Bread – Glorify

August 21, 2017


Psalm 79

“O God, the nations … have defiled Your holy temple; they have laid Jerusalem in ruins…Pour out Your anger on the nations that do not know You…Help us, O God of our salvation, for the glory of Your name; …”  Ps. 79:1,6,9

This is a difficult Psalm to write about because the topic is so common. We find ourselves in deep need and we look around for the Lord’s deliverance…and He seems far away.

In this Psalm, Jerusalem has been laid waste.  We can only imagine the scope of the disaster.  There was no political structure because the ruling class had been eliminated.  There was no economy because the land was laid waste and nothing could be produced.  There was no social order because many families had been decimated.  And there was no religion because the temple had been destroyed and worship, so dependent upon the temple, was disrupted.  Think about what you would do if there were no order in the streets, half your family was gone, your money was worthless, your house was burned to the ground, your business shut down, and there was no place to buy bread or meat.  We can try to imagine such affairs, but for most who read this Bread, these realities have never hit us, all at once.

In such times, we appeal to God for help, wondering where He is.  We appeal to God based upon His relationship to us (His chosen), based upon His great compassion and mercy for us, based upon His promises, based upon His character, based upon our “special relationship,” based upon His law, …

But one thing we rarely do is to base our appeal to God on His glory.  “God, You should help us [me] because Your glory will be increased when You do!”

We know that we get something out of it when God shows up – mercy, deliverance, power, hope, opportunity, life, liberty, freedom, love, a new day, etc.  But do we even ask the question or even care what God gets out of it?

Well, if we love Him as we claim and if we worship Him as we claim, then we should care very much about what He wants as well.

We often talk about what God wants in terms of our response.  For example, what we say is that God wants obedience to His law or to His word.  Or maybe what God wants is our attention and gratitude.  Or may what God wants is for us to worship Him.

But the truth is that we can follow all the rules, be obedient to God and His word, and yet is God glorified?

When the emphasis is on the “we,” what are we doing to obey God, I would argue that He is not glorified.  The reason is simple.  Everything that comes from us is tainted by impure motive (what can we get in return).  Everything that comes from God is not so tainted.

God is glorified when we obey Him because of who He is and because of what He does, when we obey Him because He has transformed our heart, when we obey Him out of love for Him and Him only.  Can we do this on our own?  No.  But we can do it through the strength of Him who saves.

So, why, in the midst of this utter destruction, when God appears far away, do we appeal to Him based upon His glory?  “Help us … for the glory of Your name.”

It is because, at the end of the day, we are recognizing that, if God is getting what He wants, His glory, it is not because of anything we do but because of what He does.

What do we do on our own which glorifies God?  Nothing.  What does God do through us which glorifies Him?  Everything He wishes.

So, God, help me to glorify Your name by showing up today to help me do so.  “Help me…for the glory of Your name.”

One of the most powerful prayers we can make and we rarely do it.  Why?  Maybe it is because we don’t care what God wants.  Or maybe we just forget.  But maybe we just don’t know what we recite every Sunday – “Our Father in heaven, hallowed [holy, glorified] be Your name … For Yours is the kingdom, the power, and the glory ….”

God, come into my life, so that You might be glorified.  Amen.

________

© 2017 GBF

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Bread – Vows

May 19, 2017


Psalm 65

Praise is due to You, O God, in Zion, and to You shall vows be performed.”  Ps. 65:1

Basically, a “vow” is a solemn promise.  “I promise to take out the garbage” is not a vow, nor often is it much of a promise.  It is more like a statement of good intent, but by making a “promise” and not keeping it we cheapen the term.  In fact, the word “promise” has so lost its substance in many respects that, when some promises to do something for us, we are happy when it is done but we know that the likelihood of the promise being fulfilled is, well, highly dependent on the trustworthiness of the person making the promise.  Which basically means, for most of us, that the promise is somewhat unreliable.

Whereas promises are made to each other, when a vow is made there is a third persons involved, namely God.  As the Psalmist says, it is to God that a vow is performed.

