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"Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path." --- Psalm 119:105

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Knowing When To Give Up Your Carpentry Business

At that tine Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. (Mark 1:9)

There is no record of Jesus' life from the time He left Jerusalem with His parents at the age of twelve until His baptism at the age of thirty.  Luke 2:42 says, "And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." In other words, Jesus lived a balance life. He probably worked in His father's carpentry business until He was baptized in the Jordan by John the Baptist at which time God said, "This is my Son in whom I am well pleased." (Matthew 3:17). Jesus was three years away from the end of His earthy life when He knew it was time to give up His carpentry business.

We, too, have been working as a carpenter for a long time. We have built tables, chairs, and other pieces of furniture. We have used hammers, nails, saws and plumb lines. And now God is calling us to give up our carpentry business and replace it with something else.

There was nothing wrong with Jesus being a carpenter when He was a carpenter. But when it was time to move to kingdom work, He did not hesitate. We shouldn't either. Like Jesus, we must make a shift in what we are doing. When God calls us to work in the kingdom, it is at that time that He is going to say to us just as He said to Jesus, "That's my son or daughter in whom I am well pleased!"

There is a time to be a carpenter, and there is a time to labor in the vineyard. Both are important. However, it is non-productive to stay in the carpentry business after God has called you to go elsewhere.

To Be Validated
You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." (Mark 1:11)

Even though our treasures are stored up in heaven, we all like to be validated during our sojourn here on this earth. It's just human nature to want to be thought of, affirmed and accepted by our family, friends, coworkers, and special people in our lives. That is not always the case, but when it does happen, it sure feels good.

Validation is part of God's plan. We see this through the Trinity. Twice God introduced and validated Jesus. At His baptism, God said, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" (Mark 1:11). When Jesus was with Moses and Elijah on Mount Transfiguration, God said, "This is my Son whom I love; with him I am well pleased." (Matthew 17:5). Jesus always pointed to His Father. "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which has sent me. (John 5:30) "I and my Father are one." (John 10:30) Jesus validated the Holy Spirit. He said, "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever" (John 14:16) Each of the three persons of the Trinity validated and pointed toward the other.

Other biblical examples of validation include the following: Mary the mother of Jesus at the wedding of Cana acknowledged her son and told the servants, "Do whatever he tells you." (John 2:5) John the Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sins of the world." (John 1:29). Paul validated Timothy and Titus by introducing them as "my true son in the faith" (I Timothy 1:1; Titus 1:4).

In other words, we need someone to introduce us to others. When they do so they affirm us, they confirm us, they sanction us, and they acknowledge their approval of us indicating they value our relationship with them. They validate us by letting others know we are all right with the world!

The Significance of the Number Forty
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. (Mark 1:12-13)

God considers the number forty a very significant time period. Whenever God wanted to prepare someone for something, it usually took forty days or forty years. The number forty is the number of probation, testing, and trial.  The following is a list of biblical people who were transformed by a forty day or forty year period.
  1. Noah's life was transformed by 40 days and 40 nights of rain during the Great Flood.
  2. Moses was transformed by 40 years in Egypt as a prince, 40 years in Midian as a shepherd, 40 days on Mount Sinai with God, another 40 days on Mount Sinai with God and 40 years in the wilderness. He died at age 120 with his life being divided into three equal 40 year periods.
  3. The spies were transformed by 40 days in the Promised Land.
  4. David was transformed by Goliath's 40-day challenge.
  5. As the first king, Saul spent 40 years proving himself unworthy of being king.
  6. Elijah was transformed when God gave him 40 days of strength from a single meal.
  7. The entire city of Nineveh was transformed when God gave the people 40 days to change.
  8.  Jesus was empowered by 40 days in the wilderness.
  9. The disciples were transformed by 40 days with Jesus after his resurrection.
  10. Forty years after the crucifixion came the destruction of Jerusalem.
  11. Forty centuries from Adam, Jesus came in the fullness of time.
Let's use these forty days of Lent to do a self-evaluation. Then let's do what God has called us to do whether it takes forty days or forty years.

Good News; Bad News
"The time has come," he said. "The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!" (Mark 1:15)

I don't like for people to tell me they have good news for me and they have bad news for me. Then they ask , "Which do you want to hear first; the good news or the bad news?" What they think is good news for me might be what I call bad news, and what they think is bad news for me might just be good news. I want to be the one to make the decision about categorizing the news I receive. So just tell me what you have to tell me.
People thought it was bad news when Jesus died on the cross because they had forgotten what the Old Testament prophets had prophesied. They also had forgotten the lessons Jesus taught about His death, burial and resurrection. Fortunately, it was only three days later that people realized their "bad news" was really "good news" after all. That same Jesus who was crucified on Friday was dead and buried, but on the third day God raised Him from the dead.
I have good news for you and I have bad news for you. Which do you want to hear first?
The good news is that Jesus died to save us from our sins. Being saved guarantees us a place of bliss in heaven. The bad news is that if we do not accept Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord, we will spend eternity in hell. And that is bad news!

By the Sea of Galilee
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me.” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:16-18)

Not only did Simon and his brother Andrew follow Jesus as he walked beside the Sea of Galilee, but James and John, sons of Zebedee also followed Jesus that day leaving their father in the boat with the hired men.

Four fishermen followed Jesus without delay, without questions and without negotiation. Jesus simply said, “Come, follow me.” Without hesitation, they dropped what they were doing and followed Him.

Would you give up your lucrative business to follow Jesus? Would it be that easy for you to heed the command: “Come, follow me?”

Follow The Leader

Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men. (Mark 1:17)

Jesus was the greatest leader of all time. From this short scripture, we see several interesting things that Jesus did that illustrate his leadership skills. First, his command was simple, short and to the point...just three short words..."Come, follow me."  It was not an either-or proposition. It was not "Come, if you like" or "Come when you get ready." The command was simple and direct. There was nothing to analyze; nothing to exegete; nothing to transform into formulas or patterns.

Another interesting thing is that Jesus made a promise that the disciples could understand. They knew about fishing. They made their living that way. Jesus simply promised them the same thing they were doing but on a different level. To avoid confusion and turmoil, effective leaders do not give far-fetched instructions. They give instructions based on something related to what the person is already familiar.

Notice Jesus invited the disciples to follow Him; not someone else. Jesus was involved. "Come, follow ME." And I (not someone else) will make you fishers of men."  Good leaders work alongside those whom they instruct. Surely, the responsibilities are different, but those who follow do so more willingly when they know they are not out there all alone.

As leaders make your commands or instructions short, simple, to the point and crystal clear. Promise a result of your instruction. Give instructions based on familiarity. Be visible after giving instructions. Be available. Don't give instructions and run away.

