Bread – Dagon

June 24, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 24, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 5:1-12; Acts 5:12-26; Luke 21:29-36; Psalm 89

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“Then the Philistines took the ark of God and brought it into the house of Dagon and set it up beside Dagon. And when the people of Ashdod rose early the next day, behold Dagon had fallen face down on the ground before the ark of the Lord. So they took Dagon and put him back in his place. But when they rose early on the next morning, behold, …the head of Dagon and both his hands were lying cut off on the threshold. Only the trunk of Dagon was left to him…they [men of Ashdod] said “The ark of the God of Israel must not remain with us, for his hand is hard against us and against Dagon our god.’” 1 Sam. 5:2-7

The ark of God has been stolen and removed to a place where God, the god of Israel, and Dagon, the god of the Philistines, sat across from each other. And Dagon loses the fight.

Now, you would think that the Philistines, seeing this, would have taken Dagon out of the temple, admitted that their “god” was totally inferior to the “God,” and begun to worship the true God. However, faced with a choice, the Philistines chose a more comfortable path. They got rid of God and kept Dagon, “their” god.

Every time I think about Dagon I think about evolution and science. I might also now think of global warming and science. Once science has locked onto a theory that is “true,” it is amazing the way that theory becomes their Dagon, their “god,” which they will hold onto through thick and thin no matter what the evidence is before them. Their religion is science, their temple is the university, and their god of the day is whatever theory they want to promote. The facts are irrelevant, the results are irrelevant, the thinking process is irrelevant. Given enough structure and time around their Dagon (evolution, global warming), they will always choose their Dagon over the truth.

But before we become critical of the evolution or global warming believers, don’t we set up and hold onto our own Dagons? Is the behavior of the Philistines any different from our behavior?

We go to church and bring back home God’s ark, His Word in Scripture melded into our heart by the power of the Holy Spirit. We set this ark of God up in the same room in our mind as our favorite addiction. The next morning we wake up, and our Dagon, our desire to have a drink let’s say, is on the ground prostrate before the Word which says in today’s readings “But watch yourselves lest your hearts be weighed down with dissipation and drunkenness and cares of this life…” Lk. 21:34. We then dust off our Dagon and set him back up again and maybe that afternoon have a drink with our friends at “happy” hour. We then wake up the next morning and our Dagon is smashed by the Word of God, leaving only a piece of him. Isn’t it true that our reaction is the same as the Philistines most of the time, if not all of the time – “They [the men of Ashdod] said ‘The ark of God must not remain with us, for his hand is against us and against Dagon our god.’“ Rather than get rid of our worthless idol, we get rid of the truth, we get rid of God.

God’s truth is a battering ram which destroys all strongholds and all false gods. If we are intent on holding onto our Dagons, then we cannot let God’s Word reside in the same place for very long or, if we see what God does to our false gods, we must get Him out of our hair as fast as possible.

Why do we do this? Why did the men of Ashdod not bow down before the superior force, God in His ark? Why did they not reject their idol and chase after truth?

I think the answer to this question dwells in the phrase “Dagon our god.” And actually, not in the phrase but in a word – “our.” I cannot release Dagon because he is mine. I invented him, I built him, I have paid attention to him for a long time, and I like him. This other god, this true god, the one God, now He is not my creation; instead I am His creation. This other god, this true God, now He is not the one who I am comfortable with; instead, He is the one who makes me uncomfortable, who calls me out into a place beyond myself, where I have to love others and believe in Him.

We have willingly invited the ark of God into our heart and mind, but we have not willingly let alone His work in our lives. His work is to destroy our Dagons. But those idols are hard to part with, so we are constantly trying to put them back together. His work is to bring life into our lives; our work is to try to figure out how we can bring death back in.

So what do we do about this? I think a little prayer is in order – “God, when I see you destroying my Dagons, let me walk away and do nothing except thank you for doing something I cannot do and keeping from doing something I should not do. Let me suffer the brief loss of my close friend Dagon, the false god, so that I might spend more time with you, the true God.”

O God, help me to say of my broken Dagon, “Good riddance to bad rubbish.”

_______________

© 2013 GBF

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Bread – Fall

June 21, 2013


Readings for Friday, June 21, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 3:1-21; Acts 2:37-47; Luke 21:5-19; Psalms 888,91,92

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“And Samuel … let none of His [God’s] words fall to the ground.” 1 Sam. 3:2

When I read this today, an image entered my mind of the Lord dumping His words into our laps through Scripture, His creation, and through the Holy Spirit, like gold coins. In my imagination, we received these gold coins into our laps and then stood up, letting them all fall out onto the ground.

How many of us do this every day? We read something in Scripture which is powerful and is perhaps instructive, perhaps directing attention to flaws in our lives as Christians, perhaps lifting us up, perhaps giving us rest … and then we stand up to go into the world to deal with life, and the words of God drop to the ground in disuse, forgotten. Or maybe our pastor or one of our Christian friends or accountability partners or teachers say something of great wisdom, inspired by the Holy Spirit, and it goes in the ear, rattles around in the brain, and falls on the ground once we leave the meeting or the conversation.

Some churches require members to memorize Scripture. Others re-use Scripture in their liturgies over and over again so that a form of memorization takes place. These have as their purpose an attempt to stop us from letting God’s words fall to the ground, so that we can recall them in time of need.

But no matter what we do, there seems to be a lot of the Lord’s words which we let slip through our fingers or which we deliberately let fall to the ground.

What in a sense is worse about this is that we not only let them drop to the ground, but we leave them behind when we walk off to do “our thing.” We not only don’t treasure them, we don’t even think enough about them to carry them with us. There is nothing for the prince of this world to try to steal from us because we are not carrying anything worth stealing.

Maybe I am being harsh, but we live in the world with a citizenship in the kingdom of God. How will we know how to behave according to kingdom principles in a foreign land (the world) unless we carry these principles with us in our hearts, our brains, our thoughts, our emotions, our souls?

Whether we let God’s words fall to the ground out of neglect, inattention, or deliberately, doesn’t matter – the effect is the same. We are weakened in our Christian walk.

And we are coming into a time of testing. Just yesterday, I heard that our President said something about the existence of Catholic schools as being “divisive.” Of course, the same thing can be said about Baptist schools, Episcopal schools, Church of Christ schools, and every school which attempts to bring Christ into the world. Christ is divisive. The truth is divisive to those people who do not want to hear it.

No one can see these signs of storm clouds gathering without seeing the storm to come. Jesus said this in our reading from Luke today. Listen to His words – “Before all this [wars, tumults, terrors] they will lay their hands on you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for My name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness…You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death. You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.” Lk. 21:11-16

Now Jesus in that passage was directing His listeners to an immediate future, but like so many prophetic statements, the passage is also a pointer to the future. I think it is a pointer to us, now and in the future.

So, at the time of testing, will we fall? We might if we let God’s words fall.

How might we keep that from happening? Well, in the same passage from 1 Samuel, there is a hint because I did not give you the complete quote. Here is the complete quote: “And Samuel grew, and the Lord was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.” 1 Sam. 3:19 Who is it that stopped God’s words from falling to the ground? God.

So what is the answer? Prayer. I need to ask God for help in keeping His words in my mind, heart, and soul. I need God to make it stick.

And how is this any different than anything else? How might we keep from falling? By the Lord’s power, not ours. Through faith in Him, not ourselves. Through His work, not ours. Through His wisdom, not ours.

Christ says as much today in Luke. In between my quotation is another sentence which reads – “Settle it therefore in your minds not to meditate beforehand how to answer, for I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict.” Lk. 21:14-15.

In my power, I will always fall. In God’s power, I never will.

_______________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Who

June 19, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, June 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 2:12-26; Acts 2:1-21; Luke 20:27-40; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120

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In our reading today from 1 Samuel we are introduced to the priest’s Eli’s bad, bad children. Setting the scene, the writer says: “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord….the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt…how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting … I [Eli] hear of your [the sons’] evil dealings from all the people.” 1 Sam. 2:12,17,22-23

These sons, these heirs of a potential high place (as priests) among the people, threw their inheritance in their father’s face, in God’s face, and in the people’s face. They used their protected position for evil. They did not use their wealth and power for good, but for evil. All they knew was the world’s ways and not the Father’s.

Know people like that? Does one of those people stare at you from the mirror every morning?

All this is to point to the question which Eli asks of his wayward sons: “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” 1 Sam. 2:25

If I sin against the Lord (really, the question should not be “if” but “when”), who can intercede for me? Who indeed. That is the question.

You have to remember that it was Eli asking this question. He is the priest at the time. It was his job to go into the Holy of Holies and, applying right sacrifice, intercede for the wayward of Israel. Essentially his question is an admission that he is inadequate to the task. Since he is the only person with “authority” to intercede, he has essentially admitted by this question that, when we sin against God, there is no one (at that time) who could intercede.

