Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tuesday - September 30 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is  Isaiah 61-62; Proverbs 24; 1 Timothy 4
Today's scripture focus is Mark 6:45-56

Jesus Walks on the Water

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

Jesus Heals the Sick in Gennesaret

53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
You may have figured out, when I read a passage, I almost always comment on what jumped out at me first. Today is no different. I'm pretty sure I've never read "He meant to pass them by" (end of v48) before.
Jesus is alone on the land, he sees the disciples struggling in the wind. HE WALKS ON WATER, but not with the intention of helping them, he is going to pass them by. What was the point of this amazing event?
I think the answer to that is in the v 49-52. Jesus is walking on water, and the disciples think it is a ghost.
JESUS is walking on water and they are terrified of him.
Jesus had to reassure them of who he was. These men who had been living and traveling with him had to reassured that it really was Jesus.
And then he calms the storm. And they still don't get it, because, v 52 tells us, their hearts were hardened (another thing I don't remember reading before).
What a sad state of affairs. The people only came to him as a miracle worker, they had no clue who he really was, they didn't understand his message. And his disciples, the men he chose, also didn't understand.
And yet Jesus never gives up. He calms the storm, he heals the people, and he continues to teach.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 7:1-13
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 63-64; Proverbs 25; 1 Timothy 6

Monday, September 29, 2014

Monday, September 29th Mark 6:30-44

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 59-60, Proverbs 23, 1 Timothy 4
Today's scripture focus is Mark 6:30-44

Mark 6:30-44English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Feeds the Five Thousand

30 The apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a desolate place and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. 32 And they went away in the boat to a desolate place by themselves. 33 Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. 36 Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven and said a blessing and broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the people. And he divided the two fish among them all.42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Creator Provides
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: A Memorable Lesson
Accompanying David Legge sermons:  The Rhythm of Rest and Readiness in Service and The Servant's Unlimited Supplies

Today's passage continues the largest scale miracle Jesus ever performed, and is the only miracle (outside of His resurrection) that is found in all four gospels.  This was truly a mind blowing creative miracle.  No wonder the people wanted to make Him king - a king that can heal all your diseases, cast out demons, raise the dead, and can provide free food?!  It doesn't get any better than that.

Note where this miracle takes place.  Bethsaida.  The city of Andrew, Simon, Philip, and Nathaniel (John 1).  Jesus has already been here, probably a few times.  They have already witnessed His teaching and miracles - and in today's passage they see Him, once again healing people (as mentioned in the other gospel accounts) and then He does this massive miracle.  Why is this important?

Luke 10:13 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.
When the Great White Throne Judgment comes at the end of the world and universe as we know it, and all sinners are brought before the throne of God for their final sentencing into hell, the people who lived in Bethsaida are going to be sent to a hotter hell than the people who lived in Tyre and Sidon. That’s a pretty severe judgment. Tyre and Sidon were two Gentile cities on the north coast of Israel. The people there had descended from the Phoenicians. They had roots with the Philistines. Both cities were notoriously wicked seaports....  Tyre and Sidon, were noted for immorality, vice, Baal-worshiping idolatry, violence, crime, profanity, pride, greed, injustice, all imaginable iniquities and vices. In fact, it was such a wretched place that God pronounced through the prophet Jeremiah in Jeremiah 25, [and] Jeremiah 47, that He was going to destroy Tyre and Sidon and He did. There was one other thing that they were guilty of, according to Amos 1:9, they were guilty of selling Jewish people as slaves.

So when Tyre and Sidon perished hundreds of years ago, they perished under the severe judgment of God. But as deserving as Tyre and Sidon were of the judgment of God, those cities would have repented in sack cloth and ashes if they had experienced the miracles that Bethsaida experienced. Bethsaida would have prided itself on being a loyal, devoted, ceremonially faithful synagogue city of Judaism. But their hell will be worse than that of Tyre and Sidon. Those self-righteous, legalistic, traditional, thrill-seeking Jews will find it worse in judgment than idolatrous pagans. To whom much is given...what?...much is required.

