“Never…”

Jesus forgives

Mark 14 to 16 Jesus quoted Zechariah, “you will all scatter,” but Peter exclaimed: I will “never” forsake you and am willing to die for you.  His word “NEVER” echoes across the centuries as a reminder that words cannot be retracted. Peter will be found alone weeping bitterly; he will weep for the words that are now etched in the sacred scripture’s scrolls: I do not know the man.

Peter wept tears of repentance, but it was not until we see him through John’s eyes do we really understand what happened that night. Jesus offered total and complete forgiveness, yet He asked Peter three times: Do you love me? His sin had shattered Peter’s heart, yet he was repentant. How different from Judas, who was only remorseful and took his own life with no hope of eternity with the Savior.

Through this short vignette, we also learn a more important lesson; our words either refine us or define us. Jesus asks will you love me with a total commitment from this point forward until we meet in eternity. Jesus does not ask for a rehearsal of our sins; he knows them.

What he is asking is, where is our heart now?

Peter is an example of one who was truly repentant and was restored to full fellowship. Have you repented as Peter, or are you still tracing the footprints of Judas?

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“Only Jesus Can Mend a Fickle Heart”

The heart is desperately wicked

Mark 11: During Christ’s last week, often called the Passion Week, we see His only miracle of destruction in the cursing of the fig tree, his second cleansing of the Temple (did they not get it the first time He did this?); the true heart of the religious leaders, the fickle heart of the populace. What are to learn from this action-packed chapter? With its pretense of leaves and lack of fruit, the fig tree is a picture of the fruitlessness of the religious leaders, the people, and Israel’s nation. Is this a picture of our hearts as well? The Temple’s cleansing shows us that God often has to come and cleanse our hearts because, as Jeremiah said, it is desperately wicked.

The attitudes are most noticeable. We read that the religious leaders were fearful of Jesus (vs18 and 32), and we recall that they seemed to have conveniently, like Thomas Jefferson, cut out the commandment they didn’t like: “thou shalt not kill.” And then there are the people with their fickle hearts. Is our heart fickle too? In this chapter, they sit amazed in the Temple listening to Jesus, but they will be crying for his crucifixion in less than a week. Truly our attitudes scream about our hearts.

If Jesus were to come to our churches today, what would he see? Would he see religious leaders much like the ones in His time? Would he see the parishioners with fickle hearts? May this chapter cause us to reflect and to seek His cleansing.

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“Man-Made Rules and the Heart”

heaps of rules are not important to God

Mark 7 Mark wanted his audience to see that our lips and our outward worship may say we love God, but it is the inward heart that is God’s measuring rod. “God does not view things the way men do. People look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” [1Sa 16:7]

What did the religious leaders care about? It was the traditions passed down through the centuries. So they came asking Jesus: “Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders.” Their priority was the legalism of rules which cleansed the outward man but failed to seek cleansing of the heart. Jesus caustically rebuked them using Isaiah’s words: you honor me with lip-service, but your heart is caught up in the traditions established by your ancestors. In fact, you are so caught up, you find loopholes to set aside God’s commandments to satisfy your sins. Listen, God sees your heart and what lurks there: evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetousness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. In essence, he was recalling [Prov 14:17], “a quick-tempered man acts foolishly.” 

When your heart is pure and cleansed, it is revealed in the humility of the heart. To say the words “I love you, God,” but your actions say otherwise is repulsive to God.

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Where is Your Decapolis?

Jesus is our Light

Mark 4 to 6 The demoniac freed from his prison desired to follow Jesus, much like the blind Bartimaeus, but this is not the time. Jesus needs the “man freed from demons” to be left behind to go and proclaim what the Lord had done for him. Obediently he did, and all marveled. The herders in the region of Gadarenes may have asked Jesus to leave, but God’s message must be proclaimed. He removed the evil influence so he could be his missionary, ready to go and tell.  Jesus is not wanted, but the message of who He is needed.

The demoniac will always be known as the “man freed from demons” and will be the first missionary to carry the “LIGHT” to his pagan land. The swine herders did not want to hear the good news of the kingdom, for they “loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil,” however, God had a love message that needed to be shared, and who better to do it than one through whom the LIGHT pierced the darkness.

Today spiritual darkness hangs like a pall over our culture, but we have the LIGHT within us. Where is your Decapolis that needs the Light of the World to come and pierce their darkness?

You have been redeemed to be His witness. How are you doing on this task? 

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“Listen, Hear and Do Immediately”

Listen, Hear and Do

Mark 1 Many feel that Mark’s ear heard the words of Jesus as Peter shared them with him. He wants us to walk, see and listen as Jesus moves from the river to the wilderness, from the wilderness to the city proper, from the city proper to the synagogue, from the synagogue to Simon’s house, from Simon’s house to a deserted place, and from the deserted place to a place in Galilee.

Hear Jesus say there is only a short time to accomplish the Father’s work and bring about the good news of salvation to all people. Jesus was about the Father’s business, whether by the river, in the wilderness being tempted, by the Sea of Galilee, or in a remote place in prayer.

