Awestruck

Can you see the wonder across her face? The complete joy and splendor… about pancakes with sprinkles and candles? The flame flickering and twinkling in her eyes. Mesmerized by the beauty. Anticipating the deliciousness. Can you hear the squealing with delight? Absolutely awestruck.

Do you receive the kingdom of God like a child? Luke 18 commands this – and it’s left me pondering what exactly that would look like. What would it feel like if we approached our Creator and eternity, like a child?

Curiosity

        • Hey Mommy, how do birds fly?
        • Who teaches them to flap their wings?
        • Where do their parents take them?
        • Why do they fly south for the winter?
        • How do they know it’s warmer in the south?
        • What’s instinct mean?
        • But how do you just know?
        • Do you have any instincts, Mommy?

If you’ve spent any time with young children, you’ve probably found yourself in one of these never-ending question cycles of why, what, how, when, where, or who. A hunger for knowledge and understanding is part of childhood and maturing. It’s not just the hunger, but also the confidence to seek the answers. When I hear the term “child-like faith”, I don’t take it to mean blindly believing what you’ve been told, without asking questions.. I think it’s more of a willing and humble heart to explore who God is.

What questions do we have about God or salvation that we need to get to the bottom of? Are we ashamed to admit we don’t understand something? Are we so busy with our to-do lists that we haven’t allowed time for curiosity?

Reliance

From sun up to sun down children rely on their parents for so much. This chapter actually uses the word infants – and wow, babies require even more than children, to keep them alive. Feeding, bathing, clothing, diapers, transportation, safety, medical attention, etc. They cry to communicate and eventually we figure out what they are asking for. They learn that we will comfort them, feed them, help them, when they’re in distress.

God has never let me down, has never left me to figure it out alone. He has always comforted me, directed me, and loved me, through every distress. Yet each time I can see a storm coming, I begin to worry. And isn’t worrying a sign that I’m not trusting and willing to rely solely on the Lord? Complete surrender to God is so beautiful, and this level of trust comes from experiencing patterns of His faithfulness.

This weekend, let’s ask God to show us which qualities of children we need to embrace and emulate as we grow in our faith. I know I can approach the throne of God with an awestruck heart, more curiosity, or greater reliance and trust. What child-like qualities do you need more of in your life?

In the Boat

Today’s reading is Mark 4.

Mark 4 is jammed full of great messages and contains four parables, as well as Jesus calming a storm. We will specifically focus on the parable of a seed growing in Mark 4:26-29 and the storm in Mark 4:35-41.

Let’s begin with Mark 4:26-29.

26 And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. 27 He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. 28 The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Easter time of year has caused me to not only have a heightened focus on the forgiveness of my sins through the cross and the promise of eternal life through His resurrection, but also the spread of the Gospel not through kings and queens or dignitaries…but 12 ordinary men. Most were fisherman and Matthew was a tax collector, known to be the worst of sinners. God, through these men, spread the Good News not by force or the sword, but through their faith and the boldness to share it.

This past weekend I went to visit my 99-year-old great Uncle Roy in the hospital. He is the last in our family from the Greatest Generation. He grew up during the Great Depression and fought in Europe in World War II. He faced more challenges and saw more bad things before age 30 than I hope I have to see in my entire lifetime. As I drove a little over an hour to Springfield, I didn’t know if I might find him sleeping and even unaware of my presence. To my surprise, I found him up in his chair wide awake. Although he may be in his final months on this Earth, his mind and memory is as sharp as ever. He shared some really special family stories I had never heard before and will treasure forever. Uncle Roy is related through marriage, so it was very cool when he told me my great grandfather Frank “Tubby” Wilson, his father-in-law, who was deceased before my father was even born, was “the finest man” he ever knew. He said he greatly was respected by many in his hometown, although he was a railroader during the Great Depression and not a prominent leader or businessman, because he cared for and raised his younger siblings when his father passed away young. Most importantly, he told me that Frank and my great grandmother Mayme Wilson were Christians and raised my grandmother and great aunt (Uncle Roy’s wife Almeda) in the church. This relationship with Christ in our family trickled all the way down to my brother and me with our children today.

