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Lent Day 15: On Your Knees (continued)

There is a pattern here with folks hitting their knees when they encounter Jesus?   It seems that they are in this posture for one of two reasons, respect or desperation. In Luke 5 the man with leprosy came out of desperation. The physician Luke gives a pretty brief depiction of the scene. “When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’” (v.12) I don’t know if Jesus was surprised by this statement of belief, or if this was becoming a common reaction to his presence by this point. Either way, He had to be impressed by the confidence that this man had. Basically, what this man was saying was, “Jesus, I have a problem, I believe that you can fix it.”

Jesus’ reaction to the man’s belief was simple, yet life giving, “I am willing, be clean.” (v.13) At first glance this all appears a little too clean cut. After all, the man had to have incredible emotional scars from being isolated from his family and friends. He had to have countless painful memories of living outside of town as an outcast. Sure he was healed physically, but what about spiritually, emotionally and mentally? Luke doesn’t get into the specifics, but my guess is that a lot of healing still had to take place in this man’s life. With his physical body now healed he had to continue believing that the rest of him would be healed as well. This man had an incredible daily reminder that this one Jesus would heal every aspect of life.

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Lent Day 14: Everyone is On Their Knees

Mark 5 is an unbelievable account of belief! Multiple people ending up at the feet of Jesus. The first story involves a sick girl and a desperate father named Jarius. This fathers level of belief is overwhelming to me! He says, “(To Jesus) Please come and lay your hands on her so that she will get well and live.” (Mark 5:23).   By the time Jesus got around to going to heal this man’s daughter, Jairus’ friends came and said, ”Your daughter has died; why trouble the teacher anymore? But Jesus, overhearing what was being spoken said to Jairus, ‘Do not be afraid any longer, only believe.” Just before Jesus honored the belief of Jairus and healed his daughter he did one other significant thing, he got belief out of the room. (v.40) He literally made sure everyone who didn’t believe that he could raise this girl from the dead get out of the room. Once the environment was right Jesus took the hand of the little girl and she got up!

Soon after Jairus corners Jesus and implores him to come and heal his daughter, Jesus finds himself in the midst of a large crowd. The bleeding woman or hemorrhaging woman, whatever we want to call her, had heard about Jesus. Her first thought was one of belief, “If I can just put my finger on his robe, I can get well.”(Mk5:28) So she makes her way in, and by in I mean she crawls to Jesus, and does that which she had believed for. Immediately Jesus felt something and noticed this woman on her knees. Even He was taken back by this kind of belief, and his statement to her is, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace and be healed of your affliction.” (v.34).

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Lent Day 12: If/ Then

Remember the “if, then” clauses from elementary school. If you do x, then y will happen. I remember studying this in grammar class. I recall drawing lines from a list of “if” sentences to correspond with the “then” conclusion. Jesus must have picked up on this rule in his schooling. He tends to give the disciples and Pharisees a lot of “if, then” examples. Toward the end of John 5 Jesus is having quite a conversation with the Pharisees about their allegiance. His crescendo is v.40: “How can you believe when you seek glory from one another and do not seek glory from God?”

This is a great statement by Jesus, but I have a problem with it. Everything in me wants to be praised and recognized by others. I want to do something great and have people pat me on the back telling me how wonderful I am. I want the spotlight, I want my name in lights, I want people to desire to be like me. I guess that is why Jesus’ words in John 5 are so troubling to me. What Jesus tells us here is that seeking glory from others is the opposite of belief. If we truly believe the Gospel then we realize that we are loved no matter what. There is no need to seek glory because we have the ultimate love and approval from the only voice that truly matters.

Jesus’ hope for us is that we will choose belief over glory. He is familiar with the decision and he knows it is a hard one to make. When Satan came to him and told him to jump from the temple, he was asking Jesus to choose glory over belief. Satan was trying to convince Jesus that glory was the goal. Jesus knew it was an empty promise, I often forget.

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Lent Day 11: Why Are You So Afraid?

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) Those are two of my favorite questions that Jesus asks in the Gospels. Simple, to the point, not easily misinterpreted. Jesus first statement in verse 35, “Let’s go across to the other side”, sheds a little light on why he asks these two questions. Jesus flat out told his friends that they were going to the other side of the lake, yet a little later a big storm shows up! So big that the water from the waves is splashing into the boat and the fellas are freaking out. They grab the buckets and frantically attempt to get water out of the boat. They’re yelling commands that most of us wouldn’t understand, “Starboard, it’s hitting the panel, watch the hull” – Sea talk.   Meanwhile their friend Jesus is asleep in the front of the boat. Now this seems rather odd to me since they are in the middle of a huge storm, but these are the facts. So we’ve got the panic guys dishing out water with buckets, and I don’t know about you, but if it’s me that’s on the working end of the bucket, about every third bucket is going on the guy asleep. Who does he think he is!!! So one of the guys throws down his bucket, wakes up Jesus, grabs him by the robe and says, “There’s a storm out there, we’re drowning, don’t you care!”

I love this next part of the story. Jesus gets up, rubs the sleepy out of his eyes, looks his friend in the face, looks at the other guys, walks to the middle of the boat, holds out his hand and says, “Quiet, be still! And it does! The wind quits blowing, the waves cease and immediately it’s completely calm. Can’t you just picture it?   His friends are soaking wet, holding buckets, in absolute awe.

Although Jesus told these guys that they were going to the other side, when chaos hit they didn’t believe.   Moments after he told them, essentially, that he was going to take care of them, they were yelling, “DON’T YOU CARE!” In the midst of the storm and the fear they forgot Jesus first words to them, “Let’s go to the other side”, he had already promised that he will take them there.   He doesn’t promise that there will be no storms, he promises that they will make it through. But their panic and fear had short-circuited their brains. It blinded them to what they had witnessed in the very recent past. It kept them from remembering the miracles this very Lord who was in the boat with them had already performed. In their fear, they saw only the pain that could quickly follow.

Fear makes us react irrationally at times, it shuts down our brain and it blinds us to the possibilities in the boat, situation, crisis, whatever we have in front of us. How often in our storms and trials do we forget His promise to us? We get caught up in the craziness and stay there. We live in the moment of the storm, and yet He has promised that He will rescue us and take us to the other side.

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Lent Day 6: Our primary part is to believe!

What was Jesus inviting people into when he said “believe in the gospel”? (Mark 1:15)  Based on the teaching of Jesus, it appears our primary role is to believe.  It is amazing to observe the weight Jesus allowed belief to play in different people’s lives and even his own life.  Think about the two blind men in Matt 9, “… two blind men followed him, calling out, ‘Have mercy on us, Son of David!’  28When he had gone indoors, the blind men came to him, and he asked them, ‘Do you believe that I am able to do this?’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ they replied.   29 Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith will it be done to you’; 30 and their sight was restored.”

Did you see that? “Do you BELIEVE I am….”. “According to your FAITH…”. These guys believed! And that belief changed EVERYTHING. We who have not seen with our physical eyes cannot even imagine…  Somewhere along the way we have bought into a lie about activity – that it’s somehow all about “Hard Work and Clean Living”, yesiree, all we gotta do is punch our sin in the neck a few times and once we get it to behave, we can go to God and show him our work and He will give us a cookie. NOT how it works! In God’s economy, belief is the currency and the “hard work” has already been done. Jesus allows that belief to dictate the outcome of our lives. That is threatening to our pace of living at breakneck speeds, frantically working on our own to manage our lives. But these verses and others like it tell us it’s true.  The primary question is not “What can I do to take care of this situation?” but instead, “Do you believe? Really? Everyone knows you want to…but do you?”

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Lent Day 5: Read the Gospels

(If you are wondering why we are 6 days into Lent but its only Day 5 it is because Sundays are not included in the 40 days of Lent.)

After my car ride with my buddy Stu that revealed my lack of practical belief that God could do much of anything, I received a clear directive from the Lord: Read the 4 Gospels slowly and stop each time the themes of faith, belief and unbelief came up.   Keep a journal and write about each of these stopping points.   Seemed easy enough. On the morning I began this trek through the Gospels I read Psalms 37. “Trust in the LORD and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.” (v.3) With this commitment to read through the Gospels I realized a voyage was beginning, a journey to cultivate faithfulness.

The way I began to “cultivate faithfulness” was to read Chapter 1 of each book (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) on different days and stop to journal each time I ran across the words “faith”, “belief”, or “unbelief”. After that I went to Chapter 2 of each book and so on. There was no time goal…it was private time with The Father. Each day, when He lead me to a story or statement about belief/unbelief, I’d stop and note what I was hearing and feeling. Often it would take two or three days to get through a single chapter. This did not bode well with my internal wiring. My nature is more about results than relaxation. Somehow though, there was no hurry to complete the task, and learning about faith became more important than checking a chapter off the list.

As you think about your own areas of unbelief consider internal tapes that may be playing in your head.  What do you tell yourself over and over throughout the day, most likely in your subconscious, that is simply not true.  I am too _____, I will never _____, the Lord won’t ever heal ________.  If you are having a hard time identifying an area of unbelief in your life ask a friend or spouse.  Chances are they can see it.