21 Day Challenge – Day 14

Jesus & the Blind Man  |  Matt Dawson

Scripture: John 9:1-7

“As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man who had been blind from birth.  “Rabbi,” his disciples asked him, “why was this man born blind? Was it because of his own sins or his parents’ sins?”  “It was not because of his sins or his parents’ sins,” Jesus answered.  “This happened so the power of God could be seen in him.  We must quickly carry out the tasks assigned us by the one who sent us.  The night is coming, and then no one can work.  But while I am here in the world, I am the light of the world.” 

Then he spit on the ground, made mud with the saliva, and spread the mud over the blind man’s eyes.   He told him, “Go wash yourself in the pool of Siloam” (Siloam means “sent”). So the man went and washed and came back seeing!”

Observation

I know most people see this as another miracle story, but I see it differently.  I think the most important part of this story is the question that the disciples ask.   The question they ask tells us so much about their perspective on life, and what expectations that have for Jesus.  They didn’t ask Jesus to heal him. They just asked why did this “bad thing” happen… and whose fault was it?

I’ve spent a good part of my Christians life asking very similar question. WHY?  Why did this bad thing happen – WHO is to blame?  I ask that about myself, and others in my life.  I don’t immediately ask for healing or strength or even a miracle.  I guess I think if I “understand” something that somehow it will be better for ME.

Jesus says the words we don’t like to hear when trying to understand something… He says it’s no ones fault but God’s.  It’s on opportunity for God to show up in the brokenness of this world and display His love through the people that He has sent.  Jesus says – right now that person is me.  Soon it will be others.

And then He heals him. He tells a blind man to “make his way” to the pool called SENT.  He does, and comes back seeing!

Application

I’m not sure how this applies to me because I still find myself asking those same questions.  I still struggle to see things the way God does and so I guess part of this devotion for me is to keep asking God to reveal more of Himself and His love to me.

What if every time we saw someone hurting, or broken, or we witnessed struggle in this world – we didn’t rush to figure out WHY it is happening – but we rushed in to show the LOVE OF GOD to those in the midst.  That the reason may not be known, but maybe it’s just one more opportunity for God to show up through HIS PEOPLE who are SENT to love those that are struggling today.

Prayer

God, may you open up my eyes and allow me to see those hurting around me everyday.  Help me stop trying to “figure it out” by asking why or trying to find out who to cast the blame on.  Show me the opportunities to share your love with a hopeless world. 

SEND me.

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 13

Feeding the Five Thousand  |  Kayla Beverage

Scripture: Matthew 14:13-21

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.  But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.  When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick.  Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 

But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.”  They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.”  And he said, “Bring them here to me.”  Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.  Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.  And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.  And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

Observation

Thousands of people came from miles away to see this man called Jesus. I’m sure many of them were His followers and even more where just curious to see the man that they had heard so much about. When he sees all these people gathered and notices that it is getting late, he could have just sent them away. It really wasn’t his responsibility to feed all of those people. Instead, he shows them compassion. He uses the opportunity to serve them and to demonstrate the character of God. All the disciples and the people had to do was trust that He would provide for them.

I’m sure that many of the men and women were worried. With families to feed and children to care for, how could they not be? Some were probably devising a plan to find food and figure out what they were going to do. That’s human nature. We see problems and then we do everything we can to fix. 5,000 plus people and all they had was 5 loaves and 2 fish. That is a major problem. They simply needed more food then what they had available to them, but Jesus blessed what had been given and God provided.

Application

When we read about Jesus and this miracle he performs, how can we not be in awe of God greatness. He fed 5,000 men plus all of those men’s women and children off 5 loaves and 2 fishes. They even had leftovers!

If they could trust Jesus with such an insurmountable task, why can’t we trust Him with our own lives and our own problems? Through this story Jesus gives us a clear picture that he is trustworthy, that he does what he says he is going to do. Give your worries and trust to God and He will provide for you. Things may not do things according to your plan or in your timeframe, but He is trustworthy to those who are faithful.

Prayer

God,

Please help me to trust you with my worries and problems. Help me to know that you will provide for me. You are worthy of my faith. You are worthy of my love. Thank you so much for everything that you have already given me. 

