Running With Mark 43

 

Day Forty-Three – February 9, 2020  

 

Read:

Mark 6:1-29 Common English Bible

  • The Herod in this passage is not the same Herod who was ruling at the time Jesus was born, that was Herod the Great. This is one of his sons who is known as Herod Antipas.  This Herod’s territory is only one-fourth the size of his father’s. 
  • John had gotten under Herod’s skin by telling him he should not be married to his brother Philip’s wife Herodias’
  • Did you catch that Herod feared John the Baptist. Why do you suppose that is?  Herod also listened to the words of John.
  • Herod has a birthday party at which his daughter Herodias danced. She was such a hit that Herod said he’d do for her whatever she wanted, and what she wanted was to have John the Baptist killed.  A guard kills John and brings his head on a platter into the birthday party.  What an unbelievably violent act has been committed on such an innocent man.
  • John’s disciples take his body away to be buried

 

What do we do with such a gruesome story?  As I read the story this time, I have been thinking about how John was a person who told others the truth about themselves, even when they did not want to see it.  He was known as the prophet in the wilderness calling people to a baptism of repentance.

Do you have someone you really trust in your life who will tell you the truth?   Who holds a mirror up for you to see yourself?

 

Be honest with yourself, how often has your doctor suggested that you need to lose a little weight or exercise a little more?  Even when you know the doctor is telling you the truth, have you acted on it?

 

Sometimes a boss may need to give some feedback to an employee about their performance.  It can be hard, but necessary, to hear the ways in which we are being coached to improve our job performance. 

 

It can be hard to hear some things, and we may be tempted to lash out at the truth teller, like Herodias did with John. 

 

Think about a time when someone told you a difficult truth that you truly needed to hear.  Was it a parent? A coach? A boss? A friend?  What did you do with the truth they told you?  Did you act on it?

 

Sometimes when we have gotten off track, we need someone to remind us who we are, holy and beloved children of God.  Who can you count on to remind you of this?

 

Buddha said, “Three things cannot be hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth”. 

 

The hymn, “Open My Eyes that I May See” has powerful lyrics about bringing ourselves fully to God, with all of our failings and foibles.  As you read the words and listen to the hymn, meditate on the line that says, “place in my hands the wonderful key that shall unlock and set me free”. Click on the link to listen to the hymn Open My Eyes that I May See

Open my eyes, that I may see
glimpses of truth you have for me;
place in my hands the wonderful key
that shall unlock and set me free.
Silently now, on bended knee,
ready I wait your will to see;
open my eyes, illumine me,
Spirit divine!

 

Music:

Remind Me Who I Am by Jason Grey

 

 

Prayer Focus:

Ask God to prepare your heart to receive the truth.

Offer thanks for the people in your life who will tell you the truth because they love you.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

 


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Running With Mark 42

Day Forty-Two – February 8, 2020  

Read:

Luke 17:10-20 New Revised Standard Version

Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn Drawings and illustrations, 1655

What would you do if you knew you were going to die?

I think I would like to spend as much time with my family as possible.  I’d love to be in the mountains with them, reveling in God’s creation.

 

During his 3 years of ministry, Jesus knew what the outcome would be.  He knew he would lose his life for loving the world as he did.

 

The gospel writer Luke often uses this phrase: “he set his face” to go to Jerusalem.  (Luke 9:51, Luke 9:53).  Jesus visibly and consciously chooses to walk the path that was ahead of him.

 

“On the way to Jerusalem” (v. 11a).  Earlier Luke introduced Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem with these words: “When the days drew near for (Jesus) to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem” (9:51).  Jerusalem, of course, is where Jesus will die in accord with God’s plan.  Luke reminds us periodically that Jesus is on this journey (9:53; 13:22; 17:11; 18:31; 19:11), which will end when he arrives at Jerusalem in 19:28.  With each reminder of Jerusalem, we who know the rest of the story see the cross looming in the distance.[1]

 

Yet, even though he knows what is ahead of him, Jesus is still fully in the present, preaching, teaching and healing.  On the way to Jerusalem, he heals ten lepers of their disease.  Only one returns to say, “thank you”.  Yet Jesus pressed on. 

