Bread – Ignorance

April 5, 2017


Psalm 59

Each evening they come back, howling like dogs and prowling about the city.  There they are, bellowing with their mouths with swords in their lips — for ‘Who,’ they think, ‘will hear us?’  But You, O Lord, laugh at them;…Kill them not, lest my people forget; make them totter by their power and bring them down, O Lord, our shield!”  Ps,. 59:6-8,11

There are three parts to this excerpt from Psalm 59.  The first is the description of the people behaving like dogs, ignorant of God and the judgment to come.  The second is God Himself, who by the Psalmist’s description is amused at their ignorance.  The third is the Psalmist, who is praying to God that He not destroy them, so that their collapse over time can be a testimony to God’s people.  This last one caught me by surprise, because my natural reaction would be “God, shoot the dogs and get me out of my misery from having to listen to them!”  But the Psalmist prays for God to spare them for a time so the ignorance and depravity of their ways can become apparent to all.

There are sayings like “ignorance is bliss” and “what you don’t know won’t hurt you.”  The problem, which David points out, is that ignorance is not bliss; instead, ignorance is a fast track to punishment for eternity.  What you don’t know does hurt you.  You cannot step in front of a moving train and wish it away.  You cannot remain ignorant of the natural law of gravity.  You cannot remain ignorant of the spiritual law that the product of sin is death and that we all sin, no matter the degree of our “good works.”

The deliberately evil people and the ignorant people are all destined to the same end.  The evil people may say “We don’t care if He hears us” and the ignorant people may say “Who is He and why would He hear us in the first place,” but the result of a good, ignorant life without God and the salvation which comes from Jesus Christ alone has the same ending.  When God confronts us on our day of judgment, an inadequate response is “I didn’t know.”

The statement “I was blind, but now I see” was preceded by the acknowledgment “I am blind and I want to see.”

How does one proceed from ignorance of God to knowing Him?  Not initially by one’s own effort, just like going from unsaved to saved is not accomplished by our own effort.

Ignorance is its own form of blindness.  When we are blind, we know it because we cannot see with our eyes and the world is dark.  However, when we are ignorant, part of that ignorance is the fundamental belief that we know something, so we believe that we can see.  However, our seeing in the throes of ignorance is like peering through distorted glass.  However, the distortion is not apparent to the one in ignorance.

So what are the ignorant to do?  The same as the blind.  The same as the unredeemed.  The same as we all have done whether consciously or unconsciously – pray “Come Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and wake me up, let me see, rescue me, and save me.  Amen.”  Truth, not ignorance, shall set you free.

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

 

 

Bread – Resolved

December 30, 2016


Psalm 45

Hear, O daughter, and consider … Since He is your Lord, bow to Him.”   Ps. 45:10-11

This is the third step in the process of our glorification as Christ’s bride.  The pre-step is God’s choice of His bride.  The first step was for us to hear and incline ourselves toward God.  The second step is then for us to forget our past, pick up our cross, and follow Him.

This third step is encapsulated in the Psalmist’s simple statement that we, as Christ’s bride, should “bow to Him,” since He is our Lord.

 

This simple command sounds strange to Western ears, and particularly to Americans, where we say proudly that “we bow down to no man.”  But, of course, Jesus is God, so he is not mere man.  But, still, we like to think of ourselves as equal to God and, therefore, it is easier in our mindset to call Him “friend” then it is to call Him “Lord.”

But for the wedding feast to be truly glorious, for the bride to enjoy all of the benefits of hope, peace, love, and charity which God brings into the relationship, the bride must bow, the bride must be obedient to the Lord’s commands.

As we reach the end of the year and look forward to the new year, it is time for reflection and resolution, reflection on the past and resolution for the future.

As we look over the past year in our walk with God, have we really, really been obedient to His call on our lives, to His commands for life, or to His personal request that we become holy like He is?  We may have heard the good news of Christ and inclined our ear, and we may have gathered around us our church friends, leaving our past behind, but have we really “bowed to Him?”  Have we given up our selfish ways?  Have we subordinated self to His glory, His ways, His truth, and His life?  Instead of just asking ourselves “What would Jesus do,” have we actually done what Jesus has told us to do?

