Faithfulness

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What does faithfulness look like? What does loving God with all that you have look like? What does it look like not to love money? I think this scene is proof of the existence of God and the worthiness of God! Who gives like this to a theory or possibility? NO ONE!

This will be a brief reflection on an observation I see. There’s so much that we could talk about like how we would have never known her struggle if she had only one coin. She didn’t even give one and keep the other for herself. But something equally amazing is how Jesus responded to her faithfulness.

Before I point it out, let me ask you what it looks like to live and give faithfully in this temporary world? I think this scene tells us how. Take notice of what followed this encounter: And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down” (Mk. 13:1-2).


This offering given by the widow was probably a freewill offering which was for the upkeep of the temple. But Jesus replied to his disciples that not one stone will be left upon another in the coming days. Do you think this widow would have given all she had to live on for a building that was about to be ransacked? Are you upset with Jesus for not telling her? Does it bother you that the leaders of her day were devouring her…probably taking what little money she had? Will Jesus not do anything?

Such is life in this broken world! But hope for another is very evident in this woman’s life! She trusted that the Lord would take care of her…gathering in the fields of others who trusted the Lord. She had to have known that anything that needed upkeeping was temporary. Her hope was in that which is eternal. This temple was merely a copy and shadow of the heavenly Temple!

She gave all she had to a soon-to-be pile of rubble? Nah! She gave to the Lord! She loved the Lord! And it caught the eye of Jesus! What evidence of faith! What a picture of faithfulness. I want to be like her! I want to be like Jesus!


Mark 11:1-11—The Anticlimactic Arrival and Triumphal Entry

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Have you ever been watching a movie and it seems the climax is about to happen but then you look at the time and you realize there’s too much time left? Well, we have an unexpected turn of events in this Gospel story, today.  

In our text, there is an anticlimax. It’s sometimes hard to notice when you start and stop and start back again. But this story is much bigger than what Mark has written. The anticipation of the Savior began in Genesis 3 when God promised that a child would be born who would crush the head of the snake.

Ever since creation and the fall of man, creation has needed God to save us. Over many years, the Lord unfolded His plan of redemption piece by piece. We were told that this Savior would come from Abraham and then more specifically he would come from Isaac (the son of the promise) rather than Ishmael. The promise continues on to Isaac then to Jacob, not Esau. Jacob had twelve sons who become the twelve tribes of Israel.

At the end of Jacob’s life, he gathers his sons to bless them. Oddly enough, the blessing of kingship falls to Judah. I mention this because the King of Judah, the Son of David, came riding into Jerusalem in our text, this morning. Here is the blessing from Jacob.

Genesis 49:10-11   10 The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples.  11 Binding (or tied) his foal to the vine and his donkey’s colt to the choice vine

In other words, the Savior/Messiah would be a king from the tribe of Judah until rightful praise comes to him. And he would be upon a colt.

When you think of a Savior or Messiah, it must mean he will come to save you FROM something, right? As we have already said, the coming one will crush the head of satan. But is he the only enemy? Well, no. As it turns out, there are many enemies of God. Indeed, all people are God’s enemy because of sin. So, this Messiah/King will crush them too.

But how can we be saved from God’s right judgment? Well, we need a way to satisfy the justice of God toward our sin. Sin has separated us from God. We all are or were on the wrong path. But God promised to send salvation. Strangely, this Messiah King will also be a priest. Why is that good news? Because this priest offers himself as the perfect sacrifice never to be offered again. It will be sufficient and complete. So, how do we receive this offer? In other words, how do we poor, broken sinners get our sin debt paid?

That’s what the Gospel of Mark has been about. Mark 1:1-3  The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way,  3 the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,'”

Who is the Lord? Well the One that followed John was Jesus. Mark 1:14-15  14 ¶ Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God,  15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”

God’s salvation had come! Repent and believe in the good news. But what is the good news? Jesus is the good news. Salvation was standing right in front of their faces.

Jesus is precisely the answer because he is the Son of God. God himself had come to save his people; not just from their enemies but from their sins.

But how? By might? Well, yes and no. Yes, in that he will come and destroy all enemies at the end. But first, he must deal with the sin problem or everyone will remain enemies and he must meet his own demands of perfect righteousness.

But is this Jesus the promised Messiah/Savior? How will we know? The way we are supposed to know is by looking for the One promised by God’s prophets. Here’s what Jesus said in Luke 18:31   31 ¶ And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.

That means we need to see if God’s promises in the past are fulfilled in Jesus. Let us see if this event checks the box of promises made from the prophets and Jesus himself.  

