Monthly Archives: July 2017

Through the Bible, July 31

Reading: Ezekiel 21; Daniel 7:1-14

Summary: Of the many titles and references used for Jesus, “Son of Man” is the most frequent.  It is also the only one used by Jesus in referring to Himself and He’s the only one to use it.    Though it appears in all four Gospels, it is occurs most frequently in Matthew.  The reference is of Old Testament origin.  It’s found some 90 times in Ezekiel, although these are all references by God of the prophet.  The only use of it in reference to the coming Messiah is found in Daniel.

Today’s reading from Ezekiel is as a sample of the frequent use of the term in that book and in Daniel of the Messianic passage that is the origin for the term used by Jesus.

Devotional Thought:

Son of Man

There’s a story of a man who noticed a very small flock of birds huddled near his garage door as a violent storm approached.  His thought was that if he could somehow get them into his garage they’d be protected and safe.  Of course, his every attempt to move, coerce, and influence the movement of those birds was futile.  They only scattered and fled with every approach.  “If they just knew I was trying to help them” he thought.  Finally he resigned himself to the notion that the only way he could possibly lead those vulnerable creatures to safety is if he were somehow to become a bird like them.  Then they could know and then he could save them.

Jesus became a man, just like us, to lead us to the safety of the Father.  He became one of us.  He became like us.  He suffered temptation in every point like us—yet without sin—so that He might be a faithful High Priest.  He leads us.  He is the initiator and the pioneer of our faith (Php. 2:6-8; Heb. 2:10, 17; 4:14-15; 12:2).

Jesus chose the title “Son of Man” to refer to Himself above all other names.  Might it be that this is because He sees becoming one of us as one of His most important achievements?  His love is so great that even in designating Himself He chose the name that connects with us.

Through the Bible, July 30

Reading: Mark 15-16

Summary: Jesus is arrested, tried, crucified and raised from the dead.

This Gospel ends with a text that is somewhat controversial.  Mark 16:9-20 is not found in some of the earliest manuscripts and some indication of that fact is given in many translations.  For instance, in the English Standard Version, there is a break in the body of the text with this notation in brackets: “Some of the earliest manuscripts do not include 16:9-20.”  Nothing about what we believe or practice is dependent on these verses.  Everything taught in them is also taught in many other passages of Scripture.  From that standpoint the question of whether or not these verses were originally in Mark’s Gospel is immaterial.

Devotional Thought:

Being There

When Jesus chose twelve disciples for a very special relationship with Him and to be trained for a very special task—we call them apostles—He chose twelve men.

When the multitudes Jesus fed were numbered, the men were counted.  Much more so than today, the culture and climate of the first-century middle east was a “man’s world.”

Yet, in Jesus darkest, painful, and lonely hour none of His men were there.  The apostles had run in fear at the time of His arrest.  John and Peter dared come around during the trial and John does make an appearance at the crucifixion (John 12:26), but otherwise, they are hiding in fear.

But not the women.  They were there.

“There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem” (Mark 15:40-41).

The men were hiding; the women were there.

Say what we will about the biblical principle of male spiritual leadership; wrestle as we might about appropriate roles for women in the church.  The fact remains that the Bible clearly acknowledges the steadfast faithfulness of women.  As we work to reflect the Bible’s teaching about women’s place in our faith and practice, may we also be sure to reflect the Bible admiration and respect for their praiseworthy courage and faith.

Through the Bible, July 29

Reading: Mark 13-14

Summary: One of Jesus’ great discourses (sometimes called the Olivet Discourse) is located in chapter 13.  This one is not delivered to an assembled multitude, but privately to Peter, Andrew, James, and John.  It is given in response to their question about when the destruction of the temple—which they could see clearly from their vantage point on the Mount of Olives—would take place.

Chapter 14 sets in motion the plot to kill Jesus and the events leading up to the fateful event.

Devotional Thought:

Not Going Anywhere

I remember as a youngster in the 1970’s a huge push given to “ecology.”  Efforts to curb pollution were given major emphasis.  The message to youngsters like me, from the animated spokes-animal Woodsy Owl, was “Give a hoot, don’t pollute!”

Obviously, caring for the planet on which God has placed us is part of our responsibility as stewards of His gifts.  Like anything, even that approach to caring can be taken too far.  To suggest that humanity should take nothing from or use anything from the earth is a mistaken notion.  Not to mention the thought that somehow the earth itself and everything in it is deity.  Wrong.  The earth was created by God for our use and our benefit and our care.

Something else, though, that we need to remember—especially in light of all that is being said today about man’s impact on the planet—is that Jesus affirms that the world will not last forever and was never intended to do so.   “Heaven and earth will pass away” (Mark 13:31).

As such, it must be counted among “temporal” things, that is, temporary.  By virtue of that fact, there are some things that are infinitely more important.  Eternal trumps temporal every time.

As Jesus’ own statement continues after affirming the non-eternal nature of heaven and earth, “but My words will not pass away.”  Would to God that the same concern, interest, and effort devoted to keeping this earth were given to keeping God’s word!

Through the Bible, July Supplemental Reading Introduction

Week 5: Supplemental Reading

July 29-31

         We will use the first two days of July’s supplemental reading days to complete our reading of Mark’s Gospel. The final day will investigate the Old Testament background of Jesus’ favorite self-identifying phrase.

Through the Bible, July 28

Reading: no scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: With no scheduled reading for today, this is a good time to catch up if you have fallen behind. Otherwise, here are some thoughts drawn from this past week’s readings.

  1. Mark leaves no question about where he is headed with this Gospel. Though the climax is reached at Peter’s identification of Jesus as the Christ in 8:29, he begins by stating that He is the  Christ, the Son of God (1:1).  With that fact boldly stated, he sets out to establish that truth through the presentation of teaching, miracles, and other events of Jesus’ ministry.  Compare this approach to John’s who at the end of his Gospel says, “these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (John 20:31)
  2. Mark gives great emphasis to the last week of Jesus’ life as evidenced by the fact that six of the sixteen chapters of this book are devoted to this one week of Jesus’ three-year ministry.
  3. There appears to be a special bond between Mark, the author, and Peter. Peter refers to Mark as “my son” (1 Pet. 5:13).  Many believe that Mark relied heavily on Peter as a source while writing his Gospel.  One early church writer even referred to the Gospel of Mark as the “memoirs of Peter.”

Devotional Thought:

What A Foolish Young Man

Evidence points convincingly to John Mark as the author of the Gospel of Mark.  If so, this man is the cousin of Barnabas (Col. 4:10), and a companion of Paul and Barnabas on the first missionary journey who then also deserted them at Perga (Acts 13:13).  This act left a sour taste in Paul’s mouth as he refused him as a companion on the second journey, leading to Paul and Barnabas parting ways (Acts 15:36-39).  Later, though, Paul’s opinion changed and he desired Mark’s companionship and service (2 Tim. 4:11).

Many believe John Mark to be the young man, wrapped only in a linen sheet, in the garden at Jesus’ arrest who escapes apprehension only by leaving the sheet behind and fleeing naked (Mark 14:51-52).  Further speculation has Jesus and the apostles having met in an upper room of Mark’s parent’s home and when Judas led the mob to where he last left Jesus—the house of the upper room—curious Mark followed them to the place Jesus was found.

Yes, that’s quite a bit of speculation.

What is not speculation is that this young man grew to make a lasting contribution to the kingdom in service with Paul and as author of this Gospel.  It was not a smooth path from the sometimes foolish and rash acts of a young man to that of mature and useful ministry.

This should remind the older to be patient with the younger, for the younger to be patient with themselves, and for all of us to know that our past does not have to define our future.  We’re forever indebted to the work of a formally immature and impetuous young disciple.

