To us he remains nameless, as does his mother, but these anonymous two were central to one of the greatest miracles in the Bible.
In John’s Gospel he is simply called a lad with a lunch containing five pieces of barley bread and two small fish probably packed by a loving mother.
It was a common lunch, prepared by a common mother, for her common son, and yet it became the essential catalyst for a mighty miracle.
The lad gave the lunch to Jesus. He received it, blessed it, broke it and shared it with His disciples, who shared with the hungry people and a mighty multitude was fed!
I can imagine the boy staring in amazement at the miracle proceeding before his very eyes and proclaiming:
“my mama packs a powerful lunch!”
It all started with a loving mother preparing a simple lunch for her beloved son.
Dear mom, remember that with your busy hands and loving heart God can work miracles even though the work may seem common and routine in the moment.
HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!
The first mention of our planet in the Bible is in Genesis 1:1-2: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was empty, a formless mass cloaked in darkness.” This planet was not a pleasant place nor could it sustain life. God transformed it into a perfect paradise teeming with life and vistas of beauty.
Once again the creation is troubled. Paul describes it this way; “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now” (Romans 8:22) Peter predicts a destruction of the present planet and “a new heaven and a new earth.” (1 Peter 3:10-13)
God’s plan is to renovate and recreate the entire cosmos to accommodate an eternal kingdom for the righteous and redeemed. The entire heavens and atmosphere will be cleansed and renewed. There will be no more storms or destructive “acts of God”.
Earth will have no more seas (currently about three-fourths of the surface is water). There be no need for herbicides and pesticides because the natural enemies of all plant life and animal life have passed away. The ground will produce bountifully once again and in the animal kingdom “nothing shall kill or destroy.” Humans will live in harmony. There will be peace on earth and good will towards men.
God’s plan the planet will soon become a reality. It was His plan even from the time of man’s fall from grace to redeem and restore His creation to His great eternal purpose.
God’s ultimate plan for our planet will a total renovation. John the Revelator calls it “a new heaven and a new earth” but as with all renovations, there will be some destruction before the construction.
The Book of Revelation details three judgments of God, each containing seven elements. The first series of judgments is the breaking of seven seals on a scroll. As each seal is opened in heaven an event occurs on the earth (Revelation 6:1-8:1). The seventh seal reveals seven angels with seven trumpets. As each angel blows his trumpet a catastrophe strikes the earth and the populace (Revelation 8:6 – 11:19). The last series of judgments results from seven angels emptying seven bowls out upon the earth (Revelation 16:1-21).
These judgments will greatly affect the heavens and the earth. The sun at times will be “darkened” and at other times will flare and cause extreme heat. As the moon and the stars are affected it will result in longer nights and shorter days. A great earthquake will cause mountains to crumble, islands to disappear. and cities to be turned into ruble. The oceans, seas and rivers will be polluted, and all sea life will die. Famine and diseases will kill one fourth of the population and war will result in the death an additional one third of the remaining population.
These somber and catastrophic events are not the end of God’s plan for the planet. Next week we will explore the “new heavens and the new earth”.
Many people from around the world are fearful of "climate change" and the destruction of the earth and its ecosystem as we currently know them. They believe we must make drastic and immediate changes in the interest of preserving the planet. They say humans have caused the changes and only humans can solve the problems -- that universal problems call for universal solutions. They claim that every nation and every person must sacrifice and cooperate, as our very future is at stake.
The Bible predicts a world government and a world leader. Could "climate change" be the cause around which the nations rally -- even at the expense of national sovereignty? In light of the present mania in the media, among governmental leaders, among the general populace, and among many "climate scientists," it seems very plausible.
The Bible goes on to state that there will arise a charismatic and powerful man to whom kings and world leaders will accede their powers. He will appear to have the answers to humanity's problems and for a time he will seem to succeed. However, after a time there will be civil war, famine, natural disasters, world-wide war, destruction, and death. The populace and the planet will suffer universally and catastrophically. The Bible calls this charismatic world leader "the Beast," because of the ultimate havoc and destruction his reign brings upon the church and the world.
In part four of this series we will look at God's plan for the planet.
One school of thought concerning the future of the earth is that God is in control and all things are working together according to His plan. Another view is man’s plan – that it is totally up to humanity to save the planet.
The United Nations has created a plan called “Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda For Sustainable Development.” The plan proposes seventeen “Sustainable Development Goals:”
These all appear to be worthy and noble goals. However, to implement these desirable goals on a global level would call for vast global concessions. In order to achieve this equality, the wealthy and powerful nations would have to diminish and help the poorer and weaker nations to increase. National sovereignties would have to surrender to global partnerships. Who would govern and control this new global entity? Who would decide how to equally share the wealth and power? Who would ensure equality and justice for all?
The Bible predicts just such a government with a global leader. We are watching Biblical prophecies unfold just as the ancient prophets foretold. These are indeed interesting and momentous times.
There is much concern about the future of our planet and its people but there is a great divide as to what must be done and how to accomplish it. The next few articles in this space will explore two very different schools of thought concerning our world and its future. One plan is man’s plan and the other is God’s plan.
On June 13, 1992 a consortium of 178 nations met in Brazil to consider the future of the planet. A plan for “Global Sustainable Development” was formed and approved. It was called Agenda 21 in consideration of the fast approaching 21st century. More meetings were held in 1997, 2002, 2012 and the plan was revised and updated as new realities were encountered.
The United Nations building in New York City hosted a meeting on September 25-27, 2015 to further refine the plan. Seventeen “Sustainable Development Goals” were approved for the benefit of the “people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership.” The new expanded plan called Agenda 2030 is admirable and ambitious and the goal is the to be fully operational by the year 2030.
