Mark 11 [Part Two]

What I’m Listening to: God Will by Johnny Cash

I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to talk about into one post, so here is part two to wrap up this mini-series. 

Now, I want to talk about the two stages we see in Mark 11. We talked before about how we have this emotional “downswing” from the jubilation of Palm Sunday. This is because after Jesus is essentially lauded as a king, He makes some judgements, He points out the failures that the Jewish community has. In a way this is a real life parable. 

When we learn of God, it is an awesome day! We celebrate, we cry out with joy. But after that initial happiness comes one of the hardest periods that every Christian faces. When we invite God into our lives, He starts to look around and point out where we need to improve. And in a lot of cases, that can make us angry, make us plot to make Him go away, much like the Pharisees. This is because now that we are being called to make difficult changes and choices we begin to think it might not have been so bad without Him. That’s our sinful, evil nature of course, to seek our old, threadbare comfort rather than letting God guide us to a new, better, eternal comfort. Now, this is most pronounced when we first know God, but we feel this rebellion all the time; in fact I would even go so far as to say most of us believers feel this discomfort almost all the time, we just push it into a corner of our mind so we don’t have to think about it too much. We live most days trying not to think too hard, we look at our Bibles and our religious Facebook posts and we reassure ourselves that that’s what God wants from us. 

Is it? Because I’m pretty sure Jesus didn’t tell the disciples to go to church and only half-listen for fear they might feel called out or to exchange uncomfortable conversations with God for buying a pun-based Christian shirt. God is not a nanny, our immediate comfort is not His only concern. He cares about our forever, He wants us to spend it with Him. So yes, He is going to push us outside our comfort zone, He is going to point out the sin that clouds our life but He is also going to rebuild us so much better and stronger than we ever were before (if we will just put ourselves aside for literally two minutes). 

So, today, just take a moment to ask God what He actually wants you to do. Don’t shy away when you start to feel uncomfortable, realize you can’t live for yourself and recognize what God’s calling you to do. Don’t face this conversation or the  next steps He’s going to have for you with fear, because He’s right there with you and He is so excited to help you. He literally has the best of intentions for us. 

“Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong.”

            ~ 2 Corinthians 12:10 (KJV)



Mark 11 [Part One]

What I’m Listening to: Are All the Children In by Johnny Cash

This is part one of a two part series covering Mark Chapter 11.

This last week in my church’s bible study we covered Mark 11, which starts with the story of Palm Sunday. 

 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,


“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”

“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” 

        ~ Mark 11:7-10 (NIV)

Then, the next day (still in Mark 11) the narrative takes a bit of a downswing from the parade we see above, mainly through three events that round out the chapter. The first is that Jesus is walking and He sees a fig tree. 

 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, 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. Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.

       ~ Mark 11:12-14 (NIV)

The next event that happens is that Jesus arrives at the temple courts. 

 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.

         ~ Mark 11:15-16 (NIV)

Finally, some chief priests, scribes and elders of the Jewish religion come and talk to Him. 

 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

         ~ Mark 11:27-33 (NIV)

Now, if I leave the story there, it sounds not great doesn’t it? Jesus sounds kind of fickle, spiteful and out for His own gain, like a selfish, fallen human. But the truth is, there is important context missing from each of those stories. In the first, it’s important to know that fig trees bring forth leaves and fruit at the same time, so there should have been plenty of fruit on the tree, (if perhaps hard and underripe), not only leaves. In this way, we are shown that God does not hunger for us to have “perfectly ripe fruit”, only that we have some, perhaps very imperfect fruit; that we try to grow and serve and fulfill our heavenly purpose. To have only leaves is to live only for ourselves, to be selfish and unwilling to aim for the prize of Heaven. 

The second story is important because Jesus was not walking into a place of Holy worship and turning out the faithful, He was casting out people who were perverting God’s laws for their own selfish gain. The money changers would charge exorbitant fees to exchange money for tithing. As for those selling sacrifical animals, they would force people to buy their wares by warning travelers that the animals they had brought were not clean enough to be sacrificed. 

The final story is all about intentions, when the Pharisees ask Jesus what authority He has, they did not want to get a real answer, they wanted to trick Him into saying something they could decry as blasphemy. 

The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.

            ~ Mark 11:18 (NIV)

Mark 11 is such a powerful passage, and one of the reasons for that is because when you skim it you’re a little taken aback because some of the things that Jesus does seem uncharacteristic. However, when you read deeper into the passages, you begin to understand that they are actually perfectly in the character of a, if you will, perfect character. 



(P.S. I’m not apologizing for closing my devotional with a pun.) 

Pick A Peach

What I’m Listening to: First by Cold War Kids

I had a very long post (by my standards) written out for this post, it used all kinds of illiteration and adjectives, just the thing to make my old writing 200 teacher very happy. But let’s be real, you don’t want to hear me wax nostalgic about a peach farm you’re never going to visit, so I did us both a favor and scrapped it. The gist of my day was: I went to a U-pick peach farm in rural Arkansas and it was such a beautiful day outside that afterwards I dragged everyone to this little historical site just to hang out and enjoy the day a little more. It was such a fun day, the kind that makes you understand why 2/3rds of all songs on the radio are just based off the concept of summer. (Though arguably I think they should definitely sing some more about peaches, because they were amazing.)