If you are a leader, look behind you. If no one is following, take lessons from Jesus, the greatest leader of all time.

Doing Things Immediately
And immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Mark 1:18) Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men, and followed him. (Mark 1:20)

Mark is the first of the gospels to be written. It is the shortest gospel because Mark gets right to the point and speaks to his audience with a sense of urgency. Mark is that "quick, fast and in a hurry gospel." Mark uses such words as "immediately," "quickly," "straightway," and "suddenly." In fact, Mark is in such a hurry to get his message across about Jesus' ministry that he does not go back to the genealogy of Jesus. He starts with the baptism of Jesus when Jesus was 30 years old.

"Mark" means "hammer" and he lives up to that name by hammering the information home to us quickly. He has us traveling along with him in boats, touring Galilee, by the seaside, in a storm, on a mountain, in the graveyard with the demoniac, and in a deserted place feeding the multitudes all in a short period of time.

You cannot help sensing the rapid pace in the Gospel of Mark. Our life application is that when it comes to doing work for the Kingdom of God, we too, should have an urgency about it. We should serve God and labor in the vineyard immediately.

Let's not delay. Let's do things immediately!

A New Spiritual Landscape
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

Have you ever felt that you needed a change? There are many things you can do to cause a chain reaction of changes in your life. You could redecorate your house, change the furniture in your bedroom, or move your desk to the opposite wall in your office. You could put pictures on the wall, flowers on the table, or a new rug on the floor. The change doesn't have to be anything monumental. It could be something as simple as a change of scenery. Jesus did it all the time. He knew when to seek a new spiritual landscape to get a different perspective. If this method was good enough for Jesus, it should be good enough for us as well.

So what did Jesus do? Time and time again, Jesus removed Himself from the scene of action. For brief periods of time He stopped teaching, preaching, and healing. He ceased from arguing with the Pharisees who often tried to trip Him up. He left those behind who wanted something from Him. He left people behind temporarily so that He could be more effective to them when He returned.

Jesus knew that is was not spiritual self-care to do what He did day in and day out without a break. Jesus knew the value of retreating to a solitary place to be alone with His Father. As busy as we have become, we would be wise to withdraw for a while from the demands of our hectic lives so that we can be good to ourselves as well as to those we serve.

A new spiritual landscape might be all we need in order to get a better handle on the problems that plague us. A new spiritual landscape will give us that burst of energy we need to move forward.

A Call to Retreat
Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. (Mark 1:35)

A retreat is a withdrawal from ordinary activities for a period of time to commune with God in prayer and reflection. Jesus spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting before entering His public ministry. The desert, mountains and other remote areas provide places for prayer.

Nothing Happens Until Something Moves
And as he walked by the sea of Galilee (Mark 1:16). Then they went into Capernaum and immediately on the Sabbath He entered the synagogue (Mark 1:21). Now as soon as they had come out of he synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John (Mark 1:29). And again he entered Capernaum after some days (Mark 2:1).

Albert Einstein said, "Nothing happens until something moves." Was he right?  Is anything moving in your home, school, office, church or community? If nothing is moving, then nothing is happening and life is probably pretty boring!

If you want something to happen, MOVE! Move in the direction of upward and onward. There is movement in the Bible; lots of movement. Abraham, a friend of God, was told to move. (Genesis 12:1-3) The Israelites moved all the way from Egypt to the Promised Land. It took them 40 years to get there, but they finally arrived just as God had promised. (Exodus -Joshua)

In the Gospels, Jesus almost never stood still unless He was teaching. As soon as the teaching was over, He moved to another place. The Gospel of Mark, that fast paced gospel, shows how often Jesus moved. As you read the Gospel of Mark, you need to catch your breath to keep up with the movement of Jesus. He was in the boat, in the synagogue, in someone's house, on the mountain, by the sea, on the road, in different villages, in the upper room, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally, He moved to Calvary carrying His own cross. Jesus moved. And so should we!

Movement is not always physical movement. A sure indication of our spirituality is to see some signs of movement from where we were last year to where we are today. Nothing happens until something moves.

Let something happen in your life....MOVE!

Four Friends
Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:3-5)

Do you have at least four friends? Do you have at least four friends you can trust? Do you have at least four friends who would do for you what the four friends did for the paralyzed man in the above scripture?

When these four men discovered there was standing room only in the house where Jesus was teaching, they came up with a plan to get their paralyzed friend in to see Jesus. Notice, they didn't argue about what to do. They did not want to miss the opportunity to let their friend see Jesus, so they devised a plan...one that was uncommon. These four men put aside worries about what people would say. They went up to the roof and dug a hole and lowered their friend in to see Jesus.  Notice also that this was a team effort. Dispute on the part of any one of them would not have had produced the same results.

Do you have four friends who would take such a chance for you? Do you have four friends you can trust with your safety and healing? Do you have four friends who can think creatively enough to get the job done? Do you have four friends who care enough about your salvation that they would do what is necessary for you to see Jesus? How about three? Two? One?

How To Be A Kingdom Entrepreneur
When Jesus SAW their faith, he said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." (Mark 2:5)

I attended the WAVE Church in Virginia Beach yesterday. The guest preacher explained in detail how our faith must be increased if we are to fulfill our God-given destiny. As in the above scripture, real faith is visible.

The preacher explained that just as we need venture capital to run a business, we need faith to fulfill our destiny. Faith is venture capital. Faith is currency. We should never live beneath our destiny for lack of money or resources. We need not be rich in money, but we need to be rich in faith. Circumstances might bring disappointments and discouragement, but faith is not afraid of disappointments and discouragement. Faith is basing your life on the promises of God.

While there were many other major points in the sermon, the following statements captured my attention:
1.  Faith is venture capital.
2.  Faith is currency.
3.  For a breakthrough, we must apply faith's force. (Having faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, we can apply force by speaking to the mountain.)
4.  We can resource our future by applying faith in our present.
5.  Faith is like a dance. God has already taken the first step. He wants us to dance with Him. Instead, we are like the little flower girl at a wedding. We step on God's toes and expects Him to do all the dancing.
6.  Applying faith against any barrier will put you in a position for a breakthrough.
7.  MY FAVORITE: Faith is saying it is so when it is not so, so it can be so.

Faith is the resource for any project, plan, or dream you have. Faith is what you bring with you to any venture you expect to undertake. Just as the four men applied their faith to help the paralyzed man, we need to apply faith to our paralyzed dreams.

