Bread – Birth

June 1, 2016


Psalm 22

“Yet You are He who took me from the womb…”  Ps. 22:9

This morning, I read an e-mail from a pregnancy counseling center I support which asked me to pray for the birth of babies, that they would not be aborted by their mothers and that they would be born healthy, free of drugs and other medical and mental issues.

I read that e-mail before I re-read the quote above from Psalm 22 – “Yet You are He who took me from the womb…”

And quite frankly, I became quite upset.  One would think that I would be upset at the injustice of a world which would deny babies their lives for the sake of convenience.  But it was more personal than that – I was upset at the depth of my ingratitude for the blessings which have been heaped upon. me to overflowing by my Father.  I was upset that I had never recognized that it was God who had delivered me into life in the first place.

We, as Christians, are so wrapped up in the new man, the new birth caused when we accept Christ as Lord and Savior and when we turn from our ways to His ways, we forget that we have been blessed by being physically born in the first place.

Those of us who have witnessed a live birth know it is a miracle.  Yes, it is completely natural and predictable and yes, there is a lot of science behind how to take care of the baby during the first nine months, how to take care of it during birth, and how to take care of it after birth.  But at the end of the day, I think we know in our heart that each new birth is a tiny miracle.

But do we think much of our own birth, about what a miraculous blessing it is to us that we are standing here today, reading this Bread?  No we do not.  Just like we start our car without thanking God for the blessing of transportation, we wake up every morning without thanking God that we were born and that we are living.

We like to thank God for our transformation from lost to saved, and well we should.  But we forget to thank Him that we were born at all.

“Yet You are He who took me from my mother’s womb…”  Indeed He is.  He has delivered us physically from our mothers’ wombs into temporal life, and He has delivered us spiritually from the womb of death into eternal life.

Both of our births come from Him, the first and the second.

For which we should be grateful.  Are we?

_________

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

 

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Bread – Wisdom

August 28, 2015


Readings for Thursday, August 27, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 3:16-28; Acts 27:27-44; Mark 14:12-26; Psalm 18

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What is wisdom? I am sure there is a Biblical definition, but let me give you mine – Wisdom is knowing what to do in spite of the observable facts.

We make decisions all the time “on the ground,” based upon the facts we observe and are told about. But we know in our hearts that those decisions may in fact be wrong. Those decisions may be based on apparent evidence which is not real; those decisions may make assumptions about how things work when they aren’t working that way; those decisions may not take into account all of the consequences of action; those decisions may be more an expression of my sin than my factual observations. We know that sometimes the best decision is no decision at all – but the fear of making a decision can paralyze us into disaster.

We actually have a couple of good examples of wisdom in our readings today from Scripture.

In the first, Solomon is confronted with the decision over which mother is the real mother of the live baby. This is a part if history which I think everyone knows, whether or not they are a Christian. Solomon is confronted with two claiming mothers and one baby and is asked to decide who it belongs to. Rather than decide the case by the facts in front of him, which could have included comparing the features of the baby to each of the mothers, which would have been a “logical” decision-making process, Solomon upsets the table by declaring he will cut the baby in two, thereby treating each woman equally. By doing so, he exposes the underlying human behavior of a real mother, who would rather see her child lost to another woman than to see her baby killed. Seeing how the women react to the decree, he now knows who the true mother is and decides rightly. This is wisdom. In spite of the facts on the ground and in spite of the normal way the world would deal with the problem (by comparing the baby to the mothers or by conducting a DNA test), Solomon acts to reveal the human hearts involved and in so doing reveals the truth. No one who loves life would divide the baby and yet Solomon, in his wisdom, knew that that was the right action to take. How did he know? “The wisdom of God was in him to do justice.” 1 Kings 3:28

In Acts, we have Paul and somewhere around 76 to 276 people in a boat in the Adriatic Sea, ready to founder. The facts on the ground are that the boat is being driven by the wind into a bad place, the sailors know it, and the sailors are ready to run to the lifeboat. The soldiers cut away the lifeboat because Paul tells them that they will not be saved unless the sailors stay on the boat. Later, the boat is shipwrecked. Normally, the decision would be made to lighten the boat by throwing everything overboard but keep the food because it might a long time on a deserted island. Because there were a lot of prisoners, who were at the bottom of the food chain, the weight thrown overboard might have included the prisoners. However, Paul knew what to do in spite of the facts and in spite of common sense. He instructs everyone to eat up, even though rations were short, and then throw the wheat overboard. Everyone ends up surviving the shipwreck. How did Paul get the wisdom to stay on board, eat the food and throw the rest away, and not kill anyone? Although our reading never says explicitly, there is a passage which suggests the answer – “And when he [Paul] had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.” Acts 27:35 Paul knew where all things come, including his wisdom, and he gave thanks.

