Monday, July 27, 2015

Jesus, The Master of Quantity

John 6: 5 – 13 (NIV): 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?" 6 He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do. 7 Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!" 8 Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, 9 "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?" 10 Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. 12 When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." 13 So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

Jesus had compassion on the huge crowd that had come out into the wilderness to hear and see him. He wanted to feed them, but there was no way he and his disciples could afford such a feast. But Jesus is supernatural. He is the master of quantity. He can take a crumb and turn it into a banquet. He is the God of more than enough. Notice there were 12 baskets of bread left-over after everyone had eaten his fill.
    The boy had five barley loaves and two small fish. This was a typical meal for a poor person. It wasn’t even wheat bread. But he gave it all to Jesus. If we will give him what we have, he will do the rest. God is more interested in our availability than our ability.
    This was a sacrifice for the boy, he gave up his supper, but Jesus turned his sacrifice into something great. We all have something we can bring to God; some talent or ability or gift. When we make a sacrifice to God we are showing him that we love him and that he is most important in our lives.
    Not only this, but we are never too young or old or rich or poor to be used of God. He can use us no matter where we find ourselves. And there is no greater joy than to allow God to use us for his purposes and for his Kingdom. It is a blessing to be a blessing to others. Give yourself to God and feel the joy that brings.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Jesus, the Master of Time

John 5: 1 – 9 (NIV): 1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for a feast of the Jews. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie--the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, "Do you want to get well?" 7 "Sir," the invalid replied, "I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me." 8 Then Jesus said to him, "Get up! Pick up your mat and walk." 9a At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

John continues to build his case that Jesus is the Messiah. This is the third sign to prove that Jesus was exactly who he claimed to be. Here, Jesus heals a man who had been unable to walk for 38 years. That’s a long time, but it was especially long then since the average lifespan wasn’t much more than this.
    The man had no idea who Jesus was, he was just hoping Jesus would help him into the pool. But he would have been disappointed if he had been the first into the water – God doesn’t operate that way. This was clearly a local superstition.  He had tried his whole life to find healing in something that was never going to work.
    Jesus healed him on the spot. It doesn’t matter how long you have suffered, God can still heal you. It doesn’t matter how long you have been away from God, he will still welcome you back. Jesus created time. He is the master of time. To him a thousand years is like a day. The man had suffered a long time, but compared to eternity, it was less than a second.
    We become stressed when we believe everything must happen right now, but faith reassures us that everything will happen in God’s timing. If we will trust him and his perfect timing, we will exchange the stress in our lives for the peace that he alone can give.  Those who wait on the Lord will renew their strength.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Crucified With Christ

Galatians 2: 20-21 (NIV): 20 I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!"

Paul wrote this letter to combat a heresy that had come into the church there: that Christians were obligated to follow the Jewish law along with believing in Christ. Paul had brought the gospel to Galatia on a missionary journey, but someone had come behind him and told the new church that Christians must continue to follow the Jewish law in order to be right with God.
    Paul said no. He wrote to explain that faith in Christ alone saves us – there is nothing to add to that. We are saved by grace. If we could work our way to heaven by following the law, then why did Jesus have to die? God would never have allowed Jesus to die if that wasn’t the only way we could be righteous.
    So, do Christians have to follow the Old Testament laws in order to be right with God? The Civil and Ceremonial laws were given to the Jewish people. They came to an end when Jesus died and rose again. Remember how the curtain in the temple tore when Jesus was on the cross? That was to symbolize that now we can all enter into God’s presence. Peter saw a vision in Acts 10 letting him know it was okay to eat all foods. And Jesus became the one and only sacrifice that atones for our sins. The sacrificial system had come to completion.
    The Moral laws still stand however. These include the Ten Commandments and God’s edicts that we love one another. We follow these laws because we love God, not to earn salvation. We do these things to please God, but, because of Jesus, we do not lose our standing with God if we fail. Jesus has set us free from that fear and bondage.
    Paul said he had died to himself and now he lived by faith in Christ. He was free to please God and dead to the sins that enslaved him. He was a new person. He had been born again.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Running the Race Set Before Us

Hebrews 12: 1 – 2 (NIV): 1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. 2 Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.

When a passage begins with the word, “therefore”, we need to look back to see what it’s there for. In this case, he is referring to the faith hall of fame we find in Chapter 11; the men and women of old who lived by faith and took God at his word. Now, those heroes of the faith are cheering us on as we live our own lives – as we run the race that God has placed before us.
    The great “cloud” of witnesses is a metaphor for Olympic grandstands full of cheering people, encouraging us to win the race we find ourselves in. God has given each of us our own unique race. We each have a life to live. So we must throw off anything that hinders us from running to win. This is anything that comes between us and God. And we must not let sin entangle our feet and trip us up. Sin causes us to be losers in our own race.
    It is interesting that the word for “race” in this passage is “agon” in the Greek. This is where we get our English word, “agony”. It’s not that our lives are sure to be full of pain and hardship, it’s just that we will face challenges we will need to overcome in order to win our race.  We will need to have self-discipline as we strain ahead toward victory.
    The key to winning our race, then, is to keep our eyes on Jesus. Becoming more and more like him is the goal of our faith. And he will give us the power we need to run and win the race. He gave us our faith and he will see us through. If we will keep our eyes on him and not be distracted by all that is happening around us, we can be winners. We can live victorious lives, full of joy and purpose.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Jesus - The Master of Distance

