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The Measure of One’s Life: “Let us so live that when we die even the undertaker will be sorry”


The Measure of One’s Life book  (double click to save and read offline)

A merchant, some few years ago, failed in business.  He went home in great agitation.  “What is the matter?”  asked his wife.

“I am ruined; I am beggared; I have lost my all,” he exclaimed, pressing his hand upon his forehead.

changing lives

“All” said the wife. “No, I am left.”

“All, papa,” said his eldest boy, “here am I.”

“And I, too,” said his little girl, running up, and putting her arms around his neck.

“I’m not lost, papa,” repeated Eddie.

“And you have your health left,” said his wife.

 

“And your hands to work with,” said his eldest; “and I can help you.”

“And your two feet, papa, to carry you about, and your two eyes to see with, papa,” said little Eddie.

“And you have God’s promises,” said the grandmother.

“And a good God,” said his wife.

Where would we be without our good God, One who has shown Himself daily for His love and devotion to us? And isn’t it comforting to know that God  “…causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45).

We often find ourselves questioning those things which once were most certain in our life. We move from doubt to despair and eventually discouragement or disappointment.

The company of the discouraged is a very noble company. Not too long ago, the Hayden Planetarium in New York City issued an invitation to all those who were interested in applying to be a part of the crew on the first journey to another planet. Eighteen thousand people applied. They gave the applications to a panel of psychologists, who examined them thoroughly and came to the conclusion that in the vast majority of incidents, those who applied did so because they were discouraged with their lives here and hoped they could find a new life somewhere else.  [1]

We don’t often see the larger picture since we are so close to the d

aily details.

The lone survivor of a shipwreck, marooned on a lonely island, managed to build a hut in which he placed all he had saved from the wreck.  He prayed for rescue and anxiously scanned the horizon every day to signal any passing ship.

One day on returning from a hunt for food he was horror-stricken to find his hut in flames.  All his possessions had gone up in smoke!

The next day a ship arrived.  “We saw your smoke signal yesterday,” the captain explained.

A Christian who was in very difficult circumstances fell on his knees in despair to cry to God, “When am I going to get out of all these trials?” But by a slip of the tongue he actually prayed, “What am I going to get out of all these trials?”  The change of that one word “when” to “what” was just what the Lord wanted and the hard-pressed Christian realized it. There is something more important than escaping from trials — it is learning what our Heavenly Father wants us to gain from them.   [2]

Corrie ten Boom used to say, “When the train goes through a tunnel and the world gets dark, do you jump out? Of course not. You sit still and trust the engineer to get you through.”

Minimizing Disappointment

I make the point annually to watch Jimmy Stewart’s popular holiday portrayal of George Bailey in It’s A Wonderful Life  (required viewing in my estimation for all who work daily to make a difference in people’s lives).

In a scene in the early minutes of the presentation, angels are talking in heaven of this person, George, in their endeavor to know more about him and enter into his world to offer assistance.

Clarence, the 2nd grade level guardian angel who eventually is assigned to task, asks, “What’s the matter with George. Is he sick? Is he in trouble?” “Much worse,” is the reply, “he’s discouraged.”

George gets his wish (“I wish I’d never been born”) and eventually is led through a process of seeing the world as it would have been had he never been born. The conclusion for his circumstances is identical to others – we do make a difference and our positive actions and kind words accumulate much greater than we could ever imagine.

People indeed observe and model what they see and hear from us. It’s humbling but certain that we have an influence in the eternity of another’s soul.

We each occupy a small fraction of space in this world. We do and must make a difference in the lives of others.

Many people have sustained themselves in times of crisis with the little slogan, “This too shall pass.” That definitely puts things in perspective. When we look at all our troubles down here, we recognize it is temporary.

Everyone I know wants both a peaceful and fulfilling life. Nevertheless, most feel that in some way life is not cooperating with their desire. Life keeps setting up barriers. The only way to get peace and fulfillment is to make the right decisions about how we are going to conduct our life. We can’t control what happens to us, but we can determine the principles by which we live.

The fact is, our life is the sum total of our decisions. Some decisions are momentous and some are trivial. Some are easy and some hard. Every day of our life is filled with decisions.

All of us are faced with choices. Written over the fundamental ones are the words whosoever chooses me must give and hazard all he has. Jesus told us that. He said “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

We can be fulfilled. Remember, the quality of our life is determined by the quality of our decisions. Fulfillment is ours for the taking. The choice is up to us.

Do decisions ever come hard to you? Are you like the man who had to fill out a job application? One question said, “Do you have trouble making decisions?” The man replied, “Well, yes and no.”

Or perhaps we’re like the wife, who struggled with knowing what to say when asked a relatively simple question. Overheard:  “Has your husband lived up to all the things he said before you were married?”

“No.  He’s only lived up to one of them.” “Which one is that?” “He said he wasn’t good enough for me.” [3]


Life often comes in horrible waves of despair and disappointment. But behind those realities is also the goal of discipline, with the purpose of character and holiness:

“And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son.” Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”(Hebrews 12:5-11).

Robert Hamilton understood this eternal concept and expressed it well:

“I walked a mile with Pleasure, She chattered all the way,

And left me none the wiser, For all she had to say.

“I walked a mile with Sorrow, And not a word said she.

But oh, the things I learned from her, When Sorrow walked with me.”

The Devil’s Tool Sale

“It was advertised that the Devil was putting his tools up for sale. On that date the tools were laid out for public inspection. They had prices marked on them, and there were a lot of treacherous instruments: hatred, envy, jealousy, deceit, pride, lying, and so on. Laid apart from the rest of the Devil’s tools was a harmless-looking tool, worn more than any of the others and priced very high.

“What’s the name of this tool?” asked one of the customers.

“That,” the Devil replied, “is discouragement.”

“Why have you priced it so high?”

