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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Ministry in a Desert?

And He said to them, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” For there were many coming and going, and they did not even have time to eat.  So they departed to a deserted place in the boat by themselves. – Mark 6:31-32 NKJV

The disciples, fresh off their successful ministry venture, have arrived in this quiet, isolated area, described twice as being a “deserted place.”  While we don’t know for sure (as the text doesn’t say), I tend to think they were excited and tired after their time of ministry. They’ve returned and now they were going to tell Jesus all about their time in service.

But the LORD had another thing in mind for them other than just relaxing.  He was going to show them something really beyond their understanding – and teach us a few things as well.

Here is the first lesson I see from this miracle. Ministry can and often occurs when we are in a deserted place.  Places where we don’t think ministry can (or will) take place, in locations where it seems we are not needed or we even may feel useless.

Whether it is after a traumatic event or a hugely successful event, we will often drift into a place of desert.  However, these are often the times when does mighty things through us.  And just like the disciples, Jesus often brings us into those places. Here is where He moves. Here is where we are in a position to better worship and serve Him. Here is where we are in a position to trust Him, as we have no other options.  Here is where we hear Him.

I am sure the disciples had no idea of what was going to occur in the next few hours – but Jesus did.  He knew all about their ministry time and He knew all about the sense of loss they had from the death of John The Baptist.  He also knew this time in the desert was going to change their lives and our times in the desert can do the same thing.

Don’t shy away from those desert times and places. There is a good chance He brought you there in anticipation for the next thing He is doing – and it might be better than you can even imagine.  Remember, ministry can and often will occur when we are in a deserted place.  Welcome and embrace those times. Look forward with anticipation for what God is going to do next.  You might not feed 5000 people, but God may do something dramatic and amazing in your life.

So, when you are in the desert, look around and see God work.

In His Service,

-jm

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An Introduction To The Feeding Of The 5000

In the four Gospels, only two of the miracles of Jesus are recorded in all four accounts.  His resurrection appears in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John as does one other miracle of His; the Feeding of the 5000.  I am not suggesting that this miracle is more important than one listed in just one book. The raising of Lazarus from the dead for example only occurs in John’s account and other miracles occur in just one or two Gospels.  A number of miracles are listed in all three synoptic works of Matthew, Mark and Luke.  But clearly, there must be something of importance for us in the miracle of the Feeding of the 5000 since all four writers included the event.

The Feeding of the 5000 takes up 45 verses in the New Testament.  Each Gospel account fills in certain details and taking all four books together as a whole, we can gain a clear picture of what happened.

I think it is important to remember two significant events take place immediately prior to this miracle as both of these events shed some light on why the disciples acted as they did.   First, Herod has John the Baptist imprisoned and then beheaded.  Two disciples of Jesus were previously disciples of John (John 1:35-40) and no doubt the rest of them knew John and his ministry.  Jesus was a relative of John’s so there was a relationship between the two men and their ministries.  No doubt John’s sudden death was a traumatic event in the lives of these men.

A second major event which occurs previous to the miracle is the return of the twelve from their first solo missionary endeavor.  Jesus has sent them out and giving them specific instructions not to provide anything for themselves but to trust God to meet all their needs.  They are successful in their venture by healing many people, casting out demons and calling people to repentance.  It was a successful time and they all have returned to tell Him about their time out in the field.

I can only imagine the excitement they had as they returned.  Lives were changed, people were healed, those under oppression were released.  They probably were encouraged, thrilled and humbled, all at the same time knowing God worked through them.

It is in the wake of these two events, one quite traumatic and negative; and the other very exhilarating and positive, when they gather around Jesus to tell Him “all that they had done” (Luke 8:10).

Luke states Jesus “took them” to a deserted place while Marks says Jesus “said to them, ‘Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place.’”  Clearly, Jesus wanted them to be in this deserted or desolate place.  They of course assume that means their personal time of service is on hold while they have the LORD’s full attention.  They might be thinking this will be a time of rest and relaxation; a time to reflect back on what has just happened.  But Jesus of course is getting ready to teach them a series of big lessons.

While in no way exhaustive, over the next four blog posts I’ll highlight four lessons, or principles of ministry from this story.  Since Mark devotes the greatest amount of verses to the story (15 verses with 350 words as recorded in the NKJV), I’ll use his book as our main source material, letting Matthew, Luke and John add some individual details.

The Feeding of the 5000 is the only miracle of Jesus, besides His resurrection, recorded in all four Gospels.  There is something here for us.

In His Service,

-jm

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Standing For Truth

Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? – Galatians 4:16 NKJV

Sometimes the truth hurts.

It might be easier to ignore a situation, but truth must be proclaimed.

Here in Galatians 4, Paul has come to the point of reminding his readers of how he had preached the gospel to them previously.  Yet, they began to drift away from his teaching of faith in Jesus solely as the way to salvation and reconciliation with God.  The people of the Galatian church had moved to a hybrid version of Christianity where Jewish believers were forcing certain aspects of the Law onto Gentile Christians.  In chapter 1, Paul makes it clear there is no other gospel and he uses strong language to convey his position.

By chapter 4, you can imagine Paul’s frustration as it seems even those in the Galatian church were considering him more of an enemy than a church leader!  Paul told them the truth and it seems, some people didn’t like hearing what Paul had to say.

Truth can do that.  Truth and the preaching of it, can lead to conflicts.  No one likes being told they are believing a lie.  But love demands, and truth requires, correction.  Just as parents must correct their children, so too are spiritual leaders to offer correction when truth is at stake.

While this correction needs to be done in a gentle way, as Peter explains in 1 Peter 5:1-4, we should not be surprised when the proclamation of truth to wayward and deceived believers is met with disdain.  Paul was now looked upon as an enemy by some of the Galatian church.

Paul sets the standard for us as to stand for truth.  Not arrogantly, but humbly proclaim truth.

Our evangelical world seems to rage in turmoil as standards are minimized, guardrails of Christian conduct are ignored and removed, and truth is often deemed irrelevant.  But like Paul had to address the 1st century Galatians, truth must be proclaimed.  The church needs people who will stand up for truth, even when they are perceived as the enemy.

Stand for truth, even when others waver.

Stand for truth, even if it would easier to go with the crowd.

Stand for truth, even when you are perceived to be the enemy.

Stand for truth, because the truth is worth standing up for.

— Jeff Millslagle

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