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    bread. is a devotional resource curated by Benjamin A. Simpson. Follow bread. on Twitter: @bread_devo. If you would like to write for bread., send an inquiry here for submission guidelines.

    Sunday
    Aug052012

    Sabbath (2)

    By the seventh day 
          God had finished his work. 
       On the seventh day 
          he rested from all his work. 
       God blessed the seventh day. 
          He made it a Holy Day 
       Because on that day he rested from his work, 
          all the creating God had done.
    -Genesis 2:2-4 (The Message)

    Today is the Christian Sabbath, designated so by the early church as a rememberance and a witness to all that on this day, Jesus rose from the grave, death was surely defeated, and victory had been won. Because of this, we can rest.

    So rest.

    Reflect.

    Remember.

    And wonder anew.

    It is to be part of the rhythm of a life lived with God. 

    Saturday
    Aug042012

    Surprised by Grace

    By entering through faith into what God has always wanted to do for us—set us right with him, make us fit for him—we have it all together with God because of our Master Jesus. And that's not all: We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand—out in the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory, standing tall and shouting our praise.
    -Romans 5:1-2 (The Message)

    When I was a young boy I spent many days in the wood behind our house, building forts, cycling, climbing trees, detonating fireworks, waging imaginary wars. From time to time, my mother would stand on the back porch and yell my name, or peer out our second story window, to spy movement in the distance.

    After a full day playing, exploring, and adventuring, I can remember deciding to return home, only to find that my mom had been calling my name for hours, preparing for my return, beckoning me home. I intended to throw open the door and announce my presence, but the door was opened for me.

    Grace is disarming. The moment we are ready to turn, the moment we are ready to surrender, what do we find? The instant we intend to "invite Jesus into our heart," he comes crashing through the door.

    And he is glad to, glad to surprise us with his grace. God invites us to enter in to his presence by faith, to experience and participate in the work of restoration and reconciliation that has been effected by the cross of Jesus Christ. It is by the cross that we have been set right, the cross raised high, drawing us home, calling out to us, loudly whispering our name, beckoning us to that place "we always hoped we might stand."

    Before you take a step toward God, you will find that he has first taken a step toward you. That itself is a work of grace. This should humble us, but also cause to shout with praise, "standing tall." We should be surprised, a surprise welling up to an outburst of joy everlasting.

    If we look upon the cross of Christ, if we truly understand what he has accomplished on our behalf in his life, death, and resurrection, we will be overwhelmed as we stand in "the wide open spaces of God's grace and glory." Not only will this provide us temporal and eternal peace, but with the abundant provision we need to live a life of love inspired by a God who loves, who pours forth grace never-ending.

    Lord, may I stand in awe of your grace, offering thanks that before I sought you, you sought me. You have set me right with you; you have done it, not I. I now see that the work itself came at great cost, a cost I can never repay, and I am overwhelmed. May I live today as a recipient of your great gift, walking with you by faith in the Spirit, determined to let your grace overflow my cup, and extend it forth to all whom I encounter. In Christ's name, Amen.

    Friday
    Aug032012

    Be Not Flabby

    You've been raised on the Message of the faith and have followed sound teaching. Now pass on this counsel to the followers of Jesus there, and you'll be a good servant of Jesus. Stay clear of silly stories that get dressed up as religion. Exercise daily in God—no spiritual flabbiness, please! Workouts in the gymnasium are useful, but a disciplined life in God is far more so, making you fit both today and forever. You can count on this. Take it to heart. This is why we've thrown ourselves into this venture so totally. We're banking on the living God, Savior of all men and women, especially believers.
    -1 Timothy 4:6-10 (The Message)

    Each week I meet with a personal trainer. He directs me through exercises that work various muscle groups in the body. He provides encouragement, instruction, and refinement. And his guidance is based on training he received within his particular field, yielding expertise concerning the body and physical health.

    Likewise, in order to advance in the Christian faith, we need to enter a training regimen. There is a knowledge base that must be mastered, and a set of practices that must be adopted. One without the other is somehow incomplete; too often we are content with a saccharin substitute, "silly stories dressed up as religion."

    This text holds a tension within. There is a tradition to be received about Jesus, a sound teaching upon which we can build our lives. But there is also a necessary accompaniment, the practice of what has been taught, an exercising of what it is that has been received. There is a practicing of the belief, and a belief in the practice, grounded in a person, Jesus Christ. Exercising daily in God makes fit for life now, but also in the kingdom, forever.

    There is no greater calling than training for life in the kingdom of God, with a prize greater than Olympic gold. Seek the teaching about Jesus that has been passed down to those that are trustworthy--search the Scriptures and surround yourselves with those who know and live well the with-God life.

    Bank your life on it, and live it.

    Lord, help me to know and to live the life that you have called me to live in Jesus Christ. Amen.

    Thursday
    Aug022012

    Life In Unlikely Places

    On the fifteenth day of the second month after they had left Egypt, the whole company of Israel moved on from Elim to the Wilderness of Sin which is between Elim and Sinai. The whole company of Israel complained against Moses and Aaron there in the wilderness. The Israelites said, "Why didn't God let us die in comfort in Egypt where we had lamb stew and all the bread we could eat? You've brought us out into this wilderness to starve us to death, the whole company of Israel!"
    -Exodus 16:1-3 (The Message)

    The former times have never-ending appeal. At this very moment, you may be living through a period of transition, filled with hardships. You may long for the old days, back when you were comfortable and all was well. You may question God, or even curse him, for displacing you from the place where your needs were met, and tossing you in to the thick of turmoil. It doesn't matter if, when you were there, you considered it a death pit. It was much better than the wilderness in which you find yourself.

    The Israelites, likewise, suffer from a deficit of imagination and of memory. They do not remember the slave driver's whips and the Pharaoh's endless demands. They cannot imagine where Moses and Aaron, by God's direction, would have them to go. All they can recall are comfort and lamb stew and bread. The wilderness is a terror. The vision is lost; the destination beyond the imagination.

    We see that the lures of comfort and lamb stew and all the bread we can eat have not left us. We see that our imaginations are weak. We settle for what we have, even if the outcome is death, rather than embrace the adventure that directs us toward the celestial city, toward the kingdom.

    Our journey is akin to that of Israel, requiring a wilderness. The sojourn may be brief, but it may be fortry years. Rest may not come until our bodies weary and die, but then, even then, there is the hope of entrance into an eternal kingdom, a promised land, where a feast awaits that surpasses the comfort of Egypt, lamb stew, and bread.

    The Lamb present at that eternal feast will be more satisfying.

    Do you want to die in comfort, or do you want to live in the wilderness?

    Find life in the unlikely place. Embrace the wilderness. God is with you.

    God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, guide me through the wilderness, help me to see my past rightly, and accept that the Egypt I have left may have had its comforts, but was a place of death. May I embrace the wilderness, where you are with me, forming and shaping me for your good purposes, teaching me your truths, leading me to life. In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

    Wednesday
    Aug012012

    Channel Anger Aright

    Go ahead and be angry. You do well to be angry—but don't use your anger as fuel for revenge. And don't stay angry. Don't go to bed angry.
    Don't give the Devil that kind of foothold in your life.
    -Ephesians 4:26 (The Message)

     

    You may have heard of Jack Rebney. He is also known as "The Angriest Man in the World", having earned this designation after film out-takes from his Winnebago commercials made their way to the Internet. If you look him up, I'll warn you: the language is explicit. The smallest miscues are followed by invective; his skin takes on new shades. Indeed, he is angry.

    But is his anger justified? Is it healthy? It doesn't appear so. He misreads scripts and stumbles through progressions. His mistakes may be frustrating, but they shouldn't lead to rage.

    We've all walked that line. We mess up, or someone offends us, and we straddle that line between frustration and rage.

    Anger has a tendency to permeate, to soak, to overwhelm as water does a sponge, and then, after one good squeeze, to erupt. It pours forth and affects all caught in the spray. Anger is a powerful emotion, motivating both evil, and good. It is the channeling of anger, and the accompanying justification, that is determinative for its designation as destructive or generative. Anger effects our relational abilities--our relationships to our neighbors, to God, and even our understanding of self. Therefore, anger is an emotion that must be channeled aright.

    Paul's words in Ephesians are instructive: anger can be justified, and healthy. Jesus was angry at injustice. But anger can also be harbored to destructive ends. It can consume and destroy us from the inside out. It can lead to the dissipation and dissolution of relationships. And it can lead us down a path of spiritual death and destruction, also known as "Devil's Lane".

    Examine your anger. Is it always justified? Are the things that trigger your anger better off ignored or forgiven outright? Is there a relationship that is suffering because you are always angry?

    Turn it over to God. Give up control. Forgive. When anger motivates you to seek justice, let it loose. But when you let it loose, let it go. Don't retain it till sundown. Don't stay angry. Seek reconciliation.

    Keep to the path that leads to righteousness. Channel anger aright.

    Father, sometimes I become angry. I can be an angry person. If I have any anger harbored in my heart in unhealthy ways, enable me to release it, giving it to you. Heal me, and provide me with the grace needed to forgive and to offer healing and to seek renewed community with those whom my anger has hurt. Direct my steps, and place them upon your path. Amen.