Thursday, May 25, 2017

Becoming an Engaged Listener

Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to get angry.
James 1:19 (NLT)

Are you quicker to listen or to speak?
Do you listen to understand or to respond?

Some of you are excellent listeners. You’re attentive and curious, eager to understand the speaker’s meaning. You sense emotion in body language and empathize with their perspective. Well done!

I don’t always listen well.

My mind sometimes drifts. I envision my to-do list and glance at the clock. I glimpse a friend and remember I have something to give her. I formulate a solution rather than simply affirm your feelings. Can you relate?

While mulling over this scripture and evaluating my listening skills, this quote crossed my Twitter feed. It’s a God-incidence, a jarring thought.

Christians who can no longer listen to one another will soon no longer be listening to God either. – Deitrich Bonhoeffer

If we won’t listen to each other, we’ll soon stop listening to God. (tweet this)

I’ve never considered applying good listening skills to Bible reading.

When God speaks to me in scripture, do I consider His perspective and His intention behind the words? Do I react too quickly, impulsively, defensively, selfishly? Am I fully involved, understanding context and emotion? Or am I checking my to-do list and watching the clock?

We often hear from God by reading scripture. But sometimes we need to dig deeper in study because we can misinterpret God’s message when we don’t understand the context and intent. Good listening is crucial.

Let’s be engaged listeners of God’s Word. (tweet this)

How can you improve your listening skills? Do you think listening better to your friends will help you listen better to God?

#SeedsofScripture #listening #Bible

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Does Google Hold Knowledge or Wisdom?

Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.
Proverbs 9:10 (NLT)

We swipe, type and click our way to knowledge, however, knowledge does not make us wise.

Knowing God makes us wise. (tweet this)

The phrase ‘fear of the Lord’ doesn’t mean we’re frightened by Him. It means we revere Him exceedingly, acknowledge His awesome goodness, and receive His instruction. This fear gives us confidence (Proverbs 14:26), helps us resist sin (Exodus 20:20), act justly (Psalm 23:3-4), and get good sleep (Proverbs 19:23)

The fear of the Lord is the foundation wisdom.

The fundamental first step to becoming wise is recognizing His power and ultimate sovereignty over all. There is no greater source of wisdom than God.

The second step is knowledge of the Holy One – knowing God.

We get to know God through relationship. We talk to Him in prayer and listen to His voice, but sometimes communicating with God feels one way. We want Him to speak clearly, answer our questions, guide our steps, and impart wisdom. We forget that God already has. It’s called the Bible.

The third step is making God’s word part of who we are so it’s readily accessible when needed. We must be consulting scripture every day, not merely reading, but digging beneath the surface, seeking its meaning for our lives, and discovering the God who would speak these words. And know this:

When we ask for wisdom, God generously gives it. (James 1:5) (tweet this)

Which step toward wisdom do you find most difficult: fearing God, knowing God, or finding meaning in Scripture?

Click on the scripture references in this post to read verses that support each statement.

#SeedsofScripture #wisdom #Bible

Friday, May 19, 2017

Does Science Hinder Faith?

Just as you cannot understand the path of the wind or the mystery of a tiny baby growing in its mother’s womb, so you cannot understand the activity of God, who does all things.
Ecclesiastes 11:5 (NLT)

Do scientific advancements hinder your faith in a Creator God?

Weather patterns and fetal development were wildly mysterious concepts in ancient times. Now we can predict the weather (with questionable accuracy) and 3D ultrasounds peek at the unborn. Perhaps we need fresh examples of yet-to-be-discovered mysteries.

Since science explains so many natural phenomenon, is our wonder of God diminished?

Are we closer to understanding the activity of God? Is it even possible to understand the God who does all things?

I conjure an image of God whooping and clapping when we solve a scientific puzzle. Yes, my God whoops in delight. He cheers us on as we ask deeper questions and uncover new intricacies in His handiwork. His infinitely complex and precise Creation was meant to be enjoyed, explored and stewarded.

God whoops in delight when we uncover new intricacies in His Creation. (tweet this)

Do scientific advances increase or diminish your awe of God?

#SeedsofScripture #wonderstruck #science

Friday, May 12, 2017

The Messy Details Matter

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves. John 6:11-13 (NLT)

In my mind’s eye, the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand is a pastoral image: under a blue sky, the disciples surround a young boy who is handing his basket to Jesus while unnamed people sit watching on the grassy hillside.

It’s a Norman Rockwell holiday family meal - loved ones sitting around a beautifully appointed table featuring a roasted turkey about to be carved.

We don’t paint after dinner pictures of full bellies, crumpled napkins, and half empty serving bowls. But every one of our gospel writers detailed the post-miracle scene.

A common detail they all include is that they all ate as much as they wanted. John emphasizes that everyone was full, while Matthew and Mark remind us that 5,000 men were fed, in addition to all the women and children. They probably didn’t overeat, but they were completely satisfied by Jesus’ meal.

Another common detail is that the disciples gathered twelve baskets of leftover bread. Mark mentions leftover fish, but John is the most detailed, describing pieces and scraps to fill the twelve baskets and reminding us that these people ate from five barley loaves – nothing else.

What does the scene after Jesus feeds 5,000 reveal? (tweet this)

Instead of a hungry crowd watching a boy give Jesus one basket, we have a satisfied mass and twelve astonished disciples, each bringing Jesus a full basket of barley scraps and fish.

#SeedsofScripture #Feeds5000 #miracle

This completes the series dissecting this familiar story. Read the first six posts by clicking the following links:
New Eyes on a Familiar Story,
Is this Jesus’ Most Important Miracle,
When What Jesus Asks is Too Hard,
Following a Child’s Example,
When Every Word Holds Meaning, and
Miracles Really Do Happen.
 
Below is my version of Jesus Feeds Five Thousand combining accounts from
Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-15 (NLT)

Late that afternoon or evening the disciples came to him and said “…Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy food and find lodging for themselves.”

Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.”

“With what?” [the disciples] asked.

“How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?

“Bring them here,” [Jesus] said. “Tell [the people] to sit down on the green, grassy slope in groups of about fifty each.” So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and gave thanks to God. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. (The men alone, not including the women and children, numbered 5,000.)

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Miracles Really Do Happen

Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and gave thanks to God. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. (The men alone, not including the women and children, numbered 5,000.)
Jesus Feeds Five Thousand (the complete story text follows the post)

The sequence of Jesus’ actions establishes a model:
  • First Jesus asked the disciples to gather resources,
  • Then accepted what was offered,
  • Then thanked God for the woefully inadequate provisions, and
  • Then used what he had been given believing God would multiply it sufficiently.
Do we follow Jesus’ example in our lives?
  • Do we ask for help? Or do we try to do everything ourselves?
  • Do we accept the assistance offered with thanksgiving? Or do we grumble that more wasn’t offered?
  • Do we, though feeling ill equipped, proceed with the task believing God for the miracle? Or do we lose heart, complain about the workload, and anticipate failure?
I love what happens next: Jesus kept giving the disciples bread so they could distribute it to the people. Many translations simply say Jesus gave the bread to the disciples, but the original Greek uses a prolonged form of the verb.

Jesus kept giving out bread. It was a miracle.

Jesus multiplied the boy’s small lunch. He will multiply whatever we offer. (tweet this)

We need to remember that this is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels. No matter their agenda or audience, each writer thought it critical for you to know it happened. 

Offer what you’re able, thank God and believe He’ll make it grow. (tweet this)

What do you have to offer? Will you believe God can use it?

#SeedsofScripture #Feeds5000 #miracle

You can read the five previous posts about this story by clicking these links:

This version of Jesus Feeds Five Thousand combines accounts from
Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-15 (NLT)

Late that afternoon or evening the disciples came to him and said “…Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy food and find lodging for themselves.”

Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.”

“With what?” [the disciples] asked.

“How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?

“Bring them here,” [Jesus] said. “Tell [the people] to sit down on the green, grassy slope in groups of about fifty each.” So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and gave thanks to God. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. (The men alone, not including the women and children, numbered 5,000.)

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

When Every Word Holds Meaning

“Bring them here,” [Jesus] said. “Tell [the people] to sit down on the green, grassy slope in groups of about fifty each.” So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.
From Jesus Feeds Five Thousand

This scripture seems as important as a pastor declaring “the congregation may be seated”.

