Jesus, So Much More than Just Another Meal

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Some thoughts on John 6:35, 41-51:

Just a quick scan of the Bible reveals that God has quite the record of providing real food on a miraculous scale to sustain the body. In the beginning of Chapter 6 of John’s Gospel you can read about one of those times as Jesus fed over 5,000 people from just 2 fish and 5 loaves of bread with leftovers that filled 12 baskets!

Jesus had worked this mighty miracle as a setting for a plain talk on His true mission in the world. “I am the bread of life.” By saying it that way, ‘I am,” Jesus was identifying himself with God.

While it is true that Jesus spent much time ministering to people’s physical needs, the real purpose of His coming into the world was to save people’s souls.

Hearing this, the people began to lose interest. As long as there is free food, great; keep it coming. Be our King and feed us every day like the Israelites in the desert under Moses. Jesus’ first audience were thinking only of their own physical wants and needs. How many of us still do this too?

More than just another meal

Jesus addresses those grumbling as He points out that the manna, (in verses listed at the top) miracle that it was, did not provide the eternal ‘food’ that we all need. After all, their ancestors ate it and still died in the desert. Jesus is so much more than just another meal.

The first of the I am statements in John’s Gospel

Jesus, “I am the Bread of Life.” What does that say to you? The original audience had trouble processing that claim. What do you do with it?

Maybe before we examine that, a more basic question needs to be addressed first: Who is Jesus to you?

            Is He: a cosmic talisman you call on when you are in trouble?

Some far-off or aloof deity/someone you choose to keep at arm’s length?

Is He your Savior (the A answer!). Yet the text today seems to be telling us that the Lord can be something in addition to Savior. Please remember that Jesus is salvation, plus or minus nothing.

Jesus: “I am the bread of life.” (twice) “I am the living bread that came down from heaven.”

            Is He the Bread of Life to you?

When Jesus says you will never hunger or thirst again, obviously He does not mean physically. Rather, Jesus is telling us all that believing in Him brings with it a satisfaction that cannot be removed or replaced. It has been said that we are all born with a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled perfectly by Jesus. That hole is what gets filled when you take the Bread of Life. Jesus brings to you the wholeness that only He can.

Remember, Jesus is not just another meal

 Jesus does not want only to help us sustain life. No, rather He is offering all humanity eternal life! You, me and the whole world. This is God’s grace as it is poured out to us each day. John 10:10b records Jesus saying, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy, I have come that they may have live; and have it to the full.” Jesus has come to save and to have the life He offers to the full.

We then must use each day’s grace for the purpose God gives it; that it nourishes us spiritually. All we have to do is merely acknowledge our need and accept what the Lord is offering daily. God knows your needs. Do you trust Him to supply that which you need, even if you do not understand it or can explain it?

Thanks for reading.

Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

“Do you want to get well?”

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The third recorded miracle recorded in John’s Gospel is yet another encounter between the Son of God and an individual. You can (and should) read all about in John 5:1-13. As a matter of fact, please read it after you are done looking at this blog, for it is a particularly good practice to check for yourself the scriptures someone is teaching/writing about. This helps you verify what is being considered and more importantly, opens your heart to what Holy Spirit may be wanting to reveal to you.

For the all-important context, an undisclosed amount of time has passed since the end of Chapter 4 where Jesus had spoken a word of healing over the royal official’s son.

In Chapter 5, Jesus is now back in Jerusalem for one of the Jewish feasts. The Lord walks to one of the gates of the city where many sick and invalid folks are. There is a pool of water in that place that many believe has healing powers, if only they can be the first to get in when the water is stirred up.

The Bible describes this collection of folks at this pool like this: Here a great number of disabled people used to lie – the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. (John 5:3 NIV).

I must admit that I have wondered from time to time why Jesus didn’t just speak the words of healing over that entire gathering. Certainly, He has the power and compassion to do so, yet the Lord sought out only one person at that time. Though I cannot pretend to know why, my guess is that Jesus wanted this interaction to be personal; showing us that He can/will be personal with each one of us as well. More about that in a bit.

The author tells us that the man Jesus spoke to had been an invalid for 38 years and undoubtedly had been brought to this supposed pool of healing many times. Jesus addresses this fellow with what seems to be the most obvious of questions: “Do you want to get well?” (John 5:6 NIV)

Whether the man thought the answer was implied because he was there we don’t know. What we can be certain of is that the lame man went directly into his litany of how he has no one there to help him get into the water when it is stirred, thus preventing him from partaking of the possibility of healing.

What a human-nature laden response that is! How many times, Most Cherished Reader, have you and I gone into a blow by blow account of our ailments when asked how we are. It seems that at times we simply want the whole world to know every ache, pain and problem we have. Maybe I’m looking for strength in numbers through your sympathy when I engage in this activity. But no matter my reasoning, I am not helping my condition in any way by merely re-hashing what the issues are.

In the case of our invalid friend at the pool, Jesus does not bite on the invitation to commiserate. Instead, the Lord simply tells the man to get up, pick up his mat and walk. The healing is immediate as John tells us this man who had been waiting for so long for help does just that!

Jesus then slips quietly away, once again allowing for the glory of God to be revealed rather than any flashy spotlight to be shone on Him.

Reading on, we find that neither the Jews he encountered or the newly healed man himself had any clue as to how or why this miracle has occurred. The people, instead of rejoicing that this crippled man was now somehow walking among them, pointed out he was breaking a Sabbath rule by now carrying his mat around as he walked on rejuvenated legs!

The former lame man was clueless as well: The man who was healed had no idea who it was, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd that was there (John 5:13 NIV).

So why did Jesus select this one individual for healing at that time? Until we see the Lord face to face to ask Him, we won’t know. If I may be so bold, however, allow me to propose two possible explanations as to why this played out the way it did.

First, as I mentioned above, Jesus had to get through the wall of defense the crippled man had built up. His pain and misfortune had become familiar daily partners; so much so that they were what he mentioned to Jesus when asked directly if he wanted to be healed. Don’t you and I do something similar from time to time? It is as if we are more comfortable talking/lamenting/complaining about our problems than we are in doing what we can to lessen or remove them.

Though this first possible reason puts an unfavorable light on how we sometimes deal with adversities, the second reason I propose is teeming with grace and mercy from the Lord. From the many, many people who were desperately waiting for healing, Jesus personally presented Himself to just one at that time. I point this out not as a lament for those still waiting, but rather as evidence of Jesus’ level or personal care that He makes available.

Did/does He have the power to heal them/us all with one spoken word? Absolutely! But here, as in other cases, Jesus is stressing the eternal value of entering relationship with Him as opposed to merely supplying a band-aid to the issue at hand. I know that my tendency after recovering or feeling better is to forget about what was wrong and how I got over it. Jesus desires to help us all on a much deeper level than just alleviating our pain.

As wonderful as the physical healing is or would be, the eternal significance of the personal relationship Jesus offers cannot be overstated. That is why, in my opinion, Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle John to record this particular healing event, for it highlights the personal way Jesus reaches out to all of us, one at a time!

I pray that you and I come to that place that allows us to know the personal invitation of Jesus Christ. If that entails healing from sickness or infirmity, may it be to His praise and glory! But most importantly, may we, after this type of encounter with the Lord, walk from it with the comfort and assurance of God’s personal love for each and every one.

Thanks for reading. Be blessed and be a blessing,

Pastor Chuck

Jesus Changes Everything

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The account of Jesus turning water into wine is familiar to many, many people. Those who are more familiar with their bibles will say “Ah yes, John’s gospel; Chapter 2, verses 1 through 11.

I have also encountered lots of folks, with little to no affiliation with church or anything spiritual, who also know of this event. I find in my conversations with the unchurched that they have also heard of this Jesus having fed thousands and calming a stormy sea as well as raising His friend Lazarus from the dead.

Pondering this, Dear Faithful and Deeply Appreciated Reader (with a special shout-out to my Saturday morning friends who encourage me so much), I thought I would spend some time over my next blogs considering the miracles of Jesus as recorded by an eye witness to them, John. This same John wrote five books found in the new Testament: the Gospel of John, three letters (John 1, 2 and 3) as well as the Book of Revelation.

It is my hope that together, we can come to a deeper understanding of the wonders Jesus performed during His physical ministry and ultimately that we bring honor to the Lord because of it. I pray that these times together will strengthen the faith of those who already claim Jesus as Savior while at the same time encouraging us to share what we know of these miracles with others that they too might know Him more deeply.

As I said, the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine can be found in John 2:1-11. Reading it for yourselves is always the best way to go, but in case you are pressed for time right now, here’s my version of events.

Context: Jesus has just recently been baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist, thus the Lord’s earthly ministry was in its beginning stages. He and His six disciples (the other six would come a little later) are attending a wedding in the village of Cana. Weddings were hugely important social affairs back then and it would not be uncommon for everyone from the village to be invited as well as folks from nearby places. Also, these weren’t just 4-hour gatherings after vows were exchanged. These celebrations usually went on for several days.

I mention this as background to help you see what a social gaff it would be to run out of refreshments before the party ended. And in this case, that was about to happen.

Jesus’ mother somehow finds out the wine is gone and tells Him of the problem. After an interesting exchange with His mother, Jesus instructs some of the servants at the gathering to go fill six stone water jars, each with a capacity of about 20 gallons.

They fill them as instructed and then Jesus tells them to take some of the water/wine to the event organizer. When this man samples the wine, he is amazed at its quality. It was far superior to what had been served and this fellow goes so far as to call out the host for serving this top shelf wine later in the event as people have already dulled their taste buds a little bit with an inferior drink.

The writer John concludes his coverage of the event this way:

This, the first of the miraculous signs, Jesus performed at Cana in Galilee. He thus revealed his glory, and his disciples put their faith in him (John 2:11 NIV).

As John wrote, this miracle showed Jesus to be not just another prophet or teacher, but in fact He had the power to create something from something else. No doubt this was a great way to start His earthly ministry, as evidenced by those first disciples who were awed by what they had seen.

We could leave it there, but those of you who have followed me for any time know that’s not going to happen! This miracle was performed in such a way that only a few knew it had happened at all. I conclude that it is included in the Holy Scriptures therefore for all subsequent readers, including you and me! ‘Seeing’ this miracle in this light, I can understand why the Holy Spirit inspired John to put this in his account of the life of Jesus.

Here are three things I glean from this miracle and invite you to consider as well:

Jesus showed his true humility. He didn’t make a big show out of this, as only the servants and His disciples were privy to what happened. I see this as a great lesson/reminder for when God chooses to do something special through us. That action, whatever it may be, is for the glory of God. It is not to have a spotlight shone on us.

Secondly, the jars involved were used for ceremonial cleaning. Don’t overlook this: they were empty as these event unfolded! I believe this reveals that our attempts at purification are useless in and of themselves. Jesus miraculously changes the water that was added into wine. Jump ahead with me to the Last Supper. Jesus offers the ceremonial wine to His disciples as a symbol of His blood; the very blood that would be shed for the forgiveness of sins that leads to salvation.

And lastly (for now anyway), consider the quality of the wine produced by Jesus. The master of the wedding ceremony claims that this wine was far superior to what had been previously served. My conclusion: Anything and everything the Lord creates/lays His hands to or leads us toward is also going to be infinitely superior to anything we have known. When Jesus makes the change, you can be assured it will be for the best!

I hope this encourages you as much as it has me. I would cherish hearing from you on this topic. Questions are always welcome as are other insights into this miracle that God reveals to you.

Blessings and thanks for reading,

Pastor Chuck

“Who do you say that I am?”

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As I read through the 16th Chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, I was struck by the question Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do people say the Son of Man is?” As always, context is important to get the full flavor of what the gospel writer wants to convey. Here, Jesus is walking toward Jerusalem for the last time. The Lord knows this and what is to come. Therefore, Jesus is trying to get His disciples up to speed so that they will be better able to respond to the incredible things to come.

Before I read the disciples response, my mind began to ponder this question: ‘What if it was asked about me?’ Who would people say that I am?

The answer, I suppose, would depend upon who and when you asked. If the question were asked of any of my drinking companions during that dark time in my life, they would say I was ‘fun-loving, carefree and always looking for the next good time.’

If posed to others from during that period you would hear, ‘irresponsible, self-centered and thoughtless.’ Both answers from these various groups would be true.

As I have shared with you many times, Dear Reader, I am blessed that God lifted me out of the deadly mire my life was in as He restored me to a life of sobriety.

If folks were asked that question of me these days, I would hope the answer would reflect a growing concern for others and a life lived transparently as one who makes the effort to faithfully follow the Lord Jesus.

Interesting as this self-reflection is, by far the more prominent question (and our response to it) is the one posed by Jesus: “Who do you say I am?”

I am sure the responses would be as varied as they were when Jesus first asked the question. Be that as it may, how you answer that question is of eternal importance: to you!

So if I may, Dear Reader, allow me to ask for Him: Who do you say Jesus is?

Blessings to all,

Pastor Chuck

Is God Non-Denominational?


I am blessed to live and minister in an area where there is a great amount unity displayed among the various Christian churches.  Many of us have been able to recognize that God calls us to work together for His purposes.  This is not to say that the pastors I know, along with other church leaders, aren’t caring for their individual flocks.  They are, but they manage to do it in ways that keeps their focus outward toward the greater community, where there is still so much need.

Allow me to share several examples of the unity of the Spirit that exists here.  One Sunday per month a different church will host a community worship service.  Upwards of 11 different fellowships will be represented at one of these.  The hosting church supplies the worship music and those who organize these gatherings bring in preachers/speakers from outside our immediate area to help us see even more clearly God’s plan to reach all people.

Another way in which God displays His unity is through the Saturday morning prayer group.  Every Saturday morning at 7 (that’s right, 7 am) this group has met to pray, seeking to know God more deeply that we may be better able to minister His love to our community.  The group has faithfully gathered for the past 6 years for this purpose.

God calls us to be unified under His banner.  On any given Saturday, pastors/leaders from the Assemblies of God, Methodists, Lutherans and non-denominal churches gather to cry out to God, together!  Though each of our Sunday worship services has a different flavor, we are learning together that the ‘Main Course’ is the same throughout.

Therefore, I’ve titled this brief blog, God is Non-denominational.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to the earth to make salvation possible for all mankind.  Having done this, the Lord also established His church.  At no point in the Scriptures do I find Jesus declaring anything about denominations.  It is His church, with Him at the head.

Please don’t conclude I am bashing denominations.  I’m not.  I merely point out that they are a man-made add on to what Jesus had established.  As man-made, they are immediately flawed because of our less than perfect nature.  My admittedly brief study of the history of denominationalism seems to make one thing clear: the more rules and regulations we make regarding our particular brand of church, if you will, the murkier we make the way to knowing Christ.

Again, let me be clear, I am not picking on denominations or calling them a bad thing.  I have dear friends both in leadership and in congregations  who faithfully serve God under these different headships.

The caution I extend to all, myself (a non-denominational pastor) included is this, we must be conscious of who are we edifying through what we do.  Is it God our Father or some long-standing tradition in our church.  I have sat in on board meetings where much time was spent discussing what were the appropriate colors to have on the altar for a particular season.  To the tradition that might be important, but wouldn’t that time have been better spent talking about how we could meet the spiritual and physical needs of both people inside and out of that church?

Is there value in denominations? Absolutely! I came to know the saving grace of our Lord Jesus while attending a Lutheran Church many years ago.  Many people are still receiving excellent spiritual care in many various houses of worship.  This is a good thing.

But let us all remember, it is God first, last and always.  Anything we construct on the path to Him must not serve as a roadblock to faith.  May we all, regardless of our denominational affiliation, recognize the call to unity God has placed on us.  Together, with the Lord leading all of us, we can truly impact our communities for the Kingdom of God.

What is Prayer?

What is prayer? A straight-forward question with a not so easy to answer.  My basic response to this question is the following: Prayer is a means of communication that God makes possible between Himself and the pray-er.   When I take this definition into account, I have a better understanding that prayer should be a two-way street.  This is awesome; the Creator of the universe has made available a way that I can speak and hear from Him.

Prayer is so much more than just me bringing my list of needs/wants to Him.  Far too many folks approach prayer in this way, as if God were only sitting in His heaven waiting to fill our orders.  Yet, He does desire to hear our hearts as we bring our requests before Him.  Saint Paul said it this way: Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present you requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

To get at the heart of what prayer is, please slowly re-read those two verses again.  Thanks.  Paul wrote this letter to a group of believers in Philippi.  If you are reading these thoughts of mine and you too have put your faith in Christ, this truly is the ‘how to’ for prayer.  Note first the call to not be anxious about anything.  Sounds difficult, as I have already experienced several pangs of anxious feelings just this morning.  This Scripture is exhorting us to keep our faith in Christ in the forefront of our minds because in so doing we will be much less inclined to needlessly worry about stuff.  Our prayers ought to reflect an ever-growing trust in God to be able to handle what it is we are praying about.

This familiar text from the letter to the Philippians also tells us what to pray about; everything!  Like in other places in God’s word; the message is crystal clear: everything means just that.  We are to be praying about all that makes up our daily lives.  I believe the very act of intentional prayer will deepen our relationship with God as we become more transparent before Him.  It’s not as though we are going to surprise God by telling Him what is on our mind, because in His omnipotence He already knows! It is our willingness to be open before the Almighty that will grow our faith as we learn to trust Him with all the details of our personal circumstances.

But pray about everything? How do I do that? Perhaps you are wondering, as I did, why the instructions are broken into two parts: prayer and petition.  I found a clear explanation of this in the Expositor’s Commentary: Prayer is a word that denotes the petitioner’s attitude of mind as worshipful. Petition denotes prayers as expressions of need.  With this understanding, I am reminded that who I am praying to deserves my utmost respect always, and that because He is Lord of all, I can lay all my needs before Him, trusting that the answer He gives (which sometimes is “No”) is what is best for me.

The answer to the valid question, “Does God answer prayer?” is contained within verse 7, provided we have submitted our prayers in the proper attitude of worship and reverence.  It is also vital to remember that answers to prayer do not always manifest themselves as what we have asked for! Re-reading Philippians 4:7 shows me that the promise given to those who pray in this way is the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart and mind. 

Coming to know this promised peace of God ought to be at the very core of every prayer we pray, because ultimately the purpose of prayer is to get to know God better.  Several words of caution are needed here. First, if you have been praying and the peace that Scripture talks about seems to be eluding you, it’s not because God is withholding it.  A much more likely explanation is that I/we have not trusted deeply enough in God’s ability to provide and sustain us through our circumstance, which tends to keep us in a constant state of unrest.

The second thing I must remind myself of is this: This promise in Scripture tells me I will not fully understand the blessing of God’s peace to me! As a somewhat structured and logical person, I can struggle with this.  Caution must be exercised so that my pride won’t sneak up on me.  Asking myself questions like, “Why can’t I more fully understand God’s peace if I am in a growing relationship with Him?” or, “Why don’t I have this figured out by now?” are indicators that I am seeing myself as being a super-spiritual person.  The bottom line is this: My intellectual pride keeps me from admitting that God has got something that is so far beyond my ability to comprehend.  And that something, His peace, is what is being offered to me!

I say all this to conclude with this thought; prayer is how I/we can know God more intimately.  There is no structure required to our prayers, just a willingness to come before the Creator with an open heart and mind.  Remember, there is nothing too small for God to not care about and nothing too large that He isn’t bigger than.  Pray about everything with the assurance that your prayers are special to God, because you are too!



The fourth chapter of John’s gospel contains the familiar account many refer to as ‘the woman at the well.’  You can find it in John 4:1-42.  (my thoughts can wait, why don’t you grab a bible and go read it, then come on back).  Jesus tells this woman that the ‘water’ he is offering quenches an eternal thirst within.  I thought I could tie this blog in with the last one I published; Hungry? (If your reading this on Facebook, you can find that entry on WordPress under the title of Knowing Jesus in Confusing Times). Much as we all have a hunger that goes beyond the physical, as was stated last time; we all thirst for something beyond liquids as well.  Be it acceptance, comfort, fame or any host of other things, there is a part of us that is driven by a want of something.  Ultimately, our deepest thirst can only be fulfilled by faith in Christ.

There are many timeless teachings found in this narrative from John Chapter 4. Jesus has a discussion with a woman who had come to slake her thirst but ends up quenching her spiritual desire because of meeting him.  For today, I would like to focus our thoughts on the woman in the story that has this personal encounter with Jesus.  Let’s start with a little cultural background that may make the events depicted here more meaningful to you.

We’re told that she went to draw water at the common well in the heat of the day at the town of Sychar, which was in Samaria.  Women of good standing in a community of that place and time would draw the water they needed first thing in the morning, when it was much cooler.  We find as we read on that she has been married five times and is currently living with a man out of wedlock.  The society of that time has judged her  unworthy to be seen with the rest of the ‘good’ folks of the town because of her living condition.  That this woman drew her water from the well at this time of day reveals that she accepted the judgment they made of her.  We don’t know much else about her life or back ground.  I dare say that in her time, most of her peers didn’t know the particulars of her life either.  They simply saw where she was and judged her to be unworthy of everyday fellowship with them (a problem that still plagues many ‘good folks’ today).

The conversation she has with Jesus reveals so much about the love of God! First, and on another cultural note, any man talking with a woman in public was contrary to the protocol of the day; as was a Jewish person speaking with a Samaritan.  The Jews judged Samaritans to be far lower on the social scale than they were.  Please don’t miss how Jesus blows away the rules and conditions proposed by man! None of that stuff mattered to Him, He simply engaged her in conversation by meeting her where she was.

Reading on, we find that Jesus offered her ‘living water,’ not actually H2O, but eternal life.  The woman didn’t grasp the fullness of Jesus’ offer; she merely asked to have this living water so that she would not get thirsty anymore and have to come to this well to draw water.  Like so many of us, she wanted the convenience of the Lord’s offer to alleviate her uncomfortable position without having to make any real changes in her life.

Once again, and as a great encouragement to us still today, Jesus pressed through her self-centered focus to reveal His wonderful and transforming truth.  The Lord pressed the conversation by directing her to go tell her husband about this.  When she realized that Jesus knew about her past, she didn’t deny it.  This is a key point for us all.  We may rationalize our behaviors to suit us, but we cannot hide them from God.  Hebrews 4:13 says Nothing is all creation is hidden from God’s sight.  Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

I don’t share that particular truth of Scripture to scare you (yet if it does, you might want to ask yourself why), but simply as a reminder that the God of the universe does indeed see all that goes on in His creation.  As you begin to come to grips with this fact, you can know the transforming power of the love of God that the woman at the well experienced.

I believe it can be seen at work in her life is several ways.  First is in the change in her priorities.  Verse 28 of Chapter 4 tells us she left her water jar at the well.  Rather than conclude her original task, she left it behind to go back to town to tell what had happened.

The other revealing fact can be seen in who she told this news to; those very same people in that place that had scorned her! To their credit, they took her information as credible and went to see this Jesus for themselves.  We then see how God worked powerfully in their lives too as many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him (John 4:39).  

Please, if you, as many people I talk to do, feel that you are not worthy of God’s love, consider deeply this woman at the well.  She lived under the unpleasant judgment of society, but that did not prevent Jesus from meeting her.  He saw her simply as a person.  He would have known the ‘rules’ and why she was there at that unusual time of day.  His saving love cannot be inhibited by the regulations of man.  He will quench your soul’s thirst as no one and no thing else can, right where you are.


One of the common denominators of the human condition is hunger.  Unless debilitated by sickness, we all feel that empty sensation in our belly from time to time.  How we choose to quiet that growling goes a long way in determining how healthy we are.  If, for example, we consistently turn to comfort foods to fill us, we are missing out on other more important nutrients.  Also, over-indulging in these mis-named choices causes our clothes to be less comfortable due to the added weight they bring!

I am no dietician, but I have learned over time that what I take in for nourishment does play an important role in my day to day physical well-being.

Though most likely not as readily agreed upon as our mutual need for food, we all have a longing within us that goes beyond what the physical or natural world can satisfy.  I have heard it said that ‘everyone is born with a God-shaped hole inside them, and only God can perfectly fill it.’ When I look back at my life before coming to faith in Christ, I can easily see the truth in this statement.  There was a definite hole in me, and I tried many and various ways to fill it or to at least take my mind off its existence.  Most of the things I tried to fill it with were unhealthy, illegal or at the very least self-serving.  Ultimately, every attempt failed, leaving me more aware of the emptiness within.

It was when I came to believe in Jesus Christ as Savior that I understood that He was what I truly needed to fill this void.  I believe this is the heart of Jesus’ message when He said, “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.’ (John 6:35 NIV).  As I have pondered this simple yet so profoundly wonderful truth, I’ve wondered why more don’t discover it.  All the fruitless searching for that ‘one thing’ to make your life complete has been undertaken while the solution has been available to you all along.

I came to a better understanding of this as I re-read the words of Jesus: He who comes to me.  There it is! Though the invitation to partake in the bread of life is always present, action on our part is required.  To take what the Lord offers, one must acknowledge the need of it and be truly sorry for the time wasted in looking elsewhere for it.

This is not the only invitation that Jesus offers.  In fact, the Scriptures contain many examples: “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come I and eat with him, and he with me. (Revelation 3:20 NIV). I love this as not only is Jesus bidding us to open the door to Him, but as we do He will then share the meal with us! This is an invitation to enjoy fellowship with the Lord. To not open that door is like standing outside a local steakhouse with a huge appetite, savoring the wonderful smells coming from its kitchen, yet refusing to go inside even though the bill has already been paid.

Lest you think these invitations are only concerned with eating, consider this one: “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28 NIV). As with any invitation, it remains only words until it is acted upon.  In this case, the coming to Jesus is to acknowledge that the struggles of life have worn you down and that your own coping mechanisms are not working so well.  The Lord offers rest to those who will come to Him in this way.  This does not mean that your problems will then magically disappear; but accepting the rest Jesus offers will refresh you and His strength will see you through any trial you are now facing.

