Jesus, So Much More than Just Another Meal

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(image courtesy of lutheranchurchvsp.com)

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

Why?

Why?  Those who have spent any time around a three-year old have heard this many times.  It seems to be a nearly unending cycle as each explanation is greeted with yet another ‘why?’ No matter how thorough or correct your previous answer, it never quite satisfies the inquisitive toddler.

In some ways and to some extent, we can all be like this youngster, especially when we are faced with the reality of bad things happening to good people.  Why did this or that happen? They didn’t deserve that.  Why is it, that good folks are being subjected to random acts of nastiness? Similarly, we ask why did the non-smoker develop lung cancer or the health conscious person have a heart attack?

I’m not saying any of us are wrong in asking these types of questions, especially if the wrong in question is something that needs to be brought into the light of justice.  I am also aware that by merely asking these questions, some people can begin to find an amount of healing from whatever has brought the question of why about.  However, I am also aware of the opposite.  If a person is in a place where all they do is ask the why question, seeking some definitive answer,  the suffering involved remains an unbroken loop.

I am not putting myself above any of this.  I certainly have asked this question often in the various seasons of my life when faced with difficult situations.  If you’ve read of my struggle with God pertaining to my Dad’s long decline of health, you know how I felt.  If ever there was a good guy who didn’t deserve his lot, it was him.

Blessedly, God ministered to me then in such a way at the end of my Dad’s life that I can not only empathize with people who are hurting, I can share the strength that God gave me so that they too can find the peace that He offers us all.

There are many places in the Bible where God makes His strength available to us.  For today, let’s consider the Prophet Habakkuk.  You will find this short book nestled between the writings of Nahum and Zephaniah toward the end of the Old Testament. Please take the time to read the three chapters of Habakkuk to familiarize/reacquaint with what he has to say.

This book is different from all the other prophetic books in that Habakkuk records just a discussion he has with God.  He didn’t have a word given to him to speak to the people of that time nor did he proclaim some judgment of God on them, as so many of the other recorded prophets did.  He simply lays out his case before God, asking why things are happening the way they are, and then he writes down what God says in answer to him.  Habakkuk asked God the same type of ‘why’ questions that we still ask today.

See if some of what he said to God isn’t applicable today:

How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen? Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save? 3 Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds. (Habakkuk 1:2-3. Emphasis added)

As we are faced with the real question of why bad things are happening to good people in our day, let’s look at this conversation Habakkuk had with God.  As we do, it is my hope we can all come to a better place of understanding of the answer to the many ‘whys’ in our lives.

The Expositor’s Commentary helps to explain what Habakkuk is saying: “Violence” denotes flagrant violation of moral law by which a person injures primarily one’s fellow human beings. Its underlying meaning is one of ethical wrong, of which physical brutality is only one possible expression.

These same types of things were happening in Habakkuk’s world that are in ours.  The Prophet was looking for answers and went to the ultimate ‘source’ in hopes of finding them.

In response to the first set of why questions, God simply tells Habakkuk they He is going to do something amazing.  It will be so wondrous that Habakkuk won’t be able to believe it.  However, this ‘big picture’ answer doesn’t satisfy the prophet.  He asks God again:

Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; you cannot tolerate wrong.  Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves? (Habakkuk 1:13 emphasis added)

In Chapter 2 God once again answers Habakkuk.  This time God is speaks more plainly, telling the prophet he can be assured that those who do evil will meet their just reward at a future time.

Though this might not be the specific answer Habakkuk, or we, might want in our own personal circumstance, it is one that we can trust in.  Habakkuk then shows us how we can do this in a way that can provide comfort in the face of delayed answers to our why questions.  The key is to shift our primary focus from us and place it on God.  Here’s how he did it:

LORD, I have heard of your fame; I stand in awe of your deeds, O LORD. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known; in wrath remember mercy. (Habakkuk 3:2)

By doing so, he takes strength in the greatness of God, whose fame reaches to heaven and whose mighty works are awe-inspiring.  The Prophet recognizes that God is greater than any circumstance, and that keeping the focus on Him will allow Habakkuk to navigate the difficult times of life.

