Bread – Whistle

November 26, 2012


Readings for Monday, November 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 10; Gal. 6:1-10; Luke 18:15-30; Psalm 106

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There are many people who read this Bread who will remember what it was like as a young child. When it wasn’t a school day, you would roll out of bed, get some breakfast (if there was any), and then go outside to play. There was nothing particularly to keep you inside unless you were sick, and you were always nudged along by someone saying to you, “Now, go outside and play.” And that is what you would do … until you were called home for lunch or dinner.

There were three basic ways we were called home for lunch or dinner, none of which included a cell phone. One was that the dinner bell would be rung. This was particularly necessary on the farm, because you might be a ways off and you needed something which would carry. Another way you were called home was by someone yelling “Come home, now,” or something like that. That worked best when you were in line of sight because you were playing on the front lawn or right across the street. The third way fit in the middle, when you were close enough to sort of hear but far enough away that you might not hear a voice. When you were in that intermediate position, a whistle would work. Some parents or older siblings were in fact so good with a whistle that the sound could travel farther than the bell, so they would always use the whistle. The whistle meant, “Come home right now “ and typically meant “because dinner is ready” but it might also mean that one of your parents had discovered something deserving of a time of discipline. Every parent or brother or sister had a different whistle, so each child could hear their own and respond.

In any event, while you were out playing, when you heard the whistle you always stopped what you were doing immediately and went home, because something was up and you dare not be late.

This memory is prompted by our reading today from Zechariah – “’I [God] will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them…I will make them strong in the Lord, and they shall walk in His name,’ declares the Lord.” Zech. 10:8,12.

“I [God] will whistle for them, and gather them in…”

What a visual! While we are out playing, doing our own thing with our neighbor, God is at home preparing our dinner, our feast. When it is ready, He calls us with a whistle. We hear the whistle and recognize that the call home is for us. We immediately respond because we know Him and we know His call. He gathers us in, His children, home where we have warmth, protection, food for life, living water, and eternal love. It does not matter where we are or what we are doing, if we belong to His family, we recognize His whistle carrying on the wind.

There are several ways in which Satan tries to screw up the communication. First, he might try to draw us off to a playground far away from our home, out of range of the whistle. In that far playground, we might have so much fun that we lose track of time, we lose track of Him, and we don’t hear the whistle. Another way Satan might try to interfere with the call is by creating a lot of noise – the noise of fun, of debauchery, of merriment, of yelling and screaming, of excitement, of busyness, of business. When we are surrounded by noise, it becomes increasingly difficult to have a conversation or hear a pure tone. A third way Satan might try to destroy the power of the whistle is to tell us that the whistle we hear is not coming from our home, but from another kid’s. In this way, Satan tells us that we do not need to respond to God’s whistle because it is not intended for us, but for someone else.

But God intends His whistle, His call to come home, for those whom He calls His children. These means simply that when we hear His whistle, it is intended for us to hear and to respond.

We are entering into a time of the year which God intends for feasting, celebration, hoping, expecting, loving, and resting in His provision. The world and Satan intend for it to be a time of busyness, of buying, of exhausting “to do” lists, of too much to do in too little time.

It is OK to be outside playing, because we are doing what God intends for us to do. It is not OK for us to miss the whistle, the call to come home, because that is what God intends for us to do too.

There is a final thought here. How is it that we can be playing so hard and yet also hear the whistle? It is because we are prepared for it. We know the time is getting close to dinner because our “internal clock” is telling us so. We are ready for the whistle because we are aware that it is the “season” for dinner, it is the time of day for dinner.

And that is one of the other messages of our readings today. In Galatians, we read “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap …” Gal. 6:9.

We hear God’s whistle, His call to come home to the feast, because we recognize when we are in due season, when it is about time to be called home.

Are we in such a “due season?” I don’t know, but I am listening. What about you?

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© 2012 GBF

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Bread – Telling

November 21, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, November 21, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Mal. 1:1,6-14; James 3:13-4:12; Luke 17:11-19; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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This Bread is a re-work of one I wrote in November, 2010, on the same Scriptures. That one can be found at https://1bread.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/bread-messengers/ if you are interested.

We are always telling the world about our relationship with Jesus Christ, either verbally or by how we act. Whether or not we are effective in communicating the truths about Christ or the hypocrisy of our lives depends, of course, on what we are saying in words in deeds. Our readings today address what we do or do not do which make our communication more or less effective.

