Bread – Missed

August 24, 2016


Psalm 32

Blessed is the one … whose sin is covered.”  Ps. 32:1

In the first Bread this week, we looked at God’s forgiving our transgression, our disobedience.

In this Bread, we look at the type of sin which is “missing the mark” (which is why this Bread is called “Missed”), or falling short of expectations.  In the first, we know God’s command for our lives and we deliberately or negligently disobey it.  In this one, we look at actions taken in obedience which fall short of God’s standards set forth in His Word.  And, of course, this means that we look at everything we do, because we all fall short.

So that you know that I am not making this up, the word translated “sin” in the quote above is the Hebrew word for falling short or missing the mark.  The idea is our actions being like an arrow which is aimed at the center of God’s law, the bullseye, but always drops off before it gets there or goes to the left or the right.  There is only one person who hit the bullseye all the time and that Jesus Christ.

This idea of sin is critical to understanding the reason why salvation is through faith alone in Christ alone.  We cannot get there by good works, because we all miss the mark.  Even if you assume that the law of Moses is completely superseded by the New Testament, the truth is who among us has followed Jesus’ law of treating your neighbor as yourself, to perfection?  No one.

And how does God treat the sin of missing the mark; He “covers” it.  What does cover mean?  Throw a blanket over it?  No, actually, the answer lies in both the Old Testament and in the New Testament.  In the Old Testament, our sin of missing the mark (Israel’s sin) was atoned for by the killing of an innocent animal and the sprinkling of its blood on the mercy seat of God, on top of the Ark of the Covenant.  Inside the Ark was the broken law of God.  The lamb’s blood was shed as a covering, shielding God who lived above the Ark and the broken law inside the Ark, which represents sinners.  We were protected by the blood of the lamb which stood between what we deserve for our sin (the wrath of God) and us.

In the New Testament the covering is the blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ, which because He was God was a sufficient sacrifice for all time for all people whom God has chosen and have believed in Him.  The temple sacrifice of the lamb to atone for sins had to happen over and over again; because Jesus is God, His sacrifice for us on the cross, His shedding of blood, only needed to occur once for all time for all sins of those who believe.  The shorthand for this is that we are “covered in the blood of Christ.”  We are covered by God in His sovereign mercy to protect us from our sin of failure to meet God’s standards.

Amazing, isn’t it, that all this is contained in the simple phrase “Blessed is the one ….whose sin is covered.”  Whose sin is covered by the lamb of God, His Son, Jesus Christ.

Give thanks in all things, because while even in our obedience we fall short of the mark, God makes up the difference through the blood shed by Jesus Christ which covers us.  Amen.

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

 

 

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Bread – Presence

June 16, 2016


Psalm 24

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  Ps. 24:3-4

It is a rare occasion, but a few times in my life I have been the presence of a truly holy person.  It is the classic you know it when you see it.   My best example is a bishop of Nigeria, who I was in a prayer meeting with just before he was going to speak to a bunch of folks.  While I was there, he received word that his house had been attacked by Muslims and burned.  When asked if he wanted to put off speaking, his response was simply that the Lord was taking care of his family, that his house could be rebuilt, and that there were souls in the audience who needed to hear the gospel.  He then stood up, walked out, and delivered the truth to those hungry to hear it.   The reason I say he was holy was really nothing he said; it was the way he said it.  He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, he lived without fear, and he knew whose he was and what his job was.  Every word he spoke he believed; there was no doubt.  And to say the least, I was lifted up, honored, and humbled at the experience.

We may say that we would like to be like him, but is that really true.  Can we live our lives in absolute trust in the Lord to preserve us and our loved ones?  Can we suffer the complete loss of our possessions on earth so that we obtain possessions in heaven?  Are we willing to truly leave everything on the table to follow Christ?  Are we willing and able to preach the gospel in and out of season?

I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is something always held back, something always reserved for ourselves.  We are willing to sacrifice our time, but are we willing to sacrifice our life?

In one sense, though, we Christians are all set apart for God and we are all in that sense holy.  But this bishop was truly holier than me.

And yet, as holy as this man was, could he ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place?  Does even this bishop, this holy one, have clean hands and a pure heart?

