Abundance

I love the book of Mark.  At just over 11,000 words (overviewbible.com), it is far shorter than the other three gospels.   I’m a reader; I love long novels and rich memoirs.  So to find myself drawn to the shortest gospel surprised me.  I think it is Mark’s simplicity that appeals to me:  it seems like Mark pares down the life of Jesus to the essentials, letting His life and His actions speak for themselves.  Only a few verses into Mark 8, however, I realized that although Mark’s style might be characterized by brevity, Jesus’ actions are marked by overflow and abundance.

Mark 8 includes the story of Jesus feeding a large crowd of people with only seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.  Mark 8:9 tells us that in the crowd “there were about four thousand people.”  It is believed that these four thousand only included the men; women and children were not counted in the total.  In reality, though, four or five times that number could have been in that crowd.  So, with a very small amount of food (Mark 8:6-7) Jesus fed perhaps 15,000 – 20,000 people.

A few chapters earlier, in Mark 6, we learned that Jesus fed even more people –  5,000 – with five loaves of bread and two fish.  Again, the crowd probably numbered over 20,000 people.  And Jesus?  He doesn’t stop there, with simply satisfying their hunger that day.  Instead, after all of the people “ate and were satisfied” (Mark 8:8 and Mark 6:42) He instructed His disciples to gather the leftovers, the broken pieces of bread and fish.  After the 5,000 had been fed, Jesus’s disciples filled twelve baskets with the leftovers!  And after the 4,000 had eaten, the disciples gathered 7 baskets of leftover bread and fish!  Provision, and overflow.  Scarcity, and abundance.

The provision of food for the crowd clearly reminds us to have faith that God will provide for our needs.  The leftover food, though, speaks to the idea of abundance.  Not only will God provide, but He will do so in an abundant way. This thought is echoed in other places in Scripture as well.  In Ephesians 3:19-21, Paul references Jesus’ desire for us to live a full and abundant life in Him.  Paul prays that Jesus’ followers would be “filled with all the fullness of God” (Ephesians 3:19), and writes, “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.”  (Ephesians 3:20-21).  When Jesus fed crowds of people with so little food, and fed them until they were satisfied, He reveals to them, and to us, that He loves to provide for his followers in ways that are more than we could ever imagine.  And in John 10:10, Jesus tells his disciples that He “came that they may have life and have it abundantly”.  The promise of an abundant life for His followers was Christ’s purpose in coming into the world.  My prayer for us today is that we rest in that assurance and embrace the abundant life that Jesus offers.

Hello Mark

“For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45

 Hello, it’s a Monday and I’m here to welcome you to the gospel of Mark. Are you excited? I’m so excited! This has been such an awesome time of new beginnings. We aren’t reading the Gospel of Mark quite yet today, but instead we’re getting acquainted with our new author. Of course, I’ve done my usual research and uncovered some interesting facts for us. The Gospel of Mark is actually anonymous. In 326 AD, Eusebius, an early church historian, preserved the words of Papias an early church elder. Papias, quoted another elder, probably John, as saying that Mark recorded Peter’s preaching about Jesus but not in order. Therefore, since the first century, Mark was considered the author of this Gospel.

Mark was actually named John Mark and was the son of a widow named Mary. The church of Jerusalem sometimes met at Mary’s house (see Acts 12:12-17). Some sources say that Jesus’ last supper took place in Mary’s house as well…but we don’t really know so we can’t get too excited! Mark and Barnabus were cousins (Col 4:10) and together they traveled with Paul on that first missionary journey. Mark became like a son to the apostle Peter and also became close to Paul. Shortly before Paul’s execution, he asked Timothy to “bring Mark with you, for he is useful to me in the ministry” (2 Timothy 4:11). After Paul’s execution, Mark moved to Egypt and established churches.

