Bread – Outsiders

November 26, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, November 26, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 12:1-10; Eph. 1:3-14; Luke 19:1-10; Psalms 119:145-176,128,129,130

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In today’s reading from Zechariah, there is this sentence: “And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Judah may not surpass that of Judah.” Zech. 12:7

What is being talked about here? What is so special about “tents” that the people who live in them would be given salvation first?

That question got me to thinking about outsiders. After all, the people who lived in Jerusalem lived inside of Jerusalem, and the people who lived in tents outside of Jerusalem lived outside of Jerusalem. The outsiders (those who lived in tents) get salvation first; the insiders get it second.

We spend most of our lives working to become insiders, to get into the place of power, of prestige, of wealth, of security, of influence, of respect. We get jobs at the right businesses, go to the right schools, join the right societies and clubs, try to get invited to the right parties, drive the right cars, live in the right neighborhoods – all in an attempt to become an insider where we want to be.

And what do we find when we become an insider? That we are outside of the next group, event, place, or people we want to be.

But God says that salvation first comes to the tents, then to the city. First to those living outside, then to those living inside.

In the gospel from Luke today, we read about Zacchaeus, the rich tax collector, who is your classic example of being both an insider and an outsider at the same time. He worked in an important position for the government, was the “chief” tax collector, was rich, and was in position to influence many things. However, he was also an outsider because most people probably did not think highly of him (you would not want to be called a tax collector back then) and shunned him. Many tax collectors were official thieves, and therefore people thought of them as criminals. Many people were poor and therefore shunned the rich. Finally, Zacchaeus was “small of stature,” and I will leave it to you to dream of the number of jokes he was the butt of.

However, Jesus invited Himself to Zacchaeus’ house, Zacchaeus responded in gratitude and obedience, and Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham.” Luke 19:9. Jesus brought the outsider inside because “the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Luke 19:10.

Notice that the outsider did not become the insider because he wanted to be an insider or because he undertook special efforts to become an insider; he became an insider because Jesus invited Himself to his house and Zacchaeus responded with gratitude.

Who do you think knows they need salvation more, the people in tents or the people in fortified cities? Who do you think knows they need salvation more, the sinner or the “saint?” Who do you think knows they need salvation more, the outsiders or the insiders?

Do you feel like an outsider today? Do you lack influence, power, money, health, a job, respect, or even hope?

Well, welcome aboard. We are all outsiders until Jesus invites Himself to our house … until He reveals to us His truth and His love. “In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will, to the praise of His glorious grace…” Eph. 1:5 He brings us from the outside into the inside, from being lost orphans to being adopted sons through Jesus Christ.

I said earlier that the phenomenon of becoming an insider is that you realize that you are an outsider. While we are inside the world, we are an outsider to Christ. When we become an insider by the grace of God in Jesus Christ, we become an outsider to the world.

We are all outsiders and we are all insiders. The question is where.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Seasons

November 24, 2014


Readings for Monday, November 24, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 10:1-12; Gal. 6:1-10; Luke 18:15-30; Psalm 106

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Although it is just before Thanksgiving, many people are acting as if it is just before Christmas. But the truth is that, for Christians, there are many opportunities throughout the entire year to give thanks for what God has done and is doing for us, so in that sense there are no seasons. However, we recognize the various seasons of the year, expressed in quarters (spring, summer, etc.) and expressed in holidays (for Christians – Christmas, Easter, Pentecost; for others – others).

Our readings today talk about seasons. In Zechariah, our reading today begins with “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, …” Zech. 10:1. We know the effect of rain – it is necessary to life, to help plants and people grow and thrive. In a sense this verse is saying “Ask for growth in the season of growth.” To many people, this seems strange, because why would you ask for something you are getting anyway because it is the season for it. After all, the season for rain has rain in it; we wouldn’t call it the season for rain unless it rained pretty often during that time. For these people, we ask for what we don’t have when we don’t have it, not when we do have it. What is the use of asking for a job when we have a job; for asking for happiness when we are happy; for asking for health when we are healthy; for asking for wisdom when we already know what to do? The problem with this attitude is that it is an attitude of self – I will not reach toward God in prayer (“ask rain from the Lord”) unless I need something. However, when we are God-focused we realize that all things come from Him. The job we have today is a gift from God. The health we have today is gift of God. Any wisdom we might have today is a gift of God. Knowing that, it is actually more important to ask for rain in the season of rain because it is an acknowledgement that, in good times or bad, all things come from the Lord and on Him are we radically dependent.

We need to ask God for rain in the season of rain because we need to constantly remind ourselves that everything we have and everything we are is by the grace, power, and love of God. We need to ask God for rain in the season of rain because we need Him, all the time, not just in the time of need but also in the time of plenty.

In Galatians, we read this about seasons – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9 Season are not only now, they are in the future. But some seasons are dependent upon other seasons. Jesus Christ does not die (season of Easter) unless He is first born (season of Christmas). A season of reaping of a harvest does not occur unless there is first a season of sowing, of planting of the seed which will blossom later. While we are in one season of life, by our actions we are helping to determine what our future seasons will look like. Financial advisors will tell you this. If you are 17 today and save $100 a month in a reasonable investment, you can retire on a substantial income in your season of retirement. But it is hard for us to realize that, to realize that by the season of study in Scripture today we are laying the foundation of a season of effective Christian love tomorrow.

There is a richness to each season, but only if we have taken the time and the energy in the season before to plant the seed for the next season.

It is the season of rain, of thanksgiving for what we have been given. Let is therefore ask the Lord for thanksgiving, a spirit of gratefulness for Him and His. During this time, in the hustle and bustle of life, let us “not grow weary of doing good.” What we have abundantly from the Lord let us share in love with our neighbors, the stranger and the friend.

In one week the season of Advent begins. This is a season of doing good, to others and to yourself. What good can you do yourself? Read God’s Word. Think about Him and his coming to earth shortly as a defenseless human, to take on our low estate so that we may be brought up to His high estate. Communicate with Him through prayer. Be still before the Lord and listen to Him. Do not become weary of doing good for in due season we will reap.

What is this “due season?” It is Christmas. If we continue today to do good to others and ourselves (by strengthening our walk with the Lord and our obedience to His will) , in “due season,” at Christmas, we will indeed celebrate with joy, love, fellowship, and hope.

Otherwise, we will be tired and miss the season entirely.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Wasted

November 3, 2014


Readings for Monday, November 3, 2014, 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 today’s reading from Psalm 56, we read “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in Your bottle.” Ps. 56:8

This is the same Psalm which contains the famous words “…in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Ps. 56:11. It is this phrase which often draws attention. However, for some reason today the words about “tossings” and “bottle” just caught my attention.

What is it about tossings and tears? First, they represent how we handle worry and loss. We toss all night, barraged by nightmares, because we do not sleep well. We do not sleep well because we are worried about something – the job, no job, money, the children, old age, lack of opportunity, poor health, fear of failure, fear of life … the list goes on. Loss brings on tears (there are sometimes tears of joy, but today I am speaking about tears of sadness, melancholy, loss, failure, etc.). Grief overwhelms us and tears flow.

We are all familiar with tossings and tears. We have all experienced them and we know others who have experienced them as well.

The second characteristic of tossings and tears is that they are lonely events. Tossings take place while we are in bed. We may sleep next to our wife or husband, but they generally occur in the dead of night and we try to control our tossings so that we will not disturb our spouse’s sleep. We try to leave them out of the picture, whatever that picture is which is causing us to toss and turn, and in the process suffer our tossings alone. Likewise, people can try to comfort us as we cry, but crying is something we do, alone. It does not take two people for me to cry; I can cry on my own just fine, thank you! Tossings and tears are lonely events, or so they would seem.

The third characteristic of tossings and tears is, according to the Psalm, that God pays attention to them. He counts my tossings. Rather than let my tears fall empty to the ground, He puts them into bottles.

Why would God do this? Because He cares and He loves us.

See, we do not toss and turn and cry by ourselves, alone without love and support. We toss and cry in front of God. He notices, He cares, and He preserves. We are not alone because God is with us.

I call this Bread “wasted” because we know intellectually that tossing does not solve problems and that tears do not cause losses to disappear. The problems and losses remain after we have completed as much worrying about them as we can stand. We would therefore think that “tossings” and “tears” are wasted actions.

But they are not wasted. They are so valuable that God counts the tossings and bottles the tears. Both are preserved by God.

Why preserve such things?

I think to demonstrate to us that nothing is wasted which happens to us. No disaster, no loss, no trouble, no injury which befalls us is wasted by God. If we will let Him, God will preserve us through the disaster, loss, trouble, or injury, and He will bring us victorious to our end with Him.

When God is God of our lives, nothing we do is wasted. Ever.

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© 2014 GBF

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