Mark 10:1-45

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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Father, thanks for the opportunity several years ago to go to downtown Indianapolis for a Prison Fellowship banquet.  Several folks were singing and sharing, one of which was Kathy Troccoli (www.kathytroccoli.com).  Just after I got there and found my table, I jotted a note to her and set out to find some “staff-looking” person who might deliver it to her.  As I wandered around the foyer, I spotted the table for Love 98, the local Christian radio station, and You led me to check with the guy there.  As I was beginning to speak to him and about to introduce myself, I heard a voice from up behind him on the stairs congenially call out, “Kathi!”  I looked up to find Kathy herself!  What a surprise!  (How evidently YOUR timing!!!)

Stepping around to the steps, we greeted one another with a hug and I handed her the note myself.  I let her know that I’d be at her concert in Middletown, OH, the next night.  She said that she’s heard it’s going to be a rather small event.  She asked if I’d like to sign a song on stage there.  I accepted the invitation and let her know that just about any of her slower songs were possibilities, saying, “however the Lord leads…”  She nodded in agreement.  (The first time she called me out of an audience to sign was on October 3, 1998, in Berne, IN – See story at https://katkreations82.wordpress.com/2012/09/22/traces/; then afterward told me to let her know when I’m at one of her concerts, so she could call me up again.)

Kathy said, “I was at a women’s conference recently and saw someone who looked just like you.”  When she called out to her, … oops.  We chuckled about that and then both needed to go our separate ways as the event got underway, leaving the next night’s details in Your hands.

You saw me walk away in a bit of amazement … First, the fact of Your timing in when I arrived there, when I pulled out the pen and wrote the note, when I got up to go look for a courier, and when she was passing by.  Second, that she was aware enough of the crowd around her to notice me and that she called out to me.  Third, as You let me learn the next night, that was one of the few public points of interaction she got to have at that banquet, since her management had learned that there were two stalkers in that crowd.  (She didn’t get to come out for meeting folks after the event.)

A bit later, after the dinner, You brought to mind the passage of scripture I’d read that morning in Mark 10.  I hadn’t left enough time to fully digest it as we sat together, but had written a line of it in my journal, intending to meditate on it and journal later.  That portion said, “Jesus looked at him and loved him …” (Mk 10:21 NIV).  That line just caught my eye.

Here was this eager rich young ruler running up to meet You, Jesus, as he called You “good teacher.”  From his knees, he asked You how to inherit eternal life.  Like everything else he’d amassed in his life, he thought that this was something that must be earned, achieved or otherwise acquired.

You asked him why he’d called You “good,” noting that “No one is good — except God alone.”  By calling You “good,” was the young man calling You God?  Was the young ruler then ready to follow whatever You said?  You pointed out the commandments that the young man would’ve known to follow.  The curious thing is that You focused only on the ones that dealt with human relationships.  The man claimed to have kept all those since he was a boy.

That’s when Mark describes Your next part: He looked at the man and “He loved him.”  You knew this guy’s heart … Lord, You knew where he was coming from and where he was headed with the conversation.  You recognized the young man as someone You cared about and You chose to speak out, even lovingly confronting him.  This time You alluded to the third of the ten commandments, the one commanding us to “have no other gods” before the true God.  You told the guy that the one thin he lacked was to surrender all the goods he’d amassed by his own efforts and give them away to others.  But the guy went away sad.  He just couldn’t let go of his wealth.

I think the encounter with Kathy that night reminded me of that verse in Mk 10:21 just simply because of the indescribable feeling that arose in me at the thought of being recognized by someone so well-known among so many, and yet she took the time to call out my name and greet me.  In the case of the rich young ruler, his encounter was of a deeper nature with the Lord of all.  And ya know what … I know that if that had been me in that passage, it would’ve said, “Jesus looked at her and loved her…” And You call me to the same full surrender, no matter what my “everything I have” is, You wants ALL of me.

Father, may You have Your way with me.  Where there are things of this world that I am holding onto, help me to open my hands and let You have them.  Make my heart and mind just like Jesus’.  Amen.

Photo below: Signing “Go Light Your World” as Kathy Troccoli sings in Middletown, OH

Mark 9

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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“…There He was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus … Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: ‘This is My Son, whom I love.  Listen to Him!'” (9:2-4, 7)

What a spectacular sight that would’ve been, Lord!  As I read it now, though, I already know Your bigger picture–how Your death, burial and resurrection fit into the scene.  But Peter, James, and John didn’t fully know what was in store.

This encounter was an event that more fully revealed that You, Jesus, truly are the Son of the Most High God.  There was Moses, representing the Old Testament law. There was Elijah, representing all the prophets.  Then, Father, YOU spoke.

You claimed Jesus as Your Son.  You affirmed Your love for Him.  Most of all, You said “listen to Him!”  You lifted Your Son above the Law and the Prophets, not destroying them, but rather, highlighting that He was fulfilling them by His very life on earth.  Thank You for supplying us Jesus as an example and as a window into Your nature.  Make my life just like His life, Father.  Let others see Him in me.

“‘If you can?’ said Jesus, ‘Everything is possible for him who believes.’  Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe, help me overcome my unbelief!’” (9:23-24 NIV)

The lettering on a gift item I’ve seen in a Christian bookstore said, “Faith is not believing in what God can do; faith is believing in what God will do.”  My faith grows with recognizing that absolutely nothing is too difficult for You, Papa.  It encompasses respecting that You are my Heavenly Father, not my Heavenly Vending Machine — The process doesn’t involve dropping in a token prayer, entering a selection, and reaching for the goodies as they drop down.  What You do promise is that You will supply all I need to serve You … that “everything is possible” when I believe, just not automatic, nor magically appearing or changing.

My faith is a gift from You.  To maintain and increase this attitude of trust and confidence, I need Your help continually.  Faith involves an attitude of total dependence on You.  For my faith to grow, I’m also dependent on You for that growth.

Some days, I could stand upon a rock in a posture conveying utmost confidence and shout out, “I believe You, Lord.”  On other days, I could finally be found still cringing beneath my blankets, head under my pillow, crying out like that father did, “Help me overcome my unbelief!”  The ultimate truth is this, Lord: I need You to daily renew my trust in You … And how faithful You are to do that!

You take my face into Your hands.  You look me in the eye — with YOUR eyes that convey the depths of Your love for me!  You simply speak, “I am.”  When I look at You, I know … You are … You are all things that I could ever, do ever, will ever need, desire, or seek.  I love YOU, Lord.  Amen.

Mark 8:31-35

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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“…If any of you wants to be My follower …you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross, and follow Me.” (v 34 NLT)

Somewhere along the way, Lord, You helped me to learn that each of the gospel writers wrote to a particular audience.  Matthew, for instance, wrote especially to the Jews.  Luke (the only non-Jewish biblical author) wrote to Theophilus, Gentiles ,and to people everywhere.  John most likely wrote to new Christians and searching non-Christians.  When You had Mark pen this gospel, he addressed it to the Christians in Rome, where he wrote it.

These Roman Christians would’ve thoroughly understood the directive to “take up his cross” (NIV) or “shoulder your cross” (NLT), since they had seen this act time and time again with each act of Roman capital punishment.  Each man, who’d already been condemned to die, had to carry his cross to the place of his own execution on that cross — just like You did, Jesus.  This doesn’t refer to putting up with some sort of irritation in my life.  No, Lord, You said this, because You mean that to truly follow You, I must submit, like You did, and follow in Your footsteps, willingly doing Your work, even when it is difficult and the future looks bleak.

Before You said “take up your cross,” You said, “deny yourself” (NIV) or “put aside your selfish ambition” (NLT).  You weren’t talking about denying myself something I enjoy, like a particular food or activity.  You were reaching deeper than that with Your statement.  You were saying that if I truly want to follow You, I must stop making myself the object of my life and actions.  You, not me, must be at the center of all I do.  If there were a literal throne in my life, I’d need to stay off it and allow You to sit upon it always.

“If you try to keep your life for yourself, you will lose it.  But if you give up your life for My sake and for the sake of the Good News, you will find true life.” (v35 NLT)

Your desire for me, Lord Jesus, is that I would stop trying to control my own destiny and let You direct me.  You ask me to submit to You, and are not calling me to self-hatred (by saying “deny self” or “lose your life”).  You see a broader picture than I can, knowing that so much more is in store when I choose to follow You, choose to submit to You, and choose to seek Your joy instead of groping, scratching, searching around in this life on my own.  Whatever I could amass for myself on this earth would only be temporary.  I want YOU to be in control, Lord.   I desire the treasure of You and Your kingdom, not the trinkets of earth.

Here I am, Lord, cross hoisted to my shoulder, eyes on You, and ready to walk with You down any road, at any cost … as You make me more and more like You every step of the way.  Amen.

Mark 8:27-30

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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WHO DO PEOPLE SAY I AM?

You were most likely the talk of the region, Jesus.  Everyone probably had his own theory about who You were, where You came from, why You came around, what Your plans were, etc.  So much confusion … so many hearts too hardened to hear … so few who really, really knew You.  When You asked Your disciples to convey what people were saying about You, the reply contained similar references: “John the Baptist,” “Elijah,” or “one of the prophets.”  In some way, the people had determined that You were some kind of prophet, and they figured You’d been brought back from the dead.

If You were to ask that question of one of Your followers today, You’d probably hear him or her report responses like: “a great teacher,” “a holy man,” “that baby in the manger scene,” “Jesus who?” and You’d hear that Your name is thrown around like a curse word.  Those sound rather removed from the references to prophets two thousand years earlier.

WHO DO YOU SAY I AM?

You brought the question to a personal level for Your disciples.  The one who spoke up was Peter, as he stated, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mk 8:29; Mt 16:16 NIV).  He voiced what they’d come to realize about You.  You weren’t merely a prophet; You were the One who’d been prophesied to come — the Messiah, the Anointed One (Ps 45:7; Is 61:1; Lk 4:18; Ps 2:1-2; Ac 4:26-27; Ac 10:38).  Matthew records this conversation too.  He includes more of Your response to Peter’s reply: “Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in heaven” (Matt 16:17 NIV).  You could tell that Peter was hearing Your Father and paying attention.

(An interesting note: A few verses later [v 31-33], You tell Your disciples what must happen to You, in order to fulfill prophecy.  Then, Peter took You aside to sharply criticize You.  But You straightened Peter out, highlighting that in that instance he did “not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men” [v 33 NIV].  How easy it is for our humanity to jump in the way of our focus on You and Your truth.)

That question You asked Your disciples: “Who do you say I am?” … You ask it of me too, don’t You?  Here’s my reply …

You are Jesus, the Christ, Messiah and Savior.

You are the Son of God, King of all kings, Lord of all the universe, all creation.

You are the Prince of Peace, my Shepherd.

You are my Friend, my Companion.

You are … all these things and more!

Thank You, Jesus, for revealing Yourself to me.  Thank You for Your gift of salvation … for Your grace … for Your love … Keep working in me to make me just like You.  Amen.

Mark 8:1-26

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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“…his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.” (8:25 NIV)

Clear vision seems to have come easier to the blind man of Bethsaida after his first encounter with You, Jesus, than for the disciples who’d been with You for quite a while.  The disciples were still more like the blind man after Your first touch: “I see people; they look like trees walking around” (v 24 NIV).  They could sort of see or understand what You were doing, but couldn’t fully comprehend or clearly see as yet.

Of course, how often have I been more like the disciples too?  Sometimes, when it comes to the things of You, I can be found with eyes closed, sight gone, or vision blurred.  Only through Your touch, Lord, can my heart and mind be changed, can understanding and comprehension come.  Then, can I be found with the eyes of my heart opened, my spiritual sight restored, and my soul’s vision cleared.  As You work Your spiritual optometry on my heart and mind, give me the eyes of Jesus, that I might see others, myself, and You through Your lenses. Amen.

