Saturday, April 26, 2014

Urgency

I can work myself into a bag. Come out and go back in never realizing that I was out of the bag. Crazy right? I am not alone. Many of us live our lives on auto pilot. We are consumed by our to do lists or the apparent urgency of someone or something.  Sound familiar?

John the Baptist worked in a sense of urgency. He lived his life all in an effort to prepare the way. To warn the people to repent of their sins. John the Baptist was a modern day fog horn alerting everyone that Jesus was coming, get ready. Repent and turn away from sin, get ready. Be baptisted, get ready. He warned Pilot who married his brothers wife, get ready. I don't know about you but I would have loved to see and hear John shout from the waters edge. I would have loved to see the urgency in his face and his courage to stand up for what he knew was the great commission, the arrival of Jesus.

John 1:23 - NLT: I am the voice shouting in the wilderness, 'Prepare a straight pathway for the Lord's coming'.

Your life is not your own. You were bought with a price and that price was paid by Jesus Christ on the cross. God has a mandate on you. You can run but hiding is worthless because He sees you and knows you. God created you for His purpose. God loves you right where you are.

Spend some time today in God's word.  Read and meditate on the book of John. You will be blessed the more.

Get ready.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Spirit Of Forgiving

Many of us struggle with forgiveness.  Forgiveness of others and ourselves. We struggle mainly because we do not understand fully what it means to forgive. We don’t understand the consequences of not forgiving. Even when it seems that our emotions are attacked, our character is questioned and our human right has been violated.  Let’s not talk about feeling disrespected or what we perceive as disrespect. We become numb to the offenders. We stop talking to them and often times we want to curse them out or worse, do bodily harm.  Sound familiar? Be honest. 
I can tell you the truth. I have stepped out of the will of God on many occasions and in some cases willingly. I felt entitled to my feelings and my actions as a result of those feelings. My health issues and life in general pinched, stabbed and kicked me so hard caused me to forget who I am and Whose’s I am in Christ.  I kept picking and pulling the scabs off of every emotional wound.  I kept doing stage performances replaying every offense.  It's ok because I am forgiven, I have forgiven and by His stripes I am healed. It is a choice to forgive. Your choice.  I know it’s a choice because God gives us free will. He does not force His will upon us.  God is standing close by watching and hearing and seeing. Nothing you or I do is hidden from our Almighty Lord.  He is so Great and there is no one like Him.
Matthew 6 is a reminder of how we should pray and how we are to forgive. I want to point directly to verses 14-15 NLT -  If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. Think about that for a while. If you love God, don’t you want Him to forgive you, don’t you ask Him to forgive you when you make a mistakes?  Well, it goes the same way in our forgiving of others. We do it or else.
Ephesians 4:32 NLT is also a reminder with this point, And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
This is why it is so important to forgive all offences and all offenders. YES ALL.  Forgiving does not mean things will be the same.  It also does not mean that you will forgive a person and you will all continue to live in harmony, no. It means you are releasing them and yourself from emotional and spiritual bondage.  Forgiving is not necessarily for them, it is for you.  Don’t be fooled, you can say it all day long but if you are not honestly seeking to forgive and feeling that in your heart, your forgiveness button will not work. It’s like the Staples Office Supply Store commercial, the button, push the button.  Keep pushing the button on forgiveness.
You will become weak and powerless if you continue to hold onto things you cannot control.  You will act out by hurting others unintentionally all for the sake of you trying to protect yourself. Satan wants you this way, in bondage and in strife. Satan’s attacks are real on your thoughts, ideas and suggestions. That snake wants you in bondage and isolated. Your emotional and spiritual bank will be over drafted and bankrupted if you hold on to all of that darkness.  Your heart will become hardened and there lies a whole set of others issues that  I will not get into here.  You get my point I am sure.
Just know, there is a Savior to help you. He wants to protect you, love you and care for you. Jesus.
Meditate on these words and ask yourself if you are forgiving.  Keep asking. Go back over your life and start forgiving everyone for everything and make sure you also include yourself in that forgiveness. You are that important. 
Forgive and be forgiven.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

7 Last Words Of Jesus

From http://christianity.about.com/od/biblefactsandlists/qt/sevenlastwords.htm.




