Bread – Fear

August 4, 2017


Psalm 76

But You [God], You are to be feared!  Who can stand before You … when God arose to establish judgment, to save the humble of the earth.  Selah.”  Ps. 76:7,9

As we have noted before, in the Psalms when the word “Selah” appears, it is time to stop our speed reading, take a breath, read more slowly and hear what God is saying to us in His revelation, the Bible.

Fear is one of those emotions which can be short term or long term and in either case can cause us to make wise decisions or foolish ones.  When our fear is short term and arises from the circumstances ahead of us, we recognize it by our reaction, which is an immediate heightened awareness of our surroundings and an immediate readiness to either attack to eliminate the cause of our fear or to run away and get as far away as possible.  This kind of fear is legitimate and arises from our desire to protect ourselves from the coming disaster.  For example, I was on the Dallas North toll road yesterday driving about 65 miles an hour with cars to either side of me at the same speed when a car about four car lengths in front of me blew (shredded) a tire.  Not only were there flying tire parts everywhere but there was a real danger that the car would lose control, flip over, and that I would be in the middle of the mess in a couple of seconds.  I was afraid of what was going to happen, my flight or fight reaction set in, and I was lucky that, not only did my brakes work, but the drivers to either side of me and behind me were also paying attention and their brakes worked too.

But then there is the fear which is long term and which debilitates us over time, causing us to behave poorly.  I grew up with a lazy eye, which was not corrected by surgery until I was in my late 50’s.  For most of my adult life, I was afraid that people would see me and laugh, and so I avoided eye contact.  I developed lots of defensive behaviors to make it appear I was not doing this, but I did it anyway.  My fear of ridicule (unfounded by the way) caused me to live a lot of my adult life unengaged from those around me.

We have lots of fears which drive us to poor decisions.  We have the fear of failure, the fear of ridicule, the fear of loss, the fear of not being loved, the fear of insecurity, the fear of loneliness, the fear of crowds, the fear of small places and large places, the fear of appearing (or being) stupid.  These fears can drive us into living lives of quiet desperation, living lives depressed, living lives full of fears about the next shoe to drop, the next Murphy’s law to appear, the next slight to bear, the next failure to deal with.

But the Psalmist points out something which we really should pay more attention to.  That point is that God is person we should be fearful of, because He is the one who judges according to His standard, which we cannot meet on our own.  “But You, You are to be feared!”

But if we see clearly that God is to be feared, does that lead us into permanent depressed state?  No It does not.  Unlike most long-term fears, which drive us into poor decisions, the fear of God does exactly the opposite – it drives us to good decisions!  Because when God arises to establish judgment He also arises to save “all the humble” of the earth.  Who are the humble – those who fear God!

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge…” Pr. 1:7  “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”  Pr. 29:25

In man’s way of thinking, to fear God would mean to fear everything, because God is Creator of everything.  In God’s revelation to us, this truth stands firm – fear God and worship Him and Him only, and we will fear nothing.  Because when we fear Him, when we see Him who He is and we see ourselves for who we are, we are protected by Him into eternal life.

So, as we tackle our world today, let us fear Him and only Him … and, then fearing the only God who is to be feared, let us then live life in victory, free from fear, as He has promised.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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Bread – Crushed

September 14, 2016


Psalm 34

The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.”  Ps. 34:18

How many of us are “crushed in spirit?”  For a salesman, it may be the big sale that you just knew you were going to make, but don’t … and there goes your commission.  For a trial lawyer, it may be the big case you know you are going to win, except you don’t … and there goes your confidence.  For someone asking someone else to marry them and they are sure the other person will say “yes,” and they don’t … and there goes your hope.  For the investor who just knows he or she has discovered the next wealth-generating investment, and the stock tanks … and there goes your ideas of wealth.

Those are the easy ones, but what about the person who goes out day by day to do battle with the world and comes home one day, realizing that the promotion, the big house, the opportunity for fame, the contented family, the loving children, the happy spouse, the attainment of the dream … just isn’t going to be there, at least to the degree wanted, dreamed for, or imagined?   What about those people who live their lives in silent despair?

