GERM Day 15

Since December has 31 days, I suppose that would make midnight tonight the halfway point of my GERM adventure. So far I’ve figured out a few things.

1. I quite like doing my devotions in the middle of the day. I would always do them at night because I used to be a night owl, but now that I don’t stay up ’til 1:00 every night, I like being able to just go to bed when I feel like it without worrying about my devotions being an afterthought at the end of the day.

2. This whole “blogging my devotions” thing has helped me see some of the passages in a unique light. When I chose them the night before, I often have an idea of what I will write about, but many times, something else comes out when I sit down to write.

3. Blogging every day in busy December is stressful! Who’s idea was this anyway? 😉

4. The GERM method will likely stick with me for quite a while. I’m enjoying looking at the Bible from the angle of looking at Jesus first and then relating the rest of the Bible to Him. I’ve heard so often how the Old Testament points to Jesus and the New Testament teaches us how to follow Him, but when I look at Jesus first, it has made me look at things from the angle of Jesus makes the Bible make sense rather than the Bible making Jesus make sense. If that makes any sense… at all…

With that, I will just add a brief note on today’s passages.

G – Gospel: Luke 5:12-16

As a companion to the story about the woman with the blood disorder, I thought of this man who suffered with leprosy. He too was unclean and had to live in a designated area. He asked Jesus to heal him, but there was just as much faith in his cleansing as there was in the woman’s. The one thing that was different was the opportunity for Jesus to show Himself different from so many others. Most Jews would never dream of willingly touching someone with leprosy, but Jesus didn’t even hesitate.

E – Encourage: Romans 3:27-31

One thing that is neat to see is how Jesus didn’t claim to replace the Law given through Moses. Paul was saying the same thing to the church in Rome which would have been made up of both Jews and Gentiles. The Gentiles did not need to start following the Law in order to be saved, because faith did all the work. But just the same, the Jews did not need to discard the Law to follow faith alone, because the Law pointed to the object of faith.

R – Reflect: What does this mean for me?

As a Gentile myself, I don’t have as much of the background knowledge of how the Law points to Jesus and how He fulfills it, but I do know what it is to be made clean. Jesus came down into the dirt and disease of this sinful world and willingly touched me just because I asked Him to.

M – Meet: Here at the midpoint of the buildup to Christmas, I want to pray for those who are stressed and overloaded. For some that may be due to their work while others have major pressure at home. I have heard that a rare breed of person exists who plans for Christmas well in advance and has no stress to deal with. I’m not one of them, and I know many people who aren’t.

Passages for tomorrow: Matthew 6:25-34 and I Kings 10:1-13/Genesis 16

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GERM Day 14

G – Gospel: Mark 5:24-34

This story brings up another good memory for me. Through my teenage years, I was able to participate in an Easter play we called the Passion Play every couple of years. I played several different roles: a money changer in the temple who changed into an angel at the tomb, Jesus’ mother Mary, and Mary Magdalene. I also had a chance to play “The woman with an issue of blood.” That was my character title since we don’t get her name in this passage. It was certainly a memorable role to play. We had a big scene in a marketplace with a whole crowd of people including Roman soldiers, Pharisees, the disciples, and Jesus. When the scene opened, I was at the back of the crowd, carefully keeping to myself. According to the Jewish law, this woman would have been unclean and made to be separate from most of society, since anyone who touched blood was ritually unclean. Partway through the crowded scene, I would crawl between the feet of the other actors and say “to myself” through a microphone, “If only I could touch His robes, I would be healed.”

I got to perform this scene through many practices and several performances, but I never really grasped the desperation that drove this woman. It is bad enough that she was ill and likely very weak from a low blood count, but the social and relational implications would have been vast. I forget where I heard a message on this passage explaining a lot of these things, but it brought my attention to the position she likely was in.

Chances are this woman was married, since a large percentage of people were married and at an age we would consider young. With her illness, she would not have been allowed to live in her house with her husband. Each town would have had an area where women on their monthly cycle would go to live separately from the rest of the town. This woman was basically on a permanent cycle and would have lived in this area longterm. If she had any children, she would not have been there to take care of them. If she had a job, she wouldn’t have been able to participate in it. She wouldn’t see her friends or her family very often, if at all. It would have been risky for her just to go out into the town to see Jesus walking by, because anyone else she happened to touch would become unclean and likely wouldn’t have been too happy about it. So the fact that she purposed to touch Jesus, even just part of His clothes, was kind of a big deal. There were only two people who realized just how big a deal this was: this woman and Jesus. The passage says that Jesus felt power go out of Himself and the woman felt power go into her. It was such a brief contact and not even fully person to person, but it worked. It wasn’t anything to do with the clothes Jesus wore or this woman performing a great feat or work. Jesus said it was her faith that cleansed her. It is quite possible that if this woman said to herself, “If I can only look at Jesus, I will be healed,” it probably would have happened. It was the certainty that Jesus was the answer that healed her. And it wasn’t just healing that she received. She got a whole new life.

