Dear friends and followers of Jesus Christ,
Greetings on this the Lord’s day! It is another beautiful day to gather with God’s people and worship! Jesus is risen! He is the King of all Kings and Lord of all Lords! He is the ‘first fruits’ from the grave, having conquered death and hell! That great swallower of mankind choked on the King of Life and had to let Him go!
As I reflect back on the readings of this last week, I am again drawn to Mark’s account of the crucifixion and resurrection. Jesus had lived, taught, and performed many outstanding miracles among His own people. When He was arrested in the night by the temple police and brought before the Sanhedrin, the High Priest, Caiaphas, asked Jesus if He was the Christ. Jesus simply said, “I am”. (Mark 14:62a) Before Pilate, Jesus was asked if He was the king of the Jews and He replied, “Yes, it is as you say.” (Mark 15:2) Pilate asked the crowd, what shall I do with the “king of the Jews?” “Crucify Him!” was their reply! (Mark 15:12-13) The sign over his cross read: “The King of the Jews”. (Mark 15:25) The crowd taunted Him on the cross asking this “King of Israel” to demonstrate his power by coming down off the cross. (Mark 15:32)
I can’t seem to get this idea of the King being crucified by His own people out of my mind. How could someone who did only good and demonstrated only love to His people be rejected and treated in such a shameful way? What kind of love is this on the part of this King, that He would be willingly crucified for those who would treat Him so shamefully? How can He now show this love to me when I have also treated Him shamefully? What would I be doing now if He had come down from that cross?
But He stayed on that cross! He died a sacrificial death, demonstrating for all ages the heart of the God we are called to love and serve. He rose from the dead and conquered the grave, death and hell! He now calls each of His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him! We go to our death each day to live in His fullness! We are also victors over death and hell through Him who loved us! What a miracle of love! Help me to understand it better, Lord! Help me to live it out by faith!
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for October 23rd: Luke 7-9
“Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord’ but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:61-62
Following Jesus Christ seems to be an easy assignment at first. It looks pretty simple and leaving the everyday responsibilities to trust God and walk by faith seems like a glamorous pursuit. In reality, it involves some difficult choices in each individual disciple’s life. The verse I chose from today’s reading had some interesting effects in my own family’s life!
In my own life, I made an initial commitment to follow the Lord when I was in my early teens. I went to an altar in a small country Methodist church and prayed to receive Christ as my Lord and Savior. I learned little about what I had done and was not really a committed follower of the Lord until my late 20’s. By then, I had chosen to follow my father in farming and had studied farm management at the university. My wife and I were youth leaders in our church and I even became a lay preacher in the Methodist church. We were building our family and farming operation while life went on.
We had started farming by raising hogs and had built a big complex of buildings where we conducted our business. This required a lot of borrowed money and sweat equity! God broke into my busy world and renewed His call on my life to serve Him and preach His word! We began to seek the Lord as a family and over the next 10 years worked toward a ministerial license through the Berean School of the Bible. We worked hard on the farm to get out of debt and to re-order our priorities according to Scripture. God worked with us and directed us step by step as my wife and I had asked Him to.
As I completed my study for license, we were finally debt-free and a door opened for ministry in our local church. We carefully followed as God directed. We spent just over another 5 years farming and at the same time serving as a staff pastor in a large city church. After that time, we had clear direction to stop farming and sell all of our equipment. A little later we also tore down our hog buildings and buried the remains. This was like Elisha burning his plow and not looking back! (1st Kings 19:19-21)
It has been an interesting experience to follow Jesus! When we started, we did not know all that it would require. It seemed like a simple matter and in reality it has been! His yoke is easy and His burden is light! We can recall what we have gone through, but we wouldn’t go back for anything! If God has called you to put your hand to His plow, do it with joy! The journey is exciting and the best is yet to come!
Scripture reading for October 22: Luke 3-6
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” “Then He rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on Him, and he began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 4:18-21
Not much is recorded about the life of Jesus from the time He was twelve until He was baptized by John at the age of thirty. We know that He worked with Joseph for part of that time in their carpenter shop. He took part in normal family life and community life in the town of Nazareth. Can you imagine eating off of a table that Jesus had made? Or using an ox yoke that He had crafted? Just think of the Son of God doing such menial labor for ordinary people! This was all part of His preparation for the ministry of preaching the Good News to the lost of the world!
