Food for the Soul

Read This Week: John 6

Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.” Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?” Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.” – John 6:26-29 NIV

It has been said that followers of Jesus frequently get fixated on God’s provision instead of His presence. We can get caught up in what He can do for us instead of what He is to us. We sometimes desire Him to move miraculously in one instance instead of experiencing a consistent movement of His Spirit daily. We are more susceptible to seeking His hand and what is in it than seeking His face and glory. We often want the things God can give us more than the gift and pleasure of knowing Him.

This tendency to miss Jesus because we are focused on asking Him for things we want and need is not just a modern struggle for contemporary Christians. It plagued the disciples and those who followed Christ when He was walking on the earth in the first century. John 6 contains such an example, and several passages reveal the motives of those following the Savior and His ministry at that time.

Jesus had just fed the five thousand and walked on water, two awe-inspiring, miraculous signs showcasing His deity, power, and majesty. These two things are enough to get the attention and galvanize the faith of anyone. But the Lord tells us that the disciples were not following Him because they saw the signs and came close to His presence but because they had eaten the food he provided and had their fill. He says in verse 26:

Truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.

In other words, Jesus admonishes them for failing to see the significance of the miracle and His person because they are satisfied by getting what they need at the moment. A Bible commentator once remarked that instead of seeing the miracle in the bread, they saw only the bread in the miracle. Their hearts were looking for a materialistic provider instead of a miracle-working Messiah. They wanted a bread that sustained physical life when they had the bread of life right in front of them that guaranteed eternal salvation.  

Jesus wanted them and wants us to crave food for the soul more than a temporary fix for our hunger. He told the disciples, Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. God doesn’t want us to pursue things that don’t matter while missing the one thing that matters for all time. He wants us to pursue food that only He can provide. The spiritual food that endures all things in this life and remains for eternity.

An intimate relationship with God embodies all we will ever need. His word, the food for the soul, is all the sustenance necessary for our spiritual walks, relationships, service, and work. May we not miss the One behind the miracles and provisions, and may we never value food more than food for the soul. And may we always see the blessing of God’s provision in our lives and worship Him for it.

Like Father, Like Son

Read This Week: John 5

Jesus gave them this answer: “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing because whatever the Father does, the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, and he will show him even greater works than these, so you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so, the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it. – John 5:19-21 NIV

Like father, like son is an idiom that likens a son to his father and shows similarities in their mannerisms, interests, and behavior. John chapter 1 established Jesus’ solidarity and oneness with Father God and His place as the second person in the Trinity. His identity is the long-awaited Son of God to whom all prophecy and Old Testament ceremonies pointed. But here in John 5, we see perhaps the ultimate like father, like son example and the most important passage concerning the deity of Christ. Verse 19 says:

Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing because whatever the Father does, the Son also does.

Having provided proof of equality with God by healing the paralyzed man by the pool of Bethesda and then explaining the nature of His work on earth as one with the Father, Jesus claims to be equal with God and informs us that he does only what he sees his Father doing. Jesus’ authority is derived from and subordinate to the Father. His actions are the Father’s. Like Father, Like Son.

Over the next couple of verses (19-23), Jesus explains several tenets of His relationship with the Father:

• The Son is dependent on the Father’s revelation to Him
• The Son allows Himself to do only what His Father reveals
• The Son chooses in obedience to do precisely what He sees the Father doing
• The relationship of submission leads to the Father’s love for the Son
• The Father’s love for the Son leads to showing Him all He does
• The Son’s perfect dependence on the Father guarantees His equality with Him

As a result of this relationship, Jesus, the Son, gives spiritual life as a carrying out of the Father’s perfect work. Jesus said that God the Father would show them greater works through Him so they would be amazed. And these greater works were the giving of life through the Son’s death, burial, and resurrection. It was the Father’s divine work of eternal salvation through the Son that we and all those who believe benefit for all time. We are thankful and amazed for the Father and Son.