Many of us, myself included, are weak Christians.  We talk a game, but we do not walk it.  We have heard the good news and proclaim trust in Christ, but we trust ourselves and our friends and our wealth and the world more.  We do not walk in holiness; in fact, if we are honest, we barely make acquaintance with the concept.

But that is the past, and it need not be the future.  The work of God is to transform us, first by giving us a new life in Him and then training us, bringing us up from infants into maturity as His disciples.

Let’s all take on a New Year’s resolution that very well may be the hardest thing we have ever done.  Let us resolve to begin each day by “bowing to Him.”  Let’s be obedient to our Lord.

What does this look like?  I think it is simpler than we think.  If He says love, we love.  If He says rest, we rest.  If He says talk to Me, we talk to Him.  If He says “walk through that door,” we take the step of faith into the unknown (to us).

Resolved, that I put Him first and me second.  And for that, we need help.  Come Holy Spirit!

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

 

 

 

Bread – Lord

June 5, 2015


Readings for Friday, June 5, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Deut. 26:1-11; 2 Cor. 8:16-24; Luke 18:9-14; Psalms 40, 51, 54

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Recently I have been confronted with taking the Bible translation (in my case today, the ESV), reading it in its plain meaning, adopting the meaning of the word used which I understand the meaning today to be in present English (or in my assumptions), thinking that I know what I am talking about, and then researching the word in its Greek or Hebrew form and realizing that I was losing much of the meaning because I thought I understood what the English word meant.

Something like that happened today in our reading from 2 Corinthians. In this reading, Paul writes “…for we aim for what is honorable not only in the Lord’s sight but also in the sight of man” [ESV translation] and “…for we have regard for what is honorable, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men. “ [NASB translation].

Now, reading this, I was going to write on the fact that honorable behavior can be seen as such by both the Lord and by man and that when we behave in a way which is honorable to the Lord it is likely also to be considered honorable by man (remembering that just because behavior is considered honorable by man does not mean that it is appreciated or recognized by man; you can be honorable and still in jail because as a Christian you are adverse to the purveyors of lies).

So in preparation for that I started looking words up which were underlined in my study bible and which were in this phrase, and lo and behold I found out that the word translated “Lord” is not what I thought it was.

When I see the word “Lord,” I think of position and not character; I think of Lord as Jesus Christ and not standing for a particular aspect of Jesus’ character. And yet in the use of the underlying Greek word translated to “Lord,” there is an implicit recognition of a particular character which is good for us to remember in our walk with Christ.

See, the word translated “Lord” in our reading today is the Greek word “Kurlos” which means the “lord” wielding power and authority for good. The direct opposite in the Greek is “Despotēs” which means a lord [despot] wielding authority over slaves. The word used for “Lord” in today’s reading conveys so much about our relationship with Christ and who He is. We obey Him because we want to, not because we have to. We follow His path because we believe in His promise that it is the right path, not because we are whipped mercilessly if we disobey. When our Lord corrects us, it is for our good end; when the despot correct his slaves, it is for his good end. Our Lord gives His power to us for daily living; the despot takes power from us to use in his daily living. Our Lord gives us talents and tells us to work the fields because the harvest is ripe; the despot takes our talents and forces us to work the fields. In Christ and beneath Christ and through Christ, we are to live freely and with hope. Beneath a despot, we live as slaves with no hope. Beneath Christ as our Lord, as our “Kurlos,” we will live forever. Under the despot Satan, as our “Despotēs,” we will die.

All this from one word.

What treasures await us in God’s Word if we will but stop from time to time on a single word, in a single phrase, and ask ourselves simply “What does this really mean.”

What does the word “Lord” really mean?

To many, it would seem that bowing the knee to God in submission is a step toward slavery. Because Christ is “Kurlos,” it actually means a step toward goodness and freedom. Knowing that, why would anyone choose to be slave to the despot?

I think it is because the despot speaks to our mind, saying “Why subject yourself to the Lord who wields power for good when you are good yourself?”

But as Jesus reminds us in today’s reading, “No one is good except God alone.” Lk. 18:19

Now, just stop for a minute and marvel at the unity of God’s Word. In the translation, “good” is mentioned only In today’s reading from Luke, when Christ reminds us that only God is good. In the middle of literally nowhere in Corinthians, when Paul is talking about honesty with handling money, the translated word “Lord” really means a Lord who wields authority power for good. Only God is good. The Lord who wields power for good can do so because He is God. Christ is God.

