Bread – Idols

September 6, 2017

Psalm 81

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!  There shall be no strange god among you; you shall not bow down to a foreign god.”  Ps. 81:8b-9

What got me thinking about idols this morning was actually not the quoted verse above, but actually the title of the Psalm – “…according to the Gittith of Asaph.”

Now there is nothing about idols in this title; really all it is an instruction about how to read or sing the Psalm, the word “Gittith” likely meaning something musical.  However, the oddness of the phrase got me to thinking about how we are always referring to oracles of modernity as authoritative, as if they somehow had something to say worthwhile.  For example, when Tom Cruise speaks, many people listen because, after all, he is a successful actor.

If we are not very, very careful, when we place undue authority in a person or a document, we are lifting that person or document up as an idol as much as if we had a totem in our house surrounded by candles.  When we place the word of the preacher over the Word of God, we are raising up an idol.  When we place the Declaration of Independence over the Word of God, we are raising up an idol.

And this is what strikes me about our reading today.  One way to read this is to think of two complete thoughts.  The first is a lament “O Israel, if you would but listen to me!”  The second thought is a command “There shall be no strange god among you…”  And we might be inclined to read it this way because the two sentences are separated by an exclamation mark.

But another way to read it is as a continuous thought – “O Israel, if you would but listen to me there shall be no strange god among you…”  If…then.

If we but listen to God, if we read His Scripture, pray to Him, listen to Him and follow Him, if we worship Him … then our likelihood of following idols is greatly diminished.  But, if we are not engaged in God’s Word, are not testing our thoughts against His thoughts and our actions against His desires for us, if we are not listening to Him, then the chances of us chasing after idols is greatly enhanced.

Are we today preoccupied with listening to our oracles of the day, following the trail of fame, fortune, and futility, ever-engaged in the climb up the ladder?  What idols have we hooked onto?  What idols do we worship?

The answer to the idol problem is not in obeying God’s rules but in listening to Him.

What time have we spent today in listening to God?  How does that compare to the idols we are listening to?


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




Bread – Dark

May 12, 2017

Psalm 63

“My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food, and my mouth will praise You with joyful lips, when I remember You upon my bed, and meditate upon You in the watches of the night.”  Ps. 63:5-6

If I used multi-word descriptions of Bread in the title, this would have been “watches of the night,” but I settled on “dark” because that is close.  One thing you can say about the “watches of the night” is that it is dark…and lonely.  Particularly if you are the only one awake, or are the sentinel on the outpost, or hunched over last minute study or work.

Who among us has not woken up at a terrible time at night, two or three in the morning, either too cold or too hot, too worried or too energized.  Perhaps a “bad dream” has awakened us.  Perhaps our brain has been working on a problem at work on overdrive.  Perhaps we drank a caffeinated beverage too late in the evening, or ate a bowl of ice cream which contained enough for three people.

For whatever reason, however, we are awake in the watches of the night, in the dark, alone and thinking.

What are we thinking about?  For many of us, we are probably thinking about how we can go back to sleep, maybe by reading a boring book or counting sheep.

For David, the Psalmist, though, the time of the dark, when alone in the quiet of the watches of the night, was a perfect time to meditate upon God and with God.

I say meditate “with” God on purpose.  We may actually meditate upon our blessings or, even, upon our sins, and we may think about how grateful we are for our blessings in “this life and in the age to come.”  When we are doing this, we are meditating about ourselves and about God, both of which may be good things.  But is the best thing?  What about meditating with God and letting Him lead our thoughts and our prayers and our self-examination.  Instead of saying to God, “I know how to meditate, I’ll handle it,” what if we said to God, “It is dark and I am alone.  I want You.  Lead me into Your thoughts that they may become mine.”

What would happen when we meditated with God instead of about Him?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into thinking about others instead of ourselves, into places of service rather than places of blessing, into examination of opportunities for being Christ to our neighbor?  Would God’s thoughts and meditations lead us into Scripture in a new way, exposing wisdom which we sorely need for the day and the week and the month and the year?

When we eat at the table which the Lord has prepared for us, our soul is satisfied “as” with a complete meal (“fat and rich food”).

