He is food for the soul

11 05 2017

I can understand why some disciples left Jesus after they heard this. Jesus seems to have drifted into the terrain of the weird, yet in fact He was plowing further into the soil of truth.

Here’s the background in summary (John 6:1-50):

  • Jesus had fed thousands of listeners on a hillside. He told His disciples that He was the bread of life which would bring not just temporary satisfaction but eternal fulfillment.
  • He’s the bread that ends undernourishment of soul, the supply that can end spiritual starvation.
  • Why? Because He delivers the truth, and nothing but the truth, straight from God the Father. Manna in the desert was great for a while, but 40 years of the stuff got oldy-moldy. But the bread of life is pure satisfaction.
  • Believe it, He says, and you will have eternal life.

If Jesus had stopped there He would have kept His large crowds.

The “bread” I’m talking about, says the One who came down from heaven, is my flesh. If you want to have this life, you must eat my flesh. That’s not all. If you don’t drink my blood you do not have this life I’m talking about. But if you eat and drink, I will raise you up on the last day. “He who eats this bread will live forever” (Jn. 6:58).

At that point, the congregation dwindled. This stuff was too hard. Uncomfortable.

Let’s hang with the inner core disciples and say, in effect, “No we are not leaving because as weird as You are talking right now, you have the words of eternal life.”

What could it mean for us to eat and drink Jesus?

How do we consume a meal?

First, we hunger. We have an appetite for nourishment, realizing that we need food. This must be true whether the food is tasty or bitter. We hunger for food because it is good for us, and often sweet to taste. Peter wrote that we should desire the pure milk of the word so we can grow from it.

Second, we take it in. We put it in our mouths, we chew it, and we swallow it. Some of us heard our mothers say, “Chew your food, don’t just inhale it!” This is a cooperative venture between food and eater, between Christ and the disciple. We slow down and eat His words. We read, study, reflect, ponder. Meanwhile, Jesus functions as nourishment, delivering truth from the Father.

A final thought is that the nourishment becomes a part of us. Ever heard “You are what you eat”? We are changed by the nourishment we intake. “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in Him.” The Son of God progressively enters the soul and inhabits a larger space. And, “he who feeds on Me will live because of Me.” (Jn. 6:56-57)

eats my flesh

Where do we go with this today? I got to thinking about this idea of consume.

  • A “consumer” is one who purchases, who uses, who takes for himself.
  • To “consume” is to imbibe or devour.
  • A marriage is “consummated” through profound intimacy.

The Son of God knew this teaching would turn away casual followers, so He pushed ahead and told the whole truth in expectation that a few of us would stay the course.

I want to accept the invitation to His table every day, bringing with me all my emotions, frustrations, and hopes. I want to consume His flesh and blood, and nourish my hungry soul.


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Suffering. That which you avoid is what you need.

18 04 2017

It seems almost un-American to speak of suffering. After all, doesn’t our country offer “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness”?

Even Christians in America shy away from speaking about the difficulties of life. Many preachers carve out a ministry by emphasizing only the positive aspects of following Jesus.

Not so with Jesus. He suffered and promised the same for his followers. In more recent years, my family has suffered a fair amount. I don’t like it. But I am trying to learn from my suffering.

Joy when suffering?

Ironically, suffering is often spoken of alongside joy.

Jesus endured the cross “for the joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2)

James wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials.”

These days I write about what I call the “gospel cycle.”  because I find so much clarity in the fact that God uses this four-fold pattern to grow every disciple into maturity — and that includes suffering.

For me, the gospel cycle unlocks the secret of how you can be joyful when you suffer. How so?

–>> Each encounter with suffering displays the risen Christ in and through you.

Let me explain. Our calling as disciples means that, as suffering comes, we share in the death and resurrection of Christ in a profound way. Nowhere is this truth stated more plainly that in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians. Notice the pairs:

“But we have this treasure in earthen vessels,
that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed;
we are perplexed but not in despair;
persecuted, but not forsaken;
struck down but not destroyed”
(2 Cor. 4:7-9)

Disciples share in the death of Christ as we suffer in various ways. Paul lists some of those:

  • hard-pressed,
  • perplexed,
  • persecuted,
  • struck down.

