Mark provides us with something very handy to keep in mind as we hear about our Savior's tempation and as we face our own temptations every day. He gives us a bird's eye view of how this important event was sandwiched between two others. And it provides us with a handy template we can use when we're facing temptation.
We live by faith! That’s the kind of phrase that gets us Christians nodding our heads in agreement and perhaps even shouting out, “Amen”! But what does it really mean? It means that we trust God’s promises. We trust what He has said to us in His Word. But let’s be honest, there are times when that’s easier said than done. So what do you do when something seems terribly wrong and out of place? You go back to God’s Word. That’s what Abraham did in this very difficult text from the Old Testament. Back up a moment and take closer look at what actually took place. Episode Art by Jan van't Hoff. Copyright www.GospelImages.com http://www.GospelImages.com and licensed to FreeBibleImages.org http://FreeBibleImages.org Used by permission.
“Listen to your heart.” That’s great advice if its coming from a cardiologist, but it’s actually terrible advice when it comes to our spiritual life. The familiar maxim, “Listen to your heart,” means to look inside yourself for comfort and truth. As nice as that sound, that’s the last place to look if you want to find either.
So, what are you for Lent? What, wait a minute. The usual question that we often hear at this time of the year is, “What are you for Lent?” However, I’ve always liked to think more about what I’m adding for Lent. Here's what and here's why.
“What are you doing here?” Have you ever run into some you know, but in a place you didn’t expect to see them? When Peter, James and John saw Jesus transfigured in glory on the mountain it was the kind of place and setting that you would expect to see Jesus, “the Christ, the Son of the Living God.” It was amazing! But, as amazing as it was, it wasn’t Jesus’ purpose to amaze the disciples. It was to get them ready for what was to come. They would soon Jesus, the Son of the Living God, in a place where they would never have imagined. In fact, it would be the very last place they would want to see Him. Episode Image by Carl Bloch, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons
“Don’t do it unless you absolutely have to.” That was the advice I received when I first considered becoming a pastor many, many years ago. And it may surprise you to know that it came from pastor! Now, if that made you sit up and shake your head, then consider how it compares to what the Paul says here in his first letter to the Corinthians. He said, Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!" Was Paul filled with fear of some kind of punishment? Not at all. Actually, both statements come from hearts filled with joy! And they’re actually good reminders for all of us, for everyone who shares the Good News of our salvation in Jesus Christ.
When you and I are engulfed in troubles it may feel like we’re on on our own. It seems as if God is completely unaware of what’s going on in our life. It feels as if we, and and our struggles, are completely hidden from God. So, it may surprise you to know that others, including those in Scripture, have felt this way. When God’s people were languishing in exile they cried, “My way is hidden from the LORD; my cause is disregarded by my God.” But is it really hidden? Listen to the remarkable answer that God gave to this earnest cry.
Gassed. Have you ever heard of this term? It means to be “drained of energy, spent, exhausted.” Sometimes you hear the term used when a runner is said to be so depleted of energy that there’s “nothing left in the tank.” That’s the kind of exhaustion that Isaiah describes so well in this text. What follows are words of tremendous encouragement that God gave to Isaiah to share with the people as they struggled during their exile in Babylon and for us today. However, if we’re not careful, we may sometimes find ourselves watering them down into something far less impressive. These words are much more than simply a pep talk.
Some have said that it was His commanding presence, the look of His face or the even the tone of his voice. Mark tells us that when Jesus went into the Temple and began to teach, the people were amazed at what they heard. But if you notice, Mark doesn’t mention anything here about our Savior’s voice. Instead, he tells us that the crowd at Capernaum were amazed by His teaching. This was more than a simply a subject to be taught, a newspaper story to debate or a philosophy to be learned. God Himself was announcing your salvation.
“There will never be another …” You could use those words to describe all sort of different sports stars over the generations. In fact, may sound a little like what we hear about Moses in Deuteronomy. But Moses Himself explained that God would send a prophet after him who would be even better. In fact, he would even give new meaning to the words, "There will never be another."
From time-to-time, people shy away from the Old Testament in fear that, in it, God seems cranky. After all, consider what He has to say about the false prophets. But consider for a moment how much God values both you and your life, as well as the lives of your family and friends, those people who are precious to you. These words aren’t those of a cranky God. Far from it. They remind you of how important you, and your well-being, are to Him. You and I have a Savior who has a deep concern for human life – yours, mine and all those people you and I know and treasure.
"Leading and following" are the important ingredients in dancing. And as you and I look at Jesus’ calling of the disciples, Mark notes how these are also the primary ingredients to discipleship. However, recognizing who is leading is leading and who is following makes all the difference.
Have you ever found yourself losing track of time? One moment you’re doing something and then you look at your watch and realize it’s much later than you thought. Where did the time go? Well, did you know that there's a name for that? It’s called “Time Blindness.” And the apostle Paul seems to point to something like that here in 1 Corinthians. However, he also points out how we can turn this experience around.
Have you ever watched those bake off shows on TV? A group of bakers are is assembled from all walks of life. Set before them is everything they need to put together tasty biscuits, light fluffy breads and more. But invariably, there comes a point where they scratch their heads, look at what’s before them, and ask, “Is it supposed to look this way?" What makes the show so popular is that, at some point or the other, we’ve often asked ourselves that same question. Even as Christians, this life can get quite messy, and we may wonder if we're doing it right. That's when it's time to trust what's written before us.
