Sunday, February 28, 2010

Luke 8 - How's Your Hearing?

by Becky

LINK: Luke 8


Some of the events and parables in this chapter can also be found in Mt. 5, 8, 9, 12, 13 and in Mark 3, 4,and 5. If you want to read more, see Katrina's and Carol's comments on those chapters in our archives on the sidebar of the blog.

Several women, one of them Mary Magdalene, are mentioned in verses 1-3 of this chapter as accompanying Jesus and the twelve and helping to provide for them. Through the years, some have mistakenly believed that Mary Magdalene was a prostitute, but there is no evidence of this from either Scripture or early church history. That misconception is a result of incorrectly combining several passages (the "sinful" woman in Luke 7 and two separate accounts in John 12:1-8 and Luke 7: 36-50, with this passage). Neither is there evidence from any ancient source that Jesus was married to her (or to anyone else) as has recently been conjectured and even popularized by fiction. Mary Magdalene was a woman who was healed of demons by Jesus, and who along with other women, gratefully followed Jesus to the cross and then visited His tomb to anoint His body.


There are at least two things that Jesus said in the chapter that are a bit hard to understand. After Jesus told the parable of the sower, His disciples asked Him what it meant. In His answer to them He quoted from the book of Isaiah, saying that He spoke in parables, "so that 'seeing they may not see and hearing they may not understand.'" (verse 10)

Then, in verse 18 Jesus said, "Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away."

It seems to me that the parables and the miracles in this chapter illustrate those two sayings. The parable of the sower is all about HOW we hear. And we see, too, examples of people who witnessed Jesus' miracles who heard with of ears faith and examples of people who were repelled by Jesus' actions and only wanted Him to leave them after they saw His power.

The disciples cried to Jesus when their boat was in the storm. He reproved them for their lack of faith, but I note that they had enough faith to cry to Him. The man from whom Jesus cast out demons begged to go with Jesus, but Jesus sent him home to tell how much God had done for him. Contrast his reaction to that of the people of the surrounding country who were seized with great fear at Jesus' power and so asked Jesus to leave them. We also see Jairus' faith and that of the woman who was needy enough to risk touching Jesus in faith to be healed.

Exposure to Jesus resulted in two totally different responses. Many people heard Jesus' parables and saw the miracles He performed. Some believed and obeyed in faith and others had the opposite reaction - they recoiled in fear and wanted to be as far away from Him as possible. Hearing and seeing softened some people's hearts. Hearing and seeing hardened other people's hearts. The more they heard, the more they turned away, just as in Isaiah's day.


I don't want to see but not see. I don't want to hear but not hear. I want to combine my hearing with faith and to take to heart what I hear - and obey. Just hearing the gospel, just hearing God's message isn't enough. It's important HOW we hear it. Do we combine our hearing with trust and obedience? Or do we listen with our own agenda in mind? Do we see with eyes that refuse to look farther than our own desires? Do we humbly listen, knowing we are needy, or do we think that we have something to offer Jesus?

There is danger here. The more we hear without really hearing, the more hardened our hearts become, the blinder and deafer we are. On the other hand, if we listen with longing and combine that listening with obedient faith (even a little faith), we will see and hear more and more.

How's your hearing today? Who are you looking at?


Give us eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts that are fixed on you, LORD.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Luke 3 - Baptism & Genealogy

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 3

Luke, being the historian that he was, very clearly dates these events at the beginning of the chapter. He also made it clear that John was acting out of obedience to God's call on his life.

John, for his part, clearly recognized those who were showing up but were not truly repentant of heart. He nailed them. On the other hand, many came who had a true change of heart and wanted to know how to live righteous lives.

John made it clear to his audience that he was not the Messiah but the Messiah would arrive on the scene very soon.

Jesus came to John to be baptized. While he was being baptized, the Holy Spirit descended, and the Father spoke from heaven. This is one of the times in scripture where all three persons of the Trinity are clearly present.

The genealogy presented here by Luke is of Mary's family. (The Eli mentioned in verse 23 is Mary's father, Joseph's father-in-law.) Because Luke's audience isn't Jewish, he doesn't stop when he gets to Abraham but traces the genealogy all the way back to God's creation of Adam. Luke will emphasize throughout his book that Jesus is the "Son of Man." The humanness of Jesus will be clearly seen as we read through Luke's account. And the reader will understand that Jesus is the savior of the Gentiles, not just the Jews.

