to the emotional and psychological experiences we go through as we try to navigate life, raise a family, make money, and plan for the future.  We carry our burdens on our back, whether it addiction, anger, fear, worry, disappointment, depression, and a bunch of other maladies.  It seems like we are always on slippery stones, sliding backwards more often than going forward.  We feel like we are always going uphill.  We get tired.  We get hungry and thirsty.  We long for a better life, and sometimes we even wonder why we started the fool trip to begin with.  Finally, we feel like we are all alone on this fight for life.  Although we may claim a relationship with God, when we are in the wilderness of life He sometimes seems to have abandoned us too.

The second word is “when.”  “When You went out before Your people.”  “When You marched through the wilderness.”

Not “if,” but “when.”  Concrete in reality; provable in the events of history.  A real presence in a real time of need.  The “You” is God, not me.  “When God went out before His people.”

In the Old Testament, God led His people Israel through the wilderness into the promised land.  Today, for those brought by God into His sheepfold, He goes out before us into and through the wildernesses of life to bring us to victory.

We will not be able to avoid the wildernesses of life.  To think we can is to fail to understand that our broken world which creates such wildernesses is our fault, due to our rebellion against God and our sinful state.  But, while we are in those wildernesses, we can remember “when God.”   And realize that the same God that led Israel is the same God who leads us.  He goes out before us.  He marches through the wilderness with us.

One of the interesting things about my wilderness hike I now remember is that I was always looking down, trying to make sure I was planting my feet on solid ground so that I would not slide backwards.  But to find God, I cannot look at my feet but must look at Him.  And when I looked up from my feet and looked around, I saw not the rocks but the mountain flowers, the streams of water off the mountain, the mountain itself, and the sky.

The nature of wildernesses is that we are inclined to look down.  God is the God of “when.”  So can we see Him?  To do that, we need to look up. And when we do, we see Him.  And we trust.  And, as any good hiker will tell you, when we trust we will find that that mountain can be climbed, the danger can be overcome, and the wilderness will become a place of joy rather than a place of burden.

Think about it.  Selah.

________

© 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 – Power

September 2, 2016


Psalm 33

The king is not saved by his great army; a warrior is not delivered by his great strength.  The war horse is a false hope for salvation, and by its might it cannot rescue.  Behold, the eye of the Lord is on those who fear Him, on those who hope in His steadfast love, that He may deliver their soul from death and keep them alive in famine.  Our soul waits for the Lord; He is our help and our shield.”  Ps. 33:16-20

Where is power located?  Where can it be found?

When I was getting my Masters of Business Administration, I took a course in power (of course, it wasn’t called that – it was called leadership).  We talked about a lot of things and looked at a number of psychological studies.  These showed things like how to arrange furniture to project power, where to stand, how to talk, etc.  We talked about technical power which comes from knowledge – engineers who know what they are doing have technical power because people absolutely rely on them to do things well so that bridges do not fall down, generators work, etc.  We talked about positional power, where a person’s power comes from the position they occupy, like a president has more positional power than does the bookkeeper; however, we learned that positional power is tricky, because the assistant who controls access to the president may have more positional power than even the president in some organizations.  Then we talked about situational power, where power is essentially derived from the group of people you are working with (where they voluntarily surrender power to you).  And we also talked about personal power, which arises from force of personality, drive, vision, charisma, and the such like.  I am sure new names have been attached to these and other similar concepts, but you get the drift.

But, in that entire course, we never talked about what David is talking about, the source of real power, God.

When we are in trouble, what do we fall back on?  Do we fall back on our great wealth, our family, our friends, our position, our intelligence, our native abilities, our talents, our knowledge?  To the extent we fall back on these things, and all of us do, we are demonstrating that we believe that real power comes from us or our surroundings or others somehow.  If only we could tap into the power source of self-awareness, self-assurance, or self-reliance, then we can dig our way out.  Of course, the operative word here is “self.”  When we fall back on ourselves or others, we have fallen into the arms of the world to give us the power we need to be saved, to survive the famine.

But David says that “All the king’s horses and all the king’s men … don’t hold a candle to the living God.” (or something like that)

The king is not saved by the king’s power nor his kingdom’s power; He is saved by the strong arm of the Lord and His kingdom’s power.

Where do you truly believe real power comes from?  Does it come from the sources we have been taught, or does it come from the Source which has been revealed to us by the Word written and the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ?

No doubt about it, there is a battle afoot.  There is a war.  It is the battle for ideas, the battle for resources, the battle for territory, the battle for position, the battle for truth, the battle for our families, the battle for our country, and the actual wars which grow out of these battles.  We cannot escape them.  They are here and we are players.

The question is, what kind of players are we?  Are we the players who plot and scheme and lead the charge (or follow the leader), who rely on ourselves and our fellow man and their resources, or are we players who are citizens of a different world, who know where real power lays, who rest in the knowledge that Jesus Christ, Father, and Holy Spirit are “our help and our shield?”

The time for testing is coming.  In whose army shall we fight?

_________

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

Bread – Jail

April 5, 2013


Readings for Friday, April 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 12:1-4,13; Acts 4:1-12; John 16:1-15; Psalms 118,136

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Jail time is facing Christians. “What?,” the average Christian responds, how can this be. We are comfortable in our churches, in our routines, in our Bible studies, in our position as favored (since Constantine) in Western civilization. Of course we read about Christians being attacked by Muslims and other religious groups around the country, as well as the scientific establishment which adheres to its own religion, but what has that to do with us in the United States, in Texas, in Dallas, or wherever we are reading this?

Jail time is facing Christians because that is what Scripture warns us about and Scripture is either true or it is not.

In today’s Old Testament reading from Daniel, we read: “At that time …there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time.” Dan. 12:1b

In today’s New Testament reading from Acts, we read: “As they [Peter and the disciples] were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they arrested them and put them in custody until the next day…” Acts 4:1-3

In today’s Gospel reading from John, we read: [and Jesus said] “…They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father, nor me.” Jn. 16:2-4

So the temporal destiny of Christians is expulsion from the “PC (politically correct) church,” jail, persecution and for some, death.

This would be awful but for the hope that we have in Christ. And what is that hope? Well, the same passages which I have just quoted go on to describe it:

In today’s Old Testament reading from Daniel, we further read: “But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone whose name shall be found written in the book…But go your way till the end. And you shall rest and shall stand in your allotted place at the end of the days.” Dan. 1c,13.

In today’s New Testament readings Acts, we further read: [and Peter said] “…let it be known to all of you and to the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead – by Him this man is standing before you well. This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:10-12

In today’s Gospel reading from John, we further read: [Jesus said] “I have said these things to you to keep you from falling away…But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember all that I told them to you….When the Spirit of truth comes, He will guide you into all truth,..” Jn. 16:1,4,13

We have hope because we know the prophecies fulfilled in Jesus Christ empowered by the Holy Spirit. We have hope because temporal jail time was predicted, because we know as followers of Christ our eternal destiny is that we shall be delivered because our name is written in the book by Jesus Christ, the only name by which one may be saved from eternal jail, and because the Holy Spirit guides and supports us.

God help us that, when we have our “Peter” time, when we are confronted by people who hate the Word and are arrested and put our trial for our faith in our King, we will do like Peter, look the rulers in the eye, and say – “Jail, Schmail – We know Jesus, do you want to know Him too?”

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© 2013 GBF

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