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 12

The Ten Lepers    Don Gentry

Scripture: Luke 17:11-19 (HCSB)

While traveling to Jerusalem, He passed between Samaria and Galilee.  As He entered a village, ten men with serious skin diseases met Him. They stood at a distance and raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!”  When He saw them, He told them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.”  And while they were going, they were healed.  But one of them, seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God.  He fell facedown at His feet, thanking Him. And he was a Samaritan.  Then Jesus said, “Were not ten cleansed? Where are the nine?  Didn’t any return to give glory to God except this foreigner?”  And He told him, “Get up and go on your way. Your faith has made you well.”

Observation

I love how Jesus is just walking along the road going about his daily business and he comes upon a group of diseased men and changes their lives.  Here we have a group of ten men most likely plagued with leprosy but it could have been some other type of disease.   Back in the day if you had a skin disease you had to walk around calling out “unclean, unclean” wherever you went.  This was to let everyone know you had a contagious disease.  It was a very lonely life so they would often find others with the same disease and walk together.  Misery does love company.

This group of men saw Jesus and recognized their opportunity for healing.  Jesus looked at them and knew they needed His healing touch.  He told them to go the local priest because he was the only one that could sign off on the fact that they were truly clean.  The priest was like a doctor and could officially declare they no longer had to yell out unclean.  All ten men were cleansed on their way to the priest.  It took a step of faith on their part to trust that by the time they got to the priest their disease would be healed.

Of the ten a Samaritan was the only one that returned to show praise and gratitude.  It is interesting that the outcast of outcasts was the only one to say thank you.  Back in the day, Jews and Samaritans didn’t mix.  Samaritans were hated.  A good Jew would avoid all contact with a Samaritan, and the Samaritans didn’t really like the Jews either.  Yet this Samaritan returned and was rewarded with an even greater healing.

Jesus not only took the time to associate with unclean people he took the time to change the life of the most despised people.

Application

Jesus is so amazing.  Healing those who need healed, showing compassion on the outcasts, taking time out of his day for people who were despised.  He brings hope to all who ask for it even if they show no thanks.  Wow, what a savior!

This is such a convicting passage for me.  These are some of the questions that I ask myself after reading this passage.  Do I take time for those I despise?  Did I do anything for the homeless man I passed the other day?  Did I pray for the Muslim terrorist today?  Have I trusted Jesus to help heal me from…?  Have I taken a step of faith believing God at His word?  Have I thanked God for what He has done in my life? Do I show compassion to the marginalized and vulnerable? Do I still care for those who are ungrateful?

I challenge you to take a few moments and answer each one of these questions and create your own questions from this passage.  God so worthy of our praise and His model for life is so worth following!

Prayer

Thank you Jesus for taking time to show me love and forgiveness.  Thank you for being an example of how I should treat and care for others and the “outcasts” of society.  Forgive me for all the times I have failed to treat others the way that you would want me to treat them, and forgive me for not taking the time to thank you for all that you have done in my life.  You have given me so much more than I deserve, help me to be to be aware of my surroundings so that I can be that type of a blessing to others.

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 11

The Centurion   |   Zack DeBerry

Scripture: Luke 7:1-“10 (NLT)

When Jesus had finished saying all this to the people, he returned to Capernaum.  At that time the highly valued slave of a Roman officer was sick and near death.  When the officer heard about Jesus, he sent some respected Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his slave.  So they earnestly begged Jesus to help the man. “If anyone deserves your help, he does,€ they said, for he loves the Jewish people and even built a synagogue for us.€  So Jesus went with them. But just before they arrived at the house, the officer sent some friends to say, Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor.  I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.  I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers.  I only need to say, Go, and they go, or Come, and they come.  And if I say to my slaves, €˜Do this, they do it.  When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, “I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!  And when the officer’€™s friends returned to his house, they found the slave completely healed.

Observation

A Roman centurion hears of Jesus and sends for Him to heal his slave who is very sick. Jesus is on His way when the centurion sends word to Him not to come all the way to his house because he isn’t worthy to receive the Lord; instead he asks Jesus to just say the word and his slave will be healed. He recognizes Jesus has such great authority He doesn’t have to be present to heal the slave. Jesus tells the crowds this faith has not been seen in Israel, and the slave is healed.

Application

How great is my faith in Jesus? When He seems distant, do I still believe He is watching over me and working in the background? Or do I begin to fear He’s forgotten me? My faith should be so great that any doubt can be easily put out of my mind.

Prayer

Lord, I believe that You can do anything. There are moments when I wonder if You hear my prayers and if You’ll ever answer them, but I know that You are at work in my life even when I don’t know what You’re doing. I trust that You know what’s best, and that the prayers I pray will be answered at the appropriate time. Thank You for always taking care of me.

