Equal Opportunity Includer: Mark 9:33-37

Focus Passage: Mark 9:33-37 (NIV)

33 They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” 34 But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

35 Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”

36 He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.”

Read Mark 9:33-37 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

Have you ever wanted to welcome God into your life, or serve Him with how you live?

In this passage about humility, we find an interesting metaphor for how we can welcome God: We welcome God by welcoming children, and not just any children, but specifically “little children”.

I’m not sure exactly how old of a child Jesus selected, but in my imagination, this child might have been in the age range that they want to know “why” about everything. At this age, the child is an empty cup that wants to be filled with all knowledge of the world around them, and they finally have the language and intellectual development to want to learn more. The child is like a black hole for information; they are always taking in more and more while never being fully satisfied.

However, it is in this phase of development where parents might become the most annoyed, which is why my imagination places Jesus choosing a “little” child in that phase of development and makes the statement: If you welcome the least appealing child, whether they be an “ugly” child, or an annoying one, you are welcoming Jesus – and not only Jesus, but also God as well.

In this dialog, Jesus is stressing the point that how we treat others, interact with them, and/or welcome them into our lives is equivalent to us treating God that way. By welcoming little children into our lives, homes, and situations, we are welcoming God in as well. God is honored when we honor others.

God values everyone, He welcomes everyone, and Jesus died to open salvation up for everyone. God is an equal opportunity includer, and he wants each of us to be includers as well.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Fighting Temptation: Luke 4:1-15

Focus Passage: Luke 4:1-15 (GNT)

Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the desert, where he was tempted by the Devil for forty days. In all that time he ate nothing, so that he was hungry when it was over.

The Devil said to him, “If you are God’s Son, order this stone to turn into bread.”

But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone.’”

Then the Devil took him up and showed him in a second all the kingdoms of the world. “I will give you all this power and all this wealth,” the Devil told him. “It has all been handed over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose. All this will be yours, then, if you worship me.”

Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’”

Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here. 10 For the scripture says, ‘God will order his angels to take good care of you.’ 11 It also says, ‘They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’”

12 But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

13 When the Devil finished tempting Jesus in every way, he left him for a while.

14 Then Jesus returned to Galilee, and the power of the Holy Spirit was with him. The news about him spread throughout all that territory. 15 He taught in the synagogues and was praised by everyone.

Read Luke 4:1-15 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

When facing the temptations in the wilderness, Jesus uses an interesting weapon that most people don’t think of when being tempted. While we might consider prayer as the ultimate weapon against Satan and temptation, it may surprise you that Jesus does not pray a single prayer while He was tempted in the wilderness. Some might also think running from the situation is appropriate, but Jesus doesn’t run either.

Instead, Jesus uses another weapon to push Satan back, and that is the weapon of the scripture – and not just any scripture, but Old Testament scripture. Luke’s gospel shares how the first temptation Jesus receives is one that challenges Jesus’ hunger and it is an offer or suggestion for Jesus to use His creative power to help His hunger. In response, Jesus tells Satan, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone.’” (v. 4)

Luke describes Jesus second temptation as being tempted with an offer of all the kingdoms of the world. Satan is willing to give up the earth for Jesus’ worship. Responding to this temptation, Jesus tells Satan, “The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’” (v. 8)

The third temptation Luke shares Jesus receiving has to do with jumping off of the highest point of the temple. Luke’s gospel reverses the order of the last two temptations from Matthew’s gospel, and perhaps the reason Luke does this is because Satan uses an interesting tactic in this “temple-leap” temptation. Noticing how Jesus has pushed back at his earlier temptations, Satan draws upon a spiritual promise that Jesus would clearly know. In Satan’s temptation to jump, he shares, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here. For the scripture says, ‘God will order his angels to take good care of you.’ It also says, ‘They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will be hurt on the stones.’” (v. 9b-11)

Satan uses promises God had given in an attempt to get Jesus to sin. But even though Satan can twist scripture and use it in His temptations, Jesus still responded with scripture. When challenged with this third temptation, Jesus replied, “The scripture says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” (v. 12)

Jesus succeeded at pushing the devil back by using and quoting scripture, and if this was Jesus’ method of fighting temptation, we may benefit from using it as well. With God’s help and His scripture by our side, we can see these tricks, traps, and temptations Satan sends our way and successfully push Satan back in our own lives as well.

