Bread – Winnow

October 30, 2009

Readings for Friday, October 30 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Neh. 2:1-20; Rev. 6:12-7:4; Matt. 13:24-30
    Psalms 40, 51, 54

"Winnow" is somewhat of an old-fashioned word, used primarily in farming.  To "winnow" means to "to analyze or examine carefully in order in order to separate the various elements; sift."*  One implication of it is to separate out and eliminate the poor and useless parts and another is to separate out and preserve (keep) the good and useful parts.*  I think one of the reasons we don’t use the word much anymore is that it is not a very tolerant word – it implies judgment, separation, assessment of good and bad, and preservation of only a part (the good part).

In today’s lessons, God gives us multiple messages that a great winnowing is occurring and is coming.  He is the winnower, separating those who will be saved and who are good in His sight because of Christ’s goodness (not ours) from those who will not be saved but who will be condemned.

In Nehemiah, the Old Testament lesson, Nehemiah has been permitted by the king of Persia to return to Jerusalem and start rebuilding it.  Just as he is getting started, Sanballat the Horonite, Tobiah the Ammonite, and Geshem the Arab show up to taunt him.  Where these people are from are particularly described to make sure the reader knows that they are not of or from Jerusalem and that they are not God’s chosen people.  Nehemiah both states (and at the same time predicts) that those who belong in Jerusalem are separated from those who do not belong with this statement:  "I answered them [Sanballat and company] by saying, ‘The God of heaven will give us success.  We His servants [faithful Jews] will start rebuilding, but as for you [Sanballat and company] you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it."  Neh. 2:20  Nehemiah was winnowing, he was separating those who belonged from those who did not.

In Matthew’s gospel, Jesus speaks even more directly to winnowing:

"Jesus told them [His disciples] another parable: ‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while everyone was sleeping, the enemy came and sowed weeds … The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them [the weeds] up?’  ‘No," he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them.  Let both grow together until the harvest.  At that time, I will tell the harvesters:  First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.”"  Matt. 13:24-30

In this parable, the various aspects of winnowing are described.  First, there is a creative being who makes the choice, based upon his criteria and his alone, as to what will be separated as bad and destroyed and what will be separated as good and preserved.  Then there are the good and bad things themselves, the things which will be separated.  Then there is the time of winnowing – winnowing does not occur at the time the bad and good are first identified, but at the time they have reached full maturity.  Again, the timing of the winnowing is in the hands of the decision-maker, not the things to be winnowed.  The things to be separated, to be winnowed, may not realize while they are growing that they are and will be treated differently – in fact, they may misinterpret the decision-maker’s delay as tolerance of good and evil, of "fair" and "equal" treatment of all things.  That is only because they do not fully, and can not fully, understand or appreciate the decision-maker’s timing.  However, if they thought about it, they would know that there will be a harvest, there will be a separation, and the weeds will be tossed into the fire.

Finally, we witness in Revelation one of the final chapters of the great winnowing which will occur when God, our creator and decision-maker, decides it is time:

"The I saw another angel coming up from the east, having the seal of the living God.  He called out in a loud voice to the four angels who had been given power to harm the land and the sea: ‘Do not harm the land or the sea or the trees until we put a seal on the foreheads of the servants of our God.’"  Rev. 7:2-3

Are you ready to be winnowed?  Are you ready to be judged and separated?  Have you chosen to join the weeds in the fire, or the wheat safely stored with Jesus in His house?

If you have any doubt whatsoever regarding the answer to these questions, then one of three possibilities exist.  The first possibility is that you do not know if you are a Christian or not.  The second possibility is that you know you are a Christian, but are not sure if you are good enough to be counted as wheat.  The third possibility is that you are or in your mind "were" a Christian, and believe that somehow you have lost your right to be counted as wheat (this is closely related to the second possibility).  In such cases, I do not have the room in this e-mail to address your concerns, but I strongly recommend that (a) you seek the Lord’s face in prayer so that He can through His Word reveal the answers to you and (b) you seek the guidance and friendship of a Christian brother or sister who knows the answers to these questions.

