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

A Grand Re-opening

 

My writing style, such as it is, attempts to inform and instruct both followers of Jesus Christ and those who do not.  It is my goal to present the truth of Scripture in meaningful ways to all who might read these jottings.  This entry, however, is written specifically to those who profess to have put their faith in Christ.  Please read on, even if you haven’t made that decision for Christ yet, for even this discussion might contain something you can relate to.

I recently attended an area meeting of Elim Fellowship.  This is the group that has ordained me and that provides headship over independent ministries like ours.  These bi-monthly gatherings give the opportunity to meet and network with others in our geographical area.  There is also time set aside for praise and worship and usually a message from the Area Director, Rev. William King.  What he shared the other day has had a positive impact on my walk with Christ.  I share it in hopes that it will do the same for you.

It came to him as he was reading through Genesis, specifically Chapter 26:18 which states: Isaac reopened the wells that had been dug in the time of his father Abraham, which the Philistines had stopped up after Abraham died, and he gave them the same names his father had given them (NIV).

Meditating on this verse brought a question to Rev. King’s heart and mind: “What wells of mine have been stopped up.”  In other words, what things had he gotten away from or had lessened in importance to him in his walk with the Lord over time.  He mentioned several things that he became aware of and has since asked for the Lord’s forgiveness and is now making the effort to walk in them more fully.

I took his experience to heart as I too contemplated the question about filled in wells in my life.  Two things jumped out at me as I did: my personal prayer life and my attitude of gratitude (I wonder if they are connected?).

I thought about the mornings some years ago when I would simply stand in my kitchen and pour out my needs to God and then take some time to simply be silent before Him, allowing His Spirit to speak to mine.  Somewhere along the line I have allowed busyness and the need to get things done to crowd out and diminish this precious time.  It didn’t happen all at once, but in keeping with the illustration of the well, it slowly filled in with other things I thought more pressing.

The well dug next to this one I named Gratitude.  I was told early in recovery (the timing of which coincides with my Christian life) that gratitude was an action word.  If I was grateful, my life should reflect that fact in how I lived.  By daily remembering that God was sparing me from the scourge of addiction, my life ought to be a joyful one filled with giving of myself wherever He led me to.  Alas, this well too has gotten somewhat filled in by the cares and concerns of my life.  Gradually, as I look back, I can clearly see how I have allowed them to overshadow my gratefulness.

Here’s another thought about wells: in this part of Central New York, most wells need to be dug 15-20 feet to hit water.  The wells Isaac was reopening were generally dug to a depth of 70 feet! To carry this analogy further then tells me that there is quite a bit of work involved to get my wells flowing again.  The key for me is to remember how sweet and fresh the ‘water’ tasted when I first dug them, thus encouraging me to open them up more fully again.

The same quality of the water Jesus offers is abundantly available to all.  Only His water can give life to the fullest.  It is the same spiritual drink that the Lord offered to the woman at the well; life giving water that quenches our thirst in/for Him forever.

If these thoughts have helped you to realize that some of your wells have been stopped up as well, won’t you join with me in asking the Lord’s forgiveness for our negligence? I have found that by doing so, He has allowed me the pleasure of experiencing once again the joy of His loving touch.  My prayer today for me and you is that we make every effort to keep anything from blocking the flow of the living water He has for each one of us. Amen.

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!

 

Call Me Foolish

 

We live in a time where everyone’s opinion is to get equal hearing.  The internet and social media have given a vast majority the ability to express their views and have them read/heard at virtually that same moment.  The current culture says to embrace all views because truth is relative; what’s true for you may not be for another.  This approach does not want to hinder anyone from expressing their beliefs.  In fact, it seems to me the more unconventional one claims to be, the more that view is accepted.

Yet, there is a disconnect between this warm and fuzzy approach and reality.  If current culture is as open as it claims to be, why is it a traditional belief, that being Jesus is Lord, is shunned as narrow or closed-minded? Please note that I am not defending the long-standing approach of the institutional Church.  Mankind has basically made a shamble of it and because of this I understand why so many stay away religiously.  What I am standing up for is the all-encompassing truth found in the Bible.

Relativism says that what’s true for you may not be for another.  Biblical truth, on the other hand, is true for/to all.  That doesn’t mean it is agreeable to everyone.  If my believing whole-heartedly in the eternal validity of the Scriptures makes me rigid in your eyes, I am truly sorry for your misunderstanding.  I may indeed misrepresent the truth I believe in by my thoughts or insensitive actions, but that’s on me, not God.

God’s truth applies to everyone, regardless of your denial of it.  I don’t mean to sound ‘holier-than-thou’ by expressing this when in fact the opposite is true.  It is only through humbly accepting and then allowing God’s truth to lead me that I can ever come close to sharing what I have experienced in my walk of faith.

What is this faith I claim to walk in? The Bible defines it this way: Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. (Hebrews 11:1 NIV).  I look at this definition as being in two parts.  The first is the easier: being sure of what I hope for.  I know the true longings of my heart and have put my hope for their fulfillment in God.

It is the latter part of Hebrews 11:1 that has caused me some consternation.  Whereas as my hope is a somewhat less tangible thing, certainty in things I cannot see tends to fly in the face of my tactile tendencies.  Therefore, I do have empathy for those who want to see before committing.  There is an inevitable tension there.  The only way I have found to resolve this tension is to willingly submit to the authority God has over my life.

To do so requires that I recognize God for being who he says he is.  To the nonbeliever this sounds absurd, but not unexpected.  Hesitancy to have faith in God is not something new.  Shortly after the death and resurrection of Jesus a group of believers in Corinth were afflicted with doubts about many of the claims being made about Christ.  This is addressed in the first letter written by the Apostle Paul to them: I know very well how foolish it sounds to those who are lost, when they hear that Jesus died to save them. But we who are saved recognize this message as the very power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18 The Living Bible Translation).

There it is.  This is the ‘rubber meets the road’ truth around which all of Scripture is founded.  There are those who are ‘lost’ and those who have been saved through the atoning death of Jesus Christ.  It is a harsh truth that is not readily accepted by modern culture.  Again, simply rejecting this does not make it untrue.  There are certainly more warm and fuzzy thoughts about our eternal destination out there being held to by many.  The concept of being lost in our enlightened society is considered foolishness.

Go ahead and call me foolish then! If I am foolish to believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, so be it.  I would rather be considered a fool than to give up the peace God has revealed to me through the Scriptures.  If the assurance I have about eternity because of faith in Jesus makes me seem simple in this advanced time, I’m ok with that.  If I am not taken seriously because I recognize my helplessness before the Almighty, I am good there as well.

The bottom line is this: It doesn’t matter what anyone else calls me so long as I answer the call of God.  In so doing I recognize and submit to my need of a Savior.  This is God’s love manifest for ALL mankind.  His offer of eternal life is extended to everyone, always and everywhere.  I’ve taken him up on it because I believe it would be foolish not to.  Won’t you consider it as well?

Thirsty?

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.