What happens to them?

The Psalmist tells us that the Lord is near to those people who know Him and trust Him, and that He “saves the crushed in spirit.”

We think that when a person is crushed in spirit, they are down and out.  But the Lord who saves says “you may say you are down and out, but I say that you may feel down but you are raised up.”  In the world’s view, when you are crushed you are crushed.  In God’s view, when you are crushed you are saved.

We may feel crushed in either event, whether we take our view or God’s view, whether we trust God or we trust ourselves or the world.  So what is the difference?  When we trust in God, we are saved out of our condition of being crushed in spirit; when we do not trust in God, we are still there.

When I was writing this and trying to think about what is means to feel crushed and be saved at the same time, an analogy came to mind.  If I am wandering in a swamp and get stuck in deep mud, I have mud all over me.  I am crushed in spirit, reflected by the amount of mud I have all over my clothes and my body.  If I remain stuck in the swamp and in the mud, I am imprisoned by the mud and have no freedom and no life, except to wallow in the mud.  If my savior, though, comes and pulls me out of the mud, I still have mud all over me but I am now free.  I am free to continue to wear the symbol of crushedness, the mud, or I am free to act like it never existed by having God help me wash it off.

When God saves the “crushed in spirit,” they may still feel crushed, but they are not.

You are depressed; you are crushed in spirit.  God says He saves you in that condition.  Do you believe Him?  Do you believe in Him?  If so, the Holy Spirit is right there ready to help you wash the mud of despair from your clothes.  Just ask.

And, oh, by the way, Jesus crushed the serpent’s head. Now that’s down and out … for the count.

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

 

 

Bread – Save

January 22, 2016


Psalm 3

“Arise, O Lord!  Save me, O my God … Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessing be on Your people!”  Ps. 3:7-8

Before the first “Selah!” of Psalm 3, David (and we) were focused on our troubles, on our enemies, on our poor condition and place.  After that and before the second “Selah!,” we refocused our attention from ourselves and our situation to the Lord and His power to be our shield, our glory, and the lifter of our heads in times of trouble.

Now we arrive at the third part and it is a fitting way to end the week.  In this third part, David cries out to God “Arise, O Lord! Save me, O my God…” and he ends with the familiar phrase “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”

The question of the day is what is God saving us from?  The phrase “Arise, O Lord!” is noted by the commentators as the familiar invocation of God to assist the Israelites in war.  In this context, and given David’s dire situation in the desert, running away from his treacherous son, the word “save” here could well mean that David is asking God to save him from his physical, present circumstances … to help him defeat his enemies, overcome his son, re-enter the palace, and take back his throne.

When we pray to God to rescue us, to save us, isn’t it often in this context?  We have found ourselves lost and we ask to be found.  We have found ourselves in a bad situation surrounded by enemies and we ask God to defeat the enemies and restore us to our place.  We lose our job and we pray to God that He rise up and find you a job.  We expose ourselves to sin over and over and, when we are reaping what we sow, we ask God to rescue us.  We become ill from a deadly disease and ask for healing, for saving from the disease.   David may well be doing the same thing.

But, immediately, David changes from a focus on rescue from a bad place in specific to eternal rescue, “Salvation belongs to the Lord.”  From “rescue me from this pit” to “rescue me for all time.”

And that is what we are inclined to do.  Know that Christ has saved us eternally and ask from time to time that God save us from a bad situation we find ourselves in.

From physical save to theological, eternal save in one easy step.

But the problem is, we have all asked God to save us from X, only to find out that the next morning X is still there.  Where is God?  Why hasn’t He arisen to save me?   And in that reality, in that truth that God does not always show up in the time, way, and effect which we want, we come up with any number of explanations, from “God doesn’t love me” to “I am unworthy” to “it wasn’t in God’s will” to “there is some unrepented of sin.”  And a thousand other explanations.

There have been many books written about how to deal with the unanswered prayer.