So, what did John mean when he said in verse eight, "bring forth fruits in keeping with repentance"? Repentance means changing one's mind from an old way of thinking to a new way. John was telling them to change what they believed. And when that change really occurred, it would be followed by a change in behavior. The same is true for us. When God convicts me of something in my life, I have to go through a process (sometimes quickly, but sometimes I'm slow) where I change my thinking. My heart changes, and I no longer believe that what I was doing (or not doing) is okay. I begin to see the issue from God's perspective rather than my own old way of thinking. When that happens on the inside of me, the fruit of that repentance is seen by others as a change in my behavior. If there's no fruit, no change, there probably wasn't any real repentance.

Is there something you need to repent of today? Are you stubbornly insisting on doing things your own way? Is God whispering to your heart that you need to change some behavior? Is there something in your life you aren't sure if God approves of? Search the scripture and see what God thinks. Let's align our thinking, our hearts, our behavior with God's way instead of our own.

How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me. Then I acknowledged my sin to You, and did not try to hide my iniquity any longer. I said, "I will confess my transgressions to the Lord." And You, Lord, did forgive the guilt of my sin. Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to You in a time when You may be found. You, Lord, are my hiding place. You preserve me from trouble. You give me songs of deliverance. (from Psalm 32) Thank you, Lord, for delivering me from the trap of my sin through the blood of Jesus, amen.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Luke 2 - Salvation Arrives!

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 2

In this chapter, we see God using the great and powerful Caesar to accomplish his own plan. Caesar Augustus required that all of his subjects register in a census. In order to obey this decree, Joseph had to go to Bethlehem to register. Mary went with him and gave birth to Jesus while they were in Bethlehem. This fulfilled the prophecy that a great ruler, the Eternal One, would be born in Bethlehem. Micah 5:2-3 says, "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity. Therefore, He will give them up until the time when she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren will return to the sons of Israel." What a great demonstration of God's sovereignty!

Angels from heaven announced the birth of Jesus the night he was born. But to whom did they make their announcement? To the scribes? The priests? The Pharisees? No, they didn't tell the religious leaders; they made their announcement to simple, lowly shepherds out in the fields. God doesn't focus on the wealthy and powerful like we do. Rather, his message went straight to plain, ordinary men.

The shepherds had to see this great event!! They believed the angels, they went into town to see the baby, and they returned to the fields "glorifying and praising God" for all they had seen and heard that night. They were very excited!

When Jesus was taken to the temple to be circumcised on the eighth day, two others were excited to see him. Simeon had been promised by God that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. Because Simeon listened to the Holy Spirit speaking to his spirit, he knew who Jesus was as soon as he saw him. Simeon declared Jesus to be salvation, for both Israel and the Gentiles. The prophetess Anna was also close in her relationship to the Lord, and she gave thanks to God for this baby and told everyone around that this baby was the redemption of Israel. Once again, it is not the priests and religious leaders who recognize this child. But Jesus was clearly recognized by a man and a woman who had a close relationship with God.

Fast forward about twelve years when Mary and Joseph took their family to Jerusalem for the annual Passover celebration. They lost track of Jesus, and when they found him, he told them that he had to be in his father's house. They didn't really understand at the time what he was talking about. But Jesus demonstrated his role as a servant by being obedient to his parents.

Twice in the chapter, Luke mentions that Mary "treasured all these things in her heart." Once when the shepherds visited (vs 19) and again when Mary found Jesus in the temple (vs 51). I suspect Luke researched this part of his book by interviewing Mary.

So, who was this baby? Angels announced his arrival. (That doesn't happen with most births!) Shepherds got pretty excited about his birth and had to see for themselves. Simeon and Anna made a point of speaking to his parents and others in the temple about him. He amazed the adults who heard him asking questions of the teachers in the temple. As he grew to adulthood, he grew in wisdom as well, and he also grew in favor with both God and men. He was definitely a unique individual. But he was so much more than that!

Look at what was said about Jesus in this chapter.
  • by the angels in verses 10-14
  • by Simeon in verses 29-35
  • by Anna in verse 38
Make a list of all the information given here about Jesus, and make it a prayer list of praise to God.

