Bread – Fool

December 13, 2017


Psalm 92

The stupid man cannot know; the fool cannot understand this:  that though the wicked sprout like grass and all evildoers flourish, they are doomed to destruction forever…” Ps. 92:6-7

We may be highly intelligent and well-educated according to worldly standards, know many things, and yet understand little.  Understanding requires wisdom and wisdom comes from God.  As a result, we may know much, be wise according to the world and yet still be a fool according to God.

Because the word “fool” has such a negative connotation and we are in the season of Christmas, I resisted using the word in the title.  And yet this Psalm clearly hits the nail on the head.  The fool may know much, but he or she does not grasp that success in this world does not equate success for eternity, and that, while success in this world, according to this world, may reside in man’s hands, eternity resides in God’s.  One might say that the fool sees the truth (and is therefore not stupid) but does not understand the truth of what he sees.

An example of this from the physical sciences could be gravity.  Everyone for all time saw apples falling from trees (and therefore knows that apples fall from trees) but it took Newton to point out the reason (gravity).  And, even then, from a Christian perspective, even this leap in knowledge was just that, a process from being more stupid to less stupid.  It still did not impart wisdom as to who was behind the curtain, the Author/Creator of not only the apple and the tree and the person to observe both, but of the rule of gravitation (God) and the laws of nature as well.

But since I didn’t like the word “fool,” I went to look for the original Hebrew word or phrase so translated.  Not having that particular resource at my disposal, however, I came across the NASB (New American Standard Bible) translation, which actually to me better expresses the verses: “A senseless man has no knowledge; Nor does a stupid man understand this:  That when the wicked sprouted up like grass, and all who did iniquity flourished, it was only that they might be destroyed forevermore.”  Maybe “senseless” is a little less harsh than “fool.”

So, where do we go with this today?  I suggest we go to prayer – “Lord, as we go through the rest of the week, open our hearts and minds to Your wisdom.  Do not let us be the fool the Psalmist is talking about.  Help us to understand, help us to hear, help us to see, help us to love. And while the wicked perish, bring us every day deeper and deeper into relationship with You so that we may glimpse the glory which awaits us in eternity.  Amen.”

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

 

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Bread – Number

November 27, 2017


Psalm 90

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Ps. 90:12

I was in the car the other day with my grandson, who has learned to count to a hundred.  He counted to seventy and then asked me to count to forty as fast as I could.  I had gotten to twenty-one when he yelled out “times up!”  Of course, this was a game and he made up the rules, so I would always run out of time before I achieved the objective.

What are our objectives for today, this week, and the rest of this year (it now being November 27)?  Our time management experts would suggest that we take the time every day to review our mission and our goals and lay out achievable things to do which will help us achieve those objectives, checking them off as we go through our day buffeted by the winds of other people’s agendas.

So is that what God is telling us to do through Moses, the Psalmist, in Psalm 90?  If, by the grace of God, we are able to realize that our days are few and numbered, are we to achieve a heart of wisdom by daily effort?

A reasonable response to this question might well be yes, on the idea that, if we belong to God, we know that our mission is to honor and love Him and, in the process, to then love and honor our neighbor as ourselves.  This requires prayer, study, and work of the heart, mind, and hands.  And some people consider wisdom to be knowing the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons.

But it is not the only response to the question.  It seems to me that there is a reason the phrase is this – “So teach … that we may get….”  The words are not “tell” and they are not “achieve.”  The words are “teach” and “may get.”  The emphasis seems not to be on us deciding and doing, but upon us listening and receiving.

There is a question sometimes asked which is “If you knew this were your last four hours (1 day, 2 days, 2 weeks, one month) on earth, what would you do?”  People’s answers are rarely that they would review their to do list and go into work.  Instead, most people answer that they would spend time with friends and family, surrounded by those they love and who love him or her.  Most people would spend their last days, if they knew they were their last days, in “being in the moment.”

Yes, we need to plan.  Yes, we need to do.  But, also yes, we need to be in the moment, sensitive to the relationship before us.  Perhaps that relationship in our quiet time is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Perhaps that relationship on the elevator is the person who needs to know that someone cares.  Perhaps that relationship in our house is with our wife or husband or children.

