Bread of Life (Prayer Devotional for the week of March 6, 2016)

I had a friend in high school who was extraordinarily smart; she earned top grades and went on to receive a full scholarship at a great university. I tried sharing my faith with her once, and I still remember the argument that she used to shoot down my attempt at witnessing. She said that Christians are no better than cannibals, because through communion, we symbolically eat Jesus’ flesh and drink his blood.

 

I didn’t know how to respond to her rebuttal, and that conversation flop has been on my heart for all these years. I knew deep down that Jesus wasn’t condoning cannibalism, but I didn’t have the words to explain it to her. Well, I recently heard a fresh perspective about communion that helped me better understand how to interpret this important symbolism.

 

It’s important to note that my friend’s question was not unique; some of the people listening to Jesus’ teaching had the same confusion! John 6:47-58 tells the story about Jesus describing himself as the bread of life, and that those who eat of that bread will live forever. In verse 52, John records the arguments that arose among the Jews in attendance about eating a man’s flesh. What kind of weirdo rabbi was this Jesus person, talking about eating his body and drinking his blood?!?

 

Let’s start with this question: What is the purpose of eating food? Food is fuel for our bodies, and when we eat, our digestive system consumes the nutrients we need. Consider this: when we “consume” Jesus through faith – his teachings, his miracles, his prophetic fulfillment – we ingest that truth, and it becomes part of us. Our faith then fuels us, spiritually.

 

Jesus used the illustration of Old Testament sacrifice to explain the new covenant that he was establishing through his own sacrifice on the cross. Of course he wasn’t advocating cannibalism; he was using himself as a symbol of faith for us to recognize our need. We need the nutrition from food, just as we need spiritual nutrition. We need our sins to be cleansed, like the Old Testament story of the Passover lamb.

 

Bible scholars much more knowledgeable than me will surely have more to say on the matter, but what it boils down to for me is this: Eat the bread of life! Consume God’s word, and in turn, let the Holy Spirit nourish your spiritual life as you grow in faith.

Prayer prompts for the week of Jan. 31

I was just about to upload next week’s posts when I realized that I missed all of last week! :/  Here ya go …

 

Journey or Destination?

In your opinion, which is better: the journey or the destination? I can think of occasions when both answers were true in my life. On a cruise, the ports of call are lovely, but the journey is also a lot of fun. On a road trip, the drive can be exhausting, yet some of my favorite memories were made on the highway, so I guess that one kinda depends. On a flight, the arrival tends to be more enjoyable to me than the getting there part.

 

What about your life, in general? Are you focused on the day-to-day, or do you have your sights set on eternity? Don’t get me wrong; there are a lot of wonderful things to experience in life. My question, though, is whether that should be our focus. Check out what the apostle Paul wrote in Philippians 3:12-21. He referred to the Christian life as striving toward a goal, using the imagery of a race with a heavenly prize at the finish line.

 

We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we only thought about the finish line and neglected the steps we need to take along the way. However, I think more often than not, we take side trips, detours, or stop to take a nap (spiritually speaking) and distract our minds from the ultimate destination of spending eternity with the Lord. In Philippians 3:20 (NLT), Paul explained, “But we are citizens of heaven, where the Lord Jesus Christ lives. And we are eagerly waiting for him to return as our Savior.” We don’t belong here; we’re just visiting.

 

King Solomon put this idea in different words in Ecclesiastes 2:1-11. He described how futile it is to chase after pleasure, because such things don’t last. As a man who had everything his heart could desire, he still experienced much emptiness. Here was a man who had more wealth, fame, possessions, relationships, and accolades than any of us could ever dream, but at the end of the day, he considered it all meaningless.

 

Life is fleeting (Psalm 39:4, Isaiah 40:6-8, 1 Peter 1:24). I would encourage you to keep your eye on the prize, yet still live for Christ in the here and now. This life is our opportunity to share the love and hope of Jesus with others, and we ought to be making the most of our time here.

 

(Sunday) James 4:14 describes our life like the morning fog: here only temporarily. What will you do today that matters for eternity?

 

(Monday) My yard is dead/dormant for winter. Isaiah 40:6-8 describes our lives like grass that withers away, but the word of God lasts forever.

 

(Tuesday) Job 14:5 tells us that God knows the exact length of our lives. Commit each day like a marathon trainer, with a heavenly prize awaiting you.

 

(Wednesday) In Psalm 39:4, King David asks God to remind him how brief life is. Too easily, we can get ensnared by the world and lose our eternal focus.

 

(Thursday) We read in Genesis that God breathed life into Adam. Psalm 39:5 reminds us that our lives are a breath – a mere moment compared to eternity.

 

(Friday) We who are in Christ have our names are written in the Book of Life, and our citizenship is in heaven (Phil. 3:20, Rev. 3:5). Praise God!

 

(Saturday) Job 14:2 describes life as a passing shadow. May we keep our eyes on the Son and reflect his light to the world around us.

 

Don’t delay

Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night and remembered something that you needed to do, but by the time the morning rolled around, you forgot it again? I tend to be a list maker, and I have been known to send an email to myself, scribble a barely legible to-do note in haste, or leave a voice message on my office phone to remind me of something: “Good morning, Self! Did you add money to the kids’ lunch accounts yet?”

If I don’t leave myself a reminder, then I may drop the ball, miss a deadline, get caught unprepared. Come to think of it, Jesus talked about a similar dilemma in Matthew 25. He told a parable of 10 friends who were tasked with the job of waiting up all night for a groom to arrive to his wedding party. Their job was to light the way for the groom, and they were expected to be prepared when he showed up. They each had an oil lamp, but only five of them thought to bring extra oil.

The groom was really late arriving … like midnight. In the meantime, the 10 friends had dozed off, and when they heard the groom was finally en route, they scrambled to get their lamps ready. Unfortunately, five of them were short on lamp oil and had to leave the reception line to go buy some. When the groom arrived, he invited the other five inside and locked the door. The others returned from the store and asked to be let in to the party but were turned away.

This story may sound like a harsh way for a newlywed to treat his friends, but Jesus is trying to make a point with it. He has already invited us to the party to end all parties – one that lasts through all eternity! – but he asks us to be prepared. Is there something keeping you from being totally committed to Christ? Like the five who forgot their lamp oil, are you hoping to be good enough or perhaps just wait until the eleventh hour to get things right with God? Not everyone has a deathbed on which to make a last-minute confession. Life is short. Be prepared; don’t delay.
(Originally posted April 15, 2012)