Week 11 – Day 71
“O LORD our God, other lords besides you have ruled over us, but your name alone we bring to remembrance.” Isaiah 26:13
There are plenty of times in life when we need rescue – rescue from circumstances brought about by our own bad choices, and rescue from situations thrust upon us by the actions of others or of the natural world in which we move. Once, I became stuck in a snow storm and was rescued by a friendly fellow with a four-wheel drive vehicle. He pulled my ’67 Chev out and down the road to his place. He invited me in to warm up, and after that volunteered to pull my disabled car to a nearby garage. Before we got under way he suggested I try starting the car. I did and, behold, it started! Great! The engine was running fast, but I put the vehicle in gear and it shot off in a hurry – right for the one-lane bridge down the hill in front of me. You see, the throttle mechanisms was plugged with snow and the only way I was going to shut it down was by turning off the engine – which never occurred to me. There was a good drop off the sides to a river below. There, in my twenties, I thought this might be the end for me. But, God and a guard rail rescued me from a serious situation and the only damage done was to the front left fender.
In Isaiah’s day, the nation of Judah needed rescuing in more ways than one. Threatened by surrounding nations, they feared for their city and security. God had addressed that need in verses 5-6 of chapter 26 and assured them that the proud enemy would one day be trampled by the weakest members of society. But it is a different kind of threat they faced in verses 13 and following. This was a problem of their own making. The people had frequently served “other lords” (v. 13) – literal idols as well as false belief systems, and the human kings who represented these false gods. These idols did nothing positive for them. So the prophet remembers the one true God. The others die off, but God lives forever and He is the one who has given them a land and made of them a nation (v. 15). He does this, in particular, in response to the prayers of the people (v. 16). God waits for His people to return to Him. He acknowledges the earnest seeking of Him that is described in v. 16. Notice the words that describe an intense seeking after God:
“in distress they sought you”
“they poured out a whispered prayer “(like Hannah’s in I Samuel 1:12-16)
“when your discipline was upon them” (implying a sorrow for their sin)
Some of the disciplines of God are in mind in verse 17-18 where the nation’s suffering as a result of their straying away from God is likened to the striving of a woman experiences in delivering her child. Without God they had no deliverance.
But the passage ends on a higher note. IN the last three verses God comes to the rescue. His rescue is likened to resurrection – so hopeless had been their experience without God. But God can raise the dead! His rescue is two-fold: (1) delivering His people from danger (v. 20), and (2) punishing the sinful oppressors (v. 21).
Israel and Judah had tried the world’s gods with no success. They had suffered. In His time, God would deliver them. He is the true rescuer, even promising resurrection.
- Read Isaiah 26:13-21.
- How have you experienced rescue in your life?
- When the cause of the distressful situation is your own wrong choices, what role does repentance play in the process of rescue?
- Notice that God not only deliverer’s His repentant child, but also punishes those who have caused the distress (verse 21). Does this give you some assurance that today’s tormentors (those whose violence and sinful oppression of others) will one day be held to account?
Week 11 -Day 72
The ascension of Christ (First Baptist Church, London, Ontario, Canada)
“The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” Jeremiah 32:26, 27
When you live with God, you can live with certainty.
The Oxford dictionary defines “certainty” in the following ways:
Firm conviction that something is the case.
‘she knew with absolute certainty that they were dead’
The quality of being reliably true.
‘there is a bewildering lack of certainty and clarity in the law’
A general air of confidence.
‘a man exuding certainty’
A fact that is definitely true or an event that is definitely going to take place.
‘the passing of the act made a general election a certainty’
A person that is certain to do or win the specified thing.
‘ he was expected to be a certainty for a gold medal’
Jeremiah was a committed to following the Lord God in all circumstances. When God spoke, he was firmly convicted that what God said was true, that the what God stated was to come, would. This is not the usual way we view the prophet Jeremiah. We call him the “weeping prophet”, probably because of the all the negative things that happened to him. The ESV Study Bible lists these negatives, stating that Jeremiah lived in dark times and had a hard life in which his messages were not well received, his hometown plotted against him, he endured much persecution, he never married (by God’s decree), his ministry resulted in only two named converts, he presumably died in Egypt (where he was taken against his will).
Yet, the Book of Jeremiah (written in about 550 BC) is full of wonderful and positive messages. Consider just chapters 30-33, for example, and you find the following:
30:1 – a promise of restoration of the people of Judah and Israel to their land
30:11 – a promise of removal of bondage to foreign powers, along with the punishment of these persecutors
30:18 (and 33:7, 9) – the rebuilding of Jerusalem and resultant prosperity
31: 5 -renewal of the land
31: 8, 21 – return of the scattered people
31: 31-34 – a new covenant
32: 1-44 – Jeremiah buys a field which is worthless in the present troubled times but which will one day be worth much in a better time that is coming
33: 8 – forgiveness and cleansing from sin
33:14 – the Messiah is coming, a branch from David
We are urged to follow the Lord God in the same way that Jeremiah did, regardless of our present circumstances.
“Blessed are all who fear the Lord,who walk in obedience to him.” Psalm 128:1 NIV
“Whoever serves me must follow me; and where I am, my servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves me.” John 12:26 NIV
“The Lord makes firm the stepsthe one who delights in him.” Psalm 37:23 NIV
Just as God brought into this world His Son, according to the scriptures, and just as certain as Jesus rose from the dead, so, too, He will come again and fulfill the promises of eternal reign and eternal life. Jeremiah could live with certainty of rescue and of the eventual return and recovery of his fellow Israelites. Followers of Jesus can also live with certainty.
- Read Jeremiah 32.
- Where do you need certainty in your life?
- Does that area fit with the character and person of God?
- If so, you can have confidence that He will deliver on the promises He has given to those who trust and follow His way. Will you commit to following His way in this area of your life?
Week 11 – Day 73
Just As He Told You
stained glass at First Baptist Church, London, Ontario, Canada
But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” Mark 16:7
Very early on the first day of the week, the third day following the crucifixion of Jesus, three women went to the tomb where he had been buried. They found that the heavy stone that had been rolled in place to block entry to the tomb was now rolled back. Someone who appeared to be a young man spoke to them, saying, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; his is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” (Mark 16:7)
In the context of the events of Easter week, what had Jesus told them was this:
Mark_8:31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and_be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
What Jesus had told them came true.
This makes me ask, ‘What else has Jesus told us?’ If we look at Jesus’ words as found in the Gospel of Mark (the shortest Gospel), we can find more than a dozen direct statements (or commands) of the Lord to us. You could add the indirect or illustrative teaching of Christ (such as the parables), as well as narrative sections where Jesus teaches by His actions, but if we confine ourselves to just the direct statements, we have a lot to consider!
In the next several reflections we’ll consider several of these direct teachings of the Lord – for example: repent & believe, follow, do God’s will, serve, receive & give. We will reflect on what Jesus has told us.
For today, let’s consider Mark 1:15,”The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” Questions that come to mind are, “Whattimewas fulfilled?” “What does He mean by ‘fulfilled’?” “What does He mean by ‘the kingdom of God’?” “How ‘at hand’ is this event?” Briefly, here are some ways I understand these words.
“What time was fulfilled?” – This is the time in history when God will bring to completion His plan of salvation. It is the time when He sent His Son to be the Saviour of the world. It is the moment for which much preparation and prophecy has pointed.
“What does He mean by ‘fulfilled’?” – Prior to this moment, God had announced and foreshadowed through Israel’s sacrificial system how He would resolve the problem of our separation from Him. Now, Jesus Christ was present and about to complete the plan of the godhead. This was the moment heaven and the faithful on earth had looked forward to; the day had arrived.
“What does He mean by ‘the kingdom of God’?” – The word ‘kingdom’ implies a rule of some kind. The King of kings was present, so the rule of God was also present. The one who would have inscribed over His head on the cross “King of the Jews” was here to carry out he plan of the Triune God. The kingdom means God’s rule in individual lives, God’s rule over the world He created; God’s rule over creation. This could not happen unless He had come. Some of His rule was evident during His time on earth and some will come when He returns.
“How ‘at hand’ is this event?” – ‘At hand’ means ‘near’. To those around Him during His public ministry, He was ‘at hand’. So, ‘at hand’ means actually present at that time. But it also refers to a future time that comes from His earthly ministry of that day.
Our response to the presence of the Lord Jesus is to be the same as was expected of those who lived in the first century: “Repent and believe in the gospel.” The message was there all along and is more urgent now that the Promised One is present.
Both ‘repent’ and ‘believe’ are necessary. One is insufficient without the other. To repent is to change direction in one’s life. It involves a profound sense of regret for one’s sin with a desire to turn from the wrong choices of the past and to Christ and His way. But, if that is all there is, failure will follow. We also must believe – place trust in Christ as the One who paid for our sin on the cross and who equips us to live a new life. Some people speak of believing but show little or no turning away from the past life without Christ. So, repentance is essential. And so is belief properly placed in the Saviour and Lord, for without such belief we are merely gritting our teeth and trying in our own strength to be different. The message of Jesus is to repent and believe in the gospel (good news).
The first things Jesus told us were these: a new Kingdom has arrived and the way to live as citizens of the new way is to repent and believe.
- Read Mark 1:1-15.
- Are you ready to listen and obey what Jesus Christ tells you?
