Oh, How He Loves

Mark 1:40-45 NLT

“Everyone needs compassion, a love that never fails.”

Graphic from http://www.tsamtk.org

We live in a world where there are hurting people everywhere. Failed relationships, death, the economy, and loss of self cause people, including ourselves, to feel disconnected and in pain. We have lost faith with our communities. We have lost faith in our government and the officials that run it. We have lost faith with our families and our social circles. Unfortunately, we have even lost faith with the church and our spiritual foundations. Where do we turn?

How many of us have more friends on Facebook that in real life? How many of us have phone numbers for people we don’t really know? Do we still send cards or letters to people we have not seen face-to-face in many years? Why do we text rather than call? We claim efficiency and progress. We tell ourselves that we can communicate more information to more people even more quickly. We are quickly becoming a society of digital hermits and paranoid recluses. We are scared to touch. We are scared to care. We do not choose to love beyond what we know. It is easy to love something or someone you know or that loves you back. It is harder to love what no one else loves.

Do we love enough? Are we caring enough? Are we taking the time to get to know our fellow man? Do we still know our neighbors like we used to? Or, are we more concerned about what is happening in our own world? Are we more concerned about what people might say if they saw us spending time with “those” kind of people? Look at how far, we Christians, we believers, have fallen. We used to be “those” people, but God still loved us.
We need to learn how to reconnect and re-engage with this world and it’s people. We need to spend less time determining who has what or who has more. We need to spend time figuring how to get people what they need. We need to love, need to learn, need to lead. The church, us, we, are in a unique position in today’s world to love the unlovable, to care for the “un-careable”, to befriend the friendless, to bind up the broken-hearted, and to set the captives free (Isaiah 61:1).

Our story in today’s Word for us addresses that very issue. In Mark 1:40-45, Jesus is preparing to continue traveling and ministering to people. He is packing to leave and a man comes and kneels before Him. We are told in verse 1 that he has leprosy. Leprosy then, and still today, is more than a disease. It is a social condition. At the time of this story, if someone had leprosy, they would be required to stay away from people. If someone were to get near them, they had to call out, “Unclean!” People avoided them. Families disowned them. Society did not have time for them. They did not have a place for them. They were exiled to colonies filled with other people with leprosy. They were exiled there to wait to die. There was no reacceptance, no chance of parole, no pardon. They were cut off from the world and forgotten about. This man who knelt before Jesus could have been related to one of his close followers. Everyone probably knew him and his family. But, in their eyes, he was less than human. The government could do nothing for them. Sadly, the priests of the day avoided them for fear of becoming unclean themselves. They were not necessarily concerned with contracting the disease. They were concerned that it would make them spiritually unclean. It would hurt their standing at temple. It would lower their social status. The man asked Jesus for two things that day. We make a mistake if we see them as the same thing. He asked to be healed and to be made clean. It is true that leprosy is a disease that harms the body and can cause death. But, what was different and possibly worse, the social disconnection also harmed and caused a kind of death, separation.

Jesus looks beyond all of that. Oh, how He loves! He loved beyond the physical. He was willing to help. He was willing to heal. He was willing to change the situation. Oh, how He loves! He was willing to reach out. He was willing to touch. He was willing to break through the social barriers. Oh, how He loves! He did what no priest would have ever done. He reached out and touched him. He touched his leprosy, his disease. He didn’t see the disease. He didn’t see the situation. He saw the person who needed love. He saw a person who needed to be touched. Oh, how He loves!

After the physical healing, Jesus tells the man to go to a priest and make the required offering. Although Jesus had removed the problem, the disease, he still knew that the man needed more. The man had asked Jesus for healing and he asked Him to make him clean. I am struck by an interesting thought. Couldn’t Jesus have removed the social stigma from the man? Didn’t His own authority exceed the authority of Moses? The answer is yes! He could have made the man clean. But, as He said many times, He did not come to destroy the Law. He came to uphold and validate it.

