Devotional for July 27-August 2, 2018
Read Mark 5: 21-43
Jairus was a prominent man in town as leader of the synagogue, but he was also a desperate man. His daughter was ill and close to death, so Jairus approached Jesus, fell at his feet and begged him to come and lay his hands on his little girl so that she would be healed. And Jesus obliged. But would Jesus make it there on time? Would he arrive on the scene before the little girl would breathe her last?
As Jesus and Jairus hurriedly made their way through the crowds, an unnamed, unclean, lowly woman who had been suffering from a hemorrhage for years touched the hem of Jesus’ garment hoping to be made well. And she was! The hemorrhage ceased immediately.
This stopped Jesus in his tracks, much to the chagrin of the disciples and most assuredly Jairus. Jesus wanted to know the identity of the person who was the recipient of his healing powers. It was not enough just to be touched by an anonymous person. Jesus wanted to have a personal relationship with the lady. That is the way of our Lord. He doesn’t want to have a casual brush with folks. He wants to be involved in their lives. He is not content with having a casual relationship with folks. He desires to have an intimate relationship with them.
And such a relationship makes a tremendous difference in people’s lives as it did with the lady with the hemorrhage. Notice that when the lady touched the hem of Jesus garment, she was healed. But when she had a relationship with him, she was made whole. (The Greek word is “soza” which has physical, emotional and spiritual implications) And the same holds true with us. When we have a deep and abiding relationship with Christ, we receive the gifts of hope, confidence, emotional wellbeing and spiritual fitness. In essence, we are made whole.
And Christ, not only has the power to make us whole, he also has the power over death as our story makes clear. When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ home, it was too late. The little girl was dead. But this did not confront Jesus with an impossible task. He took the little girl by the hand and said, “Little girl, get up! And immediately she arose and walked.
This underscores the power of the resurrection. Some day, when we breathe our last, we too will hear the words, “My child, get up!” And we will awake in the heavenly courts with our God for all eternity. This has been made possible at Easter when God defeated the power of death once and for all by way of the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
We can glean several other points from our scripture. First, Jesus is no respecter of status, titles, position and rank. All people are important in his eyes. He interrupted his journey to the home of the synagogue leader in order to minister to an unclean lady who was an outcast. Jesus was the servant of all. If anything, he seemed to go out of his way to minister to the underdogs in life. “He has lifted up the lowly,” exclaimed Mary. And as the church who bears his name, we are called to do the same.
And second, Jesus shows us how to handle interruptions. Jesus was constantly interrupted in his ministry. But he always made time for the people who interrupted him. He was never too busy to minister to those who had need of him.
When I first began my ministry, I use to get frustrated when I was interrupted in the midst of my sermon preparation. But as I have gotten older and wiser, I have come to see that those interruptions are a big part of my ministry, if not the most important part. It is essential that I take time for people.
That is good advice for others. Parents, I know your schedules are full as you have to work etc. But take time for your children who need your love and affection. Doctors, in the midst of all the tests and physicals you perform, take time for your patients. It is good to know that your physician cares and has your best interests at heart. And teachers, as busy as you are with lesson plans and school reports, do not neglect your students who are the reason you teach in the first place.
Be like Jesus who on his way to defeat the power of death was not too busy to be interrupted by a lady of mean estate and to engage her in a conversation which made all the difference in her life.
Devotional for July 21-27
Read Mark 2: 1-12
“Believing for Others”
I am sure that we all have family members, friends and neighbors who do not believe. Perhaps at one time in their lives, they were involved in church, but then something happened, and they fell by the wayside. Or maybe some have never considered Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. These are individuals about whom we care. They are good people, loving and kind. But for whatever reason, they have not entered the ranks of the faithful.
So what can we do? This is a question that I have been asked many times in the course of my ministry. What can we do to convince people of the validity of the Christian faith? Well, badgering someone will certainly not accomplish the intended results. As a matter of fact, in all likelihood, it will have the opposite effect and drive people away from Christ. And getting someone else to talk to a friend or a loved one will probably not work either. If they will not listen to you whom they trust, then they will certainly not entertain the thoughts of someone they barely know.