But I want us today to stand back and think a little further.  Isn’t there a third way that God saves us.  We are taught the eternal salvation.  We ask for the physical salvation.  But doesn’t God always, always, always save us from ourselves?  Doesn’t He always save us from our emotions when we let Him?

Maybe the third way God saves us is by rescuing us from our emotions.

When we ask God for healing from our illness and nothing physical changes … we are just as sick as we were, has anything changed?  I think if we look into our hearts when we have asked for something and not gotten it, we know that something has changed.  Our emotions have changed from fear and anxiety to peace and joy.  Our bitterness toward the person harming us has melted away into forgiveness.  Our self-righteous attitude that says we deserve everything has converted to a honest appraisal of ourselves that says we deserve nothing.  Our love of self transforms into a love of others.  Prosperity defined by money and power is recreated by God’s power into prosperity defined by relationships.

When David prays “Arise O Lord!  Save me, O my God,” is he praying, really, for physical deliverance or emotional deliverance?

When you are in trouble because your car won’t start and you cry out to the Lord to start your car and, presto, it still doesn’t start, has God shown up and saved you?  I think the answer to that is “yes,” not because He started the car but because He changed how you respond to the car not starting.  He has changed your emotional reaction to one of worry and hurry to one of, “Oh well, this too shall pass.”  He has changed your attitude toward the problem.  He has changed you.  He has saved you from yourself.

So when we pray to be saved from our affliction and our affliction remains, has God shown up?  If the answer is that hope has replaced despair, promise has replaced worry, life has replaced death, caring about others has replaced caring about yourself, and solutions have replaced problems, then, “yes” God has saved you.

We can and we will ask God to rescue us from our enemies.  And sometimes He will and sometimes He will appear not to have.  But the miracle is not that He rescues us from our enemies, but that He rescues us from ourselves, from captivity to our emotions and selfishness.  That is the miracle.

Arise, O Lord.  Save me, O my God!  Because You have, You are, and You will.  Thanks be to God!

__________

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

 

 

 

Bread – Peacocks

July 9, 2015


Readings for Thursday, July 9, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Sam. 16:14-17:11; Acts 10:17-33; Luke 24:36-53; Psalm 18

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I have always been fascinated by peacocks, not only because of their beauty but because of their offensive and defensive weapons. What are these weapons? The span of feathers which spread out when they are alarmed or want to make their point, displaying a broad variety of colors, many “eyes,” and a “huge” appearance, showing dominance in the situation. Of course, this display of color is also used for mating.

Many of us act like peacocks, strutting around in our finery asking the world to look at us and, then, when challenged or when we want to make an impressions, displaying a vision of ourselves much bigger than the reality. When we are told to think soberly about ourselves as we ought to, I translate this to “Don’t think of yourself as a peacock and don’t act like one either.” Our sin envelops us like filthy rags and not brilliant feathers, and our fear of what other people (the world) thinks of us lays waste to our self-image that we are bigger and better than life.

In today’s readings, we are introduced to a male peacock by the name of Goliath. When Goliath appears on the field of war, he stands nine feet tall, has on a coat of bronze mail which weighs, by itself, 125 pounds. The tip of his spear was an iron point weighing 15 pounds. He was one impressive dude – a peacock in full display. And yet we know from the history lesson (finished in tomorrow’s readings) that this titan of war was brought down by God through a boy without armor, a slingshot, and a stone small enough to fit in the slingshot. But before we get there, our lesson today ends with this – “When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine (Goliath) [“I defy the ranks of Israel this day. Give me a man, that we may fight together.”], they were dismayed and greatly afraid.” 1 Sam. 17:11

The world attacks Christians with peacocks. These enemies of Christ and the Word of God look big, they are well dressed and well-armed, they speak words which cast fear into the hearts and minds of the hearers, and they cause Christians to be “dismayed and greatly afraid.” Our recent pronouncement from the United States Supreme Court redefining marriage away from God’s definition have made Christians who attempt to teach God’s Word and His commands as the standard for life are dismayed and fear that society will marginalize them and turn them into refugees in the country which they built.

