As Jesus is the cornerstone upon which the Church is built, so are his teachings the unifying cornerstone of Christian doctrine.

You Give Them Something to Eat

Church potluck meals can be traced to Jesus feeding a large crowd that had gathered on the north shore of the sea of Galilee. Towards evening, the disciples suggested that Jesus dismiss them so that they could go to nearby communities to purchase food (Matthew 14:13-21). Jesus' answer puzzled them. Despite Bible history of food miracles they did not expect one here. Jesus looked up towards heaven and blessed the meal and 5 loaves of bread and two fish fed thousands. 12 baskets of food were left over. Like the provision of Manna, this too a physical miracle of bread, and foreshadowed the Lord's Supper, the miracle of salvation. Is Jesus inviting us to feed others? Should we too "give them something to eat" from what little we have and rely upon God to provide the rest in abundance?

The Bread of Eternal Life

Food For Life Ezekiel 4:9 Organic Sprouted Grain Cereal, Golden Flax, 16-Ounce Boxes (Pack of 6)
Food for Life
Today’s food industry is willing to make a buck but not nourish the people. Many sell junk that produces diabetes and heart disease without care for the consequences. We are among the world’s wealthy nations and have access to all the best produce in the world, but many food merchants are more interested in promoting what makes a quick buck than what makes us healthy. Jesus refused food from the devil, but said that those who give to the poor are giving to him. In Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus showed compassion on a crowd which included about five thousand men by providing them miraculous food. It reminds us of the Israelites being fed in the wilderness and God’s providence in our wildernesses. Communion reminds us of the one who provides our daily bread and the bread of eternal life, Jesus.

Way Beyond our Numbers

Feeding the Five Thousand (God's Plan for Kingdom Expansion)
Feeding the
Five Thousand
Churches are often built on a wing and a prayer figuratively speaking. In church after church, the weekly offering falls short of the stated needs. Yet, we operate in hope and faith that God will supply. The story of feeding the five thousand men and an unknown quantity of women and children in Matthew 14:13-21 is one of the few miracles mentioned in all four gospels. Jesus’ challenge to us as it was to them is simple: You give them something to eat. And so we participate in the divine challenge. We are not completely sure, but also because we believe. As we pray over the weekly offering what thoughts go through our minds? Twelve fed perhaps ten or fifteen thousand. Jesus can multiply our efforts to feed many with the bread of life way beyond our numbers.

Preaching in a Spiritual Desert

My Soul Waits: Solace for the Lonely in the Psalms
My Soul Waits
Preaching is a lonely business. No preacher is capable of feeding spiritual food to the people. The human spirit is a desert. How do we provide nourishment for others when no human has the spiritual resources? The answer according to Matthew 14:13-21 is to just go ahead and start feeding the needy and God will supply. Church life is full of lonely places. Every sermon is from an inadequate human being, yet our wonderful God supplies his people. There is nothing in any preacher that can provide spiritual nourishment for the people of God. Yet, in the desert places of human inability, there are needs to be met. We can only look to God to provide. Thank God that he allows us to assist in feeding his people despite the fact that we are preaching in a spiritual desert.

Why Join an Imperfect Church

Ecumenical Movement: An Anthology of Keytexts and Voices
The Ecumenical
I imagine some of my Christian friends wonder why I joined the United Methodist Church. They may point out this or that sin or weakness and they would be correct, but so what! As I read Matthew 14:13-21 I am reminded that no human being is capable of feeding the people. It is self-righteous to believe that one church is better or worse than another. As long as a church believes in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I believe that the rest is irrelevant trivia. It is not the church that saves us. Jesus saves! It is idolatry to imagine that our constructed doctrines are the best. No church has the perfect doctrines. Far from it! Most churches are probably about 80% wrong in doctrine, but 100% correct if they have faith in Jesus and not their own institutions.

Why Bless our Food

Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World
Bless this Food
Some Christians believe that it is wrong to eat without blessing food. I can't find anything in the Bible stating that. What does blessing food mean? Jesus set the example by blessing meals often. An example is in Matthew 14:13-21 where he blessed the food before feeding over five thousand. The original word describing what he did has made its way into English at a funeral's eulogy. It is similar in meaning. The Greek broken down literally means a good word (eu+logos). And so a eulogy is a good word about the deceased just as a blessing on a meal is a good word. We give thanks and praise for the food and we ask God to bless us as we eat and digest it. The person asking the blessing on the meal simply says a good word.