At the proper time, Jesus went down to the Jordan River to where John the Baptist was baptizing those who would repent. John had spoken of one who would come after him whose sandals he was not worthy to untie. When John saw Jesus, he immediately knew that He was this One! (John 1:29) Jesus was baptized and the heavens opened and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in the form of a dove. A voice from heaven declared: “You are My Son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased.” (Luke 3:21-22) This beautiful anointing following the baptism of Jesus is something to savor and meditate on! God loved His Son and let Him know that very plainly. He was pleased with His Son and told Him so! How much these thoughts should speak to each of us who are adopted into God’s household!
Jesus was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the Devil. For forty days, Jesus fasted all food. Satan came to tempt Him and each time, Jesus quoted Scripture to defeat him. The anointing led Jesus and empowered Him with the Word of God! He was successful against the temptations of Satan because of following the anointing.
When he arrived back in Nazareth at His home synagogue, He was invited to read from the scroll of Isaiah61:1-2. He read the words quoted to begin this devotion. The Spirit had anointed Him to preach the Good News and proclaim freedom to all who needed it and would hear. He was anointed to heal and deliver the blind and oppressed. He was to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. This Scripture was fulfilled in the hearing of those present that day in Nazareth! (Luke 4:21)
The anointing of the Holy Spirit indwelling Jesus Christ is for us today! The Holy Spirit will do in our lives the same things and greater things because Jesus has gone to the Father! (John 14:12-13) Think on these things!
Scripture reading for October 21st: Luke 1-2
Godly mothers are a gift from the Lord to their children and to the world. I have a godly mother and am so thankful and blessed! My mother has a close walk with the Lord. She was saved when she was young and sought to live out that faith every day. She was faithful to read her Bible and teach her children. She was the Sunday School superintendent in our church as I grew up. Now 86 years young, she still joyfully serves her family and others by cooking and encouraging. She faithfully calls each of her many children, grandchildren and great grandchildren on their birthdays and sings to them! What a blessing now and to future generations!
In our reading today, Luke tells the story of two godly women who are key players in God’s work of salvation. Elizabeth is older and beyond the time of having children when God breaks into her life with a word from an Angel. This angel came to Zechariah, her husband, as he was offering incense before the Lord. He was told that his wife would have a son and his name was to be “John”. (A great name!) This son would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. He would turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and prepare the people for the Lord. (Luke 1:13-17) As the angel predicted, Elizabeth became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months. Her husband was unable to speak because he had doubted the angel’s prediction.
The second mother-to-be was Mary. She was a virgin, engaged to be married. Gabriel, an angel sent to her by God, announced her favor with God and told her that she would bear a child who would be called the “Son of the Most High.” Mary humbly asked how this could be since she was a virgin. The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive the child who would be the “Son of God”. Mary’s response was a picture of faith for all of us. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)
This new mother had the joy of carrying Jesus Christ from conception to birth and then raising Him in her home. I can imagine her joy and excitement, mixed with holy fear at all that had transpired. These women had the privilege of working with God to bring about His plan of salvation. Their faith and obedience was a blessing to their children and families, I am sure. But now that faith has impacted each of us and countless millions around the world! If we could get a grasp of the significance of our faith, it would motivate us to serve with joy in the small things the Lord asks of us. Let’s say with Mary, the mother of Jesus, “I am the Lord’s servant.”
Scripture reading for October 20th: Mark 14-16
Mark’s Gospel tells of Jesus Christ serving, healing, casting out demons, and preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom to His own people. Jesus particularly sought out those who were lost and willing to listen. He gathered disciples who would be willing to leave all, follow Him and learn His character and His ways. He is shown teaching them and then sending them out to practice what He had taught. He would evaluate their work and encourage them as well as rebuking them when necessary. It is a Gospel of action: God in Jesus Christ acting to bring salvation to those who would receive it.
“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In My name they will drive out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.” …”Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed His word by the signs that accompanied it.” Mark 16:15-18, 20.
This Gospel’s closing words are a call to Jesus’ followers to continue the action of God. Jesus Christ had taught His followers all that was needed. They were to wait for the gift of the Holy Spirit who would give them the power that was needed to be His witnesses. (Acts 1:8) Then they were to go and preach. No one can hear and have faith for salvation without someone preaching the Word to them! As they preached, they were to act under the authority of the name of Jesus Christ. In His name supernatural signs would accompany the going and the preaching of the Word. Demons would be cast out, sick people would be healed. People would be baptized in the Holy Spirit and would speak with new tongues. The disciples would have supernatural protection as well from attacks of venomous snakes or people trying to poison them. These promises were made to all who would obey the Word of God!
It is interesting to note that these first disciples obeyed and went their way, preaching the Gospel and praying for the sick and demon possessed. Jesus Christ worked with them and signs followed their ministry. The truth highlighted here is that if you are seeking miracles, signs and wonders, the best place to find them is when you obey God’s command to go and preach! Are you willing to act in faith and experience the supernatural following your preaching and prayer? What is holding you back? Are they able to follow you?
Scripture reading for October 19th: Mark 11-13
In 1995 my son Marshal and I went on a study trip to Israel. We visited about 70 sites around Israel and also went to Mt. Sinai in Saudi Arabia where we traced the route of the exodus ending in Egypt. While in Israel, we visited Bethany and walked up the road and over the Mt. of Olives that went to Jerusalem. It was a walk of 2-3 miles but had some very interesting history that made this portion of scripture come alive in a different way!
In our reading today, Jesus and his disciples were staying in Bethany. Mary, Martha, and Lazarus lived in Bethany and Jesus often stayed with them. They had come to Jerusalem to prepare for Passover week when all Jewish men were required to appear before the Lord. Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the colt of a donkey as Zechariah had predicted. He was actually the final sacrifice for the last Passover ever needed! He arrived at the temple but simply looked around and left. This would have been on Sunday, the first day of the week, what we know as “Palm Sunday”.
He returned to Bethany and stayed there another night. The next morning as He walked back over the Mt. of Olives, he was hungry. Seeing a fig tree, He went to find early fruit. He found none on the tree and spoke a curse over the tree, stating that no one would ever eat fruit from that tree again. He then went on to the temple and did a cleansing job there that caused quite a stir. He went back to his friends’ house for another evening. The next morning they went by the fig tree and it had withered from the roots! Peter called Jesus’ attention to the tree! (Mark 11:20-21)
Mark 11:22-25 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, that whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
Here is what we learned by walking where Jesus walked: There was a fig grove on the Mt. of Olives in 1995. From that location one could look and see Bethlehem and a place called the “Herodium” where King Herod, in the years just before Jesus walked that path, had moved a mountain! He took one hill and put it on top of another using thousands of slave laborers. In the distance you could also see the Dead Sea glistening in the valley below. When Jesus spoke that parable, He had an object lesson for his disciples! With faith in God, moving mountains is easy! But watch your heart, forgiveness is imperative!
Today, take time to meditate on these verses from Mark’s Gospel and put them into practice! Use prayer to move the mountains you face in your life! What a blessing it is to walk by faith in Jesus!
Dear Friends of Jesus,
Greetings again in His Wonderful Name! Jesus Christ is alive! He is risen from the dead! What a glorious theme from the Gospels. That is the best of the good news for all who believe in Jesus. Our Savior is not dead, but is living now and alive forever more.
Matthew record this event in the last chapter of his Gospel. At dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb. While they were there, a violent earthquake shook the garden where the tomb was. The guards sent by Pilate to guard the body and secure the tomb shook and fell to the ground as dead men! A shining angel of the Lord came down from heaven and rolled away the stone to reveal an empty tomb.
“The angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here, He has risen, just as He said. Come and see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell His disciples, “He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see Him.” Matthew 28:5-7
Jesus was seen and handled by all the disciples on various occasions over 40 days. He was seen by over 500 people at one time. (1st Corinthians 15:6-8) His resurrection so moved the disciples that they were willing to die, rather than deny Him! His resurrection is celebrated each Sunday by Christians who know and love Him and gather to remember, learn, and prepare for His coming again!
Have a great day of worship, prayer, and preparation with God’s family, the Church! He is risen! He is risen indeed!
