A daily encouragement to read the Bible with others from Christ Community Church, Conway.

Month: February, 2013

Bible Reading Day 59

Day 59 – Mark 7:14-37

Read online.

Good morning {GoesByName}!
Today’s reading continues the account of Jesus and the Pharisees. Remember how yesterday Jesus condemned them for having hard hearts and canceling the Word of God with their traditions?Well today Jesus calls the crowd to listen, and speaks about hearing. For us to rightly respond to God’s Word requires that we hear what God is truly saying. Jesus tells the crowd, and then repeats in detail for His disciples, the truth that defilement comes from within (our sin and its consequences), not from without (rules and regulations about eating, washing and so on).

So the application for us today is that only God can determine how defiled we are; our outward actions are not the determinants of our standing with God. It follows that you and I need to HEAR what God says to us in order to allow Him to pinpoint and transform those sinful inner attitudes and habits.

Interestingly, the theme of hearing continues to the end of the chapter: first Jesus goes to Tyre where a Gentile woman comes, because she has heard of Jesus, to ask for healing for her daughter. Then Jesus goes on to Sidon where a man who cannot hear is brought for healing.

I’d like you to meditate for a moment today on how Jesus treats these two cases very differently. In fact He brings healing, truth, and freedom to people uniquely on every occason recorded in the gospels. With the Gentile woman, he challenges her request because she and Jesus both know that her heritage is outside the scope of God’s family at that time. How will she answer? Her faith shines through in her response: “even the dogs eat the scraps from the family table.” She believes God wants to bless everyone, even those who have been historically opposed to Him, and her daughter is healed.

With the deaf man, the approach is very different. Since this man would have been singled out as a misfit, even an outcast, Jesus takes him away from the crowd. His actions demonstrate that He is addressing the two issues that caused the man to be rejected by others. And again healing is released.

So a final application from this section would be: expect God to work in your life according to your unique needs and experiences. Don’t compare yourself to others because God loves you too much to treat you the same as anyone else!

Bible Reading Day 58

Day 58 – Mark 7:1-13

Read online.

Good morning!
We have noted previously that Mark writes in “headline” style – fast and to-the-point. Today’s portion shows us Jesus teaching in similar style. His target is the bloated system of rules and regulations that religion has created around the simple heart of life with God – receiving love, being thankful, and sharing love with others.

The Pharisees had added many traditions to the teaching of God in the books of Moses (the Pentateuch, or five books). Jesus quotes Isaiah’s prophecy about hearts that are far from God, and then cuts to the root of the religious system. What an indictment of those who purport to be leaders: “You cancel the Word of God in order to hand down your own tradition.”

This is why reformers such as Wycliffe and Luther were so passionate about translating the Word of God into the language of the common people – it is such an honor to read God’s Word for ourselves, and a vital part of remaining free from religious traditions. Even the New Testament was written in the language of the common people (koine Greek). 

Let’s be thankful today that we have God’s Word to read, and let’s discuss it with our friends, asking them to help us see any place we are distorting God’s truths with our own viewpoints or traditions.

Bible Reading Day 57

Day 57  – Mark 6:33-56

Read online.

Good morning!
Remember how Jesus took His disciples away for a break after they had completed their ministry tour? They must have been looking forward to some space; peace and quiet at last! Well that hope was short-lived. By the time they reached the quiet place, a great crowd of people had already arrived, running along the shore. I wonder if that’s how some people feel after seeing the ads for Myrtle Beach: a couple or a family strolling along a wide spacious beach looks very different from the ad when you arrive on a holiday weekend along with thousands of others!
Notice how Mark describes Jesus’ reaction. No hint of frustration or lack of patience; just compassion and willingness to teach them. The reason? They were like sheep without a shepherd. The issue then, as it is today, is leadership. Multitudes will chase after anything that looks like leadership because so many feel like directionless sheep. Notice how Jesus again recruits His followers, especially the close followers, to meet the needs around them. It is a God-sized need (whether for food or for teaching) but God is committed to only meeting the need through His followers.
What needs do you see, and how could you be partnering with God to make a difference? 
The second part of today’s reading shows us how sometimes following Jesus’ instructions can lead us into struggles. The disciples are obeying Jesus again, after their “get away and rest” trip, and they are back on the lake, without Jesus, struggling to get to where they are going. Two things stand out to me in reading these verses: the first is that Jesus is watching and comes to them in their struggle, saying “Don’t be afraid,” and “Take courage! I am here!” The second is that the disciples were amazed that Jesus saved them; their amazement stemmed from a failure to understand the significance of what Jesus was doing. Verse 52 says “they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.”
I wonder how different our lives would be if we allowed ourselves to see fully the miracles God is doing around us? If we could encourage one another to embrace the truth that God really is both loving and powerful? If we could look beyond the jaded view of this world, and see more of how God is working? Lord, give us soft hearts, and open eyes!

Bible Reading Day 56

Day 56 – Mark 6:1-32

Read online.

Good morning!
Yesterday’s reading had faith as the theme; today starts out with a contrast. Jesus returns to His hometown and the locals have already decided they know all they need to know about Him: the carpenter, son of Mary. Can you hear the judgment in that title? “We know where He came from” “unmarried mother” “all his brothers and sisters are still here” – they have already judged Jesus and expect nothing. They have no faith.
And Jesus can do no great works there as a a result.
Are there any ways we are limiting Jesus by our lack of faith, or our judgments?
After the rejection in Nazareth, Jesus goes from village to village and sends out the disciples to teach two-by-two. They all see God at work in the same way as they had seen in the ministry of Jesus! Even King Herod Antipas hears about Jesus, and thinks this must be John the Baptist back from the dead. Mark gives us the flashback account of how Herod murdered John, before telling us how the disciples reported back to Jesus after their ministry tour.
In response to the great following they now have, Jesus takes them away for some rest and quiet. We’ll see how that works out tomorrow!
For today, how does God want to work through you? We are all sent; where is He sending you?

Bible Reading Day 55

Day 55 – Mark 5:21-43

Read online.

Good morning!

I am looking forward to our service this morning. It will be the final weekend of African American History month, and we have a dance by the children and a guest speaker – Pastor John McCauley from Seneca SC.
Today’s theme for the readings is faith. We follow Jesus through two encounters (the synagogue ruler’s daughter is raised from the dead, and a woman is healed by touching Jesus’ garment). In both, the key element is faith – the woman had faith that she would be healed simply by reaching out to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment, and Jesus encouraged Jairus to have faith that his daughter would be made well.
How is God strengthening your faith as you read? What is Jesus preparing you to do?
One other observation which goes along with the focus on faith; the woman reaching out touched the hem of Jesus’ garment. This was symbolic of His authority as a Rabbi. The woman’s faith in Jesus’ authority made her well.
Jesus’ authority is also described in His interaction with Jairus. The synagogue ruler was a powerful man in those days, and by asking Jesus to come Jairus gives away some of his own authority, and recognizes the authority of Jesus.
Authority follows faith (in God’s Kingdom). So faith leads to experience, with growing authority!
How does God want you to exercise authority today?
I’m looking forward to hearing Pastor John this morning – I believe his message will benefit us all.

Bible Reading Day 54

Day 54 – Mark 5:1-20

Read online.

Good morning!

Yesterday we ended our reading with the disciples astonished at the authority of Jesus. “Who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey Him!”
You recall they were crossing the Sea of Galilee when the storm hit them. Well, when they get to the other side, another kind of storm hits them – a man so demonized that he would harm himself and howl as he lived among the graves in the cemetery. No-one could subdue him. Until Jesus came ashore. Now the demonized man comes to Jesus for help. And Jesus HELPS him!
His freedom is so great that many from his family and town come to faith. At the same time many are scared of what Jesus does – including the pig farmers! The man (now well) asks to go with Jesus but Jesus sends him to his own people – the next apostle! (Apostle means one who is sent).
Remember we are sent too (Matthew 28). How has God changed you for the better? It may not be demons and pigs, but God’s work in you is worth telling – and others are waiting to hear what God has done for you.

Have a great day!


Online Archive of Daily Reading emails.

Daily Reading Day 53

Day 53 – Mark 4:21-41

Read online.

Good morning!

Mark follows the parable of the sower with three more of Jesus’ parables: the lamp, the growing seed, and the mustard seed.
In each story there is a plain truth hidden, to be found by those who are seeking. It has been said with great wisdom that God does not hide things from us, He hides things for us.
So today, as in verses 24 and 25, let’s pay close attention to what we hear. Not just the words on the page, but the words in our hearts.
And whatever storm you face today, don’t be afraid; have faith in Jesus, He calms every storm!

