Reflection on Mark 8:31-38

crossPassage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+8.31-38

Scripture

If any of you wants to be my followers, you must forget about yourself. You must take up your cross and follow me.”

Observation

Jesus begins to tell His disciples that He will soon be rejected and crucified, but on the third day He will rise to life.

Peter rebukes Jesus for this, but Jesus says to him “Get behind me satan!”

Jesus then tells the crowd that if anyone wants to be a disciple they must die to themselves and take up their cross to follow Him. To win the world and lose your soul is tragic loss.

Application

Jesus rejects all anti-gospel, self-fulfilment messages. It is not “Your Best Life Now” but “Die to yourself.”

The message is both scary and strangely appealing.

Many christians fail to grow because they never settle in their heart that they have to die to themselves. The christian life is not just about asking Jesus into your heart even though it starts there. Being crucified is hard work, undignified, painful and deadly. It is everything that our fleshly nature revolts against.

How are we to die to ourselves?

1. Decide daily TGIF- Today God Is First. I am no longer my own; I was bought at a price by Christ. I am literally His slave.

2. Sacrifice all ambition. The career ladder and professional advancement may not be what the Lord has for you. The nice house may not be in His plans either.

3. Humility. Our culture both hates and admires humility in others. We like leaders who have “the common touch” but are not too common themselves. I must always look at my life through Christ’s eyes not through the distorted lens of self-image.

4. Be a servant, totally dedicated to serving others and the Lord. Going out of my comfort zone to help others is good for my soul.

Prayer

Lord, you call me to take up my cross to follow you. I confess I find this call scary. I want to follow you in all things. Please help me to put to death all selfish ambition and to live entirely for you. Amen.

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Reflection on Romans 4:13-25

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+4.13-25

Scripture

Abraham never doubted or questioned Gods promise. His faith made him strong, and he gave all the credit to God.

Observation

God promised Abraham the world. The promise wasn’t about Abraham obeying a law but because of his faith.

God’s anger burns against law breakers. But if there is no law it can’t be broken. Everything then depends on faith, and His promise comes to us through faith.

Even when God’s promise to Abraham that he would father many nations seemed impossible, Abraham still believed the promise.

The promise of Abraham being made righteous through faith still applies. We are still made acceptable to God through our faith in Jesus’ death.

Application

Abraham never doubted or questioned God’s promise. He clung to that promise even when he was way past the age normally associated with reproduction.

His faith made him strong. He knew that he could trust God because of God’s nature. It is not God’s character to lead us on with false promises. He is faithful and trustworthy.

Abraham had a strong faith. But faith made him strong in character and in resilience. Despite numerous set backs, Abraham knew he had a destiny and a purpose, so he kept moving forwards to that destiny.

Knowing that God has given us a purpose can help keep us going against incredible odds. We might not see the final destination- like Abraham who died long before the promise was fulfilled- but we can know that we have played our part in God’s plan.

Prayer

Lord I thank you that my final destiny is greater than I can imagine right now. Your plans for my life are more fruitful than I can know. Help me to see your purposes in my life and to live up to the high calling you have for me. Amen.

Reflection on Genesis 17:1-16

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+17.1-16

Scripture

I will always keep the promise I have made to you and your descendants, because I am your God and their God.”

Observation

When Abram is 99 years old, the Lord again appears to him. He promises to give him many descendants. Abram will be the father of many nations and is now to be called Abraham.

The Lord promises to keep His promises to Abraham and his descendants. As a response to this , every male- man, boy and even slaves- is to be circumcised. Future baby boys are to be circumcised on their eighth day.

Sarai is be called Sarah. She will bear a child and will become the mother of nations.

Application

God always keeps His promises. This is a fact that can give us hope in the darkest times.

God is faithful even when we are not. He keeps His promises to us and to our children.

We need to be careful that we heed the conditions of the promises. We often overlook the “If” and jump straight to the “I will…”

We must also learn to be patient when we claim God’s promises. He does things at the right time, not at our time. There is a 13 year gap between Genesis 16 and Genesis 17. Abraham was 100 years old when the son of promise was born.

When we think it’s too late, taking too long, past its “use by” date or just simply impossible, that is when God steps in.

God always keeps His promises. When we go off track, He coaxes us back in. When we give up hope, He gives us a glimmer of revelation to restore hope.

The only thing needed on our part is to stay faithful. God is faithful to His promise. We must remain faithful to Him.

Prayer

Thank you Lord that you always keep your promises. Even when we think we have missed it, nothing is too hard for you. Amen.

Reflection on Mark 1:9-15

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Mark+1.9-15

Scripture

Straight away God’s Spirit made Jesus go into the wilderness.

Observation

Jesus is baptised by John. The Holy Spirit comes down on Him in the form of a dove, and the Father announces, “You are my dear Son, and I am pleased with you.”

Straight away the Spirit drives Jesus into the wilderness to be tested by satan for 40 days.

After this, Jesus commences preaching all through Galilee.

Application

Mark’s account of three separate incidents marking the beginning of Jesus’ ministry is very light in detail. He uses words like “straight away” and “immediately” to convey the sense that things are happening quickly. The coming of Jesus into the world is a catalyst that speeds everything up.

In the middle of this, Jesus goes into the desert or wilderness, driven by the Holy Spirit, in order to be tested by satan.

Being in the wilderness is no fun at all. It seems like the Lord is doing really exciting things; it’s all happening with conversions and miracles; and then nothing.

The test of the wilderness experience is this- will I stay faithful to God even when He seems distant, and there is nothing good happening?

The other gospels tell us the natures of the temptations by satan. They all come down to the enticement of making things happen by self-will rather than walking in obedience to the Father.

My worth as a follower of Jesus is not in my achievements for Him. He loves me even when I fail to perform well on Sunday morning, or when I don’t pray enough. He even continues to love me when I abandon His plans for my life.

Coming through the wilderness experience means hanging onto Jesus as if He is the most important thing in my life.

Prayer

Thank you Lord for the tough times. Even though I hate them I know that you use them to take me deeper with you. Amen.

Reflection on 1 Peter 3:18-22

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Peter+3.18-22

Scripture

Those flood waters were like baptism that now saves you. Baptism is more than just washing your body. It means turning to God with a clear conscience because Jesus Christ was raised from death.

Observation

Christ died for our sins, an innocent person dying for the guilty. He did this in order to bring us to God.

Christ preached to the spirits in prison. These were the people who disobeyed God while Noah was building the ark.

The flood of Noah’s time was like baptism, in which God brings us safely to new life in Christ.

Application

Baptism, Peter tells us, is similar to Noah’s flood. We go through the water, dying to our old nature, and Christ brings us through to new life in Him.

Baptism is about death and life rather than cleansing the body. When we go under the water, it is as if we drown the sinful nature. We are lifted out of death to be united with Christ who reigns over all things.

In many Muslim countries where the punishment for apostasy from Islam can be death, the persecution of new christians often only starts after they are baptised. These people see that baptism is, in a sense, a cutting off the past life and an attachment to the new life in Christ.

While baptism in itself does not save us- only faith in Christ can do that- it imparts a great spiritual power that releases the believer to live the christian life.

Prayer

Thank you, Lord, for the gift of water baptism and its representation of the new birth in Christ. Thank you for setting me free from sin and death. Amen.

Reflection on Genesis 9:8-17

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+9.8-17

Scripture

I promise every living creature that the earth and those living on it will never again be destroyed by a flood.”

Observation

After Noah and his family emerge from the ark to a literally new world, the Lord makes a covenant with Noah.

The promise is that the Lord will never again send a world-wide flood to destroy all life. The rainbow will be the sign of this promise- both to the Lord and to Noah.

Application

We are not told of the emotional impact of the flood on Noah and his family. Seeing the destruction of every person and every creature in the world, apart from those on the ark must have been extremely distressing.

Now the Lord makes that promise to never again destroy the world by flood. The rainbow would be the sign of this promise.

The promise, together with the “reminder” of the rainbow, was a source of hope for Noah’s family as they set about living as the only inhabitants on the planet. None of them would have to go through such an ordeal again.

God doesn’t guarantee us freedom from tribulation. He does give us reminders of His love and signs for hope. Even in the darkest times of our lives we can look at a rainbow and find hope, or remember the other promises that God has given us.

Prayer

You Lord are the Father of all hope. Help me to trust you in the dark times of my life. Amen.

Reflection on 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

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Passage: https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Corinthians+9.16-23

Scripture

I don’t have any reason to boast about preaching the Good News. Preaching is something God told me to do, and if I don’t do it, I am doomed.

Observation

Paul does not preach the Good News because he wants to or because he gets paid. The Holy Spirit drives him onward, and because God has commanded him to preach, he feels doomed if he doesn’t.

He is not by nature a slave, but he enslaves himself to everyone in order to win them. So he lives as a Jew when he is among Jews and as a Gentile when he is among Gentiles. He does all this for the Gospel so that he can share in its blessings.

Application

Paul had no reason to boast about preaching the gospel. It was God’s command for him to do this so he was compelled to do it.

When I stepped out of ministry with the Uniting Church to plant a new church, it was not a decision that we made lightly. We knew that God had commanded us to do that. One colleague said it was the bravest step of faith he had ever witnessed. But to my thinking it would be far braver to say “No” to God, knowing that you are being deliberately disobedient.

Sometimes God backs us into a corner, forcing us to say “Yes” in the hope of greater blessing.

For Paul the blessings were not always obvious. He was badly beaten, imprisoned, ship-wrecked and ultimately executed because of his obedience. Yet it was in these times that he knew the greatest sense of the presence of Christ.

For most of us the steps of obedience come in small daily decisions that lead us inexorably to the presence of Christ. We learn to obey and it feels like choosing a curse to do anything else.

Prayer

Lord you always lay before us the choice of life and death, obedience and sin. Help me to choose your way every day. Amen.