Do You Have “Enough”?

It is easy in our materialistic-society to say “No, I don’t“, particularly if you compare what you have to what someone else has. Someone else will ALWAYS have more – more money, a nicer car, a finer home, and better clothing, and the list goes on, but do YOU really have “enough“? I would be lying if I said that I don’t struggle with it once in a while. Would YOU like to have more?

Money…
It would be easy for me to “justify” a desire to have more income, because it would make it easier to do ministry at Cypress Cove because I could live closer, but that ignores the fact that I am where I am for a reason – to minister to my neighbor-gal. That ministry has been going on since mid-2013, and I have lost track of the number of times and ways that I have been there for her.

Many people want more money for selfish-reasons, so they can buy more toys and googas, which they want but don’t need. More money may also mean a fancier home in a more prestigious neighborhood, or a membership at an exclusive golf and country club, or both.

And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:19)

Health…
Who wouldn’t like to be young, strong and healthy again? Who wouldn’t like to reverse the effects of aging? I have enough aches, pains and health-problems for someone twenty-years my senior, and I would really like to kick “Arthur” out of my “house“, but I can’t, so I have learned to live with my reality as it is. I would love it if I were able to see with BOTH eyes and never needed glasses again, but that is NOT going to happen…yet.

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corinthians 15:50-57)

Power…
How much power is “enough“? It has been said that “Power corrupts, and absolute-power corrupts absolutely“, and we can see that vividly in our world. A small handful of people hold the reins of power over billions of people, and an even-smaller handful hold the keys to the world’s nuclear-arsenals. One mad-man with an itchy trigger-finger could ignite a nuclear-holocaust. Does anyone “deserve” that much power?

“But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

Prestige…
Prestige usually flows from having Wealth and Power, because it is rare to find a person who has Prestige who doesn’t have either Wealth or Power, or both. Like Wealth and Power, Prestige is fleeting. One day you have it, the next day you don’t, but what if there was a “prestige” which is eternal?

I don’t have Wealth, or Power, or Prestige, but I am a child of the KING of kings and LORD of lords, and I have a home which is eternal…

Fame…
Fame is also fleeting, because it is built on how others see you. You can’t make yourself “famous“, although you can try. I don’t want or need Fame, because what I do isn’t for the adulation of other people.

Final thoughts…
ALL of these things are fleeting, temporary, and none of them will survive us beyond the grave. Job, in the midst of his poverty, penned these immortal words:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb,
And naked I shall return there.
The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away.
Blessed be the name of the Lord.” (Job 1:21)

I have “enough“, do YOU?

In Christ,
Steve

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Dare To Be Authentic!

Are you singing everyone’s song but your own? Are you marching to the beat of everyone’s drummer but your own? Are you performing to an ever-changing, ever-fickle audience? Do you even have your own tune? Do you even have your own drummer? Are you acting for approval which never comes? Does anyone really know the REAL you, or do they see a carefully-crafted persona, an Avatar? If you are, you are NOT alone.

Yes, I have been there too, for the first fifty-seven years of my life, and I was lost when I “struck-out” that last time. I had a name, but I didn’t know WHO I was. Those were treacherous-waters. When I started not caring about what anyone thought about me, the real ME started emerging, peaking out from the rubble of what had been my life. It was hard. It was scary, but I had to do it. I didn’t have any other choice. My old life was in ruins so I couldn’t go back. It was either become ME, or die…

Why did I have to wait until after my dad died to find out the he was “proud” of me? He couldn’t tell me that he was “proud” of me because I hadn’t met his expectations.

Do YOU even know who you are? Are you singing everyone’s song but your own? Are you marching to the beat of everyone’s drummer but your own? Are you performing to an ever-changing, ever-fickle audience? Do you even have your own tune? Do you even have your own drummer? Are you acting for approval which never comes? Does anyone really know the REAL you, or do they see a carefully-crafted persona, an Avatar? If you are, you are NOT alone.

If this is YOU, why not join me on a voyage of discovery? You might just come out a new person.

There is ONLY one YOU! There is ONLY one ME! Even if you have an identical-twin, YOU are different. We are NOT copies and we are NOT clones, so why is it so hard to be who we really are? Is our authentic-selves not “good-enough“?

The short-answer is “NO!”

When we are born, we are given our first “identity“. Our parents named us, and we were their “son” or “daughter“. They soon started teaching us their’s and society’s expectations, whether it was “put some clothes on” or “don’t make a fuss in church“. If we didn’t meet those expectations, we received their wrath. We are taught early-on to CONFORM!!! No “square-pegs for round-holes” allowed.

When we started going to school, they expected us to “make good grades“, however they defined “good grades“. We might have even been punished if our grades weren’t “good enough“. I didn’t always meet “expectations“, particularly in high school. When I was raising my own kids, “good grades” meant the best that they could do. My oldest daughter is very-bright, “gifted and talented“, so her “best” was “straight-A’s“, which was what she made. My other kids weren’t quite as talented, so their grades weren’t quite as “good“, but still the best they could do. They were talented in other ways. I tried to not be a “pushy-dad“.

Next comes the question of college, or… My dad was disappointed that I didn’t go straight to college right after high school, which was his expectation. I fulfilled my dream of being a professional musician by becoming an Army Bandsman. It was there that I realized that I didn’t have what it took to be a professional musician in the outside-world. It was also there where my roles and titles were more important than who I was. I was Sgt. McFarland, Section Leader and Barracks NCO. I was also Fire and Safety NCO, and periodically either Charge of Quarters or Duty-NCO, depending on which “hat” they had me wear. The only place I could be “Steve” was on the outside. Do you see a pattern developing?

As we go along in life, we collect more “titles” and more “roles“, and unfortunately these become our “identity“. “Who” we are becomes buried in “what” we are, and as long as we can “replace” a lost “title” or “role” when we lose one, we may feel like we are doing “Okay“. BUT, what happens when that last “title” or “role” gets stripped-away from us?

Along the way, I became a “husband“, and then a “father“, as well as an employee of “X-Corporation“. I then became a “team-leader” for a Search and Rescue team, as well as a “Captain” and “Assistant Director of Communications” in the Civil Air Patrol.