We need to follow Jesus’ example. We need to reach beyond how we feel about something or someone. We need to reach out from what we think is our comfort area. We need to go beyond what we know to find out where God really wants us to be. We should be willing to reach out and touch. We cannot stop when we see the “leprosy” around us. Today, “leprosy” can be dirt, poverty, old age, lack of education, social standing, political affiliation, race, physical attractiveness, or religious beliefs. We need to reach out beyond the four walls of our homes, our neighborhoods, and our churches. We have to go beyond only what we know!

Today, Jesus has taught us how to love others. We should love like He loves, and, oh, how He loves! What are we willing to do differently? Are we willing to love people who are friends do not love? Are we willing to befriend people who are not accepted by our friends and social circles? Are we willing to risk becoming socially disconnected ourselves for the sake of Christ? Can we love other like He did?

Soli Deo Gloria!

Alone Time with Him

Mark 1:29-39

Car races are fast becoming one of America’s favorite ways to pass time. Hundreds of thousands of people each year watch these professional drivers as they race over asphalt, dirt, city streets, and mountainous terrain. These drivers train continually and are constantly seeking ways to improve their equipment and support structures. But, these drivers are only as good as their pit crews. These unsung heroes of the racing scene are what translate to success on the race track. Good pit crews usually involve a team leader who provides instruction and direction, a chief mechanic who supports the needs of the car, and usually high up in the stands, a spotter who can advise the driver of where he is and what he needs to accomplish to win the race.
We are running the race of life and we also need a good pit crew to succeed. Fortunately for us, Jesus is all the support we could ever need. He can teach us how to receive, renew, and refocus during our journey so that we can become effective in the race.

Time to receive

Shared from http://www.creationswap.com, edited by Storm McClure

Jesus has been traveling, healing, preaching, and dealing with His followers. He has been engaged in the day-to-day work of ministry. While there is nothing wrong with work or ministry, there are times when the constant outpouring can deplete our strength and energy. We can become drained by helping and serving others. After preaching at the synagogue, Jesus goes to Simon and Andrew’s home. He heals their mother. After she prepares them a meal, people come from all over bringing their sick and demon-possessed friends and relatives. There is an expectation that people are developing concerning the ability and accessibility of Christ. People are discovering that He can heal and do miraculous things. They know that they can come to Him for release and help with their troubles. The people of that time were looking for leadership and direction. They were a conquered people who have been tossed back and forth by other nations. No longer ruling themselves, they have become a society with a local puppet leader who answered to Rome and not to them. They needed a Deliverer. They needed a Messiah. They needed Jesus. It was the reason that God sent His Son for “such a time as this.” People needed Jesus. But, sometimes Jesus needed the Father more. Beth Moore says that “Jesus went from place of prayer to place of prayer and doing miracles in between.”

Taking time to be fed rather than always feeding is crucial and life-giving. Taking time to be filled rather always pouring out can become mission critical.

Taking to time to receive is healthy and vital. Taking time to be fed rather than always feeding is crucial and life-giving. Taking time to be filled rather always pouring out can become mission critical. How can we serve if we are drained? How can we help if we are depleted?

We cannot increase others from a deficit in ourselves.

We need to recharge, to re-energize.
In our world today, we are surrounded by gadgets. They have invaded every part of our lives. From young to old, all of us have some kind of electronic device. While these devices range from iPads to remote controls, radio-controlled cars to Easy Bake Ovens, pacemakers to mobile phones, there is one constant among them. They need power, energy to operate. If they are not plugged into an outlet, then they need a mobile power supply. We call it batteries. Whether mobile or stationary, alternating or direct current, without power, these devices are just expensive paper weights.
Physically, we are a lot like these devices. We eat to store up energy so we can go about our day. We use that energy to accomplish the tasks that we have planned. Spiritually, we are also like these devices. We need to recharge our spiritual batteries so we can continue serving and ministering to those around us. The problem is that we forget how to recharge these “spiritual batteries.” We teach our children how to do it, be we forget as we move into adulthood. Do you remember this? “I promise to pray, read my Bible, and, by His help, to lead a life that is clean in thought, word, and deed.” This is part of the promise that all junior members of our church share when they join. Somewhere along the way we forget how to keep recharged. We forget to “keep God” in our lives.
We need to take time alone with Him and receive all of the wonder that He has set aside for us. We need to switch our emotional, mental, and directions from giving to receiving. We need to receive the love and beauty that God wants to pour into our lives.

