DO NOT BE AFRAID

Matt. 14:27 – But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”

As we have often noted, the miracles of Jesus were real but they each carried a sermon that penetrates the circumstances of our lives. This story contains one of the most well known miracles that Jesus performed. It happened the night after the feeding of the multitudes when the disciples were caught in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in a storm. It seems that they were rapidly losing their courage thinking maybe this could be the end of the line for them when Jesus suddenly appeared walking on water. This was a miracle that would not be forgotten anytime soon, it carried significant applications in many parts of their lives. Here is how Ellicott describes the application of this miracle.

“Be of good cheer; it is I be not afraid.—The accuracy with which the words are given by St. John, as well as by St. Matthew and St. Mark, shows the impression which the incident made on the minds of the disciples. To hear the familiar tones and the cheering words was enough, even amid the howling of the winds and the dashing of the waves, to give them confidence and hope. We can scarcely doubt that in after years that moment came back to their recollection, invested for them, as it has since been for the Church at large, with something of a symbolic character. Often the sky became dark, and the waves of the troublesome world were rough, and the blasts of persecution beat on them, and the ark of Christ’s Church was tossed on the waters, and they were wearied and spent with rowing. They thought themselves abandoned, and then in the dim twilight they would see or feel once again the tokens of His presence. He was coming to them through the storm. “Be of good cheer” became the watchword of their lives.”

Maybe you find yourself today in the middle of a storm. What makes matters worse is it seems that the Lord is nowhere to be found. Take courage, don’t be afraid. I’ve heard that Jesus is often seen in the midst of a storm. Who knows, this storm may be the beginning of a season of miracles in your life. Just when you thought all hope was gone, there He is, walking on the waves, calling out your name.

YOU GIVE THEM SOMETHING TO EAT

Matt. 14:16 – “They don’t need to leave,” Jesus responded. “You can give them something to eat.”

Those were exactly the words the disciples didn’t want to hear, “You give them something to eat”. After all, they had been promised a break; you know, a mini-vacation, a four day week end, and now this inconvenient interruption. The timing couldn’t be worse. Jesus had to be kidding, but He wasn’t. He had seen what the disciples couldn’t see yet, Jesus was moved with compassion. What had gotten the Lord’s attention in the wilderness that day? While the disciples were distracted with thoughts about missed vacation days and where their next meal would come from Jesus had been distracted by something else. Maybe it was the single mom trying to herd in her brood, or possibly the leper sneaking around the edge of the crowd, or even the paralyzed guy who would not have the luxury of working another day. Actually it was all of them, Jesus saw hurting people and He was moved with compassion. Some day the disciples would see but right now they were still thinking about their own issues, how could they help others when they had their own fish to fry.

Does this story sound familiar? I thought so. This is my story and your story, this is our story called Feed the Multitudes. It seems like yesterday when the Lord told us to give the people something to eat. All I could think of was how terrible the timing was and we have our own problems to handle. The Lord was persistent so Feed the Multitudes it was. I had no idea that FTM would be where our miracle would begin. The Lord wanted us to be moved with compassion. He wanted us to see the single mom trying to survive. He wanted us to see the homeless veteran who had forgotten and forsaken written all over him. He wanted us to see the loneliness in the eyes of the elderly and the hopelessness in those that rolled up in a wheel chair, thinking “is this all there is left to my life”.

The Lord wanted to put His disciples in an uncomfortable position that would define the rest of their lives. He wanted them to look into the eyes of the hurting and also be moved with compassion. This is what Feed the Multitudes is all about. You may be uncomfortable and out of your comfort zone at first but when you see what Jesus saw you will be happy to just give them something to eat. After all, this is about more than just fish and bread.

ANGELS WITH WATERMELONS

MERRY WEDNESDAY BY PARRIS

“With joy you will draw water from the springs of salvation”

Isaiah 12:3

Lately I have been seeing our church services filled with angels carrying watermelons. They must know it’s that time of the year when the miraculous happens, the hungry get fed and Christ walks among us because he goes where the hurting are. Our 30th year of Feed the Multitudes is upon us. Each year we watch wide eyed as we see the heavens open and people come from far and wide to offer “their 5 loaves and 2 fish” for the biggest free food festival held in New Orleans ever! Presently our pews are filled with bags of groceries, empty shoe boxes lay scattered in disarray, red white and blue wave all over the property. Latrines, tents, barricades, and the sound of chopping sausage for the red beans are all repeated sights. But who sees the angels flying around with watermelons in their hands?

Mark Twain once said about watermelons, “It is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.” Somewhere in this chaos Victory and our church lays aside all talk of business, conference updates, church growth principles and our own real life issues and we begin to watch the angels swirl over our heads. The watermelons are necessary because from days of old these delicious vegetables have an unbelievable root system that makes it 96% water. The angels come to bring us living water because without the living water we become just another meal for just another day.

July 4th is not only about our great country remembering its roots in God and coming together in celebration of our freedom but July 4th, to Frank and Parris, is a reminder that Christ really comes to bring life and as we pour, he pours back into us. I have had my stormy days and will continue to have them. The angels with the watermelons always remind me to pause, laugh and look up to join in the sweetness of all that God has to offer. Just maybe as you wash someone’s feet that day or serve them food you can find something to be thankful about and love on your brother/your sister. Oh don’t forget to grab yourself a watermelon.

FISH AND BREAD

Ps.36:8 – They are abundantly satisfied with the fullness of Your house,

And You give them drink from the river of Your pleasures.

They shall be abundantly satisfied – they shall be saturated, as a thirsty field is by showers from heaven….they shall be inebriated. — Vulgate

One of my favorite miracles in the ministry of Jesus is the Feeding off the Multitudes. Every part of this miracle is rich with spiritual implications. Each part has something to say to us in our day to day life. After the Lord had multiplied the little boy’s lunch and everyone had been fed, the eye witness, Matthew, gives us a glimpse into the scene. This is what he said, “So they all ate and were filled”. Think about this, they ate that supernatural meal and they were filled. This was more than just food for the belly, this was food for their souls. In today’s verse David aptly describes this spiritual meal. He said that we are abundantly satisfied by the fullness of our Father’s house. Don’t you get it. The Lord had spread a table in the wilderness, they were eating heavenly food at the Father’s table that day, not just fish and bread.

The crazy thing about this story is that it tells us a lot about man’s spiritual condition. The overwhelming majority of the crowd missed the whole point. They proceeded to try and make Jesus their earthly king.

“This is great!”, they imagined. We have a king who will drive out the Romans, and provide our temporal needs. That’s why the next day when the Lord began to talk about His body and blood the crowds were appalled. As a matter of fact the crowds were gone. They weren’t interested in a heavenly kingdom, they wanted their best life now. Sound familiar!

Jesus proceeded to ask His disciples if they were going to leave too. Thankfully Peter finally got it right. His answer? “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”

Even though the large crowds were gone from the ministry of Jesus, His course had been set that day. He had come to set up a kingdom, just not the kind the crowds were looking for.

So in our modern world we have to ask ourselves the question, “Why am I following Jesus?” Is it for an earthly free ride or is there more to it than just fish and bread.

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.

LOOK UP INTO HEAVEN

Matt. 14:19 Then He commanded the multitudes to sit down on the grass. And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples; and the disciples gave to the multitudes.

 

I love to read about Jesus. His life was a constant picture of a man dependent on God. If the Son of God lived His life “looking into heaven”, how much more should I. The trials we go through in life are just gentle reminders (well okay, sometimes not so gentle) that I need Him constantly and totally in my life. Our first Feed the Multitudes was just that, we were being taught to look into heaven because our resources were depleted. His resources are never depleted, all He is looking for is total dependency. Charles Spurgeon describes this in these thoughts.

 

“Now that all is in order, the divine Lord takes the slender provision into his blessed hands. By a simple sign he teaches the people whence to expect gracious supplies: ‘Looking up the heaven’. Not without a blessing does the al fresco meal begin: ‘He blessed’. God’s blessing must be sought even when Jesus did all in the provision of the feast: he blessed, he brake, he gave to his disciples. All is with him. The disciples come in to take their subordinate position, after he has displayed his divine creatorship. They are the waiters: they serve and distribute; they can do no more; they are glad to do that. In haste, but yet in order, they divide the food among the throng, much wondering and adoring as they do so. It was bread and a relish with it; good fare and agreeable; sufficient, but not luxurious. Some would give the poor only the barest necessaries bread only; our Lord adds fish. What a feast was this! Christ for Master of the feast: apostles for butlers; thousands for numbers and miracles for supplies! What a far more glorious feast is that which the gospel spreads for hungry souls! What a privilege to be fed by the Son of God!”

 

I love that; Christ for the Master of the feast, apostles for butlers, thousands for numbers, miracles for supplies. Sounds like “Feed the Multitudes ” to me! Most people want to wait to get “their stuff together” before they engage in ministry to the hurting. Let me give you a clue, YOU WILL NEVER GET YOUR STUFF TOGETHER. Your present difficult circumstances are God’s way of calling out to you, “look up into heaven”. As you do, you will discover the Father of lights, with Him their is no shadow of turning. There is a constant, resplendent, sufficient stream of His goodness flowing down upon all who look to Him for help. If you are lacking in any way, look into heaven. He is always at high noon, pouring out His goodness upon all who call upon Him.

THE FOURTH OF JULY

Matt. 5:14 ¶ “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

Matt. 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

The Fourth of July, Independence Day, what kind of visions does it stir up in you? Family gatherings, hot dogs, picnics, fireworks or does it take you farther back back almost 250 years to the birth of our nation?Things have changed a lot in those 250 years, they have changed a lot in my life time. Those changes confirm that we have lost our sense of national purpose and destiny, we have forgotten who we are and why we are. When I go back to those earliest days at the birth of our nation I am always shocked at the role Christianity played in the founding of this great nation. I want to share some quotes from some of those men that will bring you back to the beginning, back to the days when we became “One Nation under God”.

– George Washington, Prayer –

“Oh, eternal and everlasting God, direct my thoughts, words and work. Wash away my sins in the immaculate blood of the Lamb and purge my heart by Thy Holy Spirit. Daily, frame me more and more in the likeness of Thy son, Jesus Christ, that living in Thy fear, and dying in Thy favor, I may in thy appointed time obtain the resurrection of the justified unto eternal life. Bless, O Lord, the whole race of mankind and let the world be filled with the knowledge of Thee and Thy son, Jesus Christ.”

– Samuel Adams –

“We have this day [Fourth of July] restored the Sovereign to whom all men ought to be obedient. He reigns in Heaven, and from the rising to the setting of the sun, let His Kingdom come.”

– United States Congress 1782 –

“The Congress of the United States recommends and approves the Holy Bible for use in all schools.”

– John Adams –

“The highest glory of the American Revolution was this: it connected, in one indissoluble bond, the principles of civil government with the principles of Christianity.”

– John Adams

“[The Fourth of July] ought to be commemorated as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty.”

So I say; Lord, do it again. Let the winds of spiritual awakening settle on the land of the free and the home of the brave once again. God, bless America one more time. Remind us of who we were so we can again return to the people our world needs us to be.

MIRACLES

Matt.14:13,14 – Now when Jesus heard about John, He withdrew from there in a boat to a secluded place by Himself; and when the people heard of this, they followed Him on foot from the cities.

Miracles happen on purpose. The Lord is the miracle worker, our role is cooperation. The feeding of the five thousand is the only miracle in the ministry of Jesus that is recorded in all four gospels. That tells us that it is supremely important and full of lessons for us. Let’s take another look and maybe we can even put ourselves in position for a miracle. The first thing that comes to mind is seen in today’s verse, these crowds were desperate, they shut down their normal day to day routine, and followed Jesus out into the wilderness. Miracles require more than openness, often times we have to stop everything and press in to the Lord. The next observation that I have was the importance of getting under the influence of the power of God. Matthew, Luke, and John all describe the miraculous healings that were taking place. There is an atmosphere where healings and miracles become contagious, getting around miracles is a great place to start seeking yours. Another key ingredient is found in Mark’s gospel. Mark said that Jesus was moved with compassion when He saw the needs of all the people. The Lord’s response was to begin to teach the Word of God. There is healing power in God’s word, reading it and hearing it preached puts us in a great place for miracles in our own lives. The next ingredient is to do what you can do. Even though our resources are very limited, using them are critical. The little boy’s lunch in this story was the seed for the supernatural provision of God. Placing what we have in the Lord’s hand is often where our miracle begins. The next observation is seen in the the actions of Jesus Himself. He took the boy’s lunch and lifted it up to the Father, and then began to thank the Father for His provision. Wow, this is dependency at its highest. Now its time to act in faith. Before the miracle even began the Lord instructed the disciples to seat the crowd in certain groupings. What were they doing? Why they were sitting at the Lord’s table, waiting for Him to spread His feast. Finally, we have to keep coming back to Jesus. This miracle flowed from the hands of Christ as the disciples kept coming to Him. So get ready, I think you are just about ready for miracles to break out in your life.