Bread – Refuge

August 27, 2012


Readings for Monday, August 27 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 4:1, 5:1-11, 17-21, 26-27; Acts 9:19b-31; John 6:52-59; Psalms 1, 2, 3, 4, 7

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With talk of hurricanes and bad weather, thoughts turn to places of refuge, of shelter from the storm. Every one of our readings today describe the place where we may find such protection.

In Psalm 1, this place of refuge is a place of strength, built upon God’s law, His rules and regulations for our lives. “He [the person whose delight is in God’s law] is like a tree planted by streams of water…In all that he does, he prospers.” Ps. 1:3

In Psalm 2, this place of refuge is a place of blessing, built upon God’s favor. “Kiss the Son … Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.” Ps. 2:12

In Psalm 3, this place of refuge is a place of protection, built upon God’s saving acts. “But You, Oh Lord, are a shield about me … Salvation belongs to the Lord; …” Ps. 3:3,8

In Psalm 4, this place of refuge is a place of peace, built upon God’s sovereign will. “But know the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself; … In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.” Ps. 4:3,8

In Psalm 7, this place of refuge is a place of forgiveness, built upon God’s righteousness. “O Lord my God, in You do I take refuge … I will give to the Lord the thanks due to His righteousness…” Ps. 7:1,17

In Job, this place of refuge is a place of restoration, built upon God’s mercy. “Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves … For He wounds, but He binds up; He shatters, but His hands heal. He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you. In famine He will redeem you from death, …” Job 5:17-20

In Acts, this place of refuge is a place of fearlessness, built upon God’s truth. In this reading from Acts, Saul (Paul) proclaims the name of Jesus boldly and every time ends up in controversy and trouble, but escapes. He has no fear because he is grounded in God’s truth and in the reality of Jesus Christ.

In John, this place of refuge is in Jesus Christ Himself, built upon His being the bread of life.

A place of strength, of blessing, of protection, of peace, of forgiveness, of restoration, of fearlessness – a place of refuge. Who would not want to go to such a place? Who would not want to run to such a place?

That place is Jesus. Go. Run.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread –Genuine

August 22, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, August 22 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 18:16-31; Acts 8:14-25; John 6:1-15; Psalms 119:145-176, 128, 129, 130

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How can we tell the “Real McCoy” versus the fake, the genuine versus the imposter? This is something we are always trying to do, establishing our own litmus tests for “correctness” so that we might easily distinguish the true from the false. Sometimes we establish these tests from our own experience, sometimes we borrow these tests from the experience and observations of others, and sometimes we appeal to an “absolute” standard, whether it be the Bible, the church’s creeds throughout the years, our doctrinal statements or confessions of faith, or perhaps even “science” or a set of man-made principles and laws. We feel like we have to do something, however, or we will become entrapped by incorrect thinking. Anyone though engaged in thought over this realizes quickly that, although broad principles may have more or less unanimous agreement, assessing the true from the false on the edges becomes very difficult. In response to this difficulty, we tend to fall into two camps, absolutists (what is right is right and what is wrong is wrong, resulting in easy conclusions about the genuine) and relativists (who abandon all hope of assessing the genuine, figuring all positions and thoughts are equal).

I raise this not because it is something I am comfortable talking about but because the issue is front and center in our Scripture readings today. In Judges, we have Micah who has built himself an idol of silver and developed an entire worship system around it, using a system of worship very similar to that specified by God in the Torah for His worship. This false worship became so attractive that in our readings a group from the tribe of Dan go and seize the silver idol, the priest and the “stuff” used in worship, take over a city, and set up their own society around the idol. This worship system may have lasted a fairly long time at that location. For these people, they lost track of the genuine and substituted for it something which they thought was genuine, but was not. How did that happen?

In Acts, we have Simon the magician who has declared his faith in Jesus and been baptized. However, when he observed that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of hands, “he offered them [Peter and John] money, saying ‘Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.’” Acts 8:18. Peter perceived in this that he was not genuine in his belief, rebuked him, and said that his heart was not right, telling him to “Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours…” Acts 8:22. Simon responded with a request that Peter pray for him. Was this repentance? Was the faith real? The ESV Study Bible has this note: “Commentators differ over whether Simon had genuine saving faith” and then, later, “Whether Simon was truly repentant or not is unclear.” If there is confusion in the ranks on this, then by what ability are we to assess genuineness in others?

