September 27 – Demonic Plot – Animosity Over His Divinity

Read John 5:1-18

God’s divine plan for rescuing people from the devastating effects of sin was executed in the sending of His Son (Jn. 3:16). His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead were to provide the means by which believers could be reconciled to the Father. But God’s plan included more than just means. Repeatedly in the gospel of John, Jesus spoke of His “time” or “hour.” You see, the Father had both a specific method and time for the accomplishment of His plan.

Satan’s demonic plot, on the other hand, was the destruction of the Son of God. He was committed to eliminating Jesus. And He sought to use people to bring that to pass.

In today’s reading, John refers to the opponents of Jesus with the generic reference of “Jews.” They were already up in arms about the fact that he did good on the Sabbath. In their narrow way of thinking, His healing of men and women on that sacred day broke the fourth of the Ten Commandments.

“Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work,  but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Ex. 20:8-10a)

On this particular Sabbath, their inner alarms sounded as they saw a man carrying a mat and then learned that Jesus had healed the man that very day. This led to the confrontation and persecution of Jesus (v. 16).

But as they began to speak to Jesus, there was another alarm that sounded. This one was louder yet. This one seemed to point to a violation that was even more severe. In their conversation, Jesus spoke of God with an intimacy that betrayed not only His relationship to the Creator but also His own identity.

“My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working,” He said (v. 17).

He called God His own Father. He was saying that He was equal with God. In their minds, this raised the stakes. Not only was Jesus to be persecuted; He was to be killed (v. 18).

Though “the Jews” sought to kill Him for His claim, don’t lose sight of the fact that it is the divinity of Jesus that places Him in a position to help you in your deepest need!

Steve Kern

September 25 – Demonic Plot – Plot Powwow

Read Mark 3:1-6

It is not clear how many powwows like this must have taken place.  Perhaps dozens?  They were groups of people huddled together behind closed doors or perhaps in some public but out of the way place.  Their voices were probably low and quiet.  Occasionally someone in the group would look nervously over his/her shoulder, wanting to ensure that no one was coming or at least overhearing them.  Instead of planning a surprise birthday party for a mutual friend, those gathered discussed a demonic, diabolical plot.  They battled with the question, “How can we get rid of Jesus?”

Mark 3:7 describes one of the first of these powwows.  Those gathered were not the ones you might predict.

Oh, we might expect the Pharisees by themselves.  In their snooty, rule-oriented approach to Judaism, they seemed to find reason to object to just about everything that Jesus did.  Forgive sin?  Blasphemy (Mk. 2:1-12)!  Heal on the Sabbath?  Unthinkable (Mk. 3:1-6)!  Not instruct His disciples to wash their hands ceremonially before eating?  How dare He (Matt. 15:1-3)!

And, we might expect opposition from the Herodians.  Not a religious group, they were actually a political party that had been influenced by and become followers of Herod.  Their hatred of the Christ had been fueled by the founding father of their party.  Remember Herod the Great?  We read about him yesterday in Matthew 2.  He hated the thought of a rival king and sought to kill Jesus as an infant!  Like their founding father, those of the party that still bore his name held the same hatred for Jesus.

While it is true that the animosity of either one of these groups is no big surprise, it is their collaboration that is unpredictable.  These two had little in common.  In fact, the Herodians opposed the Pharisees on virtually every issue.  But remember Satan’s demonic plot?  His objective was to thwart the work of Jesus.  Somehow, he must have orchestrated this brainstorming powwow that had the destruction of the Son of God as its primary objective.

This is yet another step towards the cosmic showdown that would take place at the cross!

Steve Kern

September 12 – Names of Jesus – Prophet

Read Mark 6:1-6

Jesus showed up in his hometown with his 12 best friends. He began to teach. His authority was from God, not other humans.

He was a hit, impressing practically everyone. “We had no idea he was this good!” they said. “How did he get so wise all of a sudden, get such ability?”

But in the next breath they were finding fault with him: “He’s just a carpenter—Mary’s boy. We’ve known him since he was a kid. We know his brothers, James, Justus, Jude, and Simon, and his sisters. Who does he think he is?”

(Mark 6:1-3 MSG).

Even after all the miracles of healing which Jesus worked, he still was not accepted even in his own town. As he taught in the synagogue there the audience was amazed how this ordinary man, whom they knew as a carpenter could attain such wisdom. They rejected him.

