Lenten Devotion Day 20

“And He Was Standing on the Water!!”

Jesus Walks on Water

Some lessons have to be repeated for us to get the message. This story is an example. In an earlier devotion, I wrote about Jesus healing the blind man. Then yesterday, it was the story of the withered fig tree. Today, Jesus walks on water. How many miracles must Jesus perform for us before we accept His ability, His willingness to do anything for us?

Lenten Devotion Day 19

Full Strength Faith

Withered Fig Tree

In the previous devotion, I talked about the story of Blind Bart. This blind beggar is healed, not by Jesus but by his own faith in Jesus ability. In the devotion, I discussed our lack of faith in our own lives. Consider what Jesus could do for us if only we believed!

Today’s lesson takes faith a step farther. In the story, Jesus tries to get fruit from a fig tree. When He sees the tree is not producing fruit, He curses the tree which immediately withers and dies. The disciples are stunned as they watch the tree wither and die right before their eyes. “How did You do that?!” Jesus is quick to explain that any of them is able to do the same thing, if only they have faith enough in their ability.

Think about it for a moment. All the miracles Jesus performed may be done by any of us if only we have faith enough. Jesus was able to perform all those miracles, not because He is God but because He had faith in the presence of God within Him and faith that He could do anything.

What an incredible idea it is! You can do anything if only you have faith. Scripture tells us: “I can do ALL things through Christ who strengthens me.” There aren’t any exceptions to this rule. I am overwhelmed when I consider all I could accomplish if I only had faith enough in Christ and in myself.

This story is the perfect opportunity for your family to discuss what each of them might attempt if they knew they could accomplish it. “Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive.” No exceptions. Dream Big!

Discussion Questions

1. In the past, what have you been afraid to try because you thought you would fail?

2. What are you afraid to try right now?

3. How can you overcome your fear?

4. How can you strengthen your faith?

5. How can you help your children have faith enough to try what they fear?

Lenten Devotion Day 18

I Can See!

Blind Bart

Can you see? I know there are many times when I can’t see. No, let me correct that. There are many times when I refuse to see. Jesus does so much for each of us yet we fail to see what He has done. Even worse, we know all the things He has done yet we still doubt that He may help us this time.

Blind Bartimaeus had never seen any of the miracles that Jesus performed. He had probably heard people talking about Jesus and all the things He was doing but Bart didn’t see any of these things himself. Yet, when Bart heard Jesus going by, he called out to Him, asking to be healed.

People around Bart tried to get him to be quiet. He was a beggar, sitting on a cloak in his rags. People like this were not to speak up and bother someone like Jesus. Bart didn’t care. All he cared about was having a chance for Jesus to heal him. Bart ignored those trying to shush him and kept calling out to Jesus. His persistence paid off. Jesus called Bart to come over. When Jesus asked Bart what he wanted, the blind man simply said he wanted to see again. Jesus told Bart that his faith made him well. Just like so many others, it was faith that Jesus could heal them, not Jesus, that brought about the miracle.

How strong is your faith? Do you believe Jesus can “heal” whatever ails you? Perhaps you think your problem isn’t important enough for Him. Maybe you think YOU aren’t important enough for Him to bother with you. Bart was a dirty beggar. Bart had no status in society. Yet, Bart didn’t care about any of this. He only knew he wanted to see and he believed Jesus was able to heal him. And he was RIGHT!

We are able to read all the miracles Jesus performed. Even more, we know what happened on Easter. How can any of us not have faith enough for our problems to be healed by Jesus? Time to open our eyes and see!

Discussion Questions

1. Do you believe Jesus is able to heal any problems you have in your life?

2. Do you believe you are important enough for Jesus to help you?

3. How can you strengthen your faith so you can believe?

4. What does it take for you to open your eyes and see?

Lenten Devotion Day 17

Family First

Peter’s Mother-in-law

It can be tough getting and keeping priorities straight. Some days, work gets in the way of family matters and other days, work has to take a back seat. I think, though, we can all agree on the importance of family.

Jesus called men in the community to follow Him in ministry. These men gave up their careers, left their families and spent 3 years traveling with Jesus. Much of their work kept them in their own community so I’m certain they saw their families on a regular basis but still, they made Jesus and His ministry their priority. Yet, in this brief account, Jesus shows that family is always important.

It’s hard to focus on the work at hand when you’re worried about the health of a loved one. Simon’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever, a very serious thing in those days since any number of things could cause a fever and many of them were difficult if not impossible to diagnose and treat.

The disciples spoke to Jesus, telling Him about the crisis in Simon’s family. Jesus immediately went to Simon’s house and healed his mother-in-law. Not just healed her but made her completely well so she was able to immediately get up and serve them.

I remember a time when I was very young. I suffered from severe asthma. Serious attacks often came in the middle of the night when I would be moved to the recliner in the living room, my parents keeping watch in case things got worse.

One night, I had a very serious attack. I still remember crying for my grandmother. No one else could help me so, in the middle of the night, my parents called and my grandmother came in a taxi to take care of me. Having her there helped calm me and soon my asthma settled down. My parents would have done ANYTHING to help me that night and on other long nights.

Simon would have done ANYTHING to help his mother-in-law, to ease the concern of his family. Jesus was able to offer the help he needed. These days, we must remember our priorities when illness strikes our family. We must take the steps necessary to give aid and comfort to those in need. Finally, we must call on Jesus to take them by the hand and lift them up. A wonderful prescription then AND now.

Discussion Questions

1. Do you sometimes struggle to get priorities straight when family members become ill?

2. How do you handle the illness of a child when your job doesn’t allow you time to care for them?

3. What steps do you take when family members become ill?

4. Talk to your children about their responsibilities when members of your extended family become ill?

5. Do you always offer up prayer when a member of your family is ill?

Lenten Study Day 16

Sit Down and Be Quiet!

Calm the Storm

It’s easy to read this verse and question the faithfulness of the disciples. After all, in the verses just before this event, Jesus had performed many miracles, including healings. The disciples had seen incredible things. Yet, they still had doubts about Jesus’ ability and His concern for them.

Then I think about myself. How many times has the Lord taken care of me? How many times has He come through when I thought there was absolutely no hope? Still, the next time a storm arises in my life, I become frightened and cry out for help. Yep, me of little faith!

Of course, this was a really wicked storm. It’s not like the disciples were inexperienced on the water. Some of them were fishermen, spent most of their lives in boats on the water. Storms with strong winds would spring up all the time in this region so they men weren’t unfamiliar with these conditions.

I think what frightened them was Jesus’ lack of concern for their plight. The boat was taking on water. The wind was blowing their boat out of control. And through it all, Jesus slept. Rather than taking comfort in His calm, the disciples misread it as indifference. They believed He could do something about the storm but He just kept on sleeping. Come on, Lord, let’s get with it before it’s too late!

How many times have you felt this way? A friend of mine refers to these moments as “just in time miracles.” While I would never criticize Jesus for His timing, my nerves sure could use a break occasionally. This “last minute” business can be trying. How swamped do I have to get? How many times must I be blown over? How soaked must I be before He calms the storms in my life?

My mother always told me I must learn to be more patient. Perhaps this is all Jesus is trying to teach me. All things in HIS time, not mine. Yet I must never doubt that His time will come and, as always, it will be perfect. Until then, I can tread water.

Discussion Questions

1. What are the storms in your life?

2. How do you respond when a crisis arises?

3. How does your family respond?

4. Do you have a lack of patience? Does it apply just to the Lord or are you impatient with people too?

5. What can you do to increase your patience?

6. How can you have more faith that the Lord is going to handle the situation?

Lenten Study Day 15

Remember Your Manners

Cleansing of Lepers

When I was a little girl, my mother always had strict instructions before we went out, “Don’t leave Mr. Manners at home!” Back then, kids were expected to practice good manners at home so they knew how to behave when they went out. Sometimes going somewhere new was so exciting, it was easy to forget my manners. Thus the caution from my mother.

We used to call manners “common courtesy.” It seems terribly uncommon these days. We all seem to think we can say what want and act how we like wherever we are. Boy, is this a really bad idea!

Believe it or not, manners are not some outdated practice that went the way of the Victorian Era. Manners actually made life much easier for all of us. I never felt uncomfortable since I had been trained in the proper behavior for most situations. I knew how to behave at the dinner table when we went out. I knew to shake hands. I never pushed my way ahead of anyone when entering a building or elevator. All this wasn’t difficult. Most of it was just common sense.

Of course, the most important thing I was taught to remember was please and thank you. “What’s the magic word?” could be heard in homes across America every day. And when we were given something, we would be asked, “What do you say?” Every child that could speak knew what to say. Please and thank you. They were just a natural part of our lives.

Good manners are never wrong as we learn in today’s story. Who would have thought a lesson on good manners could be found right there in the Bible. Of course, there are many lessons on good manners but this one is just so blatant. Jesus heals 10 lepers and only one comes back to say, “Thank you!” Granted, He told them to go to the priests but, once each saw they had been healed, wouldn’t you think they would all come back to say, “Thanks?” But no, only one came back and he was a Samaritan. The one who might have been forgiven his bad manners, because he was from a different culture, was the only to show the common courtesy of thanking Jesus. And Jesus had plenty to say about it!

Bad manners are just bad form. There is no excuse for not at least saying, “Thank you” when someone does something nice for you. This is a great lesson for parents and children alike. Never leave Mr. Manners at home!

Discussion Questions

1. Does your family practice common courtesy in your home?

2. Are you teaching your children the importance of good manners?

3. What type of example do you set for your children?

4. Do you make it clear that you expect good manners from everyone in the family both at home and away?

5. If manners are lax in your home, how might you begin to change that today?

Lenten Study Day 14

Doing What’s Right

The Widow and Her Son

Jesus was a very busy man. He had a lot of work to do and very little time in which to do it. It would have been easy for Him to walk on by the funeral procession that day on His way to conduct other business. Instead, He stopped to do something incredible for a woman He didn’t even know.

In Jesus’ day, women had no rights. As a widow whose son had died, this poor woman now had no one to speak for her. She was nothing in her community. What would become of her? Suddenly, a man she had never seen before comes up to her and tells her not to be upset.

Then He did the most remarkable thing! He turns to her son and tells him to get up! GET UP? Is He kidding? The young man is dead. How is he going to get up? However, the young man does indeed get up and begins speaking. No wonder the crowd was afraid! At first, at least until they realized the incredible thing they had just witnessed. Then they began praising God and giving praise to Jesus.

What makes this story remarkable is the fact no one asked Jesus to do this great thing. He simply did it out of compassion for the widow and to demonstrate the power of God. What a remarkable way to show everyone that the Kingdom of God was now at hand!

This story offers one of the best examples of a simple act of kindness. Perhaps raising someone from the dead is not simple for any of us but it was simple for Jesus. He could have made excuses to Himself: I’m too busy, I don’t know this woman, she hasn’t asked my help, and on and on and on.

How many times during the day do you have an opportunity to do a simple act of kindness for someone you pass as you go through your day? Do you take a moment to help them or do you put your head down and hurry on to the next thing on your schedule? Do you always tell yourself that someone else will help them? Perhaps you think it’s not your problem? Whose problem is it then? Why was the widow Jesus’ problem? She wasn’t but He took a moment to do what He could to help her.

Take a moment to consider the times today you might have helped someone, something that would have only taken a moment. Consider the things that prevented you from offering help. Then determine how you might do better tomorrow. It doesn’t take much to do but it may mean so much to the other person. More than you may ever know.

Discussion Questions

1. What excuses do you give yourself for not offering help to strangers?

2. How can you make sure these excuses aren’t an obstacle in your life?

3. Talk to your children about their experiences offering help to others.

4. Discuss ways your family can be more open to offer help to people in need.

Lenten Study Day 13

Who’s the Boss?

The Centurion

The centurion recognized authority when he saw it. At least, that’s what he told Jesus. As a career military member, the centurion had always followed authority and as a centurion, had many soldiers follow his authority.

I have always liked this story. The centurion needed help for his servant. In Jesus, he saw someone that could help him. This Roman soldier was able to see something in Jesus, a spiritual authority, that the religious rulers in the Temple failed to recognize. What did this Roman see that others overlooked? How did this Roman soldier have such an incredible faith in Jesus ability, a faith even the men around Jesus did not display?

The centurion showed respect for the authority he saw in Jesus. As a man of authority, he recognized Jesus power and understood what Jesus could do with just a word. The centurion showed a respect that was lacking in all the other people Jesus was trying to help.

The faith shown by the centurion is incredible even centuries later. Many of us struggle to have faith in difficult situation. To have such strong, unquestioning faith is even more uncommon.

How can we fail to recognize the authority of Jesus over every aspect of our lives, the good and the bad? With prayer and Bible study (and devotions like this) we can strengthen our faith until we can say with confidence, “Only speak the word and it will happen!”

Discussion Questions

1. Are there areas of your faith where you and your family have trouble recognizing Jesus’ authority?

2. What causes your doubts? Is it a lack of faith in Jesus or a lack of faith in YOU?

3. What steps can you take to strengthen your faith in these areas?

4. How can you surrender to His authority?

5. How can you help your children surrender to His authority?

Lenten Study Day 12

Hey You! Up in the Tree!

Zacchaeus

That Jesus! He always seemed to be getting in trouble for hanging around the wrong people. And Zacchaeus was certainly the wrong people. Zacchaeus was a tax collector and not just a run-of-the-mill every day tax collector but a chief tax collector. These men were considered traitors to their country by the Jews. In addition, they were rich. Not that being rich was a bad thing. The bad part was how tax collectors became rich, by cheating the people. Not nice!

Jesus comes to town and Zacchaeus wanted to see Him, see what all the big hoo-ha was all about.

Unfortunately, Zacchaeus was, well, a wee little man as the kids sing in Sunday School. The crowd was big and Zacchaeus couldn’t see over their heads or past them so, he climbed a tree, hoping to see Jesus when he went by.

Well, Zacchaeus didn’t just see Jesus, Jesus saw him. Jesus called Zacchaeus down from the tree and told him He was staying at his house that day! WOW! That’s when all the grumbling and criticism began. Zacchaeus was sinner (like the grumblers weren’t!) and Jesus should have known better than to associate with him. Jesus didn’t care. Jesus knew, no matter how bad a person’s reputation was or how deep their sin, it could never affect Him. Not because He’s Jesus but because of His faith, His goodness, His compassion for other people. Their sin wasn’t going to rub off on Him so He was never afraid to be with anyone.

Strange thing was, rather than their sin rubbing off on Jesus, His love, compassion and kindness rubbed off on them. After spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus told Jesus he would give half his possessions to the poor and return money to anyone he had cheated. That’s quite a change of heart!

Sometime Christians are afraid to associate with the wrong kind of people. We’re afraid their reputation will affect us or their sin might rub off. How can we be salt in the world if we hide all the time in the shaker? We must be willing to lose part of ourselves when we go into the world, associating with all kinds of people. After all, we never know when we might spot Zacchaeus up in the tree!

Discussion Questions

1. Are there certain types of people you avoid in order to protect your reputation?

2. What is it about them that concerns you?

3. Are there types of people you tell your children to avoid? Not strangers or dangerous people but just regular people that might not be the “right kind of people.”

4. Is there anyone specific you work hard to avoid? Perhaps a co-worker that tells off-color jokes or a friend whose lifestyle isn’t in keeping with yours?

5. How can you be a more positive influence on the Zacchaeus’ in your life?

The Kindness Habit: Second Monday in Lent

Part 2 Jesus Shows Kindness to Those Close to Him: The Wedding at Cana

I absolutely LOVE teaching this story! I add to it but I don’t think I go overboard with my rendition. It strikes me the exchange between Mary & her Son had to be more involved than John lets on. The facial expressions alone add significantly to the story. It takes a mother to really tell this story.

Mary, Jesus, & His disciples are at a family wedding. Mary takes Jesus aside & points out they have run out of wine. Now, 2 things to know: these weddings often went on for DAYS; & the best wine was served first since no one noticed the quality of the wine after they had been drinking for HOURS!

So, Mary tells Jesus they are running out of wine & Jesus, knowing immediately where this is going, points out to His mother that it is not His time yet so there is nothing He can do. Mary ignores Him & tells the servants to do as Jesus tells them. Then she walks away. Jesus has the servants fill clay jugs with water, draw some off, & take it to the man in charge of the banquet. This man tastes what they bring him, water now turned to wine. The wine is the best he has ever tasted & he praises the father of the bride for saving the best for last.

Short & sweet. Hmm. The way I see it, Jesus argued or a bit with His mother, basically telling her He wasn’t going to use His ability to do parlor tricks. He came to do more important things. Mary, like any mother, gives Him THE LOOK! She then turns to the servants & tells them to follow His instructions. As she walks away, she turns to give Jesus one more look. Jesus signs, knows what He must do, & does as His mother asks. And He does it well. The best wine ever!

Everything else aside, Jesus showed a tremendous kindness to this family. It would have bee incredibly embarrassing for them to run out of wine before the wedding celebration was over. He could have turned the water into so-so wine. No one expected good wine to be served this late in the celebration. Jesus didn’t do this. Once Jesus decided to help the family, He did the right thing. He didn’t just make wine, He made the BEST wine. And this was a tremendous kindness, not just to the family but also to His mother.

Sometimes we are asked to do something to help out & we just don’t want to, for whatever reason. How can we do anything less than Jesus, stepping up & sharing our talents with others. While it might seem like a minor thing to us, it may mean the world to them.