“Because discouragement is more useful to me than all the others. I can pry open and get inside a man’s heart with that when I cannot get near him with any other tools. It’s badly worn because I use it on almost everyone, since so few people know it belongs to me.”

Even the most successful, spiritually mature people face disappointment and discouragement. The challenge is to honestly face the problems without fooling yourself or giving up, but rather acknowledge your need for help, get help from others and obey God in the midst of problems.

[1] Bruce Thielemann, “Dealing with Discouragement,” Preaching Today, Tape No. 48.

[2] Pulpit Helps, November 1994, p. 8.

[3] Ron Dentinger, Dodgeville, Wisconsin Chronicle; Reader’s Digest, February, 1995,  p. 59.       



 
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Posted by on March 21, 2019 in Encouragement

 

Being Committed to God


Often we make a commitment to something that is not very important: A young man was very excited because he just won a ticket to the Super Bowl. His excitement lessened as he realized his seat was in the back of the stadium. As he searched the rows ahead of him for a better seat, he found an empty one right next to the field. He approached the man sitting next to the empty seat and asked if it was taken. The man replied, “No.”

Amazed the young man asked, “How could someone pass up a seat like this?” The older gentleman responded, “That’s my wife’s seat. We’ve been to every Super Bowl together since the day we were married but she has passed away.” “Oh, how sad,” the man said. “I’m sorry to hear that, but couldn’t you find a friend or relative to come with you?”

“No,” the man said, “They’re all at the funeral.”

Quality relationships are founded on the rock of commitment, not the shifting sand of feelings or emotions. God calls us to be people of commitment, first to him and then to others. As a great leader of Israel, Joshua’s entire life was marked by commitment. We even hear this in his final words:

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua said to the people, “You are not able to serve the Lord. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the Lord and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.”

But the people said to Joshua, “No! We will serve the Lord.”

Then Joshua said, “You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the Lord.”

“Yes, we are witnesses,” they replied.

“Now then,” said Joshua, “throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the Lord, the God of Israel.”

And the people said to Joshua, “We will serve the Lord our God and obey him.”

On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the Lord.

“See!” he said to all the people. “This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the Lord has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.” — Joshua 24:14-27

Joshua told the people that even if they chose not to serve the Lord, they would still not be exempt from service. If we do not serve the Creator, we will unavoidably serve some part of the creation. But the gods of success, position and possessions are cruel taskmasters and never deliver the profound satisfaction they promise.

In the 1991 movie City Slickers, Billy Crystal plays Mitch – a confused, dissatisfied man with a vague sense that life is passing him by. Jack Palance plays the ancient sage Curly – “a saddlebag with eyes.” At a critical moment in the film, Curly asks Mitch if he would like to know the secret of life.

“It’s this,” Curly says, holding up his index finger.

“The secret of life is your finger?” asks Mitch.

“It’s one thing,” Curly replies. “The secret of life is pursuing one thing.”

Something about this strikes a chord deep within Mitch. His life is a mess; he feels pulled by his obligations to his family and his desire for fulfillment at his work – torn between his need for security and his longing for excitement. Like many men, Mitch is divided. His life is about too many different things. Thus, he feels it is about nothing.

He asks Curly to tell him what that one thing is, but the best Curly can do is to tell Mitch, “You have to find it for yourself.”

  • Many of those who followed Jesus were merely curious.
  • Others were convinced of the truth of what he was teaching, but only a few were fully and personally committed to him.
  • When his uncommitted followers began to leave him in response to his difficult sayings, Jesus turned to the 12 and asked if they wanted to leave with the others.
  • They realized that once having committed themselves to him, there was no turning back (John 6:60-69).  “You have the words of eternal life.”

François Fénelon wrote,  Woe to those weak and timid souls who are divided between God and their world! They want and they do not want. They are torn by desire and remorse at the same time…. They have a horror of evil and a shame of good. They have the pains of virtue without tasting its sweet consolations. O how wretched they are.[6]

Committing vs. Bargaining

How on earth do leaders establish and retain committed followers? How, in some cases, do we get ourselves committed enough to pay the high price of success? God knows how, and the prophet Habakkuk models an essential truth about God-focused commitment: Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. — Habakkuk 3:17-18

What a refreshing statement! Many leaders would love to have followers who are this committed to the cause. The key ingredient to Habakkuk’s statement is that it is unidirectional; he promised to maintain his attitude regardless of the payback.

The statement, “I will be committed if” isn’t commitment-making; it’s deal-making. It’s not committing; it’s bargaining.

No sane person will commit to things that don’t really matter. But when an organization’s goals and outcomes are properly related to the living God and its activities honor him, then commitment makes sense. Instead of asking, “How do we get commitment?” effective leaders will begin by asking, “To what (or whom) are we committed?”

The Rewards of Commitment

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? — Matthew 16:24-26

He said that unless one commits everything, one loses everything. For the Christian leader, that commitment must remain strong until the end of our earthly walk.

Inspirational and motivational speaker Og Mandino expands on the necessity of strong, long-term commitment.

Commitment and My Tomorrows

“I fear commitment because I am not really sure what the future holds for me.” “Things could change so easily!” “What if this or that happens?”

Thinking like this does not belong in the order of commitment. It simply doesn’t fit! This is a call for passivity—just drifting with the stream—moving with passing events.

But this kind of attitude, in reality, deprives an individual of inner stability and direction, as well as an opportunity to control the environment in a way that enables him to be where he would really like to be. (talk about talk with Gregory at age 22 when he was not sure of his future)

Let me try to describe what it means to be committed (talk about how it feels…my high school track days; athletes make great Christians).

1. This person or cause is supremely important in my life… almost a matter of life and death.

2. With an act of my will I make a commitment and the entire direction of my life is going to be turned toward it.

3. My inner life is reorganized at the core or heart to protect and enhance that commitment and fortify it against any enemy.

