Bread – Warnings

September 30, 2009


Readings for Wednesday, September 30
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    2 Kings 18:9-25; 1 Cor. 8:1-13; Matt. 7:13-21
    Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144
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We have a way of projecting from the present into the future.  If we are suffering today, we presume that we will be suffering tomorrow.  If we are having good times today, we believe that we will have good times tomorrow.  Even though we know in our minds (and probably our hearts as well, if we are in touch with them) that what is important is the trend from the past through the present into the future and so, therefore, we need to look back from time to time to see where we have come from, and even though we recognize that history (and our lives) are, within that trend, somewhat cyclical (having good times and bad times), nonetheless, if we are doing well today our natural presumption is that we will continue to do well tomorrow.

This natural tendency to project the future based upon the present (and little else) affects not only us as individuals, but our families and our nation.

The United States has been the recipient of many blessings from God in the past and is in fact being blessed by God today.  What makes us think that will continue tomorrow?  I would assert that such a view is based on little else than an undue confidence that tomorrow will be like today.  I would assert that our confidence in the future, to the extent it is based on an assumption that the future will be like today, is a false confidence.

Israel and Judah had such false confidences, believing that because God had given them the land and because they were in possession of the land, they would continue to keep the land.  In 2 Kings 18:9-12, it is reported about Israel that they were removed from the land by the Assyrians:

"At the end of three years the Assyrians took it [Samaria]…The king of Assyria deported Israel to Assyria and settled them in Halah … This happened because they had not obeyed the Lord their God, but had violated His covenant….They neither listened to the commands nor carried them out."

In short, God gave Israel the Promised Land and asked them to love and glorify Him by being obedient to His commandments.  Israel did not want to even hear what God had to say and ignored Him.  Then, they were evicted by Assyria.

If we have any doubts that God was behind Assyria and using their leaders to punish Israel and Judah, these doubts are dispelled by what happened to Judah.  Reading in 2 Kings 18:13-25,

"…Sennacherib king of Assyria attacked all of the fortified cities of Judah and captured them….The field commander said to them [representatives of the king of Judah], ‘Tell Hezekiah [king of Judah]: "This is what the great king, the king of Assyria, says: On what are you basing this confidence of yours? …and if you say to me, ‘We are depending on the Lord our God’ — isn’t He the one whose high places and altars Hezekiah removed…Furthermore, have I come to attack and destroy this place without word from the Lord?  The Lord Himself told me to march against this country and destroy it."

Hezekiah dishonored God and yet still expected that Judah would continue to receive God’s blessing because they were receiving it at the time.  God went to Assyria and said to the leaders there, "take out Judah and evict her from the land I gave her."  The king of Assyria was essentially incredulous that Hezekiah did not understand that his problems were caused by him and permitted by God.

We who dishonor God, who do not listen to or read or study His Word, who do not worship Him, who live our lives resting upon the blessings provided to us by a God who was honored by our forefathers … cannot we read the warnings from Kings?  Do we really believe that tomorrow will be like today when God picks out an adversary to dispossess us, to evict us, from the blessings we have given us?  Do we really believe that tomorrow will be like today because, well, it just will?  Are we that naïve or blinded?

Just in case you missed it in today’s readings (and for those who think the Old Testament doesn’t apply), Jesus had something to say about this as well in Matthew 7:18 — "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."  Now this could mean end times judgment for individuals, but it could also mean something much closer and bigger.

So if we can read the warnings and we know that we will be evicted from our blessed circumstances if we fail to honor and obey God, and if we find ourselves in a situation where our fruit is not good, what do we do?  We can do what David did today in our reading from Psalms – pray and say:

"Your statutes are wonderful; therefore I obey them.
The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.
I open my mouth and pant, longing for Your commands.
Turn to me and have mercy on me, as You always do to those who love Your Name…"
Psalm 119:129-132

To which I say "Amen."
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Bread – Hypocrisy

September 28, 2009


Readings for Monday, September 28
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    2 Kings 17:24-41; 1 Cor. 7:25-31; Matt. 6:25-34
    Psalm 89
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In 2 Kings, the children of Israel have been replaced in Samaria by Assyria with a variety of other people.  The reporter has this to say about these people:

"They worshiped the Lord, but they also appointed all sorts of their own people … They worshiped the Lord, but they also served their own gods … Even while these people were worshiping the Lord, they were serving their idols."  2 Kings 17:32-33, 41

The setting is this.  Assyria has conquered Samaria and has engaged in resettlement.  The Jews are sent out of the country and other people are resettled into Samaria.  The Jews left behind their worship centers, as well as everything else.  Lions came and ate some of the new people, so they complained that they did not know how to obey the "god of that country."  The Assyrian king sent back one of the Jewish priests to instruct the people in what they must do to satisfy God.  There is no evidence that the priest taught the people wrongly, but the people continued to worship their old gods as well as the new "god of that country."  One of the people groups even continued to destroy their young children.  They worshiped God in the old Jewish worship centers (high places), but they also worshiped their old gods in the same place and at the same time.

We might call these people the classic hypocrites, but in a sense they don’t belong in that category because they believed in a multitude of gods, a pantheon, who each did different things.  It was therefore easy for them to park God into the category of "god of that country," and to not realize that God is God over all.  So, in a sense they were not acting hypocritically, but consistently with their wrong beliefs.

But how many of us believe the same thing and act the same way?  Don’t we bring to the Christian table many thoughts of many gods, of many idols.  Don’t we acknowledge in the sanctuary that God provides everything we need, but act in the business world like we are the only ones in charge?  Don’t we acknowledge the value of life in church, but then act to destroy our children as a sacrifice to freedom and privacy gods?  Don’t we repeat on Sunday the words that Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life," and then bow to the gods of tolerance by acknowledging that there may be more than one way to God when we are engaged with our Muslim friends?

Ask yourself – How many gods am I bringing with me to my worship of God today?  How many of those gods do I trust in, rather than trust the one Creator, Judge, and Redeemer?  Is my worship of God singular, or do I worship many gods at many times during the week, alongside my worship of God?

One reaction I had to the quotation from Kings above was – "How do they do that?  How can you worship God and yet worship other gods at the same time, in the same place?"  And then I realized that I do that.  And that makes me a hypocrite.  If you join me, then you are one too.

What do we do?  Well, we can do nothing or we can do what Jesus told us to do in today’s gospel from Matthew – "But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness…."  Matt. 6:33.  And how do we do that?  If you are not a Christian, then it begins with you first becoming one through your recognition that you need Christ and your placing your absolute trust in Him as Lord and Savior.  If you are a Christian, then we know we need help to do anything and that the Holy Spirit gives us ability.  So what we can do is this – pray, 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 knowledge 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 – Boundaries

September 21, 2009


Readings for Monday, September 21
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    2 Kings 5:1-19; 1 Cor. 4:8-21; Matt. 5:21-26
    Psalms 77, 79, 80
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In today’s lesson in Kings, we read about Naaman.  Oh how I wanted to write about Naaman, because he is so much like us.  He had leprosy and heard about God.  He first sought out the King of Israel, taking with him much wealth to pay for his blessing, and was sent to Elisha the prophet.  Elisha told Naaman to do a little thing – wash seven times in the Jordan – and Naaman got mad because he wanted to be healed with the flash of lightning and the drums of a big band.  In fact he initially rejected God’s orders, because they had him doing a little thing and not a big thing.  When he finally obeyed God, he was healed.  However, he still wanted to have something to do with the healing and insisted that Elisha take money and things.  Elisha refused and in the process reminded Naaman (and us) that our healing through Jesus Christ is a gift of God and not something that we can pay for or earn.  Naaman also learned, as should we, that doing whatever God tells us to do is good enough, even though it may be just a little thing and even though no one else knows about it.

But I can’t write about Naaman, because there is an important sentence in Paul’s letter to Corinthians today which is easy to skip over but cannot be ignored.  It is this — "Do not go beyond what is written."  1 Cor. 4:6.  Paul relates this statement to the matters that he addressed with Apollos, so some study of Apollos is appropriate.

