Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Abundant giving in poverty

Mark 12:43-44
So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.”

I see two choices displayed here - to give abundantly in poverty or to give poverishly (I think I just invented a new word... but you get the idea) in abundance. While the offering of the rich was greater in sum, it was far less in sacrifice and acceptability to God. God does not measure our faithfulness as stewards by how much we give, but by how much we keep and hold back from Him. Furthermore, the measure of what we keep also reveals our faith in God as provider. How can I say that I trust Him for my livelihood if I keep so much to myself and hold back from my provider? I wonder now if it is possible to follow Christ faithfully without giving sacrificially and abundantly. Poor in giving, poor in faith. Rich in giving, rich in faith.

God - make me rich in faith that I may give richly. Give me a generous heart. May I be found faithful with little so that I may be blessed to give much. Bring me to the place of the widow so that I can trust You with my whole livelihood. Amen.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Belief & Prayer

Mark 11:23-24
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. 24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.

These are my raw frustrated thoughts on prayer after losing a very close friend.

I struggle so much when Jesus says this sort of thing. Is He speaking literally? Is He speaking to people like me? Is this bound to His time and context? Do I truly believe? Do I secretly or unknowingly doubt?
I could try to make this idea fit by suggesting that my prayers are answered, just not in the ways I expect. While this is true at times, Jesus said "those things which you ask," and "whatever things you ask." This sounds pretty specific, not general. Could it be that I am not praying according to God's will? If this is the case, is it true that withering fig trees and throwing mountains in to large bodies of water is really more (noble, merciful, loving, etc...) God's will than healing my friend's cancer? How can the prayers of hundreds or thousands be all in doubt or unbelief? How can I make sense of unanswered prayer in times like these?

In the end, these things I know:
God is Good,
God's plan is Good,
Death is not the end,
God's ways are beyond me,
No matter what mountain I face, God is always with me, revealing Himself to me,
He is my comfort and counsel,
God is Good.

Father, help my unbelief. Amen

Monday, July 28, 2008

A new perspective

Mark 10:24-27
And the disciples were astonished at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 And they were greatly astonished, saying among themselves, “Who then can be saved?”
27 But Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”

I've been wondering what it was about what Jesus said that amazed and astonished the disciples so much. This theology on materialism and wealth seems so logical and reasonable in our context. However in their first century Jewish mindset, wealth and blessing were tied to God's favor and reward. Conversely, those who suffer loss or poverty did so at the hand of a retributive God. The realities Jesus revealed here in this chapter are not what one would expect; the greatest is the servant (43), childlike faith (15), marriage is for life (9), and earthly blessing does not mean heavenly favor or reward (24). God's kingdom only makes sense when we turn our lives upside down and view them from His perspective.
So where is my perspective off? Where am i living my by context and culture rather than by His commands? Why am I not more shocked and amazed by His demands on my life? Am I really listening?

God - help me see things Your way. Where I don't, pull me through the eye of the needle and make me to fit in your kingdom. Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Cost of following Jesus

Mark 8:34
"When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me."

What will it cost me to follow Jesus?... Everything.
What will it cost me to not follow Jesus?... Everything.
Either way, God will and does demand my all; in this lifetime or the life to come.

"He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose." - Jim Elliot

I find it interesting that "follow me" comes last in this passage. We can't truly follow Jesus until we first deny our own desires, hungers and flesh. We may muster up a desire to follow him... but following requires sacrifice, without which our desire is unfruitful, ineffective, dead. Following means leaving behind what belongs to our old nature and embracing what is of His nature - the cross. I am not truly following Jesus unless my life is marked by selfless sacrifice. This idea is so contrary, even foreign to our cultural version of Christianity which promotes prosperity and happiness as the evidence of true faith and favor. Instead, true favor is found in the privilege to follow in the sacrificial path of Christ. True favor and blessed disciples are marked not by abundance and ease, but by trial - demonstrating the vary nature of Christ in sacrifice and suffering. What a small price to pay for the joy on knowing Christ, being united with His Spirit and participating in the divine nature of God for eternity!

Father - teach me to deny myself, to overcome my self-centered sense of entitlement and follow You. Take my life and lay Your cross upon me that I may reflect Your nature to my world. Make me to follow You. Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

From the heart...

Mark 7:21-23
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22 thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within and defile a man.”

I think much of life is spent trying to keep these evils from getting out. We work pretty hard to maintain the appearance of purity and righteousness. Like the Pharisees, we feel good if we can just manage our reputations well and avoid being found out.
I wonder what kind of fullness I might experience if I focused more time and energy on getting these evils out?... even out in the open? Through confession and accountability these evils come into the light and no longer have any power over me. Imagine what the church would be like if we all practiced such humility, vulnerability and dedication to purifying our hearts!

God - help me to know my sin - the private sin I harbor in my heart. Let me know how to purify my heart. Cleanse me from pride, fear and laziness. Let me be true to the faith and Word that I profess. Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Is He amazed by me or am I amazed by Him?

Mark 6:5-6
"Now He could do no mighty work there, except that He laid His hands on a few sick people and healed them. And He marveled because of their unbelief. Then He went about the villages in a circuit, teaching."

Lately I have been amazed and shocked by the humanity and limitations of Jesus; how He completely bound Himself to flesh for our sake. Here in His home town Jesus was unable to do many miracles because of their lack of faith; and He was amazed. I wonder if Jesus was more amazed by their lack of faith or by the consequences. Was He surprised by His inability to exercise His divine power? Did He attempt to heal more people and was "defeated" or did He just not even bother, knowing that there was not enough faith there to work with? Is He shocked or amazed at my lack of faith in the midst of all the blessings He has already given? Have I, like the people in Jesus' home town, become so familiar with Jesus that I don't expect the miraculous? Is He more amazed by me (my lack of faith) than I am of Him?

Jesus - amaze me. Open my eyes and deepen my faith. Drive out from me all sense of familiarity and replace it with wonder and awe. Make me more amazed by You than You are of me. Amen.

Monday, July 14, 2008

A Different Reality

Mark 5:36
""As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.”

In the face of the verified news that Jairus' daughter was dead, Jesus chose to believe a different reality. And I do believe it was His choice - a decision based in faith and hope rather than knowledge and evidence. His choice did not follow reality, reality followed His choice to believe in the power of God and His good will for those who believe. This means that, despite all the evidence, the reality that would follow was still unknown and uncertain; even to Jesus. It was only by faith in God and the knowledge of His good will that Jesus could proclaim to Jairus, "Don't be afraid, only believe." It was only by faith that He could continue to walk toward Jairus' home.
So where in my life have I chosen to believe a different reality; one based on evidence and perception rather than on the power and goodness of God? Am I making decisions based on earthly knowledge rather than heavenly wisdom? Are there areas of my life; finance, relationships, opportunities, etc... where I am motivated by fear rather than faith? I must chose a different reality despite fear, evidence and the laughter of the crowd (vs. 40). I must chose to believe in the power and goodness of God and believe Him for a better reality. And I must let that faith carry me into the "Jairus' house" of my life each day to see that reality and the Glory of God revealed.

Father - give me the faith and strength of heart to believe in your power and goodness and to continue to walk into my "Jairus' house" to see your Glory revealed. Amen.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Among Thorns - Temptation & Trial

Mark 4:18-19
"Now these are the ones sown among thorns; they are the ones who hear the word, and the cares of this world, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things entering in choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful."

There is a difference between those who are convinced of the Word of God and those who are committed to the Word of God. when I allow temptation or trials to choke out my commitment to God's way I have merely settled for a convinced life; believing with my head, intellectually acknowledging the truth, yet denying it in my heart, words and actions.
Thorns are not unique to the new believer. Maturity does not prevent the presence of thorns, but overcomes their power. They will grow up, but they will note choke out the life of the mature believer. They may however reduce their fruit.
So what are the thorns in my life? Where am I tempted to settle for convinced rather than convicted and committed to living God's way? Are there weeds that have grown up in my life and wrapped themselves around me so that I am not even aware of them? Which cares of the world or fears are preventing me from being fruitful? I need to weed my life of worry, a critical spirit, bitterness, resentment and pride.

Father - help me rid my life of these weeds and thorns. Grow me up and strengthen my commitment to living according to Your Word. Amen.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


Mark 3:13-15
"And He went up on the mountain and called to Him those He Himself wanted. And they came to Him. Then He appointed twelve, that they might be with Him and that He might send them out to preach, and to have power to heal sicknesses and to cast out demons"

Jesus hand-picked His disciples, His workers, His servants, His ambassadors, His friends. From the top draft pick to the biggest disappointment; He chose His twelve. How awesome would it have felt to be invited by Jesus, to be selected from the multitudes that followed Him that day? How exciting to follow Him up the mountain, leaving all else behind. How amazing to be given power and purpose and provision to preach on behalf of the miraculous Jesus Christ?
I wonder what it would be like to hear His voice audibly call my name? How long would my name in His voice echo in my mind - motivating me to follow, to endure, to go out and preach?
The reality is that my calling is no less authoritative, intentional, purposeful or special. I too am a follower, worker, servant, ambassador and friend of the miraculous Jesus Christ. I was chosen by Him!

Jesus, help me to live a life worthy of Your calling. Guide me to discover the fullness of Your call and the ministry You have prepared for me. Give me strength and endurance to go out and chance the world for Your kingdom's sake. Amen.

New wine, new wineskin

Mark 2:22
"And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; or else the new wine bursts the wineskins, the wine is spilled, and the wineskins are ruined. But new wine must be put into new wineskins.”

Throughout this second chapter of Mark and even into the third, the Jewish leaders try to fit Jesus and His message into their Old Testament, law-based frame of mind. They were offended by His message and conduct because they didn't understand it. They missed the heart of the law, favoring the appearance of it. This misunderstanding also led to a fear of Jesus, His message and His ministry. Like the old wineskins, the Jewish leaders would eventually self destruct, burst at the seams in response to Jesus.
Where am I experiencing a new movement of God or the prompting of the Holy Spirit that doesn't fit into my cultural or traditional understanding of Christianity? Where am I bound to an old way of thinking or acting? Have I embraced as true and core to following Jesus what is not? I need to get past these barriers and find a new way of ministering in love, joy, peace, etc.... Against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law, (Gal. 5:22-23).

God help me to live by the Spirit and not by the law or my own way of self-righteous thinking. Help me grow and expand to receive, enjoy and pass on Your message. make me a new wineskin each day. Amen.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


Mark 1:41
"Then Jesus, moved with compassion, stretched out His hand and touched him, and said to him, “I am willing; be cleansed.”

"Moved with compassion," what an amazing statement that the sovereign creator of the universe has compassion for His wayward creation. Even more amazing is that He didn't just demonstrate a compassionate act - compassion was the visible motive behind touching and healing this man. What Jesus felt toward the leper was genuine and personal and clearly visible to all around; especially the writer, Mark. And this overwhelming compassion did not just lead Jesus to heal the man from a distance or with a word - He touched him! Jesus' compassion drove Him to reach beyond the obvious disease and need of this hurting man to the emotional and heartfelt wound beneath; to touch the untouchable.
If I examine myself, too often my motivation is obligation, duty, compulsion, guilt or something like it. Consequently, at these times, my ministry lacks touch - it becomes sterile, impersonal and difficult to see. To be honest, it even lacks meaning and fulfillment for me. This may be the result of moving too fast, taking on too much or worrying about my reputation too much... all things Jesus never did.
Oh to have the pace and balance and faith to truly develop compassion. Oh to develop the compassion of Jesus; to be driven by His heart and truly feel the needs of others; if only to touch others the way that Jesus did.

Father slow me down and fill me with compassion for others. Help me feel the needs of those around me and may my ministry truly touch the lives of others. Take me deeper than the surface needs of those You have entrusted to me and grant me the grace to make a real difference. Amen.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Great Praise

Psalm 48:1
"Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised"

God is Great! That alone is an understatement. My mine cannot even begin to comprehend the greatness of God. And yet, even in my own terms, by my own shallow definition, I could not call my praise great. Routine - yes, faithful - sure, mundane - absolutely... but never great.
What would it look like if I decided to take my praise to the next level, to raise the bar? What would Sunday morning look like? Would would each morning be like? What would others see? The God of creation, my Redeemer, my Savior and Lord deserves so much more from me - He is Great! But how would I do this?
Maybe the secret to greater praise is to focus on the greatness of God and the wonder found in each of His many awesome names; Counselor, Lamb of God, Mighty King, Provider, Refuge, Shield, Sustainer, Friend. God is Great and deserves nothing less than great praise from me.

I praise You God for You are Great. Teach me the fullness of your majesty so that I may praise you fully with my whole life. Amen.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Consider The Poor

Psalm 41:1-3
Blessed is he who considers the poor;
The LORD will deliver him in time of trouble.
The LORD will preserve him and keep him alive,
And he will be blessed on the earth;
You will not deliver him to the will of his enemies.
The LORD will strengthen him on his bed of illness;
You will sustain him on his sickbed."

I am amazed at how David (and God for that matter) considers the poor and ties God's favor to our treatment of those who are needy and hurting. God has a special place in His heart for the downtrodden; Hagar, Mephibosheth, the widow who fed Elijah, Ruth & Naomi, and the list goes on. The most inspiring thing about this list is that all of these were relative strangers to God and His people. They were outsiders! God preserved and blessed them even though they had little claim to His provision. The Lord is truly merciful and tenderhearted to all who are hurting. Am I?
I am blessed to join Him in softening my heart to the poor and taking up His cause. I am blessed to participate in His divine nature by caring for those who are closest to His heart.

Merciful God - soften my heart to the poor and open my eyes to see how I may be used. Bless me to be a blessing. Expand my resources so that I have more to share and give. Make me more efficient so that I can serve more. Make me wise so that I know what to do with every blessing You place before me. Preserve my life and let me care for those who are close to Your heart. I want to share in Your tender mercies and loving kindness. Amen.

Thursday, July 3, 2008


Psalm 39:4-5
“LORD, make me to know my end,
And what is the measure of my days,
That I may know how frail I am.
Indeed, You have made my days as handbreadths,
And my age is as nothing before You;
Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor. Selah"

This may be one of the most difficult and yet valuable lessons a man can learn. To be confronted by one's own frail humanity and the fragility of life can be devastating - depressing at best. At the same time it can be motivating; compelling us to live more fully into every moment, to make a larger impact, to leave a more noble mark, to love more, fight less, to forgive and let go, to speak more clearly how we truly feel.
I did a funeral for a baby yesterday. I've been constantly thinking of and praying for my friend Eric who will soon leave behind his amazing wife and three beautiful, precious children. I've been feeling my own humanity; losing my hair, feeling more aches and pains, experiencing limitations and actually noticing individual breaths. I'm right here in this verse.
And I am so richly blessed. If life is but a breath, I will use mine to declare the goodness of God - nothing less.

I praise You Lord, my God and my Creator; for You are Good - far too good to me. Delight in my breath and teach me to honor you with each moment of my short life. Amen.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

God's Help

Psalm 37:23-24
"The steps of a good man are ordered by the LORD,
And He delights in his way.
Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down;
For the LORD upholds him with His hand."

While life can be tough and at times confusing, I don't need to worry or be anxious about my life - God is in control. My steps, each one of them, is ordered by the Lord. He guides my foot and my path. Even when I stumble and fall, His hand will help me up and steady me again.
What is most amazing to me is that He delights in this awkward gate of mine. In all my stumbling, tripping, falling, skinned knees and wounded elbows... God is delighted. I must believe that He is delighted not in my weakness, but in His sovereign acts of mercy in His providence. When I stumble I display a dependence on God that demonstrates His goodness and declares His name to all around me.
Trials and struggles are not my end, they are my means. These struggles are a means to glorify God and conform me to the image of His Son. And in this, God greatly delights.

Lord make me more faithful. Give me an extra measure of faith to know and trust Your path for my steps. May my life declare Your name and demonstrate Your goodness as I depend on You. Amen.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

No reason not to Praise

Psalm 34:1-3
"I will bless the LORD at all times;
His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall make its boast in the LORD;
The humble shall hear of it and be glad.
Oh, magnify the LORD with me,
And let us exalt His name together."

What is on my lips at all times? What type of language is continually in my mouth? Far too often I find myself dragging others down by complaining about life. At best I carelessly and thoughtlessly offer up a mediocre, "oh I'm alright" or "I'm gettin' by." The Lord has been so good to me - at all times He has blessed me. I am more than alright, way more. I have no reason to complain, I have no reason not to praise Him. I should be encouraging the humble and hurting with boasts of God's goodness. I should magnify the Lord in a way that invites others to join me in exaltation. My life and words should be a testimony of God's goodness at all times. I have no reason not to praise Him.

Father - today I will choose to praise You. I will sing songs of praise in my heart and boast of Your goodness with my lips. I will not complain or offer half hearted answers when asked how I am doing... I am blessed and You Lord are good! I will invite others to see Your goodness and join me in praise. God - You are so good to me, You are so good. I praise You. Amen.