Bread – Steadfast

October 11, 2017


Psalm 86

Incline Your ear, O Lord, and answer me; for I am poor and needy…For You, O Lord, are good and forgiving, abounding in steadfast love to all who call upon You.”  Ps. 86:1,5

We pray to God for help in times of need … why?  Do we believe He pays attention?  Do we believe He cares?  Do we believe that He will in fact intervene to save us in our distress?  Do we believe He is able?  Do we believe that He is God?

We know that we do not bring before God the first fruits of our labor.  We do not spend time with Him.  We do not thoroughly study His Word, although we actually have a Bible on our bookshelf.  We may acknowledge His existence in some kind of reality, but we routinely ignore Him, blithely going about our lives wrapped up in ourselves.

Maybe we pray to Him in times of need as reflex action.  Maybe we do it because, having reached the ends of ropes of our making, we think that there can be no harm and, who knows, there may be some good.

Sounds all pretty cynical, doesn’t it?

I write this way to make a point.  We do not really understand what “steadfast” means because we, ourselves, are driven by the mood of the day, the breakfast we ate, the quality of the relationships we have, our title, our possessions, the need of the moment, the crisis before us, the weather, and 10,000 other things which drive us to and fro, from the heights of victory to the valley of despair, from left to right.  We do not understand what “steadfast” is because we ourselves are naturally built of sticks upon sand, constantly changing our direction based upon the direction of the wind.

And what is our reference point, if not us?

This is the ancient and modern fallacy of thinking.  If we are indeed the reference point, then the concept of steadfast has no meaning because we ourselves are steadfast for maybe a few minutes a day.

To understand steadfastness, we need to have an absolute reference point – and that is God.  We may pray out of need, but we pray to God because we know who He is.  We know Him as Creator and Savior.  We know Him as the only God.  We know Him as full of grace (mercy).  We know Him as One who is steadfast.

If we understand steadfastness at all, it is because we kneel before the One who invented the concept, who is the concept, who demonstrates the concept.

Where in our lives does God show steadfast love?  We are still denied the promotion, the salary increase, the wished for and dreamed about opportunity, the miraculous healing from cancer.  We are not happy clappy, so where is this so-called “steadfast” love?

It is shown quite simply in that we are forgiven our sins (trespasses) against Him, that we are saved from ourselves and in spite of ourselves, for all eternity, in Jesus Christ.

Regardless of whether we are in the valley of our failures or the mountaintops of our successes, God’s steadfast love does not move, it is not shaken, it is not compromised, it does not wane, it does not lose intensity, it does not diminish, it does not go away.  It remains, through thick and thin, darkness and light, worry and elation.

We, too, can be steadfast in our faith, in our love, in our devotion … if we will but stand on the solid rock, the absolute steadfastness of God.  All else is sinking sand.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – When

March 15, 2017


Psalm 56

“When I am afraid, I put my trust in You.  In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.  What can flesh do to me?”  Ps. 56:3-4

This verse is preceded by David complaining that man steps on him and attacks him all the time.

Which then leads to the “when I am afraid…” verse.

My first reaction to this (and the reason Bread is called “When”) was this — isn’t it true that we never trust God in the good times, but only the desperate?  Men were trampling David and beating him up, and he was OK doing battle with them on his own.  But when the odds became overwhelming to him, when he became afraid, that is when he trusted God.  “When I am afraid …” could mean that I trust God when I am afraid, suggesting that I do not trust Him when I am not afraid.  This led me to an easy conclusion for this Bread, namely that we should trust God all the time.

However, when I started thinking about being afraid, being truly afraid, I asked myself what the typical human reaction is.  That reaction is either “fight or flight,” according to the psychologists.  When we are afraid, our natural reaction, our womanly or manly reaction, is to either run away and escape (flight) or become incredibly angry and somewhat crazy and fight (fight).  When we are afraid of losing an argument, we double down (fight) or admit defeat (flight).  When we are in a hostile zone where people do not like us or may be even trying to hurt us, we try to hurt them first (fight – the best defense is a good offense, right?) or we exit stage left (flight).

