Bread – Judging

September 13, 2017


Psalm 82

How long will you judge unjustly and show partiality to the wicked?  Selah”  Ps. 82:2

I have heard it said that, as Christians, we should not “judge” others.  Although this statement is a mistake when it comes to Christians “judging” other Christians (see 1 Cor. 5:12), it is also likely incorrect when applied to everyone because, although maybe we should not judge others before we first judge ourselves, the fact is that we do.  And that is not necessarily bad.

The problem is that the word “judging” has been equated to the word “condemning.”  Judging is not condemning; it is assessing what is being done or said by someone against a standard.  If the standard is a statute, then the judging occurs against the standard of the law.  If the standard is God’s revelation in His Word, then the judging occurs against the standard contained in His Word.

When the standard against which we measure is external to us, we can assess or judge objectively.  Did the objective behavior being judged meet the external standard or did it not?

When the standard against which we measure is internal to us (meaning that it is based on our personal sense of right and wrong, good and evil, etc.), we can only assess or judge subjectively.

The fact that we routinely judge (evaluate, assess) is the reason our insistence upon external standards (God’s Word or the “rule of law”) is so important.  If the standard is “relative to what I think” and the only standard that matters is the one I set internally, all judging will be condemning because, subjectively, “you” will never live up to whatever arbitrary standard I set in my own mind.

This “subjective” judging based on our relativistic “truth” is where we always go wrong.  Why do we judge unjustly?  Because we do not have an external standard (God’s Word) to which we relate.

Where does racism come from?  From our subjective standards that some people are better than others.  What God’s standards have to say about that is that all people were created by God.  That being the case, they are equal.

If we are judging unfairly, the answer is not to stop judging at all.  The answer is to judge according to the right criteria.

What is the right criteria?  The Word of God in Scripture and Jesus Christ.

Judge that.

________

© 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 – Righteousness

January 18, 2017


Psalm 48

We have thought on Your steadfast love, O God,…Your right hand is filled with righteousness.”  Ps. 48:9,10b

“Righteousness” is one of those words which I always think I know what it means until I start really thinking about it.  What is “righteousness?’

The Hebrew word translated “righteousness” in this passage means “the right thing (whether nationally, morally or legally); equity (in an abstract sense); prosperity (in a figurative sense); straightness (in a physical sense); rectitude (in an ethical sense); … justness, honesty, integrity … liberation.” From The Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB) (Zodhiates, Ed. 1990).  The IVP Dictionary of the New Testament (Intervarsity 2004) takes 21 pages to give examples, but summarizes the word “righteousness” this way: “In Biblical thought the idea of justice or righteousness generally expresses conformity to God’s will in all areas of life: law, government, covenant loyalty, ethical integrity or gracious actions.  When humans adhere to God’s will as expressed in His law, they are considered just or righteous.  Jesus taught that those who conform their lives to His teachings are also just or righteous.”

Well, I am not sure if these definitions help or hurt me in trying to understand what righteousness is.  However, the other day someone summarized righteousness for me as “right relationships.”  I find this definition nowhere in my materials, but it actually makes a lot of sense to me.  After all, if we lives of justice, of doing right toward others and ourselves and our God, don’t we find ourselves in a “right (correct, beneficial, loving) relationship?”  When we are fair toward others, don’t we find ourselves in right relationships with others?  When we are obedient to God’s law expressed in Scripture, don’t we find ourselves in right relationships with others?

What, then, does it mean for God to have “righteousness” in his “right hand?”  Before we go there, I think it is important to recall that our right hand (for many people) is the hand of power.  It is the hand which holds the sword of vengeance, the hammer of anger, the book of wisdom, the item being offered as a gift or a sacrifice.  We shake right hands because, by doing so, we demonstrate our hand is empty of any weapon which could cause harm.

Because of His steadfast love toward us, God holds in His hand of power the key to right relationships with Him, with each other, and within ourselves.  Thinking of what He holds as merely the law is not sufficient because mere compliance with the law out of avoidance of punishment does not, in itself, create good relationships.  Thinking of what He holds as merely love is not sufficient because mere love which is not bounded by truth does not, in itself, create good relationships.  It is righteousness which creates good relationships – obedience, honor of God’s rules and His ways of living, loving others as He has first loved us.

