Bread – Opposites

June 16, 2017


Psalm 70

“May all who seek You rejoice and be glad in You!  May those who love Your salvation say evermore, ‘God is great!’  But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God!”  Ps. 70:4-5a

We have all heard the phrase, “two sides of the same coin.”  We know that “heads” and “tails” are opposites and, if we are betting, have different results, but we also recognize that they are bound together on and in the same coin.  This basic understanding has been extended to different philosophies, where there is proposed a balance in the universe, equally between good and evil, yin and yang, the good side and the dark side of the force, etc.

And one might be inclined to read the above quote from Psalm 70 and, given that David wrote the Psalm, he was expressing two opposites in his personality, one joyful and upbeat as he considered his salvation and the other “down in the mouth” as he considered his poor condition.  The question is, is joy the opposite of depression?

I think the answer to this question is “yes” from one perspective and “no” from another.

When is it “yes?”  When joy and depression are opposites is when man is in control of both.  If we are to look for the measurement solely to our feeling, what we think, how we behave, then clapping your hands in gladness is certainly the opposite of wringing your hands in despair.  In the first instance, we feel upbeat and ready to take on the world.  In the second instance, we feel downbeat and ready to retreat from the world.  Both are our feelings, and joy and depression cannot occupy the same feeling space.  One crowds out the other.  They are opposites.

When is it “no?”  When the Lord is involved.  When God is in our life, is possible to say “I am poor and needy” and “Praise be to God” in the same breath.  It is possible because, by saying we are poor and needy, we are accurately describing our situation.  When we say “Praise be to God” we are accurately describing the source of our overcoming power.

What is the combination of depression and joy in the Christian life?  It is hope.

When we acknowledge Christ as Savior and King, we become new.  And this newness is a transformation of opposites into wholeness.  Oh, it takes a while for the complete integration to occur, and for most of us will take our entire lives.  But when we become Jesus’ sheep, the sheep of His pasture, we no longer have to suffer the opposites of feeling good or feeling bad, because we now have hope.

So, was this juxtaposition of David between joy and being poor and needy an expression of opposites?  No, it was an expression of God’s involvement continuousy in all circumstances to bring about His purposes and His glory.  In these verses, God is present.  He is present in the praises and He is present in the delivery from David’s poor condition.

The expression of “Help me … Praise You!” is not an expression of opposites but an expression of unity of spirit and the ascendancy of hope, a gift from God.

“Help me … Praise You!” is merely an expression of a great truth … we are radically poor and radically saved, all at the same time with the grace and mercy of God.

In Christ, with the flip of the coin we have heads I win and tails I win too.  It is the same coin, but it is different than it was.  So are we, in Christ.

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

 

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Bread – Melting

June 6, 2017


Psalm 68

God shall arise … as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!  But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” Ps. 68:1-3

As I read “as wax melts before fire” a couple of images came to mind.  None of them were candles.   Another image was from the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” where the Nazi soldiers are melted away in the blast which came from the Ark of the Covenant when they dared to breach it.  A third image was of the Wicked Witch of the West, when a bucket of water was poured over on her, and she dies screaming “I’m melting.”

Now these images have one thing in common.   The wicked perish.  In the first, God is clearly the agent.  In the second, you have to realize that God is the author of nature to realize that the water used to douse the wicked witch was itself a gift from God.

We are sinful people.  What will happen to us on that day of judgment, when God arises to judge the earth and us?  Will we melt away as wax melts before the fire in the heat of wrath?

While you meditate on that question, I actually had a third image which came to mind as I read this verse.  That image was the one of a great steel mill where the iron ore was smelted in great furnaces, melted into big buckets, to be poured into objects useful for construction and building.

This third image also involves melting as wax melts before the fire, because the ore was hard until it melted in the great cauldron, only then to be converted.

What happens in this second kind of melting?  We have a reference to that in Psalm 66, where it is said “For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined.” [Ps. 66:10; NASB translation] (the word “refined” means to melt, to purge precious metals by fire).  God, through His cross and the daily dose of the Holy Spirit in our lives, refines us by removing the impurities in our lives and pouring us as living sacrifices into useful objects for His purposes on earth.

So, at the judgment day, when faced with the wrath of God, do we melt “as wax melts before fire?”  The short answer is “no” for the simple reason that Christ is with us and, literally, He is our shield.

So, when God arises, are the righteous glad because the wicked melt in the face of wrath or are we glad because, by the grace of God, we do not melt?

As I write this, it strikes me that this last question is the heart of the gospel, of the good news.  We do not rejoice in others’ suffering, because but for the grace of God go we.   Instead, we celebrate in thanksgiving because we have received and accepted the gift of eternal life from the only One able to give it and empower us to receive it.

The heart of the gospel is this:  God shall arise, the wicked shall melt away, and the righteous shall rejoice.  Who are the righteous? “And he (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:22-25.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Enthusiasm

January 9, 2017


Psalm 47

Clap your hands, all peoples!  Shout to God with loud songs of joy!”  Ps. 47:1

When I woke up this morning, on a Monday, I was in dreary shape.  I had a list of to-dos, I had meetings to prepare for, my allergies were acting up, and I had a headache from sleeping in some kind of awkward position.  I need gas in my car.

And then I read this … Have enthusiasm for the Lord, clap your hands, jump up and down, shout with loud songs of great joy!  Wonderful.  How can one have enthusiasm in the midst of common experience?

Wake up!

How indeed are we to have enthusiasm in the midst of trouble, in the midst of obstacles, in the midst of daily living?  How are we to clap our hands when there is no music?

It struck me while I was thinking about these things that my enthusiasm, my joy, tends to come from external sources – the compliments of a friend or a boss, the kindness of a stranger, a good meal, the achievement of some goal, the playing of good music on the radio, the visual stimulation of a bird on the roof of my house, the touch of a loved one, a “good” worship service, some great comedy from television or the newspaper.  These are all external stimuli and I respond to them.

But we read and are told that God in us, the internal source, is our strength.  Our joy ought to come from inside because of our residence in the kingdom of God; we should emanate joy out and become a source of enthusiasm and not reflect the world around us.  When our joy, our enthusiasm, is based on the external situation, we are but a reflection of what is going on around us.  When our joy, our enthusiasm, is based on the internal situation, on God in us, we project that joy and enthusiasm into a world sorely needing it.

Are we a reflector of enthusiasm or a generator of enthusiasm?  Are we a reflector of joy or a generator of joy?

Perhaps one test of the degree of our dependence upon the Lord is the degree we generate joy.

A long time ago I heard about a prayer to be said first thing in the morning – “Rise up like a lion in the service of the Lord!”  A lion roars, a lion is enthusiastic.

To make this prayer, though, you have to know who you are talking to and why this is a prayer.  Are you talking to yourself (a little self-improvement), are you talking to God, or are you talking to an empty room?  Why is this a prayer?  Because we have no capacity on our own to do anything – if we are to rise up like a lion it is because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit to do so.  That requires a request.  The implied words before “Rise up…” are “Let me [rise up…]”  This requires that we begin each day with our Maker, in prayer, in communion.

Where is our enthusiasm and our joy this Monday?  Forgotten alongside our forgotten time of prayer with the Lord.

Now, one of the great things about our relationship with the Lord is that, while we wander off, He does not.  So the fact that I did not begin today properly is no obstacle to my beginning now properly.  And so, Lord, three hours later, I pray “Let me rise up like a lion in Your service.  Amen.”

And now I’m enthusiastic.

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

 

Bread – Blessing

May 18, 2016


Psalm 20

“May the Lord answer you in the day of trouble!  May the name of the God of Jacob protect you!…May He grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans!  May we shout for joy over your salvation…” Ps. 20:1,4-5a

I struggled with what to name this Bread, because the words above and the first half of this Psalm evoke several thoughts.  One, this is a prayer such that a leader might make over his or her people.  So I could have called this “prayer” and I would have been accurate.  Two, this could have been called “love,” because it expresses a desire that someone other than the speaker received many, many positive things in life.  We call these positive things “blessings,” and so that is why I named this Bread “blessing.”

