I Want to See

Mark 10:46-52 (NIV)

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. 47 When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

 

It probably started like just another day for blind Bartimaeus. He goes to his usual place hoping that some kind souls would help him out with some little money but then something happens. He hears that Jesus is passing by accompanied by a large crowd of people. Could this be his turning point? Could the One who has performed many miracles change his life?  Jesus hears the cry of Bartimaeus and stops. Jesus calls for him. When he is asked what the Lord would do for him, he responds that “I want to see.” He is aware of his condition. He knows that only the Lord can change it.

One of the stated ministry objectives of Jesus Christ was to open the eyes of the blind. Bartimaeus’ physical blindness reminds us of our own spiritual blindness. There are many things that can blind us blinds us from seeing things God’s way.

One of them is our culture.  Our culture conditions us to think and act in certain ways. Sometimes some of these ways are not consistent with God’s Word. The cultural practices we may consider to be “Christian” may actually be detestable before God. The Bible cautions us against being conformed to the standards of the world (Rom. 12:2). It is, therefore important for us to be aware of our cultural prejudices as we study God’s Word and seek to follow Him.

The other reason why we can be spiritually blind is because of our sinful tendencies—wanting to have our own way rather than the Lord’s. The Bible calls it the “hardness of the heart” (Mark 10:5). As we continually submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ, the spiritual scales that blind us get removed and our desires become more and more aligned to the will of God.

We must acknowledge the sheer fact that we are human and limited in many ways. Sometimes we can have faulty expectations from the Lord. Paul says that our knowledge is partial (1 Cor. 13:9). We, therefore, need to go to the Lord every day and ask Him to open our eyes to see things as He sees them.

PRAYER:

Dear Lord, open my spiritual eyes so that I may see You clearly. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

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Freedom Is Not Free

Ephesians 2:1-2, 13,14 (NIV)

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. … 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,

Some years ago, I visited the War Memorial of South Korea and bought a mug lid. On it was written the words: “freedom is not free.” The word “peace” carries different connotations. Socially, it could mean the absence of conflict. At a personal level it is taken to mean tranquillity. But the biblical concept of peace is richer and profound. It carries the idea of completeness and wholeness—where everything finds its purpose in God.

True peace is found in having the right relationship with God. This spiritual dimension of peace affects both the social and personal realms of life. We, of course, know that the world is not as it should be because of the effects of sin. Our relationship with ourselves, others and the rest of creation is broken because our relationship with God is broken. This means that any human attempt to bring peace to this broken world is at best temporal and superficial. It is a quick fix that has no lasting effects.

In Ephesians chapter 2, Apostle Paul paints a picture of our state without Christ—and it is not an impressive one. Here is the sampler of the catalogue: we were dead in transgressions, gratifying the cravings of our flesh, deserving of God’s wrath, separate from Christ, without hope and without God. But thank God that through the death of Christ on the cross, our freedom was secured. Christ is indeed our Peace. Through Him our relationship with God is restored. And it doesn’t end here! Our other relationships too have been redeemed. Everyone and everything finds meaning and purpose in Him.

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Prayer

Dear God, I thank you for the cross of Your Son Jesus Christ. In Him I find freedom, and peace and life. In His name I pray, amen.

When God Does not Answer

Psalm 83:1 (NIV) O God, do not remain silent; do not turn a deaf ear, do not stand aloof, O God.

God answers prayers. There is nothing impossible with Him. But there are many times I have come before God, garnered all the faith I could, prayed my heart out, and trusted that God would answer me but things did not end up the way I expected. There are other times when I have wondered whether I should even bother praying at all. If God did not answer me the other day, how sure am I that He will do it this time around? Someone even wonders whether God is listening or I am simply talking to myself.

In the article, “Jesus’ Unanswered Prayers,” Philip Yancey writes that “Jesus, too, had unanswered prayers.” For instance, when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was arrested, He pleaded with the Father all night to save Him from the impending suffering. It was such an intense moment that His “sweat was like drops of blood falling on the ground” (Luke 22:44). Of course, Jesus knew that the Father could do what He has asked Him to do, but He still surrendered to the Father’s will. And as Yancey says “When Jesus prayed to the one who could save him from death, he did not get that salvation; instead, he got the salvation of the world.”

When God does not answer us in ways we expected, it is not because He is indifferent or unable to give us what we asked for. It is because he has something better for us. Our role is to bring our desires before Him and let Him do as He pleases.

Prayer

Dear heavenly Father, teach me today to trust in you love, power and wisdom even when thing may not go the way I want. In Jesus’ name I pray, amen.

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Dying to Self

Mark 10:35-45 (NIV) Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask.”…They replied, “Let one of us sit at your right and the other at your left in your glory.”…Jesus called them together and said…whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.

Many of us do not want die. We, in fact, spend much of our energy and resources trying to preserve our lives. Ironically, in the course of doing all this we may end up wasting our lives away. That is why the call by Jesus to die to self is antithetical to everything we know and live for. It is a radical call. It is unnatural. It is not how the world works.

In today’s passage, the two disciples, James and John, come up with a rather ridiculous request to Jesus—and they do not expect Jesus to deny their request. They want each of them to sit at either side of Jesus in His coming Messianic kingdom. They certainly are ignorant that Jesus’ going to Jerusalem will lead to death and not political triumph. They also obviously are not fully aware of the implications of following Jesus, which include suffering and pain. Jesus then responds to all the disciples that true greatness is achieved by selfless service.

From God’s point of view, greatness is measured by willingness to die to self and serve others. The way to greatness is through selfless service. The Word of God exhorts followers of Jesus Christ to emulate His example of humility as we serve one another. He was God from all eternity but he freely gave up His divine privileges to become like us. He who created the world lived like a slave and died the death of a worst criminal.
On the day of the Passover before His crucifixion, he washed the feet of his disciples. This was a menial job meant for household servants. After the exercise, Jesus told the disciples an important lesson: “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” This can only happen when we stop pursuing self-serving interests but serve others. It happens when we allow God to use us to accomplish His purposes rather than us using God to accomplish our purposes.

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Prayer: Lord Jesus, thank you for showing us the way to true greatness. Please help me to live humbly as a servant of others. In Your name I pray, amen.

 

God and Money

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Mark 10: 17-22 (NIV) As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”…. Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

One thing that was common in Jesus’ ministry is that different people approached him with all kinds of questions—and He responded to them according to the genuineness of their intentions. This time He is approached by a wealthy man with an age-old question. What does it take for one to enter the kingdom of God? There is something striking about this encounter. Jesus’ loving eyes see something wrong with this man.  Although he has been keeping the law religiously, his heart is tied to his wealth. His wealth is effectively the god that he is serving.

Many years ago, as college students, we went for a retreat where a missionary was one of the speakers. I cannot remember much of what he said but he made a comment about money that went—more or less—like this, “you should always look at money as if it is stones.” I think what he meant was that we should not let our hearts get carried away with the love of money. But since we considered him and other missionaries more financially privileged than us, we never took his comment seriously.

Our sentiments towards the missionary notwithstanding, the Bible severally warns about the temptations of money. Pastoral leaders should not yield to the temptation of serving God as a means to get rich (1 Tim. 6:5). Those who try to follow Christ but remain attached to the pursuit of wealth and worldly pleasures get choked and are unfruitful (Matt. 13:22). Money can be an object of worship. We are warned that we cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24). And the love of money is the root of all evils (1 Tim. 6:10).

So, what is it about money that makes many people feel that they do not need God? Truth is that money is not neutral. That is why we need to be intentional about how we relate to it and use it. All of us have something or someone our hearts are attached to. Unless we deal with that, we cannot truly follow Christ. Wealth and affluence are some of the gods of this age. What issue of your heart would you have Christ deal with as you follow Him? As followers of Jesus Christ we can have a healthy mindset towards money and wealth. We should not serve God for money but rather we should serve Him with all He has given us, including money, for His glory.

 

PRAYER

Lord Jesus, would you reveal to me the idols in my heart that could easily distract me from following you. In Your name I pray. Amen.

 

 

A Garden of Roses

Song of Songs 2:16-17 (NIV). My beloved is mine and I am his; he browses among the lilies. Until the day breaks and the shadows flee, turn, my beloved, and be like a gazelle or like a young stag on the rugged hills

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Many married couples hope that they will live happily ever after saying their marriage vows. Sadly, the reality is different. In fact some, out of frustrating experiences, will be quick to warn that marriage is not “a bed of roses.” True, it is unrealistic to expect marriage to be comfortable and easy without any challenges.

I, however, like to compare marriage to a garden of roses. God intended that the marriage relationship between man and woman is beautiful and fulfilling, and above all, God-honoring. But just like a garden of roses with both the beautiful flowers and the thorny parts, marriage can be both exciting and challenging.

Behind a beautiful garden is the hard work that goes with it. A good marriage needs to be tended. Just like a garden needs watering and nourishing, marriage also needs to be nourished with love, words of encouragement, prayer and many other things.

Marriage also needs to be pruned. Pruning in deals with the internal issues—attitudes and habits—that could easily destroy our relationships if not dealt with.

Also, both a beautiful garden and marriage require is weeding. This deals with the external factors. To maintain a healthy marriage relationship we have to deal with forces that could easily hurt our relationship such as bad company, how we deal with friends and relatives, and so on.

The good news is that we are not alone in tending this beautiful garden of marriage. The God who started it is always there with us to help us.

Contending with Evil Altars

2 Chronicles 15:16-18 (NIV)16 King Asa also deposed his grandmother Maakah from her position as queen mother, because she had made a repulsive image for the worship of Asherah. Asa cut it down, broke it up and burned it in the Kidron Valley. 17 Although he did not remove the high places from Israel, Asa’s heart was fully committed to the Lord all his life. 18 He brought into the temple of God the silver and gold and the articles that he and his father had dedicated.

An altar is a place where people make sacrifices to a deity. The first mention of the altar in the Bible is when Noah builds one after the flood in order to offer sacrifices to God (Gen. 8:20). God instructed Moses to build an altar, as part of the tabernacle, to burn incense for the Lord (Exod.  30:1). The priests were tasked to burn incense on the altar every morning. In the New Testament believers are exhorted to offer their bodies as living sacrifices to God.  Therefore, for Christian believers, altars may be the spaces where we live out and the activities we do in the name of Christ to honor God. This may include prayer and worship gatherings or even our day-to-day work as long as it is done to honor Christ. Altars concretize and energize our worship of God.

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However, even in the biblical times, altars were not the preserve for the worshipers of the One true God. Other nations also erected altars to sacrifice to their gods. Sadly, time and again the people of Israel were lured to worship the foreign gods on the pagan altars. This of course displeased God and He likens it to spiritual prostitution.

Evil altars, then, are spaces and activities where the name of the Lord is dishonored and evil is glorified. As believers, we are called to contend with evil altars. But we also need to realize that we contend with evil forces and not human beings. We don’t kill “non-believers” or disown our children when they refuse to follow Christ. We content against spiritual altars by speaking and living by the truth of God’s Word and praying against them in the name of Jesus Christ.

FOOD FOR THOUGHT

What radical steps of obedience do you fell led to take as a follower of Jesus Christ?