To Choose or Not to Choose God’s Mission
What changes has Christ made in your life?
The most important choice you can make is to say ‘yes’ when Jesus calls your name. Jesus chose His disciples not just to hang out, but also to follow Him, share in the challenges, and to extend His ministry. They were far from perfect, and like us, made poor choices and showed weak faith on the mission to follow Christ. This week, reflect on these stories of God’s faithfulness and be encouraged even in the struggle.
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
Don’t Shoot the Messenger
And as he passed by, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.
And as he reclined at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were reclining with Jesus and his disciples, for there were many who followed him.-Mark 2:14-15
Recently I was incorrectly charged for a medical test. It took months of frustrating phone calls to finally resolve the issue. Through the myriad of calls, I had to continually remind myself not to “shoot the messenger” with angry words. The individual who called me did not personally make the mistake, but was just the messenger of bad news.
“Don’t shoot the messenger” might have been words spoken regularly by Levi, the man described in Mark 2:14–15. As a tax collector, he did not set the tax rates, but was given the job to accept toll money as people crossed from one part of the kingdom into the other. Many Jews who made the regular trip back and forth could remember when there was no toll to pay, and in their resentment let the complaints fly toward the toll collector. Then one day someone passed by Levi’s booth, looked at him and said, “Follow me.” Jesus did not shoot the messenger. Instead he extended a hand and changed his life.
Levi followed Jesus and even pulled together some of his other tax collector friends so they could meet him too. The actions of Jesus did not sit well with the religious leaders, but he did not apologize for his choice of companions. No, he made the point that not only was it acceptable for him to spend time with such people, it was the purpose of his mission (v. 16–17).
We all have a natural tendency to associate with those like us, especially those who have the same beliefs. While Jesus spent the majority of his time with his disciples, he also went out of his way to associate with people considered outsiders so he could address their spiritual needs.
We need to be in close community with those who will deepen our walk with Christ. We must also reach beyond these circles and befriend those who need the love of Christ. You and I may face some criticism for our choice of friends, just as Jesus did, but we are to love them with God’s love, and we may have the privilege of being the messenger God uses to introduce them to the Savior.
Are you meaningfully connected with people who do not share your Christian beliefs? If not, how can you make a new connection?
Lord, show me how to be a friend. Amen.
Vive la Différence
And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”-Mark 2:16-17
I don’t know about you, but I grew up in a pretty homogenous town. I liken it to being enveloped in bubble wrap. Mine was a protected upbringing where anyone different stood out. When my husband became a Soldier, he blended into any camouflage group. My little boys would grab onto the boots of any Soldier and look up for “daddy” because everyone looked like daddy. But even with this visual uniformity, military life was different. Different as in: different people, different attitudes, a different way of doing things. And the diversity caused unanticipated culture shock.
I soon learned to appreciate different! Every military community brings together different groups—people from different religions, even Christians from different denominations with different practices. I learned that “different” did not mean it was time to draw division lines, but to embrace differences and be enriched by encountering something new.
The Jewish leaders who criticized Jesus for eating with “tax collectors and sinners” did not like “different.” The fact that Jesus shared a table with those who were considered outsiders made them suspicious of him. Their job was to ensure everyone followed the same religious rules, and this made Jesus’ actions unacceptable. They did not understand that Jesus did not just eat with people who were different for the sake of being different. He knew that even—especially—those who were different in his day had spiritual needs. They were spiritually sick. They needed healing, salvation, and hope.
Military life certainly brings together people from a variety of backgrounds, but all of us have in common a need for Christ’s mercy and salvation. Jesus prioritized people in need and gave them a place at his table. Sisters, don’t be afraid of different.
What have you learned about “different” since becoming a military wife? Differences abound, even among Christians. What challenges and opportunities are there when those differences are shared?
Father, sometimes I don’t like “different.” It’s more comfortable when people fit into my mold, especially when it comes to serving you. Help me find a deeper knowledge of you by focusing on what binds us together instead of what separates us. Amen.
Challenged or Changed?
And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,so that
“they may indeed see but not perceive,
and may indeed hear but not understand,
lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables?-Mark 4:10-13
As Jesus traveled and taught many people heard his teaching and, just like many churchgoers today after hearing a good sermon, simply went home without understanding or turning their lives around. Others, however, who heard Jesus teach and wanted to learn more. They hung around and listened as Jesus pulled the disciples aside for some intense leadership training and further explanation.
