Bread – What!

November 25, 2013

Readings for Monday, November 25, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joel 3:1-2,9-17; 1 Pet.1:1-12; Matt. 19:1-12; Psalm 106


When confronted with a major event which is shocking, there are many words which people use today to express their surprise. They may use the Lord’s name (in vain), they may use a curse word (a “bad” word, generally four letters), or some phrase unique to them, like “Holy Toledo.” One old, old expression was to utter when surprised the word “Jehoshaphat!” (or some other variation). The modern translation of “Jehoshaphat” could be “Say What?”

All this is to lead up to our reading from Joel today, where God says: “For behold, in those days and at that time, …I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there…” Joel 3:2

This passage is similar to our recent readings in Revelation, pertaining to the last days and the judgment of God passed upon us. When I read this, the thought jumped in my head that we will, when brought to the Valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment, we will in fact be shocked, we will be surprised, we will be overwhelmed, and we will say something at that time like “Jehoshaphat!” or “Say What?” or “Oh ….” or some other epithet. I had to smile at this thought, but the truth is that this event is not funny and will not be funny and even if we use the Lord’s name as our phrase of choice for our shock, it will a use which does not keep us from the pit of hell. And as we descend we will be showing our surprise that it could ever happen to us, our shock at the circumstance we find ourselves in then.

So, to those who will say “Jehoshaphat!” or the modern equivalent on that day of judgment, your expression will be accurate but late and useless. Why we will be surprised, we don’t know because God has clearly told us over and over and over again what lays ahead. But it will.

Equally shocking is the solution, summarized in our reading today from 1 Peter: “According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” 1 Pet. 1:3-4

See, when we are called to that time of judgment, to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, to the place of surprise, for those in Christ there will be no surprise. Oh, we may use the same name, “Jesus Christ,” but it will not be said by way of shock and surprise but by way of faith, claim and salvation

The “What!” is either death caused by sin followed by judgment and damnation in the Valley of Jehoshaphat, or death to sin brought into our life by faith in Jesus Christ and, in the same Valley, saved by grace into eternal life.

That is the “What” the Bible tells us. So our question should not be “what” but “which?” Which version of the Valley do you prefer, the one where you are judged, clothed by your filthy rags of sin into hell or the other where you are clothed by Jesus Christ and saved into heaven?

The sad thing is that so many people will be surprised when it happens. Will you?


© 2013 GBF


Bread – Remember

November 11, 2013

Readings for Monday, November 11, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Neh. 9:1-25; Rev. 18:1-8; Matt. 15:1-20; Psalms 77,79,80


Our reading from Nehemiah today is part of a speech given by the priests to the people. In it, the priest recalls (remembers) the history of God’s involvement with them. It is an amazing speech because it recalls not only who God’s people are but who He is.

We are sometimes so forward looking and present-attended that we fail to remember who we are in God’s eyes, what He has done for us, and who He is.

As you read this excerpt, ask yourself what rivers God has helped you cross, what wilderness He has led you in and out of, what food He has provided to you, what living water He has given you, what protection He has afforded you, what blessings He has given you, what miracles He has performed in your presence, what good rules for living He has set forth for our benefit, and what obedience and worship you have returned:

You are the Lord, You alone. You have made heaven, the heaven of heavens, with all their host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them, and You preserve all of them; and the host of heaven worships You. You are the Lord, the God who chose Abram … You found his heart faithful before You…And You have kept Your promise, for You are righteous. And you saw the affliction of our fathers in Egypt … and performed signs and wonders against Pharaoh … And You divided the sea before them…You came down on Mount Sinai and spoke with them from heaven and gave them right rules and true laws, good statutes and commandments…You gave them bread from heaven for their hunger and brought water for them out of the rock…But they and our fathers acted presumptuously and stiffened their neck and did not obey Your commandments. They refused to obey and were not mindful of the wonders that You performed among them…But You are a God ready to forgive, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and did not forsake them. Even when they had made for themselves a golden calf … and committed great blasphemies, You in Your great mercies did not forsake them in the wilderness…You gave Your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold You manna from their mouth…Forty years You sustained them in the wilderness, and they lacked nothing. Their clothes did not wear out and their feet did not swell.” Neh. 9:6-21

God has brought us out of slavery and not abandoned us in the wilderness of our own making. He has given us His good rules for living. He has given us His “good Spirit” to counsel us. And He has given us Himself on the cross as a permanent sacrifice for our disobedience, our sin. He preserves us and He preserves the world we live in.

Remember these things.

Thanks be to God!


© 2013 GBF

Bread – Earthly

April 26, 2013

Readings for Friday, April 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Col. 3:1-11; Luke 7:1-17; Psalms 40,51,54


We grow up with lots of sayings in our head, some from our parents, others from teachers, some from our friends, many from television, video games, and the Internet. One of these sayings that I am sure every one of my readers has heard at some point in time is that we should be “well grounded.” What this used to mean was that we should be practical, balanced in our living, and attentive to reality. Over time, this concept has been taken to the limit, where today in school being well-educated is not an objective, instead being well-trained for a job is. Why would you take a liberal arts degree when you can take an accounting degree and get a job? After all, taking practical courses is being well-grounded.

Well, “well grounded” in what? Into the ways of man and the world or the ways of God. See, where we plant our feet, our labor, our heart, our mind matters. We need to be well-grounded, but in what soil?

This is a question rarely asked because the reality of today is always before us. Therefore, to be well-grounded means to be earthly, to be able to recognize and react quickly to the stock market, to know our job well, to know how people get promoted and how they get ahead in the world, so we know which soccer teams our children need to be in and which churches we need to go to and which country clubs to belong to. You get the point. Being well-grounded from this perspective is being well-connected to the earth, to the world we live in, to the reality of day-to-day living, being wise to the world.

However, Paul today warns us not to be well-grounded in earth, but to be well-grounded in heaven. What he really says is “If then you have been raised with Christ, seek things that are above…Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth…Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness…anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie…” Col. 3:1-9

Where are we well-grounded, earth or heaven? Paul gives us some tests – how much do we engage in our thoughts and actions in immorality? How often do we tell crude jokes? How often do we engorge ourselves with delicious food, filling our passions? How often do we want what others have? How often do we speak ill of people? How often are we angry at ourselves, at others, at our circumstances, at God?

Being earthly is, to summarize Paul, not good. If we are to grow in Christ, in our Christian walk, we must become well-grounded in Christ, who is in heaven.

How do you become well-grounded in a person? There are at least three ways. One is to talk to Him. We call that “prayer.” Another is to think about Him. We call that “reflection and meditation.” A third is to study Him in His writing to us, Scripture. We call that, well, “study.”

But there are other ways as well. One of the most important is to ask Him. When we confess our sin, turn to Him in repentance from them, believe in Him, and ask Him to make us well-grounded in Him, He acts to replant us from an earthly hothouse (which we call Hell) to a heavenly greenhouse (which we call Heaven). We call that replanting process “salvation.” It is not something we can do for ourselves, just like the plant cannot jump on its own from bad soil across town to good soil, but is something which Christ does for us.

The question is not whether we are well-grounded (although that question may in fact be relevant to many people), it is what soil are we well-planted in? The people who are well-planted in the earth do well in this time. The people who are well-planted in heaven do well for eternity.

There is another place where people who are well-planted in heaven do well. That is on earth. Think about it, when you are earthly, planted in the earth, you are stuck where you are, with your feet buried in the dirt. When you are well-planted in heaven, you have freedom to move among the earth, with your feet planted in Him who made the earth.

Earth or heaven. Earthly or heavenly. You can be well-planted in either, but saved and free in only one. You guess which one.


© 2013 GBF

*The Book of Common Prayer reading marked by the asterisk today is from Wisdom, which is a book of the Apocrypha. Since not all Christians recognize this collection of books as appropriate Scriptural reading, it is omitted.

Bread – Repent

November 14, 2012

Readings for Wednesday, November 14, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Joel 2:12-19; Rev. 19:11-21; Luke 15:1-10; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120


In Monday’s Bread, we dealt with the apocalyptic messages of total destruction for those persons who have not repented and trusted in Jesus Christ.

In today’s readings, the focus is on avoidance of that destruction. That avoidance begins with repentance.

Listen to Joel – “’Yet even now,’ declares the Lord, ‘return to Me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.’ Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and He relents over disaster.” Joel 2:12-13. Notice that repentance does not come from speaking a particular set of words or a demonstration of religiosity or ceremony, it comes from a “rendered heart,” one that is broken, one that realizes there is no hope in man apart from God, one that realizes that he or she needs God for everything, one who looks at what he or she has done or not done and realizes that there is nothing but sin, that there is no health in him or her. A rendered heart may occur in bed, in the reading room, in the board room, in the bathroom, in the mountains, on the seashore, in prison, while out of a job and with a job. A rendered heart may happen at any time and anywhere when we return to Him who has created us, understanding our poverty completely, and acknowledging His free gift of life to us who are totally unworthy of even receiving a crumb from His table.

Listen to John in Revelation – “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The One sitting on it is called Faithful and True .. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. On His robe and on His thigh He has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords … And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet …These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. And the rest [of mankind, who had not repented and returned to the Lord] were slain by the sword that came from the mouth of Him who was sitting on the horse…” Rev. 19:11,15b-16, 20-21 The white horse stands for victory and the rider of the white horse is Jesus Christ. Those who follow the beast die; those who do not bear the mark of the beast, who have repented and trusted in Jesus Christ, live in victory.

Finally, in Luke we have a description of what happens when a person repents and trusts in Jesus. “Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance…Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Luke 15:7,10

Have you caused joy in heaven already? If not, wouldn’t you like to? If so, begin by repenting.


© 2012 GBF

Bread – Prayer

February 11, 2011

Readings for Friday, February 11, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 56:1-8; Gal. 5:16-24; Mark 9:2-13; Psalms 69, 73


From today’s reading in Isaiah – “And foreigners who bind themselves to the Lord to serve Him, to love the name of the Lord, and to worship Him, all who keep the Sabbath without desecrating it and who hold fast to My covenant – these I will bring to My holy mountain and them joy in My house of prayer. Their burnt offerings and sacrifices will be accepted on My altar; for My house will be called of house of prayer for all nations.” Isa. 56:6-7

In this passage, God refers to His heavenly place where we will meet and worship Him as “His house of prayer” and a “house of prayer for all nations.” Is there any doubt that God considers His home to be a “house of prayer?”

What is prayer exactly? Whole books have been written on defining prayer, describing the life of prayer, reporting about people with powerful prayer lives, outlining the discipline of prayer, identifying the potential outcomes of prayer, etc. But what is it? My personal simple definition is that “prayer is honest communication with God.” I like this definition for all kinds of reasons. First, it is neutral as to the initiator – either God or I can initiate the conversation and the conversation is equally good. Some writers believe that prayer is a continuous conversation with God, initiated by Him, of which we are only sometimes aware when we are in a position to listen. This may be true, but it doesn’t matter because in my definition it does not matter who initiates the conversation or how long it lasts.

Second, another reason that I like my definition is that it is a communication and, like all communication, important things can be conveyed both non-verbally and verbally. For example, to the extent the communications involves conversation. I speak and God listens (for sure) and He speaks and I listen (maybe). To the extent the communication may be partially conversation and partially non-verbal communication, It is a dialogue where I ask and He loves, I talk and He cares, I complain and He comforts. Sometimes the communication can be non-verbal both ways, like when God communicates the wonder of His nature in the rising sun, and I observe the morning entranced by the elegance and beauty of the new morning. Whether non-verbal or verbal, real communication occurs in prayer.

Finally, the reason I like my definition is that it emphasizes the honesty of the communication. God knows everything; the communication improves dramatically when we realize that He knows everything and, therefore, there is no reason to try to keep anything hidden from Him or us either, for that matter. True prayer takes place in the light of truth. Yes, the truth does hurt, but the prayer which comes from an honest heart is a sweet counterbalance to the bitterness of our recognition of our own fallen-ness.

I think God calls His house the house of prayer because that is where we meet the Lord face to face, when all pretense is stripped away, all truths revealed, and honest communication is so complete, so uninterrupted by noise, to pure that we would be destroyed but for our shield and advocate, Jesus Christ.

In Galatians today, Paul talks about the difference between the old man steeped in sin and the new man in Christ, slowly learning how to live out his or her life in victory in the power of the Holy Spirit, showing the fruits of the increasingly sinless life. The beginning of belief in Jesus Christ, the beginning of trust in Him, the beginning of understanding our truly lost we are without a Redeemer, is the beginning of that honest communication with God. My practicing that honest communication in the power of the Holy Spirit, God speaks truth into our lives and we begin to show the fruits of that Spirit. One of the reasons perhaps we cannot appropriate the complete power of that Spirit in our lives to overcome all sin is that the House of Prayer is where we are going, not where we are. The house of prayer we create in our bedroom, in our study, on the road, at work, in the shower, is merely a poor reproduction of the heavenly house of prayer. Or maybe not just a reproduction of the original, but a piece of the original. How much stronger would our prayer life be if we thought of our prayer time as the presence of a slice of heaven, a piece of God’s House of Prayer, right here, right now?

In Mark today, Jesus has been transfigured in glory before the disciples. The house of prayer is not only where the Holy Spirit is fully displayed in our lives, but is also where God is transfigured before us in His full power and majesty, where His glory is revealed without distraction or distortion. To the extent then our slice of that house of prayer in our present circumstances, where we meet God in honest communication, is present in our lives, is the extent that we can meet God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – in their transfigured state, in their full demonstration of power, authority, holiness, and glory.

Have you had your piece of heaven today? Have you stepped into the house of prayer where honest communication between you and God takes place? If not, as you read this, where are you? In a meeting, on the road in a car, in a foreign city, in bed, in your bathroom, in your study, on a couch, watching television, cooking breakfast? Where are you? Where you are is the place where heaven can be – step into honest communication with your God, and enjoy a glimpse of God’s house of prayer. Right now.


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