Bread – Cooption

October 31, 2011


Readings for Monday, October 31, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Neh. 6:1-19; Rev. 10:1-11; Matt. 13:36-43; Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65

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Cooption (pronounced co-option) is a word which is peculiarly close to “cooperation” and is therefore doubly dangerous because cooption can occur in the context of cooperation; cooption can occur in the context of trying to be a nice guy, a person who goes along to get along.

What is cooption? Webster’s dictionary defines the verb “co-opt” as follows: “to persuade or lure (an opponent) to join one’s own system, party, etc.” Cooption (or co-option) is the noun, reflecting the process of luring someone into another way of thinking.

In Nehemiah today we have an excellent example of cooption in action. Nehemiah is following the instructions of God and rebuilding Jerusalem. He is in the process of finishing the wall and gates around Jerusalem. In the middle of his work, he gets this letter from an opponent of the work, “Come, let us meet together [outside the city]…” Neh. 6:2. In and of itself, this appears to be a neutral offer. We are not getting along, so let us talk together so we can resolve our differences. Let us cooperate instead of fight. Let us have peace.

The allure of this is substantial. No one likes to live within a context of hostility and opposition. We all believe that, if only we could talk to the other side, they would swoon over our arguments and we will have won a friend. We all are confident in our ability to stay the course of our own beliefs, so it is OK to let a little “other thinking” in. After all, aren’t we required as Christians to love our neighbor? Isn’t part of that meeting with them in a neutral place to talk out our differences? In fact, isn’t a little compromise a good thing, because it acknowledges respect for the other side, because they may have some truth on their side too?

See how subtly I have coopted you, relying upon your desire to be nice, to be recognized, to be loved, to be respected, to live in peace and friendship?

But Nehemiah was not engaged in his own work, which he could cast aside in favor of compromise. He was engaged in the Lord’s work. And so he had this response: “I am carrying on a great project and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you?” Neh. 6:3

To us this seems rude and offensive. “Let us dialogue” has been rejected by “I am doing and I will not stop the work to engage in useless talk.” What work could be so great that it cannot be delayed for a few minutes to talk to our enemies?

There is subtle lie in that last question, which is at the core of cooption. The problem is that, once the dialogue with people who oppose God’s work begins, it does not last a “few minutes;” it lasts forever. There is always one more thing to talk about, always one more point or concept to massage into unrecognition. There is always one more meeting, one more telephone call, one more speech, one more reconsideration, one more “let us reason together.”

There are enemies of the Gospel. These enemies have lots of tools – discouragement, misrepresentations (lies), worry, hopelessness. But one of their biggest tools is one of their least recognized – cooption. They appear as angels of light to engage you in endless dialogue about useless trifles, while the work of the kingdom assigned to you is set aside on the shelf, is delayed, is compromised, and is ultimately rendered tasteless, lightless, soulless, and lifeless.

How do we avoid being coopted? There were three things which Nehemiah had going for him. The first is that he knew who his God was and what job his God had assigned him. In Nehemiah’s case, it was rebuilding Jerusalem. In your case, it might be cleaning bathrooms. It doesn’t matter, because whatever job God has given us to do at that point in time is His work, not ours, and is to be done for His glory, not ours.

The second thing Nehemiah had going for him was that he recognized the enemy of the gospel. This is not as hard as it appears. Anyone who would assert a false god as king (work, power, money, prestige) is an enemy of the Gospel. Anyone who would urge us to satisfy our lusts rather than our new life in Christ is an enemy of the Gospel. Anyone who tells us that we are in control is an enemy of the Gospel. Anyone who loves the ways of the world rather than the ways of righteousness is an enemy of the Gospel. But you look around and say, “that is a lot of people.” Yes it is and so what?

The third thing that Nehemiah had going for him was that he was empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern when to say “no.” He had good boundaries. He recognized that not to say “no” to his enemies was tantamount to saying “no” to God. He knew he could not do both. He knew that the objectives of his enemies was not to win – it was to delay, derail, and ultimately destroy the work God had assigned him to do.

