Archive for March, 2015

Mark 14:26-31

March 31, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Terri Schlather .

When they had sung the hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all become deserters; for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.”

Peter said to him, “Even though all become deserters, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Truly I tell you, this day, this very night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said vehemently, “Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And all of them said the same. Mark 14:26-31

How many times have I said, “I would never!” in my life? A lot. Peter was certain he would never deny Jesus. He had no idea what was to come that day, but regardless, he was firm in his belief that he would stand by Jesus.

In my twenties I’d have said, “I would never” in response to someone who gave up on their faith, walking away from the church. In the next decade of life, much like Peter, my actions betrayed my earlier conviction.

Everyday something happens that I didn’t expect. The “I would never” gets thrown to the side, much like it did for Peter and the other disciples when things didn’t go the way they expected.

God doesn’t do things on our time, in ways we predict and expect. He acts in ways that often surprise us and confound us. Just like the disciples we can find ourselves acting in a way contrary to our words, forgetting that we need God to get by and that his plan and will should be leading us in our lives.

How do we avoid falling into the “I would never” trap? Rely on God; trust his will and his plan.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, help me to remember that my will is weak and yours is strong. Guide me when my ego says, “I would never” rather than having empathy for someone’s situation. Help me to remember that only by your Grace do I find salvation and everlasting life. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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Mark 14:12-16

March 30, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Karen Elsen.

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb is sacrificed, his disciples said to him, “Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the Passover?” So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you; follow him, and wherever he enters, say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks, Where is my guest room where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ He will show you a large room upstairs, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

So the disciples set out and went to the city, and found everything as he had told them; and they prepared the Passover meal. Mark 14:12-16

These verses raise several questions. Which disciples were sent? What is the Festival of Unleavened Bread? Luke tells us that the two disciples were Peter and John, the same two who came to the empty tomb after Jesus’ crucifixion. The Festival of Unleavened Bread is a seven-day festival which follows a month-long cleansing of the house to rid it of all leaven (symbolizing sin). The first day of the festival is when the Passover meal is celebrated—the festival which commemorates the emancipation of the Israelites from slavery in ancient Egypt.   How appropriate all of this is.

Working as diligently as we can to rid ourselves of sin, we conclude that we are unable to do so. The unblemished lamb must still be sacrificed. We can only be cleansed of our sin by this blood.

“What the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom. 8:3-4)

Let us pray: Holy Jesus, thank you for taking on flesh to live among us. Thank you for your sacrificial blood by which we can finally stand before you freed from the slavery of sin. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:38-41

March 27, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Mardi Mayerhoff.

John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. Whoever is not against us is for us. For truly I tell you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you bear the name of Christ will by no means lose the reward. Mark 9:38-41

The first thing I thought of when I read these verses was my attitude in 1986 when I was asked to teach Sunday School at Faith. My reaction was “I am not trained for this! Pastors and people who took Bible study in college should be teaching Sunday School.” In other words I was not “called” to ministry like they were or like the disciples were. However, I was asked again the next year and agreed to try for one year as long as they assigned me to a grade level where the children could read.

They gave me 4th grade and that started my long career of being “for Jesus” not only in volunteer service at Faith, but in many other arenas. I began giving a “cup of water” to 4th graders, then 5th graders, then 2 year olds, then adults through the Alpha ministry and First Place 4 Health where we are serving people who attend church at Faith, many who go to other churches, several who are looking for a new church home, and on occasion the care givers of guests at our Faith House.

My faith has grown through these endeavors. I have seen “rewards” that are not measured in financial gain, and I see God working through me to bring his Word to the people who come together each week to seek his healing power.

Let us pray: Father in Heaven, during this Lenten season and beyond, give me the opportunity to “give a cup of water in Jesus name” to someone outside of my comfort zone. Let me see you work miracles through me. In Jesus’ name. Amen

Mark 7:31-37

March 26, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from David Stock.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre, and went by way of Sidon towards the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. They brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech; and they begged him to lay his hand on him. He took him aside in private, away from the crowd, and put his fingers into his ears, and he spat and touched his tongue. Then looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And immediately his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.

Then Jesus ordered them to tell no one; but the more he ordered them, the more zealously they proclaimed it. They were astounded beyond measure, saying, “He has done everything well; he even makes the deaf to hear and the mute to speak.” Mark 7:31-37

Ephrata! Be opened! These were powerful words spoken to the deaf man. Opening the man’s ears is symbolic of the unbeliever hearing the gospel for the first time, opening the eyes and freeing the man’s tongue were additional gifts to mankind since the tongue provides us the opportunity to speak the good news. When Jesus shared his power with the disabled man, he gave us a first hand glimpse of his unconditional love for each of us. Shortly after the healing it would be fully expressed at the cross.

Jesus’ conveys love to the man by his only available senses, sight and touch. After spitting Jesus touches the man’s tongue. Saliva was believed to have magical and curative powers. This scene clearly reflects Jesus’ willingness to get close to people and meet us without reservation.

What’s puzzling is verse 36 “Jesus commanded the crowd not to tell anyone.” Perhaps Jesus preferred to keep his miracles silent, but just the opposite occurred. The people were so overwhelmed they said “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

We all have the capacity to be deaf and dumb. Can we let him take us from the crowd and have us hear “Ephrata” in our hearts?

Let us pray: Lord, in the varied experiences of life help me take the good things with simplicity and the difficult and challenging things with courage. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 7:24-30

March 25, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Kate Mitsakis.

From there he set out and went away to the region of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know he was there. Yet he could not escape notice, but a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately heard about him, and she came and bowed down at his feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of Syrophoenician origin.

She begged him to cast the demon out of her daughter. He said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter.” So she went home, found the child lying on the bed, and the demon gone. Mark 7:24-30

This is one amazing woman. If you read closely, it kind of sounds like Jesus didn’t even really want her to know He was there. Yet, she was eager, and she came to ask for help for her daughter, and it sounds to me a little bit like Jesus tells her no, or at least, not yet.

Her response? Why? There is plenty of what you give to go around, I’m totally happy with the crumbs of whatever you have to give. This is my daughter we are talking about here, I need You. Whatever You give will be enough. And Jesus heard her, and her daughter was healed.

As a mother of two young children, plagued with some demons of their own… Why are 4 year olds so wild? And will someone please teach my baby how to sleep? There are days that I feel like I haven’t done enough. Like I’m not good enough, or perfect enough for God’s help. But regardless of whether or not there’s something we could have done to be better, He is here to help us, and we need to be courageous enough to ask, and persistent enough to keep asking until we have His help.

Each one of us is good enough for God’s help, and we will take whatever we can get. We just need to remember to be confident that we are worth His help, and persistent in our requests – because God’s help and healing is there for all of us, even if we have to wait under the table to catch a crumb.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, thank You for being there for me, please help me to remember that I am always worth Your help, I just have to ask. Please help me to be persistent in my requests, and tenacious in my trust that You are here to provide healing and strength for me, always. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 6:53-56

March 24, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Diana Boihem.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed. Mark 6:53-56

This text comes just after the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand and walking on water, so the word is out that Jesus has already been performing miracles before he heals the sick in today’s text.

I can only imagine what it must have been like to witness such amazing and beautifully remarkable events. I find it completely understandable that people living in the time of Jesus, who heard of His powers, would make every effort to approach Him and receive healing. I am impressed with their faith– that just being in Christ’s presence to “touch even the fringe of his cloak” would heal them.

But what about today, so many years after Jesus walked among us? Does Jesus still perform miracles in our lives?

I don’t have the benefit of first- hand experience that the believers in the text did, but I believe He is with us. I have felt His presence, in good times and bad, and been strengthened by it. I have not seen Him, but I have seen His followers. I am comforted in the knowledge that He loves me. I am thankful that He walked among us, died for us, and continues to be present in our lives.

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, Open our hearts to the everyday miracles in our lives, especially when it is difficult to believe. Give us strength for what comes, and use us for good, that we too may carry your story forward. Amen.

Psalm 67:1-3

March 23, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Jasmine Gabriel.

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us, Selah

that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you. Psalm 67:1-3

I have always been blown away because of Gods over protecting, never escaping love. The fact that he shines through people’s eyes that have committed dreadful sin and lights up places where God is unknown simply amazes me. His blessings over shine all of the pain that we may have.

This is meaningful to me because Jesus gives everybody a place at his table, even those from all other denominations, whether baptized or not. The will of our Lord is judgment free, he loves killers just as he loves us and gives them a place at the table just as he gives us.

This concept gives me trust in God, as well as helps me understand and interpret the fact that when he says our sins are forgiven … they truly are. If he can bring those who have committed unjustifiable sin to his table, he can bring anybody. With that being said who am I to compare another’s sin to my own?

God gives each and every one of us a sense of belonging and fills our hearts in ways that otherwise can’t be filled.

Let us pray: God please fill our hearts with gifts of love, and help us to share your love to whom your love is a stranger. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 8:22-26

March 20, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Alan Balius.

They came to Bethsaida. Some people brought a blind man to him and begged him to touch him. He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village; and when he had put saliva on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Can you see anything?” And the man looked up and said, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking.”

Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. Then he sent him away to his home, saying, “Do not even go into the village.” Mark 8:22-26

“I can’t see the forest for the trees.” I admit that I often miss the big picture because my evaluation is too close, too critical. But what if someone admits, “I can see people, but they look like trees, walking?”

Whenever we have our eyes fitted for new lenses, the optometrist asks, “Which is better? One or two? Three or four?” Eventually, the right lens is identified. The blind man wasn’t expecting an eye exam, but Jesus asked him, “Can you see anything?” He replied that he couldn’t see clearly, so Jesus’ second treatment, “Which is better?” ensured that he could indeed see “everything clearly.”

Perhaps, like me, you wear “monovision” contact lenses; one is for close vision, the other for far. If only one is worn, it’s very difficult to see. When both are worn, one can see “everything clearly,” near and far. It can take a while to get used to this prescription before “whole” vision is attained.

Jesus gives us wholeness, “shalom,” in healing us. Wholeness means that it’s not enough to see, hear, or understand the Good News in part. God wants us to see the whole picture of Good News so that others will, too.

Let us pray, “Oh, Lord, haste the day, when my faith shall be sight.” Help us, like the hymn-writer Horatio Spafford, and like the man given sight in Bethsaida, to seek healing and wholeness in all of our relationships—with you, with family, friends, and those who are not yet here with us. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mark 5:25-34

March 19, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Joye Roll.

Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, “If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.” Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.

Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said, “Who touched my clothes?” And his disciples said to him, “You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, ‘Who touched me?’” He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.” Mark 5:25-34

This is the only miracle recorded in the scriptures where Jesus did not speak or display any action. This miracle is recorded in three of the Gospels. It must be important. What does it mean for us?

Illness is the great interrupter of life. It changes everything as we see in the life of this woman. She’s desperate. She’s tried everything. She has no hope.   Her life is slipping away. However, one touch of her hand to the hem of Jesus’ garment gives her new life. She is instantly healed. She tries to sneak away, silent about her miracle. Jesus stops her although He knows who she is. He blesses her by calling her “daughter” and giving her peace, something she has not felt for 12 years.   Her healing is truly a miracle!

I work and volunteer at M. D. Anderson where healing can be seen on a daily basis. Healing comes in many forms. Sometimes it’s a celebratory physical healing like this woman’s. Sometimes healing is hope in a new drug or protocol. Sometimes healing comes through death. Everyday Jesus is still healing. We, too, can reach out and touch Jesus and be given new life!

Let us pray: Great Healer, stop for us as you did for that woman many years ago. Help us to remember that we can reach out and touch you for healing and new life. Grant your wondrous peace to all those who suffer. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.

Mark 1:40-45

March 18, 2015

Throughout the season of Lent our daily devotions have been written by members of the Faith Lutheran community. Our theme this Lent is “Jesus Our Healer.” Today’s devotion comes from Jan Zunker.

A leper came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you choose, you can make me clean.” Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I do choose. Be made clean!” Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could no longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter. Mark 1:40-45

Earlier Mark records that “everyone was searching for Jesus” and “the whole city was gathered together and Jesus healed many who were sick with various diseases”. The leper had obviously heard this good news and he comes and humbly kneels before Jesus saying “if you will, you can make me clean”. The leper had faith that Jesus could heal him if he would but he was also aware that he might not.

Leprosy was a dreaded disease that rendered one unclean and untouchable. Those who had leprosy were forbidden to come into the presence of others to avoid defiling others by their touch. This kept them isolated and separated from others in the community. It is probable that this man had not felt the loving comforting touch of another for a long time.

Jesus casts aside all of the social taboos surrounding leprosy and casts aside his own concerns about defiling himself. He reached out and touched him with his loving hand and immediately he was made clean and restored.

This healing is a reminder that we cannot put up man-made boundaries or limits around the mercy of Jesus. Jesus sternly charged the leper to say nothing to anyone until he first went to the priests who would issue a certificate in writing to certify that he was indeed healed. This would allow him to rejoin the community. He could not contain his excitement and he went about sharing the good news freely and the word began to spread rapidly.

This healing was a sign that Jesus had come into the world to restore all creation to wholeness. It pointed to a time when there would be no sin, suffering and death that would keep us separated from the love of God and others.

There are many who still suffer today and we know all too well the devastating effects of any number of diseases. We hold fast to our faith and hope that nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God, which is ours through Christ Jesus, our Lord. When God looks into our eyes he sees us through the eyes of the loving compassionate grace of Jesus.

Let us pray: Gracious God, We pray that you will send your healing grace and mercy to all those who are sick. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen