Posts tagged ‘Mark’

July 21, 2014

843 Acres: We Always Do What We Most Want to Do

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Jer 17 (txt | aud, 4:43 min)
Mk 3 (txt | aud, 4:03 min)
Highlighted: Jer 17:9

Conflict: Our desires often conflict. We may want a paycheck, but we also want to relax. We may want to lose weight, but we also want to eat chocolate. In practice, how do we reconcile these competing desires? Jonathan Edwards answers, “Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice.” In other words, we always do what we most want to do. This, of course, presents a significant problem for us. For Jeremiah tells us, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick.” [1] What hope, then, do we have?

Tension: Jen Pollock Michel writes: “This is the double vision of prayer: we see God and we see ourselves. This is also the double vision of holy desire. As those redeemed in Christ, we begin wanting holiness, yet recognize that our desires continue in qualities of being human. Saved though we are, we bring to our desires a limited range of understanding. We want from God and yet fail to grasp the height, depth, breadth, and width of God’s holy purposes for our lives and for the world. We are growing in goodness and yet are capable of persisting in myopic selfishness.”

Throne: Our hope is in being in the presence of God. Jeremiah continues, “I the Lord search the heart and test the mind.” [2] Michel notes, “Holy desire is formed in the throne room. We have to see God rightly and understand that holiness is not a trifle. It is awesome. It is terrifying. It will undo us. It will not suffer the greed and impatience and mistrust of unholy desire. And it will also commission us, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Holy desire will be conscripted. We will be put to work. To pray in the throne room of God is to take up a willingness to be sent.”

Prayer: Lord, We confess that our hearts are deceitful and sick. We do what we do not want to do even as we lament that, at a deep level, we do—indeed—want to do it. The real work takes place not on the ground of our behaviors, but in the soil of our desires. In that, Lord, we have no hope apart from you. Therefore, teach us to want. Make holy our desires. Amen.

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Note: To read a book review of Michel’s Teach Us to Want, click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Jeremiah 17:9 ESV | [2] Jeremiah 17:10 ESV

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February 13, 2013

843 Acres Lent: A Prayer for Ash Wednesday

by Bethany

Lenten Morning

843 Acres Lent: A Prayer for Ash Wednesday
Readings: Mark 16 (text | audio, 3:14 min)
and Genesis 46 (text | audio, 4:52 min)

The Resurrection of Christ: Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up they saw that the stone had been rolled back – it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you in Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

Henri Nouwen: A Cry for Mercy (an excerpt)

How often have I lived through these weeks without paying much attention to penance, fasting and prayer? How often have I missed the spiritual fruits of the season without even being aware of it? But how can I ever really celebrate Easter without observing Lent? How can I rejoice fully in your Resurrection when I have avoided participating in your death?

Yes, Lord, I have to die – with you, through you and in you – and thus become ready to recognize you when you appear to me in your Resurrection. There is so much in me that needs to die: false attachments, greed and anger, impatience and stinginess. O Lord, I am self-centered, concerned about myself, my career, my future, my name and fame. Often I even feel that I use you for my own advantage. How preposterous, how sacrilegious, how sad! But yes, Lord, I know it is true … Your name has not led me to persecution, oppression or rejection. Your name has brought me rewards! I see clearly now how little I have died with you, really gone your way and been faithful to it. O Lord, make this Lenten season different from the other ones. Let me find you again. Amen.

Lenten Evening

The Daily Examen

1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

If you would like The Daily Examen emailed to you on weekday evenings at 9pm EST during Lent, sign up: here.

Lenten Community

How are you planning to anticipate the suffering and glory of Christ this Lenten season? Why? Share your insights with our community by commenting on our Facebook page (here) or tagging us on Twitter (@theparkforum or #theparkforumlent) or commenting on our blog.

