Bread – Character

March 30, 2015


Readings for Monday, March 30, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 12:1-16; Phil. 3:21-14; John 12:9-19; Psalms 51, 69

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It has been said that “character” is who we are when no one is looking. If a person is of good character, then they will tend to be good even when being good does not matter. If a person is of bad character, they will tend to be bad even when being bad does not matter. A person whose has a character of honesty will be honest even when being dishonest would result in more benefits to them. A person who has a character of dishonesty will be dishonest even though they would be better off in the circumstances being honest.

Our behavior follows our character. However, it is well known psychologically that repeated good behaviors will develop and reinforce good character. Good character is not caused by good behavior, but it is certainly helped substantially. Similarly, good character is no absolute guaranty of good behavior, but the probability of good behavior rises dramatically when good character is behind the scenes.

Does our character reflect Christ or someone or something else?

For most people, the answer is “yes.” “Yes” to both. As a man saved by grace, born again by Christ’s finished work on the cross, I have the character of Christ, sometimes. Other times, my old character pokes through into action or thought which does not bring glory to Christ and which bears no good fruit.

This problem with the old and the new occupying the same space, fighting to be fed, for attention, and to be released into action, is common to Christians. It was a problem, a problem of character, which Paul deals with in our reading today from Philippians – “ Not that I have obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me His own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ…Only let us hold true to what we have attained.” Phil. 3:12-16

Paul was highly trained in the ways of the world and sought to destroy the Church. He was confronted by Christ on his way to Damascus and was saved by grace. He then became missionary to the Gentiles and, in addition to proselytizing a large part of the known “civilized” world, he wrote many of the books in the New Testament.

He was truly and clearly a Christian, a giant of the faith, and a man of mixed character.

But one part of his character was not mixed – the part which desired to walk with God. His mixed character might cause him to stumble with the truth, but his desire to walk with God always caused him to re-orient toward and to strive for the truth. His mixed character might cause him to disobey, but his desire to walk with God caused him to try to obey, and to repent and try again when he disobeyed. His mixed character may have resulted in broken relationships, but his desire to walk with God caused him to look to restoration. His mixed character may have caused some of his fruit to be less than edible, but his desire to walk with God caused his good fruit to exceed his bad.

The question which Paul really presents is how we should think of our character in Christ. I think he would say that, if we are in Christ, our question ought to be whether our character today is better than it was yesterday. Are we growing in honesty, desire for truth, love of the Father and our neighbor, devotion to family, understanding of Scripture? Are we heading in the right direction?

There may be many things we see in a mirror of ourselves which we do not like. But Paul says this to that – move on, forgetting what lies behind (having been forgiven by Jesus’ death) and pressing on to what lies ahead (in the power of the Holy Spirit). By pressing on “toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus,” we are feeding our Christ-character and denying our self-character.

As Christians, our character has changed, it is changing, and it will change — all to the better.

But we must persevere.

But how? In one of God’s miracles, in His economy of life, a remarkable thing happens when we take on the character of submission to Christ; Christ gives us a new character of freedom. When we recognize our human character of weakness and inability, Christ gives us the character of strength and ability.

We do not have the character of perseverance because we have it, we reflect the character of perseverance which is Christ’s in us. It is He who perseveres, and we who are in Him tag along for the ride.

Our character today may not be what we want it to be and it may not be what it ought to be, but if we are in Christ, straining toward the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ, then it is better today than it was yesterday. Not unto salvation because that gift was given to us in spite of our character, but unto becoming closer to Him and, in the process, closer to ourselves and each other.

What is our character as Christians? Good or bad? No, just better today … and better tomorrow … never perfect this side of forever, but better.

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Exile

March 27, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 29:1-13; Rom. 11:13-24; John 11:1-27; Psalms 22, 95, 141, 143:1-12

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An exile is gone from one place and is in another. The exile has been forced from where he or she wants to live to a place where they do not want to live, whether it be in captivity in prison, or outside the campfire, or in the case of a wayward child, to their room, absent from the place where the family is, banished for their misbehavior to a place where they are alone with themselves.

