April 23, 2014 by
By Brenda Plank
I can get caught up in myself and don’t even realize it half of the time. It is so often difficult to realize that the words I am saying or the feelings I have inside are self-focused. Selfishness hides itself very well. Can you relate? My self is so pervasive, probably because it is so close, closer to me then any other person or thing. It’s not hard for me to constantly consider myself since I am always aware of what I want, what I like, and what I don’t want or like.
What are the red flags of SELF being huge and everyone else (especially God!) being too small? Anger, fear, worry, impatience, self-righteousness, self-pity, jealousy, envy, discontent. These emotions point to a hyperactive self. Self has such a strong pull. The voice of selfishness whispers lies that sound so sweet, so right—they entice and draw me inward. However, progress is made whenever I remember the simple phrase, “it’s not about me”:
“I don’t want my children to be arguing right now” . . . it’s not about me.
“Do I have to feed these people again?” . . . it’s not about me.
“I can’t think of anything to blog about today” . . . it’s not about me.
“I can’t keep up with this pace of life” . . . it’s not about me.
“I just want to check my email” . . . it’s not about me.
“How can I be a pastor’s wife, I don’t have anything to say” . . . it’s not about me.
“I just want to use the bathroom in peace!” . . . it’s not about me.
It’s not about me! If life is not about me, then who is it about? Jesus. I must fly to Jesus. At the end of all my days, I want to look back and see that I lived my life for him. He wants me to be empty of myself and filled with him—the greatest of all delights.
Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” I can step into anything, small or big, and not make it about myself because of the full confidence that he will strengthen me. It’s the better way. If I believe that it’s about me, I will never be satisfied. I will always want more, better, longer—restless and unstable.
Why settle for making it about me? Why when I can make it about Jesus? When there is less of me, there will be more of Jesus, more of his light to shine through me.
*This post originally appeared on the Crossway Life blog.
Brenda Plank and her husband, Doug, live in Millersville, Pennsylvania where Doug is a pastor at Crossway Church. They have five children.
April 22, 2014 by
I want to grow in making the Bible a regular part of our family life. I also want to inspire all of the families in our church to make this a regular practice. Family devotions can be daunting for many fathers and mothers. We’re not sure if we’ll choose the right topic or ask the right questions. Younger children are easily distracted. Older children can be reluctant to talk about spiritual topics.
Yet a practice of family devotional time doesn’t have to start off breaking any quantity or quality records. We don’t have to have lots of profound insights or the perfect conversational leadership. We simply want to demonstrate the value of God’s Word and allow our children to hear it read. We want to show that we believe these Words to be true, and so respond in prayer to the God who wrote them.
Here’s how family devotions look in our house…
- We call all our children into the living room. (Insert repeated calls to account for initial sluggish responses.)
- I read a passage of Scripture. (Our children are young, so this may only be a paragraph.)
- I ask one or two questions about what the passage was talking about. (Sometimes they seem more interested, and we’ll keep asking questions to understand the passage and perhaps an age-appropriate application.)
- I’ll ask my two oldest children which worship song they would like to sing. (We often sing the same song many nights in a row.) I’m a musician, but usually we just sing this acappella. Sometimes I’ll ask them to explain one or two lines in the song.
- I’ll ask my two oldest children what they would like to pray for, and each family member will pray briefly.
On nights when it is already bedtime (and sometimes even when it’s not), this whole process could be as brief as 5 minutes. Not very impressive, I know. Other nights, we might be able to get 20 minutes in. Again, still not very impressive. I am hoping to cultivate a greater appetite in our children so that longer times are possible in the future.
However, I would much rather have a simple, consistent time of gathering our family around the Bible than delay because I’m worried about how impressive our pattern is. The Bible is powerful, a treasure, a lighthouse, a feast; I want our family to consistently encounter it as part of our family identity.
I pray you will join me in gathering your family around the Bible.
*This post originally appeared on the Redemption Hill Church blog.