Main Point: Salvation through rejection—humility before glory—the humble King goes unnoticed

Outline:

Jesus Prepares to fulfill the promises, not take it by force

King Jesus’ Royal Procession

The King Inspects the Temple

 Why is the Christ/Messiah going to Jerusalem? Three times, he has told his disciples that he must be rejected, suffer, and die. The last time, he told them it would happen in Jerusalem. And he will do it alone and he prepares the way to fulfill the promises.

Mark 11:1-3  Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples  2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it.  3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'”

As they travel down the Jericho road, they approach the city. It is about 2,400 feet above sea level. The near villages of Bethany and Bethphage on the Mount of Olives stands overlooking Jerusalem. That will be the place where Jesus will return.

But for now, the Mount of Olives will be where he stays. We know Bethany to be the home of his friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus.

Jesus takes two unidentified disciples aside. He has a task for them. He needs a colt to ride into Jerusalem. And no, it’s not because he is tired and needs a ride. This has extraordinary meaning. Let’s get some of the details before we discover its significance.

I marvel at the way Jesus sends his disciples. He equips them for the task. He gives them everything they need to accomplish what he asks them to do. You know, we can trust him to do the same for us.

He tells them which village to go to and what they are looking for. There will be a colt tied. Yes, tied like the one promised in the Gen. 49 passage I quoted earlier.

He knows that particular colt has never been ridden. There has always been a significance to an animal on which no one had ever sat. This colt has a special task in carrying a special rider.

They are told to untie it and bring it to Jesus.

Like a father preparing his son for life, he instructs them if anyone asks what they are doing they are to say this to them: Mark 11:3  The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.'”

It is very rare that Jesus calls himself Lord like he does here. John the Baptist had come to prepare the way of the Lord. He told the Pharisees that he was Lord of the Sabbath. Jesus sent the demoniac who had a legion of demons to go and tell everyone what the Lord had done for him.

The only right conclusion is to say that Jesus is Lord.

But wait a minute. God is going to ride a colt? I don’t know how I imagine the King of kings riding into the city of Jerusalem but at least something better than a donkey colt even if no one had been on it.

This is unbelievable. There seems to be no limit to his humility. He is the Son of God and Son of Man. It wasn’t enough for the Lord to take on human flesh. This Lion of the tribe of Judah is also the Lamb. All-powerful and meek.

This should cause you to love him. Power and humility usually do not go together.

Let’s take note that the disciples find everything to be just as he said. Mark 11:4-6   4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it.  5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?”  6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go.

You can trust Jesus that whatever he says will be just as he said it would be. That is very good news for those who believe. It means when the day of judgment comes, Jesus will be there to plead your case. He will tell the Judge that you trusted him. And he will pronounce the guilty may go free. You will find it to be just as he says.

Jesus did all the work. God meets all of His own demands for helpless, blind sinners.

We have seen Jesus prepare to fulfill all that was promised about him from the prophets. Now let us see this King’s royal procession into the King’s city. The Son of David comes to the city of David. Will they have a throne for him?

Mark 11:7-10   7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it.  8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields.  9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!”

This will only look significant to you when you know this was the way the prophets had promised the King would come. Notice in Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

Zechariah told them to look for their King and salvation to come like this. Why? Because God decided it would be this way and so that when others would come claiming a different way through a different person then you would know that’s not the right way.

Let me share with you how someone else came and claims salvation differently than God does through Jesus. “Mohammad entered Mecca and Jesus entered Jerusalem. Mohammad rode into Mecca on a warhorse, surrounded by 400 mounted men and 10,000 foot soldiers. Those who greeted him were absorbed into his movement; those who resisted him were vanquished, killed, or enslaved. Mohammad conquered Mecca, and took control as its new religious, political and military leader.” (Dever)

Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey [not a warhorse]. He came to die not to kill. He came to serve not to be served. He came to be rejected not accepted. He came to pay the ransom not demand a ransom.

This is utterly amazing. Some of them see this. Even formally blind Bartimaeus.

You might be wondering why those with him would lay their garments on the colt and these cloaks and branches on the ground for the foal to walk on. For those who did believe he was the Son of David…the Christ, they honored him as King. It was like the red carpet.

This was done for Jehu in 2 Kings 9:12-13  12 And they said, “That is not true; tell us now.” And he said, “Thus and so he spoke to me, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD, I anoint you king over Israel.'”  13 Then in haste every man of them took his garment and put it under him on the bare steps, and they blew the trumpet and proclaimed, “Jehu is king.”

I’m not sure how elaborate you could imagine this entrance to be but nothing you could come up with would be sufficient enough to honor the Son of God. He shouldn’t even be here! He is God! He doesn’t deserve the limitations of human flesh. He doesn’t deserve for his feet to be dusty and touching the ground. Do you get this? Do you see the insurmountable humility displayed by the Son of God?

We don’t get this. We think he’s like us. We forget or do not believe. Forgive me for thinking that the red carpet of Hollywood would not have been sufficient means for his entrance. Nothing would have.

