Bread – Number

November 27, 2017


Psalm 90

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”  Ps. 90:12

I was in the car the other day with my grandson, who has learned to count to a hundred.  He counted to seventy and then asked me to count to forty as fast as I could.  I had gotten to twenty-one when he yelled out “times up!”  Of course, this was a game and he made up the rules, so I would always run out of time before I achieved the objective.

What are our objectives for today, this week, and the rest of this year (it now being November 27)?  Our time management experts would suggest that we take the time every day to review our mission and our goals and lay out achievable things to do which will help us achieve those objectives, checking them off as we go through our day buffeted by the winds of other people’s agendas.

So is that what God is telling us to do through Moses, the Psalmist, in Psalm 90?  If, by the grace of God, we are able to realize that our days are few and numbered, are we to achieve a heart of wisdom by daily effort?

A reasonable response to this question might well be yes, on the idea that, if we belong to God, we know that our mission is to honor and love Him and, in the process, to then love and honor our neighbor as ourselves.  This requires prayer, study, and work of the heart, mind, and hands.  And some people consider wisdom to be knowing the right thing to do at the right time for the right reasons.

But it is not the only response to the question.  It seems to me that there is a reason the phrase is this – “So teach … that we may get….”  The words are not “tell” and they are not “achieve.”  The words are “teach” and “may get.”  The emphasis seems not to be on us deciding and doing, but upon us listening and receiving.

There is a question sometimes asked which is “If you knew this were your last four hours (1 day, 2 days, 2 weeks, one month) on earth, what would you do?”  People’s answers are rarely that they would review their to do list and go into work.  Instead, most people answer that they would spend time with friends and family, surrounded by those they love and who love him or her.  Most people would spend their last days, if they knew they were their last days, in “being in the moment.”

Yes, we need to plan.  Yes, we need to do.  But, also yes, we need to be in the moment, sensitive to the relationship before us.  Perhaps that relationship in our quiet time is with our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Perhaps that relationship on the elevator is the person who needs to know that someone cares.  Perhaps that relationship in our house is with our wife or husband or children.

Start counting and sooner or later a little voice from the backseat will yell out “times up.”  Knowing that, we are prepared to receive a heart of wisdom from God.  Wisdom not for knowing what to do, but for who to be.  Not for knowing what to say, but for knowing how to love.  Not for knowing how to plan for the future, but for knowing how to live in the present.  Not for knowing who we are, but for knowing Whose we are.   Wisdom in time, for all time.

Our days are numbered; the counting has begun.

_______

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

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Short

November 10, 2017


Psalm 89

How long, O Lord? … Remember how short my time is! … Who can deliver his soul from the power of Sheol? Selah.”  Ps. 89:46-48 (excerpts)

The Psalmist finds himself in dire straits, at the bottom of the pit, without it appearing to him that God is in sight or even cares.  He yells out to God, “Hey, how long are You going to be before You show up!” And, then, just to make sure God really understands, he yells out “Hey, remember that I’m here on earth on a short period of time!”

Sort of funny, if you think about it, that a man is yelling at God to remember what He created.

He is yelling at God to remember when what he should really be doing is yelling at himself in the mirror to remember.

Remember what?  Well the answers to that question are in our quotation for today.

We need to remember that our time on earth is short and ask ourselves, what are we doing with today?  How are we spending our time?

And we need to remember that the answer to the question of “who can deliver my soul from the power of Sheol” is Jesus Christ, the son of God, begotten not made, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, of one being with the Father…

What is truly amazing about this whole set of questions is that, by man yelling at God, he is actually praying to God and God does respond to prayer often by bouncing the question right back.  When the Psalmist yells at God, “How long, O Lord?” the question rebounds upon man by God asking “How long, O Man, will you ignore Me, disobey Me, dishonor Me, and reject Me.”  When the Psalmist yells at God “Remember how short my time is,” the yell echoes back onto man, saying to man “Do you remember how short your time is.”  When the psalmist yells at God “Who can deliver his [man’s] soul from the power of Sheol,” God throws back the question and says “Who do I [God] say it is.”