Lord God, thank you for revealing your son to us, to the lowly and poor. Thank you for your work in the hearts of Simeon and Anna and for revealing Jesus to them. And we praise  you that your Holy Spirit confirms in our hearts that Jesus is the one who came to redeem us from sin and give us eternal life. Amen.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Luke 1 - Baby Announcements!

by Becky

LINK: Luke 1


Each gospel opens uniquely. Matthew begins with a genealogy and then tells of Jesus' conception and birth from the point of view of Joseph - giving a kind of legal perspective. Mark begins with Jesus as a grown man whom John the Baptist announces - diving straight into the action. John begins at Creation with Jesus, the Word, and emphasizes that He is God and made all things - providing a philosophical foundation. Luke begins with announcements, reactions, visits, and songs - delving into emotions and relationships. It is from Luke that we grasp the personal impact of the births of John and Jesus.

It is only in Luke that we read of Elizabeth and Zechariah, of the announcement of Gabriel to Mary, of Mary's visit to her cousin Elizabeth, and of the songs of Mary and Zechariah. All of that is in the first chapter!

I hope you will take some time to read Luke 1. Imagine what it would be like to be Zechariah or Elizabeth or Mary. Think about what they must have thought and felt. Don't read this as something that happened to stick figures. These are living, breathing people. Sing with Mary and Zechariah! While you're singing, think about the words.


In case you can't tell, I love this chapter. Here are some random thoughts I hope will explain why to some degree:

I love the details in the story of Zechariah and Elizabeth, who happen to be two of my favorite people in the Bible. They were old and childless and had longed for a child for many years, but instead of becoming bitter, the Bible says they were "upright in the sight of God." That's something. It's easy to fake uprightness with people, but God knows our hearts. They continued serving God faithfully in spite of unfulfilled desires.

I chuckle each time I think of how and when God revealed to Zechariah that he and Elizabeth were to have a son, John. Isn't it great that we have a record of Zechariah's doubting reaction? I thank God for giving us imperfect people to learn from. And I think that Zechariah's punishment, having to remain silent until the birth of his son, may have been a rod of grace. Zechariah was spared responding to all the questions from neighbors; he was given time to ponder and think. Later he demonstrated obedience when to the shock of his neighbors he reiterated what Elizabeth had already told them by writing, "His name is John." Right after he wrote that his speech was restored and he prophesied in song!

Gabriel told Zechariah that the son, John, would be a joy and delight to his parents and that he would be great in the sight of the LORD. What a gift!

Mary is young and a virgin, and we're told she was troubled by the greeting of the angel, Gabriel. She was bewildered at Gabriel's news that she was to bear God's son because she knew that she was a virgin. I love how she blurts out her question, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" She is so stuck on that part that she doesn't ask about her child being God's son - the greater miracle. It is such a realistic human reaction! But she listens and accepts.

My favorite part of the whole chapter is the next part! The angel Gabriel, in the middle of telling Mary that she, a virgin, will give birth to the son of God, also "happens" to tell her that her cousin Elizabeth, who was said to be barren, was going to have a son, and was in her sixth month of pregnancy. Have you ever wondered why God had Gabriel tell Mary that, right then?

Where does Mary go? Straight to her cousin, Elizabeth - and she didn't live next door! God gave Mary someone who would understand, someone with whom she didn't have to struggle to explain it all, someone who understood a miracle! At Elizabeth's home, Mary had a chance to rest and reflect. She was given an older woman, who was also pregnant, to help her through her early months of pregnancy. Doesn't this tell you so much about our Lord God?

Read Mary's song, often called Mary's Magnificat. Notice the paradoxes. Notice what she says about God. What do we learn from it about God's character?

Read Zechariah's song, too. What does he say about God? Trace in the song the unfolding of God's salvation through the Old Testament to the coming of the Messiah. Does it help to clarify the unity of the Old and New Testaments for you?

If you doubt God's intimate care of you, think again. This chapter shows us that God is a God who cares about our emotions, who places us in relationships, who provides for us exactly what we need when we need it.


Father God, I thank you for this chapter. Thank you for inspiring Luke to write it so that we can see you more clearly. We praise you for your love and kindness and compassion. Help us to learn from Zechariah and Elizabeth and Mary.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mark 16 - Resurrection

by Katrina

LINK: Mark 16

The events of the crucifixion and resurrection likely happened in the spring of the year 30. All four gospels record these pivotal events but with some variation. The important events recorded in Mark are:
  • The women arrived at the tomb and found the stone rolled away, talked with the angels who were there, and discovered that Jesus was no longer dead.
  • The women reported the news to Peter and other disciples.
  • Jesus appeared to the disciples in the upper room and reproached them for not being convinced when they first heard he was alive.
  • Jesus commissioned the disciples to preach to the whole world.
The most reliable manuscripts do not contain verses 9-20, so it would be unwise to base significant teaching on these verses alone.

