Bread – Permanence

July 10, 2017


Psalm 73

But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped.  For I was envious of the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked…When my soul was embittered, when I was pricked in heart, I was brutish and ignorant; I was like a beast toward You.  Nevertheless, I am continually with You; You hold my right hand.  You guide me with Your counsel, and afterward You will receive me to glory.”  Ps. 73:2-3,21-24

I almost coined a new word for this Bread, “permaninity,” meaning the state of being permanent, but “permanence” will have to do.

What is permanent?  We actually have a very hard time answering that question, because we have no reference point.  To a young kid in time out, permanent may mean three minutes.  To a young adult used to immediate gratification from the Internet, video games, Google, and Amazon, “permanent” may mean six months.  To us older adults, perhaps permanent is a house more than a hundred years old.  For those of us who have visited other places and have seen paint on ancient walls more than 1,000 years old, permanent may seem like a 1,000 years.  For those who study rocks and believe them to be very old, “permanent” may mean a million years.

In this Psalm today, we have object evidence of permanence.  Who does not find in the Psalmists words today great insight into ourselves.  We may have faith but that faith runs constantly into the bumps of doubt.  When we look abroad at the world and immediately around us, we see corruption in so-called Christians, we see cruelty, we see hatred, we see liars, we see thieves, we see charlatans and con men (and women), we see sexual perversion, we see the proud wealthy, we see those hungry for power, we see huge imbalances in living conditions, we see unfairness, and we see hopelessness.  In the face of all that, we are tempted mightily to cry out “Where are you God?  Where is Your proof?  Where is Your righteous indignation?  When is Your judgment upon all these terrible people?”    As the Psalmist, our soul becomes embittered and we become cold, “like a beast,” toward God.

So where is the evidence of permanence, other than the apparently permanent ascendancy of the wicked?

The evidence of permanence is in this – In all this, He holds our right hand.  He guides us with His revelation and truth.  And, in the end, He will receive us, for those who believe, to glory in eternity.

While we may jump from thought to thought and feeling to feeling and while we believe and yet doubt, God is there, permanent in His intent toward His chosen.  When we are conceived, He is there.  When we are born, He is there.  When we are ready to believe, He is there.  When we are ready to let Him lead, He is there.  When we are ready for wise counsel, He is there.  When we are ready to take up our cross and follow Him, He is there.  When we are ready to find rest under His wings, He is there.  When we are on our deathbed and ready to join Him, He is there.

He is.

That is permanence.

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Birth

June 1, 2016


Psalm 22

“Yet You are He who took me from the womb…”  Ps. 22:9

This morning, I read an e-mail from a pregnancy counseling center I support which asked me to pray for the birth of babies, that they would not be aborted by their mothers and that they would be born healthy, free of drugs and other medical and mental issues.

I read that e-mail before I re-read the quote above from Psalm 22 – “Yet You are He who took me from the womb…”

And quite frankly, I became quite upset.  One would think that I would be upset at the injustice of a world which would deny babies their lives for the sake of convenience.  But it was more personal than that – I was upset at the depth of my ingratitude for the blessings which have been heaped upon. me to overflowing by my Father.  I was upset that I had never recognized that it was God who had delivered me into life in the first place.

We, as Christians, are so wrapped up in the new man, the new birth caused when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior and when we turn from our ways to His ways, we forget that we have been blessed by being physically born in the first place.

Those of us who have witnessed a live birth know it is a miracle.  Yes, it is completely natural and predictable and yes, there is a lot of science behind how to take care of the baby during the first nine months, how to take care of it during birth, and how to take care of it after birth.  But at the end of the day, I think we know in our heart that each new birth is a tiny miracle.

But do we think much of our own birth, about what a miraculous blessing it is to us that we are standing here today, reading this Bread?  No we do not.  Just like we start our car without thanking God for the blessing of transportation, we wake up every morning without thanking God that we were born and that we are living.

We like to thank God for our transformation from lost to saved, and well we should.  But we forget to thank Him that we were born at all.

“Yet You are He who took me from my mother’s womb…”  Indeed He is.  He has delivered us physically from our mothers’ wombs into temporal life, and He has delivered us spiritually from the womb of death into eternal life.

Both of our births come from Him, the first and the second.

For which we should be grateful.  Are we?

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

 

Bread – Timeless

October 28, 2013


Readings for Monday, October 28, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 1:7-17; Rev. 1:4-20; Matt. 12:43-50; Psalms 41,44,52

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We are naturally time bound. We think in terms of the past (history), the present (now), and the future (plans). Everything we do is somehow time-related. We may not be slaves to the clock, but we watch it to make sure that we are getting things done on time and that we make our appointments and project deadlines. The clock may not tell us what to do, but it certainly orders our days and nights. We study history to understand the present, and we take both the past and the present to project into the future. We think of time as either a progression (past is prologue to present which is prologue to future) or as a cycle (the cycle of life). In other words, we think of time as linear or circular.

Even our science is time bound. It used to be that we could speed up (distance over time) to the speed of light. Now we recognize that the speed of light may be a barrier, but that things may slow down to the speed of light. In any event, however, the fact that we are even measuring speed means that we are measuring time. One cannot speak of evolution without speaking of time. One cannot speak of distance without speaking of time. One cannot speak of force without speaking of time.

It is therefore almost beyond our imagination to think of something, or someone, as timeless. But that is who God is. That is what God is.

In our reading today from Revelation, Jesus says simply “I am the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8 Later, Jesus says that He is the first and the last. Rev. 1:17

Since we know that “all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3), we know that this beginning, this “first” was actually outside of the beginning of time, and yet in some sense He is the beginning of time. Our Jesus is therefore both timeless and time bound, just as we are. He is both omnipresent and directly present at the same time. He is both omniscient and yet receives His knowledge from the Father, all at the same time.

It is enough to give us a headache, but only because thinking of anything or anyone outside of time bumps into the time limits of our understanding.

For a while, I stopped saying at the end of the Lord’s Prayer “forever and ever, Amen” and substituted instead “forever, Amen” (leaving out the “and ever”). The reason I did was that I thought that “forever” was just that, and saying “and ever” was just a weakening of the “forever” part. Later I came to realize that that the “and ever” part was merely our weak way of saying “for all time and beyond time.” God’s glory and power are time bound (“forever”) and timeless (“and ever”).

Perhaps our view of this and our ability to grasp the idea that there is something beyond our grasp, that there is an aspect of God which will never be understood because He is timeless while we are time bound, is partly why my scientist friends have such a hard time with Jesus. When you assume a closed system (time bound), the possibility of there being something outside that system (something timeless) is impossible to comprehend because its mere existence causes the system to no longer be closed. When we can conceive of something timeless, then we can conceive of something outside ourselves. When we can see a beginning which is outside of beginning and an end which is outside of end, we can invite the person who occupies the beginning and the end into our lives, because at that point He is no longer a stranger.

But not only is Jesus the beginning to the beginning and the end to the end, He is present in between. He may be timeless but He is also present in time; He is present today.

In the movie “Toy Story,” we laugh at Buzz Lightyear, one or the toy characters, when he holds out his arm and says “To infinity and beyond.” Jesus holds out His hand and says something similar, “For all time and beyond, forever and ever.” But what Jesus says is no laughing matter, because He is the timeless One, born into time, died, and resurrected for us. Repent of your sins, believe in Him, grab His hand today and be with Him, the Alpha and the Omega, for all time and beyond, forever and ever. Amen.

Our reading in the Old Testament today is from Ezra. Ezra reports that Cyrus, the king of Persia, after being stirred up in his spirit by the Lord, proclaims that the Jews may return to Jerusalem with these words – “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all His people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel – He is the God who is in Jerusalem. ..” Ezra 1:2-3

Who does Cyrus think God is? First, he says that God is “the Lord.” Then he says that God is “the God in heaven.” Then he says that God is the “God of Israel.” Then and finally he says that God is “the God who is in Jerusalem.” So, does Cyrus think that God is God over all, over a people, or of a city? Is God unlimited or limited to particular people who believe in Him, whom He has claimed as His? Is God unlimited or is He limited to a particular geography or place (Jerusalem)?