Various religions answer the “who” question in various ways. All of them except one (to my knowledge) answer the “who” with the word “man.” Man is the “who” in the question. We can intercede for ourselves by offering right sacrifice, by our good works, by our adherence to the rules of a particular book or a particular holy man, spirit guide, shaman, or leader, by our following the proper steps in the proper order. The “who” answer for these religions is “me.” I am the great “who” who can intercede on behalf of myself before God, assuming that I have done those works required of me by Buddha, Mohammed, Ron Hubbard, the local head of my group, or whoever.

Christianity answers the “who” by saying God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the “who” who can intercede for me before God for my many sins against Him.

And not only does Jesus have the power (the “can”), He has the desire and purpose (the “will”). He can and He will for those people who are His.

Since this is true, how is it so hard for the world to understand?

Very simply, if the “who” is Jesus then then “who” is not me. If the “who” is someone else, then I am dependent upon that person, I am needy, I am in want, I am lowly, I am a sinner, I am no better than Eli’s sons. And why would I, the successful, independent, thinking, educated, hard-working, intelligent, good-looking, important, self-righteous, proper person want to claim such need?

The barrier to Christ is not Satan, it is us, it is me. Satan may play upon ourselves, but all he does is point us in the direction of our own tendencies, our own inclinations, our own desires.

Then how do I bridge the place where I am to the place where He is, so that I may enlist Him in my aid before God? I never, never can. I can’t.

I will never know the true “who” until I recognize the false “who” for who he is – me. I will never know the true “who” until I am truly aware of my pitiful estate. And at that point, at the point of least “self,” I may, with God’s grace and in His power, be allowed to see a bridge which I might go over to meet the true “who.” But it is a bridge not of my imagination, my planning, or my doing – it is a bridge built by God it is a bridge made out of the timbers of the cross, bonded together by Christ’s blood; it is a bridge built for me. And as a result of God’s purpose and mercy, in God’s grace and with the power of His Holy Spirit, once having seen the bridge I might then be lifted up in His strong arms and carried across.

See, the “who” can never be me, it can only be Christ. That is why I need not worry when I am in the throne room of God, because the “who” is not me, not even one little bit.

_______________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Waiting

June 17, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19; Psalms 77,79,80

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Waiting is not something I do well. From my observation of others, waiting is not something others do well either. Any government agency comes to mind, whether it is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Internal Revenue Service help desk, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the Social Security Office. We get our number or sign up on a sheet of paper, go out and sit in a poorly decorated room on hard chairs, tapping our feet or our cell phones, wondering “Why me!” and yet knowing at the same time that this experience is the lot of every man and woman.

Or pick standing in line at a movie theater or the sports arena to get tickets. Or standing in line waiting to be assaulted by the security people at the airport. In addition to tapping our feet and our cellphones, we will cross our arms and adopt a tired, angry face, totally irritated that we are having to wait.

We hate waiting.

Our readings today give us two good examples of waiting. In the first, from 1 Samuel, Hannah is barren. For years she has had to put up with the taunts of the other wife, who has many children. Her husband tries to console her, to no end. She waits for a child, waits for a child, waits longer, and then waits some more. The Bible describes the waiting perfectly – “So it went on year by year.” 1 Sam. 1:7 This has to be extremely frustrating. I want a child but I can’t have one; God tells me to wait. And I wait, until I grow old and then I wait some more. How depressing. But Hannah does what she can; she goes to church and entreats God over and over again for a child. The priest even thinks she is drunk, her wordless prayer is so obvious and so earnest. And, after a while, in God’s good time and according to His good purpose, He does give her a child, who turns out to be the prophet Samuel.

Hannah may be a good example of good things come to a person who waits, but I’ll bet you can’t tell the person that while he or she is waiting. The waiting place is not a fun place.

The second waiting which occurs in today’s readings is from Acts. Jesus has died, been resurrected, and appears before the apostles. He tells them to wait where they are and, after a while, they will receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is easier to wait when you know the timetable, so they ask Him when the kingdom will be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Acts 1:7-8. Note that Jesus did not tell them when anything would happen, just that it would happen when the Father was ready for it to happen.

And so at the end of our reading today in Acts, we find the apostles all gathered in the upper room, hanging out and waiting for the next shoe to drop. But they don’t know if that will be five minutes later or a year later. So there they are, just waiting and waiting and waiting. What do you think they were thinking? Do you think they were happy? Do you think they were engaged in meditative silence? Or do you think they were tapping their feet, looking at the candles burning down, checking outside for signs of the Holy Spirit, or mumbling about how long it takes God or the government to do anything? I’ll bet they were irritated, ready to get on with the program, and not at all happy about waiting.

Why does God make us wait? You know, as soon as I ask the question we want to answer it. One answer which immediately pops into our head is to teach us something, like long-suffering, or hope, or perseverance, or radical dependence upon Him. And those are great answers for a Bible study or Sunday School or a sermon.

Or what if the answer is simpler – there is no answer? What if the reason we wait is simply because our time is not God’s time and He has not acted? To ask ourselves why God makes us wait is to assume that God owes us something – that He owes us a timetable, a look to the future, immediate action according to our wishes, or at least an explanation for the delay. Does He really owe us anything?

The answer to that question is a simple “No.” God does not owe us anything. He does not have to answer our prayers, He does not have to reveal to us His timetable or His purposes, He does not have to explain anything to us. He is God and we are not. He is King and we are not. And Jesus says this quite clearly – “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:7. There it is, He has the authority and we do not, except to the extent He gives it to us.

But while we are waiting for the answer to prayer or the next miracle or whatever we have in mind on our agenda, there is someone else who is waiting too. That person who is waiting is God Himself.

Jesus spoke, as reported by Luke in our readings today, about the parable of the landowner and the tenants. The landowner sent his servants and the tenants beat them up. The landowner then sent his son and the tenants killed him. Jesus asks, then, what will the landlord do? He then answers His own question this way – “He [the landowner] will come and destroy those tenants…” Lk. 20:16

Well, we have beat up the prophets and killed Jesus Christ … so where is the destruction? God is waiting.

See, God waits too. He waits until His time is right. He is waiting until the day Jesus returns to earth in glory and judgment. And on that day, what will happen to those tenants?

They will be destroyed…unless they are forgiven. Who are the forgiven? Those who have been saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven their sins by Him, those who have turned away from disobedience toward acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, those to whom God has shown mercy.

Are you counted in the forgiven? God is waiting. Why are you waiting?

_______________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Friday

June 14, 2013


Readings for Friday, June 14, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; 2 Cor. 12:11-21; Luke 19:41-48; Psalms 69,73

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TGIF – the acronym for “Thank God It’s Friday.” What is interesting is that many of the very people who use this phrase wouldn’t know God if He appeared before them. Others of us use this phrase as a throw-away, without realizing that if it is not truly from a heart of gratitude, the “Thank God” might well be an epithet and, as a result, a blasphemy against the God who saved us and provides for us.

Another interesting thing about this phrase is that we are apparently thanking God for getting us through the week to Friday. Why? Was our week not praiseworthy that we should be anxious for the next day? Of course, I ask the question tongue-in-cheek because we all suffer from the ups, downs, and sideways of daily life, and we are grateful to get to that portal to imagined rest called Friday. I say “imagined” because for many people, the weekend is no better than the work week.

In Psalm 69 from today’s reading, we have a look into what it means to have gratitude towards God at all times and in all circumstances. What is interesting in this Psalm is that David has many problems and he is asking God, “Why haven’t you done anything? Where are you?” But asking that, he basically tells God that he, David, is going to “buck up” and handle it. He then assumes the role of victim and blames other people for his misery, cursing them before God. I think his thinking is that, if God won’t help him, maybe God will punish someone whose hurting him. The Psalm ends with, apparently, no change in either David’s or his enemy’s condition, but with a change in David’s heart from self-pity to self-reliance to anger at others to praise for God’s provision and love.

Here it is (in part):

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” [Ps. 69:1-3]

“Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress,; make haste to answer me.” [Ps. 69:16-17]

“I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.” [Ps. 69:20b]

“Let their own before them become a snare; … Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.” [Ps. 69:22a,27-28]

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving…Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.” [Ps. 30,34]

Did God show up for David in this Psalm?

The obvious answer is “no,” because David was left in the waters, sinking in deep mire, with his enemies surrounding him. There is no evidence that his curses were granted by God. There is no evidence that God showed His face to David.

The less obvious answer is “yes.” Oh David was left in swamp of his life, all right, and his enemies kept on their terrible ways. Nothing appeared changed, except for one thing – David’s heart. His heart was changed from self-pity, to “help me,” to anger, to praise and thanksgiving. Who can make such a change in such circumstances?

“According to Your abundant mercy, turn to me.” Not according to my desires, demands, wishes, and prayers, but according to “Your” mercy, God’s mercy.

What is God’s mercy in our dire circumstances? Some people might believe that God’s mercy is delivering us from the week to Friday, which is why they say TGIF. However, isn’t God’s mercy a delivery “to” and not a delivery “from.” God in His mercy does not rescue us from daily life, but He equips us to handle it, He equips us to love in spite of the loveless, to praise in spite of misery, to live victoriously in the face of the worse circumstances.

For those who think God delivers from, then TGIF makes all the sense in the world. To those who find in their change of heart, their change of perspective, their change from self to Him and others, the delivery of God’s mercy into our life, then every day is a “Thank God” day.

So, is your motto “TGIF.” Or is it “TGFT,” “Thank God for Today?”

_______________

*The Old Testament reading assigned for today is from the Apocrypha, and it is therefore omitted.

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Affairs

June 12, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, June 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 31:30-32:14; 2 Cor. 11:21b-33; Luke 19:11-27; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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From the single word “affairs,” one might think that this Bread is about sexual temptation. However, it is not. It is about daily affairs.

You know the kind of daily affairs that I am talking about, the kind of daily affairs which translate to “there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for …” 2 Cor. 11:28.

These are the kinds of daily affairs which translate to “daily pressure” and from which arise “anxiety for.” And you must admit, we all suffer from the daily affairs of life which are the daily pressure of life and which result in many, many anxieties and worries.

We tend to trivialize these little matters, but they are not trivial. They occupy much of our day, crowd out gratitude and joy, nag at us from near and far, and cause tension throughout our body, mind, and soul. They are often the tools of Satan’s discouragement, making us doubt whether we are children of God, victorious in everything, persevering in triumph, capable of love of others. These daily affairs grind us down, distract us from our role as ambassadors of Christ, confuse us, and make us feel like we are distant from God and others. These daily affairs support our focus on ourselves, build pride, and give us our false sense of independence from God. These daily affairs, these daily pressures, these sources of anxiety and worry are not trivial.

In today’s reading from Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul is trying to demonstrate that, from a worldly measure point of view, he has all of the qualifications to say what he says. In the process, he lists a lot of problems he has faced. Here is his list:

“Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” 2 Cor. 11:24-27.

In other words, Paul reports suffering many near death experiences, being beat up, at severe risk of loss, tortured and starving, among other things. We would treat each of these as a major life event and we would give thanks to God for bringing us through these life events more or less intact. We would consider survival of these things proof of God’s grace and mercy in our lives. And we would be right, and wrong.

Because Paul does not see these things as the major things in his life. Instead, Paul sees the daily affairs as the major things because, following his litany of trials, Paul ends this way – “And, apart from [these] other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all of the churches.” 2 Cor. 11:28

Apart from all that, I (Paul) have to worry about the things in my daily life over which I have been appointed by God.

So, Paul, the great man of faith to whom Jesus appeared personally, the author of much of the New Testament, has anxiety, has worries, feels daily pressure, has to confront his daily affairs.

Our reading today from Luke is about the talents (minas). Most of what I always remember from this parable is the guy who buried his talent in dirt and then Jesus got mad at him for not at least investing it in the bank so it could earn interest.

Our days are gifts from God. They are our talents, our minas. Are we investing them with eternity in mind, focused on earning a profit for the kingdom of God? Or are we all tied up in our daily affairs, bearing our daily pressures and our anxieties?

While Paul recognized these burdens as such with no attempt to diminish their influence on how he spent his day, he also recognized them as something which should occupy very little of his time or attention. He was about investing his day productively for the kingdom, not about investing his energies recovering from his daily pressures.

Daily affairs – burden or opportunity? Today, will you bury your time in the ground out of anxiety or will you invest it for kingdom return? Each day, the choice is ours. How choose you?

________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Sight

June 10, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 10, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 30:1-10; 2 Cor. 10:1-18; Luke 18:31-43; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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From our reading today in Luke: “[and Jesus said] ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ He [the blind beggar] said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’” Lk. 18:41

What do we really, really see? Probably very little.

