Words to Speak

S (Scripture) – Mark 13:10-11 “The gospel must first be preached to all the nations.  When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit.”

O (Observation) – Lord, for the person currently walking in step with You each and every day that is used to being sensitive to hearing what You have to say about a matter, this directive is reassuring.  Despite the times that are coming upon us at some point in the future where we may find ourselves under arrest and tried for our faith in You, we can have absolute peace that You are on Your throne and in control.  My physical life may be taken from me at the hands of another, but no one can take away my relationship with You.

A (Application) – On the contrary, for the person that still isn’t sure if You really do talk to Your people, this notion of being arrested for his or her beliefs and then relying on You to speak for them in that moment can seem very overwhelming and frightening.  The best thing one can do now is get to know You more personally when times are peaceful, so that if and when the time is no longer peaceful, that person will not be afraid because hearing from You will already be a normal way of life.

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, You are a Person with a personality, character traits, likes, dislikes, feelings, and a desire to communicate with Your creation.  May we stop seeing “our relationship with God” as some mystical and impersonal state of being, or some box to check off on our list of things to do.  Just like a wonderful marriage, our relationship with You is continuing to grow and mature with each passing day.  Help us to continue to rely on You for the right words to say in the moment You want us to speak them.

A Series of Compromises

S (Scripture) – Mark 12:38-40 “In His teaching He was saying: ‘Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places, and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets, who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.'” NASB

“He continued teaching.  ‘Watch out for the religion scholars.  They love to walk around in academic gowns, preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions, sitting at the head table at every church function.  And all the time they are exploiting the weak and helpless.  The longer their prayers, the worse they get.  But they’ll pay for it in the end.'”

O (Observation) – Lord Jesus, as I was mediating on this passage, I distinctly saw a picture of my little seedlings that I am growing as they were just breaking through the surface of the soil.  My son asked me, “Mommy, how do they do that?”  I told him that everything the seed needed to grow into a big plant was already inside of it, and that the process started by just barely breaking through the shell of the seed, then taking root, and then showing through the soil.  Even though it took a few days for us to actually see the first seedling above the soil, there had been a lot going on under the surface.  In much the same way, I don’t believe that highly pious, religious people are initially “preening in the radiance of public flattery, basking in prominent positions,” all the while “exploiting the weak and helpless.”  No doubt there are some very disturbed individuals out there who claim the Name of Christ that are merely predators seeking someone to take advantage of…but mostly, the hollow hearts of pious religious people started out wanting to please You. Along the way, there were a series of compromises that resulted in the person elevating themselves and seeking the praise and approval of other people rather than You.  Much goes on under the surface, or, inside the heart, that we cannot see.  But, You see.  Slowly, the person drifts away from knowing the one, true God, and then exploitation of others becomes easy.  It didn’t happen overnight.

A (Application) – Proverbs 4:23–26 instructs believers to, “above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.  Keep your mouth free of perversity; keep corrupt talk far from your lips.  Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you.  Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”  The choices we make each day are moving us closer in intimacy to knowing our Lord and His will, or they are pushing Him away.  According to GotQuestions.org, “James 1:14–16 tells us, ‘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.  Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.’  Sin always begins in the mind.  A sinner must first conceive and dwell on the sinful action before he actually carries it out.  The first line of defense, therefore, must be to refuse to even contemplate a wrongful action.  The apostle Paul tells us to take every thought captive, so that it conforms to the will of God (2 Corinthians 10:3–5).”

P (Prayer) – Lord Jesus, thank You for giving us victory over sin and death.  Help us to remember that the battlefield is in our mind, our thoughts, and our hearts.  War is constantly being waged around us, and the only means of being victorious is by trusting in You alone.  Equip us to guard our hearts and minds so that we can accomplish all that You have for us to do.  If we have made choices along the way that draw us away from You, help us to confess our sin.  You promise to forgive us our sins, and cleanse us from all unrighteousness if we confess them to You (1 John 1:9).  Thank You for never giving up on us, and for continuing to draw us closer to You.

No Day Ahead You Have Not Seen

S (Scripture) – Mark 11:1-6 “As they approached Jerusalem, at Bethphage and Bethany, near the Mount of Olives, He sent two of His disciples, and said to them, ‘Go into the village opposite you, and immediately as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, on which no one yet has ever sat; untie it and bring it here.  If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ you say, ‘The Lord has need of it;’ and immediately he will send it back here.’  They went away and found a colt tied at the door, outside in the street; and they untied it.  Some of the bystanders were saying to them, ‘What are you doing, untying the colt?’  They spoke to them just as Jesus had told them, and they gave them permission.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I see that You know all things, and exist outside of time and space – there is no day ahead You have not seen.  Nothing comes as a surprise to You.  It’s almost as if our generation and each of our lives is a movie that You wrote, directed, and produced, and have seen it so many times that You know exactly what happens next.  Just because You know ahead of time exactly what choices we will make doesn’t make it any less of a choice for us at the time we are making the decision.  This can be difficult to understand, but our free will is operating in the midst of Your sovereignty.

A (Application) – If we truly believe that You know all things and that nothing has happened in our day that caught You by surprise, we should take great comfort in that.  While we are living moment-to-moment and have no idea what our futures hold, You do.  We don’t need to see the end from the beginning in order to live our lives, but great peace comes from intimately knowing the One who does in fact see the end from the beginning.  You are our guide, our shepherd, gently leading us through each day.  Instead of trying to figure everything out on our own and make sense of our complicated lives 100% of the time, we should instead focus our time and energy on getting to know You more, and trusting that You will be with us through it all.

P (Prayer) – Lord, there are those that say You “will never give us more than we can handle.”  This is an absolute lie.  If we could handle everything that You give us, why would we need You?  You give us more than we can handle on our own so that we recognize our need for You, and must absolutely trust You and place our faith in Your abilities rather than our own to get through it.  You promise to never leave us, nor forsake us, and to be with us wherever we go (Deuteronomy 31:6).  You promise us that Your grace is sufficient for us (2 Corinthians 12:9).  You promise us that no temptation has seized us but that which is common to man, and that You will always provide a way out so that we may stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).  Thank You for these (and many other) promises.  May we learn to trust You completely and depend on You for wisdom and guidance as we plan and walk throughout our days.

The Heart of a Child

S (Scripture) – Mark 10:13-16 “And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, ‘Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.‘  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.”

O (Observation) – Children are born with a tremendous sense of awe, wonder, imagination, excitement, and an absolute trust of those around them.  According to one commentary, “A child trusts without reflecting.  Children cannot live without trusting those around them.  Their trust is not a virtue; it is a vital reality.  To encounter God, the best thing we have is our child’s heart that is spontaneously open, that dares simply to ask, that wants to be loved.”  It is this humble heart that trusts implicitly that we are to have as adults when it comes to our relationship with the Lord.  If we are too busy trying to argue with God about who He is, constantly challenging His promises to us, and forever doubting whether or not He can do what He says He can do, we are wasting so much time wallowing in doubt and unbelief, and ultimately we are missing out on all that He has for us.  [As I sometimes say to my almost four-year-old, “This would all go so much better if you would just trust me and do what I say!”]

A (Application) – Another commentary says, “A child doesn’t have to figure everything out to believe it…children don’t require God to prove anything to them to believe.”  Why is it that adults reach this point of such hardness of heart that we find it next to impossible to believe at times?  Without a doubt, life experiences have shaped our hearts and our thinking – we’ve been hurt by those we have trusted completely.  We’ve been taken advantage of, left out, broken by tragedy, and we slap a label of “wisdom with age” on our hardness of heart.  We ascertain that the less trusting we are, the smarter we are because that is what life has taught us to do.

Jesus is telling us to trust Him.  Just as an infant who can do nothing for his or herself other than utterly depend on its parents to care for all needs, we are to depend on Him.  A baby cannot so much as lift its own head – it must trust completely that the mother or father that is caring for it has his or her best interests at heart.  It doesn’t worry about the future potential struggles of life – where the next meal is coming from, what it is going to wear to sleep, etc.  All of its attention is focused on its parents, completely trusting that they have it all under control.

P (Prayer) – Dear Jesus, help me to continuously depend on You as a little child with a humble heart.  I know You love me with an everlasting love; You never give up on me, and You always are able to turn any of the broken pieces of my life into something beautiful.  I trust You completely. I pray for all who have broken hearts from life’s journey – those that have a difficult time with trusting You – help them to taste and see that the Lord is good (Psalm 34:8).

Rank and Positioning

S (Scripture) – Mark 9:33-35 “They came to Capernaum; and when He was in the house, He began to question them, ‘What were you discussing on the way?’  But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest.  Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.'”

O (Observation) – As a society, we are constantly ranking everything – people (wealthiest in the world, sexiest in the world, Miss America, class rank, military rank, Olympic medalists, record holders), places (best beaches in America, top destinations for vacations, best cities to live in for various reasons), and things (best appliances, best brands, top-ranked gadgets).  We are so programmed to believe in this concept of positioning – where certain things rank in relationship to other things – that we are evaluating where these things rank subconsciously on a consistent basis.  This results in us also evaluating where we rank by various measures, and ensuring that we are doing what we can to maintain or advance that rank, or at the very least, not do anything to adversely impact it.

A (Application) – Jesus took the time to call his followers together in order to specifically address this issue – not only are we not to concern ourselves with where we rank (in particular within God’s kingdom, but in all aspects of life), but we should focus on intentionally being last.  How counterintuitive to the world’s ideology (as we find with most of God’s view on a matter)!  Instead of focusing on our advancement for our own purposes, we should instead be focused on loving the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and loving others well.  That shift in our perspective – from the world revolving around ourselves, to the realization that it’s not about us – is the precise moment when God can really start to use us for His kingdom agenda.  We may be given great responsibility in this life by means of our position and subsequent authority delegated to us by that position – however, the attitude of our hearts can, and should, be focused on our Lord and not on ourselves and where we rank.

P (Prayer) – Dear Jesus, thank You for taking the time to remind us that it does not ultimately matter one bit in the grand scheme of eternity where we rank in this world.  It is true that certain people make their mark on history with things that they have accomplished in their lives, but ultimately, what matters in eternity is what we have been able to do for You.  May we store up for ourselves treasures in heaven (Matthew 6:20), and not allow the temptation of ranking ourselves to dominate our thoughts and actions.

Resolutions that Matter

S (Scripture) – Mark 8:34-37 “And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.  For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.  For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?  For what will a man give in exchange for his soul?'”

O (Observation) – This time of the year, it is common for people to evaluate their lives, priorities, and make resolutions to change certain behaviors and attitudes in an effort to become a better person.  For many, it may be to eat healthier, exercise more, not sweat the small stuff, spend more time with family…all of these are wonderful and healthy lifestyle choices.  Others may evaluate their business life, and determine that more effort needs to be placed on various measures of execution within their professional lives.  In and of itself, this is also not a bad thing.  When we evaluate our lives this way, either making our relationship with the Lord just one more thing on our to-do list, or making plans on our own completely apart from Him, we ultimately miss out on all that He has in store for us.

A (Application) – May we not make resolutions that will transform us into the healthiest, most successful people in our industry, yet utterly lacking in spiritual depth.  Instead, may we fall on our knees in worship and adoration of our Lord, seek first His kingdom and His righteousness (Matthew 6:33), and then make resolutions to walk in step with the Holy Spirit on the path to a healthier lifestyle that is pleasing to Him.  His grace is sufficient for us in all things.  If “success” is what we crave, we should heed the words written in the Book of Joshua:

“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.  Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous!  Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:8-9)

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, I lay me down.  I put all of my plans and all of my dreams down at Your feet.  What You have planned for my life is far greater than anything I could ever come up with on my own.  I don’t want You to be one more action item to complete in a sea of many; rather, I want You as the focal point of my life, with everything else I do emanating from that reality.  Help me make resolutions that matter, that are pleasing  to You, and that will move Your kingdom forward by serving others.