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What Do You Feed Your Soul?

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Can you imagine how completely awe inspiring it would have been to see Jesus do a miracle? I mean, come on, Jesus took five loaves of barley bread and two small fish and fed around five thousand people! (John 6.1-14) It’s no wonder the men who witnessed this said, “This is truly the prophet who is come into the world.”

The sad part about this wonderful display of divine power by Christ is that some people could not care less that Jesus was the Son of God. They were just interested in what Jesus could do for them. Look at what He tells them when He says, “you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled.” (Jn 6.26) What an ungrateful thing it is to look at God and basically say, ‘what have you done for me lately?’; especially when He had so richly blessed them by feeding so many just the day before.

In the face of such selfishness, how would you feel? How would you react? I know many people would be hurt and lash out at such an uncaring attitude. Jesus however uses this as a teaching moment and says, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him.” (John 6.27) You would think that they would pump their fist in the air, yell YES, and do a little happy dance. I mean, who would not want that kind of food?!!!

Unfortunately, these guys were not only selfish, they were dense and selfish. Can you believe their response to what Jesus said was to ask how they could get the power to work the miracles of God? They said, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” I don’t know about you but I think I might have lost my cool at that point, but not Jesus. He goes on to essentially say, ‘OK, you want to do the works of God, here is what you do.’ “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” (John 6.29) That’s awesome! Even I can do that work of God, so can you, but the men Jesus was speaking to still did not get it. They just could not see past their own self-importance, selfishness and pride.

Now they began asking for a sign or a miracle to prove Himself. WHAT? He just fed five thousand people with five loaves and two fish, what more could you want? They even said to Jesus, “Our fathers ate the manna in the desert; as it is written; ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’”

They were so focused on trying to figure out how to get the same power Jesus had, they missed the truth that the bread that feeds the soul, the bread of life…Jesus, was standing right before them! He said plainly, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and He who believes in Me shall never thirst.” (John 6.35)

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Friends, while the food that fills our stomach is important, it is nothing compared to the food that can fill our soul! Jesus is the very bread of life that can strengthen your soul and feed you for eternity. Please, do not let selfishness, pride, or the problems and cares of this earthly life keep you away from that which can feed your soul forever…Jesus and His word. Think about it.

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The Gospel & Soul Food

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The Gospel & Soul Food

Any true southerner can tell you that while soul food is southern food, not all southern cooking is soul. To me, there is definitely comfort to be found in cornbread smothered in beans with ham-hock or pulled pork on johnny-cakes (flat cornbread cakes cooked on a griddle, yum) with a side of mustard greens and don’t forget a tall glass of sweet iced tea. Throw in a bowl of homemade gumbo and I’ll be your friend for life.

I have a feeling that I may regret thinking about soul food at ten in the morning as lunch is a couple hours off, yet my suddenly rumbling stomach causes me to stop and consider this… it is not the only thing that requires nourishment. Our spirit must also be fed if it is to grow and remain strong.

The apostle Peter encourages us to, “desire the pure milk of the word so that you may grow thereby.” (I Pet 2.2) He’s right you know. Only when we drink in the wisdom and knowledge of God through His word can our spirit grow to be more Christ like.

Advertisements constantly bombard our senses with the promised benefits of “power” foods. You can enjoy everything from weight loss and stress relief to brain and muscle builders if you just eat our diet. Perhaps we are missing the ‘most powerful’ food of all in our diet; one powerful enough to save a life from eternal suffering! Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation…”(Rom 1.16)

Jesus chastised Satan when He said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”  (Mt 4.4) We routinely work to make sure we have our favorite foods in the pantry, investing a good bit of our time and money to the effort. Do we give the same amount of time and attention to our spiritual necessities which impact our lives dearly? Our Lord plainly said that if all we are doing in life is feeding our bodies, then we are neglecting  that thing which matters most, our souls. When this happens, I sadly believe, we become dead men walking. Talk about an eye opener.

While talking with a Samaritan woman, Jesus spoke about giving her “living water.” (John 4.10) He tells her, “Whoever drinks of the water I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4.13)

Consider this. If you have ever struggled with obesity and the doctor showed you a simple food that would help you get healthy, you can even eat as much of it as you want, you just have to eat some every day, would you try it? If depression or anxiety could be a thing of the past with a daily glass of juice, would you drink it? If cancer would retreat in the face of a simple nightly snack, would you keep a stockpile of it? We all know the answers. Why then do so many people throw their  eternal lives away by allowing sin to feed bloated pride or the world to drag us into hopelessness? Why is the simple, freely offered cure for a slowly dying life left untouched?

Jesus said to His disciples, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing. The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life. But there are some of you who do not believe.” (John 7.63-64).