+original photo by Flickr user rachel_titiriga
April 17, 2014 by
We don’t use the word righteousness much in our culture. Actually, we don’t think much about righteousness as a concept. It’s too bad, because a record of righteousness is one of the greatest gifts of God. A record of perfect righteousness is absolutely required in order to be in God’s presence, to be near him and experience his Fatherly love. Knowing God is the absolute height of human joy and peace and glory—nothing in life even remotely compares to how humans will feel when they are in the unveiled presence of the God who made them and loves them. But this joy is only given to those who have a record of perfect, undefiled righteousness. It makes sense. A Being able to create such infinite joy and peace must have high access standards, lest his presence be diminished and robbed of its glory—the very glory that gives the joy in the first place.
One of the greatest gifts of the Bible, actually a doorway-leading-to-a-myriad-of-other-gifts kind of gift, is the gift of a record of righteousness given to us, free of charge, from God. The perfect record of righteousness, rule keeping, obedience, holiness, good works, etc., of Jesus Christ is given to people who believe in him and confess him as their only hope.
Of course, if you don’t appreciate the gift, it seems pretty worthless. If we don’t think much about righteousness or what it provides for us, we won’t be too impressed when a record of righteousness is given to us. But if we realize the access to infinite glory joy that this record gives us, and if we realize how unattainable such a record is on our own, we’ll treasure it, meditate on it, celebrate it, talk about it.
“Counted righteous in Christ” will be to us a gift beyond compare.
*This post originally appeared on the Redemption Hill Church blog.
April 16, 2014 by
How should we think about regret? Those memories of our past decisions that we wish we could undo? What do we do with those lingering feelings of frustration or grief? Regret is a complicated emotion. Sometimes it strikes quickly, like a tornado, reaping havoc on our emotions and faith. In other moments, it floats into our life like fog and lingers, obscuring our vision for the future. Easy solutions to regret abound, but are rarely helpful, and frequently amplify our sense of helplessness to understand the painful memory. “Keep moving forward.” “Don’t worry, be happy.” “Everyone makes mistakes.” “It’s just one of those things.” Sunshine rarely breaks through following easy solutions like these.
Here are a few suggestions to consider the next time you see regret rolling toward you.
- Pray before you analyze. Ask the Lord to give you joy, peace, and hope as you face the memories of your past.
- Remember the gospel. For all Christians, every sin is forgiven because of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. No sin you committed can take you away from God’s love or purpose for you in Christ.
- Genuine sadness over sin is evidence of the Holy Spirit. If you experience genuine sadness over your former sins, this is not a bad sign, but evidence that God is actively at work in you, giving you grace to care about righteousness. If you’ve never repented of those sins, confess them now, and believe in God’s promise to forgive you in Christ.
- Not all mistakes are sinful. We are weak and limited creatures, unable to see the end from the beginning. We may be able to learn from former choices, but we should not embrace guilt unless our former choice was in clear disobedience to God’s Word.
- Not all suffering is a result of a mistake or a sin. It is absolutely unbiblical to assume that trails are always the result of our weakness or sin. Sometimes, in the mystery of God’s providence, difficulty is in our future even when we make wise and godly choices.
- God’s love and redemptive power is not limited or changed by our sins or our mistakes. We tend to assume that there’s only so much God can do with such a failed record. The Bible actually records a consistent pattern of God using people when they are aware of their vulnerability, weakness, failures, and sins rather than people who have a high opinion of themselves.
- Meditate on God’s calling and promises. Past memories may be helpful in teaching us wisdom, or in producing gratefulness for God’s forgiveness, but their value diminishes as they linger on and on without resolution. Choose to fix your mind on God’s calling for you today and tomorrow, and God’s promises to give you an inheritance in heaven. Choose not to return over and over to the scenes of your past mistakes or sins.
- Invite a friend to help you evaluate the past accurately. We need perspective when facing regret, someone to help distinguish between mistakes and sin and to remind us of God’s love and power.
All Christians face regret at some point in their pilgrimage toward heaven. May the God of all comfort, comfort your heart when you see those clouds rolling your way, and may the sun of his eternal hope shine quickly into your soul. God be with you, brother or sister in Christ, and give you peace.
