September 6, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 9:1-29

“Look James! It’s Moses and Elijah!” said John.

“Wow!” exclaimed James. “What should we do, Peter?”

“Quick! Let’s build some tents for them! They’ll really like that.” Peter replied.

Even the sharpest of the disciples had no idea what to do here. The transfiguration of Jesus and the appearance of two incredible heroes of the faith – Elijah and Moses – had them utterly befuddled. Building tents for angelic beings? Probably not the best move, although they did get the show of a lifetime.

Up until this point, the disciples still didn’t quite understand the purpose and plan of the Messiah. They, like most of the Jews, expected a major political king (which will be the case after the second coming), yet they missed the point of Isaiah 53’s Suffering Servant. This is why verse 10 tells us that they did not comprehend the words of Jesus when he spoke of “rising from the dead.” But they would learn this all too well in a short period of time.

Mark then moves on to describe the healing of a demon-possessed boy. The account explains that the disciples were called upon to cast out the demon but were unable to do so. In verse 19, Jesus calls out the people for their lack of faith. But who is He referring to -the disciples or the townspeople? I believe the answer is both. Why?

First, Jesus addresses the father of the boy. He rebukes him for lacking belief, which the father admits to, and asks Jesus to help his faith (v.21-25). Secondly, Jesus subtly gives His disciples a faith check by telling them that they couldn’t cast out this demon without prayer (v.29). In other words, had they had the faith and the appropriate mentality, they could have done it. Prayer is the faith-excersizing vehicle that strengthens believers. It’s the acknowledgment that God is all-powerful, capable, and strong and that we humans are weak and impotent. They needed prayer. They needed faith.

Food for thought:
1) Can you identify with the disciples in either of these stories?
2) Is your prayer life vigorous and intense? Or is it anemic and frail?
3) What “demons” are lingering in your life because of a lack of faith and prayer?

Posted by: Todd Thomas — Worship & College Pastor


September 5, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 8:27-38

Why don’t we take more risks concerning God?
Let’s admit it, We don’t feel that following Jesus is sometimes worth the risk or danger.
We’re afraid of the danger or loss because we want:
a. To feel Safe.
b. To be Protected.
c. To feel Comfortable.

“Will a wise and loving person, then, ever take a risk? Is it wise to expose yourself to loss? Is it loving to endanger others? Is taking risks unwise and unloving? Maybe. But maybe not. What if the circumstances are such that not taking a risk will result in loss and injury? It may not be wise to play it safe. And what if a successful risk would bring great benefit to many people and its failure would bring harm only to yourself? It may
not be loving to chose the comfort of security when something great may be achieved for the cause of God and for the good of others.” -John Piper

However, if you’ve truly received Christ into your heart and life as your Lord and Savior, you’re already taken the biggest risk of all according to Mark 8:31-38. Before expounding on this, we shall ask… “Did Jesus risk his life for us?” (Mark 8:31-33)

Jesus certainly sacrificed. He certainly suffered. He was certainly bold, unashamed & did hard things. He didn’t care about comfort, convenience & safety. But He ultimately didn’t risk anything for us. Although there was great sacrifice & loss, the gain & reward was for sure.

However our response to the Gospel message is where we take the risk. Accepting Christ is never easy, convenient or comfortable. Even if you or me share it with all of the rewards & benefits you have to mention repentance of sin and giving your life to Jesus. It’s in our response
that presents a great risk that many of you already did.

Mark 8:34-38 says we must:

1. Deny yourself- the world is not all about me anymore. What I want, what I like.
2. Take up your cross
3. Follow Jesus
4. Lose your life

In all of these passages of Scripture Jesus is pretty much asking…
Are we choosing COMFORT & CONVENIENCE or are we choosing the CROSS?

Instead of denying ourselves, many times we are justifying ourselves.

See, You must count the cost and then ask yourself, IS IT WORTH THE RISK. All of those things listed above. To give that up takes GREAT, GREAT RISK!!!

Why risk? What do you gain? What’s the reward? What do you receive?

1. Salvation (v. 35, 36)
2. Find Life
3. No shame
4. Worth

If this is true. We receive salvation/forgiveness for our sins, find true life, have no more shame, gain worth… if this is true…THEN in the end… New life in Christ is not really risk? Becoming a Christian is not risk in the end. It is at the time but it is WORTH the cost every single time if this is all true. Gaining the world is not worth your soul.

(Answer below in the comments section)
– How did you have to “count the cost” when originally receiving Christ?
– How was receiving Jesus worth the risks?
– What risks do you need to take RIGHT NOW in your life according to the missionHe has given us?

