Bread – Rulers

June 27, 2017


Psalm 72

Give the king Your justice, O God, and Your righteousness to the royal son!  … Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people…May he defend the cause of the poor of the people…May he be like rain that falls on the mown grass…In his day may the righteous flourish…” Ps. 72:1-7

We have all experienced the situation where we know we ought to pray for people in power, our President or, if another country, maybe our king, prime minister, or dictator, but for whatever reason we don’t want to.  Maybe we see him or her as evil.  Maybe we him or her as grossly incompetent.  Maybe we don’t agree with his or her politics.  But we are commanded in all circumstances to be subject to and pray for those in authority.  Rom. 13:1.   To accomplish this command and yet maintain our anger (upset) toward our particular ruler, I am reminded of that famous prayer by Tevye in “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he prayed: “God bless and keep the Tsar far away from us.”

But if we are inclined to really follow the commandment that we honor our rulers and when we are missing words, Psalm 72 is a great prayer to read, because it exalts the ruler, the king.  “May [the king] be like rain that falls on the mown grass.”  What a wonderful image of the true blessings a great ruler can have upon his or her country or dominion, when he or she is subject to God.

But this gives rise to wonder, what ruler is David (or the Psalm-writer, if not him) talking about?

Like so much of Scripture, there is a sense of it being present (the local king at the time) and future (the future King).  Who is the future king?  I think that verses 17 through 19 say it by description: “May His Name endure forever, His fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in Him, and all nations call Him blessed!  Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who alone does wondrous things.  Blessed be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory!  Amen and Amen!”

Who is this person?  King Jesus of course.  His is the Name which endures through eternity.  His people are blessed “in” Him.  And one day, one day, when He returns in glory to rule on earth in His millennial kingdom, “all nations” will bow before Him and “call Him blessed.”

When you read Psalm 72, you are asking the earthly king to “be like rain.”  Sometimes that happens, but the truth is that man is fallen, our earthly kings are fallen, and even with the best intentions (which rarely exist), our earthly kings fall short and their “rain” does not bless, but tortures.

There is only one King who does all the things which the Psalmist prays for.  There is only one King who “alone [by Himself, without the help of anyone else] does wondrous things.”

And that is King Jesus.

Come, worship and adore Him!

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© 2017 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

 

Bread – Positions

October 8, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, October 8, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Micah 2:1-13; Acts 23:23-35; Luke 7:18-35; Psalms 128,129,130,119:145-176

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Our readings today from Scripture struck me as somewhat disconnected until I realized that they really speak to positions we have in life and how those work themselves out in God’s plan. Sometimes positions are called roles or titles. There are many positions we have in life, and in a way our Scriptures today speak to all of them.

In Micah, there are at least three positions spoken of – leaders, family, and preachers. Micah speaks about all three of these in the negative – people using their position to cause harm or to have harm visited on them by their position. With respect to leaders, Micah says “Woe to those who devise wickedness …because it is in the power of their hand.” Micah 2:1. The reason we know he is talking about leaders is because of the reference “it is in the power of their hand.” Of course, this is true of any person in a position of authority, and so could refer to an elected government official, a president of a company, a boss, or even a father or mother. With respect to the position within a family, Micah reports that, just as the family might benefit from the leader’s abuse of authority, so will they be punished along with the leader at the time of reckoning. (see Micah 2:3).

With respect to preachers, again Micah refers to leaders of the church (synagogue) who would use their positions of authority to preach untruth, saying that people who “devise wickedness” will take preachers who state “I will preach to you of wine and strong drink.” Micah 2:11. Before we start laughing, imagining our preacher telling us that wine and strong drink are beneficial for us, isn’t this a form of “name it and claim it” or “prosperity gospel” which thousands of people are flocking on Sunday to hear from the pulpits of progressive churches?

In Acts, we pick up the story of how Paul ultimately reaches Rome. He has been threatened by a plot to kill him, and, because Paul points out that he is a Roman citizen (a position), he has been put into protective custody and rushed to the Governor to determine his fate. Paul is a preacher, a follower of Jesus, a man, a Pharisee (by training), and a tentmaker, but it is his position of citizenship which becomes important. As a citizen of Rome, he has certain rights and, at an appropriate time, he stands on those rights.

In Luke, we see a dialogue between John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. John, in the position as questioner, asks Jesus who He is. Jesus responds by pointing out all the ways He has fulfilled Old Testament prophecy and lets John work it out for himself based upon the evidence. But Jesus also says that John is the messenger, the forerunner, prophesied in the Old Testament, to come before Jesus and “prepare [His] way before [Him].” Luke 7:27.

But Jesus then says this: “I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” Luke 7:28

Think about this for a minute. John and all the prophets and the leaders are born of women, and John the Baptist, the prophet of God who was the advanced messenger for Jesus Christ is the greatest. And yet, as great as he is and was, the believer in Jesus Christ who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than John.

