Devotional: Whose World Is It?

In the light of who Jesus is revealed to be, and what he has accomplished on our behalf that every person might share in his relationship with his Father by the Spirit (John 17:3, John 16:13-15), we must not underestimate the priority of the Who question. As “Christ”ians we don’t believe that just anyone could be and do who Jesus is and what he did in his birth, life, suffering and death, resurrection, ascension and coming again, right? We don’t believe that just anyone could achieve the same outcomes, Jesus is the unique and only begotten of the Father (John 3:16). He is the only human mediator between God and humanity (1 Tim. 2:5). He is the only one to whom every knee will bow and tongue confess that he is Lord, right? (Phil. 2:9-11). This Who is in contrast to the popular “What?”, “How?”, “When?”, “Where?” and “Why? questions that often claim priority. You know what I mean: What will be done about these troubling political and social issues!? How long will the world continue to suffer racial discrimination and injustice!? When will this physical, mental or emotional pain end? Where is the man or woman with the real leadership solution to this COVID mess, and why is it taking so long to get understood, organized and solved?

With that basic understanding of the good news (that Jesus – God himself – is our good news), do you see the qualitative difference the “whose” question can have on your faith, hope and loving? Regarding the politics and social issues of this world, whose world is it? Regarding all physical, mental and emotional pain, whose body and soul is it? With regard to COVID and the disturbance of death it has brought to far too many in this world, whose resurrection from death makes alive? I’m sure scriptures come to mind with regard to those questions, but let me conclude with one set that holds all these together at once:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.”( Revevaltion 21:1-7 CSB)

Just so we’re clear, knowing whose world it is does not guarantee a life without troubles, pain or suffering for a time in this present evil age, (and that is why I included the reality of death here and now) but it is a sign of where things are headed because of whose world it is. So, whose troubles, pains and sufferings are they, really? Whose world is it? Whose _______ is it?

 

 

By Timothy Brassell
Pastor
Baltimore, Maryland

Devotional: Signs of the Messiah

A photo of a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk with a sign saying "Homeless! A Little Helps a lot. Thank you, God bless. Prayers please!" A pedestrian is kneeling beside him petting his kitten and having a conversation with the homeless man.

During this season of Epiphany, we’ve seen in our readings in Mark’s Gospel the unfolding of a primary Epiphany theme—the revealing of Jesus’ identity. In 1:1-11, Mark declares Jesus to be the Messiah, God’s Son, by offering testimonies from John the Baptist, the Holy Spirit and God the Father. In 1:12-45, Mark then offers tangible proof of Jesus’ identity in several mighty acts (signs) performed by Jesus—ones that befit God’s Messiah. The first sign involves conquering Satan in the wilderness (v. 12). This is followed by multiple signs in which Jesus conquers Satan in everyday life: driving out an evil spirit (vv. 21-18); healing Peter’s mother-in-law (vv. 29-34); and healing a leper (vv. 40-45).

In 2:1-12, Mark adds the sign of Jesus healing a paralytic. Not only does Jesus heal the man of his disability, but seeing the man’s faith declares that his sins are forgiven. To the Jewish religious authorities, this is blasphemy. Nevertheless, Jesus declares that “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (v.10), thus declaring himself equal with God.

To this list of messianic signs, Mark adds in 2:13-17 the calling of Levi (Matthew). Not only does Jesus cast out demons and heal sick bodies, but he also heals sick souls—even the soul of a tax collector, a person despised by Jews as traitorous, greedy, dishonest and immoral. Not only does Jesus call Levi to follow him—he has the audacity to go to dinner at Levi’s home where the guests include multiple tax collectors and assorted other sinners. To the religious authorities, Jesus has gone way too far! They ask his disciples why Jesus is behaving this way. Jesus overhears and answers by saying that just as it is expected that a doctor will associate with sick people, so it is appropriate (even necessary) for him to associate with sinners. After all, the whole purpose of his coming, in accordance with his true identity, is to call sinners to a new life with him (v. 17).

In this short, power-packed section of Mark we find multiple signs of the kingdom of God evident in Jesus’ person, words and actions. We might ask, are these signs seen in our churches? Do cheats, prostitutes and the lame flock to our churches and there find Jesus’ healing touch? Or do we react like the teachers of the law and shun such folks? Something to think about.

Prayer:

Our Father, today we proclaim again that Jesus is the Messiah, he is the Son of God our Savior. We are reminded of our calling to follow him—to be with him, sharing in what he is doing in his ongoing ministry of healing, restoring, blessing. We know that he is Messiah, not us, nevertheless, we are mindful that we are his disciples. Help us look to Jesus, follow where he leads, share in what he is doing in the power of the Holy Spirit. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.

