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Category Archives: Mark

Mark 6:53-56

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
Mark 6:53-56

Dear God, for whatever reason the word “ran” caught my attention this morning. The first version of this story I read used the word “scurried.” These are words that apply to humans and not you. Whether it’s the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit, the image of any type of franticness just doesn’t fit—except for one example.

When I was in college there was a song by Benny Hester called “When God Ran.” The only time we get an image of you running is in the Prodigal Son story. The second part of Luke 15:20:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

To quote “When God Ran”: The only time I ever saw him run is when he ran to me, took me in his arms, held my head to his chest, said, “My son’s come home again!” lifted my face, wiped the tears from my eyes, with forgiveness in his voice he said, “Son, do you know I still love you?” It took me by surprise when God ran.

Father, as a dad—as a dad who has been left by a child—I can see at least a little of this in me. It’s interesting because it really hasn’t left me angry at this child. I can see myself responding exactly how Jesus describes you in this parable. I heard a podcast last week who where a mom and dad were missing an adult daughter who had left. When she finally answered the phone one day, His first words were, “Please don’t hang up. We don’t care what you’ve done. We love you.”

Father, help me to live my life in such a way that franticness is not a part of it. Give me peace. Help me to exude you. And I pray that you will one day give me the opportunity to run to my child.

I pray this all under your authority, trusting in you no matter what.

Amen

 
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Posted by on February 6, 2023 in Luke, Mark

 

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Mark 5:21-23

21 Jesus got into the boat again and went back to the other side of the lake, where a large crowd gathered around him on the shore. 22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.”

Mark 5:21-23

Dear God, what kind of begging would it take from me to hear the answer I want to hear from you? My heart hurts, and I’d do it. You know what keeps me from doing it? You. Knowing that you have heard my prayers, you have overlooked nothing, and my faith that you are working out your plan in your perfect timing. I never had to beg for my child’s physical life. I guess, in some ways I have in the past, and you were…well, answering the prayers fit into your plans.

So now I have things on my heart that need your attention. I mentioned them last night in my prayer to you. Endangered pregnancies. Failing marriages. Strained relations between parents and children. Sick children. This morning, I can add someone who lost a brother. And you get to figure this all out. You get to take your knowledge of time and space and guide us through this world, all the while using our prayers to not only inform you on how we are feeling, but also form us into knowing you and becoming more and more like Jesus.

Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, please be in all of the situations on my heart. For friends, family, coworkers, and those about whom I just know of their situation. Holy Spirit, teach me, comfort me, guide me, and live through me. Help me to represent the Father well. Help me to be part of your kingdom coming and your will being done on earth as it is in heaven.

I pray all of this submitted to your authority,

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2023 in Mark

 

Mark 9:30-34

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it. They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Mark 9:30-34

Dear God, this is all supposition, but I wonder how their conversation went from Jesus saying he was about to be killed and them being afraid to ask to them arguing about who among them was the greatest. That’s a weird transition. Jesus was in some level of anguish and hesitation and they were taking their confusion and arguing about who was the greatest? Very odd.

I told you last Thursday that I really do feel like I’m largely past getting credit for things. That hasn’t always been the case. I don’t know. The older I get the smaller I’m starting to feel. And it’s ironic because, in actuality, this is probably the most influential I’ve ever been in my life. I have a lot of credibility in my little sphere of influence, and that’s great, but I’m certainly not seeking it anymore.

Probably my favorite thing is that I have people come to me when they are trying to solve a problem. I even had a really nice man come to my office today to help him figure out how to help high school students with severe acne. I do really like it that when people wonder how to help someone else, I am one of the people in town they come to for ideas. If I’m going to have a reputation, I want it to be that of someone who knows how to help others. Of course, I tried to talk a lot about you in my conversation with him. In fact, I was talking with a salesman for a staffing company today, and I was able to bring up my faith and praying with him as well. And I met a man on Saturday who I want to reach out and help. It seems like he needs you. Might I be the vessel through which you can bring him to yourself? Can I help him to know you and totally change his life? For his sake. For your sake. Not for mine.

Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, I simply love you. That’s it. I love you. My life is not perfect. I have sorrows, but I also have incredible joy. Be in my sorrows and use them to refine me. Be in my joys and help me to celebrate you in them. And please take care of the people I’m thinking of right now. Some have pregnancy issues. Some have memory and even brain aneurism issues. Some (a surprising number) have back issues and are either recovering from back surgery or preparing for back surgery. Some are going through a divorce. In that case, be with the child involved. Some have children dealing with substance abuse. There is a lot of pain and sorrow out there. Use it all. Use it all for your glory. Don’t waste any of the pain. Use it at, my Lord and my God.

Amen

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2023 in Mark

 

Judas

Dear God, I was listening to the Catholic Bible in a Year podcast from Ascension Press by Father Mike Schmitz recently when he was reading from 1 Maccabees. As a Protestant Christian, it was my first time to hear any of the stories. While I was listening, something occurred to me. Judas Maccabeus was a Jewish military hero less than 200 years before Jesus was born. There were two of Jesus’s 12 disciples who were named Judas. I don’t remember reading the name Judas in the Old Testament other than Judas Maccabeus. Is it possible that Judas was a common name to give boys during this era in Israel? Finally–and this one is a big leap–could Judas Iscariot have been wanting to live up to his namesake and frustrated by this fact even more that Jesus didn’t seem to care about Rome’s rule over Israel?

After that, I decided to see who else in the New Testament was named Judas. Just how common was this?

  • Judas Iscariot (we all know him)
  • Judas (not Iscariot): John 14:22
  • Judas, Jesus’s brother: Mark 6:3
  • Judas, called Barsabbas: Acts 15:22 [I wonder if he changed his name because of Judas Iscariot]
  • Jude (author of Jude)–some debate if this might be a duplicate–Jesus’s brother
  • Judas of Galilee: Acts 5:37–rebel leader

Yeah, I think this naming your kid Judas might have been a thing at the time. Of course, that went away over time. Judas Iscariot has become as abhorrent in Christian circles as Benedict Arnold or Adolf Hitler have become in our modern times. I don’t know how many people in Germany currently name their son Adolf, but I would be surprised if it was many.

Father, I don’t know what is in this story for me, but it’s interesting to stop and think about how little decisions, like what to name our child, might impact their lives. I have a few things happening today. Help me as I prepare to go through this day. Let your Holy Spirit go with me. Go with me to work. Let there be healing. Go with me to Rotary. Go with me to San Antonio tonight. Go with me as we strive to bring you glory for all that you do in our lives. Help me to be part of you bringing your kingdom and will being done into the world.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2022 in Acts, John, Jude, Luke, Mark, Matthew, Uncategorized

 

Mark 9:2-10

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.

Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)

Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”

Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

Mark 9:2-10

Dear God, verse 2 is the verse of the day from Oswald Chambers’s My Utmost for His Highest. I thought the first few words of his thoughts were a good place to start with this passage:

We have all experienced times of exaltation on the mountain, when we have seen things from God’s perspective and have wanted to stay there. But God will never allow us to stay there. The true test of our spiritual life is in exhibiting the power to descend from the mountain. If we only have the power to go up, something is wrong. It is a wonderful thing to be on the mountain with God, but a person only gets there so that he may later go down and lift up the demon-possessed people in the valley.

The part of you not wanting us to stay there. I guess this is why I’ve always had an issue with monks. It feels like they’ve made an intentional choice to avoid the valley as much as possible. I might be wrong and this might be unfair. Perhaps their valley is being there to greet those who come to their monasteries to find a mountain of their own. But I suppose it seems like a…I almost said selfish, but it’s not selfish because they deny themselves a lot. I guess I’ll say it seems like a decision that does not accomplish as much in the world as you might otherwise through their lives. But again, I don’t understand it and I could be totally wrong about this. I guess I’m just acknowledging where my judgment of monks comes from and thinking through the idea that there is likely more to it than I understand because I haven’t take the time to learn more about it.

I was in our church group last week, and the women had just come back from an ACTS retreat the weekend before. One of them mentioned not wanting to lose the high of the experience of being there with you. It reminded me of a song by Charlie Peacock called “Monkeys at the Zoo.”

It’s about coming back from a mountaintop experience: “Will it be different now or the same? Will I have learned anything? Or was it just a way to spend a day or two set aside for thinking thoughts about you? If that’s all it was, I had a good time…”

I’ve been to several mountaintop experiences and I’ve had that experience of coming back motivated but then not doing the little things to discipline myself to carry you into the valley. I expect the work that others did to provide my mountaintop experience will be enough to sustain me. But that’s like going to a tennis camp, working with a coach to improve my game, and then returning home and not doing anything to sustain my level of tennis. But then when someone asks me to play on the weekend I’m terrible. Why? Because I didn’t put in the work on my own.

It was April 2000 when I returned from a mountaintop experience at Laity Lodge. You laid it on my heart to start taking scripture and journaling to you about it. Praying to you about it. Ironically, I started by taking the My Utmost for His Highest verse of the day and praying over it without looking at his commentary. That was over 22 years go. Now I’ve done thousands and thousands of these prayers through journaling. In the aggregate, I can certainly see that it has changed my life.

Father, help me to keep disciplining myself to spend this quality time with you. I was talking to someone yesterday about how much time my wife and I spend talking to each other. We spend over an hour every day catching up and talking. We also pray together nearly every day. Those are great things and they make all of the difference in the world in our relationship. I need to do the same with you. Not that I need to spend an hour praying every day (although it probably wouldn’t hurt), but I certainly need to spend an hour every day exposing myself to you in some way. Maybe not all at once, but cumulatively. Praying. Listening to Christian music. Listening to Christian podcasts or the Bible in a Year podcast. I need to make sure my mind is on the things of you every day. That’s the best way for me to hear your Holy Spirit talk to me. That’s the best way to feel you presence and follow the nudging of my heart. That’s the way to expose the soil of my heart to the seeds you might want to be planting that day. Really, God. Thank you for everything. I’m here to meet with you. Won’t you meet with me?

In Jesus’s name and through the grace you extend to me through his life, death and resurrection and I pray,

Amen

 

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The Day Before Passion Week

Dear God, I decided to go through all four gospels this morning and see what they record Jesus as being up to the day before the Triumphant Entry and Passion Week. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday so it seemed fitting to try to spend some time with Jesus today–the day before. He’s been through a lot at this point, and he knows where he’s going. He has been through the Transfiguration and visited with Moses and Elijah, perhaps even receiving clarity and encouragement from them. He has rebuked James and John for wanting to kill a bunch of Samaritans for not letting him stay in his town. And now it’s all come down to this.

Matthew and Mark actually record Jesus’s activities fairly similarly. They talk about him healing some blind men. because “Jesus had compassion on them (Matthew 20:34).” Mark 10 is more specific and identifies him healing Bartimaeus. I suppose they wanted us to know that Jesus was still having compassion on people and healing them as he prepared for his Passion.

Luke actually gives us a the story of Zacchaeus as Jesus enters Jerusalem but leaves out the blind men (Luke 19). Luke wants us to know that Jesus was still in the mode of extending grace and forgiveness as he entered his last week.

Finally, and true to form, John gives us a whole different perspective. He tells us about a specific scene in Bethany when Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) showed extravagant love to Jesus by taking our some expensive perfume and pouring it on his feet. One last act of genuine worship before the week began. I wonder if John didn’t appreciate Mary’s gift more in retrospect as he told the story of the fair-weather fans who lined the streets with their palm branches. What Mary gave cost her a lot. What they gave cost them very little.

Father, do I give anything that costs me? How selfish am I? Am I willing to stop and extend your power in the midst of my own strife like Jesus did in Matthew and Mark? Am I willing love someone else through their immorality and show them your grace? Am I willing to give all that I have for all that you are? In all of these areas, am I willing to give you my utmost for your highest? As always, the answer is that I am not nearly the man I aspire to be in these areas. If you’re grading on a curve, then I compare pretty well with people around me, but that’s a steep curve. The truth is, my righteousness is rubbish. Please speak to me and give me ears to hear your voice, your direction, and your conviction.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2022 in John, Luke, Mark, Matthew

 

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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