Bread – Banners

April 10, 2017


Psalm 60

You [God] have set up a banner for those who fear You, that they may flee to it from the bow.”  Selah  Ps. 60:4

As I think about action pictures I have seen about wars a long time ago, what you always see are the standards of the fighting units carried high, so that the troops can rally around them.

This is the image created in my mind by this Psalm.  In the midst of turmoil, in the midst of day to day life, when we lift our eyes up we see the “banner” which God has “set up” for us to see and for us to flee to in the evil day.

For many Christians, that banner is the cross of Christ.

That cross was indeed set up by God so that it can be seen by those who fear God, who stand in awe of Him, but who are compelled by the Holy Spirit to follow it, to gather around it, to march behind it, to bow before it, and to offer thanksgiving for it.

And yet, like all banners, it is symbolic for the person or authority behind it.  The banner in the Psalm is set up by God but it is not God.   The cross is set up by God but it is not Christ.   We may flee to the banner because when we see it it, we know God is there, but at the same time we know that the banner is not God.

When we are in trouble, it is our nature to look around for a banner we can rally around.  But we often do not see one.  Why is that?

Maybe it is because God is raising up a banner, but the banner is not over there, it is here.  Maybe the banner is us.

How would we act if we knew that people flocked to us because we stood for God in the evil day?  Are we ready to let God set us up as a banner for those who fear Him?

Where are the banners for people to flock around?  The better question is, where are we?

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

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Broken

February 10, 2017


Psalm 51

…let the bones You have broken rejoice….The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:8b,17

This Psalm has so much in it, so much exalted language and so many truths, it is almost impossible to write about.  I could have written about “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me,” (Ps. 51:10) or “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” (Ps. 51:15).  I could write about what God does to lift us up, to give us a clean heart, to open our lips, to exalt our praise of Him, to empower us to good works in loving our neighbor.  All this would be very uplifting and it would all be true and it would be a great way to end the week.

 

But instead I quote two separated passages where the Psalmist talks about broken bones, a broken heart, and a broken spirit.   Why?

 

In our journey as Christians, we may be brought up in the church and raised as Christians.  We may read Scripture and be able to recite it at will.  We may go to Sunday School and receive instruction and debate the fineries of theology and religion.  We may think deeply, act nobly, and speak gracefully.  We may do all these things, but it is not until we realize that we were dead on arrival, dead in our sins, dead in our trespasses, fundamentally broken in disobedience, that we truly understand the worth of the gift of salvation which God gave us on the cross.

We must be broken first before we can be healed.  We must know first that we are broken before we can comprehend, appreciate, and grab onto God’s mercy in taking us from our pit and setting us on firm foundation.

If we can walk and we break our leg, we can no longer walk.  Once the broken bone has healed, we can walk again.  And when we do, we end up in a place where we remember the broken bone, we remember the healing process, we appreciate the healer, and we are grateful for the simple thing – walking – which we previously took for granted.  And, in the process, we become more obedient to the rules which keep us from getting a broken leg to begin with (like, don’t jump from the roof of a house to the ground).

What I just said works if we know what health is (we previously walked).  But what if we are broken from the beginning; how do we know we are broken and in need of a healer?

Deep in our spirit is a longing for a better place, and we know that place exists.  The question is how do we get there?  The world answers that question by saying we can build ourselves up and out, we can make ourselves better people, and by our ingenuity and hard work we can achieve that better place.  This theory relies on the person who is broken to heal himself, partly on the idea that “I broke it, so I can fix it.”  Some religions answer this question by a variation on theme of the world, saying that you are broken because you fall short of God’s expectations, but you can climb the ladder of good works into that better place, the place of non-brokenness.  Both the world and these religions rely on man to fix himself, to repair his brokenness.

But the Psalmist says something different.  He says “let the bones You have broken rejoice.”  The Psalmist says that we are broken, but that our broken state was caused by God on purpose, on His purpose.

This may sound cruel at first, but it is actually very good.  Because of God broke the bone, the spirit, and the heart, He can heal it.  If we broke it, we can heal it; if God broke it, He can heal it.

And when we realize that we are broken and that we have no power to fix it, we turn to the only One who can.

There are many ways to say it – broken, lost, dead – but only one truth.  The One who has broken us is the One who heals us.  How?  By becoming broken Himself on the cross for us, paying the penalty for our disobedience we cannot pay ourselves.  That One is Jesus, the Christ.

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

 

 

 

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.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Disobey

August 22, 2016


Psalm 32

“Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven…” Ps. 32:1

The three Breads this week will focus on the three types of sins which David talks about and the three ways in which God deals with those sins for those who turn to Him in repentance and believe in Jesus Christ.  Because of the use of words and Jewish poetic parallelism, these three distinctive forms of sin and God’s work with each type are almost lost in the speed with which David delivers them.  But they are important enough that they need to be broken apart.  This week, therefore, we will not go beyond the first two verses, where it all is.

What is a “transgression.”  I admit that my normal automatic interpretation of this is to think that it means a violation of God’s law.  It does not.  It means a stepping upon God’s person, His authority, His righteousness, His kingship.  It means a rebellion against God and His authority over all.  This transgression first occurred in the garden of Eden, before there was law.  There was one simple command, meant to maintain a proper relationship between God and man.  And that instruction was to not eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  And that request by God was ignored by man, Adam and Eve ate, and man’s relationship with God was torn to pieces.

There can be all kinds of disobedience to God, some having to do with His law but most having to do with our relationship with Him.  God asks us to step through a door in faith, perhaps to pray for sick person or engage in a new job, and we resist in doubt and worry.  Is there any law in this?  No.  Is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Yes,  God asks us to live our lives to bring glory to Him.  Is there any law to this?  No.  When we follow our own paths to act in ways which bring glory to ourselves, is there rank disobedience and unbelief?  Is the failure to trust God and follow Him transgressing His good name, denying His authority and power, and placing Him either beside or beneath us, instead of over us, a transgression?  Yes it is.

And what does God do about these transgressions to His person when we do them and we return to Him, confessing our sins against His Majesty?  David says that the transgressions are forgiven.  The Hebrew word for “forgiven” in this Psalm means to “lift off.”  When we disobey God, we know it.  O we may hide it in a dark closet where we put away our worse memories, or we may bury it in a flurry of busy-ness, or we may discount it by saying that my disobedience was trivial compared to other people’s or compared to some standard of my making, but we know it.  And because we know it, it is a burden which drags us down.  We lose our sense of the Lord’s presence.  Satan finds the hole to discourage us.  We begin to wonder if He cares.  We find excuses to run further and further away.  We either undervalue our disobedience or over inflate it.  All of our disobedience, no matter how silly to us or how serious, is a horror to God.

And yet what does God do with our sin of transgression, of disobedience?  He lifts it from our shoulders and throws it away when we come to the cross of Christ in repentance.

And the amazing thing is that God does it immediately.  David says in verse 5b: “I said ‘ I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,’ and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.”  Ps. 32:5b

In Jesus parable of the prodigal son, the son is far away from the father, steeped in his transgressions against his father’s will … and he turns toward the father and says “I will go back and say to my father, I have sinned …”  What happens?  The father, while the son is on the way back, starts up the party and is waiting for him.  As soon as he turned and acknowledged that his transgressions needed to be confessed and forgiven, they were forgiven.”

The pressures of life this week will cause us to bend and stoop and will pile up on our backs without slowing down. But these burdens are nothing compared to the burdens we carry around as weighted stones, due entirely to our desire to disobey God, to transgress against Him.  When we sin, we do not just violate a law, we step on God Himself.  These burdens can get so severe that they cause us to look at the ground as we plod away, step by step.  And yet, in the midst of this, if we will but turn toward Him and raise our eyes to hills from whence cometh our help, He is ready to forgive us, to lift the burden from our back for all time, and to place us on solid rock where we may stand free.

How crazy glorious and amazing is this!  And yet there is more to come.

But you can begin right here, right now.  If you have been disobedient to God (and you know you have), turn to Him now in repentance and He will forgive you your trespasses against Him.  You can count on it.

_________

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

 

Bread – It

June 3, 2016


 

Psalm 22

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

This is actually a fairly simple and straightforward Bread.  Who is “he” and what is “it?”

This is a long quotation from Psalm 22 because it tells of an event in history, one which you should recognize in the telling.  All of these events are significant because they happened at Golgotha and on the way there, but perhaps the phrases “they pierced my hands and feet,” and “they divide my garments…and for my clothing they cast lots” will bring to mind Jesus and the cross and death and resurrection.

These quotations describe a crucifixion in detail, and Jesus’ crucifixion in particular.

So the “he” is obvious, but as you know, I think that all personal pronoun references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be capitalized to raise them up to their proper place above us ordinary persons.  And because the Psalm could arguably relate to anyone (after all, the “me” is lower cased in modern translations of Scripture), the “who is he” question is more easily answered by restating the quotation this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet – I can count all My bones – they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn that He has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

The other day I had a person ask me where there is, in the Old Testament, a plain statement predicting Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Well, here at least is a plain prediction of Jesus’ death.  And isn’t that made more obvious by elevating Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit by capitalizing references to them?

This is prophesy in its purest form, and less one thinks David is describing something in the present, in his time, then think about this – this is a detailed description of a crucifixion and crucifixion was unknown in the time of David.  David is reciting details about a form of torture that did not exist when it was written.  It is detailed, it is accurate, and the description was fulfilled by Jesus.  And it was written some 1000 years before Christ’s death.

Then what does it mean that “He has done it?”  To understand this, one needs to recognize that Psalm 22 ends with that statement – “He had done it.”  And it begins with this statement – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It is the crucifixion of Christ, He has been forsaken by God as He takes on our sins and separation from God is the price of sin, and at the end that relationship is restored because He is is the perfect offering of His blood for our sin.  “He has done it” means simply that Jesus paid the price of sin and the offering of His life for ours was accepted by God the Father.

He has done it means that the bridge between us and God, destroyed by Adam’s sin, has been rebuilt by Jesus’ obedience to the cross.

From the depth of despair (why have You forsaken Me) to the height of victory (He has done it) through the cross (described in the middle of Psalm 22).

That “He has done it” means that we don’t have to.  Jesus did the “good work” of perfect obedience to the Law, of perfectly bearing our sin, of perfectly satisfying the demands of the Father for payment (sacrifice) for sin.

But what we do need to do is recognize who He is and what He has done, turn to Him in repentance, and trust in Him for our salvation.  Easily said, but impossible to do without God.  And, so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

_________

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

 

Bread – Hope

May 30, 2016


Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…” Ps. 22:1-4

How often have we felt like this?  Out in the middle of our trials and tribulations, surrounded by events not of our (apparent) doing and surrounded by people we would rather not be associated with, we feel really, really alone.  Where are our friends?  Where is our family?  Where is God?

Perhaps the closest we can come from feeling like we have been totally abandoned is if we are a small child and both parents are killed or disappear, or we have some terrible disease fall upon us which is horribly contagious, and all of our friends and family melt away.  But even then, the small child may be helped by some people who come alongside of him.  The contagious disease-ridden person, may see the nurses and doctors surrounding them and they may even see their loved ones outside the windows, aching to get in.

But what if we have fallen to the bottom of the well and the voices of the searchers have wandered away to be replaced by the sounds of the night and by the predators who wander it?

Or we find ourselves alone in a desert, accompanied only by scorpions and drenching heat?

But even in those circumstances we may have memories to attach to, to fill our longing for companionship.

The fact is that, even when we feel like we have been forsaken, there is a part of us which knows that we have not.  The Psalmist joins us in this knowledge, reflecting that, even In the worst of times, we know that God has been faithful to those who believe in Him – “In You our fathers trusted.”

And, yet, as we read this and apply it to ourselves, perhaps there is a “gong” going off in the back of our mind, that we have read or heard those same words before.

And, the answer is, “yes, you have.”  You have heard these words before because they are the same words spoken by Jesus on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  Matt. 27:46

This Psalm is known as the “Psalm of the Cross” by some people because it is a prophecy, written by David at a time when crucifixion was unknown, of a crucifixion, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In order for God the Father to forgive our sins, there had to be a perfect atonement.  Because Jesus took on our sins, the sins of the world, and because sin is abhorrent to God, an affront to His holiness, God left Jesus and Jesus was truly forsaken.   For a moment in time, all connection, all love, all relationship, between Jesus and the Father was broken.

And in the moment of that separation, in the agony of being abandoned by the Father, what did Jesus remember?  Did He, as the Psalmist suggests, remember that God was faithful historically and, by extension, would be faithful to Him?  We were not there and we do not know, but why not?  He of all people knew the character of God the Father – the very character that had to separate from Jesus because of sin was also the same character which had shown Himself time and time again would not forever abandon His people.  The connection between God the Father and God the Son had to be broken because of wrath, because of sin, and the connection would be restored because of love.

In the moment of His greatest desperation, when Jesus was separated from the Father, because He knew His Father’s character, Jesus also had the greatest hope.

We may and probably will feel abandoned by many around us.  We may also feel so abandoned that we cry forth “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And in that moment, instead of despair, perhaps in this we will find hope – the God who rescued Israel is the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who has saved us from death eternal to life everlasting.    For those who trust Jesus, we may feel abandoned but we are not, we may feel forsaken but we are not, we may feel unforgiven but we are not.

We have hope in spite of ourselves, in spite of circumstances … because we remember.

_________

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

 

Bread – Crosses

May 11, 2015


Readings for Monday, May 11, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27; Psalms 77, 79, 80

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It is Monday and everything in our reading today points toward the crosses we must bear this week. The question is not whether we will bear them, but how. Will we bear them in pain, suffering, and anger toward God or will we bear them in joy, love, and gratitude to God?

Deuteronomy points out that God may save us from our particular prison but He may also let us wander in the wilderness for a long time before we see the promised land. He will be there, but the road will be hot and dusty, and we will be driven to our knees in radical dependence upon the bread (manna) and water which God provides. During this wilderness time, what we receive from God will never be what we want, but it will be what we need. In these circumstances, we should be full of joy, love, and gratitude because the Lord has told us why: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what is in your heart, whether you will keep His commandments or not….that He might make you know that man does live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord… For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…And you shall eat and be full…” Deut. 8:2-3,7,10

And James reminds us that we shall meet trials and, because we have faith in Jesus, we are to meet these trials with joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life…” James 1:2-3,9,12

And, finally, from Jesus Himself we hear these words: “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoevere would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

From Scripture today we see there are three ways crosses can come. God can cause us to go through them (Deut.), we may face them from the world simply because we are Christian (James), and we may choose to take it up on our own, because we are in fact followers of Christ.

But regardless of how we get it, a cross is a cross. It is heavy, tiring, difficult to handle, rough to the touch, and an instrument of torture and death. And, in fact, when we are carrying our particular crosses in dealing with our own sin, in dealing with our families, in dealing with the workplace, and in dealing with each other, we may in fact feel tortured, put upon, roughed up, and weighed down.

How will you choose today and this week to carry your cross(es). In joy, steadfastness, and hope, or in misery. The choice is ours. Come, Holy Spirit, and help us choose wisely.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Exile

March 27, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 29:1-13; Rom. 11:13-24; John 11:1-27; Psalms 22, 95, 141, 143:1-12

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An exile is gone from one place and is in another. The exile has been forced from where he or she wants to live to a place where they do not want to live, whether it be in captivity in prison, or outside the campfire, or in the case of a wayward child, to their room, absent from the place where the family is, banished for their misbehavior to a place where they are alone with themselves.

We normally think of exiles as having to go long distances, dragged by conquerors from the conquered land to the places of the conquerors, there to serve them (the conquerors) instead of themselves (the exiles). However, as in the example of the child above, it is quite possible to be exiled from a room, from a meeting, and from a relationship. One might be only ten feet away from the place they want to be, and yet they are still an exile.

What does it feel to be an exile? There is a strong desire to return to the motherland, the place of beginning. There can be longing for the way things “used to be” or the ways things “ought to be,” and there be anger toward the present circumstances. There may be anger toward the people who caused your exile, and this anger may be directed on oneself when one realizes that they are the cause of their own exile.

Why talk about this? It is the topic today of our reading from Jeremiah. Jeremiah the prophet writes to the Jewish exiles taken away from Judah to Babylon by the forces of Nebuchadnezzar, acting as God’s agent for punishment. Just so that there is no confusion, God Himself is the author of the exile of His people – “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I [God] have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon.” Jer. 29:4

Whether we are separated from our home physically by geography or emotionally by withdrawal, we often find ourselves as exiles. Where we are is not where we should be. We have gotten to where we are by a series of behaviors or thoughts which may seem right to us at the time, but which are sinful and offend God. God has acted to remove us from that situation and place us somewhere else where we might have an opportunity to grow.

To grow? Isn’t exile a miserable place, where there is gnashing of teeth, loss, loneliness, despair, and ultimately death?

Well it depends how we look at it. We can choose to die in exile or we can choose to live. When God puts us into exile, it is not to destroy us. When we go into exile, we can decide to do what we did not do in our home – obey God.

And God’s instructions to His exiles in Babylon are clear – obey and live: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters…multiply there and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare.” Jer. 29:5-7

There is an overworked saying for this, “Bloom where you are planted.” When, because of your disobedience, you have been exiled from your current place into a new situation, and if your heart is one of obedience thereafter, then you will make the place of exile the place of life.

If we are obedient to God, we will bring life with us wherever we are. If we are home, then we bring life there. If we have been banished because of our disobedience, repentance and new obedience will result in our bringing of life to the place of exile.

When we are thrown into exile, there is the sense that it is all over, that we will never have the opportunity to return. Indeed, a very long time may pass. But God restores those whom He calls. God restores those who turn from their evil ways toward Him and are obedient to His will.

And God restored the Jews from exile in Babylon. In our reading today, it is but a promise, but we know from elsewhere in Scripture that the promise was fulfilled. God said through Jeremiah “When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you My promise and bring you back to this place (Israel/Judah). For I know the plans I have for you … to give you a future and a hope….I will restore your fortunes and gather you … and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile.” Jer. 29:10-14

When we are put into exile because of our disobedience, when we turn toward God and seek Him with our heart, desiring relationship and obedience, God promises to restore us. It may not be in our timing (who would choose 70 years?), but it will be.

We were exiled from the Garden of Eden, from our intimate relationship with God, because we disobeyed, wanting ourselves to be like God. That exile, though, is not permanent, not if we turn from our sin toward God, not if we accept His offer of restoration to Him through Jesus Christ, not if we have faith in Him. In the meantime, in obedience to God, we must work for the welfare of the place of exile in which we find ourselves, knowing that God will come get us and bring us to Him for eternity at a time of His choosing.

We have hope because we know that we will be called home by the One who has the power to make it happen. We who are in exile who know Jesus Christ and who are obedient work for the welfare of the place in exile where we find ourselves, knowing that He has a plan for us, to give us a future and a hope and to bring us back to the place from which He sent us into exile.

The path from exile to home passes through the cross of Christ.

Come, let us adore Him.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Self-Esteem

June 13, 2014


Readings for Friday, June 13, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Gal. 5:25-6:10; Matt. 16:21-28; Psalms 69, 73

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Paul in his letter to the church in Galatia says this in our readings today: “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.” Gal. 6:3

What a put-down. What a self-esteem destroyer!

“Self-esteem” means what it says – that we esteem (think highly) of ourselves. It is not other-esteem (thinking highly of others) or God-esteem (thinking highly of God), but thinking highly numero uno, number one, me, myself, and I. The world worries constantly about whether we have enough self-esteem. It is the reason there are no winners in the modern age, because with winners there are losers and nobody can be a “loser.” They might lose their self-esteem!

But Paul is blunt, these people are self-deceivers – “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

Almost all secular “wisdom” focusses on building up the self, on strengthening our ethnic, social, religious, tribal, family, self-identify. If we can identify our heritage, we can build our self-esteem. If we can graduate from school, we can build our self-esteem (whether you know anything or not is, of course, irrelevant to this argument). If we can more closely identify with our community, our people-group, we can build our self-esteem.

And all the while, Paul would say that we are not building self-esteem, we are building a wall of deception which deceives only one person – me. The world’s efforts to build my self-esteem fool only one person – me.

In our reading today from Matthew, Jesus tells His disciples that He will be delivered into the hands of men to be killed, and that after three days He will be raised up. He then says “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul?” Matt. 16:24-26

What good is self-esteem if it brings you profit in the world and lose to eternal death?

These views are exclusive. One (the world) says that I am good and can be made better, thereby building my self-esteem. The other (God) says that I am sinful and and must sacrifice my self-esteem, my exalted view of myself, on the rocks of repentance, turning away from myself toward Christ, and accepting the mercy and forgiveness extended to me by Jesus’ sacrifice for my sins on the cruel cross and God’s sovereign will and work to bring me to faith.

The truth is that self-esteem is one of the worse things we can have, because it leads us to believe that we are king, that we are master, that we are God. It leads us to eternal death. On the other hand, less self-esteem leads us to recognition of our sin, our powerlessness, our hopelessness, and our desperate need for help – it leads us into the arms of Jesus.

And the wonderful thing about God’s miracle in our life at our lowest point, when we realize that we have nothing to give, is that we realize that we are in fact esteemed, not by our puny selves but by the Creator, by God, who so loved us that He died for us and saved us.

And that builds our self-esteem … but not on the deception of self and the world … but on the solid rock of faith in Jesus., on the knowledge that God so loved us, so thought us worthy, that He saved us from ourselves.

And that is self-esteem worth having.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Strike

January 8, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, January 8, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 17:1-7; Col. 1:15-23; John 7:37-52; Psalms 112,113,117,118

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In our reading from Exodus today, the people are complaining about being thirsty and asking Moses why he just didn’t leave them imprisoned in Egypt, where at least they had food and water. Moses goes to God and God says: “Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock at Horeb, and you shall strike the rock, and water shall come out of it, and the people will drink.” Exod. 17:6. Moses obeyed God, water flowed, the people drank, and, as they say, the rest is history.

In John, Jesus says “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’” John 7:37.

Both passages involve striking, although in the second passage it is implied. It is implied because we know what happens. We know that Jesus died a most horrible death on the cross, prior to which and during which he was stricken with blows, with the whip, with the nails, and with the spear. He was stricken so that those who believe in Him might drink and, having drunk living water, might themselves be the source of living water for others.

Our greatest problem is sin, our rebellion against God, our disbelief in God’s truth and His promises, our desires for ourselves first, our belief that, even if there is a God, so are we, somehow, more or less equal. Our sin makes us thirsty for truth, although we may not often realize that is what we are thirsty for. Because we are thirsty, we complain about our condition. We complain to whoever is available to hear us. We complain to the government, to each other, to our family and friends, to our co-workers, and we complain to God.

So how are we to find water in the parched desert of our existence? How are we to drink.

God’s answer to Moses and to us is to “strike Him.” “No,” you might say, God said strike the rock, not Him. Read the passage more carefully. God was standing before Moses on the rock. To get to the rock, Moses had to strike through God. Moses had to strike God. For all intents and purposes, God was the rock in Exodus. For all intents and purposes, Jesus was the rock in Exodus. To obtain living water, the water necessary for life, God told Moses to strike Him, God. And Moses did so, and water flowed and the people were saved.

To obtain this living water, the water of life, the lesson here is that we must strike God, we must strike Jesus. “How,” you might ask. Well, a simple answer might be to say simply that every time we are disobedient, every time we lie, cheat, steal, swear, eat too much, spend wastefully, curse (you get the point) that we are “striking” Jesus.

But the truth is that we already struck Jesus back 2,000 years ago when we stood with the soldiers who hit Him, and nailed His feet and hands, and stabbed Him. He took those blows, our sins, upon Himself so that, through belief in Him, we might not die for eternity but have everlasting life. We struck Him then and we strike Him now – and what is His response? To gush forth living water for you and me.

When are we going to lay down our arms, drop the lies with which we strike Jesus, and just drink at the well of life? When?

Well, it is a new year. What about right now?

___________________

© 2014 GBF

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