A House of Prayer

Re: Verse reading–Mark 11:12-33 (day two)  And He began to teach and say to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a robbers’ den.”  vs. 17


The picture above was taken in Maryville, Missouri where I attended Northwest Missouri State University. During my first years at school this convent was sold to the state to become a part of the corrections department. Every time I read this story of Jesus clearing the temple I picture this place that was a literal depiction of Jesus’ words. It doesn’t have to be this concrete to be true, however. God has called all of us to holiness, and we fill it up with our own desires and sin. Do you really want him to come in and cast you out? Seek him while he may be found, do business with God and return to prayer.

Fruit bearing

Re: Verse reading–Mark 11:12-33 (day one)

Kurt Voss died last week.  He was 94.  For over 70 years he served the Lord as a member of FBCSA.  He was also a gifted metal worker.  An artisan.  An old-world craftsman.

When I came to First Baptist in 1996, Kurt offered to make a new pulpit. (The one we still use).  He suggested a vine and branches motif ( the same inspiration he used on the doors of the National Cathedral–a project completed a few years before.)

Sunday by Sunday, ever since, my pulpit preaches a silent and powerful message of its own.  “I am the vine.  You are the branches.  He who abides in Me and I in him will bear much fruit.”–John 15:5

This week I hope you will read Mark 11.  With one final warning for Israel, Jesus cursed a fig tree (a symbol of the nation) because it was “all leaves” (appearance) but “no fruit”.

His expectations were clear.  Still are.

Rare combination

Re: Verse reading–Mark 10: 32-45 (day seven)

Jesus was (is) a rare combination of two virtues.  Perfect symmetry.  He is both strong and soft.  Strong toward people and their opposition.  Soft toward God and people who needed His care.  “A velvet covered brick” said Howard Butt.  Mark says,  “they were amazed.”-v 32.  No wonder.

Strong–Once Jesus discerned the will of the Father, He moved toward it with determination.  Courageous.  Resolute.  A quality all leaders need.  “Be strong and courageous”, God tells young Joshua.(Joshua 1:6)

Surrendered–But, the ego strength that Jesus used to withstand the pressure of men was never turned against the Father.  He never pushed back or resisted.  Like soft clay, His surrendered heart yielded to the Father’s will.  “Submit therefore to God. . .He will lift you up”. (James 4:10)

Followers of Christ are called to be like Christ.  It is easy to do one OR the other.  The trick (miracle) is to be BOTH, and in the right situations.


Humble Servant

Re: Verse reading–Mark 10: 32-45 (day five)

Why would Jesus emphatically teach His disciples to be humble servants? Being a humble servant produces the exact opposite of what we might think. What are the characteristics of a humble servant?

Joy– being a humble servant removes the pressure of trying to please others and leaves the servant free to act and react with joy and gladness whatever the circumstance.

Courage– culture teaches self confidence is the best source of courage. Actually, pride produces fear. (Fear and worry of what others will think, and perceive about us) Servants know that real courage comes from God.

Energy– God’s presence in the servant’s heart leads to great energy and productivity. (It is God who works in you both to will and work for His good pleasure).

Becoming a humble servant causes the believer to be the best version of ourselves (God’s design) we can be.


Re: Verse reading–Mark 10: 32-45 (day four)

They had been picked to be in the top three…James and John had accompanied Jesus to the mount of Transfiguration.  Of course, Peter was there too, but he had, as usual, blurted out the wrong thing.  He was too impetuous to be a true leader…they were the obvious pick.  So they approached the Master.  Jesus said they had no idea what they were asking…besides, it was not His choice…the positions would be filled by the ones for whom it had been prepared.

James and John really didn’t understand…they did not have a grasp of what following Jesus really meant.  Jesus knew.  V. 45 could be a theme verse for the book of Mark:  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many.”  Jesus knew what His mission was.  Like the sons of Thunder, we have to understand why Jesus came.  It is not about us and what is in it for us…we are to serve others in Jesus’ name and lead them to Christ.  Is there somewhere you can volunteer?


