Bread – Sameness

January 30, 2015


Readings for Friday, January 30, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 50:1-11; Gal. 3:15-22; Mark 6:47-56; Psalms 40,51,54

—————————————-

The new tolerance standard would require all to be the same. In order to be acceptable, we must think alike, talk alike, behave alike, worship alike. Now to do this and maintain some level of distinctiveness, there is only one solution, and that is to deem all behaviors, all theories, all thoughts, all ideas to be of equal weight and merit. This is embodied in the concept of relativism – what is true for me is true for me and what is true for you is true for you, and the only way to peace is to be the same. And we can be the same when we all adopt the common baseline that we are independent unto ourselves but not unto society. Within society we must think and act the same, and the only way to accomplish this is to realize that everyone is the same, without distinction and without judgment or evaluation as to the rightness or wrongness of any particular position. The power of the state in the age of tolerance is therefore not to maintain right, but to maintain conformity with the standards of society. Since the standards of society are not based upon “right” as such (remembering that all “rights” and “wrongs” are equal, except the wrong of failing to be tolerant), the standards are necessarily based upon power. If I am in control, then my views may not be “right,” but they can certainly be “enforced” in order to bring order. And, besides, why shouldn’t my ideas be enforced; you should think of them at least as highly as you think of your own ideas. Right. And so societies built upon sameness are driven to despotism.

So what does this mean from our Scripture reading today in Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus?” Gal. 3:28.

Does this mean that we are the same?

Simple observation will tell us that this is not true. We are still male and female, although modern thought is trying to strip us of this “bias.” We are still born into families, tribes, cities, states, nations, although modern thought would try to deny this reality as well by defining a “we are the world.” I live in Plano and therefore am a Planoite. I live in the United States and am therefore an American. I was born in the family of Flint and am therefore a Flint. Likewise, we also understand that we are somewhat stratified by our training, degrees, and specialization. I may in fact be a slave. I may in fact be free. I may in fact be an engineer. I may in fact be a sanitation worker.

It is clear that we are not the same, although modern thought would try to drive us toward that conclusion.

There are two further points to make. First is that I have engaged in some proof texting. To put the quote in context, it is necessary to add the previous sentence: “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” Gal. 3:27 If the quote is to be understood completely, one must realize that it has something to do with the nature of Christ, of what happens when one “puts on Christ.” The second point is to focus on the word “all” (“for you are all one in Christ”). Casual readers of Scripture are prone to see the word “you…all” and translate it to mean everyone. However, Paul is not writing to everyone. He is writing to the churches in Galatia. He is writing to Christians. The proper interpretation of “all” is “all you Christians.”

Christians find their unity in Christ. “In Christ” they are the same – sinners saved by grace, redeemed by the sovereign act of God, made righteous by Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection, not by their own works so that there is nothing special about any of them. They are not the same in life – in life they are Greek, Roman, English, Nigerian, French, Spanish, Cuban, Mexican, Canadian, slave, free, smart, stupid, educated, uneducated, rich, poor, leaders and followers. In Christ, they are none of these things because all fall short of the glory of God, no one is righteous, no one has sufficient good works to bring themselves into heavenly relationship, they are all in the soup unless redeemed by the Redeemer.

So, the question is simply this, as Christians are we the same? Yes and no. We are not the same in our birth, our relationships, our standards of living, our education, our life. We are the same in spirit, in need, in hope, and in our future bound up in Christ.

So how can we be the same and not the same? Maybe by abandoning our concept of “sameness” and adopting a new concept, a Godly concept. We are different, bound to go in our own direction in selfish, sinful pursuit, unless and until we surrender and declare allegiance to the one true King, Jesus Christ. At that moment, we are still ourselves and therefore different from each other but at that same moment we have admitted our common fundamental weakness, sought our common and only solution, and become part of the one and true communion of the saints.

The world would have us suppress our differences and become one through choice to accept all. God would have us embrace our differences and become one through choice to accept One. The world would say that we can build our tower of Babel to the heavens and reach God upon the shoulders of our works. God would say that our towers are but filthy rags, have us touch the ground with our knees and on our face, and in the process enter the throne room of God.