 

Ted Johnston

 

by Ted Johnston

Devotional – Moved with Compassion

“But when he saw the crowds he was moved with compassion for them, because they were harassed, and cast away as sheep not having a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36 – Darby Bible Translation)

The Greek word here for compassion is “splanchnizomai”. The word literally means to “be moved in the bowel.” When Jesus saw the crowds, he noticed and felt their pain and suffering deep within his gut. He “experienced” their trouble and helplessness and he was stirred with profound, intense emotion to do something about it. He gathered his disciples and empowered them with authority to cast out demons and to heal every disease and sickness.

Have you ever encountered others who seemed abused or abandoned? What about the young man begging for money on your way to work? What about your neighbor who is a single mom? What about your family member who just needs you to sit down and listen with an open heart? How can we show compassion to those around us? First…stop and take notice. It is so easy in our busy lives to rush on by without a second glance for those who are lost and hurting. Second, ask God if there is a way for you to truly help them. God might say “no” but he also might say “yes.” He might tell you to give the young man the money in your pocket or buy him a sandwich. He might tell you to ask your neighbor if you can babysit a few hours her. He might tell you to share some encouragement and pray for someone. The important thing is to stop, notice, pray and do something.

Prayer: Lord, help us notice and see others as you see them. Help us feel what you feel about them. Help us take appropriate action as we are led by the Holy Spirit. Lord, give us your compassion for those around us.

 

By Davina Winn, Assistant Pastor
Hanover, VA

Prayer Guide: January 2021

“The church is a hospital—a place where sick, broken, wounded, flawed people are made new by Jesus.” ― John Mark Comer

Join us in prayer as we come together this new year asking for renewal and thanking Christ for new mercies each day. Click the image below to download and print the January Prayer Guide, as we celebrate how God is working in and among our congregations.

Devotional: Holding Patterns

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2

Have you ever been at the end of flight, airport in sight, and then instead of descending to land, the plane begins to fly in circles? The repetition of a flight path is called a “holding pattern”. When we are not present and intentional in our daily lives, we can fall into holding patterns of our own. Small and seemingly insignificant habits can seem harmless, but over time our habits form our life. For example, trading out 30 minutes of TV time each day for a walk can drastically improve our health. This same principle applies to our spiritual life.

It is easy for the values and lifestyle of the world around us to shape us; shifting the focus of our identity from a beloved child who belongs to God, to comparing ourselves to the people around us and where we fall in the hierarchy of society. The transformation starts not with our behavior but by presenting ourselves before our merciful Father. As we experience being held by our gracious God, holding patterns are broken and we are transformed. He renews our minds and reveals the way forward. Take some time in worship today, presenting yourself before the Lord in worship. May he renew your mind and show you his perfect will for the patterns in your life.

Prayer:
Gracious God, thank you for loving me into who you made me to be.
Reveal the patterns in my life that are shaping me to reflect the world instead of you.
Transform me by renewing my mind by your Spirit. In my mind and life, may you be glorified.

 

By Michelle Fleming

Devotional: Psalm 70

Psalm 70: Be pleased, O God, to deliver me. O Lord, make haste to help me! 2 Let those be put to shame and confusion who seek my life. Let those be turned back and brought to dishonor who desire to hurt me. 3 Let those who say, “Aha, Aha!” turn back because of their shame. 4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you. Let those who love your salvation say evermore, “God is great!” 5 But I am poor and needy; hasten to me, O God! You are my help and my deliverer; O Lord, do not delay!

Psalm 70 is one of those Psalms that expresses a longing for God to act. It’s an urgent prayer for help. It expresses a feeling of being short on time and long on need. In a few short words it expresses a plethora of feelings.

There are many moments in the life of every Christian where this Psalm sums up our deepest need. We want God to act and we want it now! Yet we are asked to wait. We feel the need to be vindicated. We want those who have hurt us exposed, to have justice done. In those moments, Psalm 70 provides us with a scriptural basis for lament, for airing our grievances, and for asking for help, for acknowledging that life is not always warm and fuzzy. Psalm 70 in its brevity expresses our expectation that God must hear and act! It’s is also a reminder that we might not receive an immediate answer.

But there are also times in our lives where the urgency of Psalm 70 is not our own. There are moments when our days are easy, when we are in a wide place. We may hear Psalm 70 but not really feel connected in the daily routine. We may be more interested in “what’s for lunch?” or the next big game. Our days may simply not have room for lament.

Yet it is perhaps on those days that we might benefit most from hearing this Psalm 70. After all, the urgent cry of the psalmist (“O LORD, make haste to help me!”) is someone else’s cry. The psalm can serve as a powerful reminder that even while our own lives might be rolling regularly along, that is not necessarily the case for everyone. Others might be hurting, calling out for help, awaiting deliverance. Others might be crying out but hearing no response.

This Psalm calls us to stop and listen. Who around us is living in the reality of this Psalm? Who is desperate for help but waiting for God to intervene? Who might be crying, even though there are no visible tears? Who needs our love and reassurance while they wait upon the Lord?

Prayer: Father, this Psalm has the capacity to say so much in such a few words. Keep my ears and heart open not only to my own cries but also to the cry of others who long for your deliverance and await your salvation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

By Gill Khoury
Pastor, South Africa