We often forget this.  We vow to tell the truth and then don’t.  Who have we failed to honor by breaking our vow?  God, because it is to Him the duty is owed.  We vow to honor our spouse and then don’t.  Who have we failed to honor by breaking our vow?  It is God (and our spouse).

We may sit under judgment of others every day, but those judgments are temporal.  God’s judgment is eternal.

God’s judgment is eternal but then, so are His own vows, His own covenants.  And luckily for us, God’s performance of His covenant toward us, when He has chosen us, is not dependent upon our performance of our vows to Him.  “Blessed is the one You choose and bring near, to dwell in Your courts!”  Ps. 65:4

Blessed indeed we are, which is another reason we should stand steadfast in performance of our vows.  To the One to whom we owe our eternal lives in Christ, should we not honor by our diligent performance of our vows?

________

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

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.”

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Peal

February 22, 2016


Psalm 8

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”  Ps. 8:1

It is in verses like this where I see the value (to myself) of capitalizing all references to God.  By capitalizing “Your Name,” God is emphasized both at the beginning and at the end.  “Your Name,” God’s name, is not something to be trifled with, ignored, subordinated, brought to earth … but exalted, raised up, worshiped and adored!

The word “peal” struck me because we normally use it in the phrase “peal of thunder,” but this one sentence strikes me as a “peal of praise.”  It is a word typically used with the sound of bells and generally a loud ringing of bells.  So thunder is a loud noise, a peal.  So praise as expressed by David is a loud outcry, a loud worship, a loud statement of truth, a proclamation – it is a peal.

The dictionary actually says that the word “peal” means not only loud, but prolonged.  In other words, it lasts a long time.

And, indeed, the phrase “How majestic is Your Name in all the earth” does seem to prolong itself in our mind as we listen to it – it seems to bounce off the recesses of our soul and echo deep within.  It is not just a fleeting statement, but one which resonates over and over and over again as we say it, as we speak it, as we sing it, as we shout it, as we yell it.

What a great way to begin the week!  With a peal of praise from our mouths.  “O Lord, our Lord, You are majestic, holy, and Your train fills the temple!”

What vision do we have of “majesty.”  What visions do we apply the word “majestic” to?

When I think of “majestic,” I think of the mountains, reaching to the sky, standing in permanence, full of color and life, full of adventure and opportunity.  Others may think of the sea, its vastness and regularity, its depth and breadth, its power and, in the times of storms, its unruliness.  Others may think of the stars and planets of the universe, their number and distance and balance and seeming endlessness.

What a way to begin the week!  Offering a peal of praise to our Maker, our Creator, our Redeemer, our Restorer, our God.

A reminder of who He is, who we are, and whose we are.  One we sorely need every day.  One to set us in our proper place.  One to set our compass correctly.

“O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”

Amen.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Reputation

January 25, 2016


Psalm 4

“Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness!…O men, how long shall my honor be turned into shame?”  Ps. 4:1-2

In the first century B.C., Syrus said “A good reputation is more valuable than money.”  This is a knock-off of an even older quote, from Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than precious ointment…”

So, knowing this, we protect our reputations like a tiger.

This is what David is referring to when he says that his “honor” has been turned into “shame.”  His reputation (honor) is being attacked unfairly.  And he is fighting back by appealing to the Lord to intervene.

When was the last time your reputation was attacked?  Probably pretty recently.  You consider yourself honest and someone falsely accuses you of lying.  You have avoided sexual sin resolutely and are accused by an employee you did not promote of committing retaliation because you wanted a romantic encounter and he/she refused.  You are honest in your sales and a customer accuses you of shorting the shipment.  You love your neighbors and you hear gossip that some people are saying that you are cheap and selfish.  I am sure you can fill in the blank.

When our reputations are attacked, what do we do typically?  We usually protest immediately, of course – “I did not say (do) that!”  And we might actually start a counter-slander campaign … “Oh, you know, the person saying that is known as a liar … is crazy …. Is out to get me because …”  Or we might retreat and dress our wounds, nursing our anger for just the right moment for counterstrike.

