Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 The Old and the New

All of us have certain core traditions and beliefs that are important to us. They make us who we are, they define our own behaviours and the way we think other people should behave. That is what lies behind the passage from Mark 7:1-8,14-15,21-23.

As usual, the Pharisees and Jesus were having a difference of opinion. The Pharisees were upset because Jesus and his disciples did not take part in the Jewish hand-washing ritual before they ate. To the Pharisees, Jesus and his disciples committed a “sin”.

The Pharisees were not the only people who get upset when traditions are not followed. We get upset when people do not follow our “traditions”. We sometimes have to part with our traditions, and that is not always easy for us to accept. That is one reason why in recent years some congregations have left the Anglican Church of Canada. They were not able to accept changes such as the introduction of the Book of Alternative Services or the blessing of same-sex unions. To them, the status quo is the only way to go.

Another example is the tradition that people who go to church have to wear their very best clothes. I can tell you that it is BUNK! Just look around at the people sitting next to you. Some are dressed up, but some are wearing casual, everyday clothes. Some also believe that ministers have to wear clerical suits and collars all of the time, even under their robes on Sunday morning. Well folks, I hate to disappoint you, but I know a lot of ministers who don’t even wear a suit and tie, let alone a clerical suit and collar. Even I don’t wear my “Sunday Best’ clothes under my robes, especially during warm weather

We must not think that the Pharisees are completely bad. They were dedicated to obeying and pleasing God, and that desire led to distinctive practices such as kosher food and circumcision. These practices helped them to keep their identity as God’s chosen people in a pagan world. Their traditions grew out of a need to keep their identity.

Even though the Jewish law was quite detailed, it left room for interpretation in many cases. The Pharisees used their desire to obey God to create rules to clarify the law in these situations. Over time these rules became so hard and fast that they became a surrogate law that the Jewish leaders regarded as being equal to Scripture. They lost sight of the difference between God’s law and their opinion. Jesus said that this was their sin. Jesus did not condemn all tradition. He only condemned those traditions that were elevated to sacred status. The church is responsible for preserving tradition, but it must make a clear distinction between essential scriptural teachings and non-essential traditions.

When he responded to the Pharisees’ question, Jesus went right to the heart of the issue. The Pharisees wanted to hold on to human tradition at all costs when they should have been more concerned with teaching God’s deeper requirements of love, compassion and justice. God is more concerned with a spiritual cleansing and purifying. If our hearts have been purified, our prayer and behaviour will be in line with what God wants. If we act out of good hearts we will know how to behave even if we don’t know the exact rule for a particular situation.

While a sense of tradition is desirable and necessary at times, a problem occurs when tradition is substituted for true worship or true faith. When the actions associated with our traditions become more important than the meaning of the traditions, we can get sidetracked. The Pharisees were more concerned with strict observance of Jewish laws than they were about true faith in God. The Pharisees were concerned about keeping God’s people distinct and keeping them from becoming assimilated with the larger culture. This effort to be distinct included rigid observance of rules, but the observance of rules covered up their lack of inward love and devotion. They were concerned about not letting germs and pollution go into their bodies, but Jesus said that they and we should be more concerned about the filth that comes out of our mouths-lying, cheating, etc. The Pharisees were concerned about the letter of the law including their rules and regulations, but Jesus emphasized the spirit of the law. We must beware of Christian leaders who appear to be very religious by their actions, but who are really glorifying themselves instead of glorifying God. We should never honour anyone above God. Only he is truly worthy of our praise.

Each and every one of us has a heart problem, and not just a physical one. The heart is a fountain out of which much that affects our lives flows. If the heart is affected by sin, it becomes deceitful and wicked. Therefore, the heart is a source of most of the evil that defiles man. The world is enticing, but for its pull to work, we have to want what it is offering. We do the stupid stuff that we do because it is our human nature. We have to be aware of our sinful nature. When we give in to temptation, we have no one to blame but ourselves.

What we eat and drink can’t hurt and defile us. Only what comes out of us-ungodly words and actions-can defile us. Jesus wants us and his disciples to see that the core issue always comes down to what is in the heart. Ritual external purity is not necessarily the same as genuine interior piety. We are being hypocrites if we vainly honour God with our lips while our hearts are estranged from him. The source of defilement is more internal than external. It is more about who we are than foods or filth we avoid. Jesus defined true piety as a commitment from the heart totally dedicated to loving service of God and for others. Listening and doing are two different things.

Some people who attend church are like that. They carry their Bibles, they bring their offering, they sing every hymn and they listen to every word the preacher says, but it doesn’t change anything in their hearts. They look good on the outside, but their goodness is only skin deep. Their worship is for appearance only and is not from the heart.

That does mean that we cannot be hurt by what comes into our bodies. The obvious sources are smoke, pollution and poor diet, but we can also be defiled from the outside by the environment that we live in. I’m reminded of the example a minister used in one of his sermons a few years ago. He was talking about a discussion he had with his sons one day about how the choices they make can affect their lives. He said, “You are who you associate with” and that is true. For example, if you live in an area with a high rate of crime, chances are that you will either be seen as criminal or become a criminal if you are not careful.

When God looks at us, the first thing he sees is the state of our heart. God doesn’t care about what we look like on the outside. He’s more concerned about what’s on the inside. He has more sympathy and compassion for a poor beggar in rags who has true faith than he does for rich rulers who wear fine clothes but have rotten hearts and souls. If we don’t take time to have our hearts purified by God once in a while, we won’t be able to receive his blessings.

Jesus argued that the observance of purity was not needed because the kingdom of God is for everyone-Jews, Gentiles, those who would observe the purity laws and those who could not keep them. Everyone is equal before God.

Those who are ‘holier than thou’ often have the belief that they can judge others. When that attitude is observed from afar, it is not pretty. It reeks of a superficial, survivalistic and hateful attitude. These people are often the same people who on the surface observe sacred rituals. They have no inward disposition towards God-hence Jesus’ reference to the filth that comes from the inside.

Jesus sets us free to look at ourselves and see our internal, sinful nature. We are free to accept the grace to choose God’s mercy, but we can’t admit that we need outside help. We need outside help to take in goodness and bear good fruit. If our hearts belong to God, nothing else matters.

When people equate tradition with the Law, problems come up. The Pharisees have made the Law more important than God’s rules, just like many of us have made our traditions more important than true faith in God. The Protestant reformation was fueled in part by the desire to break free from corrupt Roman Catholic traditions and rules and get back to true worship of God. Jesus argued that not all of the Pharisees’ rules had to be obeyed. All we have to do is love God with our hearts, not our heads.

We have to ask ourselves what the interests of God are, and what does God think about the way we live our lives. Does the way we live our lives reflect a way of life that is in sync with God and his plan for our lives? While our Christianity should shape our behaviour, it runs deeper than our behaviour. It has implications for how we live our lives, but it is also mysticism before it is morality, faith before it is action, the seed of a new life before it is the fruit of that new life.

Those who would serve the interests of God can do so by giving expression to joy in their lives. Those who feel God’s love have much to offer the hurting and disconnected in our world.


  1. Stanley, C.F, The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc; 2009)
  2. Bayless Conley, “Clean and Committed”. Retrieved from
  3. Les Lamborn, “Lip Service”. Retrieved from
  4. Mark D. Roberts “Defiled from the Inside Out”. Retrieved from
  5. Greg Laurie, “Frenemies”. Retrieved from
  6. Exegesis for Mark 7:10-8, 14-15, 21-23. Retrieved from
  7. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 22nd Sunday (B)”. Retrieved from
  8. Wycliffe Bible Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible Software package.
  9. McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 25:Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
  10. The Very Rev. Samuel G. Candler, “Why Don’t You Wash Your Hands?” Retrieved from
  11. The Rev. D. Francis Wade, “What Matters to God?” Retrieved from
  12. Matt Skinner, “Commentary on Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23”. Retrieved from
  13. The Rev. Beth Quick, “Lectionary Notes-Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost” Retrieved from
  14. The Rev. Beth Quick, “Being 7 Doing’. Retrieved from
  15. John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Year B, Season after Pentecost, Proper 17 Ordinary 22. Retrieved from http://lectionary.seemslikegod,org/archives/year-b-season-after-pentecost-proper-17-ordinary-22.html
  16. Daniel B. Clendenin, PhD, “Religious Faith” Worthless or Faultless?” Retrieved from
  17. “’Skin Deep’ or from the Heart?” Retrieved from

James 1:17-27 The Goodness of God

In the passage from James 1:17-27, James talks about the goodness of God. God doesn’t tempt us to do evil things, but he often uses life’s challenges to strengthen and perfect us. In the process we become more like God.

Instead of tempting us to do evil things, God gives us good gifts. The phrase “Father of lights” reminds us of God’s unchanging nature. The God who put the stars, sun and moon in their places faithfully presides over our lives and provides everything good, and we must thank him for these gifts. As the old hymn which we often sing on Thanksgiving Sunday says, “All good gifts around us are sent from heaven above…”

In order to receive every good gift from God, we must prepare ourselves to hear God’s Word, especially in times of trial. When we prepare ourselves to hear God’s Word, it will give us a fresh start in life. We prepare ourselves by concentrating our attention, controlling our tongues, containing our anger and cleansing our lives of sin. Wrath doesn’t promote the work of God or God’s righteousness. In fact, wrath violates God’s standard on conduct for believers.

Sin is not compatible with receiving God’s Word. It prevents God’s Word from reaching a person’s heart. God’s Word should be welcomed in the heart, received with anticipation like a love letter, and read with a desire to put its words and commands into practice. James warns his readers about the dangers of sin and deception. An unbridled tongue makes a person’s testimony useless. God will help us control our tongues and our anger. Our words reveal our true personality. Are we a person of God or a person of evil?

A good example of someone who could not control his tongue is the apostle Peter. He had no problem telling anyone what was on his mind or how he felt. That got him into trouble on more than one occasion. For example, In Matthew 16:17-23, he first spoke for God when he said that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the Living God, but moments later he spoke for Satan and Jesus had to rebuke him by saying, “Get behind me, Satan!”

The world can easily deceive us. Many times, when something is presented to us by sources that we believe to be reliable, we will believe it without asking any questions. This is especially true for the lies of Satan, and these lies often lead us into false beliefs. We must not be fooled by what the world says is true. We must focus on what God says is true and trust in him. We must actively study the Scriptures regularly to find God’s truths and then apply these truths to transform our daily lives, especially if we are called on to preach and teach God’s Word. God knows what we need, so when we study the Scriptures he will give us encouragement when we are struggling, rebuke us when we are rebelling, challenge us when we need to step forward in faith and warn us when we are heading down the wrong path.

Simply listening to God’s Word has no lasting value. When we open the Bible, we must plan to do what it says. The Bible is more than a book to carry to church. It gives its readers a way to follow the heart of God and the footsteps of Jesus. God wants us to go beyond merely hearing the word to obeying the word. Casual hearers simply glance at the highlights of God’s Word and continue on their way like tourists. Careful believers mine God’s Word and find new, life-changing treasures. The Bible must have a continuing effect on the life of a believer.

Many Christians within the church today have the same problem as casual hearers of God’s Word. They are spectators who enjoy hearing the Word of God preached and taught every Sunday. Their heads are filled with biblical knowledge and facts, but they fail to put that knowledge into godly living. Their spiritual heads get fatter and fatter while their spiritual bodies waste away because they are not being used, just like a human body gets flabby or wastes away when it’s not used. These people are spiritual freaks who are of little value to themselves, the church or the world. James refers to them as being deceived. They have deceived themselves by hearing the word but not applying it in their daily lives.

Pure and faultless religion is marked by personal ministry. We must respond to the needs of others as Christ did. Pure and faultless religion is also marked by personal purity. We must not be corrupted by the world. Pure and faultless religion is a delicate balance between the positive and the negative. Genuine faith denies the self, takes risks, loves others and always seeks to please God. Believers are enabled by the Holy Spirit to obey God’s law. They are freed from the bondage of sin and enabled to obey God. They can give thanks to God.

Jesus equates the treatment of people in distress with how people treat him. This is the true test of faith. We must conduct our earthly lives in such a way as to not be ashamed to face the Lord. We must be compassionately involved with the problems of the world while remaining holy at the same time. The world is the ordered system that is under Satan’s control. It is opposed to God’s purposes.

We as Christians must show our love to everyone— not just to those who can benefit us but also to those who can’t help anyone. We will be known for our love to those who have been hurt or who have had their hopes and dreams shattered. Christ’s love should encourage us to love God and love people. Our actions must be motivated by Christ himself and not by what we do, say, think or want. Our attitude towards others shows our true attitude toward God. Our actions speak louder than our words, and a relationship with a living God calls for us to do something. We need to get our hands dirty and get into the filth of human pain and sadness while at the same time not allowing that same filth to contaminate us. Failure to help those who need our help means that we risk becoming defiled and impure. Everyone God sends our way is really seeking his listening, compassionate heart at work through us.

If we want to help others, we can start by being good listeners. Quick solutions seldom make people feel better. They need solutions that can only come by listening carefully with an open mind and an open heart. We must listen to others in the same way that God listens to us. When we are generous to others, our gifts are not based on the person’s actions. We reflect the love of a God who delights in giving to those he loves.

If we want to know if we are putting God first in our lives, we must ask ourselves where we turn when we have a decision to make, a problem to resolve or we need guidance. Do we turn to other people or our desires first, or do we turn to God, his word and his principles? God speaks of the riches of his mercy as shown through Jesus Christ. God broadcasts his forgiveness and his love. He proclaims the wonder of redemption and calls on us to repent and come near to him. He is available at all times to hear our prayers, to listen to our concerns and to be touched by the nonverbal communication of our feelings. In return, we must be increasingly acquainted with the voice of God. We must follow God each and every day. We are called on to live out God’s love for us and share that love with the world.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  2. ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible software package.
  3. Cedar, P.A. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 34: James/1&2 Peter/Jude (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1984)
  4. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, NASV (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  5. Pastor Ken Klaus, “Draw Us to Thee.” Retrieved from
  6. Billy Graham, “Can God Help My Depressed Sister?” Retrieved from\
  7. Pastor Rick Warren, “How to Get Better Reception of God’s Word.” Retrieved from
  8. Dr. Gary Chapman, “Good Gifts.” Retrieved from
  9. Dr. Neil Anderson, “Indiscriminate Expression of Emotions.” Retrieved from
  10. Michael Youssef, Ph.D.,” Dead Faith or Living Faith?” Retrieved from
  11. Michael Youssef, Ph.D., “Becoming Doers of the Word.” Retrieved from
  12. Dr. Neil Anderson, “Modeling Growth.” Retrieved from
  13. David Jeremiah, “Angry Birds.” Retrieved from
  14. Bills Graham, “What Would You Tell a Foreigner About Thanksgiving?” Retrieved from
  15. Mike Pohlman, “Being Quick to Listen in a World of Talk.” Retrieved from
  16. Richard Inness, “Ask Not What God Can Do for You.” Retrieved from
  17. Mary Southerland, “Do Wrinkles Make You Die?” Retrieved from

John 6:56-69 Separating the Wheat from the Chaff

When you were children, did you ever play a game called “Follow the Leader”? Well, for those of you who didn’t, or for those of you who have never heard of the game, let me explain how it is played. First, you choose a leader. Then you follow him or her wherever he or she goes and do whatever he or she does. You stomp through puddles, climb over fences, or swing from a tree—all to stay in the game because no one wants to be a quitter.

John 6:56-69 is an example of people who did not want to play follow the leader. The passage marks the end of the “bread of life” discourse that we have heard for the last several weeks. Today, it reaches its climax. Jesus tells his followers that if they abide in him-that is, live in him and believe in him-he will always be with them. Jesus is the source of our life and our sustenance. We need to stay connected to him to be fruitful. Just as God gives Jesus life, Jesus in turn gives his followers eternal life if they believe in him.

The choice to accept Jesus is a difficult one. Godly people will still face difficulties in life, including persecution. God’s ways are not our ways, and that is why the Gospel message is hard to accept. It is costly because in order for us to accept Christ’s death and resurrection as the way to eternal life, we also have to experience our own form of death and resurrection. We have to die to our worldly way of life and rise to a new life in Christ. There are times when our faith in Christ will be harder than we expected. Each of us must answer the question, “Where can we go?” Jesus promises us eternal life. We face troubles in this life here on earth, but they pale in comparison to the joy of Christ revealed in us as mentioned in Romans 8:18.

Worldly life and godly life are always in conflict because they are so different. Worldly life always tempts us with the sinful desires of greed, envy, jealousy, sex, drugs, alcohol and other things. The Christian life calls us to live godly lives now in exchange for a heavenly life later-even if our present worldly life is full of pain and persecution.

Jesus wasn’t interested in whether he was causing offense or not. That does not mean that he did not care for the people he was talking to. On the contrary, he deeply cared for them. Because he cared for them, he preferred to speak the truth instead of speaking what was pleasing. Jesus wanted his hearers to know that what he is saying is the truth, even though it is hard to hear. In other words, Jesus used tough love, in contrast to some preachers who want to “tickle the ears” of their congregations.

Jesus did not try to talk unwilling disciples into staying with him, nor did he try to make things easier so that they would reconsider their relationship to him. He wants eager followers who understand the cost of following him. The Gospel message is not easy to hear and accept. The church is often tempted to soften the impact of the message by removing the offending parts or by preaching something similar to the Prosperity Gospel. Most people do not want to hear this message because it calls on them to change their way of life. It calls on them to give up the world’s ways in favour of a life that will lead them to heaven. The truth is so confronting and so painful that we are often hell-bent on hanging on to our sinful way of life. That does not mean that everyone will refuse to accept the message. Some, like Peter and the disciples, realize that Jesus is the key to eternal life. In return, he will give us the strength we need to be strong in our walk of faith. That strength will mean taking a stand for Christ and being counted. It will make a difference both in us and in the lives of everyone we come into contact with.

The picture that this portion of John’s Gospel paints is not a pretty one, but it is a realistic one, especially when our Christian walk of faith is difficult. The picture is also one of belief and faith, especially when we keep our eyes on Jesus. It produces love, joy, peace, hope and eternal life.

The purpose of the Gospel message is not to convince detractors or turn the hearts of rebels. That is the job of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel message is the means by which our hearts respond to God. The disciples who left heard what Jesus said as a threat—a threat to their way of life, their accepted notions and their grip on reality. Those who stayed heard what Jesus said as a challenge to their way of life, their accepted notions and their grip on reality.

The disciples who continued on with Jesus might not have completely understood what he said, just like sometimes we can’t completely understand what he says. We, like the disciples, might not even be completely comfortable with it, but we are intrigued by what he said. In the Bible, faith is a verb. It is an action by which we consent and act. It is also a process. Peter and the others, like us, need it to grow stronger.

If the disciples-the great heroes of the faith-had doubts, it should not be surprising that we will have doubts. What we can do is embrace them and take them to the one best source for answers-Jesus. Jesus provides the spiritual power that we need in our lives. Without it, we will be overwhelmed by the spiritual and mental challenges we will face. We will be too tired to serve in ministry and will be too weak to engage in spiritual warfare.

If we have faith in Jesus, we have to spread the Good News. We have to be public witnesses for Christ. Sometimes our witness will be in the form of words, but mostly it will take the form of our actions, especially the choices we make in life. If our actions, words and deeds contradict our Christian faith, we are being hypocrites.

If Jesus walked into your dining room tonight to have dinner with you, how would you answer two questions he might ask?

  1. Are your goals in life God-centered goals?
  2. Are you putting as much energy into loving others as you do in living for yourself?

The Spirit brings forth spiritual fruit in us, equips and deploys us with gifts in service to others, and gives us strength to witness for Christ every day. Our thoughts, feelings, priorities and daily practices are changed to match what Jesus would feel, think and do if he was in our place. We become like Jesus and in turn we love and serve others as Jesus would.

There will be times when our faith is tried and tested. At times like these we must remember that to abandon the faith of Christ will lead to desolation, ruin and death. We must fall back on our personal experience of a living God in which the truth is wrapped up and made flesh for our benefit.

I’m going to close this message by telling you a story about a little girl named Inga. Inga had two older sisters and the two older sisters were in Girl Scouts. Inga watched her sisters go to Girl Scout meetings and she wished she could go and be a part of that real important stuff that they did. She asked her mother if she could go and her mother said, “But, Inga, you’re not old enough to go.”  Inga said, “Well, when will I be old enough to go?” And Inga’s mother said, “Soon.” 

Finally the day came and Inga joined Brownies. She got a little brown skirt jumper and a little brown hat with a little brownie and she got little half socks with a little brownie on it. Her mother even bought her some brown shoes and she dressed up and went to her first meeting and it was just wonderful.

Well, much later when she and her mother and father and sister were coming to church, she asked her mother this question: “I heard about belonging to Jesus. How do I know that I belong to Jesus? We don’t have a uniform like the Brownies. I know I belong to the Brownies because I have a uniform. How do I know that I belong to Jesus?”

Her mother replied, “Well, where do you go on Sunday morning?” Inga said, “I go to Sunday school to learn about Jesus.” 

Her mother continued, “What’s that book in your hand?”  Inga said, “It’s the Bible and the Bible is the stories of Jesus.” 

And her mother said, “How else do you know that you belong to Jesus, Inga? What do we do always before we go to bed?” Inga replied, “We talk to Jesus every night before we got to sleep.” “And Inga, where do we go after Sunday school?” “We go to the big church.”” And what do we do in the big church? We learn about God and we sing about Jesus.” 

Then Inga got this big smile on her face and she said, “I belong to Jesus.” And her mother said, “That’s right.”

When we come to the Lord’s Table to take part in Holy Communion, we know that we draw near to Jesus when we eat the bread and drink the wine. We, like Inga and her mother, also understand that Christ lives in us in a new way, and that we abide in Christ and he abides in us. The Holy Spirit gives us the assurance that we are believers. As Romans 8:16 says, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”. Only then can we have the inner conviction and witness of the Holy Spirit that we are children of God.


  1. Stanley, C.F., The Charles F Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 2009)
  2. Swindoll, Charles; Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Inc.; 2010)
  3. Exegesis for John 6:56-69. Retrieved from
  4. The Rev. Dr. David Lose, “Words of Eternal Life”. Retrieved from
  5. Dr. Bill Bright, “A Communist Youth”. Retrieved from
  6. Charles H. Spurgeon, “Sustained by Feeding”. Retrieved from
  7. Berni Dymet, “Believe in Which Jesus?” Retrieved from
  8. Michael Youssef, PhD, “Bearing Fruit”. Retrieved from
  9. Greg Laurie, “The Witness of the Holy Spirit”. Retrieved from
  10. T.M. Moore, “The Holy Spirit & Affections”. Retrieved from
  11. Sergei Sosedkin, “The Right Diet”. Retrieved from
  12. Leslie Snyder, “Where Would I Go?” Retrieved from
  13. Christopher J. Harris, “Power Outages”. Retrieved from
  14. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 21st Sunday, (B)”. Retrieved from
  15. Jim Penner, “Spirit-Filled Living”. Retrieved from
  16. The Rev. Beth Quick “Offended”. Retrieved from
  17. The Rev. Charles Hoffacker, “The Flesh God Has Married”. Retrieved from
  18. Jamieson-Fawcett-Brown Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible software package.
  19. “No Turning Back”. Retrieved from
  20. Roland McGregor, “Children’s Sermon for Pentecost 13, 8/26/12”. Retrieved from childpage@,

John 6:56-69 Follow the Leader

When you were children, did you ever play a game called “Follow the Leader”? Well, for those of you who didn’t, or for those of you who have never heard of the game, let me explain. First, you choose a leader. Then you follow him wherever he goes and do whatever he does. You stomp through puddles, climb over fences, or swing from a tree—all to stay in the game because no one wants to be a quitter. We often play follow the leader in our daily lives. There are always leaders in everything we do—in school, in church, or in other activities.

In John 6:56-69, we see that not everyone who heard Jesus’ teachings about the bread of life wanted to follow him. He lost a lot of his followers. In fact, the only people who remained were the twelve disciples.

There is a price to pay when we follow Jesus. He calls us to give up our worldly life with all of its sinful pleasures and follow a life that will lead to even greater pleasures in heaven. For most of us, that is not an easy choice to make. We have grown comfortable in our daily lives. They are like a pair of shoes that we have broken in. They feel so darn good, and the life we are leading feels so darn good. Most of us don’t like change. We get set in our ways. We get stuck in the rut of daily life, and we don’t want to get out.

I’m going to tell you a story about a little girl named Inga. Inga had two older sisters and the two older sisters were in Girl Scouts. Inga watched her sisters go to Girl Scout meetings and she wished she could go and be a part of that real important stuff that they did. She asked her mother if she could go and her mother said, “But, Inga, you’re not old enough to go.”  Inga said, “Well, when will I be old enough to go?” And Inga’s mother said, “Soon.” 

Finally the day came and Inga joined Brownies. She got a little brown skirt jumper and a little brown hat with a little brownie and she got little half socks with a little brownie on it. Her mother even bought her some brown shoes and she dressed up and went to her first meeting and it was just wonderful.

Well, much later when she and her mother and father and sister were coming to church, she asked her mother this question: “I heard about belonging to Jesus. How do I know that I belong to Jesus? We don’t have a uniform like the Brownies. I know I belong to the Brownies because I have a uniform. How do I know that I belong to Jesus?”

Her mother replied, “Well, where do you go on Sunday morning?” Inga said, “I go to Sunday school to learn about Jesus.” 

Her mother continued, “What’s that book in your hand?”  Inga said, “It’s the Bible and the Bible is the stories of Jesus.” 

And her mother said, “How else do you know that you belong to Jesus, Inga? What do we do always before we go to bed?” Inga replied, “We talk to Jesus every night before we go to sleep.” “And Inga, where do we go after Sunday school?” “We go to the big church.”” And what do we do in the big church? We learn about God and we sing about Jesus.” 

Then Inga got this big smile on her face and she said, “I belong to Jesus.” And her mother said, “That’s right.”

The life Jesus calls us to lead is so revolutionary, so different, and yet so rewarding. It offers us eternal life. The disciples, led by Peter, knew that Jesus offers eternal life to everyone who decides to follow him. The disciples, like Inga and her mother, knew that they needed to feed on the eternal spiritual food that Jesus offers, just like we need to eat the spiritual food that Jesus still offers to us today, especially in the form of the bread and wine that we eat and drink during Holy Communion. When we take part in worship, especially when we take part in Holy Communion, we draw closer to God, and we allow him to live in us. Only then will we have the inner conviction and witness of the Holy Spirit that we are children of God.


  1. “No Turning Back”. Retrieved from
  2. Roland McGregor, Children’s Sermon for Pentecost 13, 8/26/12. Retrieved from

Galatians 4:4-7 We are God’s Adopted Children

UNICEF-the United Nations Children’s Fund-estimates that 353,000 babies are born every day-just over four babies each second. Birth begins a life of 70-100 years and impacts those whose lives overlap with the child’s. Every generation relates most profoundly with those who share their time in history. Jesus is the exception to that statement.

Many people wonder why Jesus didn’t come sooner and why mankind didn’t have the benefit of His birth, death and resurrection immediately after Adam and Eve sinned. The answer is that the time was predicted in the Old Testament, and when it was proper that He should come, that time was complete. The exact period had arrived when all things were ready. It was the time when all prophecies centered in Jesus were fulfilled. It was proper that the world should be brought to see its need of a Saviour, and that a fair and satisfactory opportunity should be given to all men to try other ways of salvation and that they might be prepared to welcome Him.

It was also a time when the world was at peace. There was order under Roman rule. Because of roads built by the Romans, communication between various parts of the Roman Empire was faster and more secure than at any other time in history. The Jews were scattered throughout the Empire. They were familiar with the promises and were looking for a Messiah. They had synagogues where the Gospel could be preached. Thanks to the conquests of Alexander the Great, the same language (Greek) was spoken and understood throughout the Empire.

Figuratively speaking, God’s calendar had a day with a big star on it-then the time was right for Christ to be sent forth into the world. It was the proper time to make God’s plan of salvation known. It was the appropriate time for the people to be freed from the bondage of sin. The fullness of time was the fullness of God’s time to fulfill His promise to Abraham. That fulfillment was Christ’s birth. He accomplished His purpose of providing the way for all of us to become children of God. He came from God to stand beside us as we face evil. He became our brother so He could suffer the punishment we deserve for our sins. Jesus was born under the law so that He could fulfill every claim and demand of the law on our behalf. He fulfilled the moral law in His life and the ceremonial law in His death. Jesus had to be fully God for His sacrifice to be of the infinite worth needed to atone for sin. He also had to be fully human so He could pay the penalty for our sins.

From a human perspective, Jesus’ birth and life on earth were not confined to His own generation. Simeon declared in Luke 2:31 that Jesus appeared “before the face of all peoples.”-old people like Simeon and the very young. Because Jesus is the eternal Son of God, He is alive for every generation following His own.

God, the Creator of the universe, submitted to the rule of others so we could claim His holiness as if it was our own. Talk of being a child of God is common in Christian circles, but how often do we stop and take time to consider what a privilege being a child of God is and what that really means not only to us but to God? When we are heirs because of adoption by God, it means that God is well pleased when we become children of God, exercise our authority and enjoy the fullness of our inheritance.

In New Testament times, some 60 million slaves lived in the Roman Empire. When someone bought a slave, the buyer could either own and use the slave or set the slave free. When God purchases or redeems people through Christ, He does so to set them free. Because we are not natural children of God, we can become sons and daughters only by divine adoption. Because we have been adopted as God’s children, we have the spirit of Jesus-the Holy Spirit, which is in our hearts and reassures us of our relationship with God. He encourages us to speak with love and trust and total openness to God our loving Father, just like a child on his or her father’s lap.

When we receive Christ, His Spirit takes up residence in the core of our being, giving us an internal power that we never had before and transforming our hearts from hateful and rebellion to loving and obedient. Our hearts control our words and actions.  It isn’t easy for us to accept ourselves; to love and be loved, to feel worthwhile to ourselves and others. It is a time of overwhelming grace when we accept the fact that God knows us thoroughly and loves us thoroughly.

When God adopts us, his reaction is similar to that of a little girl named Olivia. Olivia had always liked to hear how her parents loved her from the time they first saw her at the adoption agency. But as she approached her twelfth birthday, the fact that she was adopted didn’t seem so entertaining any more. “I don’t really belong to anybody,” she thought one day as she picked wild berries in a field near her home. “Sure, Mom and Dad took care of me since I was six weeks old, but I’m not a blood relative, so I’m not really a member of their family.”

As Olivia started home, a rather dirty, skinny little dog timidly approached her. “Hi, little guy,” Olivia said gently. “Did someone dump you along the road? Why don’t you come live with me?” It didn’t take much coaxing to get the hungry puppy to follow her home. I wonder if Mom will let me keep him, she thought. Nice word–Mom. I wish it were really true.

Olivia’s mother saw them coming and went out to meet them. “Did you bring company for supper?” she asked, dropping to her knees and stroking the little dog. “I wonder if he has a name? He doesn’t look like he’s got a home.”

“Can I keep him?” Olivia asked eagerly. “We need to find out if he has an owner,” Mom replied. “If not . . . we’ll see.” No owner was found, and Olivia’s parents decided she could keep the dog. She called him Bingo.

“Well,” said Dad one morning, “it looks as if your adopted dog is happy here with you, Olivia.”

“Adopted!” Olivia exclaimed. “Dad, he’s not adopted. He’s my very own dog!”

“Of course he is,” replied Dad, “but he wasn’t always your dog.”

A slow smile crossed Olivia’s face as the truth sank in. That’s right! she thought. Bingo and I really belong together, even if it wasn’t always that way–and Mom and Dad and I belong together, too. Bingo wouldn’t want to be any other place in the world, and neither would I!

“Being adopted isn’t a bad thing, you know,” continued Dad. “In fact, all of us who are Christians are adopted, too. We’re adopted into God’s family.”

Olivia giggled and gave her dad a big hug, “We’re one big, happy family of adoptees–even Bingo,” she said.

For God, adoption matters more than blood. Whatever family race or religion we inherited by blood, our real Parent isn’t finally the one to whom we’re genetically related, but the one who adopts us and makes us heirs to the greatest of estates-the heavenly Kingdom.

Although a human father cannot give his own nature to an adopted child, God can. The Holy Spirit, whom God places within us at the moment of salvation, confirms us as God’s children and stirs us to cry, “Abba, Father!” This term is found only two other times in the New Testament, and means “Dearest Father.” It is the Bible’s greatest argument against legalism.

God’s family includes second-class people, those who are never quite good enough to be members of a church, never included in the social elite, never with enough money to quite fit the mold. Some potential church members might be considered second-class people by church leaders, but God has no second-class children. God’s love reaches down, forgives us and accepts us freely and without reservation.

The bondage of the Law had to precede the telling of the Gospel. It was like the period of development by which children are trained for adulthood. The child is subject to the terms of a will by a loving parent. Eventually the child will be free, but for now the child is restricted by the parent’s rules. The child is no different from a slave.

Through this bondage children learn to trust their parents. Similarly, through the bondage of the Law we learn to trust God. It allows us to pray “Abba, Father” as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane because we know the joy of being not a servant but a child of God. Before we can receive our inheritance from God, we must respond in faith to His promise.

When a person is saved, the law moves to the side and love moves to the centre. The believer is no longer enslaved to the harsh master of sin, but becomes a mature son or daughter of God. This shift in a person’s essence from slave to child with full rights as an heir of God is immediate, although believers often do not understand it until later in their Christian experience.

When we have a relationship with God, things change for the better. We feel different about our time, money and gifts. We realize that they belong to God, and He allows us to be stewards of them. We can experience His love in each situation. That changes everything. How many Christians today have received Christ’s forgiveness but miss out on living in the freedom they have? We don’t have to live under the impression that we have to earn our salvation.

God is our redeemer and liberator. The goal is freedom-not a freewheeling looseness without purpose and direction, but the kind of freedom where we can be what we are created to be, where we can reach the goals from whose glory we have fallen short. There is no reason for us to return to a life of slavery. We can live in the freedom that Christ has brought us-and that is the best gift we can receive at any time in the year.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013, p. 1628)
  2. “Part of the Family.” Retrieved from
  3. Barnes’ Notes on the New Testament. Part of Wordsearch 11 Bible software package.
  4. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 78-83)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible, New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. John North, “Time with God.” Retrieved from
  7. Richard Niell Donovan, “Exegesis for Galatians 4:4-7.” Retrieved from
  8. Dr. Jack Graham, “What Would It Be Like if Jesus Hadn’t Come?” Retrieved from
  9. Dr. Harold Sala, “No Second-Class Citizens in His Kingdom.” Retrieved from
  10. Pastor David McGee, “Our Relationship Changes Everything.” Retrieved from
  11. “Living in the Freedom Christ has Given You.” Retrieved from
  12. Elisabeth Johnson, “Commentary on Galatians 4:4-7.” Retrieved from
  13. Dr. David Jeremiah, “A Man for All Ages.” Printed in Turning Points Magazine, Dec. 2017, p. 45
  14. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s Living Insights: Galatians/Ephesians (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.: 2015; pp. 89-92)
  15. Quinn G. Caldwell, “Real.” Retrieved from

John 6:35,41-51 Soul Food

John 6:35,41-51 is part of the lengthy “bread of life” discourse in which Jesus shows that he is the only way we can satisfy the hunger we have in our souls. Hunger is a powerful motivator. When we are physically hungry, we get something to eat. When we are spiritually hungry, we look for something to satisfy it. Just like there is physical food that can best be described as junk food, there is also spiritual food that can also be described as junk food.

Take, for example, some TV evangelists. Several years ago I heard a comedy routine by the comedian, actor, and musician Steve Martin. He was doing his imitation of an evangelist. At one point he said, “The other day I talked to God, and He promised me that He would not talk to any other TV preachers. So if you hear any of these other TV preachers saying they talked to God, do not send them the $1.50 for their polyester prayer handkerchief!”

We all suffer from soul hunger. We all hunger for something more in life. Some people try to satisfy their spiritual hunger through beauty, power, prestige, sex, drugs, alcohol, or other worldly means. The world’s way is the way to sorrow and despair. You only have to consider what happened to people such as Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Jimmy Swaggart, Jim Bakker, and John Belushi to see what happens when people try to satisfy spiritual hunger by worldly means. Jim Bakker lost his ministry and was sent to prison, Jimmy Swaggart lost his ministry in disgrace for several years (although it has since rebounded) and the others died from drug and/or alcohol abuse.

On the other hand, Jesus offers to fill us with his love. Only he can save our souls, change our tomorrows, and grant us peace and joy for today. Jesus takes the initiative in our salvation, even if we confess him as our Lord and Saviour. He creates a longing within us. His love and presence and the difficulties he allows to enter into our lives force us to open up to him. Jesus takes the initiative and we choose to cooperate with him. That is the very definition of the Christian life.

God works in us to create spiritual hunger because he loves us and wants us to get to know him and love him in return. He uses the spiritual hunger to convict us of our sin and convince us to turn to him.

There are parallels between the manna God gave to the Israelites in the desert and Jesus. The manna came at night, and Jesus comes into our spiritual darkness. Manna was God’s gift to the Israelites, and Jesus is God’s gift to us. All we have to do is claim it for ourselves, and we will never be spiritually hungry again. The manna from heaven was associated in the minds of the Jews with the giving of divine teaching, and Jesus sees his own teaching as being just as essential as our daily bread.

We need to receive Jesus’ spiritual food on a regular basis, just like the Israelites needed to receive the manna and quail from God every day. Without it, we will always be spiritually hungry. We can’t get enough spiritual food by going to church only at Christmas or Easter or on special occasions such as weddings, funerals, baptisms, or confirmations. Our spiritual hunger can only be satisfied by regularly studying God’s Word and applying it to our lives. This means regular attendance at Sunday worship services.

In order to live with Christ, we have to die to our worldly way of life and take up his life-a life of forgiveness, goodness, trust and service. If we are grounded in Christ’s unconditional love, we are free to lead like Jesus and love and serve others. It will not be easy, but God has drawn us to faith in him, and that faith will sustain us.


  1. Stanley, C.F.; The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 2009)
  2. The Rev. Ken Klaus, “Bread of Life”. Retrieved from
  3. Steve Arterburn, “Soul Hunger”. Retrieved from
  4. Online Devotional-Day 167. Retrieved from
  5. Billy Graham, “How Do I Begin to Give God a Chance?” Retrieved from
  6. Billy Graham, “Who or What is the Holy Spirit?” Retrieved from
  7. Dr. Ed Young, “A Daily Word”Retrieved from
  8. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 19th Sunday (B)”. Retrieved from
  9. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker Bible software package.
  10. John Kenrick, O.P., “Do Not Waver, Hold Fast”. Retrieved from

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13, John 6:24-35 God Sees All and Knows All, Especially Our Hunger

A few years ago there was program on the Investigation Discovery Channel called “I Almost Got Away with It”. The story of David and Bathsheba would have been a perfect one for that show, especially the part where the prophet Nathan confronted David. David thought that he had committed the perfect crime by having an affair with Bathsheba and covering it up by killing her husband. Unfortunately, he was caught by the one true, perfect, all-seeing and all-knowing God. David forgot that God sees everything that his people do. It reminds me of the line from the Christmas song “Santa Clause Comes to Town” that goes like this:

He sees you when you’re sleeping

He knows when you’re awake

He knows when you’ve been bad or good

So be good for goodness sake.

This passage deals with the ethical and moral failings that have plagued Christians throughout history. Greed and selfishness cause believers to do whatever it takes to get something that they want. Believers and non-believers have to accept the consequences of their actions.

The world has no sympathy for honesty these days. Sure, people give it lip service, and we tell our children to be honest, but if we stop and think about it, many of us would rather have our children be shrewd than honest. We teach them to be suspicious, to protect themselves and to ward off people like the typical used car salesman or politicians.

The story tells us about ourselves and our sinful nature, how we covet what is not ours, and how we often try to cover up our sins. Our sinful nature often causes us to forget who we are and who we are supposed to be. Our sins cause us to discover our true nature, and it is far from what we imagine ourselves to be.

We, like David, are not perfect. We often sin and either try to cover it up or think that our sin will not be discovered. We need to remember that God sees all and knows all-including our sins. God’s Word presents people as they are, not as later writers wish they would have been. To quote Numbers 32:23, “…be sure that your sin will find you out”. Evangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s fall from grace is a good example. He had it all–fame, fortune and a successful ministry—but one moment of indiscretion with a prostitute hurt him. His confession to God even made it into the video for the song “American Dream” by Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young in 1988. It follows the line “Now you think about reaching out, maybe get some help from above”, which is repeated twice. He might have thought that he could get away with it, but he got caught. As another verse of the same song goes:

Reporters crowd around your house

Going through your garbage like a pack of hounds

Speculating what they might find out

It don’t matter now

You’re all washed up

In fact, it was only a few years later, when he got caught with a prostitute again, that he and his ministry were washed up for several years.

Nathan used his story as a case for David to judge. In Nathan’s story, the traveler represents David’s lust, and the lamb is Bathsheba. The story itself represents the commandments David broke-the ones regarding adultery, murder and coveting. It makes the point that no one can misuse God-given authority and power for selfish ends.

Nathan rebuked David, but he did so indirectly through the story he told. Nathan used a story that reminded David of his youth to break through David’s resistance and bring him to a place of true repentance. We do not have to go looking for other people’s faults or sins, but sometimes we can’t ignore them. Like Nathan, we must correct others in love with the hope of restoring them, and an approach bathed in prayer and led by the Spirit will accomplish more than our own self-righteous arguments ever can.

Jesus outlined a good approach to use when correcting sinners in Matthew 18:15-17:

  1. Confront the sinner in private. If he/she listens to you, great!
  2. If the sinner does not listen to you, go with two or three others and confront him/her. Two or more witnesses will be able to back up what happens.
  3. If the sinner refuses to listen to you and the witnesses, bring it before the church.
  4. If the sinner refuses to listen to the church, he/she is to be removed from the church.

David “saw the light” when he was confronted with his sins. The enormity of his crimes and the condemnation by Nathan represent conviction by both the earthly judge Nathan and the heavenly judge God. You might be thinking that if it says in the Bible, “Judge not lest ye be judged”, Nathan broke this commandment. You must remember though that Nathan was an agent of God, and God is the one who judges people either directly or through people such as Nathan or other good Christians.

The story of David, Bathsheba and Nathan reflects the battle between our struggle to live the Christian life and the earthly life that constantly tempts us. This conflict reminds us of our constant need for grace and forgiveness. We, like David, are only human. There will be times when we will stumble and fall in our Christian walk. We gain insight into our weaknesses so that we can improve our control over our weaknesses.

The story also reflects a sense of entitlement. Here was David, the boy who became king, who had more opportunity and power than anyone could imagine and had everything he wanted. He had a sense of being entitled to privileges. This sense of entitlement led him to give in to temptation. Unfortunately, the situation still exists today. For example, some experts claim that the 2008 recession was caused by corporate greed-greed that led American banks to make mortgages available to people who could not afford them. The result was the failure of several American banks, and like the old saying goes, “When America sneezes, Canada catches the cold”. American politicians told the banks that what they did was wrong, just like Nathan told David that what he did was wrong.

We must be careful that we do not fall into an attitude of self-indulgence. We must also keep as far away from evil as possible. Evil and sin diminish the respect others have for us, weaken our authority and cause unnecessary headaches.

We need more people like Nathan today-people who are not afraid to tell us what we need to hear. We need more people who will tell us the truth no matter how hard it is to say or hear. Nathan and people like him are motivated to speak the truth because the holiness and beauty of God are offended by the wickedness of sinful people. Sin is the great problem keeping people from the knowledge of God. Even when people shrug their shoulders and say, “Everyone else is doing it”, we must stand firm and say that this is wrong. When sin is public, visible to all and scandalous, those who know this have a duty to speak up and use words of strong condemnation. The word of forgiveness follows quickly when we admit out guilt. God’s forgiveness and abundant mercy are now available through Jesus.

This story is also an example of our hunger. We are hungry for control of our lives. We are hungry for a world that is not controlled by sin and our sinful human natures. We often try to satisfy that hunger with material goods, alcohol, drugs or sex (like David did). The only way that our hunger can truly be satisfied is by the true bread of life-that is, our faith in Jesus. Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If a man eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world”. Just like the 5,000 people were still hungry after Jesus miraculously fed them with the five barley loaves and two fish, we will still be hungry if we try to satisfy our hunger in the way the world wants us to satisfy it.

This story is not about sin as much as it is about forgiveness. When David was confronted with his sin, he repented and was restored by God-even though he still had to accept the consequences of his actions. It is better for us to confess our sins before we are forced to do so by getting caught. When we do, the burden of guilt will not be able to limit our spiritual growth and our worship and prayers will not be hindered.

We have to repent of our sins so we can be restored by God, but we must also be prepared to accept the consequences of our sins. God’s anger toward sin is righteous anger. God will not let sin go unpunished. It is this righteous anger that leads to restoring our relationship with God. God cares about how we live our lives. If we show contempt for God’s law, we will be punished. God does not take our actions lightly, but if we deal with our sin genuinely, openly and immediately, God will lessen the severity of our discipline.

We often try to straighten out our own problems like David did, but Jesus has already straightened our problems for us. He put our sins away. He paid the penalty for our sins on the cross at Calvary. We do not have to do anything more than what Christ has already done for us. All we have to do is accept what he did, repent of our sins, and accept him as our Saviour.


  1. Stanley, C.F., “The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NASB” (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc.; 2009)
  2. Lectionary Homiletics, Aug.-Sept.., 2012 (St. Paul, MN: Luther Seminary)
  3. Lisa Harper, “What is Righteous Anger?” Retrieved from
  4. Matthew Henry Concise Commentary. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible software package
  5. ESV Study Bible. Part of Lessonmaker 8 Bible software package
  6. Mike Benson, “Apologize”. Retrieved from
  7. Mike Benson, “Confront”. Retrieved from
  8. Les Lamborn, “Collision Course”. Retrieved from
  9. T.M. Moore, “The Courage to Condemn”. Retrieved from
  10. Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 11th Sunday in Ordinary Time ©”. Retrieved from
  11. Dr. Charles F. Stanley, “When We Act Deceptively”. Retrieved from
  12. Chafir, K.L. & Ogilvie, L.J., “The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Volume 8:1,2, Samuel” (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc., 1989)
  13. Stanley, C.F., “The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, New King James Version” (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  14. David Zanstra, “Clear Confession”. Retrieved from
  15. Charles Swindoll, “The Consequences of Sin”. Retrieved from
  16. Harold Sala, “The Steps to Adultery”. Retrieved from
  17. T.M. Moore, “Truth to Power”. Retrieved from
  18. Jim Coleman, “Straightening Your Way”. Retrieved from
  19. Pastor John Barnett, “David’s Lust Led Him to break all of the 10 Commandments”. Retrieved from
  20. Pastor John Barnett, “David’s Sin, God’s Grace & the Inescapable Consequences of Sin”. Retrieved from
  21. Randy Kilgore, “Moving Past Sinful Failure”. Retrieved from
  22. Jim Liebelt, “God Pursues Us When We’ve Sinned”. Retrieved from
  23. Amy Erickson, “Commentary on 2 Samuel 11:26-12:10, 13-15”. Retrieved from
  24. Bob Deffinbaugh, “David and God (Nathan)”. Retrieved from
  25. Lloyd H. Steffen, “On Honesty and Self-deception: ‘You Are the Man’”. Retrieved from
  26. Charles R. Swindoll, Insights on 2 Peter (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, Inc.: 2010)
  27. Roland McGregor, “Spiritual Hunger”. Retrieved from
  28. Daniel B. Clendenin, PhD, “Human Desires Divinely Filled: Jesus the Bread of Life”. Retrieved from
  29. Rev. David Shearman, “John Shearman’s Lectionary Resource, Year B-Season after Pentecost-Proper 13 Ordinary 18”. Retrieved from

Ephesians 3:14-21 God Can Give You a Spiritual Heart Transplant

“A heart transplant?” Jesse asked with wide eyes. His parents had just explained to him and his younger brother, Marcus, that the doctors had decided Grandpa should have a heart transplant as soon as a donor could be found.

Dad nodded. “It’s amazing what doctors can do these days, but we must remember that it’s a dangerous operation and isn’t always successful. Let’s pray for Grandpa and trust God for the outcome.”

“But wait a minute! What if Grandpa has the heart transplant and then dies anyway?” Marcus asked anxiously. “He wouldn’t go to heaven.”

Everyone turned and looked at Marcus curiously. “Why do you say that?” asked Mom. “Of course Grandpa would go to heaven–he’s a Christian.”

“Yeah. Grandpa loves Jesus,” said Jesse. “He said he trusted Jesus as his Savior when he was just a kid, remember?”

“But my teacher at church says we won’t go to heaven unless we have Jesus in our hearts,” replied Marcus. “So if Grandpa gets a different heart, he won’t be a Christian anymore, will he?”

“Didn’t your teacher explain what she meant by having Jesus in your heart?” asked Dad. Marcus just shrugged. “Well,” said Dad, “think of it like this, Marcus. You have a big place in my heart, but that doesn’t mean you’re actually inside my physical heart.” Dad placed his hand on his chest. “You don’t crawl around in the organ beating inside here. So what do you think it means when I say you’re in my heart?”

“I don’t know. I guess it means you love me a whole lot,” said Marcus.

Dad nodded. “Right. It’s like that when we talk about having Jesus in our hearts. We don’t mean our physical hearts then either. We mean that we know Jesus loves us, and we love Him too. When we trust Him to forgive our sins, we say He comes into our hearts–not into our physical hearts, but into our lives. He’s with us all the time, and we look to Him for help and direction. So no matter what physical heart is inside Grandpa’s body, Grandpa loves Jesus and belongs to Him. Does that make sense?”

Marcus smiled and nodded. “I feel better now.”

Do you have Jesus in your heart? In the Bible, the word “heart” refers to your innermost being–the place where your thoughts, feelings, and desires come from. The Bible says our hearts are sinful, which is why we need Jesus to free us from sin and change the way we think and the things we desire. When we trust in Him, He comes into our hearts–not physically but spiritually. Trust Him to change your heart today.

When Jews prayed, they normally stood upright with hands raised, but Paul’s bowed posture in Ephesians 3:14-21 tells us that this is no ordinary prayer; it is the prayer of someone kneeling, like Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane. Even now, kneeling before someone is considered a way to acknowledge that he or she is greater. Whether people kneel physically or only in their hearts, they should come to the throne of grace with a spirit of submission and humility.

Paul prayed for at least four things:

  1. An inward power.
  2. An inward presence.
  3. An inward perception.
  4. An inward provision

Paul was very specific in the petitions in his prayer. The exact number of intercessions is not important. What is important is that we identify the mystery of God in prayer.

Paul saw two elements of human nature:

  1. The flesh, which includes all the impulses and activities of our earthly lives.
  2. The mind, where our true personality lives. It is the inner self that can be continually renewed and strengthened.

The latter item is the key point of Paul’s theology. A person many be “in Christ” and thus live in the Spirit and in the power of the living God who lives in us. Union of Christ and possession of the Spirit mean the same. They are created and affected by faith. When Christ lives in us, our lives are reoriented. In other words, when the Holy Spirit comes to us, we get a spiritual heart transplant.

God’s love can be known. It can be known because the Cross is the supreme revelation of love. This love is so glorious that it can’t be described. It is best experienced by fellowship with other believers. The more we are united with fellow believers, the more we enter into fellowship with God. Christ’s love is so boundless that the only way to understand it is through the combined experience of all Christians.

Paul used four dimensions to describe the immensity of God’s love:

  1. Its breadth reminds us that His arms reach around the globe. On the cross, Jesus’ hands were stretched out for the whole world.
  2. Its length reminds us that His love extends from eternity past to eternity future. It existed before the foundation of this world and will exist after this world’s end.
  3. Its depth reminds us that His love addresses the deepest needs of the human heart. God loves sinners no matter who they are, what they have done, or where they have been.
  4. Its height reaches to the very throne of God. Out of love Jesus came down from heaven and lifts up to His level anyone who chooses to believe, because no one can climb up to His level.

The word “dwell” means more than merely to live in a place. It means to settle down, move in, take up residence and be at home. When God makes His home in the hearts of His people, and the Holy Spirit fills them with His presence, they begin to understand the length, depth, width and breadth of His love.

God’s love can’t be contained, but we can receive it to the full measure of our capacity and to the degree that we yield to it. That is what it means to be filled with the Spirit. We have a relationship with God that is so yielded to Him that He comes to us and lives with us in intimacy and power. Consequently, we can experience in life all things Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would do for believers.

If we are weak, it is not because there is no available power. The power of God that created the universe and raised Jesus from the dead is always available to us through prayer. Spiritual power is a mark of every Christian who submits to the Holy Spirit. It is not reserved for special people. It is available to those who discipline their minds and spirits to study God’s Word, understand it and live by it. Just like Christ grew in Mary until He had to come out, He will live in us until He comes out in our speech, our actions and our decisions. We, like Mary, will deliver Christ into the world.

Paul urges us to think about what it means to represent Christ in the world. When people look at us as Christians, do they see Christ-like qualities? After all, God works through people who know Him and trust Him. God’s ability to perform miracles is not the question. The question is: How do we get the miraculous to happen to us? The answer is that we have to believe in God’s power, which is alive and working in us. When God’s Word is alive in our hearts, we must keep it alive and active in us. We don’t know how He does this in all believers all the time, but without God living through us, it would be impossible to live the Christian life.

If the Holy Spirit lives within us, and if He is able to do far more abundantly than all we ask or think, should we not expect more of ourselves than merely what we’ve known or attempted in the past? We don’t have to worry that we don’t have the tools, skills or experience to do what God asks us to do. God does not call the equipped. He equips the called.

Here are some truths for us to consider today:

  1. There is no promise too hard for God to fulfill.
  2. There is no prayer too big for God to answer.
  3. There is no problem too big for God to solve.
  4. There is no disease God cannot heal.
  5. There is no heart God cannot mend.
  6. There is no relationship God cannot restore.
  7. There is no sin God cannot redeem.
  8. There is no bondage God cannot break.
  9. There is no need God cannot meet.
  10. There is no mountain God cannot move.
  11. There is no enemy God cannot defeat.
  12. There is nothing God cannot do.

A good example of what God can do in our lives can be found in the life of a gentleman named Stuart Hamblen. He had a popular radio show on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1940s. During Billy Graham’s 1949 Los Angeles Crusade, Stuart Hamblen invited Billy Graham on his show as a guest. Stuart Hamblen encouraged his audience to attend the crusade and remarked that he would be there too.

The first night Stuart attended, he was convicted of his sins. Because he could not understand what was going on in his soul, he shook his fist in anger and left. He came back several times and each time he had the same reaction. One night, Billy Graham was awakened in his hotel room by the ringing of the telephone. Stuart Hamblen was on the other end on the line, and he was in tears. He asked to see Billy Graham right away. They talked and prayed, and Stuart Hamblen gave his life to Christ that night, and came forward in the next service during the crusade.

Not long after, Stuart had a conversation with the actor John Wayne. That conversation inspired Stuart to write one of the most famous Gospel songs. Some of the words are:

It is no secret what God can do
What he’s done for others he’ll do for you
With arms wide open, he’ll pardon you
It is no secret what God can do.

Without the Holy Spirit, we can’t live the Christian life. With God in our lives, we can experience Christ’s life in abundance. How does this happen?

  1. God’s Spirit makes us alive in Christ.
  2. He assures us that we are His children.
  3. He guides us into all truth by taking the things of Jesus and making them known to us.
  4. He gives us the power to understand and experience the love of God.
  5. He works in us to live out God’s purposes for our lives.
  6. He expresses the fruit of His live through us.

The great Protestant reformer Martin Luther commented on a professor of his who would follow the same routing every day. He would enter the classroom, hang up his coat, then proceed to take off his hat and bow before every single student in the classroom. Finally, Martin Luther asked him, “What are you doing? Why do you bow before each of us?” The professor replied, “I bow before you in honour of what you might become if you get your life in tune with God!”

What might we become if our lives were consistently in tune with God? What might we become if our lives were set apart, knowing Him, confident, mature, allowing His power to work exceedingly abundant in us? What might we become if we entrust our loved ones to Him, knowing that they will be safer with Him than in our hands? God can bring change in people’s lives, but people have to follow His plans instead of their own.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible: New King James Version (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013; p. 1643)
  2. Hazel W. Marett, “A New Heart.” Retrieved from
  3. Dunnam, M.D. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 31: Galatians/Ephesians/Philippians/Colossians/Philemon (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982; pp. 182-189)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible: New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
  5. MacArthur, J.F. Jr.: The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers; 2006)
  6. Lucado, M.: The Lucado Life Lessons Study Bible (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson; 2010; pp. 1636-1637)
  7. “Success Story: A Community Formed by Remarkable Differences.” Retrieved from
  8. Pete Briscoe, “God’s Working Today Through You.” Retrieved from
  9. Christine Caine, “First Things First with Christine.” Retrieved from
  10. Dr. Ed Young, “In Tune With God.” Retrieved from
  11. Bob Christopher, “The Word of the Holy Spirit.” Retrieved from
  12. T.M. Moore, “Pushing the Limits.” Retrieved from
  13. Billy Graham, Just As I Am: The Autobiography of Billy Graham (San Francisco, CA: Harper Collins Worldwide; 1997; pp.145, 147-148)

John 6:1-21 Nothing to Fear

Good morning boys and girls!

Have you ever been scared? Has there ever been a time when someone told you to do something and you were scared to do what they told you to do?

You know, even people in the Bible were scared from time to time. For example, on at least two occasions the disciples were scared. One time, the disciples returned from a long trip and they were tired. Jesus told them to go with him to a quiet place where they could rest. Unfortunately, the people found out where Jesus and his disciples were, and they went to see them. Jesus had compassion on them, so he taught them.

As the day wore on, the people didn’t have anything to eat. The disciples urged Jesus to send the people away to get something to eat, but Jesus told them to give the people something to eat. The disciples didn’t have enough food, and they didn’t have enough money to buy food. The disciples were scared, but Jesus knew what he was going to do. Andrew found a little boy with a small lunch. Jesus took the lunch, blessed it and gave it to the disciples to give out to the people. Suddenly there was more than enough food-enough to fill twelve baskets with leftovers.

After Jesus dismissed the crowd the disciples got into a boat and started to cross a lake. Before they got to the other side, it became dark and a storm came. The disciples were afraid, and they were scared even more when they saw someone walking on the water and coming toward them. The disciples recognized Jesus when he said, “It is I, don’t be afraid.” Jesus calmed their fears, and they invited him to get into the boat.

All of us have been afraid at one time or another, even adults. Being scared is nothing to be ashamed of. When we invite Jesus into our lives, we don’t have to be afraid, because we aren’t alone.

Let’s close our eyes and pray. Dear God, thank you for sending Jesus to help us, especially when we are scared. Help us to remember that with Jesus we have nothing to fear because he protects us with his love. In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.


  1. “There’s No Fear in Jesus.” Retrieved from

John 6:1-21 Jesus and His Tests

Have you ever had to prepare a meal for a large group of people with little or no advance notice?

When you prepared that meal, did you ever stop to wonder how you would do it, especially if you realized that you did not have enough food and you did not have the time or money to go to the grocery store? If that is the case, perhaps you can sympathize with the disciples in the story of the feeding of the crowd, which is written in John 6:1-21.

Jesus had been teaching the crowd all day, and it was almost time for the evening meal. The disciples wanted Jesus to dismiss the people so they could go and buy food in the neighbouring towns and villages. Jesus had other ideas. He told the disciples to feed the people.

We saw the reactions of two of the disciples to Jesus’ instruction. Philip saw the need for a miracle and calculated the odds. He tried to prove that it could not be done. How many times are we like Philip? How often do we fail to see what God is doing because we are focused on our selfish desires and needs?

Andrew, on the other hand, set out to try to solve the problem, and the solution he found is the key to the first part of this story. He searched for food among the people, but he found only one small boy with a small lunch that seemed inadequate for the task at hand. We have to give credit to Andrew for at least trying to find a solution to the problem.

Barley was a staple part of the diet for the poor. The loaves were small, flat wafers. The fish were the size of sardines. The meal was barely enough for one little boy, let alone sufficient to satisfy the appetite of a grown man. When Jesus accepted the boy’s gift, he blessed it, and in the blessing the small became great. There was suddenly enough bread because Jesus saw the people and wanted them to be fed, just like Jesus saw the fear in his disciples on the sea. He loved the disciples and the crowd and gave both groups the peace of his presence.

This story shows the difference between two types of churches-missional and maintenance. Missional churches welcome all situations and see the potential while acknowledging the challenges these situations create. Maintenance churches focus on creating committees that make decisions and not disciples. Maintenance churches distance themselves from problems because they are too busy having committee meetings. Maintenance churches are filled with tension because the members don’t know what’s going to happen or how to respond. They do just enough to get by. Missional churches look for things to do, even when their members are already doing things. They believe that because God is in what they are doing, God will provide everything that they will need. Maintenance churches are paralyzed by the size and scope of the task before them, but missional churches break the task down into manageable parts. They do not try to do everything all at once because they know they can’t be everything to everyone all of the time. Jesus accepts their limitations and only expects them to work with what they have and with the next people they meet. Which type of church would we prefer to be?

Jesus can take anything we give him, no matter how big or how small, and multiply it to be used to do his work in the world. My own ministry and spiritual life are good examples. God has taken the talents and gifts I have (and have offered to him) and used them to spread the good news and do his work both locally and world-wide through the worship services I lead and the sermons I post on my blog.

All life and all good gifts come from God. Jesus comes to open our hearts and our hands to those around us. We can do that only because he opens our eyes to his own presence as the grace-and-peace-filled “I” in the middle of the storm.

When Jesus sets an impossible task before us, he knows what he is going to do, but he wants us to see how we will react. Will we react in fear, confusion or faith? Jesus tested the disciples. He wanted them to fail so that he might strengthen them. Jesus also tests us for the same reason. Failure gives us strength. We and the disciples should have learned a lesson from this story. We must never gauge the size of a challenge in terms of our capability. God calls us to commit whatever we have, and he will use it for his glory. When we give ourselves into God’s hands, we become instruments in his service. We can then serve many people who are hungry physically and/or spiritually. When we come to the end of our resources, God comes in with his resources. In Jesus, there is more than enough for everyone.

The miracle of giving is that it produces a ministry of giving. Money is a miracle because it increases when we give it away, especially when we give it away to God so he can use it to do his work in our world. Jesus gives us ample resources, but we have to receive them before we can share them with others. This story has to do with faith in Jesus rather than his compassion. It is also about God’s ability to take too little and change it into more than enough.

Jesus intended for his miracle to point people to God. That included his disciples and everyone he met. The people realized that the food they had eaten was a sign from God and that they might believe in Jesus, and they did. They realized he was the long-promised Messiah, but he wasn’t the type of Messiah they were looking for. They were following Jesus for the spectacle, not because of who he was. They were enamoured with his words and what he might do for them. Coming to God on the mountain was a fearful experience, yet it was full of expectation at the same time. Why? Because God was seen at this time in history as a mighty and exalted God.

Because he could work miracles, many people wanted to make Jesus a king. They thought that if he could feed them, he could free them from Roman rule. They wanted an earthly king who would protect them and provide for them. Instead, Jesus was a humble, servant king who would restore their relationship with God. They wanted a Messiah who would provide for their physical needs, but Jesus was the type of Messiah that would provide for their spiritual needs. He wanted their undivided attention, just like he wanted the disciples’ undivided attention.  Jesus got the disciples’ attention thanks to the storm. He wanted them to make him their chief focus even when the storms of life take over. He also wants us to pay attention to him, especially when we face the storms of life.

A colossal testing often follows a colossal success. The real proof of discipleship is how closely a person follows Christ when his/her needs are not met right away and the storms of life are raging. Jesus’ walking on the water is a sign of his power over the living spirit of the sea-a living spirit that is dangerous and unpredictable. By telling his disciples, “It is I; do not be afraid,” Jesus identified himself as the Great I AM. He comes to all of his followers in their storms and reminds them that he is the Great I AM. When Jesus walked on the water and told his disciples not to be afraid, he showed his power to rescue human inadequacy.

The story focuses on how the disciples will respond to the tests Jesus gives them. We are also being tested as we apply this story to our own lives. The test for us is how we will do the work Jesus wants us to do, especially when the task seems impossible. We must not concentrate on what we lack. We must concentrate on what we have. Jesus gives us the resources we need, but if we want to get them, we have to get rid of our earthly habits. We must starve judging and feed on kindness. We must starve indifference and feed on compassion. We must starve isolation and feed on community.

There will come a time when we will face a test that we declare to be impossible. When that happens, we need to take the following steps:

  1. Acknowledge our inadequacy and the Lord’s omnipotence.
  2. Be certain the challenge before us glorifies the Lord, obeys one of his commands from Scripture, or helps to fulfill a spiritual mandate.
  3. Give the challenge back to the Lord as a chance for him to accomplish it on our behalf and receive glory for the victory.
  4. Do what we can, supply what we have, put forward our effort, then let God multiply it at his discretion.

The two parts of this story are linked by Jesus’ doing something totally unexpected, and it changes the lives of those around him. This story tells us that there are things in life that will catch us off guard, but nothing will catch God off guard. God sends the storms of life that we face. These storms have been engineered to strengthen us, teach us something and cause us to grow deeper in our faith. God knows what we are dealing with before it happens. He also knows how we are going to get out of the situation. He still allows the trial to happen because it will be for our benefit.  When we face the storms of life, we must remember the words of the hymn, “Will Your Anchor Hold?”

Will your anchor hold in the storms of life,

When the clouds unfold their wings of strife?

When the strong tides lift and the cables strain,

Will your anchor drift, or firm remain?

We have an anchor that keeps the soul
Stedfast and sure while the billows roll,
Fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
  Grounded firm and deep in the Savior’s love.

Our job is to involve Jesus in any problems we are facing and to count on his presence and power. Jesus is present and ready to help in any situation of need. All we have to do is come to him in faith.


  1. Jeremiah, David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing; 2013)
  2. Swindoll, Charles R.: Swindoll’s New Testament Insights on John (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan; 2010)
  3. Frederikson, R.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 27: John (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1985)
  4. Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles, 2005)
  5. Os Hillman, “Thinking Outside the Box.” Retrieved from
  6. Pastor David McGee, “Trusting God.” Retrieved from
  7. Anne Graham Lotz, “Receiving His Resources.” Retrieved from
  8. Exegesis for John 6:1-21. Retrieved from
  9. Jude Siciliano, O,.P., “First Impressions, 17th Sunday (B).” Retrieved from
  10. Pastor Jack Hibbs, “The Storms of Life.” Retrieved from
  11. Anne Graham Lotz, “Give All that You Have.”  Retrieved from
  12. Tozer, A.W., “The Church: Philip the Calculator.” Retrieved from
  13. “On Barbeque Grills & A Boy’s Lunch.” Retrieved from
  14. Sharon L. Blezard, “Blood, Water, and Signs of God.” Retrieved from
  15. David Lose, “Bread of Life Sermon Series.” Retrieved from
  16. Brian Peterson, “Commentary on John 6:1-21.” Retrieved from
  17. Alyce McKenzie, “Mind the Gap: The Feeding of the 5,000.” Retrieved from
  18. Katie Munnick, “All the Water in All the Oceans.” Retrieved from
  19. The Rev. Sharon Hiers, “More Unexpected Jesus.” Retrieved from
  20. Weekly Evangelectionary for Sunday, July 26, 2015. Retrieved from