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Ash Wednesday

Join us for Ash Wednesday at Calvary-St.George’s:

When: Tonight @ 6:30pm
WhereCalvary-St.George’s (Park Ave South @ East 21st)
What: Our founder, Bethany Jenkins, will be in the lobby with prayer cards for you. She’d love to meet you so look for our logo.
Post Q&A: After the service, join Bethany and the Rector, Jacob Smith, for an intimate Q&A in Anderson Hall.

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Footnotes

 [1] Note: If you would like to read more about the Daily Examen, see here.

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February 12, 2013

843 Acres Lent: A Lenten Fast

by Bethany

Lenten Morning

843 Acres Lent: A Lenten Fast
Readings: Mark 15 (text | audio, 6:02 min)
and Genesis 45 (text | audio, 5:10 min)

Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. Mark 15:37

Tomorrow is Ash Wednesday, which marks the beginning of Lent, a season when many of us will anticipate the death and resurrection of Christ by fasting or abstaining from certain foods or activities for forty days. How should we think about fasting?

John Calvin wrote, “Let us define what fasting is; for we do not understand by it simply a restrained and sparing use of food, but something else. The life of the pious should be tempered with frugality and sobriety, so as to exhibit, as much as may be, a kind of fasting during the whole course of life. But there is another temporary fast, when we retrench somewhat from our accustomed mode of living, either for one day or a certain period, and prescribe to ourselves a stricter and severer restraint in the use of that ordinary food. This consists in three things: the time, the quality of food, and the sparing use of it. By the time I mean, that while fasting we are to perform those actions for the sake of which the fast is instituted … The quality consists in putting all luxury aside, and, being contented with common and meaner food, so as not to excite our palate by dainties. In regard to quantity, we must eat more lightly and sparingly only for necessity and not for pleasure.

“But the first thing always to be avoided is the encroachment of superstition … The first thing is constantly to urge the injunction of Joel, ‘Rend your heart, and not your garments,’ [1]; that is, to remind the people that fasting in itself is not of great value in the sight of God, unless accompanied with internal affection of the heart, true dissatisfaction with sin and with one’s self true humiliation, and true griefs from the fear of God; nay, that fasting is useful for no other reasons than because it is added to these as an inferior help. There is nothing which God more abominates than when men endeavor to cloak themselves by substituting signs and external appearance for integrity of heart.”

Lord, As we anticipate the final cry and breath of Christ, may we render our hearts, not our abstentions. Mark our entire lives with frugality and sobriety and, during this Lenten season, increase our hunger for you even more. Amen.

Lenten Evening

The Daily Examen

1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes).
2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes).
3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes).
4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes).
5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes).

Lenten Community

How are you planning to anticipate the suffering and glory of Christ this Lenten season? Why? Share your insights with our community by commenting on our Facebook page (here) or tagging us on Twitter (@theparkforum or #theparkforumlent) or commenting on our blog.

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Ash Wednesday

Join us for Ash Wednesday at Calvary-St.George’s:

When: Tomorrow night @ 6:30pm
Where: Calvary-St.George’s (Park Ave South @ East 21st)
What: Our founder, Bethany Jenkins, will be in the lobby with prayer cards for you. She’d love to meet you so look for our logo.
Post Q&A: After the service, join Bethany and the Rector, Jacob Smith, for an intimate Q&A in Anderson Hall.

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FAQs

How can I make a tax-deductible donation? Click here.
How can I get these devotionals in my inbox? Click here.
What is the reading plan this blog is based on? Click here.

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Footnotes

[1] Joel 2:13

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February 11, 2013

Lenten Mornings and Evenings

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Mark 14 (text | audio, 9:00 min)
and Genesis 44 (text | audio, 5:00 min)

Lenten Mornings: Our Lenten Project starts Wednesday. Like our Advent Project, our Lenten Project will feature guest contributors. Unlike our Advent Project, however, our Lenten Project contributors will be theologians from other centuries. Why? First, we want to avoid, what C.S. Lewis called, “chronological snobbery” – that is, thinking that the newest ideas are the best simply because they are the newest [1]. Second, these theologians have particularly wonderful reflections on Lenten values – that is, reflection, self-denial, temptation and suffering. Each morning, join us in reading our guest contributors on 843 Acres and the M’Cheyne Reading Plan passages.

