Living Lent in 2023
Lent is the 40 days leading up to Easter. It is a time we set aside each year to remember the love of God that is poured out through Christ Jesus on the cross in His death.
It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends at sundown on Holy Thursday. We want to do more than just observe the season, we want to live it out in our fasting, prayer and giving. Hence the theme, Living Lent in 2023. As a church, we are encouraging each other to live out this season authentically, and have a few avenues on how we can do that together.
ASH WEDNESDAY PRAYER MEETING22 February 2023
UPDATE! LENT WEEKDAY PRAYER
23 February – 31 March 2023
Monday – Friday
7.30 AM – 8.30 AM
Zoom Meeting ID: 853 4944 2203
ONSITE PRAYER MEETING
4 April 2023
7.00 AM – 8.00 AM
SENSE OF HOLY WEEK
Experiencing the Holy Week through 5 senses
A self-directed walkthrough
5 – 6 April 2023
Wednesday – Thursday
6.00 PM – 9.30 PM
Come by 9pm latest
7 April 2023
8.30 PM – 10.00 PM
PJEFC Main Sanctuary
The Space in Between
9 April 2023
10.00 AM – 12.00 PM
PJEFC Main Sanctuary
Prayer and fasting go hand in hand. Corporately as a church, we will meet on weekday mornings to pray together and reflect upon the sacrifice of Jesus.
We will be starting off the Lent season with a special Ash Wednesday Prayer Meeting, remembering our sinfulness and our need for a Saviour.
During the Holy Week, we will be preparing special reflection spaces where you will engage your 5 senses in reflecting on the passion and sacrifice of Jesus.
Christian fasting is abstaining from food or drink for a specific period of time while focusing on prayer and fellowship with God.
Fasting is a spiritual discipline, and we rely on God to give us strength. Let us not be legalistic about it, but remember the purpose of our fasting. Decide on a fast that you can be committed to, and be drawn into His presence through prayer.
1) COMPLETE FAST
Fasting from all food, and drinking only water.
2) LIQUIDS FAST
Abstaining from solid food and having only juices, soups or water.
3) PARTIAL FAST
A Daniel fast is abstaining from meat and only eating vegetables. You could also fast from sugar or sweets. Or even carbs.
4) ENTERTAINMENT FAST
You could fast from social media, Netflix, or online games.
Isaiah 58:3-7 talks about the kind of fast that God desires: to free the captives, share with the hungry, and show hospitality to the poor.
One way to do this is with our giving. You can choose to give to church, a family in need, an orphanage or a charity organization.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Mark 11:12-14; 20-25
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.
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
“Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.”
What? What in the world is this about? …
Yeah, that’s most people’s response to this story. Jesus uses his miraculous powers to place a curse on the fig tree. Our human viewpoint looks on this curse as capricious and unfair. It’s not even the season for figs, and yet Jesus curses the tree because it is fruitless. Clearly, Jesus is trying to teach his close followers — and us in the process — something very important. As in some other stories and events in the New Testament, it is important that we focus on the one key point of the story. As this story unfolds, it is possible to see that the lack of fruit on the fig tree foreshadows Jerusalem and all that it symbolizes with the Temple — the central religious place for God’s people at that time. Jesus will die near Jerusalem. He will die for the people there … and people all over the world. He will come again looking to see if there is fruit as a result of his life, sacrifice, and resurrection. There will be choices to make. There will be a season of decision, followed by fruit-bearing. Jerusalem had its time. Now it is our own time of decision and continuous fruit-bearing. What will our future be?
We, the believers and disciples of Jesus Christ we have the fruit of the Spirit in us. (The fruit of the Spirit –love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Galatians 5:22-23) Are we nurturing the fruit of the Spirit? We have to act by faith with the empowering of the Holy Spirit and the willingness to intentionally be transformed and changed.
O Father in heaven, I choose to honor Jesus and trust him to be my Savior. I believe he is the Christ, the Messiah your prophets promised would come. I want him to reign as Lord in my life. I open my life for the Holy Spirit to do his work of transformation in me, conforming me into the character of your Son and transforming me into a temple where you live. My prayer is that your holy fruit be formed in me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Read Galatians 5:22-23 out loud – ask God to reveal one area where you have made progress, and one area where you would like to grow in.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Mark 11:15-18; 27-33
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. 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.’ ”
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.
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.”
Having seen everything at the temple the day before, Jesus comes back and puts an end to all the buying and selling of sacrifices there. This creates quite a disruption.
Jesus clears out the courts so that believers from all nations can gather there for prayer. He rebukes the moneychangers and the vendors for making the Lord’s temple a “den of robbers.” And by toppling tables and benches, he shows that the whole system of continuous sacrifices is about to be overturned.
Jesus is here to fulfill the Old Testament law by paying for our sins once and for all. The tables of the money changers, where people got the temple currency needed to pay for temporary sacrifices for their sins, will no longer stand. Jesus will replace these with the table of bread and wine representing his body and blood, which pays for all sin once and for all. He will personally replace animal sacrifices with the sacrifice of his own life.
Until now the temple has been the central place for sacrifices and forgiveness. But God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, will now be the essential source of forgiveness for all people.
Because of Jesus, we no longer have to pay for sacrifices for our sins. Jesus has come, and He has paid the price for us all!
We are made clean and righteous before God, all because Jesus has paid the sacrifices for our sins with His precious blood on the cross of Calvary.
What then can we offer to our Lord?
We can offer our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is our true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of our mind. (Romans 12:1-2)
Thank You Jesus for taking my place on the cross, being the Lamb of God to pay the price for my sins. O Lord, I offer my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to You. Strengthen me, Lord God that I do not conform to the world but be transformed by the renewing of my mind. Amen.
Watch this video on why the temple is so important in the Bible, share with someone what you learnt.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
“He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
“But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
“What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
the Lord has done this,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.
Do we know whose we are? Do we know to whom do we belong? The Greek philosopher, Socrates, cautioned man to “know thyself”. Do we really know ourselves, the depths of our depravity when we are lost in sin, the extent of evil which we are capable of without the saving knowledge of Christ and allegiance to our Heavenly Father? On the other hand, do we know what we are capable of while walking with Jesus?
The parable showed two sets of servants, both of whom belonged to the owner. One group was faithful to the very end, even upon the pain of death, while the other trampled upon the very same goodness of their master and chose to think and act that they knew better.
Life is a series of choices. Everyone remains in the darkness of their sin until the light of salvation in Jesus Christ floods the soul. Likewise, every single person has the choice of following Jesus, declaring Him as the master and captain of their soul. While we do not know the length of our days, we do know that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. To do that, we must first be in a relationship with Him, one that is made possible by making Jesus our personal Lord and Saviour.
How will your choices be shaped and directed today? Will it be guided by the Holy Spirit or through your flesh? The choice is yours.
Life can be fleeting; life can be long. When you experience pleasure and joy, an hour can feel like a minute, while thrusting your hand into an open fire for just a second can feel like an eternity. Each of us has been blessed by God to live this one life. How are we going to live it? Will we live in a manner that is worthy to bear Christ’s name, or will we live in such a way that Christ will deny us on the Day of Judgment?
Dear Lord Jesus, help me be more and more like you daily. Help me be a better person today than who I was yesterday, through the help of the Holy Spirit. I confess that my sinful, mortal shell is unable to live a life worthy of Your Name, but through You, nothing is impossible. Lord, save me! Lord, grant me success! Blessed am I who come in the name of the Lord, and from the house of the Lord, I bless You. The Lord is God, and You have made Your light shine on me. In Jesus’ name I pray, Amen!
Many of Malaysia’s majority people group have not heard of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Get in touch with a relative, neighbour, friend, or colleague and yum char with them. Let the Holy Spirit lead the conversation as you move them one step to the right.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, 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.”
Apparently giving your offering at the temple in Jerusalem was a spectator event. In this account, Jesus had sat down to watch people put their money into the offering containers. And I suspect that this was not an uncommon occurrence. I can picture those who wanted to be noticed coming when the crowds were largest and making a show of putting in their offering.
In the midst of this circus, a poor widow came to give an offering. She didn’t have much, just a couple of very small coins. But what she had, she gave. She did not do it for show. There was no way she was going to compete with the larger donors. Nor did she do it out of obligation. There was no requirement to give everything. She must have done it out of love for God; wanting to give him what little she had.
Probably the only one who noticed her giving was Jesus. There is no way to know if she even knew that Jesus had noticed her. But Jesus called his disciples together and gave her high praise for what she had done. While the monetary value of her offering was minimal, Jesus said that she gave more than anyone else had given. Because she gave her all, not just from her surplus.
How much we give, whether of our money, our time, or our talents, is not important. What matters is the generosity with which we give. The one who gives sacrificially of the little he has, has given more than the one who gives abundantly but at little real cost to himself.
Man looks at the externals, but God looks at, and rewards, the heart.
Extracted from: https://aclayjar.net/
Ultimately, the point of this story is not to focus on the amount that the widow gave, but the trust that she expressed as she gave her all to God.
With which aspects of our giving do we aspire to be more like the poor widow? With our money, our time, or our talents? It is in our lack that we express most of our trust in Him.
Dear God, from you are all things, and to you are all things. May we recognize that You supply all our needs, and we can trust you completely. Thank you that you look at our heart posture as we give. Help us to always give generously, joyfully and with complete trust in You.
Take two coins and trace them onto a paper. Write down 2 things that you’d like to offer to God. It could be your money, time or talents.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
“Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”
Christ is the “owner of the house,” but ever since he ascended into heaven, he has ruled through his “servants.” The Church is Christ’s household, and all its members (i.e., us) are his servants. Between his first and second coming, every human person is given the opportunity to please God and merit a heavenly reward by following Christ. If we live accordingly, we will be ready to welcome Him when He comes again. If we neglect to “watch,” however, and let other concerns take precedence over our relationship with God, we may be unpleasantly surprised by the eventual outcome. Christ the Lord longs for us to use this opportunity well, and we are accountable for our actions.
Exactly when Jesus will return is shrouded in mystery; no one but the Father knows. We can only recognize the signs that it is on the way in general, broad strokes (thus the fig tree analogy). What Jesus wants to make sure his apostles understand is that his second coming will occur, and he wants them to be ready for it at all times: “Be watchful! Be alert! You do not know when the time will come.”