We also have all three things. We have a job to do given to us by our Creator. It is a job of pronouncing the reign of Christ, His work on the cross. It is a job of taking care of those people whom God has brought into our circle of care, whether it be in our family, our neighborhood, or the church. It is a job of praising God for our blessings. It is a job of good works which bring glory to God. It is a job of obedience. It is a job of joy. It is a job of love. We also have enemies who would rather deny us our hope and life than anything else. We also can say “No.” We can join with Nehemiah in saying that we will not stop the work to compromise with the enemy of the Gospel. How can we do this? Through the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Bread – Recognition

October 26, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, October 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezra 6:1-22; Rev. 5:1-10; Matt. 13:10-17; Psalms 49, 53, 119:49-72

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Recognition of the truth can be demonstrated in multiple subtle ways, and it can be refused in multiple subtle ways. One of the most subtle ways we can either recognize something as true or deny its truth is through our language, through our thought patterns.

We have some demonstration of that today in our readings.

In Ezra, Darius has ordered a search for Cyrus’ written order permitting the Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. The written order is found and contained in it is a subtle, but powerful recognition by Cyrus of who God is:

“In the first year of King Cyrus, the king issued a decree concerning the temple of God in Jerusalem: ‘Let the temple be rebuilt as a place to present sacrifices, and let its foundations be laid…Also, the gold and silver articles of the house of God…are to be returned to their places in the temple in Jerusalem; they are to be deposited in the house of God.’” Ezra 6:3-5 (emphasis added)

Cyrus recognizes the temple in Jerusalem to the house “of God,” not “of a God” and not “of the Hebrew God,” but “of God.” One house, one God. And this from a pagan believer. Cyrus recognizes who God is and his recognition is reflected subtly in his language. He has no need to qualify who God is because to him it is self-evident, it is true, it is understood, it is a fact. Therefore, his recognition of that truth is reflected subtly in the language he uses, in his thought patterns.

In Revelation, the elders and living creatures are worshiping the Lamb, Jesus, in the center of the throne, singing a new song. Contained within this song is this:

“You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,…” Rev. 5:9-10 (emphasis added)

The elders and living creatures recognize that, when Christ came, He came to make us something which we could not achieve on our own, He came to make us a kingdom and priests for a purpose, and that purpose is to “serve our God.” A recognition reflected subtly in language, woven into song, but a recognition of their, and our, role nonetheless. This is a recognition of something profound, particularly to Western thought. The purpose of life in Christ is to serve “our God,” not “my God” and not myself. Not society, or other people, or family, or friends, but to serve our God. This is not the Christian witness from my perspective, but from our perspective. It is not individualistic, but community formed of individuals submitting to the same purpose, tuned to the same channel.

Do we recognize God to the same degree that Cyrus the pagan did? Do we recognize our role on earth as God’s servants, to do His will, to be obedient to His ways and decrees?

Before you answer too quickly, think about the subtle ways in which we Christians deny recognition of the truth today. Here is one. Why do we lower case the pronouns for God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in our Bibles and writings? We use lower case pronouns for ourselves with one exception, “I.” We capitalize “I” but lowercase “you, him, his” when we speak of God. Shouldn’t we be capitalizing God’s pronouns and putting ours in their rightful place? Here is another – How come so many Christian songs today begin with “I.” Is this a subtle way of denying who God is, and subtly saying that God is who “I” say he is [I deliberately lower-cased “he” although it hurt me to do so].

Check out our language and our thought patterns! Do we really recognize who God is and what He has done for us on the cross? Do we really? Does our language reflect that? Do our thought patterns reflect that? Do our lives reflect that?

By this blog, I hope to light a fire in us, a fire to change our language and the way we think, a fire to honor God and to put Him first, not because I think He is first but because He is first. Let us begin this fire subtly, by changing one thing today. Let us refer to God with capital letters in all that we do. He is not our equal. He is our King.

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Bread – Clarity

October 24, 2011


Readings for Monday, October 24, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 1:7-17; Rev. 1:4-20; Matt. 12:43-50; Psalms 41, 44, 52

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Confusion reigns from our perspective and today’s readings only add to that.

In Psalm 44, David says “But now You [God] have rejected and humbled us…All this happened to us, though we had not forgotten You or been false to Your covenant…Rise up and help us; redeem us because of your unfailing love.” Ps. 44:9, 17, 26. David gives a litany about how they have been faithful but that God has apparently been unfaithful and in fact hurtful, but he ends with an appeal to God’s “unfailing love.” He has dictated all the ways God’s love has failed and yet he appeals to “unfailing” love. What kind of confusion is this?

In Zechariah, God delivers a message to the prophet that He will begin to bless Jerusalem. In fact, it is reported by the angel that “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and at peace.” Zech. 1:11 However, God’s response is “I am very angry with the nations that feel secure.” Zech. 1:15. The kind of security which leads to peace between and among nations makes God angry? What kind of confusion is this?