This Psalm ends with “Blessed be the Lord forever!  Amen and amen.”  How does a person go from yelling at God in verses just prior to saying Amen and Amen to “Blessed be the Lord forever?”

Maybe because, by praying (yelling) to (at) God, the psalmist is now prepared to hear the response –  “Yes, your time is short.  The who is Jesus.  The when is now.”

_______

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

 

Bread – Fullness

June 13, 2016


Psalm 24

“The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof…” Ps. 24:1a

Because we have eyes and ears, we tend to think about what we see and about what we hear.  In that respect, we are concrete thinkers because if it does not exist before us, it does not exist at all.  Some people are stuck in concrete thinking, so focused on what is apparent that they lose touch with what is equally real but is not apparent.  Most people can also think through what they see and hear to come with concepts, ideas, visions, and analyses.  They can see beyond what is in front of their noses.  In that respect, we are abstract thinkers and it is equally true that some people are stuck in abstract thinking.  They are so busy thinking lofty thoughts that they cannot get out of the way of the train bearing down on them.

In the idea of “fullness” there is an entirety of meaning.  For the concrete thinkers, the Psalmist says that we can comprehend “fullness” in terms of rocks and trees, hills and valleys, water and dirt, people and animals, sun and moon, darkness and light.  For the abstract thinkers, the Psalmist says that we can comprehend “fullness” in terms of the perfect balance which exists between life and environment, life and our place in the universe, mathematics, science, knowledge, wisdom, cause and effect, the supernatural interacting with the natural, randomness and consistency, spirit and our ability to think about thinking (sentience).

Fullness includes not only the things but how the things are connected, how they are ordered and formed into systems of interdependency.  Fullness includes the micro-verse, where the littlest things (like nanotubes) we can see or imagine exists, and the macro-verse, where the expanses of the universe and space-time exists.  Fullness includes the laws by which the worlds operate, things like gravity and anti-matter.

Your car, the gasoline which runs your car, the oil from which the gasoline derived, the rocks under which the oil lives until brought to the surface, the electricity which powers your car and fires the gas, the technology which goes into your car, the mechanics of your body by which you can steer and brake at the same time, the sight by which you see and the sound by which you hear – all of this is the fullness which “is the Lord’s,” … and we haven’t even left the garage.

Quite frankly, the fullness of the earth is something that even our best abstract thinkers have a hard time totally comprehending.  I have given examples, but they are weak examples compared to the fullness of the meaning of the word “fullness.”

When we begin our week acknowledging that God is Creator of the world and all that is in it, that the earth and all who dwell in it are the Lord’s and the Lord’s alone, including the fullness of those things, we begin it in the right place.

This Psalm opens with us getting right in our thinking.  God owns the earth and the fullness thereof; we do not.  God is God; we are not.  We possess a slice of the fullness for a short period of time; God possesses the fullness for eternity.

If God were any less, if He possessed any less, He would be flawed, just like we are only a little more powerful.  But we can rely upon Him because He has no flaw, no defect – He possesses the fullness.  And He lends it to us, freely.  If we only turn away from ourselves and the world toward Him, if we ask, and if we accept (trust) Him.

_________

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

 

 

Bread – Sacrifice

February 1, 2016


Psalm 5

“Give ear to my words, O Lord; consider my groaning.

Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.

O Lord, in the morning you hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice to You and watch.”  Ps. 5:1-3

What morning sacrifice is David preparing?

Because this is the Old Testament, one answer might well be a slain lamb or a grain offering.

However, isn’t this Psalm, this prayer, really the sacrifice?  Isn’t the time David is spending with the Lord his morning sacrifice?

Before we slough this off as too easy an answer, think about your own morning sacrifice to God.

When you are in bed and before you arise, are your first thoughts of God or of breakfast, a shower, and for men, a shave?  Before we get out of bed in the morning, are we saying to God “Give ear to my words, O Lord,” or are we making out our mental “to do” list for the day’s affairs?  Where do our priorities lie before we get up in the morning?