The preparation. The royal entrance. Now the King (though unrecognized by most) inspects the Temple.

Mark 11:11   11 ¶ And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.

We will see the significance of this in the coming weeks. Just notice it is very anticlimactic. The crowds should have been enormous. The parade procession should actually never end. But it’s quiet. It’s over. It’s exactly how we needed it to end. Rejection. There were 6 verses about the plans and only 4 concerning Jesus’ entry. That says something.

I delayed making note of the praise they give. It actually comes from Psalm 118 that was read earlier. Hosanna means “Save us, we pray.” This can be your prayer, today.

The promises were for a child. A son of Abraham. A son for the tribe of Judah who would be King. That King would come into Jerusalem riding a colt, humble and righteous. But this King would not take up a throne in Jerusalem but would take up a cross then a throne. This King would not take on a golden crown but a crown of thorns, for now. This King would succeed not by force but by giving himself up to death. In doing so, he ransomed our debt so that the guilty captives could go free by simply repenting of sin and receiving the gift of salvation by faith alone.

This was the Savior/Messiah. This Priest/King offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for the payment of our release. Your release hinges on whether you have received Jesus or not. He rides in to save you every time the gospel is preached. Don’t be like those who didn’t notice their King…their salvation.

What will you do? Is Jesus your Savior/King?


Mark 10 Devotion

One of my favorite things to do is to help others learn how to read the Bible better. Not that I have it all figured out but I like to try and help. One of the most helpful things in Bible study is the use of a concordance. Yep! Why would I say that? Because the Bible is a book made up of many books that are in unity. It is a singular story written by One divine Author along with many human authors over the span of thousands of years. To follow the storyline, one must connect the dots throughout the Scriptures. One of the major ways we do that is through words. Words link the stories and it would do us well to find out which ones help us understand the larger context.

With that said, I’d like to apply that to our devotion in Mark 10, today. Without quoting the entire passage, let me isolate two verses from the Parable of the Sower to make a connection to Bartaemaus. “The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them” (Mk. 4:14-15). If you are like me, you probably concluded that seed sown along the path doesn’t have any hope. It is impossible for seed to sprout and grow in conditions like that. It is “beside the road” where the soil is packed and hard from the traffic. The soil is so hard, the seed just lays on top and the birds come along and take it away.

But why would Jesus teach us to sow seed in these places if there was no hope? Well, as I see it, every soil is impossible apart from the Lord. Salvation is a miracle performed each and every time by Jesus himself. So, we can indiscrimentily sow the gospel on every soil and trust the Lord to do what only he can do.

And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

(Mk. 4:26-29)

You also might conclude from Mark 10 that if the Rich Young Ruler cannot be saved, then who can? We should understand there is a greater difficulty that comes with the rich but we must also understand that every person or every soil is impossible but not with God! “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God” (Mk. 10:27).

It is no accident that Mark places the foretelling of Jesus’s sufferings after the story of the Rich Young Ruler and before the story of blind Bartimaeus. The cross and resurrection of Jesus changes everything! The work of Christ gives hope for sowing and it gives hope for the hard, packed soil beside the road to sprout seed!

Here’s where the word(s) connection helps us see all of this. Let me quote the passage and then try to make the connection. Keep an eye on the underlined parts.

And they came to Jericho. And as he was leaving Jericho with his disciples and a great crowd, Bartimaeus, a blind beggar, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the roadside. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” And many rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.” And they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take heart. Get up; he is calling you.” And throwing off his cloak, he sprang up and came to Jesus. And Jesus said to him, “What do you want me to do for you?” And the blind man said to him, “Rabbi, let me recover my sight.” And Jesus said to him, “Go your way; your faith has made you well.” And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him on the way.

(Mk. 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus is soil “beside the road.” The naysayers are attempting to take away the seed that most certainly had been sown. Why would Bartimaeus perk up when he heard Jesus of Nazareth was coming? He had heard! Will the birds or Satan take away the seed? Probably so if it were not for Jesus. Notice this miracle is more than a physical healing. Indeed, we can say his spiritual blindness was healed as well. Take note of what happened: “he recovered his sight and FOLLOWED him ON THE WAY!”

That seed that fell beside the road ended up on the right path! Jesus is THE way (or road or path), the truth and the life. Bartimaeus is now a follower of Christ because of the mercy and grace of Jesus! Isn’t that amazing!

I hope this will encourage you to sow word even when it appears impossible. But also, I hope you are moved to praise that God would love you like this! Praise be to his glorious grace! Soli Deo Gloria!


Mark 8 Devotion

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I am a little behind in my reading and writing. Out of chapters 7-9, if I could pick one section to write about it would be 8:34-38. I say this because I think many people will call this section extra-level Christianity or an unnecessary step if you aren’t that serious. They says this is for the pastors and missionaries. Those same people might also say that it’s perfectly okay to have Jesus as Savior but totally optional to have Jesus as Lord of their life.