Critics Among Us
Why does this fellow talk like that? (Mark 2:7a) Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners? (Mark 2:18b) How is it that John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not? (Mark 2:18) Why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath? (Mark 2:24)

There will ALWAYS be critics among us. To do something is to be criticized by someone. To do nothing is to be criticized by someone.

We are not the only ones who have been or will be criticized. In Mark 2, Jesus' enemies criticized Him on four different occasions. He was criticized twice for doing something and twice for not doing something.

The first two criticisms involved Jesus and a man on a bed (Mark 2:1-12) and Jesus and a man in a booth (Mark 2:13-17). The Pharisees thought it was blasphemy for Jesus to forgive sin after He had healed the paralytic. The Pharisees also thought it was outrageous for Jesus to associate with Levi, a tax collector. In each case, the Pharisees criticized Jesus for doing what they thought He should not have done.

The last two criticisms involved what the Pharisees thought Jesus should have done. They said Jesus didn't fast when His disciples did (Mark 2:18-22). They rebuked Jesus for not observing the Sabbath when He allowed His disciples to eat grain from the fields on the Sabbath (Mark 2:23-28).

Don't think you will ever be exempt from criticisms. Jesus wasn't!

Your Withered Hand
And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. Then He said to the man who had the withered hand, "Step forward."  Then He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. (Mark  3:1, 3, 5)

In the above scripture, the man with the withered hand could have been anyone.  He could be representative of you.  Your hand represents your actions; that which you do. If your actions are not what God has commanded, then you too have a withered hand. You cannot "grasp" what God can do for you.  You cannot "grip" the solid rock in the person of Jesus.  You cannot "handle" what the Holy Spirit wants to do in your life. You cannot "point" others to Christ because of your withered hand.

First, Jesus told the man to "Step forward." You must admit your broken, wounded and withered actions by stepping forward.  If you want deliverance, healing, and restoration, you must be willing to admit that you are in need.  Notice, it was only after the man had stepped forward that Jesus gave him a second command, "Stretch out your hand." We must do what God tells us to do in order for Him to give us further instructions. That which needs healing must be stretched out and laid bare before the One who can heal it.  As soon as the man stretched out his withered hand, it was restored as whole as the other one. This means the man was not completely withered.  He was merely withered in one area; in one hand.  He was doing only half of what he should have been doing. Keep in mind that you can be all right in some areas, but there might be some parts about you that are stilled withered.  Whether it is a hand, a foot, a head, or an arm, "Step forward" and "Stretch out whatever is withered."

Stretch Forth Your Withered Hand
And He entered the synagogue again, and a man was there who had a withered hand. He said to the man, "Stretch forth your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.  (Mark 3:1; 5)

The infirmity of the man in the above scripture was a withered hand.  The woman who touched the hem of Jesus' robe had an issue of blood (Luke 8:44).  Throughout the New Testament we read about people who were sick and diseased and Jesus healed them.  We, too, have a disorder of some kind.  It may not be a withered hand, but it is SOMETHING that needs healing. It might not even be physical.  It could be your attitude, personality, relationship, self-esteem or character.

An important lesson to learn from the man with the withered hand is that he participated in his healing.  He was obedient to do what Jesus requested.  Instead of keeping his hand in his pocket, he stretched it forth.  He did not try to hide his condition.  He did not clench his fist, but he stretched it forth, exposing it in order for it to be healed.  Those sins and imperfections in our lives that we hide have no chance of healing.  We need to acknowledge our malady and give it to Jesus.  That is the only way healing, deliverance, and restoration can take place.

That which you try to hide from Jesus will forever be damaged, bruised, and withered.  That which you lay before Him and stretch forth will certainly be restored to wholeness.

Being Appointed
He appointed twelve — designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. (Mark 3:13)

Why did Jesus choose twelve men?  The number 12 corresponds to the twelve tribes of Israel, showing the continuity between the old religious system and the new one based on the message of Jesus. Many people followed Jesus, but the Twelve received the most intense training.  He did not choose these twelve to be His associates and companions because of their faith. Their faith often faltered. He didn't choose them because of their talent and ability.  No one stood out with unusual ability. The disciples represented a wide range of backgrounds and life experiences, but apparently they had no more leadership potential than those who were not chosen. The one characteristics they all shared was their willingness to obey Jesus. After Jesus' ascension, they were filled with the Holy Spirit and empowered to carry out special roles in the growth of the early church.  We should not disqualify ourselves from service to Christ because we do not have the expected credentials.  Being a good disciple is simply a matter of following Jesus with a willing heart.

Are you willing to be appointed by Jesus to help carry out His message here on earth?

Who Is My Family?
Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother. (Mark 3:35)

While Jesus was preaching and teaching, His mother and brothers arrived and stood outside because there was no space for them in the crowded room. Someone told Jesus, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."  Who are my mother and my brothers?" He asked. Then He looked at those seated in the circle around Him who had been listening to His teaching and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." (Mark 3:31-35)

Was Jesus rude to His family? Absolutely not!  He simply used that teachable moment to make a point. Jesus was emphasizing that while family heritage is indeed important, what is more important is following God. Jesus was not denying His love for His natural relatives, but He used their presence to contrast earthly honor and loyalty with a more important spiritual and eternal relationship.

It is important to notice that while Jesus' FAMILY was STANDING OUTSIDE wanting to speak to HIM, His FOLLOWERS were SITTING in a circle at His feet enjoying what Jesus was speaking to THEM. Notice also that while Jesus' sisters were not there, He did include them. In other words, Jesus is an all inclusive Savior. He wants to leave no one out.

Let us go and do likewise. Let us acknowledge those who do the will of God as our brothers, as our sisters, and as our mother.

The Seeds We've Sown
Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. (Mark 4:27)

A seed is a small investment with large potential value. We sow seeds all the time without giving a second thought to what we have sown or to how they will sprout and grow. We sow seeds by what we think, by what we say, and by what we do. Since that is the case, why then don't we sow only good seeds?

Since a seed is so small, we tend to believe that our evil thoughts won't make a difference. We believe we can gossip just a little bit and it will not matter. We believe that one small act of unkindness toward our fellow man would be harmless. NEWS FLASH: Everything is a seed. Every seed will grow to some proportion. And if you keep planting the same type of seed, it will grow into a harvest bearing fruit of its kind.

If you are reaping a harvest of curses, it is because you have sown seeds some time ago that are bringing about those curses upon your life. If you are reaping a harvest of blessings, it is because somewhere in your past you have sown seeds that are resulting in a harvest of blessings. It is true that "you reap what you sow."

Make sure EVERYTHING you THINK, EVERYTHING you SAY, and EVERYTHING you DO will result in the harvest that you desire.

In the Same Boat
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mark 4:35-41)

The expression, "We are all in the same boat" means we all share the same experience perhaps at the very same time.  Jesus and His disciples were out on the sea of Galilee when a raging storm caused the winds to blow and the waters to beat against the sides of the boat.  The boat became full of water.  The disciples became frightened and awakened the sleeping Jesus who first removed the danger by rebuking the storm.  Then he rebuked the disciple for their degree of faith.  "Why are you SO fearful?" He asked.  Remember they were all "in the same boat" — Jesus along with the disciples.  Also, it was Jesus who made the request to go over to the other side.  Jesus never makes a request that cannot be fulfilled.

Remember, we are all "in the same boat" when it comes to serving God.  With Jesus in the boat with us, we know that since He didn't sink, then neither will we!

What to Do When You Are Desperate
She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said, "If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well." (Mark 5:27)

There was a woman with an issue of blood for twelve years who had endured much under many physicians and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. The Jewish law prevented her from coming in contact with anyone. Therefore, in addition to her physical and financial condition, she was isolated from her family and friends. This woman was desperate.

This no named woman gives us the solution for what to do when we are desperate. According to the above scripture, she did three things:
  1. She HEARD about Jesus. She knew who He was. That's why she was confident in the risk she took leaving her house to touch him.
  2. She made a POINT OF CONTACT with Jesus.  She came up behind him in the crowd and touched the hem of His garment. She believed that by touching the hem she would not harm Him with her uncleanness; but the power in just the hem was enough to heal her.
  3. She had FAITH. She believed that by touching Jesus she would be healed. Immediately, her bleeding stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease (v. 29).
At first glance you might think she was healed immediately. She wasn't. She believed she was healed when the bleeding stopped. She wasn't healed until the end of the conversation with Jesus. He pronounced healing on her when He said, "Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and BE HEALED of your disease" (v. 34).

What do you do when you are desperate? Follow the example of the woman with the issue of blood. Hear about Jesus. Make your point of contact. Have faith.

Hope and Promise
But Jesus ignored their comments and said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid.  Just trust me." (Mark 5:36)

Hope comes from trusting Jesus.  The death of Jairus' 12-year old daughter made him feel confused, afraid, and without hope.  Jesus' words to Jairus in the midst of his sadness speak to us as well: "Don't be afraid; just trust me." In Jesus' mind, there was both hope and promise.

The next time you feel hopeless and afraid, look at your problem from Jesus' point of view.  He is the source of your hope and promise.

Willing But Unable
Jesus said to them, "Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor." He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them."  (Mark 6:4-5)

Jesus was without honor in his own hometown which prevented Him from performing many miracles. However, in other places he did get a certain amount of respect and honor, and He did perform many miracles. You would think people in Jesus' own hometown would have had more love, honor and respect for Him. Since Jesus was without honor in his own hometown, His miracles were quite limited. Jesus was willing but unable to perform miracles because of the lack of honor and lack of faith among his own kinfolks.

The above scripture clearly states Jesus COULD NOT work many miracles. It was not that He was unwilling, but He was unable to do so. Could it be that God withheld His power because the people treated Jesus with doubt and disrespect?

Are you limiting the people of God in your midst because of your doubt, disbelief and disrespect. Honor those church leaders around you and see how much more they become both willing and able to minister more freely.

Use What You Have
He asked them, "How many loaves do you have?" They said, "Seven." They had also a few small fish. (Mark 8:5, 7)

When we don't have what we need, usually we go out and buy it. When we don't have what we need, sometimes we borrow it from someone else. Throughout the Bible we see people using what they had.  Moses used his rod on many occasions during his mission because that's what he had. David didn't use Saul's armor. Instead he used his slingshot because that's what he had.

Jesus gives us examples of using what is available.  In His very first miracle, He didn't send the disciples to buy wine. He made it by using the ordinary resources He had. The six water jars were already there. The water was already there (John 2:6). So Jesus made good use of what was available; thus performing His first miracle.

In the above scripture, Jesus needed to feed the four thousand. Having only seven loaves of bread and some small fish, He used them. He gave God something to work with. This is a principle we should start applying. It is good stewardship to use what is available instead of begging for, borrowing or buying new items. Let's use what we have and watch God perform miracles in our own lives.

Order: A Life Principle
He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. (Mark 8:6a)

God is a God of order. In the beginning when God created the world, God made order out of chaos (Genesis 1:1-2). In the feeding of the four thousand, Jesus taught the disciples a valuable life principle.  Order must be instituted first before any miracle would take place.  Perhaps a lack of order is blocking your progress.

The leadership principles for life as outlined in Mark 8:6 . . .
  1. HE told the crowd.  Jesus demonstrated personal leadership for a life situation.
  2. He TOLD the crowd. Jesus gave clear instruction.
  3. He told THE CROWD. Jesus demonstrated mass communication.
  4. He told the crowd TO SIT DOWN ON THE GROUND. Jesus brought order out of chaos. It could have been a stampede when the food was handed out. Some might have received more than others. Some might have received none.  Instead of a beautiful miracle, we would read about a food riot.
We should establish order in everything we do. From the smallest task to the largest task, God expects us to follow the life principles that He demonstrated and Jesus followed.

What is the word for your situation today...Order or Chaos?

Sympathy or Compassion
And Jesus when he came out, saw many people, and was moved with compassion toward them because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)

Do you know the difference between sympathy and compassion? Sympathy is a feeling or expression of pity or sorrow between persons in which whatever affects one correspondingly affects the other. It is a mutual understanding concerning the distress of another.  Sympathy is a feeling ONLY. Compassion goes beyond merely having a feeling or expressing pity. Compassion is sharing the suffering.  It is more than words and lip service. A compassionate person not only recognizes the needs of others, but also acts upon that need.  If a person is hungry, a sympathetic person would say, "I'm sorry for your plight." Being sorry doesn't fill anybody's stomach. If a person is hungry, a compassionate person would buy him groceries.

Are you just sympathetic or compassionate? Be like Jesus; be moved with compassion to help those in need.

The Cure for Confusion
Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that. (Mark 7:13)

God is not the author of confusion (1 Corinthians 14:33). Where confusion is, God is not. In the above scripture, Jesus let the Pharisees know that they had added hundreds of petty rules and regulations to God's holy laws. Then they tried to force people to follow those rules. Chaos was bound to abound. These men claimed to know God's will in every detail of life. Don't you know people like that? Don't you know people who cause confusion among believers because of their rules and regulations as opposed to God's commandments?

The cure for confusion is to search the scriptures and know God's word for yourself. Look to God for guidance about your own behavior instead of following the advice of Pharisees among us today.

