Bread – Speak

August 31, 2016


Psalm 33

Let all the earth fear the Lord; let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of Him!  For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.” Ps. 33:8-9

Don’t you sometimes wish that, when you speak, people did what you commanded?  Or when you have to take out the garbage, wouldn’t it be nice to just tell the garbage to leave and it left?

We laugh because we know that we have no power to effect anything by our speech, except maybe stir up the flame of the tongue.  We can destroy with the tongue, but even then the world does not obey our spoken word.  It is harder to build up with speech, but it is possible.  Even then, though, the world does not obey our speech.  We can tell someone to care for themselves when they are ignoring personal hygiene and they won’t; we can tell them to care for others when they are being selfish, and they won’t.  Even if we have some power over them (like a place to live or a place to work), at best we stand a 50-50 chance that, when we speak, we will be heard and our commands will be obeyed.

But God is not like us.  His power is beyond our imagination.  “For He spoke, and it came to be; He commanded, and it stood firm.”  He speaks and it happens.

If God who spoke into creation is willing to commune with us through His Word, His sacraments, and His presence through the Holy Spirit, why don’t we let Him?  After all, if He speaks into our lives, we will come to be in His strength.  If He speaks to us in our time of need (and in our time of plenty), we will stand firm in the evil day.

God’s Word creates, it encourages, it restores, it satisfies, and it saves.  When God speaks, it comes to be.  What He says goes.  What He says be, it is.  What He says ends, ends.

Do we not want that creative, loving, powerful, encouraging, hopeful voice of God in our lives?

Lord, speak to me so that I might hear?  No.

Lord, speak to me that I might be.  Be free, be happy, be content in all things, be strong, be persevering, be confident, be full of grace, love, and wisdom … in other words, be me.

Do we feel free?  Are we happy?  Are we content, strong, persevering, confident?  Are we full of grace, love, hope and wisdom?  Are we fully we?  No… then maybe it is because God needs to speak to us.  Are we going to let Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Humble

June 20, 2016


Psalm 25

“To You, O Lord, I life up my soul.  O my God, in You I trust…Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths…He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.”  Ps. 25:1-2,4,9

It is so easy to be full of our own importance.  Our work needs us, our customers need us, our boss needs us, our family needs us.  We wake up in the morning, put on our power clothing, ready to tackle the day and bring it to its knees.  My grandson is learning about the city and as we drove by a 10 story building the other day, he pointed to it and said “tall building.”  I said “yes, it is,” and he said “It reaches the sky.”  I was filled with pride for what we have done.  We have built cities and we have built tall buildings which reach the sky to populate these cities.  Boy, aren’t we important people.

And what about us who have titles?  Maybe we are the President of this or that, or the chief “go-to” guy, or the office tech wizard, or are on the board of some organization, or are the winner of some race or some sports event and have the ring or the trophy to prove it?  Maybe we are the best we can be, with a huge bank account, powerful friends, and electronic access to secret places?

It is the proud who win the worldly race of life; it is the humble who learn from God “His way.”

In our church we kneel at certain times, generally having to do with prayer.  Like all exercises, if we approach it with an attitude of formality or routine or simply following what everyone else is doing (going along with the crowd), then we miss the opportunity to recognize that by kneeling we are humbling ourselves, that we are doing physically what we ought to be doing mentally – and that is in recognizing that, just because God has reached out to us with His gift of salvation, He is not our buddy … He is our God.  He is creator and we are His creation.  We are dust and to dust we shall return.

As I read today’s opening lines in Psalm 25, I was lifted up and who could not be – “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul…Make me to know Your ways, O Lord…”  We are turning to God and lifting our souls up to Him, which is very good of us because we are so important.  We are almost telling God to teach us His secrets, as well He should, because we are so important!

And God responds, “I will…when your heart is right.”  “When you are humble, you will be ready to learn what is right; you are ready to be taught My way.”

To end this Bread today, I tried to find a definition of “humble” which would fit and I found this instead – “It is possible to be too big for God to use you, but never too small.”