In John, we have Jesus feeding of the 5,000 by the Sea of Galilee. What the report tells us is that “A large crowd [the 5,000] was following Him, because they saw the signs that He was doing on the sick.” John 6:2. Was this genuine saving faith at the time, or was it merely curiosity brought about by remarkable events? Later in the report, it is said that the people witnessing the feeding believed that “This is indeed the Prophet…” John 6:14. There is nothing said about whether this belief was of a type to lead to transformed life, a further curiosity, or merely a simple “Wow” with no change whatsoever.

The truth is that this topic is enough for at least one book, but the question remains – how do I tell the genuine?

I think in these readings today there are three hints about how we do that. From Judges, we learn that one way to test genuineness is against God’s standard. God said “You shall not make for yourself a carved image…You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” Exodus 20:4. Micah made a silver idol. Let’s see, is that a “carved image?” I think most of us would agree that it is. Micah’s god was not the “Real McCoy.” That is apparent for those who know God’s standards.

From Acts, we learn that another way to test genuineness is by insight from the Holy Spirit. With respect to Simon, it was Peter who said that “I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and the bond of iniquity.” Acts 8:23. Peter’s sight could have come from training, but as he was a fisherman given spiritual abilities by the Holy Spirit, I would tend to think that his insight here also comes from the Holy Spirit and not by virtue of his training. This tells me that, in testing truth, we should be sensitive to our “gut instinct,” our “sixth sense,” our discernment given to us by the Holy Spirit. However, notice that even Peter did not directly challenge whether Simon had saving faith. He pointed out the objective signs of lack of saving faith, stated that “your [Simon’s] heart is not right before God,” but left to God the final judgment of Simon’s heart.

And then, finally, from John we learn that another way of testing genuineness is to let it work itself out. Jesus did not separate the believers from the curious; He fed them all equally. Who had genuine faith and who did not was left to be worked out.

While writing this, however, it dawned on me that there is a deeper lesson here. We are drawn to Micah’s story because we get to look in on him and critique him. We are drawn to Simon’s story because we get to look in on him and critique him. We are drawn to the 5,000 because we get to question the how, why, and who of that event.

But that is not where the battleground for genuineness is. It is with us. The person I need to be testing for genuineness is not you, it is me. We need to be testing ourselves. How are we like Micah, following the dictates of our hearts rather than the dictates of God? How are we like Simon, skimming along Christianity picking up its benefits without engaging its truths? How are we like the 5,000, along for the ride, curious about the miracles but not loving Jesus?

Am I a genuine Christian? If I really asked myself that question on a regular basis, I wonder if I would have any time to ask it of others?

Am I genuine? Am I the “Real McCoy?” When we really realize how much like Micah, Simon, and the 5,000 we are, I think we will begin to understand the true depth of God’s mercy and grace toward us. And then maybe, just maybe, we will turn from testing to thanksgiving, from critique to joy, from judgment to hope, from bitterness to love, and from death to life. Because in so doing we will discover the genuine – Jesus Christ. And that will be enough.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Ritual

August 20, 2012


Readings for Monday, August 20 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 17:1-13; Acts 7:44-8:1a; John 5:19-29; Psalm 106

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In Judge today, Micah has stolen 1,100 pieces of silver from his mother and returned it. She was so happy that she took 200 pieces of the silver, had them melted down, and had the silversmith make Micah a “carved image,” an idol. Micah took the idol and made a shrine for it, where it could be worshiped. He created a ritual around the image, made some saints (household gods) to go with it, created an order of priests to lead the worship, and ordained his son as first priest. To complete the creation of this religion, this ritual, and this liturgy, Micah took a Levite visitor, offered to support him for the rest of his life, and then made him a priest in the temple of the silver image. Micah then smiles, folds his hands, and says “Now I know the Lord will prosper me, because I have a Levite as priest.” Judges 17:13 (I made up the smiles and folds his hands part.)

I almost don’t know what to say about Micah, except that he looks a whole lot like us. We take some part of our life, polish it up, set it on a pedestal, set up rituals to preserve it, get someone else to buy into it, and sooner or later adapt something from some other religion to give it legitimacy. And then we say, “now I know the Lord will prosper me” because I am now doing it the “right” way, with the “right” elements, using the “right” words, facing in the “right” direction, wearing the “right” clothes, with the “right” kinds of music, candles, incense, and procedure, with the help of the “right” people.

And sometimes, in making our ritual concoction, we borrow like Micah did from paganism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Socrates, and Wikipedia — whatever fits our style, mood, and inclination in the moment. Whatever seems right. As pointed out today in Judges about Micah, what “was right in his own eyes.” Judges 17:6b

Now, what ritual was observed in our other readings today? None. Stephen died under an avalanche of stones for proclaiming Christ and His vision of Christ at the right hand of God, after he had already observed that God does not dwell in houses made by hands. (Acts 7:48, 56) Christ talks about doing what He sees the Father doing, pronouncing simply that “whoever hears My word and believes Him who sent Me has eternal life.” John 5:24 What ritual is in this?

Man wants ritual but he needs relationship. Man wants to do, but Christ calls us to believe and to be. Man looks at the stuff, the procedures, the words, the titles, and the clothes and sees value, the keys to the future. Christ says that seeing Him, hearing Him, knowing Him, and believing Him are the keys to the eternal life.

Who is right, Micah or God, me or Him? The choice is important, with eternal consequences. Choose wisely.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Faint

August 17, 2012


Readings for Friday, August 17 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 14:20-15:20; Acts 7:17-29; John 4:43-54; Psalms 102, 107:1-32

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Psalm 102 in our readings today has a title which begins “A prayer of one afflicted, when he is faint …”

“Faint” is sort of one of those old-fashioned words which conveys tons of information. Oh, we may say that someone has “fainted,” in that they have lost temporary consciousness, but rarely do we say that some “is faint.” In this context, the word means “without strength, weak and feeble.” To say that “I am faint” is to say in an old-fashioned way that I have no strength to handle the problems which beset me.

Normally, we look at “faint” as something which happens only to us when we are caught in overwhelming circumstances – death, tragedy, bankruptcy, loss of a friend, complex circumstances when we are overwhelmed with no-good options, paralysis from too much information or having to make decisions too quickly. In modern language, we might call being “faint” equivalent to having an anxiety attack, being depressed, being unable to cope.

So Psalm 102 is about a person who was in the middle of being unable to cope, having no strength of his or her own to make decisions, to live life, or to do anything other than maybe lay on the couch or hide in bed. Juxtaposed against this reading today is Psalm 107, which is a reminder throughout of God’s steadfast love for us when we are faint. Psalm 107 essentially reminds us of all of the different circumstances in which we could be “faint” (in trouble, lost in the desert, no place to sleep at night, sitting in darkness, sitting in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction, feeling the effects of rebellion and disobedience, confronting their foolishness in living sinfully, closeness to the gates of death, bound up in economic turmoil, tossed around in the stormy seas of relationships and business), and then tells us what happens to those people who believe in God – “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them from their distress.” Psalm 107:6,13,19,28.

Being faint is a natural condition of man, because, although we would prefer to think of ourselves as strong, we are in fact incapable in our own strength to handle things. Oh, we make a stab at it in our strength, but sooner or later we reach the end of our rope – we become “faint.” For many people, they do not find out that God loves them until they reach the end of their rope, and then “they cry to the Lord in their trouble.” How much better would it be for us to just realize that we begin the day faint and all that happens is that as the day progresses we get fainter. We start the day with not enough strength without the help of the Holy Spirit and end the day exhausted because we are relying upon our weakness rather than God’s strength. Turning back to Psalm 102, we need to remember in these times that God is not faint, He does not lose heart, He does not quit – “Of old You have laid the foundations of the earth, …They will perish, but You will remain….they will pass away, but You are the same, and Your years have no end. The children of Your servants shall dwell secure …” Psalm 102:25-28

In today’s lesson from Acts, the history of Moses is recounted from his birth, to his childhood, to his attempts to lead in his own strength, to his rejection and his retreat into Midian to hide, to his confrontation with God. Moses had great earthly opportunity and strength, but he became faint in the face of opposition and without the support of the Lord. He retreated until God delivered him from his distress, after which he became the Moses of the Exodus.

In our reading today from John, however, we see the exact opposite. The man has a sick son at the point of death. This is a time when most of us would be faint, would be disheartened, would be depressed. Yet this man went straight to Jesus and asked Him to make His son well. He may have been faint in feelings and emotions, but he knew where he could find strength and he sought it out. Jesus spoke, the man believed, and the son lived.

When we are faint, why don’t we reach out to God who is never faint? Better than that, since we always lack sufficient strength, why don’t we do it right now?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Wonderful

August 15, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, August 15 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 13:15-24; Acts 6:1-15; John 4:1-26; Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144

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Following is a “Bread” I wrote on August 11, 2010, on the same verses, with some slight editing. On that day I was reminded of the wonderfulness of God, as I am again today:

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 or 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 best describe the wonderful event, person, or thing as something which is supernatural, something which goes beyond anything we can grasp with our mind, something which can be perceived but which is beyond reason.

