Tag Archives: God

Some Questions as We Sail into a New Year

Well, we’ve done it again. Managed to blunder on into another new year.

Hmm. I wonder why just now I said “blunder”? Amazing how just a few letters carelessly tossed together can affect the taste of the whole word’s salad.

I could just as easily have said “wander” or “stumble” or even “stagger.” None of the above would have been much nicer or more optimistic, I’m afraid, and I apologize for that. The flavor of those words is rather pointed out by that word “optimistic” which is precisely what they are not.

If the captain of the vessel upon which you are sailing is heard early in the morning to grouchily exhort the helmsman, “See to it, Smythe, that you don’t blunder onto any rocks near the shore today,” well, that’s not a very inspirational thought for passengers who’d on the whole prefer to face the voyage with higher hopes than avoiding a bone-crushing fatal wreck on unseen reefs and a cold gruesome death by drowning.

Whether your journey is by train, plane, or automobile, you’d generally hope, I’m sure, that the engineer or pilot or driver referring to the day’s travel would be judicious in his or her use of such uninspiring words and sentiments. You’d generally like to think that the journey had some sort of plan to it and that those charged with its execution had at least a modicum of expertise and skill with which to execute the plan and conduct a pleasant, rewarding, and eventually successful trip.

Oh, yes, you’d like to think so. But therein, I suppose, lies the question. Is this journey we’re all on actually going somewhere? Is there a point to it? Are we on course or just adrift? And who, pray tell, is doing the steering?

I’m wondering a bit right now about the course of this column and where it’s tending. It’s possible that in the next few paragraphs I may completely answer the questions just raised, queries that have found their way into human minds ever since our ancestors had leisure to quit running from saber-toothed tigers and pause in the breath-catching to think loftier and more complicated thoughts. If I do blunder, wander, or stagger into profound answers, I’ll be surprised. I will say, though, that I think the answers center on the nature of the journey, the passengers, and, most important, the Captain.

For my part, I believe that the journey has a point and a destination. That the Captain has given us such freedom to make real and consequential course decisions along the way is sobering. (Entering this year with two loud out-sized “characters” bantering about the size of their nuclear buttons is not particularly encouraging.)

I think the Captain—the best and wisest of all—has given us a “seaman’s manual” to help us in plotting a wise course and to show us how other travelers have sailed. The whole point of the manual is to point us to his best gift, an ever-present Guide who sails with us, for whom no storm has ever been a match, and in whose strength a wonderful destination is sure and secure.

I, for one, need to be reminded to sail with much more real confidence, joy, and hope than might be my natural inclination or warranted if I were my own master. My Captain can steer me past all blunders and through all sorts of seas safe into Port, and that’s a hope-filled truth to shine a warm light on the whole voyage.

By the way, may I suggest that you turn to the manual and read Psalm 121? Great words for travelers all along the journey!

 

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.

 

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God Comes to Us Not As We Wish We Were But As We Are

 

 

At first the quotation I’m about to share may sound a bit cynical, but when you have a little time to think about it, I think you’ll agree with me that it is not only realistic and true, it is filled with hope.

You see, when God came into this world “in the flesh,” he was laid in a manger, a feed trough, in a stable surrounded by everything anyone in first century Palestine would expect to find in such a place—including the very thing you can find in ample supply in almost all stables today—a serious and almost unending supply of manure.

So a gentleman named Morse has written, “That the treasure of God’s grace reaches us surrounded by garbage will not seem surprising to anyone who is personally familiar with life in the church. . . . Grace comes to us, so Martin Luther argues, hidden sub contrario, beneath its opposite. From this perspective, any idealized view of the church as only treasure is as faulty a vision of reality as any cynical view that the church is only garbage. Mangers, by definition, are found where there is manure.”

You see, God comes to us “while we were yet sinners”—while we are as we always are—not what we wish we were, but what we are.

God comes to us as the angels sing “Glory to God in the highest!”

God comes to us as as those shining and mighty heralds proclaim the amazing message that the Savior has been born—and with that wonderful news comes the accompanying note that is almost as surprising—that we common mortals whom God’s Son has been born to save are those “on whom his favor rests.”

When the God of the universe comes to us, the amazing paradox is most fitting: He comes as the heavenly hosts sing, as heavens lit up with splendor declare the glory of God, but he comes in a tiny helpless form, lying in a manger, God in a most unlikely situation and shape, but having entered that situation and taken that shape, most likely crying just like any other of a thousand little babies, even those lying in far more appropriate cribs. And he comes surrounded by manure that smells, I think you can be sure, just like the manure in any of a thousand other stables.

