Bread – Righteousness

January 18, 2017


Psalm 48

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Bread – Christmas

December 24, 2016


Psalm 45

You are the most handsome of the sons of men; grace is poured upon Your lips…In Your majesty ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness…Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…Therefore, God, Your God, has anointed You….”  Ps. 45:1-7

I have not written Bread for over two weeks.  It seemed like every time I tried, something happened.  I could not even pick up a Bible to read the appointed Psalms.  Until this morning, Christmas Eve.

And now I know why, because it is appropriate that we start the appointed Psalm, Psalm 45, today, Christmas Eve.

The Psalmist is addressing the King of Kings, the “most handsome of the sons of men.”  To be the person addressed by the Psalmist, Jesus had to be born as a “son of man.”  The Psalmist addresses the King born of flesh.  Christmas had to come for this Psalm to take shape.

But the Psalmist also addresses his Psalm to God, and indeed Jesus Christ is also Son of God.  The Psalmist says “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…Therefore, Your God has anointed You.”  The only way this makes sense is to realize that God the Son, the son of man, is God and He is the Son of the Father.  Although the Trinity is a great mystery which is almost impossible to understand, in these few words the Psalmist summarizes the truth.  God’s throne is forever, and the God the Father anoints God the Son, who is also the son of man.

“In Your majesty, ride out victoriously for the cause of truth and meekness and righteousness:”  Ps. 45:4

The Psalmist speaks to Christ, but he might as well be speaking to us.  Because God became incarnate and was born as man, He was, through His death and resurrection, building a bridge to the Father.   We are the ones, as Christ’s disciples, who can walk in His majesty.  We are the ones, because Christ has saved us from our sins, who can ride out into the world and into eternity “victoriously.”  And, because Christ is truth, meekness, and righteous, by riding out for Him, in obedience to Him we can also ride out for these things as well.

Tomorrow will be Christmas with our celebrations of gift-giving and merriment.  But as we do this, we need to reflect on the first verse of the Psalmist, as he writes “My heart overflows with a pleasing theme; I address my verses to the King; my tongue is like the pen of a ready scribe.”  Ps. 45:1.  Does our heart overflow in this season with a “pleasing theme?”

Our theme should be pleasing to us and to everyone – God was born into the world as a baby so that He could save me, and you.

So on this day let us listen to our heart and let us address our verses, our poem, our life and our life story, to Him, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Let us rejoice!  But let us also proclaim…”The King has come … Come, let us believe in Him, worship Him, and obey Him.  Come, let us adore Him!”

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Prayer

April 25, 2016


Psalm 17

“Hear a just cause, O Lord; attend to my cry!  Give ear to my prayer from lips free of deceit!…You have tried my heart, You have visited me by night, You have tested me, and You will find nothing; I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.  With regard to the works of man, by the word of Your lips I have avoided the ways of the violent.  My steps have held fast to Your paths; my feet have not slipped.”  Ps. 17:1-5

This Bread is called “Prayer” because that is what this Psalm is called, “A Prayer of David.”

And look how it begins!  “Hey, God, here I am.  Listen to me because I am perfect?  You know I am because You know everything.  Hey, look at me; listen to me!”

Obviously this is both a paraphrase and something of an exaggeration, but not by much.  When we approach God, can we say that we are perfect, that we are sinless, that we can be examined by a holy God and found to be wanting in nothing?

The Christian might answer this question by saying that, “yes, because we are covered in the blood of the Lamb, we are deemed pure before God and able to stand before Him.”  That is true but it leads to a certain sloppiness in prayer because it means that we approach prayer as our three year old grandson might, stomping into the throne room of God and laying down our demand for candy without so much as a “Hi, grandpa!”

David is claiming the right to be in front of God because he claims obedience to the Father’s Law.

Can he rightly claim that, claim perfect obedience?  The answer is probably not, but he does anyway.  How?

How can we make a claim to perfect obedience, when it is impossible?

Might I suggest that it is not so much obedience in fact which matters to ordering our prayer life, but obedience in intent, obedience in desire and attitude.

We may be able to walk into the throne room of God with our prayers because of what Jesus did for us on the cross, but beyond that, doesn’t the power of our prayer depend in substantial part upon how much we want God, how much we want to obey Him and listen to Him and walk with Him.  The danger of casual prayer before an Almighty God made by a believer is not that we will be struck down, but that the results will be weak.  The strength of prayer made by a believer who tries his or her best to walk in obedience, who tries to speak with lips free of deceit, and who applies God’s Word to daily living lies not in the believer’s own righteousness, but it is certainly greatly increased in power by the believer’s own commitment to God and His ways.

So, if we are not to stomp into God’s throne room full of our own righteousness or maybe even a casual reliance upon our Savior, Jesus Christ, how are we to enter it?

What is not in this Psalm is what David did just prior to saying “Hear a just cause…”  What did David do to prepare for that opening volley of self-promotion?

I suspect that he examined his actions and his heart to see whether what he was going to say was true.  And, finding, like all men, that it was not completely true, he probably confessed it to God and asked God to forgive him his trespasses.  Preceded by confession, at the moment David said “Hear…,” it may very well be that his lips were “free of deceit.”

How do we walk into the throne room?  Do we just stomp in and say “Hey, God, listen to me, the great one!”  Or do we walk in with confidence, knowing that we bear the right attitude and the right gratitude, born of a desire for God, a desire for His truth, a desire for obedience, a desire to walk with Him, cloaked in the righteousness of Christ?

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – Justice

March 2, 2016


Psalm 9

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

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

So, what is justice?

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

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

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

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

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

Has justice failed?  Many would say that it has.

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Wrong

February 15, 2016


Psalm 7

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

_________

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Ways

January 8, 2016


Psalm 1

“Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous, for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.”  Ps. 1:5-6

Yogi Berra is famous for saying “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.”

There is great wisdom in this statement and a great lie as well.

The wisdom is that, when you come to a place of division of the road, when the road divides into two places, the worse thing in the world you can do is sit there.  For while you are sitting there, double-minded about which way to take, which direction to go, which path to follow, you are in fact following a path of nothing.  No progress, no achievement (no risk of loss either), no having to put up with change, no nothing.  When we use the term “couch potato,” we are not only referring to someone who fills their day with dribble from the television, but we are also talking about someone who is stuck at the fork, going neither to the left nor the right.  So, the wisdom of Yogi Berra is that, when we are at a point of decision, make a decision and stick with it.  Go!  Do!  Choose!

Now that is the wisdom.  The lie is that the world treats either choice, to the left or the right, as equally valid, as equally appropriate.  See, the world says that you may not know where each road leaves, so just pick one and you will find out.  And if it was the wrong road, you can always come back and start over, and if was the right road, then you win.  But you can never win if you stay stuck at the fork.  That is the wisdom of the world.  And it is a lie.

God in His Word today has made clear that there are in fact two ways, two roads, and that we are always at a fork in the road, choosing which way to go.  But one way is the way to death (the way of the wicked) and the other is the way of to life (the way of the righteous).  Knowing that and seeing that, why do we continuously pick the way of the wicked?

The answer to this question is locked up in verse 5, the first half of this quote.    “Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.”  (emphasis added).  Verse 5 says that people who are “in the congregation of the righteous” and who sin will not stand in the judgment and Verse 6 says essentially that the righteous will not perish.  How can these be reconciled?

The difference is the difference between being “included” in the group of people who consider themselves to have a right relationship with God and being “counted” by God as righteous.  One is the way of man, where man reaches God through effort, which will always fail because every man (and woman) falls short of the glory of God and sins.  You and I both know that we are sinners, even though we may hold ourselves to be in group of righteous folk.  The other, being counted as righteous, is the way of God, the work of God, the power of God, and the grace and mercy of God.

The Bible has all kinds of ways of saying this, but isn’t it remarkable that locked in this first Psalm is not only the message of God’s revelation (His Law) of Himself on which we should meditate, but also the message of God’s grace and His salvation.

There are two ways and only two ways.  Being at the fork and being stuck there is the way of man and the world, where we are trapped in time between different philosophies and the demands of different people, including our family.  Being stuck at the fork is no different than taking the way of the wicked.  So the way of the wicked includes sitting at the fork.  But the way of the wicked also includes sinners in the congregation of the righteous.  If the way of the wicked includes people on that path, who are stuck at the fork, and who are sinners in the congregation of the righteous, then who is following the way of the righteous?  Who is saved?

The people who follow God.  Those people are not trapped between philosophies of life, because they know the law of the Life- and Law-Giver.  They do not follow the demands of different people because they follow the only Father, who does not change and is not double-minded.  Because they follow the right way, the way of the righteous, they bloom and perform good works, being like a “tree planted by streams of water that yield its fruit in season.”  Ps. 1:3

But to do that, we must be counted as righteous and there is only way to do that – through the narrow gate, down the narrow path, to rest in the arms of Jesus Christ, the only Righteous One.

There is only one way to get on the path of the way of the righteous, and that is to be carried by Jesus Christ.  As He bore the cross on His way to death and resurrection, so He bears us.  And it is the path of the righteous not because we are righteous, but because He is.

Revealed in Psalm 1 is Jesus Christ, because He is the way of the righteous.  Every other path is the way of wickedness, no matter how hard we try.

So we are at a fork in the road, what path do we take?  If we want to take the path of righteousness, we don’t.  Jesus does and we follow through the door God has opened for us onto the path which God lights up for us using the power which God gives us, all for His glory and His glory alone.

© 2016 GBF

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Slavery

June 30, 2014


Readings for Monday, June 30, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 22:1-21; Rom. 6:12-23; Matt. 21:12-22; Psalm 106

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When we speak of slavery in our civic discourse, it is with negativity, because we have seen what man’s oppression of man through slavery does. In this context, slavery is involuntary servitude, where I am forced by another of greater power (police power, economic power, caste power, etc.) to serve them against my will.

But there is another form of slavery. This is slavery by choice, a place where I willingly subject myself to the objectives of another.

In Paul’s letter to the Romans in our readings today, he reminds us that we are always in some form of bondage, some form of slavery, to someone or something. If we crave alcohol, we are slaves to drink. If we need men’s approval for our self-esteem, we are slave to those people whose approval we desire. If we submit ourselves to pornography, we are slaves to the producers of filth.

Paul puts it this way: “Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions…Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness…But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Rom. 6:12,16-18, 22-23

In simple translation, we are slaves to something or someone. If we are slaves to the world, to sin, we will die. If we are slaves to God (evidenced by obedience to righteousness), we will live. In either event we are slaves; however, the outcome of our slavery is different depending upon who or what we yoke ourselves to.

In our modern culture of individualism, liberty, and free choice, the idea that we are slaves does not sit well. In fact, it is an obnoxious concept.

And yet, think about it. If the most important people in our lives are our family, we are slave to our family. If our boss is the most important person in the world to us because he or she holds our paycheck, we are slave to our boss or to the work or both. If we indulge our sexual passions or eat to an extreme, we are slaves to those desires. If we are an actor and receive our positive feedback from the crowds, we are slave to the crowds, forever doing what pleases them. If we believe in Allah, we are slave to him. If we believe in Christ, we are slave to Him.

Recognizing this, the question is never “will we be a slave?” but “who or what will we be a slave to?”

This is the decision put before us by Paul. Will you be a slave to sin or to God? Will you obey your passions or God’s commandments? Will you look to the mirror or to our significant others for approval, or will we seek approval from God?

Why does the question matter? Well, Paul summarizes the answer in the end of our reading from Romans today. Slavery to sin leads to death; slavery to Jesus Christ leads to life.

To whom or to what are you slave?

The answer matters.

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread — Warning

October 5, 2012


Readings for Friday, October 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Hosea 10:1-15; Acts 21:37-22:16; Luke 6:12-26; Psalms 102, 107

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There is an element to the Old Testament prophets which we would be wise to listen to. That element is the warning they carry, the description of national sin in their midst and their warning of the consequences of that sin when God decides, in His sovereignty, to act against it and against the nation which it has infected.

There are many in the United States today who feel that the apostasy, where each person follows the dictates of their own heart and do not worship God and follow His laws, is so deep that the United States will never recover. I do not share that view, but I understand it.

Therefore, let Hosea speak to us today from the grave in our reading today, with certain substitutions and commentary by me in brackets to drive home the point:

Israel [the United States] is a luxurious vine that yields its fruit. The more his (the USA’s) fruit increases, the more altars [empty churches] he built; as his country improved, he improved his [not God’s] pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt.” Hosea 10:1-2

For now they [the country] will say: ‘We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord…They utter mere words; with empty mouths they make covenants [empty mouths make for empty promises]” Hosea 10:3-4

When I [God] please, I will discipline them [the USA] and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity.”  Hosea 10:10

You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors…” Hosea 10:13

That is the warning, but in the middle of the reading is the solution, which again we will let Hosea speak from the grave to us:

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you [us].” Hosea 10:12

Who, in today’s environment, would not love for righteousness to rain down upon and among us? Of course, we might be afraid of it, except for those who believe in Jesus Christ (because He is our righteousness), but a little looking in the mirror is a good thing when done in humility and not in vanity.

So, who does not want for ourselves, our families, our cities, and our nation for righteousness, for blessing, to rain down? Well, how do we sow righteousness ourselves? How do we both sow and reap the kind of love which is steadfast, which lasts? By what power can we break up the hard ground of our world so that we can plant and raise good things?

“…for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come…” Let us pray ….

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© 2012 GBF

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