“Grab ’em by the throat, slam them up against the wall, and hang on until you are done.” That was the advice of the greatest professor of preaching this world has seen in recent years. Haddon Robinson, who died yesterday, left his indelible mark on countless congregations by carefully and passionately equipping preachers. I am one of those in his debt. He used to say, “It is a sin to be bore people in the pulpit because it gives the idea that God is boring. And God is not boring!”
Haddon Robinson insisted preachers speak from the heart, after deep and careful study of the Word, without notes. In class, even marking your bible was cause for a failing grade. Which is why I was so surprised to see a page of notes in his bible just before he rose to preach. It was at Gordon Conwell Seminary, at an event to honor him and to name their school of preaching for him. But when he placed the bible on the pulpit, a sudden puff of air blew those notes off his bible and wafted it away, to fall in the first row. He shrugged his shoulders and then proceeded to deliver one of the most powerful sermons I’ve ever heard – with no notes. I mentioned it to him a couple of years later and he laughed and said, “There is a God…”
He wass right about that; there is a God, and Haddon knew Him well. Countless others will come to know Him well too, as a consequence of his instruction. Well done, Haddon. You have served Him well.
These are the ruins of the synagogue that was built in Capernaum sometime three or four hundred years after the time of Jesus. It was the most magnificent building in town. Rightly so, because it was the place where people came to try to draw close to God. The idea was that the greater and more magnificent the building, the closer one could get to God. That concept is still practiced today. That synagogue was probably built on the original foundation of an earlier synagogue that had fallen down, likely the one in which Jesus spoke the following words:
I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” (John 6:51)
This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”. Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:58 — 59)
The bread he was referring to was Himself. When you visit the synagogue you stand among dilapidated ruins. You also can visit enormous, ornate, modern houses of worship and sometimes be standing among ruins. Ruins, because in some of those places it is very tough to draw close to God in a lasting and meaningful way. But when you come to Jesus by faith, you are filled with God’s presence in a continuing way, with His Fresh Bread of Life.
If God knew His plan couldn’t work, why did He bother? He chose Israel as a demonstration of how wonderful it is when people live in close fellowship with God, enjoying His protection, provision and guidance. He gave them every advantage – a land “flowing with milk and honey,” success in battle, and a written book of instructions. All they had to do was stay faithful to Him as their God. But even with all of God’s special protection and instruction the people of Israel couldn’t pull it off. They ignorned repeated warnings, ruined everything and were hauled off into exile. And God knew it in advance. Before they were even settled in the Promised Land,
The Lord said to Moses, “Behold, you are about to lie down with your fathers; and this people will arise and play the harlot with the strange gods of the land, into the midst of which they are going, and will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. (Deuteronomy 31:16)
So why do it if He knew it would fail? God knew humans would never accept His help until they had utterly failed so often they were ready to give up on trying to help themselves.
People have not changed. Perhaps, no matter how hard you try, you can’t seem to find satisfaction. There’s always something that “ain’t right.” There’s a restless emptiness inside. If so, it’s time to quit trying. Facing your failure brings a perfect opportunity to surrender and receive what really does work – God’s perfect plan. There’s a reason they call it “salvation.” God’s plan succeeds because He installs His Holy Spirit in our souls, to comfort us, guide us and empower us. His Spirit is what has been missing.
Those who stop trying, who humbly accept Jesus’ offer of help, receive His Spirit and cross over into a new and satisfying kind of full life. Jesus described the difference as a spring of cool, fresh water. He said,
“… whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)
You know the joke: How many Christians does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Change?
For a variety of reasons, change is coming to Fresh Bread of Life. Instead of continuing the Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule, I’ll be posting from time to time with no set schedule. I’ve got some camping to do and have discovered it is tough to get WiFi in the woods. Your readership has been a great blessing and encouragement. Over the last 4 years, you and others from 80 countries have read this blog over 40,000 times. I’m grateful for your interest and occasional comments.
If you would like to be notified by email when the new posts are up, simply subscribe below. Of course, you can still explore the 600 or so posts by theme or simply by scrolling. Also, the audio sermons on John are still available for streaming or download. Look under the Menu tab for those.
How can you sniff out fake news? As much as possible, you need to go back to the original source. This is especially true since it has become very easy to for people to create websites that look like the real deal. Get to the source and read it for yourself.
The same problem exists when it comes to hearing about Jesus. There is a lot of fake news out there, some of it dressed up to look very reliable. From the earliest days of the faith, the warnings have been posted:
But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. (2 Peter 2:1-3)
There are many so-called churches out there, even well known and established ones, that teach a message contrary to the real message of Jesus. They say, “Clean up your act so God will accept you. Stop sinning and work hard to be righteous.” But Jesus said,
… “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12b-13)
Jesus did not wait for people to change but lovingly gave people the ability to do so. Don’t fall for fake news, because fake news is not good news.
You have been eavesdropping. The things in this blog were written to me. If you have profited from them too, well, that’s gravy. I’ve been encouraged by you, I’m grateful you have tuned in, but let’s set the record straight: These musings are for me.
21…you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? (Romans 2:21a)
After my wife, Ann Maree, died I stopped selling her oil paintings for a time of grieving and distributing favorite paintings to the family, etc. But now, in response to several inquiries I have selected some of her work to offer for sale. If you would like more information, or would like to simply view the paintings, you can do so by clicking HERE.
I realize this post is not on topic, but since I announced her death to my followers here, I decided to provide this follow-up as well.