Beyond Jealousy

Click here to read the passage for today: Acts 5:17-42 CEB.

Jealousy. We all get jealous at times. Sometimes we don’t even want to admit we feel this emotion. Jealousy, when left unchecked, causes us to act in irrational and hurtful ways. Oh, we want to feel excitement for the accomplishments and gifts of other people; but deep down we wish it was us getting that recognition, so we can try to do anything to undermine the work of another.

Often times, when I write a blog about scripture, I can see my own flawed nature. This is hard because I would like to think I am always striving to encourage and develop others; but honestly, this is not always the case. My guess is this same thing happens to you, would you admit it?

So where does jealousy come from? Our flawed humanity seems to be always seeking to acquire and use what we do not have. This is why the 10th Commandment is “do not covet anything of your neighbor’s.” (See Exodus 20:17) Why is this included? I believe this commandment is part of the other nine because if we desire to have what our neighbors (those around us) have then we will never be content with what God has given us and we will seek to be made in the image of the other person rather than being formed and molded into the image of Jesus Christ.

Have you ever thought of that? Why would we want to be a replica of another person who is flawed and imperfect? Why wouldn’t we strive to be made perfect through the grace of God working in and through us? People who are in leadership positions most certainly fall into this way of thinking and of life.

Whenever another person seems to have more success than you do, be careful not to fall into the trap of doing everything exactly the way they do. The other person has different gifts, and a different area to work in. Just because success is happening in a specific way in one area does not mean it will work in your area. Just because another company, organization, church, group has something we don’t have doesn’t mean we have to go out to bash it, to try and stop it, or even try to replicate exactly.

We see this behavior all over the place. Spectators who want to be coaches instead of fully enjoying the nature of the game. Bystanders who want to know they are not getting what they want instead of being part of the activity, ministry, mission to serve other people. Deep down, there is a desire to be better than the person next to us.

Instead of waiting our energy tearing down another person or group because we’re jealous, let’s instead find a way to say “thanks” for the work they’re doing, for how they are using their gifts from God, for the opportunity to work together for the common good and goal of ushering in the Kingdom of Heaven.

Let’s take Gamaliel’s advice to the Jewish Council speak to us today, “Here’s my recommendation in this case: Distance yourselves from these men. Let them go! If their plan or activity is of human origin, it will end in ruin. If it originates with God, you won’t be able to stop them. Instead, you would actually find yourselves fighting God!”

So let’s praise God for the way he works through many different people and in many different ways. Let’s praise God for the way he works through you and me. Let’s allow more thanks and praise to flow from our lips. We have so much to give praise for because we, along with those around us, have the presence God working in us and through us AND we get to watch his work through other people.

Renewal

Happy New Year to everyone! I pray this is the start of an incredible year for you. It is easy to go into a new year and keep it business as usual. After all, we have our own schedules, our own ideas, our own tasks, and habits that we have to keep doing, right?

Yes and no. At the start of a new year, we have this opportunity to refocus and re-evaluate where our attention goes in our life. We get to see how much we actually focus on ourselves more than we focus on others. Or we get to see how much we devalue ourselves in order to put others above us.

For many, new year resolutions are about losing weight, becoming more spiritual or faithful in their faith, being better spouses, doing better to make sure those we’re in relationship with know they are valued. These are all well and good to aspire to. The main thing I invite you to think about is “why?” Why are these resolutions being made? What is the motivation behind them?

John Wesley encouraged the Methodists to re-committ themselves to Jesus Christ at the beginning of each year. I have found this practice to be incredible because the focus gets back on Jesus Christ, what He is doing in us and how He invites us to participate in His work in the world. We get to be reminded we do not live this life alone, we have the Holy Spirit with us each day.

Leaders are especially susceptible to falling into the trap of believing more has to be done in order to gain more followers or become more productive. The truth is that when we keep our hearts and minds focused on Christ and His mission in the world, we see what is really important and have the chance to reorder our lives for His glory.

So as we begin this new year, I invite you to get with a group of people (you choose the size), and take time to recommit your work, relationships, your life to Jesus Christ this year. Here is a video of the covenant service you can use to worship together:

Here is the outline of the worship service, along with responses, so you can print and use on your own: http://www.seedbed.com/john-wesleys-covenant-renewal-service-for-today/

Happy New Year!

Recognizing Christ

2-fish-5-loaves

John 6:1-15 After this Jesus went across the Galilee Sea (that is, the Tiberias Sea). A large crowd followed him, because they had seen the miraculous signs he had done among the sick. Jesus went up a mountain and sat there with his disciples. It was nearly time for Passover, the Jewish festival. Jesus looked up and saw the large crowd coming toward him. He asked Philip,“Where will we buy food to feed these people?” Jesus said this to test him, for he already knew what he was going to do. Philip replied, “More than a half year’s salary worth of food wouldn’t be enough for each person to have even a little bit.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, “A youth here has five barley loaves and two fish. But what good is that for a crowd like this?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” There was plenty of grass there. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread. When he had given thanks, he distributed it to those who were sitting there. He did the same with the fish, each getting as much as they wanted. When they had plenty to eat, he said to his disciples, “Gather up the leftover pieces, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves that had been left over by those who had eaten. When the people saw that he had done a miraculous sign, they said, “This is truly the prophet who is coming into the world.” Jesus understood that they were about to come and force him to be their king, so he took refuge again, alone on a mountain. 

This is a passage we read a lot and think we hear the same message each time. Today, I invite us to look at this passage in a different light.

(These notes were presented in a sermon on Sunday, July 26, 2015)

Where do you see God in your life? What motivates us to see God in our everyday lives? Do we simply go when we’re hungry or need something? Do we only praise God when things are going right and forget about him when things go “wrong”? Or do we see and praise God in all aspects of our lives, recognizing he is part of every part, including the seemingly ordinary parts?

There are people sitting down, reading this, and need to be reminded that Jesus is with you. He is not turning you away. We can go to be with Jesus any time, and he will care for us. Jesus is with you and cares for you, even in the ordinary parts of the day, like meal times. All it takes is for us to see and notice his presence.

So, as we look at this passage, I invite you to consider the question, “What motivates you to go to be with Jesus?” We all have our reasons. Some person reading this may need to feel justified. Another valued. Another loved. Another seeking a friend. Someone may have hit rock bottom and are searching for a reason to continue living. Whatever our motive, we are still moving toward the presence of Christ.

The people followed Jesus up the mountain because they had seen him do miraculous signs of healing and they wanted to see more. The people seemed to be following Jesus as an entertainment venue. We can see throughout scripture how the people “missed it” and did not see what was really going on. It is easy to look back at events and see what happened, after all hindsight is 20×20! But if we think about it, we do the same thing today. We go to God and ask, plead for miracles. Do we stay and still praise him even when what we want doesn’t happen? It is challenging to want to be in the presence of Christ and not expect to be entertained or expect him to do something for us.

A point that we should not miss is that it doesn’t matter why the people were following Jesus up the mountain. Verse 5 says, “Jesus looked up and saw.” That is great news for us! Jesus took the time to, not only look at the people and notice they were there, he took the time to assess the situation and “see” what the people needed. The people wanted to see signs of a great prophet or magician, and Jesus knew they needed nourishment. He saw this need in all of the people present.

He saw the hurting. He saw the hungry. He saw the “religious.” He saw the hypocrites. He saw those hungry for God. He saw those hurting and seeking God. He saw the religious studying God. He saw people wanting to leave their hypocritical lives behind. He saw everyone! He sees you too.

So, Jesus asks a question. He asks Philip where they could get food to feed the people. Philip answered by saying there is not enough money. Jesus was asking WHERE (meaning we are going to feed these people) and Philip answered with a HOW (meaning I don’t see how we can do this task). Isn’t it amazing that the ones who were with Jesus daily and saw all the things he could do, still didn’t understand the power of God through Jesus? We all miss seeing and recognizing what Jesus can do in our lives and the world.

How is our response when we feel a nudging from the Holy Spirit to do some task? How do we respond when we sense a nudging to help someone? If we’re honest, we respond like I do a lot of the time. We’ll look at our limited resources and forget to keep the possibilities in mind. We can ask ourselves this to help keep things in perspective, “If we allowed God in the situation, how would it be different?” We could be so focused on the issue or problem at hand that we have tunnel vision and do not pay attention to the little opportunity right in front of us that could be a solution that God wants us to use.

It is in times like this we should recognize God and see he is still there and still working to take care of the needs of the people. When we allow God to come into the situation, we can see that we actually do have enough (and sometimes God somehow multiplies resources) to take care of the needs and situation. The amazing thing is that everyone is taking care of! He even provides for his people.

God is in all aspects of our lives, and his presence never changes. He is the same God from the beginning of time until the present day. He is the same when life is easy and when it is challenging and difficult (almost impossible). How do we know this? Jesus.

I love the book of John because there is always an underlying message in the book. Jesus is showing he can take care of the physical needs of the people; but he is really showing that he takes care of the spiritual needs (spiritual nourishing). Jesus is the Word made flesh. “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. The Word was with God in the beginning.” (John 1:1-2) Jesus was right there in the beginning. God has been the same. We can see this by what Jesus has the disciples do. He asks them to collect the left over bread and fish in baskets and there was enough to fill 12 baskets. The bread (12 loaves for each tribe of Israel) within the Holy of Holies, in the Temple, was taken by baskets. Jesus was showing the God of the Old Testament is still the same today.

This is one of those miracles that can leave us with many questions. How did he actually multiply the bread and fish? Was it in a cave hidden already? Did people just share the food they brought? I’m not sure how it happened. I do believe Christ has the power to multiply food. His purpose was not to just feed the people some bread and fish. His purpose was to show the people he will feed with food that matters and will not leave us or go bad.

We can recognize that Jesus is more than we realize at times. How do you want Jesus in your life? As a “magic man”? Or as the Source of your life who can sustain you and provide you with everything you need?

The challenge for us is to recognize who Jesus is and see him as he really is.