Bread – Wisdom

August 28, 2015


Readings for Thursday, August 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 3:16-28; Acts 27:27-44; Mark 14:12-26; Psalm 18

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What is wisdom? I am sure there is a Biblical definition, but let me give you mine – Wisdom is knowing what to do in spite of the observable facts.

We make decisions all the time “on the ground,” based upon the facts we observe and are told about. But we know in our hearts that those decisions may in fact be wrong. Those decisions may be based on apparent evidence which is not real; those decisions may make assumptions about how things work when they aren’t working that way; those decisions may not take into account all of the consequences of action; those decisions may be more an expression of my sin than my factual observations. We know that sometimes the best decision is no decision at all – but the fear of making a decision can paralyze us into disaster.

We actually have a couple of good examples of wisdom in our readings today from Scripture.

In the first, Solomon is confronted with the decision over which mother is the real mother of the live baby. This is a part if history which I think everyone knows, whether or not they are a Christian. Solomon is confronted with two claiming mothers and one baby and is asked to decide who it belongs to. Rather than decide the case by the facts in front of him, which could have included comparing the features of the baby to each of the mothers, which would have been a “logical” decision-making process, Solomon upsets the table by declaring he will cut the baby in two, thereby treating each woman equally. By doing so, he exposes the underlying human behavior of a real mother, who would rather see her child lost to another woman than to see her baby killed. Seeing how the women react to the decree, he now knows who the true mother is and decides rightly. This is wisdom. In spite of the facts on the ground and in spite of the normal way the world would deal with the problem (by comparing the baby to the mothers or by conducting a DNA test), Solomon acts to reveal the human hearts involved and in so doing reveals the truth. No one who loves life would divide the baby and yet Solomon, in his wisdom, knew that that was the right action to take. How did he know? “The wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” 1 Kings 3:28

In Acts, we have Paul and somewhere around 76 to 276 people in a boat in the Adriatic Sea, ready to founder. The facts on the ground are that the boat is being driven by the wind into a bad place, the sailors know it, and the sailors are ready to run to the lifeboat. The soldiers cut away the lifeboat because Paul tells them that they will not be saved unless the sailors stay on the boat. Later, the boat is shipwrecked. Normally, the decision would be made to lighten the boat by throwing everything overboard but keep the food because it might a long time on a deserted island. Because there were a lot of prisoners, who were at the bottom of the food chain, the weight thrown overboard might have included the prisoners. However, Paul knew what to do in spite of the facts and in spite of common sense. He instructs everyone to eat up, even though rations were short, and then throw the wheat overboard. Everyone ends up surviving the shipwreck. How did Paul get the wisdom to stay on board, eat the food and throw the rest away, and not kill anyone? Although our reading never says explicitly, there is a passage which suggests the answer – “And when he [Paul] had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” Acts 27:35 Paul knew where all things come, including his wisdom, and he gave thanks.

As Christians in America, we will be required to stand in oncoming evil day. The facts on the ground may suggest that we give in, give up, or maybe even counter-attack. These would be logicial decisions to make based upon the obvious facts of imprisonment, death, ridicule, and loss of position, wealth, and power. We may be in the midst of a storm such as we have never experienced, soaked to the bone with the prejudice of a world which hates Christ. At this time, we do not need to make decisions based upon logic or what we think may exist, we need to ground our decisions, our thoughts, and our speech (actions) on wisdom, on the knowledge of what to say and do in spite of the obvious facts.

And where will we get this wisdom? From the only One who has it in the first place. At that time, we will need to say “Come, Holy Spirit and fill our minds with Your wisdom,” we will need to act on the wisdom which God gives us at the time, and we will then need to follow in Paul’s and Jesus’ footsteps, break bread in remembrance of Him, and be thankful.

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© 2015 GBF

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Bread – Keeping

August 25, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 25, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 1:38-2:4; Acts 26:24-27:8; Mark 13:28-37; Psalms 5,6,10,11

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In David’s instructions to Solomon from our reading today in 1 Kings, David says “Be strong, therefore, and show yourself a man. And keep the charge of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes, His commandments, His ordinances, and His testimonies…that you may succeed in all that you do and wherever you turn.” 1 Kings 2:2-3

In and of itself, this is a great instruction to all of us – we should stand strong in the Lord and we should always walk in God’s ways according to His principles.

In fact, today the readings were so “surface” that I turned to my Hebrew-Greek Study Bible to see if any of these words were highlighted for definition. And, sure enough, something did arise. My ESV Bible says simply “and keep the charge of the Lord your God….to keep His … ordinances.”