*This post originally appeared on the Redemption Hill Church blog.
April 15, 2014 by
Samson is one of the most famous Bible characters and heroes. We can all relate to his story one way or another. From his blatant disobedience to his lust-filled binges, Samson is a real “human.” The obvious difference with the rest of us is his supernatural strength given by God for the purpose of delivering Israel from the Philistines. And it is this supernatural strength that I would like to consider.
Throughout the Bible, we read of stories of people of great weakness growing into people of great strength:
- Abram, who is an unknown son of an idol-worshipping father, being chosen to become the father of God's people.
- Moses, who goes from wandering in the wilderness to becoming the great deliverer of Israel.
- David, who goes from shepherd boy to giant-killing king.
Over and over, this refrain plays out to show us that God works through incredible weakness so that he may get the glory for the victories that are gained.
Yet in the Samson narrative, we read of a man of great strength becoming a man of great weakness in order for victory to be achieved. So what is going on here, and why is this backward from other stories? Here are a few things:
God’s gifts are never to be taken lightly, nor are they to be “stolen” for personal gain or revenge. Samson was a man of unusual gifts. Yet he believed these gifts were his and they were to be used for his own sport or interests. He was proud, and because of this, he had to be disciplined and brought low.
God’s kingdom is lived in with great joy by the humble. As you read through Samson’s story, you can just feel the pride dripping off the page. He is proud, angry, and immoral. He almost seems frustrated by God’s calling upon his life. Yet to become the deliverer, he must be brought low. Those who are humble know there is nothing they have earned and that every good gift is from heaven above (James 1:17), from God’s gracious hand. The humble person is just happy to be on the team.
Samson’s broken dependence in the end is a portrait of our humble Savior. Like Jesus, Samson gives his life to deliver his people. The differences in Jesus and Samson are pretty obvious because Jesus did not need to be brought to humility. He is the fountainhead of all humility. Instead of being brought low, like Samson, Jesus “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on the cross” (Philippians 2:8).
This portrait of Samson reminds us of how God’s kingdom is different from the world’s. In the world’s viewpoint, we must climb up the corporate ladder, only the strong survive, and we must look out for our own personal interests. But in God’s kingdom, the way up is down, only the humble receive grace, and we find everlasting joy looking out for others’ interests. In the end, it seems, this is what needed to happen to Samson. And while God’s kingdom might seem upside down, it is actually right-side up and the only way to true joy.
*This post originally appeared on the Covenant Life Fellowship blog.
Dave York is the senior pastor of Covenant Life Fellowship in Roseburg, Oregon.
April 14, 2014 by
“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.”
Five thousand were fed by Jesus with five barley loaves and two fish. Notice the emphasis on the meager nature of the resources. Barley bread is as cheap as they come. This is not bread from Whole Foods, or the Pepperidge Farm bread that comes wrapped in extra plastic because it is so precious. This is not large, gourmet fish. And this is in the hands, not of a man, but of a boy. But Jesus takes these few resources, gives thanks, and multiplies them so there is enough to feed the thousands seated on that mountainside.
There is a valuable lesson here for us. Why doesn’t Jesus just do this miracle ex-nihilo and create food out of nothing? Why does he use the bread and fish the boy provides rather than doing this from scratch? Here’s why: Christ wants us to know that his glory is powerfully displayed as he does great things with our seemingly insignificant things. Our little plus God ends up being something really big.
It is a lot easier to come to God with our strengths and our plenty than it is to come to him with our weaknesses and our little. But God invites us to come and give him our little. Take an area that you are aware of your weakness or aware of little you have to offer. Take an area that you feel insufficient for the need at hand. We often think “What could God possibly do with the little I have? Little gifts, little graces, little skills. All poor and pathetic resources. It’s worthless.” What can God do with so little?
Well, ask Goliath what God can do with five little stones and a little shepherd boy. Ask a thousand Philistines what God can do the little jawbone of a donkey in the hand of one man. Ask the Midianites what God can do with little: when Gideon’s army is 32,000 men strong (see Judges 7), the Lord said to Gideon, “The people with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hand, lest Israel boast over me, saying ‘My own hand has saved me.’” I’ll take 300 men. And I will be your strength, and I will receive the glory, says the Lord.
