Sunday, April 24, 2011

He has risen!

Mark 16:1-8

Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?"

We worry about goofy stuff. As they are walking to the tomb, they ask themselves this question. Actually, in the end, this question was irrelevant. Because Jesus was not there anyway. Certainly it was their love of God, and God's love for them that drew them there, but the details, they did not know.

God is a God of surprises. Sometimes He does not mean to surprise us. Here Jesus told them this was going to happen, but we can't get it, wrap our arms around it until it happens.

Jesus, You concurred death. You rose again. You are eternal and above death and Your Spirit will cause me also to rise to be with You forever. What a beautiful end to this story. You win, therefore we win.

"You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter, 'He is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.' "

You rose and we tell. Go and tell. Father, encourage me to get busy about going and telling. Even if they will not hear it. Our response to such good news is to share it. Help me have courage to do this, Beloved.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

a very large stone against the door of the tomb

Mark 15:40-47
As evening had already come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, [the day] before the Sabbath, Joseph, he of Arimathea, noble and honorable in rank and a respected member of the council (Sanhedrin), who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, daring the consequences, took courage and ventured to go to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus.

But Pilate wondered whether He was dead so soon, and, having called the centurion, he asked him whether Jesus was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that He was indeed dead, he gave the body to Joseph.

And Joseph bought a fine linen cloth for swathing dead bodies, and, taking Him down from the cross, he rolled Him up in the fine linen cloth and placed Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of a rock. Then he rolled a very large stone against the door of the tomb.

There is always a remnant. Although the crowd mocked and spat on Him, there were those who waited and watched from afar, looking for God's timing to act. And we find several woman and a man named here who were doing just that.

Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome were women of courage, who may have watched from afar, but could not leave Him. They watched the crucifixion, and then watched Jesus be buried in the tomb, waiting for their time to act. They were in no hurry to run before God's timing, but nor were they far away. They watched and waited.

Joseph, who was not even part of Jesus' party, was the man who stepped in with courage. Courage seemed to be the word here, as the story closes. Some had courage. Some did not. The ones who did were able to act on the behalf of God in a bold way, and see how God paved the way for Joseph -- Pilot allowed him to have the Body.

Watchfulness, patience, courage. All are needed to be part of the remnant, to be fruitfully used by God. Missing watchfulness means you miss it, you can not hear the message of God and know what to do for the time. Missing patience means you are reckless and can move ahead and therefore away from God. Missing courage means you are inactive and miss out on the power of God in effective service to Him. We need His power because the stone in front of the tomb is too big for us alone. But in Him, all things are possible!

Father, help me have all three of these things. Allow me to stay close to You, listening always, not running ahead, but neither lagging behind in what You would have me do. Allow me to have the balance of these three things by being well rooted in You.

Use me too, Beloved. I want to see Your power in me. Your power, not mine. And I will give You glory.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Crucify Him!

Mark 15:1-39
“Crucify him!”

“Ha! Look at you now!” they yelled at him. “You said you were going to destroy the Temple and rebuild it in three days. Well then, save yourself and come down from the cross!”

“He saved others,” they scoffed, “but he can't save himself! Let this Messiah, this King of Israel, come down from the cross so we can see it and believe him!”

At this brief interval, the Man who crowds walked miles to see, was alone, mocked and killed. Where were the people He healed? The people He taught? The people He fed? Not to be found in this crowd. This Man who spent His life loving people is hated and ridiculed by His own people. His own family! Even His disciples, those who He pulled closest to Him, who He told His secrets to, abandoned Him.

Finally came the final straw... “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” It seems to Jesus that even His Father turned His back on Him.

How this must have hurt You, to be rejected by the very people You came to serve, to save, to heal! They rejected You, or were too afraid of the consequences to truly love You. And Your Father in heaven who You faithfully obeyed even to the point of death, even He seems to abandons You.

Beyond the pain of emotional isolation, there is the futility of pride here. How does a mere mortal mock God and live? We try to control life but it is out of our control. But here, in this fragment of the story, we see evil triumph and good take a hit.

But even in the darkness, there are those who see... “This man truly was the Son of God!” This is how I want to be, I want to see You in truth. Even with all that went on, this man was still able to see through it all to the truth.

