Tuesday, May 5, 2009
God’s Word to us is beyond sweet, it is life itself. God Himself is the Word and is our food. God’s Word is Life. The Word is Christ. God calls us to the table to feed on Him.
I remember the first time that I read scripture and understood what it said. I was reading Matthew 6:31-34. These words of Jesus instructed me, “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ “For the Gentiles eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. ” These scriptures spoke the very Word of God to me. I understood these words and they spoke to my worry filled, and sin dead life. God awakened something inside of me and I felt His presence there. I felt alive, assured, cared for, and I did not worry. These words spoke to my fear and loneliness and God sent a clear message that He was there meeting my every need. These words fed my soul and promised to feed my body. I believe them even now, and I believe in God who speaks these words, the Word Himself.
I have had a love affair with God and His Word ever since reading these scriptures and being empowered by God’s presence and Holy Spirit to understand them. One of my favorite passages is John 1, where John says that Jesus is the Word of God and that this Word is the Genesis of life itself. John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1).” John goes on to say, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men (John 1:4).” Jesus also said, “I am the light of the world.” in John 8:12. John is connecting for us that Jesus, the Word Himself, is the one who spoke creation and every living thing therein, into being at the Genesis of creation. You can hear the eco of Genesis 1:1 and 3 in these verses, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. . . God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.” God created by speaking the Word. God spoke creation into being and He started with light. John wants us to know that the Word is Jesus and the Light of the world is Jesus. God’s Word is life itself, God speaks life, and God creates and sustains life.
The prophet Ezekiel encountered God and His word in Ezekiel 2 and 3. God was speaking to Ezekiel in visions and called for the prophet so that He could speak with him, Ezekiel listened to the following message in Ezekiel 2:8-3:3:
“Only take care, son of man, that you don’t rebel like these rebels. Open your mouth and eat what I give you.”
When I looked he had his hand stretched out to me, and in the hand a book, a scroll. He unrolled the scroll. On both sides, front and back, were written lamentations and mourning and doom.
He told me, “Son of man, eat what you see. Eat this book. Then go and speak to the family of Israel.”
As I opened my mouth, he gave me the scroll to eat, saying, “Son of man, eat this book that I am giving you. Make a full meal of it!”
So I ate it. It tasted so good—just like honey. ”
God gave Ezekiel His Word so that he could send God’s message to His people. Ezekiel ate God’s Word, he took it in, and he believed God’s word. He fed on them and then he was called by God to feed others. God’s Word gives life, to Ezekiel and to us. Will we consume God and His Word? Will we take Him in so that He consumes us?
We get at this eating God’s word, like with Ezekiel, in the communion service in the Anglican Church. In this service, Holy Eucharist Rite Two on pages 361-365, we read of Jesus, the Word Himself, breaking bread with His disciples. We also read these words from 1 Corinthians 11:23-24, “. . . the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” John also recalls in John 6:48 that Jesus Himself said, “I am the bread of life.” Jesus makes the connection for us in John 6:51 that He is the bread that came down from heaven allowing His people to be sustained with His daily provisions, through Himself, the living bread, in the wilderness. Jesus tells us to “eat His flesh” to have eternal life, John 6:56. This “eating of His flesh” is believing in Jesus’ life giving Words and accepting, receiving, and taking in His sacrifice for us. This sacrifice is Jesus offering Himself up on a cross for our sins and rising again from the grave, defeating death. Simon Peter responds in John 6:68 just as we should respond to this, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life.”
This is why we say these words in the communion service before we come to the table to take in the Word of God, Jesus Himself: “The Gifts of God for the People of God. Take them in remembrance that Christ died for you, and feed on Him in your hearts by faith, with thanksgiving (1979).” We feed on Jesus’ Word. We feed on Jesus Himself; the bread of heaven; the bread of life. When we feed on His Word and His life, His kingdom becomes clear. We seek His kingdom because of His Word, and when we do so, we find every need met in Him as we “feed on Him in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”
God supplies all our needs in the wilderness of this life when we seek first His Word and His kingdom and righteousness. In Matthew chapter 4, before Jesus speaks about seeking the kingdom and having our needs met, Jesus is led into the wilderness to be tempted by Satan. The first temptation that Jesus had was to turn stones into bread for Himself while he was fasting. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread (Matthew 4:3).” Jesus responded by quoting this passage in Deuteronomy, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).’” Jesus was able to resist His temptation by Satan in the wilderness by quoting God’s word, which He had committed to memory. Jesus fed on God in the wilderness and we too can feed on Him.