In His Love, Pastor John
Scripture reading for October 17th: Mark 8-10
As a Christian, have you ever faced a situation that was beyond your spiritual ability to know what to do? In today’s reading, we have the story of a man with a son who has an evil spirit that was always trying to kill the boy. This boy was often thrown to the ground, into the fire, and foamed at the mouth and became rigid. The father had brought his son to Jesus’ disciples for deliverance, but they could do nothing. This problem was not responding to what they knew and where they were spiritually. They needed help from their Master!
“O, unbelieving generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.” Mark 9:19 Jesus cried out from the depths of His being! He had spent many hours with these men and showed them the power of faith and of words. They were being ruled by sight! As the boy was brought before Him, the spirit caused another seizure to occur. Jesus asked the boy’s father how long he had been like this and he replied that his son had been that way from childhood. The man asked Jesus to help, if He could do anything at all. “If you can?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for him who believes.” Mark 9:23 “Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, “I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!”” Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, it left the boy and he was healed!
The disciples were perplexed as to why they had failed. Jesus explained to them that this kind of demonic activity can only be defeated by prayer. (Mark 9:29) At this point, we should stop and think about what has happened and look at our lives as disciples. Jesus called His followers to take up their cross and follow Him. He lived a life of prayer and of complete submission to God as Father. He left these records for us to know that by faith, all things are possible. When we are faced with an impossible situation, prayer (and fasting) often is the only way to victory. God has answers if we won’t give up or quit too soon! If we lack faith, we need to get into God’s word and seek to find His word on whatever obstacle we face.
A scriptural prayer is found on the lips of the boy’s father! Jesus’ answer to him had brought faith but he needed to drive out the unbelief! He saw the salvation of God because of his faith and Jesus’ mercy. May we enjoy growing in faith and experience His mercy in our lives today!
Scripture reading for October 16th: Mark 4-7
We who love Jesus can’t envision asking Him to depart from us or leave our town. We would invite Him to stay with us as long as possible to enjoy His companionship. Jesus wants to come and be with us as well. He came to earth to seek out and save lost people. (Luke 19:10) In our reading today, Jesus was on a mission that required crossing the Sea of Galilee with His disciples to find a very lost person.
After ministering to a crowd all day, Jesus told His disciples that they should go to the other side of the lake. They got in boats and Jesus got in the stern, found a cushion and went to sleep. It had been a hard day and He was tired! As they crossed the lake in the night, a furious wind arose that threatened to swamp the boat. The disciples excitedly woke Jesus, pleading for help. Jesus rebuked the wind and waves and a calm suddenly fell upon them. They were terrified and marveled about how the wind and waves obeyed Jesus! He chastened them for their fear and lack of faith. (Mark 4:35-41)
When they got across the lake, a man with an evil spirit came from among some tombs to meet Jesus. He had chains on his hands and feet and looked like a madman because of where he lived and the shape he was in. As He saw Jesus, he ran to Him and fell on his knees begging not to be tortured. The man’s name was “Legion” because of the large number of demons in him. Jesus rebuked the evil spirits and sent them into a herd of pigs as they requested. The swine ran over a steep bank, tumbled into the lake and drowned. Nearly two thousand pigs died!
The man was delivered, set free from the bondage, and in his right mind! (Mark 4:14-17) The people of the region, who depended on the pigs for their sustenance, were terrified and angry. They came to Jesus and asked Him to leave their region. Mark records that Jesus got into the boat to leave, and the delivered man asked to come along. Jesus sent him back to tell his family of what the Lord had done for him and then departed. This man became an evangelist, telling others throughout the area of what Jesus had done for him.
As we reflect on this story, we are first reminded of how Jesus loves and cares for His own disciples. He’s always with us, even when we think He might be sleeping or unaware! He has given us authority by and through faith in Him to do what He has asked of us. Nothing is too hard, dangerous, or difficult! Second, Jesus loves to go out of His way to find someone who needs help. He came to seek and save the lost! He will go through water, storm, and forces of hell to reach a needy soul. Last, those who are only into themselves are threatened by Jesus’ presence. They asked Him to leave! May the Lord give us more insight into His marvelous grace!