Thursday, July 23, 2009

'Purse' or 'Provider'?

So they gathered them all up and filled twelve baskets with pieces left over from the five barley loaves which the people had eaten. (John 6:13)

As a church we spend a great deal of time worrying and wondering if we will have enough. Enough people. Enough money. Enough resources. We look at our currently situation and allow ourselves to despair. There is work to do and yet it seems that there are not the resources to do it. Is the problem really one of 'resources' or of vision.

In the account of the feeding of the 5000 recorded in John 6:1-13, Jesus asks Philip a simple question. When confronted with a large crowd of hungry people he asks Philip 'where' they can get the bread to feed these people. (v5) Interestingly Philip answers Jesus on how much it will cost, but says nothing about the 'where'. Jesus is asking Philip to look for the 'provider' while Philip chooses to look to the 'purse'.

It struck me that this is often the way we deal with situations within the church. We see opportunities and needs, but get bogged down in the 'how much it will cost' discussions and 'we don't have enough' arguments so that eventually nothing, or at the most, very little gets done. Like Philip we look to the 'purse' and take our eyes off of the 'provider', our gracious Lord God, who promises to give us all the we need.

Now we can immediately start to talk about being good stewards and managers of what God has entrusted to us, but if this is our focus then again we are looking everywhere except to the 'provider'.

John, in writing his gospel narrative of the life of Jesus, emphasizes over and over that God is a God of abundance. The signs of Jesus...the wedding at Cana and the feeding of the 5000...are all about God's abundant provision. Jesus speaks about abundant life for all. His conversation with the woman at the well speaks of 'springs of living water' that flow and over flow in the lives of those who are thirsty. Time and again John points us to the 'provider' and away from the 'purse'.

What about you? Are you thinking more about the 'purse' than the 'provider'? Are your expectations more about survival than living an abundant life? Are you overflowing with grace for all people as God's grace has overflowed into your life and the lives of people around you or are you too busy protecting it, saving it, guarding it.

God comes to us with open hands. Hands that pour out blessing. He invites us to live and give just as generously to one another and to Him.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

So Jesus said to them, "Let us go off by ourselves to some place where we will be alone and you can rest a while." Mark 6:31

Here are some thoughts taken from the text...particularly verses 30-34 and then verse 55. I have just put down some thoughts in the hope that you will just 'rest' awhile...or to put it more plainly...just sit and think a bit.

Mark highlights this rushed and hurried aspect of human life.
v.31…’so many people were coming and going’… Why do we choose not to rest? In 3:20, Jesus has no time to eat; in verse 32 neither do the disciples: such is Jesus’ popularity as healer and wonder-worker.
v.32…a deserted place apart from telephones, cell phones, computers, radios… In the city it is easy to focus on the sins of others. In the desert they had themselves to deal with.
v.33…’ran on foot’…crowd symbol of people in a hurry
v.34…’like sheep without a shepherd’…a picture of aimlessness, directionless, following whoever happens to be leading without a sense of purpose or knowledge of where they are going
v.55…’they ran’

Note Mark’s emphasis on the crowd: many recognize them (vv. 33, 55), hurry to meet them as they disembark, are “like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 34, aimless, leaderless); they rush here and there bringing the sick; they beg Jesus (v. 56).
When we're too busy, we forget about the things that actually matter. We don't see the people around us. We don't have time to consider them, to be civil, to make decisions that are kind -- to others and to ourselves.

When I can have everything, in order to have a simple life I have to choose one thing, not 15 things, particularly when it comes to determining what is important and meaningful in my life.

… one minute might also be a window on eternity, or at least and more likely, the next hour."

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Is it really just a numbers game???...some thoughts on Mark 6:6-13

It struck me recently that church life, Christian life, and even evangelism are becoming very much a numbers game. We talk about budgets, attendance and membership numbers, and ages. Or to put it another way...number of dollars...number of people on the lists...number of bums on young or old those people are. I have been reading, studying, teaching and preaching from Scripture for 30 years now and for the life of me cannot find those Bible passages that mention the importance of these numbers in the life of the church. What is most concerning is that this preoccupation with the numbers game takes attention, time and energy away from the real our lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.

When Jesus sent out the disciples to witness into the communities around about, he instructed them to not "take anything with you on the trip" and then proceeded to mention a number of items like food, clothing etc that we would have considered necessities. He removed all their earthly props. They were going out totally dependent on God's provision. This fact of total dependence on God hasn't changed. In fact it is what we need to be.

Getting caught up in the numbers game enables us to avoid our role and responsibility as the people of God. We are not big enough, young enough or well-financed enough. We don't have time, programs, opportunities. If we just had the numbers then things would be different. But that is not true. For you see Jesus did give the disciples one thing. Authority. The authority that he had received from the Father.

That same authority is now ours through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit who also brings us the gifts and abilities to fulfill the tasks God has given us to live as his disciples and witnesses. Everyday you and I wake up to a new day as Jesus' disciples. Everyday you and I have another opportunity to witness to the life of Christ in us through our attitudes, words and actions. Everyday you and I are equipped through the Spirit to meet the life experiences, the temptations and the opportunities that come our way in the grace and power of God.

It's not about membership numbers or attendance numbers or budget bottom lines or age. The work of the church is the work of every live each day in every way as a disciple of Jesus Christ.