I have read the passage in Mark 10:17-31 many times and heard many sermons about the rich ruler. But this time when I read about Jesus’ encounter with this man, the first sentence in verse 21 caught my attention: “Jesus looked at him and loved him (NIV).” I think too often I have been quick to judge this man who “had great wealth” as someone hopelessly attached to his riches. I think Jesus saw something else in him.

In the opening verse of this passage, the man ran to Jesus “and fell on his knees before him (verse 17).” He addresses Jesus as “good teacher.” This shows the man has respect for Jesus and views him as someone with good advice on eternal matters. I think it’s also significant that the man asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” He said “inherit” instead of “earn” which indicates to me that he desires to be part of the family of God.

This a completely different posture than at the beginning of this chapter where the Pharisees approached Jesus to test him. The rich man seemed sincere in his pursuit of eternal life, but he is misguided in his method of obtaining it. Unlike the Pharisees who seem intent on proving Jesus wrong, this man appears to want a heart after God. Something inside of him is telling him he is missing something and he is excited to see Jesus, excited enough to run to him and to respect him as a “good teacher.”

I think the key point in Mark 10 relates to our attitude toward God. Are you more like the Pharisees where you think you are a mature Christian who needs to test the faith of others, or are you like the man in verse 17 where you desire to learn more; where you respond to the Spirit and fall at the feet of Jesus to ask him, “What am I missing Jesus? Point me toward what I need to change.”

Like this man, Jesus looks at us and loves us. He sees our heart and what we truly desire. Jesus has a way of convicting us with the Spirit of God in what we need to change in our life to have eternal life. He tells us to be sold out to a life in Christ. Like this man whose face fell and went away sad (verse 22), when the Spirit convicts us, it can sadden us as well. The question I like to ask is, “How much more than gravity is holding you to this world.” For this rich man, apparently his riches were holding him back from selling out to Christ.

As Jesus points out, earthly riches can make it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God (verse 23). Jesus said in verse 25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” But we have to be careful we don’t fall in the trap of saying, “At least I’m not rich. I’m doing all the right things to enter the Kingdom of God.” That is exactly what the man told Jesus in verse 20, that he has kept all the commandments since he was a boy.

It’s easy to slip into the thought that our good deeds make us a good Christian. That’s why we need to focus on having a heart for God, a deep desire to follow Christ. Praise God that he looks on us with love and compassion. When we are convicted by the Spirit to address things that are holding us back from a deeper relationship with Christ Jesus, it can make us sad like this rich man. As God reveals more and more of our failings, we can feel like the disciples who remarked, “Who then can be saved (verse 26)?” To which Jesus responded in the next verse, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

To be sold out to Christ Jesus requires us to rely on God, not ourselves or our riches on this earth. Kneel at the feet of Jesus and ask him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What he tells you might make you sad; it might seem impossible, but remember, nothing is impossible with God.

For the last year I have been watching my granddaughter grow and develop. It is amazing to see how she has matured from a helpless infant to toddler. She is walking now and able to explore so many more things that are now within her reach. In a world we have known for so long, everything is new to her.

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This is what I think of when Jesus said in Mark 10:15, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it (NIV).” A little child is curious about the world and wants to learn about it. They don’t walk around and analyze everything they see or question its existence. A little child is full of wonder and amazement at the world. They hunger to learn about it.

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So many things prevent people from receiving the Kingdom of God. Approaching God as a child means we trust him to care for us, to provide for us. It means depending on him to protect us, knowing he will guide us away from dangerous things that affect our faith. It is that childlike wonder at the vastness of the world God created and his infinite love for us.

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Don’t let others hinder you from approaching Jesus with your childlike faith. Run to him with wonder and amazement at the grace he gives us, “for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these (Mark 10:4).” Let Jesus take you into his arms; let him place his hand on you and bless you.

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Autumn leaves fall from trees

Like joy in life slipping away

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Dry leaves sway, drifting down

Like sadness piling by my feet

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Barren tree exposed to cold

Sorrowful emotions laid bare

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Darkness of night moves on in

Nothing to see but despair

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Flakes of snow tumbling down

Freezing cold numbs the mind

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Pure white snow blankets it all

Frost-bit body feels the pain 

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Morning light pierces the dark

Squinting eyes see some hope

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Melting snow drips away

Warming light eases the pain

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Buds appear on barren branch

Soul renewed by God’s own hand

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Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. – Isaiah 43:18-19 (NIV)

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As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. – Isaiah 55:10-11

“Joshua Fought the Battle of Jericho” is a popular song for kids in church. One of the stanzas kids shout out is, “And the walls came tumbling down.” Indeed, Joshua 6:20 tells us that when the Israelites heard the trumpets they shouted and “the wall fell flat.” But there is one verse that makes me wonder if the entire wall was actually flattened.

