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ZMI Family Ministries International > Articles by: Amy Horton

What a loaf of bread can teach us

“Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. “
Romans 5:3-5, NIV

You’d never think a humble loaf of bread could teach us much about the Christian life, but look a little deeper and you’d be astonished. In the Bible study ‘Feasts of the Bible,’ I’m examining what bread offered as a sacrifice can mean. Jewish feasts required many different items God requested. Some of the foods were bitter to represent trials in life, other items were sweet to represent the hope of a Messiah. Normally bread offered up for sacrifice is unleavened, with a very notable exception.

One feast calls for two loaves of bread, with leaven, made with very fine flour. The leavening throughout the bread represents our sin, the flour the refining process, and two loaves portray Jews and Gentiles. To dig deeper, I decided to make my own bread as it would have been made thousands of years ago.

As soon as you start the process the lessons begin. Leaven is made by stirring together simple coarse flour and water and waiting, just as we start our life by being coarse and unrefined. Wild yeast present in the air infects the simple flour and water mixture just as sin infects our untested lives. The leaven is sour and takes over whatever is in your container once you feed it. Just like sin, it grows and destroys.

Then God starts changing things. God asks for refined flour. This flour has been crushed, stomped down, until it is light and pure. God will put us through the same refining process. Once we add this refined white flour to the leaven, the tang of bread becomes less sour. The dough mixture is kneaded and stretched, then left to wait and mature. Often God will knead and stretch us, leaving us to wait on Him. The dough is ready only when it’s been stretched so much that we can see the Light through it. It’s not difficult to draw the comparison there! God will refine us and keep stretching us until we reflect his light. Then we are ready to be put in the refiner’s fire to be an acceptable offering. As James points out, endurance and perseverance perfects us, a worthy and desirable goal. (James 1:2-4)

The beauty of this offering is that God asks us to come as we are. No matter what sin is in our life, so long as we ask his forgiveness He accepts us. His work doesn’t stop there, we are continually being refined, stretched, and left to wait, reflecting His glory throughout the entire process. If you’re struggling, left in a long season of waiting, or even being stretched, take heart. This is the process God uses to refine us! A little lesson from a humble loaf of bread.

In Him,

Amy

When Life Overwhelms Us

“Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
Matthew 14: 22-23, NIV

I’ve recently thought about all the “hats” that a mom wears. Wouldn’t it be something if we tried to wear them all at once?  Our responsibilities are myriad. As a chef, we don an apron for our cooking role. We put on fashion wear to meet the beauty standards we’re held to. We could carry a children’s book to show how we should be reading to our children, with a robe over the whole mess for the romance we need to put into our marriage. Wait!  We also need a checklist and calculator to frugally stay within the household budget. Of course, we can’t forget our workout gear because we need to stay healthy. Let’s also carry a Bible for our daily devotion. I think we may need a few more hands!  A 2013, Business Insider article reported that “Based on the 10 most time consuming tasks listed by more than 6,000 mothers, Salary.com estimated it would cost $113,586 a year to replace them.”  That is a lot of responsibility!

    I could go on, and on, and on. Do you know how difficult it would be to walk around outfitted for all those different roles at the same time?  Often I become overwhelmed with the expectations placed on me. Instead of looking to Christ, who promises his yoke is easy and his burden is light, I put a magnifying glass on my own life and my own problems. Can you relate?  The problem is self-focus.

    How identifiable Peter is to me. He so desperately wants to be close to God and the work He’s doing.  But he becomes overwhelmed by his own earthly circumstances and physical limitations. Jesus responds immediately and catches Peter’s hand, reminding him of His power right away. He asks why Peter doubted. I suspect it’s a gentle reminder to keep the focus on Jesus instead of the circumstances that so easily overwhelm us.

    This week, keep your eyes on the real priority, Jesus. All those other pieces fall into place when I’m focused on Jesus’ perspective. He will immediately reach out to help me.  And when my faith falters, I’ll just trust Him, a life preserver in the middle of an ocean.

In Him,

Amy

God won’t give you anything more than He can handle.

“But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.”
2 Corinthians 12:9

    We’ve all heard the phrase, “God won’t give you anything more than you can handle.” Maybe we’ve even been told it’s in the Bible. Nothing could be farther from the truth. This little ‘gem’ gets passed around like a bad penny. It may be my least favorite saying in the English language!

When I’ve encountered difficult times in my life people have shared that little phrase in order to cheer me up or give me confidence that God wouldn’t possibly let me be so oppressed. I usually feel defeated when I hear it. It makes me feel like I’m failing, that I need to ‘bear up’ and ‘deal’ with whatever difficult or horrible thing God has chosen to let me experience. Weakness and failure are often mingled with my thoughts of grief. It makes me feel alone, that God is torturing me with a test to endure without His help.  The simple fact is that if I were able to handle the situation by myself, I wouldn’t need God!

Let’s look at some of the promises God actually gives us in the Bible: God will see our human weakness and meet us there; in the broken places, in the defeat, in the failures. In grief we all feel we’re not enduring well enough. That’s where God shows His power.  He knows we’re human, that’s no surprise to the God who made us. Godly living is about relying on Him even when we don’t understand or feel that we don’t have the strength to go on. He promises to love us, never leave us, and even take on our sorrows. The peace that God gives us often transcends understanding. That way, He gets the glory in restoring us to Himself.  In those hard places, remember God’s promises and ‘lean in’ to his strength.

If you’ve ever heard that phrase, “God doesn’t give us any more than we can handle,” Correct them! Tell them more accurately, “God doesn’t give us any more than He can handle.” In the words of Paul Tripp, “Don’t buy the false gospel of self-reliance. If you could make it without help, Jesus would not have needed to come.”

In Him,

Amy