Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"Follow Me"...An Opportunity to Recognize Jesus (Pt 2)

One of the most challenging aspects for most leaders is communicating to those your lead. The challenge comes because we often think we are communicating clearly (we know what we are saying), but others may interpret our communication differently than we intend. That is what we have witnessed so far during our study of Mark. Jesus, the disciples, the Pharisees, the crowds – all of them are seeing and experiencing the same situations, but they are all drawing different conclusions.

Today’s message is part two of learning to recognize Jesus. Last week we focused on the points of clearly seeing, confirming our thoughts, changing our perceptions, and correcting any misunderstandings. This week, we will focus on two more principles that will help us recognize Jesus.

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must lose our life. (Mark 8.34-9.1)

While the verses which immediately precede our passage today focus on Jesus and the disciples, verse 34 says that Jesus calls together the crowd. This is extremely important for us as it helps us to understand the message is for everyone – not just the Twelve.

In the next few sentences, Jesus says that those who give up are their lives are the ones who will find it. But even before that He says that following Him means we must carry our cross. In today’s world very few people are made to carry a cross. Every now and then a Christian is shown being crucified upon a cross by others, but it is not the norm today. Therefore, we have taken this phrase and turned it into the idea that we are bearing our cross if we are dealing with some illness or affliction, but this is not what Jesus means. Verse 35 makes it abundantly clear that taking up one’s cross is because of following Jesus and the gospel. Specifically, it is because of giving up our life in exchange for His and the gospel. Let me clarify.

In the purest sense, taking up the cross can only mean persecution, according to the words of Jesus. Don’t get me wrong, we do all face trials and challenges, but, as we overcome these challenges (or learn to deal with them), then we learn of God’s goodness and grace and we become more like Christ through the process. Paul’s thorn, in 2 Corinthians 12, would be one example. This ailment, likely caused by persecution, caused Paul to pray, but he became content knowing that his weakness allowed God’s strength to be known in and through him. Conversely, the cross is not something with which we become content. It is not meant as a trial, it is meant as punishment. It was a horrific form of death. Taking up the cross was not to become more like Jesus, it was because someone identified themselves with Jesus.

This is the point Jesus makes in this statement. Remember, the disciples have just heard The Great Confession (You are Messiah, v. 29), and Jesus has turned the tables on their expectations by saying that He must now suffer and die (v. 31). One moment the disciples must have been ready to jump for joy knowing that they were going to Jerusalem on the coattails of a king. The next minute the King says that if you are true followers, my coattails will lead you to death.

To turn back to the opening thought about communication, let us make sure we know what Jesus is saying. The words in verse 34 say that we are to deny ourselves to follow Jesus. Deny in this case is not talking about giving about giving up something we enjoy. In verse 35 this is made clear: “Whoever would save His life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will gain it.”

He is telling us that we need to give up our life to gain His. The entire focus of this passage is to make our identity His! (By the way, life is a better translation than soul – unless you realize that soul is the whole of our life not just some unknown spiritual portion of us separated from our physical body – that is Greek thinking, not biblical).

What do it mean to say that we are Christians?

Do it mean that we attend church on Sunday? That we read our Bibles? That we pray? Etc. Those things are nice, but that doesn’t mean anything. Why? Because we can do things for Jesus without truly knowing Him. More importantly we can do all of those things (and more) without being known by Him. I have shared with you before that the verse I used to cringe at the most is Matthew 7.21-23.

So, let me repeat what I mentioned above – the focus of this passage is our need to make our identity His. Jesus does not ask us to give up something we enjoy, He commands that we give up ourselves. Our choice isn’t Jesus and the world, it is Jesus or the world! And if we take on His identity, we will suffer. Keep in mind that Mark is writing to the Romans, very possibly during the time of Nero (a fierce persecutor of Christians). These words must have provided some comfort, or at least the means to remain committed to their beliefs. Again, I know many people use these terms to talk about their problems today, but if we don’t understand how they were intended originally, we are not being faithful to the Word of God.

Remember, that just before Jesus summoned the crowd, we witnessed the exchange between Peter and Jesus. Peter rebuked Jesus. Jesus responded by saying that Peter was thinking in limited terms – like a man, not God. Now, we see Jesus redefining discipleship. A disciple of a rabbi was meant to learn, but Jesus uses the teaching in verses 34-38 to show discipleship really entails an entirely different approach to life. Discipleship means fellowship with Jesus and fellowship with Jesus means suffering at the hands of man. (Paul realized this and wrote that he wished to share in the sufferings of Christ for the benefit of what is to come (Phil. 3.10)).

Why should we be willing to suffer for Jesus? Because He died for us! This is the opposite of what Christianity has become. And that is why our next principle is to listen to Him.
  • We can listen to what the world says – and lose our soul, or listen to Jesus – and gain our life.
  • The world says we don’t need to be committed to something greater. Jesus says He is something greater.
  • The world says we should do what makes us happy. God says He wants us to be holy.
  • Jesus says, “Follow Me, and die.” Yet, He also says I come that you may have life abundantly. (The abundancy that Jesus promises does not mean what the world can offer, but what Jesus will provide. Maybe some of that is experienced on earth, but abundant life is not about what we have, it is about who we are. And who were are begins here, but lasts forever once we have traded our life for His.)

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must listen to Him. (Mark 9.2-13)

The transition verse between Jesus speaking of losing our life and the Transfiguration presents a great deal of challenges to our understanding. The biggest part of the challenge is how to understand “this generation” and the context of “some standing here…will see God’s kingdom in glory.” Many believe “this generation” applies to all who were living when Jerusalem fell in 70 AD (some forty years later). Seeing God’s Kingdom, in my opinion, relates to the next seven verses where Peter, James, and John see Jesus transfigured.

This story is rather well known, yet difficult to imagine. Mark continues to reveal more about Jesus to His audience, but does so here by specifically pointing to references he has only alluded to this far. Here, Mark provides the name of Moses and Elijah whereas before he has hinted that Jesus has fulfilled the role of Moses (such as in the feeding of the 5000 men). And when Jesus asked who others thought He might be, one of their answers was Elijah. But the allusions earlier in the story give way to certainty here.
  • Moses (representing the Law) and Elijah (a great prophet) underwent transformations as well. Moses face shone forth (Ex 34.29-35) and Elijah was transformed when taken up in the whirlwind (2 Kgs 2.11).
  • Moses took three named individuals up the mountain with him – Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu (though 70 elders also went, Ex 24.1,9). Jesus takes three with Him as well – Peter, James, and John.
  • God’s command given to “Listen to Him” to which I will explain in just a moment. But first, let’s briefly set the scene.