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 Hebrew word "wonderful" actually used [Strong’s #6383], it turns out that the word for “wonderful” is used only twice in the Old Testament. The first is here in Judges. The second is in 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 down and when I rise up; You discern my thoughts from afar.  You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold O Lord, You know it altogether.  You hem me in, behind and before, and lay Your hand upon me.  Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it.” 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, 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 is saying to you, ‘Give me 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 written revelation, 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 by me 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!

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Purpose

August 14, 2012


Readings for Tuesday, August 14 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 13:1-15; Acts 5:27-42; John 3:22-36; Psalms 94, 95, 97, 99, 100

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Seeing the readings from Psalms today go from 94 through 100, skipping Psalms 96 and 98, it reminded me of this childish saying – “One, two, skip a few, one hundred.” It is a faster way of counting. It is also indicative of how we live our lives in Christ, impatiently. If we have some glimpse of our purpose from God, we want to run with it, skipping as it were to the end. However, God only asks us to show up for what He has for us today, our purpose for the moment. If we are to be used mightily, we cannot presume upon our purpose by jumping to conclusions, but must obey in the moment and let God take care of the destination.

This is brought home today in our reading from Judges. Manoah’s wife was barren and they had no children. An angel appears to her and tells her that she will have a child, a son, saying to her “Therefore, be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean…for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5. She tells her husband, who of course wants to hear it for himself. The angel reappears and Manoah says to the angel “Now when your words become true, what is to be the child’s manner of life and what is his mission?” Judges 13:12.

Notice that Manoah does what we are prone to do. He accepts the words of the angel as true (“Now when your words become true”) and therefore knows that his wife will bear him a son. He knows his son will have a purpose, but he doesn’t know exactly what it is. Therefore, he asks this question – “what is to be the child’s manner of life and what is his mission?” Knowing the present is not good enough; Manoah wants to know the future too. After all, he is the father and, if he knows what the “end game” is, well then he can “help” achieve it.

The angel’s response to Manoah is instructive. Manoah asks how the child should live and what the child’s mission is, and the angel responds “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful…All that I commanded her let her observe.” Judges 13:13-14. Manoah asks about the future. The angel responds – obey in the present.

In Acts today, Peter and the disciples are again brought before the Jewish council and the high priest and told to shut up about Jesus. Peter responds simply that he must obey God and not them, and then proceeds to present to them the gospel. At that moment, they were facing death. Instead, they ended up being scourged (flogged), and left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].” Acts 5:41.

Did Peter know what was going to happen in front of the council? No. He was simply obedient to God in the moment. His purpose was to be obedient in the then and now, and let God take care of the rest. Of course Peter knew the end game – eternity with God; however, he did not know what the immediate future held, only the immediate present and the ultimate destiny. Firm in the ultimate destiny, Peter knew his purpose in the moment and lived his purpose to the fullest.

What does tomorrow bring? I don’t know. Today brings the opportunity for relationship, for hope, for joy, for participation in the miracle of life, for worship, for obedience to the tasks which God sets before me. “One, two, skip a few, a hundred?” No, God would have us count “One, two, three …” knowing that He has the dots, He has the future.

And knowing that God has the dots, the future, frees us to do and to be in the present. Let’s go obey!

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Continue

August 10, 2012


Readings for Friday, August 10 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 9:1-21; Acts 4:13-31; John 2:1-12; Psalms 88, 91, 92

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From our reading in Judges today – “Now Abimelech … went to Shechem…and their [the leaders of Shechem] hearts inclined to follow Abimelech…And they [the leaders of Shechem] gave him seventy pieces of silver … with which Abimelech hired worthless and reckless fellows, who followed him. And he went … and killed his brothers …, seventy men, on one stone….Jotham [the one brother who survived the slaughter] … went and stood on top of Mount Gerizim and cried aloud and said to them [the leaders of Shechem] …Now, therefore, if you acted in good faith and integrity when you made Abimelech king, and if you have dealt well with [the seventy brothers who were slain] …as his [their] deeds deserved … and you have risen up against my father’s house this day and have killed his sons, seventy men on one stone, …if you have acted in good faith and integrity with [my father] and his house this day, then rejoice in Abimelech …Abimelech ruled over Israel three years.” Judges 9:1-22

Basically, Abimelech wants to be king, but to do so he has to get rid of an entire family of seventy brothers. He goes to the leaders of Israel (Shechem) and asks them for help. They give him money to pay his hired mercenaries, who then go and kill off the entire family of seventy brothers, except for Jotham who escapes. Jotham goes to the leaders and asks them whether they have acted correctly, in good faith, and with integrity, in killing off his family through hired help. The obvious answer to this is “No,” but rather than repent and acknowledge their sinfulness, the leaders of Israel (Shechem) install Abimelech as their king as if nothing had happened.