Mark wrote his gospel in Rome around the time of Peter’s martyrdom. He wrote primarily for the Roman Gentiles and used Latin terms rather then Greek. Mark’s Gospel is believed by many Bible scholars to be the earliest Gospel written. There is evidence that it served as a source for both Gospels of Matthew and Luke. Mark’s writing begins with John the Baptist preaching and then moves on to Jesus’ public ministry. We see Jesus in action as a servant and then Jesus is revealed to us as the Messiah when he performs several miracles. By the end of Mark’s gospel, we move quickly toward the events of The Last Supper, the betrayal, the crucifixion and the resurrection. What an opportunity we have in these next few weeks to get to know Jesus through Mark. I’m ready for God to move in our life as we follow in His footsteps: serving, sacrificing and saving. I’ll leave you today with four key themes of Mark’s Gospel to consider. I challenge you to write them down and watch for them to come up in our daily study of Mark. I’ll be making notes each day about the words of Christ and how they fit within our personal faith journey.

Jesus Christ:

  • Mark demonstrates that Jesus Christ is the Son of God
  • He overcomes disease, demons and death
  • Jesus chose to die for us

Servant:

  • Jesus fulfilled the prophecies of the Old Testament by coming to earth
  • He came as a servant, not a conquering king
  • By giving his life he performed the ultimate act of service

Miracles:

  • Mark records more of Jesus’ miracles in his Gospel than sermons
  • Mark reveals Jesus’ true identity as the Messiah through accounts of his miracles

Spreading the Gospel:

  • Jesus directed his ministry to the Jews, he was met with opposition
  • Jesus also ministered to the “non-Jewish” world including Roman soldiers, Syrians, and other Gentiles.
  • Many believed the good news and followed him
  • Jesus’ final message to his disciples was to go out to the whole world and preach salvation

 Author’s note: Much of today’s historic information was drawn from a collection of study Bibles. I primarily use the NIV Life Application Study Bible (Zondervan), The HCSB Study Bible (Holman Bible Publishers), The ESV Study Bible (Crossway) and various online sources such as: biblegateway.com, biblestudytools.com and blueletterbible.org. Of course when writing about historic figures, one can only use the collection of data available and then present it in a way that honors the source. I’ve done the best I can to collect facts and share them with you in a digestible Monday morning fashion. There is always lots more Christian literature available to us! If you want more information about the Gospel of Mark or have knowledge you’d like to share, please comment below.

Miracles and You

Empty wheelchair on the meadow at sunset. Miracle concept. Healed person raised and went away

Today’s Readings: 2 Kings 20, Hebrews 2, Hosea 13, Psalms 137-138

“In those days Hezekiah became ill and was at the point of death. The prophet Isaiah son of Amoz went to him and said, “This is what the Lord says: Put your house in order, because you are going to die; you will not recover.”

Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the Lord,“Remember, Lord, how I have walked before you faithfully and with wholehearted devotion and have done what is good in your eyes.” And Hezekiah wept bitterly.

Before Isaiah had left the middle court, the word of the Lord came to him: “Go back and tell Hezekiah, the ruler of my people, ‘This is what the Lord, the God of your father David, says: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you. On the third day from now you will go up to the temple of the Lord. I will add fifteen years to your life. And I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria. I will defend this city for my sake and for the sake of my servant David.’” 2 Kings 20: 1-6

So, I was really hoping to find something in my readings today about healing. Ta -da!! I just picture God sitting on his throne saying, “ta-da!” all day long. No really, I spent some time earlier this week studying my scripture for today and had a totally different post in mind. After church, I was so moved by the number of people that responded to an alter call for healing I wanted to write about it. Some research revealed that Hezekiah’s reign lasted 29 years. His kingdom was invaded in the 14th year which means that this sudden and severe illness must have occurred in the same year as the Syrian invasion. Imagine how he must have felt knowing that his kingdom was threatened and his body is now failing. I think Hezekiah’s situation truly embodies our worst fears. The fear that we will fall ill quickly, lose our life and our “kingdoms” will perish. What follows of course is an instruction from God through the prophet Isaiah to “…put your house in order.” This immediately got me thinking. Do I have my physical, emotional and spiritual house in order?

What so moved me today in church was first the number of people that came forward asking for prayers of healing. I know that for every single person that came forward there were at least two more in the seats that were too fearful to do the same. The line grew and grew as the songs came to a close, those people still stood bravely in silence. The second thing that was so truly convicting was the love and support of our congregation for each one of those sick people. Not one person went to an elder alone, and in some cases there were 7 or 8 people gathered with arms around each other. I was listening to a TED talk this week about beating cancer. The speaker said that one day we will all be faced with big decisions about our health and ultimately confronted with death. He spoke about planning for that day ahead of time by making decisions ahead of time about quality of live versus quantity of time for life. What he didn’t speak about is prayer. I noticed that the very first thing Hezekiah does after being told about his impending death is pray. And yes, the very next sentence says that he wept. Bitterly. The story goes on. The Lord tells the prophet Isaiah to tell his servant Hezekiah that he has heard his prayer, that he has seen his tears and he will extend his life!

Through prayer and wholehearted devotion Hezekiah is healed. God performed a miracle. He saved his servant Hezekiah and his people. Are we brave enough to go to him in that whole hearted way? I found myself asking this question today in church. In fact when the alter call came, I asked my husband if we should go to get our 5 year old son out of Sunday school so that we could bring him up. I quickly decided against it, saying to my husband that he was learning and praying in his space and we shouldn’t interrupt that. The more I think about it though, what held me back was a feeling of unworthiness. A feeling that I couldn’t ask for our son’s Crohn’s to be healed. I’m not sure why. I wonder how many other people are feeling that same way. How many others think that maybe they aren’t a good enough Christian or maybe they have made mistakes that somehow disqualify them from God’s grace.

After reading and praying over this passage from 2 Kings I realize now that God saved Hezekiah not just for the one man but for the entire community of people he represented. Yes, he was a King but he was also responsible for defending the lives of God’s people. We are all God’s people. No matter what mistakes we have made, no matter how old or young, what kind of life we’ve led, we are worthy of being saved. What God responded to was not the seriousness of Hezekiah’s position but his heartfelt plea for salvation. What would happen if we made that same plea? Are we willing to believe in a miracle? Are we brave enough to ask for one? As I watched the line at church grow, my fear diminished. It’s not easy to share our vulnerability in public or online as the case may be. I pray that this post reaches at least one person that needs healing. I pray that you will reach out to Him and ask for it. We are all worthy.

According to your faith

Today’s reading: Joshua 1; Psalms 120–122; Isaiah 61; Matthew 9

June 29th, 2016

And when Jesus departed thence, two blind men followed him, crying, and saying, Thou Son of David, have mercy on us. And when he was come into the house, the blind men came to him: and Jesus saith unto them, Believe ye that I am able to do this? They said unto him, Yea, Lord. Then touched he their eyes, saying, According to your faith be it unto you. And their eyes were opened; and Jesus straitly charged them, saying, See that no man know it. – Matthew 9:27–30

Reading about this miracle lead me into a study on all the miracles Jesus performed. Many questions came forth in the study. All throughout the gospel scriptures we read about the critical element of faith in those seeking Jesus restoration (Matthew 8:10, Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Matthew 17:17-20, Mark 6:5-6, Luke 18:42, Mark 10:52, John 40:50-51, John 11:22-27). Another version of faith in my estimation is humility, in which faith in God’s word is required, specifically that He is God and we are not. Humbling ourselves and aligning ourselves underneath our LORD and Master in truth (Mark 1:40-41, Luke 7:13-14, Matthew 9:18, Mark 7:32, Mark 8:22, Matthew 15:22, Matthew 20:30, Luke 17:13).  Why did God choose faith as the key to unlock His mercy?

Why does Jesus tell those he healed not to talk about it (Mark 7:36, Mark 8:26, Matthew 9:30)? Why did Jesus withdraw from crowds to perform miracles (Mark 7:33, Mark 8:23)? When performing miracles, why did Jesus command the evil spirits not to reveal who He was (Mark 1:25, Mark 1:34, Mark 3:11-12, Luke 4:35, Luke 4:41)? Why did Jesus tell the disciples not to tell people who He was (Mark 8:29-30)? Could it be that Jesus knew that His kingdom would require a stronger faith that did not include a ‘seeing is believing’ level of faith (John 2:22-24, John 4:48, Matthew 18:1-4, John 20:29, 1Corinthians 1:22, John 9:4)? I’m not sure I can answer all these questions, but I know Who has all the answers.