The answer is “no.”  He may be a holy man but he is a man and therefore a sinner, made able to climb God’s hill and appear in God’s throne room only because Jesus Christ precedes him and saves him.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who has clean hands and a pure heart?  It is those whose hands have been made clean and who have a new heart as a result of new spiritual birth, all made possible by Jesus’ obedience to the cross, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension to the Father.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  If you are a Christian, you know the answer to that question.  If you do not know the answer, it is in the gospel of John, 14:6, where Jesus says simply “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who shall be in the presence of the Lord?  Will you?

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

 

Bread – Kiss

January 15, 2016


Psalm 2

“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish in the way, for His wrath is quickly kindled.  Blessed are all who take refuge in Him.”  Ps. 2:12

I have been thinking about this all week, and as I write this I am no closer to deep insight about what this means.

In today’s modern Western culture, the word “kiss” is basically known as the intimate actions before sexual intercourse.  So there is that blockage to understanding.  On top of that, how do you kiss God?  Have a hard time figuring this one out too.  Then there is the connection between kissing and avoiding wrath.  Why should God be mad with me when I don’t do what I can’t do anyway?

Yet, there it is.  “Kiss the Son, lest He be angry.”  So, we have to deal with it.

And how we can deal with it is to realize that there is an older, deeper meaning to the action of kissing.  Kissing is also the act of showing homage or obedience.  We still do that today.  In some cultures, kissing shows respect and friendship.  In some churches today, we may kiss the ring of a church official or may kiss an icon to show deference to the church or its officials or to Christ, the son.  In Romans, Paul says to the Christians to greet each other with a holy kiss.  Rom. 16:16.

And, indeed, there are Scripture translations which substitute “homage” for “kiss.”  For example, the NASB says “Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry…” Ps. 2:12.

But somehow, I still find this unhelpful, so I asked myself what goes into kissing.  First of all, it is personal.  To do it, we have to engage the other thing or person we are kissing, look at it or the person, and contemplate it.   We have to make a decision about what is the best way to do it in the circumstances.  We have to be deliberate.  We have to be accurate (it does no good to miss the thing we are aiming at to kiss).

Yes, kissing the Son shows respect, caring, and obedience in the old sense of the word.  But it also demonstrates something more.  To kiss the Son, we have to recognize that He is there, we have to be deliberate in our intent to honor Him, we have to put ourselves out of our position and exercise initiative, we have to set aside perhaps our pride, and we have to use our mouths.

I said earlier that, how is it possible to kiss God?  Well, God never gives us a command that we have no means of fulfilling, because He provides the power and the means.  So by what power and by what means does Christ give us the ability to kiss Him?

And then I started to chuckle, because the answer is before us every Sunday.  He said it Himself – “Take, eat; this is My body.”  Matt. 26:26

We call it communion.  How do we kiss Jesus.  We follow His command to participate in the Lord’s supper.

We do not have to just kiss Jesus mentally or emotionally, He has given us the means to kiss Him physically.

Holy communion.  Holy kissing.  The command of the Psalm made possible by the command of Christ instituting the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) and made complete by our obedience.

Our homage to Christ is our obedience to His commands.  Our obedience to His commands includes participation in His meal.  Our participation in His meal is kissing the Son.

Come, let us adore Him and pay homage to Him and kiss Him and eat of the bread and wine, His body and blood.  And be grateful.

__________

© 2016 GBF

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

 

Bread – Famine

December 11, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, December 11, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Amos 8:1-14; Rev. 1:17-2:7; Matt. 23:1-12; Psalms 38,119:25-48

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When we think of “famine,” we think of lack of food leading to weakness, loss of strength, and ultimately, death. This idea of famine may be somewhat foreign to Americans, since we are used to supermarkets overflowing with food of every origin, variation, quality, and quantity, but it really exists in much of the world among many of its peoples.

In our reading from Amos today, we are presented with a totally different type of “famine.” Amon prophesies “’Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, to seek the word of the Lord, but they shall not find it.’” Amos 8:11-12

The more I thought about the type of famine where the word of the Lord was gone, where there was none to be had, the more worried I became. What would happen if the word of God was just … gone?

In no particular order, these are the things I can think of which would happen if there was a famine of God’s words in Plano, Texas, where I live. First, there would be no prayer. Oh I could toss up my wants of the day, but there would be dead silence in return. There would be no “No,” no “Yes,” or no “Trust Me.” Second, there would be no personal relationship to God. God would be theory, something to contemplate. But he would not be someone with whom I could talk. He would not be someone who walked with me. He would not be someone who was with me at the heights of my life or in the valleys; He would not be someone who was with me at death. Oh, He might be there, but without His words, how would I know it? Third, there would be no guidance for living. There are only two sources of rules for my life … those that I receive from God and those that I receive from other people. Without God’s words ringing in my ears, my only rules would be from others, giving them absolute power over me. Some might say that I could impose my own rules, but that is a joke, because sinful man imposes no rules on himself; anarchy is just a step away from exaltation of the self (my rules) over everyone else’s rules. Fourth, charity would disappear. In my sinful self, why would I care about my brother unless to get something from him or her? Fifth, civility and civilization itself would disappear, unless imposed by a dictator, meaning that freedom would also disappear. Hope would also evaporate.

You can probably add to this list, but you may not want to.

On the other hand, it is useful to contemplate the absence of God’s word because it reminds of us of how much we have to grateful for, and to whom we should be grateful.

God’s word incarnate is Jesus Christ. If there is a famine of God’s words, there is no Jesus Christ.

No hope, no salvation, no rescue, no life. Just death. That is the reality of a famine of God’s words.

Now, perhaps, one significance of the Incarnation, the birth of Jesus Christ, can be better appreciated. When Jesus was born, it was like God built a supermarket, filling it with good food, and declaring that there is no longer any famine of God’s words in the world.

And then we are reminded of Jesus’ command to us to “Take, eat” and “Take, drink.” Take and eat of Him, for His body is life. Taken and drink of Him, for His blood is the blood of sacrifice for you and me.

To God be the glory! Come, let us adore Him!

_____________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Tired

November 15, 2013


Readings for Friday, November 15, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 19:11-16; Matt. 16:13-20; Psalms 88,91,92

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This morning, after reading our Scriptures of the day, I stopped and thought about the readings, and nothing came to mind for today’s Bread. Knowing that I could not force it, I leaned back in my chair and prayed that God would reveal something to me. And nothing happened. So, then I went back to prayer and, after a few minutes, God sent me something – a yawn. And then I just felt tired.

We are so tired. We are tired of the squabbles. We are tired of trying to understand. We are tired of trying to get something accomplished. We are tired of our bosses. We are tired of our jobs. We are tired of our lives. We are tired of being called names. We are tired of not being called names and instead being ignored. We are tired of the ways of the world. We are tired of the ways of the church. We are tired of others and we are tired of ourselves. We are tired of earning a living. We are tired of saving for a rainy day. We are tired of standing, sitting, and laying down. We are tired.

Depressed yet?

And then I started chuckling to myself, because God had in fact sent me a message. It was a message that I am not able to get myself out of the ditch that I am in.

And our readings today are to that point. In Matthew, Jesus asks His disciples who He is, what people are saying about Him. After the usual list of possible reincarnations of great people of the Old Testament, Peter says “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt. 16:16. Jesus responds by telling Peter that he is blessed, that God revealed this to him and Peter did not come to this belief through his own understanding, and that Jesus will build His church on “this rock.” Matt. 16:18 The blessing which Jesus mentions is not the blessing which Jesus gives, but the blessing which Peter already has because he has been graciously, sovereignly chosen by the Father to receive the personal revelation that Jesus is the Christ. Peter may be tired, but he is blessed and by his confession of Jesus he is saved. The person who could not lift himself out of the daily rut has been lifted by God into eternal life with Him.

Then we have Revelation. Jesus is in heaven, ready to tread the winepress of the fury of wrath of God the Almighty. He rides a white horse, the horse of victory. He wears a superior crown of diadems; He is King. He wears a robe dipped in blood because it is by His sacrifice on the cross that we are saved. He has a name written which is both known (“the Word of God” and “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”) and unknown (“a name written that no one knows but Himself), because God is both known to us through His Word and Jesus, and yet unknowable in His entirety. He is all-powerful and He is coming. And He is doing all this without our having to do anything.

See, even if we are tired, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is and are not. When we could not save ourselves, He saves us. When we cannot fend for ourselves, He protects us. When we are too tired to act, He empowers us with His Holy Spirit to act. When we are weak, He is strong. While we lack power, He is power.

And in Revelation, Jesus is accompanied by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure.” Who do you think those people are?

They are the saints. Tired on earth but victorious in life.

Are you tired? Jesus could have said: “Be Peter, come to me and acknowledge Who I Am, and then join me in the day of victory.” Those are my words – Here are His: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

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© 2013 GBF

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