But we would rarely go to the Lord and ask Him to intervene.  After all, what is He going to do?  Put the genie back in the bottle?  Cause my defamer to get laryngitis and die?  Cause the lies and the deceit to disappear?  Cause the libelous statement in the newspaper to evaporate?  Open the world’s eyes to the lie behind the defamer’s statements and the truth behind my own?

So we don’t go to God typically in response to an attack on our reputation.  Instead, we figure out how to deal with it.  We may even go so far as hiring a public relations expert, people artful in the campaign of public words.  We may do lots of things … but we hardly ever go to the Lord.

Why not?  Why don’t we go to Him first?

Maybe it is because we know the truth, and the truth is that our reputation is tarnished.  We tell the truth except when we don’t.  We pay our taxes except when we don’t.  We speak well of others except when we don’t.  We trust in the Lord except when we don’t.  We are honest businesspersons except when we aren’t.  We avoid sexual sin except when we don’t.  We hold our tongue except when we don’t.

So one of the reasons we may not go to the Lord is that we know, in our heart, that the “slander” is not true of us, but neither is it totally false.  And so, why go to the Lord for the protection of our reputation when we know that His response may well be “Come on, now, you may not have lied to the accuser but you have lied, today, to someone, haven’t you?”  We just know in our heart that we are unworthy to ask for the Lord’s intervention; therefore, we don’t.

But we are wrong to think so.  Just before verse 2 of Psalm 4, David prays to God “Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”  Ps. 4:1c

David is asking God to be merciful to him, not because he is worthy but because he is God’s child (“But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for Himself…” Ps. 4:3).

The truth is that our reputation lies in the hands of others, because what they say about us is what they say about us.  Our honor and glory, however, lies in the hands of God and in the degree of our obedience to His commands.

The only reputation that matters is our reputation before God and that is good.  It is not a good reputation because we are good; it is a good reputation because Jesus is good.

Christians have had their reputations sullied throughout the years and many have died because of that travesty.  However, they have gone to be with the Lord with their real reputation, their identity in Christ, preserved.

If we look to God first, our reputation becomes irrelevant to how we think of ourselves and, ultimately, how others think of us as we become obedient to God’s Word.  If we look to others for our fulfillment, then our reputation means everything because the approval of others is everything.

Who do we look to for our approval, for our help in time of need?  We know David’s answer.  What is ours?

__________

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

 

 

 

 

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 – Standards

February 20, 2015


Readings for Friday, February 20, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 7:12-16; Titus 2:1-15; John 1:35-42; Psalms 31,35,95

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What standards shall we follow in our lives and why?

In our reading from Deuteronomy, God says “”And because you listen to these rules and keep and do them, the Lord your God will keep with you the covenant and the steadfast love that He swore to your fathers. He will love you, bless you, and multiply you…” Deut. 7:12-13

We call these standards the law. The judge of our obedience to these laws is God. Like all laws, there are penalties for disobedience. And as for God’s law, we have proven over and over again that absolute obedience to the entirety of the law cannot be achieved, if we are honest with ourselves. Unstated in this passage (but stated elsewhere) is that, if you obey the law, good things happen and if you don’t, bad things happen.

In Titus, Paul says “But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness….that the word of God may not be reviled … so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us…so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior.” Titus 2:1-2,5,8,10.

We do not call these standards the law. Instead, we set them as high marks of living the Christian life. They are marks of underlying character, not following the rules but living the life.

With the law, disobedience brings death. With the standards, disobedience defames Christ.

With the law, God is our judge. With the standards, other people look at us and decide whether we are true ambassadors of Christ.

So, which standards do we follow? There are four choices: (1) God’s law, (2) God’s standards of behavior as good representatives of Jesus Christ, (3) man’s law, and (4) the world’s standards of behavior. In our legal system, there has historically been an attempt to unify the first three, so that man’s law is in alignment with God’s law and His standards of right behavior. The world’s standards of behavior are what, as Christians, we should avoid, because to follow them brings dishonor upon Christ. Unfortunately, as man-made laws begin to reflect more of the world’s standards of behavior and less of God’s, Christians will be required, more sharply than now, to decide whose standards and laws are to be obeyed.