- Have you done the first thing He told us: repent and believe?
Week 11 – Day 74 Follow
“Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men.” Mark 1:17
“If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me.” Mark 8:34
When Jesus told the Galilean fishermen (Peter, Andrew, James, John) to follow Him, He meant that they were to leave their businesses and devote themselves to a life of being preachers of the gospel.
16 Passing alongside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of_Simon casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them,“Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left_their nets and followed him. 19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And_immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired_servants and followed him.Mark 1:34-38
What did these men leave behind? In the cases of Andrew and Peter, “they left their nets”. Surely, this means that they left the fishing business. Similarly, James and John “left their father in the boat with the hired servants”. They, too, left the family business, which was large enough to employ servants, and in particular, also left their father. It would be difficult to leave a secure income, the only working life they knew. It would be difficult to leave their father and the weight of that business on his shoulders. No doubt the father was counting on the two sons to carry an increasing load and eventually assume the business entirely. The sons would be concerned for him and how he would carry on.
What did it mean to follow? First, it meant entering into a new life’s work and it meant learning from Jesus. They became witnesses of the Master’s crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. They did not know that in less than three years they would become the leaders of the new ministry and face all kinds of challenges and eventual arrest and execution (James, Peter, Andrew) or years of exile (John). Second, they became “fishers of men”. Their life focus changed.
The passage in chapter 8 adds that following Jesus means denying self, taking up one’s cross, and being willing to lose one’s life for Jesus’ sake. Denying self is not like giving up chocolate for Lent; it is not denial of something but of making oneself the object of life. Jesus Christ must be the centre of our lives – He must be why we live and whom we live for. If denial of self is not giving up chocolate, so, too, taking up one’s cross is not bearing with some inconvenience . The metaphor is one of a condemned person in Roman times having to carry his cross to the place of execution. Thus, the idea is that a disciple of Jesus must be willing to die for Him. This is further developed in verses 35-37 where the follower is required to identify with Christ, even at the risk of losing his physical life as a martyr. Following Jesus like that means the gain of eternal life. We are required to stand apart from an adulterous and sinful world, and that may lead to being given a hard time, bad treatment for our adherence to Jesus ad His way. The soul, after all, is worth more than the body (v. 36).
Fishing for men involves directing others to Jesus Christ as the Saviour and provider of real and eternal life. It means confessing our allegiance to Him and taking the good news of Jesus’ abundant life to others. The Christ’s command to us is to follow.
- Read Mark 1: 14-20; 8:34-37.
- Is there anything in your life right now that is holding you back from following Jesus?
- Are you willing to stand out from the crowd even if it means you will be scorned?
- Now, think of what you will gainfrom following Jesus. Thank God for the gain of His friendship and care, and for the men and women who join you on this journey, through your witness.
Week 11 – Day 75 Do God’s Will
“For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”Mark 3:35
The familiar opening part of The Lord’s Prayer goes like this: “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10) In Mark 3:35 Jesus directs us to do God’s will if we want to be considered a part of His family.
31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him andcalled him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and_your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my motherand my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are_my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and_sister and mother.” Mark 3:31-35
There are many statements in the Bible that clarify what is involved in doing the will of God. Consider this selection (where in each case it says, “This is God’s will”):
* Be thankful in all circumstances. (I Thessalonians 5:13)
*Do what is good. (I Peter 2:15)
*Abstain from sexual immorality. (I Thessalonians 4:3)
*Avoid the desires of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, and pride of one’s possessions. (I John 2:16-17)
*Sometimes we are to suffer for doing good. (I Peter 3:17; 4:19)
*Consider Jesus and believe in Him for eternal life. (John 6:38-40)
*Walk wisely and use your time well, not being foolish. (Ephesians 5:15-20)
*Don’t be conformed to the world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind. (Romans 12:1-2)
So, we have lots of help in figuring out the will of God. It is what we should pray for, as the Lord’s Prayer indicates. It includes the many ways scripture identifies as an area of obedience. And it is whatever leads to God’s approval. Being a member of His family is not a matter of nationality, racial group, or even religious organizational membership. It is our relationship to Jesus Christ that counts.
Jesus looked around Him and no doubt saw His disciples and perhaps some other followers and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers!” (Mark 3:34) Then, He added, “Whoever does the will of God” is also included in His family.
- Read Mark 3:31-35.
- Are you related to Jesus?
- Note that some commands that direct us to God’s will are about something internal and others relate to something external. Some are about who we are inwardly and others are about how we treat others around us. Consider the list of eight commands above and ask yourself which are most difficult for you. Ask God to help you through those situations.
- Being part of God’s family implies that we live in relationship to other believers. How’s that going for you?
Week 11 – Day 76 : SERVE
Jesus receives the children; First Baptist Church, London, ON
“And he said to them, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”Mark 9:35
43 “But it shall not_be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and_whoever would be first among you must be slave_of all. 45 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 10:43-45
The words “servant” or “service” have been appropriated by industry and leadership philosophy. For example, we call businesses that provide services or intangible products to customers “service industries” (e.g., accounting, restaurants, tourism, and many others). Seventy-five per cent of Canadian jobs are in this sector. Also, the term “servant leader” was first used in a 1970 article by Robert Greenleaf and in it he says, “A servant-leader focuses primarily on the growth and well-being of people and the communities to which they belong. While traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid,” servant leadership is different. The servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible.” https://www.greenleaf.org/what-is-servant-leadership/
The word “servant” comes from a French word that referred originally to a personal or domestic servant, that is, one who performs duties such as cleaning or cooking. The word also came to be applied to a slave.
There are several good ideas expressed in the historical and current use of our term. It is honourable work to serve others, to provide for another’s needs, to do something for the well-being of others, putting those needs ahead of one’s own. In fact, those concepts find a home in the Bible and its use of the terms “service” or “servant”. Jesus Himself corrected the apostles when they were focused on being the greatest. He said, to be first you had to be last of all and servant of all. He elevated their conception of greatness. Even to receive a child with respect for that little one was to do something God would do. He added exercising authority over people wasn’t the goal, but rather to serve others was true greatness.
Why did Jesus use the example of receiving children to instruct us in being a servant? “Children, along with women, old men, and slave, were viewed as physically weak burdens on society who had little value to the wider life of the community. In Greece and Rome, it was an accepted practice to abandon unwanted children along the roadsides to die.” https://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/timeline/1-300/jesus-loved-children-11629553.html
In today’s world, according to World vision, there are 152 million victims of child labour and 48 per cent of them are doing dirty and dangerous work. Some products we buy are made by children working in these conditions. Children are all too often the targets of abuse. they are considered lowly – and Jesus said we should identify with them.
Synonyms for “servant” with a positive connotation include “attendant” and “helper”, and with a negative connotation “lackey” and “flunky”. The Lord was not afraid of the word, nor of what servanthood might entail. He washed dusty feet, became weary from long days of healing and teaching, carried a cross and submitted to an execution on behalf of others. And, He asked us to do the same!
4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also_to the interests of others. 5 Have this mindamong yourselves, which iss_yours in Christ Jesus,6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not_count equality with God a thing to be grasped,7 but emptied himself,by taking the form of a servant,being born in the likeness of men.8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming_obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Philippians 2:4-9
- Read Mark 9:35-37; 10:29-45.
- Think of what being a servant means. Though God tells us to be servants, in our society the lowest paying jobs are usually in the service sector. Do you value the serving work others do for you?
- How can you show appreciation for those who serve you?
- How can you serve (without complaint) someone else (perhaps a child or an adult who is neglected) today?
Week 11 -Day 77: Receive and Give
37 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and_whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name,_and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not_stop him, for no one who does a mighty work in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 For the one who is not against us is for us. 41 For truly, I say to you, whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you belong to Christ will by no means_lose his reward. Mark 9:37-41
Some people have a hard time accepting help that is offered them. They might say, “I don’t want your pity” (when they need genuine sympathy and compassion) or “I don’t want your charity” (when they need tangible assistance) or “I don’t need your help (when they are too proud to admit a need).”
The verses in Mark 9 speak to two quite different situations. In the one case, the Lord imagines a situation where someone who is considered of little importance is to be welcomed and honoured. In the second, the idea is that we are not in competition with other believers; we are to approve of their ministry, as will God in the day of reward.
Both situations require a heart of humility. We are not greater than those to whom we minister. Rather than push them aside, we are to accept them and sacrifice for them and love them as God loves. Nor are we greater than other servants of God. We are to accept their unique contribution to the Kingdom. Their compassionate work of offering a cup of cold water in Jesus’ name is as essential to kingdom ministry as great preaching. There is no difference between evangelism through teaching and preaching, on the one hand, and social service through compassionate works to the disadvantaged, on the other hand. They go together – as long as both kinds of service are Christ-centred and glorifying to God.
So, these verses have a single message. They tell us to pursue humble service for the Lord. Jesus held children on His knees, ate meals in the homes of the rich, gave His help to beggars on the side of the road, and taught multitudes and single individuals as the occasion demanded. We are to receive the ‘little ones’, give of our abundance to those in need, and honour others who do the same.
- Read Mark 9:33-41.
- Are you ready to admit your own need for help?
- Are you ready to offer whatever help you can give to someone else – whether that someone is an individual considered important or insignificant?
- How do you view the church nearest your own, or the new work that someone starts in your vicinity?