If you have no doubt about what your answers to these questions are, then I have a question for you — Isn’t it time to give thanks, praise, and glory to the One who calls, who prepares, who protects, and who at the end winnows?  Isn’t it time to worship God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

*Definitions are from Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1974 Edition)

Bread – The Cross

October 28, 2009

Readings for Wednesday, October 28 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Ezra 6:1-22; Rev. 5:1-10; Matt. 13:10-17
    Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72

In Ezra, the King of Persia has permitted the Jews to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple, at Persia’s expense.  This is not just a physical thing (building the temple), but the re-establishment of corporate worship of God.  It is a big deal.

Some time has gone by, Persian memories have faded, the king has died, and the government officials want to stop the rebuilding work because, quite frankly, they can’t figure out why it even started in the first place.  They have asked Darius to stop the work, and Darius, also curious, looks around for some prior kingly written document which says why the Jews were being permitted to rebuild the temple and why Persia was paying for it.  He finds the writing issued by Cyrus and then issues his own decree telling the government officials that they better help the Jews "or else."  It is the "or else" part of Darius’ decree that we focus on now:

"Furthermore, I decree that if anyone changes this edict, a beam is to pulled from his house and he is to be lifted up and impaled on it."  Ezra 6:11

If a person disobeys the king’s decree, he is to be crucified on a wooden pole.  He is to be killed on the wood taken from his house.  He is to be killed as payment for disobeying the king.

Jesus Christ was killed on the wood taken from His house.  And he was killed because the edict of the King, God, was disobeyed.  But there is a major difference.  Christ was not killed on the beam for His disobedience, but for mine … and yours.  Adam, Eve, me, and you, and the whole host of characters which are in between have disobeyed the King’s edict – and the judgment is death.  But, the King does not want us to die, but to have everlasting life in communion with Him; therefore, the payment was made by the King Himself.

Does this seem odd or strange to you, or maybe fantastic or made up, invented, dreamed, imagined?  If you think this, then meditate upon these words from our reading today in Matthew, spoken by Jesus Himself:

"But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear."  Matt. 13:16

Pray then for wisdom and understanding so that your eyes may see and your ears may hear, and you may be blessed.

Or when you think about this, does the thought that the King died for you because of what you and your forefathers did overwhelm you with its majesty, with its awesomeness, with its expression of love, with its mercy?  If so, then Ezra today has further guidance for you:

"For seven days they celebrated with joy the Feast of Unleavened Bread, because the Lord had filled them with joy by changing the attitude of the king of Assyria…."  Ezra 6:22

They celebrated in worship and obedience because the king of Assyria was obedient.  We celebrate in worship and obedience for the same reason, with the difference that our king is King.

Thank you, Lord, for your death on the beam from Your house for my disobedience.  Thank you.


Bread – False Peace

October 26, 2009

Readings for Monday, October 26 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Zech.1:7-17; Rev. 1:4-20; Matt. 12:43-50
    Psalms 41, 44, 52

The title of Bread today comes from our reading in Zechariah,

"’We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace’…This is what the Lord Almighty says: …’but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure….‘"   Zech. 1:11b, 15

This is strange.  God tells us that He brings us peace and rest, and these are desirable states of affairs.  We are to have peace and rest in Jesus Christ, and this is one of the blessings as a Christian in our walk through life with Him.  And yet, here, God sends out His representatives to survey the world, they report that the world is peaceful, and God is angry – "I am very angry with the nations that feel secure."

There seem to be two lessons in this apparent conflict.  The first lesson is one of comparison, because the context of this prophecy is the destruction of Jerusalem and its impending reconstruction.  The Jews have been hauled away from Jerusalem by the Assyrians, Babylonians, and Medo-Persians, and they are not in peace.  However, the nations "of the world" are at peace.  God is angry because this is a reversal of the proper order – God’s people should be at peace while the world is not; instead, the world is at peace while God’s people are not.  God’s people lost their peace through disobedience in the same way that all have lost their way through the first disobedience – that of Adam and Eve.  Disobedience brings about a disruption of the proper order of things – where God’s people should be at peace. 

The second lesson, however, dissolves the apparent conflict by focusing on the nature of the peace which is being reported.  Note that God is angry with the nations that "feel" secure.  He does not say that he is angry with the nations which "are" secure.

We all know that feelings can be deceptive, and yet as individuals and as a society we make more and more decisions based upon what "feels" good, as opposed to what "is" good.  You can almost count on the fact that "I feel …" is a vehicle which Satan uses to deprive us of the "reality."  For example, there are two common sayings, resulting in opposite ends — "If it feels good, do it" versus "If it feels good, don’t do it."  The first is used by "positive" people and the second by "negative" people.  Both miss the point — if your "state of mind" is based upon what you "feel," both decisions are wrong because they are based upon an improper foundation.  The proper foundation is what "is" good, not what "feels" good.  God is angry with the nations which "feel" secure.