The world would have us reject ourselves as individuals and gather together in sameness; God would have us accept ourselves as individuals and gather together with our differences in unity under one King.

The world would say that to be tolerant, our allegiance must be to each other and to each other’s own thoughts. God would say that, to be tolerant, our allegiance must be to Him and to His thoughts. The world’s perspective on sameness results in oppression and real disunity. Christ’s perspective on diversity results in freedom and real unity.

“United we stand; divided we fall.” When we are united we can stand, not because we are the same, but because we are different but united under the same King. Divided we fall, not because we are individuals who refuse to be tolerant, but because we refuse to surrender to Christ and follow Him as King.

Think about it.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Time

January 28, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 28, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 49:1-12; Gal. 2:11-21; Mark 6:13-29; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

—————————————-

Time is an interesting concept because we live in time and yet we really only observe and measure it – we do not control it. Time passes whether we say “wait” or “go.” Time stops for no man. Yesterday was yesterday and we cannot recover it. Today is today and we can only live in it well or poorly. Tomorrow is tomorrow and may or may not occur according to our predictions, plans, and expectations.

Furthermore, time can be relative. Watching a boiled egg takes a long time if you are watching it and only a short time if you are not. We understand from science that as we reach the speed of light time would come to a crawl. We watch space movies and from that learn about time warps. Our mathematicians calculate various interaction between time and mass, energy, space, dimension, and momentum. We can envision all kinds of manipulation of time, and yet yesterday was yesterday, today is today, and tomorrow will be tomorrow. Time goes forward, never backward … but unfortunately for us, we do not necessarily do the same. While time is marching forward, we can go backwards, not in time but in everything else.

Outside of time there is God. He is the only thing outside of time because He made time. In our statement of what is called the Lord’s Prayer, we end with “for Thine is the kingdom, forever and ever, Amen.” I used to stop at “forever” because, from my point of view, that means all time and therefore means eternity. However, once I realized that God was outside of time, the “and ever” part made sense, because God is not only eternal, He is beyond eternal. He is not time bound like we are. We have limits; He does not.

Why all this talk about time today? From our reading today in Isaiah, God says “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you…” Isa. 49:8

Now this is a Messianic passage, but the phrase “time of favor” struck me.

When is our “time of favor” from the Lord? Well, let’s describe some possibilities. First, He knew us in our mother’s womb – “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Isa. 49:1b Surely at the time when we are most vulnerable, to be known by God is a ‘time of favor.” Second, He knew us in sin and did not reject us. Surely this is a time of favor. Third, He saved us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fourth, He sustains us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fifth, He refines us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord, although it may hurt at the time. Sixth, He delivers us from evil. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Seventh, He gives us our daily bread. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord.

Beginning to detect a pattern? Each of us can point to particular times when we stood on the mountaintop with God and those stick out in our minds as particular times of favor from the Lord. But isn’t every day of our lives full of blessing, opportunity, gifts, forgiveness and love, whether we feel it or not and whether we know it or not? Isn’t every minute of our lives a “time of favor” from the Lord?

Imagine with me how we would behave differently if we were aware that every moment of time in our lives is truly a “time of favor.” Would we respond in grumpiness, depression, and fear, or would we respond by dressing up for the occasion, looking forward rather than backward, full of joy and gratitude for the new day, full of joy and gratitude for the present time of favor?

The time today is a “time of favor.” How will we treat it? And how will we treat the One who gave it to us?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Sense

January 26, 2015


Readings for Monday, January 26, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 48:1-11; Gal. 1:1-17; Mark 5:21-43; Psalms 41,44,52

—————————————-

From today’s reading in Mark: “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment….and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Mk. 5:27-29

We are familiar with the five senses of the body – touch, smell, taste, hearing, seeing.

We are also familiar with something called the sixth sense, having to do with our mind telling us that something is wrong although none of our other senses are picking up anything.

I would like to propose a seventh sense – a soul sense. This is the sense that is attuned to God, that lets us know when we are receiving His pleasure and when we have wandered afar from His presence. I propose that it was this seventh sense which is present in our reading today – “she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.”

What was her disease? Well, the Bible describes it as uncontrolled bleeding for twelve years. And in one sense a disease is the body not behaving the way it should because it has been thrown off the mark by virus or bacteria, by imbalance in exercise or caloric intake, by some part of the body refusing to work the way it is designed.

But in another sense, disease goes to everything which causes us not to rest. When we are resting, we are at ease. When “ease” is “dissed,” we get dis-ease. Sin is disease and it causes dis-ease. Sin shows up in our bodies as disease which can be cured by medicine, but sin also shows up in our seventh sense, our soul sense, as dis-ease, which cannot be healed by medicine. The dis-ease of the soul which causes the soul sense to behave poorly (showing itself in depression, anxiety, worry, anger, covetousness, jealousy, etc.) can only be healed in one way. You must touch the Master.

That’s it. It is just that simple. First you must hear the story of Jesus, which is the proclamation of the good news by all Christians whose soul sense is working in a positive direction. Second, you must seek Jesus and find Him. But, just like the woman in the story, she did not have to go far because He was right there, walking in front of her. Third, in faith, the same faith which drove you to find Jesus, must cause you to reach out to touch Him. The dis-ease of the soul sense is not cured by thinking about Jesus and it is not cured by reading about Jesus, it is healed by touching Him and, so doing, knowing Him. Instantly, at that point, the soul sense is set on the right path, its compass true.

Does the soul sense often send out warning signals. Of course it does. As we float farther away from the light of the world, our world gets darker. Our soul sense throws off warning signs and dis-ease. If not attended to, the dis-ease will reflect itself in bodily disease and the other senses will start becoming aware of the problem. They may not be able to identify the problem, but they know it is there.

If you are attentive to your soul sense, you know what you need to pray for. The soul sense reminds us daily to surrender to our Christ, to listen to Him, and to follow Him. The soul sense is at peace when you are properly aligned with the author of peace. The soul sense is quiet when you take up your rest under the shelter of the Most High.

Do you feel today that something is wrong, but you don’t know what it is? Maybe it is your soul sense sending you a message, telling you to re-attach to the vine, to reach out to the Lord in prayer, to be still and to know that Jesus is Lord. Of course, some people might just blow it off by saying it is something you had for breakfast which upset your stomach. And if that is what they have been blinded to see, then that is all that they will see.

But you, beloved of the Lord, saved by grace, strengthened in the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom from the Lord, know better. You know that sense of dis-ease arises from your fundamental disobedience to the One who made you. You know that your dis-ease is warning you of sin crouching at the door of your life.

So, when we hear our soul sense telling us something is awry, what is our reaction? Is it to ignore it until our life falls apart? For many that is often the case. Is it to suppress it with worldly wisdom of causation, so that the sense of wrongness is subordinated to the “I would feel better if I ate better” worldly wisdom?

Or is it to embrace the message from the soul sense to return home, to return to the vine, to return to God?

It is Monday, so it is a time to take stock of what we are going to be doing for the rest of the week. What about committing to feed our soul sense by having, this week, a strong relationship with the Master. What about praying instead of reading about prayer? What about telling people about Christ rather than reading about evangelism?

What about just taking the time to touch Jesus? The woman did and she was healed from top to bottom. We can too and in the process remove the dis-ease from our soul sense and begin improving our life.

Does this make sense, soul sense? If so, then let’s do it.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Slavery

January 23, 2015


Readings for Friday, January 23, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 45:18-25; Eph. 6:1-9; Mark 4:35-41; Psalms 31,35

—————————————-

Slavery is a difficult topic because of our history and yet we are confronted squarely with it in our reading today from Ephesians: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering services with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…Masters, do the same to them, …knowing that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him.” Eph. 6:5-9

For many years Christians used this language as some kind of approval of the slave-system, and yet it was Christians who broke the back of the slave-system ultimately. In fact, built into this quotation today are the seeds of the systems’ destruction – “Masters, do the same to them …” There is no partiality with the Lord; we all stand before Him, regardless of our birth or circumstances, steeped in sin, saved by the grace and power of God alone, inheritors of the kingdom, brothers and sisters in Christ. Be we king or pauper, rich or poor, master or slave, genius or dumb, athletic or a couch potato – we all stand together as equally sinful, equally saved, equally justified by Christ’s death, and equally judged.

