Baby Steps

I have completed the first draft of my book. Hurrah! Now maybe I can keep up with the blogopshere a little better. Still, some time needs to go to my teens – one of whom may very well leave the nest next year.

And speaking of nests…

I love watching birds at the feeders. I’ve seen quite a few species visit over the years and caught some of the “regulars” with my camera. Often, I’ve seen  a pair of birds flying to and fro from feeder to bush or tree as they work tirelessly to keep up with the demands of their now-hatched young.

I am always entertained when the fledglings begin to visit the feeders themselves, mainly because it actually takes some time for the parents to convince the young that they can get food on their own.

I’ve watched both a male house finch and a male cardinal go through this with their fledgling. The young bird, usually drab, will stand on the rail of my porch and flutter his wings while Dad hops back and forth between railing and feeder. Occasionally, Dad will succumb to the youngster’s begging and feed him a morsel before beginning the whole routine again.

When I read Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church a few days ago, one of the grey cardinal juveniles was eating – all by himself – from the feeder just as I happened upon 1 Corinthians 3.

But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it. And even now you are not yet ready, for you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way? 

1 Corinthians 3:1-3

I have to wonder if Paul was as exasperated and worn out with his spiritual children as these birds surely are with their needy, adult-sized young. And if the apostle was weary of the Corinthians’ worldliness, how much more so must our longsuffering Father be? It’s a good thing He is longsuffering!

Take my country. We live in an age where we who call ourselves Christians still have freedom to worship without fear of arrest, beatings, or death. We have a plethora of Bible translations available to us in print or digitally. We even have the resources available to learn the original languages the texts were written in, and yet so much more of our time is squandered on things which will not last.

In many ways, we are like those birds. We are sized like an adult, we can fly like an adult, but we are still dressed in the drab plumage of our flesh instead of the vibrant white of our Lord’s righteousness. We still want to be spoon-fed a nutritionally weak, fast-food devotional snipped rather than feasting on the rich and lasting fare provided by the Bread of Life.

Let’s take to our wings, brothers and sisters, and see how much stronger our spiritual  stamina will be when we make use of the solid food our Provider has given us! Many of us have a long race yet to run, and endurance is required if we are to finish the race.

Especially if we are to finish well.

Oh Lord forgive us. Let us grow up into Christ and move forward without fear in obedience to what You call us to do. Teach us to learn from You and to let our knowledge be reflected in all our actions and choices, amen. 

 

Satiety

I have set the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells secure…

…You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Psalms 16:8-9, 11

Not many days ago, I was talking with someone about a Bible study group, and in the course of conversation, it was lightheartedly suggested that one member would probably be happier with a beer and a movie. Immediately, I was struck by two thoughts.

First, I have been guilty of the same in my past and only by the grace of God as He has walked with me through many dark valleys of pain have I come to enjoy His presence more and more.

And secondly, how tragic. Sincerely tragic.

On one hand, we have a fermented beverage and a couple of hours’ worth of watching adults play-pretend in front of a camera. On the other hand, we are offered the very Word and Presence of the Most High God, Creator of all things including fermented beverages, adults, and the ability to make cameras. The path of life. Fullness of joy. Pleasures forevermore.

Perhaps because I have been reading in John’s gospel, I was reminded of the sixth chapter in which the Lord miraculously multiplies a few loaves and a couple of fish to feed a horde of people. The very next day, they chase Him down only to ask Him, “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform?” (John 6:30).

On that long-ago day, a multitude of people were offered the Bread of Life and preferred to see a miraculous sign that possibly included breakfast (or so they seem to imply). Discouraged when the Lord did not perform according to their expectations, many turned away (John 6:66).

Too often, we also prefer the gifts to the Giver of all good gifts. Too often, we choose the cheap trinkets and baubles of this world to the spiritual wealth and the immense and uncountable riches of grace found in the presence of God.

Oh, Church! How desperately we need to realign our desires! For as long as we would be more content with mere entertainments instead of indulging ourselves in God and in His law, the world will never see the power of the Gospel at work in us. If our lives and choices do not reflect that our God is, in Himself, truly delightful, how can we expect anyone else to believe it?

…for I find my delight in your commandments, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your commandments, which I love, and I will meditate on your statutes.
Psalms 119:47-48

Adonai who sanctifies us, we borrow from David’s own prayers today as we ask that You will turn open our eyes so that we may behold wondrous things out of Your Law and turn our eyes from worthless things. Incline our hearts to Your testimonies and not to selfish pursuits. Forgive us, and deliver us from our own propensity to selfishness! Search us and know our hearts; try us and know our thoughts. If there is any offensive way in us, help us to let it go and lead us in the way everlasting! 

 

Bread of Life

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink….”
John 6:53-55

After Jesus spoke these words, many of the people with Him turned away.  I have to wonder what they were thinking…  Were they more angry at the audacity of His words or because He would not perform another miracle for them(see John 6:30)?

Whatever their reasons, one thing is certain: this part of the crowd did not really understand Jesus; did not know either the Man nor His purpose. And so, when He moved the conversation from the realm of the physical to the spiritual, many left.

Sure, a number of them may have truly been outraged by His words. Likely, however, the majority of the people did not really care what He meant. Once they saw that this Jesus was not going to use His power the way they wanted Him to, they walked away in disgust.

Are we any different?

What is it that we want from Jesus? Often, we want Him to answer our prayers, to grant some boon or provision. We want Him to bring His power to bear on our plans, moving the mountains we want moved when we want them moved — typically right now.

But we forget that He is not only a miracle worker. He is the Bread of Life, the very Living Word of God made flesh. His blood, too, is life; a pure and unstained life poured out as payment for the blood debt we owe our Creator. Though we do not understand Him nor even seek Him for the sheer wonder of Emmanuel, still He offers Himself for us. He cries out to us an invitation to drink deeply of His life and be quenched; to feast on His eternal Word and be truly and thoroughly satisfied.

It is a sad fact that many turned away from the invitation of the Lord; many did not wish to know the Man but only wanted to see what He would do for them.

It is still a sad fact today. Many turn away when told that they must take up their cross to follow Him. Many who are told that they must not only hear about the Word but spend a lifetime soaking it in also turn away. Many do not want a slow and abiding journey but a quick fix, a sort of one-time transaction of blessing. Many still are not interested in a daily diet of the Bread of Life but only in a free lunch.

The goals we have for ourselves are often far short of what our Lord has in store for us. We crave comfort, convenience, leisure, and many fleeting and flimsy pleasures here and now; He desires to give us inexpressible joy, absolute satisfaction, substantive and lasting pleasures in His presence forevermore.

There is good news yet in our tale. When the many turned aside, Jesus asked the few who remained if they would also like to leave. Peter replied, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life…”

What do you say, friends? Would you like to leave, to turn aside now from the hard sayings of the Lord? Or would you like to know more of this Jesus, to find daily spiritual nourishment in the Word of God, to feast forever on the Bread of Life? He has more than power to heal the sick and feed the multitude. He has the words of eternal life!