Why did these people, these leaders, behave the way they did? In our decision-making in our business, social, and personal lives, why do we behave the same way? One could ask why the Shechem leaders aligned with Abimelech in the first place, but the better question is why did they continue in their sin when it was pointed out to them? Why did they not repent and return when it was obvious they were not acting in good faith, with integrity? Again, why do we continue to do the same thing, even when confronted with the fact that we are not acting in good faith and with integrity?

The answer to these questions are important, because it is a lot easier to never go to a place than it is to return once you have been there. Had the leaders not listened to Abimelech and enabled his treachery with money, they would not have had to confront their evil acts and would not have had to make the decision, do we continue in them or repent and turn back to Godly living.

It seems to me that there are several possible answers to these questions. One is that the leaders were lazy. It is much easier to deal with one king than with a group of seventy people. Another answer is that the leaders could afford to avoid the dirty work (deniability) – all they had to do was to give Abimelech the money to go hire the thugs to kill the seventy people. A third answer is lack of relationship – Abimelech came from the leaders’ family while the seventy came from a different family. We tend to do more cruel things to people we don’t know or who are not “aligned” with us. It is easier to kill them when they are not “our family.” A fourth answer is simple inertia. Once we have made a bad decision, it is easier to let that decision play out than to confront our bad decision, our bad thinking which led to that decision, what we need to do to fix the situation we created, and what we need to do to make sure it doesn’t happen again. It is easier to continue in sin than to repent, confess, and transform.

Why do we continue in what we do, even though we know it is wrong? Laziness, avoidance of responsibility, lack of relationship with the people harmed, and inertia.

We have sinned, and we often do not act in good faith and with integrity. Without intervention we will continue along the same path, regardless of the voice of the prophets reminding us that it is a path to destruction and death. Which is why we need Jesus Christ.

So, let us ask ourselves today the question which Jotham asked – have we done what we have done in good faith and with integrity? What are we going to do about it? Will we continue or will we repent? Will we have death or life?

The leaders of Shechem ignored the question and continued in their sinfulness. Will you?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Swords

August 8, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, August 8 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 7:19-8:12; Acts 3:12-26; John 1:29-42; Psalms 81, 82, 119:97-120

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As we read in Judges today, Gideon and his 300 men have crept up to the camp of the Midianites and “all the people of the East” who “lay along the valley like locusts in abundance, and the camels were without number…” Judges 7:12.

If we were writing a novel, this hearty band of brave souls would then creep into the camp and, taking their swords, would carefully slit the tents and then do the same thing to throats of the key leaders. Having surreptitiously decapitated the bosses, Gideon and his boys would take over the camp and declare victory.

We would have written the script this way, because swords are the weapons of old-timey warfare and, back then, they didn’t have guns and cruise missiles.

But wait, that is not the script which God wrote. Gideon’s and his men’s swords were not swords of steel but were the swords of God. “And they blew the trumpets and smashed the jars that were in their hands…They held in their left hands the torches, and their right hands the trumpets to blow.” Judges 7:20.

And the Midianites and the people of the East with camels without number were defeated that night not by steel but by might, not by the arm of man but by the arm of God. God’s swords in this battle were broken jars, torches, and trumpets. Nothing that man would choose to use, but what man must use if he is to obey.

And what are these swords of God? A contrite heart (the broken jars), the light of life (Jesus Christ – the torches), and the Word of God spoken (the proclamation of truth, the gospel – the trumpets).

Who is it who possess a contrite heart, the light of life, and the Word of God? Christians do.

So who are the swords of God? We are.

In Acts today, Peter, who has been broken and forgiven, stands in the public square and proclaims the gospel. In John today, John the Baptist acknowledges Jesus as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world…I have seen and bear witness that this [Jesus] is the Son of God.” John. 1:29, 34.

John is using the torch sword, the light of God. Peter is using the trumpet sword, the truth of God. Both have previously broken their jars, repented and turned, acknowledged their rightful place in relationship to God. In Acts and in John, as well as in Judges, the swords of God are in full display and in full use.

