Day Seven with Mark: Mark 2:18-28

Today we are looking at Mark 2: 18-28, two sections that have a very similar theme, a theme we are going to see emerge in the coming days’ readings. They are entitled “The Question about Fasting” and “Pronouncement about the Sabbath.”

The Question about Fasting
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 Jesus said to them, “The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day. 21 “No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old cloak; otherwise, the patch pulls away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins.”

Pronouncement about the Sabbath
23 One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food? 26 He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.” 27 Then he said to them, “The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.”

Spiritual_Discipline-1024x640We see two questions here that deal with the law.  One with fasting, one with the Sabbath.  Both of these things are spiritual disciplines.  Spiritual disciplines are very important.  They help us grow.  They help us become more faithful.  They are commands of Jesus Christ.  He tells to fast, and He tells us that we are supposed to keep the moral law of the Old Testament.

So, yes, these things are important.  But these things do not take the place of loving and following Jesus.  When Jesus called Levi yesterday, and Peter, Andrew, James, and John, He didn’t call them to fast or pray, but to follow Him.  Now stay with me here.  Here’s the thing.  If we love and follow Jesus, we will fast.  We will pray.  We will the disciplines.  Not because we have to.  But because in doing these things, we are being drawn closer to God.

Religion is not bad.  I know it’s cool to do that, to put down religion.  Religion is not bad.  It’s a good thing. I’m religious about things I love.  Like, for instance, Jesus Christ.  Religion doesn’t save.  Jesus saves.  But in following Jesus, we follow Him religiously.

So, in this passage, He doesn’t say don’t fast.  He says now is not the time to fast.  He doesn’t say don’t keep the Sabbath; He says that the Sabbath was made for man.  Fasting and keeping the Sabbath are very important. But they don’t save you.  Jesus saves.

Here’s the thing, though.  They are for our benefit.  Our good.  Our faith.  Our life.

But we do them not do make God love us.  We do it because God loves us.  Hear that again.  We don’t keep these disciplines to make God love us.  We keep them because He loves us, and we love Him and we want to know Him better.

With religion, we never need to put the cart before the horse.  I love Jesus.  And I love religion.  And I am thankful for both.  But I want to keep them in the proper order.

Today, may you be faithful.  May you be religious.  And may your religious lifestyle help you to love Jesus and love your neighbor more and more and more.

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 3:1-6.

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Realizing our Need

What is the first step in our walk with God?  It can be a variety of things.  For some of us, its beautiful.  When we see something beautiful in life, we are reminded that there is beauty in life and God is that thing that is beautiful.

Perhaps it is passion. Maybe we feel God move in some powerful way and we want to be a part of that.  We want to know that thing that is deeper and bigger and more alive.

In so many ways, those that thing that draws us to Him is this.  Need.  We realize that in some deep way, we need Him.  There is a need, there is a gap, there is something that is missing in our lives.  Realizing that many times is that first step towards Him.  Look at what happens today, through in Mark 10:17-22:

17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments:”You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.”‘ 20He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

reachReading this today, this is what jumped out to me.  First, the man comes up to Jesus and calls Him good.  Notice Jesus’ response.  No one is good but God.  Now, Jesus is a good and holy and God Himself.  So He had every right to properly receive that title of “good.”  But he acted with humility.

The man asks Jesus what he had to do to enter the kingdom.  Jesus give a bunch of commands and the guy says – I’ve kept all these since my youth.  In other words, I’m awesome.  I’m pretty holy.  I am good.

See the contrast?  Jesus passed on the glory to God, and the man says, nope.  I’ve got this down pat.  I’m got it, it, I’m good.

He didn’t see that he needed God.  Coming to God is not about “doing” more, it’s about realizing that we need Him.  And when we realize that we need Him, He will give Himself to us.  But we can’t receive Him until we know that we need Him.

The man in the story thought he needed to do more and that he could do it one his own.  So Jesus told him to do something that he couldn’t do on his own; something he could only do through God. And he couldn’t do that.

Because he couldn’t do it.  Not on his own.  Only thought God could he do it.

He didn’t realize that he needed God.  And so he walked away shocked.

Because he didn’t realize his need for God.

He thought he had it.

May we not make that same mistake today!  May we realize our need for God, and may we understand just how He will meet those needs.

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Religion vs Relationship

Paul went many places sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In his time, he literally traveled across the world, telling folks about the good news of Jesus.

But, one of the more interesting places that he went was went he went to Athens. Athens was a place that was defined by religion. There were literally places to worship everywhere across the city.

Athens didn’t have too little religion. It had too much religion.

What it was missing was not religion, it was the truth that is found in Jesus Christ.
Listen to what happens to Paul today in Acts 17:22-25:

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, “To the unknown god.” What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything.

Paul says – you don’t need religion. You need relationship. Relationship is what matters. Relationship is the key.

