A Lesson from John the Baptist

RE Verse reading–Mark 1:1-11 (Day Five)
In the beginning of the Gospel of Mark, we meet John the Baptist. John the Baptizer understood his role in the Kingdom of God. It was to “prepare the way”. The required daily activities were preaching and baptizing. He did them with passion and faithfulness.
It’s a worthy question to ask. “What is my role in the kingdom of God?” Will it be in: What I say? What I do? Where I go? How I think? We should all ask these kinds of questions frequently. As a spouse or future spouse, as a parent, as a boss or employee, as a student, as a citizen, or as a friend, “How could I contribute to the Kingdom of God?” That God would want to use our talents, time, and tasks to help grow His Kingdom is an amazing thought. That our actions and attitudes could have an eternal influence is great perspective to regularly consider.

Identity, Mission, Call

ReVerse Passage:  Mark 1:1-15; 6:14-29; 11:27-33 (day 4)
In Christianity Explored by Rico Tice, three great themes are identified in Mark:  1) Who is Jesus? (Jesus’ Identity)  2) Why did He come? (Jesus’ Mission)  3) What does He require of His followers? (Jesus’ Call).  As you read through Mark, watch for each of these themes and mark the verses in your Bible that explain His Identity, His Mission, and His Call.  In Mark 1:1-11, there are three verses that identify one of these themes…verse 1 gives us information on who Jesus is (Identity).  Verse 8 tells us what His mission was…to baptize with the Holy Spirit.  Verse 11 again gives us His identity:  “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.”  It is important for each of us to clearly understand each of these themes in Mark.  A misunderstanding of any one of them will give us a distorted view of the true gospel.  Enjoy your study!

Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.

RE Verse reading–Mark 1:1-11 (Day Three)  “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”  John came baptizing, and for good reason.  Baptism signifies a beginning—in our Christian tradition, of course, a new birth into life under the reign of Christ—and for the people in John’s day, a beginning of a new action of God in history.  You can’t begin the day until you wake up.  You can’t pick the vegetables until you sow the seed.  You can’t run the race until you’ve forced your body to begin the training program.  And you can’t listen to the Lord until you’ve braced your whole being to receive what he says.  Baptism in 30 A.D. meant that people were ready to listen—really ready.  If you want to hear God, John says, then prepare to do so.  What’s the evidence that you’re poised for God’s words to you?

Who is God’s Wife?

RE Verse reading–Mark 1:1-11 (Day Two) “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God…You are my beloved Son…” If Jesus is God’s Son, who is God’s wife? It’s a fair question, especially coming from an eight year old. If Jesus is God’s son in the same way that I am my father’s son, then there are strange conclusions that follow about the nature of God. Psalm 2:7-9 shows that to be a “son” is not so much about progeny as it is about authority. It’s not merely sharing a name but sharing the power that goes with that name. When God claims Jesus as His “beloved Son,” he declares more about Jesus’ role as rightful ruler than about Jesus’ nature as divine. When you claim Jesus, you are not merely claiming a Savior. You are claiming a Master who carries the authority of the Supreme Lord, the Creator God. This raises an important question. Are you living under the authority of Jesus, the Son of God?

Preparing for Jesus

RE Verse reading–Mark 1:1-11 (day one)  “Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.”  Welcome to a new study in the gospel of Mark.  For 13 weeks it will be our privilege to see Christ in the way that people responded to His life and message.  This week we focus on John the Baptist who called people to “prepare the way for the Lord”.  The greek word is hetoimazo, “to make something fitting or appropriate”.  If God is to come and dwell with us, bringing with Him a new chapter of blessing, then respect alone requires certain things be done in preparation.  Christmas makes a similar (if more material) requirement of us.   Homes and schedules have to be prepared for the celebration.  Carefully the choir must rehearse for “Christmas at First”.  Isn’t spiritual/inner preparation is even more necessary?  What steps should be taken now to be ready for His presence?  God guide us as we study and consider.

The hope of Israel

RE Verse reading–Acts 28:17-31 (day seven)
“It is because of the hope of Israel that I am bound with this chain.”  (vs 20)  Paul is careful here.  He does not to be misunderstood.  He has not done anything against the Jewish people or customs or ancestors.  (see vs 17)  Paul has nothing but HOPE for the Jewish people/nation, but his dream IS new and different!  Israel’s hope is in Christ.  Rather than retaining their separate status, they were to be included in a much larger reality–the church.  Losing their uniqueness, they would receive a larger place.  It was a trade that many were unwilling to make.  How true of us!  God has a wonderful place of blessing and service for us but we must die to the old life to embrace the new.  “I have been crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live!”  said Paul of his own experience.   Lose privilege, gain power.  Lose self, become servants.  This is our hope as well.

Hardly hearing

RE Verse reading–Acts 28:17-31 (day six)
” For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears. . .otherwise they might. . .hear with their ears. . .and turn, and I would heal them”  (vs 27)  Despite Paul’s love for his people, he knew their history and their tendencies.  Tendencies, I fear, we all share.  The Jews were hard of hearing.  (Greek–bareos, “heavily, with difficulty”)  Imagine a person who has gained weight, so much that he/she can barely move.  Normal tasks become difficult, with the added challenge that the less he/she moves the harder it is to lose the pounds.  Now imagine yourself in worship.  Do we hear the Lord with difficulty?  Sluggish?  Lacking enthusiasm and easy movement?  As a new year approaches, many of us will (again) set goals for physical health.  Shouldn’t we take an equally careful look at out spiritual health?  God promises His help.  ” (If they would) hear and turn, I would heal them” says the Lord!

Another Reason to Give Thanks!!

Re Verse reading Acts 28:17-31(day five). Acts 18:15 “At the sight of these people Paul thanked God and was encouraged.”  Donald Whitney’s book 15 Questions to Diagnose Your Spiritual Health, poses the revealing question: “Do you delight in the Bride of Christ?”  It’s a great question.  Our relationship to The Church (The Bride of Christ) says more about our spiritual health than the health of the church.  The scripture says Paul was encouraged by the presence of fellow Christians and gave thanks for them.  “The closer you are to The Lord, the closer you will be to other believers” – Peter Jeffrey.  Let’s pause this weekend and give thanks for the Body of Believers where God has placed us!  Let’s pray for the ministries and members! Let’s look for opportunities to be an encouragement to our church!  Whitney’s challenge is for us to find “irresistible joy in the presence and ministry of Christ’s people, both in congregational form and as individuals”.

Give Thanks!

Re Verse reading Acts 28:17-31(day four)  Today is Thanksgiving Day!  We are reminded to give thanks for the blessings of life.  In today’s reading, we have the greatest reason to give thanks.  We find it in verse 28, “Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles;”  There is no greater blessing…God in His infinite grace and goodness, has extended to us…the Gentiles…His salvation.  As you spend time today thanking God for the blessings in your life, take time to thank Him that He included us in His infinite plan.  Just as Paul was faithful to share the Gospel with both Jews and Gentiles alike in every city he visited, find someone today to tell about Jesus.  Just like for Paul…some of those who hear will accept the gift of grace, some will reject it.  We are called to be faithful to share…and leave the results to the Holy Spirit.

Center Stage

RE Verse reading–Acts 28:17-31 (day three)  God used poverty and weakness for his own entrance into the world, but God doesn’t always work through such lowly means.  When the times are right for world-shifting movements, he often employs significant influencers of thought to herald his work.  Such an influencer was Paul.  Here was an intellectual colossus, holding forth at the world center for commerce, trade, and ideas.  Yes, he was a prisoner, but that doesn’t always mean a person is socially marginalized.  Some of history’s most profound shapers come to mind: Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr.—no strangers to incarceration.  Paul changed the world in chains, God helping him.  Will you pray that God would usher more providentially placed highly influential disciples into the public square in our own society?