Just think about this for a second, God used 12 ordinary men who were fearful for their lives when they thought hope was lost because the man they dedicated their life to follow who they thought he would become king died, to just a few days later become fearless to share the Gospel. This ultimately lead to my family knowing Jesus nearly 2,000 years later on a continent which wouldn’t be discovered until nearly 1,500 years later in a country which wouldn’t be founded until nearly 1,800 years later in a city 6,300 miles away (in case you are wondering…yes…I did do a map search from Israel to Beardstown, IL!).

Romans 8:26-27 says..

26 In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

These are powerful verses when it says, “the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” The fact that He cared about helping my family know Him that far away nearly 2,000 years later blows my mind. Think of all the things that had to occur between then and now for that to happen! As hard is it is for me to do daily, how can I then not believe He has a plan for and cares about every little detail and perceived “bad thing” that happens in my life? Like these verses from Mark 4, we ”know not how.” But, He connects all the pieces and makes amazing things come from bad things years and years later. His will is always perfect. And..”the will of God” cannot be stopped.

In Mark 4:35:41, the disciples woke Him from sleep in fear for their lives when the boat they were traveling in began to take on water during a terrible a storm. Specifically, Mark 4:40 it states…

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

What He’s really saying is…don’t you remember…”I’m in the boat. I am God.” Or as Psalm 46:10 states… 10 “Be still, and know that I am God…”

As our boats begin to take on water or we fear it might due to the storm which hasn’t even occurred yet from to the weather forecast in our minds (which is usually wrong often like the weather forecast on the news), we must remember to “Be still” and know that He is God. Let our hearts and minds be aware that He always has been..and always will be…in the boat.

Grateful

Our reading is Numbers 11.

Today, we learn about how God was not pleased with some of the Israelites striking them with a plague when they complained about only having manna to eat and no meat. We know from Romans 8:1 that now, “There is no condemnation for those are in Christ Jesus.” However, we see here He does not like ungrateful words and an ungrateful heart and prior to Jesus paying the price for our sins, and He took action against some of them for this.

First, the Israelites complained back in Exodus 16:3 that they had no food to eat and would starve in the desert and would rather be back in slavery after wanting to be freed for years. Now, after God provided them with manna from the sky to eat daily (Exodus 16:4), they have the audacity to complain that they had meat when they were in Egypt and would rather be back in slavery (Numbers 11:4-6 and Numbers 11:18). Really?!

It is easy to be quick to judge the Israelites lack of gratitude, until we take a closer look at our own heart and thoughts. How quickly do we forget about an answered prayer and go on to the next thing or even worse get a prayer answered and say things were better before like the Israelites. We want a change in career..now we’re not happy with our boss and want a new career..or even back to the old one. We pray to have a house to call our own and to stop renting…now we want a bigger house. We are lonely and pray for a relationship or marriage…now we are contemplating a divorce thinking our current marriage can’t be fixed. We pray to have children of our own…now life is just crazy and we never have time for ourselves. We pray for healing from a medical issue…now we complain about the medical bills. I can easily hang my head in guilt over many similar items in my own life.

God makes it very clear that it is absolutely alright to ask God for what you want as Jesus clearly tells us this in Matthew 7:7-11. In fact, He wants us to pour out our hearts to Him and trust and come to Him for what we seek. However, we have to search our heart to find our motivation…is it for His glory or our own? Paul states in 1 Corinthians 6:20, “for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Jesus also teaches and models for us in Luke 22:42 that it is fine to ask God for what you want as He asks for the burden of the cross to be removed from Him, but He also teaches and models how we should ultimately want God the Father’s will to be done and not our own.

So, how do we improve and soften our heart to have an attitude of gratitude? One thing I’ve found very helpful is to start a journal or notebook to write down each morning 3 things you are thankful for that day. No matter how bad things are we can ultimately find things to be grateful for. I’ve heard it said that it’s impossible to be stressed and be thankful at the same time. Maybe there is also a song or something else which puts your heart and mind in a gracious state? At the end of this post is one that does this for me, Grateful by Elevation Worship.

Ultimately, we go to the living Word in Bible for the best way to do this which we are told in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 which says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” No matter our situation, we all can be thankful that He gave His life on the cross for us and conquered the grave and through admission of our sins and belief in Him we can do the same and spend eternity in Heaven with no pain and problems regardless of what hardships we face today in this short life on Earth.

