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Better Without It

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 22:17-23:44; Mark 9:30-10:12; Psalm 44:1-8; Proverbs 10:19

Any sacrificial offering made my Israel to God had to be without defect. That is, it had to be perfect. Otherwise God would not accept it (Leviticus 22:20). There were two reasons behind this. First, offering an animal that had a defect wasn’t really a sacrifice. An animal that was lame or blind, for example, was of no use to a farmer. It could not be used to plow a field nor could it be sold. It was pretty much worthless. So offering it to God meant nothing. God wanted the sacrifices to mean something. He wanted the offerer to feel a loss in order to teach them that the payment for sins (what the sacrifice symbolized) cost something.

Which brings us to the second reason. These perfect sacrifices pointed to a coming, perfect, Messiah whose death would cost something. Jesus was that Messiah. His death cost Him a lot of pain. His death also cost God a lot of pain as He (God) had to watch His son being tortured. But the cost was worth it to God. The result of Jesus’s death was an open door to heaven so that those who believe could spend eternity with God.

Notice that if animal with defects was presented, God would reject it (Leviticus 22:20). There was only one way to get right with God back then and that was to offer a sacrifice according to God’s standard. Nothing else would be accepted. The same thing goes today. The only way to God is through the perfect sacrifice that is Jesus. No other way is available. As I mentioned the other day that isn’t closed-minded thinking. The fact that God gave up His son in order for there to be a way to heaven is very generous of Him. God went through a lot of pain and trouble for us. It is disrespectful (not to mention arrogant) of anyone to reject God’s effort in favor of their own way.

Leviticus 23 lists the seven festivals God gave to the Israelites and ordered them to observe. While this chapter may seem a little dry and repetitive, it actually contains some pretty cool stuff.

First, notice that God created time off. God doesn’t expect us to work all day every day. We need rest and we need parties! But notice that all the festival days are centered on God. We aren’t supposed to take time off to observe a new year or our independence. Or the birthday of a president or even a great Christian man like Martin Luther King. All our celebrations should be focused on God and what He has done for us.

Another cool thing about these festivals is that they have symbolic meaning regarding God’s plan for the human race:

  • Passover represents Jesus being slain, like a Passover lamb, and His blood making us right with God.
  • The Feast of Unleavened Bread is synonymous with sin being conquered when Jesus went to the grave.
  • The Feast of Firstfruits represents Jesus’s resurrection as He was the first person to rise from the dead.
  • Pentacost (Feast of Weeks) symbolizes the creation of the “church” or modern-day collection of believers.
  • The Feast of Trumpets speaks to the Rapture when God will remove all living believers from the earth in the blink of an eye.
  • The Day of Atonement foreshadows the time of affliction and salvation to be experienced by the Jewish people in the last days.
  • The Feast of Tabernacles suggests the rest and comfort that God will provide His believers in eternity.

These festivals occurred throughout a calendar year but each one represented an event in God’s timetable for the universe. The events pointed to by the first 4 festivals have already occurred. The annual schedule of feasts included a time gap between Pentacost and the Feast of Trumpets (about 4 months). This was the time of harvest for Israel when they would gather their crops. That is the time in history we are living in now, where God is “harvesting” the population of the earth. At some point (in the not too distant future, I believe) the harvest time will end and the Rapture will occur as symbolized by the Feast of Trumpets.

The point of having Israel follow these, and only these, celebrations was so they would understand world events as they began to unfold and could help the rest of the world understand. Sadly, very few people pay any attention to these festivals. As fun as it is to celebrate Jesus’s birth (which may or may not have happened in December), it is not one of God’s planned celebrations.

I found it interesting how the disciples were afraid to ask Jesus what He meant in Mark 9:32. They had seen Jesus do awesome stuff. They believed that He was the Messiah and that He was sent from God. Yet they didn’t want to look stupid. God will never look at us that way. We (believers) are His children. His plan is to share everything that He is and has with us. Therefore there is no question that should go unasked. If we ask, God will tell us.

We see that the disciples still didn’t understand what was going to happen to Jesus in Mark 9:33-37. Despite hearing Him say that He was going to be killed they still seemed to think He was going to set up an earthly kingdom and they debate as to which of them will get the job of “Vice President” in Jesus’s regime. In this passage we again see Jesus ask a question but, like the previous time, He didn’t ask because He didn’t know. In this case He asked to convict the hearts of the disciples for discussing such a selfish topic. It worked.

Jesus’s words in Mark 9:43-48 are not meant to promote bodily harm. He has already told us that sin comes from the heart. So these words are clearly metaphorical. Cutting off a body part won’t reduce sin in a person’s life. But what Jesus is saying is that no measure is too extreme when it comes to truly removing sin from our lives. The penalty of sin is so terrible that any price is worth paying to be separated from it. A good modern-day example is television. With all the sexually provocative ads and shows on that lead to sinful thoughts and behaviors, it is not too steep a price to pay to eliminate television from your life. I did that years ago. And while it took some time of adjustment (I quickly realized I was addicted to it having watched so much of it since I was a child) my life is clearly better without it.

Whatever enemy you are dealing with today… be it an addiction of some sort, or depression, or anger… the only way to achieve victory is through the power of God (Psalm 44). Our own efforts (e.g. swords) will fail. Any man-made attempt to make his life better will not succeed. It may not go down in flames, but it will not succeed. This is also true regarding any efforts by man to make the world a better place. The United States, for example, has done all that it can do remove God from society while at the same time relying on the brain power of our elected officials to solve our problems. It clearly hasn’t worked. Things have only gotten worse.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

How An Airplane Works

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 20:22-22:16; Mark 9:1-29; Psalm 43:1-5; Proverbs 10:18

The people who lived in the land God was giving to Israel were performing all the detestable practices that we read about yesterday. As a result God detested them (Leviticus 20:23). Likewise, if Israel disobeyed God they would be driven from the land as well (Leviticus 20:22). Sadly, this is exactly what happened. We’ll read all about it later this year. But eventually God sent Assyria and later Babylon to conquer Israel. The country ceased to exist until 1948 when God brought it back into existence.

What can we say about the United States, then? Surely we were a much blessed country in 1776. We formed our laws according to God’s word. Our schools taught the Bible (did you know Harvard started as a school to educate clergy?). Until as recently as 1950, presidents openly praised God in their speeches. But over the past 50 years all that has changed. We not only commit the sins discussed yesterday on a grand scale, but in many cases (such as homosexuality and abortion) we celebrate them and encourage others to participate. How much longer before God allows our enemies to conquer us? I believe 9/11 was a warning by God. We haven’t changed since then. In fact, we have become even more brazenly arrogant in our defiance of God. Therefore I believe that someday (soon) God will allow us to be conquered.

In Leviticus 20:26 we read why God wanted Israel to be holy (separate from the world). It was because God claimed Israel for Himself. They were His people. What an awesome privilege they had. And they blew it. They chased after mindless goals instead of resting in the peace that God provided. The grass may seem greener on the other side of the fence. But it never is.

Leviticus 21 gives instructions specifically to the priests who would serve in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem. As leaders of sinful people the priests had to ensure that they were maintaining the highest level of purity. Today’s church leaders must do likewise. No one, not even a pastor of a church will be perfect. But due to the importance of their calling to lead God’s people they must not let sin entrap them.

If a priest does become unclean his career wasn’t over. He needed to bathe to symbolize being washed clean. Then at sundown he could resume his normal responsibilities. Remember that the Jewish day began at sundown (and still does) so what God is saying here is that as a new day began the uncleaness from the day before was gone. That is something we can apply to our lives as believers. Every day is a new day. Yesterday’s sins are gone. Too often I beat myself up over mistakes I made not only yesterday but weeks, months, or even years in the past. That is my own doing. God has forgotten them. I need to awake each morning knowing that I have a clean slate with God.

Notice that in Leviticus 22:11 God implies that a “slave” was to receive the same respect that a family member would. As I wrote about earlier this month, a person could become a slave of another under certain conditions (although such a life could not be forced upon another person) mainly having to do with not being able to pay debts. The Biblical understanding of slavery is nothing like the slavery that happened in America.

In Mark 9 we read again of the transfiguration of Jesus. This was not a miracle. This was the temporary cessation of a miracle – the miracle was that Jesus came from heaven and clothed Himself in a human body concealing His glory. On the mountaintop in today’s reading Jesus temporarily shed His human container to reveal who He really was. What an amazingly cool experience for Peter, James, and John.

Both Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus. Moses representing the law and Elijah representing the prophets of the Old Testament. Also Moses represented those who die and go to heaven while Elijah represents those who don’t die but are taken to heaven alive at the Rapture. (As we’ll read about later this year, Elijah never died but went straight to heaven).

Peter decides to speak even though he is terrified. Sometimes it is better not to say anything. Here Peter equates Jesus with Moses and Elijah. He fails to see that Jesus is greater. So God, in the form of a cloud, speaks and declares that Jesus is the greater of the three. Jesus wasn’t just another Old Testament prophet. He was God.

We also read (Mark 9:10) that the three disciples didn’t understand what Jesus meant by “rising from the dead”. After all, no one had ever risen from the dead before and they had no reason to think it would ever happen. Notice that the Bible says they “often” asked each other what that phrase meant. Evidentially they tried to figure it out for a while. It wasn’t until Jesus actually rose from the dead that they understood.

A man brings his demon possessed son to Jesus in Mark 9:17. The man seems to have some faith in Jesus, but still has some doubts (Mark 9:24). Perhaps he doubted Jesus could help. Maybe he doubted that Jesus would help. But in any case, the fact that this man had questions didn’t stop Jesus from helping. The same is true today. God will welcome anyone’s questions. We don’t have to have 100% understanding before giving ourselves to Christ. Sadly, though, many people think that they have to know everything about Christ before trusting Him. That isn’t true. Very few people know how an airplane works but they get on one. They trust it to takeoff, fly, and land safely without ever understanding how it happens. Similarly, one does not have to have all one’s questions about Jesus answered before being born-again. I didn’t. I went into Christianity kicking and screaming after being an atheist. I came to the point where I knew what I believed was wrong. I certainly didn’t have a complete understanding of God right then. But I started to learn and continue to learn 21 years later.

Psalm 43 has some interesting imagery. David knows that God is his only safe place. Yet sometimes when we are in distress it can seem that God is not with us (verse 2). We need to get back to God in that case but interestingly we can only return to God with God’s help (verse 3). God will always show us the way to Him. After all, with Him is where He wants us to be. He will never leave us in the dark if we truly seek Him out.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

The Ultimate Rebel

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 19-20:21; Mark 8:11-38; Psalm 42:1-11; Proverbs 10:17

God gives Moses several concise laws regarding personal conduct in Leviticus 19.

God is holy so we are to be holy. Holy means “separate”. There is no one like God. He does not conform to the rules of others. He does what He wants, not what any of us want. This is not a bad thing at all as the plans God has for us are better than any we could envision ourselves. And since God is holy and since we are formed in His image, we are called to be holy, or separate, from the world. We should not conform to the ways of this world. We should set ourselves apart from it.

Leviticus 19:9-10 describes one way God provided for the poor while at the same time teaching those who had plenty not to be greedy. Farmers were not to worry about every grape or piece of grain in their fields. They were to leave some for the poor people who could come and collect the leftovers from the harvest. This process was known as “gleaning” and we’ll see a good example of it later in the book of Ruth.

In verse 14 God wants us to have respect for those who don’t have all the physical abilities that others have. The deaf cannot hear so they have no defense when they are insulted. It is therefore a very shameful act to insult a deaf person. Likewise, putting something in front of a blind person so they trip and fall is another hideous act.

As I read through this list of “don’ts” I started to wonder why God mentions them. When you read them you can see that they are sort of common-sense. Just about everyone would agree that these are things that we shouldn’t do. So why did God have to tell Moses to tell the people not to do them? Why are they in the Bible so that those of us reading it 3,000 years later would know not to do them? Because we are inclined to do these things. In our natural state we spread gossip and favor the wealthy. We nurse hatred in our hearts and steal and deceive. God doesn’t have to tell us not to do something if we already wouldn’t do it. He has to tell us not to do something because we would do it.

In Leviticus 19:5 God tells us that there is only one way to make a peace offering with Him. This offering was optional – it was made of one’s free will as we read about earlier. But nevertheless, there was a certain way it had to be made. Having a relationship with God today is similar. It is not something God will force someone to do. It is always made voluntarily. But there is a precise way that is happens. That way is through Jesus Christ. God doesn’t accept just any ol’ peace offering. And He doesn’t accept our own invented ways of building a relationship with Him. There is only one way even though the world will tell us that there are many.

Many of the activities listed in the latter part of this chapter were forbidden because the pagan societies of the day practiced them and, as God said in the beginning of this chapter, He wants us to be holy, or separate, from the world.

The Pharisees make another appearance today in Mark 8. They seem to have been waiting for Him. This time they wanted Him to perform a miracle. The original Greek language implies that they were “tempting” or “taunting” Him. In Mark 8:12 Jesus sighs. A sigh is an indication of weariness. I think Jesus was tired of these guys stalking Him. But Jesus refuses to give them the sign they were seeking. His miracles were not for show. They were to demonstrate the mercy of God. Jesus did not perform miracles to impress hard-hearted unbelievers. Many unbelievers today say they’ll believe “if” they see a miracle. They’ll have to wait a long time because God doesn’t work that way. He isn’t going to be provoked into doing miracles. The only miracle that any of us need is the miracle that any of us exist.

One thing about the Bible that is so cool and corroborates its authenticity is the reality in which the authors present themselves. No Biblical author (the Bible was written by at least 40 different people) ever paints himself in a good light. They all write about their own sin and struggle with belief. I think this helps to prove that the Bible is from God.

A case-in-point is Mark 8:14-21. Jesus warns the disciples against the “yeast” of the Pharisees. By this He was talking about the sin of pride. Yet the disciples thought He was talking about real bread. Jesus seems, just like He did with the Pharisees, to be a little tired of them not getting it and tells them so. Apparently at this point they should have understood more about what Jesus was teaching than they did.

That is probably true for all of us today. We understand somethings but not as much as we could. We let distractions of this world prevent us from spending time with God and growing in our knowledge and understanding of Him. We all could, and should, understand more about God than we do if only we would pay more attention and devote more time to Him.

In Mark 8:27-30 Jesus questions His disciples about who they think He is. Peter answers for them when he accurately identifies Jesus as the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament. Yet the Jews didn’t understand exactly what the Old Testament said about the Messiah because they thought he would be a powerful military and political ruler who would overthrow the outsiders (Rome) who were oppressing them. In verse 31 Jesus begins to clarify their understanding by telling them what will happen to Him in the near future.

Peter, who could not envision a suffering or dead Messiah, rebukes Jesus who responds strongly by calling Peter “Satan”. Peter certainly didn’t realize it – he thought he was saying something that was helpful – but he was really being used by Satan when he reprimanded Jesus. Peter was thinking like a man. He wasn’t thinking like God. He also demonstrated that he didn’t understand the Old Testament in which God clearly states that the coming Messiah would be killed for the sins of the people.

Jesus then tells the entire crowd that anyone wishing to follow Christ (to heaven) must take up their cross. This statement doesn’t have the same impact on us today as it did on those hearing it back then. Carrying a cross was a one-way trip to death. Today people wear crosses around their necks as decorations. But a cross really had one meaning – it was a tortuous method to execute people who didn’t conform.

So many who reject Jesus choose to do so because they think that Jesus represents an old-fashioned, conformist, way of thinking. Not true at all. Jesus was the ultimate rebel as we’ve seen in our readings this year.

What Jesus is saying here is that true followers of His cannot live for themselves. They must give up their own lives for the lives of others. They must stop focusing on self and instead focus how to serve other people. There is nothing to be gained in this world. The wealthiest man in the world will leave this earth with nothing when he dies. So what is the point of collecting wealth? There is none. The only thing worth living for is the salvation of others. Just like Jesus’s life had one purpose – to bring people into a relationship with God – so should the lives of His followers have the exact same purpose.

Psalm 42 tells us that, just like we need water to sustain our life, we need God to live as well. Despite being troubled by many storms of life (verse 7), David continues to praise God. Its interesting that David became discouraged and sad by his troubles. That is normal for any of us. His solution was to praise God. No matter what life throws our way, whether it is of our own making or from someone else, God is with us and is worthy to be praised. The troubles of this sinful world will pass away for those who are saved by the blood of Christ. That is our hope.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

God Is “You-Minded”

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 16:29-18:30; Mark 7:24-8:10; Psalm 41:1-13; Proverbs 10:15-16

Chapter 16 of Leviticus concludes with some final instructions regarding the annual Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). On that day the people were to fast and deny themselves. It was to be a somber day spent realizing their sinful nature and looking forward to the day the Messiah would arrive. Fasting was, and still is, a way to create a self-awareness of sin.

In Leviticus 17 God reminds the people that there is only one place that their sacrifices will be honored — in the Tabernacle (and later at the permanent Temple). This runs contrary to our society today where people claim they can create their own path to God. These same people (and I used to be one of them) will say that it is closed-minded to say that Jesus is the only way to heaven. Actually, it has nothing to do with closed-mindedness or open-mindedness. It has to do with love. The fact is that God could have kept heaven closed to every one of us sinners. He didn’t need to create a way to heaven. But He did. He did it because He loves us. He loves us more than I could ever express in writing. So He created a way for you to be with Him forever. The issue isn’t that there’s only “one way” to God. The issue is that there is even a way at all. God’s way is the only way. That is not God being closed-minded. That is God being “you-minded”.

The second part of Leviticus 17 gives prohibition against drinking blood. As this passage states, the life of a body is in the blood. A creature had to give up its life (i.e. spill its blood) so that the Israelites could have their sins forgiven. To drink blood was to profane the atonement made on a person’s behalf. God is teaching the Israelites to respect life as well as to respect the sacrifice the animal made for that person. This all pointed forward to Christ spilling His blood and giving His life so that those who believe in Him can have eternal life.

Those who belong to God, which includes all born-again believers living today, are not to act like the world does, as God tells Israel in Leviticus 18. We are living in the world, but we are not to be like the world. This applies to all facets of our life including sexual practices which are covered in this chapter.

God forbid these practices for many reasons. They lead to sexually transmitted diseases. They lead to unwanted pregnancy. They lead to birth defects. They put a strain on an existing relationship. They create a bond between the two people involved. They affect existing children and families. The prominent view in our culture, which promotes casual “whenever we want it” sex is self-absorbed. The consequences don’t matter as long as we satisfy our immediate needs. But God’s view is wiser. God invented sex. He knows how it should best be handled. His rules are for our benefit, not to prevent us from having fun.

Leviticus 18:21 mentions Molech who was an ancient pagan god to which parents sacrificed children, often the unwanted children of adulterous and incestual relationships. The children were burned alive on a statue of Molech. Abortion is simply the modern-day equivalent performed with a vacuum instead of fire.

The next couple of verses prohibit homosexuality. I am no psychiatrist of physiologist. I have no idea if gay people are born that way or not. But does it matter? People are born selfish (ever have to remind a little kid not to share?)… does that mean we should condone selfishness? Being “born that way” doesn’t justify anything. Sadly Satan has gotten into the mind of many gay people and has convinced them that either the Bible is wrong (because it prohibits homosexuality) or that the Bible has been rewritten to include prohibiting homosexuality or that there simply is no God. The long-term result of this will be gay people going to hell not because they were gay but because they didn’t believe the truth. The truth is God loves everyone despite our many-faceted brokenness.

Its very interesting and thought-provoking to read Leviticus 18:27. The people in the land God was giving to the Israelites were performing all these practices. So God was kicking them out of the land. They had lived there for a long time but God’s patience had run out. How does that apply to the United States where these practices are not only rampant, but promoted and celebrated? I fear that we will suffer the same fate as the Canaanites in the not too distant future.

Jesus uses a rather odd method to bring hearing to a deaf man in Mark 7 today. I don’t know exactly why Jesus did it this way. The only thing I can think of is, since the man was deaf, Jesus didn’t use a spoken word. Instead He used gestures. Maybe so this deaf man would understand what Jesus was doing?

Jesus feeds another massive crowd today in Mark 8:1-10. This is a different feeding that the one we previously read about. And that is sad because you would think that the disciples would have had a different response to Jesus in verse 4. Why didn’t they say something like “Hey, You fed this many people before. Do it again”. But it seems they had forgotten. This isn’t so hard to understand. I have been following Christ for over 20 years and I can tell you that I need to be reminded every day of how great and wonderful and powerful God is. When faced with a problem it is easier to see the obstacles rather than the solution.

Psalm 41 informs us that God will bless those who look after others who are in need (verses 1 – 3) and will punish those who take advantage of those who are weaker (verses 4 – 10). The golden rule applies here. Treat others the way you want to be treated.

Proverbs 10:15-16 reminds us that by living righteously we will have life. But what we “earn” by living in sin is death. Of course while on this earth we will all struggle with sin. We will never be perfect this side of heaven. What God is talking about here is not perfection or lack of it. What He is talking about is the disdain we have for sin. If we hate sin, even though we know it is present in us, we will try to do the right things (with God’s help). But if we do not hate sin, or if we love it, we will live a life apart from God on earth. God will “reward” that with a life apart from Him in eternity. That’s not what anyone should want.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

A New Heart

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 15-16:28; Mark 7:1-23; Psalm 40:11-17; Proverbs 10:13-14

The instructions today in Leviticus 15 have a two-fold purpose. As with most of the previous laws regarding cleanliness these were meant to promote health among the Jewish camp. But they were also meant to separate God’s people from the people of the land they would be occupying.

In people who were already in the land of Canaan worshipped many fertility gods and goddesses and sex was part of their worship rituals. But God wants His people to know that this type of worship is forbidden. There is no connection between sex and worship of God. This, of course, is in direct conflict with some religions today including Mormonism and Islam.

Its interesting to note that the conditions mentioned in this chapter did not make the people involved sinful. There was no sin offering to be made afterwards. They did, however, make the people involved ceremonially unclean and they did have to make an offering after their unclean condition ceased. Sex is not a sin. It was created by God for a purpose.

Leviticus 16 covers the one and only day of the year when the high priest could enter the most holy place of the Tabernacle (later the Temple). This day is still celebrated today and is known as Yom Kippur. On this day the priest would enter into the Most Holy Place in the Tabernacle and sprinkle blood onto the Ark of the Covenant. This symbolized that the sins of the people were “covered” but they were not really removed. The scapegoat has a similar meaning. It carried the sins of the people into the wilderness. But, just like the goat, the sins still existed. They were never really dealt with. That is until Jesus came on the scene and died once and for all to take away the penalty of sin. This is something no animal could ever do. The animals uses in these ceremonies were symbolic only. The only way for the sin of man to be paid for was for God Himself to pay it.

In Mark 7 the Pharisees make a return appearance to judge Jesus. Its interesting to note the parallels between the way the Pharisees formed their opinion of Jesus and the way many people still do today. The Pharisees had already made up their mind about Jesus. They measured Jesus against their own expectations. They did not consider that their previously-existing conclusions were wrong. They did not come with an open mind.. Too many people think they know who Jesus was. I once had a history teacher who referenced Jesus as an “itinerant preacher” during a lecture. She dismissed all the miracles that the Bible mentioned. It appeared to me that she had a conclusion and was picking and choosing the “evidence” to support her view. Certainly we are all guilty of this when we are non-believers. But to truly get to the truth about anything you have to evaluate all the evidence before making a conclusion.

In today’s passage the Pharisees question why Jesus’s disciples don’t follow their (the Pharisees) tradition of hand-washing before eating. The hand-washing in question was not for hygienic purposes — notice Mark 7:5 calls it a “ceremony”. This was not part of the law in their Hebrew Scriptures (what we call the Old Testament). This was one of many man-made traditions that the religious leaders came up with at some point in the past. They believed that one had to follow not only God’s law (from the Scriptures) but these man-made traditions in order to get into heaven. There were over 600 of these traditions that they claimed needed to be kept.

We have the same thing today. The Catholic church is full of “tradition” that they claim must be followed. It is such a part of their culture that they fully acknowledge it and spell it with a capital “T”. These include making the sign of the cross, genuflection, the veneration and worship of Mary, rosary beads, and many, many others. All these things do nothing except lead a person away from God because they put an emphasis on a person’s behavior rather than emphasizing the only thing that gets a person to heaven: the grace of God. The only result of following these “rules” is that someone becomes proud of themselves for doing so. It is precisely this pride that leads someone away from God.

Jesus harshly rebukes the Pharisees for these false teachings in Mark 7:6-13. I believe He would do the same thing today to churches that “teach man-made ideas as if they were commands from God” (Mark 7:7). Such worship “is a farce”, Jesus says in verse 6. That is pretty strong language. The problem is that these rules are imposed by religious leaders simply for their own ego. They do it to control other people. They aren’t true teachers of God’s word. They just want to be held in awe by the people they control.

Notice what Jesus says in Mark 7:6. It is not outward appearances that matter to God. God isn’t interested in rituals and adherence to rules. These don’t earn any points with God and don’t help a person get to heaven. But what does? The verse tells us. God wants your heart. He wants you to be devoted to Him. To be in love with Him. To put Him first above all else in your life. That is how we have a true relationship with God.

Jesus expands on this further in Mark 7:15 when He says that nothing on the outside of us can defile us. We could literally eat dirt and that would not defile us. What defiles us is what comes out of our hearts. What is naturally inside us, our human nature, is what makes us “unclean” (to use an Old Testament word). That is how we are born. Mark 7:21 is a very humbling verse that tells us many of the natural tendencies that are in the human heart. Evil thoughts. Sexual immorality. Murder. Deceit. Lust. Pride. That is what we are. Wow.

What God wants is for us to be born-again (a phrase Jesus will use in John 3). We need to admit our condition and need for God to change us. Then He can, and will, give us a new heart.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Harder and Harder

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 14:1-57; Mark 6:30-56; Psalm 40:1-10; Proverbs 10:11-12

Chapter 14 in Leviticus covers the process of cleansing someone from a skin disease. Again, the priest is the one who is responsible for conducting the examination of the infected person.

Certainly it was rare for someone to be cured of leprosy. There was no known cure for this disease. Sadly, it is likely this cleansing ceremony was performed very infrequently.

But when a person was cured of this disease it was very much like getting a new life. The person, who was living in isolation, could reenter society. How great that must have felt. Leprosy in the Bible is synonymous with sin. Being cured of leprosy was like being born-again today – having your sins forgiven. What a great experience!

In Mark 6 today the disciples return home after being sent out by Jesus in pairs to cast out evil spirits. They were not allowed to take anything with them. If they were to take anything with them it could give the impression that they had ulterior motives and weren’t 100% dedicated to serving God.

In today’s passage they return home and immediately go off to a place to rest at Jesus’s suggestion. God isn’t a slave driver. He knows we need rest. God expects us to work hard but to also give ourselves some rest. That is why God gave us the Sabbath – a day of rest. Notice that the Sabbath is a gift. It is a gift from God.

But when you travel with Jesus you find that it is difficult to get anytime to yourself. That is precisely what happens in Mark 6:33-34. Even though they all needed some rest, Jesus begins to teach the people because He could see that they were like lost sheep. They needed to hear what He had to say more than He needed rest. When it comes to talking to someone about Jesus we need to follow this example. We may be tired. Or late. But when God presents an opportunity for us to talk to someone about the most important topic in their lives, we should not find any excuse. We need to be willing to sacrifice our comforts and needs for someone else’s greater need.

Its interesting that the disciples, who had been with Jesus for a while, and were in His presence right then, did not think of asking Jesus to provide for the people when it got late (Mark 6:35). They saw a human solution – tell the people to leave so they can get something for themselves to eat. They didn’t seem to think of a divine solution even though they were in the presence of God Himself.

Isn’t that they way we approach problems? We try to come up with all kinds of ways to solve something. And we can come up with some decent ideas. But the solution that God can provide will always be better. The tricky part is remembering to stop thinking about how we can solve the problem in our own strength and instead ask God to provide a solution using His greater wisdom and strength. In this story today we see that God provided more food per person than anyone of them could have purchased on their own. God is willing, and able, to provide more abundantly than we can imagine. He loves to give to His children.

After a long day, including a delay in the rest He was seeking, Jesus goes off to pray by Himself. This is a good example. Despite being exhausted, He prayed. Fatigue didn’t drive Him from prayer. It drove Him to prayer. So often I am tired at the end of the day and don’t bother having prayer time with God. But that is the time I need it most. When we are tired, hungry, angry, etc. we are most susceptible to sinful thoughts and behavior. That is the time when we most need to force ourselves to converse with God.

The incident in the boat in Mark 6:48-51 is just like life. We work harder and harder getting nowhere through our own efforts. But when Jesus comes on the scene, the obstacles vanish and He takes over and gets us where we need to go. We just have to let Him climb aboard our boat. Notice Jesus says to them “Don’t be afraid. Take courage! I am here”. We have nothing to fear when Jesus is part of our lives. Easier said than done, I know. But it is truth and is something we all need to learn.

One of the most difficult things for us to do is to wait patiently. But God moves at His own pace. That is not to say that His pace is wrong. It isn’t. It is our expectations and impatience that is wrong. When we wait patiently, as David did in Psalm 40:1, God will respond. He will rescue us and bring peace to our lives.

What a great truth we read about in Proverbs 10:12 today. “Love makes up for all offenses”. The most famous verse in the Bible is John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, He gave His only begotten son. So that whoever believes in Him will not perish but will have eternal life”. How many of us have offended God? All of us. Yet, God still loves us. His love is more powerful than our sin. His love is more powerful than our offenses.

No matter what you’ve done God loves you. He could never love you less. He could never love you more.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Along With The Crowd

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 13:1-59; Mark 6:1-29; Psalm 39:1-13; Proverbs 10:10

Today’s passage in Leviticus demonstrates God’s concern for individuals and community.

Today we read about the laws regarding someone who has, or who might have, leprosy. First, the person had to be presented before a priest who would examine the person. In addition to their duties in the Tabernacle (and later the Temple) the priests also acted as doctors and health officials. Pretty much everything in the community revolved around this house of worship. God’s perfect knowledge and wisdom provided instruction for every aspect of the Israelite’s lives. I wonder what our society would be like today if we allowed God to lead and instruct us rather than thinking we could do everything on our own. I’m sure I can’t even imagine how different things would be.

The rules we read about in Leviticus were very practical and were meant to protect society in the case where someone had a very contagious skin disease. Notice that God fully admits that this terrible condition may occur. God is very honest with us. He never tries to hide anything or sneak anything up on us. This earth is not perfect. It is not what God wanted it to be. That is our own fault. As a result of our sin all kinds of bad things entered the world, including diseases. But God is always right there ready and willing to tell us how to deal with these things. Sadly, hardly anyone turns to God anymore for the answers. We mistakenly think we can figure things out for ourselves. In recent years we have seen all kinds of new diseases and afflictions come into existence. At the same time I think we can say that the world has become more sinful and has moved further away from God. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

The person infected with leprosy had to live in isolation outside the main camp (Leviticus 13:46). This is must have been very difficult. Not only would the person suffer physically but also emotionally by being alone. They must also call out “Unclean! Unclean!” anytime anyone approached them so as not to infect that person. That must have been humiliating. These rules were not meant to punish the diseased person. They were meant to protect the rest of society so that the disease did not spread. Here we see God instructing us to sacrifice the rights and comfort of one individual for the sake of community. Not to go all off on society again, but that is not something we are willing to do today. Today we sacrifice society for the sake of individual “freedom”. Everyone can do whatever makes them feel good no matter who else might be hurt by it. That is clearly not the way God designed society.

In a couple of New Testament passages that we have read this year Jesus healed people with leprosy. After doing so He told them to go show themselves to the priest. The reason He said that is right here in Leviticus 13. It was the priest who performed such an examination to determine if the person was cured of the disease.

You’ve probably heard the saying “familiarity breeds contempt”. Well, we see that play out in Mark 6 today. Jesus returns to Nazareth, the town He grew up in, to teach. Nazareth was small town that was not highly regarded in Israel. The people who knew Jesus as a boy and young man are “amazed”. I don’t think this referred to what they thought of His teaching per se. I think they were amazed that it was Jesus who was teaching. Evidently they recalled Him as a youth and “just a carpenter” and wonder how He got so smart all-of-a-sudden.

I think it is very hard to be taken seriously by people who know you well as one thing once you become another. I think people who are always in trouble with the law or who are addicts have a hard time starting a new life because they surround themselves with people who know them as nothing else. These people are enablers – they don’t let the person be someone new. But God does. He is wanting each of us to change and He will enable us to do so. He won’t enable us to stay the same. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us that “anyone who is in Christ is a new creation. The old is gone.” Isn’t that great? At the moment of salvation you are (present tense) a new creation according to God no matter what your old friends and family think. And isn’t what God thinks more important, not to mention more accurate?

Notice that because the people in His home town didn’t believe in Him, Jesus could not perform many miracles (Mark 6:5). Our faith (or lack thereof) influences the work that God will do in our lives. It doesn’t limit God’s power in anyway. But it prevents Him from acting in our life. I think this is because someone who does not believe in God will attribute miracles to some other source like fate, coincidence, or serendipity. So why would God show us a miracle? Ironically, doing so might only lead someone further away from Him.  We have the example of the Pharisees who saw Jesus’s miracles with their own eyes yet didn’t believe He was God. Instead they thought He was from Satan. God’s miracles, which should have lead them closer to Him, instead had the opposite affect because they were closed-minded.

Notice that the townspeople of Nazareth were “deeply offended” (Mark 6:3). At what I wonder? Why would they be offended? Notice too that they “refused” to believe in Him. They could have if they wanted to. They chose not to. Not a wise choice.

We previously learned that Jesus had brothers, but here we see them mentioned by name. We also learn that He had sisters (Mark 6:3). Again we see that Mary did not remain a virgin after Jesus’s birth despite what some denominations will tell you. Its right here in the Bible – plain as day – yet they don’t want to teach it for some reason. Its also interesting that Joseph is not mentioned here, or anywhere in the Bible after Jesus’s birth. It is possible he died when Jesus was quite young.

Also In Mark 6:3 (this verse is full of information, isn’t it?) we read that the people referred to Jesus as the “son of Mary”. This was quite a derogatory statement. Back then it was customary to refer to a man as the son of his father, not his mother (even if she was now a widow). Their statement was probably a reference to Jesus being thought of as illegitimate and was certainly meant as an insult.

In Mark 6:14-29 we read the story of how Herod came to behead John the Baptist. The story is self-explanatory. But notice that Herod really didn’t want to kill John the Baptist (Mark 6:20, 26). He made a foolish vow (we’ve learned in Proverbs how foolish it is to promise something you can’t / don’t want to deliver) and was totally unprepared for his daughter’s request. But rather than do the right thing and reject her request, he grants it because he doesn’t want to be embarrassed in front of his guests. How many times do we do something we don’t want to do but we do it anyway just to go along with the crowd? Its easy to do. We all do it because we want the approval of our friends. But righteousness is measured by God’s word not by our friend’s opinions.

My life has mimicked Psalm 39:1-3 over the past couple of days. There have been some things going on at work that have frustrated me quite a lot. But I need to remain calm and professional so as to maintain a good witness to my unbelieving coworkers. Even though some of them may not know I am a Christian it is certainly possible to ruin your reputation before the fact, not just after. But when we hold our tongue we can get more frustrated (Psalm 39:3). The answer is to turn to God. He is where our hope should be (Psalm 39:7).

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Things You Never Thought Possible

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 11-12:8; Mark 5:21-43; Psalm 38:1-22; Proverbs 10:8-9

Clean and unclean animals are written into the law in Leviticus 11 today. Note that these were not new laws. Noah brought both clean and unclean animals onto the ark. God here is only codifying the law so the people will have a reference to go by.

Note that animals and sea life were identified as clean or unclean based on their appearance. But birds were identified by name. The birds that were considered unclean were mainly predators or scavengers. They would have more of a likelihood of carrying a disease.

The laws regarding disposal of animals were for hygienic purposes. There was no understanding of germs back then so God is giving instructions to the people to keep them healthy. We now know, for example, that the Black Death was caused by poor hygiene. But because Jews followed the hygienic procedures outlined in Leviticus, they were largely spared during this time. This lead to the Jewish population being persecuted, including being burned alive, as it was thought that, since they didn’t suffer the same mortality rate as others, they had started the epidemic. Evidence shows that the plague started in Asia and worked its way west to Europe where it was especially harsh due to the existence of crowded cities.

In Mark 5 a Jewish synagogue leader, Jairus, comes to Jesus to ask Him to heal his dying daughter. While other Jewish religious leaders were plotting to kill Jesus, Jairus puts his faith in Jesus. He evidently did not think that Jesus was empowered by Satan as the Pharisees did. While Jairus has faith, he doesn’t have complete faith or understanding as he believes Jesus must come to his home and touch his daughter for her to be healed. We know from other passages that Jesus does not need to be present to heal someone. Yet, Jesus goes to Jairus’s house. God doesn’t require full understanding or complete faith to answer our prayers. God can do amazing things with just a little faith.

On the way to Jairus’ home Jesus passes through a mob of people including a woman who has been suffering for 12 years. No doctors could cure her. Due to her condition she was not clean and had to live apart from the rest of society. This must have been as bad, if not worse, than the condition itself. She was probably very lonely, not to mention poor. She, too, had faith that Jesus could heal her. But since she was not supposed to be in a crowd of people she attempts to get healed in secret. She doesn’t ask Jesus face-to-face as Jairus did but simply touches Jesus’s garment. When she does so she is not only healed, but she can actually feel in her body that she has been healed.

In Mark 5:30 Jesus asks the question “Who touched my robe?”. Those who don’t believe Jesus was God point to this verse as “proof” that Jesus wasn’t God. Jesus was not asking this because He didn’t know. Of course He knew. If you are a parent you know about this type of question first-hand. Have you ever caught your child doing something he wasn’t supposed to and asked “What are you doing?”. Do you not know what he is doing? Of course you do — you’re looking right at him. You don’t ask because you don’t know. You ask because you do know and you want him to know that you know. Jesus asked this question aloud, so the crowd could be taught a lesson.

Think about this… Jesus was in a crowd of people. Lots of people were touching Him. The disciples even make such a comment in Mark 5:31. There were so many people around Him it was (humanly) impossible to know who exactly had touched Him. But Jesus wanted to use this event to teach to the crowd. He wanted them to know that this woman had been healed. And He wanted them (and her) to know that it was her faith that had healed her (Mark 5:34). I also think Jesus wanted the crowd to know that this woman took a big risk coming to Him. If she had been spotted (she was probably disguised) she would have been arrested. Doesn’t Jesus want us to take risks for Him today? I think He does. We should not fear governments, or authorities, or those who oppose Jesus. We should be bold in our faith and not back down from the truth. We benefit (as did this woman) but also those who see our boldness (like the crowd in this story) will learn something about Jesus and faith when we do.

Meanwhile, Jairus is probably sweating bullets because his daughter is near death and Jesus is stopping for this unclean woman. But, as we’ve learned all year long, Jesus (who was God) is always in control. He was in control in the boat in the storm yesterday and He is in control of Jairus’s daughter today.

Notice Jesus tells Him not to be afraid and to believe. You can’t be afraid and believe at the same time. Its one or the other.

Once in Jairus’s house the people there mocked Him. In the original Greek the verb “mocked” is in the imperfect tense indicating that they didn’t just do it once. They did it repeatedly. Jesus dismisses the mockers who don’t know what they are talking about. They are full of doubt so they have to leave. Jesus brings the girl back to life and everyone was amazed. After she gets up and walks around Jesus shows further understanding and concern for her by saying she needs to eat. She had been very sick and now dead for sometime. She needed nutrition. Jesus never stops caring.

In these two events we see Jesus answer the prayers of the wealthy and the poor. The well-connected and the outcast. One with a lot of faith, one with a bit less. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are at in life… Jesus wants you just as you are. All you need to do is come to him as Jairus and this unnamed woman did. Then He will show you things you never thought possible.

Have you ever done something wrong that overwhelms you? If so Psalm 38 is for you. God has brought discipline on David (the author) for something David had done and now David is really in mental and physical pain. He is physically tired and mentally crushed. He has lost his friends, but his enemies are enjoying it! Yet David turns to God (Psalm 38:14-15). He confesses his sin (v 18) and expresses his regret.

We read again in Proverbs 10 that those who are wise love to learn. It is smart to try to get smarter. Obtaining knowledge is a wise thing to do. We also read that those who follow crooked paths will fall. This is certainly true. Those who cheat others are likely to be the objects of revenge. Its better to live a life of integrity. That way you won’t have to look over your shoulder all the time. You can walk in safety.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Simply A Breath

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 9:7-10:20; Mark 4:26-5:20; Psalm 37:30-40; Proverbs 10:6-7

In Leviticus 9 today we see Aaron offer the sacrifices required of him as the high priest. Before Aaron could effectively lead other people he had to first acknowledge and deal with his own sin. Anyone who wishes to be an effective leader must realize their own limitations. They must realize that they are no different from the people they lead. Humility is required because the role of a leader is actually a servant, willing to put other’s needs ahead of their own.

In Leviticus 10 two of Aaron’s sons disobey God. I don’t understand exactly what they did wrong, but obviously it was serious if God killed them. The interesting thing here is that these men were the son’s of the high priest. They should have known better. But this goes to show that each person is responsible for himself before God. None of us inherit righteousness or get a free pass just because of who we are related to. The only connection that gets us anywhere is Jesus. If someone is in Christ that person is then a child of God with full access to the Father and heaven.

Jesus tells another parable about seeds today in Mark 4. He had previously told the parable about seed being dispersed onto four different types of soil. After telling that parable Jesus explained that the seed represented the word of God (i.e. the Bible). We can conclude that the seed in today’s parable, therefore, also represents the word of God.

In today’s parable we see that God’s word works within us even though we don’t know exactly how it happens. Notice that the farmer only plants the seed. Some other force makes it grow. The only thing God calls upon us to do, as believers, is to share the truth about Him with others. We plant seeds. God is the one who makes them grow. Of course, as we read in the previous parable, the person who hears the word must also be receptive to it. But the point is that there is nothing “the farmer” can do to make the seed grow. Only the quality of the soil along with God’s power can make His word come to life in another person.

There are people in my life who I have been praying for and sharing the Bible with for years and I see no visible results. But I am doing all I can do. I can’t make anything grow. I can only plant seeds. I hope that God tills the soil and germinates the seed.

In Mark 4:35-41 we read a story about Jesus calming a storm. I found it interesting that the disciples obediently followed Jesus into the boat and out into the lake yet they encountered a storm. God doesn’t just send storms into our lives when we need to be corrected. Even when we are being obedient we may encounter a storm as a test of our faith. God never promised His followers a cushy, easy life. God’s goal is to grow us. And we only grow through trials. When life is easy we stagnate.

Despite the storm Jesus is calmly asleep in the back of the boat. This tells us a couple of things. First that even though He was God He was also human. He needed sleep. Even though He was God He still had to experience all the limitations that we do. Second, He was in complete control. He knew the storm was coming. He knew that everything would be OK. The storm did not bother Him. Likewise whenever we face storms in our life we can turn to Jesus because He is a rock. He can offer us His help because He isn’t going to be intimidated.

The disciples, on the other hand, are a different story. They are terrified and wake Jesus. Notice that the rocking boat didn’t wake Him. The wind didn’t wake Him. The waves crashing over the boat didn’t wake Him. But the voice of the disciples, crying out to Him, woke Him. Jesus will always answer when one of His own calls Him. He will never leave us alone.

Keep in mind that many of the disciples were fishermen. They had been out on this lake many, many times. Yet they were afraid. It must have been a terrible storm for such experienced sailors to be so afraid. Yet Jesus calms the waves and the wind with just His voice. I remember reading this story to my nephew (who was about 4 at the time) and he said of Jesus “Oh, he is magic?”. No, He’s not magic. He is God.

After rebuking the storm Jesus rebukes His disciples. They should have had more faith. After all, Jesus said (Mark 4:35) “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake”. Jesus’s plan was to get to the other side. But the disciples lost sight of the goal and panicked. Isn’t that the same with us? God promises to take us somewhere but when the slightest difficulty arises along the way we get scared. There is never any reason to fear if Jesus is your Savior. He isn’t going to let life drown you. He has plans for you. Great plans. Any difficulty that comes along on the road to those plans is simply a test to build your character along the way. Don’t turn from what God has for you because of a little trouble. It may not seem “little” to you. But no problem is too big for Jesus.

Ironically, the disciples were “absolutely terrified” after Jesus calmed the storm. It seems they were more afraid of Jesus than they were of the storm.

In this one passage the disciples (and we) witness the full humanity of Jesus (sleeping) and the full deity of Jesus (controlling weather).

According to Psalm 37:30 those who study God’s word and walk with Him are able to offer great advice to others. The key is making God’s will our own will (Psalm 37:30-31). Verses 35 & 36 pick up on what I wrote about over the past two days. I see people who are not children of God flourishing and succeeding in this world. But the truth is they won’t last long. Even if they die with the most toys they don’t get to keep any of them. Their life, just like mine, is simply a breath. A drop in the ocean. The hope is not in what this world has to offer. The hope is in the One who created this world.

Proverbs 10:6 reminds us that God showers His children with blessings, both in this life and the next.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

Nothing More Important Than You

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Today’s Bible reading: Leviticus 7:28-9:6; Mark 3:31-4:25; Psalm 37:12-29; Proverbs 10:5

The details for the various offerings are concluded in Leviticus 7 today. All these sacrifices were repeated over and over because they could never provide any permanent solution to man’s sin problem. They were symbolic only and were meant to instill in the mind of the Jews a need for a permanent solution. That permanent solution would be coming at a future time. Today we know that the solution as Jesus.

Jesus fulfilled all of these sacrifices rendering them no longer necessary. Through the death of Jesus on the cross and His shed blood all people can now have peace and fellowship with God forever. They can now have their sins forgiven forever. And they can have access to God forever. Notice that I say they “can”. Although Jesus’s death does provide for these things it is up to each person to decide for herself or himself to lay claim to this great offer. As we read a few weeks ago, the choice is ours.

Its interesting to note that since the Jews don’t believe that Jesus is the savior God wrote about in the Old Testament they will at some point in the future start offering these sacrifices again. They are just waiting for their Temple to be rebuilt in Jerusalem. The Temple was destroyed in 70 A.D. by the Romans during the Jewish Revolt of 67 – 70 AD. Since then there hasn’t been a Temple and, in fact, there wasn’t even an Israel until 1948. Currently the location of the Temple is under the control of the Muslims. This is the Temple Mount in Jerusalem on which now sits the Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa Mosque. But someday the Temple will be rebuilt. We know this because Ezekiel 38 indicates that in the “last days” there will be a man who rules the entire world (aka “Antichrist”) who will put an end to sacrifices being made in the Temple. For sacrifices to “end” they must be happening. For there to be a Temple it has to be rebuilt. We’ll read more about this when we get there later this year.

For now, suffice it to say that the Temple will be rebuild. In fact there is an entire organization dedicated to rebuilding the Temple. They have already built many of the items that will go into the Temple. They are just waiting for the Temple Mount to be available so they can start construction.

We place great emphasis on familial relationships. Therefore it may surprise us the Jesus did not in Mark 3. Jesus didn’t dislike His earthly family. But He knew that these relationships were temporal. We will not have these relationships in eternity. They were meant for earthly purposes only. In heaven, for example, you will recognize your spouse. But you won’t be married to that person.

Its interesting to note that Jesus had brothers (Mark 3:32). The Catholic church’s notion that Mary remained a virgin her entire life is clearly not accurate. This is just one of many areas where Catholicism has rejected the Bible and has made up its own story (I mentioned when reading Exodus that Catholicism also changed their version of the Ten Commandments) . For what purposes I am not sure. But like all man-made religions, Catholicism is not accurate and cannot lead anyone to God.

We already read the parable of the sower in Matthew. It is repeated here in Mark. Verse 12 seems to indicate that Jesus is intentionally keeping the meaning of His parables from being discerned by certain people. But Matthew’s Gospel gives more details than Mark. In Matthew we see that the “they” that Jesus refers to in Mark have closed their own eyes. This is why it is important to read all the Gospels as each writer wrote with a different audience in mind. We often find details in one Gospel that explain something that lacks details in another.

Psalm 37 began yesterday and continues today. Yesterday I mentioned how I often struggle with seeing non-believers achieve worldly success. It always helps me to read this Psalm, especially verse 16. “It is better to be godly with little than to be evil and rich” (NLT). Seeking God is the most fulfilling thing a person can do. I don’t make any claims to understand God totally. But as I read through the Bible every day this year I understand Him more and build a closer relationship with Him. And as I build a closer relationship with Him the envy and jealousy fades away. Admittedly it fades away slowly and at times even comes back. I’m a work-in-progress as we all are.

One reason why it is better to be godly with little is because God will direct the steps of the godly and will delight in every detail of their lives (Psalms 37:23). How cool is it that God “delights” in you? I think it is very cool that the God of the universe, who I would think has more important things to do than to be interested in the mundane aspects of my life, cares about me to that level of detail. But here is the coolest part: From God’s perspective there is nothing more important than you. Yes, there are wars going on. Yes, there is injustice going on. Yes, there is hate all over the planet. And those are not good things. But they are temporary. You are eternal. And if you are forming a relationship with Him while on earth (i.e.  you are “godly”) He will direct your steps and delight in everything you do. There is nothing better.

Proverbs 10:5 gives an illustration of hard-work vs laziness to follow up on yesterday’s passages. Summer is the time of harvest. If someone is wise they will get to work harvesting at this time of year so they can earn money. But anyone who lets the field go to waste by not harvesting it is a disgrace. We need to be wise and take advantage of the opportunities before us. Don’t slack off and miss out.

Comments? Questions? I’d love to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me about this post

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