The same applies to us: We must transfer our primary focus from us and put it on God.  This won’t magically make our problems go away, but it will give us a healthier perspective with which to see them.  If we can acknowledge that God has always been in control, we can better accept that He still is, even when the stakes are personally high for us.  This can allow us to gain trust in God’s providence.

This is the comfort God has made known to me.  Though my specific requests may not have been answered in the way I thought were best, God has continued to show His faithfulness by the way He has chosen to do so.  He is in control, whether I choose to see it or not.  This includes my accepting that not all of my why questions will get answered. His past record is perfect, I can trust that His current and future handling of things will be as well!

 

 

 

On the Road Again

As I sit, still waiting for inspiration as to what to blog about, it occurs to me that I have not updated you all on what Lakeside Christian Ministries has been up to (or if this serves as an introduction as to who we are, that’s great too!).

First, let me say that we chose our name with much prayer, and recent events have made me more aware of how God wants to use us for His purposes.  When we started out some 5 years ago, we were sure of only one thing: that God did not want another small church that was 75 % empty on Sunday mornings.  Hence, we went with ‘Ministries’ in our name in hopes of letting people know we were up to something a little different than the other faithful, yet small, local churches were.

At first, we thought having home ‘church’ was going to be the answer.  An intimate setting with no stain glass or pre-set conditions was what we offered.  The idea, however, was greater than what occurred.  This is not to say we didn’t experience some sweet ministry in the name of Jesus in our home.  We met some new folks and even held a baptism in the living room!

And yet, at the end of two years, we had experienced no growth.  Back to God in prayer we went.  As we did, it became evident to us four founders of LCM that God was calling us out into our community to be a resource for the existing ministries/churches in our area.  God has blessed this as we continue to build relationships with local pastors and leaders.  As we get better acquainted with them, we express our desire to help.  Also, by visiting various churches on Sundays, we have been able to renew old friendships and make some new ones.  In fact, several of these churches have taken us up on our offer to help by asking Betsy and me to come lead worship and preach.

Even with those exciting opportunities, we were still missing something.  After all, lending our help on a Sunday morning is all well and good, but it is still only Sunday morning.  What about the other six days of the week?

The Bible is filled with accounts of God always being faithful.  I continue to read these knowing this to be true.  God is faithful! He is so faithful that He decided to let us see how much first-hand!  Lakeside Christian Ministries was about to go on the road.

It started when a retired work acquaintance, Ken, with whom I had stayed in touch  through Facebook, saw we were hosting a study on Paul’s letter to the Colossians on Wednesday evenings.  He and his wife starting coming, traveling some twenty miles to get to our home.  The study was blessed by God as He opened our hearts and minds to more of His truth, as well as deepening the relationship between my Ken, his wife and Betsy and me.

As the eight-week study was concluding, they asked if they could bring their son-in-law, an unsaved man, to come meet with us.  Of course, we said yes and to make a long story short, after several months of bi-weekly discussions, answering questions as best we could, this man gave his life to Christ!

Soon after, Ken called to see if we would be interested in beginning a bible study in his home.  We did (we’re now on our 2nd study), and LCM was on the road!  We continued to press in through prayer for more opportunities, and sure enough, God showed His faithfulness once again.

A family I have come to know as I provide pastoral care through Hospice inquired about the possibility of starting a bible study at their apartment complex.  These are hungry people, both spiritually and physically.  Once again, we knew God was providing us a way to show His love to people who are often overlooked or down right forgotten.

Along with being faithful, I have come to realize God’s timing is always perfect too.  A little over a year ago we prepared a seeker-friendly study titled, You’ve Got Questions, the Bible Has Answers.  As excited as we were to offer this in our home, there was little to no interest shown by the community.  I simply shelved the idea as a good one that didn’t work out.  God had other plans for it though, as we now meet weekly at the ‘Projects,’ answering questions and talking about the things of God with a group of people.