Our problem is that we tend to focus in on our inadequacy and become preoccupied with that. We become discouraged and downcast because we are looking at the bread and fish and all the people, rather than looking at the Savior. We do this with our finances, we do this in the fight against sin, we do this in ministry and service. I confess I regularly face this temptation as a pastor. I have never stepped into the pulpit with anything more than a few pieces of cheap bread and a few tiny fish. I look at my notes and think “Well, this is not nearly sufficient to feed so many.” The same temptations are there as a father and husband.
The spiritual offerings that we bring to God are often little, seemingly insignificant, stained with mixed motives and sin. We are often aware of the weakness and imperfection of what we bring to God in our obedience and in our service. But today, Jesus would have us know that he delights to do much with our little. “When you have reached the end of your resources, it is a good time to rely upon mine. When you are done with all your calculating of the situation without me, now look to me and consider what I can do. You may not have much, but what you do have, bring to me and I will be your provider and your helper.”
If all we had was our own resources, discouragement and despair might be appropriate. But we are not left to our resources. We have Jesus. And we know that Jesus is powerful to provide when our resources are small and there appears to be no way forward. With God on our side, five barley loaves and two fish are used to feed thousands.
April 11, 2014 by
In our church we’ve been preaching through the book of 1 Peter. Eventually this brought us to 1 Peter 3:18-22, which begins like this:
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah…
Maybe you’ve come across a passage like this (or even this specific text!) in your Bible reading. It raises a question: What do we do with the hard passages? How do we handle those obscure, difficult verses of God’s Word? Here are five suggestions.
1. Pause, and take a deep breath. It’s okay.
There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that a text is hard! You can even make a career of it. Martin Luther did. On 1 Peter 3:19, Luther wrote, “A wonderful text is this, and a more obscure passage perhaps than any other in the New Testament, so that I do not know for a certainty just what Peter means.” And on Zechariah 14: “Here in this chapter I give up. For I am not sure what the prophet is talking about.” When you come across a tough passage, follow Luther’s example: pause, take a deep breath, and admit that you have no idea what it’s talking about. That’s okay!
Acknowledging hard passages does not mean we don’t trust our Bibles, that the Bible is somehow flawed, or that we’re caving in to doubt. Most importantly, it does not mean that we’re in doubt about the fundamental message of Scripture. On its central message, Scripture is crystal clear: God exists. He created all things and all humans are accountable to him. We have fallen into sin, rebellion, and misery. Only Jesus can save us. By his substitutionary death on the cross and resurrection from the dead, he has saved us. All who believe in him are united to him, and united to each other as the body of Christ. And we live out their lives as God’s people, waiting for Jesus to return. Acknowledging hard passages of Scripture doesn’t mean this central message is up for grabs. Don’t let uncertainty about a tough passage morph into uncertainty about the gospel.
2. List the options.
This involves a simple question: what could this passage mean? Rather than coming upon a head-scratcher, skipping it, and moving on, take the time to consider what the passage could mean.
On this point a good commentary or a study Bible such as the ESV Study Bible can really help you. For instance, you’ll find that the ESV Study Bible lists two valid options out of four possible meanings for this passage in 1 Peter. (I’ll let you look them up yourself.) Take advantage of the opportunity a tough text gives you to learn from wise scholars who have given their lives to the study of God’s Word. Let them help you list the options.
One final word on this: don’t consult the internet. The internet has brought much good to our world. (This is, after all, a blog post.) But the internet is not a reliable authority source! A scholar can’t write a commentary or the notes in a study Bible without years of careful thought, training, and dialogue with other godly scholars and pastors, both living and dead. A guy can write a blog post from his basement with half an hour of forethought and a twenty minute break for a Cheetos refill. Don’t confuse the two.
