Saturday, May 30, 2015

Soul Food

Then Jesus declared, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty."

-- John 6:35

What's your idea of a great meal? 

For some folks it's steak, potatoes and salad that hit the spot. Others love pizza, Vietnamese or seafood. And let's not forget those who crave vegetarian.  Steak

People's tastes and taste buds vary, but it's their hungers that unite them. However, there's another kind of appetite that has nothing to do with cheeseburgers and ice cream. It's the spiritual hunger that's hard-coded into our DNA. Inside, everyone has a gnawing desire to fill a gaping internal void. Some try in vain through negative pursuits involving drugs, alcohol, compulsive spending or gambling. Others attempt to fill it through their jobs or by escaping reality with social media, television, video games or even travel. But after the thrill is gone, the hunger always returns. And there's never any satisfaction.

Jesus addressed this universal dilemma by proclaiming (and proving) himself to be the "food" that everyone craves. When we accept him as our Lord and Savior and become Christ-followers, his spirit resides within us. And then he begins to fulfill our lives when we're willing to ask, listen and obey.

It turns out, however, that a little spiritual hunger isn't a bad thing. In fact, we all need to have drive--a certain level of intensity--to continue developing as Believers. That's because the old adage is true: Life is more about the journey than the destination. Our Creator has so much for us to see, experience and comprehend during our brief existence on Earth. How boring would life be if we've seen and done it all, and already know the answers?

Unfortunately, too many Christ-followers experience stunted spiritual growth because they lack this intensity to continue seeking meaning in their lives. The solution is to make the most of the people, places and situations that God puts before us every day. Meanwhile, we must continue our development through regular Bible study, prayer, worship, Gel Group participation and other positive habits. After all, there's nothing like a good workout to whet your appetite--and then satisfy it with food for the soul.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Just What the Doctor Ordered

Everyone on earth has a body like the body of the one who was made from the dust of the earth. And everyone in heaven has a body like the body of the one who came from heaven.

-- 1 Corinthians 15:45

The Garden of Eden must have been quite a place.

And indeed it was. We read in Genesis that it was a literal paradise filled with beautiful fruit trees, gardens, rivers and animals. God created Adam to care for it and later introduced Eve to complete the equation. There was no crime, violence, unemployment or any of the other unpleasant realities of our modern existence. And the first man and woman communed with God in a world without pain or sickness. Or even death.

Then...everything changed. Adam Prescriptionand Eve's disobedience through eating from the garden's forbidden tree led to their permanent eviction from Eden. And ever since, human existence has involved toil, conflict, illness and mortality. It's a price we're still paying to this day.

Just how far has Adam and Eve's sin taken us from that place of perfect health? According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), our nation's healthcare spending reached $2.9 trillion in 2013. That's $9,255 per person, which is more than 17% of the nation's gross domestic product (GDP). And with the nation's Baby Boomers entering their retirement years, our need for healthcare and related services will only grow.

Our country--as well as the rest of the world--is in desperate need of healing. That's why it's a good thing that God sent us a Great Physician in the form of his own Son, Jesus Christ.

We read in the New Testament that the Savior--with only a touch or a word--healed lepers, the blind and the paralyzed. He even returned a man and a young child from death: all incredible miracles that proved Jesus' long-promised role as God among us. But if you think about it, these wonders were temporary. Everyone who was healed or raised eventually died.

Jesus' cures, however, were much more than physical. They had (and still have) eternal, spiritual significance. In our 21st Century culture that worships vitality and outward appearance. Christ sees through our real condition like an X-ray of our souls. What's apparent is that every one of us hurts in one way or another through the wounds and fractures of daily life. And what we all need is true healing.

What's the prescription for a positive prognosis? It's our simple faith in Him.

Luke's Gospel tells us that one desperate woman--who had been plagued by bleeding for years--believed that her cure lay in touching Jesus' garments. And she was right. Luke also cites a humble Roman centurion who sought Jesus' healing for his deathly ill servant. Remarkably, this would-be enemy of Israel trusted in the ability of Christ's word alone.

When Jesus heard this, He was amazed at the centurion. Turning to the crowd that was following him, Christ exclaimed, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel."

Christ-followers aren't exempt from physical illness and death. That wonderful prospect disappeared with Adam and Eve's disobedience in the Garden of Eden. But we do have the promise of perfect health and happiness once we reach our eternal home with the Father. Until then, the Great Physician has written the prescription for curing our terminal spiritual illnesses. And we can fill it today by believing in his power, asking for his help and having faith to the end.

It's just what the Doctor ordered.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

The Show Me State

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.

-- Hebrews 1:11

Hawaii's "Aloha State" nickname makes sense. "The Sunshine State" (Florida) is self-explanatory. But how did Missouri become "The Show Me State"?