Recognize, Release, Record, Remember
Jesus asked them, "Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears, but fail to hear? And don't you remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?" (Mark 8:17-19)

Sometimes we confess with our mouths what we don't have.  We are slow to recognize and remember what God has done for us in the past.  We should have faith that He will do it again.

We should RECOGNIZE that whatever we need, God's got it!  And what we have with God is more than enough!

RELEASE what you have.  Let go by sowing a seed from what you have.  Whatever you need, sow from it into the lives of others and watch what you give be multiplied back to you.  The five loaves were released and multiplied to feed five thousand with twelve basketfuls left our.

RECORD it.  Keep a record of what you do with your money and your time. How many baskets were left over? There were twelve baskets of fragments left over; baskets so big and so full the disciples could barely carry them.  Keep accurate records of everything . . . even your prayer requests.

REMEMBER who gave it to you.  Remember it is God who gives you the ability to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18).  When you are ready to say you don't have, take inventory of your life and then count your many blessings and see what God has already done.

Thermometer of the Soul (or Spiritual Perception)
Do you have eyes, and fail to see? Do you have ears, and fail to hear? And do you not remember? (Mark 8:18)

When you need gas in your car, the gas gauge will probably be on E for empty. In modern cars, a little light in the shape of a gas pump shows up and stays on until you put gas in your tank. A student receives a report card letting him and his parents know how he is doing in school; whether he is making A's or F's.  An employee gets periodic evaluations and sometimes a merit increase for doing well on her job. All of these are indicators of what is happening in the natural. What about the spiritual? Is there some type of thermometer of the soul to let you know that you are on the right path and in right relationship with God and His Son, Jesus Christ?

The thermometer of the soul indicates if you can read God's word and obey it. The thermometer of the soul indicates if you can hear God's word and obey it. The thermometer of the soul indicates if you can remember God's word and live by it.
What does your thermometer of the soul indicate about you?

Help My Unbelief!
"Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24)

It seems contradictory to say you believe; yet you ask God to help your unbelief. It is so easy to say we believe when things are going great. However, as soon as a crisis comes or tragedy strikes, we panic and doubt our belief.
The text surrounding the above scripture involves a man who brought his son with an evil spirit to Jesus. The boy's father said, "I do believe; help my unbelief." What did the father mean?

The father was honest. He did not profess to have more faith than he had. Too much was at stake here. His son had been this way since childhood. In comparison to what Jesus could do, the father confessed his faith was so small that it could be labeled "unbelief."  Therefore, he appealed to Jesus for help against his unbelief.  Jesus did heal the son of his evil spirit and helped the father with his unbelief.
It takes faith to admit we need help with our unbelief. When we go through our personal crisis, we need to go to Jesus and admit that our faith is not strong enough to carry us through. We need to be humble and admit that our faith is not as high on the Richter scale as it should be. We need to say like that father, "Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!"

Fasting: An Act of Humility
And he said unto them, 'This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." (Mark 9:29)

Fasting is going without food in order to spend time in prayer.  Fasting is an act of humbling ourselves before God.  It also teaches us self-discipline, reminds us that we can live with a lot less, and helps us hear from God. By separating ourselves from the daily routine of food, our hunger pangs reinforce our feelings of penitence and remind us of our weakness and our dependence on God.  Fasting and praying can help us to seek God's will in special situations.  Are you experiencing a crisis, or need clarity in any area of your life?  Try fasting as well as praying!

Are You Worth Your Salt?
Salt is good: but if the salt has lost its saltiness, wherewith will you season it? (Mark 9:50)

The mineral known as sodium chloride (NaCl) is really salt. It is a white crystalline substance used mainly for seasoning and as a preservative (Job 6:6).  Salt is not only one of the most important substances mentioned in the Bible, but it is a necessity of life. Salt makes up 0.9 per cent of our body cells. The Hebrew people were well aware of its importance because it had a significant place in their worship.  Part of the temple offering included salt.  Salt was used to ratify covenants (Numbers 18:19). Newborn babies were rubbed with salt in the belief that this promoted good health (Ezekiel 16:4).  Salt was a symbol of purity. Over 30 times, the Bible mentions the uses of salt.

During the times of war, the enemies' land were sown with salt to render them barren (Judges 9:45).  In Roman times, salt was an important item of trade and was even used for money.  Salt was once so scarce and precious that Roman soldiers received part of their salary in salt. That part of their pay was known as "salarium," and it is from that word "salary" comes.  Therefore, we have the modern expression, "Not worth his/her salt."  It literally means that a person is not worth what he or she is paid. 

Jesus described His disciples as the salt of the earth, urging them to imitate the usefulness of salt (Matthew 5:13). We, too, must be useful in the Kingdom of God.  We, too, must be diligent about living for God and doing all we can to please Him.  We might receive a paycheck for the work we do in the natural, but unless we are working for God's kingdom we are not worth our salt in the spiritual.

"I'm Good" and "It's All Good!"
"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good --- except God alone." (Mark 10:18 and Luke 18:19)

Parents are beginning to complain because the expression, "I'm good!" has recently become a standard answer to almost every question they ask their teenagers. Question: "How was your day?" Answer: "I'm good!" Question: "How was your history test?" Answer: "I'm good!" Question: Are you ready for dinner?" Answer: "I'm good!" Every question should not be answered with: "I'm good! To vary their answers only slightly, they also say, "It's all good!"

"I'm good" is nondescriptive. It doesn't tell anybody anything. It is a vague answer that should be replaced with an answer that has substance.

What did Jesus say about the "I'm good!" answer? Jesus didn't allow people to call him "good." Why not? Jesus answered. "No one is good --- except God alone."

Let's encourage the teenagers in our midst that "No one is good --- except God alone." There are many other descriptions in our language that will convey how we are, how we feel,  and how we are doing without the catch-all expressions: "I'm good!" or "It's all good!"

Making Major Decisions
Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, " . . . come, take up the cross, and follow me." (Mark 10:21)

This is the time of year when people are thinking about making decisions about their lives, their jobs, their relationships, and a multitude of other concerns. Now that we are just three days from a new millennium, all kinds of decisions are being made.  Some of them are realistic; however, some of them might be far-fetched.  There is one decision that is realistic and the best decision you could ever make.  There is one decision that is above every other decision.  That decision is to follow Jesus no matter what. 
Say like the songwriter when he wrote:  "I have decided to follow Jesus. No turning back. Though no one joins me, still I will follow. The world behind me, the cross before me. No turning back."

