Discernment

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

It is Sunday, the day I usually begin to write my blog. I’m sitting here, staring at my screen, trying to discern how to write about discernment. “Discernment in the Kingdom” happened to be the next lesson in our Sunday School study guide this morning and I was the teacher.

It’s easy to teach on things when they’re not too close to home, but I’ve been struggling for the past three weeks about being discerning when it comes to my mother’s health. I’ve been with her a week in the hospital and almost three weeks in rehab, nearly every day, all day until supper. 

My mother—a bright, energetic, creative woman—has 95 years under her belt. She is “Mimi” to her two grandchildren and seven great grandkids. Old age has been settling in the last few years. Imagine that! But, up until three weeks ago in her assisted living facility, she still enjoyed playing cards, Bingo, Corn Hole, WII Bowling, balloon games, and even playing the piano while the others sang hymns.

Mimi has had a few falls and this is her third time in the hospital in the last two years with pneumonia and congestive heart failure. She’s just not bouncing back this time. She is weak and seems to have lost her will to try, just wants to stay in bed. PT and OT are making great efforts to get her up and going. Reluctantly she tries, but not without a fuss.

My dilemma—when do you stop pushing? That’s why I’m praying for discernment. When is it encouragement and when is it time to let go?

And so, dear blog friends, I reach out to you for your prayers this week as we try to make decisions about where she needs to be and how much to push. To add to the mix, I’m the only child.

 Please be specific in your prayers as you feel led. Scripture verses are welcomed. Thank you, friends.

~ Joyce ~  

Feeding the 5000 – Why?

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We have come to the end of this series on feeding the 5000, but I want us to consider one last thought—why does Jesus do this particular miracle?

Of course, after a day of healing and teaching, it creates quite a spectacular ending. In fact, so spectacular that Jesus has to do some crowd control.

When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!” When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself. John 6:14-15

He had come to save them, but not as a king with an army to take on the Roman empire. No, he wants to save them spiritually, not politically.

Can it be that this great sign with the feeding is as much, if not more, for the twelve disciples?

Remember that they had just come from an experience of going out two by two to the villages bearing the name of Jesus, sharing what they had been taught so far. They had retreated to the sea in a boat with Jesus, only to be met with a growing crowd when they landed back on shore. They must learn endurance and continuous ministry.

Toward the end of the busy day, the disciples suggest that the people need to leave to find food. First lesson—think outside the box.

Jesus said, “You feed them.” Mark 6:37

Jesus prompts them to check things out, but they are still “in the box.”

Andrew spoke up, “There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd? John 6:8

Jesus teaches them how to deal with a big crowd. Prepare! Organize! 

“Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:14b

They become close eye witnesses of the miracle when Jesus multiplies the bread. They participate in the disbursement of the food and come back for more and more. How delightful!

Then to top things off, they realize their cups, er, their baskets overfloweth. They collect exactly twelve baskets of leftovers. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that there are twelve—one for each disciple.

They have been immersed from beginning to end in this spectacular sign. However, Jesus doesn’t want them to get caught up in the “king-making” crowd.

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. John 6:45

After Jesus goes off by himself for a time of prayer, the disciples will get another big dose of who their master is when He walks on water!

How attentive are you to what the master is doing in your life? Is He telling you to think outside the box? Does He want you to check something out? Prepare? Organize? Disperse something? Gather the overflow of His miraculous work in your life? Is He grooming you for greater things? Deeper things? I hope so.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Feeding the 5000 – The Miracle

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

The people sit on the grassy slope, organized into groups of 50. (See Feeding the 5000 – Let’s Get Organized)

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven and blessed them. Mark 6:41a

I like to savor this line as I picture the Son of God lifting these meager offerings to the Father. He looks up to heaven, gives thanks, and gathers in God’s majestic power for what He is about to do. It is a high and holy moment. I imagine a hush falls over the people.

Then breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. Mark 6:41 b

Forgive me, but I tend to wonder about insignificant things and this is one of those times. Do we assume there were twelve baskets, one for each disciple? If so, where did the baskets come from? The disciples had previously been on the sea. Surely they didn’t have room for twelve baskets plus all the men in the boat.

Perhaps we can assume they borrowed some from the crowd. Pardon my need to know all the details! It does help us, though, to immerse ourselves in the setting. 

Jesus busily breaks bread into the baskets. The disciples move through the crowd feeding this group of fifty and the next group. I imagine little paths of grass around each group so the disciples can get to everyone and see who has been fed and who hasn’t.

Once again, this all takes time.

What do we hear from those in the crowd? Maybe—”Where did all the bread come from?” “It seems like He is multiplying the pieces!”

And from the back of the crowd—”Will they run out before they get to us?”

“The disciples are running back to get more and more.”

“It is almost like his miracles of healing, but to feed this many, how can it be?”

He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted. Mark 6:41-42

How are the disciples themselves responding to all of this? Maybe they are wide-eyed with wonder as they watch the baskets filling again and again. They may be the only ones who know that Jesus started with just five loaves and two fish. Perhaps they look at each other in amazement and laugh out loud with delight.

After everyone was full, Jesus told his disciples, “Now gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” So they picked up the pieces and filled twelve baskets with scraps left by the people. John 6:11-13

One day Jesus would say,

I am the bread of life.” John 6:48

Indeed He is the one who nourishes us, the one who sustains us and supplies our every need.

But, why did Jesus perform this miracle? Let’s explore that question next week.

~ Joyce ~

 

Feeding the 5000 – Let’s Get Organized

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Okay, now we have something to work with to feed 5000+ people—five barley loaves of bread and two fish. (See Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat) Not a lot to go on, but then it wouldn’t be a miracle if the food was already plentiful, now would it?

Being an organized person, I love the next scene in this power-packed day. Jesus saw the need for getting things organized and he asked the disciples to help Him. We have hind sight. We know what’s going to take place, but they didn’t.

Jesus gives two instructions. Pretty simple.

Jesus replied, “Tell them to sit down in groups of about fifty each.” Luke 9:15

Sit on the grass (the” grassy slopes” John says)—in groups of 50. Easy breezy, you say? But look at the crowd! We discover they are 5000 strong.

I’m going to give you a little sneak preview of how I plan to construct this scene in my next book about Matthew.

Peter stood straight up, hands on hips. “He wants us to do what?”

Matthew turned to Peter, “He wants the people to sit in groups of 50 or so.”

Gesturing to the crowd of thousands, Peter complains, “You mean we have to count off to 50 that many times?” 

“Peter, can you usually get about ten men in a boat?”

“A big boat.”

“Just think five boatloads in each group.”

“Oh, I see.” So Peter shouts over to some of the other fishermen disciples and repeats the plan.

Matthew smiles and quickly sums up a group of ten men. “The master wants you to sit on the grass,” he tells them. As they sit, he motions another group of ten to join them. Then another ten, “Will you join this group, please?” And so forth for five tens—fifty!

Then he turns to another group of ten. “Please form a new group by sitting here.” To another ten, “Please join this new group.” And on and on.

Keep in mind that they’re going to need 100 groups of 50. That means each disciple must organize about eight groups of 50. As you can see, it’s a mammoth task, but with each disciple helping, it is do-able. It will take time, however. 

No doubt some in the back begin sitting when they see others sit. Then you have the problem of asking some to get up and move to form separate groups. Nothing is easy when you’re dealing with massive groups of people.

I imagine the disciples have been so busy with the “project” that they haven’t considered what’s coming next. They will eventually realize that all this preparation will serve them well. They will be able to move around the people and know who has been served and who hasn’t. Much more orderly! A great lesson for us in the value of planning ahead.

Next week is the big climax. How amazed the disciples and the people will be when Jesus feeds them all with just five loads of bread and two fish.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Feeding the 5000 – Time to Eat

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Last week, we saw that Jesus had mixed emotions. He was burdened with the news of John the Baptist’s death. At the same time, he rejoiced with the disciples who had returned from their successful ministry trips in Feeding the 5000 – Before the Feast.

Now they landed on shore and found a huge crowd ready to greet them. Jesus set his mixed emotions aside and had compassion for the people. As had been his pattern, He began healing the sick one by one.

I think about the temptation Jesus had in the wilderness. Remember when Satan wanted him to jump off the high pinnacle of the Temple and let the angels catch him? What a spectacular idea that was. It would dramatically show the people his great power.

But that was not the kind of Savior God had in mind. Instead, Jesus was to work in among the people, healing one by one, ministering to individuals, teaching small groups at a time. It’s unlikely that a crowd of 5000 could all hear him at once, no matter how strong a voice He had nor how much of an amphitheater the terrain provided. 

Eventually, the people would receive physical food, but first, He wanted to feed them the food of His words.

After a long day of healing and teaching, some of the disciples grew concerned about the people because they hadn’t eaten all day and they were in a rather remote place. They suggested that he—

“Send the crowds away so they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “That isn’t necessary—you feed them.” Matthew 14:15-16

John says that Jesus turned to Philip and asked,

“Where can we buy bread to feed all these people?” He was testing Philip, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “Even if we worked for months, we wouldn’t have enough money to feed them!” John 6:5-7

About that time, Andrew spoke up.

“There’s a young boy here with five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that with this huge crowd?” John 6:8-9

At least Andrew looked around for a solution, but he, too, was doubtful.

Isn’t that like us? Full of questions and doubts. We get so one-sided about what can or cannot be done in a certain situation. We don’t think outside the box. What are other possibilities? Are we going to limit God? Could He possibly have a miracle in the making for us? 

Next week, we’ll watch Jesus organize and go into action.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

 

Feeding the 5,000 – Before the Feast

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We’ve looked at “points of view” coming from the four gospel writers on several happenings in the life of Jesus. When we looked at the feeding of the 5,000, you may remember I said I might want to revisit that exciting day in more detail. That will be our focus for the next few weeks.

What was happening before the great feast? I think it’s always important to get the setting, set the stage so to speak.

At some point in the time line, Jesus heard about John the Baptist’s terrible death. Recall the story. Herod caved when his wife, Herodias, (through her daughter) asked that the head of John the Baptist be brought to her on a platter .

As soon as Jesus heard the news, he left in a boat to a remote area to be alone. Matthew 14:13

What do you do when you have received tragic news? You may want to have the love and support of close friends or family, but, at some point, you may just want to be alone to collect your thoughts and deal with your emotions in private.

My hunch is that Jesus wanted to be alone with God and gather the inner strength he needed from his heavenly Father. Very possibly, Jesus thought about how he, too, would one day come under the cruelty of those in high places.

Think of those times in your life when the weight of tragedy or trying experiences brought you to a low ebb. Perhaps frustrations with a job or the cruelty of unkind words struck the very core of your spirit. Somehow, with God’s help, you managed to continue to function. It is in this kind of human condition, we find Jesus.

Later, when He looks up toward the shore, He sees his disciples who have returned from their ministry tour of the villages of Galilee where he said:

“Go and announce to them that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cure those with leprosy, and cast out demons.” Matthew 10:7-8

He shares in their excitement, glad to see their happy and hear their stories, then he tells them,

“Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” Luke 6:31

After more sharing, He looks at the shore where the crowds are gathering to meet him. I envision him sighing greatly and whispering, “Give me strength, Father.” Then we see his heart.

…as he stepped from the boat, he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

He welcomed them and taught them about the Kingdom of God, and he healed those who were sick. Luke 9:11

Jesus moved forward in the strength God gave him—an important lesson for us. For you see, that same power is available to us as we push out alone in out boats to receive healing and inner strength from our Lord. May it be so for us all this week.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Point of View – “One will betray me”

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

In our point of view this week, we step into the upper room where the disciples are celebrating the Passover meal with Jesus.  

At one point, Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him. This stirs up the group to question, “Am I the one?” Jesus says to them;

“It is one of you twelve who is eating from this bowl with me. For the Son of Man must die, as the Scriptures declared long ago. But how terrible it will be for the one who betrays him. It would be far better for that man if he had never been born!” Mark 14:20-21

Matthew would actually have been at the table and must have been sitting close to Judas. 

Judas, the one who would betray him, asked, “Rabbi, am I the one?” And Jesus told him, “You have said it.” Matthew 26:25

Luke, likely getting some of his information from Peter, reports some of the same things, but their attention takes a twisted turn.

The disciples began to ask each other which of them would ever do such a thing. (Moving right along…) Then they began to argue among themselves who would be the greatest among them. Luke 22:21-24

What a motley crew Jesus had. Here He has given this dreadful news, but shortly some are more consumed with their “place” rather than a betrayal of Jesus. And these are the ones who are to turn the world upside down! Once again, Jesus patiently reminds them that they are to have servant hearts.

John gives us quite the inside scoop as he becomes a particular part of the dialogue. Intuitive John tells that Jesus is “deeply troubled” and then shares about the betrayal.

The disciples looked at each other, wondering whom he could mean. The disciple whom Jesus loved (John) was sitting next to Jesus at the table. Simon Peter motioned to him to ask, “Who’s he talking about?” So John leaned over to Jesus and asked, “Lord, who is it?” Jesus responded, “It is the one to whom I have give the bread I dip in the bowl.” And when he had dipped it, he gave it to Judas. John 13:22-26

Each one hears, sees, or learns about a different part of the conversation or actions. We are like that at times. We become fixed on a driving force in our lives and only see that, like Luke’s version, where a few briefly wondered about the betrayal but were fixed on who would be greatest in Christ’s kingdom.

Today, I was about to pull out of my subdivision with my mind fixed on an oncoming car. I decided  I had plenty of time and started rolling out. I almost failed to see a bicyclist who was only a feet feet away from me. When I realized he was approaching, I quickly put on the breaks.

My lesson—don’t let your vision get so mesmerized by a distant thing that you fail to see what’s right in front of you.

~ Joyce ~

 

 

Point of View – Ear Cut Off

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

Perhaps you remember the incident in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus had taken the disciples with him at a late hour to pray and to prepare for what He knew would be his most difficult task yet, his crucifixion.

He asks his followers to pray and watch and takes Peter, James, and John further into the garden. Then, He goes even further for his own private time.

Eventually, the temple guards, along with the religious leaders, and the high priest’s servants come with their clubs and swords to arrest Jesus.

Matthew would have been there but farther back from Jesus. He reports it this way:

Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear. Matthew 26:50-51

Mark basically reports the same information as Matthew.

Dr. Luke, however, has an interest in what happened to this servant’s ear. As he investigates the details, he discovers two new things.

…one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “No more of this!” And he touched the man’s ear and healed him. Luke 22:50-51

So, we learn from Luke that it is the right ear (whatever that matters) and, more importantly, that Jesus heals the man. Even in the midst of the turmoil and danger, Jesus cares for this enemy who has been injured.

And now, we go to John’s description.

Then Simon Peter, who had a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant, cutting off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) John 18:10

Ah, two more pieces of the puzzle. Peter was the one swinging the sword and Malchus was the name of the poor recipient of the sword. Thank you, John, for once again giving us names.

John was closer in proximity to Jesus, thus observing Peter and Malchus. In addition, it seems that John had a relationship to Caiaphas, the high priest, and others in the court.

Simon Peter and another disciple [John] were following Jesus. Because this disciple [John] was known to the high priest, he went with Jesus to the high priest’s courtyard, but Peter had to wait outside the door. [John] came back, spoke to the girl on duty there and brought Peter in. John 18:15-16

Apparently, John knew Malchus and also one of Malchus’ relatives. John mentions this relative as one of Peter’s accusers in the courtyard scene. (John 18:26)

Once again, we see different points of view. Matthew and Mark mention the incident in passing. Luke investigates his interest as a doctor. But John has personal information. Our views are valued more when we personally know those involved and have done reliable investigation. Something good to remember as we give our points of view.

~ Joyce ~  

Point of View – Feeding the 5,000

Searching His Word
Seeking His Heart

We love the happy surprise story of the feeding of the five thousand. Let’s take a look at the points of view from the gospel writers. This is one incident that all four record.

They all agree that Jesus and the disciples have been out on a boat and find a huge crowd gathered on the shore waiting for him. Each writer gives responses from Jesus as he sees the crowd. 

…he had compassion on them and healed their sickMatthew 14:14

…he had compassion on them, because they were like a sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things. Mark 6:34

Luke mentions both healing and teaching, a common practice for Jesus.

John jumps right into the concern for the people’s food. The other writers mention that “the disciples” tell Jesus to send the people home because they don’t have enough food to feed everyone. John keys in on what is to be the big lesson for the day and gives us specific names

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, “Eight month’s wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite.” John 6:5-7

The other writers tell us that Jesus says, “You feed them.” But John gives us that wonderful little part of the story we enjoy telling children to demonstrate how children can be of help to Jesus.

Andrew spoke up, (Thank you, John, for another specific name) “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?” John 6:8-9

Jesus tells the disciples to have the people sit on the grass and specifically in groups of 50. Why sit? And in groups? This is a wonderful example of Jesus’ organizational skills. It will make the “passing around” part more manageable. 

Oh, there are so many more lessons to learn in this whole miraculous setting. This may become my next series soon!

Of course, the dynamic part of the day is when Jesus begins to multiply the bread and fish then feed the multitude, and yes, even have leftovers—enough for all twelve disciples to have a basket to bring in. 

Another time, we’ll look at the final insight John gives us. For now,  just think of the impact this “all hands on deck” lesson in faith might have had on the disciples. Powerful and dramatic as it was, within the night they would be scared by the sight of Jesus walking on water. They hadn’t totally learned the faith lesson.

But then, we too see God’s powerful hand at work in our lives, only to worry, doubt, and forget as well. How patient is our God with his weak children.

~ Joyce ~