Sunday, October 27, 2013

Hungry for Bread

Hungry for Bread
Oct 28, 2013
John 6:5   "When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, 'Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?'"

When Jesus was teaching and performing miracles it was hard to keep people away from Him.  People flocked to Him, surrounded Him, even hounded Him at times.  It was quite honoring most of the time, as people were beginning to realize what Jesus could do for them.  No only could He heal their diseases, but He could forgive their sins and give them hope.  His teaching proved sound; His wisdom made sense to them as it captured their hearts and minds.  Jesus was in a powerful position over their lives, changing their futures forever.  The people didn't quite understand all that was going on, but they understood Jesus was changing their lives.  For this very reason, they hungered after Him.

The people actually hungered after Him so much, that on several occasions they forsook caring for their own daily needs because they were desperate to have more of Him.  On two specific instances, Jesus ended up having to feed a host of five thousand and then a host of four thousand.  The Bible counted the men in both of these circumstances but scholars suggest if you totaled women and children, it was closer to sixteen and twenty thousand.  Despite the accuracy of population statistics, it was a lot.  It wasn't just a car full of unexpected house guests, it was thousands upon thousands of people.  The people were there because they hungered after Him, despite growing weary and hungry from sitting at this feet for days on end.

The people didn't think they would end up staying for days chewing on the morsels of His workings, that's why they didn't pack any food.  They came because they wanted HIM and they stayed.  This proves one of Jesus' statements He made later, when Jesus said to Satan that man did not live by bread alone but by the Word of the Lord.  Remember that Jesus was and is the Word of the Lord and the Bread of Life .  People need sustenance for their bodies, Yes, but people need sustenance for their souls!  You and I are this same way.  We need food to keep our mortal bodies going, but we need the Word of the Lord to keep our souls in eternity.  We need the Bread of Life, not bread alone, to sustain us.

But when was the last time your soul truly hungered after the Lord?  When was the last time you were so desperate for Him that you forgot to pack a lunch or make plans for dinner?  When was the last time you got in the car, drove to meet Him, forgetting to pack your bag and yet stayed for days?  Do you realize, like the crowds around Jesus, that He has the power to change your life, your future?  If you and I realized what these crowds knew about Jesus, we would forsake our daily bread at times and not leave His presence.  We would let go of certain things in order to have more time for Him, desperate for His power to change us.  Instead, we often have to pencil in a quiet time with the Lord and keep Him on a schedule.  Afterall, you wouldn't want too much of the Lord in your life.  When was the last time you flocked to Him, surrounded Him, hounded Him and then stayed for days?

I pray you and I get a hunger so deep inside for the Lord that we forget to eat lunch just one time.  If that happened, our lives would certainly be changed forever just like it did for those crowds.  And Jesus would have to remind you and take you to dinner.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matt 4:3-5, Matt 14:13-21, Matt 15:29-39, John 6:1-14

Sunday, October 20, 2013

A Little Donkey

A Little Donkey
October 21, 2013
Zechariah 9:9   "Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!  Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!  See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey."

During the time of Jesus, Rome was the occupying military presence.  Caesar was in charge and it was a common occurrence to see his military patrolling the streets.  Just having military personnel on hand in the cities helped deter rebellion against the government and ensured a degree of peace throughout the land.  Since the military was present, if a coup attempted to arise it was quite easy to put it at bay.  Many people assumed Jesus would be one of these coup attempts, since He was predicted to be the king of the Jews.  The government was prepared for this and many people were expecting it to happen, ready for battle to break out and a new king to assume the throne of government.  But you and I know that never happened the way many thought, as the Lordship of Jesus was and is over a different kind of kingdom.

In fact, many people assumed Jesus would, during their lifetime, ride through the streets on a horse, declaring His status as king and battle against the military troops in the city.  This is opposite of how it happened, though.  On His one and only triumphant ride through the city, Jesus sat on a little donkey without holding a sword for battle.  Scripture says that Jesus rode on a male foal of a donkey.  This means it was less than a year old, had never been ridden, and not fully strong enough to carry human weight.  I can just imagine, too, its gate being smaller than usually, seeing its feet take quick, cartoon-like steps just to keep at a slow pace.  It was actually an embarrassment to be seen riding this little hee-haw mule.  No king would show his face while riding on this joke of a steed.  A king usually rode the largest of horses, strong enough for battle, stately through the city streets.  Not Jesus, He rode a little donkey.  He was not a threat; He came in an unassuming manner, being mocked for His choice of chariot.

