Bread – Headaches

May 25, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, May 25, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: *; Rom. 13:1-14; Luke 8:16-25; Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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Headaches – we all have them and we all hate them. One of the favorite childhood remedies, from our mothers no doubt, was “ignore it and it will go away.”

We treat many parts of our Lord’s Word to us in that way, as a headache. And we apply the same remedy to Bible headaches as we were taught – ignore it and maybe it will go away. Of course, God’s Word does not and will not go away, either in our lives or in anyone else’s. By ignoring the headaches which God’s Word gives us, we may put off pain for a while, but pain we will have, either from God’s chastening and rebuke in this life or in the loss of reward for eternity or in the torment of Hell.

There are lots of Scriptural headaches in today’s readings. Rather than pick one, let me list them and see which ones are your and my headaches.

First, in Romans 13:1, we have this — “Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities…” Now, every one of us can think of at least one “governing authority” to whom we will “never” submit. Surely God did not mean that evil (stupid, mean, incompetent) ruler! Yes, He did, because as Paul points out in the remainder of the sentence “…for there is no authority except that which God has established.” Rom. 13:1 We either believe that God is control or He is not, that He is God or He is not, that He intends all things for good or He does not. We must make up our mind and, unfortunately for us, this means that we must “submit” to those people who govern us.

Second, in Romans 13:7, we have this – “Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.” Who wants to pay people (or institutions) we don’t like? Besides, who do I owe any honor or respect to? Well, let’s try God’s command that we honor our parents. How is that going? Let’s try God’s wisdom that we should not frustrate our children (that we should respect our children). How is that going for us?

Third, in Romans 13:9, we have this – “…Love your neighbor as yourself.” And I have gone out of my way to love who today?

Fourth, in Romans 13:13, we have this – “Let us behave decently, as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, no in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.” Well, we may have under control the orgies, drunkenness, sexual immorality, and debauchery (more or less, maybe), but what about dissension and jealousy? How are we doing in those departments. Oh, God must not have meant having to deal with my obnoxious roommate, house mate, co-worker, boss, customer, supplier, etc., did He? Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away.

Fifth, in Luke 8:16, we have the words of Jesus – “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand…” In what ways have we shielded the light of Christ from others because it hurts our eyes and gives us a headache? Have we responded to other people’s request that we “tone down” the Jesus talk because talk of religion is “intolerant” or “divisive” by putting a shade over the light of Christ in our life?

Sixth, in Luke 8:21, Christ says “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice.” Who do we treat like family, our “natural” family and our friends, or our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Every one of these readings today is worthy of many sermons and teachings. Every one of these is a headache.

Maybe we can treat the headache by ignoring it, and maybe it will go away. A lot of people, and a lot of Christians, do that.

Or maybe we can treat the headache with aspirin – the strength, wisdom, and encouragement of the Holy Spirit. And maybe with that Holy Spirit we can get rid of the headache and embrace what God has told us in His Word, living it out in all aspects of life, in victory. Actually, Paul addresses this in our readings today, too, when he says “So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.” Rom. 13:12b Let’s take our cure against the headaches of Christianity. Let’s put on the armor of light. Come, Holy Spirit.

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Bread – Rooted

May 18, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, May 18, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: *; Col. 1:24-2:7; Luke 6:27-38; Psalm 49, 53, 119:49-72

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In Colossians today we read: “So then, just as your received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Col. 2:6-7

What does it mean to be “rooted” in something? We can all imagine roots, those things below the ground which are necessary to the life and wellbeing of trees and plants, but the concept is even richer than that. Webster’s Dictionary defines “root” as “the part of a plant … which lacks nodes, shoots, and leaves, holds the plant in position, draws water and nourishment from the soil, and stores food.” Another definition is “the source, origin, or cause of an action, quality, condition, etc.”

The “lacks nodes, shoots, and leaves” suggests that, when we are rooted in Christ, we need add nothing to the relationship. The root is sufficient for its task and there is no need for embellishment. The “holds the plant in position” means that, when we have strong roots in Christ, when we are well-rooted, we are stable and we cannot easily be moved by the wind or torn from His grasp. Since the soil is what the plant’s root is in, when we are rooted in Christ we “draw water and nourishment” from Him, both of which are essential to life. Finally, the root stores food, so when drought and heat come, there is a store of provision from which to draw. Being rooted in Christ means that we have a storehouse of food from which we can draw in times of need.

But we don’t understand this very well because, well look, we aren’t planted in the ground. We have feet and we walk around, we have mobility, we have freedom of choice. Therefore, to us, having roots is more of an intellectual concept than a reality.

So if our body is not planted so that we have roots, then what is? Perhaps it is the soul which is planted in something. Perhaps our essence is more like a plant than an animal. Like a plant, it can thrive when rooted in good soil or wither and die if rooted in poor.

One of my Bibles notates that the word “rooted” here is a “perfect passive participle.” The further notation of what that means is that the action is passive in that it happens to the person – it is not caused by the person. In other words, if I am rooted in Christ it is not because I rooted myself; I was rooted by another and it happened to me. This is certainly consistent with our understanding that it is God who, in His divine wisdom, raises us from our dead state in sin into eternal life in Jesus Christ. When we are rooted in Jesus Christ, it is by the sovereign action of God which roots us in good soil. The “perfect” parts means that the action has occurred but has continuing action or results. In others, I was rooted with continuing “rootedness.” The past has continuing action in the present.

So where does this take us today? Perhaps nowhere but this simple reality. If Christ is our Savior, we are rooted in Him. If we are rooted in Christ, we need add nothing, we are stable, and we have the source for what we need for life. If we are rooted in Christ, we have a storehouse from which to draw strength in time of need. Thank you, Jesus, for rooting us in You.

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Bread – Devotion

May 13, 2011


Readings for Friday, May 13, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 6:1-15; 2 John 1-13; Luke 5:12-26; Psalm 105

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There are not many words for strong love, persisting love, in our language today. Perhaps one good word is “devotion.” We normally don’t use this word in connection with “love,” When I looked up the word “devote,” Webster’s Dictionary tells me that it means “set apart for special use or purpose” or “to give up oneself to some purpose, activity, or person.” Only in the fifth definition of “devotion” to we get something close to the word “love” – “loyalty or deep affection.”

And yet we understand, I think, that devotion is a demonstration of true abiding love. What or who we love, we devote time, energy, and attention to. We engage fully in those areas of life we love. We give lip service to those persons who we don’t love so much. One of the reasons we may get critiqued by our spouses for not paying attention to them is this simple truth – when we are not paying attention to them we are not showing devotion to them. When we ignore them in favor of the sporting event, who or what are we showing love to?

How is your life being spent? Where is your time invested? Where is your money going? What or who are you paying attention to? The answers to those questions tells us who and what we love, who and what we are devoted to.

In Daniel today we have an object lesson in devotion, in strong and persisting love. Daniel is so diligent and honest in his work that he is not only in charge of a third of the empire, be the king is thinking of promoting him to the top spot, just under the king in power. One would think that this work would be all-consuming. However, we find out in today’s readings that Daniel prayed three times a day on his knees, “giving thanks to his God.” We call prayer sessions like this “devotions” for a reason. The consistency, the process, and the intensity all show a devotion, a strong and persisting love, toward God, toward the love of Daniel’s life. He worked hard but he loved God. This is why work yielded to prayer.

PDA – public displays of affection. The source of derision by our children and the demonstration in real life, in real time, of our devotion to our spouses, our children, and everyone else we love. Daniel so loved God that he had public displays of affection toward Him even when it was unpopular to do so, even when the king had ordered him not to on pain of the lion’s den. Daniel ignored the king, not because he had disrespect for the king, but because he had love for God. He demonstrated his love, his devotion, by engaging God in public, by showing PDA, by loving first and worrying about the consequences later, if at all.

Do we have that kind of devotion to God, that kind of love for God?

Daniel so loved God that he was willing to risk life, liberty, and property in devotion to Him.

Are we devoted to God; do we really love Him? Let’s test that by asking some hard questions. Are we willing to risk a few minutes every day to be with Him and to enjoy His company? If we say we are willing, do we? Are we willing to run the risk of public ridicule because we do things in public which show our devotion and love for God? If we say we are willing, do we? Are we willing to run the risk of paying the consequences by loving God more than man, more than our “friends,” more than life itself? If we say we are willing, do we?

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Bread – Madness

May 9, 2011


Readings for Monday, May 9, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 4:19-27; 1 John 3:19-4:6; Luke 4:14-30; Psalms 9, 15, 25

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We meet Nebuchadnezzar today in his palace, being warned that, if he does not repent and acknowledge that God is in control and he is not, he will be cast out into the fields, condemned for a period of time to live and behave like an animal. Dan. 4:25

Surrounded by wealth and power, beauty and good living, this warning probably appeared more theoretical than real, more possible than probable, more intended for someone else of low estate rather than the king of Babylon. As a result, Nebuchadnezzar ignores the interpretation of the dream and continues to believe that his life is of his making and not God’s. Instantly in that moment of pride, Nebuchadnezzar is laid low by God and condemned to behave like the beast of the field he was.

We have in Nebuchadnezzar, in a sense, a repetition of Genesis. Adam, in an instant of disobedience where he attempted to be God, was thrown from Eden into the world. Likewise, Nebuchadnezzar, in an instant of believing that all he had was his doing and that he was at least equal to and perhaps greater than God, was thrown out of the palace and into the fields.

When Adam and Eve were evicted from the garden, the world must have appeared to them like madness, infused with sin and fallen as it was. Adam would try to grow crops (because he now had to work), and they would be destroyed by the boiling sun, by flood, or by insect. In order to clothe himself, Adam had to bloody himself by killing animals and skinning them. In order to create a shelter from the storm, Adam had to cower inside in the dark. From the clarity of light to the chaos of dark, from order to madness.

The madness into which Nebuchadnezzar descended is best described by this: “you will eat grass like cattle and be drenched…” Dan. 4:25. Not only did this happen, but “…his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.” Dan. 4:33. If we see these people on the street, we avoid them like the plague because we know they are crazy and we don’t want their madness to affect us.

Yet where is the greater madness, in the results of sin and pride or in the beliefs and behavior which got us to those results? Adam had only to rightly hear and obey God. Nebuchadnezzar had only to rightly hear and turn away from himself toward God, acknowledging God as king. Yet both ignored God’s Word to them and fell into the consequences of sin as a result. So where is the greater madness?

How many Nebuchadnezzar’s do we know – kings of their castles, going into work every day believing in the great “I.” Is this madness, thinking that what we have is the result of who we are and what we have done? The world would tell us “no,” that believing in ourselves is right thinking, not wrong thinking. I beg to differ. We who believe that we are in control, that God is maybe someone to be acknowledged but, otherwise, is irrelevant, are inmates in an insane asylum, believing the other patients only because we are one of them.

God told Nebuchadnezzar that, if he was going to act like a lunatic, God would make sure that everyone saw him in his madness. And God told Nebuchadnezzar that he would remain in his madness until he acknowledged the truth that “…the Most High is sovereign over the kingdoms of men and gives them to anyone He wishes.” Dan. 4:25 However, once Nebuchadnezzar began to think correctly in the fullness of time, realizing that God was in control and that he was not, God restored Nebuchadnezzar to his position as king.

What does a person consumed by madness do to escape the asylum? He acknowledges the truth of his condition, looks to the physician for cure, and with the spark of clarity into the truth proceeds to shed the madness and acquire new life. For us Christians, we understand that to be repentance, a turning to the great physician Jesus Christ, and with the spark of wisdom provided by the Holy Spirit, growth out of old self into holiness.

But how does the insane person recognize his insanity, acknowledge the truth of his condition? How did Nebuchadnezzar come to understand that God was in control and he was not? After all, Nebuchadnezzar could not recognize this truth while he was king and he could not recognize it the first seven years he was an animal?

The answer is that it was God all the way. God gave Nebuchadnezzar the gift of wisdom to see his situation and to acknowledge God as God and God gave him his kingdom. God gave Nebuchadnezzar everything he needed to escape the madness.

Have you acknowledged today the source of all your power, all your ability, all your wealth, all your hope, all your life? Or are you like old crazy Nebuchadnezzar, thinking that he was one who built the great city, swimming in the sea of the madness of pride? If so, how did you do it? If not, why not?

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Bread – Light

May 4, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, May 4, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 2:17-30; 1 John 2:12-17; John 17:20-26; Psalms 12, 13, 14, 119:1-24

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In our reading from Daniel today, Nebuchadnezzar has received a dream from God which he cannot understand. He has asked the wise men of Babylon to help him and, when they can’t, he has ordered them killed. Daniel steps forward and volunteers to interpret the dream and then goes home and wonders with his friends what mess he has gotten himself into. He asks them to ask God for wisdom so that Daniel will understand the dream. During the night, he receives this wisdom in his own dream, and when he wakes up he praises God. As part of this praise, Daniel says this: “…He knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with Him.” Dan. 2:22

For some reason this passage stuck with me this morning. God knows what lies in the darkness but darkness does not live with Him. It is light, the light of truth, of wisdom, of illumination which dwells or lives with Him.

If I were to dwell with you and someone were trying to find me, they would look in your house. Light dwells with God. Therefore, if you would find light, if you would find wisdom, you would look in God’s house for it.

This is why Daniel and his friends prayed to God for wisdom. There is no use in praying to anyone else because the light of wisdom dwells, or lives, with God. Nebuchadnezzar could not find wisdom because he was searching for it in the houses of his “wise men.” The wise men could not find wisdom because they were searching for it in their education, their training, their special relationships with their own idols or gods. They were “looking in all the wrong places.”

Just the past two days we have had an objective lesson in finding something where it dwells. Bin Laden was not to be found in a cave because he did not live there. If we wanted to find Bin Laden, we had to look for where he lived. Once we knew where he lived, then we knew where to find him.

I think I, and I am sure you, are always on the outlook for illumination into our circumstances. Perhaps we are seeking the light of wisdom and understanding in our relations with our children or our parents, perhaps in our relations with our boss or the people we work with. Perhaps the wisdom we seek is in finding a good job, or how to balance the budget, or maybe even whether the watermelon we are getting ready to buy is any good. We are always on the prowl to be enlightened in decisions large and small, momentous and minor, short-lived or long-lasting.

Why do we search so hard when we know where light dwells? Why do we not go visit light where it lives, with God? And why do we look for darkness in God’s house when we know that darkness does not dwell, does not live, with God?

Where does God live so that we might find the light of wisdom and truth? What is His address? If you don’t already know the answer to that question, let me know and I’ll hook you up with this guy I know with the initials “JC” who can answer your question. If you do know the answer to the question, when was the last time you went there for light?

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