Bread – Dog Thoughts

July 31, 2009


Readings for Friday, July 31
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    2 Sam. 5:1-12; Acts 17:1-15; Mark 7:24-37
    Psalms 69, 73
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Have you ever asked the question – what is my position in the kingdom of God on earth?  Our answer might be that we are a priest, or a chalice bearer, or an evangelist, or an elder, or a member of the Board of Directors (or Trustees), or a special advisor, or a teacher, or a small group leader.

In any event, it is not the "high" positions in the kingdom of God on earth which are brought to our attention today, but the low, and low they are.

For example, there are those who are outcast from normal society because they believe the Word of God and are zealous for God’s glory and honor:

"For I endure scorn for Your sake, and shame covers my face.  I am a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my own mother’s sons; for zeal for Your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. When I weep and fast, I must endure scorn; when I put on sackcloth, people make sport of me.  Those who sit at the gate mock me, and I am the song of the drunkards." Psalm 69:7-12

And there are those who are troublemakers by speaking the Word of God plainly:

"These men [Paul, Silas] who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here…They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus."  Acts 17:6-7 (in context, Paul had been speaking in the Church, using only Scripture for his argument)

And then there are the dogs, those people who know that they are only fit to eat the crumbs which fall from the King’s table:

"The woman was a Greek…She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter…[Jesus said] ‘..it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ she replied,’but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.’  Then He told her, ‘For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.’"  Mark 7:26-29

And yet in their low position, their low estate, each of the people involved in the readings above also have high position.  David, the "song of the drunkards," was made king over united Israel in our readings today in 2 Samuel.  Paul, the troublemaker (and Apostle), could say later to the church in Philippi "I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." Phil. 4:13.  The Greek woman, the dog, was greatly blessed.

When we think about our position in the Kingdom of God on earth, when was the last time that we thought of ourselves as an outcast from society because of our zeal for the Lord, when was the last time that we thought of ourselves as a troublemaker for Christ because we speak the truth of Scripture and the gospel, and when was the last time that we thought of ourselves as a dog, worthy only to eat the crumbs which fall from the Master’s table?  If you are like me, rarely, if ever.

Today, will our pride interfere with our being a zealot for the glory and honor of God, a troublemaker teaching Scripture, or a dog grateful for our many blessings?  Or will we permit the Holy Spirit to work in us to glorify God, to teach His true Word, and to be satisfied with the crumbs which bless?

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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 – Defense

July 15, 2009


Readings for Monday, July 13
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 18:5-16, 27b-30; Acts 11:19-30; Mark 1:29-45
    Psalms 9, 15, 25
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"I am the ____________ (fill in the blank – owner, president, king, head of the house, manager, vice president, general, professor, pastor, head)"  We are proud of our position of authority and honor.  We have worked and studied hard to get where we are.  We are good at what we do.  Just the other day we were exposed to this attitude in spades – a woman senator from California insisted that a military officer call her "Senator" rather than "ma’am," because, well, she worked hard for that position!

And then, once in a while, someone comes along who is more good looking than we are, is smarter than we are, is better spoken than we are, is more able to achieve good results than we are – and if that person is our subordinate or our positional equal, our reaction is often anger, fear, resentment, and even hatred, even though that person has probably done nothing to justify such an outrageous reaction.  I admit that I have had that thought more than once, and it has no rational basis.  Their very being, their very presence, challenges our position and our authority (we think) and we rise up in instinctive defense, ready to scratch their eyes out.  Very likely, their only offense was to wish us "good morning."

We see something like that going on today with Saul in our reading from Samuel.  Our reading is best summarized by this – "When Saul saw how successful [also, "wise" is a proper translation] he (David) was, he was afraid of him."  1 Sam. 18:15

Saul’s anger and fear were irrational.  David had done or said nothing to threaten Saul’s position as king, and yet Saul felt threatened just by virtue of David’s achievements (on Saul’s behalf).  These feelings were so irrational that, earlier in the reading, Saul tried to kill David with a spear while David was playing some music.  Playing music – some threat to Saul’s position as king!  And yet the king tried to murder him.

Don’t we do the same thing?  We feel that someone is a threat to our position in society, at the job, in church, at home, among our friends.  Very likely this person has done nothing to demonstrate that they are an actual threat.  In fact, more often than not, they have done nothing except to show up.  When we sense this threat, we do everything we can to get rid of them.  Any smile we give them is a false smile, hiding a murderous intent.  Anything we say about them is designed to undermine their relationships with our friends or co-workers, is designed to get them excluded from the group or fired from the job.  They walk into a room and say "Hi," and we are seething with anger and discontent at their arrival. 

Saul’s answers to the "problem" of David are not healthy.  He tries to solve the problem by throwing a spear at David, he tries to get David killed on the front lines of the fight with the Philistines, he tries to ignore him, he tries to fool him, he tries to run away from him, he tries to ignore him, and he tries to compromise him.

What Saul did not do was turn to the Lord for guidance.  He did not ask God for wisdom in how to deal with his feelings about David.  He did not ask God to reveal the truth about David to him, but instead ran with his feelings, false though they were.  He did not ask God to give him a spirit of love toward David.  He did not try to seek God’s purpose in bringing David into his life and he did not seek out God’s Spirit to help him overcome his envy, jealousy, anger, and pride.

When this happens to us, do we behave like Saul or do we do what Saul should have done?

We have two ways of looking at the Davids in our lives.  One is to drink the poison.  One is to ask the Lord to reveal to us what lesson He has in store for us through our David.  Lord, let us have the wisdom at the time of confrontation with David and ourselves to ask You for Your help, for Your Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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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 – Reserve

July 6, 2009


Readings for Monday, July 6
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 15:1-3, 7-23; Acts 9:19-31; Luke 23:44-56
    Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 7
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A reserve is something which is kept back, which is grasped rather than released.  A reserve is something set aside for a rainy day.  When we have excess money, we talk about having a "reserve."  At the end of the making of wine, the "reserve" is generally the best, which is kept for the owner.  When we call a hotel to set aside a room for the future, we call it reserving a room.  When a person is quiet at a party, we may say that he or she is "reserved," commenting on the fact that they appear to be holding something back about themselves from everyone else.

Not only does the concept of reserve involve setting aside, but it involves setting aside something for use in the future, not the present.  Therefore, the act of reserving something is also the act of planning for the future.

Sometimes the motive to create a reserve is to create a safety net in times of trouble, a reaction to fear.  Right now, people are reserving cash for just in case there are economic hard times.  We reserve food in storm shelters in case we have to escape to them in a tornado. 

Sometimes the motive to create a reserve is selfish.  We want to grasp and keep the really good things.  We want to build our "collections."  We want to keep the best for ourselves and keep it from everyone else.

God tells us to love Him with all of our heart, mind, and body.  Why then do we reserve something for later?  Why do we hold back our love when God demonstrates that we should show love lavishly?  Why do we plan for the future and hold things back from the present in case we might need them in the future?

I submit that we take a piece of what we do, who we are, and what we have and keep it in reserve for one reason and one reason only – we do not really trust God.  And when we may find someone who totally trusts God and lives day-to-day, reserving nothing for tomorrow, we tend to think of that person as unrealistic, unbalanced, presumptuous, flaky, or a bad steward.

The lesson that brings all this up is the reading from Samuel today.  In this lesson, Saul is ordered by God, through Samuel, to "totally destroy everything that belongs to [the Amalekites].  Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys."  1 Sam. 15:3.  Saul actually goes to do these things, but spares the life of the Amalekites king and keeps (reserves) the "best of the sheep and cattle, the fat calves and lambs — everything that was good."  1 Sam. 15:9.

The Hebrew word for "destroy" in this quotation means "destroy" in our ordinary sense, but it also conveys the sense of setting aside of something to the Lord.  This command to destroy, therefore, does not mean a destruction which arises from passion or anger, but a destruction which constitutes a setting aside of the property destroyed for the Lord.  The command of the Lord to "destroy" is therefore more of a command to set aside certain property irrevocably (by destruction) for the Lord.

Samuel then accuses Saul of not obeying the Lord; Saul’s response is that he did obey the Lord – all he did was to reserve some of the flocks and herds for later.  Saul rationalizes why he kept the best of the herd and flock by saying to Samuel that he kept these things so that he could sacrifice them to the Lord later (thereby saving his own property from being used as an offering).  Saul’s response to God’s command was, literally, "surely you didn’t mean to destroy everything, so we’ll save some for later."  Later, Saul again attempts to rationalize his conduct by saying that he was afraid of "the people."  1 Sam. 15:24

Samuel’s response to Saul’s rationalization is to remind Saul that God wants to be trusted and obeyed above all, by saying "Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord?  To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams."  1 Sam. 15:22

What is your excuse for keeping something in reserve from God today? 

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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 – Motives

July 2, 2009


Readings for Wednesday, July 1
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Sam. 12:1-6, 16-25; Acts 8:14-25; Luke 23:1-12
    Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130
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"When Simon saw that the Spirit was given at the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money and said, ‘ Give me also this ability so that everyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’  Peter answered: ‘May your money perish with you, because you thought you could buy the gift of God with money!  You have no part or share in this ministry, because your heart is not right before God.’"  Acts 8:18-20

Samuel says more or less the same thing – "For the sake of His great name the Lord will not reject His people, because the Lord was pleased to make you His own … Yet if you persist in doing evil, both you and your king will be swept away."  1 Sam. 22, 25

Our motives determine our outcome.  Simon had a motive to use the gifts of God in a ministry to make money rather than to honor God.  The Israelites could have a motive of using their chosen position with God as a base, as a cover, for doing evil.  In Simon’s case, his motive was apparent and the results were swift – "you have no part or share in this ministry."  In the people Israel’s case, their motives are mixed and, therefore, God in His good pleasure has chosen to delay ultimate judgment.  However, the judgment for those with false motive is clear – they and their leaders and followers will be "swept away."

Peter’s motive was to follow the way of Jesus Christ and to preach the gospel of good news regardless of the cost.  Simon took the cost into account while he was figuring his profit, and his motive was to join the Christian bandwagon and figure out how he could become rich doing it.

What is your motive for wearing your cross, going to church, paying your tithe, talking about the Word?  Do you do these things because you have sold out as bondservants of Jesus Christ, sworn to bring glory to God in everything you do and everywhere you do it?  Or is your motive to get by, to join the crowd, to be in the company of the "right people," to make the right contacts, to use your position of member, elder, or priest for money?

Not a fair question, is it?  It’s not a fair question because our carnal lives, augmented by the devil’s legions, are all over the map.  We attend a worship service to glorify God and to enjoy the presence of His Holy Spirit, and we are happy when we make a new contact over coffee who helps us with our business.   We are people of mixed motives, and so we think we have an excuse.

Well, we don’t have an excuse.  God has given us the Holy Spirit to overcome.

So let’s start overcoming.  Let’s begin every morning by asking the Holy Spirit to purify our motives, so that everything that we do flows outs of a desire to worship and glorify God and bring honor to Him, so that what we do flows out of a desire to serve Him and His people on earth as His messenger of hope and new life.

Let’s start right now by praying "Come Holy Spirit."

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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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