Bread – Yield

July 2, 2015


Readings for Thursday, July 2, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 13:5-18; Acts 8:26-40; Luke 23:13-25; Psalms 131-135

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There are remarkable parallels between the United States Supreme Court’s five to four ruling redefining marriage as something other than the Biblical definition and today’s reading from Luke’s Gospel.

Luke describes the decision by Pilate to release Jesus to the people for crucifixion. Here is what happened. “Pilate … said to them ‘..behold, I did not find this man guilty of any of your charges against Him [Jesus]. Neither did Herod…’…But they all cried out together, ‘Away with this man…’…Pilate addressed them once more…but they kept shouting ‘Crucify, crucify Him!’ A third time he [Pilate] said to them, ‘Why, what evil has He done? I have found in Him no guilt deserving death…’… But they were urgent, demanding with loud cries that He should be crucified. And their voices prevailed.” Lk. 23:14-23

“And their voices prevailed.”

How often do people raise their loud voice against something which is wrong? Whether we call them lynch mobs or left-wing activists, aren’t they the same? They have a single objective and drown out all rational debate and conversation. Ultimately, they are so loud and so persistent that people of good will find it easier to give up than to resist. Pilate was one of those people. He had a heart for justice but just not the stomach to say “no,” afraid for something – maybe afraid for order in the streets, afraid of becoming entangled in religious debate, afraid of the mob, afraid of himself being tested and perhaps destroyed by the yellers.

Similarly, our United States Supreme Court has gone out of its way to give in to the yellers, to the mob, to the cries for “justice” to crucify God’s definition of marriage on the altar of “compassion,” giving up even that word by giving the loud voices what they want rather what was right.

Not only is there a parallel between the circumstances of the mob, the independent judiciary failing at their task, and the death of God’s Word (in Luke, the Word incarnate and with respect to the definition of marriage, the Word written), but there is also another parallel even more important.

And that parallel is that God let it happen. God’s sovereignty took Jesus to the cross – not the mob, not the words of the judiciary (in Pilate), not the actions of the soldiers driving the nails. Oh they had their part, but the play was written by God for His purposes and His glory. God not only let it happen, God caused it to happen.

The truth is that the Supreme Court would not have spit on God’s Word but for the fact that God caused it to happen.

Why, we don’t know.

But before we are so ready to take things into our own hands, in the hubris of self-centered thinking, maybe we should contemplate another of our readings today, the one from 1 Samuel. In 1 Samuel, Saul, the king, is confronted by the Philistines. Saul had started with three thousand men and by the time we get to the end of the lesson, he has about six hundred. That is an 80% attrition rate; 80% of the people abandoned Saul. The enemy, the Philistines, on the other hand had 30,000 chariots and 6,000 horsemen and troops. Overwhelming odds against Israel and Saul. On top of that, Samuel the prophet had not shown up even though he said he would. Because Saul was getting nervous, God had apparently not shown up yet (through Samuel), Saul decided that he would take matters into his own hands and offer a sacrifice to God to get His good favor. Samuel immediately shows up and condemns Saul for disobeying the Lord and then tells Saul that he has lost his kingdom by failing to obey, even during the dark times just prior to the battle. 1 Sam. 13:5-18.

This Bread is called “Yield” for a reason. When we have yield sign on the road, it tells us to let the other car pass first. Sometimes that requires us to wait. When we jump ahead because we are in a hurry, there is an accident hiding right around the corner.

Jesus yielded to His Father’s desire that He go to the cross to atone for our sins. Saul did not yield to God and took the response into his own hands.

These two lessons teach us one thing. When we yield to God’s purpose and His will, good things happen although they may seem bad at the time. When we don’t yield to God’s purpose and His will, bad things happen although they may seem good at the time.

My suggestion to the marriage issue and, in fact, to all of life is this – why don’t we fall on our knees, ask for wisdom, yield our will to His, and then follow Him where He goes. We know from Scripture that when we do this, though the way seem rough and uneven, the results are grand because they are the Lord’s.

