Thursday, December 30, 2010

Human temples

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 2 Chronicles 6:1-21

TO CHEW ON: "But will God indeed dwell with men on earth? Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built!" 2 Chronicles 6:18

Picture the scene: all of Israel is gathered in Jerusalem for the dedication of a magnificent structure - the temple David began with an idea, plan, materials, and Solomon built.

On this day of the temple's dedication Solomon stands before the assembled crowd, probably in the temple's outer courtyard, blesses them, then ascends a bronze platform, kneels, raises his hands toward heaven and prays the eloquent prayer recorded in 2 Chronicles 6:12-42.

Within it he asks the question of our today's focus verse: "Will God indeed dwell with men on earth?"

He answers: "Behold heaven and the heaven of heavens cannot contain You. How much less this temple I have built!" Solomon has grasped God's bigness and the impossibility of only one location ever holding Him.

He's right, of course. No place on earth can contain God, as in become a boundary or edge past which He cannot go, or contain His sum-total so that He is no where else. But God will dwell with men on earth — will and does.

1. In Israel's case, God responded to Solomon's prayer by sending fire which consumed the prepared sacrifices and glory so awesome, the priests couldn't enter the temple to complete their duties. From that time forward, God's presence dwelt in the temple's Holy of Holies room, as it had the ark.

2. Centuries later God sent Jesus to dwell with us in human flesh.

3. Now, since the day of Pentecost  and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, God dwells in us:

"Do you not discern and understand that you [the whole church at Corinth] are God's temple (His sanctuary), and that God's Spirit has His permanent dwelling in you [to be at home in you, collectively as a church and also individually]?" 1 Corinthians 3:16 Amplified
"Or didn't you realize that your body is a sacred place, the place of the Holy Spirit? Don't you see that you can't live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body." 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Message

What a thought to take with us into the new year!

PRAYER: Dear God, please teach me what it means to be Your dwelling in practical day-to-day ways. May Your glory shine through my life in 2011 more than it ever has before. Amen.

MORE: The Holy Spirit in us — insights from Oswald Chambers' My Utmost for His Highest

"It is very easy to quench the Spirit; we do it by despising the chastening of the Lord, by fainting when we are rebuked by Him....Never quench the Spirit..." - August 14
"Never discard a conviction. If it is important enough for the Spirit of God to have brought it to your mind, it is that thing He is detecting." - September 24th
"Obey God in the thing He shows you, and instantly the next thing is opened up. One reads tomes on the work of the Holy Spirit, when one five minutes of drastic obedience would make things as clear as a sunbeam." - October 10th

"As soon as we do abandon, the Holy Ghost gives us an intimation of the joy of Jesus." - August 25

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The David method of dealing with disappointment

TODAY'S SPECIAL: 1 Chronicles 17:16-27

TO CHEW ON: "O Lord, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You, according to all that we have heard with our ears." 1 Chronicles 17:20

David's majestic prayer of 1 Chronicles 17 flows, surprisingly, out of disappointment. If we read the first part of 1 Chronicles 17, we discover that his prayer follows a "No" from God.

David, near the end of his reign, has the thought of building a temple for God to replace the portable tabernacle. He checks with prophet Nathan, who agrees it's a great idea.

But that very night, God comes to Nathan with an opposite message: "Go and tell my servant David, 'Thus says the Lord: "You shall not build Me a house to dwell in."'" 1 Chronicles 17:4

David's reaction to Nathan's message is an excellent example of how we should handle disappointment. It could serve as a template for us.

How David reacts to Nathan's visit:

1. He begins by quieting himself before God: "Then king David went in a sat before the Lord" (vs. 16).

What a great start for a post-disappointment session with God - sitting quietly before Him.

2. He gets himself in perspective: "Who am I O Lord God? And what is my house?" (vs. 16). It's a rhetorical question, to which we imagine the answer, "nobody," and "nothing." Instead of getting himself in a snit about God nixing his plans, David takes himself out of the centre of his world, and puts God there.

We need to do that too as a second step in dealing with disappointment.

3. He focuses on what is, not what isn't: "You have also spoken of your servant's house for a great while to come..." (vs 17).

God's message to David is far from all negative. It contains reminders of God's goodness to his family in the past and promises for the future.

As we sit before God, we can review former promises, experiences and triumphs. And He may impress on us new promises in Bible words, the lyrics of songs, or thoughts from sermons or books.

4. David next meditates on the greatness of God: "O Lord, there is none like You, nor is there any God besides You..." (s. 20).

No matter what situation we're in, we can never go wrong contemplating God — His attributes, His actions in history, His love extended to us in Jesus. (Want to get really excited about God? Get a good book that explains His greatness. I'll never forget how my eyes were opened to this many years ago through my Bible school systematic theology textbook, which explained grand terms like omnipotence, omniscience, immutability, redemption, adoption etc. and with multiple Bible references showed how God is and gives these things!)

5. He aligns himself with God's revealed will: "And now, O Lord, the word which You have spoken...let it be established forever, and do as You have said" (vs. 23).

No arguing, or trying to change God's mind for David. He accepts what God has said and adjusts his attitude to comply with it.

Do we do that as readily? Or do we bog down in thoughts of "if only...what if I tried...maybe if I do...I wish..."

6. Finally, David leaves God's presence full of of faith: "Now You have been pleased to bless the house of Your servant...and it shall be blessed forever" (vs. 27).

What a great way to come out of a session of hashing through a disappointment — with a confident faith in God for the future.

As we review 2010 and anticipate 2011, let's use the David method of dealing with past disappointments, then go into the future knowing that God's plans for us are good.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for this prayer of David's. May his spirit of worship, relinquishment, adjustment, and faith in Your will be evident in my life. Amen.

MORE: No and Yes

God's "no" to David was accompanied by a big "yes."

He said of David's "seed": "And I will establish him in My house and in My kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever." (1 Chronicles 17:14).

Of course in hindsight, we see the fulfillment of this promise in David's descendant Jesus and the Kingdom of God He represents and establishes.

I wonder how many of God's "no"s to us hold within them bigger "yes's than we ever imagine.