Behind the Scenes – Genesis 41

Today’s Reading Genesis 41

Good Morning Bible Journal Readers. Happy Tuesday!

Today, as we read through Genesis 41,  it is truly amazing about all the events that take place in this chapter with Joseph.  There are so many moving pieces and ways God is able to show us His presence through it all. Without a faith you may find parts of it hard to believe. As believers though,  In reading this part of Josephs story I can be reassured knowing that God is always at work. Even in my shortcomings, or times that I think I have things in control.  I truly don’t, and need to remind myself, He does. God is  Behind the Scenes…always.  Thankfully, God is always working and directing us closer to Him. Think of Joseph, just in this chapter as he goes from sitting in a jail cell, to interpreting dreams,  to being in charge of Egypt. God always working behind the scenes to make His work move forward.

Genesis 41:16 Joseph answered Pharaoh, “It is not in me; God will give Pharaoh a favorable answer.”

How has God done this for you? Let’s take a minute to reflect.  For me, I think about my walk to and into faith. This included God orchestrating a move from one neighborhood to another. At this point I’m approached by a neighbor (Chet & Shannon Bandy)  to attend a service with them and consider joining their small group.  For a second we thoughts to ourselves, with a brand new mortgage, a struggling marriage, and a toddler. and two new jobs. Our ways were not working so well.  Faithfully, God was working behind the scenes. God orchestrated a life long friendship, a small group that I’m humbled to co-lead, an amazing transformation in both of us. God changed a “me first” marriage to a loving “one another”  marriage that now is formed around God and not ourselves.  I couldn’t of planned any of it.  But God can!  God is at work behind the scenes right now in you.  Marriage, friends, jobs, kids, medical situations… you name it.  It may not seem like He is to us at times because we are wanting things according to our plans and our timing.  But when we have faith, and trust in Him, his plans will work out way better than we can ever imagine.  God’s timing is always perfect. 

Proverbs 3:5  Trust in the Lord with all your heart,  and do not lean on your own understanding.   6  In all your ways acknowledge him,  and he will make straight your paths.

What is God orchestrating today? Trust His will! Remember Behind the scenes isn’t usually where we can see it or put our hands on it. Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

Final Exam

Today’s reading is Genesis 22.

Starting at the end of Genesis 11 through today’s reading we learn about Abraham’s life. As I reflect on his life told in these chapters, one of my biggest observations is that Abraham consistently heard the Lord speaking to Him, and then He trusted and obeyed. This occurs many times, but we first see it in Genesis 12 when Abraham is living in Haran and God tells him to go from his country and he will make him a great nation and bless him to be a blessing. It is amazing to me that he obeyed for 2 reasons. First, he was already 75 years old and moving back then didn’t just mean calling Two Men and a Truck or hopping in a car! Secondly, Genesis 13:2 tells us he could have been content because he already had much livestock and gold. Often, it’s harder to trust God when you already have everything you need and feel like you have everything to lose and nothing to gain. However, we must continue to stretch ourselves like Abraham did to have faith and trust and obey. Faith is never a “stay’..it’s always a “go.” If you stay, you don’t need faith and you can’t grow to be all God’s called you to be.

Although it may seem like Abraham had everything, the Lord continued to stretch Abraham to trust in Him with faith, and there were challenges. The biggest challenge being Abraham and his wife Sarah’s inability to have a child. However, God kept his promise to Abraham and Sarah that they would have a child, and they did at Abraham’s age 100 and Sarah’s age 90. Now, we see the final exam or test God gives Abraham. God tells Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice. Those of us who have children, can you even imagine? Not to mention the fact that Isaac was the miracle son they had waited for. I can’t even imagine what Abraham must have been thinking. We see in verse 22:1, Abraham says, “Here I am.” He does not ignore God when God is asking him to do something He really doesn’t want to do. Some of you may say you have never heard God speak to you. Well, you may not have heard the audible voice of God, but all of us have heard that little voice in our head saying things like call a certain friend, check in with your child, buy that lady’s meal, take that new career path, join a small group, begin going to church again, spend more time with me in the Word or prayer. Do we stop, listen, trust and obey like Abraham? Or do we completely ignore it thinking of all the barriers and go on busily with our day. I have also observed in my life and the life of others that when we spend more time with the Lord in His Word, prayer, and in church He speaks through those mediums giving us clarity as to the right direction and actions to take. Ask yourself, am I even giving myself an opportunity to hear the Lord speak to me in those ways? Then, am I showing faith and taking action with trust and obedience to Him. or am I just going on quickly to the next thing in my day?

