Tag Archives: work

Leadership Lessons from Jesus’ Feeding the 5000

For any of you who have been involved in church ministry of some sort – either as a leader or as a participant involved in planning an event or service, let me describe a typical scenario and see if you resonate with it:

The people planning the event/ministry get together, and begin the meeting with a quick prayer asking Jesus to guide them and bless their meeting. Then, an hour is spent discussing ideas, issues, logistics, and maybe even desired results or purpose. Then, at the very end of the meeting another quick prayer, maybe 30 seconds long, thanking God for being there.

Does that sound about right? Have you had different experiences?

Unfortunately, this is all too common, even among pastors and elders. But, is saying a quick prayer at the beginning and end of a meeting really honouring to God? Does it say that we really want to hear or know His ideas and plans? No, it sounds more like we’re asking Him to rubber-stamp our plans instead. And I, for one, am tired of it. I believe it’s one of the great sins in the North American Church today. Sure, we might have good ideas, and even excellent ones, but what if they’re not what God wants for us? What about the scriptures that say “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God” (1 Cor. 3:19), and “The foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans” (1 Cor. 1:25)?

My desire is that when we gather to plan, God will take a central role in those meetings, which means taking time to actually listen to Him, setting aside our ideas and ways. And I believe that this account in John’s Gospel is a model for what we should do – and what will happen – as we do allow Him to be Lord of our meetings and events.

The account of Jesus multiplying the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish is an unlikely source for leadership lessons, at first glance, but from the disciples’ point of view I believe we can learn a lot about what it means to be a follower of Jesus in a leadership position (especially a position in the Church).

If you don’t remember the details that much, give the passage a read here.

There are five principles we can take from this passage that teach us what doing God-honouring work looks like.

1. Jesus initiates the work.

Jesus, seeing the crowds following Him, turns to His disciple Philip and asks where bread can be bought to feed them all. Philip heard the work Jesus wanted to do and was incredulous that Jesus wanted to do it – it seemed humanly impossible (and for them, it was). The disciples didn’t tell Jesus that they wanted to feed the people, rather Jesus initiated the work.

For many of us, we tell Jesus what we want to do (and sometimes how we want Him to do it), but instead we should be listening for what Jesus wants us to do. Often, we’ll find that our own ideas and plans were too small anyway! That means that we need to take time and make space to listen to what He is saying to us, and discern together in the Spirit the work He has for us – which in our busyness and self-competence can be difficult to do, but oh so worth it.

2. He tests our faith in order to increase it.

Philip, as I mentioned, was incredulous at the enormity of what Jesus was asking – the amount of money it would require to buy that much bread was unrealistic (assuming a nearby town even had that much on hand to sell, which is doubtful). But Jesus already knew what He was going to do and was testing Philip, John’s Gospel tells us. Jesus wasn’t being mean or cruel, but rather testing Philip to grow His faith – Philip saw the (human) impossibility of what Jesus wanted to do, but Jesus did it! As we see Jesus do the work through us that He wants us to do, He will expand our faith in greater and greater ways.

3. He includes us in the work.

Jesus didn’t do it all alone, however. He took the bread and fish offered by the boy Andrew brought forward and multiplied those after He blessed God for them. Jesus takes the abilities, talents, skills, and resources that we have (and which are all gifts from Him anyway), and as we offer them to Him uses them to accomplish the work that He wants to do. He includes us in the work. After everyone has eaten their fill, Jesus tells the disciples to gather the leftovers, which they do. The great grace of God is that – while He could work on His own, He instead chooses to work through and with us humans, if we will obey Him.

4. We need to obey, even when we don’t have all the details.

Pay attention to the order of events in the passage: Jesus asks Philip where to get bread to feed the crowd. Andrew brings forward a boy offering his lunch (but scoffs at it’s adequacy too), Jesus tells the disciples to get the crowd to sit down, and everyone sits down.

This is important to notice, that while the disciples have no idea what Jesus is going to do in order to feed the crowd, they still obey Him when He tells them to have everyone sit down. Often God will not give us the full picture of the work that He wants to accomplish, but will give us just the next step. Our job is to be obedient to that next step, trusting that He is working everything out according to how He wants it. Again, in our self-competent pride we want to know how everything will work before we take the first step in obedience. But the Bible is full of examples of men and women who obeyed God without knowing the full picture (Abraham leaving Ur, and Mary and Martha at their brother’s tomb come immediately to mind).

5. He will blow our minds.

The Scriptures say “Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think” (Ephesians 3:20, emphasis added).

A reminder: It’s not our work, but we join Jesus in the work He is already doing.  If it’s our work that we’re asking Him to approve, then while we may be doing good, were ultimately being disobedient to and limiting the better work He has for us.

God is not looking for people who will do their own work in His name, but who will instead do the work He gives them. I am determined to be one of those people – are you?

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41 Ways the Holy Spirit Works For, In, and Through Us.

Jesus promised that, even though he was leaving earth, he would send the Holy Spirit to be with us and comfort and guide all those who love him (John 14:15-17). For many Christians, however, an understanding of what the Spirit does or why we should depend on him is missing from daily life. So below are 41 ways the Holy Spirit works for, in, and through followers of Jesus Christ.

The Holy Spirit:
1. Speaks for us in times of trial (Matthew 10:20)
2. Fills us with power (Luke 24:49)
3. Gives eternal life (John 6:63)
4. Leads into all truth (John 14:17; 16:13)
5. Lives within us (John 14:17)
6. Testifies about Jesus (John 15:26)
7. Will tell us about the future (John 16:13; Acts 11:28)
8. Will tell us whatever He receives from Jesus (John 16:15)
9. Speaks through the Scriptures (Acts 1:16)
10. Gives prophecies, dreams, and visions (Joel 2:28-32; Acts 2:17)
11. Empowers to preach/evangelize with boldness (Acts 4:31)
12. Directs us (Matthew 4:1; Acts 8:29; Galatians 5:16-18)
13. Encourages the Church (Acts 9:31)
14. Speaks to us (Acts 10:19; 11:15; Hebrews 3:7; 1 Peter 1:11; Revelation 2)
15. Changes our hearts (Romans 2:29)
16. Fills our hearts with God’s love (Romans 5:5)
17. Frees us from the power of sin (Romans 8:2)
18. Gives life (Romans 8:10)
19. Empowers us to put to death our sin (Romans 8:13)
20. Affirms that we are God’s children (Romans 8:16)
21. Helps us in our weakness, especially re: prayer (Romans 8:26)
22. Pleads for us in harmony with God’s will (Romans 8:27)
23. Gives us confident hope (Romans 15:13)
24. Makes us holy (Romans 15:16; 1 Peter 1:2)
25. Gives us love for others (Romans 15:30; Colossians 1:8)
26. Shows us “God’s deep secrets” (1 Corinthians 2:10)
27. Gives us spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12-14)
28. Guarantees everything Christ promised (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:14)
29. Changes us to look more and more like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:18)
30. Prompts us to call God “Abba [Daddy], Father” (Galatians 4:6)
31. Gives us holy desires (Galatians 5:17)
32. Produces virtuous qualities (“fruit”) in our lives (Galatians 5:22)
33. Leads us (Galatians 5:25)
34. Gives us access to the Father (Ephesians 2:18)
35. Empowers us with inner strength (Ephesians 3:16)
36. Renews our thoughts and attitudes (Ephesians 4:23)
37. Confirms the truth of God’s word (1 Thessalonians 1:5)
38. Gives us a new birth and a new life (Titus 3:5)
39. Teaches us everything we need to know (1 John 2:27)
40. Empowers our prayer (Jude 1:20)
41. Invites us to drink from the water of life (Rev. 22:17)

Which resonated with you? Which will you depend on the Holy Spirit more for?

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12 Ways to Know When Our Serving is Sinful

One of my favourite passages from Paul is Ephesians 2:10 – “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.

As humans, we were created to serve one another in love, and as followers of Christ we are new creations in Christ, and both commissioned and gifted to serve.  However, sometimes our serving can be sinful. The following are 12 ways we can tell:

1017servingwrong_581902485

1. When we’re doing it for purely selfish motives (although we can’t ever be completely unselfish in our motives).

2. When we become irritable or frustrated when our plans are interrupted or changed.

3. When we haven’t left enough of a margin in our schedule to allow for unexpected interruptions (often God is working in these interruptions if we have eyes to see it).

4. When we complain (or boast) about being so busy that our family life suffers.

5. When our family life suffers, even when we don’t complain or boast about it.

6. When our health suffers, from stress or not getting enough sleep because of it.

7. When we take on jobs or projects not because we genuinely want to or feel God leading us to (or our boss tells us to!), but because no one else will do it or we think no one else is as qualified.

8. When we take on jobs or projects but feel resentful about it or like a martyr doing it.

9. When we take on jobs or projects because we think God will be more pleased by us or will love us more if we do.

10. When we take on jobs or projects because we want to impress or please people.

11. When we’ve bought into the lie that we need to be always doing or producing (or consuming!) to be considered valuable or worthy of love or acceptance.

12. Finally, when we’re doing it in our own strength instead of in God’s strength. “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water” (Jer. 2:13).

Sometimes we make ourselves overly busy because we don’t want to face deeper issues in our lives, and busyness, like other forms of distraction, postpone us from having to deal with them. Or sometimes it’s because we don’t want face God Himself – being alone with Him with nothing else to get in the way.

But God never intended that we extend ourselves so much that it becomes detrimental to our emotional, spiritual, or physical health. And He has gifted us for some jobs, but not all of them.

Are you over-committed at church or at work or in the community? You might actually be displeasing God, and it’s worth not taking this consideration too lightly. Spend some time alone and in silence, and before God see if any of reasons describe you.

Did I miss any reasons? What would you say are the reasons when serving is pleasing to God?

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Breakfast with Jesus? Bring Some Fish

During Jesus’ last post-resurrection encounter with the disciples in the book of John, he gives them two invitations which display beautifully the heart of God.

First, some context, though:

Peter, in John 18, denies Jesus while warming himself around a charcoal fire. He does it three times when accused, and after the third a rooster crows fulfilling Jesus’ prediction of Peter’s denial in John 13:38. What guilt he must have felt, what shame! In the moment he fears for his own life more than he cares for his master, his friend.

Later, in Galilee, Peter declares to the other disciples that he is going fishing which the fishermen in the group decide to join him in. And there, on the beach near where their boat is, is Jesus. Peter is so excited to see Jesus that he literally throws himself into the water and splashes to shore. Where he sees a charcoal fire burning, with some fish already on it.

I wonder if the smell from the fire triggered his memory, back to that day in the courtyard when he denied Jesus? I wonder if he felt shame temper his excitement?

And here is where the encounter becomes beautiful to me: Jesus doesn’t bring it up at all (he will later, though, in verses 15-19), instead he gives Peter and the others two invitations: “Bring some of the fish you have just caught,” and “Come and have breakfast.”

“Bring some of your fish”

This invitation is an invitation to participate. Jesus already had a fire going with fish on it, he doesn’t need the disciple’s freshly caught fish at all. But he invites them to contribute too. This is an invitation of acceptance and inclusion.

And it’s an invitation that God extends to all of us, to participate in his work in this world (see Eph. 2:10). He doesn’t need us at all, frankly, but he desires to include us. He wants us to do it with him, and makes space for us to do it.

“Come have breakfast”

This is an invitation to fellowship, to communion. Jesus is saying “be with me.” Jesus wants to spend time with the disciples enjoying their company, as much as he wants them to enjoy his. And so it is with us too. We tend to think of God as “up there” and we are “down here,” both spatially and hierarchically, and he really is farther above us than we could ever understand. But he is also here with us, God Immanuel, surrounding and encompassing and filling us, and just as he wants us to be a part of his work here on earth, he also wants to be involved in our lives – from the mundane things like doing chores, driving or taking public transit, shaving, and even pooping; to the less mundane like working, raising children, having hobbies, and being in relationships.

Friend of Sinners

friend-of-sinners

The thing to remember about these two invitations of Jesus, “participate with me” and “be with me,” is that he gave them to Peter before Peter was ‘restored,’ that is, before Jesus confronted Peter with his denial and desertion at Jesus’ arrest. He dealt gently with Peter, which really characterized his life – gentle and kind with the broken and oppressed, the trodden on and ‘sinners,’ and angry with the religious hypocrites who considered themselves ‘righteous’ in their own right. So much so, that those righteous called Jesus a “friend of sinners.” They meant it derogatorily, but Jesus really was a friend of sinners.

Which is good news, because I am a sinner. Even as someone who desires to follow Jesus and his teachings, I still sin, even willingly sometimes. We all do. It doesn’t mean that Jesus is cool with it or permissive about it (he asked one time “why do you call me Master but do not do what I tell you to do?” Luke 6:46). But it does mean that as we in repentance turn to him, he doesn’t meet us with a brandished hickory switch, leather belt, or wet hand. Instead he meets us with a plate of bacon and eggs and a bowl of warm oatmeal.

“Participate with me. Be with me.” These are the invitations of Jesus, and these invitations are for us. Whether you know Jesus or not, he is inviting you, to be a part of his family and his work on this earth.

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