In Despair

“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered. “Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. – Matthew 14:17-21

When looking at this passage, it is easy to think that the disciples and all the people gathered were on “cloud 9” after seeing the amazing miracle that had taken place. In review of the story, Jesus had just blessed the contents of a little boy’s meager lunch and used it to feed over 5000 people (in those days only men were counted…so there could have been exponentially more people). Often when we read this story we talk about how God provides and He can do anything. This is absolutely true, but I think it is easy to miss the important detail of what Jesus and the disciples were going through during this time.

If you look at what happened right before this popular event, you will see something that potentially brought God-followers into a deep emotional and spiritual valley. John the Baptist was killed. He was beheaded as a present for Herod’s birthday. He was gone.

People who followed Jesus would have probably looked at this as a massive blow to their cause and movement. Some may have even thought that it was time to give up. Many would have been very afraid to continue following Jesus. All would have felt the devastation.

Imagine the scene. So many people gathered and many with their heads down in despair. They were hungry and probably very tired. Then, Jesus provided nourishment for them all as if to tell them that everything was going to be okay. Jesus knew that John’s sacrifice was not going to be in vain and that there was still hope in the midst of discouragement. No matter how dark things looked, it only took a little light to set the world ablaze. Jesus knew that this was a pivotal moment in their lives and they needed to pay attention. They were going to be the people who brought the gospel to the world!

Remember this today. Whatever darkness you are going through…in Jesus there still is hope. Even if the deadline has passed. God is still on the throne and His timing is perfect.

Trust Him today.

Prayer for today: Jesus, help me to rely on you every moment of the day. Thank you for who you are and your abundant grace. Amen

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Out of Solitude

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives mean the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” -Henri Nouwen, Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life

Leaning Heavily on the Lord

“I have since learned that the most mature believer is the one who is bent over, leaning most heavily on the Lord, and admitting his total inability to do anything without Christ. The greatest Christian is not the one who has achieved the most but rather the one who has received the most.”
― Jim Cymbala, Fresh Faith

Flickering

“I’m willing to bet there are millions of churchgoers across America who cannot confidently say they have experienced His presence or action in their lives over the past year. And many of them do not believe they can. The benchmark of success in church services has become more about attendance than the movement of the Holy Spirit. The “entertainment” model of church was largely adopted in the 1980’s and ‘90’s and while it alleviated some of our boredom for a couple of hours a week, it filled our churches with self-focused consumers rather than self-sacrificing servants attuned to the Holy Spirit….The light of the American church is flickering and nearly extinguished, having largely sold out to the kingdoms and values of this world….We are not all we were made to be when everything in our lives and churches can be explained apart from the work and presence of the Spirit of God….shouldn’t there be a huge difference between the person who has the Spirit of God living inside of him or her and the person who does not?”- Francis Chan, Forgotten God.

Dullness

“The most critical issue facing Christians today is not abortion, pornography, the disintegration of the family, moral absolutes, MTV, drugs, racism, sexuality or school prayer. The critical issue today is dullness. We have lost our astonishment.

The Good News is no longer good news, it is okay news. Christianity is no longer life-changing, it is life-enhancing. Jesus doesn’t change people into wild-eyed radicals anymore; He changes them into nice people. Our culture is awash in immorality and drowning in dullness. We have forgotten how to dance, how to sing, and how to laugh. We have allowed technology to beat our imaginations into submission and have become tourists instead of travelers. Television dominates our time, alters our values, numbs us to life in all of its wildness. We have been stunted by mediocrity.” – Mike Yaconelli, Dangerous Wonder.

And, the Saved?

But what you ask of earth? Earth, I think, will not be found by anyone to be in the end a very distinct place. I think earth, if chosen instead of Heaven, will turn out to have been, all along, only a region in Hell: and earth, if put second to Heaven, to have been from the beginning a part of Heaven itself.

“‘That is what mortals misunderstand. They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory. And of some sinful pleasure they say ‘Let me have but this and I’ll take the consequences’: little dreaming how damnation will spread back and back into their past and contaminate the pleasure of sin. Both processes begin even before death. The good man’s past begins to change so that his forgiven sins and remembered sorrows take on the quality of Heaven: the bad man’s past already conforms to his badness and is filled only with dreariness. And that is why, at the end of all things, when the sun rises here and the twilight turns to blackness down there, the Blessed will say ‘We have never lived anywhere except Heaven,’ and the Lost, ‘We were always in Hell.’ And both will speak truly.’

‘Is that not very hard Sir?’

‘I mean, that is the real sense of what they will say. In the actual language of the Lost, the words will be different, no doubt. One will say he has always served his country right or wrong; and another that he has sacrificed everything to his Art; and some that they’ve never been taken in, and some that, thank God, they’ve always looked after Number One, and nearly all, that, at least they’ve been true to themselves.’

‘And the Saved?’

‘Ah, the Saved… what happens to them is best described as the opposite of a mirage. What seemed, when they entered it, to be the vale of misery turns out, when they look back, to have been a well; and where present experience saw only salt deserts, memory truthfully records that the pools were full of water.’” -Excerpt from C.S. Lewis’- The Great Divorce