"Hunger" by David Smelser

Hunger


In John’s gospel narrative, chapter 6 marks both the height of Jesus’ popularity and a drastic turning point in his ministry. At this time, Jesus feeds more than 5,000 people with just a few loaves. This miracle should remind the crowd and John’s readers of several passages in the Old Testament – 2 Kings 4:42-44, Exodus 16, Psalm 23, and others. The similarity between this event and God providing the Israelites with manna through Moses was unmistakable. Even the people, who almost always misunderstand Jesus, realize that this act indicated that Jesus was “the Prophet” like Moses who was promised in Deuteronomy 18 (John 6:14). However, more than fulfilling the role of Moses as the provider of sustenance, Jesus claims also to fulfill the role of the bread: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (John 6:35). Jesus not only provides the means for satisfying our needs; he satisfies them himself.

The claim of verse 35 may allude to several Old Testament passages, but it is remarkably reminiscent of Isaiah 55. In chapter 55’s opening verses, God calls through the prophet, “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” God promises free sustenance for the hungry and thirsty. And not only does he fulfill the need for free, but he makes richer provision than necessary, offering milk and wine in addition to water. In light of this offer, God continues, “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:2).

How much effort and money do we spend on things which do not satisfy? Have you ever noticed that no matter how much you eat, or how good the meal tastes, or how nutritious it is, you will still end up hungry the next day? Even in our physical food, we are reminded of the futility of any attempt we may make to fill ourselves up. All earthly needs and pleasures are the same. We put effort into them, but the gratification we receive is temporary. How much effort and energy do we spend trying to fill ourselves up with work, money, possessions, vacations, and pleasure – things which are “not bread”? Our effort and money are wasted if we spend them seeking these things instead of the free bread which Jesus offers. As he says, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life” (John 6:27). Only that food, which is Jesus himself, will ever satisfy. Does our time and effort reflect an interest in the true “bread from heaven” or “that which does not satisfy”?

How long will you choose to “spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy?” God invites us to this feast: “Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live” (Isaiah 55:3). When we hear God’s word, and when we fill ourselves with the actions, attitudes, and teachings of Jesus, and when we remain completely in Jesus (John 6:56), we have access to a fulfillment that all earthly pleasures deny. “Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food” (Isaiah 55:2).


David Smelser

"What's In A Name" by Tim Smelser

What’s In a Name?


Names have always fascinated me: first names, last names, nicknames. For many people, their last name may have been derived from the job or trade an ancestor performed generations ago. When a child is named by its parents that name could be based on a favorite Bible character, a favorite friend or relative, or a name that has been in the family for many generations. Then there are the nicknames, or names by which one might commonly be known to close friends. Nicknames are often a variation of one’s first name, last name, or just something silly that matches an individual’s personality. Through the years, as I have paid attention to various names, I have known of a football player named Tee, a golfer named Chip, a weatherman named Winter, and a preacher whose last name was Bible. I also knew a preacher named Boring, but let’s not get into that here!

Most of us, I’m sure, have noted how names in the Bible have significance and meaning. Some are strong and powerful: Joshua (Jehovah is my salvation), Daniel (God is my judge), Ezekiel (God is my strength) and Zedekiah (Jehovah is my righteousness). Some are less flattering though, like Jacob (scoundrel, cheat) or Nabal (fool, foolish). Then of course there is the youngest son of Jacob. His mother Rachel named him Ben-oni (son of my sorrow) because she was dying in childbirth. Jacob wisely changed his name to Benjamin (son of my right hand). After all, who wants to go through life named, “I caused my mother’s death?” The name Abimelech means “my father is/was king.” Whether Gideon named him this or Abimelech changed his original name, it certainly reflects some unauthorized political ambitions.