God wants to have a right relationship with us and, therefore, His right hand holds the mystery to accomplishing that.  His right hand holds righteousness.

And He extends that gift, that gift of righteousness, to us through Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate before the Father.  Through Jesus we have His righteousness, the righteousness carried in the right hand of God, and with that we can properly order our lives between us and God, between us and others, and within ourselves.

Are your relationships good?  If not, maybe you need a dose of what God holds in His right hand, a dose of righteousness.   For those who worship Jesus, the wisdom to build right relationships is brought to us by the Holy Spirit – Come Holy Spirit!  For those who do not know Jesus, righteousness is available from He who is Himself righteous, the Creator of the world, Savior and King, Jesus Christ.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – When

November 23, 2016


Psalm 42

My soul thirsts for You, O God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God?”  Ps. 42:2

Another reading of this question is “When shall I come and see the face of God?”

In both versions of the question, the operative word is “when?”

When shall I satisfy my thirst, the hole which is in my heart which can only be filled by God?  When shall I give up my foolish ways and follow the ways of God?  When shall I say “no” to Satan and the world and say “yes” to Christ and life.  When shall I turn from my sinful ways and turn toward God?  When shall I die?  When shall I meet God face to face and be asked that terrible (or wonderful) question, “What do you have to say for yourself?  What do you have to say for your life?”  When shall I be judged?  When shall I belong?  When shall I be safe forever?

When shall I abandon the straightjacket of man’s reason and embrace the wonder of faith in God’s wisdom?

When indeed?

If you have not already had your “when” moment, when you fell before God and received His gift of grace, when you believed in Jesus Christ and turned from sin toward God, then there are only three choices which man will claim – I will do it now, tomorrow, or never.

These man-made when’s (today, tomorrow or never) have a nice ring to them, because they tickle our self-bone and exalt us over everything.  There is a problem, though, because the real answer to the question “When shall I come and appear before God?” is either today or tomorrow.  It is never “never.”

One of Satan’s greatest tricks, I think, is to make us believe that decisions and consequences can sometimes be put off forever.  But God says that there is a time coming when all of us will meet Him face to face, and at that time we will either be judged by Him to eternal judgment or be found guilty but forgiven, covered by Jesus’ sacrifice.

We are entering into the seasons of distractions, when the world clamors for attention.  But attend to this, please …. When will you come and appear before God?

It may be sooner than you think.  In fact, it may be today.

_________

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

 

Bread – Judgment

July 13, 2016


Psalm 28

“Give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.  Because they do not regard the work of the Lord or the work of His hands, He will tear them down and build them up no more.”  Ps. 28:4-5

When I write Bread, I am never sure if I am writing for my immediate audience or someone far distant in place and time.  As a result, I try not to use current events because, although the reference is readily understood today, it is probably not going to be understood tomorrow.

However, one current event repeats itself so often, my mention of it today will likely resonate tomorrow as well.  It is the senseless, evil killing of five policemen in Dallas last week.   I was asked by several people to publish something on this shortly after it occurred, but I confess I could not.  I could not because my anger was so deep, my desire for revenge so strong, my readiness to blame others so immediate, that I realized that nothing I would be willing to say would be the proper thing to say to bring glory to God.  I was ready to judge and in so doing react by giving back double the horror of the moment.

At a much milder level, we are faced with this every day.  Someone does us a wrong, and we react in immediate defense and anger.  Someone says something bad about us, and we immediately attribute bad motives to someone who we now perceive is our enemy.   We are so ready to judge right from wrong, good from bad, and pure from impure.

Now I am not saying that we should not use God’s plumb line to assess right from wrong, truth from untruth, pure from impure, good from bad.  In fact, knowing God’s Word helps us to discern these things which we must understand in order to do right and to resist wrong.  We can speak the truth to evil without condemning evil.

Boy, this last statement is hard.  When we know what is good, should we not condemn the bad?  No.  Instead, we should always be ready to show mercy, having been shown mercy ourselves.

The portion of the Psalm quoted above shows who is charge of judging, who is in charge of condemnation.    Maybe it becomes clearly by understanding that David is praying to the Lord and essentially says this – “[You-the Lord] give to them according to their work and according to the evil of their deeds; [You-the Lord] give to them according to the work of their hands; render them their due reward.” Ps. 28:4

Judgment belongs to Him.

I want to condemn the man who shot those policemen to hell; I do.  But that is not my job.  My job is showing unmerited mercy to those who would do evil, just like I have been shown unmerited mercy by my Savior when I was in the same position, doing evil all the time, opposed to God.

This is tough.  But no one ever said being a Christian was easy, did they?

_________

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Frustration

April 27, 2016


Psalm 17

“Arise, O Lord! Confront him, subdue him!  Deliver my soul … from men by Your hand, O Lord, from men of the world …You fill their womb with treasure; they are satisfied with children, and they leave their abundance to their infants.”  Ps. 17:13-14

You can almost hear the frustration in David’s voice.  Confront the evildoers, God…these are the same people who You fill with treasure, bring them an inheritance through children, and let them pass their wealth to future generations!

When we play the game by the King’s rules, when we are surrounded by those who do not, and when the King rewards them and not us, what else are we supposed to feel except frustration, anger, confusion, and resentment?

Here, we have accepted Jesus Christ as Lord and we try to be obedient to His Word, loving our neighbor as ourselves, and yet the wicked prosper, often by taking it from us.  We appeal to the Lord and the wicked appear to prosper more.  We know God is sovereign, and therefore it is by His will that evil plays out, that the men of the world fill their caves with cash, live luxuriously, and dominate the affairs of man.

There are three answers to this frustration.  One is to be angry with God because it rains on both the just and the unjust, and the unjust have the just’ umbrellas.  When we do this, we need to accept the fact that we have elevated our will, our standards, our values, and our own belief about our importance over God, and stand in judgment of Him.

The second answer to this frustration is to join the other side, to reject God as uncaring or remote or, if present and caring, then impotent and unable to change the world.   If God is limited as we are, only able to influence outcome and not make outcome, then we might as well ally ourselves with the people having fun and wealth and worldly power.

The third answer to this frustration is to acknowledge our place – we are the subject, He is the King; we are the slave, He is the master; we are the saved, He is the Savior; our minds are limited, His mind is unlimited.  In other words, the third answer is to acknowledge the truth we see only partially, that His ways are not our ways, although we certainly would like Him to conform to our view of the world and our desires.

David picks this third way when he ends the Psalm in verse 15, immediately after expressing his frustration, as follows: “As for me, I shall behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness.”  Ps. 17:15

To paraphrase, David is saying, “God, what you are doing makes no sense to me, but I am satisfied with You alone.”

When we have prayed and our prayers have come to naught as far as we can tell, when we become frustrated with God, what is our response?  Is it to stand in judgment of Him?  Is it to abandon Him to join the world?  Or is it to stay the course, knowing that His countenance is sufficient for the moment, for the day, and for our entire life?

Another way of asking the same question is, when we are frustrated with God because He seems to helping those who are against us more than He is helping us, do we (a) get mad and tell him to get right with the program, (b) start looking at the other side to see what we can satisfy ourselves with that the world offers, or (c) say “O Well, it is Your hands, O God, and not mine – thank you.”

The first results in anger, the second in worry, the third in peace.

What choose you?

_________

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

 

Bread – Justice

March 2, 2016


Psalm 9

“But the Lord sits enthroned forever; He has established His throne for justice, and He judges the world with righteousness; He judges the peoples with uprightness.”  Ps. 9:7-8

Yesterday, March 1, 2016, was primary voting day in Texas, where Texans exercised their preferences for candidates for various offices.  Among those offices were judges for our local county and district courts, for our courts of appeal (both civil and criminal), and our Texas Supreme Court.  Yesterday was about our personal selection for our judges who are supposed to be “judicial,” that is deliver justice, and today is about our Almighty God who is justice and has established His throne for justice.  By “His throne” we could have as easily said “His kingdom,” which then extends to us, His people living in His creation.

So, what is justice?

Like so many things in life, there are two answers to this question.  One answer is the answer of self.  Justice is what I think it is, according to my values and my standards.  When we expand the concept to the group of selves, then justice is what society as a whole (or its subunits of people) think it is.  I might call that “group think justice.”  So, today, it may be justice to leave the poor to suffer and let the rich man keep his wealth because he earned it and it is his, and tomorrow it may be justice to steal the rich man’s property and give it away to the poor person because they need it (or want it, since for people there is barely any difference between “wants” and “needs”).  Perhaps in this definition, justice within the community is merely deciding who wins and who loses, without regard to particular standards.  In this game, there is only winner … whoever is in power and the identity of the group that put him or her there.  Justice based upon the self or the aggregate community self can be broken down to “might makes right.”

The other answer to this question is the answer of God.  What are God’s standards for living, what are the objects of His love, what path would He have us follow as His disciples?  In the NASB Bible translation, the word “justice” is rendered “judgment” and the underlying Hebrew word refers to all government, not just the judiciary.  The nature of the judgment is in the next sentence of the Psalm, which is judging with the character of righteousness.  The Hebrew word for righteousness conveys doing the “right thing,” straightness, rectitude, honesty, and integrity, exercised by making decisions according to the truth and without partiality.

Thus, the concept of justice is also grounded in the truth.  Pilate, who ordered the crucifixion of Christ, did not act justly (and he knew it) because he did not know the truth (famously saying “what is truth?”).

And if the truth is a shifting sand of meaning imposed by self and the self-congregation of community, then there will be no justice because there is no standard by which it can be measured.  But God is also truth, and therefore exercises righteous judgment, or “justice.”

We are God’s ambassadors on earth, we are God’s emissaries.  We represent the throne; we carry the kingdom.  If there is to be justice in the world, if there is to be truth, then we must carry that ourselves into the marketplace, into the courts and the government at all levels, into the university and into the family.

Has justice failed?  Many would say that it has.

Is it because God is unjust?  No, it is because we are ineffective ambassadors.  How can we carry the truth well unless we know the truth?  How can we speak the truth in love when we know neither truth nor love?   How can we tell others to tell the truth and to act with justice when we do neither ourselves?

As Christians, we love to lay things off on other people – the job of caring for the poor is the job of government; the job of educating our family is the job of the schools; the job of exercising justice is the job of the courts.  But the truth is that it is our job – we are the ambassadors, not the government, not the schools, not the judiciary.  You and I are the ambassadors of a kingdom of truth, of love, and therefore of justice.  Not them and not anybody else.

Do you claim to follow Christ?  What today are you going to do to remedy the unjust things you have done in the past?  What today are you going to do to exercise justice yourself today … and tomorrow?

When we pass on gossip and slander, have we exercised justice?  When we ignore the poor and the oppressed, have we exercised justice?  When we exercise our power to fulfill our wants rather than God’s wants, have we exercised justice?  When we withhold our wealth and keep it for ourselves, have we exercised justice?  When we withhold the truth because we are embarrassed by it, have we exercised justice?

Every one of these things in the previous paragraph I have done … and you probably have to.  We are just fortunate that our God is not only a God of justice but also a God of mercy and second chances.

So let’s accept that forgiveness, dust ourselves off, and with a face to the future become the ambassador of Christ we are meant to be.  And let justice ring throughout the land!

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Wrong

February 15, 2016


Psalm 7

“O Lord my God, if I have done this, if there is wrong in my hands, if I have repaid my friend with evil or plundered my enemy without cause, let the enemy pursue my soul and overtake it, and let him trample my life to the ground and lay my glory in the dust.  Selah.”  Ps. 7:3-5

This is not the beginning of the Psalm because David, at the beginning, has gone to the Lord as refuge to save him from his pursuers.  He then immediately shifts to the quoted verses, telling God that if he guilty, if he has committed wrong, then God should let them win and “trample” his life “to the ground.”

Seems sort of bold, doesn’t it?  After all, haven’t we all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God?  Are we willing to go before the Lord and say, Lord, “if there is wrong in me then let my enemies crush me?”  Actually, if you are like me, you probably pray the exact opposite – “Even though there is wrong in me, O Lord, save me anyway!”

So what “wrong” is David referring to?  Before you can answer this question, notice the subtle shift in language I took when I moved from “what wrong have I done” to “I am sinful and fall short.”  That shift was deliberate, to draw us into thinking about being “wrong” in general (sinful, fallen short) to being “wrong” in the specific (did I really steal those cookies?).

It is obvious the way this Psalm begins that David has been attacked in a very specific way and he has come to the Lord saying, “Lord, if I have behaved the same specific way, then let them win … otherwise, let me win.”

Was it wrong of David to say that?  I think not.  We are often attacked for what we have said and done.  Sometimes what the attacker says is true and sometimes it is not true.  When it is not true, what is wrong with going to God and saying to Him – “God, search my heart.  I have done nothing wrong here, but if I have, judge me for that.”  Now, before you say it, it is probably a good idea that you have examined yourself to see if it is true, because if it is you do not want to invite the Lord’s punishment upon you for doing it, but if the accusation is false, isn’t it entirely appropriate to go to God and say just that!  “I did not steal.  I did not slander.  I did not murder.  [on that occasion]”

Some might say that, out of spirit of love, of meekness, of tenderness, of charity, that we should admit to fault where there is none, retreat from the battlefield when there is no reason, all on the general grounds that we know we are generally wrong (all fall short) anyway, so why not move on down the road?

I suggest to you that we can’t and call ourselves worthy of the kingdom.  Why?  Because there is a difference between right and wrong and the man (and woman) of integrity stands fast in the evil day and calls balls and strikes even though the world may say they have no “right” to.  Jesus tells us to consider the log in our own eye before we judge others, but He does not say that we cannot call evil when it occurs, we cannot call a theft when it occurs, we cannot call an unjust accusation when it occurs.   Instead, Jesus actually has a warning for Christians who would refuse to call balls and strikes by His criticism of the Pharisees – “But woe to you Pharisees!  For you tithe the mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God.”  Luke 11:42 (see also Matt. 23:23).

There is right and there is wrong, and if we as Christians who know God’s standards, God’s law, do not know the difference, then who would?  And if we know the difference between right and wrong, then why are we in error by calling balls and strikes with a clear eye, first on ourselves and then on others?  And if we have judged ourselves correctly for an alleged wrongful act, then why aren’t we willing to stand before God and say just that …. “Lord, I have done nothing wrong here, but if I have, let my enemies win.”

So, this morning, if you are accused unjustly of having done or said something which you did not do and you know you did not do it, why not go to God and say “Strike my enemies to the ground for their slander of me.  And if what they accuse me of is true, then strike me down.”  If you do not, do you not trust God to do right?  If you do not, do you not trust yourself to clearly examine yourself, to know right from wrong?

If the answer to either question is “yes,” then you now know what your prayer should be.  “Lord, grant me faith.”  “Lord, grant me wisdom.”

And once you receive both faith and wisdom, then stand up and count those balls and strikes.  Justice awaits your willingness to do so.

_________

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Peniel

February 21, 2014


Readings for Friday, February 21, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 32:22-33:17; 1 Jn. 3:1-10; John 10:31-42; Psalms 102,107:1-32

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“Peniel” means “the face of God” (ESV Study Notes). In our reading today from Genesis, it is the place named by Jacob (Israel) after he had wrestled with God, because he said “For I have seen God face to face and yet my life has been delivered.” Gen. 32:30

Have you seen the face of God at your Peniel? I’ll bet you have.

I am always fascinated by what the Anglican Church in its Book of Common Prayer daily readings chooses to leave out. Today, the lesson includes Psalm 107:1-32, but what about verses 33 through 43. There are not that many of them. So why leave them out?