We do not know, because we do not need to know. It suffices for us to know that we are part of a story that has meaning and that it will come to a definitive end, such that the sun and moon and stars will be darkened – the whole order of creation will be transformed. At that time, we will receive just recompense for how we carried out our role in the story.
Christ is our Judge, but he is also our Savior. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” If we build our lives on the rock of Christ and his teaching, we will outlive “heaven and earth.” Therefore, keep the end in sight, so that we can keep everything else in proper perspective.
What will you be doing when Jesus comes back suddenly? Are you ready? If not, when will you be ready? What do you need to do to get ready?
Abba Father, I get so distracted with so many things and forget how simple life is from your perspective. All you ask of us is to do your will each moment – the normal duties , relationships and responsibilities, the basic virtue of Christian charity. You are in charge Lord, not I…
Remind me, Lord, that I am a traveler. Remind me, every day, that this is not my final resting place. Help me to fulfill the mission you have given me: to make your goodness and wisdom known to as many people as possible through my words, actions, and lifestyle. Increase my faith, Lord, and make me a channel of your grace. Amen!
Make a list of things to do before Jesus comes (E.g. Do you have relationships that need to be mended? Do you have sins that need to be confessed?….)
Whatever you need to do, do it! Don’t wait. Don’t put it off.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
It is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“I will send my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare your way”—
“a voice of one calling in the desert,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’ “
And so John came, baptizing in the desert region and preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.
And this was his message: “After me will come one more powerful than I, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.
I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
~ Mark 1:1-8
John announced this great word: that repentance is the way people come to God, and the result is the forgiveness of sins. The greatest blessing people can experience is to have their sins forgiven. This is what the people who streamed out of Jerusalem to listen to John were looking for, and this is what they found. They found forgiveness of sins, and it came by way of repentance.
That is why the prophet Isaiah said John’s message would be like a great bulldozer, building a highway in the desert for God to reach the isolated stranger in the midst of the wilderness. Without a road, you cannot drive out into the desert in order to help somebody. You must have a road, a highway in the desert. John was God’s bulldozer to build that highway. You know how roads are built—exactly as Isaiah describes in chapter 40: Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain (Isaiah 40:4). That is what repentance does. It brings down all the high peaks of pride that we stand on and refuse to admit are wrong. It takes the depressed areas of our life, where we beat and torture and punish ourselves, and lifts them up. It takes the crooked places, where we have lied and deceived, and straightens them out. And it makes the rough places plain. Then God is there at that instance of repentance.
John brought people to Christ through acknowledgment of guilt. When people come this way, God meets them, cleanses them, and forgives them. John demonstrated that by the baptism he performed. But there is a greater baptism—that of the Holy Spirit. And on the day of Pentecost, when the Spirit of God came, Peter stood up and offered people two things: forgiveness of sins and the promise of the Spirit. These are both available to us if we begin at the beginning—the place of repentance.
Have you ever repented? Have you ever changed your mind, stopped defending yourself and trying to blame everything on others, and said, No, Lord, no one else is to blame, only I. That is where God will meet you. He always meets us at that point, washes away guilt, cleanses, and forgives. That is where you will find forgiveness of sins. If you have never repented before, I urge you to do so now. God will meet you right there. In the quiet of your own heart, where God alone hears, you can say to Him, Lord, I repent. Lord, send me the Holy Spirit through Jesus. And He will.
Lord, thank You that You promise to meet me in this place of repentance. I come to You now and receive your forgiveness and your Holy Spirit.
On a piece of tissue, draw a T-chart. On the left, list down areas where you need God’s forgiveness. On the right, write down people that you need to forgive. Receive God’s forgiveness, and release forgiveness to those who have wronged you. Flush the tissue down the toilet!
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. As Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
At once the Spirit sent him out into the desert, and he was in the desert forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
~ Mark 1:9-15
There is no greater need that we have as individuals than to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is by the Holy Spirit that we are able to live as we long to live and are able to overcome the power of sin and guilt and fear within us. Thus, when Jesus began to take our place, there was immediately given to Him the gift of the Holy Spirit.
This is not the first time Jesus had the Spirit. It is recorded of John the Baptist that he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother’s womb. And surely, if that was true of John, it was also true of Jesus. He lived by the Spirit during those quiet years in Nazareth. He submitted Himself to His parents, grew up in a carpenter’s shop, and learned the trade. And through those uneventful days, Jesus lived by the power of the Spirit in His life.
Then what is happening now, when the Spirit comes upon Him like a dove? The answer is that He is given a new manifestation of the Spirit, especially in terms of power. Jesus was anointed by the Spirit at this point. In Old Testament times, kings and priests were anointed by pouring oil upon their heads, committing them to the function and office in which they were to serve. This is the picture of what is now occurring in Jesus’ life. He is being anointed by God through the Spirit with power to meet the demands of the ministry upon which He is about to launch.
All these things that happened to Jesus can and must happen to us. That is why Jesus, standing with His disciples after the resurrection, said to them, But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you (Acts 1:8).
The Holy Spirit comes upon us not so that we can perform dramatic acts, but, so that we can have a new quality of life that is beautiful and captivating, yet quiet and gentle. Notice the symbol of power that is given here—it is a dove. Athletic teams sometimes use birds as emblems, signs of their power and ability. We have the Falcons and the Eagles, but have you ever heard of a team called the Doves? Probably not. A dove is a gentle, non-threatening bird, one that does not fight back and yet is irresistible.