We must keep in mind what Jesus has just been teaching! We cannot view this moment on the mountain without remembering the context of Jesus needing to suffer and die, but also that He will rise again (8.31). Then He teaches of losing our lives for His sake. Truly, the preceding verses paint a rather dire picture of following Jesus, but the picture is incomplete without realizing the full benefits to come. Last week, we reviewed the blind man who gained his sight in stages, so here is another stage in the disciples (at least three of them) beginning to see Jesus more clearly – that is, beginning to recognize Him more fully.

The Bible does not mention the exact mountain although a few have been proposed. The truth is, if we did know the place, some people might go up and never come down. On top of this mountain, Jesus is transformed so radiantly, even His clothes become brighter than anything that has been seen.

Jesus was seen with Moses and Elijah, and Peter grasps for words, calling Jesus “Rabbi” which reflect a lack of understanding on so many different levels (note the comment in verse 6). In this moment, Peter is quieted by the very voice of God. Afterward, only the three disciples and Jesus remained. Before I get to the words spoken by God, let me share that Jesus presence after the others were gone is significant. Remember, Jesus said that Jesus came not to do away with the Law and Prophets, but to fulfill all that was expected (Matthew 5.17). Therefore, we no longer need the law or the prophets to guide us. We simply need Jesus.

Which is why God says, “Listen to Him.”
  • At the baptism of Jesus, God said to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1.11)
  • Here, God says, to the disciples, “This is my beloved Son; listen to Him.” (Mark 9.7)

If you are one of the three with Jesus, that should get your attention. Do you recognize Jesus? “Uh, yep. Sure do.” But as we will see in a minute, it created even more confusion.

But why were they to listen? What was it that Jesus said that was worth hearing? Let me provide three quick thoughts and then provide the real answer.
  • Listen to Him – He must go to suffer just as He said.
  • Listen to Him – If you wish to follow, it may cost you your life.
  • Listen to Him – He will teach you what you must know, but you must listen to understand.

The reality is that each of those statements is correct. But they are correct because of what God is truly meant when He said, “Listen to Him.” In Deuteronomy 18, God told the people, through Moses, that one day another prophet would come along (one like Moses) who would speak for the Lord and “it is to him you shall listen” (Deuteronomy 18.15). God is plainly stating that Jesus is THE prophet. Of course, Jesus is more than a prophet. Hebrews tells us that He is our priest. Revelation reminds us that He is our king. But for the Jews who long awaited the prophet who would speak the very words of God, God speaks to these three on the mountain to say, “This is the One you have been waiting for…listen to Him.”

The next words out of Jesus mouth are for these three disciples to stay silent until after the resurrection. They do have questions, however, and try to discern what has just happened. Specifically, they are seeking to understand the significance of Elijah having been there on the mountain. Peter remembers the rebuke from earlier, so this time He asks Jesus a question. The question might be paraphrased like this: If Elijah has come, why do you need to die?

Jesus affirms that the scribes are correct in their interpretation, but not because they conceived the idea, but rather it comes from Scripture – Malachi 3.1 and 4.5-6. Jesus makes it clear that John performed the function of Elijah (see Matthew 17.13), and now the Son of Man must suffer just as he did. [While Elijah escaped the wrath in his day, note the parallel of a wicked queen (Jezebel / Herodias) who manipulates a weak king (Ahab / Herod) to strike down a prophet Elijah / John the baptizer).] So, just as John was killed, so must the Son of Man be killed. The prophecy of Elijah’s return has been fulfilled, now it is time for me to suffer and died as has been prophesied by Isaiah.


Despite the relative familiarity of the stories, the verses we have reviewed over the past two weeks provide a very different understanding of Christianity than what most people desire. But it goes back to the idea of following what the world says or what Jesus taught. It comes down to what we desire – Jesus or the world. It comes down to whether we will choose to listen to Jesus or to the world. It comes down to how well we understand what Jesus has communicated with us.

The truth is that Jesus model for significance and success is far different than ours. We gain greatly by giving up ourselves! That doesn’t mean that we don’t see to better ourselves or strive for more, we just do so with a different purpose. Again, if our identity is in Jesus, then it is He who will get the glory. As Paul wrote to the Philippians, we should “press on” and “strain forward” for the prize before us and all who think otherwise are immature in what God wants for us (Philippians 3.12-15). As long as we remember it is for His glory, not ours, then we should seek to do great things.


The JOURNEY letter for today is: J – Jesus

Last week, we saw that even as one man gained sight, the disciples became confused when Jesus said that He must suffer and die. This week, the confusion of losing one’s life to gain it, gave way to a tremendous sight – seeing Christ in all His glory. This fact should provide the evidence to us that following Jesus is worth whatever it may cost.

Why should we be willing to lose our life to take on Jesus’ identity? Because Jesus gave up His life
to take our sin.

And that thought leads me to the verse that concerns me the most now. I mentioned earlier that Matthew 7.21-23 used to be a concern, but now I am most challenged by Luke 12.48. You may know it best as “To whom much is given, much is required.” The verse actually says it a little differently, but the gist is there. And lest we think we haven’t been given much, we have been given Jesus. And the question is: What are we doing with Him?

I will remind you that Jesus came teaching about our need to repent and believe the gospel (Mark 1.15). To repent is to turn from (not just sin, but anything). To believe is to turn toward something. Jesus wants us to turn our lives away from the world, and in doing so, to turn them toward faith in Him.

As Matthew 7.21 reminds us we can do things in Jesus name without really having recognized Him. And, although we have had out focus on our need to recognize Jesus, you also need to consider whether He recognizes you. I encourage you to read 1 John 5.11-13 for some guidance here.

OPPORTUNITY:  We have a choice to follow the world or to follow Jesus. If we follow the world we are left with nothing. If we follow Jesus, we gain everything.

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must lose our life.
Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must listen to Him.

