I think I've mentioned it before, but almost a year ago I started reading a chapter out of the Gospels each day. It started from a conversation with Chad that went something like this . . .
Me: I love Jesus. But I just want to know and love Him more. I want to just be all wrapped up in Jesus. I want to know more about who He is. How can I start each day with Him? How can I be consumed with Him? (statements and questions like this probably went on for another couple of minutes) So what do you think?
Chad: You should read the Gospels.
Oh the wisdom. And the incredible difference between men and women. :) My many, many words. His few. So simple, but exactly the wisdom I needed.
I get easily overwhelmed with Bible reading plans. I start off strong, but if I get off for one day, I'm done. I can't handle trying to get caught up and I certainly can't handle just skipping what I missed, so I quit. Done it many times.
But this has been different. I read one chapter of a Gospel each morning as I start my time in the Word. Sometimes I go on to study other things or I stay in that chapter and let it soak a while. Sometimes I miss days, but then I just pick up where I left off. No stress!
I'm also not a journaler, but I like to take notes (figure that one out!). So I made a notebook with a page for each chapter where I can write my thoughts as I read. It has been so cool as I cycle back through the Gospels to read notes from even a few months ago and see what God taught me then and how He might be speaking differently now from the exact same passage. I also really like this because unlike a journal, I can easily find what I've written on a specific passage. No more flipping through 100 pages trying to find that mind-blowing revelation from months ago!
If you've struggled with what to read each day or get overwhelmed easily like me, give this a shot! I've seriously seen much fruit in my life from being daily confronted with the life and teaching of Jesus. And my prayer was answered . . . I do love Him more than I did before!
Case in point . . . Mark 5. I usually do a chapter a day, but I've been in this one for the past three days. I just can't get over it. It has gripped my heart like a love letter . . . getting a verbal picture of the One you love in action and being simply overcome with how amazing He is.
I would tell you to stop and read Mark 5, but be honest, you probably wouldn't. So I've got part of it right here for you!
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.[a] 2 And when Jesus[b] had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for
he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the
chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the
strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So
he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered
the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the
steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed[c] man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus[d] to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Familiar story, but it struck me so powerfully new this time.
This man is beyond miserable . . . isolated, uncontrollable (though it has been tried with chains many times), a danger to others, a danger to himself, completely out of his mind. Can you imagine the horror?
And then Jesus comes in a boat and everything changes. I wonder what drove the man straight to Jesus. Was it his desperation for freedom? Or was it the demons realizing that Someone with ALL authority just stepped on shore and they shouldn't even bother trying to hide?
Regardless, this hopeless man, looking like who knows what, is suddenly at the feet of Jesus. Little did he know that there was absolutely no better place on earth that he could have been!
Can you imagine having many demons speak out of your mouth? Arguing about where to be cast out . . . just get out already!! And then watching as 2000 pigs plunge to their death from the very evil that just moments ago was inhabiting your body. Finally free, but how could he possibly wrap his mind around all that just happened?
Verses 14 & 15 are what have consumed my mind and filled my heart with love this week.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed[c] man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid.
What kind of conversation did this man and Jesus have while they waited for the mob of people to come see for themselves? That couldn't have been a quick thing . . . Can you imagine the hours they probably spent together? He was naked or half-naked, probably wounded, weak, and most likely hadn't had an intelligible conversation in quite some time. He was a mess.
But our Savior welcomes the mess. He sits beside the dirty. He bandages the wounds . . . body and soul. He clothes the naked. He doesn't give condemnation, but offers unlimited grace.
Does your heart just ache? Can you think of the brokenness this man must have felt as he shared about his life in captivity and thanked the One who just rescued him? Can you just hear Jesus teaching him about the kingdom of God and blowing his mind that had just then been restored to clarity? Can you picture sweet Jesus embracing this man who had only known violent hands, hard chains, and self-inflicted pain?
Oh. How. I. Love. Him.
And this is just the first half of the chapter! The rest has more "messy" people (a desperate father, a dying/dead little girl, a hopeless woman) and Jesus met them all with the same compassion, healing, freedom, and LOVE.
Again, I'm overcome by His great love and tender care. Jesus gave freely to those in Mark 5 . . . just like He gave freely to me. I came to Him broken, needy, wounded, in despair, hopeless and helpless. And He provided ALL that I needed to be healed, restored, and His forever!
Reflection on this Word has produced two main things in me this week . . .
First of all, extreme gratitude and a greater love for my Jesus. I will never cease to be amazed as more of His character and heart is revealed to me. My cup runneth over!
Secondly, I've really been questioning my reflection of Jesus . . . Do I put myself in situations to interact with the messy? More than that, do I make time to just sit with them, listening to their story, speaking Truth, letting them into my life? Do I show people the reality of Who Jesus is . . . compassionate, loving, willing to walk with us in the hard places and tough moments?
At the end of their encounter, this man begged Jesus to let him come with him.
After an encounter with me or you, are people desiring, even begging, to follow the Jesus we've shared and shown?
Cause if not, then something needs to change. And it isn't Jesus.
Something to let marinate a while. :)