We know that Apollos was a native of Alexandria (one of the great centers of learning at that time), came first to Ephesus and then to Corinth.  He was a "learned man." (Acts 18:24).  He apparently knew Scripture (the Old Testament) very well.  He had been taught about Jesus Christ, but apparently did not know Jesus Christ.  The Bible describes Apollos as knowing only the baptism of John – therefore, although he had repented of his sins, he had not accepted Jesus as Lord and had not received the Holy Spirit.  Acts 18:25.  He was led to knowing Christ by a husband-wife team.  Afterward, he defended the Christians in the synagogue, arguing for Jesus from the Old Testament Scripture.  Acts 18:28.  Apparently he was so charismatic and such a good debater that many people of the Corinthian church began to follow him, as opposed to Paul or, worse, Christ.  1 Cor. 1:10-17.  Implied in the text is that Apollos began teaching things which were crowd-pleasing but not necessarily based upon Scripture ("I planted the seed, Apollos watered it … But each one should be careful how he builds.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ." – 1 Cor. 3:5-15).

Paul is warning Apollos as he warns us — when we are preaching or teaching according to the role which God has given us, be careful that there is too much us and not enough Him (Jesus Christ), be careful that there is too much us and not enough God’s Word written, the Bible (Scripture).

How do we do that?  Paul gives us the answer – play within the boundaries God has set — "Do not go beyond what is written."

We don’t like boundaries, do we?  Yet we know as adults and parents that boundaries are useful things to keep us safe and to help us reach our destination without bad things happening.  We put our youngest children in playpens.  We put our older children in back yards with fences and enclosed school yards.  We drive in marked lanes.  Ships follow marked-out routes through the oceans.  Airplanes fly in corridors.  We sleep in rooms with walls.

And yet, we constantly fight our boundaries.  The young child climbs the playpen or the fence.  We drive the wrong way on a one way street because it is the shortest distance to where we are going.  We leave the safety of the shelter to hunt in the wilderness. 

And yet God says to those of us who lead, teach, preach, evangelize, pray, or minister in any way in His name – "Do not go beyond what is written."

And so we find ourselves back in the garden of Eden.  God says "you don’t need to know" and we say "Oh yes we do."  God’s boundaries gave us (Adam and Eve) safety and plenty.  Our deliberate overstepping of those boundaries gave us trouble, shortages, losses, and death.

God gave us not only His Word as our boundary, but also gave us Himself.  We would like to ignore the boundaries of God and say that there are many ways to the Creator, the Force, the All Powerful, the Chief Kahuna.  But God says that He has set the boundaries and that there is but one path to Him, through faith in His Son Jesus Christ.

Thank you Lord for your boundaries!  Give us strength through your Holy Spirit to honor your boundaries and to be content with our portion.  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 knowledge 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 – First

September 14, 2009


Readings for Monday, September 14
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Kings 21:1-16; 1 Cor. 1:1-19; Matt. 4:1-11
    Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65
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The Gospel of Matthew today presents us with the temptations of Christ.  This is a Bible lesson most people almost know by heart.  Jesus is taken into the desert by the Holy Spirit for the expressed purpose of being tempted.  He does not eat (and maybe does not drink water) for forty days.  At His weakest, Satan appears to offer Him three tests.  In the first two tests, Jesus responds by quotations from Scripture.  It is, however, the third test where Jesus commands Satan to leave and then rebuts him with a Bible verse.

The question this raises for me is, why did Jesus wait until the third test to command Satan to leave?  Is there something about that particular test which, to Jesus’ mind, required Him to end the testing?

I think so.  The first test was one involving needs.  I need food, so what I am going to do to get it?  Could Jesus be tempted to use His power to obtain something He needed.  In our lives, this translates to the test of whether we will give up our integrity, our honesty, our chastity, or some other virtue in order to get a need, actual or perceived, fulfilled.  These tests confront us every day and are actually pretty obvious unless our conscience’s have been seared by prior bad conduct.

