Greetings in the name of Jesus! This is a continuing effort on my part to make available to family, friends, and any other poor unfortunate souls that run across this, some of the thoughts that run through my mind regarding sermon preparation, newsletter articles, random thoughts (of which there are many), and generally how God is working in my life. I hope to post at least once a week but I'm not promising that.

So welcome to it.

Post Script:
A couple of people have asked me about the address. When I was putting this together I was preparing for sermons from the 6th chapter of John where Jesus refers to himself as "The Bread of Life" and these are passages that I strongly identify with. So artos is bread and zoe is life (roughly) and to quote Forrest, "That's all I have to say about that."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

August 2, 2009 Sermon Notes

Seal of Approval

John 6:16-17a, 24-35

16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26 Jesus answered them, "Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." 28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, "He gave them bread from heaven to eat.' " 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always." 35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

6:24-25 the “crowds” come looking for Jesus

6:26 Jesus speaks the truth…

my paraphrase: I’m telling you straight up… you’re not here because you understood what just happened and what it revealed about who I am… you’re here because you got your stomachs filled…

Even after one of the most remembered miracles of Jesus (it is shared in all four gospels) the crowds still did not grasp the significance of it or Jesus… (further vindication of John 2:24-25; but Jesus on his part would not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people…)

6:27 the truth continued…

Jesus tries to get them to see the real issue… the real need in their lives. It’s the same in our ours. It is one that we either are ignorant of, afraid of, or refuse to believe, or a combination of all three (rather simplistic but true). And that need is filled by God’s grace… nothing we can do to obtain it… it is the gift of faith in Jesus from Jesus (this becomes clear to us in 6:35).

You’re focusing on the wrong thing… you’re going to need to eat everyday for the rest of your life… that need is never going to go away… it’s part of being human. The reality is there is a need you can never satisfy on your own regardless of how many times you eat, drink, go shopping, play X-box or whatever… it’s the need to be connected to God and only I can fill that need… and that’s something you can’t earn… it’s my gift to you as the Son of Man… the one that bears the Father’s Seal of Approval

6:28 still not fully getting it…

My paraphrase: O.K., so what do we have to do to get on God’s good side to get this blessing, how many people do we need to help, how much money do we need to give to the poor, how many times do we need to support the food bank, or flood victims and the like?

They misunderstand Jesus use of the phrase do not work (implying a gift something that can’t be earned) as they need to labor or work in a certain way.

6:29 Jesus makes it plainer

No you still don’t understand… you don’t have to do anything… the so called “work” that God asks of you is simply to believe in me… receive the gift of my grace

All one has to do to be re-connected with God is to have faith in Jesus... to have a personal relationship with him. And in my belief even the ability to believe is something that God empowers us to do… once God has stirred our hearts to the point where we can recognize the gift our response is our participation… we simply say yes… or we refuse to claim it as our own (see 6:27 the truth continued, above). That’s where the crowd is in 6:30

6:30 let’s go a waffling (or still not fully getting it part 2)

It sounds too easy… how can we know that we can trust what you’re saying? What are you going to show us today? Moses called down manna, bread from heaven, for our ancestors in the wilderness.

The connection with the Exodus and Moses continues from last week’s reference to God’s deliverance in the Passover, to God’s faithfulness to sustain the lives of his people by providing food in the wilderness. The crowd wants another sign—as if the one they witnessed yesterday didn’t even happen—a continuation of meeting their physical need only… that is, Jesus is right; the only reason they came was they were looking for a free meal.

6:32-33 explaining it… again.

The Message paraphrase:

32 Jesus responded, "(You’re missing the point). The real significance of that Scripture is not that Moses gave you bread from heaven but that my Father is right now offering you bread from heaven, the real bread. 33 The Bread of God came down out of heaven and is giving life to the world."

Four things to note:

  1. The giver of the bread is God The Father not Moses
  2. The gift of the bread happens in the present not the past (gives)
  3. The bread that Jesus speaks of is the true bread from heaven
  4. Jesus tells the crowd that they (not their ancestors) are receiving the true bread (gives you)

6:34 having ears but not able to hear

Now you’re talking… give us this bread so that we’ll never have to eat again

The crowd here is like the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4). They only understand Jesus’ words on a physical level… not a spiritual or relational one so…

6:35 Jesus states it even more plainly:

I am what I have been describing to you… I am come from heaven to give life… all who put their trust in me will satisfy their hunger and thirst for God and God’s faithfulness… I am the bread of Life… the True bread from heaven

Jesus answers the crowds demand for a sign by showing them that they have already received one: Jesus is the sign… he is the true bread from heaven… he not only has the seal of approval from God the Father but he is the seal of approval for all who place their faith and trust in him.

Life Transformation Groups

If you look over to the “Things I have been reading” section you’ll notice several books by Neil Cole. He has, what I feel, is a very healthy perspective on what we should be about as God’s people and he’s challenged the way that I view my own ministry within a mainline denomination. Included in each of his books is a disciple making process that in reality is not new to the church, especially Methodism. He calls them Life Transformation Groups. Rather than go through a whole description of them follow the link in the last sentence. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

What he doesn’t include in the description of these groups but is implied is what Wesley called his classes and societies to engage in: “There is only one condition previously required, in those who desire Admission into these Societies, a desire to flee from the Wrathe to come, to be saved from their Sins: But, whenever this is really fix’d in the Soul, it will be shewn by its Fruits. It is therefore expected of all who continue therein, that they should continue to evidence their Desire of Salvation, First, by doing no harm, by avoiding Evil in every kind; especially, that which is most generally practised: Secondly, by doing Good, by being in every kind, merciful after their power, as they have Opportunity, doing Good of every possible sort, and as far as it is possible, to all Men: Thirdly, by attending upon the Ordinances of God: Such are the publick Worship of God; The Ministry of the Word, either read or expounded; The Supper of the Lord; Private Prayer; Searching the Scriptures; and Fasting or Abstinence.” Rev. John Wesley 1742-43

The implication being that we need time to spend time in worship, observing the sacraments (especially the Eucharist), and personal ministry and mission (Christian service or in Wesley’s words… doing good).

The discipleship group that I belonged to, and which helped me come to faith in Christ, applied Wesley’s principles in this covenant: 1) A minimum of 30 minutes per day used in personal devotion. During this time I will read and study Scripture being open to God’s Word, I will pray for Christ’s Church, for others, for myself, and I will contemplate God’s will in my life. If I find that I can give more than the minimum I will seek to work toward giving a tithe (10%) of a working day. 2) A weekly meeting with a covenant fellowship of like-minded disciples and I will pray for these disciples by name every day. 3) A daily form of worship with my family that glorifies God and encourages one another. 4) Fasting one meal per week, if possible, and using the time for prayer that would have been used for eating; and giving the amount of money saved by not eating to some Christian ministry. 5) Stewardship of all my gifts, talents, and resources; including my wealth. I will strive to tithe (10%) of my gross income to the glory of God. 6) Participation in Sunday morning worship and Sunday School except when not possible. 7) Begin and end each day with prayer.

We can tailor the specific activities of each group but Cole’s emphasis, in my opinion, needs to be at the core.

As I thought about the challenges that face many mainline churches these days I have become convicted more each day that we (a corporate we) have not been focusing on what Jesus focused on. Mainline churches often approach things from what I call a blanket perspective—we develop and implement programs to reach or cover large numbers of people. Jesus didn’t focus on that. It’s not that he didn’t do it (the sermon on the mount, feeding of the 5,000), but that was not the primary focus. His primary focus was on his disciples (even in the above examples) and of those, the Gospels tell us that often Peter, James and John got more one on one time with the Master. I believe Life Transformation Groups provide us with a process by which we can achieve what God is calling us to do: to know Jesus and to make him known.

For those of you who have been listening to my preaching over the last 6 to 7 months this should sound kind of familiar. For others I hope and pray that it sparks a new or renewed passion and desire to grow in the spiritual disciplines of our faith.

Monday, July 27, 2009

More Than Enough

sermon notes from July 26 2009

John 6:2

Jesus wants to do more than just heal us… but is that all we want of Jesus? Is all that we are looking for to be fed and made well? And if that happens (God provides food or ealing) what is our response… how does that change the way that we live in our relationship with Jesus? Does it change the way we live in relationship with Jesus?


Why does John mention that the Passover was near? What happened in the Passover? God provided for the whole nation of Israel in delivering them from captivity through protecting them from Death as it passed over them because of the blood of the lamb. Is it possible that John wants us to see a connection with God’s faithfulness in the past to provide and how his faithfulness continues in his self-revelation as Jesus the Son?

I also believe that this connection is important in what is to come with the feeding of the multitudes… Jesus in multiplying and distributing the bread is multiplying and distributing himself… it is pointing forward to his sacrifice on the cross through which all, who put there trust in him (as they did in Egypt by placing the blood on the door posts), will have life.

(see 6:11-13 below)


Where we see limitations God sees opportunities. God works through our limitations to achieve his purpose.

The scene from Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back comes to mind… Luke’s ship is sinking in the swamp on Degoba and Yoda tells him to raise it up and set it on dry land by using the powerful and un-seeable force that resides within him… Luke tries and fails and proclaims it impossible to do at which time then Yoda who is a quarter of the physical size of Luke accomplishes the task after saying to Luke… “with you it is always impossible”


God is able to use what little we have to offer


What everyone else considered a liability or limitation Jesus gave thanks for it.

Jesus himself distributes the food… so the gift comes directly from Jesus and for me represents Jesus’ self-giving on the cross. In the Gospel of John life and salvation are gifts from abiding in Jesus (last week’s Paul’s being “in Christ”). The result of abiding in Jesus is bearing fruit—works of mercy, justice, compassion (whose purpose is to witness to the power of Jesus)

I see the twelve baskets (one for each of the disciples) as symbolizing the church’s task of continuing the ministry of Jesus… the twelve disciples represent the church (that’s us folks… each one of us)… so the fragments left over, for me, represent the church continuing to offer the person of Christ to the world… abiding in Jesus… to bear fruit. And each of us is called to share Christ on a personal basis… through our personal relationships with others.


Recognition of Jesus is not a sufficient expression of faith in John… a transformed life is… the people, in seeing his acts of power correctly proclaim him as the prophet who is to come into the world… a reference to another Moses (another tie in to the Exodus account) but wish to use him to their own purpose (forcibly make him King in opposition to Rome… a political messiah) not God’s purpose…

As one commentator shared... “To make Jesus king (note small “k” meaning a worldly king) is to take his grace and twist it to conform to the world’s notion of power and authority… when Jesus withdrew from the crowd, he showed that he would offer his gift of grace without claiming worldly power. In that moment his glory was revealed because true glory has nothing to do with worldly power.”

In my words:

Jesus’ kingdom… the kingdom of God isn’t brought about by institutions… government, public… sometimes even religious… Jesus’ kingdom is brought about by receiving him and living in relationship with him…

In our western church we can be tempted to fall into the trap that thinking that more is better… more people, more space, more ministry, more money… that if we only had more we would be better at achieving what ever it is we’re trying to achieve… What Jesus show us is that what we have right now is more than enough to achieve his purpose.

What is it that we have? What is before us here today? You; me; the Word of God and Jesus. We really don’t need anything else… that is more than enough. The Kingdom of God is built one relationship at a time (the preaching on and after Pentecost not withstanding… God is not constrained by the means he asks us to use).

Thursday, July 23, 2009