1) Jesus Speaks to the Father
Luke 23:34
Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." (NIV)

In the midst of his excruciating suffering, the heart of Jesus was focused on others rather than himself. Here we see the nature of his love—unconditional and divine.

2) Jesus Speaks to the Criminal on the Cross
Luke 23:43
"I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise." (NIV)

One of the criminals who was crucified with Christ, had recognized who Jesus was and expressed faith in him as Savior. Here we see grace poured out through faith, as Jesus assured the dying man of his forgiveness and eternal salvation.

3) Jesus Speaks to Mary and John
John 19:26-27
When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, "Dear woman, here is your son," and to the disciple, "Here is your mother." (NIV)

Jesus, looking down from the cross, was still filled with the concerns of a son for the earthly needs of his mother. None of his brothers were there to care for her, so he gave this task to the Apostle John. Here we clearly see Christ's humanity.

4) Jesus Cries Out to the Father
Matthew 27:46 (also Mark 15:34)
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?" that is, "My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?" (NKJV)

In the darkest hours of his suffering, Jesus cried out the opening words of Psalm 22. And although much has been suggested regarding the meaning of this phrase, it was quite apparent the agony Christ felt as he expressed separation from God. Here we see the Father turning way from the Son as Jesus bore the full weight of our sin.

5) Jesus is Thirsty
John 19:28
Jesus knew that everything was now finished, and to fulfill the Scriptures he said, "I am thirsty." (NLT)

Jesus refused the initial drink of vinegar, gall and myrrh (Matthew 27:34 and Mark 15:23) offered to alleviate his suffering. But here, several hours later, we see Jesus fulfilling the messianic prophecy found in Psalm 69:21.

6) It is Finished
John 19:30
... he said, "It is finished!" (NLT)

Jesus knew he was suffering the crucifixion for a purpose. Earlier he had said in John 10:18 of his life, "No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father." (NIV) These three words were packed with meaning, for what was finished here was not only Christ's earthly life, not only his suffering and dying, not only the payment for sin and the redemption of the world—but the very reason and purpose he came to earth was finished. His final act of obedience was complete. The Scriptures had been fulfilled.

7) Jesus' Last Words
Luke 23:46
Jesus called out with a loud voice, "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit." When he had said this, he breathed his last. (NIV)

Here Jesus closes with the words of Psalm 31:5, speaking to the Father. We see his complete trust in the Father. Jesus entered death in the same way he lived each day of his life, offering up his life as the perfect sacrifice and placing himself in God's hands.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Be Reminded

John 3:16 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 40

Lent Devotional April 13, 2014
Palm Sunday

Luke 19:41-48
41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, ‘If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.’

45 Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; 46 and he said, ‘It is written,
“My house shall be a house of prayer”;
   but you have made it a den of robbers.’
47 Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; 48 but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.

DEVOTIONAL

As we begin Holy Week, the daily lectionary gives us passages that differ from the traditional passages we associate with each event. We’ll stick mostly to the daily lectionary specifically for that reason. Today

Saturday, April 12, 2014

I Know. Do You?

Psalm 91:1-16 NLT

1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
    will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
   He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.
3 For he will rescue you from every trap
    and protect you from deadly disease.
4 He will cover you with his feathers.
    He will shelter you with his wings.
    His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
5 Do not be afraid of the terrors of the night,
    nor the arrow that flies in the day.
6 Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness,
    nor the disaster that strikes at midday.
7 Though a thousand fall at your side,
    though ten thousand are dying around you,
    these evils will not touch you.
8 Just open your eyes,
    and see how the wicked are punished.
9 If you make the Lord your refuge,
    if you make the Most High your shelter,
10 no evil will conquer you;
    no plague will come near your home.
11 For he will order his angels
    to protect you wherever you go.
12 They will hold you up with their hands
    so you won’t even hurt your foot on a stone.
13 You will trample upon lions and cobras;
    you will crush fierce lions and serpents under your       feet!
14 The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
15 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
16 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”

Yesterday my day was horrible. Emotionally and physically. I could not stay out of my feelings about everything I am dealing with. My health, my finances, my desires. It was all about me.  Oh but God. Even though my flesh took over God was still right there whispering, "I will not leave you nor forsake you". Even though I wanted to focus on the negatives, God said, "trust in the Lord with your whole heart, with your whole soul and with your own mind". Sleep was my resolution.