So do we ignore this passage as dealing with something in the past, part of history but irrelevant today? The answer is “no,” not because of slavery today but because all of the Bible is God’s Word to us and all of it, whether we understand it or not, is useful to us for training, growth in the Lord, and rebuke.

But the fact is that there is slavery today. For the moment, set aside slavery with chains (although this still exists), because people tend to get stuck in that traditional description of slavery.

But let me ask you some questions. If you are in the work environment, needing to bring home a paycheck to feed your family, is not your boss the functional equivalent of a “master” and are you not the functional equivalent of a “slave?” We may soften the words with employer and employee, but when the boss tells you to do something on pain of losing your job, don’t you do it? Similarly, in the military, when your commander (master) orders you private (slave) to do something, is this not the functional equivalent of slavery, even though we may soften it with language like sergeant and private? When you are a college professor, with control over the grades of your students and their present and future success, are you not a “master” and the student a ‘slave?” We may soften the description by calling one a professor and the other a student, but there is a master-slave relationship no matter how we want to sugarcoat it.

So what are we to do when we are the slave in the circumstances? Scripture tells us. We are not to act in a way which pleases man, but in a way which pleases God. And what does He tell us but to obey your earthly masters. By obedience to Christ, we are not obedient to the world but to Him. He appoints authority over us and He will exercise His judgment over that authority He appoints. As slaves, we obey our boss, we obey our teachers, we obey ranking officers. Not because they tell us to and show us the whip, but because we are obedient to Christ – we are slaves to Christ, our true Master.

And what are we to do when we are the master in the circumstances? Scripture tells us. We are not to act in a way which pleases man, but in a way which pleases God. And what does He tell us but to but to obey our slaves (“Masters, do the same to them …”). If God gives us authority over others, we are to love those people, listen to them, watch over them, consider their wisdom, obey them, and if necessary die for them. A position of authority is not only a position of steward, but a position of shepherd (if that is a word).

How can the student obey the teacher and the teacher obey the student? Because, and only if, they both obey Christ. If they are both slaves to the true Master, Christ, then each of them to each other is both master and slave – bound in mutual love, respect, honor, and trust.

Does this sound like utopia? Yes. Can this be brought about by the act of man through self-regulation, improved thought, more education, or the right kind of government or proper rules and regulations? No.

But what is impossible with man is possible with God. As words from our reading in Isaiah remind us today, “I am the Lord, and there is no other …I declare what is right…there is no other god besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides Me.” Isa. 45:18-21

True equality does not come through man but through Christ.

Therefore, if you want to really throw off the shackles of slavery, bring everyone (including yourself) to Christ. Become a slave to Christ, the true Master, and you will be free, free indeed.

A strange concept, I know. How we be slave and free at the same time? Ah … the answer to that question is … who is your Master?

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. On earth, as it is in heaven.” Amen and Amen.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Live

January 21, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 21, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 44:24-45:7; Eph. 5:1-14; Mark 4:1-20; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

—————————————-

How are we to live as Christians?

Many Christians have written many books over many years answering this question. And yet, in today’s readings, it seems that Scripture provides us a useable summary.

The first way we should live is to recognize that God is God over all, good and bad. In Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Cyrus, king of Persia, king of Babylon, ruler of the Jews in exile. He says “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus…that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you (Cyrus) by your name. For the sake of My servant Jacob, and Israel My chosen, I call you (Cyrus) by your name, I name you (Cyrus), though you do not know Me,…I equip you (Cyrus), though you do not know Me, …” Isa. 45:1,3b-5 The first way we should live is to recognize that the person who we perceive is bad in our lives, is trouble, is a fraud, is difficult, is mean and hateful, or who otherwise is someone which we would like to avoid, is an instrument of God called by God into our lives for some purpose known to Him. Therefore, when we meet trouble in life, we know that God works it to good and live our lives in victory, unbowed by adversity. By recognizing that God is sovereign and has chosen us, we can live in victory through all things.