In Revelation, we are introduced to the seven churches to which John writes. Jesus presents Himself in a vision and holds the churches in His hands (represented by the seven lampstands and seven stars). And yet, later, we are told about the various problems these churches have. Jesus, the Perfect, holds the churches which are imperfect and, as subsequent Scripture will show, they remain imperfect. Why doesn’t Christ “zap” them into perfection, if He is God? What kind of confusion is this?

Matthew presents us a vignette, a small story. Jesus’ mother and brothers are standing outside wanting to talk to Jesus. Jesus replies by asking the crowd who His mother and brothers are, seeming to ignore His mother and brothers. This is from the same God who commands us to honor our father and mother! What kind of confusion is this?

What kind of confusion indeed? It is the confusion borne of us trying to impose our notions of science, our notions of right and wrong, our notions of ethics, our notions of who God is. It is the confusion borne of us imposing these man-originated and man-centered thoughts upon God and each other. It is the confusion borne of man’s condition.

But is it confusing, really? No. Actually, there is great clarity in all of this. The clarity is that it is God who commands, not us; it is God who creates, not us; it is God who rules, not us; it is God to whom obedience is owed, not us; it is God to whom honor is owed, not us; it is God who is the rock upon which eternity rests, not us; it is God who saves, not us; it is God who loves, not us.

This clarity is why David can say that God’s love is unfailing even when he is giving examples where it appears to him that it has failed. This clarity is why Jesus can say that we should honor our father and mother, while at the same time give greater honor, attention, loyalty, and love to Him. This clarity is why God can be angry at the nations who “feel” secure because of their strength, rather than those who “are” secure because of God’s strength. This clarity is why the churches are broken while at the same time being held in Jesus’ hand – because God’s perfection will come in His time and not ours.

We look for clarity among our own doings and thinkings, without realizing that in our thoughts there is only confusion. It is only when we can set those thoughts and actions aside and look to the One who is unfailing that we can achieve clarity. We remain in ourselves and remain confused. We remain in God and clearly see.

Lord, help us to remain in You today. Lord, help us to deal with our confusion by climbing to Your high place, to rest in Your arms, and to trust in Your purpose, Your action, Your wisdom. Lord, help us today know your unfailing love. Amen.

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Bread – Opposition

October 21, 2011


Readings for Friday, October 21, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Ezra 3:1-13; 1 Cor. 16:10-24; Matt. 12:22-32; Psalms 31, 35

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Today’s lessons are about opposition and the fear which arise from and is related to that.

In Ezra, the people are permitted to come back to Jerusalem by Cyrus and to rebuild the temple. They begin by rebuilding the altar so that the law of God can be observed and worship pleasing to God can begin. There were many people who surrounded these “newcomers” and these people did not want Jerusalem or the temple or the altar reestablished. It is reported that “Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices.” Ezra 3:3

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is finishing his letter to Corinth and says this: “If Timothy comes, see to it that he has nothing to fear while he is with you, for he is carrying on the work of the Lord…Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Cor. 16:10, 13-14

In Matthew, Jesus is accused of casting out demons in the strength of Satan. We are well aware of the opposition of the Pharisees to Jesus’ purpose. He is fearless in His discussions with them, constantly pointing out the error of their thinking, knowing full well what awaits Him on the cross.

Psalm 35 in today’s readings even considers the apparent opposition of the Lord. David says “When my prayers returned to me unanswered, I went about mourning…O Lord, how long will You look on?…O Lord, You have seen this; be not silent. Do not be far from me, O Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord.” Ps. 35:13b-14a, 17, 22-23

Fear from people who hate what you are and what you do (Ezra’s men, David). Fear from deprivation, want, verbal opposition, politics of organizations (Timothy). Fear for our friends suffering opposition (Paul). Fear from our enemies who would do us and our family real harm (David, Ezra’s men). Fear from sometimes apparent silence of God toward our wants or desires (David).

Against all this opposition, what is a person to do? In Ezra, “despite their fear,” they did the Lord’s work, the work commended to them to do. It is more important to worship God and to obey Him than to succumb to fear, to give up to the opposition. In Paul’s letter to Corinth, they protected not only themselves but the people of God in their midst (Timothy). It is in Christian community where there is accountability, help, and encouragement. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus was obedient to His purpose on earth. It is more important to obey God and proceed forward than fret over consequences. In the Psalms, David shows that opposition from God is only apparent, it is not real. Not two Psalms later, David says: “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this….do not fret – it leads only to evil.” Ps. 37:3-5, 8b.