Time to renew
Let’s listen to some of the words from the scriptures today. “At daybreak”, “went out”, “isolated”, “later”, “find Him”, “looking for You” All of these phrases say one thing over and over again. Jesus was somewhere else. He was not here. The Messiah was not in. He had removed Himself from the equation. He removed Himself from the social distractions and limitations. He had gone on “walkabout.” A walkabout is an Australian term for when an Aboriginal young man goes on a solitary journey. The intent of walkabout was to find some distance from where you were, so you could see where you are headed next.
Jesus isolated Himself and did not tell anyone where He was going. His followers told Him that everybody had been looking for Him. He was needed. People needed to see Him, so He could make them well.

Need is wonderful to the ears, but can be damaging to the spirit.

There is a great trap we can fall into when we are constantly filling other’s needs. We like to feel needed. We like to feel like we have an input into a situation or someone’s life. But, if we are not careful, we can miss out on what God is doing for us and to us. We can let other people’s priorities and experiences wash away what God has planned for us. We lose sense of our own value, our own place in God’s creation. We have to daily renew our minds and hearts.
If you participate in any kind of financial dealings from service plans to club memberships to labor contracts, you have heard the same fateful phrase. “It is time to renew your agreement.” Depending on the length of the deal, you will have to go over your existing relationship and renegotiate for how it will look and operate in the future. The period of renewal is healthy for the company and for you. It gives both parties a chance to decide whether to continue working together. It also gives everyone involved a chance to acknowledge the value of what the other party is offering. In some cases, it gives both a chance to revalue the offerings. We can often find a “hidden gem” inside of an old contract that we have not utilized before. The act of search and renegotiating can help add additional value to old relationships.
In many ways, prayer can be that catalyst for change in our lives. The time alone with Him, we have a chance to revalue what has done in our own lives and where He might be leading us to in the future. We have a chance to “spiritually” see the distance from where we were and see where we are headed next!

Time to refocus
After His followers found Him and lightly chastised Him for leaving them without a “forwarding address”, Jesus replies. He tells them that it is time to move on. It is time to “go on to other towns.” It would have been easy for Jesus to stay right where He was. He was at the beginning of His formal ministry He had just gathered a group of followers. We was becoming well-known, well loved, and praised (1:22) for His activities in the area. He was in a good place surrounded by friends and followers. It would have been easy for Jesus to stay right where He was. He wouldn’t have to endure the torture and ridicule of Calvary. Jesus could stay and remain a local hero, a man of God that everyone knew and respected. But that is not why He came!
He had come to minister to all. He came to share with all. He came to save us all. Perhaps He knew people would get complacent. Perhaps He knew that people would want to stay in their comfort zone. Perhaps He knew all of that. He did know that there were others, and there are still others today, who are hurting. There were others who needed His healing touch. He knew why He had come!
There was a trend in the “art” world many years ago that used to give some people a headache. You can still some of this work here and there, but there was a time when mall kiosks were crowded with them. I am talking about those pieces of art which looked chaotic and busy on the surface but contained a “hidden picture” in them. There are people who cannot see these “hidden pictures.” It doesn’t matter if they stand on one leg, squint their eyes, cock their head, hold their tongue just so, or position their arms like a set of old rabbit-ear antennae. They just cannot see the hidden picture, the hidden message, that is hidden below the confusion. The only way to see the picture with the picture is to look at it from a different perspective. You have to ignore the obvious image and see the message that is behind it. That is why Jesus came!
He came to love all. He came to see the world from a different perspective.