Don't wait until next year to decide to follow Jesus. Make the decision right now to follow Jesus.  Know where you would spend eternity if your soul was required of you in the next few minutes! Follow Jesus and have no doubt about your salvation!

The Eye of a Needle
It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. (Mark 10:25)

The above scripture does NOT say those who are rich CANNOT enter into the kingdom of God.  This is a proverbial expression, denoting a difficulty for man alone, but not an impossibility with God's help. Jesus spoke the above words to let those Jewish listeners know that even though it was humanly impossible, it still could be divinely possible.  What then are we to conclude from this comparison Jesus made?

Those who heard Jesus knew He was not talking about a sewing needle.  They knew about the gate or door to Jerusalem commonly known as the needle's eye because of its shape. Because the door was so low and the camel was so tall, it was extremely difficult for the camel to go through that gate with its back loaded with the owner's material possessions. The camel is a large animal that had to be unloaded and made to kneel.  So a rich man cannot get to heaven by his own efforts.  He cannot enter unless he is willing to part with his worldly wealth and be willing to stoop with humility in order to go through the strait gate.

Jesus' point was that some things on earth can prevent us from entering into the kingdom of God.  His impossible example was to illustrate the danger of letting one's wealth become his god. It is spiritually dangerous to focus on riches instead of on God. A camel who is not strapped down with its owner's worldly possession can be made to kneel and then easily enter into the eye of a needle. So it is with us.  When we are not loaded down with material possessions, it is easier for us to kneel and enter into the kingdom of God.

What Do You Want God To Do For You?
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. (Mark 10:51)

As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. Jesus stopped and told the disciples to call the blind man.  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  Then Jesus asked him the question He asks all of us: "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus was very specific.  He answered quickly and precisely.  He simply said, "I want my sight."  How specific can you be? Do you know what you want?  Can you articulate exactly what you want? Or do you pray those general "Bless me, Bless me" prayers?  God wants us to ask for the exact thing we want as long as it lines up with God's word.

What do you want God to do for you?  It is only after you answer this question that you can go on to believe that God "will give you the desires of your heart" (Psalm 37:4)

What Do You Want?
"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus asked him. (Mark 10:51)

As Jesus and His disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more. Jesus stopped and told the disciples to call the blind man.  Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.  Then Jesus asked him the question He asks all of us: "What do you want me to do for you?" (Mark 10:46-52)

Bartimaeus was very specific.  He answered quickly and precisely.  He simply said, "I want my sight."  How specific can you be? Do you know what you want?  Can you articulate exactly what you want? Or do you pray those general "Bless me, Bless me" prayers?  God wants us to ask for the exact thing we want as long as it lines up with God's word.

What do you want? What do you want God to do for you?  It is only after you answer this question that you can go on to believe that God "will give me the desires of my heart" (Psalm 37:4).

Take the Journey With Jesus
And many spread their garments on the road, and others cut down leafy branches from the trees and spread them on the road. Then those who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" (Mark 11:8-9)

This coming Sunday is Palm Sunday.  This is the day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a colt and people rejoiced and honored Him by saying, "Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!" These are the same people who one week later cried out, "Crucify Him!"  (Mark 15:13)

Palm Sunday is the last Sunday before Easter and the beginning of Holy Week. It is called Palm Sunday because as Jesus made His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, branches of palm were waved before him and spread on the road.  The palm tree has always been a tree of honor. Palm Sunday is the day we REMEMBER and CELEBRATE the joyful entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as He rode on a colt. Palm Sunday is also called Passion Sunday by some Christians because it was the day on which Jesus’ suffering and death began.

If we want to establish a closer walk with Jesus, let's journey with Him through Holy Week.  Let's reflect on His suffering as our own.  Let's go with Christ up Calvary's hill bearing our own crosses. Then let's allow our flesh to die and be crucified with Him so that our mortality might be joined to His, and on to the dawn of Resurrection Sunday where we, too, will be resurrected into a brand new life. We will then be able to say, "I am crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Let's journey with Jesus!

Why Jesus Cursed the Fig Tree
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaves, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. (Mark 11:12-14)

That Monday after Palm Sunday, Jesus and His disciples left Bethany. Jesus saw a fig tree bearing leaves from afar, and since he was hungry he went to see if it had any fruit. But the fig tree was perpetrating a fraud.  It was full of leaves, but there was no fruit.  Jesus cursed the tree by saying, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again." (Mark 11:14)

The problem was that the fig tree had leaves but no fruit.  Though it was not the season for figs, it was not the season for leaves either. Since the tree had produced leaves, one could expect that it had also produced figs. This is like a person who looks like a Christian on the outside but is empty on the inside. This is like a person who talks the talk but does not walk the walk.  This is like the person who sings praises in church and moments later with the same mouth uses profanity in the parking lot when someone has parked too close to his/her car.  This is like the person who shouts, speaks in tongues and is slain in the spirit on Sunday but tells dirty jokes around the water cooler at work.  This person is perpetrating a fraud just as the fig tree.

If you are bearing leaves (pretending to be holy), where's your fruit (spiritual growth)? Just as the fig tree was cursed for its pretense and unfruitfulness; if you are perpetrating a fraud, you too will be judged for your spiritual unfruitfulness.

So, how are we to recognize those who are not pretending? Jesus said in His Sermon on the Mount, "We will know them by their fruit."   (Matthew 7:20)

Where's your fruit?

Perpetrating A Fraud
The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaves, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. (Mark 11:12-14)

That Monday after Palm Sunday, Jesus and His disciples left Bethany. Jesus saw a fig tree bearing leaves from afar, and since he was hungry he went to see if it had any fruit. But the fig tree was perpetrating a fraud.  It was full of leaves, but there was no fruit.  Jesus cursed the tree by saying, "May no one ever eat fruit from you again" (Mark 11:14).

The problem was that the fig tree had leaves, but no fruit.  Though it was not the season for figs, it was not the season for leaves either. Since the tree had produced leaves, one could expect that it had also produced figs. This is like a person who promises to do good but does not. This is like a person who talks the talk but does not walk the walk.  This is like the person who sings praises in church and moments later with the same mouth uses profanity in the parking lot when someone has parked too close to his/her car.  This is like the person who shouts, speaks in tongues and is slain in the spirit on Sunday, but during the week does what is not pleasing in the sight of God.  This person is perpetrating a fraud just as the fig tree.

If you are bearing leaves (pretending to be holy), where's your fruit (spiritual growth)? Just as the fig tree was cursed for its pretense and unfruitfulness; if you are perpetrating a fraud, you too will be judged for your spiritual unfruitfulness.