Please note as well who it is that gets invited to receive this rest: all you who are weary and burdened. All means all and you means you! This is another of the many examples of the inclusiveness of the heart of Jesus.  There are no conditions to meet or parameters to follow; simply come in your brokenness to Him.  He will minister His love to your heart, if you will allow Him to.

One last thought (for now) on a balanced diet as prescribed by the Bible: to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3b NIV). We all know that to keep our body running well we need to take in nourishment.  The same is true for our spirit.  God’s word is sustenance, and just as our physical body needs fuel to keep going, the truth of Scripture will refresh, hone and challenge us to continually grow spiritually.

I hope that these thoughts help you to recognize the spiritual hunger within and that you will allow the Lord to satisfy your longings.  He is ever so ready to do so.  As for me, just thinking about these things as me hungry for more of what He is serving.  Back to the chow line for me.  Where was I? That’s right: For God so loved the world . . .


Hands Free


Betsy and I were blessed with the opportunity to buy a new car just before Thanksgiving this year.  This is a really, really, big deal for us, as the previous (and only other) new car purchase we made was a 1983 Renault Alliance.  Needless to say, there have been some technological advances over the past 34 years in the automotive industry.  Though cruise control and heated seats intrigue me, they pale when compared to the wonder of the ‘hands free’ connection offered between the new car and my phone.

Hands free? Free to do what? Drive the car? No, I won’t will not get on my soapbox about distracted drivers at this time.  Rather, I will opine on what I and we should all be doing, caring for others.  If you have read any of my other entries, you know I am writing from a Christian perspective.  More importantly, I hope to be living as a faithful follower of Jesus Christ and in so doing, be involved with the care of my fellow human beings.

The Bible gives us clear direction about this in James 1:27:  Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. (James 1:27 NIV).  Everything Jesus taught about helping others was meant to encourage us all to get actively involved in caring for our fellow humans.  When we do, we move religion, with its many negative connotations, into the more positive light of relationship.  This is the heart of the Lord’s message; not formal once-a-week gatherings to simply check a box of obligation, but rather an involved, intentional life that thinks of others before self.  We need free hands to do this.

The Apostle John says it this way: Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18 NIV).  Good intentions are simply not good enough.  We are to use our freed hands to share the love of God with everyone.  The Baker Bible Handbook describes it this way: The Bible connects two important realities that are often separated: paying close attention to our own spiritual formation and meeting people’s basic needs. (p. 929)


But being hands free in life is a bit more complicated than having my phone synced with our new Subaru.  In it, merely pressing one button gives me access to my entire list of contacts (that’s not completely hands free now that I think about it).  Prompts from the vehicle then allow me to call anyone of them.  I can be connected with the outside world just that quickly and easily.

Hands free in life is rarely as simple as that however.  Often our hands are tugged in several different directions, usually at the same time.  The day to day demands on our time and resources hardly feels like freedom.  We do what we have to do, which generally leaves us too exhausted for anyone or anything else.

Perhaps your hands are held captive by something more sinister.  Hands that are tied by addiction, in its many forms, are polar opposite of being free. The darkness of these types of bondages seems to envelop you.  It is impossible to be truly helping others when you basically cannot help yourself.  If you are reduced to survival mode by your addiction, only your survival matters.  Others are to be used by you, not helped.

Those of us not tied down in this way, when we do take the time to look around us, we see that there are many who need our help.  The numbers seem overwhelming and that alone can keep our hands bound by inactivity.  Thoughts like, ‘What can I possibly do against the flood of pain and strife,’ often stop us before we get started.  Yet, the scripture quoted from the letter of James gives clear indication that we must be engaged in reaching out to others.  I have often pondered that verse, trying to understand it more from God’s perspective.  It is, after all, God who has freed our hands to be of service to Him.  He has revealed some of His unlimited care to us, hence His viewing of helping others is truly ‘pure and faultless.’

Perhaps you are thinking that this sounds good, but how can I possibly fit one more thing into my already full and hectic life? My question to you in response is: How are you rationing you time?  For me, I can easily get over-protective of ‘my time.’  This happens when I focus on what I have been doing instead of who I am doing it for.  I quickly tend to tip the scales in my favor, telling myself I deserve this or that because of what I have already done.

