Thursday, November 17, 2011

Life Among The Who's Who

No fancy introduction to grab your attention today, just a simple thought from my personal Bible reading that will refresh and refocus my ministry--maybe yours as well.

Mark 9:34-37: But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. 35And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.” 36Then He took a little child and set him in the midst of them. And when He had taken him in His arms, He said to them, 37“Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.”

Impression:  The disciples got carried away with their own importance even as Jesus talked about His suffering, death, and resurrection.  We could argue that, in church, we don't disagree about who's the greatest.  We know it's wrong and we have this example to correct us.  But we still do it.  Often we tweak it and change it the slightest bit.  We won't say "I'm better than you," but in our own words (over and over!) we share, "I'm busier than you."  We may not put others down in their presence, but we are quick to compare the importance of what we do and how much time we spend doing it.  What would Jesus do?  In this case he took a child—who accomplishes no adult task, carries no adult responsibilities, boasts no achievements—and directs His disciples to receive such a one. Ouch.  Is that where I put my value?  Is that where I invest my energy, time, abilities, and resources?  In those who cannot repay, in those who have no worldly value, in those who are often overlooked? 

Application:  When life becomes more about how busy I am or what I am accomplishing than Who I’m serving, it’s out of balance.  It’s not about the what, it’s about the Who.  And when Jesus is first, when I know Him, depend on Him, and desire to serve Him, the other who’s of life will fall into place  (Matthew 6:33).  The what’s of life will happen.  The when and the where won’t matter.  And the how?  With my eyes fixed on Jesus, the author and finisher of my faith, denying myself, taking up my cross and following Him (Hebrews 12:2, Mark 8:34).

Sunday, November 13, 2011


Maybe the time change last week was a breeze for you--in which case I'd argue you're not a toddler or a getting-old person like myself.  When the world around us changes we give each other a measure of grace, knowing change takes time.  But when it comes to changing ourselves--oy, vey!  Others make excuses for us, "they're just like that," and we make excuses for ourselves, "that's just the way I am."  Jesus said it differently.  He said that as I follow Him, I will leave myself behind, lose my life, only to find it again.

In Mark 8:33-38, Jesus gives timeless insight for change, for the true meaning of life, for how to be transformed. 

Verses 34-35 say, " And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, 'If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.'"

There is nothing more difficult or impossible than giving up one’s desires, wants, and ways.  I have found it to be a constant, daily struggle, one that grows with time.  When I was younger, I thought it would get easier.  I looked at old people, Godly people, "It must be easier for them than it is for me."  Ha!  It's been many years now and I know it's not true.  Habits make choices easier (good and bad), but making new changes is still as difficult, as impossible, as ever.  It is a fight to give up myself and depend on God and God alone to work the change.

So what will I do with Jesus' words today?  Remind myself not to give up.  Coach myself to keep striving toward Godliness.  Understand that there is no such thing as too much denial if I walk in sensitivity to the Spirit and choose obedience. 

The problem is that too often I push myself, I make denial the center of my choices or cross-bearing my focus.  It is then that I find wallow in failure, pitfalls, my own depravity.  But that is not what Jesus said.  It's not about self-denial, ultimately, it's about following Him.  If I my heart is set on Jesus, if my mind is settled on His love, then as I draw close to Him, as my footsteps match His, self will fall by the wayside (James 4:8). Repentance.  Forgiveness.  Gratitude.  Change.  And in it all, humble dependence. I will wake up to the reality of becoming more like Him and less like myself.  It must be about Jesus.  Not me.  Not obedience.  Not self-flagellation.  Not success.  Not spiritual awakening.  Jesus.  Just Jesus.  Nothing, no one, but Jesus.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

That Box of Chocolates!

Remember Forest Gump's saying, "Momma always said life is like a box of chocolates...?"  It always makes my mouth water--thinking about a box of chocolates, one with all my favorites.  Which, perhaps, is why I've put back on some of the forty-plus pounds I shed years ago.  If weight is not your struggle, perhaps you have another that takes you around and around the ring, hitting you high and low, in both expected and unexpected places.

As I read Mark earlier this week, I was struck by Jesus comments to two individuals in the same arena.  He told one woman, "your faith has made you well," and another, "Do not be afraid any longer, only believe."  If only that would help me, I thought, bemoaning tighter-than-comfortable clothing.  In that same passage (Mark 5:21-43), everything happened "immediately" (v. 29, 30, 42).  Grrr....

The next day I read about Jesus returning to his hometown. "He could do no miracle there...and He wondered at their unbelief" (Mark 6:5-6).  Belief is key.  But how does it work?  What does it look like?  James says that faith without works is no faith at all (James 2:14-26).  So what did Jairus and the woman with the issue of blood do to show their faith in Mark chapter 5?

Jairus went to Jesus.  He implored Him earnestly.  He stated His faith simply.  He waited.  He obeyed.  The woman fought her way through the crowd.  She found Jesus.  She reached out and touched His robe.  If Jairus had had faith without works, he would have stayed home.  If the woman had had faith without works, she would never have made the effort to get to Jesus or touch His robe.  Their faith was evident in a choice, a motion, an action, that accompanied their words and desire.

So, in my (perhaps silly) personal example, I realized that I have been asking God to help me gain control over my eating, exercising, and caring for my body, expecting Him to make it happen apart from my effort.  I know it is a good thing based on numerous Scripture passages.  But until I get up out of the chair, make choices in line with goodness, and step onto the treadmill, I cannot expect God to bring about the results.  My faith is as good as dead.

What is it that God desires for you, based on His Word?  Will you walk in obedience, putting your faith in action, and trusting God with the results?  Will we actively seek to do His will, or will He shake His head and wonder at your unbelief, at my unbelief?