Day Thirty-Three with Mark: Mark 8:14-21

Today we look at Mark 8:14-21:

The Yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod
14 Now the disciples had forgotten to bring any bread; and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. 15 And he cautioned them, saying, “Watch out—beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.” 16 They said to one another, “It is because we have no bread.” 17 And becoming aware of it, Jesus said to them, “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? 18 Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? 19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” They said to him, “Twelve.” 20 “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you collect?” And they said to him, “Seven.” 21 Then he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”

Computer-CodeWhat do you see?  Friday in Mark we talked about seeing miracles everywhere when we believe.  Today, we see Jesus talk about something very similar.  Today He’s talking about sight.  But it’s not necessarily the sight of miracles.  It’s the deeper truth that can be found.

And I think today this is especially true with scripture.  I subscribe what Wesley called a simple reading of scripture.  You need to understand context, you need to understand the bigger picture with scripture, but for most of scripture, it simply means what it says.

But, there are times, lots of times, many times, where there is a deeper truth right there in plain sight.  Sometimes there is something right in front of us that we may or may not be able to see.  Look at today’s text. The Disciples are talking about bread and Jesus basically says, guys, you are missing the point.

Do you not see the deeper meaning and deeper truth here.  He recalls the feeding of the 5000 and the 4000. And then He asks how many baskets were left over.  For the 5000, there were 12.  For the 4000 there were 7.  And then He says, do you not understand?

What should they have understood?  What may we be missing?

Twelve and seven are very important numbers in scripture.  Twelve in particular is important in two main places.  There are 12 tribes of Israel (the 12 sons of Jacob).  And there are 12 Apostles.  The Old Covenant and the New Covenant.  So this number is seen many times in scripture (a lot in Revelation) to mean everyone or a completeness.  This number is many ways a number that is almost a code word for “all.”

Everyone that would have seen Him feed 5000 and then see 12 baskets left over would have understood that 12 was a big deal.  He has come, preaching to the Jews first, so that they would complete their calling from Genesis 12 to be a light to the world.  As God’s people, their mission would be the point others to who God is and be that light.  This 12 means that the

The 5000, that crowd was mostly like all Jewish.  The fact that Jesus recovered 12 baskets meant that God would call from His people a group that would finish the calling of Abraham.  And that is what happened.  How many Jewish disciples did Jesus have?


And where did they go?  Everywhere.

And that brings us to the seven.  Seven is another important number in scripture, and is often seen is as the “perfect” number.  Think the seven days of creation.  So it’s a word that associated with that creation account.  The 4000, that crowd would have mostly included Gentiles within it. So on a day when a crowd including Gentiles in it was feed, there were seven baskets left.  The number of creation.  A creation that was made God.  A creation that Jesus was coming to redeem.

In other words, Jesus didn’t just come to feed this crowd, He came to save them, and all (Jew or Gentile) that would believe.

That’s why He says, do you not get it?  Do you not see the bigger truth?

This is why it’s so important to read the Bible together.  Because together we can see the bigger truths that we may miss, just looking at the text.  There are deeper truths that Bible study and shared conversation can teach us.

That’s one of the many, many reasons we need each other and need the church!

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 8:22-26.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Day Seventeen with Mark: Mark 5:1-19

Today’s passage has A LOT going on, so we are going to spend at least two days looking at it.  We are looking at Mark 5:1-19:

Jesus Heals the Gerasene Demoniac
5 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when he had stepped out of the boat, immediately a man out of the tombs with an unclean spirit met him. 3 He lived among the tombs; and no one could restrain him any more, even with a chain; 4 for he had often been restrained with shackles and chains, but the chains he wrenched apart, and the shackles he broke in pieces; and no one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always howling and bruising himself with stones. 6 When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and bowed down before him; 7 and he shouted at the top of his voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he had said to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion; for we are many.” 10 He begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now there on the hillside a great herd of swine was feeding; 12 and the unclean spirits begged him, “Send us into the swine; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the swine; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea, and were drowned in the sea.

14 The swineherds ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 They came to Jesus and saw the demoniac sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, the very man who had had the legion; and they were afraid. 16 Those who had seen what had happened to the demoniac and to the swine reported it. 17 Then they began to beg Jesus to leave their neighborhood. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed by demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 But Jesus refused, and said to him, “Go home to your friends, and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and what mercy he has shown you.”