E – Encourage: Hebrews 11

When talking about faith, I thought there was no better chapter to explain just how important it is. Nothing that God promised to these people would have been gained if they had not had faith in His promise. No one would ever see heaven without faith. It is important to realize that faith doesn’t have to be knowledgeable – God knows what He’s doing. Faith doesn’t have to be big – an amount like a tiny seed is more than enough. Faith doesn’t have to be sophisticated or mature – children know how to do it instinctively. It is so easy for us to make things complicated, to puzzle things out, and to want things to be concrete. God says faith is reality in itself. “Now faith is the reality of what is hoped for, the proof of what is not seen.” Verse 1

R – Reflect: What does this mean for me?

I have used the term “my faith” to describe my Christianity because I don’t like saying “my religion.” Religion has such a connotation of ritual and regulations. I like the term “my faith” because that really is the heart of it. When I’m tempted to see living for Jesus as a chore, I need to remember what He did for me and why I am able to receive it.

M – Meet

Tonight I want to have another night of just praising God. While here on earth I will never fully grasp the enormity of what He has done for me in order to make me whole, but that doesn’t mean I can’t try!

Passages for tomorrow: Luke 5:12-16 and Romans 3:27-31

GERM Day 13

G – Gospel: Mark 14:32-36

This passage seems quite appropriate tonight. I was having an inner debate about whether or not I had time to write this blog or if it was too late and I was too busy. My day wasn’t really that busy, but when you’re used to getting home from school at 2:00 in the afternoon, getting home from a hair appointment at 6:00 does seem a bit late. I’m going to be helping mom with supper in just a little bit and when I thought about having to do my writing after supper, probably around 8:00, I briefly considered skipping the day. When I did think about that though, I realized that what I automatically planned to do instead was open up a computer game. A thought that I know didn’t come from me swept over me: you have time to play a computer game but you don’t have time to do a little reading and writing? Hmm, busted.

It is easy for me to be down on the disciples for sleeping while Jesus was praying alone in the garden, but I have no right to be. I do think I would have tried to stay awake, especially since Jesus specifically asked them to, but I don’t know what their day was like. I don’t know just how tired they were. I have fallen asleep at times I didn’t plan to when I was tired. I tend to think of the disciples purposely falling asleep here, maybe putting together little leaf pillows and spreading their coats over themselves, but it is more likely they dozed off while trying to stand watch. The only thing that makes my situation different from theirs is that I have the Holy Spirit to speak to me and push me in the right direction.

E – Encourage: I Thessalonians 4:11-18

The ultimate encouragement comes from thinking on what Jesus has done for us. When He was praying in the garden, asking God to change the course He was about to follow, there was one thing that allowed Him to follow the Father’s will: He knew how it would all turn out. I will never fully understand the horror, immense suffering, and complete loneliness that Jesus went through for me, but I should never forget it. Paul reminded the church in Thessalonica that God has an ultimate plan. Fellow believers who have died will only be missed for a short while just as Jesus suffered for a short while and then rose triumphant. One day soon, we will all rejoice together in the glory God has planned for us to enjoy with Him.

R – Reflect: What does this mean for me?

Tonight I was convicted about my dedication and faithfulness. Thank you, Lord, for working in me to make me fit for your kingdom someday.

M – Meet

Reading that passage in Thessalonians about people missing their loved ones who had died makes me want to pray for some people I know who have lost family recently. For some, this will be the first Christmas they will celebrate without them. I am thankful that their loved ones were believers so the hope of this passage can comfort them.

Passages for Tomorrow: Mark 5: 24-34 and Hebrews 11

GERM Day 12

G – Gospel: John 14.

Jesus was constantly failing to meet the expectations the world had for Him. The disciples were so sure that they were about to be part of a great political coup and would be made rulers of the kingdom of Israel. Then Jesus went to the cross without even trying to get out of such a horrible death. The religious leaders expected the Messiah to be a great king and leader. They were the ones who sent Jesus to die because they thought He was a blasphemous pretender. But there was one person Jesus never disappointed: the Father.