 

In many ways Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminds me of Jesus having his face set to Jerusalem.  Dr. King’s face was set toward the vision of civil rights and dignity for all.  Dr. King was also a pacifist and spoke out strongly against the war in Vietnam.

 

King said this of his belief in non-violent, pacifism:

“True pacifism,” or “nonviolent resistance,” is “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love” (King, Stride, 80).

 

Dr. King had been the recipient of hateful messages and death threats toward himself and his family. He had endured wrongful, shameful treatment.  He had witnessed his fellow civil rights activists being beaten, attacked with firehoses and billy clubs.  Many of us would have stopped.  We would have retreated home.  We would abandon the cause, not because we no longer believed in it, but because we were afraid for our lives.  Yet, Dr. King, like Jesus heading toward Jerusalem, chose to press on. 

 

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered a powerful message that has come to be known as “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop”.  To watch the video, click on this link:

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr – I’ve Been to the Mountaintop

 

He preached it on April 3, 1968, the day before he would be assassinated. In his sermon, he said this:

Now, it doesn’t matter, now. It really doesn’t matter what happens now. I left Atlanta this morning, and as we got started on the plane, there were six of us. The pilot said over the public address system, “We are sorry for the delay, but we have Dr. Martin Luther King on the plane. And to be sure that all of the bags were checked, and to be sure that nothing would be wrong with on the plane, we had to check out everything carefully. And we’ve had the plane protected and guarded all night.”

And then I got into Memphis. And some began to say the threats or talk about the threats that were out. What would happen to me from some of our sick white brothers?

Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop.

And I don’t mind.

Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the promised land!

And so I’m happy, tonight.

I’m not worried about anything.

I’m not fearing any man!

Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!!

 

How are you engaged in works of justice?

Have you paused to thank God for your life?

 

Music:

Because of Your Love

Let All Things Now Living

 

 

Prayer Focus:

Pray that you, like Jesus and Dr. King, will be “a courageous confrontation of evil by the power of love”

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] https://sermonwriter.com/biblical-commentary/new-testament-luke-1711-19/

 

 


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Running With Mark 41

Day Forty-One – February 7, 2020  

Read:

Luke 14:1-6 New Revised Standard Version

Jesus had been invited for a meal at the home of a prominent Pharisee.  Jesus likely had been teaching in the Pharisee’s synagogue. 

 

Why would a Pharisee invite him for a meal when Jesus had been quite critical of them? There isn’t enough context here to ascertain with any certainty the Pharisee’s motive. 

  • He may have been genuinely interested in knowing Jesus
  • He may have invited Jesus for a meal because that was custom
  • He may have invited Jesus because Jesus was “being carefully watched” LK 14:1

 

A man was there who had a condition called Dropsy.  Today we might call it Edema.  Edema is swelling in the soft tissues of the body. Excess water accumulates in the tissues.  Depending on the severity, edema can be very painful.

 

Jesus asks the Pharisees if it is lawful to heal on the Sabbath, but they won’t answer.  Jewish teaching was that whatever one could do before the Sabbath, should not be done on the Sabbath.  Exceptions were made for life-saving procedures.  Other medical treatments on the Sabbath were debated.[1]

 

Jesus healed the man and sent him on his way.  Then he questions the Pharisees.  If a child or an ox fell into a well on the Sabbath, wouldn’t you immediately get them out?  Pharisees did try to help their animals out of pits on the Sabbath.

Baby Jessica

You may recall the story of “Baby Jessica” from 1987.  Jessica, who was 18 months old at the time, fell into a well casing that was 8 inches wide and 22 feet deep, in the backyard of her aunt in Midland, Texas.  The nation was captivated as an all-out effort was made to rescue the toddler who had become stuck in the well.  No one ever questioned whether they should keep working on the Sabbath.  It took rescue workers 56 hours to free her.

