March 12, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 2

The Pharisees. Enough said, right?

I’m glad they were around; they made for fantastic illustrations in Jesus’ sermons.

They seemed to get in Jesus’ way more than anyone else. They were misguided, prideful, “religious zealots”. Religious, but not with the true religion James speaks of. Just religious. They were puffed-up, holier-than-thou, annoying, argumentative, stone-hearted… “religious”.

Then there’s Jesus. True religion personified: sick-healing, awe-inspiring, loving, gracious, wise, merciful – what real “religion” ought to be. And really, what the Pharisees were supposed to be.

The truth is, we’re probably more like them than we are like Jesus in the way we carry out our lives. We’re often standing in the way of God’s mission and purposes because of arrogant, sinful hearts. Seeing the Pharisees in this chapter serves as a reminder to all of us as to what not to become.

In this chapter, Jesus affirms His divine attributes in 3 ways:

1) His Divine Power (v.1-12)
2) His Divine Mission (v.13-17)
3) His Divine Lordship (v.18-28)

His divine power was exercised not only in the healing of the sick, but also in His ability to pronounce sins as forgiven. Neither the Pharisees nor the rest of the Jews had seen anything like this before. The prophets and fathers could intercede on Israel’s behalf, but none of them had the power to actually forgive sins. This was as much a declaration of Christ’s deity as anything else in His ministry.

His divine mission was seen in the calling of Levi (Matthew). Jesus came to make disciples not just religious followers. He sat with sinners and tax collectors because, after all, He came for the sick, not the healthy. His mission would ultimately be fulfilled in His death on the cross when He paid the price for dirty sinners like us.

His divine lordship was displayed in his authority over the Sabbath. Remember who instituted the Sabbath? God did in the very beginning of the Bible. Who could proclaim authority over the Sabbath? Only the Lord of Heaven and Earth, the Word of God who was God and was with God in the beginning. He is The Beginning.

Food for thought:
1) How have you seen Christ’s divine power in your life?
2) How are you living out Christ’s mission?
3) Are you submitting to Christ’s lordship right now in ALL areas of your life?
4) What are some key ways to avoid Pharisaism?

Posted by: Todd Thomas

March 11, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 1:21-45

In the words of April Pilcher, “A lil’ overview of Mark 1:21-45 to get your morning started. This is so fresh it could replace your morning cup of coffee.”

Mark 1:21-28……..Jesus drives out an evil spirit!
Mark 1:29-34……..Jesus heals many who are sick!
Mark 1:35-39……..Jesus prays and prepares to preach!
Mark 1:39-45……..Jesus heals a man with leprosy!

Now think of the following:

Miracle leading to deliverance from…
1) Healing from an evil spirit—the filth of sin
2) Healing of Simon’s mother-in-law—the restlessness of sin
3) Healing of a leper—the loathsomeness of sin

Jesus’ miraculous healing power shows His ability to set men and woman free from the bondage of sin and displays His amazing love for those who were considered to be despicable.

A few lessons to learn from our friends with demons and leprosy:

Demon dude:
1) Jesus’ ministry caused an outburst of demonic activity.
2) Jesus’ power over the demons foreshadows His eventual triumph over our enemy, Satan.
3) Wherever God is at work, Satan will be opposing it. All who serve the Lord can expect the enemy’s opposition (1 Peter 5:8).

Leper’s prayer:
1) Earnest and desperate (“imploring Him”)
2) Reverent (“kneeling down to Him”)
3) Humble and submissive (“if you are willing”)
4) Believing (“You can”)
5) Acknowledged need (“make me clean”)
6) Specific (“make me clean”)
7) Personal (“make me clean”)
8.) Brief (five words in the original)

Because of this prayer, Jesus had compassion on the leper!

Questions for Reflection:

1) What kind of people do I hang out with? Are they the same type of people Jesus would hang out with or are they people that I just get along best with – people that talk like me, think like me, act like me? Do I spend time with people who have major needs – like the need of a Savior? This passage was convicting to me because I found myself thinking about who I spend my time with and if I truly have the same compassion my Savior does for people.

2) Do I pray like the leper?

3) Do I love people the way Christ loved people? Do I love people where they are at without judging or condemning them for the purpose of showing them the compassion Christ? Am I scared to make friends with people who have no desire for Jesus (in hopes of showing them the love of Jesus)?

Thank goodness I have a Savior who showed compassion to a person who made baseball an idol, who valued a social life above a relationship with Jesus, who was rebellious against his parents, who valued the praise of man rather than the praise of God, who played the “church game” for the majority of his teenage years, and who made decisions based on what he wanted rather than God’s Word (a.k.a. me)!