Don’t let your spirit starve and wither to die.

Feed it with the living word of God.

Feed it!

Do Over!!!

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“Do over! I wasn’t ready yet,” she yelled out as she rounded the tree laughing. This was the scene following our recent VBS where an impromptu game of tag broke out among the exuberant youngsters. It is the excited request for a do over that is rattling around in my head this morning.PlayingTag

How many times in life have we wished for a do over? Do you ever find yourself wishing you could make a better grade, or buy a different car? Would you invest your money differently or take a different job? Would you spend more time with your family? Come on, can I get a do over? Please?

No, I can’t! We live with the life we have created by the choices we have made.

BUT, there are some things we can do from this day forward.

We can choose to live under the weight of guilt and sin for all of the mistakes we have made OR we can choose the path of renewal each day. It’s true that we may bear the scars and consequences of our past, but that does not mean that those weights and burdens have to overcome us. Consider what the Hebrews writer has to say;

Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. (Heb 12:1-2)

Truth be told, there is little benefit to being caught up in the past. Beyond learning from the experiences of life, reliving our mistakes over and over just feeds on the negativity they bring, and this  is guaranteed to bring you down. After trying over a thousand filaments for his incandescent light, Edison was asked if he had failed, “No, I have eliminated one more element that will not work for me.” Paul puts it this way;

Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Php 3.13-14)

We can use our experiences to help others on the path through life. Children understand, “you are going to make mistakes, but you certainly don’t have to make the same one’s I made.” By being open and transparent about the detours you have taken and curve balls you have missed, you are better suited to help others along the way. Taking that approach to life allows you to take your mistakes and extract good from the circumstances.  This may have been what Paul had in mind when he said, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8.28).

Think about it.

Is There a Right Kind of Worry?

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WorryFor the most part, worry is wrong. Jesus teaches this during His sermon on the mount. Listen to His words when He says, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?” (Mt 6.25ff)

Jesus plainly shows us that it is wrong to have great anxiety over material things such as what we will eat or wear. Worry about the mundane things of this earth is useless because it changes nothing and worry is faithless because it reflects a lack of confidence that God can and will take care of us.

 

With that being said, is there ever a healthy kind of worry? Yes, actually there is, although we might choose to use words like concern or care in place of worry. Take a look at what the apostle Paul says, “I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.” (Phil 2.19-20)
Both Paul and Timothy are greatly concerned, even worried, about their brethren in Philippi. They were evidently facing some adversity that tested their Christian conduct (Phil 2.27-30) which could damage them spiritually. Paul was determined to send Timothy to help them due to Timothy’s deep love and sincere care for the Philippians. I believe we can say that both of these men were vitally concerned, or even worried, about the spiritual welfare of their fellow Christians.

 

This is not the only time Paul would feel great anxiety in his heart concerning all of the churches, to the Corinthians he said, “And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Cor 11.28)
Paul was not worried about how many times he would be put in jail, beaten, or shipwrecked, these are all worldly things. What concerned him was humbleness, teaching Christ, and standing up against false teaching. He felt great concern, anxiety, and yes worry, for God’s children who faced the kind of adversity that could weaken the spirit and their bond with God.

 

So we ought to try to conquer our fretfulness over the mundane, temporal matters of our earthly life, while realizing that there is a legitimate place for true concern and care for the spiritual welfare of others.



Words To Live By

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                From time to time I have had the privilege of looking through a ‘preacher’s Bible’. I am referring to that Bible which has been used by a preacher for many years. They are often easy to pick out among others. One of the first things you might notice is the duck-tape holding the cover together or the rubber bands around the outside to keep notes, bookmarks, and even pages from falling out. Speaking of pages, they are stained along the edges from many years of fingers seeking knowledge of God. You will not hear the crinkle of a ‘new Bible’ here.

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                This Bible has circles and arrows pointing out one verse from another. Some places are underlined and others highlighted. CIA code breakers would have a hard time figuring out the pattern of how verses are marked and referenced. Greek words are scattered everywhere. So many notes can be found in the margins that you might think a whole book could be written from them alone. In fact, some have; Wayne Jackson wrote a book titled Notes from the Margin of My Bible.

                Thumbing through a Bible such as this is humbling. It becomes a diary and testament to one man’s love for his God. The weight and responsibility of a teacher of God’s word can be felt within the lovingly worn pages. I asked once, “how do you decide what verses to highlight? Are they just special to you or do you have some other pattern?” You see, I was interested so I too could have an impressive looking Bible. How foolish, how selfish of me.