Name It and Claim It
Whosoever shall say unto this mountain, "Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things whih he said shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he said."  (Mark 11:23)

The above scripture has been used to mislead people into believing that Christianity is a "Name It and Claim It" formula.  While this scripture is biblically correct, it must be taken in context of the entire Bible.  There are other spiritual principles that must be followed before anyone can "name it and claim it." 

First and most importantly, one must have an intimate, personal relationship with God that comes through the saving power of Jesus. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father except by me" (John 14:6).

It's Conditional
I tell you the truth, IF anyone says to this mountain, "Go, throw yourself into the sea," and does not doubt in his heart but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him." (Mark 11:23)

No scripture of the Bible should be taken out of context. However, the above verse is so misunderstood. People read it and think, "Yes, I can just speak the word and believe, and it will happen."  WRONG! It takes more than merely speaking the word. In order to understand the fullness of the above scripture, you must know the whole story surrounding that scripture. Why did Jesus say it? What other scriptures are paralleled to it?  That scripture should not be isolated from the rest of the Bible.

When this scripture is quoted, it should be kept in mind that it is not a quick fix. It is not meant for people who engage in a lifestyle of disobedience who think they can just "speak the word." God requires more than just speaking the word. He requires acting upon His word. The Bible is full of "if . . . then" statements. We have a covenant with God through the blood of Jesus. "IF you confess with your mouth and believe in your heart that Jesus died and God raised him from the dead, [THEN] you shall be saved" (Romans 10:9).

Yes, it is no doubt God will give us what we ask for, but it is based on our love and devotion to Him. Yes, God will take care of our every need, but it is based on our being obedient to what He has commanded. God will answer our prayers but not based merely on what we say. It has to be more than quoting positive affirmations. (1) First, we must be a believer; (2) we must be in right relationship with God; and (3) we must ask for what lines up with God's word.

IF we want God to act on our behalf; THEN, we must do what He says! It's as simple as that!

What You SAY is What You Get
" . . . whosoever . . . shall believe that those things which he says shall come to pass . . . shall have whatsoever he says." (Mark 11:23)

Most of us are familiar with the expression used by Flip Wilson years ago: "What you SEE is what you get." There is not a typographically error in today's title: "What you SAY is what you get." Words have power and everything we have in life is a result of a thought or spoken word. Having what we say is a Bible promise. That means the promise is a two-edged sword: it could work FOR you, or it could work AGAINST you, depending on whether you speak positive or negative words.

Your inner being doesn't separate what you say into two neat piles . . . one for what you mean and one for what you are just kidding about. It does not differentiate between the negative and positive expressions. Every spoken word goes to the same place and is manifested based on what you say and the frequency of your saying it. What you SAY is what you will get, whether positive or negative, whether good or bad, whether helpful or harmful.

Since what you SAY is what you will get, don't ever say (call forth) anything you wouldn't want to get (receive, own, possess). Change your statements to speak positive things, and before long whatever you get will be true, honest, just, pure, lovely and of a good report (Philippians 4:8). Remember, you will get what you SAY and not merely what you SEE.

Questions Answered
And they said to Him, "By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority to do these things?" (Mark 11:28)

When you know you are going away on a trip, you get certain things in order.  You make sure your mail and newspapers are not delivered during your absence.  If you are taking a business trip, you make sure your responsibilities and duties are covered by someone else. You don't just leave without giving somebody instructions on how to carry on in your absence.   As we continue the journey with Jesus this Holy Week, let's follow Him as He walks through Jerusalem answering questions before He makes His departure from earth to heaven.

Throughout the 12th and 13th chapters of Mark, Jesus answers questions asked by the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders about His authority.  Jesus tells parables to His disciples about working in the vineyards and about paying taxes. He gives them answers to questions about His resurrection, the greatest commandment and His second coming.

Jesus prepared those He was leaving behind to continue the work that He Himself had finished. After answering all the questions, Jesus exhorts His disciples, "Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when I will return. And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch." (Mark 13:33, 37).

Loving God
"The most important one," answered Jesus,  "is this: 'Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." (Mark 12:29-31)

Loving God should be our number one priority because it is the greatest human act. God's laws are reduced to two simple principles: love God and love others. When you love God completely and care for others as you care for yourself, then you have fulfilled the intent of the Ten Commandments and the other Old Testament laws. According to Jesus, these two commandments summarize all of God's laws. Let them rule your thoughts, decisions, and actions.

When you are uncertain about what to do, ask yourself which course of action best demonstrates love for God and love for others.

Life As We Know It
And the gospel must be preached to all nations. (Mark 13:10)

Have you ever just sat and thought about life? Have you wondered if there is more to life than what you see or experience? Have you ever felt like you are in your own private world with your own private dreams and you are the only one on this earth, and the people you encounter are part of your dream or figments of your imagination? And then you come back to reality and see that this world does exist and you do intersect with every other human being on this earth. However, you can only respond to life as you know it.

If you didn't know you could spend paper money you would ball it up, put it in the trash or use it to make a fire. Since you know the value of money, you handle it with great care. If you didn't know how good chicken tasted, you probably would not eat it. If you didn't know the rules of baseball, you would wonder why a pitcher throws a ball, a batter hits the ball, then runs to three bases while others run in all directions to catch the ball, throws it to someone else who tries to touch the person who hit the ball and ran. Wouldn't it make more sense for someone to just touch the batter with the ball in the first place? It sure would eliminate a lot of running and throwing. But we know the rules, and it makes sense to us to play ball as the rules stipulate.

We can only respond to life as we know it. That's why many unbelievers are among us. They cannot respond to what they do not know. Therefore, it is encumbered upon every believer to share the gospel which is the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ. Until we do that, unbelievers will continue to live life only to the extent that they know it. They will use shortcuts by taking the ball and touching someone with it. In so doing, they will eliminate the beauty of the baseball game. Those of us who know the beauty of the gospel should take it and run with it as we involve as many others as possible. We should run to other bases, but we should not stay there. We should run on and return to home plate as we score a point for the team of Jesus Christ before we are tagged by Satan.

Share the gospel with someone today! Then others will be able to respond to life as we know it.

Do What You Can; Use What You Have
She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial. (Mark 14:8)

In the passage describing the anointing at Bethany, Jesus is sitting at the table when a woman came in with an alabaster jar of very costly ointment, and she broke open the jar and poured the ointment on his head.  The sitting position made it easy for the woman to pour the ointment on His head. Notice she did not sprinkle, smear or rub it.  She did not use it sparingly and say, "A little dab will do you." She poured it on His head; therefore, she had no control of where the ointment went.  Hence, it went from Jesus' head all the way down his body.  If the head (pastors, leaders) is anointed, so will the entire body (church members) be. Also, the anointing of Jesus' head was done before they mocked Jesus at His crucifixion by pushing a crown of thorns into His forehead causing it to bleed. His forehead had already been anointed along with the rest of His body. The woman had prepared Him for this beforehand.

