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Psalm 62 begins with David’s expression of confidence in God as he waits in silence for the one who is the source of his salvation (62:1). But then, after David remembers those who seek to bring him down through slanderous lies (62:3-4), his tone changes slightly. Now he speaks to himself, literally, to his own “soul” (nefesh): “Yes, my soul, find rest in God” (62:5).
Today, as we make our way devotionally through the Gospel of Mark, we come to the Last Supper, the Passover meal that Jesus shared with his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. As I read Mark 14:22-23, I am struck once again by something I didn’t see for the first five decades of my life. It’s something I’ve mentioned before in these Life for Leaders devotions. It’s something that is both obvious and usually overlooked. Thus, I want to reflect on it once again.
“Dust you are and to dust you will return.” To me, that’s one of the most familiar lines in all of Scripture. I’ve said this very thing to individuals at least 2,000 times throughout my life. Now, if you’re not familiar with Christian practices related to Ash Wednesday, it probably sounds odd to you. Why would anyone say such a thing to people, not to mention thousands of times? But, if you have participated in an Ash Wednesday service, you realize that when I said to people, “Dust you are and to dust you will return” is in the context of imposing ashes on the foreheads of worshipers.
I want to pause one more day to reflect with you on the story of the woman who anointed Jesus with expensive perfume. In yesterday’s Life for Leaders devotion I focused on the costly sacrifice of the woman who anointed Jesus with such expensive perfume. Today, I want to draw our attention to something Jesus said in response to this generous act.
Some who observed the anointing of Jesus by the woman objected that this was a huge waste of money. Had the jar been sold, it would have brought in a large sum to care for the poor (14:4-5). But Jesus defended the woman’s actions. Her sacrifice for him was costly indeed and absolutely appropriate. Not only was she expressing her deep love for Jesus, but, unknowingly, she was also preparing him for his burial (14:6-9).
As Christian leaders, there is nothing more important than our ability to hear God. Instructions from God inform our journey as we lead others to a place of divine purpose. Without God’s direction, we are left to our own devices, which often prove futile. God’s voice brings direction, strategy, wisdom, correction, and even comfort. Hearing from God is important, yet how we hear him is critical.
In Jesus’ explanation of today’s text, he cites “the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things” (Mark 4:19) as impediments that keep us from attending to our leadership vocation. It’s easy to hear these as bad, perhaps even immoral, diversions. No doubt, morally compromising temptations exist in every leadership setting. But, I’m not sure that’s all that Jesus meant.
Have you ever found yourself in a difficult, even hopeless situation, and desperate for God’s help? If so, then you can relate to Psalm 61. (If not, then Psalm 61 will help you when you face overwhelming challenges in the future.)
At the end of Mark 13, after revealing key elements of the future, Jesus tells his disciples: “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” (13:37). What does this mean for us? What happens when we watch? And how might this be relevant to our daily lives, including our work?
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