This is the power that Jesus is describing—the power of love, that can be beaten down and put to death, yet can rise again victoriously – that amazing love Jesus released. So the dove is an apt symbol of the new life our Lord came to teach.
May we also receive the power as the Holy Spirit comes upon us, and be empowered to love others and serve Him in ministry.
Lord, fill me with the Holy Spirit. May the Spirit Manifest through me the power of love.
Is there someone that you find difficult to love? Pray for the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, to do or say something kind to them.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will make you fishers of men.” At once they left their nets and followed him.
When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
~ Mark 1:16-20
Have you ever stopped to think about the reality of what happened in this story? Here are these guys…ordinary hardworking guys going about their daily work. Fishermen doing labor-intensive and very unglamorous work.
How many family members were they trying to support? How long were their days? Did they even enjoy what they were doing? And then comes Jesus. He simply says “Come, follow me.” And they immediately stop what they are doing and follow him!
No arguing, no convincing, no rationalizing the risk versus return of the proposal. They just go “at once” and “without delay”. That took tremendous faith.
It is hard to imagine putting ourselves in the position of those early disciples, but that is not what God is asking of us right now. God only asks us to believe – to have faith that with Jesus as our guide, we really can make a very simple choice to just trust that following Him will make our life better.
Does that mean that life will be easy or trouble-free? Not at all. Each one of us will face obstacles in life. Some of them will seem insurmountable, but with Jesus by our side, all we really need to do is follow and He will help us to do the next right thing. One day at a time.
He will give us the courage to stand up for the marginalized, to comfort the lonely, and care for the sick. To share our faith with those we meet and to look for opportunities to serve.
Do you feel fortunate that you have never been asked to walk away from your family or your work to prove your faith? When someone tells you of a sick relative or a difficult family situation, will you have the courage to say “I will pray for you” and then follow through and do just that? When you are asked to serve on a church committee or show up to help with an event, will you prioritize your time and be there when you are needed?
When Jesus calls, will you follow “without delay”?
Heavenly Father, You call us to listen, to trust, and then to act. Give us the courage to follow wherever you lead, and the strength to walk away from the things in life that distract us and look toward you. Amen.
Ask God to show you one person you can serve today. It could be at home, at work, in line at the grocery store or even on the road.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them. That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was. Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
~ Mark 1:29-39
After this full day—and what a full day it was, what a heavy ministry our Lord had that day with all the healing He did in the evening! —Mark records that early in the morning, before it was daylight, Jesus went out on the mountainside, and there, by Himself, He prayed. But even there He was not safe. His disciples interrupted this communion, told Him that everyone was looking for Him. And Jesus reveals the heart and substance of His prayer in what He says in reply: Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. This is what He was praying about—that God would lead Him, doors would be opened, and hearts prepared in the cities to which He would go next.
Why did Jesus seek the Father’s face like this, in these hours of pressure?
He is teaching us—that it was not His authority by which He acted; He had to receive it from the Father.
Jesus stresses this because this is what He wants us to learn. We are to operate on the same basis. Our response to the normal, ordinary demands of life and the power to cope with those demands must come from our reliance upon Him at work within us. This is the secret: All power to live the Christian life comes not from us, doing our absolute best to serve God, but from Him, granted to us moment by moment as the demand is made upon us. Power is given to those who follow, who obey. The Father is at work in the Son; the Son is at work in us. As we learn this, then we are given power to meet the demands and the needs that are waiting for us in the ministry yet to come.
What is the source of authority and power we need to respond to the ordinary and extraordinary demands of life? Shall we try to wing it, or expectantly pray for this gift?
Thank You, Father, that the same power is available to me today, making me ready to be your instrument in any and every situation in which demand is laid upon me. Amen.
Write down your to-do list for the day/week. For each item on the list, spend one minute in prayer to power up for the day/week ahead!
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
~ Mark 2:1-5
The obvious thing Mark underscores for us here is the determined faith of these men. They stand as an encouragement to us to exercise this kind of faith. There are three remarkable and beautiful aspects of it here.
1. These men dared to do the difficult.
That is where faith always manifests itself. It was not easy to bring this man to the Lord. They had to carry him, perhaps a great distance, through the streets of the city. When they found the doorway blocked, they had to carry him up an outside stairway to the roof. We do not know how heavy he was, but it is not easy to carry a full-grown man up a flight of stairs. Yet these men managed this difficult task. They dared to do the difficult. What an illustration this gives us of bringing people to Christ!
2. They dared to do the unorthodox.
They were not limited by the fact that it was not at all customary to break up a roof. When they found that the door was blocked, they did not sit down, as we probably would have done, and appoint a committee to research the various ways to get to Jesus. No, they just did what was necessary and risked the disapproval not only of the owner of the house but also of every person there by interrupting the meeting in order to get their friend to Jesus. The remarkable thing is that Jesus never rebuked them. There is never an incident recorded in which Jesus got uptight or disturbed about an interruption by someone intent on receiving something from Him and pressing through to Him despite the disapproval of those around. These men dared to do the unorthodox.
3. They dared to do the costly.
Somebody had to pay for that roof. Imagine the face of the owner, sitting there at the feet of Jesus, when he hears this scratching on the roof. He looks up, and, to his amazement, the tiles begin to move. Then daylight appears, and suddenly he has a large hole in his roof! I do not know what his thoughts were. He probably wondered if his homeowner’s policy would cover it. Or maybe he was mentally adding up the bill to present to these men. But somebody had to pay that bill, somebody repaired that roof, and surely it was one, if not all, of these men. They dared to do the costly. That is faith! They laid it on the line–at cost to themselves. What a witness this is to what it takes to bring people to Christ!
A life lived by faith has at least three identifiable characteristics. Are we growing up into the quality and vitality of faith that can be used to bring others to Jesus?
Lord, grant me the faith to move out in ways that are difficult, unorthodox, and even costly to bring men and women to you, the only true healer of hurts. Amen.
Is there someone that you need to be a stretcher bearer to? List down some difficult, unorthodox and costly actions you can do for him/her, and prayerfully find the opportunity to carry it out.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”
~ Mark 2:13-17
We, the sons and daughters of God, are called to share the word of the Lord. God gave us the authority to proclaim His message. We are not ordinary people; we are His disciples. Every Sunday we go to church to pray and to listen to Him. We desire to live our lives in the centre of God’s will. When Jesus says “follow me”, he calls us to a full and abundant life (John 10:10), but he also calls us to “take up our cross, deny ourselves and follow him” (Luke 9:23). Life may be full of different choices and paths, but we need to stick close to Jesus and follow Him, trusting that He has a good and perfect plan for our lives. As long as we follow him, we will never go astray. We may wonder why things happen, and we may only find the answer many years later. We are all sinners in need of Jesus. We should not forget to pray and thank Him for giving the blessings we already had and what will come. When was the last time we inspire other people to follow Jesus?
As Christ ambassadors, we are called to spread the good news of the Lord. We are taught to reach out to people who need help, those on the wrong path and those drifting far away from Him. As Jesus said, He did not call the righteous but the sinners. Thus, we do not judge other people, but welcome each one as members of one community of God’s family. We are also called to the ministry of reconciliation. We proclaim that it’s not too late to follow Him or turn back to Him. This is our mission: to live our lives patterned to the life of Jesus Christ and serve as an inspiration to others.
May we help others understand that You will accept them no matter what, that in You, there is endless hope, peace and forgiveness. Please use us to spread your word and bring the lost back into Your kingdom. This we pray, in the Mighty Name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Do you know someone who is considered a “sinner” or “tax collector”? Find an opportunity to eat with them, and sow a seed of the Gospel through your conversation. Pray for them that they might be brought into His Kingdom.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.
“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”
Which comes first, fasting or feasting? The disciples of John the Baptist were upset with Jesus’ disciples because they did not fast. Fasting was one of the three most important religious duties, along with prayer and almsgiving. Jesus gave a simple explanation. There’s a time for fasting and a time for feasting (or celebrating). To walk as a disciple with Jesus is to experience a whole new joy of relationship akin to the joy of the wedding party in celebrating with the groom and bride their wedding bliss. But there also comes a time when the Lord’s disciples must bear the cross of affliction and purification. For the disciple there is both a time for rejoicing in the Lord’s presence and celebrating his goodness and a time for seeking the Lord with humility and fasting and for mourning over sin. Do you take joy in the Lord’s presence with you and do you express sorrow and contrition for your sins?
Jesus goes on to warn his disciples about the problem of the “closed mind” that refuses to learn new things. Jesus used an image familiar to his audience — new and old wineskins. In Jesus’ times, wine was stored in wineskins, not bottles. New wine poured into skins was still fermenting. The gases exerted gave pressure. New wine skins were elastic enough to take the pressure, but old wine skins easily burst because they were hard. What did Jesus mean by this comparison? Are we to reject the old in place of the new? Just as there is a right place and a right time for fasting and for feasting, so there is a right place for the old as well as the new. Jesus says the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old (Matthew 13:52). How impoverished we would be if we only had the Old Testament or the New Testament, rather than both.
The Lord gives us wisdom so we can make the best use of both the old and the new. He doesn’t want us to hold rigidly to the past and to be resistant to the new work of his Holy Spirit in our lives. He wants our minds and hearts to be like new wineskins — open and ready to receive the new wine of the Holy Spirit. Are you eager to grow in the knowledge and understanding of God’s word and plan for your life?
Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirit, that I may grow in the knowledge of your great love and truth. Help me to seek you earnestly in prayer and fasting that I may turn away from sin and willfulness and conform my life more fully to your will. May I always find joy in knowing, loving, and serving You.
Wear a rubber band on your wrist today, as a reminder to stretch yourself to see new things that God is doing! And be ready to spring into action when he calls.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grain fields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.
x x x x x
”Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
Jesus never violated God’s command to observe the Sabbath or approved of His disciples violating God’s command to observe the Sabbath. But He often broke man’s legalistic additions to that law, and He sometimes seemed to deliberately break them.
The Pharisees were the elite liberal Jewish power group of their day. They believed their mission was to uphold the man-made rules of the synagogue regarding the Sabbath. Enter Jesus, he often hung with the “wrong” crowd (sinners) and stressed God’s love and forgiveness, over the established rules of the day. Therefore, it is not surprising that he was perceived as a threat, by the self-righteous rule followers.
