106. Little is much…abundance.

We so love the success stories of this world – the rags to riches type of thing. Ordinary people becoming rich and famous, commoners marrying royalty to live the fairytale life so many yearn for. Dreams of big money, luxury lives and desirable possessions drive the mad rush towards achievement, life at the top and maybe some rest and peace after all.

Very soon in the ministry of Jesus He was famous and known throughout the land. People talked about Him. He was controversial and He fully recognized His divisive message. In His own words:

Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. (Matthew 10:34)

People flocked around Him to admire and to judge. Is it not the same with earthly fame? I sometimes think people yearn for fame, as it is a sure sign of success when their name is on the lips of the masses, without having any idea of the sacrifice to their personal life. Famous people’s lives are in the public domain, unfortunately not just the good, also the mistakes, bad judgment and failures. It is outright cruel.

When life hits hard, it is no fun to read media interpretations of vicious envy and a good measure of “schadenfreude” (joy in the misfortune of others). The man in the street judges and throws the stones, all from the safety of anonymity. Media attention has challenged many people, their strength of person and above all their core values. Living a life of fame should be carefully approached with God’s wisdom for guidance through the volatile and brutal desert of public opinion.

And what about us? We are the man in the street with the stone in our hand. We feel free to gossip and dissect the scandals with no fear of personal sacrifice. If we want to live a life of excellence, gossip on all levels must be confessed and banned from our discussions. The very important principle of Luke 6:31 applies here.

And just as you want men to do to you, you also do to them likewise.

When we gossip, we will be the subjects of gossip. I believe there is a spirit of lying and deceit in every piece of tittle-tattle. My attitude and tone of voice in retelling a story can make it a lie. If we are not careful and fearful before God, we can wound and hurt with the violence of a swinging knife. (James 3). I picture some words in the image of a dagger to the heart, turning it now and then to inflict more pain.

Let us then step up and leave the judgment of famous people to God, lest we are judged by our own harsh words.

In the first verses of John 6 Jesus is found at the Sea of Galilee with a multitude following Him. He retreats to the mountain with His disciples. Jesus getting away from the people implied that He made time for His disciples for in-depth discussions. He made time for prayer. He deliberately avoided arguments with the authorities. Alone time is not defeatist. It is a vital part of living a public life, crucial for straight and God-centered thinking.

From Capernaum to other side of Galilee was about six kilometers. People followed Him. They were astonished about His teaching and yearned for more. They followed on land. The village Bethsaida was near the fords of the river on a plain where the grass was smooth. It became the setting for a miracle.

People made haste to find a good spot. There were bigger crowds as the feast of the Passover was near and everybody was travelling. Pilgrims on their ways to Jerusalem were also among the crowds, choosing a route to avoid Samaria.

The sight of the crowd stirred sympathy in Jesus’ heart. They were hungry and tired. Philip was the man to ask as he came from Bethsaida (John 1:44). Where could they get food? It would cost more than 200 denarii to feed the vast crowd. About four pence made one denarius and that was a day wage for a labourer. It would cost more than six month’s wages to feed the crowd.

Andrew came with the boy carrying five barley loaves and two little fishes. Andrew was always bringing people to Jesus. Barley was the cheapest of all bread and was held in contempt, regarded as the bread of the poor and animals.

The fishes were probably the size of sardines. Pickled fish was staple in Galilee. Fresh fish was a luxury unheard of. Fish could not last without preservation and therefore it was dried and salted.

The people had to sit down, Jesus blessed the food. He was acting as the father of the family and prayed a prayer of thanks for the food. He acknowledged God as the Source of food for the family.

Take a minute to think about your table prayers. When Jesus took the bread and the wine at the Last Supper with His disciples before the crucifixion, He said: remember Me. I believe we pray at the table to remember Jesus and what He has done for us. We should build a unique prayer of gratitude and remembrance for blessing at every meal and not mechanically repeat a senseless rhyme to get it over and done with.

The people received from the disciples. The disciples were an interesting bunch, from a variety of backgrounds. I am sure they distributed the bread in very individual ways, each one with a different approach. They represent the variety in the church of Jesus today. We minister culturally and individually as the situation demands.

The foremost consideration is that we minister the bread from Jesus’ hand.

 The people ate enough. They were filled. The word used for filled means to be filled to repletion, to be completely full after a meal.

 The fragments were gathered. At Jewish feasts it was regular practice to leave something for the servants. The people would have known. Twelve baskets, bottle-shaped baskets without which no Jew left his house were filled with leftovers. The food was more than enough.

There are interesting ways to look at the miracle:

Of course Jesus is the maker of the miracle and multiplied the loaves and fishes. It reminds us of the widow and the oil in 2 Kings 4 where she was set financially free by miraculous multiplication.

Pilgrims and labourers usually carried food with them for kosher requirements. It is very possible that every person had some food with him or her that day. The people were selfish and human. While travelling the food would have been carefully planned for a few days for personal use only. It would have been reckless to share and much safer to keep it for own use. Sharing of food would have been miracle in itself, with no regard to provision for the days to come. To share the food could have been a fearless abandon of the worry and planning where tomorrow’s provision is going to come from. A crowd of selfishness became a sharing feast. The change of heart and freedom from anxiety about provision made the miracle so much more intense.

The meal with divine provision became a sacramental meal with the words of Jesus. Later in the same chapter He speaks of drinking His blood and eating His body. The wonder of His presence made the food different. Ordinary food became spiritual food.

Let us consider the people instrumental in the miracle:

The contrast between Philip and Andrew is distinct. Philip spells out the impossibility of the situation. Andrew brings what he has.

This is SUPER important. What happens if we bring what we have to Jesus with our heart’s cry? Jesus would do what is necessary to provide what is lacking. We provide the material for a miracle.

The boy brought his ridiculously small contribution. Anybody looking at the crowds and his lunch would have laughed at the silly, absurd thought of feeding a multitude with a boy’s lunch.

Jesus only needs what we can give. Are you denying yourself a miracle because you think what you have is not worthy?

 Little is always much in the hands of Christ.

Are you problem orientated? Do you see the complete desperateness of the situation under the banner of realism? People, who do not like miracles, compliment themselves with realism.

Have you thought of the people you brought to Jesus? Do you think of your children and what they might become in the Kingdom?

 

[There is a tale of an old German schoolmaster who, when he entered his class of boys in the morning, used to remove his cap and bow ceremoniously to them. One asked him why he did this. His answer was: “You never know what one of these boys may some day become.” He was right – because one of them was Martin Luther.]

 

 

Advertisements

9. That ancient chat

Words brought the world into existence, words flung the stars into space; words spoke the light into being and set the oceans their boundaries. Then God formed man from the dust, the woman from the man and spoke a blessing over them to give them authority over all things. Genesis 1:28:

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

God’s first words to man was spoken in His Presence in that beautiful perfect garden, setting the scene for continuous and constant communication. He never ceased to speak. Not even sin could thwart the voice of God.

I am not sure what you think of prayer. Just the word might bring bad associations – forced prayer, awkward moments, heartless prayers, judgmental prayers, long windedness, religious rituals and so forth. Just think for a moment what is your intellectual and emotional response to the mentioning of prayer. Are you excited by the thought, or do you feel guilty? Are you hesitant or joyful? Do you feel indifferent; having decided long ago it doesn’t work or are you enthusiastic about recent answer to prayer?

Adam and Eve walked with God in the garden as royalty to reign over the magnificence of creation. They dwelt in perfect communication and entered into the rest God planned for them. Remember, their first day on earth was the Sabbath. One can never reign effectively and victoriously without entering into the rest of the Sabbath with God, relaxing and finding fellowship with Him. That was the first, fabulous consequence of communication – rest and peace.

Then in the darkness that followed the decision to listen to that challenging half-truth of satan, came the distancing of shame and failure, fleeing from the Presence and conversation. Satan questioned God’s words, and Eve added some of her own understanding when she said: we are not to eat or touch the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. God never said not to touch, only not to eat. Sin comes to us in various ways, but it is the participation and immersion in it, that corrupts and destroys. It exposes our nakedness without the covering of God’s Presence. God’s love is our protection against our own failures and destructive decisions. 1 Peter 4:8:

Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Eve gave Adam to eat; they saw their own nakedness and hid from God – as if it is possible. That same day, not letting the sun go down on their devastation, God came and called in the wind: Adam where are you? Do you really think He needed information about Adam’s whereabouts? Do you think the all-Knowing God did not know exactly where Adam and Eve were and exactly what happened in the garden that day? He knew off course! And He came…. and called.

Sin did no end the conversation. No sin can ever end the conversation. Today He says: Isaiah 1:18: [The Message]

“Come. Sit down. Let’s argue this out.” This is God’s Message:

“If your sins are blood-red, they’ll be snow-white.

If they’re red like crimson, they’ll be like wool.

What an amazing invitation! This is the answer to sin. Get it out of the way. Walk on. Come back into the Presence. No detours, no guilt, no hiding from God. Come back, call out – forgiveness is guaranteed. If God said it, it is life-giving and life-changing – powerful, miracle-working words. His words of forgiveness will lift you up and out of failure and hopelessness.

Why did God ask questions? Not to get information, but to get the talking going. Adam had to talk it out, tell God why they are hiding, confess, explain and in spilling the secret, be healed and forgiven. Sin is so often a secret, so often unspeakable and shameful, so much that it holds you captive just by the sheer shame of it. Talking about it is rendering it powerless. God has an answer, a miracle, for the biggest scandals you can think of. He will not allow satan to defeat you and your potential in this world. His plans are steadfast and sure. Proverbs 19:21: [The Message]

We humans keep brainstorming options and plans, but God’s purpose prevails.

What happens in the garden? God prevails – until His voice calls them out of hiding. He gets them to talk. The whole story is blurted out with blame and accusations. As always God’s judgment comes sound and clear, not to man – who will off course carry the consequence of sin, always with God by his side, but to satan, who will bear the ultimate defeat at the cross, when his head will be crushed. Genesis 3:15:

God told the serpent:

“Because you’ve done this, you’re cursed, cursed beyond all cattle and wild animals,

Cursed to slink on your belly and eat dirt all your life.

I’m declaring war between you and the Woman, between your offspring and hers.

He’ll wound your head, you’ll wound his heel.”

After this declaration of judgment, God did a very important thing. He covered their nakedness His way. He killed an animal – I believe it was a lamb, but the Bible does not say – and clothed them with the symbolism of innocent blood flowing for the cleansing and cover of their sin. Their own efforts with fig leaves did not spare them the shame of their failure. Only God could cover them to live on the cursed earth, the brokenness that we today still live in.

They were covered by the blood of a lamb; we are covered by the blood of THE Lamb. By His blood the Garden is restored and we can walk with God in His Presence, talking with our Father as of old, before sin.

We live in the dispensation after the cross of Jesus and know that satan was defeated by the resurrection of Christ. Jesus taught His disciples a revolutionary prayer – to call God Father. For the Jews at the time, God was a distant, untouchable, holy and strict God-figure. They never dreamed of calling Him DAD. Jesus said that whoever have seen Him, have seen the Father, Creator-God, the high and holy One, living and breathing amongst us. John 14:7:

“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”

His compassion and love shown in His time on earth is the character of God: forgiving, compassionate, righteous, approachable and close, and above all GOOD.

While we are looking way way back to creation, we might as well take a quick, fresh look at the Flood and the Ark. God invited Noah into the Ark. God was on the inside. In His Presence there is everything you need – safety, provision, care and protection for as long as you need it until you are safely directed to your next step in life. The dove, symbol of the Holy Spirit, will show you life and how to make a living. He will bring you the branch of provision. Genesis 8:11:

Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth

In the conversation with Him – prayer – you submit your next step to His guidance and plan. He has a plan for you, to give you a future and a hope. [Jeremiah 29:11]

In Pebbles number 5 we talked about sin of the golden calf in Exodus 32 and Moses’ plea for the people before God. He knew that they could never dream of entering into the promised land, without the Presence of God. To this day, this is what defines true Christianity. The line of communication with our heart in submission to His directive, our chat to God to hear His heartbeat in His Presence in prayer.

How will we function as powerful, effective, victorious Christians? Exodus 33:15,16

“If Your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here.

For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth.”

That is our only mark – the Presence of God. Not religious ritual, faithfulness in works, unfailing service to man, wealth or fame, success, beauty or any other lofty achievement can elevate us to a life of excellence. In His Presence we will find the ultimate life.

Then only we will be prepared for the brokenness of this world. Jeremiah 12:5: [The Message]

“So, Jeremiah, if you’re worn out in this footrace with men,

    what makes you think you can race against horses?

And if you can’t keep your wits during times of calm,

    what’s going to happen when troubles break loose

        like the Jordan in flood?

Until next time.