name='verify-v1'/> Big God - little d: February 2010

Sunday, February 28, 2010

His Hand, His Light, His Love

"It was not by their sword that they won the land,
nor did their arm bring them victory;
it was your right hand, your arm,
and the light of your face, for you loved them."
Psalm 44:3

A church service in the gymnasium. I stood in the back, in a darkened corner that was just beyond the reach of the lights. The pastor broke from the regular routine and initiated a time of prayer for those who were hurting; who needed help.

He invited them, the bruised, the bleeding, the angry, the empty, to raise a hand if they were in need of prayer. And he asked those who were seated nearby to reach out and pray for them.

From my corner, I watched as hands slowly raised caused a ripple of movement as others leaned in to support and encourage. Each need met as soon as it was revealed.

Something in me stilled as I sensed movement from the back row located ten feet in front of me. A young woman, with an infant in her arms, sat by herself. The other seats in her row were empty. Timidly, reluctantly she lifted her hand an inch or two above her shoulder.

No one witnessed her need. No one leaned in to offer their prayer and support. As she was processing the fact that she was alone, the Spirit was propelling me towards her. God's provision when she saw none.

Quietly walking up behind her, I placed my hands on her shoulders. Her hand, moments before raised in silent request, grabbed mine in gratitude. I began to pray.

I do not know what I prayed for. I do recall weeping as great waves of sorrow poured over me. On some level, I knew that she was crying, as well. I remember being aware of the deep love the Savior had for this woman and her child. The prayer continued even after the pastor moved on with the service. Eventually, the prayer came to a conclusion and I returned to my spot in the corner.

I can say, with certainty, that this was a unique moment for both of us. She did not turn to look at me. And I never felt the need to see her face. Instead, our focus was on the healing, redemptive power of Jesus Christ. Nothing else mattered but Him.

"You are my King and my God,
who decrees victories for Jacob.
Through you we push back our enemies;
through your name we trample our foes.
I do not trust in my bow,
my sword does not bring me victory;
but you give us victory over our enemies,
you put our adversaries to shame.
In God we make our boast all day long,
and we will praise your name forever."
Psalm 44:4-8

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Head Knowledge vs Heart Knowledge

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" Mark 9:23

From Mark 9:14-29 The Healing of a Boy From an Evil Spirit
I am seeing this story with new eyes, today.

Thank you, Jesus, for meeting me in between the lines of God's most holy Word.

Jesus, Peter, James and John catch up to the other disciples and find them surrounded by a crowd and teachers of the law. They are in the middle of an argument.

Jesus asks, "What are you arguing with them about?" v. 16

I assume he has directed the question to his disciples and, yet, a stranger from the crowd takes it upon himself to answer.

"Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not." v. 17-18

There is something so disturbing about this father's lack of emotion as he matter-of-factly lists his son's symptoms as if reading a medical chart. Where is his urgency? Why does he waste time outlining the facts when he could take advantage of his one-on-one encounter with the Healer and appeal to him for help for his child?

Instead of responding to the man, Jesus responds to the crowd,

"O unbelieving generation, how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me." v. 19

The weight of his words hangs heavy in the air. How long do I have to put up with your lack of faith?

The boy is brought to Jesus and immediately falls to the ground in convulsions.

Jesus asks the father a question,

"How long has he been like this?" v 21

Why doesn't he just heal the boy? Why does he need to ask the father this question?

Because the father needs healing, too.

Earlier in the gospel of Mark we are told that Jesus' work is limited when there is a lack of faith (Mark 6:5-6).

With every question the father answers, he sheds further light on the unbelieving condition of his heart. There is no connection between his head knowledge and his heart knowledge.

If he were responding from his heart how could he have tolerated questions and answers while his son lay writhing on the ground? Why would he be willing to wait even a second longer for his son's healing? Why doesn't he do what so many before him have done; throw himself at Jesus' feet and beg (Mark 1:40; 2:1-2; 5:21-34; 5:35-43; 6:56; 7:24-30; 8:22-26)?

It turns out he is every bit as sick as his son.

"But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us." v.22

The father's reply, in the context of his earlier responses, shows that he doesn't really expect Jesus to help him. He doesn't believe Jesus can help him.

Jesus replies to the man's lack of faith with strong words,

"If you can? Everything is possible for him who believes." v. 23

In that moment, the man's life changes forever. Was it Jesus' words? Was it the tone of voice? Or was it the look in Jesus' eyes that made the father realize just who he was speaking to?

For the first time, he responds from the heart,

"I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!" v. 24

He is willing and ready to believe. His heart is split wide open and the long buried hopes and dreams of a father, for a son, rise to the surface.

Without wasting another moment, Jesus rebukes the evil spirit and the boy is free.

Later, the disciples ask Jesus why they couldn't drive out the evil spirit (v. 28). He responds, "This kind can come out only by prayer and fasting." v. 29

I've always thought Jesus was referring to the evil spirit when he said, "This kind." Now, I'm not so sure that he wasn't referring to the bigger healing that had to take place in this family. The father had to be healed in order to bring his son to Jesus.

Jesus moves in response to our heart cry. He heals when our posture reflects a humble, hungry, hopeful heart.

This kind of healing...this bigger picture healing, is hard work.

We, the disciples of Christ, are called to believe on behalf of those who have yet to make a connection between their head knowledge and their heart knowledge. We must hold them up to the throne of God until they can encounter Jesus for themselves.

Jesus, help me to be willing to do the hard work on behalf of those who do not know you yet. I love you. In your name, Amen.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Things of Men

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. "Get behind me, Satan!" he said. "You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." Mark 8:33

"Get behind me, Satan!"

I've often wondered how Peter felt when Jesus spoke those words.

Was he offended? Was he angry? Did his fists curl in an involuntary moment of self-preservation?

Was he confused? Was he hurt? Did he react in disbelief that his friend, his teacher, would address him in such a way?

Was he ashamed? Was he humbled? Did he get it? Did the truth of Jesus' words wash over him in a wave of understanding?

We don't know; Scripture doesn't say.

"You do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."

The Lord has been teaching me about the meaning of that particular phrase for years now. Perhaps because I have been in an extended season of watching and listening versus doing and leading... I have had the eyes to see and ears to hear things which would otherwise have gone unnoticed. And what I have observed within myself and within others grieves me to no end.

I do not type these next words easily. I have sat at my keyboard praying for discernment...and finally, the courage to say what comes next.

I am convinced that there is much damage done within the church by the Body of Christ because we plan, we advise, we speak, and we act from a mindset that does not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.

The worst part of this is that we do these things under the false belief that we are acting "in the name of Jesus."

The need to be in control.
The need for power.
The need for a happy ending.
The need to hold on.
The need to protect.
The need to be loved.
The need to help.
The need to fix.
The need to do something, anything, but wait.
The need to enforce our own agenda.

He is asking me to pause today and consider things His way...

"The LORD established the kingdom under his control; and all Judah brought gifts to Jehoshaphat, so that he had great wealth and honor." 2 Chronicles 17:5

"But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us." 2 Corinthians 4:7

"I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances." Philippians 4:11

"Jesus said, 'Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, 'I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.''' John 20:17

"I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name - the name you gave me - so that they may be one as we are one." John 17:11

"No, the Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God." John 16:27

"My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalm 121:2

"In that day I will restore David's fallen tent. I will repair its broken places, restore its ruins, and build it as it used to be," Amos 9:11

"But they soon forgot what he had done and did not wait for his counsel." Psalm 106:13

"As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:9

So what have I learned? What am I still learning?

To listen well.
To ask questions when I don't understand or agree.
To speak only when necessary.
To seek God's direction.
To concede my needs and my desires and make room for His.

If I can do these things...then I will not hinder the journey of the church, of my brothers and sisters-in-Christ, or myself as we make our way to the cross.

Lord Jesus, let it be so.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Fed By The Savior

"I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance." Mark 8:2

A crowd of 4,000 has gathered around Jesus. For three days they sit and listen as he teaches parable after parable. Now the time has come for Jesus and the disciples to travel to their next divine appointment and for the people to go home. Jesus insists on feeding the people before they leave.

From seven loaves and a few small fish, Jesus prepares a meal that feeds them all.

"The people ate and were satisfied." v. 8

Then, and only then does Jesus send the crowd away.

It isn't in Jesus' nature to let us leave with an empty belly. He feeds us before sending us on our way.

I know this to be true.

Last month, while attending a youth retreat with my old church, I experienced this truth. I was able to spend a long weekend with adults and teenagers who are near and dear to my heart. During that time there was a lot of giving and receiving hugs, smiles, and words of affirmation. I was able, once again, to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with brothers and sisters-in-Christ in service to our Lord. I prayed and praised God with a community of believers that I have missed during this past year since our move.

I was fed by the Savior, himself. I ate until I was full. And I left satisfied.

He always feeds me before sending me on my way.

May I be ever aware of the nourishment that is mine in Christ Jesus.
And may praise always be on my lips.

"Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love
and his wonderful deeds for men,
for he satisfies the thirsty
and fills the hungry with good things."
Psalm 107:8-9

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Free to Choose

"Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover." (The LORD talking to Moses) Leviticus 16:2

I am working my way through the book of Leviticus. It is not easy to read. In great detail, God spells out the laws and regulations to be followed by the priests in the matter of offerings and worship. To stray from the rules is to offend the Almighty. To offend the Almighty is to die. Two of Aaron's sons have already lost their lives because, "they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD." (Leviticus 10:1)

The LORD tells Moses to warn his brother that he is not free to come and go before the LORD as he pleases. To be in God's presence, without permission, without following the right protocol, is certain death.

I do not have that same restriction.

God has offered up the perfect and final sacrifice for me. Jesus Christ has made atonement for all of my sins. And because Christ shed his blood for me, I am free to approach the Throne of Grace whenever I choose.

He does not force me to come.
He does not restrict my coming.

The invitation to draw near to Him is always open.

So what is it in me that often keeps me at a distance?

Why do I choose to live anywhere, everywhere, but near the cross where His grace and mercy flow freely?

How is it possible that I readily accept the assurance of my salvation...the assurance of the open invitation to enter His presence...and yet, too rarely follow through by drawing near to Him?

And what makes me think that living, even for one day, apart from His Intimate Presence is living, at all?

"let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water." Hebrews 10:22

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heart Sediment

About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. Mark 6:48b-52

The disciples have had a long day. The original plan to go somewhere quiet and rest with Jesus is turned upside down when the crowd of 5,000 finds them. Instead of resting, Jesus spends the day teaching those who have gathered.

When it is time to eat, the disciples watch as Jesus feeds the crowds from a meager portion of five loaves and two fish. They are there when 12 baskets of leftovers are gathered. They have front row seats to the power and authority of Jesus Christ on display.

Now it is late at night. The disciples have left Jesus behind and are heading across the lake. As they struggle to row the boat into the wind, Jesus joins them in a most unconventional way; he walks out onto the water.

When the disciples see him they are terrified (v. 50). The King James Version says they were "troubled."

I head to my concordance for some more information:
troubled - from the greek tarasso - to stir or agitate (roil water)

Next I head to the dictionary:
roil - to make turbid by stirring up the sediment or dregs of; to stir up (see disturb, disorder)

turbid - thick or opaque with or as if with roiled sediment; deficient in clarity or purity; characterized by or producing obscurity (as of mind or emotions)

So the disciples encounter with Jesus does not frighten them so much as it disturbs them. What might have seemed clear to them earlier, about Jesus, no longer applies. It was as Jesus took a stick and reaching down deep into the clear water of their hearts, stirred up all the sediment and dregs that had settled on the bottom. What once seemed clear is now muddy.

The disciples are back to square one. Who is this man?

Jesus climbs into the boat and the wind dies down. According to verse 51, the disciples are "completely amazed" (NIV) or "sore amazed" (KJV).

Back to my concordance again:
sore - from the greek lian - much, exceedingly, great
amazed - from the greek existemi - to put (stand) out of wits

The disciples were exceedingly out of their wits. They are temporarily insane over this encounter with Jesus the Christ. Why?

"Because their hearts were hardened." v. 52

They did not get what they were supposed to get from the miracle of the loaves because their hearts were hard. They may have thought they understood. They may have acted like they understood. But when Jesus comes to them on the water their reactions reveal the true condition of their hearts.

Sooner or later it happens to all of us. We think we understand. We act like it makes sense. But then Jesus comes walking up to us, meeting us in the most unexpected way and our reaction betrays us. Our hearts are stirred up. Dregs are revealed. We are disturbed and do not understand.

And we realize; we only thought we knew him.

I think the best part of this story is what happens after their hardened hearts are revealed. Jesus gets in the boat with them. He journeys with them across the lake to the other side. He does not abandon them for their lack of understanding. He invites them to stay by his side. He continues teaching them. He continues explaining when they don't understand. He loves them through it all.

I am thinking of those moments when the sediment of my heart has been stirred up by the Savior. I am thinking of the embarrassment that comes when the dregs are exposed and I realize I only thought I knew him.

I am grateful that after He sheds His light on those places in me, He does not turn away.

Thank you, Jesus, for the grace and mercy which covers my ugly, muddy heart. Thank you for leading me to understanding. And thank you, for Your love which led You to the cross on my behalf. I love you.

"Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me."
Psalm 51:10

Sunday, February 21, 2010


"Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, 'Don't be afraid; just believe.'" Mark 5:36

I spent some time in Mark 5:21-43, this morning. Two healings take place; a 12 year old girl is brought back from the dead and a woman with a bleeding problem is healed after 12 years of suffering.

Jesus is on his way to the home of the dying little girl. The girl's father, Jairus, a synagogue ruler is with him. The disciples are there. The crowd, that was with Jesus when Jairus came to ask for help, follows along. They want to be wherever Jesus is going. They follow in expectation.

The woman who suffers from a chronic bleeding condition is in the crowd. She works her way through the masses in order to touch Jesus' cloak. She believes,

"If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed." Mark 5:38

She does touch his cloak. She is healed. Jesus stops the entourage and insists on knowing who was healed. She comes forward, falls to her feet, and "told him the whole truth." (Mark 5:33) A private healing moment turns into an invitation to share her story with the masses.

"Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." v. 34

Jairus witnesses the entire encounter. Meanwhile, men from his home show up with bad news.

"Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher any more?" v. 35

Why bother?

They speak with finality. Without hope.

Ignoring their report, Jesus speaks words of his own to Jairus,

"Don't be afraid; just believe." v. 36

At this point, Jesus gets rid of the crowd and only brings three of his disciples with him. At the house, a different crowd greets them...crying, wailing, mourning. A people with no hope. They laugh at Jesus when he tells them there is no need for tears...the child is merely asleep.

They laugh at Jesus.

He clears the house of everyone but the girl's parents, himself, and Peter, James and John. To their complete astonishment (v. 42), he heals the child. Afterwards he gives them strict orders not to tell anyone about it. (v. 43).

I have been puzzling over the contrast in these two healings.

Why is it that some encounters with Jesus strengthen our faith and invite us to share our story in the context of community?

Why is it that other encounters with Jesus are meant to strengthen our faith but only in the privacy of our relationship with Him?

And I've been thinking about the two distinctly different communities where the healings took place:

1. A group of people who expected miracles from Jesus. They were open and waiting for Jesus to act. They were hungry with hope. They believed the impossible was possible with Jesus in their midst.

2. A group of people who expected nothing from Jesus. They were close-minded and without hope. Instead of clinging to the truth Jesus spoke; they laughed in his face.

Why are some groups more expectant of Jesus showing up and moving in a powerful way than others?
And how do I, as a member of the community, contribute to that expectation that Jesus will move?

I want to live my life as if I expect Him to move. I want to live my life as if I believe He is moving right now.

Help me, Jesus.

Saturday, February 20, 2010


"Moses said to Aaron, 'Come to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and the people; sacrifice the offering that is for the people and make atonement for them, as the LORD has commanded.'" v. 7

"So Aaron came to the altar and slaughtered the calf..." v. 8 Leviticus 9

After receiving instructions from the LORD, Moses has given Aaron a laundry list of dos and don'ts for making sacrifices that are acceptable to Him. I find myself thinking about the first time Aaron comes before the LORD to present the offerings.

Was Aaron scared?
Did he worry about doing everything just right?
Did he wonder if his offering would please the LORD?
Did his hands tremble?
Did his stomach jump with butterflies?
Did he feel the weight/guilt of his sin and the sin of the people as he lay his hand on the head of that Innocent animal, cut its throat and watched its life blood drain away?
Did he wonder if everything he did would be enough to please the LORD?

And how does this relate to me?
Aren't there times when I come before the Lord feeling the same way?

Worried about doing everything just right...
Wondering if my offering (prayer, service, self) will please the Lord...
Sometimes my hands tremble...
And my stomach is filled with butterflies...
I have felt the weight of my sin as I have approached the presence of the Lord.

But, too, rarely do I go the next step.

Placing my hand on the Savior's head...
Wrapping my hand around the nail and picking up the hammer...
Staking the hands and feet of my Lord onto the cross...
And then waiting with him as his life blood is poured out for me.

Too often I live my life as if the sacrifice of Jesus isn't enough to pay the debt for me.

It is enough.

I want my life to bear witness to this truth ALL the time...

Help me, Jesus.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Ears to Hear

"Consider carefully what you hear," he continued. "With the measure you use, it will be measured to you - and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken from him." Mark 4:24-25

Jesus sits in a boat and teaches parables to the crowd on the shore. He speaks about the farmer and the seed. He ends his story with the words,

"He who has ears to hear, let him hear." Mark 4:9

They are in the presence of The Word Made Flesh...and it isn't enough.
They listen as he shares life giving words...and it isn't enough.

Because they don't have "ears to hear."

Later, Jesus is having a private discussion with his disciples. They have questions about the parables that Jesus shared earlier. What does he tell them?

You are different...
"The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you." v 11a

You have a long way to go...
"Don't you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable?" v. 13

He goes on to explain the parable. Again, he declares,
"If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." v. 23

He follows that up with a clear warning to listen and carefully consider well what is heard (see Mark 4:24-25 above).

Forgive me for all the times I have listened but not heard.
Forgive me for all the times I have been in Your presence and still been unsatisfied.
Forgive me for all the times the poor condition of the soil of my heart has made it impossible for the seed of Your Word to take root and grow.
I do not want to miss out on the wonder of being in Your presence any longer.
I want to have ears that hear.
Would you give me those ears, Lord, and show me how to carefully consider all that You are speaking to me, this day?
In Jesus' name,

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Ignoring Directions

"Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 'See that you don't tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.'" Mark 1:43-44

A man with leprosy approaches Jesus and falls to his knees.

"If you are willing, you can make me clean." Mark 1:40

Jesus is willing. He heals the leper and immediately sends him away with specific directions:

Don't talk to anyone.
Go directly to the priest and present yourself.
Offer a sacrifice in keeping with the law of Moses...
That your healing would serve as a witness for those who do not believe.

A small thing to ask considering the fact that the man has just received his life back.

"Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news." Mark 1:45a

Everytime I read this story, I identify with the leper. I am right there with him; dancing, celebrating and spreading the good news that Jesus heals. Who can blame him for forgetting, in his exuberance, what Jesus told him to do?

But because the leper ignores Jesus' directions there are consequences. And those consequences have a direct effect on the Healer, himself.

"As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere." Mark 1:45b

He could no longer enter a town without being mobbed. He could no longer take refuge in someone's home for a quiet meal or sleep in a bed without being disturbed. Instead, God With Us called the "lonely places" home...and even there the people found him.

I am the leper...condemned, unclean, begging, eyes on the Savior...
willing to do whatever Jesus tell me to in order to be healed.

And I am the leper...saved, clean, exuberant, eyes on myself...
forgetting Him in the joy of the healing moment.

Forgive me this I pray.
In Jesus' name, Amen.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Matthew 7:7

"Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you." -- Mathew 7:7

According to the calendar, today marks the beginning of Lent. For the next 40 days my focus should be on my journey with Christ to the cross. I take stock of my spiritual well-being:

I feel unprepared.
I feel uninspired.
I feel disconnected from the very One I am supposed to journey with.

My eyes fall upon the plaque that is on the wall directly across from my seat at the kitchen table.

A few months ago, when I chose a spot to hang this 12x12 Scripture reference from the book of Matthew, I didn't give it much thought. It just seemed a good fit for the little alcove just beyond the breakfast area. Now I know why.

I sense Him waiting on me to follow through with the invitation of Matthew 7:7. I take a deep breath and pray,

Jesus, take me by the hand and lead me on the journey to the cross.

Show me what I need to learn. Uncover the things in me that must go. Draw me closer to your heart. Teach me how to love like you. Prepare me for whatever comes next.

Open the door, Lord. It's me and I want to be with you.