Bread – Resolved

December 30, 2016


Psalm 45

Hear, O daughter, and consider … Since He is your Lord, bow to Him.”   Ps. 45:10-11

This is the third step in the process of our glorification as Christ’s bride.  The pre-step is God’s choice of His bride.  The first step was for us to hear and incline ourselves toward God.  The second step is then for us to forget our past, pick up our cross, and follow Him.

This third step is encapsulated in the Psalmist’s simple statement that we, as Christ’s bride, should “bow to Him,” since He is our Lord.

 

This simple command sounds strange to Western ears, and particularly to Americans, where we say proudly that “we bow down to no man.”  But, of course, Jesus is God, so he is not mere man.  But, still, we like to think of ourselves as equal to God and, therefore, it is easier in our mindset to call Him “friend” then it is to call Him “Lord.”

But for the wedding feast to be truly glorious, for the bride to enjoy all of the benefits of hope, peace, love, and charity which God brings into the relationship, the bride must bow, the bride must be obedient to the Lord’s commands.

As we reach the end of the year and look forward to the new year, it is time for reflection and resolution, reflection on the past and resolution for the future.

As we look over the past year in our walk with God, have we really, really been obedient to His call on our lives, to His commands for life, or to His personal request that we become holy like He is?  We may have heard the good news of Christ and inclined our ear, and we may have gathered around us our church friends, leaving our past behind, but have we really “bowed to Him?”  Have we given up our selfish ways?  Have we subordinated self to His glory, His ways, His truth, and His life?  Instead of just asking ourselves “What would Jesus do,” have we actually done what Jesus has told us to do?

Many of us, myself included, are weak Christians.  We talk a game, but we do not walk it.  We have heard the good news and proclaim trust in Christ, but we trust ourselves and our friends and our wealth and the world more.  We do not walk in holiness; in fact, if we are honest, we barely make acquaintance with the concept.

But that is the past, and it need not be the future.  The work of God is to transform us, first by giving us a new life in Him and then training us, bringing us up from infants into maturity as His disciples.

Let’s all take on a New Year’s resolution that very well may be the hardest thing we have ever done.  Let us resolve to begin each day by “bowing to Him.”  Let’s be obedient to our Lord.

What does this look like?  I think it is simpler than we think.  If He says love, we love.  If He says rest, we rest.  If He says talk to Me, we talk to Him.  If He says “walk through that door,” we take the step of faith into the unknown (to us).

Resolved, that I put Him first and me second.  And for that, we need help.  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 – King

August 1, 2016


Psalm 29

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Bread – Presence

June 16, 2016


Psalm 24

“Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord?  And who shall stand in His holy place?  He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false and does not swear deceitfully.”  Ps. 24:3-4

It is a rare occasion, but a few times in my life I have been the presence of a truly holy person.  It is the classic you know it when you see it.   My best example is a bishop of Nigeria, who I was in a prayer meeting with just before he was going to speak to a bunch of folks.  While I was there, he received word that his house had been attacked by Muslims and burned.  When asked if he wanted to put off speaking, his response was simply that the Lord was taking care of his family, that his house could be rebuilt, and that there were souls in the audience who needed to hear the gospel.  He then stood up, walked out, and delivered the truth to those hungry to hear it.   The reason I say he was holy was really nothing he said; it was the way he said it.  He lived in the power of the Holy Spirit, he lived without fear, and he knew whose he was and what his job was.  Every word he spoke he believed; there was no doubt.  And to say the least, I was lifted up, honored, and humbled at the experience.

We may say that we would like to be like him, but is that really true.  Can we live our lives in absolute trust in the Lord to preserve us and our loved ones?  Can we suffer the complete loss of our possessions on earth so that we obtain possessions in heaven?  Are we willing to truly leave everything on the table to follow Christ?  Are we willing and able to preach the gospel in and out of season?

I think if we are truly honest with ourselves, there is something always held back, something always reserved for ourselves.  We are willing to sacrifice our time, but are we willing to sacrifice our life?