We need to refocus our attention from the obvious to the hidden message.

When we pray or “network” with God, He can help us see past the distractions and obstacles of life. He can help us see the “hidden message”, the deeper calling or motivation, which He has for every one of us. It would be easy for us to stay where we are. It would be easy to stay in our comfort zone. God can help us refocus our “eyes” and see all that He has for us. He can remind us of “why we came.”

As we take a few turns around the race track of life, there are times when we need some help to stay in the right direction. There are times when we need to receive guidance and direction, love and support, comfort and encouragement. There are also times when we need to renew ourselves to the wonder of our uniqueness and the blessings that God has placed in our lives. And, there are also times when we need someone to help us refocus on why we are racing and where we are headed. We need to find time alone with Him.

Leading from the Rear

Mark 10:35-45

Jesus Teaches about Serving Others

35 Then James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came over and spoke to him. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do us a favor.”

36 “What is your request?” he asked.

37 They replied, “When you sit on your glorious throne, we want to sit in places of honor next to you, one on your right and the other on your left.”

38 But Jesus said to them, “You don’t know what you are asking! Are you able to drink from the bitter cup of suffering I am about to drink? Are you able to be baptized with the baptism of suffering I must be baptized with?”

39 “Oh yes,” they replied, “we are able!”

Then Jesus told them, “You will indeed drink from my bitter cup and be baptized with my baptism of suffering. 40 But I have no right to say who will sit on my right or my left. God has prepared those places for the ones he has chosen.”

41 When the ten other disciples heard what James and John had asked, they were indignant. 42 So Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers in this world lord it over their people, and officials flaunt their authority over those under them.43 But among you it will be different. Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first among you must be the slave of everyone else. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

HOW THE WORLD DOES IT (v. 42)

The rulers of this world lord it over people and abuse their position. They take advantage of others. They use their positions to their own advantage.

There are many different forms of leadership. The first level (according to John Maxwell) is also the least effective level. This level is called, positional leadership. This level is where we follow people only because of their position. People tend to be at this level because their followers are worried about what might happen if they do not follow them. Fear can motivate but it is not the best motivator and it is certainly not a long-lasting one.

We cannot be an effective leader by poking and prodding. We are called to be shepherds, not cowboys (Lynn Anderson, They Smell Like Sheep). Shepherds guide their flocks. Cowboys drive the herd. The world and the rulers of this world are not what we need.

HOW WE SHOULD DO IT (v. 43)

For us to lead, we must be willing to follow. The problem with leadership is that people have the impression that leaders/guides have all of the answers. They assume that the leaders is the only one with an opinion, and if there are other opinions, the leader’s is the only one that is right. We should be different. We can guide others because we “follow Him.” Jesus uses a great literary device. If you want to be great, then you must be a servant. If you want to be first, then you must be last. If you want to be on top, then you must be on the bottom.

HOW JESUS DID IT (v. 45)

Jesus did not come to be served, but to be a servant to OTHERS.

You can sum up the life of Jesus, and incidentally The Salvation Army, with that one word, OTHERS!

One of the best passage of scripture that highlights this characteristic of Christ is found in Philippians 2:6-8.

6 Though he was God,[a]
he did not think of equality with God
as something to cling to.
7 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges[b];
he took the humble position of a slave[c]
and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form,[d]
8 he humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.

The New Living Translation says that “He gave up His divine privilege.” He became nothing. He even died for us.

CONCLUSION

The phrase, servant leadership, is used a lot lately in the church and in business. Most people have a tendency to focus on the leadership part more than the servant part. For us to truly lead like Jesus, we must begin as servants. Then we begin to lead. Not the other way around!