Identifying the Problem

As evening fell his disciples came to him and said, “We are right in the wilds here and it is very late. Send away these crowds now, so that they can go into the villages and buy themselves food.”
 “There’s no need for them to go away,” returned Jesus. “You give them something to eat!”
“But we haven’t anything here,” they told him, “except five loaves and two fish.”

-Matthew 14:15-17, J. B. Philips translation

The wind-beaten faces of the fishermen divulged weariness and concern.  The raised brow of the tax collector questioned the late hour.  The steady gaze of Jesus’ inner circle of twelve fastened on him expectantly.  The men waited for their teacher to speak the words that would close the day.  It had been such a long day.  Hundreds, no thousands, of men had showed up to meet Jesus, some with families tagging along.  Sick family members had reached out to this gentle Healer and Teacher, and now they lingered cured of their sicknesses, curious, and fascinated with this man of compassion.  biblical crowdJesus’ disciples really wanted him to send the sea of listeners away. The men urged Jesus to tell the people to leave, using the crowd’s hunger as a reason.  Their argument highlighting hunger was just a sophism.  Jesus knew that.  The people didn’t need to go away. On another occasion, these same men had pushed children away from the teacher to protect him from being bothered.  But surprisingly, Jesus wanted the little children to be around him. Jesus didn’t push people away. The “sending-away” actions disclosed the disciples’ own impatience and self-protective desires.  It was hard to be around the crowds who continually overflowed with a river of needs.  Send them away.  Let them go get food.  Then, the problem would go away.  But, Jesus didn’t view people as the problem.

“There is no need for them to go away.”

No need?  Didn’t the crowd need to eat? Had the men spoken fact that was also untrue?

Then Jesus asked the disciples to do something startling; he asked them to feed this gathering of thousands, quietly unveiling their greatest need.

Feeding of the many. John 6:1-21. 1999 Mark A Hewitt. Lino cut & water colour.

Feeding of the many. John 6:1-21. 1999 Mark A Hewitt. Lino cut & water colour.

Again, the men spoke fact and fiction, “But, we haven’t anything here, except five loaves and two fish.”  True, but not true.  Let the men remember the Creator of the fish and the grain, the one who had already exhibited great power in healing disease.  Let their minds comprehend the fullness of the godhead that stood beside them with dusty feet in flesh and bone. Would they only rely on a single donated lunch to feed a crowd?  Would their vision remain limited to what they could see?  Would they understand the true need?
a need far greater than what they saw now.

Jesus simply replied to his friends stating the remedy, “Bring them too me.”  bread brokenness

Then the Lord of Creation blessed the food, broke the loaves, and gave back to his disciples enough bread to fill the crowd’s bellies full. The men walked through the vast crowd seated on the grass- giving and receiving-giving until all were satisfied, then receiving back the leftovers.  Each man looked down at the basket they were carrying. Each basket rim touched by the leftovers.  Though the offering was small, when it was surrendered to Jesus there had been more than enough to meet the need. Discerning the true need opens the eye to the remedy.

You’re Not Home Yet

I am reminded that I am not home yet. I am longing for a better day. When I find myself in a place I don’t want to be, I whisper to my soul…you’re not home yet.

When the day feels troubled… when pressure mounts…when I feel lost and I am losing my way…when I suddenly am overwhelmed and anxious, I run to you, Father.  I ask for Your help, and You listen to me with a heart of love.  I make a conscious choice to turn to You.  I don’t turn to others first when I am in distress, but I am crying out to you, my dear Father.  I feel urgency rising,  my request is pleading and fervent.  I need rescue from liars and devious deception.
You are my God and my Father.  I am your child running to you for help.  I need you.
hope with ink swirleys

My head is full of questions.  What else does the blazing distorter of truth want?  What more can I do for the artful manipulator and shameless liar?  Deceptive, false words are like a sharp & pointed arrow dipped into the fiery poison of hell sent to destroy.  I feel helpless and frustrated.
C.S, Lewis made for another world

I do not belong here.  I feel full of self-pity as I look upon my circumstances.   All of this pain reminds me that I am not home yet. I am longing for a better day. I find myself in a place I don’t want to be.  I am only a sojourner in this land of rage & upset.  I pursue peace, but they persist in inflaming controversy and stirring up trouble.