When we moved, and I changed jobs a few times, “titles” and “roles” came and went, but the core, “husband” and and “father” stayed the same. Then came the “crash of ’97“. Within a few weeks time, I lost my job AND my family. When my wife committed suicide, her family took my kids away from me. Yes, I CRASHED, and I was left without anything to “prop” me up. That was my first, but not my last, “identity-crisis“.

Towards the end of 1998, some “normalcy” was restored when I remarried. I was a “husband” again. That gave me a new “anchor“. I also got involved in the Coast Guard Auxiliary and a Volunteer Fire Department. Those brought new “titles” and new “roles“, and helped me survive the next “crash“, the “crash of ’07“. I lost my right eye AND my wife, who divorced me after I lost my eye. BUT, I still had a job and a “title“, and I was still part of a Fire Department.

By mid-2008, I had remarried – again, and I still had my job and the “title” that went with it. I left the Fire Department because we moved out of the area, but being a “husband” was my “anchor“. Then I lost my job…

Have you spotted the “little-problem” yet? What if I give you a clue? Every “crash“, and every new “normal“, was lower than the one before it. Each time I lost out, I lost more than I would ever regain.

The next “crash” came in 2010. I had lost my job, so the only income I was able to bring in was from the odd-jobs I was able to do and the pittance of unemployment I got each month. My wife had married me for my money, and when my money ran out, she did too. At least I still had a place to live.

The final “crash” came in early-2013. I had remarried, again, just a few weeks earlier. I had left the Fire Department for the last time and moved to an unfamiliar area. Less than six weeks after we got married, she abruptly moved out, while I was out of town for a doctor’s appointment. I had lost my last “prop“, but there was no turning-back. I had to stay in the area while I worked towards a reconciliation that hasn’t happened over three years later.

I could moan and bellyache about all I lost, including the last vestiges of my old “identity“, but I have already written about that extensively in other posts, so I would rather tell you about what I GAINED.

I am a child of the living God, the second-most exalted status in the universe. Only Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God ranks higher than me. I am free from arbitrary-expectations, so I can sing my own song, act in my own play, and dance to the beat of my own drummer. I have only one Judge and Law-Giver, Almighty God, and His law has been summed up in the two Great Commandments, which are: Love God above all else, and love my neighbor as myself. I am FREE, I am LOVED, I am a child of the Living God, and nobody nor anything can take that away from me. Goodbye old “identity“!

Will YOU Dare To Be Authentic? It is the best feeling in the world.

What is man?
4 What is man that You are mindful of him,
And the son of man that You visit him?
5 For You have made him a little lower than the angels,
And You have crowned him with glory and honor.
(Psalm 8:4-5)

I pray that this is YOUR significance. It is mine, and nobody can take it away from me.

Final thoughts…
I have great worth apart from my performance, because Christ gave His life for me, and therefore imparted great value to me. I am deeply loved, fully pleasing, totally forgiven, accepted, and complete in Christ.

In Christ,
Steve

Feed My Sheep

This simple, yet profound command, which was given to Peter after the Resurrection of our Lord, shows both our relationship with our Lord and clearly lays-out the duties and responsibilities of those who are called to be His under-shepherds. To set the stage, we will look at this command in its context.

Breakfast by the Sea
21 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

They answered Him, “No.”

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

11 Simon Peter went up and dragged the net to land, full of large fish, one hundred and fifty-three; and although there were so many, the net was not broken. 12 Jesus said to them, “Come and eat breakfast.” Yet none of the disciples dared ask Him, “Who are You?”—knowing that it was the Lord. 13 Jesus then came and took the bread and gave it to them, and likewise the fish.

14 This is now the third time Jesus showed Himself to His disciples after He was raised from the dead.

Jesus Restores Peter
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep. (John 21:1-17)

Peter had fallen HARD! He had denied his Lord, not just once, but three times, and the weight of his sin had come crashing down on him. Jesus had been crucified, and Peter hadn’t even had the guts to be there for Him. Peter couldn’t see how Jesus could ever forgive him, let alone restore him to fellowship, so after the resurrection, he went back home to Capernaum…and went fishing. Even if he couldn’t be one of Jesus’s inner-circle again, at least he could still fish. Then, Jesus appeared on the shore…

1 After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the Sea of Tiberias, and in this way He showed Himself: 2 Simon Peter, Thomas called the Twin, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. 3 Simon Peter said to them, “I am going fishing.”

They said to him, “We are going with you also.” They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing. 4 But when the morning had now come, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus. 5 Then Jesus said to them, “Children, have you any food?”

“Children, have you any food?” We can feel His love and compassion for those men who had been with Him for over three years, and for their struggles as they tried to find answers to what they had experienced during the last few days. They were like orphans who had lost their best friend, and Jesus was there to bring them back “home“. Even though they had probably fished all night, they were empty-handed.

They answered Him, “No.”

6 And He said to them, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” So they cast, and now they were not able to draw it in because of the multitude of fish. Jesus was Lord over all creation, so He had the power to summon a multitude of fish into their net. This should remind us of when Jesus called the four fishermen back in Luke 51:1-11. They got another net-busting catch of fish, except that their net didn’t bust.

7 Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord!” Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had removed it), and plunged into the sea. 8 But the other disciples came in the little boat (for they were not far from land, but about two hundred cubits), dragging the net with fish. 9 Then, as soon as they had come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid on it, and bread. 10 Jesus said to them, “Bring some of the fish which you have just caught.”

When was the last time Jesus fed His disciples, and why? Just before He was crucified, Jesus ate the Passover meal with His disciples, and after that meal, they had the Last Supper, which we know as the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a meal of remembrance, to remind us of the awful cost of our salvation. As we eat, we remember that His body was broken for us, and that His blood was shed for us, so that we can be saved.

This breakfast by the sea was a meal of restoration. Peter, who had denied His Lord, was being restored to full fellowship with Jesus Christ. This meal should have rich significance for us also, because after our sins have been forgiven, we are restored to a right relationship with God.

Jesus Restores Peter
15 So when they had eaten breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Feed My lambs.”

16 He said to him again a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?”
He said to Him, “Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.”
He said to him, “Tend My sheep.”

17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter was grieved because He said to him the third time, “Do you love Me?”
And he said to Him, “Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.”
Jesus said to him, “Feed My sheep.