In one sense, though, we Christians are all set apart for God and we are all in that sense holy.  But this bishop was truly holier than me.

And yet, as holy as this man was, could he ascend the hill of the Lord or stand in His holy place?  Does even this bishop, this holy one, have clean hands and a pure heart?

The answer is “no.”  He may be a holy man but he is a man and therefore a sinner, made able to climb God’s hill and appear in God’s throne room only because Jesus Christ precedes him and saves him.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who has clean hands and a pure heart?  It is those whose hands have been made clean and who have a new heart as a result of new spiritual birth, all made possible by Jesus’ obedience to the cross, His sacrifice of Himself on the cross, and His resurrection and ascension to the Father.

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  If you are a Christian, you know the answer to that question.  If you do not know the answer, it is in the gospel of John, 14:6, where Jesus says simply “No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“Who shall stand in His holy place?”  Who shall be in the presence of the Lord?  Will you?

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

 

Bread – Live

January 21, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 21, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 44:24-45:7; Eph. 5:1-14; Mark 4:1-20; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

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How are we to live as Christians?

Many Christians have written many books over many years answering this question. And yet, in today’s readings, it seems that Scripture provides us a useable summary.

The first way we should live is to recognize that God is God over all, good and bad. In Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Cyrus, king of Persia, king of Babylon, ruler of the Jews in exile. He says “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus…that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you (Cyrus) by your name. For the sake of My servant Jacob, and Israel My chosen, I call you (Cyrus) by your name, I name you (Cyrus), though you do not know Me,…I equip you (Cyrus), though you do not know Me, …” Isa. 45:1,3b-5 The first way we should live is to recognize that the person who we perceive is bad in our lives, is trouble, is a fraud, is difficult, is mean and hateful, or who otherwise is someone which we would like to avoid, is an instrument of God called by God into our lives for some purpose known to Him. Therefore, when we meet trouble in life, we know that God works it to good and live our lives in victory, unbowed by adversity. By recognizing that God is sovereign and has chosen us, we can live in victory through all things.

The second way we should live is by running away from sin toward that holiness, that obedience to God’s pattern of life for His people, to which we have been called. In Ephesians today, Paul writes: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you…Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking…but instead let there be thanksgiving…Therefore, do not become partners with them [sons of disobedience], for at one time you were darkness, but now you are in the Lord…[T]ry to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness…” Eph. 5:1-4,7-11 Run away from the dark; stay in the light. Cast away sin in the Holy Spirit, learn what is pleasing to God, and then do it in gratitude and obedience.

The third way we should live is to make sure that the soil around us is good so that our fruit which honors God and brings Him glory is plentiful. In Mark today, Jesus says: “A sower went out to sow…And other seeds fell into good soil …And He said to them, ‘…The sower sows the Word…But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mk. 4:3,8,13-14,20. How do we till and fertilize our soil so that it is good? Well the first way is to let the Holy Spirit work in us. The second way is to ask God for it. And the third way is to recognize that Scripture contains the ingredients to transform the soil from something harsh and dead to something healthy and alive.

So, the three rules to live: (1) God is sovereign, (2) flee sin, (3) grow in knowledge and love of the Lord through tilling and fertilizing the soil using the tools God has given you to do so.

There may be more rules, but since I have problems with all three sometimes, I think I’ll just start with these three.

What about you?

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Visions

December 24, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, December 24, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 35:1-10, 59:15b-21; Rev. 22:12-17, 21; Phil. 2:5-11; Luke 1:67-80; Psalms 45,46,89:1-29

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In today’s readings, we swirl around a combination of images of existing reality and visions of future reality. Both convey the meaning of Christmas, the welcoming of Christ the King as incarnate among men as man, with an eye to His coming to earth in history and His coming to earth in the future — the “magic” of the season, grounded in past and present reality and future promise.

Rather than comment on Scripture on this day of expectation, let me let God through His Word speak Himself:

The wilderness and the dry land shall be glad … They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God.

Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees.

Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with the recompense of God. He will come and save you.’

Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy….

And a highway shall be there, and it shall be called the Way of Holiness….the redeemed shall walk there.

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads …” Isa. 35:1-10 (part)

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’Behold, I am coming soon, bringing My recompense with Me, to repay everyone for what he has done. I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.’…

‘I, Jesus, …am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.’

 

…And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires to take the water of life without price.”

He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming soon.’” Rev. 22:12,16-17, 20

Our reading from Revelation today ends a particular way and so, then, so do I: “Amen. Come Lord Jesus! The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all. Amen.” Rev. 22:20b-21

 

I would change this one little way and this is my prayer for us this Christmas: “The grace of the Lord Jesus be with us all. Amen.”

Merry Christmas!

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Bread is sent to those people who have asked that it be sent to them, and maybe it has been forwarded to you by a friend. If you are not on my mailing list and wish to be, please e-mail me at flintg@verizon.net. I also know that many things fill your inbox and, if you would like to be taken off the list, please e-mail me and your request will be promptly honored. © 2014 GBF

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This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog: https://1bread.wordpress.com

Bread – Leftovers

May 21, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, May 21, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Lev. 19:1-18; 1 Thess. 5:12-28; Matt. 6:19-24; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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This morning, as I looked down at the bathroom counter, I observed a pile of change. Seeing that pile, I swept it up so that nothing was lost, and in this case put it all in my pants pocket. Sometimes, though, I will put all the change in a jar to collect dust until it accumulates to the point that it can be converted to “folding green” (paper money). I probably duplicate almost every person in the world in doing so.

We are surrounded by commands and actions of completeness – “Eat everything on your plate!” “Finish the task!” “Leave nothing to chance.” “Sweep clean!”

But in today’s reading from Leviticus, God tells us to leave leftovers. Specifically, what He says is “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare; neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 19:9-10

We are not to take it all, but to leave some for others who do not have what we have.

How does this work in real life?

As a mediator, I often see people enter negotiations with a zero-sum game mentality; meaning that I must win and you must therefore lose – if there are 10 chips on the table, then I must have all 10 and you must have nothing. Part of then what I need to do is to have the person begin to look at themselves and their motivations and needs more closely and ask themselves the question of whether them winning really means the other losing. When people get off their “all or nothing” mentality and start looking at what is really needed or start looking at the range of favorable and unfavorable outcomes, they often find that “winning” may be taking a majority of the chips (leaving some for the other) or actually only taking one chip (leaving most for the other).

Why do we want it all? Part of it is our “competitive spirit.” But another, more Satan-ish, part may be our greed, anger, idol-self, pride, bitterness, or just plain meanness.

The passage we are reading from in Leviticus is actually God reminding us that He is holy and calling us, as His disciples, to join Him in holiness. Leaving leftovers is part of being holy. Leaving things for others which are “rightfully” ours is a sign of holiness.

Why so?

To be holy is to be set aside for God’s purposes, not ours. And what does God command – that we worship Him first and that we “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” Lev. 19:18. There is no “love of I” in that prescription.

Leaving leftovers from our wealth for others is a sign of our holiness. It is a sign that we put God first and are therefore obedient to His commands, not out of duty but out of love and devotion. It is a sign that we put our neighbor first, because we do not insist that our rights be totally respected – we leave something of ourselves out of love for our neighbor.

When we leave something for others out of our wealth, it is not because we are giving up our rights … it is because we acknowledge our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It is because we acknowledge that we are not first. It is because we are set apart for God’s service, because we are holy.

So, have you spent everything you have on things so that nothing is left for others? Have you paid your employees only what you can get away with or the absolute minimum required or have you given them something of what otherwise would have gone into your pocket? Have you taken all your time for your priorities, or have you given of your time to others?

By these measures, how holy are we? I think the only fair answer, at least for me, is not as holy as we should be. On good days, maybe a little holy; most of the time, not so much.

Let us today commit to leaving behind for others some of our time, talent, and treasure. Let us strive to follow God; let us strive to be holy as God is holy. And in so doing, we will preach the good news of salvation in Christ alone by our actions, by our character, by our love, and by our leftovers.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Preparation

March 5, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, March 5, 2014 (Ash Wednesday), designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Amos 5:6-15; Heb. 12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14; Psalms 32,95,102,130,143

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In order to eat, we must prepare the meal. In order to build a house, we must prepare the plans and the materials. In order to obtain a college degree, we must prepare our foundations and prepare a course of study which we will follow. In order to run a race, we must prepare by study and practice.

In a sense, all of our readings today are about preparation to run the race of life, to run the race of salvation, to run the race of glory, to run the race of holiness.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the period of Lent, which looks forward to Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

A favorite phrase of modern management is “SWOT.” It is an acronym for how to plan, beginning with an analysis of “Strengths,” “Weaknesses,” “Opportunities” and “Threats.” The idea is that before good planning can take place for a good outcome, a major part of preparation is understanding where you are.

Let us apply a spiritual SWOT analysis to ourselves as we begin our preparation.

First, we begin with Scripture. In Amos, we are told that God knows “how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins…” Amos 5:12. Amos also tells us to “Seek the Lord and live…” Amos 5:6. Hebrews tells us we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” and that, therefore, we need to lay aside every weight and sin and “run with endurance the race that is set before us….It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you like sons.” Heb. 12:1,7. In Luke, Jesus reminds us that the haughty Pharisee, believing he is perfect, will be humbled and the bad, bad person who understands the depth of his sin and cries to God for mercy will be exalted. Lk. 18:9-14

So, from Scripture and applying our SWOT analysis, we know that our strengths are none, our weaknesses are transgressions and sin, our opportunities rest in God’s mercy shown to us in Christ’s death on the cross, and our threats are ourselves.

This is why we have Ash Wednesday. It is a time for preparation. It is a time for clear evaluation of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is a time for truth. It is a time for reality. It is a time for discipline. And it is a time for us to begin to realize that God has in fact been merciful in delivering us from our weaknesses and the threats against us into our opportunity for eternal life.

The only thing we need to worry about in our preparation is that we will mis-evaluate our strengths by thinking that we have some.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Holy

December 12, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, December 12, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 6; 2 Thess. 2:1-12; John 7:53-8:11; Psalms 38,119:25-48

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Today’s reading from Isaiah is one of my favorites, because it reveals heaven, the holiness of God, and our unworthiness to be present unless there is atonement for our sins. From Isaiah we read:

“In the year that King Uzziah died I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up; and the train of His robe filled the temple… And one [seraphim – fiery angels] called to another and said: ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!’ … And I said, ‘Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!’ Then one of the seraphim flew to me, having in his hand a burning coal that he had taken with tongs from the altar. And he touched my mouth and said: ‘Behold, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away, and your sin atoned for.’” Isa. 6:1-5

Holy is God. He is set apart from me; He is above me; He made me. There is no one more powerful and there is no one more gracious. Isaiah was brought by vision into the throne room of God. Even though he was not there physically, the presence of God was so holy, so powerful, so overwhelming that Isaiah knew immediately that he was in trouble from his sin – “Woe is me.” Even to approach God in a vision in His throne room, there was need for atonement of sin. Here the seraphim used a coal from the altar.

If atonement for sin is absolutely required in a vision, how much more when we are face to face with God at judgment?

Fortunately for us, we have atonement for our sins in Jesus Christ, for all who believe and trust in Him, repenting and turning from their dedication to self as idol toward God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

But just as the holiness of God would have brought a terrible end to Isaiah if there had been no atonement, so it will bring a terrible end to those who are not Christ’s disciples in truth. This terrible end is described in today’s reading from 2 Thessalonians:

“The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned, who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 2 Thess. 2:9-12

The refusal to love the truth is the rejection of the truth of Christ, the rejection of God’s holiness, the rejection of life and light itself. When this person refuses to love the truth, God says “If you want to run over the cliff so fast, let me help.”

Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We are not holy except to the extent Jesus makes us so by standing for us as our atonement for our sin. To have Jesus on our side means trusting Him, turning toward Him, believing in Him, accepting His gift of mercy and salvation, recognizing that there is but one God and that we are not Him, and growing in that reality as we conform our mind and heart to Him.

In this Christmas season, we celebrate God’s coming to earth in the form of a baby, who will grow up to be a man, who will die a most horrible death on the cross that we might have life and have it everlasting. When we contemplate that baby, the words “Holy, Holy, Holy” ought to come to mind. Before Him we ought to bow, give up our lives for the One who takes away our sin, and be grateful. Wise men have. Wise men do.

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Reputation

September 26, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, September 26, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Esther 6:1-14; Acts 19:1-10; Luke 4:1-13; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120

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In our readings from Esther today, Mordecai has been honored by Xerxes and Haman is shocked, because he wanted Mordecai declared an enemy of the state and killed by hanging. Haman goes back to his wife and his friends, complaining about what happened. What then follows is remarkable:

Then his [Haman’s] wise men and his wife Zeresh said to him, ‘If Mordecai, before whom you have begun to fall, is of the Jewish people, you will not overcome him but will surely fall before him.’” Esther 6:13b

These “infidels” knew who God was and associated Him with the Jews, who they knew were devoted to Him. They, without knowing anything more, assumed that, if Mordecai was in fact a Jew, and bad things had happened to Haman because he messed with Mordecai, then Haman would lose that fight, every time. Not because of Mordecai’s abilities or even because of the Jews’ abilities, but because who God was.

Among even these people, God had a great reputation, as did His people. Even though the “infidels” were willing to kill all the Jews to get rid of their influence, even they recognized that, if they started running into problems, they would likely lose the fight.

Now, why did God have such a great reputation among non-believers? Was it because of what God had done in history? Perhaps. Was it because of the commitment His disciples had toward Him? Since this is what the un-believers actually saw and experienced, I daresay that God’s reputation was enhanced because of how his followers behaved. And how did they behave? Mordecai gives us some insight:

When Mordecai learned all that had been done, Morecai tore his clothes and put on sackcloth and ashes…He went up to the entrance of the king’s gate, for no one was allowed to enter the king’s gate clothed in sackcloth. And in every province…there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting and weeping and lamenting…” Esther 4:1-3 “[After Mordecai had been honored by Xerxes,] Then Mordecai returned to the king’s gate.” Esther 6:12

When Mordecai was confronted with death because he was a Jew, he did not rely upon his power but immediately went to the Lord. He did not hide who he was, but covered himself in sackcloth and ashes, a very visible sign. Furthermore, even while this was happening, he was respectful of authority, of the rules which had been imposed by civil government (he did not go through the gate, but sat outside of it). The Jews used spiritual tools (fasting, etc.) against the coming holocaust. Finally, when the world raised up Mordecai with honor, he permitted the honor to be bestowed upon him, but he did not let the world change him (it did not matter whether he was being praised or insulted); he returned to the gate, he returned to the place where God appointed him to be.

Coming forward in time to today, would the unbelievers in American society today have the same view of God that Haman’s wise men and wife had? Would they say “If George is a Christian, and you have been losing to him, you will keep losing to him [because of who his God is].” Would they say that “Since George is a Christian, you will not overcome him.”

Do Christians as a group have that kind of reputation in society, that they cannot be overcome by the world? I would suggest that they as a group have exactly the opposite reputation, that they are in fact almost totally overcome by the world, by worldly customs and philosophies, by worldly problems, by worldly solutions.

Do I have that reputation? Do you?

God of course can take care of His own reputation, but we who say that we are Christians can either polish that reputation to a fine luster, or we can tarnish it. And the reputation of Christians, which reflects on our God, is made up of the reputation of each of us.

It is Wednesday, the middle of the week. What have I done so far to make God’s and my fellow Christians’ reputation better, so that the people will say to others, “you will not overcome them”? What will I do the rest of the week?

How cool would it be if people would say about us – “He is a Christian; therefore if you are opposed to him you will not overcome him”?

How incredible it would be if people would say of us – “His God is God.”

Why don’t they?

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Connections

April 25, 2012


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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