Ok, look who meets Jesus on the other side of the sea.  A guy (the other Gospels say was naked) living a cemetery.  Demon possessed.  And with pigs in the area.  This is literally the worst Jewish nightmare you can think of.  One of the things that I wondered about for the longest time is why there were pigs?  I mean, this is Israel.  Jews don’t do pigs?  Why were their pigs in this story?  Where did they come from?

734215_10152379208205043_756632953_nThis city across the sea of Galilee, you know what it was?  It was a Roman city.  It was a Gentile city.  That’s why there were pigs there. Gentiles (i.e. non-Jews) didn’t mind pigs at all. So that’s why there would have been pigs there.  By the way, the picture to your right was one that I took from the actual place where the pigs jumped off of.  Things have changed since Jesus’ day, but that’s the spot!

This place on the other side of the lake would have been forbidden for Jews. They wouldn’t have wanted, or really, been allowed to go there.  Many of you may have had grandparents say to you – don’t go outside (or wherever) that’s where the boogie man is!  They would tell you “don’t go there” because they wanted to keep you away from that place.

So, good Jewish mamas would tell their kids – don’t go across the lake.  You’ll find pigs!  And naked men!  In cemeteries!  That are Gentiles!  That’s how bad Jesus wanted rest, He went to this place He would have been warned not to go, because He knew no one would follow Him.

And they get across the lake and what do they find?  A naked guy, in a cemetery, demon possessed, who is Gentile.  Oh, and pigs!  Turns out, mama was right!  It would have been everything that they feared!  It was literally the worst combination of what they feared.

And what does Jesus do?  He brings calm.  He brings peace.  He brings restoration.  He brings life.  He brings hope.

Tomorrow, we’ll look deeper at what exactly Jesus did. But today, know this.  Jesus encountered the thing that His Jewish followers would have feared teh most.  And He triumphs over it.

Jesus is greater than whatever it is that you fear.  Always believe that.  Because it is truth.  Always hold tight to that.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 5:1-19 again.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Day Six with Mark: Mark 2:13-17

Today in our sixth day walking together through Mark, we look at Mark 2:13-17.  This passage is called Jesus Calls Levi.

Jesus Calls Levi
13 Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them. 14 As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he got up and followed him.

15 And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples—for there were many who followed him. 16 When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 When Jesus heard this, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.”

jesus-calls-matthew-2Levi is Matthew the tax collect, the Apostle and author of the Gospel Matthew.  Matthew is the Greek form of his name, Levi is the Hebrew form of his name.  Well, why would Levi (Matthew) go by two names?  Especially when unlike Peter, Jesus didn’t change his name?

Well, that had a lot to do with his job and why the Jews HATED the tax collectors.  We joke about tax collectors and the IRS and how no one likes tax collectors.  This isn’t that.  There were no more despised by the Jews than tax collectors.  Maybe the Samaritans, but it would be close.

Why were tax collectors so hated?  To the Jewish people, the tax collectors were traitors. They were Jews who betrayed their people and worked for the Romans. And even worse, the majority of tax collector were seen as thieves. What the tax collectors would do would be they that tell someone they owed a certain amount of money to Rome. Then, they would go and collect from them double or triple that amount.  And if the person could not pay it they would suffer the consequences from the Roman army.

So basically the tax collectors use the power of the Roman army to steal from their own people.  So, in short, they were thieves, they were traitors, and they associated with Gentiles.  Religiously, socially, politically, economically, every possible way that you could be hated, they were.

In Jesus day, tax collectors were truly despised.

If you were able to worship with us Sunday at St. Matthew’s, in my sermon we talked about how in Jesus’ culture, and still today, to share a meal with someone is a powerful thing, it is an act of acceptance, of friendship, of basically become family.  So, what then does it say that Jesus shared a meal with Levi (Matthew) and other tax collectors?  By the way, pay attention in all the Gospels to who all Jesus shares a meal with.  He eats with everyone, tax collectors, “sinners,” Pharisees.  He loved and loves the world.

