Bread – Knowledge

February 22, 2017


Psalm 53

Have those who work evil no knowledge, who …do not call upon God?”  Ps. 53:4

The NASB translations says it this way, “Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge…?”  I like the “workers of wickedness” because it rhymes.  But “work evil” has the same meaning.

This one line is full of more meaning than we can imagine.

First, what is wickedness?  Well, it turns out that there are 12 Hebrew words which stand for various kinds and demonstrations of sin, sin being multi-faceted and everywhere.  The word used here for “wickedness” is one of the major Hebrew words for sin, often translated “iniquity.”  According to the lexical aid to the Old Testament contained within the  Hebrew-Greek Key Word Study Bible (NASB, Zhodiates, Ed., AMG Publishers 1990), the word means “vanity, breath, vainness, nothingness, falseness, falsehood, idol, idolatry, wickedness, sin, sorrow, distress, hardship, toil – there are two aspects to the primary meaning of the word: (a) emphasis upon trouble which moves onward to wickedness; (b) emptiness which results in idolatry…The word focuses on the planning and expression of deception, pointing more to the consequences of sin.”

To summarize this definition, it seems like the wickedness which is being talked about is the kind of action which occurs (a) from emptiness, (b) which causes a chasing after idols, (c) which works a deception, (d) which results in turmoil and sorrow, (e) which results in an outworking of evil in the world.  Isn’t it interesting that the word “wickedness” has as its foundation an emptiness which can only be filled with God, and yet the person has “no knowledge” because they do not call upon God in their distress.

So, now that we have looked at what “wickedness” is, what is the “knowledge” which they apparently do not have?

Well, it turns out that the kind of knowledge which is being referenced is “…the various types of knowledge which are gained through the senses.”  [Hebrew-Greek Study Bible].

Since our senses are sight, sound, touch, and smell, one might say that the knowledge being referenced is that knowledge which we can discover for ourselves, what we can observe.  One might call this scientific knowledge or demonstrable knowledge.  It is what we learn in books.  So, in a sense, the question is “Have the workers of wickedness no knowledge of science…?”  This sounds odd because, in today’s world, the knowledge of science is equated with the understanding that there is no God, no creation.  However, the existence of God is proclaimed by what is observable in science, if we have but eyes to see and ears to hear.

But the Hebrew word used as “knowledge” here can also refer to the knowledge which comes from relationship.  This same word is used for sexual encounters, rape, homosexuality, and relationship to God and idols.  This relationship, however, arises from knowledge which arises from the senses.  It arises from what we can observe.

Another way of asking this same question, as is asked in our reading of Psalm 53, is this – “Have those who work evil no knowledge of God’s creation, of His presence, of His reality?”  And the short answer is that they do have knowledge (from the senses, of the existence of God as seen through His revelation of Himself in creation), but it is useless to them because their eyes have not been opened by the sovereign act of God.

So, in a sense this is a trick question.  We who do evil have knowledge without knowing, we have discernment without wisdom, we have relationships without connection … why, because for whatever reason God has not revealed Himself to us.  Those who work evil see creation but they do not see the Creator because it is God who provides the link between the two.  Everything is apparent to those who do evil, but they do not understand what they see.

When we ate of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we became like God in our own understanding but we did not become God.  Our knowledge from the senses falls short; it is the supernatural knowledge provided by God in His sovereign time and way which provides us the link between our physical reality and our spiritual reality.

And so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit and open the eyes of those who cannot see so that they knowledge they have naturally will be enhanced with the knowledge they receive supernaturally so that they will have knowledge of You and will have the ability and desire to call upon You and know You.  Amen.”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – They

February 20, 2017


Psalm 53

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’  They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.”  Ps. 53:1

Who is “they?”  There is an inclination to say that it is those people who are “fools,” but the reference may in fact be to everyone.  Later, in the same Psalm, God looks down on the “children of man” and says, again, “there is none who does good, not even one.”

 

But even if we limit the reference of “they” to “fools,” the real question then is “who are the fools?” and “Am I a fool too?”

A “fool” in biblical terms is a person who says in his heart, “There is no God.”  Of course we, as Christians, would look at this and say that “we know there is a God; therefore, we are not a fool.”  But not so fast.

We can acknowledge there is a God with our mind and even have accepted Him as Lord and Savior in our hearts and souls, and yet think and act on a daily basis as if there is no God.  Do I do that?  Do we do that?  Have I acknowledged God with my lips and by baptism and by attendance at worship, and yet act throughout the entire day like He doesn’t exist?

Of course I do, and so I will bet do you.   Let me ask some simple questions.

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, as something that we do minute by minute as we disobey the commands of Christ to love each other and love our neighbors as ourselves?

Do I (we) see sin as it really is, in all of its forms, mild and strong, as an absolute affront to a holy God?

Do I (we) blow off sin in our lives as something which is minor, or inconsequential, or, worse, forgiven and therefore acceptable or necessary?

Do I (we) encourage sin in others, ignoring the consequences of bringing others into ruin?

Do I (we) consider sin a mere weakness in the circumstances or imperfection which can be worked out by better education, better food, a better environment, better schools, or just the best of what the world has to offer?

Do I (we) pay more attention to what is in front of us or beneath us rather than above us?

Do I (we) believe that television is important or the news or our bank account or the car we drive or the job we have or the college degrees on our wall?

Do I (we) spend more time pursuing excellence or the treasure at the end of the rainbow or more knowledge than building relationships with our neighbors, with our family, and with God?

There are more questions, but I think I (we) get the drift.  We may not be total fools because we have put our faith in Jesus Christ, but we may be fools nonetheless because, although we know who our Savior is, we often think and act like God does not exist.

Every time we minimize God in our lives by ignoring Him and His commands, we are saying in our heart, in that moment, that God does not exist.

The “they” is me and the “they” is us.  Even though we know the truth and have exclaimed the truth, we do not live in the truth.  But, thanks be to God, while we are weak, He is strong.  While we are the “fool,” He is the fool-redeemer.  While we forget Him, He does not forget us.  When we forget who He is and what He has done, He calls us to remember and to restoration to Him.

It is sort of funny that the world would call us believers “fools” for our belief.  They are right, but not in the way they think.  For we are all fools, fallen short of the glory of God.  For we are all fools, demonstrating this daily as we walk in the ways of the world rather than in the ways of God.  But, as the redeemed, we are a special kind of fool, one who has been transformed in our minds enough to know that sin is sin, that sin results in death, that we are sinners saved by God’s mercy and purchased by blood on the cross by Christ, and that every day, as we walk in faith into the opportunities which God creates, we are growing and maturing toward that day when we will be made perfect.

And that makes all the difference.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Ignore

November 4, 2016


Psalm 39

“For I am a sojourner with You, a guest, like all my fathers.  Look away from me, that I may smile again, before I depart and am no more!” Ps. 39:12b-13

David ends this Psalm with a request to God – “Leave me alone!”

Aren’t we a strange bunch of people?  We like the peace of God, but we do not like the yoke of God.  We like God to be around when He is friendly, but we do not like Him around when He is judging.  We like the freedom of God, but not His commands.  We like God’s mercy, but not His chastisement.

If there are going to be rules, we want to make them…not have to follow them.

There were three tee-shirts I saw the other day.  One said, “I am the oldest child.  I make the rules.”  The second said “I am the middle child.  I am the reason there are rules.”  The third said “I am the youngest child.  The rules do not apply to me.”

All three are about children making the rules, causing the rules, and ignoring the rules.  But what happens when we become of age as Christians, when we become adults, when we eat meat and not just milk, we come to realize that God makes the rules and we ignore them at our peril.

But perhaps David wanted to become a child again for a moment.  Lord, go away and take Your rules and Your love with you “that I may smile again.”

Smile at what?  Reveling in sin?  Wallowing in our own selfishness?  Idly wasting our time on the foolishness of the world.

We may very well be like David and want to push God away, but we are unwise to do so.

Why would David do this?  Perhaps the answer is in the preceding sentence – “For I am a sojourner…”

With God we are sojourners in the world.  We are in the world, but we are not of the world.  We wander through the world pursuing the path God has laid out for us, but there is no place for us to rest in the world, only in the arms of God.  The world despises and distrusts the sojourner because he or she is not a citizen of the place they are, but of the place where they are going.  The world despised Jesus; why should it behave any differently because of us.

There is a real danger for us in the world as sojourners, and that is that we want to belong.  We want to be part of the world.  We want to enjoy worldly things and have the company and approval of worldly people.  As long as God is around, He reminds us that we are His citizens and not the world’s.  He reminds us that we are to behave differently than the world, seeking His glory and not our own or the glory of other people.  He reminds us to aggregate the wealth of heaven and not the wealth of the world.

In other words, He reminds us that we do not ultimately belong where we are.  And sometimes we want to belong where we are … and so we tell the Lord “Go away!”

But although we may behave like the Lord has obeyed us and left, He has not.  Oh He may let us go for a period, following our own foolish ways, but sooner or later He will appear on scene again, reminding us of who we are and whose we are.

So David says and we say “Look away from me, that I may smile again…”  And the Lord, to His children, responds “No.”

And we will smile again, not because the Lord has ignored us like we asked, but because He has not.

But God has ignored something.  He has ignored our request that He ignore us.  He has ignored our sins and instead gone to the cross to die for our sins.  He has ignored His just wrath which we deserve and has replaced it with love and mercy which we do not deserve.

Ignore that at your peril.

_________

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

 

Bread – Wisdom

August 28, 2015


Readings for Thursday, August 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 3:16-28; Acts 27:27-44; Mark 14:12-26; Psalm 18

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What is wisdom? I am sure there is a Biblical definition, but let me give you mine – Wisdom is knowing what to do in spite of the observable facts.

We make decisions all the time “on the ground,” based upon the facts we observe and are told about. But we know in our hearts that those decisions may in fact be wrong. Those decisions may be based on apparent evidence which is not real; those decisions may make assumptions about how things work when they aren’t working that way; those decisions may not take into account all of the consequences of action; those decisions may be more an expression of my sin than my factual observations. We know that sometimes the best decision is no decision at all – but the fear of making a decision can paralyze us into disaster.

We actually have a couple of good examples of wisdom in our readings today from Scripture.

In the first, Solomon is confronted with the decision over which mother is the real mother of the live baby. This is a part if history which I think everyone knows, whether or not they are a Christian. Solomon is confronted with two claiming mothers and one baby and is asked to decide who it belongs to. Rather than decide the case by the facts in front of him, which could have included comparing the features of the baby to each of the mothers, which would have been a “logical” decision-making process, Solomon upsets the table by declaring he will cut the baby in two, thereby treating each woman equally. By doing so, he exposes the underlying human behavior of a real mother, who would rather see her child lost to another woman than to see her baby killed. Seeing how the women react to the decree, he now knows who the true mother is and decides rightly. This is wisdom. In spite of the facts on the ground and in spite of the normal way the world would deal with the problem (by comparing the baby to the mothers or by conducting a DNA test), Solomon acts to reveal the human hearts involved and in so doing reveals the truth. No one who loves life would divide the baby and yet Solomon, in his wisdom, knew that that was the right action to take. How did he know? “The wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” 1 Kings 3:28

In Acts, we have Paul and somewhere around 76 to 276 people in a boat in the Adriatic Sea, ready to founder. The facts on the ground are that the boat is being driven by the wind into a bad place, the sailors know it, and the sailors are ready to run to the lifeboat. The soldiers cut away the lifeboat because Paul tells them that they will not be saved unless the sailors stay on the boat. Later, the boat is shipwrecked. Normally, the decision would be made to lighten the boat by throwing everything overboard but keep the food because it might a long time on a deserted island. Because there were a lot of prisoners, who were at the bottom of the food chain, the weight thrown overboard might have included the prisoners. However, Paul knew what to do in spite of the facts and in spite of common sense. He instructs everyone to eat up, even though rations were short, and then throw the wheat overboard. Everyone ends up surviving the shipwreck. How did Paul get the wisdom to stay on board, eat the food and throw the rest away, and not kill anyone? Although our reading never says explicitly, there is a passage which suggests the answer – “And when he [Paul] had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” Acts 27:35 Paul knew where all things come, including his wisdom, and he gave thanks.

As Christians in America, we will be required to stand in oncoming evil day. The facts on the ground may suggest that we give in, give up, or maybe even counter-attack. These would be logicial decisions to make based upon the obvious facts of imprisonment, death, ridicule, and loss of position, wealth, and power. We may be in the midst of a storm such as we have never experienced, soaked to the bone with the prejudice of a world which hates Christ. At this time, we do not need to make decisions based upon logic or what we think may exist, we need to ground our decisions, our thoughts, and our speech (actions) on wisdom, on the knowledge of what to say and do in spite of the obvious facts.

And where will we get this wisdom? From the only One who has it in the first place. At that time, we will need to say “Come, Holy Spirit and fill our minds with Your wisdom,” we will need to act on the wisdom which God gives us at the time, and we will then need to follow in Paul’s and Jesus’ footsteps, break bread in remembrance of Him, and be thankful.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Learning

February 13, 2015


Readings for Friday, February 13, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 61:1-9; 2 Tim. 3:1-17; Mark 10:32-45; Psalms 88,91,92

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It is Friday the 13th and according to superstitious people, not a good day.

And yet in today’s readings there is a whole lot of “learning” to do which, quite frankly, I cannot even begin to cover even with broad strokes. I urge you, therefore, particularly today to read the readings. In Isaiah, we read of the Messiah beginning with these words – “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor…to proclaim liberty to the captives…” Isa. 61:1 In 2 Timothy we read about the comparison of God’s kingdom to the world’s, and in Mark we read Jesus’ statements about his death and resurrection and his urging to His disciples to be servants and slaves of all. Each one in itself a powerful reading and each one in itself thought-provoking, about where we are and what we are doing and whose we are.

But in all this beauty, vision, and truth something popped to the surface – “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty…Avoid such people. For among them are those … always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth….so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith.” 2 Tim. 3:1,5b,7-8.

“Always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth…”

How that describes many people! How many people do we know who read magazines, newspapers, and books voraciously, who embrace all of the arts and the sciences, who have finely honed their rational thought, who can talk until the cows come home about politics, economics, the physical and biological sciences, mathematics, history, and other “learning” and yet have never been able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth?

How many people do we know that fill their entire day filling their brain with streaming data from the Internet, from their text messages, from their “selfie” photographs, from Facebook, Twitter, and a stream of consciousness wrapped up in miniature sound bites, having the appearance of information, analysis, and wisdom … and containing no wisdom, no information, no analysis, and little if any thought. This is today’s “learning.” Compared to yesterday’s form of “learning,” today’s may seem empty and vacuous, but Paul in writing to Timothy is telling him that the same is true of traditional “learning.” Thoughtfulness and the highest form of rationality does not equate to the truth, and we may well fill our heads with worldly wisdom and yet totally miss the point; we may describe all the trees is exquisite detail and miss the forest; we may believe that the room we live in is all there is, and miss the door to the outside, where there is much, much more than we will ever comprehend in ourselves.

Maybe if our learning is defective it is because our sources are defective. If we learn in short bursts of words delivered to our computer screen, do we believe, really believe, that the source is reliable? If we learn from ourselves, is the source reliable? If we learn through what others have observed, is the source reliable? If our “science” involves nothing but us – our observations, our calculations, our logic, our thoughts, our reasoning, our analysis, our conclusions – is the source reliable?

Our reading today from 2 Timothy, while telling us to avoid people who are “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth,” also tells us a good source to go to, to help us arrive at a knowledge of the truth. It is God’s Word, Scripture. “But as for you, continue … with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.” 2 Tim. 3:14-17

There are those who would say that Paul’s words to Timothy are a Friday the 13th trick. They would say that those who believe Paul, who believe that Scripture is God’s revealed Word, is a chasing after learning leading down a blind alley, never arriving at a knowledge of the truth.

Maybe this is where faith comes in, but maybe to evaluate this challenge we can also consider outcomes. While man’s learning has brought us better and better tools, what has it done to solve our “sin” nature? It is our learning from God’s Word which leads us to Christ and to that solution.

The real Friday the 13th trick is contained in man’s “learning,” that somehow the scientific description of the heavens someone leads us any closer to heaven, that somehow the rational creation of a new tool (the Internet comes to mind) somehow leads us to more righteous use of that tool, that somehow a better understanding of the “Id” and the “Ego” leads us to release from the imprisonment to our own lusts, our own sinfulness.

It is true that there is much learning which does not lead to the truth, but there is some learning which does. The question is where does this “learning” come from. If it comes from man, “beware!” If it comes from God, “embrace!”

Just that simple, and just that hard.

Today, are you “learning?” If so, what? If so, from where? If so, from whom?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Spirits

December 22, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Rules

October 29, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, October 29, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 12:1-6; Luke 11:37-52; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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In our reading today from Luke, Jesus has something to say to the Pharisees and then he turns His attention to the lawyers – “And He said, ‘Woe to you lawyers also! For you load people with burdens hard to bear…Woe to you lawyers! For you have taken away the key to knowledge. You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering.’” Luke 11:46,52

Now some might think it is time for a lawyer joke, but it is not.

Lawyers are very knowledgeable about the rules and our ethics and training orient us to obedience to the rules. The rules (the law) are everything – if you get the rules right and your opponent does not, you often win. Why follow the rules? Because that way you can be winners (the right way).

“If we just follow the rules we can be winners” is almost hard-wired into everyone’s minds (except criminals and sociopaths). So, why is Jesus saying “woe “ to the lawyers.

I think the key to understanding Jesus’ anger is locked up in the phrase “For you have taken away the key to knowledge.” What is that key?

To answer that question we first have to ask about the kind of knowledge being spoken of. We tend to think of knowledge as “book learning,” something we get in school, something we get through reading and studying. However, knowledge also comes from experience. When we experience someone crying, we gain knowledge about pain. We gain knowledge by direct experience (having pain ourselves) and vicarious or indirect knowledge, through experiencing the life of someone else. When we read about it, it is book knowledge. When we see it, it is experiential knowledge.

The Greek word used for “knowledge” in the Luke passage is the word for experiential knowledge.

So, to paraphrase Jesus, “Woe to you lawyers because you have taken away the key to experiential knowledge.”

What is the key to experiential knowledge? Experience – doing things, being in relationship, seeing and hearing and touching. Whereas book knowledge touches the brain and may sometimes penetrate to the heart, experiential knowledge touches the heart and may penetrate to the brain.

We do not learn about humility by reading a book, but by experiencing the negative effect our pride has on our world around us. We do not learn about charity by reading a book, but by giving generously of what we have and by receiving generously of what other people give. We do not learn about love by reading a book, but by loving and by letting ourselves be loved. We do not understand a sunset by reading about a sunset but by experiencing a sunset.

This discussion is not intended to say that experience is the only thing that matters because it is not. God’s revelation to us is also contained in His Word written, Holy Scripture, and our desire to be obedient to our Savior and Master should drive us to reading, digesting, discussing, and meditating upon His Word written.

However, Christianity is not and never has been about head knowledge. It is about facts, yes. Our Lord was born, grew up, preached, died, was resurrected, and ascended. And we know from Scripture that He will come again. The past are facts. The future is hope based upon faith, facts, and God.

But “knowledge” in Christianity is experiential. We love God because He first loved us. We love Jesus not only because of the historical facts but because of the reality of the relationship with Him in our lives.

We are saved not because we have followed the rules, because as sinful people we cannot follow the rules (we can and should try; but we cannot ever be 100% perfect). We are saved because Jesus wrote our name in His book, because He raised us up from being dead in our sins, because the Holy Spirit has come to empower us for daily living.

There is a funny thing about Scripture, and that is that is both book knowledge (I read it) and experiential knowledge (as I read it, the Holy Spirit lets us “see” how it applies in our lives, resulting in changed behaviors).

If all we are doing is following the rules, if all we are doing is reading Scripture as a novel or for further rules about how we are to live our lives, we may be a lawyer. What is worse, if we are teaching others, leading others, serving as an example to others, we may in our earnestness as lawyers be taking away the key to knowledge.

The key to knowledge, experiential knowledge, is not in the rules … it is in Jesus. To obtain that knowledge, we must have a relationship with Him.

How does that occur? Not by following any set of rules or rituals or magic words or actions. It comes from a turning of the heart away from ourselves toward the Creator of the Universe and having faith in Him.

It is that simple and that hard. And isn’t that the nature of the two types of knowledge. The knowledge from books is complex but can be mastered. The knowledge from experience is simple but hard to do (and really can never be mastered). A book can be read in isolation. Experience requires you and someone or something else. Books are clean; experience is messy. There is safety in rules; there is danger in change. Reading a book only requires trust in me; living an experience requires trust in others.

This is why lawyers can take away the key to knowledge. We can create rules which create boundaries of safety, clarity, certainty, and predictability. And living within those structures will deny you the knowledge from experience you need for true success. For that, you have to step out into the unknown, into faith. But that is where life is. That is where hope is. That is where Jesus is. That is where eternal life with the Father is.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Unknown

October 27, 2014


Readings for Monday, October 27, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 11:1-14; Luke 11:14-26; Psalms 41,44,52

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Sometimes calamity falls upon us and we know not why. Oh, we know we sin, sometimes grievously, despite our best efforts and despite our desire to please God. And we know that our worship is not what it could be or should be, given our rescue by Jesus from eternal death. But, we have Jesus Christ as our Savior, and for that reason alone we know that we are accepted by God the Father, in spite of the filthy rags of our sin. So, why does calamity befall us? Is it because He is displeased, because we have done something wrong, because the rituals have not been properly performed, because we don’t have an “attitude of gratitude.”

Our reading from Psalm 44 today addresses this question. An excerpt: “O God, we have heard with our ears…what deeds You performed in their days…You are my King, O God;…for not in my bow do I trust, nor can my sword save me. But You have saved us from our foes…we will give thanks to Your name forever. But You have rejected us and disgraced us…You have made us like sheep for slaughter…All this has come upon us , though we have not forgotten You, and we have not been false to Your covenant. .. Awake! Why are You sleeping, O Lord?…Why do You hide Your face? … Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of Your steadfast love!” Ps. 44:1-26

Psalm 44 reports that they were doing everything right – they remembered God, they followed God, they honored God, they listened to God, they gave thanks to God, they trusted in God rather than themselves. And, in spite of all this, calamity falls upon them and they know not why. The Psalm ends with a please, “Rise up; come to our help!” And yet there is no evidence in this Psalm that help ever came.

From our childhood, we remember asking questions of our parents and finally eliciting from them the answer to end all questions – “because.”

Calamity befalls us and we pray to God, “why, why, why.” And there is no answer, there is no response. There is silence. At this time, we must either conclude that God is remote, is gone, does not care, or conclude that He has His purposes which are unknown to us because we are not Him. In the first instance, we demand to be God and to know what is going on. In the second instance, knowing that we are not God, we must increase our faith, because there is no rational reason upon which we may stand. And who knows, maybe increasing our faith is the whole point.

But we do know this – we are not in the same boat as the Psalmist. He ends Psalm 44 with this plea: “Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!” Ps. 44:26b

We do not need to end our prayers this way because Jesus has redeemed us by His death on the cross; He has paid the price we could not pay for our sins. Jesus was sent to earth by God the Father out of His steadfast love for us, redeeming us with His life. So we do not need to ask God to redeem us from our circumstances because, for those whose faith is in Jesus Christ, we have been redeemed for eternity.

We have been redeemed from certain death into certain life, not because of who we are but because of who He is.

The Psalmist wanted to be redeemed from his dire circumstances, from all of the calamities which had befallen him and the nation Israel. In spite of the calamities which fall upon us, from war to sickness to poverty to homelessness to pain and loss, we have been brought out of the calamity of life and placed in the kingdom of God.

There are really two unknowns here. The first is why we can believe, worship, act, and speak from the best motives and hard things, calamities, still strike us. The second unknown is why God would have such love for us that He has redeemed us, in spite of ourselves. Of course we know the answer … because.

We didn’t like that answer as children and we like it even less as adults. But it is the answer … God knows because He is God; we don’t know because we are not. The unknown of God remains a mystery to us, and it will remain a mystery. However, we know that Jesus was born, died, resurrected from the dead, ascended into heaven. Why? To save His people. Why? Because God loves us. Why? Because.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Exoskeleton

April 2, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, April 2, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 50:15-26; 1 Cor. 12:1-11; Mark 8:11-26; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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Most people will look at the “Bread” word “exoskeleton,” and say “what?” I don’t blame them.

An exoskeleton is a strong suit, typically a type of armor, which is worn outside the body. When you watch a science fiction movie and the little person is inside the giant machine making it do things, that could be considered an exoskeleton. Batman’s suit is a form of an exoskeleton.

If an exoskeleton is tied to robotic technology, it can enhance your actions. For example, instead of lifting 100 lbs regularly, an exoskeleton might enable you to life 2,000 lbs (at least in science fiction movies). Instead of jumping three feet, an exoskeleton might enable you to jump 300 feet. Instead of holding a rock in your hand, an exoskeleton will enable you to crush that rock.

Can’t squeeze water out of a rock? Put on an exoskeleton.

In today’s reading from 1 Corinthians, Paul is describing the Holy Spirit and His gift to us of various spiritual gifts. “To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as He wills.” 1 Cor. 12:7-11.

When I read this, I thought of how we, as mere mortals, are given Holy Spirit powers as He wills for the common good. And then I thought of exoskeletons and how we are essentially given a suit of armor, comprised of our Holy Spirit-given gifts, which we can wear and use. Through our mustard seed of faith, strengthened in the exoskeleton of Holy Spirit faith, we can face death as a martyr by beheading, burning, or drowning. Through our limited desire to help one another, strengthened in the exoskeleton of Holy Spirit healing, we can boldly pray for healing, confident that God hears us and will act in accordance with His will for the object of our prayer. In the necessity of making choices in life, we can take our limited knowledge and wisdom and, putting on the exoskeleton of Holy Spirit wisdom and knowledge, make wise choices which honor God and bless us. What little bit we can do as people is enhanced thousands-fold when we put on the Holy Spirit exoskeleton made by the Holy Spirit for us, which contains the Holy Spirit gifts provided to us for the common good.

In Ephesians, Paul talks about us having to put on the armor of God, which could be the same thing as putting on our exoskeleton.

There is a difference, though, between armor and an exoskeleton. Armor has to be put on and never becomes part of you. An exoskeleton, if worn enough, eventually does become part of you.

If you are a Christian, there is a power suit which has been made for you by the Holy Spirit. Put it on and keep it on. Then, when you wake up every day, you can say “Hey, Holy Spirit, let’s You and I go do some serious work for the kingdom today!” And the wonderful thing is that there isn’t even a power button you have to hit. The power is already on.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread – Wisdom

August 28, 2013


Readings for Wednesday, August 28, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 3:1-15; Acts 27:9-26; Mark 14:1-11; Psalms 12,13,14,119:1-24

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In our reading today from 1 Kings, Solomon is described in three events. The first event is going to Egypt to make a marriage alliance. 1 Kings 3:1. The second event (series of events) is sacrificing to God at multiple “high places.” 1 Kings 3:3. The third event is where Solomon asks God for wisdom, for “an understanding mind to govern Your people, that I may discern between good and evil…,” which God then gives him. 1 Kings 3:9-12.

These events really describe three different “sources” of wisdom which Solomon exercises, and these events are therefore instructive for us regarding how we obtain wisdom and the results of how we obtain it.

The first event describes the wisdom of the person, whether it arises from reason, education, experience, or “out of thin air.” This is a form of worldly wisdom, one which is tied to the exaltation of self over community and God. For whatever reason, Solomon believes that it is a good idea for him to create a marriage relationship with Egypt. Egypt was a powerful country, in terms of economy, culture, and military. One way to obtain peace with such countries was to create family alliances, the primary one being through inter-marriage. From Solomon’s personal perspective, marrying Egyptian royalty is great “common sense” wisdom. However, it is wisdom which opposes God because God has told the Hebrews not to create close ties to Egypt (Deut. 7:16 warns against “returning to Egypt”) and not to intermarry with foreigners, because they will lead the nation (and Solomon) to worship other gods (Deut. 7:4). God’s wisdom, contained in His revelation to man (Scripture) is rejected in favor of Solomon’s personal wisdom about what he should and should not do. Although this first type of wisdom has the appearance of wisdom, it is not.

The second event describes the wisdom of the community, of society, whether it arises from social custom, mores, standards, culture, or whatever. This is a form of wordly wisdom, one which is tied to the self being subject to the community and neither being subject to God. Here, Solomon is worshiping God in the “high places.” These were not necessarily “high” places (on mountains), but were public places set aside for worship, sometimes of whatever “god” the people wanted to worship there. These were not places designated by God for His worship (remember that He was present in the “tent of meeting” and, later, the temple), but were places created by the community. The community wisdom was that these “high places” were appropriate places for worship of God, but here again the law of God (Deuteronomy 12) describes the one place. 1 Kings describes that Solomon worshiped particularly at Gibeon, because that was the “great high place,” but there is no designation by God of Gibeon as that place. Yes, a miracle occurred at that place (see Joshua 10:12), but it was still a place designated by the people for the people, not by God. Again, although the wisdom of the community may have the appearance of wisdom, it is not when it is contrary to God standards.

The third event represents Godly wisdom, given to Solomon because he asked for it. It is the ability to discern right from wrong, good from evil, truth from untruth. It does not come from education or experience, but as a gift of God. In this sense, it is supernatural, because it does not come from us, either alone or in the aggregate as community, but from God. Its beginning is in the fear (awe) of God, recognizing Him as God. Prov. 15:33.

Good, better, best. Self-wisdom is better than none. Community-wisdom may be better than self. But the only true wisdom, true discernment, is a gift of God.

So the question for each of us is, “Where do we get our wisdom from?” Is it from books, observation, what people tell us, or what God tells us?

If you think about it, we get our wisdom from whom we obey. If we obey ourselves, we get wisdom from ourselves. If we obey what people around us want, we get wisdom from them. If we obey God, we get wisdom from God.

So maybe the question for each of us today is “Who do we obey?” And the answer to that question may well lie in the answer to the first – where do we get our wisdom from?

We say we are followers of Christ. Do we really, really get our wisdom from God? If not, are we really followers of Christ?

Tough questions, requiring wisdom to answer. Now, what well of wisdom will we drink from to answer them?

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© 2013 GBF

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