We know that God does not let Abraham sacrifice Isaac. Again, the Lord speaks and Isaac says, “Here I am.” God stops Him from doing so as he takes the knife to kill Isaac. God could have asked Abraham to sacrifice his riches or many other things but God knew he truly had Abraham’s heart when Abraham was willing to give up what was most important to Him in Isaac. This was the final exam so to speak. This was the final test for God to see that Abraham truly trusted Him, and that He alone was enough for Abraham. Once Abraham showed Him this, God tells him in Genesis 22:17 he would not only get to keep his 1 son in Isaac, but he would have offspring numbering as many stars in the sky and sand that is on the seashore. As pastor and author Mark Batterson says, “You can’t out give God.”

As I read this I ask myself, is God enough? Would I give up everything for Him? God may not ask us to give up everything, but I don’t think there is any question He wants our heart..and not just some it…all of it. Lamentations 3:22-23 tells us of His steadfast love and that his mercies are new every morning. In the same way He shows His favor upon us which He doesn’t have to do, we must show our gratitude for his saving grace on the cross through our trust and obedience and giving Him our whole heart today and every day, even in our old age until we leave this Earth, just like Abraham did. He is enough.

Angels We Have Heard..in Brooklyn??

In July of 2017, I had the opportunity to go on a mission trip doing street ministry with Spread Truth. This was something I had never done before and stretched my comfort zone. Our first day was on parks where you are typically approaching people that are seated, and let’s just say the first guy we approached was about as rude and mean as you could be and I thought to myself..”well…it can’t get any worse than that. It can only get better, so let’s move on and go to the next one!” The rest of the day resulted in some great conversations where the Holy Spirit was at work. Day 2 was a different assignment standing on the sidewalks in the streets of Brooklyn as people passed. To say we were off to a rough start was an understatement. For nearly an hour we could not get anyone to even stop to talk to us as they busily hurried to wherever they were headed. We were very discouraged to say the least, and then came a conversation with Thomas King, a name and an interaction I will never forget.

Thomas, who we later would learn was age 93, was standing by a bench, and we approached him to hopefully tell him the Gospel and change his life..instead…he changed ours. He encouraged us immediately and told us to look at the faces of every person that walked by. He said they were all filled with stress, anxiety, and worry…he said, “What they all need is Jesus!” If they would just remember and lean on the words of Isaiah 26:3, they would not be so troubled. He then told us the words of this verse from memory..

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.”

Isaiah 26:3

Not only did this emotional pep talk fire us up like a coach before a big game to remind us that people needed what we had and we had to go back out there and push through the rejection, challenges, and disappointments we had experienced and tell them about what they truly needed….which was Jesus, but it was also a great reminder that fear, anxiety, and stress all come from selfish thoughts and concerns about ourselves. 1 John 4:18 tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.” When we are focused on Him and his perfect love for us given on the cross and we know His love shown in this way means we will spend eternity in Heaven with Him and that is all that really matters, we will be in “perfect peace” as Isaiah 26:3 says.

It’s hard to describe our feelings as Thomas captured our hearts and minds with his words of wisdom. Sadly though, Thomas told us than many younger than him, including his church, did not listen. He told us he was recently recognized by his church for his years of membership there, but they would not give him the opportunity to speak when he asked. This saddened me because not only did it disappoint Thomas, but his words had so much impact on us that we did not want him to stop speaking and others would be missing out on his wisdom. Job 12:12 says, “Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.”  How many times do we miss out on the opportunity to learn from our elders by not asking them or not listening to them and discounting their credibility which should be gained, not lost, with age?

Hebrews 13:2 reads, “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” I don’t know if Thomas was an angel, but I do know that his words cut sharp like a knife at exactly the right time when we needed it and reminded us that what we were doing was not about us and we needed to re-direct our fear to focus on Jesus and His perfect love which every person who walked by needed. As we head into 2019, we hope and pray that it will bring us many blessings, but it will undoubtedly also will bring us challenges. Let’s commit to being prepared to face those trials because our minds will be fixed on Him and His perfect love, and we will trust in Him which will give us “perfect peace.” We have faith He will give us exactly what we need when we need it..just like He gave us Thomas King.

