Bread – Hiding

June 29, 2009


Readings for Friday, June 26
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29; Luke 22:31-38
    Psalms 102, 107:1-32
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The donkeys are lost!  Knowing what we know about the average Christian, we might conclude that this exclamation refers to us, but it does not.  Instead, it refers to actual donkeys and it is the setting of our reading today from Samuel.

In Samuel 9:1, Kish’ donkeys had run away and were lost and, since these were valuable, he needed to find them and get them back.  So he did what we might do when our dog has run away, he sent one of his sons, Saul, to go find them.  We don’t know whether Saul embraced this project as an adventure or was peeved about it as a bother (probably being a teenager, either is a possibility), but in any event he obeyed his father and went.

And he went everywhere. He went through the neighborhood, through the neighboring vicinity, and even through entire "territory" of Benjamin.  1 Sam. 9:4  After a while with no results, Saul said to his accompanying servant "Let’s go home."  Now Saul gave as his excuse for wanting to go home his fear that his father would worry about him (1 Sam. 9:5), but the real reason was probably that the food was gone (1 Sam. 9:7) and he was hungry.  In any event, the servant suggested that they go ask a prophet, a man of God, where the donkeys were.

Doesn’t this scene, if we strip the location from it, sound like a lot of our lives.  We seem to always find ourselves being asked to fix someone else’s problem.  We chase after donkeys with little to no guidance about where they may be.  We wander around trying to find the donkeys, expending our resources chasing after the stupid.  Sometimes we have a friend or co-worker with us, but they are no better off than we are.  They are chasing the same donkeys with no idea about where to find them, running out of food, money, hope, and steam along the way.

Once we get tired of chasing after our (or someone else’s) donkeys, we generally do one of three things – (a) we find a "good" excuse to quit ("my father will worry about me"), (b) we just quit (the "food ran out"), (c) or we seek out the Wizard of Oz [a consultant].  Often the consultant is the church or someone in the church, someone who we think has got God’s ear so they can help us by, maybe, give us a little "godly" wisdom so that we can find the donkeys more efficiently or have an even better excuse to quit looking.

This is what Saul and his servant did.  They gathered up a dab of silver so that the prophet-seer might tell them where to go find the donkeys and embarked on a short journey into the city to go meet the wizard, obtain their information, and achieve their objectives.

Little did they know that they were entering into a pre-arranged meeting with God’s messenger who had something to say to Saul, something that would change his life forever.  Little did they know that it was God who pre-arranged the meeting.

Saul’s purpose in wandering around to find lost donkeys was nothing more than doing his job, doing what he was told to do by his boss.  Saul’s stated purpose in wanting to go home was one thing; his real purpose was probably another.  Saul’s purpose in going to church (to see the man of God) was to help him live his life better — to find the donkeys faster and then to go home.  Saul could have cared less about his sins, having a good relationship between he and God, or doing God’s will.  He was using the church (Samuel) as a convenience, as a source of another idea, as an alternative.  You notice that he also used the church as the final straw, when his own efforts to find the donkeys had not worked.

But we see that, within a few sentences, there was nothing casual about any of these events.  Saul’s purpose may have been one thing, but God’s purpose was another and God’s purpose one.  Saul thought he was chasing after donkeys, but God thought he was coming to meet Samuel and, sure enough, Samuel he met.  Saul thought he was obeying his father, but instead he was obeying his Father.  Saul thought that he had randomly run out of food, but in fact he had run out of food in front of the town where God wanted him to meet Samuel.  Saul thought that the next stage of his life would be returning to his father empty-handed, when God intended that Saul would, at that moment, be made a king.

At the very moment when Saul’s purpose (to find the donkeys) appeared to be at a dead end, God’s purpose became apparent.

When we say "God has a plan for your life," we like to focus on God’s plan to make Saul a king, and that is the way many sermons would end.  But this Bread will end differently, because we need to focus on the entire plan of God in this situation.  Isn’t it true that God planned that Saul would hunt for donkeys all over the place without finding them?  And isn’t it also true that God planned that Saul would run out of food?

Do you find yourself chasing donkeys in the wilderness with no food?  Then look around.  Somewhere close to you there is a man of God who is also part of God’s purpose and plan for you.  Go find him (or her), listen to what they say, and be thankful.