In this act of eating with Matthew and his fellow tax collectors, Jesus is saying this.  I love you.  But notice this.  He doesn’t just accept them and it ends there.  Levi (Matthew) leaves behind tax collecting and follows Jesus as a Disciple.  He doesn’t just leave him there, but Jesus comes, loves, and calls.  Calls Levi to follow Him.  Calls him to leave behind his past, his mistakes, all that he has done. And follow Jesus. And Levi does.

Now, look at the response of the religious leaders.  They can’t believe that Jesus is doing this.  I’ll unpack later why the religious leaders get so upset at Jesus, but for now, just know this, its misplaced passion. They actually, in their minds, are trying to honor God, but they are doing it completely, totally, wrong.

And Jesus says this, He has come for this sick, not the righteous.  Now, we know that none are righteous, so Jesus is speaking hyperbolic here.  He’s making a point.  What is that point?  It’s better to know that you are weak and sinful and need help than to think you are stronger than you really are, and never ask for the help you need.

Today, Jesus calls and eats with tax collectors. And He calls us wherever we are.  May we be like Levi.  May we follow, wherever He calls us!

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 2:18-28.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Day One with Mark: Mark 1:1-8

As we start our journey through Mark together, today we are going to look at Chapter 1:1-8:  In the NRSV this section is entitled The Proclamation of John the Baptist

1 The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
2 As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,
“See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way;
3 the voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
make his paths straight,’”
4 John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals. 8 I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

stjohnA few things that jump out to me in this passage.  First, in verse 1, the “good news.” That’s what the word Gospel means.  It is good news.  Jesus is Good News.  The grace of God is good news. When we tell folks about God, we are telling them about good news!  God loves you!  Do we communicate that “good news” like it is actual good news?

In verses 2-3, we see a quotation from the Old Testament prophet Isaiah.  Mark’s Gospel doesn’t have as many Old Testament quotations as Matthew does, but he does quote from the Old Testament a good bit.  Why? Well, a couple of reasons.  First, this shows the Jewish believers that this “new” Christian faith is really the same faith that their ancestors were pointing to.  It is actually what Abraham and Moses and others were hoping and longing for.

And second, it shows us non-Jewish (i.e. Gentile) believers that God was at work for a long time.  We aren’t the first believers in God ever.  God was working all of history towards the coming of Jesus Christ.  And we as Christians, we should not forsake the Old Testament. We should treasure it and read it as well.  It is our story as well. We believe that all the Bible is inspired.  The Old Testament matters to us as well!

In verses 4-8, we see the entrance of John the Baptist.  Can’t you just picture him with this description. And you know what?  He looks different, doesn’t he?  Mark makes it clear to us that he is not like the other religious leaders.  Not in his dress, not in his actions (baptism of repentance) and not in his message – the savior is coming.

John was different. But what was his purpose?  To prepare the way for Jesus.  To get folks ready for Jesus.  To make sure that people knew Jesus and were ready to follow him.

In fact, you and I have the same purpose.  To make Jesus known.  So, we too have a different message and a different purpose.  Just like John, we are called to be different. And we are called to point folks to Jesus.

Today, we share that same mission as John.  To point folks to Jesus.

What questions do you have?  How does this strike you?  Shoot me an email, comment below, or connect with me through social media.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 1:9-15.

If you’d like to receive these thoughts by email, be sure to click here and join my email devotional group!

Good Bible Study Tools

ToolboxMonday – Thursday (with the occasional Friday) I share some thoughts here about the Bible.  What I’d like to do today is a little bit different.  I’d like to share some of the online tools that I use for bible study. I hope that my devotional can be a help to you each day; hopefully be something that can help you grow closer to God and to your neighbor.

But let me tell you what I really want for you.  I hope I can always be a help to you, but I hope you don’t need me.  I hope that you can do dig into the Word, that you really don’t need me.  After all, you’ve as much access to the Holy Spirit as I do.  You’ve got as much access to God as me.

I hope I can help you faith.  But I also hope that I can equip you to truly dig into the Word yourself.

So, with that, here are some of the online Bible tools that I use.

Lumina Bible – This has become my favorite online Bible these last few months.  It has a great tool called the NET Bible, which give you some of the best commentary on the bible around, as well as some of the best Greek and Hebrews tools I know.  Very highly recommended. – This the bible site that I use each day for this daily devotional.  This site literally has every bible in nearly every language out there.  Very good tool.

Wesley’s Notes on the Bible – This is an online collection of John Wesley’s notes that he wrote on the Old and New Testament.  If you want to know what John Wesley thought about a Biblical passage, this is a great place to start!

World Wide Study Bible – Much like Biblegateway, you can find lots of online bibles here, but what I really like about this site is the access to different commentaries.  You can learn a TON about a biblical passage through this website.

ESV Bible Online – This is the online version of the ESV Bible.  It has some pretty neat tools there. – This is the webpage for the YouVersion app that many of us have on our phones.  It syncs over quite well from your phone.  Really useful.

Daily Bible Readings – Looking for a great place to get some suggested Bible reading for each day for a devotional?  This site does a great job of giving you readings for each day throughout the year.

The Daily Office – This is the actual online version of The Daily Office, the morning prayer ritual that I do every morning.  These daily readings and suggested prayers have been an anchor for my soul for nearly 15 years.

Here are the online versions of The Upper Room and Our Daily Bread daily devotionals that so many of us have used throughout the years.  Through these sites you can also have them sent to your email address.

CS Lewis Daily – Here is a link for daily Tweets from CS Lewis.  While not technically Bible study, it’s still awesome.

Tim Keller Daily – And here is a link for daily tweets from Tim Keller, the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and in my opinion the best preacher out there today.

I hope these are helpful.  Thanks for entrusting part of your day to me!

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phones, and you thought our app, you can now watch our worship services from Asbury too!

A Week on Forgiveness

I’m going to be walking through the concept of forgivenessyour-journey this next week with a friend during a daily Bible Study.  I thought I’d share the passages with you, in case you may want to walk with us.

Saturday – Psalm 103

Sunday – Matthew 18:21-35

Monday – Isaiah 53

Tuesday – 1 John 1: 5-9

Wednesday – Romans 12: 9-21

Thursday – Luke 17:1-4

Friday – Ephesians 4: 26-27

SOAP – Day Five– 1 Corinthians 10:11-13

324904370_640Today, we do day five of our SOAP challenge.  I really do hope that you will continue to use this method of studying the Bible in your daily lives.  I will continue, from time to time, to use this method for these daily reflections.  I may do it every day, but I will use it again.

Let’s begin!

S – scripture

Listen.  Focus.  Read each word deliberately.   Don’t get in such a hurry to get done that you don’t focus on the word you are reading.  Breathe in, breathe out.  Listen for God’s voice in each word.

1 Corinthians 10:11-13:

These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come. So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.

O – observation

What did you see in this text?  This is what stood out to me.

Be careful

Paul warns us here, if you think you are standing firm, be very careful.  It’s the pride that goes before the fall.  The moment we think we’ve got it all figured out, the moment we believe that we are above temptation, and it could NEVER  happen to us, that’s when it happens.  Be very careful.  You are not as strong as you think that you are.  If we think we are standing on our own strength, we will fall.

Temptation will come

The reason we have be careful and not get arrogant is this.  Temptation is coming.  Write it down.  It will come.  You will face temptation today. I will face temptation today. It’s coming. Be ready.  Be aware.  Know this. Today, tomorrow, each day, you will face temptation.  It is going to come.  You are are not the first to face it, and you won’t be the last.

It’s coming.  Be ready.

There will be a way out

In temptation, know this though.  There is a way out.  Yes, you will face temptation, sure you will.  But it won’t be worse than anyone else.   You’re temptation is not more than you can bear.  It’s not.  Hear that.  Yes, it’s tough, but  you can do it.

And there is a way out.  God will open a door.  He will make a way.  You can get through this.

A – application

How can we apply what we noticed to our life today?

Remember that you are not perfect

If pride goes before the fall, one of the ways to deal with this is to remember that you are not perfect.  Yes, you’re awesome.  But you’re not perfect.  Yes, you are made in God’s image.  But you are not perfect.  Yes, you are gifted.  But you are not perfect.  It’s ok.  None of us are.  But, don’t forget that.  Don’t get prideful.  Don’t look down upon others.  There but by the grace of God go I.  Remember that, any goodness in us comes from God.

In short, stay humble.  Don’t get cocky.  Remember, that none of us are perfect, and the moment we start thinking that is the moment we get ourselves in trouble.

Be on the look out for temptation

So, you aren’t perfect.  And temptation is going to come.  So, be on the lookout. Be aware.  Keep your head up and on a swivel. The devil will love to trip you and get you in trouble.  He know where you are weak and struggle. And that’s where he will hit you.

Be looking.

What is it that you struggle with?  Where are you weaknesses? What are you temptations?  Be aware of yourself. Be looking. Be aware.  Know it’s coming. Be ready. Don’t be surprised when trouble comes your way.  Just get ready.

Have a plan

You temptation, it has a way out.  The word promises that it is not too much to bare.  It’s not too much.  You can do it.  Seriously.  You can do it. There is a way out. There is.

What is your plan?  Here’s some good ideas – have some scripture memorized to beat back temptation.  Have a friend to call/text.  Go for a walk.  Count to 10 and breathe.  Pray.  Any of these will help.

And if there is an area of your life where are prone to fall into temptation, as best you can, stay away from it!  Avoid temptation, as best you can.  Stay away from ares where you are weak.

Temptation is going to come your way to day. What will you do about it?  The word promises you can do it.

P – prayer

Loving God, as we face temptation in our lives today, help us remember our great need for you, and help us to know that whatever it is that we face, you will make a way out for us.  Give us that strength and hope today.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phone.

SOAP – Day Four– Luke 22:24-27

324904370_640Today is Day Four of our SOAP challenge.  I’ve head so much good feedback about this method, that I may continue doing it this way for a while longer.  I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Let’s start

S – scripture

Slow down.  No matter where you read this at, at work, at home, wherever, take this moment to breathe.  Take this moment to let the worries to this moment, the worries of tomorrow, the regrets of the past leave your mind.  Listen.  Listen to the Word of God.  Listen.

Luke 22:24-27:

A dispute also arose among them, as to which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

O – observation

How leadership works in the world

The disciples are fighting about who will be the greatest in the kingdom that is to come.  And Jesus basically handles that question in two ways.  First, he poses the question, how does leadership work in the world?

It’s about power, prestige, and money.  He says, they lord over you. The leaders act better than you, more powerful than you, they use that power to get you to do what they want you to do.  You do what they want you to do, because you don’t have any choice.  You have to.  That’s what the kings of Jesus day did.

How leadership works in the church

Jesus then asked, what about us?  How should it be for us?

Instead of power being the driving force of leadership for His people, greatness for us does not come from power, but from service.  Jesus tells us, that for us to be truly great in God’s kingdom, we must serve.  To truly be great or a leader or respected in God’s kingdom, it’s about how we serve.  How we love.  How we forgive.

That’s what greatness looks like for us.

How Jesus lived

Jesus asks, in their culture, who would be “seen” as greater?  The one “reclining at the table” would basically be the one at the seat of honor.  Jesus says, what do I do?  I serve you.  And yet, who is more honorable that Jesus?  Who is greater than Jesus?  No one.  So, Jesus doesn’t just tell the disciples that they should serve and love, He actually does.

He is the greatest.   And He is the servant.

A – application

Am I using my “status” for my good or God’s?

God has you where He has you for a reason.  Your friends, your job, your connections, everything.  He has you there for a reason.  Are you using the place He has you for His purpose in your life, or for you own?  Are you using your resources for His good and His purpose, or are you using them only for your power, or position, or appearance.

He tells us that that’s what the world does. And He has told us that as Christians, that’s not what we are supposed to do.  How are we using all that God has given us?

Am I serving today as Jesus would have?

Jesus tells us to truly be great for Him, we have to serve.  Today, are we doing that?  Are we serving others?  Are we placing them ahead of ourselves?  Are we placing their needs, their stuff ahead of ours?  That’s were true greatness, true peace, true purpose comes from.  Not from living for ourselves, but for living for God’s purpose.

Jesus modeled that, He lived that, He showed that.

Today, as His followers, do we do the same?

P – prayer

Dear Father, today, help us to use everything that you have given us for your purpose and for your glory.  Help us to be truly great in your kingdom.  Help us to serve each other, as you served us.  Amen.

Don’t forget, you can click here to download Asbury’s mobile app and read these devotionals, as well as listen to my sermons on your smart phone.