Leftovers – Matthew 16:1-12

“Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered? How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread?'” (Matthew 16:9-11, NIV).

When I was a kid my dad was a school teacher and since school teachers didn’t make very much money, my mom also worked to supplement our family income.

In the summer when school wasn’t in session my dad was a stay-at-home parent and it fell to him to fix lunch each day. He would always gather the leftovers from various, unrelated meals and warm them up for our lunch. Oh, how I loathed leftovers!

Perhaps the disciples felt the same way about leftovers in this story from Matthew 16 when they forgot to take food with them on their boat trip across the Sea of Galilee.

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What Is God Like? Forever Favor – Psalm 30:4-5

“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5, NIV).

A question I ask myself when I read a Bible verse or passage is: “What do these verses tell me about what God is like?” While no verses in the Bible contain a complete description of God,  many verses and statements in the Bible reveal character traits of God.

This jubilant psalm of praise reveals an interesting attribute of God’s personality:

God’s anger is momentary but His mercy is eternal!

What if it was the other way around–God’s anger is forever and His mercy is momentary? The reason I ask is because that’s often what we think. We think God is angry with the human race and the world He created and occasionally He gets over it and blesses us and then quickly reverts to His anger mode.

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When God Pays You A Visit – Genesis 18

JesusAtTheDoor“Now the Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, while he was sitting at the tent door in the heat of the day. When he lifted up his eyes and looked, behold, three men were standing opposite him…He said, ‘I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son’…Then the men rose up from there, and looked down toward Sodom; and Abraham was walking with them to send them off. The Lord said, ‘Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, since Abraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and in him all the nations of the earth will be blessed?…Then the men turned away from there and went toward Sodom, while Abraham was still standing before the Lord. Abraham came near and said, ‘Will You indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?… Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’” (Genesis 18:1-2,10,16-18,22-23,25, NASB).

Genesis 18 is a critical juncture, a pivotal point, in biblical history in my view. It’s a theological nexus that reveals the link between God’s mercy and wrath, between human rebellion and redemption. And it does so in a most dramatic and memorable way. Three defining moments occur in this chapter that reinforce the interaction between mercy and wrath, rebellion and redemption: 1) the announcement of the birth of Isaac; 2) the plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah; and 3) God’s restraint for Lot and his family.

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Resurrection! Part 4: God’s Anger = God’s Mercy – John 11:33-35

God's Hand of Mercy “When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, He was angry in His spirit and deeply moved. ‘Where have you put him?’ He asked. ‘Lord,’ they told Him, ‘come and see.’ Jesus wept” (John 11:33-35, HCSB).

This meditation is Part 4 of a four-part series from the story of the raising of Lazarus from death. When Jesus arrived in Bethany after Lazarus had died, He encountered family and friends mourning over the death of Lazarus.

Jesus exhibited a wide range of emotions as He shared in the sorrow of Lazarus’ death with family and friends.

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Wrath Versus Mercy – Romans 9:22-24

God'sWrath&Mercy2“And what if God, desiring to display His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath ready for destruction. And what if He did this to make known the riches of His glory on objects of mercy, that he prepared beforehand for glory–on us, the ones He also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:22-24, HCSB).

These verses do not mean that God desires to show His wrath on those who deserve it. Rather, they mean that God desires to show His mercy by saving those who deserve His wrath. And, God can best show His love by having mercy on those who deserve His wrath.

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Merciless – Jonah 4:1-3

JonahWhale“This change of plans greatly upset Jonah, and he became very angry. So he complained to the Lord about it: Didn’t I say before I left home that you would do this, Lord? That is why I ran away to Tarshish! I knew that you are a merciful and compassionate God, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. You are eager to turn back from destroying people. Just kill me now, Lord! I’d rather be dead than alive if what I predicted will not happen” (Jonah 4:1-3, NLT).

The book of Jonah presents some difficult theological issues, not least of which is represented by Jonah’s memorable complaint to God in these verses. His complaint seems so reprehensible that it’s enough to make you question, “What’s his problem, anyway?”

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It’s God’s Grace, Stupid! – Deuteronomy 9:5-6

are-you-dumb“You are not going to take possession of their land because of your righteousness or your integrity. Instead, the Lord your God will drive out these nations before you because of their wickedness, in order to keep the promise He swore to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people”  (Deuteronomy 9:5-6, HCSB).

First, let me say that I’m not calling you (the reader) stupid. So please don’t be offended by the title. Rather, these are the words that I’m imagining Moses would have really liked to declare to the Israelites after their forty-year wandering in the wilderness.

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Lavished With Grace – Ephesians 1:7-8

“We have redemption in Him through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding” (Ephesians 1:7-8, HCSB).

This year I started a new book project. It’s a project that’s been on my heart for sometime and one that I sensed that God wanted me to begin writing this year.

The subject of the book is Christian discipleship. It’s about spiritual formation through the practice of spiritual disciplines such as prayer, fasting, and Bible study.

Now, what’s ironic about me writing this book is that I’m not a very disciplined disciple. And that’s a concern I expressed to God.

Why would God want me, an undisciplined disciple, to write a book about discipleship?

And while I was questioning God on this issue, I had a couple of other questions: Why would God assign me to be a single parent to two grandchildren when I never really was that good of a parent, even with the help of a wife?

And, why would God even show His favor to me in the first place, someone who is so self-referenced, self-focused, and self-sufficient? Isn’t that a lot of grace for God to give when there are so many other people without these severe spiritual limitations?

Why does God choose us hard cases, the down-and-outers, the unyielding, to become His children?

Here’s the quick and short answer: GOD IS MAGNANIMOUS!

I suppose it would probably be more theologically sound to say, GOD IS MUNIFICENT, but that’s not a word most of us understand.

So, let me explain what I mean about God’s magnanimity.

Have you ever seen a field of wildflowers in full bloom and tried to take it all in? You can’t. There’s too much beauty there for your mind to comprehend.

Jesus, in describing such a field of wildflowers, said that “not even Solomon in all his splendor was adorned like one of these” (Matthew 6:29, HCSB).

And what about all those fields full of wildflowers that nobody ever sees? What use are they?

Jesus went on to say about this field of wildflowers that God clothes the grass of the field with this beautiful coat of wildflowers, but it is here today and thrown into the furnace tomorrow (Matthew 6:30).

And what about the universe? Wouldn’t the Earth and the Sun have been sufficient? Okay, then maybe one solar system would have been enough. Or one galaxy.

But no, God created a universe with untold numbers of planets and stars and solar systems and galaxies that is so expansive that we have to talk about its expanse in terms of millions of light years.

What use is it all? Is God wasteful?

God can’t help Himself! He’s magnanimous! He’s munificent!

When God creates, He does so in abundance, generously, lavishly. That’s His nature.

And it’s God’s nature that when He shows mercy, He does so generously, exceedingly generously!

So God finds people like me, the hard cases, the down-and-outers, the unyielding, to lavish His grace upon!

And then it’s God power at work in me: “To Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to [His] power that works in us” (Ephesians 3:20, HCSB).

So how can I write a book on discipleship, be a loving parent to my grandchildren, or even become a child of God?

Because our magnanimous God meets me at the point of my need for Him–my innate need for Someone bigger, greater, and more powerful than my own self to help me tell His story, to be a better parent, a better person!

And the greater our need, the greater is the richness of His grace that He lavishes on us!

God isn’t just God, He’s an awesome God.
     God isn’t just great, He’s glorious!
          God doesn’t just show mercy, His grace is amazing!
               God doesn’t just love us, He sent His only Son!

“And my God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19, HCSB).