An Intentional Life

Read This Week: John 4

Now Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard that he was gaining and baptizing more disciples than John— although it was not Jesus who baptized but his disciples. So he left Judea and went back once more to Galilee. Now he had to go through Samaria. – John 4:1-4 NIV

It is more than evident throughout the whole of the Gospels and the NT witness that Jesus was constantly and intentionally on mission. Everything he did was for a kingdom and spiritual purpose. This evidence of an intentional life is clear in John 4 within the story of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. A close look at the context of this decisive moment in Jesus’ ministry shows us what it looks like to be on mission versus living for a cause. It also shows us that being intentional can lead to life-changing moments.

An intentional life is a proactive life full of strength and power that is not dictated by or reactionary to events, circumstances, and people. At first glance, the beginning of the chapter could lead one to believe that Jesus left Judea because the Pharisees were noticing him and starting to get suspicious. But we discover in verses 3-4 the real reason for his departure. It says: So he left Judea and returned to Galilee once more. Now he had to go through Samaria. He had to go to Samaria. Jason wasn’t running from or reacting to the Pharisees; He had a divine appointment with the woman at the well.

Jesus’ intention and desire to go to Samaria is more impactful because the Jews frequently avoided Samaria when traveling from Judea to Galilee because of their hatred for the Samaritans. They would go miles and miles out of their way to avoid having to pass through the area. But Jesus had to go there. He had to go to have a conversation with a broken, confused woman dealing with chaotic life choices.

The Savior had to go to the Samaritan woman to show her love, grace, and mercy and share truth with her in a way that would lead to redemption. He had to go to get drinking water from her at the well while giving her living water for all eternity. He had to go so that an entire town would believe in the Lord Jesus Christ from her experience and be saved. Verse 39 says:

Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony.

We can live with the same intentionality and purpose that Jesus did. The Holy Spirit can empower us daily with a heightened awareness of His mission and what He’s called us to do in the world. God can give us the wisdom and strength to go to the places and to the people who need a touch from Him and to see His light. 

An intentional life is one of success and one that has the potential to have an eternal impact on not just one person but a whole community. We don’t have to be swayed or influenced by the culture, outside voices, and circumstances. We can have an intentional life on mission propelled by an inward experience of Jesus continually changing and guiding us.

From Heaven

Read This Week: John 3

John replied, “A person can receive only what is given them from heaven. You yourselves can testify that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah but am sent ahead of him.’ The One who comes from above is above all; the One who is from the earth belongs to the earth and speaks as one from the earth. The One who comes from heaven is above all. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life.” – John 3:27-28, 31, & 36 NIV

John 3 is full of theological and practical truth about Jesus. This chapter, through dialogue and the teachings of Jesus and John the Baptist, lays out the divinity, supremacy, and eternality of Christ, the Gospel message, and what one must do to have salvation for all time. It even includes John 3:16-17, the most famous and often quoted verse in the Bible:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save it through him.

We see in these passages that the nature of spirituality, faith, and knowing God is not something produced or originated on earth. Skeptics and antagonists often say that Christianity is a human construct or religion, but the teachings of Jesus and John the Baptist beg to differ.

John says these things come to us only from heaven (v.27). Jesus further iterates that one has ever gone into heaven except the One who came from heaven (v.13). Both of them make it clear that illumination of truth, spiritual power, salvation, the hope of the afterlife, and empowered living come from outside ourselves. 

Human beings or an earthly mechanism cannot manufacture these privileges of a relationship with God, but they come only from the Lord of heaven and earth through Christ. John establishes spiritual authority from God through the person of Jesus in verses 31 and 36, where he says: The One who comes from heaven is above all. This statement means there is no other credible source of salvation except through Jesus. He is above all. Therefore, because of His supremacy, whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life

We can be encouraged and filled with joy by reading this chapter because it teaches, informs, and reaffirms that God is above all and that His Son, Jesus Christ, is the redemptive answer for all humanity. We can be born again through faith in Him and restored to an eternal relationship with the Father. God is the One who so loved the world. He is the One who sent his only Son. Our hope doesn’t come from ourselves or something finite that will disappear. Our hope is infinite because it is from heaven.

Showing Off

Read This Week: John 2

What Jesus did here in Cana of Galilee was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory, and his disciples believed in him. After this, he went to Capernaum with his mother, brothers, and disciples. There they stayed for a few days. – John 2:11-12 NIV

It is often said among the leaders and people of Reach Ministries after God does something extraordinary or unique that, He is just showing off. This expression means that the Lord reveals His glory, power, and goodness in the world and among His family. Father God is showing off the excellent care, provision, and love He has for us and everyone. He is putting His glory on full display for us to be inspired by and compelled to worship Him. The same was true for the first miracle at Canan in John 2.