What does Cyrus believe about God? We really don’t know, except that Cyrus obviously believes enough in Him to obey Him. However, Cyrus is obviously confused in his own mind about who God is and who He belongs to and where He is located.

Don’t we relate?

Aren’t we often just as confused? We say that Jesus is Lord of everything, but we leave Him behind in His jurisdiction (the church) and fail to acknowledge Him as Lord in the world. We say that Jesus may be that person’s God, but fail to recognize that He is Lord over all. We may hear Him and believe Him just enough to obey Him, but do we believe Him enough to make Him exclusive. When we say that there are many paths to heaven, aren’t we really saying that Jesus is limited in what He commands, where He is, who He is, and whose He is?

In many, many, many respects, aren’t we just as confused as Cyrus?

Luckily, our position with God, our salvation, and our blessing is not dependent upon whether we are confused or not or whether we even “get it right,” but upon the solid rock that God Himself is not confused – He knows exactly what He is doing, when He is doing it, and with whom, for whom and to whom He is doing it. He is true to His word.

It is in this knowledge that, although we may be buffeted and confused by what happens to us, by other people, and by what we believe, God is steadfast that David can say in our Psalm 31 today: “Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For You are my rock and my fortress; and for Your name’s sake you lead me and guide me…You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Ps. 31:2b-3,5b

So, today, although we may be confused about many things, let us remember clearly and without confusion that God is not confused, He is our rock and our fortress, and He is faithful.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Gospel

November 5, 2012


Readings for Monday, November 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 14:1-13; Luke 12:49-59; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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In our readings today, God through Revelation says: “Then I [John] saw another angel flying directly overhead, with an eternal gospel to proclaim to those who dwell on earth…’Fear God and give Him glory….and worship Him who made heaven and earth … Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great…’ Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Rev. 14:6-8,12 (emphasis added).

Jesus says today in the Gospel of Luke: “Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Lk. 12:51

There is but one eternal gospel – Salvation is through Christ alone, through utmost trust and faith placed in Him after you have turned from your sin and toward God. It is not complicated but it is not easy. It cannot be accomplished by man’s effort, study, thought, or ability, but through the power of God granted to us by His grace in His time. Salvation is God’s sovereign gift to us, granted to us by nothing we have done, earned or deserved, but by God’s mercy.

For those who love God and trust in the Son, Jesus Christ, Babylon has indeed fallen, the penalty of eternal death is lifted, and good works in obedience to God’s commands spring forth in thanksgiving for the immeasurable gift we have received. For those who do not love God but love the things which they themselves have made (idols) or the things which have the appearance of right but the reality of wrong (the things Satan has made, the world), there is nothing but hell which awaits.

Stark, divisive words. But the eternal gospel is one of division, between those who choose Christ and those who don’t, between those who bow their knee to God and worship Him and those who worship the mirror or idols or the things of the world, between those who have eternal life and those who inherit eternal death.

There is no grey area here. You are either for God or against Him. You are either inheriting eternal life or you are not. You either belong to Jesus or you don’t. You either have eyes to see and ears to hear or you don’t.

The angel said that the gospel is “eternal.” We tend to treat it as a bit of dusty thinking, sometimes useful to trot out but mainly ignored in favor of more modern ways of thinking. “Eternal” means just that, from the very beginning to the very end. From before the very beginning to after the very end.

The gospel has been, is, and will be forever. The gospel divides. The gospel is true.

What say you to this? Who do you believe? Eternal life hangs in the balance.

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*Today’s readings designate Ecclesiasticus, sometimes called the Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach. This is not a book contained In the canonical Old Testament, but instead belongs to that body of work called the Apocrypha or Deuterocanonical Books. These books are accepted by some Christian denominations as useful, but are rejected by other denominations. I have not included this reading today because of these controversies. However, if you want to read it, the reference for today is Ecclus. 38:24-34.

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© 2012 GBF

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