The first reading is from Malachi, which means "messenger." In Malachi, God criticizes Israel for lazy worship, for not offering God its best, but only offering Him the leftovers. We can easily claim kinship with Israel on this matter. We have likely diminished our message of hope, our telling of our love relationship with Jesus Christ, by staying in bed on Sunday rather than worshiping. We have likely failed to accurately and completely hear the message which God has for us by our distraction during the sermon, distractions which Satan capitalizes on by getting us to become aggravated at our neighbor, start thinking about our agenda for the day, critiquing the sermon as we hear it, and focusing on the itch which bugs us rather than the truth which heals us. This “leftover” mentality continues outside of church, infecting everything we do and have with God. For example, we have likely not spent much time in prayer, and whatever time we have spent has probably not been well spent. Is it any wonder, then, that our telling loses its flavor, when we ourselves do not put our best into our relationship with God.

In James, there is a listing of the things which can limit us in our telling the world about Jesus — (a) bitter envy, (b) selfish ambition, (c) boasting (self-promoting), (d) lying, (e) earthly thinking, (f) disorder, (g) evil practices, (h) selfish desires, (i) quarrelling and fighting, (j) improper motives, (k) self-centeredness, (l) adultery with the world, (m) hatred of God, (n) double-minded, (o) criticizing others, (p) criticizing the burdens and requirements of life, (q) judgment of others, (r) slandering others, and (s) pride. What is so scary about this list is that it is probably only a partial list of the things that we do which limit our effectiveness in telling others about our relationship with Jesus.

In Luke, Jesus has healed ten lepers, of which only one has returned to Jesus to give thanks. Were the other nine grateful? We don’t know because there is no evidence that they were grateful. The person who was grateful was a Samaritan, the least of the ten. Perhaps because he was truly at the bottom, he truly understood the gift the he had received. Perhaps we do not give God our best because we ourselves are more like the nine than the one. Perhaps we do not realize that we are saved only by God and not as a result of our good works.

If we are not fundamentally, foundationally grateful to God, what story do we have to tell? Jesus helped me become a better person? So does a seminar on how to make friends and influence people. No, our telling of our story with Jesus Christ has power because we ourselves have no power; we love Him because He first loved us and, in His mercy and in His sovereignty, gave us salvation and all of the ability to claim that gift.

Do you sense that you lack power in your telling the world about Jesus Christ? Perhaps it is because you are not giving the relationship your best. Perhaps it is because of interference from sin and Satan, from the list provided to us by James. Perhaps it is because you think, just a little bit, that you had something to do with your salvation and, therefore, what is there to be thankful for. And perhaps it is because you have just kept your story to yourself and you are therefore unpracticed and fearful. But what are all these things against the power of God? Nothing.

Do you want more power to tell the world the truth it so desperately needs to hear, to tell the world your story about how Jesus saved you and to tell the world your story about the blessings you have received and the miracles you have seen? Let’s begin here with this simple prayer – Come Holy Spirit.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Debt

November 19, 2012


Readings for Monday, November 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Hab. 2:1-4,9-20; James 2:14-26; Luke 16:19-31; Psalm 89

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There is much discussion in political and social circles about the amount of debt being carried by the nations of the world, including the United States. Although everyone “knows” that debt is generally bad, it seems like we are in a stupor about the debt itself.

Well, the prophet Habakkuk is not in a stupor about debt; he knows exactly how bad it is. From our reading today, Habakkuk says: “Woe to him who heaps up what is not his own – for how long? – and loads himself with pledges! Will not your [creditors]* suddenly arise, and those awake who will make you tremble? Then you will be spoil for them. Because you have plundered many nations, all the remnant of the peoples shall plunder you…” Hab. 2:6b-8a.

If your wealth is built on borrowed money, it is fleeting wealth because the creditor will come one day and claim the debt, taking your assets as payment.

There are reasons other than avoiding the negative which we have for having surplus instead of debt. Our reading in James today reminds us that faith without works is dead. Among the works identified is charity toward our brothers and sisters in Christ. James asks, “If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and filled,’ without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that? So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.” James 2:15-17

Where are the resources to come from to so bless our brothers and sisters? In our secular, government mind-set, it comes from borrowing from others, either by actually borrowing the money or by taking it from people through taxation. In our Christian walk, we are to do good works from the blessings God has given us, not those blessings He has given to others. As Christians, we clothe and feed our brothers and sisters in Christ, not the wealth of others, but from the riches God has given us.

This week is Thanksgiving. Let us rejoice in the love that God has shown us by exercising our faith in good works; let us rejoice in the love that God has shown us through His people by accepting and taking graciously those gifts of clothing, of food, of housing, of caring, of attention, of love, which His people bestow upon us. But let us do it the right way, from God through the people of God to the people of God, using the resources which God has given us and not the resources which God has given others. In so doing, we honor God. In so doing, we act like the people of God. In so doing, we exercise our faith. In so doing, we love.

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*The ESV actually translates this “debtors,” but this appears to be improper in context. The NASB and NKJ translates this “creditors.” The NIV indicates that it could be either. Since it is your creditors to whom you owe money, it seems that in context the word “creditors” is better translated here.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Repent

November 14, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, November 14, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joel 2:12-19; Rev. 19:11-21; Luke 15:1-10; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120

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In Monday’s Bread, we dealt with the apocalyptic messages of total destruction for those persons who have not repented and trusted in Jesus Christ.

In today’s readings, the focus is on avoidance of that destruction. That avoidance begins with repentance.

Listen to Joel – “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13. Notice that repentance does not come from speaking a particular set of words or a demonstration of religiosity or ceremony, it comes from a “rendered heart,” one that is broken, one that realizes there is no hope in man apart from God, one that realizes that he or she needs God for everything, one who looks at what he or she has done or not done and realizes that there is nothing but sin, that there is no health in him or her. A rendered heart may occur in bed, in the reading room, in the board room, in the bathroom, in the mountains, on the seashore, in prison, while out of a job and with a job. A rendered heart may happen at any time and anywhere when we return to Him who has created us, understanding our poverty completely, and acknowledging His free gift of life to us who are totally unworthy of even receiving a crumb from His table.

Listen to John in Revelation – “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True .. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords … And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet …These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest [of mankind, who had not repented and returned to the Lord] were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him who was sitting on the horse…” Rev. 19:11,15b-16, 20-21 The white horse stands for victory and the rider of the white horse is Jesus Christ. Those who follow the beast die; those who do not bear the mark of the beast, who have repented and trusted in Jesus Christ, live in victory.

Finally, in Luke we have a description of what happens when a person repents and trusts in Jesus. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7,10

Have you caused joy in heaven already? If not, wouldn’t you like to? If so, begin by repenting.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Destruction

November 12, 2012


Readings for Monday, November 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joel 1:1-13; Rev. 18:15-24; Luke 14:12-24; Psalms 77,79, 80

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Because we are reading from prophetic books primarily, there is certain darkness and destruction forecast for those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of life. In Joel, today, for example we begin with Joel’s recitation of a great locust infestation which destroys all of the crops and products of the earth, destroys, destroys and destroys, to the point that there is nothing left. For those of us who are used to shrink-wrapped produce from the grocery store, this may not seem like a big thing, but destruction of the source of food and nourishment is in fact destruction of man. In the day of judgment, God’s wrath will destroy the foundations on which man builds his house, unless the foundation is the Lord. Everything else – money, power, property, education, position – is for naught in those times, for there is nothing which man has done or can do to withstand the locusts.

In Revelation, an equally stark picture is painted. A “mighty angel” takes a great stone, casts it into the sea, and declares that Babylon (symbolizing a place of great wealth, power, and prestige, whose people are reliant on themselves and not God) will be thrown down with “violence, and will be found no more.” Rev . 18:21 Total destruction. Just to make the point, the kinds of things which we recognize as ordinary life are gone – “the sound of harpists [music]…will be heard in you no more, and a craftsman of any craft will be found in you no more, and the sound of the mill will be heard in you no more, and the light of a lamp will shine in you no more…” Rev. 18:22-23. No music, no economy, no food, and no light. Dead. Destroyed.

Finally, we have in Luke the lament of the Father that He has thrown a wedding feast for those of the earth, those of Babylon (and the United States), and those who will suffer the coming destruction, and they don’t bother to come. They have lots of “good” excuses, like “I have another appointment related to my job” and “I have a family to take care of.” All good things in and of themselves, but instead of the emphasis being on God and His demands on our lives, the focus is on ourselves and others, and their demands for our lives.

Do you not know that we have been invited to the wedding feast? Well, you have. Jesus has extended the invitation, for those who repent of their sins and deeply trust Him, to attend. We can have our excuses, all of which sound good, or we can accept Jesus’ invitation. The first choice leads to destruction. The second choice, the choice to go to the feast, leads to everlasting life.

