Day Twelve with Mark: Mark 3:31-35

Today in our daily journey through Mark, we look at Mark 3:31-35:

The True Kindred of Jesus
31 Then his mother and his brothers came; and standing outside, they sent to him and called him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him; and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside, asking for you.” 33 And he replied, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.”

Sermon-on-the-MountJesus has been ministering in his home.  And He had seen great conflict there.  Faced opposition.  Folks tried to restrain Him, keep him from teaching, really not received Him well.  And today, we see His family come to Him again, and it doesn’t really go well.

He says this is my family. Those that do my will.

Ok, a couple of things here. First, before we get too harsh and think that family doesn’t matter to Jesus, remember a couple of things.  One of the very last things Jesus did upon the cross was look to Mary and look to John the Apostle and says to her – this is your son.  And to John – this is your mother.

One of His very last acts up before His death and resurrection was to take care of His mother.  Also, notice how in the Gospels and in Acts how his mother is one of His followers.  You can’t take this one passage here and say that Jesus is saying – don’t take care of your family.  That’s not what He is saying, His life didn’t doesn’t show that, nor do His words.

Be careful building an entire theology or worldview on one verse alone.  We read scripture in relation to other scripture.  We interpret the Bible through the Bible.  You want to look at one verse through the lens of other verses.  Jesus here is not saying don’t care about your family.

Ok then, what is He saying?  This is what He is saying.  Our family is more that just biological.  As believers, as followers of Jesus, we are family. We are His family.  And we are family to each other.  If you are in Christ, tan you are as much my family as anyone that is “blood” kin to me.

As Christians, the blood relationship that matters the most is being washed in the blood of the Lamb.  If you are His, if you are His child, if you are His disciple, then you are my sister or brother.  And I am called to love you like family.

And you are called to love me like family.

Because we are.

This is Jesus family.  Not just biology.  But those that love Him and follow Him.

And this is my family.  Not just biology.  But those that love Jesus and follow Him.

Today, through Jesus, we are family. No matter what race, what denomination, what theology, what worship style, what whatever.  Today in Jesus, we are family.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Monday we’ll look at Mark 4:1-9.

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Being Family

There are a lot of things in life that can divide us. There are allegiances to certain college football teams. There are the different Christian denominations.  There are worship styles. There are so many things that can divide us.  In fact, the things that divide us can often seem to be so much more numerous than the things that unite us, even as Christians.

So, what happens is we focus on those things, we become more embittered, move divided, more at war with each other.

It’s easy to do. It’s what the world does, and what the world does to us as Christians.

But listen to what John tell us today in John 1: 1-5:

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life, and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Silhouette of a cross

Silhouette of a cross

Read again what it says in 4-5 – In Him (Jesus) was life and that life was the light of all people. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

He is the light that brings us together and the darkness did not overcome it.  He is what matters.  He is the foundation, the rock, the cornerstone, the all in all, the everything.

It’s Him.  It’s not the things that divide us.  It’s not our different churches or theologies or those things.  It’s Jesus.

One of my favorite quotes is one attributed to John Wesley – “If your heart has been warmed as my heart has, then give me your hand.”  In other words, if you know Jesus like I do, then we can work together.  In fact, we must work together.  Because even though we may disagree on some stuff, we are family.

Because we have the Father in Heaven, we are saved by the same Son Jesus Christ, and we are empowered by the same Holy Spirit.

We are family. We are. Today, through Jesus, we are family.  Let’s live like.  Let’s serve like it.  Let’s love like it.

And I know it, I just know it, if we do that, if we live with that life, we will change the world, through Jesus.

Today, let’s be family.

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Grace upon Grace

Grace is not a one-time thing.  It’s really not.  God doesn’t just see our mistakes, forgive us one time, and then be done with us forever.  No, God constantly gives us grace.

He gives us grace to forgive us, He gives us grace to empower us, He gives us grace to lead us.  For us, and for the world, grace is not a one-time thing.  It’s over and over and over again.  I am thankful that God is always lavishing us with grace and mercy.