Now this miracle here is certainly the big reason for that judgment
How much more proof do you need?

But this is truly a picture of God as provider.

First, He provides rest for His weary disciples - though it was pretty short, only a boat ride.

Then He provides the crowd with the truth - the most important provision of all.  The majority of them were simply thrill seekers, but He welcomed them anyway, and taught them the truth, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.  What happens to sheep without a shepherd?  They die. Sheep literally cannot survive without a shepherd, just like we cannot survive spiritually without God.

All the things He provides for us physically demonstrate a spiritual reality.  God has compassion for our our need of physical rest, but even more so for our spiritual rest.  He is concerned that we have relief from our physical pain, but even more so for our spiritual pain.  He wants to supply us with physical food, but even more so our spiritual nourishment.

The massive miracle demonstrates Jesus' compassion on the crowd and their need for hunger.  MacArthur points out that this is also a demonstration of common grace.
This is the most exceptional testimony to common grace in the gospel records. When we talk about common grace, we’re talking about the goodness of God without discrimination. The Lord loves His enemies and He makes the sun to shine on the just and the unjust, and the rain to fall on the just and the unjust, and He allows the crops of the believers and the non-believers to grow. And you know what common grace is, right? Even people who hate God, who reject God, who reject Christ, fall in love, have the joy of a new birth, a baby, love a baby, enjoy a sunset, enjoy a wonderful meal, take a vacation, wonder at the mountain and the rivers of this earth, enjoy the sweetness of life, the pleasures of life, all the things that God has built into life. All that common grace comes without discrimination. Nobody has to fill out an application to see a sunset. Nobody has to qualify to eat a delicious meal. Nobody has to pass some test to fall in love. All of that is part of the fabric of common grace that tells us that God is a God of goodness and grace and compassion, and wants us to delight in His provisions.

So He didn’t ask for character references before people could eat. He didn’t evaluate their motives. He took the best and the worst of them and acted in pity on everybody. He healed everybody. He fed everybody. He taught everybody. Those are the elements of common grace.

It's interesting the different perspectives on Jesus' response to the disciples in v37.  MacArthur suggests that Jesus was telling them that they had the power to do this.  He had given them authority and power to do miracles, but they just couldn't imagine doing something this massive.  Meanwhile Legge suggests that it was a reminder that they couldn't do it, and they needed Him.  Both arguments make sense to me and both rely on His power, not our own.

So, Jesus takes the five loaves (not loaves like we think of loaves, more like crackers) and two small fish, thanks the Father for the food, and He begins to create more and more as the disciples distribute the food.

Now understand, this is crackers made from barley that never was planted, and these are fish who never swam. These are fresh, dead fish who never were alive. This is the only uncursed banquet that any of those people would have ever gone to.

Was the food good? Huh, this is like eating in the Garden of Eden. These are uncursed crackers and uncursed fish. This is just an incredible thing to think about.

I had never thought of it in those terms before.

And Jesus creates exactly the right amount of food for the entire crowd to be full, with exactly 12 small baskets left over, one for each disciple.

(Side note: Ray Vanderlaan submits that the feeding of the five thousand with 12 leftover baskets represents the fact that Jesus is the bread of life for the Israelites, while the feeding of the four thousand with 7 leftover baskets represents the fact that Jesus is also the bread of life to the seven nations driven out of the Promised Land, IOW the Gentiles).

Legge submits a few lessons Jesus was teaching them in this miracle.  First, that we, in our own strength, are unable to meet the need.  Second, that we are to offer to God whatever we do have, no matter how small, no matter our weakness.  Third, that God's work must be done His way (as He directed them to sit in groups).  Fourth, that they needed to look to God in prayer for the need to be met.  Fifth, to realize that we serve the God of the impossible. Sixth, to be confident in His power to serve others.   Seventh, to be satisfied in the One who could supply to overabundance.

They needed to realise first and foremost, as we do, without Him we can do nothing - but now they're starting to be taught: we can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.

I love how Rayburn put it as well....

the Lord uses what we have, to do what we could not.

