Bread – Melting

June 6, 2017


Psalm 68

God shall arise … as wax melts before fire, so the wicked shall perish before God!  But the righteous shall be glad; they shall exult before God; they shall be jubilant with joy!” Ps. 68:1-3

As I read “as wax melts before fire” a couple of images came to mind.  None of them were candles.   Another image was from the movie “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” where the Nazi soldiers are melted away in the blast which came from the Ark of the Covenant when they dared to breach it.  A third image was of the Wicked Witch of the West, when a bucket of water was poured over on her, and she dies screaming “I’m melting.”

Now these images have one thing in common.   The wicked perish.  In the first, God is clearly the agent.  In the second, you have to realize that God is the author of nature to realize that the water used to douse the wicked witch was itself a gift from God.

We are sinful people.  What will happen to us on that day of judgment, when God arises to judge the earth and us?  Will we melt away as wax melts before the fire in the heat of wrath?

While you meditate on that question, I actually had a third image which came to mind as I read this verse.  That image was the one of a great steel mill where the iron ore was smelted in great furnaces, melted into big buckets, to be poured into objects useful for construction and building.

This third image also involves melting as wax melts before the fire, because the ore was hard until it melted in the great cauldron, only then to be converted.

What happens in this second kind of melting?  We have a reference to that in Psalm 66, where it is said “For Thou hast tried us, O God; Thou hast refined us as silver is refined.” [Ps. 66:10; NASB translation] (the word “refined” means to melt, to purge precious metals by fire).  God, through His cross and the daily dose of the Holy Spirit in our lives, refines us by removing the impurities in our lives and pouring us as living sacrifices into useful objects for His purposes on earth.

So, at the judgment day, when faced with the wrath of God, do we melt “as wax melts before fire?”  The short answer is “no” for the simple reason that Christ is with us and, literally, He is our shield.

So, when God arises, are the righteous glad because the wicked melt in the face of wrath or are we glad because, by the grace of God, we do not melt?

As I write this, it strikes me that this last question is the heart of the gospel, of the good news.  We do not rejoice in others’ suffering, because but for the grace of God go we.   Instead, we celebrate in thanksgiving because we have received and accepted the gift of eternal life from the only One able to give it and empower us to receive it.

The heart of the gospel is this:  God shall arise, the wicked shall melt away, and the righteous shall rejoice.  Who are the righteous? “And he (Abraham) believed the Lord, and He counted it to him as righteousness.” Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:22-25.

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

 

 

 

 

 

Bread – When

November 23, 2016


Psalm 42

My soul thirsts for You, O God, for the living God.  When shall I come and appear before God?”  Ps. 42:2

Another reading of this question is “When shall I come and see the face of God?”

In both versions of the question, the operative word is “when?”

When shall I satisfy my thirst, the hole which is in my heart which can only be filled by God?  When shall I give up my foolish ways and follow the ways of God?  When shall I say “no” to Satan and the world and say “yes” to Christ and life.  When shall I turn from my sinful ways and turn toward God?  When shall I die?  When shall I meet God face to face and be asked that terrible (or wonderful) question, “What do you have to say for yourself?  What do you have to say for your life?”  When shall I be judged?  When shall I belong?  When shall I be safe forever?

When shall I abandon the straightjacket of man’s reason and embrace the wonder of faith in God’s wisdom?

When indeed?

If you have not already had your “when” moment, when you fell before God and received His gift of grace, when you believed in Jesus Christ and turned from sin toward God, then there are only three choices which man will claim – I will do it now, tomorrow, or never.

These man-made when’s (today, tomorrow or never) have a nice ring to them, because they tickle our self-bone and exalt us over everything.  There is a problem, though, because the real answer to the question “When shall I come and appear before God?” is either today or tomorrow.  It is never “never.”

One of Satan’s greatest tricks, I think, is to make us believe that decisions and consequences can sometimes be put off forever.  But God says that there is a time coming when all of us will meet Him face to face, and at that time we will either be judged by Him to eternal judgment or be found guilty but forgiven, covered by Jesus’ sacrifice.

We are entering into the seasons of distractions, when the world clamors for attention.  But attend to this, please …. When will you come and appear before God?

It may be sooner than you think.  In fact, it may be today.