3. Consider the context.
Context is king. There’s probably no more important rule for interpreting Scripture than this. What’s going on before and after this passage? Why is the author writing this larger section of Scripture? Scripture, though it is the inspired Word of God, follows the patterns of human communication. Even in an everyday conversation we know that one sentence pulled from an hour-long discussion can be twisted to mean anything. That’s why when we approach a difficult passage, we let context be our guide.
4. Consider the overall message of Scripture.
This goes back to what we said in step one about the overall message of Scripture. Do some of the options you listed under step two contradict the main message of Scripture? Then they are clearly out-of-bounds. Why? Because Scripture isn’t a piece-meal, patchwork document filled with human reflections on the idea of the Divine. It is God’s revelation of himself and his purposes. God is not divided or in contradiction with himself. Therefore Scripture is not divided or in contradiction with itself. Let that which was delivered to us as of first importance (see 1 Cor. 15:3-5) help you determine the point of a difficult passage.
5. Be humble in your conclusions
There are reasons why tough passages are tough! We should do our best to interpret every part of Scripture, but be willing to admit that some passages have several good options. The meaning of 1 Peter 3:18-22, or any other difficult section of Scripture, should never become our hobby-horse, a test by which we evaluate other believers. While we shouldn’t turn away from these sections of Scripture, neither should we major in them. Paul’s words to Timothy apply here: “Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels” (2 Tim. 2:23).
Tough passages of Scripture give us the opportunity to grow in both humility and discernment: humility as we recognize what we don’t know, and discernment to clarify what we do know. So don’t turn away from tough passages. Embrace them, with humility. They’re good for you!
April 10, 2014 by
“The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.”
I recently watched a several movies with friends over a period of a few days. We picked a “nautical nightmare” theme for the movies, which included boats getting overrun with pirates, being stranded alone on a boat, and or course being attacked by sharks. John 6 records a scene of the disciples that could have been a part of our nautical nightmare theme.
The disciples are in a boat, and the sea becomes rough. Imagine you are there: Large waves pounding and pummeling this boat that bobs up and down on the waters, strong winds are blowing, darkness fills the sky, and anxiety and fear set in. Verse 17 says, “It was now dark and Jesus had not yet come to them.” They were alone in the storm. Perhaps they wondered if Jesus had forgotten them.
As disciples of Jesus, we are not immune from the great difficulties of life: the storms of affliction, the winds of trouble, the waves of loss. We face waves in the Christian life that are just as troublesome as the waves on the Sea of Galilee. At times the storm is financial difficulty, or occupational uncertainty, or relational conflict, or besetting sin.
Once again Jesus takes the initiative, because his purpose is that we would learn about him. Jesus sees, Jesus knows their situation, and Jesus comes to them in the storm. He comes through the darkness; he comes over the great waves. They saw Jesus walking on the sea, drawing near to them in the storm. Many who have suffered in the past can testify that Christ comes to his own in the midst of the storm. He comes to cast out fear and unbelief; he comes to ensure that we are not overtaken by anxiety or despair.
If you are in a season of darkness, I can assure you Jesus is near. Jesus knows your condition; his caring eye is upon you. He knows your going out and your coming in, your lying down and your rising up. Even the darkness is not dark to him. Wait upon the Lord in the darkness of the storm, and he will come to you and give you peace.
Look at what happens when Jesus breaks through the storm. See how Christ deals with us in our difficulties and troubles. I want Christians everywhere to hear the words of Jesus in verse 20 speaking to our weak and troubled souls: “It is I, do not be afraid.” Has my soul heard his voice speaking to me, “It is I, do not be afraid”? If anyone else told me “Do not be afraid,” I am certain I would continue on in fear. But when I hear the one who loved me and gave his life for me, the eternal Word of God full of grace and truth—when I hear him speak to my fears and say “Do not be afraid,” and when he prefaces that command by calling my attention to himself: “It is I, do not be afraid”—now Christ has overtaken my troubled soul, and my anxieties are conquered and cast out by the King of Peace. He is my peace and safety! He is my shelter from the storms of this life!
Is there any darkness too deep for Christ to find you in? Are there any waves too high for him to conquer? Is there any distance he cannot go? No, he will be with you in the storm. “When through the deep waters I call you to go, the rivers of sorrow shall not overflow.” “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you” (Isaiah 43:2).