Now we have risen from bed.  We have turned off the alarm.  Do we fall on our knees in fear of the Lord, asking Him to intercede for us in the evil day … or do we go into the kitchen to turn on the coffee and either go outside to get the newspaper (for us older folks) or fire up our tablet to look at the news online?

Now we have gotten our newspaper and our coffee.  Do we drink our coffee while we read God’s Word and meditate on it, or do we go back into the bedroom and the bathroom to get ready for the day.

After we get ready for the day, what do we do next?  Do we spend a half hour with God in prayer in our chair or on our couch, or are we listening to talk radio in the car as we go to work?

What kind of sacrifice to we make to the Creator of the Universe on a regular daily morning?

But notice that David doesn’t just say that he “sacrifices” to God.  He says that he “prepares” a sacrifice.

The idea of preparing a sacrifice as opposed to just sacrificing suggests a higher level of intentionality, and a higher and more intent use of time.  To prepare for something, we have to think about it, we have to gather the ingredients, and we have to put the ingredients together.

What are the ingredients for preparation of a sacrifice?

Some people say that they can pray in bed in the morning.  I cannot.  In order for me to write Bread or pray or do anything else with a focus on God, I have to (a) decide to do it, (b) get out of bed, (c) walk to the room and the chair where I meet God, (d) sit down, (e) deliberately turn my thinking from “I don’t have time for this” to God, and (f) start.  And a lot of times, I start just like David does here … “Give ear to my words, O Lord.”  “And, Lord, if I have no words, then as David said ‘consider my groanings.’”

But is this the sacrifice?  Most people would say “yes” because time and effort is being sacrificed to God.  However, the answer is “no.”  The reason is that all this, including the prayer, is only preparation for the sacrifice.

Then what is the sacrifice?  “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.”  Ps. 51:17

In our world, when we are in “control,” when we are the master of our ship, how will we ever appear before God, today, this morning, with a “contrite heart,” with an acceptable sacrifice, without preparation, without taking the time and making the effort to come to God and asking Him to love us, to listen to us, to forgive our trespasses, and to fill us with His Holy Spirit that we may in turn love others, listen to others, and forgive others?

When we begin our day thinking first of God and preparing for our sacrifice by meeting Him, listening to Him, talking to Him, and loving Him, then we will, with a good preparation, know by what grace, by what mercy, we are even given the right to do what we are doing.  And when that awe settles over us, well then the sacrifice of a contrite heart has begun.

Before the sacrifice is the preparation.  What have you done today to prepare?  What time have you set aside; what time have you spent in prayer, in communion with your Savior?  What morning preparation have you made to give to God your sacrifice of your heart?

__________

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

 

 

 

 

Bread – Time

January 28, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 28, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 49:1-12; Gal. 2:11-21; Mark 6:13-29; Psalms 49,53,119:49-72

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Time is an interesting concept because we live in time and yet we really only observe and measure it – we do not control it. Time passes whether we say “wait” or “go.” Time stops for no man. Yesterday was yesterday and we cannot recover it. Today is today and we can only live in it well or poorly. Tomorrow is tomorrow and may or may not occur according to our predictions, plans, and expectations.

Furthermore, time can be relative. Watching a boiled egg takes a long time if you are watching it and only a short time if you are not. We understand from science that as we reach the speed of light time would come to a crawl. We watch space movies and from that learn about time warps. Our mathematicians calculate various interaction between time and mass, energy, space, dimension, and momentum. We can envision all kinds of manipulation of time, and yet yesterday was yesterday, today is today, and tomorrow will be tomorrow. Time goes forward, never backward … but unfortunately for us, we do not necessarily do the same. While time is marching forward, we can go backwards, not in time but in everything else.

