It's easy to get caught up in our equity based society and see our value in such a limited way. Take a look at this video to get a different perspective.
"Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came to him and said, 'Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night. There is nothing to eat here in this deserted place.' But Jesus said, 'You feed them.' 'Impossible!' they protested. 'We have only five loaves of bread and two fish. Or are you expecting us to go and buy enough food for this whole crowd?' For there were about five thousand men there. 'Just tell them to sit down on the ground in groups of about fifty each,' Jesus replied. So the people all sat down. Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and asked God's blessing on the food. Breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples to give to the people. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!"
So this is a famous passage out of Luke 9 about the feeding of the 5000. Before this there is the story of the disciples going out and performing all sorts of miracles healing the sick and preaching to the villages in the surrounding area.
Have you noticed that before? They just got back from healing a bunch of sick people and performing miracles in the name of Jesus and yet this is "impossible"? The disciples didn't get it and missed out an an opportunity to be used in more miraculous ways. Jesus handled it and fed them all, but do you think it's any coincidence that there were 12 disciples and 12 baskets left over? Point made.
You realize don't you, that this is what Jesus is saying to us today: "You feed them." It's not metaphorical. It isn't flippant. It's expectant. "You feed them."
Don't miss out on being the conduit for the miraculous. Trust that even though the task is perhaps monumental, God is asking you to do something. If you don't, He'll likely get it done, but you'll miss out.
What is God asking you to do? If He's asking, you're equipped.
I came across these lines this morning that are said to be the essence of the sage’s teaching.
See with original purity
Embrace with original simplicity
Reduce what you have
Decrease what you want
I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a life philosophy so beautifully written. This is exactly what I’ve been seeking in my own life. I know from family and close friends I talk to about their journey, this is the essence of their longings also.
Pops Blair, 2008
When was the last time your faith was really challenged?
I don't mean the last time you were tempted or felt like doing something outside your set of values, etc. I mean your core faith was challenged? You had to question what you believe?
I'm reading a book right now by James Kugel: "How to Read the Bible: A Guide to Scripture, Then and Now" which is a wonderfully written book. Kugel was a very popular Professor of Hebrew at Harvard for many years before moving to Jerusalem to teach, write and research. This book presents a very different way to interpret the Old Testament Scriptures along with what we would consider traditional interpretations. The reader is encouraged to compare and contrast and come to conclusions that may or may not be in line with his or her faith. I am over half way through and find myself questioning my long held beliefs about the origin of Scripture and some of the historical accounts laid out by the writers of the Bible. In short my faith is being challenged.
It got me thinking about how complacent we get - really comfortable with what we think we know and unless that knowledge is challenged, it gets very stale. I'm not talking about more study from the same perspective, but getting outside our comfort zone and looking at our faith from a different perspective. Seeking out contradictory viewpoints in order to sharpen our own viewpoint.
I don't think we should be afraid of finding contradiction to our faith. I wouldn't recommend the book I'm reading to anyone whose faith is not very strong, but without challenging and testing your faith, it's unlikely it will remain strong.
I'll review this book once I'm done with it, but for now, I challenge you to read and listen to conflicting viewpoints so that you can sharpen your own faith walk. Without "iron on iron" sharpening, your faith will continue to dull.
Lord knows, we have enough dull Christians around already!
Pops Blair, 2007
2000 years ago, compasses did not point north.
I’m not talking about the real compass made out of brass, but the internal compass made out of flesh and blood. Jesus, in His first sermon, (Matthew 5, 6 and 7) lays down the foundation for His public ministry on earth. A ministry of recalibration.
Look at what he says first:
Blessed are the poor in spirit…
Blessed are those who mourn….
Blessed are the meek….
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness….
Blessed are the merciful….
Blessed are the pure in heart….
Blessed are those who are persecuted….
Blessed are you when others revile you….
Not exactly your list of the rich and famous. To a bunch of people wandering around and floundering in life, this must have been shocking. To those in power, this must have sounded ludicrous, insane. Jesus is shocking people out of their normal way of life.
He goes on to say that He didn’t come to get rid of the law, but lets them know that the law is not enough. Simply following the law does not cure the ills of the heart. Committing adultery in the flesh or committing it in your heart is all the same in the eyes of Jesus.
He talks about prayer and how the big flowery prayers being said are not what God is looking for. He knows what you need, so get to the point. Love that! Jesus then goes into a diatribe on how we worry too much about money and “things”. “Don’t build treasure where treasure is temporal.” There is an entirely different system of value in God’s economy. Earthly treasure molds, light is dark, flowers are dressed better than people! Crazy talk!!
Jesus ends up with letting us know that we are as bad and sinful as the next guy, so trying to be judge and jury in spiritual matters is futile. But also that we need to be aware that people are trying to fool us into believing that South is North, so beware. Jesus lays this foundation: “What God values and what man values are very different things.” He punctuates this by telling the story of the house on the rock and the house on the sand. This story isn’t about salvation, but about recalibration. Building value on earthly foundations is folly. Building value on God’s foundation – what He values – is wise.
So why am I telling you something you already knew and have read for yourself? Because if you look at the world today and even the Church today, our compasses are not pointing North. We whine when we don’t get our way in politics. We fret and fuss and judge spiritual depth over whether people carry Bibles to church when the majority of Christians in other parts of the world don’t have a Bible to carry nor a place to worship. We practice our righteousness on street corners (and in blogs) instead of in private because the temporal rewards of knowing our little place in this world is how we want it and showing others that we are buttoned down and put together is more important than knowing God in the privacy and silence of our houses and offices.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This verse is speaking to me because only God can know if I am pure in heart. It’s not something that can be seen by others, not something I can be proud of because no one knows but God.
Here’s my challenge. Let Matthew 5, 6 and 7 recalibrate you this week. Just read it without preconceptions. Let the words of Jesus speak to you. Look for areas where your compass is off. Try to live this recalibrated life with a compass that truly points North.
Pops Blair, 2007
Zachariah 4:6 "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty.”
I’ve been thinking about this one verse for a couple weeks now. You know, when you get something in the back of your mind and it just won’t go away. I didn’t even remember where the verse was from, so I had to look it up.
I guess I’ve been more uneasy about life changing than I thought and apparently God was trying to get through to me. I can hear God saying now…"he’s a nice boy, but he’s not very bright…." There was something important in this verse for me that I just didn’t get until a couple days ago.
Some background: Zachariah was a prophet right after the exile in Babylon. He was really concerned about the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Zerubbabel was leading the charge to do the rebuilding and this chapter in Zachariah is a prophesy saying Zerubbabel will actually finish the rebuilding effort.
Smack in the middle of this is verse 6 where it looks like to me that Zerubbabel needs some encouragement. Don’t we all?
At fist glance this seems pretty simple, but it was richer to ancient ears that our modern ones because “might” and “power” sound a lot the same to us. The word “might” is actually translated “army” in a lot of other places like when the Egyptian army was chasing the Israelites as they were fleeing captivity. “Might” is a collective of strength. All of us together. God says, “It’s not all of you together that will get things done, but it’s by My Spirit.” The word “power” is individual. The same word was used to describe Samson’s strength. So again God is saying: “It’s not by your individual strength, but by My Spirit that things get done.”
This speaks to me because my tendency is to take over when things get stressful or are rapidly changing. The verse in my head these past few weeks has let me know that God is still in charge. It’s not by the strength of the people gathered around me and it’s not by my own strength that God’s will is accomplished. It’s by His Spirit within me and around me that “holy construction” happens in my life.
What a relief!
Pops Blair, 2007
What is the peace the World gives?
"We make war that we may live in peace" - Aristotle
"Let him who desires peace prepare for war" - Flavius Vegetius Renatus
"Every kind of peaceful cooperation among men is primarily based on mutual trust and only secondarily on institutions such as courts of justice and police" - Albert Einstein
This is peace that is intermittent, fleeting. It depends on the threat of war, capitulation and politics. It depends on us to carry it out.
Contrast with the peace that Jesus offers:
He was despised and rejected--a man of sorrows, acquainted with bitterest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way when he went by. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God for his own sins! 5But he was wounded and crushed for our sins. He was beaten that we might have peace. He was whipped, and we were healed! All of us have strayed away like sheep. We have left God's paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the guilt and sins of us all.
Ultimate Peace cannot come from documents or war, conflict or commitment. Ultimate Peace comes from Ultimate Sacrifice. Eternal peace.
”I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart.” - Jesus
Pops Blair, 2007