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Are you hungry?

When was the last time you were really hungry? Your stomach was grumbling. Your only focus was getting something to eat. Maybe you had a headache and you definitely were out of energy.

Fortunately, that doesn’t happen to most Americans very often. We live in a land of plenty with stores and restaurants open 24/7 and ample sustenance on the shelves and tables.

Jesus uses the physical hunger of a crowd to teach several spiritual lessons in John 6. He taught the disciples about His power over nature by feeding more than 5,000 with just five loaves and two fish. Some of the crowd followed Him the next day, expecting to get another free picnic. Instead, He says, “Don’t work for the bread that perishes.” They were hungry again the next day, after all.

Instead, He tells them to work for bread that will endure into eternity. What? Bread with eternal satisfaction? What did Jesus mean?

He answers them several times in the following verses. The only bread that will satisfy for all eternity is Jesus.

 And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst” (John 6:35).

Of course, they wanted this bread. They didn’t want to be hungry again. So, how does Jesus tell them to obtain it?

Believe: Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent” (v. 29).

Believe: “All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will [f]by no means cast out” (v. 37).

Believe: “And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (v. 40).

Believe: “Therefore everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to Me” (v. 45).

Believe: “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes [j]in Me has everlasting life” (v. 47).

Believe: “I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world” (v. 51).

Some have distorted the following verses to state that the actual blood and body of Christ has to be consumed to gain eternal life (v. 53-58). Having not considered the previous verses where Jesus says over and over “believe,” the actual consumption, which mystically happens during the communion or mass, becomes the focus.

But evidently, that isn’t satisfactory, since they have to keep eating and drinking – and hoping that it was enough.

Over and over, Jesus and the Apostles state that it’s belief, not actions that save and satisfy. If we are trying to do something else hoping that it will satisfy, we’ll keep working for the bread that doesn’t satisfy.

Belief in Jesus and His work on the cross to pay for our sins is the only way to do the works of God and be satisfied – today, tomorrow, and forever.

 

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The best reveal

Over the last decade, expecting couples have added to the anticipation of the new child by having a gender reveal party. Sometimes the couple doesn’t know the gender of their baby until the party, letting a third person get the information and plan the event. The parties have turned into great events – and anytime you get friends, family, and cake together sounds great to me!

The month of December builds up a lot of anticipation. Secret shopping trips result in presents hidden in the closets until they are wrapped and placed under the tree. Small kids wonder what’s in the presents and parents wonder if the children will be excited. As the presents are unwrapped the gifts are revealed.

We seem to like surprises, mysteries, and unchartered territory. But only if it turns out the way we want. We like to surprise a friend with a visit, but regret it, if they aren’t able to drop everything for coffee. Mysteries under the Christmas tree are suspenseful, but if the recipient doesn’t appreciate it, we wish we hadn’t bothered. We like the twists and turns of a good novel, but everyone needs to live happily ever after – except the bad guy, of course.

For thousands of years, God had revealed His character and His plan through creation and prophets. His greatness, majesty, and power, as well as His wrath, justice, and love, had been proclaimed by the prophets of the Old Testament. But that wasn’t the great reveal.

The book of Hebrews states at the beginning:

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds;” Hebrews 1:1-2 

God’s great reveal came through His Son, Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh and lived among man. The Christmas story is not just about a baby in a manger. It’s about God revealing Himself to humanity in a completely different way. Not creation. Not another prophet. God was revealed to man through that baby in the manger.

And at that reveal, no one was disappointed. Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecies, the hope of nations, and the promise of salvation. The hope of my future and yours. The forgiveness of all our sins. The purpose of life. The answer to problems.

It’s all there in Jesus.

It’s time

It’s been over six months since my last post. I could come up with a list of excuses, but none of them are very good. Hectic summer schedule? Crazy fall schedule? Too much time at work? Too much homework? None of those are valid excuses. Like everyone else, I find time to do what I want to do.

That hurts. But it’s true. The last few weeks I’ve been noticing the WordPress.com bookmark in the bookmark bar and thinking, “I really need to get back to that.” I’ve read some amazing books and God has been teaching me a lot. This blog gives me an opportunity to put those ideas into writing and share them with others.

