Archive for March 2012

Power of Reflection & Anticipation

“Don’t you remember?”

Muse on this question.

“Don’t you remember?”

This is the question that Jesus asked his disciples in Mark 8. It came on the heels of two HUGE food distribution efforts. One was for a group of 5000 men (see Mark 6) and the next was for a smaller group of 4000 men.  By most estimations the groups were 2-3 times larger than reported due to the inclusion of women and children.

In both cases Jesus proved himself to be a miracle-worker. His batting average is perfect. Of course, isn’t that what you would expect from the Son of God?!?

After feeding thousands (and healing a possessed girl, a deaf/mute man, and oh yah…walking on WATER), Jesus and his disciples retreated to a boat ride on the lake. Shortly after disembarking, the disciples realized they had brought only one loaf of bread with them for the journey. This was clearly not enough for a day on the water.

What would they do? Where will they go? Who gets to eat? Who goes hungry?

Questions. Questions. Questions.

Then there was one from Jesus “Don’t you remember?”

He didn’t stop there:  Don’t you get it? Is your heart hardened? Can’t you see or hear? Don’t you remember when I feed five thousand and we had a bunch of left-overs? Don’t you recall when I fed four thousand and we had basketfuls of pieces to pick up?

“Don’t you remember?”

I need to confess that I have a short-term memory. Do you? Are you like me and so easily forget the past blessings of the Lord when current challenges present themselves?  It’s so common for us to watch the Lord move in powerful ways one moment then fail to trust him the next.

• 5000:  Fed and happy.

• 4000:  Full with left-overs.

• Boat full of disciples with one loaf of bread between them: Help! We’re gonna die!! All hope is lost!!!

Jesus must shake his head at the obvious display of unbelief and distrust…both then and now. Has God taken care of you in the past and yet you wonder if he will continue to moving forward? Have you given of your tithes and offerings watching how he “opens the floodgates of blessings” and yet fear grips you this month with your limited funds? Did you thank God for the food on your table last night but aren’t sure if he’ll sustain you tomorrow and the next?

“Don’t you remember?”

I believe that the power of anticipation is fueled by the practice of reflection. When you remember what God DID it builds a sense of excitement for he will DO!

You Give Them Something To Eat

Have you ever been WAY OVER YOUR HEAD?

Have you ever been challenged by the Lord to do something that you knew would stretch you? How about times when you really had to lean into Jesus for strength and wisdom because you were outside of your pay grade?

These kinds of situations happen to me often. Ever since I was young I have found myself way out of my depth. Youth pastoring at 18 years old. Married at 19. Baby at 20. Senior pastoring at 27. I’ve often joked with Denise that I’d probably end up having my mid-life crisis…early!

In Mark chapter 6 in the New Testament of the Bible, we discover the disciples of Jesus in over their heads. In the first half of this chapter Jesus sent 12 of them out to ministry in the villages. This was one of the first times they were without a leash. This is exciting and scary at the same time. Verse 12 tells us that they had pretty good success: they preached and people repented, demons were driven out and sick people were healed. Not a bad start.

Then Jesus kicked it up a notch (cause that’s what Jesus does).

In Mark 6:30-44 is the familiar story of the Feeding of the 5000. Most commentators agree that the crowd was actually more like 11,000-13,000 people due to the inclusion of women and children. Quite a crowd…and all hungry. The text tells us that they were in a remote area listening to Jesus’ teaching and it was getting late…too late to all go home. They were hungry and there was simply no place to grab a bite. It’s not like they could all hit a nearby Taco Bell for Fourth Meal!

The disciples encouraged Jesus to send the people away to nearby villages to get food.

His answer was no.

Then he dropped it like it was hot: “You give them something to eat.”

You do it. Go ahead. Make it happen.

Excuses and questions began to fly. How? Where? What? Hello? Excuse Me? Jesus, are you crazy?

The Messiah asked them to give of what they had. Together they only had five loaves of bread and two fish. Not a lot…and yet, interestingly, enough. Because when Jesus blesses what we give him, he makes it enough.

Throughout the Book of Mark I have been noticing passage after passage that deals with issues of stewardship, giving and generosity. This is yet another. Jesus wants us to give what we have, even though it is little, and then allow him to bless it, break it and disperse it for his Kingdom use. Perhaps you don’t have much in terms of finances. That’s fine, but be generous with what you do have and watch Jesus do what only he can do: bless and multiply it!

Like the disciples, it’s good when we get into situations where we are over our head and needing to trust the Lord rather than our own understanding. It’s in times like these when we are called upon by the Lord to “Give them something to eat.” What will you do? Will you make excuses about what you don’t have or will you be obedient to give what you do have?

Together, I believe, we will discover the miracle of multiplication!

The Small Seeds that Grew

Last week I began writing a series of blogs on the topics of giving, resources, generosity and our possessions.

I love these topics.

Most pastors, however, shy away from talking about these important aspects of following Jesus for fear of offending or being labeled as a money grabber. The majority of The Church has been painted with a wide brush because of the imbalanced and improper teaching of a minority. As a result, Christian leaders fail to consistently teach and preach on tithing, stewardship and generosity.

This hasn’t helped the American Church much. The Bible says TOO MUCH to be overlooked. Such is the case with the Book of Mark. I noticed a number of passages that directly or indirectly address our possessions. In my last blog I wrote about chapter 2. This week I want to hopscotch over to chapter 4. The focus of most of this chapter is about seeds and sowing. Jesus told three parables about seeds: one about the farmer sowing seed on various soil conditions, another about the Kingdom begin like a seed that sprouted and grew, and a final one about a mustard seed and became the largest of all plants. Each of these Jesus Stories were about seeds.

Seeds. So small…but oh so much potential.

In Mark 4:8 “the seed fell on good soil…came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times.” In Mark 4:27 “the seed sprouts and grows…first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head.” In Mark 4:31 “the smallest seed you plant in the ground, when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants.”

So small…but oh so much potential.

The Apostle Paul, in 2 Corinthians 9, expounds upon the concepts of seeds and sowing and connects it to an encouragement for generosity.

Check this out: 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written: “He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor; his righteousness endures forever.” Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.”

I encourage you to muse on this passage of Scripture this week and ask the Lord this simple question: “Lord, how should I respond to your Word?”

Below the Waterline

I love the Word of God.

is so powerful.

It is so applicable to our lives.

It is so…well…alive.

Hebrews 4:12 instructs that “the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.”

It penetrates soul and spirit.

It judges thoughts and attitudes.

Of course, it can only do that which we allow it to. The Word of God is not gonna jump up off the coffee table and into our souls. It’s not gonna speak to our hearts if we are not willing to listen. We need to give it permission, preference and position in our lives. Never has this been more of an issue than with our material possessions. It seems as if we (myself included) let the Lord have access to many aspects of our lives, but not our money. I’m reminded of the cartoon in which a man was being baptized in water. Every part of his body was brought below the waterline…except his wallet!

As I’ve been reading the Book of Mark in my daily devotions, I have noticed a number of times the Gospel directly or indirectly deals with the topic of our resources. I first recognized it in chapter 12 regarding the story of the Widow’s Offering, but then I went back and saw that every other chapter in Mark tackled the topic of our possessions (chapters 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16). Over the next few weeks I want to unpack these findings.

Let’s begin with chapter 2 with Levi the Tax Collector.

Jesus began teaching along the shore of the Sea of Galilee because it was a popular place for people to hang out. Therefore it made perfect sense that Jesus would utilize its backdrop as an outdoor pulpit. It also made sense that Levi would set up a tax collecting booth. Whether you’re a preacher or a tax collector, you want to be where the crowds are!

It was here that Jesus the Messiah connected with Levi the Money Man. Mark 2:14 records that Jesus said, “Follow Me.” In response, Levi got up and simply followed him. He left his booth, perhaps his revenue as well. This was more than a passing decision, it was a new way of living. The Money Man became the Messiah Follower. Wow. What obedience and surrender!

I contend that it’s easy to follow Jesus when little is demanded of us. It means next to nothing for us to “get up and follow him” when we are leaving next to nothing. But what about when it involves the possessions that we have worked so hard for?

I believe that when Jesus says “follow me” he is referring to the entirety of our lives, including our money. He wants us to loosen the grip that our hands have upon our money so that our hearts may do the same. The Bible says, “where your heart is there your treasure will be also.” In other words, what our HANDS hold tightly to so will our HEARTS.

In the Old Testament, the Tribe of Levites (named after Levi, one of the twelve sons of Jacob), were the main caretakers of the temple. They were the lead worshippers. Fast forward to Levi the Tax Collector in Mark 2 and ask yourself these questions:

Are you worshipping God with your money?

Are you taking care of the temple of the Lord?

Are you following Jesus in every areas of your life, including that of your possessions?

If not, then allow the Word of God to penetrate your soul and spirit and judge your thoughts and attitudes.

What We’ve Learned from Eileen Fehlen

Since the sudden passing of my mom, Eileen Fehlen, I and the rest of my family have received literally thousands of messages, calls, notes and…the most prevalent of all…Facebook messages! We love Facebook.

Each message and memory posted has been special, but there was one that really captured the essence of my Mom. If you knew her then you’d probably agree with this list. If you didn’t then it’s a great glimpse of a great gal. The following was on Mom’s Facebook page from a wonderful woman named Molly Holknecht, who is a leader at Stanwood Foursquare Church.

Here it is:

• Everyone needs Jesus

• Pie and prayer restore body and soul

• When you see a need, find someone to meet that need

• Meatloaf can be edible

• It’s OK to come to worship with pink hair and a leather jacket

• When in doubt, call everyone “Honey”

• Expect the unexpected, then watch God work

• Hugs are always appropriate

• Love never fails

• Buy yourself a red, Mustang convertible for your birthday

• If you have leftovers and a package of noodles, you have dinner

• The garage is the perfect place to butcher a deer

• We were created in a garden, so plant, grow, harvest and eat

• The Good Samaritan is not a myth or theory, but something to be lived out