Today, I am reminded and refreshed. Today, it does not matter the lot, all is well. Though the issues have not changed, my attitude about my issues have. Instead of sinking into the pit of a black hole about the tests of life I must take, I rejoice in knowing that all things work together for the good of those who love the Lord. I choose today happiness no matter what. Today, I say to God be the glory. I say today, devil your a lier. I am posted up, armoured up, prayed up.  Got my shield and sword. Helmet is on tight. The breastplate is securely in place. I am THE WINNER.

Whatever you are facing and walking in today, know that God is your source and the only source. Don't talk about it, be about it. The Fathers business.

Lent Devotional Day 39

Lent Devotional April 12, 2014

Mark 10:46-52

46 They came to Jericho. As he and his disciples and a large crowd were leaving Jericho, Bartimaeus son of Timaeus, a blind beggar, was sitting by the roadside. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout out and say, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" 48 Many sternly ordered him to be quiet, but he cried out even more loudly, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" 49 Jesus stood still and said, "Call him here." And they called the blind man, saying to him, "Take heart; get up, he is calling you." 50 So throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. 51 Then Jesus said to him, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man said to him, "My teacher, let me see again." 52 Jesus said to him, "Go; your faith has made you well." Immediately he regained his sight and followed him on the way.

DEVOTIONAL

Bartimaeus has an incredibly energetic faith. He shouts. Then he shouts louder. Then when the people who seem to be silencing him suddenly tell him to get up, he springs to his feet. He is excited about Christ. The apparently healthy people around him don’t seem to share that excitement. It’s the blind man who seems to truly see what’s happening—we’ve seen this before in Mark. Notice how Jesus responds to Bartimaeus. Jesus doesn’t say, “Your sight is restored.” Jesus responds by saying, “Your faith has made you well.” This emphasis on being “well” should also sound familiar. Jesus isn’t only concerned with Bartimaeus’ sight, Jesus is concerned with making him well. Even better than that, Jesus charges him to “go.” Bartimaeus is made well in order that he can go out and live. He is called to action.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 37

Lent Devotional April 11, 2014

Mark 10:32-45

32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, "See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again."

35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, "Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you." 36 And he said to them, "What is it you want me to do for you?" 37 And they said to him, "Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." 38 But Jesus said to them, "You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?" 39 They replied, "We are able." Then Jesus said to them, "The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared."

41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, "You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many."

DEVOTIONAL

Look at these guys! They’re not even listening. Jesus attempts to prepare them, again, for what is to come, and they’re so busy thinking about what they’ll say next that they don’t even listen. They’re too busy hatching a scheme, and look what happens.

They don’t get what they ask for, instead they get something they didn’t expect. They get something that they may not want, but something connected to the request.

Do they end up in the right and left hand seats?

Jesus doesn’t say. Ultimately, it doesn’t really even matter.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 36

Lent Devotional April 10, 2014

Mark 10:17-31

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" 18 Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: 'You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'" 20 He said to him, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me." 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!" 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God." 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, "Then who can be saved?" 27 Jesus looked at them and said, "For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible."

28 Peter began to say to him, "Look, we have left everything and followed you." 29 Jesus said, "Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age - houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields with persecutions - and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first."

DEVOTIONAL

“He went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.”

We typically read this story with the assumption that the rich man is sorrowful because he won’t sell his possessions, but sometimes I wonder.