Jesus uses two metaphors for His people, “lambs” and “sheep“. “Lambs” are those who are new to their faith or immature in their knowledge of God and His Word. “Sheep” are more mature Christians. He also issues two commands, “feed” and “tend“. “Feed” carries with it the connotation of leading God’s people to where they may feed on His Word and proclaiming and explaining His Word. “Tend” carries with it the connotation of caring for the other needs of God’s people. Under-shepherds are to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel as pastor-teachers, and to love, pray-for, comfort and counsel those who are under his care.

This should remind us that there is a LOT more to being a pastor than just preaching or teaching every Sunday. Part of our task is to build relationships with the people God has entrusted to our care. We are to be there for them when they need us. I haven’t felt the full weight of this responsibility yet, but that time will come. I haven’t been called to the bedside of a dying loved-one, or called to pray for someone in the hospital…yet, but I minister in a community with a lot of elderly people. One member of our group was in the hospital recently, but he forgot that he could call me to come be with him. I would have been delighted to go visit him in the hospital.

As those who have been called to be under-shepherds under our Great Shepherd, we have the awesome privilege of serving in God’s kingdom, and an incredible responsibility to minister properly because we are accountable to Jesus Christ for how we do our work. We are under-shepherds, and He is the Great Shepherd. We work for Him!

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Bread Of Life

We come to one of the most difficult to understand of the many discourses Jesus spoke during His earthly ministry. I will try to unpack it as best I can, but like Jesus’s hearers, I am also a mere man. Taken literally, this discourse is gory to the extreme, eating flesh (cannibalism) and drinking blood were repulsive and forbidden by God, however, Jesus was speaking using types and symbols which had many Old Testament parallels and pointed-forward to a soon-to-be New Testament reality.

We must remember that this was the season of Passover, so Jesus used “Passover-symbols” which His audience should have been familiar with, and as He spoke, He was pointing-forward to when He would be the final Passover-Lamb, “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world“, whom John the Baptist announced in John 1:29. His audience, however, couldn’t get past the physical to see the spiritual. So, let’s see if we can unpack this passage and understand what Jesus was really saying. We are going to take this passage one little chunk at a time.

Words to the People
26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. 27 Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” 28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” 30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” (John 6:26-34)

26 Jesus answered them and said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. As you may remember, after the feeding of the five-thousand, the crowd wanted to make Jesus their earthly-king. They just knew that He could solve ALL of their problems, and make sure that they never went hungry. Jesus is acknowledging this; however it wasn’t His true mission.

Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” Jesus never said that eating “real” food was “wrong“, rather He was pointing them to the real reason He was among them, to bring them eternal-life. He is also validating who He is based on His relationship with God the Father.

28 Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?” They had a very “works-centered” religion, which was based on keeping the Law. They believed that they could be right with God by keeping the Law and performing the required-rituals, not realizing that the entire Old Testament pointed-forward to the coming Messiah.

29 Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” Was that “work” “too-easy” or “out-of-reach“? It should have been simple, but they asked instead for another “sign“. What was it going to take to get their attention?

30 So they said to Him, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread out of heaven to eat.’” When they were hungry during their wilderness-trek, God provided food for them. When they were thirsty, God provided water for them. Who else was “thirsty“?

When Jesus offered “living-water” to the woman at the well, she thought that He meant “indoor-plumbing“.

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it is not Moses who has given you the bread out of heaven, but it is My Father who gives you the true bread out of heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down out of heaven, and gives life to the world.” 34 Then they said to Him, “Lord, always give us this bread.” First, Jesus corrects their notion that Moses was responsible for feeding them in the wilderness, but they STILL don’t “get-it“. They still want God to feed them – FREE

35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen Me, and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 39 This is the will of Him who sent Me, that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:26-40)

The simple take-away from this section is that salvation is from God, and ONLY from God, and ONLY from believing in Jesus Christ. His shed-blood and finished-work are all-sufficient for our salvation, and if we are trusting in Him alone, we need not fear for our eternal-destiny.

Words to the Jews
41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. 46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. 48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.”

41 Therefore the Jews were grumbling about Him, because He said, “I am the bread that came down out of heaven.” 42 They were saying, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” Jesus was a “localboy” whom they assumed was the son of Joseph and Mary. They knew His “parents“, so there was no way He could have come from Heaven. NOT

43 Jesus answered and said to them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up on the last day. 45 It is written in the prophets, ‘And they shall all be taught of God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, comes to Me. Jesus is reiterating that nobody can come to Him unless God opens their “eyes” to see and understand who He is. They were “spiritually-blind” and wrapped up in their own agendas, so no matter what Jesus did, they would never own Him as their Lord and Savior.

46 Not that anyone has seen the Father, except the One who is from God; He has seen the Father. Even though they had, and were familiar with the Old Testament, which was God’s revelation about Himself, they were blind to the fact that God had woven His redemptive-plan into the very fabric of it, and it all pointed forward to Jesus Christ. Jesus, as the incarnate God-Man, was the visual-representation of the Father.

47 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life. Jesus again reiterates that salvation is ONLY of God, and ONLY through faith in Him.

48 I am the bread of life. 49 Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50 This is the bread which comes down out of heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. Jesus now compares “physical-bread” to “spiritual-bread“. Physical-bread only sustains physical-life for a short time, and must be eaten regularly. Those who ate the manna in the wilderness all died, including Moses, who was not permitted to enter the Promised Land and died in the wilderness. However, those who partake, through faith, of that spiritual-bread, will live forever. Jesus IS that spiritual-bread.

“and the bread also which I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.” Jesus was forecasting His crucifixion, when His broken-body and shed-blood would pay the final price of redemption for all who believe in Him.

43-52: Jesus tells them to stop grumbling amongst themselves, always a command we need to keep in mind, for while we grumble we neglect what He is teaching. He goes on to give a memorable passage in which He tells them that those who believe in Him will have eternal life, and that we must eat of Him to have life. We must eat of His flesh which He will give for the life of the world. Physical bread will not give eternal life. The people, who are always stuck on the mere physicality of life, are horrified! Yuk!

