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Archive for June, 2012

Mark 6:39-43 relates the feeding of 5000 people with a few loaves of bread and two fish much to the astonishment of the disciples.  Any cook who has planned a meal for a certain number of people and had extra guests show up, understands what it means to try to make food stretch.  But this miracle wasn’t just about stretching the food to feed more people.  This miracle was a lesson for those present that day and for all of us today.  This miracle was to remind us that whenever we have a need—food, housing, financial, emotional, or spiritual—whatever the need, Jesus Christ will supply.

 

While the disciples said it was impossible to provide food for so many and urged Jesus to send the people away, Jesus prepared to do what the impossible.  He didn’t do this to embarrass or shame anyone, but rather to communicate His availability and willingness to be our constant supplier.  Jesus chose an ordinary event like eating to remind us that He cares about every aspect of our daily life—nothing is to routine or mundane.  He will supply whatever we need, Phil 4:19 through His resources.

 

Oh, Lord, some days I get so caught up in trying to figure out how to solve this problem, or meet this need, that I forget to pause and ask You to supply whatever I need.  Thank you Lord Jesus for this visual reminder—two fish and five loaves—that You care about every aspect of my life.  Help me Lord God to lean on Your promises and on Your abilities rather than on my own.  Amen.

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A friend is facing knee replacement surgery.  I was challenging her to do all of the required exercises so that she can enjoy the benefits of walking freely without assistance or pain in the months and years ahead.  I asked her to think of me and my mobility since I have undergone the same surgery.  I assured her that would sustain her to stay the course.

Hebrews 1:3 offers assurance far beyond what I could offer my friend.  “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.” Jesus Christ sustains all things by His “powerful” word.  WOW!

Webster’s Dictionary defines sustain as:

to give support or relief to

            to supply with sustenance : nourish

            keep up, prolong

to support the weight of : prop; also: to carry or withstand (a weight or pressure)

to buoy up <sustained by hope>

to bear up under

Just with a word from Jesus the world is sustained on its axle, my family is sustained through not only daily events but crisis challenges, my job…my finances…my health…my hope…my joy….  All!  What a concept!  Ephesians 3:20 assures me that Jesus wants to give me more than I can ask or imagine, well that applies to His sustaining me through all things as well.  Jesus Christ sustains –offers more support, more sustenance, more hope, …more of everything beyond what I can grasp.  From the very breath I take to the ability to type this devotion—Jesus sustains and holds me upright and steady.

Is there a matter in your life you want to ask Him to sustain by His powerful word today?  Our prayer warriors are prepared to seek God’s sustaining grace on your behalf.

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Sacraments of a church may differ depending on the denomination, but one sacrament that all churches celebrate is Communion.  Why is that?  As I have read the various devotionals this month considering the names of Jesus Christ, I paused to ask what name do I give Jesus most often and how do I live out that relationship in my faith.

The name I most often use when referring to Jesus Christ is My Lord.  The way I most often reflect my esteem for that relationship and His name is when I am partaking in the sacrament of Communion.

Communion is unique in that it has two elements—the cup of wine (or juice) and the bread.  Is there significance in the two cups?  Matthew 26:26-30, reminds us of the first Communion Jesus Christ shared with his disciples.  The bread represents to a believer the body of Christ and the cup represents the blood Jesus Christ shed on the cross for our salvation.  These two elements represent two different aspects of the work Jesus did for us on the Cross.

Bible teacher, Kay Arthur, explains:

The wine stands for the blood and the bread stands for the body…. There are two elements. Each is taken separately.

His blood is what purchased your salvation. His body is what purchased your healing. When you accept Christ as your Lord and your Savior, you are putting your faith in the atoning work of the blood, not of the body. When you accept Christ as your Healer, you are accepting the finished total work of His body and not His blood.

Jesus Christ atoned for our sins and transgressions.  But there were two aspects to that atonement.  There are two separate areas of atonement. The communion bread represents what He bore in His body: healing. The cup represents what His blood did for us: the new birth.  Redemption is two-fold. Psalm 103:3 says, “Who forgiveth all thine iniquities: who healeth all thy diseases.”

