Bread – Recall

December 5, 2016


Psalm 44

O God, we have heard with our ears, our fathers have told us, what deeds You performed in their days … You with You own hand drove out the nations, but them You planted…”  Ps. 44:1-2

This will be an interesting week because this Psalm begins one way and quickly turns to another.  A calamity has fallen on the people of Israel and they lament to God why?  But before the Psalmist writes about the calamity, he writes about God’s exercise of His power in the past to help Israel and its people.

There is a saying that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it.  However, when it comes to God, those who forget history forget who God is.

Recall of God’s blessings upon our nation, our families, and each of us personally is critical to anchoring us in knowing God, in knowing His faithfulness through all generations.  It is not enough in our tumultuous lives that our anchor to God be set in emotions, in the high of the moment, or in mountaintops, but in the deep past, in the valleys of despair, in the memory of rescue, of salvation, of gifts, of blessings, of hope, and of love.

In order for our ship to be stable on the stormy waters of life, our anchor must be placed firmly in God.  And even though God is here today and will be here tomorrow, it is in the past where His glory, power, and authority has been exercised over and over again for our benefit, laid in stone of history, there for the viewing if we but recall.

We celebrate Christmas this year, recalling the advent of the Christ-child in history.  We will celebrate Easter this year, recalling Christ’s death on the cross in history.  The Psalmist recalls God’s great deeds, the blessing of Sarah with children, the exodus from Egypt, the burning bush, the fall of the walls of Jericho, and many more large and small, written down in the past.

So, as we begin this week, let us recall our history as God’s people, both the ups and the downs, the weaknesses and the strengths, the times of obedience and disobedience, the power and the grace and the blessings and, yes, the flood and forgiveness and the cross and the resurrection, and, yes, the birth of hope for the world in the birth of Jesus.  Let us recall not only the great history God’s people but our own history as God’s son or daughter.

Let us place these recollections firmly in our memory and anchor ourselves in them.

Why, because we will need these recollections to anchor us in the coming storm, to remind us that, when God seems absent and uncaring, He is neither.  And to remind us that, even in defeat, in Christ there is victory.

_________

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

 

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Bread – When

April 8, 2016


Psalm 14

“When the Lord restores the fortunes of His people…”  Ps. 14:7

It is in little words that major meaning turns.  The Psalmist ends his lament about the fool and about the absence of righteousness from the earth by saying, simply, “When …”  No “if,” but “when.”

How often do we hesitate in our commitment to God, our proclamation of the gospel, our requests in prayer, our acceptance of forgiveness, our rejection of restoration, our failure to live fully, with a whole life – how often do we hesitate because, in our mind, the sentence always begins with “if” rather than “when?”

Throughout the Bible there are example after example of God, having been doubted by men, lives up to His promise.  Sometimes the fulfillment of promise is in judgment, wrath, and destruction, and sometimes the fulfillment reflects itself in restoration, love, mercy, forgiveness, salvation, and life, but we can say that the Bible communicates an essential nature of God – His promises are true, His promises will be fulfilled, His promises are trustworthy.

And, yet, we most often precede everything we do with respect to God with “if.”  Why?

I think we are doubtful because we are concrete people.  Like Thomas in the New Testament, we will not believe unless we can see, taste, touch, hear, and fully comprehend.  And, even then, we wonder whether what we have observed is accurate.  We know from our observations that everything fails sooner or later.  Man disappoints.  Foundations of concrete and steel will ultimately weather and rot, or maybe even crack.  Trees will fall.  Fires will consume.  Weather is fickle.  Man is fickle.  Two plus two equals four, except when it doesn’t.

When everything we see is at daily risk of disappointing, then it is natural to assume that God is the same way, and therefore live our life by sentences preceded by the word “if.”

This is why faith cannot come from the heart of man, but from the mind of God.  This is why, when we are secure in our belief that we are saved, it is because we know that is not a question of “if” we will survive the lake of fire, but of when we are taken to be with the Lord.

Where does this certainty come from?  From our observations, from our reason, from our tradition, from our knowledge or wisdom?  No, it cannot … because if our certainty comes from these things, all of which are ours, then it is no certainty at all.

