How Absurd!

Photo credit here

S (Scripture): Mark 6:33 Many people saw [Jesus and the disciples] leaving and recognized them, so they ran ahead from all the cities and arrived before them. 34 When Jesus arrived and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Then he began to teach them many things.

35 Late in the day, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place, and it’s already late in the day. 36 Send them away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something to eat for themselves.”

37 He replied, “You give them something to eat.”

But they said to him, “Should we go off and buy bread worth almost eight months’ pay and give it to them to eat?”

38 He said to them, “How much bread do you have? Take a look.”

After checking, they said, “Five loaves of bread and two fish.”

39 He directed the disciples to seat all the people in groups as though they were having a banquet on the green grass. 40 They sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 He took the five loaves and the two fish, looked up to heaven, blessed them, broke the loaves into pieces, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 Everyone ate until they were full. 43 They filled twelve baskets with the leftover pieces of bread and fish. 44 About five thousand had eaten.

O (Observation): The crowd recognizes that Jesus has some significant power and teaching for them. They wish to receive his wisdom and his healing.

As 5,000 had gathered, they hadn’t made dinner plans. Jesus’ disciples wish for them to be sent away to get their own dinner. Jesus makes sure they eat : )

Jesus asks the disciples to gather what they have, he blesses it, and all 5,000 are fed!

I love how Jesus takes what the disciples ALREADY HAVE and blesses THAT. With that blessed bread and fish, all are fed. The disciples never had to look further than what they already had…and Jesus uses PRECISELY that possession to bless the crowd.

A (Application): How are you already equipped for ministry? What is it about you that God has blessed and used for the good of others? Your money? Your pen? Your voice?

Think back to Moses and Aaron. They were not asked to take a huge test or scavenge for weapons or anything. They were simply to speak on God’s behalf. Even the staff Moses had…God used.

How far do we have to go to think about what God can use in me? In you?

Are we afraid? Do we doubt? Perhaps. That would make us normal. If we believe…that makes us weird…that’s absurd. Which may be the idea all along.

P (Prayer): Lord, remind us that you bless what has already been given to us. Amen.

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Check Yourself


S (Scripture):Numbers 24:10 Then Balak became very angry at Balaam, and he struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, “I called you to curse my enemies, and look, you have done nothing but bless them these three times! 11 So now, go back where you came from! I said that I would greatly honor you; but now the Lord has stood in the way of your honor.”

O (Observation):  Balaam heard from the Lord and at this point has now blessed Israel three times.   Balak claps his hands together in an angry manner, and demands that Balaam leave at once.  Balak thought he could manipulate God through Balaam’s connection to God.  Balak thought if he could get Balaam to curse Israel, then God’s people would be thwarted. 

Balak was a bit twisted in his viewpoint of who God is.   And his last line is what really throws me off: “now the Lord has stood in the way of your honor.”  

A (Application):  If my honor ever depended on earthly gain and a Kingdom loss…you can keep your earthly gain.  

I admit that I’ve fallen prey to earthly gain and Kingdom loss, but that is never my hope or goal.  We see this a lot:

  • When someone chooses to save face, rather than stand in solidarity with one being persecuted unjustly
  • When someone chooses to take the credit for someone else’s actions/wisdom
  • When we make a purchase that saves us money, because someone is willing to slave away for $1/hour 

But the part that blows me away is Balak’s notion that the Lord would cause Balaam to lose his honor.   

But then again, maybe that is the lesson here. Maybe the Lord does cause us to lose honor in this world.   But that honor is not lost in the Kingdom.  

May we be bold enough to lose honor (according to the world) in the name of Jesus Christ. 

P (Prayer): Lord, help us to be brave, bold believers.  Amen. 

You and I are NOT the Miracle-Worker

S (Scripture): Mark 6:35 When it was already late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is an isolated place and it is already very late. 36 Send them away so that they can go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said, “Should we go and buy bread for two hundred silver coins and give it to them to eat?” 38 He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” When they found out, they said, “Five – and two fish.”

O (Observation): …and you know how this story finishes.  5,000 (plus men and women) are fed, and with food leftover!   All from 5 loaves and 2 fish!

The miracle of feeding so many with so little is the focus, for sure…but I want to lift up something else: Jesus’ focus on what the disciples bring to the table. 

They had five loaves and 2 fish. 

When Jesus says, “YOU feed them,” they think they’re supposed to go to the drive-thru and pick up dinner together.  Nope. 

Jesus says in v. 37, “YOU feed them.”   In the Greek, the word “you” is highly emphasized.  Jesus clearly expects something from these disciples.  They gather what they can, and bring it to Jesus, who blesses it, breaks it, and multiplies it. 

What Jesus had to work with was what the disciples gathered and brought forth. 

A (Application):  Jesus doesn’t ask us to do the miraculous. Jesus doesn’t ask us to feed the multitudes without help.  Jesus simply asks the disciples to feed the people with what they have.  Jesus does the miracle. 

YOU feed them.  We don’t have Jesus with us in person, but we do have the Spirit guiding us and taking these gifts we have and multiplying them for Kingdom work. 

My trouble is that I often think that I have to work the miracle alone.  With this attitude, I get intimidated and that paralyzes me with fear. But that is NOT how this gift thing works.  The Spirit will guide us!  

So, instead of focusing on the outcome, my strategy should perhaps be this:  do now, with what you have; see the results of the Spirit; retreat; prepare again.  Wash; Rinse; Repeat!

How does this work for you?  Are you comfortable with doing?  Are you hesitant?   Either way, know that the Spirit guides you each step of the way. 

P (Prayer): Lord, remind me that you are the miracle-worker.   I simply bring the food to the table – food that you provided me to begin with. Amen.  

Blessed to be a Blessing

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S (Scripture): Matthew 14:15 When evening arrived, his disciples came to him saying, “This is an isolated place and the hour is already late. Send the crowds away so that they can go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But he replied, “They don’t need to go. You give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have here only five loaves and two fish.” 18 “Bring them here to me,” he replied. 19 Then he instructed the crowds to sit down on the grass. He took the five loaves and two fish, and looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. 20 They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the broken pieces left over, twelve baskets full. 21 Not counting women and children, there were about five thousand men who ate.

O (Observation):  The crowd gathered has the disciples worried.  They wanted to send everyone home.  They didn’t have enough to feed everyone…or did they???

Notice v. 16.  Who is to give food to the people?  Jesus says, “YOU give them something to eat…”   What?!?!  Isn’t Jesus the one to feed the people?  Well…yes and no…

What Jesus does is takes what the disciples had in their midst – 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish – and uses this little bit of food to feed 5,000.  How?  In v. 19, Jesus takes the bread and fish, and “looking up to heaven he gave thanks and broke the loaves.”   Jesus lifts the gifts of the people and gives thanks…and that satisfies their needs.

A (Application):  If you’ve been in a church that celebrates Holy Communion, you probably recognize a similarity between Jesus’ actions here and in the Last Supper.   Worship and recognition of God the Creator are central to the feeding of the 5,000 and to the Last Supper.   We rely on God to take what we have, bless it, and multiply it.

While the Last Supper is not about multiplying the bread and wine, it is about God being revealed in our midst.  God is revealed in the abundance of food in the Feeding of the 5,000.   God is revealed in the wine and bread in the Last Supper and Holy Communion.

We can get quite disparaged as we look at ourselves or the congregation in which we worship.  We can feel like we are not enough…like if we just had that one more gift…or that chunk of money…or that special ability…or that special someone…that we would be complete.   The truth is…we are already complete.   God has made us whole and gives us what we need.  To the one without sight or hearing…they find a way to know that they are complete in other ways.  To the one without full mental capabilities, we find a way to help them to know that they are still God’s beautiful child, complete already.

A beautiful thing I’ve noticed about our son is that he has a heart for seeing those with mental disabilities as already being whole.  He has had a few interactions with folks like this, and he sees them as perfect and complete.  I hope that he lifts that gift up to God for God to bless him and help him to bear fruit to help others.

As we give ourselves over to God, God blesses us and the gifts instilled in us in our baptism.   With these gifts (and yes, we ALL have gifts to share), we go into the world to make it a better place…to share the love of God.

P (Prayer):  Lord, help us to know that we are all gifted – albeit differently from person to person.  Amen.

Faith 5

  Today I had an opportunity to speak at Redeemer Classical Academy. 

I taught them a practice that we are trying work into our daily lives in my home (and at our church).  The practice has a way of drawing us closer to one another and to God.  Rarely have we done all the steps consistently, but we de engage in part of the process. 

What process?  Faith 5!

What?…you don’t know about Faith5?  Let me give you the basics:

  • Share
  • Read
  • Talk
  • Pray
  • Bless

That’s it : )

What? You want me to explain? (Sigh…) ok…  (Just kidding : )

  • Share a high and low for the day
  • Read a Bible verse or story
  • Talk about how that Scripture reading connects to your highs and lows (or any though that the Scripture brings to mind)
  • Pray about your highs and lows
  • Bless one another (make mark of cross on one another’s foreheads or hands and say something like, “May the Lord bless you this day.”)

This amazing little exercise, done consistently and over time draws us deeper into our relationships with one another and with God. 

The website (linked below) has some great explanations as to how and why this works.  And the best part: this is so simple!!!!   No blessings, thoughts, prayers are right or wrong here.   Just go for it!

Let me know if this is something you already do…want to do…or are afraid to do.   Let’s chat about it.  

Information about Faith 5 can be found here.