That’s how it works between us and God.  But, how should it work between us.  God always forgives us when we ask Him, but what about you and me? What are we to do when we keep messing up?  I mean, really, can’t they get it right?  How much grace do they get?  Listen to what Jesus says in Matthew 18: 21-22:

21 Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” 22 Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

grace_candle_logoNow, notice what Peter asks.  He says, what if another member of the church sins against me.  Two things popped out.  One is “sins against me.”  That means does something to harm that relationship.  Something that’s not good, something harmful and destructive.

Something that may leave a mark.  Something that really may just hurt.

That’s tough to deal with.  Tough to work through.  Tough to process.  It’s not easy.

What else jumped out at me?  “another member of the church.”  Someone that’s family.  As Christians, we are called to love. That’s one of our main commands and duties as believers, to love. We are called to love, because God is love. That’s our purpose and our mission.

Love the world.  Love each other.

But especially love each other.  Because we are family.

Church, we’ve got to love each other.  If we are always fussing and fighting among ourselves, then why would the world want o be part of us?  Sometimes the fights are over theology, or worship, or leadership, or a million different things.

Jesus tells us what to do.  Love.  Forgive.  Show mercy. Be graceful.

Even when “they” don’t deserve it.  Because we don’t deserve it either.  That’s why it’s grace.  It’s never earned or deserved.  It’s always, always, always given and received.

Today, you and I have received grace from our Loving God.  Today, may we show that grace to the world, and especially to each other. Because loving each other may be one of our biggest witness to world.

In a world that is angry and bitter and hurting, folks want to know that they are loved.  When we as the church live that out, I truly believe that we can change the world.

Today, may we show grace!

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April 16 – Don’t Be Scared

Today is April 16.  Every year I write something in memory of my Mama Sarah and in honor of my mom, Maxine Stoddard.  On this day 37 years ago, my Mama Sarah was murdered by my biological father and at that point, many lives were forever changed.  She was murdered on my mom’s birthday (April 16) and buried on mine (April 18).  You can read all the details of this day and some of the effects it’s had on me and my family through the years in any of the above posts, but the thing I always cling to in this, and any tragedy, is the truth found in Genesis 50:20:

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.

And Romans 8:28:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

10341467_10154103134970043_8087444231830981622_nGod is at work in all things. And the power of God is not that He always stops bad things from happening.  The power of God is that He can (and will) bring good out of everything.

So, today, this is where my mind is going.  I think about the fear that must have been in my Mama Sarah’s heart as she walked out of the house with me in her arms before she was shot.  I think about the fear that must have been in hearts of Maxine and Connie Stoddard with the loss of their daughter and now the unknown future of adopting their 2-year-old grandson.

That fear that they faced could have paralyzed them.  It could have kept them from moving or doing anything.  It could have caused their world to crumble.

But you know what?  They looked the fear that they faced in that moment, they looked it in the face and did the right thing anyway.  They chose to not give into fear.  They chose to do the right thing in spite of the fear in their heart.  They trusted even in the darkness.

This is not to say that everyone in my story is perfect.  That’s far from true.  I’m not, Mama Sarah was not, my parents are not.  But I do know this.  In the midst of uncertainty and danger and fear, they chose not to give into the fear.  They chose to do the right thing, even when they were afraid.  They chose to trust that God had a plan, even in the midst of human brokenness.

They chose trust and obedience over fear.

So must we today.  I have no idea what you are facing today.  You may be very, very afraid.  The future may be unknown.  There may be great pain in your life.  There may be things in your life that you have no control over.  Things that make you very, very afraid.

It’s ok.  We all are afraid at times.  We are.  But don’t give into it.  Don’t.  Faith is bigger than fear.  Trust in the fact that there is a God bigger and smarter and wiser than you.  That has a plan.  Trust.  God will bring something good out of it, even if you don’t understand what.

He will.  That’s what He does.

Don’t be scared.  No matter what you face.  One of my favorite quotes from my favorite the shows, Doctor Who is this.  The main character, The Doctor says, “Courage isn’t just a matter of not being frightened, you know. It’s being afraid and doing what you have to do anyway.” 

Yes, you may be afraid today.  Believe me, I understand.  I learned at very young age everything I hold precious could be taken from me.  Relationships can be ended.  Harm can come.  I always have that fear in my belly.  Always.

But I can’t give into it.  I have to (by God’s grace) be strong and lean on God’s grace.  I have to, and we have to, have faith, not fear.  Because fear never wins.  And faith does.  It always does.

So, today, don’t be scared.  Have faith.  God has a plan.  Trust.  Obey.  Move.  And don’t give into the fear. All things will work for our God and His glory.  I believe and know that.

Don’t be scared.  It’s going to be ok.

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#realtalk – Faithful Steps

1013621_10152487549297030_5476837018816387443_nI finished out #realtalk our short series on marriage this past Sunday and I had some folks ask if I would share a brief overview of some of the things that I talked about in that message.  Quickly, I want you to know that I have a great marriage, but it’s by no means perfect.  And the reason it is so strong is because of the grace and strength of my wife, Holly.

Those aren’t just words that I’m “supposed” to say.  I mean it.  She really is the rock of our marriage, and none of this would be possible without here.

Second this is not “7 easy steps to a perfect marriage.”  There are no easy steps.  Marriage is tough and awesome.  There aren’t easy steps.  There are only faithful steps.  If we take some faithful steps, God will do great things.

So, just a few of the quick points I made Sunday.

1.  Submit yourself to Jesus.  It all starts with you and your walk with Jesus.  Everything in life eventually walks itself back to that.  It all goes back to our walk with Jesus.  We will never be the husband or wife you want to be with our Jesus.  We will never be the friend, co-worker, anything without Jesus.  It all starts there.  None of this is possible without Him.

2.  Communicate.  James 1:19 says this:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger;

We have got to communicate, and that starts with learning to listen.  It’s an old saying, but it’s true.  We’ve been given two ears and one mouth for a reason.  We have to listen.  And by that, I mean really listen.  Part of the problem with communication is that just don’t really hear what the person is saying. So, if you are having problems with communication with your marriage, two suggestions.

A.  Speak concisely.  Say what you mean.  Be honest.  Say exactly what you mean with nothing else there.  Make it simple to understand.

B.  Don’t assume.  When the other person is speaking, don’t assume their meaning.  Don’t assume you know what they mean.  Take them at their word, don’t assume a hidden meaning.  If you aren’t sure what they are saying ask for clarity.  It’s ok.  That’s how you recapture communication.  3.  Schedule yourself

3.  Schedule yourself.  Just like we budget out our money, we must budget out our time.  Work each other into your schedule.  It says in Psalm 90:12:

So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

We must make time.  Dave Ramsey talks about knee to knee conversations where you turn off the TV, put the kids to bed, and talk.  You have to build that into your lives and into your schedule. And this is one of the things that I struggle with the most.  I’m a workaholic and would work all day long.  I’ve had to learn to work my family into my schedule.  They matter more than anything.

4.  Remember what you love about each other.  That’s one of the worst things about being in a bad spot in a marriage or a relationship.  We can forget what we loved about each other to begin with.  The Bible talks about remembering our first love.  Sometimes we have to stop and remember what it is that made us fall in love them to begin with.

5.  Serve each other.  That’s the entire point of Ephesians 5: 22-33.  Marriage is not about what you can get out of it, but what you can give to it.  If you are in a bad place with your spouse, do two things.

A.  Pray for them.  You may do it through clenched teeth, but pray.  See if God doesn’t change you heart.

B.  Serve them.  Do something nice for them, desiring nothing in return.  Serve them.  Give to them.  And see if in that action God doesn’t do something.

6.  Serve together.  It says in 1 Peter 4:10

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace:

Each of us is called to serve.  Serve together as a family, as a couple.  Do something for someone, do something for your church, do something for the kingdom. And that will bring you together.  It will.  If you as a husband and wife will serve together in some way, it will strengthen your relationship in amazing ways.

7.  Don’t sacrifice each other for your children.  Your kids are part of your family, but they are not the totality of your family.  I put it like this; the most important lesson I can teach my kids is to love their mother.  The way that I love my wife will determine the type of man that my daughter desires to marry and will determine the type of man that my son will become. The example I set loving my wife will shape my children more than I can ever understand.

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Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!