Bread – Exodus

August 9, 2017


Psalm 77

You [God] led Your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron.”  Ps. 77:20

I normally start at the beginning of a Psalm and work forward, but this time I am starting at the end.  This Psalm begins in depression, works through memory, and then recalls who God really is.  The ending (the quoted) verse is a recollection of the exodus.

Wherever we are, whether it be in valley of despair or the mountaintop of joy, we need to remember that we have been brought out of slavery into freedom by the mighty hand of God.  We have been brought from death to life.  We are being brought into glory.  Our chains are gone in Christ and we have been set free.

It is God who led us out from slavery through the wilderness of testing into the promised land.  He may operate through men (in this case, historically, Moses and Aaron), but it not them who led but God.  It is God who created the circumstances of the exodus and God who brought it to conclusion.

That was the exodus of the Old Testament, but we can testify to our own exodus in the modern era from death unto life.  Yes, men and women were involved, agents of God, but it was God who decided and God who did.

I say all this because we too often are so wrapped up in our issue of the day that we often forget where we have been and where we are today by the grace, mercy, and power of God.

In fairy tales, the desolate maiden is locked into a high castle by a dark lord, only to be rescued by a glamorous knight in shining armor.  Who does not see that picture?  And we identify with either the damsel in distress or the knight come to save.  We recognize the dark lord for who he is and we celebrate that good has triumphed over evil.

But in this picture of human intervention to save us from human misery, what have we forgotten?

The knight in our fairy tale reports to someone.  That person is the king of the realm.  Who sent the knight?  Who empowered the knight?  Who stands behind and superintends the rescue?

We know who the king is in the fairy tale, although we may not see him and the story may not talk about him.

But do we know who the king is in our tale, our story, our exodus?

If we do, we need to remember Him, honor Him, worship Him … for He is indeed Lord of Lords and King of Kings.  He is Jesus the Christ.  He, with the Father and Holy Spirit, is (are) the author of our exodus.

Now that we remember our exodus and its Author, we are prepared to deal with both the lows of life and the highs as well.

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

Bread – Crushed

September 14, 2016


Psalm 34

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Ps. 34:18

How many of us are “crushed in spirit?”  For a salesman, it may be the big sale that you just knew you were going to make, but don’t … and there goes your commission.  For a trial lawyer, it may be the big case you know you are going to win, except you don’t … and there goes your confidence.  For someone asking someone else to marry them and they are sure the other person will say “yes,” and they don’t … and there goes your hope.  For the investor who just knows he or she has discovered the next wealth-generating investment, and the stock tanks … and there goes your ideas of wealth.

Those are the easy ones, but what about the person who goes out day by day to do battle with the world and comes home one day, realizing that the promotion, the big house, the opportunity for fame, the contented family, the loving children, the happy spouse, the attainment of the dream … just isn’t going to be there, at least to the degree wanted, dreamed for, or imagined?   What about those people who live their lives in silent despair?

What happens to them?

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is near to those people who know Him and trust Him, and that He “saves the crushed in spirit.”

We think that when a person is crushed in spirit, they are down and out.  But the Lord who saves says “you may say you are down and out, but I say that you may feel down but you are raised up.”  In the world’s view, when you are crushed you are crushed.  In God’s view, when you are crushed you are saved.

We may feel crushed in either event, whether we take our view or God’s view, whether we trust God or we trust ourselves or the world.  So what is the difference?  When we trust in God, we are saved out of our condition of being crushed in spirit; when we do not trust in God, we are still there.

When I was writing this and trying to think about what is means to feel crushed and be saved at the same time, an analogy came to mind.  If I am wandering in a swamp and get stuck in deep mud, I have mud all over me.  I am crushed in spirit, reflected by the amount of mud I have all over my clothes and my body.  If I remain stuck in the swamp and in the mud, I am imprisoned by the mud and have no freedom and no life, except to wallow in the mud.  If my savior, though, comes and pulls me out of the mud, I still have mud all over me but I am now free.  I am free to continue to wear the symbol of crushedness, the mud, or I am free to act like it never existed by having God help me wash it off.

When God saves the “crushed in spirit,” they may still feel crushed, but they are not.

You are depressed; you are crushed in spirit.  God says He saves you in that condition.  Do you believe Him?  Do you believe in Him?  If so, the Holy Spirit is right there ready to help you wash the mud of despair from your clothes.  Just ask.