Start counting and sooner or later a little voice from the backseat will yell out “times up.”  Knowing that, we are prepared to receive a heart of wisdom from God.  Wisdom not for knowing what to do, but for who to be.  Not for knowing what to say, but for knowing how to love.  Not for knowing how to plan for the future, but for knowing how to live in the present.  Not for knowing who we are, but for knowing Whose we are.   Wisdom in time, for all time.

Our days are numbered; the counting has begun.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Knowledge

February 22, 2017


Psalm 53

Have those who work evil no knowledge, who …do not call upon God?”  Ps. 53:4

The NASB translations says it this way, “Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge…?”  I like the “workers of wickedness” because it rhymes.  But “work evil” has the same meaning.

This one line is full of more meaning than we can imagine.

First, what is wickedness?  Well, it turns out that there are 12 Hebrew words which stand for various kinds and demonstrations of sin, sin being multi-faceted and everywhere.  The word used here for “wickedness” is one of the major Hebrew words for sin, often translated “iniquity.”  According to the lexical aid to the Old Testament contained within the  Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB, Zhodiates, Ed., AMG Publishers 1990), the word means “vanity, breath, vainness, nothingness, falseness, falsehood, idol, idolatry, wickedness, sin, sorrow, distress, hardship, toil – there are two aspects to the primary meaning of the word: (a) emphasis upon trouble which moves onward to wickedness; (b) emptiness which results in idolatry…The word focuses on the planning and expression of deception, pointing more to the consequences of sin.”

To summarize this definition, it seems like the wickedness which is being talked about is the kind of action which occurs (a) from emptiness, (b) which causes a chasing after idols, (c) which works a deception, (d) which results in turmoil and sorrow, (e) which results in an outworking of evil in the world.  Isn’t it interesting that the word “wickedness” has as its foundation an emptiness which can only be filled with God, and yet the person has “no knowledge” because they do not call upon God in their distress.

So, now that we have looked at what “wickedness” is, what is the “knowledge” which they apparently do not have?

Well, it turns out that the kind of knowledge which is being referenced is “…the various types of knowledge which are gained through the senses.”  [Hebrew-Greek Study Bible].

Since our senses are sight, sound, touch, and smell, one might say that the knowledge being referenced is that knowledge which we can discover for ourselves, what we can observe.  One might call this scientific knowledge or demonstrable knowledge.  It is what we learn in books.  So, in a sense, the question is “Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge of science…?”  This sounds odd because, in today’s world, the knowledge of science is equated with the understanding that there is no God, no creation.  However, the existence of God is proclaimed by what is observable in science, if we have but eyes to see and ears to hear.

But the Hebrew word used as “knowledge” here can also refer to the knowledge which comes from relationship.  This same word is used for sexual encounters, rape, homosexuality, and relationship to God and idols.  This relationship, however, arises from knowledge which arises from the senses.  It arises from what we can observe.

Another way of asking this same question, as is asked in our reading of Psalm 53, is this – “Have those who work evil no knowledge of God’s creation, of His presence, of His reality?”  And the short answer is that they do have knowledge (from the senses, of the existence of God as seen through His revelation of Himself in creation), but it is useless to them because their eyes have not been opened by the sovereign act of God.

So, in a sense this is a trick question.  We who do evil have knowledge without knowing, we have discernment without wisdom, we have relationships without connection … why, because for whatever reason God has not revealed Himself to us.  Those who work evil see creation but they do not see the Creator because it is God who provides the link between the two.  Everything is apparent to those who do evil, but they do not understand what they see.

When we ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we became like God in our own understanding but we did not become God.  Our knowledge from the senses falls short; it is the supernatural knowledge provided by God in His sovereign time and way which provides us the link between our physical reality and our spiritual reality.

And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit and open the eyes of those who cannot see so that they knowledge they have naturally will be enhanced with the knowledge they receive supernaturally so that they will have knowledge of You and will have the ability and desire to call upon You and know You.  Amen.”