What say you?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Dark

November 7, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, November 7, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 16:1-11; Luke 13:10-17; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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For the past couple of weeks, we have been reading from Revelation, where those of us in Christ see a glorious end and the rest see gloom, doom, and darkness. The readings today from Revelation continue the journey of the world into that dark place, where there is no light and no hope, only ruin, devastation, destruction and death. From Revelation, we read: “The fifth angel poured out his bowl on the throne of the beast, and its kingdom was plunged into darkness. People gnawed their tongues in anguish and cursed the God of heaven for their pains and sores. They did not repent of their deeds.” Rev. 16:10-11

Even in this one sentence, the people pretend they are the victim and look outward to find someone to blame, in this case God. And yet who confirmed the beast on the throne by voluntarily taking on to themselves the mark of the beast? The people. Who refused to repent when they were receiving the just reward for their rebellion, for their selfishness, for their worldliness, for their sin? The people. Who sowed iniquity and now reap the curses which follow iniquity? The people. Who caused the dark? The people.

Yes, if we are in a dark place today we have only ourselves to blame, not God, not our neighbor, not our boss, not even our family. Jesus Christ is the light of the world. You don’t want to be in the dark? Well, step into the light, step into relationship with Jesus Christ.

In Luke today, Jesus Christ healed a woman who had been disabled by Satan for 18 years. He did it on the Sabbath, the one day when work was off limits. But Jesus Christ is Lord of the Sabbath, He is the Lord of creation, He is the Lord of the day. He is able and willing to work seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day for His people. He is willing to do that for you.

When we are in the dark, we have two fundamental choices. One is to stay there. There we can enjoy our own company, not look at ourselves in a mirror, hide our sins, and enjoy our delusions, including the delusion that someone else is causing this darkness. The second choice is to accept God’s healing, His gift of mercy, His rod of correction, His forgiveness, His light, and His eternal relationship and blessing. We can curse God in the dark or we can give Him thanksgiving, after we have repented, in the light.

Dark or light? Your choice.

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*Today’s readings designate Ecclesiasticus, sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. This is not a book contained In the canonical Old Testament, but instead belongs to that body of work called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These books are accepted by some Christian denominations as useful, but are rejected by other denominations. I have not included this reading today because of these controversies. However, if you want to read it, the reference for today is Ecclus. 43:23-33.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Gospel

November 5, 2012


Readings for Monday, November 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 14:1-13; Luke 12:49-59; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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In our readings today, God through Revelation says: “Then I [John] saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth…’Fear God and give Him glory….and worship Him who made heaven and earth … Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great…’ Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Rev. 14:6-8,12 (emphasis added).

Jesus says today in the Gospel of Luke: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Lk. 12:51

There is but one eternal gospel – Salvation is through Christ alone, through utmost trust and faith placed in Him after you have turned from your sin and toward God. It is not complicated but it is not easy. It cannot be accomplished by man’s effort, study, thought, or ability, but through the power of God granted to us by His grace in His time. Salvation is God’s sovereign gift to us, granted to us by nothing we have done, earned or deserved, but by God’s mercy.

For those who love God and trust in the Son, Jesus Christ, Babylon has indeed fallen, the penalty of eternal death is lifted, and good works in obedience to God’s commands spring forth in thanksgiving for the immeasurable gift we have received. For those who do not love God but love the things which they themselves have made (idols) or the things which have the appearance of right but the reality of wrong (the things Satan has made, the world), there is nothing but hell which awaits.

Stark, divisive words. But the eternal gospel is one of division, between those who choose Christ and those who don’t, between those who bow their knee to God and worship Him and those who worship the mirror or idols or the things of the world, between those who have eternal life and those who inherit eternal death.

There is no grey area here. You are either for God or against Him. You are either inheriting eternal life or you are not. You either belong to Jesus or you don’t. You either have eyes to see and ears to hear or you don’t.

The angel said that the gospel is “eternal.” We tend to treat it as a bit of dusty thinking, sometimes useful to trot out but mainly ignored in favor of more modern ways of thinking. “Eternal” means just that, from the very beginning to the very end. From before the very beginning to after the very end.

The gospel has been, is, and will be forever. The gospel divides. The gospel is true.

What say you to this? Who do you believe? Eternal life hangs in the balance.

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*Today’s readings designate Ecclesiasticus, sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. This is not a book contained In the canonical Old Testament, but instead belongs to that body of work called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These books are accepted by some Christian denominations as useful, but are rejected by other denominations. I have not included this reading today because of these controversies. However, if you want to read it, the reference for today is Ecclus. 38:24-34.

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© 2012 GBF

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