GOOD INSTRUCTIONS – BAD RESULTS

Recently we have not been purchasing bread from the grocery; rather, I have been making our bread at home, and I found that I love doing it.  There obviously are a multitude of reasons to make your own bread, if you have the time, including the lack of preservatives, the missing ingredients that we can’t name, and the wonderful smell the kitchen has with home baked bread cooling on the counter.

Today, I realized that we did not have any bread ready to eat, so first thing this morning, I got the flour out and proceeded to make a recipe that I have used many times before.  Rather than having the bread machine bake it, I let it mix the ingredients and then go through a rise cycle before I take it out and put it in a loaf pan for the second rising prior to baking.  This, too, is my normal routine.

When the time came to retrieve the bread from the machine, I opened the top and found something far less than an appealing loaf of bread. 

bad loaf

It was hard, lumpy, not even filling the bread machine, certainly not having risen any, if at all.  I was astonished.  This “loaf” was not worth baking, and it found out what the inside of the kitchen garbage can looked like!

I went back to the drawing board and followed the recipe for bread a second time.  This time, when it came to adding the butter, I had a chill run down my back, and it was not because the butter was cold.  I instantly realized what happened to the first loaf – I had omitted the oil.  A look at the stick of butter waiting in the butter dish confirmed my suspicion.  Rather than missing 2 tablespoons, a whole, untouched, stick of butter stared up at me from its dish.

All this to say, the butter was added to the second loaf and it is rising as it should.

good loaf rising

As I thought about what went wrong, I understood that I missed using one of the ingredients when I prepared the first loaf.  I had the recipe, and I looked at it, but I overlooked that one thing and the result was disastrous, at least it was for that loaf!

Our God provided His instruction book for us, and it is called the Holy Bible.  The Jews understand this as they have the Law and the Prophets in the Old Testament, books that specifically identify the statutes and rules that God has laid out for His people to follow.  The New Testament establishes that the law of the Old Testament still contains God’s law, but now there is a new understanding and emphasis.

See what Jesus said:

“”Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Matthew 5:17

You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’  But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.  So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”

Matthew 5:21-24

You see, Jesus understood the Law that governed the lives of the people.  And He understood that they were not keeping that Law.  He understood that they thought they were keeping the Law because they did not actually murder anyone, but there was hatred in their hearts, and malicious words coming from their mouths.  He took that Law and expanded it to include the status of the heart.  If there is anger, if there are insults, if there is an attitude of condemnation toward others then the Law is broken just as if a dagger had been placed in the chest of the victim.

Jesus further said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”

Matthew 5:43-45

God is merciful toward the just and the unjust, toward the evil and the good.  So, we should not be unmerciful toward others, as we also are sinners and deserving of punishment.

In Matthew 15, Jesus was speaking to the Pharisees, forcibly pointing out their hypocrisy:

For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’  But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, ‘What you would have gained from me is given to God’, he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God.”

Matthew 15:4-6

Here Jesus is explicitly stating that the commandment pronounced by God in Exodus 20 is to be followed.  But instead, the Pharisees twisted the commandment and said that when a person gave God that which would have been used to care for their parents, there was no need to honor his parents.  Jesus specifically admonished that by their man-made rule, the Pharisees had made God’s word void.

Beloved, the instructions are there in the Book.  The fact that they may be difficult to follow does not nullify their import.  God’s word is true and it endures forever. 

“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Isaiah 40:8

When I did not put the butter in the bread, it did not mix well and I did not have a loaf that I could enjoy later in the day.  I didn’t follow the directions, and I paid the consequences.  Likewise, when we don’t follow God’s instructions, things do not go well.  There will be consequences, whether in this life or the next.

” Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.”

John 6:35

Read God’s Word, ruminate on it, and digest its marvelous truths.  Feast on the Bread of Life, and follow the instructions given.  You will enjoy an abundant life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Father, I praise Your Name for Your Word that gives us the way to eternal life through our Savior, Jesus Christ.  I thank You too that Your Word provides everything that we need to live a life that is pleasing to You.  Forgive me when I have failed to do so, when I have failed to follow Your instructions.  Let Your Spirit enlighten my heart so that I will be sensitive to Your guidance and then give me the courage to follow Your direction. 

BREAD – YUMMY!

I have long had a bread machine, but it went unused for most of my working career – too much to do, overtime, documents to read and cases to research. 

All that changed after retirement.  I have been having a grand time making homemade bread, dinner rolls, and breakfast sweet breads (this latter needs more practice before I serve it to anyone other than my beloved Husband!). 

After making two loaves of light rye and one loaf of white bread, I sat down to eat a slice of the rye and, as I was munching on it, I thought of bread in the scriptures. 

What exactly was bread in the scriptures?  It was as important to the ancient people and cultures as it is to us today.

In the very first book of the Bible, Genesis, we find that Joseph oversaw storing the grain before the severe famine was to hit the area.

“During the seven plentiful years the earth produced abundantly, and he gathered up all the food of these seven years, which occurred in the land of Egypt, and put the food in the cities. He put in every city the food from the fields around it.  And Joseph stored up grain in great abundance, like the sand of the sea, until he ceased to measure it, for it could not be measured.”

Genesis 41:47-49

Grain makes bread, and bread sustains the people.   Grain in scriptures included barley, millet, and wheat. The King James Version of scripture uses the word “corn” while the Hebrew definition focuses on wheat, cereal and grain.

For example, we read in the giving of the Law:

“If a man dedicates to the LORD part of the land that is his possession, then the valuation shall be in proportion to its seed. A homer of barley seed shall be valued at fifty shekels of silver.” 

Leviticus 27:16  (By the way, a “homer” is about 6 bushels.)

The beautiful book of Ruth speaks of barley as well:

“So she kept close to the young women of Boaz, gleaning until the end of the barley and wheat harvests. And she lived with her mother-in-law.”

Ruth 2:23

Exodus 9:32 (KJV) speaks of “rie” as being in the field, but it is believed that this was not something that we would use today to make “rye” bread; rather, scholars think this more likely to be spelt or emmer which is another type of wheat. 

God called Gideon in Judges Chapter 6 while Gideon was beating out the wheat in the winepress in an effort to hide the grain from invading Midianites.  And, in Judges Chapter 15 we read that Samson went to visit his wife during the wheat harvest.  Indeed, wheat is often referenced in the Old Testament.

This is a picture of a bread pan that was from Lachish (ca, fifteenth century B.C.). 

Lachish bread pan
Picture from Israel Department of Antiquities and Museums as found in Nelson’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Bible Facts, J. I. Packer, Merrill C. Tenney and William White, Jr., © 1995 Thomas Nelson Publishers, page 471.

This pan may have been used for forming cakes of bread or it could actually have been used for baking the bread.  Leviticus 2:5 says:

“And if your offering is a grain offering baked on a griddle, it shall be of fine flour unleavened, mixed with oil.”

Leviticus 2:5. This is the ESV translation; the KJV translation uses the word “pan” instead of “griddle”.  Whether we would consider this a pan or a griddle, the picture gives evidence of what the ancient people making bread actually used. We certainly can relate to this activity even though several millennia have passed since this pan was used.

Jesus used wheat in his discourses with the disciples such as we find in Matthew 13.  One of the parables taught by Jesus referenced the man who sowed good seed in his field, only to have his enemies plant weeds among the seeds.  The owner left the field alone and all the plants grew until harvest when it was easy to identify the good wheat from the bad weeds.  Later in the chapter, Jesus explained the parable to the disciples, saying that the weeds were the evil ones, but the wheat represented those in the kingdom of God.

We also read Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:11 where He is teaching the disciples to pray when He said:

“Give us this day our daily bread, …”

The hearers would have understood that bread was a staple of the Hebrew diet.  They milled and sifted grain, usually wheat but also barley. They made it into dough, kneading it and forming the dough into thin cakes which were then baked.  They also would have understood Jesus’ prayer for bread with the broadened meaning of food in general. 

For me, the primary reference that comes to my mind when I think of scripture and bread is Jesus’ I AM teaching:

“Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” 

John 6:35

People understand that bread is life-giving; it is life-saving; it is food; and it represents the fact that food is fundamental to our well-being.  We must have physical food or we will die, it is “as simple as that!”

In like manner, we cannot spiritually be alive without the food of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  He is the Bread of life, both here and for eternity.  He handles our longing for spiritual food and gives us the Holy Spirit as our comforter and guide.  We must feast on the Word of God or we will die, this too is “as simple as that!”

Next time you pick up a slice of bread, stop and thank Him for being your Bread of Life! 

