Archive for the ‘ Bible in a Year ’ Category

October 19, 2017

October 19, 2017

MARK 10-11

Focus Verse: Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!” And His disciples were listening.
Mark 11:13-14


Here’s a question for you: did Jesus mean to do this or was this a little lapse of His being Lord of all creation? We are talking about a man who walked on water, who spoke to the raging sea and calmed the storms, and you’re telling me here that He doesn’t know when it’s fig season? I don’t buy it. I’ve read some very angry commentaries about it as well; people who use these passages (Matthew tells the same story) to throw out the entire Bible as irrelevant and misinformed because this “god” doesn’t even know when fig season is. I think that stance might be a little extreme, and if that’s where you’re at because of this passage of scripture, or any other part of the Bible that doesn’t make sense, can I ask you to do one thing for me? Ask God about it. Ask God why that part is in there, ask Him why it doesn’t make sense.


I’m not going to spend my time defending God or the Bible here. I believe the Bible is the perfect, infallible Word of God. I don’t believe there are errors in the Bible, and if there have been errors in translations, I believe that God can redeem those errors. I happen to be living proof that God can redeem just about any mistake you can imagine.


So what does that mean for us here? I think that Jesus knew whether or not it was fig season, but I don’t think that’s the main point of this. Instead of looking for who was right, Jesus and Mark was inaccurate in his description of the events that took place or Mark and Jesus was wrong about expecting figs to be on the tree, let’s look at why the Holy Spirit would choose to put this detail in the Bible.


Let’s give Mark the benefit of the doubt and stick with the Scriptures being the inspired Word of God. Well then Jesus is being completely unreasonable here, right? This would be like me walking up to my tomato plants in the middle of a Northwest Ohio winter and being upset because they don’t have any tomatoes on their vines.


But I’m going to toss something out there – a fig tree with leaves should have fruit…it doesn’t matter what season it is. If my tomato plants are green and appear healthy, even if it is in the middle of winter, the expectation of them having fruit would be completely different.


And that’s where we hit our analogy that the Spirit wants us to get from this. Jesus isn’t talking about fig trees here. Come on now. I know they didn’t have snickers bars back then, but I just don’t see Jesus getting “hangry” and cursing a fig tree because He was in a bad mood that He couldn’t get His fig fix. Not really an accurate representation of the biblical Jesus. Instead, Jesus is using the fig tree to show us an illustration of the Christian life.


So let me ask you, with that illustration in mind, are there seasons in the Christian life where you don’t have any fruit growing on your tree? The answer to this question should be a whole-hearted NO! There is no season for the fruit of the Spirit. It should be blooming year-round! So while we’re busy freaking out about who’s right and who’s wrong about whether it was fig season or not, the Holy Spirit is screaming at us, “IT’S ALWAYS FIG SEASON WHEN YOU ARE WALKING IN ME!!!”


The problem that Jesus saw in this tree was the problem with the Israelites throughout history…and the problem in all of us to this very day; we know how to wear the leaves really well, but we only wear them to cover up the fact that there’s nothing going on underneath the leaves (anyone picking up on the Adam and Eve vibe here…I’ll save that for another devotional). But it doesn’t have to be like that. Jesus gave His very life so that you don’t have to be like that.


You can bear the fruit of the Spirit year-round. You just have to come to one conclusion…can you guess it?






October 18, 2017

October 18, 2017

MARK 8-9

Focus Verse: Immediately the boy’s father cried out and said, “I do believe; help my unbelief.”
Mark 9:24


I don’t know if there is a more perfect verse that encapsulates the concept of “I can’t, but Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in me” as this verse. I know that I have referenced it in this devotional quite a bit, and now we get to give it our full attention.


First of all, what a story! Jesus, fresh off the mount of transfiguration, comes down into the chaos of His disciples and some scribes arguing. Moses had a similar experience when he came down from his mountaintop experience with God. So quick sidebar from the main object of this story, don’t let the let down of coming down from the mountain distract you from applying what God taught you on the mountain in your day to day life.


The people here are arguing about how to heal this young boy who is possessed by a demon. When Jesus shows up though, they all come running over to Him, trying to play it cool. How often do we do the same thing? Jesus shows up and we try to act like we have it all together. “Oh, yeah…we got this Jesus. Classic demon possession level 5. We were just getting warmed up. Nothing to see here.” Jesus has to come out and ask the people what they were arguing about, and that’s when the boy’s father steps up, clearly done with the façade of acting like everything is ok.


And that’s where this man’s strength is found. In the upside down kingdom of God, once you’ve reached the end of yourself, you find the beginning of God. The same principle that says, “love your life and you will lose it, lose your life and you will find it” and “the first shall be last and the last shall be first” is at work here in this man’s life, as he cuts through the arguing and gets real with Jesus.


He does his best to keep up appearances, he even tries to be polite by telling Jesus, “If you can, please help my son.” But let’s be honest, if he didn’t think Jesus could, would he really be there? Jesus responds to the man, “If you can? All things are possible to him who believes.” And then the man explodes. The Bible is very specific to tell us that the man “cries out”, so clearly this is more than just a mild conversation. This is an explosion of emotion. This is a man who is fed up with the arguing, with the failed attempts to heal his son; this is a man who is just done.


And what does the man cry? “Yes Jesus, I believe You can do this! But even more, I know that You can help me with the parts that I don’t believe.” The man, done with the games, done pretending to have it all together, gives Jesus all he has. “I believe Jesus, but I realize I could believe more.”


I’m curious how many of us would be willing to admit the same. How many of us come to Jesus when we’re struggling with unbelief? Most people I know suffer through unbelief by themselves…and most of them are no longer walking with Jesus. But here is a man who is honest before the Lord. Here is a man who is telling Jesus that he can’t, but that he knows Jesus can do it through him.


Belief is the core of our walk with Jesus. The Bible is very clear that we cannot do anything else until we believe. Salvation comes through believing. Righteousness comes through believing. Everything starts with belief. So if this man is any sort of example to us, and he is asking Jesus to help him with the foundation of his faith, how much more should we be dependent on the Spirit for every step we take in Christ.


I CAN’T…I can’t even BELIEVE in God the way I need to on my own. But Jesus did. Jesus is the only human in the history of man who believed in God fully. He believed God all the way to the cross…and believed that God would redeem His work on that cross. And because of that, because of God’s redeeming work, because He raised Jesus from the dead, we now have the power of the Holy Spirit, offering to live inside of us and use us to believe in God the way Jesus did.


The kind of belief that walks by faith. The kind of belief that loves unconditionally. The kind of belief that knows nothing is impossible for God. It is right at your fingertips…you just have to cry out to God, “Help me with my unbelief!”

October 17, 2017

October 17, 2017

MARK 6-7

Focus Verse: But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Now the woman was a Gentile, of the Syrophoenician race. And she kept asking Him to cast the demon out of her daughter. And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” But she answered and said to Him, “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” And He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.” And going back to her home, she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.
Mark 7:25-30


What an incredible lesson for us to learn in this brief conversation. First, let me say that I firmly believe that Jesus is testing this woman with His answer to her. It is absolutely true that Jesus was sent to save the Jewish people first and then to the rest of the people. Even when Jesus sends out His disciples, they are told to only go to the Jewish people first, then once they have finished going to them, they are to turn their attention to the gentiles.


But for Jesus to refuse to heal a little girl because of her nationality goes against everything He just taught the people, everything He showed that the Pharisees were doing wrong, everything that God commanded His people to do in the Old Testament. There are also other examples in the Gospels in which Jesus heals Gentiles without ever bringing up this issue. So it makes sense that Jesus is using this as an opportunity to teach, both the people involved here and you and me through the Scriptures.


So let’s learn something! And it’s something that you should already know, but we can use the faith of this Syrophoenician woman to bolster our faith and get this knowledge deep down in our heart so it starts shaping the way that we act, the way that we pray, the way that we believe!


The woman could have reacted many different ways when Jesus first broke this news to her. Think about our reactions when God breaks this kind of news to us. We pray for healing and it doesn’t come right away. We pray for an unsaved loved one and they just keep drifting further and further away from God. What do we do? Some of us give up, throw in the towel and either start praying for something else or just give up on praying altogether. Others of us though, are like the Syrophoenician woman and keep pressing in.


This woman doesn’t let Jesus’ answer deter her. In fact, she shows exactly how much faith she has in God! She knows that her God is so powerful, that even the “crumbs” that fall from His children’s table are enough to provide for her and her family. She doesn’t stomp her foot and tell Jesus how faithful she has been and how much she “deserves” this miracle. Instead, she sees the grace and mercy and love glowing in this Man who would become her Savior and KNOWS that even His leftovers are enough for her.


COME ON SOMEBODY! Can you honestly say that you would have that much faith? I know I would struggle to muster up that kind of attitude in the same situation. Lord Jesus, please change my heart and make me like this sweet woman! Help me to see that the crumbs from Your table are MORE THAN ENOUGH to keep me through any circumstance…BUT THAT YOU HAVE PROMISED ME EXCEEDLINGLY, ABUNDANTLY MORE than just scraps through Jesus Christ!

October 16, 2017

October 16, 2017

MARK 4-5

Focus Verse: And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. These are the ones who are beside the road where the word is sown; and when they hear, immediately Satan comes and takes away the word which has been sown in them. In a similar way these are the ones on whom seed was sown on the rocky places, who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy; and they have no firm root in themselves, but are only temporary; then, when affliction or persecution arises because of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones on whom seed was sown among the thorns; these are the ones who have heard the word, but the worries of the world, and the deceitfulness of riches, and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it becomes unfruitful. And those are the ones on whom seed was sown on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundredfold.”
Mark 4:13-20


According to Jesus, if we don’t understand this parable, it will be impossible to understand any of His other parables. So what is so vital to understand in this parable that all the other parables hinge on? It all has to do with your soil.


Now there are a plethora of fantastic lessons that we can learn from this one parable, but the one that will impact our understanding of every other parable Jesus will teach has to do with the soil that we are providing for the seed that God is planting in us.


We could go through the negative examples of exactly what the problem is with each of these “bad soils”, but I think Jesus does a pretty good job of that. Instead, I want to look at the positive example that Jesus gives and talk about how exactly we can cultivate that kind of soil in our lives…because there is really only one way and that way is the hardest easy thing you will ever do.


Verse 20 tells us that the ones who characterize the good soil are the ones who hear the Word and accept it. So there you go. There’s your answer to all the riddles. And when broken down that simply, it becomes pretty apparent why you can’t get to second base with the rest of Jesus’ teaching if you don’t get this. This is first base. You can’t get to any of the other bases without going through first. In a relationship with Jesus, you can’t get any deeper until you start with this…acceptance of the Word.


I’ve talked about this passage before, but in John 6:29, Jesus answers some people who ask Him what works they must do in order to do the will of God. Jesus responds by telling them that the work (singular) of God is to believe in the One whom He has sent. Belief in Jesus is first base. The growth of the seed that God plants in us is 100% dependent on the level to which we accept the Word of God. Jesus, the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit’s leading…the measure of our walk with God is completely based on how much we believe in and give God authority in our lives.


If we hold back, and give God authority in our lives to the extent in which we are comfortable, but keep some control for ourselves, the growth of our seed is going to be impacted. BUT if we completely surrender to His lordship over our lives (this is the hardest easy thing), there is no end to the growth that He will produce through the seed He has planted in us.


It’s not easy to surrender. It’s not easy to give God absolutely every part of you. In fact, I would argue that YOU can’t do it. But Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in you. All you have to do is pray the same prayer Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane in Mark 14:36, “Abba, Father…everything is possible for you…yet, not what I will, but what You will.”

October 15, 2017

October 15, 2017

MARK 1-3

Focus Verse: They were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.
Mark 1:22


I’ve always been a little curious about these verses in the Gospels. The crowds were amazed because Jesus taught as one having authority, but didn’t the Pharisees and Saducees and teachers of the law also teach with authority? I mean, that was really why they were so upset with Jesus – His ministry was interfering with their authority over the people.


Then I stumbled across a pretty incredible connection today when doing a little deeper word study on the Greek word exousia, which is the word used for ‘authority’ here. It is actually translated as authority the majority of the time that it is seen in the New Testament, but there is one occasion where it is translated slightly different, and it got my mind running down a pretty cool track of revelation from the Lord.


In 1 Corinthians 8:9, Paul urges the church in Corinth, “But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.” The word liberty here is the same exousia used in Mark 1:22. “So what path does that lead one down?” you might ask.


Jesus’ authority was so radically different from that of the teachers of the law, the Pharisees and Saducees because the authority of Jesus offered freedom. It was an authority that came from a position of relationship, not superiority. It was an authority that came from the position of a servant, not a ruler.


The authority of Jesus came as One who would walk with you through your trials, not judge you and condemn you for going through those trials. Jesus very easily could have towered above everyone else on every level. But He didn’t. He came down to our level. Not that He became like us, but He came down to us. The teachers of the law, Pharisees and Saducees’ authority made the people attempt to come up to them…which was especially ironic because they couldn’t even come up to the standards they were trying to get the people to live by.


Their authority enslaved the people. It kept the people under their thumb and kept them in a position of leadership. Jesus freed the people through His authority and empowered them to walk in that authority. He already had true authority, He didn’t need to push the people down in order to keep it. So instead, He used His authority to show the people how to be free. And this was so radically different than any other authority this world has ever seen.


Are you set free by the authority of Jesus Christ? And if you are, are you using His authority to free others? It’s not an authority that comes from above others, but an authority that joins others and walks with them.

October 14, 2017

October 14, 2017


Focus Verse: And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:18-20


Contrary to popular belief (maybe not popularized in our theology but popularized by our actions for sure), the Gospel doesn’t end with the resurrection of Jesus Christ! The Gospel “ends” with this command from Jesus…which means that the Gospel NEVER ENDS!


Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and on the earth and chooses to use that authority by sending us out in His name. I talked about this verse a few days ago, so let’s be very clear here, He did not give us authority. Our authority is limited to the extent in which He grants it to us, to the extent in which we are in His will. We don’t get to run around “binding and loosing” anything we want while we are here on earth. We are to listen to HIS voice and work in HIS power.


But we ARE TO GO! We aren’t supposed to sit around and act like the Gospel is over and done with. This command from Jesus doesn’t something absolutely incredible, it writes YOU into the Gospel. You are now sent to the nations, you are now responsible for telling the world about Jesus, you are now empowered to baptize in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, you are now to teach everything Jesus commanded while He was on earth and LIVE out His teachings.


Sound like a tall order? It should. You can’t possibly do this own your own. But Jesus did and will through the Holy Spirit in you.

October 13, 2017

October 13, 2017


Focus Verse: And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly.
Matthew 26:75


I don’t think it would be a stretch to say that this is probably Peter’s most miserable failure of his entire life. This is the kind of epic fail that haunts us forever. The kind of thing that keeps you up at night, that’s waiting for you around every single corner, the kind of mistake that reminds you just how awful you truly are. There are so many of us, myself included, who this hits far too close to home for. We are haunted by past mistakes and the enemy would love for those mistakes to become WHO we are.


And when we don’t know WHOSE we are, the enemy has a much easier time making us believe that our sin makes us WHO we are. He tried that with Peter. But Peter found something stronger…someone stronger.


What had to have stung the most for Peter was the fact that less than 24 hours before, he had sworn up and down to Jesus’ face that he would never disown Him, that he would die with Jesus if that was what he had to do. And Jesus, calmly and patiently, persisted that before the night was through, Peter wouldn’t even want to be associated with Jesus. Now nobody likes to hear the words, “I told you so.”, and even though Jesus didn’t say it, you have to believe that Peter still heard it from someone else.


What an absolutely crushing experience. I know that I have had plenty of times in which I have felt like I’ve let God down. Times I could have talked to someone about Jesus, but chose to remain silent instead, times when I could have prayed with someone, but chose to just smile at them instead so I didn’t look crazy, times when I could have gone out of my way and included someone who was being left out by everyone else, but instead chose to stay socially comfortable with my friends. It’s not a good feeling when you get home and remember how you’ve failed. In fact, most of us solve that problem by sweeping these events under the rug and just don’t talk about them again.


But Peter didn’t do that. How do we know that? Because Peter was the face of the early church, yet, this story is found in every single Gospel. Not really a formula for success. “Hey guys, come join this church movement, our lead pastor failed miserably in his walk with our Lord, so you should come join our church!” Doesn’t exactly inspire the most confidence in an organization, does it? But the Church wasn’t relying on Peter’s power. The Church was relying on the power of Jesus…and so was Peter.


We know this because the same Peter who denied Jesus, who failed to come anywhere close to practicing what he had earlier preached to Jesus, led 3,000 people to Christ just a little over fifty days later. FIFTY DAYS after his most miserable failure, the Holy Spirit would resurrect Peter’s failure and use it to preach one of the most powerful Gospel messages every recorded in history.


Satan had poked the bear. He thought that he could ruin Peter before his ministry even started, BUT GOD used Peter’s failure as an instrumental part of shaping Peter into the rock on which Jesus would build His Church! Yes, Peter experienced one of the greatest failures in the entire Bible. But he also received the same unlimited grace and mercy from his risen Savior, Jesus Christ, that we have available to us. And on the day of Pentecost, Peter was filled with the very power of God that raised Jesus from the dead, and a determination that was dead set on never denying his Lord again.


Even though the people made fun of the disciples speaking in tongues, just like those who had made fun of Peter’s dialect and using it to identify him as one of Jesus’ followers, even though there would be those who would imprison, beat and mock Peter, his mind had been made up. To quote the hymn, he had decided to follow Jesus…this time for good…and there was NO turning back.


So what failure is the enemy trying to use to paralyze you? Because I’m willing to bet a healthy chunk of change that is the exact situation that God is look to resurrect to use for HIS kingdom!