Bread – Awake

May 22, 2017


Psalm 66

Shout for joy to God, all the earth; sing the glory of His name; give to Him glorious praise!  Say to God, ‘How awesome are Your deeds!’”  Ps. 66:1-3

This morning, when I got out of bed, I made coffee, got the newspaper, showered, shaved, and prepared for the day.  Very routine, almost tiring.  And probably something very similar to what you did this morning.

And then I sat down to write Bread and read Psalm 66, the first three verses of which are quoted above.

And the first thought I had after reading “Shout for joy to God…” was, “How would my day be different if I woke up shouting for joy to God?  Instead of the mundane and the routine, what if I woke up every day with praise on my lips for the new day ahead of me, reveling in the majesty of God’s creation?

I think that if I awoke with a “shout for joy” on my lips, I would have started the day truly awake.  I would have been awake to the possibilities.  I would have been awake to the miracles.  I would have been awake to the overflowing blessings of God in my life and through my family and friends.  I would be awake to the mighty roar of welcome which the Lord presents us every day in His sunrise.

What does it take to be truly awake in this life our ours?  I think it is all contained in our quote for the day.  If we shout for joy at the awesomeness of God’s deeds, we will be very, very awake.  The other people around us are likely to be awakened as well.

Satan would have us fall into the trap of daily grind, making the rounds of the daily newspaper, the daily coffee, the daily teeth brushing, and the daily dressing for work.  Satan would have us focus on our “to do list” and all the labors before us, grinding us into submission and joylessness.

God on the other hand would have us wake up to Him and His – His creation, His majesty, His glory, His hope, His blessings, and His creatures – me and you.

“Rise up like a lion in the service of the Lord!”  This should be our war cry every morning.  But to even make this, we need to be awake to the glory of God around us, in us, and through us.  If we wake up with a shout for joy, we can then follow with a shout for service.  If we wake up with a shout of truth, we can then follow with a shout of love.

“Wake up and hear the birds sing?”

No.  Wake up and know God.

________

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

 

 

 

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Bread – King

August 1, 2016


Psalm 29

“Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.  Ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name; worship the Lord in the splendor of holiness.” Ps. 29:1-2

What do we ascribe to the Lord God?  What features does He have, in our mind?  What is His character?  Who is God?

These are important questions and how we answer them will result in different present actions and endings.

Interestingly, the choices we make in what characteristics we attribute to God are ours to make.  God presents the evidence and we must, from that evidence, conclude.  Our view of the truth may be distorted by sin or made clear by God’s sovereign act of grace to enable us to see, but it is still our view.  We possess the view, we attribute the characteristics, and we must live for all eternity with the consequences of those choices.

One feature which we could ascribe to God is fancifulness.  In other words, God is what we make Him up to be.  If we want Him to be a clown, then He is a clown.  This is the view of many atheists, who acknowledge that there may be a God, but that He is a figment of our imaginations.  This conclusion from our ascriptions to God is logical from our beginning point, our ascriptions, but leads to death for all time and beyond time.

Another feature we could describe to God is remoteness.  God sits on His holy hill and looks down at us uninvolved in our daily lives; God exists but He is remote.  From this ascription of remoteness to the Lord, we would easily conclude that, although there is a God, He is irrelevant for daily living.  We may respect Him and even fear Him, but we cannot love Him because there is no relationship – no involvement, no relationship.  The persons who ascribe remoteness to God may have the label of one religion or another, but they do not walk in the power of the presence, because there is no presence.   They tip their hats toward God in acknowledgment of His existence, but proceed to live their lives as they see fit because God doesn’t care and isn’t involved anyway.

The characteristics we ascribe to God matter, which is why the Psalmist begins with instructions to the angels about the characteristics they, and we, should ascribe to God.  Ascribe to Him “glory and strength” and the “glory due His name.”

What does this mean?  There is nothing friendly about this, loving about it, all-knowing about it, all-involved about it, or ever-present about it.

The meaning is simple and the reason this must come first is clear.  The meaning of glory is weight, honor, esteem, majesty, abundance and wealth.  These are the attributes of a King, of a sovereign.  These are the attributes of the King of Kings.

Why must this come first?  Because, at the end of the day, we will progress nowhere in our worship, our hope, our growth in maturity, our wisdom, our perseverance, or our love without first recognizing that (a) there is a king and (b) we are not that person.  “I am not the king over my life” is perhaps the most important conclusion we can ever come to.  And it begins with an attribution to God that He is full of glory, as the King of the universe should be.  Once we recognize that He is glory, we then come to the conclusion of the quoted verses today – “Worship the Lord in the splendor of [His] holiness.”

Now these are instructions to angels, who always sit before God worshipping Him in His glory, honor, and holiness.  So why do they need the reminder?  I don’t know, but knowing that Lucifer was a fallen angel, it might have something to do with the same phenomena which happens to us when we look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “I am the master of my destiny.  Look at my things, look at my glory.”  As the angels reflect the glory of God they may begin to believe that they are the ones producing the glory, instead of just reflecting it, and in so doing forget that God is the sovereign one and they are not.

Our glory is not our own; our holiness is not ours.  Anything we have like that is because we reflect the Father’s glory and the Father’s holiness.

Why must we ascribe glory, honor, and power to God?  Because in doing so we take the first steps of acknowledging who the true King is, we grow in obedience and good works, and we can accept the gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ the Son.

But how can we do this?  Though it be impossible for man, nothing is impossible for God.  Therefore, we pray, “come Holy Spirit and empower us to see You as you are so that we too, with the angels, may worship You and You alone in the splendor of Your Holiness.”

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Kings

May 25, 2016


Psalm 21

.“His [the king’s] glory is great through Your salvation; splendor and majesty You bestow on him.  For You make him most blessed forever; You make him glad with joy of Your presence.  For the king trusts in the Lord, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.”  Ps. 21:5-7

Which king is the Psalmist talking about?

One answer could be the author of this Psalm, King David himself.  If this is the case, he is speaking of himself in the third person, but that is not unusual if David was intending to turn himself as king into the object of God’s pleasure.

Another answer could be Jesus Christ Himself, King of Glory.  One reason it could be him is that the Psalmist says “You make him most blessed forever.”  And who is most blessed, except the Son of God Himself.  Another reason could be that He bestows “splendor and majesty on him.”  And who has the most splendor and majesty except the King of Kings and Lord of Lords?  However, I do not think it is a reference to the Messiah because David starts off by saying that the king’s glory is great through “Your salvation.”  Although in one sense it is God Almighty who brings salvation to His people, Jesus Christ as God did not need to be saved – He is Savior; He saves.  Jesus’ glory pre-existed His death and resurrection and preceded creation itself.

So who else could David be talking about?  You … and me.

Think about it for minute.  Why not?

To the extent we reflect glory, it is made great through His salvation of us.

To the extent we reflect splendor and majesty in what we do and who we are, it is God who gives it to us.

To the extent we are blessed, it is because God has made us “most blessed.”  And since we are saved by God’s might, He has made us “most blessed forever.”

To the extent we are thankful for our blessings, it is through the power of God in us that we can even see the source of those blessings, much less be glad in His presence.

And how is it that we reflect glory, are bestowed with honor, splendor and majesty, receive our blessings, and become joyful in the presence of the living God?  It is because “the king trusts in the Lord.”

And finally and most importantly, to the extent we are unmoved by the world, by the opinions of others, by our own carnal desires, it is because of “the steadfast love of the Most High.”  If we stand strong in the evil day, it is because the God we worship is Himself steadfast in power, holiness, and love.

So personalize this psalm: “My glory is great through His salvation; splendor and majesty have been bestowed upon me by Him.  He has made me most blessed forever; and I have been made by Him to be glad and joyful in His presence.  It is because I trust in the Lord, and I shall not be moved from the rock because He is steadfast in His love for me.”

We are kings because He is King.

Now, do we behave like it?

_________

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

 

Bread – Pollution

May 9, 2016


Psalm 19

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Peal

February 22, 2016


Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”  Ps. 8:1

It is in verses like this where I see the value (to myself) of capitalizing all references to God.  By capitalizing “Your Name,” God is emphasized both at the beginning and at the end.  “Your Name,” God’s name, is not something to be trifled with, ignored, subordinated, brought to earth … but exalted, raised up, worshiped and adored!

The word “peal” struck me because we normally use it in the phrase “peal of thunder,” but this one sentence strikes me as a “peal of praise.”  It is a word typically used with the sound of bells and generally a loud ringing of bells.  So thunder is a loud noise, a peal.  So praise as expressed by David is a loud outcry, a loud worship, a loud statement of truth, a proclamation – it is a peal.

The dictionary actually says that the word “peal” means not only loud, but prolonged.  In other words, it lasts a long time.

And, indeed, the phrase “How majestic is Your Name in all the earth” does seem to prolong itself in our mind as we listen to it – it seems to bounce off the recesses of our soul and echo deep within.  It is not just a fleeting statement, but one which resonates over and over and over again as we say it, as we speak it, as we sing it, as we shout it, as we yell it.

What a great way to begin the week!  With a peal of praise from our mouths.  “O Lord, our Lord, You are majestic, holy, and Your train fills the temple!”

What vision do we have of “majesty.”  What visions do we apply the word “majestic” to?

When I think of “majestic,” I think of the mountains, reaching to the sky, standing in permanence, full of color and life, full of adventure and opportunity.  Others may think of the sea, its vastness and regularity, its depth and breadth, its power and, in the times of storms, its unruliness.  Others may think of the stars and planets of the universe, their number and distance and balance and seeming endlessness.

What a way to begin the week!  Offering a peal of praise to our Maker, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Restorer, our God.

A reminder of who He is, who we are, and whose we are.  One we sorely need every day.  One to set us in our proper place.  One to set our compass correctly.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”

Amen.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Refocus

January 20, 2016


Psalm 3

“But You, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head.”  Ps. 3:3

In the last Bread, we found David evicted from his palace by his son, hiding in the desert, surrounded by many enemies, many foes.  And we ended there, with the word “Selah,” which I interpret as meaning stop, listen, think, meditate.  And so that is where we stopped, in the middle of contemplation of all of the real troubles we face every day – debt, worry, income, torn family relations, unethical co-workers and supervisors, the daily scramble for shelter, transportation, and food, defending ourselves constantly from the naysayers while attempting to make progress.  Abandoned perhaps by our perceived friends and, maybe even, our family.  And we hide or strike out in anger or confusion, not knowing which way to turn.

Selah!  Stop, think, recall, remember, look back so you can look forward.  Refocus.

Refocus on what or who?  Follow what David did … in the midst of his troubles, surrounded by many foes, he remembered God and refocused on Him.

Look at the transition from many foes and people saying “there is no salvation for him (David) from God” to the very next line, “But You, O Lord..”

And what does David remember?  That the Lord is (1) a shield, (2) his glory, and (3) the lifter of his head.

How often, when we look back and remember, has the Lord been our shield in time of trouble, bringing us through the valleys, walking with us, speaking to us in words which are unspeakable but are real nonetheless?  How often has this shield caused the darts of the enemy to fall to the ground?  If we believe in Jesus Christ, we know that He is the greatest shield of all, protecting us from God the Father’s just wrath upon us for our sin, for our disobedience.  He is the shield for us from eternal death.

But is He our glory?  Do we shine when we are before Him, on our knees, in obedience and worship?  I think that, if we are in touch with our souls, the answer is “yes.”  Because He is light, when we are in His presence we reflect His light.  Because He is holiness, when we are in His presence we reflect His holiness.  Because He is glory, when we are in His presence we reflect His glory.  When have you been happiest?  When you got the big promotion, when you graduated from school, when you got married, when you got your first dog or cat?  I daresay not even those things have made us really happy, although we are inclined to say so.  I daresay that the date you were the happiest was the date you met our Lord Jesus and knew in your heart that on that day, you were born again into eternal life.  I daresay the date when you are the happiest now is when some great truth from God, some great wisdom, penetrates into your soul, waking you up with His power to do His will in His way.  So, yes, He is not only our shield, but He is our glory.

And, finally, David acknowledges that He is the lifter of David’s head.  When we are burdened down with the bricks and stones which the world throws at us, when we are covered up, by what strength do we look for the new day?  By what strength do we laugh at death and destruction?  By what strength do we lift our own head?  It is not our strength and it is not by our act that we have hope.  It is by God who lifts our head for us.  He provides the power and the action.  All we have to do is to remember, refocus, and trust.

When we are so focused on our troubles that all we can think of is to hide, retreat, cover up, protect ourselves, or maybe strike in anger or reaction, what is the solution?  Selah!  Remember, refocus, and trust.

Instead of looking at our foes and meditating on how powerful they are, David’s message to us is that we need to look at God and meditate on powerful He is.

How do we refocus?  Let God be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our head.

Now this verse 3 (and 4) are followed by another “Selah!”  And so we stop again, this time to meditate upon God instead of our foes, to meditate on our blessings instead of our curses, to meditate on the eternal as opposed to the temporal, to meditate with our eyes to the hills whence cometh our help instead to the ground, to meditate on the trustworthiness of God instead of the untrustworthy nature of the world.

Is you day going poorly?  Refocus on the truth instead of the lie, on the victory instead of the defeat, on God instead of yourself and the world.

And watch how quickly your shield, your glory, and your lifter of your head comes to be all three.

Selah!

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

 

 

 

Bread – Attribute

August 4, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 4, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 7:18-29; Acts 18:12-28; Mark 8:22-33; Psalm 78

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In my early days at my current church, I was invited from time to time to read the Scripture lesson for the day on Sunday. One Sunday morning, the reading from from Acts, like one of our readings today. There is a formula in my church for beginning a reading. Before we read the Scripture, we would say “A reading from the Book of Acts, beginning at the ____ chapter, the ____ verse.”

Now, when I was preparing to read, I thought about the word “Acts” and thought that the title should be longer. So, after doing research which ended in no knowledge whatsoever, I introduced the reading on Sunday thusly – “A Reading from the Acts of the Holy Spirit….” After the service, I had several people come up to me and say that, although they enjoyed the reading, I had introduced the book wrongly. According to them (and many Bibles), I should have said “A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles …”

After these people left and I was shrugging my shoulders in the “Oh Well” sense, an older priest (pastor) came up to me and whispered in my ear … “No, what you said was right.”

We know that the book of Acts is a history of the early church and about the apostles, particularly Peter and Paul, and how they spread the gospel. Therefore, most Bibles do in fact have the title of “Acts” as either “Acts” or “Acts of the Apostles.” And yet we also know that Acts begins with Pentecost, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the empowerment of man to stand up for Christ (God the Son), God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit.

Is it any wonder that our worship is weak and our presence in the world is ineffective when we fail to accurately attribute who is in charge and whose works good works belong to? We preach about honoring God as holy and yet every reference to Him in modern Scripture, regardless almost of the translation, is in the lower case, as if my “him” is equal to His “him.” We make God our friend and co-laborer, when in fact He is God, master, and Lord. We ascribe our puny efforts to demonstrate love in the world to our money, our time, our effort, instead of attributing it properly to the work of God, to the work of the Holy Spirit.

This morning, in Samuel, we hear David correctly attribute his success to God. I cannot say it any better than he did, so here it is (I have deliberately capitalized the pronouns referring to God):

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me thus far? … Because of Your promise, and according to Your heart, You have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore You are great, O Lord God,. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You…For You, O Lord of hosts,, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to Your servant, saying ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. An now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true…For You, O Lord God, have spoken, and with Your blessing shall the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Sam. 7:18-29

As you survey today your vast holdings, your family, your business, your retirement plans, your furniture, your cars, your bank balances … who do you attribute your blessings to? Your trust fund? Your parents? Your education? Your hard work? Your crafty dealings? Your intelligence? Your good looks? Yourself?

As Christians, we need to work on who we attribute our success to. Does our power come from a bottle or from the Holy Spirit? Does our success come from God or from the world?

If we were to write a book about you, would we say “A reading from the Acts of George Flint [fill in the blank]” or “A readings from the Acts of the Holy Spirit?”

And now the real question. We might attribute our works to the Holy Spirit, but will our friends? Does Christ’s light through us so shine before men that they might worship His good works in and through us?

Who gets the glory in your life?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Simple

January 7, 2013


Readings for Monday, January 7, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 52:3-6; Rev. 2:1-7; John 2:1-11; Psalms 103,114,115

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Keep it simple. In the “kiss” formula, there is actually another word which follows “keep it simple,” but you can fill that in.

Isn’t it amazing how we can take the simplest concepts – there is a God, trust Him, obey Him, the world is broken by sin, etc. – and turn them into multiple volumes of theological treatises, religious rules, lists and measurements. In response to simple statements with which we find we cannot agree (because we have not been given the gift of faith), we develop complex questions and arguments which, to our “reasonable” minds, must be met with equally complex questions and arguments, else we are fearful that we will lose the argument, acting as if it was ours to lose or win.

In today’s readings, there are three “simple” points.

In Isaiah, God says “…here am I.” Isa. 52:6 At the end of the passage, which I am sure can be dissected into a million pieces, comes the simple truth – “…here am I.” God is present, God is real, God is here. He is present in the world. He is present among His people. He is with you. He is with me.

In John we read the familiar story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding feast. The story ends with this: “This, the first of His signs, Jesus did … and manifested His glory.” John 2:11. How is Jesus’ glory manifested in the manufacture of wine? How is God’s majesty manifested in the morning sun? There is no complex explanation required, no understanding of how a magic trick was performed needed, no great theological argument raised. The fact that Jesus blessed a wedding feast by providing the food is a simple act of God on behalf of His people. No more and no less. Yes, it is outside of our reason, our common sense, and our scientific understanding. But does that make God’s action in our lives complicated or hard to understand? No, not unless we make it so. Jesus did a simple miracle at the feast to provide a simple blessing upon His people at a simple point in time. No more and no less. It is in the simple things of day-to-day life where miracles occur every day because God is present, He is active, and He loves us and sustains us. Simple – not hard to see and hear, but maybe hard to accept. And in the simple miracles of daily living God’s glory is revealed, if we have but eyes to see and ears to hear.

Finally, in Revelation Jesus writes to the church in Ephesus, congratulating them on the religious compliance and critiquing them because they had forgotten the love they had at first. Jesus says to them “Remember therefore from where you have fallen…” Rev. 2:5. Now this might very well be a reference to the love the Ephesians had for Christ when they first understood what He had done for them on the cross, but it could also be a reference to the beginning, when man through his lack of trust and resulting disobedience was evicted from Eden and both he and the entirety of earth was brought low by his desire to be like God. But, simply, both references are the same reference. We fall from relationship with God when our faith in Him becomes transmuted to faith in ourselves, when reliance upon God’s work is lost in the shuffle to reliance upon our work. The simple but hard is “love God.” The complex but easy is “love ourselves.”

Why do we make simple complicated? I think it is because there is nothing you can do with simple except to either accept it as it is or reject it. With simple, there are no exceptions, no explanations, no better or worse performances, no measurements. There is either acceptance or rejection, recognition or blindness, hearing or deafness. There is no “in between” state.

Will we keep it simple? Only time will tell. But it is a worthy objective for the new year.

_____________________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Connections

April 25, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, April 25, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 19:16-25; Col. 1:15-23; Matt. 3:13-17; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

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The readings this morning presented to me a challenge, because they seemed very disconnected. In Exodus, we have God calling the people of Israel to stand at the holy mountain, without touching it, and God coming down in His glory to speak to Moses. In Colossians, we have Paul describing Jesus as pre-eminent, the Creator, the head of the church, in which there dwells the fullness of God. In Matthew, we have Jesus being baptized so that all righteousness would be fulfilled. These history lessons appear very disconnected.

Sometimes we get into the weeds because that is where God would speak to us; other times we look down with a “10,000 foot” perspective, where only the highlights, the overall pattern, comes into focus. I soon understood that if I was ever going to have any chance to see any pattern in these three readings, I would have to start from a very high place.

And what higher place than where God puts us when we ask? From that perspective, the pattern is clear. The reading from Exodus is focused on who God is and what He does; the reading from Colossians is focused on who God is and what He does; the reading from Matthew is focused on who God is on what He does. God, God, God. Oh, there are bit roles played by people – Moses in Exodus, John the Baptist in Matthew, the Colossae church in Colossians, but these roles are not the focus – God’s character and His actions are the focus.

I realized when I saw the pattern that I had fallen into a trap, the trap of self. This trap causes us to always look at ourselves, or maybe our neighbor if he or she is affecting our lives. This trap causes us to focus on Moses in the Exodus, to focus on John the Baptist in the baptism of Jesus, and to focus on Paul or the church in Colossae in Colossians. This trap causes us to put every question into what this means to us.

But Scripture is not about man first; it is about God first. In Exodus, God’s holiness is to be observed. In Matthew, God’s righteousness is to be observed. In Colossians, God’s pre-eminence in all things is to be observed.

After re-reading this passages from a perspective that did not involve me, I felt lifted up, refreshed, and ready for a new day. Not because of any promise that God gave me, but because in these passages God reveals who He is. And indirectly, in the process, He reveals who I am. Who am I? Someone whom God has chosen in His Word and through His Holy Spirit to communicate with. Someone whom God has permitted to approach Him. Someone whom God has made worthy through Jesus by His act and mercy.

Do you feel disconnected from God, from His Word, from His care, from His life? Maybe it is because you are also caught today in the trap of self. Read what God says about Himself. Read it and enjoy. Read it and marvel that He has acted to rescue you and me from ourselves. Read it and have joy. Read it and weep, knowing that God Himself paid the price we could not pay on His cross, for the sins He did not commit, all so that we could be His “treasured possession among all peoples.” Exod. 19:5

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Bread – Conviction

July 12, 2010


Readings for Monday, July 12th
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Joshua 2:1-14; Rom. 11:1-12; Matt. 25:1-13
    Psalms 9. 15. 25
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What would you like people to say about you?  I have often thought that "good and faithful servant" would be nice.  Recently, however, another phrase has come to mind – "His God is God."

In today’s reading from Joshua, the two spies have been sent by Joshua to Jericho to scope out the city for the big attack coming as the Israelites prepare to cross the Jordan into the land promised to them by God.  There, they are sheltered by Rahab, the prostitute, who helps them escape.  Because she took care of God’s people, she and her family were blessed and she herself is mentioned in the Bible as one of the great people of faith (see Heb. 11:31).

The part of this story I want to focus on is her statement to the spies – "…For the Lord your God is God …"  Joshua 2:11.

There is no evidence whatsoever that Rahab is a secret Jew, contemplates spiritual things, or even practices any kind of religion.  She is a "working girl," and as a woman and prostitute has one of the lowest positions in society.  She may very well be your perfect "atheist/agnostic/secularist" who only real interest in life is her family, making a living, and surviving.

Given her background, what is it that precedes the spies that makes Rahab acknowledge that "Their God is God" as opposed to a pantheon of possibilities?  She is knows that "Their God is God" for two reasons (in sequential order) – (a) she is aware of what God has done ["We have heard how the Lord dried up the water of the Red Sea for you when you came out of Egypt…"] and (b) she is aware of what they (the nation Israel) has done in God’s name ["We have heard … what you did to Sihon and Og, the two kings of the Amorites east of the Jordan, whom you completely destroyed."]  Joshua 2:10.

In order for anyone to recognize that "Your God is God" or "His God is God" or "Her God is God" they must see clearly two things in your life: (1) they must see that it is God who has acted in you and on your behalf, and, after that,  (2) they must see that you in turn have acted in obedience to God’s commands.  In other words, they must see God’s grace (see today’s reading in Romans) followed by your works, infused and empowered by grace (see today’s reading in Matthew).

Because Rahab may well represent our average, modern person (atheist, agnostic, secularist in practice), this vignette from Scripture may very well contain the secret of how we are to project our Christianity upon the world.

Most people who read Bread claim to be a Christian.  Do you have the conviction of your stated beliefs?  Are you convinced that it is by the power of God (grace) that you have been saved from bondage to the taskmaster of sin (and not by your own hand)?  Are you so convinced of the reality of God’s grace and miracles in the present life that everyone around you knows that it is God who has brought you through your barriers (the Red Sea)?  Are you so convinced that you have been saved that you are radically obedient to God’s commands?  Are you so convinced that you in fact love your neighbor as yourself, that you bless your enemy, that you follow God’s guidance even unto battle when required, or that you engage in the battle of everyday life armed to the teeth with the Holy Spirit?  Are you so convinced that you, every moment of every day, are ready for Christ’s return?

We say that our purpose in life is to glorify God.  How much is God glorified when even the atheist/agnostic/secularist states that "Your God is God?"  Do we have the power of our conviction that people say and believe of us that "His God is God," even if they don’t believe in God or Jesus themselves?

Do we?  Do you?  Do I?

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