The word “charge” here does not mean instructions as we would normally consider it, but instead means to keep watch, a watch-post, a sentry with two main parts, the first being the obligation or service to be performed and the second being something which must be preserved. The sentry is required to stand watch (the service) in order to preserve the peace and repel enemies (the something which must be preserved). Thus, the word “charge in this reading has more of the sense of the word “keeping” (which is also used in the same passage), with the service being performed the active preservation and protection of something valuable, and the something valuable which requires preserving is God’s principles, His laws, and His Word. The place God has put us in this world is to protect His truth and to proclaim it. For that we must be strong, and diligent, and consistent, and loving, and obedient. Without those who are charged doing their job with excellence, the world would decay and collapse beyond moral recognition. In a sense, God has charged us who would share the throne as adopted children with the protection of His presence on earth and, thereby, with the protection of the world.

But there is a second part to this, and in my quote that is the word “ordinance.” We think of ordinances as laws passed by cities, and so of “lesser” standing than commandments and statutes, and sure enough the quotation beginning this Bread goes from statutes to commandments to ordinances to testimonies, from strongest (perhaps) to weakest. But, as is so common with Scripture, what we think of when we say the word “ordinance” is not necessarily what God has in mind. The Hebrew word translated into “ordinance” is properly a verdict or a judgment, referring to all functions of government (legislative, judicial, and executive). You may summarize this concept by the word “justice,” an attribute of God. Thus, the word “ordinance” is not just a simple law, it is “the” law which transcends all others because it brings with itself justice.

So we are instructed to keep God’s justice, we are “charged” as sentries with the protection of justice.

How as a Christian have I protected justice today? How have I kept it? Have I treated others like I have treated myself? Have I made sure that the worker has received his or her fair pay? Have I honored truth in my speech and my behavior? Have I pointed out lying language for what it is? Have I lived today in integrity? How many lies have I told, how many minutes have I stolen from God, how many times have I closed the door on other people who need entry?

We must keep, protect, treasure, understand, and promote justice, God’s love and His law, in everything we do. And when we do this, we will get the government we do not deserve but the government which God has decreed, and that will be very good indeed.

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Rebellion

August 13, 2015


Readings for Thursday, August 13, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 15:1-18; Acts 21:27-36; Mark 10:32-45; Psalm 105

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Absalom, David’s son, stands out in the public, at the gate to the city, telling the people coming into the city that king David is essentially not available to hear their pleas and their cases, but that if he were judge of the land (i.e. king of the land), then they would get justice and their day in court. “So Absalom stole the hearts of the men of Israel.” 2 Sam. 15:6b

Now the gate is in a public place, so it is fair to assume that David, the king, heard what was going on. He could not have approved it, because Absalom, his son, was undermining David’s authority and setting himself up as king in place of David. And yet David did nothing to correct him and nothing to stop him.

Why does God tolerate our rebellion? We rebelled in the Garden of Eden by listening to Satan instead of hearing God. We rebel on a daily basis as we set ourselves up as king of the little kingdom of self and run our lives according to our wishes and lusts. We stand in the public square and pronounce to the world, “if I were in charge (or if my government were in charge), there would be justice in the world… so let me take over and rule.” All the while this is going on, God appears to be in retreat, seeming to disappear from the stage, exiting the hearts and minds of men to leave them to their own devices and to implement their own schemes. When man rebels and says to God, “I don’t want you anymore…go away!,” why does God appear to say “OK,” and then appears to exit stage left?

In today’s lesson from Daniel and Absalom, we begin to see how this develops. David decides to leave and those people who want to come with him he lets do so. These “disciples” of David abandon their home and become wanderers. Later, however, in another day’s lesson, we discover that Absalom reaches his full stage of rebellion and wickedness, dies in battle, and David returns to his rightful place. The faithful are displaced but never replaced and end up being victorious.

We are in rebellious times. The winnowing of the church is occurring. Will we follow the usurpers or stay with the King? Will we be displaced, knowing that our home is with Him and not with the world, or will we reap the temporary benefits of rebellion and suffer the eternal loss as well?

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Outcasts

August 11, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 11, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 14:1-20; Acts 21:1-14; Mark 10:1-16; Psalms 94,95,97,99,100

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In today’s reading from the second book of Samuel, the woman, speaking God’s words, says to the king “But God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.” 2 Sam. 14:14

From time to time, people so misbehave outside the rules of the tribe, the family, the church, or the city, that they must be banished, they must be outcast. Sometimes they are banished to prison. Sometimes to another part of the world. Sometimes, as in the case of the prodigal son of Scripture, to eat with the pigs. Sometimes they are just fired, if the particular group banishing them happens to be an employer. In the case of a club, sometimes the membership privileges are revoked. In a church setting, we might call it being banished from participation in communion or excommunication.