In Jesus’ answer to the Pharisees, Jesus reminds us to use common sense, be tolerant of others, and not overact to unnecessary man-made rules. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. God’s love and compassion is our salvation and his son Jesus, is truly the Lord of the Sabbath. At times we are so quick to elevate our prejudices, our rituals, our sense of how things ought to be, that we run the risk of forgetting what they were about in the first place.
What are our convictions about the Sabbath? While it is healthy to set boundaries and limits in order to guard our time and make time for rest, let us remember the Spirit of Sabbath – to rest as God rested on the 7th day. Keeping the Sabbath Holy could sound like: “Set aside a day for rest, you need it, and while you’re resting, I’d like to spend time with you. Spend some of that rest time hanging out with me and a few other people.”
Heavenly Father, bless this troubled world and help us to become more tolerant and accepting of others and their beliefs. Teach us to look beneath rules and laws, and find freedom in the Spirit. In Jesus Name, Amen.
Make a list of restful and life-giving things you can do on your next Sabbath! (they don’t need to sound holy)
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him. Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve[a] that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach and to have authority to drive out demons. These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Boanerges, which means “sons of thunder”), Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.
During Jesus’ ministry on earth, there were many people who were part of the crowd. They came to Jesus because they needed His help, or to hear Jesus’ wise teachings. They came, heard, received and went on with their lives. In other words, they were spectators who watched from afar but did not get involved. They never really experienced what it meant to follow Jesus.
However, there were some who became Jesus’ disciples. The disciples shared in Jesus’ life and ministry. They knew Jesus intimately as they lived, ate and travelled with Him. They were taught and often corrected by Him. They followed Jesus everywhere and played important roles in Jesus’ mission on earth.
Jesus wants every Christian to be His disciple, to follow Him and to fulfil God’s will on earth. Because we are created by God for God, nothing will satisfy us more than to live for Him. There is no greater purpose than to know Jesus and to obey Him. In verse 14, it says that the twelve were appointed to be with him so that they could preach, and have authority to drive out demons. Their experience of Jesus was not just for themselves, but to be shared with others. This is the Great Commission – to be His disciples who will make more disciples.
Today, we can decide to be a disciple by learning humbly from Jesus and actively applying what we learn. We learn from Jesus by reading the Bible, listening to others teach from it, and watching others live by it. We model our lives after Jesus’ by putting godly values and principles into practice. We will see our lives changed as we live for a greater purpose – God’s purpose.
As someone who professes faith in Jesus Christ, do you think you are a spectator or a disciple that make more disciples? Which one do you want to be? Why?
Father, thank you for the privilege of walking with Jesus. May we be transformed by Your Word, and be discipled in our thoughts, words and actions, that we may draw more disciples to Jesus. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.
Have you come across an encouraging verse, impactful sermon or thought-provoking book? Share it with someone, whether through social media, a personal text or in conversation!
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: “Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, some multiplying thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times.”
Then Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear.”
When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’ ”
Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t you understand this parable? How then will you understand any parable? The farmer sows the word. Some people are like seed along the path, where the word is sown. As soon as they hear it, Satan comes and takes away the word that was sown in them. Others, like seed sown on rocky places, hear the word and at once receive it with joy. But since they have no root, they last only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, they quickly fall away. Still others, like seed sown among thorns, hear the word; but the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of wealth and the desires for other things come in and choke the word, making it unfruitful. Others, like seed sown on good soil, hear the word, accept it, and produce a crop—some thirty, some sixty, some a hundred times what was sown.”
Have you ever noticed how often the Bible emphasizes the idea of listening? It is a concept that is repeated over and over in a variety of ways. Hearing is the first step to creating change within, and our heart condition towards God’s word is crucial to our spiritual health. The seed represents the Word of God (v14), and the ground represent the different heart conditions of the listeners. The first three grounds – the path, rocky places and thorns – are unsuitable for the growth of the seed. People with such heart conditions include a shallow understanding of the Word, failure to persevere in times of trouble and persecution, and distraction by worries, wealth and other pleasures. Though they receive God’s Word, they are not able to flourish in the faith. The seed that falls on good soil grows and produces crops. Only those who hear, accept and commit to the Word will have a rooted and fruitful faith.
Respond to God’s Word with faith. May our hearts be soft and fertile for God’s Word to grow and flourish.
Thank You, Holy Spirit for dwelling in us, teaching, helping us to be rooted in God’s Word and grow fruitfully in spiritual faith. Amen.
Spend some time in the garden or a park today. Notice the plants, soil, roots and allow God to speak to you through what you see.
Reflect: Which plant best represents my spiritual health? What makes good soil, good?
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
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!”
1. Does it sometimes seem that God is ignoring you when you need him most?
2. Has a trial you’ve gone through made you stronger spiritually?
3. Do you feel that Jesus should keep you from going through trials?
4. When was your faith most tested?
5. Why does God let us suffer trials if he loves us?
The crises of life have often been compared to stormy seas. They knock us around and threaten to destroy all our stability and security. We don’t know whether we can survive them. And we don’t know how long they will last. Mark tells the story, the disciples were terrified that the boat was going to break up and everyone would die. But Jesus was asleep on a cushion. They wake him and cry, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” . Of course, Jesus quiets the storm with a word, but then he chides the disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Some of the lessons in the story are obvious. Jesus has power over the storms of life, experiences them alongside us, loves us, saves us from them and wants us to trust him more than we do. Storms don’t worry Jesus. He’s perfectly calm, He isn’t terrified; he isn’t impatient; he isn’t worried.
Maybe that’s why Mark included this story. The not-so-obvious lesson is that Jesus was just as much in control, and the disciples were just as safe in his hands, while he was asleep as while he was awake. Most of the time, life seems like a relentless voyage from one storm to the next. But I’m also learning that I can take heart in knowing that Jesus isn’t scared, and he isn’t depressed. He might be asleep, or he might not be, but either way, like the song says, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.” Even if he doesn’t wake up and quiet the storm, I’m safe with him. And if he does wake up and quiet the storm, he’s probably going to say: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Storm or not, stay calm and know that Jesus is in the boat with you. Call out to Jesus! No storm is too big for Him to quiet and still. He loves us and will never forsake us.
Lord Jesus, my Captain. You steer the boat of my life. At Your Word, the storms shall be stilled. May I have the faith to trust Your presence, knowing that You are in control. Amen.
Back to Sunday School! Fold a paper boat and remind yourself that Jesus, your captain, is in the boat with you.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.
When he saw Jesus from a distance, he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. He shouted at the top of his voice, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In God’s name don’t torture me!” For Jesus had said to him, “Come out of this man, you impure spirit!”
Then Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”
“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”
And he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area.
A large herd of pigs was feeding on the nearby hillside. The demons begged Jesus, “Send us among the pigs; allow us to go into them.” He gave them permission, and the impure spirits came out and went into the pigs. The herd, about two thousand in number, rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.
Those tending the pigs ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they saw the man who had been possessed by the legion of demons, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people what had happened to the demon-possessed man—and told about the pigs as well. Then the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region.
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him.
For the Jews, tombs were an unclean place. Demons drove these people to live in this horrific place. Demons seem to take delight in causing misery and torment to their hosts. Satan often makes big promises about the fun and pleasure people can have if they give in to his temptations, but such people are always disappointed and find themselves trapped and enslaved instead. We should resist the devil, never give in and never give any foothold.
Satan and demons are very real and are active in this world. They are actively working against God, the church, and believers. We should not be surprised by opposition in following God. Satan doesn’t want us to follow the Lord. He will put temptations in our path. He also doesn’t want us to tell or teach others about the Lord. We have to be alert, and to resist temptations.
We cannot hope to win the spiritual warfare against Satan and his demons by our own power. He is stronger than we are and smarter than we are. If we rely on ourselves, we will lose. We have to rely on the Lord who is stronger than He is. We must be alert and turn to the Lord through prayer and the Word.
Thank You Lord for the power of the Holy Spirit that is in me that strengthen and help me to overcome the devil. Amen.
Read Matthew 4:1-10. Jesus was tempted in three ways. List down some ways that you may face the following:
– The physical temptation: do what feels right. (v3-4 “Tell this stone to become bread”)
– The emotional temptation: question God’s love. (v5-7 “Throw yourself down”)
– The pride temptation: need for control (v8-10 “All this I will give you”)
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.
Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits.
These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
The first recorded instance of Jesus raising someone from the dead had just concluded, and Jesus returned to His hometown. Being fully divine and fully human simultaneously, He must have been tired from all the traveling and ministry, but He continued in His Father’s will by teaching in the synagogue that very Sabbath.
The rejection from the locals must have stemmed from jealousy and fear. How could one of us be this wise and used mightily by God? Isn’t He an ordinary man, just like you and I? They were fearful because they lack holy wisdom from God to discern who Jesus really was.
Notice that Jesus could not do any miracles there apart from healing just a few sick people. There are only two situations where Jesus was amazed – when there is a lack of faith, and when there is abundant faith.
Contrast this with the faith of the Twelve who were sent out. The Twelve must have had plenty of faith. Faith in depending on God’s provision wherever they went, faith to believe what Jesus said about their authority to drive out demons and exercise that authority, and faith to heal the sick.
Humans have always shown a tendency to fear what we do not understand and what we are unable to comprehend. Life is unpredictable, and there will be moments when fear looms and threatens to overwhelm us. We will feel all alone at times in life, just like the Twelve who were sent out without Jesus being with them physically. What’s more, we might even be called to minister to others in the midst of aloneness at times, an act that requires supernatural wisdom and strength.
That is when our faith shall become sight as we rely and trust in Jesus and Jesus alone. Our responsibility as Jesus’s disciples is to bring the Good News to others by calling them to repentance. The Holy Spirit will be the one who works in their hearts.
Are you currently struggling with life at the moment? Are there difficult decisions to make? Know that Jesus is with you through the midst of everything. Fully trust in Him alone, even through the dark night of the soul, and know that He will see you through life in His time and with His wisdom.
Lord Jesus, grant me Your wisdom to navigate life the way You want me to. Help shut the doors that you do not want me to go through no matter how enticing they may be in my eyes, and open doors that is in Your will, so that all will know that this is Your redemptive work in my life. In Jesus’s name I pray, Amen.
