Articles

Do less, do more

In Uncategorized on December 20, 2013 by scottsund

Dear friends of this blog:
After 161 posts and 33, 750 views over the last 3 years its time to end Look to the North. 

I’m slowly learning that I would rather do less things but do them with more intentionality and follow-through.  In recent months the mix of involvements in my life has kept me running at too busy a pace.  The result is less blogging than I want but also a chance to look over my life and say “what if I do less, could I really do more?”

Answer is yes.  I want to say no to more things, in order to have more time for my wife and kids.  More time to read and relax.  More time to take care of my body and enjoy nature.  Time to worry about less things.

This is a small step but alas, all small steps are the beginning of longer journeys.  

Thanks for stopping by- thanks for being a fan- on Jan. 1 the blog will be taken down.  Until then…look to the north.  May God bless you in this special time of the year,
Scott

Articles

Un-sexy churches, the story of Bethany North, and the God of small armies

In Bethany North, God's great love, Leadership, The Church on October 10, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

 Go to the nearest smallest church and commit yourself to being there for 6 months. If it doesn’t work out, find somewhere else. But don’t look for programs, don’t look for entertainment, and don’t look for a great preacher. A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place, not a romantic place. That’s what I always told people. If people were leaving my congregation to go to another place of work, I’d say, “The smallest church, the closest church, and stay there for 6 months.” Sometimes it doesn’t work. Some pastors are just incompetent. And some are flat out bad. So I don’t think that’s the answer to everything, but it’s a better place to start than going to the one with all the programs, the glitz, all that stuff.”

 Image
The words above were spoken by pastor and author (of the Message fame) Eugene Peterson.  Truer words have not been spoken, “A Christian congregation is not a glamorous place.”  Often times, the local church isn’t very sexy or exciting, or if it is for a while, it quickly fades.  For Bethany North, we now are turning three years old.  And the rite of passage makes me think back on what we’ve done.  Where we’ve been.  And where we’re going.

We started here in late September 2010- with 110 people and 55 kids.  We had hoped for 30 kids so lets just say from day 1, we’ve seen an abundance of God’s provision through the joy of children.  We stayed in the Richmond Highlands gym for 6 months and found another, larger spot.  We moved into the larger digs at Spartan Gym unsure of next steps- sure of only this one.

Now as we progress, we face new challenges.  How do we remain joyful in our volunteerism?  How do we continue to spread the news that there is a church in Shoreline built on making the invisible God visible?  How do we continue to grow based on the principle that the church is a people and not a building?  How do we deliver on the promise that as we connect and serve we will make Jesus known?  How can we inspire others with the truth that as we participate in the local church and the service in our community, God can continue to transform us?  These are the questions that gnaw at me as the leader of Bethany North.  But though questions persist, make no doubt about it; God is doing wonderful things in and among us.

And the truth, church, is that our best days are ahead.  In the book of Judges, God had raised up a leader named Gideon.  Gideon was facing an enemy army, and after being convinced God was calling him, Gideon exhibited great leadership.  He convinced others.  He cast vision.   He built something powerful.  He recruited an army of thousands to lead Israel into victory over the Midianites, a rival people group threatening Israel’s survival.  The army was 22,000 strong.  It was an army up to the task of facing the Midianites in battle.

But then God did something mind-blowing- He told Gideon, “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me, ‘My own strength has saved me” (Judges 7:2).  Then the army of 22,000 became 10,000.  Then God separated them further down to 300 men.  God took Gideon’s powerful group of 22,000 and made it His own powerful number of 300.

What?  God wants us to win battles- but do it with smaller armies?  Do it undermanned?  Yes- the God of the bible is a God of small armies.  For real power comes from God’s strength and provision and not merely by growing things on our own.  When we build powerful teams and do powerful things, we’re often mindful of our own accomplishments and not on the provision of God.  But when we’re amazed and surprised that God has taken our humble efforts and blessed them abundantly?  Well, we’re able to be thankful.  We’re able to be humble.  We’re able to be mindful that our strength is in the Lord, not ourselves.

This is good news to me today, and for the last few weeks.  This little nugget is giving me hope.  Often times I’m mindful of feeling overmatched and overwhelmed and I’m aware there is much to do that I’m simply not powerful enough.  And yet, I believe in a God who is more powerful than my own efforts.  So, I’m clinging to the God of Gideon, the same God who came and took flesh as Jesus Christ- who took the incarnational, small army approach to transform the people that followed Him instead setting up an earthly Kingdom or regime.  The God of Gideon, this small army God, repeatedly used broken people to profess that God was alive and well and absolutely determined on redeeming this world.