Learn: Consider what it means to give your life to Jesus. How can you make His identity your own? Read Ephesians 1.1-14 and notice all of the statements about being “in” Christ, “in” him, etc. Take time to determine how those phrases could/should apply to you.

Live: Listening to Jesus requires obedience. Obedience requires us to give up our own desires. In what areas are you not obedient to Christ? What must you do to lose your life to Him?

Love: To find our purpose and identify in Jesus requires sacrificing ourselves, which reflects our love for Him. How is Jesus asking you to carry the cross right now? How might you give Him more of yourself?

Lead: As we live in obedience with love for our Savior, He wants us to make disciples who will do the same. Who is God calling you to lead at this time? Listen to Him to find out.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"Who Is Jesus", A Closer Look by Rick Sons

Who Is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? Scripture refers to Jesus in many different ways. Scripture teaches that Jesus was a prophet. John 1:1 says “the Word was God” and John 1:14 says “the Word became flesh” so Jesus is the Word. Isaiah 9:6 states, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Matthew 1:23 declares, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel.” Immanuel means “God with us;” this fulfills the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. The titles “Messiah” (from a Hebrew word) and “Christ” (from a Greek word) both mean “Anointed One.” Is Yeshua (Hebrew for “Jesus”) really the promised Messiah of Israel?

Jesus also said He is the “Door to Heaven” in John 10:9. In John 14:6 He expands on that thought: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but though me.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd. He is the Bread of Life. He’s the Way, the Truth, and the Life. According to the religious leaders Jesus was a liar and a lunatic. Mark records for us a debate in the Temple between Jesus and the religious leaders, who were intent on exposing Jesus as a pretender.

Jesus is the Son of...
The Son of Mary
Mark 6:3 – “Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?”

The Son of Joseph
John 6:42 – “They said, ‘Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’”

The Son of God
John 3:16 – “God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” The common understanding is that “Son of God” implies His deity. Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of a human father and a son. God did not get married and have a son. God did not mate with Mary and produce a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is God’s Son in that He was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:35 declares, “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, so the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’” The first human that God created, Adam, is called a “son of God.” Luke 3:38 similarly, the Bible teaches that Jesus was created by God. So Jesus is also called a “Son of God” (John 1:49). God created Jesus before he created Adam. Regarding Jesus, the apostle Paul wrote: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15). Jesus’ life began long before he was born in a stable in Bethlehem.

The Son of Man
The common understanding is that “Son of Man” implies Jesus’ humanity. Jesus is referred to as the “Son of Man” 88 times in the New Testament. A first meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is as a reference to the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14, “In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven.” A second meaning of the phrase “Son of Man” is that Jesus was truly a human being. God called the prophet Ezekiel “son of man” 93 times. God was simply calling Ezekiel a human being. A son of a man is a man. Jesus was fully God (John 1:1), but He was also a human being (John 1:14). We must acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. Yes, Jesus was the Son of God – He was in His essence, God. Yes, Jesus was also the Son of Man – He was in His essence, human. In summary, the phrase “Son of Man” indicates that Jesus is the Messiah and that He is truly a human being.

The Son of David
17 verses in the New Testament describe Jesus as the “Son of David.” But the question arises, how could Jesus be the Son of David if David lived approximately 1,000 years before Jesus? Jesus (the Messiah) was the fulfillment of the prophecy of the seed of David (2 Samuel 7:12–16). Jesus is the promised Messiah, which means He had to be of the lineage of David. The book of Matthew gives the genealogical proof that Jesus, in His humanity, was a direct descendant of Abraham and David through Joseph, Jesus’ legal father. The genealogy in Luke traces Jesus’ lineage through His mother, Mary. Jesus is a descendant of David by adoption through Joseph and by blood through Mary. “As to his earthly life [Christ Jesus] was a descendant of David” (Romans 1:3).  When people referred to Jesus as the Son of David, they meant that He was the long-awaited Deliverer and the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies. Jesus was addressed as “Lord, thou son of David” several times by people who, by faith, were seeking mercy or healing. One example is the woman from Mark 6, whose daughter was being tormented by a demon. The title of honor people gave Him declared their faith in Him. Calling Him “Lord” expressed that they understood His deity, dominion, and power. Calling Him “Son of David” expressed their faith that He was the Messiah.

So who is Jesus and can he be all the things listed above? The answer is YES, taking out the belief of the religious leaders. At one point, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do others say that I am?” (Mark 8:27). A variety of responses followed, just as the same question would elicit a range of answers today: some would say that Jesus was a great moral influence, a philosopher, a man worthy of emulation; others consider Him a fraud or a menace to society. For me the answer to this question is simply this, Jesus is both man and God. He was man in that he was tired and slept in a boat with his disciples, yet he was God in that he calmed the sea. He was a man in that he thirsted and went to the well for water, yet he was God as he saved the soul of the sinful woman at the well. He was a man and he got hungry, yet he was God and fed 5000 with just five loaves and two fish. He was man in that he bitterly cried when his friend Lazarus died, yet he was God as he commanded that Lazarus be raised and walk. He was man in that he was four days late in getting to Lazarus before he died, yet he was God in that even at being four days late, he got there just in time. He was man when he cleared the temple of the moneychangers and animal-sellers; He showed great emotion and anger (Matthew 21:12-13, Mark 11:15-18, John 2:13-22). Jesus’ emotion was described as “zeal” for God’s house, yet he was God in that His anger had the proper result. Jesus’ anger had the inevitable consequence of Godly action. Jesus’ anger, as with all His emotions, was held in check by the Word of God; thus, Jesus’ response was always to accomplish God’s will. He was man in that He suffered unbearable pain and bled and died on a cross, yet He was God and He had power over death and He arose to live forever.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is _______________ (an unfinished sentence). How would you fill in the blank?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

"Follow Me"...An Opportunity to Recognize Jesus (Pt 1)

We have a distinct advantage over the characters in the Bible in many ways. Like them, we must learn to know God, we must learn to trust God, and we must learn to live for God because we love Him. But we know the story of God. We know the outcome of the Old Testament and the need for Jesus, thus the New Testament. We know His plan of redemption and the person of Jesus. The people living out the stories we read in the Bible were living life without all of the information we have. For instance, when someone is showing great restraint through difficulty and turmoil, someone might say, “Boy, they sure have the patience of Job.” Well what did Job say? “Boy, I sure wish someone else had dealt with these kinds of issues before so I could read about how to remain true.”