But God tells us that there is a third thing we can do.  Rather than exit the difficulty (flight) or put on our boxing gloves (fight), we can trust God.

How can Christians love their enemies when their enemies hate them?  By trusting in God and neither leaving the fight (flight) nor adding flames to it (fight).

How can Christians both speak the truth in love and not back down in the face of opposition, all without increasing hatred and anger?  By trusting in God and neither backing down in the name of tolerance (flight) or engaging in a knockdown, drag out fight over who is right and who is wrong (fight).

How do Christians stand in the evil day?  By trusting in God and neither retiring to their sanctuaries (homes or churches, flight) nor heaping curses upon those who do not believe (fight).

When put in this perspective, the simple statement that David makes when he says “When I am afraid, I put my trust in You” is not so simple after all.

We will be in danger and will be afraid many times today.  We may have to talk to the stranger in the elevator.  We may have to explain to a disbelieving colleague why we are a Christian.  We may be in economic circumstances which cause us to wonder whether we will eat tonight or make the rent tomorrow.  We may have just received a bad diagnosis from a doctor.  We may be in the middle of losing an argument or some other kind of fight which we believe in our heart we must win.

What will we do?  Will we run away from the fight?  Will we jump in the middle of the fight with our weapons of words, fists, or other devices?  Or will we reject man’s solutions of fight or flight and, instead, put on the full armor of God and trust in Him?

When do we trust in Him?  When will we?

________

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

Bread – Disappear

March 10, 2017


Psalm 55

My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me.  Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me, and I say “Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest;…” Ps. 55:4-6

At the beginning of this Psalm, David is impatient with the Lord.  In the middle of this Psalm, David wants to disappear, to fly away from his troubles, whatever they are.  At the end of the Psalm, David turns to the Lord in confidence, saying “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He will sustain you.”  Ps. 55:22

In this Bread, we are focused on the middle.  We have appealed to the Lord to help us out of our disaster, probably of our own making but sometimes caused by a stranger or (as in this Psalm) someone close to you.  We have told the Lord to pay attention to us and we have lost patience with Him.

So what is next, do we turn to our own might, power, intelligence, cunning, and resourcefulness?  Well, don’t you think David probably did that before he started telling the Lord to pay attention to him.  After all, don’t we usually try to do it first ourselves before we ask the Lord for help?

So I think we can assume that David has tried to get out the mess he is in, and he then turned to the Lord.  The Lord did not appear in David’s timing and, so, he impatiently started looking for alternatives.  He started to look for the rear exit.  He started to look for how he could gracefully exit “stage left” and disappear from the scene.  But, perhaps, there is no back exit for him and no solution coming from his own mind or from God’s hand.  So David looks at the sky and dreams, “Oh, that I had wings like a dove…”  We probably would more generic and just wish for wings like a bird because in those circumstances, for us, any old bird would do.  But David also realizes that in disappearing he can find peace, and so he probably thinks of the dove first, as the symbol of peace.

But maybe, just maybe, he also recognized that the dove also represents the spirit of God, what we today would call the Holy Spirit.   In that sense, then, he is praying for a miracle.

How often have we wished just to disappear?  To get out of harm’s way, to avoid the difficult conversation, to agree to be agreeable, to make our excuses for our non-involvement?

In today’s world, as secular society becomes more hostile to public displays of religious belief, there is a tendency for us as Christians, which means us as the Church, to disappear behind the walls of our churches, to our places of sanctuary.

And when I disappear, when I fly away, what do I leave behind?  At best, a memory.  And when the church disappears behind cloistered walls, what do we leave behind?  At best, a memory.

David was in a horrible circumstance – “horror overwhelms me.”  He wants help from God or by just disappearing.  But he gets neither.  Instead, he gets to stay where he is.

Just like we must stay where we are, where we are planted, no matter how difficult the circumstances.