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in yourselves. 54 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. 56 He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats Me, he also will live because of Me. 58 This is the bread which came down out of heaven; not as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live forever.” (John 6:41-58)

52 Then the Jews began to argue with one another, saying, “How can this man give us His flesh to eat?” The Jewish religious-leaders were still stuck on the implications and the horror of physically-eating Jesus’s flesh and blood. They should have known the Old Testament prophesies concerning the coming Messiah, but they were blind to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst.

53-59: Since the people are determined to be stuck on the physical, Jesus gives them physical. He talks about eating His flesh and drinking His blood as though He were going to offer Himself to a bunch of cannibals. Of course the traditional Sunday school lesson will teach here that Jesus was only speaking of Communion: Laughable! Again, we only see physical things. Jesus was talking about what Communion represents; the reality of Communion. Communion has little to do with its physical aspects; it is all about redemption and what sustains a new life. When we eat of the bread and drink from the cup are we nourishing our bodies? Hardly…

We do this in remembrance of what He did for us; this is important. We go through an act that symbolizes taking Jesus into ourselves to sustain our lives spiritually. When you eat a meal, that food enters your body, and in due course provides energy and nourishment to your body; the elements that make up the food become one with your body on a molecular level. Thus in a sense the food becomes a part of you. When we take the Spirit within us (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit) the Spirit becomes a part of who and what we are spiritually, and grows within us when we allow it. This gives us eternal life. This gives us fellowship with God, which was God’s purpose for creating Man in the first place; and completes the cycle of redeeming and reclaiming Mankind for God.

Words to the Disciples
59 These things He said in the synagogue as He taught in Capernaum.

60 Therefore many of His disciples, when they heard this said, “This is a difficult statement; who can listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, conscious that His disciples grumbled at this, said to them, “Does this cause you to stumble? 62 What then if you see the Son of Man ascending to where He was before? 63 It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. 64 But there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus knew from the beginning who they were who did not believe, and who it was that would betray Him. 65 And He was saying, “For this reason I have said to you, that no one can come to Me unless it has been granted him from the Father.” (John 6:59-65)

Even some of His disciples had trouble “digesting” what Jesus just said, because they were still stumbling over “eating” and “drinking” Christ himself. Then He told them “You ain’t seen nothing yet“, because those who stuck-around were going to be eye-witnesses of His ascension into Heaven.

Peter’s Confession of Faith
66 As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. 67 So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also, do you?” 68 Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” 70 Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” 71 Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:66-71)

Upon hearing all of this, the people following Jesus largely abandoned Him. Of course we now know that this is typical of people who cannot allow themselves to discern spiritual truth. People will often follow Jesus for a time, but when they realize that this involves more than a “get out of jail free” card, and that it will result in growing far beyond the merely physical they bail. Jesus spoke one more great line here, one that we should commit to memory: “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” This is truly something we must always keep in mind, for they are the key to unlocking the things of God.

Conclusion
It is important to note that Jesus in this discourse used typology in His treatment of manna and bread. The manna is the type; Jesus is the antitype or the reality that the type represents. God gave provision to the Israelites in the Wilderness with the manna; it sustained them. However this was not God’s ultimate purpose. His ultimate purpose was to redeem Mankind to Himself through Christ, thus the manna as sustenance was the type of Jesus the Redeemer and sustenance unto eternal life. A related type would be the Communion elements: they are not what redeemed us; they are the representation of the body and blood of Christ: Christ is the redeemer. Of course, the Old Testament in particular is full of typology. Moses as the leader and redeemer of the people was a type of Christ; the Promised Land is a type of Heaven, and so on…

I gratefully acknowledge the contributions from Dr. Don Merritt, my beloved friend and mentor, who offered his Reflections on John, without which, I would STILL be stuck.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – More Miracles

As we continue our studies in John’s Gospel, we come to two of the best-known events in the life of Christ, when He fed over five-thousand people, and when He walked on water.

Five Thousand Fed
6 After these things Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee (or Tiberias). 2 A large crowd followed Him, because they saw the signs which He was performing on those who were sick. 3 Then Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat down with His disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was near. 5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” 8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. 12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. 14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” (John 6:1-14)

As this scene opens, Jesus, after His confrontation with the Jewish leaders over having healed a man on the Sabbath, goes back home to Galilee. John the Baptist had also been beheaded (Matthew 14:1-12), so it was time for Jesus and His disciples to get away for a while, however their get-away was short-lived. It is also interesting to note that Jesus was in Galilee, rather than in Jerusalem for the Passover celebration.

I have often wondered how so many people had time to follow Jesus around like they did. Some scholars have estimated that there were between fifteen and twenty THOUSAND people in that crowd because only the men were counted. That is a LOT of people. What did those people do for a living? Why had only one person packed a “sack-lunch“?

This story reminds me of another “food-multiplication” miracle in 1 Kings 17:8-16. God, through the prophet Elijah, had proclaimed a drought in Israel due to their wicked ways, and Elijah was on the run from evil king Ahab. God told Elijah to go live with a poor widow in Zarephath, and even though she was getting ready to make the last bit of bread she had flour and oil for when he met her, Elijah told her to make a small piece of bread for him also and they would all eat. As long as the drought and famine lasted and Elijah stayed with her, her flour and oil never ran out.

8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” 11 As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” 12 But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 13 Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. 14 For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” 15 So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah. (1 Kings 17:8-16) God can use our “smallest” gifts for His purposes, because He is the Master of “resource-multiplication“.

5 Therefore Jesus, lifting up His eyes and seeing that a large crowd was coming to Him, said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these may eat?” 6 This He was saying to test him, for He Himself knew what He was intending to do. Whether it was late in the day or just meal-time, Jesus thought of the crowd’s physical-need to food. His question to Philip was more “tongue-in-cheek” than a real question, because there was no place in that wilderness where they could get food. There were no fast-food restaurants they could get take-out from, nor was there a commercial bakery they could get bread from. Jesus was really setting the scene for another miracle.

Notice Philip’s gut-reaction response, 7 Philip answered Him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread is not sufficient for them, for everyone to receive a little.” A denarius was the typical day-wage for a common-laborer, which might have been equivalent to earning about $80 a day. Two hundred denarii would equate to $16,000, so even if that much food had been available, the disciples certainly weren’t carrying that much cash, and they couldn’t expect the crowd to pool their resources.