We know we see very little because of those who see much. For example, we know (from movies) that spies are taught to walk through a room, watching and comprehending everything in the room in a brief moment. This is important to them because they must quickly sort friend from foe, safety from danger, important from unimportant. The reason they need to see everything quickly is because their next steps are often based on what they see. Here, “see” has a broader connotation than just looking. “See” for a spy means observing, comprehending, and understanding. A good spy sees with all of his or her senses, not just the eyes. But the eyes are a good place to start.

Another group of people who see much are nurses. In a sense, they are the spies of the health care world. When they go into a room, they are trained to not only see the patient, but also to see the machines, the bathroom, the patient’s room, and the people in the room. They are observant of everything because the slightest thing out of order may be the clue to wellness or the predictor of a coming problem. They may write down what the machines are telling them, but their primary information source is everything else. When they “see” the patient, they are not only looking at the patient, but using every sense to test the patient’s emotional, spiritual, and physical state.

When we walk through our day today, what will be our primary defect? My hunch is that we will fail to see. We will ignore the person on the elevator who needs a kind word because we did not “see” them, wrapped up as we are with our own agenda. We will ignore the confusion of papers on someone’s desk (including ours) because we are so used to looking at them that they are just now a fixture in the office tapestry, blended into the background.

Have you noticed that there is a word which goes with “failure to see?” That word is “ignore.” I can ignore what I fail to see, and I fail to see what I ignore.

When the blind man asked for his sight from Jesus Christ, he was making a choice to no longer live in ignorance, but with his sight to look completely upon both the good and the bad in the world. We think that when the blind man’s sight was restored, he looked upon a world which was now full of color and movement, and that He looked upon Jesus, our Savior. But when his eyes were opened he also looked upon the same Jesus who earlier in our reading in Luke told the disciples that He would be delivered unto the Gentiles and “…after flogging, they will kill Him..” Lk. 18:32-33. He was not only looking at the Christ who was mighty but the Christ on the way to His own funeral. When the blind man’s eyes were open, he not only saw brilliant color and movement, the sun and the stars, but he also saw dust, poverty, loneliness, and misery.

As a blind man over in his corner, the beggar could focus on himself and his needs. At one who could see, he no longer had that luxury. With sight he had to step into the world, engage the world, and participate in what the world has to offer. But with sight he could also step into the presence of Jesus Christ, engage Him, and participate as a citizen in the kingdom of God.

When we realize that sight means the loss of ignorance, when sight means giving up our self-absorption and taking on engagement with our neighbors, is sight really worth having?

If you are inclined to say “yes, sight is worth it,” ask yourself why you haven’t prayed for it. Have you asked the Lord to let you see Him clearly, to let you see the path He has laid for you clearly, to see the hurt in others clearly, to see the misery of the world clearly? Oh we want our sight when we want to see the fireworks of July 4, but we really don’t want our sight when we are looking at the hovels where many people live. Oh we want our sight when we are looking at how we have been hurt, but we would rather not have it when we are looking in the mirror and asking ourselves how we have hurt others.

One of the great hymns of the Christian faith ends its first stanza like this: “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Twas blind, but now I see.”

This line comes from a heart of gratitude for the grace of God which not only saves but reveals.

But are you ready to see, really see?

Many people would say “no” to that question, because they fear what they would be called to do as disciples of Christ if they saw what was really going on around them. Called to bring reconciliation to a broken world, called to love the loveless, called to pronounce the kingdom of God to people who could care less, called to serve, called to become less so that He might be more. If we are thinking that way, fearful of sight, we might recall a reading from another lesson today, Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, where he says “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Cor. 10:3

When the Lord gives us sight, He also gives us strength. When He opens our eyes He arms us with divine weaponry to deal with what we now see.

Jesus Christ asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks us the same question. What is our answer?

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Because

June 7, 2013


Readings for Friday, June 7, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 26:1-11; 2 Cor. 8:16-24; Luke 18:9-14; Psalms 40,51,54

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My last Bread was about parenting. One of the events which occurs between a parent and child is when the child asks “why?” The parent always attempts to give a good, but complete, answer, tailored to the age of the child. But the child keeps asking “why,” and sooner or later the parent does not know why and ends the conversation with “Because” or “Because I said so.”

In the last Bread, we read from Deuteronomy that we as parents were to talk about God’s words all of the time.

In today’s readings, we now have the answer to our children when they as “why?” Instead of saying “because” or “because I said so,” we can say “because of God,” or “because of who God is,” or “because God has acted to make it so.” And as our Scriptures today remind us, we can say that about everything.