At the end of chapter 1, we got a promise of greater things to be revealed by the Son of Man. The Messianic age is here, and God’s glory is now seen in the person of Jesus Christ. Coincidentally, God will first show off his power through Christ at a celebration. A wedding celebration. Weddings were significant events in Jewish life, and festivals (feasts) were symbolic of the coming Messianic kingdom, so it was appropriate for Jesus to perform His first miracle and reveal Himself at a marriage feast. It was the perfect place for God to show off.

The point in which Jesus intervened was when they ran out of wine at the celebration. Mary, his mother, comes to Him and asks for his help. Jesus is reluctant at first but decides to intercede for his friends. Mary then instructs the servants to do whatever Jesus tells them. Verses 7-9 Says:

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water,” so they filled them to the brim. Then he told them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the banquet.” They did so, and the master of the banquet tasted the water that had turned into wine.

The party’s host not only realizes that more wine has been miraculously brought in, but he proclaims that it is the best they’ve had all night. This act is God showing off. Not only did he have compassion for his friends and a desire to bless them and all attending the party, but He also gave them the finest they could have. Isn’t that also what the Lord does for us? He is a loving Father, and His grace and love provide for us and give us good things, the best things. Just as the event at Canan showed, only God could do something like this.

Verse 11 iterates that the miracle of water into wine was the first of the signs through which he revealed his glory. Not everyone at the wedding realized the significance of Jesus’ action, but his disciples saw it as a revelation of God’s presence and responded in faith and belief. We recognize God’s activity and power in our lives every day. It strengthens our faith and gives us confidence in our mission and journey. We know He is showing off, and it causes us to bow down, worship, and celebrate.

The Whole Story

Read This Week: John 1

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:1-5, 14 NIV

Sometimes you have to tell the whole story to tell a story. We must see the big picture first to understand all the little images that make up the whole. John 1 is that type of scenario. The first chapter of this gospel is the metanarrative of God and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is the narrative about all the records, stories, and histories of Jesus seen in the gospel accounts. John establishes the eternality, divinity, and supremacy of Christ immediately in the first three verses to lay the foundation for all we will read about, learn, and know about Jesus’ life. He calls Him the Word (logos) and tells us of His eternal and divine origins:

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him, all things were made; without him, nothing was made that has been made.

This powerful opening explains who Jesus is and establishes the themes and recurring ideas we will see in this book and the rest of the New Testament. We know the nature of God and Jesus, the work of the Father, the revelation of Christ, and how one receives salvation through belief in His name. In the first eighteen verses, we know that God revealed Himself to the world, and his eternal purpose is to bring life to men and women even though their natural response will be to reject Him. But the good news is that God has been made known; even better, we can know Him! 

John’s writing is unique so that the Jews and Gentiles (namely, the Greeks) could understand what he was saying. Therefore, it presents in a manner that we can understand too. We can know in our language the complete picture of Christ. We can understand that Jesus is both God and man. We realize He is part of the Trinity and is eternal, made us, sustains us, and empowers us to see an eternal reality. We can comprehend through John’s gospel that Jesus became human and made his dwelling among us, therefore, being able to sympathize with our pain and temptations all while remaining perfect.   

Because of all these truths and realities about Jesus in John 1, we can read the stories and events that follow with illumination and a clear picture of the true God. We can observe his miracles, acts, relationships, and ministry with discernment and spiritual insight that make them more authentic and impactful. Because of the whole story, we can have a personal relationship with Jesus and, through faith and His grace, receive the gift and blessings of eternal salvation. Knowing the whole story is so important and life-changing.

With Great Joy

Read This Week: Luke 24

He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations.” Then they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. – Luke 24:46-47 & 52 NIV

Luke 24 is a joyful chapter. If this gospel has taught us to be courageous, as is a theme, then its concluding entry emphasizes that believers should have joy as they take courage. Followers of Jesus have experienced amazement, hope, healing, and an answer to their suffering in this book, and now, because of the resurrection, they have assurance. They, along with us, have confidence that allows for peace and joy because the long-awaited promise of the Messiah is fulfilled in Christ.