4. I will hang on with all my strength and life.

Winston Churchill once asked an enemy why an English bulldog’s nose slanted backward. Upon receiving no answer, he stated, “Because when he gets hold of you, he never lets go, and he still has to breathe.” Commitment is getting hold of something and never letting go.

Commitment and My Decision-Making

Commitment involves a mental attitude and an act of one’s volition. It is characteristic of commitment that one decides what is going to be his or what direction he is going to take.

Where are your commitments today? How committed are you to anything? Is only what brings you pleasure and self-gratification your true motivators? Are you “wishy-washy” and vague in what is truly important to you?

One day at a time!? 

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2019 in God

 

We Need to Commit: Choose one chair


A chicken and a pig were walking down the road together. They passed a sign for a local diner advertising its breakfast special: “Ham and Eggs – only $2.95!” The chicken said, “That’s our whole contribution to society: breakfast food!” The pig replied, “For you, it may be a contribution. For me, it’s a total commitment.”
 
Life in the modern world has programmed us to expect a life of ease. It’s not merely that we want everything to be easy; who wouldn’t want that? What is troubling is that we now expect to receive abundant rewards with minimal effort.

If something requires effort or time, it must not be meant to be, and we feel thoroughly justified giving up.

commitmentWorse yet are those who believe legitimate goals may be sought through illegitimate means, provided that those means offer a short-cut to the goal in mind.

Take, for example, the professional athlete who chooses to illegally enhance his performance through the use of steroids. Not only has he cheapened himself, he has robbed his fellow athletes of any kind of fair competition. He does this simply because he does not want to put in the time and effort necessary to better himself.

How many of us REALLY believe that you can get something valuable for nothing?

Common sense reveals that some of the best things in life demand effort and prove worthy of whatever amount of labor we endure in the pursuit.

  • The best relationships require work.
  • The best businesses and sports teams have been built on the blood, sweat and tears of their leaders.
  • Even our spiritual growth is reflective of our faithful investment. G.K. Chesterton once quipped, “The Christianity has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult, and left untried.”[1]

Of course, this is nothing new. Thousands of years ago, God asked, “Who is he who will devote himself to be close to me?” (Jeremiah 30:21). We don’t want to hear it, but the fact of the matter is that following God involves sacrifice, effort, devotion.

Nike’s famous slogan “Just Do It” doesn’t really mean, “Just run 100 miles every week like marathon runners do.” “Just Do It” means, “Just buy the shoes – swift feet sure to follow.”[2] As if you’ll become magically fit simply by purchasing the proper footwear.

Leaders know the truth of Theodore Roosevelt’s words: “Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.”

Godly men and women understand that effective leadership flows from being deeply committed to the right things. As followers of Christ, the single most important commitment of our lives is, obviously, to God. Any lasting success we experience as leaders will flow from that commitment. This is why the apostle Paul writes:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God – this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will. — Romans 12:1-2

We sacrifice our selfish desires and misguided ambitions as we strive to align ourselves with God’s will. Once this act of commitment occurs, our talents and dreams will be surrendered to his purpose. And the more we give ourselves to him, the more he will bless and use us.

We naturally expect people to conform to their environment. The phrase most often used in this vein is, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Those of us who have been justified, sanctified and consecrated to God, however, face a different set of expectations. People who have received God’s grace and been transported out of darkness into his kingdom of marvelous light will be shaped and molded by their new experience. Such an overwhelming experience is bound to have some impact on our lives. That is only logical, isn’t it?

The God Who Commits

Douglas Rumford makes a profound statement in his book Soul Shaping. He writes, “We make our commitments, then our commitments make us. Once they are chosen, many other choices follow as a matter of course.”[3]

Once we commit to follow Jesus, many other decisions in life must fall into line or we overturn our prior commitment.

But how are we to know that our commitment to God will be honored? All of the commitments we make should flow from the commitment God has first made to us. Once God committed himself to our highest good, his will toward us was sealed. God tells us that he is committed to all who are in Christ, and that our relationship with him will last forever. Jeremiah 31:31-36 shows us the covenant of commitment the Lord made with his people:

“The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

This is what the Lord says, he who appoints the sun to shine by day, who decrees the moon and stars to shine by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar – the Lord Almighty is his name: “Only if these decrees vanish from my sight,” declares the Lord, “will the descendants of Israel ever cease to be a nation before me.”

The ultimate basis for security and significance in life relates to commitment (security) and to how long something will last (significance). In these six verses, God provides for his people a sense of both security and significance – a sure word that his commitment to them will never fail.

In spite of the rebelliousness of the people of Judah, the Lord assured them through the prophet Jeremiah that he was committed to their ultimate good. Judgment was inevitable because they had flagrantly violated God’s commands, but the prophet looked beyond this impending condemnation to a time of consolation. There will be a faithful remnant, and God’s people will eventually enjoy the blessings of forgiveness and complete renewal.

In this covenant, God commits himself to the welfare of the house of Israel and Judah and predicts a time when they will all know him and when his law will be written on their hearts. “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future’” (Jeremiah 29:11).

God’s grace is always previous to our response and demonstrates his unshakeable commitment to us. “This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10). When we love God, it is “because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

Lewis Thomas, scientist and philosopher, described humans best when he said, “We are, perhaps, uniquely among earth’s creatures, the worrying animal. We worry away our lives, fearing the future, discontent with the present, unable to take in the idea of dying, unable to sit still.”[4]

God’s promise of abiding love and commitment to our well-being enables us to live above worry, above fear. His commitment to us empowers us to follow through on our commitment to him. As Martin Luther said, “It is not imitation which brings about our sonship of God, but our sonship which makes possible imitation.”[5]

Choose one chair.”

“When Luciano Pavarotti was a boy, his father, a baker, introduced him to the wonders of song. “He urged me to work very hard to develop my voice.