And, oh, by the way, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. Now that’s down and out … for the count.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Fears

September 12, 2016


Psalm 34

I sought the Lord and He answered me and delivered me from all my fears.”  Ps. 34:4

What do we really fear?  For some of us, it is the phobias of the world – fear of falling, fear of heights, fear of snakes and bugs, fear of closed in spaces.  For others of us, it is the fear of failure – fear of loss of position or power, fear of loss of wealth, fear of loss of reputation.  And then there are the fears related to our emotions – fear of rejection, fear of loneliness, fear of separation, fear of being disliked, fear of being unappreciated.  There are lots of fears out there, to the point that we have a lot of fear classifications.

One that has always fascinated me is fear of success.  I think closely allied to that is fear of the unknown.  If we are comfortable with living a life of poverty, then our greatest fear may be of getting a successful job and all the change which will occur because of that.  The Bible says that we get not because we ask not.  I think that, behind the not asking, is a real desire not to receive.  What if we asked for wisdom and then we got it … maybe we are afraid that, if we had wisdom, we would actually have to be wise, which then means that we would have to change the way we live and change the way we interact with others.

It is much easier to stay where we are than to change.  We never have to answer the “what if” if we are afraid to try, to reach out, and to grow up.

If you think about it, the essence of the new man promised by God when we trust in Jesus Christ is really the removal of fear of being a new creation.  For us to love others, it is not necessary that we first love ourselves, it is necessary that we have our fears of love, exposure, and others eliminated.  One of the miracles of new birth is the destruction of fear by the power of God.  One of Satan’s greatest tools to keep us enslaved to him is fear; one of God’s greatest tools to release us from bondage is to release us from fear of freedom.

Are you ready to be fearless this week?  Seek the Lord.   And when the Lord shows up, take His deliverance of you from all your fears … and be grateful.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Vanished

March 23, 2016


Psalm 12

 “Save, O Lord, for the godly one is gone;…” Ps. 12:1

My ESV translation has Psalm 12 titled “The Faithful Have Vanished.”  That got me to thinking about what would happen when the “godly one is gone,” when the “faithful have vanished.”

We know sooner or later it will happen, because God in Revelation speaks about it.

But just imagine, if you can, what will happen when the godly one vanishes, when the faithful are no more to be found, when God removes His restraining hand from the affairs of man and lets us have our own way, in every way devised by man and dreamed by him.

Sodom and Gomorrah may be picnics by comparison.

What if there were no one around who cared about you, but only cared about themselves?  What if there was no one left to print Bibles, much less read them, much less speak truth from them?  What if there were no Bible studies, where men and women attempt to conform their lives to God’s will and His Word?  What if the foundations of our laws, the rule of law built upon God’s law, were to evaporate and the law became what the strongest among us decided it was?

What if there were no boundaries, no markings of where the road begins and where it ends, no hope, no limits, no eternity … just the here and now, just those with power and those without, just those with food and those without, just those battling for their place in the march of evolution?  Would there be any old people, any people of a different background or color or race or religion, any disabled people, any caregivers?

Think about just that last category – caregivers.  These are people who care for the sick and infirm, those who cannot care for themselves.  What if they were not givers but takers?  What if, when you were sick in your house, your neighbors break in and take what they want?

When it is your rights which are being taken away, your property being stolen, your liberty imprisoned, your life in jeopardy … why would you be upset?  After all, the faithful have vanished.  And what we cherish … love, growth, hope, opportunity, happiness, life, property, liberty …. all will be gone in an instant, because whese things do not rest on the foundation of man but the foundation of God, and when the faithful have vanished, we can only hope and pray that God has not vanished with them.

Many say, let’s get God out of our lives, let’s drive the faithful to their places of worship and ban them from the public square of life, government, and business.  If the faithful have vanished to their places of worship, where will we be?

When the Shepherd is gone, the wolves have their way with the sheep.

God forbid that the faithful ever vanish.  God forbid that the godly one is gone.  But if they are, then our prayer needs to be “Save, O Lord.”  Because He will be the only One left who can save us, because we cannot save ourselves.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Lord

June 5, 2015


Readings for Friday, June 5, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 26:1-11; 2 Cor. 8:16-24; Luke 18:9-14; Psalms 40, 51, 54

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Recently I have been confronted with taking the Bible translation (in my case today, the ESV), reading it in its plain meaning, adopting the meaning of the word used which I understand the meaning today to be in present English (or in my assumptions), thinking that I know what I am talking about, and then researching the word in its Greek or Hebrew form and realizing that I was losing much of the meaning because I thought I understood what the English word meant.

