Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 7

Reading: Mark 7
Call to Confession by Blair Gilmer Meeks

God of grace, you call on us to repent, to endure, and to hope: strengthen us that we may work always for the common good.

We confess that though we look for sin in others, we are reluctant to examine ourselves; we are caught up in worldy wisdom and forget your words; we complain about troubles and fail to see your good gifts.

Have patience with us and nurture us hat we may grow in love, for the sake of your Son Jesus Christ.


Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 6

Reading: Mark 6
“Amazed” by Clay Harryman

Have you ever been truly “amazed”? The grandeur of mountains, childbirth, a sundog, tide pools. Life and nature can provide some of the most amazing experiences. Bring about a true miracle, however, and people turn away.

As we journey through this season of Lent, we prepare to celebrate the most wonderful miracle of all, the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Yet so many turn away from the miracle because our every day lives are so, so consuming.

Throughout Mark 6, Jesus also showed us how to be amazed. Apostles were amazed at the ability to cast out demons. King Herod was amazed (and terrified) at the teachings of John the Baptist. A multitude was amazed at being fed by a couple of fish sandwiches. The disciples were amazed at Jesus walking on the water. The gentiles across the lake were amazed at the healings.

And Jesus was amazed at the Nazarenes’ unbelief.

Jesus was amazed. The Creator of the entire universe. He made supernovae! He made snow! He made black holes! He made elephants and angler fish and people and microbes (and platypuses)! And He was amazed at the reaction of people in his hometown.

We are spending these 40 days preparing for the most amazing event in all of history. Will Jesus be amazed at your unbelief?

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 5

Reading: Mark 5
Thoughts by Henri Nouwen from The Return of the Prodigal Son

For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not “How am I to find God?” but “How am I to let myself be found by him?” The question is not “How am I to know God?” but “How am I to let myself be known by God?” And, finally, the question is not “How am I to love God?” but “How am I to let myself be loved by God?” God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home.

Lent Daily Devotional: Psalm 102

Psalm 102

Hear my prayer, Lord; let my cry for help come to you.
Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress.
Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly.

For my days vanish like smoke; my bones burn like glowing embers.
My heart is blighted and withered like grass; I forget to eat my food.
In my distress I groan aloud and am reduced to skin and bones.
I am like a desert owl, like an owl among the ruins.
I lie awake; I have become like a bird alone on a roof.
All day long my enemies taunt me;
those who rail against me use my name as a curse.
For I eat ashes as my food and mingle my drink with tears
because of your great wrath, for you have taken me up and thrown me aside. My days are like the evening shadow; I wither away like grass.

But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever;
your renown endures through all generations.
You will arise and have compassion on Zion,
for it is time to show favor to her;
the appointed time has come.
For her stones are dear to your servants;
her very dust moves them to pity.
The nations will fear the name of the Lord,
all the kings of the earth will revere your glory.
For the Lord will rebuild Zion and appear in his glory.
He will respond to the prayer of the destitute;
he will not despise their plea.

Let this be written for a future generation,
that a people not yet created may praise the Lord:
“The Lord looked down from his sanctuary on high,
from heaven he viewed the earth,
to hear the groans of the prisoners and release those condemned to death.” So the name of the Lord will be declared in Zion and his praise in Jerusalem
when the peoples and the kingdoms assemble to worship the Lord.

In the course of my life he broke my strength; he cut short my days.
So I said: “Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same, and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 4

Reading: Mark 4
“The Potential in the Seed” by Cale Ownby

I typically read this parable as a call to be Good Soil, and I don’t think this is incorrect. The good soil produces a crop, so let’s be good soil! Don’t get me wrong. I am not always the good soil. Sometimes I am the rocky soil, a day here, or a month there; and sometimes I am the soil with the weeds, a week here, or a year there. In different seasons in my life, I will identify as different kinds of soil. I think we all do.

I grew up in the suburbs of Houston, so I am no farmer, but I do know enough about business to know that a good farmer isn’t so careless with his seed. Seed costs money, money that was hard-earned from the previous harvest. For a farmer, each seed holds the potential of multiplying the investment. An important factor for if and how much a seed will yield is the time and location. Nowadays farmers have charts, graphs, pH readings, water sensors, and years upon years of statistics that advise the exact location and time to plant that seed. They know where to invest that potential so they get the best return on investment. Even in Jesus’ day, a good farmer would know enough that they wouldn’t try to plant seed in shallow soil, much less on a path where the birds eat.

But this farmer does.

This farmer invests all of this seed, this potential into ground that will not bear a crop. I’d like to think that the farmer knows something we don’t. The potential for this farmer is not the seed; the potential is the ground. Where there was rocky ground last season, a river may have risen and deposited deep, fertile soil this season. Weeds that grew in this soil last season may have died out and created well-fertilized soil this season. The farmer doesn’t pick and choose where to sow the seed; they sow it everywhere, because that is where the potential is. Jesus doesn’t pick and choose where to share his love, and where to share his word.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 3

Reading: Mark 3
Store by Rob Bell

Anger is simply an emotion. It’s just your body’s way of telling you that your will has been blocked. What you want to happen isn’t happening. The problem isn’t anger; the problem is what we do with it. It’s where we take it. It’s where we go with it. The question is, why am I angry? Because my anger is going to lead somewhere.

There is a response to anger that’s essentially all about us. Our pride, our ego, all of the ways we work so hard to prop up and protect and defend our selfish little kingdoms. But that isn’t what’s going on here with Jesus. Jesus has identified himself with an injustice larger than himself. There is something divine about his anger because some things are worth getting angry about.

“Find somebody who is depressed, tired, exhausted; you get them angry and it’s like rocket fuel. I mean, it is unbelievable energy and stimulus. There is power within us when we’re angry that can frighten us.”

What does Jesus do with his anger? The Scripture says that he looks around at the religious leaders and then he says to the man with the injured hand, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretches out his hand and Jesus heals him. Jesus’ anger leads to an act of healing and restoration. His anger, it increases the peace of the world. It leads to this good deed that makes things better.”

When we’re talking about calling and mission and vocation and purpose, what we’re going to give our lives to, one of the questions we often ask is, ‘What do you love?’ But there’s another question that we can ask. ‘What makes you angry?’

We need to embrace the simple truth that we were made to give ourselves to a cause bigger than ourselves…a cause that increases the peace in the world… a cause, a purpose, a task that makes the world a better place. May you become aware of your anger. May you learn to channel it, to focus it, direct it into something beautiful. And may it fuel sacred acts of healing and restoration.

Lent Daily Devotional: Prayer

Thoughts from David Benner and Anne Lamott

“Watch particularly for traces of God in other people. Since humans are that part of creation most directly reflecting the divine image and likeness, it should be here that we most readily sense traces of God. Cultivate the spiritual habit of looking through Spirit-filled eyes at those you encounter and watching for Jesus. Recall that he said that he is there – particularly in those most broken and least likely to be suspected of bearing the Christ within their being. Watching for the presence of God in others will change the way you relate to them as you begin to see yourself surrounded by bearers of our Lord’s presence in the world.”

– David Benner, Opening to God




“We and life are spectacularly flawed and complex. Often we do not get our way, which I hate, hate, hate. But in my saner moments I remember that if we did, usually we would shortchange ourselves. Sometimes circumstances conspire to remind us or even let us glimpse how thin the membrane is between here and there, between birth and the grave, between human and the divine. In wonder at the occasional direct experience of this, we say, Thank you.”

– Anne Lamott, Help, Thanks, Wow

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 2

Reading: Mark 2
Thoughts by Daniel Marolf

In Mark 2, we see a very short story about Jesus calling Levi, a tax collector, to come and follow him. Now tax collectors were pretty much universally hated in Mark’s world. They made their money by collecting taxes for the oppressive Roman government and charging extra off the top for themselves. With this background in mind, let’s consider the story in Mark 2:13-17 through the eyes of Levi. For whatever reason, you, Levi, are a tax collector, and you are hated by everyone you interact with. While sitting at your tax booth, a famous Jewish teacher draws near. You’ve seen Rabbis before and you’re accustomed to them ignoring you, so you pay no special attention. But shockingly, Rabbi Jesus looks right in your direction, and says, “Follow me.” You quickly snap your head around back and forth, positive he isn’t talking to you, but there is no one else it could be. You look into those tender eyes – those eyes looking at you like no one has in a very long time – like a person. You jump up, nearly knocking over your booth, and take your spot at Jesus’ side. You are called, even you.

Historically, Lent has been a time for Christians to set aside the distracting things of this world and prepare their hearts for Easter. Additionally, it has been a time for us to identify our sins, the things holding us back from God, and to repent from them. This Lenten season, may we hear the call of Jesus on our lives, “follow me.” And may we, like Levi, eagerly and joyously leave behind these trivial things and take our proper place at the side of Jesus.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 1

Reading: Mark 1
Thoughts by Lamar Williamson, Jr.

It is not hard to answer a ringing telephone.

The compelling urgency of a call is at least part of the undiminished power of the call narrative in Mark 1:16-20. Jesus’ call of his first four disciples had evidently long been treasured in the communal memory of early Christians. The direct and vivid style, the stringing together of clauses with “and,” and the repeated point about leaving all to follow Jesus suggest the use of this story in the earliest preaching of the church.

In Mark, as the very first incident in Jesus’ public ministry, this passage introduces the group which, after Jesus himself, will be the second major concern of the entire story: the disciples. As soon as Jesus announces the Kingdom of God, he calls persons to enter it (“Follow me”) and to invite others to enter it, too (“I will make you fishers of men”). Although Mark lacks the strong church emphasis of Matthew, here too, the kingdom is corporate. Mark offers no solo salvation, no individualist reign or rule of God.

Lent Daily Devotional: Mark 16

Reading: Mark 16
Thoughts by Ginny Smith

The day the women lost their voices and in the same day were given a message to share.

The Sabbath is over and Mary Magdalene, Mary and Salome are walking along with their supplies. They were on a mission; they were going to the tomb where Jesus had been laid to anoint him. They were prepared for what they were going to do, but definitely not prepared for what they found when they go there. The last conversation we are aware of is a discussion about who would roll the stone back for them when they got to the tomb.

Then no more words for these three women. If we had been there, this is what we might have seen. As they walked up, their eyes widened and then they looked puzzled. The stone was already rolled away.

They looked in and their eyebrows raised and they covered their mouths to keep from screaming. Jesus was gone. And someone else was sitting there – a young man in a white robe.

They all looked at each other, then back at the young man in amazement and disbelief. They started backing up ready to turn and leave. Then the young man opens his mouth to speak.

They close their eyes and pop them open again and he is still there. They hold out their hands, palms facing the man as if to say, no, this can’t be happening. He says “Don’t be alarmed.”

They blink and stared open mouthed. “You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene?” They nodded. “He is risen. He is not here.” Hands to mouth again, shaking their heads in disbelief. “See, here is where they laid him.”

They looked where he pointed. He sees them standing in fear and not knowing what to do. So he tells them. “Go tell the disciples and Peter, that Jesus is going before them to Galilee like he told them.” They are so overwhelmed that they turned from him and ran away.

We know from other gospel writings that they eventually find their voices and tell the disciples what they saw and heard. Here is what I think the women would tell us about their experience that day:

Watch. Look. Be amazed.

Jesus is not in the tomb anymore. He is risen. He fulfills his promises. He has given us a message to share with the world. He truly is the Son of God.