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?

Lenten Study Day 11

Look What Jesus Did!

Water to Wine

Water into wine. Probably a simple task, at least for Jesus. In fact, almost too simple. When you consider this is the first miracle Jesus performed, it seems a bit underwhelming. Not that I could do it but wouldn’t you think Jesus’ first miracle would be something with a little more, I don’t know, pizzazz?

He did not want to do it. Told His mother “No!” But she argued with Him, pointing out how embarrassing it would be for the host to run out of wine so soon and how easy it would be for Jesus to fix the problem. I imagine Jesus rolling His eyes as Mary argued and Mary giving Him a no nonsense look. She simply wasn’t going to take NO for an answer. Like any good son, Jesus did what His mother asked. In truth, He did more than she asked.

He could have turned the water into so-so wine. It was late in the day and the guests had been drinking awhile. It wouldn’t have mattered to them. Wedding guests expected a poorer quality of wine later in the celebration. That was just the way it went.

However, Jesus never did thinks half way. Even when it was something a simple, something as minor as turning water into wine. Rather than creating a mediocre wine to serve, the wedding guests were given a far superior wine, even better than the wine first served at the wedding.

Jesus may have been reluctant to do the thing His mother asked but, once He agreed, He did it to the best of His ability, exceeding expectations.

Many times, we are asked to do things we really don’t want to do. The reasons for our reluctance are varied and we share those reasons (or excuses) to get out having to do the task at hand. When we are unable to wiggle our way out, we often act like a petulant child, dragging our feet, complaining loudly and doing a halfway job of it. GET OVER IT! Take a page from Jesus’ Book! Accept the task, get it done and exceed expectations. There! Doesn’t that feel better?

Discussion Questions

1. What tasks are you reluctant to take on when asked?

2. How do you act when you finally agree to do them?

3. How do your children act when you ask them to do things they don’t want to do?

4. How do you respond to them?

5. How can you make a commitment to continue your service?

6. People were afraid of the demoniac. Today, we are often afraid of the people living on the outskirts of society. How can we handle our own fear? How can you address the fear of your children? Take time to discuss this within your family.

It is very easy for us to give money to a cause or problem. I believe Jesus is asking us to give of ourselves with our time and talents. Money is always needed by organizations but find ways to give your time as well. It is what Jesus would do!

Lenten Study Day 10

Watch Out for The Boogie Man

The Demoniac

The demoniac was a scary, scary guy. I bet the locals in town used him to scare kids into behaving. “Be good or the demoniac will get you!” However, the kids wouldn’t have been the only ones to be frighten by this man. He ran around naked. He lived in the tombs. He shouted at people. This man didn’t have much good going for him.

Then Jesus came to town. The demons in the man immediately knew who Jesus is and they confronted him, begging Him not to cast them back into the abyss. Instead, Jesus cast the demons into a herd of pigs. This made the pigs crazy, causing them to rush into the lake and drown. Needless to say, the owners of the pigs were upset that they had lost their pigs!

When the townspeople came out to see what had happened, they were stunned, shocked, amazed to find the demoniac fully dressed and acting normal. Even though he had been cured, people were still afraid of the man. He begged Jesus to take him with Him but Jesus told him to stay and share his story with others, telling them all that God had done for him. Tough as it was, the former demoniac stayed behind and did as Jesus asked.

There are many people that live on the outskirts of our society. Some of them are haunted by demons but many people on the fringe have experience difficulties we can’t begin to understand. Too often, we shun those on the fringe. I believe this may be due to our embarrassment. We feel uncomfortable for not helping. We feel ashamed for their situation. We feel afraid that it could be us.

No matter, Lent is a time to renew our commitment to help those people to whom Jesus dedicated His ministry on earth. Jesus served people society ignored: the hungry, the homeless, the widows, the sick and disabled, the elderly and more.

Jesus takes time for ALL people, showing them how precious each of them is in His eyes and the eyes of His Father. Can we do anything less?

Discussion Questions

1. Discuss how the story of the demoniac relates to people struggling on the fringe of our society today.

2. Talk to your family about the people in your community that Jesus might serve personally if He were here today.

3. Is there any one group on the list that speaks to your heart?

4. How might you take time this week to serve them in some way?

5. How can you make a commitment to continue your service?

6. People were afraid of the demoniac. Today, we are often afraid of the people living on the outskirts of society. How can we handle our own fear? How can you address the fear of your children? Take time to discuss this within your family.

It is very easy for us to give money to a cause or problem. I believe Jesus is asking us to give of ourselves with our time and talents. Money is always needed by organizations but find ways to give your time as well. It is what Jesus would do!

Lenten Study Day 9

Guess What Happen to Me Today?

Matthew is Called by Jesus

Discussion Questions

1. Have you ever felt God calling you into action? How did you respond?

2. When God puts a concern on your heart, do you act immediately?

3. If not, what happened? Did you ever respond or did the urge leave you?

4. Has this ever happened to your kids? How did they respond?

5. How can each of you ensure you respond immediately to God’s call?

Lenten Study Day 8

Wrong Choice!

Discussion Questions

1. How often does your family have family night, playing games, watching movies, etc.? If never, what is stopping you from beginning this tradition?

2. Does your family sit down to dinner together? Do you talk to one another or is everyone busy with their own activities?

3. Does your family spend time together or do all of you simply share a home?

4. What choices would your children like you to make?

5. Do you spend time with friends, having them into your home?

6. Have you even made bad choices you wish you could take back?

7. What can you and your family do to make better choices?