Conquering Your Jericho (part 2)

by Christie Browning

It was the Israelites vs Jericho's city wall. (read part 1 here)

Joshua had led the Israelite nation to the walls of Jericho and God had told him that He would deliver this city into his hands. But how? Joshua didn't have an army and certainly there were no stealth attacks in play when Jericho knew they were on the other side of the wall.

But yet, Jericho had locked its gates and the Scriptures say "the gates were securely barred because of the Israelites." We pick up our study on Joshua 6: 1-9 in verse 3:

"3 March around the city once with all the armed men. Do this for six days. 4 Have seven priests carry trumpets of rams’ horns in front of the ark. On the seventh day, march around the city seven times, with the priests blowing the trumpets. 5 When you hear them sound a long blast on the trumpets, have the whole army give a loud shout; then the wall of the city will collapse and the army will go up, everyone straight in.”

On the surface, the plan was simple; march around the city for six days. But had I been where Joshua was, there would have been an element of "What?!? Are you serious? That's the grand plan?"

But thankfully Joshua was a great man of faith and he believed so firmly on the promise God had made him that he goes ahead and sets the march in motion. 

If we want to conquer our "Jericho" in life, we have to first be willing to stand firmly in the promises and truth God has given to us.

The truths and promises of God are bankable, and we can stand on the sureness that God doesn't change and He is just and right. But...we have to know those promises before we can believe in them. If you read the first five chapters of Joshua you will see a leader who knows God intimately. This incident with Jericho didn't just happen and it surely wasn't the first time Joshua had received direction from God. Joshua knew God, knew how to discern His voice and heed His direction.  

To conquer our "Jericho," we have to understand and know God's voice and direction intimately and personally. 

Notice that Joshua knew exactly how many times to march around the city. He heard God's plan and initiated each detail. He didn't run ahead and try to force the invasion. Even when a forceful attack would have been more expected and would have made more sense, Joshua stuck to God's plan and trusted that God knew what He was doing. 

Are you and I that way? Are we able to decipher the truth and know God's direction in the midst of our troubling or tough circumstances? Where is your hope and confidence? Is it in what makes sense or what can be seen? Or is it in the God that parts the seas and frees the captives. Jericho thought they were unbeatable with their locked gates and impenetrable walls, but they didn't plan on the supreme power of God and the faithfulness of a generation.

Your "Jericho" may seem like the heavy-weight champion of the world, one that can't be knocked down. But consider the reality of who God is and what He promises His children. The same God who parted the seas, freed the captives and brought down the walls of Jericho is the same God who looks over your shoulder and sees the bills that can't be paid, marriages that seem to be dead, children that seem to be lost. He knows what you're facing and He has a plan to reduce those troubles to rubble.


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Conquering Your Jericho (part 1)

by Christie Browning

Joshua 6:1-9 (NIV)  Now the gates of Jericho were securely barred because of the Israelites. No one went out and no one came in. 2 Then the Lord said to Joshua, “See, I have delivered Jericho into your hands, along with its king and its fighting men. 

The story of Jericho has miraculous elements of God delivering a city into the hands of the Israelites by simple, unimaginable methods. The story starts with Joshua, Israel's fearless leader, facing a rather large obstacle, but God gives him a promise that victory is his.

Jericho more than likely sat on a hill and had walls about 30 feet high. The walls were thick, thick enough to have people walk around the top of the wall without having to pull a circus act. To the Israelites, the city seems like an impenetrable fortress. Even so, the city was nervous knowing that the Children of God were just on the other side of the wall. No doubt they had heard about the God of Israel and all He has done for them. So Jericho is shut up tight. The gates were "barred because of the Israelites." No one was going in or out. 

God gives Joshua a promise - Verse 2 says "I have delivered Jericho into your hands along with it's king and fighting men." Here Joshua stands toe-to-toe with a big ol' wall and no large army to take it down. He's herding the tribes of Israel made up of women, children, elderly... not the forceful, threatening force that would cause a city to take heed. But it wasn't the "army" that made Jericho nervous. It was the God that came with Israel. Joshua didn't need an army, he knew God would come through on His promise. It didn't seem likely, it didn't seem possible, but Joshua knew God's track record. 

What in your life do you need to conquer? 

  • Addiction
  • Marital issues
  • Financial problems
  • Illness
  • Job problems

I believe at some point we are all faced with our own personal "Jericho," something that just seems impossible to overcome. The situation may not look possible, but it's not your power that will make the victory come. No, it is in the God who delivers the victory to you that you stake your faith. 