Arrigo Pola, a professional tenor in my hometown of Modena, Italy, took me as a pupil. I also enrolled in a teachers college. On graduating, I asked my father, ‘Shall I be a teacher or a singer?’

“‘Luciano,’ my father replied, ‘if you try to sit on two chairs, you will fall between them. For life, you must choose one chair.’ “I chose one. It took seven years of study and frustration before I made my first professional appearance. It took another seven to reach the Metropolitan Opera. And now I think whether it’s laying bricks, writing a book—whatever we choose—we should give ourselves to it. Commitment, that’s the key. Choose one chair.”


[1] G.K. Chesterton, The Collected Works of G.K. Chesterton ed. George Marlin (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1987), 4:61.

[2] Mark Oppenheimer, “Salvation Without Sacrifice,” Charlotte Observer, 30 October 2000, sec. 11A.

[3] Douglas J. Rumford, SoulShaping: Taking Care of Your Spiritual Life (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale, 1996), p. 91.

[4] The Medusa & the Snail, quoted in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 15th ed. Emily Morison Beck (Boston: Little, Brown, 1980), p. 884.

[5] Quoted in Gordon S. Wakefield, The Westminster Dictionary of Christian Spirituality (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1983), p. 209.

[6] François Fénelon, Christian Perfection, quoted in Richard Foster and J.B. Smith, eds., Devotional Classics (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1993), p. 48.

 
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Posted by on March 6, 2019 in Encouragement

 

A study of Forgiveness: The Need to Forgive…Is He Talking To Me?


(Appreciation to Marvin Bryant for many insights into this subject matter)

Vengeance is popular today; forgiveness is not. Retaliation is heralded as an inalienable right of f personal freedom. Like Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry, some would love it to “make my day” and allow them to gain revenge.

Those who regularly are involved in counseling with church members find one thing: most troublesome problems would be significantly diminished (and in some cases solved completely) by a right understanding of what Scripture says about forgiveness. Of course, they would also need to heed God’s direction!

forgiveness (2)Some of us may not have anyone we need to forgive, & if so, praise God! That’s a wonderful thing. Others of us know full well we have someone we need to forgive. But I am concerned that there are also those of us, & this might include you, who need to forgive someone but we don’t realize that we do.

 (Psalm 139:23-24 NIV)  “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. {24} See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

How do we tell whether we need to forgive someone?

Who has wronged you? If you already have an answer, you may not have forgiven them.

Who has hurt you very deeply in your life? If there is someone, you may or may not have forgiven them, but that person is a likely candidate for someone you haven’t forgiven. If you have been deeply hurt or wronged, I want you to know that whatever happened was wrong & your anger about it was righteous anger, at least in the beginning. But even so, if the anger & hurt still linger, you may need prayer for healing & you may also need to forgive.

Do you feel resentment or a grudge toward anyone? Or maybe someone you can’t stand to be around or that you avoid?

Is there anyone you feel does not deserve to be forgiven? Do you feel you have justifiable resentment?  Augustine once said, “There was never an angry man who thought his anger unjustified.” Gary Inrig compares non-forgiveness to spiritual anorexia. The person becomes convinced that the very thing that is God’s provision for heath is really something dangerous and to be avoided. Even as her body wastes away, she clings to the notion that eating is bad for her. It is a delusion that kills slowly but surely. So is an unwillingness to forgive.

Do you have a case against someone, perhaps a case that you keep trying to prove to others? Someone you’re consumed with?

If you think you even might have someone to forgive, I want you to know it is possible to do–you can forgive them. God doesn’t ask us to do something we are not capable of doing. What’s more, you get to forgive them!

One of the real keys is for us to see clearly how important it is to do so. Let me share several reasons why we need to forgive.

God said to.

(Luke 23:34 NIV)  “Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided up his clothes by casting lots.”

(Eph 4:32 NIV)  “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

(Col 3:13 NIV)  “Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Our own forgiveness depends on it.

(Mat 18:21-22 NIV)  “Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?” {22} Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

(Mat 18:35 NIV)  “”This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.””

(Mark 11:25 NIV)  “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.””

If you receive grace, you’ll pass it on. If you harden your heart, you either forfeit his grace or never had it to begin with. You cannot take a grudge to heaven.

To restore relationships.

We need relationships; we were made for relationships. And we need to try to make all our relationships good. The trouble is none of the humans who are available to have a relationship with is perfect. The only way to get along is to forgive. Since we are not perfect, we couldn’t have a relationship with God—but he forgave us so we could have a relationship with him. That’s exactly why we need to forgive—so we can have relationships. It will be possible without them.

For our own spiritual, emotional, & physical health.

This is huge. Researchers have discovered direct links between forgiveness and physical & emotional health. Not forgiving almost inevitably leads to chronic anger & stress, both of which are toxic. It leads to higher rates of stress-related disorders, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, clinical depression, lower immune system function, & higher divorce rates. Some evidence it also decreases neurological function & decreases memory.

Holding on to resentment and failing to forgive leads to anxiety, depression, and stress. Stress can take a huge toll on the body, leading to ulcers, backache, and a weak immune system.

Stress is responsible for 75 percent to 90 percent of Americans’ doctor visits, according to the American Institute for Stress. It is no mystery why this insidious biological response has been called America’s number one health problem.

Chronic stress — the type that eats away at you little by little over time – is the worst variety. Having no redeeming qualities (unlike acute stress, which may rev you up when you need the extra energy boost), chronic stress has been linked to a host of major illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, depression, autoimmune diseases and reproductive problems, along with more minor maladies like stomach upset, back pain, headaches and fatigue.

For the health of our marriages, families, friends, & church.

There might be marriages in our congregations that are going to disintegrate unless someone finds a way to forgive. There are families that will collapse, unless someone finds a way to forgive.  There are friendships that will unravel, unless someone decides to forgive. There are groups that will split, unless someone forgives.

The bitterness & resentment we feel will also alienate us & cut us off from others. It will make us suspicious & fearful of relationships. It will isolate us. Unforgiveness destroys community. Churches ought to be a no-debt zone, but it’s not always so.

So for these reasons, we really, really must forgive.  (Heb 12:14-15 NIV)  “Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. {15} See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.”

The following check-up was developed from a longer test created by Susan Wade Brown, Ph.D., as part of her doctoral dissertation in psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary, in Pasadena, CA., edited by Robert Enright, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of Wisconsin.

Think about the specific person you want to measure your forgiveness toward. Rate each item to the extent that the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors match your own.

0 = Strongly disagree 1 = Disagree 2 = Neutral 3 = Agree 4 = Strongly agree

1. I’m going to get even.

2. I’ll make them pay.

3. I replay the offense in my mind, dwelling on it.

4. I think about them with anger.

5. I can understand where they are coming from.

6. I have a clear ability to see their good points.

7. I prayed for them, asking God to bless them.

8. I told God I forgive them.

9. My resentment is gone.

10. I feel peace.

11. I keep as much distance between us as possible.

12. I live as if they don’t exist, or never existed.

13. I looked for the source of the problem and tried to correct it.

14. I took steps toward reconciliation: wrote them, called them, showed concern.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2019 in Forgiveness

 

We need patience in every area of life…we spend a lot of our lives waiting…developing patience


A lot of your life is spent waiting. As a little kid, you wait to start school, then you couldn’t wait until you got out of school, then you couldn’t wait to fall in love, then couldn’t wait to get married, then couldn’t wait to get a job, then couldn’t wait to have kids….. we spend a lot of our lives waiting. There are many things in life that test our patience: freeways, supermarket lines, doctors’ offices, irritating people.  We hate to wait.

We’re going to look at what James has to say on How do you develop patience? You need patience in every area of your life. In this passage, James uses the word “patience” or “perseverance” 6 times.  He uses 3 illustrations to teach us when, why, and how to be patient.

happy-married-life-122WHEN SHOULD I BE PATIENT?  James says there are three special times when you need that extra dose of patience:

1. When circumstances are uncontrollable: a lot of life is beyond your control? You cannot keep your thumb on everything. James uses a farmer as an example of when circumstances are uncontrollable. v. 7 “See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient.” 

Part of the job description of being a farmer is you do a lot of waiting: waiting to till, to plant, to prune. Yet more than the factors of waiting on things to do are the factors that the farmer has no control over-weather, rain, heat, the economy, labor practices. You too deal with a lot of uncontrollable factors-circumstances-in life. 

Have you noticed that even when we realize a situation is beyond our control, we still try to control it? We do that by worrying. We think that worry will control a situation. To worry about something you can change is dumb, to worry about something you can’t change is useless. Either way you shouldn’t worry. We need patience in uncontrollable circumstances.

2. When people are unchangeable. When people won’t change. He gives an example of the prophets. Look at v. 10: “My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.” What was the duty of prophets? To help people change,  bring them back to God, to be different in their behavior. Have you noticed that people resist change?

Do you have anybody in your life right now who refuses to change? You know how difficult it is to live with that kind of person? We need patience with people. Joyce Lander calls these “irregular people”-they are people who only see their own way. They may never change. What are you going to do about it? James says, have patience.

The word “patience” in the Greek is the word “macrothumos”-“macro” meaning “long” & “thumos” (from which we get the word “thermometer”) meaning “heat”. It literally means “it takes a long time for you to get hot”. You’ve got a long fuse, you don’t blow up. If you’re going to be a success with people, you have to learn patience.  If you’re going to be successful parents, you have to have a long fuse. Spouse. Christian. In your service.

3. When problems are unexplainable. The classic example is in v. 11, “You have heard of Job’s perseverance.” Job played in the Super Bowl of suffering. He won the championship. He was the wealthiest man that had lived to then-had everything going for him. In a 2 day period, everything fell part. He went bankrupt, his children were murdered, he got an incurable, disease that was very painful. You think you’ve got problems! He lost his family, his friends, his finances. He was suffering materially, physically, socially. His wife comes to him and says, “Curse God and die!” And that was his support system!

God allowed the devil to take away everything in his life except a nagging wife. The worst part of Job’s suffering was that he had absolutely no idea why it was happening. There was no apparent reason for his misfortune. Of all people, Job had the privilege to say, “Why me?”

Life is not fair! God never said it would be fair. A lot of things in life just don’t make sense. Maybe we’ll never understand on this of heaven. Job didn’t understand. In all of that unexplained problem, Job maintained his faith. Sometimes we just can’t figure out our problems. When circumstances are uncontrollable, when people are unchangeable, and when problems are unexplainable you really need patience.  WHY BE PATIENT?

1. Because God is in control. “Be patient & stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near.” v. 8. 3 times in this passage, James says, the Lord’s coming is near. That is the ultimate proof that God is in control. Nothing can stop it. The Bible talks more about Jesus’ 2nd coming-when He comes back to judge the world-than it does about His 1st coming.

God is in control of history.  God’s purpose for your life is greater than any problem you’re facing right now.  God is in control. Though a situation may be out of my control, no circumstance is out of God’s control.  Although I can’t control everything that happens in my life, God can, so I ought to trust Him.

And because God is in control and everything is working out, be patient.  Job persevered. God’s timing is perfect, He’s never late. Some of you are experiencing a real delay right now but God’s delays never thwart His purpose.

