Sunday, March 30, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 25

Lent Devotional March 30, 2014

John 6:27-40

27 "Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal." 28 Then they said to him, "What must we do to perform the works of God?" 29 Jesus answered them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent." 30 So they said to him, "What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? 31 Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, 'He gave them bread from heaven to eat.'" 32 Then Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world." 34 They said to him, "Sir, give us this bread always."

35 Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. 36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 Everything that the Father gives me will come to me, and anyone who comes to me I will never drive away; 38 for I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day."

Once again, we turn to John. As we have noticed each Sunday, the tone and style of John are completely different from those we’ve encountered in Mark.

Here, Jesus makes a comparison that sends us back to Exodus, reminding us of God’s provision to Israel in the wilderness. The story Jesus chooses is one of salvation at a moment of desperation. The people had left their homes to find themselves starving in the wilderness. The manna saved their lives. Jesus is calling to mind a time when God brought life from the jaws of death. Jesus also talks about bread and life, both sending us back just a few days and forward to the Last Supper, and also to Easter Sunday. Once again, we are given this moment of refuge in the midst of our preparation that provides a glimpse of what is coming.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lost Focus

Lent is the Christian season of preparation leading up to Easter that starts on Ash Wednesday and continues for 40 days. A time to clearly review the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  A time to review our lives, to pray earnestly seeking forgiveness and forgiving others, a time of repentance. To fast. A denial of something be it certain foods, television, social media whatever that has the most of our attention. We all have something we can give up. Something we can deny ourselves all for a better connection to Christ.

So much has happened in my life these past 3 months, I can honestly say I have given up nothing. Not that I did not want to. It is because I unintentionally allowed other things to distract me. Today has been a day of reflection. I talk to the Lord as if He is sitting right here with me, which he is. I read the Word of God daily and I meditate on His Word but, I have lost focus.

Today is my start in really seeking more, fasting honestly. My weakness is sugar any kind of sugar, this is what I am going to focus on giving up. I also will be seeking God more in regards to my health and the mission that He has for me.  I can share this because I want you to know, I am human and I mess up and in these past 24 days, I have missed it.

So as you read the daily posts that I share on Lent, which I did not write please take some time to renew and refresh. Take time to forgive yourself and others and allow God to do the work in you that only He can.

Be Blessed

Lent Devotional Day 24

Lent Devotional March 29, 2014

Mark 7:1-23

1 Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem gathered around him, 2 they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. 3 (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; 4 and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) 5 So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, "Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?" 6 He said to them, "Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me; 7 in vain do they worship me, teaching human precepts as doctrines.' 8 You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition."

9 Then he said to them, "You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition! 10 For Moses said, 'Honor your father and your mother'; and, 'Whoever speaks evil of father or mother must surely die.' 11 But you say that if anyone tells father or mother, 'Whatever support you might have had from me is Corban' (that is, an offering to God) - 12 then you no longer permit doing anything for a father or mother, 13 thus making void the word of God through your tradition that you have handed on. And you do many things like this."

14 Then he called the crowd again and said to them, "Listen to me, all of you, and understand: 15 there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile."

17 When he had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 He said to them, "Then do you also fail to understand? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, 19 since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?" (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, "It is what comes out of a person that defiles. 21 For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, 22 adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person."

The religious officials return here, for the first time since chapter 2. The last time we saw them, they had determined to kill Jesus. In this passage, we see them putting their plans in motion. They make accusations as if testing their opposition, or perhaps taking the first steps toward building their case. They accuse the disciples of breaking from tradition, and Jesus responds by pointing them beyond tradition to the commandments of God, and the ways that their traditions can violate God’s commands.

The traditions had gotten out of control. They had lost their original intent and become dangerous; they had overshadowed their original purpose. It’s important to evaluate our own traditions and practices with this tendency in mind. Our individual routines and even our corporate traditions can fall into the same trap.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 23

Lent Devotional March 28, 2014

Mark 6:47-56

47 When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. 49 But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid." 51 Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. 54 When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, 55 and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.

This passage opens with Jesus on the shore, and the disciples struggling on the water. The sea and the storm were too much for the disciples to handle, and Jesus saw them struggling.

By this point in the Gospel according to Mark, we’ve seen Jesus seek refuge amongst waves, find protection in the storms, and even speak to the sea. See March 19, March 21, and March 27. When seeing his disciples in danger, in some way it should be logical for us to expect Jesus to demonstrate his mastery over the sea once more.