We normally think of exiles as having to go long distances, dragged by conquerors from the conquered land to the places of the conquerors, there to serve them (the conquerors) instead of themselves (the exiles). However, as in the example of the child above, it is quite possible to be exiled from a room, from a meeting, and from a relationship. One might be only ten feet away from the place they want to be, and yet they are still an exile.

What does it feel to be an exile? There is a strong desire to return to the motherland, the place of beginning. There can be longing for the way things “used to be” or the ways things “ought to be,” and there be anger toward the present circumstances. There may be anger toward the people who caused your exile, and this anger may be directed on oneself when one realizes that they are the cause of their own exile.

Why talk about this? It is the topic today of our reading from Jeremiah. Jeremiah the prophet writes to the Jewish exiles taken away from Judah to Babylon by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, acting as God’s agent for punishment. Just so that there is no confusion, God Himself is the author of the exile of His people – “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I [God] have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Jer. 29:4

Whether we are separated from our home physically by geography or emotionally by withdrawal, we often find ourselves as exiles. Where we are is not where we should be. We have gotten to where we are by a series of behaviors or thoughts which may seem right to us at the time, but which are sinful and offend God. God has acted to remove us from that situation and place us somewhere else where we might have an opportunity to grow.

To grow? Isn’t exile a miserable place, where there is gnashing of teeth, loss, loneliness, despair, and ultimately death?

Well it depends how we look at it. We can choose to die in exile or we can choose to live. When God puts us into exile, it is not to destroy us. When we go into exile, we can decide to do what we did not do in our home – obey God.

And God’s instructions to His exiles in Babylon are clear – obey and live: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jer. 29:5-7

There is an overworked saying for this, “Bloom where you are planted.” When, because of your disobedience, you have been exiled from your current place into a new situation, and if your heart is one of obedience thereafter, then you will make the place of exile the place of life.

If we are obedient to God, we will bring life with us wherever we are. If we are home, then we bring life there. If we have been banished because of our disobedience, repentance and new obedience will result in our bringing of life to the place of exile.

When we are thrown into exile, there is the sense that it is all over, that we will never have the opportunity to return. Indeed, a very long time may pass. But God restores those whom He calls. God restores those who turn from their evil ways toward Him and are obedient to His will.

And God restored the Jews from exile in Babylon. In our reading today, it is but a promise, but we know from elsewhere in Scripture that the promise was fulfilled. God said through Jeremiah “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you My promise and bring you back to this place (Israel/Judah). For I know the plans I have for you … to give you a future and a hope….I will restore your fortunes and gather you … and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jer. 29:10-14

When we are put into exile because of our disobedience, when we turn toward God and seek Him with our heart, desiring relationship and obedience, God promises to restore us. It may not be in our timing (who would choose 70 years?), but it will be.

We were exiled from the Garden of Eden, from our intimate relationship with God, because we disobeyed, wanting ourselves to be like God. That exile, though, is not permanent, not if we turn from our sin toward God, not if we accept His offer of restoration to Him through Jesus Christ, not if we have faith in Him. In the meantime, in obedience to God, we must work for the welfare of the place of exile in which we find ourselves, knowing that God will come get us and bring us to Him for eternity at a time of His choosing.

We have hope because we know that we will be called home by the One who has the power to make it happen. We who are in exile who know Jesus Christ and who are obedient work for the welfare of the place in exile where we find ourselves, knowing that He has a plan for us, to give us a future and a hope and to bring us back to the place from which He sent us into exile.

The path from exile to home passes through the cross of Christ.

Come, let us adore Him.

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Piper

March 25, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, March 25, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 25:30-38; Rom. 10:14-21; John 10:1-18; Psalms 119:145-176, 128-130

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There is an old fairy tale called the Pied Piper. The net result of the story was that the Pied Piper played his flute and a bunch of children followed him and disappeared (probably died). It is because of our readings today that I thought of the Pied Piper.

There are many warnings in many writings telling us not to follow the siren song, the will-o-the-wisp, the call which is pleasant to our ears but death to our souls, the Pied Piper of worldly wealth, good health, position, power, importance to our neighbors. We know we should not follow these Pied Pipers, but we do anyway.

Why? Because, I think, it seems good to us. The music is pleasant, the siren song is enchanting, the allure of peace, health, and prosperity is appealing to our egos, our pride, and the call of those people who reflect those “it is better over here” philosophies has the sound of truth (without the reality of truth).