Let’s not be the mob which yields to their feelings at the moment or the secular society which increasingly yields to the mob, but let’s instead yield to God, listen for His Word and seek His good pleasure, be obedient to what God has given us in His Word, and follow where He leads after suiting up in His full armor.

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© 2015 GBF

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Bread – Who

June 19, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, June 19, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 2:12-26; Acts 2:1-21; Luke 20:27-40; Psalms 81,82,119:97-120

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In our reading today from 1 Samuel we are introduced to the priest’s Eli’s bad, bad children. Setting the scene, the writer says: “Now the sons of Eli were worthless men. They did not know the Lord….the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt…how they lay with the women who were serving at the entrance to the tent of meeting … I [Eli] hear of your [the sons’] evil dealings from all the people.” 1 Sam. 2:12,17,22-23

These sons, these heirs of a potential high place (as priests) among the people, threw their inheritance in their father’s face, in God’s face, and in the people’s face. They used their protected position for evil. They did not use their wealth and power for good, but for evil. All they knew was the world’s ways and not the Father’s.

Know people like that? Does one of those people stare at you from the mirror every morning?

All this is to point to the question which Eli asks of his wayward sons: “If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” 1 Sam. 2:25

If I sin against the Lord (really, the question should not be “if” but “when”), who can intercede for me? Who indeed. That is the question.

You have to remember that it was Eli asking this question. He is the priest at the time. It was his job to go into the Holy of Holies and, applying right sacrifice, intercede for the wayward of Israel. Essentially his question is an admission that he is inadequate to the task. Since he is the only person with “authority” to intercede, he has essentially admitted by this question that, when we sin against God, there is no one (at that time) who could intercede.

Various religions answer the “who” question in various ways. All of them except one (to my knowledge) answer the “who” with the word “man.” Man is the “who” in the question. We can intercede for ourselves by offering right sacrifice, by our good works, by our adherence to the rules of a particular book or a particular holy man, spirit guide, shaman, or leader, by our following the proper steps in the proper order. The “who” answer for these religions is “me.” I am the great “who” who can intercede on behalf of myself before God, assuming that I have done those works required of me by Buddha, Mohammed, Ron Hubbard, the local head of my group, or whoever.

Christianity answers the “who” by saying God Himself, in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the “who” who can intercede for me before God for my many sins against Him.

And not only does Jesus have the power (the “can”), He has the desire and purpose (the “will”). He can and He will for those people who are His.

Since this is true, how is it so hard for the world to understand?

Very simply, if the “who” is Jesus then then “who” is not me. If the “who” is someone else, then I am dependent upon that person, I am needy, I am in want, I am lowly, I am a sinner, I am no better than Eli’s sons. And why would I, the successful, independent, thinking, educated, hard-working, intelligent, good-looking, important, self-righteous, proper person want to claim such need?

The barrier to Christ is not Satan, it is us, it is me. Satan may play upon ourselves, but all he does is point us in the direction of our own tendencies, our own inclinations, our own desires.

Then how do I bridge the place where I am to the place where He is, so that I may enlist Him in my aid before God? I never, never can. I can’t.

I will never know the true “who” until I recognize the false “who” for who he is – me. I will never know the true “who” until I am truly aware of my pitiful estate. And at that point, at the point of least “self,” I may, with God’s grace and in His power, be allowed to see a bridge which I might go over to meet the true “who.” But it is a bridge not of my imagination, my planning, or my doing – it is a bridge built by God it is a bridge made out of the timbers of the cross, bonded together by Christ’s blood; it is a bridge built for me. And as a result of God’s purpose and mercy, in God’s grace and with the power of His Holy Spirit, once having seen the bridge I might then be lifted up in His strong arms and carried across.

See, the “who” can never be me, it can only be Christ. That is why I need not worry when I am in the throne room of God, because the “who” is not me, not even one little bit.

