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April 14, 2017: Ministry

Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 6-7, Psalm 84, Mark 6:1-13, 1 Corinthians 10:1-13 Mark 6:1-13: A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown—Jesus was to experience this truth in his own hometown of Nazareth. Despite the fact they knew him when he was “knee high to a grass hopper,” knew that he was “the carpenter,” knew his family, instead of concluding then that his “astonishing” teaching meant that he was “more than a carpenter,” they refused to believe the evidence of their eyes or ears. Jesus was amazed at their lack of faith. None of us are likely to fall into exactly the same trap: Jesus did not grow up in our own hometown. But there can be a real danger of diminishing the majesty of Jesus in our minds by virtue of our proximity and familiarity with him from our growing up years. We have heard teaching about Jesus appropriate for a child’s...

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April 13, 2017: Arise!

Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 4-5, Psalm 83, Mark 5:21-43, 1 Corinthians 9:13-27 Mark 5:21-43: Two daughters, two healings, two acts of faith met with gracious love and merciful power. First we have one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus, who comes to Jesus about his daughter (5:22-23). He was a powerful man, presumably, a religious authority figure, an elder, pastor, overseer, a member of the council. Respected enough for his piety to be elevated to this position, and yet—coming from the synagogue—he is now so desperate that he is even willing to trouble the attention of that wandering trouble-maker, the one so many synagogues and synagogue rulers were rejecting: Jesus. As Jesus goes with Jairus, a “great crowd” throngs around him (5:24). Jesus had achieved significant celebrity status, and now wherever he went, people came to see and be in the middle of what was happening. Without any secret service detail keeping the crowd at...

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April 12, 2017: What Has Jesus Done for You?

Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 1-3, Psalm 82, Mark 5:1-20, 1 Corinthians 9:1-12 Mark 5:1-20: One of the more extraordinary stories in Mark’s Gospel, a demon possessed man, notorious for his unsocial and presumably dangerous behavior, is dramatically healed. But the details are initially strange, unusual, and for some a little disturbing. Why should it be that Jesus would allow the demons to go into a herd of pigs? There is symbolism at work. The man is possessed by a large number of demons who call themselves “legion.” Note the detail: the Roman military power was notorious for its military “legions.” And these pagan, military conquering, definition of unclean, “legions” are thrown into pigs—the very definition of unclean animals to the Jewish religion. Mark is showing us how Jesus had come to expel the real spiritual uncleanness from Israel, not by military conquest (in that way to throw out the military legions), but by spiritual conquest—through the...

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April 11, 2017: The Potency of the Seed

Today’s Bible Reading: Joshua 24, Psalm 81, Mark 3:20-25, 1 Corinthians 8: Mark 4:21-41: The power of Jesus’ Word is now made evident in several parables, and one extraordinary miracle, that illustrates the reality of what Jesus has been teaching. First, the lamp under a basket: it is not normal to turn a light on in a house and then immediately cover it up. Similarly, those who have the light of God’s Word are to go about shining that light, in word and in deed. Then, with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. In God’s order of things, gifts, graces, and opportunities multiply through being well used and earnestly practiced. If you want to do great things for God, start by doing small things for God with great faithfulness. Before too long, in God’s providence, you will find that you have more and more and more great things that require greater...

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April 10, 2017: Good Soil

Today’s Bible Reading: Joshua 22-23, Psalm 80, Mark 4:1-2, 1 Corinthians 7:17-40 Mark 4:1-2: Jesus now teaches his famous parable of the sower. The contours of it are familiar enough for many. What is surprising to many is Jesus’ rationale for telling parables (4:11-12), where he seems to explain his parables in precisely the reverse way to how it is normally explained. Typically, we are told that Jesus told parables as a way of making his teaching easier to understand. But Jesus, quoting from Isaiah 6, teaches that the parables actually—in some way—are told that people may see but not perceive, hear but not understand. Parables, then, function like a sieve; those who understand will receive the kingdom: “to you has been given the secret of the kingdom of heaven.” Those who do not understand will be left “outside,” and everything will remain “in parables,” not clearly understood. This is the lesson that Jesus drives home...