The second test involved His position.  Was He is such a position so as to be able to command the Father’s angels?  This test was, in a sense, a test of self-esteem.  Did Jesus know enough about who He was so that He did not have to prove it to Himself?  Again, these kinds of tests are pretty obvious when we are going through them.  If we have power or position, are we being tempted to use that position in such a way to remind us or remind others of who we are?  Are we acting pompous or deserving.  If we have a talent, are we being tempted to show it off so that people will be amazed.  Satan was attacking Jesus’ pride, and Satan attacks us every day using the same techniques.  We may give into our pride, but we know that what we are doing is not good and we can see Satan’s trick for what it is.

But the third test involved something significantly greater.  It involved family.  It involved Jesus’ relationship with His Father.  It involved who was first in Jesus’ life.  Jesus was being asked by Satan to make a choice, to follow His Father or to follow Satan.  Because this temptation was the greatest of all – who will we follow? — it required the most severe response – "Away from me Satan!" Matt. 4:10.  Jesus was being confronted with the question of who was first in His life, and He knew that the answer to the question was of such moment, of such consequence, that a powerful response was required.  The first two rounds of the temptations were bad, but just a game; the third temptation affected Jesus at His core – one might say it affected His eternal life.

This third temptation of Satan’s is also something which attracts us every day, but instead of being obvious it is very subtle and is so destructive that failure to command Satan to leave may result in almost unrecoverable losses.  Adam and Eve were asked whether they would follow God or themselves, and they chose themselves and fell.  When we rely upon ourselves rather than God we make the same choice.  When we listen to the world rather than to God in Scripture, we make the same choice.  It is a choice to worship idols rather than the God who created us, who sustains us, who loves us, and in fact who died for us.

When confronted with a choice about who is first in our lives, what is our response?  Do we toy with the idea that we are in charge, that the world offers pleasures which we cannot do without.  Do we look first to ourselves or to others?  Do we look first to science or the academy?  Do we look first to sources of good ideas, or people or organizations with apparent wisdom.

Or do we look first to God?

The temptation to idolatry is subtle and is life-threatening and life-draining.  Resist in the power of the Spirit and, when tempted to put yourself or someone else in the first position, recall Jesus’ response — "Away from me Satan!  For it is written: Worship the Lord your God and serve Him only."  Matt. 4:4:10.

There is only one first position and not even Jesus monkeyed around with that.

Bread – Rope’s End

September 9, 2009


Readings for Wednesday, September 9
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Kings 17:1-24; Phil. 2:1-11; Matt. 2:1-12
    Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72
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In today’s history lesson from 1 Kings, we find the players – Elijah, the Zarephath widow, and the widow’s son – all at the end of their rope.  The first had followed God’s instruction and what God told him to rely upon disappeared.  The second, the widow, may or may not have known God, but she knew she had run out of food and that, without food, she would die.  The third, the widow’s son, did die.

In a sense, each of these people found themselves at a crossroads of life, at the end of their rope.  At this end, they had a choice – to give in to the end or to rely upon God’s instructions and his promises.  Had they given in they would have died – by surrendering to God’s command they lived.

With respect to Elijah, God told Elijah to hide and to drink out of a brook of water.  Elijah obeyed God.  After a while, the brook dried up.  How similar is this to where we may find ourselves as servants and ministers of God.  God has given us a ministry and has equipped us for it.  We are having success and then, literally, the success begins to wither.  Our brook of water from God dries up.  We hit a spiritual and mental crossroads, not knowing what God would have us do.  One choice is to sit where we are, try to jump start our ministry in our own effort, expecting God to deliver the water in the brook the way He has.  Another choice is to stop and listen to what God is saying.  Elijah did that and God told him to get up from where he was and to go find the widow.  Elijah was obedient to this new call and, instead of being at the end of his rope found himself on a new journey into faithfulness.

With respect to the widow, the widow found herself and her family at the end of their rope.  They had almost no food left and no prospect for more food (apparently they had no money or ability to obtain more food).  Without food, you die and the widow knew that.  She was ready to make her last meal and die, along with her son.  When Elijah shows up, he tells her something very strange.  He promises God’s blessing if she will be obedient – Elijah commands her to feed him [Elijah] with her last morsels.  At that moment the widow had a choice.  She could gather up what little she had, hold onto it, feed herself and her family, and die.  Or she could choose to obey God, acting through His messenger, and give away what she had for God’s purpose.  She was at the end of her rope, but rather than rely upon what she knew to be the case [her lack of food], she relied upon God’s promise.  As a result, she ended up with plenty of food.