Outside of time there is God. He is the only thing outside of time because He made time. In our statement of what is called the Lord’s Prayer, we end with “for Thine is the kingdom, forever and ever, Amen.” I used to stop at “forever” because, from my point of view, that means all time and therefore means eternity. However, once I realized that God was outside of time, the “and ever” part made sense, because God is not only eternal, He is beyond eternal. He is not time bound like we are. We have limits; He does not.

Why all this talk about time today? From our reading today in Isaiah, God says “In a time of favor I have answered you; in a day of salvation I have helped you…” Isa. 49:8

Now this is a Messianic passage, but the phrase “time of favor” struck me.

When is our “time of favor” from the Lord? Well, let’s describe some possibilities. First, He knew us in our mother’s womb – “The Lord called me from the womb, from the body of my mother He named my name.” Isa. 49:1b Surely at the time when we are most vulnerable, to be known by God is a ‘time of favor.” Second, He knew us in sin and did not reject us. Surely this is a time of favor. Third, He saved us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fourth, He sustains us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Fifth, He refines us. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord, although it may hurt at the time. Sixth, He delivers us from evil. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord. Seventh, He gives us our daily bread. Surely that is a time of favor from the Lord.

Beginning to detect a pattern? Each of us can point to particular times when we stood on the mountaintop with God and those stick out in our minds as particular times of favor from the Lord. But isn’t every day of our lives full of blessing, opportunity, gifts, forgiveness and love, whether we feel it or not and whether we know it or not? Isn’t every minute of our lives a “time of favor” from the Lord?

Imagine with me how we would behave differently if we were aware that every moment of time in our lives is truly a “time of favor.” Would we respond in grumpiness, depression, and fear, or would we respond by dressing up for the occasion, looking forward rather than backward, full of joy and gratitude for the new day, full of joy and gratitude for the present time of favor?

The time today is a “time of favor.” How will we treat it? And how will we treat the One who gave it to us?

__________

© 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 – Timeless

October 28, 2013


Readings for Monday, October 28, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Zech. 1:7-17; Rev. 1:4-20; Matt. 12:43-50; Psalms 41,44,52

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We are naturally time bound. We think in terms of the past (history), the present (now), and the future (plans). Everything we do is somehow time-related. We may not be slaves to the clock, but we watch it to make sure that we are getting things done on time and that we make our appointments and project deadlines. The clock may not tell us what to do, but it certainly orders our days and nights. We study history to understand the present, and we take both the past and the present to project into the future. We think of time as either a progression (past is prologue to present which is prologue to future) or as a cycle (the cycle of life). In other words, we think of time as linear or circular.

Even our science is time bound. It used to be that we could speed up (distance over time) to the speed of light. Now we recognize that the speed of light may be a barrier, but that things may slow down to the speed of light. In any event, however, the fact that we are even measuring speed means that we are measuring time. One cannot speak of evolution without speaking of time. One cannot speak of distance without speaking of time. One cannot speak of force without speaking of time.

It is therefore almost beyond our imagination to think of something, or someone, as timeless. But that is who God is. That is what God is.

In our reading today from Revelation, Jesus says simply “I am the Alpha and the Omega…who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Rev. 1:8 Later, Jesus says that He is the first and the last. Rev. 1:17

Since we know that “all things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3), we know that this beginning, this “first” was actually outside of the beginning of time, and yet in some sense He is the beginning of time. Our Jesus is therefore both timeless and time bound, just as we are. He is both omnipresent and directly present at the same time. He is both omniscient and yet receives His knowledge from the Father, all at the same time.

It is enough to give us a headache, but only because thinking of anything or anyone outside of time bumps into the time limits of our understanding.

For a while, I stopped saying at the end of the Lord’s Prayer “forever and ever, Amen” and substituted instead “forever, Amen” (leaving out the “and ever”). The reason I did was that I thought that “forever” was just that, and saying “and ever” was just a weakening of the “forever” part. Later I came to realize that that the “and ever” part was merely our weak way of saying “for all time and beyond time.” God’s glory and power are time bound (“forever”) and timeless (“and ever”).