Through the Bible, July 27

Reading: Mark 11-12

Summary: Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem had begun as recorded in 10:1.  Beginning in chapter 11 is His “triumphal entry” which marks the beginning of the week leading to His crucifixion, often called the “Passion Week”.

Jesus’ days are spent in the city while each night He returns to neighboring Bethany.  He teaches the crowds who gather to hear Him and has sporadic verbal jousts with curious and jealous religious leaders.

Devotional Thought:

Praise of Men

Jesus knew His final trip to Jerusalem would fill with conflicting emotions of praise and hatred, and would finally, not end well.  He’d been warning them about His rejection and death and saying it “plainly” (Mark 8:31-32).

That must have been the furthest thought from their minds as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt saddled with loving disciple’s garments and the way strewn with more garments and leafy branches.  Voices shouted praise, using terminology understood to apply only to God’s promised Messiah, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!  Hosanna in the highest!” (Mark 11:9).

What was said and done to and for Jesus as He entered Jerusalem was wholly appropriate.  About no one else could these things be said.  Yet He was also aware of the animosity already present and to be further stirred as the next few days unfolded.  Sure enough, the authorities were seeking for ways to arrest Him and destroy Him (11:18; 12:12).

The crowds showered Him with praise during His “Triumphal Entry.”   Crowds would also shout—less than a week later—“Crucify Him” (15:13-14).  No wonder Jesus put such little stock in men’s praise.

So why do we clamor for it?  Why do we choose what we say, how we act, what we do, how we think, what we wear, what we drive, and so on just to gain the approval of men?

Jesus had only one agenda: please God and do His will.  Period.

How different would my life be if mine were the same?

Through the Bible, July 26

Reading: Mark 9-10

Summary: Only two miracles are recorded in these two chapters—healing of the boy with an unclean Spirit and blind Bartimaeus—though the miraculous transfiguration is found here as well.  Much teaching of Jesus is related, touching on familiar themes like greatness in the kingdom, divorce, children, temptation, and wealth.

Devotional Thought:

Faith That is Blind is No Faith

Faith is grossly misunderstood, by believers and unbelievers alike.  The very idea of believing without ample reason is foreign to Scripture.  The very concept of faith is often rejected by men as being baseless and superstitious.  It’s often assumed that examples of faith in the Bible are demonstrations of blind acceptance.  This is not true.

If nothing else, Scripture shows that even Jesus’ apostles often struggled with the things they heard from Him.  They did not merely embrace immediately what He said.  For instance, coming down from the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus told Peter, James, and John to tell no one of what they had witnessed on the mountain “until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.” Notice this; “So they kept the matter to themselves, questioning what this rising from the dead might mean” (Mark 9:9-10).

Certainly, the time would come when they would understand.  But it wasn’t until Jesus had shown Himself alive to them.  Reason was provided for them to believe.

Just because we may not know exactly how God will work and what He will do, we do know what He can and has done.  He’s shown Himself—countless times—to be powerful, good, benevolent, and faithful. He’s given us every reason to believe.  He’s fulfilled His promises.  So why would I not have faith that He will continue to do so?

Yes, faith is the “assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” but that does not mean faith is blind (Heb. 11:1).  Things “hoped for” and things “not seen” may sound like a lot of wishful thinking.  On the contrary, they are a certainty, because the God who has promised them has proven just how reliable He is.

I have every reason to believe!

Through the Bible, July 25

Reading: Mark 7-8

Summary: In these chapters, Jesus continues to teach, perform miracles, and engage in confrontations with religious leaders.

The watershed event for Mark’s gospel comes at the end of chapter 8 (the same event serves the same purpose in Matthew’s Gospel as well) with the confession by Peter of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son.  This is followed by the first public explanation of His suffering and death, coupled with instruction regarding the demands of discipleship.

Devotional Thought:

What Do You Have?