September of Peace

What I’m Listening To: Daddy Sang Bass by Johnny Cash

Your suspicions are correct. Every Sunday for the month of September I’ll be doing a short devotional. Each will tie in with the larger message of why the world, and the trials that we face during our time in it, present us with the opportunity to become better Christians, not worse. As for the name? I’m calling it ‘September of Peace’ because September is a month of relative quiet, a sanctuary between the end of summer and the beginning of the holidays. I hope that you will follow along with me on this journey as we attempt to find peace in the Lord this (pre) holiday season.

Peace (literally)


Blueberry Picking + Cobbler

What I’m listening to: He’s a Rebel by The Crystals

It’s June. That means the beginning of summer, avoiding your third cousin’s wedding invite, and of course, blueberry season. I’ve gone u-picking for years, but for the non-hippie children in the back I’ll elaborate. Basically it means you drive out to a farm and spend a couple hours battling bugs, heat and the odd small animal for the right to search for blueberries you could buy at Kroger. Except that u-pick blueberries will be the most amazing blueberries you’ve ever had. The endless piles of berries that you heaped in your plastic bucket will be gone within a matter of days (they make the most amazing desserts). So anyways, here is my absolutely factual recipe for blueberry cobbler, from farm to table. (And yes, you are allowed to punch me for saying something so pretentious.) 

First step is to find your local u-pick place. They’ll give you a bucket, and off you go. If the blueberries are ripe they’ll be indigo and almost fall off the branch. 

(If they look like the berries shown above, move along, they’re not ready.)

 Now that you’ve picked all those blueberries, take a well deserved break. After all, you just did hard labor your great-grandparents would have considered a vacation. Now you’re ready to go home and make your cobbler. Here’s what you’ll need: 

1 casserole dish 

1/2 cup butter

1 cup self-rising flour

1 cup white sugar

1 cup milk

3 cups blueberries

First, melt the butter and pour it into the casserole dish.

Next, mix the flour, sugar and milk together in a separate bowl. 

 Once it looks like the above picture, pour it directly onto the butter. DO NOT MIX! 

 It should now look like this. Pat yourself on the back, you’re almost done. Now dump the blueberries on top of everything. (Yes, on top. And don’t even think about mixing it.)

 Throw it (not literally) into the oven at 350 for an hour. 

All done! Top with ice cream (I know, I know, I’m betraying my Georgia roots but ice cream beats whipped cream any day of the week in my book.) 

 And enjoy! Seriously though, just to give you an idea of how many blueberries were picked here’s a bonus picture. 

 I’m gonna go eat cobbler. 



Advent Day 6

What I’m Listening to: Meet Me Under The Mistletoe by Randy Travis

Welcome to Day 6 of our Advent series! If you’re up to speed, congrats(!), if not, be sure to check out the previous posts. The first one explains a little more about the series. Now, here’s today’s reading from Matthew. 

 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.                          

                          Matthew 1:18-19 (NIV)

This Christmas, there are many gifts that we will receive, from video games, to new clothes, to the God-giving blessings that we to often overlook. God gives us four main gifts, each of which I’ll be talking about over the next few days. Today we will be talking about the gift of love. Joseph had the gift of love, both for the Lord, as well as for Mary. Everyone has the gift of love, but we often don’t offer it to one another. We worry that we will be rejected or made fun of if we try to love people. We must remember that we, as Christians, understand the love the God offers us. It is our duty to love one another as He loved us. 

Prayer Prompt: Ask God to show you someone who needs your love. It could be a friend, a family member or even a stranger. 

Advent Day 5

What I’m listening to: Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree by Brenda Lee
Welcome to Day 5 of our Advent series! If you’re up to speed, congrats(!), if not, be sure to check out the previous posts. The first one explains a little more about the series. Now, let’s go back to where we last left off in Luke. 

 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”

                        Luke 1:38 (NIV) 

Have you ever felt yourself wanting to shirk your God-given responsibilities? Whether that be not wanting to read your Bible, or go on a mission trip, it’s often feels like it would be “better” to just not do something. Here, Mary has been told that she, a girl who isn’t married yet, in ancient times, will become pregnant. She doesn’t tell God that she’ll have to think about it. She doesn’t ask “why me?”. She simply accepts her responsibility. Sometimes when things seem hard, it can be easy to want to give up. However, we must remember that God never gives us more than we can handle. Even if something seems impossible, God will find a way for his will to come to fruition. 

Prayer Prompt: Pray for guidance from the Lord with a responsibility that is weighing on your heart. Remember that you are storing up treasures in Heaven, even if it may seem difficult to do so on Earth.