                This kind, older preacher smiled and then chuckled. He went over to his desk and pulled out a stack of index cards three or four inches thick. They too were stained with age and use. He explained that when he was a young preacher his friend and mentor told him to begin memorizing scripture. “You’ll ne-er regret et”, he mimicked. The handwritten cards helped him memorize and keep scripture fixed in his mind. Only then would he highlight them in his Bible. I swallowed a lump in my throat as I flipped the pages. There was not a single opening without verses highlighted in one color or another, some in colored pencil, others in marker. Here in my hands was a lifetime spent following in the footsteps of the savior. My eyes tear up just contemplating the sacrifices he must have made through the years and the number of souls that will one day be in heaven due to one man’s humble dedication to God.

                I have fondly recalled all of that to hopefully encourage you in this; teachers, preachers, dads, moms, Christians, we all grow weary from time to time. Life presents us with trials that will test our faith. Sometimes we just seem to run into a case of writer’s block that lasts longer than we hoped, and other times we are afraid to become more for God than who we are now. During those times, might I suggest, if you can, look at an old duck-taped, rubber-banded, circled, arrowed, and edge darkened ‘preacher’s Bible’ and consider that God has blessed us with a great gift…His word, direction, and love, all waiting for us to simply reach out and accept it. You just may be awed at how humbling and inspiring it can be.

Your words were found, and I ate them, And Your word was to me the joy and rejoicing of my heart; For I am called by Your name, O LORD God of hosts. (Jer 15:16)

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.  (Jos 1:8)

Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree Planted by the rivers of water, That brings forth its fruit in its season, Whose leaf also shall not wither; And whatever he does shall prosper. (Psa 1:1-3)

Who At The Door Is Standing

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DoorWhat a beautiful song and message this is! My soul stirs within me as we sing this hymn, and it makes me acutely aware of the Lord’s tremendous love and patience. Think about these words from the second stanza:

“All thro’ the dark hours dreary, knocking again is He; Jesus art Thou not weary, waiting so long for me?”

            Many people wait so very long before submitting to Jesus and becoming Christians. Thankfully He is enduringly patient. We, as Christians, often procrastinate in our coming back to the Lord after we have sinned. Christians and non-Christians alike lay awake at night, pricked by a guilty conscience. That’s what the song is talking about, during the dreary hours, Jesus is “knocking” on the door of our hearts and hoping we will reconcile with Him. Consider the thoughts of David as he expresses the heaviness he feels in his heart: (Psalm32:4) “For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; My vitality was turned into the drought of summer.” Have you ever felt as David did? What a terrible burden it is to bear, and the really horrible part is that we choose to place that burden on ourselves!

Here is the response the Lord wants in the third stanza: “Door of my heart, I hasten! Thee will I open wide; tho’ He rebuke and chasten, He shall with me abide.”

The Lord wants to abide or live with all people. Of course, He can’t abide with all people as they won’t all submit their will and ways to Him. That is the thrust of the song. He is waiting, waiting, and waiting…standing at the doorway of our heart, patiently enduring our silence, just waiting for us to open up. The refrain of the song ends with this statement: “If thou wilt heed My calling, I will abide with thee.”If” is such a small word to have so great a meaning. “If” will keep people separated from Christ. However, if we do His will, He will be with us forever. He will be with us through the good times and the times when we don’t know how we can continue. He will be there on Judgment Day and tell God that we are His and to welcome us home.

Have you let Jesus in? He is still patiently waiting outside the door of your heart. When will you let Him in or allow Him back into your life? Don’t make Him wait long as we may not be here to answer the door tomorrow.

Lord, Give Us More

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I cannot take credit for the list below, but neither can I remember where I received it from. Regardless, I found it encouraging and wanted to share with you.

It is often the case that when one is promoting a position, and another stands in opposition to that position, efforts are made to discredit the one who stands in opposition.  This is often accomplished by “name-calling” and “false-labeling.”  However, such tactics should not dissuade one who is standing in the right.

  • If opposing homosexual marriage is being homophobic, Lord, give us more homophobes!
  • If demanding strict obedience to the Bible is legalism, Lord, give us more legalists!
  • If opposing divorce, except for the cause of fornication, is idealistic, Lord, give us more idealists!
  • If opposing women leadership in the church is chauvinism, Lord, give us more chauvinists!
  • If dressing modestly is prudish, Lord, give us more prudes!
  • If opposing abortion is right wing, Lord, give us more right-wingers!
  • If believing in the inerrancy of Scripture is fundamentalism, Lord, give us more fundamentalists!
  • If total commitment is fanaticism, Lord, give us more fanatics!
  • If believing one should be a virgin when one marries is Puritanism, Lord, give us more puritans!
  • If believing in creation is foolish and unenlightened, Lord, give us more fools!

No matter what names the world and even some Christians may call you, if you stand for the truth, the Lord will call you “right.”  Give it some thought.

This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I Jn 1.5-7)

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