Devotion: As Those Who Are Alive
In Mark 6, Jesus sought a space where it was quiet. A place of rest. Him and his disciples had been busy with good, restorative things, but they were in need of food to eat and a place to eat.
The crowds followed them on foot from all the town. When Jesus went ashore, he saw the waiting crowds and felt compassion. And so, he began to teach them many things. About the kingdom of heaven, about faith and glory and the lasting peace that comes from knowing God was them even now.
The crowds were growing hungry, but no one wanted to leave the foot of the mountainplace. Besides, it was late. Where were so many people-----the thousands-----to find food and water at such a late hour? The surrounding villages and countryside could only accomodate so many of them.
Jesus said to his disciples: Find out how much we already have. How many loaves are in the crowd? "Go and see," v38.
And there, in the crowd, was a little boy with five loaves of bread and two fish. And Jesus took this, looked to heaven and the bread multiplied so that all the crowd ate and were satisfied.
Sometimes I forget to stop considering what I don't have and instead focus on what I do. Even if it's only the smallest portion. Even if its only one talent (read Matthew 25:14-30). This month I am praying that God will remind me not to discount what may seem insignificant, and remember that "in any and all circumstances, the secret of being content, whether well or hungry, in abudance or need, is knowing that "those who seek the Lord lack no good thing." Philippians 4v12, Psalm 34v10.
♪ Atmospheres - Live | Justin Jarvis
In her selection of devotionals, Priscilla Shirer writes this:
Becauuse human relationships are so interconnected, the people nearest to the subject and discipline of God can also feel the tremors of these actions as well. "Being in close proximity to people that you know are running from God and are in the crosshairs of his corrective measures can inadvertently put you in the line of fire," Awaken, 127.
The story of Jonah is one that frequents storybooks, devotionals and Biblical discussions. How was it that man of God feared the city of sin so much that he ended up sinning in his desperation to escape the call that God had placed on his life to speak redemption to the people in that place? How he climbed onto a boat headed in the opposite direction, and how God met him in the storm and waves of sea. The senario that played out on the deck of that Old Testament boat bound for Tarshish is one that emphasises Shirer's quote.
This is why we must be careful in company we keep + thoughtfully chose those we intend to travel any distance with. Whether that be a business partner, a romantic relationship or any other sort of controllable friendship. Of course, sometimes you can't decide who you work, live and/or study with, and the best way to stay focused on the direction in which you are called to walk is to also surround yourself with people whose hearts yearn for ways of wisdom, righteousness and peace.
♪ Living Hope | Phil Wickham
Even as I write, my heart stirs with gratitude. I am thankful for the men and women who have stood with and protected me, generously, no matter the personal cost it returns to them. Because all actions have consequences. Consequences simultaneously gorgeous, fulfilling, heavy and hard.
In the best relationships; the ones where laughter and imagination come easy, even in this, moments of frustration, miscommunication and a need for forgiveness will arise. In 2nd Corinthians 2:8-11, Paul urges those in community with one another to forgive, actively.
Forgiveness keeps us from deception. The apostle John writes that anyone who chooses to remain in unforgiveness "walks in the darkness and does not know where they are / darkness has blinded their eyes," 1 John 2v11.
Let us forgive actively, as we would choose to do in love. This seals the emotional effort of forgiving with a visible, tangible expression of affection. Even if only a small overture, this act returns your heart to a place of peace.
♪ Amazing Grace, Chris Tomlin
Widely regarded author Ben Okri has this brilliant section in his novella, The Age of Magic. Here, one of his main protagonist meditates on eviling. Traveling through on a train, Lao considers the city's ugliness, paying greater attention to the ugly sites as they passed by.
"He found himself eviling, reinventing the world in malice. He liked nothing that he saw. He tried not to look at Mistletoe. In that mood she would be re-made in his eviling. She must have sensed this for she goot up and quietly went away."
-----Ben Okri, book 2, chapter 3.
I woke up thinking about yesterday's devotion. About forgiveness. It made me think of this scene, and Lao sitting on a train considering the world in all its ugliness. Remember 1 John 2v11? How it is when the world "walks in the darkness and does not know where they are / the darkness blinds their eyes." They cannot see the kingdom of heaven unfolding, re-inventing the place where believers walk under the glorious reign of a living, eternal king.
But there are other beings we cannot see that affect our vision. "We do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers over this present darkness----spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6v12.
How easy it is to become disillusioned; to reinvent places and people around us based upon past experiences. Even waking this morning, I felt afraid thinking about a friendship beginning. I almost wanted to end the relationship before I let it continue, grow-----before it had the potentional to disappoint. What if, like so many friendships before, this one failed? Not in any loud, confrontational way. More in the way of ritual + prioritisation.
What if it was me?
I reinvented what was possible until it no longer became so. And even if what was possible didn't happen, my imagination dejected the thought of an "unimaginable else," Ephesians 3v20.
After Jesus had conquered evil and fear on the cross, he prepared his disciples for his return to heaven, saying this: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled or afraid," John 14v27.
As difficult as it may be to overcome longstanding fears, I pray that we have the ability to embrace this and, not reinvent, but clearly see the powers of God at work in the world.
♪ Battle Scars (feat. Will Reagan), Andrew Ehrenzeller, Will Reagan
"Present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead," Romans 6v13
In Ezekial 37v1-4, God meets Ezekial and sets him in the middle of a valley filled with bones. Back and forth they walked among them, as God's Spirit walked with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. This one verse reveals the holiness of this place: a kingdom of heaven on Earth for those who trusted and believed in the ways of God.
In this valley of dry bones, God asks Ezekial: "Son of man, can these bones live?" to which Ezekial replies: "Sovereign Lord, you alone know," v3.
And God said to Ezekial: Prophesy to these bones. Tell them to hear the word of the LORD. I will enter them, and they will come to life. I will attach tendons, make flesh return and cover them with skin. Then, they will know that I am the Lord, v4.
How beautiful this image of God and his follower; Spirit in spirit walking among lifelessness; the disillusioned, heavy-laden, emptied-out people. How God chose to restore them to a fullness in himself.
As this week progresses, I pray that we remain attune to the ways God is calling us to speak on behalf of his redeeming power. Tell those who feel inert, naked, empty and overlooked------tell them that the Almighty wants to restore them to all vigor and strength. All the years that have been wasted in this "lifelessness" will be returned to them, Joel 2v25.
♪ Stand in Awe (Live), Lindy Conant-Cofar, The Circuit Riders
If you look online, you will find hundreds of quotes about productivity, that subjective concept of work and show, def. the effectiveness of productive effort, especially in industry, as measured in terms of the rate of output per unit of input. Productivity is difficult to measure because sometimes output opposes one's input. One discipline might require less exertion than another. On any given day, one's work will slow, growing. Unplannably so.
Zechariah 4v10: "Do not despise the day of small things, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin."
It can feel discouraging when effort invested does not evidence in end results. But, this does not detract from the work, the study, the process and product. Even if a certain project comes together in days of small moves forward, know that the Lord rejoices and sees the work of your hands.
Remember this when the world compares diligence, worth and value to an ouput that will never be able to demonstrate the scale of input.
Work on the small things, knowing that "he, or she who is faithful in little will also be faithful in much." Luke 16v10.
♪ Come To Jesus (Reconciliation Hymn), People of the Earth