Is God able to take care of the problems in your life?  Resolve your issues?  Overcome your obstacles?  Alleviate your pains? Answer your needs?

Of course He is.  That is not the question.  What is a question is whether or not we’ll participate in what God does?  When Jesus fed the hungry multitude He first asked the apostles how many loaves they had (Mark 8:5).  The seven in their possession were hardly sufficient to feed the twelve, much less 4,000 (v. 9).

It’s not that Jesus needed those loaves to feed the crowd.  No more than God needed Moses’s staff to part the Red Sea or David’s stone to fell Goliath or Israel’s trumpets to topple Jericho’s walls.

He doesn’t need me or what I have to be able to do His great work.  But He does want me to be a part of the process.  He wants me to do what I can and contribute what I am able.  He then uses that and does so much, much more.

So, what do you have?  Whatever it is isn’t sufficient.  And that’s wholly beside the point.  God is more than sufficient and He may just be waiting for what you have to offer.

Through the Bible, July 24

Reading: Mark 5-6

Summary: These two chapters record a series of Jesus’ miracles (actually begun in 4:35).  Interspersed among these miracles are accounts of Jesus’ rejection at Nazareth, sending out the twelve (called the “limited” commission), and the death of John the Baptist.

Devotional Thought:

Strange Worship

This has to be considered one of the most bizarre worship events in all of the Bible.  A man, seeing Jesus approaching from a distance, ran to him and “bowed down before Him” (Mark 5:6; NASB).  Some other translations actually say “worshiped.”

It’s not strange that one would do this, as similar actions are seen several times during Jesus’ life.  Rather, the strangeness is the one who did it.  This was the man possessed of many demons—perhaps even thousands? (see v. 9)—at Gerasenes.  Because of this, this poor man lived a horrible, violent, uncontrollable, self-destructive life.  Immediately following his act of obeisance, he fully acknowledged Jesus as “Son of the Most High God” and His complete authority over him (them?).

Here’s a question: who prompted the act of worship, the man or the demons?  Certainly, we know these demons had full knowledge of Jesus’ identity as God’s Son.  But did that knowledge prompt them to worship?  Or was it the man who lived a wrecked, ruined, and desperate life?  Was it this man who fully realized that Jesus was the only one who could rescue him?  If so, has there ever been a more pure and sincere moment of worship?  Has there ever been a more conflicted worshipper—one desperate for Jesus’ help all the while controlled by Satan’s minions?

How many despairing and distraught souls want nothing more than to find the salvation from their anguish and torment that only Jesus could provide?  Who, in the midst of it all, would simply and sincerely bow at His feet?

Am I that person?  Or am I one who could somehow either help or prevent them?

Through the Bible, July 23

Reading: Mark 3-4

Summary: Confrontations with Jesus and opposition to Him intensify in response to some of Jesus’ miracles.  Taking issue with Jesus are not only the religious leaders, but His family as well.

Here, in chapter 4, Mark also relates a series of Jesus’ parables.  The end of the chapter also contains the first of a series of miracles Jesus performs.

Devotional Thought:

Big Deal

It’s an unsettling thing to see so much animosity toward Christianity and Jesus in our world–not surprising, but unsettling.  Jesus Himself said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:18-19).

Consequently, it’s hard not to be excited when someone professes faith in Jesus Christ.  That really is something.  After all, the acknowledgment of that truth is exactly what Jesus blessed Peter for confessing (Matthew 16:16-17).

But…don’t make too big a deal out of it.

What?  Really?


The Bible says that “whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, ‘You are the Son of God’” (Mark 3:11).  Surely that reminds us of James’ statement that “even the demons believe—and shudder!” (James 2:19).  Yet, their faith, as with ours, is of no value when that understanding of Jesus’ true identity is not coupled with action and obedience.

So, on the one hand, it is a big deal to recognize that Jesus is God’s Son; on the other hand, if it goes no further than that, it’s no big deal at all.