With Jesus, we must be ready to see, hear, and repent, for we only have a short time to bring the good news to a lost and dying world. Whether we live in the countryside or in a bustling city, God has a divine appointment for you this day. Jesus was prepared to do the Father’s will; are you? He was always in communion with God so that he could say: “Let us go elsewhere, into the surrounding villages, so that I can preach.”  Let’s go and “immediately” begin the work He has prepared and called us to do, for that is what He came to do.” Are you prepared to step out and change your culture as He did?

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Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Who are you?

Matt 26-28 With his detailed observation skills, Matthew recalls the last week of the earthly life of our Lord. He now recalls his notes on two people, Judas and Mary. Judas was a taker with his embezzling self-seeking heart, whereas Mary was a giver of the most expensive gift of the oil poured out.   

Judas would be revealed along with the religious leaders, as those who would conveniently erase Ex 20:13 “You shall not murder.” Judas would forever be known as the betrayer of innocent blood when he said to the religious leaders—what will you give me to betray Him. Mary would be forever remembered as the one who came and anointed Jesus for his burial. Jesus remarked that she would be remembered for what she did whenever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world.

Charles Spurgeon was right when he asked: What do men think of a love which never shows itself in action? Judas never loved Jesus, but Mary loved with abandon.

What say you regarding your words, I love the Lord Jesus?

What do your actions say about these words?

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“Mirror of the Soul”

Is your reflection distorted?

Matt 23 In the movie Snow White, the wicked queen stopped by her mirror each morning asking: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? The mirror replied that she was—until one day the mirror said it was not she, but Snow White. This a picture of what Jesus saw as he observed the self-righteous religious leaders.

The mirror of the Pharisees revealed knowledge but lacked understanding. When Jesus looked deeply into their mirror, he saw hypocrisy. Rather than seek to correct the flaws the mirror revealed, they just piled on more phylacteries and longer tassels. Inwardly, their mirror reflected a lack of compassion.  These religious leaders, just like us, had blind spots. God has given us His mirror called His Word, which reveals who we truly are. But too often, like the man in James, when God reveals the truth, we walk away and forget what we saw or like the religious leaders, we heap on more and more “makeup” to cover our flaws.

What does your mirror reveal? If it is self-exaltation, God will humble you, and if the mirror reveals humility, He will exalt you. It is your choice.  

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Who is Jesus to you?

Who is Jesus to you?

Matt 20 to 22: Jesus asked his disciples: who do men say I am? [Matt 16:15] They skirted the issue by saying that some say you are John the Baptist, others Elijah and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets just as we see in these chapters. It was Peter alone who said, You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God. [Matt 21:11]

Twice Jesus is noted that the crowds in Jerusalem said, “This is the prophet, Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” On the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, two blind men called him “the Son of David.”  [Matt 20:39] While the Pharisees were assembled, Jesus asked them pointedly: What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he? [Matt 22: 41-43] They answered, just like the two blind men: The son of David.

Even though the crowds, the Apostle Peter, and even the religious leaders knew Jesus was not just an ordinary man, they would not commit to following Him. Instead, as they saw His ability to heal and heard the children crying out: Hosanna to the Son of David, they sought to kill him. 

From Genesis to Revelation that same question is asked of men. Jesus comes to each one with the same question; Who do you say I am. What would be your response?

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Forgiveness or Unforgiveness

Do you only forgive once or more?

Matt 18 How deep is your forgiveness cup? Is your content shallow like a teacup, or is it deep like a mug? How often is our forgiveness like the shallow teacup whose contents get cold quicker? Peter wanted to forgive only seven times, but Jesus reminded him that our forgiveness must be deep and heartwarming.

When Jesus had finished that statement, he launched into the story of the unforgiving servant. The king heard his tale of woe and, with great passion, forgave his debt fully. Yet, after leaving his presence where he was forgiven all, he refused to forgive a paltry amount of another slave. The servant seemed to have only a teacup’s worth of forgiveness.

The unforgiving servant is a picture of how we hold onto to hurts and refuse to forgive. They say that if you seek forgiveness and hear the words “I forgive,” you can move on. But, what if the person who offers forgiveness on the outside is still stewing about that problem? The unforgiving servant is a picture of what we do when we refuse to forgive another. We not only imprison another, but we also imprison ourselves.

Today be willing to forgive, for it is the deepest gift you can give another for as the Father has forgiven you, so you should forgive another.   

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“Transformed by Jesus”

Jesus transforms us

Matthew 13:53-58 One of the wonders of God’s creation is the butterfly who goes through a transformation from a caterpillar to a winged creature with beautiful colors.  As a believer you have been transformed when you moved from darkness to light. Just like the marvel of the butterfly’s transformation, Jesus transforms us and we are no longer as Nathanael asked: what good can come out of Nazareth.

 Jesus was the person who moved away and has returned; he came “home” to Nazareth and began to teach the people in their synagogue. The people’s reaction was much like Nathanael’s.  Those in our hometown recall our life story just as they knew Jesus’ story, but it was when Jesus began to teach; they reacted with astonishment. Their wagging tongues began to whisper, where did he get all of this wisdom and miraculous powers?

Just like the Nazarenes, they had preconceived ideas and others will have them about you. They will be watching you, and it will be your fruit–your spiritual beauty–that they will examine. Will you reflect the life change wrought by Jesus?  Jesus said by your fruits—by your spiritual transformation—that you will be known.

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