The second way we should live is by running away from sin toward that holiness, that obedience to God’s pattern of life for His people, to which we have been called. In Ephesians today, Paul writes: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you…Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking…but instead let there be thanksgiving…Therefore, do not become partners with them [sons of disobedience], for at one time you were darkness, but now you are in the Lord…[T]ry to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness…” Eph. 5:1-4,7-11 Run away from the dark; stay in the light. Cast away sin in the Holy Spirit, learn what is pleasing to God, and then do it in gratitude and obedience.

The third way we should live is to make sure that the soil around us is good so that our fruit which honors God and brings Him glory is plentiful. In Mark today, Jesus says: “A sower went out to sow…And other seeds fell into good soil …And He said to them, ‘…The sower sows the Word…But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mk. 4:3,8,13-14,20. How do we till and fertilize our soil so that it is good? Well the first way is to let the Holy Spirit work in us. The second way is to ask God for it. And the third way is to recognize that Scripture contains the ingredients to transform the soil from something harsh and dead to something healthy and alive.

So, the three rules to live: (1) God is sovereign, (2) flee sin, (3) grow in knowledge and love of the Lord through tilling and fertilizing the soil using the tools God has given you to do so.

There may be more rules, but since I have problems with all three sometimes, I think I’ll just start with these three.

What about you?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – One

January 19, 2015


Readings for Monday, January 19, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 44:6-8, 21-23; Eph. 4:1-6; Mark 3:7-19a; Psalms 9,15,25

—————————————-

A favorite saying today is that “It is not all about me” or “It is not all about you [leaving, of course, the possibility that it could still be all about me].” The real question, though, is not whether it is “all” about you but whether “any of it” is about you (or me)? Our egos want to preserve part of the question by saying, “well, some of it could be about me.” But the truth is that, in a God-focused mindset, none of it is about you (or me); it is only about Him.

Our word today, “One,” comes from our readings.

In today’s reading from Isaiah, God says “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” Isa. 44:6b There is one God and we are not it. There is one, not many. It is all about Him.

In today’s reading from Paul’s letter to Ephesus, we read “There is one body and one Spirit – just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call – one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Eph. 4:4-6 There is one and, while we may participate in it, we may not subdivide it into many (although we try).

We often digress in our prayers, in our meditations, in our study, and in our thoughts into the many – but there is but one on whom we must remain focused. When we are acting as many, it is fair to ask whether we are acting in accordance with our own self and our own views, or whether we are acting in line with the Holy Spirit, accepting God’s direction as our direction, accepting His will as our will, accepting His gifts as our gifts, accepting His love as our love.

We are called to Christ by Christ, to be one with Him. In being one with Him, as we abide in His power, we become one with each other who are in Christ. It does not make us one with everyone else nor with the world, but it does make us joined with Him who saves.

Pianos tuned to each other are always out of tune with each other; pianos tuned to the one tuning fork are always in tune with each other.

There is a longing today in the world that we become unified. There is one way to do that and that is to tune ourselves to the One who was, who is, and who will be forever.

One – not me and not you, but Him.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Chosen

January 16, 2015


Readings for Friday, January 16, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 42:1-17; Eph. 3:1-13; Mark 2:13-22; Psalms 16,17,22

—————————————-

In today’s reading from Isaiah, we read from a chapter, titled as “The Lord’s Chosen Servant,” which is often referred to as a Messianic chapter, referring to Jesus Christ.

I realize that I may ruffle a few feathers by doing this, but I want to ask a question – what would it mean to us if Isaiah were talking about us instead of Christ?

Read this with the substitution of Isaiah talking about you rather than some other person:

“Behold, My servant [your name], whom I uphold, My chosen [your name], in whom My soul delights;

I have put my Spirit upon him [your name]; he [your name] will bring forth justice to the nations.

He [your name] will not cry aloud or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street; a bruised reed he [your name] will not break…he [your name] will faithfully bring forth justice.

He [your name] will not grow faint or be discouraged till he [your name] has established justice in the earth…

Thus says God, the Lord, …I am the Lord; I have called you [your name] in righteousness; I will take you [your name] by the hand and keep you [your name].

I will give you [your name] as a covenant for the people, a light for the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon…” Isa. 42:1-7

In a study note in my ESV Bible, the editors say “…justice means fulfilling mutual obligations in a manner consistent with God’s moral law.’

What is our job today as Christians? – to speak plainly the gospel of Jesus Christ and to bring light, salt, truth and love to a world sadly needing all of it. Some of this requires speech; most of it requires action. All of it together brings justice to the world. All of it together opens eyes which are blind, lights the path to hope and freedom, and releases prisoners in bondage to sin.

We are chosen by God to preach the good news of Jesus Christ and to act in obedience to God’s commands, loving our neighbor more than ourselves. In doing so, we will be opposed but God will sustain us in all difficulties. Through God’s Holy Spirit, we will stand as light in darkness, bringing justice, hope, and freedom. We will do this in faith, a faith which God has given us. And by His having chosen us and in our application of God’s Spirit through our lives to bring justice to the world, we offer ourselves as a living sacrifice, a sacrifice in which God delights.

Yes, Isaiah is talking about Christ, but could he also be talking about us? Could he be talking about you?

Behold, Sam [Nancy, Joe, John, Alice …], God’s servant, whom He upholds and empowers and protects and loves. God’s chosen.

Behold you, a child of God, chosen by Him for eternal relationship with Him, chosen by Him for life in all circumstances, chosen by Him to bring His Word into the world and to be His Word in the world. Chosen by Him to bring sight to the blind, hope to the hopeless, freedom to those imprisoned by sin.

Sends a chill up your spine, doesn’t it? It should.

____________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Sovereignty

January 12, 2015


Readings for Monday, January 12, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 40:12-23; Eph. 1:1-14; Mark 1:1-13; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

—————————————-

Who is sovereign over our lives, us or God?

The knee-jerk reaction is to say, of course, God. But do we behave like that, or do we really behave like “God is sovereign over some things” and “I am sovereign over other things?”

Now, there is a difference between sovereignty and authority. God gave us authority over the earth, permitting us to name the animals, but did He relinquish His sovereignty in doing so? I think the answer is “no.” Now it is easy for us to forget that and think that, because we have started a successful business, somehow we are sovereign over that business. But are we really? Are we not really God’s appointee, His delegate, to build that business and run it as well as we can, in obedience to His will and His Word?

A while ago, I heard an author ask the question what some New Age person would sound like to God. In his highest, squeakiest, voice, the writer said the New Ager would yell at the heavens (in a high pitched, squeaky voice) “I’m God, I’m God, I’m God.” The person sounded ridiculous to me, so I can imagine what they sounded like to God. And yet, isn’t that what we do most of the day – yell at the world and at God, “I’m God….”

Isaiah asks some questions today which really put into context how ridiculous it is that we insist that we are “God” or even a “god” or “demigod.” Isaiah says:

“Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand and marked off the heavens with a span, enclosed the dust of the earth in a measure and weighed the mountains in scales and the hills in a balance?

Who has measured the Spirit of the Lord, or what man shows Him counsel? Who did He consult, and who made Him understand? Who taught Him the path of justice, and taught Him knowledge, and showed Him the way of understanding.” Isa. 40:12-14

The fact is that we dare to do it every day. We are the ones who would tell God what the best plan is, what the alternatives are that He should choose, what He should stay His hand from doing and what He should positively do. We are the ones who tell God what He should think, what virtues He should value, what works He should reward. We tell Him this in our prayers and we tell Him this when we ignore His Word on the matter. When we place Scripture through a filter of man’s understanding, we have stepped into the role of judge over the “rightness” of God’s position on things. When we don’t like what God has to say or we don’t want to do what He commands us to do, we create a version of God who better fits our ideas, who we better understand, and who we can better manipulate … and we worship the idol we have created rather than the God who created us.