Lenten Evenings: In the evenings, we invite you to join us in doing the Daily Examen, which is a form of prayer developed by St. Ignatius of Loyola. It is intended to help Christians prayerfully reflect on the day in order to detect God’s presence and discern his direction. Living in modern cities, many of us get distracted and forget that God is working in our daily lives. Thus, in 843 Acres, we will include daily reminders to reflect on these questions:

1. Opening prayer of invitation: become aware of God’s presence (2 minutes). Be still. Reflect on the day’s events in the company of the Holy Spirit. Ask God to guide this prayer.

2. Review the day with gratitude (3 minutes). Each day is a gift from God. Review your day in his presence. Note its joys, delights, sins, faults, etc. Consider the work you did, the people you encountered, etc. Pay attention to the details; God is in them.

3. Pay attention to your emotions (3 minutes). We detect the presence of the Holy Spirit in the movements of our emotions, but we may be unaware of them given our busy days. What feelings did you experience throughout the day – boredom, happiness, resentment, shame?

4. Choose one feature of the day and pray from it (5 minutes). Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you to something that God thinks is particularly important – something unexpected, seemingly insignificant, etc. Pray about it. What might God want to teach you? Could he be affirming or convicting you?

5. Closing prayer: look toward tomorrow (2 minutes). God leads us daily. What did you learn today that you could apply tomorrow? What feelings do you have about tomorrow – doubt, joy, apprehension, anticipation? Turn these feelings into prayer. Seek God’s guidance, help and understanding. Pray for hope. [2]

Optional: Lenten Community: How did you see God working today? Share your insights from the evening or throughout the day with our community by commenting on our Facebook page (here) or tagging us on Twitter @theparkforum or using #theparkforumlent.

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Footnotes

[1] In God in the Dock, Lewis suggested, “Every third book you read should be outside your century.”  |  [2] Note: If you would like to read more about the Daily Examen, see here.

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February 8, 2013

On the Life of the Mind – Royalty

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Mark 11 (text | audio, 4:03 min)
and Genesis 41 (text | audio, 7:56 min)
Highlighted: Mark 11:7, 15

Kingdom: God intended to rule the world through human beings, but – from the Garden of Eden to New York City – we can see that we have failed to reflect his good and sovereign rule [1]. We may make music, but we also make bombs. We may build hospitals, but we also build torture chambers. Jesus, however, came to rescue and transform our royal calling. At the beginning of his ministry, he proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand” [2]. Yet what does this look like today?

Royalty: Here, in Mark 11, Jesus proclaimed his sovereign rule twice. First, he rode into Jerusalem on a colt: “They brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it” [3] – which was a clear nod to the prophecy of Zechariah, who said that the Messiah would come lowly and riding on a colt, that his kingdom would be marked by salvation and peace, and that he would reign from sea to sea [4]. Second, Jesus cleansed the temple: “He entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple” [5] – which was a clear claim to his royalty because it was the kings of Israel who had authority over the temple [6].

Building: Today, the kingdom of God that Jesus proclaimed reigns from sea to sea – that is, his sovereign authority extends to all nations. Yet we live in “the overlap of the ages”, when we can know and experience new resurrection life in Christ, but we must wait for the fullness of his reign to come to completion. During this time, we do not build God’s kingdom; God does. But we do build for his kingdom. By the Spirit, we seek gospel redemption in our hearts, communities and world – not with an attitude of triumph, but with an attitude of peace that rides on a donkey and confidence that proclaims his royalty.

Prayer: Lord, Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of your kingdom. Even we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we eagerly wait for our adoption and redemption. For in this hope we were saved [7]. Today, when we build for your kingdom, give us an attitude of peace and confidence, as we bear your image in our vocations, relationships, decisions and lives. Amen.