All of this is to simply show that names mean something. Names show a connection, an affinity or a relationship, and names can often reveal personality or inner character. So what of our names, spiritually speaking, today? I’m not talking about what name we might happen to put on a sign outside our meeting place. I am talking about the name we wear that indicates our relationship with God; the name by which others might know us or even call us when they think of who we are spiritually. Christian? Saint? Believer? A part of the Way?

Peter refers to the
name Christian in 1 Peter 4:16 and admonishes us to “glorify God in this name.” While many scholars believe this may have originally been used as a term of derision, the word “called” in Acts 11:26 frequently refers to divine communication or ordination. Sadly, today the name Christian often means nothing more than a citizen of a country who is not Jewish or Muslim. Literally it means “that which belongs to or pertains to Christ.” It is not something to be taken lightly or casually. Like a family name or a given name, it shows a peculiar and distinctive relationship. In similar fashion the term “saint” shows a relationship, but it also should reveal personality or inner character. The word means “holy one; one sanctified and separated.” While perhaps not a proper name, saint was a term used in reference to Christians, followers of Jesus. Ananias used it this way in Acts 9:13 and Paul often addressed his letters to those who were “called saints” (Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2). Do we wear these names in a manner befitting their meanings, or do we simply wear them ceremonially?

If we truly live our lives reflecting the names we wear spiritually, there is another name that awaits us. This is a name which will be given to us by God and by which we will be known to God. In Revelation 2, as the Lord encourages the saints at Pergamum to be faithful and overcome, He references this new name. “To him who overcomes…I will give him a white stone, with a new name written on the stone that no one knows except the one who receives it” (2:17). In Revelation 3, to the saints in Philadelphia, a similar promise is made. “He that overcomes…I will write upon him the name of my God…and my own new name.” This is likely a reference to Isaiah 56:1-5, where God tells His people of the blessings which await those who are faithful and righteous. “Unto them will I give in my house and within my walls a memorial and a name better than of sons and of daughters; I will give them an everlasting name….” (Isaiah 56:5).

We may be known by many different names and titles to friends, family members, co-workers and neighbors, but we must always conduct ourselves as those who belong to Christ. We must live like He lived. As saints we should not only consider ourselves separated from the world, but we should behave and live daily as citizens of a heavenly kingdom. Our name means something, and if we hope to receive a new name, an everlasting name from our God and Savior, we will remember this fact on a daily basis.



Tim Smelser
tjsmelser@earthlink.net

"Strength from the Psalms" by Donna Keith

Strength from the Psalms


The poetry of the Old Testament has always held a special appeal for me. I am certain that a large part of that appeal has been due to my enjoyment of poetry as a style of writing Through sound patterns, imagery, structure and metaphor, the poet is able to combine his words into a musical language that has an intensity not found in other types of literature. The Psalms employ these characteristics to convey some of the deepest emotions of the human heart and are as beautiful as the poetry of any nation.

Eventually, however, I gained an appreciation for the Hebrew poetry that is much deeper than its literary style. I realized much more fully that the Psalms should be viewed as practical Scripture to apply to my life. As a result they have contributed much to helping me have the contentment and peace that I believe all Christians should have in life (Philippians 4:7; John 14:27).The words of David, Asaph, and the other poets can be helpful for a Christian woman in any age.

Among their words, some of the most meaningful to me are in the thirty-seventh Psalm. The exhortations given by David in this passage can be used as the keys to peace and contentment on the earth. Consider three of these.

1. "Trust in The Lord" (verse 3). One of the most prevalent ideas in the Psalms is that of trust in God. This often-repeated advice is essential for anyone who wants to do God's will. We must have an attitude of complete trust, total dependence, and willing submission. We must believe that God will take care of us no matter what circumstances may develop in our lives. Whether we acquire many material possessions or relatively few, we must trust The Lord to "uphold the righteous" (verses 16 and 17). Whether we are alone in this life or have family and friends to comfort and support us, we must believe that God "does not forsake his saints" (verse 28). Truly and deeply trusting in the promises of God we can "say of The Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress; my God, in him will I trust" (Psalm 91:2).

2. "Commit your way unto The Lord" (verse 5). Another very evident spiritual characteristic of the psalmists is commitment. We can never attain true joy and peace in our lives without having made the decision to serve God at all costs, even when the "wicked plots against the just" (verse 12). Anything less is hypocrisy and can only lead to our being unhappy on earth as well as to our suffering eternally. In order to have this dedication and determination, we must have the law of God in our hearts (verse 31). Obviously, we must know God's word and understand it; but really to have it in our hearts, we must also find enjoyment in the ways of The Lord. "Delight yourself also in The Lord" (verse 4), David says. With the resulting commitment will come involvement in whatever is necessary to put God first in our lives. Life in this society and this century requires much involvement in earthly affairs - from job responsibilities to efforts involved in raising children. But when hobbies, extra jobs, or social activities (even with other Christians) hinder our study, prayer or acts of love and concern for others, something must change. Total commitment to God will prevent our becoming so involved in this life that we neglect preparing for the next life.

3. "Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for him" (verse 7). Even as trusting, committed Christians we may wonder occasionally what God has in mind for us. We may become discouraged when difficult times cause us to stumble. But we must not be "utterly cast down" (verse 24). The Lord will hold us up and direct our lives. Sometimes the way is hard to understand. At times God's purposes are unclear and uncertain. But we must take comfort in God's word and constantly improve our submission to His will. We must wait on the Lord because those who do so "shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31). David tells us that he "waited patiently for the Lord; and he inclined to me and heard my cry" (Psalm 40:1). If we truly believe that "the Lord is faithful to all his words and kind in all his works" (Psalm 145:13, ESV), we will be able to maintain our faith through any circumstances in life with patience and contentment.

In whatever situation a Christian woman finds herself, the Hebrew poetry of the Psalms can and should be used as encouragement for righteous living. May we always find comfort in these ancient words: "But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their strength in time of trouble. And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them; he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him" (Psalm 37:39-40).



Donna Keith
Donna.Keith@stvhs.com

"Two Men Sleep on a Boat" by Aaron Beard

Two Men Sleep On A Boat


I have never been in a circumstance in which I would be sleeping on a boat. I have never been on a cruise and the only “sea” fishing trips I have taken were in the gulf for 6 hours. I’m sure it’s pretty easy to sleep on a cruise ship (unless it’s a Carnival cruise ship), but it’d probably take some time to get used to sleeping on a fishing boat. They rock, make noises, and could not be comfortable.

Yet in the Bible, we read of two individuals who seemed to find it quite easy to go to sleep on a ship. Not only did they go to sleep on a ship, but they were sleeping through terrible storms. The storms were so bad, nobody else could sleep and everybody else thought the ship would be destroyed. Who were these men? You are probably already thinking about Jesus, but the one that you might forget about is Jonah. In their stories we have two men, sleeping on ancient ships, being sound asleep, a doing so during horrible storm. It sounds like their situations would be very similar, but their state was as different as night and day.

Here is Jonah’s story: “Jonah rose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish. So he paid the fare and went down into it, to go with them to Tarshish, away from the presence of the LORD. But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. So the captain came and said to him, "What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish." And they said to one another, "Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us." So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah.” (Jonah 1:3-7)

Here is the story of Jesus: “And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?" And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:36-41).

Jonah was asleep in the belly of the ship because he was running from God. He was filled with guilt and most certainly anxiety. I am sure Jonah knew deep down inside him that he could not run or hide from God. Yet he was doing it anyway. Jonah was asleep trying to avoid doing what he knew he should do… preach to a lost world. He was sleeping in that ship in disobedience to the Lord. He was sleeping outside of God’s will. The storm died down and the winds ceased that night only because they threw Jonah overboard into the sea where he was swallowed by a great creature.

Jesus was also asleep in the belly of a ship. But Jesus was asleep because He had fully given Himself to doing the Father’s will. Jesus was exhausted from teaching a lost world. He was asleep in complete trust of His Father. He was sleeping free from guilt knowing He was living in obedience to the Father. He was sleeping out of feelings of contentment, peace, and fulfillment. This storm also died down, but because Jesus stood on its deck and commanded the winds and waves saying, “PEACE BE STILL”

We usually don’t find ourselves trying to sleep in the belly of ships that are in the middle of horrible storms. But we do find ourselves every night in bed trying to sleep in the midst of the storms of life. We all lay our heads down on our pillows at night either in peace and or in conflict. We are either worn out from running from God, or we are worn out by running with God. We have exhausted ourselves by trying to avoid serving God or in service to Him. We close our eyes with filled with anxiety and guilt or trust and peace. We fall asleep knowing we are living in God’s will or we fall asleep knowing we are outside of God’s will.

The stories of Jesus and Jonah are very different, but there is a similarity. Jonah spent three days in the belly of that sea creature before God caused it to spew Jonah out on the shore. Jonah became a figure of what would happen to Jesus. Jesus said, “Just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:40). Jesus, like Jonah, spent three days in the belly of a beast. The beast for Jesus was the grave. On the third day, Jesus arose from the dead and came forth from the grave. Death could not hold him. Because Jesus conquered death, we change the way we sleep. We don’t have to sleep like Jonah, we can sleep like Jesus.

Peter writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God's power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (I Peter 1:3-5). And later he adds, “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (I Peter 3:21).





Aaron Beard
aubigfeet@yahoo.com

"2014 - A New Year, A Renewed Focus" by David Deason

Wow! 2013 is gone. History. Over. For many, last year was a great year. For others, they are ready to see it leave. It doesn’t matter which group you are in, it is now 2014 - a brand new year, a new start!

I enjoy the new year. As the old year comes to a close I can look back and review how 2013 went for my family and me:

  • We added a fourth child, Isaac, to the fold. He entered the world calmly and has grown (swiftly). He is a sweet baby. He is loved by his siblings (almost too much).
  • We added two other children (of the four-legged variety) to our family as well. It was a price well-paid for potty-trained kids!
  • I managed to succeed on one of my resolutions for 2013! I didn’t eat a single french-fry all year!
  • But, it was also a year of injury - a torn muscle here and a knee surgery there.

When I look back over the year, I see the ups and I see the downs. But through it all, I can see just how blessed I am!

This is why I enjoy the new year: you get to start all over! A clean slate is out in front of us — a canvas waiting for our paint brush. What will you paint?

Many will either make new resolutions or recommit to existing ones. It might be that extra pound lost, that promotion at work, or that vacation of a lifetime. Whatever it may be, there is a sense of optimism that fills many hearts. “This is the year!” “This is the time!” “I will succeed!”

As you face the new year with its new opportunities and its new challenges, remember the lessons from Hebrews 12:1-3...

1 Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Heb. 12:1-3 - NASB)

As you contemplate your new year, heed the admonition of the Scriptures...

  • We have wonderful examples of men and women of faith who have paved the way and left examples for us to follow. Use that!
  • Lay aside the “encumbrance.” We place many obstacles in our own paths — things that might not necessarily be sinful in and of themselves. Yet, there they stand interfering with our spiritual progress. They weigh us down, keeping us busy and focused on things other than God. Remove them.
  • Get your feet untangled from the sin that keeps tripping you.
  • Run. Endure. Don’t give up.
  • Focus. When we are focused on Christ, we won’t have time to ponder the allurements of Satan.

In a world that is intent on destroying Christianity, we as Christians must remain resolute and steadfast. As you run through 2014, make the memories with your family, enjoy the blessings of the Lord, and most of all, remain focused on the hope that “
does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Rom. 5:5)

May God bless us all in 2014.


David Deason
deasonjd@scripturetalk.com

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