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© 2013 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 – The Greater One

December 15, 2010


Readings for Wednesday, December 15 designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 9:8-17; 2 Pet. 2:1-10a; Mark 1:1-8; Psalms 49, 53,119:49-72

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Today’s readings are contrasting. From Isaiah we read “But the people have not returned to Him who struck them, nor have they sought the Lord Almighty. So the Lord will cut off from Israel both the head and the tail … the elders and prominent men are the head, and the prophets who teach lies are the tail. Those who guide this people mislead them,…” Isa. 9:13-16. From 2 Peter we read “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers from among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them…Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.” 2 Pet. 2:1-3

Obviously these first two lessons address false elders, prophets, leaders create mayhem among themselves, within the church, and in us.

The contrasting reading is from Mark, where the example of the good elder, leader, prophet and teacher is given. And this was his message according to Mark: “After me [John] will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, be He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Mk. 1:7-8

What is the difference between the condemned and the commended? The acknowledgment that there is One Who Is Greater than I. The acknowledgment that there is One so much greater than I am that I am not important enough to be in the same room with Him or stand beside Him or even talk to Him.

This is not our normal view and, because it does not line up evenly with our egalitarian ideas of equality and equal authority (authority derived from the governed), it is a view we have to deliberately adopt based upon our understanding of our death to sin and the merciful and unmerited gift of salvation we have received from God. Our normal view would place us beside Jesus, walking with Him hand in hand, talking to Him as an equal (as a “friend”), and asking Him for the same kind of favors we would ask of our earthly friends, offering in return our friendship and some measure of loyalty, when we feel like it.

If you don’t think that is the way we naturally think, look at the ubiquitous symbols contained throughout our modern Bible translations. What symbols you ask? Well – which pronouns are capitalized and which are not? “I” is always capitalized, as if “I” were something important. Pronouns which relate to Jesus and the Father are never capitalized.

Why is this? I think it is because we do not recognize, truly recognize, that there is a Greater One who is behind us, before us, above us, and sustaining us, raising us up. We so much focus on the “I” that we forget the “He.”

Our culture has a certain fascination with the birth of Jesus, as well it should because He is the incarnation of God among us. However, I also think that the fascination comes about because, as a baby, Jesus seems somehow cuddly and nice and, as a baby, He needs us. With the baby Jesus, we get to feel like we are the greater one and He is the lesser, we get to feel in control. Instead, the reality is that we are not even worthy to change His diapers (or what passed for them).

If you think about it, who is the “greater one” in your life right now? Is it your spouse, your children, your boss, your teacher, or maybe the person staring back at you in the mirror, who? Who should it be?

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Bread – Wisdom

May 31, 2010


Readings for Monday, May 31 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Eccles. 2:1-15; Gal. 1:1-17; Matt. 13:44-52
    Psalms 41, 44, 52
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There is an old joke which goes something like this – "How do you avoid making mistakes?  Experience.  How do you get experience?  Making mistakes."

In a very few words, this describes man’s normal way of obtaining wisdom.  We "learn from experience."  We are told not to touch a hot stove.  We touch it anyway.  We get burned.  We don’t touch it again.  Voila! – wisdom.

In our reading today from Solomon’s message to us in Ecclesiastes, we have an oddity.  First, Solomon gives us a laundry list of the worldly mistakes he has made:

    1.    He tests himself with pleasure (Eccles. 2:1)
    2.    He drinks wine (Eccles. 2:3)
    3.    He embraces folly (Eccles. 2:3)
    4.    He worked a lot, building monuments to himself (Eccles. 2:4)
    5.    He worked a lot in his community, building public works (Eccles. 2:5-6)
    6.    He acquired great wealth (workers, houses, gold and silver) (Eccles. 2:7-8)
    7.    He engaged in a lot of sex (Eccles. 2:8)

Which of these hot stoves have we touched on our way to obtain worldly wisdom?