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Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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 – Purposes

June 26, 2009


Readings for Friday, June 26
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 9:1-14; Acts 7:17-29; Luke 22:31-38
    Psalms 102, 107:1-32
———————————————————————————–

The donkeys are lost!  Knowing what we know about the average Christian, we might conclude that this exclamation refers to us, but it does not.  Instead, it refers to actual donkeys and it is the setting of our reading today from Samuel.

In Samuel 9:1, Kish’ donkeys had run away and were lost and, since these were valuable, he needed to find them and get them back.  So he did what we might do when our dog has run away, he sent one of his sons, Saul, to go find them.  We don’t know whether Saul embraced this project as an adventure or was peeved about it as a bother (probably being a teenager, either is a possibility), but in any event he obeyed his father and went.

And he went everywhere. He went through the neighborhood, through the neighboring vicinity, and even through entire "territory" of Benjamin.  1 Sam. 9:4  After a while with no results, Saul said to his accompanying servant "Let’s go home."  Now Saul gave as his excuse for wanting to go home his fear that his father would worry about him (1 Sam. 9:5), but the real reason was probably that the food was gone (1 Sam. 9:7) and he was hungry.  In any event, the servant suggested that they go ask a prophet, a man of God, where the donkeys were.

Doesn’t this scene, if we strip the location from it, sound like a lot of our lives.  We seem to always find ourselves being asked to fix someone else’s problem.  We chase after donkeys with little to no guidance about where they may be.  We wander around trying to find the donkeys, expending our resources chasing after the stupid.  Sometimes we have a friend or co-worker with us, but they are no better off than we are.  They are chasing the same donkeys with no idea about where to find them, running out of food, money, hope, and steam along the way.

Once we get tired of chasing after our (or someone else’s) donkeys, we generally do one of three things – (a) we find a "good" excuse to quit ("my father will worry about me"), (b) we just quit (the "food ran out"), (c) or we seek out the Wizard of Oz [a consultant].  Often the consultant is the church or someone in the church, someone who we think has got God’s ear so they can help us by, maybe, give us a little "godly" wisdom so that we can find the donkeys more efficiently or have an even better excuse to quit looking.

This is what Saul and his servant did.  They gathered up a dab of silver so that the prophet-seer might tell them where to go find the donkeys and embarked on a short journey into the city to go meet the wizard, obtain their information, and achieve their objectives.

Little did they know that they were entering into a pre-arranged meeting with God’s messenger who had something to say to Saul, something that would change his life forever.  Little did they know that it was God who pre-arranged the meeting.

Saul’s purpose in wandering around to find lost donkeys was nothing more than doing his job, doing what he was told to do by his boss.  Saul’s stated purpose in wanting to go home was one thing; his real purpose was probably another.  Saul’s purpose in going to church (to see the man of God) was to help him live his life better — to find the donkeys faster and then to go home.  Saul could have cared less about his sins, having a good relationship between he and God, or doing God’s will.  He was using the church (Samuel) as a convenience, as a source of another idea, as an alternative.  You notice that he also used the church as the final straw, when his own efforts to find the donkeys had not worked.

But we see that, within a few sentences, there was nothing casual about any of these events.  Saul’s purpose may have been one thing, but God’s purpose was another and God’s purpose one.  Saul thought he was chasing after donkeys, but God thought he was coming to meet Samuel and, sure enough, Samuel he met.  Saul thought he was obeying his father, but instead he was obeying his Father.  Saul thought that he had randomly run out of food, but in fact he had run out of food in front of the town where God wanted him to meet Samuel.  Saul thought that the next stage of his life would be returning to his father empty-handed, when God intended that Saul would, at that moment, be made a king.

At the very moment when Saul’s purpose (to find the donkeys) appeared to be at a dead end, God’s purpose became apparent.

When we say "God has a plan for your life," we like to focus on God’s plan to make Saul a king, and that is the way many sermons would end.  But this Bread will end differently, because we need to focus on the entire plan of God in this situation.  Isn’t it true that God planned that Saul would hunt for donkeys all over the place without finding them?  And isn’t it also true that God planned that Saul would run out of food?

Do you find yourself chasing donkeys in the wilderness with no food?  Then look around.  Somewhere close to you there is a man of God who is also part of God’s purpose and plan for you.  Go find him (or her), listen to what they say, and be thankful.

———————————————————————————–
Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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 – Dagon

June 22, 2009


Readings for Monday, June 22
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 5:1-12; Acts 5:12-26; Luke 21:29-36
    Psalms 89
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We (people) have an incredible ability to look the truth in the face and then proceed with our lives as if nothing has happened.  When we have our blinders on, we have no power of observation, no discernment, no recognition.  We may see or hear the truth, we may even repeat it, but nothing penetrates to our awareness, much less our behavior.  I am not sure that psychology or sociology have ever been able to explain our denseness.  Our Bible explains it somewhat by describing our condition as death.  We are dead to the truth and we are dead to the things of God until we are awakened and empowered by God into life.

But even though our Bible explains our denseness, to me it is still an interesting observation – that I can observe something for a long time without seeing it, that I can hear something for a long time without focusing on it and really listening to it, and that I can be confronted with it for a long time without ever dealing with it.

Do you find yourself doing the same things?  I’ll bet you do.

In our Old Testament reading today, it is reported that the Philistines have taken the Ark of the Covenant and placed it in the sanctuary of their god – Dagon.  1 Sam. 5:1.  The next day, the Ark was where they had left it, but Dagon had fallen over.  The people put Dagon back in its place and, the next day, the Ark remained where it had been left and Dagon had fallen over, broken into pieces.  The people glued Dagon back together (presumably) and then got rid of the Ark.

Now the irony of this scene is that the people see the truth – they know that God has done these things to them and has destroyed their god – but it does not affect them at all.  Rather than recognize their need to deal with God in the way that God demands, they chose instead to get rid of the thing causing the trouble and restore their prior lives, the lives they had before being confronted with the truth.  They were blind going into the encounter with the Ark and, even though God forced them to see the futility of their beliefs in their own gods, systems, philosophies, beliefs, programs, and procedures, they remained blind.

In a different vein but with the same message, in Luke Jesus warns us today not to be blind to the signs around us – such that when the Son of God returns in glory, we are distracted by "dissipation, drunkeness, and the anxieties of life." Luke 21:34

Has God entered your life and smashed your Dagon?  When He did that, did you put your Dagon back together and get rid of the person or circumstances trying to speak God’s truth into your life?  Is your temple occupied by God’s presence or by Dagon’s?

Is God doing a work in your life, your family, your ministry, your job?  What has been your response?  To turn a blind eye and fix up Dagon or stare clearly into the power and the truth which is before you?  Will you send God away to go "terrorize" someone else or will you throw your Dagon into the trash where it belongs?

In our reading today, the Philistines throw out God and keep Dagon.  The choice was theirs and it is ours.

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Lord, help us with your Holy Spirit to cast out the Dagons in our lives.  Help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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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Readings for Friday, June 19
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 3:1-21; Acts 2:37-47; Luke 21:5-19
    Psalms 88, 91, 92
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There is a real circle of life as a Christian and it is described in today’s readings.

In Samuel, it is reported right off the bat that "In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions."  1 Sam. 3:1  There is a note in my NASB translation that the word "visions" is more literally translated "no vision spread abroad."  Fully translated, then, this passage could very well read "In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions spread abroad."  In other words, the word of God was not spoken clearly and forcefully into the culture; there was no vision of life being spread "abroad."

We see in this reading the first stage in the cycle of life for a Christian – it is a coldness toward the things of God, toward God’s revelation, toward God’s Word.  It is ignoring God’s Word to the point that it projects no power into the world, "abroad."  In this first stage, there is no vision which brings life because God’s Word is rare – rare in our lives, rare in our families, rare in our city, and rare in our country.

The next stage in this circle of life is the personal discovery of Jesus Christ.  This stage is presented to us in our next reading from Acts, where we begin with the question "Brothers, what shall we do?"  Acts 2:37.  Peter gives the answer – "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins."  Acts 2:38.  To the people bound in slavery to the world, to whom the Word of the Lord is rare, Peter warns "Save yourself from this corrupt generation."  Acts 2:40.  And people responded to this vision, to this Word of the Lord.

