The Nourishment of Jesus Brings Eternal Life

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John 6:41 – 59

41 So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” 42 They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” 43 Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. 44 No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. 

45 It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— 46  not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. 47 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life.

 48 I am the bread of life. 49  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. 50  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. 51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

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52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” 53 So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 

56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. 57 As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. 58  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” 59 Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum.

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This is perhaps one of the hardest section of the teachings of Jesus.  In fact, the disciples said themselves in verse 60, the very next verse after this passage, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it.”  With that said, I would like us to consider what it is exactly that makes this passage so difficult to understand.  And if we can figure some of that out, then let us try to find an application for our lives.

As I looked over this section of John 6, I saw at least three things that Jesus was stating that would have caused conflict between Him and the religious leaders of that day.  First, He claims to have divine origin, i.e. that He came to earth from heaven sent by God.  Secondly, much more than the physical food which Moses had brought done from heaven, Jesus claims to offer spiritual bread from heaven.  And thirdly, He makes an outrageous claim that those who eat His flesh and drink His blood will live forever.  Wow!!  Well, let’s look at these in more detail.

    

His Origin: when Jesus stated, “I am the bread that came down from heaven”, the Jewish leaders immediately saw in this figurative language that Jesus was in fact claiming to have come down from heaven himself.  That was the same as claiming to be divine in origin, equal to God.  For men are “created” and born into this world; only God can originate from heaven and come down.

His Offer: as all good Jews know, Moses was a great prophet who was able by the power of God to bring down the daily manna, the wafer-like flakes that could be made into bread, while the people of Israel wandered in the wilderness for 40 years after coming out of their slavery in Egypt.  The Jews also knew that this manna-bread only lasted a day and had to be collected each morning, and ultimately all of their forefathers died in the wilderness, or after they settled in Canaan.

But Jesus says that He can offer “bread from heaven” which will allow a person to live forever.  If that is not bold enough, Jesus also stated that He himself is this “bread” that brings spiritual life to people.  He asked His listeners to believe, that is to believe that He has come from the Father in heaven, and can offer spiritual life and will raise that person up into new life after death.  Wow!!  Quite the offer.

    

His Outrageous Claim: to top it all off, Jesus boldly stated to His listeners, “Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. ”  This must have sounded rather crude and offensive to those who first heard these words of Jesus.  Imagine now for a minute what this must sound like to a person born in Papua New Guinea where they have just come out of the practice of cannabalism.

But we know that Jesus often used hyperbole (exaggerated figurative language) to drive home a point.  What Jesus was saying is that we who would receive eternal life from God must be totally consumed with knowing and having Jesus in our lives.  In other words, Jesus’ teachings and His life given for us on the cross are the only true source for spiritual nourishment for us and result in providing eternal life for us.

    

The Conclusion: what must we do then, my friends?  We must recognize Jesus as God who has come to earth, accept His offer to be our spiritual “bread”, and be so intimately involved with Him that He becomes our true source for spiritual nourishment, leading us to an everlasting life with God in heaven.

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How Should We Pray To God

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There is a colleague of mine who reminds us weekly to send in current prayer requests and praise reports to her.  She then sends out the compiled list of our prayer/praise items to a large number of people who pray for all of us and the ministry work we do in Papua New Guinea.  Recently, she included in her reminder the following thoughts that someone else had shared with her.  I thought these were excellent thoughts worth passing on.  I will pick up on some of my thoughts after you read the six points below.

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“How Should We Pray To God”

1. I was reminded of James 5:17-18 which talks of Elijah praying and God causing a drought for 3 1/2 years and then he prayed for rain and it rained.  And we are reminded that he was a man like we are.  (Therefore pray! God is powerful.)

2.I was also reminded of James 4:1-3 where people don’t ask, so they don’t get, and then they ask but don’t get because they have the wrong motives.  They want it for their own pleasures and desires. (Ask with right motives.)

3. If we beg God, He might just give us what we ask for, but we might regret it later. Or at least others might. 2Kings 20:1-21:1 and 2Chron. 32:24-33:2 Hezekiah was told that he was going to die, but he prayed and wept and God healed him. God added 15 years to Hezekiah’s life. Unfortunately, Hezekiah responded in pride. God was angry with him and he repented. But he messed up when the Babylonians came and he showed them all the treasures he had and the temple. When he died, Manasseh became king at the age of 12.  He was Judah’s most wicked king reigning 55 years.  He would never have been born had God not healed Hezekiah. (Make sure what you are asking for is what God wants, because you might otherwise get something you really don’t want.)