In Christ Jesus I pray, Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 10

The Widow’s Offering    Tia McNelly

Scripture: Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts.  But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.  Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others.  They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Observation

Jesus was not impressed with those who were giving out of their abundance in the temple that day. There was no dependence on God for their gifts; no sacrifice was made in order to contribute. Jesus identified with the widow’s sacrificial gift because His gift of salvation for all through His death on the cross was the ultimate sacrifice. In this moment, Jesus sought to point out that if we are to follow Him, we must give out of our lack. In order to do so we must first recognize our own poverty.

One of my greatest pleasures in life is hearing travelers reflect on their experiences and observations during devotional time in Kilgoris, Kenya. The most common discovery for first-timers is that “the people here have so little, yet they are so full of joy” and that “their faith is so much stronger here”. James 2:5 confirms that this is actually God’s design. He chose those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith. Through discussing this, the usual conclusion is that if the materially poor are rich in faith, conversely, the materially rich are often poor in faith.

It was a simple act of obedience for the widow to give all she had. She was well practiced in depending on God to provide for her every need. Her experiences with God’s faithfulness grew her faith and allowed her to lay down everything in obedience to His will for her. If our physical needs are met and we lack nothing materially, it can be difficult to determine how to give with the same heart as the widow. This is a true first world problem. Our material wealth can stunt our Spiritual growth in that we don’t see the need to depend on God. As we fend for ourselves, we are not aware of our own poverty.

Application

Throughout the Bible, being poor means to depend on God. Whether physical or Spiritual, this dependence is born of our recognition of the fact that we lack the resources to secure our own future and even our present wellbeing. Sometimes the very thing we need is faith to believe that He is our greatest resource.

Most of the time it’s easy for us to give out of our abundance, but how can we give out of our poverty? First we must identify our lack. Ask God to reveal your own poverty. Perhaps you are poor in health or friendship or self-control. How can you give out of your lack? Maybe your simple act of obedience is making that dreaded medical appointment and depending on God for strength to sort out your health issues. You may need to pay someone a visit to resolve tension and depend on Jesus for the grace to forgive or be forgiven. Maybe your sacrificial offering is one of sleep and time and your act of obedience it to set an alarm so that you can spend time reading the Bible each morning.

Trust the Holy Spirit to guide you and provide for you as you put everything in the Spiritual offering basket, all for his glory.

Prayer

Jesus,

Thank you for leaving your glory behind to become poor for my sake. Thank you for the ultimate sacrifice you made on my behalf. You alone are God and worthy to be praised.

Though I may be rich in possessions, I am poor in Spirit, Lord. Show me the ways in which I can give it all to you as I walk through this day. Help me identify my own lack and humbly depend on you for provision. Grow my faith as I depend on you and see that you are faithful.

Amen

Additional meditation: Listen to Kristian Stanfill’s version of Jesus Paid It All.

21 Day Challenge – Day 9

A Woman Caught in Adultery    Joel McNelly

Scripture: John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them.  The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery.  They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery.  In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?”  They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.  When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”  Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.  At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”  “No one, sir,” she said.  “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”

Observation

I’m sure everyone has heard the term that “we are all in the same boat.” Jesus points out just how true that is in this story. Our main character has just been caught in an adulterous situation that allows a death sentence of stoning. Once the woman was found guilty, the accuser got to cast the first stone, the judge the second, and then if the person was not yet dead, everyone present would throw a barrage of softball sized stones until the accused was dead.

Like many other times, Jesus, a Jew himself, flipped Jewish tradition on its head. Knowing that he would soon be crucified for this and every other sin, Jesus launched a laser guided verbal missile into the boat.  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” This was not so much a judgment of the laws, but of the heart. Jesus pointed out the big flaw; that we are all broken in the same way as this woman, that as the intended “Bride of Christ” we have all been unfaithful. Jesus’ heart of compassion for those that would soon cause his death was on display for all to see. Jesus was always concerned about healing the heart first.

But in case you think that he was condoning her sin or just letting her walk away, look again at the last words of Jesus. “I don’t condemn you, but don’t keep doing that!” (My paraphrase). The main point of this story is not about adultery or being judgmental, it is about the fact that Jesus took the death penalty for the things that we have done and then points out the response that he requires of us. If we end at the forgiveness of Jesus, we miss a major point of our faith- REPENTANCE.

Application

Repentance is the response of a heart that is grateful for the gift of forgiveness. Sin is a ticking bomb, ready to blow up your life, causing damage in your relationship with God and others. Repentance is literally turning your back on that sin. When you realize that there is a bomb, you don’t keep walking toward it, you run away. That is exactly what repentance is, turning your back on your sin and running away from it and toward God.

Embrace the fact that Christ took the stones intended for you, embrace the fact that he dove on the bomb for you. Embrace that the price has been paid. Now stop! Fill your heart and your mind with the goodness of God’s word, talk to Him in prayer, tell him your struggles, and ask for help in resisting temptation. He is faithful when we just ask.

Romans 8:1 says “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” Believe that! Instead of seeing yourself as this miserable wreck, see yourself as forgiven and no longer condemned because Jesus himself snatched that away from you and gave you His heart

Prayer

Thank you Jesus, that you have rescued me from my brokenness. Thank you for taking the just penalty for my sin. Thank you for welcoming me into your kingdom and not condemning me. I recognize you as the only one qualified to stand in my place, as the sinless son of God, as the only one that I serve. I confess that I have sinned against you in my thoughts, in the things that I have done, and in the things that I have failed to do. I turn my back on that and run to you. Fortify me so that I can faithfully serve you, trusting that you are perfect and faithful. 

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 8

Jesus Walks On Water  |  Matt Dawson

Scripture: Matthew 14:23-33

After sending them home, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.  Night fell while he was there alone.  Meanwhile, the disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water.  When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. 

In their fear, they cried out, “It’s a ghost!”  But Jesus spoke to them at once.  “Don’t be afraid,” he said.  “Take courage. I am here!”  Then Peter called to him, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.”  “Yes, come,” Jesus said.  So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus.  But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink.

“Save me, Lord!” he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?”  When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped.  Then the disciples worshiped him. “You really are the Son of God!” they exclaimed.

Observation

Fear, then Faith, then Fear again.  This is what I see in this story.  I see a group of guys who have already seen some amazing and miraculous signs from Jesus.  They’ve been instructed to push out into the lake and some strong wind has come up.   When they see Jesus in the middle of the night – they are FEARFUL.  Then, when Peter hears that it’s Jesus, he request that Jesus put his faith to the test.  He says – “tell me to do something that I can’t do…” or “instruct me to do something that is an act of faith”.  So Jesus tells him, yes – come on out.  Peter knew this was an act of faith.  No one steps out of a boat on purpose.   But he did it – and he was walking on the water.  He was doing the impossible.

However, as soon as the wind picked back up and he saw the waves around him, he went right back to fear.  Fear of what was going to happen, fear of the reality that he shouldn’t even be able to do what he is doing.  He takes his eyes of Jesus, and puts it back on his fear.

Jesus uses this time to teach them once again about faith and trust.

Application

What if there was a way to skip steps 1 and 3 (fear) and always live in step 2 (faith).  I think there might be… but then again – I don’t want to under play the importance of fear in our lives.  I don’t think fear is something to ask God never to experience.  I think it’s natural, and I think that God uses what is natural to help us experience something supernatural.

So better question – I wonder if I can avoid step 3 – returning back to fear.  I think that is what this story is about.  The fear we start with is natural, it’s in us.  It shows up and we feel it.  However, that is when courage, trust, and faith can kick in.  This is the time to rise up and be FEARLESS even though the elements of fear are still all around us.   

It is in the TRUSTING that this FAITH we have cannot fail us if we keep our eyes on Jesus.  That is where victory lies.  Not in trying NOT to be afraid.  But to allow our natural fear to move us to a place of FEARLESS faith and trust in the one who holds our hand.  To not allow the crashing waves (that will always be around) distract us from the author and finisher of our faith.

Prayer

Jesus, we don’t like to thank you for our fear – but thank you.  We know that this fear comes is natural, but it gives us the opportunity to choose something different – something supernatural to replace it with.  It is not the removal of fear that helps us – but the overcoming of fear that moves us forward in our faith.   So thank you for the things that we fear – it is only then that we can choose something better – YOU.

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 7

The Wise & Foolish Builders  |  Tracie Dawson

Scripture: Matthew 7:24-29 (NLT)

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  

When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike their teachers of religious law.

Observation

Personally, I love this passage as it contrasts wisdom and foolishness with incredible clarity.  Here we come to the conclusion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, one of the most powerful passages containing the teachings of the Kingdom He had come to establish.  He concluded these radical principals by urging the listeners to be wise and put His teaching into practice.

Listeners could not escape the imagery evoked through His teaching.  The relatable task of building a house, and all that it embodied (safety, security, identity, hope) resonates with readers even today.

What might have been surprising to the listeners of Jesus’ day, however, was the type of storm described in the story.  In that area of Judea, storms of this magnitude were infrequent, but notice Jesus’ wording:  “Though the rain comes….”

He did not say “if,” “perhaps,” or “possibly” rain would come.  He spoke in definitive terminology:  “When the rains and floods come…”

Both the wise and the foolish men had built homes.  And both would experience storms.

What set them apart was their foundation.

Jesus explained that the wise man built his home on solid rock.  The word in the Greek is “petra”– a massive rock.

Later, in Matthew 16:16-18, Jesus asked His disciples who they believed He was.  Simon (Peter) made a profound confession:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.  Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you…for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.  And….on this rock I will build my church…’”

This revelation, this confession, is the petra – the massive rock in which the wise man makes his foundation.  Faith in Christ, the Son of the Living God, and obedience to Him sets his home securely on truth that impenetrable and immovable.

Application

I often find myself surprised (still) by the storms of life.  It is almost as if I believe that I should be exempt or that faith in Christ guarantees me protection from all the struggles that are a part of life.  That is dangerous thinking though.  I must accept and expect that there will be challenges in living a life of faith.

We are all building houses.  For many, it is what we rely on for security, identity, and hope.  What gives it strength to endure storms is its foundation.  Is my house founded on my self and my ability to control circumstances?  Is it founded on my finances?  Is it founded on what people think of me?  These are shifting sands and when a really big storm comes, results in total loss.  The house falls with a mighty crash.

But when my foundation is in Him and His ability to control my circumstances, in His ability to provide for my needs, and driven by what He thinks of me, my foundation is a massive rock.  Solid.  Impenetrable. Unmovable.  And though the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against the house, it won’t collapse.  It remains.

Prayer

Sovereign Lord,

You are creator of all things and in control of all things.  I confess that I often try to build my life, my house, on me, and the things I can control.  That is foolish of me.  I often forget that anything derived from my own strength and capacity are doomed to fail me eventually.

Help me to listen to your word and obey it no matter how radical or how it goes against the norms of culture today.

It is in Christ that I trust for my security against the storms of life, for my identity as your child, and hope for a future that is based on your goodness and grace.

Thank you for your Son Jesus and for the foundation He gives me so that I can weather the storms that will inevitably come my way. 

In Christ’s name I pray,

Amen.

21 Day Challenge – Day 6

The Beatitudes    Josh Kiser

Scripture: Matthew 5:3-12 (NIV)

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. 

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.  Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Observation

After a little research, I learned that the word “Beatitudes” comes from the Latin beatitudo, meaning “blessedness.” The phrase “blessed are” in each of the beatitudes implies a current state of well-being. To the people in Jesus’ day, the expression would have held the powerful meaning of “divine joy and perfect happiness”. So, literally,  each beatitude begins “Divinely happy and fortunate are”….

Now, As poetic and beautiful as the beatitudes read, I can surely tell you that the natural, human reaction to some of them does not line up with the way that Jesus closes each phrase. For example, do you feel “divine joy and perfect happiness” when you are being persecuted and feeling judged? When you feel as if you are “poor in spirit”, or lacking in your own ability and acknowledge the need for Godly help, do you feel divine joy? Do you have an overwhelming feeling of “perfect happiness” when you feel as if you are meek, or humble and submissive to something greater than you and your understanding? How difficult are those last to examples to live out in a culture and society where there is great importance placed on being strong, striving for independence, taking care of “me first”,  achievements…. and on an on?

Some of the beatitudes are easy to understand how they can play out as Jesus describes. Especially when you are looking at them in the context of God as the facilitator of the resulting reward. For instance, it is readily acceptable to believe that those who are “pure in heart” will see God or that those who are “peacemakers” will be called children of God. It makes sense that God would comfort those who mourn, especially in the context of the sorrow we feel for our own sin. And, of course, God would be merciful to those who show mercy!

Application

The challenge that sometimes arises, at least for me, is to take God’s entire word as truth and live it out accordingly. It’s easy to just take the things that we understand or can readily apply to our lives and call it our “faith”, hanging  our spiritual hat on those things and those things alone. I believe that we sometimes do that as a church (meaning the body of Christian believers as a whole) as well. We can tend to focus on the things that are easy for others to understand and apply to “win them” and then never really focus on the “deep” or difficult things that God asks of us and calls us to do.

The challenge for all of us is to approach the difficult things in the same way that we do the easy things. Let’s pursue the things that we don’t quite understand so that we can experience ALL that God has for us. Speaking specifically to the beatitudes, let’s all try to understand to the fullest what it means to be “meek”, “poor in spirit”, “merciful” and “pure in heart” in the eyes of God. Let’s allow ourselves to be in a position to be “persecuted for our righteousness” without bailing when the going gets tough or it effects our social status or merit in the work place. Let’s hunger and thirst for a life that looks like what God has always intended for us so that we can be filled in a way that only He can fill.

Today, I challenge you to join me in an effort to take ALL of His word as truth, not just what we find easy to believe, accept or live out. Let’s dig deeper to find a greater understanding. Let’s no longer “skim read” the Word of God, taking away only the “usual suspects” of verses that even some unbelievers have heard. Putting an end to the act of glossing over the verses and commands that we have difficulty understanding will only grant us the opportunity to truly experience the fullness of God’s plan and allow us to feel  “divine joy and perfect happiness”. Then, we all can say, “Blessed are we…”

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word.  Give us the strength necessary to be honest with ourselves when we look in the mirror.  Help us find the desire to do more than just live a life with the label of a ‘Christian’ and do what is necessary to dig deeper into what Your Word says that should look like.  Help us see the commands, both easy and difficult, throughout the scriptures and reveal to us the importance of living out all of them; not just the convenient ones.

Father, we do know that we are blessed in so many ways.  We acknowledge the many blessings that come with simply living in this country.  But help us take a more proactive, rather than passive, approach to our faith.  Help us have a desire to live out the life that you have called us to live.  Thank you for Your love, Your passion and Your plan for us.  We desire to do more, because it is required and You are deserving!  In Your precious name, the mighty name of Jesus, Amen!

21 Day Challenge – Day 5

Jesus Heals a Paralytic  |  Matt Dawson

Scripture: Mark 2:1-5

When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home.  Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door.  While he was preaching God’s word to them, four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 

They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

Observation

This has always been one of my favorite stories.  I’m not sure why I love it so much, but I always tend to notice when I read this story just how much this guys friends are willing to do to get him to Jesus.

I know it just says “4 guys” and they could be servants.  They could be employees.  They could be family members.  However, I like to think of these guys as friends.  We have reason to believe that this man was not always paralyzed.  I like to imagine that he was a guy full of life and vigor – able to do for his friends as they are doing for him know.  I picture a small group of men who have served together…. through thick and thin  – and now there buddy is hurt.  Now, he’s experiencing pain and a life of suffering if they can’t do something about it.

I think servants would have stopped when they realized that they couldn’t get in.  I think employees would have probably just parked outside of the house and waited with him until folks started to clear out of the house.  NOT HIS FRIENDS.  Not his brothers in life… they didn’t let the crowded place stop them from reaching Jesus. They wouldn’t stop until their friend had the opportunity to be healed… to get his life back.  So with incredible effort and creativity – they scaled a house, ripped through the roof and got him to Jesus.

Application

Am I this kind of friend?  I wonder this sometimes.  I think I am, but then again I’m kind  of selfish.  I like doing “my” thing and struggle to put my friends needs ahead of mine.    Would I have done EVERYTHING I COULD DO in that moment to help a friend get what he needed most?  Or would I let obstacles slow me down and make me feel like “we gave it our best effort” or “we sure did try” attitude that make us stop short of going the extra mile.

I want to be this kind of friend.  One that doesn’t take no for an answer.  I want to be someone who is willing to RISK for my friends.   To do things that others might think are crazy.   I want to be one who is willing to scale a wall – rip through a guys roof and do what others are unwilling to do to help a friend in need.  That’s the kind of friend I want to be!

Let’s face it – that’s the kind of friend that Jesus is described as in the NT.   A friend that sticks closer than a brother – one that is willing to give up his life… for His friends.

Prayer

Dear Jesus, you are a friend that sticks closer than a brother.  Help me be that kind of friend to others.  Give me a discerning spirit that knows when my friends are in need, and give me the courage to boldly ask others for help when I’m in need. 

Help me put others needs above my own, and give me the strength to RISK for my brothers when the time comes. 

It’s only by your power and grace that I will overcome my selfishness and be one of those guys on the roof – Jesus help me be a better friend.

Amen.