If I could plead with you to think otherwise…please see this section as at the heart of the gospel. Your soul is at stake in how you understand this passage. Because Savior and Lord cannot be separated. Why do I say this? Because there is another common thought about texts like this. Some will say this is a second experience at which time they decide to make Jesus Lord. This is not a second experience! It is the only experience. With that said, let’s take a look at this passage.

Jesus calls anyone to follow him. This is a rebuttal of everything Peter wanted in his idea of a messiah. Power. Comfort. Gain. Self-preservation. Honor. Jesus the Christ explains what it means to set one’s mind on the things of God.

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone [desires to follow behind me], let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:34-38

All of the disciples are in danger of wanting what Peter tried to persuade Jesus to do. Thus, he calls them to himself. Jesus unpacks Peter’s rebuke with the opposite of what EVERYONE IN THE WORLD really wants and is coming. But gain comes through death.

Verse 34 gives us what is demanded for a disciple of Christ. To follow behind Jesus means to deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow. These are three commands defining what it means to believe in Jesus…to walk with Jesus…and to have a saving relationship with him. Peter wanted a present (but temporary) messiah/king who would free Israel from Rome and reestablish Israel’s kingdom with power, peace and comfort under the mighty hand of King Jesus. Jesus didn’t come to free them from Rome, he came to free them from their sin. All peoples and nations could then come into his new eternal Kingdom through his death and resurrection by repentance and faith.

Four reasons for the commands to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus.

Because saving your life now…in this life will lead to losing it in the end. Satan would have you die protecting your pleasures and comforts. He would have you be enamored with self-preservation and fear of what the future holds. Better to deny yourself of these brief pleasures and comforts for pleasures and comforts forever with Jesus. Better to lose your life now for the sake of Jesus and the gospel and save it in the end.

Second reason. Here’s another question for you. What if Jesus took over the world but never dealt with the sin problem? What if he gained the whole world as supreme leader with all earthly power and all earthly wealth and all honor and fame yet died without dealing with your sin? It says you will forfeit your soul. It matters that Jesus deals with the most important issue, which is our sin.

Third reason. Another question in light of the last question. What if you gained the whole world and all its wealth what could that man give in return for his soul? Only the blood of the cross of Christ can purchase a soul. The answer is nothing. That’s why we need the Messiah who is the Suffering Servant who was rejected and killed but raised that we might have hope.

Now the fourth. Denying self. Taking up your cross. And following Jesus is taking on the identity of Jesus and the shame that comes along with it in this world. And not just the person of Jesus but also his words…all of them. To be ashamed of Jesus and the gospel will result in Jesus being ashamed of you at the judgment when he come in the glory of his Father. Be shamed for Christ now and you will be with him forever in glory.

A confession that this Jesus is our Savior and Lord, bids us to come and follow the Suffering Servant. It bids us to come in behind the Suffering One BY denying ourselves and taking up his cross and continually following him. It bids us to lose our lives now for the sake of Jesus and the gospel’s and we will save it.

Repentance is the breaking of allegiances with everything in your life. You deny it all. Break fellowship with it all. It is dying to self by dying to your dreams and aspirations and living your life behind the Good Shepherd leading you to green pastures of eternal life. You forfeit your life to join Jesus in the glory of his Kingdom forever!

That’s not loss but gain! Is this the Jesus you are confessing and following? Are you following behind him? Did you sing with full knowledge and joy that line in A Mighty Fortress, “Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also, the body they may kill, God’s truth abideth still”?


On a Good Day

Again, I am so blessed to have people in my life that display what it looks like to follow hard after Jesus in such practical and humble ways. I’m glad to have my brother in Christ and friend, Shep Schaefer, share what sojourning with the Good Shephard looks like. Thank you, brother for this guest post. I hope you are encouraged as much as I was.

This is what a good day looks like.

To put it simply, on a good day, I walk with my Lord. Poorly. Feebly. Wanderingly. I’m a slow, easily distracted sheep. I fall behind. I catch up. I fall behind. But I hear my Shepherd, and I tumble after him.

To put it simply, on a good day, I talk with Jesus like a friend (John 15:15). I say, from my knees, “Good morning, Jesus. Let’s spend the day together, please.”

On a good day, I thank Him for little things. I don’t want a million dollars. I want a nail that goes in straight on the first try, and when that happens, I thank Him. Did he guide my hand? I don’t know. But he made me, fearfully and wonderfully, and He made the iron in the nail, and I’m thankful.

On a good day, I hear a voice that tells me, don’t complain that someone left dirty dishes in the sink. Rejoice that you have dishes to wash. Rejoice that you get to serve others, in a tiny, imperfect image of the way Jesus came to serve you and everyone else.

On a good day, I hear a voice before I speak, and kind words come out of my mouth, instead of grumpy, irritated words.

On a good day, sweating in the heat over some work, I feel a breeze, and I think of the Holy Spirit, the Helper. Not that I think He sent the breeze to cool me down, though maybe that’s the case. He does love me, after all, and I believe that God is in this world. I don’t believe in a Great Geometer who set things in motion and then left it all alone. So maybe He sends a breeze to make me think of Him. Maybe not. But either way, on a good day, I do think of Him. I remember that the Creator of the very universe loves me, and not in some abstract way. He knows me, and—despite that—He loves me, and I’m thankful.

On a good day, I have a hymn in my head. On a good day, the odds-and-ends happenings of life make me think of scripture. On a good day, I see a sparrow, and I think about Jesus saying that one shall not fall to the ground without the Father, and I am of more value than many sparrows (Matt 10:29-31).

On a good day, I’m a soldier for Christ. I obey orders. I do what I’m told, not out of fear, but because I want to do what I’m told, because I find deep joy in doing things His way. I want to follow Jesus, my captain. I want to be like Joshua and ask, “What saith the Lord unto his servant?” (Joshua 5:13-15)

On a good day, I am a child, humble, obedient, teachable.

On a good day, I follow my shepherd. I hear His voice, and I know it. He calls me by my name, and I hear him, and I follow.

That’s what a good day looks like.

On the other days, I’m the one in charge. I’m a grown-up, not a child. I’m the commander, the shepherd of my own life. Or at least I act like I am. I worry about the dishes and the bills, and I worry about this world as if I belong here, as if this is my home. I’m a little lily of the field, imagining that my toiling and my spinning clothe me (Matthew 6:25-35). On those days, I don’t talk to Jesus except just before meals and at bed time. Jesus is with me, as always, but I am far, far away.

Lord, Jesus, my Savior, my shepherd, my commander, let all my days be good days. Fill them with dirty dishes and bills and bent nails as you see fit, but fill my heart and my mind and all my soul with a hunger for you.


Mark 1 Reflections

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Agnus Dei means Lamb of God

 As I promised a few days ago, I have a guest post for you on some of the connection to Isaiah 40 as well as some others. This guest is very special to me. This was written by my daughter, Lydia. It encouraged me greatly when I first heard it during a conversation. I promptly asked if she would write a guest post for me. Well, here it is. I hope you are encouraged as well.

       I recently read an article entitled, “God Made You a Writer.” It brought up some really interesting points about how all Christians are writers because God is a writer. And that is true—God wrote the ultimate story of the Bible in the most intentional and purposeful way. From Genesis to Revelation, He weaves His plan and His promises in and throughout every detail, every word, and every person. The past few weeks, I’ve been really amazed by the connection between the Old Testament promises and the New Testament fulfillment of those promises that we see in Jesus.

            Since Mark 1 begins with Isaiah 40, I went there first. I noticed that a large part of the chapter was devoted to describing the greatness and holiness of God. Yet, in the same chapter, the same God who cannot allow sin to go unpunished promises this-

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned.” (verses 1-2)

Isaiah also speaks of God as a shepherd who gathers and gently carries His flock-

“He will tend his flock like a shepherd; he will gather the lambs in his arms; he will carry them in his bosom, and gently lead those that are with young.” (verse 11)

But because He is a holy God, He cannot allow our sin to be excused and still love us and dwell with us—and we were made to dwell with Him.

And yet, over and over and over He promises hope. From the beginning, He had a plan in place to save His people. Isaiah 40 asks repeatedly,

“Do you not know? Do you not hear? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?” (verse 21)

It’s as if He is saying to His people, “Have you not seen the works I have done? How I have rescued you, provided for you, and cared for you as my children? Have you not heard my promises for generations to save you? Have you not seen my faithfulness displayed?”

I want to take you back to Genesis 22 for a moment. Abraham and his son Isaac are going up the mountain to offer a sacrifice to the Lord, and Isaac asks his father, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” Abraham answers, “God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” Later on, when Abraham is about to sacrifice his son, he is stopped by the angel of the Lord—his son is pardoned. But it cannot end there.

“And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide.” (verses 7-8, 13-14)

Isaiah 40 ends with the promise that the Lord saves those who wait for Him, and I think waiting means having faith here. Waiting for His promises to be fulfilled, believing that He will do what he said He would do. Those who believed waited for a long time. Generation after generation of waiting.

I am reminded of what the Lord says to Habakkuk: “Look among the nations, and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your day that you would not believe if told.” (1:5)

And yet, in His grace, He did tell us. The Old Testament is a story where everything leads to Jesus. Piece by piece, person by person, prophecy by prophecy, the Lord spoke through the darkness a plan that would save His people forever.