How do we feel when that happens? On the side of the people doing the banishing, generally it is a combination feeling of relief, anguish, worry, and loss. On the side of the banished, it is generally a feeling of anger, sorrow, depression, worry, and general upset. Both the banisher’s and the banished worlds have been changed.

There are three paths which the outcast can take. They can continue their downward spiral into degradation and death. They can “grow up” and become independent in spirit, but losing all ties to the group they used to be a member of. Or they can be restored to full relationship with their prior tribe, family, church, job, or other group. What makes the difference?

I think the difference is in two people. The first, the outcast, must come to grips with what he or she has become, must turn away from that, and must turn toward home. The second, the banisher, must come to grips with whatever actual or perceived injury has occurred to self, must set it aside, and must forgive. The first we call repentance and the second, forgiveness.

This passage from Samuel is a statement of simple truth which God fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Where there is no way to obtain restoration with God through earning it with good works, there is a way through Jesus Christ, beginning with our repentance and our acceptance of His forgiveness.

The first banishment occurred when we were ejected from the Garden of Eden, when our personal relationship with God was broken by our sin. But “God … devises means so that the banished one will not remain an outcast.”

The question is not whether God has devised a means; the question is whether we will take advantage of those means. And for that, we need not only God’s means but His power. And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Attribute

August 4, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 4, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 7:18-29; Acts 18:12-28; Mark 8:22-33; Psalm 78

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In my early days at my current church, I was invited from time to time to read the Scripture lesson for the day on Sunday. One Sunday morning, the reading from from Acts, like one of our readings today. There is a formula in my church for beginning a reading. Before we read the Scripture, we would say “A reading from the Book of Acts, beginning at the ____ chapter, the ____ verse.”

Now, when I was preparing to read, I thought about the word “Acts” and thought that the title should be longer. So, after doing research which ended in no knowledge whatsoever, I introduced the reading on Sunday thusly – “A Reading from the Acts of the Holy Spirit….” After the service, I had several people come up to me and say that, although they enjoyed the reading, I had introduced the book wrongly. According to them (and many Bibles), I should have said “A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles …”

After these people left and I was shrugging my shoulders in the “Oh Well” sense, an older priest (pastor) came up to me and whispered in my ear … “No, what you said was right.”

We know that the book of Acts is a history of the early church and about the apostles, particularly Peter and Paul, and how they spread the gospel. Therefore, most Bibles do in fact have the title of “Acts” as either “Acts” or “Acts of the Apostles.” And yet we also know that Acts begins with Pentecost, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the empowerment of man to stand up for Christ (God the Son), God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit.

Is it any wonder that our worship is weak and our presence in the world is ineffective when we fail to accurately attribute who is in charge and whose works good works belong to? We preach about honoring God as holy and yet every reference to Him in modern Scripture, regardless almost of the translation, is in the lower case, as if my “him” is equal to His “him.” We make God our friend and co-laborer, when in fact He is God, master, and Lord. We ascribe our puny efforts to demonstrate love in the world to our money, our time, our effort, instead of attributing it properly to the work of God, to the work of the Holy Spirit.

This morning, in Samuel, we hear David correctly attribute his success to God. I cannot say it any better than he did, so here it is (I have deliberately capitalized the pronouns referring to God):

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me thus far? … Because of Your promise, and according to Your heart, You have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore You are great, O Lord God,. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You…For You, O Lord of hosts,, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to Your servant, saying ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. An now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true…For You, O Lord God, have spoken, and with Your blessing shall the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Sam. 7:18-29

As you survey today your vast holdings, your family, your business, your retirement plans, your furniture, your cars, your bank balances … who do you attribute your blessings to? Your trust fund? Your parents? Your education? Your hard work? Your crafty dealings? Your intelligence? Your good looks? Yourself?

As Christians, we need to work on who we attribute our success to. Does our power come from a bottle or from the Holy Spirit? Does our success come from God or from the world?

If we were to write a book about you, would we say “A reading from the Acts of George Flint [fill in the blank]” or “A readings from the Acts of the Holy Spirit?”

And now the real question. We might attribute our works to the Holy Spirit, but will our friends? Does Christ’s light through us so shine before men that they might worship His good works in and through us?

Who gets the glory in your life?

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© 2015 GBF

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