This is my prayer this week: 
“God, will take my small army and make it powerful for You?
God- we confess- there is much about the future for Bethany North
we can’t figure out.
But we know You can.
Lead us we pray.
We are a small army.
We are broken people.
And we give You thanks for all the goodness and growth
and health we’ve experienced so far.
Its clearly been from Your strength and not our own.
Thank you God- You have been so good to us.”

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14,245

In Keeping it Real, The Journey on September 25, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

ImageI’m 14,245.

Days.

Old.

I wake to that reality.

The baby has pooped- he won’t go to back to sleep.  Its not 6:30 yet.  The others will be awake soon.  I slept through my alarm and missed my morning routine of bible reading and jogging around the neighborhood.  I won’t be alone again till 9pm tonight.  This isn’t a pleasant thought.  The rain has continued through the night.  The front yard is muddy.  The bills are piling up.  There was a tough situation to deal with last night with a person in our community that left my wife and I feeling drained.

Thoreau once said, “Only that day dawns that we are truly awake” but that’s not really true, right?  Easy for Thoreau to say, in his one-man, man-cave of a cabin on the shores of Walden Pond.  He didn’t have to get 4 kids fed, lunches made, and out the door to do the morning carpool by 7:30.  No, this day is dawning, whether I’m ready or not.

And oh yeah, its my birthday.  And I’m 14,245 days old according to this link.

Birthdays don’t mean as much now as they did as a kid.  My 3 year old is ready for her birthday now-she’s planning the activity- thinking of the outfit- planning the cupcake down to the very color sprinkles she wants- and its 3 months away.  For those of us that consider ourselves as adults, we’re lucky if our birthday gets remembered with a dozen shout outs on Facebook and a birthday card hand drawn by the kids.

We were at the mall last week getting hair cuts from the brother in law and I saw a huge digital display in the front window of the Eddie Bauer store that screamed out: LIVE YOUR ADVENTURE!   In the photo the guy was skiing and it all looked so good.  I had a longing:  I need more adventure in my life.

Truth is: I love adventure.  I love standing on mountains.  I love getting away.  In what now feels like a past life, when I was younger I travelled to 6 different continents, spent a month living in Guatemala (alone), and drove around the United States and eastern Canadian provinces in a white van named Hope for 6 months.  Adventure was my middle name.  But mostly life now is about something else- living well the every day life that doesn’t feel too adventurous on most days.

The adventure is looking smaller these days.  Simpler.  Less exciting to the outside observer.  Some days I’m still plagued with my evil twin “Adventure Sund” who dares me to drive out of town and not stop, who says I should be doing more, going to more places, going crazy with activity.  But slowly, as day by day goes by in this full season of young family, growing church, youth soccer, etc., I’m slowly learning adventure isn’t as important right now.  Right now the big adventure is serving my wife lovingly and learning to listen to her and care for her as she really is.   Or training my son how to drive a boat and be a better leader with his friends.  Or teaching my daughter to believe in herself and have healthy friendships. Or patiently guiding my 3 year old and not lose it when tantrums erupt for the seemingly insignificant things that drive her nuts.   Or caring for my baby boy by putting down my phone and laying on the floor with him and play for extended periods of time.

These are good adventures- much, much smaller- but if I live the life well that God has given me in this specific time and specific place, I’ll better understand the man that God created me to be.  I’ll not dream about different adventures or bigger bank accounts or better vacations to more exotic locales.  I’ll be too busy living the adventure of the beautiful every day life God has given me right now.   Paul speaks of this good life in the letter to the Ephesians: “I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received.  Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.”  These words were true for the church in Ephesus; and they are true today.  I want to live a life worthy of the calling I’ve received, the life I’m actually living now versus a false notion of a more adventurous life out there somewhere.  The grass isn’t greener, it needs watering everywhere.

I want to live that kind of life today, on my 14,245th day.  That’s the adventure I signed up for.  I want to live it well.