So what can we do? Let me suggest three things. First, look for openings in a routine conversation when you can share your faith with someone in a non-threatening way. When I had ablation last year on my heart, a resident in our condo complex who is unchurched asked me how the procedure went and I replied, “I was nervous at first, but I knew God would look after me and I was ok.” “Sounds as though your faith calmed your fears,” he replied. “It did,” I responded. That was the gist of our conversation, but hopefully, I planted a seed that might sprout sometime in the future.
Second, pray each and every day for the individual, asking God’s spirit to move in their lives. We have someone in our family who is not so sure about Christianity at this time and I mention her name in prayer daily. You might say, I am like the persistent widow in the parable that Jesus told. I pray and do not lose hope. I do not badger our family member about the faith. But I do badger God in my prayers for her.
And finally, if your friend or loved one does not believe, then believe for them. I say this based on our scripture lesson from Mark. The friends of the paralytic could not get their friend close to Jesus because of the crowd. So, exerting strenuous effort, they dug through the roof and lowered the man to the feet of Christ. And then the scripture reports, “When Jesus saw their faith”, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’” Nothing is mentioned concerning the faith or lack thereof of the paralytic. The faith and efforts of the four friends enabled the crippled man to be forgiven and healed of his infirmity.
When your friend of loved one will not believe, then believe for them. Your faith and efforts just may be the vehicles God uses to place your friend or family member at the feet of Christ to be healed, forgiven and saved.
Devotional for July 14-20, 2018
Read Genesis 4:25
“The Other Son”
Everyone knows the story of Cain and Abel. Adam and Eve’s sons are quite famous. Even those on the outside of religious circles are familiar with their narrative found in the fourth chapter of Genesis.
Both boys brought to the Lord an offering from their labors. Cain brought to God some fruit he had grown from the soil and Abel brought a sheep he had raised. But when God seemed to arbitrarily accept Abel’s offering and reject Cain’s, Cain became so incensed that he rose up against his brother and murdered him.
When God learned what had transpired, he punished Cain, making him a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth. He was in essence banished from the family circle. At this point, it looked as though the story of creation’s first family was all but over. Abel had been murdered. Cain had been exiled. And when Adam and Eve would breathe their last, the family tree would abruptly come to an end.
But notice, that when all appeared to be lost and there was no longer any hope of the continuance of that family, God intervened. “Adam knew his wife again and she bore a son and named him Seth.” (Genesis 4:25) While Cain and Abel grabbed the headlines in Genesis with their exploits, while they are well known by almost everyone, it was little known Seth who enabled the first family’s story to continue. Seth is mentioned in only a few verses in Genesis. A lot of people have never even heard of Adam and Eve’s third son. But had it not been for Seth, the genealogy of that family would have come to a quick conclusion.
Over my forty one years of ministry, I have known a lot of “Seth’s”; people who go unnoticed, who never occupy the spotlight, yet they are indispensible to God’s church and his kingdom. These individuals work behind the scenes. Their names very rarely appear in the church’s bulletin or newsletter, but the church could not get along without them. Their contributions and efforts are invaluable.
I call these individuals “God’s Silent Saints’. They do not call attention to themselves or win a lot of accolades, but through their labors, the mission and ministry of the church are able to continue and prosper.
We have some of these “Silent Saints” in our midst. They can be found in the pew each Sunday morning at Westminster. So take the time and make the effort to let these people know how much you appreciate what they do. I had a seminary professor who use to say that while ministers are in the limelight, it is the person who runs the Xerox and the person who tends the nursery and the person who collects and counts the money who are really the important people in the ranks of the faithful. How true! How true!!!!
Devotion for July 7-15, 2018
Read Matthew 16: 13-23
“Affirming Our Neighbor”
In this account from Matthew, Peter comes to an understanding as to the identity of Jesus. “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God. But Peter not only came to know the identity of Jesus, he also learned of his own identity from the lips of Jesus. “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.”
I wonder how Peter felt when he heard these words of Christ? I wonder how Christ’s assessment of his future affected Peter’s life and outlook?