If we have certainty of our future, if we know in our hearts, minds, and souls that the question is not “If the Lord restores our fortunes,” but “When the Lord restores our fortunes,” we have it only because the Lord gave it to us.  It does not come from natural things,  the things and thoughts of man, but from supernatural things, the things and thoughts of God.

Is our life guided by the word “if” or the word “when?”

There is no question about “if” God will restore us to Him.  The only question is “when.”

And we need to be ready.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Intend

February 29, 2016


Psalm 9

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart;

I will recount all of Your wonderful deeds.

I will be glad and exult in You;

I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.”  Ps. 9:1-2

“I will” are perhaps the most abused words in the English language.  “I will pray for you.”  How many of us have said that and then not?  “I will take out the garbage.”  How many of us have said that and then not?  “I will call him/her/it when I get a chance.”  How many of us have said that and then not?

When I read this Psalm, which is described by many as a “praise” Psalm, I asked myself the question of why David didn’t just do it.  Why didn’t he say “I give…,” “I recount….,” “I am glad…,” and “I sing…”?  Why did David say “I will” when he could have just done it?

There are perhaps several potential answers to this question.  One is that David may have been thinking about the future, about a variety of circumstances to occur in the future, and in a sense be committing himself now to praising God in those circumstances then, because he knew himself and knew that, in those future circumstances, he would not be inclined to praise God unless he remembered that he said he would.   And, indeed, that is a good thing – for us to contemplate today what may happen tomorrow and to steel ourselves today for what we will do tomorrow when something bad happens.  For example, if a bad person says to you “Deny Jesus Christ or die by having your head chopped off,”  what will you do then?  Rather than waiting for that to happen and then thinking about it, it might be a good time today to ask of yourself whether, in a crisis, you would deny Jesus.  Just like we plan today for tomorrow in our personal and business lives, maybe we should plan today for tomorrow in our spiritual lives.

Another potential answer is that David meant something by the word “will.”  I used the word “intend” to describe Bread today because, in modern English, there has been a softening of the word “will” to mean “intend.”  Today, when we say we “will” do something, it often means that we “intend” to do it, so it is OK if we don’t.  In David’s time and in our not-so-far distant past, the word “will” though meant something much more like a “firm intent,” a “promise,” a declaration of what we will do “come what may, in all circumstances.”  At a time when a promise means something, then to say “I will” is a form of “bond oath” which will not be broken if at all possible.  Today, we might even say that people of integrity will keep a promise, pay a debt, do what they say they “will” do, no matter what.  But if you only “intend” to do it, then it is OK if you change your mind or just forget.  Therefore, for modern man, it is easier for us to say “I will” when we really mean “I intend” than it is to say “I will” and mean it.  For David, however, the statement “I will” probably meant something like “You can count on me to do it no matter what.”

But neither thinking and planning for the future nor a discussion of the strength of the commitment of “I will” really deals with the question of, if David says “I will,” then why didn’t he also then just do it.  Rather than say, “I will pray for you,” why not just pray for the person?  Rather than say, “I will take out the garbage,” why not just take out the garbage?

This is typically where I begin to wonder if the translation is complete and so I go to more basic sources.  However, in this matter, I hit the wall on my ability to use the Hebrew reference materials I have access to.   Although I was able to find the Hebrew symbols and a simple English letter translation of those symbols, I could not find a translation of the “words” themselves which I could understand.

So, like so many things, we are left to wonder – when David said, “I will,” is the correct interpretation that he will in the future or that he has in the past, is in the present, and will in the future?

And then it hit me, what difference does it make?  God is a God of new beginnings.  If I have not praised Him in the past and am not in the present, then what is keeping me from doing it tomorrow?  Nothing, really … unless I only “intend” to and am using tomorrow as the opportunity to avoid today.  And why would I do that if my “I will” has meaning?  If my “I will” has meaning, then now is the perfect time.  If “I will” is but a wisp of a promise, then tomorrow will never come.

And then I realized the truth – “I will” means now, this minute.

“Will”you praise God now, or only intend to tomorrow?

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Bonds

January 13, 2016


Psalm 2

“Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves … against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.’”  Ps. 2:1-3

What “bonds” are they talking about?  Why do the rulers of the people, the ones who are ordained by God to execute justice and rule honestly in the land, want to throw off “their bonds” (the “their” referring to the Lord and His Anointed)?