As the folks present at these meetings have gotten to know and trust Betsy and me, they have opened up their hearts to the Lord, which culminated in a answered prayer for healing this past week.  A woman with a badly swollen and unusable hand from arthritis was relieved of her pain and regained much of the use of it.  This all happened about an hour after we had prayed for her.  She was so happy she called her mother to tell her she was doing the dishes, something she had been unable to do up until then!  In speaking with the family since then, I have been able to encourage them to thank God for his touch, for it is from Him, not us!

Lakeside Christian Ministries is indeed on the road.  We look forward to whatever God has in store for His kingdom here in Fulton New York, and doing whatever part He has for us to do in it.

For more information about us, we have a Facebook page under Lakeside Christian Ministries.  You are also invited to check out our website: www.lakesidechristianministries.org.  There you will find a more detailed description of the ministry God has us doing as well as uploads of all the preaching/teaching I have done over the last several years.  If you do stop by, let us know what you think and please pray for us that we faithfully carry out God’s plan for Fulton.

But pardon me if I don’t get back to you for a couple of days, I will be on the road somewhere!

 

Nothing is Re-heated at God’s Banquet

I know I’ve made mention here of the wonderful blessing from God my wife Betsy is to me (and many others!).  Her love of the Lord Jesus is evident in all she does and her modeling of the joy that comes from reading the Bible has inspired me to read mine more.

I am not sure however, if I have ever written about another of her gifts: Betsy is a great cook.  This comes in handy given my love of eating.  She is forever creating new ways to prepare meals, making old favorites never boring.  In this season of life (with just 2 humans at the table), she prepares many of our dinners in the crockpot.  Somehow, she makes these meals in such a way that as they get reheated, they seem to taste better each night.  Chicken, pork or beef, it doesn’t matter; as delicious as they are on day 1, they’re even better each ensuing meal.

Cooking meals in this way is a great time saver, especially as her work life is very demanding of her time.  This makes it easy for me, with my limited skills in the kitchen, to simply plug in the crockpot to re-heat our evening meal.

As much as I enjoy these several times warmed up meals, the banquet table of God will never have anything re-heated on it! “That’s quite a jump in topics,” you might be thinking; but please stay with me, I think I can connect the two.

You see, just as the taste buds in my mouth enjoy my wife’s great cooking, the desire of my heart is to have even more of what God offers.  No matter how good, or even how much Betsy makes in the crockpot, eventually we finish it.  Not so with God!

Christianity 101, if you will, says that all people are separated from God by our sinful condition into which we are born.  There are many scriptures that make this point, but for our purpose today let’s go with for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  ‘All’ is one of the easiest words in the bible to understand: All means all.  You, me and absolutely everyone else falls short of the glory of God.  God is holy, we are not.  Said another way, we are in deep trouble without Him.

That’s an awful place to be, but thanks be to God, He has issued the invitation for all of us to come be with Him (the banquet table I mentioned). This truth can also be found in numerous places throughout the scriptures.  For example, Romans 5:8 tells us: But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

God in His mercy has made the way to take us from our lost (sinful) condition to knowing His forgiveness because of what Jesus Christ has done.  Simply put, we do not have to get ‘our ducks in a row’ before we can go to God; rather He takes us, regardless of where we have scattered and miss placed the ducks that are our life, and makes us complete in Him.

Our job is to recognize the condition we are in apart from God and then humbly ask His forgiveness.  It really is that simple!

Now back to the banquet table.  When thinking about what God offers, please don’t assume His mercy and compassion are sitting in some heavenly crockery, waiting for us to ask for some.  No, His love is made fresh and available every day as the Prophet Jeremiah wrote: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).

There you have it! God’s love, mercy, forgiveness, compassion, patience, etc., are made fresh every day for each one of us.  I realize that is a tall order, but thankfully He can handle it.  He always has, and He always will.

Much as Betsy and I would love to have you all over for dinner sometime, I do not believe one crockpot would handle the demand; and as tasty as her food is, you will get hungry again.

Not so as God’s banquet table.  His never depleted supply of love for us is always available; at no charge! Jesus paid it when He was crucified and gloriously raised from the dead.  He is inviting you to partake of the divine food that satisfies the soul.  It is made fresh today, piping hot, just for you!