With respect to the son, after a while he died.  Apparently no one had done anything to cause him to die – he just died.  The son was at the end of his rope in the ultimate fashion – he was dead.  The widow was at the end of her rope – her son had died.  And Elijah was at the end of his rope because he thought he had brought calamity to the widow’s house.  In this case the son had no ability to choose – he was dead.  Instead, Elijah chose for him, choosing to be obedient to God’s command that we pray in the expectation that God will grant us good things.  After Elijah prayed, God brought the widow’s son back to life.

What is perhaps the most fascinating about this lesson, however, is the widow’s reaction.  When her son was brought back to life, she acknowledged that Elijah was in fact a man of God and a prophet.  Elijah’s story did not convince her, her never-ending miracle of the flour and oil which replenished itself did not convince her — instead it was someone who was raised from the dead who convinced her.

What is going to convince you?  Is it the quiet voice of God letting you know what direction to take in life?  Is it the miracle we witness every day when we are able by God’s grace to rise from our beds?  Or is it the fact that Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead?

Maybe you find yourself today in the place of Elijah, a person in ministry whose brook has dried up.  Maybe you find yourself in the place of the widow, with no resources and nothing to eat.  Maybe you find yourself in the place of the son, with the life gone from you emotionally, psychologically, or physically.  Well, God will show you the way, He will provide, and He has died and been raised from the dead.  Listen to the Word, respond to the promise, and through belief in Christ participate in eternal life – and you will find that the end of the rope is really the beginning of hope.

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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 knowledge 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 – Modern Crucifixion

September 4, 2009


Readings for Friday, September 4
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Kings 11:26-43; James 4:13-5:6; Mark 15:22-32
    Psalms 31, 35
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The Gospel of Mark, in today’s reading, presents a simple recitation of the history of Christ’s crucifixion, His death on the cross as payment for our sin, so that through His blood and belief in Him that we might possess eternal life.  In the reading from Kings, the prophecy is given to Jeroboam that he will govern the ten tribes of Israel, after Judah and Israel are split, because Solomon left God for other gods and did not obey God.  The reading from James contains a warning against boasting and wealth, again arrogance and the nature of the heart which generates arrogance, boasting, and yes, sometimes worldly wealth.

What do all these readings have in common?  We know that Jesus’ crucifixion was a one-time event, sufficient forever for God’s intended purpose.  If there is only one crucifixion, then why is this Bread called "Modern Crucifixion?"

The answer I think lies in the charge leveled against Jesus, the one tacked on top of His cross – "The King of the Jews."

He dares to call Himself King over me?  Isn’t that what the reading from 1 Kings is about?  Solomon in 1 Kings has taken the position that "I am King" and at best God is an advisor.  Solomon had forsaken his God for other masters, for other gods, for himself as a god.  Solomon had essentially commented to himself – "He (God) dares to call Himself King over me?"  Solomon left God, Solomon exalted himself over God, and so Solomon ignored God’s clear teaching in God’s Word that Solomon should follow Him and obey Him.  When Solomon left the real God for the fake gods to pursue worldly affairs, when he abandoned God’s laws contained in God’s Word to follow laws written by him, when Solomon turned the relationship between he and God upside down to where Solomon was now judging God, God handed most of what Solomon had (ten tribes) to Jeroboam.

He dares to call Himself King over me?  Isn’t that what the reading from James is about?  Don’t the people James refers to think that they are kings, that they are the ones who run their own lives?  Isn’t that where boasting and the hoarding of wealth comes from – the idea, the premise that I am king over me and that I need not be obedient to the Word of God when I don’t want to be?

He dares to call Himself King over me?  Although not in our readings today, isn’t this the underlying question, the underlying statement involved in Adam and Eve’s disobedience to God’s command.

When we act contrary to God’s commands contained in His Word and as reflected in Jesus Christ, aren’t we making the same statement – He dares to Himself King over me?

