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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Loaves and Fishes

(Part 2 of 3)

“By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and by themselves something to eat.” But he answered, “You give them something to eat.” They said to him, “That would take eight months of a man’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
                                                                                                Mark 6:35-37

At times the greatest obstacle to compassion is our own reluctance. This reluctance often emerges as we are tainted by people that have abused the system, taken advantage of us, or continually take while giving nothing. We are left with the lingering uncertainty of whether the need was real or contrived making us suspicious of every future need we encounter.

However, this is not the only reason we fail to demonstrate compassion. Sometimes we fail to demonstrate compassion because we don’t see what we have to offer as enough to make a dent in the problem, so we hold back even the little we have been given.
Jesus addressed this problem with one simple question:

“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
                                                                                                Mark 6:38

He did not ask “How many loaves do you need?” He asked “How many loaves do you have?” When the disciples returned with five loaves of bread and two fish; Jesus demonstrated two important truths: give thanks for what you have and then set it before the people.

Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them.”
                                                                                                Mark 6:41

The first thing that Jesus did when the disciples returned was to give thanks for what they had been given. Everything we have comes from Him. Instead of focusing on our lack, we should be rejoicing over what God has put in our hands; regardless of how much or how little it appears to be you and me.

Then Jesus said to them, “Set it before the people.” Take what you have and give it to those who need it. One thing I noticed in both passages was that Jesus never prayed for God to multiply the loaves and fishes. He gave thanks for what they had and started passing it out; that’s when God stepped in and provided the increase.
What God proved that day was that He can do amazing things with what we have in our hands; regardless of how much or how little it may be, if we are obedient to share it with those in need.

Pastor Scott Burr                                                                    

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Loaves and Fishes

(Part 1)

“During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way because some of them have come a long distance.”
                                                                                                            Mark 8:1-3

The story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with just a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish is iconic to our Christian faith; it was a miraculous event that took place, not just once, but twice in Jesus’ ministry resulting in thousands being fed each time.

It is hard to calculate the number of times that we have heard these stories preached, written about, or taught in countless Sunday school classrooms. Often the focus of those teachings tends to gravitate to Jesus’ ability to multiply the little to meet the greater need.  As Christians we use the phrase ‘loaves and fishes’ as a declaration of faith in those moments we need God to stretch out something we are using until we are finished with our project or multiply the food at our fellowship dinners so there will be enough to feed everyone.

However, when we focus on Jesus’ ability to multiply our resources something gets lost in translation: Compassion!

Compassion is the emotion that we feel in response to the suffering of others that motivates a desire to help. It is this motivation to act that differentiates compassion from sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is simply feeling sorry for what a person is going through. Empathy understands what a person is going through because you have been in a similar situation. Compassion moves us to action.

Jesus was moved by the need of the people. He was not moved because of the apparent lack of food nor was he moved by the tremendous amount of people. He was moved by their need. Unfortunately, too often, when faced with humanities’ needs we become discouraged or disillusioned. We begin focusing on the obstacles to meeting the need:

“His disciples answered, “But where in this remote place can anyone get enough bread to feed them?”
                                                                                    Mark 8:4

The disciples, in the face of what seemed to be an impossible need to manage, began focusing on the obstacles. They focused on the remote location they were in, the obvious lack of food, and the tremendous number of people. We see this same pattern in Mark 6:34-37. Jesus looked on the multitudes and had compassion; the disciples looked and saw obstacles.

Often times the greatest obstacle to compassion is our own reluctance!

Pastor Scott Burr                                                                    

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Testing! (Pt. 4 of 4)

(Part 4 of 4)
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”
                                                                                                James 1:2-4
Testing is part of the maturing process. It develops in us a perseverance which leads to maturity and wholeness in Christ. However, James is quick to explain that not every hardship we find ourselves in is a test.
Often times the struggle we experience when facing temptation can feel like God is testing us, but testing and temptation have two very different sources and outcomes:
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.”
                                                                                                James 1:13-15
Do not confuse testing and temptation. Temptation leads us into sin and destruction. Testing leads to greater dependence and nearness to God.  One is to be endured and the other is to be resisted. Temptation is not of God because it is destructive, entices us to sin, and leads to death. Testings, which are designed to strengthen our faith and develop our perseverance, reflect the concern and goodness of our God:
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”                                                                           
                                                                                                James 1:16-17
When tested we should remember one very important truth.  Testing is designed to gauge what we have already learned. A test indicates that prior to this moment; there are things you should have been learning. I have heard many people say that “God wants me to learn something through this time of testing.” That makes no sense.
It is not time to begin the learning process when we are being tested. We should be exercising what we have already learned through study, opportunities, and obstacles we have faced leading up to the time of testing.
As believers, it is God’s desire that we grow in our faith; which means that inevitably we will face testing. The question then becomes: Are learning what you need to know to stand the test?
Pastor Scott Burr                                                                    

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Testing! Pt.3

(Part 3)

“When they reached the place God had told him about, Abraham built an altar there and arranged the wood on it. He bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. Then he reached out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. But the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, “Abraham! Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied.        Genesis 22:9-11

Although Abraham proved proficient in obeying God’s word and demonstrated a firm understanding of God’s nature and precious promises; it is here that the genuineness of Abraham’s convictions was revealed.

Without hesitation, Abraham built an altar, arranged the wood, bound up his son, and was in the process of fulfilling what God had instructed him; when the angel of the Lord cried out his name. It is evident from the passage that Abraham fully intended to obey God’s command to the letter. If the angel had not intervened he would have sacrificed Isaac.

I can honestly say, as a father, that I would have likely wavered in that situation. I may have went to the mountain, taken all the necessary supplies, built the altar, arranged the wood; but when it came time to sacrifice, I can’t say with confidence I could have followed through.

Yet, it wasn’t until that moment that God intervened. God could have showed up when they were building the altar and said, “That’s enough Abraham, I see that you are serious.” He could have called out to him when they were arranging the wood or when Abraham was binding Isaac and said, “Abraham, I see your faithfulness, you can stop now.” However, if God had shown up any sooner, we would have never seen the genuineness of Abraham’s convictions.

After years of serving the Lord and countless trials, Abraham proved that he was adequately prepared to become the father of our faith:

“Do not lay a hand on the boy,” he said. “Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld form me your son, your only son.”

                                                                                    Genesis 22:12

Abraham’s response revealed his readiness to move deeper into God’s plan for his life:

“I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

                                                                                    Genesis 22:16-18

Abraham became the father of many nations because he showed himself reliable in obeying the Word of God, demonstrated a firm understanding of God’s nature and promises, and proved the genuineness of his convictions when, without hesitation, he was willing to obey God and offer Isaac up as a burnt offering.


Pastor Scott Burr                                                                    


Testing! (Pt.2)

(Part 2)

 “Some time later God tested Abraham. He said to him, “Abraham!” “Here I am,” he replied. Then God said, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”

                                                                                                Genesis 22:1-2

Tests are designed to do four primary things. They are designed to gauge our proficiency or reliability, reveal our understanding of truth, evaluate quality/genuineness, and communicate our readiness to move the next level of learning or promotion.

These four realities were evidenced in God’s testing of Abraham in Genesis 22.

“Early the next morning Abraham got up and saddled his donkey. He took with him two of his servants and his son Isaac. When he had cut enough wood for the burnt offering, he set out for the place God had told him about.”

                                                                                                Genesis 22:3

In this passage we read how Abraham’s proficiency or reliability to respond in obedience to God’s word is revealed. Abraham wasn’t simply a hearer of God’s word, but a doer of God’s word. His response was not a sudden or sporadic reaction, but a pattern of obedience.

This pattern was developed over the course of his life beginning as far back as when he and his family lived in Ur of the Chaldees. While in Ur,  Abraham responded to God’s call to leave his homeland and go in faith to a place God would later reveal to him; and although Abraham had his fair share of failures, he persevered to develop a genuine pattern of obedience.

Abraham’s testing also revealed his understanding of God, His nature, and promises:

On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. He said to the servants, “Stay here with the donkey while I and the boy go over there. We will worship and then we will come back to you.”

                                                                                                Genesis 22:4-5

Although Abraham knew perfectly well that God had demanded he sacrifice Isaac as a burnt offering, he remembered that God had also promised that he would bless him through Isaac with many offspring. So Abraham reasoned that even if God demanded Isaac’s life, He could also raise him from the dead:

“By faith Abraham, when God tested him, offered Isaac as a sacrifice. He who had received the promises was about to sacrifice his one and only son, even though God had said to him, “It was through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. Abraham reasoned that God could raise the dead, and figuratively speaking, he did receive Isaac back from death.”

                                                                                                Hebrews 11:17-19

Although Abraham proved proficient in obeying God’s word and demonstrated a firm understanding of God’s nature and precious promises; the genuineness of his convictions was about to be revealed.


Pastor Scott Burr