As Christians in America, we will be required to stand in oncoming evil day. The facts on the ground may suggest that we give in, give up, or maybe even counter-attack. These would be logicial decisions to make based upon the obvious facts of imprisonment, death, ridicule, and loss of position, wealth, and power. We may be in the midst of a storm such as we have never experienced, soaked to the bone with the prejudice of a world which hates Christ. At this time, we do not need to make decisions based upon logic or what we think may exist, we need to ground our decisions, our thoughts, and our speech (actions) on wisdom, on the knowledge of what to say and do in spite of the obvious facts.

And where will we get this wisdom? From the only One who has it in the first place. At that time, we will need to say “Come, Holy Spirit and fill our minds with Your wisdom,” we will need to act on the wisdom which God gives us at the time, and we will then need to follow in Paul’s and Jesus’ footsteps, break bread in remembrance of Him, and be thankful.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Seasons

November 24, 2014


Readings for Monday, November 24, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 10:1-12; Gal. 6:1-10; Luke 18:15-30; Psalm 106

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Although it is just before Thanksgiving, many people are acting as if it is just before Christmas. But the truth is that, for Christians, there are many opportunities throughout the entire year to give thanks for what God has done and is doing for us, so in that sense there are no seasons. However, we recognize the various seasons of the year, expressed in quarters (spring, summer, etc.) and expressed in holidays (for Christians – Christmas, Easter, Pentecost; for others – others).

Our readings today talk about seasons. In Zechariah, our reading today begins with “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, …” Zech. 10:1. We know the effect of rain – it is necessary to life, to help plants and people grow and thrive. In a sense this verse is saying “Ask for growth in the season of growth.” To many people, this seems strange, because why would you ask for something you are getting anyway because it is the season for it. After all, the season for rain has rain in it; we wouldn’t call it the season for rain unless it rained pretty often during that time. For these people, we ask for what we don’t have when we don’t have it, not when we do have it. What is the use of asking for a job when we have a job; for asking for happiness when we are happy; for asking for health when we are healthy; for asking for wisdom when we already know what to do? The problem with this attitude is that it is an attitude of self – I will not reach toward God in prayer (“ask rain from the Lord”) unless I need something. However, when we are God-focused we realize that all things come from Him. The job we have today is a gift from God. The health we have today is gift of God. Any wisdom we might have today is a gift of God. Knowing that, it is actually more important to ask for rain in the season of rain because it is an acknowledgement that, in good times or bad, all things come from the Lord and on Him are we radically dependent.

We need to ask God for rain in the season of rain because we need to constantly remind ourselves that everything we have and everything we are is by the grace, power, and love of God. We need to ask God for rain in the season of rain because we need Him, all the time, not just in the time of need but also in the time of plenty.

In Galatians, we read this about seasons – “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Gal. 6:9 Season are not only now, they are in the future. But some seasons are dependent upon other seasons. Jesus Christ does not die (season of Easter) unless He is first born (season of Christmas). A season of reaping of a harvest does not occur unless there is first a season of sowing, of planting of the seed which will blossom later. While we are in one season of life, by our actions we are helping to determine what our future seasons will look like. Financial advisors will tell you this. If you are 17 today and save $100 a month in a reasonable investment, you can retire on a substantial income in your season of retirement. But it is hard for us to realize that, to realize that by the season of study in Scripture today we are laying the foundation of a season of effective Christian love tomorrow.

There is a richness to each season, but only if we have taken the time and the energy in the season before to plant the seed for the next season.

It is the season of rain, of thanksgiving for what we have been given. Let is therefore ask the Lord for thanksgiving, a spirit of gratefulness for Him and His. During this time, in the hustle and bustle of life, let us “not grow weary of doing good.” What we have abundantly from the Lord let us share in love with our neighbors, the stranger and the friend.

In one week the season of Advent begins. This is a season of doing good, to others and to yourself. What good can you do yourself? Read God’s Word. Think about Him and his coming to earth shortly as a defenseless human, to take on our low estate so that we may be brought up to His high estate. Communicate with Him through prayer. Be still before the Lord and listen to Him. Do not become weary of doing good for in due season we will reap.

What is this “due season?” It is Christmas. If we continue today to do good to others and ourselves (by strengthening our walk with the Lord and our obedience to His will) , in “due season,” at Christmas, we will indeed celebrate with joy, love, fellowship, and hope.

Otherwise, we will be tired and miss the season entirely.

____________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Wonderful

August 13, 2014


Readings for Wednesday, August 13, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Judges 13:15-24; Acts 6:1-15; John 4:1-26; Psalms 101,109,119:121-144

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Wonderful, full of wonder. How many times have we really been confronted with something wonderful in our lives? I can think of at least two. One is being in the delivery room watching our first baby being born. A second is an answer to prayer, when I asked for the Lord to reveal Himself in my life and was confronted with a glorious crown while I was driving home into a setting sun casting its light into a cloud-crown. And, of course, now I begin to recall two, I can recall many, many more.

