Forbearance is one of the Fruits of the Spirit listed by the apostle Paul in Galatians 5:22-23. The fruits are attributes of God which He desires in us and with the help of the Holy Spirit, through the process of sanctification, we progress in these areas throughout our walk with Him. Forbearance is defined in the dictionary as patient self-control; restraint and tolerance. I know I can use a lot more of this and I suspect that many of you feel the same way. As noted above, this is a trait that the Creator of the Universe possesses and intentionally moves us toward, this is not something that I made up because I thought it would be nice. That said, I think even most non-believers would agree that forbearance is desirable in almost everyone and in almost all cases.

As it pertains to the mission of BBNF, many of the needy that we serve fall into the category of chronic homelessness, meaning that they have been homeless for a very long time (for a variety of reasons) and in many cases, they either don’t have families or were raised in homelessness. In speaking with many people in the social services field, these folks are the hardest to reach, which I can personally attest to. That said, we persevere while keeping the words of Paul in mind. We must have forbearance – patience, tolerance – remembering that we never know how continuing to provide for the basic needs of any person in need might impact them, especially when we consider in whose name we are serving.  

Fish Sandwiches

Jesus’ miracle of the feeding of the five thousand is represented in all four gospels (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:31-44, Luke 9:10-17, John 6:5-15) which not only adds credence to the actuality of the event, but it also speaks to the importance of its message.

Jesus knew exactly what he would do when he and the apostles encountered a throng of hungry followers, actually more than five thousand including women and children, yet he still tested the faith of his apostles by asking how they could feed this crowd, to which they responded that it could not be done. Jesus then proceeded to turn a small portion of food into enough to feed everyone there with some left over.

There are a couple of things to focus on here; first, we must remember who God is and what He can do. We must have faith that regardless of our circumstances, He is working things out for our good and ultimately to achieve His will. Next, we must have faith that God will provide for our daily needs, no matter how desperate a person’s situation.

With regard to the mission of BBNF, we know that at any time God can perform a miracle like the one described above, but we also know that miracles are often facilitated by God through agents like us. It’s true that a sandwich, a piece of fruit or a drink is not likely to transform someone’s life in and of itself, but the gesture of showing those in need that someone sees them and cares about them has power beyond any material gift – it’s within this power that God works.

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Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is fraught with meaning and significance for humanity; indeed the very act of sacrifice is something that we as Christians are called to adopt in our daily lives. Jesus poured himself out for us in his life, ministry and ultimately in his death. This was necessary so that the penalty for our sins would be satisfied.

As for us, we encounter situations regularly where we are presented with the decision of whether we should do for ourselves or do for someone else – do we let another car go ahead of us in traffic? Do we let someone else in front of us in the supermarket? Do we give essential things to those in need? Do we give our time to family, friends or even total strangers that might need help or simply encouragement? All of these are acts of sacrifice wherein we take something of ours (money, things, time, effort, etc.) and give it to someone else. In the Bible, we are called to “carry one another’s burden” (Galatians 6:1-4), to give another our coat and cloak (Matthew 5:40, Luke 6:30), to lay down our lives for others (John 15:13) and to take up our cross and follow Jesus (Matthew 16:24-26, Luke 9:23, Mark 8:34).

The Holy Spirit will guide us in this and we should be careful not to take pride in or to boast in our actions ((Ephesians 2:9, Matthew 6:4). With the help of the Holy Spirit, such obedience will come out of gratitude for what has already been done for us, not out of expectation of what we might get.

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Anger Management

“My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry,” James 1:19, NIV.

Most Christians know the above passage from James and I’m sure many non-believers have heard it too. Regardless of your beliefs, it’s a powerful passage and I think most would agree that it’s good instruction for living our daily lives. All three aspects of instruction are good and worthy of discussion; for the purposes of this post, I will focus on the last one.

I have struggled with anger, more specifically my expressions of anger my whole life. I spent most of my adult life justifying angry outbursts – “why can’t I show my anger by shouting, slamming, throwing things, etc.? Other people do it and I’m not hurting anyone.” I used to tell myself this all the time – in my weaker moments, I still do. There’s a lot wrong with this. True, there is nothing wrong with anger – even God gets angry, but there is a difference between what I describe above and God’s anger. Angry outbursts make people feel uncomfortable, even unsafe. Also, for me and I suspect for others if we’re being honest, most of what sparks an outburst has more to do with frustration over unmet, self-imposed, self-centered expectations. God’s anger is always righteous, having to do with injustice toward others – what we are called to care about. So next time you feel an outburst coming on, think about its source – is your anger righteous? If so, will an outburst serve the party in need? My guess is no.

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It’s A Miracle!

God is supernatural. He is all knowing and all seeing, He spoke the universe into existence, He made everything including us; in fact, we human beings were made to be in a special relationship with Him. All of this should sound rudimentary to Christians, but I think some of us live our lives as if this is not completely true.

Speaking for myself, but I suspect others have experienced this, I have come across confessing, long time Christians, even members of the clergy, who sometimes seem unenthusiastic about or even sceptical of apparent supernatural acts of God in people’s lives. Stories of salvation, (mine included), physical healing and life transformation are occasionally scoffed at by those who say that they believe in the God of the Bible. I realize that people in need of a “miracle” are vulnerable and often fall prey to unscrupulous, indeed heretical people who represent themselves as agents of God, but are really working only to make themselves rich. This is a black eye on our faith that gives many non-believers a reason not to believe. Fortunately, these charlatans are not the norm in Christianity.  

My point is this; we Christians, especially our leaders, need to remember that we believe in things that the world thinks are impossible. We believe in a God that can do anything – He can and He does, every day! We have a responsibility to encourage those whose lives have been touched by Him. As (non-Christian) Albert Einstein famously said, “There are only two ways to live your life: as though nothing is a miracle, or as though everything is a miracle.”

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God and the Art of Happiness

“God wants me to be happy.” I have heard this phrase often, applied to many different sets of circumstances – in fact I have said it myself. Most of the time, when I have said this or heard someone else say it, it’s regarding a failing marriage, a challenging job, a financial crisis, etc. This sounds reasonable and there is some truth to it, but what is happiness? Happiness means many things to different people but it’s often applied to feelings of contentment, security, self-esteem and the like. It’s safe to say that almost all humans strive for those things and they are good things, but what God provides goes much deeper.

By focusing on our personal happiness as the solution to our problems and our ultimate goal, we are missing what God has for us and what he has for us to do. In surrendering our lives to God, we take our place as children of the omnipotent, omniscient Creator of the Universe – He can do and see anything and everything. He knows our hearts, He loves us more than anything and will answer our prayers. We worship Him and serve Him in everything that we do, which brings, among other things, the joy of the Lord. I understand that “joy” sounds like another word for “happiness”, but as applied here, it is so much more. It is indescribable delight in God, what He does for us and what we do for Him. When you accept God, you will likely find that what you thought would make you “happy” before is no longer important.

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A Generous Heart

The Bible is clear on its directive for us to be generous (Matthew 5:40, Luke 6:30, John 3:17, et al) and I think the vast majority of us sincerely try to be and believe that we are generous. In modern society, expressions of generosity are often defined by donations of money or goods, often publicly and sometimes for reasons other than for the good of the receiver (a tax deduction, to benefit one’s public reputation, etc., see Matthew 6:4). My point in raising these issues is not to diminish the value of such donations or to deride those that regularly make them; I simply think that God has a lot more in mind when He commands us to be generous.

In the well-known “God loves a cheerful giver” passage in 2 Corinthians (9:6-8), the apostle Paul alludes to a generous heart. What is meant here is that with the help of the Holy Spirit, we should be transformed into generous people; it should be part of our internal make-up. This means that, yes, we should share our money and goods, but we should also share our time, our talents, our ears, encouragement, joy, hospitality, etc. Further, opportunities for generosity are not always pleasant. Often, we are called to give of ourselves in situations where the receiver does not understand their own need and/or do not express any gratitude. It doesn’t matter – if we are truly generous we give anyway. Put simply, generosity must not simply be the sum of our charitable donations at tax time, it must be who we are.

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