In 2010, a massive cave-in caused 33 Chilean miners became trapped 2300 feet underground and 3 miles from the mine’s entrance.  The world watched and prayed for 69 days until the miners were finally rescued. 

 

Two closing thoughts:

  • The Pharisees got stuck on carrying out the letter of the law, and often missed the spirit and intent behind the law. We can be that way too.  Social media has made it very easy to comment, attack, or to be a Pharisee online.  Pay attention today to your own tendency to judge or critique others.  Even if we agree with 90% of what someone writes or says, we’ll still go after and point out the 10% where we disagree, or where someone was in error.  Sometimes it is necessary to point out an error or disagreement, but often we do it so that we can feel better about ourselves and our beliefs.  There are no prefect people, organizations, churches, families, neighborhoods or workplaces, especially when we are a part of them! 
  • The rescue workers in both of these stories reminds me of the tenacity of God in seeking and going to any length to save us.

 

Music:

You’ve Got a Friend in Me –  from Toy Story

Lord I Lift Your Name on High –  Trey Mclaughlin and SOZ

 

 

Prayer Focus:

Talk with God about your propensity to judge and critique others.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] NIV, CULTURAL BACKGROUNDS STUDY BIBLE: Bringing to Life the Ancient World of Scripture. Place of publication not identified: ZONDERVAN, 2017.p.1776

 

 


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Running With Mark 40

 

Day Forty – February 6, 2020  

 

Read: Luke 8:40-52 New Revised Standard Version

“The Touch” by Twin Hicks https://www.twinhicks.com/  Learn more about these twin brothers at Meet the Twins

Today we read another account of the story of the healing of the woman with the bleeding and the healing of Jairus’ daughter.  Today as we look at this story we will use a spiritual practice called Visio Divina. 

Visio divina invites the viewer into “divine seeing.” Visio divina shares roots with the ancient practice of lectio divina. (Lectio divina calls for a slow, careful interaction with scripture through meditation and prayer, allowing a word or phrase to rise in one’s consciousness, a holy word to be savored and examined.) Similarly, visio divina invites one to encounter the divine through images. A prayerful consideration of and interaction with a photograph in the magazine, icon, piece of art, or other visual representation allows the viewer to experience the divine in a unique and powerful way.

Visio divina can be practiced individually or with a group in a small group or worship setting by using a piece of art as a focal point for prayer. Scripture can also be paired with the image in order for the viewer to reflect on the scripture through the art.[1]

 

The Upper Room gives the following suggestions for experiencing Visio Divina:

Try Visio Divina

  1. Pick out an image from a website, a photograph, painting, or icon.
  2. Look at the image and let your eyes stay with the very first thing that you see. Keep your attention on that one part of the image that first catches your eye. Try to keep your eyes from wandering to other parts of the picture. Breathe deeply and let yourself gaze at that part of the image for a minute or so.
  3. Now, let your eyes gaze at the whole image. Take your time and look at every part of the photograph. See it all. Reflect on the image for a minute or so.
  4. Consider the following questions:
    • What emotions does this image evoke in you?
    • What does the image stir up in you, bring forth in you?
    • Does this image lead you into an attitude of prayer? If so, let these prayers take form in you. Write them down if you desire.
  5. Now, offer your prayers to God in a final time of silence.

 

 

Music:

It Is Well by Horatio Gates Spafford | Kristene DiMarco | Philip Paul Bliss

O Lord Hear My Prayer – Taize

 

Prayer Focus:

Talk with God about what the image stirred up in you.

[1] https://www.upperroom.org/resources/visio-divina

 


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Running With Mark 39

Day Thirty-Nine – February 5, 2020  

Read: Luke 7:2-12 New Revised Standard Version

Listen to this song by Gungor.  What does it say about “the other”?