There was great joy at the tomb on resurrection Sunday when the women realized that Jesus had risen from the dead on the third day just like he told them. No doubt their hearts filled with joy and gladness after the angel spoke of this truth, and they remembered his words (v.8).

There was great joy among the two disciples on the road to Emmaus when they realized the one who had been walking and talking with them was none other than the risen Christ. They even said their hearts were burning within them as they talked with Jesus, and he opened the Scriptures with them. This burning turned to joy as they understood that he was alive and proclaimed to the rest of the disciples: It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon. 

There was great joy when Jesus appeared to the Twelve and showed them the scars on his hands and feet. Verse 41 tells us that they could hardly believe their eyes because they were so happy and astonished that he was in front of them. It says they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement. They were so excited and filled with joy at the presence of the risen Savior that it seemed too good to be true.

Finally, there was great joy as the disciples and followers were blessed and watched Jesus gloriously ascend into heaven back to his rightful place. Verse 52 says that after seeing this display of majesty and power, they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy. The word great in this context means an intense effort and one that affects the emotions of the mind while powerfully moving the senses. That is quite another level of joy and one that we experience knowing Jesus.

May the Spirit of God lead us every day as we live in light of the resurrection. May the word of God pierce us with the truth of His grace and eternal salvation so that we will have a delight of such intensity that it floods our senses; and takes over our mind, body, and soul in such a way that it radiates through our lives. May we live with great joy so that other believers will be encouraged and those far from God will be touched and changed.

Criminal Minds

Read This Week: Luke 23

One of the criminals who hung there hurled insults at him: “Aren’t you the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” – Luke 23:39-43 NIV

So many times in life, we play armchair quarterback in various situations. We take the gift of objectivity and hindsight on things that did not happen to us or circumstances that happened to someone else, and we talk about what we would do or would have done. Often the events that we review, discuss, and commentate on are ones of a dire or emergent nature. We are prone to critiquing the behavior and reaction of others involved in moments where human resolve, resilience, and mortality are tested and in jeopardy. Consequently, it is easy to say what we would do in a situation when we are not in it.

One such scenario exists in Luke 23. In fulfillment of prophecy, Jesus was crucified among the transgressors (Isaiah 53:12). He was put to death by the Roman government with two criminals, robbers who were rightly punished for their crimes. These were two violent men guilty and convicted of an armed robbery involving murder. They were criminals of the highest order and, in every sense, criminal minds.

Jesus was different. He was innocent of the accusations against him, and his mind was on more redemptive, eternal things. We see in verse 34 what was on his mind as he was suffering on the cross, where he says about those who were putting him to death, mocking, and beating him: Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

However, one of the criminal minds next to Jesus changes his thinking. The one robber followed the crowd and religious leaders by mocking Jesus’ power and told him to rescue himself if he was indeed the “King of the Jews”. He chose to jeer at and ridicule the One who could ultimately set him free. But his partner in crime had a different approach. He heard his counterpart insulting Jesus and said in verses 40-41:

Don’t you fear God, he said since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.

It took resolve, courage, and humility for this man to defy his friend and not go along with everyone else, especially in times of great need and desperation. It took amazing faith for Him to trust in Jesus, who was there dying right along with him. It took trusting in the truth to override his criminal mind and faulty thinking. He chose to have a compliant and submissive mind, and it led to his salvation.

The robber was saved by the grace of God, just like the rest of us. It was not his words or the defense of Jesus. He did not deserve it, and he did not earn it by his actions. Forgiveness was given to him as a gift through faith and by the word of Jesus Christ. It was as simple as what the Lord said in verse 43 in response to the robber’s plea for spiritual pardon: Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise. For by grace through faith, the man was saved as all can be if they turn to God as the robber did.

The Holy Spirit can control us and help deny the criminal mind or the sinful tendencies our nature brings. May we allow the Lord to guide us toward truth in our moments of need and in the activities of everyday life. May we also be as gracious and loving as Jesus was toward the robber so that the charity and kindness shown toward others can lead them away from the criminal mind and embrace the mind of Christ. 

The Setup

Read This Week: Luke 22

Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. – Luke 22:9 NIV

Luke 22 is about preparation and setup. It is about the preparation and set up of events under the sovereignty and will of God for the mission of Jesus on earth. So much of what has already taken place in this gospel and in other accounts of the life of Christ is about the preparation leading to why He came. The setup of these events cannot be ignored in the context of the glory of God and the redemption of man for all time. They flow together and point toward God’s ultimate will in Christ.

In verses 1-6, we see the setup of Judas and the religious leaders. They were conspiring to betray and have Jesus arrested and did so during Israel’s holy festival. They were motivated by hatred, greed, jealousy, and a bitter disappointment that their agendas would not be fulfilled by Jesus. But their actions and setup led to love, charity, kindness, and grace demonstrated by the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

In verses 7-38, Jesus prepared for and the disciples set up the Passover or the Lord’s Supper. The setup here indicates that Jesus knew what was going on with his enemies in another part of the city. Many of the disciples did not even know the location of the upper room until they arrived; Jesus made sure that the one who betrayed would not have authorities show up before he demonstrated his coming sacrifice at the supper. The Lord was intentional in his setup of this sacred moment, so the “setup” that Judas was carrying out would not undermine its impact that still resonates today.

In verses 39-46, Jesus prepared for what was ahead of him in prayer. The setup to the pain and sting of being falsely accused and arrested was an intense, passionate time of communion with the Father. In verses 47-53, we see the setup of Jesus’ suffering at the hands of the Romans and religious leaders offset by his compassion in healing the ear of the servant of the high priest.

In verses 54-62, the setup of Peter’s denial of Jesus leads to his powerful restoration and the transcendent, Spirit-filled moment that he would spearhead at Pentecost. In verses, 63-71, the setup of Jesus’ authority is questioned and mocked, and his supremacy questioned by Pilate prepared the way to the revelation of his divine imminence and eternal power.

What does the setup look like in our lives as we are on mission with God? Are we prepared for the moments that His will is leading us? Like Jesus, God the Father can empower us to express His love, kindness, goodness, and patience when others and situations dictate otherwise. The spiritual setup and communion God with every day can help us navigate any circumstance, decision, or challenge the journey may bring.

We must set up so that we can stand up for God when we’re asked if we know Him. We must set up so we can get up and go to the places we are called to tell others about God and His salvation. We must never underestimate what God can do in the setup.

Like We Know

Read This Week: Luke 21

There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming in the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near. – Luke 21:25-28 NIV

Signs of things to come always have implications and a bearing on the present. When we can sense what lies ahead, we can prepare for the current moment. Living in the present while looking to the future is the essence of the Christian journey. We look ahead to eternity and what awaits us in heaven while allowing that truth and glory to inform our purpose, behavior, and decisions here on earth. Luke 21 contains some alarming teachings of the end times that should also strengthen the believer to live with anticipation, faith, and vitality.

Christ says in verses 20-28 that many disturbing and difficult things will happen in times of tribulation. He declares that Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies (v.20), those in Judea will flee to the mountains (v.21), and there will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. He goes on to say that the nations will be in anguish (v.25), and people will faint from terror

Despite all these harrowing events and the coming judgment, Jesus tells His followers and us to stand up and look up because we know help is there. Help that is not in the sky or clouds themselves, but in the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When we lift our heads and look to God, we do not look anxiously or nervously. We look with faith that help will come from the Lord and be exactly what we need. We look with confidence. We look like we know.

To look like we know means to look in expectation, to watch in hope. Like we are waiting on something of which we are sure. It is to look for God with an understanding of His flawless character, impeccable timing, pure intention, and perfect will. Like we have certainty of His sovereign power and irresistible grace. The world and any circumstance that it can send our way now and for all time is no match for the redemptive supremacy of God and the status He gives us as His children. 

We can lift up our heads and look like we know in life regardless of whatever awaits. We can look like we know because God is coming for us. He is our redeemer, helper, and keeper. The Lord guards and watches over us and attends to our every need. He is the maker of heaven and earth and the architect of ultimate redemption through His sovereign plan of salvation. We can stand firm in our day-to-day lives and future prospects because we have and worship a risen Savior who is bigger and more powerful than any apprehension of what is coming in the world.