And as I’ve thought about my delinquency in blogging, I’ve been reminded of God’s faithfulness. He makes promises and carries them out. He comes through every time. He doesn’t get distracted. He doesn’t forget. He doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t promise something that He can’t do.

Sometimes it’s our timetable that causes us frustration. We read Genesis and see God intervening in history on every page. But forget the decades or generations between those events. Abraham received a promise that he would be a great nation (Gen 12), but it was 25 years later that Isaac was born (Gen 21). In the Garden of Eden, God promised a redeemer (Gen 3), but several thousand years would pass before Jesus was born.

That was the perfect time. Thousands of years passed, but it was exactly the right time for the birth of the Messiah (Gal 4:4-5). God kept His promise according to His schedule.

I am unfaithful. God is not. Cling to His promises. He will never fail.

I pity the fool!

How do you determine if something is foolish?

A 50 year-old man on his hands and knees and making animal sounds would be foolish. But if his two-year old grandson is riding on his back, it’s great fun. If he keeps doing it after the grandson has gone home, an intervention might be necessary.

To define foolishness, there has to be a standard. It’s not normal for a grown man to be on his hands and knees making animal sounds. Normal is walking on two feet and carrying on a conversation.

If it were a young child on his hands and knees making animal sounds, we wouldn’t think much of it. It’s a normal part of development. It’s a part of their play.

But as we get older, the definition of foolishness changes. We choose to act like others around us. We choose to blend in to a degree in order to be accepted. We make a decision to not respond to questions with a bark, or a whinny.

When we make friends, or get a new job, or get married, we choose to give up some activities. We decide that the friendship is more important than sitting at home watching TV, so we go out for supper. We choose to show up to work on time, because our job – and the paycheck – are more important than our leisure time. We commit to faithfulness to our spouse, because the relationship is more important than hanging with the guys, or chasing girls.

One of my favorite hymns is “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”

My Jesus, I love thee. I know thou art mine.

For thee all the follies of sin I resign.

The foolishness of sin is nothing compared to the love of Jesus. The more we love Him, the more we will give up the foolishness of sin.

Pick any sin. What are the advantages? Short-term gratification. Stroking your ego.

What if you chose to love Jesus, instead of giving into that temptation?

“I could do this, but since I love Jesus, I’m not going to. My relationship with Jesus is much more important to me than whatever pleasure or benefit this sin might bring.”

That’s resigning all the follies of sin for Jesus. As we mature in our love for Jesus, giving up those sins becomes easier. The love that Jesus has for us and the love that we can give to Him is so much greater than the short-lived benefit of sin.

Don’t be a fool. Choose love over sin.

 

 

You have no idea.

Do you remember having little kids who were asking, “Why?”

Do you remember going to school and learning about science, history, literature, and math?

Do you ever sit with a friend who has gone through a crisis?

All around us are things to learn. We can research. We can observe. We can write books. We can hold lectures. But it seems that there will always be something more to learn.

Often the hardest mystery to unravel is God’s plan. Especially in the midst of a crisis, we often ask, “Why? What is God’s purpose in this? What is He going to accomplish?”

Solomon gives a point to consider:

As you do not know the way the spirit comes to the bones in the womb of a woman with child, so you do not know the work of God who makes everything. (Ecclesiates 11:5).

That’s a question that puzzles scientists: where does the inner part of man come from? How does a human have a conscience? What about emotions? These set humans apart from animals, but where do they come from? We can see the distinction. We can observe fear and joy. We see the ability to choose between right and wrong. But what is the source that part of human nature?

Solomon says that we don’t know. And in the same way, we don’t understand God’s work. We can see the result of God’s work. We see the growing crops in the field or a drought killing them all. We see a car accident and we see thousands of people travel without any incident. We see a happy marriage and we see an abused spouse. We see a disabled child and we see the coordination required to play baseball. We see homelessness and mansions. We see war and peace.

We see the evidences of God’s work. We know from Scripture that He is in control of the good and the bad around us. But we don’t understand why.

But that is a good thing. If we could understand everything, we would be God. There would be no distinction between us and God. And frankly, we have a hard enough time thinking we’re God, even when we don’t know everything.

So the best and only thing we can do is to trust God. He’s got it under control. He’s leading history in a direction. He will bring it to His conclusion.

Best in the World

I just scrolled through my Facebook early on this Mother’s Day. Pictures of moms and grandmas with their families fill the headlines. In a little bit, I’ll be in church and the same will continue. And restaurants will be busy with families gathering to honor moms.

That’s great and right. We should honor those who have had an impact on our lives, and we know that honor goes beyond a card and dinner on this one special day. It should permeate our conversations and actions all year.

And moms should be examples all year, too.

Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Proverbs 31:30ESV

The world emphasizes charm and beauty – external features. There might even be accolades for women who are hard-workers, pioneers, strong, independent, or other characteristics which are not inherently bad.

But the writer of this proverb points out an important characteristic that can be found in every woman: the fear of the Lord.

All those other characteristics are meaningless, if a woman does not fear the Lord. At then end of her life, a woman may have motivated others to be hard-workers by their example. A brave woman who tries new things is certainly going to have a following. But they are only leading others until the end of their lives.

A woman who fears the Lord will teach others about who God is, about what God expects, and about what God has done. She will speak often of His creation. She will spend time in prayer. She will ooze with wisdom from God’s Word. She will point others to Him. She will admit her sin and strive toward sanctification. She will use her resources for God’s kingdom.

A woman who fears the Lord will have an eternal perspective, not just helping her children, grandchildren, and others to become better people, but to help them to fear God as she does.

That is the type of woman who should be praised.

Restoring Relationships

Relationships are messy. Two people trying to work together or live together is going to lead to problems.

Selfish people marry selfish people. Greedy people work with greedy people. Bitter people go to church with bitter people. Angry people share an apartment with angry people. The sin that’s within each of us causes us to be selfish, seeking our own desires. And the other person in the relationship is selfish, seeking their own desires.

It makes a mess.

Or, it makes a beautiful, strong relationship that will withstand the ups and downs of life. A relationship that builds on a solid foundation, producing a bond of support and encouragement strengthening the individuals.

The Bible has a lot to say about relationships. One important lesson that Jesus taught was how to handle the situation when your brother sins against you. What do you do, if your partner cheats on you? What do you do, if your boss offends you? What do you do, if your roommate steals something?

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.

Matthew 18:15ESV

The first principle here is that this is between brothers. Not physical brothers, but in the context of the church, the family of God. This instruction applies specifically to a situation where both parties claim to be believers in Jesus Christ. (Yes, Christians will sin against each other).

The first step is for you to go to that fellow Christian and tell him what he has done against you. Maybe he isn’t aware. Maybe he is trying to hide his sin. You don’t know and it doesn’t matter. Your responsibility is to go to him and let him know.

It’s important to note that this verse talks about “sins against you.” You’re not going on someone else’s behalf. You’re not sending someone else on your behalf. You’re not going because you heard a rumor. This case is specifically when someone else commits a sin against you.

“Between you and him.” Personal confrontation is never easy. It’s much easier to blab it on social media, maybe in hidden wording, but not directly to the person who has sinned. In the old days, people shared prayer requests with cloaked meanings. But that’s wrong. Go to the person, one-on-one, and tell him what he sin he has committed.

“If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.” The goal is restoration. You might be surprised at the outcome, and there is a wide range of possibilities. You can’t control the possibilities. You can’t control his response, but that doesn’t matter. You’re task is to confront him about his sin against you.

The opposite is also true: If he doesn’t listen to you, you have lost your brother. It may be that he won’t listen. He may not be willing to deal with the sin. He may start throwing accusations back at you. He may slam the door and tell you to take a hike.

You can’t control the outcome. But you can control what you do. Your responsibility is to go to him and confront him with is sin against you.

The other options are not options for the believer. Closing the person out of your life is not an option. Spreading rumors is not an option. Bitterness, anger, shaming, blameshifting, slander and gossip are not options. Keeping a score book and dumping a ton at one time is not an option…nor are any other methods that we can think of, or maybe even practiced.

If he sins against you, sit down and compassionately and clearly explain what he did that was wrong.

It may not turn out the way you want, but you will have been obedient.