Us for Them by Gungor

In this reading Jesus continues to be approached by unexpected people.  Who was the Centurion? A Centurion was a Roman army officer in charge of 100 soldiers.  He represents all that oppressed the Jewish people, namely being under control of a foreign army.  This Centurion, the disciples say, loves our people and even built a synagogue for us.  The Centurion is not seeking healing for himself, but for one of his servants.  He recognizes the humanity of his servant, at a time when most regarded servants as “less than”.  What a mix of descriptors this Centurion has. 

 

Yet, it is this seemingly unlikely Centurion, who approaches Jesus in faith.  He recognizes the power Jesus has to command things.  I’m a soldier, he says, I order troops and they obey my command. The Centurion says that Jesus can do the same thing, to only speak the word, and the Centurion’s servant will be healed. 

 

The Centurion’s faith is remarkable because he had not been brought up in the faith.  Jesus sees the man’s faith.  “Not even in Israel have I found such faith.” 

 

Jesus does not say anything about healing the Centurion’s servant.  Yet, when the Centurion returned to his house, he found the servant in good health.

 

What do you think is the relationship between faith and healing?

 

Jesus’ reputation precedes him.  What was his reputation?

  • What is your reputation?
  • What do you do when someone you love falls ill? Are you calm? Do you panic? Are you the person in the family that holds things together?  To whom do you turn when you are scared?

 

Music:

Us for Them by Gungor

 

As you listen to this hymn, for whom are you called to pray?

O Christ the Healer We Have Come

 

Prayer Focus:

Pray for your friends who need healing.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

 

 


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Running With Mark 38

Day Thirty-Eight – February 4, 2020  

Read: Matthew 15:21-32

Here are a few pieces of background information that give the historical and social context for the story. 
  • Jesus has walked to Tyre and Sidon. It is a long walk of 25 and 50 miles to get to these towns.  Why would he go all that way?
  • The woman is described as a Canaanite woman, which means that her ancient ancestors were enemies of Israel. Remember that Matthew’s audience was a Jewish audience.  They would immediately have understood why it was so significant that Jesus helped this woman.  It would be similar to a Sunni Muslim helping at Shia Muslim.  Their conflict goes back all the way to the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
  • Dog was a term that was often used to describe Gentiles. Why would Jesus use this term that seems so derogatory? He used it to contrast the way he would respond to the woman from the way others used it to condemn Gentiles.
  • The woman is bold and tenacious in seeking help for her daughter. She calls Jesus “Lord” and “Son of David”, both of which are terms a Jewish person would use to refer to the Messiah.   
  • Compare her words to that of the Pharisees earlier in Matthew 15. They criticized Jesus’ disciples for eating without doing the appropriate ritual cleansing.  
  • Why do you think the disciples wanted to shoo her away? Was it because she was a Canaanite?  Was it because she would distract him from the tasks at hand?  Was it because she was loud and assertive at a time when women were to be quiet and compliant?
  • Jesus says in verse 24, “I was sent only to help the lost sheep of the House of Israel”. Jesus’ words confuse our modern ears.  Remember that Matthew is writing for a Jewish audience. He wants to show that Jesus came first for the nation of Israel, and is now expanding his reach to the Gentiles and to the ends of the earth.
  • I wonder, if after being rejected by so many, Jesus finds this woman’s faith refreshing? How do you think Jesus felt and responded when people came to faith?

Music:

Your Great Name by Krissy Nordhoff | Michael Neale

Shout to the Lord by Darlene Zschech

 

Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about those whom you keep at arm’s length because they are different from you.

 

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

 


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Running With Mark 37

Day Thirty-Seven – February 3, 2020  

 

Begin today’s devotion by listening to this song:

Nearer, My God, to Thee – BYU Vocal Point Men’s Chorus

Read: Psalm 131

Song of Quiet Trust

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a weaned child with its mother;
    my soul is like the weaned child that is with me.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time on and forevermore.

 
 

Music:

Be Still My Soul – recorded by Eclipse 6

 

Prayer Focus:

Sit and rest in the presence of God.

