Bread – Pride

July 12, 2017


Psalm 73

All in vain I have kept my heart clean and washed my hands in innocence…” Ps. 73:13

Stuck in the middle of this Psalm is, in one sentence, a classic example of the pride of the world and ourselves.

Asaph, the Psalmist, starts his Psalm by saying to himself (and to God), I believe in God but I see the wicked prosper and not me.  He ends his Psalm by saying that, in spite of his doubts caused by his observance of the ascendancy of the wicked, he knows that God exists and that God is “his strength and portion forever.”  Ps. 73:26

But in the middle is this great statement:  “And not only that, Lord, but I am better than they are – I keep my heart clean and I am innocent.”  (I took great liberalities with the actual text, which you can read for yourself in the first line.”

We look around as Christians, as people in this world, and how often does it cross our mind that we ought to be resentful because we are “better” than they are.  After all, we are righteous and they are not; we are washed in the blood of the Lamb and they are not; we have a “clean heart” and they do not.

Whoa, folks.  Who here reading this Bread or, for that matter, anyone in the world, as a “clean heart.”  Do we not covet, gossip, worry, protect our precious positions of power, scheme, speak sometimes with untruth and, certainly, un-love?  Do we not dream about a better vacation, a better lifestyle, a better car, a better bank account, a better job, a better relationship?  Do we really, really have a “clean heart.”

As for being prideful in our righteousness, whose righteousness have we taken on anyway?  Is it ours or His?  If we are righteous at all before God, who achieved that?  Was it us in our sinful state or was it Him who died for us and who intervened in our life at a time when we were dead to breathe His spirit into us so that we might have eternal life?

Asaph did not keep his heart clean “in vain” because he is human, and he did not keep it clean at all.  Asaph did not.  We do not.  We cannot without outside aid.

There is no ranking of sinners.  All people, saved and unsaved, fall short of the glory of God.  Those who are saved see that with great clarity and are grateful that they do not have to pay the penalty to God for those sins, that penalty having been paid by Jesus Christ on the cross.

Where did Asaph’s essential doubts come from?  Did they come from his objective look at the world and wondering where God was, or did they come from his subjective look at the world, through lenses that said “I keep my heart clean” and so, therefore, I deserve better than “they.”

Where do our essential doubts come from?  Do they really come from an objective view of the world or a view through a lens that says “God is being unfair … to me.”

Pride is often listed as our worse sin.  It probably deserves that ranking because it is the lens which distorts our view of ourselves, our view of the world, and our view of God.

Pride is what caused Asaph to believe and say that “All in vain I have kept my heart clean.”  What Asaph could have said was that “But for You, I would not have clean heart.”  And that would be a true statement.  But to get there will require the setting aside of pride.  And how will we do that?  We cannot, but God can … and so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit, and create in me a clean heart.”

________

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

 

 

 

Advertisements

Bread – Humble

June 20, 2016


Psalm 25

“To You, O Lord, I life up my soul.  O my God, in You I trust…Make me to know Your ways, O Lord; teach me Your paths…He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble His way.”  Ps. 25:1-2,4,9

It is so easy to be full of our own importance.  Our work needs us, our customers need us, our boss needs us, our family needs us.  We wake up in the morning, put on our power clothing, ready to tackle the day and bring it to its knees.  My grandson is learning about the city and as we drove by a 10 story building the other day, he pointed to it and said “tall building.”  I said “yes, it is,” and he said “It reaches the sky.”  I was filled with pride for what we have done.  We have built cities and we have built tall buildings which reach the sky to populate these cities.  Boy, aren’t we important people.

And what about us who have titles?  Maybe we are the President of this or that, or the chief “go-to” guy, or the office tech wizard, or are on the board of some organization, or are the winner of some race or some sports event and have the ring or the trophy to prove it?  Maybe we are the best we can be, with a huge bank account, powerful friends, and electronic access to secret places?

It is the proud who win the worldly race of life; it is the humble who learn from God “His way.”

In our church we kneel at certain times, generally having to do with prayer.  Like all exercises, if we approach it with an attitude of formality or routine or simply following what everyone else is doing (going along with the crowd), then we miss the opportunity to recognize that by kneeling we are humbling ourselves, that we are doing physically what we ought to be doing mentally – and that is in recognizing that, just because God has reached out to us with His gift of salvation, He is not our buddy … He is our God.  He is creator and we are His creation.  We are dust and to dust we shall return.