When We Burn Out

The Generosity Factor: Discover the Joy of Giving Your Time, Talent, and Treasure
The Generosity Factor
What do we do when we are burned out and in need of rest and there is an emergency? That was what Jesus faced in Matthew 14:13-21. He had taken his disciples away from the crowds to rest and rejuvenate. Yet, he had compassion on them and told his disciples to feed the throng. Sometimes one of the most rejuvenating things of all is to do good to others — a soup kitchen, a charity drive, a work project for the poor — there is recovery in giving to others. Greed makes us sick, but generosity makes us healthy. One of the greatest secrets of the universe was revealed by Jesus when he said, We are far happier giving than getting (Acts 20:35). When we burn out, one of the best ways to heal is to help others.

Miracles & Science

Epiphanies: Where Science and Miracles Meet
Where Science
& Miracles Meet
In Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus performed two types of miracle, healing and feeding. In a world that likes to reduce things to scientifically measurable explanations, the miraculous may sometimes seem implausible. Yet all one has to do is speak with long time medical professionals and find out that a large number of them believe in and have witnessed miracles. Science contains an a priori pre-supposition or assumption that only natural phenomena exist. However, that must therefore also presume the possibility of natural phenomena not yet discovered by science. Of course, that also assumes the possibility that scientists may someday be capable of eventually discovering everything and are not limited in some ways. The Bible seems to indicate that human beings are limited — a little lower than the angels — and thus perhaps incapable of scientific discovery of spiritual things.

When There’s Nothing Left to Give

What do we do when there is nothing left to give? What do we do when our marriages are worn out and there is no energy left to give? What do we do when our bank accounts are depleted and there is no money left to give? What do we do when we are tired from overwork and we cannot go on another step? What do we do when we have given our all to our children and they make just one too many mistakes? What do we do when we need time to mourn the loss of dear ones and yet hungry mouths cry for food? In Matthew 14:13-21 Jesus needed time to mourn his cousin John who was murdered by a tyrant. Yet, people needed to be healed and fed. His answer was compassion. What is ours?

The Miracle of Christian Leadership

You Are a Miracle: Waiting to Happen
You are a Miracle
Waiting to Happen
Christian leaders are just like everyone else on the planet, ordinary. Yet, there is a difference and it has nothing to do with the person. It has everything to do with the one who sent the person, Jesus. In Matthew 14:13-21 is the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand men and an unnumbered crowd of women and children. Yet, there is another miracle going on as well, the miracle of Christian leadership. Church leaders stand before an enormous task, the number who need to be fed and then they hear the word of Jesus which says, "You feed them." The human task is just to pass out the loaves and fishes. It is Jesus who gives a blessing on the food we serve and Jesus who performs the miracle in using our meager efforts to feed the multitudes.

The Miracle of Sharing

Enough: Discovering Joy through Simplicity and Generosity
Joy Through
Simplicity & Generosity 
An alternative explanation of the feeding of the five thousand families in Matthew 14:13-21 is that the real miracle was one of generosity. The traditional interpretation is that the fish and loaves of bread miraculously multiplied. However, that is not specifically stated in the story and an honest person must leave the exact nature of the miracle in the realm of the unknown. We must be honest enough to accept it as a real possibility that the crowds were so overcome by Jesus’ generosity that they also began to share the food that they had brought along. If the disciples found some food among them, then maybe others in the crowd also had some as well. Perhaps there is a lesson in that one of the greatest miracles of all is transforming selfish hearts through the miracle of sharing.