There are four kinds of bonds which I think the writer has in mind.  The first are the bonds of rules and regulations (the Law).  As Jews in the Old Testament, they were bound to follow the Law and in fact invented broader, deeper, and more detailed laws than God dictated.

The second kind of bonds are the bonds of relationship.  We live in a covenant relationship with God, where He has shown love to us by His death on the cross and His payment of our debt of sin, and in turn we have promised obedience.  This obedience though is not to a set of rules and regulations, but a set of the requirements of love in a relationship – love of the Father, love of our neighbor, love for the lost.  When we get married we make a covenant with our spouse, and everyone who is married understands the bonds of relationship.

The third kind of bonds are the bonds of society, or the rules of civility, of tolerance, of kindness.  Sometimes these are rooted in the bonds of the law and sometimes in the bonds of relationship, but I think that society itself places its own bonds upon us.  These may show up in rules and regulations, but most often they show up in phrases like “out of date,” “out of touch,” “un-stylish,” etc.  These are the bonds created by society to make us look like we belong.

The fourth kind of bonds are the bonds of the past and the future.  We may feel like we are shackled by our past, but if one believes prophecy, then to a certain extent we are subject to the bonds of God’s plan for us and for the world.  We are bound to the end times, whether we witness them or not.

So when the rulers want to cast away “their bonds,” they are essentially saying to God, “I want to cast away Your Law, Your Relationship with me, Your relationship in the community of the saints, and Your Future.

When the rulers do that, it is so that they can run their own game.  When the rulers cast off the Law of God, what do they have left?  The tyranny of man, unmoored from standards, morality, truth, integrity, honor.

When the rulers cast off the Presence of God, the Relationship with God, what do they have left?  Hopelessness because death is the only end.  A hole in their heart originally filled by God.  Lovelessness, hatred, anger, bitterness, anxiety, loss, depression.

When the rulers cast off God’s community, what do they have left?  “Friends” borne of convenience, treachery, isolation, withdrawal, bitterness.  Lack of accountability for anything they do or say.

When the rulers cast off God’s future, what do they have left?  The future they create?  Barns filled with treasures stolen from others (or maybe earned, doesn’t matter), all of which is left behind at death.  No future.

What do you get when the rulers cast off ‘their bonds.”  The rise of man as boss, tyrant, murderer, and thief.  Unlovable and unloved.  Chaos.  Anarchy.  Death.  Destruction.  Disaster.

We as Americans have spent the last hundred years acting as the rulers who are busy “bursting their bonds.”  Has it bought us more freedom?  No.  Has it bought us more happiness?  No.  Has it brought us more riches of the eternal kind?  No.  Has it made us a more civil society?  No.  Has it made us love more?  No.  Has it helped our neighbor (if we even know who that is)?  No.

And God laughs and we suffer.  But there is a way to end the suffering.  There is a way to recovery.  Jesus says “Take My yoke (My bonds) upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke (My bonds) is (are) easy, and My burden (My bonds) is (are) light.”  Matt. 11:29-30

Embrace the bonds imposed by God and you will free and alive.  Burst the bonds of God and you will be both dead and miserable.   Our choice every day, and we will either suffer or rejoice in the consequences.

__________

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

 

Bread – Time

January 28, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 28, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 49:1-12; Gal. 2:11-21; Mark 6:13-29; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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Time is an interesting concept because we live in time and yet we really only observe and measure it – we do not control it. Time passes whether we say “wait” or “go.” Time stops for no man. Yesterday was yesterday and we cannot recover it. Today is today and we can only live in it well or poorly. Tomorrow is tomorrow and may or may not occur according to our predictions, plans, and expectations.

Furthermore, time can be relative. Watching a boiled egg takes a long time if you are watching it and only a short time if you are not. We understand from science that as we reach the speed of light time would come to a crawl. We watch space movies and from that learn about time warps. Our mathematicians calculate various interaction between time and mass, energy, space, dimension, and momentum. We can envision all kinds of manipulation of time, and yet yesterday was yesterday, today is today, and tomorrow will be tomorrow. Time goes forward, never backward … but unfortunately for us, we do not necessarily do the same. While time is marching forward, we can go backwards, not in time but in everything else.

Outside of time there is God. He is the only thing outside of time because He made time. In our statement of what is called the Lord’s Prayer, we end with “for Thine is the kingdom, forever and ever, Amen.” I used to stop at “forever” because, from my point of view, that means all time and therefore means eternity. However, once I realized that God was outside of time, the “and ever” part made sense, because God is not only eternal, He is beyond eternal. He is not time bound like we are. We have limits; He does not.

Why all this talk about time today? From our reading today in Isaiah, God says “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you…” Isa. 49:8

Now this is a Messianic passage, but the phrase “time of favor” struck me.

When is our “time of favor” from the Lord? Well, let’s describe some possibilities. First, He knew us in our mother’s womb – “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Isa. 49:1b Surely at the time when we are most vulnerable, to be known by God is a ‘time of favor.” Second, He knew us in sin and did not reject us. Surely this is a time of favor. Third, He saved us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fourth, He sustains us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fifth, He refines us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord, although it may hurt at the time. Sixth, He delivers us from evil. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Seventh, He gives us our daily bread. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord.

Beginning to detect a pattern? Each of us can point to particular times when we stood on the mountaintop with God and those stick out in our minds as particular times of favor from the Lord. But isn’t every day of our lives full of blessing, opportunity, gifts, forgiveness and love, whether we feel it or not and whether we know it or not? Isn’t every minute of our lives a “time of favor” from the Lord?

Imagine with me how we would behave differently if we were aware that every moment of time in our lives is truly a “time of favor.” Would we respond in grumpiness, depression, and fear, or would we respond by dressing up for the occasion, looking forward rather than backward, full of joy and gratitude for the new day, full of joy and gratitude for the present time of favor?

The time today is a “time of favor.” How will we treat it? And how will we treat the One who gave it to us?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Wasted

November 3, 2014


Readings for Monday, November 3, 2014, 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 today’s reading from Psalm 56, we read “You have kept count of my tossings, put my tears in Your bottle.” Ps. 56:8

This is the same Psalm which contains the famous words “…in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?” Ps. 56:11. It is this phrase which often draws attention. However, for some reason today the words about “tossings” and “bottle” just caught my attention.

What is it about tossings and tears? First, they represent how we handle worry and loss. We toss all night, barraged by nightmares, because we do not sleep well. We do not sleep well because we are worried about something – the job, no job, money, the children, old age, lack of opportunity, poor health, fear of failure, fear of life … the list goes on. Loss brings on tears (there are sometimes tears of joy, but today I am speaking about tears of sadness, melancholy, loss, failure, etc.). Grief overwhelms us and tears flow.

We are all familiar with tossings and tears. We have all experienced them and we know others who have experienced them as well.

The second characteristic of tossings and tears is that they are lonely events. Tossings take place while we are in bed. We may sleep next to our wife or husband, but they generally occur in the dead of night and we try to control our tossings so that we will not disturb our spouse’s sleep. We try to leave them out of the picture, whatever that picture is which is causing us to toss and turn, and in the process suffer our tossings alone. Likewise, people can try to comfort us as we cry, but crying is something we do, alone. It does not take two people for me to cry; I can cry on my own just fine, thank you! Tossings and tears are lonely events, or so they would seem.

The third characteristic of tossings and tears is, according to the Psalm, that God pays attention to them. He counts my tossings. Rather than let my tears fall empty to the ground, He puts them into bottles.

Why would God do this? Because He cares and He loves us.

See, we do not toss and turn and cry by ourselves, alone without love and support. We toss and cry in front of God. He notices, He cares, and He preserves. We are not alone because God is with us.

I call this Bread “wasted” because we know intellectually that tossing does not solve problems and that tears do not cause losses to disappear. The problems and losses remain after we have completed as much worrying about them as we can stand. We would therefore think that “tossings” and “tears” are wasted actions.

But they are not wasted. They are so valuable that God counts the tossings and bottles the tears. Both are preserved by God.

Why preserve such things?

I think to demonstrate to us that nothing is wasted which happens to us. No disaster, no loss, no trouble, no injury which befalls us is wasted by God. If we will let Him, God will preserve us through the disaster, loss, trouble, or injury, and He will bring us victorious to our end with Him.