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – They

February 20, 2017


Psalm 53

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”  Ps. 53:1

Who is “they?”  There is an inclination to say that it is those people who are “fools,” but the reference may in fact be to everyone.  Later, in the same Psalm, God looks down on the “children of man” and says, again, “there is none who does good, not even one.”

 

But even if we limit the reference of “they” to “fools,” the real question then is “who are the fools?” and “Am I a fool too?”

A “fool” in biblical terms is a person who says in his heart, “There is no God.”  Of course we, as Christians, would look at this and say that “we know there is a God; therefore, we are not a fool.”  But not so fast.

We can acknowledge there is a God with our mind and even have accepted Him as Lord and Savior in our hearts and souls, and yet think and act on a daily basis as if there is no God.  Do I do that?  Do we do that?  Have I acknowledged God with my lips and by baptism and by attendance at worship, and yet act throughout the entire day like He doesn’t exist?

Of course I do, and so I will bet do you.   Let me ask some simple questions.

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, as something that we do minute by minute as we disobey the commands of Christ to love each other and love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, in all of its forms, mild and strong, as an absolute affront to a holy God?

Do I (we) blow off sin in our lives as something which is minor, or inconsequential, or, worse, forgiven and therefore acceptable or necessary?

Do I (we) encourage sin in others, ignoring the consequences of bringing others into ruin?

Do I (we) consider sin a mere weakness in the circumstances or imperfection which can be worked out by better education, better food, a better environment, better schools, or just the best of what the world has to offer?

Do I (we) pay more attention to what is in front of us or beneath us rather than above us?

Do I (we) believe that television is important or the news or our bank account or the car we drive or the job we have or the college degrees on our wall?

Do I (we) spend more time pursuing excellence or the treasure at the end of the rainbow or more knowledge than building relationships with our neighbors, with our family, and with God?

There are more questions, but I think I (we) get the drift.  We may not be total fools because we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, but we may be fools nonetheless because, although we know who our Savior is, we often think and act like God does not exist.

Every time we minimize God in our lives by ignoring Him and His commands, we are saying in our heart, in that moment, that God does not exist.

The “they” is me and the “they” is us.  Even though we know the truth and have exclaimed the truth, we do not live in the truth.  But, thanks be to God, while we are weak, He is strong.  While we are the “fool,” He is the fool-redeemer.  While we forget Him, He does not forget us.  When we forget who He is and what He has done, He calls us to remember and to restoration to Him.

It is sort of funny that the world would call us believers “fools” for our belief.  They are right, but not in the way they think.  For we are all fools, fallen short of the glory of God.  For we are all fools, demonstrating this daily as we walk in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of God.  But, as the redeemed, we are a special kind of fool, one who has been transformed in our minds enough to know that sin is sin, that sin results in death, that we are sinners saved by God’s mercy and purchased by blood on the cross by Christ, and that every day, as we walk in faith into the opportunities which God creates, we are growing and maturing toward that day when we will be made perfect.

And that makes all the difference.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Meditation

January 25, 2017


Psalm 49

Hear this, all peoples!…My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.”  Ps. 49:1,3

In the introduction to Psalm 49, the herald calls out to the people and tells them that what is coming next out of his mouth is great wisdom.

What is interesting about this is the personal nature of the wisdom.  The wisdom is understanding, and that understanding comes from “meditation of my heart.”

Not the meditation of your heart or the meditation of his or her heart, but the meditation of “my” heart.

A common theme which runs through education is that we receive wisdom or understanding through external sources.  We receive them from books, from songs, from movies, and from the Internet.  When we need to understand something, most of us now reach for that great search engine in the sky, “Google™.”

We fail to separate information or data, which we do get from our surroundings, from wisdom or understanding, which is something which connects to us inside.  Of course, there are many “wisdoms” of the world which we can lock onto, but the wisdom of the Psalmist and the understanding of the Christian is the wisdom of God.

From whence do we get God’s wisdom?  Immediately Scripture comes to mind and some would say direct revelation, or God speaking to us directly.