In that manner of coming, we see God’s grace shining even more brightly than the Christmas star, and in that paradox of his coming, we find our best, our truest, our only, our highest hope.

God comes to us not as we wish we were, but as we are.

 

       You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2018 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


May Christmas Open Our Eyes to Real Gold

It’s always good, but never better than during these holy days, to recognize the difference between genuine gold and the sort that blinds fools (and all of us when we’re foolish).

You probably remember that alchemy of old was the attempt to turn common metal into precious gold. Most blacksmiths, I suppose, were content enough to ply their useful trade and hone their craft, and their communities daily reaped the benefit of their art in iron. Alchemists ultimately benefit no one, and we’re all alchemists when we find ourselves endlessly chasing pots of gold labelled “When We Make It Big,” “When We Arrive,” “When We’re Really Successful,” “When We Have All We Want,” when . . .

Notice that the pot of gold is always like the carrot on the stick in front of the proverbial donkey’s nose. Notice that the “when” of dangled success and proffered happiness is always in the future and never in the now. Notice that, self-blinded, even if we knew where we were going in our race to have always more, and blindly bowing to our creed that more is always better (we’re not sure why, but it must be, right?), we’d never know when we’d arrived even if we got “there.”

Odd it is, how a contented blacksmith finds gold that no one can take away and a gold-seeking alchemist, even one in a business suit or a fancy car living the “good life” spending all of his never-enough gold on himself and whose life’s highest goal is that he not lose too many golf balls, ends up with a life that rusts and blows away.

The closest the Virgin Mary ever got to gold was to hold in trust the amazing gift one of those truly wise men gave as an offering to her infant Son. What a sweet miracle it was that those fellows were given eyes to recognize the star they should follow, the fruition of the journey its light directed, and the baby King worthy of all worship in its glow. “When we arrive” never arrives for gold-worshipers, but “when” becomes “now” and rich indeed for gold-givers. They make the right journey. They worship the right King.

But long before that wise man brought gold, Mary’s heart was genuinely golden. The angel Gabriel’s message took her breath away, but pure was the heart that his appearance and his words almost stopped.

Glittering with God-glow, Mary goes to see her also-astounded and glowing kinswoman, and Elizabeth’s soon-to-be-born son, also God-promised and long-prophesied, leaps inside his mother as if he can’t wait to begin his proclamation. Ah, John, it won’t be long, but first Mary’s full-term time will come and more angels will visit to do their own God-commissioned proclaiming, to light up the sky with golden glory, and to sing praises with tongues of light.

Fools chase gold, frantically hoping to find it “when.” Mary and her children have already found it in their hearts when they respond to God and his promises right now, “Yes, Lord, I believe. May it be to me as you have said.”

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


“Christmas Seems to Come Around Once a Week”

Years ago, when a friend and church member who was well into his eighties told me that for him Christmas seemed to come around about once a week, I believed him.

But now, having tasted life at sixty, I’m getting Jay Butler’s point even more clearly. I might not say that Christmases seem to flit by “once a week,” but they surely do seem to come around far more quickly than they did when I was a child (or even, say, 25 or so).

You don’t have to tell me that the rate of m.p.h. (minutes per hour) really doesn’t change. Or that the whole thing is an illusion.

I understand that, though the moon certainly looks a lot bigger when it’s right above the horizon, it’s actually the same size always. I’m a very scientifically-oriented person. I realize that lunar green cheese doesn’t really expand or contract nearly as much as a quick glance might lead us to believe.

And, no matter how “slow the moments go,” or seem to, when you’re in love “for sentimental reasons” (says that sweet old song), minutes are minutes made up of sixty seconds strung along at exactly the same rate whether you’re gazing in eternal bliss into the eyes of your sweetie or gripping chair arms in unending agony as your dentist performs a root canal.

The reality, of course, is that the blissful moment only seems eternal and the cursed agony only seems unending. The sands of time actually drop through the glass at a fixed rate.

We know the reality, but we also know that it doesn’t feel real. Of course, if we trusted our feelings—the unhappiest and most dangerously unstable people in the world always do, and I hope you know better than to make that mistake—we’d swear that our fun/happy times fly by while our sad/painful times drag on forever.

An Internet search regarding this phenomenon led me to an article in The Observer which pointed me to psychologist and journalist Claudia Hammond’s intriguing book, Time Warped. I’d thought that the perception of the frequency of the Christmas season’s arrival had to do mostly with the varied frames of reference, the obviously different chronological perspectives, of, say, a four-year-old and an eighty-year-old. Yes, in part.

But Hammond points to a “holiday paradox.” As they’re being lived, special times seem to fly by, but their memories last much longer than the “ordinary” times that seem to drag endlessly but whose memories fade in a heartbeat. The ordinary times we zip through on autopilot. The special times in which we do new things and create new experiences are rich in lasting memories. For good reasons, your memory of a sweet event one Christmas will last a lot longer than what seemed like an eternal bout with your last cold, even though Christmases seem to fly by. (I’m not doing the book justice. It’s a good read.)

How long did God’s people of faith wait for that first Christmas? Almost forever, it seemed. But at just the right moment, “when the time had fully come,” God sent his Son and hope that will truly last forever.

I love Christmas. I’m okay with Christmases coming around very quickly. But I want to squeeze the juice out of every moment. I know now that I shouldn’t waste a single moment of Advent expectation/preparation and deep Christmas joy.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Thoughts on Cats and Dogs, Candles, and Romans 14

Getting ready. That’s what Advent is about.

At church we lit the first candle of Advent this morning, and, as I write on this Sunday evening, I’m sitting in a quiet house, enfolded by the warm glow of the light from our Christmas tree.

I didn’t grow up observing Advent or, for that matter, any of the other seasons of the “Christian calendar.” I was unaware that there was such a thing, and in our non- or anti-denomination denomination, there most certainly was not. I was blessed by “our” folks and still love them, but our bunch back then wasn’t even very sure about celebrating Christmas as a “religious” holiday. We weren’t the only ones. Chalk that, and a lot of this, up to our common Puritan ancestors, I think, who tended to be suspicious of both color and celebration.  But, honestly, I need to read more history to be sure I’m being fair with them.

As I grew older, I suppose I became vaguely aware that Lent was a time preceding Easter and, I thought, seemed to have something maybe to do with eating fish on Fridays. What else? I didn’t know.

As is the case with all of us pretty much all of the time, I needed very badly to learn a little more history to be able to make more sense out of the present and plot a wise course for the future. And, as a Christian, I desperately needed to read more church history for the very same reasons.

I also needed to learn some things other members of Christ’s family could teach me if we’d just try to cross over our walls occasionally and visit a bit. Not only do we honor our Lord by doing so (he prayed poignantly for the unity of God’s people, you know, in John 17), we also put ourselves in a position to learn some things. We might or might not choose to make some changes in our own situations, but at least we might come to understand more about the decisions and practices of other folks who love and honor their Lord every bit as much as our own little group does. The guy who said that cats and dogs who try spending more time with each other often find it to be a very broadening experience was on to something.

Differences among Christians regarding the keeping—or not—of special days is nothing new. When the Holy Spirit made it clear that God wanted the doors of his church opened wide to both Jews and Gentiles (the gulf between them was vastly wider than that between, say, a Baptist and a Lutheran) well, you never saw cats and dogs have a harder time figuring out how to live under one roof.

Ironically, then it was the more conservative folks who felt duty-bound to observe special feast days, and folks on the other end of the spectrum who felt perfectly free not to. Read the amazing Romans 14 to see God’s incredible counsel to his kids about dealing with differences. Don’t stand in judgment on each other, he says. Make a decision that you believe honors Christ. In love, let your brothers and sisters do the same. And don’t you kids dare look down on each other or try to make laws for one another! You’ve got one Master. You’re not him.

By the way, it turns out that Lent has precious little to do with fish. Advent does have something to do with candles (and I like candles). But both have a lot to do with preparing our hearts to more fully receive what God is doing. Personally, I like that a lot. Personally, I need that a lot.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Thanksgiving: A Time for Giving Thought to Gratitude

“The worst moment for an atheist,” writes G. K. Chesterton, “is when he feels a profound sense of gratitude and has no one to thank.”

Though any season is a great time for gratitude, Thanksgiving certainly lends itself at least to some thinking about the subject whether we’re believers, agnostics, atheists, or anything-else-ists.

Even an unusually intelligent golden retriever might do well to ponder on Thanksgiving morning the fact that somebody makes sure that food shows up in his bowl and water in his dish (and, well, for goodness’ sakes, what a nice meaty bone! Wonder what’s the occasion? Woof!). At least a little wag of the tail might be in order, I’d think, and I’m betting it would be more than a little one, since dogs seem to know instinctively that tail wags and gratitude are not items they need to hoard lest they run short.

More than “man’s best friend,” humans have, it seems to me, both a higher responsibility to think and to thank, and a much more serious temptation not to.

I’m told that the word “thank” comes from an older word related to “think.” And, according to the Online Etymology Dictionary, “thank” is “related phonetically to ‘think’ as ‘song’ is to ‘sing.’” So it would seem that even a very little thinking on our part would issue in “a profound sense of gratitude” and a great deal of thanksgiving. Our hearts really do have a song they should be singing, a song of thanksgiving! “Count Your Many Blessings” was a far better song title than “Think and You’ll Be Thanking,” but it really does come to the same thing.

What’s ironic here, and worth noting, is that those of us who seem to have the biggest boatload of blessings are often the very folks who are least likely to be genuinely thankful. Our “thanking” often suffers because our thinking is snotty, shoddy, and fatally flawed.

We tend to think that anyone else who has worked as hard as we have would naturally have as many blessings as we do.

We tend to think that anyone with a corresponding level of intelligence could certainly have made the same sorts of wise or profitable life or business decisions we’ve made.

We tend to think, though I hope we’d not say it, that we’re a “cut above” average and thus more deserving than others. When we say “blessings,” we mean something more akin to “wages, benefits, or dividends.”

We tend to forget how much we have that no one can possibly earn.

We tend to forget about inconvenient items that no one can control such as bad genetics or pesky microbes or crazily dividing cells or hurricanes or dictators or senseless crimes or market meltdowns—and so much more.

Healthy, happy, and more than well fed, it’s good that we’ve not bought into the self-defeating victim mentality that is such a scourge in our society, but buying into the “I’m my own god” mentality is just as deadly to genuine gratitude—and to our souls. We’ve not created a single breath of our own air or spun this world an inch, much less given ourselves life.

It’s a good time to do some good thinking and thus to be moved to lots of thanking. Most of all, it’s a good time to genuinely thank God and try not to confuse him with the dim-witted pseudo-deity under our own hat.

 

You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


Some Clues That the Holidays Are on the Way

Well, it’s official! The holidays are on the way. The calendar says so, of course, but other clues abound.

I just spent a day singing Christmas songs for folks at a great Christmas craft bazaar. I’ve often fussed about “rushing the season” and worried that Halloween goblins and Thanksgiving turkeys are increasingly at risk of being run down by out of control and out of season Christmas sleighs, but a Christmas bazaar in early November is not rushing the season; it’s right on time.

So I got a chance to tune up, sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Thanksgiving” (just kidding), and get myself ready for the soon-to-come prime time Yuletide crooning. Fun!  (I could only, that early, bring myself to sing “Christmas Must Be Tonight” once, but I’ll be singing it with gusto a good many days before it becomes literal!)

You don’t need a calendar to see leaves turning. It seems to me that our area foliage has never been more deeply crimson and glittery gold. Do your leaf-looking early in the afternoon, though. Daylight Saving Time is gone again, and it’ll be getting dark ten minutes or so after lunch. (Still kidding, but DST’s demise is indeed another clue.)

Ah, and here’s a clue. The toughest flowers of all have arrived. When other plants retreat, seek shelter, and hide in the greenhouse, here come the pansies in full bloom, daring the frost and snow.

Not much fun, but a clue nonetheless . . . flies are relentlessly trying to become houseflies indeed. They can’t freeze fast enough to suit me, but the soon-to-be-deadsters are mounting a full-on autumn assault.

Yes, but the best clue of all at our house is that the candles have been banished from the fireplace, and we’ve just had the first fire of the season. I love it! I like living in an area and at an altitude where fireplaces are much more than decorative. I know that in lots of homes, the fireplace and the TV are battling for “focal point” status. My vote is firmly cast for the former, and it’s one of my favorite features of this time of year. It’s burning now! Big clue!

Along that line, my wife and I are like most couples thermostatically speaking—wired differently. She likes thin bed covers and a fast-moving ceiling fan; I like cover that’s six inches thick and right up to my nose, the better to help me seek refuge from the ever-present fan. I’ll wait another month (for an ice storm and/or snow) before my seasonal plea for the down comforter has any chance for a fair hearing. But, the annual comforter kerfuffle notwithstanding, I take comfort in the fact that life has a way of balancing out. She can turn on the fan; I can build a fire.

All of this—thermostatic skirmishes and all—is as predictable as the seasons themselves.

Calendars are fine. But I like these additional clues that, right around the chronological corner, seasons are coming in which we’ll thank Someone larger than our turkey-gorged selves and rejoice that a Heaven-filled manger proclaims that love and hope are always in season.

 

      You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


The Day the Healer and Real Healing Came to Bethesda

What a surreal sight it must have been. The lame, the blind, the paralyzed, and people suffering from all sorts of diseases. A sad assemblage of hurting humanity, lying, sprawling, crawling, languishing around Jerusalem’s Pool of Bethesda. In the fifth chapter of his Gospel, the Apostle John describes the sad scene.

As is so often the case surrounding the most poignant examples of human suffering, humans trying to survive the situation and ravaged by an incredible range of emotions, are torn between varying mixtures of faith and “magic,” genuine trust and irrational superstition.

Verse 4 here brings up an interesting (and astonishingly rare) textual question we’ll not tackle, but verse 7 tells us what at least one man lying by that pool believed strongly enough that he somehow managed to get to the pool and spend days, weeks, months, years there.

I’m pretty sure we can assume that the rest of that sad crowd shared the same belief. They believed that when the water of the pool was “troubled,” the first person who got into the water following the “troubling” would be healed. Word was that the intermittently stirred up waters were stirred up by an angel, and, somehow, power was left in the water. Get there first and get healed.

I find myself with some questions here. I wonder, for example, about the focus of this sort of “faith.” Was it faith in water, faith in an angel, faith in a procedure?

We still hear about that last sort of “faith.” “Faith” that God will have to give me the “right” answer (that means the one I want), if I do enough mental gymnastics to convince myself that no other answer is possible. It seems to me that the focus of such “faith” is more on me and my effort than it is on God.

I don’t know what most of the suffering folks beside the Pool of Siloam were thinking on the day Jesus was there. But John tells us a little about what one man, a man suffering terribly for 38 years, was thinking as Jesus asks him a great question, “Do you want to be healed?”

It’s a serious question. Many people meet hardship with courage, but the sad truth is that others choose to make “victim” their identity. Healing is the very last thing they want. Such sickness is far deeper than physical and harder to heal.

Perhaps the sad man nodded his head, but his roundabout answer refers to a procedural problem: “I have no one to get me into the pool, so whenever the water is troubled, somebody else always gets in first.” So he’s saying, I’m messed up! Because of my bad situation, I need to get into the pool, but because of my bad situation, I can’t. I’m a victim of my circumstances.

How much faith does this man have and where is it focused? That is debatable. But the Lord who is stronger than any circumstance, our God who is not impressed with our recipes for magic—however “religious” they may sound—and who is stronger than our weak faith, says simply, “Rise up! Take up your bed and walk.”

Real healing has come to Bethesda. No trip to the pool required.

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


When Foundations Shift, Cracks Begin to Show

“Wow, I wonder how much farther that old sagging column supporting the corner of this old sagging house can lean out southward before the corner of the house just collapses and wordlessly pleads, ‘Help! I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up!’”

Nothing about that column is plumb, square, or level anymore, but I do notice some symmetry this morning. I’m writing my weekly Focus on Faith column weakly, sitting beside a weak porch column, and displaying at least some weak faith that this will not be the morning when that weak column collapses.

I don’t think the problem with that porch column started with the column. I’ve got my bag chair perched on the porch; if I look down, I see two things: 1) concrete, almost 90 years old, of an incredible quality no longer available; and, 2) in spite of the quality of the concrete, one big almost inch-wide crack bisecting the porch.

So the real problem is that the column is perched on the porch, the porch is concrete perched on a “stem-wall” foundation, and the foundation is shifting because the ground below it (drought-ravaged) started shifting first. Hence, that porch column leans, and even world-class concrete is defiled by a big crack.

When foundations become weak and begin shifting, much that we depend on to be sturdy begins to falter. We can no longer count on “plumb, square, and level.” Cracks that have been forming soon become too obvious to ignore. And, yes, eventually, columns tumble and what they have long supported crashes down.

We don’t have to look far in our society to see cracks becoming obvious. Look for their source and you’ll find foundations that are shifting and no longer able to support the weight they were designed to carry. Cracks. Crumbling. Collapse.

We’ve laughed at truth. I hear phrases like “your truth” and “my truth” which make about as much sense as “your gravity” and “my gravity.”

We’ve twisted real freedom, freedom to live a truly freeing, unselfish life of love that broadens our souls and blesses others, into the counterfeit “I’ve Gotta Be Me” no matter who I hurt.

We abandon foundational values as timeless and real as the multiplication tables (“your math” and “my math”?) and are surprised when what we build using false figures won’t stay standing. C. S. Lewis described the situation: “We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

If this old porch column is to go on bearing weight, my brothers and I are going to have to rebuild it on a firm footing.

And where can we find a foundation that will bear the weight of our lives so that our lives can be built not only to bless ourselves but to bless those around us?

May I suggest a walk down the street this Sunday morning? You’ll likely find a place where people meet to honor the Builder who set the foundation posts of this universe. As cracked and weak and crumbling as many of us who meet below them are, steeples still point in the right direction—to the One who is eternally faithful and strong.

 

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


God Pays the Price for Bread That Is Free and Freeing

“Then Jesus declared, ‘I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty’” (John 6:35).

Five little barley loaves and two little fishes. That’s all Jesus had, you know. And even those were sort of borrowed that day by the Sea of Galilee.

But the Lord who turned water into wine at a wedding feast took those loaves and fishes and turned 5000 hungry people hoping to see miracles into 5000 well-filled people whose bellies were rounded out by a miracle.

Now, when you’re hungry, about all you can think of is being hungry. But when you’ve been filled up with a miracle meal just a few hours ago but are well on your way to being unfilled and hungry again, what next?

Well, if you’re like the folks in John 6, you form a committee, take a hike to find the miracle worker, and start planning to force your feeder to become your free food king. Who knows? Maybe if he plays his cards right and gives away enough “Make Israel Great Again” caps, he just might amass enough power to take over as king and kick out those sorry Romans! At the very least, well, did I mention free food?

When they find him on the other side of the lake—by the by, how in the world did he get there?—Jesus says, basically, “I know what you want, and what you want is not nearly enough.”

“Oh, Rabbi, that free food by the sea . . . we liked it, don’t you see?”

“Oh, I see. But you should want food that’s better than free. Food that isn’t a few hours away from leaving your belly hungry again and your soul still starving. You should want more. Food that doesn’t spoil. You should want more. Food that gives real life. You should want more. You filled up with free food, but a day later what hadn’t turned into dung had turned into rot. You should want more! Food that’s not only free but frees your soul and fills it up forever. You should want more.

Now the wheels in their “bargain basement bread heads” were already turning. But this Rabbi’s words are a wrench tossed into their mental machinery.

Free food forever? Rot-free food that doesn’t route through your belly to fill your soul?

Oh, they could get pretty religious about “free,” but somebody tosses out a religious question. “You say God says “really free.” But our real creed, ages old, is as modern as tomorrow. ‘God helps those who help themselves.’ So what do we have to do before God does bread “free”?

Jesus answers, “One word. Believe. God’s work is this: believe in the One God sent.”

But one word can’t be enough, can it? “Let’s just get back to that old time religion, the kind we like that talks a lot about God and centers a whole lot more on us. We had a redeemer once named Moses who gave our ancestors manna to eat in the wilderness. Free food’s fine, and your barley loaf bread was mighty fine, but a really good sign would be . . . let’s see . . . You know, the old preachers said that when Messiah, the second Redeemer comes, he’ll bring not just bread, he’ll bring manna again. That’s the ticket! Show us a sign, and we’ll sign up! Show us some manna!”

I think they were disappointed in the answer.

“Manna was a miracle, and Moses was a great man. But you should want bread that’s better than manna, and you need to look a lot higher for a Redeemer. Even then, way “back when,” your Redeemer-Bread Giver wasn’t Moses; your Redeemer-Bread Giver was God. I warn you! If you keep on looking for life in stone-cold law that will never be bread, your bread will rot, your souls will rot, and you will very religiously rot trying to be your own redeemer. Do you want the real Redeemer? Do you want real bread? I AM the bread of life.”

“Is there work to do? Oh, yes. The work of believing. And even that is God’s work in you.”

“So, Lord, how do we get that bread?”

It’s still our question. And this is still our Redeemer’s answer.

“Believe. Receive. Take and eat.”

 

     You’re invited to visit my website at http://www.CurtisShelburne.com!

 

Copyright 2017 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.


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