As it relates to our study of the gospel account recorded by Mark, we are provided a spoiler alert in the very first sentence. We are told in Mark 1.1 that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah – the Son of the Living God. So, even if you know nothing about God and nothing about Jesus, if you were to pick up the Bible and start your reading with the book of Mark, you would gain some key insight at the very beginning. You may not know what it means, but the rest of your reading would have that foundation beneath it. Such a foundation helps to understand the miracles, the teachings, etc. Those who were living during the time of Jesus did not have that advantage. They witnessed the miracles and heard the teachings, but they had to put the pieces together themselves. Yet, they understood the expectations of Messiah – what and who He was and would be – because of their culture and background.

Trying to see Jesus through their eyes is part of the reason  I have tried to paint a bit of a picture of the first century. By doing so, maybe we can get a glimpse of what the first century was like, and in dong so, can have the best of both worlds. However, even with what we know, it does not mean that we understand Jesus correctly. Indeed, many know of Jesus, but do not see Him as He needs to be seen. In fact, I think that is true of all of us to a certain degree. So today, as we continue our study of Jesus through the eyes of Mark, let us see if we can gain a little further insight into who Jesus really was then, and how that understanding affects us now.

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must clearly see. (Mark 8.22-26)

Our study of this gospel has brought us to the second act. To this point, we have seen Jesus, primarily in Galilee, performing miracles and debating with the religious leaders. For their part, the disciples don’t really understand. But now, bookended by the two-stage healing here versus the one-step healing of Bartimaeus at the end of Mark 10. , the focus turns toward Jesus intentionally instructing His disciples on what lies ahead – and their journey will lead them to increased opposition as they head to Jerusalem.

The disciples have been given privileged insight into the Kingdom of God (Mark 4.11). However, that does not mean that they understand who He is, what He is doing, or why. If they do understand, they have not expressed it yet. And thus we have this story of a man being healed in two stages. The healing takes place not because Jesus needed two steps, but because it serves as an indication of the disciples’ understanding. Again, we are blessed to have the conclusion of the story at its beginning – Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. But the disciples do not yet understand that fact.

A Great Connection
I must point out that Mark was a brilliant writer. He crafts His story, not in pure chronological order (Luke’s account is in order – see Luke 1.3 – orderly account), but with complete precision as to His purpose for writing. Last week, we saw how Mark created a set of parallels between Mark 6-7 compared to Mark 8. But notice Jesus words in Mark 8.18: Having eyes, do you not see, and having ears do you not hear?

The message two weeks ago concluded with a deaf man gained his hearing. He had ears but couldn’t hear. After spending time with Jesus He can hear. Now, we have a story about how a blind man gaining his sight. But like the disciples, this man’s sight first came as a fuzzy image, then more clearly.
Remnants of the city gate at Bethsaida.
Jesus likely led the blind man out this very gate.

Notice the parallels between these stories (Mark 7.31-37 and Mark 8.22-26). In both instances:
Parallels Mark 7.31-37 and 8.22-26:

  • The people bring each man
  • The people begs for a touch from Jesus
  • Jesus takes each aside
  • Spit; put spittle on affected part – tongue; eyes
  • Don’t tell anyone / don’t enter village

This story shows the process for how this man gained sight. Matthew and Luke do not record this miracle, perhaps, because it makes Jesus look less powerful. But again, while the story is about Jesus, this particular episode paints a clear picture of the process the disciples must now embrace as they are prepared for their real purpose – to take the Gospel message forward after Jesus departs. As we saw last week, they did not yet see nor hear correctly. Their mission – indeed, Jesus mission – hinges on whether or not they will now begin to see clearly, not in a blurry state as the blind man originally did.

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must confirm our thoughts. (Mark 8.27-30)

Have you ever thought you knew something to be true, and then found out later it wasn’t. When we seek to confirm what we know, we will come to a greater understanding of truth. That is true in one of three ways.
  • We will not only know we are correct, but begin to understand why.
  • We will begin to understand we were partially correct and seek to know the rest of the truth.
  • We will understand we were not correct after all, and begin to seek out the real truth.

Of course, in this last instance (especially) we can also choose to hold onto falsehood and believe the lie. The reasons are many, but include stubbornness, laziness, apathy, etc.

The Great Confession

For the disciples, the confirmation came as The Great Confession. Earlier this year, I spent seven weeks in Matthew looking at Jesus promise as the result of this statement, so I will not elaborate much here (search for the Engage tag on this blog, or the series of audio messages on the church website). However, in their respective writings, Matthew and Mark have different purposes in recounting the story. Matthew’s purpose was to capture Jesus promise (“I will build my church”); Mark’s focus was on the idea of discipleship.

The fact that Peter makes the confession is significant, but mainly because it means that a bit of understanding is present. In Matthew 16, Jesus says Peter gained this insight from the Father. People held Jesus in high esteem – comparing Him to some of the greatest prophets in Israel’s history, but only God (Mark 1.9-11) and the demons (Mark 1.24; 3.11; 5.7), knew Jesus as God’s Son. Of course, Mark gives us this fact as the writer in 1.1, but Peter is the first human to recognize this fact in Mark’s story. (In John’s account, Nathaniel recognizes Messiah immediately – which will be addressed in two weeks.)

Matthew conveys the detail that Peter said “the Son of the living God” yet Mark does not mention it. In any case, the Confession has been made with Peter confessing what He believes He knows. Jesus confirms Peter by stating that the Father provided the insight – and the insight will be the basis for the church – God’s tool for Kingdom advancement. (Again, you can find much more detail about the event at Caesarea Philippi – and they that place was so important for this moment – in the series from earlier this year entitled, “Engage.”)

The good news is that Peter made the confession. The better news is that Jesus confirmed its truth. But the reality, as we will now see, is that what Peter thought about the confession was far less than the truth.

