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.

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

 

 

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Bread – Visions

December 24, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, December 24, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 35:1-10, 59:15b-21; Rev. 22:12-17, 21; Phil. 2:5-11; Luke 1:67-80; Psalms 45,46,89:1-29

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In today’s readings, we swirl around a combination of images of existing reality and visions of future reality. Both convey the meaning of Christmas, the welcoming of Christ the King as incarnate among men as man, with an eye to His coming to earth in history and His coming to earth in the future — the “magic” of the season, grounded in past and present reality and future promise.

Rather than comment on Scripture on this day of expectation, let me let God through His Word speak Himself:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad … They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy….

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness….the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads …” Isa. 35:1-10 (part)

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’Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’…

‘I, Jesus, …am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’

 

…And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires to take the water of life without price.”

He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” Rev. 22:12,16-17, 20

Our reading from Revelation today ends a particular way and so, then, so do I: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Rev. 22:20b-21

 

I would change this one little way and this is my prayer for us this Christmas: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all. Amen.”

Merry Christmas!

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Bread is sent to those people who have asked that it be sent to them, and maybe it has been forwarded to you by a friend. If you are not on my mailing list and wish to be, please e-mail me at flintg@verizon.net. I also know that many things fill your inbox and, if you would like to be taken off the list, please e-mail me and your request will be promptly honored. © 2014 GBF

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This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog: https://1bread.wordpress.com

Bread – Vistas

July 11, 2014


Readings for Friday, July 11, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 31:7-13,24-32:4; Rom. 10:1-13; Matt. 24:15-31; Psalms 16,17,22

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A great word typically only used in travel magazines is “vistas.” A vista is a majestic view, describing a broad geography, generally involving many colors and textures. It is an amazing sight.

One of the great vistas I love to both see and imagine is a great mountain chain, where one mountain is larger than the first, even if it more distant. We know that things which are farther away from us are smaller; therefore, when the thing farther away is bigger than the thing which is closer, we know that it is really big. When we see the mountain close, with the mountain middle rising above and behind it, with the mountain farthest rising above the previous two, shrouded in mists, we know we are looking at a major mountain.

Christianity has vistas too. In today’s readings, we see the big mountain of God’s saving grace freeing the Israelites from their Egyptian imprisonment, the bigger mountain of God giving Israel the law (Deuteronomy), the very big mountain of Christ’s sacrifice for us and His satisfaction of God’s required sacrifice for atonement of our sin so that by belief in Him we might be saved (Romans), and the biggest mountain of the end times, where the abomination of desolation appears, ushering in the tribulation which “for the sake of the elect will be cut short.” (Matthew) Unspoken in these passages but dominant throughout Scripture is the biggest, biggest vista of them all, eternity with God for those who believe in Jesus.

For those of us who have climbed mountains, we know something about vistas. One is that to really see them, one has to step back and look up. We cannot see the grandeur of vistas without stopping our daily grind and looking up from our feet toward heaven. The second is that, to get to the largest mountain (the one in the far back, shrouded in mist), we have to begin with the first mountain and go through and over it to get to the next one, etc.

And really, isn’t that what the Christian life is? It begins with even realizing that the vista is there, which is the sovereign work of God in our lives. It begins with our recognition that we are imprisoned and that we need someone with the key. It continues with our following God into the wilderness of life. It continues by our taking God’s standards for our lives (the law) and slowly but surely realizing that there is no way we can work our way into heaven, because all fail to perfectly follow the law, all are sinful, all fall short. The law and our inability to obey it so that God is pleased drives us again to contemplate our sin and the need of someone to save us. We then, with the grace of God and in His sovereign will for our lives, are confronted with Jesus and place our trust in Him, believing in Him with our hearts and confessing Him with our mouths. We then vaguely see the end times, recognizing God’s coming judgment upon us and the world. Finally, we hope in the eternal life with God, which is so wonderful that no English words can express it.

“I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.” Ps. 121:1-2

Great way to end the week, isn’t it?

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Remember

November 11, 2013


Readings for Monday, November 11, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Neh. 9:1-25; Rev. 18:1-8; Matt. 15:1-20; Psalms 77,79,80

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Our reading from Nehemiah today is part of a speech given by the priests to the people. In it, the priest recalls (remembers) the history of God’s involvement with them. It is an amazing speech because it recalls not only who God’s people are but who He is.

We are sometimes so forward looking and present-attended that we fail to remember who we are in God’s eyes, what He has done for us, and who He is.

As you read this excerpt, ask yourself what rivers God has helped you cross, what wilderness He has led you in and out of, what food He has provided to you, what living water He has given you, what protection He has afforded you, what blessings He has given you, what miracles He has performed in your presence, what good rules for living He has set forth for our benefit, and what obedience and worship you have returned:

You are the Lord, You alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships You. You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram … You found his heart faithful before You…And You have kept Your promise, for You are righteous. And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt … and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh … And You divided the sea before them…You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments…You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock…But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey Your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them…But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf … and committed great blasphemies, You in Your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness…You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold You manna from their mouth…Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” Neh. 9:6-21

God has brought us out of slavery and not abandoned us in the wilderness of our own making. He has given us His good rules for living. He has given us His “good Spirit” to counsel us. And He has given us Himself on the cross as a permanent sacrifice for our disobedience, our sin. He preserves us and He preserves the world we live in.

Remember these things.

Thanks be to God!

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© 2013 GBF

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

Bread – Rewrite

December 24, 2010


Readings for Friday, December 24, designated by the Book of Common Prayer:  Isa. 35:1-10; Rev. 22:12-17, 21; Luke 1:67-80; Psalms 45, 46

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I debated whether to merely quote Isaiah this morning and let it stand on its own, but I decided instead to rewrite it. The “I” can stand for you or me – you substitute whatever word for “I” you want. The rewrite is:

I, who at times have been in the desert in my life and places called parched, am glad.

I, who at times have been lost in the wilderness, rejoice and will blossom.

I, who have feeble hands and knees which buckle under pressure; I who am fearful – the Lord says to me “Be strong, do not fear, I am here.”

My God comes to defend me; indeed, He is here already.

I, who was and can be blind, have had my eyes opened by the power of my God.

I, who was and can be deaf, have had my ears unstopped by the power of my God.

I am lame, but through God who strengthens me I can leap like a deer.

I, whose tongue was sealed shut because of my unclean lips, can shout for joy.

In the wilderness of my life, I can drink from gushing waters and bubbling springs.

Where my house use to be barren of life, good things can now grow.

God has revealed to me a path – it is called the Way of Holiness.

Only those whom God has delivered through the blood of Jesus Christ may walk on that path.

On that path, there is nothing which can destroy me, there is no ferocious beast who can devour me.

On that path, I will meet the redeemed.

On that path, I will enter into Zion in the congregation of singers.

Everlasting joy crowns my head.

I am overtaken by gladness and joy.

Sorrow and sighing are no more.

Jesus says today “Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.” Rev. 22:17

Tomorrow, Christmas Day, we celebrate the appearance on earth of that free gift – the water of life, Jesus Christ, Son of God, Creator, Redeemer, King.

I rewrote Isaiah. God rewrote me. And He can rewrite you.

Holy Christmas!

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