It is indeed a blessing upon our lives when people who matter to us speak words of encouragement into our lives, speak words of hope and joy and happiness.  It is indeed a blessing to us when our leaders speak words of peace, and when their words cause peace.  It is indeed a blessing in our lives when we feel safe, wrapped in the arms of Jesus, surrounded by the Lord of hosts and the hosts themselves, armed for battle.  It is indeed a blessing for us to be satisfied, not by the accumulation of wealth, but by the accumulation of love and relationships and wisdom and peace.

But what is also happening here is that the person giving the blessing, offering up the prayer of hope and encouragement, is also being blessed at the same time.  When we speak peace into someone’s lives, we live peace.  When we speak hope into people’s lives, we live hope.  When we offer up our sincere wishes for our neighbor’s success in the evil day, we also wish the same upon ourselves because if our neighbor is successful, so are we.  I am fond of saying “a rising tide raises all ships.”  Well, the outpouring of “may you” in our prayers is a rising tide of invocation of the name of God, of His character, of His might and power.  We can and will overcome because God was, is, and always will be.

But in the midst of all of the prayers for blessing on our fellow man, read this … “May we shout for joy over your salvation…”

In these verses, this is the first “may” which changes from “you” to “we.”  And think about it, who would not want to join in the celebration over one person saved.  The angels in heaven do it; we should too.  And notice that is not a prayer that you be saved, because that is assumed.  After all, David is writing to his people, Israel.  They had been saved many times, both individually and as a group.  Now that Jesus Christ has come, died, and has risen, we are in the same boat as Israel.  For those whom God has chosen, salvation will come.  But what is our response … “get it out of my sight,” “ho hum,” or “kill the fatted calf and have a party.”

See, what God does on earth is a great blessing, but only if we see it, acknowledge where it came from, and revel in thanksgiving for the mighty work.

And so I end with the modern day version.  “May we shout for joy over our blessings from God, our salvation, our rock, our fortress, in the day of trouble.  Amen.”

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

 

 

Bread – See

March 30, 2016


Psalm 13

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” Ps. 13:3

In the last Bread, we dealt with the condition of despair, where we lay at the bottom of the barrel, in the dark, with no hope ahead.  A lonely place, an unfriendly place, a wild place, a place where none of us want to go and yet, in business, in the home or in the family, with spouse or children, in spiritual affairs – we have been there.

How did we get out of it?  Medicine (science) would say that our brain chemistry was bad and that we were brought up from darkness to light by the miracle of modern drugs and therapy.  The religious atheists who believe in the essential goodness of self over all other things would say that we got out of the pit of despair by our own bootstraps, by looking to the future rather than the past, by slogging through the difficulties one step at a time, by thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones, or, as Dr. Seuss might say it, by thinking on “fluffy things.”    The “group first” people would probably say that we were pulled out of our despair by a group of people around us who love us and who lift us up … after all, “it takes a village.”

But David had a different answer.  He knew that, in the despair of life and sin, in thrall to the world and the prince of darkness, Satan, we stand no chance without God.  When we are dead (the “sleep of death”), we have no hope for life except by the exercise of a power outside ourselves.  In the socialists world view, that outside power is the village, or society.  In the Christian world view, that outside power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The first, the village, relies on blind men to guide blind men, relies on broken people to fix broken people, relies upon an irrational belief that, if you have a bunch of defective parts, when you combine them the whole is not defective.  The second, the Christian world view, relies upon the rock of ages, the creator, the promise-keeper, one who has not sinned and is perfect.  The socialist relies upon shifting sand while the Christian relies upon the foundations of the earth.

That is why David pleads to God “Light up my eyes.”  He knows that, if God does not light up our eyes, our eyes will remain dark.  He knows that, if God does not give us power, we have none except the counterfeit kind, the appearance of power with no strength to persevere.  He knows that wisdom comes from God and not from man, except perhaps in a negative way (teaching us what not to do).

And so David, while wallowing in despair, does one thing and one thing only – and that is plead with God that God consider where he is and that God answer him, light up his eyes, and guide him out of that dark place into a place of light and joy.

Perhaps, today, your joy is gone, happiness is a memory, hope is distant, and the pit seems bigger and bigger.  Have you stopped to ask God for answers, for wisdom, for consideration, for hope, for joy, for gratitude?  Have you stopped to pray … not just a short “God help me” but a long pause in the day where you can be with Him, hear Him, learn from Him, be infilled with Him, and be empowered by Him?

What is the foundation of our day?  How do we begin it?  With our important activities like dressing and cleaning up and eating breakfast and reviewing the daily task list and appointments, by running through our mind what we will say to those important people we will meet, practicing how we will behave and what we will do, rehearsing so that we will be successful and have lots of respect, position, power, wealth, and things?  Or with the most important activity of all – getting in touch with the Foundation, God?

David’s got it right.  When we are in despair, do not look to our own or society’s devices but to look to maintaining the relationship with God.

If we do not ask God to light up our eyes, we will remain in the sleep of death – perhaps successful by the world’s standards but in the sleep of death anyway.  If we ask Him … well, read the rest of Psalm 13 … and be grateful.

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

 

 

Bread – Good

January 29, 2016


Psalm 4

“There are many who say, ‘Who will show us some good?  Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!’

You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound.

In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”  Ps. 4:6-8

When I first read this, I misread it.  I thought that the many said “Who will show us some good?” and it was the Psalmist, David, who answered “Lift up the light of Your face upon us, O Lord!”

But that is an incorrect reading because it is the many who say both the question and the response?

But is the response the answer.  In order for us to see good, must the Lord lift up the light of His face upon us?  What if He doesn’t, for the moment.  Can we not see good?

I guess it depends upon your definition of “good.”  It turns out that “good” is one of those words, like “truth.”  We can think of it as an absolute term … there is truth and there is not; there is good and there is not.  Or we can think about it in relative terms, where the meaning shifts depending upon us.  What is truth (to us)?  What is good (to us)?

I think the answer to the “truth” question is easier, in one sense, because we have a sense that “truth” is an absolute, that there is God’s truth, which is absolute, and then our truths, which can vary depending upon our mood of the day.  But we are not so sure about “good.”  Is there an absolute “good” or is “good” just a situation where one thing is “better” than another and, therefore, “good?”

Normally, when I have these questions and I turn to God’s Word for answers, I look up the Hebrew or Greek (or Aramaic) definitions.  In this case, the Hebrew word for “good” doesn’t necessarily help.  “Good” as used in this Psalm is actually an adjective and not a noun, suggesting the phrase “some good” has a blank after it, to be filled in…”Who will show us some good [things, ideas, life, food, etc.].  And the meaning is pleasant, beautiful, excellent, lovely, delightful, convenient, joyful, fruitful, precious, sound, cheerful, kind, correct, righteous, virtue, happiness, practical or economic benefits, wisdom, and moral good.

So perhaps the idea of “good” is fundamentally an idea about which gives us the greater benefit.

And so the rest of the Psalm really begins to take on meaning because David essentially is telling the many who question, “Yes, you have it right!  If you want to see some good [things] come into your life, ask the Lord.”

I say that because David immediately tells the Lord that He is the One who has put more joy (benefit, happiness, good) into his heart than anybody else has even when their “grain and wine abound.”  Even when the world lavishes us out of its bounty with good things, the pleasant, beautiful, excellent, and lovely things it can give us, these pale in comparison to the joy (good, pleasant, beautiful, excellent) things which God gives us.

And what is the best good of all?  David hints at it in the last verse where he says “For You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.”   We may have riches, friends, power, position, plenty to eat … everything the modern world offers and then some.  And is that as good as the sense of safety, of peace, of love, of rest.  When we have a good night’s sleep, don’t we (generally) feel good the next day?  When we dwell in safety, aren’t we really the happiest.

Where do you look for your good?  Is to yourself, your friends, your job, your family, your business?  Or do you look to God?  Are you one of the many who ask the Lord to “lift up the light of His countenance upon them” or one of the many who don’t?

As I end this, I am reminded that in asking these questions, I find myself in the role of the early disciples, who asked Jesus “what good deed must I do?” And Jesus answered, “Why do you ask Me what is good?  There is only One who is good.  If you would enter life, keep the commandments.”  Matt. 19:16-17

David is saying the same thing.  When we have a question about good, there is one place to look and we will experience the rest which comes from knowing good, from knowing Him who created good, from the One who defines good, and from the only One, Jesus Christ, capable of giving the good sacrifice which guarantees us the true good, that we can lie down and sleep “for You, O Lord, make me dwell in safety”  … for all eternity

Do you want to see the good, experience the good, rest in true safety?  “Offer right sacrifices [the obedience of the heart to Jesus Christ and His commands], and put your trust in the Lord.” Ps. 4:5  And watch the good abound in your life and in the lives of those you touch.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Crosses

May 11, 2015


Readings for Monday, May 11, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 8:1-10; James 1:1-15; Luke 9:18-27; Psalms 77, 79, 80

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It is Monday and everything in our reading today points toward the crosses we must bear this week. The question is not whether we will bear them, but how. Will we bear them in pain, suffering, and anger toward God or will we bear them in joy, love, and gratitude to God?

Deuteronomy points out that God may save us from our particular prison but He may also let us wander in the wilderness for a long time before we see the promised land. He will be there, but the road will be hot and dusty, and we will be driven to our knees in radical dependence upon the bread (manna) and water which God provides. During this wilderness time, what we receive from God will never be what we want, but it will be what we need. In these circumstances, we should be full of joy, love, and gratitude because the Lord has told us why: “And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what is in your heart, whether you will keep His commandments or not….that He might make you know that man does live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord… For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land…And you shall eat and be full…” Deut. 8:2-3,7,10

And James reminds us that we shall meet trials and, because we have faith in Jesus, we are to meet these trials with joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness…Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation…Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life…” James 1:2-3,9,12

And, finally, from Jesus Himself we hear these words: “And He said to all, ‘If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoevere would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.” Luke 9:23-24

From Scripture today we see there are three ways crosses can come. God can cause us to go through them (Deut.), we may face them from the world simply because we are Christian (James), and we may choose to take it up on our own, because we are in fact followers of Christ.

But regardless of how we get it, a cross is a cross. It is heavy, tiring, difficult to handle, rough to the touch, and an instrument of torture and death. And, in fact, when we are carrying our particular crosses in dealing with our own sin, in dealing with our families, in dealing with the workplace, and in dealing with each other, we may in fact feel tortured, put upon, roughed up, and weighed down.

How will you choose today and this week to carry your cross(es). In joy, steadfastness, and hope, or in misery. The choice is ours. Come, Holy Spirit, and help us choose wisely.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Time

January 28, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 28, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 49:1-12; Gal. 2:11-21; Mark 6:13-29; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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Time is an interesting concept because we live in time and yet we really only observe and measure it – we do not control it. Time passes whether we say “wait” or “go.” Time stops for no man. Yesterday was yesterday and we cannot recover it. Today is today and we can only live in it well or poorly. Tomorrow is tomorrow and may or may not occur according to our predictions, plans, and expectations.

Furthermore, time can be relative. Watching a boiled egg takes a long time if you are watching it and only a short time if you are not. We understand from science that as we reach the speed of light time would come to a crawl. We watch space movies and from that learn about time warps. Our mathematicians calculate various interaction between time and mass, energy, space, dimension, and momentum. We can envision all kinds of manipulation of time, and yet yesterday was yesterday, today is today, and tomorrow will be tomorrow. Time goes forward, never backward … but unfortunately for us, we do not necessarily do the same. While time is marching forward, we can go backwards, not in time but in everything else.

Outside of time there is God. He is the only thing outside of time because He made time. In our statement of what is called the Lord’s Prayer, we end with “for Thine is the kingdom, forever and ever, Amen.” I used to stop at “forever” because, from my point of view, that means all time and therefore means eternity. However, once I realized that God was outside of time, the “and ever” part made sense, because God is not only eternal, He is beyond eternal. He is not time bound like we are. We have limits; He does not.

Why all this talk about time today? From our reading today in Isaiah, God says “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you…” Isa. 49:8

Now this is a Messianic passage, but the phrase “time of favor” struck me.

When is our “time of favor” from the Lord? Well, let’s describe some possibilities. First, He knew us in our mother’s womb – “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Isa. 49:1b Surely at the time when we are most vulnerable, to be known by God is a ‘time of favor.” Second, He knew us in sin and did not reject us. Surely this is a time of favor. Third, He saved us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fourth, He sustains us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fifth, He refines us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord, although it may hurt at the time. Sixth, He delivers us from evil. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Seventh, He gives us our daily bread. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord.

Beginning to detect a pattern? Each of us can point to particular times when we stood on the mountaintop with God and those stick out in our minds as particular times of favor from the Lord. But isn’t every day of our lives full of blessing, opportunity, gifts, forgiveness and love, whether we feel it or not and whether we know it or not? Isn’t every minute of our lives a “time of favor” from the Lord?

Imagine with me how we would behave differently if we were aware that every moment of time in our lives is truly a “time of favor.” Would we respond in grumpiness, depression, and fear, or would we respond by dressing up for the occasion, looking forward rather than backward, full of joy and gratitude for the new day, full of joy and gratitude for the present time of favor?

The time today is a “time of favor.” How will we treat it? And how will we treat the One who gave it to us?

__________

© 2015 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.

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Gloating

August 21, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, August 21, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 18:19-33; Acts 23:23-35; Mark 12:13-27; Psalms 119:145-176,128,129,130

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In our reading from Samuel today, two runners come to him with the news that the insurrection against him as king is over. When he finds out that the leader of the insurrection is dead, he weeps.

The reason for this is that the leader of the insurrection against David and his authority as king is his son, Absalom. The leader of the insurrection who is now dead is David’s son, Absalom. So he weeps for his son, saying “O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom! Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” 2 Sam. 18:33

Absalom hated his father so much that he led a group of men who wanted to kill David and take the throne. However, David wanted to defeat his son, not kill him. He had given strict orders that his son not be killed, but Absalom died anyway.

Even though this Bread is labeled “gloating,” it is not about gloating but the opposite of gloating. There is no celebration of victory by a father over a son who is proven wrong and dies. There is only sadness, with a heartfelt desire that, if the father could give his life for his son, he would do so if it would restore the son to wholeness.

Wait a minute! Doesn’t this sound a whole lot like God the Father? Haven’t we as children of God taken up arms of rebellion against Him, leading others into a similar opposition? Didn’t God the Father send God the Son to die in our place so that, by faith in Him, we could be restored to proper relationship?

The answer is “yes.” We have engaged in open conflict with God, denying His relationship and His authority and holiness, even denying His very existence. We have disobeyed God and reaped the consequences of a broken world as a result of that disobedience. We are engaged in a battle which we will not win against a Father who loves us so much that He, as God the Son, died for us, in our place, so that God’s wrath at our disobedience might be satisfied on the cross. But we will die like Absalom on the battlefield for all eternity if we do not have faith in Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection.

Is there gloating by the Father when a sinner dies without having put his or her faith in God the Son? The answer is “no.” Instead, there is God saying “George, my son….” or “Julie, my daughter…. Would you have accepted My death for you.”

Is there gloating in heaven when a sinner dies without having put his or her faith in Jesus Christ? The answer is “no,” but there is celebration – “…there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Lk. 15:10

David did not die for his son, but God did for us. Now, what is our response? Is it to die on the battlefield in rebellion or to repent and place our faith again in God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and return to grateful obedience for God’s gracious act on our behalf to restore us to relationship and obedience and to save us for eternity with Him?

No matter what we choose, there will be no gloating in heaven. But there will be joy over those who are saved.

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© 2013 GBF

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