Friday, February 26, 2010


by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Mark 6:6, "And he was amazed at their unbelief. . ." (NLT)

Envision the face of someone who is amazed. Astonished. The person is completely taken aback by something. There's the good kind of amazement, like when a child displays a great skill or a stranger surprises you with incredible kindness. But there's also the not-so-good kind, more like disgust. For example, picture a sports fan who disagrees with a ref's call. Get the picture? I see eyes opened wide, a dropped jaw, a negative headshake, and maybe even hands thrown up in the air to reinforce the thought: "Un-be-LEIV-able!"

Mark 6 opens with Jesus visiting his hometown of Nazareth. While teaching at the synogogue, the hometown folks were astonished and asked, "Where did he get all his wisdom and the power to perform such miracles? He's just the carpenter, son of Mary and brother of James, Joseph, Judas, and Simon. And his sisters are right here among us."(v. 2-3, NLT). He's just the local boy, right? Who does he think he is?

They couldn't believe what they were seeing. In fact, the next verse says they were deeply offended and refused to believe in him. They acknowledged his wisdom and powerful miracles, but they still didn't believe?! Come on!

The text goes on to say that because of their unbelief, Jesus couldn't do any mighty miracles among them except to heal a few people. Their unbelief--their lack of faith--put up a wall that blocked any powerful miracles Jesus may have wanted to do. And then scripture records this statement: he was amazed at their unbelief.

Some translations say he was "astonished" at their lack of faith. When I read that, I pictured Jesus throwing his arms up in the air and shaking his head at them.

And that's when it hit me--hard! I wonder how many times a day he is astonished at my lack of faith. I wonder how many times a day he just looks at me in amazement, eyes opened wide and jaw dropped as he thinks, "Kathy, seriously, I can NOT believe that your faith is so small."

And that makes my heart hurt. I don't want Jesus to be astonished at my lack of faith in him being right there wanting to work miracles in my crazy day-to-dayness. I don't want my wall of unbelief to prevent him from doing what he wants to do.

The next time I astonish my Lord, I want it to be in the good way--the child-displaying-skill way. I want him shaking his head with a smile that conveys, "See Kath? See where a little faith will take you?" THAT'S the way I want to amaze him.

Lord, we don't want to be like the hometown folks of Nazareth! You're right here among us wanting to work miracles in our daily lives, but we prevent it when we forget just who you really are. Forgive us for our unbelief and increase our faith. Help us to amaze you in the good way. By the power in your mighty Name, Jesus.

For a biblical example of astonishing Jesus in the good way, read about the faith of the Roman officer in Matthew 8. He understood the concept of authority and knew Jesus had it. Notice Jesus' reaction in verse 10. Visualize it. How does he look? Etch that picture into your memory and strive to astonish Jesus daily in that way.

Power Verses:
Luke 17:5-6, "The apostles said to the Lord, 'Increase our faith!' He replied, 'If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.'" (NIV)
Matthew 8:10, "When Jesus heard this, he was astonished and said to those following him, 'I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.'"(NIV)
Matthew 9:22, "Jesus turned around, and when he saw her he said, 'Daughter, be encouraged! Your faith has made you well.' And the woman was healed at that moment."(NLT)

Friday, February 19, 2010

GPS: God's Perfect Solution

by Stephanie Neibarger

This Week's Verse: Proverbs 3:5-6, "Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don't try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God's voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he's the one who will keep you on track." (MSG)

I love my GPS. I was hesitant about getting one when they first came out. Being raised in the boondocks, I always felt like I could get anywhere on my own by using basic “country living principles.” But now that I have it, I love it!

I love being able to program where I want to go and it will calculate the route, how long it will take me to get there and what time I will arrive at my destination. I love it that I don’t even have to know the actual address of where I am wanting to go. For instance, if I want to go to Starbucks, with just a couple of click, it gives me directions to the nearest one. This week I was going to Urbana so I punched in the address of where I was going and--Viola!--it showed me how to get there.

But my favorite part about the GPS is that even when I get off course and take a different route, it's right there to tell me how to get back on the right course. (Seriously, I love that it does that… I’m not just saying this so it sounds like a cool devotion!)

I think you are probably seeing the analogy by now. God is our ultimate GPS. Through His Written Word, He clearly tells us how to get to our destination. If we get off course, He can help lead us back on track.

Maybe you’ve felt like you know how to get where you are going and decide to do things your way, and go where you want to go. It’s okay. God can help lead you back on track. I am completely guilty of this. So many times, I think I know the way to go, which roads to take, I do things on my own, in my own way but it always ends in a dead-end road.

Fortunately, I have not fallen off of God’s GPS radar. With patience, reading scriptures, and a lot of prayer, God can get me back on the right road. He can bring you back too. Even if you don’t know the way, just take hold of His hand and let Him lead.

Father, we can not thank you enough that you never leave us. You never let go of us. You continue to love us even when we are being unlovable. Forgive us for the times we have been disobedient to You. Help us to get back on course when we seek our own path and get lost because we went out on our own. We genuinely love you Lord. Lead us down the right paths to be better servants for You.

Have you taken a wrong road in life? We all have. It’s okay. Maybe you are at a crossroad in your life. Seek God’s direction and He can lead you onto the right path. His GPS is there to guide you. I encourage you to read Psalm 25.

