The Lord has need of ME?? (Prayer Devotional for the week of December 13, 2015)

In a passage frequently referred to as “Jesus’ Triumphant Entry” (see Mark 11, Luke 19, Matthew 21, & John 12), we read the story about Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey. Here’s an excerpt from Mark’s account:

“As Jesus and his disciples approached Jerusalem, they came to the towns of Bethphage and Bethany on the Mount of Olives. Jesus sent two of them on ahead. “Go into that village over there,” he told them. “As soon as you enter it, you will see a young donkey tied there that no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks, ‘What are you doing?’ just say, ‘The Lord needs it and will return it soon.’” (Mark 11:1-3, NLT)

 

If you’re like me, you may have heard that story so many times over the years that it feels very familiar, but let’s look a little more closely. First of all, a lot happened around Bethany in the New Testament, and this story is no exception. Bethany was the hometown of Lazarus, the raised-from-the-dead friend of Jesus (John 11:1); it is also where a woman anointed Jesus with expensive perfume (Matthew 26:6); and, it is the place where Jesus cursed a fig tree (Mark 11:12). Bethany is also where Jesus blessed his disciples after his resurrection, right before he ascended into heaven! (Luke 24:50-51)

 

Next, Jesus chose a donkey in fulfillment of the prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, but I find it interesting that God – in his wisdom and sense of humor – selected an untamed colt as his animal of preference. He could have specified any magnificent creature on earth, yet he chose a lowly, stubborn, beast of burden. (May we remember that little fact whenever we think too highly of ourselves in the Lord’s work – if he can use an untamed jackass … er, donkey … then who are we to think we’re so important?)

 

Lastly, Jesus instructed his disciples to respond to any inquiries by saying, “The Lord needs it.” This word for Lord is the Greek word Kyrios, which is translated “master.” In essence, the Master of the universe is asking to borrow a lowly, untamed donkey so that he can ride into the city where he will ultimately sacrifice himself on our behalf. Let that sink into your heart for a few moments.

 

God always has a reason for why he asks things of us. He does not demand them of us, but he gives us opportunities to partner with him in his work. Sometimes the things he asks of us don’t make any sense right then, and to be frank, they may not ever make sense in our lifetimes. But, one day, all will be revealed in his perfect, eternal timing. In the meantime, we are called simply to obey. The Lord has need of you … are you willing to serve?

Hashtag Blessed (Prayer Devotional for the week of February 15, 2015)

The other day, I overheard someone who I don’t think of as being very spiritual describe a situation that had happened to her, and she added that she was “blessed” by it. That word caught my attention, and I thought about what she said – as well as my preconceived ideas about her. I thought about sports figures pointing to heaven or making the sign of the cross when they complete a great play. I thought about musicians and other performers mentioning God in their long list of people to thank for this-or-that award. I admit that sometimes I question their sincerity because those token acknowledgements often come across as fake to me.

 

Out of curiosity, I did a quick search on Twitter for posts with the hashtag #blessed. I found entries about new babies, Valentine’s Day gifts, waking up without an alarm, spending the day at the lake, a heart-shaped breakfast biscuit, meeting a famous person, and a new car. A few posts actually mentioned God, but most of the ones I read did not. Are these things really blessings, and should I even care whether they are or not?

 

In Mark 9:38-41, we read that John approached Jesus to let him know that he and the other disciples had taken a stand against a man who was performing miracles in Jesus’ name. The reason they stopped the man was because he wasn’t one on their group. I can relate to John’s perspective, because I think it’s the same attitude that I had above, judging people for saying that they were blessed.

 

I like the way The Message paraphrase interprets v. 41: “Count on it that God will notice.” I could be wrong, but I don’t think God is particularly bothered by people mentioning him in passing and offering quick words of thanks; however, he desires a deeper relationship with us. Those of us who walk with the Lord have an opportunity, like John and the other disciples, to mentor and be an example to the “hashtag blessed” crowd and help them become committed followers of Christ.

 

It’s great to give God credit for the blessings in our lives, but our faith-walks should be more than mere lip service to God. We shouldn’t have to rely on #blessed for people to see that there’s a real difference in our lives with Christ, compared to who we were before.