March 18, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 5:1-20

Have you flipped through the pages of Mark? Man, you couldn’t come up with this stuff if your life depended on it! I am reminded today of 2 Timothy 3:16 which says that all Scripture is inspired by God! John 1:1 is also an amazing passage that causes me to reflect on the power and glory of God’s written Word!

When I read this passage, my first thought was: what in the world do I write about? This story is through-the-roof insane!
And then I had another thought…
The entire Bible is God’s story of how He is redeeming the world to Himself! Let’s really think through this idea. What does redemption mean?

Redemption: The action of being saved from sin and evil in the world.

Now, let’s think about this word and apply it to the entire Bible while reflecting back on our journey through Genesis and the beginning of our study in Mark. Think of how many people God has redeemed to Himself. Remember Abraham, Noah, and Joseph, just to name a few?

Now, let’s take a look at the demon-possessed man. This dude was certifiably crazy, off-the-wall, bonkers! He was so off-his-rocker that his home was in a tomb. Can you imagine? Picture you and your friends wanting to come over for pizza and me telling you that my address is 101 Graveyard Avenue – 10th head stone on the right. Not only did he live amongst the tombs, but the guy was constantly screaming and cutting himself with sharp objects.

Has this question ever crossed your mind: did the demon-possessed man have a family? Did he have children? Did he hold down a job near Market Garden Lane? I wonder if he was an intelligent man who enjoyed the occasional Greek triathlon and maybe hung out at the local vineyard. Put yourself back into his lifetime …would you have any hope for his redemption? Would you see any light at the end of the proverbial tunnel? This man’s life was overtaken by the enemy.

And yet, once again, who do we see engaging this demoniac? Jesus, who in my opinion, is one of the baddest (meaning tough, manly, and heroic) men who ever walked the planet! I mean, let’s get really honest – how many of us would take a stroll down Tomb Drive and hang out with the neighborhood demoniac? This is truly amazing!

Throughout scripture, we see Jesus Christ redeeming those who have lost all hope, those who are at the bottom and can see no light at the end of the tunnel. For me, this passage serves as a reminder that before I met Christ there was absolutely no good in me – there was nothing in me that desired Christ. However, in His grace and love, He plucked me from the dominion of darkness and placed me in the dominion of light (Colossians 1:13). Now the rest of my life will be spent hating and fighting sin and living life to bring Him glory just as the man did when he was set free from the demons!

My prayer for you who identify yourselves as true Christ followers is that you would be like the man proclaiming all the miraculous things Christ has done in your life. The unbeliever can try to refute the Bible, but they cannot argue about what God Himself has done in your life! Be bold and be courageous! Our Dad owns the planet and everything that walks on it!

Posted by: Zach Monroe

March 17, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 4:21-41

The words “kingdom of God” send me into such a whirlwind of imagination that I can’t even wrap my head around it. My mind immediately goes to movies like Braveheart, The Lord of the Rings, and The Chronicles of Narnia. The pictures of epic battles and majestic beings surrounding the throne of our Lord Jesus Christ could literally keep me day-dreaming for weeks. However, when I read the parable of the mustard seed I become perplexed.

Why – of all the things that Christ could have compared with the kingdom of God –did He use a mustard seed? Didn’t He see The Lord of the Rings? I mean, He is eternal so I am sure He knew about it.

In context, the use of the mustard seed makes perfect sense. The parable is less about the outcome and more about the means by which God is going to bring about His kingdom. Jesus could use anything to bring Him glory but, by God’s grace, He has chosen to use the Church. Each of us is called to be a light in a dark world (v. 21-25). We are called to sow seeds of the Gospel, and to see –by His power – more added to the kingdom (v. 26-29).

So why use a mustard seed? It is the smallest of the seeds.
“He replied, ‘because you have so little faith truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.’”
Matthew 17:20

The mustard seed is a representation of our faith. If we just have faith the size of a mustard seed, God can do impossible things through us. However, if we are honest, a mustard seed may be too generous. When I think about my own faith, I immediately remember times when I hid in the shadows of a dark world. When I had an opportunity to take a stand for the Gospel, I worried about how it would reflect on me. In those instances, I may have kept my dignity, but I turned my back on my Savior. Why do we sometimes do that? One of the main reasons is fear.