Mark 1 continues- “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins… After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit…

In those days, Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (verses 4, 7-11)

This is how our iniquity can be pardoned. This is how we can dwell with God—He came to us. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel, which means, God with us.” (Matthew 1:23)

Behold, the ram caught in a thicket.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29)

Here is the long-awaited promise fulfilled, here is the eternal salvation, the permanent sacrifice, the Way that the Lord provided to give us life and freedom, if we repent and believe in Him.

Seeing all of these connections made me realize again how deep the Father’s love is for His children. I feel amazed and unworthy and thankful for His grace. His faithfulness to keep His promises and His intentionality in His Word encourages me to press on to know, love, and trust Him more, and live my life in an intentional way that reflects His grace and glory. Sometimes believing that He is good and faithful is hard, or the world feels overwhelming, and that’s when I run back to His Word, and I see again how every detail has a purpose, how He kept every promise, and how every one of my sins is covered by His grace because, and only because, of Jesus.  

All glory be to Christ.


Mark 6 Devotion

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I needed reminding of this truth before moving on to ch. 7, today. What I want to encourage you to do and know about this passage of Jesus walking on the water is this: don’t leave without Jesus. That’s right. I don’t think the disciples should have left without Jesus, but they had more things to learn, as do we all. They need Jesus and so do we. As it were during his ministry, Jesus could only be with his disciples if he were physical near them. Of course, that changes after the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. He can then send the Spirit to be with them!

Your first response might be, “Are you saying they should have disobeyed Jesus?” Well, let me answer that with a similar text and let’s see what happened when God sends him/them on without Him.

Then the LORD spoke to Moses, “Depart, go up from here, you and the people whom you have brought up from the land of Egypt, to the land of which I swore to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give it.’ “I will send an angel before you and I will drive out the Canaanite, the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Hivite and the Jebusite. “Go up to a land flowing with milk and honey; for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.”

(Exod. 33:1-3)

Notice that the LORD told Moses to go on without Him and He would send and angel ahead of them into the Land to drive out all their enemies. The LORD does not intend to go with them because they are hard-hearted people and He might have to destroy them on the way. Was Moses okay with this? Did he obey the LORD? Well, Moses goes to the tent of meeting.

Then Moses said to the LORD, “See, You say to me, ‘Bring up this people!’ But You Yourself have not let me know whom You will send with me. Moreover, You have said, ‘I have known you by name, and you have also found favor in My sight.’ “Now therefore, I pray You, if I have found favor in Your sight, let me know Your ways that I may know You, so that I may find favor in Your sight. Consider too, that this nation is Your people.” And He said, “My presence shall go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then he said to Him, “If Your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. “For how then can it be known that I have found favor in Your sight, I and Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?”

(Exod. 33:12-16)

Moses will not leave without the LORD. You can easily see why! To save some time, I’m going to assume you get what I mean and apply this to the disciples’ situation. In the passage, their hearts are hardened from the incident with the loaves in the wilderness when Jesus fed 5,000. T’hey had not learned anything from that glorious event. They were (and we are) very much like Israel while they were in the wilderness.

I think of Moses often. He seemed to be very bold with the LORD. It seemed that because of God’s favor/grace he would come boldly to the throne of grace! I think the disciples should have plead with Jesus not to send them away without him. They had The Tent of Meeting right there before them.

Jesus saw them struggling out in the middle of the sea. The wind was against them mightily. I wonder who summoned the wind? And though Jesus went to them, he intended to pass by them. Why? I think he wanted to see if they would call on him and in his grace had sent the wind and came near enough to them to be seen! Wow! That’s amazing love!

Let me plead with myself and with you…do not leave without Jesus! Pray! Go to The Tent of Meeting, the Holy Spirit dwells within you! Do not begin the day or anything without Jesus! Life is a test…everyday is a test. Prayerlessness might be a sign of hard-heartedness. Believe! See! Come boldly to the throne of grace! Don’t leave without Jesus!


Mark 5-6 Devotion

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I have long been acquainted with this man’s plight. None of us ever think we are so bad as this but when I read this story I feel like it describes me better than any other. Of course, this is a looking back on my life rather than having noticed this about myself. You probably have apprehensions whether to continue reading after hearing this and I wouldn’t blame you. I didn’t like what I saw in my past either.

I can’t describe how my life relates exactly to this poor man but I feel a deep sense of compassion for him. I would have wanted to help him through it all but I know, like myself, he needed Jesus to step into his life and perform a miracle. The sheer power of Jesus and the gospel in this story are put on display and gloriously amazing.