Mark 7:1-23

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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Reality … genuineness … truth … these traits are found in Your example, Lord Jesus.  You set forth Truth as the reality for living a genuine life devoted to You.  You exposed meaningless traditions and acts that were not intended to be part of Your kingdom.

This passage is so vividly conveyed in the paraphrase called The Message:  “Jesus answered, ‘Isaiah was right about frauds like You, hit the bull’s-eye in fact:  ‘These people make a big show of saying the right thing, but their heart isn’t in it.  They act like they are worshipping me, but they don’t mean it.  They just use me as a cover for teaching whatever suits their fancy, ditching God’s command and taking up the latest fads.’ …You get rid of God’s command so you won’t be inconvenienced in following the religious fashions! … You scratch out God’s Word and scrawl a whim in its place …” (7:6-8, 13 MSG)

Father, teach me how to be real always and to be found doing Your will in Your way, not adhering to some human “religious fashion.”

Later in this passage, The Message puts it this way: “… Listen now, all of you — take this to heart.  It’s not what you swallow that pollutes your life; it’s what you vomit — that’s the real pollution” (7:15 MSG).

Father, fill my heart with the things of You, so that what comes out doesn’t pollute the lives around me.  Let Your joy be my joy.  Let Your peace be my peace.  Let Your love be my love.  Make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Mark 6:45-56

Show me Jesus, Father, and show others the Jesus in me.

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Folded into this passage, Lord, I see three blessings that You orchestrate, bring, and supply to Your followers:

RETREAT

“Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He dismissed the crowd.  After leaving them, He went upon a mountain side to pray.” (6:45-46 NIV)

You had intended, at the beginning of that day, for Your disciples to get away with You “to a quiet place and get some rest” (6:31 NIV).  However, the needs of the many outweighed the needs of the few, so You and the guys stayed with the people all day long.  Finally, You sent the disciples off for a small group retreat.  You sent the people home.  And You went off by Yourself to visit alone with Your Father.

Remind me when it’s time for that retreat with You.  Daily, keep me in conversation with our Papa God.  I look to You to bring rest to my heart, mind and spirit, even when life can be so chaotic and demanding.

RELIEF

“Immediately, He spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage!  It is I. [You can stop being]* afraid.'” (6:50; *[from the Greek literally])

What could’ve been a peaceful four-mile trip across a lake for the disciples, turned into one of tension and terror.  They were rowing across, “straining at the oars, because the wind was against them” (6:48 NIV).  Then, they saw this ghostlike figure walking on the lake and shrieked in terror.  WHAT a retreat!?!

As soon as they noticed You, Jesus, You spoke to them.  Your words brought relief to their fears and Your presence brought relief from the wind (6:50-51).  Amazement struck them.  Could they have forgotten so soon about all the other things You’d done?!

(It’s interesting how Mark writes “for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened” [6:52], since he had been in that boat.  As he wrote, he got to look back in retrospect, to see what had transpired among them as they were becoming acquainted with You, Jesus.)

RESTORATION

“… They begged Him to let them touch even the edge of His cloak, and ALL who touched Him were healed.” (6:56).

One trait the people always remembered about You, Jesus, was that You could heal them.  Broken, maimed, sick bodies were brought to You by any means possible, so that You could restore them ALL to health and wholeness.

Thank You, Lord, for the times of retreat You bring to my life — morning visits, time away, a few moments alone with You over lunch, whatever.  Thanks for the communion with You.

Thanks for the relief you bring time after time to the tension and terrors of my own life and heart.  Thanks for Your Word that relieves my mind and Your presence that relieves my very soul.

Thanks for the restoration You bring in my own body, as well as the sort of healing that comes by the touch of Your hand in other areas of life (relationships, appliances that need fixed, finances, etc.).

I’m so thankful I know You, Papa, and can rest in You, as You shape me into the likeness of Jesus.  Amen.