Day Fourteen with Mark: Mark 4:1-20

Today we are looking again at Mark 4:1-20.  Yesterday we talked about why it is that Jesus taught in parables.  Today we are going to look into what exactly He is talking about in this passage:

The Parable of the Sower
4 Again he began to teach beside the sea. Such a very large crowd gathered around him that he got into a boat on the sea and sat there, while the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. 2 He began to teach them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: 3 “Listen! A sower went out to sow. 4 And as he sowed, some seed fell on the path, and the birds came and ate it up. 5 Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and it sprang up quickly, since it had no depth of soil. 6 And when the sun rose, it was scorched; and since it had no root, it withered away. 7 Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. 8 Other seed fell into good soil and brought forth grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.” 9 And he said, “Let anyone with ears to hear listen!”

The Purpose of the Parables
10 When he was alone, those who were around him along with the twelve asked him about the parables. 11 And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables; 12 in order that
‘they may indeed look, but not perceive,
and may indeed listen, but not understand;
so that they may not turn again and be forgiven.’”
13 And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? Then how will you understand all the parables? 14 The sower sows the word. 15 These are the ones on the path where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. 16 And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: when they hear the word, they immediately receive it with joy. 17 But they have no root, and endure only for a while; then, when trouble or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. 18 And others are those sown among the thorns: these are the ones who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world, and the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things come in and choke the word, and it yields nothing. 20 And these are the ones sown on the good soil: they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty and sixty and a hundredfold.”

092208_1552_TheParableo1_1We see Jesus tell a parable, much like an illustration or example, about someone sowing seeds.  Some seeds he sows feel on path and birds carried them off.  Others on ground that was rocky, they sprouted up and then without depth, withered.  Others among thorns and they choked them off.  And finally some seed fell on good ground and brought forth lots of yield.

In verses 13-20 Jesus explains to us what exactly is happening here.  I think for us the thing that we need to notice about all these scenario is that in each of them, the seed lands upon the ground, and in some cases begins to show some growth. But then something happens.  Either birds (Satan) take them, or the lack of depth, or the thorns, cause them from fully blossoming.

The seed is that faith, that grace of God given to us.  Grace is not just given to Christians, but through prevenient grace, grace is show to all.  All people, even those that reject God, as shown His goodness.  The bible says that all good gifts from God, so if it’s in your life, and it’s good, it’s from God.

So, the seed is sown, grace is given, and what happens next?  We need to be aware of 3 things when God’s grace is given:

First, we aren’t able to even process we’ve been given it.  Spiritual warfare, distractions, things come against us and before we can even process that we’ve been given grace, we’ve moved on.  So, in other words, pay attention to God’s grace given you.

Second, it is received and it is good. But, there is no depth.  And trials come.  Troubles come.  And it dies on the vine.  So, it isn’t just enough to “believe” and get excited about Jesus.  We’ve got to get deep roots.

Faith isn’t just a matter or excitement of joy.  We need discipline.  Because it’s going to be hard at times.  There’s going to be challenges at times.  There’s going to be troubles.  If we don’t have those roots we will fade.  How do we develop roots?  We attend to things of God.  We read.  We pray.  We stay connected to God’s people.  The way I put it is we read our Bible, we pray, we go to church.  Faithfully doing these things give us roots to survive troubles.

And the third thing we see is the seed is sown and thorns choke them off.  The concerns of the world draw our focus from God, to the world.  Stay focused.  Remember what matters.  Focus on what counts.  Keep your mind on the things of God in all things.  

And last we see ground that is receptive, that is good, that is ready.  Good dirt.  That’s what we want to be.  Receptive to God’s word and focused on seeing it grow when it’s given to us.

Today may we be good dirt!

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 4:21-32.

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

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Day Eleven with Mark: Mark 3:20-30

Today in Mark, we look at Mark 3:20-30, and we find some unexpected things happen:

20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 When his family heard it, they went out to restrain him, for people were saying, “He has gone out of his mind.” 22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul, and by the ruler of the demons he casts out demons.” 23 And he called them to him, and spoke to them in parables, “How can Satan cast out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. 26 And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but his end has come. 27 But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property without first tying up the strong man; then indeed the house can be plundered. 28 “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven for their sins and whatever blasphemies they utter; 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.”

In today’s passage, we see Jesus go home.  And it really doesn’t go well.  Folks back home aren’t really happy to see Him.  A couple of things to notice about all that is happening here.  First, in our minds, didn’t we think that everyone loves and affirms Jesus?  I mean, everyone loves Jesus, right?

Look at what happens in this passage.  I mean, really look what happens here.  His family is starting to think He may be crazy or demon possessed. They go out to restrain Him.  That is not what we expect to see happen.  That is not the way that life is supposed to God for Jesus.