So how do we convert our "feeling" of peace, which may very well be a false, deceptive peace, to an "am at peace," a reality?  The way to do it is by building on the best foundation, the one which comes from God Himself – First His Son, then His Word.  His Son, Jesus Christ, because He is the narrow gate through whom all must enter who would have eternal peace.  His Word, because simple forgiveness of sins through trust in Jesus Christ is, in itself, not enough to protect us day by day from Satan’s attacks.  Although our salvation is assured in Jesus Christ, our joy and our peace day-by-day comes from learning more about God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – through learning His Word, His revelation in written form.

Jesus talks about a false peace today in the context of the Christian walk as follows:

"‘When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it.  The it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’  When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order.  Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go and live there….‘"  Matt. 12:43-45

The reason the house is "unoccupied" is that the foundation is not complete – Jesus has come and given new birth to the man, but the man has not filled the house with the things of God, Jesus Christ and His Word (Scripture).

A word of advice – God is angry with those nations (and people) who feel secure, but who are not in fact secure because they have not acknowledged their disobedience, have not trusted in Jesus Christ, and have not honored God’s revelation of Himself in His Word.

Don’t just feel at peace, be at peace by building upon the only foundation known to bring real, everlasting peace – God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Bread – Death

October 21, 2009

Readings for Wednesday, October 21 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Lam. 2:8-15; 1 Cor. 15:51-58; Matt. 12:1-14
    Psalms 38, 119:25-48


Death comes in many forms.  We can be dead to our friends – so removed from them, so out of their sight, so out of sync with their values and activities, that we are considered dead by them.  We can have such misery that we may feel dead – misery caused by physical disease or physical or mental defect, misery caused by economic circumstances, or misery caused by social circumstances.  We can be actually dead.

Our readings today speak to death in various forms.  In Matthew, Jesus heals the man with the withered hand, comparing him to a sheep who is lost in a pit (unless rescued, dead).  Matt. 12:11-13.  In Lamentations, the writer speaks of the misery caused by the loss of his social structure, his country’s and his people’s captivity to Babylon ("Your wound is as deep as the sea."  Lam. 2:13e), as well as the slow death from starvation which is overtaking the citizens left behind in Jerusalem.  Lam. 2:10-12.  In Psalms, the writer acknowledges that he is in bad shape ("My back is filled with searing pain; there is no health in my body.  I am feeble and utterly crushed; I groan in anguish of heart."  Psalm 38:7-8).

In our depression, in our pit, in our low estate we may see no way out, but each of our readings today says that, indeed, there is a way out.  In Lamentations, the writer says "Your wound is as deep as the sea" and then immediately asks the question "Who can heal you?"  The Psalmist answers God, saying "Come quickly to help me, O Lord my Savior."  Psalm 38:22.   In Matthew, we have the answer to that question – Jesus heals the man with the withered hand. 

But it is in today’s readings from Paul in his first letter to the church in Corinth that we have the boldest statement of our relationship to death when we are followers of Jesus the Christ:

"‘Where, O death, is your victory?  Where, O death, is your sting?’  The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory [over sin and death] through our Lord Jesus Christ."  1 Cor. 15:55-56

Death in any form is no loss and no barrier when we trust in Jesus Christ.  It is still something which cannot be mastered by me.  However, it is something which has been overcome by Christ.  He has mastered death and I can rely upon Him to lift me up over and beyond death into life.

Upon whom do you rely to effectively defeat death?  There are really only three choices — no-one, yourself, or someone else.  If your answer is nobody because you accept death as the inevitable end, I have nothing to say.  If you choose yourself, ask yourself what abilities you have which can defeat death in any form.  If you choose someone else, then why not pick the person who has proven to the world that He has died, was buried, and arose from the dead?  Why not pick the person who has proven that He can do it by doing it?  Why not choose Jesus Christ?


Bread – Disown

October 14, 2009

Readings for Wednesday, October 14 as
designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
Jer. 37:3-21; 1 Cor. 14:13-25; Matt. 10:24-33
Psalms 12, 13, 14, 119:1-24

Jesus said "Whoever acknowledges Me before men, I will also acknowledge him before the Father in heaven.  But whoever disowns Me before men, I will disown him before My Father in heaven."  Matt. 10:32-33

This statement should give rise to a question – what is meant by "disown?"  The reason the question is important is that, if one takes Jesus at His word, at face value, then disowning Jesus has the most dire consequences because we cannot stand before the Father without Jesus between us.  The phrase "crispy critters" comes to mind.  So, if you don’t want to be a crispy critter, you want to make sure that you do not disown Jesus.

The dictionary definition of "disown" is "to refuse to acknowledge as one’s own, repudiate, cast off." (Webster’s New World Dictionary, 1974).  The Greek (arneomai; Strongs # 720) means a number of things — "take away," "deny," "refuse," "not to know or recognize (a person)," "to reject a person, particularly in the face of prior relationship or better knowledge."  (Zodhiates, "Key Word Study Bible" – NASB)  Of interest is that this Greek word is a derivative of airo (Strongs # 142), which means "to lift, raise, take a yoke, … a cross, … bear or carry as a burden."

So, if Jesus’ act of going to the cross in obedience to His Father and as a satisfaction of our sins is a statement of ownership of both the Father and of those people who acknowledge Jesus, then our refusal to set aside our objectives, our lives, and our hearts for Christ (our refusal to go to our own cross) is a disowning of Him.  When we are obedient to His commands, we are acknowledging Christ … when we are not obedient, we are disowning Him.

But while Christians are growing in submission to Christ, acknowledging Him as Lord, and becoming more obedient, the truth is that not one of us is totally obedient, not one of us has totally set our own desires aside, not one of us is totally submissive.  Does this then mean that any one failure to obey is a "disowning" from which Christ will then disown us before the Father.  If so, then we are subject to the Law and are all doomed, because no one can obey the Law completely.

I think the key to sorting this out is to go back to the dictionary’s definition … "to refuse to acknowledge as one’s own…"  In this definition, who is the active person?  I am.  I am the one failing to acknowledge Jesus as my own.  And yet, what else do we know from the Bible? … that we are so dead in our sins that we have no capacity to acknowledge Him for anything.  It is Jesus who saves us by coming to us, by enlightening our minds with His Holy Spirit, by enabling our dead bodies and minds and souls to respond in faith.

And so we are confronted with one of the great mysteries of the faith.  If I am dead except to the extent that Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) makes me alive, then all of my ability to acknowledge Jesus comes from Him.  If all of my ability to acknowledge Jesus comes from Him, then how can I "disown" Him?  [If I have no capacity to own, then how do I have capacity to disown?  One implies the other and the denial of one implies the denial of the other.]   And yet Jesus’ statement implies that somehow I have the capacity to both acknowledge Him and reject Him.

If you have a headache about now, you are not alone … so do I.  And there are many people over the generations of the Church who share in your headache.

You are going to have to come to your own conclusion, but here is mine — "If Jesus has a hold on me, the only person who can let go is Him and He ain’t lettin’ go."  In other words, I can’t disown Him.  My job is looking Him in the eyes and saying "Thank you."

"For it is by grace you (I) have been saved, through faith — and this [faith] not from yourselves (myself), it is the gift of God — not by works, so that no one (not even me) can boast."  Eph. 2:8-9

Amen.  Thank you.


Bread – Unity

October 9, 2009

Readings for Friday, October 9 as
designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
2 Kings 23:36-24:17; 1 Cor. 12:12-26; Matt. 9:27-34
Psalms 140, 141, 142, 143:1-12

If one were to ask any group of people what they mean by "unity," you would probably get any number of answers, all of which would probably have the common element of "sameness."  For example, "unity means that everyone is heading in the same direction."  Another example, "Unity means that everyone believes the same thing."  Or, another example, "Unity means that we are doing the same things."

The connection of "unity" with "sameness" has some very negative consequences.  For example, for Americans to be "in unity," we must be "equal" (the same); therefore, women must act like men and men, women; therefore, all lifestyles must be equally acceptable (the "same").  If we do not follow along with the program, we are responsible for "disunity" and, since we do not naturally like disunity (because it leads to confrontation, disassociation, loss of community, loss of friendship, etc.), we must be "bad" people.

This idea of what unity means, however, is not God’s idea or prescription.  Instead, Paul speaks in today’s readings about what unity means — "But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.  If they were all one part, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, but one body."  1 Cor. 12:18-20

The implications of this are enormous.  God has created diversity in purposes, in beliefs, in actions, in abilities, in functions, in positions, in talents, in knowledge, in wisdom, in spiritual gifts, in understanding, in love, in wealth, in power … for one purpose…. That there may be unity in Him, that there may be one functioning body, the Church united.  A Church united, not in sameness but in diversity, not in common beliefs but in a common God, not in common practices but in a common Holy Spirit, not in common direction but in a common eternity in Jesus Christ.

When we know God, have accepted Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior, and actively love and adore Him through obedience in the power of the Holy Spirit, when we are doing our part as a part of the Body, it is OK that someone else who is also part of the same body is doing something else, heading in a different direction, or stating a different belief.  If someone disagrees with me, maybe his or her role as part of the body is to bring me into greater love of God and/or my neighbor, to bring me into greater awareness of my own need of a Savior or the Holy Spirit, to bring into repentance, to bring me into greater understanding … or to bring themselves, using me as a source of light, into a better relationship.  If someone is granted headship in accordance with God’s instructions and order (such as receiving appointment as pastor, husband, or teacher) and I am not, perhaps it is because I am appointed to a different but equal role, recognizing that all parts of the body are essential to the health of the body.  If someone worships differently from me, perhaps it is because his or her role is to show me that there is one God but many ways to honor and worship Him and to bring me to greater appreciation that I am not God and my way is not His way.

Because those of us to worship God can recognize that there is indeed diversity in order, ranking, and purpose … that there are many parts of the body … we can be in fact the ones who are tolerant, who can say this definition of "Unity" — "Unity is diversity when blessed by God."  Who are "blessed by God" … those who have acknowledged that they are not God (that they are sin), who have trusted Jesus Christ’s finished work on the Cross to save them into eternal life, and who, as a result, have been "all baptized by one Spirit into one body." 1 Cor. 12:13

If we can accept that diversity is God’s definition of unity, then we can become tolerant of people and cultures who appear "different" than ours.  We can recognize that, since God is in control, God has a place for those people in the body as well.  And because we recognize that they serve a role, a role defined by God, we can love them with the love that God has shown us, even though they appear to be (and may in fact be) our enemies.

On the other hand, those people who define unity as sameness cannot be tolerant of someone else who is diverse.  As a result, although they may speak the language of tolerance, they in fact practice the language of anger, hatred, and conformity.

When most people who were not born in the United States come here, they are astounded at the degree of diversity.  In fact, we often speak of this diversity as a negative, as something which is tearing the country apart.  Instead, I would assert that our diversity is evidence of God’s blessing on this country, as long as it is diversity under God.

Knowing this, we should be incredibly thankful that our forefathers knew enough to inscribe into our currency, our national monuments, and throughout our laws – "In God We Trust."  Because once that common understanding is lost, our unity in diversity is also lost.


Bread – Follow Me

October 7, 2009

Readings for Wednesday, October 7
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    2 Kings 22:14-23:3; 1 Cor. 11:23-34; Matt. 9:9-17
    Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130

Confrontation with God is an amazing thing because it seems to evoke either immediate flight (you run away), immediate adoration (you fall down on your face), or immediate obedience.  In today’s readings, we see the application of the third reaction in all three readings.

In the first reading from 2 Kings, Josiah is king of Judah and has begun cleaning out the temple.  With the prior kings, the knowledge of the Lord had been lost and the purpose of the temple had been forgotten.  The people of Judah knew that the temple existed for some kind of worship, but they had forgotten who they were supposed to be worshiping.  Because they forgot about God, they filled the temple with their own gods – there own idols – and worshiped those things.  However, at the beginning of our reading today in 2 Kings, Josiah has "found" the Book of the Law (the Torah) in a back room somewhere in the Temple.  When he opened the Book and read it, he was confronted by God with his and his country’s sinfulness and disobedience.  In reaction, he tore his clothes and lamented his and his country’s disobedience.  What was Josiah’s immediate reaction upon being confronted by God in God’s revelation of Himself through Scripture, it was to be obedient to (a) repentance and (b) recommitting to his relationship with his God.  He not only became immediately obedient, but he brought all of his people into repentance and obedience:

"Then the king called together all of the elders of Judah and Jerusalem.  He went up to the temple of the Lord with the men of Judah, the people of Jerusalem, the priests and the prophets — all the people from the least to the greatest.  He read in their hearing all of the words of the Book of the Covenant, which had been found in the temple of the Lord.  The king stood by the pillar and renewed the covenant in the presence of the Lord – to follow the Lord and keep His commands, regulations, and decrees with all his heart and all his soul, thus confirming the words of the covenant written in this book.  Then all the people pledged themselves to the covenant."  2 Kings 23:1-3

Notice the order of events.  God is encountered … the truth (revelation) about God is revealed … and the people of God respond in obedience.  Because Scripture is God’s revelation about Himself to us, we can fairly say that when we read Scripture we confront God.  When we read Scripture, what is our reaction … fear and flight, reverence, obedience?  We can take a lesson from Josiah.

The second lesson is from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, where he talks about our encounter with God through the bread and wine of communion.  Here, Paul is reciting what Jesus did in the Upper Room to establish communion as a vehicle, a sacrament, to confront God.  What is interesting about this in part is that Paul is reciting this in the first person, as if he were there.  But we know that Paul was a latecomer and never met Jesus until confronted by God on the Damascus Road.  But Paul says this, meaning that Jesus told him this … "For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you:

"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said ‘This is My Body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.’  In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying ‘This cup is the new covenant in My Blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me.’  1 Cor. 11:23-26.

Built into this lesson are two examples of confronting God and two acts of obedience in response.  The first confrontation with God is Paul’s own, which he relates briefly by saying "For I received from the Lord…"  Paul’s response to this confrontation was obedience, expressed in the remainder of the sentence "…I also passed on to you."  The second example of confronting God is through the sacrament of communion — the bread is His Body and the cup is the new covenant in His Blood.  That we should be obedient in this confrontation is emphasized by Paul in his instructions following his description of what Jesus said:

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.  A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks [the bread and the cup] without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself."  1 Cor. 11:27-29

When we confront God through the sacrament of communion, what is our response?   Is it flight (we take the meal cavalierly or when it is offered, we decline)?  Is it in adoration and awe in the majesty of what the Blood of Jesus Christ achieved for us on the cross?  Is it a desire to be obedient – to purify ourselves before communion by self-examination and repentance, to approach with respect, and to leave with thanksgiving?

The third example of confronting God and an immediate reaction of obedience is in our gospel lesson today in Matthew.  It is expressed very simply but, upon reflection, very powerfully:

"As Jesus went on from there, He saw a man named Matthew [who wrote the gospel we are reading] sitting at the tax collector’s booth.  ‘Follow me,’ He told him, and Matthew got up and followed Him."  Matt. 9:9

Matthew is sitting, doing his assigned work (which was a very low, disrespected occupation), when God walks by.  Matthew confronts God standing in front of him, God tells him to do something, and Matthew immediately, without hesitation, in total obedience follows God.  In so doing, Matthew abandons his occupation simply, immediately, and totally.  He did not run away or say "no" and he did not fall on his face [perhaps because he didn’t know who he was talking to], but Jesus told him what to do and he did it.

We have today three ways to confront God — through reading and studying God’s Word, through engaging God in the communion supper in fellowship with other Christians (through the Church), and through direct contact with Jesus Christ.

Has God confronted you in one of these three ways?  If not, is it because you have been running away?  If so, what has been your reaction?

If one does not want to say that they have run away but also knows they have not been obedient, then one is tempted to answer the above question with the third response – I have fallen down on my face in adoration.  If that has been your answer, then think about the three examples given in Scripture above.  Did any of these people fall down in adoration…or did they obey?

And then ask yourself this question.  Which is the greater honor you give?  To say you love (falling down) or to show you love (by obedience).  Is not the greatest proof that you love God to obey Him?  What then is the reaction of falling down and adoring?  I would say that it is a precursor to either running away or obeying.  In other words, when God confronts us, we may recognize his awesomeness by falling down on our face … but what is our reaction afterward?

The truth is that we are confronted by God, there are only two choices … run or obey, leave or stay, judgment or salvation.

Will you be a Matthew?  At the time you are confronted by God, will you listen to Jesus say "Follow Me" … and in the power of the Holy Spirit will you obey?  My prayer is that you (and I) do.

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