In many older Roman and other liturgical churches, the priest at communion would stand with his back to the congregation, at the communion altar which is a sliver of stone stuck to the wall.  That always struck me as odd growing up, because why would you turn away from the congregation?  In fact, in more “modern” churches, the altar for communion is located where the celebrant can face the congregation.  One day, as an adult, someone told me why and it made all the sense in the world.  The priest, when his back is turned to the audience, preparing communion on the sliver of stone stuck to the wall, is actually standing in front of the congregation which is facing the same way, and the sliver of stone is the edge of the communion table which stretches into eternity, at which the saints sit for meal, for communion, with us.

In the dark, in the watches of the night, when we are alone we are not, for when we meditate with God, when we meditate on Him, we join the generations who have preceded and who will follow in celebration of our eternal relationship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

The way has been prepared.  All we have to do is listen and follow instructions.    After all, we are in the dark.  Why not meditate with God?  Instead of reading a good book, why not read the “best” book?  Instead of going back to sleep, why not enter life?


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







Bread – Silence

May 1, 2017

Psalm 62

For God alone my soul waits in silence; …” Ps. 62:1a

Silence is a rare commodity.  We work all day in the environment of chatter from people and machines.  We spend our evenings in the presence of radio and television, or computer games.  We are interrupted by the chime of e-mails and the ringing of phone calls.  We sleep at night to the sound of “white noise,” which is sound deliberately generated to cancel out other sound.  And when we, perhaps, find a moment alone without the attendance of other people, the Internet, or the television, when we find external silence, we are interrupted by a cacophony of noise emanating from our brains, things like recalling the day’s events, dreaming of tomorrow, and review of “to do” lists.  And even when our mind is silent our soul and emotions may be roiling with worries, concerns, fears, and anxieties.

There are really two times, I think, when our soul lives in silence.

The first time is when we are dead – spiritually.  When we are dead spiritually, our soul is dead too, meaning that there is no noise for it to respond to, no sound, just silence.  At that moment, when we are dead spiritually, our sould waits in silence for only one thing – God alone.  When God speaks to that dead soul, that dead body, we are awakened unto life.

At the time of our death, we are totally dependent upon God and we wait for Him to act to fill us with His Spirit so that we may know Him and love Him.

The second time our soul listens in silence is when we can reach that place where we have become totally dependent upon Him, not just partially dependent.  While we are partially dependent on Him, we are also dependent on ourselves and others, on our world, and as a result our soul cannot be completely silent because it is not at complete rest.  We know we cannot rely on the world or other people, and knowing that, we worry and our soul does not rest.

But when we can bring ourselves to radical dependence upon God, when our soul is silent, it is true then that we wait for God alone.  We can wait in silence in the firm knowledge that God will appear.

In one of the commentaries I read in preparation for this Bread, it emphasized that we do not often rely upon God alone.  We like to say we do, but we do not.

“For God alone my soul waits in silence.”  Lord, help us to achieve such silence that we know You and rely upon You alone.  Amen.


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




Bread – Meditation

January 25, 2017

Psalm 49

Hear this, all peoples!…My mouth shall speak wisdom; the meditation of my heart shall be understanding.”  Ps. 49:1,3

In the introduction to Psalm 49, the herald calls out to the people and tells them that what is coming next out of his mouth is great wisdom.

What is interesting about this is the personal nature of the wisdom.  The wisdom is understanding, and that understanding comes from “meditation of my heart.”

Not the meditation of your heart or the meditation of his or her heart, but the meditation of “my” heart.

A common theme which runs through education is that we receive wisdom or understanding through external sources.  We receive them from books, from songs, from movies, and from the Internet.  When we need to understand something, most of us now reach for that great search engine in the sky, “Google™.”

We fail to separate information or data, which we do get from our surroundings, from wisdom or understanding, which is something which connects to us inside.  Of course, there are many “wisdoms” of the world which we can lock onto, but the wisdom of the Psalmist and the understanding of the Christian is the wisdom of God.

From whence do we get God’s wisdom?  Immediately Scripture comes to mind and some would say direct revelation, or God speaking to us directly.

I would suggest to you, however, that wisdom is not obtained that way.  Information about God (revelation of His character, His purposes, His glory and majesty) come from His Word and direct messages may help illuminate our next step in faith, but these are inputs.

What do we do with those inputs?  The Psalmist, in saying that understanding arises from the “meditation of my heart,” suggests that wisdom comes from thinking deeply about this information and appropriating it into our character (heart) and, therefore, behavior.

We cannot utter wisdom until we are wise; we cannot be wise without engaging in meditation of our hearts, and that is only effective when we are working with the raw material provided to us by God, seen through discerning eyes enabled by the Holy Spirit.

We must process our data to make sense of it, and we cannot guide others until we understand it.  That process does not take place in the head, but in the heart.  That process does not take place by merely thinking about it, but by deeply and carefully processing it.

Perhaps we are weak Christians because we fail to meditate in our hearts the things we have seen and heard, rather than just think in our heads about it.  For us as westerners, it is so easy to just take in the truth of Scripture and let it roll around in our head, analyzing it from every direction, putting it into our systems of thought so that we can intellectually comprehend it.  We call that wisdom and understanding, but it is not because the processing has taken place in the wrong location – it has taken place in the brain and not the heart.  Until we meditate in our hearts the truth we hear, we will not be transformed in our thinking and our acting.  Until we meditate in our hearts the truth that we hear, we will not have wisdom.

This process of meditation does not occur quickly because, being in the heart, it is driven by a different timetable and different processes.  Why pray?  In substantial part, the reason for prayer is to allow us to set time aside for the meditation of the heart, the opportunity for connecting at a base level, at the level of the soul, with our Creator and our Savior.  At that level, we may be unconscious (in our brain) of the changes which are occurring, but they are occurring for sure.

Why do our words have so little power?  Perhaps it is because they come from the knowledge of the brain instead of the meditation of the heart.  Perhaps because they arise from analysis and not wisdom.

Do you want the deeper wisdom this week from God?  Meditate on what God is saying.  Let Spirit (the Holy Spirit) speak to spirit (our spirit).  Let the Word of God dwell on our hearts, where it may penetrate deeply and empower mightily.

And then speak with wisdom into a world which desperately needs it.


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


Bread – Silence

July 13, 2016

Psalm 28

“To You, O Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest, if You be silent to me, I become like those who go down into the pit.”  Ps. 28:1

When we are surrounded by the noise of the day, the honking of horns, the constant drone of televisions, the jabbering of voices … sometimes we say that all we want is silence.  But do we?

A long time ago I participated in a type of spiritual retreat called a “silent” retreat.  Unlike some “silent” retreats, it wasn’t totally silent because we could talk during mealtimes, but it was silent enough.  During the first day or so of that retreat, I thought I would go crazy.  Why?  Because I am used to filling my mind with external sound, living with a perpetual state of noise, which crowds out thinking and reflection.   So, when confronted with silence, I have no inputs whatsoever, except whatever my mind fills up with.

And if you’ve never tried it, go to a place of silence for a while.  Phase 1 is a high level of discomfort, Phase 2 is wondering what you are going to “do” next, and Phase 3 is your mind cluttering your thoughts with all kinds of thoughts, many of which are random and disorganized.

When your mind realizes that it is not getting external noise, it will try to generate noise of its own, which is Phase 3 above.

Most people fear Phase 3, the noise generated by the mind, and so retreat rapidly from silence back to the safe shores of external stimulation.

But there is a place beyond the noise of the mind where the mind becomes ready to listen and to observe.  At that stage, there is no noise coming from outside of you and there is no noise coming from inside of you – there is awareness, readiness, and at attitude of hearing, of listening, and not telling.

And at the stage, if we can get through the discomfort of silence, we are ready to hear.  Hear what?  Maybe it is the sound of a bird singing outside; maybe it is the soft rustle of the wind.  Maybe it is the gentle beat of the ceiling fan.  But, at some point, you are ready to hear the still, small voice of God reaching out to you through your prayers, your readings of His Word, or maybe even direct communication.   And when we hear it, because God is both holy and merciful, that sound strikes us with a combination of fear, wonder, excitement, and peace.

But what if, after a while, that still, small voice ceased for a while?  What if you asked God to speak and He did not, even though you are ready to hear (having readied yourself in silence)?

This is what the Psalmist is talking about.  That dead, spiritual silence when you have silenced the outside world, you have silenced the internal mind, and are ready to hear God – and He does not speak?

What happens then?  There is a tendency to misread this verse and to suggest that David is saying to the Lord that, if God does not speak to him, that he (David) will go down to hell (the pit).  However, what it really says is that “it will be like that.”  That makes sense.  Having been saved by grace, we do not lose our salvation because God is silent, but God’s silence toward us makes us feel like we are abandoned to our doom.

At this time, when God is silent, there are two responses we can make (there is a third response – believing that you are in hell, but we’ll skip that one).  One is to say to God, “well, you had your chance” and then return to the sound and fury of the world.  This is the attitude which says that “God has not spoken and He won’t any time soon.”  The other approach is to say to God, “I will wait in expectation.”  This is the attitude that says “God has not spoken yet but He will.”

The first response lets us return to the safety of noise.  The second response suspends us in the discomfort of silence.  The first response releases us back to the world.  The second response creates a radical dependence upon God – not because He has spoken but because He has promised that He will and because He has left us His Word to comfort and instruct us in the meantime.

Have you ever wondered how some people are always smiling, that nothing ever seems to faze them?  Maybe it is because they do not live in the land of noise, but rest in the heaven of silence.

Silence is a wonderful thing, but only if you are ready to meet God.  Are you?


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



Bread – Pounding

June 10, 2016

Psalm 23

“He leads me beside still waters.”  Ps. 23:2b

Our roof, like so many in North Texas, suffered hail damage and has to be replaced.  The replacement is occurring while I write this, and directly over my head is constant pounding upon the roof.  Pounding, like an oncoming headache type of pounding.

And, so, the Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters, being stirred up by the pounding of replacement and repairs, by the world’s hammering on my ears, body, mind, and soul.

Very distracting, these turbulent waters.  So turbulent, in fact, that I can think of nothing else.

Isn’t this the way we wake up every day?  Oh the pounding may not be as physical and we may turn the pounding of life into the more politically correct “drumbeat” of life, but don’t we wake up every day to the drumbeat of demands, the commands of the agenda, the rigors of dealing with the troubles of life, being pulled this way and that way, hurry up and move along?  Get up, get bathed, get dressed, get ready, get gone?  And when we get to the end of the day, who is not exhausted from all of the things we have had to pack into our day … the meetings, the telephone calls, the e-mails, the text messages, the posts to various Internet applications, the “to do” lists, the animals in the three ring circus of life which don’t behave, the demands of bosses who expect too much and know too little, the pressure for profit, and the self-improvement reading of the day.  And, of course, the daily pounding we take from computers which don’t work and all of the gadgets which are supposed to improve our lives, but need to be daily cared for and fixed!

And here I am, writing another Bread which may add to your daily pounding of things to do.

What is wrong with this picture? Well, it begins with my statement “The Lord has led me today beside turbulent waters.”

The reason is that this statement is both right and wrong.  It is right in the sense that God is sovereign and may well have led me beside noisy waters, but his character, according to the Psalm today, is that He leads me beside still waters, not noisy waters.  His intervention in my life straightens out my crooked path; it does not my path more difficult.  His speaking to me calms my soul; it does not induce pounding headaches.  No, the real author of confusion, pounding, storms, distractions, and busyness is the current prince of the world, Satan.  Satan’s purpose is easy to see.  If he can keep me distracted, then I have no time to walk with God and let Him lead me beside still waters.Sheep need still waters in order to drink.  They will not drink from loud, running, pounding waters.  And they need water to live, just like we do.  The reason God leads His sheep by still waters is so that they can live, so that they can be refreshed, and so that they can be restored.

We know we are sheep.  We know we need to drink deeply of the water of life in order to fully live and not just survive.  We know these things and yet we let the world intrude upon our relationship with God.  We let Satan’s pounding distract us from Godly relationship.  We are so busy trying to grab a swallow from the river of life that we do not let God guide us to the still waters where we can rest in peace, being fully refreshed.

We talk about prayer time all the time, and for many it is another pounding, another slot to fill in an already busy day.  How can I allocate 15 minutes to God when I have to get the kids to school, when I have an important meeting, when I need to finish this memo, when I have to get ready for the exam?

Let’s stop talking about prayer time for a minute and talk instead about still waters.

Do you not want to drink beside still waters.  Let God take you there.  How?  Talk to Him and let Him talk to you … however long it takes.  And when you have finished drinking from the water of life, then let the day begin.  You can look back and call it prayer time if you want, but other names that come to mind are peace time, soul time, refreshment time, living time, and loving time.

And for peace, soul, life, refreshment, living, and loving we should take time.  Walk with God, talk with God, and drink from the still waters of heavens.

And the pounding will go away.


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



Bread – Motions

February 9, 2015

Readings for Monday, February 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 58:1-12; Gal. 6:11-18; Mark 9:30-41; Psalms 77,79,80


We have a saying, “He is going through the motions.” We know what that means. Who “he” is, he is merely following a pattern of life laid out for him; he is not trying, he is not committed to either the task or the end of the task. He is living life shallowly. He likes like he is doing right, but he is not doing right. His heart is not in what he is doing. He is acting to please whoever he feels like needs pleasing. The show is there, but none of the substance.

In our religious activities, there is much which passes for true commitment but which is only show. There are many religious motions we go through, but our heart is not in them. We make much of prayer but we do not pray. We make much of worship and attendance at worship but we do not worship. We make much of trust and faith, but we have little of either.

In today’s readings, we see a lot about going through the motions and discover that God is not impressed. For example, in Isaiah God addresses fasting. “Behold, in the day of your fast you seek your own pleasure…Fasting like yours will not make your voice to be heard on high. Is such the fast that I choose, a day for a person to humble himself? … Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house…?” Isa. 58:3b-7 We can deny ourselves by going through the motions of not eating, hoarding our food until the fast is broken and we can feast. Or we can fast for real, giving away our food so that there is no feast of food, but poverty of food. In the first instance, we have set the conditions for poverty of the spirit because all we have done is delay gratification, not denied it. In the second, although there may be poverty of food there is richness of soul, because we have given away that which we have in reliance upon God’s replenishment. The motions look like the real thing but they are not the real thing. The real thing may not look like much but it has high payoffs.

Similarly, in Mark the disciples are going through the motions of being disciples but are not engaged in the reality of being disciples. The disciples are hanging out around Jesus but they are not engaged with Him. For example, Jesus tells them plainly that He will be killed and will rise again on the third day. However, Mark reports that the disciples “did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask Him.” If the disciples were engaged with Jesus and struggling against their own limits to be with Him, talk with Him, and love Him, they why did they not ask Him what He meant? They did plenty of other times. What about this mystery caused them to go through the motions of discipleship but not the reality? Maybe it was because of the topic – not kingship but death, not the presence of the kingdom but an end to a kingdom, not things that “tickled the ears” but things which were agonizing. We go through the motions when we are not interested in being engaged, either because we are afraid of the outcome or because we are bored or because we just don’t care. Perhaps all this talk about death and resurrection was just too boorish for the disciples, particularly as they selfishly discussed their places in the kingdom and jealously considered others who were preaching in Jesus’ name but who were not listed in their little band of brothers.

As we go through this week, we will have many opportunities to display our Christianity, either in our silent prayer or study, our participation in group discussion, or our opportunity to just talk about church. Perhaps we will even have the opportunity to go to church for some reason during the week. When we do these things, will we just be going through the motions or will we be engaged, enlivened and empowered by our walk with God.

Too often we are going through the motions. Why? To please ourselves? – we typically do not like exercise and we typically do not engage the spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, fasting, meditation, or worship with any particularly zeal. To please others? – do we really find it necessary to act “Christian” to please our friends or family, or do we just think we do? To please God? – God is not pleased with fake prayers, study, fasting, meditation, or worship.

So why go through the motions at all? One might be inclined to say at this point “we don’t” and then quit. However, there is an answer. As we go through the motions in prayer, if we are trying to reach out to God about ourselves, our world, our needs, our hopes, and each other, is the “motion” truly empty? As we take the time to go through a fast, even when we hoard our bread for ourselves, and we are doing the fast because God calls us to lay aside our wealth every so often to focus on Him, is the “motion” truly empty? As we attend church because we “ought to” and not because we “want to,” is the tiniest little piece of worship which ekes through our self-centeredness wasted?

God has redeemed us unto salvation by His sovereign grace? Do we really think He cannot redeem our motions toward Him, no matter how weak or self-centered? Is His hand so short that He cannot take the mustard seed of faith and turn it into a tree of blessing in time?

See, there is a reality to all this which transcends our human understanding. We never should just “go through the motions” but we should also never stop going through the motions.

Perhaps the difference between the two statements is the word “just.” If we are just going through the motions, we are not reaching out to God. But if we intend to reach out to God, then our feeble motions are an offering and a fragrant one at that.

So why are we going through the motions? To please others? To please ourselves? Or to please God? The motions look the same to the observer, but not to God.


© 2015 GBF

Bread – Overextend

September 15, 2014

Readings for Monday, September 15, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 40:1-24; Acts 15:36-16:5; John 11:55-12:8; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65


The word for today is “overextend,” meaning to go over reasonable limits.

When we overextend in our commitments, we have no time to rest and therefore go over the reasonable limits of activity. If we overextend our arms during exercise, we run the risk of torn muscles because we have gone over the reasonable limits of exercise or natural extension capacities of the arm. If we overextend in eating, we gain weight because we have gone over the reasonable limits of daily caloric intake.

It would appear from my examples that any overextension results in some kind of injury to ourselves.

Based upon our experiences, therefore, we create reasonable limits to our activities so that we can avoid the negative consequences of overextension. The problem, though, is setting the definition of what is “reasonable.” What is reasonable with one person may be unreasonable for the next (the exercise which results in more muscle in a person who has exercised may result in a trip to the hospital for someone who has not exercised in a long time). The question of overextension and reasonable limits, therefore, becomes a personal question – what is a reasonable limit for me?

But the problem with making it personal is that we may well err on either being too conservative or too liberal. For example, we need a fitness coach to argue us through our reasonable limit of exercise to set a new limit. If we set the limit for exercise, it would do us no good because it would be too conservative and we would never “stretch” the muscles.

Now the point of all this is to make a point – there are reasonable limits for our action set by man and there are reasonable limits for our actions set by God…and they are not the same.

One might say that the process of growing up in the faith is learning God’s reasonable limits for our lives and then living up to those limits without exceeding them.

In Scripture today, we have two examples of this. The first example is from Job. Now we know Job and all that has happened to him (the loss of position, power, wealth, health, and self-esteem). Job complains to God about his condition. Job has his reasonable limits on his complaining – he can complain to God about anything he wants to, all the time. He can even, according to his limits, complain to God about God Himself, about God’s creation, His unfaithfulness, anger, hatred, pettiness, etc. toward Job. We might well consider Job’s complaining to be justified in the circumstances, asking ourselves “How can a loving God do this?” From our perspective, nothing we say or do by way of critique of God is overextended; our reasonable limits of complaining have no bounds. Except for one thing … God Himself has set the reasonable limits of complaining, pointing out that it is not for man to judge God less man be God himself. We can complain all day long, but we cannot presume to judge God. That is the reasonable limit set by God and any complaining we do which challenges God’s sovereignty, His goodness, His justice, His love, or His power is an overextension which can hurt us.

So Job has overextended God’s limits on complaining (although not his own), and this is what God says to him: “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?…Will you [Job] even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, …?” Job 40:2,8-9

When we do not accept God’s plan for ourselves, be it low or high, poor or rich, we overextend ourselves and, ultimately, hurt ourselves.

The second example is the reverse of Job. Why is it that so few people sing during church services, or if they do sing it is so low that you have to bend an ear toward them to hear them? Embarrassment? A desire not to stand out in the crowd, to blend in? A wish for an “orderly” service? The truth is that many Christians set their reasonable limits for worship, prayer, Bible study, and meditation very conservatively. And we dare not go beyond our own self-set limits. Why? Well we know that, if we overextend ourselves beyond our reasonable limits, we run the definite risk of being injured in our public reputation, the disdainful eyes of those who are important to us, the acknowledgement of our own weakness that we do not have a singing voice, the embarrassment of it all.

And yet, in these matters, where our relationship is between us and God, God’s reasonable limits of behavior are much more liberal, are much more extravagant.

In today’s lesson from John, we read about Jesus’ anointment by Mary, using a lot of expensive perfume. Mary pours out the perfume upon Jesus feet and His head without regard to how much she is using and without regard to cost, she bows over His feet like a servant would of her master, and she uses her hair to wipe His feet, demonstrating that in His presence she can show the most intimate devotion. Judas the apostle (and betrayer) complains about the extravagance; he would put a reasonable limit on worship which leaves something over for the poor (or himself). We don’t know about the other disciples, but we can probably assume that they were as shocked by this spectacle as was Judas, thinking that Mary’s act of worship was overextended well beyond reasonable limits.

But Jesus’ commends her, demonstrating a standard of worship and love of God which is over-the-top, extravagant, and ever offensive to “normal” sensibilities. Jesus’ reasonable limits of interaction with Him, the Father, and the Holy Spirit would almost be unbounded; there is no way that you can overextend your worship of God.

Built into these two lessons are three examples of where reasonable limits come from. The first is ourselves, the second is other people (society), and the third is God.

Are you overextended such that your life, your soul, your body, your relationships are injured, are hurting? If so, you might ask yourself who sets your reasonable limits – you, others, or God?

And if it you or others who are setting these limits, maybe it is time to recalibrate to God’s limits. And then live within them.


© 2014 GBF

%d bloggers like this: