Friday 31 July, 2015

Mark 9:42-50

42 “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them if a large millstone were hung around their neck and they were thrown into the sea. 43 If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. [44] 45 And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. [46] 47 And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 where “‘the worms that eat them do not die, and the fire is not quenched.’ 49 Everyone will be salted with fire. 50 “Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can you make it salty again? Have salt among yourselves, and be at peace with each other.”

My hand doesn’t cause me to sin. It might sometimes be an accomplice, but it’s never the mastermind. Even less my foot. It doesn’t even drive the getaway car. Not even my eye is the cause of sin.

So why did Jesus use that illustration? He knows where sin comes from. Ultimately it’s my old sinful nature that he set me free from when he died in my place. But I’m free from its power now. I have a choice about sin now. This is great because I can choose not to sin, but unfortunately when I do sin it was also my choice.

I think Jesus used that illustration because he wanted me to think: If it’s not my hand or foot or eye, what is it that makes me choose the sin I hate? It’s going to be different for me than it is for you, and it will undoubtedly change over time. For example, perhaps I’m hurting people today because I’m grumpy from that computer game I played for too much of last night. Perhaps wanting to be seen as right is making me critical of people who disagree with me.

It may not be my hand but the remedy is still the same: cut off whatever it is that causes me to sin. Even if I’m as attached to it as I am to my hand. Even if it’s as painful as plucking out my eye, I need to pluck whatever causes sin out of my heart.

And then we get onto where I’m causing sin in others…

Father, I really don’t want to sin. I really love you much more than the things that cause me to choose things that hurt you. I really need the Holy Spirit to show me what needs to be cut off and plucked out.

Written by David Cornell

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Thursday 30 July, 2015

Mark 9:38-41

38 “Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.” 39 “Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, 40 for whoever is not against us is for us. 41 Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.

This passage is interesting when contrasted with Acts 19:15. In this instance in the gospel of Mark, Jesus is clearly not against people using his name to cast out demons, but in Acts, the “seven sons of Sceva”, a Jewish chief priest were stripped naked by a demon-possessed man and beaten until they were bleeding!

I wonder if the message that Christ was trying to convey was that we need to allow people to express what faith they have in Christ, because it is only through the expression of faith in Jesus (however misguided) that faith is able to grow. The passage in Acts 19 is an example of how a misguided faith can have very dangerous consequences, but nonetheless, it is not worth stopping people from expressing a misguided faith because:

1)      It is likely that they will not be able to be stopped anyway

2)      The benefits of an expressing a faith in Jesus will always outweigh the risks when you take an eternity-sized view

Lord, help me to be bold enough to express my faith even when I don’t necessarily have the theology to understand it, and please help me to know when to release people in their faith rather than constraining them.

Written by Ps. Justin Ware

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    From now on Mark 9:38 and Acts 19:15 will be eternally connected in my mind. Thanks Justin.

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Wednesday 29 July, 2015

Mark 9:33-37

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” 36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

After Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been thrown into prison he moved from his hometown of Nazareth to Capernaum a fishing village on the shores of the Lake of Galilee.

We should read this passage in the context of the on-the-job training which Jesus continually gave his disciples. On the way from Galilee to Capernaum Jesus taught them about his coming death and resurrection [Mark 9:30-32]. When they arrived home, Jesus realised that they had been arguing about who would be the greatest among them. Jesus knew this, so he sat with them and gave what was one of his most significant teachings – about greatest. To be great, take last place and be the servant of all!

In three of the Gospels [Matthew 18:1-5; Mark 9:36-37; Luke 9:48] the focal point of Jesus’ teaching here is a small child. Matthew captures the essence of the teaching. “unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…. whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”

I recognise that there are many leadership models promoted in the world and in the Church, but if I am to obey the teaching of Jesus there is only one effective model – that of servanthood.

Holy Spirit I ask that you keep control of my life so that I don’t divert into accepting the world’s standards.

Written by Keith Bennett

5 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    love your thought Keith. Makes me want to watch my children more closely and take notes!
    Thanks

  2. Justin Ware says:

    Greatness is something that I have meditated on from time to time over the years and this passage has often been the focal point of my thinking.

    Clearly there is a long running, hearty competitiveness amongst the disciples, but when they are asked by Jesus what they were discussing in this instance, they seem shamed to silence. I wonder if they had realised the petty Ness of their debate or whether they just did not know or understand at this point how Jesus would respond to the question of greatness.

    Christ doesn’t try to create a level playing field or give a theology of all men being created equal, but instead seeks to subvert their thinking. He points to a new model of leadership that is not based solely on skill, training or ability but instead on the disposition of the leaders heart.

    I love that Jesus works to stimulate further questions instead of providing all the answers here. Furthermore the ultimate answer to the question of who is the greatest was not demonstrated fully until later – by his sacrifice in going to the cross.

    Lord, help me to be a servant in my heart, to ensure that I am continually mindful of those around me and what their true, deepest needs are.

  3. Richard says:

    I love how Jesus confronts the disciples here head on, asking them about what they had been arguing about. I get the impression He knew, but asked to see if they would ‘fess’ up.

    Jesus sits down in vs 35, which suggests a more formal pose to teach them, rather than the incidental walking beside them that had occurred along the road. I get the impression Jesus was deliberately teaching them, He wanted to make a point, to make clear that the kingdom is run on different principles.

    A child was a nobody, seen, never heard, never counted as important, except in the sense of the firstborn male heir in this culture. So to make the statement Jesus takes a little child, into His arms, that is a little child, and says effectively, serve this child, welcome this child, do so under my authority and you will have real relationship with me, you will then have the true heart of leadership. The child represents the lowest, serve him, making yourself lower, i.e. nothing is beneath you and you will have the kingdom I your heart.

  4. Travis says:

    I have never understood this concept of ‘the last will be first’, I’ve always battled with it when hearing or reading scripture. But today it jumped out of the page at me, prompting me to read again. After reading on to your responses, my sudden understanding has been confirmed and enriched by you all, thanks!

  5. David Newton says:

    Servant Leadership: If every person in authority in the entire world was made to study this concept I wonder how different would the world be ???

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Tuesday 28 July, 2015

Mark 9:30-32

30 They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, 31 because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.

As I read this, all I can think is how confused the disciples must have been. Most of them had given up everything – their jobs, friends, being close to their families – to follow Jesus in different areas, mostly surrounded by crowds of people, watching and listening as Jesus taught, healed & proclaimed truth. But now, Jesus changes the routine. He has taken them aside somewhere quiet and private and starts to explain that he will be killed by men, and rise three days later.

It’s so easy for those of us who read these verses to interpret exactly what Jesus is saying – we already know how this one ends and what happens next. But for the disciples, without any hindsight or understanding of what was about to happen, this would have been utterly perplexing. These were men who had given up everything for the cause of Jesus, who were fuelled by every word he spoke. And now they had no idea what he was talking about, but were too scared to ask. Were they scared because they thought Jesus would be upset with them for asking, or for not already understanding? Or did they simply fear what the answer would be?

How often do we find ourselves in the disciple’s position? For many of us, the journey of following Jesus is a mixed bag of abundant blessing amidst great personal sacrifice. And like the disciples, we often don’t have the luxury of knowing what comes next. I am encouraged that when I am in a situation where I don’t understand what Jesus is telling me, I can ask without fear. And even if I don’t understand or particularly like the answer, my prayer is that I would continue to follow Christ wherever he may be leading.

Jesus thank you that you want us to come to you, to ask questions and seek your ways and your will. Help us to place your ways above our own, and to follow as you lead us, when we like where we are headed, and even when we don’t.

Written by Madeline Tarasenko

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    So any times the Bible encourages us to have faith. I believe that is because so often the promises of the Bible don’t seem to match what we see in life. In other words, if the world looked ‘right’ there would be no call to have faith. God is simple saying “Trust me it all works out in the end”. This is what the disciples faced and this is also what we face.
    .
    Thanks Madeline, I always enjoy listening to what you have to say.

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Monday 27 July, 2015

Mark 9:14-29

In this passage, a father brings his possessed son to Jesus for healing as he has struggled to have faith in the past. Jesus exclaims, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you?” (vs 19). The father cries, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (vs 24). Jesus is displeased that the people have not yet understood what it means to put their faith in God in all circumstances. Jesus cast out the evil spirit by prayer as an example of faithfulness.

This scripture really challenges me, as it leads me to think about the situations in my life where there is unbelief. As much as I would like to think that I’m always full of faith, I can often approach things from a place of both faith and fear. Jesus’ love casts out all our fears (1 John 4:18), and we are to place all our faith in Him alone. We achieve this through the key message of this passage – prayer (vs 29)!

God, I Thank You that You hear my prayers and respond to my faith. I ask that You would help me to approach all the situations that life brings in faith rather than fear. Amen.

Written by Laura Samperi

1 (reply)
  1. Andrew Mellor says:

    Thanks Laura, I’ve heard a lot of complicated thoughts on this passage before, but you have brought it back to the most simple and powerfully application, prayer to God conquers the dark and prayer conquers lack of faith. Amen

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Sunday 26 July, 2015

Mark 9:2-13

2 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus. 5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.) 7 Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus. 9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. 10 They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant. 11 And they asked him, “Why do the teachers of the law say that Elijah must come first?” 12 Jesus replied, “To be sure, Elijah does come first, and restores all things. Why then is it written that the Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has come, and they have done to him everything they wished, just as it is written about him.”

Just before this story Jesus asks Peter “who do people say I am.” Peter replies that some say he is John the Baptist, some say Elijah, some say a prophet… I (Peter) say you are the Christ. Mark 8:28-29. Then in today’s passage we have read the account of the transfiguration and it answers or confirms this truth that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God.

Jesus on the mountain is visited by Elijah and Moses, they come to pay their respect to the greatest prophet Jesus. Moses the great deliverer of Gods people comes to see the forever complete deliverer of Gods people, Jesus the Messiah. God speaks to the company, “This is my son, listen to him.” A reference to when Jesus was baptised by John the Baptist, he is not John the Baptist, he (Jesus) is God’s son.

And now most importantly, now that who He (Jesus) is has been made clear, LISTEN TO HIM.

Peter has declared Jesus to be the Christ earlier but has he listened to Him. Listened to Him as the Christ? He has not. In Mark 8:31-33, just previous to the transfiguration, he (Peter) has rebuked Jesus for predicting his own death. And then on the mountain rather than just listening and watching the amazing scene before him, he is busy coming up with ideas about how to make it even better, by making a shelter for each of them.

Peter is an ideas man who believes but has difficulty listening. I can identify so well with him. I love that Jesus is so gracious with Peter, letting him see the transfiguration and hear the fathers’ proclamation over Jesus. Jesus invests in Peter as he is. Thank you Jesus, you are the same with me. Patiently and graciously helping me to listen to you better. Please help me to believe, to stop and to LISTEN.

Written by Zoe Stewart

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Saturday 25 July, 2015

Mark 8:34-9:1

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” 9 And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

When was the last time you heard someone (apart from at church) advising you to deny yourself? I recently heard a car ad on the radio informing me that my desire for this particular car was “the universe telling me” that I should buy one. Self-denial is not a popular concept in our culture. You’ve probably heard the ad jingle, “Do what you want to do, be what you want to be, yeah”. This is the kind of advice we are regularly hearing in the media.

But here, Jesus is telling us the secret to being His disciples, and it’s quite a different way. He tells us to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him. Of course, Jesus Himself is our prime example in this. He denied His place in heaven with the Father (ultimate power and privilege) and humbled Himself to come as a servant to die on the cross. And He is asking me to follow His example.

On the surface, this may not sound that appealing, but here’s where my “eternal thinking” needs to kick in. If I were to “gain the whole world” (have all the money, success, power and position that my heart could desire) this would be nothing compared to the eternal rewards that come from denying my self-focus and following Jesus.

Unfortunately, this is not something that I can do once and be done with it.  We are all swimming against the tide of self-centredness and living in a self-focused culture. Denying ourselves is not going to come easy.

I’m so grateful that God’s mercy and grace helps me in my selfishness and my weakness, and that He is constantly calling me to a higher place without fear or condemnation for my failings. Today, once again, I choose His way above my way.

Written by Shelley Witt

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Friday 24 July, 2015

Mark 8:31-33

31 He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

What a rebuke! Peter got a real ‘dressing down’ by Jesus. It was public too – in front of the other disciples. He must have done something really bad.

But Jesus’ words have a haunting ring to them and get a knot in my stomach…

“…you are seeing things merely from a human point of view, not from God’s.”

Oh, how often have I done that very thing! When faith says “yes, it’s done!” my human point of view kicks in and says “it’s impossible”.

What about the trials are you and I may be facing right now?

I wonder what Jesus would say of us if we addressed these trials not with the “human point of view” of it can’t be done, but the point of view of faith. A faith that sounds a war-cry of power and confidence “this thing is defeated in Jesus name!”

Written by Boudy van Noppen

2 replies
  1. Stephen Fell says:

    Thanks B. Yes, a strong rebuke and could have been received with such shame by Peter. But we also know the character of Jesus and the delivery of the rebuke would have been in love, but with the firmness it needed. How often our concerns . . my concerns . . are from a human point of view, and not God’s view! I pray that I would receive the rebuke well at times when needed.

  2. Linda Quinn says:

    Thanks B – I always need to be reminded of this. My default needs to be faith vision – confident of what God can do – not what I can’t! After doing “Identity in Christ” at Night school last term, I am determined and equipped to remember who I am “In Christ”. I am committed to remembering each day (via phone alert) who I am and what I have. It’s helping transform my mind (Roms12:1-2) and reset my default. So glad Christ is committed to working with me each day in this!

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Thursday 23 July, 2015

Mark 8:27-30

27 Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?” 28 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.” 29 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” 30 Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Up until this point Jesus had been doing things that no one else had done before. Wherever he went people asked the question, ‘who is this man?’
He was a healer and a prophet, a teacher and a leader. But Peter understood that Jesus was all this and more, he was the Messiah, the one who was to come and save God’s people from their enemies and to turn their hearts back to their God and restore their community.

Even though Peter got it, he still had much to learn. If we read ahead a few verses you will read that Jesus had to rebuke Peter very sharply for totally missing the point of Jesus being the Messiah.
This speaks to me about not putting my Lord and Saviour in a box. I am only just beginning to know Him and I must not limit my understanding of all that his salvation means and what following him entails.
“Lord, please keep me learning at your feet, following by your side and always accepting your view of this world and your Kingdom. Amen”

Written by Andrew Mellor

1 (reply)
  1. David Newton says:

    What a great question to ask yourself about Jesus every morning. “Who do you say I am?”

    Thanks Andrew

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Wednesday 22 July, 2015

Mark 8:22-26

22 They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him. 23 He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” 24 He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” 25 Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly. 26 Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”

I love how physical this healing is. There is nothing neat about this process.

Jesus, the Son of God, spits on this man’s eyes… Really? Almighty God doesn’t pick a cleaner or more clinical option? Perhaps a more spiritual  alternative? Why?

It says Jesus lays hands on the man’s eyes more than once, and even asks him part way through, “do you see anything?” It’s so everyday, so grounded… Yet the results are miraculous. No sight. Sight. Dependent. Independent. Isolated. Connected. Wow!

Am I trusting God, that He can move in the everyday and the ordinary, to do the miraculous? Am I looking for God to turn up in the mess and mundane of life? Do I dare to believe that God is more than comfortable in humble circumstances?

God, help me to expect more of you and to trust that you are the one who brings the super to my natural. Help me to step out in the everyday and trust that you will bring the extraordinary. Amen!

Written by Beth Waugh

4 replies
  1. Kim Fleming says:

    Great thought Beth. I love how Jesus uses the natural & not always the high & mighty alternative to grt the job done. Jesus, help me tonot always seek after the high things u can do, but also look for miracles tha arevery down
    to earth.

  2. Richard says:

    Mark 8:22-26

    Once again we read of an interaction between Jesus and a person who He changes for all time. This man is brought to Jesus by friends, Jesus heals him in what is an unconventional manner and then sends him home, but not via the village they left prior to him healing the man.

    That Jesus heals the man is simply amazing. Restoring the sight of a blind person is an exceptional miracle. This is not common practice, not something ever recorded in the Old Testament and it marks Jesus out as specifically different to previous prophets. Indeed healing blind people is not common by Jesus either.

    What excites me is that this man is brought by friends. Restoring sight is uncommon, yet the friends hold a belief that Jesus can do something about it. I wonder what they were thinking, nonetheless, they had faith, that had a belief Jesus could do something.

    Having friends who have faith, who take risky steps on my behalf is crucial to me experiencing all Jesus has for me. Am I one of those kinds of friends?

    Father help me to give permission to my fiends to have outrageous faith for me and may I always have that same quality of faith for them.

  3. Justin Ware says:

    There are lots of interesting things that I have observed in this passage in the past that have applications for me:
    – the man did not ask to be healed
    – the friends of the man had the faith to bring him to Jesus
    – there is no record of Jesus talking with the man until after spitting on his eyes
    – the man’s healing happened in stages

    The thing that has stood out afresh in my reading today though is that here, as in many other instances of healing, Jesus sent the man away from other people to his home rather than into the village where others could witness the miracle.
    I have often wondered why Jesus continually did this in his ministry. Didnt he want as many people as possible to have restoration of their body? Didn’t he want to demonstrate the power that he had been granted? Didn’t he want to fulfill the prophesies about him in every town to clearly show that he was indeed the promised messiah?
    I don’t know the answers, but I wonder if he had an awareness of the need for him to accomplish certain tasks before going to the big city of Jerusalem and revealing himself clearly. Perhaps he knew that he needed to be measured in the way that he used his power and anointing so as not to distract from the main task that he had been appointed- to die for the forgiveness of all sins.
    What a challenge it would be for a merciful God to withold healing through Christ from anybody in the area!
    what does this mean for me today? I have often struggled with the tension between my calling to living in a city with a high cost of living and the deep and significant financial need around the world. Am I right to withold my finances from those who are dying from poverty so that I can afford to live in Sydney? The same is true, to a great extent, of my time and even of my energy resources.
    Lord, thank you for showing me how Jesus had to steward his own skills and abilities and practice restraint to enable him to do what you called him to. Please help me to be a better steward so that I can be the best witness for you that I can be.

  4. David Newton says:

    I have always wondered what “I see people; they look like trees walking around.” actually means. There are a few cases in the Bible where the weird workings of the spiritual realm intersect the rational logical natural world. I think this is one of those times.

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