Bread – Praise

June 2, 2017


Psalm 67

Let the peoples praise You, O God; let all the peoples praise You!  The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him!” Ps. 67:5-7

The first verse of these three verses ends in “praise You” and the last verse ends in “fear Him.”  There is a structure here, like two bookends between which is repeated twice, “God shall bless us.”

We normally connect the word “praise” with joyful outpouring of emotion in a happy, exuberant way; and we normally connect the word “fear” with the exact opposite, where we shrink or run away in terror.  With praise we approach the throne of God in our minds; with fear we run away from the throne of God, again in our minds.

We praise either in thanksgiving for our blessings or in anticipation of them.  Since we have gotten those blessings, are getting them now, and will get them in the future, praise of our Benefactor is to be expected.

We fear in comparison to power.  When someone has a gun pointed at us and we don’t, our natural and appropriate reaction is to fear.  When we contemplate our sinfulness in comparison against a holy God, our Judge, then fear may well be an appropriate response.

So why are blessings in the middle between praise and fear?  It is because that is where they belong.

We cannot fear that which we do not comprehend.  We fear a pointed gun because we understand its power, having seen its use on television.  We fear a mighty God if we understand His power; we understand His power in comparison to us if we are given wisdom to see by the same God.  When God gives us the power to see Him, we see ourselves for who we are in comparison, and the natural reaction then is fear of condemnation.  We are unworthy; He is worthy.  We are sinful; He is not.  We are promise-breakers; He is a promise-keeper.  We make some things; He makes everything.  We think in time; His thoughts are timeless, for all eternity.  When we see what God ought to do to us, we are rightly fearful and in awe of the coming Judgment.

But once we fear Him, once we fully comprehend who He is and who we are, His grace and mercy appears to us through Jesus Christ.  And once we understand the eternal blessing we have received through faith in Him, our fear turns to praise.  We may properly fear God for what He could do and what He should do, and simultaneously we may exult in joyful praise God because He has turned is righteous wrath away from us and dumped it on Jesus Christ, who stands with us, for us, and in us for eternity.  What God could do to me and should do to me because of my sinfulness, He chooses not to do because of the death of Jesus for my sins.  All I have to do is to recognize Him and have faith in Him, which I could not do but for God’s power.

The very thing which causes me to fear God is the very thing which causes me to praise Him, which is why fear and praise are bookends to blessing.

Now, why call this “Bread” “Praise” instead of “Fear?”  It is for a simple reason.  We cannot fear God unless we see Him and acknowledge Him for who He is.  And what better way to praise God than to recognize who He is in the world and in me?

We think of praise as raising joyful hands, but praise is also on our knees, in awe of Him, bowed before our King.

“Let the peoples praise You, O God … God, our God, shall bless us.  God shall bless us; let all the ends of the earth fear Him.”  Between praise which acknowledges the sovereignty of God (fear) and praise which acknowledges the graciousness of God (praise), there is a double blessing.

Thank You, Jesus.

________

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

Bread – Awake

May 22, 2017


Psalm 66

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; give to Him glorious praise!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds!’”  Ps. 66:1-3

This morning, when I got out of bed, I made coffee, got the newspaper, showered, shaved, and prepared for the day.  Very routine, almost tiring.  And probably something very similar to what you did this morning.

And then I sat down to write Bread and read Psalm 66, the first three verses of which are quoted above.

And the first thought I had after reading “Shout for joy to God…” was, “How would my day be different if I woke up shouting for joy to God?  Instead of the mundane and the routine, what if I woke up every day with praise on my lips for the new day ahead of me, reveling in the majesty of God’s creation?

I think that if I awoke with a “shout for joy” on my lips, I would have started the day truly awake.  I would have been awake to the possibilities.  I would have been awake to the miracles.  I would have been awake to the overflowing blessings of God in my life and through my family and friends.  I would be awake to the mighty roar of welcome which the Lord presents us every day in His sunrise.

What does it take to be truly awake in this life our ours?  I think it is all contained in our quote for the day.  If we shout for joy at the awesomeness of God’s deeds, we will be very, very awake.  The other people around us are likely to be awakened as well.