We could add many others, such as: illness, loss of loved one, loss of property, criticism from unbelievers, getting sued, depression, weakness, etc.

treasure in clay potsPaul makes it clear that out of our death-like experiences emerge resurrection-like realities:

“always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus,
that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body”
(2 Cor. 4:10).

When you suffer, God is going to be at work to display Jesus in your life, and through you to others. The situation will still be difficult, but the privilege of displaying Jesus should give you joy.

As difficult as it is to endure a season of suffering, it can also be one of the more precious times of companionship with Jesus. In fact, some believers who look back on a time of intense suffering long to return, not to the hardship that came upon them, but to the closeness which they experienced with God.

I encourage you to linger with God during this time to experience whatever He desires. Elsewhere I have written on how this pattern helps us pray when we suffer.

The teaching on the Gospel-Cycle is powerful. It will unlock a lot of understanding for you. Please subscribe to my email list and I will send you more of this Biblical teaching.

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Prayer when suffering

18 04 2017

When I have gone through seasons of suffering, I do not find it easy to pray. Sometimes all I am able to pray is “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, help us get through this.”  Or, “Lord, have mercy, have mercy!”

In more peaceful times, I have received insight about prayer during suffering. This kind of prayer brings us back to the cross, and into deeper fellowship with the suffering of Christ. Consider these helps in praying through the four-fold pattern of the gospel cycle:

prayer in suffering

The cup of surrender.  Suffering calls us to surrender in two ways. First, there is the circumstantial suffering –the illness, loss, persecution, job loss, financial crisis, etc. Since this suffering has come to you, surrender to it is not so much a choice as a requirement. But the second kind of surrender is a choice – the attitude of your mind and soul. That is, how will you respond to the suffering? This is the time to pray that the will of God will be accomplished in your heart and in the circumstance.

The cross of sacrifice.  Depending on the nature of your situation, the cost of your sacrifice brings you face to face with intense pain, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. Unlike any other life experience, you may say “I am crucified with Christ.”  Here you may enter into the profound mystery in which the Son of God understands your suffering and, as with Mary and Martha, weeps with you.

The tomb of abiding.  Your suffering will change you. Your soul will have greater capacity to grieve what was lost while still carrying on in faith. There is no time schedule for abiding in the rest available in Christ. There is no right or wrong way to experience sadness. Pour out your feelings to the Spirit of Jesus who understands.  “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

The empty tomb of manifestation. Jesus’ story did not end in the tomb, and neither will yours. The risen Christ, who lives within you, will display Himself in you. This happens as you continue to stay surrendered and as you continue to abide with Christ in your loss. Pray that Jesus will find ways to manifest Himself through you. It is not your job to think of how. You must simply maintain hope that He is able to accomplish His witness through you.

pray in sufferingPrayer response:
Sovereign God
who knows all things
who sees the confusion of my heart
who hears my cry
I am your child
the one who hurts
the one who slogs through this terrible time
the one who does not understand why
I’m stuck in time
others move forward, but I’m frozen in this place
does anyone know?
Can anyone relate?
I can’t think ahead
my faith is weak
I can’t go back and undo
my feet are stuck in mud
Please take charge
guide me through
rescue this mess
take some glory for Yourself
somehow.


This brief teaching is what I write about in my email series called “Following Jesus.” In those lessons, I explain what God has shown me about the “Gospel Cycle” and how you can deepen your walk with Jesus according to the gospel pattern. I would love to send it to you. Please subscribe below.

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Women’s equality and the resurrection

16 04 2017

Resurrection kills book sales

First of all, the fact that all four gospels record the resurrection of Jesus Christ proves that either the authors knew nothing about getting books sold, or they were committed to telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Because the resurrection is the hardest pill to swallow and a real popularity-killer.

And the fact that the early church did not edit out the resurrection story further proves that the incredible rising of a dead man back to life was a narrative they were willing to suffer for. Which they did, not only in lack of popularity but in imprisonment and execution.

But now let me mention how the resurrection intentionally affirms the value of women.

You are surely aware that throughout history, women have generally been regarded as having less authority and credibility than men. This continues in many societies today, and it was certainly the case in the period during which Jesus lived on earth.

In fact, a valid witness in a Jewish court of law had to be free (not a slave), passed bar-mitzvah, mentally competent, able to hear — oh, and male.

So if the New Testament writers were scripting a narrative to show the resurrection was a historical fact, the witnesses would by no means be women!

Enter the God of surprises.

She wasn’t even high-born.

The very first person to witness the resurrection was a woman whom Jesus had delivered from seven demons. Here is Scripture that has stayed in the record for close to 2,000 years, “Now when He rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons” (Mark 10:9)

Culturally speaking, the Apostle Peter would have been a better choice. The outspoken, Type-A “rock” of the church would have commanded attention as the lead witness. But no, God chose for His first witness a woman whose life had been in tatters till she was delivered by Jesus.

The men didn’t believe her. (shocker!)

What does she know? Mentally, is she together?  “She went and told those who had been with Him, as they mourned and wept. And when they heard that He was alive and had been seen by her, they did not believe (Mark 10:10-11).

A mighty angel knocked over guards and assured the women

So a magnificent angel (“His countenance was like lightning, and his clothing as white as snow” Matt. 28:3) roars into that cemetery. The Roman guards keel over as dead. He assures Mary and some other women who have now gathered, that Jesus has risen. Go tell the men, he says. So they head off, amazed and in shock but joyful.

On the way (this is amazing)…

On the way, “behold, Jesus met them, saying, ‘Rejoice!’ So they came and held Him by the feet and worshiped Him” (Matt. 28:9).

And He told them to not be afraid.

resurrection women affirmed

God entrusted the most important news of the Bible to a few women.

No novelist concocted this story. But male historians recorded it and came to believe it.

I thank God for His radical view of womanhood.

Our Christian history, our faith, our world would be woefully lacking without women then and now.

Sisters, we need your faith and your voice of truth today.

Go, tell His disciples that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead!


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Here’s why your church has ups and downs

16 04 2017

Everyone has a church story.
…It was wonderful. It was horrible.
…I quit for now. I quit for good.

There are many statements we hear about the church:
…If it weren’t for the people, I would love the church.
…If you find the perfect church, don’t join it because you’ll wreck it.
…I love Jesus. I just can’t stand the church

We often think that when we have a good church experience we do well in our Christian life, but when the church struggles we fall back. This can be the case. Division, apathy, immorality and many other problems can cause harm to believers.

But consider this:

–>> Every church will have struggles and these struggles are essential to spiritual maturity.

One of the primary ways God will conform you to the image of Christ is through your positive and negative experiences in Christian community.

Please allow me to explain with these three points:

1. True Christian community is gospel formed.

By “gospel formed” I mean that the gospel (which at the core is Death, Burial, and Resurrection of Christ) is the pattern God uses to shape mature disciples. This is true for us as individuals and Christian groups.

I won’t go into a lot of detail here, only to say that when communities go through death-like experiences, it is very hard!

2. Hard times in community call us to greater growth.

The Apostle John reminds us that Jesus’ sacrifice remains the pattern for true community, “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16).

Do you see the death of Christ in that verse? Do you see the sacrifice asked of believers in community? The church goes through hard times so that you can learn to imitate your sacrificial Savior.

I know, not easy to hear!

3. Because Jesus rose from the dead, His communities can experience His risen life.

The community of Christ is to be conformed not only to His death but also to His resurrection!  As we endure, we will experience His grace, and will realize that we are living a supernatural life in community. And the world will see that we are different because Christ is living His life through us.

It is sad that we sometimes bail out on a church in its death-stage and miss out on its resurrection-stage!

That’s why most times we should hang in there.

Would you like to learn about being gospel-formed? God is conforming you to Christ in many ways — not only in community. Also in your family, in holiness, and in suffering.

I have written some lessons which explain it. They are prepared and ready to go. All you need to do is sign up for my “good news giveaways”!

Hope to see you soon!

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