The “why” part is trickier. One may be inclined to follow God’s law as the only way to assurance of salvation. However, we are saved by faith in Jesus Christ, not by works. Therefore, slavish obedience to the law as a path to salvation is a sliding backwards and a refusal to embrace the freedom we have as Christians. However, the law is not to be rejected because it stands as God’s outline of actions we can take and avoid to live fruitful, Godly lives.

If we are Christians, then we may be inclined to follow Christ’s standards of Christian behavior. But why? The key here is that, as disciples of Christ, we are light in a dark world, salt in a sick world, ambassadors of a kingdom which our world needs to know about. To be effective salt, light, and agents we need to reflect, in all we do, Christ. As Paul says to Titus, the downside of not striving to God’s standards of character, of not demonstrating our new character as new lives in Christ, we bring dishonor to Christ, feed our opponents with ammunition, and fail to put on the armor of God. We build up Godly character with sound doctrine fully applied because we love Who we represent, because we are citizens of Christ’s realm, because know that it is our sins which killed Jesus and we do not want to add to His burden to the extent it is in our power to do so.

As Christians, what standards of behavior should we expect in other Christians?

But will we get compliments from others in the world for following Christ’s standards? No, we will not. If we don’t follow His standards, then we feed the enemy with points to criticize, but we can never expect the enemy to compliment.

If you want compliments from others, then follow the world’s standards, and you will get lots of them.

So, if you want to try to earn your salvation, follow God’s law. If you want to be salt and light in the world and not feed the enemy with points of criticism against Christ, follow Christ’s standards of behavior and build godly character in the process. If you want to earn the compliments of men, follow the world’s standards.

What standards shall we follow in our lives? The question really should be what standards do we follow in our lives? And the best question is what standards do I follow in my life?

A worthy question for this period of reflection called Lent preceding the celebration of the Lord’s resurrection.

What is your answer?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Demands

March 17, 2014


Readings for Monday, March 17, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 41:46-57; 1 Cor. 4:8-21; Mark 3:7-19a; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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What does God demand of us? Because this is Lent and a time for sober reflection on who we are and who God is, this question – what does God demand of us – is an important one.

I got an object lesson in this today while preparing this Bread.

If you will look at the listed reading from the Epistles today, you will see it says “1 Cor. 4:8-21,” which means the book of First Corinthians, Chapter 4, Verses 8 through 21. However, when I wrote it down at first, I wrote down “1 Cor. 4,8-21,” which means the book of First Corinthians, Chapters 4, 8,9,10,11,12,13,14,15,16,17,18,19,20,and 21.” The first version (and the correct one) requires about a minute or so to read (a lot more to understand) and the second version would require at least a half an hour to read if not more.

So, because of how I wrote it down originally, when I went to look at it again to find it in the Bible, I did a double take and said to myself, “Surely this is a mistake because the reading cannot be that long.”

Think about the idiocy of that reaction by me, a declared Christian. God demands my obedience and if He wants me to read 15 chapters of His Word at a single sitting, why should I complain? Why should my immediate reaction be, “This must be a mistake because the reading cannot be that long?” Why couldn’t God require me to read His entire Word in one sitting? Why shouldn’t He?”

The fact is that God demands our obedience and our reaction is not, “Lord, yes,” but, “Yes, I will obey if it suits my temperament, schedule, agenda, timetable, attitude, to-do list, and what side of the bed I woke up on.”

God demands our obedience, and we say “maybe.”

Yes, I had an object lesson today about me and God. Do I really love Him so much that I will obey His will in what I do today, regardless of how much time it takes, regardless of how it makes me look to others, regardless of the consequences to me?

I think the answer to that question is, today, “No, I don’t love Him that much.” I say that because, if I really did, I would have looked at the instruction to read 15 chapters as an opportunity to engage with my Lord, and not a mistake to correct. I only had so much time and God’s demands did not fit within that allocation, so guess what happened? I did not bend the kneed and say “yes,” I went back to God and said to Him, “Surely you did not mean ….”

So, I failed the test.

But He did not.

