Bread – Apparent

October 26, 2016


Psalm 38

“O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You.”  Ps. 38:9

I have been justly accused of not being very observant.  In a crowded room, my best friend might be standing three feet away from me and I might not see him.  My wife might have put on a brand new dress which complements her wonderfully, and I might not notice it for eight hours or so, if then.  Terrible, terrible, terrible.  But very very human.

And this happens to me (and I daresay you) on a regular basis even when the things we are (not) looking at are apparent, even when they are obvious.

We are commanded as Christians to love one another.  I think we often believe that this is complicated.  It probably isn’t.  In fact, we might begin by just training ourselves to be attentive to the apparent, the obvious, and then react to it.  If we look at a person’s face instead of looking through them to our next agenda item, we might notice the apparent hurt or sadness or anger or frustration.  And then having seen the obvious, we have an opportunity at least to react to it in a way which loves the person we are looking at.

But if we cannot see the obvious and apparent in that which is around us and can be touched, seen, and heard, then how are we to ever become aware of the apparent and the obvious which belong in the spiritual realm?

What strikes me as so powerful about this verse from Psalm 38 is that it states the obvious, which is not so apparent to most people.  Are you in trouble?  God knows it.  Are you sick?  God knows it.  Is there a longing in your heart which is unsatisfied?  God knows it.  Are you sighing?  God hears it.

God is not us.  We ignore the apparent.  God sees both the apparent and the hidden.

So why prayer, when God already knows it?  Maybe it is because you don’t know it.  Speaking our sighing before God makes us focus on the apparent (and hidden) causes of that sighing.  Speaking our sighing before God reminds us that God loves us, that He hears us, and that He has mercy on us.   Speaking our sighing before God reminds us that we are in fact sighing, that we are broken, hurt, fallen down, people, that are sinful and that we fall short in every way imaginable.  Speaking our sighing before God transfers that burden from us to Him, because now that we have recognized our error and recognized the Person who can heal us, we can cast our cares upon Him.

But before we can get there, we must acknowledge the most apparent thing in the room, and that is God.  But we will not see him because  we do not see apparent things unless we have eyes to see and ears to hear.  And for that we need to be trained and to be best trained, we need a trainer.  And so we begin the process of seeing the apparent by praying, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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

 

 

 

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Bread – Speaker

October 5, 2016


Psalm 36

Transgression speaks to the wicked deep in his heart; there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  Ps. 36:1

If we are listening in our minds, in our hearts, or in our souls (depending upon your philosophical bent), then who is speaking?  Who is the speaker who talks to us, guides us, and guards us?  Who do we listen to?

What led me to this question today is actually a translation issue with this verse.  In the ESV, which echoes the King James Version of the Bible, the speaker is “transgression.”  The wicked listen to their transgressions; sin speaks to them in ways that they want to hear and need to hear.

But there is a second translation of this verse.  It is contained in the New International Version translation and goes like this – “An oracle is within my heart concerning the sinfulness of the wicked; there is no fear of God before his eyes.” Here the speaker is an “oracle” which abides in the writer’s heart.  However, this itself is not complete, because the the Hebrew tie-in to “oracle” is “wickedness.” Instead of an oracle of God or an oracle of wisdom, here we have an oracle of wickedness.

Whereas “transgression,” representing an act of disobedience (blind or deliberate, doesn’t matter), relates to a “thing,” the word “oracle” most often relates to a person, an actual speaker for a deity.  People speak with the oracle to obtain wisdom from the deity behind the oracle, or to obtain favors from the deity, or to avoid trouble.   Therefore, the “oracle of wickedness” must relate to the fundamental source of disobedience, of transgression, the spiritual being behind the oracle.  In Christianity, this spiritual being is Satan.

So, is the speaker to the wicked the wicked’s sin (transgression) or is it Satan working through the transgression?

Because of the translation issue, it is possible to conclude that it is both.  However, I think that, to interpret the message properly, to hear the communication, one needs to know who and what the speaker is.  If the speaker sounds like he is speaking the truth but behind him or her is the Prince of Lies, then chances are the apparent truth is not the real truth, but a carefully orchestrated lie.

The second half of the verse though is where the rubber meets the road.  For the wicked, it is clear who the speaker is not – the speaker is not the Lord because “there is no fear of God before his eyes.”  How can one listen to a speaker whose very existence is denied?  It is not that God is not speaking; it is that the wicked is not listening.  The wicked is not listening because “there is no fear [recognition, apprehension, understanding] before his eyes.”

We can let books speak to us, movies speak to us, radio and television speak to us, our next door neighbor speak to us, our own life experiences speak to us.  Those are the apparent speakers, the ones directly in front of us.  Just like in this verse, the thing is before us (our transgression) and that thing speaks to us.  But who is the speaker behind the speaker?

Christianity has an answer to that question.  The speakers behind the speakers are either God or Satan.

When we are confused by the messages we are receiving, perhaps we should ask ourselves who the speaker of those messages is.  God’s speech leads to eternal life; Satan’s speech leads to eternal death.  God’s speech leads to victory in the worse circumstances; Satan’s speech leads to defeat in the best circumstances.

Who is the speaker you are listening to?

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Mine

June 6, 2016


Psalm 23

“The Lord is my shepherd…”  Ps. 23:1

There is a movie about a fish which goes on a long journey in search of his lost son.  At one point, this fish is on a dock, surrounded by seagulls, all of whom start saying “mine, mine, mine, mine” and start snapping at each other, distracted while the fish gets away.

I always laugh about this image because we often start fights over what is “mine,” and this scene reminds me of that contest for what is “mine.”

I memorized this Psalm as a young child and can still quote it from memory because of the comfort is provides me, knowing that God looks out after me, a sheep of His fold.  I can visualize walking through the valley of the shadow of death with His voice comforting me through it.  All of the power of this Psalm I can visualize.

But, as we know, there is a mile between our head, where our thoughts and visualizations are, to our heart, where our hope and true knowledge are.

The difference is between “sort of mine” and “actually mine.”

What does it take for us to fully know and appreciate that Yahweh, the great “I am,” is in fact “my” shepherd?

Not “a” shepherd, not even “the” shepherd, but “my” shepherd.

Before we pass too glibly over this question, are we willing to fight to make Jesus “mine?”  Is He my shepherd to the point that I will walk with Him all the time, communicate with Him all the time, and follow Him all the time?  Is He permanently mine or just mine when I want Him to be?

How do I know that He is mine?

Actually, Jesus gave us the answer to the this question when He said: “My sheep hear My voice.”  Jn. 10:27

There are many ways to hear, one is with the ears and another is with the heart.  There are many people who have never heard Jesus speak words into their ears, but have heard Jesus speak through Scripture into their minds, into their souls, and into their hearts.

Do you hear His voice calling you in the wilderness of your life?  If so, just answer “Yes, Lord.”  And you can then say with certainty that “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…”

_________

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

 

Bread – Calling

January 15, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, January 15, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 4:1-16; Heb. 2:11-18; John 1:35-42; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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Which came first, the chicken or the egg? We ask this question because it is, to the scientific mind, a conundrum, a puzzlement, because one must exist before the other if the other is to exist at all.

Unless, of course, God created the chicken and the egg, in which case the only point of beginning is God. A simple but profound answer.

So, do we choose to follow Christ or does Christ choose us to follow Him?

Lest you think this is a stupid question, the answer to this question divides modern Christians because, if we choose to follow Christ, we have a say in the outcome. If, however, Christ chooses us to follow Him, then the only person who has a say is Christ.

This question is on full display in today’s readings from John. The set-up is this, Jesus walks past John the Baptist, John the Baptist says (of Jesus) “Behold, the Lamb of God.” Two disciples of John the Baptist get up and start following Jesus. Jesus turns and asks them what (not who) they are seeking. They don’t respond, but instead ask Him where He is staying. Jesus says “Come and you will see,” and they then follow Him to where He is living at the time. Andrew, one of the two disciples, then leaves Jesus’ side and goes to his brother (later named Peter/Cephas by Jesus), tells his brother that he has found the Messiah, and then brought his brother (Peter) to Jesus. Jn. 1:35-42

Did the disciples follow Jesus because they chose to after hearing John the Baptist speak well of Him, or did the disciples follow Jesus because Jesus deliberately walked past them so that they could see who He is, and their following Jesus was a natural outgrowth of Jesus calling them to be His disciples?

The next question is even more interesting. Did Peter come to follow Jesus because he chose to do so, after hearing Andrew preach the gospel, or was Peter already chosen by Christ? This second option is strongly implied by the end of the passage – “Jesus looked at him, and said ‘You are Simon the son of John. You shall be called Cephas (which means Peter)’” Jn. 1:42. There was no introduction; Peter appeared before Jesus and Jesus knew exactly who He was and who He would become.

From many, many Bible verses, I conclude that the answer to this question is that I am saved because Jesus chose me to be saved and not because of anything that I ever did or ever will do to earn it. I am saved because God is sovereign and not me. I did not choose Jesus; He chose me, and I finally admitted it one day so that it became obvious to the world. However, I know many, many people who think differently.

It is not my objective here to solve this, but to merely point out all the different ways we hear the calling. The two disciples saw Jesus. The two disciples heard John the Baptist, clearly a holy man, call Jesus the equivalent of the Messiah (the Lamb of God). Peter heard the gospel from a family member and spoke to Jesus directly.

One thing is in common with all of these people. They saw what they saw and heard what they heard, and immediately they responded by following Jesus, by coming into His presence.

How often have we heard the gospel and ignored it for another day? How often have we seen Jesus in other people, and walked away? How often have we been woken up in the middle of the night with the knowledge that God is speaking to us about our future, about our sin, about our impending death, about His love for us, about His death on the cross for us, about His forgiveness and mercy, and about His gifts of everlasting life in the future and victorious life in the present – only to go back to sleep?

You have heard a calling upon your life, to follow Him.

What do you do next?

___________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Leaven

August 5, 2013


Readings for Monday, August 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 7:1-17; Acts 18:1-11; Mark 8:11-21; Psalms 77,79,80

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In our reading today from Mark, Jesus tells the disciples “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” Mk. 8:14 What is he talking about?

Leaven is that ingredient which causes bread to change chemically so that it rises. But, as far as we are concerned, it also makes bread tasty. Unleavened bread is bland.

One of the articles in this weekend’s newspaper was on the state of the baguette in France. Basically, the French have started using older, slower techniques of preparing their bread for baking so that it will taste better. Although they did not use the word “leaven” in the article, it was obvious that they were talking about a process of leavening, over a period of time, where a small amount of leaven would have the opportunity to change the big batch of dough so that it would make a proper tasty baguette.

Now, this writing is called “Bread” and we have just been discussing baguettes, so one might be inclined to think this “Bread” is about food. When Jesus talked about the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod to the disciples, the disciples thought He was talking about food too. Jesus responds with a “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?” Mk. 8:18. So, obviously Jesus is not talking about food. But He is talking about things that change one’s life.

What is the leaven of the Pharisees? The Pharisees were the keepers of the law in the synagogue, in church. Follow their (God’s) rules and you would go to a good place when you die; fail to follow their rules and you would go to a bad place. The remarkable thing was they really believed that we, as humans, could follow God’s law in all things, in our hearts, minds, thoughts, behaviors, speech, action, and attitude. Really? Name me one perfect person (other than Jesus) and naming yourself does not count! And yet, the leaven of the Pharisees requires one to have good works if one is to achieve their right place with God. Less you think this attitude is gone from the modern church, why do you go to Bible studies, attend worship, read the Bible, fast, meditate on the Word, read Bread, or do anything religious? Is it because you believe your works will help save you, or is out of gratitude for the work done by Jesus for you on the cross? In the first one, you are building your tower of Babel to the heavens. In the second, you are living in the presence of God’s kingdom on earth.

What is the leaven of Herod? Herod represents the world in all of its power and pseudo-glory. In another sense, he also represents education and reason. In another sense, he represents the perversions of the world, the lusts of the flesh, etc. Herod represents our reason, our base desires, our old man. He actually is us without Christ.

A little leaven goes a long way toward ruining the dough (if you consider the dough to be OK as is). Of course, a little leaven also makes life “tasty,” or so Satan would have us think.

Isn’t this last point why we deliberately let leaven into our lives or deliberately add it. We dabble in corruption, lying, lust, almost pornographic movies, books on evil (zombies) or sex, which appeal to our inner desire for things tasty – adventure, danger, power, money, fancy houses and cars, the most advanced electronics, stuff. We think we do it just enough to get a taste out of life, but Jesus reminds us that a little leaven affects the entire loaf, and that little taste leads to severe loss of who we can be in Christ.

The leaven of the Pharisees and Herod affects the quality of the victorious life we can have in Christ. Jesus’ question strikes home at this place, this time, these circumstances we are in – when we reach for the leaven of the world, He asks – “Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?”

And the short answer to this question is “No, we do not.” Most of the time we do not use our eyes to clearly see Christ; most of the time we do not use our ears to clearly hear Christ.

To do that, we need the help of the Holy Spirit minute-by-minute, day by day. It is not enough to say – “Don’t touch that hot stove, don’t touch that leaven of the Pharisees and of Herod.” Instead, we must say “Come Holy Spirit” and then use, really us, our eyes to see and our ears to hear.

“God, protect me from leaven, because I cannot protect myself.” A short prayer, but a necessary one. And He will because, by His sovereign will in our lives and through the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross, He already has.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

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