It is because of this that many people, many shepherds, take the approach of dressing up Christianity like the music of the Pied Piper. “Come join Jesus so that there may be peace on earth.” “Come relate to Jesus so that you will have prosperity and can drive that brand new car.” “Come be with Jesus so that you can associate with the “good people.”” “Come talk to Jesus so that you can can leap tall buildings.” And so forth.

Our reading from Romans today tells us to be a Piper for Christ … to pronounce the gospel because “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching…” Rom. 10:14 But what is that gospel? Is it a gospel of better living through Christ, be all you can be through Christ, ride the wave of Christ’s good will toward man, jump on the bandwagon of belief, buy the true bread of prosperity? Is this the gospel?

We are not Pipers for Christ because we do not attract people to Christ through our wiles and wares. We are Proclaimers for Christ, tellers of the message of sin, death, resurrection, and life eternal through Him. We are actually purveyors of an unattractive message – sin, repentance, faith, perseverance, intercession, death to selves, allegiance to Christ, obedience to God’s Word, eternal life.

We may preach and the people may listen and respond, but is it because we are Pipers or Proclaimers? Or is it neither? Our proclamation of Christ is foolishness to the world, to those who have not been chosen by God to hear the Word and respond to it. If there is a response, it is not because we attracted them ourselves, but because God has let us participate in the miracle of new birth in Christ, in His work and not ours.

The Piper pipes and those of the world follow because they are attracted by the music. The Proclaimer proclaims and those chosen by God follow because God’s work as brought them to belief and into the kingdom of God.

We have a job to do today. It is not to make ourselves into attractive people so that people will be attracted to Christ. It is to proclaim God’s message that there is a way to eternal life through Jesus Christ, beginning with seeing ourselves as the sinful creatures we are, deserving nothing but ready to receive God’s mercy, repentant toward ourselves so that we turn to God’s way of doing things. This is not an attractive message, because most people are more thoughtful about where to have lunch than where to spend eternity.

Jesus says today that “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.” John 10:11

There are two characters in this reading, Jesus and the sheep. Who are we in Christ? Sheep. We are not the shepherd and we are not even the staff advisor to the shepherd. We are the sheep who need Christ, we are the sheep who want Christ, we are the sheep who love Christ, we are the sheep who lay down in His shelter, we are the sheep to be led by Him into eternity, and we are the sheep for whom He died.

Are we a Piper for Christ? I hope not because I do not want people to come to Christ because they are following me, but because they are following Him. The Piper was not a good shepherd. But Christ is. Follow Him.

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Challenges

March 20, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 20, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 23:1-8; Rom. 8:28-39; John 6:52-59; Psalms 95, 102, 107

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There are many difficulties in the Christian faith, many intellectual and emotional challenges. Our readings today seem to be an entire collection of them.

In Jeremiah, God pronounces woe to those shepherds who would scatter and destroy the sheep of His pasture. Jer. 23:1. And yet we know from other readings in Jeremiah that it was God Himself who caused the collapse of Judah and, earlier, Israel because of their sinfulness. So, in a sense the false shepherds may have been driven by Satan or their own selfish desires, but they may also have been placed on earth by God to mislead the people. So, God is to blame? The bad shepherds are to blame? Or are the people who follow the bad shepherds to blame for not understanding God and His Word so well that they recognize the bad shepherd and leave for more holy, more Godly pastures? God will dispose as He will, but we have responsibility for listening to and following the Word of God, once our minds are open to His truth. We would like to blame God and we would like to blame our leaders, but one of the great truths (and conflicts) of the faith is that we must begin in the mirror – it is us who obey the rules of the world rather than the rules of God, it is us who have faith in ourselves first rather than God first, it is us who sin and fall short. We are intellectually and emotionally challenged in the Christian faith to recognize that we are not number one, we are not over God or equal to Him, we have no right to judge Him, and He has every right to judge us.