Why harp on this today? The reason is our reading today from Ephesians – “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God…Blessed be the God ..who has blessed us in Christ … even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world … In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ …” Eph. 1:1-5 (emphasis added)

This is an old fight in the church … and I will not resurrect it here. But before those of us who bristle at the thought that we did not choose God, but He chose us … who is sovereign?

Who is sovereign? There are three choices – Him, me, or both Him and me.

How you answer that question will make all the difference in the world. If God is sovereign, then obedience is the only answer. If I am sovereign, then God and the Bible are irrelevant. The problem is in the middle, where we think that both God and we are sovereign. This is why we plead for our way, this is why we re-interpret God’s Word, this is why we obey when we feel it is appropriate, this is why we live defeated lives, this is why we doubt our salvation. If God and we are both sovereign at the same time, we have a mess … we have the world.

We listened to Satan, ate of the tree of knowledge, and now think that we share God’s sovereignty. And what has that gotten us.

In today’s reading from Mark, Jesus says “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand;…” Mk. 1:15 The kingdom of God has God as its sovereign, not us.

Recognizing this, we bend the knee and obey … sometimes. The rest of the time our self-image of ourselves as in control rises to the top and meets God on what we think is an even playing field. But as Isaiah implies in the quote above, the playing field is not even because there is only one King.

God wins. But, then, so do we. Not because of us, but because of Him. Because He is King and we are not, we get to live in His kingdom…forever. Not a bad exchange for giving up our sovereignty we think we have to the position of disciple and servant that we know we have. Not “I am because I am,” but “I am because You (Jesus) are.”

____________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Lame

January 9, 2015


Readings for Friday, January 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 63:1-5; Rev. 2:18-29; John 5:1-15; Psalms 121,122,123,131,132

—————————————-

The word “lame” can have a multiple of meanings, particularly in today’s culture. “That’s lame” can be a statement that what was just said is not good, and it can also be used as the beginning of a counter-argument. I am not using the word “lame” as a defense to an argument, but am using it in its classic sense of someone who is hurt and cannot walk well. When a person is hobbling because they dropped a heavy weight on their foot, they are lame. When a person is born with the inability to walk, they are lame.

Today, in our readings in John, we encounter a lame man who has occupied a space beside the Bethesda pool for thirty-eight years. For sure he cannot walk and he may have other handicaps as well, including paralysis or blindness.

Jesus comes alongside that man, asks him if he wants to be healed, and, when he receives a positive response, says to him “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Jn. 5:8

Immediately following that statement, Scripture says “And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” Jn. 5:9

So, the question of the day is a chicken and egg question, was the man healed before he obeyed Jesus’ command or did he obey Jesus’ command followed by the healing?

This is not a trivial question. If the man obeyed Christ first, he had no evidence on which to place such obedience. He just obeyed in faith. If, on the other hand he was healed first, maybe he felt better and that became the evidence which encouraged him to obey. Does blessing follow obedience or does obedience follow once we have evidence of blessing?

We are all lame in some respect or another. Me, I am generally terrible at eye-hand coordination and therefore fail at most sports. Others may find themselves lame because of physical or mental disability, economics, hardness of heart caused by being mistreated, or the world’s form of wisdom or education.

We cannot make ourselves saved. We cannot bring ourselves to true healing. We cannot even use our gifts to the fullest.

So, are we going to wait around until God shows us that He exists, until God does the miracle, and then obey; or are we going to obey in faith that He is, He cares, and He will give us what we need to obey? Do we need evidence of God before we will bow our knee, or will we bow our knee first in faith, knowing that the evidence will come in God’s sovereign timing?

Let me a little more specific. You have a $100 in your pocket and you see that your neighbor desperately needs $100. Will you give him the $100 out of obedience to Jesus’ command to love, believing that God will replace that $100 in your pocket at whatever level is needed by you; or will you wait for a sign from God that that is something you should do, only obeying if the sign occurs and is obvious to you?

I will tell you that my bias is to keep the $100 until I see a sign. But that is the “me” disease speaking. I get to judge, based upon my criteria, as to when I have received sufficient evidence to obey God. But this is not the way the kingdom works. Faith results in obedience without evidence, without proof, without pre-condition.

