Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For as many as are the promises of God, they all find their yes answer in Him, Christ. For this reason we also utter the Amen, so be it to God through Him, in His Person and by His agency to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 1:20
“We must depend upon the performance of the promise, when all the ways leading up to it are shut up.”
“There shall be a performance of those things,
O trusting heart, the Lord to thee hath told;
Let Faith and Hope arise, and plume their wings,
And soar towards the sunrise clouds of gold;
The portals of the rosy dawn swing wide,
Revealing joys the darkening night did hide.”
Today’s Study Text:
“And they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.”
“Exceeding, Abundantly Above”
“He that feeds His birds will not starve His babes.”
When the Apostle Paul told the Christians in Ephesus that God could do “exceedingly, abundantly, above all we could ask or think,” what do you think he meant by those words?
How has God, “exceedingly, abundantly, and above,” worked in my behalf?
He Careth For You
“Said the Robin to the Sparrow,
‘I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so.’
Said the Sparrow to the Robin,
‘Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father,
Such as cares for you and me.’”
“Whatever we may ask, or think to ask, still God is still able to do more, abundantly more open thy mouth ever so wide, still He hath wherewithal to fill it.”
It is one of my favorite texts in the Bible, Ephesians 3: 20 and I’d like to share the paraphrase of this passage from The Message Bible:
“God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest dreams! He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, His Spirit deeply and gently within us.”
The Message Bible
The renowned Bible commentator, Matthew Henry calls the last two verses of Ephesians 3 a “doxology” or as we would define it, “a prayer or hymn of praise to God.”
While I had read this text on more than one occasion, it was really brought to my attention by a dear friend who had suffered bone cancer in her jaw when she was in medical school studying to become an anesthesiologist. Once when I was visiting her home, she had this text taped to the window in her kitchen, right above the sink where she did her dishes. I asked Nancy about this passage and as she shared, “You can’t help but have faith that God can do huge things in your life when you read these encouraging words.”
This is why I want to take one last look at the miracle we refer to as the “Feeding of the 5,000.” What we find in Matthew 14: 20 is that after everyone was fed until they were filled, Jesus instructed the disciples to go around and pick-up the leftovers – twelve baskets full of leftovers. I don’t know how many people could eat off the leftovers, but it seems to me that if the extra food may have been needed for “traveling” food for those who had come from the longest distance, there would have been plenty left. Jesus wanted to make certain there wasn’t any food thrown away, going to waste.
Interestingly enough, this is exactly the thought process behind the work of Food Banks around the world. I was fortunate enough, nearly twenty years ago, to get to personally interview John van Hengel, the founder of food banking as we know it here in the U.S. John was helping out at a food kitchen run with the assistance of St. Mary’s Basilica in Phoenix, Arizona in 1967. John was a rather tough old guy with a vocabulary to match. I’d been warned that John’s bark was worse than his bite and I found him to be a real “softie.” But there was one question I asked him that really got under his skin. “John” I queried, “What gave you the vision to start collecting leftover food in order to see that hungry people got enough to eat?”
John gave me one of those looks that said, “What made you ask me that stupid question!” And then he said very directly. “Hell, there was no vision. I just saw people wasting food and markets throwing away absolutely good food and I decided to do something about it.”
For John, taking the leftovers from those who were filled to feed those whose stomachs were empty was not just a logical thing to do, it was a humane thing to do. And in Jesus’ mind, it was a heavenly thing to do. This was the work of the Kingdom of God.
But this isn’t the only lesson which can be drawn from the fact that there was “extra” food. For as the Apostle Paul tells us, in the Kingdom of God, the rules aren’t the same as here in the Kingdom of this Earth. In God’s world, the normal is abundancy – exceeding grace; mercy beyond compare; and gracious-kindness above anything we could ever imagine. In God’s world, there’s always more than enough. Or as my dear friend, Linda Oliver, our Transformation Garden resident poet wrote and emailed me after reading last week’s devotional, “More Than Enough,” –
“More than enough, more than enough,
Oh, my Lord, He’s more than enough!
He loadeth my plate and filleth my cup,
With words like these, ‘Don’t ever give up.’
Yes, my Lord, You’re more than enough!”
If you were to ask me to summarize the miracle that all four of Jesus’ disciples, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John call the “Feeding of the Five Thousand,” I’d have to tell you it is a story about “Exceeding, Abundantly, Above.” It’s that simple. It’s a story that let’s you and me know that “small” thinking has no place in God’s Kingdom. I love the way Matthew Henry shares his thoughts on Ephesians 3: 20. He begins like this: “NOTE -- In our applications to God we should encourage our faith by a consideration of (God’s) all-sufficiency and almighty power.” In today’s modern language I’d put it this way: “When you’re thinking about what is before you, always let your thoughts run through the bigness of your God before you try and limit yourself to thinking God can only fit into your tiny world.”
Several years ago, I was faced with some huge financial challenges that I feared would hinder the work of Transformation Garden. Since Jim and I have personally paid for nearly everything the Garden has done over the last seven years, including the initial printing of my book, I felt God had really let me down, to put it bluntly.
But you know this “exceeding, abundantly above all that we ask or think,” type of thinking. Well, God knew I needed to learn a few things about His Kingdom. He knew I needed to expand my mind. I thought too small and narrow. And so one thing He taught me was that the “exceeding, abundant” isn’t always about sending loads of money your way. It may be, but in my case, God knew I needed something more important. It can be something quite unexpected like sending you the most exceptional friend in the world who walks the rough path with you. This was what I really needed and God knew it. So He sent me Myrt Grimm from Finland, someone I didn’t even know existed three years ago. Myrt told me God sent her to the Garden to be a personal encourager to me. As she put it, “God sent me to pray for you. To be an Aaron and Hur and hold up your arms in the tough times.” This is exactly what Myrt has been and continues to be. And this week, she had no idea what I was writing about but she felt impressed to send me this poem she was “inspired” to write which, as I told her, was heaven-sent for it perfectly describes the Kingdom of our Father where He responds to the physical, emotional and spiritual needs of His children by giving us “exceedingly, abundantly and above” what we think we need.
Christ Gives to Overflowing
“Christ giveth and giveth and giveth again
He pours out His blessings like much needed rain,
And when we come to the end of our tether –
Our Father still gives and never says, ‘Never!’
As much as I need – He gives me some more
From His greatest and blessed Heavenly store,
And when I have nothing He gently tells me,
I give and I give so that you can see
That My storehouse is full to much overflowing
And My blessedness continues its growing.
So accept all I give with a deep thankful heart
To realize that My love - I will always impart.”
“Our God, we will trust Thee. Shall we not find Thee equal to our faith? One day, we shall laugh ourselves to scorn that we looked for so little from Thee; for Thy giving will not be limited by our hoping.”
Sermon – “The Higher Faith”
God, You Have Been Too Good To Me
“God, You have been too good to me,
You don’t know what You’ve done.
A clod’s too small to drink in all
The treasure of the sun,
The pitcher fills the lifted cup
And still the blessings pour
They overbrim the shallow rim
With cool refreshing store.
You are too prodigal with joy,
Too careless of its worth,
To let the streams with crystal gleam
Fall wasted on the earth.
Let many thirsty lips draw near
And quaff the greater part!
There still will be too much for me
To hold in one glad heart.”
Charles Wharton Stork
Dorothy Valcárcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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