When I get to this place, I have lost sight of what James 1:27 is teaching.  I need to get myself back to proper perspective, which means realizing once again that the universe is not revolving around me.  The IVP Bible Commentary sums up well what James is saying: Scripture says that God is committed to caring for the powerless and defenseless, including the poor, the alien, the fatherless and the widow. Since the needs of such people are on God’s heart, he expects that same heart to be in us. Further, Jesus himself so identified himself with needy, oppressed people that when we care for one of his people in need, we do it unto him. Any practice of Christianity that does not exhibit this concern in action is deceptive (it misrepresents the truth about God’s own heart) and worthless (it is of no value before God).

Not only is God’s word giving us clear direction as to how we are to respond to the needs of those around us, we have the example of the Son of God to follow as well.  The heart of Jesus was and is for all people to know the love of God.  He constantly had His hands free as He extended forgiveness and the promise of eternity to all.  His love was so great for mankind that He freely allowed His hands to be pierced with nails so that all might be saved.

Few of us are called to anything nearly as drastic; but we are called to give of ourselves.  Whether it is our time, talents or treasure, we are to keep our hands free and hearts open to the hurting world around us.  May we all know the blessing of being a blessing to someone else!

What a Sight!

I am in no way a well-traveled person. Born and raised in Central New York, I have lived here for all my nearly 58 years. I do not travel much, having never been outside the U.S. (save a few trips to our neighbor to the North, Canada) This is not to say, however, that I have not experienced some wondrous sights in my lifetime.

I have had the opportunity to stand in awe on the shores of both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. A vacation to the Southwest gave me the opportunity to see the beautiful red landscape of Sedona and the breath-taking splendor of the Grand Canyon.

As a devoted fan of the San Francisco Giants, seeing three games in the gorgeous AT&T ballpark in 2013 is forever etched in my memory; as is my first football game inside the then brand-new Carrier Dome in Syracuse some 35 years ago.

When employed at one of the three near-by nuclear plants, I stood inside the 550-foot-high cooling tower (while the plant was on shutdown!), with its opening so wide above me I could not see all of it when standing at the bottom! I have stood within a few feet of the spent-fuel pool with its beautiful cobalt blue color, peacefully hiding all that power.
I am sure that most reading this will have seen and experienced much more wonder than I have. I am also equally sure that none of us have seen or heard anything as glorious as a group of lowly shepherds did one night some 2000 years ago:

And there were shepherds living in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you. You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” (Luke 2:8-14 NIV)

Now there’s a wondrous sight! And on so many levels! First the obvious; the proclamation that the Savior of the world had been born. This wasn’t some minor announcement relegated to the end of a local newscast. No, it was announced from heaven in a way that truly befitted a King. Can you imagine what was going through the minds of those shepherds on that lonely hillside as they saw and heard this?

While were on the topic of those shepherds, why were they the first to hear this awesome news? Wouldn’t the town square or perhaps outside the home of the highest official been more fitting for an announcement of this magnitude? After all, shepherding in those days was the lowest of professions. If you were a shepherd, there was little to no hope of ever improving your lot. You were going to work and live with sheep, an often dangerous and always lonely life, and all for the benefit of their owner.

But it is in the fact that shepherds were blessed to hear the news first that we get a clear picture of the heart of God. In His infinite wisdom, he chose to reveal to the lowest that He was breaking in on human history. The Sovereign Lord, the Almighty King of kings, thought it best to tell simple shepherds that salvation had come to all men. A most humbling reminder to all of us; don’t let your station in life dictate to you how and when you may hear from Him. There is no more level playing field than the one that stands before the throne of God.

Not only did God reveal His heart’s desire to mere shepherds, He made it clear that His saving love was for all people. The angel proclaimed that this great news was for ‘all people.’ There is not much explanation needed with the word all; if you are drawing breath, this announcement is intended for you.

As all encompassing as this was, God also made sure the His salvation plan was an extremely personal one too. He had the angel not only tell the shepherds that this Savior born was for them personally (I bring you good news), but for us as well! The Savior Jesus Christ was born, lived, died and was resurrected for absolutely all people. Yet in the midst of that mind-boggling fact, the salvation offered from God to us is done on a personal and one at a time basis.

So, if you are feeling over or under whelmed as Christmas fast approaches, please take a moment to consider again the shepherds whom God first told of the birth of His Son Jesus. Don’t let the hustle and bustle of last minute things keep you from pondering why it is you are doing what it is you are doing. There has never been a more life-changing occurrence in all of history; and it was made with you in mind. What a sight to behold!