The third stage then is the pleasure of living within real Christian community.  This stage is also described in our reading in Acts, in Acts 2:42-47.

The fourth stage, however, is persecution because, let’s face it, the world does not want to hear or obey the Word of God.  Once the vision is cast abroad, once people are being brought into a living relationship with God, once they begin to live in real Christian community and broadcasting their message into the world in such a manner that the world can no longer ignore them, Christians will be persecuted.  Jesus describes this fully in today’s lesson from Luke as follows:

"But before all this, they will lay hands on you and persecute you.  They will deliver you to synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of My Name….You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death.  All men will hate you because of Me."  Luke 21:12-17

Grim news, but there is an end to the story, to this circle of Christian life.  And that is also described by Jesus.  After warning us that standing for Jesus in the world means persecution, Jesus ends with these words — "But not a hair on your head will perish.  By standing firm you will gain life."  Luke 21:18-19

We begin in ignorance, we progress to relationship, and we end in strength and life.

A wonderful life cycle.  A wonderful life.

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Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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 – Ripple Effect

June 15, 2009


Readings for Monday, June 15
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19
    Psalms 77, 79, 80
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The Old Testament lesson from Samuel opens with a description of Elkanah’s family.  He has two wives, one of whom has given him children and other of whom, Hannah, has not.  The "productive" wife is always provoking Hannah by reminding her that she has no children, and Hannah as a result is very upset.  Elkanah does not help by telling Hannah that she should just be happy with him.  So we find Hannah in the temple, praying vigorously for a child, and appearing drunk to the priest Eli.

Once Eli realizes that she has been praying, he says to her "Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of Him."  1 Sam. 1:17.  After hearing these words of kindness and blessing, it is reported that Hannah left the temple with "her face no longer downcast." 1 Sam. 1:18  Hannah later conceives and gives birth to Samuel, the last of the judges and the transition to Saul and then David, Israel’s kings.

Now why is this vignette about Eli here?  He is not necessary to God’s blessing upon Hannah.  He is not the vehicle for answered prayer.  He does not promise Hannah anything?  One might say that he is necessary to fully describe Hannah’s apparent drunkenness (giving parallel to the disciples’ experience at Pentecost), but her apparent drunkenness could have been described with a few choice adjectives and without Eli’s involvement.

Instead, I think Eli is in this report because what of what he said – "Go in peace, …"  How many times have we prayed for something fervently, but would have been simply delighted with a word of kindness spoken at the right time?  Hannah is reported as leaving this encounter with "her face no longer downcast."  Eli did not say that God had heard her prayer, he did not say that God loved her, he did not say that God would answer her prayer, and he did not try to answer he prayer himself.  All he said was "Go in peace" and then wish a blessing upon her – a hope that God would hear her prayer and grant her request.  Hannah had the same reaction to this blessing that we would have had – her mood was lightened, and she left with hope.  The ripple effect of Eli’s blessing upon Hannah’s life and the lift of Israel is unknown, but we know the first ripple – a lightened heart in the hearer.  And we know that she bore Samuel.  So who knows?  We are in charge of the action and we may be graced with seeing the first ripple effect.  Thereafter, the extent, degree, and obviousness of the ripples is within God’s control.

Jesus commands us to be His witnesses, and promises that what we do has a ripple effect.  In today’s lesson from Acts, Jesus tells his disciples to wait for the Holy Spirit and, when it comes, Jesus reports that they will be His witnesses "in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."  Acts 1:8.  The disciples were in Jerusalem when they heard Jesus say this and when the Holy Spirit arrived.  Thus, their testimony began in Jerusalem.  However, the effects of that testimony are still being felt throughout the "ends of the earth" today.

We like to make great plans and propose great ends.  If given the chance to propose a program where a single girl is blessed or a program where the entire world is fed, we will pick the entire world.  But God does not begin his ripple effect from the edge to the center; no, He commands that we are to exercise the power He has given us where we are, to affect and bless the people who come into midst.  Eli did not go find Hannah – he stayed where God placed him and blessed Hannah when she appeared.  The disciples did not go make Jerusalem – they stayed where God placed them and witnessed to the residents of Jerusalem, the people next to them, first.

God’s ripple effect flows from you outward.  He has promised that when we act within the power of the Holy Spirit He gives us and that when we act where we are with the people God has brought to us in our daily life, the effect will reach the ends of the earth.

Notice that I did not say "my" or "your" effect, I said "the" effect.  There is a reason – Eli was positioned at that moment in time to speak grace, power, hope, and trust into Hannah’s life – the disciples were positioned at that moment in time to speak grace, power, hope, and trust into the life of Israel.  The positioning was God’s work, the power was God’s power, and the ripple effect is God’s results.

You stand today in the middle of an ocean of opportunity.  Your position is God’s work, your power is God’s power, and the results of your obedience are in God’s hands.  Will you speak blessing into the lives of those you touch?  Will you witness to Jesus Christ?

The ripple effect will be enormous.

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Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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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Readings for Wednesday, June 10
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    Deut. 31:30-32:14; 2 Cor. 11:21b-33; Luke 19:11-27
    Psalms 72, 119:73-96
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Today in the Gospel of Luke, the physician reports a parable told by Jesus.  In the NIV Bible translation, the parable is referred to as "The Parable of the Ten Minas."  In the NASB Bible translation, the parable is referred to as the "Parable of Money Usage."  And in fact, I have heard many sermons on this parable where the focus is on effective utilization of the gifts of the Holy Spirit which we are given for the glory of God, including the effective use of money (if we are blessed in that direction).

That is not my focus, today, however.  Hidden in this parable is another lesson, a lesson about citizens and slaves.  From the NIV Bible translation, the verses are: "So he called ten of servants and gave them ten minas…But his subjects hated him."  Luke 19:13-14.  In the NASB Bible translation, these verses are translated: "And he called ten of his slaves, and gave them ten minas … But his citizens hated him…."  Luke 19:13-14.

To me, this is an incredible example of where the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world.  To see this, ask yourself a question.  Would you rather be a citizen or a slave?  In this world, we are brought up to believe that citizenship is a status to be prized – we are honored (and should be honored) to be, for example, citizens of the United States – and that slavery is a status to be avoided at all costs.  We are brought up to understand that with citizenship goes rights, whereas with slavery there are no rights.  We are taught that as citizens we are free men and women, whereas as slaves we cannot be free.  The world says citizenship is to be raised up and slavery is to be abolished in all of its forms.

Ah, but God does not take that approach.  Here, the slaves are the ones who are chosen by the King for special attention, the slaves are the ones who receive blessings, the slaves are given authority over the minas, and the slaves are the ones held accountable for their use of the blessings.  The only mention of the citizens, the people who believe they are free, is that they "hate" the King.

Observing this caused me to ask a question – why would the citizens "hate" the King?  It seems to me that the answer lies in the nature of citizenship.  Citizenship is something you are born into.  It is a "status" which typically you do not earn.  Because nothing is paid for it, often it is treated with disrespect and disdain, for something that costs us nothing is worth nothing typically in our eyes.  There are some citizens, to be sure, who pay a price for their citizenship – soldiers, policemen, and immigrants come to mind, but the bulk of the citizens pay nothing and as a result think nothing of the special status they have.  To relate this to God, all people are creations of God and under His dominion and authority, so all have some claim to be citizens of His earthly kingdom.  However, the citizens "hate" God because they have never paid anything for their status.  Less you think that I have stretched this too far, note that the "citizens" in verse 14 are referred to as "his" (the King’s) citizens.

On the other hand, a servant-slave is paying a price for his or her status.  He or she has chosen to give up their position of headship in favor of the King.  To put this in Christian terms, they have let Jesus rule on the throne of their lives instead of themselves.   The "citizens" who are "free" look down on the servant-slaves because they are not free.  However, the slaves are the beneficiaries of the King’s attention, of His grace, of His power, and of His blessings.  They also receive authority to act in ways the citizens do not have; after all, the citizens did not get the minas, the slaves did.

So, in two verses, the roles are reversed.  The exalted position of citizen is reduced to people who "hate" God, who receive nothing of value, have no opportunity to please God, and who have no opportunity to reign over cities as kings in the coming age.  The despised position of slave, on the other hand, receives things of great value, has a personal relationship with God, and has the opportunity to reap their rewards in the coming age.  The exalted position is no position at all.  The despised position is the preferred place in God’s plan.