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M’Cheyne Weekend Texts (our reading plan)
Sat, Feb 9: Gen 42 (text | audio) & Mark 12 (text | audio)
Sun, Feb 10: Gen 43 (text | audio) & Mark 13 (text | audio)

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Footnotes

[1] See Genesis 1-2.  |  [2] Mark 1:15 ESV  |  [3] Mark 11:7 ESV  |  [4] See Zechariah 9:9-11.  |  [5] Mark 11:15 ESV  |  [6] e.g., David planned the temple, Solomon built it, Hezekiah and Josiah cleansed it, and Herod the Great rebuilt it.  |  [7] See Romans 8:18-30.

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February 7, 2013

The Life of the Mind – Cross-Bearing

by Bethany

M’Cheyne: Mark 10 (text | audio, 6:39 min)
and Genesis 40 (text | audio, 3:26 min)
Highlighted Text: Mark 10:45 (text)

Servants: Yesterday, we saw that, if we want to become “somebodies” in the kingdom of heaven, then we must become the servants of all – especially those from whom we expect no praise or thanks [1]. Here, in Mark 10, James and John asked Jesus, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you … Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory” [2]. Their question is logical, right? After all, Jesus did come to serve, right?

Cross-Bearing: He replied, in effect, “You like glory? You want the right and the left? Then drink my cup. Prepare to suffer and die. You want to be great? Then be a servant. You want to be first? Then choose to be last.” Why? “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” [3]. This is a call to radical discipleship. It is a call to suffering and service. Many of us think that, since Jesus went to the cross, we do not have to suffer. But Christ calls us to share in his suffering if we want to share in his glory. As Paul wrote, “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs – heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him” [4].

Serves: In our cross-bearing, however, Jesus serves us. “For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve.” He may call us to an incredibly difficult discipleship, but he serves us. This is what we will consider in Lent – as we meditate on the sufferings of Christ, we take up our own crosses, knowing that Jesus now serves us. As the Scriptures promise, “For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to give strong support to those whose heart is blameless toward him” [5].

Prayer: Lord, We confess that we often misunderstand your call to discipleship. We want the glory, but we fear the cross-bearing. Teach us that, although the cross-bearing may be difficult, you are serving us so that we may serve others. Therefore, give us courage to share in your suffering so that we may share in your glory. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres. “The Life of the Mind – Greatness.” 06 February 2013.  |  [2] Mark 10:35, 37 ESV  |  [3] Mark 10:45 ESV  |  [4] Romans 8:16-17 ESV (emphasis mine)  |  [5] 2 Chronicles 16:9 ESV

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February 6, 2013

The Life of the Mind – Greatness

by Bethany

M’CheyneMark 9 (text | audio, 6:43)
Genesis 39 (text | audio, 3:49)
Highlighted Text: Mark 9:35-37

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us – don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

–  Emily Dickinson

Celebrities: Our celebrity culture loves somebodies and banishes nobodies. We are obsessed with actors, athletes and, yes, even pastors. As a result, most of us – even if we are not egocentric maniacs – want to be somebodies. It may be for a fleeting moment, a few times a year, or every time we have to wait in line at a restaurant in the West Village. We long for “an admiring bog” to recognize us. Our culture says that we can become somebodies by, for example, having high Klout scores or attending prestigious universities. But what does the gospel say?

Greatness: Jesus never criticized anyone’s quest for greatness. In fact, God made us in His image, and He wants our lives to be meaningful and significant. Yet something happened that distorted our pursuit of greatness. John Piper says that it has been corrupted into a longing not merely to be great, but “to be known as great” [1].

Children: On their way to Capernaum, the disciples argued about who was the greatest among them. Jesus said, “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” [2]. He then showed them that being the “servant of all” meant serving the biggest nobodies of all – children: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” [3]. Why children? Because children do not care about Klout scores or universities. They care about getting what they want and, when they do, they must be taught to give thanks. Therefore, as Piper says, “Children prove, more clearly than any other kind of people, whether you are truly great or not – whether you live to serve or live to be praised” [4].