However, Solomon goes on to say that, while he did these things, his mind was still guided by wisdom, wisdom stayed with him.  (Eccles. 2:3, 9).  Although the Hebrew word used is the wisdom which comes from God (all true wisdom comes from God; Prov. 2:6), nonetheless Solomon’s mistake-making suggests that he is not using the wisdom from God, but a man-originated wisdom, grounded in "real life" experience.

Solomon realizes that his wisdom, the wisdom of man, is no different than the folly of man – both lead to death.  "Then I turned my thoughts to consider wisdom, and also madness and folly…The wise man has eyes in his head, while the fool walks in darkness; but I came to realize that the same fate overtakes them both…Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Eccles. 2:12-16).

The folly of man is the wisdom of man, and whether one proceeds from folly to death or man’s wisdom to death, the net result is the same.

So why then use the word for wisdom which describes the true knowledge, the true understanding which comes from God?

Because without realizing it, in his description of his life and his description of his death, Solomon sees with the wisdom of God.  He understands that "This [man’s wisdom, man’s folly] too is meaningless."  (Eccles. 2:15)

What man has to offer is nothing – what God has to offer is everything.  What man has to say is of little value – what God has to say is truth.  What man builds will disappear – God’s Word stands forever.

Perhaps today you sense that your wisdom and your folly are meaningless.  Man would say that, if you think your life is meaningless, you must lack self-esteem or be depressed.  I suggest something different.  I suggest that, if you think what you are doing is meaningless, you are experiencing what Solomon experienced – a breakthrough of God’s wisdom in your life, drawing you to Him, drawing you to the truth, drawing you into eternal life.

And if you are sensing God’s draw in your life, if you are asking the hard question using man’s wisdom and find the answers insufficient, then come to God.  Meet Jesus Christ.  And fill your mind with His wisdom and His truth.

And in the power of the Holy Spirit, you will clearly see with Godly wisdom that you and your life are not meaningless, but precious; so precious indeed that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, gave His life for you that you may have life, now and forever.

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Readings for Friday, May 28 as
    designated by the Book of Common Prayer:
    Prov. 23:19-24:2; 1 Tim. 5:17-25; Matt. 13:31-35
    Psalms 31, 35
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Many of us are from small beginnings.  Perhaps we grew up in poverty, where the idea of a car or three meals a day was a doubtful proposition.  Perhaps we were born handicapped in some physical manner.  Perhaps we were born into difficult situations caused by criminal activity, alcohol, drugs, or other addictions.  Sometimes we are born into circumstances where we have no access to a way out – no access to education, no access to good role models, perhaps even no access to newspapers.  Perhaps we start off with small beginnings because our hearts are hardened early in life, our thoughts become stagnated, our hopes dim, In any event, all of us start off at conception as something almost microscopic, so in a very real sense we all start with small beginnings.

The kingdom of God came into the world – started – as a small beginning as well.  In our reading in Matthew today, Jesus says "The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…Although it is the smallest of seeds…" Matt. 13:31-32.  It started small, in the womb of Mary, as small as we start.  And it has grown into a mighty tree, having many branches and abundantly supporting many "birds of the air."  Matt. 33:32.

The kingdom of heaven grew from the smallest beginning to full blossom through the obedience of Jesus to His Father to the cross.  We can grow as well, following the same path.  We can grow from smallness to greatness, able to support many "birds" in our "branches," by following in the same path as Jesus, with one major difference.  Jesus was obedient to the Father unto death because our sin, the sin of the world, had to be dealt with before a holy God.  Jesus was obedient to death; all we have to do is be obedient to Jesus unto life – why, because He died for us so that we might have life and have it abundantly (sounds like a lot of birds in the tree, doesn’t it?).

Have you begun with small beginnings?  Do you feel small and tiny today?  Embrace Jesus Christ, embrace the Kingdom of God.  Believe in Him.  And the mustard seed of faith planted in your life will, and you will along with it, end up large, growing into abundance and glory.

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