Bread – gods

September 15, 2017


Psalm 82

God has taken His place in the divine council; in the midst of the gods He holds judgment…”  Ps. 82:1

Every so often in Scripture, God’s Word seems to play into the hands of our modern anti-God thoughts.  In my opinion, this is one of them.

How so?  Well, if you have the modern sense that God is somehow someone like the Chairman of the Board, then the “divine council” could be his board meeting.  Like all board chairman, he would yield a lot of power, but he can always be gotten rid of by the angry shareholders, which would, of course, be us.  And as modern people we often think this way, that we can just depose God from being God whenever we want when we don’t like the amount of profit we are getting from His enterprise.

Another modern sense which could be fed by this Scripture today is the sense that there is really a pantheon of “gods,” and that God is a first among equals, sort of like Zeus.  In this modern view, we can rise to the position of members of the divine council, as demigods, if we can but “channel” our thoughts in the right way.  An older version of this same thinking is in the pantheon of saints, who somehow have a special relationship to God because they are super-good people.

So, who are the “gods” which participate in the “divine council?”

Notice what I have done.  I have read into the concept of “divine council” the concept of participation.  Of having a right to speak.  And, more importantly, having a right to be heard.

But does this Scripture speak of any kind of co-equal participation?  No it does not.

What it says is that “God has taken His place.”  What is His place?  When you are the Creator, the King of King and Lord of Lords, … what is your place?  Is your place at the head of the table when you made the table, own the table, and choose who, if any, sit there as well?  When God takes “His place,” who has any right to be in the same room, much less at the same table?

And what is the nature of a “divine council?”  Is it a place where God appears to deliver to us His Word or where we make our requests known to Him (like, maybe, His throne room)?  Or is it a place where we participate, somehow joining with God in helping Him make His decisions?

And finally, notice that “in the midst of the Gods He holds judgment.”  He doesn’t make decisions based upon input; He judges.  He doesn’t take counsel from the gods; He judges the gods.

And so, when we consider that He is in His rightful place and that He judges “the gods,” doesn’t “the gods” sound a whole lot like us?

And, indeed, from our perspective we often are like gods, aren’t we?

I am fond of pointing out that, in our relationship to God, we can take only one of three places.  The first place is above Him, where we tell Him what to do and we interpret His Word in the ways we want to achieve our ends.  When we subject God to our judgment, we are elevating ourselves above Him and, in that moment, pretending that we are big-G God and He is not.

The second place we can take in our relationship to God is beneath Him.  In that role, we accept our position as servants (slaves) of the Most High, willing to accept that position in exchange for true freedom and unending life in Him.  If we are thoughtful Christians, we like to think that this the place we occupy.  And maybe sometimes we do.

But the third place we can occupy is right next to Him, maybe not as quite as a co-equal, but close.  In that position, we get to “participate” in the decision-making, we get to influence God to follow our desires, we get to “negotiate” with Him.  And, to some degree or another, this place is where most of us find ourselves all the time.  We are not quite God, but we are close and therefore “deserve” being called “gods.”

When we realize that this Psalm may therefore be directed to those of us floating around the third position of relationship with God, it has a strong message to us “gods.”  We may think of ourselves in the divine assembly, but God (a) takes His place and (b) holds judgment of us.

So the truth of this Psalm is simply to remind us that, when we begin to believe we are somehow close to His equal, we are not, and when we believe we are above or beside judgment, we are not.

God is not the Chairman of the Board and He is not Zeus, He is God.  And whether we think we are above Him, beside Him, or beneath Him, He is always in His place and He always judges.  No matter if we are “gods” or not.

_______

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

 

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Bread – Foundations

April 3, 2017


Psalm 59

Deliver me from my enemies, O my God; … For behold, they lie in wait for my life; fierce men stir up strife against me.  For no transgression or sin of mine, O Lord, for no fault of mine, they run and make ready. .. You, Lord Gods of hosts, are God of Israel.”  Ps. 59:1-5

What foundations need to be laid to boldly go to God in prayer?  The quoted verses above suggest that there are three.

