Bread – See

March 30, 2016


Psalm 13

“Consider and answer me, O Lord my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death…” Ps. 13:3

In the last Bread, we dealt with the condition of despair, where we lay at the bottom of the barrel, in the dark, with no hope ahead.  A lonely place, an unfriendly place, a wild place, a place where none of us want to go and yet, in business, in the home or in the family, with spouse or children, in spiritual affairs – we have been there.

How did we get out of it?  Medicine (science) would say that our brain chemistry was bad and that we were brought up from darkness to light by the miracle of modern drugs and therapy.  The religious atheists who believe in the essential goodness of self over all other things would say that we got out of the pit of despair by our own bootstraps, by looking to the future rather than the past, by slogging through the difficulties one step at a time, by thinking positive thoughts rather than negative ones, or, as Dr. Seuss might say it, by thinking on “fluffy things.”    The “group first” people would probably say that we were pulled out of our despair by a group of people around us who love us and who lift us up … after all, “it takes a village.”

But David had a different answer.  He knew that, in the despair of life and sin, in thrall to the world and the prince of darkness, Satan, we stand no chance without God.  When we are dead (the “sleep of death”), we have no hope for life except by the exercise of a power outside ourselves.  In the socialists world view, that outside power is the village, or society.  In the Christian world view, that outside power is God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The first, the village, relies on blind men to guide blind men, relies on broken people to fix broken people, relies upon an irrational belief that, if you have a bunch of defective parts, when you combine them the whole is not defective.  The second, the Christian world view, relies upon the rock of ages, the creator, the promise-keeper, one who has not sinned and is perfect.  The socialist relies upon shifting sand while the Christian relies upon the foundations of the earth.

That is why David pleads to God “Light up my eyes.”  He knows that, if God does not light up our eyes, our eyes will remain dark.  He knows that, if God does not give us power, we have none except the counterfeit kind, the appearance of power with no strength to persevere.  He knows that wisdom comes from God and not from man, except perhaps in a negative way (teaching us what not to do).

And so David, while wallowing in despair, does one thing and one thing only – and that is plead with God that God consider where he is and that God answer him, light up his eyes, and guide him out of that dark place into a place of light and joy.

Perhaps, today, your joy is gone, happiness is a memory, hope is distant, and the pit seems bigger and bigger.  Have you stopped to ask God for answers, for wisdom, for consideration, for hope, for joy, for gratitude?  Have you stopped to pray … not just a short “God help me” but a long pause in the day where you can be with Him, hear Him, learn from Him, be infilled with Him, and be empowered by Him?

What is the foundation of our day?  How do we begin it?  With our important activities like dressing and cleaning up and eating breakfast and reviewing the daily task list and appointments, by running through our mind what we will say to those important people we will meet, practicing how we will behave and what we will do, rehearsing so that we will be successful and have lots of respect, position, power, wealth, and things?  Or with the most important activity of all – getting in touch with the Foundation, God?

David’s got it right.  When we are in despair, do not look to our own or society’s devices but to look to maintaining the relationship with God.

If we do not ask God to light up our eyes, we will remain in the sleep of death – perhaps successful by the world’s standards but in the sleep of death anyway.  If we ask Him … well, read the rest of Psalm 13 … and be grateful.

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

 

 

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Bread – Seeing

April 28, 2014


Readings for Monday, April 28, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Exod. 14:21-31; 1 Pet. 1:1-12; John 14:1-17; Psalms 1,2,3,4,7

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We have a saying, “seeing is believing,” but is that really true? Isn’t the bigger truth that we often see things with our own eyes and yet do not believe them? Before you say anything, think of our reaction to magic tricks. We see the card disappear from a person’s hand and reappear out of someone else’s ear, but do we really believe that the card came from the ear? Or that the card even really disappeared? We know the card left our sight and in that sense “disappeared,” but we also think skeptically that the card went into the magician’s sleeve or into his or her pocket. We are amazed by this magic trick, but we do not believe in magic as a result, but only in the magician’s skill at deception.

In today’s lessons from Scripture, we have three examples of “seeing is believing.” The first example is one where there is a great miracle which is actually seen, and belief flows from that seeing. The second example is where there is seeing but a barrier to belief and, therefore, no belief. The third is where there is no seeing, but belief anyway.

It is instructive for our understanding how sight and belief relate that we digest these three Scriptures.