The resurrection is an integral part of the gospel message. When Jesus died, he provided the sacrifice that was necessary to pay the penalty for our sin. If he had stayed dead, it would have been of little use to us. But because of his resurrection, we can be justified (Rom 4:25). His resurrection proved that he was truly the Son of God (Rom 1:4). Paul says that without the resurrection, our faith is completely worthless! And without the resurrection, we are still dead in our sins (1 Cor 15:14, 17). But since Christ was raised, we who believe will also be raised (1 Cor 15:20-23), and then, finally, there will be complete victory over sin and death (1 Cor 15:54-57). Thanks be to God who gives us this victory through Jesus Christ our Lord!

Read and reflect on 1 Corinthians 15 today. (We will discuss it here in a few months.)

We rejoice, Lord, that you have power over death! We see the resurrection of Jesus and have hope for our own resurrection one day when he returns for us. Thank you for the salvation you provided to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. May we live our lives in service to you because of your great gift to us. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Mark 15 - Crucifixion

by Katrina

LINK: Mark 15

This chapter parallels Matthew 27, and you can read Carol's comments here.

Read on!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Mark 14 - I Am

by Becky

LINK: Mark 14

This is a long chapter! Please read it before reading this devotional.


This chapter covers the same events as Matthew 26, which Katrina wrote about HERE.

It is important to realize when reading the gospels that most of them don't try to arrange the events chronologically.


What a contrast we see between the woman who broke the expensive perfume on Jesus' head and the attitude of those who were indignant about it, especially Judas, who, we are told, betrayed Jesus for money. The woman was extravagant in worship and didn't consider the cost either in reputation or money when she poured out her love for Jesus. Jesus' answer doesn't mean that we shouldn't care for the poor, but reveals that His death is the center of our purpose. Notice, too, that He prophesies here that the gospel will be preached through the whole world! The core of that gospel is Jesus' death and resurrection, not caring for the poor. We should care for the poor, BECAUSE of Jesus' love for us, not because the poor (or any people) are the focus.

In verses 53 - 65 we see Jesus on trial before the high priest and Sanhedrin. There is no doubt from this text that Jesus claims to be Jehovah God. When asked if He is "the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One" (v 61), Jesus replies, "I am.... And you will see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." (v 62) Jesus refers to Himself as "I am." That is how Jehovah referred to Himself when He spoke to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:14). And it's clear from the reaction of the high priest that he understood that Jesus was referring to Himself as God. He accused Jesus of blasphemy.

I am so glad for Peter! He gives me hope. He failed utterly in this chapter. He'd thought that he would be faithful to his Master, but when it got tough he caved in. I thank the LORD that He gives us very real pictures of the imperfect people who followed Jesus. Peter's failure here didn't mean an end to his service of the Lord. In fact, I believe that the failure was used for good in Peter. He came face to face with his own weakness and need to rely on the Holy Spirit. Paul spoke to this in 2 Cor. 12: 7 - 10: "When I am weak then am I strong."


Do you sometimes doubt that Jesus is Jehovah God? Reread this passage carefully.

It's easy to let our focus slip off of the Lord and doing things for His sake to doing things for the sake of people. Why do you do what you do? Who do you focus on in ministry?

Do you feel like a failure? Have you failed? If either is true, thank the Lord for that. It is only when we know we are weak that we truly rely on Him.


Open our hearts' eyes and ears so that we may read and learn and apply what each of us truly needs. There is so much in this passage, LORD! Thank you for what Jesus endured for us. We haven't even gotten to His death and resurrection and already we see how often He was betrayed and forsaken for us.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Mark 10 - Service without Ambition

by Katrina

LINK: Mark 10

The first three sections of this chapter (vs 1-31), on marriage/divorce, children, and wealth,  parallel Matthew 19, and you can read the discussion HERE.

Verses 32-34
For the third time (see Mark 8:31 & 9:31 for the first two), Jesus told his disciples of his coming death and resurrection. But they still don't quite get it. They still expect Jesus to overthrow the government and set up an earthly kingdom.

