Bread – Dark

May 12, 2017


Psalm 63

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips, when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate upon You in the watches of the night.”  Ps. 63:5-6

If I used multi-word descriptions of Bread in the title, this would have been “watches of the night,” but I settled on “dark” because that is close.  One thing you can say about the “watches of the night” is that it is dark…and lonely.  Particularly if you are the only one awake, or are the sentinel on the outpost, or hunched over last minute study or work.

Who among us has not woken up at a terrible time at night, two or three in the morning, either too cold or too hot, too worried or too energized.  Perhaps a “bad dream” has awakened us.  Perhaps our brain has been working on a problem at work on overdrive.  Perhaps we drank a caffeinated beverage too late in the evening, or ate a bowl of ice cream which contained enough for three people.

For whatever reason, however, we are awake in the watches of the night, in the dark, alone and thinking.

What are we thinking about?  For many of us, we are probably thinking about how we can go back to sleep, maybe by reading a boring book or counting sheep.

For David, the Psalmist, though, the time of the dark, when alone in the quiet of the watches of the night, was a perfect time to meditate upon God and with God.

I say meditate “with” God on purpose.  We may actually meditate upon our blessings or, even, upon our sins, and we may think about how grateful we are for our blessings in “this life and in the age to come.”  When we are doing this, we are meditating about ourselves and about God, both of which may be good things.  But is the best thing?  What about meditating with God and letting Him lead our thoughts and our prayers and our self-examination.  Instead of saying to God, “I know how to meditate, I’ll handle it,” what if we said to God, “It is dark and I am alone.  I want You.  Lead me into Your thoughts that they may become mine.”

What would happen when we meditated with God instead of about Him?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into thinking about others instead of ourselves, into places of service rather than places of blessing, into examination of opportunities for being Christ to our neighbor?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into Scripture in a new way, exposing wisdom which we sorely need for the day and the week and the month and the year?

When we eat at the table which the Lord has prepared for us, our soul is satisfied “as” with a complete meal (“fat and rich food”).

In many older Roman and other liturgical churches, the priest at communion would stand with his back to the congregation, at the communion altar which is a sliver of stone stuck to the wall.  That always struck me as odd growing up, because why would you turn away from the congregation?  In fact, in more “modern” churches, the altar for communion is located where the celebrant can face the congregation.  One day, as an adult, someone told me why and it made all the sense in the world.  The priest, when his back is turned to the audience, preparing communion on the sliver of stone stuck to the wall, is actually standing in front of the congregation which is facing the same way, and the sliver of stone is the edge of the communion table which stretches into eternity, at which the saints sit for meal, for communion, with us.

In the dark, in the watches of the night, when we are alone we are not, for when we meditate with God, when we meditate on Him, we join the generations who have preceded and who will follow in celebration of our eternal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The way has been prepared.  All we have to do is listen and follow instructions.    After all, we are in the dark.  Why not meditate with God?  Instead of reading a good book, why not read the “best” book?  Instead of going back to sleep, why not enter life?

________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Challenges

March 20, 2015


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Demands

March 17, 2014


Readings for Monday, March 17, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 41:46-57; 1 Cor. 4:8-21; Mark 3:7-19a; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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What does God demand of us? Because this is Lent and a time for sober reflection on who we are and who God is, this question – what does God demand of us – is an important one.

I got an object lesson in this today while preparing this Bread.

If you will look at the listed reading from the Epistles today, you will see it says “1 Cor. 4:8-21,” which means the book of First Corinthians, Chapter 4, Verses 8 through 21. However, when I wrote it down at first, I wrote down “1 Cor. 4,8-21,” which means the book of First Corinthians, Chapters 4, 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,and 21.” The first version (and the correct one) requires about a minute or so to read (a lot more to understand) and the second version would require at least a half an hour to read if not more.

So, because of how I wrote it down originally, when I went to look at it again to find it in the Bible, I did a double take and said to myself, “Surely this is a mistake because the reading cannot be that long.”

Think about the idiocy of that reaction by me, a declared Christian. God demands my obedience and if He wants me to read 15 chapters of His Word at a single sitting, why should I complain? Why should my immediate reaction be, “This must be a mistake because the reading cannot be that long?” Why couldn’t God require me to read His entire Word in one sitting? Why shouldn’t He?”

The fact is that God demands our obedience and our reaction is not, “Lord, yes,” but, “Yes, I will obey if it suits my temperament, schedule, agenda, timetable, attitude, to-do list, and what side of the bed I woke up on.”

God demands our obedience, and we say “maybe.”

Yes, I had an object lesson today about me and God. Do I really love Him so much that I will obey His will in what I do today, regardless of how much time it takes, regardless of how it makes me look to others, regardless of the consequences to me?

I think the answer to that question is, today, “No, I don’t love Him that much.” I say that because, if I really did, I would have looked at the instruction to read 15 chapters as an opportunity to engage with my Lord, and not a mistake to correct. I only had so much time and God’s demands did not fit within that allocation, so guess what happened? I did not bend the kneed and say “yes,” I went back to God and said to Him, “Surely you did not mean ….”

So, I failed the test.

But He did not.

Do I believe I am loved any less by God or saved any less by my selfish response to His demands? No. However, do I believe that I am diminished because I blew an opportunity to respond in gratitude, faith, and joy to my Lord? Absolutely yes. Although I gained some time to do my worldly affairs, I lost some time to be in communion with the Creator of the Universe.

How stupid is that! And yet we do it all the time.

The next time we are ready to say “no” or “maybe” to God’s demands on us, maybe we should ask the question, “What are we giving up if we don’t say ‘yes’?”

Lent is an opportunity for us to learn that, when we give up ourselves to obey the Lord’s commands, we gain much more than we give up. So let us not do to Lent what I did to 1 Corinthians today. If we are commanded to do something in Lent by God, then let’s quickly say “Yes, Sir.” And I have no doubt that the blessings we will reap will surprise us.

When God says “read 15 chapters of My Word,” it is a call to fellowship with Him. Will we answer it?

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Details

October 9, 2013


In our reading today from 2 Kings, there is a major lesson in God’s forgiveness of those who repent and turn to Him. However, there is a part of the reading today from 2 Kings which started me laughing. It is:

“So Hilkiah the priest, and Ahikam, and Achbor, and Shaphan, and Asaiah went to Huldah the prophetess, the wife of Shallum the son of Tikvah, son of Harhas, keeper of the wardrobe…” 2 Kings 22:14

I laughed because of the level of detail as to who-all went to go see Huldah and the level of detail about who Huldah was. As if I cared? As if I knew who these people were or are?

And then I stopped for a minute and said to myself, I wonder who these people are, so I did an electronic search of my electronic Bible for their names. What I discovered caused me to sit back in my chair, because every one of these people are mentioned more than once (except for Harhas) and some are mentioned many times in many books of the Bible.

Which then lends itself to the question, if I have read the Bible, why did I not know them and why did I not care who they were?

I think it is because I (and we) tend to ignore the details while we read. Just get us to the quotable quote, the main meal. We gobble down our food, why not Scripture?

Why are all these people named? Because detail matters. It matters because the Bible is God’s revelation, and so therefore it obviously matters to Him. And it matters for a more practical reason – because the Bible is not only God’s revelation of Himself to us, it is the history report of God’s action in the world. The historian reports detail because it existed and therefore it should be reported. We like to see detail because detail underlines the truth of what we are reading.

Maybe we are not strong Christians because we have never locked onto the detail, the fact that the Bible reports actual history, actual facts, actual miracles, actual actions and statements of both people and God.

For example, in Paul’s letter to Corinth today we read about this factual history – “…that the Lord Jesus on the night when He was betrayed took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and said, ‘This is My body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me….” 1 Cor. 11:23. The details report a real event, involving a real Jesus at a real time of day taking real actions involving real bread and saying what He is reported as saying. But maybe the most important detail we often skip is this one – “This … is for you.” This Jesus is broken for who, for me and we.

Another example comes from the gospel – “As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting as the tax booth, and He said to him, ‘Follow me.’ And he rose and followed Him.” Matt. 9:9. The details report a real trip, a real observation, a real calling, a real person called, a real place where that person was when he was called, and real obedience to the call. As a tax collector, Matthew was not very high on the social ladder. Because of the detail, it is obvious that Jesus called Matthew from where he was in life, not where he hoped to be but where he was, just like He called us yesterday, is calling people today, and will call people tomorrow to follow Him.

Ross Perot, a man who ran for President of the United States, once said “The devil is in the details.” So is the blessing. The blessing is in the details too, particularly when those details come from God to us in His word.

If we realized that the blessing was in the details, how much closer would we pay attention to what God has to say? How much closer would we listen to our neighbors so that we can respond in truth and love to their real needs? How much tighter would we walk with God today?

The details matter to God. So, today, let’s try to pay attention to them too.

And see what blessings God has hidden for us today in those details.

__________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Lunch

March 26, 2013


Readings for Tuesday, March 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 15:10-21; Phil. 3:15-21; John 12:20-26; Psalms 6,12,94

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Today “Bread” lives up to its name because we are going to talk about lunch.

From our reading today in the prophecy of Jeremiah: “Your words were found, and I ate them, and Your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by Your name, O Lord, God of hosts.” Jer. 15:16

Jeremiah “found” God’s word written (Scripture) and he “ate them” for lunch. (The lunch part I added).

I am reminded of a commercial a long time ago where the worker in his hard hat opens his lunch box, takes out his peanut butter and jelly sandwich, and gets this smile on his face as he tastes the goodness and appreciates the person at home who packed his lunch for him. Inside the lunch box of course was some treasure, like a yellow cream-filled cake wrapped in cellophane. Satisfied, the man went back to work after gulping something like a soft drink, juice, or milk. Not sure what they were advertising, but it sure made me want to make a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or go get one of those yellow things.

Let’s break this commercial into its elements. First, someone had to package the lunch box and put food in it. Luckily for us, God has already done that with the Bible. The Bible is a container which holds God’s written revelation to us, His words He would have us eat, savor, digest, and use to our good health. The food was put into the lunchbox with loving hands, hands which would have us live freely and victoriously in Christ.

Second, the worker has to take the lunch box with him to work.

Third, the worker has to stop for lunch.

Fourth, the worker has to take the time to open the lunchbox and remove its contents.

Finally, the worker has to take enough time with lunch to enjoy the food.

The questions are obvious. Do you have your lunchbox with you today? Are you going to take the time to have lunch? If you are going to take the time to have lunch, are you eating the food of the world or God’s words, His food? If you are taking the time to open Scripture for lunch, are you taking the time to savor and digest it? Are you slamming down the feast which God has prepared, or are you savoring each morsel, dwelling over each word and phrase, giving time to you and to the Holy Spirit to open your mind and heart to the message which God has for you at that moment?

Jeremiah says “…and Your words became to me a joy…” Notice that Jeremiah does not say “were” a joy, but “became” a joy. We know that the words of God can sometimes comfort, but oftentimes also convict. Sometimes the words of God take us to the mountain and other times they take us to the valley. The words of God become a joy because, while eating lunch with God we are in communion with Him. While we read and think upon what God has to say to us, we are saying something to Him – we trust You, we love You, we worship You, we bow down before You, we listen to You, we follow You, we give thanks to You, we acknowledge Your presence, we recognize Your grace and providence in our lives, … We become joyful as we eat our lunch because one of God’s gifts to us through His Word, His Son, His redemption, His power, and His grace is joy. We become healthier as we eat God’s lunch.

We Christians often seem to be lacking in basic joy. Maybe it is because we do not find God’s words and eat them. Maybe it is because we don’t take time for lunch.

______________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Papers

August 30, 2010


Readings for Monday, August 30th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Job 12:1-9, 13-20; Acts 11:19-30; John 8:21-32
    Psalms 9, 15, 25
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I was somewhere the other day and was talking with someone about a particular person (I am being deliberately vague).  This person I was talking to told me a story about this other person asking them whether or not, if their child became a Christian, whether they would get "papers."  He asked me if I had any idea what "papers" were.  After some discussion, we worked out together that the questioner must have been asking about things like a "Certificate of Baptism" or a "Certificate of Confirmation" or a "Certificate of Ordination" or some such.  We sort of chuckled about it because every knows that being a Christian has everything to do with your relationship to the one Savior, Jesus Christ, and nothing to do with "papers."

Yet the discussion has stayed with me and so I have to ask the question, does having the right set of papers matter?  After all, it is important to have a birth certificate, a passport (a certificate of citizenship), a driver’s license (a certificate of ability), a diploma (a certificate of education), and various membership cards (certificates of affiliation).  I can see why a person might think that the only way for them to know that they are a Christian is because they have a "Certificate of Righteousness."  No papers – no eternity with God.

If this seems to you a silly discussion, it should.  We know better … or do we?  Don’t we argue constantly about whether one certificate of baptism (dunking) is better than another (sprinkling), whether the papers issued by one congregation are better than another (because they are more in line with the Bible, more modern, more relevant, or whatever), or whether we need a "Certificate of Ordination" to be permitted to teach or preach or evangelize or prepare or offer or deliver the sacraments?  Of course we do.  We do because, to us, "membership" in the right organization is critical to being right…eous.  After all, if you a member of the wrong country club, you’ll never meet the President of the United States.

In fact, where we are a member and who we are a member with matters very much to us.  But does it to God?  Probably not.

In today’s reading from John, Jesus addresses the children of Abraham.  The Jews He is speaking with state emphatically that they are legitimate children of God because they recognize God is their father; Jesus challenges them by pointing out, however, that they do not do what God has commanded but they do what they have been taught by their earthly fathers.  They say that they are members of the "right club" and they have the papers to prove it; Jesus essentially says that He doesn’t care what papers they have because they show who they love and what "tribe" they are in by what they do, not by what "papers" they have.  John 8:31-41.

We seek membership and we seek the "approval" of those who maintain the membership lists by getting ourselves the proper papers.  As a result, we may be good members of a particular church or a particular denomination and yet not be a follower of Christ.  We may have all the necessary paperwork but none of the necessary substance.  We trade paper which will mold in the damp of despair and wither in the fires of judgment for true riches which have eternal quality and endurance through all circumstances.

Do you have the right relationship with Jesus Christ?  If you do, why do you need any papers?**

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**As a side note, I do not want anyone to read this Bread and conclude that membership in a group, a body of believers, is not absolutely necessary to our Christian health.  We are designed to be in communion, in fellowship, in brotherly love relationships with fellow believers.  We are not designed to be islands of selfishness.  The prayer taught to the disciples by Jesus begins with "Our," not "My."  GBF
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