Sunday, March 24, 2013

greed


lent devotional 40

“be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”
“for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
-luke 12:15, 34


greed is a deceptive ailment and temptation.  while me might find ourselves generous with giving of our money or resources, we might be more possessive of our time or of ourselves in general.  Christ warns us to be on guard against all kinds of greed.

this convicted me because i realized that there are many things i don’t readily share, or struggle to give up to God and others.  this verse reveals to me that i fall into storing up my ‘treasures’ in things that are temporary, Earthy, and not of the All Mighty.

as followers of Christ, we want our heart to be fixated on the Above and the Eternal, and to not be cluttered with treasures that are fleeting, idols if given devotion and admiration will grow and fester, blocking out the Light of a Godly and Heavenly perspective.

so, this is a reminder to myself that when i feel myself clinging to tightly to something i have come to love and treasure, to take a step back and ask myself if greed is blinding me from serving God more fully.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

hypocrite


lent devotional 39

be on your guard against the yeast of the pharisees, which is hypocrisy.  there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  what you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.
-luke 12:1-3


i’ve heard it said that when a random individual is asked to describe Christians in five words, one of the first or most common words that is given is “hypocrite.”

that is sobering and worthy of mourning and lament.  as Christians we are to be followers of Christ and reflections of His character.  at all times, when we are watched and when we are alone. we are to practice what we preach, we are held to a high set of standards.

now, Christ does not expect perfection, we do not need to be flawless to be in relationship with Him or to receive eternal life.  but, as followers of Christ, we want to lead authentic lives that are intent on doing our best to live by the Word.

so, Christ cautions us against hypocrisy. not that we will always successfully avoid it, but we are called to try and to have it on our mind to be on the look out for it.

furthermore, it is important to endeavor to follow after Christ both when others can see us and in our private moments, because Christ is omnipresent, and the messages we nurture in our hearts and minds whether in a crowd or by our lonesome, shape the way we represent Christ to the world. 

if the perception of Christians is that we are hypocrites above all other things, then let us do our individual effort to be intent on representing Christ rightly, be open about failing to do what we know is right although we try, and reflecting above all else grace and love to those around us.

Friday, March 22, 2013

persistence

lent devotional 38

for everyone who asks, receives. everyone who seeks, finds. and to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.
-luke 11:10

there are times when we all, and perhaps this is almost all the time, feel that our prayers go unanswered. we come to think of God as deaf to us or uncaring of the things we long for, beseech Him for.

i guess i've never really thought of my perception of unanswered prayer as an issue of persistence, but perhaps it is in many occasions  i mean, how often do a truly come to God about something weighing heavily on my mind and with what degree of zealousness do i seek His aid and guidance?  too often, i think i offer it up once, and when i don't hear back in the time frame i expected or in the manner i had outlined in my mind, i become disappointed and i feel somewhere deep inside myself that an additional prayer is a wasted effort, or an annoyance to God somehow

but Christ coaches us to be persistent, to keep knocking, asking, and seeking, even when we feel there is no answer. even when we feel that God isn't listening. because, He is listening.  and maybe it is because unless we devote ourselves to seeking an answer, unless we feel a deep longing for a solution to the thing we speak to God about, we won't recognize the answer, won't be able to share with other's God's provision and omnipresence in our own life.  we won't appreciate an answered prayer unless we were persistent to find it.

doors can't be opened if you don't knock on them, so we should come to God with unashamed persistence in our prayer life, to seek His answers to the things that lay heavy on our minds and hearts.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

activity

lent devotional 37

her sister, mary, sat at the Lord's feet, listening to what He taught.  but martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing...
the Lord said to her, "my dear martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! there is only one thing worth being concerned about. mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.
-luke 10:39-42

 we, at least in america, are a culture of business.  i am of the most severe breed of this cultural characteristic: i'll complain about my longing to have free time, but give me free time, and i'll fill it up with activity and commitments that makes me busy once again. we're addicted to 'doing.'

anytime i happen upon the mary & martha story i am reminded anew of the importance Christ places on stillness and silence, and how very much we (myself included) have lost sight of that.

there is only one thing worth being concerned over, and that is Christ, and we need to only worry about being present in His presence, concerned about making time to sit at His feet and listen to what He is teaching us in our daily lives.  

all the rest is just detail.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

life

lent devotional 36

...take up your cross daily, and follow Me.  if you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. but if you give up your life for My sake, you will save it.
-luke 9:23-24

when Jesus calls us to take up a cross and follow Him, to give up our life for His service, it seems like a burden. and it certainly is not easy, and it means a life of two-steps-forward-and-one-step-back in offering up our life to do work for the Lord.

however, in the brief and few moments that i have somehow managed to give of myself and of my time to serving Christ, i have found a unexpected sort of ease and lightness to life.  suddenly, the problems that plague my mind, the anxieties and insecurities, don't seem as heavy, they dissolve a bit, my perspective on my circumstances clears up.  i once heard it said that the best way to forget your own troubles is to focus on aiding others in their own, and by offering our life up to Christ, to serving Him, we are able to see the service of others as more important the service to ourselves.

it seems contradictory that to give up our life means to save our life, but the tighter we cling to anything but Jesus, the further we get from walking in step with Him in our daily life.  this bit of scripture reminds us that the here-and-now, including our mortal life, is temporary and fleeting, and if we cling to it as our everything, our salvation, then we lose out on living our days on earth with the freedom that comes with knowing that we have eternal life to look forward to, as a free gift.


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

storm

lent devotional 35

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
-luke 8:24

i have always thought this story a great cinematic testament to the power of Christ. i often underestimate or just forget, that Christ is all powerful as God the Father is all powerful.

if Christ can calm a storm with a simple rebuke, then what storm in your life can he not quell?

Monday, March 18, 2013

peace

lent devotional 34

then He said to the woman, "your faith has healed you. go in peace."
-luke 7:50

our personal missteps, temptations, and sins can make us feel filthy and so very flawed that we feel we could never approach Christ.  we feel unworthy of salvation, because we are. but that is not the point.  we are not healed from our sins, from the thorns in our side, from our personal efforts.  we find healing on earth from such thing, but more importantly, eternal healing in Heaven by faith.

as Christ says above to the weeping prostitute that has just washed Jesus' feet with her tears and hair and a bottle of perfume, she is healed and saved from the punishment of her wrong acts not because she tried really hard to balance herself out with a collection of good acts. she was healed because she had faith in who Christ was and sought the gift of salvation (the ultimate healing) that He offered her, offers all of us.

and by knowing that, we ought to walk in peace every day.  the enemy wants us to feel badly when we stumble, fall into temptation, and commit a sin. but Christ wants us to know that it is not a perfect record that will heal us, that will give us salvation, it is having faith in who He is and what He did to save us all.  what freedom that provides, we can go in peace even when we mess up and are not perfect, because our Savior provides undeserved healing by faith alone.


unexpected


lent devotional 33

Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.
-luke 6: 27-28

one of the more captivating characteristics about Christ is His embodiment of the unexpected and nonsensical. what I mean by that is, many things that human nature naturally defaults to, Christ directly preaches against. and while, at first, this may be frustrating to us, may be something we instinctually feel we must reject as fallacy or lunacy, when we take a leap of faith, attempt to live such things out in our own day-to-day, we find in it an unexpected and nonsensical sort of freedom.

one poignant example of this, is the passage above found in luke, in which Christ instructs us to love our enemies.  loving our enemies, doing good to those who hate us, blessing those who curse us, praying for those who mistreat us goes against everything in our human nature. we’d much rather seek revenge, hoard up bitterness, or wallow in self pity from feeling slighted. 

but, there is no freedom, no lightness of Spirit, in seeking revenge, storing up bitterness or self pity. it only weights our hearts and minds down. it only creates obstacles in our growth closer to God, only causes us our progress to walking close with Christ to slow.

it is not easy, and sound irrational, and it is i guess, but if we even just attempt to love our enemies, to pray for those who seek ill of us or mistreat us, we may just find the unexpected and nonsensical sort of freedom on earth that only following after Christ’s example can bring.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

blessed

lent devotional 32

blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, 
because of the Son of Man.
-luke 6:20-23 

Christians and non-Christians alike fall into the misconceived notion that to follow Christ, to believe in Him, means a ticket to an easy life. that is not the case. Christ promises this no where in scripture, in fact He promises quite the opposite, that to follow Him will bring with it persecution and hardship while we are on earth, but that this is nothing in the perspective of eternal life.

our life will be full of poverty, hunger, weeping, and hatred from others, but these things are temporary.  when we experience such things we are called here by Christ to remember that we are blessed, and that we are promised "the kingdom of God", satisfaction, and laughter that comes with eternal life.  keeping a Christ perspective, a Heavenly outlook, keeping our eyes looking up, will up us feel blessed despite difficult life circumstances.

we are able to feel blessed no matter what weighs upon our shoulders, lays heavy on our minds, or is stirring in our hearts. because, as followers of Christ, we are blessed.

Friday, March 15, 2013

everywhere

 
lent deveotional 31

one day Jesus was standing by the lake of gennesaret, with the people crowding around Him and listening to the word of God, He saw at the water’s edge two boats…He got into one of the boats…then He sat down and taught the people from the boat.
so they (the fishermen) pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.
-luke 5: 1-3; 11

Christ made His ministry field everywhere…where ever He went, where ever He was. That is one of the most beautiful things about Christianity, is that it is Good News meant for all people, in all places, at all times.

i find it a great comfort, as a follow of Christ, as one who is called to spread Christ’s story to others, that i don’t have to become a ‘minister’ or be in a church setting to talk about Jesus. i can talk about Him wherever I am, my ministry field is in all places, wherever i find myself today.

if we limited ourselves to ‘proper’ settings for ‘church talk’ then there are many who would miss out on hearing from God on any given day.  in the passage above, Christ ministered to fishermen on a boat on a lake.  that must be up there on the list of most unexpected places to be witnessed to.  and if Christ had only taught people in the temple, then these fishermen would not have followed Him, may never had heard His teaching at all, and would not have become some of His disciples (who went on to plant churches around the world after Christ’s death).

so, we ought to keep this example in mind, to meet people where they are at and let Christ speak through us, even if that is a most unexpected place, like a boat, in the middle of a lake.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

scripture

lent devotional 30

then the devil took Him to jerusalem, to the highest point of the temple, and said, "if you are the Son of God, jump off! for the scriptures say, 
'He will order His angels to protect and guard you.  and they will hold you up with their hands so you won't even hurt your foot on a stone;"

Jesus responded, "The scriptures also say, 'you must not test the Lord your God.'"
-luke 4:9-12

for the most part, when i think of scripture, i think of it's power to do good not ill.  i think of how committing scripture to memory, writing it on our hearts, is important so it will naturally rise to the surface of our mind in a time of need.

however, scripture is often used for ill by Christians and non-Christians alike.  sometimes it is a subconscious dip into temptation: we or someone we encounter use a bit of scripture, taken out of context, to justify our own actions or beliefs because we don't want to change.  sometime, scripture is abused out right, like in the passage above, to either beat down another or to build ourselves up, all done with malicious intent.

we cannot control how others use or interpret scripture, but we can control how we do both.  so, knowing scripture is not only important so that we can use it for good, so that it will naturally rise to the surface in a time of need. it is also essential that we know it and know it in it's proper context so that we can shine light on scripture-abuse.

if Christ had not know scripture rightly as He did, He might have stumbled, given into satan's trap, when tempted in the wilderness (maybe He would have jumped).  one of the most clever tricks the enemy has is to take a nugget of truth and present it as the whole Truth (here, satan did correctly quote psalm 91:11-12...just out of context). so, we must know the whole Truth in its context so that we can live scripture rightly, and live it out rightly as a means of witnessing to others.


Wednesday, March 13, 2013

proclaim

lent devotional 29

"the voice of one crying in the wilderness:
'prepare the way of the Lord;
make His paths straight.
every valley shall be filled
and every mountain and hill brought low;
the crooked places shall be made straight
and the rough ways smooth
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."
-luke 3:4-6

reading the words that john the baptist proclaimed where ever he went, to every person he meant, individuals and the masses is a rather illuminating reminder that we ought to make our lives a proclamation of the coming Lord.

john the baptist was certainly seen as a bit eccentric  and we will be too if we begin to live our lives in such that our actions, words, and way we spend our time are part of an endeavor to "prepare the way of the Lord." we might be criticized, thought strange as john was, but look at all those he brought to repentance and baptized! what a legacy for the glory of God his life became.

not that this will be easy, to make our life a continuous proclamation of Jesus' coming, but if we even succeed once in a while of meditating on the fact that when Christ comes again "the crooked places shall be made straight" and "the rough ways smooth," it becomes a bit more achievable   who among us doesn't want the crooked bits of ourselves straightened out? don't we cry out to go to make our rough life circumstances smooth? and here, we are promised such things will come with Christ.  and that is worth of proclaiming.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

gift

lent devotional 28

mary was greatly troubled at his (gabriel's) words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
-luke 1:29 

so often gifts from God come a bit disguised. or, perhaps it is more accurate to say, that often our human eyes disguise God's gifts, making them seem fearful things.

seems that mary experienced the same. first, she's visited by an angel.  i've never seen an angel, but that must be something awesome to behold.  however, she is fearful of why the angel was coming to her.

and then, the angel delivers the news of the coming gift she'll receive from God: she will give birth to the Savior of the world. wow...i mean, talk about mama pride there.

however, mary response is anxiety provoked, "how will this be...since i am a virgin?" part of this question is practical...rooted in biology.  however, i think this response is mostly one of fear, and if properly translated, "but, i'm betrothed, so what will joseph think when i try to tell him that i have been faithful to him despite the fact that i am with child?"

instead of seeing the gift, mary sees a burden and something coming to her that will complicate her life.

how true of gifts from God we all receive. they do complicate our life, because we have the responsibility and benefit of using these gifts. this usually means that we grow deeper in our fellowship with others, and relationships are always tricky, full of highs and lows.  loving others isn't easy, and serving others in love with our gifts isn't either.

sometimes gifts are straight forward: we win a contest, get a new job, meet a new friend. sometimes gifts come in disguise: we receive a rejection letter for a story submitted for publication (but this allows us to one day connect more deeply with a friend who receives a similar rejection letter), we lose a job (but this frees up our mental space to hear where God has been telling us to direct our life), or a friend passes away (but this gives us renewed perspective on living our life more fully for God each day or convicts us anew to amend a broken relationship we've left brocken too long).

mary at first felt fear, but then she responded rightly, "i am the Lord's servant...may your word to me be fulfilled"... and look at the legacy she became part of.

Monday, March 11, 2013

opportunity

lent devotional 27

...you will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers.  but this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.  for the Good News must first be preached to all nations.  but when you are arrested and stand trial, don't worry in advance about what to say. just say what God tells you at the time, for it s not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
-mark 13:9-11

when i feel attacked by others or just in general weighed down by the circumstances of life, i don't often look at it as an opportunity to do anything but wallow in frustration, sorrow, or self-pity.

Christ, however, in the passage above councils us to see these trial periods, whether brief or long, as opportunities to witness in His name.  in truth, we are each most looked upon when we are going through something hard. no one really marvels at anyone who remains joyful and hopeful when life is going just as they wish, but people do wonder at a person who somehow remains at peace despite being in the middle of a personal life-storm.

it is easier said than done, of course, to find yourself in a particularly trying season of life and, despite being on "trial" from the persecution, ridicule, or pressure from others and despite fearing the morrow, or the consequences of yesterday, seek opportunities to use the pain of your present to speak the Good News to someone who crosses your path.

but what if we were able to? or what if we were able to remember this scripture and try it, even once?

our benefit is that we don't have to rely on our own verbal eloquence or inner strength to reflect Christ in these hard moments, because the Holy Spirit will speak and act through us

if we only attempt to see trials as opportunities.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

widow


lent devotional 26

but a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins (as an offering, into the temple treasury), worth only a fraction of a penny.

calling His disciples to Him, Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others…she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”
-mark 12:42-44


human nature makes us naturally prone to comparison.  we tend to judge ourselves, our worth, or ‘level of goodness’ as a follower of Christ based on how we compare to those around us, those we admire, those doing well.

one of the beautiful, but often overlooked, aspects of Christ Following, is that it is very personal and individual. the core belief is the same, but we are called to live out this Following in very unique and individual ways.

as seen with the passage, which can serve as a parable although it was a true story that Christ witnessed and brought to His disciples attention, we are each called to servanthood, to give our life as sacrifice to Christ, to lay control of our next hour and our…well…forever at Christ’s feet, to His service and His glory.

however, what that is will look different for each of us.  in this passage, the wealthy gave more money than the widow from the money-value standpoint, but in the eyes of Christ the widow gave more because she gave all she had, out of her poverty. her sacrifice was greater and complete.

so, we should not compare our walk to others unless that comparison is grounded in scripture and how we see that scripture illustrated in the lives of others.  i, for one, am thankful that what it means to ‘follow’ Jesus is individually designed and that we each have different sacrifices to make.

to give out of our poverty is hard and scary, but the widow is an example we are called to follow, and a model we should write upon our hearts.  and while we may never achieve that in this life, it is still something to strive for, and Christ will be pleased with our efforts and desire to emulate this model, whether it be a failed or successful attempt.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

temple


lent devotional 25

on reaching jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area and began driving out those who were buying and selling there.  He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves...
-mark 11:15

this passage, about Jesus turning tables in the temple, speaks two things to me

first: it is ok to be angry, or rather…anger isn’t always wrong or sinful. sometimes, it feels like to be anything but joyful is somehow sinful, as in we are always supposed to be in high spirits in order to best glorify God. however, Christ is our model of how to live, and He had the full range of emotions (He ‘wept’ to felt sorrow, He asked God to spare Him from crucifixion if it were in His will to felt at least a twinge of anxiety, etc.)  here, Christ’s anger was righteous because it was motivated by His dismay at seeing God’s house, the temple, misused (used as a market place of exchange, rather than a Holy place of reverence)…which in turn was a misrepresentation of who God the father is to the masses, by extension.  so, if our heart has the right motive behind an emotion, then we too are allowed a full range of emotions, without it being sinful.

second: there are times where each of us will feel bewildered at why God upturns our life, turning the tables over of our carefully crafted plans and will swipe away our collection of achievements, possessions, and wealth. we will feel slighted and even angry at having those things taken from us, but our very lives are temples to God, or are called to be such, and if we have added in things into our life, placed too much important on certain items over God, then Christ too might, with righteous anger, come and drive those things out of our life, so we can return to our proper center, back to a focus on serving God with our minds, hearts, and spirit.

Friday, March 8, 2013

child

lent devotional 24

let the children come to me. don't stop them! for the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children.  I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn't receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.
-mark 10:14-15

Jesus instructs us to be as a child, and further informs us that we must be as a child in order to receive the Kingdom of God.

in a first reading, i instinctually resist such an instruction.  for, as we age, we long to become more mature and have a great grasp of knowledge. we pride ourselves on such things. or, at least i do.

however, a child is what we are commanded to be, so a child like mentality we must try to foster within ourselves.  a child has at least a deep-down understanding of their own smallness, a proper perspective on the fact that they are young and with less wisdom then their authority figures (even when misbehaving...they know this deep down). a child also has a certain sort of freedom for the burden off too much reason...reason has it's benefits, but it makes faith a greater challenge. as we grow, reason take greater root in our hearts and minds, and we come to believe that all belief must be grounded in reason...but that is a human construct, and is thus flawed.

perhaps most importantly, however, being as a child is essential to receive salvation in that, salvation is a gift to be grasped, not a prize to be earned.  a child very rarely (if ever) questions a gift. they do not sit and think whether they have been 'good enough' to take a gift given, they simply take it, and rejoice in it. and that is what salvation is: a gift given, to be simply taken, and rejoiced in.

may we all remember to think as a child, since we are above all things children of God.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

unbelief

lent devotional 23

Jesus said to him, "if you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes."

immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"
-mark 9:23-24

in the passage above, the father mentioned had come to Jesus to ask if He could heal his demon possessed son.  which, of course, implies the possibility that Christ could nto do anything for his son, which, of course, implies that Christ was not who He says He was (is).

how often i do the very same. come to Jesus with a prayer on my heart, a question, a deep hurt, and i add an "if" to my discussion or request, to soften it...to protect myself against a potential disappointment or let down from a prayer not answered in the way i want and envisioned.  

Christ says it outright: "all things are possible to him who believes" and if we truly, fully, and completely abandoned ourselves to faith...we would be capable of doing so many more things in the name of the Lord.

but, we all are human, all are like the father in this passage, and the greater beauty of the nature of our Savior is that He knows it and accepts us as we are and still answers prayers and works through us to do amazing things.

Jesus didn't say "all things are possible to him who believes...and since you don't fully believe, your son will never be healed!" no. He did not. 

instead, He was pleased with the father's honest struggle to believe, was glorified in it, and healed the man's son even though the man did not have perfect belief.  the same goes for us.  Christ knows that we, as humans, cannot have perfect belief, but He is pleased if we honestly come to Him with the struggle and desire to have a complete and pure faith.

i, for one, am ever so thankful perfection is not the expectation.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

distance

lent devotional 22

"these people...have been with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat.  if I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way.  for some of them have come a long distance."

His disciples replied, "how are we supposed to find enough food to fee them out here in this wilderness?"
-mark 8:2-4

i sometimes wonder how far i would be willing to go, if Christ called me to go a great distance.  i mean, is there a limit to what i would be willing to do?  sitting in a place of comfort at the moment, living in a city where i can freely worship God, have family and friends, know where the best used book store and tea shop is, i'd like to believe i would go any distance that Christ called me to, both geographically and figuratively/spiritually.

however, i sometimes try to ponder upon the distance that would be most hard for me to embark towards, the thing that is most beyond my comfort zone. what if i would best witness for Christ if i suddenly became paralyzed? (being a rather big fan of running, hiking, and traveling...the use of my legs is rather essential to my mortal 'happiness'). what if i would best serve Him in a third world country, and had to move away from everyone i know and love?  what if my particular niche is serving Jesus meant that i must never read another book?  what distance is 'too far'?

the correct answer, of course, is no distance is too far.  the 'people' above went a 'long distance' to see Christ, to reach a physical place where they could hear His teachings.  they went all the way into the 'wilderness' where they would eventually run out of food. that should be the hunger i should always have to be near Jesus.

what is even more meaningful from this scripture, is that we need not go any distance at all to have access to Christ, because, by dying on the cross and rising again, we have access to Him wherever we are via the Holy Spirit that lives inside us when we simply believe.  we will never 'faint along the way' in our journey on earth once we accept Christ's gift of salvation, never go 'hungry' because He is the ultimate and perfect provider, and all we need is faith.

my prayer is that we (myself most of all) would never see any distance as too far to grow closer to Christ and to serve Him as we are called, but more importantly, that we fully internalize and give praise to the truth that we need not go any distance at all to be next to Christ in our every moment.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

unpretentious

lent devotional 21

a deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to Him, and the people begged Jesus to lay His hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd, so they could be alone.  He put His fingers into the man's ears.  then, spitting on His own fingers, he touched the man's tongue...instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed to he could speak plainly.
-mark 7:33-35

Christ is the very illustration of what it means to be unpretentious in our service for the Lord.  humility is a hard thing to live correctly by. most times, we either err on denying recognition in a forced sort of humility, which often is also denying a chance for God to be glorified through your act of kindness, or we bask in the glory of others giving attention to the fact we have done something kind or good.

Christ did not do either all the time, but clearly was well connected enough with the Father to know when to do a healing or miracle in public or in private, personally, one-on-one.

in the story above, the crowd beckoned Christ to heal the man, likely wanting a grand display, an entertaining miracle so they could brag to others they'd seen a Jesus-miracle with their own eyes! i know i certainly would want such a thing, it's human nature. but, sensing that, and probably sensing the deaf and speech-impeded man's own embarrassment or shame from his ailments, and his desire to not be put on display, took the man in private and merely touched his ears and tongue to heal the man.

no lighting striking the earth. no title wave. no glowing power from His finger tips to release the man from his burdens. a simple touch, done in private, away from the crowd. one-on-one.

sometimes we are called to step out in faith and serve God in a public way, so that God may be glorified through other witnessing the work He's called us to do. we should embrace and not flee from that. but, we need to be in communion with the Father such that we can have the Christ-like sense of when the Spirit is moving us to do service for God in the public eye, or when we are called to do it anonymously, privately, personally for another...away from the crowd.

Monday, March 4, 2013

hard

lent devotional 20

for they (Jesus' disciples) did not understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves.  their hearts were too hard to take it in.
-mark 6:52

the 'miracle of the loaves' (mark 6:30-44), when Jesus miraculously feeds the 5,000 with nothing but 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, is one of the better known miracles Jesus performed, and a great illustration of Christ as a provider.

when i read past this passage, verse 52 jumped out at me.  i so often long to witness such a miracle, something i can't explain by any means of logic or science, but i never have, not in the traditional 'miracle' sense anyways.

but, perhaps that is less Jesus not performing miracles in my life and more me having a heart to hard to see it.  i believe that Christ still performs miracles today, but our world is different than the world of the 5 loaves of bread, and we explain miracles away by other rationale.  even then, though, His own disciples doubted that miraculous feeding, didn't understand it as a miracle. and if those so intimate to Christ during His time as man on earth doubted a miracle as a miracle, it certainly is more than plausible that we mislabel the miraculous as something else.

my thought and prayer for today, with this scripture, is that we (myself especially) do not have hearts too hard to see the miracles that happen in our daily lives, but more importantly we leave our hearts open to seeing Christ move in our today, look for the ways He is present in our present, and not default into writing off His blessings as "luck" or "coincidence."

let us give praise where praise is due.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

reach


lent devotional 19

and a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  she had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.  when she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, “if i just touch His clothes, i will be healed.”  immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
He said to her, “daughter, your faith has healed you. go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

-mark 5: 25-29, 34


faith is a difficult thing to develop, but it is easily and freely accessible, thanks be to God.   it is difficult to develop, because it confounds human nature, that mortal thirst for tangible proof and logic.  but, it is easily and freely accessible, because all we must do to gain it is reach out and take it.

same goes for salvation, the ultimate healing, and all the smaller healings that come with that.  as Jesus said to the woman that touched His cloak, “your faith has healed you”… this does not mean her own efforts to touch His cloak, but rather her choice to accept by faith that Jesus can save and provide healing.

our simple end of the bargain to have salvation and healing is simply to reach out and accept the gift that Christ freely gives.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

hear


lent devotional 18

he who has ears to hear, let him hear
if anyone has ears to hear, let him hear
consider carefully what you hear
-mark 4:9,23, 24

Jesus speaks the phrase several times in mark (and i’m fairly certain He is recording saying something similar in the other gospels) “he who has ears to hear, let him hear.” 

i’ve typically glossed over this phrase, found it quirky and odd, but have nto meditated on it much past that observation.  yet, the repeated call for us to ‘hear’ is clearly of importance to Christ, someone essential to our walk in faith.

i have so often cried out to God for Him to speak to me, to give me answers to prayer, and then been frustrated by what I perceived as His continued silence. perhaps it is more that i do not hear Him rather then Him not speaking. 

i fill my life which so much activity, ceaseless business and noise, constant distractions…how could i possibly hear Him if He were speaking to me?  further more, God left us a book of His Word in which Christ speaks to us directly, giving us answers to our prayers before we ask them, if we only took the time to read it, if we only had ears to hear

Friday, March 1, 2013

favorites

lent devotional 17


here are my mothers and my brothers.  who ever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother.
-mark 3: 34-35

it is hard not to show favoritism. there are those in our life we are called to love, and they are easy to love. those we are called to serve, and we do so joyfully. but, we often have a personal hierarchy of those we more eagerly love on and serve...some naturally rise to the top.

at first, we don't questions that, i mean it feels like correct behavior to naturally give preference to helping a friend or family member over a stranger we just met at church, for example.

yet, looking at Christ's example above, we should see all as children of God, and hence all as equally our brothers and sisters, in short: our family.

Christ did not show favorites of who He attended to. He dined both with generic tax collectors and with the 12 disciples He personally selected to follow after Him.  When His brothers and mother showed up as Jesus was inside a home, ministering to a crowd, He did not drop what He was attending to, abandon those He was communing with to meet His family.  While He of course loved them, He had the eyes of His Father and prioritized the Kingdom's work over what His heart would naturally default to making "most" important.

while there is certainly nothing wrong with loving and serving those that we love and get along with best, we must likewise develop the eyes Christ had, not choose favorites when we are attending to the Kingdom's work.