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Category Archives: Mark

Mark 10:35-45

Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.” “What is your request?” he asked. They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.” But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?” “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!” Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.” When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Mark 10:35-45

Dear God, this was the Gospel Reading from this last Sunday that went along with the Isaiah prophecy about what the Messiah would be like. I think verse 39 is the key that links the two passages:

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering.”

Then he goes on to teach all of them, not just James and John, what he figured out over the first 30 years of his life:

So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them. But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

I read an article this morning that had a headline that caught my eye. It was “If You Answer Yes to This 1 Question, Chances Are You’re a Better Leader Than Most People.” That intrigued me so I found the question. “Did I make a difference in the life of an employee today?” That’s not a bad question. While maybe not completely, it fits fairly well within Jesus’s teaching here. In addition to giving direction and vision, am I serving?

One last thing. I want to go back to Jesus as a boy at the temple. They said he asked questions that astonished the leaders. I’ve always wondered what kinds of questions would have amazed them. Now I wonder if perhaps it was Jesus figuring out these different paradigms for his life than the cultural wisdom had determined and asking the Pharisees about it.

Father, I guess my prayer out of this is that you make me the man you need me to be. As a husband, father, son, leader at work, church member and community citizen. Teach me. Mold me. And lead and love through me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 19, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 7:31-37

Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns. A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue. Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”
Mark 7:31-37

Dear God, I feel bad that I don’t see how much you have really done for me, to the point that I cannot be shut up about you. These people couldn’t be shut up. You tried to keep them quiet, but they were too enamored with the mighty things you did. You changed their lives in physical, tangible ways. You entered their world and they couldn’t help but spread the word.

As for me, you have done great and wonderful things for me. The difference is, I suppose, that they could also all be explained away by coincidence or chance. Do I really believe that you are the one behind the wonderful things? Good things in my family. My work. My health. My career. I could tell story after story about the things you’ve done, and sometimes I do. But do I really believe it was you? I know I’ve prayed about this several times, but it always seems to remain true.

Father, help me to really see what you are doing in my life and then share what you need me to share with others. Draw others to yourself through me. Let your kingdom come to earth as it is in heaven, and do it through my life. I will have the opportunity to interact with several people today. In fact, I had a couple of divine appointments yesterday as we started our vacation. Holy Spirit, please help me to not miss every opportunity you put in front of me. For your glory, oh Lord!

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 6:1-6

Jesus left that part of the country and returned with his disciples to Nazareth, his hometown. The next Sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed. They asked, “Where did he get all this wisdom and the power to perform such miracles?” Then they scoffed, “He’s just a carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters live right here among us.” They were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. Then Jesus told them, “A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family.” And because of their unbelief, he couldn’t do any miracles among them except to place his hands on a few sick people and heal them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. Then Jesus went from village to village, teaching the people.
Mark 6:1-6

Dear God, I am sure this isn’t the future Mary envisioned all those years ago. Way back in the manger with the shepherds and Joseph. In the temple with Simeon and Anna (Luke 2). Way back with the wise men. Way back when she and Elizabeth would talk about what the figure held for their boys. Sitting up late, nursing Jesus and talking to Joseph. I am certain they couldn’t help but speculate as to what you were going to do with Jesus’s life. And now, here he is, being rejected by her friends and neighbors. I don’t know if Mary was in on it, but in Mark 3:21, his family thinks he’s crazy. In Matthew 12, she’s with his brothers and trying to speak to him. No, this wasn’t at all working out like it was supposed to.

I’ve been pretty disillusioned by how I thought my children’s lives and my relationships with them would work out. The reality has proven to be very different than my expectations. At least I know I’m in good company. If Jesus’s mother was concerned about his behavior and his brothers tried to take him away, if their family was broken and dysfunctional, then maybe we have the wrong paradigm for what a functional family will look like. If, in my opinion, the two best parents in the Bible, raising your son, ended up walking a disappointing path with their children, maybe I shouldn’t expect any better—either from my life of me as a child of my parents or from me as a parent.

Father, help me to simply take my eyes off of what I think should be and put them on you. Let your kingdom come and your will be done on earth. Do it through me. Do it in spite of how I might accidentally get in your way. Do it for your glory.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 4, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 8:11-21

[11] The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. [12] He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” [13] Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. [14] The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. [15] “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” [16] They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” [17] Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? [18] Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? [19] When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. [20] “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” [21] He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Mark 8:11-21

Dear God, I’ve heard the “yeast of the Pharisees” described loosely before, but I wonder how we might define it more precisely. How might I look at this story and see the Pharisee in me or in church leaders (both local and national) today?

So what did Jesus see when he looked at the Pharisees?

  • People who had lost their first love–you.
  • People who had become too focused on keeping their existing position of power and influence in the community.
  • People who cared more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the law.
  • People who judged as inferior things they didn’t understand.
  • People who had made a bargain with the existing political powers so they they and the Jewish religion would maintain its influence.

So what was Jesus saying to the disciples as he made this statement to them? Considering this is likely Peter relating this story to us through Mark, I would say that Peter definitely took a lesson from this story. He didn’t know how to apply it initially, but as the years passed, he got to apply it through the acceptance of Paul as an apostle, the following of the vision to eat the unclean food and minister to and accept Gentiles, and even the ushering in of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, certainly something for which they had no frame of reference.

So what kinds of things might Peter have to say to the American or worldwide church today in terms of what we should learn from Jesus’s words. Politically, there are certainly some national leaders who have made deals with existing political power in order to have top-down influence over society. In fact, they are very yeast-y when you compare them with the things I mentioned above. But they are too easy of a target. What is it in me that tends to be yeast-y?

  • I tend to make an idol out of the man-made structures around me. I put a lot of my confidence in electricity running to my home, access to the Internet, water that comes out of the faucets (both hot and cold), and the ability to communicate with others any time I desire. How do I know this? Because right now every single one of these things has either been taken from me or is being threatened, and it has gotten my attention. I have made an idol out of my American societal infrastructure.
  • I tend to want to influence others to see things my way and act accordingly. I like having an influential role in our local community. I can become prideful in that. I can desire the attention and respect I receive.
  • I tend to be close-minded when it comes to what you might be doing differently today than you were hundreds or thousands of years ago. I am skeptical of those who advocate all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as tongues and prophecy.
  • I certainly allow myself to love things in my society more than I love you. I embrace the wrong things. I pursue the wrong things. I allow lethargy and complacency to distract me from the different things you call me to.

Father, help me to see the yeast of the Pharisees that is in my life. Help me to identify it and reject it. It starts with the idols I’ve made. The idol of my society providing for me. The idol of my government solving my problems. The idol of my country’s military or economy making me feel good when I walk around instead of you. I heard yesterday about a former bishop in Haiti who is just trying to feed people, but his life is always in danger. He has no one but you. He has no government upon which he can depend. He has not power grid, running water, or Internet connection that he can say with confidence will be running tomorrow. He has no police to protect him. He doesn’t even have the church supporting him. He has only you. I have to admit that I don’t want to have to get to that point to learn that lesson, but I know that it is easy for me to look to my idols instead of you. I am so sorry.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 8:11-21

[11] The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. [12] He sighed deeply and said, “Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it.” [13] Then he left them, got back into the boat and crossed to the other side. [14] The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. [15] “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.” [16] They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.” [17] Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? [18] Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember? [19] When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. [20] “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.” [21] He said to them, “Do you still not understand?”

Mark 8:11-21

Dear God, I’ve heard the “yeast of the Pharisees” described loosely before, but I wonder how we might define it more precisely. How might I look at this story and see the Pharisee in me or in church leaders (both local and national) today?

So what did Jesus see when he looked at the Pharisees?

  • People who had lost their first love–you.
  • People who had become too focused on keeping their existing position of power and influence in the community.
  • People who cared more about the letter of the law than the spirit of the law.
  • People who judged as inferior things they didn’t understand.
  • People who had made a bargain with the existing political powers so they they and the Jewish religion would maintain its influence.

So what was Jesus saying to the disciples as he made this statement to them? Considering this is likely Peter relating this story to us through Mark, I would say that Peter definitely took a lesson from this story. He didn’t know how to apply it initially, but as the years passed, he got to apply it through the acceptance of Paul as an apostle, the following of the vision to eat the unclean food and minister to and accept Gentiles, and even the ushering in of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, certainly something for which they had no frame of reference.

So what kinds of things might Peter have to say to the American or worldwide church today in terms of what we should learn from Jesus’s words. Politically, there are certainly some national leaders who have made deals with existing political power in order to have top-down influence over society. In fact, they are very yeast-y when you compare them with the things I mentioned above. But they are too easy of a target. What is it in me that tends to be yeast-y?

  • I tend to make an idol out of the man-made structures around me. I put a lot of my confidence in electricity running to my home, access to the Internet, water that comes out of the faucets (both hot and cold), and the ability to communicate with others any time I desire. How do I know this? Because right now every single one of these things has either been taken from me or is being threatened, and it has gotten my attention. I have made an idol out of my American societal infrastructure.
  • I tend to want to influence others to see things my way and act accordingly. I like having an influential role in our local community. I can become prideful in that. I can desire the attention and respect I receive.
  • I tend to be close-minded when it comes to what you might be doing differently today than you were hundreds or thousands of years ago. I am skeptical of those who advocate all of the gifts of the Holy Spirit such as tongues and prophecy.
  • I certainly allow myself to love things in my society more than I love you. I embrace the wrong things. I pursue the wrong things. I allow lethargy and complacency to distract me from the different things you call me to.

Father, help me to see the yeast of the Pharisees that is in my life. Help me to identify it and reject it. It starts with the idols I’ve made. The idol of my society providing for me. The idol of my government solving my problems. The idol of my country’s military or economy making me feel good when I walk around instead of you. I heard yesterday about a former bishop in Haiti who is just trying to feed people, but his life is always in danger. He has no one but you. He has no government upon which he can depend. He has not power grid, running water, or Internet connection that he can say with confidence will be running tomorrow. He has no police to protect him. He doesn’t even have the church supporting him. He has only you. I have to admit that I don’t want to have to get to that point to learn that lesson, but I know that it is easy for me to look to my idols instead of you. I am so sorry.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 8:1-9

About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.” His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?” Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” “Seven loaves,” they replied. So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them. They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. There were about 4,000 men in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten.

Mark 8:1-9

Dear God, I don’t have any fancy, deep and meaningful thoughts about this passage this morning. I just have the knowledge that we had to cancel the monthly food truck distribution at First Baptist Church because of ice and there are people who will get about 70 lbs. less food this morning because we cannot be there. Some of them have bare cupboards. Some of them live in the country and have no electricity. Some of them are scared. Some of them are in legitimate physical danger. 

Father, as Jesus did for this crowd, have mercy on them. My wife and I have some resources. Show us how to use them. Make it very clear to us how to reach out. But regardless, please meet these needs. Meet the needs for food. Multiply what is in their cupboards for your glory’s sake. Help the CTEC people trying to restore power so that the people can defend their homes against this cold weather. We are not as strong as we think we are. Help us to embrace that idea, submit to that idea, and lean on you for our provision. Through this pain, bring revival, even in my own heart.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 1:29-39

After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them. That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. The whole town gathered at the door to watch. So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak. Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.” But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.” So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

Mark 1:29-39

Dear God, it seems like Jesus was always careful about lingering too long when the adoration became too much. Is that right? Let me think about that before I say that definitively. Is that what Jesus was doing as he went away to pray by himself?

I was thinking about this story in concert with the story about Jesus sending out the 72, and then, when they returned and told of their successes (your successes through them), he suggested they get away alone for a while. Of course, that was interrupted by the multitudes and he took one extra bit of compassion to teach them and eventually feed them, but he still got away by himself afterward. He still got away to pray.

I think Jesus knew that he had to walk a very fine line between being you and your essence, and keeping the humanness of himself submitted to you. In this story from Mark, it seems that Jesus got up early to go to “an isolated place to pray” because he knew he needed you. He knew he needed perspective. He simply could not do this without being completely connected to you.

I told my wife this morning that the crowd gathered at the door and that “everyone looking for [him]” the disciples referenced the next morning, reminds me of the people now who are looking for the COVID-19 vaccine. Some have received it and are thrilled. Others are looking for a place, any place, to get their shot. Frankly, my wife and I are among the lucky ones. Because of my work, I’m considered 1A and my wife’s arm happened to be in the right place at the right time when they had a few extra doses for a vial that needed to go somewhere or they would be wasted. And I remember the feeling I had when I saw her getting her shot. I was elated. I was grateful. I can only imagine how much more elated and grateful these people felt–to have run across the one man in the entire world who could heal their infirmities.

But Jesus apparently had something affirmed to him that morning in his prayer time with you. Healing was nice, fun, kind, and benevolent, but what he came to do was preach: “That is why I came.” So they left there. I am sure the people in the town were devastated. I would think the disciples’ families would have been upset, wondering why they couldn’t just keep Jesus in their home and to themselves. I’m sure some people started following him just to see if they could get access to him. Maybe a healing for themselves or a loved one. Later, the teaching will get hard and many will turn away. It’s not just fun and miracles anymore. They were going to be asked to stretch and grow. They were going to be asked to sacrifice.

Father, I am disheartened to see how similar I am to the disciples and the others. I want what is best for and benefits me. I like my luxuries and my toys. I like my home, my healthcare and benefits, and I want the same advantages for those I love as well. I don’t want to suffer or sacrifice. I do my best to avoid hurt and pain. So I am sorry. And when I do experience success, help me to remember that my first action should be to get by myself and pray to you instead of reveling in and marveling in the great things that you did through me. No, help me to always ask you, what am I doing here?

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 7, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 4:34

In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.

Mark 4:34

Dear God, why the double standard? Why didn’t you teach plainly to the public? Why leave it sometimes vague? I can certainly understand using parables and stories to make your point, but why not include the application of the story?

Maybe you were chumming the water. Maybe you were trying to intrigue people to the point where they would want to know more and have to do some work on their own to find the answers. Maybe that’s what you do with me now. Even in these prayers I do in this journal, I am doing a little bit of work to find you and your voice. I am listening. I am thinking. I’m pondering and contemplating.

Father, thank you for always doing what is best for me and my development as a man under your authority, whether I realize (or like) what you are doing or not. Help me to persevere. Help me to pursue you. Help me to submit to you and give you all of the glory for all that you do.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2021 in Mark

 

Mark 4:18-19

Dear God, wow, I really let the cares of the world zap me yesterday! I usually have a rule that I try to not spend more than 15 minutes a day looking at headlines and news stories, but for the last few days, I have allowed myself to become totally preoccupied by the latest on positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations, race relations, politics, etc. I was constantly refreshing the numbers to see how many infections my County in Texas is reporting. Finally, I was so mentally destroyed I left work at 3:00 and headed home.

What happened to me? Well, Jesus had a parable for that:

18 Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; 19 but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Mark 4:18-19

I allowed the cares of this world to soak into my heart over several days and choke out you seed in the soil of my heart.

Father, I’m sorry. I promise to spend very little time on the things of this world today and much more time on you. I want you. I need you. You are my only hope. Help me to be intentional about providing you good soil with which to work.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2020 in Mark

 

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Mark 8:31-38

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 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 concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Mark 8:31-38

Dear God, it’s Father’s Day, and I want to say it to you: Happy Father’s Day! Thank you for being my father. Thank you for being a good father and loving me. Thank you for noting giving me every desire of my heart, but for slow walking me through this life. Thank you for continuing to teach me and grow my heart and mind. Thank you for nourishing my soul. Thank you for opening my eyes more and more to the life perspective of others.

I took a long bike ride this morning and I listened to some Christian music while I also did some thinking. Two things stand out to me from the ride.

  • The first is I started thinking about my children and how never once in their growing up did I ever worry about society holding them back. They are both white, from an educated, middle class home, and I knew they would have opportunities. The only thing that could get in their ways would be tragedies such as health issues or losing a parent, or personal choices. But I never once thought about their skin color getting in their way or even being a threat to their safety. Having started reading Uncle Tom’s Cabin this week, all I can think about now are my black niece and nephew and how their lives will have challenges I never had to face with my children. It has changed how I pray for them and their parents. Yes, as sensitive as I like to think I am, there is still a lot for me to learn.
  • The second was listening to Keith Green’s song, “‘The Prodigal Son Suite.” His lyrics for the part when the son comes home and makes his speech to his dad add some words that aren’t in the actual text in Luke 15, and I heard them in a new way this morning. Here are the words he used: “Father, I’ve sinned. Heaven the shame. I’m no longer worthy to wear your name. I’ve learned that my home is right where you are. Oh, Father, take me in.” Now, in our American society, we don’t necessarily think that our place is right where our parents are. And you have certainly told us that we are to leave our father and mother and cleave to our wives. So from a human perspective I’m not advocating this, but from a spiritual perspective (and this, after all, is a parable about you and us) it is right on point. My place is right where you are, denying myself.

That brings me to this passage today. The verse was, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” But the context of that one verse is important. It follows up Jesus being blunt about the suffering to come, Peter’s rebuke, and then Jesus’s rebuke of Peter.

Father, I’ve sinned. Heaven the shame. I’m no longer worthy to wear your name. I’ve learned that my place is right where you are. Oh, Father, take me in. And thank you for saying yes to this request through your son and part of your being, Jesus.

I pray all of this with courage because of this very gift,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 21, 2020 in Mark