In verse 10, Jesus tells his disciples, “The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works.” Everything that Jesus did was long ordained by the Father. On the night that Jesus was arrested, He asked the Father if there was any way to accomplish His work without the cross, but He already knew the answer. And He was already committed to seeing it through. “Just as the Father commanded Me, so I do.” (verse 31)

E – Encourage: I John 2:12-14

In these verses, John felt it important to address all believers where they are in their spiritual life. Some of us are little children. This does not refer to physical age but to spiritual age. These are people who are still experiencing the fresh joy of salvation.

Some believers are in the position of “fathers.” The commentaries that I looked at agreed that these are people of spiritual maturity. Those of us who are younger in faith would do well to listen to these believers because they know the lasting joy of salvation: our relationship with God through Jesus.

John also addresses “young men.” These are believers who are like people in their physical prime. Though they may lack some spiritual maturity, they are strong enough to withstand attacks on their faith. More than that, they are strong enough to go on the offensive and push back against the enemy, Satan. God will give them victory and will use their efforts to expand His kingdom.

R – Reflect: What does this mean for me?

Thinking about these two passages together, I see a clear way to look at my own spiritual walk. If can say so, I feel I have grown out of the spiritual child stage. I can certainly tell you that I’m not in the spiritual parent stage. So that would put me in the “young adult” phase. There are so many times I don’t feel strong, though. I need to remember Jesus’ focus on pleasing the Father and use the same determination as my strength. I want God to be pleased with me and give me victory.

M – Meet

Tonight, I am going to thank God for those who have been spiritual parents to me. I am thankful that my physical parents are among them. There are also many people who taught me right alongside Dad and Mom – grandparents, aunts and uncles, teachers, pastors, and friends.

Passages for Tomorrow: Mark 14:32-36 and I Thessalonians 4:13-18

GERM Day 11

G – Gospel: Luke 5:17-26

The story of the paralyzed man being lowered down through the roof of a house has been one of my favourites for quite a while. When I was in high school, I got to go on a missions trip to England where we ran a couple of week-long Bible clubs for kids. Our main aim was to reach children from the large Asian communities in the city of Leicester. When we were training for the trip, we learned that we had to teach the Bible in ways that were sensitive to the thoughts and beliefs of people with Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and Jain backgrounds. This included being mindful of the way we word things like in the children’s song, “The B-I-B-L-E.” In English, we’re familiar with using the term “stand on” to mean trust in or be firm on, so “I stand alone on the Word of God,” means I trust in the Bible alone. But in Sikhism, the holy books are revered as eternal spiritual guides equal to their revered Gurus. The books are treated as people and are often put into a bed at night and ritually awakened in the morning. So to even suggest putting the books on the floor, let alone standing on them, is highly disrespectful. So we changed the song to say “I trust alone in the Word of God,” so none of the children would learn a song their families would find distasteful. 

So when it came to teaching about Jesus, we chose stories that would be seen as positive to any culture (Jesus helping a man who was so loved by his friends) and told them using methods that would be memorable for the children. For this story, we used a simple craft project that we did with the kids to tell the story using 4 strips of foam board. When these were hinged together with split pins, you could use them to make shapes like a house with a flat roof, the number 4 for the friends of the paralyzed man, the mat being lowered down through the roof, and the man’s bed folded up. When the kids went home with that little craft project, they would be able to use it to tell the story to their families or at least remember that some people cared about them and wanted them to learn about Jesus.

While this story was great to show the children the love Jesus had for people who needed to be healed, it also gave us a chance to talk about His ultimate mission: saving people from their sins. We didn’t see any children receive Jesus during those two weeks, but we prayed that seeds were planted. The local missionaries and churches had names to follow up on so I’m sure God used the time we gave to these children in some way. He certainly used the love a few men had for a sick friend to speak to many.

E – Encourage: I John 1:5-10

While Jesus likely enjoyed being able to heal people from debilitating illnesses, His main goal was to bring people into a direct relationship with the Father. When He healed the paralyzed man, He also forgave his sins. The religious leaders who were crowding around Jesus were astounded that He would presume to do something only God could do, but I have a feeling the man He forgave could tell that these weren’t just words. I’ve also wondered about the men who brought their friend to Jesus. It says that their faith caused Jesus to forgive and heal the man. Perhaps they, too, were forgiven of their sins. After all, it is faith that brings cleansing on us. 

Here on earth, we really only understand physical things, so the healing Jesus did was an important symbol. Just as someone who had a disease like leprosy in ancient Israel was considered unclean and had to live separately from the rest of society, sin makes us unclean and forces us to live separately from God. I am so thankful that Jesus came to do more than just heal people physically. 