I would suggest to you, however, that wisdom is not obtained that way.  Information about God (revelation of His character, His purposes, His glory and majesty) come from His Word and direct messages may help illuminate our next step in faith, but these are inputs.

What do we do with those inputs?  The Psalmist, in saying that understanding arises from the “meditation of my heart,” suggests that wisdom comes from thinking deeply about this information and appropriating it into our character (heart) and, therefore, behavior.

We cannot utter wisdom until we are wise; we cannot be wise without engaging in meditation of our hearts, and that is only effective when we are working with the raw material provided to us by God, seen through discerning eyes enabled by the Holy Spirit.

We must process our data to make sense of it, and we cannot guide others until we understand it.  That process does not take place in the head, but in the heart.  That process does not take place by merely thinking about it, but by deeply and carefully processing it.

Perhaps we are weak Christians because we fail to meditate in our hearts the things we have seen and heard, rather than just think in our heads about it.  For us as westerners, it is so easy to just take in the truth of Scripture and let it roll around in our head, analyzing it from every direction, putting it into our systems of thought so that we can intellectually comprehend it.  We call that wisdom and understanding, but it is not because the processing has taken place in the wrong location – it has taken place in the brain and not the heart.  Until we meditate in our hearts the truth we hear, we will not be transformed in our thinking and our acting.  Until we meditate in our hearts the truth that we hear, we will not have wisdom.

This process of meditation does not occur quickly because, being in the heart, it is driven by a different timetable and different processes.  Why pray?  In substantial part, the reason for prayer is to allow us to set time aside for the meditation of the heart, the opportunity for connecting at a base level, at the level of the soul, with our Creator and our Savior.  At that level, we may be unconscious (in our brain) of the changes which are occurring, but they are occurring for sure.

Why do our words have so little power?  Perhaps it is because they come from the knowledge of the brain instead of the meditation of the heart.  Perhaps because they arise from analysis and not wisdom.

Do you want the deeper wisdom this week from God?  Meditate on what God is saying.  Let Spirit (the Holy Spirit) speak to spirit (our spirit).  Let the Word of God dwell on our hearts, where it may penetrate deeply and empower mightily.

And then speak with wisdom into a world which desperately needs it.

_________

© 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 – Conflicts

November 30, 2016


Psalm 43

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause …For You are the God in whom I take refuge; why have You rejected me?”  Ps. 43:1-2

We hate conflict and most of us avoid it whenever possible.  In just these two short versus, the Psalmist discloses that he is suffering through three conflicts at the same time.

The first conflict is with other persons.  The Psalmist is asking God to defend his cause.  Elsewhere in the same verse, the Psalmist describe this type of opponent who creates conflict as “the deceitful and unjust man.”  These types of people create nothing but conflict because instead of loving someone and doing their best for them, they use that someone and do their worse for them.  But one thing the Psalmist forgets to ask is whether he himself is one of those “deceitful and unjust” men.  The character he throws on his enemy may well apply to himself.  But, in any event, he is involved in an outward struggle with people who he considers to be bad, and he is asking God to go show them who’s boss.

The second conflict is internal and is self to self.  This is a little subtle, but I see it in the Psalmist’s reference to “For You are the God …”  In the times of the Psalmist, as today, there are many philosophies, people, religions, and contenders for “God.”  So, here, the Psalmist is a little irritated and maybe in conflict with his choice.  After all, he (the Psalmist) picked God out of the lineup to be his (the Psalmist’s) choice, and now he is saying to God … I picked You – now, where are you?  You should be more grateful that I picked you, God!  This internal conflict will always come to pass if we have picked God as “the God” out of many for reasons known to us.  Perhaps we claim to have picked God because He is generous to us, or because we want eternal life, or because we are medically sick and want to become well, or because our best friend did and we want to please our friend.  Perhaps we picked God because we just wanted to get the preacher-man off our back.  We are bound to have a conflict over this sooner or later because we will be sitting in a corner one day and the God whom we picked just won’t “bother” to show up.  And we will begin to doubt our choice – perhaps God is ineffective or perhaps He doesn’t care or perhaps He just wound up the world and is letting us go like wound-up dolls or perhaps He doesn’t know what to do or perhaps He is busy.  This subtle but real conflict arises because, by asserting that we have chosen God (for our respective reasons), we have set ourselves either over God (we will tell Him what He should do because He should be grateful we picked Him) or at least beside Him as His best buddy.

