Category Archives: Gospel of John

What are you hungry for?

Like Snoopy, many of us long for meaning and purpose. We want to live significant lives. We want to make an impact in our world. We search for meaning in education, service, and varied activities. And yet, we settle for a pleasurable meal that will only satisfy for a short time.

In the gospel of John, Jesus performs a tremendous miracle where he feeds a large crowd of people with a handful of bread and fish (John 6:1-14). Thinking they have found their meal ticket, some of the crowd follow Jesus to the other side of the lake. After they arrive, Jesus confronts them about their mixed motives. They weren’t interested in learning from Jesus’ teaching. They just wanted another free lunch.

Jesus challenges their priorities by stating, “Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the son of Man will give to you” (6:27). When the people clamor for more, Jesus announces, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (6:35).

Rather than settle for a snack from the world, we should long for the sustenance that only comes from God. Rather than be content with a moment of pleasure, we should long for the satisfaction that comes from knowing Jesus. Jesus is the bread of life that satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts. He will satisfy us so completely that we will never be hungry again.

John 10:10 – “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”


Sandwiched between Faithfulness & Fruitfulness

I live my life sandwiched between two tensions. I want to be found faithful while at the same time, I want to be found fruitful.

As a pastor, I struggle with numbers. I watch the graphs of our attendance and chart the ups and downs of our giving. I know that people pass judgment on me based on those figures. People look at those numbers and determine my worth.

However, I know that my success is not measured by numbers. The artificial measuring sticks—bodies, budgets, buildings, baptisms, books, broadcasts, and blogs—are valuable indicators, yes, but they are not what God will use to evaluate and determine whether or not I am successful.

God will not evaluate my ministry based on the size. He will evaluate whether or not I was faithful. “Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). In the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-30), the master does not praise his servants based on their production. The one with the five talents received the same reward as the one with the two talents. Both were faithful in using their talents for the master and heard, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, 23).

People may judge my success or failure based on numbers and size, but God will evaluate whether or not I was faithful to use the gifts and abilities he has given me for his service. I get that.

And yet, at the same time, I want to be fruitful. In John 15:1-11, Jesus speaks of the progression of moving from no fruit to fruit to more fruit to much fruit. In the parable of the sower (Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23; Mark 4:1-20), some of the seed produces thirtyfold, some sixtyfold, and some hundredfold.

I desire to produce much fruit. I want to be one who produces hundredfold. While that may be my desire, I recognize that I cannot produce anything in my own power. Much fruit only comes as I abide in Christ and his life flows through me. God is the one who produces the size of the harvest.

This brings me back full circle to faithfulness. I must be faithful to abide in Christ and depend on him for life, growth, and fruitful ministry. I must rely on him to determine how, when, and where he will use me. I must be faithful to use everything I have for his glory. I must focus on depth—building deeply into my life and the life of others—and allow him to determine the breadth and effectiveness of my ministry.

May I be found faithful and fruitful. The one is up to me. The other is up to God. I need to live contentedly between those two tensions.


Russia 2019 – April Update

Praying friends,

Thanks to God’s grace and your prayers, my passport and visa to Russia arrived this morning. Considering I leave in 10 days, it arrived none too soon!

On this trip, I will be teaching a three-day course on the Harmony of the Gospels in two locations—Anapa and Elista, Russia. So far, 25 students have registered and the number will probably increase as we get closer to the date. Last year, 43 people from 4 cities attended the classes.

At this point, the preparations are essentially complete. My notes are ready to go. I made copies of my handouts in Russian to take along. I purchased short-term ministry trip insurance. The only thing left to do is get some dental work taken care of and then pack.

Here are some items for your intercessory efforts:


  • Passport and visa to Russia arrived in a timely manner without complications.
  • The trip is fully funded.
  • Carol and I enjoyed a wonderful, refreshing time at the SonScape Retreat in Colorado.
  • I am finally healthy, having gotten over a cold/cough that plagued me for two weeks.


  • The students who will attend.
  • Safe travel.
  • Good health.
  • Effective ministry.
  • Dental work—I’m getting a root canal in a tooth on Monday.
  • Good Friday and Easter services this weekend.
  • Pray for Carol as she remains at home.

While you are praying, could you also pray that God will provide the necessary funds for Carol and me to minister in Moscow this fall in October? We will be part of a team teaching a week-long seminar on leadership development—identifying and training young, emerging leaders in the church. So far, $825 has been given towards the $4,200 needed for the trip. My prayer is that God will provide the total amount by June so that we can purchase airfare and make plans. If you would like to support the trip financially, please send a check to First Central Bible Church, 50 Broadway St, Chicopee, MA, 01020. Checks should be made out to FCBC with “Moscow Conference” in the notation line.

Thanks so much for your prayers, encouragement, and support. I’m grateful.

Mark Wheeler


Russia 2019 – March update

Dear friends,

I am grateful for your support, encouragement, and prayers for my upcoming trip to Russia. It is only through your intercessory efforts that I am able to do what I do. Thanks so much!

I hope to apply for my Russian visa in the next couple of weeks. The LOI (letter of invitation) from Moscow should arrive next week. Once I receive it, I will head for the Russian visa office in New York City to apply in person for the visa. I will be applying for a humanitarian visa for religious work, in order to be above board on what we are doing and not take a chance in getting in trouble with the authorities. Please pray that the process goes smoothly and without complications.

I completed the third round of editing my notes for the Harmony of the Gospels course. As I mentioned previously, the challenge of teaching through four gospels is deciding what NOT to say. After cutting the material in half through the editing process, I still have a bit too much. Until I teach through it the first time, I won’t know for sure. Please pray that I have wisdom to know what to include and what to leave out.

Please pray for the students who will attend the course. They are currently working on the preclass assignment. They are to read through one of gospels and write down their questions. They are also to answer two questions: (1) What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23)? How do you do that personally? and (2) How did Jesus fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)? Should Christians follow the Law today?

Please pray for Carol and me over the next seven weeks—safe travel, good health, wise use of our time, boldness to share with people, etc. Next week, I will be in Atlanta, GA, for a Walk Thru the Bible faculty conference. When I return, Carol heads for the west coast to visit her parents and sisters and to see two of our children. In early April, we will attend a SonScape pastoral retreat in Colorado. It will be a time of rest, refreshment, encouragement, challenge, and planning for the future. In mid-April, we will be involved in our Easter outreach here at the church. The week after Easter, I leave for Russia. As you can see, the next seven weeks are filled with many opportunities for ministry.

Thanks for your support, encouragement, and prayers. I’m in your debt.


Russia 2019 – February update

Dear friends,

I was recently reading through the book of Exodus and came upon every pastor, missionary, and ministry leader’s ideal regarding financial giving. Exodus chapters 35 & 36 describe the offering for the construction of the tabernacle. Moses called for those who were willing and generous to bring their offering. People gave so much that Moses finally had to call a halt.

35:4 Moses said to all the congregation of the people of Israel, “This is the thing that the Lord has commanded. Take from among you a contribution to the Lord. Whoever is of a generous heart, let him bring the Lord’s contribution…20 Then all the congregation of the people of Israel departed from the presence of Moses. 21 And they came, everyone whose heart stirred him, and everyone whose spirit moved him, and brought the Lord’s contribution …36:2 And Moses called Bezalel and Oholiab and every craftsman in whose mind the Lord had put skill, everyone whose heart stirred him up to come to do the work. And they received from Moses all the contribution that the people of Israel had brought for doing the work on the sanctuary. They still kept bringing him freewill offerings every morning… So Moses gave command, and word was proclaimed throughout the camp, “Let no man or woman do anything more for the contribution for the sanctuary.” So the people were restrained from bringing, for the material they had was sufficient to do all the work, and more.

Once again, through your prayers and generosity, God has provided for my May 2019 ministry trip to Russia. Two weeks ago, I was able to purchase airfare and make hotel reservations. Thank you, Lord!

I have started the process of applying for a Russian visa. Once I receive the LOI (letter of invitation) from our contact in Moscow, I will apply for a humanitarian visa for religious work. Rather than the normal 30-day visa, I will be applying for a one-year visa. (Carol and I have been invited to come to Moscow in October to help teach a seminar on leadership development. More about that trip next month.) Please pray that the process goes smoothly and without complications.

I have been working on my notes for the Harmony of the Gospels course over the past few weeks. In previous years, I only taught one book of the Bible during the three-day course. As you can imagine, the challenge of teaching through four books is deciding what NOT to say. Please pray that I have wisdom to know what to include and what to leave out.

Please pray for the students who will attend the course. Last week I sent a preclass assignment for them to begin working on. They are to read through one of gospels and write down their questions. They are also to answer two questions: (1) What does it mean to worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:23)? How do you do that personally? and (2) How did Jesus fulfill the Law (Matthew 5:17-20)? Should Christians follow the Law today?

Thanks for your support, encouragement, and prayers. I’m in your debt.


Harmony of the Gospels

Next May, I will be teaching a 3-day class on the Harmony of the Gospels while I am ministering in Russia. To help me in my preparation, I have been working on an outline of the events of the life of Christ. Here is a pdf version of my work thus far.

If the statement is true that quoting from one source is plagiarism while quoting from several is good research, then my outline is good research. It is adapted from several books and websites including:

Talk Thru the Bible, by Ken Boa and Bruce Wilkinson

The Words and Works of Jesus Christ, by J. Dwight Pentecost

The Life of Christ in Stereo, by Johnston M. Cheney



What comes after the Last Supper?

Book Review: The Farewell Discourse and Final Prayer of Jesus: An Evangelical Exposition of John 14-17, by D. A. Carson

The Upper Room Discourse in John 14-17 is one of the more significant portions of Scriptures. It contains Jesus’ explanation of him leaving to go back to heaven to prepare a place for his followers, his teaching on the coming and work of the Holy Spirit, and his commandment to love one another. The section concludes with Jesus’ high priestly prayer, where he prays for himself and intercedes for not only his immediate followers, but ultimately for us as well.

D. A Carson has written a very helpful volume unpacking this vital portion of Scripture. Stylistically, the book falls somewhere between a commentary and a sermon. While not academically oriented, it gives details of the passage. While not a verse by verse exposition, it nevertheless explains the meaning of each section and its implications for our lives today. The book is aimed for a more popular audience rather than a scholarly one.

As the author explains in the preface, the book grew out of a series of addresses given at several conferences in the USA and Canada. The book was originally published in 1980, but is now repackaged and republished in 2018.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

Leave a comment

Posted by on January 27, 2018 in Books, Gospel of John, Scripture


How does Jesus meet our needs?

I have made the statement on many occasions in my preaching and my prayers that God meets us right at our point of need. It is one of my foundational convictions and tends to creep into what I say on various occasions.

If you were to ask, “How does he do that? Give me an example.” I would point you to the gospel of John. Seven times in that gospel, Jesus makes the statement, “I am . . .” Through these statements, Jesus reveals his identity and purpose in coming to earth. In so doing, I believe that Jesus meets us at our point of need. He addresses seven basic needs of each and every person on planet earth.

Each one of us longs for satisfaction. In John 6:35, Jesus said, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” Hunger and thirst are two of the most basic needs of life. They reveal a desire for satisfaction and contentment. As the bread of life, Jesus satisfies the deepest desires of our hearts.

Many times throughout our lives, we need guidance and direction. In John 8:12, “Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.’” When the power goes out, we look for candles or flashlights to lead us to safety. Children want a light to lead them to mom & dad. As the light of the world, Jesus leads us out of the darkness and guides us to safety.

John 10:7–9 reveals another aspect of Jesus’ identity. “So Jesus again said to them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.’” A door keeps out the bad people—the thieves and robbers. It makes us feel secure. But it also opens to a place where we can rest and relax. As the door, Jesus brings us into a place of rest, safety, and provision.

In John 10:11–14, Jesus meets our need for belonging. “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me.” Jesus is more than a hired hand who takes care of people. As the good shepherd, Jesus knows our name and our needs. He builds a relationship with us. He treats us as part of his family.

John 11:25 addresses the question of whether there is hope beyond the grave. “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.’” As the resurrection and the life, Jesus assures us that heaven awaits for those who believe in Christ

We live in a world of multiculturalism, pluralism, and world religions. We are told that truth is what you determine for yourself. Every belief is of equal value. We are left confused and wondering. In John 14:6, Jesus addresses our need for certainty. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” As the way, the truth, and the life, Jesus gives us a sense of certainty in an age of perplexity.

At times, we may feel like our lives and careers are going nowhere. We feel as if we are spinning our wheels. In John 15:5, Jesus said, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” As the vine, Jesus produces fruit in us if we stay connected to him. Jesus will give our lives purpose and meaning.

During the holiday season, our eyes are drawn to scenes of the nativity; to the babe lying in a manger. This year, let your heart come closer. Draw near to the One who says “I Am the Bread of Life, the Light, the Door, the Good Shepherd, the Resurrection, the Way, and the Vine”.

If you are . . .

  • Hungry, yet longing for something to truly satisfy.
  • Lost and alone in the dark, searching for answers and guidance.
  • Feeling insecure and defenseless, or searching for security and protection that will be there when you need it.
  • Feel like you don’t belong, and are searching for a sense of family and relationship.
  • Long for the assurance that there is more to life than just this—that there is life beyond the grave.
  • Confused by so many different beliefs and options, and are searching for certainty in an age of perplexity.
  • Wondering if you matter and if your life will make a difference, longing for a sense of significance and a source of fruitfulness.

. . . then come to Jesus. He will sooth your fears and satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.



No More Hunger – “I am the bread of life”

Someone once said that life is like eating Chinese food. It’s tasty and filling, but 30 minutes later you’re still hungry.

We long for 100% satisfaction guaranteed. We want perfect kids, the perfect computer and entertainment system, the perfect vacation, and a life filled with meaning and significance. Regardless of what we have, it’s never enough. We always want MORE! C. S. Lewis once said, “I cannot find a cup of tea which is big enough or a book that is long enough.”

We long to experience what Jesus promised in John 6:35, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.”

John 6:35 is the first of seven “I am” statements in the gospel of John where Jesus reveals his nature and purpose. Each statement addresses a particular need we all experience. In the first one, we discover that Jesus is the bread of life who satisfies our deepest longings.

The full account is found in John 6:22-59. In verses 22-34, Jesus’ followers are seeking the next meal. In verses 35-59, Jesus challenges them to be satisfied with the best meal.

The story begins on the day after the feeding of the 5,000 (22). The crowds realize that Jesus slipped away unnoticed. They find him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee teaching in a synagogue in Capernaum (59). Naturally curious, they ask Jesus how he got there (25). Being a master teacher, Jesus doesn’t answer their question directly. Instead, he engages them in a dialogue to help them discover the answer for themselves. He whets their appetite to know more.

Setting the table

Whetting the appetite
When did you get here? (25)

Check your motives (26-27)

What can we do to earn God’s approval? (28)

Trust me, you can’t (29)
Where is the proof? (30-31)

Faith based on miracles is not very strong (32-33)

Feed us now! (34)


Now that Jesus has their attention, he reveals that he is the bread of life (35, 48) who satisfies our deepest longings (35, 50-51). Jesus came from heaven (38) and was born in Bethlehem, the house of bread. He satisfies the deepest longings of our hearts—the desire for satisfaction, direction, security, belonging, hope, certainty, and significance. If we come to him, we will never hunger or thirst for anything else (35) and we will live forever (50-51).

To be satisfied by this meal, we must believe (35-40). We must believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be. We must trust that he is sufficient to meet our needs. We must be confident that his promises are true. A disciple is characterized by his/her continuing trust in God.

To be satisfied by this meal, we must receive it (41-58). We must stop resisting and making excuses (41-43). Rather than settle for food for today, we must pursue life for tomorrow (47-50). A full, complete relationship with Jesus is available for those who consume it totally (51-58). Jesus must become a staple of our spiritual diet. Not everyone, however, is ready to make this type of commitment. Even some who followed Jesus found it too difficult and chose to walk away (66).

Rather than settle for substitutes, pursue a relationship with the one who can satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.

This is the synopsis of a message preached at First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, on November 5, 2017. It is the first sermon in a series asking the question, “Who is Jesus?” Please click on the link to download a copy of the sermon notes.