The first lesson is from Exodus. God has brought a wind which blows the waters of the sea apart, so that a path on dry land is created so that Israel can escape the angry Egyptians. Israel walks across the sea on the dry land blown into being by God, and then God collapses the waters onto the attacking Egyptians, so that all are drowned or otherwise killed. The reading ends with this statement: “Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, so the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses.” Exod. 14:31

Here the Israelites saw a great miracle and from that sight came belief? But why? According to our modern scientists, the reason why they believe is that they just didn’t know better and didn’t know that they were just watching, and had participated in, an explainable natural event. According to those people, the people of Israel believed because they were ignorant and were therefore superstitious. These people would explain all miracles away in this fashion. “The sea parted, but it was a trick which we will one day understand once our science catches up.” Against such skepticism, how can any miracle result in belief?

But there was something more, here, than a great event. First, there was fulfillment of promise. God had promised Israel safe delivery, and in that sense the miracle was predicted. Second, there was the fullness of performance. God did not kill one Egyptian or save one Israelite; He saved all the Israelites and killed all the Egyptians. A natural phenomenon would probably not have divided the peoples quite so carefully. Third, there was indeed a touch of impossibility. I have seen a wind blow away water before and create a dry path, but blowing long enough and consistently enough and strong enough to part enough of the waters so that the entirety of a nation could cross on dry land? No natural phenomenon would have had that level of strength, consistency, and time of operation under almost any stretch of the imagination. The consistency alone is proof of its having been a miracle. Having seen the miracle and having experienced it, the people were properly fearful and what more was there to do than to believe the Father and His representative.

The second lesson is from John. Jesus is talking about the Father, and about how He is “the way, the truth, and the life” to the Father. Philip, one of the disciples (apostles), then says to Jesus “Lord, show us the Father and it is enough for us.” John 14:8. Let me see, and I will believe what my own eyes tell me. Jesus essentially rebukes Philip, saying to him “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know Me, Philip? Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father?’ Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me?…Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.” John 14:9-11. It does not matter what Philips sees with his own eyes. He can see Jesus, and he wants more proof. He can see the miracles, and he wants more proof. How much proof is enough? Jesus is saying that you can either see what is in front of you, trust it enough to believe in it, or don’t trust it and don’t believe.

The third example is from our reading from Peter, where the people receiving the letter are being commended for believing without seeing – “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory…” 1 Pet. 1:8-9

How can we reconcile these with the saying “seeing is believing.” We cannot. In Exodus, the people saw a great miracle and believed. In John, the people closest to Jesus saw Him, but did not believe Him. Jesus showed them the great works of God and showed them Himself, explaining His deity to them. But, even though they saw, they wanted more in order to believe. In Peter, people did not see Jesus but they believe Him anyway.

The only conclusion one can make from this is that seeing is not believing and that belief comes from some place other than seeing. This is why our best explanation of the faith, your strongest working of healing in Jesus’ name, our speaking in the tongues of love, or our evangel of the truth, will never succeed in bringing people to saving faith. We can have the best teaching in the world, the most obvious miracles in the world, and the greatest explanations in the world, and our belief will still be suspended in that twilight zone of “I saw the card disappear but I know it really didn’t.”

Unless God first opens our minds and our hearts, opens our eyes and unstops our ears, we will never see or hear enough to believe. Never.

Isn’t this one of the great proofs of God’s love for us, that when we do not hear and cannot see, God brings belief in Him to us?

The miracle in Exodus was not the parting of the Red Sea, it was the belief of the Israelites in Him which followed. The miracle in our lives is not that Jesus died on the cross but that God so loved us that He opened our eyes to see the cross in the first place. The miracle in our lives is not the proofs of God’s existence – we live with those surrounding us all the time. The miracle in our lives is that God chose us in His mercy and grace and power and glory to belief in Him. The miracle in our lives is that we are saved by belief in Christ, not by our own works that we might boast of our powers of observation or deduction, but by the sovereign power of God – giving us eyes to see Jesus, ears to hear His voice, hearts to feel His love, and minds to respond to His call.

Thank you, Lord.

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© 2014 GBF

Bread — Want

August 16, 2013


Readings for Friday, August 16, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 15:19-37; Acts 21:37-22:16; Mark 10:46-52; Psalms 102,107:1-32

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Jesus asks the blind beggar in our reading today from Mark “what do you want?”

Not “what do you think you need,” “what do you need,” “what do you think you ought to have,” not even “what do you wish for in your wildest dreams,” but “what do you want?”

This is an important question, because it really addresses where we always are. Oh, we may think into the future and ask ourselves what we wish we had, and plan for it. We may look around and see the cupboard is bare and say that we “need” food, but the most important question we can always ask ourselves in the present is, “what do we want, now.”

