Day Thirteen with Mark: Mark 4:1-20

Ok, today’s reading from Mark is going to be a “two-parter.”  We are going to look at Mark 4: 1-20, which is the parable of the sower, as well as Jesus’ explanation for why He uses parables, and then an explanation for what this parable means.  So, we’ll chew on this for at least another day.  Here’s Mark 4:1-20:

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.[b] 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_1I said before when we started this journey together through Mark (or any Gospel) we’ll see that Jesus isn’t always who we expect, or want Him to be.  He is who is He.  He is the Alpha and Omega, beginning and the End, first and the last.  But when you look at Him, here’s one thing that I’m always drawn to about Him.

He makes you make a decision.  Will you follow, or will you not?  Will we accept His offer of grace or will we not?  He comes to us and make us choose.  And gives us the free will to choose.  But He (and we) know that there are consequences for what it is that we choose.

So we see in verse 12 He says, some folks will not accept the teaching that He offers.  In fact, that’s why He teaches like He does, so that they will not be able to understand.  Now, that’s one of those passages that has never made sense to me.  Why would Jesus teach in a way, on purpose, where people would not be able to understand it?

The reason why is this.  Those that have followed Him, that accept Him, that walk with Him, they are taught, they understand.  To those that reject Him, they are not given the key to understanding Him.

To put it another way, the Bible is an interesting book to all people.  You can learn history, culture, philosophy, so many different things within it’s pages.  But apart from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the Bible will never “make sense” to you, or to me. It’s the Spirit that speaks, it’s the Spirit that moves, it’s the Spirit that inspires.

It’s the Spirit that makes it makes sense.  Teachers, preachers, others can help us understand, but it’s the Spirit that truly makes the text come alive.

If if we reject that Spirit, we’ll never really understand the text.

Those that have rejected Jesus never understood Jesus.

The reason that He taught like this was this.  He wants us to make a choice.  To follow Him, or not.  If we choose to follow, these parables will come alive and makes sense.  If we chooses to reject, they never will.

So, we choose.  They choose. That’s why He taught like this.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 4:21-32, but dig into exactly what Jesus is talking about in this parable.

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!

Jesus Demands a Choice

We have made a mistake with Jesus. We have made a major one. I don’t know that it’s on purpose, but I do know that it has happened over time.

It’s a mistake in understanding exactly who He is. We have made someone He is not. We have made Jesus something He is not.

What is this thing we have done? What is this mistake we have made about Jesus? What have we made Jesus, that He isn’t?

We have made Jesus safe.

Jesus is a lot of things. But one of those things is not safe.

We have made Jesus to be a safe little kitty cat, instead of being the roaring lion of Judah. We have made Jesus someone who is primarily concerned with our happiness and our fulfillment, instead of being the very Son of God, God Himself, creator of all.

We have made Him the one thing He is not. Safe.

Listen to what it says today in Luke 12: 49-53:

“I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. For from now on in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

page9_picture0_1356569055Jesus basically says this – you have to make a choice. You have to make a choice about me. Follow me, or not. But you have to make a choice. You can follow me as Lord. Or you can walk away from me. But you have to choose.

And we don’t like to think about Jesus like that do we? We like to see Him someone who only wants us to be happy. But that is not who Jesus is. Jesus is not as concerned with our happiness as we are.

He is concerned with our life.

He don’t offers us happiness. He offers us abundant life. He offers something so much more than just simple happiness. He offers us life, today, each day, and for all eternity.

Happiness is fleeting. Life is eternal.

But the only way that we will know that life is we have to make a choice. Jesus wants us to make a choice. Choose to follow. Or not. It’s your choice.

It’s my choice.

It’s our choice.

Jesus demands a choice. What will we choose 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!

More Than Just an Option

Recently I’ve issued a challenge to my people at Asbury, and I’d like to issue that same challenge all of us here that read this devotional.

Who do we believe that God is? Is the Lord God of Heaven? The Maker of all that is, both seen and unseen? The Alpha and Omega, Beginning and Last? The Triune, Sovereign God?

The God that loves died for us and was raised us. The God that saves us shows us mercy, grace, and love?

That is who Scripture paints Him to be. That is what Christians have believed for thousands of years.

But the question I have for you this morning is this. Is this true? Do you believe that this is true? Do you believe that God is who scripture paints Him to be?

(waiting for you to answer that question. No, really, right now, in your own heart, answer that question)

If God is who He says that He is, doesn’t He deserve to be more than just an option in our lives?

choose-your-pathFor most of us, God is just an option. He’s something we pay attention to when we have time. We don’t plan our days, weeks, months, lives around God. We do what we want, and if we have time, we give God what we can.

We make God an option. He’s just one of the options in our lives.

And doesn’t He deserve more than that? Doesn’t God deserve to be Lord of our lives, not just an option?

My challenge this year is this. Give God a year. Truly, as best you can, don’t let God just be an option for you and your family. Truly let Him be Lord.

And you know what? If you do, if you really do, and God doesn’t honor that, I’ll shut up about it. I won’t bring it up again.

Is God just an option for you. Or is He Lord?

I don’t know what you will do, but we live by the words of Joshua 24:15:

And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

For me and my house, God will be more than just an option. I hope that He will be for you and yours as well.

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!

How Should We Live?

I just finished a small group this morning, and we talked about one of the questions that we Christians talk about is what are we supposed to do? How are we supposed to live? What is our life supposed to look like?

We’ve all wondered. We’ve all asked. What is a Christian supposed to do? What are we supposed to be like? How, now, should we live?

Jesus takes some time in our text today to talk about what our life should look like as a Christian. What are we supposed to do? Listen to what He says in Luke 3:10-14:

And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

eefd4fe8f589e64e0e66a4f2937ae4ae_XLWhat does Jesus say? What should we do as Christians? We should do our best to just to do right by people. Help people. Be faithful. Don’t steal. Share. Treat others right. Show love and mercy.

As He says in other places, treat them like you’d like to be treated.

Or as He says, the greatest commandment is to love our God and love our neighbor. Because if we do that, then we are keeping all the law. When you do right by others, you are doing what God wants us to do.

Because God loves them. He does. He loves people. They matter to Him. He sent His son to die for and to save them. God genuinely and totally loves people. He wants for all to be saved, and He wants to use us to do that great task.

And one of the ways that we can make a difference in someone’s life is by simply doing right be them. Treating them with that respect. Treating them right.

That’s Jesus’ command to us today. Do right by others. If we do that, God will take care of the rest.

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!

What Kind of Day It Will Be

Is today going to be a great day?  Or is it going to be a terrible day.

It all depends upon your perspective.  You perspective today will have a lot to do in determining what kind of day it will be.  Listen to what is says today in Psalm 18:4-6:

The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me. In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.

questionMark-backgroundThere are two ways to look at what happens today in this Psalm.  Both are true, by the way.

Way number one is to focus on the trouble and the pain that the Psalmist felt.  He was legitimately scared and worried. Death lingered.  He was distressed.  He was afraid.  We aren’t sure what was going in his life, but whatever it was, it wasn’t a good thing.

He probably felt at the end of his rope.  He probably felt like giving up.

We can focus on this. We can focus on the troubles and pains of the world, of the day. We can focus on all these things.

And today will be terrible day.

Or, we can focus on the second part of this passage.  The Psalmist cried for help. And God heard him.  His cried reached God. God heard, God understood. And God will send help.

God heard him in his pain. And will not leave nor forsake him.

God hears our hurts, our pain, our loss, our worry, our stuff.  God hears, God knows, and God never leaves.

No matter what.

So, today, what kind of day will it be. Will we focus on the problems in our lives that overwhelm us?  Or will we focus on God that never leaves, in spite of the trouble. The God that sends help, each day?

Today, what kind of day will it?

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.

A Choice

Today’s reading from Mark 5:17-20 offers a pretty clear choice to us.  Listen to what it tell us:

And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.

SocialClassChoiceIn this, we see two “people,” if you will. We first see the man who was healed from demon possession.  He had been plagued for many years by these demons, to the point that when Jesus found him, he was literally naked in a grave yard.

Jesus came to him, healed him, brought him back to sanity.  Jesus literally gave him back his life.  Now this man who was an outcast, that was not a part of the community, that was cast out, that was nothing, now he was whole again.

So, he goes out and tells people about what Jesus has done.

So, the town comes to see this Jesus that has healed this man.  And when the see Jesus, see His power, His might, who He is, they do this.  The ask Him to leave. They tell Him to get away. They want nothing to do with Him.

He is scary.  He is different. They are comfortable.  They don’t want it.

And so, today, that’s our choice.  Who will we be? Will we be the man, changed by Jesus, that can’t wait to tell others about Him, in every way possible?

Or will we be the crowd, that asks Jesus to leave, because we may not want to do what He may ask of us?

Today, we have a choice. Today, what will we choose?

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.