Saturday, October 31, 2009

Motive behind the Miracle


Jesus does three miracles in rapid succession in this passage.

My question is, WHY?

Miracle One
John 6
Bread and Fish for All
1 -4 "After this, Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee (some call it Tiberias). A huge crowd followed him, attracted by the miracles they had seen him do among the sick. When he got to the other side, he climbed a hill and sat down, surrounded by his disciples. It was nearly time for the Feast of Passover, kept annually by the Jews.
5 -6When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, "Where can we buy bread to feed these people?" He said this to stretch Philip's faith. He already knew what he was going to do.
7Philip answered, "Two hundred silver pieces wouldn't be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece."
8 -9One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, "There's a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that's a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this."
10 -11Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.
12 -13When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, "Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted." They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.
14 -15The people realized that God was at work among them in what Jesus had just done. They said, "This is the Prophet for sure, God's Prophet right here in Galilee!" Jesus saw that in their enthusiasm, they were about to grab him and make him king, so he slipped off and went back up the mountain to be by himself."

Miracle Two
Jesus walks on water
16 -21 "In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, "It's me. It's all right. Don't be afraid." So they took him on board."

Miracle Three
They instantly get to land.
"In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to."

22 -24The next day the crowd that was left behind realized that there had been only one boat, and that Jesus had not gotten into it with his disciples. They had seen them go off without him. By now boats from Tiberias had pulled up near where they had eaten the bread blessed by the Master. So when the crowd realized he was gone and wasn't coming back, they piled into the Tiberias boats and headed for Capernaum, looking for Jesus.
25When they found him back across the sea, they said, "Rabbi, when did you get here?"

WHY?

If God would only do lots of miracles for everyone in the world every day, the whole world would turn to God within the week.

In this passage he miraculously
provides for daily needs effortlessly,
makes danger and adversity go away instantly,
and helps people get to where they want to go easily and quickly.

And the people came by the thousands.

America and the world would turn instantly to Jesus if he would only do that today. For everybody... So why doesn't he?

26 "Jesus answered, "You've come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free."27"Don't waste your energy striving for perishable food like that. Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last."
28To that they said, "Well, what do we do then to get in on God's works?"
29Jesus said, "Throw your lot in with the One that God has sent. That kind of a commitment gets you in on God's works."
30 -31They waffled: "Why don't you give us a clue about who you are, just a hint of what's going on? When we see what's up, we'll commit ourselves. Show us what you can do. Moses fed our ancestors with bread in the desert. It says so in the Scriptures: 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"
32 -33Jesus responded, "The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world."
34They jumped at that: "Master, give us this bread, now and forever!"
35 -38Jesus said, "I am the Bread of Life. The person who aligns with me hungers no more and thirsts no more, ever. I have told you this explicitly because even though you have seen me in action, you don't really believe me. Every person the Father gives me eventually comes running to me. And once that person is with me, I hold on and don't let go. I came down from heaven not to follow my own whim but to accomplish the will of the One who sent me.
39 -40"This, in a nutshell, is that will: that everything handed over to me by the Father be completed—not a single detail missed—and at the wrap-up of time I have everything and everyone put together, upright and whole. This is what my Father wants: that anyone who sees the Son and trusts who he is and what he does and then aligns with him will enter real life, eternal life. My part is to put them on their feet alive and whole at the completion of time."

Did you get that? Here is the why. This is what Jesus said...

"This is what my Father wants:
that anyone who sees the Son
and trusts who he is and what he does
and then aligns with him
will enter real life, eternal life.
My part is to put them on their feet
alive and whole at the completion of time."

Disturbing

Last night Patti and I watched a movie called "The Invention of Lying". It was presented as a romantic comedy where everyone tells the truth no matter how blunt or unflattering. But in fact, it was a frontal assault on Christianity and was full of very purposeful blasphemy. The ultimate lie to be corrected, it postulates, is that "There IS no man upstairs." It attacks Jesus, the church, the Ten Commandments and God himself. Fortunately it is a boring movie with an aimless plot, so is not getting much draw at the box office.

This doesn't surprise God at all. Jesus tells his 12 disciples,
"Don't be naive.
Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me.
Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities."

Here is the full story...

5 -8Jesus sent his twelve harvest hands out with this charge:
"Don't begin by traveling to some far-off place to convert unbelievers. And don't try to be dramatic by tackling some public enemy. Go to the lost, confused people right here in the neighborhood. Tell them that the kingdom is here. Bring health to the sick. Raise the dead. Touch the untouchables. Kick out the demons. You have been treated generously, so live generously.
9 -10"Don't think you have to put on a fund-raising campaign before you start. You don't need a lot of equipment. You are the equipment, and all you need to keep that going is three meals a day. Travel light.
11"When you enter a town or village, don't insist on staying in a luxury inn. Get a modest place with some modest people, and be content there until you leave.
12 -15"When you knock on a door, be courteous in your greeting. If they welcome you, be gentle in your conversation. If they don't welcome you, quietly withdraw. Don't make a scene. Shrug your shoulders and be on your way. You can be sure that on Judgment Day they'll be mighty sorry—but it's no concern of yours now.
16"Stay alert. This is hazardous work I'm assigning you. You're going to be like sheep running through a wolf pack, so don't call attention to yourselves. Be as cunning as a snake, inoffensive as a dove.
17 -20"Don't be naive. Some people will impugn your motives, others will smear your reputation—just because you believe in me. Don't be upset when they haul you before the civil authorities. Without knowing it, they've done you—and me—a favor, given you a platform for preaching the kingdom news! And don't worry about what you'll say or how you'll say it. The right words will be there; the Spirit of your Father will supply the words.
21 -23"When people realize it is the living God you are presenting and not some idol that makes them feel good, they are going to turn on you, even people in your own family. There is a great irony here: proclaiming so much love, experiencing so much hate! But don't quit. Don't cave in. It is all well worth it in the end. It is not success you are after in such times but survival. Be survivors! Before you've run out of options, the Son of Man will have arrived.
24 -25"A student doesn't get a better desk than her teacher. A laborer doesn't make more money than his boss. Be content—pleased, even—when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get. If they call me, the Master, 'Dungface,' what can the workers expect?
26 -27"Don't be intimidated. Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are. So don't hesitate to go public now.
28"Don't be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies. There's nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life—body and soul—in his hands."

Disturbing.
But not surprising...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Master, save us! We're going down!


Past
Present
Future

I am going to set this experience up in three parts.

Past:

It starts with a wonderful story.

Matthew 8
14 -15 "By this time they were in front of Peter's house. On entering, Jesus found Peter's mother-in-law sick in bed, burning up with fever. He touched her hand and the fever was gone. No sooner was she up on her feet than she was fixing dinner for him."

Presto! Peter's wife's mom is sick. Jesus is called in. He heals her effortlessly right on the spot. She jumps up and makes supper.

That is as it should be. We have a problem. We pray. Deliverance is miraculous, complete and instantaneous.

16 -17 "That evening a lot of demon-afflicted people were brought to him. He relieved the inwardly tormented. He cured the bodily ill. He fulfilled Isaiah's well-known sermon:
He took our illnesses,
He carried our diseases. "

This also fits neatly with our expectations. Hurting people are brought to Jesus. He immediately heals them. Heals them all. Heals them instantly. Heals them completely.

No ambiguity. No delay. No doubt.
Wonderful!

18 -19 "When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said.
20Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."
21Another follower said, "Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father's funeral to take care of."
22Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life."

Present:

23 -25 "Then he got in the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm."

Hold it! This is Jesus. These are his followers. With Jesus they are impervious to danger, to fright, to hanging on for dear life wondering if they are going to die!

This does not make sense!!

"Waves were crashing into the boat—and he was sound asleep!"



This is even worse! Have you ever been in the storm? And you pray? And it seems like God is asleep?

Or even worse - Like he doesn't even care?

"They roused him, pleading, "Master, save us! We're going down!"

There have been many times in history where believers plead with God. I think of the Hebrews in Egypt for 450 years, asking for deliverance. Later they are captive in Babylon for 70 years, pleading for deliverance. Then in world war 2, for four years, they are pleading for deliverance.

There are Christians all around the world right now, pleading for deliverance. Chinese Christians being tortured in jail, former Muslim believers, being abused for following Christ, Indian Christians persecuted by muslims and hindus alike.

