Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Loving the Saints-Feed the Children

Feed the Children

Matt 14:13-21 is an extraordinary passage of Scripture, particularly for those of us who rejoice in God’s goodness promised to all of His Saints. The disciples had a hard time getting their minds around this. When the children were brought to Jesus, they discouraged the people. Jesus rebukes them for doing so and blesses the little children. Here, the disciples are unable and unwilling to feed the people but Jesus is altogether of a different mind. He desires the multitude to stay and eat with Him. In fact, He so much desires this that He will feed them Himself.

On this occasion, as in every other occasion of a crowd coming to Jesus, Jesus was teaching the people with authority. We have a great picture of a worship service. The people come to God. They hear the words of life. They are healed. They are blessed by the Lord. And then they eat with Him. Jesus wants the people to sit and eat and be filled. These people had not been fed by the hypocritical Pharisees. Jesus is teaching His disciples to NOT be like them. They need to understand that God is not as nitpicky about feeding His people as the so-called establishment that has been designated to feed them. This is why He saw the crowd as sheep without shepherds.

But Jesus does a marvelous thing. He gives thanks. He breaks bread. And He feeds the multitude. He did not make the women and children go away into the outer court. He did not send them off to children’s church. He did not make the babies go play in the nursery. He just fed everybody. And we should remember that it was a big crowd, a big crowd of sinners. No doubt, a bunch of them were not too well behaved. There were probably more than a few hungry toddlers making a ruckus. But Jesus feeds them anyway and seems to want to teach the disciples, the apostles, that this is exactly what they are called to do.

Let all who are weary, all who are heavy laden and desiring rest come unto Jesus. And there were about five thousand of them, plus women and children. They all came, men, women and children. Who would refuse to feed the children with the food of Jesus? Let that man learn the lesson.

My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. 1 John 3:18-19

The Road Not Taken

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Robert Frost

This is the last stanza of Robert Frost’s poem, The Road Not Taken. It conveys a wonderful picture of the result of choices. We make choices every day and many times within each day. Generally, we make choices the same way that we have always made them. We choose the well-worn path for it is a path of safety, convenience, comfort. We call these choices, habits. We become so accustomed to them that we hardly even realize that we are making choices at all. We think that we decide automatically, as if the choice in the matter is beyond us. But that is only because we have chosen the well-worn path so often that we head that way without a second thought.

A lifetime of choices has brought us to the point where we are today, for good or for ill. A situation arises. We react. We think that the reaction is not a choice but an instantaneous reflex response. But this is not true. An angry word hollered at the driver that did not accelerate fast enough when the light turned green is not the same thing as protecting your eyes from a suddenly falling branch. One is reactionary, natural, mechanistic, free of moral choice. The other is simply the end result of a particular way of thinking, trained into a habit. We say as we think for out of the heart the mouth speaks. This fact is equally true for facial expressions, bodily gestures, tones of voice, and particular comments. All of these outward expressions simply reveal what is under the skin.

This is not merely a matter of positive thinking and self help. At the root of a frowning countenance is an unthankful and discontent heart. And behind an unthankful and discontent heart is bad theology. God is the maker of events. He is the governor of history. He is most particularly the governor of the history of His people. If God superintends the world, how much more so does He superintend all of the events of all of His saints? A tendency to always see things in a negative fashion is merely the manifestation of bad or immature theology in the heart and mind. The mature Christian is always looking for God’s purposes, and therefore, God’s good hand in Providences.

PollyAnna played the Glad Game. She always looked for something to be glad about in every circumstance. This is not because she was a PollyAnna(how did she get a bad rap?), or shall we say a stork with her head buried in the sand, but rather, because she was a Christian and understood that all things have their purpose in the good purposes of God. If the event happened, then God meant it. God is good, therefore there must be some good in it. The harder the providence, the more difficult the game is and the more likely that the one in the hard providence who finds the answer will win the game.

It is easy to find good in a wrecked car when everyone lives and you get a new car out of the deal. But how to find good in the death of a child or of a husband or wife is not so easy. But we are Christians and we must know by faith that it is good because God is good. We must know by faith that there is purpose because God is purposeful. We must know by faith until we can know by sight. And when we know by sight, we win the game.

There are two roads. One is well worn and most people travel down it. “Life is hard. I am weary. It’s just not fair. Will I ever get a break? People are so stupid. We’re having that again?”

The other road is green. Few have taken it. The trail is hard to follow but it looks promising. “God is good. There is purpose. He knows better than I. This, too, will pass. I will believe until I see. I know this bad thing is good, I just don’t know how it is good yet, but I will wait and I will see. I am always treated better than I deserve. God is good.”

Take the second road. It will make all the difference.

Saturday, October 22, 2005


We have become mechanical in our understandings of the world. We do not see cause and effect between the spiritual world and the physical world. We set the two at odds with each other when we ought not to do so. We also tend to do this in our own lives. Bad things happen and we are unable to make connections between what we have done and the circumstances that befall us. But we should take note to these prayers of Solomon. It was clear to him that Israel would generally be blessed for obedience and cursed for disobedience. This blessing and cursing was far beyond individual blessings and cursings. While individuals are blessed and cursed just as nations and peoples are blessed and cursed, the lesson ought to be more generally drawn from the larger context. The more we drill down into the details, the more difficult it becomes to speak authoritatively. This does not mean that we should shy away from doing so. Sometimes the cause and effect of personal sins are easy to see. But Job’s friends made some huge mistakes when trying to apply this general principle to his life. When we do this sort of thing, it simply means that we do so more carefully, prayerfully and biblically.

Now, in the case of national sins and consequences for those sins, it is easier to determine, especially if we look in the right places. Modern liberals and legalists have made sins out of behaviors that the Bible does not recognize as sin. Both tend to neglect the weightier matters of the law. Liberals say it is a sin to drive an SUV for we might hurt our mother. Legalists say it is a sin to consume alcohol for we might hurt the body, the temple of the Lord. Both have jettisoned the requirement to discern these matters biblically, and so while straining out gnats, they swallow camels.

We do have a list of many sins for which God will rightly bring His chastisement and if we do not repent, then ultimately His wrath and judgment. This first phase of His wrath is a turning away and letting us run headlong into these sins.

Sexual sins have ever been a snare, not only to those in the world but also to those in the church. This is nothing new. But God is letting us run headlong into these things and we must see that the fact that this is happening is proof that God has begun to judge us in it. And the Church, liberal and legalist, is strangely silent in this area. It is no wonder that these sins are rampant in those quarters. It is always easier to point out somebody else’s sins rather than one’s own sins.

The Church is full of such sins. This, in itself, should not alarm us. The Corinthians were just such sinners, but had repented. The Apostle Paul says, 1 Cor 6:9-11 9 Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, 10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.

If the Church is a haven of healing for refugees from the world, then we should rejoice. But if the church has become a den of iniquity, then we have reason to sorrow. It is not clear at this time what the outcome will be in short term in this country. I know that long-term, God will purge His Church, separate the wheat from the chaff and perfect His bride. But we must not lose touch with what God is doing. The danger is all around us.

Let us have a mind to be done with all such sins that will lead us away from Christ, both individually and corporately. Let us repent in such a way that we can say, “Such were some of us.” But now we have been washed and have put away those things that defile. So, let us confess and let us walk in the newness of life, hating all things that defile and loving whatsoever things are pure.