Think about the list of answers we have to that question, “what do you want.” We might say, “I want dinner” if we are past dinner time. Having had dinner, in our response to “what do you you want,” we might answer “dessert” or “ice cream.” If we are out of work, in response to “what do you want,” we might answer a “new job,” but more likely our answer would be even more limited and immediate – “I want some money for gas,” or “I want some money for the house payment.”

The more you think about it, the more you realize that the question of “what do you want?” exposes our real condition, where what we want varies in the moment and the condition, and is generally self-focused. How many of us, really, would answer the question “what do you want?” with “I want my wife to have more love from me” or “I want my children to know Jesus?” Now that I have raised these as possibilities, you may be thinking “Oh, I would say that,” but you in your heart know better. If I went to you, a car enthusiast, right now and asked you what you wanted, if you had just gone shopping for groceries and had eaten recently, you are likely to say “I want a new set of wheels for my hot car.” I, I, I. Me, me, me. My, my, my!

Jesus asks the blind man “what do you want?” And he answered “Let me recover my sight.” Mk. 10:51.

Now, before we say “of course, he would say that, because he is blind,” remember his state of life. He is a beggar on the side of the road. He probably lives a life of subsistence, poor, hungry, spat on, rained on, living in the same set of clothes for long periods of time, unwashed, dirty, stinky. He is used to asking for money, but to Jesus he asks for mercy and for recovery of his sight, which he somehow understands are tied together. He does not ask for something common, but something uncommon. He does not ask for something which man can give, but something which only God can give.

In one very very real sense, when we pray to God, God asks us “what do you want?” Many of us are inclined to ask for the trivial of the day, the “want” in the moment rather than the “want” for all life. How do you respond to that question?

What do you want today? What do you really want today? This is no easy question, and the answer is a lot harder to come up with than we often think.

What do you want to today? Satan whispers in our ear, “Say a bowl of soup.” Will we ask for that or will we ask for something which lasts for much, much longer? God is waiting for an answer.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Sight

June 10, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 10, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 30:1-10; 2 Cor. 10:1-18; Luke 18:31-43; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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From our reading today in Luke: “[and Jesus said] ‘What do you want Me to do for you?’ He [the blind beggar] said, ‘Lord, let me recover my sight.’” Lk. 18:41

What do we really, really see? Probably very little.

We know we see very little because of those who see much. For example, we know (from movies) that spies are taught to walk through a room, watching and comprehending everything in the room in a brief moment. This is important to them because they must quickly sort friend from foe, safety from danger, important from unimportant. The reason they need to see everything quickly is because their next steps are often based on what they see. Here, “see” has a broader connotation than just looking. “See” for a spy means observing, comprehending, and understanding. A good spy sees with all of his or her senses, not just the eyes. But the eyes are a good place to start.

Another group of people who see much are nurses. In a sense, they are the spies of the health care world. When they go into a room, they are trained to not only see the patient, but also to see the machines, the bathroom, the patient’s room, and the people in the room. They are observant of everything because the slightest thing out of order may be the clue to wellness or the predictor of a coming problem. They may write down what the machines are telling them, but their primary information source is everything else. When they “see” the patient, they are not only looking at the patient, but using every sense to test the patient’s emotional, spiritual, and physical state.

When we walk through our day today, what will be our primary defect? My hunch is that we will fail to see. We will ignore the person on the elevator who needs a kind word because we did not “see” them, wrapped up as we are with our own agenda. We will ignore the confusion of papers on someone’s desk (including ours) because we are so used to looking at them that they are just now a fixture in the office tapestry, blended into the background.

Have you noticed that there is a word which goes with “failure to see?” That word is “ignore.” I can ignore what I fail to see, and I fail to see what I ignore.

When the blind man asked for his sight from Jesus Christ, he was making a choice to no longer live in ignorance, but with his sight to look completely upon both the good and the bad in the world. We think that when the blind man’s sight was restored, he looked upon a world which was now full of color and movement, and that He looked upon Jesus, our Savior. But when his eyes were opened he also looked upon the same Jesus who earlier in our reading in Luke told the disciples that He would be delivered unto the Gentiles and “…after flogging, they will kill Him..” Lk. 18:32-33. He was not only looking at the Christ who was mighty but the Christ on the way to His own funeral. When the blind man’s eyes were open, he not only saw brilliant color and movement, the sun and the stars, but he also saw dust, poverty, loneliness, and misery.

As a blind man over in his corner, the beggar could focus on himself and his needs. At one who could see, he no longer had that luxury. With sight he had to step into the world, engage the world, and participate in what the world has to offer. But with sight he could also step into the presence of Jesus Christ, engage Him, and participate as a citizen in the kingdom of God.

When we realize that sight means the loss of ignorance, when sight means giving up our self-absorption and taking on engagement with our neighbors, is sight really worth having?

If you are inclined to say “yes, sight is worth it,” ask yourself why you haven’t prayed for it. Have you asked the Lord to let you see Him clearly, to let you see the path He has laid for you clearly, to see the hurt in others clearly, to see the misery of the world clearly? Oh we want our sight when we want to see the fireworks of July 4, but we really don’t want our sight when we are looking at the hovels where many people live. Oh we want our sight when we are looking at how we have been hurt, but we would rather not have it when we are looking in the mirror and asking ourselves how we have hurt others.

One of the great hymns of the Christian faith ends its first stanza like this: “I once was lost, but now I’m found. Twas blind, but now I see.”

This line comes from a heart of gratitude for the grace of God which not only saves but reveals.

But are you ready to see, really see?

Many people would say “no” to that question, because they fear what they would be called to do as disciples of Christ if they saw what was really going on around them. Called to bring reconciliation to a broken world, called to love the loveless, called to pronounce the kingdom of God to people who could care less, called to serve, called to become less so that He might be more. If we are thinking that way, fearful of sight, we might recall a reading from another lesson today, Paul’s second letter to the church in Corinth, where he says “For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” 2 Cor. 10:3

When the Lord gives us sight, He also gives us strength. When He opens our eyes He arms us with divine weaponry to deal with what we now see.

Jesus Christ asked the blind man, “What do you want me to do for you?” He asks us the same question. What is our answer?

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Sight

June 29, 2012


Readings for Friday, June 29 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 20:1-13; Rom. 5:12-21; Matt. 20:29-34; Psalms 102, 107

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From our reading today in Matthew – “…they [two blind men] cried out all the more, ‘Lord have mercy on us, Son of David’ … Jesus called them and said, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ They said to Him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’” Matt. 20:31-33

In our misery, we cry out in our prayers “Lord have mercy on me.” When God talks to us and asks us what we want, what will be our reply?

Will it be “I want food” or “I want a job” or “I want to be cured of this disease” or “I don’t want to hurt anymore?” These are the things in life which we consider practical, which will help us confront the daily grind of a broken world, of broken relationships, of a broken body. These are the things we are inclined to ask for. The two blind men sitting on the side of the road in Jesus’ day were probably beggars. The kinds of mercy shown on them by other passersby were probably a few coins or perhaps a fish. This is probably why Jesus asked “what do you want?” The answer could very well have been a bowl of porridge.

Instead the answer was profound – “Lord, let our eyes be opened.” In many respects, this is a request that even transcends them becoming un-blind. They could have said “We want to see.” But somehow these blind men knew that mere sight was not enough, that the kind of sight they wanted, that they needed, was the kind of sight that was “opened.” There is no really good English term for this. It is like the difference between “seeing” and “really seeing.” It is like the difference between merely seeing a person standing in front of you and seeing into and through that person, into their heart. It is like the difference between noticing someone and loving someone. Both involve sight and seeing; only one involves having your eyes “opened.”

So the beggars, who were probably in need of food, shelter, wine, and some purpose in their life, asked instead that their “eyes be opened.” Another name for this might be “discernment.” Another name for this might be “wisdom.”

The kind of sight which is open is given freely by Jesus in this passage, and the rest of Scripture tells us that wisdom (open sight) is available to any Christian who asks. “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.” Jas. 1:5

Are we today sitting in our misery, asking for a better government, better health, better job, better this or better that? Or are we asking for our sight to be opened, that we may see clearly and openly in the evil day, that we may see clearly and openly both ourselves and our neighbors, that we may see clearly and openly our God.

See, when the blind men’s eyes were opened, what (or, more properly, who) was the first thing (person) they saw? Jesus. Not the world, not themselves, not other people – but the truth. They saw the Truth, the Way, and the Life. They saw Jesus.

Do you have something to be miserable about, angry about, upset about, depressed about? You are a son or daughter of Adam and Eve and so the answer to that question is “yes.” Jesus is walking down the road and asks you, “What do you want?” What is your answer? That your sight be opened so that you can see Him, or a bowl of porridge.

The question is His; the answer is yours. What do you want? Mere sight or sight that is open. The solution for today or the solution for eternity.

What say you to Jesus’ question, “What do you want Me to do for you?”

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