Whatcha Got? (By Beth Smith)

fish GLady pixabay

Here’s a story from the book of Mark, with a bit of my own perspective sprinkled in.

Jesus sent his disciples on a road trip with instructions to take a walking staff and nothing else—no money, no food, no back-up supplies. They headed out to preach the gospel, drive out demons, and pray for the sick. Having seen God work, I imagine they came home happy, but tired. Then they heard about the beheading of John the Baptist. I imagine they were tired, shocked, and sad. The crowds kept coming and pressing in to see Jesus. The disciples were so busy they didn’t even have time to eat. Now they were probably tired, sad, and hungry.

Jesus told the disciples, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest” (Mark 6:31). Climbing into a boat headed for a time of solitude, I imagine they were feeling relieved. But the crowds figured out where they were going and arrived in time to greet the boat.

Jesus “had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mark 6:34). The disciples, who weren’t going to have a rest after all, may have become tired, sad, hungry, disappointed, and even put out with Jesus for placing the needs of all these other people ahead of theirs.

Suppertime came. The exhausted disciples, surrounded by people in need, said, “Lord, it’s late. These people are hungry. Send them off into the villages to buy their dinner.”

His answer? “You give them something to eat.”

What? Now exhausted, sad, hungry, disappointed, peeved, and maybe even angry, I bet those men thought, “After everything else, does Jesus want us to walk all the way to the villages to get food? We don’t even have any money.” They knew Jesus could do miracles, but they forgot. (Isn’t that true of us at times?) They answered, “Lord, we have nothing to give. It would cost a small fortune to feed all these people.”

Then Jesus asked an important question, followed by a command: “What do you have? Go and see.” He asks us the same question, and gives us the same instructions.

The disciples brought five loaves and two fish to Jesus, who multiplied them and fed all the people. We need to bring what we have to Jesus, too, especially when we’re tired, sad, hungry, disappointed, angry, financially strapped, or full of doubts.

This is a time for us to remember that God can multiply our little loaves and fish—our love, talents, money and time—when we put them in his hands. Jesus asks each of us, “What do you have? Go and see.”

Write It Down

I love the old song, “Count Your Blessings. It’s so important to remember our blessings and to be quick to thank God for them. When I absolutely must remember something, I write it down. Perhaps it’s time to start writing down our blessings as well, a list of things God has done for us.

Deuteronomy 4:9 (NIV) says, “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.” Do not forget! If we write down our blessings, we’re more likely to remember them. We need to remember God, who he is and what he’s done for us.

In Psalm 77, David was so troubled he couldn’t sleep. He asked such questions as:

  • Has the Lord rejected me forever?
  • Will he never show me favor?
  • Is his unfailing love gone forever?
  • Have his promises failed?
  • Has God forgotten to be kind?
  • Has he slammed the door on compassion?

I’ve had moments when I felt that way. After those questions, though, comes the word “Selah,” which means pause. Then David says: “I will recall all you have done, O Lord. I remember your deeds of long ago. They are constantly in my thoughts. O God, your ways are holy. Is there any God as mighty as you? You are the God of miracles and wonders. You demonstrate your power among the nations. You have redeemed your people by your strength” (Psalm 77: 11-15 NLT).

What a change in David’s outlook! We need our own Selah—a pause to stop and consider who God is and what he’s done for us. Writing it down insures that we won’t forget, or so that, when we do forget, we can look at the list and remember once again.

Even when we do forget about God and his blessings, he doesn’t forget about us. The second half of Hebrews 13:5 from the Amplified Bible says, “He (God) himself has said, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. I will not, I will not, I will not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let you down or relax My hold on you. Assuredly not!” That great scripture is worth reading several times this week.

And here’s another helpful hint. Read Psalm 103, which begins, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His Holy Name. Bless the Lord, O, my soul, and forget not all His benefits (or all the good things he has done for us)” (Psalm 103:1-2 MEV). See how many good things David lists in the Psalm. Since God never changes, those same good things, those benefits, are not just for David, they’re for us too.

These are troubled times, but go ahead. Make a list of God’s benefits. You’ll be glad you did. And please consider sharing: what’s at the top of that list today?

What Are You Looking At?

  • “Looking ahead will keep you from falling behind.”
  • “Keep your eyes on the prize.”
  • “Seeing is believing.”

All those sayings hold nuggets of truth, but which ones really help us? Let’s dig a little deeper.

“Looking ahead will keep you from falling behind.” Any farmer can tell you what will happen if you look back while plowing. You’ll get crooked rows. Jesus said, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9: 62). How much time are we spending thinking about our pasts? Are we revisiting the good things behind us, or the bad? Remember, God forgives our sins, takes us through the hard times, and offers us a fresh start every day.

“Keep your eyes on the prize.” If we’ve become followers of God, we have an eternal prize awaiting us. I often say I’m looking forward—to Christmas, a good movie, eating lunch with a friend or maybe just taking a nap. Titus 2:12-13 tells us to look forward to the day when we’ll see Jesus, our Savior.

Nobody’s present situation is perfect, but God asks us not to focus on the trouble we can see. Instead we’re to fix our eyes on, or give our attention to, what cannot be seen. What we see now is temporary. But God, love, peace and joy will last forever. So will eternal life through Christ.

And so that brings us to the phrase, “Seeing is believing.” That’s not always true. Sometimes we have to believe before we see. That’s faith. We hold on to our faith in what we can’t see by reading and believing God’s Word.

I can almost hear you saying, “There you go again, Beth, making it sound easier than it is.” Believe me, at my age, I know how the world, the flesh, and the devil keep us from reading the Bible and from prayer. The longer we seek God, though, the more easily we recognize the traps and circumstances that cause us to do everything else except look to God. Just do it. Look to our Lord in times of trouble, remembering that he is always looking at us.

  • The eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love” (Psalm 33:18).
  • The eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer” (1 Peter 3:12).

Uh-oh, does “righteous” mean we’re watched and heard only when we do everything right? Not at all. We receive our righteousness by accepting and acknowledging the payment that Jesus made for us when he died for us on the cross.

So let me ask you one more time, “What we looking at?” May our attention be fixed, not on our past, our present and our future, but focused on God—our Help and Friend and only Hope!

Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Revelation 3:20 NASB).

Under His Wings (A Month of My Mom)

 

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May is the month of Mother’s Day, and I’ve decided to have Mom as my guest blogger for the entire month. ‘Hope you’ll comment on her wise words. I’ll be sure to pass them along to her!

When the religious leaders of the day asked Jesus to state the greatest commandment, he replied, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. And love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).

The Pharisees had added to the commandments God gave Moses, tacking on so many rules and regulations that the list was almost impossible to remember, let alone obey. Of course, this made the religious leaders seem pious and powerful. Then along came Jesus, who condensed the commandments into two simple statements. Love God. Love your neighbor. In essence, Jesus robbed the leaders of their power and, as you can imagine, they hated him for that.

Jesus didn’t return their hate. He even said, when they sought to kill him, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing” (Luke 13:34). Jesus longed to take care of his people. He still does. He longs to take care of you and me, even with all our imperfections. Picture God as a mother hen and us as his chicks.

  • Some of us stay fairly close to him but often think about wandering off. There’s a bit of something we want to explore over near the barn.
  • Some of us are just pecking away in the dirt, drifting further and further away and feeling pretty proud of our independence.
  • Some of us are almost out of earshot altogether.

When a dangerous storm comes up, a mother hen will call her chicks home and gather them under her wings to protect them. The ones nearby, the strutting independents, and the far off ones all get the same shelter, the same care.

Sometimes we’re like those chicks. We’ve fallen short so many times that we doubt God could care about us. We may be going through such sad, confusing, or painful times that we can barely hear God’s call. We just don’t know where to go for help. Here’s where to go—under his wings. The book of Psalms reminds us of that fact over and over:

“Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 17:8).

“How priceless is your unfailing love, O God! People take refuge in the shadow of your wings” (Psalm 36:7).

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1).

I think perhaps this one is my favorite:

“He will cover you with His feathers and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart” (Psalm 91:4).

God longs to cover each of us and shield us. We haven’t wandered too far away to hear his voice. We just need to stop and listen.

House Rules Revisited

Last February, a local MOPS group asked me to talk about the house rules Steve put into place when our children were small. I’ve written about those rules in previous blogs, but thought this might be a good time for a review. Before you take a look, and hopefully click on a few of the links to past blogs, let me reiterate the most important part of what I told those young moms:

These rules, sometimes with a tiny bit of tweaking, apply to us as adults every bit as much as they apply to the children in our lives. So, if you have no kids, have no fear, this blog is still for you! And as we all spend more time at home with our families, perhaps this will serve as a helpful review.

Don’t argue when it doesn’t matter: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/400/

Be happy for what you have, and if you fuss, you lose: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/bhfwyh/

 Obey the first time, and be kind: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/07/31/halfway-there/

Pray for someone every day: https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/08/07/pray-for-someone-every-day/

 Don’t hit, and be respectful (of others, of our Lord, and of your own body.) https://smoothersailing.wordpress.com/2013/08/21/the-final-three/

Got a favorite? A rule you’d like to add? Please take the time to comment.

Granting Extra Grace

Have you ever goofed ? Forgotten to do a book report? Backed into a parked car? Given away a secret… Of course you have. Me too. Sometimes we have a reason for our missteps, perhaps lost sleep or a distracting tragedy. Sometimes, we just mess up.

We are now living in days of distraction. Days of concern and unnoticed self-absorption. I hope you will join me in this challenge:

Choose to be one of those who grants extra grace. If you are slighted, offended or inconvenienced in the weeks ahead, chalk it up to the offender’s lack of sleep or focus or to their unseen hardship. Absorb the discomfort inflicted by another with a great degree of patience and understanding, whether it is deserved or not.

“What would Jesus do?” is a time-worn question now, but it’s still a valid one. He would act with extra grace. He DID act with extra grace, in indescribable ways. And, while calling us to do the same, he enables us to do the same. So, we have a responsibility to follow in his footsteps. This is a part of loving one another as Christ loves us, a Bible lesson we’ve all been taught and can easily spout, but now have a chance to live out on a daily basis.

And that’s enough for today.

Tell me, though, if you have the time to comment, where is it the hardest for you to follow in His steps? And how are you managing?