It is the beginning of the week and we may be searching for God’s way for us today.  Many of us will say we can’t find it.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are acting like the master when we are in fact the student, that we are acting like we are the important person in the room when we are not.  Maybe it is time to kneel before God in prayer, not because we have to or because we should, but because we want to, knowing that He is Creator and we are created, He is master and we are slave, He is teacher and we are student, He is God and we are man, and He is Savior and we are saved.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Fullness

June 13, 2016


Psalm 24

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” Ps. 24:1a

Because we have eyes and ears, we tend to think about what we see and about what we hear.  In that respect, we are concrete thinkers because if it does not exist before us, it does not exist at all.  Some people are stuck in concrete thinking, so focused on what is apparent that they lose touch with what is equally real but is not apparent.  Most people can also think through what they see and hear to come with concepts, ideas, visions, and analyses.  They can see beyond what is in front of their noses.  In that respect, we are abstract thinkers and it is equally true that some people are stuck in abstract thinking.  They are so busy thinking lofty thoughts that they cannot get out of the way of the train bearing down on them.

In the idea of “fullness” there is an entirety of meaning.  For the concrete thinkers, the Psalmist says that we can comprehend “fullness” in terms of rocks and trees, hills and valleys, water and dirt, people and animals, sun and moon, darkness and light.  For the abstract thinkers, the Psalmist says that we can comprehend “fullness” in terms of the perfect balance which exists between life and environment, life and our place in the universe, mathematics, science, knowledge, wisdom, cause and effect, the supernatural interacting with the natural, randomness and consistency, spirit and our ability to think about thinking (sentience).

Fullness includes not only the things but how the things are connected, how they are ordered and formed into systems of interdependency.  Fullness includes the micro-verse, where the littlest things (like nanotubes) we can see or imagine exists, and the macro-verse, where the expanses of the universe and space-time exists.  Fullness includes the laws by which the worlds operate, things like gravity and anti-matter.

Your car, the gasoline which runs your car, the oil from which the gasoline derived, the rocks under which the oil lives until brought to the surface, the electricity which powers your car and fires the gas, the technology which goes into your car, the mechanics of your body by which you can steer and brake at the same time, the sight by which you see and the sound by which you hear – all of this is the fullness which “is the Lord’s,” … and we haven’t even left the garage.

Quite frankly, the fullness of the earth is something that even our best abstract thinkers have a hard time totally comprehending.  I have given examples, but they are weak examples compared to the fullness of the meaning of the word “fullness.”

When we begin our week acknowledging that God is Creator of the world and all that is in it, that the earth and all who dwell in it are the Lord’s and the Lord’s alone, including the fullness of those things, we begin it in the right place.

This Psalm opens with us getting right in our thinking.  God owns the earth and the fullness thereof; we do not.  God is God; we are not.  We possess a slice of the fullness for a short period of time; God possesses the fullness for eternity.

If God were any less, if He possessed any less, He would be flawed, just like we are only a little more powerful.  But we can rely upon Him because He has no flaw, no defect – He possesses the fullness.  And He lends it to us, freely.  If we only turn away from ourselves and the world toward Him, if we ask, and if we accept (trust) Him.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Pollution

May 9, 2016


Psalm 19

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims His handiwork.”  Ps. 19:1

Really?  When I was a little boy and I looked up at the sky at night while I was on my back, the enormity of the universe pressed its presence into my mind.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of stars looked down on me through the black night, some large and some small, some dim and some bright.  And some were so numerous and so close together that they formed bands of light which formed a wave through the sky.  I learned later that this was the constellation of stars known as the Milky Way.  All this was apparent from the naked eye because I had no telescope and no means to obtain one.  But that was OK, because all of it was apparent to me.  And as a young boy, I marveled and wondered.  And through this wondering, I began to come to an understanding of the Creator, whose glory filled the night skies.

However, today, when I look at the night sky, I might see a few stars poking through, maybe the moon, and maybe an airplane with its lights on.  Is the glory of God, the evidence of His power and majesty, gone?  Has it been diminished through the years so that the Maker of the universe is now only capable of putting out only a few stars at night?

Well, the reason I can’t see the heavens anymore from my front yard is that I live in North Texas, home to millions of people and their lights.  So the sky suffers with what is called “light pollution” and the glory of God is diminished by the works of man.

And isn’t this just the perfect example of how man is always interfering with God’s revelation to us?  God reveals Himself in the heavens and His glory is apparent to everyone, until man floods the night sky with man-made lights, man-made pollution.

And the wonder of God fills the mind of a little boy, until the boy receives the world’s education, the world’s “science teaching,” the world’s way of looking at things, and the glory of God is clouded in a mist of pollution created by man, His presence and power and glory diminished by man’s works, by man’s pollution.

We pollute God’s Work with our ideas, our explanations, our theories, our “facts,” our conclusions, our logic, our education, our knowledge, and our “wisdom.”  Is it any wonder that we see God dimly through the dense fog of man’s doings?

And yet, what happens when we leave the city for the country and we get away from the light pollution?  Voila!  The universe reappears with all of its stars, and the apparent power, wisdom, glory, and love of God in creating such a lightshow for us becomes, again, apparent.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,…,” but only if you can see them.  And to do that, you have to escape the pollution, escape the world, and then you have to look up with the eyes of a little boy or girl, unencumbered by the world’s education, knowledge, and “science.”

When we take the time from our busy lives to make a place for us and God to meet in fellowship, it is as if we have escaped to the country, shed our pollution, and stared into the Creation and its Maker.  What a wonderful place this is?  Full of wonder and simplicity and acceptance and power and majesty!  Full of the presence of God.

When we stare up to heaven through our light-polluted night skies, we do not see nothing.  We may only see a couple of stars, but those are a foretaste of what lays beyond.

God may penetrate the fog of our pollution with only a couple of points of light, but they are there as evidence of something greater beyond.

We may be in a fog of light pollution and can only see a couple of stars, but we know that there is more where those came from.  We may be in a fog of depression and can only see a couple of points of light, shadows of hope, but they are there and there is more where those came from.  We may be in the darkness of man’s teaching and man’s wisdom and can only see a couple of pieces of evidence of something beyond us, but those pieces of light are there and there is more where those came from.

The evidence for God is there to be seen if we have but eyes to see.  To begin, escape the pollution, regard the universe, look up … and revel in God’s revelation of Himself to you!

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Fool

April 4, 2016


Psalm 14

“The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’”  Ps. 14:1

When I write Bread, I do not read ahead to the next week.  Last week, when I wrote about Psalm 13, I only read Psalm 13, not Psalm 14.  And yet, on Friday of last week, I noted that Psalm 13 contained an unlucky number and that Friday was April Fool’s day, and I ended with this:

“The Bible does say that those people who do not seek after God are fools.  But we do not need to go there on April Fool’s day.  Instead, all we need to do is to know that we are not, and be grateful to the One who has brought us to the point where “our heart(s) shall rejoice in Your salvation.” Ps. 13:5”

And, so, when I sit down this morning to read Psalm 14 for the week, I am shocked when the first line is “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.”  Ps. 14:1

There is a tendency on our part to look at this statement and either recoil that such a harsh word, “fool,” is used, or to say, “Thank God, I am not like one of those fools.”  But both reactions would be wrong.

First, those who deny the existence of God, His eternal power and divinity, are fools because they know there is a God and yet choose to ignore that knowledge to follow their own paths.  Paul in Romans speaks to this when he says that “What may be known about God [from nature] is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” Rom. 1:19-20  We know God exists because creation surrounds us and is obvious to us.  The explanation of “science” is that a tree came to be by the passage of time and the application of probability to random mutations of something.  The plain explanation is that a tree exists because it does, because the intricate nature of its structure … the cells, roots, branches, fruit, bark – are of such detailed and balanced structure, both at the observable level and at the electron microscopic level, that it is like a finely made watch – it does not exist independent of its Creator, because only a creator can create.  The fool sees the intricacy and the fine balance which makes a tree a tree, and turns from the obvious conclusion, that it was made, and instead builds a theory (which he calls fact) that it came from nothing to become itself.

But what some people call obvious may not be to those who have no exposure to truth.  Some time ago I had the opportunity to speak with a young Chinese student who was obtaining her doctorate in astrophysics from a local university.  She spoke English well and I asked her if she believed in God.  She said “no” and that she had been taught that God was a creation of our minds to justify ourselves.   And I asked her whether she had studied the universe and had studied, as well, the microscopic, to which she obviously replied “yes.”  I then asked her whether things became simpler as you reached into the macro-sphere and the micro-sphere, and she said “no, more complex.”  And then I looked at her, smiling, and said “Does complexity suggest a creative mind or a random series of events?”  And she said “a creative mind.”  And then I said “and you have just proven the existence of God.”  And the point of the story is this … she looked at me and said “I have never heard of God explained this way; I need to think about it.”

What is plain to a neutral observer may no longer be plain to an observer whose sight and sound have been corrupted by the world.  We are surrounded by fools, but they are not fools we should ignore, but fools who we should love.

Second, when we say “Thank God, I am not like one of those fools,” we are making a grave error, because we too can behave exactly like them.   Now we may say there is a God, but do we put God first?  Do we act in everything we do as if there is a God?  Do we devour His written Word about how we should lead our lives.  Do we hold captive every thought to the gospel, to God’s word written and made flesh in Jesus Christ?

Perhaps our disobedience does not put us in the category of fools and I am being too harsh, but it certainly puts us in the category of foolish.  And how many foolish things must we do before we are counted among the fools?

The fact is that we do enough foolish things, sinful things, that we could be counted among the fools by God?  Why aren’t we?  Because God has enlightened us, because God is His sovereign power has granted us mercy, because God has saved us.

We are like the fool but we are not the fool, not because of anything we did, but because of what He did, does, and will do.  Thank you, Jesus.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Mindful

February 24, 2016


Psalm 8

“When I look at Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him?”  Ps. 8:3-4

To personalize the question asked by David in this Psalm, “Who am I that You are mindful of me?”

Great question, isn’t it?

To get perspective, we have to follow David by looking to the heavens, which we can do by ourselves late at night in the country under a cloudless sky, through computer programs which show the alignment of stars, through telescopes which bring home star clusters immense distances apart, and through other sciences.  Black holes, worm holes, quantum mechanics, string theory, nebulas, galaxies, planets, moons, gas giants … and we wonder who else could be out there?  What else could be out there?  And whatever our mind can investigate through science, one thing becomes clear.  It is in order.  It is magnificent.  It is awe-inspiring.  It appears to be infinite.  It is the work of a Creator, it is the work of God.

But, unlike David, we have machines and tools which will let us look into the smallest aspect of matter.  Unfortunately, we can’t see it by laying out at night under the stars, but we can see it through microscopes and other gadgets.  And what we see astounds us.  We see (or at least science suggests) atoms, neutrons, electrons, positrons, anti-matter, quarks, the cell, cellular structure, tiny organized factories within cells processing nutrients for our body, blood, nano-things, clathrates, vitamins, hormones, proteins, and ten thousand other things with strange names and even stranger properties.  But no matter how deep we go into the micro-sphere (as I call it), one thing becomes clear.  It is in order.  It is magnificent.  It is awe-inspiring.  There always seems to be deeper to go, smaller and smaller things to see, all of which are in order, complexly organized to achieve certain results.  It is the work of a Creator; it is the work of God.

What we do know is that we are here, on this planet Earth, surrounded by just the right balance of temperature, humidity, oxygen, and other minerals to sustain life, to sustain us.

What we do know is that God has given us a set of rules, of standards, of laws, of truths by which we can live fulfilling lives.

What we do know is that God Himself came to earth, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered to make a right sacrifice to God for our shortcomings, for our sins, raised from the dead unto His rightful place, to come again to rule over all things as King.  He created the universe, He created the micro-sphere, He created the earth and the moon, and He created us.  And, at the end of the day, He came to save us so that all who believed in Him would have everlasting life.

Why?  Why did God create?  Why did He breathe life into Adam?  Why did He make us in His likeness?  Why did He speak to us through His prophets and His Scripture?  Why did He die on the cross for us?

Given all these things, the wonder, depth, and breadth of creation, who am I that God is mindful of me?

I don’t know the answer to that question.  But I do know this…God is mindful of me.  He has created all things, me included.  His has filled me with spirit, life, and breath.  He has given me an inquiring mind.  He has given me relationships and love.  He has died for me.  He has empowered me with His Holy Spirit.

God is mindful of me and for that I am eternally grateful.

God is mindful of you as well.  Why?  Because He is.  And for that, are you grateful?  And for that, are you mindful of Him?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Being

September 15, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, September 15, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 21:17-29; 1 Cor. 1:20-31; Matt. 4:12-17; Psalms 61,62,68

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There are many rich topics in today’s readings … sin, judgment, contrition, deferral of judgment, wisdom, the world, the cross, salvation, election, foolishness, boasting, prophesy, fulfillment of prophesy, forgiveness, Jesus Christ … but I having to pick one, so I pick “being” as in “being saved” from this verse: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

When we think of the word “being,” what may come to mind immediately is that a “being” (noun) is something which is in existence, for example “I am a human being.” Because the word “being” is usually associated with higher order intelligence and self-awareness, it sounds strange being applied to other forms of life (it would be unusual, but not necessary inaccurate, to say “dog being”).

If we think further, we may ask ourselves what constitutes the status of “being.” Is it autonomy – I am a being because I have a choice, and maybe even “the” choice? Is it in community – I am a being because my spouse, friends, family, etc., consider me so? Is it because I was made so – I am a being because God made me so? These are deep questions, but they are also fundamental questions. If I am autonomous, I am not dependent upon God or man for my being. If I am defined by others, I am dependent for my being on them (the world) and not on God or myself. If I am made by God, I am dependent upon Him and not upon others or myself. I stand alone (autonomy), with (community), or because (God).

And the problem is, our “being” throws off signals which can be confusing. If I am autonomous, I am lonely. If I am dependent on the community, I float on the shifting sands of public opinion and worldly temptation. If I am dependent upon God, then I am in need of mental adjustment (according to the world).

But then there is another sense of the word “being,” and that is as the English “participle.” Now I have studied English and I write it, but I have to confess that I have never understood participles. I use them all the time, but I still don’t understand them. And so looking up the participle “being,” I find in the dictionary that it is the participle of the word “be” (which is accurate but unhelpful). And then when I look up the word “participle” that it is “verb form having the qualities of both verb and adjective. So both action (verb) and description (adjective) are brought together in one place. But one thing this research did tell me is that, if the word ends in “ing”, then it is a “present participle,” meaning that it is acting and describing today, now.

Do we have a headache yet?

So what is the meaning then of the phrase “are being saved?” In the Greek, the “are being” is a “present passive participle.” The verb “save” and the adjective “saved” are being applied in the present, right now, to “us,” passively, meaning that we are not doing it … we are merely receiving both the action (save) and description (saved). In case we miss who is then doing this “saving” to us, Paul is clear that it the power of God. Not the power of the individual and not the power of the collective but the power of the Infinite.

But, wait a minute, in the sense of Christian salvation, wasn’t I saved at a point in time in the past and not the present? So what is this “am being saved” routine?

Which now is where the deeper question arises, the question of what is “being.” If I am autonomous, then I chose God and there is a point in time when I uttered the magic words and took the ceremonial washing. If I am a being defined by the community, then they chose God for me and there is a point in time when they uttered the magic words on my behalf. But if I am dependent on God, then at what point in time has God not saved me? If I am dependent upon God, then I was saved, am being saved, and will be saved … all at the same time and at different times.

What is the nature of our being? Is it with God, with man, or with self? The answer depends upon which wisdom you believe. And that, too, is a gift of God.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Wisdom

August 22, 2014


Readings for Friday, August 22, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 2:1-13; Acts 9:1-9; John 6:27-40; Psalms 140,141,142,143

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The three non-Psalm readings today are powerful readings and each would support many, many Breads and sermons. In Job, Satan strikes Job with sores and Job responds to the urging of his wife to curse God, “Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” Job 2:10 From the reading in Acts, Saul (to become Paul) asks for permission to imprison the women and men who believe in Christ, receives that permission, and on the Damascus road on his mission sees a light from heaven and is directly confronted by Christ. In our reading from John, the disciples hear Jesus say that the work of God in a man’s life is “that you believe in Him whom He has sent” and then says, without qualification, that “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst … All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and whoever comes to Me I will never cast out…For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:28-40

In fact, these are so powerful, I have no clue about where to even begin, so I decided to begin with “Wisdom.”  But rather than offer my own commentary on this, let me offer instead the commentary from the English Standard Version Study Bible and the article which preceded Job called “Introduction to the Poetic and Wisdom Literature,” of which Job is considered a part:

“Some choose simply to define “wisdom” by the literature…this approach is unhelpfully restrictive. Others choose to define “wisdom” as an outlook, almost a philosophy of life. But different “wisdom” writings have different emphases, so this approach seems to fragmentary.

What does the [Biblical wisdom] books and outlooks have in common, however, is a keen interest in the way the world works, humanity’s place within it, and how all this operates under God’s creative, sovereign care.

Biblical “wisdom,” then, might be defined as skill in the art of godly living, or more fully, that orientation which allows one to live in harmonious accord with God’s ordering of the world.

We know that “wisdom” is much, much more than education, knowledge, or intelligence. Instead, as brilliantly described in the ESV Study Bible, wisdom is “that orientation which allows us to live in harmonious accord with God’s ordering of the world.”

We actually exercise wisdom all the time, but is it Christian wisdom? We know how to live in harmonious accord within our neighborhood (so-called “street smarts”). We know how to live in harmonious accord within our businesses (so-called “business smarts”). We know how to live in harmonious accord within our political structures, our economic structures, our social structures, our educational structures, and even our religious structures. And if we have a lot of wisdom in these things, we can work them to our advantage.

But where is God in the exercise of these kinds of wisdom.

What would happen to us if we asked the question “Lord, help me live today in harmonious accord with Your will; help me Lord to understand Your ordering of the world so that I can live in harmonious accord with it; Lord, how do You want me to live today?”

It seems to me that if I tried to live in harmonious accord with God’s ordering of the world, instead of mine, that things would go much better for me. To do this, though, I need to know what God’s ordering of the world is … I need to understand Scripture, because it is there that God’s ordering is revealed.

There are three people in today’s readings who lived in harmonious accord with God’s will. The first is Job … remember he ends his sorrowful journey with great joy, exclaiming “I know my Redeemer lives.” The second is Paul … once confronted by Christ and studying Him during his time afterward, he emerged as apostle to the Gentiles, to us. The third is Jesus Himself, who knew God’s ordering of the world required Him to sacrifice Himself for our sins on the cross.

Wisdom begins with knowing that there is a God and that I (and you) are not He.

Are you there yet?

_____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Facts

October 18, 2013


Readings for Friday, October 18, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 38:14-28; 1 Cor. 15:1-11; Matt. 11:1-6; Psalms 16,17,22

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In the debate in schools regarding what should be taught, evolution (natural force) or some form of creationism (God force), one tactic of the “scientists” is to allege that their theory is based on “fact” whereas Christian’s “theory” is based on “faith.” The implication of course is that there is no element of faith in what scientists claim and there is no element of fact in what Christians claim.

Without dealing with the scientists’ implied claim of “no faith” in their theory of evolution, from time to time it is helpful for us Christians to remind ourselves that our religion is a rational religion, based upon fact (and, yes, faith as well). Our God is a God of history and history has a habit of laying down bread crumbs of facts for us to discover, verify, evaluate, and either recognize or ignore. Therefore, our God is a God of facts and not fancy. Our faith in what God says has its fundamental roots in our knowledge about what God has done, which is evidence of His character and characteristics, and pointers to what He is going to do now and in the future. If we recognize the facts for what they are (and do not ignore them, as many “scientists” are prone to do), then our faith is a rational faith, based in substantial part on our recognition of the facts of history. And, of course, this makes sense because God created us in His image and, although we have corrupted this through Adam’s and our disobedience and desire to make ourselves the idols of our lives, the God-image remains in part. Our rationality is a gift of God and there is no harm in using it. In fact, there may be great harm in not using it.

Our readings today are laden with recitation of facts. In Jeremiah, there is the recitation of the history of Babylon’s conquest of Judah and how that was ordered by God. Jeremiah repeats the conversation he had with Judah’s king, where he (Jeremiah) told the king that it was God’s will that he (the king) surrender to Babylon, and that if he did so, God would save him and his family. The king disobeyed God and you can read the consequences of this for yourself in Jeremiah 39:1-10.

Then there is the recitation by Jesus Himself in our reading from Matthew of the facts of John the Baptist, tying those facts to the prophecy of Malachi regarding the re-appearance of one who would minister in Elijah’s power (see Mal. 3:1,4:5; Lk. 1:17) (making then those prophecies facts as well).

But perhaps the most important recitation of facts today comes from Paul in our reading from his first letter to the church in Corinth, where he recites these facts: (1) Christ died for our sins, which was predicted by Scripture, (2) Christ rose on the third day, which was predicted by Scripture; (3) Christ appeared after He was raised to Peter; (4) Christ appeared to “the twelve,” (5) Christ appeared to “more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive…”, (6) Christ appeared to James, then to “all the apostles, and (7) Christ appeared to me (Paul). 1 Cor. 15:3-6. Of course, in order for Christ to die He had to live, and that fact is assumed in Paul’s recitation.

Paul speaks to these things because they are both the gospel of Jesus Christ and the facts about Jesus Christ. He was born, He lived, He died, He rose to life, and He ascended into heaven. As many doubts as people try to create around these facts, they are among the best documented facts in antiquity. Of course you can ignore them just like a person can try to ignore a negative bank balance, but just as the sun exists so does the Son.

As the detective in “Dragnet” would say, “Just the facts, ma’am.” Well, here are the facts.

Now, what you do with these facts is your business.

We stand as Christians with two feet planted on solid ground. That ground is made solid, not by whether we believe or the facts, but by the God of both the facts and the faith. Thank God that He gives us facts on which and through which to see Him in action. Thank God that He gives us the faith to see the facts and, through the facts, to see Him. Thank God.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Sources

March 13, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, March 13, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 18:1-11; Rom. 8:1-11; John 6:27-40; Psalms 101, 109, 119:121-144

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Sources. Where do things come from? Where do we get our stuff from?

There are three choices for answers to these questions. The first answer is “man.” We get our stuff from my work and your work. I can go buy food at the grocery store because I earned the money, the grocer erected the store, the trucker brought the food, and the farmer raised the food. So all of our stuff comes from man as the source. If man is the source of stuff, then he is the source of language, of literature, of reason, of good health, of strength, etc. If man is the source of stuff, then man is the source of life itself.

The second answer to this question is “nature.” The immutable course of history, beginning with the first atom which evolves itself into a protozoa which then evolves itself into a bacteria which then evolves itself into a fish which then evolves itself into a monkey which then evolves itself into man which then evolves itself into something else. The natural progression of life from simple to complex, from time immemorial in the past to the present and beyond, all in a careful balance. Stuff comes from nature, and therefore the study of nature can reveal to us the source of life itself.

The third answer to this question is “God.” God is someone outside of nature and man, who creates, empowers, frees, and punishes. God is the source of our stuff, our reason, our everything, our life.

So, where do you get your stuff from? Is the result of your effort? Is it from the quirky, random forces of nature? Is it a gift from God?

If you are honest, if I hadn’t thrown God into the equation, most people would have picked “man.” And why not? We are born, we are who we know, we hurt, we feel, we try and sometimes succeed and sometimes fail, we build, we make money, we make stuff from other stuff, we think, we wield the sword and can kill. What we observe rationally is “we.”

It should not therefore surprise us that the disciples thought of themselves first as the source for eternal life – from our reading today in John: “Then they said to Him [Christ], ‘What must we do to be doing the works of God?’” John 6:28

This question is our question and it is a profound question. Great works are founded upon this question. Great religions such as Islam are organized around answers to this question. What must we do to please God? If we are the source of stuff, then it is a natural question to ask what must “we do.” After all, we are responsible for earning our daily bread, right? We are responsible for building our businesses, right? Therefore, why wouldn’t we be responsible for what we have to do to have eternal life?

But it is the wrong question. Jesus does not ask the right question, but He answers the right question, thereby implying what the right question is. What Jesus says in response to the disciples’ question “What must we do,” that “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” John 6:28. From this answer we deduce the right question. The question is not “What must I do,” but “What must God do.”

See, the questions we ask reveal where we think our stuff comes from; it reveals who we really think is the source. If we are asking “What must we do,” then we ask that from a position of belief that man is the source. If we ask “What must God do” we ask from a position of belief that God is the source.

Think about how that changes what we do and what we say. The businessman, instead of asking “What must I do to fix this problem,” he or she would ask “What must God do through me and others to fix this problem.” If we think man is the source, we look to man for answers. If we think God is the source, we look to God for answers.

Ever wonder why we are such weak Christians? I do. I think one of the reasons may be here – in the questions we ask. Our weakness is due to confusion, is it man’s doing or is it God’s? We are not sure so we are double-minded and how we reflect Christ in the world is thereby seriously and negatively affected.

What is man doing so that I can lead the team or get out of the way? What is God doing so that I can jump on board?

Which question will you ask today? Who do you really believe is the source?

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© 2013 GBF

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