8 One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, 9 “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are these for so many people?” Jesus’s disciple’s faith still wasn’t “there” yet, because even though they had seen Jesus perform many miracles, they couldn’t imagine Him feeding SO many people with SO little food. Jesus could have fed them by creating what they needed, but that little offering would soon get multiplied beyond their wildest imagination.

10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus was going to feed them “dinner in the park“. As I mentioned earlier, the total-number of people may have been closer to twenty-thousand.

11 Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted. How often do we pause to give thanks to God for our daily-bread? Jesus gave thanks, and the feast began. This wasn’t a “meager” meal either. The people were encouraged to eat all they wanted. Nobody was going to go home hungry.

12 When they were filled, He said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up, and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves which were left over by those who had eaten. Nothing was wasted. There were even some left-overs.

14 Therefore when the people saw the sign which He had performed, they said, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world.” The “Prophet“? Jesus was way more than a prophet. He was the incarnate Son of God, God in human-flesh. Even though these people were looking for the long-promised Messiah, they didn’t recognize Him when He came. As we will see momentarily, they were looking for a “conquering-king“, one who would make their lives easier.

Jesus Walks on the Water
15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

Who WOULDN’T want a king who could solve all their problems, including making sure that they never went hungry? There was just one minor problem. Becoming their earthly-king wasn’t part of Christ’s mission on earth, so He slipped-away for some quiet-time.

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?” (John 6:16-25)

Sudden-squalls on the Sea of Galilee are common and they can be quite severe. The Sea of Galilee is in a valley which is bordered on two sides by mountains, so when the winds come whistling through that valley, they can whip the water into a frenzy. While Jesus was alone on the mountain, His disciples started crossing over towards Capernaum, and even though their trip was probably only about five or six miles, they were rowing both against the current and against the wind. By the time Jesus made His early-morning stroll across the lake, they were cold, wet and tired. Matthew recorded some interesting details which John omitted, so lets take a peak at this story from Matthew’s perspective.

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured. (Matthew 14:22-36)

After the great feed, Jesus sent His disciples on to their next stop while He sent the crowd away. He frequently slipped away for time with His Father because He needed to be refreshed too. Sometimes we feel that what we are doing is “too-important” or “too-urgent” for us to take a break, but we really need to follow our Lord’s example. That is why I take frequent “mental-health” days at the Cove so I don’t get too stressed-out.

Jesus didn’t take His stroll until early-morning, and by then, the boat was nowhere to be seen. As Lord of all creation, He walked on water as easily as we walk on land, except that His disciples weren’t expecting Him. Ghost, well, only ghosts can appear to be walking on water…NOT. Yes, His disciples WERE afraid, and for good reason, but not for long. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Was Peter displaying careless-bravado, or did he really believe that he could walk on water with Jesus? Maybe a bit of both, but…29 And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. Peter was walking on water, as long as he kept his eyes on Jesus, but when he came back to the reality of how bad the storm really was, he sank like a rock and cried out for help. “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Walking on water” could be compared to our faith-journey because both seem unnatural to us. Many “storms” have rocked my world, and keeping my eyes on Jesus hasn’t always been easy. “Walking on water” could also be compared to starting a new ministry, because unless a person is “prepared” for it, it doesn’t come naturally either. Yes, Jesus stands ready to “steady” us or even “rescue” us…if we are willing to ask Him for help, but asking Him for help takes faith.

As if feeding a crowd with only a “sack-lunch” wasn’t enough evidence for who Jesus is, 32 When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. 33 And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”

34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized Him, they sent word into all that surrounding district and brought to Him all who were sick; 36 and they implored Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were cured.(M) No matter where Jesus went, the news that He was in town spread like wildfire. Someone always wanted something from Jesus, whether it was healing or they wanted to be fed – again, and they went to great lengths to get to Him.

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. 25 When they found Him on the other side of the sea, they said to Him, “Rabbi, when did You get here?”(J) What would WE do to get to Jesus?

The NEXT time Jesus “comes to town“, it will be with power and great glory, and EVERYONE will know about it, but not everyone will be happy. Are YOU ready for His triumphal-return?

Blessings!
Steve

Bible Study – Four-Fold Witness

As we saw last week, Jesus healed a man on the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders, who already hated Jesus, started turning up the heat. In this passage, Jesus not only claimed His Deity, He also claimed that He is equal with God the Father. He also presented a four-fold witness to back up His claims. Note that a four-fold witness was admissible in any court of law.

16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.”

18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God. (John 5:18-20)

NOBODY was equal with God in the Jewish leaders minds, because they still believed in a monotheistic God. God had not explicitly-revealed Himself as a three-part Godhead in the Old Testament, so since Jesus was claiming to be equal to God, He was, in their minds, blaspheming against God, which was a capitol-crime.

19 Therefore Jesus answered and was saying to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. (John 5:19-23)

Jesus was not acting alone. He acted in concert with His Father because they were intimately-connected. In another passage of Scripture, Jesus stated that “I and the Father are one“. While the Father’s home was in Heaven, they were so intimately-connected that it could be said that the Father also resided in Jesus’s total person-hood. While all believers are indwelled by the Holy Spirit, we do not have the conscious-level of connection to God the Father which Jesus had.

The theme, “the love of God and love for God” permeates John’s gospel, and we can see why in this segment. Because the Father loves the Son, and has given Him a mission to fulfill, the Father has equipped the Son to do mighty works in accomplishing His mission. Raising the dead is solely a divine-ability, so as the Father is able to raise the dead, the Son is able to raise the dead also.

God the Father is the ultimate judge, but He has passed that authority to His Son, Jesus Christ, so that all men will give honor and glory to Jesus, which ultimately gives honor and glory to the Father. Dishonoring Jesus also is dishonoring God the Father.

24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)

Here, Jesus states what is required to have eternal life, which is to hear and believe His message, and to believe the testimony of the Father concerning Jesus. Belief is necessary, not just an intellectual-ascent, because even the demons “believe” that Jesus is God but it has not resulted in saving faith. The Jewish religious leaders totally rejected Jesus and His claims.

