Instead of a scripture, I’ll be quoting Luke 18:9-14 in this devotion.
Susan Montgomery Williams was the queen when it came to blowing the world’s largest bubble-gum bubble. It was 23 inches (or 58 centimeters) in diameter. When she popped her bubbles, she wore a shower cap so the gum wouldn’t get stuck in her hair. At least she came prepared.
Susan didn’t accomplish this record-breaking feat on her own. As it turns out, Williams had a lesser-known assistant who chewed part of the gum for her. They had a little help from their microwave, which they used to warm the gum up first. When Williams and her assistant still had trouble fitting all the gum into their mouths, they blew it up with a bicycle pump.
While Susan’s story doesn’t stop there, it speaks to me about many of the empty pursuits with which we fill our lives. It is said that most people lead lives of quiet desperation.
Perhaps Susan’s emptiness is epitomized by her final quote: “My gum and I stick together.” But a loving God is more concerned with our character than our comfort. Gum may be sticky, but the Bible describes God as a friend who sticks closer than a brother, so I want to shift gears here.
It’s time that you and I allow God to pop some of the bubbles in our lives, as we take off the shower caps of complacency and step out into our hurting world. Since it is one thing to say this and quite another thing to live by that motto, I want to share some things with you that God has put on my heart.
This familiar parable of Jesus made me stop and take notice, in light of the 21st century. So while the application might be new, the interpretation is not. Having said that, let’s say the Pharisee represents our nation, and the tax collector represents the rest of the world. Please note that this is just an example, as I realize there is great need in our land, and I don’t mean to ignore or minimize that need in any way.
“To some people who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: ‘Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector.'”
Please stop right here and examine the background of this parable with me. Jesus said this to a group of pharisees, who arrogantly and smugly thought that they were righteous in themselves, and therefore better than anyone else. Do you think this describes you and me? I ask you: Who can be more overly confident and rude than many pharisaical Americans in the 21st century?
To make a personal application, I realized that some things needed to change in my own life, so please don’t be offended. There’s room for improvement in each of our hearts, too.
While you might not think of yourself in this way, it is no news that we live in a very impersonal society. We all have someone we can love, perhaps a co-worker or a next-door neighbor. But it is much easier in this high-tech world to send a text than it would be to go out of our way with a homemade plate of cookies. In spite of this fact, we need to love and help out our neighbors whenever we can.
Also, as followers of Jesus, we are encouraged to come boldly before His throne. There are many people we can’t reach physically, but we can lift them up to God. Others who don’t know Him may go to church for show on the one hand, while they foolishly try to banish God from society with their other hand. But the lives of these people are just as empty as Susan Williams’ life, and we need to reach out to them as well.
Instead of praying about these needs, I fear that you and I, as His followers, often adopt the smug view that we see in this parable. Therefore, it is imperative that we let a holy God search our hearts.
The parable continues. “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.'”
Let me further paraphrase this attitude in our modern language. “I thank you, God, that I am not like the rest of the world. I stand alone as an American, and as a recipient of God’s favor. I give quite generously to missions, and I study the Bible every day.”
What is the Christian response to this attitude? Let’s look at the publican’s words.
“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He was an outcast of society, and he would not even look up to heaven. Instead he beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’”
To put this response in the words of today: “God, be merciful to me, a persecuted and destitute sinner. I don’t know where my next meal is coming from, but please provide me with a copy of your Word.”
Jesus ended his parable by saying, “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
As citizens of Christ’s kingdom, we are also citizens of this nation. In order to be the best citizens we can be in both kingdoms, you and I need to humble ourselves before an almighty God by loving our neighbors. By going out of our way for others and dying to ourselves, we can have a healing effect in our world like never before. The God we serve is not limited by status or ability. The scriptures plainly show that He can do extraordinary things through ordinary people. Since we all need to develop a passion to know Him better, I would like to summarize by using the following steps.
The first of these is desperation. Jesus said that without Him, we can do nothing.
The next step, which is closely linked to desperation, is desire. God is the one who draws us to Him, so we must ask Him to implant a desire for His Word and His ways in our hearts.
While discipline is not a popular word in our culture, it is the root of the word disciple. Therefore, we must have discipline, the third point, when it comes to spending time with God, without it becoming a legalistic duty. So if we miss a day in the Word, we pick up tomorrow where we left off, and we don’t beat ourselves up about it.
Lastly, determination and delight go hand in hand. When it comes to these two words, I think of Daniel and David. Daniel determined in his heart that he would serve God and delight in Him, regardless of the outcome. You and I need to do the same as the world grows darker instead of sinking, as the disciple Peter did when he had his eyes on the storm.
The Bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart, despite all of his shortcomings. From an early age, he learned to delight in God, and this helped him face many hard times. Difficulties will come, but I have found that trying to delight in the greatness of God puts my problems into perspective. It also allows Him to fill me with a joy that is contagious, and that joy spills over to others. If you believe in Him, desire Him and delight in Him, God will give the same joy to you.
Thank you for reading this, and may the Lord give you a wonderful week! We are trying to reach people who are hurting, so if God lays it on your heart, please consider becoming a partner with us. If you would like to make a donation, please visit www.hcmachaplains.org and click on the Donate Now link. You can also send donations by mail to HCMA (Healthcare Chaplains Ministry Association). Our ID number is 560. The address is 101 S Kraemer BLVD, Suite 123A, Placentia, CA 92870.
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Bubbles and Battles
Instead of a scripture, I’ll be quoting Luke 18:9-14 in this devotion.