I don’t know exactly, but I can guess because they are somewhat confusing, particularly if you consider God “warm and fuzzy.” In rearranged order, so that the context can be properly set, they say:

“Whoever is wise, …; let them consider the steadfast love of the Lord.” Ps. 107:43

“He [God] turns the rivers into a desert…a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants.” Ps. 107:33-34

“…He raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, …” Ps. 107:41-42

The “steadfast love of the Lord” evidences itself in judgment and in mercy. Those who rely on themselves will ultimately find themselves being judged. Those who rely upon Christ’s work on the cross will find themselves being bathed in mercy. This is not meanness in action, it is love in action.

The fact is that we wrestle with God all the time. When we ignore Him, we fight against the proofs of His existence which surround us everywhere. When we embrace Him, we fight with Him to let us into the kingdom of God on our terms. When we are saved by Him, we fight with Him about what we will do today, and tomorrow. When we are told by Him what to do, we wrestle with Him on interpretation.

The truth is that we wrestle with God all the time. Our Peniel is our inner soul, our home, our job, our club, our political party, our country.

We confront the face of God all of the time and, quite frankly, we rise to the occasion by arguing rather than listening, by doing rather than by being, by being angry instead of being joyful.

Consider the steadfast love of the Lord, that He does not strike us down when we see His face and when we dare to wrestle with Him, that He takes our sinful nature and by His grace alone brings us from death to life.

Consider why, at your Peniel, when you confronted God face to face, He let you live. Consider the steadfast love of God toward us.

And be thankful.

________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Selfishness

May 17, 2013


Readings for Friday, May 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 34:17-31; Heb. 8; Luke 10:38-42; Psalms 102,107

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There is a passage from Ezekiel today that I do not remember reading before, but which drives home our need as Christians to be very, very careful about the degree to which we abuse the blessings God has given us. The passage is:

Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep…Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?…Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep…” Ezek. 34:17-18,20

Since every Christian chosen by God for salvation is one of God’s sheep, feasting upon God’s pasture and water, representing His many blessings in our lives, we need to ask ourselves a serious question – are we one of the “fat” sheep or one of the “lean” sheep?

Since everyone I am writing to (I think) are Americans, one easy answer would be to say that we are all fat sheep, because even in the midst of our poverty we are wealthy beyond many in the world. However, we cannot get away with easy answers to this personal question.

We may be wealthy, but where did our wealth come from? Did it come as a natural blessing from God or did it come from our efforts to crowd out the weaker as we trampled the pasture and muddied the waters? Have we become fat on the back of others? In other words, are we selfish?

I would like to say that I have not done these things, but then I would be a liar, compounding the sin. Let me give you an easy example – who among us, seeing a beggar in the road, have passed by them brusquely on the way to an important meeting, where we can close the “deal?” How many of us have held onto our money, afraid that it will disappear, when we know someone out of a job, suffering grave and expensive illness, or just plain needing a helping hand monetarily?

Forget money for a moment. How many of us have spent a few hours this week doing something for someone else who we know can never return the favor? After all, time to the busy person time may even be more valuable than money. So, we may give money away generously so that we can be conservative in our expenditure of our, more valuable, time. See, being fat isn’t just about collecting money.

What about power. Who among us has taken an opportunity which would advance our position and, instead, given it to someone who needs help up the corporate ladder? Who has resigned from a position of power so that someone else who needs it more gets it?

Money, time, power, position – who reading this has not acted like a fat sheep, trampling the pasture and muddying the water, to advance their agenda?

God is going to judge between sheep and sheep. When He asks me whether I have been a fat sheep or a lean sheep, I have to say that I fall on the fat side of the ledger. Lucky for me that, as our reading from Hebrews today emphasizes, I have a great high priest in Jesus Christ who will intercede for me, argue my case before the judge, and win the case because of the cross. I will be saved but I will also be judged, probably as a fat sheep. But I will also have a lot of friends joining me.

So, it is obvious that I need to work on my diet. But how? I can’t. That is why it is a work of God. I can’t but He can. And, thank God, He is.

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© 2013 GBF

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