Jesus had much to teach his twelve apostles to prepare them to carry on his mission after he was gone. They needed to know some secrets about the kingdom of God. They could not understand these secrets on their own. They needed the special revelation that only he could give. Aren’t you encouraged to read that Jesus did not shoo away those who were not among the Twelve? He was willing to share the secrets with anyone who wanted to listen and learn.
The situation is no different for us today. The only way we ever truly understand the Word of God is through the Holy Spirit who helps us. “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (John 16:3).
That is the reason you are encouraged to begin each daily Waypoint with the short prayer from Psalm 119:18: “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”
Jesus encountered those who admired his words, yet were content to watch from the periphery; and others who wanted to know more and pressed in closer to hear him elaborate on his teaching. The first group certainly included those challenged by Jesus’ words. The second is where you would be more likely to find those who were changed by Jesus’ truths. In which group would you be found?
Maybe you have read the Scriptures or a devotional entry and something seemed to jump off the page for you. How might that indicate Jesus taking you aside to help you understand his teaching? Are you standing on the periphery or pressing in to learn more about Jesus?
Father, don’t let me be content to stand on the periphery of truth. I don’t want to just be challenged by your Word, I want to be changed. Give me a determination to press in and learn all you have to teach me. For your glory. Amen.
No Need for a Life Preserver
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.-Mark 4:35-39
As I type these words I watch a storm move across the ocean and spill onto the shore. The storm made a quick debut and the scene on the beach is anything but peaceful. The wind is blowing; people are frantic to pull down umbrellas and tents. And the beautiful morning had held such promise of a lazy day of beach-bum perfection.
Storms, literal or symbolic, can be swift and unexpected. But they are going to come. Even when you are serving Christ storms will come. The disciples would tell you storms come even when Jesus is right next to you.
The event described in Mark 4 was not your average storm. This storm threatened to overwhelm the boat with its furious wind. The disciples found themselves in a desperate situation and they were terrified. Don’t miss the irony here: the carpenter, Jesus, was resting peacefully while the professional fishermen, James, John, Andrew, and Peter, were frantic with fear. Jesus was able to sleep because of his trust in God. The disciples did not see trust in his relaxation; they saw a lack of care and concern for their welfare.
Nothing was farther from the truth. Jesus was concerned enough for the disciples that he calmed the storm and gave them an “aha!” moment as they began to grasp who he really was (Mark 4:40–41). On a day when the disciples thought they would simply sail to the other side of the sea, they got a glimpse of the true identity of this one they followed. Only God had such power over nature. This storm became training ground for them to learn more of God’s power.
There are days when my boat feels like it is capsizing. I share the anxiety expressed by poet E. E. Cummings when he wrote, “King Christ, this world is all aleak; and lifepreservers there are none.” Those are the days I remind myself I don’t need a life preserver because Jesus is in the boat with me.
On a scale of one to ten, what is your response to storms of life, if one represents fear and ten represents faith?
Lord, thank you that you are “a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain” (Isaiah 4:6). Amen.
Laugh or Serve?
They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.-Mark 4:38-43
Here’s a question for you: If you were there the day Jesus made the audacious claim, “The child is not dead but sleeping,” would you be among those who laughed at him, or among those who would get up and give her something to eat when her life returned? Both?
Earlier in Mark 5, Jairus, the girl’s father, went to find Jesus to plead with him to come and help his daughter, but Jesus was delayed and word came the daughter died. He had faith that Jesus could heal her, but now she was dead. All hope was gone. All faith was lost. She was not asleep. She was dead. The very presence of the mourners confirmed her demise. Then this man Jesus made the foolhardy statement that she is not dead, only sleeping. Laughable.
Granted, laughter is a natural response to something that sounds outlandish. Laughter was ninety-year-old Sarah’s response in Genesis 18:12 when God told her she would have a child in her old age. Her husband laughed as well when he received the same message. There was laughter of a different sort when their baby boy Isaac was born.
Back in the home of Jairus, Jesus touched the girl and she was no longer dead. He restored her to life. The laughter of unbelief surely turned to laughter of amazement in that place! Life needs nourishment, so Jesus commanded someone to give her something to eat. Oh, I hope I would be the one to jump up to get food to fill that girl’s belly, laughing joyfully all the way to the kitchen!
Have you ever responded with laughter at something the Lord has asked of you? Has your laughter of skepticism ever been turned to the laughter of amazement at something the Lord has done?
Lord, it is easy to laugh at things we find unbelievable. Your lavish love and unmerited grace are sometimes hard for me to believe. Forgive me when I laugh in disbelief that they can be mine. Amen.
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