Bread – Sacrifice

February 1, 2016


Psalm 5

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.

Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice to You and watch.”  Ps. 5:1-3

What morning sacrifice is David preparing?

Because this is the Old Testament, one answer might well be a slain lamb or a grain offering.

However, isn’t this Psalm, this prayer, really the sacrifice?  Isn’t the time David is spending with the Lord his morning sacrifice?

Before we slough this off as too easy an answer, think about your own morning sacrifice to God.

When you are in bed and before you arise, are your first thoughts of God or of breakfast, a shower, and for men, a shave?  Before we get out of bed in the morning, are we saying to God “Give ear to my words, O Lord,” or are we making out our mental “to do” list for the day’s affairs?  Where do our priorities lie before we get up in the morning?

Now we have risen from bed.  We have turned off the alarm.  Do we fall on our knees in fear of the Lord, asking Him to intercede for us in the evil day … or do we go into the kitchen to turn on the coffee and either go outside to get the newspaper (for us older folks) or fire up our tablet to look at the news online?

Now we have gotten our newspaper and our coffee.  Do we drink our coffee while we read God’s Word and meditate on it, or do we go back into the bedroom and the bathroom to get ready for the day.

After we get ready for the day, what do we do next?  Do we spend a half hour with God in prayer in our chair or on our couch, or are we listening to talk radio in the car as we go to work?

What kind of sacrifice to we make to the Creator of the Universe on a regular daily morning?

But notice that David doesn’t just say that he “sacrifices” to God.  He says that he “prepares” a sacrifice.

The idea of preparing a sacrifice as opposed to just sacrificing suggests a higher level of intentionality, and a higher and more intent use of time.  To prepare for something, we have to think about it, we have to gather the ingredients, and we have to put the ingredients together.

What are the ingredients for preparation of a sacrifice?

Some people say that they can pray in bed in the morning.  I cannot.  In order for me to write Bread or pray or do anything else with a focus on God, I have to (a) decide to do it, (b) get out of bed, (c) walk to the room and the chair where I meet God, (d) sit down, (e) deliberately turn my thinking from “I don’t have time for this” to God, and (f) start.  And a lot of times, I start just like David does here … “Give ear to my words, O Lord.”  “And, Lord, if I have no words, then as David said ‘consider my groanings.’”

But is this the sacrifice?  Most people would say “yes” because time and effort is being sacrificed to God.  However, the answer is “no.”  The reason is that all this, including the prayer, is only preparation for the sacrifice.

Then what is the sacrifice?  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:17

In our world, when we are in “control,” when we are the master of our ship, how will we ever appear before God, today, this morning, with a “contrite heart,” with an acceptable sacrifice, without preparation, without taking the time and making the effort to come to God and asking Him to love us, to listen to us, to forgive our trespasses, and to fill us with His Holy Spirit that we may in turn love others, listen to others, and forgive others?

When we begin our day thinking first of God and preparing for our sacrifice by meeting Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, and loving Him, then we will, with a good preparation, know by what grace, by what mercy, we are even given the right to do what we are doing.  And when that awe settles over us, well then the sacrifice of a contrite heart has begun.

Before the sacrifice is the preparation.  What have you done today to prepare?  What time have you set aside; what time have you spent in prayer, in communion with your Savior?  What morning preparation have you made to give to God your sacrifice of your heart?

__________

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

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Preparation

March 5, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, March 5, 2014 (Ash Wednesday), designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Amos 5:6-15; Heb. 12:1-14; Luke 18:9-14; Psalms 32,95,102,130,143

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In order to eat, we must prepare the meal. In order to build a house, we must prepare the plans and the materials. In order to obtain a college degree, we must prepare our foundations and prepare a course of study which we will follow. In order to run a race, we must prepare by study and practice.

In a sense, all of our readings today are about preparation to run the race of life, to run the race of salvation, to run the race of glory, to run the race of holiness.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the period of Lent, which looks forward to Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection.

A favorite phrase of modern management is “SWOT.” It is an acronym for how to plan, beginning with an analysis of “Strengths,” “Weaknesses,” “Opportunities” and “Threats.” The idea is that before good planning can take place for a good outcome, a major part of preparation is understanding where you are.

Let us apply a spiritual SWOT analysis to ourselves as we begin our preparation.

First, we begin with Scripture. In Amos, we are told that God knows “how many are your transgressions and how great are your sins…” Amos 5:12. Amos also tells us to “Seek the Lord and live…” Amos 5:6. Hebrews tells us we are surrounded by a “great cloud of witnesses” and that, therefore, we need to lay aside every weight and sin and “run with endurance the race that is set before us….It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you like sons.” Heb. 12:1,7. In Luke, Jesus reminds us that the haughty Pharisee, believing he is perfect, will be humbled and the bad, bad person who understands the depth of his sin and cries to God for mercy will be exalted. Lk. 18:9-14

So, from Scripture and applying our SWOT analysis, we know that our strengths are none, our weaknesses are transgressions and sin, our opportunities rest in God’s mercy shown to us in Christ’s death on the cross, and our threats are ourselves.

This is why we have Ash Wednesday. It is a time for preparation. It is a time for clear evaluation of our strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. It is a time for truth. It is a time for reality. It is a time for discipline. And it is a time for us to begin to realize that God has in fact been merciful in delivering us from our weaknesses and the threats against us into our opportunity for eternal life.

The only thing we need to worry about in our preparation is that we will mis-evaluate our strengths by thinking that we have some.

________________

© 2014 GBF

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