Many times a day you and I do not do what the Lord asks us to do or commands us to do because it does not occur to us to think that we can. He asks too much, we have too little – whatever it is that we have too little of: courage, brains, faith, love, joy, strength, self-control – we have far too little of it with which to do what the Lord is asking of us. You can't love an enemy with your five loaves and two fishes worth of tenderheartedness and humility and devotion to the Lord Christ. You can't conquer a lust with your five loaves and two fishes worth of hatred of sin, love of holiness, and zeal for the Lord's honor and name.

But the Lord never intended to feed that multitude with only that amount of food. He took that amount – which was all they had – and made it much more, sufficient to do the job and then some. And so it will be with us in your serving the Lord...

I want you to see this great miracle, in some ways the greatest of all the Lord's miracles, for what it unquestionably is: a message to us about the way in which we are to live and serve the Lord. Always depending upon him, every day, we are to take what little we have to him that he might bless and break it and so make possible much more than we ever could have done ourselves, and when that has been consumed and used, to go back to him again for a fresh supply of whatever grace it is we stand in need of to perform whatever command he has given us. It is a lesson in the Christian life and Christian service and ministry as a life of constant active dependence upon the presence, the provision, and the faithfulness of our Lord and Savior.

The next morning Jesus wasn't willing to give them breakfast.  He wanted to break past their physical need to their spiritual need, but they weren't interested, and with that massive miracle Galilee's opportunity was over.  How sad.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 6:45-56
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 61-62, Proverbs 24, 1 Timothy 5

Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday, September 26th Mark 6:14-29

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 53-54; Proverbs 22; 1 Timothy 3.
Today's scripture focus is Mark 6:14-29.

Mark 6:14-29English Standard Version (ESV)

The Death of John the Baptist

14 King Herod heard of it, for Jesus' name had become known. Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” 16 But when Herod heard of it, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.” 17 For it was Herod who had sent and seized John and bound him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip's wife, because he had married her.18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife.” 19 And Herodias had a grudge against him and wanted to put him to death. But she could not, 20 for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and he kept him safe. When he heard him, he was greatly perplexed, and yet he heard him gladly.
21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias's daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.” 25 And she came in immediately with haste to the king and asked, saying, “I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.” 26 And the king was exceedingly sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.27 And immediately the king sent an executioner with orders to bring John's head. He went and beheaded him in the prison 28 and brought his head on a platter and gave it to the girl, and the girl gave it to her mother. 29 When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: The Murder of the Greatest Prophet
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: The Silencing of a Servant
Accompanying David Legge sermon: Our Savior's Hero

This is a grisly passage, and a tragic end to the life of the man whom Jesus called the greatest man to have ever lived (before Him, of course).

I appreciated Rayburn's thoughts on this passage:

Mark is giving us a lesson in discipleship, in following Jesus and serving him. The account of John’s martyrdom is sandwiched between the call of the disciples to do ministry in Jesus name and their return from that ministry as reported in verse 30 of this same chapter 6. “The sandwich structure brings mission and martyrdom, discipleship and death into an inseparable relationship.” [Edwards, 189]..

in this world of sin and death, among this rebel mankind, to love and serve Jesus is to take upon oneself the enmity of the Evil One and to face the opposition of his kingdom and of this world. And no disciple of Jesus Christ understands his calling or has truly embraced it until he understands this and is determined never to be deterred by it. Following Christ requires the facing of many difficulties and the suffering of many things. John is the perfect example....

Though you may not know it from what you hear of Christianity nowadays, it is not the proclamation of comfortable platitudes. It is the personal knowledge of the living God with whom the whole world in which we live is fiercely at odds. It is following Jesus Christ and that invariably means for us, as it did for him, suffering and loss.

This is true faith, this is genuine Christianity: what we see in John the Baptist. An altogether different thing, an altogether higher thing and nobler thing than most people think Christianity to be. Not a comfortable system, a predictable scheme of life by reason of which we give our good behavior to God and he smiles on us. No, it is a rumbling, roaring, great adventure, life and death and danger on every hand, walking with Christ who loves us and promises to help us but who has summoned us to his own life of struggle, suffering, and sacrifice. Such must a godly life be with a world as sin-soaked as this one is, standing under the specter of death as it does, and alienated from God as it is. Such must be a Christian’s pilgrimage through the Devil’s world.

Perhaps some of you now, in one way or another, are struggling with the fact that your life has not turned out as you had imagined or hoped. I cannot explain that to you any more than I can explain why John’s life took the course it did; no one can. The Lord is God. Let all the earth keep silence before him. But I can say this to you with absolute confidence: on this path of unexpected and inexplicable twists and turns, of difficulties and obstacles of every kind, you can see ahead of you the footprints of every truly great Christian who had preceded you in this world, even the print of that desert-worn, almost disintegrated sandal of John the Baptist.

Monday's scripture focus: Mark 6:30-44
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 55-56
Sunday's passage: Isaiah 57-58
Monday's passage: Isaiah 59-60, Proverbs 23, 1 Timothy 4

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Thursday, September 25 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 51-52; Proverbs 21; 1 Timothy 2.
Today's scripture focus is  Mark 6:10-13

10 And He said to them, “Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave town. 11 Any place that does not receive you or listen to you, as you go out from there, shake the dust off the soles of your feet for a testimony against them.” 12 They went out and preached that men should repent. 13 And they were casting out many demons and were anointing with oil many sick people and healing them.

So, according to the sermon on this passage by Dr. Rayburn, Jews who traveled outside of Palestine were to shake the dust from their feet before they returned, so as not to pollute the Holy Land.  The instruction Jesus gives in verse 10 is saying that those towns who will not accept the preaching of the disciples are essentially heathen towns.  I found that interesting.  He also tells the following story:

I have told some of you before about the ministry of Charles Simeon, the Anglican clergyman of Cambridge in the later 18th and early 19th centuries. He was a warm evangelical serving in a largely cold and unbelieving national church, but by his powerful preaching and the force of his character he wielded a tremendous influence for the gospel. Many of the young Cambridge men who sat under his preaching during their university days became some of the most fruitful and influential Christian ministers and missionaries of their day.

As a young man and a relatively new Christian, Simeon was installed as the pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge to the great irritation of its largely unbelieving congregation. They wanted a suave, urbane man who would preach comfortable platitudes and Simeon was the furthest thing from that. He was, in other words, sent to a place very like the Galilean villages where the disciples first preached. When Simeon began preaching his biblical sermons the church wardens and council persuaded most of the pew-holders – in those days the wealthy purchased their pews – to lock their pews and stay away. The result was that when Simeon looked out over the sanctuary from his pulpit, he faced a sea of empty seats. Those who cared to hear him had either to stand in the aisles or sit on benches in the corners. He was spoken against and written against, ridiculed by town and gown alike – a terrible ordeal for a shy and somewhat awkward young man – his own congregation refused to receive him into their homes or speak to him in the street and rowdy undergraduates would talk aloud or shuffle their feet during his services. He was rejected more comprehensively I’m sure even than the Lord’s disciples were in their preaching. Their miracles no doubt cushioned some of the opposition they would otherwise have faced. And so it continued for several years, though the Lord’s blessing and authority in Simeon’s ministry began to tell at the same time. How did he bear up under this? Well, the great man tells us.

“When I was an object of much contempt and derision…I strolled forth one day, buffeted and afflicted with my little Testament in my hand. I prayed earnestly to my God that he would comfort me with some cordial from his Word, and that on opening the book I might find some text which would sustain me… The first text which caught my eye was this: ‘They found a man of Cyrene, Simon by name; him they compelled to bear his Cross.’ You know Simon is the same name as Simeon. What a word of instruction was here – what a blessed hint for my encouragement! To have the Cross laid upon me, that I might bear it after Jesus – what a privilege! It was enough. Now I could leap and sing for joy as one whom Jesus was honouring with a participation in his sufferings…I henceforth bound persecution as a wreath of glory round my brow!” [In H.E. Hopkins, Charles Simeon, 81]

In other words, you see, he realized in a moment of stunning clarity that he was in his ministry simply imitating Jesus and therefore he was suffering the same consequences the Lord had suffered. And that changed everything. Suffering of that kind, for Jesus’ sake, because we are identified with him, will always be the highest honor ever paid to a believer in this world. It is, in our small way, carrying the Lord’s cross for him, the very cross in which our eternal life was purchased. It was this sense that he was identified with Christ and Christ with him that lifted Charles Simeon up.