Why? Perhaps they did not know what he had done. Perhaps they were jealous. But they did not welcome him even though he was a prophet and the Son of God. At a later time he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred and asked, “Who is this?” The crowds answered, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth.”

A prophet is a spokesman for God (Exodus 7:1 and John 4:19). The teachings of Jesus apply to us today:

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”.   Mark 10:45 NIV

(Jesus was a servant)

“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6. (Jesus is the only way).

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”.  Matthew 6:33

(Our priorities are important).

“…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”.   Matthew 5:16 NIV

(Our daily attitude can positively affect others)

“… Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”. Mark 12:30

(The greatest commandment).

“Love your neighbor as yourself.” Mark 12:31.

(A great way to live).

Tom Weckesser

Questions to consider:

  • What does this name of Jesus mean to you?
  • Where did Jesus receive His authority and why is that so important?
  • Based on the shared definition of a prophet, how can you be one today? Who can you bring closer to Christ?

 

 

 

 

July 27 – His story: Man’s rescue – Alone

Read Mark 14:32-15:47

The rescue mission was lonely and painful.  Painful?  Well, we might have expected that.  But lonely?  If we look at earlier experiences in the life of Jesus, we would hardly think it possible!

Calvary by Paolo Veronese

Crowds had gathered!  His ministry had given Him what must have been like first-century “rock star status.”  Thousands of men and women had come to listen to His teaching.  People sought him out for His input…Nicodemus late at night (Jn. 3)…the Pharisees early one morning (Jn. 8).  When people got wind of His ability to heal, they flocked to Him…so much so that He asked them not to tell others.  Even those times when He tried to get away for a few minutes/hours of solitude with His Father were often interrupted by a need…a request.  Seemingly, time alone was hard to come by and loneliness was not a problem.

Until that night.

As He prayed in Gethsemane, He took three disciples…the ones to whom He was closest…with Him.  With them, He shared His heart.  But they fell asleep and so He prayed…alone.

After His betrayal in the garden, soldiers carted Him off to a kangaroo court and middle of the night trials.  But He went alone.  Well, that is not completely true.  One nameless man followed at a distance.  As people grabbed him by his outer garment, he ran off naked!  And then there was Peter, the most outspoken disciple who promised to even go with Christ to death.  He cryptically followed Jesus.  But standing by the fire, with the heat of interrogation turned up, he denied Christ and fled, leaving Jesus like a lone lamb among the wolves of His opponents.

Even on the cross, Jesus cried out to His Father, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”  For those moments, the Savior of the world was alone.  Experiencing the full weight of my sin and the corresponding judgment and punishment for yours, He did what only He could do…took our place, alone.

This rescue mission was something that He alone could accomplish.  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:12)

Steve Kern

July 25 – His story: Man’s rescue – Ministry in the now and forever

Read Mark 1:14-2:12

The earthly ministry of Jesus culminated in His crucifixion and resurrection.  These were the bits of HIS story that ultimately provided for the rescue of man.  But it is interesting to note that Christ did not go directly from the manger to the cross.  Even after His baptism and temptation, He was not ushered to Golgotha.  Based on references in the Gospel accounts to Jewish feasts such as the Passover, we understand that He engaged in ministry spanning approximately 3 ½ years.

During those years, Jesus selected 12 men with whom He spent time, so that He might send them out as His ambassadors.  During those years, He validated His identity as the Son of God / Messiah in a variety of ways:

  • He healed men and women, demonstrating His compassion for people and His power over sickness and disease.
  • He exorcised demons, making clear the superiority of His kingdom over that of other powers in the unseen world.
  • He calmed seas and storms, displaying His control over the elements and weather patterns.
  • He multiplied food, exhibiting His creative skills and His desire to meet the needs of people.
  • He taught authoritatively, setting Him apart from other Jewish teachers of his day.

His ministry during those years set the stage for His cross work and helped mankind to recognize that Christianity deals not only with heaven and eternity but also with earth and now.  It addresses not only issues of sin and forever but also areas of concern for today.

As a Christ follower today, it is important for you to note that Christianity is more than a “pie in the sky by and by” portion of life.  While dealing with ultimate, eternal issues, it has dimensions that overflow into every area of life today.  In that regard, it is very holistic, addressing in some way, shape, or form the matters and worries of daily living.  To allow the supremacy of Christ to permeate every aspect of who you are, then, is critical!  To allow His word to relevantly speak to both issues of eternity and concerns for today is essential.

In what area do you need His input today?

Steve Kern

May 26 – Trip to the Holy Land – Boat Ride on the Sea of Galilee

DAY 14 – BOAT RIDE ON THE SEA OF GALILEE

Theme: Faith, hope, and love

Read Mark 6:45-56

A visit to the Sea of Galilee enables us to understand why Jesus loved this area. He called 11 of his 12 disciples from this region. Many were prosperous fishermen. It’s a serene setting.  The tranquility of the lake provides a quiet contrast to the hustle and bustle of cities like Jerusalem.

But the lake is not always calm. It has the ability to surprise even experienced fishermen. That happened on more than one occasion with the disciples of the Lord.

After a long day of ministry, Jesus sent his disciples to the other side of the lake to teach them about faith.  “The disciples were in trouble far away from land, for a strong wind had risen, and they were fighting heavy waves.  About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. In their fear, they cried out, ‘It’s a ghost!’  But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage. I am here! (Matthew 14:24-27 – NLT).  Nothing brings greater courage in the middle of the storms of life than to recognize the One who said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5 – NLT).

A few moments later, “Peter called to him, ‘Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, walking on the water.’ ‘Yes, come,’ Jesus said.

So Peter went over the side of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus!   “But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. ‘Save me, Lord!’ he shouted.  Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. ‘You have so little faith,’ Jesus said. ‘Why did you doubt me?’   When they climbed back into the boat, the wind stopped” (Matthew 14:28-32 – NLT).

Have you ever felt like you were about to “go under” for the last time in life?  It’s easy to feel hopeless in that moment.  Yet here Jesus reminded Peter and the rest of the disciples that hope comes in the trials of life when we grab the hand of the Master.

Then, after his resurrection, Jesus went back to this tranquil place and taught his disciples about love.  Three times, Jesus asked Peter, who must have doubted his own ability to answer any question following his denial of the Lord, “Do you love me?”

In these three moments, Jesus reminded us of what Paul would later write to the Corinthians:  “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Prayer of reflection:  Thank you, Jesus, that you demonstrated these three great qualities while you were on earth.  Would you develop these attributes in my life today?

Bob Fetterhoff

April 15 – Passion Week Report – Monday Cleansing of Temple

Jesus Upends Temple Tables

Read Mark 11:15-21

JERUSALEM, Monday, spring ca. 30 a.d. – For the second day in a row, Jesus of Nazareth attracted public attention in the Jerusalem area. With worshipers gathered in the temple court (Court of the Gentiles), Jesus expressed great frustration with practices within the Court.

With obvious, but controlled anger, Jesus began by driving people from the temple. His efforts seemed targeted against those both offering and engaging in the services of money exchange and dove sales. Simeon, a man helping with money exchange described what they had experienced, “He just came in citing the prophet Isaiah calling the temple a ‘house of prayer for the nations’ and calling those of us offering the services ‘robbers.’”

As He drove people from the temple, He also overturned the tables and benches used by those exchanging money and selling doves. Joseph, a man selling doves, reported, “We [money changers and dove sales people] are just there to offer a service of convenience.” The Law requires the payment of a half-shekel temple tax and the offering of the right kind of animals. Joseph continued, “For a small up-charge, we ensure that people have the right currency and the right animals.”

This event comes on the heels of the celebratory entrance of Jesus into the city. After spending the night in Bethany on the outskirts of town, He came to Jerusalem again to turn the heads of some and the backs of others.

EDWG

Temple officials reported that no one was injured in today’s unusual events.

Letter to the Editor:

Dear Editor,

While your comments accurately reflected the supposed intentions of money changers and those selling doves, reality is somewhat different. The upcharge is significant! People are gouging would be worshipers for personal profit. Not only that, but the whole temple atmosphere has become one marked by bartering rather than worshiping. The very space intended to welcome outsiders has become a circus for insiders.

I stand with Jesus on this one. I am setting aside personal gain in order to see the nations reached. May your church today be known for its prayerful commitment to the nations rather than its yearning for money! In fact, I will invite internationals to join me for Easter weekend at Grace Church.

 

April 11 – Life from Death

Read Mark 5:35-40

“Then He took the child by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which is translated, “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”).”

Jesus walked among the lifeless and exchanged death with life. He traded fear for faith, even as He told the man whose daughter lay dying just steps from their path, “Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” Moments before, He’d unknowingly moved an outcast from mere survival to true life when she reached out in faith for the One whom she believed to be the Messiah, her Healer. Now an important Jewish leader would see Jesus replace the death of his daughter with the miracle of her life. A touch of Jesus’ hand made hope out of mourning. The stroke of His voice composed a new beginning. The little girl was dead. But Jesus spoke, and then she was alive.