God is not wanting you to be “religious” today. He wants you to fall in love with His son, Jesus Christ. And if you fall in love with Jesus, feel His life and His grace within you today, the religion question will take care of itself.

Don’t worry about religion today. Focus on Jesus. His life. His grace. His power. Focus on that. And the rest will take care of its self.

God doesn’t need more religious folks out there. He needs more folks that love Jesus, and want to love others like Jesus.

If we, as the church, and as Christians do that, we will have the religion that God really wants us to have.

Chasing after Jesus. Everything starts there.

Today, may we chase after Him, and after that relationship with Him with every moment of our lives!

And in that, may we find true life!

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Going Through the Motions

One of the problems that the prophet Isaiah faced in his time in Israel as a prophet was religion.

Religion was a huge problem for him as a prophet.

Wait, what?

Yep, religion. How? Why?

Listen to what he says today in chapter 1: 12-18:

“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool.

What was happening was this. The people were keeping the rituals of religion. They were going to the appointed holy days. They were keeping the festivals. They were offering sacrifices. They were “doing” the “right” things.

Except they weren’t. They were keeping the rules of religion. But they weren’t keeping the heart of faith.

They weren’t treating others with love and respect. They weren’t seeking God. They weren’t chasing after justice. They weren’t showing God’s love to all.

They were just going through the motions.

And that’s a dangerous thing. Because going through the motions can confuse religion with relationship.

God doesn’t want us to be religious. He wants us in a relationship with Him. And when we are in a relationship with Him, He takes care of the life of religion with Him.

Today, don’t just go through the motions. Really seek after Him with all you are. And, you will find Him.

And in finding Him, we will have all that heart and our life can desire. And we find the life that we are desperately wanting.

Today, chase after Him. Today, find life!

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.

Going through the Motions of Religion

Normally I reflect upon some daily suggested scriptures that can be found in our weekly Salt and Light bulletin at Asbury.  Today, though, in my own personal devotional time, I read a verse from Matthew 23 that really resonated with me. I wanted to talk a litte about it. Sorry for going off the board!

In Matthew 23, Jesus criticizes the Pharisees. They were the religious teachers of His day. They were the ones that thought the law and were the authorities for most people on what the law required and how a person of faith was supposed to live.

They wanted the people to keep and live by the law, because they were afraid. They remember what happened in the past when the people didn’t keep the law. We see in the Old Testament God say – if you keep the law, you will be blessed and have this land. If you don’t keep it, you will lose it.

The people didn’t keep it. They did their own thing and went their own way. And because of that, they lost the land. So, the leaders associated it, keeping law = land. Breaking law = losing land.

So, they were going to keep the law. And they added to the law their own laws as safeguards. They were’t going to take any chances.

So, when Jesus comes and does things they perceive as breaking law, like healing on the Sabbath, they go crazy. No! You can’t do that! No! Stop it! The reason they go so agree is because they were afraid. They had misplaced keeping the law for the point of faith.

And we see Jesus correct them today. Listen to what He says in Matthew 23:23-24:

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel!

He said that they had kept parts of the law, but had missed the weightier and more important parts. Justice. Mercy. Faithfulness.

They had “right actions.” But they hadn’t given God their hearts. They were going through the motions of religion. But they had missed the point of it all.

Today, God doesn’t just want you act religious. He wants control of your heart. Because if He has your heart, He will have your actions.

Today, don’t worry about being religious. Worry about giving Him your everything. And if He has your all in all, He will have you actions. Today, don’t worry about going through the motions of religion. Today, make sure you are giving Him the faith of your heart!

And when He has that, you will have all you need!

Check List

Believe it or not, I’ve always felt like religion was easy.  To be religious can mean, at it’s most simple just a collection of things that we should and shouldn’t do.  Religion, at it’s most simple, is a check list.

That’s what a lot of folks think about faith. And honestly, that’s what a lot of believers think about faith.  If I just do this, do that, don’t do this, don’t do that, than it’s all taken care of.

Today, in Psalm 50, the Psalmist says this

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls, *
or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving *
and make good your vows to the Most High.
15 Call upon me in the day of trouble; *
I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.”

We are reminded that faith is not, in the end, about what we do, or don’t do.

Now, there are things we are supposed to do and not do. But, it doesn’t start with that.

It starts with that heart for God.  It starts with that relationship.  It starts with a desire to know and be known, to love and be loved.

It’s not about a check list.  It’s not about making God love us.  It’s not about doing what Christians are “supposed” to do.

It’s about understanding that we are loved more than we’ll ever know. That an awesome, holy, and righteous God simply loves us.

And it’s about knowing that we are supposed to love God, and love each other in that same way.

So, if there is a check list, it’s not “religion.”  It’s love.  Love God. Love each other. That’s it, that’s the list.