4. I thought of Paul in 2 Cor.12:7-10. He said God had given him great revelation, but then to keep him humble he was given a thorn in the flesh.  He asked God three times to remove it, but God said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” (God sometimes doesn’t give us what we ask for because He wants us to rely on Him and find our sufficiency in Him.)

5. The disciples asked Jesus how to pray and He said in Matt 6:9-13 the Lord’s Prayer which reminds us to ask for our “daily bread”. (Ask God for what we really need for the moment.)

6. Finally, Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane. Luke 22:42 “Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Jesus felt needs and asked if there was any way to avoid what he was about to experience. But He surrendered to God’s will and asked for the Father’s will to be done.)

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I was very impressed with what this person had to share.  So often I have read articles about prayer and there is much said about when and how often to pray, the body positions that can help us to pray and the kinds of prayers we can say.  But so much of this, while still helpful, seems to be focused in on the structure and physical elements involved in prayer.

But in these points listed above, I see so much clearer the reminder that we must have the right attitude when we come to God in prayer.  It is so important for us to remember just who we are and who God is as we approach Him.  Without denying the great importance that God places on each of us as individuals, I think it is still good for us to remember how very small and finite we are in this universe, and just how big and awesomely powerful our God is compared to us.

    

As I look into my current life situation, I am actually very grateful for being able to live with the muscular disease that I have. Of course it doesn’t feel very great many days as I battle fatigue and pain.  But my condition has brought me into a closer relationship with God than I ever had before.  It was in my days of sufficiency that I roared ahead in life and often forgot to include God in my daily affairs.  Now in my insufficiency, I seek out my God throughout each day, and I find He is not only there, but He meets me at my points of need so much more than I had even dreamed of.

And that is the point, I think, often when God “allows” difficulties and obstacles to come into our lives.  I believe that God wants us to slow down in our lives and humbly come to Him as our Maker, our Provider and our Sustainer.  That’s hard to do when we think so highly of ourselves and we seem to have no need for God in our lives.  And so God reminds us, sometimes gently, and sometimes not so gently, that we still need Him, and He needs us to come to Him.

My prayer for you my friend is that you too know this powerful God who loves to show His love and His mercy to us who are His created handiwork.  Let us come to God with a humble heart, and yet also come with expectant hearts that He will do great and mighty things in our lives.  Let us not presume too much, but also let us not assume that going to meet with God in prayer is optional for our lives.  Above all, let us let Him have His way in our lives.  You might be amazed at the wonderful blessings that lie in store for you as you remain obedient to Him.  May God bless you richly in Christ Jesus.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Walking In The Power of the Holy Spirit – Pt. 1

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“GOD’S STORY, your story” – Pt. 13

What does it mean to “walk in the power of the Holy Spirit”?  Depending on who you talk with, you can get answers that span a huge spectrum.  From conservative Christianity, where the Holy Spirit is rarely talked about, to charismatic Christianity, where visible manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s power like speaking in tongues is a necessity, we get quite a wide view of the place and the role of the Holy Spirit in the lives of individual Christians.

I grew up within a moderately conservative church background, where we were taught about the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost in Acts 2, and the wonderful fruit of the Spirit which is made available to believers in Galatians 5.  But there was not a lot of preaching done that helped us to understand and actualize the ongoing power of the Holy Spirit within us on a daily basis.  There seemed to be a lot of biblical exposition  without a lot of personal application.

     

In my years of mission experience and from more time given to biblical reflection, I am certain that there is much more going on within the spiritual realm that exists alongside of our physical realm than many of us realize.  To begin with, we must take all of God’s Word seriously and accept it as trustworthy, or we are left with uncertainty about all of it.  And so I take it to be true when Paul writes in Ephesians 6:12

“For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”

Now in practical terms, it does seem like our “struggle” is waged on the human level as we deal with bad people who lie and cheat and resist us as we try to live our lives in ways that will please God.  It does seem like those who practice evil deeds are the ones who get ahead in life or find the ways to prosper at the expense of other people.  This is nothing really new actually, for we read in the New Testament how wicked leaders crucified Jesus and caused the early disciples to cringe in fear behind locked doors.

     

But then, just 50 days after Jesus died and was buried, we find a person like Peter, who had so cowardly denied knowing Jesus, suddenly standing up boldly in public to preach about faith in Jesus.  What had gotten into Peter?  What had changed him from being a cowardly disciple to a courageous leader?  By reading the last part of the Gospels and the first part of the book of Acts, we read about a Jesus who had risen from the dead and who promised the coming of the Holy Spirit who would give them power to live and to speak for Him.

It must have been wonderful for those early disciples to have walked with Jesus when He was alive and to hear Him preach and to see Him heal.  Then they would have been devastated by His death.  But Jesus knew that it was necessary on so many levels for Him to die and then to return back to Heaven.  His death brought about forgiveness of sins for all people who believe in Him, and His departure to Heaven allowed Him to release the power of the Holy Spirit into the lives of believers.

Jesus said in John 14:12 that anyone who believed in Him would do even greater things than He did because Jesus was going back to the Father and releasing the Holy Spirit for all believers.  Max Lucado puts it this way in his book “GOD’S STORY, your story” on pages 109 – 110:

During his earthly ministry Jesus lived near the disciples.  The Holy Spirit, however, would live in the disciples.  What Jesus did with the followers, the Spirit would do through them and us.  Jesus healed; the Spirit heals through us.  Jesus taught; the Spirit teaches through us.  Jesus comforted; the Spirit comforts through us.  The Spirit continues the work of Christ.

     

So let’s get back to being practical again.  Jesus has never changed  (Hebrews 13:8 promises us that).  What Jesus promised to his immediate disciples about receiving the power of the Holy Spirit in their lives to do greater things than He did, is also a promise to all of us who believe in Jesus.  Yes, this power may be to do miraculous things, like speak in spiritual tongues and heal the sick, but overcoming our old sinful nature and living God-honoring lives is also just as much a miracle and an evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit within.

Think about it for a minute.  If you are a believer in Christ, if you use to be an angry person, now by the power of the Holy Spirit within, you can be a person who exhibits peace and gentleness.  If you use to be caught up in lying, now you can be a man or woman of truth.  Were you anxious before? Now you can exercise faith and trust.  Did you have any addictions before?  Now you can show self-control.  All this is perhaps the most powerful witness to others and demonstrates “walking in the power of the Holy Spirit”.

     

Let me close this article with a great quote of Lucado’s on page 117.  I pray that you may know the power that Lucado talks about here in your day to day experiences and in your walk with God.

The same hand that pushed the rock from the tomb can shove away your doubt.  The same power that stirred the still heart of Christ can stir your flagging faith.  The same strength that put Satan on his heels can, and will, defeat Satan in your life.  Just keep the power supply open.  Who knows, you may soon hear people asking, “What’s gotten into you?”

[God’s Story, Your Story] Max Lucado.  Copyright [Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2011]  Used by permission.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Good Questions Lead To Spiritual Answers

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John 6:25 – 40

25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27  Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 

28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31  Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

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35 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 

38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”

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The last words of the final verse of our previous Bible study ended with the crowds going “to Capernaum to search for Jesus.”  That sounds great, doesn’t it?  Literally hundreds of people were going to great lengths to cross or walk around the Sea of Galilee because they were eager to find Jesus.  And yet we find out in this passage above that they were not spiritually motivated to find Him.

A dialogue ensues with the people first asking, “Rabbi, when did you come here?”  Actually, I think they were much more interested in knowing “how” He got there (remember that Jesus walked on top of the water to cross over).  And they may have implicitly been asking “why” he had left the other side of the lake to come here.  I mean, wasn’t Jesus at the peak of His ministry when He miraculously fed the multitudes?

    

But Jesus saw through that question and knew that the people were much more interested in the miracle than they were interested in knowing the One who performed the miracle.  Jesus then challenged the crowd with an answer that basically tells us that “working for bread” (i.e. the necessities of earthly things) pales in importance to the “spiritual bread” that is available and is equated with doing the works that God would be pleased with.

