Tuesday, February 26, 2013


 Read Mark 1:21-39

Rather than cut and paste the whole Scripture this week, I am going to do something a bit more true to what we are doing in our groups; I will retell the story in my own words. I have included the passage as a reference, and I highly recommend you read it rather than just take my word for it. I will likely stick to this pattern for all of our "storying" passages, though not for any other entries that I feel led to make.

     Jesus was with some of his early disciples, namely Simon, Andrew, James, and John, and entered the synagogue in Capernaum on the Sabbath and began teaching. As he taught, many were amazed because He was teaching with authority in contrast to the teaching of the scribes.
     A man who was possessed of an evil spirit cried out to Him, asking what they had to do with one another and if He had come to destroy them. He publicly announced that Jesus was the Holy One of God, and Jesus commanded him to be silent and leave the man. The spirit threw the man into convulsions and came out of him. This amazed the people, who marveled at this Rabbi who taught with such authority that even the unclean spirits obeyed! At this, His fame spread.
     Afterward, He entered Andrew and Simon's house along with James and John. Simon's mother-in-law was sick with a fever, and Jesus healed her. She got up and began to serve the men. In the evening, they brought many who were sick to him, and soon the whole city was at the door. He healed several and cast out demons, but He would not permit the demons to speak of who He was.
     Jesus got up early the next morning while it was still dark and found a secluded place to pray. His disciples were looking for Him, and when they found Him they said that everyone was looking for Him. Rather than coming with them, Jesus told them He wanted to go to a different town and preach because that was why He had come. In this way, He went all around the region of Galilee preaching and casting out demons.
     From this sampling of the life of Christ, I see my Lord in two contexts: First, as a Man of great authority who even has power over the demons, which have been severally worshiped as gods through man's history. He came healing diseases and casting out these spirits. He was no quack TV faith healer; rather He was a Man who had ultimate authority over the entire creation that had been made through Him and even over the powers, world forces of darkness, and the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. This, in fact, was Emmanuel--God With Us--and neither demons, disease, tempest, nor death itself could operate outside of His command. He was the "last Adam," as Paul penned, undoing the destruction which the first Adam unleashed, and in all probability reclaiming the authority that the first Adam was created to have. Jesus was and is the Messiah, the Holy One of God, the King of kings, and the great I AM. He is not a Man to be trifled with.
     The second context is Jesus as Head of the church, making me as a Christian a member of His Body. I see Him leading by example in this passage, having compassion on others and meeting their physical needs in addition to their spiritual needs. More importantly, I see Him escaping the mass of humanity to spend some time alone with His Father in prayer. In my own walk with the Lord, I have found this element--this spending time alone with Him--to be essential, crucial even. The busier I am with serving others, the more I need to carve out time to spend in His presence, drawing from His strength long past the time my own reserves are depleted. When I have neglected this vital time, everything suffers--including everyone in my path! Apart from the Vine, I can do nothing. Nothing save make a mess of things, that is. Nothing worthwhile.
     Within the scope of this second context, I see Jesus as a pleaser of God and not of man. He does not heed the call of the crowd nor of His friends but instead remains totally faithful to the Divinely-given task He was given. This is an area where I fail miserably. I find that, despite my bold intentions, I often try to please others. I will set myself to be faithful to the calling God has given me but wind up knuckling under to the demands of my children, my family, or any number of others. I have been guilty of writing to please men (which, by the way, rarely has the effect I hope it will) or worse, writing to please myself. I have arranged my schedule according to the expectations of others, changed plans... you name it. I need to be clear--I am not talking about Divinely-appointed interruptions here. God has the right to interrupt my carefully laid plans at any time and whether I whine about it or not is my affair. The right belongs solely to Him. I am talking about rearranging or changing merely because someone or another expects it of me. This is especially true with my family, for I have a devil of a time saying, "no" to them sometimes.
     Finally, and almost as a side note, I see the proper response to being healed by the Lord in Simon's mother-in-law. She began to wait on them. My Lord has healed me of many afflictions, most of them spiritual in nature. He has healed me from the curse of sin and of death, for though this tent will someday fall, an imperishable house will be built in its place. The right response of my heart is to steadfastly serve Him with everything I am. May I do so faithfully, now and forevermore.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


Luke 5:1-11
1  On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret,
2  and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.
3  Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon's, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4  And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, "Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch."
5  And Simon answered, "Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets."
6  And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking.
7  They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink.
8  But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, "Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord."
9  For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken,
10  and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men."
11  And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

     I am going to try something new: An exercise, if you will, to keep my writing muscles flexed and to give me some degree of consistency. My church body, Grace Park, is beginning something that I find myself excited about. We are, all of us in our small groups, going through the Word of God in a particular order; reading, meditating on, and in our groups, retelling various stories from the life of Jesus. This past week the idea of writing about the passage we are studying came to me, but my week was gone before I found the time. The passage was rich, however, and I will jot down some of how my Lord spoke to me as I read it even though we are at the end of this week.

     The first thing that stood out to me was the obedience of Peter. He did not see the reason the Lord would tell him to put out and try for a catch. He had been working hard all night and had nothing to show for it. He was a little put out, perhaps, or even incredulous, nevertheless he did obey. And he was well rewarded.

     I have seen this very thing at work in my own life, and what struck me was the timing of the thing. This event occurred, not at a time when Peter had spent great amounts of time with Jesus drinking in His words and seeing His power, but at the very beginning, shortly after he became a follower of the Man. It is an excellent picture of the relationship between obedience and faith, and how obeying now in the small things prepares us to greater and more daring acts of obedience later on.

     Peter did not start off as the man who died, as it is commonly held, by crucifixion as his Lord did. Peter started as the somewhat skeptical yet obedient disciple. Had he not learned the fruit of obedience in small ways early on, he would have been ill-prepared to die for the Gospel later. I know that God prepared me early in my walk to be obedient so that I can stand firm through the more difficult tasks of obedience that face me now. I have not been asked to a literal death, but more a daily dying to self and trusting God even when it doesn't make sense to me. Some days I trust little, others much, but in all I am still being instructed in obedience regardless of the cost to myself.

     Another point that stands out is Peter's reaction to the abundance of the blessing that was given to his small act of obedience. He was appalled by his own sinfulness in the face of such power and mercy. He did not credit his own fishing ability, but fully understood that the catch came from the Lord. His response, I feel, is often lacking in our church today. It seems to me that many of us long for tremendous blessing and are grateful for the mercy shown, but in our gratitude we are neither moved to absolute obedience nor heartfelt repentance. We are not often moved to recognize the astonishing nature of this mercy, undeserved, nor do we often acknowledge the depth of our atrocity to Him. This, too, I have seen in my own heart. It is when I am floored by His supremacy that I most keenly feel the weight of His forgiveness and the enormity of the blessing.

     This passage has been so rich to me, but I will summarize only one final key element that stood out to me. The men, once they had glimpsed His might, left all behind to follow Him. There was nothing withheld, no "Just a minute, Lord, while I pack," no, "First let me bury my father," nor any desire to hang onto possessions. These things and others we see in the account of the Gospels among many who claimed to want to follow Jesus, yet often something held them back.

     Perhaps some of them made the right choice when confronted with their true allegiance; perhaps some repented and surrendered wholly to following Him. We are not told in all cases. The one case of the "rich young ruler," finds the man proud of his keeping of the commandments and yet unwilling to leave behind his wealth to follow the Lord. This is telling, because our pride will get us nowhere with God, but instead is telling of whom we actually serve. Any withholding on our parts, whether it be family, possessions, a job, even a hobby--the list is virtually endless--anything at all that causes us to say, "Lord I will leave all behind for You save this one thing," is the one thing that will prevent our experiencing the true wealth and blessing of following humbly in obedience to our Lord.

     And so, I pray for us all today: Father, show us what it is that holds us back from pure devotion to You. Open our eyes to see it, unstop our ears to hear Your voice, and convict us to let it go. Let no worldly possession, no fear, no other attachment, indeed, let nothing whatsoever stand in our way of following You. Whatever acts of obedience You call us to, whatever sacrifice, whatever humility; in all thing and in all ways we ask that You will bring us to a place of sheer, unadulterated devotion to You. Make us followers of You in truth and not merely in word, bringing us to our knees in repentance, gratitude, and commitment to You. Uproot any and all things that stand in between us and You, and continue to bring us ever closer. Once we are committed to You, then we can become "fishers of men" to bring others to the blessing of serving the King. Where we are not willing, give us willingness so that someday we may hear the words we long to hear, "Well done, good and faithful servant." We ask and submit in the mighty name of Jesus, our Lord, amen.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Following the Call

Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children of one's youth. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them! He shall not be put to shame when he speaks with his enemies in the gate.
Psalms 127:3-5

     Last Friday I had one of those days that makes a homeschool mom research military academies. It was a day where I questioned everything I am doing, my fitness as a parent and as a teacher, and a day where I was absolutely convinced that I was causing permanent damage to my children's education, psyche, and overall ability to function in the real world. It was a day where I literally took a shower just to cover the sounds of my sobbing as I begged God to release me from this calling.

     He did not.

     He did, however, remind me that my goals in homeschooling were not comfort and ease, nor were they easily measured in terms of test scores. I do hope to provide my children with a more-than-adequate education, for I firmly believe that God has made man with intelligence so that man can magnify his Creator. I know, too, that this same intelligence is subject to the curse of sin and has been spoiled and warped, and this is part and parcel the greatest challenge in my job. Not only do I need to confront my own twisted-up reason, I am to disciple three other humans through it as well. Oy!

    One difference in my school from the public schools (of which there are many) is that my hope is to raise kids who will not just swallow everything I give them and spit it back out, but children who will go before their God with all their questions, apply their minds to His word, and be certain of their faith based on their own God-given reason and their experience with Him. I hope to protect their budding minds against all influences that can dull the edge of the intellect He gave them and twist it to the purposes of the enemy. I also hope to raise thinkers, not test-takers; logicians, not drones; clear-sighted leaders, not blind followers.

     God also reminded me that the primary goal of my home school is not scholastic in nature. I am called to train these kids diligently in the service of the Lord. As a part of my calling, I am raising up warriors for the Kingdom. My greater goal is to exhibit to them a passionate, dedicated following of the Lord wherever He leads. This sometimes means that the kids see me forego something I want to do in order to serve others. Sometimes we lay down our needs even, trusting God to meet them, when someone else has a greater need. Sometimes it means loving discipline when they stray from the narrow path. Often, it means humbling myself in front of them and repenting to God and to them when it is I who have strayed.

      Overall, it is not my goal to merely educate my kids; it is my goal to train them up in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it. I am also called to invest heavily in my kids, speaking of the commandments of the Lord when we sit down and when we rise, when we walk along, and when we lie down. My success in raising them cannot be measured on this floating ball of rock. God alone is my judge, and it is to Him I must make an answer. I hope they will have an impact on this world, but not as successful business men and women. Perhaps, if that is what God calls them to. However, I would as happily see them giving up all for the sake of the Kingdom of God. Even if they are called to follow in the footsteps of people such as Nate Saint and Jim Elliot--laying down their lives for the sake of their Lord--I cannot claim them for my own. I pray that I can, despite my inadequacies, raise disciplined and surrendered servants to the Living God. I pray that I will not raise a brood of wimpy, self-serving church goers.

     I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that I have not yet been released from my call to teach my children. I have one who probably has borderline special needs and another who would without a doubt be labeled "ADHD" if they were pressed upon a weary teacher with too many students and state standards to juggle. Teaching is not an easy job for me, in part because I have never been trained to be a teacher. In fact, in my youthful day-dreamings of what I might be when I grew up, "teacher" fell somewhere near "sanitation engineer" or "kennel cleaner." It was not something I was ever remotely drawn to nor was it an area of natural talent and skill. It is just like God, then, to call me to it because it is in these areas of service--the areas in which I am weakest--that His power can be truly and clearly shown.

     All these reminders I need daily. But also, just like God, my loving Father knows when I need a little light in that dark valley, a little encouragement when I seem to be failing on all points of my calling, both discipleship and academics. I find it in the oddest places, but it is enough to remind me that obedience is never unfruitful. It is enough to give me courage to keep going, following Him until I have expended myself completely, blessedly. Whatever He asks, He is worth it.

Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. . . 
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 
Colossians 3:1-3, 12-17
     Relationships are difficult. There is no way around it. None of us will ever have a long-lasting friendship, working relationship, or marriage without some degree of conflict. We are, all of us, prone to selfishness in our dealings with one another and I am no exception. In my own experience, I have found that the greatest source of conflict in my relationships occurs when I am no longer setting my mind on "things that are above," but rather seeking my own comfort or even my own glorification. It is a sad fact that there remains a part of me that wants some degree of satisfaction, credit, or esteem from my family or colleagues. You may say, "Of course you do. That is perfectly natural," but as disciples of Christ is it not the natural man from which He died to set us free? First Corinthians 2:14 reminds us that "the natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him..." It is not the natural reaction that I desire to achieve, then, but the Christ-like response of humility and love.

     Much of the discord in my personal relationships has come when I feel as if I am being used. If someone asks a favor and I am able to do it, than most likely I will be thrilled to help. If the person has a situation--an illness, small baby, etc.-- that renders them less capable than I enjoy helping wherever I can. Thanks be to God, it is a true pleasure for me. However, I see the natural me rise up when a perfectly capable, Christian person asks favor after favor or gratefully taking without an offer of reciprocation and only seeks to return the deed when they want something more and guilt compels them. That is when I find myself indignant, feeling used and mistreated. 

     But why? Did Christ not say that we are to lay down our lives for our friends? I may not actually commit suicide at their feet, but if I die a little to myself every day, with every act of service, is that so bad a thing? No, it is merely what I am called to do. At times like these, I often find myself in a huff, thinking of the other person as a spiritual cripple who is serving themselves and not the Lord. In those moments, God deflates my swollen pride, pointing out the plank in my eye while I was searching for my comrade's speck! Even if I am right in my assessment of my friend, I have not the authority over them. I do, however, have the painful responsibility to giving account for my own actions and reactions and of repenting when I have forgotten that I am not called to serve my own wounded pride, but to serve my King.
     So in relationships, too, I must die to myself and live to God--and forgive every single time I am misused, whether in truth or only by my own perception. I cannot call myself a true disciple of Christ if all I seek in my relationships is to feel good about myself or to serve with an eye toward being served in turn. No, none of those things count as service to the Lord, for they are not done for His sake but for my own. Instead, I am called to meekness, forgiveness, and sacrifice, not only in the major crises but in the minutiae of daily life. Indeed, why would he trust me with anything consequential if I have not been faithful with the little things? And if I am used and mistreated, so be it. It is for the Lord that I have acted anyway, and not for myself. 

     I am thankful for a God who is faithful to answer my prayers. I have asked Him to show me every area I have not fully relinquished, and He is doing so. I have recently found a new level of compassion and respect for my husband that was horribly lacking early in my marriage. I am ashamed to admit it, but I am so very grateful that God has changed my heart and given it to me. I have a wonderful, amazing husband and I am very proud to be his wife. God is challenging me with my children, stretching me far beyond my own capabilities and bringing me to tasks I could never do on my own. In this area, too, I find I can do nothing apart from Him. 
    Now I am finding that He is calling me to continue serving others outside my immediate family far beyond what I am naturally willing or able to do. He alone gives me the willingness, and it is His power made perfect in my weakness that keeps me running this race. I will not let my enemy have the upper hand in my relationships, for to do so allows him a foothold in my heart. If I allow myself to become bitter or nurse anger, my heart is overthrown. If I submit my hurt to God, He is faithful to heal my heart and to give me the rest and solace I need. This rest is not based on circumstance or on anything tangible. I find my respite in Him alone. In Him, my joy is full. 

     My Lord, I confess that I often seek to serve myself rather than You. I know that I have been bitter against others or been irritated by them. I am truly sorry for these things, for You have created them as well as me and each one is loved by You, whether obedient or not. It is not for me, Your child, to determine the level of another's obedience; it is only for me to be concerned about my own faithfulness. I thank You for the hard lessons You have taught and for the painful discipline that will later yield a harvest of peace and righteousness. I am Yours to do with as You see fit. Strengthen me to remember that always. When You do show me disobedience in Your other children, cause me to reflect on it only as a warning to myself and may it never become smug self-righteousness in me. Lord, as David prayed, "See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting!" You are worthy of more than I have to give. May I never complain about the little You call me to sacrifice. 

 It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. The law of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces. Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your commandments. Those who fear you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in your word. I know, O LORD, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your promise to your servant. Psalms 119:71-76