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must change our perceptions. (Mark 8.31-32)

Many people have a false understanding of Jesus. In truth, we all do at some level. For instance, no human can fully comprehend that Jesus is fully God and fully man. Our finite minds will not allow the math. Furthermore, some suggest that Jesus was merely a great moral teacher. Others call Him a man of great compassion because of the healings. But as C.S. Lewis wisely commented, “Jesus is either liar, lunatic, or Lord.” What Lewis meant was that Jesus cannot be a great moral teacher and also claim to be God. He is either lying about His deity, He is a crazy man, or else it is true. People that make partial statements about Jesus – He is this, but not that, when both are indeed true – must have their perceptions changed. That was the case for Peter and the disciples.

Notice that just after Peter has called Jesus Messiah, and Jesus tells them not to make that known. The people have a false understanding of Messiah’s true purpose. They see Messiah as one who will come in and save the day – delivering the people from the oppressive government. Assuredly, Messiah will come and deliver His people from the oppressive regime of all governments. However, He initially had to come to deliver all who believe from their sins.

A Great Confusion

What the people of Israel expected of Messiah was no doubt true for Peter and the others with Jesus. The promise given by God to David – the great king of Israel – was that David’s offspring would forever occupy the throne. A likely reason Mark does not include Jesus’ confirmation to Peter (as Matthew did) is Mark’s new emphasis on discipleship. Consider what Jesus does to the perception of meaning – He alters it by immediately changing the emphasis from Messiah to Son of Man. (Time will not allow me to go into the details of the Son of Man here , but I may post notes from a previous study here within a few weeks.)

Peter had given Jesus the right title, but his meaning and purpose for saying Messiah was not correct. So Jesus corrected Peter for the benefit of all. Like the blind man in the earlier verses, Peter sees, but his vision is still hazy. Thus, Jesus now begins teaching them of His true fate at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and scribes.

The teaching would have completely caught Jesus’ followers off guard. They followed, in part, because of the possibility of great power (Consider in Mark 9 that the disciples were debating who is the greatest!) Jesus speaks of suffering, death, and resurrection. Resurrection is beyond any understanding for them, but so is suffering and death. In fact, the text says that Jesus MUST suffer and die. Now that might be understandable for a man, but Jesus was not just a man – He was Messiah – God’s Son. But we should also know that the word MUST here is not from human terms – the term relates that this suffering and death is all by God’s design (see Isaiah 52.13-53.12, for instance).

It is because of the false perceptions that Peter reacts harshly. In fact, what we will see a couple of more times over the next couple of months is that every time Jesus begins to speak about His primary mission, the disciples fail to understand causing Jesus to clarify His teachings. Jesus is not speaking in parables here, however, as verse 32 includes the word plainly. He is laying out the facts straight. The word (Greek – parresia) might be better translated as “boldly” or “confidently.” Considering His message is about His death and resurrection, we can presume it includes why this must happen. Thus, Jesus is plainly and boldly presenting the full gospel to His followers. In other words, Jesus is declaring “the word.”

Principle: To recognize Jesus, we must correct any misunderstandings. (Mark 8.33)

The Great Correction

What is Peter’s reaction? A harsh rebuke of Jesus.
What is Jesus’ reaction? A harsh rebuke of Peter.

Let me briefly explain why. First, remember Peter has correctly identified Jesus as Messiah, but He has a false perception of what Messiah will do. Thus, He misunderstands – and Jesus must clear up any misunderstandings. Why? Because Jesus expects Peter to boldly and confidently proclaim the word after He is gone. And one will not be bold and confident if they do not understand.

Now, let me tie in Jesus’ rebuke to something Jesus has said earlier. If we are honest, Peter’s statement does not seem too far out of line. Of course, we know the end of the story, so we can make a determination that if Peter only knew, then He wouldn’t have said that. But that was my point at the beginning of the message. Peter didn’t know. None of them did. And that is why this process is so painful for us to watch. We know what happens to Jesus and subsequently Peter. But they are living these moments that we now call history.

So, Jesus rebukes Peter. Not only does Jesus refer to Peter as Satan, but He uses the same words that He used to rebuke Satan in the wilderness during His time of testing. That seems a little harsh. Or it does until we remember one of the few bits that Mark has included of Jesus’ teachings. Remember the parable of the soils. Jesus said that Satan comes to take away the word that falls on the path. That is what Jesus is confronting here. He is sowing the seed of the gospel and Satan is coming to say, “No, Jesus! You don’t need to do that. Why go through all of the suffering and the pain?” As we saw last week, Jesus warned the disciples because they were eerily close to becoming like the Pharisees – the opposition to Jesus. If they did not begin to understand, they would not only not spread the seed, but would prevent it from being sown.

Jesus response is not just a sharp rebuke – Get behind me. Jesus gives Peter the why for the rebuke. Peter’s concern is from the perspective of man – and that is his greatest misunderstanding. Jesus is Messiah, but He has come as one who must suffer now and return victorious later. This is God’s plan. This is God’s design. And this is what a Christ follower should know. Thus, get behind me is both a statement of getting out of the way and one of falling in line. In essence, Jesus is saying, “I called you to ‘Follow Me’ not the other way around.”

One other point should be mentioned. It is likely the rebuke was so harsh because the temptation was so strong. One commentator noted that Jesus faces his most severe temptations at critical points in the story – at the beginning of His ministry (in the wilderness), here, after the confession is made and His identity is coming into focus, and in the Garden of Gethsemane. Each time, the goal is to prevent Jesus from following God’s plan. (Witherington, Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on Mark, 241-242).

But Jesus’ statement to focus on the things of God is critical to what Jesus will reveal next. If Jesus has changed the nature of understanding for the Messiah, what might He say about the nature of those who follow? We will look more closely at these words next week.


As this post comes to a close, let us not forget where we began. We began with the healing of a blind man which correlated well with the hearing of a deaf man. In between, Jesus feeds the 4000, encounters the unseeing Pharisees, and rebukes the disciples for not focusing (hearing) His call to avoid the leaven. Jesus is the Bread of Life – the bread around the sandwich, so to speak. The sandwich here is a miracle which brings opposition and a lack of understanding. But Jesus brings the truth, and as Mark has recorded the events, the two miracles – that of healing a deaf man then a blind man – begin to help His closest followers to see the truth.

