Posts Tagged 'devotion'

Holy Week Thoughts: Wednesday’s Devotion & Treachery

Mark 14:1-11

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, German theologian and pastor during the Nazi regime, wrote a book. In German, it’s title was simply “Following”. It described the cost of following Jesus through a consideration of the Sermon on the Mount. He wrote this as the Nazis were on the rise, and pointed out the cost of devotion. You see, devotion doesn’t guarantee godliness. The Nazi’s were devoted to power, while Bonhoeffer was calling for devotion to God.

The depiction of leaders devoted to protecting their power is seen in Mark 14. Look at the first two verses. We see that the religious leaders are looking for some way to entrap Jesus. But it can’t be just an immediate snatch-and-grab: it has to be a trap that doesn’t put them in danger of the crowd.

Others are devoted to something else: conserving the cash flow. As the scene switches in the text from the inner sanctum of the chief priests to the dinner table of a humble home in Bethany, we see an act of extravagance, and a strong reaction against it. Verses 3 through 5 tell of a woman using an expensive perfume on Christ, to anoint Him. Instead of everyone being blessed to witness such an act of devotion, we see the phrase “Some of those present were saying indignantly…” We see from the gospel of John, chapter 12, that Judas by name is the frustrated one. It even explains why he was upset: greed.

But look at Jesus’ rebuke in verses 6-9: He says that the woman’s action was a beautiful thing, because it was extravagant on Christ’s behalf. Devotion to the poor is admirable; but devotion to God is more so. Jesus is preparing for death; and the disciples didn’t want to hear it. They had their own ideas about how the Kingdom of God was going to play out, but Jesus was devoted to following the Father.

Lord, we see the different kinds of devotion played out here: to power, to financial gain, and to the Kingdom. We reflect on our own devotion: are we willing to follow the Father into self-sacrifice? What are we devoted to? What receives our extravagance? Lord, let it be You. Amen.

A Perspective on Lent

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I am an avid reader of a website that allows conversations between people about various subjects. One of the subjects I read was about a person who would be attending their first Ash Wednesday service. This individual had never attended one before, as they were raised in a non-denominational church that didn’t observe the Liturgical seasons.

They had heard a lot about “giving up things” for Lent, and they wanted to know what they should give up, if anything. I wrote this comment to them to explain my take on Lent.

In my opinion, Lent isn’t about giving up “things”; rather, it’s a reminder to sharpen your focus on the work of Christ. We carefully pay attention to Jesus’ ministry as He approached the Cross, and we take that same kind of care in examining the work that Jesus is doing in us.

Now, according to many group traditions, it is efficient to sharpen one’s focus by giving up various aspects in life: abstaining from certain foods, or stopping certain practices. The THING that is given up is supposed to be like an offering or a sacrifice.

I was not raised in a church, so I shared your lack of perspective about some of the more structured practices of the larger church. I’d encourage you to ask a lot of questions, and pay attention to the responses that your fellow pilgrims are implementing in their observance of Lent. It very well might become a deeply meaningful expression of your own faith as well.

I thought some of my readers might be interested in these Lenten thoughts.

Unnoticed Grace

Here we are, on the cusp of Fall. As I write this, it’s a beautiful day outside, a pleasant 82 degrees… and that alone shows me how much it is possible to adjust to one’s surroundings. If you’d told me three years ago that I’d consider 82 degrees a pleasant day, I’d have thought you were crazy. You see, when we lived on the West side of the state, a day in the high 70’s was a WARM day… and anything above 80 was a reason to find a location with air conditioning.
Now? It’s merely a pleasant day. It’s amazing what you get used to when it’s around you all the time.
That makes me think about God’s grace. To those of us who live in God’s grace all the time, it can be unremarkable. It’s *normal* to be able to breathe a sigh of relief when thinking about our spiriutal state… because God’s grace covers us. We don’t have to work our way into the Kingdom, or try to earn God’s favor. We understand that earning God’s favor is IMPOSSIBLE – God, after all, is infinite. The love of the Lord for humanity is without limit – and can’t be bought or earned in any way by us. It’s all God’s choice to rescue us.
But we don’t think about that much, because it’s NORMAL for us. We take it for granted because that’s exactly what it is: granted to us, by an act of God’s will.
But what about those who don’t know? There are so many people in our community who don’t really understand the concept of God’s grace, because they’ve never really seen it in action on a regular basis. Personally, I know my family didn’t comprehend grace; there was a much higher emphasis on performance. I see a lot of that in our town – a high emphasis on what one is able to produce. That makes sense in an agricultural community… but it’s terrible when applied to theology.
We, as God’s people who live and move and have our being in the grace of God, need to extend that grace to others who have not yet understood it. “See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (Hebrews 12:15). We can extend God’s Kingdom by spreading the message of God’s grace by whatever means are at our disposal. We even have the opportunity to broadcast our services on local television at no charge… all as a way of sharing God’s grace to those who do not yet live in it.
Please pray with me so that others would see Jesus in us; ” in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)
KFJ – Pastor Ed