Why?  So that God may be glorified in the actions of His people as salt to a sick and dying world, as a light in dark places, as truth in opposition to lies, as hope where there is none, as love where there is perhaps less than none.

The Church must not disappear.  The Church must stand in the evil day, unafraid, unbowed, unapologetic, full of grace, truth, love, and power.

Oh we may want to disappear and, in fact, the world (Satan) may make it very easy to disappear, calling it peace.

But there is no peace in retreat, but only in the arms of the Lord.

________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Budge

April 15, 2016


Psalm 15

“He who does these things shall never be moved.”  Ps. 15:5b

There are two questions built into this verse.  One is, what are “these things?”  Well, the answer to that is in the Psalm and you can read it.  But, in the interest of moving to the question of the day, “these things” are walking blamelessly, doing what is right, speaking truth in your heart, not slandering with your tongue, doing no evil to your neighbor, not taking up a reproach against your friend, despising a vile person, honoring those who fear the Lord, swearing to your own hurt, not changing, not loaning to brothers in need at interest, and doing justice (not taking a bribe against the innocent).

The second question is what does it mean to never be “moved?”

I call this Bread “Budged” because we probably think of movement from one position to another, but I think the meaning is closer to being budged, even a little, off the mark.   Perhaps a better translation is the one contained in the NASB version, which says that a person who does “these things” “shall never be shaken.”  Being shaken is the merest of movements, but from the beginning of a rock rolling down the hillside comes the avalanche.  In fact, the movement from one position to another begins with the smallest doubt, the smallest “budge” from certainty, the smallest “shaken.”

The best analogy I can think of is an earthquake.  The mountain appears to be immovable until an earthquake occurs, at which time it moves, an avalanche occurs, and damage to the mountain and anyone and anything who the mountain supports results.

An example of an earthquake in our personal life is the loss of a job, the death of a child or another closely loved one, the betrayal of a friend.  These events challenge our very view of the world.  These events attack our foundations and cause us to shake.  If our foundation is built on the sands of man, our house and our faith will not stand.  If our foundation is built on the sold rock of faith in Jesus Christ, our house and our faith will be challenged and we may be shaken, but we will not budge, we will not fall, and we will stand in the evil day.

But why does doing “these things” help us to keep from budging, keep from being shaken, keep from being moved, keep from collapsing, and keep us on the solid rock of faith?

I think it is because each of “these things” is practical and is done day-to-day.  Doing each of these things is actually counter-cultural and counter to our own instincts.  Doing of each of these things builds up our spiritual muscles and is exercise against the earthquake to come.  And doing each of these things is a minute-by-minute exercise in radical dependence upon God for our guidance and His Holy Spirit for our strength?

How does one “walk blamelessly” on a regular basis, all the time, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How does one “do what is right” on a regular basis, all the time, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How does one keep from slandering with our tongue, keep from doing evil to our neighbor, keep from repeating gossip about our friends, identifying and hating vile people while identifying and raising up people who fear the Lord, or any of these things, except through the power of God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

How do we, as Christians, maintain the course through life, advocate well as ambassadors of the Kingdom of God, love without fear, and walk exercise self-control, except through the power of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

If we practice running, then when we need to run we can.  If we practice endurance, then when we need endurance we have it.

And so, as we practice relying on Christ in the present, in the little things, we strengthen ourselves to rely on Him in the future, in the evil day, when all is at risk, when the foundations are challenged by the earthquakes of life.

If you “do these things,” you will not be budged, you will not be shaken, you will not be moved…but only if we remember that it is not in our power to do these things, except in, through, and by Christ …. And rest upon Him, the solid rock.

_________

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

 

Bread – Denial

September 1, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, September 1, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 8:65-9:9; James 2:14-26; Mark 14:66-72; Psalms 26,28,36,39

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In today’s reading from Mark, Peter is waiting in the courtyard outside where Jesus is being tried. When asked three times about his relationship with Jesus, Peter denied the relationship.

Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus asks the disciples “who do say I am?” In today’s reading, the question might well be “Who do you deny I am?”

This reading is so known to me that I realized I was skimming it. After all, who does not know about Peter’s denial of Jesus three times before the cock crowed twice?

That is a major problem with the stories of the Bible. We know what they say, so we miss what they say. We know the story, so we miss the detail.

Peter not only denied Jesus three times, but he denied Him three particular ways.

The first statement which Peter denies is the accusation of the servant girl, who said to Peter “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” Mk. 14:67 Here, the observation is that Peter was so closely identified with Jesus that he was “with Him.” Peter denied that.

The second statement which Peter denies is the statement of the same servant girl to the effect that “This man is one of them.” Mk. 14:69 Note that Peter is not being accused of being “with Jesus” but is accused of being with a group of people (“one of them”) who claim to follow Jesus.

The third statement is simply an association of a people group, the Galileans. One of the bystanders says “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” Mk. 14:70 Peter denied that relationship as well.

To put these in modern terms, I could be accused of attending an Anglican Church (of being a Galilean), of being a disciple (of being one of them), and of being “with Jesus.” Each one is an increasingly closer relationship with the Lord. What becomes merely a membership in a people group then becomes a relationship among a study group of fellow Christians which then becomes a personal relationship with the Savior. If Jesus is the center, then each group (with Him, one of them who study Him, one of a collection of people who are from the same place where He is talked about) gets further and further away. And as you get further and further away, the groups get bigger and bigger and farther and farther away from the center.

Notice the progression of denials. Rather than start at the edge and work to the inside, Satan here (through the servant girl and the bystanders) starts at the closest point and works outward.

Why is that?

I think it has to do with safety in numbers. If I am with Jesus, it is Jesus and me and Satan can work only on me to separate me from Him. As the number of people increase, not only may the personal relationship with Jesus decrease (thereby diminishing the amount of work required) but the number of people who Satan must affect goes up (thereby increasing the amount of work required). Besides, if Satan can break you apart from your personal relationship with Jesus, then it becomes much easier to break you apart from your band of brothers and then from the church.

Also, think about it from the individual believer’s point of view. If I am in a crowd at church, it is much easier for me to avoid the attack. If I am in my study group, it is much harder to avoid the attack, but then there may be people around who can help me better deal with it. However, if I am by myself (with Christ), then it is Christ who must fight my battles for me, but when I deny Him I can be easily picked off.

Before we are attacked in groups, we will be isolated and attacked one on one. When we are confronted with “stay with Jesus and lose your job; deny Jesus and keep your job,” will we be so weak as to deny Him. Will we say that we do not follow Him and then deny that we are part of the band of disciples and then deny that we are even in a church? The answer is “yes,” if we deny Him when we are accused of being “with Him.”

We are rapidly reaching a point where it is OK to say that you are member of a church and maybe even OK to say that you are a member of a small group in your home, but it will not be OK to say publicly that you are “with Jesus,” because confession of Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life will be considered to be offensive. And when we are put to the test of denying that we are with Him, we need to remember that it only begins there, because once we have denied that we are with Him, then we will also deny that we are with a group of people who follow Him, and will also deny the Christian community of which we are a part.

The funny thing about this story is that, because three is the number of completeness, denying Jesus three times meant that Peter denied Him completely. However, the truth is that Peter denied Him completely when he said that he was not with Jesus. Everything else became a given after that.

So, really, to deny Jesus all we have to do is to do it once. When might that happen to you? If we think about the circumstances in which we may find ourselves when we will be most vulnerable to denying Jesus, we can be prepared to respond automatically with the answer that Peter could have given if he had first looked to God for strength and the answer.

What would that answer be? Well, when you find yourself surrounded by hostiles demanding an answer to the question of whether you are with Jesus, what will your answer be? That is the only answer that matters. Be prepared!