The reason Jesus rode such a teeny pack animal was critical to the Lord's plan.  The Lord never intended Jesus to wage a human war against the occupying Roman government.  Since He rode a donkey, without carrying a sword, the military were not incited to rival against Him.  It wasn't time yet.  It wasn't appropriate.  It wasn't part of the plan.  It didn't quite happen how everyone imagined or how everyone hoped it would turn out.  But this is OK, because quite often the Lord does things in a manner we seldom understand and we would seldom choose.  We like the exciting idea of a horse, a battle, and a new government.  It is a gallant romantic story, similar to the one we've imagined for our own lives.  But at some point, we begin to realize things will not turn out how we thought they might.  We are expecting a stately horse, but find it is really a little donkey, seemingly pathetic to the heroic story we've prepared for ourselves.

No, it is not how you envisioned it, but it is how the Lord designed it.  It is foolish to the world but perfect for His plan.  This was true in the plan for the life of Jesus and it is true in the plan for the life of you.  As you mature in life and mature in your Christian walk, you realize that the stately details you envisioned do not parallel how they are being revealed.  The sobriety of reality can be disappointing if you are still looking at the situation through your human eyes or human understanding.  While the daily details of your life may seem boring, they may be exactly how the Lord wants them displayed, using you perfectly how He planned.  Your little donkey may feel embarrassing at the moment, but the revelation in Heaven someday, of what really happened, will turn out an amazing romantic tale of perfection.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Zech 9:8-10, Matt 21:1-6, 1 Cor 1:18-31

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Promises Remembered

Promises Remembered
Oct 14, 2013
Exodus 2:24  "God heard their groaning and he remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac and with Jacob."

Have you ever had someone remind you of a promise you made years ago?  Maybe you spoke the promise rashly and didn't commit it to memory.  Maybe you never intended to hold tightly to the promise.  Maybe you intended to keep it but truly forgot about it.  Whatever the case, it never feels good to be reminded of a promise you have yet to fulfill.  If makes you feel like a failure.  It is good to be reminded of promises sometimes; it keeps us all accountable.  It is good to be reminded of promises such as wedding vows or your dedication to follow the Lord.  Being reminded brings the focus back onto what is important.  Thankfully, the Lord never needs reminded.  He is faithful to remember the vows and covenants; He is faithful to fulfill His promises.

When Noah was on the ark, floating above the earth, Scripture says that the Lord remembered Noah and so He receded the waters.  When the Children of Israel were crying out from being in slavery, Scripture says that the Lord remembered the covenant He made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; the Lord sent Moses to lead them to the Promised Land.  When the Children of Israel sinned, and failed to repent after many years, Scripture says the Lord remembered their wickedness and was forced to hand out the discipline He previously prescribed.  When the time was appropriate to bring the world a Savior, the Lord fulfilled His promise in sending His Son to die for the sins of mankind.  The Lord, regardless of time-frame, remembers His promises, He remembers His children, and He fulfills His covenants.

While this all might be well and good for the characters found throughout Scripture, it is easy to think the Lord's promises do not apply specifically to us today.  This could not be further from the truth.  The Lord will always remember His promises and is constantly fulfilling them.  He is keeping the promise to stop the suffering of the world as the end draws nearer and nearer.  In the meantime, He is still in the business of remembering the promises to you and me this very day.  He has promised to never forsake us.  He has promised to save us when we call on His name.  He has promised to appear to us when we seek Him wholeheartedly.  He has promised to be a husband and father to those without.  He has promised to bring physical and spiritual blessing to those who give obediently and generously.  He has promised to lead your life for His purposes and will bring your talents and skills to fruition in due time.  He has promised to pour out His spirit upon you when you live righteously.  He has promised to bring you to His side and wipe away all your sadness.  What the Lord has promised, He will fulfill.