There's now possible way for Israel to take hold of Jericho, and you may feel the same defeat, but God promised deliverance to Joshua and He offers the same to you. Just wait for the rest of this story....God does crazy things to make a winner out of Joshua and the Israelites. And there is so much we can learn from this example, so stay tuned!

 

Come On In! The Water's Fine! (part 5)

In this mini-series, we're looking at the story of the invalid man who laid beside the pool of Bethesda. You can read this story in John 5. And if you haven't already read the previous devotionals on this, you can do so here. We've already learned that Jesus commanded this man to rise and in the middle of our sickness, our need for healing, He says the same to you and I -- Rise, get up, move on, walk out of it, walk away from it.

Jesus told the man next to "pick up your mat."  Verse 8 says "Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked." Jesus meant for the man to pick up and pack out. He had something different for him, but that meant the man had to choose to do something different. For 38 years he had sat. Just sat there. Now Jesus comes onto the scene and says, move and pick up your mat. Jesus asked him to do something totally different than what existed in his normal routine. 

Many times we look to Jesus to heal us and we may even ask for the change, but we don't want to do anything different. We don't want to be pushed out of our comfort zone. This man was pushed way out of his box and it served as evidence of his faith.

Lastly, Jesus told the man to "walk" - go forward, move on, leave the past behind. We may want healing and we might even start to see it happening. But we allow fear, feelings of unworthiness, distractions, doubt to drive us back to our past. Jesus commanded the man to walk. There was no question about it. In order for him to see complete wholeness, he had to move forward, leave the pool behind and fully embrace a new life. You can't set sail and head out to sea if you always want to keep an eye on the shore. If you aren't OK with a different scene you will be stuck in the same place. Let go of the comfortable, complacent past and walk away. That is life- walking, moving, living. Death is standing still, stagnant, never evolving.

So where are you? Do you want to be healed, changed, transformed? Are you really ready to go what it takes to experience a new life? There's plenty of room for those who'd rather lounge by the pool. But notice Jesus singled out one man. The choice to change is not a popular one. In fact, later int he chapter you see that this transformation ticked off the Pharisees. There will be some who don't think you need to change and they won't like it if you do. If that is too much for you, then stay by the pool. But if you're ready to be made well, then rise! pick up your mat and walk!


Come On In! The Water's Fine! (part 4)

"Do you want to be healed?" That was the question on the table. In part 3 we looked at some of the personalities that may have been around the pool of Bethesda... so it's no wonder that Jesus asked this question to the invalid man. It's also no wonder that the man answered the way he did. It's as if he was trying to explain himself, why after 38 years of laying there beside the pool, he still hadn't made it into the water.

John 5:6-7 "When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

The man says he has no one to help him. Maybe you feel that way as well. No one understands. No one has any answers. No one gets it. Just like the invalid man, no one could help, but Jesus can and did and will. In fact, Jesus never even responded to the man's reason. He didn't speak to his surface problem, his little issue. Jesus went straight to the source right where the real sickness , the real healing was needed.

Often times we want Jesus to treat our symptoms, but not the sickness. We'd rather be made more comfortable than be transformed. We want Him to fix our circumstances, not our hearts.

Jesus gives the invalid three very specific instructions we should follow to see the power of healing and change. But the question to first ask yourself is, "Do you want to be made well?" You've got to want it first. If you can say "yes," put away your excuses, pack up your pity party and pick yourself up -- then follow these instructions. Because the very first thing is to make the choice that you want to be changed, be set free and to be healed. 

Step #1: Rise

Jesus told the man to "rise." Some translations say "lead" or "get up." We have to decide to stop settling for excuses. We have to agree to quit drowning ourselves in complacency and get ready to move out of Pity City. Jesus couldn't change the man and leave him there on his mat. What a waste that would be. It's impossible for us to change and grow yet stay where we are. There will be movement. Jesus said "rise." 

Notice Jesus did not say crawl or back out. No. He said to stand up, stand firm in the faith you have in Him - the one empowering your change. You, by yourself, can't make the change. Just like the invalid couldn't heal himself, we do have a healing source. And with the help of Jesus we can stand.