The third conflict is directly with God Himself.  I (the Psalmist) called and You (God) did not answer.  I prayed and nothing happened (that I could see or appreciate).  I asked you to go strike dead my enemy and he seems to be doing quite fine, thank you very much.

The first kind of conflict is terrible because it only exists when the self (you, me) cares about winning according to the rules of the world.  That kind of conflict will never end until the rules of the Kingdom of God are the ones being followed and not the rules of the world.

The second kind of conflict is terrible because our doubts about what to do and how to act will freeze us into inaction.

The third kind of conflict can be good because it shows that we have a real relationship with our Father.  After all, what child when he does not get what he wants from his earthly father will not first ask again, then ask his mother, then whine and pout, then stomp off in a fit, and then wander off, think about it, and either accept it or come back for rounds two, three, etc.  As long as they are talking, even if in conflict, good things ultimately happen.

The conflict with others is unnecessary, the conflict within ourselves is debilitating, the conflict with God ultimately strengthens our obedience, our wisdom, our perseverance, and our love for Him.

I can almost guarantee that you have had your conflicts with others and with yourself today already.

But have you had your conflict with God?  Isn’t it time?

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Ignore

November 4, 2016


Psalm 39

“For I am a sojourner with You, a guest, like all my fathers.  Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” Ps. 39:12b-13

David ends this Psalm with a request to God – “Leave me alone!”

Aren’t we a strange bunch of people?  We like the peace of God, but we do not like the yoke of God.  We like God to be around when He is friendly, but we do not like Him around when He is judging.  We like the freedom of God, but not His commands.  We like God’s mercy, but not His chastisement.

If there are going to be rules, we want to make them…not have to follow them.

There were three tee-shirts I saw the other day.  One said, “I am the oldest child.  I make the rules.”  The second said “I am the middle child.  I am the reason there are rules.”  The third said “I am the youngest child.  The rules do not apply to me.”

All three are about children making the rules, causing the rules, and ignoring the rules.  But what happens when we become of age as Christians, when we become adults, when we eat meat and not just milk, we come to realize that God makes the rules and we ignore them at our peril.

But perhaps David wanted to become a child again for a moment.  Lord, go away and take Your rules and Your love with you “that I may smile again.”

Smile at what?  Reveling in sin?  Wallowing in our own selfishness?  Idly wasting our time on the foolishness of the world.

We may very well be like David and want to push God away, but we are unwise to do so.

Why would David do this?  Perhaps the answer is in the preceding sentence – “For I am a sojourner…”

With God we are sojourners in the world.  We are in the world, but we are not of the world.  We wander through the world pursuing the path God has laid out for us, but there is no place for us to rest in the world, only in the arms of God.  The world despises and distrusts the sojourner because he or she is not a citizen of the place they are, but of the place where they are going.  The world despised Jesus; why should it behave any differently because of us.

There is a real danger for us in the world as sojourners, and that is that we want to belong.  We want to be part of the world.  We want to enjoy worldly things and have the company and approval of worldly people.  As long as God is around, He reminds us that we are His citizens and not the world’s.  He reminds us that we are to behave differently than the world, seeking His glory and not our own or the glory of other people.  He reminds us to aggregate the wealth of heaven and not the wealth of the world.

In other words, He reminds us that we do not ultimately belong where we are.  And sometimes we want to belong where we are … and so we tell the Lord “Go away!”

But although we may behave like the Lord has obeyed us and left, He has not.  Oh He may let us go for a period, following our own foolish ways, but sooner or later He will appear on scene again, reminding us of who we are and whose we are.

So David says and we say “Look away from me, that I may smile again…”  And the Lord, to His children, responds “No.”

And we will smile again, not because the Lord has ignored us like we asked, but because He has not.