Is there meaning below the surface?

We’re in the middle of our story about Jesus feeding a massive crowd with a small boy’s lunch. We’re reading slowly, intentionally trying to discover new meaning in the familiar account.

Today’s verses seem insignificant, but we know the gospel writers wrote intentionally to inform their readers about Jesus’ life and teaching.

Let’s ask questions of these three sentences:
  • What do we learn from Jesus’ choice of words?
  • Why is the lush, green grass mentioned?
  • Is the sloped terrain important?
  • Why organize people into groups of a specified size?

The list is too long for one post, but let’s dig in.

First, both ‘bring’ and ‘tell’ are commands in the original Greek: active, immediate, and authoritative. Jesus was in charge.

The lush, grassy slope? We don’t know without studying the weather patterns near the Sea of Galilee and work life of these people who had stayed with Jesus three days. Is this ‘long weekend’ away from home unusual? Would they normally be tending crops or flocks?

I’ve always learned that the slope amplified Jesus’ voice like an amphitheater. Is there another explanation?

Is the snippet about groups simply functional? Or are communities serving each other and sharing conversation more personal? Are they like small churches? What else can we glean from this detail?

Dig beneath the surface. Ask questions of the scripture. (tweet this)

What do you find? What do you wonder? Please share so we can all learn!

#SeedsofScripture #Feeds5000 #miracle

You can read the four previous posts in the series by clicking the following links: New Eyes on a Familiar Story, Is this Jesus’ Most Important Miracle, When What Jesus Asks is Too Hard, and Following a Child’s Example.

Below is my version of Jesus Feeds Five Thousand combining accounts from
Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-15 (NLT)

Late that afternoon or evening the disciples came to him and said “…Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy food and find lodging for themselves.”

Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.”

“With what?” [the disciples] asked.

“How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?

“Bring them here,” [Jesus] said. “Tell [the people] to sit down on the green, grassy slope in groups of about fifty each.” So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and gave thanks to God. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. (The men alone, not including the women and children, numbered 5,000.)

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.

 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Following a Child's Example

“How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.”
Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?
Jesus Feeds Five Thousand (the complete story text follows the post)

Jesus instructs the disciples to evaluate their resources for feeding the crowd.

Can you imagine them pushing through the men and their families asking for food? Do you think everyone left home without a picnic lunch or small snack? Don’t you think those mothers had something in their pockets for the kiddos?

I believe they did but saw the size of the crowd and thought “What difference can this little bit make?” Even Andrew deemed the boy’s meager lunch insufficient for the task.

Have you asked the same question in the face of a large problem like hunger, homelessness, human trafficking, or addiction? “What can I do that will have any impact?”

In a crowd of more than 5,000 only a young boy offered his lunch. Don’t we love the child hero who is nonjudgmental, generous, and hopeful?

He didn’t compare the size of his lunch to the crowd but simply knew his food was needed. He contributed to the cause and probably assumed others would do the same. He didn’t try to solve the entire problem, just offered what he could and trusted for the rest.

Oh my friends, why don’t we approach the world like children? (tweet this)

We are often logical and cynical, not considering God, who is able through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. (Eph 3:20)

Think big! God is mighty and powerful. (tweet this)

How can you improve your problem solving to include your access to the power of God?

#SeedsofScripture #Feeds5000 #miracle

I’ve been writing a series of posts about this story. Check them out starting with New Eyes on a Familiar Story.

Below is my version of Jesus Feeds Five Thousand combining accounts from
Matthew 14:15-21, Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, John 6:5-15 (NLT)

Late that afternoon or evening the disciples came to him and said “…Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy food and find lodging for themselves.”

Turning to Philip, [Jesus] asked, “Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do.

Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!

But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary – you feed them.”

“With what?” [the disciples] asked.

“How much bread do you have?” Jesus asked. “Go and find out.”

Then Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up. “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?

“Bring them here,” [Jesus] said. “Tell [the people] to sit down on the green, grassy slope in groups of about fifty each.” So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Then Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and gave thanks to God. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. (The men alone, not including the women and children, numbered 5,000.)

And they all ate as much as they wanted. After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers, so that nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people who had eaten from the five barley loaves.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.