R – Reflect: What does this mean for me?

Because of Jesus sacrifice, I have been made clean and can have a close relationship with the Father. I need to not take that status for granted. Just being near Jesus didn’t make the people He lived among righteous. He had to give them forgiveness. He has given it to me and it is the most precious thing I have. 

M – Meet

Today I want to pray for the many missionaries I know. This may seem broad, but I don’t want to single one or two out. People who give their lives to directly serve God in sharing His message with others have a special calling and need a lot of support.

Passages for tomorrow: John 14 and I John 2:12-14 

 

GERM Day 10

G – Gospel: Matthew 7: 24-29

Knowing what we know now about Jesus being God, we’re not surprised that He said His teachings were a firm foundation for life, but the people listening to Him were amazed by His certainty. Most normal teachers would probably have said things like, “When I read Moses’ laws, I learn this and think this is what he means.” But Jesus just said things as if He was His own source of wisdom.

God gave Moses and the prophets the right words to say. However, the Jewish Law had been added to over the years by religious teachers. The scribes that this passage mentions must have been men who taught the Law by quoting Moses and the rules from other men as if they held the same God-given authority. The big difference between Jesus and these scribes was that He was the original source of the Law. He wasn’t just speaking His own thoughts as if they were fact. He was speaking the facts from the original Writer’s own thoughts.

E – Encourage: Exodus 12:21-28

The Israelites in Egypt had the advantage of seeing God fulfill the words He gave through Moses. By the time Jesus was born, these symbols and ordinances were likely just rituals for some people, but I’m sure many still understood and believed the Power behind them. The fact that people still observe Passover today is evidence that the teaching commanded by Moses continued.

This just made me wonder what it was like for Jesus as a little boy to see Joseph and Mary preparing for Passover. How did He feel knowing that lamb was a picture of Himself?

R – Reflect: What does this mean for me?

While my family doesn’t observe Passover, we do celebrate Easter, the holiday marking the completion of the promise that Passover represents. This Christmas, I need to remember that I’m not just celebrating a ritual or story. I am celebrating the birth of the Passover Lamb.

M – Meet

Today I will pray for my pastors. They lead me and my fellow believers in remembering the Lamb together.

Tomorrow’s passages: Luke 5:17-26 and I John 1:5-10

GERM Day 9

G – Gospel: Mark 10: 13-16

This morning in church, we were treated to a fun as well as meaningful presentation of drama and video. There were moments of utter silliness, awkward volunteer selections, and bad puns. The typical Sunday morning church service, right?

If I told a hundred church-goers from various backgrounds about the service we had, some would be confused, some would smile but shake their heads, and others would wish they had been there. But along with those groups would be people who would say that wasn’t a church service at all. They  might think we had ruined tradition or disrespected God. At the end of the service, one of the pastors said something that stood out to me. “God knows we like to have fun and be silly sometimes, but He also knows we need to be rescued.” We then watched a video of families telling the story of Jesus’ birth as they set up a nativity scene. I started to tear up when the parents said that Jesus came for you and me and held hands with their children.

I thought about the massive grins and bubbling excitement from the children in the room as they watched the silliness on stage. They wouldn’t have been paying that much attention to a sermon no matter how well-spoken the preacher. Jesus dealt with every one who came to Him in the way that reached them the best. With theologians, He discussed the words of the prophets. With a woman drawing water from a well, He spoke about meeting needs. With the children, He talked to them, gave them His attention, hugged them, and blessed them. God can use anything centered around Him.

E – Encourage: I Corinthians 3:18-20

When the disciples were trying to send the children and their families away, I’m sure it was because they thought the children were wasting Jesus’ time. After all, they thought He was putting together a plan to free Israel from the Romans. Certainly that was far beyond the understanding of children. But Jesus turned the tables on them and said they needed to think like children to understand His kingdom. The disciples missed the point of Jesus’ mission right to the very end. I have a feeling that those children got it. “Jesus loves me!”

R – Reflect: I’m one of those people with little, mostly useless factoids tucked away in my brain. Let’s call them “situationally useful,” if they are at all. I could learn everything that every university could teach me and still be the most foolish person in the world if I didn’t grasp something that my little nephews, aged 4 and 6, can sing and recite. “Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so.” I need to ground everything in my life in that truth and share it with everyone I can.

M – Meet

Tonight, I’m going to pray for my precious nephews. I am so thankful that they are surrounded by family and friends who love God and desperately want to see these two boys become saved.

 

Passages for tomorrow: Matthew 7:24-29 and Exodus 12:21-28