But God has ignored something.  He has ignored our request that He ignore us.  He has ignored our sins and instead gone to the cross to die for our sins.  He has ignored His just wrath which we deserve and has replaced it with love and mercy which we do not deserve.

Ignore that at your peril.

_________

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

 

Bread – Drilling

April 20, 2016


Psalm 16

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.”  Ps. 16:1-2

We often hear the word “drilling” in the context of mineral exploration, particularly of oil and gas.  It may, of course, also refer to the process of making a hole in a solid object.  The purpose of drilling seems to always be the process of breaking through a hard surface to get to the treasure underneath.  In the case of oil and gas drilling, it is piercing the earth to get to the oil.  In the case of drilling a hole, it is penetrating the wood or the metal or the plastic to get to the air underneath.

We lose so much in Scripture because we treat the translation as the hard surface, and read and rest there.  And yet, much of the power of Scripture lies beneath the hard surface, lies beneath the translation, and can only be extracted by the work of drilling through the hard surface to get to the real treasure.  But to do effective drilling, we have to be confident, have faith, that there is something beneath the surface of Scripture which is worth going after, worth drilling for.  And, quite frankly, that is a lot of work and, most of the time, I am too lazy to do it, if I even think about it.

For example, in today’s reading, on the hard surface of translated Scripture, I focused purely on the “refuge” and “no good apart” phrases and was ready to write about how, with belief in God, we have refuge and can overcome our sin nature to be able to demonstrate God’s goodness in the world, knowing that there is no good apart from Him.  And that would have been a good Bread, but I would have missed the whole point.

Fortunate for me, I also read a commentary, to give me a different perspective, and it was in that commentary that I learned something.

See, the English translation into our Bible of “God” and “Lord” fail to fully reflect the names of God actually being used in the Hebrew or Greek.

So, drilling through, I find that substituting the names of God into the translation results in this:  “Preserve me, O El, for in You I take refuge.  I say to Jehovah, ‘You are my Adonai; I have no good apart from You.’”

In the word for God “El,” there is the meaning of “strong one,” or what we might say “God Almighty.”  If God is all mighty, then He is the strong refuge, the strong sanctuary, where we may find peace, rest, and protection.  For in You, the Strong God, I take refuge makes all the sense in the world.  Furthermore, it refutes the idea of God as a disconnected, soft and “fluffy” God which dallies in the affairs of man but does not rule them.  God the Almighty rules and He is a strong fortress.  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

In the word for God “Jehovah,” there is a reference to the God of Moses, to the great “I Am.”  It is the I AM who made the covenant first, with the nation of Israel, and second with the Church, with us.  In a covenant relationship, we inherit the power, benefits, and blessings of the relationship.  The fact that, by the power and grace of God, we receive and can rely upon the promises of God.  The “apart from You” is an acknowledgment that we cannot survive without attachment to the True Vine, without being in relationship with Jesus Christ, without accepting the relationship which He offers to us.  God the great “I Am” has a relationship with us because of His doing and not ours, because of His power and not ours, because of the trueness of His promises and not ours.  Therefore, we have nothing of eternal worth “apart from You.”  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

In the word of God “Adonai,” there is the concept of God as my Master, as the Master.  Here there is the concept of God as King on earth as well as in heaven.  It is to the King, to Adonai, that we pledge our discipleship and our obedience because He is the Master of our lives.  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

So, let me paraphrase our reading today this way – “Preserve me, God Almighty, because in you I am saved.  I say to the great I AM, who has adopted me in a covenant which cannot be broken, ‘You are my Master and King; I have no good apart from what Your covenant relationship with me gives me.”

Isn’t that rich?  Isn’t that powerful?

And it is all laying just beneath the surface … but we need to be drilling into the Word to get to it.

There are three ways to read Scripture.  One is to read the highlights and, from that, you can discern the greatest story ever told, but the details are vague.  Another is to read the words (which takes a little longer), and from that you can learn what it means to be a disciple and many details about the story.  The details are sharp, the duty is clear, but there is something missing.  The third way is to drill into the Word, to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the richness beneath the surface (which takes a little longer), and from that you can begin to enjoy the relationship you have with God by virtue of His grace.  You might think of this as “top of mind” reading, “rational” mind reading, and deep heart reading.