We are all to ask ourselves whether we can see our lives – our lives today – in the twelve disciples: traveling light, depending upon the Lord’s provision, and doing the Lord’s work even if it means suffering for it. Every one of us should examine our lives this way and alter them accordingly: is my manner of life, are my words and deeds, is my reputation a cause for others to think about Jesus Christ?

Now for someone who loves Jesus Christ that is enough and more than enough. To think that by my imitation of him, by my doing what he did in his name his name should be made greater in the world, I say, that is enough, more than enough. 

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Mark 6:14-29.
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Isaiah 53-54; Proverbs 22; 1 Timothy 3.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Wednesday, September 24th Mark 6:6b-9

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 49-50; Proverbs 20; 1 Timothy 1
Today's scripture focus is Mark 6:6-9

Mark 6:6b-9English Standard Version (ESV)

6b And he went about among the villages teaching.
7 And he called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. 8 He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in their belts— 9 but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.

Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Ordinary Men, Extraordinary Calling Part 1
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: In the Lord's Place
Accompanying David Legge sermon:  The Reproduction of Power in Effective Service

Jesus was the only teacher.  But He knew that He wouldn't be around too much longer, and that even while He was still here, He would multiply himself by twelve if He would delegate both truth and power to the disciples and send them out to teach.  They had been with Jesus for some time now, and this would be their first mission, after which they would come back and they could see how things had gone and what they needed work on, and Jesus could finish preparing them for when He would leave permanently.  It's like a short term missions trip.

As MacArthur says, they were sent out in pairs for.... mutual support, mutual protection, to make everything they said confirmed in the mouth of two witnesses, to blend their unique gifts and talents and skills and to bring double witness to what they were going to repeat that they had heard and seen in Jesus.

MacArthur also mentions that it was a judgment on legalistic Judaism that there was not one priest, scribe, Pharisee, or any other member of the religious establishment in this group of twelve. They completely rejected Him, hated Him, and wanted Him dead.  Not exactly what you're looking for in representatives.

Instead, Jesus chose twelve ordinary men to become the new leaders of the twelve tribes of Israel. And He sent them out to preach the kingdom, the message of salvation.  He gave them divine power, to be used compassionately (v7 - authority over unclean spirits).  This power was necessary as proof of their authority as His disciples, and was done in a personal way (healings, etc) to demonstrate His compassion. And they were not supposed to profit from these supernatural gifts, differentiating themselves from the false teachers.  Of course, this doesn't mean that we're not supposed to pay our pastors, but in this particular training mission, they had to make sure to resist the temptation to profit from their authority, and to rely on God to provide for them. That dependence on God is one of the greatest, and perhaps the hardest, lessons to learn.

We don't have the same divine authority the disciples has (it's no longer necessary in order to prove our authenticity - that can be done by comparing our words and deeds to scripture).  But there are still implications for us as followers of Jesus.

MacArthur sums it up....
if you want to be a messenger that stands in the long line of faithful messengers descending down from the Apostles, proclaim salvation, manifest compassion and live dependently. Don’t put a price on your ministry. Receive everything God gives you with grace and gratitude, hold it lightly in your hand and use it for the advance of the Kingdom.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 6:10-13
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 51-52, Proverbs 21, 1 Timothy 2

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Tuesday - September 23 - Tiffany

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 47-48; Proverbs 19; 2 Thessalonians 3
Today's scripture focus is Mark 6:1-6

Jesus Rejected at Nazareth

He went away from there and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. And on the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, “Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him. And Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor, except in his hometown and among his relatives and in his own household.” And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.
And he went about among the villages teaching.

A prophet is not welcome in his hometown. I've wondered about this often. Why is he not welcome? Is it because of verse 3? Because they knew Jesus when he was a kid? Because of what they thought of his birth?

Shortsighted people missed out on what could've been the biggest blessing of their lives, because they couldn't get over the fact that they knew Jesus when he was a baby. Because they knew his parents and brothers and sisters.

There are many things today that keep us from accepting Jesus. The world around us does its best to discredit him.
Let's have better vision than those from Nazareth.
Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 6:6-9
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 49-50; Proverbs 20; 1 Timothy 1

Monday, September 22, 2014

Monday, September 22-by Pamela

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 45-46; Proverbs 18; 2 Thessalonians 2
Today's scripture focus is Mark 5:35-43

35 While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler's house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?” 36 But overhearing[a] what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.” 37 And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. 38 They came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and Jesus[b] saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. 39 And when he had entered, he said to them, “Why are you making a commotion and weeping? The child is not dead but sleeping.” 40 And they laughed at him. But he put them all outside and took the child's father and mother and those who were with him and went in where the child was. 41 Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. 43 And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

Jesus is Lord of all even

 the impossible. There are times we doubt this but the bible gives us example after example of the impossible becoming possible. Powerful over all---even over death.  Death is a permanent condition. We just experienced the death of a parent in our school community last week. Death seems so final. So unbelievable. We are left wondering why... and the separation seems so permanent.

MacArthur says:

In that moment, Jesus redefined death as a temporary condition. That’s why He uses the metaphor or the analogy of sleep. Sleep is a temporary disconnect, isn’t it? You’re insensitive to the environment around you when you’re asleep, you don’t hear the conversations, you don’t participate socially. You’re asleep. But it’s a temporary situation. And Jesus is saying for this girl, this is just asleep, it’s temporary. This is not permanent.
Well unless any of them had seen another resurrection Jesus had done, they would have never in their life heard of anybody being raised from the dead and they would never ever refer to death as sleep...sleep being something temporary. This concept of death as sleep is picked up by the Apostles, isn’t it?, in the New Testament. The Apostle Paul loves to refer to believers dying as being asleep, like he refers in 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, to all those who sleep in Jesus will be caught up in the Rapture. God will raise us, we who know the Lord Jesus Christ when we die, the body sleeps. The soul, immediately in the presence of the Lord. “Absent from the body, present with the Lord.” “Far better to depart and be with Christ.” That’s the...that’s the soul. But the body sleeps until the glorious resurrection at the return of Christ. And so you can refer to the death of a Christian as a release of the soul into the presence of the Lord, but the body sleeps until the day of resurrection. And so death, in a sense for a Christian, becomes described as sleep because it’s temporary...temporary...temporary state.
It is our faith in the God of the impossible that allows us the knowledge that we are in a temporary state. Our disconnect from God because our sinful nature is not permanent because of the sacrifice of Jesus. Our acceptance of the gift of salvation is impossible to believe because "While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."

MacArthur says:
The world still mocks and scoffs at the reality of Christ’s power over death, but that doesn’t limit Him in any way. Accessible, available, interruptible, indomitable, imperturbable, perfectly calm...finally, what can I say, kind loving, maybe charitable....The last point here is just His tenderness, His love, His kindness. He came, displayed power, the resurrection, could have simply been a power display, say a word and it’s done. But there’s so much tenderness displayed in this that we see His loving heart.

Sometimes we see the impossibility of a situation and we just can't see a way out. I'm sure Jairus could not see a positive outcome from this situation and when his messengers arrived to say that his daughter had died I'm sure he felt the weight of sorrow and hopelessness. But that is not how the story ends. In the midst of impossibility Jesus made the impossible possible. He is the Lord of all.

Tomorrow's scripture focusMark 6:1-6
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 47-49; Proverbs 19; 2 Thessalonians 3

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Thursday, September 18 ~ Miriam

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 37-38; Proverbs 16; 1 Thessalonians 5.
Today's scripture focus is Mark 5:1-20

The Gerasene Demoniac
5 They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes. 2 When He got out of the boat, immediately a man from the tombs with an unclean spirit met Him, 3 and he had his dwelling among the tombs. And no one was able to bind him anymore, even with a chain; 4 because he had often been bound with shackles and chains, and the chains had been torn apart by him and the shackles broken in pieces, and no one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Constantly, night and day, he was screaming among the tombs and in the mountains, and gashing himself with stones. 6 Seeing Jesus from a distance, he ran up and bowed down before Him; 7 and shouting with a loud voice, he *said, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore You by God, do not torment me!” 8 For He had been saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And He was asking him, “What is your name?” And he *said to Him, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 And he began to implore Him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there was a large herd of swine feeding nearby on the mountain. 12 The demons implored Him, saying, “Send us into the swine so that we may enter them.” 13 Jesus gave them permission. And coming out, the unclean spirits entered the swine; and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the sea, about two thousand of them; and they were drowned in the sea.

14 Their herdsmen ran away and reported it in the city and in the country. And the people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They *came to Jesus and *observed the man who had been demon-possessed sitting down, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the “legion”; and they became frightened. 16 Those who had seen it described to them how it had happened to the demon-possessed man, and all about the swine. 17 And they began to implore Him to leave their region. 18 As He was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed was imploring Him that he might accompany Him. 19 And He did not let him, but He *said to him, “Go home to your people and report to them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in Decapolis what great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed.

I'm sure we are all pretty familiar with this story.  It's a well known miracle that Jesus performed, so much so that bits of it have been used in Hollywood movies or drawn on as inspiration for other stories.  I remember in particular a movie I watched (not a very good one, either) where you hear this voice, or rather a multitude of voices, coming from a man saying "My name is Legion; for we are maaaaaaaannnyyyyy," which sounded really creepy.  I'm not sure how realistic this would have been, but I suppose it is possible that all the demons inside the man spoke to Jesus in unison.   Anyway, that's beside the point.

David Legge, in Satan to Jesus Must Bow, talks about the two errors people make in their belief, or lack of belief, in Satan:

Now let me ask you before we go on any further: do you believe in a personal devil? Most people in the world do not. Many people who profess faith in Christ cannot, their reason won't allow them. I don't believe it is unreasonable, but they do.

Now some try and explain away this miraculous instance by saying that this man was insane, that's all. I think that people in his own day and generation believed that about him, that he was just the madman of Gadara. 

Now, though this man's behaviour conformed to what was commonly understood in his day as insanity, there was something else going on in his mind and heart. Now here's a lesson that I don't want us to miss: whilst we must be careful to never ever label a mental illness as possession - never, ever to do that - we must equally acknowledge the possibility, indeed the probability, that our society puts the label of 'mental illness' on what may in fact be a classic case of demon-possession. The reason they do that is that they simply don't believe it's a possibility. So we must beware, we must beware of two opposite errors about the devil: one, the error of disbelieving in him; and the other error we must beware of is an excessive, unhealthy interest in him. C. S. Lewis put it well when he said: 'They', that is the demons themselves, 'are equally pleased by both errors, and hail a materialist and a magician with the same delight'.

We must beware of an unbelief in regard to the personality of the devil and his minions, the demons, because as one has well said: 'Unbelief in the devil has often proved to be the first step in unbelief in God'. I think it's obvious that the devil exists, and demons, because his grubby fingerprints of an unclean spirit are all around us.

This man had an unclean spirit - an unclean spirit characterised itself with moral filthiness, and often caused much harm to the person who was possessed. I ask you the question: is it only incidental that with the rise of paganism, occultism, Satanism, over the last number of years in our world, that there has also been a rise of drug abuse, pornography, obscenity, homosexuality? It is not coincidental, it is a sign that Satan and his principalities and powers have a controlling influence in our day and generation, just as they did with this man.

We need to waken up today as God's people to the force that Satan is in our world today. We ought never to underestimate the destructive power of Satan and his demons. Our enemy would destroy all of us if he could - do you believe that? Peter said: 'He is a roaring lion, going about seeking whom he may devour'. He's also at work, the Bible says, in the life of unbelievers, making them children of disobedience Ephesians 2 tells us. Now I know that this demoniac, and both of these men as Matthew tells us, are extreme examples of what Satan can do - but they ought to reveal to us the danger of dabbling with dead things, with sinful things, with Satanic things. It ought to cause believers in Christ to resist the devil, that he will flee from us - have nothing to do with him!

Harry Ironside made this telling comment: 'We cannot but reflect on the possibilities of evil when we realise that one man could hold more evil spirits than 2000 unclean hogs' - think about that. The force of Satan today is the same as it ever was.

I had a conversation with my sister a while back about how little demons and their influence were talked about all the time that we were growing up, so now it seems superstitious and almost old-fashioned to talk about demon possession, even though both of us as Christians are very aware that demons are real and that they do influence people all the time.  I think particularly as Westerners, it can be hard to remember that because demons don't need to be conspicuous.  They can hide easily because our culture is so full of distractions and illusions and a constant need to fill our appetites with more food, better clothes, a bigger house, a nicer car... we give them much too easy a job.

Anyway, happy Thursday!

Tomorrow's scripture focus:  Mark 5:21-34
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage:  Isaiah 39-40; Proverbs 17; 2 Thessalonians 1

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Wednesday, September 17th Mark 4:35-41

Today's passage from the Bible In a Year Reading Plan is Isaiah 35-36; Proverbs 15; 1 Thessalonians 4
Today's scripture focus is Mark 4:35-41

Mark 4:35-41English Standard Version (ESV)

Jesus Calms a Storm

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Accompanying John MacArthur sermon: Calming the Storm
Accompanying Robert Rayburn sermon: Christ Stilling the Storm
Accompanying David Legge sermon: In the Same Boat

What an amazing moment this must have been!

The Sea of Galilee was capable of some wicked storms. And these seasoned fishermen (and likely other boats filled with genuine and shallow followers) knew that they were in serious trouble, and that in likelihood, they wouldn't be making it to the other side.

But they knew enough to go to the right source, didn't they?  Who knows exactly what their expectations were, but they reached out for help to the only One who could possibly save them.  And He did - in spectacular fashion! (The fact that Jesus slept through this storm is testament to His humanity and state of absolute exhaustion He must have been in at this point).

This was not a coincidence, that when He spoke the storm ceased.  Even if you could argue that it was circumstantial, that would not explain how the waves could immediately be stopped.  Even once a storm stops, it takes a while for the waves to become calm.

Unless the Creator tells them to stop.   Then they listen.  Jesus, through the power of the Holy Spirit, had the ability to control creation.  Can you even imagine what that must have been like?

No doubt they were filled with fear!  Can you even imagine being in the same boat with the One who is powerful enough to do that!  Thankfully, His power is balanced with love and compassion or we'd all be sunk.

A few different applications we can make from this passage.

Sometimes God's glory is revealed most brightly amidst the storms of life. There was no mistaking where the power came from, or to whom the glory should go.  The storm was an opportunity for Jesus to thrill the disciples with His power and glory.  Could not our storms do the same?

Another application - does it sometimes feel like God is sleeping through the storms in your life?  He's not oblivious to it.  He knows.  But often times those storms are tests.  It was a test for the disciples and they didn't so so great.  Yes, they cried out to Jesus - but they did so in fear.  They didn't believe His promise.  Did you miss the promise?  I did too until Legge pointed it out.  Jesus said "Let us go across to the other side".  He didn't say, well let's try but you never know, a storm might come up and drown us all.  He promised them safe passage.  And when the storm arose, they doubted Him.  We aren't just supposed to learn about faith with our minds - we're supposed to live it out.

Do you notice that virtually every time the Bible says "Do not fear" it adds this "because I am with you".  Because He is with us, we don't need to be afraid, no matter the storm.   Will He always deliver us from the storm?  No.  But He will never leave us.

He's in the same boat as us, and that is enough.

Tomorrow's scripture focus: Mark 5:1-20
Tomorrow's Bible In a Year Passage passage: Isaiah 37-38, Proverbs 16, 1 Thessalonians 5