The question is: Do we see? Do we hear? Or do we miss the real Jesus? Perhaps we are like Peter. We can say the right things at times, but we really don’t understand. Ultimately, we are all like the disciples and the two men in that, until we have an encounter with Jesus, we will be as those who “have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear” (8:18). As one commentator said, “The ability to see, both physically and spiritually, is a gift of God, not of human ability.” (Edwards, Pillar, 244-245)

And the same can, and must be, said of salvation. Unfortunately, many people will never understand because many people come to faith and then leave the church. Imagine if the blind man walked away thinking He saw clearly, before Jesus finished the process of his healing. Too many of us do walk away just before God gives us a key insight to knowing Him better. For the disciples’ part, notice it is after The Great Confession that true learning began! In fact, beginning in verse 27, the text says that they (Jesus and His disciples) were “on the way.” They were finally ready to learn. And not only were they on their way (to Jerusalem), they were being taught by “The Way.” Again, those that leave the church because “I am saved” miss the understanding of salvation. For to be “born again” means we must learn anew.


The JOURNEY letter for today is: J – Jesus.

Last week, the message was all about Jesus but the JOURNEY focus was on our response. This week, the tables are turned. These verses are really about how people understood Jesus, but our letter must be J, because whether we understand – see or hear correctly – He is the same. The question is, “Do we recognize Jesus?” Do we recognize the real Jesus or one that we have created in our minds? That was the issue for the disciples…and it is the issue for us.

None of us will perfectly understand Jesus on this side of eternity. But that doesn’t mean we should forsake trying. After all, we are told to love the Lord will all our mind as a part of that statement. That includes what we think, right?

Who do YOU say Jesus is?

Each of us must, at some point, make our own great confession. We must decide whether we will commit ourselves to Him. Truly, We cannot see clearly until we have encountered Jesus. We cannot see clearly until we are born again. It is said that hindset if 20/20. But we don’t have the luxury of hindsight when it comes to Jesus. When this life is done, it is done and what we have decided is not only etched into history, it is decided for eternity.

OPPORTUNITY: We must all choose to see Jesus more clearly. As we better recognize Him, we will better recognize His call on our lives. When we truly understand, not only can we help others, but we will begin to help others to better recognize Jesus as well!

Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must clearly see. (Mark 8.22-26)
Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must confirm our thoughts. (Mark 8.27-29)
Principle:  To recognize Jesus, we must change our perceptions. (Mark 8.30-31)
Principle: To recognize Jesus, we must correct any misunderstandings. (Mark 8.32-33)

Learn: I have provided a few principles from this text – and each one builds on the previous. Consider which one is most important for your focus. Meditate and dwell on it for a couple of days. Do you need to see more clearly, have your thoughts confirmed, change your perception, or have any misunderstandings corrected?

Live: After reflecting on the principles, consider how you might put the principle you choose into action. One way would be to contact someone who is spiritually mature to discuss these matters with you.

Love: How might you adapt the principle in order to more clearly recognize Jesus each and every day?

Lead: How might you help others “see” more clearly and recognize Jesus as well?

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

"Healing the Blind Man", A Closer Look by Rick Sons

The passage we come to now in Mark’s Gospel involves one of the strangest and most remarkable miracles of Jesus. It is the only miracle he ever performed in two stages and the only one which involved a process instead of immediate healing. This miracle is found only in Mark’s gospel. Because it isn’t referenced in other gospels, it is very vague on the details.
No other miracle is like this one. In a sense that is not strange because Jesus never did two miracles alike. We tend to fall into patterns and habits. And when a change is made, it takes people abruptly unaware. But our Lord was not that way. He did things according to what the situation demanded so no two miracles are really the same.


Bethsaida is near where the 5000 had been fed. It is on the Northeast side of the Sea of Galilee, near the entrance of the Jordan.


A blind man was brought to Jesus by those who begged Jesus to touch him:

“Then He came to Bethsaida; and they brought a blind man to Him, and begged Him to touch him.” – Mark 8:22

This man was brought by concerned friends, similar to those who brought the paralytic. These were people who had heard of what Jesus had done and could do and came to him, as we have said in the past weeks, with expectant faith that he would heal.


Jesus lead the blind man by the hand, similar to what He did with the deaf mute:

“And He took him aside from the multitude, and put His fingers, in his ears, and He spat and touched his tongue.” – Mark 7:33


Stage 1: Jesus spat on the man’s eyes and then touched him.

This was similar to what He did with the deaf mute. Regarding the spit, his intention was to heal and saliva was thought to have medicinal properties. Regarding the touch, Jesus effectively says, “Something will be done for your eyes…and I will do it.” When asked if he saw anything, the man looked up and said, “I see men like trees, walking.” Presumably, this man had been able to see earlier in life so he had some idea what people and trees looked like. He knew that what he was seeing wasn’t quite right.

Stage 2: Jesus put His hands on his eyes again and made him look up.

The man’s sight was completely restored and he saw everyone clearly.


It is not clear why that Jesus’ first attempt at healing the man appeared to have fallen short of the goal. The man was healed, but only partly. He could see, but not clearly. It took a second touch of Jesus for the man to be fully restored. We must wonder what was happening here. Why did Jesus not heal the man in the first place? Is it a parable for the way Jesus’ followers saw him? Like the half-healed blind man, they could see Jesus, but with distorted vision. They understood him, but like the blind man, they would need more grace in order to see Jesus clearly.


Are we are like the blind man in this story or like the first disciples of Jesus?

We know Jesus through the Scriptures and the Bible stories we all grew up on. Do we really know him and have we put our trust in him, to really see him? Is our vision blurred by the lenses through which we see Jesus? We tend to see him in light of our cultural and personal limitations. We want so much for Jesus to be what we’d like him to be that we can’t quite see him clearly.

We are spiritually blinded by sin, in need of healing.  We need the special attention of Jesus to be healed. When Jesus heals us of spiritual blindness it may take some time to see clearly, but as we have said these past weeks if we come to Jesus with expectant faith for spiritual healing our eyes will be opened to see clearly.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

"Follow Me"...The Bread of Life

15 years. Although we may not have Roosevelt’s words attached to this date in history, the day we simply refer to as 9/11 is a day that will live in infamy. Five years ago this past Sunday, during my first year in Fairfax, we commemorated the 10th anniversary of that fateful day. We began a series that morning called Triumph Through Tragedy with a focus that morning on the triumph of a nation, and many who were present recounted where they were, what they were doing, how they responded, etc.