God reminds us in our reading today from Samuel that these fearful things the world throws at us are merely peacocks, ready to be brought down using God’s people using His tools in His time. There is nothing to fear from peacocks; there is something to fear in our reaction to them, because by so reacting we deny the power the God in the circumstances.

Peacocks cannot only be animals and people, but they can be concepts and ideas as well. Peter, as a Jew, was prohibited from dealing with unclean things and people. When he is invited in our reading from Acts to visit Cornelius, a Gentile Roman official, he reminds Cornelius “You [Cornelius] yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation…” Acts 10:28. Whether from tradition or otherwise, Peter was taught that he should not interact with Gentiles and, whenever he would approach, the peacock of an idea would spread its wings, saying “don’t come here, don’t pass by, or I’ll bite you or something worse!”

But there is a remainder to the sentence which I did not quote. Peter visited Cornelius because God added a “but,” “….but God has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.” Acts. 10:28

As our society devolves, the world (and the church) may throw up more and more peacocks to block our way, to convince us that we are going in the wrong direction. But God says to us that we don not have to become like them to engage them. We do not need the finery of the world to show that plain dress is worthy. We do not need the permission of the world to engage the world. We do not need to hide in the shelter of the sanctuary when the field is ready for harvest. We do not need the world to tell us what love is when we know who it is.

When we see whatever Goliath the world sends our way, we should not react with “dismay” and “great fear.” Instead, we should step into the field of battle, knowing that God has won and that we, in and through Him, get to participate in the victory. For this battle is not ours, but the Lord’s. And He is mighty to save.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Foundations

February 16, 2015


Readings for Monday, February 16, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 63:1-6; 1 Tim. 1:1-17; Mark 11:1-11; Psalm 89

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What is the foundation of our faith?

There is much more behind this question than necessarily meets the eye.

In today’s readings, we see at least six (6) different possibilities.

One foundation of our faith could be a desire to escape the wrath of God and the coming judgment. From our reading in Isaiah today comes this: “It is I, speaking in righteousness, mighty to save … I have trodden the winepress alone…I trod them in My anger and trampled them in My wrath;…for the day of vengeance was in my heart…I trampled down the peoples in My anger; I made them drunk in my wrath, and I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.” Isa. 63:1-6 Let us call this the “Avoidance Foundation.”

Another foundation of our faith could be our own works, our desire to obey God’s law, just as Paul did: “I thank Him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because He judged me faithful…” 1 Tim. 1: 12 Let us call this the “Self Foundation.”

Another foundation of our faith could be that we were given mercy by God. Again from 1 Timothy: “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God…But I received mercy…The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason…” 1 Tim. 1:1,13b-16. Let us call this the “Chosen Foundation.”

A fourth foundation of our faith could be our need to live in victory beneath a victorious king – “And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest.” Mk. 11:9-10 Let us call this the “Victory Foundation.”

A fifth foundation of our faith could be our understanding of Christ’s work on the cross, His payment for us which we could not make so that we could stand in the throne room of God cleansed of sin. Let us call this the “Sin Foundation.”

A sixth foundation of our faith (and there may be more) is contained in the last sentence of our reading today from Paul’s letter to Timothy: “To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Tim. 1:17. Let us call this the “Sovereign Foundation.”

In summary, the six potential concepts of the foundation of our faith which are struggling for prime position are the “Avoidance Foundation,” the “Self Foundation,” the “Chosen Foundation,” the “Victory Foundation,” the “Sin Foundation,” and the “Sovereign Foundation.”

If we re-order these, we realize that three of these proceed from man – what man wants and what man would choose. These are the “Avoidance Foundation,” the “Self Foundation,” and the “Victory Foundation.” “I” can avoid God’s wrath by choosing Christ, “I” can achieve God’s pleasure by obedience to the rules and by good works, “I” can obtain victory in life by following the King, the Creator, and appropriating His powers on earth.