Have a great day!


Online Archive of Daily Reading emails.

Bible Reading Day 52

Day 52 – Mark 4:1-20
Good Morning!
Today brings a change of pace – Jesus returns to teaching, and the crowd is great so he has to put out onto the lake in a boat so more people can hear him (the expanse of water enables his voice to carry to a wider crowd). So the speed of Mark’s narrative decreases some, but don’t expect less impact as a result! The power of the parable is great, and this parable is perhaps one of Jesus’ most famous. In fact Mark tells us this is just one example of the kinds of stories Jesus told.
Jesus begins by saying “Listen!” to gain the attention of the crowd, and describes a scene that they would all immediately be able to visualize – a farmer sowing seed. Through the principles expressed in this story, Jesus’ hearers can apply God’s truth to their own experience. At least, the ones who are willing to learn can do this. That’s why Jesus ends His parable with the words “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
The disciples wanted to understand, but were perhaps trying too hard! Jesus explains to them that they WILL understand the principles of the Kingdom, even though anyone who is not already seeking truth will find it hard to catch the truths woven into His parables.
Then He explains the parable clearly, describing four responses to God’s Word. Which have you experienced in your life? Probably all four at different times! Which are the two predominant ones for you today? And what does God want to say to you about becoming more fruitful?
Have a great day!

Bible Reading Day 51

Day 51 – Mark 3:22-35
Good Morning!
Day 51: we have completed 50 days. Congratulations for keeping with the Bible Readings for all this time. Our plan is almost 14% complete!
Did you notice that we covered the whole of chapter 3 in yesterday’s email? You are welcome to go back and read yesterday’s email for thoughts on today’s portion of the chapter (or go to yesterday’s blog entry).
Before we go on to the next chapter, I wanted to take a moment to mention the overall theme of Mark’s gospel. Each gospel has its own theme and flavor. We already saw how Mark’s writing is more in the mode of “headline news” when compared to Matthew (who writes with greater explanation and depth – more in the style of a newspaper column or magazine article).
The foundational theme of Mark’s gospel is Jesus the Servant, who suffers in our place. If you think about a servant, they often live at a fast pace; moving from one task to the next with a sense of urgency. That is why Mark’s gospel account also moves fast. Many times we see the serving and suffering of Jesus through Mark’s account.
Today, you may like to review the first three chapters and see how many times you can see Jesus revealed as a servant who willingly suffers for those He serves.
Have a great day!

Bible reading Day 50

Day 50 – Mark 3:1-21
Good morning!
After yesterday’s contrasts, today we see Jesus battling His enemies; and the contrasts become more sharply defined. This is not a fight with weapons, but a fight with thoughts and actions. See how Jesus’ enemies had a mindset of opposition that led them to seek any possible way to accuse Jesus. This clearly identifies them with the accuser, satan, who Jesus came to defeat. An attitude of fault-finding and accusation places a person on the wrong side of the battle, and leads to a hardened heart. Notice that Jesus has the opposite attitude – He is deeply saddened by their hardened hearts.
By contrast to the enemies (the religious leaders), the crowds were eager to hear and see Jesus. They especially sought hope, and answers to their most pressing problems – healing and deliverance. The crowds grew so much that Jesus takes the next step in His discipleship program – He appoints twelve apostles to share the work. (Apostle simply means “one who is sent”). These twelve were not qualified before they were called; rather their calling qualified them – Jesus placed them in roles they were unprepared for, and they found He was sufficient as they obeyed.
Next we see how a hard heart can turn you around completely – so the religious leaders accuse Jesus of being a servant of satan. How ironic that they accused Him of being what they refused to recognize they themselves were! This led Jesus to declare that the only sin which can’t be forgiven is to declare that Jesus’ words and actions are evil (from satan) rather than from God (the Holy Spirit).
Finally, it seems (although we are not told this in the account) that Jesus’ mother and brothers began to be influenced by all the negative propaganda and seek to take Jesus away from the vitriol and controversy. Lovingly, Jesus says that “Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” In other words, He is not rejecting His mother and family (we presume Joseph, His father, is already dead). Stating the truth in this way, Jesus is full of grace toward His family. If they do the will of God they remain His family; only by siding with the religious enemies would they cause their own rejection.
Today, let’s ask God “am I being influenced by propaganda designed to oppose Jesus?” and “how can I stay in the center of Your will?”
Have a great day!