So, what does Communion mean as to my relationship with Jesus Christ?  It means that when I asked Him to become Lord of my life—not just to save me from eternal damnation—the gifts I received were both salvation and healing.   These incredible gifts humble me and cause me to hunger to assure even more that He remains the Lord of my life.

For more study on this, please consider reviewing this link from Kay Arthur’s Precepts Ministry and the Bible verses listed below.  http://www.precepts.com/StudyMaterials/Articles/Healing/The_Communion_Elements.html

Additional Study:  Matthew 26:26-30, I Cor. 11:28-30, Acts 20:28, Romans 5:9, I Peter 1:18, Isaiah 53:4-5, Matthew 8:17, I Peter 2:24. 

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Food and water are essential to our livelihood.  Yet there is one thing that trumps even these basic necessities.  A specific compound that is found all around us, but when our lungs cannot receive it, our bodies will likely perish within minutes.  Oxygen is simply the top priority among all things that our body requires to continue living.  God, in His supreme power, created the world we live in to provide us with the elements our bodies require for survival.  Man has nothing but what he has received from the hands of his maker.  Without the power of God and all that He has given us, we would die.  Now certainly, we understand that all physical life requires food, water and air.  We can understand this from our own observations.  Leave any living thing without these essential elements, and it will not last long.  I suppose at least a few of us have witnessed this with some of our own houseplants, or perhaps a forgotten pet fish from our childhood.  Whatever the case, all people are aware of their vital requirements.

What so many of us fail to recognize, however, is the Creator, God our Father, who made the first humans and gave them everything needed to sustain life while they lived out their days on this earth, is the same God who can give us life beyond the grave.

Adam and Eve brought sin onto mankind.  Because of their succumbing to temptation, every single one of us is born a sinful, selfish being that can do absolutely nothing to gain entry into a life as what God ordained for us from the beginning.  Adam and Eve were placed in the Garden of Eden—a paradise and utopia of pure perfection—and yet they saw a chance to gain something more than what they already had, and grabbed at it.  They bit into the fruit from the forbidden tree, and now we spend our days striving for that “something more,” a consequence of our sinful selves.  We try in vain to create our own “Garden of Eden” and many of us never find happiness, never experience joy in this life because we are disappointed time and time again to fall short of our own image of perfection.

When we put our trust in God, the same God who “breathed into (Adam’s) nostrils the breath of life” (Gen. 2:7), His Spirit comes to dwell within us.  Our bodies are then temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 6:19).  It is this Spirit of Him who lives in us that raised Christ from the dead, who will also give life to our mortal bodies because this Spirit lives within us (Romans 8:11).  Breath will leave our physical bodies one day and we will cease to live on this earth.  But God has put breath into our spirits that will never leave us.  When here we will breathe our last, our next will be among the hosts of heaven as we live eternally, praising and worshipping our Lord with all of those who are in Him.  Then, and only then, will we behold pure perfection, and live in a paradise that for now we can barely even imagine.  As sung by Mercyme in their song, I Can Only Imagine:  I can only imagine/ When all I will do / Is forever / Forever worship You.

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The beauty of water is undeniable—sunlight glistening over a gently windblown lake, surf crashing upon a wide-open ocean shore, rivers streaming along rocky banks—it is also life-giving.  All living things depend on water.  As humans, we can only survive for about 3 days without it.  Some may claim longer, but consider that our bodies are 65% water.  Water flows through the blood, carrying oxygen and nutrients to our cells and flushing wastes out of our bodies.  It cushions our joints and soft tissues.  Without water as a routine part of our intake, we cannot digest or absorb food.

When Jesus met a Samaritan woman at a well (John 4) he asked her to give him a drink.  This surprised the woman because Jews did not associate with Samaritans, and she replied, “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.  How can you ask me for a drink?’  Jesus answered her, ‘If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.’” Further in their conversation Jesus says to her, “Everyone who drinks this water (from the well) will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”

The woman did not know the true meaning of this statement, but knew if she would no longer thirst, she would no longer have to keep coming to the well to draw water in the high heat of the noon day.  That, of course, was very desirable to her.  But what should be even more desirable to her (and to us) is the promise of eternal life, which is given when we receive the Spirit by believing in Christ.  From John 7:37-39, we read: “Jesus announced, ‘Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.’  By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.”