Father, open the eyes of my heart. I want to see You.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

and they prepared the Passover meal

Mark 14

As the time grows short, here is written a profile of those who loved Him, those who hated Him, she who worshipped Him with abandon, he too fearful to be known as His friend, he who in his stubborn willfulness betrayed Him. All line up as the story draws to an end.

Mary ... there came a woman with an alabaster vial of very costly perfume of pure nard; and she broke the vial and poured it over His head. How she loved Him! So she worshipped Him. She alone seems to understand His words, His prediction. And because she sided with His party, she is ridiculed and shamed, but see, her Savior champions her... "Truly I say to you, wherever the gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be spoken of in memory of her."

Judas ... then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went off to the chief priests in order to betray Him to them. Judas could not accept the truth of who Jesus was and also, what He planned to do. We will never really know what was in Judas' heart that night when he went to the chief priests to betray the Lord of Glory, we can only guess. My guess is the sin of stubborn pride. Judas knew better. He thought he was right. In reality, no one was ever more wrong.

Peter ... But Peter kept saying insistently, "Even if I have to die with You, I will not deny You!" And they all were saying the same thing also. Although Peter is highlighted as the one who denied Jesus, we see as the story continues that all run from Him. None can even stay awake to keep watch and pray with Him. Peter's response is the what makes him different from Judas: And Peter remembered how Jesus had made the remark to him, "Before a rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times." And he began to weep. Peter is sorrowful in his sin. Confession is in his heart as soon as he awakens to his sin.

Mark ... Tradition holds that this segment is autobiographical: And they all left Him and fled. A young man was following Him, wearing nothing but a linen sheet over his naked body; and they seized him. But he pulled free of the linen sheet and escaped naked. Mark makes this confession about himself. How daringly honest! We can be encouraged that this fearful naked man wrote a gospel.

Jewish Council ... Now the chief priests and the whole Council kept trying to obtain testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, and they were not finding any. For many were giving false testimony against Him, but their testimony was not consistent.They were going to have their way. By truth or by lies, they wanted to be rid of Jesus. How they hated Him! In the end, Jesus' truthful testimony allows them to claim blastphemy and to condemn Him to death:

"Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?"


Tearing his clothes, the high priest said, "What further need do we have of witnesses? You have heard the blasphemy; how does it seem to you?" And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death.

This Man Jesus, is not a good teacher. He is God, as He claims. All of His miracles point to this truth.
But not only must we embrace truth, we must embrace Him. We must worship Him. We must humble ourselves and weep when we go astray, and then Jesus demonstrates His love by welcoming us back.

Father, allow me to be more like Mary, worshipping You with reckless abandon. Allow me to notice my sin quickly and weep like Peter, knowing You saw my sin from afar and yet still love me! Let me not be afraid to confess truely who I am with all my faults before others so that they can be encouraged, as Mark did.

Let me not only know the truth but also embrace you as my Beloved!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Stay at your post. Keep watch.

Mark 13
As he walked away from the Temple, one of his disciples said, "Teacher, look at that stonework! Those buildings!"

Jesus said, "You're impressed by this grandiose architecture? There's not a stone in the whole works that is not going to end up in a heap of rubble."

We are just so impressed with ourselves and our creations and our world. Like this is our world. But it is not. Reminds me of that sweet old hymn:

This is my Father's world: He shines in all that's fair;
in the rustling grass I hear Him pass; He speaks to me everywhere.

Everything we have created in this world will pass away, not one stone will be left on another. This is His world and He is coming back for it. We cannot know when He is coming nor can we stop Him.

"the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;
the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken."

Father, we forget, in our busy-ness that you are in charge and rule over all things. You will return to shake things up and to take over. We can only wait, watch and be ready.

"It's like a man who takes a trip, leaving home and putting his servants in charge, each assigned a task, and commanding the gatekeeper to stand watch. So, stay at your post, watching. You have no idea when the homeowner is returning, whether evening, midnight, cockcrow, or morning. You don't want him showing up unannounced, with you asleep on the job. I say it to you, and I'm saying it to all: Stay at your post. Keep watch."

