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)

Peace, 

Kathleen-June

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,

“Hosanna!”

“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. 

Peace, 

Kathleen-June

(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.)

Peace, 

Kathleen-June

Return of Disco

What I’m Listening to: Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits

I have a love/hate relationship with sequins. 

This has mostly to do with the fact that in my experience they fall off, get bent and after approximately half of one wear the dress doesn’t look the same as when you put it on. (Which is probably my fault for being rough on clothes but whatever). However, against my prior judgements when I saw this dress I knew we were meant to be. I am so glad I did because it is so much fun to wear! It legitimately reflects light like some kind of colorful disco ball, (which I personally view as a plus to any garment). Stay groovy! (I’ll stop now) 

 

Peace (out), 

Kathleen-June

Week Four: Grace & Faith

What I’m listening to: Man in Black by Johnny Cash

Welcome back to the fourth and last week of my month long weekly devotional series! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The intro post has some additional information about our September of Peace devotionals. 

 I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

                 – John 16:33 (NIV)

God does not want to scare us into inaction. Yes, the world is a hostile, angry place, but we were put here for a reason. In this verse God is letting us know that the peace we desire can be found in Him. He conquered the world, not so that we would never face any obstacles, but rather that we would know that we

 “can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

              -Philipians 4:13 (NIV)      

So, as we wrap up our September of Peace, I want to take the opportunity to sum up our series as two points. 

1. We live in a shattered world that we can never begin to repair, and we ourselves are shattered because of it. 

2. Our God isn’t asking us to fix it, or ourselves, only that we rely on Him; that He might do miracles both around and through us. 

Prayer Prompt: That we might be as blessed with understanding and guidance as we are with God’s infinite grace and wisdom. We pray for these things not for ourselves, but for His cause, to be able to be used as forces of good in this fallen world. 

Week Two: Rebellion & the World

What I’m Listening To: Forever and Ever, Amen by Randy Travis

Welcome back to week two of my month long weekly devotional series! As always, if you’re new, be sure to check out my previous posts in the series. The intro post has some additional information about our September of Peace devotionals. 

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, love for the Father is not in them. 

                   ~ 1 John 2:15 (NIV)

That can be a tough pill to swallow, that even loving the world just a little means that we don’t love God. That’s not to say that we can’t like, or enjoy the things of the world; rather that we should be wary to not let them consume us and become our idols. This is made much easier if we remember two things that God tells us. One, that the world hates us because we are not like it. Yes, God makes it explicitly clear in John that the world is not merely unfeeling, but actually despises us. 

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. 

                      ~ John 15:19 (NIV)

Two, that not only has God chosen us out of the world, but that we are actually not of the world the same that He is not. 

They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 

                     ~ John 17:16 (ESV)

It is because of our likeness to God that the world does not like us. Why should we love anything that hates us for being like our Saviour? Therefore, we should rebel against the world, and turn to God, that the world might be pushed away from us through the love of Christ. 

Prayer Prompt: That we might be granted the strength to turn away from the Faustian offers the world attempts to bribe us with, and instead turn our face toward our Redeemer and the promise of Heaven.