Day Twenty-Four with Mark: Mark 6:30-44

Today in journey through Mark we look at the feeding of the 5000 in Mark 6:30-44:

Feeding the Five Thousand
30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii[a] worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” When they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

small_mosaic_1Today is one of those stories that we have all heard a million times.  We know about Jesus feeding the 5000.  We’ve heard stories about it, we’ve heard sermons about it, we’ve read it, we know it. So, today, go back and read it, like you’ve never heard it before.  Don’t rush through it, don’t think about how you’ve heard it before.  Go back and read it like it’s the first time.

Ok, what do you notice?  What did you see in this reading that you never really noticed before.  That’s one of the ways to hear God’s voice in scripture; what jumps out to you?  What did you notice that you didn’t notice before?

Let me tell you what I noticed today when I read this passage.

First, in 31, we see Jesus concern for His disciples. They had been working and serving and hadn’t had any time to rest.  That mattered to Jesus.  He tells them, let’s go away.  Let’s get some rest.  Take care of yourself.  It’s ok to focus on your needs.  Not to the exclusion of others as we will see in a moment, but take care of yourself.  Get enough food.  Enough rest.  Enough care.

These bodies, this life, they are gifts from God.  Take care of them.  Jesus noticed they were exhausted.  And the said, let’s go rest.

But then, notice in 34, when people came to them, He didn’t say, nope, we are busy.  How often in our lives do people irritate us when they interrupt our plans?  What did Jesus say and do?  He had compassion.  He had compassion for them.  He and the disciples took time to serve them.  That’s a great reminder to us when things don’t go as we plan them to or desire them to.  Don’t lose sight of the humanity and the need of other people, even when they come at an inconvenient time for you.

Serve them anyway.

And I love what it says in 42.  They ate, and they were filled.  Jesus filled them completely.  He took care of them.  He loved them.  He cared for them.  He made sure they had what they needed.

He does the same for us.  He loves you.  He cares for you.  He meets your needs.

That’s who He is.

Today, what did you notice the reading of this familiar story?

Monday we’ll look at Mark 6:45-52.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

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Heading Towards Burnout

I love preaching.  I really do.  I remember where I was when God first starting stirring up my soul to preach (Camp Wesley Pines) and I remember where I was when I accepted that call (Gulfshore Baptist Assembly).  There were times in ministry thus far when I wished God have released me, but He wouldn’t.  God has confirmed over and again to me His calling.

That said, 2014 was a tough year for me in many ways.  Now God did some great things in our church last year, we have had a several good years of stable, consistent growth, and we are seeing Asbury really begin to blossom and grow within our community and world.  Ministries are being established; individuals are growing, children, youth, and adults are being baptized, the Word is going forth.  God has been good.

But, last year was a tough year for me personally.  I had some issues from my past creep up.  Many of you may be familiar with my story of my biological mother being murdered when I was two years old and being raised by my grandparents.  My biological father (the man who murdered my mother) contacted me this past year.  This was the first time I’ve heard from him in my adult life.  I have spent so much of my ministry teaching and trying to model forgiveness and grace. I thought I had forgiven him.  But when he contacted me, that challenged so many things in my life, in my heart, in my soul.

I had to battle with a real hatred in my soul, that I wasn’t sure I could contain.  I’m better now than I was last year. But I’m still working on it.

So, that put me in a tough frame of mind going into the year.

And I always knew that the growth of Asbury would eventually outpace our resources and infrastructure.  Last year it happened.  I also, being a perfectionist, like to have my fingers in everything.  And as much as we’ve grown, as much as we do, I became totally overwhelmed by that.

I also struggled with how to communicate effectively with staff.  I so don’t want to be a dictator pastor, I welcome differences of opinions and conversation.  But, sometimes I would leave people on an island by not communicating well.  Then I would not be happy when things weren’t done as I would do them or when balls would get dropped.  But the bed of frustration I was sleeping in was a bed that I had made.

And in my arrogance and pride, I often feel like folks aren’t as dedicated to the church as I am.  I felt a sense or resentment beginning to build up in me with my staff and my church.

I also took on too many teaching and preaching tasks.  Towards the end of last year, I was teaching two 3-hour Disciple Bible studies on Sunday and Monday, a Tuesday morning small group, a Wednesday night Bible study, as well as preaching twice on Sunday’s.  As well as other community involvement, and being active in the district and state church.

Oh and I was the tech guy for the church as well. As well as doing the pastoral care and tending to the infrastructure of the church.

An unlit and burnt matches in a rowIn short, by the end of 2014, I was completely and totally exhausted.  My health was a mess.  I was withdrawing from my wife and children, I was coming home from church and just going to bed.  I found myself withdrawing from other friends as well.

I was also a terrible leader towards my church and my staff.  The best way I can describe it is the more exhausted I became, the more I focused on the small things I felt as though I had control over.  So, I became consumed with the small things.  And I became so focused on moving the chairs around the deck that I was unable to steer the ship

In short, I was heading towards burnout.  Heading fast.

And I didn’t want to see that happen.  So, I made a promise to myself to change in 2015.  I have no control over others.  But I do over myself.  So, I made the decision to change this year.

My wife reminds me all the time that I’m not the Holy Spirit.  It’s not my job to change or fix others.  That’s God’s. And see, here’s the thing.  Each of these issues, the issue is with me.  Not others.  Not my church.  Not my staff.  Not anyone.  Me.  The issues are mine and mine alone.  And I’ve got to work on fixing me.

What am I doing different this year?

The first thing I’m doing is I have come to realize, after many years of trying, that I just can’t do it all. I just can’t.  My first move is to start letting go of some things.  How?  Two ways  – first, I am empowering our staff and committees to do their jobs.  By not doing that, I overwhelmed me and didn’t allow them to serve in the way that God wants. Second, I am working more clarity of communication of expectations.  I’ve got to better let folks know what needs to be done.

Second, I realized I don’t need know all the small details.  I don’t have to know every last detail of every last thing going on in the church.  I don’t.  That bogged me down.   Someone should know, but not me

ThirdI am working seeing the big picture.  I like to talk about how one of the best ways to understand scripture is to not get bogged down in all the details.  We need to look at the big picture. That’s what happened to me. I’m not going to let that happen again.  I’m doing my best to keep my eye on the big picture.

Fourth – I am exercising and trying to eat better.  I know everyone says it.  I know.  But you know what I’ve found out this year?  It actually works.  I have more energy now than I did when I was drinking Death Ader energy drinks.

And lastI am working on staying positive.  When I get tired and stressed, I get very negative.  I never see the good.  Only what’s wrong.  That’s not helpful to me, to my family, to my church.  I’ve got to take care of myself and stay positive. That’s the only way I can lead.  How am I doing that?

This is most important.  I am not forgetting to tend to my soul.  I can’t shepherd others if I am letting my heart be tended to by the Good Shepherd.

Thus far, 22 days in 2015, I feel the best I’ve felt in years.  My desire to keep this going so I can be as faithful to God, and love my family, as much as I can be!

No Prayer is Insignificant

One of the things that can really affect our prayer life, if not careful is this.

Well, why should I pray about this? Aren’t there more important things for God to worry about this? Aren’t there starving kids in the world, or hurts, or pains, or other things.

Why should I pray about this? It’s so insignificant.

That’s what we are tempted to think sometimes.

If you have ever thought that thought or struggled with that, listen to what Jesus says today in Matthew 10:29-31:

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

He says aren’t two sparrows sold for nothing, and God notices them? He even knows the very hairs upon your head.

He knows you. He loves you. He cares for you.

And whatever matters to you, really does matter to God.

No prayer that we pray insignificant. Really. God really cares about you today. Really. He really cares about your hurts, worries, and fears today.

He does.

Do not be afraid, or ashamed to pray to Him today. Don’t be afraid or worried to take your concerns to Him today.

He knows them. And He loves you. Today.

Your prayers matter to God today. No matter what they are. No matter how you may feel about them.

Even you feel like they don’t really “matter” they do matter to God.

Today, no prayer is insignificant. Give your worries and pains to God. Today, pray to God in all your places, in all your ways, and in all life.

Today, God cares about you more than you’ll ever know. Today, He longs to hear your concerns.

Today, give them to God!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Loving Other Folks is Hard

There are things that other people do that drive me crazy. It’s one of my running jokes at Asbury that I just don’t have patience for being stuck behind traffic on Hwy 42.

I’m not saying that if I had a laser mounted on the hood of my car that I would blow everyone up. I’m not saying that.

But I would be tempted! 🙂

We all in our lives have something about someone who drives us crazy. Each of us. That something may be something a spouse does. It may be something a coworker does. it may be something that a family member does.

But there’s something that someone does that just drives us up the wall.

Listen to what Paul says here in Romans 15:1-3:

We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For Christ did not please himself, but as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on me.”

Now your thinking, Andy, what does this have to do with those people who annoy you?

Good question. Paul says those that are strong have an obligation to bear the failings (weaknesses) of others. Please your neighbor. Build them up.

In other words, we don’t just live for ourselves. We live for the gospel and for the kingdom, we live to help others know God and experience His life.

And the more that you stir and stew about the thing that drive you crazy about that other person, the more angry and crazy you are going to be.

Look at what Paul says in verse 3 – Jesus did not please Himself. He didn’t live for Himself. He lived for us and so that we could be drawn closer to Him.

Why should I love folks that drive me crazy? Why should I look past their faults and weakness?

Loving other folks is hard! I’m not sure that I want to do it! Why should I care about them, when frankly they probably don’t deserve it?

Because Jesus did that exact same thing for me. He loved me when I was unloveable. He cared for me when I wasn’t worth caring for.

And He wants me (and you) to do the same thing for “them” no matter who they are and what they “do.”

He lived for others. We find only find our life when we stop living for ourselves, and live for Him.

Today, may we live for something bigger than ourselves.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

What to Do?

Sometimes in life we are paralyzed by what to do. What is our next step? What does God want us to do? How are we supposed to proceed?

What does it mean to be faithful?

What exactly is it that God wants us to do?

Those are big questions. Huge questions. Questions that we have all wrestled with at some point in our lives.

Well Andy, you’ve defined the problem. What’s the answer.

Listen to what Jesus tells us today in Matthew 10:40-42:

“Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

This is one of my favorite passages in the bible, in fact it’s the passage I preach my first sermon on when I first started preaching. I love it because of what it tells us to do.

Not something “great.” Not something “super.” Not something otherworldly.

Something simple. Something that we can all do. It says that even a cup of cold water, given for Jesus sake, it will be rewarded.

Sometimes we spend our lives looking for the “big” things instead of focusing on the small, simple, acts of faithfulness that God is calling you to.

God may or may not be calling you into the fulltime ministry. But, no matter who you are or what you do, I know this.

He is calling you to love.

To forgive.

To serve.

To care.

To share your story.

To be Christian.

These are not “great” things. These are every day, “faithful” things. But in these things, God is glorified. He is lifted up. And He draws all men to Him.

Today, what to do? Be faithful. Do the small, little things. And God will do great things with it.

Today, in all things, may we be faithful.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

Where Life is Found

In John’s Gospel in particular, Jesus says over and over that if we love Him and follow Him, we will obey His commandments.

Ok, that we know what we are supposed to do. So, then, what are we supposed to do? He tells us today in this passage.  Listen to what He says in John 15:12-13, 17:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. These things I command you, so that you will love one another.

Love. Greater love has this than you lay down your life for your friends. That’s what He did for us. Through the cross, He laid down His life for us so that we can live.

He laid down His life for you. He loved you enough to choose the cross for you sake and for my sake. Because of His action, we can live, we can love, we can know the power of life.

And He tells us to do the same. As He loved us and laid down His life for us. We are to love each other.

Ok, well, what do that mean? We talk about a lot, but what does it mean? To do the same as Jesus. Place others ahead of ourselves. Value each other. Humble yourself. Put others ahead of ourselves.

That’s love. To serve. To care. To place others needs of ourselves. Jesus loved us enough that He sought to serve and to save.

And in doing this – this is where life is found.

We are to do the same. Let’s love each other. Let’s serve. Let’s care. Let’s live. In loving, serving, caring, and forgiving, we find life.

Today, let’s really find life. Let’s follow Jesus’ command for us. Let’s love each other. In that we show that we are His disciples. And in that we show the power of His love to the world.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones.

We Need Each Other

Christianity is easy on Sunday.  Well, outside of getting out of bed and getting the kids dressed. That part can be a challenge.

But, it’s really easy to be a Christian on Sunday. There are folks all around us that are of the same purpose and vision and desire.  Everyone is smiling, everyone is together, everyone is supporting.  Everyone is trying to behave.

It’s easy on Sunday morning to be a Christian.

What about today?  Today will be a lot harder. Not everyone will be supportive.  Not everyone will be pulling for us. Not everyone will support you in a your faith. Some may mock you.  Some may laugh at you.

There will be temptation. There will be trials. There will be opposition.  It’s tougher to be a Christian on a Tuesday than it is in a Sunday.

Listen to what Paul says today about this in Philippians:

Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News.

Paul said that we are to live a citizens of heaven and live in a way worthy of God.

How?  How do we stand up to temptation and do these things.  He tells in us in the end of that passage.

Stand together as one.  One spirit.  One purpose. Fighting together for the faith. Stand together.

We need each other.  We need each other on Sunday, we need each other on Tuesday. The only way that we can stand as Christians is to stand together.

That is our calling today. That is our duty today. To be one.

Today, when you are tempted. When you are struggling. When you are in need. Turn to a fellow Christian. Let them help you. Let them pray for you.  Let them uphold you.  Let them be your strength.

And today, if you see a fellow Christian in need, help them.  Support them.  Help give them courage and strength. Be there for them.

We need each other. Today, and every day. We need each other.