In Romans, we are confronted with the Biblical truth that we did not choose Jesus but He chose us. Rom. 8:28-30. One of the great intellectual and emotional challenges we have as Christians is that we, ourselves, have and had nothing to do with our salvation because there is no work of man which meets God’s standards. We were chosen by God because He chose us. The challenge is to recognize that God is sovereign and that we are subject, that God is master and we are slave. The further challenge both intellectually and emotionally is to realize that, when we realize that it was God who saved us and not we ourselves, we are in fact free – that by becoming slave to God we become citizens of the kingdom of God, worthy to stand before God in His throne room, making intercession for others. There is true freedom in Christ, but we can only get there by realizing that while we were still dead to sin God reached down and lifted us from the pit. Our intellectual and emotional challenge as people is to realize that true freedom is gained by abandoning our slavery to the world and its systems and thought patterns and bowing our knee to the true King.

Also in Romans, we see the intellectual and emotional challenges which come from being beat down, being criticized, being sick, being tired and lonely, being weak. We say to ourselves, “We are Christians and saved by grace, why cannot we live with plenty and be well? And there are some shepherds who would pervert the message to say that, as Christians, we indeed may demand the first place in line and full prosperity. But our state as Christians is to be hated by the world – “For Your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” Rom. 8:36, citing Psalm 44:22. But because we have God on our side, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” Rom. 8:37. As Christians we do not have joy because we have retirement accounts, we have joy because God is with us and our permanent retirement is assured for all eternity. Our intellectual and emotional challenge is to realize that we do not need worldly approval, position, or wealth to be free; we need Jesus.

And then we are confronted with our reading today from John, where Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.,” John 6:53-54. Both our intellect and our emotions are severely challenged when we consider what Jesus is saying here. Great debates over the last two thousand years have occupied our minds and hearts over these words. Many claimed disciples abandoned Jesus over these words; will you? Again, however, we are confronted with our greatest challenge – to realize that we are not up to the challenge, that we cannot climb the hill without help, that we cannot save ourselves through works, that we cannot understand all things, that we cannot pierce some mysteries, that we are not God. If the net effect of the revelation we receive through Scripture, through Christ, through the Holy Spirit, is that we must radically depend upon Him daily for our daily blessing and power, then Jesus’ point has been made. If the net effect of this passage is to drive us away from Christ because “we” do not understand, or “we” are offended, or “we” reject God’s Word, we have missed the point. Our greatest intellectual and emotional challenge is to drive to the edge of understanding and proceed the rest of the way in faith. Faith, not in ourselves, but in the One who is, the “I am.”

Great challenges. All overcome on the cross. If we will but bow the knee, hand over the reins, have faith, follow Christ, and abide in Him.

Our greatest challenge is to figure out who is Lord. Jeremiah, Romans, and John tell you. But do you know?

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Clay

March 18, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, March 18, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 18:1-11; Rom. 8:1-11; John 6:27-40; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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We are but clay in the potter’s hand, as God spoke through Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading today. God, speaking to nations and particularly to the nation of Israel says, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?…Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” Jer. 18:5-6

When God chooses to re-form us into His image, by bringing us into relationship with Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, God is acting as the potter, taking clay which is malformed by original sin and re-making it into something which is alive, free, bold, and loving. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. .. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. “ Rom. 8:1,3b-4,9

There are a couple of things about clay which come to mind. First, clay cannot re-form itself. It requires a creator, a potter, to make it into something useful. Second, until it is formed, it is essentially a lump, a lump of clay. Something with potential but no result. It will remain only potential until the creator, the potter, acts. Third, it can harden. When it does, adding water (does baptism come to mind?), prepares the clay to be formed in the way the potter intends.

We are like that clay with one major exception. We think we choose to be the clay or the bowl made from clay. We think we can form ourselves in the first place and reform ourselves in the second place. Unlike clay which requires someone to throw water on it to make it ready to be formed, we think we can throw the water on ourselves. In our way of thinking, clay makes a good analogy but it ends at the brain – clay has no brain and we do. Therefore, “clay” does not apply to us. We are not dumb beasts, like sheep, but intelligent people driven to make good choices by good education and good upbringing.

Ah, but not so. In today’s reading from John, man speaks and God answers. Man says this to Jesus – “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jn. 6:28. God (Jesus) says this in response to man – “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Jn. 6:29

There is nothing we can do to bring about our own salvation. Why? Because under sin we are dead – we have no brain which understands God and as to Him we are clay. But the “work of God” is this – that while we are a lump of clay, God the Creator puts His hand upon us and brings us unto belief in Christ and from there, unto a man who walks by the Spirit, forming us into a saved person, worthy by the death of Christ and His resurrection to be with God for eternity.