Yet what happens next is beyond anything we’ve seen thus far. More shocking than even conversing with the elements, Jesus simply treads on the sea itself. The disciples, upon witnessing this mastery over nature itself, are shocked. But notice what shocked them. It wasn’t Jesus walking on water. It wasn’t even the obedience of the wind. They were still shocked about the loaves. One of the great things about this is that God’s blessings weren’t contingent on their understanding. Jesus continued to bless them even though they could hardly even see it.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

His Grace Is Sufficient

Learned today that I have cervical spinal stenosis. What is it? It is where the cervical bones in your neck press into you spinal cord causing your body to have severe pain and to loose mobility of your limes, headaches and Lord knows what else.

I have been battling chronic pain for years due to Degenerative Disc Disease and Arthritis. In the past few years things have changed, more pain and just shear agony. I am not detered by this. There are many people that live with disabilities, some you can see and some you can not. No disability is the same and no one deals with it in the same way. For me, I keep smiling through the pain and sometimes the inability to walk, sit or stand long periods of time. Even sleep is only a vision. I keep smiling because I know Who I serve. But God.

I can not tell you the outcome or that it will all be ok. What I can tell you is that you are not alone. I can tell you that no matter what it is you face, you must keep smiling. If not for you than for others who see and watch you. My mother used to tell me as a child don't go outside just looking any kind of way. Fix yourself up. Comb your hair and iron your clothes because you never know whos watching you. I have learned this. I know that many look up to me, seek out knowledge and wisdom from me and I must always at best be ready to give an account. So with this condition, I am ready. I am ready for the test, the testimony and the praise.

Remember all things do work together for the good of those who love the Lord. His grace is sufficient.

Stay encouraged. I am.

Lent Devotional Day 22

Lent Devotional March 27, 2014

Mark 6:30-46

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. 34 As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 When it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, "This is a deserted place, and the hour is now very late; 36 send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat." 37 But he answered them, "You give them something to eat." They said to him, "Are we to go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?" 38 And he said to them, "How many loaves have you? Go and see." When they had found out, they said, "Five, and two fish." 39 Then he ordered them to get all the people to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and of fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And all ate and were filled; 43 and they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 Those who had eaten the loaves numbered five thousand men.

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

After our interlude with John the Baptist, we return to the disciples. More precisely, they return to us. Jesus had sent them out, and they now return to report what they experienced.

At this point, we find them tired and weary, and they turn (as Jesus does throughout Mark) to the sea for refuge. See March 19 and March 21.

As soon as they return to the land, there is a crowd waiting. Despite the picture we often carry in our minds, the scene here is not particularly pleasant. The passages opens with an explanation that the disciples haven’t even had the leisure to eat. The crowds have started to become dangerous; we’ve seen Jesus retreat from them several times already throughout the book. The people are far from home, wandering as if lost. At this point, the crowds also grow hungry. It’s growing dark. The scene is of desolation, hunger, and darkness.

That’s where Jesus wants the people to sit. He wants them to sit in groups in the midst of the desolation, hunger, and darkness. Then, he feeds them. Then, Jesus goes to the mountains to pray.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 21

Lent Devotional March 25, 2014

Mark 6:1-13

1 He left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him.
2 On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said, "Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands!
3 Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him. 4 Then Jesus said to them, "Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house."
5 And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them.
6 And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then he went about among the villages teaching.
7 He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.
8 He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; 9 but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics.
10 He said to them, "Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place.
11 If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them."
12 So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent.
13 They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.


Once again, Jesus returns home, and once again, it’s not pleasant. In fact, Jesus himself was amazed at the “unbelief” he encountered there.

We also see a shift in the story here. Jesus sends the 12 out in groups of two. They’re not sent out alone, but they are sent. In this way, we see the disciples taking a more direct role than they have in the past. They are called to participate and proclaim this good news—they are not passive bystanders. They are active participants. This may call to mind the parable of the sower—the disciples are given the chance to exhibit the bold determination of those who “sow the word.”

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 20

Lent Devotional March 24, 2014

Mark 5:21-43

21 When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. 22 Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet 23 and begged him repeatedly, "My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live." 24 So he went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. 25 Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. 26 She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." 29 Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. 30 Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, "Who touched my clothes?" 31 And his disciples said to him, "You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, 'Who touched me?'" 32 He looked all around to see who had done it. 33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease."

35 While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader's house to say, "Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?" 36 But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue, "Do not fear, only believe." 37 He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. 38 When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 When he had entered, he said to them, "Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping." 40 And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, "Talitha cum," which means, "Little girl, get up!" 42 And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. 43 He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

“So that she may be made well and live.” The sequence of that request has always fascinated me. Made well is first, and live is second, not the other way around. It’s as if being made well is more important, more vital.

From one perspective, this is obvious. To live again without having the underlying problem addressed will yield the same results. But there is more to it. There is something deeper.

When Jesus heals the woman in the middle of this story, he proclaims healing and also wholeness. He doesn’t use either phrase with the little girl, but he tells them to feed her. Feeding—an action that indicates growth, strength, health, wholeness.

Jesus makes them both well. He doesn’t just bring the little girl back to life and cleanse the bleeding woman. He makes them well.

Their prayers are bigger than simple removal of symptoms. They don’t want to be unsick. They ask to be well.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 19

Lent Devotional March 23, 2014

John 5:25-29

25 "Very truly, I tell you, the hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For just as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself; 27 and he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not be astonished at this; for the hour is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice 29 and will come out - those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.

John 4:5-42

5 So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. 6 Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

7 A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” 8 (His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) 9 The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?” (Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.)[a] 10 Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” 11 The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? 12 Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” 13 Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, 14 but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” 15 The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.”

16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come back.” 17 The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!” 19 The woman said to him, “Sir, I see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you[b] say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.” 21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” 25 The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.” 26 Jesus said to her, “I am he,[c] the one who is speaking to you.”

27 Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” 28 Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, 29 “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah,[d] can he?” 30 They left the city and were on their way to him.

31 Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, “Rabbi, eat something.” 32 But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” 33 So the disciples said to one another, “Surely no one has brought him something to eat?” 34 Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. 35 Do you not say, ‘Four months more, then comes the harvest’? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. 36 The reaper is already receiving[e] wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. 37 For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ 38 I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

39 Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me everything I have ever done.” 40 So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. 41 And many more believed because of his word. 42 They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.”

One of the wonderful things about the structure of Lent is that each week we are given a reminder of Easter; we have respite in the midst of our intense reflection. In addition to the 40 days of preparation, we are given Sundays to stop and focus on what is coming. Today, we once again return to the Gospel of John, and once again we read words of death transformed into life—words that send us forward to Easter. As we take refuge from our time of preparation, we are reminded of where this story is going. We are reminded that whatever is coming in the weeks ahead, the ultimate authority rests in Jesus.  We are reminded that death does not have the last word. We are reminded that Easter results in life.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 18

Lent Devotional March 22, 2014

Mark 5:1-20

1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.
2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain;
4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him.
5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones.
6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him;
7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me."
8 For he had said to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!"
9 Then Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion; for we are many."
10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.
11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding;
12 and the unclean spirits begged him, "Send us into the swine; let us enter them."
13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.
14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened.
15 They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid.
16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it.
17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood.
18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him.
19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, "Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you."
20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.


Once again we find a story that appears to be a supernatural healing. However you interpret the healing itself, the most frightening part of the story is the end. The man with the reputation, the man with a past, the subject of rumors and urban legends, is told to “Go home to your friends.” As we’ve previously seen in the book of Mark, “home” can be a difficult place to return, and yet that’s where Jesus sends him.

Yet he obeys. Because he was obedient, he discovered that he was uniquely prepared for the ministry to which he was called. No one had a better opportunity to demonstrate the mercy of Jesus than the subject of rumors and urban legends.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 17

Lent Devotional March 21, 2014

Mark 4:35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."
36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him.
37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.
38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
40 He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?"
41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?"


Jesus returns to the sea. There are so many phrases that are worthy of thought in this passage, but for today, it’s worth just thinking about that image of the sea. Throughout our journey in Mark, Jesus has turned to the sea for refuge and protection. We haven’t seen Jesus rest often in the book of Mark. We’ve seen him healing into the night, and praying before sunrise, but this is the first time in the book that we’ve actually seen Jesus sleeping. This first moment of rest comes in the midst of a storm on the sea.  Even as “the waves beat into the boat,” Jesus finds comfort and solace for the first time. Naturally, the disciples immediately interrupt him. When he wakes, Jesus offers two rebukes. The first is to the sea, the second is directed at the disciples who feared it. After all this time, all the escapes to the sea, the disciples still don’t realize that the man in the boat is more powerful than the storms without.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Screaming At Chronic Pain

The days and nights are a struggle. Movement takes much effort but I press on. Since the diagnosis of degenerative disk disease and arthritis I thought nothing of it. I did not have much in the way of symptoms. My days were normal and I seemed to enjoy them all. That was fourteen years ago. Now, shear anger and frustration, sadness and fear. Exhaustion mentally and physically. Chronic pain is no laughing matter. Sharp pain, stiffness, muscle spasms in my back, legs, arms and hands, neck. Headaches. Nothing seems to give me comfort for long. So much medication I wonder if I am the new CVC or a mini Walgreens, most of I can't even take. Disparate. Tests after test to only hear more disturbing results, possible disability.

That is my life. I scream at chronic pain. Sleep is non existent. I think back to the woman with the issue of blood. She just knew that if she could just touch the hem of Jesus's garment she would be healed. Faith. I close my eyes and repeat, by his stripes I am healed to open my eyes and still feel that debilitating pain. Going to work smiling when I want to scream and cry oceans. Faith. I have faith but in all honesty my faith waivers and I want to give up. At times I attempt to give up but then I am reminded by a smile or laugh or a kind word from another. Reminded by the little hands and feet, laughter and sounds from my grand children. There are days when I do give up, but God. Those days when walking is a triathlon, I still have faith. In those nights that sleep is absent, I still have faith.

I do know that all things do work together for the good of those who love the Lord and when I can't do much else, I praise Him. God is our healer. God is our refuge. So today, I focus yet again on the healing power of an almighty Savior. Today, I am not be at my best but, I look to the best, Jesus and his righteousness.  I may be down but I'm not out. I am NEVER out.

Be Blessed - I Am

Lent Devotional Day 16

Lent Devotional March 20, 2014

Mark 4:21-34

21 He said to them, "Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!" 24 And he said to them, "Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away."

26 He also said, "The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come."

30 He also said, "With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade."

33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples.

Parables can be so confusing.  They defy our attempts to make them into fables or allegories. They’re not systematic. They’re word pictures. Poems. Sculptures. They create an impression, a sense, a hunch, an idea, a thought, a feeling.

These parables speak of growth, attention, work, blessing, urgency, life, provision, safety, shelter, productivity, creation. Notice that those who have ears to hear don’t automatically hear. They are called to listen, and to pay attention. This calling is helpful for us to bear in mind as we encounter the parables. As much as we want to tie them down to easy interpretations, there is value in simply listening, paying attention, and soaking up the strangeness of the stories.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 15

Lent Devotional March 19, 2014

Mark 4:1-20

1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 "Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold." 9 And he said, "Let anyone with ears to hear listen!"

10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, "To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that 'they may indeed look, but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.'"

13 And he said to them, "Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold."

Jesus returns to the sea here, and once more is only safe in the sea itself. He stays on a boat, allowing the often chaotic forces of nature to protect him as he preaches.

The parable he tells is another story beloved by children and adults alike. One of the things that I’ve always loved about this story is the way the sower works. Some of the seeds grow, and some do not, yet that doesn’t stop the sower from casting the seeds. There is a boldness, almost stubborn determination from a sower who plants amongst thorns, rocks and roads. There’s a sense of abundance in a sower who scatters seeds even where they aren’t likely to grow. Then we are given a framework to interpret the parable, and we find that the sense of growth and abundance carries over to the interpretation as well as the parable. There is something about Jesus that calls us to participate in this bold, determined abundance.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 14

Lent Devotional March 18, 20

Mark 3:19b-35

19b Then he went home;
20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.
21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, "He has gone out of his mind."
22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, "He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons."
23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, "How can Satan cast out Satan?
24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.
25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.
26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come.
27 But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered.
28 "Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter;
29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin" - 30 for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit."
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him.
32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, "Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you."
33 And he replied, "Who are my mother and my brothers?"
34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!
35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother."

“Then he went home.” This phrase comes immediately after the words “Judas Iscariot who betrayed him” and shortly before the words “He has gone out of his mind.”

Jesus went home.

Jesus had fled to the sea to escape crushing crowds, he had appointed his followers, one of whom would betray him, and he returns home. But when he gets there, people question his sanity, and his own family tries to restrain him.

It’s at this point that Jesus again turns everything upside down. He doesn’t shrink his concept of family or trust; he expands it. After the foreshadowing of Judas’ betrayal, and a betrayal of sorts from his own family, we might expect Jesus to tighten his circle, but instead he does the opposite, opening it to “whoever does the will of God.” Looking around him, he proclaims, “here are my mother and my brothers.”

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 13

Lent Devotional March 17, 2014

Mark 3:7-19th.

7 Jesus departed with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed him;
8 hearing all that he was doing, they came to him in great numbers from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, beyond the Jordan, and the region around Tyre and Sidon.
9 He told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, so that they would not crush him; 10 for he had cured many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.
11 Whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and shouted, "You are the Son of God!"
12 But he sternly ordered them not to make him known.
13 He went up the mountain and called to him those whom he wanted, and they came to him.
14 And he appointed twelve, whom he also named apostles, to be with him, and to be sent out to proclaim the message,
15 and to have authority to cast out demons.
16 So he appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);
17 James son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder);
18 and Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,
19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

We return to Mark this morning, and we find multitudes gathering around Jesus. The story has begun to spread, and people flock to Jesus, just to touch him and gain healing. It’s gotten so bad that Jesus has to seek refuge on a boat.

Jesus then climbs a mountain to call the disciples. These backdrops, the sea, the mountain, call to mind the stories of Moses, Elijah, and Jonah. As a storyteller, the narrator is letting us know that something important is happening. And Jesus then chooses 12 disciples, many of whom we’ve already encountered in Mark’s pages.

It’s also worth noting that even as Judas is first selected, we are introduced to him as a traitor. This is our first exposure to Judas in the book, and he is identified as a traitor. It’s something so painful yet true—legacy can be defined by a single action. We never know of Judas as anything but a traitor.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Family Love

Today I had the blessing of having some of my family over for Sunday dinner.  My sons, a few of my grand children, my nieces and nephews. Great great nieces. My long time girl friend of 40 years. Everyone brought a dish and we fellowshipped. It really did not take much. Even with the rain, it was good. Jokes and laughter. My newest grandson being loved by all and the older children eating up the potato chips, Barbeque was their favorite. Basketball game on in the back of the house, the men. Movie and healthy gossip in the front of the house, us woman. Video game noise, pots and pans, spoons and forks all doing their job.

Your family are all you have and it is important to love on them long and hard. Why? Because of life. Because the children grow up and move on. Because the elders get old.
Because God calls His angels home. If you have your family with you love on them. Show it not just speak it. If you don't have your family, gather the ones closest to you. There is nothing better then time.

I am happy and I am blessed. I am not always in the best of good spirits living with chronic pain but today, was good medicine.

Take the time and gather round, memories cannot be made if you don't make them.

Peace be unto you.

Lent Devotional Day 12

Lent Devotional March 16, 2014

John 5:19-24

19 Jesus said to them, "Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.
20 The Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing; and he will show him greater works than these, so that you will be astonished.
21 Indeed, just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes.
22 The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,
23 so that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
24 Very truly, I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life, and does not come under judgment, but has passed from death to life."

On Sundays in Lent, the Daily Lectionary alternates with the Gospel for the weekdays. If the weekday Gospel is Mark, Sundays switch to John. In years when the weekday Gospel is John, Sundays switch to Mark. Since we’re reading Mark on weekdays, we’ll switch to John on Sundays. In reading this morning’s passage, it’s striking just how different the two Gospels are. The tone, the style, even the vocabulary is completely different. Although the person we encounter is the same, it’s helpful that throughout Lent we have the chance to encounter two different voices in describing him.  As we continue our journey, notice the similarities and differences between Mark and John.

In this passage Jesus talks about life. The language is different, the tone is different, but this Jesus is consistent with the accounts we have encountered in the Gospel of Mark—encounters when Jesus heals the paralytic, cures on the Sabbath, and calls sinners. Whether it’s the abstract and poetic words about moving from death to life, or concrete stories about healing, Jesus is concerned with bringing healing, life, and forgiveness.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 11

Lent Devotional March 15, 2014

Mark 2:23-28 and -3:1-6

23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.
24 The Pharisees said to him, "Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?"
25 And he said to them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?
26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions."
27 Then he said to them, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath;
28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath."

1 Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.
2 They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.
3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, "Come forward."
4 Then he said to them, "Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?" But they were silent.
5 He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.
6 The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

“The Sabbath was made for humankind and not humankind for the Sabbath.”

Jesus turns our entire concept of Sabbath upside down. The concept of Sabbath is meant to be a blessing, not a curse. It should be freeing, not restraining.

It’s funny how easily we take blessings like this and turn them into curses. We become slaves to the very things that should set us free.

After this pronouncement, Jesus further demonstrates the beautiful, life-giving concept of Sabbath as he heals a man. In response, the scribes are furious, and we see the first movements that will eventually lead to the events of Holy Week. They begin to plot his death because he healed a man. They were more comfortable with slavery than freedom, and they were willing to kill for it.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 10

Lent Devotional March 14, 2014Share

Mark 2:13-22

13 Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.
14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, "Follow me." And he got up and followed him.
15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi's house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples - for there were many who followed him.
16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?"
17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners."
18 Now John's disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, "Why do John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?"
19 Jesus said to them, "The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.
21 "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.
22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins."

“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous, but sinners.”

This is one of those paradoxes that is easy to forget. Jesus came to call sinners. The image of healing is also helpful in this way. You have to admit you’re sick before you look to be healed.

When Jesus talks about sinners, we like to imagine them as people who are different from us, people who live, think, vote, choose, and act differently from us. But of course, when Jesus speaks of sinners, that category includes us as well. Lucky for us, Jesus came to call sinners.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 9

Lent Devotional March 13, 2014

Mark 2:1-12
1 When he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 So many gathered around that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them. 3 Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." 6 Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, 7 "Why does this fellow speak in this way? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" 8 At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves; and he said to them, "Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? 9 Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Stand up and take your mat and walk'? 10 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins" - he said to the paralytic - 11 "I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home." 12 And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, "We have never seen anything like this!"


What a great passage. This is one of the stories that children love. It presents such a vivid mental picture, and it’s actually quite humorous. Four desperate people battle the crowds, scale the building, and descend through the roofall to bring a paralyzed man to Jesus. When Jesus sees him, clearly unable to walk, he immediately responds by saying, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
That’s it.
Jesus doesn’t even acknowledge the obvious condition of the man before him.
It’s only when Jesus realizes the confusion of the people around him that he heals the paralysis. The people are shockednot by the authority over sin, but the ability to bring physical healing. They only perceive one part of what happened, and it’s enough to amaze them.
Nonetheless, our author still packs so much into these words. Again we see what appears to be a supernatural healing, and our narrator explicitly highlights the fact that the healing is not the point. The event is merely to point us to Christ. The people respond appropriately, crying out, “We have never seen anything like this.”
Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 8

Lent Devotional March 12, 2014

Mark 1:29-45

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon's mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once. 31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.
32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered around the door. 34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.
35 In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and his companions hunted for him. 37 When they found him, they said to him, "Everyone is searching for you." 38 He answered, "Let us go on to the neighboring towns, so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do." 39 And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.
40 A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, "If you choose, you can make me clean." 41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, "I do choose. Be made clean!" 42 Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, 44 saying to him, "See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them." 45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.


We could probably spend all of Lent reflecting on any one passage from Mark. “He went to a deserted place, and there he prayed.” Jesus spends the night before responding to the needs of the people around him, and he then makes both the space and the time to pray. It’s fascinating that Jesus is intentional about both space and time as he prays here. Sometimes, we’re intentional about neither. Sometimes we pay attention to one, but not the other. This week as we continue our journey through Lent, try to be intentional about both space and time for prayerat least once during this week, set aside time in a specific place to do nothing but pray. 
Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Amazing Grace - A Personal Reflection

I have never been one to be caught up in emotions.  The reason is, as a child  I have seen a lot, felt a lot and at some point it just became pointless to be emotional.  The emotional I am speaking of are tears. Tears be it tears of joy, sadness, anger you name it, I was not shedding any tears.  As a result many would say to me, you are so strong. You are a strong woman or I wish I was as strong as you. Little did they know, I hated that word. Strong? What is strong?  I hated the comment even more. I wanted to scream and shout NO I AM NOT STRONG.  I am broken.
 No, I was not strong, I basically internalized everything,  total shut down when needed.  I did not acknowledge much. I just went through the motions of each situation in my life and others lives too. Oh I was present in body but not in mind.  Broken relationships, move on. Countless break ups, move. Abandonment on every level, move on. Divorce, move on. Loss of a jobs, move on. Loosing many who I thought were my loyal friends because I thought I was a loyal friend, move on.  Death, move on. So the pattern was to just keep it moving.  Until one day God said, STOP. It was earth shattering. I was floored. I was extremely devastated. I was broken, again.  Another crack in the poetry.   It happened on March 13, 2007. My oldest sister Leslie Jackson passed away. That day was a fog but I saw it before it happened.  After a sever stroke the doctors asked that all family members come and meet. I knew what that meant though I was certain my nieces and nephew did not.  My sister did not want to have any surgery of any kind.  And the one thing that may have saved her life in our human thought, we had to stand down and honor her request.  She was sent home and in a matter of days, she was called home. I understand that it was not Gods will.  In January 2007 I had a dream that resembled the dreams in Genesis 41. The 7 fatted calves and the 7 sick calves. The 7 sick calves ate up the healthy calves. The 7 healthy corn and the 7 sick corn, the 7 sick corn consumed the 7 healthy corn.  My dream was about 7 people, all of whom I knew very well, my family members.  At the time of the dream all them are grown  I never told anyone about the dream until years later. I shared the dream with a minister friend who has knows me since I was a child, this is what he said.  That my life and that dream represents the 7 years of famine and the 7 years of harvest. In Genesis the harvest was first and then came the famine. In my life this represented the reverse, 7 years of famine and then the 7 years of harvest. I was stunned. The words sunk and cut deep and God stood up in my spirit confirming just what was said. I was told that even though the hardships and trials that I was dealing with were not going to last, it was going to be a refining time, a burning of the gold if you will.  A breaking down to build up. Reconstruction. Oh Lord.  I am in the 7th year.  I now get emotional. I now let God fully refine me. I no longer hold on to things that I can not control. I no longer try to control that which is out of my control.  I no longer allow others to dictate to me or for me how I am going to feel.  I have released so much, I feel light as a feather.  I choose. I win. And I praise God for it all.  I am not where I was and I am not where I am going.  I am not who I used to be and I am surly not who I am becoming.  As I think about Matthew chapter 5 and verse 4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Awwww what a wonderful thing to know we are not alone in anything we go through. God is with us in every situation.  I encourage you to feel the emotions in your life all of them. Look back and move forward.  Look back to accept and acknowledge then, move on.  It is that simple, it will be hard but it is simple. It’s a choice. The choice of accepting that amazing grace.  Be Blessed

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 7

Lent Devotional March 11, 2014

Mark 1:14-28

14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God,
15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea - for they were fishermen.
17 And Jesus said to them, "Follow me and I will make you fish for people."
18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.
19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20 Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him.
21 They went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,
24 and he cried out, "What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God."
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be silent, and come out of him!"
26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.
27 They were all amazed, and they kept on asking one another, "What is this? A new teaching - with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him."
28 At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

I love the Gospel of Mark. In part, it’s because he gets so much mileage out of so few words. “He taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” Mark does a great job using this short phrase to tell us not only who Jesus is, but also who the scribes were. The encounter with the unclean spirit is also fascinating. It’s something we aren’t really comfortable with today. Nonetheless, these encounters run throughout Mark’s account. Some prefer to view these passages as straightforward supernatural encounters. Others lean toward more psychological or physiological explanations. Others may pursue a different alternative altogether. However you choose to understand the unclean spirit, Mark’s point stands—he’s not really talking about the unclean spirit. Whatever afflicts the man, Jesus heals him with His words, and the people are amazed. Mark’s point is the amazing grace found in Jesus Christ.


Monday, March 10, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 6

Lent Devotional March 10, 2014

Mark 1:1-13
1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, "See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way;

3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness: 'Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'"

4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins

. 6 Now John was clothed with camel's hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.

7 He proclaimed, "The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.

8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit."

9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

10 And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.

11 And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."

12 And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness.

13 He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.

At Christmas, we love to read Luke. At Epiphany, we often read Matthew. During Holy week and Easter we read John. But Mark doesn’t really get a season. Often, when we read these first verses, we focus on the voice that cries out in the wilderness; the voice is sometimes the reason we connect Mark to the image of the winged lion. As we prepare for Lent, though, it is the next words that make Mark appropriate for us: "Prepare the way of the Lord." That’s our focus during this season—preparation. So throughout the rest of Lent, we will stay with Mark as we read, pray, and prepare.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 5

Lent Devotional March 9, 2014
Psalm 32

1  Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven whose sin is covered.
2   Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,and in whose spirit there is no deceit.
3  While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.
4   For day and night your hand was heavy upon me;
my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.     Selah
5   Then I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not hide my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,” and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah
6  Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you;
  at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters
 shall not reach them.
7   You are a hiding place for me, you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.             Selah
8   I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9   Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding, whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle, else it will not stay near you.
10  Many are the torments of the wicked, but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.
11 Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous, and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

The Psalmist keeps silence while groaning. It seems so contradictory, but the Psalmist’s silence isn’t absolute. It’s silence about sin. Immediately when that silence is broken by confession, the Psalmist experiences a sense of forgiveness and joy. The sound of moaning and confession is overwhelmed by the sound of “glad cries of deliverance.”

This psalm is a sharp contrast to the passage we read yesterday. Instead of joy erupting into songs of worship, today we see the Psalmist keep silence while groaning. That phrase seems so contradictory, but the Psalmist’s silence isn’t absolute. It’s silence about sin. The Psalmist moves from groaning and wasting away to a feeling of safety. We find our Psalmist protected from rushing waters, hidden from trouble, and even surrounded by sounds of joy so intense, so palpable, that they seem to act as a shield. The sound of moaning and confession is overwhelmed by the sound of “glad cries of deliverance.” The psalm then ends with shouts of joy, returning us that that irrepressible worship that we encountered in yesterday’s psalm.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 4

Lent Devotional March 8, 2014

1   Praise the Lord!
     Sing to the Lord a new song,
          his praise in the assembly of the faithful.
2   Let Israel be glad in its Maker;
          let the children of Zion rejoice in their King.
3   Let them praise his name with dancing,
          making melody to him with tambourine and lyre.
4   For the Lord takes pleasure in his people;
          he adorns the humble with victory.
5   Let the faithful exult in glory;
          let them sing for joy on their couches.
6   Let the high praises of God be in their throats
          and two-edged swords in their hands,
7   to execute vengeance on the nations
          and punishment on the peoples,
8   to bind their kings with fetters
          and their nobles with chains of iron,
9   to execute on them the judgment decreed.
          This is glory for all his faithful ones.
     Praise the Lord!

The people are glad in their Maker. We understand that, and even expect it from a psalm. But notice that the Lord also takes pleasure in the people. God chooses to enjoy creation and the people who are a part of it. This sense of delight is something we experience in our own relationships. There is something delightful about spending time with friends and loved ones. There is something delightful in friendship, trust, and love. This mutual sense of gladness points us to the fact that God has chosen to enter into relationship with creation. The joy then explodes into song and action—it’s worship that comes from deep within, worship that cannot be silenced or stopped.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent- 40 Day's Of Sacrifice And Change Day 1 -

Today is Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Many denominations will participate in the next 40 days of fasting, prayer and repentance until Easter. To focus on Jesus and the sacrifice he made by laying down his life for you and for me. If you are not familiar with the Lent season, visit your local bookstore, local church or talk to someone you know who is a christian.

This is a time of renewal for the spiritual soul. A time of sacrifice and change.

For the next 40 days, I will be sharing a devotional that will point you to Christ.

Lent Devotional March 5, 2014

Ash Wednesday


Psalm 147:1-11 
Praise the Lord!
          How good it is to sing praises to our God;
          for he is gracious, and a song of praise is fitting.
2   The Lord builds up Jerusalem;
          he gathers the outcasts of Israel.
3   He heals the brokenhearted,
          and binds up their wounds.
4   He determines the number of the stars;
          he gives to all of them their names.
5   Great is our Lord, and abundant in power;
          his understanding is beyond measure.
6   The Lord lifts up the downtrodden;
          he casts the wicked to the ground.

7   Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving;
          make melody to our God on the lyre.
8   He covers the heavens with clouds,
          prepares rain for the earth,
          makes grass grow on the hills.
9   He gives to the animals their food,
          and to the young ravens when they cry.
10  His delight is not in the strength of the horse,
          nor his pleasure in the speed of a runner;
11  but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
          in those who hope in his steadfast love.


As we journey through Lent together, we’re going to focus primarily on the Psalms and Gospels. The lectionary cycles through the same psalms each week, so we’ll read a few of them as we begin, and then switch to the Gospel of Mark when it begins on Monday. Today, we’ll look at Psalm 147:1-11.

“The Lord builds up Jerusalem, he gathers the outcasts of Israel.” You can’t gather what is not scattered. This means the people are far from home. You don’t “build up” unless something is torn down. This means Jerusalem is just a shadow of what it once was. We see this kind of action over and over in this psalm. The Lord lifts, heals, and binds, but only what is downtrodden, broken, and wounded. This psalm was written either in or after tragedy, yet notice the tone. Joy, thanksgiving, and the final word is hope. As we journey through Lent together, the tone of this psalm provides a perfect guideone of serious reflection, but filled with hope.
Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Jump And Fly

Walking on the bridge to get to that spot. You see how high it is but your ready, so you tell yourself. Sweat dripping down your face, you are wondering if you have lost what's left of your mind. Your friends cheer you on shouting you can do it. You ask yourself are they really my friend?  You are not so sure about anything. because you have made many bad choices in the past that have resulted in failure. You have shouted to yourself that you will or won't do this or that. Sound familiar?

Now your on that iron bridge ready to take the leap of faith to your possible death that is, if that cord snaps. That cord is buckled to the rail and to your ankles. You have put all of your faith in that little buckle. Your ready. You jump.

That is faith in knowing. You sit in a chair without thought. It holds you. You get in your car ready to get to your destination, it takes you. Working faith is the same way. You seek the unknown knowing you will achieve it. Our faith wavers in sheer uncertainty. But trusting in God is sure and swift. He will carry you, hold you up but the thing is, you don't physically see Him doing it. That's the faith believing in a thing hoped for. Its time. Time take that leap of faith and let God do the rest. His word says, I have gone to prepare a place for you.  He knows you will come. Faith.

My encouragement for you today is to step. Step out on that mustard size faith and live your best life. You have the power to see it now go and achieve it. Moses led without knowing. Obedience and faith. Noah built the Ark, without water. Obedience and faith.  Abraham left to go into a land he was not aware of, he was told to go. Lets not forget his son whom he was going to sacrifice. Get my point.

If they can so can you. Jump and fly