Warning: Lethal Wound

Psalm 38

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I am afraid we have an ugly topic to talk about today.  It’s no fun, but it has to be done.  It is more fun to talk about sunshine, knitting and fruit salad (see the last two days’ posts).  But when we don’t talk about this topic and acknowledge it and be on the defensive against it, it has a way of festering, oozing out of control and taking over by force – consuming ourself and others in its path of destruction.

I am talking about sin.  One verse toward the end of yesterday’s psalm about trials points to the seriousness of sin: “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” (Psalm 66:18) .  Ouch.  The All-Powerful God who loves and cares for me will not hear my prayers, my petitions, or even my praise if my sin is creating a sound-proof barrier between me and Him.  His holiness will not allow it.  Sin is serious and must be dealt with in order for me to be heard by God.

King David was a man who knew a thing or two about the devastating effects of sin.  In Psalm 38 he describes many consequences of sin: God’s anger and discipline, ill health, overwhelming guilt, searing pain, severe depression, social isolation, increased enemies, and confusion.  What other consequences can you find in this psalm?  He states, “My wounds fester and are loathsome because of my sinful folly.” (Psalm 38:5).

The thing is…”sinful folly” sounds just a wee bit fun, doesn’t it??  Maybe it’s a glance at pornography, experimenting with friends doing drugs or alcohol, speeding recklessly down the interstate with some great tunes cranking out, making out with your significant other, or getting a good laugh out of the lunch crew when you share a great put-down.  It’s a little exhilarating – for a time.  And that’s the trouble with sin.  It can start by seeming like no big deal.  I highly doubt that King David woke up one morning and said, “This is the day.  I am going to go watch a woman bathe, and then commit adultery and that will lead to deception, murder, the death of my child, a plaque of violence on my family, and ….   No one plans to be sucked into a downward spiral of sin, deceit and pain.  Rather, it begins with small acts of selfishness – thinking of my own pleasure over and above what is right, pleasing to God and helpful to others.  And then the demon of pride enters and says we can handle this burning coal and we won’t get burned.  So, we say yes to that little urge of ‘sinful folly’.

Before we know it, we are facing festering wounds and a forest fire.  And the good-feeling exhilaration is long gone.  In it’s place is only pain, isolation, depression, guilt and confusion.

Sadly, this is not true for only adulterous murderers.  It is the same for me.  It is the same for you.  It is the same for the most saintly person you know.  In the New Testament James gives the same warning David does: “But each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.  Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” (James 1:14-15).  Sin is a big deal, and not just for the sinner, but for so many others who will be affected.

I was looking for a great picture of gangrene to open this devotion.  They were much worse than I had anticipated (as is the case with sin) so I will not include an actual visual.  But, imagine, blackened decaying flesh surrounded by raw, oozing, pain.  Death has set in – even while the rest of the body lives.  Sin, left unchecked and allowed to grow, is like this extreme infection.  It leads to death most certainly – if not treated.  Sin, too, must be treated, and the earlier the better.  Psalm 38:18 shares the first important step to restoration: “I confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin.”  Tear down the sound-proof barrier your sins have built up between you and God.  Cry out to him in confession.  Thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus Christ who died so we might be forgiven when we come to the Father with a repentant heart, ready to be obedient in turning from our sins and seeking to live a holy life.

Even gangrene can be healed.  It requires hard dirty work (sometimes even using amputation or maggots) – a process of cutting out and destroying the old which causes death.  Maybe a friend who is a bad influence needs to be cut out, or maybe it’s a TV channel or social media.  And, then a lot of antibiotics and sometimes lifestyle changes are needed to return to health. God’s Word, prayer, a church body and healthy habits are great antibiotics for a repentant sinner.

Remember our memory verse for this week from Psalm 139:24 – “See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”  Sin is serious – even when it starts small.  Don’t let sins fester.  Pray for conviction where conviction is due, and healing and restoration where that is needed.  And seek out the everlasting way.

-Marcia Railton

 

 

 

 

 

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E.R.

Psalm 119

emoyer-ER

 

E.R. debuted in 1994.  Each week, episodes were filled with exciting, heart wrenching and dramatic events based in a Chicago hospital emergency room.  The show often portrayed incredible measures taken as residents applied their medical school backgrounds to treat and save patients.   
Well, there are times we all find other things that we might put first in our day to day lives.  We may need some “healing” or “revival” in our own relationship with God.  Eleven times in Psalm 119 it mentions some sort of revival.  Terms like preserve, restore, spare, give, are mentioned throughout this chapter.  In the darkest of hours you may not feel like His Word is enough.  You may not feel like it is relevant to what you are going through or that God is near. You may have filled your time, your actions and your mind with everything but time in His word.  If this feels somewhat familiar to you consider this:  “Feelings follow correct behaviors and not the other way around”.  God’s word is a foundation for us all.  We need to turn to him and be in His word.  Don’t expect a quick fix. Instead, prepare to be transformed by him being more present in our life. So when we stumble, we need to get back up again, be dedicated to reading his word and trust on his strength for a full recovery in our lives.

-Emily Moyer

Who is the Son of God?

 

Luke 22

luke 22_46

Yesterday, in Luke 21 Jesus was warning the disciples (and those who would follow) of persecution while encouraging them to stand up under it.  And today, in Luke 22 Jesus himself is cast into a fierce storm of persecution.  He will now be showing – not just telling – the disciples, his contemporaries, and all those who would come after him how to stand up under persecution.

But first, a private dinner with his closest disciples to commemorate the Passover – when God saved his people from slavery by the blood of the lamb.  And very soon a new lamb would be sacrificed to save God’s people from slavery to sin.  Jesus tells his disciples that he will not eat the Passover meal, or drink of the cup again, until the Kingdom of God comes.  Communion services are a great reminder of this promise.  At the dinner, he uses the opportunity to remind them once again the secret to great leadership – be a servant.  Stop fighting over who is best…just serve.

I love how even though Jesus knew ahead of time that Peter would fail him, he had still prayed that Peter’s faith would not fail.  And even though Satan would have the opportunity to “sift all of you as wheat,”  Jesus saw a future for Peter in which Peter would be using those painful experiences to help strengthen his brothers.
And then, in the garden while Jesus is pouring his heart out in prayer – his disciples are sleeping.  I wonder how many times he would prod me and say, “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.”  How much better would Peter – or I – stand Satan’s arrows if he – or I – were fully filled up with prayer rather than whatever feels good or most urgent at the moment?

Enter, Judas – and the chief priests and the guards and the great betrayal!  And even in the midst of the hurt and personal persecution – Jesus gives healing as he restores the servant’s ear.

Early the next morning, Jesus is brought before the chief priests and elders and is questioned about who he is. Is he the Messiah?

Jesus answered, “If I tell you, you will not believe me, 68 and if I asked you, you would not answer. 69 But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”

70 They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?”

He replied, “You say that I am.”

They didn’t expect the Son of God to have appeared as a baby in a manger.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to have a rag-tag group of followers in the countryside.  They didn’t expect the Son of God to be persecuted at their own hands.  Beware of what you expect from the Son of God.  Keep reading the gospels – and all of God’s Word to see who God really is, and who the Son of God is!

-Marcia Railton

 

 

One Thank You

Luke 17

Luke 17 17 edit

A simple, but important rule in my sixth-grade classroom is students must say “thank you” anytime they receive something from me.  It doesn’t matter if that something is homework, a reward, a present, or even a consequence, the expectation is always that I am thanked.  Why?  There are a few reasons.  First, when you thank someone you acknowledge you are receiving something.  Second, when you thank someone you acknowledge they are the giver of that something.  Finally, when you thank someone you are showing that you have considered and accepted that something.  Conversely, if I am not thanked, I must assume my students do not value the item, the giver, or its intention.  Now, I am not naive enough to believe every eleven-year-old that says “thank you” has gone through this thought process.  They may simply be well-mannered (or well-rehearsed).  Maybe they know it is a rule and do it to avoid a negative consequence (which they would have to say “thank you” for anyways).  They simply may do it because everyone else is doing it.

It can be hard to tell the authenticity of a thank you, but one pattern I have noticed is when someone is truly thankful, they will seek you out to tell you.  Such was the case of a student of mine who delivered a letter to me on Teacher Appreciation Week last year.  While the standard fare is a box of chocolates, a coffee mug, or a cleverly-punned present, she crafted an honest-to-goodness thank you card.  There were no generic references to how awesome I was, how my class was the best, or how funny I am (which all are true), but she acknowledged specific words I had written in her yearbook at the close of the prior school year. She stated those simple words had changed her attitude, and she wanted to let me know that she greatly appreciated the time I took to consider them, write them, and live them.  Favorite “appreciation” received to date.

In today’s reading, Luke 17, Jesus amid traveling from Galilee to Samaria is met by a lot of lepers.  They each want the same thing: to be healed.  Jesus obliges, and without much reference to how he did it, he simply states in verse 14, “Go and show yourself to the priest,” meaning they would now be known as the men who formerly had leprosy.  They were cleansed, restored, no more peril or pain. They could now enter the city gate, walk the street, and be with all those they had left behind.  In their excitement, nine men rush to show everyone how they had been healed.  A single soul stops; he turns to praise God and give thanks to Jesus for this wonderful blessing beyond measure.  Jesus is curious about the other nine, but tells the lone returner he was “healed because of his faith.”

So many times I have read this story and am left wondering, “Why did Jesus say this man was healed ‘because of his faith’? Were they not all healed?” The more I read over this passage, place it preceding Jesus’ next topic, the Kingdom of God, it begins to resonate what Jesus may be alluding to.  While this thankful leper was cured in the very same way as the other nine, he alone received the lasting healing and life that comes through the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.  This thankful man’s healing was not physical transformation but an allegoric alignment of his spiritual salvation.

So where does this leave us?  Often, we are the nine.  We joyously jog back to the place we came – complacency or repetitive sin — because we know we are restored, we can enter the city gate, we can walk the streets, and we can be with those we have loved because Jesus has already paid the price for us to do so.  We may thank him because we are well-rehearsed to do so in prayer.  We may thank him because we fear what might happen if we don’t.  We may thank him because that is what everyone else is doing; however, the minute everyone else turns and runs, we are there following them instead of running to our Lord and Savior.  Take a moment to stop. STOP!  Turn around.  Run to Jesus (repent).  Praise God (for your blessing)!  Tell him what he has given to you, what He means to you, and how that is changing your life, not because that is something you do, but because that is something YOU do!  When we offer thanks to him in this way, we will know the eternal healing that comes through a thankful faith.

-Aaron Winner

For Others

Tuesday

I Corinthians 10-24

1 Corinthians 10:24 Try to do what is good for others, not just what is good for yourselves.

One of the hardest parts of relationships for me is not trying to just fix things.  It’s a pretty stereotypical “guy” thing, but it’s something that I think everyone deals with at some point or another.


Yesterday, one of the things we said about empathy is that it isn’t about trying to fix things.  Putting a silver lining around something or just trying to get to a solution isn’t empathy at all.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-4EDhdAHrOg).

So, what’s the problem trying to be solved in this video? The title pretty much gives it away – it’s not about the nail (really!).  See, removing the nail might make her head feel better, but it does nothing to solve the deeper problem – her partner isn’t connecting with her experience.  He’s distant and disconnected from what’s going on in her life.  Together they may be able to address the nail, but that only comes after they’ve built an empathic connection for each other’s situation.

That moment towards the end where he says that her situation must be really hard.  That’s a bit of empathy shining through.  And what happens?  They strengthen their relationship and she feels understood and accepted.

There are some things in life that we can change (like pulling a nail out of our heads), but there are just as many that we have no control over whatsoever.  Empathy gives us a way to find healing and love even when our nails can’t be removed.

Just as Paul urged us yesterday, again he urges the Corinthians (and us) to act in love with empathy; seeking to do what is good for others.  Being able to step forward in empathy to share in another’s burdens allows us to address the deepest concerns of life by showing others that they are not alone.

Today, may you feel the presence of all those who bear your burdens with you, and may you extend that grace to others as well.

 -Graysen Pack
 

News Too Good to Keep Silent

Mark 10 52a

As we continue to work our way through Mark, we approach the end of one of Mark’s most intriguing themes: Jesus’ emphasis on keeping his identity secret.  So far in the gospel, whenever Jesus has acted in a way that would point out that he is the messiah, he has quickly followed his action with a command for those in-the-know to be silent.

Biblical scholars call this the “Messianic Secret” of Mark.  And honestly, it’s still largely a mystery as to why Jesus does this and why Mark records it as a prevalent theme throughout his gospel.  In fact, Luke was so uncomfortable with this idea that it was explained as an attempt by Jesus to not be overwhelmed by large crowds (Luke 5:15-16).  Remember, Luke and Matthew based their gospels off of Mark’s framework.  So the healing of the leper in Mark 1 shows up in Luke 5 and Matthew 8 from their perspective.

I say all of this to point out that Mark 10 marks (ha!) the end of the Messianic Secret.  In verses 46-52 we have the story of the healing of Bartimaeus.  In the final verse, Jesus says, “Go; your faith has made you well.”  That’s it!  Before this, we would have expected Jesus to say something like “Be healed, but shush!”  No, instead Jesus heals him and that’s it.  The missing admonition is emphasized even more because in the opening of the scene, it is all of Jesus’s followers who were telling him to be quiet…very interesting… But, Jesus himself says nothing.  While Jesus may be the first example of being emo (‘I liked being quiet before it was a thing.  Now that it’s a thing, don’t.’), I don’t think that’s what Jesus or Mark had in mind.

If we look back at chapter 1 of Mark, Jesus’ first miracle happens in the synagogue (church).  He casts an unclean spirit from a man (Mark 1:23-28) telling the spirit to “Be quiet, and come out of him!”  Whoa!  The first thing Jesus says is shut it!  Now, in Mark 10, Jesus’ final miracle is the healing of Bartimaeus and he doesn’t say anything about silence.  And, it’s a miracle where a man’s sight is restored!  If Jesus is trying to hide his messiah-ship, then the restoration of sight (seeing that Jesus is the messiah) is the perfect way to emphasize it’s end.

So, what happens next?  The triumphant entry into Jerusalem where EVERYONE sees and claims the messianic nature of Jesus.  Whoa!  Mark is doing some crazy, mind-blowing stuff here that would work on even the best dramatic television shows today.

As we continue to explore Mark, we’ll get to see how this theme becomes a critical foundation for what is to come and for Mark’s final message to his reader.  So, stick around and we’ll keep digging through this amazing text together.

-Graysen Pack

What to Do with Doubt

Mark 9:14-32 (Monday)

Mark 9 24

None of Scripture was intended to be read.  Although that may seem strange to us today, the ability to read was incredibly rare.  For today, it’d be like having a doctorate.  There are a number of professor’s out there, but you don’t run into them every day.  Reading just wasn’t something most people needed to be able to do to get through their day.  The agricultural and craftsman lifestyles didn’t need to keep many notes themselves.  As a result, the writings, when they were used, were usually read aloud in a collective setting – and this is key.  Because Scripture is meant to be heard – not read!  All those with EARS, let them HEAR.

Because of this, there weren’t any of the nifty little headings that we find in our Bibles today.  It was just one long story without breaks or chapters.  So, the nice breaks that we often get around stories didn’t exist except for the past few hundred years.  For today’s reading, both of these things are really important.

These two vignettes in Mark 9:14-32 (the healing of the child and the misunderstanding of the disciples) come back to back and would have been heard that way by Mark’s original audience.  So, what I’d like you to do is try it.  Take just a second to read these verses out loud. If you’re somewhere public, just try whispering if you want.  But read it out loud and see what sticks out to you.  I’ll wait here and I’ll do it too…

[waiting]

So, how was it?  Awkward? Weird?  Probably a little.  But when I did it something new really stood out to me about this passage.  In the first story, a man comes to Jesus asking for healing for his son. Jesus responds ‘oh you faithless people…how much longer do I have to put up with you.  Bring me the boy.’  The father, distraught over Jesus’ seemingly kinda cruel response, cries out – ‘I want to believe! Please help my unbelief!’  He wants to save his son and will do whatever it takes to save him.

The next story is between Jesus and his disciples.  He’s teaching them about what’s going to happen to him when he reaches Jerusalem.  But they don’t get it.  They don’t have belief/faith, just like the dad in the previous story.  However, instead of putting aside their pride and asking for Jesus to help their unbelief (lack of understanding), they stay silent.

Here, in these few verses, a man from “this faithless generation” reaches out, pleads, and finds Jesus meeting him in his unbelief while the ones who are part of Jesus’ own inner-circle remain unmoved in their faithlessness.  And this at a time when Jesus’s time with them was literally drawing short.

The problem with this is never unbelief.  The problem is how we respond to it.  We won’t have all the answers.  We will doubt and question.  Jesus doesn’t lament our struggle – it is one that he himself walked through (for he shared in all things but without sin).  Embrace the places where you are unsure.  Lean into the spots where the struggle is the most real and you are shaken like the son in the story.  Push forward and call out for a help, a grace that will fill us in our uncertainty and bring healing.

-Graysen Pack