Satan would have us fall into the trap of daily grind, making the rounds of the daily newspaper, the daily coffee, the daily teeth brushing, and the daily dressing for work.  Satan would have us focus on our “to do list” and all the labors before us, grinding us into submission and joylessness.

God on the other hand would have us wake up to Him and His – His creation, His majesty, His glory, His hope, His blessings, and His creatures – me and you.

“Rise up like a lion in the service of the Lord!”  This should be our war cry every morning.  But to even make this, we need to be awake to the glory of God around us, in us, and through us.  If we wake up with a shout for joy, we can then follow with a shout for service.  If we wake up with a shout of truth, we can then follow with a shout of love.

“Wake up and hear the birds sing?”

No.  Wake up and know God.

________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Responsibility

November 16, 2016


Psalm 41

“Blessed is the one who considers the poor!”  Ps. 41:1

In my political circles, liberty is quite often spoken about, as well as individual responsibility.  And, yet, how many of us who claim to be Christian actually considers the poor?

What I mean by this is not promotion of social programs which create so-called “safety nets” or which provide “sustenance” living to the poor, whether that living be by way of food, transportation, shelter, or cell phones.  It is very easy to be righteous with someone else’s money.  I can be gracious and spend tons of money through hundreds of “programs” designed to “take care of” the poor, if it is your money I am spending.  The fact is, our “Christian” endeavors often find their way to influencing our government to do for others (and therefore for us) what we should be doing ourselves.

When I vote for a government program to feed the poor, I can say with a straight face (at least to myself and others, but probably not to God) that I “considered the poor,” while not having spent either time or treasure in doing so.

What is the chicken and what is the egg?  Do we have government programs because Christians have not exercised their responsibility to consider the poor, even within their own congregations?  Or have Christians become weak in their consideration of the poor because it is so easy to say, “Oh, they’ll handle it,” or “Oh, we have a government program for that.”

Perhaps worse, I have focused this discussion so far on things, on money and financial support.  But what about love, the kind of love which causes us to depart from our agenda and listen to someone else?  What do we do to put ourselves in the place of the poor where we can engage them as brothers and sisters, either in Christ or needing Christ?

Well, we all sin and fall short and I definitely come within the category of “all” on this one.  If you do a self-assessment, you probably do too.

Why are those who consider the poor blessed?  Is it because they have obeyed and are therefore rewarded?  I think not.  I think it has more to do with baskets.  If I take what is in my basket and give it to someone else, I now have an empty basket for the Lord to fill – and we call that filling a blessing.  If my basket is already full with stuff which I claim is mine, then where is the room for the blessing?

We are coming upon times of the year when we are acutely aware of our blessings.  Let’s give them away to someone else so that we will become even more acutely aware of how truly dependent we are upon Him Who creates, Who reigns, Who saves, and Who supplies our every need.  Let us make room to receive our blessing by being a blessing to others who need it more.

Let us consider the poor.

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

Bread – Blessing

May 18, 2016


Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!  May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!  May we shout for joy over your salvation…” Ps. 20:1,4-5a

I struggled with what to name this Bread, because the words above and the first half of this Psalm evoke several thoughts.  One, this is a prayer such that a leader might make over his or her people.  So I could have called this “prayer” and I would have been accurate.  Two, this could have been called “love,” because it expresses a desire that someone other than the speaker received many, many positive things in life.  We call these positive things “blessings,” and so that is why I named this Bread “blessing.”

It is indeed a blessing upon our lives when people who matter to us speak words of encouragement into our lives, speak words of hope and joy and happiness.  It is indeed a blessing to us when our leaders speak words of peace, and when their words cause peace.  It is indeed a blessing in our lives when we feel safe, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, surrounded by the Lord of hosts and the hosts themselves, armed for battle.  It is indeed a blessing for us to be satisfied, not by the accumulation of wealth, but by the accumulation of love and relationships and wisdom and peace.