Are we any different than John the Baptist or Peter? Are we? Are we using ourselves to bring light into darkness? Are we using ourselves to acknowledge in the public square our need for repentance, our need for Jesus, our need for the Word of God, our need for truth and love? Are we using ourselves as the swords of God in the battle for life?

If not, maybe it is because we choose swords of our own making, of our own design, of our own strength. God would use broken jars, torches and trumpets. He would use us as broken jars, torches, and trumpets. He would use us as His mighty warriors. But to be so used we must first drop our weapons and take on His. But to be so used, we must first drop ourselves and take on Him.

Will we be warriors today? Will we first repent and then take on the torch of Christ and the trumpet of truth?

We only have two hands. If we break our pots only to pick up the pieces, we are either laying down the torch or the trumpet or both. If we pick up our own weapons in our own strength, we are either laying down the torch or the trumpet or both.

So, what swords will we carry today?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Witnesses

August 3, 2012


Readings for Friday, August 3 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 5:1-18; Acts 2:1-21; Matt. 28:1-10; Psalms 69, 73

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As I write this, I have in the background, through the window, the mountains of Colorado.

In Judges today, Deborah has been appointed by God a leader (judge) over Israel, and the Hebrews and the surrounding inhabitants of Canaan and other areas of the promised land are witnesses to God’s actions to establish Israel as His people in a specific geographical place at a particular time. See, it is easy to witness what is real. Our God is a God who involves Himself in the lives of His people, raises up leaders, and authors history as He writes it. Today, we have a historical account of Deborah because she is not a myth or a bedtime story.

In Matthew today, some women go to Christ’s tomb in order to “see” it. I am sure that among the reasons they went there, in addition of course to offering prayers and respect for the dead, was to do a “reality check,” to see that, yes, Jesus was dead and buried. In front of their eyes an angel (a) “descended from heaven” and (b) “rolled back the stone and sat on it.” Matt. 28:2 The angel did not report that he had done that; the women saw it happen. The angel then invited them to see the empty tomb which was revealed when the stone was rolled back. There was no room for error in the observation, because the stone was not already rolled back before they arrived, but it was rolled back while they were standing, watching it happen. Indeed, the women witnesses saw with their own eyes that the tomb was empty. While they were on the road, racing to tell the disciples what they had seen, they “met” Jesus and talked with Him. Less we be inclined to think that they were talking to an apparition or a ghost, the women reported that “they took hold of His feet.” Matt. 28:9.b. The women were witnesses of the reality of Jesus’ resurrection, not by hearing a report, but by fully engaging their senses – touch, hearing, and seeing. These are the same techniques we use every day in our “scientific” inquiry into reality. Our God is a God who is so real that He can be seen, heard, and touched by real people operating in real time and place.

In Acts today, the disciples are gathered and together receive the power of the Holy Spirit. This is not a phantasy play to describe concepts of religious fervor, but a real event witnessed by real people. And the people who witnessed this event were not even the people who received the Holy Spirit; the witnesses were “outsiders” with no agenda, no story to assert, no propaganda to promote. “And at this sound the multitude came together [devout men from every nation under heaven], and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language.” Acts 2:6 Our God is a God who is so real that His power is so demonstrated in the lives of His disciples that the results are obvious to the senses of others. Events as reported by those who were the actual witnesses are real. To the extent that these witnesses report what they heard, what they tasted, what they saw, and what they touched, reality is staring us in the face.

But for us, who were not there when these events occurred, we are vicarious witnesses, people who see reality through the lenses and reports of others. Now that is not bad because the witness of actual historical events, the empty tomb, the descent of the Holy Spirit and the explosion of the Church following its empowerment by God, are all trustworthy. But, like Thomas, we like to engage our own reality.

So right now, I am engaged in my reality. I can see the mountains. I can touch the dirt and the stones. I can hear the wind whistling through the aspens. I can taste the rain which has been falling. I can see the sun rising slowly over the peaks, heralding a new day.

I am witness to the complexity, to the simplicity, to the order, to the majesty, of creation. I may have not have met Deborah; I may not have watched the angel roll away the stone from the empty grave; I may not have heard the disciples speak in my language or seen the tongues of fire descending upon them.

But I have seen the mountains…and the valleys. And in so doing, I have seen God. He is real; He is here; He is forever. To that, we are all witnesses, whether we want to admit it or not.

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© 2012 GBF

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