The best-known explanation attributes the phrase to Missouri Congressman Willard Duncan Vandiver. While a member 
of the U.S. House Committee on Naval Affairs, Vandiver gave a speech at a banquet in Philadelphia. That's where he declared, "I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me."
Seeing is Believing

The saying goes that seeing is believing. And the Bible records that many people believed in Jesus after they witnessed his miracles and heard him speak. But we also read in the Gospel of John about a different government official who apparently wasn't from Missouri. No one had to show him to believe:

At Capernaum there was an official whose son was very ill. When he heard that Jesus had left Judea and had arrived in Galilee, he went off to see him and begged him to come down and heal his son, who was by this time at the point of death.

Jesus said to him, "I suppose you will never believe unless you see signs and wonders!"

"Sir," returned the official, "please come down before my boy dies!"

"You can go home," returned Jesus, "your son is alive and well." And the man believed what Jesus had said to him and went on his way.

On the journey back his servants met him with the report, "Your son is alive and well." So he asked them at what time he had begun to recover, and they replied: "The fever left him yesterday at one o'clock in the afternoon". Then the father knew that this must have happened at the very moment when Jesus had said to him, "Your son is alive and well." And he and his whole household believed in Jesus. 

Today more than 2,000 years after that incident, there's no one alive who's an eyewitness to Jesus' recorded miracles. But that doesn't mean we have to check our minds at the church door to believe that he's indeed the Son of God and the Savior of the world. Not only did Jesus fulfill dozens of Old Testament prophesies recorded centuries before his birth in a tiny village called Bethlehem (which itself fulfilled ancient prophecy to the letter), countless people also witnessed his miracles. Likewise, the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people after his crucifixion and burial. And the Apostle Peter, who was one Jesus' earliest and closest followers, also offered this reliable testimony:

When we told you about the powerful coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, we were not telling just clever stories that someone invented. But we saw the greatness of Jesus with our own eyes. Jesus heard the voice of God, the Greatest Glory, when he received honor and glory from God the Father. The voice said, "This is my Son, whom I love, and I am very pleased with him." We heard that voice from heaven while we were with Jesus on the holy mountain.

Whether you're from Missouri--or anywhere else for that matter-- it all adds up to a mountain of evidence that's plain to see. And what's more, it's evidence that demands a response from you and me.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Wedding Gift

Jesus did many other miracles in the presence of his followers that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Then, by believing, you may have life through his name.

This remarkable passage comes from the Gospel of John--a book of the Bible that's full of eye-witness accounts of Christ's miracles. In it we read about Jesus healing the sick, walking on water and raising the dead. And that's not to mention his own miraculous resurrection and subsequent victory over death and sin. But John's Gospel also presents the famous story about a wedding Jesus attended with his mother and earliest disciples. It was during the post-nuptial celebration that he performed the first of his public miracles: changing water into wine.

Scholars have for centuries speculated Wineabout this wonder. It obviously demonstrated Jesus' power over material things. But it also revealed something much more profound: that God takes a personal interest in His creation--even mundane problems like running low on beverages at a party.

A gift (especially a wedding gift in this instance) is a visual, tangible symbol of love. So think back to the best gift that you ever received or gave. Whatever it was, it likely had some special characteristics. It was probably creative and had some thought behind it. And it also met a real need, regardless of its cost.

Jesus lived out his ministry giving to others in need. He gave the gift of sight to the blind, mobility to the disabled and even food to the hungry. And when Christ changed water into wine during the wedding feast, it saved the host from the embarrassment of running out of wine half-way through the party. Not only was Jesus a practical giver, he was also a humble one. He could have made a spectacle with his miracle and glorified himself. Instead, only the waiters at the feast knew that he had caused the transformation. It's a lesson that many of us could learn today.

Perhaps above all, Jesus' first recorded miracle at the wedding in Cana reminds us that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. And it's when we give like Jesus that we begin to look like him. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Why We Serve

"In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said:
It is more blessed to give than to receive.'"  
-- Acts 20:35

Why is service such an important part of being a Christ-follower?

First, we live in an upside-down world. And of course, it's always been that way to one extent or another. Murder, war, theft, lying and every other sin is hardly new. But something strange and unsettling has evolved over 
the last few decades. As mankind strives to become enlightened through more education and "tolerance" of once forbidden topics and behaviors, societal corruption has actually mushroomed. What was once considered evil is now held up as commendable. And what was once considered righteous, society now condemns as bigoted and narrow minded.  
Helping Hands

It's in these troubled times that we should recall Jesus' admonition to some of His earliest followers: "Make your light shine," he says, "so that others will see the good that you do and will praise your Father in heaven." 

We're living in uncertain days to say the least. But things aren't uncertain to the God we worship. So as Christ-followers, we're to share our faith in our Creator's ultimate control by being Jesus' hands and feet on earth. He calls us to help prepare his kingdom by making the most of the different gifts and talents he's given us. And it's as we serve our neighbors both near and far that we can live out our story about the One who changed everything for us when we needed it the most. 

"In the same way, the Son of Man did not come to be served," Jesus explains. "He came to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many people."