When tradition gets in the way

“Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” (Mark 7:13)
What place should tradition have in our following Jesus?
Tradition is the faith and practice of Jesus followers before us.
“Tradition is the living faith of the dead, traditionalism is the dead faith of the living.”
We learn from those who have believed before us, but we are not bound by it.
And we should be very careful when that tradition shapes how we hear God in scripture.
The cry of the Reformation was ‘sola sciptura’, only scripture, not tradition.
I belong to a church with roots in the reformation, and we still say ‘sola scriptura’.
But it is striking to me how much tradition plays a role in how we do things.
Many times when I am questioned about something, it is more about ‘tradition’.
How the church (believers in the past) taught things, how the church did things.
I should be open to learning from the church, but I must submit to God’s Voice in scripture.
I know there is danger in straying from tradition; but there is danger the other way too.
My hope is that people will know scripture better than our traditions.
That together we will be like the Bereans, testing what we hear with Scripture.
Otherwise we may be nullifying God’s message by our own traditions.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, help me to learn from others – both those living today and those who lived in the past. But help me to submit to You, and listen to Your Voice!

Still reaching out to Jesus!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:53-56
“All who touched (even the edge of his cloak) were healed.” (Mark 6:56)
As a Jesus follower, I believe the stories about how Jesus healed people.
But one challenge to my faith is that I do not see healings like this today.
Don’t get me wrong, I hear stories about healing, and I believe it happens.
But not everyone is healed; many people who reach out to Him remain sick.
Some say that signs do not always occur, only when God wants to make a point.
Some say the problem is our lack of faith, God can’t help those who don’t believe.
Others say the healing does happen in some form, we just don’t see it.
These answers are academic, they don’t help when your sickness is not healed.
This is a real challenge, and people have given up on God and Jesus because of it.
I still hang on to Jesus because I have more with Him than without Him.
I can say honestly that He helps me always, even if He does not heal me always.
One day I will ask Jesus why healings didn’t happen in the same way in my life.
But until that day, I will keep reaching out to Jesus, to get whatever help I can.
Some may see this as weak, but in fact reaching out to Jesus makes me stronger!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for helping me in so many ways. Please show those who struggle with sickness that You are helping them too. May they find more with You than without You!

Going deeper with God!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:45-52
“After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.” (Mark 6:46)
We were made to live in close fellowship with God… like Jesus.
We were also made to live in authority over creation, not in fear of it.
Living independently of God, creation becomes a threat and we live in fear.
But with God, we can overcome mountains and walk on stormy waters.
Is this just figurative, or is this for real?
We can’t know for sure what life will be in the restored creation.
But I do believe it will be beyond our present experience, and awesome.
In the meantime, we approach our challenges with faith in God.
But this faith is more than a ‘belief system’, it is a relationship.
The source of Jesus’ strength was His close fellowship with God.
God wants us to want Him, not just the things we can get from Him.
As a Jesus follower, I need to meet God on the mountainside too.
He will enable me to traverse high mountains and stormy seas.
Today I sense the Lord inviting me to deepen my prayer life.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I’m sensing the shallowness of my prayer life. You are inspiring me to go deeper, that I may climb higher and move more confidently in life.

His compassion for me, through me!

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:30-44
“When Jesus saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them.” (Mark 6:34)
Jesus is concerned for his disciples, and invites them to a quiet time of retreat.
Jesus is concerned for the desperate, and teaches them about God’s kingdom.
Jesus is concerned for you, for me, and for all people.
He is inviting you to experience God’s mercy, grace, hope and blessing.
God sent Jesus into the world to restore the lost and to heal the broken.
God sent Jesus to lift up the humbled and to stand up for the oppressed.
If only we could grasp how deep and how far His love goes.
By His Spirit, He is still teaching us many things… are we hearing Him?
Do you sense His deep compassion for you, and for ALL people?
God hates sin, and He must condemn it; but He does not want to condemn us.
Through Jesus, see and hear the heart of God reaching out to you, and all people!
As a Jesus follower, you have been taught about God’s amazing grace.
If we have experienced God’s mercy and love, how can we not share it with others?
Today when you see others, will His compassion for them show through you?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You that first and foremost I am loved and forgiven and restored – totally undeserved. Help me by Your Spirit to love others because You first loved me.

Partners with God

“Unless the Lord builds… the builders labor in vain… (Psalm 127:1)
What if my house or city falls, if I don’t have kids, or can’t sleep?
Does this mean God is not for me, God is not blessing me?
Or if my church is not growing, is it because God is not with us?
For me this Psalm is not a judgment psalm, but an encouragement psalm.
‘Trust in Me, rely on Me, and your efforts won’t be in vain!’
‘You cannot do life on your own, you need My presence and support.’
I have tried planning, scheming and building church in my own strength.
I can relate to the ‘in vain’, working hard yet stressed and sleepless.
“If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit;
Apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5)

We were made to live and work in partnership with God.
Jesus comes to renew this partnership, so that we can be fruitful!
As a Jesus follower I am developing followers of Jesus WITH Jesus.
He uses my weak and flawed efforts to build His house – I am blessed!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, You have promised to build Your church, and that Satan would not overcome it. Working with You is not in vain!

Walking with Jesus!

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20)
As as follower of Jesus, I am eager to walk with Jesus, in His wisdom.
Even though He is not visible to me, I can ‘see’ and ‘hear’ Him through the Gospel stories.
The more time I think about and reflect on His ways, the more ingrained they become.
This proverb challenges us to consider who we walk with.
Who are the people, or what are the ways, that most impact you?
I work with a lot of people, but I do not walk with all of them.
That is, I do not make them my ideal, how I want to live.
There are a few people that I especially look up to, for how they live.
But what appeals to me is how like Jesus they seem to me.
The wisdom of Jesus, how He viewed, prioritized and practiced life, is my ideal.
This is hard, because it led Him to be resisted, and eventually killed.
I do not want this part, but I am compelled by the wisdom of His way.
When I fall short of it (and I often do), it feels wrong and I see how it causes harm.
I want to walk with Jesus, because I want to become wise like Him!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, if we are known by the company we keep, I want to be known by You. ‘Oh Master, let me walk with Thee, in lowly paths of service free!’

I may be wrong!

“The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.” (Proverbs 12:15)
This verse stood out to me today, warning me about when I feel right.
There are things that I feel right about… but am I?
The religious leaders were convinced they were right as they challenged Jesus.
They did not, and would not listen, which is a sign of folly.
As Jesus followers, we face many questions and challenges each day.
We need to be discerning and cautious, always willing to learn.
Even when we do decide on a response, that does not make us right.
We live by faith, not by being right; we trust Jesus for grace and correction.
As I face a challenging question, am I seeking advice?
Advice from the Lord (through scripture), and from others.
Discerning the spirits with the Spirit, especially my own heart.
Being humble about my thoughts, and always open to being wrong.
You may feel right about something right now, but you could be wrong.
Hold those ideas loosely, always ready for Jesus to change your mind!
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, I have changed my mind on many things through the years. But that does not make me right or wrong. I trust Your rightness, not mine, and choose to be open to Your advice!

Liking… but not listening?

THE STORY OF JESUS: Mark 6:14-29
“Knowing him to be a righteous and holy man.” (Mark 6:20)
Herod was intrigued by John, even if he did not like being challenged by him.
He could sense the goodness in John, and was drawn to how he spoke.
I have heard the same attitude about Jesus from people.
Most people affirm that Jesus was a good (righteous) man, with a good message.
But to listen to what He says is too hard, it challenges our own hearts.
The message of Jesus is both comforting and challenging.
It inspires hope, but it also exposes hypocrisy and selfishness.
He exposes the unhealthy loves, values and behaviours that hold us back.
He asks us to sacrifice things that are not good for us.
As a Jesus follower, I can easily affirm that He is a righteous and holy man.
His message seems right and good to me, and is what our world needs.
But I also admit that He says hard things to me, things I don’t want to deal with.
I don’t want to be a ‘fair weather’ follower like Herod, liking but not listening.
Where is Jesus challenging something in my life, and how am I responding?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, Your message is not just to make me feel better; You challenge me to help me, to set me free from the things that are hurting me. I want listen to You Voice, not shut it down!

He sends me too!

“To send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.” (Mark 6:7)
I am trying to put myself in the shoes of these first disciples.
They had been with Jesus, and witnessed the amazing things He said and did.
Now He is pushing them out in teams of two to do the same things He did.
He authorizes them, that is, He shares His Spirit authority from God with them.
The disciples were ordinary people, they were not trained for this.
But they had the backing of Jesus, Who was backed by the Spirit of God.
And it worked, they had success in the villages, people repented and were healed!
Jesus has authorized us with the Spirit of God to go on His behalf too.
Our confidence is not in our training, or money, or programs, or numbers.
Ordinary people like you and me inviting people to change their minds about Jesus.
Ordinary people like you and me praying for people experiencing hardship or struggle.
This reading is encouraging me as a Jesus follower, to remind me of how He sends me too.
I can speak, I can pray, and I can trust the Spirit to work through me too.
It is not my job to convert or heal – just share and pray – the Spirit will do the rest.
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, thank You for the gentle encouragement not to hesitate to go and speak and pray for You. Remind me of this story when I get nervous about speaking to others about You.

Missing out?

“He could not do any miracles there…” (Mark 6:5)
Imagine a new cure has been discovered for a terrible illness.
But some people are skeptical; they refuse the treatment and stay sick.
Doctors will not be able to heal these people because of their lack of faith.
Wouldn’t this be frustrating, wouldn’t this be sad?
Many people were drawn to Jesus, but some were skeptical too.
How could such an ‘ordinary’ guy have such extraordinary power?
Today people are skeptical of Jesus for different reasons.
The frustrating thing is that people remain stuck, troubled and hopeless.
Even worse, they seek other ‘bad news’ answers that only make life worse.
Jesus is offering God’s free welcome, free forgiveness, free hope.
He can free us from chains (spiritual, mental, emotional, physical) holding us back.
He will set us free from the ‘dark voices’ that plague our minds and feelings.
But we have to trust Him; if we don’t let Him, He can’t help us either.
Jesus wants to help you; do you want Him to help you?
What do you sense the Lord saying to you?
Lord, sometimes I wonder if I am missing out on the MORE that You want to do in/through me. Has my experience of You become so ‘ordinary’ that You can’t perform miracles in my life?