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?

_________

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

 

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Bread – Attribute

August 4, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, August 4, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 7:18-29; Acts 18:12-28; Mark 8:22-33; Psalm 78

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In my early days at my current church, I was invited from time to time to read the Scripture lesson for the day on Sunday. One Sunday morning, the reading from from Acts, like one of our readings today. There is a formula in my church for beginning a reading. Before we read the Scripture, we would say “A reading from the Book of Acts, beginning at the ____ chapter, the ____ verse.”

Now, when I was preparing to read, I thought about the word “Acts” and thought that the title should be longer. So, after doing research which ended in no knowledge whatsoever, I introduced the reading on Sunday thusly – “A Reading from the Acts of the Holy Spirit….” After the service, I had several people come up to me and say that, although they enjoyed the reading, I had introduced the book wrongly. According to them (and many Bibles), I should have said “A Reading from the Acts of the Apostles …”

After these people left and I was shrugging my shoulders in the “Oh Well” sense, an older priest (pastor) came up to me and whispered in my ear … “No, what you said was right.”

We know that the book of Acts is a history of the early church and about the apostles, particularly Peter and Paul, and how they spread the gospel. Therefore, most Bibles do in fact have the title of “Acts” as either “Acts” or “Acts of the Apostles.” And yet we also know that Acts begins with Pentecost, with the infilling of the Holy Spirit and the empowerment of man to stand up for Christ (God the Son), God the Father, and God the Holy Spirit.

Is it any wonder that our worship is weak and our presence in the world is ineffective when we fail to accurately attribute who is in charge and whose works good works belong to? We preach about honoring God as holy and yet every reference to Him in modern Scripture, regardless almost of the translation, is in the lower case, as if my “him” is equal to His “him.” We make God our friend and co-laborer, when in fact He is God, master, and Lord. We ascribe our puny efforts to demonstrate love in the world to our money, our time, our effort, instead of attributing it properly to the work of God, to the work of the Holy Spirit.

This morning, in Samuel, we hear David correctly attribute his success to God. I cannot say it any better than he did, so here it is (I have deliberately capitalized the pronouns referring to God):

“Who am I, O Lord God, and what is my house that You have brought me thus far? … Because of Your promise, and according to Your heart, You have brought about all this greatness, to make your servant know it. Therefore You are great, O Lord God,. For there is none like You, and there is no God besides You…For You, O Lord of hosts,, the God of Israel, have made this revelation to Your servant, saying ‘I will build you a house.’ Therefore Your servant has found courage to pray this prayer to You. An now, O Lord God, You are God, and Your words are true…For You, O Lord God, have spoken, and with Your blessing shall the house of Your servant be blessed forever.” 2 Sam. 7:18-29

As you survey today your vast holdings, your family, your business, your retirement plans, your furniture, your cars, your bank balances … who do you attribute your blessings to? Your trust fund? Your parents? Your education? Your hard work? Your crafty dealings? Your intelligence? Your good looks? Yourself?

As Christians, we need to work on who we attribute our success to. Does our power come from a bottle or from the Holy Spirit? Does our success come from God or from the world?

If we were to write a book about you, would we say “A reading from the Acts of George Flint [fill in the blank]” or “A readings from the Acts of the Holy Spirit?”

And now the real question. We might attribute our works to the Holy Spirit, but will our friends? Does Christ’s light through us so shine before men that they might worship His good works in and through us?

Who gets the glory in your life?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Edges

April 17, 2015


Readings for Friday, April 17, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 3:1-18; 1 John 3:1-10; Luke 3:15-22; Psalms 16, 17, 134-35

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In today’s reading from Daniel, we have the history of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego being thrown by Nebuchadnezzar into the fiery furnace to die for failing to bow down to his idol-god, only to be rescued by God. I always love this re-telling and so I read the entire adventure.

However, that is not today’s reading from Daniel. Today’s reading from Daniel begins with Nebuchadnezzar’s creation of his golden idol-god which everyone is instructed to worship but it ends at the edge of the unknown. It ends this way: “Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego answered and said to the king … ‘If this be so [if they are cast into the fiery furnace], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image you have set up.’” Dan. 3:16-18

The edge has been reached. Everything is on the line. The king, the governmental powers, has drawn the line with a terrible death to follow from disobedience. The three guys have said, “No,” we serve God and not your golden idol. The point of decision.

