From the President

Have you ever had this experience when reading the Bible? You come to a passage that you’ve read over and over, and, BOOM, words fly off the page and strike you in a way you’ve never been struck before. How could it have happened? Why didn’t you see this earlier? Why now? Let me tell you about a similar experience when I was “meandering through Mark” a couple weeks ago.

The last few years, I’ve done the “read the Bible in one year” plan. I have loved that approach. You read multiple chapters per day, and in 12 months, you get to see the big picture. Every book. Every verse. But this Lenten season, I decided to take another tack. I read only a dozen or so verses per day from the Gospel of Mark and really tried to unpack them slowly, carefully, and prayerfully.

I had studied Mark 6:30-44 the previous two days where Jesus performed one of his greatest miracles. He took just “five small barley loaves and two small fish” (John tells us in his account the size of the fish and the size and kind of bread) and fed a crowd of more than 5,000! In addition, the disciples gathered 12 basketfuls of leftovers. Mark says “they all ate and were satisfied” and John says they ate “as much as they wanted.” In fact, it’s so significant a miracle that every Gospel writer, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, included it in his account.

It was the next day in my study, as I arrived at Mark 6:45-52, that I experienced “I’ve never seen this before!” In these verses, Jesus walks on water, and then Mark says:

“Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:50-52).

The disciples are amazed by Jesus walking on the water. That’s good. But Mark is telling us that the disciples somehow missed what happened the day before when Jesus fed 5,000 men plus women and children! Not good. How could they not be totally overcome by the feeding of the 5,000? They had front row seats! They distributed the bread and fish and collected the leftovers! Somehow a miracle of this magnitude passed them by. How could this be? Mark says, “Their hearts were hardened.”

We’re in the same boat with the disciples (no pun intended). I struggle with a hard heart. I miss Jesus performing miracles. Maybe you do as well. Somehow our hearts get hard, our eyes get clouded, our ears get dull, and we miss what God is doing around us. My wife likes to say her spiritual gift is the “gift of amazement.” I wish more of us — myself included — had that gift. Let’s not miss the joy watching what God is doing among us.

Fortunately, my heart was soft in mid-May in Spain where we had our European All Staff Conference. I was amazed by what God is doing through our Young Life staff and volunteer leaders in Europe. Pundits have called Europe “post Christian.” Europe is supposed to be too sophisticated for the proclamation of the Gospel to bear fruit. But at the conference, I met leaders who were going where kids are, winning the right to be heard, sharing the Good News in a winsome way and introducing kids to Jesus. I saw and heard that Young Life is working in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Poland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Macedonia and Croatia, and that doesn’t include anyone from countries in the Former Soviet Union who are in another Young Life division and will have their All Staff Conference next spring!

I’m glad I didn’t miss out on the miracles God is doing. I’m thankful my heart was warm and the gift of amazement was evident because we are experiencing a miracle in Europe comparable to feeding thousands with a small lunch and taking a shortcut across the lake by walking on water.

Let’s pray that neither our sin nor our distracted spirit nor our unbelief keeps us from watching Him perform miracles today.