Perhaps our view of this and our ability to grasp the idea that there is something beyond our grasp, that there is an aspect of God which will never be understood because He is timeless while we are time bound, is partly why my scientist friends have such a hard time with Jesus. When you assume a closed system (time bound), the possibility of there being something outside that system (something timeless) is impossible to comprehend because its mere existence causes the system to no longer be closed. When we can conceive of something timeless, then we can conceive of something outside ourselves. When we can see a beginning which is outside of beginning and an end which is outside of end, we can invite the person who occupies the beginning and the end into our lives, because at that point He is no longer a stranger.

But not only is Jesus the beginning to the beginning and the end to the end, He is present in between. He may be timeless but He is also present in time; He is present today.

In the movie “Toy Story,” we laugh at Buzz Lightyear, one or the toy characters, when he holds out his arm and says “To infinity and beyond.” Jesus holds out His hand and says something similar, “For all time and beyond, forever and ever.” But what Jesus says is no laughing matter, because He is the timeless One, born into time, died, and resurrected for us. Repent of your sins, believe in Him, grab His hand today and be with Him, the Alpha and the Omega, for all time and beyond, forever and ever. Amen.

Our reading in the Old Testament today is from Ezra. Ezra reports that Cyrus, the king of Persia, after being stirred up in his spirit by the Lord, proclaims that the Jews may return to Jerusalem with these words – “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth, and He has charged me to build Him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Whoever is among you of all His people, may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and rebuild the house of the Lord, the God of Israel – He is the God who is in Jerusalem. ..” Ezra 1:2-3

Who does Cyrus think God is? First, he says that God is “the Lord.” Then he says that God is “the God in heaven.” Then he says that God is the “God of Israel.” Then and finally he says that God is “the God who is in Jerusalem.” So, does Cyrus think that God is God over all, over a people, or of a city? Is God unlimited or limited to particular people who believe in Him, whom He has claimed as His? Is God unlimited or is He limited to a particular geography or place (Jerusalem)?

What does Cyrus believe about God? We really don’t know, except that Cyrus obviously believes enough in Him to obey Him. However, Cyrus is obviously confused in his own mind about who God is and who He belongs to and where He is located.

Don’t we relate?

Aren’t we often just as confused? We say that Jesus is Lord of everything, but we leave Him behind in His jurisdiction (the church) and fail to acknowledge Him as Lord in the world. We say that Jesus may be that person’s God, but fail to recognize that He is Lord over all. We may hear Him and believe Him just enough to obey Him, but do we believe Him enough to make Him exclusive. When we say that there are many paths to heaven, aren’t we really saying that Jesus is limited in what He commands, where He is, who He is, and whose He is?

In many, many, many respects, aren’t we just as confused as Cyrus?

Luckily, our position with God, our salvation, and our blessing is not dependent upon whether we are confused or not or whether we even “get it right,” but upon the solid rock that God Himself is not confused – He knows exactly what He is doing, when He is doing it, and with whom, for whom and to whom He is doing it. He is true to His word.

It is in this knowledge that, although we may be buffeted and confused by what happens to us, by other people, and by what we believe, God is steadfast that David can say in our Psalm 31 today: “Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me! For You are my rock and my fortress; and for Your name’s sake you lead me and guide me…You have redeemed me, O Lord, faithful God.” Ps. 31:2b-3,5b

So, today, although we may be confused about many things, let us remember clearly and without confusion that God is not confused, He is our rock and our fortress, and He is faithful.

__________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Waiting

June 17, 2013


Readings for Monday, June 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 1:1-20; Acts 1:1-14; Luke 20:9-19; Psalms 77,79,80

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Waiting is not something I do well. From my observation of others, waiting is not something others do well either. Any government agency comes to mind, whether it is the Department of Motor Vehicles, the Internal Revenue Service help desk, the Texas Workforce Commission, or the Social Security Office. We get our number or sign up on a sheet of paper, go out and sit in a poorly decorated room on hard chairs, tapping our feet or our cell phones, wondering “Why me!” and yet knowing at the same time that this experience is the lot of every man and woman.