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

 

Bread – Hope

May 30, 2016


Psalm 22

“My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?  Why are You so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?…Yet You are holy…In You our fathers trusted…” Ps. 22:1-4

How often have we felt like this?  Out in the middle of our trials and tribulations, surrounded by events not of our (apparent) doing and surrounded by people we would rather not be associated with, we feel really, really alone.  Where are our friends?  Where is our family?  Where is God?

Perhaps the closest we can come from feeling like we have been totally abandoned is if we are a small child and both parents are killed or disappear, or we have some terrible disease fall upon us which is horribly contagious, and all of our friends and family melt away.  But even then, the small child may be helped by some people who come alongside of him.  The contagious disease-ridden person, may see the nurses and doctors surrounding them and they may even see their loved ones outside the windows, aching to get in.

But what if we have fallen to the bottom of the well and the voices of the searchers have wandered away to be replaced by the sounds of the night and by the predators who wander it?

Or we find ourselves alone in a desert, accompanied only by scorpions and drenching heat?

But even in those circumstances we may have memories to attach to, to fill our longing for companionship.

The fact is that, even when we feel like we have been forsaken, there is a part of us which knows that we have not.  The Psalmist joins us in this knowledge, reflecting that, even In the worst of times, we know that God has been faithful to those who believe in Him – “In You our fathers trusted.”

And, yet, as we read this and apply it to ourselves, perhaps there is a “gong” going off in the back of our mind, that we have read or heard those same words before.

And, the answer is, “yes, you have.”  You have heard these words before because they are the same words spoken by Jesus on the cross – “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying ‘Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?’ that is, ‘My God, my God, why have your forsaken me?”  Matt. 27:46

This Psalm is known as the “Psalm of the Cross” by some people because it is a prophecy, written by David at a time when crucifixion was unknown, of a crucifixion, of Jesus’ crucifixion.

In order for God the Father to forgive our sins, there had to be a perfect atonement.  Because Jesus took on our sins, the sins of the world, and because sin is abhorrent to God, an affront to His holiness, God left Jesus and Jesus was truly forsaken.   For a moment in time, all connection, all love, all relationship, between Jesus and the Father was broken.

And in the moment of that separation, in the agony of being abandoned by the Father, what did Jesus remember?  Did He, as the Psalmist suggests, remember that God was faithful historically and, by extension, would be faithful to Him?  We were not there and we do not know, but why not?  He of all people knew the character of God the Father – the very character that had to separate from Jesus because of sin was also the same character which had shown Himself time and time again would not forever abandon His people.  The connection between God the Father and God the Son had to be broken because of wrath, because of sin, and the connection would be restored because of love.

In the moment of His greatest desperation, when Jesus was separated from the Father, because He knew His Father’s character, Jesus also had the greatest hope.

We may and probably will feel abandoned by many around us.  We may also feel so abandoned that we cry forth “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?”  And in that moment, instead of despair, perhaps in this we will find hope – the God who rescued Israel is the God who raised Jesus from the dead is the God who has saved us from death eternal to life everlasting.    For those who trust Jesus, we may feel abandoned but we are not, we may feel forsaken but we are not, we may feel unforgiven but we are not.

We have hope in spite of ourselves, in spite of circumstances … because we remember.

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

 

Bread – Fire

May 27, 2016


Psalm 21

“Your hand will find out all Your enemies; Your right hand will find out those who hate You.  You will make them as a blazing oven when You appear.  The Lord will swallow them up in His wrath, and fire will consume them…Be exalted, O Lord, in Your strength!  We will sing and praise Your power.”  Ps. 21:8-9,13

We all have experience with fire.  On camp outs, the fire warms us and cooks our marshmallows.  We have all been burned by a hot stove, even though our mothers warned us against touching them.  Some of us have seen the partial or full destruction of a building or car or other thing from fire.  I even personally experienced being in the middle of a wildfire in a national park, and being rapidly shown the exit by the park police while the fire licked the ridge of the hill about a hundred yards away.

 

But no one knows fires like a fireman.  He or she responds immediately to a fire, dons heavy clothing which only partially protects them, and enters the fire to destroy it and save others.  These people can probably report how hot , how destructive, and how deadly a fire truly is.

As destructive as earthly fires are, as deadly as they are, God can still deliver us from them if He will and if we have faith.  The best example of this are my three friends of the Old Testament, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who, when asked by the king of the world “who is the god who will deliver you out of my hands,” answered by saying “…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  But if not, be it known to you, O king, we will not serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”  Dan. 3:15-18.

But this fire made by Nebuchadnezzar in the furnace was a fire made by the world, by man.  Who will save us when God shows up like is described in Psalm 21, finding out those who hate Him, swallowing those people up in His wrath, consuming them with holy fire?

We are promised throughout the Bible, throughout God’s revelation of Himself, that there will come a time when God’s wrath will be poured out against those who hate Him, when He will throw them into the lake of fire and burn them to a crisp.

But who hates God?  In our natural state, we do … all of us.  We are the ones who will be destroyed by fire at a time when God chooses, unless ….

Scripture is also clear about what comes after the “unless.”  How is it that we can be transformed from our natural state which hates God to an unnatural state, a supernatural state, where we love God?  Through faith in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified and resurrected.

And how does that occur?  Again, the God who saves the three men of old from the fiery furnace is the author of our salvation, through no work of ours but through His mercy and grace.  “[Our] glory is great through Your salvation…For the king trusts in the Lord.”  Ps. 21:5,7.

I do not know who reads Bread, so I do not know if this reaches those who do not know Christ.  But if you do not, the fire of God’s wrath is your end unless you turn toward Him and trust in Him.  How does that occur?  Through man nothing is possible, but through God all things are.

Therefore, we pray “Father, have mercy upon me, a sinner.  Son, save me.  Holy Spirit, give me strength, power, courage, and wisdom to seek the Son and through Him, the Father.   Take me to the cross of Christ that I may witness to the truth, that Jesus has died for me, that He has been resurrected so that I can be with Him forever, that my sins have been forgiven by the Father because of His work and not mine, and that I am saved and forgiven by Your grace, Your mercy, and Your power.  Amen.”

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

 

 

Bread – Wrath

March 4, 2016


Psalm 9

“The nations have sunk in the pit that they have made; in the net that they hid, their own foot has been caught.  The Lord has made Himself known; He has executed judgment; the wicked are snared in the work of their own hands.  The wicked shall return to Sheol, all the nations that forget God.  For the needy shall not always be forgotten, and the hope of the poor shall not perish forever.  Arise, O Lord! Let not man prevail; let the nations be judged before You!  Put them in fear, O Lord!  Let the nations know that they are but men!”  Ps. 9:15-20

We have all seen God’s wrath because we watch the movies and we know, at least from the movie “The Ten Commandments,” that when the Israelites built the golden calf to worship because God (and Moses) had taken His sweet time to get back to them and they thought He had taken too long, God (through Moses) threw His law at them and burnt them all up, etcetera, etcetera.  That, in our mind’s eye, is God’s wrath upon us, His judgment upon us, caught up in sparks of lightning, the destruction of fire, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth.  All very visual and very cinema graphic, and very exciting.  And then we leave the theater and pick up in our lives where we had left them.

I think it is because we have such a visual view of God’s wrath that we do not recognize it so easily in our own lives and in the lives of our cities, counties, states, and country.  This is because God’s wrath is not expressed in the cataclysmic but in the erosion; it is not expressed in the immediate but in the course of time; it is not expressed in noise and thunder but in the barely discernible day-by-day breakage of the foundation.  One we can see and avoid; the other is under our feet and we are so busy looking in the mirror at ourselves, we miss it altogether.

This Psalm is unusual because, at least in the previous eight Psalms, David has ended them on a high note (Ps. 1: “for the Lord knows the way of the righteous;” Ps. 2:”Blessed are all who take refuge in Him;” Ps. 3:”Salvation belongs to the Lord; Your blessings be on Your people!; Ps. 4: “for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety;” Ps. 5: “You cover him with favor as with a shield;” Ps. 6: “The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer;” Ps. 7: “I will give the Lord the thanks due His righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High;” Ps. 8: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is Your Name in all the earth!”).  However, this Psalm, Psalm 9, is ended on a low note – “Put them in fear, O Lord!”

It is a strange way to end the week, ending on the curse “Put them in fear, O Lord!”

But, really, is the request for the visitation of the wrath of God a curse or a blessing?

Let’s personalize it.  Let’s apply the curse to ourselves – “Put me in fear, O Lord!  Let me know that I am but a man!”

Now, have I called down a curse upon myself or a blessing?  If God intervenes in my life to show me that I am but a man and He is God, isn’t this the first step toward repentance and from repentance to acceptance of God’s mercy and from the acceptance of God’s mercy for all time in Jesus Christ, to eternal life?