Father, as I give you this heart of angst, I remember that I am not home yet.  You give me fresh mercy every day, but I live still in this alien world full of hate. I need You, Father.         Every.  Day.  Not Where I BELONG

One writer reveals the tension well, “the new humanity that is created around Jesus is not a humanity that is always going to be successful and in control of things, but a humanity that can reach out its hand from the depths of chaos, to be touched by the hand of God.”  Father, I am humbly grateful that You are near to the broken who are living in the land of Chaos.

Rescue me from the lies of advertisers who claim to know what I need and what I desire, from the lies of entertainers who promise a cheap way to joy, from the lies of politicians who pretend to instruct me in power and morality, from the lies of psychologists who offer to shape my behavior and my morals so that I will live long, happily, and successfully, from the lies of religionists who “heal the wounds of this people lightly,” from the lies of moralists who pretend to promote me to the office of captain of my fate, from the lies of pastors who “leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men” (Mk. 7:8). Rescue me from the person who tells me of life and omits Christ, who is wise in the ways of the world and ignores the movement of the Spirit. The lies are impeccably factual. They contain no errors. There are no distortions of falsified data. But they are lies all the same because they claim to tell us who we are and omit everything about our origin in God and our destiny in God. They talk about the world without telling us that God made it. They tell us about our bodies without telling us that they are temples of the Holy Spirit. They instruct us in love without telling us about the God who loves us and gave himself for us. — Eugene H. Peterson, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1980), 23.

(I wrote this post as my own paraphrase of Psalm 120.)

 

One Voice in the Cacophony

Noise.  It’s all around us.
voices-r2Daily, we hear a clamor of voices originating from outside of ourselves vying for attention.  Then there are voices directing our focus within, to our own feelings, experiences, and inner voice.  “Follow your heart” echoes in the cacophonic chaos.  This is not a new experience– wasn’t our mother Eve deceived by followng her own desires? by listening to an unknown voice?

There is one distinct voice that should be heard.  Jesus Himself taught about listening to voices.  An extraordinary teacher, Jesus often observed ordinary objects or everyday work to use as illustrations.  Since raising sheep was common, Jesus used it to explain with simple comparisons saying, “The one who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. The doorkeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought all his own outside, he goes ahead of them. The sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.”

Outrage prevails or apathy blinds, and like sheep we go astray.  We listen to the discordant, exacting voices that demand more and more, news reports slice and dice sound bytes, the public outcry of outrage.  The New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks wrote, “Commentators ruthlessly vilify all involved from the island of their own innocence. Everyone gets to proudly ask: ‘How could they have let this happen?’”  Sometimes the dissonance is overwhelming, and we numbly distance ourselves from the uncomfortable. headinsand Like the ostrich we bury our heads because we do not want to face the evils around us or the daily dose of stress.


But, in each life, there exists a dark valley which resists being ignored.

Paul Miller writes, “Both the child and the cynic walk through the valley of the shadow of death.  The cynic focuses on the darkness; the child focuses on the Shepherd.”  Jesus calls each child of God by name as their Shepherd. “My sheep hear My voice, I know them, and they follow Me.  I give them eternal life,and they will never perish—ever! No one will snatch them out of My hand.”  The goodness of the Shepherd is seen in Psalm 23, but the world’s voice increasingly shouts louder excluding the Shepherd’s voice.  The sheep are vulnerable and hopeless without the Shepherd.  When the goodness of the Shepherd is removed from the Ps. 23, it is striking what remains:  we are left alone with our perennial struggles, unmet wants and controlling fears.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not be in want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads
me beside quiet waters,
he restores my soul.
He guides me in paths of righteousness
for His name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff
,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You annoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD
forever.

To hear the Good Shepherd’s voice is to be known and loved.  It is to do life with Life.   The Good Shepherds speaks safety and assurance overcoming the loud noise of the world, I assure you: I am the door of the sheep. All who came before Meare thieves and robbers, but the sheep didn’t listen to them.

 I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved and will come in and go out and find pasture. A thief comes only to steal and to kill and to destroy. Shepherd and the lambs
I have come
so that they may have life
and have it in abundance.

One Shepherd.

One Voice.

“The Shepherd and the Lambs,” Project Gutenberg’s Mother Stories from the New Testament, by Anonymous.