When we see Jesus, as told to us in the Gospels, He is not safe.  He is not ordinary.  He doesn’t leave people be.  He brings to the ones that are broken and afraid, He brings them grace.  But to the ones that are comfortable and spiritually asleep, He yells WAKE UP!

Where would we be in this story?  Would we welcome Him?  Or would we want Him to calm down?  When you look at how people react to Jesus in scripture, it really isn’t what we expect, is it?

unforgivable-sin-full-v2We see Jesus teaching today about what the unforgivable sin is.  In the text, He says that blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is eternal (often called unforgivable).  In my ministry, I’ve had people come to me and say, “Andy, I think I’ve blasphemed.”  My response is always, do you feel bad about it?  And they say, yeah, I feel terrible. And then I say, well then you haven’t blasphemed.

Blasphemy is unforgivable for this reason.  You won’t ask forgiveness for it.  That is the reason why.  You’ve got so far, that you won’t confess and repent.  Every sin that is confessed and repented of will be forgiven.  But if you’ve blasphemed, then you won’t do that?

Why?  Look specifically at what Jesus says.  He says, “whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit.”  And notice this conversation is in relation to works of the devil.  Basically what He is saying here is when you take the works of God (i.e. what  Jesus is doing and teaching) and say that they are the works of the devil (what the Pharisees are doing), you are saying that God and His power are evil.

You are making the Holy Spirit a work of evil.  You are calling God a liar.  You are undercutting the work of the Spirit.

Why is that unforgivable?  Because it’s through the spirit we are drawn to repentance.  It’s through the spirit we are convicted, we are called, we are brought home.  But if you deny that the spirit is good, if you harden your heart to it, then you’ve cut yourself off from any means of conviction and repentance.

But, if you feel bad about what you’ve done or said, then you’ve not blasphemed. Because you haven’t hardened your heart to what God is doing.  As long as you desire to be forgiven, you will be forgiven.  You will.

That’s why blasphemy is unforgivable.  You don’t want that forgiveness.  And that’s why in my ministry, I’ve never actually met anyone that’s done it.

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 3:31-35.

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Where Do I Start Reading the Bible

godwin_bible460I’ve been doing this daily blog for over a decade now.  It started out as an email and then has morphed a lot into several forms. But basically what I’ve always done is this.  I follow the Morning Office out the Book of Common Prayer.  Here’s a link to the website I use.  Each morning there are three passages (an Old Testament, a New Testament, and a Gospel. There are also Psalms and other readings.

I read from them, and then whichever one speaks to me, I write a devotional on it.

But I’ve had something happen a few times recently, and it’s made me one to do something a little different.  I’ve had different people in different places come to me and ask, Andy, how do I start reading the Bible?  Where do I start?  What do I do?

And this is the thing that I tell them, and I want to be honest, it’s my suggestion.  I’m not saying it’s perfect for everyone, it’s just what I suggest.

I alway say this.  Start with Mark.  Don’t worry about starting in Genesis.  We can get there later.  Start with Mark.  I say start with a Gospel, because if you want to know who God is, you need to know Jesus.  He is the visible image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15).  When you see Jesus, you see God.

So, start with a Gospel. But why Mark?  Like I said, this is just me, I like starting with Mark because it’s the shortest and quickest-moving.  Most scholars think it was the first Gospel written.  And I think it’s the easiest to understand.

Some folks say start with John, and that’s perfectly fine.  John’s got some of the passages that we love the most.

But I like starting with Mark.  To me, it’s the easiest to understand of the Gospels.

So, that’s what we are going to do. For the next, oh, I don’t know, until we are finished, we are going to read through Mark together.  Each morning, there will be a passage of Mark, and I’ll offer my own reflection from it.

I’m thinking about doing a podcast with it perhaps, and maybe even a vlog.

But I think this will be a nice change-up, and a way for us to really get into the Bible.

So, starting tomorrow, we’ll read through Mark. I’m going to be pulling the readings from Biblegateway.com and I’ll be using the NRSV, mainly because that’s the most commonly used Bible at the church I serve.

But the great thing about this website is you can read for any number of translations.

So, starting tomorrow, Mark 1.  If you want to get a head start, we’ll be looking at Mark 1:1-8.

What do you think?  I’d welcome any feedback.  Shoot me an email or connect with me through Facebook or Twitter!

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

52 Weeks (Week 9)

This week as we continue memorizing the last verses of Romans 8, we take a look at Romans 8: 31-32.  As we have mentioned, these last verses of chapter 8 in Romans are so encouraging, some hopeful, just so good.  Listen to what we see here in 31-32:

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

66982We see here this reminder.  If God is for us, then who can be against us?  If God is on our side, pulling for us, calling us, leading us, pushing up, then what in the world do we have to fear?

Nothing.

If God is for us, then who can be against us?

No one.

This is how much God loves us.  He loves us so much that He didn’t even spare His son so that we can know life and know life eternal.  So how much more will He be with us and for us in all things?  All things.

Today, no matter who you face, no matter what trials come your way.  No matter what is happening, hear this.

No really.  Listen.  Listen to this.  Know this to be true.  Because it is.  It is really and truly true.

God is for you.  God is on your side.  He is.  He really is.  No matter what happens today, God is for you.  No matter what happens today, God is on your side.

Trust that today.

God is for you.  Don’t lose hope!

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!

52 Weeks (Week 7)

66982This week in our 52 Weeks, 52 Verses, we get one of my absolute favorite verses in all of Scripture, this is one of those verses that I’ve built my life around.  This is one of those verses that gives you hope, gives you confidence no matter what you are facing.

If this year of memorizing the Bible does anything, it’s for weeks like this and verses like this.  This is one of those that you need to hide close to your heart, and pull out when you need that hope.

Listen to and learn Romans 8:28:

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

All things work together for good for those called according to His purpose.  All things.  Here is the hope that this vese gives me.  All things in life, the bad, as much (maybe even more so) and the good work together for our good, if we are called to God’s purpose.

What does that mean?  First, it means this.  God has a purpose. God has a plan. And while we have free will within that, God is at work, guiding, calling, challenging, pushing, prodding.  God is at work in all things, to bring something good out of it. God has a plan that is bigger than our human choices.

Now, I don’t understand that and am not going to claim to.  But I know it’s true.  God has a plan and a purpose.

And for those of us that love Him, all thing will work according to that plan.

All things.  They will.

So, today, trust.  God is at work in all things, for His purpose.  And for our good.  In all things. He really is.

Memorize this one today. Write it on your heart.  Write it on your soul.  Cling to it.  For all things will work for our good.  And for His purpose.

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!

Yes That’s the Book for Me

When reading the Bible, I often think back to something one of my favorite professors in seminary used to always say.  Dr. Knick used to say – “The two questions we must ask ourselves the most in our readings of scripture are this.  First, is it true?  And second, if it is true, what does it mean to my life?”

I think on those questions quite often in my reading, in my teaching, and in my preaching.  Is it true?  And if so, what does it mean to my life?  I thought about those questions today when I read the passage for today in 2 Timothy 3: 14-17:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.

Mens-Bible-StudyAll Scripture is breathed out by God, and for teaching, to show us the right way, as well as the wrong way that we should not walk down.  It is there to prepare us for salvation and to equip us for the calling that we have in Jesus.

It is there to reveal God to us, show us His heart, His way, His plan, His salvation, His purpose.  If we want to know God, we have to spend time with His written Word.  Let me say that again.  If we want to know God fully (and correctly) we have to, we must, spend time in His written Word.

Do I understand it all?  No, I do not.  But that’s ok.  Maybe this is simple and naive, but scripture was not given for me to understand it all, but so that I could order and build my life around it.  It was given so that I can better know God, better know my calling, better know my need for God and better know how He would have me to live.

We teach out children these things.  And we should remember these things in adulthood.  Remember that old song you may have learned as a child?  The B.I.B.L.E., yes that’s the book for me?

The older I get, the more I believe that to be true.  As John Wesley said – give me that book.  I need it for my growth, for my faith, for my life, for my church, for my family, for my very soul.  If I want to know God, I’ve got to be spending time with His book.

I heard a preacher say this summer at a Camp Meeting – “God will never know God’s unknown will unless you know His known will (i.e. the Bible).”

Today, if you want to know God, you’ve got to be in the Bible. What a precious gift God has given us.  May we drink in deep the waters of Holy Scripture.

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!

Pinterest Perfect

unnamedI’ve had a couple of people ask me if I would write a post about my sermon I preached this past Sunday at Asbury about marriage. If you missed it, you can listen to the podcast here. I called this message Pinterest Perfect.

There are studies that show the more time we spend on social media, the sadder and more depressed we become. Why? Because we measure measuring what we deem to be our imperfect lives against the pictures, status, tweets, and pins of other’s lives. Our lives don’t measure up to others Pinterest Perfection. By the way, take some time to enjoy “Pinterest Fails” You’ll be entertained for hours.

We do the same thing with marriage. We try to Photoshop it. We try to make it appear to be perfect, when it isn’t. Marriage is never, ever perfect. It just isn’t. It’s the union of two imperfect, broken people. We pretend our marriages are perfect and amazing and strong because, as Christians, that’s what we have to do, right? We can’t have problems or failings or weakness. We say we put Christ in the center of our marriage, but we don’t understand what that means. To have Christ in the center of our marriage doesn’t mean that everything is perfect. We will still face temptations and fights and tough, tough times. But it does mean that we have something to stand upon and hold on to when tough times come.