Wow! That’s one of the stranger expressions in our vocabulary. It’s more of a facial expression than even a word. When we see something stunning and amazing, like seeing a shooting star, we usually open our mouths wide in astonishment! Now you get an idea of how Nathaniel’s face must have looked when He realized that standing before was the Son of God. But it didn’t start that way.
"Single-use" or "disposable" items that are designed to be used once and then discarded. It includes such things as single-use containers, bottles, straws, cups, cutlery and disposable plastic bags. They’re part of our “throw-away” culture. It's also how many people, and even some Christians, mistakenly think of their bodies.But Paul opens our eyes to recognize something much more marvelous and enduring.
Samuel’s response to God’s voice is not to be underestimated. At first, young Samuel struggled to realize that what he was hearing wasn’t simply the voice of Eli. And today, you may well wonder if what you’re hearing is the voice of God, our own thoughts echoing in our head, or simply some words the preacher is spouting off on a Sunday morning? How do you and I recognize the voice of God?
The Holy Spirit led Mark to capture and share in vivid detail a remarkable event-the Baptism of Jesus. Now, it makes sense that everyone else was at the Jordan River that day, to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of their sins. However, as the sinless Son of God, Jesus had no sins to be washed away. So, why did He step down into the water this day? Episode artwork by Jan van't Hoff and licensed to FreeBibleImages.com http://FreeBibleImages.com. Used by permission.
Did you wash your face this morning? You probably did it without giving it a second thought. You splashed that water onto your face and wiped that sleep out of your eyes to greet the day. Would you like to get more use out of this familiar action each morning? Then try this.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration water is the most abundant substance on Earth. In fact, it covers around 71% of the earth’s surface. Isaiah tells us something remarkable about all of this water. And wait until you hear what God has done with it.
Tomorrow is the Festival of the Epiphany. It marks the arrival of the Magi, the the wise men who sought to find the newborn king. In Matthew we hear them announce, “We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” But have you ever wondered who told them to search the night sky to spot “His star” in the first place? Who informed them of this wonderful celestial birth announcement? Episode artwork by Jan van't Hoff and licensed to FreeBibleImages.com http://FreeBibleImages.com. Used by permission.
So what happened after the events of Christmas? Luke tells us that Jesus grew. He learned. And God’s grace was upon Him. It's tempting to let our thoughts run wild and imagine what that must have been like. There are wild stories that were written about the early and later childhood of our Savior. They had story-tellers back then, just as they do today, and folks still crave to hear these fanciful tales. But as Luke shares this simple narrative, there's something far greater taking place than anything we could ever conceive in our speculative imagination.
As we step into this New Year, with all of its fresh possibilities, have you found yourself making any resolutions? A recent survey has revealed that the average resolutions last less than four months. That can be frustrating. However, if we take the same approach to our spiritual life in this new year it will surely rob us of the joy we just celebrated at Christmas and replace it with despair. So, it's worth knowing that Paul has a resolution worth hearing in 2 Corinthians. It comes with the wonderful assurance that God didn’t send His Son to give us a second chance. God sent Jesus to give us a Savior.
One of the great joys, not only at Christmas, but throughout the church year, is singing this song of Simeon in our worship services. We usually refer to us as the , from the opening words in Latin. But I’ve always marveled over what took place right before this old believer burst into song. Luke tells us, “Simeon took Him in his arms.” That's no small detail. Episode artwork by Jan van't Hoff and licensed to FreeBibleImages.com http://FreeBibleImages.com. Used by permission.
Are you celebrating a “minimalist Christmas” this year or a “maximalist Christmas?” That distinction became a hot topic of discussion this year on social media and in magazines. As you listen to the readings in worship you’ll discover that Christ’s coming includes both. From the meagre surroundings of the stable to the resplendence of angels singing in in the sky, all of heaven rejoices this day in the salvation God has given to you in His Son Jesus, Your Savior. Episode artwork by Jan van't Hoff and licensed to FreeBibleImages.com http://FreeBibleImages.com. Used by permission.
This extended weekend, you are going to hear the incredible announcement in worship that God, whose son’s birth we celebrate at Christmas, came for you. Your pastor is going to tell you, just as the angel assured Mary, that you too are “highly favored! The Lord is with you.” That’s a lot more than a pious wish. Knowing what’s coming next, how could he say anything less? This message of your salvation is from God Himself. Episode artwork by Jan van't Hoff and licensed to FreeBibleImages.com http://FreeBibleImages.com. Used by permission.
It’s not hard to imagine a smile on the face of the prophet as Isaiah considers the gift that God has given. Just like a small child on Christmas morning he can barely contain his happiness. God has given it to us as well. And best of all? It's a gift we get to use right now.
You need three hands to tie a bow. You have one hand to hold the box and the other to wind the ribbon around it. But then you need another hand to hold it down when you go to tie knot ... you know that other person, the one you conscript into service by saying, “Put your finger here.” Thankfully, when it comes to our salvation, Jesus didn't our help. He points you to the cross and assures you it's accomplished. Jesus Himself has completed it and His resurrection is the bow.
Carving out a straight path in the desert is formidable. As Isaiah describes, there are valleys to be raised up and mountains and hills made low. However, as John makes clear, this construction is not a matter of bringing in heavy equipment to move rocks and sand.