The ambitious “Green New Deal” recently introduced to our House of Representatives and Congress basically follows the same path as Agenda 21 and Agenda 2030 proposed by the United Nations.
Though these plans contain some good and worthy goals, the problem lies in how to implement them. In order to comply by 2030, these programs can only be implemented by drastic intervention by global heads of government.
In our next article we will discuss how the Bible predicts just such a global government.
True love is an awesome and beautiful miracle. It is not wimpy or weak but rather robust and strong. This time of the year, we are surrounded with so many thoughts and opinions on love. In many ways, love has been commodified – turned into something we can elicit with the purchase of the right product.
And yet love is so much greater. It is the most powerful emotion and the purest motive. The Apostle Paul, with his characteristic God-given inspiration, paints a beautiful portrait of love. To the troubled church in Corinth he writes:
Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. Love does not demand its own way. Love is not irritable, and it keeps no record of when it has been wronged. It is never glad about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance. Love will last forever… There are three things that will endure – faith, hope, and love – and the greatest of these is love. (I Corinthians 12:4-8, 13)
As our society reinterprets and even cheapens love at times, let us never forget the true, beautiful, and unselfish nature of love. After all, it is the very essence of God.
He was lame from his birth. As a mature man he was carried daily and placed at the gate of the Temple to beg for money to sustain himself.
As the two men approached the gate, he raised his voice and his vessel with anticipation, hoping to receive something from them. One of the men spoke up with a voice of compassion, commanding him:
“Silver and gold have I none but such as I have I give to you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk.”
Reaching down and grasping his right hand the stranger lifted him to his feet. For the first time in his life he was able to stand. With shouts of praise unto God, he went walking and leaping into the temple.
Though he was only expecting a few coins in his cup he received a miraculous healing and a brand new life.
Like this lame man at the Beautiful Gate, we can safely trust in Jesus. He is a God of abundance and He will exceed our expectations every time.
The sun shone high over the lone shepherd and his flock. From his vantage point in the valley, young David could see salivating wolves sprinkled across the mountains, casting deathly shadows across the pastures where his sheep grazed. However, the sheep continued to amble through the valley in search of tender grass, confident their shepherd would keep them safe. The eyes of their enemies were upon them but they were at rest and without fear. Their shepherd had led them through green pastures and had tended to their wounds.
As far as they were concerned, the worst the wolves could do was cast shadows.
What an image: wolves glaring down upon their prey, growling through jagged teeth, the very picture of fear. But as powerful as they seem, they are kept at bay, unable to attack, because the shepherd is stronger than their shadows. So the picture is one of peace. The sheep feast in the valley of shadows, gaining strength under the shepherd’s protection and their enemies can only look on in envy, powerless to do anything more.
David’s thoughts must have returned to that valley when he penned Psalm 23. Each valley in his life was darkened by a particular kind of deathly shadow. His family did not value him. The king who had once been a friend spent years trying to kill David. His wife scorned him as he worshipped. He fought battle after battle with a ragtag team of society’s rejected wild men.
But David had learned long ago what it meant to be a shepherd. He would bear the worst battles so his sheep could live in peace. He would walk through valleys beset by shadows of his enemies without fear because the Creator of heaven and earth was his Shepherd. Death could stand on the mountaintops and project its scariest image but David knew a shadow had no power over him. God’s light stood behind death, overshadowing and overpowering it.
Even though he walked through the valley of the shadow of death, God gave him strength in the presence of shadows.
As we walk through our own valleys, shadows may look down on us. Still, although darkness may be near, it is not yet upon us. To the Christian who has eternal life, death is but a shadow. It is merely a resting place before the final reward. Even though they may darken the valley momentarily, shadows are nothing to fear. We have a Shepherd who prepares goodness in the presence of evil. We may still encounter evil but that evil is only a shadow – an ephemeral mist that has no power in the presence of the Shepherd who guides us. When we walk on the path and follow Him, goodness and mercy will follow us. He will provide strength over shadows. In the end, death may overshadow but God will always overpower.
GREETINGS TO RAYMONDVILLE AND WILLACY COUNTY in the name of the One Most High and Holy, our Lord Jesus Christ!
My wife and I first came to the RGV forty-one years ago to serve the people at the First United Pentecostal Church of Raymondville as pastor. Although we were very young and green the church received us with genuine love and great patience. Our lovely and talented daughter was born here and has always been proud to call the Valley home. Over the next thirteen plus years the church taught us well and we grew together as a church and as a family. We formed friendships in the community and within the congregation that have endured and deepened through the years. Leaving the church and community that we had learned to love was hard and painful.
Over the next twenty-five years our ministry took us through various locales and opportunities. We served as missionaries in Colombia, South America for ten years and we were instructors at Texas Bible College for five years. We pastored churches in Midland, Texas (my original hometown and church), in Athens, Texas and in Canton, Texas. It has been an interesting, challenging and joyous journey.
Now God has called us full circle and has allowed us the honor and privilege to once again serve here in Raymondville and Willacy County. We are happy and excited to be here in the Valley once again and look forward to the great things that God has in store for all of us here.
We have a new name! GATEWAY UNITED PENTECOSTAL CHURCH. Our name is new but we are the same loving, caring church that has served this community for eighty years!
My family and I look forward to serving you here, renewing old friendships and making new ones. Come and see us soon! We will meet you at the Gateway and we will leave the light on for you (apologies to Tom Bodett and Motel Six).