Verses 35-45
Parallel passage in Matthew discussed here. James and John asked Jesus for the places of top honor in his kingdom. When the other disciples heard about it, they were indignant. How dare they put themselves forward that way! Jesus pointed out to them all that they should not wish to have positions of authority so they can become great in the eyes of man and have power over others. He put himself forward as an example to them. Jesus came to serve, not to put himself in a place of domination over others. He would give up everything for the sake of others. And he would expect the same from them.

Verses 46-52
Jesus healed a blind man named Bartimaeus who cried out to him for mercy.

We need to keep in mind our role as a servant and not seek recognition, power, authority, or reward in our service to God. This is a good reminder to examine our hearts and check our motives. We need to be careful not to seek to be elevated above others. Let us follow the example of Jesus. He gave up everything to benefit others!

Lord, teach us to take our eyes off of ourselves and fix them on serving Jesus. Amen.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Mark 8 - Miracles and Mission

by Katrina

LINK: Mark 8

The chapter starts off with the feeding of the 4000. Though people often confuse them or combine them into one event, this is a different event from the feeding of the 5000. While the 5000 were primarily Jews, the 4000 were in a Gentile area, so it would have been mostly Gentiles who experienced this miracle of Jesus. After the 4000 had eaten, there were seven large baskets of food left over. This basket is one that's large enough for a man to fit in. In fact, a basket like this was used to lower Paul down over the city wall of Damascus (Acts 9:25). Now that's a lot of leftovers!

Then the Pharisees asked Jesus for a special sign from heaven. They weren't satisfied with all the  miracles they had seen, they wanted something like fire or lightning to strike at his command. Jesus knew their hearts were hard and refused to do a demonstration that they wouldn't believe anyway.

Jesus warned the disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. Leaven represents sin, and Jesus was referring to the hypocritical teaching of the religious leaders. We would do well to beware of hypocrisy today as well.

The disciples were concerned that they hadn't brought enough bread with them on the boat, since they had only one loaf. Jesus "scolded" them and reminded them that he had recently provided bread for a crowd of 5000+ and then another crowd of 4000. Did they seriously need to be concerned about having enough food?

Then, at Bethsaida, a blind man was brought to him for healing. For some reason -- we don't really know why -- Jesus chose to heal him in stages. He did completely restore the man's vision and sent him on his way.

As Jesus walked with his disciples, he asked them what the popular opinion was of himself. There were many views on who Jesus was -- John, Elijah, another prophet. "But who do you say that I am?" he asked the disciples. Peter spoke up and declared him to be the Christ.

Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would soon suffer in the hands of the religious leaders and be killed. But he would rise again after three days. This was his mission. He had come to earth to die. This was not the news the disciples were expecting. They wanted Jesus to usher in his political kingdom and overthrow Rome. Peter took him aside to question the plan. Jesus rebuked Peter as following Satan's plans rather than God's interests. That was a very strong rebuke! Apparently, Satan was using Peter to try to persuade Jesus to avoid the cross.

Jesus told all who followed him at that time that they must choose whether they would truly follow him. It would cost them everything to be his disciple. They would have their own crosses to carry, but in the end, it would be worth it. The salvation of their souls would be more valuable than owning the entire world, for it's the soul that continues on through eternity. The riches of this world are temporary. The eternal state of the soul is of much more importance!

Jesus was warning his followers that it could cost them their lives to follow him. And for many of them, it did cost them their lives. Where I sit today, this isn't a very real threat, but there are many places around the world today where this is very true. (And there's no guarantee it won't be true for me at some point.) Although I don't risk death by being a believer, in our society it's a social risk to speak the name of Jesus boldly. I must learn not to fear man's ridicule or be ashamed of Jesus and his words. My eternal life is so much more important than anything that could happen to me on this earth!

Lord, you are the true source of life. May I lose my life entirely to you and learn to trust you with it. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Mark 7 - Pride or Humility?

by Becky

LINK: Mark 7


The Pharisees, a powerful sect of the Jews, are upset because Jesus' disciples didn't wash their hands in the way that oral tradition prescribed. It isn't that the disciples were dirty or unhygienic. It is that they didn't practice what the Pharisees taught. The Pharisees had come up with many rituals; rituals not given by God, but invented by man. The disciples weren't following the prescribed washing rituals.

So the Pharisees ask Jesus about that. Jesus' forceful response indicates that the Pharisees don't really want to know why, but that they are criticizing and finding fault.

Jesus' answer makes clear what matters. He quotes from Isaiah, a prophet they revere, to point out their hypocrisy. Jesus even says that Isaiah was prophesying about them! The Pharisees are neglecting to do what God says, and instead are focusing on keeping the extraneous traditions that men had invented. The focus of their hearts has shifted from God to man. Jesus points out to them (and to us!) that it is what comes out of us that defiles us, not what is outside us. It's all about motive.

Two miracles complete this chapter. We see the great faith of a woman who is not a Jew, and who wants Jesus to heal her daughter. I can't help but contrast her attitude with that of the Pharisees. The chapter closes with the healing of the deaf man, something that causes great amazement among the Jews.


This is a convicting and powerful portion of Scripture. Jesus lambastes the Pharisees, calling them hypocrites. Why? They claim to love God and follow Him, and in fact, they made up extra rules for following God which they have kept scrupulously. They keep the ones they made up better than the ones God gave! They forget that it isn't what is outside us that makes us sinners, but what is inside, in our hearts, and is revealed through our actions and words. They are hypocrites because they claim to love God when they don't. They are hypocrites because they care more for outward appearance than inner truth.

Look at the difference between the Pharisees and the Syrophoenecian woman who heard about Jesus and came to Him (vv 24-30). The Pharisees were all about what others thought of them. They thought they could gain favor with God by adding more external rules. They thought they were pretty good, because they were able to live by those doctrines they made up. In doing so, however, they neglected to focus on what God said was important. They weren't doing what they did because they loved God - their hearts were far from Him. They didn't really think that they had a need. They were doing what they did because they wanted to look good.

The Gentile woman comes to Jesus and asks Him to cast a demon from her daughter. She comes and falls at Jesus' feet when she asks. And she keeps asking - persistently. Jesus at first responds to her by saying that the "children" (meaning the Jews) should be satisfied first - that it wasn't good to take the children's bread and throw it to the dogs (comparing her to the dog). She responds, not angrily, but with humility. "Yes, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children's crumbs!" She knew her need. Her words reveal her heart. She doesn't care what anyone thinks of her - she has a need and she knows it and she is focused on Jesus. Jesus hears her and heals her daughter.

Can you imagine what a person full of pride (like a Pharisee) would have answered? Hypocrisy would take offense: "How could He speak to me that way? I deserve better than that!" I am wondering how I would have responded myself. Would I have been offended by Jesus' words? Would I have gone off in a huff because Jesus compared me to a dog?


We frequently think of the Pharisees as legalists (which they were) and forget that the root that Jesus dug at was pride. Pride reveals itself in all sorts of ways, though. Anytime I am more focused on what man thinks of me, on how I look to others, on myself, than I am on humbly seeking the LORD, then I am exhibiting pride.

It is not the externals that defile us. Look at the list that Jesus gave: "evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness." All those things come from within us - from our hearts.

The Pharisees, in their pride and self-deceit, were fools. The Gentile woman, persistently seeking Jesus in humility, was wise.

I hope you will take time, with me, to examine your own heart and life in the light of this passage. Do you care more what others think of you than you do your need of the LORD Jesus? Do you think that you bring something of value to Him? Think again.


Help us to love you from our hearts, LORD. Keep us from the deceit of pleasing other people rather than you. Keep us from the self-deceit that we can can please you without yielding our hearts. Help us to come to you in humility, like the Gentile woman in this chapter - not caring how we look or what people might say about us.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Mark 2 - Authority of Jesus

by Katrina

LINK: Mark 2
parallel passages:
Mark 2:1-22 ~ Matthew 9:1-17 ~ Luke 5:17-39
Mark 2:23-28 ~ Matthew 12:1-8 ~ Luke 6:1-5

In this chapter, Mark continues to demonstrate Jesus' power and authority.

authority to forgive sin ~ 2:1-12
Jesus not only healed the paralyzed man, but also forgave his sins. This paralytic was very fortunate to have friends who would bring him to Jesus. These friends weren't easily deterred either. When they couldn't get in the door, they took apart part of the roof and lowered him down that way.

authority over tax-collectors and sinners ~ 2:13-20
Jesus called Levi the son of Alpheus to follow him. Levi is also called Matthew (author of the book of Matthew) and was a Jewish tax-collector for the Romans. The Jewish leaders considered other Jews who collected taxes for the Roman government to be traitors. When Jesus said, "follow me" to Matthew, he got up and followed him. Jesus and his disciples were eating dinner with a houseful of tax-collectors and "sinners" when the religious leaders complained that Jesus socialized with such "low life" people and that Jesus and his disciples were not religious enough.

authority to change religion ~ 2:21-22
Jesus told the scribes and Pharisees that his message did not fit their old way of doing things. He was going to change "religion" as they knew it, and his round peg would never fit into their square hole.

authority over the Sabbath ~ 2:23-28
The Pharisees had added restrictions to the Sabbath beyond what God had required in the Law. They nit-picked the Law to death, and one of their pet topics was the Sabbath. The disciples weren't actually doing anything against the Law when they picked the grain on the Sabbath. He made it very clear that he had authority over the Sabbath.

The religious leaders of the day had everything down to a system. They were all about keeping the system. They knew nothing of a relationship with the holy God; they only knew of keeping a list of rules and regulations and thought that keeping the rules was what God required. They viewed anyone who didn't keep all their rules with condemnation. Jesus called their ways "old garments" and "old wineskins." He brought a message of grace and forgiveness, introducing something "new." His message would never fit into their system.

Many believers who have a church background in life get caught up in the "rules" of the church and never really experience the grace of God. We often think we're doing what God requires, when we're really following man's rules. We need to make sure our focus isn't on rules and regulations, but on Jesus. The author of Hebrews put it this way, "let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith" (Heb 12:1-2).

Lord, help us to fix our eyes on you and run the race that you have set for us to run. Thank you for bringing to us salvation from the sin that gets us tangled up and the from things that weigh us down. May we seek to serve you, not anyone's system. In the name of Jesus, who provided it all for us, amen.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mark 1 - Off and Running

by Katrina

LINK: Mark 1
parallel passages:

Matthew 3-4
Luke 3, 4, 5:1-16

Mark was the son of Mary, a wealthy woman of Jerusalem. He was a close friend (and possibly a convert) of Peter. He likely received most of his information for this book from Peter. Mark accompanied Paul and Barnabas (Mark's cousin) on the first missionary journey, but did not complete the trip. Because he had "bailed out" on the first trip, Paul refused to take him on the second trip. But Barnabas traveled to Cyprus instead and took John Mark along with him. About twelve years later, Mark had once again joined Paul in ministry. And when Paul was in prison, he sent for him, because "he is useful to me for service."

Mark wrote this message to the Gentiles, specifically the Romans. Because he had a different audience than Matthew, you will notice several differences in his account. Mark did not spend any time on genealogies which would mean nothing to Gentiles. He was not trying to present Jesus as the promised Messiah like Matthew was. He was presenting the Son of God to his readers. Mark's audience wasn't primarily Jewish, so he includes only a few Old Testament passages. Mark's account is one full of action with not as much time spent on the teaching of Jesus. He frequently uses the word "immediately," and uses very descriptive language. He also frequently records emotions such as astonishment, laughter, "lonely places," compassion, suffering, indignation, etc. His message was that Jesus was compassionate, ministered to those who were suffering, and died for the sins of the world.

Mark begins his account with a brief summary of events that led up to Jesus' ministry -- a proclamation from Isaiah, John's baptism of repentance, Jesus' baptism by John, his temptation by Satan in the wilderness, his announcement that the "kingdom of God is at hand," and the calling of his disciples.

Then Mark jumps right into demonstrating that Jesus was the Son of God by describing a number of his miracles. These continue into chapter three. Jesus demonstrated power over demons and disease in this chapter.

This chapter is action-packed. Did you notice how many times Mark said "immediately"? He really keeps things moving in his account. Tucked away in the middle of all the activities is verse 35. Did you catch it? Jesus got up early one morning, while it was still dark, and went to a lonely place to pray. Then, when the disciples found him, he went right back to preaching, traveling, healing, and casting out demons.

How much more do we need to take breaks from our daily lives and ministry to spend time with the Lord in prayer. Carve out some time today and throughout this week to do just that. Maybe you'll need to get up early in the morning before the rest of your household rises. Maybe there's another time of day when you can come away from the busyness of the day and pray. Find a "lonely place" and meet God there.

Lord, may we learn to "come away" and meet you in prayer regularly and frequently. Thank you for making yourself accessible to us and for communicating with us. May we not take it for granted. Amen.