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Monday, December 27, 2010

A Jesus sighting

(Click on photo to enlarge)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 7:54-8:1a

TO CHEW ON: "But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God and said, 'Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!'" Acts 7:55-56.

Who would imagine that a wise, compassionate young man whose job it was to oversee the distribution of food to widows would become a martyr. Yet that was Stephen's fate. Today's reading is the story of his surprising death. It happens because of the gospel presentation he makes to the Jewish leaders (Acts 7:1-53). It is so stirring his listeners are "cut to the heart." But instead of letting conviction lead them to believe in Jesus, they resist any notion that He may have been who Stephen says He was.

If there was a shadow of doubt in Stephen's heart, it disappears as a result of what he sees next: "the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God."

Jesus had risen from the dead not long before the events of this story. For several weeks after His resurrection had had made random appearances to His disciples. Then one day "He was taken up and a cloud received him out of their sight" (Acts 1:9). Stephen's sighting of Jesus was evidence to the onlookers then — and us today — that Jesus lives on in heaven.

(Stephen sees Jesus standing at the right hand of God. Normally He is "sitting at the right hand of God." Why standing? A footnote in my Bible explains "Jesus who sits at the right hand of the Father [Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 1:3,13; 10:12] is standing here to witness against Stephen's accusers and to receive him into the heavenly kingdom - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1503.)

I love how these after-Christmas Bible readings focus us on the sequel to the incarnation. Yesterday we saw the possibility of new life because Jesus came. Today we catch a glimpse of His exaltation, which was:

  • and someday will be evident to the world:
"Therefore [because He stooped so low] God has highly exalted Him and has 
freely bestowed on Him the name that is above every name,
 That in (at) the name of Jesus every knee should (must) bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
    And every tongue [frankly and openly] confess and acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."
(Philippians 2:9-11 - Amplified).

Jesus is so much more than a cute baby in a manger. Has the truth of this sunk in? Do we live "all things have become new" lives that are worshipful, yet hopeful and optimistic because He is exalted? I ask myself, is He exalted in me?

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I worship You as the high and lifted-up One. May I acknowledge Your majesty and glory in my living today. Amen

MORE: "Hallelujah" by Ben Cantelon

(By the way, Ben Cantelon is our pastor's  son. When we started attending CLA 10+ years ago, he was just one of the band boys.)

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Sunday, December 26, 2010

In with the new!

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Acts 6:8-7:2a

TO CHEW ON: "For we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us." Acts 6:14

Less than 40 years have passed between today's story and the event we read about yesterday (Jesus' birth). It's a relatively short span of time, yet long enough to change the course of history. The council of priests here accused Stephen of the same thing they had accused the adult Jesus of — wanting to change the temple order of worship. And though the witnesses against Jesus misrepresented what He said, the coming of Christ did mean the end of the temple order of worship, the foundation of Judaism.

I can understand the resistance of these leaders when confronted with claims that were so earth-shaking. We naturally fear and resist change, especially when it shatters the lens through which we view life. And that's the kind of change Jesus brings:

"Therefore if anyone is in Christ he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold all things have become new" 2 Corinthians 5:17

What new things does Christ bring?

1. A new sensitivity (Ezekiel 36:26).
2. A new Master (1 Corinthians 8:6)
3. A new mind (Romans 12:1-2)
4. A new reason for living (Philippians 1:21).
5. A new guidebook (1 Peter 1:23).
6. A new interest (Colossians 3:1).
7. A new freedom (Romans 7:6).
8. New strength (Isaiah 40:31).
9. A new love (1 John 4:7).
10. A new song (Psalm 40:3).
11. A new destiny (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

Reviewing all these new things that Jesus brings gets me all excited again about the privilege of being His child.

Have you invited Him to bring this newness into your life? Such a decision won't be without its discomforts, as you deal with the old: mindsets, values, priorities and allegiances. But it's so worth it!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, again, thank You for coming to earth to bring change and make things new. Help me to embrace and incorporate all these new things into my life today. Amen.

MORE: "Mary Did You Know?" by Mark Lowry (with David Phelps & Guy Penrod)

Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Would one day walk on water?
Mary, did you know that your Baby Boy
Would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your Baby Boy
Has come to make you new;
This Child that you delivered
Will soon deliver you.

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Thursday, December 23, 2010

What's the name of your god?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Micah 4:1-5:1

TO CHEW ON: "For all people walk each in the name of his god, but we will walk in the name of the Lord our God forever and ever." Micah 4:5

Micah's thoughtful little statement in our focus verse is as true now as it was in 700 B.C. In our culture we don't worship idol statues, but we do each have a god and we demonstrate who it is  by our lives (or as Micah says it, "we will walk each in the name of his god").

Wealth, power, attention (how many followers we have on Facebook, Twitter, Blogger, etc.), praise, a gorgeous home, a well-toned body, career, recreation — all these and more can be gods (one of the definitions of god: any person or thing made the chief object of one's love, interest or aspiration").

A little overview of some Bible references to false gods helps us understand them, and the process and folly of worshiping them.

1. They are impotent (Jeremiah 10:5) and inferior to the God who can create (1 Chronicles 16:26).  Though they may appear attractive and powerful, someday their fate will be that of the Philistine god Dagon in the presence of the ark  — broken and in pieces on the floor (1 Samuel 5:4).

2. The work of one's own hands can be a false god (Isaiah 2:8). Though Isaiah was referring to worshiping idol statues that people had carved, we readily, and I think correctly, identify such worship with putting supreme value on ourselves and our own achievements (Secular Humanism), a prevalent value in our society today.

3. False worship may draw us into some strange activities (Ezekiel 21:21).

4. Who/what we worship is a choice we make. We make that choice by who or what we serve. We can't have two masters at once (Matthew 6:24). We choose to worship something or someone other than God when we ignore His commands (1 Kings 18:18). It is also possible to turn from God, back to the things we served before (Galatians 4:8-10).

5. Refusing to bow down to the gods of our culture may make us stand out and could even prove dangerous (Daniel 3:12-18).