We are the clay and He is the potter. Thank God!

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Yeast

March 16, 2015


Readings for Monday, March 16, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 16:10-21; Rom. 7:1-12; John 6:1-15; Psalm 89

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Bread without yeast is flat and somewhat tasteless. Bread with yeast is fat and tasty.

In today’s readings, we read about three yeasts. The first is the yeast of the law. The second is the yeast of Christ. The third is the yeast of the Holy Spirit.

In Jeremiah, man is condemned because he has obeyed himself and not God. “Because your fathers have forsaken Me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and have not kept My law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to Me.” Jer. 16:11-12. The law reflects God’s standards for our lives, and the law operates like yeast, to take our lives and, by teaching us what is right, show us how wrong we are. Paul explains it this way – “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death….Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. …For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. “ Rom. 7:5,7-9 Before I knew the law, I might have been neutral, but now I know the law I know how far apart my life is from the law; I therefore know sin and death.

However, when we are saved by Christ from death, the yeast of Christ substitutes for the yeast of the law and we are transformed, made into new persons. As Paul says in the same passage, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God…But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in a new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Rom. 7:4,6

And what happens when we fill ourselves with the yeast of the Spirit? Fruit is produced. In our reading from John today, he describes the event where Jesus fed the five thousand men from the five loaves and two fish. “Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated. And also the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:11 Although there is no explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in this passage, Jesus is feeding His many disciples with what they need for their daily bread. Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the coming of Holy Spirit to empower them for holy living, similar to the bread which is needed for daily living. The bread from God may be supernatural bread (manna), daily bread (loaves and fishes), and spiritual bread (the Holy Spirit).

Everything we take in acts like yeast in ourselves, transforming us into something else. If we take in the ways of the world, we will be transformed into looking like the world. If we take in the word of God, we will be transformed into looking more and more like our Saviour. If we take in beauty, we will be transformed into something beautiful. If we take in vile and ugly, we will be transformed into something which is not beautiful.

With what yeast are we feeding ourselves? Do we eat of the law and therefore increase our awareness of our own fault, our own sinfulness? Or do we eat of Christ and thereby increase our awareness of our worth before God, that He would love us so much that He sacrificed Himself, His Son, for us? Or do we eat of the Holy Spirit and thereby increase our good fruit in the world?

What yeast will we eat this week, this month, this year? The yeast of the world or of God? The yeast of law or of faith? The yeast of knowledge or the yeast of wisdom? The yeast of self-righteousness or the yeast of God’s righteousness?

How will we choose?

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Deception

March 9, 2015


Readings for Monday, March 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 7:1-15; Rom. 4:1-12; John 7:14-36; Psalms 77, 79, 80

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How do we know that we are not being deceived?

It cannot be simply that we go to the right places or attend the right church. In our reading today from Jeremiah, God through the prophet warns us of this: “Behold, you trust in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, commit adultery … and then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say ‘We are delivered!’ – only to go on doing all these abominations?” Jer. 7:8-10

If we go to a house of worship and do not amend our sinful ways, there is a deception but it is us deceiving ourselves. We can hear the truth, but if the truth does not transform us then we have only pretended to hear the truth. The truth might have hit our ears, but it has not penetrated from there to the brain and from the brain to the heart.

It cannot be simply that we follow the rules, because there is a fundamental deception that merely following the rules will result in success before God. It is not by works that we are saved, but by faith in Jesus Christ. As pointed out by Paul in today’s lesson from Romans: “What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’” Rom. 4:1-3 Following his faith, Abraham was obedient unto circumcision, but his faith preceded his obedience. What was counted to Abraham to make him right before God occurred prior to works and not after. But obedience and works did follow.