Something like that happened today in our reading from 2 Corinthians. In this reading, Paul writes “…for we aim for what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” [ESV translation] and “…for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. “ [NASB translation].

Now, reading this, I was going to write on the fact that honorable behavior can be seen as such by both the Lord and by man and that when we behave in a way which is honorable to the Lord it is likely also to be considered honorable by man (remembering that just because behavior is considered honorable by man does not mean that it is appreciated or recognized by man; you can be honorable and still in jail because as a Christian you are adverse to the purveyors of lies).

So in preparation for that I started looking words up which were underlined in my study bible and which were in this phrase, and lo and behold I found out that the word translated “Lord” is not what I thought it was.

When I see the word “Lord,” I think of position and not character; I think of Lord as Jesus Christ and not standing for a particular aspect of Jesus’ character. And yet in the use of the underlying Greek word translated to “Lord,” there is an implicit recognition of a particular character which is good for us to remember in our walk with Christ.

See, the word translated “Lord” in our reading today is the Greek word “Kurlos” which means the “lord” wielding power and authority for good. The direct opposite in the Greek is “Despotēs” which means a lord [despot] wielding authority over slaves. The word used for “Lord” in today’s reading conveys so much about our relationship with Christ and who He is. We obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. We follow His path because we believe in His promise that it is the right path, not because we are whipped mercilessly if we disobey. When our Lord corrects us, it is for our good end; when the despot correct his slaves, it is for his good end. Our Lord gives His power to us for daily living; the despot takes power from us to use in his daily living. Our Lord gives us talents and tells us to work the fields because the harvest is ripe; the despot takes our talents and forces us to work the fields. In Christ and beneath Christ and through Christ, we are to live freely and with hope. Beneath a despot, we live as slaves with no hope. Beneath Christ as our Lord, as our “Kurlos,” we will live forever. Under the despot Satan, as our “Despotēs,” we will die.

All this from one word.

What treasures await us in God’s Word if we will but stop from time to time on a single word, in a single phrase, and ask ourselves simply “What does this really mean.”

What does the word “Lord” really mean?

To many, it would seem that bowing the knee to God in submission is a step toward slavery. Because Christ is “Kurlos,” it actually means a step toward goodness and freedom. Knowing that, why would anyone choose to be slave to the despot?

I think it is because the despot speaks to our mind, saying “Why subject yourself to the Lord who wields power for good when you are good yourself?”

But as Jesus reminds us in today’s reading, “No one is good except God alone.” Lk. 18:19

Now, just stop for a minute and marvel at the unity of God’s Word. In the translation, “good” is mentioned only In today’s reading from Luke, when Christ reminds us that only God is good. In the middle of literally nowhere in Corinthians, when Paul is talking about honesty with handling money, the translated word “Lord” really means a Lord who wields authority power for good. Only God is good. The Lord who wields power for good can do so because He is God. Christ is God.

And, now, based upon just a few minutes of investigation into God’s Word, I now see that, everywhere I see the word “Lord” in a translation, I need to think “Lord wielding power for good.”

Leaves you with a good feeling for this weekend, doesn’t it?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Yield

January 22, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, January 22, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 9:18-29; Heb. 6:1-12; John 3:22-36; Psalms 38,119:25-48

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In my senior year of high school, I was selected as the first seat, first trombone player for both the All State Band and All State Orchestra. By this selection, I was labeled “best” in the state. I had honed my ability to play the trombone through many, many, many hours of intense practice, playing the same thing over and over again until I got it absolutely “right.”

Then, at the state orchestra practice, there was a part which we were struggling with and the conductor brought in a 13 year old trombone player from the North Carolina School of the Arts, who sat down and played the part like he was an angel. In an instant, I saw my better by light years (in fact, I marveled at his ability), and I yielded my position to him.

This is not to pat me on the back, because the difference in quality was too much to ignore. I was an excellent amateur and he was a professional, even at 13. I had received my reward for my hard work, and it was time to move on to the next stage of my life. I was excellent, but there was an excellence higher than me who had just appeared.

Our reading today from John has both John the Baptist baptizing and Jesus also baptizing (through His disciples). When John’s disciples point this out to John, he says some things we need to all remember – “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven…He [Jesus] must increase, but I must decrease.” John 3:27,30

When the superior comes, we must yield.

Why do we not? Is it our pride in our accomplishments? “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given to him from heaven.” Our accomplishments are but the diligent application of our talents (given to us by God) to our work (given to us by God). Is it pride in our position? Our position is but the world’s acknowledgment of our accomplishment, and that acknowledgement is fleeting as the wind. The gold medal given to the racer at the Olympics is repeated every four years, and not to the same person. The position that matters is our place at the end of God’s banquet table, which we did not earn anyway but is a gift from God, so that no one can boast.

Maybe we don’t willingly yield because we find our merit in our accomplishments or our position or our wealth. Why is that? Because we “earned” it? Because it gives us self-satisfaction? Because we are “god” over our little universe? “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given to him from heaven.” What part of “even one thing” do we not understand?

Christ has shown up, so “He must increase, but I must decrease.” I must yield to the superior. And what happens when I do? Freedom.

Yes, freedom. When we are ready, at an instant, to yield our “rights,” our “power,” our “position,” and our “pride,” what hold then does anyone have on us? What hold does the world have on us when we are ready to both receive the gold medal and, at the same time, refuse it? What hold does the world have on us when we are willing to receive the gold it has to offer and then we turn around and pass it on, give it away. Have we rejected the world? No, but we have rejected any hold it has on us.

By yielding we receive. By letting the superior replace us, we are made free of bondage to ourselves, our position, our abilities, our world.

Try this experiment. Today, yield to everyone. Yield your right to complain by not complaining. Yield your right to be first on the elevator or through the door by holding it open for someone else. Yield your right to speak by being silent. Yield your right to get where you are going faster by just staying in your lane in traffic behind the slow person in front of you. Yield your right to set your own agenda by asking God what His agenda for you today is. Yield your right to worry about yourself and, instead, look into other’s eyes and worry about them.

After all, God yielded to us when we needed a Savior and sent His Son to die for us so that we might, in His power, have eternal life. If God yielded for us, surely we can yield to Him and each other. Can’t we?

___________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Hammers

January 10, 2014


Readings for Friday, January 10, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 23:1-8; Col. 2:8-23; John 10:7-17; Psalms 138,139,147

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I was listening to a comedian last night who was talking about hammers, and then started quoting the Peter, Paul and Mary song – “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this world …” And, as the comedian said, “…and we sing the song and get excited about it, and then one day we actually get a hammer, … and then we don’t use it.” And everyone laughed, because they all knew that it was true. I laughed too, but in reflection upon Scripture this morning, I realize that this is no laughing matter.

We have three powerful Scriptures today, readings from the prophet Jeremiah, from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and from the sayings of Christ Himself as reported by the Apostle John. They are the hammers given to us by God to hammer our sins to the wall, to hammer ourselves into gold worthy of the King we serve, to hammer in the morning, to hammer in the evening, to hammer all over this world. The hammers given to us by God are the hammers of truth, of love, of servant leadership, of victorious living, of freedom, of eternal life.

And what do we do with these hammers? What do I do with these hammers? Well, the comedian said it…I actually get one and I don’t use it very much, if at all.

Listen to these hammers God has given us today:

From God through Jeremiah, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture! … Behold, the day is coming…when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king as deal wisely…” Jer. 23:1,5

From Jesus through John, “I am the door of the sheep…I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd…I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know me…So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:7-16

From Colossians: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head [Jesus], from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Col. 2:18-19

These are some of the great hammers of the faith. There is a good shepherd who does not steal and lie but leads us to good pasture, who feeds us with living water, who has sacrificed Himself to save His sheep. His name is Jesus, the Christ. He died, was raised, and lives. For all those who believe in Him, there is eternal life, victory over death, true freedom available today. The joy from this great gift can be harmed by human requirements, burdens, regulations, and requirements. But we can avoid harm by holding fast to Jesus.

Great hammers.

And what do we do with them?

Today, what will we do with them?

___________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Cycles

October 7, 2013


Readings for Monday, October 7, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Kings 21:1-18; 1 Cor. 10:14-11:1; Matt. 8:28-34; Psalm 106

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We understand cycles. For example, according to Peter, Paul, and Mary (the three singers), there is the cycle of flowers to young girls to young men to war to graves to flowers. There are the life cycles of people, of business, of economies, and of nations.

In today’s readings from Scripture, the cycle of God’s relief of man from his circumstances, man’s promise to obey, man’s disobedience, man’s chasing idols, God’s waiting, God’s action to punish, man’s saying “I’m sorry” and “I promise,” God’s action to forgive, God’s relief of man from his circumstances, etc. is apparent.

There is a tendency on our part to believe that cycles are inevitable. In other words, we tend to believe that no matter what we do, the valley will be followed by the mountain which will be followed by the valley which will be followed by the mountain, etc. We apply this to our walk with God, thinking that our promise to obey is always followed by our disobedience which is always followed by God’s punishment which is always followed by our repentance which is always followed by God’s restoration which then begins the new cycle. In this model, God will consistently behave and so will we, following some kind of cycle of life.

What we forget is that cycles can and often are broken and a new trajectory is set. The cycle of poverty is broken by education and opportunity. The cycle of death is broken by the cross of Jesus Christ.

The thing is, when a new trajectory is set, do we climb on to the new adventure or do we fall back into the old ways.

When Christ introduces Himself into our lives and leads and strengthens us into belief and discipleship, our old cycle is broken and we are set out on a new trajectory, a path into increasing joy, increasing love, increasing strength, increasing wisdom, increasing obedience, toward eternal life with God. How many of us, though, find more comfort in the old, familiar cycles of death than the new rocket of life?

Do we want to break the destructive cycle we find ourselves in? Grab hold of Jesus for the ride of your life. And in the process, discover that the obedience of duty, which leads to disobedience and the cycle we left behind, can be replaced by the obedience of gratitude, which never ends.

And discover that your cycle has, can, and will be broken by the One who has broken the chains of death, by Jesus.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Captured

August 23, 2013


Readings for Friday, August 23, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 19:24-43; Acts 24:24-25:12; Mark 12:35-44; Psalms 140,141,142,143

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A long time ago I was riding in our Chevrolet Suburban with my wife and children on a road trip coming north from Austin to Dallas, where outside of Waco I got stopped by the highway patrol for speeding. The stop was a worthy stop because I was driving sinfully. The officer walked up to my window, looked at my driver’s license, asked me to step out (leaving my young children and wife behind) and follow him to his car. He asked me to get in the front seat with him, asked me what I did for a living, and when I told him I was a lawyer he spent the next 20 minutes (while my wife and children are waiting in the stopped truck) telling me about his divorce and asking me questions about how he should do things. I engaged in a pleasant conversation with him in the hope (and expectation) that the ticket would be forgiven, but at the end he gave me the ticket anyway. I think the reason the conversation was over was because I suggested reconciliation rather than legal proceedings. I then walked back to my truck to the insistent questions about what was going on, free of capture.

I recall this event because in our reading today from Acts, the same thing happened to Paul. He is standing before Felix and Drusilla, both Jews, giving his defense against the accusations of the Jewish leaders. Paul spoke about faith in Jesus Christ, righteousness, self-control, and the coming judgment. Acts 24:25. Upon hearing these things, Felix was disturbed and sent him back to prison. Off and on for two years, Felix would recall Paul from prison, listen to him for a little while, and then put him back in. Felix was succeeded by Festus who ultimately sent Paul to Rome on appeal to Caesar, a right which Paul exercised to avoid being sent back to Jerusalem.

Now the differences in our two stories are important, because I was charged rightfully but Paul was charged wrongfully, and I was released from captivity after a while and Paul was not released, but there are similarities. One, we were both captive for a while. Second, one of the reasons we were held captive was that the civil law enforcement was interested in what we had to say. Third, what we had to say challenged the pre-set thinking of our captors – me by suggesting reconciliation when he was more interested in techniques of fighting and Paul by suggesting that Felix and Drusilla would not survive the coming judgment by relying upon obedience to the law, but only by faith in Jesus Christ. Fourth, what Paul and I both had to say was the truth, delivered in kindness surely, but the truth nonetheless. Fifth, neither of us was thanked for our message – me the ticket, Paul continued imprisonment.