The other three foundations begin with God – the “Sin Foundation,” the Chosen Foundation,” and the “I Am Foundation.” “God” solves the sin problem by dying for us, “God” chooses us for salvation, choosing those upon whom He will have mercy, “God” is Himself, the only God, most high.

I have become convinced through my walk that, although at different times in my life I believed that each of the described foundations was in fact the foundation of my faith, the only true foundation which makes any sense is the Sovereign Foundation – He is God and I am not; He rules and I do not. All of the other foundations are laid on top of this one.

If God were not sovereign, then why would there be sin? If God were not sovereign, then why would it be necessary that the saved were chosen? If God were not sovereign, then why would we be afraid of His wrath? If God were not sovereign, then why would His rules be something that we would measure our lives against and why would there be standards for “good” works? If God were not sovereign, then where is the victory?

God’s sovereignty is the key – it is the foundation upon which we rest our faith.

To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.

__________

© 2015 GBF

Bread – Live

January 21, 2015


Readings for Wednesday, January 21, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Isa. 44:24-45:7; Eph. 5:1-14; Mark 4:1-20; Psalms 38, 119:25-48

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How are we to live as Christians?

Many Christians have written many books over many years answering this question. And yet, in today’s readings, it seems that Scripture provides us a useable summary.

The first way we should live is to recognize that God is God over all, good and bad. In Isaiah, the prophet speaks of Cyrus, king of Persia, king of Babylon, ruler of the Jews in exile. He says “Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus…that you may know that it is I, the Lord, the God of Israel, who call you (Cyrus) by your name. For the sake of My servant Jacob, and Israel My chosen, I call you (Cyrus) by your name, I name you (Cyrus), though you do not know Me,…I equip you (Cyrus), though you do not know Me, …” Isa. 45:1,3b-5 The first way we should live is to recognize that the person who we perceive is bad in our lives, is trouble, is a fraud, is difficult, is mean and hateful, or who otherwise is someone which we would like to avoid, is an instrument of God called by God into our lives for some purpose known to Him. Therefore, when we meet trouble in life, we know that God works it to good and live our lives in victory, unbowed by adversity. By recognizing that God is sovereign and has chosen us, we can live in victory through all things.

The second way we should live is by running away from sin toward that holiness, that obedience to God’s pattern of life for His people, to which we have been called. In Ephesians today, Paul writes: “Therefore, be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you…Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking…but instead let there be thanksgiving…Therefore, do not become partners with them [sons of disobedience], for at one time you were darkness, but now you are in the Lord…[T]ry to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness…” Eph. 5:1-4,7-11 Run away from the dark; stay in the light. Cast away sin in the Holy Spirit, learn what is pleasing to God, and then do it in gratitude and obedience.

The third way we should live is to make sure that the soil around us is good so that our fruit which honors God and brings Him glory is plentiful. In Mark today, Jesus says: “A sower went out to sow…And other seeds fell into good soil …And He said to them, ‘…The sower sows the Word…But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” Mk. 4:3,8,13-14,20. How do we till and fertilize our soil so that it is good? Well the first way is to let the Holy Spirit work in us. The second way is to ask God for it. And the third way is to recognize that Scripture contains the ingredients to transform the soil from something harsh and dead to something healthy and alive.

So, the three rules to live: (1) God is sovereign, (2) flee sin, (3) grow in knowledge and love of the Lord through tilling and fertilizing the soil using the tools God has given you to do so.

There may be more rules, but since I have problems with all three sometimes, I think I’ll just start with these three.

What about you?

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© 2015 GBF

Bread – Hammers

January 10, 2014


Readings for Friday, January 10, 2014, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 23:1-8; Col. 2:8-23; John 10:7-17; Psalms 138,139,147

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I was listening to a comedian last night who was talking about hammers, and then started quoting the Peter, Paul and Mary song – “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening, all over this world …” And, as the comedian said, “…and we sing the song and get excited about it, and then one day we actually get a hammer, … and then we don’t use it.” And everyone laughed, because they all knew that it was true. I laughed too, but in reflection upon Scripture this morning, I realize that this is no laughing matter.