The first foundation of prayer is need.  In this case, it is David’s dire circumstances facing people who have been sent by Saul to David’s home to kill him.  These are the people laying in wait, stirring up strife.  But in our situation, it may not be people who are hounding us, it may be just bad circumstances – perhaps a loss of a job or a failure in some aspect of life, perhaps the discovery of a painful illness.  It can be both physical or emotional, but the first foundation to be laid is the recognition that we need God’s help.  Of course, David was alert to this need because men were coming to kill him, but we ought to be alert to our needs all the time, because they are many.  God knows we have needs, but we need to tell Him our needs anyway, in part to remind ourselves that we radically dependent upon Him for all good things.

The second foundation of prayer is our own position vis a vis our neighbor.  Have we caused our neighbor harm; we need to go make it right.  Have we spoken hastily and meanly; we need to apologize.  David makes sure that he approaches God with a clean conscience (“…for no fault of mine, they run and make ready.”)   Perhaps our dire circumstances are our own fault, arising from our own trespass upon others.  When we come before God in effective prayer, we need to lay the foundation of self-examination and self-awareness.  We in all likelihood will need God’s help to clean up the mess we made, but at least then we can lay the blame honestly before Him as an offering of a contrite heart.

The third foundation of prayer is the character of God Himself.  In speaking of “You, Lord God of Hosts, are God of Israel,” David speaks of Yahweh, the great “I am,” Elohim Sabaoth, the great God who commands the mighty hosts of heaven to victory, and Elohi Israel, the God who makes covenant with His people Israel and, in the New Testament, His people the Church.  The character of God is the personal, holy God of revelation (Yahweh), the commander of the forces of heaven and earth (Elohim Sabaoth), and the promise-keeper (Elohi Israel).  We can speak to Him because He is, we can rest in His power because He commands heaven and earth, and we can rely upon Him because He keeps His promises to His people.

With a real need, a clean heart, and the aid of God Almighty, the foundations have been laid for a really good prayer session.

Let’s go!

________

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

 

Bread – gods

March 29, 2017


Psalm 58

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?  Do you judge the children of man uprightly?  No, in your hearts you devise wrongs…” Ps. 58:1-2a

To some extent, we are victims of our particular Bible translations.  Today is an example.  In the ESV translation, the Hebrew word is translated “gods.”  In the NIV, it is translated “rulers.”  In the NKJV, it is translated “silent ones.”  The problem is that the literal translation of the Hebrew word actually used is “muteness.”

Rather than consider this a barrier to understanding, I think that such multiple interpretations or translations actually help us to see deeper into God’s revelation, and to realize that words and meaning are not flat and poor, but are multi-dimensional and rich.

If we were to think for a minute about some of our major barriers to effective Christian engagement with the world, what would they be?  Top of the list probably would be our seeking after other gods, other idols – money, honor, power, respect from the world, our selfish selves.  Perhaps second on this list would be how we actually rank the importance of people in how we actually conduct our lives – us first, family second, others third, God fourth.    And then third on this list would be our chronic view that God is not really present to the point we have to pay attention to Him; our perspective that God is mostly silent in our lives.

And all these concepts are wrapped up in our interesting Hebrew word today.  There is the concept that there are many gods, many idols.  There is the concept of these gods as rulers of our lives.  There is this concept that these “gods” of our lives are our bosses, our political leaders, our captains of industry, our significant others, our “leaders.”  There is the concept that these gods keep silent when maybe they shouldn’t, in our view.

At one level, David is addressing mere people who think they are gods and lord it over the rest of us, misjudging, and devising and implementing a litany of wrongs which we must suffer under.  At another level, David is addressing the idols of power and money (the values of the world).  At another level, David is addressing the forces which we think of as gods, as having power over our lives.

But, unlike us sometimes, David is not thinking of these gods as “God.”

Do we organize our lives in such a way that God is one of many gods for us?  Do we give Him even as much attention as we give our boss at work?  Do we organize our day around Him or around them?  Are our emotions wrapped up in God’s truth or the whispers of the other gods in our life?

If the gods are silent, do we think of God that way?  If the gods are noisy, do we think of God that way?  If we listen to the lies of gods, are we made clean?  Do our gods offer us eternal life, or merely existence in time?

The gods may instruct us to be silent in the face of evil, but God says otherwise.  The gods may tell us to fear the evil day, but God says otherwise.  The gods may be silent, but God is not.  The gods may be confused about their names and character, but God is not confused about His.

Do you indeed decree what is right, you gods?  The answer to that is “no.”  Do You indeed decree what is right, God?  The answer to that is “yes.”

If what I said is true, then why do we pay any attention to “gods” at all?

________

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

 

Bread – Christmas

December 24, 2016


Psalm 45

You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips…In Your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness…Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…Therefore, God, Your God, has anointed You….”  Ps. 45:1-7

I have not written Bread for over two weeks.  It seemed like every time I tried, something happened.  I could not even pick up a Bible to read the appointed Psalms.  Until this morning, Christmas Eve.

And now I know why, because it is appropriate that we start the appointed Psalm, Psalm 45, today, Christmas Eve.

The Psalmist is addressing the King of Kings, the “most handsome of the sons of men.”  To be the person addressed by the Psalmist, Jesus had to be born as a “son of man.”  The Psalmist addresses the King born of flesh.  Christmas had to come for this Psalm to take shape.

But the Psalmist also addresses his Psalm to God, and indeed Jesus Christ is also Son of God.  The Psalmist says “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…Therefore, Your God has anointed You.”  The only way this makes sense is to realize that God the Son, the son of man, is God and He is the Son of the Father.  Although the Trinity is a great mystery which is almost impossible to understand, in these few words the Psalmist summarizes the truth.  God’s throne is forever, and the God the Father anoints God the Son, who is also the son of man.

“In Your majesty, ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness:”  Ps. 45:4

The Psalmist speaks to Christ, but he might as well be speaking to us.  Because God became incarnate and was born as man, He was, through His death and resurrection, building a bridge to the Father.   We are the ones, as Christ’s disciples, who can walk in His majesty.  We are the ones, because Christ has saved us from our sins, who can ride out into the world and into eternity “victoriously.”  And, because Christ is truth, meekness, and righteous, by riding out for Him, in obedience to Him we can also ride out for these things as well.

Tomorrow will be Christmas with our celebrations of gift-giving and merriment.  But as we do this, we need to reflect on the first verse of the Psalmist, as he writes “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.”  Ps. 45:1.  Does our heart overflow in this season with a “pleasing theme?”

Our theme should be pleasing to us and to everyone – God was born into the world as a baby so that He could save me, and you.

So on this day let us listen to our heart and let us address our verses, our poem, our life and our life story, to Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Let us rejoice!  But let us also proclaim…”The King has come … Come, let us believe in Him, worship Him, and obey Him.  Come, let us adore Him!”

__________

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Drilling

April 20, 2016


Psalm 16

“Preserve me, O God, for in You I take refuge.  I say to the Lord, “You are my Lord; I have no good apart from You.”  Ps. 16:1-2

We often hear the word “drilling” in the context of mineral exploration, particularly of oil and gas.  It may, of course, also refer to the process of making a hole in a solid object.  The purpose of drilling seems to always be the process of breaking through a hard surface to get to the treasure underneath.  In the case of oil and gas drilling, it is piercing the earth to get to the oil.  In the case of drilling a hole, it is penetrating the wood or the metal or the plastic to get to the air underneath.

We lose so much in Scripture because we treat the translation as the hard surface, and read and rest there.  And yet, much of the power of Scripture lies beneath the hard surface, lies beneath the translation, and can only be extracted by the work of drilling through the hard surface to get to the real treasure.  But to do effective drilling, we have to be confident, have faith, that there is something beneath the surface of Scripture which is worth going after, worth drilling for.  And, quite frankly, that is a lot of work and, most of the time, I am too lazy to do it, if I even think about it.

For example, in today’s reading, on the hard surface of translated Scripture, I focused purely on the “refuge” and “no good apart” phrases and was ready to write about how, with belief in God, we have refuge and can overcome our sin nature to be able to demonstrate God’s goodness in the world, knowing that there is no good apart from Him.  And that would have been a good Bread, but I would have missed the whole point.

Fortunate for me, I also read a commentary, to give me a different perspective, and it was in that commentary that I learned something.

See, the English translation into our Bible of “God” and “Lord” fail to fully reflect the names of God actually being used in the Hebrew or Greek.

So, drilling through, I find that substituting the names of God into the translation results in this:  “Preserve me, O El, for in You I take refuge.  I say to Jehovah, ‘You are my Adonai; I have no good apart from You.’”

In the word for God “El,” there is the meaning of “strong one,” or what we might say “God Almighty.”  If God is all mighty, then He is the strong refuge, the strong sanctuary, where we may find peace, rest, and protection.  For in You, the Strong God, I take refuge makes all the sense in the world.  Furthermore, it refutes the idea of God as a disconnected, soft and “fluffy” God which dallies in the affairs of man but does not rule them.  God the Almighty rules and He is a strong fortress.  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

In the word for God “Jehovah,” there is a reference to the God of Moses, to the great “I Am.”  It is the I AM who made the covenant first, with the nation of Israel, and second with the Church, with us.  In a covenant relationship, we inherit the power, benefits, and blessings of the relationship.  The fact that, by the power and grace of God, we receive and can rely upon the promises of God.  The “apart from You” is an acknowledgment that we cannot survive without attachment to the True Vine, without being in relationship with Jesus Christ, without accepting the relationship which He offers to us.  God the great “I Am” has a relationship with us because of His doing and not ours, because of His power and not ours, because of the trueness of His promises and not ours.  Therefore, we have nothing of eternal worth “apart from You.”  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

In the word of God “Adonai,” there is the concept of God as my Master, as the Master.  Here there is the concept of God as King on earth as well as in heaven.  It is to the King, to Adonai, that we pledge our discipleship and our obedience because He is the Master of our lives.  All this is discovered by drilling into the Word.

So, let me paraphrase our reading today this way – “Preserve me, God Almighty, because in you I am saved.  I say to the great I AM, who has adopted me in a covenant which cannot be broken, ‘You are my Master and King; I have no good apart from what Your covenant relationship with me gives me.”

Isn’t that rich?  Isn’t that powerful?

And it is all laying just beneath the surface … but we need to be drilling into the Word to get to it.

There are three ways to read Scripture.  One is to read the highlights and, from that, you can discern the greatest story ever told, but the details are vague.  Another is to read the words (which takes a little longer), and from that you can learn what it means to be a disciple and many details about the story.  The details are sharp, the duty is clear, but there is something missing.  The third way is to drill into the Word, to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to you the richness beneath the surface (which takes a little longer), and from that you can begin to enjoy the relationship you have with God by virtue of His grace.  You might think of this as “top of mind” reading, “rational” mind reading, and deep heart reading.

Do you feel your relationship with God is weak, ineffective, and unsatisfying?  Perhaps it is because you need to drill more and scan less.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Lament

July 7, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, July 7, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 15:24-35; Acts 9:32-43; Luke 23:56b-24:11; Psalms 5,6,10,11

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While there is celebration in the streets rejoicing over the triumph of man’s law over God’s, there is lament by many, including me, about how we as a society have come to reject God’s law as triumphant and substituted instead the sand of man’s whims and desires.

Our readings today speak powerfully to this.

From Psalm 11, “Why does the wicked renounce God and say in his heart, ‘You will not call me to account?’” Ps. 11:13

When man rejects God and His Word, His standards for life, isn’t he like the wicked, believing that there will be no accounting for his sin?

Well, there is an accounting. In our reading today from 1 Samuel, Saul admits to Samuel that “I have sinned, for I have transgressed the commandment of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice.” 1 Sam. 15:24. In refusing to following thousands of years of history and the dictates of the Old and New Testaments, our United States Supreme Court feared the people more than God and obeyed the voice of the mob rather than the voice of God. So, Saul did what we have done, and this is what follows – Saul then says to Samuel, “’Now therefore, please pardon my sin and return with me…’ And Samuel said to Saul, ‘I will not return with you. For you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel.” 1 Sam. 15:25-26. Is this what will now happen to us in this country? There is a day of being called to account. Whether that day is today, as it was for Saul, is up to God and we certainly pray that He defers His judgment, but He knows what He will do.

So, returning to the Psalm, we read this lament – “if the foundations are destroyed, what can the righteous do? The Lord is in His holy temple…” Ps. 11:3-4

When the foundations are destroyed, what can we do indeed? The Psalmist answers this question by skipping the answer and going straight to the solution – God. Our answer to the question of what do we do when the foundations are destroyed is to remind ourselves that God reigns, not us.

And so what are the righteous to do in the evil day, in the day of destruction of foundation?

Our answer is found in our reading today from Luke – Jesus has been crucified. “The women who had come with Him from Galilee followed and saw the tomb and how His body was laid….On the Sabbath they rested according to the commandment.” Lk. 23:55-56 Jesus has been murdered and put in a borrowed tomb. His body has not been properly prepared with funeral spices, so there is action to be taken by the righteous. But wait! No action is taken because it is now the Sabbath and God has commanded His people to rest. Even though there is something to do, God’s people wait because it is God’s command to wait.

And while they wait in obedience to God’s Word and His commandments, God works. When the women returned, the stone had been rolled away because Jesus had been resurrected.

We can and should lament the situation in which we as people of faith find ourselves. But before we take matters into our own hands, we would do well to reflect on the Psalms, on Saul, and on the righteous women. God is in His Holy temple; God is in control. Yielding to passion rather than God’s law and His love results in bad things. Obedience to God’s will in our lives matters, because while we obey, God works His miracles.

The foundations crumble; what are we to do? God. Christ is crucified; what are we to do? God. We are appointed to a position of influence; what are we to do? God.

There is an eternal pattern here. So let’s follow it.

__________

© 2015 GBF

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 – Am

October 20, 2014


Readings for Monday, October 20, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 7:1-8; Luke 9:51-62; Psalms 9,15,25

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In today’s readings from Scripture, we are confronted with the difference between “I will” and “I am.” This is always used in the context of what is going to happen next or is happening right now. For example, with respect to breakfast, we would say “I will eat breakfast [tomorrow]” or “I am eating breakfast [now].” The “am” is immediate; the “will” is future. When I am doing something in the present, I “am” doing it. When I intend to do something in the future, I “will” do it.

In our reading in Revelation today, the four angels are standing at the four corners, holding back the four winds. They “are” holding back the four winds from destroying the earth and the sea. Another angel tells them “Do not harm the earth or the sea or the trees, until we have sealed the servants of our God …” Rev. 7:3. From this passage we understand that the four angels “will” release the winds and harm the earth, seas, and trees, but right now they “are” not doing so until an event occurs. Upon the occurrence of the event, the “will” changes to “am,” and then something happens.

In today’s reading from Luke, Jesus differentiates between those who ‘are” His from those who “will” be His. In doing this, He essentially says that there is no “will” in the kingdom; there is either “am” or nothing. The passage most clearly demonstrating this principle is “Yet another said, ‘I will follow You Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.’ Jesus said to him, ‘No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.’” Luke 9:61-62

As Christians, we live much of our lives in the “will” rather than the “am.” We “will” pray for our friends, rather than actually pray for them right then. We “will” worship on Sunday, rather than worship right now. We “will” give tomorrow rather than give today. Built into every “will” is some form of a condition … if I live, if I am able, if I want to, if I have to, if, if, if…. The “am” has no condition to it, because as soon as you say it you are doing it. With the “am” there is no difference between the future and the present, because the future is always the present. The “will” is a promise; the “am” is a fact.

Are we fit for the kingdom? How much of our attitude, our intent is “will”-driven as opposed to “am”-driven?

Do you love your neighbor as yourself? Is your answer “I will” or “I am?”

Do you love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, and soul? Is your answer “I will” or “I am?”

When God calls us in whatever way He does, is our tendency to say “I will once I get my affairs in order” or “I am in spite of my affairs being in disarray?”

The commitment God demands of us is now; we want to defer our response to the future.

God says that when we put it off, when we make it conditional, when we adopt the “I will” approach to Him, we are not fit for Him.

Think for a minute about how difficult it is to say “I am.” To say “I am” to God means that every bit our my agenda is out the window, everything I care about takes second fiddle, my wants and desires become irrelevant. If I am really going to say “I am” to God, it must be the absolute subjection of myself to my master. How difficult is this? It is impossible without the work of the Holy Spirit.

To proceed from “I will” to “I am” is nothing we accomplish on our own; it is impossible on our own. It can only be done by a power greater than us, by the one and only “I am” – God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

So if I have any chance of saying “I am” it is because “He is.”

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Sovereign

July 9, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, July 9, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 1:1-18; Rom. 9:1-18; Matt. 23:27-39; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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Who or what is sovereign in your life? Who is the sovereign to whom you owe allegiance, who has power over you?

A liberal might answer the question by saying that the central authority, the government, is king. A royalist might say that the sovereign is the king or queen. A conservative might say that the sovereign is the individual. Idols can also reign sovereign in our lives. Money can be the thing with authority. Others (say our family) might be the sovereign. Our boss might be our sovereign, with our whole purpose in life being devoted to pleasing him or her. Even our house can be our sovereign if it is what dictates to us what we do and how we do it.

For Christians, the knee jerk reaction is to say that God is sovereign. Other religions might say the same thing, with different emphases on the nature of God.

But is that really true?

Today in our reading from Romans, Paul says some things which are totally consistent with the sovereignty of God but which run counter to many theological notions about our role (our individual sovereignty) in the process:

“This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring….though they were not yet born and done nothing either good or bad – in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of Him who calls – she was told, ‘The older [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob].’…What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, Who has mercy…So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills.” Rom. 9:8-18

In summary, God is sovereign and we are not. God chooses whom He will, not who earns his or way into His good graces.

There are huge implications to this understanding. For example, can one lose his or her salvation if chosen by God for salvation? Our tendency is to say “yes,” but then who is sovereign, God or us? And if we cannot lose our salvation because God is sovereign, then how did we gain our salvation except by sovereign work of God? Our tendency again is to say that “Well, we chose God,” but if that is the case, who is sovereign, us or God?

The truth is that we do have a role as sovereigns. God gives us kingship over fish, birds, and over “every living thing,” as well as earth (Gen. 1:28). But does our role as sovereign over the earth and animals extend to a role as sovereign over God? Are we equal to God where it is “our will be done?”

Who is sovereign over our life? Who is sovereign over my life? Who is sovereign over your life? Do we answer one thing and behave another?

I think there are five choices of who is king. The first choice is ourselves. I am king. The second choice is the state, the collective, the “community.” We together are king. The third choice is other people. She is king or they are king. The fourth choice is things. It is king. And the fifth choice is God. Yahweh – “I am.”

We are tempted to say “all of the above” depending upon the circumstances. But there can only be one king in the room at a time.

Who is that?

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – By

May 30, 2013


Readings for Thursday, May 30, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 4:32-40; 2 Cor. 4:1-12; Luke 16:1-9; Psalm 37

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Not “buy” (like to purchase), but “by” (like expressing the way or means through which something happens or gets done, the cause of something).

This word appears a bunch in today’s reading from Deuteronomy: “Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror….And because He loved your fathers and chose their offspring after them and brought you out of Egypt with His own presence, by His great power…” Deut. 4:34,37

This got me to thinking about how we think about how things are interrelated. For example, there are at least three ways of finishing this sentence — “I got a raise in pay today by …” One way to complete the sentence is to say “the sweat of my brow,” so that the sentence reads “I got a raise in pay today by the sweat of my brow.” Another way to complete the sentence is to say “my company” so that the sentence reads “I got a raise today by my company.” The third way to complete the sentence is with the words “the mighty hand of God,” so that now the sentence reads “I got a raise in pay today by the mighty hand of God.”

Which sentence is right? The answer to that question tells us a whole lot about how we see the world and how we assume things work. The first choice tells us that we are an “up by your bootstraps” kind of person, you eat what you kill. We might call those people “independents.” The second choice tells us that we are a “inter-dependent” kind of person, thinking that others more than we have control over our lives and good or bad fortune. This type of person thinks that they are dependent upon other people’s decisions. Carry this idea far enough and you get to the stage of victim, where nothing happens to you which is not “by” someone else. The third choice tells us that we recognize a source well beyond us and them, upon whom we are radically dependent for everything.

We who call ourselves Christians ought to be in the third category, but I really wonder for myself how often I get caught up in the “by me” or “by them” mentality, rather than the “by Him” mentality. I think more often than I care to admit.

This gave rise to a series of sentences built on our reading today, and I wonder how differently we would act as Christians if we began each day this way. The statements are:

O Lord, today as I rise I thank you.

I thank you because it is by Your wonders that I am alive today.

I thank you because it is by Your trials that I am made stronger.

I thank you because it is by Your signs that I know where to go.

I thank you because it is by Your Spirit that I am sustained.

I thank you because it is by Your mercy that I am forgiven.

I thank you because it is by Your love that I able to love.

I thank you because it is by Your provision that I have food.

I thank you because it is by Your decision that my name is written in the Book of Life.

I thank you because it is by Your grace that I am saved.

I thank you because it is by Your death that I will dwell in Your presence throughout eternity.

I thank you because it is by Your power I can be fearless today.

Amen.

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© 2013 GBF

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