6. But we can decide for God. Let's affirm, with Paul, "yet for us there is one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we for Him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom are all things, and through whom we live." (1 Corinthians 8:6).

Or, as Micah says it:

"We will walk in the name of the Lord our God."

PRAYER: Dear God, in this most busy season, when my mind is so easily taken up with all that needs to be done, help me not to make a false god out of anything, even the Christmas celebration.  Amen.

MORE: "Come Thou Long Expected Jesus" - Chris Tomlin version

...Born to reign in us forever,
Now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit,
Rule in all our hearts alone..."

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Joseph's dilemma

"The Anxiety of Saint Joseph" by James Tissot (1836-1902)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Matthew 1:18-25

TO CHEW ON: "Then Joseph her husband, being a just man and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly." Matthew 1:19

Joseph has always intrigued me. I think of him as thoughtful and deep, the strong, silent type. Here he was faced with the dilemma of his life: his beautiful fiancee was pregnant.

My Bible's study notes explain about Jewish betrothals:
"In Jewish law, betrothal involved a formal binding contract before witnesses but the betrothal abstained from sexual relations and the woman remained at her father's house until the actual wedding ceremony. The betrothed referenced each other as husband and wife (vs. 19,20), and the contract could be terminated only by death or a formal divorce decree" - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1290.

Did the culture allow private conversations between engaged young people? If it did, I can imagine Mary's explanation, probably tearful even though this was a holy, joyful thing that had happened to her. (Who wouldn't be emotional when the love of your life, the man who had your future in his hands, was looking at you with utter shock, disbelief and...revulsion?)

What to do? Joseph was considering putting her away secretly — divorcing her — the solution described in Deuteronomy 24:1. But just in time, "while he thought about these things" an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream to confirm Mary's claim that this baby was indeed what she had said and not the fruit of a sinful human. So Joseph married her and the rest of the story played out.

Have you noticed how God showing up just in the nick of time — not soon enough for our likes, but neither too late for the situation — is often how God works? He could have alerted Joseph to what was about to happen before any of it transpired, saving him the stress, worry and crisis. But He didn't. Why? I believe it was because God was developing Joseph's faith at the same time He was working out His plans for the earth in sending Jesus.

God's response to Joseph reminds me of some paragraphs I came across recently in my re-read of J. I. Packer's Knowing God. Packer, speaking of another Joseph and his reaction to his brothers in Genesis 45:4-8 says:

"Once again we are confronted with the wisdom of God ordering the events of a human life for a double purpose: the man's own personal sanctification and the fulfilling of his appointed ministry and service in the life of the people of God....

These things are written for our learning: for the same wisdom which ordered the paths which God's saints trod in Bible times orders the Christian's life today. We should not therefore be too taken aback when unexpected and upsetting and discouraging things happen to us now. What do they mean? Why, simply that God in His wisdom means to make something of us which we have not attained yet, and is dealing with us accordingly....

But how are we to meet these baffling and trying situations if we cannot for the moment see God's purpose in them? First by taking them as from God, and asking ourselves what reactions to them, and in them, the gospel of God requires of us; second by seeking God's face specifically about them" J. I. Packer, Knowing God, pages 103-105, 1975 edition (emphasis mine).

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to go to You when life is puzzling and full of questions. Then help me to, in faith, obey what you reveal, as Joseph did. Amen.

MORE: "Joseph's Song" by Michael Card

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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Administrator Titus

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Titus 1:1-16

TO CHEW ON: "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you should set in order the things that are lacking, and appoint elders in every city as I appointed you." Titus 1:5

The book of Titus is a letter from Paul to the young Greek Christian Titus. He had traveled with Paul to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-3) and had represented him to the church in Corinth during Paul's third missionary journey (2 Corinthians 7:6,7).

Though Luke doesn't tell us the story of Paul's church plant in Crete, Titus 1:5 implies that Paul had been there with Titus and left him behind to oversee the churches. He was, among other things, an administrator.

Chances are that when we read about spiritual gifts (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4), administration isn't the one that grabs our attention. We're much more likely to focus on evangelism, preaching, teaching, service, giving, or helps. However, gifts of administrations  (kubernesis -  #2941: governing; government) is on the list (1 Corinthians 12:28). Leading committees, planning the setup and cleanup of an event, organizing the food, advertising, ticket sales, and enlisting the ushers can be a Holy Spirit-inspired and -driven ability.

Some gifted Bible administrators were Joseph, Daniel and Nehemiah.
  • Joseph found himself in charge wherever he was, from Potiphar's estate, to prison, to all of Egypt. 
  • Daniel was part of the administrative bureaucracy of Babylon, selected and trained as a youth because of his wisdom, knowledge, and physical good looks. 
  • Nehemiah went from being a cup-bearer for King Artaxerxes to overseeing the Jerusalem wall rebuild.

In the New Testament Paul entrusts both Timothy and Titus with administration in first century churches that grappled with challenging and difficult issues. In Titus's case, he and Paul embarked on a mission to Crete probably around A.D. 63-65. When Paul left Crete to care for other churches, he left Titus in charge to organize the young churches. His first job was to appoint bishops or leaders. Much of the book of Titus is instruction about church organization and how to select good leaders.

Do you know who the administrator is in your church? If things are going smoothly you probably haven't given it much thought. Because administration done well leads to a church's seamless and smooth operation. It's when things aren't organized that we notice.

Two challenges:
1. Let's pray more for the administration of our church and their chief administrator(s) which may or may not be the senior pastor.

2. If administration is lacking in our assemblies and it's bothering us, we could do more than criticize and complain. We could consider getting involved.

PRAYER: Dear God thank You for the variety of gifts in the church, including administration. I pray for the administrator of my church. Please show me what my part is to help the church run smoothly. Amen

MORE: Why spiritual gifts?

In the article "The Gifts of the Spirit," Dr. Kenneth Boa gives three reasons for Christians to discover and develop their spiritual gifts (of which administration is one):

A. You Will Be Satisfied

Knowing and using your gifts will give you an understanding of the unique and indispensable ministry you have been called to accomplish in the body of Christ. You will discover a significant part of your purpose for being on this planet and realize that God has made you competent to produce something that will last for eternity. You will have a sense of fulfillment and joy in the service of others as you become an available instrument through which the Holy Spirit can work.

