Remember the Leftovers

I say if I’d been there to see the miracle of Jesus feeding the 5,000 with five loaves of bread and two fish that I’d follow him faithfully and never doubt anything he said. I would surely never question his promises after seeing him feed another crowd of 4,000 with seven loaves and a few small fish.

But then I read Mark 8:14-21.

Jesus is warning his disciples to watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod. Before Jesus explains, the disciples discuss among themselves that they brought only one loaf of bread on the boat and this must be why Jesus is talking about yeast.

Jesus asks, “Why are you talking about bread?”

That’s not the only question Jesus asks.

Do you not understand?

Are your hearts too hard to take it in?

Don’t you see? Can’t you hear?

Don’t you remember?

Remember how many leftovers were gathered after everyone ate at both crowd feeding miracles?

At first, I’m puzzled by the disciples’ bread discussion. Not only did they watch Jesus feed thousands with a few loaves and some fish, they saw Jesus calm a storm. They saw him walk on water and heal the lame and the leper. They saw him make the blind see and heal a synagogue ruler’s daughter.

So why this inability to see beyond bread?

They were captive to their limited frame of reference….even after all the miracles. Their frame at that moment was a boat and one loaf of bread. Unfortunately, like the disciples, I am slow to understand. There are times I can’t see beyond my circumstances and I forget the miracles. My vision is blurred and my hearing is selective.

When the disciples told him how many baskets of leftovers they picked up, Jesus asks one more question.

Do you still not understand? 

Jesus asks them hard questions but he isn’t harsh. He is patient and kind with their slow understanding. I am overwhelmingly thankful for his tenderness.

Because sometimes, like the disciples, I don’t see beyond the bread.

Photo by Expect Best from Pexels

Congregate

But They Soon Forgot

This week’s Monday School is about a topic that’s been rolling around in my head for quite a while. You can click here to find out about Monday School.

Memory……remembering……reminiscing……..looking back…..

These are what I’ve been thinking about. So when I read in Deuteronomy yesterday morning it caused me to search further.

The first part of the book is an historical account of Israel’s 40 year wilderness period given by Moses to God’s people. The word “remember” shows up dozens of times in Deuteronomy.

But this is the verse that got me:

Only be careful, and watch yourselves closely so that you do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live. Teach them to your children and to their children after them.   Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV

Over and over again God, through Moses, tells the people to remember.

“Remember the day you stood before the Lord……” Deut 4:10
“Remember the Lord rescued you…..”  Deut 4:20
“So remember this and keep it firmly in your mind……” Deut 4:39
“Remember you were slaves in Egypt…..” Deut 5:15
“Remember well what the Lord your God did…..” Deut 7:18
“Remember how the Lord God led you……” Deut 8:2

Do not forget……..remember the things your eyes have seen and keep them in your heart.

I think the word “fade” in the NIV version is so appropriate here. We forget slowly and sometimes unintentionally. The wonders and miracles fade away or cease to amaze us.  Or we work hard to forget the past because it’s painful and full of regret. Or we pretend the past never happened and try to remove anything and anyone that reminds us of it.

But God wants His people to remember……even the hard things…….even when they were slaves in Egypt.

Because remembering well and remembering honestly builds our faith, grows our patience, gives us courage and hope, and enlarges our hearts so that we look on others with compassion.

Psalm 106 tells what happened when God’s people forgot.

7″Our fathers, when they were in Egypt,
did not consider your wondrous works;
they did not remember the abundance of your steadfast love
but rebelled…..”

13″But they soon forget his works;
they did not wait for his counsel….”

21″They forgot God, their Savior,
who had done great things in Egypt……

24″Then they despised the pleasant land,
having no faith in his promise.
They murmured in their tents,
and did not obey the voice of the Lord.”

They forgot and we forget. O God help us remember.

The last part of Deuteronomy 4:9 tells us to teach the things our eyes have seen to our children and our children’s children. When we do this……we’ll remember.

So we tell our stories. The good stories and the hard ones. The ones where God pulled us from the miry pit and the ones where He set our feet upon the rock. The stories where we turned away from Him to do our own thing…….and the ones where He welcomed us back into His loving arms. We tell the stories that are hard to hear and the ones that make us wonder. We not only tell them……we read the stories and listen to them too. That’s how we remember.

Remembering well reminds us that God is God and we are not. So when we read Paul’s words in Philippians 3:13 about “forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” don’t think Paul is telling us to forget our past. More than any other of the New Testament writers, Paul frequently mentions his past in his letters. Paul knew that a good dose of memory of who we were before Jesus can be exactly what we need when we’re fighting the good fight or when we get too big for our britches. Paul means for us to be focused on God and His work….the work we are given to do……and not be distracted by what is behind us because while we are shaped by our past, we are not defined by it. God was there with us…..in our past…..in our pain……in our regrets and there’s nothing He can’t redeem, heal, and use for His purposes.

Memory is one of God’s beautiful gifts and one we are to steward like any other gift He gave us. How we look back over our lives matters.

Remember well. Remember honestly. Remember like it matters.

Photo by Cem Sagisman on Unsplash

 

Grace In Vain

Today is another Monday with a new verse rolling around in my head.

I was in 2 Corinthians 6 and although I continued to read the entire chapter, I couldn’t get the last part of verse one out of my head.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  2 Corinthians 6:1

Apparently we can receive the grace of God in vain and Paul thought the church at Corinth was in danger of it somehow. But what does that mean?

To do something in vain means to do it with no effect………without any useful result…….for no purpose. Like when you work really hard to lose 10 pounds but the scale numbers stay the same. Or campaigning for your favorite candidate only for them to lose the election. The work of exercising and eating right or the hours stuffing envelopes at campaign headquarters feel like a waste. No use at all.

Paul says that God’s grace to him was not in vain in 1 Corinthians 15:10: But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.

Paul explains that God’s grace to him was not in vain by reminding the church of his hard work. Paul doesn’t take credit for his work though. He points to God’s grace.

Grace was received. Work was done. Paul labored in love because of God’s grace, NOT for God’s grace. There’s a vast difference between because and for. One is relationship, the other religion. One is a matter of the heart, the other is a list of dos and don’ts. One makes us humble, the other makes us proud.

The more Paul worked…..the more good he did, the less he thought of himself and the more he glorified God. Because that’s what grace does.

One way to receive God’s grace in vain is to make it all about me. To live my life, my way. Build my kingdom instead of God’s. Work for my comfort and safety without considering the comfort and safety of others.

Grace in vain makes me forget who I was before grace.

Grace in vain secretly, or maybe not so secretly, thinks I deserve the grace because of my knowledge, my faith, my leadership or accomplishments.

Grace in vain takes pride in reaching my next level. Takes pride in checking off the “good Christian” to do list.

Grace in vain makes all the work for nothing. The work is still done but without the intended results. Hardened hearts instead of soft ones. Less compassion, more judgment. Less peace, more fear. More about me. Less about God.

But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. Romans 11:6

But grace, the kind that is not received in vain, remembers that God is the Grace Giver and we are nothing but what He makes us. This kind of grace makes us humble but gives us confidence. We grow and flourish in this grace. This grace flows through our love for God and for others.

“to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.                    Ephesians 1:6

Unfortunately, I don’t live in God’s grace perfectly. Thankfully, His grace covers that too.

Are there any areas in your life you aren’t acting on the grace you’ve received?

 

 

Photo by Sven Gauditz on Unsplash

 

 

 

Not A Lost Cause

This is another story for Monday School. For more on Monday School go here.

About a month ago, I read the story of the man among the tombs in Mark 5:1-20. My heart is encouraged again and again as I think about it.

The same story in Luke 8:26-39 tells us for a long time the man didn’t wear clothes or live in a house. He lived among the dead. In isolation. Away from those he knew. We’re not told how the man ended up naked and alone in the tombs.

It doesn’t matter.

We know he was desperate and in pain. We know he wasn’t really living. Not how an image bearer of God should live. I can guess that his friends and family had given up hope for him. According to the story, some had tried to help by taking him away from the tombs, keeping guard and binding him but eventually “no one had the strength to subdue him.” The story doesn’t tell us how long “a long time” is.

However long was too long.

Without meaning to maybe his friends and family forgot who he was before he lived naked among the tombs. Maybe the weariness of trying to help over and over was too much. Maybe the waiting and the disappointment of the man returning to the tombs again and again hardened their hearts and they drifted away. Or worse, maybe they lost sight of his humanity and they condemned him for his bad choices or lack of faith. Maybe they even wrote him off as a lost cause. And so the man stayed among the tombs.

“Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.” (Mark 5:5) 

Then the man sees Jesus. Although the man falls at the feet of Jesus, the story never tells us the man asked to be healed. But Jesus healed him and the people noticed.

When Jesus was leaving, the man begged to go with him. We’re not told why. Did he simply want to be with the One who saved him? Was he afraid he’d go back to the tombs? Was he embarrassed to see his family and friends? Possibly for all of those reasons the man wanted to go with Jesus, but Jesus didn’t allow it. Instead Jesus told the man to go back to his friends and tell them what happened. Go back to the ones who lost hope. Go back to the ones who forgot. Go back to the ones who tried to help over and over.

And he did. The man went home and all around the city, and he proclaimed how much Jesus did for him and everyone marveled.

Because God changing us is never just for us.

God loves the man among the tombs and He loves the ones who gave up on the man among the tombs.

“But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy………”
       Titus 3:4-5a

 

Photo by John Gibbons on Unsplash

 

Monday School

From the time I could read I’ve talked about what I’m reading to anyone who will listen. When I was a girl this happened when my sister and I played school. Most of the time, I was the teacher and she the student, though I never minded being the student. A good teacher is always a good student first.

Not only do we learn as we read, we continue to learn as we meditate on, share, and discuss what we’ve read. The Bible is no exception.

The Bible, especially, is meant to be read and thought about. A lot of times I’ll read a passage and one verse or phrase will stick in my head until I’ve considered it, asked questions about it and shared it with others. My intention is not only to share what I think about it, but to cause others to ponder and ask questions about it as we discuss it. Yes, I will teach and explain sometimes but only with a desire for the hearers to read and think about it for themselves. Mostly I want to have a conversation about it. I’m a fellow journeyer – learning to love God with all my heart, soul, strength and mind and learning to love others well. I have a long way to go and the journey is better with others.

Beginning today, I will share a passage, verse or phrase that’s stuck in my head. I’ll call it Monday School. It’s a little like Sunday School but not really because there isn’t an attendance chart or gold stars for memorizing verses.

Maybe sharing what’s stuck in my head will get it stuck in your head too and we can talk about it until it isn’t stuck anymore. Or maybe it’s one of those that should stay stuck in our heads until it pierces our hearts which is the whole point of God’s Word anyway.

And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  Deuteronomy 6:6

“The Bible was not given for our information but for our transformation.”
– Dwight L. Moody

A few weeks ago I was reading in Matthew 8.

When he (Jesus) had entered Capernaum, a centurion came forward to him, appealing to him, “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant,[c] ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel[d] have I found such faith.

The phrase that stood out to me: “When Jesus heard this, he marveled….”

Jesus marveled…….he was astonished or filled with wonder because of the centurion’s faith. It made me think about my own faith in God. What do I believe? Why do I believe it? Does my faith cause Jesus to marvel?

I can’t fake faith. Maybe on the outside…….maybe I can fool others but I can’t fool God. He knows my faith or lack of it. Then I remember Hebrews 12:2 where it says Jesus is the founder and perfecter of our faith.

Jesus is making my faith perfect. I don’t need to fake it.

And now I’m the one marveling.

Do you ever doubt? Do you struggle believing God?

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

 
Astonish