The story doesn’t necessarily say that. Could it be that the man grieves precisely because he intends to obey? Perhaps he knows exactly who Jesus is, and he intends to follow the command. He’s been told to give away his “stuff,” and it’s not easy. Giving is tough. Obedience is tough. He grieves the loss of his favorite things. He grieves the loss of the little luxuries that he knows he doesn’t need, but enjoys nonetheless. Perhaps he grieves at the loss of the old, because he’s not yet ready to rejoice at the birth of the new.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Hungry For His Glory



Everyday I seek something new. I am hungry for it. I thirst after it. God's will. In every area of my being I try to see something new be it in the trees or the many faces I see. In a whisper or the thunder. All around us is something to be appreciative of. Our hardships are nothing compared to the many lives that sleep under bridges, in cars and eat out of trash cans. Children starving. Elderly ignored. Mental and physical illness. The list goes on.

I can never give God enough praise for all that He has done for me and all that He has not. I am more appreciative of what He has not done.  Most only seek God when disaster stricks but soon as the storm clears they go right back to what ever it was they were doing and often times God is no where in it.  It is written that you can not serve two masters. It is written that God is a jealous God. It is written that every knee will bow and every tougne will confess.

This is where the new comes in. I don't want to be the same. I want to gain something valuable not for me but for the use in building Gods kingdom one soul at a time.  I want to be used for a greater good not for meaningless position or mere pats on the back. I don't need nor want recognition, that is all for God's glory. He is worthy of all the praise. I am not a perfect being but I am a chosen vessel. And as the Potter molds me and makes me, I will be what He desires me to be.

1 Chronicles 7:14 NLT-Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and heal their land. 

Here I am Lord, use me. He can use you too, if you let Him.

Lent Devotional Day 35

Lent Devotional April 9, 2014

Mark 10:1-16

1 He left that place and went to the region of Judea and beyond the Jordan. And crowds again gathered around him; and, as was his custom, he again taught them.

2 Some Pharisees came, and to test him they asked, "Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?" 3 He answered them, "What did Moses command you?" 4 They said, "Moses allowed a man to write a certificate of dismissal and to divorce her." 5 But Jesus said to them, "Because of your hardness of heart he wrote this commandment for you. 6 But from the beginning of creation, 'God made them male and female.' 7 'For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, 8 and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. 9 Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate."

10 Then in the house the disciples asked him again about this matter. 11 He said to them, "Whoever divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery."

13 People were bringing little children to him in order that he might touch them; and the disciples spoke sternly to them. 14 But when Jesus saw this, he was indignant and said to them, "Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15 Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." 16 And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

DEVOTIONAL

Jesus teaches. That’s not surprising; he’s spent much of his time throughout the gospel doing just that, and the people had a chance to sit and learn from Jesus. But notice what the Pharisees do. They try to test Jesus. The students test the teacher. They’ve got it backwards! How can a student learn if she is too busy testing the teacher?

Yet, look at Christ’s response. He doesn’t admonish them for asking. He handles the test and teaches them from it. Perhaps it’s not as much as they could have learned if they had listened obediently, but even then, the Teacher teaches.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 34

Lent Devotional April 8, 2014

Exodus 5:1-6:1

1 Afterward Moses and Aaron went to Pharaoh and said, "Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, 'Let my people go, so that they may celebrate a festival to me in the wilderness.'" 2 But Pharaoh said, "Who is the LORD, that I should heed him and let Israel go? I do not know the LORD, and I will not let Israel go." 3 Then they said, "The God of the Hebrews has revealed himself to us; let us go a three days' journey into the wilderness to sacrifice to the LORD our God, or he will fall upon us with pestilence or sword." 4 But the king of Egypt said to them, "Moses and Aaron, why are you taking the people away from their work? Get to your labors!" 5 Pharaoh continued, "Now they are more numerous than the people of the land and yet you want them to stop working!" 6 That same day Pharaoh commanded the taskmasters of the people, as well as their supervisors, 7 "You shall no longer give the people straw to make bricks, as before; let them go and gather straw for themselves. 8 But you shall require of them the same quantity of bricks as they have made previously; do not diminish it, for they are lazy; that is why they cry, 'Let us go and offer sacrifice to our God.' 9 Let heavier work be laid on them; then they will labor at it and pay no attention to deceptive words."
10 So the taskmasters and the supervisors of the people went out and said to the people, "Thus says Pharaoh, 'I will not give you straw. 11 Go and get straw yourselves, wherever you can find it; but your work will not be lessened in the least.'" 12 So the people scattered throughout the land of Egypt, to gather stubble for straw. 13 The taskmasters were urgent, saying, "Complete your work, the same daily assignment as when you were given straw." 14 And the supervisors of the Israelites, whom Pharaoh's taskmasters had set over them, were beaten, and were asked, "Why did you not finish the required quantity of bricks yesterday and today, as you did before?"
15 Then the Israelite supervisors came to Pharaoh and cried, "Why do you treat your servants like this? 16 No straw is given to your servants, yet they say to us, 'Make bricks!' Look how your servants are beaten! You are unjust to your own people." 17 He said, "You are lazy, lazy; that is why you say, 'Let us go and sacrifice to the LORD.' 18 Go now, and work; for no straw shall be given you, but you shall still deliver the same number of bricks." 19 The Israelite supervisors saw that they were in trouble when they were told, "You shall not lessen your daily number of bricks." 20 As they left Pharaoh, they came upon Moses and Aaron who were waiting to meet them. 21 They said to them, "The LORD look upon you and judge! You have brought us into bad odor with Pharaoh and his officials, and have put a sword in their hand to kill us."
22 Then Moses turned again to the LORD and said, "O LORD, why have you mistreated this people? Why did you ever send me? 23 Since I first came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has mistreated this people, and you have done nothing at all to deliver your people."

Exodus 6:1

1 Then the LORD said to Moses, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh: Indeed, by a mighty hand he will let them go; by a mighty hand he will drive them out of his land."

Mark 9:42-50

42 "If any of you put a stumbling block before one of these little ones who believe in me, it would be better for you if a great millstone were hung around your neck and you were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than to have two hands and to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life lame than to have two feet and to be thrown into hell. 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, tear it out; it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and to be thrown into hell, 48 where their worm never dies, and the fire is never quenched.
49 "For everyone will be salted with fire. 50 Salt is good; but if salt has lost its saltiness, how can you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another."

DEVOTIONAL

This passage is one of the most frightening passages in the book of Mark. Jesus threatens to tie stones around people’s necks and to throw them into the sea.

Again we see this strange familiarity with the sea, and in this passage, the sea assists Jesus in defending the defenseless. It’s interesting that the Exodus reading for today is the beginning of Moses’ encounter with Pharaoh—which will culminate with the sea assisting the Lord in defending the defenseless. Notice that the defenseless, in this case, are children. This continues the theme we’ve encountered over the last few days. (See April 5 and April 7.)

We haven’t seen much of this kind of anger from Jesus up to this point in Mark—it’s a threat to the helpless that brings it out. This should be comforting when we feel helpless and frightening when we threaten those who are.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 33

Lent Devotional April 7, 2014

Mark 9:30-41

30 They went on from there and passed through Galilee. He did not want anyone to know it; 31 for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, "The Son of Man is to be betrayed into human hands, and they will kill him, and three days after being killed, he will rise again." 32 But they did not understand what he was saying and were afraid to ask him.

33 Then they came to Capernaum; and when he was in the house he asked them, "What were you arguing about on the way?" 34 But they were silent, for on the way they had argued with one another who was the greatest. 35 He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, "Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all." 36 Then he took a little child and put it among them; and taking it in his arms, he said to them, 37 "Whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me."
38J ohn said to him, "Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us." 39 But Jesus said, "Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 41 For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward."

DEVOTIONAL

In case we missed it in the previous chapter, Jesus again explains what’s coming. We’ve come through the halfway point of the book now, and once again Jesus points us to what is coming. We also see a continuation of a theme that popped up earlier in this chapter, this attention to children. We saw Jesus heal the child at the foot of the mountain, and here we see Jesus doing something interesting. In the previous story, the people were focused on an argument, which caused them to neglect a child in need. In this passage, Jesus physically places a child in their midst. We actually get a lot of physical description in the story—at least compared to the rest of Mark. We’re told that Jesus sat down, that he put a child in the middle of the conversation, and then picked the child up in his own arms. Mark actually describes Jesus’ posture here, and what we see is Jesus sitting down, holding a child. He is physically correcting the errors of the previous passage. In the midst of another argument, Jesus is forcing them to focus on a child. He then takes it even farther and encourages them not only to notice children, but to welcome children as if they were welcoming Jesus himself. Once again, he highlights how silly some of their arguments are when the arguments overshadow the people around them.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 32

Lent Devotional April 6, 2014

Psalm 42

1   As a deer longs for flowing streams,
          so my soul longs for you, O God.
2   My soul thirsts for God,
          for the living God.
     When shall I come and behold
          the face of God?
3   My tears have been my food
          day and night,
     while people say to me continually,
          “Where is your God?”

4   These things I remember,
          as I pour out my soul:
     how I went with the throng,
          and led them in procession to the house of God,
     with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
          a multitude keeping festival.
5   Why are you cast down, O my soul,
          and why are you disquieted within me?
     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
          my help 6 and my God.

     My soul is cast down within me;
          therefore I remember you
     from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
          from Mount Mizar.
7   Deep calls to deep
          at the thunder of your cataracts;
     all your waves and your billows
          have gone over me.
8   By day the LORD commands his steadfast love,
          and at night his song is with me,
          a prayer to the God of my life.

9   I say to God, my rock,
          “Why have you forgotten me?
     Why must I walk about mournfully
          because the enemy oppresses me?”
10  As with a deadly wound in my body,
          my adversaries taunt me,
     while they say to me continually,
          “Where is your God?”

11  Why are you cast down, O my soul,
          and why are you disquieted within me?
     Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
          my help and my God.

DEVOTIONAL

Psalms 42 speaks about longing for God as a deer longs for streams. There is an interesting thing about deer longing for sustenance. They search for it. Deer come through my backyard rather frequently, and every once in a while I catch them through the window. Their movements appear random, but on closer observation, they are searching. They look over every inch of my yard, sometimes stopping to smell or even taste the plants, grasses, and weeds. To “long like a deer” is to move, to search, to work, to look, to examine and consider. To see and smell and touch and taste. It’s to seek and strive. A longing deer does not stand still—not for long. It has to move, to find that for which it longs.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 31

Lent Devotional April 5, 2014

Mark 9:14-29

14 When they came to the disciples, they saw a great crowd around them, and some scribes arguing with them. 15 When the whole crowd saw him, they were immediately overcome with awe, and they ran forward to greet him. 16 He asked them, "What are you arguing about with them?" 17 Someone from the crowd answered him, "Teacher, I brought you my son; he has a spirit that makes him unable to speak; 18 and whenever it seizes him, it dashes him down; and he foams and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid; and I asked your disciples to cast it out, but they could not do so." 19 He answered them, "You faithless generation, how much longer must I be among you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me." 20 And they brought the boy to him. When the spirit saw him, immediately it convulsed the boy, and he fell on the ground and rolled about, foaming at the mouth. 21 Jesus asked the father, "How long has this been happening to him?" And he said, "From childhood. 22 It has often cast him into the fire and into the water, to destroy him; but if you are able to do anything, have pity on us and help us." 23 Jesus said to him, "If you are able! - All things can be done for the one who believes." 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out, "I believe; help my unbelief!" 25 When Jesus saw that a crowd came running together, he rebuked the unclean spirit, saying to it, "You spirit that keeps this boy from speaking and hearing, I command you, come out of him, and never enter him again!" 26 After crying out and convulsing him terribly, it came out, and the boy was like a corpse, so that most of them said, "He is dead." 27 But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he was able to stand. 28 When he had entered the house, his disciples asked him privately, "Why could we not cast it out?" 29 He said to them, "This kind can come out only through prayer."

DEVOTIONAL

They were arguing. A child was sick and they fought about it. It was easier to fight than to heal him.

We do this all the time. As people, as churches, as organizations, we all have these fights. They’re different from situation to situation, but you know what they are in your own context. These are the fights that have no clear winner, and continue far longer than they should. They steal our focus from the people in our midst that need our help. The topics change from day to day or decade to decade or generation to generation, but it’s rare for us to be without one.

Notice that Jesus asks what they’re fighting about, and they don’t answer. This fight that was so important just moments ago disappears from their lips when Jesus asks about it. Throughout the rest of the book, we never find out what they were fighting about.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 30

Lent Devotional April 4, 2014

Mark 9:2-13

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,
3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.
4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Then Peter said to Jesus, "Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah."
6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.
7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, "This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!"
8 Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.
10 So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead could mean.
11 Then they asked him, "Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
12 He said to them, "Elijah is indeed coming first to restore all things. How then is it written about the Son of Man, that he is to go through many sufferings and be treated with contempt?
13 But I tell you that Elijah has come, and they did to him whatever they pleased, as it is written about him."

DEVOTIONAL

The transfiguration is a passage that raises so many questions and so many thoughts. I can’t pretend to understand all that happens on that mountain. I do understand Peter though. He’s such a lovable character in this part of the Gospel. He’s just confessed his faith, and immediately after he is given this incredible vision. Naturally it terrifies him. But look how he responds. He doesn’t let his fear paralyze him—he attempts to take action. He tries to do something. It may not have been a great plan, but he was trying to be faithful.

This is one of Peter’s characteristics that is worthy of emulation. When he doesn’t know what to do, he does his best to do something, anything, that’s faithful. His decisions aren’t always perfect, but at his best, he tries to be faithful.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 29

Lent Devotional April 3, 2014

Mark 8:27-38 & 9:1

27 Jesus went on with his disciples to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way he asked his disciples, "Who do people say that I am?"
28 And they answered him, "John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets."
29 He asked them, "But who do you say that I am?" Peter answered him, "You are the Messiah."
30 And he sternly ordered them not to tell anyone about him.
31 Then he began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.
32 He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."
34 He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, "If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.
35 For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it.
36 For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life?
37 Indeed, what can they give in return for their life?
38 Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

1 And he said to them, "Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see that the kingdom of God has come with power."

DEVOTIONAL

Here it is. Peter makes his confession of faith, which he doesn’t seem to fully understand. That’s such a great feature of Peter. His faith isn’t dependent on full understanding. Peter follows Jesus, learns from him, and grows in his understanding, but his faith isn’t a product of perfect wisdom. It doesn’t result from his intellectual pursuit; his faith fuels it. His faith spurs his intellectual pursuit to greater heights—and he will make mistakes. It’s just a few verses later that Jesus calls Peter “Satan.” But imperfect as he is, Peter continues to strive, to grow, and to learn.

After this confession, Jesus tells the disciples what we, as readers, already know. He explains quite clearly that he will be killed, but that the story won’t end there.

Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 28

Lent Devotional April 2, 2014

Mark 8:11-26

11 The Pharisees came and began to argue with him, asking him for a sign from heaven, to test him. 12 And he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to this generation." 13 And he left them, and getting into the boat again, he went across to the other side.

14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, "Watch out - beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod." 16 They said to one another, "It is because we have no bread." 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" They said to him, "Twelve." 20 "And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?" And they said to him, "Seven." 21 Then he said to them, "Do you not yet understand?"

22 They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, "Can you see anything?" 24 And the man looked up and said, "I can see people, but they look like trees, walking." 25 Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Then he sent him away to his home, saying, "Do not even go into the village."

DEVOTIONAL

As we return to Mark today, the religious authorities continue to test Jesus. They ask for a sign, much as we saw this past Sunday.

Thus far, Jesus has cured paralytics, healed the sick, fed the hungry, cast out demons, calmed storms, walked on water, and even raised the dead. Then they ask for a sign. Jesus' response is perfect. “No sign will be given to this generation.” Just a few short verses later he restores sight to a blind man.

This is quite a humorous juxtaposition. If they can’t see the cured, the healed, the fed, the raised, then they won’t get a sign. A sign isn’t much good if you don’t see it.

Yet, the man who asks to see has his sight restored.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lent Devotional Day 27

Lent Devotional April 1, 2014


Genesis 49:29-33 and 50:1-14

 29 Then he charged them, saying to them, "I am about to be gathered to my people. Bury me with my ancestors - in the cave in the field of Ephron the Hittite, 30 in the cave in the field at Machpelah, near Mamre, in the land of Canaan, in the field that Abraham bought from Ephron the Hittite as a burial site. 31 There Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; there Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; and there I buried Leah - 32 the field and the cave that is in it were purchased from the Hittites." 33 When Jacob ended his charge to his sons, he drew up his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his people.


1 Then Joseph threw himself on his father's face and wept over him and kissed him. 2 Joseph commanded the physicians in his service to embalm his father. So the physicians embalmed Israel; 3 they spent forty days in doing this, for that is the time required for embalming. And the Egyptians wept for him seventy days.
4 When the days of weeping for him were past, Joseph addressed the household of Pharaoh, "If now I have found favor with you, please speak to Pharaoh as follows: 5 My father made me swear an oath; he said, 'I am about to die. In the tomb that I hewed out for myself in the land of Canaan, there you shall bury me.' Now therefore let me go up, so that I may bury my father; then I will return." 6 Pharaoh answered, "Go up, and bury your father, as he made you swear to do."
7 So Joseph went up to bury his father. With him went up all the servants of Pharaoh, the elders of his household, and all the elders of the land of Egypt, 8 as well as all the household of Joseph, his brothers, and his father's household. Only their children, their flocks, and their herds were left in the land of Goshen. 9 Both chariots and charioteers went up with him. It was a very great company. 10 When they came to the threshing floor of Atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and sorrowful lamentation; and he observed a time of mourning for his father seven days. 11 When the Canaanite inhabitants of the land saw the mourning on the threshing floor of Atad, they said, "This is a grievous mourning on the part of the Egyptians." Therefore the place was named Abel-mizraim; it is beyond the Jordan. 12 Thus his sons did for him as he had instructed them. 13 They carried him to the land of Canaan and buried him in the cave of the field at Machpelah, the field near Mamre, which Abraham bought as a burial site from Ephron the Hittite. 14 After he had buried his father, Joseph returned to Egypt with his brothers and all who had gone up with him to bury his father.
Devotional
In Mark, we have the feeding of the four thousand today. Since we’ve already reflected on a similar story, and since it’s April fool’s day, let’s do something unexpected. Let’s turn to today’s Genesis reading.
This passage shows us the burial of Jacob. Joseph asks the Pharaoh for permission to leave, and the Pharaoh agrees. Joseph then leads Pharaoh’s servants out of Egypt along with their chariots. He completes his mourning, and returns. It’s amazing how much difference time can make. In just a few generations, that story will be completely reversed. The next time a Hebrew asks Pharaoh to let him lead workers into the wilderness there will be plagues, floods, and death. But for now; the relationship is healthy and look at the difference that makes.


Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.

Lent Devotional Day 26


Lent Devotional March 31, 2014




Mark 7:24-37


24 From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, 25 but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. 26 Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin. She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. 27 He said to her, "Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children's food and throw it to the dogs." 28 But she answered him, "Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children's crumbs." 29 Then he said to her, "For saying that, you may go - the demon has left your daughter." 30 So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
31 Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. 32 They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. 33 He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. 34 Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, "Ephphatha," that is, "Be opened." 35 And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. 36 Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. 37 They were astounded beyond measure, saying, "He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak."


Devotional
After the accusations of the scribes, we see Jesus doing the same thing he did to anger them in the first place—healing. But this time, he heals a Gentile in Tyre. The mere sequence of the stories here is so fascinating. As the Jewish officials hurl accusations at Jesus, he leaves, seeking refuge amongst Gentiles. Word gets out, and Jesus again has mercy on those who come to him, this time healing a Gentile.
Having found no refuge even amongst the Gentiles, Jesus again heads toward the sea, healing on his way there. It’s as if nothing can stop Jesus from healing. It happens wherever he goes. No feature of the landscape, no threats from the authorities, no danger from the elements can stop healing from pouring forth from an encounter with Jesus.


Message provided by the Miller Summer Youth Institute.