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I know, I know, I should be more patient, but I confess a deep sense of frustration when I’m trying to explain how to get the wifi to work to someone. It’s so simple and yet, they don’t get it! Of course, I remind them, it’s not that easy explaining it to you when you’re three states away from me!

Why is it we humans struggle with understanding certain things about life, technology, relationships, politics, and the list goes on and on? Well, it’s got everything to do with different experiences, different upbringing, different priorities, and so on. But what if there was a basic understanding that was fundamentally common to all humans? Misunderstanding something that basic could have huge consequences! And, you know what, there is something that is fundamental to every human, no matter when or where they’re from, language they speak, culture they were raised in, amount of education they have, or even their economic status. This fundamental Truth common to all people affects everything about them and ripples through time, nation, and society!

OK, you have my attention!

Look at our lesson today in Mark 8:11-21:

At that time, the Pharisees came and began to argue with him, seeking from him a sign from heaven, to test him. And he sighed deeply in his spirit, and said, “Why does this generation seek a sign? Truly, I say to you, no sign shall be given to this generation.” And he left them, and getting into the boat again he departed to the other side. Now they had forgotten to bring bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. And he cautioned them, saying, “Take heed, beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” And they discussed it with one another, saying, “We have no bread.” And being aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Jesus is warning His disciples about the “leaven of the Pharisees.” And immediately the disciples think He’s talking about the fact they have no bread! Talk about slow on the uptake! Come on, boys, plug in! OK, wait a minute, before we are too hard on the disciples, how many times have we missed the clear meaning of the Faith when it’s right there in front of us? The Lord here is warning the disciples not to fall into the trap the Pharisees had fallen into. These religious and pious men had become so enamored by doing things for God they forgot to actually love God! In fact, what motivated their behavior was actually a self-love that had reduced the Faith meant for the whole world to some tribal religion exclusively belonging to the “right people.”

So, what keeps us from understanding the central message of the Faith that is meant for everyone created in God’s image? First, we misunderstand when we live distracted lives. The disciples were focused on what they didn’t have, and that distracted them from what they already had – God in the Flesh among them to lead them to true LIFE! Next, we misunderstand when we measure everything by ourselves rather than by God. Too often what trips me up in understanding is my focus on myself – what’s in it for me, how can I benefit from this – and so on. When that happens I lose the ability to focus on God and my mind is gripped by too small a vision! Finally, we misunderstand when we forget all God has done for us in our lives. My bad memory of God’s faithfulness steals my ability to remain grateful and I get captured by fear and doubt!

Today, do you find yourself misunderstanding your life? Are you forgetful of God’s faithfulness and do you get distracted by small, things so that you miss really important things? You’re not alone! Why not stop, right now, take a few minutes and refocus your mind, heart, and life of God Who knows you and loves you and wants you to understand what’s really important! Enter into this Festal preparation and, once again, rejoice that God has come in the Flesh to make you a whole person! It’s all about being Orthodox on Purpose.

P.S. We have a Matching Gift opportunity to help us in our End of Year Giving Campaign: For every dollar raised for the next 2 weeks, it will be matched up to $1500! So that means your gift of $50 results in a gift to Faith Encouraged of $100! Donate Here!


  • Mark
    Posted December 11, 2017 at 8:40 am

    Bless Father,
    As always I thank you for your Daily Devotional ( from London UK).
    The second part of this reading I have struggled to understand nor can I find an explanation elsewhere so I would be grateful for your insight here too. It is this part – there is some emphasis on the numbers involved or am I mistaken and if so what do you understand it to mean?
    “When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

    Thank you and kindest regards and you are ever in my Prayers.
    Kissing you right hand
    In Christ

    • Post Author
      Fr. Barnabas Powell
      Posted December 11, 2017 at 8:47 am

      Dear Mark,

      The Lord’s blessings.

      Thank you for taking the time to read our devotionals. Having you as part of the Devotional Family is a joy.

      The emphasis here by the Lord is to wake up the disciples to reality. When He speaks to them concerning the “leaven of the Pharisees” the disciples assume (wrongly) that He is upset with them that they didn’t bring bread. So the Lord reminds them that small physical provisions IS NOT a problem for Him. He can make small amounts of food go a long way and still have leftovers! The Lord is trying to wake His disciples up to the dangers of self-righteousness, even in small amounts in their hearts, because this self-righteousness an lack of humility can spread and cause the whole person to be “puffed up” with pride.

      So, the numbers here are incidental to the main focus which was to get the disciples off thinking about the temporary problems of no bread, and onto the eternally consequential dangers of spiritual pride and self-righteousness (what the Fathers called “prelest”). Hope that helps.

      • Mark
        Posted December 11, 2017 at 9:54 am

        Bless Father,
        Thank you – and yes it does help when tied together like that. I was trying to read too much into the numbers and missing the point .

        Thank you .
        Kissing you right hand
        In Christ

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