Not to mention Christians everywhere pleading for the life of someone who has cancer, or some other disease.

And Jesus is asleep in the boat!

Future:

The future is always unknown. And sometimes seems bleak.

The disciples were terrified for their lives. And SO confused! Didn't Jesus just heal Peter's mother-in-law? Didn't he just heal a whole bunch of people? Strangers, most of them?

But they were all going to die? And Jesus was right in the boat with them?

26Jesus reprimanded them. "Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?" Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: "Silence!" The sea became smooth as glass."

Deliverance! Yet one more time!

27The men rubbed their eyes, astonished.
"What's going on here?
Wind and sea come to heel at his command!"

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Jesus, Why do you tell stories?


Once you have come into relationship with God it is perplexing why everyone does not do the same.

But there is a process. A journey, if you would.

Jesus explains...

10The disciples came up and asked, "Why do you tell stories?"
11 -15He replied, "You've been given insight into God's kingdom. You know how it works. Not everybody has this gift, this insight; it hasn't been given to them.
Whenever someone has a ready heart for this, the insights and understandings flow freely. But if there is no readiness, any trace of receptivity soon disappears. That's why I tell stories: to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight.
In their present state they can stare till doomsday and not see it, listen till they're blue in the face and not get it.
I don't want Isaiah's forecast repeated all over again:
Your ears are open but you don't hear a thing.
Your eyes are awake but you don't see a thing.
The people are blockheads!
They stick their fingers in their ears
so they won't have to listen;
They screw their eyes shut
so they won't have to look,
so they won't have to deal with me face-to-face
and let me heal them.
16 -17"But you have God-blessed eyes—eyes that see!
And God-blessed ears—ears that hear!
A lot of people, prophets and humble believers among them, would have given anything to see what you are seeing, to hear what you are hearing, but never had the chance.

Ask for what you need...


Jesus seemed to pray all the time.
Because for him, it was communion, conversation with God.
No formula. Nothing memorized. No particular position. Didn't have to gasp and shout. Or fold his hands. Or bow his head. Or raise his hands. Maybe he did any or all of these at different times, but there was no prescription of how it had to be done.
The people around him noticed. They said - we want to be able to do what you do. Go into God's presence. Talk to him. Hear from him...
Here is the conversation that ensued:

1 One day he was praying in a certain place.
When he finished, one of his disciples said, "Master, teach us to pray just as John taught his disciples."
2 -4So he said, "When you pray, say,
Father, Reveal who you are.
Set the world right.
Keep us alive with three square meals.
Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil."

5 -6Then he said, "Imagine what would happen if you went to a friend in the middle of the night and said, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread. An old friend traveling through just showed up, and I don't have a thing on hand.'
7"The friend answers from his bed, 'Don't bother me. The door's locked; my children are all down for the night; I can't get up to give you anything.'
8"But let me tell you, even if he won't get up because he's a friend, if you stand your ground, knocking and waking all the neighbors, he'll finally get up and get you whatever you need.

9"Here's what I'm saying:
Ask and you'll get;
Seek and you'll find;
Knock and the door will open.

10 -13"Don't bargain with God.
Be direct. Ask for what you need.
This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we're in.
If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate?
If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider?
As bad as you are, you wouldn't think of such a thing—you're at least decent to your own children.
And don't you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?"

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Simple message - 100s of millions have responded


Jesus astonished people.
The miracles.
The healings.
The authority of his teaching.
His claims to be God. To be One with the Father.

But his words had the most impact.

Then.

And now...

28 -30"Are you tired?
Worn out?
Burned out on religion?
Come to me.
Get away with me and you'll recover your life.
I'll show you how to take a real rest.
Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it.
Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.
I won't lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you.
Keep company with me and you'll learn to live freely and lightly."

You might be more familiar with a differet version. Here it is in the King James:

28Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden,
and I will give you rest.
29Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me;
for I am meek and lowly in heart:
and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
30For my yoke is easy,
and my burden is light.

Hundreds of millions have responded over the years.
Well over a billion are responding today.

Words that change the world...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The words...


Jesus spoke - and brought a kingdom to its knees.
Within 400 years the Roman Empire was no more, and Christianity was spreading around the globe.