Two Resurrections
25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:25-29)

Yes, there WILL be a resurrection, and those who are in Christ will receive a glorified body like Jesus’s own resurrection-body, and those who are NOT in Christ will be resurrected to eternal-judgement. There is NOuniversal-salvation” in the end, because there is only ONE way into heaven and the presence of God, and that is through Jesus Christ, His shed-blood and finished-work. Those who have rejected Christ in this life won’t get a second-chance. God cannot and will not allow anything that is evil or anyone who is evil into His heaven because God is holy.

30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (John 5:30)

Again we see the singularity of purpose between the Father and the Son. Jesus the Son was doing the work of His Father, and His judgement is based on the judgement of His Father.

31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. (John 5:31-32)

Jesus is using the metaphor of a court of law in which one person’s testimony is dismissed unless that testimony is corroborated by two or more witnesses. In the next four segments, He describes who is witnessing for Him and the other corroborating-evidence – the Old Testament.

Witness of John
33 You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. (John 5:33-34)

John the Baptist’s witness concerning Jesus was authentic and authoritative, however Jesus was not relying solely on John’s testimony.

Witness of Works
36 But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish—the very works that I do—testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. (John 5:36)

As we have seen before, Jesus performed signs and miracles both to help someone in their time of need and to provide evidence of His divine origin and authority. Mere-men couldn’t do what He did.

Witness of the Father
37 And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38 You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. (John 5:37-38)

God the Father spoke from Heaven when Jesus was baptized, and placed His seal of approval on Him by sending the Holy Spirit down to Him in the form of a dove.

You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. This is an interesting statement, because it thoroughly-debunks people’s notion that we couldn’t have been created-bodily in God’s image. Some commentators gloss-over this phrase by ignoring “seen His form” and take “voice” to mean the Scriptures because they believe that a “Spirit” can’t have a “form“, however that is denying God His right to do as He chooses, including having a “form” if He so chooses.

Witness of the Scripture
39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 I have come in My Father’s name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:39-47)

God’s plan of redemption is woven throughout the Old Testament, beginning at Genesis 3:15, and continuing through the last verse of Malachi. There were prophesies concerning the tribe the Messiah would come from, Judah, and even the family He would be descended from, David. Where He would be born, Bethlehem, and His hometown, Nazareth, were also prophesied. That He would be the “suffering-servant” was prophesied four times in Isaiah. There were even prophesies regarding the fore-runner who would prepare the way for Him. How did the Jewish leaders miss all of these prophesies, and not recognize that they all pointed to Christ?

Even though the religious-leaders were the “Bible-scholars” of the day and thought that they “knew” the Old Testament, they were looking for a different “kind” of Messiah and Jesus didn’t cut-it for them. While they were looking for a “conquering-king“, the Suffering-Servant was already in their midst. How could they have been so blind?

They also thought that their religious-legalism and rituals were enough to gain God’s favor, but they weren’t. The very Law of Moses, which they claimed to keep so meticulously, would be what condemned them in the end, because they failed to keep the two Great Commandments, to love God above all else, and to love their neighbor as themselves. The only people they cared about were their fellow “elites“. They also failed miserably at doing what God commanded in Micah 6:8. He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the LORD require of you, But to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God? They were self-serving glory-seekers, and the glory they sought was man’s glory, not God’s.

How well are we doing at keeping the two Great Commandments? How well are we doing at doing what God requires in Micah 6:8?

In Christ,
Steve

From Fisherman To Fisher Of Men

Peter was a fisherman, and not just a casual, sport-fisherman mind you, he was a commercial-fisherman. Fishing was his livelihood, his life, his identity. He and his partners spent many hours every day either fishing or getting their equipment ready to fish. It was dirty, nasty, tough and tiring work, but somebody had to do it. As we will see, Jesus had another job and a new identity for Peter.

Now it happened that while the crowd was pressing around Him and listening to the word of God, He was standing by the lake of Gennesaret; 2 and He saw two boats lying at the edge of the lake; but the fishermen had gotten out of them and were washing their nets. 3 And He got into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, and asked him to put out a little way from the land. And He sat down and began teaching the people from the boat. 4 When He had finished speaking, He said to Simon, “Put out into the deep water and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 Simon answered and said, “Master, we worked hard all night and caught nothing, but I will do as You say and let down the nets.” 6 When they had done this, they enclosed a great quantity of fish, and their nets began to break; 7 so they signaled to their partners in the other boat for them to come and help them. And they came and filled both of the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” 9 For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” 11 When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. (Luke 5:1-11)

This passage presents an interesting scene. Peter and his partners had beached their boats so that they could wash their nets and get them ready for the next outing. Was this a sheltered cove which gave them some protection from the rougher water and weather out farther in the lake? If it was a cove, was it surrounded on three sides by a gently-sloping hillside which made a natural amphitheater? One thing is for sure, and that is that a crowd had found Jesus and wanted to hear Him speak and teach. They had come to hear the word of God, and they may have even thought that He would perform a few miracles.

Jesus didn’t have the crowd build a platform or erect a massive pulpit to preach from. No, He got in a boat and sat down. Jesus didn’t need the trappings of authority to validate either Himself or His message. He didn’t come to be served, but to serve. Only a few yards of water separated Him from the crowd, but it was enough so that He wasn’t being forced to wade into the lake Himself.

We are not told hom long Jesus taught or the content of His message, but it did make Peter uncomfortable. It also gave Peter a glimpse into His authority, and even though Peter and his partners had not caught anything all night, they were willing to go back out and follow Jesus’ instructions.

How many fish did they catch? Two overflowing boat-loads for sure, a LOT of fish. Under ordinary circumstances, Peter would have been overjoyed, but not this time.

But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying,Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” Wasn’t Peter a “good” Jew? Didn’t he act like a Pharisee in the book of Acts? Well, yes he was, sort of, but in that moment, Peter came to a deep understanding that his “best” wasn’t good-enough for God. He still fell far short of the mark, and like Peter, we do too. Peter couldn’t make himself right before God and neither can we. Peter had come face-to-face with God.

And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men.” Jesus did not tell Peter that He would be back when he cleaned up his act. Jesus didn’t even tell him to go home, take a bath and put on some clean clothes so that he would be more “presentable“. No, Jesus took Peter sin, dirt and all. He took him as he was.

