Only A Little Boy’s Bag Lunch

“Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish,
but how far will they go among so many?”
John 6:9 (NIV)

We may try and imagine the thoughts and motives of the little boy who took his lunch to the shore of the Sea of Galilee the day 5,000 people showed up to hear the amazing carpenter who turned preacher that day. The Bible does not tell us the child’s thoughts or reasons for joining the great crowd of adults to hear the famous Man teach, but it is clear he wanted to listen for a long time and so brought his lunch with him.

Little did the boy know the central part he would play in the amazing miracle Jesus would perform using the little fellow’s meal. Jesus was going to demonstrate to the great crowd that He was the Creator God when it came time for a meal to be prepared.

Two staple items in the diet of Galileans were fish and bread. The bag lunch carried by the child demonstrated he was poor. We are told his little loaves were made of barley and not wheat. Only the rich in Jesus time could afford the expensive wheat flour to do their baking.

So the boy’s meal was that of the poor and it was only enough for one child. Yet, the Master took that meal and used it to feed 5,000 people. Obviously the miracle was one of creation. Our Lord wanted the people to recognize Him as their Creator. The instrument He used was the humble insignificant lunch of the little boy.

What we learn from this story is how the Lord can use the common, even unnoticed people of this world to work His will and display His eternal glory. It is likely the boy came out of curiosity. That did not matter. He willingly gave up what he had and the Lord used it greatly that afternoon.

You and I can take heart from the story of the little boy and his small bit of food—so many of God’s people are of the opinion that they are of no use in the work of the Lord because they do not have much to offer.

God is not impressed by great talent or gift. What He is looking for is a willing heart. When Jesus saw the poor widow putting her last bit of money into the temple treasury (Luke 21:1-4) He said that she had given more that all of the rich people put together.

Never be down on yourself because you do not have a prominent gift or position in the work of the Lord. You are valued by the Lord on the basis of your submission and use of what you do have, not on what you might have been.

Be faithful with the small opportunity you have and the day may come when your little may be made much in the creative hands of the Lord. Every Christian knows of the great work of D. L. Moody but ask Christians who Edward Kimball was and you will only have a blank stare for an answer. That man was D. L. Moody’s Sunday School teacher. He had a burden for his scholar and so visited him at work and urged him to believe on the Lord Jesus. Moody did and the rest is history.

You may never be an earthshaking Christian as Moody was but you may be used to awaken such a person. Do not despise the day of small things my friend. In the grace of God your faithfulness in the little you have will be the means of great and eternal blessing.

Real Greatness

“You shall guide me with your counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory…”
Psalm 73:24

There are many ways to measure greatness but the Christian way of measuring greatness is not even used by many Christians. Some believers think that someone like the evangelist Billy Graham is a great man. No one doubts the man’s personal godliness. In an age when TV evangelists have publicly disgraced themselves Billy Graham stands out from the crowd. Certainly he has preached to countless millions that Jesus is the Saviour. Yes, there is a way in which Billy Graham is a great man.

But how does the Lord measure greatness? What is important in God’s sight? The context of our verses today tell us the answer. Jesus had recently taken Peter, James and John to the Mount of Transfiguration and allowed them to have that remarkable experience of hearing Him talk with Moses and Elijah about the coming cross.

As our Lord and the disciples journeyed from the Mount of Transfiguration back to Capernaum He continued to teach them about the necessity of the cross (Mark 9:31-32). On that journey, when they had opportunity, the disciple argued among themselves concerning which of them would be counted the greatest (Mark 9:34).

The disciples had missed the point that before there is a crown there must be a cross. There can only be an Easter Sunday after Good Friday. Scripture teaches that we must not measure greatness by how many people serve us but by how many people we serve. The one who would be considered great is the one who serves others the most.

Mark 12:41-43 tells the story of a poor widow who gave the last two bits of her money into the temple treasury. As Jesus and the disciples stood by watching, the Lord told them that the destitute woman had given more than all of the rich people put together.

The Lord does not measure our giving by how much we give but by how much we keep for ourselves. The Lord does not call us to do great things as the world measures greatness. All the Lord expects from any of us is faithfulness. So the poorest, least gifted among us may some day be reckoned the greatest simply because of faithfulness to what God gave them to do.

Cease from your anxious thoughts concerning how little you may have accomplished for the Saviour. Do well what you do in His name. Occupy yourself with what the Lord has given you to do and do not be concerned to do greater, more public things. Pride can cause us to wish to be noticed by others in our area of service. As long as the Master sees us it should be enough. Satisfy yourself that your Father’s loving eye is always on you. Then you will be great in God’s eyes.

The Road Less Travelled

“You shall guide me with your counsel,
and afterward receive me to glory…”
Psalm 73:24

Robert Frost (1874-1963), an American poet, published a poem with the title, The Road Not Taken, in 1916. It talks about him coming to a cross roads and examining both before choosing one. In the closing lines of the poem he states that by choosing one over the other it has made all the difference in his journey through life.

Major decisions in life seem to come to us very early in our journey and when we are least qualified to make those decisions. I am speaking of career choices, marriage partner, educational alternatives and so on. More than a few people, later in life, look back in time and regret their decision about this life changing matter or that.

We sometimes say, “Oh, if only I could go back with the wisdom and knowledge of today, I would have done things in a different manner. Certain people’s lives are filled with regrets.

Asaph, the man who wrote Psalm 73, found himself in just such a position at a certain point in his life journey. He had been a devoted follower of the Lord. Everything that could go wrong in his life did go wrong. He experienced poverty and sorrow of other sorts. Then, when he looked at the rich and happy part of society he also observed that they were godless.

The conclusion he came to was that it did not pay to serve the Lord. His expression in Psalm 73:13 (NIV) is,

“Surely in vain have I kept my heart pure…” 

His mind was filled with doubts and he struggled to find any reason to serve the Lord.

How do you come to the side of such a person and speak comfort? What can you say that will ease the pain of their tragic lives? Another look at the writer of Psalm 73 gives us a clue about how to steady their faltering steps.

The entire Psalm hinges on verse 17 (NIV) which reads,

“…till I entered the sanctuary of God;
then I understood their final destiny.”

In verses 15-16 he confessed that he could not tell anyone about his dark conclusion that it did not pay to serve the Lord. He also wrote that his mind was drowning in confusion and pain.

Then one day, when he went into the house of God to worship, everything came into focus. It was in “church” where he found his mind filled with information that corrected his view on life.

Many good Christian people will tell you that it was in church that the Lord spoke to them in clear, unmistakable terms about life and the future. Sometimes it was a comment in the preacher’s sermon, a prayer offered, or a hymn sung. There are numerous “means of grace” or channels of blessing that the Lord uses when His people gather to worship and sing His praise.

Today, if you find yourself in a dark time of life, I urge you to keep attending the house of the Lord. Mingle with His people and you may find that the voice of the Lord will be heard in your heart. Turn back to the house of God where the Bible is preached, where people sing the praise of the Lord, where they pray and believe God hears and answers prayer. There you too shall find the comfort and answers to your deepest questions about life and your problems.

God and Creation

I lift up my eyes to the mountains –
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip –
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you –
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all har—
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
Psalm 121 (NIV)

Sometimes we simply need to read a beautiful portion of Scripture and let its powerful message grip our hearts.

Today’s Psalm is such a Scripture.

Please imagine the glory of the Rocky mountains so majestic, beautiful, and stable. Creation does indeed declare the glory of God.

Ponder how the mountains reflect the wonders of our great God and fall in love with Him all over again.

Here come the Babylonians

“I am raising up the Babylonians,
that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth
to seize dwellings not their own.”
Habakkuk 1:6 (NIV)

Habakkuk had been puzzled by the silence of God to his prayers. He desired the Lord to come and establish righteousness on the earth. His heart’s desire was for the people of God to turn from sin and follow the way of the Lord.

However, his prayers had not been answered. It did not matter, it seemed, that he had sought the Lord earnestly and patiently for this blessing. He had prayed in the manner he knew best, yet silence was all that he received for his efforts.

Then when the Lord spoke it was a startling message to His faithful servant. The message was not what the holy man desired to hear. In fact he was confused by the response of the Lord to his prayers.

What the Lord said to Habakkuk in response to his petitions was the worst possible answer. Habakkuk was told that the situation was to become much worse before it got better.

That was not all. God said that He was going to use a wicked nation called the Babylonians to swoop down on His sinful people in punishment for perverting His moral law.

So things would get even more difficult—at least for a time. Such is the strange providence of the Lord. Like Habakkuk we come to the Lord crying out to Him to intervene for good in a time of evil. We pray for righteousness to reign in our land.

But what happens as we point out to the Lord just how evil western society has become? We look around and things get worse instead of better. The last two generations in the western world have been spiraling downward to more and more sin.

Criminals in our prisons can receive a university education while they receive free room and board and health care behind bars. Many law abiding citizens cannot afford higher education or else go far into debt to get what prisoners receive free. The taxes of hard working people pay for the privileges of prisoners. Is there not something wrong with this picture?

However, even in these times when we do not understand what the Lord is doing, we ought to press forward obeying what the Lord has commanded. We are to live as though life makes sense when life appears to be senseless.

As a child of God you may have no understanding of the mysterious providence of your God. Yet you may learn to say with Job (Job 23:10 NIV),

“But he knows the way that I take;
when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.”

If the Lord knows your situation it is enough. Trust in Him and at last you will understand the way of the Lord and you shall give full approval to His providence.