Do you feel your relationship with God is weak, ineffective, and unsatisfying?  Perhaps it is because you need to drill more and scan less.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Crowd

April 6, 2016


Psalm 14

“They [children of man] have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.  Have they no knowledge….”  Ps. 14:3-4

When I read the phrase “They have all,” it reminded me of two concepts.

The first goes back to my college days.  A group of friends and I were waiting to get into the cheap movie at the student center, and we had gotten there late and we were at the end of the line.  One of my friends said, “watch this,” and then proceeded to stand out from the line, walk brusquely to the front, and then started yelling at everyone that the line started where we were in the back.  Before even five minutes had gone by, the entire line of over a hundred people had shifted to behind us and, all of a sudden, we were now in the front of the line and got the primo seats.  This was my first real lesson in crowd-think, where someone with a strong enough voice and the air of authority could order people to change their entire lives and be happy about it.  And once the front of the line started moving, in response to my friend’s directions, the entire line moved out of the way.  The blind leading the blind from their position of prominence to their position of subservience.

How like Satan.  He and his minions come at us from all directions, shouting at us, and when the society begins to move, we do too.  When our friends start to run off the rails, most of the time we are not far behind.

When our leaders and friends and bosses and neighbors begin to reject God and His teachings, do we follow?  Much of the time, if we are honest with ourselves, the answer is “yes.”

The second concept which came to mind is actually quite new and it is called “crowd funding.”  If I have an idea which I want to promote and have people invest their money in, I can put it on a website and solicit contributions and, if lots of people send in $10 or $100, I am funded by the “crowd.”  Now, normally, if I want to raise money, I have to sell the idea to people who already have money and are quite capable of carefully analyzing my idea and deciding whether it is worthy.  However, the principle behind crowd funding is the crowd.  If you want to know what the latest and best ideas are, see who is attracting crowd funding.  After all, if 100 people agree that it is a good idea, it must be a good idea, right?  Whether the invention is sound, whether the financial plan is carefully thought out, whether the market is clearly defined – all that becomes irrelevant once the crowd likes you.

When I read the statement “They have all turned aside…[from the truth, from good behavior, from morality, from honesty, from hope … you name it],” how did that happen?  One simple answer could be that we all sin and fall short of the glory of God and, therefore, we all turn aside.  However, many of us claim to be saved and to be engaged in the transformation of our minds.  If that is the case, then how is it that we fall into the “they have all turned aside” category?

I think in each of my examples the answer to this question lays.  We go astray when we (a) do not take the time to understand what is going on, (b) we follow a strong leader who may or may not have our best interest at heart because he or she “sounds good,” and (c) we are afraid of the crowd and afraid to stand our ground when the crowd is going somewhere else.

Lack of understanding, following the wrong person, and fear of the crowd.  A trifecta leading to us turning aside, leading us to corruption and misery, leading us to no good.

If we fail as Christians in any of these three areas, it must be because we are not well-grounded in God’s Word.  The reason is that there is understanding aplenty in the Word, when illuminated by the Holy Spirit and built deep into our psyche and our lives by consuming it as the living water it is.  The reason is that God’s Word points to the right person, Jesus Christ, to follow, and gives us lots of examples of the wrong kind of people not to follow.  And, finally, the Word leads us to understand that, when we are saved, we need not fear death and, as a result, need not fear the opinion of others (the crowd).

You want an antidote to corruption, to falling away?  It is in the Word.

And what is interesting about the Word is that it is not a crowd thing.  Yes, it can be read at church in the congregation and it is.  And, yes, it can be read in small study groups and prayer groups, and it is.  But at the end of the day, it can only be grasped by a single person taking the time and the energy to be with God, to study God, and to learn from God.

“Have they no knowledge, the evildoers…?” Ps. 14:4.

No, they don’t.

Don’t you fall in the same trap.

_________

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

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