Or pick standing in line at a movie theater or the sports arena to get tickets. Or standing in line waiting to be assaulted by the security people at the airport. In addition to tapping our feet and our cellphones, we will cross our arms and adopt a tired, angry face, totally irritated that we are having to wait.

We hate waiting.

Our readings today give us two good examples of waiting. In the first, from 1 Samuel, Hannah is barren. For years she has had to put up with the taunts of the other wife, who has many children. Her husband tries to console her, to no end. She waits for a child, waits for a child, waits longer, and then waits some more. The Bible describes the waiting perfectly – “So it went on year by year.” 1 Sam. 1:7 This has to be extremely frustrating. I want a child but I can’t have one; God tells me to wait. And I wait, until I grow old and then I wait some more. How depressing. But Hannah does what she can; she goes to church and entreats God over and over again for a child. The priest even thinks she is drunk, her wordless prayer is so obvious and so earnest. And, after a while, in God’s good time and according to His good purpose, He does give her a child, who turns out to be the prophet Samuel.

Hannah may be a good example of good things come to a person who waits, but I’ll bet you can’t tell the person that while he or she is waiting. The waiting place is not a fun place.

The second waiting which occurs in today’s readings is from Acts. Jesus has died, been resurrected, and appears before the apostles. He tells them to wait where they are and, after a while, they will receive gifts of the Holy Spirit. Of course, it is easier to wait when you know the timetable, so they ask Him when the kingdom will be restored to Israel. Jesus tells them “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you…” Acts 1:7-8. Note that Jesus did not tell them when anything would happen, just that it would happen when the Father was ready for it to happen.

And so at the end of our reading today in Acts, we find the apostles all gathered in the upper room, hanging out and waiting for the next shoe to drop. But they don’t know if that will be five minutes later or a year later. So there they are, just waiting and waiting and waiting. What do you think they were thinking? Do you think they were happy? Do you think they were engaged in meditative silence? Or do you think they were tapping their feet, looking at the candles burning down, checking outside for signs of the Holy Spirit, or mumbling about how long it takes God or the government to do anything? I’ll bet they were irritated, ready to get on with the program, and not at all happy about waiting.

Why does God make us wait? You know, as soon as I ask the question we want to answer it. One answer which immediately pops into our head is to teach us something, like long-suffering, or hope, or perseverance, or radical dependence upon Him. And those are great answers for a Bible study or Sunday School or a sermon.

Or what if the answer is simpler – there is no answer? What if the reason we wait is simply because our time is not God’s time and He has not acted? To ask ourselves why God makes us wait is to assume that God owes us something – that He owes us a timetable, a look to the future, immediate action according to our wishes, or at least an explanation for the delay. Does He really owe us anything?

The answer to that question is a simple “No.” God does not owe us anything. He does not have to answer our prayers, He does not have to reveal to us His timetable or His purposes, He does not have to explain anything to us. He is God and we are not. He is King and we are not. And Jesus says this quite clearly – “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority.” Acts 1:7. There it is, He has the authority and we do not, except to the extent He gives it to us.

But while we are waiting for the answer to prayer or the next miracle or whatever we have in mind on our agenda, there is someone else who is waiting too. That person who is waiting is God Himself.

Jesus spoke, as reported by Luke in our readings today, about the parable of the landowner and the tenants. The landowner sent his servants and the tenants beat them up. The landowner then sent his son and the tenants killed him. Jesus asks, then, what will the landlord do? He then answers His own question this way – “He [the landowner] will come and destroy those tenants…” Lk. 20:16

Well, we have beat up the prophets and killed Jesus Christ … so where is the destruction? God is waiting.

See, God waits too. He waits until His time is right. He is waiting until the day Jesus returns to earth in glory and judgment. And on that day, what will happen to those tenants?

They will be destroyed…unless they are forgiven. Who are the forgiven? Those who have been saved by Jesus Christ and forgiven their sins by Him, those who have turned away from disobedience toward acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and as Savior, those to whom God has shown mercy.

