Mark 5:21-43; 2 Samuel 14; Daniel 8
Absalom had been banished. No one was happy with the situation, but David left his son in exile over what was a serious family squabble. It was time for him to come back to Jerusalem and one of David’s trusted lieutenants recognized that. He sent a woman to convince David of that by telling him a story of similar woe. As she reveals her purpose, she makes a very important statement. “We all have to die—we’re like water spilled out on the ground that can’t be gathered up again. But God doesn’t take life away; instead, he makes plans so those banished from him don’t stay that way.” (2 Samuel 14:14) This might be the most misunderstood truth about God. God continually seeks ways to restore our fellowship with Him. He doesn’t cast us aside when we do wrong, never to see us again. God’s goal is so that those of us who are banished from God, living in self-imposed exile really, don’t hae to stay that way and we can have a restored relationship with Him. That was the purpose of Jesus coming to earth, paying the penalty for our sin, and then rising again to show His power over life and death. Yes, I have sinned, but God took care of the situation so that I could be with Him again.
Lord, rebellion against You is serious and I find some way to rebel each day. You don’t banish me or give up on me. You continually make plans to draw me back to You. Forgive me when I fail You and restore the joy of my salvation.
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged Absalom, all die, banishment, David, exile, God brings life, God restores fellowship, Joab, parable, penalty for sin, restored relationship with God
He was the roughest of the rough. They had sent him out of the city into the area where they buried their dead. They tried to chain him and keep him away from “normal, decent” people. But then, a miracle occurred. He met Jesus. Jesus cast out his demons, but he ruffled the townsfolk when He did that because He sent about two thousand sources of bacon into the sea. They begged Jesus to leave – perhaps because they were afraid He would find the rest of their bacon sources. As Jesus got ready to leave, the one who had been healed sought to go with Him as a disciple. “While he was climbing into the boat, the one who had been demon-possessed pleaded with Jesus to let him come along as one of his disciples. But Jesus wouldn’t allow it. ‘Go home to your own people,’ Jesus said, ‘and tell them what the Lord has done for you and how he has shown you mercy.’” (Mark 5:18-19) As I read this, my mind went back to the story of a young man in Rwanda who was among the roughest of the rough. He raised himself on the streets after the genocide of 1994 and his life showed it. Then, to make a long story short, he met Jesus. He is now among the most gentle of men. He is still respected in the rough areas, and he continues to share the love of Jesus among the people he grew up with. There are two lessons here: first, no one is without hope; second, the power of one changed life to change others is amazing. There is no telling what will happen when we live out our faith.
Lord God, there are people that I sometimes think about giving up on. When I feel that way, remind me that You didn’t give up on me and You didn’t give up on my friend in Rwanda. Help me to show Your love to each and every person I meet, from the kindest and gentlest to the roughest of the rough, and draw them to You.
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged bacon, changed life, decent people, demoniac, demons, diamonds, disciples, Genocide, Gerasenes, hope, normal people, Power, rough, roughest of the rough, Rwanda
Mark 4:21-41; 2 Samuel 11-12; Daniel 6
We call it the “rat race.” It’s a “dog eat dog” cut throat world out there. Yes, it’s the business world where it seems like some people will do anything to get ahead. There are those whose paths to the top of the business world are littered with the “bodies” of those they had to stab in the back to succeed. That attitude is ancient. When Darius re-organized the kingdom he had conquered, he used the people that were already in place to administer the kingdom, including Daniel. Daniel was doing such a good job, without the back stabbing and throat cutting that we have come to expect in the business world, that King Darius was looking at putting Daniel in charge of running the entire kingdom. As the rumors started floating, this didn’t sit well with the others. “As a result, the other officers and the chief administrators tried to find some problem with Daniel’s work for the kingdom. But they couldn’t find any problem or corruption at all because Daniel was trustworthy. He wasn’t guilty of any negligence or corruption. So these men said, ‘We won’t find any fault in Daniel, unless we can find something to use against him from his religious practice.’” (Daniel 6:4-5) We know the rest of the story – a law was established to prevent anyone from praying to anyone but the king. The integrity of Daniel that made him a great administrator put him in the position of disobeying an evil law. He was caught and thrown in the lions’ den. God protected Daniel overnight and Daniel was safe. The lesson that we learn is that we must maintain our integrity at all times. If a person claims to follow God, their work on Monday through Friday, or even Saturday, is really as much a form of worship as that Sunday morning hour. In fact, our Sunday worship is designed not only for us to worship God, but for us to gain the strength we need to bring honor to God each day of our lives. As we work, the only thing that people ought to be able to find fault with is that we love and honor God. If we do that faithfully, we can deal with any consequences that come from that.
Lord God, I don’t know if the only fault people at work could find in me is that I worship You. I pray that You would mold me as an employee so that my work be so filled with honor and integrity that I reflect Your love and grace every minute of the day.