2. God rewards patience.  v. 11a “As you know, we consider blessed those who have persevered.”  The second half of Job’s life was more blessed than the first half. God doubled everything he had. It pays to be patient. There are all kinds of rewards. Your character grows, you get along with people better, you’re happier, you reach your goals.  There are lots of benefits of being patient.  God rewards it. But not just on this side of eternity, but on the other side you’re going to be rewarded.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2019 in Disciplines

 

Missed Opportunities? Matthew 13:53-58; 21:18-22; Mark 6:5


We’ve all heard the words of the poet who wrote, “The saddest words of tongue or pen are simply these, It might have been.” How often do we miss opportunities to speak a word for Christ …miss opportunities for service …miss opportunities to worship Him?

I want us to spend our time today looking at two sets of verses which speak in a powerful and practical way to each person here today. The intent is that we see the events of our average day in a different light; that we determine to “open our spiritual eyes” and allow faith to reign.

(Matthew 13:53-58 NIV)  When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. {54} Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. {55} “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? {56} Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” {57} And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” {58} And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

(Mark 6:5 NIV)  He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.

Beginning with 13:53 and continuing through the first part of chapter 16, Matthew records eight incidents in the life of the Lord that correspond to and demonstrate the truths presented in the two parables mentioned.

Jesus had been ministering in and around Capernaum for about a year, using it as His home base (see 4:13; 8:5). But the majority of the people who saw and heard Him in that region eventually fell away, manifesting their rejection either by blasé indifference or direct opposition. Because of that rejection, His last teaching there was done entirely in parables, in order that, “while seeing they [would] not see, and while hearing they [would] not hear, nor … understand” (13:13). After Jesus finished the parables on the kingdom, He departed from there.

Because the Lord had spent more time there than anywhere else thus far in His ministry, Capernaum was especially guilty for rejecting Him. Earlier, Jesus had scorchingly rebuked them, saying, “And you, Capernaum, will not be exalted to heaven, will you? You shall descend to Hades; for if the miracles had occurred in Sodom which occurred in you, it would have remained to this day” 11:23.

Jesus had, in effect, pronounced a curse on Capernaum, and when He departed from there, that city’s doom was imminent. Jesus never went there again except as He passed through to minister elsewhere. He had come into the city and demonstrated power that could only have been from God. Yet the people would not have Him as Lord. Many marveled and some criticized, but few believed.

Now Capernaum’s opportunity was passed, and she entered a decline into oblivion from which she never recovered. Today the city is in virtually the same state of ruin—without houses or people—that it was a few centuries after Jesus was there. Apparently the town and the synagogue enjoyed a period of worldly prosperity for a while, but archaeological excavations show increasing pagan influence on the Jews there.

The last synagogue built in Capernaum, erected over the floor of the one where Jesus taught, was decorated with various animals and mythological figures. Having rejected the true God, the people were at the mercy of false ones.

Jesus’ home town was Nazareth, where Joseph and Mary went to live after returning from Egypt with their infant Son (2:23). It was to Nazareth that Jesus returned after His baptism and temptations (4:12-13); and we learn from Luke that the response to Him then was the same as it was on this occasion.

At first the people did not understand that Jesus was referring to Himself, because their initial response was quite favorable: “All were speaking well of Him, and wondering at the gracious words which were falling from His lips; and they were saying, ‘Is this not Joseph’s son?’” (Luke 4:17-22).

Knowing that the people’s praise was based merely on faithless recognition of His popularity and power, Jesus began to expose their real motives. He knew they wanted Him to duplicate in Nazareth the miracles He had performed in Capernaum. And He knew that if He complied with their demand they still would not accept Him as the Messiah, because “no prophet is welcome in his home town.”

In further rebuke of their hypocrisy and faithlessness, He reminded them that in the days of Elijah God had shut up the rain in Israel for three-and-a-half years and caused a great famine. During that time the Lord showed mercy on none of the many suffering widows in Israel but showed great mercy on a Gentile widow of Zarephath.

He also reminded them that during the time of Elisha, God cleansed no lepers in Israel but did cleanse the leprosy of the Gentile Naaman of Syria (vv. 23-27). They could not have missed Jesus’ powerful, rebuking point that a believing Gentile is dearer to God than an unbelieving Jew.

When Jesus made clear that He understood their wicked motives and would not bend to their hard-hearted provincial desire to have their own display of miracles, “all in the synagogue were filled with rage as they heard these things;” and they rose up and cast Him out of the city, and led Him to the brow of the hill on which their city had been built, in order to throw Him down the cliff” (vv. 28-29).

From Jesus’ second, and similar, encounter with His former neighbors in Nazareth we can learn four important truths about unbelief: it blurs the obvious, builds up the irrelevant, blinds to the truth, and blocks the supernatural.

Unbelief Blurs the Obvious

And coming to His home town He began teaching them in their synagogue, so that they became astonished, and said, “Where did this man get this wisdom, and these miraculous powers?” (13:54)

The people at the synagogue in Jesus’ home town of Nazareth immediately recognized Him as the person they had known as a boy and young man. They also remembered that less than a year earlier He had worked miracles in other parts of Galilee, had impressed them with His great wisdom, and had so angered them by exposing their hypocrisy and unbelief that they tried to throw Him over the cliff to His death.

He taught about regeneration, worship, evangelism, sin, salvation, morality, divorce, murder, service, servanthood, pride, hate, love, anger, jealousy, hypocrisy, prayer, fasting, true and false doctrine, true and false teachers, the Sabbath, the law, discipleship, grace, blasphemy, signs and wonders, repentance, humility, dying to self, obedience to God, and countless other subjects. He taught the truth about everything that pertained to spiritual life and godliness (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3).

In addition to teaching with great wisdom, Jesus had displayed supernatural power that all but banished sickness and disease from Palestine and had performed miracles of nature that astonished the most hardened skeptics. At the very least, it should have been clear that Jesus was a prophet of God unequaled by any of the Old Testament era. How could the people not believe Jesus was from God, when only divine power and wisdom could explain the greatness of what He said and did?

