We brought no bread!

When the disciples reached the other side, they had forgotten to bring any bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch and beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” And they began discussing it among themselves, saying, “We brought no bread.” But Jesus aware of this, said, “O you of little faith, why are you discussing among yourselves the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive? Do you not remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many baskets you gathered? … How is that you fail to understand that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. (Matthew 16:5-12).

It’s easy, isn’t it, to laugh at the disciples. After all, they should have known that Jesus was not warning them about bread. (Unless, of course, he did so privately to those with various food allergies.) They should have remembered Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the crowds. Jesus must not have selected his disciples on the basis of an aptitude test.

And there we find them, far away from their homes, on the other side of the lake, without any bread. They had stomachs. They had appetites. They had just sailed across a lake. But they had nothing to fill their stomachs, or to satisfy their hunger. If you have ever experienced being hungry before then you know how easy it is for thoughts of food to fill your mind. “Peter, did Jesus just say, ‘leaven?'” “Well yes, James, it looks like someone forgot to bring any.”

We all have needs. We need to eat. We need clothing, shelter, and the means to acquire these. Jesus knows this. He provides these things for us. But Jesus is not speaking in today’s text about our physical needs, he is speaking about our spiritual needs. He is providing his disciples with a strong warning to be on guard against the teachings of those who would pull them away from Himself. He is warning them to be on guard against the spiritual teachings of those who had rejected him.

There may be times when we find ourselves unprepared. There may be times when we fail to plan ahead. These things happen. Jesus does not rebuke his disciples for forgetting the bread. Ultimately the bread did not matter. What does matter is this, that we cling to Christ, the bread of life, and beware of the teachings of all those who reject him.

May you cling to Christ and look to him in faith for all your needs – both physical and eternal.

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State of the PRBC Address

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Duck, Bug, and Monkey

A little while ago, my two year old son and I were watching a cartoon called Word World.  In this particular episode, Duck and Bug were bringing Monkey a banana for his birthday present. (Obviously we are talking about a very sophisticated TV show which appeals only to the high minded.) 

At one point in the cartoon, Duck and Bug decided to do a little song and dance to celebrate their arrival to the jungle, but in order to do the dance they had to put the present containing the banana down first.

Now, my son really likes bananas and he was so excited about the present Duck and Bug were bringing to Monkey.  So it absolutely crushed him when during the song and dance, a long jungle vine came out of nowhere and snatched the gift wrapped banana away and took it out of the picture entirely.

When my son saw this he began to wail and moan.  Giant pathetic tears were rolling down his cheeks pooling up on his chin.  If we had them available in the house I’m sure he would have donned sackcloth and ashes. 

The banana was gone.  In his mind, it unfairly stolen away.  No matter how much I reasoned with him, no matter how much I told him that the banana was going to be found because this type of show never ends in tragedy, he would not be consoled.   

He just couldn’t believe what I was telling him; he couldn’t believe my words of comfort and promise would come to fruition.

If I’m honest with myself, I find that I am not far off from where my son was. I find that I am often unsure about God’s active engagement with the world.  I often have questions about whether or not God is good, just like my son questioned whether or not the banana would return.

It’s times like this when the language of the Psalms prove helpful.  In the psalms, the psalmists’ often question God’s goodness and provision while at the same time offer confessions of faith.  It’s honest language that I have to believe God appreciates.

Read Psalm 74 and notice how in one psalm, the psalmist brazenly pleads with God to keep his promises while also confessing God as creator and as the one in control. 

May God be patient with our laments and questions and may God grant us the faith to wait upon and trust in his goodness.

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Video Blog – Episode 1

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Did God really say?

The serpent said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’.?” (Genesis 3:1) Of “any tree in the garden.” Really? What is the serpent doing here? What is the serpent’s goal? God had said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden except for one, that one, the one in the middle, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” The reality of what God had said and the serpent’s distortion of it are as different as night and day. In reality we have a generous God freely offering the abundance of his creation to us; in the serpent’s words we have a sadistic god dangling his fruit in our face while greedily hoarding the goods to himself. What is the serpent doing? He is destroying Eve’s faith in her creator. He is portraying her maker as callous, unkind, unreasonable. And he succeeded.

“You will not die” said the serpent. “For God knows that when you eat of it you will become like God, knowing good and evil.” So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Genesis 3:4-7

It wasn’t a difficult decision – not really. I mean, “she saw the fruit was good.” She saw the benefits. Why wouldn’t God want her to know good and evil? Will God really miss just one piece of fruit in a whole garden? I mean, God isn’t going to eat it anyway, is he?

What kind of decision was this that Adam and Eve made in the Garden? The command was so clear. God’s goodness so manifest. His abundance so evident. What sort of people would make this sort of decision?

People like you. In fact you make this decision each and every time you transgress God’s Word. Yeah we throw excuses up. “Did God really say that?” “Does this really apply?” “Isn’t that a little ridiculous?” You see the effects of the serpent’s work are still in play in our world. God’s Word and our reason are not always harmonious. Why? Because the words spoken by the serpent sunk deep down in Adam and Eve’s hearts and it poisoned their image of God. It destroyed their trust in Him. And we, born into their family, have inherited the same distrust and disregard for our God. We, born into their family, have inherited the same proclivity to trust in our own reason and to do things our own way.

