Week 3, Day 2
January 18, 2022
Scriptures: Mark 12
“Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offering were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a fraction of a penny.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything==all she had to live on.”
What a gift.
Jesus is teaching his disciples to notice the important things. What’s most important is the trust in God that is on display in this gift. We can all give what we are comfortable with. But she gives out of her poverty. She shows complete trust in God.
I need this encouragement and reminder to look towards what is the best and most important gift. Do I trust in God? Is my giving a reflection of that trust?
Something to think about!
Week 3, Day 1
January 17, 2022
Scriptures: Mark 11
Faith, Prayer and Forgiveness.
Jesus has turned towards Jerusalem. When comparing with the other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ life, it is startling how quickly it is that Mark gets Jesus on his way to Jerusalem and the cross.
In the waning days of his ministry, Jesus is deeply concerned about the faith of his disciples. The way that they express faith in God is through prayer and forgiveness. Mark 11:22-26
“Have faith in God.” Then go about expressing it in prayer and trust in God. And while we are at it, forgive.
The simplicity of this is a helpful reminder to me today, as I consider how I might follow Christ. The faith of a Christian is mostly made up of prayer and forgiveness. We are a people who pray for the moving of mountains. We also are a people who forgive sins. Who do I need to forgive? What grudges am I holding? Where do I need reconciliation?
Prayer and forgiveness.
Week 2, Day 5
January 14, 2022
Scripture: Mark 10
It may not make a lot of sense in the world that we are navigating, but it is true: the least among us are the greatest.
It runs against everything we know living in our world. We believe the rich are the blessed ones. Those with power are the ones who make things happen. Life is centered around the powerful and popular.
But it is the humble servant who serves who is the greatest among us. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant…the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Today, I was overwhelmed by a funeral that celebrated the life of my friend Carmen. She was a selfless servant of Jesus. She was a servant of all. Her life made a difference in the world. I was overwhelmed because it was the wonderful reminder that God works greatest through the humble.
God be with you,
Week 2, Day 4
January 13, 2022
Scripture: Mark 9
I believe, help my unbelief.
Those are the words of a father who is desperate for help. I have had moments throughout parenthood where I have asked God, even begged him for help. I think most everyone with kids can relate. But the pain and toil of this father, helpless and unable to care for his son, is only exacerbated by the fact that the disciples who were performing miracles couldn’t help the boy either. This last ditch effort to keep the boy from death and suffering seems lost.
How painful it would have been to have your last bit of hope, dashed?
It is with this anguish that he gives his plea to God, “If you can…”
Jesus senses the doubt. He doesn’t fault him, only shows him that his doubts will subside.
Lord, I believe, help me in my unbelief.
That’s a cry we’ve grown more accustomed to over the last few months. It’s a phrase I read from a father who is filled with anguish, despair, and hopelessness. We know the sorrow this man faces.
Lord, we believe, help us in our unbelief.
Week 2, Day 3
January 12, 2022
The disciples take part in yet another miracle. It’s another occasion in which Jesus shows the miraculous power to feed many, with very little food. At the end of the dialogue with the disciples, Jesus has to explain himself further. After all he’s done, he says, “You still don’t understand?”
It is immediately followed by a story of Jesus taking a couple of tries at healing the man who was blind. It’s not that Jesus was incapable of healing the man the first go around. Rather, it served as an illustration of the disciples themselves struggling to see Jesus clearly.
As the next couple of chapters in Mark progress, there will be three more instances of Jesus revealing himself as the Messiah, and the disciples not understanding it.
Jesus asks the question, “Who do people say I am?” and Peter will call him the Messiah. Peter gets it, but not completely.
Jesus teaches that he will die and be raised to life.
Peter won’t have any of this, and rebukes Jesus for saying this will happen. Peter and the others think Jesus is going to go to Jerusalem and become King, he is the Messiah after all! Peter doesn’t see Jesus clearly. Yes, he knew he was the Messiah. But the Messiah wasn’t supposed to die, the Messiah is to reign and restore the Kingdom of Israel.
Peter sees Jesus the Messiah, but they don’t understand. He’s still seeing trees when it comes to seeing the Messiah well.
Eventually, the disciples will see Jesus clearly. It will be when he ascends to the throne of heaven. Then he won’t be seen physically, but the Spirit will come, and they will know, Jesus is the Messiah who reigns over heaven and earth.
Week 2, Day 2
January 11, 2022
Scripture: Mark 7
What comes out of you is what defiles you.
We live in the age of fad diets. We have made a lot out of what people consume. We’ve somehow caught on to the notion that we “are what we eat.” We assume people are better than others for the type of food that they eat, or don’t.
Jesus gives a digestive lesson to his detractors who are upset that his disciples weren’t washing their hands. Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t be very popular today either!
All kidding aside. There’s obviously, an important point Jesus is making. Is it what we eat? How we eat? What we do before we eat?
Or does that have little to do with who we are as people?
Jesus teaches us that what comes out of us is what defiles us, not what we eat, or how dirty our hands are when we eat it.
What comes out of us, the evil thoughts, immorality, adultery, greed, arrogance… all this evil comes from within us, and that’s the real problem.
It’s an incredibly important lesson in a world that seeks to clean up the outside and ignore the inside. All the time, it seems like we are addressing outward concerns of cleanliness, when instead we need to care for the inner workings of our lives.
Let Christ wash the inside of the cup, and the outside gets cleaned as well. Invite God in, to do a heart assessment. Where is their sexual immorality, anger, greed, pride, or deceit? Let him work in and through and cleanse you from the inside out.
Jesus work in me. Cleanse me of my sins and renew a right spirit within me. Send me not away from your presence, oh Lord my God.
Week 2, Day 1 – January 10
“Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” Mark 6:36
I must admit that I often see the world the way the disciples do. They send people away because of their limited resources and ignore the bounty of resources they have in God. “Send people away,” is their response to the pressing needs of the present. A crowd of people surrounds them, and there is no way there is enough food for them all to eat. But of course, with God, there certainly is enough. God is enough. That’s the lesson. Draw near to Him!
While the disciple push people away, Jesus invites the disciples to see that they have enough to give everyone something to eat. They don’t seem to understand the power of God, until he puts it on full display, feeding the thousands. There is even enough leftovers to put in the fridge and throw away in 3 weeks.
This familiar story has resonated with us throughout our life. We tell this story to remind ourselves of the overflowing blessings from God.
Today, in reading this again, a new encouragement comes. Instead of joining along with the disciples, “Send them away.” Jesus instead draws near to the crowd and ministers to them. He prays throughout his ministry that no one be taken from him. He promises that none of us who believe will be plucked from his hand.
Jesus is drawing near to us. He cares for us.
He’s not interested in sending anyone away from him.
He is drawing near.
Draw near to him.
Week 1, Day 5
January 7, 2022
Scripture: Mark 5
Today’s reading is all about the healing power of Jesus Christ.
There is a dear saint of Christ who is enduring much suffering and pain today. It was a comforting reading about the ministry of Jesus. It is of great comfort knowing that my friend and fellow believer will one day hear from Jesus himself, “Little girl, get up.” There is a fundamental hope in us, as believers in Jesus that the diseases that have ruined families and taken loved ones from us, will one day be fully healed. God is making all things new, healing, restoring, reuniting loved ones. Jesus is greater than death. He is greater than evil. He is greater than disease.
I need that reminder today.
God be with you.
Week 1, Day 4
January 6, 2022
Scripture: Mark 4
One of the reasons why I encourage daily Bible reading is that it cultivates a heart for God. Jesus preached a parable about the Word of God bearing fruit in our lives. It’s all a matter of whether or not we hear it and bear fruit, or allow the deafening noise of fear, money, and trouble choke it out.
Later in Mark 4, we read of the incredible moment of Jesus calming the storm. It has one of the best lines in the Bible, “Who is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?”
In a crafty framing of the story, we see the waves listening to Jesus. The wind calming, the storm adhering to the Word of the Lord.
Oh that I would have such ears, that my heart may become calm like the glassy sea and hear the Word of the Lord. That I might bear the fruit of it in my life trust in Him.
Let anyone with ears to hear listen to Jesus.
Week 1, Day 3
January 5, 2022
Scripture: Mark 3
Binding the Strong Man and doing the will of God.
Is Jesus working with Satan? How is he performing all of the miracles? By what power is this happening?
This question was on the minds of the people who are observing Jesus’ ministry. As they begin to process, say out loud, or even just think, “He’s doing this by the power of Satan.”
But Jesus is clearly doing battle with the kingdoms of darkness. Jesus is healing and helping, not hurting and harming. So if he is in cahoots with Satan, well, that’s a really bad plan. A house divided, cannot stand.
Jesus directs his detractors with a simple parable of binding the strong man. In order to ransack the house, you first have to tie up the owner. Jesus’ ministry, in large part, is binding up the evil one. His hands are tied. Jesus offers forgiveness and healing. That which is threatening life and livelihood, Jesus is healing.
Mark couples this teaching with this moment where Jesus’ family is coming to be with him. The disciples mention that his family is right outside the door. He uses the opportunity to teach them who his family really is. “Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother” (3:34).
Jesus’ ministry is to make everyone family. To bring all people in as his brother, sister and mother. He’s bound up the strong man, to ransack his store houses. It’s not money he’s after, it’s hearts. It’s people and lives. Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, people will be forgiven their sins.”
He’s inviting you into a life with him, as his family. The strong man is bound, you are the riches he’s after.
What about the unforgiveable?
I’ve spent time with folks who have felt like they perhaps have committed the unforgiveable sin of blaspheming the Holy Spirit. What I usually say is, “If you are concerned that you blasphemed the Spirit, you probably haven’t.” What I mean is, your heart is tender to the word and Spirit of God. You are listening to the Spirit and seeking the heart of God.
If you reject God, then your sin probably isn’t forgiven, whatever it is, blasphemous or not. If you are interested though, in becoming a part of the family of God, and are seeking the will of God – well you’re on the right track. Keep it up. Keep seeking Christ and the will of God.
Grace and peace
Jordan Ickes, Minister of Etna Green Church of Christ.