What is faith? 

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. – Hebrews 11:1

Why faith?

That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:7-10

But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. – Hebrews 11:16

Extra Credit. For a more complete answer read all of Hebrews chapter 11 and Ephesians chapter 2. You will not regret it.

Rain Down

Today’s Reading: Deuteronomy 11; Psalms 95–96; Isaiah 39; Revelation 9 

Deuteronomy 11:13-16
And if you will indeed obey my commandments that I command you today, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, he will give the rain for your land in its season, the early rain and the later rain, that you may gather in your grain and your wine and your oil. And he will give grass in your fields for your livestock, and you shall eat and be full. Take care lest your heart be deceived, and you turn aside and serve other gods and worship them;

Good Morning & Happy Tuesday!

As only God can do, the rain perfectly comes down as I reflect on where to start for this week. God has his perfect timing for all seasons. He has his perfect timing planned for you today. Enjoy the moments! I pick up my raindrop filled bible and journal and head in.

In Deuteronomy 11 Moses reminds the Israelite’s to love the Lord our God, keep his charge, his statutes, his rules, his commandments. In addition we shall lay His words in your heart and soul, binding them to your hand and teaching them to your children. Now it may sound easy but we know that even the Israelite’s witnessed amazing miracles like the splitting of the Red Sea and they still had trouble remaining faithful.(v. 3-6) Moses reminded the Israelite’s and he reminds us to obey and remain faithful. We all need this invitation or reminder.  For myself, waking up in the morning reading the beautiful heartfelt and God-filled journal writings in addition to the daily reading is that reminder.  It is my highlight of those early hours that helps me through the day.

There are miracles all around us if and when we look. As I start to write this Saturday morning it’s the rain. Tonight, I watch a sliver of a moon in the midst of a red to blue sunset.  I’m filled even as I do drive my son around trying to get him to sleep:). I pray you look for those moments today and praise Him. In the season of deadlines, summer schedules for our children, and everything else that can direct your day, love the Lord, obey Him and serve. He will provide everything you need. He always has, he always will.

God has given us the Bible that has shared a panoramic view of his amazing miracles. This picture is being developed and divinely planned out by Him still now. We are part of this picture. Today, his Word lives in and through us. If you haven’t spent time reading the daily scriptures that go with these journals I encourage you to wake up 15 minutes earlier to feel and allow scripture to live in you. I guarantee the start of your days will change for the better.  They have for me.  He provides lessons from the past, instructions for the present, and opportunities in the future to strengthen our love and faith.

In verse 26 God gives the Israelite’s a choice between a blessing and a curse. A blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God, and a curse, if you don’t obey the commandments, turning aside from the way he is commanding you today, to go after other gods. We have this same choice today. We can live for ourselves and other gods or live for the Lord our God who promises eternal life.

What choices will you make today? What gods will surround you pulling you away from our eternal God?  Acts 3:19 motivates us, “So change the way you think and act, and turn [to God] to have your sins removed”.

In addition, Psalms 95 says, “if you hear his voice, do not harden your heart. Come into his presence with thanksgiving and when you’re put to the test, remain faithful”.  As we wrap session 8 of Follow by Andy Stanley I encourage you to refuse to Unfollow.  Keep God close.  Along your faith journey you will be tempted to Unfollow.  But to whom shall we go? John 6:68-69 says Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God. Many things will test us.  His words are eternal.

Moses was speaking to the Israelite’s, he is speaking to us. Don’t be deceived today.

Dear Almighty Father, Show me your ways, Lord, teacher me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.  Psalm 25:4-5

Ask yourself today,

  • Did I spend time in Scripture today?
  • Did scripture live in me?
  • Did I grow in awe and wonder of God today?