And it cannot be simply that we see miracles, the activity of the supernatural in our lives. Merely seeing miracles may very well deceive us into believing that Jesus is one among many, involve us in speculation and various spiritual understandings and levels of understanding. Although Jesus spoke with authority from God the Father, in today’s readings from John it is apparent that neither the teachings nor the miracles revealed to them who Jesus was. Jesus hits the nail on the head when He says “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24

We can be deceived by appearances and by ourselves. Our thoughts can deceive us, our works can deceive us, our good looks can deceive us, our groups and friends and even churches can deceive us.

So how do we go beyond appearances to see the truth? How do we avoid being deceived?

The answer is in between the lines of every reading from Scripture today. From our reading in Jeremiah, God says “Amend your ways and your deeds…” Jer. 7:3 From our reading in Romans, “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” Rom. 4:13. From our reading in John, “My teaching is not mine, but His who sent Me. If anyone’s will is to do God’s will, he will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on My own authority.” John 7:16-17

How we avoid deception. We first realize that we are sinners, requiring amendment of our ways. We second have the faith of Abraham in the God who delivers, in His Son Jesus Christ. We third desire to do God’s will and, in so wanting, listen to the words of Scripture, God’s voice on earth today teaching us how to live.

Do we want to avoid being deceived? Know who we are. Know whose we are. Know what He has to say about it.

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Adultery

March 6, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 6, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 3:6-18; Rom. 1:28-2:11; John 5:1-17; Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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From our reading today in Jeremiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? … Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.” Jer. 3:6-9

How does a nation commit adultery with stone and tree? Both represent worship of idols, gods of our manufacture which are not God. Both represent nature, the created as opposed to the Creator. So, one possible interpretation of this passage is “the nation Judah committed adultery with its idols.”

“Adultery” in the ordinary use of the word means sex outside of the marriage relationship.

In the broader definition, “adultery” is ignoring a covenantal relationship (marriage) in favor of satisfying self-desire (or lust). You can see, therefore, where this has potential huge meaning in our lives. In fact, in this broader definition, we commit adultery all the time.

Since this is Lent and a time for reflection upon our lives and our loyalty to our Savior, Jesus Christ, perhaps we should mediate further on all of the different ways we commit adultery. It first begins with identification of the people or organizations with whom you have contracts or covenantal relationships. Perhaps it is God. Perhaps it is with a spouse. Perhaps it is with a friend. Perhaps it is with work (employment contract). Perhaps it is with a customer or a client. Perhaps it is with a partner in business or other profit or non-profit enterprise.

Once you have identified all of these relationships, then it merely becomes a process of thinking about each person and asking yourself what you have done to ignore, bypass, defeat, or otherwise harm that relationship. In asking yourself what you have done, you will also answer the third question, which is with whom have you committed and are you committing adultery?

When we raise up an idol which we worship and follow, whether it be some other person, wealth, position, power, or some other object or objective, we are committing adultery with that idol because we have abandoned the relationship we have with God.

So, do you find yourself in the midst of adulterous relationships, following idols of man’s invention rather than the God of the universe? If so, Jesus has a question for you in today’s reading from the gospel of John: “Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6

If you want to be healed, Jesus says to you just like he said to the invalid at Bethesda, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5:8 Through faith in Jesus’ authority over sickness, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the man stood up and walked.

For Christians who sin, the answer to shedding that sin and living in victory is the same answer given to the invalid by Jesus: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Walk away from your adulterous relationships. Flee sin. Abandon unrighteousness. Not in your own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit applied in your life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Easy to say. Hard (and really impossible for man) to do. That is why we need supernatural help. “Lord, I need to be healed. I believe; help me in my unbelief. Come, Holy Spirit.”

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Sowing

March 2, 2015


Readings for Monday, March 2, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 1:11-19; Rom. 1:1-15; John 4:27-42; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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One of the things being lost in the shuffle of modern living, where everyone has instant knowledge about everything by reference to some computer search engine, is the connection between sowing on the one hand, followed by a passage of time, and a reaping on the other hand. There are lots of examples of this. We invest today so that we may have a payoff tomorrow. We sow seed today so that we may reap corn tomorrow. We plan today so that we may effectively do tomorrow. We study today so that we might in the future be smarter. We work today so that we might have paycheck and live tomorrow.