The “God Helps Those...” Lie

Causes and Alleviation of Poverty
Causes & Alleviation
of Poverty
“God helps those who help themselves” is a motto from ancient Greece and not the Bible. It contradicts the Bible. In Matthew 14:13-21 the disciples told Jesus virtually the same thing: let the crowd go and take care of their own food needs. Jesus simply instructed the disciples, "You feed them." That may be a shock to fiscally conservative Christians who do not believe in a welfare system. The conservative fiction is that people are poor because they are too lazy to help themselves. Yet, honest analysis of the causes of poverty also include other reasons including the poor being the victims of crime, overpopulation, inefficient distribution, corruption, bad education, environmental degradation, political oppression, colonialism, disease and war. The miracle of feeding the five thousand men and their families is a radical contradiction of the politics of selfish conservatism.

Jesus’ Agenda

Stories with Intent: A Comprehensive Guide to the Parables of Jesus
Stories with Intent
From the least of us to the greatest, we all have an agenda. For a small child, it may be very simple like food, toys and childish distractions. For a teenager it often seems to be excitement. For older people it may be paying the bills, making a name or material ambitions. Some Christians have an agenda, but when we use that phrase, we often think of negative things. As Christians we should all have an agenda, but that agenda ought to be a closer walk with Christ’s agenda. In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus described a few aspects of that agenda in the form of coded parables. He is building something large and all pervasive. His agenda is a treasure greater than any other and his plan is to bring out of his treasure both new and old things.

The Church is a Construction Zone

The King and the Kingdom of Heaven
The King & the
Kingdom of Heaven
Things can look messy until the final assembly. From building a piece of furniture to piecing together a whole car, the construction phase of an operation can look rather like disorganized confusion to an untrained eye. The construction phase of the kingdom of heaven is no different. The Church is a construction zone not a completed project. In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus gave some clues to his strategy behind building the kingdom. The plans were older than time but the new development phase had already begun with his ministry. Like any enterprise it started off small, but in it would become the biggest venture of all time. It is a scheme that will eventually reach all humanity. It is the greatest treasure the world has known. It will involve a sorting process. It will involve treasures old and new.

Church Growth Jesus Style

Understanding Church Growth
Church Growth
In Christian bookstores church growth is for sale at a price. Many church growth books contain information which is unavailable unless we pay for it. Thank God that the effective ingredient of church growth is not for sale at any price, Jesus. He promised that the kingdom of heaven would grow (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52). Is it wrong to get advice from those who have experience? Is it wrong that they are compensated for their research? Of course not, but one of the most important lessons available from Church growth books is that each situation is going to be different and tailor made by the One who will build His Church, Jesus. He predicted that the kingdom of heaven would grow to be the largest garden plant, a tree. In the garden of world religions Christianity is now the largest.

Quibbling Bible Criticism

Conversational Style: Analyzing Talk among Friends
Have you ever been criticized for being imprecise? In conversation we could say something like, “Isn’t he just the smallest baby!” It is not a statistical conclusion but an everyday superlative. So it is with parables such as the mustard seed in Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52. Those trained in scientific precision may quibble that there are seeds smaller than the mustard seed, but those trained in literary style would be quick to point out that is not the point of the parable. And that highlights where a lot of biblical criticism comes from. It often comes from those who are highly educated in a particular field and can only see things from that point of view. They may be totally ignorant of other fields of study with great flexibility and nuances of meaning. Jesus’ often taught with imagery and hyperbole.

No Little Flock Forever

Mustard Seed, Black - 20 Oz Jar Each
Black Mustard Seeds
What kind of plant was the mustard tree of Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52? Some experts believe it was the black mustard. It is a herb which can grow to three modern meters (ten old-fashioned feet) tall. Was this a contradiction to other descriptions of the kingdom being a small flock? While this may seem to indicate that the church of God would be small, the parable of the mustard seed gives the exact opposite impression. Perhaps they are two sides of the same story of the kingdom. The mustard seed certainly did correlate to the smallness of the kingdom in the beginning. However, it told a far greater future than an exclusive, perpetually “small flock.” Indeed, where Jesus did use the term “little flock?” He was addressing his disciples, not the eventual size of the Church (Luke 12:22, 32).

Parable of a Domesticated Micro-Organism

How is the kingdom of heaven like a domesticated micro-organism? In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus compared the kingdom of heaven to leavening. The most likely leavening agent at the time was a variety of yeast. What is it about yeast that helps us understand the kingdom of heaven? Notice the large amount of dough the woman used, three measures, about 27 modern kilograms (60 old fashioned pounds) — the weight of a 6-10 year old child. That is far too much bread for one family. It is obviously to be shared with a great many families. The kingdom is for sharing. Apart from making breads lighter, yeast does provide nutrition and taste. Even a small lump is capable of leavening a large amount of dough. God’s kingdom has grown from that “little flock” to the largest faith on earth.

Exclusivity is Idolatry

Ecumenism Means You, Too: Ordinary Christians and the Quest for Christian Unity
Ecumenism Means You, Too
When churches claim to have an exclusive franchise they are not talking about Christianity, but human politics. The kingdom of heaven was likened to a small seed that produced a large plant and a small lump of yeast which leavened a large amount of dough (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52). Christianity is defined by Jesus and his Apostles who were taught directly by him as a faith issue, not a political one. When churches exclude others from communion or fellowship based upon human traditions or narrow doctrines, they are not defining Christianity, but their own tyrannical power plays. It is not Christianity but idolatry which places human traditions and twigs of doctrine above the teachings of Jesus. Only Jesus has the authority to define the kingdom of heaven, and he defines it as much larger than our narrow-mindedness seems to allow.

Heaven Will Win

Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back
Heaven is For Real
Why do people fight various agendas seemingly out of fear? There are Christians fighting for or against gay, women’s, Muslim, conservative and liberal agendas. No matter what human plans are, there is only one agenda that will win in the long run, Jesus’. Human movements may seem to win for a season and the kingdom of heaven may seem to lose, as in countries where the Church is severely persecuted, but the end of the story is that the kingdom of heaven wins. That’s actually what both the parable of the mustard seed and the parable of the leaven are about (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52). So, rather than take up arms to fight for or against human politics, what would we do if we believed that Jesus was in charge? Would we faithfully and patiently trust that heaven will win?

Parable of Buried Treasure

Treasure Hunting For Fun and Profit (Treasure Hunting Text)
Treasure Hunting
Buried treasure is not just Hollywood fantasy but also a historic reality and even a business. Treasure hunters include archaeologists and marine salvage operators. Two separate half billion dollar fortunes were recovered in 1985 and 2007. Yet, the most valuable treasure of all is within reach of most people. That treasure is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52). The kingdom that Jesus referred to is in our own communities, yet few are finding it today. Its importance is far more than everything else combined. The kingdom of God is presently in this world but hidden. Those who have heard rumors or stories about a treasure, but have not yet found it, are not yet ready to sacrifice everything for it. Only those who have truly found it and experienced it are willing to give everything up for it.

Parable of a Nacreous Jewel

Of Pigs, Pearls, and Prodigals: A Fresh Look at the Parables of Jesus
Of Pigs, Pearls & Prodigals
Since ancient times pearls have been highly sought after and prized. They do not have to be cut or fashioned by humans, but are already perfectly formed by the hand of God. Both parables of buried treasure and the pearl of great price emphasize the value of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52). The buried treasure was found by accident. The pearl was found by an individual who was looking. Some found Christianity by accident and others have been looking. When we learn about the kingdom of heaven do we recognize its value? Both individuals recognized the life-changing magnitude of their discovery. Jesus was describing an unreserved response of absolute commitment to the kingdom of heaven. What is the most prized jewel in our lives? Is anything else worth more than our place in the kingdom of heaven?

Our Treasure Chest

Pioneer Cloth Photo Album with Frame, 9-Inch-by-9-Inch, Deep Black
Cloth Photo Album
Investigators often find clues to distinguish insurance fraud from a genuine fire. If a family photo album is found in a corner, it may be an accidental blaze. Family treasures are not usually left behind in fraud cases. On the other hand, if we awoke in a house fire and only had time to grab one thing while fleeing what would it be? What are our greatest treasures? Family members and photo albums are genuine treasure. Gold watches and sports trophies are just junk jewelry. Our lives also contain moments of genuine treasure and cheap substitutes. Staying faithful to a spouse for life and having children and grandchildren are genuine treasures. Worldly titles and honors are often just phony costume jewelry. Hopefully we have also found the most precious treasure of all, the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52).

Parable of a Drag Net

Jesus first disciples had been net fishers called to be fishers of men. A fishing net gathers fish without regard to kind. In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus described the kingdom of heaven like a dragnet. The kingdom also picks up people indiscriminately. In trawling, when the net is full, the catch is then separated out into useful and undesirable fish. At the final judgment angels will assist in sorting the righteous from the evil. The kingdom of heaven catches all these fish, but does not separate them until the end. The job of the angels will confirm what we have already chosen, either our destructive ways or his way of the cross. Are we willing to partake of a miracle or are we self-satisfied and unwilling to be changed by God? Our choices now have bearing on our end.

Old & New Worship Together

Planning Blended Worship: The Creative Mixture of Old and New
Blended Worship
One of the great controversies of our time is church music. Some stubbornly persist with centuries-old hymns and organ music. Younger Christians leave churches in droves and music is one of the biggest reasons. Modern music offends some older Christians. There is an answer, but it requires some maturity and education. In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus described those who were skilled in Old Testament studies and became students of the New Covenant as being like those who had treasures from both. So it is with churches mature enough to move towards a blended worship music style. Grandchildren are glad to honor grandparents’ music choices and grandparents love their grandchildren enough to shower them with musical blessings that reach their hearts. Churches that have moved towards blended worship formats bring out Christian music treasures which are both new and old.

The Kingdom of Heaven is ...

Kingdom of Heaven (2-Disc Widescreen Edition)
Kingdom of Heaven
In Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 Jesus described some traits of the kingdom of heaven. He spoke in parables because the kingdom of heaven was still a well-kept secret. As it grows, it is becoming less and less of a secret. The kingdom of heaven has eventually become the largest venture of all time. It currently covers about a third of humanity, more than any country, religion or other corporate human enterprise. That makes it the largest kingdom on earth, albeit a spiritual kingdom, still hidden from plain sight. It has fulfilled the parable of the mustard seed and will some day leaven the whole lump of humanity. It is just like a buried treasure, not seen by human eyes and the most precious treasure in life. The kingdom of heaven is a mixture of old and new, good and evil.

Evils in the Church

Why is evil not just in the world but also in the church? Why is pedophilia in the Church? Why did Pope Innocent III order the extermination of the Waldensians in 1487? Why was the church complicit in the murder of tens of thousands during the Inquisition? Why did both Lutherans and Catholics at the Diet of Speyer in 1529 legalize the murder of Anabaptists in Germany? Why did Calvinists in France murder 4,000 priests, monks and nuns, and destroy thousands of churches and monasteries? Why do Orthodox leaders encourage persecution of Protestants in Russia? Why did Protestants persecute Catholics in England, Germany and Switzerland? Why did New England Puritans once persecuted in England later persecute other Protestants? How can such atrocities have occurred among those who bear the precious Gospel of Jesus Christ? Does Matthew 13:24-43 help us?

The Church Visible & Invisible

The visible church is different from the invisible church because outward appearances can be deceiving. The invisible church at any one moment consists of those who are in Christ. The visible church is in the world, consisting of all those who call themselves Christians whether they are in Christ or not. The invisible church is the good seed in the Parable of the Weeds, the people of the kingdom (Matthew 13:38). All genuine believers are members of the invisible church. Not all professing Christians are members of the invisible church. The invisible church cannot be fully discerned by human eyes and hearts. The visible church is a mixture of genuine believers and false Christians who are never regenerated, saved, forgiven, united to Christ and sanctified (1 John 2:19-20; Matthew 7:21-23; Romans 9:6; 2 Peter 2:20-22).

Wrongdoing in the Church

Deliver Us From Evil
Deliver us
from Evil
Do we get upset and angry with wrongdoing in the Church? Do we excommunicate sinners until few are left creating a climate of judgmentalism and fear of persecution? In Matthew 13:24-43 Jesus did not ask us to tolerate evil but be patient because the responsibility is not ours but the angels’. The Church is a mixture of the people of the kingdom of heaven and the people of the kingdom of the evil one. This is a parable of the kingdom and it describes the Church as part of the kingdom. It is a safe bet that this mixture of good and evil also exists among church leaders. What do we do about it? Do we quit and start new denominations? That has never solved the problem because the Church will always be a mixture of sinners and saints.