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Seasons

June 30, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, June 30, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 11:1-15; Acts 8:1-13; Luke 22:63-71; Psalms 120-127

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I hesitated to write Bread today because (a) I did not know what Scriptures the Lord would provide today through the Book of Common Prayer and (b) I was afraid that I might have to write about the events of the last week, where five members of the United States Supreme Court elevated themselves over God to redefine what the word “marriage” means for society. Although they did not say (yet) that this definition applies to people of faith, it probably will because, although we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, we live in Rome.

The three readings today illustrate three responses to the actions of the world. Which one is right for today?

In the first reading, a group of Israelites is overrun by pagans and wants to give up, but when they hear the terms of surrender (gouge out their right eye), they ask for help from the rest of Israel. “And the Spirit of God rushed upon Saul when he heard these words, and his anger was greatly kindled…Then the dread of the Lord fell upon the people, and they came out as one man…And the next day … they [Saul and the Israelites] came into the midst of the camp [of the Ammorites, the pagans] … and struck down the Ammorites …” 1 Sam. 11:6-11. Here, the men of God were called to war against evil by the Spirit of God. There is a time and place historically for war with the weapons of war, but we need to remember that this is Old Testament teaching and Christ has advised us to forgive first and, when struck, to turn the other cheek. So holy war is probably not the appropriate response unless and until we as Christians hear the clarion call of the Holy Spirit. When (and if) that happens, it will not be subject to debate because “the dread of the Lord” will fall upon “the people” and it will be obvious.

In the second reading from Acts, Saul (another one, later to be renamed Paul), has authorized the killing of Stephen, a Christian. “And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered … But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. Now those who were scattered went about preaching the Word.” Acts 8:1-4. Here we see that, notwithstanding exile and other bad consequences, Christians continued to live as Christians, “preaching the Word” where they ended up. Stephen’s death did not affect them, exile did not affect them, imprisonment did not affect them – their belief was solid and continued through adversity, and by their lives and proclamation of the Word they did not flinch from letting it be known who and whose they were. This is Christian living, citizens of the Kingdom of God living in Rome. It is unapologetic and unrelenting. During this time, while under direct and consistent attack, the Christian community gets stronger, not weaker, and the proclamation of Christ becomes bolder, not softer. Elsewhere in Scripture, this form of living is called “standing” (“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil…Therefore, take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Eph. 6:10-13).

The third reading is from Luke, where Jesus has been taken, held, ridiculed, set for trial and, as we know, destined for death on the cross. Lk. 22:63-71. As followers of Christ, should we expect better?

In the seasons of our life as a Christian, we may be called to fight, to stand, and/or to die. Which one will it be in this season of the exaltation of man’s thought over God’s Word?

I don’t know, but I do know this. In season or out of season, God is sovereign, His Word is the touchstone for how I and His people should live their lives, and Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life, and that there are no other ways to eternal life but with, in and through Him. And that is true whether we are in the season of war, of standing, or of imprisonment and death. And that is true whether Caesar, the Supreme Court, or the majority of the people agree or not.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Action

September 22, 2014


Readings for Monday, September 22, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Esther 4:4-17; Acts 18:1-11; Luke 1:1-4, 3:1-14; Psalms 77,79,80

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Yesterday in church I was privileged to hear the head of a church in Iraq talk about the four children who refused to deny Christ and who were slaughtered for their faith.

Today, before I read the Scripture for today, I reviewed a “Youtube” video sponsored by an organization urging all Roman Catholics to vote Biblical principles underlying life, marriage, and freedom, instead of voting historical politics and their wallet.

Today in Scripture, I read in Esther about the decree of the king that the Jews should be destroyed. A leader of the Jews, Mordecai, is asked by Queen Esther what she could do to help. He tells her to go to the king and ask him to cancel his order. She sends back a message to the effect that she cannot do that because to go into the presence of the king without an invitation is to invite death. In words which should drive a stake into every Christian’s heart today, Mordecai responds:

“Do not think to yourself that in the king’s palace you will escape any more than all the other Jews. For if you keep silent at this time, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” Esther 4:13-14 (emphasis added)

Perhaps all Christians in all times have lived in perilous times, but that does not say that we should not take action in the times which are before us today.

We do not need to keep silent. We need to act in all ways which Christ has taught us, regardless of the consequences. We need to love our neighbors and our enemies, we need to pray on our knees, we need to worship in truth and love and gratitude, we need to obey our Lord, we need to speak out against injustice, we need to preach a gospel of repentance (see our reading today about John the Baptist in Luke) and a gospel of salvation through Jesus Christ alone (see our reading today from Acts). We need to stand in the evil day and, having done all we can as excellently as we can, we need to stand.

And in the process of doing all these things, we may lose everything, including our lives.

As to the four children who were murdered because they loved Christ and would not repudiate Him, the pastor from Iraq said that they did so because they knew that His glory was worth more than anything else.

Do we know that? Do we really know that?

Perhaps we were meant by God to be here, today, standing … loving … preaching … acting … and dying. Who knows whether we have been brought to this kingdom on earth today for such a time as this, so that we can bring light into darkness, health into disease, love into hatred, strength into weakness, life into death, Christ into the world?

Who knows? God does…and we should too.

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Stand Up

March 24, 2014


Readings for Monday, March 24, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Gen. 44:18-34; 1 Cor. 7:25-31; Mark 5:21-43; Psalms 77,79,80

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There is an old song which stuck in my mind this morning which goes something like “Stand up, stand up for Jesus…”

We know what it means to “stand up” for something. Sometimes, just to make a point, we add something to it, like “stand up and be counted.” Of course, a person who stands up, stands for, stands against, stands in favor of, stands in opposition to, or just stands is always counted, because they then stand out from the crowd. So, another way we could say it is to say “stand up and stand out.”

Finally, the even have a name for people who admit their faults and do something about them. We call them “stand up guys.” Of course, there are “stand up gals” as well.

In today’s reading from Genesis, we have a lesson about a “stand up guy.” His name is Judah. When Joseph in Egypt says that he is going to keep Benjamin, Israel’s youngest son, Judah essentially says “no, please don’t, it will kill my father and I promised him that I would take Benjamin’s place. Please let him go and keep me.” Of all the brothers there in Egypt to get food, he was the one who stood up, stood out, and stood in place for his brother, Benjamin.

But what is not told in the reading today (because it was told earlier in Genesis) was that there was a time when Judah did not stand up. When Joseph was thrown away by his brothers out of jealousy, Judah stood around and encouraged them to sell Joseph to slavers. Instead of standing for his brother, he joined the crowd.

In the first case, with Joseph, Judah did not stand up for Joseph; he stood with the crowd, the mob, and encouraged them. He encouraged the wrong. The second time around, Judah stood up and offered himself in place of his brother; in this instance he stood against the crowd. The second time around he stood for the right.

What happened in between? Well, for one, he saw the grief of his father. But many of us see the grief of our loved ones all the time and do not turn from wickedness to righteousness. So what changed for Judah?

Maybe he just grew up. Maybe he matured from selfishness to selflessness. Maybe he tradeoff of short term pleasure against long term pain was not worth the cost. Maybe he did not want to return to Israel having failed to live up to his promise to protect Benjamin. Maybe he was ashamed from his prior treatment of Joseph. Maybe all kinds of things.

We know this – he repented of his sins, he turned, and he became a new person. His other brothers didn’t; he did.

Judah is us. We may come to the end of our rope in many ways – by making mistakes, by doing harm to others, by doing harm to ourselves, by giving in to the crushing desire for the things of this world, by selfishness, by seeing other people we love suffer, by causing people we love to suffer, by spending all we have on foolishness, by wallowing in our pride and our sin – but come to the end we will. And when we do, will we just meld into the crowd, like Judah’s brothers? Or will we repent, turn, and become new like Judah? Will we stand up only for ourselves, or will we stand up for others and take on their burdens? Will we stand up for Jesus?

