FAITH

Advent Day 4: Abundance

Those dreaded words. It feels like there’s never a way to avoid them. They always seem to come just after I think to myself “maybe she won’t ask this time”.

Every husband probably knows the exact scenario. You order the food you want with absolute accuracy depending on how hungry you are…if you’re me you order a little extra to make sure you’re good and satisfied. Then you’re part way through the meal and she asks:

“Can I have a bite?”

AHHHH. (I think to myself….most of the time, occasionally it actually comes out)

I ordered the exact amount that I needed and if I share, there just won’t be enough left over for me.

If we’re all honest, this doesn’t always stop at food. These feelings of scarcity creep into most areas in our life at some point, but that’s not the way God calls us to live.

Let’s look at the story of feeding the 5,000. This is the only miracle Jesus performed aside from the resurrection, that was recorded in all 4 gospels of the New Testament. I feel like that tells us something about the importance of this principles in the story.

The account of this story that we’ll reference today comes from John 6:5-13:

‘Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples. The Jewish Passover Festival was near.

When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “It would take more than half a year’s wages to buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!”

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, spoke up, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass in that place, and they sat down (about five thousand men were there). Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten. ‘ 

Living with a scarcity mindset isn’t unique to our generation’s and our day and age. Even the disciples, the 12 closest to Jesus struggled with it.

We serve a God that takes our “I don’t have enough” or “It’s impossible, it’ll never work” and says “Watch me turn your lack into everyone around you’s  abundance.”

Andrew basically said “we couldn’t make a dent with 5 loaves and 2 fish if we tried, there’s 5,000 families here!” and Jesus’ response was simply, to have the people sit down and receive.

He supplied their needs and then some. 12 baskets filled with left overs. Arguably a basket of leftovers for each disciple to have his own. That shows me that we serve a God that can take what appears to be lack and create resource for thousands and still have left overs for me that supplies MORE than my need. Just so long as I’m willing to forfeit what appears to be “just enough for me to eat, but not enough to share.”

Especially as we enter the Christmas season, how can we give outside ourselves where there is need? Know that when you do, our God is a God of abundance, not scarcity. He owns cattle on 1,000 hills and your needs and requirements don’t scare him. Seek FIRST the Kingdom, and all else will be added to you.

FAITH

Advent Day 3: Obedience

“DO PUSH-UPS” A phrase both received and uttered countless times while I was in the military.

This phrase was most often a direct result of some failure to operate in line with something that was requested, expressed, ordered or mandated. Now in an attempt to be leaders of the highest caliber and prepare young Rangers for greatly complex overseas operations, these disciplines were for the good of those who received them.

Our obedience is what gave us a better chance to stay alive and keep those around us alive as well. We were brothers. We were family.

Obedience is dictated by boundaries and operating within them.

When you weren’t exercising obedience, you were disciplined. Occasionally it came when it wasn’t due because you had a leader who was just a little…well, “off” is probably the best way to put it…but most often, discipline came when it was needed and due. Whether it was appreciated in the moment or not, it was effective and it kept you within the designed parameters.

Our God is slightly different in the sense that He is 100% good, but process, direction and discipline still remain. Obedience to biblical structures are for our benefit…not just for His. He never disciplines when it’s not needed. Godly boundaries are always helpful and always due.

Think of it like your dog. You feel bad for your dog because you’d like for him to be able to go out and run around outside. But if you let him out to run right now, he’ll probably run off through the neighborhood causing trouble and potentially get hit by a car.

So you build a fence. However, it’s really not about keeping him in. Think about it. It’s likely that if there was zero doubt he’d behave, that he’d stay close to home and that he’d never get hurt…you probably wouldn’t even think twice about a fence.

Your main focus was more about giving him the greatest level of freedom possible, to run around and enjoy life while keeping him safe. It’s within sound boundaries and obedience to them, that the truest level of freedom, security and safety is found.

I choose to live within Gods designed structure, but I never make it a single day without screwing it up. The amazing nature of our God is this: He knew we’d all mess it up at some point. That we’d stray from staying within his structure. That’s where Jesus comes in. To stand in the gap. To be perfect where we are flawed. To take our punishment, while we receive the heavenly access that’s really only due to Him alone.

That’s why I couldn’t be more amazed by Jesus.

FAITH

Advent Day 2: Intentionality

Have you ever planned something for your spouse or significant other that you were just so excited and so proud of? Perhaps a gift, or vacation, or experience of some sort? This summer I took my wife to the dessert shop that I took her to on our first “friend date” (I call it that because at the time I thought it was for sure a date and then we ultimately ended up staying friends). I was incredibly excited knowing that she was going to be so surprised! It was exhilarating. Being intentional about our relationships always brings us such great joy in life, right?

Planning and intentionality is an amazing way to show your loved ones that they truly matter to you.

People often ask “If God has foreknowledge, why would he let humans do all of this just to have to send a savior?”

I believe that Jesus dying for our sins was not an afterthought. I believe God loves us so extravagantly that He determined before He ever started, that He would create man, give him free will to choose as he pleases knowing that many would not, and then give of himself in the form of his Son, Jesus as a sacrifice to atone for our mistakes. He would do all this simply to demonstrate his love, to mankind with true intentionality.

As I mentioned yesterday, you don’t foreshadow something for hundreds of years through a huge handful of prophets if it’s an afterthought, or a response to our failure.

“But God knew what would happen, and his prearranged plan was carried out when Jesus was betrayed. With the help of lawless Gentiles, you nailed him to a cross and killed him. But God released him from the horrors of death and raised him back to life, for death could not keep him in its grip.” Acts 2:23-24

During this season let’s take a minute to remember how intentional God was and is with us. The busyness of the holidays and the chaos of shopping can really make time fly by and before you know it, it will be over. So take some time to be intentional with God, family and friends.

FAITH

Advent Day 1: Expectation

As we begin our Advent season together today, I wanted to emphasize the true meaning of the season. Advent implies expectation. The coming of Christ. The expectation of a new birth. It’s a season of re-remembering once again that we serve a God that wants us to be faith filled and expectant of what he’ll do for, through and around us. That is why he started telling the world through prophets, hundreds of years before Jesus came, that he would bring a Messiah.

This a season for re-learning to live with anticipation of our God. He’s never late and always on time, but he’s rarely on OUR time.

What are you expecting God to do in your life? Are you living with any expectation at all?
As we navigate into this together, take the time this season to ask God not just what he wants to do for you, but what he wants to do through you. That’s where the adventure and the power most often lies. Expect him to show up when we ask the right questions with the right heart…he always does.

I noticed Malachi 3:1 today on the front page of the Bible app and found it so applicable. “Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,” says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.

Look eagerly…He is surely coming!