I have never seen a daughter being raised to life, but that doesn’t make the truth of this story any less real. Jesus Christ makes life out of nothing. He takes what is not and turns it into what is.

I have, however, seen Jesus turn fear into strength. He’s taken a dying relationship and made it thrive. He turned depression into purpose, created joy where guilt once paralyzed, turned anxious into calm. If you think about it hard enough, you’ve likely seen His transforming work, too.

Where faith in Jesus comes in, new life prevails. Where have you seen His power at work? What can He transform in you even today? Is there a piece of you that must die, like the little girl, so He can breathe His transforming life into it?

Don’t be afraid. Just believe.

Bria Wasson

 

March 13 – Transformation Testimonies – Faithful Paralytic

Read Mark 2:1-13

There is a great difference between people who simply want God to work in their lives and people who work actively to allow God to work in them. When we get complacent in our walk with Christ, we aren’t pursuing His ways. God is still able to move in spite of us, yet we are able to quench the work of the Spirit by our sin and complacency. It appears that God chooses not to work through us because we aren’t actively pursuing His best for our lives.

Such perseverance is found in the second chapter of the gospel of Mark.  A paralyzed man is brought on a bed drawn by his friends to the house in which Jesus is teaching.  Due to the crowds, there was no room to enter into the house to get the man to Jesus. Instead of giving up and leaving, the friends took action, removing the roofing to make a hole right above where Jesus was teaching. They were so confident that Jesus could heal their friend that they were willing to do whatever it took to place him in the presence of Christ.

Jesus, seeing their faith, told the man that his sins were forgiven, and later healed him. How rewarding would that be to see that all your hard work paid off? They had the faith that Jesus could heal their friend and were willing to do anything in their power to make that happen.

The faith that Jesus recognized was not so much that of the paralytic but of the friends who brought him. They expected God to heal their friend and they were very active in making it happen.

God can work the miraculous through something as small as an invitation into His presence. How are you doing inviting your “5”? Something as small as a simple invite can be exactly what they need to have God revolutionize their world.

In our own lives, we may encounter overwhelming circumstances. What are we willing to do about it? Are we going to sit back and expect God to work a miracle in our life or are we going to make the most of the moment and allow God to guide us? If we only show the unstoppable faith, that the paralyzed man’s friends had, we would be surprised to see what God can do in our lives.

Jake Lawson

August 3: Don’t Steal Your Gifting

Read Mark 14:1-10

Stewardship is an important part of our walk with the Lord. The Grace of God, in some fashion, has blessed each and every one of us with a gifting. We might not all be millionaires and have stores of money that we must steward, yet, the spirit of God has assigned each of us a role to play in the building of His church (1 Corinthians 12). No matter your gifting, the call to steward these gifts in a responsible fashion is a great one.

In Mark 14 Jesus encounters a woman who blesses Him with what little she has. The Pharisees are quick to rebuke her, accusing the woman of being a poor steward of her resources. Instead of trying to understand why she was making this offering, the religious leaders quickly made their own conclusion of “you wouldn’t be this poor if you sold your perfume instead of anointing Jesus with it.” They were quick to judge, without understanding the context of sacrifice.

The words Jesus offers in verse eight are powerful. “She did what she could.” How simple, yet how true. This woman was very poor. She had few earthly possessions, but what she did have, she was willing to lay on the line for Jesus Christ.

Living in the United States, it is so hard for us to understand what having nothing really means. By God’s grace, we are so blessed here. Don’t misunderstand me, poverty is very real for many in our nation; my intent is not to downplay this reality. Rather to highlight that the poverty experienced in other parts of our world is just incomprehensible until you experience it firsthand. I don’t know the story of the woman in the passage we read today, but I imagine she was in this boat. A type of poor that is so hard for many of us to understand. Even so, with what little she had, she recognized that putting it on the line for the advancement of the gospel was worth it.

Do you have a faith like that? Maybe for you it isn’t laying down material possessions, but best utilizing your gifting. Are you answering God’s call to advance the gospel and His Church through the abilities He has given you? Maybe the better question is- are you laying down your personal desires in this area to take the gospel forward? Because, if you aren’t, you just might be stealing the gifting that the Spirit has assigned you.

-TAB