Mission Devotional - September 10, 2016

Opening Prayer: Thank you, Lord Jesus, that you had the courage to leave the crowd behind when it was necessary. Give us the ability and the desire to do the same. Amen.

Scripture: Matthew 8:18-22

Journal: Who is the crowd to you? What role does the crowd play in your life? How are you motivated, or determined by, the crowd? How do you allow the crowd to distort your thinking?

Reflection: It's interesting what effect the crowd has on our day-to-day lives, oftentimes without our even noticing it. And it is just as interesting, if not more so, to look at the effect it had on Jesus. While most of us go running toward the crowd to give us affirmation and a sense of identity, Jesus actually did the exact opposite. He stayed away from the crowd, constantly leaving the crowd behind in favor of silence and solitude and prayer. Of course his compassion got the better of him at times and thus he stayed with the crowd to heal and to help late into the night. But he would not let the crowd determine his life or his worth. That role was completely up to his Father. Therefore he was free - and even preferred - to leave crowds behind on a regular basis and escape to seclusion.

We, on the other hand, play to the crowd more often that we would like to admit. We tend to derive our sense of value and worth from what they say and how they feel about us. We need the crowd in ways that Jesus simply did not. We need the crowd to give us our sense of self, as false as it may be. We seek out the crowd in order to gain some sense of fame, or popularity, or acclaim, or applause, or wealth. We allow the crowd to determine the way we live our lives. We get so swept up - as the scribe did - in the energy and momentum of the crowd and what they are saying that we begin to believe that life and love can be found there. Particularly in this day and age, when likes and followers and friends and favorites and retweets and reviews allow the crowd to impact us even when we are by ourselves. The crowd has become a part of the fabric of our lives every minute of every day. And when we allow the crowd to determine us - where we will go and what we will do and how we feel about ourselves and our lives - we are in dangerous territory. Because if we truly believe that the crowd can really offer us what we most deeply long for, we are woefully mistaken. Because, as Jesus was trying to teach us, leaving the crowd behind is an essential part of the spiritual journey.

Spiritual Courage is following the deepest desires of our hearts at the risk of losing fame and popularity. It asks our willingness to lose our temporal lives in order to gain eternal life. (Bread for the Journey by Henri J. M. Nouwen)

Prayer for the church, for others, for myself

J & M have begun their fourth year of serving in Asia using the platform of micro finance lending to engage in church planting with holistic development. They have sought to be deeply immersed in the language and culture and continue their work with a micro-finance company. Pray for safety and security for J & M and their family.

Safe Families for Children is an innovative collaboration between area churches, volunteers and child care professionals designed to support at-risk children and parents in need. Pray today for Janet and her leadership for this ministry. For more information, contact Janet Cockrum at jcockrum@bethany.org.

Closing Prayer: Lord Jesus, give us the courage to follow you this day, regardless of what the crowd may be doing, or demanding. Amen.