In addition, knowledge of your spiritual gifts will greatly assist you in discerning and affirming the will of God at various points in your life. God will not call you to accomplish anything without giving you the power and enablement to do it. You will be able to make more intelligent decisions about possible involvement in specific opportunities and training in light of your God-given function in the body (Rom. 12:4). You will also use your time more effectively by focusing on the things you have been equipped to do well rather than expending your energy in areas of minimum potential.

B. Others Will Be Edified

Knowing and using your gifts will lead to the edification of other members of the body of Christ. As you exercise your spiritual gifts, you will play a substantial role in building up other Christians and leading them into maturity (Eph. 4:12-16). If you fail to develop your gifts or let them decline through disuse, your brothers and sisters in Christ will actually be hurt because they will be deprived of the unique ministry that only you could perform in their lives.

C. God Will Be Glorified

According to 1 Peter 4:10-11, your spiritual gifts are ultimately designed to bring glory to God. This is your highest calling, and it relates to all three Persons of the Godhead. As you use your spiritual gifts in conjunction with the power and fruit (especially love) of the Holy Spirit and in the name and Lordship of Jesus Christ, the Father receives the glory. 

Read entire...

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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Are You the One?

"John sends disciples to Jesus"
by Eduard Karl Franz von Gebhardt

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 7:18-35

TO CHEW ON: "And John, calling two of his disciples to him sent them to Jesus saying, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?'...And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight." Luke 7:19-21

Sometimes when you're in the middle of circumstances, you lose perspective. That seems to have been the case with John the Baptist. This bold, preacher was now in prison (arrested for confronting Herod about his immoral lifestyle -  Matthew 14:3-5). He had gone all out for Jesus, convinced that He was indeed the fulfillment of prophecies like Isaiah 35 that we read yesterday.

Perhaps like Jesus' disciples, John expected him to demonstrate His Messiahship in a human ruler way. Perhaps his time in prison, with Jesus not openly standing up for him or using His power to get him released was giving rise to the questions: "Is Jesus really who I thought was. Or did I sacrifice my life for an imposter?"

Read today's passage closely. Do you notice how verse 21 functions almost like editorial comment? It's as if Luke himself is trying to underline the connection between Jesus and fulfilled prophecy when he says: "And that very hour He cured many of infirmities, afflictions and evil spirits; and to many blind He gave sight."

Of course Jesus' own answer confirms the connection:

"Go and tell John the things you have seen and heard: that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, the poor have the gospel preached to them: 7:22.

Compare to Isaiah 35: 5-6:

"Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb sing."

We are not so different from John. It's easy to think that we have God's plan all figured out as we watch circumstances dovetail with how we imagine God will answer our prayers. A wealthy couple starts attending our cash-strapped church. Our limping business catches the attention of an influential person. Our wayward child gets a Christian friend. Ah, we say, this is how God will work. But when things don't go according to our plan, do we, like John, get disheartened and start to doubt?

With Jesus' reply to him ringing in our ears: "Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me" let's keep our faith strong. For just as God's plan was bigger than the political saviour expectations of John and the disciples, so God's ways in our lives are bound to exceed the puny, imagination-limited results we envision.

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for Your destiny-altering plan of salvation. Thank You for including short-sighted, weak-faithed people like me in it. Help me to do my part, even when I don't understand why I'm in the place I am in, or what purpose my life is playing. Amen.

MORE: A verse to ponder (even memorize)

   “For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
      Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD.
       “ For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
      So are My ways higher than your ways,
        And My thoughts than your thoughts." - Isaiah 55:8,9

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Friday, December 10, 2010

Divine healing

 TODAY'S SPECIAL: James 5:1-20

TO CHEW ON: "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven." James 5:14-15

Chances are you know someone who is sick. Perhaps you are sick yourself. Problems, issues, pains, and malfunctions of the human body are everywhere.

When we are sick, we desperately want healing. When our loved ones are sick, the pursuit of their health turns our lives upside down as well. So it's not surprising that our chosen verse today is one of the most well-known and often quoted sections of James.

In it the author suggests a way for Christians to confront sickness. Let's look at these verses closely to gain insight on how to deal with sickness in our own lives and the lives of those we love.

1. "Is anyone among you sick? Let him call ..." (vs. 14).
Here we see that the sick person takes the initiative to call for prayer. When you think of it, this makes sense. Remember the last time you were in the middle of an illness and faith for even the next breath was hard to muster. Summoning someone to pray whose faith is not hampered by physical illness and weakness is a good place to start.

2. "Let him call for the elders of the church..." (vs. 14).
Elders are officers of the church. The qualifications of such officers (1 Timothy 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9) ensure that they are men and women of personal integrity and character, full of discernment and (though not specifically named) people of faith and prayer.

3. "...let them pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord" (vs. 14).
The oil isn't medicine or magical. Rather it is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. It can symbolize the consecration of the sick person and, as my Bible's footnote expresses it: "the joyous presence of the Holy Spirit, in this case to bring healing in response to the obedience and faith of the elders" (New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1757).

4. And the prayer of faith..." (vs. 15).
We think of the gift of faith Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 12:9. Here that faith is for the healing of the sick person prayed for.

5. "...will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven" (vs. 15).
According to the study notes in my Bible, when James says "save the sick" and "he will be forgiven" he doesn't mean that the prayers save the sick person from sin. Rather, "save" here refers to physical restoration and the "sins ... forgiven" refer to sins that may have contributed to the illness. Although not all sickness is caused by sin, sometimes there is a connection (Mark 2:5-11; 1 Corinthians 11:27-30).

6. ...and the Lord will raise him up..."(vs. 15).
"James stresses God's healing power through prayer that accompanies the anointing" (NSFLB - p. 1757). In the final analysis, healing comes, not from the oil, or the floweriness of our prayers, or even the robustness of our faith, but from God.