Like the scribes and Pharisees, the people of Jesus’ home town synagogue refused to make the logical and obvious connection between His power and His divinity because they were willfully unbelieving. The seed of the gospel fell on the hard-packed soil of sin-loving hearts into which God’s truth could not make the slightest penetration.

Those who heard and saw Jesus did not reject Him for lack of evidence but in spite of overwhelming evidence. They did not reject Him because they lacked the truth but because they rejected the truth. They refused forgiveness because they wanted to keep their sins. They denied the light because they preferred darkness. The reason for rejecting the Lord has always been that men prefer their own way to His.

When a person willfully rejects the Lord, even the most compelling evidence will not convince Him of divine truth. Cultists and liberal theologians who refuse to acknowledge Jesus as the divine Son of God can find countless ways to discount or explain away the most obvious truths of Scripture. They then congratulate themselves for their intellectualism in explaining Scripture without accepting its truths, for seeming to honor Christ without believing in Him or in what He taught, and for calling themselves by His name while denying His divine nature and power.

 UNBELIEF BUILDS UP THE IRRELEVANT

“Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not His mother called Mary; and His brothers, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” (13:55-56)

Instead of accepting the obvious and overwhelming evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, the people of Nazareth focused their attention on the irrelevant. It was indeed surprising to see someone they had watched grow up and with whom they had gone to synagogue all His life suddenly come on the scene as a great leader—with no formal training and no recognition by the accepted religious hierarchy

The facts that Jesus was the carpenter’s son and the Son of Mary, that He had brothers named James and Joseph and Simon and Judas who everyone in  Nazareth knew, and that He had sisters who still lived there were irrelevant to the issues of His being the Messiah or not.

The fact that the citizens of Nazareth did not regard Jesus and His family as being out of the ordinary completely undercuts myths that attribute bizarre miracles to Him when He was a child. One story maintains that whenever He found a bird with a broken wing, He would stroke it gently and send it flying on its way healed and healthy. This text completely mitigates against such fabrications.

It is tragic that small issues can be used as great excuses for not believing. The people of Nazareth were like people throughout the history of the church who can find every foolish reason to justify their rejection of the gospel.

They don’t like the attitude of the one who witnesses to them; they think most church people are hypocrites; they think the preacher is too loud or too soft, too stuffy or too overbearing; and the services are too formal or too informal. They are offended at the slightest things Christians do and construe the insignificant as being all important. They put up one smoke screen after another to excuse their unwillingness to believe the clear and demanding claims and promises of Christ.

UNBELIEF BLINDS TO THE TRUTH

And they took offense at Him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his home town, and in his own household.” (13:57)

Took offense is from skandalizoô, which has the basic idea of causing to stumble or trip up and is the term from which our English scandalize is derived. Jesus’ friends and former neighbors were offended by His claims. They were offended by His ordinary background, by the commonness of His family, the limits of His formal training, His lack of official religious status, and many other irrelevant or secondary issues.

Until a person is willing to have the hard ground of his heart plowed up by God’s truth and to confess and forsake his sin, he will be offended by the gospel. Until a person faces his sin in penitence, the truth of the gospel is hidden from him, and the blessing of the gospel is lost to him.

Unbelief Blocks the Supernatural

And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief. (13:58)

Some of Jesus’ miracles were done in direct response to personal faith; but many others, perhaps most of them, were done regardless of any specific expression of an individual’s faith. All of the miracles were done to strengthen the faith of those who believed in Him; but although God can perform miracles where there is no belief, He chose not to perform them where there was hard and willful unbelief.

Jesus warned, “Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces” (Matt. 7:6).

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2019 in Jesus Christ

 

Questions Jesus Asked – How Many Loaves Do You Have? Mark 6:30-46


“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”

The biographers of Jesus regarded the miraculous supply of food for a large crowd as a key event. Apart from the resurrection of Christ, it is the only miracle recounted in all four Gospels.

These miracles shows that God will provide when we are in need. Jesus was not transforming rocks into food, but multiplying bread and fish. He was doing instantly what he does constantly throughout nature. He was not breaking the “laws of nature,” but was demonstrating that he was in control of these “laws.” Christ’s power to feed a multitude, walk on water, and heal diseases all point to his identity as Lord of creation.

We’ve been going through the gospel of Mark, stopping at places where Jesus asked a question. The question before us now was addressed to ambassadors: “How many loaves do you have? What has God given you that he can put into service to himself?”

 Mark 5::30-44 (ESV)
30  The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught.
31  And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.
32  And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves.

The disciples returned from their mission and reported to Jesus. They reported two things: what they had done and what they had taught.

How they had lived and what they had taught were both of vital interest to Christ. He had given them precise instructions in both areas. This report would reveal their obedience to Him, the degree of commitment and effectiveness of each disciple. Jesus needed to know, for the salvation of the world depended on their lives and teaching. He was soon to leave all in their hands.

The pairs returned (apparently at a prearranged time) to Capernaum and gathered around Jesus, giving him their reports of all that they had done and taught. This marked the first time the disciples had gone out on their own, so quite naturally, they were full of excitement upon their return—telling stories, sharing together the thrill of preaching the message and doing miracles in God’s power. This had been their training mission, their “student teaching,” and Jesus to their stories and answered their questions.

Jesus told the disciples to take a break. He knew their weaknesses. There is only so much a person can do physically and spiritually; then the body needs rest and the soul needs refreshment. As if it were a new discovery, sports physiologists and motivational experts now preach the wisdom of hard work, then adequate rest. People who hope to accomplish big goals need this healthy rhythm for success and stamina.

Rest allows time for reflection, meditation, conversation, reading, and prayer. In all your work, take a little time to dream. Walk in the woods. Stare at the stars. Count your blessings. Sing a prayer of praise where only God can hear.

33  Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them.
34  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.