For those in farming, my discussion below may appear to be nonsense, because everyone knows it! But do our children today, when everything can be had within a moment’s notice, my rubbing the Genie’s lamp of the computer and the internet? If we think about it, doesn’t there appear to be more and more of a disconnect between the reality that something has to be done today for there to be a payoff tomorrow, and our understanding of that reality? Don’t we ask today when we study – what is in this for me today? Does our government not connect the borrowing of today with the reckoning due tomorrow? Aren’t we as individuals, families, and cities eating our seed in an imaginary universe where the corn will show up anyway, because it always has?

As individuals, families, and societies, do we any longer really understand the connection between investment and wealth, between saving and safety, between sowing and reaping?

One wonders if so many mistakes would be made if we actually stopped to connect the dots between what is happening today and what we did yesterday. If we can’t work forward mentally anymore to see the reaping following the sowing, then maybe we can work backwards to realize that what we reap today has a direct connection to what we sowed in the past.

In today’s reading from John, we are introduced to another mystery of the kingdom. In our world, set in time, sowing and reaping have a time-connection. One precedes the other, one is caused by the other, and no reaping occurs without the tincture of time in between it and sowing.

But what does Jesus say in today’s reading? “Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest…I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.” John 4:35b,38

Realizing that Jesus is present and that He is speaking about those chosen by God for eternal life through belief in Him, who is the “Others have labored …?” Who is Jesus talking about?

One quick answer might be just “other people,” but who prepared the ground for Jesus’ coming? One answer might be John the Baptist, but surely the field to be reaped is not limited to those people he prophesied to. Another answer might be the prophets who preceded Jesus. But just like in our reading today in Jeremiah, the prophets of old were, just like John the Baptist, calling the people of God to return to Him in worship, obedience, and love. In that sense, in recalling people to repentance, these prophets did prepare the ground for planting, but did they plant the seed?

In fact, one might ask what the seed really is? Is it the seed of faith or the seed of existence; is it the breath of life blown into each human being or is it some kind of heavenly wisdom stored in the soul?

We only need to think about these things if we believe that man has any part in the planting of the seed or the making of the seed to begin with. If man is the source of life then man affects the quality of the seed which is planted, toward or away from faith, toward or away from moral behavior, toward or away from obedience, etc.

However, if God is the source of life then He is is the source of faith and of salvation. If God makes the seed and plants the seed, then man does not really have to worry about what is planted.

In today’s reading, Jesus has visited Samaria, met with the woman at the well, and started the dominoes falling which result in people outside of Judaism coming to faith in Christ.

There is one really easy way to read today’s lesson on sowing. God creates, God sows … and He lets man participate in the miracle by reaping.

There is a concept in evangelism where we sow the seed of faith (through argument, presentation of the gospel, whatever), knowing that it is God who reaps. And yet, in today’s reading there is the possibility of another perspective – where God has sown and we get to “reap.” The kingdom harvest is ready for reaping now as Jesus said to His disciples and by them reaping the harvest, they have entered into the labor of “others.” By reaping what Jesus has sown, we enter into Jesus’ labor.

And now we might ask who the object is of our reaping. In the passage today, there are Jesus, the disciples, and the Samaritans. The implication would be that it is the disciples who are reaping the Samaritans.

But perhaps not.

What happens when we “witness” the gospel to another and nothing happens to that “other,” have we failed to reap?

Maybe not. Maybe the “other” is not the object of the reaping, but we are. Maybe as we speak for Christ in the world we are reaping ourselves into deeper faith in Him.

“Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together.” John 4:36

If the sower is Jesus and the reaper is you, then who else is there? Well, those Samaritans are still around in the lesson today and they are still in the room.

And maybe it is the Samaritans (and Jews and Gentiles) who are the focus on our reaping … but does it matter whether they are or not? Because if we do what Jesus has told us to do, to proclaim the gospel and love our neighbor as ourselves, if the only person reaped is ourselves then aren’t both the sower and the reaper rejoicing?

So as we plan for the week ahead, what difference does any of this make? Well we are in the season of Lent. Maybe we need to first reap ourselves and then, in learning how it is done, we will be more effective in reaping our families, friends, and neighbors.

Jesus has sown in us His gift of grace, wisdom, faith, and salvation. In the Holy Spirit, let us reap first ourselves to glory of His name, and then let Him guide us into the field.

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© 2015 GBF

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