In our readings today, we are witnesses to three wonderful moments. In Judges, Samson’s mother and father are speaking to an angel. When they ask the angel’s name, the response is that the angel’s name is too wonderful to comprehend.

In Acts, Stephen is being tried to for blasphemy upon false allegations. While he was standing there, “all who sat in the council saw that his face was like the face of an angel.” Acts 6:15

In John, the Samarian woman at the well is talking to Jesus and tells Him that she is aware of the coming of Messiah. Jesus responds “I who speak to you am He.” John 4:26.

In the first reading, the wonder is in the name of God’s emissary. In the second reading, the wonder is in the face of God’s disciple. In the third reading, the wonder is in the Word of God, spoken, written, and incarnate.

What can surpass these wonders – the day we discover that there is a God and His name is wonderful, the day we meet a Christian who is the face and hands of God on earth, and the day God engages=s us in a conversation with Him when He reveals Himself … and all pretense disappears into the reality of God-on-earth?

The day Jesus meets us at our well, the day He reaches out His sovereign hand to save us from our sin, the day we learn the reality of God, the day we look into our past and see what God has saved us from, the day we look into eternity and see what God has saved us to, the day we look in the mirror and see that God is transforming us into Him, just like He did Stephen – those are days of wonder, those are wonderful.

How many wonderful days have we had? The truth is that every day since we have been saved by grace has been wonderful.

Now, Lord, give us eyes to see….and be grateful.

______________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Friday

June 14, 2013


Readings for Friday, June 14, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; 2 Cor. 12:11-21; Luke 19:41-48; Psalms 69,73

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TGIF – the acronym for “Thank God It’s Friday.” What is interesting is that many of the very people who use this phrase wouldn’t know God if He appeared before them. Others of us use this phrase as a throw-away, without realizing that if it is not truly from a heart of gratitude, the “Thank God” might well be an epithet and, as a result, a blasphemy against the God who saved us and provides for us.

Another interesting thing about this phrase is that we are apparently thanking God for getting us through the week to Friday. Why? Was our week not praiseworthy that we should be anxious for the next day? Of course, I ask the question tongue-in-cheek because we all suffer from the ups, downs, and sideways of daily life, and we are grateful to get to that portal to imagined rest called Friday. I say “imagined” because for many people, the weekend is no better than the work week.

In Psalm 69 from today’s reading, we have a look into what it means to have gratitude towards God at all times and in all circumstances. What is interesting in this Psalm is that David has many problems and he is asking God, “Why haven’t you done anything? Where are you?” But asking that, he basically tells God that he, David, is going to “buck up” and handle it. He then assumes the role of victim and blames other people for his misery, cursing them before God. I think his thinking is that, if God won’t help him, maybe God will punish someone whose hurting him. The Psalm ends with, apparently, no change in either David’s or his enemy’s condition, but with a change in David’s heart from self-pity to self-reliance to anger at others to praise for God’s provision and love.

Here it is (in part):

“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” [Ps. 69:1-3]

“Answer me, O Lord, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me. Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress,; make haste to answer me.” [Ps. 69:16-17]

“I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.” [Ps. 69:20b]

“Let their own before them become a snare; … Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you. Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.” [Ps. 69:22a,27-28]

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving…Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.” [Ps. 30,34]

Did God show up for David in this Psalm?

The obvious answer is “no,” because David was left in the waters, sinking in deep mire, with his enemies surrounding him. There is no evidence that his curses were granted by God. There is no evidence that God showed His face to David.

The less obvious answer is “yes.” Oh David was left in swamp of his life, all right, and his enemies kept on their terrible ways. Nothing appeared changed, except for one thing – David’s heart. His heart was changed from self-pity, to “help me,” to anger, to praise and thanksgiving. Who can make such a change in such circumstances?

“According to Your abundant mercy, turn to me.” Not according to my desires, demands, wishes, and prayers, but according to “Your” mercy, God’s mercy.

What is God’s mercy in our dire circumstances? Some people might believe that God’s mercy is delivering us from the week to Friday, which is why they say TGIF. However, isn’t God’s mercy a delivery “to” and not a delivery “from.” God in His mercy does not rescue us from daily life, but He equips us to handle it, He equips us to love in spite of the loveless, to praise in spite of misery, to live victoriously in the face of the worse circumstances.

For those who think God delivers from, then TGIF makes all the sense in the world. To those who find in their change of heart, their change of perspective, their change from self to Him and others, the delivery of God’s mercy into our life, then every day is a “Thank God” day.

So, is your motto “TGIF.” Or is it “TGFT,” “Thank God for Today?”

_______________

*The Old Testament reading assigned for today is from the Apocrypha, and it is therefore omitted.

© 2013 GBF

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