What is the person to do? Believe in the Lord and His good intent for you. Obey Him. Love and worship Him. Be part of a Christian community which looks out after you. Pray that the Holy Spirit enables, emboldens, strengthens, encourages, teaches, and protects you.

Paul says to his Corinth flock “(S)tand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love.” 1 Cor. 13-14. There is only one way we can do this. In God’s power, in God’s strength, in God’s love, abiding in Christ and Him in us. Come Holy Spirit. Amen.

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Bread – Judgment

October 17, 2011


Readings for Monday, October 17, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 44:1-14; 1 Cor. 15:30-41; Matt. 11:16-24; Psalms 9, 15, 25

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“Judgment” is an interesting word, because it has at least two senses. The first sense is that of discernment, where we learn to separate the good from the bad. If we have “good judgment,” it will lead us into making good decisions for our health, for our life, for ourselves, for our family, and for our society. If we have “bad judgment,” the opposite happens and we end up making decisions which bring harm to us. The second sense is that of the result of discernment, a choice in which some things are labeled “good” and given the rewards which go with that label and other things are labeled “bad” with the consequences which go with that label. In our current culture, we are taught that the first sense is OK, that we can discern all day long, but the second sense is not OK, because to actually act on that discernment by labeling some actions “bad” and others “good” ends up “hurting” someone (generally, the person with the “bad” action label). Oftentimes, “judgment” is related to the consequences of choice (i.e. punishment), but really judgment is both the process of making the choice and the choice itself.

In our Scripture readings today, the writers and Jesus Himself are very, very, very clear – God is a God of judgment (in both senses) and God is a God of action (He will act upon His judgment). This is a message which our culture does not want to hear, because inherent in this message is a message of standards of life (set by God), measurement by God of us against that standard, and choice (by God) of whether the standard has been met, resulting in a separation of people into two classes, the saved and the unsaved.

Lest you think I am exaggerating, these passages are listed below:

Judgment in the Old Testament reading today: “This word came to Jeremiah concerning all the Jews in [Lower and Upper] Egypt…They provoked Me to anger by burning incense and by worshiping other gods…Again and again I sent My servants the prophets, who said ‘Do not do this detestable thing that I hate!’ But they did not listen or pay attention; they did not turn from their wickedness…Therefore, My fierce anger was poured out; it raged against the towns of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem and made them the desolate ruins they are today.” Jer. 44:3b-6

Judgment in the Gospel reading today: “Then Jesus began to denounce the cities in which most of His miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. ‘Woe to you, Korazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! If the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.” Matt. 11:20-22

And then from the Psalms: “The Lord reigns forever; He has established His throne for judgment. He will judge the world in righteousness; He will govern the people with justice….The Lord is known by His justice; the wicked are ensnared by the work of their hands. The wicked return to the grave, all the nations that forget God. But the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.” Ps. 9: 7-8,16-18 “Lord, who may dwell in Your sanctuary? Who may live on Your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous,…” Ps. 15:1-2a “Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way. All the ways of the Lord are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of His covenant…May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my hope is in You.” Ps. 8-10, 21

God has judged, He is judging, and He will judge. He sets the standard of discernment and He chooses based upon His assessment of which side of that standard we fall.

The Psalmist asks, against the force of God’s judgment, “Who may live on Your holy hill?,” and answers his own question – “He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous [right in God’s sight].”

Is your walk blameless? Do you do what is right, by God’s standards, every day by every minute by every second, all the time in all circumstances?

Of course the answer to these questions is “No.” It is “no” for me and I daresay for everyone who walks the planet.

Fortunately for those persons who abide in the True Vine, in Jesus Christ, there is no fear of judgment, no fear of condemnation because when God the Father looks at us, He sees His Son, Jesus Christ, who did meet His Father’s standards, every second of every minute of every day for eternity.

So for us, judgment is not a bad word. It is not a word to be feared. It is not a word to be avoided.

To which I say, Thank you Jesus! Amen.

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Bread – Listen

October 10, 2011


Readings for Monday, October 10, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 36:11-26; 1 Cor. 13:1-13; Matt. 10:5-15; Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 7

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All of us have seen a little child yell at the top of his voice when he is being told something he does not want to hear, sometimes accompanied by putting his hands over his ears. It is as if the counter-talking can somehow overwhelm or at least hide the lesson or the truth. The child has a belief system where, if he can’t hear it, it doesn’t affect him. As adults, we know better, and yet in an adult version of the same thing all we have to do is watch political “discourse” between opposing sides on television.

In Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, Paul says that “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.” 1 Cor. 13:11 He was speaking of Christian maturity, but the same applies in all of life. The adult in us knows that we need to listen to the truth and attempt to comprehend it so that we can avoid calamity and achieve real success, but the child in us wants to just be left alone, to ignore everything which challenges our view of ourselves or our world. Paul says that, in maturity, we need to grow up and listen, we need to grow up and gain wisdom, we need to grow up and hear the truth and act on it. By this maturity, we put off vain achievement and obtain the deeper, more permanent, things – faith, hope, and love.

In our Old Testament reading today, we see an adult-child in full action. Jeremiah has been given a vision by the Lord of the calamity to fall on Judah, and he dictates this vision to Baruch, who writes it down on a scroll. Following instructions, Baruch reads the scroll to the people and the reading is overheard by some of the officials in the king’s cabinet. They tell the king about it, and he asks for it to be read to him. “Whenever Jehudi had read three or four columns of the scroll, the king cut them off with a scribe’s knife and threw them into the firepot, until the entire scroll was burned in the fire. The king and all his attendants who heard these words showed no fear, nor did they tear their clothes.” Jer. 36:23-24 The king did the same thing the little child did in my introduction; in his worldview, if he couldn’t see the Word of God or hear it read, then it didn’t exist and he could go on his merry way.

As an adult, he would have listened and hearkened to God’s message to him and the nation through the prophet Jeremiah, he would have meditated upon it, and he would have reacted appropriately to it – in this case by repenting his and his nation’s evil ways. As a child, he thinks “out of sight, out of mind.”

We really have two choices when we are confronted with God’s Word. One is to cut it up and throw it into the fire, hoping (and thinking) that it will just go away. One is to embrace the reality it gives, even if it hurts our view of ourselves or others, attempt to understand it, and attempt to implement its truths throughout our doings, all in the power of the Holy Spirit.

In this light, listen to our first Psalm today – “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and who leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” Ps. 1:1-3

As adults, let’s listen to what God has to say and do it.

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Bread – Perspective

October 7, 2011


Readings for Friday, October 7, 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

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In 2 Kings 24:13, I had previously marked in my Bible a long time ago this passage “Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the Lord and the royal palace.” I know it was a long time ago because the highlighter color I used is one I haven’t used for years. For some reason, this passage caught my eye at this time. However, there is a problem with it – it is not complete.

This morning, I read the full passage and realized my error. The passage really reads as follows from 2 Kings 24:13 – “As the Lord had declared, Nebuchadnezzar removed all the treasures from the temple of the Lord and the royal palace.”

This is a huge error. By what I had highlighted many years ago, Nebuchadnezzar decides what to do – man is king. By what really existed in the passage, God has a plan for the nations and Nebuchadnezzar is following the plan.

In the first rendition of the passage, man is in control and is sovereign. In the correct rendition of the passage, God is in control and is sovereign.

Lest you think this was an anomaly and that maybe my mind was somewhere else a long time ago, this is a passage from the same reading which was not highlighted many years ago: “The Lord sent Babylonian, Aramean, Moabite and Ammonite raiders against him [king of Judah]. He sent them to destroy Judah, in accordance with the word of the Lord proclaimed by His servants the prophets.” 2 Kings 24:2.

I didn’t highlight a major passage which points out directly God’s sovereignty in all things. Apparently back then I was more interested in man’s free will than in God’s sovereignty, so I only paid attention to Bible passages which supported my perspective and ignored the rest.

Perspective – it is the filter by which we assess facts and come to conclusions. It is the blinder which helps us to ignore things which do not help our position. It is the distorter of the truth, twisting “the” truth into “our” truth.

So how do we get a particular perspective on things? Some would say it is the way were raised, our nurture and our environment. Some would say it is how we were educated, what we were exposed to and what was hidden from us. Some would say that it is forged in the troubles and successes of life. Some would say that it is ingrained.

Let me make a suggestion, since this is written to adults. At its most fundamental level, I suggest that perspective is something we choose. And the key choice of perspective is whether we will look at things through our eyes or whether we will deliberately attempt to see things through God’s eyes.

In a nutshell, this is what the Battle of the Bible is about. If we take on God’s perspective, we read “out of” His Word into our minds, hearts, souls, and lives. If we take on God’s perspective, we ask ourselves “What does the Bible say” and not “What do I think the Bible means.” If we take on our perspective, we read “into” the Bible, imposing upon it our preconceptions, our views, our systems of thought, and our worldly desires.