Are you counted in the forgiven? God is waiting. Why are you waiting?

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Selfishness

May 17, 2013


Readings for Friday, May 17, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Ezek. 34:17-31; Heb. 8; Luke 10:38-42; Psalms 102,107

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There is a passage from Ezekiel today that I do not remember reading before, but which drives home our need as Christians to be very, very careful about the degree to which we abuse the blessings God has given us. The passage is:

Behold, I judge between sheep and sheep…Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture, that you must tread down with your feet the rest of your pasture; and to drink of clear water, that you must muddy the rest of the water with your feet?…Therefore, thus says the Lord God to them: Behold I, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep…” Ezek. 34:17-18,20

Since every Christian chosen by God for salvation is one of God’s sheep, feasting upon God’s pasture and water, representing His many blessings in our lives, we need to ask ourselves a serious question – are we one of the “fat” sheep or one of the “lean” sheep?

Since everyone I am writing to (I think) are Americans, one easy answer would be to say that we are all fat sheep, because even in the midst of our poverty we are wealthy beyond many in the world. However, we cannot get away with easy answers to this personal question.

We may be wealthy, but where did our wealth come from? Did it come as a natural blessing from God or did it come from our efforts to crowd out the weaker as we trampled the pasture and muddied the waters? Have we become fat on the back of others? In other words, are we selfish?

I would like to say that I have not done these things, but then I would be a liar, compounding the sin. Let me give you an easy example – who among us, seeing a beggar in the road, have passed by them brusquely on the way to an important meeting, where we can close the “deal?” How many of us have held onto our money, afraid that it will disappear, when we know someone out of a job, suffering grave and expensive illness, or just plain needing a helping hand monetarily?

Forget money for a moment. How many of us have spent a few hours this week doing something for someone else who we know can never return the favor? After all, time to the busy person time may even be more valuable than money. So, we may give money away generously so that we can be conservative in our expenditure of our, more valuable, time. See, being fat isn’t just about collecting money.

What about power. Who among us has taken an opportunity which would advance our position and, instead, given it to someone who needs help up the corporate ladder? Who has resigned from a position of power so that someone else who needs it more gets it?

Money, time, power, position – who reading this has not acted like a fat sheep, trampling the pasture and muddying the water, to advance their agenda?

God is going to judge between sheep and sheep. When He asks me whether I have been a fat sheep or a lean sheep, I have to say that I fall on the fat side of the ledger. Lucky for me that, as our reading from Hebrews today emphasizes, I have a great high priest in Jesus Christ who will intercede for me, argue my case before the judge, and win the case because of the cross. I will be saved but I will also be judged, probably as a fat sheep. But I will also have a lot of friends joining me.

So, it is obvious that I need to work on my diet. But how? I can’t. That is why it is a work of God. I can’t but He can. And, thank God, He is.

___________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Place

September 24, 2012


Readings for Monday, September 24, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Esther 4:4-17; Acts 18:1-11; Luke 3:1-14; Psalms 77,79,80

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In Esther, Haman, using Xerxes blessing and power, has just ordered the genocide of all Jews in the kingdom. Esther (now Queen Esther, Queen to Xerxes) has learned about the order and has been asked by Mordecai to intercede for the Jews. She hesitates because to go into the king’s presence without being first invited results in death, unless the king shows mercy. Therefore, to implement Mordecai’s request means that Esther will face almost certain death. She is thus confronted with the question we must all ask at some point in our life – “Do we stand for our principles and risk almost certain death (ruin to reputation, expulsion from the country club, loss of wealth, termination of employment, etc.), or do we just do nothing and hope it all goes away?“

Mordecai, seeing this indecision, says something which all of us need to think deeply about:

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 4:12-14

What is the king’s palace to us? Maybe it is our bedroom, our home, our business, or some other place of power, wealth, and sanctuary. What has all these elements on the world stage? The United States of America. Thus, Mordecai’s warning is clear to all Americans – Do not believe that just because we live in the most wealthy, powerful, protected place in the world, we will be protected from the wrath to come. Do not believe that you are safe in your cocoon; you are not safe if you rely upon the power of man or the world, because these powers fade and disappear. At best the king’s palace provides the illusion of safety, the illusion of protection. If poverty strikes your neighbor, it will ultimately strike you. If your neighbor is wrongly imprisoned, you soon will be. If you hate a particular form of speech and wish that speech eliminated, your speech will soon be limited as well. We cannot long ignore events in the street, less they overwhelm us in our perceived sanctuary.

What is “this time?” The time for action, the time for truth and love. If a person is drowning before our eyes, the time for action is now, not later; it is complete, not conditional upon the “right circumstances.” The nature of Christian action is immediate action. From Luke today, the mandate is clear – “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” (Lk. 3:11) If we see someone who is lost, we are to immediately proclaim the truth of Christ. If we see someone in need, we are to immediately provide blessing from our blessing. If we see ourselves fall into sin, we are immediately to repent and to do works with the aid of the Spirit in keeping with that repentance. “This time” is now, this minute, this day, this month, this year. Not later, not tomorrow, not next year.

Why does Mordecai say “you and your father’s house will perish?” We forget that we do not operate in a vacuum. Our statements and our actions are judged observed and judged continually by any number of people, including our family, our friends, our “followers,” our supervisors, our employees, and our competitors. Of us is always being asked the question, “Will he act like a Christian?” Will he act in humility, with knowledge of truth steeped in love, with charity, with friendship, with light, with joy, with long-suffering, with perseverance? Or will he act out of selfish self-interest, annoyed, with only his objectives first and foremost, taking advantage of the situation to line his pockets? Is he real or is he a hypocrite? When we claim one thing and do another, we perish in the eyes of those observers, and they (our house) perish as well. Because they are not exposed to the truth in action, Satan has grounds to derail their Christian walk or maybe even never be saved at all.

And who knows whether you have been placed where you are by God for such a moment? Yes, Esther was a Queen, placed in the palace by God so that the Jews might be saved. This is a high and mighty place, and you might say to yourself that you don’t occupy such a place of influence anywhere – in your church, in your home even, in politics or in business, or even in your social circles. So what? When you are driving down the road and you see someone in distress on the side of the road, have you been placed where you are for such a moment? A moment where you can abandon your objective and focus on the need on the side of the road? When you are in an elevator and see someone who needs a kind word of encouragement, have you been placed on that elevator by God for such a moment?

The truth is that every day we find ourselves in situations like Esther, where God has placed us at that moment where good can be accomplished in His name and to His glory, but we to act decisively and immediately, in truth and in love, with graceful words and actions infused with salt and light. We are there, we are ready, we are trained, but will we act? Most of us will tend not to act because we are afraid of death, of being rejected, of being laughed at, of stumbling into some social norm or rule which declares our actions to be incorrect (judgmental, intolerant, hateful, etc.), of looking foolish, of appearing unworldly, of being accused of being nuts. We won’t act because we are afraid of the world.

But if we don’t act, we will die and so will other people. Oh we may not die a medical death, but we will die a mental one. Our heart will become hardened, and we will become self-centered, forgetting what Jesus did for us on the cross. We will become no better than those who reject Christ. We will lose the effectiveness of our witness, and will bring dishonor upon God.

Esther did not know the consequences of acting. She thought she would die but she did not know she would die. On the other hand, she knew the consequences of doing nothing. She could not stick her head in the sand and hope that it would blow over. Neither can we. Mordecai’s words ring out today with the same clarion call to action they did when he uttered them to Esther.

Am I where I am today, this minute, for such a time? Will I see clearly? Will I act without fear, leaving to God the results? With the help of the Holy Spirit, I pray that the answer to these questions is “yes.”

In Esther’s situation, what would you do? When you are in this same situation today, what will you do?

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© 2012 GBF

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