As a disciple, Peter had certainly made his share of mistakes. This impetuous fisherman was always putting his foot in his mouth or leaping before he looked. There was the time that Peter jumped out of the boat and headed toward Jesus on the water. But half way there, Peter began to sink in the waters of disbelief. Or Peter boasted that he would never deny Jesus. But when he encountered a servant girl in the courtyard, Peter said he never knew the man they were about to crucify. Or in our scripture passage for this devotional, Peter rebuked Jesus when Jesus said he must suffer and die. And Jesus says to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan.
But despite these mistakes and blunders, Peter did become a leader in the early church. And I believe it was all due to the affirmation he received from Jesus. Peter must have thought, “Although I have made some miscues along the way, Jesus still has confidence in me. He still believes that I can make a valuable contribution to his kingdom. He still thinks that I can be a valuable asset to the church he will establish. The affirmation of Christ which Peter received brought out the best which Peter had to offer.
Have you ever thought about the affect your words have upon others? There was a young boy in a church that I served who was a real troublemaker. But when he became a member of Mrs. Correll’s Sunday School Class, his behavior changed dramatically. “What did you do?” Mrs. Correll was asked. “I just looked for occasions to praise the lad; to give him words of encouragement” Mrs. Correll replied. And he came to realize he wasn’t the troublemaker some said he was, but the nice young man I believed him to be.
Our words can have a powerful impact upon people. In the Book of James, it is said that there is much power in the tongue. It can build people up or tear them down. It can praise God our Father or it can curse people made in the image of God. Our words do matter. They can make someone’s day or ruin it. I was most fortunate to have teachers, professors and ministers along the way who affirmed my life and my gifts. Their words of encouragement and praise helped me to believe in myself and convinced me that I had something to contribute to life.
And hopefully, I can return the favor by taking the time to affirm people; to tell them how much I appreciate who they are and what they do. It does not take much effort to let people know how much you appreciate their efforts and contributions. So, tell a spouse how much they mean to you. Tell a colleague how much you value their work. Tell a person how much their friendship means. It might make someone’s day or even change the course of someone’s life.
Devotional June 30-July 6, 2018
Read Genesis 45: 4-8
“Reflecting on Your Life”
What a roller coaster ride Joseph experienced in his life. He was “up” in his father’s eyes as he was the favorite son out of 12 boys. Then his jealous brothers sold him to a group of Ishmaelites and he was carried “down” to Egypt where he rose “up” in Potiphar’s household as he was named the overseer of Potiphar’s entire household. But then, Joseph refused the advances of Potiphar’s wife and he landed “down” in an Egyptian jail. While in jail, Joseph became known for his ability to interpret dreams. And when he interpreted the Pharaoh’s dream about 7 years of feast followed by 7 years of famine, Joseph rose “up” in Pharaoh’s court as he was named Secretary of Agriculture.
And when Joseph’s brothers came to Egypt searching for food during those seven years of famine, Joseph began to reflect upon his topsy-turvy life perhaps for the very first time. And through all the successes and setbacks, through all of the triumphs and failures, Joseph saw God’s hand at work in his life, and he exclaimed to his brothers, “I am Joseph your brother. And do not be distressed that you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. God sent me before you to keep alive for you many survivors.” Joseph realized that God had positioned him in that time and place so that the story of God and his people might continue.
And what holds true for Joseph, also applies to our lives today. If you look back upon your life, I am certain you will come to the realization that the things that have happened to you were not due to luck, chance, fate or fortune, but due to the providence of God. Often when you were unaware of it, God was working behind the scene of your life to make you the person you are today. Through his providence, he has placed you where you are needed the most.
When I was in high school, I was in the running for a prestigious scholarship to the University of North Carolina which I eventually did not receive. I was crushed at the time. But God’s hand was at work in my life because I then went to Davidson College where I fell in love with religious studies. And then, I entered Union Seminary where I pursued my call to the ministry and just so happened to meet Licia. And it has been a most rewarding 41 years of ministry. Even though I am retired now, I still think that God has a purpose riding on my life; that I am where I am for a reason.
So the question you must ask is, “Why am I here at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Greenwood, S.C. in the year 2018? What has God positioned me to do in the time and place in which I find myself? For make no mistake, just like Joseph, God has put you here for a reason.