Jesus also told His disciples, after meeting with the woman at the well, that “He had food to eat which they did not know about (John 4:32).” The disciples were astonished that Jesus would say something like this and wondered if someone had brought Him something to eat, but this food Jesus was speaking of was doing the will of God (John 4: 33, 34). God meets our needs and feeds us with His Word and His will, if we would just seek Jesus and His kingdom first, if we would just sit at His table and dine with Him and feed on Him. Jesus has given us the invitation and will feed us with food that the world may not know about, but it has been revealed to us. He has done it. God has fed us with His Word. He has offered us Himself.
Now may we “feed on Him in our hearts by faith, with thanksgiving.”
Feeding on the Word of the Lord, which is sweeter than honey,
(1979). The Book of Common Prayer. New York, Church Publishing Incorporated.
New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, S. Mt 6:31-34
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Eze 2:8-3:3
Friday, May 1, 2009
"Do your best. Work from the heart for your real Master, for God, confident that you’ll get paid in full when you come into your inheritance. Keep in mind always that the ultimate Master you’re serving is Christ. The sullen servant who does shoddy work will be held responsible. Being a follower of Jesus doesn’t cover up bad work."
There is an old expression, or figure of speech, rather, that says that one can "Have too many irons in the fire." This expression comes from blacksmiths, I believe, who would heat up their irons in the fire to shape them into tools or horse shoes, or whatever they were working on or crafting. When the iron would cool, it would cease to be moldable. They would place the iron back into the fire and pick up another that was being heated in the fire and the process would continue so that their work was constant and fluid so that they could maximize their productivity.
If you had “too many irons in the fire,” it would be easy to lose track of what you were working on. You could also leave your works in progress in the fire for too long if you had too many going and they would be ruined. Balance is a key to doing good blacksmith work. It is also an art as much as it is a science.
Balance is the key to doing any work, because of these same reasons mentioned. If we do not have a balance in our work, we may mess up what we have going because we cannot give it the time and attention that it deserves. If we are not doing enough work, or in this case, if we do not have enough irons in the fire, then we waste time and our work ceases to be fluid and we stop being as productive in our work. There seems to be a line that one has to walk in his or her work. Either one works too little and is lazy or one works too much and is sloppy and has poor quality in what they do.
This is the trap that I find myself in. I have the tendency to "Have too many irons in the fire." This can make me sloppy and can make my work poor quality. I am always working on a variety of differing projects at the same time. At times, this is a “juggling act.” This doing too many things steals the joy and pleasure that my work is supposed to be, as well as affecting the final product as it pertains to quality and excellence. There is supposed to be a balance in our work and work is supposed to be fulfilling and pleasurable. Work is supposed to be a joy and it is a blessing.
I find that work can be a burden and not a pleasure if there is too much of it or if there is too little work. There has to be a balance. To overwork is sinful and to under-work is laziness and is also sinful. We tend to lean toward one or the other, but I believe we are called to a balance and that we are supposed to work as unto the Lord. Our work is supposed to point to the God who we serve. Our labors work to make God Himself look good.
I love what Proverbs 30 verses 7 through 9 have to say about balance. These verses are not so much about work, but there is a principal that we can find here about work and balance and over- and under-functioning and what this says about our view of God and self. Here is what these verses say:
"And then he prayed, “God, I’m asking for two things
before I die; don’t refuse me—
Banish lies from my lips
and liars from my presence.
Give me enough food to live on,
neither too much nor too little.
If I’m too full, I might get independent,
saying, ‘God? Who needs him?’
If I’m poor, I might steal
and dishonor the name of my God.”
The writer of this proverb captures something very important here concerning balance, though he is speaking simply of provisions. We can pervert even a good thing, such as having enough to eat, or having enough money, or in this case having enough work. If we work too much, it is tempting to look at our labors and say, “Look what I have done!” and subtract God out of the equation, and maybe even forget God all together. If we work too little, others may say of us, “Look at how lazy this person is!” and then we make God, whom we love and serve, look bad and we dishonor Him and His name in the marketplace.
Our prayer and our effort in our work and lives should be like the prayer of the author of Proverbs 30:7-9, “Give me enough work and provisions that I recognize you, God, and praise your name. Do not give me too much, so that I rely on myself or put myself in your place. Do not give me too little that I may curse you or defame your name by sinning against you. Help me to know you more and make you look good in life and work.”
Being worked on to honor Jesus’ name,
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Col 3:22-25
Peterson, Eugene H.: The Message : The Bible in Contemporary Language. Colorado Springs, Colo. : NavPress, 2002, S. Pr 30:7-9