Do you see interruptions as a tool God uses to mold our hearts and prepare us for His return?
Military wives know something about interruptions, don’t we? Interruptions of vacations, school years, or even date night. As you read through the journeys of Jesus, notice how often He is interrupted. Each time, He responds with compassion and patience. Following His example, we can look at each life interruption as an opportunity to share God’s grace with others.
About This Journey
As Christ followers, we are the hands, feet, and voice of Jesus wherever we are. “Dedicated to God’s Mission” explores what it means to be a dedicated Christ-follower on a mission for God everywhere He takes us. Jesus had urgency and purpose in what He did and where He went. Together, we travel with Him and the disciples and learn from His attitude of love and service.
This Week's Readings
Pass the Salt
Salt is good, but if the salt has lost its saltiness, how will you make it salty again? Have salt in yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”-Mark 9:50
The use of salt to preserve food used to be a necessity. The process can be traced back as far as Ancient Egypt. The most common techniques were dry-salting, in which meat or fish were buried in granular salt, or brine-curing, in which meat was soaked in strong salt water.
Even the best techniques of preserving with salt can’t compare with the preserving power found in the military MRE (Meals Ready to Eat). My Soldier husband still remembers the first time he ate food that was ten years old. To this day he is not sure it was a good idea to eat something with an unspecified shelf life.
The words found in Mark 9:50 are a small portion of the traveling training session Jesus had with his disciples on the road. The theme for that day’s lesson could have been: “The Necessity of Salt.” As disciples on mission for Christ, they were to influence society for good, just as salt is used to preserve and enhance the flavor of food. Salt is recognized by its taste, and disciples who do not show the character of Christ are as useless as salt that has no flavor.
Like salt preserving food in a hot climate, we want to preserve what is true and righteous in a decaying world. That means standing up for what is right, promoting good causes, defending those who are weak and voiceless, helping those who cannot help themselves, and standing against those who would abuse and hurt others.
Salt also makes people thirsty. We want to make people thirsty for Christ by the way we show his love and forgiveness to one another. In Jesus’ day, people also thought of salt as a symbol of wisdom or pleasing speech, critical for building good relationships.
Jesus told his followers, “You are the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). As Christ-followers we touch society, friends, and family with the goal of preserving all that is good and righteous. We don’t do so with a stinging harshness, but with the wisdom of God, the compassion of Jesus, and healing words as prompted by the Holy Spirit.
How’s your saltiness? Is there anything that keeps your life from making others thirsty? Are there relationships that need to be healed in order to carry out the Lord’s instruction to be at peace with one another?
Lord, don’t let me lose my saltiness. Make me an agent of your preserving and healing power today. Amen.
One Thing vs. Everything
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.-Mark 10:17-22
The man who came to Jesus is someone we would consider “good.” If he was in your military community, he would attend chapel and might serve as an usher. He would be squared away as a leader and would live his life by good and honorable principles. He would have a chest full of medals representing his wealth of experience over multiple deployments and years of sacrificial service to his nation. He looks forward to the day he will retire comfortably on his military pension. He comes to Jesus and asks what he has to do to have eternal life. Perhaps he is feeling a bit empty, even nervous. Surely there must be one more thing he can do to be certain. Jesus tells him that to receive eternal life he must give up his medals, his service, and his military pension, and follow him. The man walks away grieving because his medals, his service, and his military benefits are his identity and his security.
What are you willing to give up to be a follower of Jesus? The rich man who approached Jesus thought maybe he just needed to add something to his already noble activities. He wanted Jesus to say “add this one thing,” but instead Jesus said to give up everything.
Jesus does not make this direction to selling everything into a blanket requirement to following him, nor was he saying all his disciples must live in poverty. But the actions of Jesus emphasize that eternal life is not something we are able to obtain by virtue of our possessions, strength, wisdom, or authority. Dedication to Christ and his mission is not just something to add on to the other things that are important. The challenge of Jesus to those who would follow him is total commitment.
Put yourself in the place of the person who approached Jesus. How would you respond to his requirement for achieving eternal life?
Lord, help me count the cost of following you and empower me to serve you faithfully. Amen.
Leaders Eat Last
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”-Mark 10:35-45
Leadership expert Simon Sinek was inspired to write a book he called Leaders Eat Last. The title was based on his conversation with a Marine Corps general. In an interview about the book, Sinek recalled asking the general, “What makes the Marine Corps so amazing?” The general responded with the three words, “Officers eat last.” Sinek explains:
If you go to a Marine Corps chow hall anywhere in the world, you will see the Marines lined up in rank order. The most senior person will be at the back of the line and the most junior person eats first. No one tells them they have to do it and it is not in any rulebook. It is because of the way they view the responsibility of leadership. We think leadership is about rank and power; they think of leadership as the responsibility for other human beings.
Disciples and brothers James and John could have used some Marine Corps leadership training. Their self-centered request of Jesus was audacious and displayed their total lack of awareness concerning the mission of Jesus and those who would follow him. Once again, these guys weren’t getting the message. This request comes directly on the heels of these words from Jesus: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:31). Jesus could not have been clearer that the role of his followers was to be the least of all and the servant of all.
The request of James and John was not about service; it was about ambition and jealousy. They did not want to accomplish something—they wanted to be recognized. This request was about promoting themselves and not the Lord.
These disciples were handpicked by Jesus and here they were displaying selfish ambition, afraid one would get more recognition than the other. If we see this in the lives of the apostles who walked with Christ, don’t be surprised if you see it in yourself or in other Christians. But Jesus’ path to the head of the line is being the servant of all and responding to him in obedience.
Do you think there can be such a thing as godly ambition? If so, what might it look like?
Lord, you came to serve, not to be served. You came to give and not receive. Purge me of selfish ambition and make me willing to serve others. Amen.
“We Interrupt this Journey…”
And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.-Mark 10:46-52
My friend and fellow military wife Gwen has a great sign hanging on the wall of her kitchen. It reads, “Interruptions are my ministry.” Is that how you view interruptions?
Military wives know something about interruptions, don’t we? Military orders do not come with a courtesy call to find out if now is a convenient time. Some of the military interruptions I’ve experienced include:
An interruption of a career
An interruption of a holiday celebration
An interruption of a school semester
An interruption of a vacation
An interruption while on a date with my husband …
I could go on—as could you.
Have you noticed, as you read through the journeys of Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, how often he is interrupted? At least that is what it looks like from our perspective. This blind man sitting by the side of the road is one of many examples. Did Jesus really experience interruptions or was he just fulfilling his plan for his earthly ministry? Look at the way he responded to interruptions. There is no hint of annoyance or frustration about blind Bartimaeus breaking into his schedule. Instead, he met this interruption, like all the others, with compassionate service to whoever approached him.
I have to ask myself: What if the interruptions in my life are opportunities to reach out to others and further mature me as a Christ follower? Can God even use interruptions from the military to make that happen?
How would your view of military life change if you viewed the interruptions it brought as part of the mission of God for you? What opportunities might those interruptions hold?
Lord, help me see any interruption as an opportunity for ministry today. Amen.
Don’t Go There!
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”-Mark 10:32-34
I remember when my husband’s military orders arrived for Korea and I sighed, “Oh, no.” I remember when my husband’s military orders arrived for Ft. Bragg, and I sighed, “Oh, no.” I remember when my husband’s orders arrived for Washington, DC and I sighed, “Oh, no.” You get the pattern. There were more times than not that military orders held destinations to which I did not want to go.
The account of Jesus in Mark 10:32–34 (moving back a few verses) amounts to him reading his upcoming “orders” to the disciples. His assignment in Jerusalem meant his death.
You can read about his celebratory arrival in Jerusalem in Mark 11:1–11. But even with the glowing reception Jesus first received there, it is safe to conclude Jerusalem was not a destination to which he looked forward. The Gospel of Luke tells us, “When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51). I get the picture of him walking with purposeful and even urgent steps ahead of the disciples. Jesus did not go to Jerusalem because he looked forward to suffering and dying on the cross. He went because he knew his sacrificial death would make possible eternal life for all who believe on him.
Sisters, as we travel on mission with God, we are sometimes asked to go where we do not want to go. Maybe it is possible that, at the place we don’t want to go, the Lord has something he wants us to do.
When I look back at those places I did not want to go, I find that they hold some of my fondest memories. They were places of significant personal growth and meaningful service. Unlike Jesus, I could not see beforehand what my next destination held. But in retrospect, I give thanks to the Lord for the way he worked in my life in each assignment.
What have you learned from going to places you did not want to go? How do even those places fit into the mission God has for you? Are you in one of those places now?
Lord, help me see any interruption as an opportunity for ministry today. Amen.aShow me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life (Psalm 143:8b NIV).
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