Making a choice to make God’s perspective our perspective is not something that is done at the time we are saved. It is something that is done when we realize that when we are dead to sin, we are dead to sin, and that dead means dead. It is something that is done when we realize that God is sovereign and that we are not. It is something that is done when we realize that we don’t tell God what armor we want to wear; He tells us what armor to wear.

Today, resolve to change your perspective to God’s and when you read His Word and exercise your walk in the Christian faith, resolve to look at what God “says” and try to figure out what that means, rather than try to figure out what you want God to mean and then try to find whatever it is which agrees with you.

When you change your perspective and re-read God’s Word written and incarnate in Jesus Christ, perhaps you too will find the missing clause which makes all the difference. Perhaps you too will find that God is sovereign and that He delivers on His promises, in His time and way. And then perhaps you will find pleasure today in God’s provision, His love, His sacrifice, His protection, and His peace. Amen.

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Bread –Trivialize

October 5, 2011


Readings for Wednesday, October 5, 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

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This morning, I (“by mistake”) copied down the reading from Corinthians as 11:23-24 instead of 11:23-34. I caught it when I thought to myself that the readings are not normally that short and that there must be something wrong. Of course, the wrong was me.

The point is that, if the reading had been merely 1 Cor. 11:23-24, it would have been this: “…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.’” If this were the reading, it would have led to two possible trivializations in one blow. The first would have been to provide a proof text for Christ dying for the world, thereby potentially leading one to believe that we are saved no matter what (the “you” would be translated, in my best Texan, “all you all”). The second would be that the Holy Communion is no more than a “remembrance,” a memorial service so to speak.

When we add the remaining ten verses, however, much substance is added. The first is that the bread (the Body) is connected to the cup (the Blood) of Jesus. The second is that one purpose of the Holy Communion is the proclamation of the death of Jesus until He returns. The third is that Holy Communion must not be done casually, but a worthy way, after self-examination. The fourth is that, in a way not fully understood, we must recognize spiritually that somehow, in the bread and the wine, there is something more than bread and wine, there is the body of the Lord [“For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself.” 1 Cor. 11:29]. The fifth is that the Holy Communion must be conducted in good order.

This whole event points out to me that, when we fail to read the entirety of God’s Word, His written revelation of Himself to us, we trivialize God and we trivialize the things of God. This can happen by intent (I refuse to read), but more often it happens by neglect (I don’t have time to read it all). To obey God and to love Him with all of our heart, it is not enough that we know that we feel good when we are in the sanctuary. To obey Him and to love Him we have to know Him, and that means we cannot trivialize the reading of His Word, the maintenance of a person relationship with God in prayer, the importance of the Christian community to our spiritual health, or worship.

In 2 Kings today, the people, magistrates, king, and priests of Judah had so trivialized the Word of God that they had actually lost it entirely (apparently they were running solely on ritual and memory, what we might call “tradition”). As incredible as this sounds, we know this because Hilkiah the high priest said “I have found the Book of the Law in the temple of the Lord.” 2 Kings 22:8. In order to find something, it must first be misplaced. Upon finding it, the king read it, realized how he had strayed from God’s commandments, and “he tore his robes.” (a sign of repentance) When the whole of the elders and people of Jerusalem heard Scripture read, they also repented.

When we trivialize the Word of God we run on fumes. We run on memory and tradition. We run on what we think might be the case. When we trivialize the Word of God, we know nothing about what He has done for us and for our ancestors. We know nothing about what He will do for us and for our descendants. We know nothing of the right relationships of man, both to each other in families and societies and to God. We know nothing, really, of ourselves, thinking of ourselves more highly than we ought (if there is no God or a trivial God to look to, then the only other person staring at us is looking at you in the mirror) or thinking the opposite, more lowly than we ought (man was made in God’s image and was so precious in God’s eyes that He sent one of the Trinity, His Son, to die as a ransom for those who truly believe in Him). When God’s Word is trivialized, we hang on to wisdom by a thread.

How have you trivialized God’s Word today?

Let’s rededicate ourselves to doing what Hilkiah did. Let’s go the temple or our bookshelves, find the Bible which was “lost,” read and inwardly digest it, and then act in ways which are worthy of God’s call on our life, that are worthy of God’s sacrifice for our redemption from sin, and that are worthy of our place in God’s kingdom.

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