John 4: 56 – 51 (NIV): 46 Once more he visited Cana in Galilee, where he had turned the water into wine. And there was a certain royal official whose son lay sick at Capernaum. 47 When this man heard that Jesus had arrived in Galilee from Judea, he went to him and begged him to come and heal his son, who was close to death. 48 "Unless you people see miraculous signs and wonders," Jesus told him, "you will never believe." 49 The royal official said, "Sir, come down before my child dies." 50 Jesus replied, "You may go. Your son will live." The man took Jesus at his word and departed. 51 While he was still on the way, his servants met him with the news that his boy was living.

This royal official was a Roman who was in King Herod’s court. His country, Rome, had conquered Israel, yet he found himself at the feet of Jesus, begging for help because his son was about to die.
    Our success, wealth, and position in life goes out the window when we are desperate. He humbled himself before Jesus. When we humble ourselves, we are in position for God to bless us. He opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.
    The man assumed Jesus had to go to the house, 20 miles away, to heal his son, but Jesus showed that he is the master of distance – he simply willed that the son be better and he was. We can pray for our loved ones who are far away and know that God’s presence is wherever they are and he can answer our prayers. Not only this, but we can never be too far away from God to come back. His Spirit finds and reaches us wherever we are.
    And the father showed tremendous faith by taking Jesus at his word. He believed it when Jesus said his son would live, and headed home. When we believe, then we will see what God is doing. That’s what faith is. We live by faith, not by sight, Paul says. Humble yourself before God, believe what he says, and take him at his word.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Jesus - The Master of Quality

John 2: 5 – 10 (NIV): 5 His mother said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." 6 Nearby stood six stone water jars, the kind used by the Jews for ceremonial washing, each holding from twenty to thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, "Fill the jars with water"; so they filled them to the brim. 8 Then he told them, "Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet." They did so, 9 and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had been turned into wine. He did not realize where it had come from, though the servants who had drawn the water knew. Then he called the bridegroom aside 10 and said, "Everyone brings out the choice wine first and then the cheaper wine after the guests have had too much to drink; but you have saved the best till now."

John tells us this was Jesus’ first sign to prove that he was indeed the Messiah.  Jesus’ mother had ask him to help the bride’s father out of a terribly embarrassing situation – they had run out of wine at a wedding and it was only half-way through the week-long event. This would have been a social disaster in that culture.
    This proves that Jesus is concerned with every aspect of our lives. By performing his first miracle at a wedding, Jesus put his stamp of approval on marriage and family.
    Mary told the servants to do what Jesus told them to do. This is the best advice ever given. They filled the large jars to the brim – which is important because God can only bless us as we much as our faith allows. If they had filled the jars half-full, they would have cheated themselves. We cheat ourselves when we don’t fully trust Christ.
    Jesus turned the water into wine. He is the creator of the universe. He simply willed the wine into existence.  That’s the power our God has. And it wasn’t ordinary wine, it was the best wine anyone had ever tasted. Jesus is the Master of Quality. He can give us better than we can afford on our own if we will just trust him and do what he says. In this first miracle, Jesus showed that the life he offers is better than anything else. He offers an abundant, full life, full of joy and purpose. We simply have to trust him.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Psalm 1 - The Progression of Sin

Psalm 1: 1 -3 (NIV): 1  Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. 3 He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. 
                                                              Whatever he does prospers.

Notice the progression of sin in this passage. At first you are walking in the counsel of the wicked – you are listening to those who appose God. Then you are standing with sinners – now you have joined them. Finally, you are sitting in the seat of mockers – you are there to stay. This is how sin works: it starts by tempting us, but soon it ensnares and enslaves us, and then it controls us.
   Sin takes us farther then we wanted to go, keeps us longer than we wanted to stay, and costs us more than we wanted to pay. Sin keeps us from prospering; it keeps us from becoming more and more like Christ, which is God’s design for us. And it keeps us from living the abundant life Jesus wants us to live. It always hurts us, and it hurts the ones we love.
    This is why God hates sin. He is not mocked. We will not get away with it. He does not let it slide or wink at it. We will reap what we sow. Yes, Christians are forgiven, but we will pay the consequences of our sins. Sin breaks our fellowship with God.
    But if we delight in God, we are like a tree planted by a stream. We have an unseen power source enabling us to live in a way that is pleasing to God. We can live a full, purposeful, meaningful, satisfying life. God gives us the power to say no to sin and with his help, we can do it. Delight in God and let him bless you