In Joshua chapter 2, we read about how Rahab hid the men that Joshua sent to spy on the city. In 2:9, Rahab expresses her faith in God by telling them she knows “the Lord has given you this land.” She strikes a deal with the spies who tell her to tie a scarlet thread in her window and they would spare anyone in her house. But it is not this deal that gave me pause in this chapter.

If you read the chapter carefully, you’ll notice that 2:18 tells us something amazing, “…her house was on the wall. She was living on the wall.” Anytime a Biblical writer repeats a phrase they want you to take notice. Think about this for a moment. Verse 6:20 tells us the wall around Jericho fell flat and 2:18 tells us Rahab’s house was on the wall.

We know in verse 6:22-23 that the two spies “went in” Rahab’s house and spared her as well as her family. The wall fell flat except Rahab’s house which was on the wall. Imagine Rahab’s family huddled in that house as the Israelites shouted after the trumpets blared. Picture the tremendous noise and vibration as the wall crumbled around them. All they had was the scarlet cord in the window to tell them they would be spared from God’s judgement.

With the wall gone, the Israelites took Jericoh and destroyed everyone and everything as God commanded. Just as death passed over Israelite homes with blood over their doorway in the Passover in Exodus, destruction passed over Rahab and her family because of a blood-colored cord in their window. It was Rahab’s faith in God that brought salvation to her home.

As Revelation 11:15-18 tells us, someday the seventh trumpet will sound and judgement will be at hand for those opposed to God. Just as Rahab was spared, only the blood of Jesus Christ over the doorway of your life will save you from destruction. On that day, you will feel the noise and vibration of the world crumbling around you, but will be reassured by Rev. 12:11, “And they overcame because of the blood of the Lamb and because of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 18, 2012.

As followers of Jesus Christ, how often do we make plans that include his will for our life? In 1 Corinthians 16:5-9, I am struck by how committed Paul is to following the Lord as he made his plans. When he talked about doing certain things, he often deferred to what the Lord might have him do.
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In verse 6 he said, “perhaps” when he discussed how long he will stay and concluded the sentence with, “wherever I go.” In verse 7 he concluded the sentence with “if the Lord permits.” In verse 8 he stated how he wanted to remain in “Ephesus until Pentecost because a great door for effective work has opened to me (NIV).” Each statement expressed Paul’s desire to temper his plans with what the Lord would have him do.
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It is evident that Paul cared deeply about his friends and fellow servants in Christ. This is clear in many of his letters. In 2 Timothy 1:4 he wrote, “Recalling your tears, I long to see you, so that I may be filled with joy.” In 1 Thessalonians 2:17 he wrote, “out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you.” These are people that shared faith in Christ Jesus with Paul, people he longed to spend time with in their homes.
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Yet Paul remained faithful to where the Lord placed him to share the gospel, even when he faced “many who oppose him (verse 9).” Though he longed to be with his dear friends, he chose to place Christ first in his life. It’s a powerful testimony to what it means to give your life to serving Jesus, a testimony that makes me contemplate the depth of my faith in Christ and my willingness to follow him, even at the expense of things that I hold dear to me.
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Jesus said in Matt. 16:24, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Sometimes that means sacrificing our desires for God’s desires. It is part of the process of pursuing a heart after God, a process of acquiring a longing for people to know the joy of the Lord Jesus as their savior.
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Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4

I stepped into the attic of our house and was amazed at how much stuff had accumulated in this small space. As I went through boxes and crates filled with things from my past, I kept telling myself, “It’s time to get rid of some of these things.” Suddenly I was struck by the discovery of an old Bible buried deep inside one box. It was a reminder to me of how clutter can sometimes conceal God’s word in our life.

James 1:21 encourages us to “get rid of all the filth and evil in your lives, and humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your soul (NLT).” Like that attic full of stuff, we can fill our lives with things that are not good for us. That in turn can hinder our ability to accept God’s word inside of us and our ability to live our lives according to God’s will.

It’s an imagery that Paul presents in 2 Timothy 2:20-21 where he describes the different utensils and their use in a household. “If you keep yourself pure, you will be a special utensil for honorable use. Your life will be clean, and you will be ready for the Master to use you for every good work.”

If that Bible buried in a box had been the only thing in the attic, it would have been easy to find God’s word and his purposes for my life. It’s a vivid reminder to remove the clutter from our life and to focus on God.

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published July 8, 2011.

One verse I like to read in the morning is Psalm 92:2, “proclaiming your love in the morning and your faithfulness at night (NIV).” I like how it recognizes God’s love as the day begins, a love that will not fail no matter what the day brings. It is a recognition of his care and the need to rely on him.

Equally important is the second part of verse 2, “proclaiming… your faithfulness at night.” At the end of the day we should take time to reflect on how God’s love helped us through the day; how he carried us through good and bad events. Verse 4-5 tell us God’s deeds make us glad; that we should “sing for joy at what your hands have done;” that we should recognize his great works and profound thoughts.

Without this proper orientation toward God at the beginning of the day, we are likely to not see his hand at work in our lives during the day. We are more likely to focus on the bad things that occur and miss opportunities to join God in his work. The danger is that we will become like the senseless people who “do not know” in verse 6, the fools who “do not understand.”

Take time this morning to proclaim God’s love for you. “It is good to praise the Lord and make music to your name, O Most High (verse 1).” Each day we start by seeking God is a day we equip ourselves to serve him and not our own agenda.

“They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him.” ⁃ Psalm 92:14-15 (NIV)

I had anxiously waited for this day to come. With great anticipation I approached the building where I would finally get to tour the Hall of Fame. All the great heroes I had read about from young on were memorialized here.
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My guide greeted me at the door with a warm smile and presence that made me feel like we had been close friends for a long time. “Welcome,” he said as he opened the large ornate door and motioned for me to enter. I stepped through the entrance into a large lobby area with a polished marble floor and vaulted ceiling with a painting of the universe.
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“Ah,” my guide remarked as he observed me gazing upward. “By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible (Hebrews 11:3, NIV).” I nodded. “It’s important that you understand what we recognize here as greatness,” my guide continued.” I looked at him and said, “The great things they did for God.” My guide shook his head no. “Faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see,” he explained. “This is what the ancients were commended for (11:1-2).”
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I frowned wondering what he meant. How could someone be commended for just having faith? All the other hall of fames I had visited recognized people for their deeds, their great accomplishments. My guide smiled and motioned for me to follow him through a modest wood door. We entered a dimly lit hall with small gallery lighting illuminating signs with names printed on them. “That’s it?” I exclaimed. “I came all this way to see a bunch of names on a wall?”
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My guide gently smiled and said, “Come, follow me.” As we walked past the names of so many of my heroes, my guide would stop at each one and explain. “By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going (11:8).” At Moses, my guide said. “By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible (11:27).” 
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We continued down that long hallway as my guide told the stories of all the great names of the faithful. At the end of the hallway we walked around a corner into another long hallway and stopped. I stared at the walls, confused. “These walls are blank. Why?” My guide smiled at me with a gleam in his eye. “These walls are reserved for the faithful yet to come. There is a place for you if you choose to follow God in faith.” I frowned as he continued, “If you choose to persevere and run the race marked out for you (12:1).” He paused and placed his hand on my shoulder, “Fix your eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith (12:2).”
#WednesdayWalk through the Bible — Hebrews 11:1 – 12:3.

I have often found comfort in Psalm 91 during traumatic times in my life, particularly verses 1-2: “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust (NIV).” Finding refuge and rest under his wing (verse 4) is a comforting image of God’s care and concern for us. But when I read Psalm 91 yesterday, the word “fortress” in verse 2 resonated with me.

As a fortress, God also defends us against the forces of evil. We need not be afraid because the arrows of the evil one bounce off the fortress of God that surrounds us (verse 5). We do not need to fear the evil that stalks us (verse 6). “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways (verse 11).”

Verse 14 tells us God offers protection to those who acknowledge Him; he answers those who call his name. Declaring that God is your refuge is more than just a place of rest; it is also a declaration that you put your trust in God as your fortress against those who pursue you with evil intent. By declaring, “The Lord is my refuge, my fortress, my God, in whom I trust,” we verbalize that we put our faith in God and his eternal purposes, not the temporal ways of the world.

There I was in another funeral home with another friend grieving over the death of a family member. There was no warning. She died suddenly, leaving behind a husband, young children, family and friends. I gave him a hug and told him how sorry I was, but it felt so inadequate. I felt helpless. Nothing I could do would take away the deep sorrow he felt at such a devastating loss.

It’s a painful experience being separated from those we love. There’s a feeling that it just isn’t right, that this is not the way it should be. I cannot help but think if this is how God felt when Adam and Eve left the Garden of Eden after they sinned? In Genesis 3:22-23, God sends them out of the garden and separates them from the tree of life. From that moment on, death becomes a part of life.

It is that thought of separation that has often had me wondering what made Jesus weep in John 11:35. Was it his full divinity weeping over the separation of humans from God or was it his full humanity weeping over the loss of his dear friend Lazarus? Either way, moments later Jesus points us to our true hope when he commands, “Lazarus, come out (John 11:43-44)!” John then tells us that Lazarus emerged from the tomb.

In the midst of our grief, we can find hope that resurrection awaits those who believe in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. As Jesus told Martha, “Didn’t I tell you that you would see God’s glory if you believe (John 11:40, NLT)?” In that hope we can give praise for Jesus’ death and resurrection that has given us the hope of eternal life. O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting (1 Corinthians 15:55, NLT)?”

#ThrowbackThursday — This post originally published May 12, 2011.

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