You may feel like Noah, abandoned in the ark, floating above the waters, wondering if the Lord will remember to draw back the waters.  You may feel like the Children of Israel in slavery, wondering if the Lord will remember His covenant and bring you to the Promised Land.  You may feel like the Lord has not remembered that you might be without a husband or father.  But all those feelings couldn't be more void of reality.  The Lord has not forgotten you.  The Lord is remembering His promises to you this very day.  The Lord is keeping and fulfilling those promises He made to you.  If you feel He has forgotten, it is quite alright to remind Him through prayer.  He loves it when you remind Him of the promises; in doing so, it bolsters your own faith and proves to Him you've hidden His word in your heart.  And while there are promises found in Scripture that cover us all, He has given you specific promises as well.  Hold tight as He will fulfill those too.  Unlike us, He is always true to His word.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 8:1, Josh 1:13, 2 Chron 6:42, Neh 5:19, Ps 98:3, Jer 49:11, Hosea 9, Acts 10:31, Rom 8:28, Heb 13:5, Rev 16:19

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gather Stones

Gather Stones 
October 7, 2013 
Ecclesiastes 3:5  ". . . a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them . . ." 

The famous writer of the book of Ecclesiastes was often poetic in his sharing of wisdom.  He accomplishes his timeless points extremely well, though leaving the modern reader slightly pondering his exact case analogy.  One such poem we have affectionately entitled, A Time for Everything.  He writes that there is a time for everything under the sun, a season for things done by man.  He goes on to reference a list of those activities along with their complete and polar opposite.  The first of those being: a time to be born and a time to die.  This first one is very clear in its reference and consequential understanding with little interpretation needed.  When reading further, however, there is one analogy that leaves the modern reader hanging; it reads, "a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them."  I will propose several probable interpretations, all plausible through Scriptural support.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to rocks in a field.  You would certainly gather stones if you wanted to clear the field for growing an intended harvest.  Conversely, you would scatter stones in someone else's field if you wanted to thwart their ability to grow a crop.  Destroying a field was actually quite common after a battle to further hamstring an opponent from rebuilding his livelihood.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to building or construction.  There is certainly an appropriate time to erect a building and usually a time to tear down or re-purpose an old one.  The usage of stones in construction techniques was also mentioned many times in the Bible when discussing alters.  There were very integral times to build an alter to the Lord and tear down an alter that was built for pagan purposes.  Sometimes alters that were previously built to worship the Lord were used by others to offer sacrifices to pagan gods.  It was definitely required to tear down those alters.  Neither of these two instances is a probable interpretation, however, since the concept of building or tearing down are covered in verse three of the poem.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to punishing someone.  Stoning a person to death was the prescribed way of dealing with certain sins or crimes.  You would obviously need to gather stones if you intended to stone someone to death.  Scattering the stones would be akin to showing mercy, where mercy would be more productive than killing the person.  Remember that this is what Jesus did with the woman caught in adultery.  The interpretation of justice versus forgiveness, interesting as it is, would not probably be correct, since killing or restoring a person were also covered in verse three of the poem.

A time to gather stones or scatter them might refer to a simple but effective monument.  While this is not specifically a building or an act of construction, a pile of stones was often erected to commemorate an event.  If you wanted to seal a memory in a public manner, you would set it in stone by collecting a pile of rocks.  You would also destroy a memory, or wipe away someone else's commemorative event from history, by tearing down those stones and scattering them.

While all of these interpretations are plausible, I sincerely believe the author is talking about remembrance stones.  If you were to write the verse with this interpretation in mind, it might read, "a time to remember and a time to forget."  There are many things you and I should remember on a daily basis and there are many things you and I should simply forget; this is advice we seldom take.   This point is argued many times over in Scripture, as we are to remember all the things the Lord has done for others in the past and remember what He has done for us in recent history.  It is also good to forget.  Forget someone's transgressions toward you, just as the Lord has forgotten yours.  Thankfully the  Lord has put our sins far from His memory, as far as the east is from the west.  Though we have sin-filled, commemorative events in our lives, the Lord is able to scatter those stones of remembrance.

I encourage you to re-read this poem in its entirety, thinking of each line as it could apply to yourself.  We are often at one extreme or the other no matter what point the author was trying to convey to us, but we need to realize there is an appropriate time for both ends of the spectrum. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Gen 41:51, Deut 8, 1 Sam 7:12, Ps 103:12, Ecc 3:1-8, Is 43:15, John 8:2-4, Phil 3:13