Believe in Jesus, and His Spirit will flow within you.  This water, the Spirit, will fill you so that you will not thirst, and as you draw with joy from the well of salvation (Is. 12:3) you will receive so that you will be overflowing and pour out blessings onto others.

Especially in the summer, we rely heavily on water.  It refreshes us from the burning heat, as we drink, run through, wade or swim in it.  We relax by it, enjoying the view from lake or pool side.  As you go through your days and find yourself taking in some sort of refreshment from the use of water, call to mind the beauty of water as a gift of eternal life through the Spirit.  Thank Jesus for His promise that He fulfilled by sacrificing Himself for our sins.  Recall that upon his death, “one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and blood and water immediately came out” (John 19:34).  There is no body of water anywhere in this world that is more beautiful than the life giving water that is gifted to us through the body of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

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Hunger.  It affects all of us in some way.  From our very first days, hunger has been part of our everyday life.  As a newborn, we cry for food. Our tiny bodies grow quickly, and we must have the necessary nourishment to sustain our development.  We cry for sleep, we cry for attention.  We cry for security, we cry for affection.  Isn’t it true, that even now, as adults, we cry for our needs?  Who hasn’t felt the pain of hunger when having gone too long without food? Others struggle everyday to fight against their body’s demands for sleep because to sleep means to miss making money, while still others battle the will to sleep while worry keeps them tossing and turning.  For some, hunger is found in the realm of human connection, a longing to feel desired and needed.

Even if our unmet needs do not evoke us to cry, the longer we go without, the more we will weaken.  We will try desperately to fulfill ourselves, by trying whatever substitute for the real thing we want, but can’t get.  We might turn to an extramarital affair, we might turn to an eating disorder, we may look for an escape in drugs or alcohol.  Maybe we just keep pushing ourselves to take on more in life than we should, because if we could just do enough, maybe that ache inside us would finally go away.  Or we try to live vicariously through someone who seems to have it all, and hope that some of that feeling could come upon us.  We shop for clothes we don’t need, we fill our homes with stuff we won’t use, we dream of something more—bigger or better—that will satisfy our longings.  The list could go on and on…

When we are able to recognize the satisfying sustenance that God provides through Christ and a relationship with Him, we go to Him.  He gives us, without hesitation, the bread of life.  We partake of it, and at last, in that moment, we are full.  In John 6:35, “Jesus declares, ‘I am the bread of life.  Whoever comes to me will never go hungry.”

When we wander away from God’s presence and do not depend on Him and His words in every aspect of our lives, that hunger, a longing, will return.  God calls us to base our entire lives, our very survival, on Him and His words.  The words I have spoken to you are Spirit and they give life. (John 6:63b)

Gracious Father, I pray that we would seek you to satisfy the hunger that we can’t.  Unless we commune with you, we will remain unfed.  Call us to your table, Lord. May we respond quickly and enthusiastically to come and eat with you.  Give us today, our daily bread.  Fill us with the words that speak life, and remind us to come again and again.  Thank you, God, giver of life, for your words that always satisfy.  We pray these things in the name of your Son, Jesus.  Amen.

 

 

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The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegroom’s voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.           John 3:29

 

What does a woman see when the bride and groom exchange their vows?  Romance!  Flowers and dresses and candles…most women delight in the romance of the ceremony and are filled with joy for the couple.

 

What does a man see?  Judging from comments whispered in my ear at several weddings, very possibly the dinner at the reception is uppermost on his mind but in general he is happy for the couple, if not particularly joyful.

 

What do the parents of the bride and groom see?  Hopefully they see a welcomed new member of their family and feel joy for the answer to prayer embodied in that new addition.

 

What does God see as a couple exchanges vows?  An illustration of the joyful relationship between Jesus Christ and His beloved bride, the church.  Jesus is called the Bridegroom in Scripture and we, the Church, are His bride.  He takes the initiative in the relationship, loving us first, seeking us out, surrounding us with His tender care and never leaving or forsaking us.

 

Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church…”For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”  This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

              Ephesians 5:25-27, 31-33

  

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