What are the deep waters you face today? What are the great waves that pound against your boat? For some, the busyness of life has stolen your peace. For some, Satan condemns you and tempts you toward despair. For some, you are burdened by loneliness, or overcome with fear and anxiety. Christian, you have reason to gladly invite Jesus into the boat today. Verse 21 says they were glad to take him in—Jesus brought gladness, even before the storm had ceased. He comforts us in the storm. When your future is uncertain, invite Jesus into the boat. When you experience loss and sorrow, invite Jesus into the boat. When spiritual depression settles upon your soul, know that you are not alone and gladly invite Jesus into the boat.
His presence will calm your soul and help you to reach your heavenly home, the land to which we are going.
April 9, 2014 by
MaryBeth Hengst is a member of Grace Community Church in Denver, Colorado. Be encouraged as you read the story of how God saved her and how he used ordinary believers who were faithful to share the gospel with her.
Psalm 139:16b says, “All the days ordained for me were written in your book before any one of them came to be.” God has used these words to encourage me many times throughout my life as a Christian.
I was one of seven children and grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I was raised Catholic, our family attended mass regularly, and I attended Catholic school for most of my education. I believed in God and readily accepted the basic tenets of the Christian faith such as the virgin birth, Christ’s death, and his resurrection and ascension. However, these truths were mere intellectual beliefs to me. But these days were ordained by God.
My parents divorced when I was 13 years old. Lots of sadness and confusion filled my heart, and I began to look for ways to numb the pain. On the outside, I was a “good girl,” maintaining good grades and staying out of trouble (actually, I just never got caught!). But the real me was escaping reality through many wide roads that all lead to destruction. The remaining years before high school continued to spiral downward. But these days were also ordained by God.
During high school, I made a conscious decision to turn away from the Catholic church. I associated their many man-made rules and regulations with the character of God (a false correlation). I began college in a town that might be described as Sodom and Gomorrah…and I fit right in. Pursuing every form of pleasure apart from God and with no regard for consequence, I cast headlong into three years of “fun.”
But God drew me, using a few different individuals over these college years. In my freshman year, a girl in my dorm repeatedly reached out to me and fearlessly witnessed to me. I was not an easy target, and many of my activities would not have been appealing to her. She invited me to church (I never took her up on the invitation). She asked me to join her and other friends of hers for a Bible study. Again, I insisted that it was not my thing. She often told me she was praying for me. All I could manage was a “thanks,” but she lovingly persisted. But I was not responding to this call of God yet.
Another friend, older and married with kids, also was befriending me. She would often have me over for family dinners and offered to study together as we prepared for tests. I could not have been more different than her, yet she never judged me or gave up on me. She shared her deep faith in God and the effect he had had in her life. She also invited me to church many times. Her continual love and acceptance for me was slowly disarming me. However, my hard heart allowed me to dismiss her and other Christians as religious people with whom I had nothing in common. I could not dismiss, however, their practical love and concern for me. Still, I did not heed the call of God.
Soon, I began to have an uncomfortable, internal feeling (which I now know was the conviction of the Holy Spirit). I was glad to be ending the school year and getting away from these religious folks. I headed off to work in a youth forestry camp and breathed a sigh of relief. But God was definitely ordaining these days.
I arrived at my summer digs, and lo and behold, who should be my bunkmate but yet another Christian. Once again, God used an average human being to declare him fearlessly. The truths of the gospel were again related to me, and I really began to feel the heat. I began asking myself questions such as “what is my life all about?” “what am I living for?” “are the pleasurable pursuits of my life all there is?” and more.
After one conversation with an “ally,” I expected an encouragement to dismiss all these thoughts. He (unbeknownst to me, a backslidden Christian) surprised me with the following, “God is real, and if you die without Christ as your Savior, you will spend eternity in hell!” You can imagine my alarm when even this “fellow heathen” was now contributing to the gospel plea. My growing sense of inadequacy and the resulting emptiness I was experiencing fed my questioning.