You see we don’t sin just because some little dude in a red jumper suit eggs us on; we sin because ultimately we trust in ourselves and in our own reason more than we trust the God who created us.

That is why we need Christ. That is why God did not leave Adam and Eve to vanquish the serpent themselves, (God knew they would continue to listen to him rather than do so anyway) but rather promised that one day the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent.This day began when Jesus Christ became incarnate through the virgin Mary – when He entered our world as the seed of the woman. For in Jesus Christ God has vanquished the serpent, our ancient foe. In Jesus Christ God has entered into our sinful, rebellious family and brought us back to God. In Jesus Christ you are no longer the sinful man, women or child you know yourself to be, but rather the Holy, Redeemed, Child He has created you to be. Did God really say that? Yep, and He told us in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “If anyone is in Christ, He (or she) is a new creation. The old has gone, the new is come.”

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“Bones” is one of my favorite TV shows.  The show details the relationship between the brilliant but often pop-culturally ignorant forensic anthropologist Dr. Temperance “Bones” Brennan and down to earth FBI agent Seeley Booth.  Together, Bones and Booth solve gruesome murders, which usually means they have to identify the remains of some poor soul found who-knows-where.

Bones is incredibly smart and is often able to discern the minutest details about a person’s life just by looking at their skeletal remains.  In this regard, she is a modern Sherlock Holmes.  To the less brilliant (i.e. everyone else in the show), Bones can come across as being too scientific in her approach and is often accused of being cold and out of touch.  At one point early in the first season, Bones defends her method by stating that she can see the faces of those who have been murdered, she can tell what kind of life they lived, how old they were, and what they looked like simply by looking at their bones.

For Bones, murder is the dehumanization and devaluation of a person.  She sees her work as giving a person back their humanity, their value, and their identity.

The defense of her approach gives insight into Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:21, 22, “You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.”

Jesus looks at our attitudes towards others in the same light as murder.  When we insult another person or call them a fool we devalue them and in a sense try to steal away part of their humanity.  But it is a difficult thing for us to simply change our attitudes.  In fact, it is impossible outside of the redemptive and creative power of the crucified and resurrected Christ.

In his death and resurrection Christ redeemed us and gave new value to our humanity and still does as he represents our frail selves in perfection before the throne of God.  Through his death and resurrection Christ has made us new creations.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit may we have the courage to humanize rather than dehumanize and to call each other brother or sister rather than fool.

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Radical Love

17. “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger!” 18. I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. 19. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”‘ Luke 15:17-19 ESV

You may recognize these lines from Jesus’ famous “Parable of the Prodigal Son.” For those of you who may be less familiar with the story or who have simply had a long day, the parable involves a father and his two sons the younger of whom demands his share of the inheritance and proceeds to squander it in a far away country. As he begins to be in need a severe famine comes over the land and he finds himself with nothing – no friends, no family, no money, no more share of the inheritance, and no food. Perhaps worse is what he does have; the guilt of sin, the shame of bankruptcy, the degradation inherent for a Hebrew person who is required to work with pigs (an “unclean” animal in Hebraic culture) estranged relationships with his father and his family, and the knowledge that he has made his own bed.

“But when he came to himself,” these words are an important turning point in the parable. I have understood them in the sense that, “And then the young person repented, came home, asked for forgiveness” and on that basis was welcomed home and forgiven. I no longer believe that to be a correct understanding of what Jesus is saying. It is not wrong in every regard – the prodigal does make a confession of sin, he does come home and he is welcomed home and forgiven. However, he does not ask for forgiveness, nor is his confession of sin the basis upon which he is welcomed back.

The prodigal knows he has sinned, but he does not ask for forgiveness. There is no indication that he imagined his father would forgive him. No, the best he is hoping for is employment – to be treated as a hired servant. He is not returning home in order to gain reconciliation; he is going home because he is underpaid and starving.

All this serves to make the actions of the father in this parable all the more stunning. When he sees his son coming he does not wait for him to arrive, prepare a lecture or determine whether he had need of another employee. No, the father runs to his son. He embraces him, kisses him, tells him “all is well.” Notice he does all of this before the prodigal can say even a word. The father, whom the son has sinned against, is the one whose desire it is to be reconciled with the prodigal. The motivating force behind this reconciliation is purely the father’s love for his wayward boy. Yeah, the boy begins his speech and verbally applies to work for his father – after all, maybe he is hiring, but even here the boys desire is more to supply his own needs (food and money) than to accomplish his father’s agricultural work. Meanwhile, the father’s heart is fully displayed in open love and affection for his wayward boy. “Kill the calf” he shouted. “We are going to celebrate. My son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

All this is spoken in the presence of tax collectors, sinners, pharisees, and scribes for our good. Why? So that we might know the radical heart of God.

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