So which are you – citizen or slave?  If slave, then what are you going to do today with your minas, your blessings which the King has given to you to manage in His absence for His glory?  If citizen, why do you hate God?

To help your decision as to whether to be citizen or slave, remember that we are only talking about being God’s subject on earth, during a particular time and place.  Citizenship in heaven with God for eternity is reserved to God’s servants on earth.  To be only a citizen on earth is to be nothing for eternity, banned to the realms of hell.  To be a slave for God, God’s servant, on earth is to be a citizen of God’s eternal kingdom.

So, today, do you choose to be "free" of the King or "slave" to the King?

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Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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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Readings for Wednesday, June 3
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    Deut. 13:1-11; 2 Cor. 7:2-16; Luke 17:20-37
    Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72
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Anti-pollution.  Against pollution.  The "anti-pollution movement."  Because we don’t like negative "anti" words, now the phrase has morphed into "the environmental movement."  It is a major political movement.  People have received Nobel prizes because of their opposition to pollution and entire industries have arisen to combat the "polluters."  Who would say today that they are "pro-pollution?"

Well no one would admit verbally to being in favor of pollution, but we all act as if it didn’t matter.  Or we act as if we are against it until becoming unpolluted "negatively" affects our lives.

God is against pollution as well, but the pollution He speaks of is not the pollution of the world, but our pollution caused by our love affair with the world, as opposed to our love affair with Him.  This kind of pollution causes defects in our obedience to Him and results in our inability to reap the blessings which God intends for us.  The fancy word for this is the Bible is being "impure."  The process of becoming pure is the process of becoming unpolluted.

If we recognize that we are impure (polluted), then our lessons today have three things to say about what we do (or don’t do).

Our first lesson teaches us to "kill" those people and circumstances which cause us to follow other gods, to be obedient to the ways of the world rather than to the ways of God.  Although in the Old Testament "kill" meant just that, to address modern sensibilities let me "allegorize" the word "kill" to mean get rid of, to reject totally, to throw away, to remove from our presence, to avoid.  You get the idea.  This first lesson is presented in Deuteronomy 13:1-11 as follows:

"If a prophet … appears among you…and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods … and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet…It is the LORD your God you must follow, and Him you must revere…That prophet or dreamer must be put to death…You must purge the evil from among you.  If your very own brother, or your son or daughter, or the wife you love, or your closest friend secretly entices you, saying ‘Let us go and worship other gods’…show him no pity.  Do not spare him or shield him.  You must certainly put him to death.  Your hand must be the first in putting him to death …"

To paraphrase, pollution and the people who cause it are so insidious, you must totally get rid of them in order to protect yourself.

Our second lesson teaches us that our desire to rid ourselves of the pollution in our lives should be a natural response of gratitude for what God has done for us on the cross.  As Paul put it in his second letter to the church in Corinth, "Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God." 2 Cor. 7:1.

And our third lesson is that the process of purification, of getting rid of the pollution, is a process that will only have an end when Jesus Christ returns to earth in glory —

"Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark.  Then the flood came and destroyed them all.  It was the same in the days of Lot.  People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building.  But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all.  It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed." Luke 17:26-30

So what is our anti-pollution program?  First, we get rid of the people, things, philosophies, and habits which pollute our lives and turn us away to other gods.  Second, we check our motivation – our motivation should be in gratitude for the promises we have been given and not because we believe we can "earn" our way to heaven.  Third, we should realize that the battle really does belong to the Lord, and will not be over until He returns.

Well, you might say – if I can’t totally get rid of the pollution until God shows up, why bother?  Let me respond by asking you a question.  In our quote from Luke, who would you rather be?  Noah or the people left behind?  Lot or the people left behind?

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Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?"  Lord, help us to love your Word, incarnate in Jesus Christ and written in Scripture, and to solely rely upon them as our source of information about how we should live.  Help us Lord to come to You, and once having come to You to become closer to You and to preach the Gospel to all people in all circumstances, in and out of season, as You have commanded.  Help us know that You are God and we are not.  Assist us Lord through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to be willing and obedient servants.  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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