Day Fifteen with Mark: Mark 4:21-34

Today in Mark 4:21-34, we are going to look at three parables of Jesus.

A Lamp under a Bushel Basket
21 He said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under the bushel basket, or under the bed, and not on the lampstand? 22 For there is nothing hidden, except to be disclosed; nor is anything secret, except to come to light. 23 Let anyone with ears to hear listen!” 24 And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear; the measure you give will be the measure you get, and still more will be given you. 25 For to those who have, more will be given; and from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away.”

The Parable of the Growing Seed
26 He also said, “The kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, 27 and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. 28 The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. 29 But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”

The Parable of the Mustard Seed
30 He also said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? 31 It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; 32 yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

The Use of Parables
33 With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it; 34 he did not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything in private to his disciples

First, we have the Lamp under a bushel basket.  Ok, a couple of things here.  With parables, you have to remember that this is not to be taken “literally.”  What I mean is this is an illustration or a story.  It’s true, and it illustrates truth, but Jesus is trying to communicate something deeper here.  So, for instance, in the Gospels, light is often seen as a symbol for truth or for Jesus Himself.

So, in this parable, we’ve been given truth.  And we can’t hide that truth.  Truth will come out. What is done is secret, God knows.  But this measure of what we’ve been given is talking about the truth we’ve been given.  The “light.”  So, the more we respond to the truth, the more we search the scriptures, the more we seek God, the more we desire Him, the more of Him we will we know and will receive.  Likewise, the less we seek, the less we search, the less of Him we will know.

Today, we’ve been shown light.  And keeping with the theme of the parables, our response to that light will determine how much more light we receive.

The second parable we hear today is the parable of the growing seed.  In this, the kingdom of God is the seed.  It is planted but notice, it doesn’t grow because of the work of man, but it grows because of the Will of God.  We look up and marvel at what God has done and wonder to ourselves, how did that happen?  And the answer is God.  It happened because God was the one that was at work.  It wasn’t our will or our efforts that made it happen, it was God’s.

Remember, that God is the one that does the work.  Never mistake our faithfulness for God’s work.  God is the one at work.  We along aside beside Him.  But He is the instigator, He is the sustainer, He is the one that makes it happen.  And we look out and wonder, how that happen?  God.  That’s how.

mustardseed_1And our last parable today is mustard seed.  This is the one that we are most familiar with of these three parables.  The kingdom of God is like that mustard seed.  It’s small.  But when it grows roots, it changes everything.  The Gospel is not complicated.  It’s just hard to understand.  I heard someone put it like this.  The love of God is so simple that a child can understand it, but some complicated the greatest theologian can’t fathom it.

All of these parables, what is the emphasis upon?  The Kingdom.  The work and will of God.  He plants it, He grows it, He sustains it, we marvel at it.  Our job is to be receptive.  To do our part.  To listen, to receive, to obey, and to fan the flame that God puts within us.

Let’s be faithful.  But let’s know that it is God that is work within us.

Tomorrow we’ll look at Mark 4:35-41.

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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What determines today if you are a success?  Is it our preparation?  Is it our hard work?  Is it just luck?  Today, what determines our success?  What is it that makes us a success?

I was thinking about that today when I read one of the Psalms for this morning.  Listen to what David writes in Psalm 127: 1-2:

1 Unless the Lord builds the house,
those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord guards the city,
the guard keeps watch in vain.
2 It is in vain that you rise up early
and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives sleep to his beloved.

1429037342_success-kid-meme-lgYou can build the biggest house you want.  But unless the Lord builds it, it is in vain.

You can stand guard.  But unless the Lord keeps watch, it is in vain.

You can wake early and work and worry.  But don’t fret, the Lord gives sleep.

Success doesn’t come from our hand alone.  But it comes from the Lord.  Now, this isn’t a thought not to work hard.  No, work hard, be faithful.  Give your full effort.  In the Garden, one of the first things the Lord did was He gave Adam a task.  Work is good.  Having a purpose is very, very good.

But life is not just about our efforts.  It’s about living out of God’s strength and God’s purpose and God’s mercy.  Remember that.

And I’ll tell you what happens to me.  When I remember that all I have to do is do my best, and leave the rest up to God, it makes me more efficient.  It helps me accomplish more.  it helps me work even better.

Why?  Because I know it’s all His.  It’s all up to Him.  It’s His world, we are His people.  I know it’s all for His glory, so I’m going to do the very best that I can in all things.  For Him. For His glory and praise.  As my act of faithfulness to Him.

So today, don’t worry. Don’t stress.  Don’t obsess.  Just be faithful.  Do your task, do you duty, do what you should.