I was fortunate to have met a man by the name of Richard Owen Roberts. I had read one of his books on revival and was able to attend a revival that he was preaching. After the service, some of us had the opportunity to have coffee together at one of the local restaurants. I had planned only to listen. I was too nervous to say anything. But after some time of various conversations, he asked me what my story was.

I began to relate to him how I had went through repeating the prayer and being baptized about three times but by God’s grace had come to realize that I had never really repented and followed Jesus. I somehow had in my mind that the prayer (or incantation) would fix me and keep me from perishing forever. I really never wanted to follow Jesus. The best I can remember, I wanted to be saved and do whatever I wanted.

After relating my story to him, he was thrilled to hear how the Lord had saved me. And then he said something like this: “A thousand demons were overpowered when Jesus saved you.” I think he means to say that the enemy had me pretty wrapped up in myself and very confused (blinded, actually) about my identity and salvation. The god of this world did not win. God turned the Light on and darkness scattered.

When the Gerasene Demoniac encounters the Son of God and is freed from the powers of evil, the image of him…sitting…clothed…in his right mind causes me to weep. I’m so thankful he is free! I am so thankful that I am free! I’d like to meet this man someday. I think we will have many things in common.

My tears only increase as I read, for when he wants to go…be…with Jesus my heart begs for Jesus to allow him to accompany them. Yet, Jesus has something for him to do. This man has a story to tell. Christ sends him to the Decapolis to tell them how God had mercy on him. Though the people of that area asked Jesus to leave, they did not ask this man to leave. But Jesus remained there by leaving himself in this new believer.

The next time Jesus embarks on their shores things were very different.

When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

(Mk. 6:53-56)

I can’t help but think this had much to do with the witness he left in this changed man! He was a new creation! He was different, to say the least. I bet, however, that some who recognized this man as the one from the tombs were still afraid of him and would not listen to his story of the gospel. We must remember, they/we do not believe the gospel because we SEE a miracle but rather when the miracle happens to us!

Have your chain fallen off? Is your heart free? Are you following Jesus? You can be free today! SEE Jesus…repent and believe and follow! Let this be the new song of your soul!


Mark 4 Devotion

The land was created for man to inhabit but not the seas! The seas are dangerous and deadly. They are unpredictable and uncontrollable. If you venture on its waters, you knowingly subject yourself to its forces. The sea has been used for traveling but its most often use, now, is for the catch. Many have braved its surface and did not live to tell of its power.

Mark 4 ends on a storm-tossed sea. It violent winds bring fear to Jesus’s disciples. But the storm isn’t for nothing. It’s intended to reveal Jesus’s identity. Some like to spend their time trying to discover the weather pattern that caused these tumultuous waves but if you do you might miss the point.

Let’s cut right to the chase. The disciples are in dreadful fear of their lives while Jesus is asleep. They awake him and question whether he cares that they are about to perish. I can tell you, Jesus is far more concerned about your faith than your comfort. But with no effort whatsoever Jesus speaks to the waves and demands they “hush, be still.” The sea obeys his voice and becomes “perfectly calm.”

With Mark’s purpose in mind—The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. – Mark 1:1—what has Mark proved with this story? First, let’s hear the response of the disciples—And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” – Mark 4:41. You should be asking the same question.

You might conclude from this scene alone that only God, the Creator, can speak to his creation and it obeys. And you would be correct. That means you must conclude that Jesus is God. But maybe you need more evidence and I think you should have all the evidence possible to make your decision.

Let’s see if we can find another place to confirm our conclusions. Certainly it’s worth your time to read this entire psalm but take note of this section:

23 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!

Psalm 107:23-31

The LORD raised the stormy wind that these men might come to their wits’ end so that they would then call on the LORD and be delivered for the purpose of giving the LORD thanks for His steadfast love.

First, notice the LORD is sovereign over the wind and sea. He makes it toss about and He alone calms it. If Jesus does the same thing then that means he is the LORD. But you might be thinking this whole scene doesn’t appear to be steadfast love. But that’s in fact what it is.

The most loving thing God can do is to reveal Himself to you so that you can be delivered by Him. The storm resulted in their salvation. I can’t help but think that is love. And the best gift we can have is God’s love. He loves us by revealing Himself and not withholding that which is most valuable to us.

The calming of the sea in Mark 4 reveals that Jesus is in fact the Son of God. In him our fears will be calmed and our souls will be saved. The storm was a gift for us to see who Jesus is! Let us run to him to be delivered from the penalty of our sin for he really does care for us. And when he does let us give him thanks and live for his glory!

Go and explain these stories to someone, today, so that they might be delivered and give him praise!


“Lovers of Self- the Grace of God in the De- Exaltation of Man”

I’m so thankful for the gifts God’s has given me through the years to have such encouraging people around me. It is a joy to see the gifts God has given to others and to be able to share that with you all, today. This is a guest post from the student minister at FBC Fulton, Ky–Alex Robinson.