But in both situations, I have to ask the question – who was the real captive? Was it the person who appeared to be free, with the power to arrest and imprison, but who was captive to the thoughts of the world with no ability to grasp the path of destruction he was on? Or was it the person who appeared to be imprisoned, with no power to extricate himself until let loose, who was captive to the voice of God? Was it the slave to sin or the slave to Christ who was, and is, the real captive?

Yes, Paul ultimately died at the hands of the Roman authorities, imprisoned in life temporal and free in life eternal. Felix and Drusilla died too, because it is the common end of man. We don’t know how they died (from the Biblical texts), but die they did. If they kept on the way they were going after they met Paul, they rejected the truth because they were captive to the world, they were dead in their sins during life and died in their sins at death temporal, and are not free in life eternal, but are committed to the lake of fire. Felix and Drusilla were both imprisoned in life temporal by the world, dead for all eternity. Paul’s chains were obvious, but removed. Felix’ and Drusilla’s chains were not so obvious, but permanent.

The question is not whether we want to be captured or held captive, but who are we captured and held captive by? Are we captured by the truth or captured by lies? Are we captured by God or by Satan? Are we slaves of Christ or slaves of sin?

And in God’s remarkable economy, when we are captured by Christ we are free indeed. How does capture lead to freedom? With man, it is not possible. With God, it is sure.

__________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Opportunity

July 16, 2013


Readings for Tuesday, July 16, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 19:1-18; Acts 12:1-17; Mark 2:1-12; Psalms 26,28,36,39

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God is in control, which means that we are not. This simple statement has been the source of much fighting and gnashing of teeth as we debate, then, whether we have free will or not, or the degree to which God exercises His control or not. When it comes down to God orders things according to His plan, but we have responsibility, our minds want to short-circuit (or at least mine does), pointing out to us that there truly is a limit to our understanding because we are not God. I realize that saying there is a limit to our understanding may be blasphemous to the modern mind, but it is true.

We have examples of this in today’s reading. From 1 Samuel, we have Saul committing to kill David and then being talked out of it by Jonathan. However, later in the same passage, Saul again changes his mind because “…a harmful spirit from the Lord came upon Saul, as he sat in his house with his spear in his hand.” 1 Sam. 19:9. A modernist might well say that this passage is an example of ancient thinking, where physical or mental maladies were attributed to gods (God) rather than to natural causes, and that we understand much better today medicines, the brain, etc. I tend to read the Bible plainly, and this “harmful spirit” is said by God-ordained Scripture to have been “from the Lord,” so why would I want to change that. The truth is that God intervenes in bringing about Saul’s bad intent and, later in our reading today in Mark, brings about healing by Jesus because Jesus forgave the paraplegic’s sin and told him to walk. He brings these things about in His sovereign authority for His sovereign purposes, and who are we to argue with that (even though we don’t understand it and don’t like it).

But the more dramatic example is from our reading in Acts today. Herod decides to go after the Christians, kills James and puts Peter in prison to kill the next day in a public spectacle. James dies with the sword, but Peter who is chained between two guards with guards at the gates of the jail is released miraculously by the intervention of a God-sent angel. Why? Was James the brother of John and an apostle a lesser person than Peter? No. Very simply, we don’t know why and we won’t know why. God was finished with this James the brother of John and an apostle (another James, the brother of Jesus, takes on the apostleship role), but not finished with Peter. God caused the “bad” (from our perspective), the death of James, and the “good” (from our perspective), the rescue of Peter from the jail and from certain death.

So, why is this Bread called “Opportunity?” It is simple. If you are reading this, you are alive. Are you alive because of you or because of the grace of God? If God’s plan for you was over, then you would be over (in the present, but as a Christian, alive for eternity in Christ). But you (and I) are here, meaning simply that God’s plan for us continues in the present. What a gift! What an opportunity!

How will we exercise our free will today to use God’s gift of a new day for His glory and His honor? Will we use this opportunity wisely or will we squander it?

Yes, what we do and how we do it is God’s plan, but it is also our responsibility. How will we exercise that responsibility so that, when we lay our heads down tonight, we will hear the words from God “well done, good and faithful servant.”

Carpe diem. Seize the day. Seize the opportunity.

And not just in your own power, for the same God who gives us today, gives us this opportunity, gives us the power, love, and self-discipline to use it well. Come Holy Spirit!

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© 2013 GBF

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