So how do we stay strong and not crumble under fear? In verses 35-41, when the disciples were met by the storm and fear had overtaken them, Jesus calmed the storm. Jesus allowed the storm to take place to show that, in any circumstance, He reigns. The disciples thought that their lives were over, and the comfort of following Christ was gone in that moment, but afterwards, they walked away saying “who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!”(v. 41b)

When we face the rejection, disappointment, hurt, and persecution that will come as a result of following Christ, we must find our strength in Him. Through an obedient heart comes the kingdom of Heaven.

Reflection:
• When you face hardships for the sake of Christ, how do you react? Do you rely on Christ or rely on yourself?
• Would you say that you are a light in a dark world? If not, what is blocking it and what needs to change?
• This week, rest in the gospel and let that drive you. Do not be driven by fear.

Posted by: Chad Wiles

March 16, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 4:1 -20

Simply sow…

Today’s parable is unforgettable. Don’t miss this!
First of all, these words come directly from the lips of Jesus. Secondly, we are direct witnesses to the truth behind this parable.

Jesus describes four different types of people here. Many of us have experienced each of these kinds in our lives. We have witnessed those we care about…

1. Never receive the gospel though “seeds are being scattered”.
2. Receive the gospel with a false root or no root at all, not knowing that because of the Word (v. 17), we will face trouble and persecution. When the hard times come, they fall out; they give up Jesus for the world and for comfort.
3. Receive the gospel but are unwilling to simplify. They fail to keep their eyes fixed on Jesus while all the worries of life and the vain pursuits (the petty distractions that we make a way bigger deal of than we should) choke them out and prove unfruitful.
4. Receive the gospel, grow in their faith, produce fruit, and continue to live a consistently fruitful life.

One of these describes each of us as well as the people we care about. We have lived it and witnessed it! Can you relate? But what can we do? How can we see more people truly accept the Word and produce fruit?

Today’s “Walk-Away”:

Simply sow. That’s the answer: just sow. Sow seeds and never stop. Speak the Word, share the gospel. Do it over and over and over again, keep it on the forefront of your mind. We can’t control people’s hearts; that is up to God.

Flip ahead to Mark 4:26-29 where it states in verse 27 that, “night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how.” Wow! John MacArthur calls this “The Theology of Sleep.” We can rest assured, knowing that if we are planting, God will do the rest. Plant and go to sleep, but we must first do our job: we must plant.

Are you sowing? What seeds have you planted in the past week? The past month? The past year? Let’s be a seed-sowing church.

Posted by: Sam Cirrincione

March 15, 2011

Today you should read: Mark 3:20-35

Jesus has chosen His disciples, and His ministry is so well-known that He and His disciples can’t even go into a house to eat because so many people follow Him (v.20). But Jesus also had some opposition as we see in this passage. His family thought He was crazy, (v. 21) and the Pharisees thought He was demon-possessed, pronouncing their judgment of Him as the “prince of demons”(v.22).

Jesus then begins to define Himself and explain to them that He could not possibly be working for Satan because “a house divided against itself cannot stand”. Jesus then tells them that His work should prove He is from God because the only person who can “bind a strong man” is someone stronger. Only God could do such work against Satan.

Jesus then transitions to a very stiff and scary pronouncement of judgment – he tells the Pharisees that every sin can be forgiven except one: to “blaspheme the Holy Spirit”. This has been deemed the “unforgivable sin”.

What this means is difficult to say; many authors and theologians have tried for a long time to describe and define this “unforgivable sin.” This is a tough issue to wrestle with because when we read the entire Bible, it is very clear that the blood of Jesus is powerful enough to save us from all sins. To say there is one sin that is unforgivable seems to contradict that.

The important thing is to look at the entire Bible for an explanation because the Bible does not contradict itself. With that said, I believe the best explanation is that the “unforgivable sin” is the sin of essentially rejecting Jesus and His deity. We see some proof of this in verse 30 – Jesus was pronouncing judgment on them in response to their saying that He had an “unclean spirit” and, by default, denying His deity and rejecting Him as the Messiah. This explanation fits with the rest of the Bible and makes the most sense because we know that anyone who does not accept Jesus as God’s Son will not be saved (John 14:6).

The passage ends with another interesting encounter: Jesus’ family asks to speak to Him and He takes the opportunity to teach everyone with Him a very important lesson. He tells them that it is “those who do God’s will that are His true family.” This speaks volumes to the importance and significance of the church family in our lives. We should take care of our families and hold them up as a high priority, but we also need to have a special place in our hearts for our church family and those who are striving to follow after God.

Posted by: Robbie Byrd