Most of what we get about marriage we don’t get from the Bible, we get from culture. The notion of perfection. Or fair tales. Of happily ever after. That doesn’t actually happen in the real world, nor in the Bible. So, what does the Bible say about marriage?

First, it says that marriage is the first institution created. Before the church. Before government. Before anything else, marriage came first. And because of this, for this reason a man will leave his father and mother and cling to his wife. This means that the relationship between husband and wife must come first before all other relationships. Before parents, children, friends, everything. Not that those relationships are bad, they aren’t. They are good. But the marriage relationship has to be our primary one.

But here’s the other thing. Culture has taught us that our marriage is about happiness and fulfillment. It’s not. Your spouse will never make you happy. Hear me again. Your spouse will never make you happy. They will never fulfill you; they will never complete you. They can’t. They are broken and human like you. The only person that will make you happy, complete, and content is Jesus.

So, the key to marriage, as Paul tells us in Ephesians 5: 22-33 is not seeking our will and own way, but in a mutual submission. Wives submitting to husbands, husbands laying down their life for their wife. That passage is not about one “side” being in control, but about both sides, husband, and wife, valuing the other more than ourselves.

Every problem in marriage is solved by us honestly and completely putting our spouse ahead of ourselves.

That type of marriage is not Pinterest perfect. But it is authentically real. And that’s what the world needs. Not Christians being pretend perfect. But real, broken and chasing after Jesus.

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!

52 Weeks (Week 6)

66982Today in our week 6 of 52 Weeks, 52 Verses, we learn the rest of Psalm 121.  Look at that!  Over the course of these last four weeks, we’ve learned a Psalm. Memorizing the Bible is a process, something that is not done overnight, but something done consistently, with prayer, reflection, and study.

Today, listen to the end of Psalm 121, verse 7-8:

7 The Lord will keep you from all evil;
he will keep your life.
8 The Lord will keep
your going out and your coming in
from this time forth and forevermore.

The Lord will keep us.  Think about that for a second.  Our security, our hope, our peace, it doesn’t come from human hands or human elements.  But from the Lord God of Hosts.  Thing about that.  Take this passage seriously.  Meditate upon it.  Think upon it. Focus upon it.

The Lord is your keeper.  He will keep you from all evil.  He will keep your going and your coming.  Now, and forever.

Don’t worry.  Don’t stress.  Don’t fret.  Don’t be overwhelmed.

The Lord is your keeper.

Rest in the knowledge.  Rest in that promise today.

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!

Simplify

data_rooms_to_simplify_due_diligence_process-resized-600I like things that are simple.  The older I get, the more I really want things to be simple so that I can understand; see the big picture, a see what is really at the heart of the matter.  Simplicity is a good, good thing.

We often look at the Bible, look at issues of faith, and think that they can be too confusing. They are too complicated. They can’t really be understood.  And there are many, many things in the Bible, many things in faith that are hard to understand. One of the things that we can struggle the most to understand is this. What does it mean to be a Christian?  What does the Christian life look like, what are we supposed to do as Christians.

Paul in the book of Galatians spends time going to the heart of the matter for the Christian faith.  He really wants to simplify the understanding of what the Christin life should be.  Look at what he writes today in Galatians 5: 13-14:

For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Yep.  That’s a good, simple word.  He gets to the heart of what the Christian life should look like in regards to how we are to treat others.  Love your neighbor as you love yourself. All the laws about how we are supposed to treat each other, all these things, they are simplified here.

Love your neighbor as you love yourself.

That’s it. That’s the heart of the law. That’s the heart of the faith.  As Jesus reminded us, the greatest commandment is to love the Lord with all of our mind, our soul and strength, and love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

That’s the heart of what this whole Christianity thing is about.  Love God. Love neighbor.  That’s the Gospel, that’s the law, that’s the faith, simplified.

Today, don’t worry about the complicated things that you can’t understand. Focus on this.  Love God.  Love neighbor. The rest will take care of itself.

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!

52 Weeks (Week 5)

As we walk together through 2015, we are memorizing the Word of God.  Each week we are memorizing a different passage.  Today we continue memorizing Psalm 121 looking at verses 5-6.  Listen to what this passage says:

5 The Lord is your keeper;
the Lord is your shade on your right hand.
6 The sun shall not strike you by day,
nor the moon by night.

66982Here’s what I love so much about that passage.  The Lord is your keeper.  He is your shade.  He will keep you safe in the day and the night.  God will keep you.  He will guide you.  He will protect you.

He will be your God.

Trust.  Your safety and protection, it comes from nowhere else but God.  Man oh man, this is one of those passages that I’ve loved for so many years.  It’s one of those passages that I’ve allowed to really go deep into my heart.

I don’t have to be afraid.  I don’t have to worry.  I don’t have to fear.

Because the Lord is my keeper.

And He is yours.  Trust.  Lean on Him.  He will keep you.  He will.

Trust.

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!