Articles

The story of the lost key

In God's great love, grateful, Jesus, The Journey on September 18, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

key

 

Monday’s was soccer practice on one of the muddiest, wettest, afternoons of the fall.  It was a tough practice trying to refocus nine 7 year olds from the preferred activity (making mud angels and throwing mud balls) to the ideal activity (practicing for soccer).  By the end of the hour I was wet, dirty, and most certainly a tad bit crabby.  The kids all got picked up, I gathered up muddy balls and practice jerseys, and went to grab the car key.  Normally we use a key ring with lots of other keys but in a hurry that afternoon I had grabbed the spare key.  One spare key.  Gone.  The zippered rain jacket pocket I had placed the single key had been unzipped.  The whole practice.  One single key, one entire soccer field, with no way to get home.

I grabbed two muddy seven year olds (mine and another) and my 9-year-old spectator daughter, and we began looking.  We walked here and there, carelessly, searching the muddy grass.  It dawned on me.  We’ll never find it.  At least not like this.  Searching has to be more intentional.  We have to have a better way to find the lost key.

I gathered the kids and hatched a plan.  We got in a line- 3 feet between us- and began traversing the field meticulously.  I still had my doubts we would find that key but at last now we had a chance.  Holding hands- crossing the muddy Francis Anderson field- looking for one lost silver key.  What are the odds- on 600 cubic yards that we would stumble over the one-yard that mattered: the one that held the key.  Back and forth, trying to maintain straight lines with military precision in the post soccer practice mess of two 7 year olds and a big sister waiting to go home.  “Its no use, we’ll never find it.”

“Nope we won’t,’ I told them, ‘if we stop looking.” As we continued to search, I began to realize a few things about lost things:

1) We can’t find what we’re not looking for.

Umm…yeah, got it.  Seemingly simply but so true.  I’ve had friends in recent days on social media who are poo-pooing the trapping of modern Christian faith and advocating instead an invitation “to the mystery, to the dance”.  I love that.  I love mystery.  I love dancing.  But if I’m left to my own initiative to pursue God, I’m going to be pretty lonely on the dance floor.  Because on most days I don’t feel like dancing.  I’m crabbing or shallow or simple or ignorant.  But establishing rituals of connection with the God who is always there to connect with us isn’t boring religion; it’s like intentionally looking for the key.  If you never look for things, you’ll never find it.  I realized some time ago I needed to spend more time looking for God, intentionally, in ritual acts of connection.  Setting my alarm to rise early, to run around the neighborhood looking for signs of the creator and praying for my loved ones, and returning to the pre-dawn quiet of the house and over a cup of coffee, reading the bible to remember just how big God is.  I’ve used different tools, different bibles, and different devotionals in different seasons to mix things up.  But I keep making time to search for God.

2)  If you don’t really need anything, you’ll soon tire of searching.

Looking for the key, we had made a few trips back and forth across the muddy pitch when I got frustrated- “forget it.”  I’ll call Heather, bring a spare key down, and just forget this stupid search.  But then I realized this was our only spare key.  There was no other option than finding the key.  No way to bail out.  No way to phone it in.  I NEED TO KEEP LOOKING BECAUSE THERE WEREN’T ANY OTHER OPTIONS.  It reminds me that often it is those furthest from God who have the best salvation stories.  Why?  Because they had no other option than to pursue the God of all redemption stories: Jesus Christ.  Sometimes I look around at the people around me and wonder- do you even need God or have we gotten so used to living without God we don’t really need him at all.  Someone recently challenged me: “are you merely spoon feeding the already full?”  Or are we reaching out to people still looking for a key to their lives.  I want to be more like that.
3)  Lost things get found when someone is searching.

It would have been convenient to stop searching- but I couldn’t -and so I didn’t stop.  How much more than does Jesus pursue us?  Desire us?  And search for us?  Jesus tells this story to encourage his friends looking for truth:
 “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Doesn’t she light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.’ 10 In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” (Luke 15: 8-10). 

Much like the woman’s quarter in the story, my own story was that I needed someone to find me.  I was 17, looking for purpose, and wondering whether God was true.  Lucky for me, Jesus inspired some YL friends to come looking for me.  And I began to hear about Jesus.  And then, in August of 1992, I was found.  I prayed and asked God into my heart, confessed my sin, and started a new path of following Him.  A path, trust me, that has had many failings.  And some dark spots.  But through it all, I knew I had been found by a God who loved me through His son Jesus Christ.  Even writing this, it feels good to remember my story of being found.  But I wonder how often we tell these stories to our friends outside the faith?  Or do we often spoon feed those already full?  Do we feel found by God on a daily basis?  And are we helping others seek for Him?  We worship a God who never stops searching for lost people.  I don’t want to forget about that part of God’s nature.