To The Church

Happy Tuesday Bible Journal family!

In Revelation 2 we have hear Jesus speak to John and to four of the seven churches in the province of Asia. The words Jesus speaks to John would be the letters written for the churches then and to all of us as “the Churches” now.

The letters to the churches are of praise and encouragement, but also warnings.  So as you read through Revelation 2, listen to His words and hold onto His promises.

7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God.’

To the Church in Ephesus

  • He is our right hand that holds it all in His hands. v.1
  • He knows our actions and our deeds. v.2
  • He understands our perseverance.v.3
  • He reminds us to repent when we have fallen. v.5

To the Church in Smyrna

  • He is the First and the Last v.8
  • He knows our pain and needs. v.9
  • He reminds us the devil will test us, still be faithful to receive your victor’s crown. v.10

To the Church in Pergamum

  • He holds a sharp double-edged sword. v.12 (Hebrews 4:12)
  • He will provide manna v.17
  • He will provide a white stone with a new name on it. v.17

To the Church in Thyatira

  • He knows our deeds, love, and faith, our service and perseverance. v.19
  • He gives us time to repent, are you willing?
  • If we don’t repent, we will suffer. v.22
  • I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.  v. 23

Jesus is reminding us that He truly knows us. (Romans 8:27-37)  He knows what is said and done in the dark and what is in the light. (Luke 12:3)  That judgment will be passed and He gives us the opportunity to repent and turn to Him. (John 9:39 and Matthew 4:17)

To each church and to each of us Jesus says, Whoever has ears let them hear.  Do you hear Jesus speaking to you today? Listen close, He knows what we go through every day, He is here for us, waiting. All we need to do is listen.

Dear God,

Thank you for your words that we are able to apply to our hearts each day.  God, we know you are with us always and know every detail of our being.  Help us to listen and obey your words. That in this wonderful Christmas season we remember and focus on your ultimate sacrifice of sending your own son Jesus to live a perfect life and ultimately die for our sins.  The sins we all like to hide away, let us bring them to the light and repent.   God I’m sorry when I lose faith, I’m sorry when I don’t listen.  Search my help and reveal to me all that you desire and help me to live not by my will, but yours.  Help me to open my ears, and hear your loving voice today.  We love you.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

What Could Be Better?

A few years ago, my daughter Gracie received a gift card for her birthday, and she knew EXACTLY what she planned to purchase. She had her sights set on a deluxe Lego set that would bring the Frozen castle to life. When we got to the toy store, they were completely sold out. And the sets they did have were half the size of the one she wanted, but not half the cost. I laid out her options: order the set she wanted online and wait 3-5 business days OR get one of the smaller sets that she could take home and play with that same day.

She really didn’t take much time deciding – she chose to wait. She wanted the bigger and better set and was willing to wait it out.

This choice, while small in the grand scheme of things, was huge in her world. This was one of those milestone moments that showed her maturity. And truth be told, I didn’t see it coming. I fully expected her to want the immediate, the now, the joy of a new toy in the moment. She really blew me away that day, and I can vividly remember my heart swelling – my five year old is practicing good decision making, good self-control. Good stewardship. She understood the pros and cons, and even with something small like Legos, she made a big decision.

As we approach John 16, Jesus didn’t give the disciples any choices. He laid out what’s coming for Him, and what that means for them. They don’t get it, and I don’t think they want to get it. Jesus proactively answers the questions they’re all thinking, but aren’t asking out loud – He is so good to us! If the disciples were given a choice, my guess is they would choose to have Jesus stay with them in the flesh. I am sure I would have too.

As Jesus continues with His farewell + next steps, He lets them know He will send someone EVEN BETTER for them! And if you’re anything like me, your eyebrows raise at verse 7 when Jesus outlines all of this – I mean, WHAT could be better than having Jesus with us, sitting next to us, right here, right now?!

My longing for Jesus to return leaves me with some questions:

  • Am I fully aware and tuned in to the Holy Spirit that is here, NOW, and LIVING inside of me?
  • Do I trust Jesus completely, and fully believe Him that it’s to my advantage that He goes for awhile, and the Holy Spirit is in His place?
  • How am I a witness to the Holy Spirit’s power in this world? Guiding, convicting the world of sin, and glorifying Jesus?
  • Is the fruit of the Spirit, that’s living in me, evident in my life?

Gracie was able to see that waiting for the deluxe Lego set that she wanted would be better.

Am I able to see that having the Holy Spirit live inside of me, is better right now than having Jesus walk beside me? And if so, am I relying on His power in my life – the same power that rose Jesus from the dead?

Hills and Valleys

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

Does it ever shock you how much worry and how little faith the disciples often have have during their time with Jesus? They worry about having enough food for the crowds of people and themselves multiple times, they are scared when Jesus walks on water thinking He is a ghost, most run away in terror when he’s captured by the authorities, and here in Luke 8 they are scared during the storm before Jesus calms it. In Luke 8:25, Jesus even directly says to them, “Where is your faith?”

A great brother in Christ and myself were just discussing the importance of being humbled through challenges, disappointments, and perceived failures (at the time) in life. Let me be clear these things are never fun. I don’t like them for myself, and I don’t wish these shortcomings on anyone. However, when we observe things closely we can often find that when we don’t face challenges we can become distant from God, not giving the glory to Him and not being a servant leader for Him and to those around us. How many times do we see celebrities and the greatest athletes making poor choices in actions and words that are all about them? I believe it’s often because they have not been humbled to realize that while they have likely worked hard to get to where they are, they would not have accomplished what they have without the people around them, the organization they are within, or even the time they were born and live in (Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers). They often don’t give others credit for the help they received and first and foremost to the One who put those people around them, to the One who put them within that organization/sport/profession, and to the One who brought them into the world at this perfect time to accomplish what they have. They don’t feel like they “need” God.

On the flip side of this, we read later in Luke 8:43 where a woman who had a bleeding issue for twelve years who could not be healed by any physicians went to Jesus believing she could be healed if just touched His clothing which she did. She was humbled by her sickness. She had nowhere else to turn but to Him. Jesus says to her in Luke 8:48, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace.” Check out James 1:2-4 and James 1:12 for how trials help us grow and shape us into the person He wants us to become. James 1:6 specifically says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of seas that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” What a great example she was of having faith without doubting! Is God not giving you what you want right now? Are you being humbled right now through challenges? What is God trying to teach you in this season of life? Are you FULLY relying on Him, trusting in Him, and believing in Him to bring you through these challenges? Or would He say to you like He did to the disciples in Luke 8:25, “Where is your faith?”

In closely observing this occurrence of Jesus calming the storm, I find it interesting that Jesus is the one that suggests they get into the boat to go to the other side of the lake. Yet, He doesn’t say why, nor does it say what they did when they arrived after the storm. In fact, it just says in Luke 8:26 they sailed to Gerasenes. Did Jesus have them go out into the boat just so they could see His miraculous powers to calm the storm so they would grow in their faith and trust in Him? Although the disciples lacked faith often during their time with Jesus, this time of growth helped them become so unbelievably complete in their faith and trust in God that 11 of the 12 (Judas Iscariot not in the 12) of them were killed for their faith later. They went from running away in fear when He was captured and killed to risking it all for Him shortly thereafter. They became perfect and complete in their faith through all these trials lacking nothing and spreading the Good News to others so that you and I would know it today. There is no doubt they are being greatly rewarded in Heaven.

Let us pray the following prayer…

“Lord God, in times of challenges and valleys let me raise my eyes to You, the One who sees me there and will bring me out. Please help me to be perfect and complete in my faith and trust in You, lacking nothing. When I’m on the mountaintops, let me give You all the praise and glory knowing that You are the source of all good things. You are the God of hills and valleys. Please help me remember Your words that those who want to be first shall be last by living my life as servant leader to You and others around me. Thank You for modeling this through Your death on the cross so that I am forgiven for my many shortcomings and can live with You in eternity. I love you. Amen.”

 

Feeding the Multitudes

Mark 8 opens with the miracle of Jesus Feeding the Multitudes of people with just some loaves and fish. Back in the days of Sunday School flannelgraph lessons, I never knew there were two separate events of this miracle! Jesus fed thousands – TWICE!

All four gospels record the Feeding of the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish, near Bethsaida (Matthew 14:13-21Mark 6:31-44Luke 9:12-17John 6:1-14).

Then in Mark and Matthew the second miracle of Feeding the Multitudes was recorded – 4,000 people fed with 7 loaves and 3 fish ( Matthew 15:32-39 and Mark 8:1-9).

We know this is two separate accounts because later in Mark, verses 18-20, Jesus reminds the disciples of the two different accounts and questions why they’d be worried about having something to eat when they just witnessed these two miracles.

Have you heard of the book or seen the quote “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten”? Well… I’d like to think that it’s really “All I Ever Need to Know I Learned in Sunday School”! So much of my adult experiences can be traced back to some of the true stories we learned in Sunday School. The Parting of the Red Sea… Danial and the Lion’s Den… David and Goliath… Feeding the 5,000.

This one is especially close to my heart, because God has continued to be so faithful in meeting my needs – making something out of nothing, when I least expect it.

Miracles of supplication and abundance have been in my life since I can remember: food on our table, a roof over our head, and clothes on our back, even when times were bleak (by western standards). I have continued to see this through adolescence, as a young adult, and as a wife and mom. These miracles have no bounds, covering me physically, spiritually, and emotionally. It’s no coincidence that in each stage of life I’ve been blessed by spiritual mentors and discipleship. People caring for me as an “angel unaware” (Heb 13:2), at times, taking me by the hand and showing me the way.  Giving grace when it wasn’t deserved. Sharing their abundance when they had nothing to gain from me. Praying on my behalf.

I witnessed miracles as a kid, with my parents sharing their little loaves and fish and God making it more than enough. There was an old school bus they acquired in the 80s – my mom would make these massive pots of beef vegetable soup in the winter and load it onto the back of the bus. We would run it in downtown Dayton, heat it up and the homeless would get warm and have a bowl of soup. My siblings and I would tell bible stories and sing songs to the homeless people. I was seven and we were one paycheck away from being homeless ourselves. We always had enough soup and our bus never ran out of gas, it would run on fumes much longer than it should have!

In recent years there have been countless situations where God was there, turning loaves and fish into more than enough. When I left my corporate career after 13+ years, we had no idea how we would makes ends meet and manage the debt we would incur. We felt a strong leading to make this change, but financially could not make the numbers work.  And mirroring the loaves + fish, God stepped in and turned the single income household into more than enough. Only by this miracle did we not go in the red. Every month we were astounded at how the numbers worked out. True miracles, not luck or coincidences. The biggest miracle in this, is that we did not change our giving habits!

The Feeding of the Multitudes was a HUGE testimony to the thousands… but imagine the little boy that shared his food. How much more did this mean to him, seeing Jesus use his willing heart for others? Can you imagine the testimony he had for the rest of his life?

Each year our church takes up a special collection designed to expand ministry across the globe.  Each year Tim and I pray for unexpected funds to come in that month, with the intent of giving whatever that surprise is. Every single year, a large amount comes in, completely out of the blue.  An overpayment from something from years before… a surprise bonus not at normal timing, etc. Each year it’s become a fun game to see where the money will come from that special month and what we will be able to give. I share all of this purely as a testimony of God’s faithfulness and not in the least from our doing.

Whether it’s sharing and serving in our circle, or way out of our circle, God has a plan to use what He has given us. What loaves and fish do you have?

Do you have a life experience that God intends to be shared with someone walking thru the very same thing? Do you have a heart for prayer and can be a warrior for someone else’s battle? What purpose does God have for the talents He has given you? Maybe you have one of those smiles that light up a room, desperately needed in dark place today. If you are reading this and feel like you don’t have much to share, let me encourage you – YOU DO! Do you think the little boy thought he had a purpose on that day, or that his little lunch would make a huge difference? Seek the Lord and ask Him to show you what things He has given you that are intended for His kingdom.

God, you are the perfect provider, and your timing and ways are far beyond ours. Help us to trust You more and open our hearts and hands to be used miraculously for your kingdom. Give us a heart for stewardship with all the talents and blessings you’ve given each of us. Forgive us for doubting Your provision (just like the disciples) and thanks for the reminders of your faithfulness in the past. Amen.