 

Grace and peace,
Pastor Karen Bruins

 


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Running With Mark 36

Day Thirty-Five – February 2, 2020  

Read: Mark 5:21-43 New Revised Standard Version

Today’s devotion comes from a book called Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections, Revised and Expanded by Macrina Wiederkehr

That woman is you!  I don’t know what your hemorrhage looks like, but I have little doubt that something in you is bleeding.  I don’t know what your faith looks like, but I have little doubt that something in you is believing.  And so really, that’s enough.  All you need do is to approach Jesus, bleeding and believing.  The hem will be enough for touching.  Power like that, moving through you will help you understand your wound.  Once you understand a wound, it loses its power to destroy you. I know.  That woman is me! I’ve been to the hem of God’s garment.  Let me tell you a story.

 

Once there was a wound

It was no ordinary wound.  It was my wound

We had lived together long.

 

I yearned to be free of this wound

I wanted the bleeding to stop

Yet if the truth be known

I felt a strange kind of gratitude

    for this wound

It made me

    tremendously open to grace

    vulnerable to God’s mercy.

 

A beautiful believing in me

    that I have named Faith

    kept growing, daring me

    to reach for what I could not see.

 

This wound had made me open.

I was ready for grace

 

And so one day, I reached.

 

There I was thick in the crowd

    bleeding and believing

    and I reached.

 

At first I reached

    for what I could see

    the fringe of a garment,

 

But my reaching didn’t stop there

    for Someone reached back into

    me.

 

A grace I couldn’t see

    flowed through me.

 

A power I didn’t understand

    began to fill the depths of me.

 

Trembling I was called forth

    to claim my wholeness.

 

The bleeding had left me.

 

The believing remained

 

And strange as this may sound

 

I have never lost my gratitude

    for the wound

    that made me so open

    to grace.[1]

Music:

There is a Balm in Gilead

Impossible Things by Chris Tomlin

 

Prayer Focus:

What would you say to your 12-year old self?  What advice would you give?

Talk to God about reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment.  What are you reaching for?  What is your wound?

 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] Wiederkehr, Macrina. Seasons of Your Heart: Prayers and Reflections, Revised and Expanded. New York: HarperOne, 2012.

 

 


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Running With Mark 35

Day Thirty-Five – February 1, 2020  

Read: Acts 14:1-14 New Revised Standard Version

 

Are you willing to risk being wrong about Jesus?  Can you be neutral about Jesus?

 

Check out this video about being willing to risk being wrong by Rachel Held Evans.  She was a gifted writer who wrote about her journey toward a more inclusive faith.  Held Evans carefully and thoughtfully dissected the faith she had learned as a child in order to arrive at faith that made sense as an adult.  Jesus continued to compel her and shape her life.  She died in 2019 at the age of 37.                    Recognizing the Story – Rachel Held Evans

  

This chapter is part of Paul’s first missionary journey.  Locate the towns of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe.  That’s where Acts 14 takes place.

Saul, who had been a persecutor of the followers of Jesus, had a powerful conversion experience while walking on the road to Damascus. Read Acts 9 to learn more.  Saul is now called Paul.  Because he had been such a zealous and violent persecutor of the Christians, most people were afraid of him.  It was hard for them to accept him as a new follower of Jesus.  They thought he was trying to trick them and arrest them.  Paul is known as an Apostle.  Apostle means “one who is sent”. 

 

Barnabas was a Levite.  Levites were the Jewish tribe that was responsible for the temple.   When Paul arrived in Jerusalem, after his conversion experience, Barnabas was one of the few or only people willing to reach out to Paul and welcome him.  Barnabas saw that Paul was no longer an enemy, but a fully devoted follower of God.  Barnabas was also a great mentor to the young man named Mark (John Mark).  Barnabas was one of the first believers to sell all his possession to help with spreading the gospel.  Barnabas, like Paul, is called an apostle.  Like Paul, he was not one of the original twelve disciples. 

 

Paul and Barnabas went into synagogues teaching about Jesus.  Both Jewish and Gentile people came to faith.  Acts 14 tells us that there were other Jewish people who did not believe Paul and Barnabas, and these people stirred up trouble.

 

Soon after this the mission changes, with Paul and Barnabas preaching primarily now to Gentiles.

 

Do you think it is possible to be neutral about Jesus?  Clearly the people of Iconium, Lystra and Derbe did not feel neutral.  Many believed and many did not.  It’s not unlike today.

 

It is rare to find someone who feels neutral about Jesus.

 

In 2015 the Barna Research asked, “What Do Americans Believe about Jesus?”.  Here is what they learned.

  • The vast majority of Americans believe Jesus was a real person
  • Younger generations are increasingly less likely to believe Jesus was God

“Millennials are the only generation among whom fewer than half believe Jesus was God (48%). About one-third of young adults (35%) say instead that Jesus was merely a religious or spiritual leader, while 17 percent aren’t sure what he was. In each older generation, the belief in Jesus as divine is more common—55 percent of Gen-Xers, 58 percent of Boomers and nearly two-thirds of Elders (62%) believe Jesus was God.”

 

  • Americans are divided on whether Jesus was sinless
  • Most Americans say they have made a commitment to Jesus Christ
  • People are conflicted between “Jesus” and “Good Deeds” as the way to Heaven[1]

 

If someone were to ask you today who Jesus was, what would you say?  How would you describe Jesus to someone who had never heard anything about him?  How would you describe him to a person of another culture? another faith? 

Why do you think people have such strong reactions to the person of Jesus?

Are you willing to risk being wrong about Jesus?

 

 

Music:

What a Beautiful Name by Ben Fielding and Brooke Ligertwood

What Child is This – Celtic Women

 

Prayer Focus:

What questions do you have about Jesus?  Bring them to God and talk about them.

 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Karen Bruins

[1] https://www.barna.com/research/what-do-americans-believe-about-jesus-5-popular-beliefs/

 

 


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Running With Mark 34

 

 

Day Thirty-Four – January 31, 2020  

Read: Luke 9:37-47 New Revised Standard Version

“Let these words sink into your ears:

The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into human hands.”

Luke 9:44

Jesus often refers to himself as the “Son of Man”.  To learn more about what that means, check out this video from the Bible Project Son of Man – The Bible Project

Jesus, in Luke 9:44, is already telling the disciples what was going to happen to him.  They do not understand what he means.  To them the idea of him not being a victorious ruler, not striking down their Roman oppressors, does not make sense.  They still do not see him as a different kind of king, a different Son of Man.  They love Jesus so much, that the thought of him dying breaks their hearts.

 

If we had been there would we have understood?  I don’t think we would.  God’s plan is so beyond anything humans with our finite minds can understand.

 

The way of Jesus is countercultural, and goes so against our human instincts, that we could easily have missed what he meant.

Whose were the human hands into which Jesus would be betrayed?
  • Religious leaders who preferred legalism to the spirit of the law
  • Roman authorities who felt threatened by Jesus’ growing popularity
  • Peter, who will 3 times deny even knowing Jesus
  • The disciples who flee after Jesus’ arrest in the garden of Gethsemane
  • The disciple who drew his sword when soldiers came to arrest Jesus. Matthew’s gospel does not name the disciple.  John’s gospel says it was Simon Peter

 

Do you think you and I betray Jesus?  I think that we do whenever we:

  • Put others down in order to feel better about ourselves
  • When we gossip
  • When we resort to violence (in speech or in deed) rather than peacemaking
  • When we put idols before God (careers, money, status, power)
  • When we fail to love God and love our neighbor

If you are willing, would you reply in the comments section or send me an email with your thoughts on if and when we betray Jesus.

 

Music:

Ride on King Jesus This song is an African American spiritual. 

Create in Me a Clean Heart -The Acapella Company

 

Prayer Focus:

Talk to God about times, places, situations in which you deny Jesus.

How do our actions of not loving God and loving neighbor betray Jesus?

 

Grace and peace,

Pastor Karen Bruins

 


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