Mar 06

March 6, 2015

read | Mark 14:8–9

“She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the good news is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in remembrance of her.” 

 

Jesus’ words have come to pass. Today we remember this woman, Jesus spoke the truth. There are many things that come to mind as we consider this woman whose love so compassionately drove her to this act of grace.

What strikes me today is how these verses in Mark’s Gospel begin. “She has done what she could do!” Certainly in that day and age, what a woman could do was limited. Women could not speak or preach in the way I am permitted today. Women could not go into the synagogue and hold a prayer meeting. But this woman, who had little, gave much. And in truth, she had so much more than many of us do this day. She had a love that was relentless for Christ.

She did what she could do! Do I? Do you? Do you do all you can do for Jesus? It seems to me that statement—she did all she could do—is a challenge and calling for how we might live our life in faith. An old hymn says, “All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give!” I have sung those words and ones like it in more contemporary songs and wish it were true….but if I am honest, I think I withhold so much!

When we really think about our lives and how we live, what do we do for Jesus? Is it all? Is there more?

Above my computer is a silver plaque with these words inscribed in it:

“What would you do if you knew you could not fail?”

I wonder if we risk enough, try enough, offer enough, and commune enough with Jesus, for Jesus.

  • Today will you find some time to sit and consider what you can do for Jesus? Today, this week…this year?
  • Are you doing all you can do for Jesus?

 

- Rev. Care Crawford

 

Mar 05

March 5, 2015

read | Mark 14:6–7

“But Jesus said, ‘Let her alone; why do you trouble her? She has performed a good service for Me. For You always have the poor with you, and you can show kindness to them whenever you wish; but you will not always have Me.’” 

 

What is the most expensive or costly thing you have/own? What does it mean to you?

Out of this act of love, a woman pours it all out for Jesus. Some might think she was brave and bold. Some might think was brazen and inappropriate. But when scolded, Jesus stands up for her. Jesus stands up for her! He has her back. He received her act of love. He tells them to leave her alone. He knows she has done something significant for her and for Him. It was an act of loving grace. This woman did what she could when she could for Jesus!

While they are critical and judgmental, Jesus sees beyond the expense of the nard. This isn’t an act about waste or misplaced attention. Jesus calls it like He sees it… “She has performed a good service for Me.” She understood; she knew what this anointing means. This isn’t about the cost of the jar of ointment, this is about anointing her Lord before His burial. Yes, the poor we have always with us—no excuse not to care for them. Elsewhere Jesus is clear in His directive about that. This reminds us of our relationship to Jesus. What do we give to Him?

Spend sometime today considering:

What would it be to hear Jesus stand up for you—and tell someone pressing in or criticizing you—“Leave her/him alone?”

How are you like those who criticized and questioned? Do we look in judgment at others in the way they worship or pray, in the way they speak about Jesus or give to Jesus?

How are you showing kindness to the poor? In what practical ways?

What are the “good services” you can perform for Jesus today?

How are they unique to you?

When you read this story and hear Jesus’ words, “you will not always have Me,” what would you have thought and felt if you were in that house?

We do have access to a relationship with Jesus. How does your prayer life help you in connecting with Him? Where do you struggle?

 

prayer

Jesus will You have “my back” today. Will You stand up for me? I confess that I am critical and judge others, just like those in this story.

Forgive Me. Give Me eyes to see and a heart to respond and today, help me to do “good services” for You.

Thank You for the kind of love the woman with the alabaster jar exemplifies. Help me be more like her.

Help me break the “jars” I hold sacred, all for You. Amen.

 

- Rev. Care Crawford

 

Mar 04

March 4, 2015

read | Mark 14:4–5

“But some were there who said to one another in anger, “Why was the ointment wasted in this way? For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii, and the money given to the poor.” And they scolded her.” 

 

Have you ever done something out of love and devotion that was misunderstood as foolishness?

Mary of Bethany was having a “heart moment” with Jesus. Anointing Him with her expensive perfumed ointment was her gift of love and devotion to her Lord. Nothing was more important to her than Jesus.

But those who scolded her had another agenda. Their worldview didn’t understand where her reasoning came from. They saw only the monetary value of the ointment and that it could have been valuable for their “good works.” They were holding those values higher than God.

How could this be? Those who were scolding her had been with Jesus too. They were part of the inner circle. They were supposed to be His followers. They had heard Him speak the same words and had seen the same miracles. Why couldn’t they understand? Why couldn’t they see her heart? Didn’t they love Him too?

The fact that those who were in the presence of Jesus could miss the blessing of truly knowing and loving Him as Mary did is very sad.

But we see it every day. We see it in our own churches and inner circles. We lead people to Jesus but they don’t seem to get it. They don’t seem to make that heart connection. They don’t understand why we put Him first. Why we say life is meaningless without Him.

Mary had given her heart to Jesus and gave Him the best she had. Why hadn’t they? Have you?
prayer

Oh Lord, I pray that You will open the eyes of the blind to see You, to know You, and to love You. Thank You Lord for allowing me to intimately know and love You. Draw me closer to You each day.

In Jesus name, Amen.

 

I would like to share a song I wrote in one of those “heart moments” with Jesus. I hope it blesses you.

Draw me close oh Lord

Draw me closer still

To be of one accord

With your perfect will.

 

Draw me close oh Lord

I want to see your face.

Keep me safe oh Lord

In your saving grace.

 

You answer every prayer

You fill my every need

And with this song in my heart

Lord I give you praise.

 

Draw me close oh Lord

I want to see your face.

Keep me safe oh Lord

In your saving grace.

 

- Susan Wehba

 

Mar 03

March 3, 2015

read | Mark 14:3

“While He was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as He sat at the table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment of nard, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on His head.”

 

Jesus is our Redeemer. One who has been redeemed is never the same again. Consider the current setting. Jesus, reclining at the table of a known leper, is participating in one of His final meals here on earth. Can you imagine being Simon and your entire life is defined by the uncleanliness of your past?  And yet, this is how the Gospel writer decides to introduce us to this host of honor, as a man who was once unclean. Simon, “the leper,” the guy who once was outside the community and on the fringe of society, is now center stage having an intimate meal with God incarnate. The host of our Lord Jesus Christ retains his nickname not as a source of shame, but as a reminder for us as readers of Christ’s extravagant redemption.

Simon is not the only one who has been the benefactor of Christ’s redeeming love. We are also introduced to a woman. The writer doesn’t even give us her name, but only tells us of her apparent scandal. Who is this woman and what is she doing? Maybe her name is of least importance. Maybe we should focus on her womanhood and reflect on its significance for this context in a male-dominated society. Why is the writer so vague in his description of her? Perhaps because her name may distract from the real focus of the story, specifically her lavish act of love. This woman may be nameless to you and me, but she is without a doubt known and loved by Jesus. Knowing Jesus and being known by Him manifests itself in extravagant love.

Jesus, just days away from His death, is honored by two individuals whose lives He forever changed. Those who were once outsiders have been made insiders through Christ’s love. Jesus redeems those who are considered on the fringe, those who are negatively labeled and socially criticized. Yes! Jesus redeems you and me through this same extravagant love.
reflection:

Are there sins in your life that you carry as if they are attached to your very name?

In order to recline at the table, one must feel safe with their dinner guest. Do you feel safe sharing who you are with Jesus? Take a moment and share the labels and accusations others have placed on you as well as the sin and shame you carry. Imagine this confession to be like an act of love poured over the head of Jesus.

Lavish love begets lavish love. Pause, rest, and reflect on the extravagance of Christ’s love for you. 

 

- Mike Morgan

 

Mar 02

March 2, 2015

read | Mark 14:1–2

“It was two days before the Passover and the festival of Unleavened Bread. The chief priests and the scribes were looking for a way to arrest Jesus by stealth and kill Him; for they said, “Not during the festival, or there may be a riot among the people.’”

 

It’s hard to enter into the minds and hearts of the chief priests and the scribes (teachers of the law). It’s hard to believe they are concocting a scheme to murder Jesus but avoiding doing it during the Feast of Unleavened Bread. After all, there’s no reason to disrupt anyone’s holiday, right? Priorities are priorities.

Leaven was a symbol of sin. The feast was celebrated the day after Passover, after the day the Lord had delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt. God could not tolerate sin in the midst of the people He redeemed through the blood of an innocent lamb. These people were to be HIS people, the people by which all the world would know the character and intentions of God. They were to be righteous and holy, without blemish. They were to draw other nations close to God through their nearness to Him. Surely, God could ask them to observe this symbolic ritual just once a year.

Those who dared enter the Holy of Holies and those who dared teach the law knew these rules. And obey them they would. They could put their scheme into place, take a couple of nice days with the family, then carry out their murderous intentions and call it a day.

I confess I feel sickly disgust when I consider the hypocrisy of their empty religious rituals. I feel anger that they devised this plan and actually thought it righteous. I confess I don’t want to enter into their minds and hearts. I don’t want to understand them; I want to judge them harshly. I don’t want to hold them at arm’s length; I want to deny the possibility of knowing them. And the second I feel that, I have to admit I hear the rooster crow.

I need to search my own heart for my heresies and my empty rituals. I need to observe the places that I think my righteousness is all that and a bag of chips.

I need to know what it means to live my life before God, to make my thoughts captive to Christ, to consider the consequences of my actions, and to praise the Lord for his mercy toward me.

This Lent, we are invited to enter into Christ’s compassion, not His judgment. May we enter into every part of the Easter story, truthfully find ourselves, and rejoice in discovering that Jesus has met us even there.

 

prayer

Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old bread leavened with malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
1 Corinthians 5:8 NIV

 

- Rev. Kim Dorr-Tilley

 

Mar 01

March 1, 2015

read | Mark 12:13–17

Then they sent to him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap him in what he said. And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.

 

read | Mark 12:28–44

One of the scribes came near and heard them disputing with one another, and seeing that he answered them well, he asked him, “Which commandment is the first of all?” Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” Then the scribe said to him, “You are right, Teacher; you have truly said that ‘he is one, and besides him there is no other’; and ‘to love him with all the heart, and with all the understanding, and with all the strength,’ and ‘to love one’s neighbor as oneself,’—this is much more important than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” After that no one dared to ask him any question.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Messiah is the son of David? David himself, by the Holy Spirit, declared,

‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at my right hand,
until I put your enemies under your feet.”’

David himself calls him Lord; so how can he be his son?” And the large crowd was listening to him with delight.

As he taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Feb 28

February 28, 2015

read | Mark 12:41–44

“He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then He called His disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” 

 

In the stillness of prayer, on bended knee, one can just make out the “still small voice.” It’s recognizable by some. For others, not even a tilt of the head to listen closer. It is in those moments that I sense His presence, and I sense clarity.

Through a career of banking spanning more than 3 decades, I worked, served, prayed and was “active” in Kingdom life. Yet, there was an inner longing for something more. Faint as it may have been, I began to listen to Jesus whispering into my life that the something I longed for was not giving more, not serving in more volunteer opportunities. I was in fact, way off base. It had much more to do with “contributing all I had out of my poverty.”

My poverty, it appears, was a reliance on myself and little recognition of the blessings in my life. Abundant blessings. My life revolved around work, busyness and enjoying God’s blessings to include a 40-year journey with my soulmate, 2 beautiful daughters and 3 (soon to be 4!!) grandchildren.

Revelations come in many forms, but for me, the simple acknowledgement that something was missing and that something was waiting for me to “wake up” and be with Him happened in routine daily prayer. That sense of presence brought with it a desire to experience more. They were baby steps, but ones that lead to spiritual formation—surrender to His will replacing my self-serving will.

In a reflective and challenging season like Lent, I ask you to focus your prayers today on where your poverty lies. In that moment, ask Him to join you in giving generously from whatever that poverty is. That begins to form the “cocoon” in your life where transformation can truly begin. The length of time you spend in that state of transformation will vary person to person. I am just now peeking out of that state. I see joy, peace, grace, and affirmation. I pray the same for you, this and every day.

 

- Randy Hess

Feb 27

February 27, 2015

read | Mark 12:38–40

“As He taught, He said, ‘Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best
seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’
houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the
greater condemnation.’” 

 

While teaching in the temple, Jesus issues a warning that demands closer examination. He is speaking to those on the inside of the church, the ones who hunger and thirst for more of life in the Kingdom. The kind of people who go to church, pray, earnestly observe Lent, and read Lenten devotionals. People like us.

Yet Jesus says to be on the lookout for those on the inside who demand to be treated with honor. Then He describes their offense as those who “devour widows’ houses,” or in modern language, take advantage of the weak. An honest examination of the desire to be on the inside most likely comes from a place of one’s own neediness or spiritual poverty. Although widows are specifically mentioned here, they are representative of the vulnerable or disenfranchised in society: those Jesus tells us He gently gathers, leads and holds close to His heart. The list includes those on the outside as well: children, orphans, widows and prisoners.

Jesus is inviting those who are on the inside and who desire close proximity to Him to set aside their own agenda and generously serve the defenseless. If children, widows, orphans, and prisoners are close to our Father’s heart
and if we desire to be counted among them, we must look for ways to serve the vulnerable.

Pastor and author Bill Johnson sums up this Scriptural warning by saying, “Entitlement gives way to self-promotion and ultimately gives the spirit of poverty a home.” With the Lord’s help, we are called to seek to serve the disenfranchised and allow a spirit of generosity to take up residence in our lives.

Thoughts to consider:

  • Extending a spirit of generosity can be as simple as wearing a smile or speaking a kind word.
  • Is there a widow, single mom, or child in your neighborhood for whom you could begin to pray?
  • Can you name one thing in your life that may be inhibiting a spirit of generosity?

 

prayer

Lord, give us the courage to be authentic disciples putting away our own desires and focusing on those truly in need. Draw us more deeply into the mystery of your Kingdom. Amen.

 

- Kristine Amerson

 

Feb 26

February 26, 2015

read | Mark 12:15b–37

“Should we pay them, or should we not?” But knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you putting me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me see it.” And they brought one. Then he said to them, “Whose head is this, and whose title?” They answered, “The emperor’s.” Jesus said to them, “Give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they were utterly amazed at him.” 

“Which commandment is the first of all?” 

Jesus answered, “The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” (v. 28–31)

 

At the beginning and end of this passage, Jesus answers questions with questions. Questions like, “Whose head is on this coin?” (v. 16) But, in verse 29, Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter. Which commandment is the first of all? LOVE. The emperor’s head was on that other coin. But on this one: the Lord our God. So, LOVE Him, with heart, soul, mind and strength. And on the other side of the coin? LOVE your neighbor. Two sides of the same coin.

We live in a world caught between the emphasis of love for God or for opposing loyalty in love. 

How am I doing at the heart of the matter? How much of my heart, soul, mind and strength are given to the LOVE of God? I can get an answer to that question by turning the coin over. “Whoever does not love (another), does not know God, for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) Do I love the other? The one who is not like me?

The one of another race, color, immigration status, sexual orientation, religion, denomination, political party, musical preference, fashion sense? Is that love for the other patient and kind? Not envious, boastful, arrogant or rude? Does it insist on its own way? Is it irritable or resentful? 

Does it rejoice in the truth, not in wrong-doing? Does it bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, endure all things?
(1 Corinthians 13:4–7)

 

prayer

Lord, take me one step deeper today into Your passion for love. Fill me with Your Spirit, my only source of genuine love, especially for those who are not like me. Amen.

 

- Dan Korneychuk

 

Feb 25

February 25, 2015

read | Mark 12:13–15a

“Then they sent to Him some Pharisees and some Herodians to trap Him in what He said. And they came and said to Him, ‘Teacher, we know that You are sincere, and show deference to no one; for You do not regard people with partiality, but teach the way of God in accordance with truth. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?’”  

 

Pharisees—The “protectors” of the “precise” Word of God.

Herodians—A religious sect that nurtured a close alliance with the political influencers of the time.

These verses report that two very different groups were sent to Jesus “to trap him in what he said.” Is it possible we have our own modern-day versions of the same thing going on, even in our churches? Our “Pharisees” are those folks so driven by the letter of the law that they have no sense of the “spirit” of the law that God intended. Our “Herodians” are the folks that are so sensitive to political correctness and the culture of the day that they allow that culture to shape their convictions, rather than be shaped by the timeless words of God.

So, what exactly does this look like today? Maybe it looks like:

A woman is living in a physically abusive marriage. Her children’s view of “family” is being shaped by the dysfunction they witness every day, but this woman is told by the church, “God hates divorce (true!), so she must return to her husband and just show him love.” (Is that what Scripture says?)

A husband “falls out of love” with his wife, and he is certain, since he knows God wants him to be happy, that God told him it is OK to divorce her.

A couple becomes engaged and moves in together “so they can save money for the wedding.” After all, they are now committed to each other, right?

Someone gives a ton of money to the building fund. Shouldn’t they put his name on a plaque, or something? After all, he’s not asking that someone “blow a trumpet” and announce it to the whole church!

I try to show I’m a good Christian by doing nice things for a bunch of the people living on my block! BUT, the guy living right next to me IS A TOTAL IDIOT!! I’m not going to ACT like I like him. That would be hypocritical!

Well, now I’m wondering—are there times I go to Jesus, sometimes as a Herodian, sometimes as a Pharisee, intentionally or unintentionally, “To trap him in what he said?”

Is this why Jesus needed to be crucified, because I fail so regularly??

 

- Will Bredberg

 

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