A danger is losing sight of people who are as sheep without a shepherd. Again the scene is descriptive. As the boat approached the shore, Jesus stood in the boat watching the multitude clamoring for space on the seashore. He needed rest, and the disciples needed rest even more. But He was not annoyed or irritated with the people. Contrariwise, He was moved with deep, intense compassion because the people were as sheep without a shepherd. He could not turn from them. He could not send them away despite the need for rest. He could do only one thing. He had to meet their need; He had to teach them, so He began “to teach them many things.”

  1. Sheep without a shepherd are bewildered and wander about, not knowing where they are or where they are going. They get lost ever so easily, and cannot find their way back to the flock. So it is with people. People without the shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are bewildered. They do not know where they have come from, where they are going, nor why they are where they are. They wander about, getting lost in place after place, never finding the way to true life.
  2. Sheep without a shepherd go hungry. They do not have adequate nourishment. They cannot find sufficient food to live. So it is with people. People without the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, go hungry. They do not have the Shepherd of God to feed and inspire their souls, nor to satisfy their inner longings for peace, love, and joy (Galatians 5:22-23). They have only themselves to depend upon as they seek to meet their craving for life.
  3. Sheep without a shepherd cannot find shelter or safety. The sheep are exposed to all the dangers of the wilderness. So it is with people. People without the Shepherd, the Lord Jesus Christ, are exposed to all that is within the world, and they are doomed. They are doomed because the beasts, the temptations and trials of the world, attack at every opportunity and destroy all who wander about.

Everyone can list a few things in their life which might fit into the category of “impossible.” Jesus had already shown His disciples some pretty “impossible” things; and great crowds of people were beginning to also take notice.

35  And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late.
36  Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”
37  But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?”
38  And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.”

In reply to their question about going and spending an extravagant amount of money on bread, Jesus told them first to check out their resources. “Go and see how many loaves you have.” John records that the five loaves (round barley cakes) and two dried fish they found were from the lunch of a young boy (John 6:9). Apparently, in their hurry, no one else in the crowd had thought to bring along food to eat, or they were unwilling to share it. The young boy offered his lunch to the disciples (specifically to Andrew, see John 6:8), but again the disciples could see only the impossibility of the situation.

39  Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass.
40  So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties.
41  And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.
42  And they all ate and were satisfied.
43  And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish.
44  And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

– From a Human Perspective.

With their limited, human understanding, these weary fishermen can see only a swelling sea of humanity threatening to wash over them. In verse 10 we’re told that this great multitude numbered 5,000 men. Including women and children, this figure could easily have been 8,000-10,000.

– From a Divine Perspective.

From Jesus’ point of view, the crowds weren’t an infringement but an opportunity–a chance to reveal His glory and, at the same time, stretch his disciple’s faith.

`Resources: there are six attitudes toward resources. It takes resources to meet human need. In consideration of this, there is a fact that needs to be acknowledged. Every person has something he can give. Every person can help and do something to meet a need when a need confronts him. The problem is not lack of resources nor a lack of ability or money or time. The problem is attitude—attitude toward the resources which one has.

  1. There is the attitude of questioning one’s ability to give (Mark 6:37). Jesus had just said, “Give them food.” The disciples were shocked and even disturbed with the instructions, for the crowd was enormous and the task impossible. They were already upset over the presence and burden of the crowd. Irritated, the disciples fired back at Jesus, “Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?” This amounted to about six months’ labor for the disciples. They did not have the money, so the request by Jesus was ridiculous to them. There was no way they could give food to meet the need of the crowd. But note something: the disciples forgot two things.
  2. They forgot that they did have something. The need of the crowd in this instance was for food, and the disciples had food for themselves (or at least enough money to buy food for themselves). Yet, they did not think to mention this fact. They were thinking only of what excess, what above their own needs they had to give.
  3. They forgot the power of God. They forgot that God loved and cared for these people as well as for them. They forgot that God would meet the needs of any and all, if only they would put what they had at His disposal. They forgot that God’s power could take little and multiply it.
  4. There is the attitude of checking to see what one can give (Mark 6:38). In response to the disciples’ impatience, Jesus remained cool, asking rather forcefully, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” The disciples checked and reported that they had five loaves of bread and two fish. Note two facts.
  5. They had resources that were overlooked. Why were they overlooked? Because the resources were so little. There was no possibility the resources could ever meet the need. In fact, two fish and five loaves of bread could not even make a dent in the hunger of five thousand men. In the eyes of the disciples it was impossible for the resources to do any good whatsoever.
  6. Jesus did not ask the disciples to check on how to feed all five thousand men. He asked them to check on what resources they had to give. They were to look at what they themselves could give, not at how the whole task could be done. Their eyes and perspective were to be on using what they had, not on the mammoth impossibility of the task. This is a critical point and it should be carefully noted when looking at the vast needs of the world.
  7. There is the attitude of organizing what resources one has so that they might be used (Mark 6:39-40). This is an important step Christ takes and it should be well noted. The hour was late. Darkness was rapidly approaching. Distribution could have easily become a problem. The people had to be organized into small circles or rows which left room for the disciples to walk between them and distribute the food.
  8. There is the attitude of being thankful for what one has and can give (Mark 6:41). What Jesus did was impressive. He took into His hands what they had, and He looked up to heaven and gave thanks for it. It was small; it was insignificant. It looked like it would do little, like it would be insignificant; but He took it anyway and looked up to heaven, and blessed it.
  9. There is the attitude of giving what one has (Mark 6:41-42). After giving thanks, Jesus took the food and gave it to the disciples to set before the people. And a miracle happened! The resource multiplied: all the people were fed and were filled (Mark 6:42).
  10. There is the attitude of being careful in the handling of resources (Mark 6:43-44). Very simply, Christ teaches that resources are not to be wasted. They are to be used day after day. When there is more than enough to meet one need, what is left over is to be gathered up to use elsewhere.

 

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2019 in Mark

 
 
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