We have three powerful Scriptures today, readings from the prophet Jeremiah, from Paul’s letter to the Colossians, and from the sayings of Christ Himself as reported by the Apostle John. They are the hammers given to us by God to hammer our sins to the wall, to hammer ourselves into gold worthy of the King we serve, to hammer in the morning, to hammer in the evening, to hammer all over this world. The hammers given to us by God are the hammers of truth, of love, of servant leadership, of victorious living, of freedom, of eternal life.

And what do we do with these hammers? What do I do with these hammers? Well, the comedian said it…I actually get one and I don’t use it very much, if at all.

Listen to these hammers God has given us today:

From God through Jeremiah, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of My pasture! … Behold, the day is coming…when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king as deal wisely…” Jer. 23:1,5

From Jesus through John, “I am the door of the sheep…I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture…I am the good shepherd…I am the good shepherd. I know My own and My own know me…So there will be one flock, one shepherd.” John 10:7-16

From Colossians: “Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind, and not holding fast to the Head [Jesus], from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.” Col. 2:18-19

These are some of the great hammers of the faith. There is a good shepherd who does not steal and lie but leads us to good pasture, who feeds us with living water, who has sacrificed Himself to save His sheep. His name is Jesus, the Christ. He died, was raised, and lives. For all those who believe in Him, there is eternal life, victory over death, true freedom available today. The joy from this great gift can be harmed by human requirements, burdens, regulations, and requirements. But we can avoid harm by holding fast to Jesus.

Great hammers.

And what do we do with them?

Today, what will we do with them?

___________________

© 2014 GBF

Bread – Tired

November 15, 2013


Readings for Friday, November 15, 2013, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: *; Rev. 19:11-16; Matt. 16:13-20; Psalms 88,91,92

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This morning, after reading our Scriptures of the day, I stopped and thought about the readings, and nothing came to mind for today’s Bread. Knowing that I could not force it, I leaned back in my chair and prayed that God would reveal something to me. And nothing happened. So, then I went back to prayer and, after a few minutes, God sent me something – a yawn. And then I just felt tired.

We are so tired. We are tired of the squabbles. We are tired of trying to understand. We are tired of trying to get something accomplished. We are tired of our bosses. We are tired of our jobs. We are tired of our lives. We are tired of being called names. We are tired of not being called names and instead being ignored. We are tired of the ways of the world. We are tired of the ways of the church. We are tired of others and we are tired of ourselves. We are tired of earning a living. We are tired of saving for a rainy day. We are tired of standing, sitting, and laying down. We are tired.

Depressed yet?

And then I started chuckling to myself, because God had in fact sent me a message. It was a message that I am not able to get myself out of the ditch that I am in.

And our readings today are to that point. In Matthew, Jesus asks His disciples who He is, what people are saying about Him. After the usual list of possible reincarnations of great people of the Old Testament, Peter says “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Matt. 16:16. Jesus responds by telling Peter that he is blessed, that God revealed this to him and Peter did not come to this belief through his own understanding, and that Jesus will build His church on “this rock.” Matt. 16:18 The blessing which Jesus mentions is not the blessing which Jesus gives, but the blessing which Peter already has because he has been graciously, sovereignly chosen by the Father to receive the personal revelation that Jesus is the Christ. Peter may be tired, but he is blessed and by his confession of Jesus he is saved. The person who could not lift himself out of the daily rut has been lifted by God into eternal life with Him.

Then we have Revelation. Jesus is in heaven, ready to tread the winepress of the fury of wrath of God the Almighty. He rides a white horse, the horse of victory. He wears a superior crown of diadems; He is King. He wears a robe dipped in blood because it is by His sacrifice on the cross that we are saved. He has a name written which is both known (“the Word of God” and “King of Kings and Lord of Lords”) and unknown (“a name written that no one knows but Himself), because God is both known to us through His Word and Jesus, and yet unknowable in His entirety. He is all-powerful and He is coming. And He is doing all this without our having to do anything.