As Jesus told Simon, He also tells us, “Do not fear”. Jesus takes us as we are and where we are, and unlike Peter, we may even look and smell good, however Jesus looks through our “disguises” and sees us as we are, sinners desperately needing a Savior. Jesus doesn’t tell us, as He didn’t tell Peter, that He will be back when we clean ourselves up. He stands ready to do all the dirty-work of cleaning us up in a way we could never clean ourselves up.

Peter also wasn’t a “prime-candidate” for ministry either, and Jesus knew it. Jesus already knew that Peter would deny Him three years later, even after pledging his “to-the-death” loyalty to Jesus and trying to “prove” his loyalty by his ill-considered swipe with his sword at one of Jesus’s captors, but Jesus took him anyway. Are YOU a “prime-candidate” for ministry? I sure wasn’t.

Notice that Jesus didn’t offer Peter a full-ride scholarship to Jerusalem Theological Seminary, rather, He offered him something far-better, an apprenticeship in ministry – Kingdom-style. Peter was going to get hands-on experience besides the teaching which Jesus was going to do.

Peter served a three-year apprenticeship before he was ready to become an Apostle. He also fell hard, VERY-HARD, and he even went back to fishing. After the resurrection, Jesus found him where He had found him the first time, fishing, and He gave Peter a new commission: Feed my sheep!

After Pentecost, Peter became the fearless-Apostle which Jesus had called him to be.

We can’t clean ourselves up enough to restore our relationship with God, but we don’t have to. Jesus is willing and able to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves. We also don’t have to be “qualified” to do the ministry God calls us to either, because God is more than capable of “qualifying” us. That, my friends, is the Good News of the Gospel.

In Christ,
Steve

Bible Study – Miraculous Healings

After Jesus has been warmly-welcomed in Galilee, He again shows His power in healing two people, one in Capernaum, and the second one back in Jerusalem. We are going to focus on those healings in today’s study. Jesus, the eternal Word, was the principal-agent of creation, and He could heal anyone of anything.

Healing a Nobleman’s Son
46 Therefore He came again to Cana of Galilee where He had made the water wine. And there was a royal official whose son was sick at Capernaum. 47 When he heard that Jesus had come out of Judea into Galilee, he went to Him and was imploring Him to come down and heal his son; for he was at the point of death. 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.” 49 The royal official said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.” 50 Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. 51 As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. 52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. 54 This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. (John 4:46-54)

Jesus was back in Cana of Galilee, where He had turned water into wine. News about Him had spread to Capernaum, the home of a “royal official“. Capernaum was an important fishing-center which was located on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee, and Cana was about twenty miles southwest, about halfway between the Sea of Galilee and the Mediterranean Sea. There is a ridge of mountains between them. Cana is also about ten miles due-north of Nazareth, where Jesus grew up. Was this “royal official” a Roman dignitary, a Gentile? We aren’t told, but we see the father’s faith that Jesus could and would heal his son, because he made the trek to Cana to see Jesus. His son was dying, so Jesus was his only hope.

Was Jesus trying to put him off by saying “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”, or was Jesus testing his sincerity? Either way, the father wasn’t taking “No” for an answer, because he said “Sir, come down before my child dies.

Jesus said to him, “Go; your son lives.” Jesus, once again, shows His divine authority by healing the man’s son from afar. We find another “spoken-word-healing” in Luke 7:1-10, when Jesus healed a centurion’s servant.

The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and started off. Notice that he DIDN’T say “Why aren’t you going with me?“. He believed, and headed back home.

As he was now going down, his slaves met him, saying that his son was living. Can you imagine the excitement when his slaves told him that his son was okay? Friends and family had hovered over him for agonizing hour after agonizing hour watching as his fever went ever-higher. They had tried everything they could think of, but nothing worked. He kept getting sicker and sicker, until he was on the brink of death. Then, in a moment in time, the fever broke and he was WELL. Had they been hoping and praying?

As a parent also, I can relate, because my son had a lot of problems when he was very young. Croup put him in the hospital for three days, and we took turns huddling over the croup-tent he was in, watching as a respiratory-therapist gave him breathing-treatments very four hours. We were very happy to take him back home to his sisters and HOME. Recurrent ear-infections also turned him from being a happy-go-lucky toddler into an inconsolable baby. I will never forget the day he got tubes put in his ears. He went into the hospital cranky and came out happy. We had our happy-go-lucky boy back.

52 So he inquired of them the hour when he began to get better. Then they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.” 53 So the father knew that it was at that hour in which Jesus said to him, “Your son lives”; and he himself believed and his whole household. Twenty miles is an easy drive for us, but it wasn’t an easy hike for him. He didn’t get close-enough to home for his slaves to meet him until the next day. Traveling alone at night was dangerous, so he had probably stopped somewhere for the night. He may have set out again at first-light. Jewish time-reckoning began at 6 am, so his son had been healed at about 1 pm, so it had been over twelve hours since the healing. Faith had turned into belief, and after the miraculous-healing, he and his whole household believed in Jesus.

This is again a second sign that Jesus performed when He had come out of Judea into Galilee. Signs and miracles validated Jesus’s message, but He didn’t do them as “magic-tricks” to impress people, rather He did what would meet the needs of people in the moment.

The Healing at Bethesda
5 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” 11 But he answered them, “He who made me well was the one who said to me, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk.’” 12 They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” (John 5:1-17)

As this scene opens, Jesus has returned to Jerusalem for one of the annual feasts. The last time we saw Jesus in Jerusalem was during Passover when He had cleansed the Temple. Jesus is going to rattle some more chains this time also by declaring that He was equal with God.

Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. The pools in Jerusalem were a place where Jews could perform their ceremonial-cleansing rituals, not places of recreation. The Romans had their public-baths which Jews may have used for ordinary bathing, but when they needed to get ceremonially-clean, they went to one of the pools. There was a list of things which caused a person to become “ceremonially-unclean” in the Old Testament, and if a person was “unclean“, they couldn’t participate in worship in the Tabernacle or Temple. As you may recall, the water that Jesus turned into wine in Cana was for “ceremonial-purification“.

In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. “Bethesda” means “House of mercy” or “House of kindness“, and God showed mercy on His people by sending an Angel to stir the waters. Healing was “first-come-first-served” which sets this scene up for Jesus to perform another miracle, and His next encounter with the Jewish leaders.