But what is also happening here is that the person giving the blessing, offering up the prayer of hope and encouragement, is also being blessed at the same time.  When we speak peace into someone’s lives, we live peace.  When we speak hope into people’s lives, we live hope.  When we offer up our sincere wishes for our neighbor’s success in the evil day, we also wish the same upon ourselves because if our neighbor is successful, so are we.  I am fond of saying “a rising tide raises all ships.”  Well, the outpouring of “may you” in our prayers is a rising tide of invocation of the name of God, of His character, of His might and power.  We can and will overcome because God was, is, and always will be.

But in the midst of all of the prayers for blessing on our fellow man, read this … “May we shout for joy over your salvation…”

In these verses, this is the first “may” which changes from “you” to “we.”  And think about it, who would not want to join in the celebration over one person saved.  The angels in heaven do it; we should too.  And notice that is not a prayer that you be saved, because that is assumed.  After all, David is writing to his people, Israel.  They had been saved many times, both individually and as a group.  Now that Jesus Christ has come, died, and has risen, we are in the same boat as Israel.  For those whom God has chosen, salvation will come.  But what is our response … “get it out of my sight,” “ho hum,” or “kill the fatted calf and have a party.”

See, what God does on earth is a great blessing, but only if we see it, acknowledge where it came from, and revel in thanksgiving for the mighty work.

And so I end with the modern day version.  “May we shout for joy over our blessings from God, our salvation, our rock, our fortress, in the day of trouble.  Amen.”

_________

© 2016 GBF   All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

Bread – Many

May 4, 2015


Readings for Monday, May 4, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: **; Col. 3:18-4:18; Luke 7:36-50; Psalms 56, 57, 58, 64, 65

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When I prepare this Bread, I first edit the top line, putting in the verses for the day from the Book of Common Prayer. Sometimes while I do this, I get an image. Today, I have to admit, it was a negative image. When I was writing down the list of Psalms to read for today, my thought was – “This is a lot, this is too many.”

Too many for what? Too many to read because I am busy? Too many to list because I am running out of room? Too many to think about because I can have only one thought at a time? How ridiculous! And yet that is what I thought, “Why so many…”

To tell you the truth, isn’t this one of the questions we ask ourselves every day? Why so many problems? Why so many burdens? Why so many telephone calls? Why so many angry people? Why so many bills? Why so many things? Why so many “To Do’s”? Why so many …?

Do we ever ask the question, “Why so many blessings?”

In today’s reading from Luke, we witness the woman with the alabaster flask of nard, who pours it out on and over Jesus’ feet. The Pharisee host asks Jesus why He was permitting a sinner to do this for Him. Jesus asks the Pharisee a question regarding who would love Jesus more, the person who was forgiven few debts or the person who was forgiven many debts. After the Pharisee responded that it would be the person who was forgiven many debts and Jesus points out all of the ways that the sinful woman had expressed love for Him, He said to the Pharisee “Therefore, I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven….” Luke 7:47

How many sins do you have? How many of those sins have been forgiven by Jesus’ finished work on the cross? How many sins remain unforgiven? Hopefully, you answered “Many,” “All,” and “None.”

There are two lenses through which Christians can look at the world. One lens emphasizes the many forgiven sins and the many blessings we receive now and in eternity. The other lens emphasizes the many burdens, sorrows, and injuries which we suffer from every day.

Our job as Christians is to proclaim the gospel, to reap the harvest which God has planted. What lens of many would be most effective at doing this? The lens of many blessings or the lens of many curses?

What lens of many do we see the world through? Are five Psalms really too many given the many blessings poured out upon us daily?

I fell into our natural trap of saying, “Yes, five Psalms are too many.” But God rescued me from that trap by bringing to my mind how many sins I committed this morning which have already been forgiven.

And I realized that my many whinings should be turned into many thanksgivings. And my heart of selfishness turned into a heart of gratitude. And so a day begun with many aggravations turned into a day going forward with many hopes, all because God has done for me what I could not do for myself. Now, all I have to do is to offer many prayers at many moments during the many minutes of today.

From our reading in Colossians – “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving … Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of time. Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer each person.” Col. 4:5-6

God, help us to set aside our many hurts so that we can realize Your many blessings and graciously speak to many people about You. Amen.