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Flashback Episode — Healing One Man: Luke 8:26-39


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As Jesus traveled around from town to town and village to village, crowds flocked to see Him and in probably every case, included in each crowd were dozens, if not hundreds, of people bringing themselves or friends of theirs to be healed by Jesus.

However, there was one man who needed to be healed by Jesus, but there was no way to get Him to Jesus. It is in this case that Jesus, prompted by the Holy Spirit, crosses the lake specifically to meet this one individual and heal him.

Three of the four gospels share this event, and for our podcast episode this week, we will be looking at Luke’s version of this event, which can be found in the gospel of Luke, chapter 8, and starting in verse 26. Reading from the New International Version, Luke tells us that:

26 They sailed to the region of the Gerasenes, which is across the lake from Galilee. 27 When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived in the tombs. 28 When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me!” 29 For Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places.

30 Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied, because many demons had gone into him. 31 And they begged Jesus repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss.

32 A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into the pigs, and he gave them permission. 33 When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34 When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35 and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36 Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37 Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left.

38 The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, 39 “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.

Some people might read or hear this story and think that Jesus doesn’t like pigs. This angle of the event completely misses the big picture. All of the pigs in that herd were destined to be killed at one point or another, and so it made little difference exactly when that would happen – that is, except for the pigs owners and those tending the pigs.

However, while the demons likely didn’t want Jesus to gain popularity in another part of that region, they preferred an exit that demonstrated how extensive in number they were – and an exit like this would certainly attract attention.

But the biggest idea of this event that I see is that Jesus made the trip across the lake for this one man. Matthew references the idea that there were two men, but regardless of the exact number, Jesus was willing to go to someone who needed help but who was unable to come to Him. Our passage begins with Jesus sailing across the lake to this man, and it concludes with Jesus being asked to leave and Him setting sail back across the lake.

This brings out another big idea: Jesus is happy to negotiate and He doesn’t want to force Himself onto others. When the demons know that they have been caught, Jesus is willing to grant their request for a different exit plan than the one they feared. Once the townspeople came out to see what the commotion was, they were scared of Jesus and asked Him to leave.

About the only person or thing in this passage that doesn’t get their request answered is the man who Jesus healed.  Luke tells us in verse 38 and 39 that “The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.’ So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him.” I’m sure that the man was happy to witness for Jesus, but that he would have rather become a disciple like the twelve that were with Jesus.

This brings us to a third big idea: Sometimes our mission isn’t to travel with Jesus but to share what Jesus has done for us. While our lives in the 21st century are different, as our relationship with Jesus is different than literally walking with Jesus in the flesh, we don’t have to pick between leaving our world behind to follow Jesus vs. sharing what Jesus has done for us. While all of us are called to leave our past, sinful lives behind, and while many are called to travel as missionaries, with the Holy Spirit and a regular time alone in prayer with God and our Bible, we can be with Jesus wherever we are at, which leaves us with the challenge to share with others what Jesus has done for us.

Jesus was willing to cross the lake to help one individual who could not travel to Him, and He is more than willing to do the same for us. Jesus is willing to come as far as He needs to in order to reach our hearts – and after He has touched our lives, He calls us to tell others what He has done for us.

Our stories are our testimony and they are the best invitation for others to invite Jesus into their lives as well. Jesus isn’t interested in forcing His way into our hearts, but He is more than happy to enter when invited.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I want to leave you with:

If you haven’t invited Jesus into your heart, I invite you to do so today. Ask Him to come in and change your life from the inside into being more like the person God created you to be. If you have already asked Jesus into your heart, and/or when God has done something significant for you, choose to not stay silent and share with others what He has done.

Also, while it is easy to get caught up in the busyness of life and doing ministry, be sure to take time to personally pray and study the Bible for yourself. Now that Jesus is in heaven and we have been promised the Holy Spirit, when we pause, pray, and study our Bibles, we are able to draw close to God and Jesus through the Holy Spirit and we are able to learn what He wants to teach us. If you depend on me or anyone else for your spiritual truth, you are limiting what God wants to teach you personally.