Looking at my label

Ortho-Bapti-Presby-Costal.

It’s the self-made moniker I used to use when trying to describe where I stand on the theological landscape. I’d previously heard others use similar terms as tongue-in-cheek descriptions (“Bapticostal”), but I found that they didn’t quite cover my particular viewpoint sufficiently. When trying to describe my personal take on theology to new friends, I’d often say, “Well, on the theological landscape, I’m somewhere between the Zwinglians and the Calvinists…”, and most people would politely smile and nod… and not really have much of an idea of what I was talking about.

That’s okay… I’m *used* to seeing that look on people’s faces…

However, I was reading a blog this morning that caused me to look at my current position on the theological landscape… and I find that OrthoBaptiPresbyCostal doesn’t quite fit anymore. You see, while I appreciate the Orthodox view of the presence of Jesus, I’ve never been in an Orthdox church, so I can’t really *own * that label. I want to find a new “piece” to fit in that Orthodox hole that I’ve appreciated from the outside, but never experienced.

As I was preparing for worship today, I came across a lectionary-based blog with some very interesting entries. In one of them, I found a viewpoint worth sharing with you:

“Faithful people can see things differently. [A blogger who attended a mainline seminary] may not care for the ‘aesthetics’ and ‘atmospherics,’ but, at my seminary, the ‘aesthetics’ and the ‘atmospherics’ were–and are–critical elements of our spiritual life and spiritual formation. When evangelicals need encouragement in the faith, they talk about their personal faith in Jesus. When [traditional mainline Christians] need encouragement in the faith, we do a liturgy.”

In reading that paragraph, it struck me: in our church family, we do a little of BOTH. We express our personal faith in Jesus with liturgy. It’s a very nice blend.

I’ve discovered that I’m becoming quite familiar with my new theological surroundings as the pastor of a conservative, mainline church. We’re an interesting mix of old school Reformed theology, a healthy dose of Congregational governance, and something I’ll describe as “agricultural self-reliance”. We have both the “we’ve always done it that way” mentality, and the “hey, we can probably try that new thing once – we might like it”. How refreshing!

As a congregation, we’re grounded by knowing who we are, because we know where we came from. At the same time, we’re willing to step out in faith, and see what God will do among us. That’s rare.

So, I think I’ll trade in my old “OrthoBaptiPresbyCostal” phrase, and just be comfortable using a new nickname:

Congregational.

KFJ – Pastor Ed

Devotionals Online: 01

Okay, Outreach Team…

THIS is where you upload your devotionals. Just post them as replies to this blog, and that way, we’ll be able to collect them easier at the end of the year.

Hear me on this: I’m really encouraging you to not just “phone it in”… don’t treat this like a homework assignment from school. That’s not the point at all.

What I’m really wanting for each of us (myself included) is that as we interact with God’s Word, we’ll be shaped to be more like Jesus. When Christ was here, he spent much significant time studying the Scriptures and extended time in prayer with the Father… so that he would be tuned to listen to his Father’s will.

THAT’s what I want for us as well: to spend time in God’s Word, so that we tune our hearts to listen for God speaking to us, too.

Keep Following Jesus… Ed

Title of the Devotion:
Verses to Read:
Opening Thought / Illustrative Story – 1 paragraph:
What is the bible author saying to you in this verse? – 1 paragraph:

How can I apply this to my life? – 1 paragraph:

Closing Prayer:

Ending Thought – a short, one line thought to end the Devotional


Pastor Ed Backell

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