John 6:1-15

From my Podcast, you can access here.

Jesus, The Creator & The Bread of Life

Here’s chapter 6, verses 1 through 15.

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick.  Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples.  Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.  Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.  Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?”  Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number.  Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.  And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.”  So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

Several motives, needs and reactions come to an intersection in John chapter six. Large crowds are following Jesus, having either witnessed His power to heal, or they have heard about His signs. On the calendar, the Passover feast was “at hand.” And, it was time for people to have a meal. There was not, however, sufficient food for this large group.

After a very brief discussion about how to feed the crowd, Jesus took a little food from a boy in the crowd – fed the boy and everyone else! Verse 10 says, “five thousand.” And, there were leftovers!

Two reactions are documented: (1) “When the people saw the sign that He had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is come into the world!” (2) Some tried to “take” Jesus “by force,” to make him King. Jesus, however, withdrew to the mountain by Himself.

One thing I want my listeners to understand. In this miracle, Jesus created! I mean, He brought into existence something that had no previous existence. Jesus, as in the beginning, exercised divine creative power, in providing all this food. Jesus didn’t plant, cultivate, reap and then bake. He called into existence food that had no previous existence. And this, of course, becomes another sign or evidence – that Jesus is who John claimed Him to be, back in chapter one.

Today, Jesus is the Bread of Life – and by believing in Him and following Him, we are nourished, find our purpose and we are filled with hope.

Grace Received

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 God’s Grace &

The Simplicity of Giving & Receiving

Warren E. Berkley

The worthy affirmation that we are saved by God’s grace has never really been a struggle for me to grasp, or a tangled theological puzzle to assemble. This may be because the preachers of my youth – almost without exception – frequently used the word “gift” in their references to God’s grace. Becoming a Christian or obeying the gospel was consistently pictured in terms of our “receiving a gift.”

I understood that well, since I loved birthdays! There would always be some sort of annual celebration, even if just cake and ice cream with family and friends. For me, the highlight of the event was never the cake or ice cream. In the years of my immaturity (which I held to way too long), it wasn’t so much that family and friends attended these events. I WANTED THE GIFTS!

There was never any thought that these gifts were wages I had earned, or awards I deserved. I remembered what “my preachers and teachers” taught me. It was grace that handed me the red wagon, the bicycle or battery operated robot. All I did was receive it, open it and use it. And I was expected to care for it. (Remember, I’m talking about the age range of 8-12. I didn’t use the phrase, “unmerited favor.” I didn’t know who John Calvin was. I didn’t visit the library to devour the systematic theology volumes). All I knew was – I was given something I hadn’t worked for and did not deserve. But I had to reach out and receive it, use it and keep it. I believed the givers were offering me something of value. That belief in their goodness and integrity prompted me to reach out, take the gift, say thank you, open the package, use it and take care of it. Through the whole process, it always remained a gift.

Fifteen years later, I discovered people didn’t understand God’s grace. Today – at 70 something years – I continue to see misunderstanding, passionate debates of the fine points, slants, agendas, perspectives and claims that run counter, not only to Scripture but to good, reasonable thinking.

It is this simple: God is the giver (Eph. 2:8), we are receivers (2 Cor. 6:1). To receive a gift is active. The gift is conditioned on the receiver taking initiative and responding to the offer, to receive what could not be possessed in any other way. Then use that gift to keep heart and life grounded in and responsive to the grace of God, “that brings salvation … to all men …,” (Titus 2:11).

Heb. 3:1-6

 Jesus: Worthy Of More Glory Than Moses

Hebrews 3:1-6

“Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and High Priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in all God’s house. For Jesus has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses – as much more glory as the builder of a house has more honor than the house itself (For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God). Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ is faithful over God’s house as a son. And we are his house, if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.”

The Jewish people held three men in their history – in very high esteem: Abraham, Moses and David. Moses delivered the nation from Egyptian bondage; he led them out of Egypt through the wilderness over near the promised land. But perhaps most important, the law God gave those people to live under, before Christ, was given through Moses. It was called THE LAW OF MOSES.

Christians who came out of Judaism were now being tempted to leave Christ and go back to the Law of Moses. When persecution came from their unbelieving Jewish relatives, it would be easy to leave Christ and go back to the ways of Judaism.

This passage was a simple message to the tempted Christians: DON’T DO THAT. Christ is “worthy of more glory than Moses.”

Whatever temptation you might face as a Christian today – there is no place you can go, away from Christ, that will be eternally safe. It may seem to be safe, in shielding you from persecution. But when you leave Christ – you leave the hope of being eternally safe. Christ “is faithful over God’s house as a Son. And we are His house, IF INDEED WE HOLD FAST OUR CONFIDENCE AND OUR BOASTING IN OUR HOPE.”