See, when the nation has reaped its reward for its own actions, for its own avoidance of God’s law, for its willful disobedience, for its destruction of life, for its exaltation of the self and of the power of wealth over the power of the Almighty, it will die.  It will get caught up in its own traps and it will return to Sheol (Hell).  In the vernacular, the nation will go to hell.

Just like we will unless …

And that is where David leaves us – “Lord, visit Your wrath upon us!”  To what end?  That we go to hell?  No.  The purpose of the Psalm is not to condemn but to wake up, not to hide but to reveal, not to destroy but to build.

Because it is not until we know there is a God and that He hates sin of all kinds, degrees, shapes, and dimension, and that He hates it so much that He will destroy us … it is not until we know this that we understand the need for God the merciful, God the Savior, Jesus Christ.  It is not until we can recognize the wrath of God that we can accept the gift of God, the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for my benefit, for my life, for my ransom, for my sentence.

It is not until we see clearly the path we are on to destruction that we can also see the path to life.

David starts off Psalm 9 with “I will give thanks to the Lord” and ends with “Put them in fear, O Lord!”  He ends that way because his heart is that the people who are the end see that they are at the end and join him at the beginning.

From going to hell to being in fear of the Lord to giving thanks to the Lord is a journey with a beginning and an end.  Psalm 9 begins with life and ends in death, but in so doing there is the invitation – begin in death and end in life.  “Turn back, O man, forswear thy foolish ways.”

Thank You, O Lord, for Your wrath in my life, that I might turn toward You and return to You, and thereby join with David in giving thanks to You for Your great glory, mercy, peace, and forgiveness!  Amen.

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

 

 

 

Bread – Entry

February 3, 2016


Psalm 5

“O Lord, in the morning You hear my voice; in the morning I prepare a sacrifice for You and watch….

You destroy those who speak lies;…

But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house.”  Ps. 5:3,6-7

Built into these three lines is almost the entire Christian message.

How do we gain entry to the house of God?  To use less “religious” language, how do we get into heaven?

In the first line, we are speaking to God and preparing and making a sacrifice of our time, our attention, our worship, and ourselves to Him.

These are good works.  They are not directed outward toward other people nor inward to ourselves, but upward to God Himself.  Surely He must) be pleased with us, those who are religious and make proper sacrifices and follow the rules.  Surely when we do these good things, we will earn our entry into heaven?

And there are many in our Christian culture who believe just this.  One way this shows up is in the Sinner’s Prayer.   If I give God the proper recognition by acknowledging my fault and saying the words that I accept Him, then I get into the kingdom.  Another way this shows up is in Baptism.  If I go and get baptized, then I am doing a right sacrifice which will be pleasing to God, and through my good work in obeying Him, I will earn my way into the kingdom.  Another way this shows up is the avoidance of sin, at least mortal sin, and continually receiving the forgiveness of the Church, mediated by middlemen who understand the rituals and their significance and understand the rules and their proper application.  Now, in those communities, if I do good works through regular worship (at least on the designated days), paying the church 10%, taking communion, making confession, receiving forgiveness, kneeling, reading, writing, thinking, doing … then my good works will rise like a pleasant sacrifice, and God will let me into the kingdom.

That is the first line, and if we did not know that David’s motivation was one of obedience born of gratitude instead of obedience born of duty, we might think that he, too, believed that the only people who achieved entry to the throne room of God were good people, who did good works in keeping with the rules of the road.

But then we have to deal with the second verse, “You destroy those who speak lies.”  In one fell swoop we now have confronted our sin problem, even after we become Christians.  As I write this, how many lies have I spoken (or at least thought) today?  How many have you spoken today.  God’s wrath is visited upon those who tell lies (you may say that you are OK because you have only told one lie, not two lies, but then you would be guilty of your second lie).  Two lies and you are destroyed by God.  Why?  Because God abhors all sin, of every size and shape, make and model, from the least to the most (by our human rankings).  He abhors sin and He is a God of wrath!  He may also be a God of love (as our modern society would like to think of Him), but He is also a God of wrath (which is how He needs to be thought of by our modern society).  He destroys sinners … except those He doesn’t…and that leads us to the third verse today.

And that third verse is “But I, through the abundance of Your steadfast love, will enter Your house.”  Ps. 5:7

And there is a lot locked up in this sentence.  Let’s begin with the word “But.”  The longer way of saying it is “Even though I am a liar, thief, cheater, murderer, full of sin and worthy of Your wrath, Your destruction….”

