Bread – Power to Save

February 16, 2009


Readings for Monday, February 16

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 63:1-6; 1 Tim. 1:1-17; Mark 11:1-11

            Psalms 89

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The Psalm appointed for today asks an important question — “What man can live and not see death, or save himself from the power of the grave (Sheol)?  Selah.”  Psalm 89:48

 

The word “Selah” following a Psalm verse has an unknown meaning, but it is thought that the word is a type of punctuation, sort of saying “stop for a minute and think about what you just said or the question you just asked.”

 

So let’s stop for a minute and think about the question we just asked — What man can save himself from the grave?  If we are honest with ourselves, we know the answer is “No one.”  Not us, not our doctors, not our politicians, not even our priests.  Even our good works cannot save us.  Even vitamins cannot save us.  You can’t.  I can’t.  No man can save himself from the grave.

 

Is it any wonder then that the gospel of Jesus Christ is such good news?  The one thing that man cannot do God can do.  The one thing that man cannot do, Jesus has done.

 

So that Paul can proclaim that “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 1 Cor. 15:54b

 

Do you still believe that you have the power to save yourself?  If not, have you believed in the man Jesus Christ who has demonstrated that He has that power?  If not, why not?

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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Bread – Justice

February 6, 2009


Readings for Friday, February 6

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 56:1-8; Gal. 5:16-24; Mark 9:2-13

            Psalms 69, 73

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In today’s lesson from Isaiah, the prophet delivers a command from God — “Maintain justice and do what is right…”  Isa. 56:1

 

What is “justice?”  It turns out that this is not an easy answer.  The Hebrew word that is used here is used consistently throughout the Old Testament, and means a decision made by someone who has the authority to make the decision.  But because justice is one of God’s characteristics, the decision which is made is true, correct, discerning, fair, impartial, appropriate, and deserved.  So it is not just the decision which justice, but the proper decision which is justice.  And it is not just a decision made by a nobody which is justice, but a right decision made by a person in authority which is justice.

 

Who is the command directed to?  The reader – us.  So built into this command is an implied condition (from God), that we have both the authority and the ability to make right decisions.

 

We get the authority from God [“Be fruitful…fill the earth and subdue it.  Rule …  Gen. 1:28].  We get the ability as well from God, but how do we maintain the ability to make right decisions, to maintain justice?

 

Immediately following God’s command to “maintain justice” Isaiah reports God as saying, basically in the same breath, “Blessed is the man who does this, the man who holds it fast, who keeps the Sabbath without desecrating it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.”  Isa. 56:2.

 

At first blush, I was confused by this juxtaposition — “maintain justice” and you will be blessed if you “keep the Sabbath without desecration” and “keep your hand from doing evil.”  The first thought that crossed my mind was “how does the Sabbath have anything to do with maintaining justice?”

 

Then it hit me.  God has ordained that we will honor His Sabbath and keep it holy.  Keeping the Sabbath is part of our obedience to God and His commands.  Obedience to God is a necessary condition of our being able to maintain justice for two reasons – He is the source of our authority and the source of the standard for right decisions.  If we are not obedient to God, we have damaged our connection to the very One who is the only real source of wisdom from which we can draw in making right decisions, in maintaining justice.  We cannot maintain justice while being in a state of disobedience to God, because we lack authority, we lack a standard to measure against, and we lack wisdom to make good choices.

 

The second aspect of maintaining blessing and its relationship to maintaining justice is to keep your hand from doing any evil.  This makes sense.  If your thoughts and actions are polluted by evil, then from what pool can good decisions arise?  Not only does the evil distort your thinking, but it may drive you to make decisions involving other people and things which do not maintain justice.

 

We will all make hundreds of decisions today, most of which will involve what we say and do which involve other people.  Are we maintaining justice?  Are we making right and good decisions, based upon truth and love?  Based upon timeless standards and a desire to treat our neighbor as ourselves?  Based upon honesty and integrity?

 

If not, have we let our obedience to God slip?  Have we let evil into our lives or, worse, are we doing evil?

 

Blessed is the man who obeys God and who does not do evil.  Blessed is the man who maintains justice.

 

Have a blessed day.

