It might seem strange for the church to talk about the multiplication of resources without getting into a “health and wealth” approach to the gospel. But Jesus, in the encounter he and the disciples had with feeding five thousand-plus people in Luke 9.10-17, shows us how resources can be multiplied. The story gives us two simple principles to follow. You can listen to the message by clicking here: (There was a video and illustration which was excised from the original recording at the request of the person who was interviewed.)
Dave Nichol died yesterday. You may or may not know who he was, but you will probably know something he developed. You’ll likely even recognize his handwriting.
Dave Nichol was the guy hired by the President of Loblaws grocery store chain to do product development. And the line he famous developed lives on today, in everything from chocolate chip cookies to online banking: President’s Choice.
Not a lot of people know Dave Nichol’s name. But a lot of people do recognize his ‘signature’.
What about us? Even if we don’t have a household name, what will people think of when they remember us? You might not develop anything famous that gets sold in grocery stores. But among your friends and acquaintances, you will be remembered for something. What will it be? What do you want to be remembered for?
Considering this sort of introspective question is a bit like writing your own death notice. If you’ve ever pondered that, you know what’s involved. If you were to die tomorrow, what would you want people to remember about you? What will have been your ‘signature’?
Think about Jesus. He’s remembered for his death and resurrection, of course, but if we scratch beneath that surface, we see the motive that sent him to the cross: self-giving love.
Take a few moments, and read the following passage slowly, perhaps more than once. When the apostle Paul wrote it, he may have been quoting one of the earliest hymns of the Christian church. What he was quoting wasn’t just good theology (and it is); he was citing something that could have been Jesus’ death notice in the Jerusalem Post back in the day, had it existed. (Of course, they’d have had to print the resurrection story three days later!) Ponder this as Jesus’ ‘signature’, what he would be remembered for:
You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had. Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being. When he appeared in human form, he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross. Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2.5-11, NLT)
You may not die for many. You may not rise from the dead. But will you be remembered for the same kind of self-giving love for which Jesus was remembered?
Earlier this week, I heard an outstanding message on Psalm 1, with a focus on how those who delight in the law of the Lord are “like trees planted along the riverbank, bearing fruit in each season” (Psalm 1.3a, NLT).
It’s true: when we are planted firmly like trees, and our roots deepen and expand, we bear fruit. But what is this like, and what brings it about? I’ve been thinking about that ever since. Let’s consider it.
Our roots deepen and expand when we spend time in God’s Word, reading Scripture not just to amass information but to be shaped and transformed through it by the Holy Spirit. Our roots deepen and expand when we serve the Lord with our gifts, talents and skills. Our roots deepen and expand when we live the Christian life fully and authentically for the glory of God alone.
And what happens? We bear fruit. What kind of fruit?
Well, when we’re being transformed by the Holy Spirit, it stands to reason that we are bearing spiritual fruit – the fruit of the Spirit. The apostle Paul, in the letter to the Galatians, says that “the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5.22, NLT).
If you want to discern what kind of tree you’re looking at, you observe the fruit it bears, right? Apple trees don’t bear pears. Peach trees don’t bear plums. Each bears what it’s designed by God to bear. So it is with the follower of Jesus: when we live an authentically Christian life, we bear the fruit of the Spirit – not because we want to appease God in some way, but because we are living authentic Christian lives.
A healthy apple tree can’t not bear apples. A healthy follower of Jesus can’t not bear the fruit of the Spirit. The question becomes this: am I bearing the fruit that God designed me to bear? Also, am I living authentically in Christ? Are my roots deepening and expanding? Am I delighting in the law of the Lord? Am I like a tree planted along a riverbank?
A lot of questions. But when we let God live his life through us by the Holy Spirit, we experience the joy of fruit-bearing and know that it really is the life we were intended to live.
We’re getting into the season where leaves fall off trees and fruit is borne no more. But as Christians, God invites us to bear fruit all year. Is there a particular fruit of the Spirit that you’re working on right now? May you know God’s blessing as you seek to bear fruit for him.
Do you have any irrational fears? That’s typically what a “phobia” is: an irrational fear, or a superstition. Remember, “Walk on a crack, break your mother’s back”? Or how about “bad luck” for 7 years if you break a mirror. All silliness…right?
Today is Friday the 13th. Motorcycle enthusiasts in Ontario love this day, because they typically take the day off and ride their hogs to the otherwise idyllic town of Port Dover, Ontario, for a rally. But some people have irrational fears about the number thirteen, especially when it lands on a Friday.
Any of these superstitions and phobias may haunt us as children, but hopefully, we grow out of them. And as followers of Jesus, we don’t believe in “bad luck” anyway; we don’t even believe in “good luck”, because, as Christian writer Wayne Oates put it in his book title, luck is a “secular faith”.
In some ways, saying “good luck” to someone, if we stop to think about it, is about the same as saying, “May the force be with you.” It may be intended as well-wishing, but in the end it is quite impersonal.
One of my university professors, a good Dutch Calvinist, never wished us good luck when giving us an examination; rather, he said, “I wish you the best of success.” In other words, he wanted us to do well, but he knew that there was no impersonal force, or luck, that was going to help us at this stage; if we hadn’t studied, we were up the creek. But he wanted us to succeed.
As followers of Jesus, we don’t need impersonal forces to aid us; we have the God of the universe! Who needs “luck” or “the force” when we have the Lord of heaven and earth?!
I hope that Friday the 13th is for you, as it is for me, another day to praise the Lord and live for him – not a day to put off otherwise healthy and excellent activity. Enjoy the day!
“I look up to the mountains – does my help come from there? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not let you stumble; the one who watches over you will not slumber. Indeed, he who watches over Israel never slumbers or sleeps” (Psalm 121.1-4, NLT).
While I was away in August, I had occasion to drive some of the major highways of the state of Pennsylvania in the United States. There is some beautiful country to see down there, but I always drive there with fear and trepidation – not because the drivers are worse than they are where I normally drive (they aren’t), not because the roads are fraught with pot holes and cracks and such (they aren’t). The problem I find with Pennsylvania highways is that they lack significant shoulders – even on the interstate highways and the PA Turnpike.
If you drive in Ontario, where I do most of my driving, you’ll find that shoulders are pretty generous. As my Dad would tell me when I was a kid, you can tell if a highway has been built to “Trans-Canada standards” by the width of the shoulders. If you look at the shoulders on, say, Highway 400, and compare them with the shoulders on King Road (or any other ordinary artery near you), you’ll find that the 400 has wider shoulders. Yet even most plain old highways in Ontario have shoulders wide enough to handle any vehicle that would need to pull off. In Pennsylvania, I did well to find a shoulder wide enough for a car every few miles. They deem these to be emergency pull-offs; trouble is, what happens if you have an emergency and you’re not near an emergency pull-off? You block traffic, that’s what happens.
In the passing lane of the Turnpike, the distance between the yellow line and the concrete barrier separating the two directions of traffic was barely a foot. I was nervous driving my tiny little Prius C; I can imagine what it must be like for large trucks!
What kind of ‘shoulders’ do you keep in your life? Do you have enough buffer on the sides of your travelling path to enable you to pull off in case of emergency? For example: do you have some savings that would enable you to scrape by in case of job loss or sickness? Do you take enough care in your relationships that you’re not one step away from a moral disaster? Do you leave enough time to get to your destination such that you are respecting the time of others who may be waiting for you?
We live in an age that cuts everything it can to the quick. It’s modelled for us all over the place. But if we model our lives according to God’s Word, we learn to appreciate the need for ‘shoulders’ in our lives.
What can you do to create the ‘shoulders’ you need?
“Our help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth” (Psalm 124.8, NLT).