It's hard to understand why God steps in with supernatural healing at some times and not at others. We will never have the answer to such questions on this side of heaven. But we do know that God has, through Bible writers, told us to bring our requests to heal sickness to Him. Let's do that, and then continue to depend on Him to work all things together for good in the realm of physical wellness as in other areas of life.

PRAYER: Dear God, I know that the power to restore health is in Your hands. Please keep faith for my ill loved ones alive in me as I continue to pray for them. Amen.

MORE: Smith Wigglesworth on this passage:
"We have in this precious Word a real basis for the truth of healing. In these verses God gives very definite instructions to the sick. If you are sick, your part is to call for the elders of the church; it is their part to anoint and pray for you in faith. Then the whole situation rests with the Lord..."
- Smith Wigglesworth, from Smith Wigglesworth Devotional,  p. 130.

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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Let God be your promoter

TODAY'S SPECIAL: James 4:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up." James 4:10

In his book Make Love, Make War: Now is the Time to Worship Brian Doerksen tells the story of how he came to write "Father, I want You to Hold Me." The moment the song was conceived was one of special connection to his baby daughter.

"The first of our six children, Rachel, arrived on August 8, 1988 (8/8/88!). I was both delighted and scared to death. There was a moment that I shared with Rachel on the west coast of Vancouver Island that changed everything for me. She looked up at me with those big brown eyes and held her arms out, and without words she said, 'Daddy...I want you to hold me.' This is what I always wanted to say to my earthly father...and ultimately to my heavenly father: Father, I Want You to hold me'" (p. 73).

He went on to write "Father I Want You to Hold Me." He called it "my secret song to God" (p. 74).

It was sometime later that Andy Park, the worship leader of the church he attended, asked him to share an appropriate song after someone had talked about the Father-heart of God. Brian says of that moment, "I sensed it was time for my secret song to become public (at last with those twenty people), and so I shared it" (p. 74).

A few months after that, this time at a John Wimber and Vineyard Ministries Conference, Andy asked him to play that specific song again. John Wimber came up to Brian after the meeting and asked, "Can we publish this song?" Later that year, Wimber did just that — published Brian's "private song." It was his first song to be published.

What I love about this story is how it illustrates today's verse about God lifting us up.

The concept of waiting for God to promote us gets little traction amongst even Christians in our competitive culture. Within the world of writing and publishing words, with which I am most familiar, it's all about getting seen and being active on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-in, the blogs). It's about creating buzz around your name, your product, your brand, about gathering followers,  and building a platform. Where is God in all this promotion, I sometimes wonder. Brian's story is a refreshing reminder that He can and does have a marketing plan for the things that honour Him. He is very able to lift us up if that's where we belong.

As Brian Doerksen says in his "Songwriting Tips" at the end of this chapter:

"Let God bring you forward. Don't promote yourself and your own songs. This is a really challenging area. You could move through seasons when it is time to be bold and share what God has given you. But don't start there. Start in a place of hiddenness and service. God knows what you have written, and He is fully able to call it forward at the right time and in the right place." p. 83.

PRAYER: Dear God, You know my own struggles in this area. Today again I commit to You the things I write. Help me to never lose sight of the fact that my first and main goal is to honour and bless You — my Audience of One — with and in all I do. Amen.

MORE: "Father I Want You to Hold Me" by Brian Doerksen

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Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Godly wisdom vs. the other kind

TODAY'S SPECIAL:  James 3:1-18

TO CHEW ON: "But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy." James 3:17

For anyone pursuing godly wisdom, James 3 is a little goldmine.

This passage, with its lists of words begs for a word study. Rather than look at the modern definition of the words used by translators, we're going to look at what the Greek words used in the original text mean — for they are eloquent.

First, James tells us what godly wisdom isn't (vs. 14-16).

Godly wisdom isn't:

Jealous* (#2205 - zelos):  an envious, contentious rivalry.

Characterized by selfish ambition (#2052 - eritheia): electioneering or intriguing for office; a desire to put oneself forward, a partisan fractious spirit.

Earthly (#1919 epigeios): existing upon earth, earthly, terrestrial.

Sensual (#5591 - psuchikos): of or belonging to breath; the principle of animal life which men have in common with the brutes;  the sensuous nature with its subjection to appetites and passions.

Demonic (#1141 daimoniodes): resembling or proceeding from an evil spirit, demon-like.

Godly wisdom is:

Pure (#53 - hagnos): exciting reverence, venerable, sacred, pure from every fault, immaculate, clean.

Peaceable (#1515 - eirene): harmony, concord, peace between individuals, security, safety, prosperity (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous).

Gentle (#1933 - epieikes): equitable, fair, mild.

Reasonable (#2138 - eupeithes): easily obeying, compliant.

Full of mercy (#1656 - eleos): kindness or goodwill towards the miserable or the afflicted, joined with a desire to help them.

Full of...good fruits (#2590 - karpos): 1) fruit of a tree or one's progeny— descendants; 2) that which originates or comes from something, an effect, result, work, act or deed.

Unwavering (#87 - adiakritos): without dubiousness, ambiguity, uncertainty. The NKJV translates this "without partiality" - which was the topic of our meditation yesterday.

 Without hypocrisy (#505 - anupokritos): unfeigned, undisguised, sincere.

Oh my - what convicting lists! Do you find yourself in any of the words that describe what godly wisdom isn't? Sadly, I do.

Let's set our hearts on seeking after and fleshing out in our lives true godly wisdom.

*I use words from the NASB translation, because that's the translation of my concordance which has the Strong's Concordance numbers.

Dear God, I so easily pursue the methods of earthly wisdom. By Your Spirit, please point out places where I do that, then help me grow the attitudes and actions of godly wisdom in my life. Amen.

MORE: Astute wisdom or the supernatural equipment of God?

"When looking back on the lives of men and women of God the tendency is to say — what wonderfully astute wisdom they had! How perfectly they understood all God wanted! The astute mind behind is the Mind of God, not human wisdom at all. We give credit to human wisdom when we should give credit to the Divine guidance of God through childlike people who were foolish enough to trust God's wisdom and the supernatural equipment of God." Oswald Chambers - My Utmost for His Highest  October 26 reading.