__________

© 2015 GBF

**The Book of Common Prayer lesson omitted today is from the book of Wisdom, which is from a group of writings which some churches do not consider valid at all and others consider useful for teaching but not for doctrine. Because these books are disputed by many in the church, I choose not to include them in Bread.

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

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“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

Bread – Traffic

December 13, 2013


Readings for Friday, December 13, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Haggai 1:1-15; Rev. 2:18-29; Matt. 23:27-39; Psalms 31,35

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A week ago we had an ice storm which froze up everything, literally. For somewhere between two and four days, people were without power or their normal schedule was totally disrupted with various closures, traffic lane blockages, icy bridges, non-starting cars, frozen pipes, etc.

Then, once the weather began to moderate, the crowds hit the highways and everything came to a crowded, dirty, tiresome crawl. Traffic crawled and crawled and crawled. What would normally take ten minutes took an hour. And in the middle of the Christmas season, people’s moods (including mine) went from somewhat happy to somewhat upset to aggravated to downright aggravated to angry. Such is the nature of traffic. It opposes our objectives and our timetables, and we don’t get our way, we become more insistent on having it our way, even though the net effect is to increase the traffic and the opposition.

God has something to say about this. In our reading from Haggai today, He says: “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and have harvested little. You eat, but never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes….You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away.” Haggai 1:5b-6, 9

Sounds like traffic to me. We beat ourselves to death getting from point A to point B, only to find out when we get there that the effort results in little return.

What is the solution to this? God through Haggai tells the people that, instead of building their own houses, what about building His house? In the context of Haggai, this message was addressed to rebuilding the Temple; in our context today, when God dwells within us, this message is addressed to taking the time to build our relationship with Him.

How much time is really spent by us in building our relationship with God? How much time or effort is spent daily in prayer … or worship … or even simple reading and meditation on God’s Word? I am not talking about when we are at church or some churchy function. I am really not even talking about when we may be preparing to lead or participate in some Bible study, or, for me, when I am writing Bread. What I am talking about is the time we spend deliberately building our relationship with God, talking to Him, walking with Him, listening to Him. How much per day? One minute, five minutes, ten minutes?

And yet, while we may only spend ten minutes a day building God’s house within us, we will spend three times that long (30 minutes) driving to the supermarket to get a loaf of bread or driving to the pizza parlor to pick up dinner.

Is there any wonder then why we feel our lives are being wasted in traffic? Haggai the prophet would say, “No, there is no wonder.” God asks the question why we are earning our wages and putting them in bags with holes when we can be (and should be) building our relationship with Him.

Imagine what would happen if we took the thirty minutes we would spend getting a loaf of bread and instead spent the same thirty minutes in communion with God. Do we really not think that God is sovereign over the traffic in our lives, so that if we spent more time with Him our ways would be smoother?

What would happen this Christmas season if, before we hit the road searching for that perfect gift, we spent five minutes at our kitchen table praising God for His blessings in our lives? What would happen? I think that, instead of us being one of those people who are sitting in traffic, tired and angry, frustrated and pained, a curse to ourselves and others, we would be driving with a smile on our face, knowing that God would deliver us to our destination in His time. I think that, with that smile and lightness of heart, we would then be a blessing to ourselves and to others.

And how would that change the world?

Well, it might mean that, when we say “Merry Christmas,” we really mean it.

Come, let us adore Him!

_____________

©2013 GBF

Bread – Miracles

September 11, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, September 11, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 17:1-24; Phil. 2:1-11; Matt. 2:1-12; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In 1 Kings today, we read about a woman who has shown hospitality to a prophet of God, Elijah, and whose son has just died. The mother gets angry at Elijah, accusing him of bringing tragedy to her home because of her sins. Elijah takes the boy to his room, lays on him, and prays to God three times to let the child’s life come back into him. “And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah/ And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived.” 1 Kings 17:22

This was a miracle and the woman responded to the amazing, supernatural event by saying to Elijah “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 1 Kings 17:24. The woman recognized the miracle of her son’s revival from the dead, and acknowledged it, saying that she now believed.