And, now, based upon just a few minutes of investigation into God’s Word, I now see that, everywhere I see the word “Lord” in a translation, I need to think “Lord wielding power for good.”

Leaves you with a good feeling for this weekend, doesn’t it?

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Slavery

January 23, 2015


Readings for Friday, January 23, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 45:18-25; Eph. 6:1-9; Mark 4:35-41; Psalms 31,35

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Slavery is a difficult topic because of our history and yet we are confronted squarely with it in our reading today from Ephesians: “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ, not by the way of eye-service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering services with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…Masters, do the same to them, …knowing that He who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with Him.” Eph. 6:5-9

For many years Christians used this language as some kind of approval of the slave-system, and yet it was Christians who broke the back of the slave-system ultimately. In fact, built into this quotation today are the seeds of the systems’ destruction – “Masters, do the same to them …” There is no partiality with the Lord; we all stand before Him, regardless of our birth or circumstances, steeped in sin, saved by the grace and power of God alone, inheritors of the kingdom, brothers and sisters in Christ. Be we king or pauper, rich or poor, master or slave, genius or dumb, athletic or a couch potato – we all stand together as equally sinful, equally saved, equally justified by Christ’s death, and equally judged.

So do we ignore this passage as dealing with something in the past, part of history but irrelevant today? The answer is “no,” not because of slavery today but because all of the Bible is God’s Word to us and all of it, whether we understand it or not, is useful to us for training, growth in the Lord, and rebuke.

But the fact is that there is slavery today. For the moment, set aside slavery with chains (although this still exists), because people tend to get stuck in that traditional description of slavery.

But let me ask you some questions. If you are in the work environment, needing to bring home a paycheck to feed your family, is not your boss the functional equivalent of a “master” and are you not the functional equivalent of a “slave?” We may soften the words with employer and employee, but when the boss tells you to do something on pain of losing your job, don’t you do it? Similarly, in the military, when your commander (master) orders you private (slave) to do something, is this not the functional equivalent of slavery, even though we may soften it with language like sergeant and private? When you are a college professor, with control over the grades of your students and their present and future success, are you not a “master” and the student a ‘slave?” We may soften the description by calling one a professor and the other a student, but there is a master-slave relationship no matter how we want to sugarcoat it.

So what are we to do when we are the slave in the circumstances? Scripture tells us. We are not to act in a way which pleases man, but in a way which pleases God. And what does He tell us but to obey your earthly masters. By obedience to Christ, we are not obedient to the world but to Him. He appoints authority over us and He will exercise His judgment over that authority He appoints. As slaves, we obey our boss, we obey our teachers, we obey ranking officers. Not because they tell us to and show us the whip, but because we are obedient to Christ – we are slaves to Christ, our true Master.

And what are we to do when we are the master in the circumstances? Scripture tells us. We are not to act in a way which pleases man, but in a way which pleases God. And what does He tell us but to but to obey our slaves (“Masters, do the same to them …”). If God gives us authority over others, we are to love those people, listen to them, watch over them, consider their wisdom, obey them, and if necessary die for them. A position of authority is not only a position of steward, but a position of shepherd (if that is a word).

How can the student obey the teacher and the teacher obey the student? Because, and only if, they both obey Christ. If they are both slaves to the true Master, Christ, then each of them to each other is both master and slave – bound in mutual love, respect, honor, and trust.

Does this sound like utopia? Yes. Can this be brought about by the act of man through self-regulation, improved thought, more education, or the right kind of government or proper rules and regulations? No.

But what is impossible with man is possible with God. As words from our reading in Isaiah remind us today, “I am the Lord, and there is no other …I declare what is right…there is no other god besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none besides Me.” Isa. 45:18-21

True equality does not come through man but through Christ.

Therefore, if you want to really throw off the shackles of slavery, bring everyone (including yourself) to Christ. Become a slave to Christ, the true Master, and you will be free, free indeed.

A strange concept, I know. How we be slave and free at the same time? Ah … the answer to that question is … who is your Master?

“Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done. On earth, as it is in heaven.” Amen and Amen.

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© 2015 GBF

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.

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© 2014 GBF

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