When I read it this morning, I was convicted and left with hopefulness beyond measure in the grace of the Lord. I guess spending so much time recently in the letters to the Corinthians and by the work of the Holy Spirit caused me to think of these verses after reading this post.

For the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, so that they who live might no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died and rose again on their behalf.

(2 Cor. 5:14-15)

I hope you will benefit as much as I did from this. Enjoy!

Lovers of self. Proud. Arrogant. Ungrateful. Swollen with conceit. These are just a few of the descriptions that Paul gives to Timothy (2 Tim. 3) regarding how people will be in the last days. Ouch! C.H. Spurgeon once described pride as the “first-born son of hell” and said it is indeed like its parent.[1] Have you ever been guilty of this vice? I dare say you’re a liar if you say no and at once you are guilty of the very thing you profess not to have. Our pride is the one thing we are quick to hide yet also the one thing that comes out of us so frequently in our selfish actions. It is the impulse within us to ignore the world around us and the God who created us and go our own way. I speak from experience. Oh, how often I’ve been caught in the pangs of pride and selfishness. This battle carries on each day of my life. So, I do not write as one who has mastered this grievous appetite for self-exaltation but as one who daily wages war against it.

We are self- loving creatures. This ancient foe has been crafted to pull in a great multitude of the faithful people of God and you and I better be on guard that we are not swayed by its falsehood. Many great men of God have been pulled away from the ministry by committing grievous sins, but I contend that many more have been swept away by this one. Even in our attempt at piety, we fall on the rocks of pride. We come from a long line of people who have given themselves over to pride. It starts with an angel who was not content with the glories of heaven- all because those glories were not his own. Our first parents loved themselves and believed the lie that they could “be like God” and so they sought their own glory rather than the glory of their creator. Sound familiar? Of course, it does- first because you have seen it in the word of God over and over. You’ve been warned by example and by exhortation. Yet a very close second, this sounds familiar because you have witnessed it in your own heart. We tend quickly to turn inward. Our world is of no help as it exclaims things like “listen to your heart”, “love yourself” and “take care of #1”. Our hearts are wicked and deceitful, and this is where this love of self originates.

Why do you exist? If you listen to your wicked heart, you might say, “I exist to make much of myself” although your heart is so deceitful, you’d never admit it with your words, but your actions well demonstrate it. You put yourself first many times each day. You think of yourself more than you think of God and others. You even carry out religious acts with prideful, selfish motives undergirding those acts. You love yourself. You’re proud. You’re arrogant. You’re ungrateful. You’re swollen with conceit. What is the consequence for this kind of living? Destruction. Proverbs 16:18 reminds us that “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Is that not what happened to Adam and Eve in the garden? Now we refer to their prideful sinning as the Fall of man.

How can we be rescued of this great evil that seeks to destroy us? How can we turn from thinking we exist for ourselves and behold the true reason for our existence? The grace of God is the answer. This is our great need in our lowly condition. This grace and mercy of our God that comes to us in Christ Jesus is what we need. Our God bids us to cry out to Him. He calls us to feel ourselves lost, ruined and undone. To feel and sing “nothing in my hands I bring, simply to thy cross I cling.” To realize our helpless estate and be deceived by our pride no longer. That we are creatures made from the dirt and we deserve nothing good from God for our glory- robbing. We cannot bring rescue to our wicked souls. We must see ourselves bankrupt.

So, lovers of self, this is the call to be free. To live without the constant pressure to impress. To live not for a glory that is fading but one that will outlast all of man’s glory put together. To cast yourself wholly upon the merits of Jesus Christ and realize you have none of your own. This is the gift of God, but this gift is one he gives to humble men, women, boys and girls. He says over and over again that it is the humble that he gives His grace to, but it is the proud and arrogant whom he resists. May God graciously give us the gift of self- de- exaltation and usher us into the joy that comes from living lives that exalt the only one worthy of all praise, power, honor and glory. May he give us eyes that look to the savior who left the comforts and glories of heaven and condescended to meet us in flesh on this sin- torn earth. He made his estate with lowly sinners and died that they may be set free from lives wasted on their own fleeting glory. Now though, he is exalted in the heavens as the one who will be gloried in for all eternity.  By His grace, may he bring us from where we esteemed him not to where we humbly bow before his glorious throne. Whether we bow now or not, we will bow on that day when every knee should bow and tongue confess that He is Lord- to the Glory of God. With our words (tongue) and with our actions (knee) we will one day finally be humbled. Fellow sinner, I bid you to be humbled today under the mighty hand of God, whatever it takes, so that you will on that day rejoice and worship in your de exaltation and his eternal exaltation!


[1] C. H. Spurgeon, “Pride and Humility,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 2 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1856), 346.