How did these three young men get to the point that they did not fear a painful death? How did they get to the point that they were willing to step out beyond the edge in faith, rather than step back from the edge in fear? Maybe because they did not see the alternative before them as death, but as life … either life continuing because God saved them in the present or life eternal because God brought them to Himself.

There are many edges in life which we reach and then have to make a decision. Do we go forward in faith or step back in fear? In such circumstances, everything we are taught, everything that is in us from physical birth, and everything in the world screams at us to step back, to avoid the risk, to protect ourselves, to live for another day, to engage in “strategic” retreat. But at that edge our call from God is to step out in faith that God is true, that His promises will be fulfilled, that His hand is mighty.

But people would say that faith like this is a foolish faith and that we should temper our decisions with wisdom. Well, like so many arguments it is both correct and incorrect. If your faith is in a God which is the “Cosmic Bellhop,” ready to fulfill your every desire and whim, then you have a foolish faith because you reject God’s sovereignty. The three guys in our history lesson above knew that God was sovereign and that He might choose to save them in one way and He might not. The three young men did not create the edge they found themselves on, but the edge found them because they were faithful to God. This is where wisdom comes in, but it is not man’s wisdom but God’s. Man’s wisdom would say walk away from the edge and bow down before the golden idol; God’s wisdom would be to worship Him and Him alone and trust Him. So the better warning is not what people say but this – “Faith should not presume upon God but rely upon Him, and we should temper our decisions with Godly wisdom.

In our reading today, there is the worship edge (do we love the world, ourselves, or God), but we also hear about the love edge.

In our reading from 1 John, the apostle says “…whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” 1 John 3:10

To me, this is the real edge of life – the point at which we choose to either love our brother or not. And this edge occurs all the time. You are busy and are interrupted by another person —

do we turn away to our important business or do we listen and love our brother? You are wondering if you can make the house payment, you only have three days of groceries in the kitchen, and a beggar comes to your door, do you close the door before or after you give your brother some food? You look across the street at your neighbor’s house and realize that the grass is growing too high, do you shake your head and leave for work or do you smile at the opportunity and love your neighbor by getting the grass cut?

When life is seen as presenting one opportunity after another to live in Christ or live in oneself, we realize that we live on the edge all the time, deciding either to retreat to self or step across the edge in faith. Why do we not love all the time? Because we are well-practiced in retreat and fearful of going beyond the edge, of taking the next step in faith.

Do we have this strength ourselves? Of course not. If we can say “no” to the world and ourselves and “yes” to God, if we can ever step beyond the edge, if we can love our brothers and sisters, it is only because we have the power from God to do so.

If we really want to obey God and not man, if we really want to love mightily, if we really want to step across the edge onto solid ground, then we have one prayer – Come Holy Spirit. Amen.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Clay

March 18, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, March 18, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 18:1-11; Rom. 8:1-11; John 6:27-40; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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We are but clay in the potter’s hand, as God spoke through Jeremiah in our Old Testament reading today. God, speaking to nations and particularly to the nation of Israel says, “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done?…Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand, O house of Israel.” Jer. 18:5-6

When God chooses to re-form us into His image, by bringing us into relationship with Jesus, empowered by the Holy Spirit, God is acting as the potter, taking clay which is malformed by original sin and re-making it into something which is alive, free, bold, and loving. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…By sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. .. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. “ Rom. 8:1,3b-4,9

There are a couple of things about clay which come to mind. First, clay cannot re-form itself. It requires a creator, a potter, to make it into something useful. Second, until it is formed, it is essentially a lump, a lump of clay. Something with potential but no result. It will remain only potential until the creator, the potter, acts. Third, it can harden. When it does, adding water (does baptism come to mind?), prepares the clay to be formed in the way the potter intends.

We are like that clay with one major exception. We think we choose to be the clay or the bowl made from clay. We think we can form ourselves in the first place and reform ourselves in the second place. Unlike clay which requires someone to throw water on it to make it ready to be formed, we think we can throw the water on ourselves. In our way of thinking, clay makes a good analogy but it ends at the brain – clay has no brain and we do. Therefore, “clay” does not apply to us. We are not dumb beasts, like sheep, but intelligent people driven to make good choices by good education and good upbringing.