This woman is so much like us. For a miracle from God, we look for the amazing event, the circumstance which could only have been put together by God. We expect spectacular results, a mountaintop religious experience. If there are fireworks of sight, that is a great add-on, but we’ll take fireworks of experience as a substitute.

But there are other kinds of miracles all around us, which when we think about them add up to a miraculous experience, mundane yes, but miraculous nonetheless. It is the miracles of everyday life which should drive us to our knees.

The widow in our story had actually experienced one of these mundane miracles many times previously. When Elijah first met her, the widow was at her wits end. She had no money and only enough food to last for one more meal. She had no help apparently from her neighbors, and she was preparing for she and her son to die. When she showed hospitality to Elijah by sharing what little she had with him (at his request), her pantry was never empty after that – “The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty …” 1 Kings 17:16.

But this daily miracle, this provision of God literally from thin air, from left field, was not enough for the widow to declare that Elijah was a man of God. God’s miracle stared her in the face every day at every meal, and yet it was not enough to recognize the presence of God in her surroundings. She harbored doubts until the “big” miracle happened.

And, like I said, isn’t this woman so much like us. For the moment, sit back and drop the pretense of knowledge, the veneer of science and education, the chimera of reason. Just drop them and look around. Isn’t it a miracle that every day we are warmed by the sun? Isn’t it a miracle that our farms produce good food for us and that our cupboards have any food at all in them? Isn’t it a miracle that, whether I live a shack or a mansion, that I live at all? Isn’t it a miracle that we have a God who cares so much for us that He has saved us when we cannot save ourselves?

When we look at a young child in new circumstances, we see wonder and curiosity in their eyes, words, and behavior. What happened to the wonder in our lives, in our eyes, in our words, and in our behavior?

What if we couldn’t explain things? Would we then be excited about the miracles that surround us all the time?

This is not a plea to toss away reason or education or knowledge. It is a plea that these not be shrouds and blinders by which we are covered up, hidden from God’s wonders.

You want to know that God is real and His Word is truth? Walk outside and look around. Look inside yourself and walk around. And then give thanks to God, for it is His miracle which caused us to be borne, His miracle which causes us to be sustained in this life, and His miracle which will bring us into relationship with Jesus Christ and eternal life.

____________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Selfishness

May 17, 2013


Readings for Friday, May 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 34:17-31; Heb. 8; Luke 10:38-42; Psalms 102,107

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There is a passage from Ezekiel today that I do not remember reading before, but which drives home our need as Christians to be very, very careful about the degree to which we abuse the blessings God has given us. The passage is:

Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep…Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?…Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep…” Ezek. 34:17-18,20

Since every Christian chosen by God for salvation is one of God’s sheep, feasting upon God’s pasture and water, representing His many blessings in our lives, we need to ask ourselves a serious question – are we one of the “fat” sheep or one of the “lean” sheep?

Since everyone I am writing to (I think) are Americans, one easy answer would be to say that we are all fat sheep, because even in the midst of our poverty we are wealthy beyond many in the world. However, we cannot get away with easy answers to this personal question.

We may be wealthy, but where did our wealth come from? Did it come as a natural blessing from God or did it come from our efforts to crowd out the weaker as we trampled the pasture and muddied the waters? Have we become fat on the back of others? In other words, are we selfish?

I would like to say that I have not done these things, but then I would be a liar, compounding the sin. Let me give you an easy example – who among us, seeing a beggar in the road, have passed by them brusquely on the way to an important meeting, where we can close the “deal?” How many of us have held onto our money, afraid that it will disappear, when we know someone out of a job, suffering grave and expensive illness, or just plain needing a helping hand monetarily?

Forget money for a moment. How many of us have spent a few hours this week doing something for someone else who we know can never return the favor? After all, time to the busy person time may even be more valuable than money. So, we may give money away generously so that we can be conservative in our expenditure of our, more valuable, time. See, being fat isn’t just about collecting money.

What about power. Who among us has taken an opportunity which would advance our position and, instead, given it to someone who needs help up the corporate ladder? Who has resigned from a position of power so that someone else who needs it more gets it?