By: Erik Koliser — West Campus Pastor

September 4, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 8:1-26

When looking at large chunks of scripture, like the one before us today, it is helpful to unify our observations by answering: what do these verses teach about God? It is helpful to do this, mainly, because the Bible is a book about God, and therefore focusing on God before anything else is the way the Bible is supposed to be read! It is when we first see God clearly that we can then clearly see ourselves. The main focus of these verses is to contrast Jesus being the Messiah with the slowness and lack of belief by the disciples and Pharisees, respectively.

Jesus Messiah

The multiplication of the bread and fish in verses 1-10 give us the greatest proof of the power and authority that Jesus had. By doing this, his creating and sustaining power over all things was put on full display. Who else can feed more than 4,000 people and end with more than they began with? The only reasonable explanation for this is that its source is the power of God.

Slowness of Belief

We see the example of the disciples slowness in believing in Jesus in two main ways in this passage. First, in the discussion following the miracle that was centering on avoiding the “spiritual” leaven of the Pharisees and Herod. Instead of understanding the significance of the self centered and self reliance that spread from them, the disciples thought he was literally talking about bread. Second, the example of the man healed of blindness in verses 22-26 serve a similar purpose. It was not because of Jesus’ lack of power that he did not fully heal the man’s eye sight; it was to serve as an illustration of the disciples slow understanding of the truth of Jesus’ final purpose at the cross. But even in this slow understanding, the contrast of the Pharisee’s unbelief is differentiated.

Complete Unbelief

If the disciples can be critiqued because of their slowness of belief, and the Pharisees must be critiqued because of their total lack of belief. Their hearts were hard to the truth of who Jesus was, mainly because they were ones that were supposed to know the Law inside and out, and yet were still seeking a visible sign that Jesus was the Messiah. Of course, Jesus had already done enough to prove that, but because their expectation of what the Messiah would be, they denied that Jesus could be what they were hoping for.

Our Response

In order to have proper faith, we must properly see Jesus. In order to be quick to believe and understand Jesus, we must have a persistent focus on the Gospel and its effects, not only in our salvation but also our growth in Christ.

What did God teach you about Himself through His Word? Respond in the comments!

By: Graham Withers — Pastoral Ministry Apprentice

September 2, 2017

Today you should read: Mark 7

As you read the book of Mark, it is fair to ask, “What does this section say about being a true disciple?” After all, as I wrote in my Jumpstart on chapter 1 of Mark, this book is all about “the way of discipleship.”

Today as we open up chapter 7, we see Mark weaving two stories together to make a point; a true disciple must have a clean heart marked by humility and faith. In these stories Jesus has interactions with the Pharisees and the Syrophoenician (Si-ro-fo-knee-shun) woman. The accusation this time rests on the question asked by the Pharisees in verse 5, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”

In response to the question, Jesus slams the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and the elevation of their own tradition above the command of the Lord. Ultimately, the religion of the Pharisees was an interpretation (with many restrictions) of God’s Law. This interpretation was intended to be a hedge of protection so that a person doesn’t even come close to breaking the precepts of God; but that wasn’t the point for God giving the Law. As you know, the Pharisees found righteousness in keeping their interpretation of the Law—that is bad. The Law was intended to reveal the heart of God giving tangible examples of how people could love the Lord with all their hearts, and their neighbors as themselves (Matthew 22:36-40).  

Jesus’ concluded that what goes in a person is not what defiles (7:15), rather it is the contents of the heart. Although the Pharisee had the whole Old Testament memorized, they failed to understand the heart of God. Over and over we see in the gospels how the religious elite missed the point, now enters the Syrophoenician woman.

Jesus doesn’t exactly look like a hero in his first response to the woman, she’s begging for her child when Jesus says, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” I think it’s clear from her response that she understood this not as an insult, but as a test. Jesus wasn’t being mean, he was giving her an opportunity to display the faith he knew she had that would be recorded in the eternal pages of scripture.

Through her response we understand what Mark is doing in this passage by putting these two stories side by side. The Pharisees considered the Gentiles unclean and yet, she is the one who has the marks of a true disciple. She has faith, she has humility, and she understands that there is no other source for healing. Thus, a true disciple must have a clean heart marked by humility and faith.

As you consider this passage today, ask yourself, “is your heart marked by humility and faith, is it clean?” What is Jesus doing in your life for which you cannot keep silent (7:36)? Please share in the comments.

By: Tyler Short — Connections Ministry Associate