And, as I end each set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Season 3 – Episode 16: Cam discusses an event where Jesus travels across the lake to heal one man who was unable to travel to see Him. In this event, we can learn a number of things about God’s character and His love for sinful humanity.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

Describing God’s Kingdom: Matthew 13:44-52

Focus Passage: Matthew 13:44-52 (GNT)

44 “The Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man happens to find a treasure hidden in a field. He covers it up again, and is so happy that he goes and sells everything he has, and then goes back and buys that field.

45 “Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. A man is looking for fine pearls, 46 and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has, and buys that pearl.

47 “Also, the Kingdom of heaven is like this. Some fishermen throw their net out in the lake and catch all kinds of fish. 48 When the net is full, they pull it to shore and sit down to divide the fish: the good ones go into the buckets, the worthless ones are thrown away. 49 It will be like this at the end of the age: the angels will go out and gather up the evil people from among the good 50 and will throw them into the fiery furnace, where they will cry and gnash their teeth.

51 “Do you understand these things?” Jesus asked them.

“Yes,” they answered.

52 So he replied, “This means, then, that every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of heaven is like a homeowner who takes new and old things out of his storage room.”

Read Matthew 13:44-52 in context and/or in other translations on BibleGateway.com!

All throughout the gospels, Jesus shared parables. A good number of these parables are tagged as describing the Kingdom of heaven or the Kingdom of God. Perhaps Jesus spoke in parables in this way to help us better understand ideas and characteristics of a big thing that would overwhelm us if we saw it clearly.

In many ways, these parables reveal God’s character and His perfect world that He wants to invite us into. At this point in our lives, if He were to show us a vision of this ideal world, we might not believe it to be possible. Instead, I think He may have given parables to give us glimpses of the perfection He has planned.

In the concluding set of parables about the Kingdom of heaven in Matthew 13, there is a common theme that runs through them. In these three parables, God’s Kingdom is represented by a treasure hidden in a field, by a merchant searching for fine pearls, and by a fishing net that catches all kinds of fish.

All three of these parables contain some common themes.

The first theme that unifies these parables is the theme of seeking. Each of these parables has a character seeking something that is valuable. While the man in the field is not expecting to find the treasure he found, he is quick to recognize its value and worth because he knows it is something he desperately needs. The merchant’s role is seeking valuable pearls, and the fishermen’s role is seeking valuable fish. God’s Kingdom is one that seeks out the people, thoughts, ideas, and things God finds valuable, so He can add them to His Kingdom.

The second theme that unifies these parables is the theme of filtering. Each of these parables has a character recognizing the valuable thing from the not valuable thing. The man in the field recognizes that the buried treasure is more valuable than the dirt covering it. The merchant recognizes the valuable pearl among the lower quality, less valuable ones. The fishermen catch lots of types of fish, but they filter their catch into the valuable fish and the not valuable fish. God’s Kingdom is one that sorts and filters the valuable from the not valuable and God keeps the things He determines are valuable before ignoring or throwing out that which is worthless.

The third theme that unifies these parables is the theme of sacrifice. Each of these parables contains a measure of sacrifice on the part of the main characters. The man in the field and the merchant sell everything they have to acquire their respective treasures. The fishermen have to take the time to sort the good from the bad in order to get their treasure. If fishermen could, they would prefer to only catch what they know is valuable, but that is not how a fishing net works. The sacrifice for a fishermen is the time it takes to sort the valuable from the worthless. God’s Kingdom is one that cost Him everything. God sold everything He had for the opportunity to acquire the planet filled with value.

These parables unify by describing a God who is willing to give up Himself to bring us into a relationship with Him. He values this blue planet and each of us as its inhabitants, and He spared no expense buying us back from sin. God’s Kingdom is filled with value because God gave everything He had to purchase it. We might not see the value in God’s decision, but God gives value to what He purchased by how much He was willing to pay. He bought this blue planet and us through the death of His Son. Never let anyone convince you are less valuable to God than this!

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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