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Tuesday, December 07, 2010


TODAY'S SPECIAL: James 2:1-26

TO CHEW ON: "Have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?" James 2:4

I can't help but think, as I read the first part of James, how partiality-based is the culture in which I live.  On my local TV lineup is an hour-long daily news show devoted to examining the mundane minutiae of the lives of entertainment and sports personalities. It is these people who set the social and fashion trends so that years ago we all got Farah Fawcett and Beatles haircuts, while now little girls swoon for Justin Bieber, dress like Lady Gaga, and mimic Taylor Swift. And we're all encouraged to get our coffee at Tim Horton's because Sidney Crosby does. We give these people our acceptance and adulation because of their appearance, wealth, and how well they entertain us.

I understand partiality very well, for I struggled with it as a youngster. If a person who acted odd or dressed funny came to school or church, I sure wasn't the one to befriend her. I see now that my cold unfriendliness was based on insecurity and lack of self-confidence. They were related to the fear of being identified with or appearing to be the same kind of person as the outcast was (the flip side of befriending a popular person to gain acceptance by association). Pride and covetousness (especially when there is the hope that by fawning over the popular person, he or she will include us in his generosity) are two more roots of partiality.

James gives an easy-to-understand example of partiality in verses 2-4, describing how, when his readers meet together, they give special treatment to the people who look rich while ignoring the ones who look poor. He points out how nonsensical this way of acting is in the natural because the people to whom they are showing special favour are the ones who are oppressing them.

The clincher in his argument against partiality, though, is that it's not God-like. James calls these biased Christians "judges with evil thoughts" because they are judging by the world's standards, not God's. Showing special favour on the basis of appearance, wealth, popularity, performance, and status is not at all consistent with the upside-down Kingdom of God way of evaluating. James describes that in verse 5: "Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?"

I can't help but think of Jesus' own standards of Kingdom greatness:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit...those who mourn...the meek...those who hunger and thirst after righteousness...the merciful...the pure in heart...the peacemakers...the persecuted...the reviled and falsely accused..." (Matthew 5:1-12).

There's not one mention in Jesus' list of physical appearance, worldly wealth, or influence mattering to God accepting us. That's the standard we need to use when we respond to others.

PRAYER: Dear God, I so easily show partiality. Help me to understand the source of this shallow way of responding to people, and to adopt Your way of looking past outward appearances to the inner person. Amen.

MORE: Seven Reasons Why We Should Not Show Partiality:

1. Partiality contradicts faith in Jesus Christ as the Lord of glory (vs.1)

2. Partiality reveals a judging heart and behind it evil thinking (vs. 2-4).

3. Partiality to the rich contradicts God's heart, because he has chosen many of the poor for himself (vs. 5).

4. Partiality dishonors people created in the image of God (vs. 6a).

5. Partiality to the rich backfires and becomes your downfall (vs. 6b,7).

6. Partiality makes you a transgressor of the law of liberty (vs. 9-11).

7. Partiality is not mercy. But if you don't show mercy, you will perish (vs. 13).
From "The Peril of Partiality" By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:

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Sunday, December 05, 2010


TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 40:18-31

TO CHEW ON: "But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles;
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint." Isaiah 40:31

If there's anything we moderns find hard to do, it's wait. Computers have made waiting — for some things at least — almost obsolete. Want to read a book? Buy it online and if you have an e-reader you can be reading it in minutes. Call or text your friends any time and from anywhere on your cell phone. Access your bank online 24/7.

The way we're accustomed to expect instant action on getting our desires satisfied may make Isaiah's advice to wait on the Lord harder to follow than ever. But it is something we need to do, no matter how jumpy and impatient technology has conditioned us to become. For God has His own agenda, and is on His own timetable — something we ignore at our peril (see More below).

Isaiah has been talking about that agenda for Israel in Isaiah 40. He has predicted the coming of Messiah, and reminded the people of how big and all-powerful God is when compared with earth's nations. Here at the chapter's end, he calls the people back to trust in Him, concluding with verse 31 about how waiting on God renews strength and gives energy for the long haul.

Waiting in that way is something we still need to do as we face life's evils, injustices and unresolved issues. The Bible tells us to wait on, or for, or in God because:

  • Waiting for Him and His timing is the way we achieve our destiny (Psalm 37:9, 34).

A footnote in my Bible referring to Isaiah 40:27-31 says:

"A proper understanding of God's dealings in life comes only by knowing His perspective and ways. This calls for great patience (v. 31). Wait on the Lord means to go about the routines of life with a fervent, patient hope that He will consummate His rule in His time; He will deal with evil. Such an inner attitude gives one strength to mount up above the moment with vigor to go on. See Romans 8:18-30." - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 919.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to resist the urge to act impatiently and take matters into my own hands. Instead help me to wait on, for, and in You to bring resolution to issues I face. Amen.

MORE: The tragedy of impatience

King Saul is someone who refused to wait. Read the tragic results of his impatience in 1 Samuel 13:1-14.

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Saturday, December 04, 2010

Jesus - Shepherd

"The Lamb" by Stephen Sawyer
Used with permission

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Isaiah 40:1-17

TO CHEW ON: "He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the lambs with His arm,
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young." Isaiah 40:11

