Looking into 2019

As we took a break for a few days and stepped out of the busyness of Jozi.  I didn’t listen to the radio, watch the news, scroll through Facebook every five minutes, check emails every ten minutes.  All I can say I did was read a 600-page novel, my bible and ate probably way too much food than I should have. And I found myself coming to a place where I asked myself a question, “What is this all about?” All the busyness and rushing around, all the ‘must haves’ of life.  We work so hard, have so much more and have access to much more information than any time in history.  Than why is it that we are the unhappiest, most stressed and depressed than any other time in history?iStock-912400306-300x199

I was praying into this and I felt the Lord speak a few things into my heart, to simplify and do life better. They all come out of the passage of scripture which recounts the events surrounding the feeding of the five thousand.

John 6:1-15 Sometime after this, Jesus crossed to the far shore of the Sea of Galilee (that is, the Sea of Tiberias), (2) and a great crowd of people followed him because they saw the miraculous signs he had performed on the sick.  (3)  Then Jesus went up on a mountainside and sat down with his disciples.  (4)  The Jewish Passover Feast was near.  (5)  When Jesus looked up and saw a great crowd coming toward him, he said to Philip, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"  (6)  He asked this only to test him, for he already had in mind what he was going to do.  (7)  Philip answered him, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"  (8)  Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, (9) “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"  (10)  Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.  (11)  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.  (12)  When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted."  (13)  So, they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.  (14)  After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world."  (15)  Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.

If you put yourself into the story, imagine the feeling that the disciples had when they saw the crowds coming.  We have been working so hard with Jesus. Though Samaria and the women at the well, ministering to people through to Galilee, the healing at the pool of Bethesda.  Talking with Jewish leaders and travelling through the region, all on foot. We have walked so far, and we eventually get to sit down quietly and have a rest and some quality time with Jesus and now here come these crowds of people. And then Jesus asks Philip, “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?"

Can you imagine the feeling?  “What!! We have been so busy and now we must feed all these people!!, I thought we could rest and spend some time with you”

You may be thinking, “But Andrew, it was ministry for the Lord” Let me tell you that ministry can be exhausting. After the conference in Zim where I spoke 6 or 7 times in 3 days, I was not fit for man nor beast for a day or two after. Do you ever feel like that?  I have so much to do and now I must… (Fill in the blank) I am busy and now the washing machine and oven pack up, now I must phone all over the place and get them fixed. I have got to get this done and now my car needs a new tire.  A fridge needs to be moved.  The kids are asking for…??  Schools starting, and I need to get text books, stationary and school uniforms, now I must…

We can easily get exasperated and frustrated. We need to get this done but there are interruptions and other things that begin to creep in and try and get our attention.  With the invention of smart phones this is becoming an increasing problem.  Remember when the telephone was attached to the wall and there was only one in the house?  Ok, may be that is a little too far back for some; Remember when cellphones could just make calls and SMS’s?

Now we have this thing called a smart device that is almost an extension of our arms and invades our lives at every moment.  Flashing little red lights, vibrations and ring tones demand our attention and break into the peace of our lives constantly.

There is this promise of convenience, but the reality is very different.  We have a ding for emails, a dong for SMS’s, a ping for calendar notifications and a pong for WhatsApp’s. And this constant barrage is supposed to make our lives more convenient and efficient??

You know the feeling I’m talking about?  Back to the account in John, the disciples feeling tired and frustrated, see the crowds coming, Jesus where can we buy food for them and can you hear the frustration in Philip when he says, BUT come on Jesus, "Eight months' wages would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite!"

Have you ever felt like that?  Perhaps you are starting the New Year feeling like that?  I have all this stuff to do, get in order, New Year’s resolutions to make and achieve, goals to set.  And as you look at the year ahead you are already feeling frustrated and exhausted?  Asking the question, “BUT Jesus, how am I going to be a better husband, raise my kids, work, be a steward of your provision, get to church, grow as a person, update my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram status, do this, achieve that?”

Philips tone is BUT JESUS, is yours? Possibly facing 2019 you are feeling a little more like Andrew, optimistically positive.  Can you imagine the other disciple’s reactions when Andrew comes along and says, “Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"?

You may be hitting the year with positivity and energy with real hope in your heart, you may be feeling that Jesus has got this.  While you are not sure how the year is going to work out there is a youthful optimism and hope in your heart. Like Andrew, you are saying, “Jesus I don’t have much but what I do have I am happy for you to take and I’m sure it will all work out” And you are standing on Luke 1:37 which says, “For nothing is impossible with God.

There are these two outlooks into the year ahead, one already feeling weary and discouraged at what lies ahead.  The other, is a cautiously optimistic outlook which makes you feel hopeful.

As I look to the account of the feeding of the 5000, I believe our answer on how to face the year can be found right here in this passage.  Whether we are feeling weary and face the year with dread.  Or whether we are optimistic and hoping for a great year.

While some were tired and frustrated and others were optimistic they faced the same issue.  What did they have to solve their problem of feeding all those people?  And the reality they were facing was insurmountable, it was a lot of people, 5000 men plus women and children, so at least 10 000 people? And all they had was 5 rolls and 2 sardines.

The answer lies in these words:

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them.  (11)  Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

Do you see it?  No matter how they were feeling, what they were experiencing and what they saw ahead of them; they put their trust in Jesus, they took the little they had which seemed absurd to Jesus and He looked to and gave thanks to the Father.

To get through this year well, take your all to Jesus in obedience.  Give thanks to Him with a grateful heart and allow the power of the Holy Spirit to permeate your life. Gratefulness reminds and reorients us of Jesus’ saving love for us. Thankfulness changes how we see our circumstances and moves us from being victims to being children of God.  This helps to entrench God centrally in our lives.

When Jesus is asked what the greatest commandment is, He responds and says, “Love the Lord your God with every passion of your heart, with all the energy of your being and with every thought that is within you” (Matthew 22:36 TPT)

It must be a God first thing!  And St. Virginia Bracelli said it this way, “When God is one’s only goal, all disagreements are smoothed out, all difficulties are overcome” When we put God first, this thought of God bringing order to chaos in our lives if to be found throughout the original manuscript.

If we go right to the beginning, all the way back to Genesis 1.  Scripture tells us that where the Spirit of the Lord is there is order and there is filling.

It is the Spirit Who gets rid of chaos and emptiness in our lives.

Gen 1:2 Earth was a soup of nothingness, a bottomless emptiness, an inky blackness. God's Spirit brooded like a bird above the watery abyss. (MSG)

God said, "LET THERE BE…” Light… be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water… Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear. The land produce vegetation… be lights in the expanse of the sky… the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly…  the land produce living creatures according to their kinds… Let us make man in our image…  Do you need God to speak a LET THERE BE into your life this year?  Well, then you will need to put Him first!

As we look to the year ahead how about putting God first and asking to be filled and ruled by the Holy Spirit? It is in this place that we are empowered and equipped to do life well. The Holy Spirit empowers us to do life well, just listen to Paul’s words to the Christians in Rome:

Romans 1:17 “And it moves us from receiving life through faith, to the power of living by faith.” (TPT)

We put God first and we move from an impotent faith to the explosive faith of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!  When we put God first, we experience the “the power of living by faith” As you read this and look at the year, whether you are feeling weary and discouraged at what lies ahead or are cautiously optimistic and feeling hopeful, put God first.  Possibly you are feeling a little of both?  In some areas of your life there is optimism and in others there is weariness, frustration and discouragement.  I know I don’t fall completely into either feeling, it is more of a ‘Both-And’ kind of feeling.  What I do know is that God must come first.  He is in first place in my life, everything else flows from that place.

Let me ask this question again: “Do you need God to speak a LET THERE BE into your life this year?”  In any area?  Well if you do, you need to put Him first.  As with the disciples and the feeding of the 5000, they faced insurmountable odds, were weary and when faced with the possibility of 1000’s of people, I believe a little discouraged.  In other accounts in the gospels of the 5000, we read the disciples said to Jesus that He should send them away to get food.  No matter the odds, they looked to Him, He was first in their lives and they witnessed an amazing miracle. As you look into 2019, what is your impossible feeding of the 5000?  Look to Jesus and let Him show you that He is the God of the impossible as He speaks a “LET THERE BE…” into your life.

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