Father, allow me to see Your face in all things. Let the sweetness and colors of spring remind me You are coming again to take over and take the world away and give us Your kingdom in all its completeness and grandeur! I am so timid to speak of You, Jesus, but only You can save them. I must redeem the time because I do not know how much more time we have.

Make me bold. Make me ready. Make me more like You.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

she gave extravagantly...she gave her all

Mark 12:35-44
Sitting across from the offering box, [Jesus] was observing how the crowd tossed money in for the collection. Many of the rich were making large contributions. One poor widow came up and put in two small coins—a measly two cents. Jesus called his disciples over and said, "The truth is that this poor widow gave more to the collection than all the others put together. All the others gave what they'll never miss; she gave extravagantly what she couldn't afford—she gave her all."

I love it when the pastor says at church collection time how God doesn't need our money. Of course the treasurer says something different on the day he reports on the church budget! But it is true, God does not seem to look and give extra credit to those who give more, or who have positions in the church, or who are scholars, although those things may be good.

The giving thing is a test--and God already knows our score. It is a test to see how much we trust God, how much we believe in His provision and His promises. How much we truly love others. The test score is for us to see where our heart is, how big our faith is.

As Jesus saw and extravagantly praised the widow with her two measly cents, so He sees and is blessed by my small contribution to the Body of Christ and the advance of His kingdom. Maybe my offering is small, but it is all I have.

Beloved, You do not call my offering small or unimportant. As I give my all to You, You are pleased, delighted, calling to Your friends, "See, Barbara's husband has committed his life to me, and now they are giving back by doing that marriage course!" You rejoice over me, over us. Help me remember and rejoice with You!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

much more than burnt offerings

Mark 12:13-24
Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. "Teacher," they said, "we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don't play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them, or shouldn't we?"

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, "Why are you trying to trap me?"

With Jesus, attitude is everything. He sees right through all three groups and can tell what is really on their hearts. The Pharisees aren't seeking God's wisdom but trying to show Him up. Same with the Sadducees. It was only the last teacher who was interested in truth, and it was him that Jesus commended:

Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, "You are not far from the Kingdom of God."

We learn the ways of God and know our Bible, but it is our heart and our willingness to learn that makes the difference with God. I listen to teaching, but am I open to change? Am I open to what God is trying to tell me? All the teaching in the world will not help if I cannot hear it and apply it to my life.

Father, help me be open, allow me to listen to those who see my blind spots and point them out to me. Don't let me allow pride or fear get in the way of confession and apologizing.

... to love Him out of and with all the heart and with all the understanding, with the faculty of quick apprehension and intelligence and keenness of discernment, and with all the strength, and to love one's neighbor as oneself, is much more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.

Father, help me to show my love for You in all my actions.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Come, let us kill Him

Mark 12:1-12
"A man planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a place for the wine vat and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that he might receive some of the fruit of the vineyard from the vinedressers. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed.

Again he sent them another servant, and at him they threw stones, wounded him in the head, and sent him away shamefully treated. And again he sent another, and him they killed; and many others, beating some and killing some. Therefore still having one son, his beloved, he also sent him to them last, saying, 'They will respect my son.'

But those vinedressers said among themselves, 'This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' So they took him and killed him and cast him out of the vineyard."

I know Jesus knows everything. He knew before He came to earth how the thing was going to end. He knew, He predicted it.

But then He got to experience it in real time. Even though He knew, even though He is God, I can imagine how He felt.

He created the earth for us. Planted the gardens, placed the stars into space and the sun and moon orbiting around us just right. He created the animals one by one and finally, His crown creation, man and woman. Then we sinned and could not find the way out, even with the map of the Law. No, the problem was deep within our hearts.

So Jesus left paradise and came to the vineyard to save us. And how did that go?

"Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours."

We think we have control. We try to manipulate life. Even my prayers are trying to get the best for my family, but what do I know of best?

This is Your world, and everything and everyone in it. Nothing exists or happens outside of Your permission and control. Father, You have given us everything. In return You just wanted some of Your own fruit.
Father, You felt this in real time, this rejection of Your Beloved Son! "They will respect my son!" No, they did not. They killed Him and cast Him out of the vineyard. How Your heart must have broke! How sad and frustrating it must have been, Jesus, to look into the eyes of these children of Yours that You had created and dearly loved, and have them not recognize You, have them hate You. Maybe this is why You give us teenagers, to help us understand this gut-wrenching feeling.

I am sorry, Father, for all the times I have grasped for control, not trusting You. Forgive me for trying to get my way, because I thought it was "better." How arrogant! Help me to be forgiving and humble, as You were.
I thank You that You came anyway. Help me lean into You and allow You to have Your way with me.

Lord, Thy Kingdom Come!

This was the LORD's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Show us your credentials

Mark 11:27-33
The high priests, religion scholars, and leaders came up and demanded, "Show us your credentials. Who authorized you to speak and act like this?"

Jesus responded, "First let me ask you a question. Answer my question and then I'll present my credentials. About the baptism of John—who authorized it: heaven or humans? Tell me."

They were on the spot, and knew it. They pulled back into a huddle and whispered, "If we say 'heaven,' he'll ask us why we didn't believe John; if we say 'humans,' we'll be up against it with the people because they all hold John up as a prophet." They decided to concede that round to Jesus. "We don't know," they said.

Jesus replied, "Then I won't answer your question either."

Show me. Prove it to me. I get to judge if it is right or not. I must decide if it is true or not.

It begins to help me understand why God treasures humility. We are not to judge God. We are to seek God. We are to be open to the truth God gives us, not to judge Him and His words.

The religious leaders were not seeking God or truth, instead they were testing Jesus. But by definition, Jesus' answers are the right ones. They were playing a game with Jesus, one they were trying to win and make Jesus lose. But by definition, Jesus is the winner.

John the Baptist and Jesus had plenty of credentials. That's why people followed them. They were different. They had power in their words, and Jesus had the powers of heaven at His command. Anyone near Him could see that plain enough.

If they were willing to look.

Jesus did not plead with them to believe Him and His message. Nor was He deterred. He knew who He was and did not have to prove Himself. He knew where He was going and how He was going to save and not even the powers of hell could stop Him.

Father, help me to always have the humility to seek You in every situation. To be open to who You really are, not what I expect You to be. Help me to have the poise You had here, to know who I am in You, to know You will be with me where ever I go, and that all the powers of hell will not stop Your kingdom from coming.

Let it come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hosanna in the highest!

Mark 11:1-26
And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their outer garments upon it, and He sat on it. And many of the people spread their garments on the road, and others scattered a layer of leafy branches which they had cut from the fields.

And those who went before and those who followed cried out with a cry of happiness, Hosanna! Be graciously inclined and propitious to Him! Praised and blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord! Praised and blessed in the name of the Lord is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna (O save us) in the highest heaven!

Praise and prayer and forgiveness.

The common people loved Jesus. They saw a Savior in Him. They saw Him as the coming King, worthy of worship and adoration with joy. The religious leaders instead saw a threat and wanted to kill Him. Jealousy and fear filled their hearts.

Let me seek the love of the common people, as You did, Jesus. Let me love them one at a time, as You did. Allow me to feel Your pleasure as I minister one at a time. Release my heart from wanting to be noticed or sought after by the movers and shakers of the world. You are the biggest Mover and Shaker. You always see me and notice what I am doing. You always read every word I write, remember every sigh and success, keep all my tears in a bottle, wink at me from Your stage.

Jesus threw out the vendors and money changers in the temple reminding them all that His temple was a house of prayer. And later He reminds us again of the boldness of prayer. Pray for anything, even the impossible, especially the impossible! Our God is a god of miracles, and we need to expect them, remember them, trust for them, ask for them with the confidence of a beloved daughter. Prayer is a sacred thing, it can not be bought and sold. It is a free gift, lavished with love. We don't need to have in order to receive. We don't need to buy in order to receive. We just need to wait and trust with arms open.

Lastly, a requirement of prayer is forgiveness. Tonight I was reminded that all is not as it seems. We cannot know what lies in the depth of the hearts of others: their pain and their motivation. Often, I do not understand my own heart. Love mercy.

And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8)

Praise and prayer and forgiveness. That is what church should be about. That is what my heart should be about. And Jesus will ride in, humbly on a colt.

Beloved Jesus, I praise You! You have given me everything I need. Remind me of Your mercy and humility so that I can walk in Your ways. May I always be among those who praise You and trust You alone to save me. Hosanna in the highest!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder

Mark 10:46-52
A blind beggar by the name of Bartimaeus, was sitting alongside the road. When he heard that Jesus the Nazarene was passing by, he began to cry out, "Son of David, Jesus! Mercy, have mercy on me!" Many tried to hush him up, but he yelled all the louder, "Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stopped in his tracks. "Call him over."

They called him. "It's your lucky day! Get up! He's calling you to come!" Throwing off his coat, he was on his feet at once and came to Jesus.

Jesus said, "What can I do for you?"

The blind man said, "Rabbi, I want to see."

"On your way," said Jesus. "Your faith has saved and healed you." In that very instant he recovered his sight and followed Jesus down the road.

If he was quiet, would Jesus have passed him by? If he was not so insistent, would he have not been healed?

This story is similar to the Syro-Phoenician woman from chapter 7 as Jesus is impressed with the faith of both. Both the woman and blind Bartimaeus want it more and are willing to be more insistent. Both are willing to push past ridicule and and rejection to ask for what they need. They are more focused on their savior than the crowd.

Bartimaeus' request follows only after he repeatedly acknowledges who Jesus is. Only after he casts off his outer garment, shaking off the old life to embrace the new.

"Rabbi, I want to see."

But he already sees better than some of the others because he can clearly see who Jesus is, what He can do and what He is willing to do.

He is able to heal you. He is willing to heal you. Even me.

Father, even now, I struggle to have this much faith. Through Your mercy, I can see who You are, as You have opened my eyes. But my faith to believe in Your healing needs strengthening. Bring to my mind all the times You have given me provision, healing, my heart's desire so I can be bold to trust You and ask.

Even when they try to hush me up, let me tell all the louder of Your love. For You have saved me.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

the highest places of honor

Mark 10:32-45
He took the Twelve and began again to go over what to expect next. "Listen to me carefully. We're on our way up to Jerusalem. When we get there, the Son of Man will be betrayed to the religious leaders and scholars. They will sentence him to death. Then they will hand him over to the Romans, who will mock and spit on him, give him the third degree, and kill him. After three days he will rise alive."
James and John, Zebedee's sons, came up to him. "Teacher, we have something we want you to do for us."

"What is it? I'll see what I can do."

"Arrange it," they said, "so that we will be awarded the highest places of honor in your glory—one of us at your right, the other at your left."

For all of His ministry, Jesus talked in parables, metaphors, word pictures and such. Finally here, as the time is drawing near, He calls the 12 closer to tell them clearly and explicitly what was going to happen to Him. It was really important that they understood and were prepared for what was about the happen. And when I read this as one section, I can see here how they totally missed it.

Jesus was on His way to death and there are concerned with seating arrangements and their career path.
Glory and honor belongs to she who serves. But first, we need to at least listen.

See here how they are not really paying attention to what Jesus is saying. They are too much into their own business, their own stuff, their own agenda. They totally miss the point.

Father, how much do I miss the point because I, like the disciples, are into my own stuff? Do I listen to You? Do I remember? Do I act on my faith when it counts? I have a hard enough time listening to Al when he is in the same room, how much more trouble it is to hear Your voice to me?

Father, I hear You saying I need to pray with my eyes shut, not when I am driving or doing dishes. I need to focus on You alone for that time of prayer. I need to sit more and listen more and do less. What good is doing anything for Kingdom glory if it is not at all what You are wanting me to do?

Let me be still and hear Your voice, and be reminded that You are God.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Sell everything

Mark 10:17-31
As [Jesus] went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted Him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?"

Jesus said, "Why are you calling Me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother."

He said, "Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!"

Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow Me."

The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go...

Jesus said... "Children, how hard it is for those who trust (place their confidence, their sense of safety) in riches to enter the kingdom of God!"

My friend Sandy asked me about the fast I am doing now, why am I doing it. It's complicated and today I was thinking it through.

Faith, real faith, is about action.

Oh, yes, our salvation is from Christ alone, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and thankfully, nothing we can do to make Him love us less. And yet, if we say we have faith, if we say we believe, we must do things, live in a way, that is according to those beliefs, otherwise, then, we really don't believe what we say.

The fast is something Al and I are doing with a church we attend, so there are rules for the fast, the Daniel Fast, which is what we are doing. And I was excited about it at first, until I realized I had to give up coffee too. Food, ok, but the coffee, I am addicted to that caffeine fix, literally. I felt the push back as soon as I read that part of the fast. I considered, honestly, changing my mind and not doing it.

I sing with the crowd on Sunday evenings "with everything, with everything, we will shout for Your glory..." and yet, it is too uncomfortable, for Your glory, to give up a cup of coffee in the morning.

With everything means everything--like all of it. Talk is cheap, but what would happen, if I tried to walk it for say, 21 days? I mean, I need to know.

So I am fasting, there, I said it. And I am praying. It is not about weight loss, as who can lose weigh with all the rice and beans I am eating? It is like running a marathon--I am doing it because I need to know, I want to see what that feels like, what it is like, to praise Him, honor Him, love Him with everything.

Will Jesus love me more than you? Will He answer my prayers more than yours? Will some glorious thing fall out of the sky to me because I did this that would not have happened if I did not?

It does not matter. It's not about that. It is about me feeling what it is like to offer Him more of myself. Me getting closer to giving everything, selling everything. And ultimately it is about Him. Because I can't do it anyway. I have to let God do it.

That set the disciples back on their heels. "Then who has any chance at all?" they asked.

Jesus was blunt: "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it."

God of all days, glorious in all of Your ways.
Your majesty, the wonder and grace, in the light of Your name.

With everything, with everything,
We will shout for Your glory.

So let hope rise, and darkness tremble in Your holy light,
And every eye will see Jesus, our God, great and mighty to be praised. (With Everything - Hillsong)

Thursday, April 07, 2011

simplicity of a child

Mark 10:1-15
"God made male and female to be together. Because of this, a man leaves father and mother, and in marriage he becomes one flesh with a woman—no longer two individuals, but forming a new unity...

A man who divorces his wife so he can marry someone else commits adultery against her. And a woman who divorces her husband so she can marry someone else commits adultery."

It's hard to live with a man. I know, I do. The other ones, the ones you are not living with--not putting up with their long hours at work, bad tempers, annoying habits--they always look more attractive.

But that is because you are looking at them from afar.

It seems so much easier to discard the old and get something new and better. But it is a big lie. Love is really about what happens inside the commitment, the one-ness. It is about submission and sacrifice, patience and forgiveness, and those are not bad things. In the end they are life-giving and full of joy. In our disposable society, it is so tempting to allow your marriage to flow apart. It is so much work to keep it together, but it is worth it.

More than that, Jesus commands it. It is clearer in the Message translation: relationship hopping was never God's intent. It ruins the spirit of the completeness and union He intended in creation. "It is not good for the man to be alone." We are blessed as we cleave together and stay together.

Father, thank You for giving me a blessed marriage. Help me to guard my heart to be faithful always to my man, the one You gave me. Allow my heart to have the simplicity of a child in trusting that Your ways are right and true in asking us to commit totally to our marriage union. Let our example encourage others to do the same, to show it is possible to stay together and stay in love, as we entrust our lives and hearts to You.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

take last place and be the servant of everyone else

Mark 9:30-50
The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of His enemies. He will be killed, but three days later He will rise from the dead...

Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else...

Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf welcomes Me, and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes not only Me but also My Father who sent Me...

If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded...

If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off.

The path to greatness, the road to success is about death, being last, welcoming children, service, leaving your sin behind, violently if need be. It is opposite of the way of the world. It is self-sacrificing, humiliating, lonely and painful.

This is the road Jesus took. He did not demand worship, though He was God and deserved worship. Instead, He offered service and sacrifice. He healed and fed and comforted and taught.

No one wants to volunteer for this part of it, but this is the only way. And He did not, from the comfort of heaven, only point to it and teach it to us. No, He came and showed us. He went first. And so we must follow.

Father, forgive me when I forget that the small acts of service, unnoticed, are unimportant. You see it all and are pleased and will reward. Remind me to flee sin, to be violent and resolute about it if need be. Renew my heart by Your whisper that tells me You see me and I am Your beloved child. I love You!

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

His face and person yet glistening

Mark 9:14-29
And immediately all the crowd, when they saw Jesus returning from the holy mount, His face and person yet glistening, they were greatly amazed and ran up to Him and greeted Him.
And He asked them, About what are you questioning and discussing with them?

And one of the throng replied to Him, Teacher, I brought my son to You, for he has a dumb spirit. And wherever it lays hold of him so as to make him its own, it dashes him down and convulses him, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth, and he falls into a motionless stupor and is wasting away. And I asked Your disciples to drive it out, and they were not able to do it.

Jesus had just been transfigured, for a few moments, morphing into who He really is in glory, beyond His human body, and with the remains of that glory still clinging to Him, He returns down the mountain to the crowd.

But they don't notice!

They are intent on their own questions, their own problems, their own agenda. And even in hindsight, I have read this so many times, that I almost miss it as I read.

Jesus is God Almighty, glorious, glistening, other-worldly in substance and power is in their midst.

Oh, they do flock to Him, but not in worship, but with their issues. He knows He is almost at the end of His time on earth and His disciples will need to carry on, but they can't yet. They could not cast out this demon and heal the boy. But Jesus in His compassion and humility, is not deterred nor does He rebuke them. Instead He heals and encourages their faith and belief in Him.

This man, the father, is smart enough to know that although Jesus' disciples were unable to heal, Jesus still could. We could learn from this father. When the disciples of Jesus let us down, when the church lets us down, when our Christian friends let us down, (and they will!) still we need to run to Jesus who is greater, always greater.

Father, I am just like them! I run to You in prayer, but it is with my list and not to bow at You feet to worship You in glory! I do not notice that Your face is glistening. I focus instead on my agenda, my issues, my concerns. Father, remind me to begin my prayers with worship of You, in Your holiness and beauty and compassion and faithfulness and might. As I notice these things, as I ponder these things, it helps my unbelief.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

be treated with utter contempt

Mark 9:1-13
Jesus’ appearance was transformed and His clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus ... Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”
Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them.

Here it is again, that other reality breaking into our world. Jesus is transformed before Peter, James and John, His glory temporarily breaking through His humanity. I love how The Message describes it: "His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes." The Holy Spirit inside Him broke through.

This is the transformation I want too! I long for the Holy Spirit You have given me to transform my heart and my mind so that I can display Your glory.

And yet, this glorious Jesus allowed mere men to treat Him with utter contempt. He hid His glory from their eyes and submitted to their hatred and violence, in order to save us.

They did not recognize Him. Nor did they see His world.

Father, help me to see and to live in Your kingdom reality. Give me peace as others also treat me with contempt. Help me to follow You and trust You in all things.

Friday, April 01, 2011

My way, to saving yourself, your true self

Mark 8:27-38
"Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow Me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, My way, to saving yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? What could you ever trade your soul for?

"If any of you are embarrassed over Me and the way I'm leading you when you get around your fickle and unfocused friends, know that you'll be an even greater embarrassment to the Son of Man when He arrives in all the splendor of God, His Father, with an army of the holy angels."

There is a reality beyond what we see. And that reality is huge, enormous, beyond words magnificent. It is hidden from the eyes of the world at large, and the pathway is also hidden to this unseen reality.

The pathway is self-sacrifice.

Everything around us and everything within us fights against this truth. As we see Peter here trying to deter Jesus from destruction from Peter's perception, but Jesus understands, this is the true road to paradise.

Take up your cross.

When we follow Jesus, this is where it leads us. To submission, to rejection, to having less, but having it all. It is not that we enjoy pain, it is an understanding of true worth. Not that we can really understand or even choose the right thing. He chooses for us as we choose to follow Him.

All the disciples knew was that He was the Christ, the Messiah. And that was all they needed to know. After that, they knew they had to follow Him. There was not one else to turn to, and no matter how it turned out, they were in. They sided with His party.

Father, I am here on earth and it is so real to me! I cannot deny my flesh for long and my eyes can see the world so clearly. Mostly as Peter did, I see things merely from a human point of view, not from Yours. Please open my eyes, and when I cannot see, help me to cling to You. I want to follow You even when I cannot see, because only You know the way.