Money, time, power, position – who reading this has not acted like a fat sheep, trampling the pasture and muddying the water, to advance their agenda?

God is going to judge between sheep and sheep. When He asks me whether I have been a fat sheep or a lean sheep, I have to say that I fall on the fat side of the ledger. Lucky for me that, as our reading from Hebrews today emphasizes, I have a great high priest in Jesus Christ who will intercede for me, argue my case before the judge, and win the case because of the cross. I will be saved but I will also be judged, probably as a fat sheep. But I will also have a lot of friends joining me.

So, it is obvious that I need to work on my diet. But how? I can’t. That is why it is a work of God. I can’t but He can. And, thank God, He is.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Cursed

March 27, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, March 27, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 17:5-10,14-17; Phil. 4:1-13; John 12:27-36; Psalms 55,74

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From Jeremiah in today’s readings – “…Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the Lord…Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord.” Jer. 17:5,7

What does “cursed” mean. Well, in my mind it means that bad things are going to happen all the time, but it turns out that this is one of those English words which we think has a unitary meaning when back in Old Testament days it took six different Hebrew words to describe “curse” or “cursed.” The Hebrew word used in today’s passage [Strong’s 779] is generally interpreted to mean “to bind (with a spell), to hem in with obstacles, to render powerless to resist.”* Paraphrased then, today’s passage from Jeremiah means that, if you trust in man and man’s ways, you are going to be limited, hemmed in, confronted with obstacles to fully living life, powerless to resist temptation and evil, locked into a prison of your making from which there is no escape.

Think about this for a minute. What man says he wants more than anything is free will, to be free to decide and to live. This is what society pushes and we think of as the high life. And, yet, if we trust in man and man’s ways, our will is in fact circumscribed. By striving to do it our way, we make sure that we can never have it our way. The very thing we do in our own strength and the strength of others does not free us, it binds us and imprisons us. What looks good to us is in fact bad for us.

In other words, when we rely on ourselves and others, we are cursed – bounded and limited by the mirage of doing it our way.

But, if we surrender to Christ, if we trust in the Lord, if we give up our “rights,” we are set free to live fully, productively, excellently, and completely.

What does the blessing from trust in Christ, what does this freedom look like? In today’s reading from Paul’s letter to Philippi we have a taste. “Rejoice … Let your reasonableness be known…do not be anxious about anything … And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:4-7

What keeps us from acting in love toward our fellow man? Is it because we are anxious – if we give our money away, we won’t have any for tomorrow; if we share our food we will have less; if we give up our time, we won’t get things done which need to get done; if we love freely, we will get hurt? There are many negatives to see from man’s perspective, and they hem us in and render us powerless. Is it because we cannot be reasonable, because if we are reasonable, then people will think that we are weak-willed or weak-kneed or of weak conviction or too willing to surrender the truth? Isn’t being unreasonable, to prove our strength, actually proving our weakness and putting us into a prison of our making, hemming ourselves in with our own obstacles?

The truth is that Christians are often hemmed in by anxiety, by unreasonableness, by fear, by turmoil and strife, by selfishness, and by the world. Why?

As we believe, so we think. As we think, so we act. Jesus has said to us that He has chosen us and has saved us and that His promises to us are trustworthy. Satan has murmured to us, “No, you are still cursed.” Are your actions reflections of being cursed or being blessed? Whom do you believe? “Cursed is the man who trusts in man … Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord.” Jer. 17:5,7. And just to make sure you get the point, this quotation from Jeremiah begins with “Thus says the Lord:…” Jer. 17:5.

As a nation, our money says “In God We Trust.” Today it might well say “In Man We Trust.” Is it any wonder that we feel hemmed in, powerless to resist the inevitable forces which seem to surround us, anxious, cursed?

What’s your motto, “In God I Trust” or “In Man I Trust?” And whichever it is, do you live it?

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© 2013 GBF.  *The quotation is taken from “Lexical Aids to the Old Testament” in the Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible, N.A.S.B. (Ed. Zodhiates, AMG Publishers 1990).

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