Bread – Gospel

March 28, 2018


Psalm 100

Today is Wednesday in Holy Week, the day fixed between our secular joy in welcoming our King Jesus into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, singing “Hosanna in the Highest,” and our Christian joy in His resurrection on Easter day.  Between the secular joy of recognizing our need for a good earthly king and the religious joy arising from our recognizing our need for an eternal King, a Savior, are betrayal and death.  What is so amazing about this is that it is we who participated in the betrayal and it is we who killed Him.  It is our sins which required a sacrifice of blood.  And it is God Himself who offered Himself as that sacrifice on the cross, dying once for all who are called to Him and believe in Him, restoring us into relationship with God and unto eternal life.

Since it is a day in the middle, it seems appropriate that we are met with Psalm 100, labeled as “His Steadfast Love Endures Forever,” and “A Psalm for Giving Thanks,” in its entirety as follows:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!  Serve the Lord with gladness!  Come into His presence with singing!

 Know that the Lord, He is God!  It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.

 Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise!  Give thanks to Him; bless His name!

 For the Lord is good; His steadfast love endures forever; and His faithfulness to all generations.”  Ps. 100:1-5

My prayer for myself and all who read these words in this season of our lives is that we know that the Lord is God, that we are His creation, that we are His people, that He is good, that His steadfast love toward us has endured from creation through His death on the cross through the resurrection and ascension, for all eternity, forever, and that His faithfulness and mercy toward us, His people and the sheep of His pasture, endures through thick and thin, in and out of our seasons, in and beyond time … and that for this, all of this, we are grateful.

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© 2018 GBF    All Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version (2001), unless otherwise indicated.

 

 

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Bread – It

June 3, 2016


 

Psalm 22

“I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet – I can count all my bones – they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before you, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and he rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn that he has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

This is actually a fairly simple and straightforward Bread.  Who is “he” and what is “it?”

This is a long quotation from Psalm 22 because it tells of an event in history, one which you should recognize in the telling.  All of these events are significant because they happened at Golgotha and on the way there, but perhaps the phrases “they pierced my hands and feet,” and “they divide my garments…and for my clothing they cast lots” will bring to mind Jesus and the cross and death and resurrection.

These quotations describe a crucifixion in detail, and Jesus’ crucifixion in particular.

So the “he” is obvious, but as you know, I think that all personal pronoun references to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit should be capitalized to raise them up to their proper place above us ordinary persons.  And because the Psalm could arguably relate to anyone (after all, the “me” is lower cased in modern translations of Scripture), the “who is he” question is more easily answered by restating the quotation this way:

“I am poured out like water, and all My bones are out of joint…For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me; they have pierced My hands and feet – I can count all My bones – they stare and gloat over Me; they divide My garments among them, and for My clothing they cast lots…All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations shall worship before You, for kingship belongs to the Lord, and He rules over the nations…they shall come and proclaim His righteousness to a people yet unborn that He has done it.”  Ps. 14,16-18,27-28,31

The other day I had a person ask me where there is, in the Old Testament, a plain statement predicting Jesus’ death and resurrection.  Well, here at least is a plain prediction of Jesus’ death.  And isn’t that made more obvious by elevating Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit by capitalizing references to them?

This is prophesy in its purest form, and less one thinks David is describing something in the present, in his time, then think about this – this is a detailed description of a crucifixion and crucifixion was unknown in the time of David.  David is reciting details about a form of torture that did not exist when it was written.  It is detailed, it is accurate, and the description was fulfilled by Jesus.  And it was written some 1000 years before Christ’s death.

Then what does it mean that “He has done it?”  To understand this, one needs to recognize that Psalm 22 ends with that statement – “He had done it.”  And it begins with this statement – “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  It is the crucifixion of Christ, He has been forsaken by God as He takes on our sins and separation from God is the price of sin, and at the end that relationship is restored because He is is the perfect offering of His blood for our sin.  “He has done it” means simply that Jesus paid the price of sin and the offering of His life for ours was accepted by God the Father.

He has done it means that the bridge between us and God, destroyed by Adam’s sin, has been rebuilt by Jesus’ obedience to the cross.

From the depth of despair (why have You forsaken Me) to the height of victory (He has done it) through the cross (described in the middle of Psalm 22).

That “He has done it” means that we don’t have to.  Jesus did the “good work” of perfect obedience to the Law, of perfectly bearing our sin, of perfectly satisfying the demands of the Father for payment (sacrifice) for sin.

But what we do need to do is recognize who He is and what He has done, turn to Him in repentance, and trust in Him for our salvation.  Easily said, but impossible to do without God.  And, so we pray, “Come Holy Spirit.”

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

 

Bread – Entry

February 3, 2016


Psalm 5

“O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch….

You destroy those who speak lies;…

But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house.”  Ps. 5:3,6-7

Built into these three lines is almost the entire Christian message.

How do we gain entry to the house of God?  To use less “religious” language, how do we get into heaven?

In the first line, we are speaking to God and preparing and making a sacrifice of our time, our attention, our worship, and ourselves to Him.

These are good works.  They are not directed outward toward other people nor inward to ourselves, but upward to God Himself.  Surely He must) be pleased with us, those who are religious and make proper sacrifices and follow the rules.  Surely when we do these good things, we will earn our entry into heaven?

And there are many in our Christian culture who believe just this.  One way this shows up is in the Sinner’s Prayer.   If I give God the proper recognition by acknowledging my fault and saying the words that I accept Him, then I get into the kingdom.  Another way this shows up is in Baptism.  If I go and get baptized, then I am doing a right sacrifice which will be pleasing to God, and through my good work in obeying Him, I will earn my way into the kingdom.  Another way this shows up is the avoidance of sin, at least mortal sin, and continually receiving the forgiveness of the Church, mediated by middlemen who understand the rituals and their significance and understand the rules and their proper application.  Now, in those communities, if I do good works through regular worship (at least on the designated days), paying the church 10%, taking communion, making confession, receiving forgiveness, kneeling, reading, writing, thinking, doing … then my good works will rise like a pleasant sacrifice, and God will let me into the kingdom.

That is the first line, and if we did not know that David’s motivation was one of obedience born of gratitude instead of obedience born of duty, we might think that he, too, believed that the only people who achieved entry to the throne room of God were good people, who did good works in keeping with the rules of the road.

But then we have to deal with the second verse, “You destroy those who speak lies.”  In one fell swoop we now have confronted our sin problem, even after we become Christians.  As I write this, how many lies have I spoken (or at least thought) today?  How many have you spoken today.  God’s wrath is visited upon those who tell lies (you may say that you are OK because you have only told one lie, not two lies, but then you would be guilty of your second lie).  Two lies and you are destroyed by God.  Why?  Because God abhors all sin, of every size and shape, make and model, from the least to the most (by our human rankings).  He abhors sin and He is a God of wrath!  He may also be a God of love (as our modern society would like to think of Him), but He is also a God of wrath (which is how He needs to be thought of by our modern society).  He destroys sinners … except those He doesn’t…and that leads us to the third verse today.

And that third verse is “But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house.”  Ps. 5:7

And there is a lot locked up in this sentence.  Let’s begin with the word “But.”  The longer way of saying it is “Even though I am a liar, thief, cheater, murderer, full of sin and worthy of Your wrath, Your destruction….”

Then there is the second word, “I.”  The “But” never applies to us as a group, it applies one on one, person by person…It applies to “I.”  Until it applies to “I,” it is only one of many thoughts, philosophies, ways of thinking, methods of analysis, etc.  Until it applies to “I,” it is not real to me.

Then there is the next phrase “through the abundance of Your steadfast love.”  Where is there any good works in that sentence?  What part do I play by God acting “through the abundance of [His] steadfast love?”

Then there is “steadfast love,” a love which does not come on strong and then dies, but a love which is there, for all time and in all places and in all circumstances.  Yes, God is a God of wrath who destroys those who sin … but …. He is also a God who so loved us that He sent His Son to die for our sins, to be the sacrifice we could not be, to be the completed work for our salvation.

And then there is this … “I … will enter Your house.”  By what merit do we enter His house?  None.  By what art?  None.  By what magic words?  None.  By what good works?  None.

We only gain entry to His house for all time “by the abundance of [His] steadfast love.”

How have you tried to gain entry into heaven?  Has it been though your efforts, your obedience to the rules, your good works, your morning sacrifice?  Or has it been through the merits, through the death and resurrection, of Jesus Christ?

David reminds us that it is not through his way that he has entry into God’s house, but through His way … the only way.

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

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Bread – Lent

June 16, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, June 16, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 1:21-2:11; Acts 1:15-26; Luke 20:19-26; Psalm 78

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In today’s reading from 1 Samuel, we find Hannah with the child Samuel who has not yet been weaned. Hannah was barren, but the Lord heard her prayer and brought her Samuel. “Samuel” means “I have asked for him from the Lord.” 1 Sam. 1:20

This is where our reading begins. Hannah is breast-feeding her baby and tells her husband that she will to up to the house of the Lord (then at Shiloh) once he is weaned.

At Shiloh, she (with baby Samuel) go to the chief priest Eli and says “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted me my petition that I made to Him. Therefore, I have lent him (Samuel) to the Lord. As long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord.” 1 Sam. 1:27-28

Before we move on, let’s think for a minute about what happened. There is a tendency with these shorter narratives to burn right through them. In literally a few sentences, Hannah went from barren to bearing a male child, her first, to letting him breast feed from her (firmly establishing the mother-son relationship if it wasn’t before), and then “lending” him to the Lord. We know that Samuel stayed with Eli and became a prophet of God; therefore, the “loan” has more elements of permanency than a “loan” would typically imply.

What a tremendous sacrifice! How heartbroken must she have been to give up her just weaned son for the Lord! Most people would have been broken, but she was not. Immediately following her “loan” she begins a prayer with this – “My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord …” 1 Sam. 2:1

Now I started this Bread off with the word “sacrifice” but changed it to “lent” for a reason. I was impressed by how sacrificial her gift was compared to my meager, self-centered, leftover offerings to God, and I was ready to talk about that, but something bothered me about the word “lent.” I could have sworn that that was not the word I had seen in earlier readings. So I looked at an NASB Bible, and sure enough the word used was “dedicate,” which is what I remembered and is what made sense to me. “Dedication” has a more permanent air to it than “lent” and therefore “fits” the passage better. However, the word “dedicate” was footnoted in my NASB and the footnote said “Literally, ‘lent’.” So the direct and best translation is “lent” and not “dedicate.”

This got me more curious so I looked up the Hebrew definition. The Hebrew word in its primary sense means “To inquire, to ask, to entreat, to beg, to borrow, to ask for oneself, to consult.” (OT word definition 7592 as referenced in Hebrew-Greek Study Bible, NASB, Ed. Zodhiates (AMG 1990)).

So the “lending” of Samuel to the Lord by Hannah is a form of inquiry prayer, of asking God for help or wisdom or knowledge.

How the Word ties together! We cannot effectively pray until we are ready to sacrifice ourselves by “lending” ourselves to God’s will and His work. We cannot effectively worship until we have first “lent” ourselves to God. In order to receive answer to prayer, we need to be ready to give up those things which bind us – wealth, power, position, self.

When we are ready to give up what we most want, we are ready to receive what we most need.

Hannah did that. Will we?

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Peace

January 18, 2012


Readings for Wednesday, January 18, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 9:18-29; Heb. 6:1-12; John 3:22-36; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

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Have you ever noticed how un-parallel some language is? For example, what is the opposite of war? The answer would be “peace.” At first blush, these would appear to be parallel. Both are nouns. War is the opposite of peace and peace is the opposite of war. However, there is a difference. “I war against you” is a proper sentence, containing a noun (“I”) and a verb (“war”). However, the sentence “I peace against you” is not a proper sentence, because there is no verb.

Why is it that “war” is a verb but “peace” is not? We have the state of peace but not the doing of peace? Maybe because “peace” is the absence of striving, of doing, of warring, so there is no such thing as “doing” peace. Maybe it is because we don’t know how to “do” peace, so it does not appear in active, verb form.

But why shouldn’t we have a verb “peace?”

In John’s gospel today, both Jesus and John the Baptist are baptizing. John’s disciples complain, saying “Rabbi, that man [Jesus] who was with you on the other side of the Jordan – the one you testified about – well, he is baptizing and everyone is going to him.” John 3:26

John’s response is to “peace” the situation. He says “A man can receive only what is given to him from heaven … He must become greater; I must become less.” John 3:27, 30

Wrapped up in this are all of the elements of what it means to “peace” a situation. First, John recognizes a great truth, which is that whatever it is we have, it is a gift from heaven. Our talent, our treasure, our time on earth, our relationships, our position, our power, our abilities, our productivity, our love, our life – all of it is a gift. Second, John recognizes that he is capable of receiving (handling, dealing with, using, appropriating, investing) only so much, and that the limit is not his ability but what is given him. If He receives little, he has control over little. If he receives much, he has control over much. Whatever it is he has, whether great or small, is a gift, so he can be thankful and gracious in good times and in bad. Third, John recognizes that, as a result of God’s sovereign act, there will be some people who increase while you decrease. We tend to think of these people in terms of jobs and power. But what about our spouses? What about our children? As we place our spouse ahead of us, as we love him or her, our spouse increases while we decrease. As our children grow up, they may very well increase while we decrease.

What John does with this knowledge – the knowledge of gifts, the knowledge of himself, the knowledge of God, the knowledge of his proper purpose and rank in the world – is to deliberately withdraw from conflict, to let the other person increase while he decreases.

John “peaced” the situation.

Maybe there is a situation today you can “peace” by going through the same mental process, by taking the same action as John did to let someone else be first, to let someone else be in the spotlight, to let someone else be the leader.

Are you cringing a little, thinking that this is not in my nature? You are right, it is not in our nature. Maybe to help make it our nature we need to develop a new verb called “peace.” Maybe to help make it our nature, we need to remember that God Himself went to the back of the line when He died on the cross – and in so doing He “peaced” the world. How can we do less?

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All Bible citations are to the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted.

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This and previous Breads may be read, critiqued and commented upon at the Bread blog: https://1bread.wordpress.com

Bread – Devotion

May 13, 2011


Readings for Friday, May 13, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Dan. 6:1-15; 2 John 1-13; Luke 5:12-26; Psalm 105

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There are not many words for strong love, persisting love, in our language today. Perhaps one good word is “devotion.” We normally don’t use this word in connection with “love,” When I looked up the word “devote,” Webster’s Dictionary tells me that it means “set apart for special use or purpose” or “to give up oneself to some purpose, activity, or person.” Only in the fifth definition of “devotion” to we get something close to the word “love” – “loyalty or deep affection.”

And yet we understand, I think, that devotion is a demonstration of true abiding love. What or who we love, we devote time, energy, and attention to. We engage fully in those areas of life we love. We give lip service to those persons who we don’t love so much. One of the reasons we may get critiqued by our spouses for not paying attention to them is this simple truth – when we are not paying attention to them we are not showing devotion to them. When we ignore them in favor of the sporting event, who or what are we showing love to?

How is your life being spent? Where is your time invested? Where is your money going? What or who are you paying attention to? The answers to those questions tells us who and what we love, who and what we are devoted to.

In Daniel today we have an object lesson in devotion, in strong and persisting love. Daniel is so diligent and honest in his work that he is not only in charge of a third of the empire, be the king is thinking of promoting him to the top spot, just under the king in power. One would think that this work would be all-consuming. However, we find out in today’s readings that Daniel prayed three times a day on his knees, “giving thanks to his God.” We call prayer sessions like this “devotions” for a reason. The consistency, the process, and the intensity all show a devotion, a strong and persisting love, toward God, toward the love of Daniel’s life. He worked hard but he loved God. This is why work yielded to prayer.

PDA – public displays of affection. The source of derision by our children and the demonstration in real life, in real time, of our devotion to our spouses, our children, and everyone else we love. Daniel so loved God that he had public displays of affection toward Him even when it was unpopular to do so, even when the king had ordered him not to on pain of the lion’s den. Daniel ignored the king, not because he had disrespect for the king, but because he had love for God. He demonstrated his love, his devotion, by engaging God in public, by showing PDA, by loving first and worrying about the consequences later, if at all.

Do we have that kind of devotion to God, that kind of love for God?

Daniel so loved God that he was willing to risk life, liberty, and property in devotion to Him.

Are we devoted to God; do we really love Him? Let’s test that by asking some hard questions. Are we willing to risk a few minutes every day to be with Him and to enjoy His company? If we say we are willing, do we? Are we willing to run the risk of public ridicule because we do things in public which show our devotion and love for God? If we say we are willing, do we? Are we willing to run the risk of paying the consequences by loving God more than man, more than our “friends,” more than life itself? If we say we are willing, do we?

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