Bread – Papers

August 30, 2010

Readings for Monday, August 30th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Job 12:1-9, 13-20; Acts 11:19-30; John 8:21-32
    Psalms 9, 15, 25
I was somewhere the other day and was talking with someone about a particular person (I am being deliberately vague).  This person I was talking to told me a story about this other person asking them whether or not, if their child became a Christian, whether they would get "papers."  He asked me if I had any idea what "papers" were.  After some discussion, we worked out together that the questioner must have been asking about things like a "Certificate of Baptism" or a "Certificate of Confirmation" or a "Certificate of Ordination" or some such.  We sort of chuckled about it because every knows that being a Christian has everything to do with your relationship to the one Savior, Jesus Christ, and nothing to do with "papers."

Yet the discussion has stayed with me and so I have to ask the question, does having the right set of papers matter?  After all, it is important to have a birth certificate, a passport (a certificate of citizenship), a driver’s license (a certificate of ability), a diploma (a certificate of education), and various membership cards (certificates of affiliation).  I can see why a person might think that the only way for them to know that they are a Christian is because they have a "Certificate of Righteousness."  No papers – no eternity with God.

If this seems to you a silly discussion, it should.  We know better … or do we?  Don’t we argue constantly about whether one certificate of baptism (dunking) is better than another (sprinkling), whether the papers issued by one congregation are better than another (because they are more in line with the Bible, more modern, more relevant, or whatever), or whether we need a "Certificate of Ordination" to be permitted to teach or preach or evangelize or prepare or offer or deliver the sacraments?  Of course we do.  We do because, to us, "membership" in the right organization is critical to being right…eous.  After all, if you a member of the wrong country club, you’ll never meet the President of the United States.

In fact, where we are a member and who we are a member with matters very much to us.  But does it to God?  Probably not.

In today’s reading from John, Jesus addresses the children of Abraham.  The Jews He is speaking with state emphatically that they are legitimate children of God because they recognize God is their father; Jesus challenges them by pointing out, however, that they do not do what God has commanded but they do what they have been taught by their earthly fathers.  They say that they are members of the "right club" and they have the papers to prove it; Jesus essentially says that He doesn’t care what papers they have because they show who they love and what "tribe" they are in by what they do, not by what "papers" they have.  John 8:31-41.

We seek membership and we seek the "approval" of those who maintain the membership lists by getting ourselves the proper papers.  As a result, we may be good members of a particular church or a particular denomination and yet not be a follower of Christ.  We may have all the necessary paperwork but none of the necessary substance.  We trade paper which will mold in the damp of despair and wither in the fires of judgment for true riches which have eternal quality and endurance through all circumstances.

Do you have the right relationship with Jesus Christ?  If you do, why do you need any papers?**

**As a side note, I do not want anyone to read this Bread and conclude that membership in a group, a body of believers, is not absolutely necessary to our Christian health.  We are designed to be in communion, in fellowship, in brotherly love relationships with fellow believers.  We are not designed to be islands of selfishness.  The prayer taught to the disciples by Jesus begins with "Our," not "My."  GBF

Readings for Friday, August 27th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Job 9:1-15, 32-35; Acts 10:34-48; John 7:37-52
    Psalms 16, 17, 22
I have read parts of Job many times and may in fact have read the whole thing at some point.  I knew that he was a man who understood that he was not God and that he had no business questioning God’s character or what God did in his or anyone else’s lives.  I also knew that Job recognized that only the righteous, blameless man could stand in the presence of God without being burned to a crispy critter.  What I did not know until the reading today was that Job asked the Christian Question.

Job sets up the question by acknowledging who he really is.  To quote: "…how can a mortal be righteous before God?  Though one wished to dispute with Him, he could not answer Him one time out of a thousand….Though I were innocent, I could not answer Him; I could only plead with my Judge for mercy…Even if I were innocent, my mouth would condemn me; if I were blameless, it would pronounce me guilty…He is not a man like me that I should answer Him, that we might confront each other in court."  Job 9: 2-3, 15, 20, 32.  Job recognizes that his and the world’s concept of "innocence" is not God’s, that he stands condemned before God unless God is merciful, and that his (Job’s) own tongue would convict him if his tongue were innocent, if his tongue was blameless.  Job has no right to question God and he has no right to debate God’s character or actions in the court of public opinion.

So what is the Christian Question?  Is it "how can a mortal be righteous before God?"  Is it "How do I gain the right to call God a "friend?"  Is it how do I avoid being pronounced guilty?  I think the answer to these questions are "No, these are not the Christian Question.  They are great questions worthy of deep thought, but they are questions which every religion attempts to answer."  They are not unique to Christianity.

No, the Christian Question is what Job says at the end of Chapter 9:  "If only there were someone to arbitrate between us, to lay his hand upon us both, someone to remove God’s rod from me, so that his terror would frighten me no more."  Job 9:33-34.  "If only there were someone …"   The Christian Question is "Who is that someone?"

Some one, not some thing and not some (many).  He is man, so that He can represent man and talk to man.  And He is God, so that He can represent God and talk to God.  An arbitrator, a mediator, an agent of both, an intercessor.  Is there such a man?  That is the Christian Question.

To which there is an answer.  There is such a man.  He is the man who bore God’s rod so that it would be removed from us.  He is the man who speaks today to both man and God.  He is God and He is man.  He is spoken of by Peter in today’s lesson from Acts:  "We are witnesses of everything He did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem.  They killed Him by hanging Him on a tree, but God raised Him from the dead on the third day and caused Him to be seen…All the prophets testify about Him tat everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His Name."  Acts 10:39-43

Who is this man? – Jesus Christ

Job asked the right question and God in His time gave us the answer.  Are we ready to listen to either the question or the answer?


Bread – The Pits

August 20, 2010

Readings for Friday, August 20th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Job 2:1-13; Acts 9:1-9; John 6:27-40
    Psalms 140, 141, 142, 143
Who has not found themselves in "the pits?"  We see mountains ahead we cannot climb, suffer bodily ailments which seemingly cannot be cured, endure chronic pain, lay in bed not feeling like we can get up and deal with the new day, hear the telephone call with a message we never want to hear, ask for help when none comes, purchase goods which fail, lose jobs or money or prestige or power.  Sometimes these "pits" are merely temporary; other times they last throughout our lives (or at least seem to).  The "pits" are bad, bad, bad, bad, bad.  When we say that we shouldn’t criticize until we have walked a mile in the other person’s shoes, what we are essentially saying is that his (or her) "pits" may be worse than ours.  I say "may" because, at least as far as we are concerned, there can never be any "pits" worse than our "pits."

If you noticed the first reading in today’s list, you will know where I am going – yes, Job.  In our reading today, God has already given Satan permission to destroy all of Job’s stuff (his lands, cattle, possessions, money, job, etc.) and He now gives Satan permission to give Job every ailment possible, as long as Satan doesn’t kill him.  Think about this for a moment.  God has essentially denied to Job his escape hatch – death.  God has said to Job – you once were rich and healthy and now you are neither, but you must keep on living.

Even Job’s wife recognizes the situation God has put Job in, because she says to Job "Curse God and die!"  Job 2:9.  She knows that if Job curses God, Satan has won and God will let Job die, which of course eases the worldly pain.  What she does not realize is that her statement may have a deeper meaning, because by rejection of God, by blaspheming the Holy Spirit in denying God’s offer of salvation to us through belief in Jesus Christ, we do in fact die – for all of eternity.  Death can come in many forms, and death to the body is but one.

Job responds as I bet we all wish we could (or would) – "Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?"  Job 2:10.  Shall we indeed?

In today’s reading from the Apostle John, we overhear this exchange between Jesus and the disciples:

Disciples:  "What must we do to do the works God requires?"
Jesus:  "The work of God is this: to believe in the one He has sent."  John 6:28-29

The disciples ask what they can do – Jesus responds by saying what God does.  Works by man or works by God.

What does Job need to do to get out of the "pits" he is in?  To ask differently the same question, what does Job need to do which God requires?  Job answers that all things come from God, so why should we celebrate any differently on the mountaintop or in the pits?  Jesus answers that the "work of God" is Jesus and that He gives us our ability to believe in Him.

In our third reading today, we walk with Saul (soon to be Paul) on the Damascus road, where Christ appears to him in a vision.  For a while, Paul is in a process of sorting through what just happened, and he is changed.  He might be described as residing for a moment on the mountaintop, where the air is clean, the view is spectacular, and closeness to the Father can be easily imagined.  But that will not last long.

What is different about the likes of Job and Paul, who suffer mightily but who maintain a clear view of their radical dependence upon God for all good things, and those of us who despair in the pits of life?  Perhaps the difference is this – we ask what we should do and God responds by telling us who He is.  The difference is whether we can hear the message.


Bread – Power and Truth

August 18, 2010

Readings for Wednesday, August 18th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25; John 6:1-15
    Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130
In the last Bread, we met Micah with his toys, the idols, made in his image, together with his family and purchased priest.  Today, we pick up this history with the appearance of the Danites in Judges at Micah’s doorstep.

Now the Danites were from the tribe of Dan, one of the twelve tribes of Israel, and blessed by God with deliverance from bondage into the promised land.  The Danites have heard about Micah’s shrine, his idols, and his special Levite priest.  They have shown up, six hundred armed men strong, to take these things for themselves, because, I guess, Micah’s shrine, idols, and priest were quite nice, and it is easier to take something someone else has made then make it yourself.

Anyway, Micah objects, saying that, if they take his gods and priest, then "What else do I have?"  Judges 18:24.  The Danites respond by telling him to stop arguing with them because "some hot-tempered men will attack you" and Micah will lose his life.  Judges 18:25.  Micah thinks about it and decides that his life is worth more than his little shrine and lets his stuff be taken.

Concurrently, the Levite priest’s story unfolds.  The Danites ask him to join them because he is a good priest.  He initially refuses, saying that he was needed in Micah’s house (remember that he was also pulling a salary, free meals, and free room).  The Danites respond that "isn’t it better that you serve a tribe and clan in Israel as priest rather than one man’s household?"  Judges 18:19.  The priest was glad to do so, recognizing the opportunity for promotion and a pay raise.

We conclude this story with the Danites going to Laish "against a peaceful and unsuspecting people.  They attacked them with the sword and burned down their city."  Judges 18:27.

What an ugly end to an ugly story!  These are supposed to be the people of God.  They are sons of the promise, to be fulfilled in Jesus Christ, blessed by deliverance from bondage, privileged to receive God’s revelation of His perfection in the Law, provided for with land which God provided, surrounded by miracles, and offered safety and security by following the Lord’s commands and living their life under His wing.  However, within a short period of time they are making idols, selling their birthright for current delight, exalting themselves, stealing other people’s property, handing over themselves as slaves to the highest bidder, and killing those people who stand in their way of taking what they want when they want it.  God’s people indeed!

What we see here is the slide from Truth, God’s truth, to power, to the imposition of man’s will upon those who disagree with him.  When Truth is gone, tyranny prevails.  When God is no longer the plumb line of truth, and man stands as the arbiter of truth, the only way to establish my truth is to conquer you, to exercise power over you.  Without allegiance to the true God, civilization becomes brutish and "peaceful and unsuspecting people" are put to the sword, even by other alleged followers of God.

Why did Micah behave the way he did?  Is it because society changed and he changed with it, or is it because he decided to worship according to his desires rather than in the Truth, following God’s revelation of proper worship?  Did society (the Danites) change because society decided to follow its own course rather than the course set by God, or did society change because it was made up of a lot of little Micah’s, doing as they please?  Does the destruction of civilization begin with them – or does it begin with me?

I think the answer to this question is in our readings from Judges.  Our story begins with the corruption of Micah, followed by the corruption of society, not the other way around.  If Micah had not built the shrine and populated it with items of false worship, what would the Danites have stolen?  If Micah had followed God rather than his own image in the mirror, might the Danites have observed and, maybe, even followed?

I just read a commentary by a an excellent Internet writer where he was bemoaning the un-Christian attacks against him, a Christian, for something he had written.*  What concerned him was that the content of these attacks, as well as their tone, was an exercise of power against him, as opposed to an exercise of love.  When we look at things from a position of power, the only view worth having is the one which agrees with me and adds to my power.  We look at things from a position of love, our standing after the disagreement becomes irrelevant.

Tell me (or tell yourself), how do you act?  Do you act with a view of what God says or what somewhat else says?  Do you substitute your idea of what to do (your truth) for God’s Truth contained in revelation?  When you do that, what do you then to bolster your opinion and standing among others?  You do things, I’ll bet, that are an exercise of power – you leverage money, relationships, position, knowledge, and intellect to "win."

If you are relying on power to establish your position, ask yourself this question today – whose truth am I working to establish?  I think you will discover something, for when God’s Truth is foremost, power plays end; when our truth is foremost, power plays have just begun.

*The article is from S. Michael Craven and is called Politicized and Polarized, contained in his weekly e-mail "Truth in Culture."

Bread – False Worship

August 16, 2010

Readings for Monday, August 16th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Judges 17:1-13; Acts 7:44-8:1a; John 5:19-29
    Psalms 106
The Bible is full of incredible little stories where man shows his true colors.  In Judges today, we are provided an insight into the life of Micah and his family.  In a nutshell, Micah tries to be holy and goofs it up big time.  It is almost laughable until we realize that we do the same things ourselves all the time.

The story begins with Micah’s mother having lost a bunch of silver, perhaps because it was stolen or "taken from" her.  Judges 17:2.  She has cursed her loss.  Micah, her son, has somehow come into possession of the silver and returns it to her.  Micah’s mother responds in an odd way out of joy at having her wealth returned – "I solemnly consecrate my silver to the Lord for my son to make a carved image…"  Judges 17:3.  She then gives 200 shekels (out of 1,100 recovered) to construct an idol.

Think about what just happened.  She responds in joy by consecrating "her silver" "to the Lord."  The phrase "her silver" in context suggests all of the recovered silver, not a portion of it.  In fact, however, she releases only around 15% of the silver, keeping the rest for herself.  In fact, however, she doesn’t even release that.  Her gift was "to the Lord for my son."  In other words, this was a gift to her son, not to the Lord.  What is worse is that it was not even a gift to her son, because she wanted him to make an idol out of it.  It is unclear whether Micah wanted the idol (given subsequent events), but we can probably agree (given the commandment against the making of idols) that God did not want the "gift."

How often have we fallen into that trap?  I have just had a successful day, so I will "give to the Lord for my favorite charity," or something like that.  Or here is a good one, like we see in some house blessings – "I will give to the Lord my house for me."

How often do we impose upon our "gifts" to the Lord various conditions which work to our benefit?  How many times do we acknowledge to the Lord that we owe Him everything, only to throw in some chump change into the collection plate?

But it is what Micah did with the idol which is almost more laughable, until we realize that we do it too.  The first thing he did was to set up a shrine, a self-designated "holy place" in his house.  Of course, if one idol is good for a shrine then more idols must be better, so he added some more idols.  Of course, no church is complete without a priest (or a minister), so then Micah appointed his son.  Then, when someone pre-approved by God to be a priest came by (a Levite), Micah upgraded his holiness by buying a "real" priest, who of course was more than happy to join the party for a good salary, a place to stay, and food to eat.  Judges 17:10-11.  Maybe Micah even evicted his son, although he may have just been demoted to assistant priest, since Micah now had a real one.

Was God anywhere in this?  Was God in Micah?  Was God in the idols?  Was God in the shrine?  Was God in the priests, whether or not they had been trained or ordained?

And yet, is there any doubt that Micah was trying to please God, that he was trying to be holy, that he was trying to put himself into position of being close to God?  I have no doubt of this at all.

So where is the error?  I think it is in the phrase "Micah (and his mother) were trying."  Through their own self-effort, through their own readings, through their own study, through their own ideas, through there own "merit" they were trying to conjure up God.  They were in fact making their own God and their own worship using their ideas, not God’s ideas and using their instruction manual, not God’s Word.

Judges today hits the nail on the head — "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit."  Judges 17:6.

The idea of a king is difficult for Americans to understand, because we are individuals and are used to doing "as we see fit" (as long as it doesn’t interfere with someone else’s individuality).  We do not like rules, we do not like following established guidelines, we do not like authority, we do not like taking orders, we do not bow our knees.

So when we say that we follow "King Jesus," we are like Micah … we tend to say "I dedicate my life to King Jesus for me" and then are thought of as "religious" if we actually end of up using 15%, just like Micah’s mother.  We then create worship services in places of our choosing using idols, priests, and ceremonies of our liking.   Although we know that there is something about Micah we should abhor, we actually sort of understand it.  We actually sort of do it.  And we actually sort of like it.

When Micah sat in his private shrine, using his private priest in his private ceremony to worship his private idols, who was he worshiping?  He was worshiping himself.  The idol is made by his hands, paid for by his money, housed in his house, and fashioned in the image he created.  The image is of him and the shrine is for him.  It is for Micah, not for the true king.

To what extent is your worship of the Almighty really worshiping you?  To what extent are your gifts to the church really gifts to you and for your benefit?  To what extent are you worshiping in a mirror?

To the extent that you can say "yes" to any of these questions is the extent to which you are engaged in false worship – because there is only one King and one God, and you are not Him and neither am I.


Bread – Wonderful

August 11, 2010

Readings for Wednesday, August 11th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Judges 13:15-24; Acts 6:1-15; John 4:1-26
    Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144
In today’s reading from Judges, an angel has appeared to the husband and wife who will be Samson’s parents.  The husband asks the angel "What is your name, so that we may honor you when your word comes true?"  The angel responds "Why do you ask me your name?  It is beyond understanding." [NIV]  Perhaps a better translation of the angel’s answer is "Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful?"  [ESV, NASB, NKJ]  Judges 13:17-18

When something is wonderful, full of wonder, it is beyond description, beyond language, and beyond our understanding.  One might describe it as the magic of the moment.  Since sorcery is forbidden of Christians, however, maybe we are best describing the event, the person, or thing which is wonderful as something which is supernatural, something which goes beyond anything we can grasp with our mind.

Translated this way, the angel’s response to a question about his name could very well be paraphrased in today’s lingo – "Why bother, you won’t understand it anyway.  Besides, you are experiencing my name, my essence, because I am here among you."

When I went to look up the word "wonderful" which is actually used [Strong’s #6383], it turns out that it is used only twice in the Old Testament.  The first is here in Judges.  The second is Psalm 139:6.  This Psalm reads in part as follows:

"O Lord, You have searched me and You know me.
You know when I sit and when I rise; You perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying down; You are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue You know it completely, O Lord.
You hem me in — behind and before; You have laid Your hand upon me.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain
."  Psalm 139:1-6

The connection between these two passages for Scripture is almost too wonderful for me to even write about today, because in this Psalm, which is not even in today’s readings, is a description of our Gospel lesson today.  Our reading from John is the history of Christ’s meeting with the Samaritan woman at the well.  The woman is shocked that Jesus knows her history and that He will even talk to her.  He tells her "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks for a drink, you have asked Him and He would have given you living water."  John 4:10.  Jesus then tells her that He is the Messiah.

Stop and think about what just happened.  God in His revelation, called the Bible, used a Hebrew word for wonderful to describe an angel sent by Him to speak to His people, a word which is used in only one other place.  That one other place is in a Psalm (not even in today’s lessons) which describes the completeness by which God knows us.  And in today’s reading from John, Christ demonstrates the completeness of that knowledge without ever using the word "wonderful."  And this connection was made in the organization of today’s Scripture reading by someone who prepared the readings (the Daily Lectionary from the Book of Common Prayer) perhaps as long as five hundred years ago, only to be discovered this morning.

How wonderful is that?  How wonderful is it that God’s Word is a living, breathing revelation of Himself, all interconnected, and all with a single message – that God knows us, that He loves us, that He takes us in our rebellious, sinful state and that through our absolute trust in Jesus gives us eternity with Him?  How wonderful is it that we can know Jesus, that we can talk to Him, and that we can live victoriously in all circumstances in the power of the Holy Spirit and in the shelter of the Most High?  How wonderful is it that we can be saved from ourselves?  How wonderful is God?

How wonderful is God!


Bread – Willing

August 9, 2010

Readings for Monday, August 9th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Judges 12:1-7; Acts 5:12-26; John 3:1-21
    Psalms 89
"Let’s go to the grocery store," says the parent.  "No, I don’t want to," says the child.

We are often asked if we are willing to do something and our answer is often "No, I don’t want to."

In today’s lessons, we see three circumstances where men are asked to do something.  They are – go to war, go to tell the truth to those who do not want to hear it, and go to the cross of Christ for eternal life.

Go to war — In Judges, we are witness to a little exchange between Israel (led by Jephthah) and Ephraim.  Israel is at war with the Ammonites and asks Ephraim for help.  Although Ephraim was called to help fight the war, they were unwilling to help.  Later, to hide their unwillingness to go to war, they complained to Israel that Israel should have asked for their help.

Go to tell the truth to those who do not want to hear it — In Act, Peter and the disciples with him are put in jail to stand trial before the Sanhedrin (the Jewish religious court).  God breaks them out of jail and they go back to preaching in the streets.  The temple guard found them and Peter and the disciples returned with the guard to stand before the Sanhedrin and tell them the truth.  The guard did not use force; Peter went to his trial willingly.

Go to the cross of Christ for eternal life — In John, Jesus is reported as saying simply about Himself that "the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life."  John 3:14

In a way, these lessons represent our willingness to accept God’s grace, His favor, mercy, love, and forgiveness given to those who have no reason to expect it; our willingness to step out in the power of the Holy Spirit to speak the love and truth of God and His Son into a thankless world, into a world of judgment; and our willingness to join God’s army to fight the good fight, the good war on earth, a war fought primarily within ourselves to bring our body, our mind, and our heart into tune with God’s standards.

We can be the Ephraimites at any of these decision-points.  We can be unwilling to truly confess our sins, repent and turn toward God and away from worldly idols, and trust in Jesus Christ and His finished work on the cross.  We can be unwilling to preach and teach God’s love throughout the world, and particularly that part of the world which is our next door neighbor.  We can be unwilling to go to war for Christ, unwilling to be obedient to God’s standards, unwilling to fight the old man we once were.

Or we can be willing.  We can want eternal life, we can want to obey God’s command to preach His good news throughout the land, and we can want to join forces with the Holy Spirit to go to war against our idols, our prejudices, and our sin.

So these lessons can be read backwards to put our belief in Jesus Christ first.

But they can also be read forward.  Peter was unwilling to stand up for Christ until he was filled with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.  Read forward then the lessons today represent a path from being unwilling to becoming willing, through and with the power of the Holy Spirit.

When I write Bread, I have no idea who ultimately reads it.  I have no idea where you are in your life.  Do you have a desire, a yearning to go to the cross to receive God’s gift of eternal life, but you can’t seem to do it?  Do you have a desire, a yearning to speak God’s love into a world which hates it, but don’t know how to do it?  Do you have a desire, a yearning to toss your idols of wealth, power, position, intellect, talent into the trash heap of history, but don’t know how to do it?

Luckily, the answer is the same for all of the questions because the need is the same.  We have no strength, no power of our own to do any of these things, unless God gives us the power and the wisdom to do it.  So the answer to every one of these questions is the same – a prayer:  "God, help me.  Send me your Holy Spirit.  Amen."


Bread – Multiplication

August 4, 2010

Readings for Wednesday, August 4th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Judges 7:19-8:12; Acts 3:12-26; John 1:43-51
    Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120
God’s rule of law is not our rule of law.  His mathematics is not our mathematics.  His multiplication tables work differently than ours.  His economy is different than our economy.

We sometimes fall into the trap of believing that our laws of science and physics govern the universe and therefore believe that they govern God, when it is the reverse which is true.  God governs the universe and therefore sets the rules of science and mathematics.  We reject miracles because they are outside the natural order and scientific determinism, but we forget that miracles are clearly within God’s order, His law, and His mathematics.

If you don’t think this is true, meditate upon the gifting of ten percent (so-called "tithing") to God’s purposes.  Under man’s mathematics, if we take away ten percent we only have 90% left, which leaves us in a poorer position (having less money).  However, if you talk to anyone who gives generously, they will tell you that they always seem to have enough.  In fact, most of the time they will tell you that their material possessions, as well as their spiritual and emotional blessings, are multiplied.  In these cases 100% less 10% is more than 100%.  How does this work?  In man’s mathematics or economy it cannot; in God’s mathematics and economy it can and does.

We see the power of God’s multiplication in today’s reading from Judges.  We see it is three ways – (a) the multiplication of numbers, (b) the multiplication of courage, and (c) the multiplication of results.

With respect to numbers, the following quotes from our reading today apply:  "Gideon and the hundred men with him…They blew their trumpets…The three companies blew the trumpets and smashed the jars….When the three hundred trumpets sounded…Gideon and his three hundred men…l" Judges 7:19-22, 8:4.  Quick question.  How did the one hundred men become three hundred men blowing three hundred trumpets?  Assuming that the writer reported accurately (and we have no reason to believe he did not accurately report), then somewhere between Gideon showing up with one hundred men and, presumably, one hundred trumpets (you can only hold one at a time) and them blowing the trumpets, they multiplied to three hundred.

With respect to courage, I would point out what the men shouted as they surrounded the Midianite camp – "A sword for the Lord and for Gideon!"  Judges 7:20b.  Now these are the same men who are holding a trumpet in their right hand and a torch in their left.  Where are their swords?  With what are they prepared to attack the camp?  To imagine how much the Lord multiplied their courage, imagine yourself out there in the dark waving your torch and blowing your trumpet against a superior force with knives and swords.  Who are you kidding?  Not by our rules of logic.  But it happened.

With respect to multiplication of results, we only need look at what the Lord did.  He took the yells, the trumpets, the torches, and the smashed pots and with them routed the Midianites – "While each man held his position around the camp, all the Midianites ran, crying out as they fled.  When the three hundred trumpets sounded, the Lord caused the men throughout the camp to turn on each other with their swords.  The army fled …"  Judges 7:21-22

Once in a while we may be asked by God to participate in a miracle of His choosing, at a place and time of His choosing.  When asked, we do not need to be afraid because we know this – God, using His laws, His mathematics, His economy, and His power will multiply our numbers, will multiply our courage, and will multiply the results.  It may not make sense to us, but when God is in control it does not have to make sense to us.  The only thing required of us is to go along, to show up, to participate, and to reap the benefits and blessings.


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