The Choice

In Mark 7 Jesus says, "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far away. Their worship is a farce ("in vain" says NIV/NASB), for they replace God's commands with their own man-made teachings...substituting (their) own traditions." (NLT) Jesus wasn't condemning traditions. He was condemning traditions as a substitute for doing God's will which is a life of true worship. Lip honoring accompanied by distant hearts. There is a connection with what Jesus says next. "You are not defiled by what you eat;you are defiled by what you say and do." Mark. 7:15. Defiling is an opposite of honoring. Defiling comes from our speech and actions and Jesus quickly points out where these two benchmarks originate. "It is the thought-life that defiles you." Mark 7:20 (NLT). "From within, out of the heart of men proceed evil (defiling) thoughts." (NASB) You can read the list of 12 in Mark 7, all of which "make you unacceptable to God." So there are three choices. Defilement (not an option). Honoring God with lips present/heart absent (a farce says Jesus). Or honoring God with lips (and life) from a heart intent on true worship. "As for me, I am poor and needy but the Lord is thinking about me right now...my Helper...my Saviour." Psalm 40:17 (NLT) God is thinking about you right now! What a blessing. He alone is willing and able to help you make the right choice. Believe Him. Take Him at His (fresh) word.

Little is Much

The apostles just returned from a "Ministry Tour". Mark 6:30-46 (NLT) They blurted out all they'd done and taught. Jesus' response? "Let's get away from the crowds for a while and REST." They left for a QUIETer spot. The crowd followed. Was Jesus upset? Annoyed? Irritated? None of the above. "He had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd." This is the leadup to the feeding of the 5,000. Jesus already knew how much food they had to feed the crowd. He wanted THEM to know what their resources were, so He had them count. 5 loaves, 2 fish. Pitiful resources. Fact is our resources ARE pitiful apart from the Lord. But when those pitiful resources are given to God, blessed and broken...they can feed multitudes! "Afterward He went up into the hills BY HIMSELF to pray." In Psalm 40, David writes, "I WAITED patiently for the Lord to help me (with my pitiful resources) and He turned to me and heard my cry."(NLT) There are some keys in all this to effectiveness in the kingdom of God. Lord, help us to follow Your divine plan.

Where are you going?

A relative died this morning. Later I read in Psalm 39:4, "Lord, remind me how brief my time on earth will be and that my life is fleeing away." (NLT) The NASB says, "How transient I am." Psalm 39:5 continues, "An entire lifetime is just a moment to you; human existence is but a breath. We are merely moving shadows ("phantoms" says NASB/NIV) and all our busy rushing ends in nothing."(NLT) Not a pretty picture. Seems so futile. But verse 7 ..."And so, Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in You."  I wrote on my church bulletin this morning, "findhope.com" as an alternate possible website URL.(I checked...it's already been taken.) Then I read this portion of scripture about hope this afternoon! Coincidence? I think not. God wants you and me to know that there IS hope and it's in the Lord! This ministry outreach effort is all about giving hope. I so want you to be encouraged. Our pastor read from John 6:66 this morning where many of Jesus' disciples deserted Him. They gave up, quit, turned back, returned to their old associations because of some "hard sayings" of His. He asked the twelve, "Are you going to leave too?" Peter answered, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life." (NIV) One of those words of eternal life is...you can find hope in the Lord. I "hope" today you'll consider the brevity of your life and decide to follow the One who has the words of eternal life.

Making Contact

Two stories connected by the number "12" and the reality concept "touch" are found in Mark 5:21-43 (NLT). A woman had a hemorrhage for 12 years. The doctors couldn't help. She touched Jesus' clothes in desperate faith. Jesus asked, "Who touched my clothes?" The disciples were incredulous. "All this crowd is pressing around you. How can you ask, "Who touched me?" Hers was the touch of faith. Jairus' daughter wasn't dead, only asleep according to Jesus. The crowd laughed at Him. Just as an aside... never underestimate the miracle-killing power of laughter. (Was the serpent laughing when he rhetorically asked Eve, "Did God (really) say you can't eat the fruit?") A lesser person might have given in to the derisive laughter, but not Jesus. "Holding her hand, Jesus said to her, ""Get up, little girl!" And the girl, who was 12 years old, immediately stood up..." There's that touch again. Whether you touch Him or you allow Him to touch you, get in contact with Him today! Don't wait 12 years.

Process

Moses said to Aaron, "Present your sin offering...to make atonement for yourself. Then present the offerings to make atonement for the people. Lev. 9:7 (NLT) Reminds me of the old song, "It's not my brother nor my sister, but it's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer." Our first priority is dealing with our own relationship with the Lord, making sure everything's tidy there before tackling others. And concerning us and others and anything else you can think of, remember it's all about process. Jesus said, "A farmer planted seeds in a field and then went on with his other activities." Mark 4:26 (NLT) That's what I'm doing right now, planting this seed and then I have a pile of other things to do today. You know I'm expecting that seed to accomplish something. All I have to do is plant it initially. "As the days went by, the seeds sprouted and grew WITHOUT THE FARMER'S HELP." Now, isn't that something! You take that little seed. Looks lifeless. You bury it and then you walk away. But there's something miraculous happening down in the deep dark soil. Life is being resurrected! Awesome! "...First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of the wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens...the farmer comes and harvests it." To be sure there are some things the farmer can be doing,like fertilizing, watering, weeding, but the picture Jesus is painting is that the major work is not being done by the farmer. Psalm 37:54 says, "Don't be impatient for the Lord to act! Travel steadily along His path. He will honor you, giving you the land." Remember today...life's a process. Do your part. Plant the seed. Let God do His great part.

Really Listening

Jesus said, "Anyone who is willing to hear should listen and understand!" Mark 3:9(NLT)  Later he said it again, "Anyone (Are YOU "a one"?) who is willing (Are YOU willing by a conscious act of your will?) to hear should listen (There IS a difference between hearing and listening, you "see".) and understand (You have to DO something with what you've heard/listened to.) Further He says, "And be sure to pay attention (As a teacher how many times did I say, "PAY ATTENTION!"  It takes effort like focusing,etc. to really listen.) to what you hear." Jesus promises, "The more you do this, the more you will understand - and even more besides. To those who are open to My teaching, more understanding will be given." Mark 3: 23 and on (NLT). Would you agree we need understanding these days?! How do I live to glorify God, if that's your aim, and I trust it is. We have to listen, daily... at His doorpost, it says somewhere else in the scriptures. Listening for that fresh word from heaven that ignites a flame within that propels us through our day in the will of the Father. Lord, dig our ears! Are you willing?

The Way In

"Be still in the presence of the Lord, and wait patiently for Him to act." Psalm 37:7 (NLT) What a foreign concept these days...be still...wait...wait patiently! If we could only see this is the key. How do you get into the presence of the Lord? Some use music. Some use quiet meditation on the Lord and His goodness. Some use Bible reading. Whatever way...get there! Then, wait. Hey, I'm talking to myself too. I feel the presure of doing, doing, doing which is the total antithesis of waiting. But if we do...the promise is...He'll act. Act for whatever's personally on the table for you now. Act for family, work, relationship situations. It's a great promise from a great God!

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