Your Atheist Neighbor

From Pressing On Magazine, Aug. 2013 – Click Here To Subscribe

What Your Atheist Neighbor Believes

By Doy Moyer

Atheism seems simple enough to define. It is the active belief that there is no God. Or is it a more passive failure to believe? Perhaps it is both. Hard atheists strongly oppose belief in God arguing that evidence is against God. Soft atheists, while not arguing that evidence disproves God, do not believe there is enough evidence to support God. Agnostics argue that we cannot know if there is a God, and so God has little practical value. There is a range of beliefs within the category of atheism. All hold to the same basic ideas: there is not enough evidence to believe in God, and (for hard atheists) evidence proves that God does not exist. In the last several years, the movement called the “new atheism” has grown, taking up the cause of advancing atheism. Leaders have included the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Larry Krauss, and Christopher Hitchens (deceased, no longer an atheist), among others. They have argued that modern science has conclusively demonstrated that God is not necessary.

Not only do the “new atheists” argue that there is no God, they are adamant that religion is bad for society. Taking their cue from Neitszche, who declared, “God is dead,” they believe that religion impoverishes lives and makes slaves out of people. They believe that atheism frees up the mind and body to live “authentically” (to borrow from Jean-Paul Sartre). They actively campaign against God and religion, particularly Christianity. Many new atheists have been quite evangelistic in their efforts, going so far as to buy billboard space or advertise on the side of buses. They are not content to let people live out their religious convictions; they are actively seeking to change those convictions and eradicate religion.

Of course not all atheists are so engaged. Many will simply be content to quietly live out their lives not believing, likely avoiding confrontations along the way. We should add to this number those who may or may not claim to believe in God, but live in an irreligious fashion as if God does not matter anyway. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Psa 14:1). This category of atheist is more of the practical atheist, and the reality of God just does not matter to such a person.

Understand the Despair of Atheism

One of the more prolific atheists of the twentieth century was Jean-Paul Sartre. He recognized the despair that atheism brings: “The existentialist … finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that ‘the good’ exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote, ‘If God did not exist, everything would be permitted’; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or without himself.” (Existentialism is a Humanism)

Such quotes abound. Yet here is what we need think about. Understanding the despair of atheism shows that atheists are ripe for the Gospel of Jesus. They know they are missing something, and they cry out for more. While they hide behind a facade of intellectualism and scientific pretensions, they are desperately in need of that which the Lord offers: grace, mercy, and forgiveness. They are, after all, just like all of us. All have sinned. All need Jesus, and Christians must share that message. The atheist may reject and mock it, but once that seed is planted, we don’t know when or how it may take effect in a heart that has long denied God.

Here are some pointers for dealing with atheists:

  1. Don’t be afraid to challenge the atheistic worldview. Christians will always be opposed and mocked, but we have no reason to fear their intimidation (cf. Rom 1:18; 1 Peter 3:14). What the world thinks foolish (the cross) is the power of God to believers (1 Corinthians 1:18ff). Our defense is for the Lord who died for us.
  2. Deal in ultimates: what is the ultimate foundation for thinking? Intelligence, or mindless, lifeless matter? If the latter, what reason do we have to trust our thinking (knowing that such reason would itself have come ultimately from mindless, lifeless matter that itself came from nothing). I push this to show such is not a foundation for trusting reason. In my experience, atheists hate having to deal with ultimates and will often say, “we can’t know.” But if “we can’t know,” then they have at least gone from atheist (“there is no God” — which is based on what they think they know) to agnostic. If this is the case, atheism cannot be so hardcore. It certainly is not based on knowledge.
  3. Deal in universals, especially in moral issues: they will argue against objective morality, but then will issue universal statements about moral actions. I recently asked an atheist this question after he fussed about “homophobes”: Is the condemnation of homosexuality universally immoral? Think about that. He refused to answer, knowing that this would put him into the universally objective morality category. The fact is, they cannot be consistent here, for when pushed, everyone has a moral line that should not be crossed.

We do this, not trying to embarrass, but trying to get them to see the inconsistencies of a position that renders both thinking and morality pointless. If a worldview cannot make sense of itself, then surely it is problematic. Ultimately, the main idea is to point them to God and Christ, in whom all things both matter and make sense.

The Blues

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STEADILY DEPRESS IN’, LOW-DOWN, MIND-MESSIN’

WORKIN’ AT THE CAR-WASH BLUES

By Jay Bowman

(Editor’s Note: one of my favorite chapters from the Jay Bowman book. See title and availability below.)

Sometimes we watch TV with perplexity and amazement. A troop of singers and dancers, cavorting across a bowery stage; slinking, gyrating. Net stockings, painted faces, skirts slit to the waist; wailing and beseeching, “Forget ya troubles, c’mon, get happy; you gotta chase all ya’ blues away. Shout hallelujah, c’mon, get happy, get ready for the judgment day”.

It’s a frequent theme with song-writers, particularly in musical comedies that “the blues” must be avoided at any cost. They are of the devil. But, merry-making of the kind here described is somehow “religious.” Wild hilarity, booze and frenzied dancing are said to be righteous, and “the blues” are the work of Satan. A diabolical lie.

But, it’s a good lie. No lie is effective unless it’s believable. None believable unless partly true. It is true that depression in the lives of people can wreak havoc with their faith and piety. How many times have you seen a Christian quit the Lord, maybe die unfaithful because of some difficulty in his life? Business failures, family problems, disobedient children, personal problems, all are means by which men’s souls are tried.

These are the explanations most often given for unfaithfulness. Or, even if not stated, they are usually the real problem.

Any experienced church worker can tell you that people become unfaithful in connection with disappointments, depression and problems, over and over again. There is a strange kind of logic that prevails in such cases, that blames God for our misfortunes, makes us want to withdraw from Him. A common and effective satanic device.

We must recognize and avoid such traps. Depression can and does cause people to sin, even deny the faith. Together with other forms of deception (e.g. “After I pout a while, I’ll get back to a faithful life.”) it sends millions to hell.

We should “count it all joy” when we fall into divers temptations; knowing that the trying of our faith worketh patience (James 1:2). We do this because we know God is mindful of us. We rejoice in spite of our troubles. We accept the temptations that come our way, and we live with the joy of trusting faith. But, we should not seek or desire to be tempted. Jesus advised His disciples to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Mat. 6:13). It is not wise to spend our lives wallowing in troubles.

A man must also avoid the dangers of ecstasy and elation. He who “has a ball” throughout life becomes first carefree, then careless, then insolent. He goes from joy to anomia to arrogance and derision. He devotes himself to pleasure and passion, never noticing that lust is insatiable and desire, a tyrant. “Losing the blues” as per the stereotyped musical is but an invitation to greater melancholia, to inescapable gloom.

The middle ground is the course to pursue. Neither wildly ecstatic nor deliberately sad. A man ought to be happy as he can be, consistent with God’s laws. Laughter is a good medicine (Prov. 17:22). Joy, to a man conscious of his Provider can evoke thanksgiving and pious communion.

But, troubles also can promote godly purposes  “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better” (Eccl. 7:3). God loves the man who is conscious of his own unworthiness aware of his need for Him.

People who love to be melancholy are usually not contemplating their sins. The subject of such misery is usually “me”, how mistreated I am, how unfortunate. As the line in the 1950’s song ran, “Why is ev’ry body always pickin’ on me?”

It may not be good to be happy. It depends on the reasons, the means and the consequences of that joy. Nor is sadness necessarily pious or healthy. It depends on its causes and consequences. We must avoid the errors of either state. Our final destiny will likely depend on how we reckon with joy and sorrow. “Getting happy” will not necessarily take you to heaven. Neither will getting sad.

From the book – JAY BOWMAN, THE COLLECTED WORKS.

Available to order from Barnes and Noble, Amazon, Book-a-Million, etc.

Contrary Reality

Contrary Reality

There may be a gap between what we think we are and what we really are. I may think I am young, gorgeous, brilliant, tall and wealthy. If I feed this self-image long enough, and if I get a little help from flattering friends, I may deceive myself into thinking this is real. Doesn’t change reality does it?

This is common, and especially in regard to religious profession. We may think we are religious over such a long period of time, we deceive ourselves into believing everything is all right. We do what we have always done and say what we have always said, carrying through life the assumption that we are saved. What we think doesn’t change contrary reality.

If your heart hasn’t been changed by the gospel of Christ; if your life is not really being lived in Him and according to His teaching, there is a gap between what you think (“I’m saved”) and how you are living (the contrary reality).

Or as James said: “If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one’s religion is useless,” and “…someone will say, ‘You have faith, and I have works.’ Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works,” (Jas. 1:26 & 2:18).

-Warren E. Berkley

1 Jno. 2:7-11

I’ve added two more podcasts to my series on the gospel of John, Click Here.

John’s First Epistle

1 Jno. 2:7-11

Hate’s Location: Darkness

Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness. 10 Whoever loves his brother abides in the light, and in him there is no cause for stumbling. 11 But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. – 1 Jno. 2:7-11

The coming of Christ into the world and the preaching of the gospel afforded good opportunity for light to overcome darkness, as people left the darkness of sin and stepped into the light of God, made possible by the person and work of Jesus Christ.

For those who made that choice, John issues this reminder that those walking in the light cannot bring with them any vestige of the darkness they left. They knew this before reading what John wrote.

The main idea of this section is written in verse 9: “Whoever says he is in the light and hates his brother is still in darkness.”

John does not allow contradictory claims. You cannot honestly say you are walking in the light if you retain hate for your brother. Hate is a part of darkness, not light.

The converse of this is, whoever loves his brother abides in the light, “and in him there is no cause for stumbling.”

“But whoever hates his brother is in the darkness and walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because darkness has blind his eyes.”

Love has always been a characteristic of God’s people. Jesus took love and filled it with rich meaning that was visible to people who were with Him and is now documented in the New Testament.

-Warren E. Berkley

Teacher Accountability

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Teacher Accountability

In dialogue about public education, you may hear this phrase, “teacher accountability.” The discussion that follows generally runs along the lines of continuing education, personal improvement, professional excellence and student results. (Perhaps also test results.)

Teaching is a challenge that is multi-leveled. It is essential to (1) impart the right information, (2) maintain a well disciplined class room atmosphere, (3) demonstrate the practical value of the knowledge imparted, and (4) motivate the students to apply what they have learned, and (5) teach students how to learn for themselves. In order to accomplish these things, the aspiring teacher must pay the price of spending time learning the information, and discovering how to best present it.

You cannot teach people what you do not know, and you cannot effectively teach people what you do not live! The Bible teacher must spend time with the text of Scripture, and live with the author of the text. The Bible teacher needs to teach people what the Scriptures teach, but also, teach them how to read and study for themselves. The Bible teacher must not only present facts, but present them so they will come alive in the hearts of good hearers. This carries the highest kind of accountability.

Or as James said: “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment,” (Jas. 3:1).

-Warren E. Berkley

Inspiration

From the published book, Christianity In Twelve Words – Click here to order.

Inspiration

by Andy Diestelkamp

The Bible exists. Many people dismiss the Bible as just another old book, but an informed examination of the Bible does not permit such a conclusion.

In the introduction of his book about the Bible as a literary artifact, Christopher De Hamel writes, “It is generally and credibly asserted that more copies of the Bible have been published…than any other text, and that even now it continues to be the best-selling text across the globe. It is more widely disseminated than any other written text, and there is probably hardly a person in the world now without achievable access to a copy, usually even in their own language. That cannot be said of any other written text” (De Hamel, vi). There is every reason to believe that the Bible continues its publication domination in digital media as well. What makes the Bible worth copying?

De Hamel makes it clear that his work “is not a theological book,” and in it he “offers no position on whether or not the Bible was actually dictated or endorsed by God.” Yet, he also says that his book “acknowledges, for it must, that many people who have used the Bible throughout its long history have regarded its text as having been divinely inspired, and that this very unusual status has been one reason why the Bible has been so widely promoted and read. It would be a mistake to underestimate this” (De Hamel, vi).

The Bible is a collection of writings believed by many to be the special revelation of God to mankind. The concept of words communicated by God to humans obviously goes beyond the realm of nature. From the beginning it is the assertion of Scripture that it was by the power of God’s Word that the natural world came into existence (Genesis 1:1; John 1:1-3). Thus the Word of God is superior to the creation. The physical creation is a product of the supernatural Word. Similarly, Scripture is a supernatural product from the same source. It is not a product of nature. It is the product of God. It is the purpose of this chapter to consider what Scripture says about how God has revealed Himself to mankind specifically through what has come to be called “inspiration.” Continue reading “Inspiration”

Heb. 2:10-18

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Perfect Through Suffering

Hebrews 2:10-18

“For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers, saying, ‘I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will sing your praise.’ And again, ‘I will put my trust in him.’ And again, ‘Behold, I and the children God has given me.’ Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

This passage helps answer a question: Why did Jesus Christ come to earth and live as a real human being? The term “incarnation” is often used, referring to Jesus existence here on earth. As John said, Jesus “became flesh and dwelt among us,” (Jno. 1:14). Why?

This passage is a good response. This says, “it was fitting” for Jesus to be made a little lower than angels, for Him to become “the founder of” our salvation, made “perfect through suffering.” It was fitting for Him to “share in flesh and blood,” because in our flesh and blood existence, we experience death. The devil uses that fear against us. Jesus conquered death. Also, He became “a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God,” not only to make propitiation for sins, but to become our sympathetic helper. It was fitting for Him to go through this, for us. It is certainly fitting for us to respond obediently to Him.