A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, “Do you wish to get well?” 7 The sick man answered Him, “Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me.” 8 Jesus said to him, “Get up, pick up your pallet and walk.” 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

We aren’t told how old this man was, but he had been lame for 38 years, and maybe since he was young. How long had he been coming to the pool hoping to get healed? How did he even get there? Jesus knew everything He needed to know about him, and took care of his problem in an instant. The man had been depending on others to help him get into the pool, but he hadn’t gotten there yet. Jesus didn’t ask him if he had the faith to be healed, rather He asked him if he WANTED to be healed. When Jesus said “Get up“, he was healed. Period. No questions asked. He got up, grabbed his pallet and walked.

My baby brother is a semi-quadriplegic as the result of a spinal-cord injury he suffered as the result of a motorcycle accident. Yes, he has recovered an amazing amount of movement in his hands, arms and legs, but he is by no means “well“. He is still wheelchair-bound and dependent on my sister for some of his needs. It would be marvelous if he was granted complete-healing, but God hasn’t seen fit to heal him completely.

Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet.” There was just one hitch – it was the Sabbath, and the Jewish leaders confronted him about carrying something on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders weren’t content with God’s Sabbath-commandment, so they had built a long list of “do’s” and “don’t’s“, mostly “don’t’s” which they loved to club people over the head with. They thought that they were doing God a “favor“, but in reality, they were making legalism more important than obeying God.

They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Pick up your pallet and walk’?” 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. Jesus had an uncanny knack for slipping through crowds and away from the scene of action, and the man was probably so shocked that he had been healed and was now walking that he didn’t immediately recognize Jesus.

Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you.” While it is true that some sins can bring physical-consequences, but Jesus wasn’t insinuating that the man was crippled because he was a “sinner“. Jesus just cautioned him against doing anything which might bring physical-consequences.

My dad had syphilis when he died, and you don’t get syphilis by drinking the water. There are numerous other examples of a person’s actions causing physical-consequences.

The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. Why did he go back to the Jewish leaders? Was he trying to shift the blame for getting caught carrying his pallet onto Jesus?

For this reason the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. The Jewish leaders started turning up the heat on Jesus, and that gave them even more reasons to hate Him.

But He answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working.” This is the clearest and most unmistakable claim to Deity that Jesus had made up to this point, and the Jewish leaders picked up on it immediately. They went ballistic!

We will pick this conversation up from here next week, when Jesus reaffirmed His claims.

In Christ,
Steve

The Biblical Model For Ministry

I have been thinking about how I can best serve my little flock at Cypress Cove, both now and in the future, because as a servant-leader, I am doing kingdom-work. Since my dad was a pastor for several years, I am quite familiar with the responsibilities of a pastor, which include preaching the Word, baptizing new Believers, and serving Communion. Does the Bible have anything to say that will shed light on my responsibilities and the authority to carry them out?

Fulfill the Great Commission…
18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)

15 And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. (Mark 16:15)

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” (John 20:21)

8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

The Great Commission is so important that God saw fit to have it included in all four Gospels and Acts. Extending His kingdom in this world is very important to God, and He has given us a way for that mission to be accomplished. There are four mandates in the Great Commission, go to all of the nations, make disciples, baptize them and teach them. Jesus Christ is the head of the church, and He is the commissioning and sending authority, and He promised to be by our side as we do His work in the world.

There is no exclusion-clause in “all of the nations“. There is also no evidence in the Bible that this Commission was only given to a “chosen-few“. No, it was given to ALL Believers. That includes ME, and that includes YOU.

The Great Commission is also found in Luke 24:44-49.

Disciple-making takes ministers…
13 “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” 14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ. (Romans 10:13-15, 17)

Radio, television and written-word ministries are wonderful, as far as they go, but they can’t replace a “boots-on-the-ground” minister who is serving God in a specific community.

Commissioned by a local church…
Now there were at Antioch, in the church that was there, prophets and teachers: Barnabas, and Simeon who was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen who had been brought up with Herod the Tetrarch, and Saul. 2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. (Acts 13:1-3)

After some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brethren in every city in which we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Barnabas wanted to take John, called Mark, along with them also. 38 But Paul kept insisting that they should not take him along who had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there occurred such a sharp disagreement that they separated from one another, and Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus. 40 But Paul chose Silas and left, being committed by the brethren to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he was traveling through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches. (Acts 15:36-41)

Here we see, in Acts 13, that Paul and Barnabas were commissioned and sent by a local church to do ministry. In Acts 15, Paul and Silas were commissioned by a local church for what became Paul’s 2nd missionary journey. Do you see a pattern here?

Why aren’t more churches sending more of their members out on missions? I read recently that the measure of a church’s success should be its “sending-capacity“, not its “seating-capacity“. Too many churches are filled with “pew-warmers” every Sunday who have forgotten that their “mission-field” is outside the doors of the church. We should be seeking opportunities for ministry where we live, where we work, and where we play.

We should also note that Jesus ministered in Sychar to “unclean” Samaritans (John 4:1-42), and also in a couple of Gentile cities (Mark 7:24-37). He later commissioned Paul, a Pharisee, to be the Apostle and missionary to the Gentiles (acts 9:1-19). Paul went to the far-reaches of the Roman world, and also he wrote the majority of what we call the New Testament.

Where are YOU sharing the love of Christ and helping to spread His kingdom? You have already been commissioned and you have all the authority you need to minister in His name.

In Christ,
Steve

What Would You Do?

Don has gotten to the core of ministry to those who are “different” than the majority of Christians. Thank you Don!

The Life Project

Not too long ago, I heard about a guy who was called to minister to members of the Hell’s Angels. This guy wanted to serve our Lord, he wanted to bring hope to those who need to hear about Jesus, he had asked God to send him wherever God needed him, and here was God’s answer…

The thing was, he didn’t even know how to ride a motorcycle…

Yet he had asked God to send him wherever God needed him, so he took riding lessons, bought a bike, grew his hair and beard out, got some tattoos, learned the lingo and headed off to the mission field. After two years or so, he had been accepted and had shared the love of Jesus with the people he met, several of whom had come to Christ as a result.  I doubt that I am alone in saying that I’m glad God…

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