It has now been five years later and while the memories are still fresh, they are beginning to fade – little by little. Significant impressions like the burning towers, the pentagon, Congress uniting together to sing “God Bless America” from the capitol steps will be burned into the minds of many just like other days of infamy in our recent past. But exact details are not as crisp as they once were. And in the years to come this event, like all other historical events, will be just that – a bit of history to be studied, not remembered. In fact, very few freshmen entering high school this year were alive on that day. It is already “only” history to the next generation.

For us, the Bible is the same. We read about the events in the Bible as stories that took place long ago. Some people believe the stories to be true; others do not. I do believe them to be true and accurately recorded. However I, and we, need to realize that the stories are not only true, but they involved real people with real lives facing real issues similar to us. And two those issues from today’s story involve a lack of trust and a lot of prejudice. Surprisingly, as we might first suspect, it has less to do with the disciples’ memory.

3 Principles

Principle: Jesus will honor our devotion to Him.

Many scholars today believe the story that opens the 8th chapter of Mark to be a doublet. That is, they believe this to be a second telling of the story, with a few modified details, of the feeding of the 5000 recorded in Mark 6. And we must admit there are a great many similarities in the story. But significant differences exist as well. We should observe a difference in the numbers (people and food). We should also note a difference in Jesus actions, and more subtly, a difference in people. In fact, it is this last difference that makes this story both plausible and necessary.

As for the numbers, the difference is between 5000 men (Mark 6.44) and 4000 people (Mark 8.9). In the first instance, if we estimate that one woman and a couple of children might be present for each man (and it might be far more than that because many of the men would likely have been working), then the feeding in Mark 6 represents maybe 20000 people. In Mark 8 it is only 4000. Additionally, the numbers of loaves are different, as are the exact number of fish (and likely the type based upon the original language) were different.

As for Jesus, in Mark 6, the disciples initiate the discussion to send the people away. Jesus responds by telling them to feed the people. In Mark 8, Jesus compassion initiates the discussion. In Mark 6, it was the end of the day. In Mark 8, it was after 3 days. The people following in Mark 8 were dedicated to following Jesus…to hearing from Him – and thus, He had great compassion for them. Thus, Jesus initiates the process in this instance.

As for the people, this is where you have to read deeply into the text, but it is evident. First, notice Mark begins this story, with “In those days.” Those has a meaning…it relates to something that is already present. For instance, if I say, “I want those” I am referring to something to which someone else must also be aware. That is, they must realize the context of the word. So, in Mark’s understanding, “those” must relate to something apparent to the reader. And what has been expressed is Jesus ministry to the Gentiles. As we saw last week, Jesus traveled to Gentile territory near Tyre and Sidon and then back to the Decapolis region. So, in those days refers to a time with the Gentiles.

We see this in a couple of other places in this story as well. First, notice the difference when Jesus asks the people to sit.  Verse 6 says that Jesus directed them to sit on the ground. No big deal, right? Well, in Mark 6, Jesus instructs His disciples to have them sit in groupings – by hundreds and fifties. The difference is that the Jews would have recognized exactly what Jesus was doing by putting them in groups. This harkens back to Exodus 18, when Jethro told Moses to devise a leadership plan – a plan that was used for the military as well. In fact, this is why the Jews were ready to make Jesus king – He was the shepherd of the sheep, which had strong military overtones to it. In Mark 8, the Gentiles would not have understood this the same way, so Jesus merely had them sit. They were not interested in Jesus being a military leader to overthrow Rome, so they would not even have considered such an idea.

But the key place we should note a reference to a different kind of people is in verse 4. In fact, it is this verse that makes this story necessary. Now, just as Mark used “In those days” to represent something specific, here, the disciples use “these people” to do the same. At first glance, we might simply consider the statement to mean the people around them. That could certainly work. But what if “these people” are not merely representing the people nearby, but a certain type of people – or these people! It is hard to imagine that the disciples would have forgotten the feeding of the 5000 (though verse 18-19 suggest they may have). However, they might have well remembered that feeding, but that was for the Jews. How could they possibly feed these Gentiles? Jesus certainly wouldn’t do the same for them, would He? Could He? (Hold onto this thought as we will come back to it in a minute.)

But Jesus did. As we consider last week’s sermon, this periscope makes perfect sense. The woman who came to Jesus said that even the dogs eat the crumbs of the children. We might be careful to make too much of this, but the much smaller Gentile crowd ate the same as the earlier Jewish crowd, there was just less people and less food needed. Both ate and were satisfied and both had leftovers (crumbs) afterwards. Again, a striking parallel between these two stories.

In fact, when we look at this larger section of Scripture we see parallels between Mark’s writing in Mark 6 and 7 compared to 8. (This sequence is rather plan to observe, and is noted by many. Due to the word choices, I am citing the following commentary for the table below: Brooks, J. A. (1991). Mark (Vol. 23, p. 124). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Again, this first principle is that Jesus will honor our devotion. He had compassion on “these people” when others did not, because they sought to follow Him. If we seek to honor Jesus, He will honor us.

Principle: Opposition is always a part of ministry.

After this miracle, Jesus crosses back into Jewish territory and guess who awaits. The Pharisees. And they have one simple request – “Show us a sign from heaven.” In our study of Matthew 16 earlier this year, we began with the same statement. This is a remarkable request because of what Jesus has just done. In the past couple of chapters, Jesus has healed several people, raised a girl from the dead, driven our demons, fed 5000, then 4000, and walked on water. Yet, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. Mark gives us an important detail that Matthew didn’t provide. Mark 8.11 says the intent of the request was to “test” Jesus.

The word “test” is the same word that was used of the testing before Satan that Jesus faced in Mark 1. The Pharisees want a sign from heaven because of what Jesus just did. The Pharisees could hardly deny the good Jesus did when feeding the 5000+ Jews. But to do the same type of miracle for the Gentiles – that was unthinkable! So, they were asking for a sign from heaven (code word for God) to show that what He did had God’s stamp of approval. Now, turning back to this encounter, Jesus says that no sign will be given to THIS GENERATION except for the sign of Jonah. This answer was double entendre. First, He was clearly stating that like Jonah, He would be put away for three days and then appear again. But to use Jonah – the prophet to a heathen nation – was intentional and offensive. Jonah went where no good Jew would go, and Jesus did what no good Jew would do. Both involved taking God’s mission to a people despised by the Jews. The Pharisees had hoped to trap Jesus by their statement. Even better would have been for Jesus to do something that might have failed had He tried. But Jesus was far too wise to play the game by their rules because He knew who the true rule-maker is.