Posted by: Zach Monroe

March 10, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 1:1-20

Why was I created?

If you’re like me, you have asked this question a million times over the span of your life. Often, if I am honest, that question is not one alluding to a higher purpose but rather one of selfish intent. I want to be someone special; I want to make my mark on this world and leave a legacy. Without the right perspective on this question, most of us will destroy our lives looking for the answer.

In today’s reading, we see someone who had a purpose. John the Baptist was the guy who paved the way for Jesus’ ministry; his purpose was known before he was even born (Mark 1:2, which references Isaiah 40:3). When I read about John the Baptist, I want to be like him. He was wild, wore camel hair and ate locusts and honey. I mean, this guy was a man’s man! Not only that, but he had so many followers that he was a kind of rock star of his time.

John was touted by Christ as being the greatest man ever born (Matthew 11:11), not because of John’s accomplishments but because of his humility (Mark 1:7). John knew that he was not even worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals. In other words, John is saying, “I am just a man. My whole life’s purpose is to prepare the way for the Messiah and give glory to God”. It was never about him.

The truth is that none of us were created to bring glory to ourselves, so if we are looking to make our mark on this world for our own glory, we need to repent. We were created to worship and bring glory to God. With that said, some of us will be businessmen, teachers, doctors, lawyers, pastors, missionaries, etc. In whatever we do, our sole purpose is to follow and glorify God.

So, how do we respond? Our answer is found in Mark 16-18. When Jesus calls Simon and Andrew, He makes the call very simple: “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men”. Their response is one of obedience and humility: “They left their nets and followed him”. When you are called by Christ, your response should be to let go of everything and follow Him!

Unfortunately, we don’t always do this. Most of us would like to go back and “pick up our nets”, and some who are reading this have gone back to “the nets” rather than obey God immediately. For some of us, the Christian walk has become more about our own needs rather than following Christ with reckless abandon. There may even be some who are reading this that have never really left the boat. You may have slapped a fish symbol on it and put on a W.W.J.D. bracelet, but you’ve never actually made a decision to follow Jesus as Lord and Savior.

Reflection:
• Where do you find your purpose? Glorifying God or glorifying yourself?
• Is God Lord of your life or are you?
• Is the legacy you’re leaving all about you or are you making the way for the next generation of believers?

Posted by: Chad Wiles

March 9, 2011

Today you should read: Genesis 49:1 – 50:24

God’s purpose: to bring life

Wow! What a ride it has been through the book of Genesis! But we are not done yet; these last two chapters (49 and 50) are absolutely staggering! There is so much to see here.

We start off by seeing the blessings of Jacob for his sons, blessings that would be carried on through their legacy. It is interesting to note that much of the future blessing of each son is seemingly based on his character up to that point; surely there are some life principles there!

Most of the author’s attention in this passage falls on Judah and Joseph. Judah is referred to as “the lion’s cub”, and this is fitting because the tribe of Judah would bring forth David, Solomon, and the One who is called the “Lion of the Tribe of Judah”. Can you guess who that is? It is our mighty Savior, Jesus Christ!
From there, we see the powerful legacy that Jacob left and what a godly leader he was! A huge gathering of followers accompanied his body as it is taken to be buried; he was greatly respected.

At the end of chapter 50, Joseph’s brothers doubt the genuineness of his forgiveness, but Joseph reassures them, and in verse 20, we read the famous statement regarding God’s sovereignty: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today”. This verse is what I want to highlight today.

Today’s “Walk-Away”:

Jacob’s sons’ previous actions—out of personal bitterness toward Joseph—had been used by God to save lives. This includes the life of the Israelites, the Egyptians and all the nations that came to Egypt to buy food during the famine. Maybe Joseph couldn’t see it at first, but through all the difficulties, God showed that his purpose for the nations is life, and that purpose would be affected through the descendants of Abraham.

What is our application here? Trust God. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

So here it is…
Whatever is going on in your life, whatever your situation is—even if it hurts, even it seems unfair, even if you don’t understand, even if it is scary—remember that God’s purpose is to bring life. He has good intentions for you: to bring life to you, to your family, to your friends. Someone once said, “If you can’t see God’s hand, trust God’s heart”. Know that His purpose in your situation is to bring life. The most wonderful example of this is the life He brought to the world through Jesus Christ.

Posted by: (Sam Cirrincione)