See, even if we are tired, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is and are not. When we could not save ourselves, He saves us. When we cannot fend for ourselves, He protects us. When we are too tired to act, He empowers us with His Holy Spirit to act. When we are weak, He is strong. While we lack power, He is power.

And in Revelation, Jesus is accompanied by “the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure.” Who do you think those people are?

They are the saints. Tired on earth but victorious in life.

Are you tired? Jesus could have said: “Be Peter, come to me and acknowledge Who I Am, and then join me in the day of victory.” Those are my words – Here are His: “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” Matt. 11:28

________________

© 2013 GBF

Bread – Downers

July 29, 2013


Readings for Monday, July 29, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 2 Sam. 2:1-11; Acts 15:36-16:5; Mark 6:14-29; Psalms 56,57,58,64,65

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There is a television show called “Saturday Night Live” which has a comedic routine called “Debby Downer,” who, no matter where she is or she is with, will take the opportunity during every good time and celebration to bring up some disaster which has overtaken the nation, the city, the neighborhood, friends of the people she is with, or even herself if it comes to that. No matter the joy, there is always something wrong.

Like all comedy, it is built upon an aspect of our makeup. While we are having fun or enjoying ourselves, we don’t want to hear about problems. In fact, if we can maneuver it, we will never deal with problems.

Look at all of the effort we make to hide problems. We package food in nice little containers, and disguise behind closed doors the death of chickens, cows, and pigs required to have that food. We typically don’t talk about death at all. We trend toward dialogue through computers, even finding love on dating sites, so that we can avoid the face to face terror of having to deal with the down and dirty. We use drones to conduct wars, so that whatever killings there are become mere images on a television screen, which can be turned off with the push of a button. We even soft-pedal our Christianity, speaking of a God of love rather than, an equally true, God of wrath. We flock to churches which teach a “prosperity gospel,” where you can have everything you ever wanted if you believe in Jesus, rather than the good news of truth, where we are steeped in sin and degradation from our conception, saved by the mercy of a holy God who required Jesus to die for our sins so that we could even show up before Him without being destroyed.

But we don’t want to talk about sin, or death, or loss, or casualty, or storms, or disasters, because, “Man, what a downer!” We so much don’t want to be Debby Downer to our friends or family who live in La-La Land that we avoid the discussion altogether.

And when we behave this way, we substitute the joy of the gospel, of being stolen from the pits of hell by a gracious, forgiving God, for the hollow happiness of modern life in the world, sheltered by our technology, by our desire to be positive and upbeat, by our foolishness, and by the machinations of the enemy. In the comedy routine, the friends are living happily in the moment and, when interrupted by Debby Downer, just want to push her out of the way.

Every one of our readings today has aspects of downers. In Second Samuel, David has just been made king of Judah in an uplifting ceremony, and he immediately confronts a puppet king being established in Israel, with whom he must war in order to recover the land promised by God. In Acts, Paul and Barnabas get into a big fight over Mark which is so big that they go their separate ways. In Mark, John the Baptist is beheaded in order to fulfill an oath given in a drunken moment. Uplifting, right? No, these are downers which happened to God’s chosen people. These are the concrete results of a broken world. Yes, we know that God uses these for good … but in the moment, for the participants, there is little happiness.

But there can be joy. See, the gospel truth is that we are all downers, lost in sin, lifted up by the sovereign decision of a God who loves us into a relationship with Him, not earned by us but earned by Christ on the cross for us. And because, while we were still downers, God acted to save us, we can have joy in all circumstances, whether “down and out” or “up and away.”

Who are Christians? Debby Downers, saved by grace, transformed and transforming into people who, despite knowledge of the truth of themselves, rise in Christ to victory over the day. This is not a prosperity gospel; it is a reality gospel. But it is a gospel which does not shake in the earthquakes of life, which recognizes in both the negatives and positive of the world the same truth – we have victory in Christ.