Prayer: Lord, We often do not pursue true greatness by being servants of all. Instead, we long for “an admiring bog” to praise us. Forgive us and crucify our impulse of self-exaltation. For we know that the greatest Somebody who ever lived came to serve, not be served. Therefore, since we want to become somebodies in your kingdom, we long to become servants of all. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] John Piper. “Receiving Children in Jesus’ Name.” Desiring God. 23 February 1992.  |  [2] Mark 9:35 ESV  |  [3] Mark 9:37 ESV  |  [4] Supra at 1.

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February 5, 2013

The Life of the Mind – Competing Desires

by Bethany

M’Cheyne Text: Mark 8 (text | audio, 4:40 min)
and Genesis 38 (text | audio, 5:00 min)
Highlighted Text: Mark 8:34-36 (text)

Desires: As we saw yesterday, when the blood of Christ washes away our deep guilt before the Lord, the Holy Spirit begins to encourage us to choose what is truly good [1]. In our day-to-day lives, however, our choices are not always easy because our desires often come into conflict. For example, we may want to reconcile with a friend who has wronged us, but we may also want to avoid confrontation – especially when we have wronged them, too. How, therefore, do we reconcile our competing desires?

Affections: Jesus frequently told his disciples that following him would mean suffering and persecution in this world [2]. Here, in Mark 8, he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” [3]. In other words, “Cherish me more than comfort and safety. Treasure self-denial, not self-gratification, and cross-bearing, not self-preservation. Choose your eternal soul, not this fleeting world” [4].

Exchange: So, for example, how do we choose our desire to reconcile with our friend over our desire to avoid conflict? Thomas Chalmers once wrote, “The only way to dispossess the heart of an old affection is through the expulsive power of a new one” [5]. In other words, we exchange our old affection for comfort and safety for a new affection for Christ and reconciliation. We look upon the cross, where we see that, although Jesus wanted the cup to pass him by, his greater affection was to accomplish the will of the Father to reconcile us with him [6]. Our battle to take up the cross and follow Jesus, therefore, is rooted in our desires and affections [7].

Prayer: Lord, We make hundreds of decisions every day and, in each of them, we are confronted with the question: “What do I want more – the world or my soul?” We confess that we too often choose the world for its comfort and ease. Yet you call us to take up our crosses and follow you. O Father, replace our affection for the world with a greater affection for you. Circumcise our hearts that we may know and cherish you above all. Amen.

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Footnotes

[1] 843 Acres. “On the Life of the Mind – Guilt.” 4 February 2013.  |  [2] See, e.g., John 15:20 (“A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.”), Matthew 10:22 (“You will be hated by all for my name’s sake.”), Matthew 5:11 (“Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”). See also, e.g., 2 Timothy 3:12 (“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.”)  |  [3] Mark 8:34-36  |  [4] Note: I do not mean “the world” in the sense of the material world. For I believe that the Lord will one day redeem this material world just as he redeemed the material body of Christ. Rather, I use the term “the world” in a broad sense to mean the present form of this world and its desires. See, e.g., 1 John 2:17 (“The world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”), 1 Corinthians 7:31 (“The present form of this world is passing away.”), Isaiah 40:8 (“The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”)  |  [5] Thomas Chalmers. “The Expulsive Power of a Greater Affection.”  |  [6] In the Garden of Gethsemane, for example, Jesus himself had competing desires. On the one hand, he wanted the cup to pass; on the other hand, however, he wanted to partake in the Father’s will: “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 ESV). Which did he choose? His greater affection – the will of the Father over his desire for comfort and safety: “ … looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising its shame …” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV).  |  [7] In Freedom of the Will, Jonathan Edwards wrote, “Free moral agents always act according to the strongest inclination they have at the moment of choice.” In other words, we always do what we most want to do.