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged back stabbing, Daniel, Darius, God, honor, integrity, King Darius, Medes, Persians, throat cutting, work
Mark 4:1-20; 2 Samuel 9-10; Daniel 5
We’ve all seen a picture like this: the wrapper says “8 Hot Dog Buns” but it’s obvious that the wrapper contains hamburger buns. The caption of the picture will usually say something like “You had one job.” We have a good laugh over someone’s incompetence – but whose was it? Was it the person packaging the wrappers from the printer? Was it the person loading the wrappers into the machine? Was it the person who put the settings into the machine to tell it what kind of buns to load? Fingers can point in a lot of directions. Jesus explained a parable that reminds us of our responsibilities. He begins with these famous words: “The farmer scatters the word.” (Mark 4:14) So often we get into all kinds of discussion about the soils, but in truth, we really can’t do much about the soil – except analyze it. If Jesus were telling this parable today, He might preface it by saying, “You have one job – scatter the word.” More and more today I see people who have never heard of Jesus; people who not only don’t know the name, but don’t know the message of salvation that God offers to all who call on His name. As I read this parable I am convicted. I see Jesus looking at me and reminding me, “You have one job. Spread the word.”
Lord, as I think of all those who have never heard of You, have never heard of Your love and forgiveness, I am reminded that You have called me to be the person who shares Your good news with them. Give me the courage and strength to do that.
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged conviction, failure to perform, finger pointing, good news, hamburger buns, Incompetence, Jesus, one job, parable of the farmer, share, soil, spread the word, you had one job
Mark 3:20-35; 2 Samuel 7-8; Daniel 4
When two good friends disagree and the tensions rise, it’s difficult for both of them. They avoid each other. They look the other way if they happen to see each other. Unless something happens to break the impasse, a strong relationship will be destroyed. One of the friends must swallow their pride, forgive the other person silently, and then go and ask for forgiveness from the other friend. Usually the person who was wronged needs to take that first step. God took that step for us in sending Jesus to pay the price for our sins. And in truth, the amazing love of God forgives almost every sin. “’I assure you that human beings will be forgiven for everything, for all sins and insults of every kind. But whoever insults the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. That person is guilty of a sin with consequences that last forever.” He said this because the legal experts were saying, ‘He’s possessed by an evil spirit.’” (Mark 3:28-30) This version list the one unforgivable sin as “insulting the Holy Spirit.” Usually we hear “blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.” In either case we always wonder just what this means. Jesus said this at this time because the experts accused the Holy Spirit of being an evil spirit. Is this a one-time action that forever condemns a person to a life of unforgiveness? Is it a lifestyle of unbelief and disdain for the Spirit of God that manifests itself on a daily basis; an attitude that the person never repents of? Can repentance just before death wipe out the sin and the guilt, restoring the relationship with God? I wish I had an easy answer. I can say a couple of things: 1) if you are looking for the loophole in this statement, I would think that might qualify as insulting the Holy Spirit; and 2) why would anyone delay the opportunity to be in a restored relationship with God when all that we need to do is swallow our pride and accept the forgiveness God offers so freely? I have never regretted the decision to accept God’s forgiveness. My only regret is that I didn’t follow God earlier in my life.
Dear Lord, I am so grateful that when I was too proud and stubborn to come to You seeking forgiveness, You held out open hands waiting for me to turn back to You. Thank You for the forgiveness You gave me in Christ. Thank You for the amazing life I have since You restored our relationship. Help me show that love and forgiveness to others.
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged blasphemy of the Holy Spirit, Forgiveness, friends disagree, God, guilt, Holy Spirit, insult the Holy Spirit, Jesus, Legal experts, pay for our sins, Repentance, restored relationship with God, Scribes, strong relationship, swallow pride, tension
oops… a day behind again… sorry
Mark 3:1-19; 2 Samuel 6; Daniel 3
We live in a time when it seems like the greatest virtue is the ability to “go along to get along.” To succeed in society today, we are called to downplay our own beliefs and not only accept, but to celebrate the beliefs of others that are contrary to our own beliefs. Penalties for non-conformance to society are often swift and painful, but they can be slow and lingering. In the face of this, we, as followers of Christ, are called to stay true to God’s standards. If we love God and His ways more, we are able to be like Him and love others more in spite of our differences. Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah were three men who, even though changed outwardly by society, demonstrated that inner strength to follow God’s ways in spite of any possible punishment. “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered King Nebuchadnezzar: ‘We don’t need to answer your question. If our God—the one we serve—is able to rescue us from the furnace of flaming fire and from your power, Your Majesty, then let him rescue us. But if he doesn’t, know this for certain, Your Majesty: we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you’ve set up.’” (Daniel 3:16-18) This may have been the original “gold standard;” worship the gold or die. The society within which we live and function expects us to conform to many standards that are contrary to God’s will. We are faced with ridicule and hatred when we don’t. That’s fine. God expects us to conform to His will. If we conform to God’s will and act like God calls us to act, we can point out what is wrong in society by showing God’s love to those who would speak against us. Stay true to God no matter what the opposition may be!
Lord God, we live in a society that rejects You and Your ways more and more each day. Help me to stay true to Your ways and to share Your love with others as I remember what Jesus did for me.
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged Abednego, and Abednego, Azariah, beliefs, conform to God, dangerous faith, flaming furnace, go along to get along, golden idol, Hananiah, idols, King Nebuchadnezzar, love of Jesus, Meschach, Meshach, Mishael, Nebuchadnezzar, Shadrach, standards, true to faith
Mark 2; 2 Samuel 4-5; Daniel 2:24-49
So much of life revolves around food. What are we going to eat? Who are we going to eat with? In fact, who we eat with even makes a statement. This was true in Jesus’ day too. So one day he called a tax collector named Levi to follow him. Levi threw a dinner party to celebrate at his house. Guess who showed up to eat with Levi and Jesus. All those good religious Pharisees stayed away; in fact, the only ones who showed up were other tax collectors and sinners. This didn’t sit well with those religious leaders. They sniffed and asked His disciples what kind of a leader they were following if He would eat with people like that. Jesus’ response was classic. “When Jesus heard it, he said to them, ‘Healthy people don’t need a doctor, but sick people do. I didn’t come to call righteous people, but sinners.’” (Mark 2:17) The irony of this whole situation is that those Pharisees needed to repent. Their problem is that they didn’t recognize that they were sinners. Even today, the same situation exists: Jesus calls on people to repent – to turn to Him. Those who accept their need to repent do so and Jesus welcomes them into fellowship with Him. Those who think they don’t need to repent, continue living according to their own desires and even though they think they are in good with God, don’t have fellowship with Him. We all come to Jesus through His sacrifice by repenting of our sins and turning to Him; there is no other way.
Lord God, You came to me not because I was so good, but because You were so loving. Like one of those tax collectors or other sinners, I needed to turn from the way I was going and follow You. Thank You for forgiving me and giving me the strength to follow You. Keep reminding me of Your love for me.
Mark 1:21-45; 2 Samuel 3:2-39; Daniel 2:1-23
Our economy runs on energy. We are now debating what that energy will look like in the future: will we remain a fossil fuel burning economy or will we find a way to switch over to renewable energy? As followers of Christ, we need our own personal energy source. What gives us the strength and power to get up each day and serve the Lord? Many who know me well would be surprised that my answer isn’t “coffee.” We gain the energy we need to function effectively as followers of Jesus by taking time to pray. “Early in the morning, well before sunrise, Jesus rose and went to a deserted place where he could be alone in prayer.” (Mark 1:35) Jesus prayed early in the morning, but the time wasn’t as important as the fact that He was alone with the Father. We have so many distractions in the world – including things like Facebook and blogs where you are reading this post – that we need to find a way to shut out the world and seek God in prayer. If you take time each day to gain that spiritual strength from God, you’ll be amazed at how much you can accomplish.
Lord, help me to find time to avoid the distractions and focus on You. Speak to me as I pray. Give me wisdom and guidance. Most of all, assure me of Your presence and give me strength for today.
(Ironic, isn’t it, that I couldn’t find time to post this yesterday?)
Posted in Devotional Thoughts
Tagged alone with God, avoiding distractions, economy, energy, Father, fossil fuels, God, Jesus, prayer, renewable energy, serve the Lord, spiritual strength
Mark 1:1-20; 2 Samuel 2:1-3:1; Daniel 1
I am a procrastinator. I admit it. While many in the world proclaim, “There’s no time like the present,” I smile and say, “Relax. There’s no time like the future.” My wife knows when I have grading that needs to be done, because that’s when I get up to do the dishes voluntarily – perhaps in the misguided hope that the grading will disappear. It never has. There are issues where even a procrastinator like me knows we can’t put things off until tomorrow. “After John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee announcing God’s good news, saying, ‘Now is the time! Here comes God’s kingdom! Change your hearts and lives, and trust this good news!” (Mark 1:14-15) When you read through the Gospel of Mark, it’s a no-nonsense, get things done NOW version of the life of Jesus. These verses share the theme of Mark. The kingdom of Heaven is now. We need to live changed lives. We can trust the good news of Jesus. Let’s begin with the gospel message: Jesus came to earth to restore our relationship with God. He worked at that all through His life and ultimately His death and resurrection. We can trust that good news. We need to live changed lives. If our relationship with God is restored, it must affect how we live. Our lives should change because our hearts should change. As I draw closer to God and He reveals more areas that need change, I should be quick to change so that I can be more like Him. And all of this is happening now. The Kingdom of God is not a future “when we die, pie in the sky” situation. We enter the Kingdom of Heaven immediately when our relationship with God is restored. While we are alive on this earth, people should see in us what it means to live in the Kingdom of Heaven. If we are trusting in this good news, if we are living with changed hearts and lives, we will show the world the joy of living in the Kingdom of Heaven.
Dear Lord, such simple but convicting words. I say that I trust the good news of Jesus, and yet I stubbornly cling to my old ways. Please work in me. Draw me into a closer relationship with You. Reveal areas in my life that need to change and let me be obedient. Let my life reflect the joy of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Posted in Uncategorized
Tagged change hearts, change lives, Galilee, God's kingdom, good news, gospel, Gospel of Mark, grading, Jesus, John, Mark, pie in the sky, procrastination, procrastinator, washing dishes