Those around her rebuked the woman because the ointment was worth 300 denarii; a whole year's salary. This woman knew Jesus was worth that much and more, but Judas sold him for 30 pieces of silver; 10 percent of what the ointment cost.

While those around her called it wasteful, Jesus called it a good thing; a beautiful thing, a good service.  He told them to leave her alone for she did what she could; she used what she had.

Are you doing what you can?  Are you using what you have? Or are you listening to public opinion about what you should do for the kingdom of God? Break open your own alabaster box. Do what you can. Use what you have.

No Deadbeat God
Father, he said, "everything is possible for you.  (Mark 14:36)

The term "deadbeat dads" refers to those fathers who have children but do not support them.  "Deadbeat" is a word that could only relate to earthly fathers because the Father of us all would never be a "deadbeat."  In fact, God is just the opposite. The God who created us is also the God who sustains us and provides for us.  It is His good pleasure that we have life and have it more abundantly (John 10:10).  If we delight ourselves also in the Lord, He will give us the desire of our heart (Psalm 37:4).

God created us in His image; therefore we look like our Father in that we have Godlike features within us.  God did not create us to leave us alone to care for ourselves.  He gave us Jesus to be our example.  Like Jesus, we can call God our Father; that is, if we have a personal relationship with Him.  He gives us our daily bread. He gives more than we could think or ask.  God is no deadbeat God.

Compromise and Lawlessness
Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them.  He had Jesus beaten, and handed him over to be crucified. (Mark 15:15)

Compromise limits our ability to do what is right.  Although Jesus was innocent, Pilate compromised with the Jewish leaders and made a decision that would please them.  When we lay aside God's clear statements of right and wrong and make decisions based on the preference of our audience, we fall into compromise and lawlessness.

God promises to honor those who do RIGHT, not those who make everyone happy.

How to Deal with Mockery
And they clothed him in a purple cloak; and after twisting some thorns into a crown, they put it on him. And they began saluting him, "Hail, King of the Jews!" They struck his head with a reed, spat upon him, and knelt down in homage to him. After mocking him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. (Mark 15:17-20)

Have you ever been mocked?  Have you ever been spat upon? Have you ever had someone to strip you of your clothes and beat you? Probably not! Jesus had all these things done to him at the same time. Jesus did not deserve to be abused this way. He had been falsely accused.

How did Jesus deal with the mockery? Jesus said not a mumbling word. How can we deal with mockery? We can deal with mockery the same way Jesus did. Say not a mumbling word because those who mock you will be convicted by God. Know that those who mock you will eventually say something about you similar to what they said about Jesus, "Truly this man was God's Son!" (Mark 15:39).

Deal with mockery the way Jesus did. He will intercede for you. After all, it did happen to Him. And it will never happen to you to the extent that it happened to Him.

Mary Magdalene: A Devoted Follower
Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, He appeared first to Mary Magdalene, out of whom He had cast seven demons. (Mark 16:9)

There are six (6) Mary's recorded in the Bible: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary of Magda, whom Jesus cast out seven demons; Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus of Bethany; Mary, the mother of the disciples James and John; Mary, the mother of John Mark; and Mary, a Christian disciple of Roman.

Whenever Mary, the mother of Jesus was in a group, her name is always mentioned first, but Mary Magdalene's name is always second. Of course, if Mary, the mother of Jesus was not in the group, Mary Madgalene's name is mentioned first.  Mary Magdalene occupies a very prominent place in the Bible.

Magdalene is not her name.  The name Magdalene indicates that she came from Magdala, a city southwest of the Sea of Galilee. The city is used as part of her name to set her apart from the other Mary's. After Jesus cast out seven demons from Mary Magdalene, she became one of His devoted followers who supported His ministry.

Since Mary Magdalene was a devoted follower, she was the first one to whom Jesus appeared after His resurrection. See what happens to devoted followers! Are you a devoted follower or one who merely drags behind waiting to see what others are doing?

Become a devoted follower and experience first hand the wondrous things Jesus offers.

Signs and Wonders
Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it. (Mark 16:20)

When our Signs and Wonders class met for the first time last night, I asked the question: "Signs and wonders are for whom?" Half the class said signs and wonders are for believers; the other half said signs and wonders are for unbelievers? Which half was correct?

There are many different definitions for signs. The definition we use in this course is that signs are "unusual occurrences transcending the normal course of nature. Signs are miracles whose purposes are to indicate or to signify or to point to something greater."  Usually in the Bible, "signs and wonders" are terms used together. Signs and wonders are for UNBELIEVERS. Signs are not for believers because signs are not the things, but they point to a greater revelation. Saved people already have the greater revelation in Jesus Christ.  So, why is another sign necessary? The signs we talk about in this course are miraculous actions that give evidence that Jesus was divine, the Messiah and the Son of God. By faith saved people already know this; therefore, signs are not needed to give us evidence that Jesus was who He said He was.

Signs and wonders serve two specific purposes:
  1. To draw public attention to the power of God in order that unsaved people may hear the Gospel and be saved. [Believers have already heard the Gospel and are saved}.
  2. To authenticate or confirm the Gospel message in the minds and hearts of those who see them. [Because believers are already saved, there is no need for authentication or confirmation.  Believers have already accepted the good news of the saving power of Jesus Christ; therefore, no other sign is necessary].
With that being said, signs can be both heard and seen. When John the Baptist was in prison he sent his disciples to ask Jesus "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Jesus replied, "Go back and report to John what you hear and see." (Matthew 11:2-4)

Signs are not an end in themselves, but they point to a greater revelation. For instance, the rainbow was a sign, but it pointed to something greater: God's covenant with Noah. While the manna in the wilderness served its purpose for sustenance, it was a sign that pointed to something greater: Jesus, the Bread of Life.

One of the major emphasis concerning signs and wonders is that the Gospel cannot be effectively communicated to unbelievers without supernatural manifestations. Unbelievers need to HEAR and SEE unusual occurrences that transcend the normal course of nature. The greatest miraculous sign that sealed our salvation was when God raised Jesus from the dead. Any other sign for the believer would be weak in comparison to that!

Even though signs and wonders are a part of the Christian experience, we no longer need signs to prove that Jesus came, Jesus died, Jesus was resurrected from the dead, and Jesus will come again. Signs are for unbelievers; however, believers must understand the signs by faith

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