Tuesday, December 31: Mark 14- "I am".

Jesus’ ordeal begins in this chapter. The ultimate reason He came enters its final act in this chapter.

Thank You, Jesus, for all You did for me and for humankind! Praise be to You…


Jesus’ Words before the High Priest caught my eye. For a while He is silent. The high priest refused to let up. When all ears were glued onto the situation, so there would be no mistaking His answer, Jesus speaks incredible truth. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (61-62).

“I am” two simple words, which directly answer the question. "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus.

Some say Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah and God in human flesh. He is their rebuttal. "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus, are you? "I am," He responds.

This is a game changer. Jesus can no longer be simply a good man or a wise man… He is God in human flesh or as Mark said, from the beginning, He is the Christ, the Son of God (1:1).

There is no indication that the high priest ever believed Jesus. They judged Him to be a quack, a blasphemer, a pretender…

What do you believe?

If you haven’t made up your mind, it is time to decide.

I have decided that Jesus is who He claims and I will follow and obey Him as my Lord, Savior and God.

Thank You, Jesus, for clarity, for answering the question. Thank You, Jesus.  I surrender all to serve and follow You. Amen.


*   *   *   *

Somehow in the Bible reading plan I prepared for my church, I left off Mark 15 and 16. Not wanting to skip these great chapters, I provide bonus devotionals for these two chapters today… Wow three for the price of one.


Tuesday, December 31: Mark 14– “I am”…

Jesus’ ordeal begins in this chapter. The ultimate reason He came enters its final act in this chapter.

Thank You, Jesus, for all You did for me and for humankind! Praise be to You…


Jesus’ Words before the High Priest caught my eye. For a while He is silent. The high priest refused to let up. When all ears were glued onto the situation, so there would be no mistaking His answer, Jesus speaks incredible truth. Again the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven" (61-62).

“I am” two simple words, which directly answer the question. "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I am," said Jesus.

Some say Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah and God in human flesh. He is their rebuttal. "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" Jesus, are you? "I am," He responds.

This is a game changer. Jesus can no longer be simply a good man or a wise man… He is God in human flesh or as Mark said, from the beginning, He is the Christ, the Son of God (1:1).

There is no indication that the high priest ever believed Jesus. They judged Him to be a quack, a blasphemer, a pretender…

What do you believe?

If you haven’t made up your mind, it is time to decide.

I have decided that Jesus is who He claims and I will follow and obey Him as my Lord, Savior and God.

Thank You, Jesus, for clarity, for answering the question. Thank You, Jesus.  I surrender all to serve and follow You. Amen.


*   *   *   *

Somehow in the Bible reading plan I prepared for my church, I left off Mark 15 and 16. Not wanting to skip these great chapters, I provide bonus devotionals for these two chapters today… Wow three for the price of one.



Mark 15– The heart of our faith…

Mark records in significant detail events leading up to and including Jesus’ death. I was captivated by His final cry. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"--which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" … With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last (34,37).

As I read Jesus’ cry, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? I thought this is the heart of our faith. God forsakes Jesus as He hangs on the cross. The Father turned His back on Jesus. This sounds so uncaring, so beneath God, that in Jesus’ hour of pain and death the Father would forsake Him…

Could this be? Yes, I think so. And it is the heart of our faith! Why? How? In that moment Jesus, the beloved and eternal Son of God, carried the sins of the world into oblivion. The Holy and Perfect Father could not be with ‘the sin-of-the-world riddled’ Jesus and so Jesus is forsaken, alone. Death comes with a loud cry.

And so we are redeemed… Jesus took our forsaken place, the place of sin and shame and guilt. He took it willingly, the perfect sinless Son died as the substitute for you and for me and for all who accept the gift of life and redemption that comes with faith in Jesus.

As great as the physical torture of flogging and crucifixion was, I suspect that those moments of separation from the Father were far worse. In those moments, Jesus experienced something new and horrible, the guilt, shame and penalty of sin. Something He had never known. And with our sin clinging to Him, Jesus experience, for the only time in His life, separation from the Father.

Jesus is not simply quoting Psalm 22, He is living the horror of it. And He did so willingly for you and for me and for all humankind.

Oh, Jesus, as we mark the close of 2013, help me to resolve to herald Your Good News in 2014 in more ways than I have ever done before. In Your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Mark 16– He’s alive!…

The Father may have forsaken Jesus, but the Father never forgot Jesus. Once our sin-ransom was paid and Jesus filled out the time allotted from all eternity in the grave, the power of the Father raised Jesus from the dead. Death has been defeated and a way back into fellowship with God the Father has been paved, faith in Jesus Christ.

The tomb is empty. Jesus is alive forever more!

Lord, I am so glad that the story doesn’t end with Jesus dead and forsaken. Alleluia, Jesus is alive!

Lord, sometimes, like the women, I am fearful to witness to You. I don’t like to admit this, but it is true. I pray that I have the faith of these women, who though afraid, still did what You told them to do. They witnessed to You.

Lord, as 2014 dawns tomorrow, I pray for increased boldness to share with the world the wonderful news, Jesus is Alive and death is defeated for all who are in Christ. Amen!




Monday, December 30: Mark 13- There will be an end.


There will be an end!

People, scholars, end-time devotees, battle over what particulars in this and similar passages means. Some people even attempt to give us a date for the end. Pushing these things aside, this chapter makes it quite clear…

There will be an end! Some day, people will see the Son of Man [Jesus] coming in clouds with great power and glory. And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens (26-27). Some day Jesus will return and Jesus will judge all people.

From the scriptures, this is as sure as sure can be. It WILL happen.

As I climbed into this thought, I realized that though I may not be alive when this happens, I will face a day when my earthly life is over, when the fever of this life is hushed and my life as I know it ends. So whether I think about the end in cosmic terms or personal terms, there will be an end for me. And at that time I will stand before Jesus and face my judgment.

I began to ask myself, what am I doing today to prepare for that day?

Spiritually speaking, I have put my faith in Jesus and the only way of salvation. Have you? Are you following, walking with and serving Jesus? However, that question is framed… have you confessed Jesus to be Lord of your life and is your life validating your confession? If not, what are you waiting for???

Relationally speaking, are your closest relationships in good shape? What could you be doing to repair broken relationships or strengthen healthy ones?

I continued this kind of introspection thinking through various facets of life, financial, material (stuff), etc…

It was a good morning and somehow seems like a fitting way to prepare for the turn of the year coming in two days.

Lord, thank you for this journey. All things considered I pray that my life, as I am living it and as I might alter it due to this morning with You, will honor and bless You. I pray, too, that my life might act as a road sign for some people, helping them find their way to faith in You before their end comes.

This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, December 28: Mark 12- Giving out of poverty or wealth.

I found the closing story drew me in immediately. In particular it was Jesus’ Words about where our giving comes from. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything--all she had to live on" (43-44).

As I read this it seems to me that most everyone I know, myself included, gives out of our wealth. I can only speak for myself. I have a pantry and freezer of food that might carry me a month. Admittedly, by the end there would be slim pickins’ but I would have food to eat. I live in a house with electricity, high-speed internet and more TV channels than I can count. I have heat in the winter and AC in the summer, dishes, clothing, furniture in every room and even a family heirloom or two. My wife and I have 3 personal computers, smartphones and a tablet each. Oh, yeah, we have 3 cars, two good paid-off cars and one ‘beater’ for when our college son is home.

Most of the people I know live in similar standards. Oh, they may have more of this and less of that, but we are comfortable living in the US, which means by world standards we are a ‘1%-er’!

When it comes to giving, I give out of my wealth! Now there is nothing wrong with this. It is better than not giving not of our wealth. It simply means we are in a different place than some when it comes to our giving.

My first devotional movement was to ask myself, prompted by the Spirit I believe, “Is my giving at the level it should be given my assets and manner of life?” The question then rephrased in my head, “Could I be giving more?” (How about you?)

Next I pondered the idea of the poor woman giving out of her poverty. What would it be like to give to God when I didn’t know where my next meal was coming from? If I didn’t know if I would have heat at night? If winter was coming and I didn’t have a coat or warm socks or gloves?

I have never know these situations, so all I can do is imagine…

One thing my imagining did is tell me that giving out of poverty is VERY different than giving out of wealth.

Chew on that for a while…

Lord, I thank You for the resources I have. I sit here today, a few days after Christmas, awash in family and gift-giving and I wonder if I am being faithful to YOU with the resources I have been given by YOU.

Help me to put my finances under YOUR jurisdiction and control and to make my resources available to advance YOUR kingdom. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Friday, December 27: Mark 11- Making money off God?!.

Cleaning out the temple was an incredibly dramatic act and one that added gasoline to the fires burning against Jesus. From a purely earthly perspective it took tremendous chutzpa to take on the religious establishment of the day.

I found myself drawn into this account.

On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple area 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. And as he taught them, he said, "Is it not written:

"'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'?

But you have made it 'a den of robbers'" (15-17).

What likely began as a service to weary, faithful travelers corrupted into a dishonoring practice.

When the distance was too great, pilgrims coming to Jerusalem could convert their animal offerings into cash and then purchase animals in Jerusalem to sacrifice to the Lord. Thus, we see the sale of doves, an acceptable sacrifice, and money changers. So what is wrong with the practices?

First problem is location. The place where all this was happening was in the temple precincts themselves. The temple had a precise layout. The inner-most area of the temple was the Holy of Holies, only the high priest could go in there and that only once a year. Emanating out from that center in something like concentric circles were different areas… areas for priests, then space where men could worship, then where women could worship and finally where foreigners could worship. By setting up the tables and money changers in the temple proper, they had eliminated worship space for certain groups of people, likely the foreigners. Thus Jesus response, "'My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations'?  God’s design from God’s original call to Abraham in Genesis 12, was being disregarded.

The second half of Jesus comment hints at a second issue: But you have made it 'a den of robbers'" They were gouging the people with the practices of money changing and selling the sacrificial animals. They were prostituting themselves to make a shekel!

My mind floats through 2013, prayer erupts…

Lord, are we in Your church guilty of hoarding Your grace for our selves rather than providing space for the nations to praise You? Are we???

Lord, are we more interested in making a buck and building our ‘empires’ in the name of Christ rather than providing a service so that those who wish to worship You –no matter the ethnicity or economic status- can do just that, WORSHIP YOU? Are we?

Oh God, I pray not?! Amen.


Thursday, December 26: Mark 10- Who can come to Jesus?.

It seems people often tried to keep others away from Jesus. This may have been spurred on by good intentions or the thought that those ‘others’ didn’t deserve to see Jesus.

Early on in today’s chapter, the disciples tried to keep people from bringing their children to Jesus. Jesus rebuked them and opened His arms to the children. Towards the chapter’s end, a blind man named Bartimaeus tried to get Jesus’ attention but the text says [m]any rebuked him and told him to be quiet (48).

Neither the parents nor Bartimaeus were deterred by the voices and, more importantly, Jesus welcomed both.

This caused me to wonder if I try to block people from Jesus and if yes, who I try to block from Jesus. It is not a comfortable thought. I like to think that I am open minded and don’t carry many prejudices, but this is not as true as I would like it to be. We humans are comfortable with people like ourselves, but people who are different seem to cause discomfort within,

which brings me back to my question.  Are there people, likely different than myself, whom I attempt to block from coming to Jesus?

Lord, forgive me.  I am no better than the crowds and the disciples who tried to keep people away from Jesus.

Help me to open up my life to people who are different for Gospel sake. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.



Wednesday, December 25: Mark 9- Time alone with Jesus.

Merry Christmas…

Mark 9 feels a little funny as the reading for Christmas day, then again, all Scripture is God-breathed. So any Scripture is right for every day.

I found myself meditating on verses 30-31: They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. He said to them, "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise."

Verse 30 tells me that Jesus understood He needed alone time with His disciples, time when He could pour into them personally. Maybe there were things He wanted to tell them that the general public could not have handled –at least at the present time. Maybe Jesus wanted time to go deeper with them than He could go with a crowd. MaybeHe wanted them to have extra time to process and wrestle with the things He was teaching. MaybeHe wanted time and space for them to ask the questions on their hearts. Maybe He knew there are things one can talk about with a few trusted friends that aren’t workable in a large public atmosphere. Maybe this or that…I could come up with a hundred more maybes.

Whatever the reason, Jesus arranged time alone with His closest disciples. And during those times, He taught and explained things the general public was not able to understand at the time.

This got me thinking… how important it is for disciples today to find that alone time with Jesus?  Sunday worship, small group studies,  and large Bible studies are all important. One could even make an argument that they are highly important to the life of a disciple. But alone time with Jesus is equally so.

In one’s alone time with Jesus, we can read the Word and wrestle with Jesus. We can pray and ask Him the perplexities of life. We can be vulnerable. We can listen for Him to speak. We can ___fill in the blank____.

As it was for the original disciples, so it is for all of us… alone time with Jesus is essential.

Even on Christmas and the hectic days this time of year, I hope you find some quiet alone time with your Savior, Jesus. He is waiting for you, of this I am certain.

To sit with You, Jesus… Oh what a treasure…



Tuesday, December 24: Mark 8- Wanting a sign.

I found myself considering verses 11-12. The Pharisees came and began to question Jesus. To test him, they asked him for a sign from heaven. He sighed deeply and said, "Why does this generation ask for a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, no sign will be given to it."

Pharisees are not the only people who want a sign from Jesus.  Many people ask or expect a sign from Jesus. So I wondered why Jesus was so terse with them. As I thought about it, I noticed a phrase in the NIV, To test him, they asked him for a sign… Those first 3 words seem key. Theirs was not a heart looking for answers, wanting to be sure, no, they were out to get Jesus. The request for a sign was a test, a confrontation of Jesus.

Eugene Peterson translates this verse in a telling manner, When they arrived, the Pharisees came out and started in on him, badgering him to prove himself, pushing him up against the wall (The Message, v 8).

So Jesus’ disgust and terse reply was because they were trying to discredit Him, not know and understand Him.

This passage gave me pause, because it drives me to consider my responses to Jesus… am I sincere with Him? Am I humble before Him and trusting of Him?

Lord, I pray for faith… faith to believe and follow You, Lord, without the need for signs. And, Lord, should You choose to give a sign or provide a miracle,I pray that I will receive it gladly and that it will bolster my faith. Still, Lord, I pray for a faith that stands on its own… a faith that trusts You completely.

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.



Monday, December 23: Mark 7- Traditions. can get in the way of living for God.


I loved reading the particular healings in this chapter. Jesus was so simply in His command of every situation. As much as these particular healings touched me as I read, it was the opening that drew me into contemplation.

Let me summarize what caught my attention. Verses 1-8:

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law … saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were "unclean," that is, unwashed. 3 (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. …

So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with 'unclean' hands?" He replied, “… You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men."

So many thoughts…

1) It is not that washing hands, ceremonially or hygienically, for that matter is bad. Actually it is probably good. The problem was they were judging the hearts and faith of the disciples by some outward action rather than the heart.

2) How many traditions of men do I follow? And how easy it is to develop religious traditions. As I ponder my religious life there are many, many traditions….ordained and educated clergy, Even the concept of clergy, church music, Sunday School, electing church elders for 3-year terms, church liturgies…. I’m on a roll!  How about Christmas?  Oh, how many Christmas celebrations involve traditions?  There are trees, lights, wreathes, Advent, Christmas services… giving of presents. Wow, I have to stop.  It hurts.

Are human traditions bad? No, I don’t think that is what Jesus is saying.. What seems to be bugging Jesus is that the traditions got in the way of seeing the faithfulness of people who were seeking God. In verse 9 and following, Jesus accuses the Pharisees of blatantly using traditions to avoid some laws of God. Now that is really bad.

Before I got on the ‘bash-the-Pharisees’ train, I felt a stop in my spirit… “Bill, are there any traditions that you honor more than you honor Me?” the Spirit whispered. “Are there any human faith-traditions that you honor more than you honor sincere brothers or sisters who follow different traditions?”

I spent time pondering these and other questions. I sensed God spoke into my heart. I commend them to my readers as well.

Lord, the first step is to ponder my traditions. But then I have to determine if they are getting in the way of my faith or nourishing my faith. For this I need the voice of Your Spirit, providing me with Your wisdom and counsel. Left to myself, I likely won’t change very much because my traditions are comfortable. In my prayer I am seeking fidelity to You above all else, even my traditions. In Your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, December 21: Mark 6-I'm filled with mixed motives.

I actually read and re-read this chapter.  Nothing in particular jumped out at me as a point to ponder. Some days are like that, and this gives us a choice. We can close up our Bible and head into our day or we can linger. I chose to linger. I read each short section again, some sections yet again. What was the kernel for today, Lord?

I never did zero in on a single verse. Instead, with each reading, I marveled at Jesus. How selfless He was. How committed to doing the Father’s Will. From one stop to another He presented God in human flesh, caring, teaching, healing. There is lots of healing and miracles in this chapter. Jesus seems genuinely disappointed that He could only do a few healings in His hometown.

Crowds came to him. The 5,000 men He fed on that one day could easily represent 12,000 if we add in the women and children. The numbers and crowds never seem to bother Him. He continued to give and give of Himself. Even when He crossed the lake, in what I think might have been a chance to get a brief RnR break, Jesus finds Himself inundated by people and needs. Jesus never flinched.  He continued to give of Himself and heal what seems like multitudes.

Truly to do the Father’s Will was food for Jesus’ life.

Finally this led me to think about how my life, unlike Jesus’ life, is filled with mixed motives. One minute I seek to do God’s Will; the next I am chasing my own wants, desires and dreams. Then another moment comes and I am devoted to the Lord, followed by a time of serving self.

I am such a mixed bag of motives and actions. I am so thankful for mercy and grace!

Jesus, You were so absolutely consistent in Your Will to do the Father’s Will. I never cease to be awed by You. Thank You for giving Yourself wholly to Your mission. Lord, help me to turn up my devotion, even on notch, so that this time next year I can see changes in my life, changes that honor and love You, the Father and the Spirit more fully. In Your name, Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Friday, December 20: Mark 5- The original action hero.


The thought kept hitting me as I read this chapter. Jesus is the original action hero. Oh, I know He doesn’t have a costume or magic suit, but He is continually going around, doing good and saving people. Isn’t that what action heroes do?

And more than that, the ‘story line’ is that He will save the whole world from the sinister evil forces of the devil!

Doing good, helping people in need, saving the world, that is the prototypical action hero.

On to deeper things… Jesus crosses all manner of human erected barriers to help people. In this chapter alone Jesus crosses barriers of gender, race and socio-economics to help 3 people in different strata of life than he.

Jesus cares about people and He is blind to any human cultural division that would keep Him from helping someone.

Maybe you stumbled upon this blog today or only recently. Maybe you have been a Follower for years, either way if you have a need, spiritual, physical, or emotional, reach out to Jesus. He is willing to help, no matter who you are or what you have done…

And if you are not sure how to reach out to Jesus, shoot me an email and we can talk…

Lord Jesus, thank You for the many ways You have reached out and touched my life over the years. For 35+ years I have been walking with You and You have never let me down. Never. I thank You for this and I reaffirm my allegiance to You as Lord and Savior. Direct me to places and people You would have me speak to or help in Your name…. Amen.


Thursday, December 19: Mark 4- More Jesus wonderings.

I have recently read RC Sproul’s book, The Holiness of God. In it he referenced the account of Jesus calming the sea, which was part of the reading this morning.

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!" (35-41).

RC made an interesting observation, which I now see in the text. I am not sure I noticed this before. Clearly the disciples were worried by the storm, which is why they woke Jesus. But they were terrified of Jesus after He calms the storm because they had never seen anyone command nature like Jesus did!

The power and authority of Jesus can be terrifying. He is so far above anything we know from in our world.

Mark is telling the story of Jesus Christ (Christ means Messiah, Anointed One of God), the son of God (1:1). And this is only one of the incidents where Jesus is completely other, completely different, completely above any other person we know.

I pondered why this was and two thoughts filled my mind. One, Jesus is the God-man, fully God and fully man. Two, even in His earthly state He is the perfect Spirit-filled man.

I sat and marveled at Jesus… my Lord, my Savior, God in human flesh. A wonderful meditation less than a week from Christmas…

Thank You for coming and saving me, Lord. Thank You for coming to save all who believe in You. Thank You for being the full expression of God’s love for the world (see John 3:16). Thank You for showing the way into relationship with Almighty God, the Father. Thank You, Jesus. Thank You. Amen.



Wednesday, December 18: Mark 3- Always there.

Do you ever get annoyed when people crowd your space or time? You have a day off and then someone calls and asks for a favor. Or you are working and you set the afternoon for a particular project and it seems like everyone in the office needs to ask you a question.

Maybe it is ‘introverted me’, but sometimes I need my space and I don’t want to be bothered.

Anyway, I got to wondering how Jesus did it. In this chapter alone, Jesus is pressed, and I mean PRESSED, by crowds on at least 3 occasions.

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed (7).

Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat (20).

A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, "Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you."  (32)

How did He keep going? How did He keep giving?

This got me thinking, I cannot come up with one time when Jesus refused an invitation or passed by someone asking for help. This speaks volumes to me.

And now that Jesus is resurrected and ascended into heaven, things haven’t changed. Jesus is available whenever I need to talk, cry, scream, or rant. What a blessings it is living life in relationship with Jesus…

Thanks, Jesus, for always being there for me… Amen.


Saturday, January 18: Joshua 16- .

I read the chapter this morning and sat with it for a while but nothing settled into my heart. As the day passed, I kept thinking about the last verse. It was gnawing on me.

They (Ephraim) did not dislodge the Canaanites living in Gezer; to this day the Canaanites live among the people of Ephraim but are required to do forced labor (10).

They did not dislodge. The words “did not” bothered me. I wondered if they tried and if so, how hard they tried. It is not that they ‘could’ not drive them out. It was that they ‘did’ not. Was it laziness, was it disobedience? What was it?

Ephraim would be one of the larger tribes of the northern kingdom when it revolted from God and the southern kingdom. I wondered if their not dislodging the Canaanites was the seed disobedience that eventually grew in their rebellion against the Lord.

This got me thinking about how small seeds of disobedience can lead to much larger disobedience if they are not repented of and confessed.

Lord, search me. Are there small seeds of disobedience in me that I do not see? If so, Lord, please show me, so that I might confess them. Amen.


PS: The next morning I was listening to Psalms as I was working out and I came across Psalm 78, which confirms my thoughts about Ephraim. Here are a few of the verses from Psalm 78 that caught my attention.

Psalm 78:9-11: The men of Ephraim, though armed with bows, turned back on the day of battle; they did not keep God's covenant and refused to live by his law. They forgot what he had done, the wonders he had shown them.


Tuesday, December 17: Mark 2- Wondering about Jesus.

What a chapter! I watched and listened to Jesus. I wondered what it would have been like to see Him in the flesh. There was something about Him that presents a commanding presence. People flocked to Him. So much so that people who couldn’t get a front row seat, ruined a family’s roof in order to get a paralyzed friend to Jesus. And what does Jesus do? He speaks forgiveness! Yes, the man is healed, but Jesus speaks forgiveness, something only God can grant!

Next up Jesus issues a simple call to Levi and Levi closes up shop and follows. What’s more, Levi throws a party for all his friends (Jewish outcasts, by the way). What kind of a person commands this kind of immediate response?

The scene shifts and Jesus is answering questions about fasting and particularly why His disciples aren’t fasting.

Another instant fade-through-black and we find Jesus walking on the Sabbath. His disciples, apparently hungry, grab some gain to munch on as they walk. Religious types pounce on Jesus for Sabbath-breaking. Jesus meets them head on with a story about famed King David and a veiled comment that Jesus is even Lord of the Sabbath.

The relentless pace of Mark’s Gospel is tremendous. But what gets me is Jesus…

·         never caught off guard

·         never stumped

·         seemingly in charge in every situation

·         constantly throwing curveballs to religious leaders, while at the same time attracting a following of everyday people, even irreligious people

·         comfortable debating religious pros and partying with regular folk.

Today I simply sat and watched and listened to Jesus and marveled at who He was and wondered what it would have been like to meet Him in the flesh.

Today I wondered at and marveled at Jesus…

Thank You, Lord, for this glimpse into Your life among us. I am more enthralled by You than before I sat to read and pray.

Lord, I pray that Your Spirit within me would allow me to be more comfortable, more at ease in all situations. However, not for my benefit, but that I might shine for You more brightly and effectively no matter who I am with or who is watching.

This I pray for Your glory and honor. Amen.


Monday, December 16: Mark 1-Who is Jesus?.

Mark’s Gospel begins with a flourish and proceeds at a furious pace until we reach the passion of Jesus in chapter 14. In this chapter alone we have the introduction of Jesus, His wilderness time, calling disciples and a number of healings, plus the casting out of a demon. Quite a plot line for the opening chapter!

Where I found my pause was with the opening verse. Not even a complete sentence yet it gives a powerful summary of the gospel. The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God (1).

Two incredibly rich phrases are the heart of this opening… Christ and Son of God.

Christ –Messiah, Anointed One- was a potent title in Jewish life. The Messiah/Christ would be God’s Anointed One to save Israel. Mark’s Gospel moves at a relentless pace, finally in 8.29, Peter cries out, “You are the Christ.” The disciples begin to get it.

From that point on in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus sets His face toward Jerusalem and the cross, the reason He came. As Jesus dies on the cross, Mark notes that the centurion watching His death cries out, “Surely He was the son of God” (15:38).

All that really remains in the story is the account of Jesus’ Resurrection, the vindication that He is the Christ, the Son of God!

I spent most of my morning thinking about Jesus as Christ and Jesus, the Son of God… a wonderfully rich morning with Jesus, my God.

Lord Jesus, Messiah, Ssavior, Son of God, Savior of my soul, Lamb of God, Lord of lords and King of kings… I bow before You. I worship and adore You.

Bless You, Praise You. Alleluia. Amen.



Saturday, December 14: Titus 3-.

The practical declarations of verses 1, 2 & 14 connected in my thoughts as I read and began contemplating this chapter.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.… Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

If your hope is for Scripture to give you a practical word on how to live faithfully as a follower of Jesus, today’s Word is perfect.

·         Be obedient to rules and authorities,

·         Do what is good (mentioned 2 times),

·         Do not speak falsely about anyone,

·         Be a peaceable and considerate person toward everyone…

·         Be busy providing for yourself

I took some liberties above in contemporizing these declarations but I believe my wording is fair to the text.

Well, I certainly have my living ‘to do’ list for today.

Lord, thank You for the practicality of Your Word and instruction. Now comes the rub….living it. I pray for the presence of Your Holy Spirit to guide and teach me how to fulfill these, Your Words today as I live and work and move about life.

Thank and bless You Father, Son and Holy Spirit, to whom I pray through Jesus’ name. Amen.



Friday, December 13: Titus 2- Lord, does my living honor You?.


We, Believers or Christians, represent God and God’s Word. We should live in a way that honors God… Right?! I was struck by the ‘so thats’ of today’s passage.

--Verse 5: Older women are to live... so that no one will malign the word of God.

--Verse 8: Younger men are to live… so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us.

--Verse 10: Slaves are to live… so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

People are watching us, even as we watch other people. The way we live should speak positively about the Lord, whom we follow. People may not believe what we believe, but there should be nothing in our lives that allows others to besmirch our God.

Today’s time in the Word drives me to look at my life and ask, “Lord, Jesus, does my living honor You? Almighty God, does my life honor You? Holy Spirit, am I living such that my life reflects positively upon You?”

Self examination is required to answer these questions…

Lord God, grant me patience, insight and determination to examine my life in light of Your Word and to make the needed adjustments so that my life constantly reflects better and better upon You, my Lord God. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, December 12: Titus 1- Word + Deed.

How important are actions? VERY. In describing false teachers of Crete to Titus, Paul gives a telling observation. They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him (16).

Sparks flew as I pondered this.

Belief can be a slippery concept. What we believe… is it defined best by what we say, we believe or by how we act in accordance with our said beliefs? I wrestled with this thought. And I lean toward the latter.

It is easier to profess belief in a truth than it is to live it. It seems reasonable that what I truly believe I will do or at least strive to do. Oh, I may fall short from time to time, but my trajectory is to live what I believe.

As this thought tumbles, I look back to Paul’s words, They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. Their verbal claims do not match their actions.

As I type this last sentence, its point comes back to confront and challenge me. Are my faith-claims matched by my actions? God presses this into me as I watch the sun rise outside my window. Am I consistent?  Does my living shout “Bill loves Jesus”?

Lord, I pray so. I pray that my life is consistent, honorable and faith-filled. I pray my actions speak and confirm my professed faith in You. Amen.


Wednesday, December 11: 2Timothy 4- Being rescued by God, what does it really mean?.

My heart was attracted to verse 18. The body of the letter ends with these words, all that remains are the final greetings.

Verse 18 reads, The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. To him be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Despite his dire circumstances, imprisoned in Rome, Paul remains perfectly confident in God and God’s care, protection and ultimate salvation.

If I am reading it correctly, there is a significant difference between Paul’s view and the modern western Christianity view. Protection or rescue in the dominant western Christian view means that God rescues us from the trial, pain or persecution. Paul sees God’s rescue as a guarantee that God will bring him safely into eternity. Paul’s understanding of rescue is not necessarily on the earthy plain or in his earthy situation. Paul’s understanding of rescue has to do with his ultimate salvation and the guarantee of making it to eternity with God.

This leads me to realize how tied I am to this life and my 60 or 90 years here on earth, where Paul lived his earthly life in light of heaven’s reality. God’s rescue may not mean an easy earthly life, but it certainly means salvation in the life to come.

I wonder if I am bound too tightly to my earthly comforts, to the easy life, life without real sacrifice for Jesus or persecution…

Do I spend too much time on me, mine, my life and my family and my ‘this and that’, missing the ‘give-a-way-my-life’ aspect of following Jesus?

My musings as I sit with my Lord this morning…

Lord, continue to work in me. Show me my faith deficiencies. Reveal where my life is still under the control of my carnal flesh. Sanctify me, cleanse me, mature me, show me Your way and ways that I might be effective in advancing Your kingdom for Your glory and honor. Amen.


Tuesday, December 10: 2Timothy 3- Persecuted???.

Paul is so matter of fact as he writes Timothy, In fact, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted (12).

Paul maybe matter of fact, but the words shock me. They seem so far from the way 21st Century American Christians like me live. Face persecution (!) that is not our reality. Not only do we not face persecution, most of us anticipate that we will be blessed.

I kept pondering the difference between the words & world of Paul and our world today. Is it that Christianity has radically changed the world since the 1st century or could it be that we have become so acculturated into our world that there would be no reason for the world to persecute us?

I have many thoughts but no concrete answer.  However, my general world is certainly different than Paul and Timothy’s world.

So what do I do with Paul’s word, everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted?  I’m not sure.

But one thing I cannot do is rule out the possibility of persecution if I am living all out for Jesus. Maybe my lack of persecution indicates I am not living all out for Jesus. OUCH, got to think about this a bit more…

Lord… my life seems different than Paul and Timothy’s. I’m not sure what to do with the verse I pondered. Keep speaking to me, Lord. Lead me and guide me and if persecution is in my future, please grace me with the strength to live faithfully during my persecution.

Thank You, Lord. I love You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Monday, December 9: 2Timothy 2-Godly behaviors.

I read the chapter a number of times wondering where God wanted to me to meditate. There is so much in this chapter. Eventually I landed on verse 22: Flee the evil desires of youth, and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart.

I pondered the phrase, Flee the evil desires of youth. I don’t know if youth today wrestle with the same things as in Timothy’s day… be that as it may, I pondered the desires of youth. Invincible, risk takers, faith foundations not yet solid, high sexual drive. I’m sure there are many more ‘youthful desires’ but I lingered with these. God says flee these kinds of desires. Why? Because they lead to behaviors that are not godly. Instead God says pursue:

-righteousness… right living before God

-love… that characteristic that is supposed to define Christ-followers

-peace… harmonious relationships with others and God, and

-positive relationships with other mature Christ followers…

As I think about these, they are powerful Christ-honoring ways to live.

The more I ponder these, the more I realize that these are fairly easy to write about but not particularly easy to live out… Oh, how much I need the help and strength of God.

Lord, please help me. These characterizes You ask me to pursue don’t come easily. I cannot master these on my own. I need Your help. These characteristics run counter to my human nature.  Please endow me with Your Spirit. Only by the grace of Your Spirit can I master these.

Thank You, Jesus… in Your name, I pray. Amen.


Saturday, December 8: 2Timothy 1- For God's purpose.

I naturally view life through the lens of self… myself. Somewhere in the mix of why I choose the friends I have is the way the friendship benefits me. After my salary is deposited it is spent in ways that benefit me (and my family). When I buy airline tickets I choose an aisle seat because that is what I like. Missions that I support generally touch my heart in some way.

I really don’t know how to live life selflessly. Self, it seems, is part of all aspects of my life. (BTW, I believe God understands this… I am thinking of the second half of the greatest commandment; love your neighbor as yourself, ‘as you love yourself.’ More thoughts on this some other day.)

Naturally when it comes to salvation, my initial thinking is somehow, someway, God saved me because of me. I am not proud to admit this, but these thoughts live in me.

So when I come to 2Timothy 1:9, it provides a much needed corrective to my self-focus. Check it out, So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. I bolded the words that corrected me.

God saved me, NOT because of me or because I am so good or have so much potential or any other ‘self’ reason. God saved me because of His purpose and His grace. That’s it. And the same could be said about any person who reads this meditation or this Scripture.

My salvation, as wonderful and blessed it is, is not about me. It is about God. God’s purpose, God’s grace, God’s glory and honor.

This truth and my meditations upon it are pressing me to praise. I am reminded of an old hymn we used to sing by Julia Johnston, which will be my prayer.

Marvelous grace of our loving Lord,

Grace that exceeds our sin and our guilt!

Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,

There where the blood of the Lamb was spilled.

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Marvelous, infinite, matchless grace,

Freely bestowed on all who believe!

You that are longing to see His face,

Will you this moment His grace receive?

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that will pardon and cleanse within;

Grace, grace, God’s grace,

Grace that is greater than all our sin.

Lord, God, I thank You for Your grace, for Your mercy, for Your salvation. May I live my life in dedication to You, who saved me and longs for all to be saved and come to the saving knowledge of Your Gospel. Through Jesus, Lord and Savior, I pray. Amen


What a delightful way to prepare for public worship tomorrow.