The picture of Jesus as our shepherd is, of all the ways He is depicted throughout the Bible, perhaps the most comforting. From Psalms to Revelation, this metaphor keeps recurring. It shows us that Jesus is:
  • Providing
"THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack.He makes me lie down in [fresh, tender] green pastures; He leads me beside the still and restful waters" (Amplified - Psalm 23:1-2)
  • Tender
"He will feed his flock like a shepherd.
      He will carry the lambs in his arms,
   holding them close to his heart.
      He will gently lead the mother sheep with their young"  (New Living Translation - Isaiah 40:11).
  • Sacrificial
"I am the Good Shepherd. The Good Shepherd puts the sheep before himself, sacrifices himself if necessary" (Message - all John 10, especially verse 11)
  • Risen
" Now may the God of peace—
      who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus,
   the great Shepherd of the sheep,
      and ratified an eternal covenant with his blood—
 may he equip you with all you need
      for doing his will" (New Living Translation - Hebrews 13:20-21).
  • Seeking
"God, the Master, says: 'From now on, I myself am the shepherd. I'm going looking for them. As shepherds go after their flocks when they get scattered, I'm going after my sheep. I'll rescue them from all the places they've been scattered to in the storms'" (Message - Ezekiel 34:11).
  • Welcoming the wanderers
"You were lost sheep with no idea who you were or where you were going. Now you're named and kept for good by the Shepherd of your souls" (Message - 1 Peter 2:25).
  • Crowning the faithful
"And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the conqueror's crown of glory"  (Amplified - 1 Peter 5:4).
  • Shepherding us in eternity
"For the Lamb at the center of the throne
   will be their shepherd;
‘he will lead them to springs of living water.’
   ‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes’” (NIV - Revelation 7:17).

So, if you are in need, He promises to provide. If you are hurting, He will be tender with you. If you have loved ones who have never found Him, or have wandered away, He is seeking them and will welcome them back. If you are weary, He awaits in eternity with your crown, a hug and a Kleenex for your tears.

How do you need Him to be your shepherd today?

PRAYER: Thank You for this wonderful picture of Your care for me as my Shepherd. Help me to be a responsive, obedient sheep today. Amen.

MORE: Handel's Messiah

I can't read this chapter of Isaiah without hearing the great strains of many of the songs from Handel's Messiah:

"Comfort Ye My People"

"Every Valley"

"And the Glory"

"He Shall Feed His Flock"

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Will we have blood on our hands?

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ezekiel 3:16-27

TO CHEW ON: (The words of God to Ezekiel...) "'When I say to the wicked, "you shall surely die," and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way to save his life, that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.'" Ezekiel 3:18

Ezekiel knew exactly what God was talking about when He said, at the beginning of this encounter, "I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel" (3:17).

Watchtowers, staffed with watchmen, were used in two places. Farmers built them near paddocks and vineyards to be on the lookout for predatory animals and thieves. Watchtowers were also built into city walls. From them watchmen surveyed the surroundings. It was their job to warn the king of any danger in the form of suspicious people, armies, or natural disasters approaching the wall.

But Ezekiel's job was not to be a watchman for a farm or city in Judah or Israel. For this priest of the Zadok family was in exile in Babylon. God was giving him the job of warning the people, his countrymen and fellow exiles, that they were in danger of God's punishment because of their wickedness and backsliding — in plain words, their sin.

I never read this passage without feeling a shiver. For in all the intervening years between saying this to Ezekiel till now, God's stance toward sin hasn't changed. And His way of warning people about their precarious state is still through watchmen and watchwomen. That's you and me.

It doesn't matter that the endangered ones around us don't even acknowledge that God exists, or believe in an objective standard of right and wrong, or sin, or personal culpability. Though it is hard to find the words to warn our neighbours and friends that God will someday judge sin and the people who commit it, God's words to Ezekiel if he doesn't caution them echo down to us: "...his blood I will require at your hand."

PRAYER: Dear God, I want to be a faithful watchman. Please help me think of creative ways to communicate to my generation the reality of their danger. Amen.

MORE: Warning words template

In a 1998 sermon titled "The Final Divide: Eternal Life or Eternal Wrath, Part 1" John Piper gave a passionate plea to all age groups to pay attention to their eternal fate. Perhaps his words could be a template of how we might address our families, friends and neighbours:

"So, whatever else you see here (the text was Romans 2:6-10), please don't miss this. What could be more important or more relevant or more urgent or more immense or more captivating than your happiness or misery for all eternity?

Children, this is very important for you. Someday you are going to die. I hope it will be when you are very old and full of years. But you might be six or sixteen when you die. And when you die, you will either enter eternal life with God or go away under his eternal anger and misery forever. You don't have to be afraid about this. God has given his Son, Jesus, to die for sinners so that everyone who trusts in him will not go to hell, but have eternal life (John 3:16). But you do need to care about this. So listen carefully today and ask your daddy or mommy to help you be sure that you will go to heaven and not to hell.

And teenagers, be wise and set your minds to think about what really matters in this world. Don't be foolish and give your best energies to things that last a moment and then are gone. Don't think that you will live a long time and deal with heaven and hell when you are old. Every day the news carries stories about teenagers dying suddenly. And if you put it off, what you may find is that your heart is so infused with the mindset of this world that you are no longer able to feel a serious spiritual affection. O how many times I heard my father say the ominous words of Ecclesiastes 12:1, "Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come, and the years draw nigh, when you will say, 'I have no pleasure in them.'" Few things are more to be feared than a godless, miserable old age unable to delight in heaven or fear hell. Do not presume that you will get serious about eternity when you are old. Do it now.

And all you married couples and single people in the prime of your life, beware of being swept into the all-consuming demands of your careers only to find yourselves gasping for some fun and entertainment on the weekend, finding your relief from worldly work in worldly fun. And waking - perhaps - someday to realize you have no taste for things of God. You have become a connoisseur of restaurants, and videos, and movies, and sports, and stocks, and computers, and a hundred transient things. And all the while, your sense of heaven and of hell has died. Wake up before it is too late. And tremble at these things today. And set your minds to think about the biggest issues in the universe: eternal life or wrath.

And all you older saints (or maybe some who are not saved), don't hide from this fast-approaching, all-important question of where, in just a few short years or months, your soul will be. O may God give you grace to think of it and know that you are ready, with the righteousness of Christ, to enter into life and not to fall into the hands of omnipotent wrath.
Read entire...
By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website:
Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Healed on the way

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 17:11-37

TO CHEW ON: "So when He saw them, He said to them, 'Go, show yourselves to the priests.' And so it was that as they went they were cleansed." Luke 17:14

I love how Jesus healed in so many ways. He was never predictable. He never healed according to a formula.

  • He healed the centurion's servant and the Syro-Phoenecian woman's daughter from a distance (Matthew 8:13; Mark 7:25-30).
  • He took Peter's mother by the hand, and lifted her up (Mark 1:31).
  • He commanded the paralytic to get up from his stretcher and take his bed home with him (Matthew 9:6).
  • A woman with a private bleeding problem was healed as she touched Jesus' clothes (Matthew 9:20-22).
  • He told a man with a shrivelled hand to stretch it out and when he did, it was healed (Matthew 12:13).
  • He diagnosed and tackled the root of one person's problem (demon possession) and in the process healed him from being dumb and blind (Matthew 12:22).
  • For the deaf man with a speech impediment, Jesus put His fingers in the man's ears, spit and touched the man's tongue, looked up to heaven, "...sighed and said...'Be opened.'" Then the man could hear and speak plainly (Mark 7:32-35).
  • And in our story today, He healed ten lepers "as they went."

I could go on, but I'm sure you get the picture. It's as if Jesus was discouraging people from putting faith in a method. Rather, they were to put faith in Him.

Besides illustrating another mode of healing, this incident gives us other insights into divine healing:

1. Miraculous healings can be progressive.
As a sidebar article in my Bible explains: "...not all healing is at the moment of prayer. Instant healings are often expected whereas this illustrates the healing 'in process' over a period of time following prayer" - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1422.

2. Visiting the doctor doesn't mean we doubt what God has done.
Jesus told these lepers to show themselves to the priests, whose job it was to declare them clean (Leviticus 13:1-59). The priests were the doctors in that culture. Jesus here supports getting outside confirmation of a miraculous healing.

3. Giving credit to God and thanking Him should be our response.
Isn't it interesting that the one leper to return to thank Jesus was a foreigner. My Bible's footnote about this detail says, "Perhaps the others, who were Jews, felt that healing was their due, since they were of the chosen race" - NHSLB, p. 1422. But we know there are no entitlements because of race or lineage in God's kingdom, and no grounds to take any of God's grace gifts (like healing) for granted.

Does someone in your life need healing today? Maybe it's you. Be encouraged if you have prayed but your healing hasn't yet happened. You may still be healed as you continue on your way.

PRAYER: Dear God, I grapple with the fact that there are dear ones for whom I pray, and they are not healed. I have pledged that as long as there is breath, I will pray on. I know You can heal them in earth-time if that is Your plan. If not, I know they will be whole in eternity. Amen.

MORE: The story depicted in art

One of my favourite Bible illustrators is James Tissot (French 1836-1902). Here is his painting inspired by this story.

The Healing of Ten Lepers - by James Tissot

The Brooklyn Museum houses many of Tissot's works. From October 2009 to January 2010 they ran an exhibition of his paintings on the Life of Christ. View a sampling here.

Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


 Foccacia Bread - recipe below

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 6:14-35

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst.'" John 6:35

Bread - how many ways can we say it: buns, rolls, biscuits, foccacia, matzoh, challah, zwieback... Chances are whatever your culture, bread has been part of it.

I grew up in a large family. Mom had her hands full keeping eleven mouths fed. But she always felt easier about the meal when she had plenty of bread on hand. Because if other things ran out, we could always fill up on bread. Along with millions of others on earth, bread was our 'staff of life.'

Thus when Jesus calls Himself the "bread of life" we know He is making big claims. Let's go through John 6 (today's passage and a bit more) to see what we can learn about Jesus as bread.

At the beginning of our reading, we see a wowed crowd. Jesus has just fed 5000 people natural bread, supernaturally multiplied. He has met one of the most basic human needs with bread. We see that He understands and can supply bread for physical hunger

But when He senses that His miracle is prompting them to want to crown Him king (of a kingdom of everlasting loaves), He leaves. He has not done that miracle to get leverage for political power. Rather it is a set-up to make them aware of a different kind of hunger and how He can satisfy it.

On the next day, when they find Him, He explains this to them (vs. 26-27).

They start guessing about what He means: "Manna, right? Your bread to us is like the manna Moses gave our forefathers in the desert."

"Wrong," says Jesus. "The bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world...I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (vs. 33, 35).

Later in the chapter He expands even more on what ingesting Him as living bread means as He refers to the need to " the flesh of the son of Man and drink HIs blood" (vs. 54). In His words we recognize the reference to the Last Supper - and our communion celebration (Matthew 26:26-28).

Then He explains the result of eating this bread, this true "staff of life": "This is the bread which came down from heaven — not as your fathers ate the manna, and are dead. He who eats this bread will live forever" (vs. 58).

What does this mean for us? It's simple really:

Come + Believe + Eat = Live

Come: God initiates even this (John 6:44).

Believe: as in base our very lives on Jesus' death for us, trusting Him for salvation.

Eat: live by His kingdom principles. This includes trusting Him for our physical needs including bread (Matthew 6:26-33). It also means to celebrate His spiritual "breadness" by eating the communion bread (and drinking the wine), in this way reminding ourselves of His death for our sins.

Live: acknowledge and enjoy Him as enough — for this life and the next.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, what a simple yet deep concept — You my bread. Help me to eat You today and be satisfied. Amen.

MORE: Make some bread today

I love making bread! One of my favourites is foccacia. It is a slightly raised savoury Italian yeast bread that makes a wonderful companion to homemade soup. I cheat and use my bread machine to prepare the dough. Here is the recipe I use. (Of course you can use the given amounts and mix by hand).

Foccacia Bread (1 1/2 lb. loaf)

1 cup water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. olive oil
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/1/2 - 2 tsp. active dry yeast

3 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup (2 oz.) Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

- Mix dough and let rise.
- Remove dough to floured countertop or cutting board.
- Oil a cookie sheet.
- Separate dough into three even sections.
- Roll each into a ball and press flat onto the cookie sheet.
- Allow to rise 30 minutes until doubled.
- Preheat oven to 400F.
- With 2 fingers poke holes all over the dough.
- In a medium bowl combine oil and garlic, then drizzle over top of dough.
- Sprinkle with cheese and parsley
- Bake for 25-30 minutes until brown.

From Bread Machine Magic by Linda Rehbeg & Lois Conway

(A HAPPY THANKSGIVING to our American neighbours!)

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