Do I believe I am loved any less by God or saved any less by my selfish response to His demands? No. However, do I believe that I am diminished because I blew an opportunity to respond in gratitude, faith, and joy to my Lord? Absolutely yes. Although I gained some time to do my worldly affairs, I lost some time to be in communion with the Creator of the Universe.

How stupid is that! And yet we do it all the time.

The next time we are ready to say “no” or “maybe” to God’s demands on us, maybe we should ask the question, “What are we giving up if we don’t say ‘yes’?”

Lent is an opportunity for us to learn that, when we give up ourselves to obey the Lord’s commands, we gain much more than we give up. So let us not do to Lent what I did to 1 Corinthians today. If we are commanded to do something in Lent by God, then let’s quickly say “Yes, Sir.” And I have no doubt that the blessings we will reap will surprise us.

When God says “read 15 chapters of My Word,” it is a call to fellowship with Him. Will we answer it?

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Relationship

May 10, 2013


Readings for Friday, May 10, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 1:1-14,24-28b; Heb. 4:14-5:6; Luke 9:28-36; Psalms 85,86,91,92

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Have you noticed that good relationships between people have at least two features – one is respect for the other person and the other is approachability. We cannot have a good relationship with people who are unapproachable and we cannot have a good relationship with someone we do not respect.

For example, people in a good relationship listen to each other. Why listen? One because the person we are listening to permits us to listen because he (and you) are approachable. Second, we listen because we respect the speaker.

Let’s try another example. Work. Who do we work best with? Those people for whom we have respect (and respect us) and those people who are approachable.

Where do these thoughts come from? From today’s readings.

In today’s readings from both Ezekiel and Luke, we have images of a holy God, a God who is so mysterious as to strike awe and wonder, a God of “wheels” and “wings” and “eyes” and “lighting” and “light” and power and glory. We have images of God to where we are seeing things which we cannot describe. We have images of God which cause us to fall down (“And when I saw it, I fell on my face…” Ezek. 1:28b). We have images of God which drive awe and the utmost respect. So much respect, in fact, that we realize that we are the made and He is the Maker, we are the created and He is the Creator, we are nothing and He is All in All.

But, in today’s readings, we also have images of an approachable God. In our reading from Hebrews today, we read “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” Heb. 4:16

So, we can have a relationship with a holy God who we have awe and the utmost respect for by approaching Him where He is.

How can this be? What occurred that we went from Ezekiel’s vision to the writer of Hebrews saying with absolute confidence that we can, with confidence, draw near to the throne of grace?

The secret to this is locked up in two things. First is the “we” in the Hebrews passage. The “we” is not “we” globally, but “we” who have been saved by the grace of God through, forgiven of our sins by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. In other words, the “we” is Christians. The second is from our reading today in Luke – “And as He [Jesus] was praying, the appearance of His face was altered, and His clothing became dazzling white…And a voice came out of the cloud, saying ‘This is My Son, My Chosen One, listen to Him!’” Lk. 9:29,35 We call this event the “Transfiguration.” Jesus’ identity as man also revealed as His identity as God.

In other words, God is approachable because He first approached us as God the Son, laying down His life for us so that, because of who He is, we might have a relationship with Him for eternity.

And in this, God teaches us a very interesting thing about relationships. I can have a relationship with another whom I respect, even though I am not worthy of respect, and I can have a relationship with another who is approachable even though I am not very approachable. But can there be a relationship in return? In other words, if I am not worthy of respect and am unapproachable, can the person who has respect and is approachable have a relationship with me? The answer to that question is “yes.” Why? Because of love.

If I have love, I can create relationships with those who don’t deserve respect or who are not very approachable. I can have those relationships because there is a first love.

And that first love is God. God so loved us that, in spite of our disobedience, sin, unfaithfulness, and hatred toward Him, He sent His Son to live among us and die for us. And we can approach God in His throne room because Christ rose from the dead and sits on the throne.

Love trumps circumstances. Love trumps attitudes. Love trumps sin. Love trumps offense. Love trumps all.

We can have a relationship with God because God has chosen to build the bridge we can cross to Him. What we need to remember is that this relationship is built on God’s terms, not ours, on His work, not ours, and on His love, not ours.

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© 2013 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

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