I may have severed my connection with the Catholic church, but I knew one thing…I did not want to go to hell and spend eternity without God. As the Holy Spirit drew me, I confessed my sins to God and expressed my trust in the death of Christ to pay the punishment for them. He forgave me and saved me that very moment. This was the first day of my new life…a day God had ordained before it came to be.
I grew slowly but surely and found myself back in Cleveland in a church planted by Sovereign Grace. From the first moment I walked through the doors, I was welcomed. No one rolled their eyes or sighed disapprovingly. Instead, they engaged me in conversations and invited me to lunch and to various singles events. Even though I had a fondness for dressing in camouflage and army boots, no one judged me but instead opened their lives to me and offered me friendship.
In time, God revealed that I could learn so much if I would open my life to others and accept help and teaching from those more mature than me. Over the years, God has continued to pour out his grace to me through his church —normal, everyday folks just wanting to make a difference in someone else’s life, extending grace and acceptance toward me and provoking me toward godliness and an every-increasing appreciation for Jesus Christ and what he’s done for me.
Yes, all my days, even the ones spent running from God, were ordained by him. He used all of it to draw me with his irresistible grace and quench a thirst I didn’t even know the depths of.
I don’t think any of the individuals proclaiming the gospel to me were aware that they were not the only ones God was using in my life. Each one was just being faithful to cast the seed and trusting God to bring forth fruit. I wish I could find these folks and thank them for being faithful witnesses of God’s love in Christ. One day, before the throne…
April 8, 2014 by
“Then they had eaten their fill.” John 6:12
In the Old Testament, eating and drinking often signify the abundance of God’s provision. Blessing is equated with having plenty to eat. The people of Israel spent 40 years on the move. They did not plow or sow, but God always provided food for them in the wilderness. How much more does Jesus abundantly provide for our needs, feeding thousands upon thousands and filling our stomachs, with plenty of food to spare?
In John 6, Jesus is hosting an outdoor meal. There was more than enough food that day: everyone ate their fill, with a dozen baskets of bread left over. There was an abundance of provision. The point of this miracle is not that we too would be like this boy and share our lunch with others. This miracle is a symbolic act directing us to the abundance of provision found in the man Jesus Christ. There is a soul-satisfying fullness in Christ that will never be exhausted.
When Jesus fed the 5,000, they wanted to make him king by force. They wanted to make him a political messiah, one who would deal with the Romans. Christians today are not the first ones to project their own political agendas on Jesus. People have always come to Jesus for political and material purposes. This raises the question of what kind of provision Jesus gives.
Certainly Jesus does care for our physical and material needs, and we should praise him for how he answers our prayers for daily bread. However, the rest of John 6 shows that this provision of bread is a sign or symbol that points to deeper spiritual realities. The Provider is the provision. Jesus is the bread of life for our souls. There is spiritual nourishment found in him. He provides the forgiveness of our sins through his death. He provides holiness and purity in our lives through the Spirit he has given us. He provides for us the gift of himself, which is the greatest provision we could ever know. Christ is the bread we must eat every day, and the Rock from which we must drink. Has your soul come to know the abundance of provision found in Jesus?
Jesus hosting and preparing the meal in John 6 reminds us of a coming day. This miracle reveals the future reality of an abundant meal Jesus will one day host. If you are in Christ, you will be there when the thousands are fed. Isaiah 25:6 says, “On this mountain the Lord of hosts will make for all peoples a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wine; of rich food full of marrow, of aged wine well refined.” Isaiah 49:9–10 speaks of all the people of God being fed by the Lord: “They shall not hunger or thirst, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.”
A kingdom is coming where the Lord himself, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, will host a meal of abundance for a great multitude. These thousands who were fed in John 6 point to that final multitude, and the abundance of provision found in Jesus Christ.
Are you having trouble putting meals on the table? There is a coming feast. Are things falling apart at home or work? There is a coming feast. Are you suffering from hopelessness or depression? Christian, there is a coming feast. Because of Jesus, all our hunger and all our need will be eternally satisfied in him. The Provider is our provision!