Re: Verse reading–Mark 10: 32-45 (day three)

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant.”  Might we abuse this teaching from Jesus?  You know we might.  Jesus teaches us that serving another doesn’t lead to greatness.  Serving another is greatness.  Otherwise, we become servants so that we might get a better job later on.  We would indeed serve people as a means to a self-serving end.  But the life together that the Three-In-One God lives is a life in which the Son defers to the Father, the Father calls attention to the Son, the Holy Spirit illuminates all creation with the truth of the Son, and the Father and Son send the Holy Spirit.  Each person of the Trinity magnifies the other persons of the Trinity.  This is servanthood.  To serve one another is to live the life God lives.

We’ll Work

Re: Verse reading–Mark 10: 32-45 (day two) 

And again He took the twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to Him…vs. 32b (emphasis added)

“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His [life a ransom for many.” vs. 45

When you learn something new or shocking you often miss many of the details on your first hearing. Jesus wanted to be sure that his disciples knew what was about to take place. When they would reflect on these moments later they would understand more clearly what Jesus was asking of them. For now, however, they focused on themselves. If this must happen, then I want to be on your right hand. In chapter 8, Jesus rebukes Peter’s challenge of the events that must take place. In chapter 10 he reminds them all of what he came to do. What we are to do while we still have breath. We are to serve. If our focus is on heave, then it must be on the work. We are here to serve others and show Christ’s love, just as he did.

O land of rest, for thee I sigh! When will the moment come
When I shall lay my armor by, And Dwell in peace at home
We’ll work till Jesus comes, we’ll work till Jesus comes,
We’ll work till Jesus comes, And we’ll be gathered home

A perfect fit

Re: Verse reading–Mark 10: 32-45 (day one)

“To sit on my right or my left. . . is for those for whom it has been prepared.”– v 40.

In ancient Greek, heteos referred to “a perfect fit” or “exact match”.  In Mark 10, Jesus used it in a verbal form.  He said that the seats of honor in Heaven have been made with specific people in mind.  They are not “one size fits all” chairs.  They are prepared by God (hetoimazo) for people that He desires to honor.

Jesus uses the same word in John 14.  “I go to prepare a place for you“.  Your new home in Heaven will also be a perfect match for your life and heart.  No cookie cutters.  Heaven will be a clear, fair reflection your faith.

“The Lord (when He comes) will bring to light the things hidden in darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God.”–1 Corinthians 4:5


Re:Verse reading–Mark 9:14-29 (day seven)

“Whenever it (the demon) seizes him, it slams him to the ground.”–v 18

For a moment will you think about the boy in this story?  Demon-possessed.  Vulnerable.  Unable to talk.  Regularly slammed to the ground by forces that he did not control or understand.

Doubly slammed, I think, because He lived in a generation that had lost faith in God.  (See v 19)  People around him were powerless to help him (physically or spiritually) because they had forgotten the fountain of help or how to find it.  For faithless folks, life shrinks  down to human solutions which, in the case of this boy, were obviously useless.

It doesn’t have to be this way!  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray. . .I will heal their land”. . .and their children and their cities and their families.

Maybe you feel slammed to the ground by violent forces in your life.


Re:Verse reading–Mark 9:14-29 (day six)

“Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him up, and he arose.” Mark 9:27

Amidst the arguing scribes, the father who struggled with unbelief, the disciples who lacked faith was a boy, a young man. As far as he could remember he had no control over his own life, but only knew slavery to an evil spiritual force. For all practical purposes he was dead, numb; it was how it had always been…until Jesus. The moment Jesus was near a battle had begun in his body and mind. The evil one tugged and pulled inside his body in a different way then he was used to, as if to back away, to turn around; it had never felt like this before. And then Jesus’ words came like hammer blows against the internal shackles, and he was free. He had never known freedom; not that he could remember. He lay still, at peace, so still he heard whispers, “He is dead.” In that very moment Jesus’ hand wrapped around his own, strong, not like stone, but like a father’s embrace. In Jesus’ strength he rose to his feet, as new found strength returned to sinew and bone. And he believed.

You don’t work for great faith, you receive it, as from a strong and mighty hand that lifts you up.