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February 4, 2013

On the Life of the Mind – Guilt

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 7:15, 20-22
M’Cheyne TextGenesis 37; Mark 7

Guilt: Our consciences remind us what is true and encourage us to choose it. No matter how much we follow our consciences, however, all of us have a nagging sense of guilt. Even Sir Kingsley Amis, who once replied, “It’s more that I hate Him,” when he was asked whether he was an atheist, acknowledged his own sense of guilt: “One of the great benefits of organized religion is that you can be forgiven your sins, which must be a wonderful thing. I mean, I carry my sins around with me; there’s nobody there to forgive them” [1].

Heart: The Pharisees tried washing away their guilty consciences by strictly observing the clean laws. In their obsession with obedience, however, they had forgotten the purpose of the laws – namely, to show that sin does the same thing to the soul that dirt does to the body. Jesus explained that their problem was much deeper than they thought: “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him … From within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness” [2]. Yet how could they wash their hearts?

Forgiveness: The blood of Christ cleanses the hearts of sinners. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he told them that they were guilty of the sins that Jesus said defiled a person, e.g., immorality, theft, murder. Yet he said, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” [3]. How does this good news shape our daily lives? We pursue obedience and, when we inevitably falter, we confess our sins in the name of Jesus our Advocate. Then we praise God that He has given us a sense of godly regret that awakens our heart to recognize His amazing mercy.

Prayer: Lord, We draw near to you through Christ, “in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from evil consciences” [4]. Yet we confess that, although we are forgiven, we still sin. Yet we praise you that, in Christ, you are forgiving. Therefore, we listen to our consciences and, instead of hiding in shame, we run to your grace and give you glory. Amen.

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Audio Bible: Gen 37 (5:41 min) & Mark 7 (4:23 min)

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Footnotes

 [1] Kingsley Amis. Memoirs.  |  [2] Mark 7:15, 20-22 ESV  |  [3] 1 Corinthians 6:11 ESV  |  [4] See Hebrews 10:22 ESV.

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February 1, 2013

The Riddle of the Kingdom

by Bethany

Highlighted Text: Mark 4:10-12
M’Cheyne TextGenesis 33; Mark 4

Confusing: Did Jesus use parables to confuse people intentionally? Here, in Mark 4, when he explained the purpose of parables to his disciples, he said, “Those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, ‘To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that “they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven”’” [1]. Did parables contain mysteries for those on the inside, while they hardened those on the outside?

Understanding: First, Luke specifically writes that Jesus told parables to people [2] with the apparent suggestion that the parables were to be understood by them. Moreover, “outsiders” – such as the lawyer who heard the Parable of the Good Samaritan [3] and the chief priests and Pharisees who heard the Parable of the Tenants [4] – understood the parables they heard. So what did Jesus mean when he said, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables”?

Riddle: Gordan Fee and Douglas Stuart write, “Most likely the clue to this saying lies in a play on words in Jesus’s native Aramaic. The word methal which was translated parabolem in Greek was used for a whole range of figures of speech in the riddle, puzzle, parable category, not just for the story variety called ‘parables’ in English. Probably verse 11 meant that the meaning of Jesus’s ministry (the secret of the kingdom) could not be perceived by those on the outside; it was like a methal, a riddle, to them. Hence his speaking in mathelin (parables) was part of the methal (riddle) of his whole ministry to them. They saw, but they failed to see; they heard – and even understood – the parables, but they failed really to appreciate the whole thrust of Jesus’s ministry” [5].

Prayer: Lord, Why did people hear the parables and fail to see your ministry? Were their hearts hardened to your grace? Were they stubborn in their sin? Did they fail to know the Scriptures? O Lord, let that not be us! Open our eyes to see and our ears to hear so that we may turn and be forgiven. Unlock the secret of the kingdom so that your ministry is not a riddle to us. Amen.

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Audio: Bible Listening 

 Genesis 33 (3:10 minutes) – here

Mark 4 (5:26 minutes) – here

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Footnotes

[1] Mark 4:10-12 ESV  |  [2] See, e.g., Luke 15:3; 18:9; 19:11.  |  [3] See Luke 10:25–37.  |  [4] See Matthew 21:45.  |  [5] Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 1993. p. 150.

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