Yes He dares.  He dares so much that He paid the price for daring – He sacrificed Himself so that the penalty for our disobedience would be paid for all time.  Do we dare to accept His offer?  Do we dare to accept Him as King and honor Him by subjecting ourselves to His authority, to His Kingship, to His commands contained in His Word, and to His love?

The Jews considered the statement "He dares to call Himself King over me?" and became so angry that they caused the Romans to hang Jesus from a cross.  Solomon considered the statement "He dares to call Himself King over me?" and said "No, I am king over me and my kingdom and I will ignore God’s Word and do as I please."

We can do the same thing that Solomon did and that the people James refers to did – we can ignore God’s Word and His commands, we can reject His love, and we can boast in our doings, believing that we are kings over our kingdom.  In so doing, we dishonor God,.offend the Holy Spirit, and in a sense put Jesus back on that cross with the mocking sign above His head – "The King of the Jews."

Or we can dare to recognize that sign for what it is – the truth.  We can recognize that He is in fact King of us and King of all that was, is and will be.  We can embrace His decrees and commands contained in His Word.  We can embrace His love for us and for those who have yet to know Him.  We can bring ourselves under His command and be obedient, with the support and power of the Holy Spirit.

He dares to call Himself King over me?  Let us answer the question – "Yes He does and yes He is."  And then let us show it by our love and by our obedience to His Word.  Amen.

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Lord, help us to wisely answer the question, "Will you really lay down your life for Me?" and to acknowledge that, yes, Lord, you are my King.  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 – Tongue Talk

September 2, 2009


Readings for Wednesday, September 2
    from the Book of Common Prayer:
    1 Kings 9:24-10:13; James 3:1-12; Mark 15:1-11
    Psalms 38, 119:25-48
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The reading from James today is about the tongue.  This is one of the passages that makes us realize that we all fall short.  As James says, "If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man…"  James 3:2b.  If you fall into this category, you are to be congratulated because you may be the only one of this generation who is perfect.

Now, for the rest of us James has a lot to say about the tongue.  First, he says that our whole life is governed by what comes out of mouth, likening the tongue to a rudder on a boat.  James 3:4.  Second, he says that it makes great "boasts" James 3:5a  Third, he says that what comes out of a mouth through the tongue can start large fires, fires which damage and destroy.  James 3:5b,6.  Fourth, he says the tongue is evil.  James 3:6, 8b.  Fifth, he says the tongue "corrupts the whole person." James 3:6b.  Sixth, he says that no man can tame the tongue.  James 3:8a.

Following his description of the tongue, James asks a question – can bad fruit come from a good tree?  James 3:12.  Asked another way, can a tongue which springs forth evil, mischief, gossip, rumors, etcetera be the product of a Christian?

We know the answer to this last question, "yes and no."  The "yes" part comes from our carnal life, which is at war with our new life in Jesus Christ and which sometimes spills over into poor language and poor behavior, language and behavior which brings discredit to our God instead of the glory He deserves.  The "no" part comes from our knowledge that James is right, if we could only take on the new life totally and shed the old carnal life totally, then totally good things would come from our mouths.

James has given us a test by which we can judge ourselves about our journey of sanctification, whether we are progressing toward Jesus Christ or retreating away.  Once you are born, you have to grow.  James gives us a good test by which we can judge whether we are growing.

Hidden within the Bible are little phrases which are easily ignored until the Holy Spirit brings them forth.  One such phrase for me today is "no man."  "…no man can tame the tongue." James 3:8.  I always felt badly when I read that, because I knew no matter how much I did I would never be able to keep from saying things which sometimes hurt other people, started fires, and corrupted both me and the listener.  But today I realized that "no man" excludes God.  God is able to tame the tongue and so my job is to strengthen my relationship with God and my understanding of His Word and let Him so transform my life that what comes from my tongue brings blessing, honor, good teaching, love, and peace.

Are you struggling with a tongue which does not evidence your position as a Christian?  Improvement is waiting around the corner.  Just pray "come Holy Spirit" and then listen to what He has to say.

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Lord, help us to tame our tongue and 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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