2 posts categorized "Devotionals"

02/26/2011

The Cover Up

By Sarah Anderson

I don’t know about you, but there are some things I just don’t need to be taught how to do. Some things just come naturally to me—like covering things up. Chances are you know this. We know how to sound good, look good and even act good, when deep down there may be a mess about ready to erupt inside of us. For whatever reason, we aren’t always that great at admitting when something is difficult, when things confuse us, when life doesn’t make any sense or when God seems far away. Rather than run the risk of being judged or looked down on, we put on a pretty smile and figure it out ourselves.

It’s stupid really. Because pretending usually doesn’t fool anybody, and it certainly doesn’t fool God. There is a story in the book of Mark where we meet a man who got this. Take a look at Mark 9:17-27. In the story, a dad brings his son, who is possessed by an evil spirit, to Jesus. It seems this boy is thrown into convulsions and unable to speak when the spirit takes hold of him. And the boy’s dad is feeling hopeless. He simply wants his son to be healed from a childhood marked by his horrible affliction, but no one can figure out what to do to help him—the disciples themselves tried to free the boy with no luck.

The dad is in a tough spot. He is out of options. Out of answers. Out of opportunities. So when his son is brought to Jesus, the father pleads with little expectation of any change, “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us” (Mark 9:22 NIV). It is an honest request. “If you can do anything, take pity. Help.” Here is a guy at the end of his rope. Here is a man who has nowhere else to turn but to a Jewish rabbi who has a group of ragtag followers and the tendency to declare Himself God. At this point he is willing to try anything.

And it seems that Jesus knows this man’s situation. He picks up on the subtle condition in the man’s request. “If you can” the father had asked, and Jesus responds with, “‘If you can?’ Everything is possible for him who believes” (Mark 9:23 NIV). This is the chance a desperate dad has been waiting for. “Anything is possible?” He wonders. “Even healing? Even freedom from this spirit? Even a chance at a normal life?” But what Jesus is asking for is belief, for faith, for hope in an outcome that has seemed stubbornly illusive and far from a reality. Jesus is asking for trust, and after all the disappointment this dad has seen and experienced, he isn’t sure he can muster any up.

Mark records this happening, Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 NIV). This is a man in a desperate situation who knows Jesus can handle his desperate faith. In one swift profession, a father makes clear his craving for healing and for hope, and his utter lack of confidence in both. He knows that all Jesus is asking for is belief, but after all these years of disappointment, he isn’t sure he has much to offer.

It isn’t often that we live that honestly—not with one another and certainly not with God. If someone asked us if we “believe,” if we have faith, if we have hope, many of us would answer with a confident “of course,” even if deep down we can’t figure out what we think or who we hope in. But this man with the sick son looks into the eyes of Jesus and tells him exactly where he is. “You want me to believe? I want to believe, but I am not sure I do and I am not sure I can.” Jesus was not mad, disappointed and certainly not surprised. And do you know what He does? He heals the boy. Not based on the grand amounts of faith a fearful father can muster up, but in spite of his lack of faith, coming on the heels of his honest confession. “I do believe, but I don’t believe. And I need more than just a healed son. I need help with the part of me that doesn’t know who You are or what You can do.”

There is freedom in coming clean—with your struggles, with your mistakes, with your unbelief. God does not run and hide from your honesty. In fact He embraces it and is able to work in spite of it. The possessed son was healed. And in a way, so was the dad. They got more than just a solution to a physical remedy. They had an encounter with God—who wanted nothing more from them than belief and an honest confession of what they were lacking.

If you encountered Jesus today, what would you cry out to Him? Think beyond what you need. What would you honestly and sincerely tell Him? “I do trust You, help my lack of trust!” “I do want to follow You, help where I don’t.” “I do think You exist, help me when I just don’t feel sure.” “I do think You have a plan, help me when I don’t think that plan includes me.” “God, I’m not that into You, help me.”

You may be surprised what happens when you get that honest with God. You may get more than what you came for. You may get an encounter with a God who can handle your doubts, your disappointment and even your disinterest—and who works in spite of it.

01/26/2011

In Your Corner

by Jessica Synan

In high school, no one wants to talk about “honoring your parents.” It just doesn’t come up in conversation. Everyone talks about how annoying their parents are and how many restrictions they have to deal with. There’s always something to complain about.

A friend of mine (we’ll call her Leah) recently called to inform me that she had smoked marijuana the night before. Leah is seventeen, a state-ranked swimmer and a struggling Christian. And you know what? Even though she could get away with whatever she wanted to do, she still hated her mom for being too much in her business.

Leah really didn’t see a need to honor her parents in her actions and decisions. She only cared about her life. She didn’t understand that her actions reflected on her parents, that they hurt her parents and that she was putting up giant walls in those relationships.

A few weeks later, after she and I had engaged in several difficult conversations, she finally decided to talk to her mom about the stuff that was going on with her. Of course her mom cried. A lot. And Leah felt even more horrible because she could see just how much her lifestyle of selfishness hurt her mom.

I talked with Leah and let her know that even though this time of healing in the relationship with her mom was painful, it was worth it in the long run. She needed someone “in her corner,” and I knew that her mom was the perfect person for that job. Things weren’t easy. They still aren’t. But at least Leah is now on the right track toward honoring her parents.

Are you like Leah? Even though you believe in God, do you still do things that don’t honor your parents? Do you need to sit down and have a serious talk with your parents about some of the things that have been less-than-honoring in your life lately?

It’s not an easy task to start really honoring your parents, but God promises that when we honor them, it will “go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3 NIV).