As I read today’s opening lines in Psalm 25, I was lifted up and who could not be – “To You, O Lord, I lift up my soul…Make me to know Your ways, O Lord…”  We are turning to God and lifting our souls up to Him, which is very good of us because we are so important.  We are almost telling God to teach us His secrets, as well He should, because we are so important!

And God responds, “I will…when your heart is right.”  “When you are humble, you will be ready to learn what is right; you are ready to be taught My way.”

To end this Bread today, I tried to find a definition of “humble” which would fit and I found this instead – “It is possible to be too big for God to use you, but never too small.”

It is the beginning of the week and we may be searching for God’s way for us today.  Many of us will say we can’t find it.  Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we are acting like the master when we are in fact the student, that we are acting like we are the important person in the room when we are not.  Maybe it is time to kneel before God in prayer, not because we have to or because we should, but because we want to, knowing that He is Creator and we are created, He is master and we are slave, He is teacher and we are student, He is God and we are man, and He is Savior and we are saved.

_________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Unapproachable

July 21, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, July 21, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 25:1-22; Acts 14:1-18; Mark 4:21-34; Psalms 45,47,48

—————————————-

In our reading today from Samuel, David has reached out to a wealthy man called Nabal and asked for a festival gift to David and his men because David and his men have kept Nabal’s men safe and Nabal’s assets protected. Sort of a “I’ve been nice to you, even though I didn’t have to be, so why don’t you be nice to me.” Nabal responds by saying “No” in a very offensive way, stating that he does not know David and, besides, “there are many servants these days who are breaking away from their masters,” suggesting that David is nothing but a scoundrel.

David’s reaction is to “mount up” with 400 men and swords and teach Nabal (which, by the way, means “foolish”) a lesson in manners.

But in this story, what stands out to me is what Nabal’s servant says to Nabal’s wife about these events. He says “… for harm is determined against our master [Nabal] and against all his house, and he [Nabal] is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.” 1 Sam. 25:17

“He [Nabal] is such a worthless man that one cannot speak to him.”

Nabal is a man with wealth, many possessions, many servants, and the pride to go with it. He is a snob of the first order. And his staff have absolutely no respect for him because “one cannot speak to him.”

And the fact that Nabal cannot be informed or corrected by others makes him “worthless” in the circumstances. Even though he has a position of wealth, power, influence, and leadership, he is worthless in the circumstances because he will not listen to anyone except himself.

In our daily grind, how often are we so full of our anger, our purposes, our pride, our selfishness, our own goals and objectives, our own self-righteousness that we will not listen to anyone, that we cannot be informed of the truth, be imparted wisdom, or be helped in any manner. This attitude makes us worthless. It makes us worthless to God’s purpose for us, it makes us worthless to the people who rely upon us, it makes us worthless to being able to effectively engage the situation, and it essentially makes us worthless to ourselves, because all we have is an echo chamber for our ideas, where what I say bounces back to me as good advice. Notice that this overarching pride does not make me worth nothing, it just makes me worth less.

What do we do which makes us unapproachable, unteachable, uncommunicative, and ultimately unable? We feed our pride.

When we admit we could be wrong so that we are ready, willing, and able to listen and hear, are we any less right? When we never admit we are wrong and have no ear for disagreeable information or advice, does that make us any less wrong?

What Nabal did to David we do to God all the time. When God has a word of revelation for us through His Holy Spirit which we do not want to hear, we raise up the wall of unapproachability, content to surround ourselves with the walls of self-delusion. When God wants to speak to us in prayer, we make ourselves unavailable by just not praying. When God asks us for something which we do not want to give, we pretend we don’t hear Him or, even worse, deny that we even know who He is.

But as Christians there is one thing we know, and that is that while we were unapproachable, steeped in sin, God approached us and saved us. While we insulted God, God forgave us.

But other people are not God, and we have the ability to make ourselves unapproachable as far as they are concerned. In so doing, we make ourselves worthless.

When we have Jesus there is no need for the wall of self-preservation. When we have been preserved for all eternity by God’s sovereign act, what wall of protection from the world do we need?

Are we unapproachable? If so, what are we afraid of and why?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread — Weak

June 9, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, June 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 30:11-20; 2 Cor. 11:1-21a; Luke 19:1-10; Psalms 61, 62, 68

—————————————-

From our reading today in Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth: “For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!” 2 Cor. 11:19-21a.

When I was in school, we had many, many debates going late into the night about politics, various courses and professors, sports, and religion. Side by side with debates over whether we should be in Vietnam (today, that would be Iraq), we had debates over whether the “Virgin Mary” had to be a virgin when she bore Jesus.

We who were full of our education and full of ourselves readily argued like we knew what we were talking about. We were “wise” ourselves.

How much of that still goes on? Don’t we consider ourselves smart (wise, educated, knowledgeable) about science, literature, the nature of man, psychology, medicine, computers, technology, and, yes, religion? And because we are wise in the say the world is wise, we listen to other people who also sound wise to our ears. We listen to the great philosophers, the politicians, the experts, the professionals, the consultants, the salesmen, the people in authority, the people who speak authoritatively.

We listen to all of these people. We listen to fools.

And because we can rationalize, because we are on first, because we are pumped up with ourselves, we put up with the dictates of society – we let ourselves be enslaved (by television, by Apple, by government, by scientists, by the academy, by books, by music, by what other [more respected] people say); we put up with being consumed (devoured) by busyness and the commands of culture and business; we love to be around people who put on airs and we like to dress up for the occasion too, showing the world that we too have a suit or maybe even a tuxedo, wearing our fine clothes and finer jewelry; and we put up with people assaulting us with their advertising and their demands.

Why do we let these things happen? Paul’s answer is that it begins with us thinking ourselves as wise and therefore discerning and therefore capable of fighting the world on its terms.

What is the antidote to this misery? “I am too weak for that.” The strength we have from God is multiplied in our weakness and set aside when we are acting in our own strength.

The Bible is clear that when we are weak we are strong in Christ. We do not choose Christ, but He chose us (which when you think about it is the weakest thing we could ever say…that we had nothing to do with our salvation).

When we are weak we talk to God in prayer because we need Him for everything. When we are wise we get to ask the question “What is truth?” and miss the answer which is right before us but which we cannot see because at the very moment we are most wise in the world, we are most foolish for Godly things.

When we are weak we rest in the Almighty; when we are wise we rest in the newspaper, in our beds.

So we are beset on every side, worn down, beaten by the world. What is the solution? The world says be strong. Christ says be weak.

Who are you going to listen to?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Decision

April 22, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, April 22, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 5:1-12; 1 John 5:1-12; Luke 4:38-44; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

—————————————-

In our reading from Daniel today, Belshazzar, the son of Nebuchadnezzar, has taken over rule of Babylon. In the preceding verses, Nebuchadnezzar is prideful and is brought low by God, only to be restored to his kingship by God after Nebuchadnezzar “lifted my eyes to heaven … and praised and honored Him who lives forever…” Dan. 5:34

Now King Belshazzar knows this history, but behaves sinfully anyway. He has a party for 1,000 men and takes out the gold and silver “vessels” which had removed from the Temple in Jerusalem by his father. He then drank wine from what had been consecrated to God and he and his fellow revelers “praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze, iron, wood and stone.” Dan. 5:4 In other words, King Belshazzar and his friends worshiped everything that the world offered and not God. We end today’s reading with the hand of God writing Belshazzar’s future on the wall.

In another reading from today’s lessons, Jesus in Luke is reported as follows: “Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him, and He laid His hands on every one of them and healed them.” Luke 4:40

What do these verses have in common. Each involves an individual, a single person, making a decision for himself or herself. Belshazzar could not rely upon the faith of his father Nebuchadnezzar, but had to learn history for himself and make his own, individual, decision about whether he would worship idols of his making or God. Likewise, each person who came to Jesus for healing made an individual decision to come; he or she may have been helped by their friends, but there is nothing in the passage to suggest that these friends brought the sick to Jesus against their will. The sick came voluntarily to Jesus for healing.

In the study notes in the ESV Bible I am using, it is noted that Jesus could have healed everyone at one blow with a single word, but that He did not. Instead, even though the sun was going down and time was running out (electricity was still to be invented), Jesus “laid His hands on every one of them [individually].”

We make our decision to worship our idols or God individually. No one makes us make that decision. History may point the way to a good decision, but it does not dictate the decision. We make the decision to acknowledge God as an individual, detached from our history and, quite frankly, our future. Our decision to follow God rather than the world is an individual decision made, in one sense, once for life and, in another sense, daily as we choose to walk in obedience or not.

Likewise, our understanding that we are sick is our understanding, not someone’s understanding for us. As a parent, we may teach our children, we may show our children, we may pray for our children, and we may even coerce our children – but the decision to realize that I am sick with sin resides with me alone. The decision to go to Christ for healing is an individual’s decision, not a group decision.

And isn’t it amazing that our Savior takes the time to heal us individually, that His decision for us is not as a group but as an “I.”

We like to hide our decision-making in groups and committees. There is safety in group decisions because the individual cannot be wrong.

But the decision to follow God, to admit sin, to accept forgiveness and mercy is not a group decision and never will be. I cannot choose for you. You must choose for yourself.

So, we can try to hide behind our family, our community, our friends, our co-laborers at the workplace, in committees, groups, and clubs – but the decisions that matter our each individual’s decision. You may be helped by friends, but they do not and cannot make the decision for you.

So, as we sit here in the middle of the week, what is your decision today? Don’t look around…just look in the mirror. And answer the questions. Who or what do you worship today? Are you pumped up in pride today or sober in assessment? Will I seek to be healed or just talk about it? Are you ready for Jesus to touch you?

What can you do today? Anything you want. What should you do today? Follow Jesus. What will you do today? It is your decision, so only you know.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Substitutes

December 17, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, December 17, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 9:8-17; 2 Peter 2:1-10a; Mark 1:1-8; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

—————————————-

From our reading in Isaiah today, the following: “…who say in pride and in arrogance of heart: ‘The bricks have fallen, but we will build with dressed stones; the sycamores have been cut down, but we will put cedars in their place.’” Isa. 9:9:b-10

Perhaps our lives are cut down by illness. We then say to ourselves, ‘Through hard exercise and a better diet I will improve my health and be even better than I was before.’ Perhaps we have lost our job or find ourselves paid or treated inappropriately. We then say to ourselves, ‘Through hard work and using my friends and family and broader network, I will improve my economics and life by finding me a better job.’ Perhaps we have suffered from some kind of addiction. We then say to ourselves, ‘I will raise myself from this muck by keeping to the straight and narrow, by following the plan, and by avoiding triggers and people and situations which are not good for me.’

Every one of these situations is a problem in life. And our responses are not bad – surely it is better to rise to the challenge rather than sulk in defeat!

But Isaiah warns us about something – does this self-improvement effort arise from “pride and arrogance of heart” or does it proceed from obedience to God’s commands and in reliance upon His grace, wisdom, power, and love? The actions may look the same to an outside observer, but the effort based upon self-will soon falters and withers because in our own power we are weak, but the effort based upon God’s direction and support in our lives will succeed (maybe not on our timetable or in the way we think is right, but will succeed nonetheless).

When we substitute our efforts and plans for God’s efforts and plans, we have chosen a poor substitute. If we have been commanded by God to build a house of bricks and we choose instead to build it out of dressed stones (a superior and prettier product, to be sure), we have chosen a poor substitute. When we substitute our goals for God’s goals for us, we have chosen a poor substitute.

Why do we pick a poor substitute over a better? We cannot hide behind the excuse that “we don’t know better,” because God through His Word has shown us better. Maybe it is because we really don’t trust God. Peter has something to say about that in today’s readings – “…the Lord knows how to rescue the Godly from trials.” 2 Pet. 2:9

Indeed He does. Indeed He has.

So when are we going to stop replacing the real thing with bad substitutes?

Let’s begin today!

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Leftovers

May 21, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, May 21, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Lev. 19:1-18; 1 Thess. 5:12-28; Matt. 6:19-24; Psalms 72,119:73-96

—————————————-

This morning, as I looked down at the bathroom counter, I observed a pile of change. Seeing that pile, I swept it up so that nothing was lost, and in this case put it all in my pants pocket. Sometimes, though, I will put all the change in a jar to collect dust until it accumulates to the point that it can be converted to “folding green” (paper money). I probably duplicate almost every person in the world in doing so.

We are surrounded by commands and actions of completeness – “Eat everything on your plate!” “Finish the task!” “Leave nothing to chance.” “Sweep clean!”

But in today’s reading from Leviticus, God tells us to leave leftovers. Specifically, what He says is “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, neither shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. And you shall not strip your vineyard bare; neither shall you gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God.” Lev. 19:9-10

We are not to take it all, but to leave some for others who do not have what we have.

How does this work in real life?

As a mediator, I often see people enter negotiations with a zero-sum game mentality; meaning that I must win and you must therefore lose – if there are 10 chips on the table, then I must have all 10 and you must have nothing. Part of then what I need to do is to have the person begin to look at themselves and their motivations and needs more closely and ask themselves the question of whether them winning really means the other losing. When people get off their “all or nothing” mentality and start looking at what is really needed or start looking at the range of favorable and unfavorable outcomes, they often find that “winning” may be taking a majority of the chips (leaving some for the other) or actually only taking one chip (leaving most for the other).

Why do we want it all? Part of it is our “competitive spirit.” But another, more Satan-ish, part may be our greed, anger, idol-self, pride, bitterness, or just plain meanness.

The passage we are reading from in Leviticus is actually God reminding us that He is holy and calling us, as His disciples, to join Him in holiness. Leaving leftovers is part of being holy. Leaving things for others which are “rightfully” ours is a sign of holiness.

Why so?

To be holy is to be set aside for God’s purposes, not ours. And what does God command – that we worship Him first and that we “love [our] neighbor as [ourselves]” Lev. 19:18. There is no “love of I” in that prescription.

Leaving leftovers from our wealth for others is a sign of our holiness. It is a sign that we put God first and are therefore obedient to His commands, not out of duty but out of love and devotion. It is a sign that we put our neighbor first, because we do not insist that our rights be totally respected – we leave something of ourselves out of love for our neighbor.

When we leave something for others out of our wealth, it is not because we are giving up our rights … it is because we acknowledge our citizenship in the Kingdom of God. It is because we acknowledge that we are not first. It is because we are set apart for God’s service, because we are holy.

So, have you spent everything you have on things so that nothing is left for others? Have you paid your employees only what you can get away with or the absolute minimum required or have you given them something of what otherwise would have gone into your pocket? Have you taken all your time for your priorities, or have you given of your time to others?

By these measures, how holy are we? I think the only fair answer, at least for me, is not as holy as we should be. On good days, maybe a little holy; most of the time, not so much.

Let us today commit to leaving behind for others some of our time, talent, and treasure. Let us strive to follow God; let us strive to be holy as God is holy. And in so doing, we will preach the good news of salvation in Christ alone by our actions, by our character, by our love, and by our leftovers.

______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Help

May 5, 2014


Readings for Monday, May 5, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 18:13-27; 1 Pet. 5:1-14; Matt. 1:1-17, 3:1-6; Psalms 9,15,25

—————————————-

We all need help, but how often are we willing to ask for it or, even if we have asked for it, take it? Somehow there is an element among us which whispers in our ear, “If you ask for help or take it, you are not a man…you are not competent…you are not strong enough…you are not a leader…you don’t know what you are doing.” You get the drift.

Not wanting to appear less a man, not wanting to appear incompetent, not wanting to appear weak, not wanting to show that we are not a leader, not wanting to show failure, we therefore not only reject the help which is offered, we never look for help or cultivate it in the first place. There is a name for this condition – pride. And there is a saying about how pride relates to success – “Pride goeth before a fall.”

In our reading from Exodus today, Moses has been made the chief go-to guy by God and so, as a result, he is sitting listening to all the people’s problems and disputes, judging between them. He is, to himself, merely doing what he has been told to do – answer inquiries about God, judge disputes (bring peace), and make known the statutes and commands of God. Moses’ father-in-law, however, tells him “What you are doing is not good” because he and the people will get worn out, and then Moses will be worthless. Moses is told the truth – he needs help. But not just any kind of help; he needs help from “able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe…” Exod. 18:21.

Moses needed help, but he needed it from the right kind of people. However, they all had common traits. They were people from all walks of life and representing “all” the people, and not just some particular tribe. In other words, they were people of diversity, from different backgrounds, training, education, and skills. They understood that there was a God and that they were not that God; in other words, they had a correct connection to the universe. They were all competent; what they did they did well, as an excellent offering unto the Lord. They were people who could be trusted – they could be expected to maintain confidences, not gossip; they could be expected to do what they said they would do. Finally, they were people of integrity – they could not be bought with money or with promises of special relationships or treatment.

We all need help. Our question for Monday is not whether you have surrounded yourself with help, because if you haven’t then you know you are getting worn out. The question is what kind of help have you surrounded yourself with? Have you surrounded yourself with people who fear God, or people who fear you? Have you surrounded yourself with people of integrity, who will say “no” to bribes of all kinds, including those from you, or have you surrounded yourselves with “yes,” people, who are guaranteed to reinforce your idyllic and idolic picture of yourself? Have you surrounded yourself with “able” people from diverse backgrounds, or does everyone look like you or have less skill than you?

What kind of help have you surrounded yourself with?

We have focused today on the advice which the father-in-law gave Moses, but not on the source of that advice. Did the advice really come from the father-in-law from nothing, or did it come through the father-in-law from God?

The truth is that our real helper in all times – need, plenty, failure, success – is God Himself, the Holy Spirit.

And the neat thing is that Holy Spirit-provided wisdom is but an “ask” away!

So ask for help, first from the One who provides all and second from those who the One points out to us to ask.

And the week will go a lot, lot, lot better.

________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Eyes

February 19, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, February 19, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 31:25-50; 1 Jn. 2:12-17; John 10:1-18; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

—————————————-

What do you have eyes for? Not, why do you have eyes but what do you like to look at? What do you have eyes for?

This question arose when I read today’s lesson from 1 John, as follows: “For all that is in the world – the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions – is not from the Father but is from the world.” 1 John 2:16

Although we have various senses (hearing, smell, taste, feel, sight), if you think about it, the eyes are the primary intake vehicle for what the world has to offer. “The desires of the flesh” begin with the seeing of something which we know will make us feel good. The “desires of the eyes” are obviously related to the eyes, because we see clearly the worldly idols which attract us – food, drink, sex, power, position, jewelry, gold and silver, bank account statements, etc. Even the final one, “pride of possessions,” exists because of our eyes – when we walk into our garage, we are prideful of our car; when we walk around our house, we are prideful of our artwork, our furniture, our backyard, our front yard, our flowers, our square footage, our street, our community, and our city. When we go to the bank to look inside our safe deposit box, our eyes are what look at our papers and things evidencing our possession. When we open our treasure chests, whether it be a gun safe or a jewelry box, we use our eyes to contemplate their value to us.

So our view into the world is through our eyes, and our eyes contemplate what the world has to offer and we are glad indeed.

Until we realize that our eyes have fooled us. Who has not watched very carefully the machinations of the magician who, with sleight of hand, produces the amazing card trick? We saw it but we did not see it. We are fascinated because we know we have been tricked but we don’t know how.

What the writer of 1 John is telling us bluntly is that Satan is that magician. We look and see, and covet what we see, and through the desires of the flesh, the desires of our eyes, and the pride of possession we are sucked into the mirage which is what the world has to offer. Because what we see is what we want as sinful people, we buy into the magician’s trick, believing that what we see is what there is. We may sense we have been tricked, we may know we have been tricked, but we don’t care that we have been tricked. Why don’t we care? Because the desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes, and our pride of possessions has been satisfied.

This is a side effect of being dead in our sins. When we are dead in our sins, we cannot see anything of truth and we cannot see anything really of love. All we can see is the mirage.

This is why we need God to sovereignly reach out to us in mercy and open our eyes, our minds, and our hearts. This is why we need God to save us and why we cannot save ourselves. If our eyes are to see anything other than what the world has to offer, it is because God has given us a special set of glasses to see Satan through. We cannot buy these glasses and we cannot earn these glasses. God shows up when He is ready and when He wants to and gives them to us and, because we have no capacity in ourselves, puts them on us. Actually, He does more than that because He really gives us a new set of eyes, ones which can see spiritually, ones which can discern, ones which can see clearly, ones who look first to Him and then, through Him, to the world.

Which eyes do you want – the ones which see the real and the eternal, or the ones which see the fake and the temporal? Which lens do we want to peer through – the lens of ourselves or the lens of Jesus Christ?

Which lens are you seeing through today? How are you using your eyes? What do you have eyes for?

________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Payback 2

September 27, 2013


Readings for Friday, September 27, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Kings 9:17-37; 1 Cor. 7:1-9; Matt. 6:7-15; Psalms 88,91,92

—————————————-

Two days ago I wrote about payback and basically presented a Scriptural perspective on “turning the other cheek,” something which is very difficult if not impossible for carnal man to do.

Today we re-visit payback, not because I want to but because we are presented with this again in Scripture today, but from a different perspective and a different outcome.

Our reading from 2 Kings has Jehu coming across the valley with his army toward the kings of Israel and Judah. After sending a couple of messengers out to Jehu to discern his intentions, who do not return, the kings of Israel (Joram) and Judah (Ahaziah) leave their fortifications and go out to Jehu to discover his intentions. The following exchange then occurs:

“And when Joram saw Jehu, he said ‘Is it peace, Jehu?’ He answered, ‘What peace can there be, so long as the whorings and the sorceries of your mother Jezebel are so many?’ Then Joram reigned about and fled, saying to Ahaziah, ‘Treachery, O Ahaziah!’ And Jehu drew his bow with his full strength, and shot Joram between the shoulders, so that the arrow pierced his heart, and he sank in his chariot.” 2 Kings 9:22-24

And so Joram was paid back for his mother’s idol worship of Baal (that is what the whoring and sorcery were about; Baal is a fertility religion) by Jehu.

So in the Bread two days ago payback was not appropriate but in today’s readings it is. What is the difference?

The difference is in who the offense is against. In our readings two days ago, the offense was against the individual who was exercising payback time. The Syrian army arrayed against Elisha was arrayed against him. In Corinthians, Paul was addressing you suing your brother for a wrong your brother committed against you. In Matthew, Jesus was addressing your reaction when someone stole your clothes or when someone hits you.

Today, the offense of Joram’s family was against God, by raising up a false religion, an idol, over God and by following the corruptions of society which followed from such idolatry. Jeru was exercising payback for an offense to God, not an offense to him personally.

What then is the lesson from all this? Maybe it is this – When the offense is against you personally, you should go out of your way to be merciful and show love in the circumstances. When the offense is against God, you should go out of your way to correct the offense and, if need be, be God’s agent for payback.

How do we tell the difference? For example, is someone’s theft of my wallet an offense against me (my wallet) or an offense against God (you shall not steal)? Is the murder of an unborn child an offense against an individual (the child) or an offense against God (you shall not murder)? Is the failure to go to my church an offense against me (you won’t join my club) or an offense against God (you won’t come to church because you go somewhere where you worship idols)?

Gives me a headache. What’s worse, because our minds are so corrupt and infiltrated with the wisdom of the world rather than the wisdom of God, we will tend to re-cast offenses against us as offenses against God so that we will have an “excuse” for payback. Or we will recast offenses against God as trivial so that we can avoid the necessary reality of being God’s agents for correction. We will tend to elevate the trivial offenses against us to major events, and we will tend to deflate the major offenses against God to trivia.

Maybe this is why Jesus told us to look at the log in our own eyes before we complained about the speck in others’ eyes. Maybe it is also why He blew into the temple courts and upended the money-changing tables.

There is another aspect of this discussion worth having. Did Jehu just get a letter from Jezebel, jump up out of his bed, and say “I think today we will go to war?” No. To pull his army together, he had to think, plan, and execute the plan. He had to be deliberate, which means also that his actions were not a reaction to offense but a response. There is a huge difference, because a reaction is personal and immediate, designed for immediate payback. A response, however, is deliberate and careful, designed for a long term result. A reaction occurs because we have been offended. A response occurs because we realize that something more is at stake than merely our feelings.

Again, how do we distinguish between payback which arises from bruised pride or perceived personal wrong or loss and payback which arises from our obligations as Christians to be God’s ambassadors in the world and, sometimes, God’s soldiers?

About all we can do is, at the time, pray — Come Holy Spirit and give me wisdom in the circumstances that I may rightly discern what, if anything, you would have me do. And then wait for the answer.

____________________

© 2013 GBF

%d bloggers like this: