Mary Did Know

Many Christmas songs elicit images and emotions of peace and tranquility.  Some may find comfort and encouragement from classic Christmas songs and often these songs bring back cherished memories.  Christmas songs serve that purpose well and I too have come to appreciate many classic Christmas carols.  God Rest Ye Merry Gentleman and Silent Night are probably my most favorite Christmas songs.

But unfortunately, often the accuracy of these songs as compared to the biblical narrative is considerably off target.  Many times the actually text has taken a back seat to meter, rhyme and the desire to creative those “feel good images.”

For example, We Three Kings is woefully unbiblical.  The Magi weren’t ‘kings’ and they weren’t from the “orient.”  We don’t even know if there were “three” but it’s a nice song.

There is no Little Drummer Boy in the Nativity scene.  This too is a cute idea, but I wonder how many people think the song is based off the bible?

And speaking of Nativity scenes, the bible never mentions anything about camel and sheep being there.  With shepherds present after His birth, sheep are a logical addition, but camels?  Probably not.

Over the past decade one relatively popular Christmas song has been Mary Did You Know?  It’s a peaceful, thoughtful song posing a series of questions to Mary asking her if she knew who the Child really was as she carried, birthed and raised Him.  While this may be an interesting question and for those who don’t know the actually story of Luke chapter 1, many jump to conclusions based on what Mary thought about the Child.  The problem is, Scripture is quite clear on what she thought.  She knew who He was.

In Luke 1, the angel who informs Mary of her impending pregnancy tell her quite plainly:

He would be great – vs 32

He would be called the Son of the Most High – vs32

God would give Him the throne of David – vs 32

He would reign forever – vs 33

He would be the Holy One – vs 35

He would be born of a virgin – vs 35

He would be called the Son of God – vs 35

Mary seems to perfectly understand all this when she responds in verse 47 that He (her Child) would be her Savior.  Finally she states that all future generations would call her blessed in verse 48.  In fact Mary’s discourse on who Jesus is might be one of the most beautiful and complete passages in the entire bible (Luke 1:46-55) regarding the message and mission of Jesus – the Child she was carrying.

So, as the song goes;

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would save our sons and daughters?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy has come to make you new?
This Child that you delivered will soon deliver you.

and

Mary, did you know
that your Baby Boy would one day rule the nations?
Did you know
that your Baby Boy is heaven’s perfect Lamb?

 

Mary’s answer to these questions is, “Why yes, I did know.  The angel plainly told me and I indicated I knew.  It’s written down for you in Luke chapter 1.”

There is nothing wrong with the song and I have no direct issue with it.  My problem arises from the fact that in our modern culture many Christians are so biblically illiterate that they don’t know that Mary did know!

If you love this song, go ahead and sing it.  Just don’t get your theology from this song.  Or We Three Kings or The Little Drummer Boy.

Mary knew who He was.  Do you?

Many Christmas Blessing My Friend!

-jm

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Worship

I have been spending time pondering the meaning of worship lately.  The concept of worship seems so simple; humans have worshiped since the dawn of time.  Virtually every society, from the most primitive to our ultra-modern culture, worship something.

But what does it mean for believers in Jesus to worship?

We throw that term around in a variety of ways.  When we talk about our church attendance we’ll say, “I went to worship today.”  Or maybe we are describing a portion of the service and state, “our time of worship was very good.”

I’ve been struck by the use of the term in Matthew 2:2.  The magi come to Jerusalem following the appearance of the star and state, “Where is He who is born King of the Jews?  We’ve seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  These men traveled a considerable distance and presented expensive gifts to a young child they had never met, nor had any discernible relationship with His parents.  Yet they still came and worshiped Him.  I wonder, did they get anything out of it?

The magi gave.  They came to the Child to worship Him.  To honor Him. To submit to Him.  To give allegiance to Him.  They weren’t there to sing or hear something that made them feel good.  They were there for Him.

How often have we violated that simple point?

I have been convicted that our time we call “worship” so often isn’t worship because we’ve made it about us and not Him.  What we refer to worship is the time we expect to be entertained.   We want to participate in that entertainment.  We tend to make it about us.  But it’s not supposed to be.  Worship is about Him.

So now I have to ask the question, do you worship?

See I’m beginning to think we need to come to Him expecting nothing in return.  We need to be there just reverently submitting to Him.

“Where is He born King of the Jews?  We’ve seen His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”  This needs to be our driving motivation.  To worship Him and not just to be entertained by a service.

Blessings My Friend

jm

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Your Word Above Your Name

I will worship toward Your holy temple, And praise Your name For Your lovingkindness and Your truth; For You have magnified Your word above all Your name. – Psalm 138:2 NKJV

How important is the Bible to you?  How important do you think it is to understand it?  Is reading and studying the Bible a worthwhile endeavor for you?  Is it worth your time?

I ask these questions because of a disturbing thing I have recently observed.

Too many people attending our churches spend almost zero time in the Bible.  Some might read a 300 word on-line devotional, but even those people are the minority.  What’s worse is many of these same people either grew up in a church or even attended a Christian college or university.  They attend church (mostly) and enjoy worshiping on Sunday mornings.  Yet they spend very little time in the Word.

My guess is most of those afore-mention church attendees would be highly offended if a pastor or church leader used curse words, especially if they were uttered from the platform.  This verse of Psalm 138 is just one of many verses that tell us how important His Word is.  It takes a higher position than even His own name.

One of the reasons why biblical illiteracy has occurred is the lack of church leaders pushing, encouraging and teaching their attendees about the importance of daily Bible reading/study.  Or, even discouraging the practice of that spiritual discipline.

Recently I was reading from Christian blog site I often peruse and I found an article with a catchy title that I assumed as satirical.  Sadly, it wasn’t.  Here is just one of the quotes from the piece;

Christians are wasting precious time excessively “studying the Bible” in groups and feeling quite content that if they’re practicing the “spiritual disciplines” at home that they’ve done their duty and can call it a day.  The modern-day church places a ridiculous amount of emphasis on studying the Bible.

What’s worse is the author is a pastor.  He leads a very large church in a large city.  At first I was mad at reading the article but quickly I became sad.  There are literally thousands of people sitting under this man who are being taught that Bible study isn’t important.  He further said;

It’s obvious, from historical observation alone, that one can be a sold-out, fully devout, willing to die a martyr’s death follower of Jesus and spend next to no time practicing the spiritual discipline of Bible study.

I would highly disagree with his statement.  I don’t see how someone could be a “sold out…follower of Jesus” and not spend serious time in His Word.

This is Paul’s admonition to Timothy about what pastors are supposed to do with those they are leading;

Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers;  and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. – 2 Timothy 4:2-4 NKJV

Bible study is NEVER a waste of time.  EVER.  If you desire to be a follower of Jesus, if you want to have a “walk worthy of the LORD, fully pleasing Him” (Colossians 1:10), you must be in His Word.  It is through His Word that we able to hear His voice.  It is through His Word we are able to understand the world around us from a spiritual perspective.  It is through His Word we are able to know of who we are and who God has called us to be.

God thinks highly of His Word – and so should we.

In His Service,

Jeff Millslagle

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Golf And Practicing Righteousness

If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who practices righteousness is born of Him. – 1 John 2:29

 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. – 1 John 3:7

Back in the late summer of 2015, my son-in-law took me golfing for my birthday.  While I golfed one time about 30 years ago, this was my first serious exposure to the game.  We only played nine holes and I was sending golf balls all over the place, but I loved it.  I decided to become a golfer.

I thanked him so much and made such a case for a new-found love of the game, at Christmas he bought me an entire golf club set!  Now I had 10 left-handed clubs, a bag of 100 golf tees, 12 golf balls, two golf gloves and a bag to carry it all in!  I was ready to hit the links – or at least a driving range.

Once the winter snows melted, I began to venture out to learn the game. I quickly found out how hard golf really is to play.  While I wasn’t expecting to become a member of the Professional Golfers Association, I wanted to be able to play the game with friends and not be too big an embarrassment.

Beginning last summer, I went to the driving range each week.  I read golf magazines and watched plenty of golf teaching video on-line.  I asked questions of guys I know who have been golfers for many years.  I listened and I learned.

And I practice.  While I couldn’t hit a golf ball inside our home, I figured out how I could practice putting.  So, beginning last December I began taking 6 to 9 foot putts in my home office – every day.  I began counting them and by February I started tracking my success rate.  By the end of April, I had taken 5,820 putts, with an 88% rate of success.

I’m still not a “good golfer” and while I have improved greatly, I have a long way to go.  I still often shank a shot and duff a fairway wood.  I lose golf balls in water hazards and hit plenty of shots “out of bounds,” but I’m still a golfer.  But, I am getting better.  I’m practicing golf.

In the same way, we are practicing righteousness.  Too many believers struggle with sin and living out their faith.  They begin to wonder, “Am I even a Christian?”  Just like I am a golfer, a person who trusts Jesus as their savior is a Christian, but that doesn’t mean we don’t fail.  You’re working on your walk, you’re practicing righteousness, as John says.

Your efforts need to be in taking steps to improve your walk, just like I make efforts to improve my golf game.  But instead of going to the driving range, are you making a point to be in your Bible on a regular basis?  Just opening it up when you’re at church is not enough to equip you for battle against sin and Satan.  Praying only at meal times is not exercising those faith muscles.

We are practicing righteousness, meaning we aren’t perfect yet, but we are improving.  We’re making the effort to improve our walk and progressing forward.

You may not be perfect in your Christian walk, but you are working on it.  You are practicing righteousness.  Now the question is, how much effort are you putting into improving your walk?  Are you committed to spending time in His Word on a regular basis?  Are you developing a consistent prayer life?  Do you spend time with mature believers and gain encouragement from their experiences?

Spend time at the driving range of Jesus and get into His Word.  Practice spiritual disciplines and learn from other believers and above all, make the commitment to stay close to Him.

You’re practicing righteousness and there is a great reward in the persistent pursuit of following Him!

In His Service,

Jeff Millslagle

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But What Are They Among So Many?

And they took up twelve baskets full of fragments and of the fish. Now those who had eaten the loaves were about five thousand men. – Mark 6:43

Since the Scripture makes it clear there were 5000 “men” witnessing this miracle, it is safe to assume there were closer to 15,000 in total attendance once women and children are accounted for in the tally.  That is one significant large group eating dinner.

From John’s account we know how the original food source of five loaves and two fish came into the disciples’ hand.  He writes how Andrew made the statement to Jesus, “There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?” – John 6:9

If this was a “lad” or little boy’s lunch, then these aren’t tuna sized fish.  These are small, sardine sized fish small enough for him to use as lunch, along with some bread.  How this was brought to Andrews attention we do not know, but it possible the boy heard the disciples discussing among themselves how they didn’t have anything to give the crowd to eat.  So it’s reasonable to think he approached one of the disciples, maybe Andrew, and gave what he had to them.

“….but what are they among so many?”

Here is the last lesson in this series of posts on the Feeding Of The 5000, Even a little amount given to God, can do great things.

Andrew was right in his assessment that this little boy’s lunch wasn’t going to make a dent in meeting the needs of this large crowd.  It was however, all the boy had and just like the widow’s mite (Mark 12:41-44), this boy gave what he had.  Andrew was forgetting who the boy was giving his lunch too.

You might think nothing can be done with your small contribution.  You might even consider the need to be so great that your efforts are insignificant and like Andrew, look at what you have and say, …”but what are they among so many?”  I believe giving unselfishly warms God’s heart.  When we give to Him, even a small amount, He finds a way to multiply our generosity and meet needs in ways we cannot even imagine.

I can only speak for myself at this point, but had I been there, prepared with a sack lunch, I am afraid my response would have been more along the lines of “Why didn’t these people think ahead and bring their own food?  Why do I have to give up my lunch for their lack of thinking ahead?”  I can be so selfish and so can many of us – but not this little boy.  Jesus rewarded his unselfish act and multiplied his 5 loaves and 2 fish in a way no one expected.  Can you imagine the story he was able to tell about God used him to meet the needs of 15,000 people!

Even a small amount given to God, can do great things!

So, these are the four lessons for the Feeding of The 5000…

  1. Ministry can and often will occur in desert or desolate places (vs 31-32)
  2. God has equipped and provided resources for you to use to serve His people (vs 37-38)
  3. Go wants you to participate in His work (vs 41)
  4. Even a small amount given to God can do great things (vs 43-44)

In His Service,

Jeff Millslagle

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It’s His Work, But We Get To Help!

And when He had taken the five loaves and two fish, He looked up to heaven, blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and the two fish He divided among them all. – Mark 6:41 NKJV

Upon finding five loaves and two fish, the disciples witness and participate in one of the most fascinating events in New Testament history.  Those loaves and fish are given to Jesus and He prays over them.  Matthew, Mark and Luke all say He “blessed” the loaves but John specifically mentions He gave thanks for them.  Then as all four Gospel authors state, He gave them to the disciples.  Jesus gave the food to the disciples, who in turn distributed the loaves and fish to the large crowd.

We aren’t told how this was done other than the crowd was made to sit down (another fact mentioned in all four accounts) and put into “groups on the green grass” (Mark 6:39).  But we do know the disciples played a part in the process.  This leads me to another lesson from this passage, God wants us to participate in His work.

Jesus clearly didn’t NEED the disciples to help Him.  He could very easily have placed fish and loaves right in the laps of the sitting crowd or rained fish from the heavens.  But He had the disciples take the bread and fish from him and give it to the people.

God usually works with His people, to serve His people. He doesn’t need us to do anything – but He often has us participate in what He is doing. There are times when the LORD totally operates without any human participation (the creation and the act of redemption come to mind), but most of the time, He has us participate in His work.  And how awesome is that fact!

Participating and seeing His work first hand strengthens us, encourages us, and builds up our faith to trust Him more.  Can you imagine the stories the disciples could tell about this event?  For decades they could teach about this miracle as first person eye witnesses!  They knew they only had those 5 loaves and 2 fish but Jesus made it a feast for thousands – and they right there participating in the miraculous event.

Is it possible we are too lazy as Christians?  We pray for God to do some great event, but we aren’t willing to participate in His work and therefore nothing happens. We’d like God to heal someone but we don’t make the point to go to them and pray in person over them.  We desire God’s blessing on our finances, but we ignore His principles on giving. We pray for His wisdom yet we spend very little time in His Word.  We don’t see the God moving in our life, but we haven’t been looking or expecting for Him to do anything. God wants us to participate in His work!

Jesus does the miracle work of multiplying the bread and fish, but we are to distribute it to His people.  Think of it as we get to tag along and see what He does!

In His Service,

Jeff Millslagle

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How Many Loaves Do You Have?

But He answered and said to them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to Him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give them something to eat?” But He said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they found out they said, “Five, and two fish.” – Mark 6:37-38 NKJV

It had to be sometime later in the afternoon when the disciples started to become aware of a problem.  There were quite a few people with them at the large desolate grassy area outside of Bethsaida and there was nothing for the crowd to eat.  Walking into town was a possibility but it seemed as long as Jesus was ministering to the crowd they were sticking around.  They approached Jesus and wanted Him to “send them away.”

Their stated concern was the crowd might be growing hungry.  We’ll never really know their true motives.  Maybe they were really concerned about the welfare of the people.  Or perhaps the disciples themselves were tired.  Having to minister to that many people could be taxing.  And they expected to have Jesus all to themselves that day as earlier He called them out to the quiet, deserted place.  But literally, thousands of people followed Him (and them) and now, because of the lateness of the hour, getting something to eat became a priority.  They instinctively knew Jesus would be able to resolve this situation.  All He needed to do was to “send them away.”  But Jesus had a different answer to the problem the disciples all recognized.  He tells the twelve, “You give them something to eat.”

Their response is so natural, “Two hundred days wages wouldn’t be enough to feed all these people!”  I wonder if they thought to themselves, “He may have spent too much time out in the sun.  This is crazy talk.”

The Jesus asked them this simple question.  “How many loaves do you have?”

Remember this little rule of Bible interpretation; when any member of the Trinity asks a question, it isn’t because they are looking for information.  Jesus already knew exactly what they had, but the disciples didn’t.  Forcing them to “go and look” and their report to Him of just “five and two fish” now sets the stage for this miracle.  Not one of the disciples could say they planned this. They searched and found they had nothing – except five loaves and two fish.

This is the second lesson or ministry principle I see from the Feeding of the 5000.  The first lesson is Ministry will and often does occur in desolate places.  This is the second lesson, God has already equipped and provided resources for you to serve His people.  Much like Moses was walking around with his shepherd’s staff not understanding how God was going to great things through him using that staff; so too the disciples had no concept that those loaves and fish, what they already had on hand, were enough to serve Him people.

Too often we sell ourselves short on service because we look at our resources and say, “I know God has called me to serve in this capacity, but until I have more (time, money, less debt, more education, etc) I can’t do it.”

Don’t misunderstand me, there is nothing wrong with getting an education, learning how to better manage money, gaining wisdom etc, but you cannot say “no” to God because you don’t think you have enough.  The disciples wanted to just send those people away, but Jesus was showing them how God has already provided them with the means to serve His people – if they just acted on it.

This is especially true when we are in the desert.  When we are in a desolate or deserted place and think there is nothing we can do to meet a need that we see, Jesus says to us, “You do something.  What do you have?  Will you serve my people with it?”

While not exhaustive in any way, I’ll examine two more lessons from this rich passage in future posts about the Feeding Of The 5000.

In His Service,

Jeff Millslagle

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