Giving Your Fish

by Erin Bird

Last Sunday, we launched a new message series called Putting Go Back in the Gospel. In this series, we will be looking at the idea of Sharing. In week 1, we saw from 2nd Kings that we should “Share the Wealth.” This coming weekend, we’ll look at “Share Your Life.” And we’ll conclude the series on Palm Sunday with “Share the Truth.”

With the idea of “sharing” on my mind, I thought I’d “share” another Biblical story on the topic that we won’t get to during the series, but is well worth the time for us to read and ponder.

A Little Can Be a Lot

There are only a handful of stories that make an appearance in all four the Gospels. One of them is the Feeding of the 5000.

John’s telling of the story teaches us something that the other three Gospel accounts don’t bother to mention. (If you have a moment, take 90 seconds to read John’s account right now.) The five loaves of bread and the two fish were from a little boy’s lunch.

I imagine some 8-year-old boy hearing that Jesus was coming to the area. He runs home, yelling at the top of his lungs as he runs into the house, “Jesus is coming! Jesus is coming! He’s on the other hill! Can I go hear him speak? Please!?!?”

His mom gets him to calm down, and says, “Yes, yes, you may go! But you need to take a lunch with you.” So she grabs a few things from the kitchen, throws it in a cloth bag, and kisses her son on the forehead as he dashes out the door to go hear this famed rabbi.

When the little boy arrived, he sees Jesus up on the hill. Throngs of people were seated, looking up as the words of Jesus fell down the slopes upon eager ears. The boy makes his way up the hill to get closer. He wants to be as close to Jesus as possible.

Jesus taught the people all day, as well as spent some time healing the sick. But the people were so enraptured with Jesus’s presence and teaching that they completely forgot about eating. Most had not bothered bringing anything along with them. They had rushed to the hillside, but in their haste had failed to grab their own meal on the way.

So with everyone beginning to realize their stomachs were growling, a conversation begins about food. Perhaps the little boy overheard Jesus talking with Philip about how they were going to feed the crowd. So he tugged on Andrew’s tunic, and said in his innocent little voice – “Hey, mister, I have some bread and fish.”

We sometimes forget it all started with a little boy’s lunch willingly given.

Now, a reasonable adult would have kept quiet. The five loaves and two fish were all he had. If he gave it away, what would he eat? But the child wasn’t reasonable. He was so moved by Jesus that he offered everything he had, even if it was just a small lunch his mom had packed for him.

The reason this story is in the Scripture is because Jesus fed 5000 men, not counting the women and children that were among the masses, with such a small amount. But what we sometimes forget is that it all started with a little boy’s lunch willingly given.

What’s Your Fish?

I suspect you have some “fish.” There are things in your life that you don’t see as much, but God can use them for great things. For instance:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]You may not think your house is all that great, but how can you give your home to God to use to bless others more than you thought possible?[/list_item]
[list_item]You may think you aren’t all that talented in certain areas, but what little do you have that you can give to God so He can do a lot with it?[/list_item]
[list_item]You may think you don’t have thousands of dollars you can give, but what can you sacrifice that God can take and do far more with than you ever could?[/list_item]
[/list]

In other words – what is your fish? What is the small thing that you can give to God, trusting He can do more with it than you ever could? What can you share with the expectancy that God will bless others through it?

I’m praying that we as the Riverwood family will live lives of radical generosity, sharing even the smallest of things with others in belief that God can and will do miraculous things through our small gifts and lives!

The Truth About Faith

Recently, I was talking with a friend who is facing a big decision in his life. On the surface, the decision seems easy to make:

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]He is being offered a job that is less pay than his current position.[/list_item]
[list_item]The job is in a different state, meaning a move away from family and friends.[/list_item]
[list_item]It would also mean selling his dream home that his family built 2 years ago.[/list_item]
[/list]

Most rational people would find this decision easy to make – with a big, fat “no!” But my friend is a follower of Jesus, and as we talked, he said, “I know this sounds nuts, but I think God might want me to step out in faith.”

Faith. It’s a word that often is used to describe someone’s religious adherence (like “the Jewish faith”). But it also is used among Christians to means, “belief in something you can’t see.”

Hebrews 11:1 says,

[pullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]”Now faith is being sure of what we hope for,
being convinced of what we do not see.”[/pullquote]

However, I’ve seen this verse misused.

I grew up in a church tradition that talked a LOT about faith. People would “have faith” that God would give them a new car, a new house, a new job, a new body, or a new anything that they wanted. Then these people would get mad at God for not giving them what they had asked for, and then their pastors would tell these individuals that the reason was because they just didn’t have enough faith.

But the point of faith isn’t the amount. Jesus said, “if you have faith the size of a mustard seed,” you would see God do amazing things. (See Luke 17:5-6.) Rather, the point of faith is WHO your faith is in and WHERE the idea originated.

[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]The point of faith isn’t the amount. The point of faith is WHO your faith is in and WHERE the idea originated.[/pullquote]

If the idea of a new job originated with God, then you can have faith that He will provide you with a new job. But if the idea originated within you simply because you hate your current position, God might not answer your prayer the way you want because He is doing something far greater in you through your difficult situation than you realize.

We see this principle all throughout Scripture. We see it in Abraham’s story, in Moses’ story, in David’s story, in Paul’s story, and especially in Jesus’ story. If you continue to read through Hebrews chapter 11 (after the definition of faith in verse 1), you’ll see that these “great men and women of faith” didn’t come up with their insane ideas. Each idea was originated in the heart of God, and the people of faith simply obeyed because their faith was in God.

So when I talked with my friend considering a job change, my advice was this: “If this idea has its origin in God, then you can obey in faith, knowing He will provide even though it doesn’t make worldly sense. But if this idea is from within you, just to escape your current difficulties, then I would advise you to stay where you are.”

No idea is truly insane if the idea originates from the God who created and loves you. And if the idea is from God, you can walk by faith because your confidence is in Him.

—–

Erin Bird is the pastor of Riverwood Church. You can catch his erratic tweets at @erinbbird.

Like a Fly with a Death Wish

By Erin Bird

Last November, I slipped away from my daily routine to have my annual overnight spiritual retreat. I remember the sun streaming through the windows while a heavy frost lie upon the cold ground outside. My van was completely frosted over, yet I happily sat inside with a blanket on my feet, a hot tea on the table before me, and my Bible in my lap.

It was so refreshing. It was so peaceful. It was so quiet…

…except for the fly.

There were several dead flies lying in the window sills of all the front windows, but one had managed to outlive his compatriots. His constant buzzing and slamming into the wind revealed that he felt trapped. He wanted nothing more than to return to the outdoors from where he came. He longed for food, he longed for the fresh air, he longed to find some dead raccoon carcass to feed upon. And so he repeatedly buzzed, “let me out of here!”

What he didn’t realize, though, is that the escape he longed for, what he thought would give him life, would actually be the death of him. He unknowingly had a death wish.

Frozen Fly, Frozen Lives

I think humans are a bit like that fly. We often think that our happiness will be found in something else. We think if we can just escape the confines of our job, or marriage, or ministry, we will find freedom. But instead, what we find awaiting us is death – or at least a worst place than our previous spot.

[list type=unordered extra=]
[list_item]The husband has an affair because he thinks he is confined in his marriage. He wants to find joy and awe and freedom, and thinks that will be found in the arms of another woman, but soon he is trapped in trying to keep the affair hidden. And eventually it leads him to feeling emotionally cold or dead.

[/list_item]
[list_item]Or the woman who betrays all of her friends through gossip thinks she just needs to escape to a new set of friends. But when she destroys those relationships as well, she is left emotionally frozen and lifeless.

[/list_item]
[list_item]I see this in myself. Too often I think my enjoyment of life will come through pleasure. I long for the next movie or game or moment of relaxation or sex or dessert (yes, I’m looking at you ice cream), thinking THAT is what will make me happy and free. But I’ve noticed that the movie ends or the bowl gets emptied… And life goes on. I didn’t find freedom. In fact, I may feel may frozen than before (especially when the movie is a major disappointment… Yes, I’m looking at you Godzilla).[/list_item]
[/list]

Psalm 145, though, makes it so clear where true life, true freedom, true enjoyment comes from. In fact, verse 19 sums the Psalm up:

[God] fulfills the desire of those who fear him;
He also hears their cry and saves them.

When I make something other than God my escape (whether movies or games or food), those things are like wintry air to a fly. They can’t give me what I truly need and long for. They will only contribute to inner petrification.

But when God is my cabin, when I find my safety and joy in him, I realize He sustains me. It is He who fulfills my desires. And when He is my source of joy, then I can enjoy a movie, because it actually leads me to worship and be in awe of the Creative One. I find food not something designed to satisfy my soul, but rather a conduit of worship to the one who gave me the food.

So to the husband who feels trapped in his marriage: may you not escape to the frozen arms of another lover, but may you run to the One who can fulfill your desires and change your marriage into something that causes you to worship Him.

To the gossiping woman who has damaged her relationships: may you lose the “awe” of the bad things everyone else has done and replace it with an awe of the One who completes every relationship you have.

And to people like me, who long for pleasure and comfort: may you cry out to Jesus, knowing that only He can truly fulfill the desires of your heart. May you stop buzzing against the window of games or sex or drink or money, but rather find life in the safety of the cabin of the gospel, through which everything else leads you to be in awe of God.

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