Ah, but not so. In today’s reading from John, man speaks and God answers. Man says this to Jesus – “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jn. 6:28. God (Jesus) says this in response to man – “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Jn. 6:29

There is nothing we can do to bring about our own salvation. Why? Because under sin we are dead – we have no brain which understands God and as to Him we are clay. But the “work of God” is this – that while we are a lump of clay, God the Creator puts His hand upon us and brings us unto belief in Christ and from there, unto a man who walks by the Spirit, forming us into a saved person, worthy by the death of Christ and His resurrection to be with God for eternity.

We are the clay and He is the potter. Thank God!

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Yeast

March 16, 2015


Readings for Monday, March 16, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 16:10-21; Rom. 7:1-12; John 6:1-15; Psalm 89

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Bread without yeast is flat and somewhat tasteless. Bread with yeast is fat and tasty.

In today’s readings, we read about three yeasts. The first is the yeast of the law. The second is the yeast of Christ. The third is the yeast of the Holy Spirit.

In Jeremiah, man is condemned because he has obeyed himself and not God. “Because your fathers have forsaken Me, declares the Lord, and have gone after other gods and have served and worshiped them, and have forsaken Me and have not kept My law, and because you have done worse than your fathers, for behold, every one of you follows his stubborn, evil will, refusing to listen to Me.” Jer. 16:11-12. The law reflects God’s standards for our lives, and the law operates like yeast, to take our lives and, by teaching us what is right, show us how wrong we are. Paul explains it this way – “For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death….Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. …For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died. “ Rom. 7:5,7-9 Before I knew the law, I might have been neutral, but now I know the law I know how far apart my life is from the law; I therefore know sin and death.

However, when we are saved by Christ from death, the yeast of Christ substitutes for the yeast of the law and we are transformed, made into new persons. As Paul says in the same passage, “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to Him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God…But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in a new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code.” Rom. 7:4,6

And what happens when we fill ourselves with the yeast of the Spirit? Fruit is produced. In our reading from John today, he describes the event where Jesus fed the five thousand men from the five loaves and two fish. “Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks, He distributed them to those who were seated. And also the fish, as much as they wanted.” John 6:11 Although there is no explicit mention of the Holy Spirit in this passage, Jesus is feeding His many disciples with what they need for their daily bread. Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus tells the disciples to wait for the coming of Holy Spirit to empower them for holy living, similar to the bread which is needed for daily living. The bread from God may be supernatural bread (manna), daily bread (loaves and fishes), and spiritual bread (the Holy Spirit).

Everything we take in acts like yeast in ourselves, transforming us into something else. If we take in the ways of the world, we will be transformed into looking like the world. If we take in the word of God, we will be transformed into looking more and more like our Saviour. If we take in beauty, we will be transformed into something beautiful. If we take in vile and ugly, we will be transformed into something which is not beautiful.

With what yeast are we feeding ourselves? Do we eat of the law and therefore increase our awareness of our own fault, our own sinfulness? Or do we eat of Christ and thereby increase our awareness of our worth before God, that He would love us so much that He sacrificed Himself, His Son, for us? Or do we eat of the Holy Spirit and thereby increase our good fruit in the world?

What yeast will we eat this week, this month, this year? The yeast of the world or of God? The yeast of law or of faith? The yeast of knowledge or the yeast of wisdom? The yeast of self-righteousness or the yeast of God’s righteousness?

How will we choose?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Adultery

March 6, 2015


Readings for Friday, March 6, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 3:6-18; Rom. 1:28-2:11; John 5:1-17; Psalms 72, 119:73-96

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From our reading today in Jeremiah: “Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the whore? … Yet her treacherous sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the whore. Because she took her whoredom lightly, she polluted the land, committing adultery with stone and tree.” Jer. 3:6-9

How does a nation commit adultery with stone and tree? Both represent worship of idols, gods of our manufacture which are not God. Both represent nature, the created as opposed to the Creator. So, one possible interpretation of this passage is “the nation Judah committed adultery with its idols.”

“Adultery” in the ordinary use of the word means sex outside of the marriage relationship.

In the broader definition, “adultery” is ignoring a covenantal relationship (marriage) in favor of satisfying self-desire (or lust). You can see, therefore, where this has potential huge meaning in our lives. In fact, in this broader definition, we commit adultery all the time.

Since this is Lent and a time for reflection upon our lives and our loyalty to our Savior, Jesus Christ, perhaps we should mediate further on all of the different ways we commit adultery. It first begins with identification of the people or organizations with whom you have contracts or covenantal relationships. Perhaps it is God. Perhaps it is with a spouse. Perhaps it is with a friend. Perhaps it is with work (employment contract). Perhaps it is with a customer or a client. Perhaps it is with a partner in business or other profit or non-profit enterprise.

Once you have identified all of these relationships, then it merely becomes a process of thinking about each person and asking yourself what you have done to ignore, bypass, defeat, or otherwise harm that relationship. In asking yourself what you have done, you will also answer the third question, which is with whom have you committed and are you committing adultery?

When we raise up an idol which we worship and follow, whether it be some other person, wealth, position, power, or some other object or objective, we are committing adultery with that idol because we have abandoned the relationship we have with God.

So, do you find yourself in the midst of adulterous relationships, following idols of man’s invention rather than the God of the universe? If so, Jesus has a question for you in today’s reading from the gospel of John: “Do you want to be healed?” John 5:6

If you want to be healed, Jesus says to you just like he said to the invalid at Bethesda, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” John 5:8 Through faith in Jesus’ authority over sickness, through the power of the Holy Spirit, the man stood up and walked.

For Christians who sin, the answer to shedding that sin and living in victory is the same answer given to the invalid by Jesus: “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.” Walk away from your adulterous relationships. Flee sin. Abandon unrighteousness. Not in your own power, but in the power of the Holy Spirit applied in your life through faith in Jesus Christ.

Easy to say. Hard (and really impossible for man) to do. That is why we need supernatural help. “Lord, I need to be healed. I believe; help me in my unbelief. Come, Holy Spirit.”

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Checklist

February 6, 2015


Readings for Friday, February 6, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 56:1-8; Gal. 5:16-24; Mark 9:2-13; Psalms 69,73

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At the end of any effort there should be an evaluation, a self-testing about what things could have been done better, were done well, or were not done at all. To this evaluation, there is a checklist of expected outcomes or results or a checklist of particular actions.

Galatians today gives us a checklist and we should take the time on Friday to evaluate our week. I propose using God’s checklist to see where we are.

Which of these things have we done this week?

_____ engaged in thought or action involving sexual immorality

_____ been impure in thought or deed

_____ been sensual or appreciated the sensuality in others

_____ practiced idolatry, worshiping the job, money, things, people, or anything other than God

_____ committed sorcery, the summoning of help by magic or incantation or special words

_____ had enmity between yourself and your spouse, your children, your neighbors, your fellow workers, or anyone else

_____ was involved in strife of your own doing, either by initiating or responding (pouring fuel on the flame)

_____ was jealous of what someone else had or had accomplished

_____ engaged in fits of anger at yourself, at others, at things, at circumstances, at events

_____ engaged in rivalries to prove that you were the best at something

_____ engaged in dissensions, disagreements, or arguments

_____ did or said things which divide people rather than bring them together

_____ envied someone else or something else

_____ became drunk, intoxicated, or drugged

_____ engaged in orgies (normally of sex, but perhaps of eating or other “over the top” indulgences)

Do you have any checkmarks on your checklist. I daresay everyone does.

What was this checklist? This checklist belongs to those who act according to the flesh, according to themselves and the world, and not according to the Holy Spirit. This checklist is the list of things provided by Paul in today’s readings which is what we can expect if we are not saved by grace and empowered on a minute-by-minute basis by the Holy Spirit. This checklist is who we are when we are walking according to the human spirit instead of the divine spirit.

So it is true that you can say, if you have any checkmarks above, that you are “only human.”

But we are called as Christians to be more than “only” human. Once Christ is in us and we are in Him we are a new creation and no longer “only” human.

We are called to look at ourselves every Friday, to look at the above checklist, and to find nothing listed which we can say we did this last week.

So unlike the kind of checklist where, if you want a good evaluation, you have everything checked off, this is the kind of checklist where you will want, as a child of God, to have nothing checked off.

Will we ever get there this side of heaven? Probably not, but living in the power of the Holy Spirit, living according to God’s commands, living in obedience to Him, we will get better and better and better … and there will be fewer checkmarks on our human fleshly checklist. Why, because with man nothing is possible but with God, everything is.

Thanks be to God. Come Holy Spirit.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Spirits

December 22, 2014


Readings for Monday, December 22, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 11:1-9; Rev. 20:1-10; John 5:30-47; Psalms 61,62,112,115

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Around this time of the year, we are inclined toward the consumption of many spirits. For example, there is eggnog laced with brandy. For football games, there is beer. For our Christian gatherings, there may be wine (for those of us so inclined).

We consume other spirits as well during this Holiday season. The biggest spirit is the spirit of panic as we see our shopping days diminish while the number of people on our gift list grows. But there is also the spirit of home and of family. For many, there is the spirit of loneliness and perhaps even sorrow. For others, there is the spirit of happiness and joy. Finally, there is the spirit of hopefulness.

But for Christians, the spirit which matters is the Holy Spirit and what He delivers to us. And what is this?

Part of the answer is in today’s reading from Isaiah, talking about what the Holy Spirit gives to the Savior, whose birthday we celebrate at Christmas. Isaiah says this: “And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. And His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.” Isa. 11:2-3.

This sequence of descriptions about the Holy Spirit is both a description about the Holy Spirit Himself and also, to my thinking, about the spirits which He conveys to us to help us in our daily walk with Christ. The Holy Spirit Himself is wisdom and understanding, counsel and might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. The spirits which the Holy Spirit convey to those who trust in Jesus Christ are the spirits of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord.

Imagine for the moment that our lives were filled with wisdom, understanding, right counsel, power and might, knowledge, and righteous fear of the Lord. How victorious would we live if we always knew what to do, when to do it, how to do it, relied upon good recommendations from people who knew what to do, had the power and fortitude to truly deliver on our “yes’s” and “no’s,” and did everything in respect to and under the authority of God?

And yet we can, every day. The spirits of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord are the gifts of the Holy Spirit, who Himself is a gift of God to those who believe in Christ.

There is something magic in the air around Christmas. But it is not the spirit of magic or even the spirit of crafty advertising and gift promotion. Instead, it is the spirit of hope – hope for life, hope for man, hope for freedom, hope for joy. It is God come to earth as a baby. It is the hope sprung from Christ’s incarnation. It is the hope tied to the holiday we now celebrate – Christmas.

But instead of celebrating the holiday, let’s instead celebrate that, through Christ’s power and our faith in Him, we too can receive the Holy Spirit and His gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge and fear of the Lord…and thereby be in position to give gifts to others – the real gifts of time, of attention, of the hope which is within us, of a reason for thanksgiving and joy, and, most of all, love.

Because at the end of the day, if we have a spirit of love, we are but reflecting the love we have first been given, exercising our relationship with the Holy Spirit to help us live life and it abundantly.

May your Christmas be blessed and full of the spirits of wisdom, wise counsel, power, knowledge, fear of the Lord, truth and … love. Amen.

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Winds

October 1, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, October 1, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Hosea 4:11-19; Acts 21:15-26; Luke 5:27-39; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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In our reading from Hosea today, there is a useful phrase – “A wind has wrapped them in its wings…” Hosea 4:19

Not only is this phrase poetic, it is visual and practical. You can just see the fingers of the wind blowing here and there, wrapping themselves around us, comforting us, supporting us, calming us, and even caressing us. Who has not thought or dreamed about being carried upon the wind from one place to another? Isn’t that what hot air balloons are about?

What winds have wrapped us in their wings today?

Maybe it is the wind of fear, wrapping us and enveloping us in a brew of suspicion, concern, and distraction. We here about new diseases, one of which has just come to our city, and the winds of disease and destruction swirl throughout the news media and our conversation, wrapping us up in today’s disaster.

Maybe it is the wind of work, wrapping us and enveloping us in a brew of busyness and business, wrapping us up in the wings of economics, jobs, money, position, activity, and “achievement.”

Maybe it is the wind of new ideas from the mind of man, wrapping us and enveloping us in a brew of self-satisfaction, intellectual treats, educational snobbery, and “thoughtful” pursuits.

In Hosea, it was the wind of whoredom which has wrapped Israel in its wings, sending Israel into both spiritual adultery (where idols made by man become more important than God) and physical adultery (where man’s conduct devolves into immorality and satisfaction of base passions).

We know as Christians that the only wind we should have wrapping us up in its wings is the wind of the Holy Spirit, the breath of life, the power to engage the world without becoming polluted by the world.

And yet, what wind do we let wrap itself around us? The wind of change, the wind of politics, the wind of activity, the wind of intellectual curiosity, the wind we create ourselves, the wind that others create for us?

It is Wednesday and the week is half over. What wind have you let envelope you this week? What wind will you let cover you this week going forward?

You know, my earlier reference to a hot air balloon sticks with me. Man makes the balloon and he makes the hot air which fills the balloon. When filled with hot air, the balloon will carry the man over far distances, limited only by the amount of hot air the man can generate from his machines. When the hot air runs out, the balloon lands on the ground and the trip is over.

But when we fill our spiritual balloon with the wind of the Holy Spirit, where can we go? To infinity and beyond, to eternity. Will the wind of the Holy Spirit go away? No (We might fail to use it; we might even fail to see it, but the wind of the Holy Spirit remains.)

So, ultimately, there are two winds which can enfold us. One is from God and the other is of the world, of man, of Satan. One is the breath of life, and the other is the wind of idolatry.

Both winds can fill our sails, but one sustains us on the journey of life and the other on the journey of death. Which wind will you let wrap you in its wings today?

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Leaven

June 11, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, June 11, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Gal. 5:1-15; Matt. 16:1-12; Psalms 72,119:73-96

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In our readings today, the word “leaven” has prominence. Paul says to the church in Galatia “Your were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from Him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.” Gal. 5:7-8 Jesus says to His disciples “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Matt. 16:11b

Leaven is essentially the yeast which causes bread to rise. It is a foreign object which, when introduced into the dough, winnows its way into and throughout the dough, changing its characteristics irrevocably. Once leaven is introduced, it cannot be “unintroduced.” If you intend for your dough to remain unleavened and yeast is introduced, your intent becomes irrelevant and you are stuck with leavened dough.

The leaven of the Pharisees was works – one must earn his or her way into heaven. The leaven of the Sadducees was facts – there is no such thing as resurrection, spirit, heaven. In today’s world, the Pharisees are the lawyers, the enforcers of the great world orders and religions (except Christianity). The Sadducees are our secular scientist

Why worry about introducing leaven into our lives, into our Christianity? Because, simply, at the end of the day leaven robs us of hope. If we are only acceptable to God through works, then there is no hope because there are no works which we can do which are not tainted by sin, which are not “filthy rags” before God. We cannot ever be good enough in ourselves for a holy God. If it does not matter if we are acceptable to God or not because there is no resurrection, no eternity beyond the grave, no realm of heaven, what hope is there except the grave?

We are warned off of introducing leaven into our faith because the net effect is to take away our joy in living in the freedom of Christ, to cause us to be frozen in doubt, to lose our confidence in the promises of Christ, and to lose our hope in the future.

Leaven might affect us but it does not affect Christ and, since our salvation rests in Him and not us, the effect of leaven is not to deprive us of salvation, but to deprive us of temporal victory.

So leaven is to be avoided. But how? It exists in the books we read, the radio we listen to, the television we see, the friends we have, the philosophies of this world and its institutions – government, schools, businesses, and even churches. We cannot avoid it no matter what we do and there is constant temptation to let it be absorbed into our system of belief, thought, and action.

So how do we avoid it? I don’t think we can. So how do we keep from absorbing it? I don’t think we can.

We can’t, but the Holy Spirit can. The Holy Spirit can protect us from the leaven of the world. The Holy Spirit can illuminate our minds to be aware of the leaven around us, so that we can become effective partners in resisting its absorption.

But, most importantly, although we cannot remove leaven from our system once introduced, the Holy Spirit can. While we can’t, He can. He can re-teach us the truths of God in Scripture, He can reveal the unadulterated Jesus, He can keep us connected to the one true vine, He can return us to green pastures. And He does, all the time.

The leaven of the world is why it is critical that we remain connected to Christ, why we remain in communion with the Helper He has sent us. It is the reason why we need to begin every day with this simple prayer – Come Holy Spirit.

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© 2014 GBF

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