So, in our history lesson today about the lame man, the pool, and Jesus, what came first, obedience or evidence? I think the key to this answer is in Jesus’ question to the man, “Do you want to be healed?” The man answered that question by pointing out the things he had tried to do under his own power to be cured, essentially saying “Yes, I do.” When Jesus said “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” what decision do you think had already formed in his mind – to obey, “at once.” And as his heart chose to obey Jesus, Jesus provided him the means to be healed and to stand up and walk. The sequence of events is, I believe, that Jesus commanded, the man in his heart obeyed, the man was healed, and the man in his body obeyed.

So where is your heart today? Do you have a heart of obedience to God or a heart of disobedience to God until you are satisfied that obedience is appropriate?

If the reality is the second answer, then we are lame Christians. If, on the other hand, we are obedient in our hearts to God, we will no longer be lame.

____________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Blessings

January 7, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 7, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 52:7-10; Rev. 2:1-7; John 2:1-11; Psalms 103,114,115

—————————————-

“Count your blessings.” Everyone has heard that statement. How do you do it? Well, you could do this – one, I’m alive; two, I have shelter; three, I have food … That is one way to count your blessings. Another way might be to look at quantity and not “head count.” So, using volume, we might have a bag of blessings or a kilo of love or something like that. Maybe the counting isn’t so much a number as it is just a recognition that, indeed, we have many blessings, not all of which are tangible or measurable. How do I quantify the blessing of a caring spouse? How do I quantify the blessing of my assurance of eternity because of the cross of Christ and His resurrection? How do I measure the new day, the sun, the stars, the cold and the hot, the opportunity? Maybe “count your blessings” is merely the simple prayer of “Give me today, Lord, my daily bread,” recognizing that everything we have, whether we may perceive it as good or bad, is a gift of God, a blessing of God, capable of being transformed in the power of the Holy Spirit, through us, into something which glorifies God.

Today’s readings remind us of three blessings we have in our lives from God.

The first blessing is good news. There is a lot of bad news, but what about the good news? In Isaiah today, we read “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” Isa. 52:7 Many people like me would consider being on a mountain-top to be blessing enough, but what a double blessing that, while you are in a state of wonder about God’s creation, good news is brought to you by a friend, a pastor, a radio station, a book, Scripture? It is the good news of peace, of happiness, of salvation. So God, through His Word in Scripture and made flesh in Jesus Christ, through His disciples, delivers us good news. This is a blessing from God.

The second blessing is good works which proceed from love for Christ. In Revelation, Jesus warns the church in Ephesus that, although they have many good works, these works have migrated from a basis of love for God to a basis in something else, maybe observance of tradition. Jesus says “But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.” Rev. 2:4 There are three blessings wrapped up in this message. The first is that we are blessed that, in the power of God, we have the ability to love at all and that, as a result, we have loved Him and others. The second blessing is that we are able to do good things arising from and founded upon that love. The third blessing is even more important though, and that is that we have the blessing of remembrance. In this passage, God calls the Ephesian church to recall their love for Christ and each other, and in the recalling, strengthen the power of their good works. We have no opportunity to recall and turn back if we are blinded to our circumstances or blinded to the truth. The blessing of God in these circumstances is to open our eyes and unstop our ears, bring to our mind who we are and whose we are, and empower us in that remembrance to return in power to Him.

And then we have the blessing of Jesus Himself. In John, we read about the wedding feast where Jesus turns water into wine so that the joy of the wedding is not brought up short. In this short passage Jesus reminds us that He is the creator of our blessings. And He indirectly reminds us that “His time” has not yet occurred, when He will sacrifice Himself for us so that we may share in life ever after. Our blessing is that Jesus often gives us what we think we need (something to help the wedding) (when, as sovereign King, He deems it appropriate) and gives us what He knows we need, but we do not (dealing with our sinful state).

Count your blessings. Impossible! But remember your blessings, recall your blessings – and be that messenger to yourself, the messenger who brings good news. Because in the blessing of recollection, in the blessing of repentance, in the blessing of love, and in the blessing of peace and salvation, we have many blessings indeed.

____________

© 2015 GBF

%d bloggers like this: