Bread – Broken

February 10, 2017


Psalm 51

…let the bones You have broken rejoice….The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:8b,17

This Psalm has so much in it, so much exalted language and so many truths, it is almost impossible to write about.  I could have written about “Create in me a clean heart, O God and renew a right spirit within me,” (Ps. 51:10) or “O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare Your praise.” (Ps. 51:15).  I could write about what God does to lift us up, to give us a clean heart, to open our lips, to exalt our praise of Him, to empower us to good works in loving our neighbor.  All this would be very uplifting and it would all be true and it would be a great way to end the week.

 

But instead I quote two separated passages where the Psalmist talks about broken bones, a broken heart, and a broken spirit.   Why?

 

In our journey as Christians, we may be brought up in the church and raised as Christians.  We may read Scripture and be able to recite it at will.  We may go to Sunday School and receive instruction and debate the fineries of theology and religion.  We may think deeply, act nobly, and speak gracefully.  We may do all these things, but it is not until we realize that we were dead on arrival, dead in our sins, dead in our trespasses, fundamentally broken in disobedience, that we truly understand the worth of the gift of salvation which God gave us on the cross.

We must be broken first before we can be healed.  We must know first that we are broken before we can comprehend, appreciate, and grab onto God’s mercy in taking us from our pit and setting us on firm foundation.

If we can walk and we break our leg, we can no longer walk.  Once the broken bone has healed, we can walk again.  And when we do, we end up in a place where we remember the broken bone, we remember the healing process, we appreciate the healer, and we are grateful for the simple thing – walking – which we previously took for granted.  And, in the process, we become more obedient to the rules which keep us from getting a broken leg to begin with (like, don’t jump from the roof of a house to the ground).

What I just said works if we know what health is (we previously walked).  But what if we are broken from the beginning; how do we know we are broken and in need of a healer?

Deep in our spirit is a longing for a better place, and we know that place exists.  The question is how do we get there?  The world answers that question by saying we can build ourselves up and out, we can make ourselves better people, and by our ingenuity and hard work we can achieve that better place.  This theory relies on the person who is broken to heal himself, partly on the idea that “I broke it, so I can fix it.”  Some religions answer this question by a variation on theme of the world, saying that you are broken because you fall short of God’s expectations, but you can climb the ladder of good works into that better place, the place of non-brokenness.  Both the world and these religions rely on man to fix himself, to repair his brokenness.

But the Psalmist says something different.  He says “let the bones You have broken rejoice.”  The Psalmist says that we are broken, but that our broken state was caused by God on purpose, on His purpose.

This may sound cruel at first, but it is actually very good.  Because of God broke the bone, the spirit, and the heart, He can heal it.  If we broke it, we can heal it; if God broke it, He can heal it.

And when we realize that we are broken and that we have no power to fix it, we turn to the only One who can.

There are many ways to say it – broken, lost, dead – but only one truth.  The One who has broken us is the One who heals us.  How?  By becoming broken Himself on the cross for us, paying the penalty for our disobedience we cannot pay ourselves.  That One is Jesus, the Christ.

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Sick

October 24, 2016


Psalm 38

“There is no soundness in my flesh…there is no health in my bones…My wounds stink and fester…I am utterly bowed down and prostrate…For sides are filled with burning…I am feeble and crushed…My heart throbs; my strength fails me…”  Ps. 38:3-10

As I write this, I am sick from the change of weather, something blowing in the wind, and a vicious attack on my sinuses.

As I write this, our nation is sick as well, suffering from excess, from ignorance, from selfishness, from dishonesty.  It is well on its way to being “feeble and crushed,” with “no health in [its] bones.”

There are distinct causes of these sicknesses described in this Psalm, basically boiling down to our sin and our resulting chasing after the ways of the world rather than the ways of God.  “There is no health in my bones because of my sin…My wounds stink and fester because of my foolishness…”  Ps. 38:3b,5a

We have three choices when we are sick: one is to lay on our bed in defeat, another is to help ourselves get better, and the third is to turn to someone else to help us get better.  It is interesting that we seem to follow these alternatives as steps in a process.  When we first get sick, we tend to wallow around in it feeling sorry for ourselves.  Then, we get out of bed and start rummaging around in our medicine chests trying to find some remedy which we think (or know) worked in the past [we self-medicate].  Finally, if retreat and self-treatment have not worked, we finally work up the courage to go see a health care professional, knowing there is a 50-50 chance that we will be throwing our money away on the advice to retreat until we get better [go back to bed] or will get an unpleasant shot or maybe a prescription for medicines which stand a 50-50 chance of working and cost a small fortune.

But, if we have read Psalm 38, we know that there is a fourth step we can take.  That is to recognize that the Lord knows what is going on [“my sighing is not hidden from You” Ps. 38:9b] and ask Him for mercy to relieve you of your circumstances.

Sometimes the simplest prayers are the best – “Lord, I am sick.  Please have mercy on me and heal me.”

Knowing that, when we are sick, why do we not pray this simple prayer?  Maybe it is because we are afraid God will show up.  Maybe it is because we forget that we don’t have to go through the retreat, to the self-medication, and to the help of the world – we can jump to step four.  But to do that we have to raise our eyes to heaven, from whence cometh our help.

And that is so hard to do when all we can think about is how sick we are.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Disease

August 17, 2016


Psalm 31

I will rejoice and be glad in Your steadfast love, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the distress of my soul…Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am in distress; my eye is wasted from grief; my soul and my body also.  For my life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; my strength fails because of my iniquity, and my bones waste away.” Ps. 31:7,9-10

A child has a form of strep infection which causes their skin to slough off, and requires treatment as if they had been burned.  Another child develops an infection in his bone.  A young adult dies at 39 from some kind of a stroke; another dies from a drug overdose; another dies from suicide, for some reason giving up on themselves and us.   An older adult finds out that they have a particularly aggressive kind of cancer.  Another is told that they need to start taking pain medications so that, as they die, they will not hurt so bad.  Another is attacked by shingles, another by pneumonia, another by some new bacteria or virus floating in the air.  And then there are those of us whose self is disappearing in the arms of Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

Disease is around us and in us.  Some of it is curable, at least to some degree, and other is not, at least by modern medicine.  To some are granted the miracle of recovery and to others, not.

David, our Psalmist, talks about some kind of disease which has overtaken him.  Whether it is the disease of depression, the disease of cancer, the disease of heartache, the disease of fear, the disease of the heart or of the bone or of the eye or the ear, we do not know.  Whatever it is, it is causing him great sorrow and distress to the point that he is spending his years with sighing.  He is feeling sorry for himself and that is OK, because he is sick, he is diseased, he is hurting, and he cannot figure a way out.

But there is a deeper disease, affecting all of mankind, and David acknowledges this in this phrase – “my strength fails because of my iniquity.”  The Hebrew word “iniquity” here means depravity; it is sin.   “My strength fails because of my sinfulness, because I am full of sin.”

We know this from the entirety of Scripture.  All were cast down from perfection by Adam’s disobedience; all are full of iniquity (sin), all fall short.  We are all filled with the disease of exile from Eden, and with the disease caused by our own disobedience to God and caused by the brokenness of the world, caused by disobedience to God.

So, when we are diseased and are suffering and God appears to do nothing about it, should we be mad at Him, particularly when we claim to follow Him, believe in Him, trust in Him, live in Him?  If we are loyal to God by attending church and praying and worshiping and reading His Word, shouldn’t we be blessed with protection from disease?  Shouldn’t we be able to summon up a miracle on demand?

David knows better and so do we.  David is rejoicing because he knows that God knows his suffering, He knows “the distress of my soul.”  And David says the only thing he, and we can say, “Be gracious to me, O Lord.”  We tend to think of being gracious as being nice.  It is not being nice – being gracious is being merciful.  Our disease is the natural result of the state within which exists because of Adam and because of us.  God has no obligation to us.  We cannot earn His good pleasure, His mercy, His graciousness.  It is only mercy because it is freely given, in God’s sovereignty, when He wants and for the purpose He intends.

If you think about it, the biggest disease we suffer is our own belief that we deserve something, when we in fact deserve nothing.  All is a gift of God, a gracious act by Him.  If we are rich, it is God’s gift to us.  If we are powerful, it is because God has set us in this place.  If we are saved, it is because God has acted to save us.

You want to get rid of disease?  Kneel before the Lord, Your God.  Trust in Him.  Follow Him.  Obey Him.

And if we suffer from a medical condition, that suffering will not matter because it will fade into the glory of God’s presence in our lives.   His presence with us in suffering will be enough, because He is enough.

How is this possible?  Because we give up the me and the we … and follow the He.

_________

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

Bread – Save

January 22, 2016


Psalm 3

“Arise, O Lord!  Save me, O my God … Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be on Your people!”  Ps. 3:7-8

Before the first “Selah!” of Psalm 3, David (and we) were focused on our troubles, on our enemies, on our poor condition and place.  After that and before the second “Selah!,” we refocused our attention from ourselves and our situation to the Lord and His power to be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our heads in times of trouble.

Now we arrive at the third part and it is a fitting way to end the week.  In this third part, David cries out to God “Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God…” and he ends with the familiar phrase “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

The question of the day is what is God saving us from?  The phrase “Arise, O Lord!” is noted by the commentators as the familiar invocation of God to assist the Israelites in war.  In this context, and given David’s dire situation in the desert, running away from his treacherous son, the word “save” here could well mean that David is asking God to save him from his physical, present circumstances … to help him defeat his enemies, overcome his son, re-enter the palace, and take back his throne.

When we pray to God to rescue us, to save us, isn’t it often in this context?  We have found ourselves lost and we ask to be found.  We have found ourselves in a bad situation surrounded by enemies and we ask God to defeat the enemies and restore us to our place.  We lose our job and we pray to God that He rise up and find you a job.  We expose ourselves to sin over and over and, when we are reaping what we sow, we ask God to rescue us.  We become ill from a deadly disease and ask for healing, for saving from the disease.   David may well be doing the same thing.

But, immediately, David changes from a focus on rescue from a bad place in specific to eternal rescue, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”  From “rescue me from this pit” to “rescue me for all time.”

And that is what we are inclined to do.  Know that Christ has saved us eternally and ask from time to time that God save us from a bad situation we find ourselves in.

From physical save to theological, eternal save in one easy step.

But the problem is, we have all asked God to save us from X, only to find out that the next morning X is still there.  Where is God?  Why hasn’t He arisen to save me?   And in that reality, in that truth that God does not always show up in the time, way, and effect which we want, we come up with any number of explanations, from “God doesn’t love me” to “I am unworthy” to “it wasn’t in God’s will” to “there is some unrepented of sin.”  And a thousand other explanations.

There have been many books written about how to deal with the unanswered prayer.

But I want us today to stand back and think a little further.  Isn’t there a third way that God saves us.  We are taught the eternal salvation.  We ask for the physical salvation.  But doesn’t God always, always, always save us from ourselves?  Doesn’t He always save us from our emotions when we let Him?

Maybe the third way God saves us is by rescuing us from our emotions.

When we ask God for healing from our illness and nothing physical changes … we are just as sick as we were, has anything changed?  I think if we look into our hearts when we have asked for something and not gotten it, we know that something has changed.  Our emotions have changed from fear and anxiety to peace and joy.  Our bitterness toward the person harming us has melted away into forgiveness.  Our self-righteous attitude that says we deserve everything has converted to a honest appraisal of ourselves that says we deserve nothing.  Our love of self transforms into a love of others.  Prosperity defined by money and power is recreated by God’s power into prosperity defined by relationships.

When David prays “Arise O Lord!  Save me, O my God,” is he praying, really, for physical deliverance or emotional deliverance?

When you are in trouble because your car won’t start and you cry out to the Lord to start your car and, presto, it still doesn’t start, has God shown up and saved you?  I think the answer to that is “yes,” not because He started the car but because He changed how you respond to the car not starting.  He has changed your emotional reaction to one of worry and hurry to one of, “Oh well, this too shall pass.”  He has changed your attitude toward the problem.  He has changed you.  He has saved you from yourself.

So when we pray to be saved from our affliction and our affliction remains, has God shown up?  If the answer is that hope has replaced despair, promise has replaced worry, life has replaced death, caring about others has replaced caring about yourself, and solutions have replaced problems, then, “yes” God has saved you.

We can and we will ask God to rescue us from our enemies.  And sometimes He will and sometimes He will appear not to have.  But the miracle is not that He rescues us from our enemies, but that He rescues us from ourselves, from captivity to our emotions and selfishness.  That is the miracle.

Arise, O Lord.  Save me, O my God!  Because You have, You are, and You will.  Thanks be to God!

__________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Decision

April 22, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, April 22, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 5:1-12; 1 John 5:1-12; Luke 4:38-44; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

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In our reading from Daniel today, Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, has taken over rule of Babylon. In the preceding verses, Nebuchadnezzar is prideful and is brought low by God, only to be restored to his kingship by God after Nebuchadnezzar “lifted my eyes to heaven … and praised and honored Him who lives forever…” Dan. 5:34

Now King Belshazzar knows this history, but behaves sinfully anyway. He has a party for 1,000 men and takes out the gold and silver “vessels” which had removed from the Temple in Jerusalem by his father. He then drank wine from what had been consecrated to God and he and his fellow revelers “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.” Dan. 5:4 In other words, King Belshazzar and his friends worshiped everything that the world offered and not God. We end today’s reading with the hand of God writing Belshazzar’s future on the wall.

In another reading from today’s lessons, Jesus in Luke is reported as follows: “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.” Luke 4:40

What do these verses have in common. Each involves an individual, a single person, making a decision for himself or herself. Belshazzar could not rely upon the faith of his father Nebuchadnezzar, but had to learn history for himself and make his own, individual, decision about whether he would worship idols of his making or God. Likewise, each person who came to Jesus for healing made an individual decision to come; he or she may have been helped by their friends, but there is nothing in the passage to suggest that these friends brought the sick to Jesus against their will. The sick came voluntarily to Jesus for healing.

In the study notes in the ESV Bible I am using, it is noted that Jesus could have healed everyone at one blow with a single word, but that He did not. Instead, even though the sun was going down and time was running out (electricity was still to be invented), Jesus “laid His hands on every one of them [individually].”

We make our decision to worship our idols or God individually. No one makes us make that decision. History may point the way to a good decision, but it does not dictate the decision. We make the decision to acknowledge God as an individual, detached from our history and, quite frankly, our future. Our decision to follow God rather than the world is an individual decision made, in one sense, once for life and, in another sense, daily as we choose to walk in obedience or not.

Likewise, our understanding that we are sick is our understanding, not someone’s understanding for us. As a parent, we may teach our children, we may show our children, we may pray for our children, and we may even coerce our children – but the decision to realize that I am sick with sin resides with me alone. The decision to go to Christ for healing is an individual’s decision, not a group decision.

And isn’t it amazing that our Savior takes the time to heal us individually, that His decision for us is not as a group but as an “I.”

We like to hide our decision-making in groups and committees. There is safety in group decisions because the individual cannot be wrong.

But the decision to follow God, to admit sin, to accept forgiveness and mercy is not a group decision and never will be. I cannot choose for you. You must choose for yourself.

So, we can try to hide behind our family, our community, our friends, our co-laborers at the workplace, in committees, groups, and clubs – but the decisions that matter our each individual’s decision. You may be helped by friends, but they do not and cannot make the decision for you.

So, as we sit here in the middle of the week, what is your decision today? Don’t look around…just look in the mirror. And answer the questions. Who or what do you worship today? Are you pumped up in pride today or sober in assessment? Will I seek to be healed or just talk about it? Are you ready for Jesus to touch you?

What can you do today? Anything you want. What should you do today? Follow Jesus. What will you do today? It is your decision, so only you know.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Sense

January 26, 2015


Readings for Monday, January 26, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 48:1-11; Gal. 1:1-17; Mark 5:21-43; Psalms 41,44,52

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From today’s reading in Mark: “She had heard the reports about Jesus and came up behind Him in the crowd and touched His garment….and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.” Mk. 5:27-29

We are familiar with the five senses of the body – touch, smell, taste, hearing, seeing.

We are also familiar with something called the sixth sense, having to do with our mind telling us that something is wrong although none of our other senses are picking up anything.

I would like to propose a seventh sense – a soul sense. This is the sense that is attuned to God, that lets us know when we are receiving His pleasure and when we have wandered afar from His presence. I propose that it was this seventh sense which is present in our reading today – “she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.”

What was her disease? Well, the Bible describes it as uncontrolled bleeding for twelve years. And in one sense a disease is the body not behaving the way it should because it has been thrown off the mark by virus or bacteria, by imbalance in exercise or caloric intake, by some part of the body refusing to work the way it is designed.

But in another sense, disease goes to everything which causes us not to rest. When we are resting, we are at ease. When “ease” is “dissed,” we get dis-ease. Sin is disease and it causes dis-ease. Sin shows up in our bodies as disease which can be cured by medicine, but sin also shows up in our seventh sense, our soul sense, as dis-ease, which cannot be healed by medicine. The dis-ease of the soul which causes the soul sense to behave poorly (showing itself in depression, anxiety, worry, anger, covetousness, jealousy, etc.) can only be healed in one way. You must touch the Master.

That’s it. It is just that simple. First you must hear the story of Jesus, which is the proclamation of the good news by all Christians whose soul sense is working in a positive direction. Second, you must seek Jesus and find Him. But, just like the woman in the story, she did not have to go far because He was right there, walking in front of her. Third, in faith, the same faith which drove you to find Jesus, must cause you to reach out to touch Him. The dis-ease of the soul sense is not cured by thinking about Jesus and it is not cured by reading about Jesus, it is healed by touching Him and, so doing, knowing Him. Instantly, at that point, the soul sense is set on the right path, its compass true.

Does the soul sense often send out warning signals. Of course it does. As we float farther away from the light of the world, our world gets darker. Our soul sense throws off warning signs and dis-ease. If not attended to, the dis-ease will reflect itself in bodily disease and the other senses will start becoming aware of the problem. They may not be able to identify the problem, but they know it is there.

If you are attentive to your soul sense, you know what you need to pray for. The soul sense reminds us daily to surrender to our Christ, to listen to Him, and to follow Him. The soul sense is at peace when you are properly aligned with the author of peace. The soul sense is quiet when you take up your rest under the shelter of the Most High.

Do you feel today that something is wrong, but you don’t know what it is? Maybe it is your soul sense sending you a message, telling you to re-attach to the vine, to reach out to the Lord in prayer, to be still and to know that Jesus is Lord. Of course, some people might just blow it off by saying it is something you had for breakfast which upset your stomach. And if that is what they have been blinded to see, then that is all that they will see.

But you, beloved of the Lord, saved by grace, strengthened in the Holy Spirit, full of wisdom from the Lord, know better. You know that sense of dis-ease arises from your fundamental disobedience to the One who made you. You know that your dis-ease is warning you of sin crouching at the door of your life.

So, when we hear our soul sense telling us something is awry, what is our reaction? Is it to ignore it until our life falls apart? For many that is often the case. Is it to suppress it with worldly wisdom of causation, so that the sense of wrongness is subordinated to the “I would feel better if I ate better” worldly wisdom?

Or is it to embrace the message from the soul sense to return home, to return to the vine, to return to God?

It is Monday, so it is a time to take stock of what we are going to be doing for the rest of the week. What about committing to feed our soul sense by having, this week, a strong relationship with the Master. What about praying instead of reading about prayer? What about telling people about Christ rather than reading about evangelism?

What about just taking the time to touch Jesus? The woman did and she was healed from top to bottom. We can too and in the process remove the dis-ease from our soul sense and begin improving our life.

Does this make sense, soul sense? If so, then let’s do it.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Lame

January 9, 2015


Readings for Friday, January 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 63:1-5; Rev. 2:18-29; John 5:1-15; Psalms 121,122,123,131,132

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The word “lame” can have a multiple of meanings, particularly in today’s culture. “That’s lame” can be a statement that what was just said is not good, and it can also be used as the beginning of a counter-argument. I am not using the word “lame” as a defense to an argument, but am using it in its classic sense of someone who is hurt and cannot walk well. When a person is hobbling because they dropped a heavy weight on their foot, they are lame. When a person is born with the inability to walk, they are lame.

Today, in our readings in John, we encounter a lame man who has occupied a space beside the Bethesda pool for thirty-eight years. For sure he cannot walk and he may have other handicaps as well, including paralysis or blindness.

Jesus comes alongside that man, asks him if he wants to be healed, and, when he receives a positive response, says to him “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Jn. 5:8

Immediately following that statement, Scripture says “And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.” Jn. 5:9

So, the question of the day is a chicken and egg question, was the man healed before he obeyed Jesus’ command or did he obey Jesus’ command followed by the healing?

This is not a trivial question. If the man obeyed Christ first, he had no evidence on which to place such obedience. He just obeyed in faith. If, on the other hand he was healed first, maybe he felt better and that became the evidence which encouraged him to obey. Does blessing follow obedience or does obedience follow once we have evidence of blessing?

We are all lame in some respect or another. Me, I am generally terrible at eye-hand coordination and therefore fail at most sports. Others may find themselves lame because of physical or mental disability, economics, hardness of heart caused by being mistreated, or the world’s form of wisdom or education.

We cannot make ourselves saved. We cannot bring ourselves to true healing. We cannot even use our gifts to the fullest.

So, are we going to wait around until God shows us that He exists, until God does the miracle, and then obey; or are we going to obey in faith that He is, He cares, and He will give us what we need to obey? Do we need evidence of God before we will bow our knee, or will we bow our knee first in faith, knowing that the evidence will come in God’s sovereign timing?

Let me a little more specific. You have a $100 in your pocket and you see that your neighbor desperately needs $100. Will you give him the $100 out of obedience to Jesus’ command to love, believing that God will replace that $100 in your pocket at whatever level is needed by you; or will you wait for a sign from God that that is something you should do, only obeying if the sign occurs and is obvious to you?

I will tell you that my bias is to keep the $100 until I see a sign. But that is the “me” disease speaking. I get to judge, based upon my criteria, as to when I have received sufficient evidence to obey God. But this is not the way the kingdom works. Faith results in obedience without evidence, without proof, without pre-condition.

So, in our history lesson today about the lame man, the pool, and Jesus, what came first, obedience or evidence? I think the key to this answer is in Jesus’ question to the man, “Do you want to be healed?” The man answered that question by pointing out the things he had tried to do under his own power to be cured, essentially saying “Yes, I do.” When Jesus said “Get up, take up your bed, and walk,” what decision do you think had already formed in his mind – to obey, “at once.” And as his heart chose to obey Jesus, Jesus provided him the means to be healed and to stand up and walk. The sequence of events is, I believe, that Jesus commanded, the man in his heart obeyed, the man was healed, and the man in his body obeyed.

So where is your heart today? Do you have a heart of obedience to God or a heart of disobedience to God until you are satisfied that obedience is appropriate?

If the reality is the second answer, then we are lame Christians. If, on the other hand, we are obedient in our hearts to God, we will no longer be lame.

____________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Exoskeleton

April 2, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, April 2, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 50:15-26; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Mark 8:11-26; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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Most people will look at the “Bread” word “exoskeleton,” and say “what?” I don’t blame them.

An exoskeleton is a strong suit, typically a type of armor, which is worn outside the body. When you watch a science fiction movie and the little person is inside the giant machine making it do things, that could be considered an exoskeleton. Batman’s suit is a form of an exoskeleton.

If an exoskeleton is tied to robotic technology, it can enhance your actions. For example, instead of lifting 100 lbs regularly, an exoskeleton might enable you to life 2,000 lbs (at least in science fiction movies). Instead of jumping three feet, an exoskeleton might enable you to jump 300 feet. Instead of holding a rock in your hand, an exoskeleton will enable you to crush that rock.

Can’t squeeze water out of a rock? Put on an exoskeleton.

In today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul is describing the Holy Spirit and His gift to us of various spiritual gifts. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Cor. 12:7-11.

When I read this, I thought of how we, as mere mortals, are given Holy Spirit powers as He wills for the common good. And then I thought of exoskeletons and how we are essentially given a suit of armor, comprised of our Holy Spirit-given gifts, which we can wear and use. Through our mustard seed of faith, strengthened in the exoskeleton of Holy Spirit faith, we can face death as a martyr by beheading, burning, or drowning. Through our limited desire to help one another, strengthened in the exoskeleton of Holy Spirit healing, we can boldly pray for healing, confident that God hears us and will act in accordance with His will for the object of our prayer. In the necessity of making choices in life, we can take our limited knowledge and wisdom and, putting on the exoskeleton of Holy Spirit wisdom and knowledge, make wise choices which honor God and bless us. What little bit we can do as people is enhanced thousands-fold when we put on the Holy Spirit exoskeleton made by the Holy Spirit for us, which contains the Holy Spirit gifts provided to us for the common good.

In Ephesians, Paul talks about us having to put on the armor of God, which could be the same thing as putting on our exoskeleton.

There is a difference, though, between armor and an exoskeleton. Armor has to be put on and never becomes part of you. An exoskeleton, if worn enough, eventually does become part of you.

If you are a Christian, there is a power suit which has been made for you by the Holy Spirit. Put it on and keep it on. Then, when you wake up every day, you can say “Hey, Holy Spirit, let’s You and I go do some serious work for the kingdom today!” And the wonderful thing is that there isn’t even a power button you have to hit. The power is already on.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Healing

November 22, 2013


Readings for Friday, November 22, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 22:6-13; Matt. 18:10-20; Psalms 102,107:1-32

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The other day I was driving and on the radio was some ad for some over-the-counter formulation based upon some kind of leaves from some kind of a tree in, I think, the Amazon (or maybe it was China). The ad spoke of the leaves’ remarkable properties to heal, restore, and protect some part of my digestive, circulatory, muscular, or nervous system. Just like penicillin came from mold, I was reminded that many of our great advances in medicine begin with some person realizing that a particular leaf, berry, seed, fruit, or natural product had healing properties.

Our reading today from Revelation begins with “And he said to me, ‘These words are trustworthy and true….” Rev. 22:6. What words? So I backed up to the beginning of Chapter 22 where I read “Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.” Rev. 22:1-2

So part of what is true is that the throne of God and Jesus, the Lamb, gush forth the water of life, the Holy Spirit. This water nourishes the tree of life which in turn produces leaves which contain the medicine by which the nations are healed.

I believe that this is literally true, that there is a tree of life watered by the water of life which proceeds from the throne of God. But it also struck me that the “tree” is on both sides of the river. There is only one way that this can be physically, in my limited understanding, and that is by the tree bridging the river (part of the tree is on each side). However, there is nothing in the passage to indicate that the water of life runs under or through the tree. It could, but there may also be another way of thinking about this.

See, the tree of life could be me. And it could be you. Although we may be on opposite banks, the water of life can refresh us equally.

If you think about being a tree of life for a moment, you realize that you may be the only tree of life someone ever sees, touches, or talks to. You may be the person whom they see producing fruit on a regular basis, month by month, day by day. They may see that your embodiment, your persona, your character, your actions, your behavior, your leaves are for their healing and the healing of the nation.

Are we producing good fruit in and out of season, every day of every month of every year? Are we covered with attributes, characters, personalities, and features which are for the nations and which can be used by God for that purpose? Are we a tree of life to our family, our friends, our co-workers, our authorities?

We can be, if we drink constantly from the waters of life which proceed from the Father and the Son.

There is a great bald cypress tree in my yard. The nature of these trees is that they grow large and strong when they can tap into water, and they aggressively seek out that water. I think my cypress tree has tapped into my city water supply.

If our leaves look withered and our bark is peeling and our growth is stunted, maybe it is because we have not sought out the only water which truly feeds us.

Search today for that living water so that you might be a tree of life to others. It’s there. It’s running down the middle of our lives if we have but eyes to see and ears to hear.

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Reliance

May 8, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, May 8, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; James 5:13-18; Luke 12:22-31; Psalm 119:97-120

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Who should we rely on? The first thought that comes to mind is ourselves. This is natural man speaking. One of the great “quotes” from the Bible which people have told me through the years is “God helps those who help themselves.” Of course, this is nowhere to be found in the Bible because the exact opposite is true – God helps those who cannot help themselves and know it. But the way of the world is not the way of the kingdom of God.

So the next thought is to rely upon God. And this is a good response, based upon the fact that, since God created the universe, time, and that ever has been, is, and will be, He can be relied upon; He is a strong foundation. In fact, we have to rely upon God for our salvation and, really, for all the blessings of this life and of life everlasting. Whatever we have is from God, so we radically rely upon Him whether we know it or not, whether we are grateful or not, and whether we worship Him or not.

There is a third option and it is implied in our reading from James today. “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him…” James 5:14

In other words, we can rely in times of need and trouble on other people.

Not just other people, though, but people of wisdom and faith who are God-called elders of the church. These are not just the titular heads of the church (those who hold titles such as bishops, priests, deacons, overseers, apostles, prophets, or elders), but the people whom God has called to discernment and wisdom and, through the Holy Spirit, empowered them to preach, teach, serve, and love. In other words, Christians who are sick can rely upon the elders.

Does this require faith on the part of the asker? No, but it does require the willingness to ask for help and to accept help when it comes. It requires us to recognize that, in our current state, we cannot help ourselves and, for whatever reason, we have little faith at that moment to rely upon God. It requires us to be willing to open ourselves up and to ask.

Why do we not actively use this third source of help? Why do we not rely upon the elders in our time of need?

I think I know the answer to question. It is because we are prideful. We are willing to rely upon ourselves. We are willing to rely upon God because that is a secret transaction between God and us. In other words, we will rely upon God because when He helps us, we can keep it a secret from others that we needed the help. But we are not willing to rely upon those who are God’s agents in the circumstances. We are not willing to reveal our weakness so that God through others can reveal His strength. By relying upon others, we have to tell them our story, we have to admit our weakness, we have to ask for help, and we have to accept that help.

Do you find today that your reliance upon yourself is misplaced or is not working and that your private reliance upon God is awaiting a response? Perhaps all these circumstances call you to a different place, one where you have to call upon the elders of the church for help.

And who are these elders? They are people who have learned not to rely upon themselves. They have learned that they have not earned their salvation or anything else for that matter – that it is all a gift of a sovereign God. They see the world through the lens of Christ. They carry the kingdom of God with them wherever they go, even though they live in the world. They serve and they love, not in their own might but in the power of the Holy Spirit. Some of them bear titles in the church and others are your next door neighbors. Some are old and some are not.

In other words, the elders are people who need help too in their time of sickness. They, however, have learned to call upon other elders for help in such times. They have learned to rely upon the body of Christ as the agents of Christ in the world.

Next time you are sick, spiritually or physically, when the self-medication is not enough, when reading a book is not enough, when private prayers are not enough, when all the communications between you and God are not enough, remember that God has provided another people-group upon which you can rely, His representatives on earth. Rely upon them and let them lift you up. After all, God has made them, God has saved them, God has empowered them, and God uses them for His good purpose. So, why not rely upon them?

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© 2013 GBF

*Omitted reading is from the Apocrypha

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