You see, in our lives there are only two positions which matter. We can be great leaders or followers, of the basest or the finest character, and be on the side of John (the Old Testament, with its righteousness gained through works, through obedience to the law) or Jesus (the New Testament with its righteousness gained through the finished work of Christ on the cross, reborn through the Holy Spirit into belief in Jesus Christ, transforming our minds through His word written and made flesh).

Our position is either Christian or not. Those are the two positions which matter. One is life and eternity in the kingdom. The other is death and judgment when the time comes. One is received by the power of the Holy Spirit and the other is earned by “good” works, the best of which are filthy rags before a holy God.

Two positions which matter. One in Christ and the other without. In what position are you … really?

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Respect

September 20, 2013


Readings for Friday, September 20, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Kings 1:2-17; 1 Cor. 3:16-23; Matt. 5:11-16; Psalms 69,73

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In our readings today, respect for God appears to be foremost. In 2 Kings, we are given an example of respect for God’s representatives on earth. In 1 Corinthians, we are given an order to respect God’s temple, our bodies. And in Matthew, we are directed have respect for God’s works in us and in the world by being salt and light.

In 2 Kings, the king sends three troops of men (a captain and 50 men) to Elijah, one group at a time, to get him to come down from the top of the hill and go to the king. The first two groups tried to accomplish this task by ordering Elijah to come down, and the fire of God consumed them. The third captain showed respect for Elijah and, really, to God, by kneeling down and asking for mercy. In response to this showing of obedience, this demonstration of respect for God’s representative (Elijah) and God’s power, Elijah came off the hill and went with the captain to see the king. Respect for God’s authority, for the people appointed by Him, is something that is often missing in our relationships with others. Respect for authority (all authority is appointed by God for His purpose) would result in greater respect by children for their parents, greater respect of the citizenry for police, greater respect of students for their teachers, greater respect for elected officials who attempt to govern, and even greater respect by us for the institutional church.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul is telling the church about God’s temple, by pointing out that it no longer existed in bricks and mortar or in the tent of meeting, but within each of His followers – “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” 1 Cor. 3:16. If you have respect for God’s holy place, His temple, then you will have respect for yourself, your body. Respect for God’s temple would, if we exercised it, result in eating well, exposing ourselves to less danger, exercising more, and exercising our mind through reading and discussion with others as opposed to passively watching television or engaging the computer or video games. One side effect of having respect for God’s temple is that we would be better at creating good boundaries between ourselves and others, recognizing that by setting good boundaries we are showing respect for ourselves, God’s temple. If we had respect for ourselves as God’s temple, we would be more careful about what we listen to, what we watch, what we read, what we learn, and what we do.

In Matthew, the respect element is a little more hidden because, in Matthew today, we are charged by Christ to be salt and light in the world. What has this to do with respect? Everything. If we believe that our works are really God’s works in us and through us into the world, don’t we disrespect God’s works by refusing to do them, thinking that they are not what people need? If we are not salt and light, aren’t we really saying that we don’t believe that God can do any good work in us and through us? Is this disrespect for His works and His sovereignty and power? If we do not shine in a dark world, is it because God’s battery is dead or because we have so little respect for His power that we cover the flashlight for fear that the light will be too dim? Or, equally, do we so disrespect the power of God through us that we cover the flashlight because of what it will reveal in the world and others, which will then compel us to even more Godly involvement with our neighbor? In a very real sense, by our failure to be God’s ambassadors 24-7, by our failure to be salt and light, we are showing the ultimate lack of respect for everyone – for the people who would be benefitted by God through us, for ourselves as persons who are privileged to be called children of God, and for God Himself, thinking in our hearts that He is not big enough, great enough, loving enough, powerful enough, merciful enough, gracious enough to deal with the consequences?

Respect is an element which is missing in much of today’s doings and discourse. Perhaps in thinking about this, we should meditate on the consequences of lack of respect to the first two captains and their fifty men each when they ordered Elijah off the hill. What happened? God destroyed them in fire.

We can disrespect God all day long and maybe, just maybe, at that particular moment God will choose to stay His hand. This does not mean that there are not consequences, just because something doesn’t happen immediately. Indeed, for those people who disrespect Him by rejecting His son Jesus Christ, there is the same fate which occurred to the two disrespectful captains – death by fire.

Or we can begin to respect the Creator and the Savior and, in so doing, respect ourselves and others, letting our light shine in the world today before all people, to God’s glory and His alone.

____________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Authority

December 3, 2012


Readings for Monday, December 3, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 1:1-9; 1 Thess. 1; Luke 20:1-8; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

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One problem we have in law is determining how we know someone speaks for someone else. We call these agency and principal questions. The agent speaks for the principal. There are always two questions about this. The first is how do we know that the agent speaks for the principal in the first place? The second is, if he does speak for the principal, how do we know that he is accurately presenting the principal’s opinions?