It’s Monday, and so by definition we are probably acting like downers, or at least feeling like it. But we don’t need to hide or fear the problems. We know they are there. But we also know that, even if we die today, we live forever. Therefore, there are no downers but only opportunities to live life fully, completely, abounding in love, smiling, because we know that, in Christ, we have won.

Carpe diem! Seize the day!

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© 2013 GBF

Bread – Hope

September 7, 2012


Readings for Friday, September 7, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Job 19:1-7, 14-27; Acts 13:13-25; John 9:18-41; Psalms 31,35

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On Monday, Bread was called “Plodding” because the Scripture readings focused on the mundane living of life, not so much in the valley of despair, but in the plainness of life, where sometimes we just have to take the job God has given us and just put one foot in front of the other. Many of us live most of our lives in the plodding mode. It was a good way to begin the week, in part because that is the way most people see Monday.

The Scriptures today speak of something much different, the hope that is within us. They speak of that vision to the hills which we have to call on from time to time to help us through the plodding part of life, as well as the more adversarial parts of life. They speak of Jesus – the light on the hill, the Savior of the saved, the Son of God, God Himself.

We begin with Job in one of the most memorable parts of Scripture. I will let him speak for himself – “And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself….I call for help, but there is no justice … My relatives have failed me, my close friends have forgotten me…and those whom I loved have turned against me…For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last He will stand upon the earth. After my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself…” Job 19:4,7b,14,19b,25-26. We have all sinned (erred) and our error is ours and ours alone and we have all felt abandoned from time to time by family, by good friends, by people we have invested in. We have been misunderstood, mistreated, rejected, and seemingly set aside for failure. And yet, as Christians, we know the same thing that Job knew in the Old Testament – Our Redeemer lives. Not “has lived” at some time in the musty past or “will live” in the far future, but “lives” in the present, in our lives, leading us, guiding us, loving us, carrying us, crying over us, and healing us. And He will return to stand upon the earth. And because of Him and His mercy on us, we “shall see God” for eternity. Hope surrounded Job in his misery and caused him to look up to his Redeemer. Hope surrounds us too, but we to see Jesus.

In Acts, Paul recounts the history of the Jews from Egypt to Jesus, demonstrating that God works through history and through ordinary people to achieve His purpose. This reminds us that the hope which Job saw and embraced has existed throughout known history, constantly being proven to us by God’s actions on behalf of His people, even though they often insult Him, ignore Him, and hate Him. We are part of that history, today. Our hope is based upon the solid rock of a God of fact, not fiction, and of action in time, not suspended animation in eternity. If we are but to read, think, ponder, see, and hear, our hope surrounds us in reality. It is not a myth and it is not a dream. It is grounded in observation, in reason, in faith, and in the entirety of time, past, present, and future.

In John, the man Jesus healed is born blind. As that man says himself, “Never since the world began has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a man born blind.” John 9:32 From the Jewish perspective, that blind man was so steeped in sin at birth that sight was impossible. Jesus took the man born in sin, blind from birth, and restored his sight, restored his relationship with his world, stripped him from his sin, and set him free. This man who had no hope according to then-modern religious and scientific thought was given hope by Jesus. With his new eyes, the man could worship anything he wanted to. He could worship his family, the religious establishment, or the then world order. Instead, he sought out Jesus, saying “Lord, I believe [in You],” and then worshiping Him.

We began the week with plainness. We end the week with wonder. We begin the week with looking at ourselves. We end the week looking at Jesus – the Jesus who lives throughout time and in all time, the Jesus who exists in reality, and the Jesus who heals and restores. We begin the week looking down at our feet and we end the week looking to the heavens. The began the week knowing that we were blind and knowing that our error was ours. We end the week with sight restored and the error forgiven.

So when we are in the plodding phase of life let us hold tightly to the hope we have, let us look from our feet to our future, let us look from ourselves to our Savior. And let us live in victory, because we have it – and we have Him who won it.

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© 2012 GBF

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