How many Benjamins do we know? Will we stand up for them? How many Israels do we know? Will we stand up for them? How many Josephs do we know? Will we stand up for them?

Come, Holy Spirit, and help us to answer that question. Help us, O Lord, to be that person who stands up for You, who stands up for our neighbors, and who stands up and against the evil day. Amen.

_______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Resist

July 6, 2012


Readings for Friday, July 6 designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Num. 24:1-13; Rom. 8:12-17; Matt. 22:15-22; Psalms 140, 141, 142, 143

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The word “resist” means, in essence, to refrain from yielding to something. If someone is trying to push you over the edge of chasm and you resist that attempt, you are refraining from giving up to the force which would destroy you.

It seems like every minute of every day we are resisting something. Our spouse says something to make us angry. Do we yield to our natural instinct to strike back or do we resist our “old man” nature and instead love him or her? Our teacher says something which is immoral or amoral, or perhaps expresses a view of life or politics which we do not also share. Do we yield to the pressure of the classroom or do we resist by studying broader and harder so we can stand for something else? It is Sunday morning and time for church. Do we yield to the bed monsters or do we resist our natural laziness and go worship our Lord?

In our Scripture readings today, three forces are described which require the participants to either yield or resist. In each case, the man of God resists and does not yield. How they do it, though, suggests that resisting does not necessarily reflect itself in meanness and adversity; however, it always reflects itself in a refusal to yield to temptation.

In Numbers, we are still reading about Balaam, the prophet hired by the King of Moab to curse Israel and who does nothing of the kind. Instead, in the reading today, Balaam has now blessed Israel for the third time. Moab’s king, Balak, is now angry because he has paid Balaam for the curses, he has shown him hospitality, he has not yet killed him, and so he now “reasonably” expects Balaam to yield and to do what he has been paid to do. However, Balaam resists the demands of his boss by reminding his boss that, when Balak hired him, he told Balak’s representatives that he (Balaam) would never go against God [“Did I not tell your messengers whom you sent to me, ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord…?’” Num. 24:13]. Balak wanted Balaam to yield to Balak’s power; however, Balaam did not yield to Balak because Balaam had already yielded to a greater power. Here the resistance to power by Balaam began by speaking the truth from the beginning about what he (Balaam) would and would not do, and the resistance continued by continuing to say “no,” continuing to do what was right, and continuing to remind the tempter (Balak) what he (Balaam) had consistently and continuously said. Our resistance is aided by our consistency, from beginning to end. The tempters may still be mad at us, they may still make fun of us, but at the end of the day they cannot say they did not know.

In Romans, we don’t have a specific instance of resistance, but we do have a general commentary on it. “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” Rom. 8:13. If you yield to what you want to do, relying upon your lusts and desires, your end will not be pleasant; on the other hand, if you resist temptation in the power of the Holy Spirit given to you by God, you will live. From Balaam we learn to resist consistently; from Paul (Romans), we learn to resist using God’s power and not ours.

Finally, in Matthew, the Pharisees ask Jesus whether they should pay taxes to Caesar. The Pharisees were giving Jesus essentially two options to choose from – declare that Caesar is owed taxes and therefore yield to the government over God, or declare that Caesar is not owed taxes and therefore yield to God over Caesar. Jesus, recognizing the trap which has been laid, resists this false choice and declares a third option – if Caesar owns it, give it to him; if God owns it, give it to God. Effective resistance often requires us to reject the false choices which society gives us and to map, with God’s help, another way. If Balaam teaches us to resist consistently and if Paul teaches us to resist with God’s power and not ours, then Jesus teaches us to be wise in our resistance and to not be anxious to accept the world’s choices as the only choices.

Resist consistently. Resist wisely. Resist with the power of the Holy Spirit.

What is consistent about these? The necessity to resist. The necessity to stand in the evil day. The necessity to say “no” to the world and “yes” to Jesus. The necessity to “Stand up, stand up, for Jesus….”

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© 2012 GBF

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