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April 9, 2017: The Family of God

Today’s Bible Reading: Joshua 20-21, Psalm 79, Mark 3:20-25, 1 Corinthians 7:1-16: Mark 3:20-25: Things are becoming sufficiently extreme, such that Jesus’ family comes to take charge of the situation. The crowds were so insistent that they could not eat, and people were beginning to say that he had lost his marbles, was out of his mind, and so the family comes to take over. Meanwhile, they are not the only ones concerned. The scribes say that he is demon possessed: by the prince of demons, he casts out demons. This is a serious charge, for not only does it ascribe his work as satanic, but it cleverly insinuates that even whatever good he does is only proof of the demonic in him. This approach has often been used since of Christian leaders. Their work for good and impact for good can only be explained by some cunning malevolent plan that must lie behind it...

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April 8, 2017: Disciple

Today’s Bible Reading: Joshua 18-19, Psalm 78:40-72, Mark 3:1-19, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20: Mark 3:1-19: Jesus’ opponents are now watching him closely—but not in a good way. They are watching to see if they can trap him in what he does or what he says. They want to “accuse” him. Irrespective of their ill intentions, Jesus, in his mercy and love, goes ahead and heals the man on the Sabbath. He attempts to use the healing as an object lesson: should you do evil on the Sabbath (that is to plot to kill Jesus) or good (that is to heal this person). They are against him doing something on the Sabbath—even something good—while on the Sabbath they are breaking God’s law by plotting to kill him. How blind is sin. A great crowd follows Jesus—so large he has to push off shore in a boat to stop from being crushed by them. He commands the evil spirits...

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April 7, 2017: New Wine and New Wineskin

Today’s Bible Reading: Joshua 15-17, Psalm 78:1-39, Mark 2:18-28, 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 Mark 2:18-28: Jesus was constantly attacked by the Pharisees for seeming—in their eyes—to take liberties with the law. They wanted him to stick to their particular human interpretation of the law and not stray one inch either way, and it was a formula for controlling him and bringing him back into line with their theories about what was right and proper. It starts with a debate about fasting. John’s disciples fasted, but Jesus’ do not. Fasting—if medical condition allows and not taking it to dangerous extremes—is a perfectly valid way to find extra time to pray and read the Bible. When you fast, it is remarkable how much more time you have. You are not eating, you are not preparing food, you are not cleaning up after meals. You gain so much extra time to focus upon God with seriousness and intensity. But...

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April 6, 2017: What a Savior!

Today’s Bible Reading: Joshua 13-14, Psalm 77, Mark 2:13-17, 1 Corinthians 5 Mark 2:13-17: Jesus’ extraordinary love, compassion, and anti-religious true religion continues. He calls a tax collector to follow him. Tax collectors were not just disliked because they were collecting taxes—they were collaborators with an occupying army, like the traitors who helped the Vichy regime in occupied France in World War 2. Jesus is not the typical kind of religious zealot who loves to surround himself with people who will make him look more righteous and special. He goes out of his way to call to himself one of the most hated people in the area. What is more, Jesus goes to his house. And not only does he grant a blessing upon his house, he participates in a party where many other tax collectors and “sinners” (those viewed as beyond the pale ceremonially and morally by the dominant Pharisaic party) were taking part. The Pharisees...

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Interview with Thomas R. Schreiner

I recently talked with Thomas R. Schreiner, the James Buchanan Harrison Professor of New Testament Interpretation and Associate Dean at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, about biblical content and its importance today in contemporary culture and the church. Below is our interview. JM: Tom, you’ve spent your life committed to studying and teaching the Bible. Isn’t a rather archaic thing to be doing in our contemporary world? TS: It is archaic in one sense, but sometimes the old truths are the best truths because they are the true truths. I could answer this in a number of ways, but here I want to say that I see no evidence that contemporary people, who have abandoned the scripture, live happier or more fulfilled lives. Instead many marriages are dissolving, many children grow up in homes plagued by fighting, and many wander from thing to thing in utter boredom. If they...

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