Devotions for January 4, – January 10, 2016
Monday, January 4, 2016
“Then some people came bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them” (Mark 2:3).
Marsha and two of her co-workers, Karyn and Jayleen, sat down for coffee and conversation at the coffee shop across from the office. The past few months had not been an easy time for Marsha. Her marriage of fifteen years had ended. She was now struggling to deal with half-time custody of her children and living on a single income. Karyn and Jayleen had been her confidants—and more. When Marsha needed to vent her two friends were there for her. Karyn and Jayleen listened as Marsha worked through decisions she was forced to make. The three went to movies together and accompanied each other on shopping forays. Karyn and Jayleen even invited Marsha to worship with them at St. Mark’s Church. After experiencing God’s love and grace through her two friends, Marsha heard the gospel of Jesus Christ and responded to God’s grace in faith.
The paralytic had four good friends who brought him to Jesus. The man could not have met Jesus by himself. Friends are important in sharing the gospel. The kingdom of God is spread from person to person. Usually God uses family, friends, neighbors or co-workers to share God’s love and grace. Most of us are disciples of Jesus Christ because of the influence of other people in our lives.
Realizing the importance of relationships motivates us to nurture the relationships with which we have been blessed. In those relationships we can be intentional in sharing God’s love and grace. We can also give thanks for the people whom God used to touch our lives.
Incarnate God, you lived with us to share the good news of God’s love and grace. As we live with others may our words and actions reveal your love and grace to those around us. Amen.
Tuesday, January 5, 2016
“And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him” (Mark 2:4).
The friends of the paralytic were tenacious. Most people would have given up their quest to see Jesus or would have returned another day. Not these guys. They weaved their way through the crowd and climbed the stairs to the roof. Laying their friend down, the four men tore a hole in the roof. They then lowered the man and placed their friend right in front of Jesus. There actions reflected their love for their friend and their faith in Jesus.
There are times when our response to the needs of our family and friends is not as dramatic as that of the four men. When we hear of a need we often assure the person that we will pray for him or her. We may pray once or twice for the person and then we forget about the need and get on with our lives. Prayer is important, but the needs of another person may be our invitation to act and to be God’s channels of God’s presence, forgiveness, love, grace and hope. There are times when it is inappropriate for us to limit our response to a need simply to prayer.
Loving Lord, move in us that we may be conscientious in our prayers for one another and bold and loving in our service to others. Amen.
Wednesday, January 6, 2016
“When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).
The men had worked hard to bring their friend to Jesus. They had gone the extra mile and they were excited and expectant to see the results of their efforts. They must have been devastated when Jesus looked at their paralyzed friend and declared to him that his sins were forgiven. That’s not want they wanted to happen. The four men wanted Jesus to heal their friend; to make him walk again. The thought may have passed through their minds that they had done all that work for nothing.
There were many reasons for Jesus to act as he did and declare the forgiveness of the paralytic’s sins. Since it was commonly assumed that sickness was the result of sin, Jesus wanted to show the fallacy of such a belief. Jesus also wanted to make the claim before the religious authorities that he really was God. Only God can forgive sins. Jesus had a message for the four men and their friend, too. Jesus wanted to remind the men that there is more to life than just one’s physical needs. Jesus came to heal people both inside and out. Reconciling us to God was his primary mission. When the Lord doesn’t answer our prayers in the manner we desire, we may want to ask ourselves if God is trying to tell us something.
God of Revelation, thank you for not limiting yourself to the confines of our prayers. Move in our lives in ways that are most important and are beyond our imagination. Amen.
Thursday, January 7, 2016
“[He] went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God” (Mark 2:12).
There are times when we don’t want to be noticed. Those are times when we’d be embarrassed if anyone saw us, like the time we split coffee all over ourselves, or the time when we tripped over a line in the floor and fell flat on our faces. Then there are times when we want to draw attention to ourselves. These are times when we want people to admire us or to respect us. We want them to see the new car that we drive, or be impressed with the homes in which we live. Performance at work becomes a way we can draw attention to ourselves and receive the praises of others. Many of us major in working hard to get the attention of other people. Almost all of us include drawing positive attention to ourselves and gaining people’s respect and admiration on our list of things to do.
Jesus didn’t do this. Mark records that when the people saw Jesus heal people and cast out demons they glorified God. Jesus could have sought regional acclaim, but that wasn’t his purpose. Jesus wanted to demonstrate to the crowds that the kingdom of God really had arrived. Drawing people into a renewed relationship with God was vital to Jesus’ ministry. He understood that giving glory to God was what life was all about.
As we begin this new year, many of us have created a list of goals; of things we want to achieve in 2016. When we review this list we may want to determine if one of our underlying goals is to draw attention to ourselves or to glorify God. Doing so may make the difference between a mundane year or a year lived fully with purpose and meaning.
Gracious God, you have given us so many talents and blessings. Forgive us when we use them in a self-centered manner. Empower us to use them to give you glory. Amen.
Friday, January 8, 2016
“And as he sat at dinner, in Levi’s home many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples” (Mark 2:15).
James was an active member of his congregation. He worshiped regularly, served on the council, volunteered to be a mentor to members of the youth group and headed up the congregation’s “Christmas Adopt a Family” Ministry. After being a member of the congregation for fifteen years, almost all James’ friends were members of the same congregation. Rarely did James go out to dinner, a movie or other activity with people who were not in some way connected to his church family.
This passage of scripture caused James to pause and consider his life as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus was not one to hang around the temple or associate only with active temple members. Instead, Jesus was sitting and eating with tax collectors and sinners. They were the ones who needed to hear what he had to teach about God. It was the sinners and tax collectors who needed to experience God’s kingdom in their lives.
James shared his concern with the participants in his small group Bible study. After a lively conversation, the group decided that they needed to become involved in ministry projects that would allow them to interact with people outside the congregation. They also agreed to expand their circle of friends to include those who were not members of their congregation—or any congregation. If it was good enough for Jesus to sit and eat with tax collectors and sinners, they certainly could do the same.
Lord of All, as you reached out to us, enable us to reach out to others beyond our congregation and other Christian groups. Give us opportunity to share the good news of Jesus in a loving and appropriate manner. Amen.
Saturday, January 9, 2016
“The wedding guest cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they” (Mark 2:19).
Back in the days of door to door salesmen, one man returned to the sales office after a hard day of knocking on doors. He was dejected and grieving over his failure. He had knocked on over one hundred doors and had not sold one item. The sales manager called him over to his office. “I’ve been in your shoes,” the manager said. “I discovered that when I was confronted with a series of, “No’s,” that I started looking at the world the wrong way. I started to look at all of those “No’s” and grieve over all of the missed sales. I became so disheartened that I wanted to quit several times. What changed my life and my sales was when I started to see each “No,” not as a lost sale, but as one contact closer to a “Yes.” I started to celebrate the “No’s” as much as I celebrated the “Yes’.”
The Pharisees and other religious leaders were upset. Jesus’ disciples weren’t taking their religion seriously enough. They weren’t fasting as often as any good Jew would fast. Jesus defended his disciples and declared to the religious leaders that the disciples couldn’t fast because they had the bridegroom with them; it was a time of celebration.
There are a multitude of things over which to grieve. Terrorism, racism, poverty, injustice and inequality are a few items on our lists. We could choose to grieve, to long for better times and to feel powerless over such insurmountable situations. We could also choose to celebrate. The Lord (the bridegroom) is with us. The Holy Spirit is using people to prepare the world for the kingdom of God. People are hearing the gospel and are being touched with the love and grace of God. The choice is ours, but as Jesus reminded the religious authorities so he reminds us—it is time to celebrate!
Glorious God, you are worthy of our thanks and praise. Forgive us when we forget this fundamental truth and move in our lives so that your praise is always on our lips. Amen.
Sunday, January 10, 2016
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins” (Mark 2:22).
The old refrigerator had frozen the can of soda solid. The aluminum can was bloated and misshapen. Its frozen contents had expanded and released the carbonation. The soda was ruined. When it was thawed and the can popped open, the contents would fizz out and make a complete mess. When wine is put into an old wineskin the results are similar. The fermentation releases carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide expands the skin. If the skin has been used before it won’t expand anymore and it bursts. In the end it is a mess.
The Holy Spirit can’t be put into old, worn out, stiff and unchanging lives. In the process theologians call “sanctification” the Spirit molds us and shapes us. The Spirit moves within us from the inside out. Old ways need to be shed. Changes need to be made and accepted. Faithful obedience to the Spirit’s leading is part of the process, also.
Fine wine is the result of new wine being placed in new wineskins. An abundant life—the life we were meant to live—happens when the Holy Spirit moves in the new life that is given us through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Creator God, you have given us new lives. Move in our lives, fill us with your Spirit and make us into the people you want us to be. Amen.