Don’t eat the bread of anxious toil.  It is God that is at work in all things.  Trust in Him, lean on Him and He will be the world that enables and empowers us in all things!

Be faithful.  Trust God.  All will be well.

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Fighting a Losing Battle?

sisyphus-drawingYou ever feel like you are fighting a losing battle?  Ever feel like you’ve got a task that you just can’t get done, dealing with something that you just can’t get right, working with something that you just can’t change?

We’ve all been there at some point in our lives. We’ve all been in a battle that we just can’t feel like we can win.  We’ve all felt that frustration, that anger, that doubt, that pressure, that worry.  One of my favorite characters in Greek mythology is Sisyphus.  If you’re not familiar with his story, basically he was punished for all eternity by having to push a boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll back down up on him. And he had to do that for all eternity.

Sometimes we feel like that, don’t we?  Sometimes we just feel like things won’t change and we can’t win.  Listen to what happens to Ezekiel today in Ezekiel 2: 4-7:

4 The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, “Thus says the Lord God.” 5 Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them. 6 And you, O mortal, do not be afraid of them, and do not be afraid of their words, though briers and thorns surround you and you live among scorpions; do not be afraid of their words, and do not be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house. 7 You shall speak my words to them, whether they hear or refuse to hear; for they are a rebellious house.

God sends Ezekiel to preach to the Israelites. And He says this.  They may not listen. They are rebellious. They are hard-headed. They may not listen to a word you say.

But you say it anyway. Because your job is not to change them.  Your job is to preach that word.

What a word for us today!  Your job is not to win that battle.  It’s not.  Your job is to be faithful. That’s your job today.  It’s God’s call if the battle is won or lost.  You can’t in the end control that.  You can’t control them.  You can’t control the situation.  You can’t control any of that.

All you can control is yourself.  That’s it.

So, our job is not to worry about the things that we can’t control.  Our job is to worry about what we can control. That’s ourselves. That’s our response.  That’s our faithfulness. That’s our effort.  That’s us.  That’s all we can do.

So, today, be faithful.  Even if it’s a battle that you don’t think you can win. Be faithful. The battle is Lord’s.  He will take care of what happens in the end.  Today, though, for you and for me, let’s be faithful.  Let’s be obedient. Let’s do what God wants us to do.

And the rest is up to Him. Don’t worry.  Don’t fear.  Don’t doubt.  Be faithful.  That’s our main duty!

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The Lord Remembers

remember-bowThe Lord remembers things.  Gulp.

That’s a scary phrase, isn’t it?  It’s scary to think about the Lord remembering things.  We think about the mistakes we’ve made, all the stuff we’ve done wrong, all the times we failed. And He remembers?  Man oh man.  It’s a heavy thing to think about the Lord remembering.

But, remember what the Bible says. The Lord doesn’t remember our sins, it says in Psalm 103:12 – “as far as the east is from the west, so far he removes our transgressions from us.”  He doesn’t remember our sins, He forgives them, and then He forgets them.  He doesn’t hold on to or remember these things.

So then, what is it?  What is it that He remembers?  Listen to what it says in Psalm 105: 7-10:

7 He is the Lord our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He is mindful of his covenant forever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,

What does the Lord remember?  He remembers His promises.  He remembers what it is that He said that He will do.  He remembers His covenant with us.

He remembers His promises that He has made to us.  He will never leave or forsake us.  He will forgive us.  He will give us abundant life.  Nothing will be able to separate us from His love.  All things work for our good and His glory.

For those us that believe, we will know eternal life.

He loves us.

God doesn’t remember our sins.  But the Lord does remember.  He remembers His promises.  And He will never break His promises to us.

You can count on that.

He is faithful.  He is true. And He remembers.

And I, for one, am so thankful for that.  The Lord remembers His promises to us.  May we always be thankful for that Good News!

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The Secret

saint-john-the-baptist-09John the Baptist is one of the coolest characters in all the Bible to me.  One of the reasons why is because when you read his story, he has such courage.  Man oh man, he’s not afraid of anything.  He says what he needs to say, sometimes in a VERY bold way, and he does what he needs to do.

He said what he said, wore what he wore, did what he did with great courage.

You ever wonder what his secret was?

What was it that he had that gave him such courage?  Well, when we read his story, this is what we see.  We see that he knew that he had one job in life, and that was to point to Jesus. Everything he did was for that purpose.  He did in everywhere and in every way.

He pointed to Jesus.  And was the source of his courage.  He knew that if he did what he was supposed to do, that was his purpose.  And all would flow from that.  Listen to what happens today in John 3: 27-30:

27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what has been given from heaven. 28 You yourselves are my witnesses that I said, ‘I am not the Messiah, but I have been sent ahead of him.’ 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom. The friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice. For this reason my joy has been fulfilled. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Here’s John, who is a big deal, has people coming from everywhere to hear him preach.  Folks are talking to him, saying are you the messiah?  Are you the one that is to come?

And John says – no!  I am not the one.  I am a friend of the one.  I point to the one.  But I am not the one.  And then he says that great statement in verse 30 – He must increase, but I am must decrease.

Wow.  That’s a tough thing to say, isn’t it.  Jesus must decrease.  We’re good with that one. That one’s cool.

But I must decrease.  I’m not so sure about that one.  I’m not sure that I want to decrease.  That’s tough.

But John knew that he had to.  He knew his life was not his own, but it was Jesus’.  And the only way that he would be able to find true life was to decrease.  Because living for himself would never lead to life.  Living for Jesus would lead to true life.  Now, and for all eternity.

He had to decrease.  Jesus had to increase.  That’s the secret.  That was where his courage, his purpose, his life came from.  He knew that if increased and Jesus decreased, he’d never find life. But, if he did all that he could do to point to Jesus and point others to Jesus, he’d fine life. And that life leads to courage.

Today, how about us?  We were made for that very purpose.  To point others to Jesus.

Today, may we live out our purpose. And if we do that, we will find the courage that we desperately need.  Today, may He increase and we decrease.

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Seeking Peace

Yesterday at Asbury, we talked about how peace is not a concept that is not able to grasp, nor is a circumstance that change. Peace is a person – Jesus Christ. Peace doesn’t come through these things; peace comes through our relationship and our walk with Jesus.

I was thinking about that today when I was reading some of today’s suggested readings, and I read Psalm 34. Listen to what it says in 11-14:

Come, O children, listen to me;
I will teach you the fear of the Lord.
What man is there who desires life
and loves many days, that he may see good?
Keep your tongue from evil
and your lips from speaking deceit.
Turn away from evil and do good;
seek peace and pursue it.

img1The things of faith, the things of peace in our lives really aren’t complicated to understand. They really aren’t.

They can be just really hard to do at times (at most times!). Today, the Psalmist talks about peace. And this is his suggestion to us today.

Keep your lips from evil. Turn from evil. Do good.

In other words, watch what you say. That’s a consistent Biblical command. Our words can do great harm or great good. It’s up to us, based off how we used them.

Turn away from evil. Don’t go looking for trouble. Seriously. Trouble will find you; temptation will find you. It will. Don’t go trying to find it. Stay away from things that you are that are wrong.

Do good. The quickest way to change our perspective, to changer our attitude is do something good for someone else. Serve someone. Give. Care. Be salt and light.

Seek peace. In others seek Jesus. For He is peace. Seek Him. Chase Him. Place your heart upon Him. Nothing else.

And in this, you will find life. See, not complicated to understand. We all know these things. But just hard to do. So, how do we do it?

We pray. We read the Word. We surround ourselves with those that help us be faithful. And keep doing these things. As we do them; as we seek; as we grow, find peace. We find strength. We find faithfulness. We find life.

Today, as you walk with Jesus, you will have more peace. Live out that peace with and before others. And as we do that, we will make a difference in our life and in the lives of others.

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!

The Little Things

Yesterday at Asbury, we talked about how we can be, and should be, thankful for our mission and purpose. And we talked about some ways that we can better find that purpose: taking things off our schedule to give us time, trying something big, and looking with our own lives and seeing how we can make a difference in our lives in the things we are already doing.

I thought about that when I read today’s reading from Ephesians 4: 25-32:

Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

little-things1Sometimes we make the Christian faith something big and unattainable. Something that we will never be able to do, something that is just beyond us. That’s why I just really like practical advice and encouragement.

Listen to the little things that we are told to do today:

Speak the truth. Don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Don’t steal. Work hard. No corrupting talk. Speak well of each other. No bitterness, wrath, anger, or slander. Be kind. Forgive as God forgave you.

You know what? Those are things that each of us can do today. Seriously. Each of us can do these things today.

It’s not always the big things. Sometimes (most times) it’s the little things. The little words. The little smiles. The little efforts. The little cares. The little things.

You don’t have to do something huge to be faithful today. You don’t. You just have to be faithful today. Work hard. Be kind. Forgive. The little things.

In your work, in your play, in your family, in your lives. The little things make a huge difference.

Today, be faithful in those things.

And see what God does.

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!

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!