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!”

Psalm 34:8

Father, thank You for providing Your Son for our salvation and for an abundant life now and evermore.  May I always look to my Savior and rely on His direction and guidance so that I will bring glory to Your Holy Name.

Pedal! and Perseverance

There is a story that I came across many years ago, and it speaks to me as I consider my journey with Jesus Christ.  It has been duplicated numerous times so you may already have heard it, but I do ask that you read it and think, again, about your own perseverance in the Christian walk. 

At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things I did wrong, so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized His picture when I saw it, but I really didn’t KNOW him.

But later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride, but it was a tandem bike, and I noticed Christ was in the back helping me pedal. I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since he took over steering the bike.

When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable… it was the shortest distance between two points. But when He took the lead, He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains, and through rocky places at breakneck speeds, it was all I could do to hang on! Even though it looked like madness, He said “Pedal”.

I worried and was anxious and asked, “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer, and I started to learn trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure.  And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He would lean back and touch my hand.

He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy.  They gave me gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine.  And we were off again.  He said “Give the gifts away, they’re extra baggage, too much weight.”  So I did, to the people we met, and I found that in giving I received, and yet still our burden was light.

Perseverance
Perseverance in Pedaling!

I did not trust Him, at first, in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it; but He knows bike secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, knows how to jump to clear high rocks, knows how to fly to shorten scary passages. And I am learning to shut up and pedal in the strangest places, and I’m beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze on my face with my delightful constant companion, Jesus Christ.

And when I’m sure I just can’t do anymore, He just smiles and says … “Pedal!”

(Author unknown)

 

There are many theological words we could insert into this story, but the verbal picture drawn for us is sufficient for our purposes.  Life is hard – the Christian life is harder, especially if you try to do it on your own.  Your way is simply not good enough … we cannot live a sinless life.  That is the reason that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was necessary.  We need to come to the Lord Jesus Christ in faith and repentance, and only then can we rely on His strength to enable us to persevere.

 

In Second Timothy Paul encourages the young pastor to endure even when the “going gets tough”.  In these days of the Olympics in Rio, we can more fully understand Paul’s reference:

 

An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules.

2 Timothy 2:5.

 

It is foolish for us to think we can satisfy God on our own, that we can compete in this world according to our rules and not those of the Creator God as established in the Bible.  Do we really think we are bigger and know better than God?  REALLY?

 

Sin has broken the connection between us and the Creator God.  There simply is nothing that we can do to fix that situation because anything we do is just as dirty and sinful as we are.  There must be Someone Who lived a perfect, sinless life, and Who was willing to be the sacrifice to pay for the sins that we have committed, so that we could be reunited with God.  That Person is Jesus Christ, the Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

 

The Apostle Paul says:

 

And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.

2 Corinthians 1:21-22.  The Holy Spirit is our guarantee of salvation and perseverance.  What a blessing!

 

Jesus describes our security in Him as we persevere in our walk with Him in the Gospel of John:

 

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.  For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

John 6:37-40.

 

The Apostle John reiterates that which Jesus spoke in the Revelation of Jesus Christ.  Regarding Jesus presenting us to His Father in Heaven if we are faithful to Him, Revelation 3:5 states:

 

The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels.

 

Perseverance in the Christian life.  It really is not based on our own efforts. We must yield control of our life to Christ, but even that we cannot do on our own!  Rather it is an ability that we receive from the Lord as the Holy Spirit indwells us and supplies the power that we personally do not have. 

 

We still must run the race and exert as much effort that we can muster, as if we were athletes competing in the Olympics, but at the end of the day we must recognize that it is God who worked through us.  The Apostle Paul reminds us:

 

I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6-7.

 

So, when you want to give up on your Christian walk, when you feel totally inadequate, when you think that you can give no more … listen to Jesus say “Pedal”.  Rely on Him and He will see you through as He uses you for His purposes, all to His glory and honor.

 

 

Father, forgive me when I have foolishly tried to do Your work in my own strength.  What folly!  Enable me to see when I am grabbing control and let me release my grip and rely on You. May my reliance on You be my first choice, instead of my last resort. Forgive me, Lord. Your way is always the best, most beautiful and enduring way there could possibly be. Thank you Father for calling me and for granting me the blessing of a relationship with Your Son and the presence of Your Holy Spirit.