Jesus' words - will bring your personal kindom to its knees...

Listen:

1 -2 When Jesus saw his ministry drawing huge crowds, he climbed a hillside. Those who were apprenticed to him, the committed, climbed with him. Arriving at a quiet place, he sat down and taught his climbing companions. This is what he said:
3"You're blessed when you're at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
4"You're blessed when you feel you've lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
5"You're blessed when you're content with just who you are—no more, no less. That's the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can't be bought.
6"You're blessed when you've worked up a good appetite for God. He's food and drink in the best meal you'll ever eat.
7"You're blessed when you care. At the moment of being 'care-full,' you find yourselves cared for.
8"You're blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
9"You're blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That's when you discover who you really are, and your place in God's family.
10"You're blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God's kingdom.
11 -12"Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don't like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.
Salt and Light

13"Let me tell you why you are here. You're here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You've lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
14 -16"Here's another way to put it: You're here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We're going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don't think I'm going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I'm putting you on a light stand. Now that I've put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you'll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.

Monday, October 26, 2009

How cruel can religion be?


How cruel can religion be?
Pretty cruel, it turns out...

We know Hindus banished widows for centuries - reduced them to begging and prostitution, or death, because their husband had the audacity to die on them. Muslims routinely kill girls, forcing fathers and brothers to kill their own family, because of "dishonor."

In todays reading the Jewish religion showed a cruel side.

8 -9Jesus said, "Get up, take your bedroll, start walking." The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off."

Jesus healed a man who had been a cripple for 38 years. The response should have been incredible joy...

9 -10 "That day happened to be the Sabbath. The Jews stopped the healed man and said, "It's the Sabbath. You can't carry your bedroll around. It's against the rules."
11But he told them, "The man who made me well told me to. He said, 'Take your bedroll and start walking.'"
12 -13They asked, "Who gave you the order to take it up and start walking?" But the healed man didn't know, for Jesus had slipped away into the crowd."

The concentration of the religious ones was on the fact that this former cripple was carrying something on the Sabbath, the day designated for rest and the glorification of God!

14A little later Jesus found him in the Temple and said, "You look wonderful! You're well! Don't return to a sinning life or something worse might happen."
15 -16The man went back and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had made him well. That is why the Jews were out to get Jesus—because he did this kind of thing on the Sabbath.
17But Jesus defended himself. "My Father is working straight through, even on the Sabbath. So am I."

Jesus is FOR you...

But religion can be cruel...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

We've never seen anything like this!


Jesus was creating a sensation!
Come to think of it, he still does!!

Everywhere he went, people were getting healed. That was drawing the crowds big time, but it was what he said, and what he claimed, that was astonishing...

Mark 2
A Paraplegic
1 -5 After a few days, Jesus returned to Capernaum, and word got around that he was back home. A crowd gathered, jamming the entrance so no one could get in or out. He was teaching the Word. They brought a paraplegic to him, carried by four men. When they weren't able to get in because of the crowd, they removed part of the roof and lowered the paraplegic on his stretcher. Impressed by their bold belief, Jesus said to the paraplegic, "Son, I forgive your sins."

Excuse me, did we hear right? Did that mere mortal man just say to that poor sick guy that he was, right on the spot, forgiving his sins?

6 -7Some religion scholars sitting there started whispering among themselves, "He can't talk that way! That's blasphemy! God and only God can forgive sins."

They might be part of a dead religion - all rules and no relationship. But they did have their theology down. They were right on, in that regard. No one can forgive sins but God Almighty, creator of the universe...

8 -12Jesus knew right away what they were thinking, and said, "Why are you so skeptical? Which is simpler: to say to the paraplegic, 'I forgive your sins,' or say, 'Get up, take your stretcher, and start walking'? Well, just so it's clear that I'm the Son of Man and authorized to do either, or both . . ." (he looked now at the paraplegic), "Get up. Pick up your stretcher and go home." And the man did it—got up, grabbed his stretcher, and walked out, with everyone there watching him. They rubbed their eyes, incredulous—and then praised God, saying, "We've never seen anything like this!"

Did Jesus just claim to be God Almighty? Did he just do a miracle to back it up?