The fact is that often times in ministry people will be opposed to how ministry is done. But that shouldn’t keep us from the work of ministry. One word of caution here. We must not use God as a bully. While in Kenya, one morning I woke up to the roosters about 2:30 and never went back to sleep. While lying there for hours, I did a lot of thinking and some notetaking. One of the thoughts I had was to ask a certain person to join me on my next trip. I truly believed it was God giving me that guidance, but for me to come back and tell that person, “God told me to have you come next time” would be putting that person in a no-win position. So, I came back and mentioned it to his wife one night. The next night we talked and almost before I could ask the question, he said he was ready to go.

My point is that if God is directing the process, He will make it known to all people who need to know. The Pharisees thought they knew God’s will better than Jesus so they wanted to trip Him up because of this great miracle to the Gentiles. What they didn’t know – because they were truly outsiders to God’s plan – was that because they were opposing Jesus, they were truly opposing God. As a church leader, I certainly do not have the same level of knowledge or wisdom as Jesus. Yet, those two qualities are high on my spiritual gift-set. That is why I want my congregation to be free to to ask me, “Why?” Being open to that question builds trust even if the answer is not always as good as it could be. However, the question can prevent major errors, although some may still use it as a simple form of opposition. As we live our lives and move forward in ministry, we must trust one another – as we learn to better trust God – to accomplish what He wants us to accomplish, overcoming whatever opposition might stand in our path.

Principle: Clear communication does not prevent all misunderstanding.

Have you ever been certain your directions were perfectly spelled out, but, in the end, someone messed up anyway? Or you provided a clear explanation of an issue and you were misunderstood? Well, that was Jesus – only it was x12. Having just been confronted by the Pharisees, Jesus seeks to teach the disciples a lesson about the evil intent of the Pharisees (and Herod). He likens their intent to leaven which spreads and is usually a metaphor for evil in the New Testament. However, the disciples are too focused on the literal problem of not having enough bread for their journey. Their discussion (verse 16) was about the lack of bread rather than on Jesus. Jesus rebukes them for missing His point as well as their lack of faith (and their lack of memory). He had just fed the masses (twice) with just a little bread and there was plenty for the disciples to take away. Could He not provide for them as well?

But the disciples did not understand. Their hearts were becoming hard. And this is the reason for Jesus warning. Their audience with Jesus should have made them insiders (Mark 4.11), but instead they were in danger of becoming like the Pharisees or Herod who did not have faith in Jesus – and thus, were outsiders. Like Mark 4.12 (which refers back to Isaiah 6.9-10), the disciples had seen and heard many things but did not understand the message that their eyes and ears had sent to their brain for processing. If they continued down this path, they would become just like the Pharisees – and would eventually oppose Jesus’ mission. The disciples were instructed to remember – to not forget – so that they would not rebel against God. You might remember the ancient Israelites were often rebellious and God would use a statement like: “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob who brought you out of Egypt.” In the Old Testament, that was God’s way of reminding His people to put aside their sinful and rebellious ways and follow Him. Jesus is doing the same thing for this new set of leaders. Again, His statements were clear. His message precise. But they had to choose their response.

It is important to communicate as clearly as we can, but if Jesus’ closest followers did not understand His straightforward statements, then people will misunderstand us as well. The disciples had a choice. They could continue in their misunderstanding and become the opposition or they could submit to truly learning from Jesus and become His faithful followers. Ladies and gentlemen, that is our choice today as well.


What the Pharisees and the disciples missed was something that we should know better than we do – because we have the rest of the story. From this passage, we should remember that Jesus is the Bread of Life. The story of the feedings both center on the idea of bread. In addition, last week’s story of the woman mentioned breadcrumbs. The Gentiles in Jesus’ day may have had to settle for crumbs, but we do not. However, the reality for us is that we often do settle for God’s crumbs when He wants to give us the whole loaf – or the whole bakery! As I have said before, when we only seek what God can give us, we miss God. When we seek God, we get all that He could have for us. (In fact, that is an important part of the Waypoint for this week – we need to seek God’s face, not just His hands).

Like the manna in the wilderness, Jesus, as our Bread, can provide our every need. But Jesus is not just the bread of Jews, the bread of Gentiles, the bread of Americans, the bread of a certain political party, nor any such foolish notion. He is the Bread of Life. That is, all life, but particularly human life. And we are the ones who have been charged with sharing Jesus, as the great Satisfier, with others. The choice is up to us…how will we respond?


The JOURNEY letter for today is: YYou.

This message is about Jesus. But the undercurrent is about how people respond to Jesus. Jesus is the same. He performed the miracle in today’s text whether anyone wanted Him to, whether they would have allowed it, and whether they understood it. And Jesus is at work today as well. But the reason for choosing the Y for YOU is that our response says a lot about our love for Jesus and our love for people.

Are we too busy calling others “these people” or arguing over whether certain people should receive God’s blessings? Are we too busy with our petty concerns (like the disciples’ bread) that we miss the greater purpose of Jesus in our lives and the lives of others?

Do you have eyes and not see or ears and not hear? I think we all do at times, but the question for today is this: How do you respond today? As Joshua charged the nation of Israel just before he died, “Choose THIS day whom you will serve!”

God gives us a choice, and we may not live our choice perfectly, but we should be moving closer to His purpose for our lives. So who or what do you choose?

OPPORTUNITY: God has put many people into our lives that He wants us to reach (no matter what others may think).


Principle: Jesus will honor our devotion to Him.
Principle: Opposition is always a part of ministry.
Principle: Clear communication does not prevent all misunderstanding.

Learn: I have provided a few principles from this text – and each one builds on the previous. Consider which one is most important for your focus. Meditate and dwell on it for a couple of days.

Live: After reflecting on the principles, consider how you might put that principle into action.

Love: How might that principle become part of your everyday life as you love God and love others?

Lead: How might you help others instill a strong mindset based upon the principle you chose?