In Deuteronomy 26:1, the Israelites are going into a land, to take possession of it. Why? Because God gave it to them.

In Deuteronomy 26:2, the Israelites go to a place which we would call church. Why is the church there? Because it is a place chosen by God “to make His name to dwell there.”

In Deuteronomy 26:10, the ground produces plants for our sustenance. Why? Because God gave us both the ground and the fruit of the ground.

In 2 Corinthians 8:16, Titus has a heart for the gospel and for other people. Why? Because “God put into his heart the same earnest care I [Paul] have for you.”

In Luke 18:9, the sinner who confessed his sin, repented, and turned toward the Lord was justified before God. Why? Because God has decreed it so, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk. 18:14b

For those people who do not wish to acknowledge God, the answer to “Why?” is simple. The answer ultimately is “I don’t know.”

For those people who follow God, the answer to “Why?” is also simple, but profoundly different. The answer always is “Because God [said, did, promised, says, does, promises]”

What is your answer to the “Why?” of the world. Is it because of you or because of God? Is it because of your boss or because of God? Is it because of good luck or because of God? Is it because you did something right or because of God?

Yes, often our woes and blessings are traceable to us. However, we are wrong to believe that we are the only “because” of that event or circumstance. There is a bigger “because” for those who would see. There is a bigger “because” for those who would hear.

There is a bigger “because” than us. And we call that “because” God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Parenting

June 3, 2013


Readings for Thursday, May 30, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 11:13-19; 2 Cor. 5:11-6:2; Luke 17:1-10; Psalm 41,44,52

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All of us who are or who have been parents know how hard it is. The little cherubs come into the world, totally dependent upon us; we throw our heart, soul, and love into making sure they are safe and well cared for; they grow up; and then, “smack” they hit us on the head and do things we told them not do in ways we told them not to do it, they become unruly and disobedient. In other words, they become “independent” and the cycle starts over. We tend to judge our parenting skills, not on our skill in the parenting process, but on the result – if the result was what we wanted, then we did a good job and, if not, well….

God seems to always be telling us, though, to worry about the process, about the actions we should take and statements we should make in obedience to Him. He tells us to follow His instructions and, then, to leave the outcome to Him. We are in charge of the obedience part; He is in charge of the outcome part. It seems like, many times, our approach to our control over the outcome is an indicator of the degree to which we think we are a god.

For example, God tells us to preach the gospel to the nations. That is the process and we are either obedient to it or not. He is in control of those who hear the message and respond positively. That is the outcome of the process and that is within His sovereign Will.

Now to the point of today’s Bread, “parenting.” In Deuteronomy today, we read these instructions from God to parents: “You shall teach them [God’s words] to your children, talking of them when you are sitting in your house, and when you are walking by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.” Deut. 11:19

When should we be talking about God’s words with our children? All the time.

As parents, how often have we obeyed this Scripture?

Maybe, if we are truly diligent, we have prayed at night with them and sometimes at meals, if we happen to be eating together. Once in a blue moon we may get some question to which God’s word is an answer while we are driving to and from some place. But that is probably about it.

Do we talk about God’s words while we are helping our children get ready for school?

Do we talk about God’s words as we walk the dog with our children?

Do we talk about God’s words as we throw a football with our children?

Do we talk about God’s words as we play a video game with our children just so that we have some contact with them?

Do we even walk with our children, much less talk to them about God’s words on the way?

Do we even eat with our children, much less talk to them about God’s words during lunch?

The fact is that, if we have been “good” parents, we have provided for our children, we have taught them the ways of the world, we have cared for them when they are hurt, we have emphasized virtues of good living, caring, honesty, integrity, hard work, etc.

But we have not walked with them speaking of God’s words, and we have not talked to them continuously of God’s words.

And God says to us, you didn’t follow the process, so is it any wonder then that the outcome is not so good much of the time?

So what do we do?

In today’s reading from the second letter to the church in Corinth, Paul says some of the strongest words in Scripture, in my opinion – “Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” 2 Cor. 6:2b

What do we do? Well, we don’t wait. We act now. First to confess our failure to be obedient, second to repent of it, turning toward the Lord, and (for Christians) third, ask the Lord for wisdom, trusting in Him to provide it, and fourth, strive to be obedient.

The time to act is now, not tomorrow and not five minutes from now, but now. Now is the favorable time.

And luckily for us, God is in control of the outcome.

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© 2013 GBF

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