Then there is the second word, “I.”  The “But” never applies to us as a group, it applies one on one, person by person…It applies to “I.”  Until it applies to “I,” it is only one of many thoughts, philosophies, ways of thinking, methods of analysis, etc.  Until it applies to “I,” it is not real to me.

Then there is the next phrase “through the abundance of Your steadfast love.”  Where is there any good works in that sentence?  What part do I play by God acting “through the abundance of [His] steadfast love?”

Then there is “steadfast love,” a love which does not come on strong and then dies, but a love which is there, for all time and in all places and in all circumstances.  Yes, God is a God of wrath who destroys those who sin … but …. He is also a God who so loved us that He sent His Son to die for our sins, to be the sacrifice we could not be, to be the completed work for our salvation.

And then there is this … “I … will enter Your house.”  By what merit do we enter His house?  None.  By what art?  None.  By what magic words?  None.  By what good works?  None.

We only gain entry to His house for all time “by the abundance of [His] steadfast love.”

How have you tried to gain entry into heaven?  Has it been though your efforts, your obedience to the rules, your good works, your morning sacrifice?  Or has it been through the merits, through the death and resurrection, of Jesus Christ?

David reminds us that it is not through his way that he has entry into God’s house, but through His way … the only way.

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

 

Bread – Anger

January 27, 2016


Psalm 4

“Be angry and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.  Selah.”  Ps. 4:4

We know that “Selah” means, in part, to stop and reflect on what we just read.  So as hard as this passage may be to understand, we need to stop and think about it.

When somebody steps on us physically, emotionally, or spiritually, our natural response is anger.  The “step on us” can be something as simple as a misplaced word or a misinterpreted word from someone close or it can be as complicated as being bypassed for a promotion because someone else is more politically correct within the organization.  Somebody can hit us and somebody can accuse us and our natural response, almost our animal response is anger.  We show this anger in harsh words, by striking back, by stomping off, by yelling, by pouting, by silence, by throwing whatever object happens to be close by (a golf club comes to mind).  We are insulted and, d…n it, someone “is going to pay through the nose.”

It is suggested by Jesus that anger is the equivalent of murder (compare Matt. 5:21 and 5:22).  And yet the Psalmist, David, tells us to “be angry” and, at the same time, do not sin.  How is that possible?

One way is to deal with your anger Scripturally.  Paul says in Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.”  In other words, one way to deal with your anger Scripturally is to recognize it for what it is, hold your tongue so that it does not add to the fire (“…be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” Js. 1:20), and release it so that it does not hold you down.  Do not carry it with you to bed, so that it torments you all night and deprives you of your rest.

A second way is to realize that the Hebrew word translated as “anger” in the ESV can also be translated as “tremble,” which is how it is translated in the NASB: “Tremble and do not sin; Meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still.” Ps. 4:4 (NASB)

Now being angry makes me tremble, and so the words are closely related.  But we are also expected to tremble before God and His holiness.  (“Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled…” Ex. 20:18).

Now, if you think about it, when we get angry and begin to sin in our thoughts and even our actions, who is more angry?  God hates sin, all sin.  When we respond in anger to the slights of others, we would be deserving to suffer God’s wrath upon us.

When we tremble in our anger, ready to strike out and revenge our honor, perhaps if we thought about God at the same time, we would also be trembling before Him, reminding ourselves that if anyone should be angry, it should be Him.

So, there are two ways to deal with our anger … in our own strength by biting our tongue and leaving the gun in the closet, or trembling also before God, awed by both His righteousness and His mercy in not taking us out right then.

When we think about God first in our response, we recall His mercy on us and, in turn, we can, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, give mercy to others.  To they deserve our condemnation for their insults upon us which make us angry?  Yes they do, but then so do we before a Holy God.

In our anger, we tremble.  Maybe, just maybe, this is a physical message from God to remind us that the only person we should be trembling before is Him, not out of anger but out of holy awe and fear.

How can we be angry and not sin?  Tremble before the right Person and let Him handle it.  And, somehow, we will find that we are no longer angry.  Why?  Because we have been saved from God’s own anger at us by His own Son, and, being mindful of this, recalling this in our anger, we can no longer be angry, but grateful.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 — Warning

October 5, 2012


Readings for Friday, October 5, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: Hosea 10:1-15; Acts 21:37-22:16; Luke 6:12-26; Psalms 102, 107

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There is an element to the Old Testament prophets which we would be wise to listen to. That element is the warning they carry, the description of national sin in their midst and their warning of the consequences of that sin when God decides, in His sovereignty, to act against it and against the nation which it has infected.

There are many in the United States today who feel that the apostasy, where each person follows the dictates of their own heart and do not worship God and follow His laws, is so deep that the United States will never recover. I do not share that view, but I understand it.

Therefore, let Hosea speak to us today from the grave in our reading today, with certain substitutions and commentary by me in brackets to drive home the point:

Israel [the United States] is a luxurious vine that yields its fruit. The more his (the USA’s) fruit increases, the more altars [empty churches] he built; as his country improved, he improved his [not God’s] pillars. Their heart is false; now they must bear their guilt.” Hosea 10:1-2

For now they [the country] will say: ‘We have no king, for we do not fear the Lord…They utter mere words; with empty mouths they make covenants [empty mouths make for empty promises]” Hosea 10:3-4

When I [God] please, I will discipline them [the USA] and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity.”  Hosea 10:10

You have plowed iniquity; you have reaped injustice; you have eaten the fruit of lies. Because you have trusted in your own way and in the multitude of your warriors…” Hosea 10:13

That is the warning, but in the middle of the reading is the solution, which again we will let Hosea speak from the grave to us:

Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and rain righteousness upon you [us].” Hosea 10:12

Who, in today’s environment, would not love for righteousness to rain down upon and among us? Of course, we might be afraid of it, except for those who believe in Jesus Christ (because He is our righteousness), but a little looking in the mirror is a good thing when done in humility and not in vanity.

So, who does not want for ourselves, our families, our cities, and our nation for righteousness, for blessing, to rain down? Well, how do we sow righteousness ourselves? How do we both sow and reap the kind of love which is steadfast, which lasts? By what power can we break up the hard ground of our world so that we can plant and raise good things?

“…for it is time to seek the Lord, that He may come…” Let us pray ….

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© 2012 GBF

Bread – Figs

March 28, 2011


Readings for Monday, March 28, designated by the Book of Common Prayer: Jer. 24:1-10; Rom. 9:19-33; John 9:1-17; Psalms 31, 35

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My wife loves figs. I do not understand why, but she does.

The setting for Jeremiah today is the defeat of the portion of Israel in Judah at the hands of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon. He is in the process of hauling off the son of the king and craftsmen into captivity into Babylon, leaving the rest behind in Jerusalem.

What must it have felt like to be in the group which was being enslaved into service in Babylon? Abandonment? Hopelessness? Maybe within some, a sense of adventure? Weeping? Loss from separation from loved ones? Horror at seeing your house destroyed in war? Fear? Envy of those being left behind?

And what must it have felt like to be in the group left behind in Jerusalem? Relief at not being killed or imprisoned? Worry about your friends or family who were taken? Thankfulness that God had seen fit to keep you from trials and tribulations? Hope for the future? Joy at the war being over?

Well, as usual what man sees in his situation is not what God sees. What man sees as cursing and loss, such as poverty and imprisonment, God may intend and see as blessing. What man may see as blessing, such as wealth and opportunity, God may intend and see as cursing.

So we learn today from figs: “’What do you see, Jeremiah?’ ‘Figs,’ I answered. The good ones are very good, but the poor ones are so bad that they cannot be eaten.’ Then the word of the Lord came to me:…’Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from the place to the land of the Babylonians…But like the poor figs, …so I will deal with … the survivors from Jerusalem….’” Jer. 24:3-8

The ones taken away into captivity were led to that result by God and He will bless them in their place of captivity. The ones left behind will suffer God’s wrath.

Now the tables are turned. What circumstances man sees as cursing, God uses for blessing. What circumstances man sees as blessing may be the very place where God’s wrath is demonstrated.

Our other two readings today emphasize this point. Paul reminds us to be satisfied in our circumstances, no matter how poor they may seem to us. “Shall what is formed say to Him who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use?” Rom. 9:20b-21. Jesus reminds us in His healing of the blind man born blind from birth that God may intend in our circumstances to show forth His glory – “’Neither this man nor his parents sinned,’ said Jesus, ‘but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.’” John 9:3

The people being led off in captivity to Babylon had no choice in their circumstances but one – their belief in a God who intended them good. They could not look back to see which group of figs they belonged to. They had to have perseverance in their faith.

So in our situation today, as bad as it may seem, remember the figs, who the potter is, and what Jesus Christ did for us while we were still blind. And be glad.

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