The people hear how Jesus tied this idea of “spiritual bread” which grants eternal life to this concept of doing “the works of God”.   And so their next question then (in wanting “bread which leads to eternal life”) is, “What works must we do?”  (This is an age-old question actually.  Many people believe that if we “do the right things” then we will be rewarded by God with eternal life.)

    

Jesus then answered as clearly and as bluntly as He can.  What God wants us to do more than anything else, is to put our faith in Jesus, the One whom God sent to earth to be the Saviour of the world.  The people still get stuck on the miracle of physical bread though, which their greatest prophet Moses gave them from heaven.  Jesus corrects this faulty thought to say that ultimately it is God who provides all things, both physically and spiritually.

Once more Jesus cuts straight to the heart of the matter and declares boldly, “I am the bread of life!”  In that statement, Jesus claims many things: 1) He, like the bread from heaven, have been sent by God; 2) all who want spiritual sustenance and eternal life must come to Jesus to get it; and 3) only by “eating” and “drinking” of Him (i.e. be fully dependent upon and immersed into a relationship with Him) can a person hope to gain eternal life.

    

And then Jesus openly declares the reason for Him being sent from heaven to earth, namely to reach out to those who desire to pursue this relationship with God.  And for those that do come by faith to Him, Jesus says he will not lose hold of them but by the power and authority of God Himself will raise these kinds of people back from the dead and grant them the gift of eternal life with God in heaven.

Friend, are you still outside of a relationship with Jesus and God the Father?  Consider what questions you have and turn to Jesus for some answers.  He will give them to you.  Are you ready to hear those answers and to follow after Him?  I hope you are, and I hope you do.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Animistic Practices & The Cross of Christ

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[Editor’s Note:  This story happened to a couple who are members of Pioneer Bible Translators and have been working in Nothern Africe.]

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The witchdoctor got to my husband first.  He was surprisingly young, and his white tennis shoes contrasted starkly with the leather loin cloth around his waist and baboon hide satchel slung across his chest.  A spray of feathers was tied to his head and most appendages were adorned with leather thongs tied around small pieces of wood.

Cupping the back of my husband’s head firmly with one hand, the Kujur pulled his face towards him and with amazing precision, showered a thick spray of saliva and chewed ginger root across both cheeks and forehead. After he finished, it was my turn.

When it was once again appropriate for us to continue on our way, our cultural guide and host informed us that we had just received a blessing.  “He is welcoming you,” he happily assured us as we nodded and smiled while discreetly wiping ginger paste off of our eyelids.

The reason for our warm welcome last week was Garin, a traditional ceremony we had been invited to attend in a remote village. We spent four days in the area watching and learning as hundreds of people took part in very old rituals and celebrations of their culture. It was a fascinating glimpse into a world that felt very far away from the ones we grew up in.

From what we could tell, the occasion was a mix of celebration and grief as people danced and sang through the night and wailed and mourned for people who had died in the past year. It was beautiful and haunting, and above all very, very spiritual. 

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Late into the evening, drums resounded to the rhythms of people reciting Arabic prayers from their holy book. Most songs the witchdoctors sang involved hands or massive animal horns raised heavenward.  Several goats were brought to the gathering and slaughtered, most likely as sacrifices. Every greeting included the words “Praise be to God” many times over.

And there were blessings—many blessings (some of which involved ginger root and spit). Consciousness of God and the spiritual world were all around us. And even though the spirituality we witnessed was very animistic, with strong flavors of another major world religion blended in, we were deeply impacted by people’s awareness of God and their desire to draw close to him.

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It was a bitter-sweet occasion for us. While we were amazed at the genuine spirituality of these people, we were burdened by the great fear that the absence of Jesus left in their lives. However, in the midst of all of these frenzied traditions and rituals, one thing was particularly meaningful to us. Everywhere we looked we could not help but to notice crosses.

These crosses were engraved in brass bracelets. They were chalked onto the shaved heads of grieving women. They were carved into wooden dancing sticks.  And perhaps most notably, they were scarred deep into the cheeks and forearms of people everywhere. The cross is meaningful to this community in ways we don’t fully understand yet, denoting things like clan membership and status. It is a part of who they are and has been for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years.

Last week, watching the singing, dancing and crying from the shade of a baobab tree, we grew ever more excited about the future. A people hungry for God who already find identity in the cross stirs our hearts. But it’s Jesus and His cross that we long for these people to know. Our prayer is that the day will come soon when these symbols that they have born for so long will mean more to them than they ever have before.

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This is quite a haunting story, as mentioned above.  I would have to agree that this story burdens my heart too, to read about a people group that recognizes the spiritual realm that exists all around us and yet they do not have a personal relationship with the Creator God who is the Author of all that exists, both physically and spiritually.

The details shared here, about the engravings of the crosses, does give us hope that these people will want to discover the full story and meaning of the Cross of Christ.  The images are there, but the message has been obscured so that they don’t know its true meaning.  Yet I believe they are searching and yearning to know the truth.

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This reminds me of a story shared by Marilyn Lazlo, a well known missionary who worked with Wycliffe Bible Translators.  She traveled one time deeper and deeper into the interior jungle of Papua New Guinea, to a region where no Christian missionary had every traveled before.  She was fascinated by all the sights and sounds and meeting all the people for the very first time.

Then she looked up on to a hill ridge, and she noticed a Papuan style thatched roof and bamboo siding house.  And on top of the house, there was a cross that had been nailed together and placed there.  When Marilyn asked what missionary had come to build that house, they told her that she was the first missionary to ever come there.

She asked the next obvious question then.  “Then why is there a cross on top and whose house is that?”  The people replied, “It is God’s house.  We have built it for Him.  And someday, God will send us someone to explain what the cross is and what God wants to tell us.”  These people too once had a cross, but no meaning in that cross.  Praise God, now some 40 years later, they do know God.  Now we must pray that the people of North Africa will discover the Christ of all the crosses they bear.

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* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Wrong Thoughts About Jesus

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John 6:14 – 24

14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” 15  Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20  But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24  So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.

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As I mentioned in the last article, when Jesus multiplied the bread for the 5,000, we are now about to enter into the period of the last year of Jesus’ ministry before His death in Jerusalem.  There were still a lot of thoughts and opinions around as to who Jesus really was, and this passage above continues to show that most people, including His own disciples, had the wrong ideas concerning His identity.

I have broken the passage into three paragraphs, and in each of these, we see that what the participants in these events thought about Jesus were wrong.  Some thought that Jesus had come to give them social and political freedom from others who oppressed them.  Some were terrified at His supernatural powers.  Some were simply looking to have their personal needs and wishes satisfied.  All of these missed the point of who Jesus was and why He had come to earth.

    

Notice in verse 14 that immediately after Jesus had miraculously multiplied the bread and fish to feed the crowds, that some people thought “This is the Prophet come into the world.”  Looking back into their own Jewish heritage and their Scriptures, the people were reminded of Moses who had helped feed the people “manna”, bread flakes from heaven (see Exodus 16).  They would also have remembered that Moses promised that God would send another great Prophet just like him to help the people of God (Deuteronomy 18:18).

So some people put this together and deduced that Jesus was this great Prophet who possessed divine authority to help the people of God as their King.  On this point, they were right.  But they went too far when they thought that Jesus had come to help free them from the political oppression and tyranny of the Roman rule over their lives.

Unfortunately, there have been many people even up to today who think that Jesus’ Kingdom is one that will bring immediate liberation from social and political oppression.  While it is true that the Gospel will change lives of individuals, which will change society around them, this kind of social change comes about by the gentle leading of God’s Holy Spirit within, not by the use of swords and violence from without.

    

The second group of people who were still unclear as to Jesus’ true identity and nature was His own disciples.  I find it quite interesting how John wrote, “It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.”  Where were the disciples when John makes this comment?  They were still in the middle of the Sea of Galilee rowing as hard as they could against the wind.

By John’s own wording, the disciples were expecting Jesus to catch up to them.  And yet when He does, they are not only surprised, but they are terrified by His supernatural power.  Are we like that sometimes?  We ask for God’s help, we expect Him to come to help us, but when He does, we act surprised and even fearful at what He can actually do in our lives.  Shame on us.

    

And then there is the final approach to Jesus that is wrong, but is so often how people approach Jesus.  The crowds recognize by morning time that Jesus is no longer with them.  And so they go racing around the lake to find Him.  Why?  To listen to Him teach them?  To express their gratitude for feeding them?  No, they come to Jesus with their hands out seeking more from Him.

I think so many of us are like that.  Especially in the way we pray.  Yes, we may actually say “Thank you” to God for things He has done for us.  But then we quickly go on to give our “spiritual shopping list” of items to God that we ask for Him to do for us.  But God is not a kind of Santa Claus to whom we go begging for more good things; He is our Creator God to whom we offer up our praise and thanksgivings.

    

“Lord God, help us to come to You to simply worship You, not with open hands asking for more, but with open hearts to give you all the praise and honor that is due to you as our God.  Amen!”

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

Parents Of Missionary Kids

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It’s Hard To Let Them Go

For most of my life, I have been a missionary.  That means my Mom and Dad were parents of a missionary kid.  I’m still a missionary kid who also happens to be a father of two great sons.  Both of them are launched out into life, but that does not mean that I don’t still worry for both of them and commit them and all their ways to God.

I read an excellent book recently by Will Hathaway called “What If God Is Like This?”  In this book, Hathaway presents some intriguing ideas and insights into what God might really be like, if we would take the time to really get to know Him.  Many times in the book, he states that he has such a better grasp of how great God is and how much He loves us, because now he is a father too.

    

There is just something that is very special that can exist between a parent and a child.  I do realize that not every parent is a good parent, but nevertheless, even the toughest and meanest person can have their hearts broken when they sense their child is in danger or just simply needs love and approval.

Back to the thought of me being a missionary kid, I’d have to admit that there have been many times in my life when I headed overseas (even as young as 16 years old) when all I could see was the adventure and the challenge that lay ahead.  It had to be hard on my parents to let me go at times (even when I was grown and had a family).

Then recently, I read a newsletter written by a colleague of mine that helped to remind me (and anyone who has read their newsletter) just how tough it can be to be a parent of a missionary kid.  It reminded me to be thankful for parents who worried about me, but still were okay with letting me go.  I pray that this letter below will help you too to appreciate your parents, even if you might not be a missionary kid.

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“My dad asked me jokingly the other day if he could take us to court to prevent us from taking his grandkids to Africa. I told him that if the judge were a grandfather, he would probably side with dad against us. We both spoke in jest, but we knew that the feelings involved in taking our family overseas are very real.

Most people know that packing up their children and moving to Africa involves some sacrifice. But what about the sacrifice of those we leave behind? We get all kinds of accolades for what we are doing. We get to go through the line first at church potlucks. People bring us up in front of crowds of kids and tell them to make us their role models.

One might say we have received our reward in full. But there are no awards for being the parent of a missionary. Yet what they give up to allow us to follow God’s calling are some of life’s most treasured moments – birthday parties, ball games, heart-to-heart chats, Sundays around the dinner table, and thousands of precious hugs.

    

They had little say in our decision, but just as with so many things over which one has no control, they got to decide how they would respond to it. Our parents would have had every right to be angry with us, to obsess over the perceived dangers we are exposing ourselves to and discourage us at every step, or to refuse to do anything to move us closer to our goal.

But they also have the option to offer us up as sacrifices willingly, to embrace and make the most of their position as long-distance grandparents, and to encourage us like no one else can when we face difficulties. What a blessing it is to us to have parents like that!

Our families have given of their time, their finances, and their talents to help us every step of the way. They have made plans for how to stay connected with us and our kids once we leave. They have said they would like to make the long trip across the Atlantic to visit us if they have the chance. And, perhaps most difficult of all, when faced with the opportunity to remind us of what we are asking of them and saddle us with guilt, they have refrained.

    

I hope that someday, if our children tell me that God is asking them to go to some place where I can’t follow, where I can’t keep them safe or get to hug and kiss them every day, that I will have the faith to give them my blessing and help them on their way. Our children are the most precious of God’s gifts, and nothing is more natural and right than to hold them close.

But at the same time we have to remember that they belong to God first of all. We have to raise them to be the kind of people who will love Him with their whole being and follow Him anywhere. And when they follow Him far away from us, we have to pray and give and speed them on their way, even when it breaks our hearts.

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I want to thank my colleague for the honesty shown in writing this message that should be a challenge to us all.  Let us all be thankful for our parents, and let us in turn do all we can to be the best parents possible to our own children.

* If this article has been helpful to you and a blessing, please invite your friends to come visit this devotional blog site.

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