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May 3, 2017: Follow Jesus

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 6-8, Psalm 97, Mark 10:17-34, 2 Corinthians 2 Mark 10:17-34: A rich man—all in a rush with business—runs up to Jesus and asks Jesus the question of all questions. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich man gets right to the bottom line. What’s the most important question here, let’s cut to the chase. Jesus notices that the epithet with which he addresses Jesus is indicative of a heart confusion. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” In other words, the rich man rightly called Jesus “Good Teacher,” but he does not yet rightly understand why it is that Jesus is truly good—because Jesus is truly God. Jesus then probes him: you know the commandments. But, fascinatingly, Jesus only quotes from the second table of the Ten Commandments. The first table of the Ten Commandments is to do with love for God....

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May 2, 2017: Let the Children Come to Me

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 3-5, Psalm 96, Mark 10:1-16, 2 Corinthians 1:12-24 Mark 10:1-16: As was Jesus’ custom, when he saw a crowd he taught them (10:1). So many times when we see a crowd, our desire is for them to be entertained or motivated or inspired. But Jesus was a teacher and a preacher. And as such, when he saw a crowd, as was his custom, he taught them. The Pharisees—the religious leaders of the time—came up to him to test him. They had a particularly difficult question to ask him, to see if they could trap and trick him into losing popularity or saying something that was wrong. Those who want to learn come to listen. Those who want to trap or trick come with questions that are the questions of the learner but are the tests of the Pharisee. This question is about divorce. Jesus asks them what Moses said. They give...

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May 1, 2017: Salt and Peace

Today’s Bible Reading: 1 Samuel 1-2, Psalm 95, Mark 9:33-50, 2 Corinthians 1:1-11 Mark 9:33-50: In this astonishing and famous section of Mark’s Gospel, it is important to picture Jesus—as it were—holding one of these “little ones” in his arms as he discourses about trials and tribulations of what we would call “church politics.” To begin with, the disciples are having a dispute. They do not immediately tell him what it is that they are arguing about because they are embarrassed. They are arguing about who is the greatest. So often it is. Those who follow Jesus can too often fall into petty squabbles about which of the followers is greater than the other. Oh that it were not so! We follow after the name of Cephas, or Paul, or (daringly) even assert our names as the greatest. But Jesus shows a better way. The greatest among you, he who wants to be first, is to...

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April 26-30, 2017

In keeping with the Bible reading plan we are using, the last days of each month are designated as “free days.” April 26-30 then are intended to allow you to catch up on reading you may have missed or to study passages more in depth that intrigued you during the first 25 days of the month. With this in mind, God Centered Bible will not have a devotional for April 26-30, but will pick back up on May 1, 2017. We welcome your comments also during these days with insights you’ve found during the first 25 days. To receive God Centered Bible devotionals directly in your inbox, sign up here....

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April 25, 2017: Impossible? Pray

Today’s Bible Reading: Ruth 4, Psalm 94, Mark 9:14-32, 1 Corinthians 16 Mark 9:14-32: To descend from the mountaintop and find such a commotion! And apparent failure on the part of his disciples. They “were not able” to cast the evil spirit out of the afflicted child. Jesus sighs in exasperation, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” A crowd begins to gather as Jesus asks questions about the condition of the boy, and so he starts to move into action. The father of the child betrays his own lack of faith: “If you can do anything.” Jesus again shows his near exasperation: “If you can! All things are possible for one who believes.” Having been so recently revealed, transfigured, and the voice of heaven saying “listen” to Jesus, now Jesus in this non-mountaintop experience is surrounded by a...

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April 24, 2017: Listen to Him

Today’s Bible Reading: Ruth 2-3, Psalm 93, Mark 9:1-13, 1 Corinthians 15:29-58 Mark 9:1-13: Mark 9 verse 1 may refer to the transfiguration, which immediately comes after the otherwise enigmatic statement of verse 1, or it may refer to the kingdom of God that is inaugurated (though not fully) with the death and resurrection of Jesus. Given that Jesus refers to the “kingdom of God” and the transfiguration does not, it seems unlikely that it corresponds with the transfiguration. But given that the transfiguration occurs right after, it seems likely that it does correspond to the transfiguration. The solution is that the transfiguration is itself about something else: it is revealing Jesus and the coming kingdom. Some of those “standing there” saw this foretaste of the kingdom of God coming with power. Peter opens his mouth and proceeds to put his foot in it, once again (9:5). Apparently, though he had confessed Jesus as the...

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April 23, 2017: Take Up Your Cross

Today’s Bible Reading: Ruth 1, Psalm 92, Mark 8:31-38, 1 Corinthians 15:1-28 Mark 8:31-38: Remember the healing that began this section of Mark? The man who was blind, was first partially healed, and then fully healed so he could see completely. Similarly, Peter (yesterday) gave the right answer to the question about the identity of Jesus. And yet it now becomes apparent that he only understood, or saw, partially. When Jesus starts to explain, and explain “plainly” (8:31) that he must be crucified, Peter will have none of it. He has the temerity to take Jesus to one side and rebuke him (8:32). But Jesus recognizes that this attempted correction of his identity to move his destiny away from the cross was really a manifestation of a divine temptation. He is the Christ, the King, the anointed one; but that King must be crucified for the salvation of sinners. To fail to go to the...

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April 22, 2017: The Christ

Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 20-21, Psalm 91, Mark 8:22-30, 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 Mark 8:22-30: This section is the first half of an enacted parable and section of teaching about spiritual sight. The blind man (8:22-25) first does not see at all. Then he sees partially. Finally, he sees “clearly” (8:25). A similar pattern is experienced by Peter. He sees that Jesus is the Christ (8:29), but he does not see that Jesus must be crucified (8:32). For us to see or understand spiritual truths, our eyes need to be opened. Do we worship Jesus as the King, the Messiah? It is not enough simply to admire Jesus as a great leader, or a good teacher. He is more than that. He is not simply another prophet. He is “The Christ.” That is, the Messiah, God’s anointed King, long predicted, and now arrived. We are to see him as this King, and yield the sovereignty of our...

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April 21, 2017: Yeast of Pharisees

Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 19, Psalm 90, Mark 8:14-21, 1 Corinthians 14:1-25 Mark 8:14-21: Having forgotten to bring bread with them, Jesus uses their lack as an object lesson for a moment of teaching. “Watch out; beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.” This statement or principle evidently confuses the disciples, or their minds start to go in a wrong direction. Hearing Jesus’ comment, they then start to discuss among themselves that they have no bread. Evidently they thought that Jesus was critiquing them for not bringing bread along, or not bringing the right kind of bread. They thought he was commenting on the physical lack of bread that was with them. Jesus then asks them a series of questions related to the miracles of the feeding of the five thousand and the four thousand. “Do you not yet understand?” is the repeated question that frames the others. How is...

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April 20, 2017: Believing

Today’s Bible Reading: Judges 17-18, Psalm 89:19-52, Mark 8:1-13, 1 Corinthians 13 Mark 8:1-13: Again they gather—a great crowd—and they have nothing to eat. This time Jesus’ miraculous feeding of them is through seven loaves and a few fish. But the end result is basically the same. The hungry are fed. This “feeding of the four thousand” is another miracle pointing to Jesus’ divinity. Sometimes it can feel as if we have no resources left to serve Jesus. It can feel as if we have nothing but seven loaves and a few fish to feed a great multitude. Let us remember that God is able to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. In Christ, and as his disciple, we are not promised that everything will be easy. But he does promise never to leave us or forsake us. And he who is in us is greater than he who is in the...

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