August 22, 2018- Traveling With the Bread of Life- Mark 8:4-21

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Now they (Jesus’ disciples) had forgotten to bring bread, and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he (Jesus) cautioned them, saying, “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they began discussing with one another the fact that they had no bread. And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?” Mark 8:4-21 (ESV)

The disciples may have forgotten their bread, but they also forgot they were traveling with the Bread of Life.

The apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 5:9 that “a little leaven leavens the whole lump.” If we start thinking to ourselves, “we need Jesus AND…” (which every single one of us is tempted to do,) that is a problem. The false gospel the Judaizers were trying to spread of “Jesus AND… circumcision and obeying the Mosaic Law” was a serious problem in the Galatian church. The apostle Paul suggests that the Judaizers shouldn’t stop at circumcision, but remove the whole member as well, (Galatians 5:12) to get his point across. Nobody is saved by law-keeping.

We can’t earn salvation or curry favor with God based on what we do. We are sinful creatures saved, redeemed and justified by the grace of God in Christ alone- or not at all. Nothing can add to Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross to save us from our sins. He saves us alone. It is a gift of grace. He is enough.

Nothing we can do, say, buy or possess is going to be of any use to us beyond this world. We can possess everything and master everything this world has to offer. We can be immersed in a worldly buffet that features every kind of food our hearts desire. But without Jesus, when the end of our days comes, we will be destitute, starving and hopeless. The apostle Paul teaches us in his letter to the Ephesians that apart from Jesus we are dead in trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1-10)

Thankfully trespasses, sins and death are not the end of the story for us who trust Jesus.

When Jesus speaks of the baskets of broken pieces, many scholars believe He was referring to twelve baskets to feed the twelve tribes of Israel and seven baskets to feed the Gentile nations. Jesus’ multiplying the bread to feed the five thousand, and then the four thousand was an illustration to the disciples that He has come to give Himself as sustenance for the entire world.

How often do we focus on our worry about bread for the belly and all our cares about all the mess of everyday life? We get ourselves mired in anxiety over bread that only sustains us for today, and we get worked up over cares that don’t matter two cents in the context of forever. Like the disciples in this text, we don’t realize that we are in the presence of Jesus, the very Bread of Life. He is holding us, sustaining us, giving us the gifts of faith and grace and repentance and salvation. We can trust him, rest in Him, and know that He is walking with us.

We are traveling with the Bread of Life. Even when we don’t always see His hand holding us up, even when we forget that Jesus feeds us with His own Body- the everlasting Bread from heaven, Jesus is with us- in this world and the next.

June 19, 2018 Boast in the Cross- Galatians 6:11-18, Luke 9:23-24

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See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

 From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.

Galatians 6:11-18 (ESV)

The apostle Paul tells us that in and of ourselves we have nothing to brag about, unless we are pointing ourselves and others to the Cross.

Paul was arguing against the insistence of Jewish people who became Christians that non-Jewish converts to Christianity should take on the Jewish rites such as circumcision. It would make them feel better in a way to be able to say, “We got all these new converts! They went through all our hoops! Yay for us!” The thing is, though, Jesus’ command for us to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20) was never about us getting numbers, never about us getting results.

Sometimes it’s easy for one person or for a small church or community to get discouraged because we don’t always see the numbers or the results of our work. It’s hard to stay encouraged in our vocations when we fail, when we don’t get positive feedback, or when we feel like everything we do is in vain.

The whole point of Jesus’ command to make disciples is for us to do what He says- in faith that the Holy Spirit will bring the results. We have no way of knowing whether or not something we say or share might be used by the Holy Spirit years from now to encourage or transform someone else.  If we are going to point to anyone, or we are going to brag on anyone, we have to brag on Jesus.

The Christian faith doesn’t promise us a crown of glory, or lots of stuff or perfect health. It doesn’t promise us even a “perfect” church in which everyone follows every rule just perfectly and loves each other without ever causing offense.  The church is a community of imperfect people- sinners and saints- all trusting in the grace and mercy of God.

Jesus Himself tells us: And he (Jesus) said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. Luke 9:23-24 (ESV)

In this life we are promised we will share in the sufferings of Jesus, but we are also promised that Jesus is growing our faith in Him now, and preparing us a place in the kingdom that is yet to be fulfilled. In Christ we are new creations.