And then, near the end of our search, pointed down in the grass was the one, single, key.  We found it.  Because after all, the bible tells us, lost things get found.

Articles

Do you love me?

In Bethany North, God's calling, God's great love, Jesus on May 1, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , ,

do you love me?

God loves each of us,
as if there were only one of us.

~ Augustine

Lately I’ve been haunted by this question from Jesus in the gospels:  “Do you love me?”  At the time, Jesus was speaking to Peter.  Jesus had already died a horrific death and come back to life.  Jesus was appearing to his disciples along the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  He gave them the greatest fishing tip in the history of humankind “Try the other side of the boat!”  And they do it- and they almost break their net the fish are so numerous.  And then Jesus, being the Son of God, made them breakfast.  And over breakfast, with a fire probably crackling at their feet, their bellies full of fresh cooked fish and bread, turns to Peter and asked the fateful question:  “Do you love me?”

For Jesus, He didn’t couch the question with first declaring His own love for the disciples.  They already knew He loved them.  They saw Him wash their feet.  They saw Him hanging on a cross.  They saw Him come alive and serve them breakfast.  They saw the look of love on His face.  Once they knew of Jesus love for them, their identity as beloved was forged.  Nothing could shake their knowledge that Jesus loved them.

I’ve been thinking of God’s love lately.  Heather asked me the other day, “What are your favorite verses on God’s love?”  And I’m embarrassed to say this, but my mind went blank________________________________.   God’s love?  Hmm….let me think about that.  I can tell you all about sin and the wages and the death that resulted from Romans 1/3/6.  I can tell you my personal favorite anchor verse from James 4:8 “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.”  I can remind you from Genesis we’re made in the image of God, I can quote you pithy thoughts of wisdom from Proverbs and remind you of Moses and the great journey of Israel in Exodus.  There are of course the love verses from 1 Corinthians (“Love is patient and kind”) and 1 John (“we love because God first loved us”) but these mostly remind me of wedding ceremonies.  What verses remind me daily of God’s love?  Of His unconditional embrace?  Of His absolute delight in me?

How do I remember that no matter what I do, God already loves me?  How do I remind myself when I so easily forget that before anything else, I am already God’s beloved son?  Hmmm.  Truth is, I need more reminders that God loves me.  I need to write those verses on cards and stare at them each day.

Lately my oldest daughter’s nightly prayers have turned towards forgiveness.  She prays for her to be forgiven of all the bad things she has done.  Every-single-night.  After she prays, I then pray for her- out loud- “God, may my daughter know every night that you love her.  That You accept her.  That she is so good in Your eyes.”  And then I remind my daughter- God’s love is like my love- only way, way better.  I want my kids to KNOW they are loved by God and loved by their dad.   I think on my spiritual pursuits and often I’m running/clinging/pursuing Jesus and working so hard to do the things that I know God wants me to be about.  But what about my heart?

I was talking with a friend at church last month and he told me that he was struggling.  “What’s up?” I asked.
“I’m not sure why, but my heart isn’t feeling God at all.  Its all numb and void.”

I ran into this same guy Sunday after the church service.  “God answered my prayers!” he said.  “I’m feeling God’s love again.”

“Wow, that’s great,” I said.  “That means He’s answered my prayers too.  I’ve been praying for your heart.”

The truth is, we all need to reminded that God loves us.  Love does.  Love is.  Love wins.  We are good in God’s eyes.  We are loved.  Not because we do for others.  But because He first loved us.

Here are some great reminders this week that YOU are loved by God Himself. 

This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.   Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us.”
– 1 John 4:10-12

 “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.”
– Ephesians 2:4-5

“The Lord your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.”
– Zephaniah 3:17

“Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
– 1 John 4:7-8

“But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.”
-Psalm 86:15

“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
-Galatians 2:20

“ Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.”
-1 Peter 5:6-7

May you feel the weight of God’s love today.  It covers you.  Before you’ve done a single thing. God loves you.  Period.  What reminds you of God’s great love?

Articles

This Ain’t No Instagram Life

In Keeping it Real, Relationships on April 19, 2013 by scottsund

Image

The house is clean for what feels like the first time in months.  Don’t get me wrong; we know how to make things look clean.  It normally happens in the stressful hour before company comes over.  Quick!  We’re having people over!  Everybody start cleaning as fast as possible!

Heather and I joke that we invite people over to ensure we clean once in a while.  Don’t get me wrong, we’re not dirty people.  We love a good clean house as much as the next person.  But the reality right now in our life?  With 3 jobs, 4 kids, extra projects, and just the 2 of us?  On many days we just run out of time.

So the house is clean for the first time in months.  And I have this thought cross my mind: I should take a picture.  I should take a picture of my life and post it on Instagram.  Or Facebook.  I love to post pictures on Instagram, particularly of a highlight moment on a highlighted part of my day.  These highlights, if strung together properly, give the illusion that my house is always clean.  My children always obey me.  My wife always is smitten with me.  In other words, if I take the right picture at the right moment and post it online, my life might appear perfect.

We all want to appear as if our lives are perfect.  The reality is that this ain’t no instagram life.  Not in my house anyway.  Seen my garage?  It’s a disaster.  Seriously, a disaster.  And I keep thinking “I’m going to get to it one day” but it just never happens.  Or my closet that has had piles of clothes for MONTHS.  Seriously…months.  Here is the laundry pile that MAY get folded this week- probably not.  My office is a wreck.  My cars are dirty.  Get my point?
ImageClearly, I don’t live in an Instagram world.  And my hunch is that you don’t either.  But if I take a picture of the best parts of my life, I can give you the illusion I have things under control.  Why do we do this?  Because though we crave real intimacy and authenticity, we’re also scared if the world saw all our messy and dirty and not instragram-perfect parts of our lives, people would reject us.  The fear of being alone causes us to hide.  And though we turn to social media like FB or Instacrack to make us feel connected, research shows for most people it makes them feel a little more alone.  The reasons behind this are numerous, but when we only show each other the perfect parts, the notion is that everybody else is doing better than I am.  Clearly, we would do better to stop showing each other the best parts, and instead show the real parts.

There’s a great article on the danger of Instagram’s Envy Effect found here.  The author writes, “My life looks better on the Internet than it does in real life. Everyone’s life looks better on the internet than it does in real life. The Internet is partial truths—we get to decide what people see and what they don’t. That’s why it’s safer short term. And that’s why it’s much, much more dangerous long term.”

And not to sound like a prude, but I do worry about the long term impact that our cyber-virtual-social networks are playing on real friendships and real community.  The reality is that Instagram is fun.  Facebook can be a way to connect.  But these are only tools towards friendship, not real relationships.  Have you ever checked your FB live feed and felt more alone?  Or haven’t you noticed groups of friends sitting down around a restaurant table and everyone is starting at their phones?  Or husbands and wives on a date and both typing away on their phones?  I’m as guilty as the next person about staying connected, but we must ask ourselves when connectivity is actually a death sentence for real relationship with someone near you.  For me, I don’t want to over rely on social media to fill the lonely parts of my life.

Real life is messy.  Way messier than social media can communicate.  Way more ugly at times, but way more beautiful too.  Along with my messes, I can show you some of the beautiful “snapshots” of my life recently.  I can show you the picture of our cute front yard where we’ve recently planted flowers.  The picture of my date with my wife last Thursday where it felt like we were newlyweds again.  The picture of my kids playing together so happy down at the beach on Wednesday.  Boy, I could show you other snapshots to show you how blessed and fortunate I am.  Shots to break your heart.  But a snapshot won’t adequately communicate the love I have for my wife.  The way we laughed tonight when we danced to Taylor Swift.  The tears that came yesterday when I saw the sunrise hit the top of the Olympic mountains.  Real life is so much more beautiful than my iphone can ever capture.

See for all of us, we have so much to be thankful for. So many “snapshots” that really are incredible and relationships to celebrate and a roof over our head and food to be thankful for.  But perfection isn’t attainable on this planet and the sooner we give up the fantasy that someone else’s life is perfect, the sooner we can get busy with trying to see the very best in our non-instagram lives.  No marriage is perfect- they all take work.  So start working, start investing in your partner, schedule a date, make love, enjoy one another, and talk about the real issues you’d rather hide in the garage.  And your kids?  The ones that talk back once in a while and that you’re secretly worried might have serious need for therapy in the future because of your parenting skills?  Take them to the park this afternoon and instead of taking pictures of them and posting them to FB or Instagram as a statement to the world “SEE I AM A GREAT PARENT BECAUSE I TAKE MY KIDS TO A PARK”.  No instead of posting those pictures, leave your phone in the car and just enjoy them.  Tackle a house project of something that bugs you and leave the other 14 things that bug you for another night, another week, another month.  Because it’s an illusion to think you’re ever going to “do it all.”  Give up the obsession with the busy life.

The bible says that “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!” (1 COR 13:12 MSG).  This is our life, all of us, and at times it feels quite foggy.  Its not till we see Jesus face to face that we’ll finally experience true perfection.  I imagine that moment, of finally seeing Jesus face to face, when we get to know him directly, and I hope I have my iphone.  Because I most certainly will be posting that picture on Instagram.

But here on earth?  No this ain’t an Instagram life.  It’s hard at times and chaotic.  But it’s also very beautiful.  Yes we have messes and piles of stuff to do and real relationships that need our care.  But the God in heaven that made all this stuff wants us to pause and stop glorifying everyone else’s life and start living our own.  He’s made us, loved us, called us, and sends us into our world to let other people know: He loves them too.

It ain’t no Instagram life.  But it’s a beautiful life.

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Eat my what?

In Bethany North, God's calling, Jesus, Struggles with faith on March 14, 2013 by scottsund Tagged: , , ,

Have you seen this video?  It’s a little boy getting cochlear implants and hearing his mother’s voice for the first time.  Think about that.  Your mother’s voice for the first time.  Unless you had never heard your mother’s voice- you wouldn’t understand.


We’ve been talking about Jesus lately at church…I know, I know…crazy right?  But think about this.:  Jesus says “I am the light of the world.”  That is only good news if you had no light or you had never seen.  Jesus says “I am the bread of life” and that is only good news if you were hungry.  It got me thinking- what do we actually need Jesus for?  And how does Jesus help a community that doesn’t need Him?  Unless we recognize our brokenness and low places- we’ll never need a Savior.  Early in Jesus ministry He went home to continue to heal people and do some of the miracles He had been performing in other places.  But they didn’t need Him- they didn’t recognize Him as anything other than “Mary and Joseph’s boy.”  And then the scriptures tell us in Luke 4: Jesus left.  Because if a community doesn’t need Him, Jesus takes His presence elsewhere.

I don’t know about you- but I’ve been especially aware lately that I need a savior.  Not in a religious, pastor type way.  But in a broken, “I’m not quite good enough” type way.  No, I can’t do life very good on my own.  I need help often to cling to the hope in this broken world.  To cling to peace in my own interior life that can feel such anguish and stress.  Yes I’m the broken.  I’m the deaf.  I’m the poor in spirit.  I’m the hungry.

bread of life wonderbreadThis last Sunday we took a look at this weird passage in John 6 where Jesus says, “I am the bread of life” and then encourages His followers to “Eat my flesh and drink My blood”.  You can find the passage here.  To be sure, it’s a hard passage to understand.  Imagine hearing this message from Jesus.  Eat flesh.  Drink blood.  Bread of life.  What does it mean?  And better yet, who can do it???  Who can possibly follow the guidelines of this new brand of religion?  This man Jesus must be crazy!   How can I possibly do everything right to follow Him?

The genius here on Jesus part is simply this:  I can’t.  I can’t do it.  I can’t eat the flesh and drink the blood.  Jesus moves from Law “do these things and all will be ok” to a purely impractical statement.  Why???  Why does Jesus sometimes talk like this?  Because you can’t do it on your own!  We need Jesus to enter into the best life possible.

In this passage Jesus had just taken 5 fish and 2 loaves of bread and in a miracle, He fed literally thousands of people.  How does this work?  Because Jesus ushers in a new economy where 5 fish + 2 loaves= ENOUGH.  God’s economy doesn’t make sense to me.  Its not balanced budget- it’s the radical grace of God.  This doesn’t make sense to me and so I cling to my radical self-sufficiency.  I doubt that Jesus can take the 5 fish and 2 loaves of my spiritual life and weave it into something beautiful.  So I feel slow to trust Him.  And then I finally realize- my “economy” that makes such logical sense – really isn’t working for me.  Trusting myself and my own ends leads me to places of feeling bankrupt.  And in these places I yell out to God: ‘I can’t do this!”  I cry out and I fail and then I cling to Him.  Perhaps this is what Jesus means- He is the bread of life.  Because on my own I just always feel hungry.  But when I’m following Jesus I have a wholeness, a fullness, not of my own strength but of His.

I’ll be preaching about this need for Jesus a bit this Sunday at Bethany North at 9:15 and 11- if you’re in town you should stop by.  Maybe we could do this journey together.

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