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Posts Tagged ‘Mark’

 

Seeking and Finding God

    By Colin Smith

  

“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.”  Mark 11:23 (NIV)

 

Do you ever wish you had more faith when you pray? Just like Jesus’ first disciples, many Christians today wonder how they can pray with more faith. Notice what Jesus is saying about prayer here: “If effective prayer is to grow in your life, here’s where you must begin-you must cultivate faith.”

 

Jesus was standing on the Mount of Olives when he said this, but the Mount of Olives is still there. So, no one has ever accomplished the feat of moving the Mount of Olives into the sea. Jesus is using hyperbole here to make a point: Extraordinary things happen when God’s people exercise faith in prayer.

 

But how do you grow in faith? Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). That is the point of feeding on God’s Word-to strengthen your faith. The more you take in the greatness and glory of Jesus Christ, the more you will have confidence in Him, and the more you have confidence in Him, the more you will ask of Him. 

 

Cultivate forgiveness

“When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” Mark 11:25 (NIV)

 

Who are you angry with? Who are you frustrated with? Who has hurt you? Who has left you with wounds? Who has offended you? Believe it or not, these are the kinds of things that can deeply impact your prayer life.

 

A bitter spirit will hinder the blessing of God in your life. Holding a grudge will make you unfruitful. How can you pray if your spirit is churning up with resentment toward another person? It’s impossible! “When you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him” (v25).

 

As you grow in faith, and as you grow in forgiveness, you will begin to pray more effectively. How do you grow in forgiveness? Jesus said “Love your enemies-pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44)  Ask God to bless the person who has hurt you. Keep doing that and you will grow in forgiveness, more than that, you will grow in seeking and finding God!

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Verse

And as they followed, they were afraid.

mr 10:32

 

Thought

At the beginning we were sure we knew all about Jesus Christ, it was a delight to sell all and to fling ourselves out in a hardihood of love; but now we are not quite so sure. Jesus is on in front and He looks strange: “Jesus went before them and they were amazed.”

There is an aspect of Jesus that chills the heart of a disciple to the core and makes the whole spiritual life gasp for breath. This strange Being with His face “set like a flint” and His striding determination, strikes terror into me. He is no longer Counsellor and Comrade, He is taken up with a point of view I know nothing about, and I am amazed at Him. At first I was confident that I understood Him, but now I am not so sure. I begin to realize there is a distance between Jesus Christ and me; I can no longer be familiar with Him. He is ahead of me and He never turns round; I have no idea where He is going, and the goal has become strangely far off.

Jesus Christ had to fathom every sin and every sorrow man could experience, and that is what makes Him seem strange. When we see Him in this aspect we do not know Him, we do not recognize one feature of His life, and we do not know how to begin to follow Him. He is on in front, a Leader Who is very strange, and we have no comradeship with Him.

The discipline of dismay is essential in the life of discipleship. The danger is to get back to a little fire of our own and kindle enthusiasm at it (cf. Isaiah 1:10-11). When the darkness of dismay comes, endure until it is over, because out of it will come that following of Jesus which is an unspeakable joy.

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bible-4

Numbers 15:17 – 16:40

Notable verse 15:30 “‘But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people.”

What strikes me about this verse is that I wouldn’t have lasted a day, at the most a week in the camp. I would have been stoned or exiled. It is frightening to think how much freedom we have now. I have given up watching movies and most TV because of this very issue. What would happen, if at least the church decided “Oh you swore this week…. You can’t come back for a month. Sorry.” Would my language be different? Would immediate consequence move faster than waiting for the fruit of the spirit to grow in changing my life?

 

Mark 15:1 – 47

Notable Verse 15:23 “Then they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.”

Myrrh was a pain killer, it was offered as a kind gesture to a dying man. This moment is interesting for two reasons –

1.   Jesus could have chosen to escape at least some of the pain He was experiencing and chose not to. It is a powerful realization that He experienced death, in all of its agony, on my behalf, without attempting to escape even a drop of it.

2.   If you remember your Christmas story, you know that myrrh was one of the gifts given to Jesus by the Wise Men (side note, there is no mention of 3). It is almost as if the story has gone full circle. Life begins with myrrh and ends with it.

 

Psalm 54:1-7

Notable Verse – v.4 “Surely God is my help; the Lord is the one who sustains me.”

Nothing to say, it says it all.

 

Proverbs 11:5-6

Notable Verse 6b
“…but the unfaithful are trapped by their evil desires.”

There are few things more frightening than living with an addiction. Having personal experience with an addiction or two of my own and having lived through watching those I love deal with their own addictions; I can tell you there is only one word for living with it – trapped.

I am not going to write here about how to get out an addiction. I only want to simply say, this verse is true. Unfortunately, very very true.

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bible-4

Numbers 14:1 – 15:16

Notable 14:3 “Moses said to the LORD, “Then the Egyptians will hear about it! By your power you brought these people up from among them.”

Wow! God is really angry. None of us want to be in the room when mom gets angry much less God. Yet, here is Moses, not only in the room but is politely challenging Him. If you didn’t know who Moses was talking to, it would read like a human-human conversation.  I wish I would have such boldness to speak to God like that and such courtesy. It is either feast or famine with me. Either I speak to God as some disconnected middle management person I need something from but don’t really expect much action, or I yell and whine.

 

What is also impressive here, is how Moses speaks to appeal for the lives of his people. He could have spoken of their innate goodness, or how he had been leading them for so long that it felt like he was being ripped off. Instead he appeals to God about how he would be seen among those who didn’t believe in him anyway. I don’t know when I have ever prayed for the church so that God’s name wouldn’t be damaged among people who don’t care. It is easy to give up as a Christian to care about such things.

In America, after I don’t know how many sex scandals, the unchurched population just assumes we are all hypocrites. Speak of creation and you are an ignorant nut, uneducated and in need of remedial science. We get used to it. I know how badly the church is seen in the eyes of the world, you are evil and worthy of being stuck down by God whoever He/She/It is. It is interesting that Moses appeals to God concerning His reputation when the people in Egypt consider this batch of people runaway slaves with some zealot leader who Osiris needs to kill anyway.  

 

Mark 14:53 – 72

Notable Verse –v.68 “But he denied it. “I don’t know or understand what you’re talking about,” he said, and went out into the entryway.”

I can’t imagine many more painful verses in the Bible than this one. We can read of the torture and death of Jesus, but behind the horror, is the truth that it was done on our behalf, but to deny Jesus, after witnessing so much, the miracles, the teaching, the transfiguration, watching a man sweat blood in fear is somehow unbelievable.  And yet, I am not surprised. How many times in word, thought or deed to I say to others “Jesus, never heard of him.” What do I think I am gaining? A moment of peace without being laughed at? Respect in the eyes of people who I honestly don’t really respect?  There doesn’t seem to be any rational reason to deny Jesus. Under torture I can believe it. I have had medical procedures done that were so painful, it would be easy to imagine myself denying Jesus if only the doctors would stop  (that is shameful enough to write) but when I deny Jesus for nothing, not even 30 pieces of silver. I have to come to the conclusion, at least Judas was paid. Peter and I have done it for free. It is a horrifying realization that in some ways I am worse than Judas. Thankfully Jesus’ death paid for that sin as well.

 

Psalm 53:1-6

Notable Verse – v.4 “Will the evildoers never learn— those who devour my people as men eat bread and who do not call on God?”

Every day I blog on the persecuted church and every day the stories are just as shocking. Christians less than 100 miles from my house are being imprisoned and killed. Churches in India, Nigeria, Sri Lanka, and Indonesia are burning; Christians being chased from their homes is more countries than I can count. Every day some new tragedy comes across the wire and all I can do is pass it on and say please pray. And yet through all of this the church not only survives but flourishes. When will evildoers learn – you can’t stop the church because we serve an unbeatable God. If I die in some random or calculated attack, there will always be someone to take my place. There is a great comfort in knowing that I am not that important, the message will go on. The message is eternal and you can’t stop eternity from continuing.

 

Proverbs 11:4

“Wealth is worthless in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death.”

I read this today and wondered if we are in the day of wrath. Where has wealth gotten people? The won has gone from 800-1000 to the dollar to 1500, in America businesses are failing, “stable” industries and services are collapsing. Wealth will not buy us deliverance. There is no stimulus package to spare us from death. There is only righteousness.