When God is God of our lives, nothing we do is wasted. Ever.

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Legacies

November 13, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, November 13, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Neh. 7:3b-8:3-18; Rev. 18:21-24; Matt. 15:29-39; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120

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Today’s readings are sort of strange and disconnected. In Nehemiah, we have the reading of the law and the reinstitution of the Feast of Booths (Tabernacles). In Revelation, we have a commentary on the death of a society driven by money rather than by God. In Matthew we have Jesus feeding the four thousand, after having shown the crowd that He is the One who causes the mute to speak, the crippled to come to health, the lame to walk, and the blind to see. In and of themselves, each reading is not strange, but it is strange that they appear so disconnected, because usually there is a common thread.

But prior to the reading of the law in Nehemiah, there are a number of verses dedicated to a census of those who are participating in the Lord’s miracle. For example, “..the sons of Parosh, 2,172…” (Neh. 7:8).

I was impressed with the number of “sons” allocated to Parosh and realized that I was looking at his legacy. Out of his obedience to the Lord, his dedication to his work, his devotion (whatever it was) to maintaining God’s law, he now had 2,172 people (or more) who could be counted among those whom the Lord restored to Jerusalem, to the law, and to the seasons of celebration (one of which is the Feast of Booths).

And it made me think about my legacy. When I reach heaven, will I be able to look out at legacy of 2,172 who are in the New Jerusalem because of me? Will I?

I was at a meeting on Tuesday discussing major philanthropy. It is gifts of many millions of dollars that put names on buildings or scholarships or whatever. Many people consider that their legacy. Some consider their legacy to be children. Some consider their legacy to be their work, their writing, their craftsmanship, their family. But isn’t our real legacy as Christians the number of people who are counted, just as Parosh’s were, as part of the gathering of God’s people?

So, what will your legacy be? “…the sons of X, 2…” or “…the sons of X, 2,000…”?

________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Waiting

June 17, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19; Psalms 77,79,80

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Waiting is not something I do well. From my observation of others, waiting is not something others do well either. Any government agency comes to mind, whether it is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Internal Revenue Service help desk, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the Social Security Office. We get our number or sign up on a sheet of paper, go out and sit in a poorly decorated room on hard chairs, tapping our feet or our cell phones, wondering “Why me!” and yet knowing at the same time that this experience is the lot of every man and woman.

Or pick standing in line at a movie theater or the sports arena to get tickets. Or standing in line waiting to be assaulted by the security people at the airport. In addition to tapping our feet and our cellphones, we will cross our arms and adopt a tired, angry face, totally irritated that we are having to wait.

We hate waiting.

Our readings today give us two good examples of waiting. In the first, from 1 Samuel, Hannah is barren. For years she has had to put up with the taunts of the other wife, who has many children. Her husband tries to console her, to no end. She waits for a child, waits for a child, waits longer, and then waits some more. The Bible describes the waiting perfectly – “So it went on year by year.” 1 Sam. 1:7 This has to be extremely frustrating. I want a child but I can’t have one; God tells me to wait. And I wait, until I grow old and then I wait some more. How depressing. But Hannah does what she can; she goes to church and entreats God over and over again for a child. The priest even thinks she is drunk, her wordless prayer is so obvious and so earnest. And, after a while, in God’s good time and according to His good purpose, He does give her a child, who turns out to be the prophet Samuel.

Hannah may be a good example of good things come to a person who waits, but I’ll bet you can’t tell the person that while he or she is waiting. The waiting place is not a fun place.

The second waiting which occurs in today’s readings is from Acts. Jesus has died, been resurrected, and appears before the apostles. He tells them to wait where they are and, after a while, they will receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is easier to wait when you know the timetable, so they ask Him when the kingdom will be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Acts 1:7-8. Note that Jesus did not tell them when anything would happen, just that it would happen when the Father was ready for it to happen.

And so at the end of our reading today in Acts, we find the apostles all gathered in the upper room, hanging out and waiting for the next shoe to drop. But they don’t know if that will be five minutes later or a year later. So there they are, just waiting and waiting and waiting. What do you think they were thinking? Do you think they were happy? Do you think they were engaged in meditative silence? Or do you think they were tapping their feet, looking at the candles burning down, checking outside for signs of the Holy Spirit, or mumbling about how long it takes God or the government to do anything? I’ll bet they were irritated, ready to get on with the program, and not at all happy about waiting.

Why does God make us wait? You know, as soon as I ask the question we want to answer it. One answer which immediately pops into our head is to teach us something, like long-suffering, or hope, or perseverance, or radical dependence upon Him. And those are great answers for a Bible study or Sunday School or a sermon.

Or what if the answer is simpler – there is no answer? What if the reason we wait is simply because our time is not God’s time and He has not acted? To ask ourselves why God makes us wait is to assume that God owes us something – that He owes us a timetable, a look to the future, immediate action according to our wishes, or at least an explanation for the delay. Does He really owe us anything?

The answer to that question is a simple “No.” God does not owe us anything. He does not have to answer our prayers, He does not have to reveal to us His timetable or His purposes, He does not have to explain anything to us. He is God and we are not. He is King and we are not. And Jesus says this quite clearly – “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:7. There it is, He has the authority and we do not, except to the extent He gives it to us.

But while we are waiting for the answer to prayer or the next miracle or whatever we have in mind on our agenda, there is someone else who is waiting too. That person who is waiting is God Himself.

Jesus spoke, as reported by Luke in our readings today, about the parable of the landowner and the tenants. The landowner sent his servants and the tenants beat them up. The landowner then sent his son and the tenants killed him. Jesus asks, then, what will the landlord do? He then answers His own question this way – “He [the landowner] will come and destroy those tenants…” Lk. 20:16

Well, we have beat up the prophets and killed Jesus Christ … so where is the destruction? God is waiting.

See, God waits too. He waits until His time is right. He is waiting until the day Jesus returns to earth in glory and judgment. And on that day, what will happen to those tenants?

They will be destroyed…unless they are forgiven. Who are the forgiven? Those who have been saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven their sins by Him, those who have turned away from disobedience toward acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, those to whom God has shown mercy.

Are you counted in the forgiven? God is waiting. Why are you waiting?

_______________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Hope

September 7, 2012


Readings for Friday, September 7, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 19:1-7, 14-27; Acts 13:13-25; John 9:18-41; Psalms 31,35

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On Monday, Bread was called “Plodding” because the Scripture readings focused on the mundane living of life, not so much in the valley of despair, but in the plainness of life, where sometimes we just have to take the job God has given us and just put one foot in front of the other. Many of us live most of our lives in the plodding mode. It was a good way to begin the week, in part because that is the way most people see Monday.

The Scriptures today speak of something much different, the hope that is within us. They speak of that vision to the hills which we have to call on from time to time to help us through the plodding part of life, as well as the more adversarial parts of life. They speak of Jesus – the light on the hill, the Savior of the saved, the Son of God, God Himself.

We begin with Job in one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. I will let him speak for himself – “And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself….I call for help, but there is no justice … My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me…and those whom I loved have turned against me…For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself…” Job 19:4,7b,14,19b,25-26. We have all sinned (erred) and our error is ours and ours alone and we have all felt abandoned from time to time by family, by good friends, by people we have invested in. We have been misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, and seemingly set aside for failure. And yet, as Christians, we know the same thing that Job knew in the Old Testament – Our Redeemer lives. Not “has lived” at some time in the musty past or “will live” in the far future, but “lives” in the present, in our lives, leading us, guiding us, loving us, carrying us, crying over us, and healing us. And He will return to stand upon the earth. And because of Him and His mercy on us, we “shall see God” for eternity. Hope surrounded Job in his misery and caused him to look up to his Redeemer. Hope surrounds us too, but we to see Jesus.

In Acts, Paul recounts the history of the Jews from Egypt to Jesus, demonstrating that God works through history and through ordinary people to achieve His purpose. This reminds us that the hope which Job saw and embraced has existed throughout known history, constantly being proven to us by God’s actions on behalf of His people, even though they often insult Him, ignore Him, and hate Him. We are part of that history, today. Our hope is based upon the solid rock of a God of fact, not fiction, and of action in time, not suspended animation in eternity. If we are but to read, think, ponder, see, and hear, our hope surrounds us in reality. It is not a myth and it is not a dream. It is grounded in observation, in reason, in faith, and in the entirety of time, past, present, and future.

In John, the man Jesus healed is born blind. As that man says himself, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” John 9:32 From the Jewish perspective, that blind man was so steeped in sin at birth that sight was impossible. Jesus took the man born in sin, blind from birth, and restored his sight, restored his relationship with his world, stripped him from his sin, and set him free. This man who had no hope according to then-modern religious and scientific thought was given hope by Jesus. With his new eyes, the man could worship anything he wanted to. He could worship his family, the religious establishment, or the then world order. Instead, he sought out Jesus, saying “Lord, I believe [in You],” and then worshiping Him.

We began the week with plainness. We end the week with wonder. We begin the week with looking at ourselves. We end the week looking at Jesus – the Jesus who lives throughout time and in all time, the Jesus who exists in reality, and the Jesus who heals and restores. We begin the week looking down at our feet and we end the week looking to the heavens. The began the week knowing that we were blind and knowing that our error was ours. We end the week with sight restored and the error forgiven.

So when we are in the plodding phase of life let us hold tightly to the hope we have, let us look from our feet to our future, let us look from ourselves to our Savior. And let us live in victory, because we have it – and we have Him who won it.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Purpose

August 14, 2012


Readings for Tuesday, August 14 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 13:1-15; Acts 5:27-42; John 3:22-36; Psalms 94, 95, 97, 99, 100

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Seeing the readings from Psalms today go from 94 through 100, skipping Psalms 96 and 98, it reminded me of this childish saying – “One, two, skip a few, one hundred.” It is a faster way of counting. It is also indicative of how we live our lives in Christ, impatiently. If we have some glimpse of our purpose from God, we want to run with it, skipping as it were to the end. However, God only asks us to show up for what He has for us today, our purpose for the moment. If we are to be used mightily, we cannot presume upon our purpose by jumping to conclusions, but must obey in the moment and let God take care of the destination.

This is brought home today in our reading from Judges. Manoah’s wife was barren and they had no children. An angel appears to her and tells her that she will have a child, a son, saying to her “Therefore, be careful and drink no wine or strong drink, and eat nothing unclean…for the child shall be a Nazirite to God from the womb, and he shall begin to save Israel from the hands of the Philistines.” Judges 13:4-5. She tells her husband, who of course wants to hear it for himself. The angel reappears and Manoah says to the angel “Now when your words become true, what is to be the child’s manner of life and what is his mission?” Judges 13:12.

Notice that Manoah does what we are prone to do. He accepts the words of the angel as true (“Now when your words become true”) and therefore knows that his wife will bear him a son. He knows his son will have a purpose, but he doesn’t know exactly what it is. Therefore, he asks this question – “what is to be the child’s manner of life and what is his mission?” Knowing the present is not good enough; Manoah wants to know the future too. After all, he is the father and, if he knows what the “end game” is, well then he can “help” achieve it.

The angel’s response to Manoah is instructive. Manoah asks how the child should live and what the child’s mission is, and the angel responds “Of all that I said to the woman let her be careful…All that I commanded her let her observe.” Judges 13:13-14. Manoah asks about the future. The angel responds – obey in the present.

In Acts today, Peter and the disciples are again brought before the Jewish council and the high priest and told to shut up about Jesus. Peter responds simply that he must obey God and not them, and then proceeds to present to them the gospel. At that moment, they were facing death. Instead, they ended up being scourged (flogged), and left “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name [of Jesus].” Acts 5:41.

Did Peter know what was going to happen in front of the council? No. He was simply obedient to God in the moment. His purpose was to be obedient in the then and now, and let God take care of the rest. Of course Peter knew the end game – eternity with God; however, he did not know what the immediate future held, only the immediate present and the ultimate destiny. Firm in the ultimate destiny, Peter knew his purpose in the moment and lived his purpose to the fullest.

What does tomorrow bring? I don’t know. Today brings the opportunity for relationship, for hope, for joy, for participation in the miracle of life, for worship, for obedience to the tasks which God sets before me. “One, two, skip a few, a hundred?” No, God would have us count “One, two, three …” knowing that He has the dots, He has the future.

And knowing that God has the dots, the future, frees us to do and to be in the present. Let’s go obey!

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© 2012 GBF

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