We have actually answered the second question with a neat trick. That is, if we can make an assessment that the agent does in fact speak for the principal, we can assume that whatever the agent says accurately represents the principal. In other words, if the principal has done something which “clothes” the agent with authority to speak for him, then it is the principal’s problem (and not ours) if the agent says or does something wrong.

Thus the question of authority becomes really important. How can we tell that the agent has authority to speak for the principal? There are basically four ways. The first way is express; is there a document, signed by the principal, appointing the agent? If there is such a document, then we know the agent speaks for the principal. The second way is that the agent has a position where there may be a reasonable expectation that he has authority. An example of this one would be a lawyer. If you knew the principal hired the lawyer and the lawyer said he had authority to speak for the principal, it would be reasonable for you to rely on that because he is the lawyer for the principal. A third way is that the agent has spoken in the past for a principal and what he has spoken has come true. Here, there is nothing in the position or in a writing that establishes authority, but there appears to be authority because the person says “X will happen (by the principal) and it does. An example of this might be where some random person shows up on your doorstep and tells you that in two hours a major personality will appear at your doorstep and offer you a free meal; if that actually happens, you might tend to think the next time this same random person shows up saying something similar, that they are in fact speaking for the principal. Finally, a fourth way authority is established is by circumstances. This is similar to this last one, but is really more of a blend between position and causation. For example, if the principal has called a person his manager and the manager acts like the principal’s agent, we may rely upon that apparent authority even though none actually exists (i.e. the person is not really the principal’s manager).

Today’s lessons deal with authority to speak for God. In today’s lessons, there are three groups of people who claim to speak for God. The first is Isaiah. The reading today from Isaiah begins “The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah.” Isa. 1:1. Here the prophet is establishing legitimacy in relationship (son of Amoz), place (Judah and Jerusalem), and time (Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah), all of which then creates a foundation of authority to speak (the “vision”) for God. The second group of people are Paul, Silvanus and Timothy. The reading today from these people begins “Paul, Silvanus and Timothy, To the church of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you and peace.” 1 Thess. 1:1 The third person is Jesus Himself, who in our reading today is confronted with the question by the Pharisees “Tell us by what authority you do these things…” Lk. 20:2

Isaiah claims to speak for God as a prophet. Paul, Silvanus and Timothy claim to speak for God as apostles, disciples, and evangelists. Jesus claims to speak for God as His Son. The Pharisees ask the question, “by what authority [do] you do these things?” There is only one answer to this question – if they claim to be agents of God, then their authority must come from God and not from man. Therefore, their answer must be “God’s authority.”

How can we tell whether a person truly speaks for God? How can we tell that their authority is from God?

This is an important question. Isaiah might have been a wild man living in the desert, hallucinating in the night. Paul might have been blinded by the sun, and put two and two together and gotten five. Silvanus and Timothy may just be naïve followers of a narcissist. Jesus might have been a very good magician. How do we know that Isaiah was a prophet of God, that Paul was an apostle of God, that Silvanus and Timothy were evangelists, priests and deacons, that Jesus was the Son of God?

Very important question. Because if these people are God’s agents, then what they say is what God says. And if they are not, then ….

This is why the authority, reliability, and inspiration of Scripture is so important and why the attempts to deconstruct the Bible and question its authority, reliability, and inspiration are works of the world, of Satan. And not only is their authority written in Scripture, but these persons’ actions and statements on behalf of God have become God’s actions and statements in real time, demonstrating that they speak for God. Isaiah predicted Christ and Christ was born. Paul, Silvanus and Timothy in today’s readings speak to their role in the Thessalonian people’s lives as God’s representative – “For we know, brothers loved by God, that He has chosen you, because our gospel cam to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.” 1 Thess. 1:4-5. Jesus performed all of the miracles predicted of Messiah, the Son of God.

So did these people have authority to speak for God? Yes, they did.

But so do you. You were chosen by God for salvation. You have been given access to God in prayer and before the throne. You have been given a job to do, to go into all the world, proclaiming the good news of God’s kingdom come and coming in Jesus Christ, to love others as Christ loves you.

Today is the first Bread in the Advent Season, when we start a new church year in anticipation of the coming of Christ to earth as a child, born of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. It is the time of blessing and thankfulness. But it is also a time of preparation to take up our mantle of authority to be children of God, His ambassadors to the world. We can do this because God first loved us, sending His Son to serve time with us on earth, to bear our burdens, and to sacrifice Himself for our sins. We can do this because we do not exercise our own authority, but whatever authority is given to us.

So as we slip into this season of joy, let us also take joy that God has so blessed us to make us His agents on earth, and empowered us through His Holy Spirit to bring His glory, hope, and forgiveness into our lives and into the lives of others. Amen.

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© 2012 GBF

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