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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Bread – Seen and Unseen

February 4, 2009


Readings for Wednesday, February 4

            from the Book of Common Prayer:

            Isa. 54:1-10; Gal. 4:21-31; Mark 8:11-26

            Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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In the Gospel reading today from Mark, we are confronted with the Pharisees, who have again confronted Jesus and are questioning Him — “To test Him, they asked Him for a sign from heaven.”  Mark 8:11.

 

If you think about it, this is a hilarious question.  First, the Pharisees have approached Jesus right after He has taken seven loaves of bread a a “few small fish” and converted them into dinner for 4,000 men, not counting their women and children, with plenty left over.  Mark 8:1-10.  What “sign from heaven” do the Pharisees have in mind?

 

But there is another reason this is a funny question.  Think about who the Pharisees are asking the question to — Jesus.  Isn’t He Himself a “sign from heaven.”  All the Pharisees had to do is check out how he was born and investigate the miracles they already knew about.  Jesus Christ, as the Son of God, is Himself the “sign from heaven.”  What other kind of “sign from heaven” are we talking about.

 

The question is even funnier when you realize that the Pharisee’s own Bible (Torah, the Prophets) and their own written and oral traditions predicted the marks of the Messiah and the fact that Jesus fulfilled these predictions and requirements in remarkable ways were “signs from heaven” described in the Pharisees’ own books.

 

Yet the Pharisees could not see the miracles, they could not see the fulfillment of their own prophesies and checklists, and they could not see the Son of Man before them.  So they asked for another “sign from heaven.”  And Jesus sighs and responds – “Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign?  I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it.”  Mark 8:12

 

I have just finished reading a book on all of the different ways over time people have read and interpreted God’s Word.  The author has a single simple, yet insightful, conclusion — We interpret the Bible based upon how we approach the Bible — with faith or suspicion.  If we approach the Bible with faith, we interpret the Bible in ways which build our faith and our walk with the Lord.  If we approach the Bible with suspicion, we interpret the Bible in ways which do not build our faith and our walk.

 

The Pharisees approached God’s Word with suspicion.  They did not believe the miracles (the reasons are irrelevant), they did not believe Jesus’ history and the live testimonies before them (the reasons are irrelevant), and they did not believe their own Torah, their own Prophets, and their own tradition and history.  The reason they did not believe any of it was that they did not want to believe any of it.  The reason they did not want to believe any of it is that they looked at things through the lens of disbelief, distrust, and suspicion.  This is why Jesus Christ said there would be no miraculous signs for them.  There could not be, because even if the miraculous sign had dropped in their lap, they would not have seen it as a miraculous sign — instead they would have characterized it as a coincidence, a lie, a fraud, an impossibility, a mirage, a myth, a misinterpretation, a work of the devil, or perhaps just wrong (today, we would probably add “intolerant” to the list).

 

How many miracles have you seen and ignored because you approach them with a spirit of disbelief (we like to call it reason or science, but it’s the same thing)?  How many times have you ignored the truth of what you read in the Bible because it just doesn’t match what you want to see there and you therefore ascribe the “error” to bad translation, bad transcribing, bad writing, or maybe even just a bad author?  How many times have you ignored the living Jesus, the biggest miraculous sign of all, because you meet the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the post-death appearances of Jesus Christ, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and the growth of His church against all obstacles, all of which are real historical events, because, well, we are just suspicious.

 

So much of what is seen and unseen depends upon the bias we bring to the table.  If we don’t believe there are miracles, there are none.  If we don’t believe that what we read is a prophesy, then no prophesy is ever fulfilled.  If we think that the resurrection is a myth, notwithstanding the live testimony of many, many people, then there is no resurrection.

 

Do you not see Jesus?  Do you not live the miracle?  Do you not see?  Try reading the Bible with the attitude that “this might be true.”  Try reading the miraculous signs like “they might really exist.”  Try seeing with the mind of “maybe” rather than “no.”

 

I think you will like the results.

 

 

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Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture.  Help us Lord to come to you and to bring others to you.  Help us know that you are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be both willing and obedient.  It is only through the merits of your Son Jesus Christ that we are empowered to even make this prayer.  And so we thank you and praise you!  Amen.

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