Devotions for Matthew 6:13; Mark 5:1-15
August 29-September 4, 2016
Monday, August 29, 2016
“Do not bring us to the time of trial” (Matthew 6:13a).
Jill did not do well with tests. It’s not that she’d sluff off during the semester and not know the material. Quite the contrary. Jill would study hard and master the various concepts and facts of the class, but on the little pop quizzes and the big finals she would freeze. It didn’t help that Jill would worry about her testing performance throughout the semester. As a disciple of Jesus, Jill would pray that the Lord would help her during her tests—that God would be present with her, calm her nerves and help her to recall the material that she had studied.
Not too many people like tests and trials. Most of us fear trials and some of us spend a considerable amount of energy avoiding trials. Still, struggles and tough times are a part of life. In this petition we aren’t praying that God would allow us to live charmed lives free from pain and suffering—even though the thought is rather attractive. We are asking that God will walk with us through life—even the trials and tribulations—and give us the ability to honor God in all that we say and do.
Powerful God, you never leave us nor forsake us. Enable us to live in this truth and allow it to give us comfort and strength when we face the trials of life. Amen.
Tuesday, August 30, 2016
“And deliver us from evil” (Matthew 6:13b).
There is a popular game show where contestants are asked to estimate the price of an item. Whoever comes closest to the actual price without going over it wins the item. During the time that they are trying to figure out their answer the crowd is yelling wildly the answers they think will win the prize. Dozens of numbers fill the air at the same time. The contestants’ challenge is to listen for the voice that has the correct answer.
Like the game show there is a cacophony of voices that fill our lives. Voices tell us to buy something, do something, say something and act in a certain way. It is difficult to discern what voices will enable us to be faithful witnesses and followers of Jesus and which voices lead us toward evil. There are times when it is difficult to discern where the Holy Spirit is leading us. This petition is our cry for help that the Lord will open our ears to hear God’s voice and follow the guidance that we are given. As disciples of Jesus we want to honor God by being faithfully obedient to God.
Divine Guide, help us to hear your voice so that we can follow you along the way and not get lost. Amen.
Wednesday, August 31, 2016
“A man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him” (Mark 5:2).
Whether or not we believe in demon possession, we all fight our own “demons.” Shirley was in her third treatment program as she battled her alcoholism. Her drive to drink had separated her from her family, friends, job and co-workers. Lamar battled with anger issues that erupted because he was always judged a black man rather than seen simply as a man. Because of his anger, only a few people wanted to be around Lamar. Carter battled PTSD, post-traumatic stress syndrome after three tours in Afghanistan. His deep depression bruised and broke relationships with others.
The demoniac who Jesus encountered was an outcast. No one wanted to be around him, so the people of his community shunned him. The man lived among the tombs. Many people would not have wanted to touch him because he was unclean from his exposure to death. Jesus did not run from the man, though. Jesus met the man, touched his life and healed him.
Sometimes our demons separate us from others. We find ourselves rejected and alone—often misunderstood and judged. Jesus, though, does not turn away. Instead, Jesus embraces us with his love and with his strength enables us to face the demons of our lives.
Almighty God, you are stronger than all of our enemies. Empowered by your presence, strength and love, enable us to overcome. Amen.
Thursday, September 1, 2016
“No one had the strength to subdue him” (Mark 5:4).
Evil is frightening. It can be powerful like the Nazi regime, religious terrorism or the local bully. Evil can be subtle like the racism and bigotry that most of us harbor. Evil can be enticing like the materialism, greed and self-centeredness of modern society. We may see evil and not recognize it and we may be under its influence and not sense it.
Jesus knew that the man who ran to him from the tombs was demon possessed. Jesus did not run but rather he stood his ground and confronted evil. Jesus’ presence in our lives enables to deal with the evil with which we are confronted. Jesus opens our eyes that we might recognize the evil. He gives us courage to stand against it and Jesus gives us the strength to overcome it. In the presence of Jesus evil never wins.
Lord of all, so often we cower and run from evil. Inspire us and strengthen us so that we can stand firm against the evil in our lives and in our world. Amen.
Friday, September 2, 2016
“’What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the most high God’” (Mark 5:7)?
Several years ago there was a publishing craze with Where’s Waldo? books. The reader had to find the character Waldo on every page of the book. Sometimes it was easy to spot Waldo and sometimes it was not. It was not necessarily the adults who found Waldo before the children. Finding Waldo did not depend on age, intelligence, education or experience. People simply needed to know for whom and for what they were looking.
The demons knew who Jesus was. Like Waldo, Jesus stood out from the crowd. Jesus was the one who didn’t run from them. Jesus was the one who loved the man so much that he stopped and helped him. Jesus was the one who cast out the demons and restored the man to health and society.
We try to see Jesus in our daily lives. Often we try to find Jesus in the successful, the affluent, the comfortable and the secure. Rarely do we find Jesus when we look in these places. Instead, we see Jesus when students and faculty stand together against bullies. We see Jesus in the homeless shelters and soup kitchens. Jesus can be seen in protests against racism and in the support of gay rights. When we look around for Jesus we might find him in places we would least expect to see him.
Open our eyes, Lord, help us see Jesus. Inspire us and empower us, Lord, help us to be Jesus to the people around us. Amen.
Saturday, September 3, 2016
“The unclean spirits came out and entered the swine and the heard … were drowned in the sea” (Mark 5:13).
Bridge to Hope is a ministry to homeless mothers and their children. Several congregations and scores of people who participate in this ministry seek to get mothers and families off the streets, provide them with shelter, help the mothers face their addictions and teach them a marketable skill so that they can become self-sufficient. The ministry isn’t inexpensive. Congregations agree to pay $400.00/month and recruit a team of at least seven volunteers to work with the mothers and their families for the two years that they are in the program. The time, money and commitment given to the ministry transforms lives.
For some reason, Jesus allowed the demons to possess a herd of pigs when they released their grip on the man. The pigs stampeded over a cliff and fell into the Sea of Galilee where they drowned. The owners were upset at the loss of their herd. They didn’t really care that the man had been set free. For them the cost of salvation and freedom was too great.
Standing against evil, seeking justice and loving mercy demand a price. As disciples of Jesus, are we content only to pray to be delivered from evil, or are we willing to pay the price to stand against evil and overcome it? Sometimes the answer to our prayer involves more than just a prayer.
Precious Jesus, you paid the price to defeat evil and set humankind free. As your followers, move within us that we too are willing to pay the price that others may be freed. Amen.
Sunday, September 4, 2016
“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you” (Mark 5:19).
It was Thursday evening. The campers gathered around the campfire and shared what the week at Bible camp meant to them. Many lives had been changed. The young people didn’t want to return home the next day. They wanted to continue to be close to Jesus. The congregation’s worship service had been a special blessing. The music moved the people. The sermon both taught and inspired them. When the last note had been sung, the people didn’t want to leave. They wanted to blessings to continue.
We can certainly understand how the man who had been possessed by demons felt. Jesus had changed his life. He wanted to join the disciples and stay by Jesus. Jesus had other plans for him, though. “Go tell your friends,” Jesus instructed. “Tell them what has happened.” The man did as he was told. The people listened and when Jesus returned they welcomed him. As much as we want to stay to listen to the music, enjoy the fellowship, coffee and pastries, Jesus tells us the same thing he told the man in this story. “Go tell your friends.” That is the way our prayers are answered and both ourselves and others are delivered from evil.
Savior, we’ve a story to tell to the nations. Empower us to tell it lovingly and boldly. Amen.