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Come On In! The Water's Fine! (part 3)

john5.jpg

John 5:6 "When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

Jesus asked the invalid man, "Do you want to get well?" That seems like such an unnecessary question. Of course he wanted to be healed, to get well! Did Jesus really think he was lying there, beside this particular pool, to work on his tan?

Imagine the people lying around that pool. Some people I'm sure were there for the scene. They had made Bethesda their "pity city" and were lying there to receive their "woe is me" quotas. These people probably enjoyed the alms the received without work. They enjoyed the lack of responsibility and didn't mind that they didn't have to change or heal or get courage to face something different. 

Maybe you know someone like that, or maybe you've been around someone similar. You know the type, quick to bare their wounds, their pain and suffering, but because of the pity attention they receive they are happy to relive the past over and over. 

Or maybe it's someone who says they want healing, but even quicker to dwell on the illness or ailments of the soul, content to keep them as a crutch. Sometimes these folks see themselves as a religious rockstar or soul celebrity because of hardships they endure for the "kingdom." They choose to stay beside the pool. They choose to rack up the days, months and years of suffering as a sort of badge of honor, a certificate of their pain. It's almost their identity.

I bet there were also some folks around the pool who had been there a long time, like our invalid friend, who knew nothing more than the mat they laid on by the pool where they waited. Because they had been there for so long, life on the mat had become the norm for them. In fact, even though they were laying beside the pool to be healed, I am sure there was a bit of fear of the change and what a new life would bring to them. Sitting there was easier and safer than the change that waited for them.

Again, you might know people like this or maybe you even see yourself in a few of these scenarios. You know healing from your past or from your pain is what you should want,  but the fear of change, the fear of a new life, of freedom, is more than you can bear. So you choose to stay sitting by the pool. You settle. Instead of a life that is free and abundant, you choose safety in your complacency. You decide to stay sitting by the pool.

Complacency is a silent killer of the soul, keeping us just above and not below, but not high enough. Just existing.


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Come On In! The Water's Fine! (part 2)

So many of us are much like the invalid we read about in part 1 of this mini-series. We want healing, a new life, we want to be rescued, to be made whole -- yet we can see this new life, but it's just out of reach. Just like the invalid who laid beside the pool of Bethesda, he could see the chance to be healed, but his crippled body kept him from the very thing that would reverse this disability.

In the past I have tried to get there - to get to the life I knew I was destined to have. But it was always a little too far out of reach. I would fall just short of getting where I wanted to go. Try as I may to attend the right church, read the right books, talk to the right counselor, or do the right things... there just wasn't anyone who could help me into the pool for healing and restoration. 

Friend, if you have experienced this frustration, I get it! I have been so close to cresting the summit, to climbing out of the pit, only to feel like there's a schoolyard bully waiting at the top to push me back down. I could never quite conqueror myself, my past and my pain. 

The invalid man was there-- waiting. He knew something had to happen. Something had to change if he was going to be healed. Then Jesus enters. 

Raise your hand if you need Jesus to enter the scene of your life, your marriage, your finances, your past, your pain, your failures? 

The real help, the sole help you are needing comes from Jesus alone. That is the first revelation necessary to unlock the healing power Jesus has to give you. The best news is that we don't have to do anything other than look up and reach out to the Savior. He meets us where we're at. Jesus met the invalid where he was at --lying on a mat where he'd been for 38 years. It probably wasn't the scene you'd like to find yourself in when you meet Jesus. The invalid man's situation wasn't glamorous or flattering or even clean. If no on was there to help him in the pool, I doubt he had a maid service or laundry service. But Jesus didn't care. Jesus met him at his lowest point. And friend, He's waiting to meet you at whatever point you might find yourself  - your lowest, dirtiest, messiest point in life. There is no pre-rinse cycle needed with Jesus. He takes it all. He takes all the the old, dried up pain, mistakes - the caked on sin and baggage -- and washes it away. That's His promise to us if we are willing to let Him meet us at this point, in such a state.

You see, it's when we try to clean up before Jesus shows up that we mess up even more. Jesus doesn't need our help. Jesus just wants our heart - dirt, sin and all.


COMING IN 2017!!

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Come On In! The Water's Fine! (part 1)

In this series, we are going to unpack a great story about Jesus and a crippled man who wanted to be healed. Here's the story, straight from the John 5:1-9:

5 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda[a] and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

This story from John tells of a man who is an invalid, laying beside the pool of Bethesda. He knew that from time to time, an Angel of the Lord would come down and stir up the waters. The first one to enter the pool when the water was beings stirred, that person would be healed. So there he laid, but he was unable to get in the pool on his own & there was no one around to help him. He was so close, yet so far away. 

Let's stop for a moment to just picture this scene. People literally camped out around this pool because they believed the waters were stirred by an Angel of the Lord and that healing would happen in those waters. Do you think you would have had faith enough to park it by the pool's edge? I think my cynical mind would have kept me away -- scoffing at the small-minded, hopeful folks that were disappointed every time they missed their chance. 

What I love about this scene is the fact that regardless of the healing... this place was a place of hope and faith. For 38 years this crippled man watched as others beat him to the pool. How discouraging, but this man didn't give up hope that at some point, it would be his time to be healed. 

If you read the scripture above, you know that Jesus shows up on the scene and heals the man. He is able to walk after all those years of laying on the sidelines. I love the image of this playing out and I think it teaches several valuable lessons... which we will cover, but what I initially settle on is the idea that Jesus healed him. This poor guy expected for his healing to come in the same way all these other folks had experienced it -- getting into the pool. But Jesus had a different plan. How many times are we guilty of looking at how God answers prayers or works in another believer's life and we expect Him to show up in the same way. But God is multi-faceted. He is not limited to one way. He moves in the way He sees fit and in this story, Jesus healed in a different manner in order to give glory to God.

Stay tuned for the rest of this series!


COMING IN 2017!!

Christie's next book is coming in early 2017.

This book is like no other she's published. This her story of redemption, revelation and restoration.

Get a first-hand account of what God did to completely revise Christie's life, her purpose and her passions. 

 

 

Death of a Dream (part 2)

by Christie Browning

We're looking at I Samuel and Hannah's desire to have a child. She was overcome with this desire and it drove her to her knees to pray in deep earnest to God. Read part one of this study here.

The first lesson we learn from Hannah is that we need to let go, lay down our dreams and trust that if God chooses and that dream is from Him, He’ll be the one to raise it up and make it happen — in His way and in His time.

Second, we learn that Hannah stayed committed to her vow. As she prayed for a son, she committed to give her son back to God. 

"24 After he was weaned, she took the boy with her, young as he was, along with a three-year-old bull,[e] an ephah[f] of flour and a skin of wine, and brought him to the house of the Lord at Shiloh. 25 When the bull had been sacrificed, they brought the boy to Eli, 26 and she said to him, “Pardon me, my lord. As surely as you live, I am the woman who stood here beside you praying to the Lord. 27 I prayed for this child, and theLord has granted me what I asked of him. 28 So now I give him to theLord. For his whole life he will be given over to the Lord.” And he worshiped the Lord there."

These verses shows Hannah, as soon as she could physically let go of Samuel, takes him to Eli, the priest, and gives him back to God by leaving Samuel to serve in the temple. Once God gave her a piece of her dream she stuck to her resolve to lay him down, give him up for God. 

How many of us are guilty of praying for God to give us a job, a ministry, a family, etc. and we have intentions of that "dream" being for God and allowing it to be Him who does it. However, as soon as that "dream" is in our grasp we seem to say, "OK, God. I got it now. Thanks!" And it no longer God in it or doing it.

Hannah held to her vow and kept it. You can read later in Chapter 2 that she visited Samuel and loved him but she knew how this dream should play out and what her part was -- to let God have 100 percent of it.

Lastly, Hannah's story shows us just how great our dreams can be if we let God have them, lay them down and let God do the work to bring them to fruition. Many times our dreams will be bigger, more profitable, or larger and better than we could ever do on our own or imagine. 

In Chapter 2 verse 21, God gave Hannah three more sons and two other daughters. Wow! Hannah only prayed for one son and because of her faithfulness, God blessed her ... He blew her idea of the "dream" out of the water and gave her five other children.

So the question for you is this? Just what could God do with your "dreams" if you laid them down and let the dream be His? What if you gave up on your preconceived ideas and notions and expectations in order to let God bring new life to the dream you offer to Him. 

His blessings would blow your mind and you would see less frustrations and more peace if you allowed the dream to be His doing not ours!


Time to reFlect

1) What do you think God could do if you gave up control of your dreams?

2) What would you need to do to lay down this dream and let God have 100 percent control of it?

3) What do you think is holding you back from letting go of this dream and letting God have it?

4) What promises does the Bible offer that assures you that God can do more than we imagined?

 

Death of a Dream (part 1)

The story of Hannah, found in the first chapter of 1 Samuel, is remarkable and memorable at best. She prayers with a fervor that is like no other.

 “In her deep anguish Hannah prayed to the Lord, weeping bitterly. 11 And she made a vow, saying, “Lord Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant but give her a son, then I will give him to the Lord for all the days of his life, and no razor will ever be used on his head.”

 12 As she kept on praying to the Lord, Eli observed her mouth. 13 Hannah was praying in her heart, and her lips were moving but her voice was not heard. Eli thought she was drunk 14 and said to her, “How long are you going to stay drunk? Put away your wine.”

 15 “Not so, my lord,” Hannah replied, “I am a woman who is deeply troubled. I have not been drinking wine or beer; I was pouring out my soul to the Lord. 16 Do not take your servant for a wicked woman; I have been praying here out of my great anguish and grief.”

17 Eli answered, “Go in peace, and may the God of Israel grant you what you have asked of him.”

18 She said, “May your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then she went her way and ate something, and her face was no longer downcast.

19 Early the next morning they arose and worshiped before the Lord and then went back to their home at Ramah. Elkanah made love to his wife Hannah, and the Lord remembered her. 20 So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son. She named him Samuel,[b] saying, “Because I asked the Lord for him.” I Samuel 1:10-20 NIV

Hannah was one of two wives to Elkanah. Hannah had no children, a concern that weighed heavy on her mind and heart. Verse 5, tells us that for whatever reason, the Lord hadn’t blessed her with children.

Peninnah, Elkanah’s other wife, had children and chose to pick at her and put Hannah down.

“…the Lord had closed her womb. 6 Because the Lord had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her. 7 This went on year after year. Whenever Hannah went up to the house of the Lord, her rival provoked her till she wept and would not eat.” I Samuel 1:5

This was bullying to the extreme. It was so bad that Hannah couldn’t eat! You can imagine the grief and heartache Hannah experienced. Elkanah tried to console her. He obviously loved her. This chapter is specific in saying Elkhanah cared for Hannah, even giving her a double portion of meat to sacrifice.

But Hannah was looking for something different – a child. She had a dream, an ardent desire, a true longing of the heart to have a child.

Most of us can relate to Hannah. We might not grieve to have a child, but we all have dreams. We all have that one pressing heartache for something to come true.

In our day and age, we live in a society that encourages us to follow our dreams, chase them at all costs and run after them, work for them, don’t give them up or let them die.

Although these are all very positive aspirations and sentiments, Hannah’s story and her example tells us to go about our dreams differently.

Hannah’s story teaches us to lay our dreams down, to let them die in order for God to resurrect them in His way and timing.

In verses 10 and 12, Hannah desperately prays and pleads for a son. She is found in the temple praying and Eli, the priest, sees her in anguish. Hannah explains to him that she was overcome with grief. She was so overcome that Eli thought she was talking to herself, intoxicated and under the influence of alcohol. Again, the dream of having a son was extremely special and important to Hannah.

You have to assume that Hannah had this dream for a while and that this wasn’t the first time she prayed for a son. But for some reason, this prayer was different – different enough to be recorded in scripture and different enough to get God’s attention. What makes this prayer so special is in her vow to lay Samuel down and offer him back to the Lord.

The traditional dream would have probably been to have a son, raise him, care for him, watch him grow and mature, have his own family and possibly Hannah would live with him when Elkanah died.

However, Hannah gave up that dream and to say, “OK God, I give you my son, whom I don’t even have yet. I trust that you’ll fulfill my heart’s desire you way and in your time.”

And God does just that!

The first lesson we learn from Hannah is that we need to let go, lay down our dreams and trust that if God chooses and that dream is from Him, He’ll be the one to raise it up and make it happen — in His way and in His time.

That’s exactly what God did for Hannah. Once she vowed to give Samuel, the son she hadn’t even conceived yet, back to God, big things started happening.


  • Time to reFlect

1) Has there ever been a dream or goal you wanted to reach so badly that you could taste it, feel it, imagine it? Describe how it made you feel.

2) Have you ever forced or pushed a dream or goal to happen even if the timing or circumstances may not have been right? How did it turn out?

3) What would it have meant to stop, pray and wait on God’s timing?

4) Why do you think Hannah was willing to give her son back to God? Do you think she knew what that would mean when she promised to do so?

5) Consider a goal or dream you currently have. Are you willing to lay that dream down and let God have it to do with what He chooses? What does that mean to you?

6) Hannah eventually takes her son to the temple to live and serve. In this day and age, what can you do to give your dream over to God?

 

 

Beauty in the Broken (part 4)

by Christie Browning

We're continuing to look at Jesus' example when he was faced with 5,000 mouths to feed and no food to speak of other than five loaves of bread and two fish (read part 3 here). He used miraculous power to multiply those items to feed the crowd... let's see what happens next.

Satisfaction after brokenness

In Luke 9:17, the writer says "they all ate and were satisfied." After brokenness comes satisfaction! Once the food was broken and multiplied and then used, the people were satisfied. 

If we would surrender ourselves to God and be willing to be broken and multiplied, we would find a divine satisfaction and joy. Being used, having purpose, becoming fulfilled is all available after being broken. First there's brokenness... then there's satisfaction.

Leftovers anyone?

After the bulk of Jesus' miraculous work, Luke continues to depict the scene by saying "...and the disciples picked up 12 baskets of broken pieces that were left over." LEFT OVER!! From five loaves and two fish Jesus got leftovers! I like to say, "and then some!" 

In our hardships, our obstacles, if we would learn to view these as a chance for God to come in, a chance for Him to break us, use us in a huge way, fulfill us and fill our purpose tank, we'll find that there are leftovers! God can take the littlest, tiniest offering we have to give and do a miracle ... deliver leftovers. He can turn it into an abundance, overflowing, more than enough... and then some.

The key is to first take our circumstances for what they are, knowing God is still in control. Second we keep our eyes upward, looking and expecting God to be present. Then we stay in a worshipful manner, thanking Him for it all and for what we trust He will do. 

After that, we allow ourselves to be broken and used in a way God wants, so we can be multiplied for His purposes. All the time we know, this is a beautiful process because to the world it might not make sense, but we know and trust that we are being filled up, satisfied and used even when it may seem like we have little to offer. In the hands of God, He creates leftovers.

I love this example Jesus gives us. It is a beautiful display of surrender, trust and willingness. It teaches us to look at our circumstances, however meager or tragic, and knowing that God is a God of leftovers!

Beauty in the Broken (part 3)

by Christie Browning

We are looking at a special set of scriptures in Luke chapter 9 where Jesus was faced with a particular tricky set of circumstances. A group of 5,000 men had gathered to hear Jesus speak. As the day went on, the group grew hungry and there were no fast food places nearby. Jesus was given a small lunch that consisted of five loaves of bread and two fish. With these small resources Jesus chose to do three remarkable things in the midst of his circumstances (read part 2 here):

  • He took the five loaves and two fishes -- even when it wasn't enough to take care of the problem, he accepted that which God provided.
  • He looked up to Heaven -- focusing on Heaven, looking up to his Father, Jesus knew where his gaze needed to fall.
  • He gave thanks -- Jesus kept an attitude of gratitude. What was seen was nothing compared to the faith that Jesus had for what God would do. 

After Jesus had given thanks, he "broke them." The NIV version of the Bible says that Jesus broke the bread and the fish... as if breaking the five loaves into 10 pieces would help, but that is exactly what he did... he "broke them."

I find it interesting that the writer Luke chose to include these two little words, "broke them." It is rather significant because it wasn't until Jesus broke them that the five loaves and two fish multiplied enough to feed 5,000 men. It wasn't until that little lunch was broken that it became a feast... that too little became more than enough. It wasn't until Jesus broke them that something miraculous happened.

In our troubles, we are, no doubt, broken. Sometimes we are broken by the loving hand of God. But it is in our broken state God begins to use us. In our brokenness God multiplies our insignificant talents and too little offerings to do miraculous work. However, all too often, in the middle of our hardships, we want to run, hide and get away. We want anything but broken. Yet there is beauty in the broken....you'll see it next...

 

 

 

Beauty in the Broken (part 2)

by Christie Browning

When hurdles, obstacles and circumstances stand in our way, it's easy to get frustrated, feel defeated and to wonder, "what do I do now?" I completely get these feelings and all the questions that come with them. Boy, oh boy... when we talk about insurmountable problems, I have stood at the bottom of mountains, towering high into the stratosphere, and wonder, "what do I do now?"

I think Jesus gives us a profound example in the Bible (read Part 1 here). When he was faced with 5,000 hungry men who wanted something to eat after spending the day with him, Jesus was left with little-to-no resources. However, he had five loaves of bread and two fish.... hardly enough to tackle this problem, but Jesus knew he could do anything with a little faith.

What are you lookin' at?

Once Jesus embraced the fact that yes, he had only this small lunch to work with, he looked up to Heaven. In Luke 9:12-17 we can read the full account of this miracle. In the NIV version, the scriptures say, "...and looking up to Heaven...."

Jesus took time to look up. In the midst of our obstacles, our troubles, our bad days... do we look up? David writes in the book of Psalms... "I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord." Over and over in the Old Testament we read through Psalms using this phrase-ology... "lift my eyes," "look up," "lift up your face." 

In our hardship, facing our obstacles, we need to take a page out of Jesus' book and ....look up to Heaven.

Attitude of gratitude

As the story unfolds, we read that Jesus took time to give thanks. Look at the score here -- People 5,000 vs. Jesus - five loaves and two fish. To an onlooker, the odds were stacked against Jesus, but he still gave thanks even for the little he had to work with. Do we find an attitude of gratitude in the middle of our trials and tough spots? Do we offer up a prayer of thanksgiving? I know in my track record, my attitude is more like "woe is me" not "Whoa! God!" 

We know the typical, Biblical responses... "Rejoice in the Lord always," "Count it all joy." But do we really embrace those sentiments?

Wow, Jesus chose to do three remarkable things in the midst of his circumstances:

  • He took the five loaves and two fishes -- even when it wasn't enough to take care of the problem, he accepted that which God provided.
  • He looked up to Heaven -- focusing on Heaven, looking up to his Father, Jesus knew where his gaze needed to fall.
  • He gave thanks -- Jesus kept an attitude of gratitude. What was seen was nothing compared to the faith that Jesus had for what God would do. 

Just wait for the revelation that comes next!....

 

Beauty in the Broken (part 1)

by Christie Browning

We've all been faced with difficult circumstances, hardships and trials. In those times, it's natural to ask "why?" And even more so, our second question, even if we didn't get an answer to the first is, "What do I do?"

In the Bible, we can read of a story where circumstances were not ideal (Luke 9:12-17). The account of Jesus feeding 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish is nothing short of miraculous. Jesus was in a tough spot. He had been speaking to a group of about 5,000 men and now it was late in the day. The people were hungry. 

The first obstacle - Jesus needed food for these folks who had listened to him all day. Jesus' disciples come to him to make him aware that the people are hungry... and there are no options for food nearby. 

The second obstacle - All that was available was a boy's lunch, comprised of five loaves of bread and two fish. 

How Jesus' chooses to handle this tough situation can give us a great example of how to encounter our own hardships or trials. 

Denial comes first

The disciples, those that were closest to Jesus, first wanted to dismiss the problem by sending the crowd home hungry. Isn't that how we choose to face our problems? Bury our heads in the sand. Or... better yet, keep so busy that we can't face the problem right before us. 

Money isn't always the answer

After trying to deny the problem, the disciples then try to throw money at it. Verse 13 says "we only have five loaves of bread and two fishes -- unless we go and buy food for all this crowd." How many times have we looked to our checkbook or credit cards to solve the problem or fix the circumstances? We naturally go into "fix-it" mode when problems or obstacles come up. And how many times do we think money is the answer... only to be left broke.

But Jesus brings a new approach to the problem

Work with whatcha got

Jesus takes the five loaves and two fishes. Here's this little boy who happens to offer his lunch and Jesus graciously accepts it. He didn't look at it and say, "No, thanks. It's not enough to make a difference." No, Jesus treasures the small lunch as if it was a five course meal.

We discount the little we have to offer. Many times we don't value what God gives us even in the face of trouble and obstacles. We can't wait for the next exit. We look for the immediate relief. We want to run in the opposite direction, discarding the little we do have. However, when we stand in the midst of trouble, of hardships, that's when God wants to work miracles. That's when He is asking us to accept the little we see and trust Him to turn it into something we can't imagine. We already know that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, but he wouldn't have done that had he not accepted the lunch in the first place. Yes, there was a hurdle, an obstacle. But Jesus didn't gasp at the little he had to work with. He knew and trusted that God's power was bigger than the trial he faced. He knew God could use anything to show His glory... even five loaves and two fishes.