Friday, February 21, 2020

Friday – Mark 10 – Because He Loves Us

HY is a parent demanding of a child? Or better, should a parent be demanding, and if so, why? Oh, perhaps "demanding" is not the best choice of words, but a parent should most certainly set standards and declare expectations. And, the reason? Love! In the words of Solomon, those who fail to discipline their children demonstrate that they do not love them (Proverbs 13:24). What would the opposite equation look like then? Those who do love their children will discipline them. Such is true with God as well. He disciplines us because He loves us. In Hebrews 12:6 we read that because the Lord loves us, He chastens us.

Now, here in Mark 10:21 we see that Jesus loved a certain individual. And, how did He express that love? He laid down the law. The man happened to be rich. So, Jesus charged him thusly, "Sell everything that you own; give it to poor folk and follow Me!" What a strange way to show one's love, or is it? This man needed tough love for sure. He was a hard case. He ran to Jesus - what zeal! He fell on his knees - that was proper. He was certainly coming to the right place with a noble objective - he came to the Savior seeking for eternal life. Yet, he was lost.  He came lost and went away lost still.  This is why we can say that he was a hard case. Jesus loved him... but sadly, this man only loved himself.

This whole chapter points to the great love that God has for us. Even the statement that "God made male AND female" demonstrates His love. It’s a simple reality that is replete with evidence of God's powerful love.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thursday – Mark 9 – Help My Unbelief

ARK 9:24 records a spiritual statement that I have identified with many times. An unidentified man in a crowd of people asked Jesus to heal his son. His boy was troubled by a violent and oppressive evil spirit. When Jesus enquired about this man's trust, the man "cried out, and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."' Perhaps this is the heart cry of every humble Christian. Jesus gives us much to believe. From His eternal existence to His holy conception (through the power of the Holy Ghost in Mary); from His miracles to His prophecies; Jesus always makes our dilemma a faith dilemma. This chapter commences with Jesus glowing like an incandescent light bulb while talking personally to men who hadn't been seen for many centuries; one (Moses) who had been very much dead for a very long time. Without God's grace guiding us toward the truth, that story would be unbelievable. Yet, we believe it. Do I also believe that He is alive today, that He lives in my body, that He will take care of my physical needs if I will trust Him, that He will use me to win the lost (if I will proclaim His gospel and preach that He is coming again to receive us up into heaven)? Yes! I believe all of that.... except perhaps the part about Him taking care of my physical needs.  To that I must pray with honest shame, "Lord, I believe... please help my unbelief."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wednesday – Mark 8 – Winning & Losing

ESUS certainly knew how to turn a bad situation into a good one. Having already read of the feeding of the 5000, it is no surprise to us to discover here that in another situation Jesus fed 4000. Jesus, His disciples and the commoners in the multitude were surely winners on that day. But not everyone won that day. There were Pharisees who sought for a sign (or a vindicating miracle) from Christ immediately after He had fed the 4000. Was that not a sign enough for them? What losers! They should have believed, but they didn't. They doubted and denied.

But, before we get all high and mighty in self-righteous disdain for the Pharisees, notice Jesus' strong words against the disciples in this same context. He rebuked them rather soundly for worrying about material things right after they had seen what He could do to provide for the physical needs of His followers. It would indeed be hard to give these guys ribbons or trophies for that day’s deeds.

Sometimes winning requires patience. In fact, starting this paragraph with the word "sometimes" is probably not appropriate. When are winners declared? Winners win in the end of a game or a fight, not at the beginning or in the middle. In Mark 8 we read where Jesus healed a blind man... but at first the success was only partial. The blind man was able to see, but not clearly. So, Jesus repeated the process, this time with complete success. The man could see clearly. It is instructive that neither Christ nor the blind man were in despair after the first step. Christ continued.  The blind man also continued. This is part of winning. The adage is a good one, "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tuesday – Mark 7 – Our Ways vs. God's Ways

HERE are 3 sections in this chapter. In one way or another, all 3 sections provide some contrast between the ways of God and the ways of men. The first part deals with the vain traditionalism of the Pharisees and scribes. The second piece of this chapter tells the story of Jesus trying to hide from the public eye. Still, He helped a Gentile woman and her demon possessed daughter instead. Through an account of the healing of a man who had a hearing impairment as well as a speech impediment, the last section of Mark 7 uniquely reveals the good and strange ways of God.

In Isaiah 55:7-9, the prophet wrote a crucially important description of God's ways juxtaposed against the ways of humanity. The long standing practices, habits, customs or "ways" in any culture are referred to as that society's traditions. In every culture there are some people who want to change the set traditions, and others who want to preserve them. Many times, these conflicts are a result of stubborn rebellion. In some situations, changes are desired in order to make legitimate improvements to the status quo. Such attempts are frequently resisted without reason. Then again, there are cases where it really is nothing more or less than a jostling of diverse personalities and preferences. When we encounter these types of conflicts, we would be wise to discern which scenario is at hand

Monday, February 17, 2020

Monday – Mark 6 – Covering Some Ground

HERE may not be a good way to summarize this chapter. Not only is it a long 56 verses, but Mark 6 covers no less than 6 different events. A listing of the sections of this chapter is a good place to begin. Mark 6:1-6 presents a view of how Jesus' own hometown neighbors refused to believe in Him. Mark 6:7-13 gives us an account of Jesus sending His disciples out on a sort of evangelism blitz. Mark 6:14-29 reveals how John the Baptist was killed. Mark 6:30-44 tells the familiar story of the feeding of the 5000. Mark 6:45-52 includes a description of Jesus walking on the water. And, Mark 6:53-56 covers some of the more obscure miracles of Christ in a place called Gennesaret.

In Mark 6:4 we read that Jesus said, "A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house." It seems that this reality weighed heavy on Jesus' heart. Mark 6:6 indicates that Jesus marveled at the unbelief of those who were closest to him. It's a human reality though. Familiarity breeds contempt. If you walked past Niagara Falls on the way to and from work every day, you would eventually be able to walk by without any emotion at all. Although Jesus was perfect, to those who knew him best, He was just too human for them to swallow what their eyes and ears were telling them about Him.  "He's a carpenter!  We know his Mom and His siblings! How can He be anyone great?" These were the kinds of thoughts with which they wrestled.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Friday – Mark 5 – Power

NE way or another, we are all amazed by power. In other words, there are things that make us wonder; that inspire us with a sense of awe. It has been said that the only thing that is great enough to always amaze is none other than God Himself. This is one aspect of that proverbial God-shaped hole which exists in the heart of every man. Only God can adequately satisfy the longing of our heart. Only God is great enough, strong enough, powerful enough to stimulate infinite worship (Psalm 139:6).

The greatness of Christ is everywhere to be found in the Scriptures, but I feel a special affinity for chapters like this one in this regard. Having just read (in Mark 4) of Jesus' power to stop a storm, it is fitting that we now encounter His authority over the most ferocious of evil spirits.  The Maniac of Gadara was an unstoppable nuisance in his town. Chains were of no value and fetters were meaningless. He was out of control; wild, dangerous, strange, frightening, violent and vulgar. Yet, when Christ was through with him, He was clothed, sitting, in his right mind and was even a useful witness for Christ. That's power! Christ had power, real power; inexplicable, irrefutable, unduplicable power. With simple spoken words He had the power to heal a crazy man and doom a heard of pigs.

Thursday – Mark 4 – Parables

ODAY our attention is drawn more to the method and purpose of using parables than to the actual content of the parables. Why did Jesus use parables? For example, He could have said simply that some people hear spiritual truth and they understand it while others do not understand it. And, for various reasons, though some understand it, they still don't benefit from this knowledge. Why did He instead tell a story (in this instance) about a farmer who sowed seeds in various kinds of soil? It is apparent that the truth was still a complete mystery to many in His audience, even after His many colorful illustrations. Did He simply NOT want these people to know the truth?

The simplest way to describe what Jesus was doing would be to say that Jesus used His riddles as a tool to hide truth from unbelievers and  to  reveal  it  to  believers.   It's  like  His parables were one-way mirrors.  On the one hand, unbelievers (who would not appreciate the truth even if they owned it) looked right through the parables as if they weren't even there. On the other hand, believers were able to see their own reflection in the light of God's truth.

Now, if we are among those who are privileged to comprehend Christ's points, then we are to become His echo. We should be looking for other's who "have ears to hear'' so that we can let them in on the secrets of God (Mark 4:21-22). In fact, both our reception and our propagation of the truth will greatly affect what (if anything) else we are given (Mark 4:24).