Greetings in the Name of Jesus!


Last weekend was the "official beginning" of the Christmas season in the Spencer household. In the small community where I live Santa Claus arrived at the Town Square and lit the lights on the Town Christmas Tree. At home we began to play our collection of Christmas Carols and watch the family collection of Christmas videos. Sunday after Church we picked out and cut our Christmas tree and decorated it, and the whole house was transformed (or it will be as soon as we clean up the mess), into a Christmas wonder land.

While we were decorating the tree, when I saw how excited the kids were, tears came, and I had a good cry. "What's wrong dad", everyone asked. "I don't know," I said, "just feelings."

It happens every year. I can't hold the joy that God has granted me. What a blessing to see the unbounded joy and excitement the kids experience this time of year. The best part is that their joy doesn't center of gifts, but on the family celebrations and traditions that we have developed over the years and the memories that come back to us -- good memories. I love it.


THIS WEEK'S DEVOTIONAL

Since the return of the Apostles from their first missionary tour in Chapter six, Jesus has been trying to get away from the crowds that gather around them, hardly allowing them time to eat or rest.

Their first attempt led them to a deserted stretch of shoreline at the Sea of Galilee, however the crowd spotted them and followed them. Their second attempt led them to the Gentile cities of Tyre and Sidon where their fame was not as great as in the land of Israel. In this weeks reading we see them returning to Palestine in a round about way. Instead of taking the main roads South into Palestine, they took local roads west into the area called Decapolis, located North and West of the Sea of Galilee. This is the third time Mark has Jesus in this area. The first time was in Chapter five, when Jesus was met by a demon possessed man. After Jesus healed him, the local people asked Jesus to leave their area. The healed man begged to go with Jesus but Jesus sent him home to tell everyone all that God had done for him.

The Second time Jesus came here was in Chapter 6:53. Here we see how obedient and effective was the testimony of the healed man, for crowds of people recognized Jesus and brought their sick to Him to be healed.

The first time these people encountered Jesus, they sent him away, but such is the love and grace of Christ that in spite of their rejection, he returned a second and even a third time. Thanks be to God, His love looks for every opportunity and season to redeem those who are lost and desolate.

OUR PRAYER

Father, we praise you and thank you that your love is seen in this; that you died for us even when we were your enemies. We confess that in the past we rejected you and chose to serve sin, but then, after sin had destroyed us and left us useless, we cried out to you and in your compassion you heard our prayer and redeemed us. Thank you Father, thank you .............Amen.

LET'S SING!

No, I don't have a sound clip to offer, but the song "LOVE LIFTED ME", came to mind, by James Rowe and Howard Smith. It's an old Gospel song that compliments our prayer. If you have a song book, see if you can find it and sing it through to prepare your heart for today's devotional.

Now open your Bibles to Mark 7, and read verses 31-37 several times until you are familiar with the details of the story.

verses 31-32

It is plain, that when Jesus traveled, He did NOT just walk from point A to point B, but throughout the journey, He continually preached the Good News in every place. In this manner the people of Decapolis gathered around Him and began to recognize that He must be the one who healed the demoniac (Mark5), and so a small group came up out of the crowd and begged Jesus to heal the deaf mute man.

How do you show that you are a Christian when you are "walking from point A to point B?" Do not hope that people will recognize that you are a child of God simply by observing your conduct, most people don't take the time to notice. SPEAK, PREACH AND TEACH THE GOSPEL!!. If your speech is seasoned with The Word of God, (Col4:6), all who hear you will know that you serve God. Now, I'm not saying that you need to carry with you a podium, but you should be always prepared to give an answer for the faith you hold, (1Pe3:15).

verses 33-35

In these verses Jesus sets an example for us of tender compassion. First He takes the man aside, away from the crowd.

Jesus could have made a spectacle of the healing doing it before the eyes of the assembly, but instead he took the man away from the people. (He may not have had a clue about who Jesus was, or what was about to happen, after all he was deaf.)

Next he explained to him using pantomime that He would open his ears and loose his tongue.

Finally, He looked up to heaven, sighted deeply, and spoke the word "ephphatha." If you do this in front of a mirror you will see how plainly these actions would communicate to one who is deaf. Looking up to Heaven (a prayer to God), the sigh (sorrow and longing), and ephphatha (a command easily understood by the deaf man through lip reading.)

I imagine the outpouring of joy was unbridled both by the man and his friends, being apart from the main crowd, they could share this great miracle without being thronged by the people.

When we minister to people and they bring their needs to us we must be careful to keep their situation private. For many, it is painful and embarrassing to express weakness and need and we must respect that, and not let it stand in the way of budding faith .........smoldering wick.

verses 36-37

Jesus obviously didn't heal the man for publicity, He desired to keep the miracle private, but his joy and gratitude would not be contained. Soon the whole crowd was beside themselves with amazement praising Jesus. In their praise they cite Isaiah 35, a well known prophesy concerning the Messiah. Isn't it amazing how much fruit can be born by the testimony of one man, the demoniac of Mark 5. It is interesting to note that Jesus had refused his request to come with Him, and sent him home to bear witness of the goodness of God. His efforts prepared the people to receive Jesus when he returned and has finally resulted not only in healings but also in recognition of Jesus' true identity as the Messiah.

Whenever we go to God in prayer we hope that He will grant us our requests, yet we must learn to trust Him and accept His will when the answer is no.

Since our vision and knowledge is limited, we don't always see the good that can result when we don't receive what we ask for in prayer. Sometimes our unfulfilled prayers can bring more glory to God than those that are granted.

In all things be thankful to God.

In Christ

Greg Spencer


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