Power Verses:
Deuteronomy 31:6,
"The Lord your God will always be at your side, and he will never abandon you."(CEV)
Psalm 25:4, "Show me the path where I should walk, O Lord; point out the right road for me to follow."(NLT)
Psalm 25:8, "The Lord is good and does what is right; he shows the proper path to those who go astray."(NLT)

Friday, February 12, 2010

My Friend, God

by Bethany Lashbrook

This Week's Verse: John 15:13, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (NIV)

What do you call your Lord? Is he your Rock, Redeemer, or Protector? Is he your Way, your Truth and your Life? Is he your Shepherd, your Prince, or your Father? He can be referred to as the Holy One, The Living One, and the Son of Man. He is Almighty, the Beginning and the End, and the Lord of Lords. Of course, he is our God, our Savior, and our Living Word.

And lately, He keeps telling me he is my Friend.

I have been going through a “dark” spiritual time lately. For no reason in particular I am struggling in my Christian walk. Maybe my mood is reflected upon days and days of no sun. Maybe I have cabin fever. Maybe I am just in a rut. Whatever the reason, I keep hearing my Lord say “talk to me, I am your Friend”.

I’ve never really thought of God as my friend, but rather as a Father. And, I don’t know about you, but there is a lot of “stuff” I don’t tell my earthly father, or my Heavenly Father. Yet just knowing that I have had a friend to talk to has made a world of difference these last several weeks.

Sure, I have plenty of Christian friends I could call. I have many who would love to talk with me to get me out of this funk. But for whatever reason, I have chosen to remain silent to them and be completely open with my Friend, God. He always listens. He always stays with me. He doesn’t ridicule my actions, yet He stands firm in the way of The Word, and reminds me of how I should be acting. He reminds me that my walk will not always be some glorious road; rather it has lots of twists and turns.

Thanks to my new friend, God, I have been able to release some stress through constant prayer to Him. I find myself whispering to Him at all times during the day. At night, when I can’t sleep, to prayer I go. I’m so thankful that I have felt His presence in my life and am rewarded from our friendship!

Lord, thank you for our friendship. Please continue to guide and direct me through this spiritual journey. Amen.

What do you call God? Is it time to see Him in a different light to further your relationship with Him? As I have heard it said: “go to the throne, not the phone”. The Lord is here to listen, at all times!

Power Verses:
James 2:23, "And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend."(NIV)
Deuteronomy 31:6, "Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."(NIV)
Proverbs 17:17, "Friends love through all kinds of weather, and families’ stick together in all kinds of trouble."(MSG)

Friday, February 5, 2010

People Like That

by Kathy Lay

This Week's Verse: Mark 2:16, "But when some of the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with people like that, they said to his disciples, "Why does he eat with such scum?'"(NLT, emphasis mine).

People like that. You know, those people.

Who exactly are we talking about? Well, any classification of people we've labeled in some way and rolled our eyes about when we refer to them as those people. Tax collectors back then and politicians today, sinners of all kinds--perverts, abusers, addicts, snobs, liars, you name it--we've got a label for just about everyone.

In the above passage, Jesus was being condemned by the Pharisees for hanging out with "such scum." Can't you just hear the haughtiness in their accusations and see them sneering down their noses?

Check out how the Message puts it: "Later Jesus and his disciples were at home having supper with a collection of disreputable guests. Unlikely as it seems, more than a few of them had become followers. The religion scholars and Pharisees saw him keeping this kind of company and lit into his disciples: "What kind of example is this, acting cozy with the riffraff?'"(Mark:15-16)

The riffraff? Um hmm. And this is when Jesus zings them with his awesome reply that the healthy don't need a doctor, but the sick do. In fact, he says, "I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough." (v. 17, NLT).

See, that's the thing. You've heard the saying about three fingers pointing back at you when you point at someone else (you know, people like that) and you're familiar with the verse about calling attention to the speck in someone else's eye while ignoring the plank in your own (Matt. 7:3). Any time we imply our superiority because we're fixated on someone else's issues, we're judging.

Jesus makes it pretty clear that those who think they're already good enough will miss out on his fellowship. And I would MUCH rather be at the table with the Lord and the riffraff than with those finger-pointing Pharisees.

I'm not saying it's easy, by any means. I actually think the command to love one another is the primary commandment--along with loving God with all our hearts, souls, minds, and strength--BECAUSE it's the hardest thing to do. It goes against our flesh.

But when we go from snooty acknowledgement of "those people" to introducing them to Jesus, they cease to be "one of those" and become "one of us." And that's what Jesus was all about.

Lord, help us to see others with your eyes. Reshape our hearts so they don't condemn but accept. And love. Help us to see the people behind the sin and love them out of it.

Application: Identify folks you've referred to as "people like that" or "those people". Have you ever later gotten to know and even like someone you used to stereotype and judge? Resolve to get to know at least one "of those people" and try to see them with Jesus' eyes.

Power Verses:
Romans 2:1-2, "Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn't so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you've done."(MSG)
1 Corinthians 5:9-11, "When I wrote to you before, I told you not to associate with people who indulge in sexual sin. But I wasn’t talking about unbelievers who indulge in sexual sin, or are greedy, or cheat people, or worship idols. You would have to leave this world to avoid people like that. I meant that you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a believer yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or is a drunkard, or cheats people. Don’t even eat with such people."(NLT)