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bible-4

Numbers 11:24 – 13:33

Notable Verse – Num 11:29 

But Moses replied, “Are you jealous for my sake? I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!”

The first thing I wanted to write about was, were there still prophets and I realized that is “above my pay grade” (A special thank you to the American president for making this a household excuse).

So I guess I will take the second half  – put his Spirit on them.

I think every church leader has had the same thought, I wish the whole church would believe, would live godly lives, would give sacrificially, would…. And all of those things are works of the Spirit. The sad truth is, not everyone in that room is a believer. Some may be self-deceived, others may be there for the fellowship or make connections, but they know their hearts aren’t really in it.

I guess the ultimate question at the end is “Are you one of the believers or is someone wishing you were?”

 

Mark 14:22 – 52

Notable Verses 22-24

22  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.” 23  Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.  24  “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.

During the Passover meal called a Seder, there is a part where a piece of bread called the afikomen is eaten. During the meal, the piece of flat breat is broken off and is wrapped up so it can not be seen. At this point in the meal, the bread is taken out. The bread represents the sacrificed lamb. At the same time this bread is eaten, a glass of wine is drunk. The glass of wine represents the lamb’s blood and is called the “Cup of Redemption.”

So what Jesus is doing here is not anything magical like changing bread in flesh or wine into blood, he is saying. I am the Lamb of God. In the past, my coming was promised, I existed but you couldn’t see me. Now I have come to earth and I am to be a sacrifice for all who eat and drink with me. The cup is my blood; it will be shed for you.

Ps 52:1 – 9

Notable Verse – v. 3a

You love evil rather than good…

There is something instinctual about loving evil rather than good.

 Evil is easier to love and it is second nature, well actually as a Calvinist, I would say evil is first nature.  Because evil is easy to love, it is easy to encourage in other people.

Evil is exciting. Picture 2 people getting up in church and sharing their testimonies. One begins, “I was born in a Christian home, my parents taught me about Jesus. I knew I became a Christian when I was 6.” The other gets up and says “and I had a different girlfriend on my arm every night. The drugs were free and the booze flowed like water.” Which testimony do you want to hear and why? Wild sex stories sell better than “How I Kept My Virginity” stories.

Evil brings faster results. Take a drug addict, alcoholic, someone with an eating disorder, depression – ok, just take any person on earth. The addict says, I can go through withdrawal that will make me sick, make me feel miserable, make me remember everything that has gone wrong in my life and require hard work and change or I can pop this little pill, take a little sip, eat a few candy bars, put this gun to my head and it will all go away.

The Christian life is not easy to love. Jesus promised we would be persecuted; the life would separate father and son, brother from brother. Tonight I am teaching a class on sharing your testimony, why don’t we need a class on gossip?

The Christian life seems boring from the outside. Have you ever been ashamed of being a Christian because you know your weekend story is not as good as your co-worker’s story? You know what I am talking about.

The Christian life is a slow process and is often painful. Anyone who has ever told you that Jesus would make your life better or easier lied. Part of being a Christian is learning to embrace pain and suffering. To reflect, repent, and repair is part of the Christians daily routine. This 3R process will continue until the day we die.

 

Proverbs 11:1 – 3

Notable Verse – v. 1

The LORD abhors dishonest scales, but accurate weights are his delight.

No one likes getting ripped off. What about when you are doing the ripping? As I read this verse, it struck me there are more scales than the kind you find in supermarkets and airports. There are the scales that are each one of us judging people and actions.

Scales tip in both directions. There are people and actions that I will find offensive but tolerate in myself or those people I like. I may find myself defending a person because they agree with me socially or politically. I may refuse to agree with a person because they don’t subscribe to my way of thinking in general.

Before I start judging others, I better check to see if the action was done by my best friend, what my reaction would be. If I did it myself, would I accept it?

In general, I think God is more concerned with my heart scale, than the one at the airport that always says I am one kilo overweight.

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bible-4

Numbers 4:1 – 5:31

Notable Verse: Num 5:1  The LORD said to Moses,

This phrase comes up three times in the chapter. It seems rather strange, not for its awkwardness, but what can only be seen as its normality. We are used to considering the Bible as God’s spoken word, and Jesus being the Living Word that we don’t give much thought to simply hearing God speak. We ask for the privledge, we sometimes claim to have had the experience (generally we say this when we really mean, I really want this and something internal confirms this) but the idea of it occurring on a regular basis is something that is really hard to imagine. I am unsure of what to take from this.

I will not say that God can’t speak today; though considering the weight of whatever we believe He is saying must be measured against Scripture, what more needs to be said except on a personal issue.

What do you think? Does God speak today? If so, what do you think he talks about and to whom.

Mark 12:18 – 37

Notable Verse: Mar 12:18  Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question.

The question on the resurrection couldn’t have come at a more timely moment. I have received 2 hate mails within 24 hours 1 using vile language (I didn’t post it, don’t look for it) by people who see more of a need to spew than to ask a question of substance. In fact the question from the Potty-mouth asked me “do you really believe what you write … you poor brainwashed *&^*8&**&$*$.

I am afraid Jesus handled the hate questions more than I did. How much I wish I had the patience of Jesus in handling those who ask questions for other reason than being eager to trick or offend.

As I continue to write for Heritage and Destiny, please pray that I would develop thicker skin to be able to respond to their comments without being equally offensive.

Psalm 48:1 – 14

Notable Verse: Psa 48:9  Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love.

Word history has always fascinated me. The word awful used to mean that the thing something created awe. Artificial meant that something was full of art and beauty and nice used to be an insult. Words change like any other technology.  Temple has changed its meaning too. While temple used to be a tent, it later came to mean building and now it means the heart of every believer. While original intent is key in understanding scripture, one can’t help but be fascinated by how the word has changed and yet still retained its glorious meaning.

Proverbs 10:26

Notable Verse: Pro 10:26  As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is a sluggard to those who send him.

All I can say is that the sluggard is cringe-worthy. Sometimes I forget how harsh the Bible can be. I am not sure if I should nod my head reading this or hanging my head in shame. Perhaps 6 of one, half-dozen of the other.

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bible-4

Numbers 2:1 – 3:51

Notable Verses: Num 2:32  These are the Israelites, counted according to their families. All those in the camps, by their divisions, number 603,550.

Num 3:39  The total number of Levites counted at the LORD’s command by Moses and Aaron according to their clans, including every male a month old or more, was 22,000.

 

Mark 11:27 – 12:17

Notable Verse: Mar 12:17  Then Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” And they were amazed at him.

 I have never really understood this verse to be honest. If everything is made by God than what is Caesar’s? Perhaps the passage in Numbers from above can help. God specifically called a specific group for himself out of a much larger group. Perhaps God is allowing Caesar to ask for a segment from His creation. I don’t know if that makes sense or not, but obviously Jesus paid the tax so He doesn’t have a problem with the government asking for money. But it seems He is also challenging us to give to God what is God’s. Something we are much less likely to do.

I can’t help but wonder why. Is it because the state can put us in prison? What is the noticeable consequence of not putting anything in the offering plate or basket? Do we fear only what we can see or physically experience?

Psalm 47:1-9

Notable Verse: Psa 47:6  Sing praises to God, sing praises; sing praises to our King, sing praises.

As you or may or may not know, I generally hate CCM praise music. My mother calls it 7-11 music, seven words sung eleven times. I call it “Jesus is my girlfriend music” because I can often take out the word God or Jesus and put in my fiancée’s name and the song still makes sense. Now I mention this for two reasons: 1) Singing praise music in itself is not a bad thing and 2) This verse is a reminder that we are not singing a generic song of praise, but a song of praise to God, to our King, and that should be reflected in the lyrics of the music and in the hearts of both the worship leader / team and the congregation.

Proverbs 10:24-25

Notable Verse: Pro 10:25  When the storm has swept by, the wicked are gone, but the righteous stand firm forever

What a powerful verse! Having been in / near tornados, hurricanes, monsoons I know the power of nature. Man’s heart has even more destructive power than the forces of nature combined. With such ferocity, the only outcome of man’s evil, or God’s wrath will be equal or greater than the sin that led to it, as the T-shirts remind us “Payback is hell” literally and figuratively.

The ability to stand firm has many factors if we think of it as a tree. How deep are the roots? How much does it “eat”? How well is it cared for, what is around it to block the raging winds? As Christians we should find the answers to these questions regarding our own hearts and our ability to stand firm.

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