CHILLING WITH HIS PEEPS

Jn.6:3 – And Jesus went up on the mountain, and there He sat with His disciples.

Sometimes its good to just sit down and be with the Lord. There seems to be undue pressure that we put on ourselves to perform when it comes to religious matters. Did I get my prayer time in, did I finish my daily readings, is my cell group growing and multiplying. Actually all of those things are good things but they can’t be the driving force in our lives. Sometimes its good to just sit down and be with Jesus. That was one of the amazing characteristics of the River outpouring in the 1990’s. I found out it was okay to just lie on the floor in His presence and just enjoy the moment. The Lord actually likes being with us. After all we are His sons and daughters and will be in an amazing family relationship with Him in eternity. I love to take notice of seemingly insignificant phrases in the Bible. Today’s verse is like that, Jesus went up on a mountain and there He sat with His disciples. Nothing could be better than that. Here is how the German reformer Musculus describes this phrase.

“And he sat there,” he says, “with his disciples.” Who with whom? The teacher with his students, the shepherd with his sheep, the hen with her chicks. Let us consider this gathering not of such a kind as physical eyes would have been able to see but of the sort of gathering that they were establishing: that paternal love in Christ and the souls of the disciples clinging to Christ no differently than chicks who run up to and cling to a mother hen. And let us not doubt that there will always be that same love for us if we are disciples of Christ, such that he sits and rests among us, feeding us by his Spirit, no differently than when he sat and rested among his disciples and fed them. And where did he sit with them? On a desert mountain. Meanwhile, the scribes, Pharisees and priests were feasting in the crowded cities, especially in Jerusalem, while the Son of God sits with his disciples on a desert mountain.”

So maybe church is about more than doing or learning but maybe its about sitting down with Jesus and His disciples and just hanging out. It really doesn’t get any better than that.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT ?

John 6:5-7 – As Jesus sat down, he looked out and saw the massive crowd of people scrambling up the hill, for they wanted to be near him. So he turned to Philip and said, “Where will we buy enough food to feed all these people?” Now Jesus already knew what he was about to do, but he said this to stretch Philip’s faith.
Philip answered, “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars to buy enough food!”

When you run out of resources and run out of money it is easy to get your vision clouded and to get way off track. About this time every year my mind wanders back to 1990 when our ministry was in that very predicament. New Orleans had just gone through a mass exodus of businesses in response to trouble in the oil industry. In seemed like everyone was moving to Houston. We had also just endured national and local scandals with the television preachers. We were trying to build a new worship facility and let’s just say things were not going very well. I found myself drifting from my calling and purpose as I was fixated on how I was going to pay the mounting mountain of debt. I was overwhelmed and was being torn in a million different directions by various voices who meant well but were not helping. I was interrupted by the Lord by a strange impression or voice apparently from Him, “What are you looking at?”.
“Well, I’m looking at how to fix this”, was my anemic reply. “Look to Me”, was His response. “Feed the people and I will do the rest”. That was the beginning of our first ‘Feed the Multitudes’ event. FTM has been a life saver and a tool to refocus our ministry for all these years. Here are some comments from the Passion Translation that describe Jesus’s comments to His disciple when facing an insurmountable need.

John 6;7 – “Well, I suppose if we were to give everyone only a snack, it would cost thousands of dollars to buy enough food!”

“This equates to about eight months’ wages of the average person. Philip didn’t answer the question and was focused on how much money it would cost, but Jesus’ question was, “Where will we buy bread?” Jesus was testing Philip to see if he would look to Jesus to supply all that was needed and not consider their limited resources.”

So I just have to ask you again, “What are you looking at? Your problems or are you looking at Jesus”.

MORE FOOD FOR THE SOUL

John 6:35 ¶ And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst”.

Food keeps us alive. Obviously, we eat for more than survival, pleasure also comes into play, but food is the very strength of our life. As the old adage goes, “you are what you eat”. That’s why what Jesus taught in today’s verse is so important, our spiritual food determines what and who we become. Jesus called this spiritual food our daily bread. Now here is where this parallel between natural food and spiritual food becomes interesting. Just as I said before, we eat physical food for pleasure’s sake, spiritual food begins to take on a spiritual attraction. The more we feast on the written word the more we acquire a taste for it. Reading the Bible can actually become the greatest pleasure of our lives. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on this spiritual food and spiritual nourishment.

“The grace of Christ Jesus, it nourishes the soul; it gives life and strength to it. Before the soul receives this grace, it is dead. In this it doth more than bread does to the body, that does but preserve the life of the body and revives it when weakened and languishing; but this heavenly food revives men when dead. And it also continues the life of the soul: the soul, after it is revived, would die again, were it not for the continuance of supply of grace and spiritual nourishment. It strengthens the soul as food does the body. The soul in its natural condition is a poor, feeble, languishing thing, having no strength; but the grace of Christ makes it strong and vigorous. And this spiritual nourishment makes the soul to grow, as food doth the body. The supplies of the Spirit of God increase the life and vigor of the soul, increases the understanding, increases holy inclinations and affections…”

Edwards describes how we are made alive by spiritual food, nourished and kept alive, strengthened by this food, and actually begin to have inclinations and affections for the Lord awakened by the bread from heaven. Why is this ? Because the very life of God pulsates in every word of God. Remember, Jesus Himself is the word of God. So go ahead and dig in, the table is spread and the meal is better than you can ever imagine.

EAT HIS BODY – DRINK HIS BLOOD

Jn.6:56 – He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.

Feed the Multitudes really is a picture of the life and ministry of Jesus. This miracle brought the entire life of Christ on earth to a head. The majority of people who were following Christ were following because of the benefits they believed that this miracle worker could bring to this life. They wanted to make him their king, they had no idea of redemption and the real reason Jesus came. When He begin to share about eating His body and drinking His blood they wanted nothing to do with Him. They were looking for an earthly messiah, a heavenly kingdom held no interest for them. Here is how Martin Luther describes today’s verse.

“This is now a precious dwelling place and glory, that we poor sinners, through belief in Christ and through our eating, have in ourselves his power, energy, strength, righteousness and wisdom. As it is written here: “Whoever believes in me, I remain in them.” He is ours, so that sin, death, the devil and world with all its evil cannot disgrace us or cause us to give up hope or make us fools. This is a beautiful, wonderful dwelling place or tabernacle, very different from the tabernacle of Moses was, which was beautifully and magnificently adorned with beautiful carpets and decorated with golden pieces. But outwardly it was calfskin or lambskin, like the hut or tabernacle of Moses was also decorated.”

So Christ came to prepare a new place for us to dwell. He wanted to become our dwelling place Himself. The miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was a picture of the heavenly life He was calling us to. He wants us to literally live off of Him. He becomes our bread, the true bread that comes down from heaven.

Every year Victory Fellowship has a giant free food festival for our city. On the outside there are groceries, jambalaya, hot dogs, water melons, haircuts, and shoes. If that’s all you see then you haven’t seen the real FTM. FTM is an invitation to a new life, a new community. He is calling us to leave behind our former life and embrace this new life characterized by eating His flesh and drinking His blood. This is the true food, the living bread that comes down from heaven. If you eat this bread you will be completely and finally satisfied.

INSTANTLY

Jn.6:21 – Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.

I think this twenty four hour period was one of the most amazing in the ministry of Jesus. It started with teaching and healing the sick, moved on to the feeding of the multitudes, then on to a time of intercession, next it was walking on water, and then supernatural transport to the other side of the lake. To top things off, Jesus began to teach that day about His body and His blood, there was surely no turning back now. The Lord was literally giving His followers a taste of the world He came from and was preparing to return to. In His message that day He taught about heavenly bread and heavenly sustenance. Too often, we are fixated on this world only, the Lord was turning the gaze of His followers to the other world. Here are some thoughts from the New International Bible Commentary.

“The last lines in particular are dramatized in the strange statement of verse 21 that when the disciples tried to take Jesus aboard, immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. The whole scene has a supernatural quality about it, like a resurrection appearance. Jesus assures the disciples that he really is the person they have known all along, yet his presence–and, for a moment, theirs–is elusive, transcending time and space. He does not so much enter their world–the boat and the storm on the lake–as give them a glimpse and a taste, however fleeting, of his world. The disciples’ reaction is not expressed. As soon as they reach shore, they drop out of the story until at least verse 60. It is left to the reader to sense the mystery of what has happened and to wait for the explanation that only Jesus’ words (and they only in part) will later provide.”

Our tendency is to look at our lack of food or the storms that are about to sink our boat. Jesus was showing us to fix our gaze on heavenly food and the Maker of storms. The creator of all things was in there midst that day. he was displaying His glory through an amazing twenty four hours of miracles. The good news, He is still in our midst and is still the Bread that comes from heaven and the One who commands storms.

FOOD FOR MY SOUL

John 6:35 – And Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst.

We are so accustomed to the physical world that it is very hard to recognize the spiritual realm. Those that become aware of the spiritual world are often considered radical or some sort of weirdo. Jesus had just performed a great miracle the day before. He fed thousands of people with five barley loaves and two small fish. He is trying to share with these followers that the miracle was a picture or image of a spiritual reality. There was a message behind the miracle. He was saying there was another kind of food and another kind of hunger. He was the living bread that comes down from heaven. This was a greater miracle than even the manna that lasted for forty years. Jesus was speaking about food for the soul. Here is how Luther describes this verse.

“Out of the mass of powerful words in the holy Scripture there is almost no stronger word that Christ is a bread and meal given by God, and that whoever eats this bread lives forever and becomes content, no longer hungering or thirsting. . . . It is a settled point that here in this chapter the Lord is speaking about spiritual food, for he himself explains it as the hunger and thirst of the soul. The soul wants to live forever, to not be cursed, to have a merciful God, to be able to stand before the wrath and judgment of God, to not be condemned by sin and the law or go to hell. Those are the soul’s desires. It is a spiritual thirst and hunger, for which we need a spiritual meal and drink. And so the Holy Spirit comes and says, “If you do not want to die or be damned, then come to Christ, believe in him and cling to him. Eat this spiritual meal, believe in Christ, that is the most important thing.”

So what kind of food are you fixated on? Can you only see the physical world and the physical needs that we have? That’s why this crowd wanted to make Jesus king. They were stuck on an earthly kingdom. Jesus was about far more than that. He was introducing food for our inner man; the kind that satisfies us forever.

MIRACLES EVERY DAY

Jn.6:11 – And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted.

We live in a world that is part of God’s continual flow of miracles. Paul says that the Lord upholds everything by the word of His power. He is holding together galaxies and solar systems and has been since the day they were created. In our minuscule world called planet earth He displays His miracle power constantly. He holds the oceans in place and balances the ecological systems of the world. He feeds all of the fish, insects, and animals; and of course He feeds and sustains the human population every day.

When Jesus was on earth, He displayed His glory in His miracles. He turned water into wine and He fed the multitudes with a five loaves and two fish. These unusual miracles are really no different than the ones that satisfy and sustain each of us every day. Here is how Augustine describes the feeding off the multitudes.

“For certainly the government of the whole world is a greater miracle than the satisfying of five thousand men with five loaves; and yet no man wonders at the former; but the latter men wonder at, not because it is greater, but because it is rare. For who even now feeds the whole world, but He who creates the cornfield from a few grains? He therefore created as God creates. For, whence He multiplies the produce of the fields from a few grains, from the same source He multiplied in His hands the five loaves. The power, indeed, was in the hands of Christ; but those five loaves were as seeds, not indeed committed to the earth, but multiplied by Him who made the earth. In this miracle, then, there is that brought near to the senses, whereby the mind should be roused to attention, there is exhibited to the eyes, whereon the understanding should be exercised, that we might admire the invisible God through His visible works…”

As long as the earth remains the sun will rise and set and seed time and harvest will be used to feed the planet. From time to time the Lord will break into the natural flow of His normal system of provision with a display of power like He did when He fed the multitudes. If you need a miracle, today might just be your day.

WHAT’S IN YOUR HAND ?

Jn.6:9 – “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?”

Needless to say, God’s ways are not our ways, not even close. Every year about this time I begin to reflect on one of Jesus great miracles, the feeding of the multitudes, as we prepare for our own Feed the Multitudes on July 4. Feed the Multitudes is a free food festival that we have been hosting for the last thirty years. The story of this miracle is filled with incredible lessons, starting with the little boy who gave his lunch, five loaves and two fish, to Jesus. This boy’s act of faith immediately speaks to me about several huge spiritually lessons. First, it reminds me of my total dependency on the Lord. When the task at hand is within my ability to accomplish, I have no need to look to the Lord. For the disciples (and the little boy) the task at hand was not just too big or too hard, it was impossible. The absurdity of feeding 5000 men with a boy’s lunch is really quite funny. Actually taking the lunch and bringing it to the Lord was an admission of their insufficiency and their total dependence on God.

The next lesson that jumps out at me is looking to the Lord as our source in all things. The disciples had evaluated all of their options; they evaluated where the nearest market was (they were in the wilderness), and they thought about the finances they had on hand (they said it would cost more than eight months of wages to feed everyone). There was no human way they could meet the challenge. They were really forced to look to the Lord. Jesus looked to the Father and gave thanks. After all, every good and perfect gift comes down from our Father in heaven.

Finally, being put in this impossible situation tapped into the miracle power of God. His supernatural power is literally surrounding all of us. It wasn’t until they had tried everything and put their meager resources in His hands did the miracle begin to take place.

I love the picture that this story paints in my brain. The disciples returning again and again to the Lord, each time the bread multiplied and they continued to feed the hungry crowd. Thinking about the little boy, I think he stuck right by Jesus side. He watched His hands as his little lunch kept multiplying until everyone had eaten their fill. No matter what you are facing and how hopeless your circumstances may appear, look to Jesus, miracles are always flowing from His hands.

PIECES

Jn.6:12 – When they were filled, He *said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.

The disciples and the crowd who ate the bread and the fish that day had seen amazing things. They had watched as multitudes had been healed by the touch of His hand. They sat for hours literally spellbound as they heard the teaching of the man who spoke like no other man. They witnessed the miracle of the multiplication of the little boy’s lunch. His disciples saw Him walk on water that night and literally calm a storm and transport a boat across the sea in an atomic second. I wonder if they thought about what He said that day, “Gather up the leftover fragments”. If truth were told, that is really all they had witnessed that day, little fragments of what is coming, His kingdom is greater and better than any of us can dare to believe. Here is how Maclaren describes these leftover pieces.

“Oh, dear friends! what you and I have ever had and felt of Christ’s power, sweetness, preciousness, and love is as nothing compared with the infinite depths of all those which lie in Him. The sea fills the little creeks along its shore, but it rolls in unfathomed depths, boundless to the horizon away out there in the mid-Atlantic. And all the present experience of all Christian people, of what Christ is, is like the experience of the first settlers in some great undiscovered continent; who timidly plant a little fringe of population round its edge and grow their scanty crops there, whilst the great prairies of miles and miles, with all their wealth and fertility, are lying untrodden and unknown in the heart of the untraversed continent. The most powerful telescope leaves nebulae unresolved, which, though they seem but a dim dust of light, are all ablaze with mighty suns. The ‘goodness’ which He has ‘wrought before the sons of men for them that fear’ Him is, as the Psalmist adoringly exclaims, wondrously ‘great,’ but still greater is that which the same verse of the Psalm celebrates—the goodness which He has ‘laid up for them that fear Him.’”

The very next day Jesus told them, He clearly told them they had not understood the miracle of the bread and fish. He told them He was the true bread that comes down from heaven. He Himself is the treasure, not His miracles. So think about the things He has done for you and see them as fragments, fragments of the true bread that comes from heaven to satisfy our souls.

GATHER UP THE FRAGMENTS

Jn.6:12 – When they were filled, He *said to His disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments so that nothing will be lost.”

This miracle has been a huge part of our church, Victory Fellowship in New Orleans, for almost 30 years. The reasons are many, but let’s just say the Lord uses it every year to bring adjustment to all of us. Today, this verse of scripture caught my eye. Broken fragments, don’t leave any fragments behind. Could one of the things Jesus was saying be a lesson for His young disciples? Could He be telling His disciples by His actions the importance of picking up the broken pieces of people’s lives? I think that was a huge part of what this miracle was about. It’s easy to lose the sense of hurting individuals all around us when we get stuck on the big picture. You know what I mean, I don’t have time to fool with this homeless guy, I have important (you fill in the blank) stuff to take care of. What kind of stuff? Building projects, family obligations, fund raising events, campaigns, ministry programs; the list is literally endless. Jesus was telling His disciples you give them something to eat and then pick up the broken pieces of their lives. Here is how author Harriet Michael describes this verse in her life.

“Through the years, I have learned another way to gather fragments. I have had more than one occasion to help gather the pieces of a loved one’s shattered life. Sometimes these lives were shattered at the person’s own hands, often by sin, or at the hands of another. Even so, I find myself drawn to the gathering role. While others are shattering through accusations, anger, or gossip, my heart aches and longs to help the broken friend or family member gather his or her life back together. I remember how God has gathered my broken life and put it back together so many times. What or who needs gathering in your life? What or who is in danger of being lost?

Perhaps the shattered, broken lives are not people you know. Maybe you learn from the news of others, even groups of people whose lives have been shattered, and your heart longs to help in whatever way you can—through donations, service, or prayer—you are helping to gather up the fragments, that nothing be lost.”

I have to say AMEN!!! Let me ask the question, what broken lives need gathering in your world? You probably don’t have to look very far. There are probably broken pieces of lives literally littering your world. Gather up the fragments that NONE WILL BE LOST.