Stretch your faith today by praying for someone whom you know who does not yet know Jesus. Invite that person for a meal or a cup of coffee and share Christ.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Mark 6:14; 16-27
King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
Finally, the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison…
It is said that a person’s true character is fully revealed during two moments: in times of pleasure and in times of pressure. John the Baptist’s blood was on Herod’s hands, and Herod must have had difficulty sleeping at night after carelessly mouthing a promise that resulted in the beheading of John after an opulent display of wealth among society’s elite.
Herod had two choices when presented with the request for John the Baptist’s head on a platter. He could either rescind his promise and be ridiculed and shamed according to the Ancient Near East culture at that time, or he could follow through with the request at the cost of pride and his tormented soul. Herod chose the latter.
Life throws us a series of choices each day. We will be faced with situations that require us to make decisions, where some are almost no-brainers, while others require a fair bit of thinking. Virtually all decisions have their consequences, some happening earlier than later. Certain decisions are made in private, while others have outward pressure that might sway you away from making the right one.
Hebrews 6:19 says that we have this hope in Jesus Christ “…as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul”. When our lives are centered on Jesus, with a love for God and people and an outlook to make disciples at every opportunity, we will always be able to make the right decisions in accordance to God’s will even while under pressure.
Remember, don’t lose your head!
Are you at a crossroads in your life where you are tempted to give in just to gain an edge over another? Are you on the verge of sinning in a particular area ‘just this once’ because you will ask for forgiveness from God later? Heaven forbid! God has enabled us to walk in His light as His children, through the power of the Holy Spirit that dwells within all believers.
May our lives echo the words of Polycarp, the Bishop of the church in Smyrna, when he was asked to apostasise from his Christian faith to escape the pain of execution, he replied, “86 years have I have served him, and he has done me no wrong. How can I blaspheme my King and my Savior?”
Dear Lord, help me to remain grounded in life always. Help me let you reign in my heart at all times so that I can always make the right decision. Teach me to let what I say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; as anything more than this comes from evil. Amen.
Take some time to reflect on the promises you have made to people and/or vows to God. Are there any outstanding vows or promises that have yet to be fulfilled? Pray for courage and wisdom to keep to your word.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.
But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”
They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”
“How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.
The miracle feeding of 5000 appears in all four gospels, signifying its importance. In Mark, this is the first time Jesus involved his disciples in a supernatural event. Prior to this, the disciples were merely witnesses of the miracles Jesus did. Now, they were given the opportunity to be directly involved in searching for food, organizing them in groups, distributing the elements and collecting the leftovers.
What is significant is that Jesus ‘had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd’ (v34). The word ‘to have compassion’ appears 12x in the New Testament, and all in the Synoptic Gospels. Each time the word is used (including the three times that they appear within the context of parables i.e., Matt 18:27, Luke 10.33;15.20), it is used only in reference to Jesus where he had compassion for people in desperate situations where divine intervention was required.
In this miracle, Jesus demonstrated his deep compassion for a group of helpless people who were not only hungry physically but spiritually as well. They ‘were like sheep without a shepherd’. The religious leaders of the day had disappointed them and had not fed them with manna from heaven. Because of this, Jesus taught them, and also fed them with food, satisfying both their spiritual and physical hunger. In doing this, Jesus provides for them.
(Note: The reflection is adapted from “Following Jesus” written by Rev Dr Lim Kar Yong)
1. Do we also have the same compassion on those in our midst that are like sheep without shepherd?
2. Why do you think Jesus finally involved the disciples in the miracle of feeding the 5000?
3. When was the last time you thanked God for his provision? Have you encountered God in providing for you ‘miraculously’? Give thanks to God, and share His goodness with others.
Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord had compassion on the people and fed them with the bread of life and the word of his kingdom. We look into our lives and we recognize the same ‘miracle’ you have done for us too. Thank you for providing for our every need, and we pray that you will continue to sustain us by your living bread, Jesus. Amen.
Have some bread/roti canai, and thank God for 5 ways that He has provided for you. Buy an extra portion and ask God who you can share it with.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.
Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.
Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.
The disciples had just witnessed the feeding of the 5000, and were now escaping the crowds for some quiet moments. Instead of peaceful rest, they got hit by strong winds, and were struggling to steer the boat. This time, there was no sleeping Jesus to wake, for He was on the mountainside, praying. They had been rowing for hours, their muscles were strained, and they were probably screaming instructions at each other, trying to row the boat to shore.
It is interesting to note that Jesus did not rescue them immediately, but waited until “just before dawn”, which means that they were struggling for quite a long time! He was even “about to pass by them”, until they mistook him as a ghost – only then did He speak peace over them, climb into their boat with them and the storm was calmed.
Why did Jesus wait? Could He have been praying too intensely? Or was He waiting for the disciples to cry out for help? Or did He just know the perfect timing to step in?
Having experienced the calming of the storm earlier, and how Jesus fed the 5000, did they not see that Jesus could have helped them again? Mark says that the disciples “had not understood about the loaves” because their hearts were hardened, and they failed to grasp the truth. But when they saw Jesus walk on water, they connected the dots! They relearned the lesson that Jesus was indeed the true God in control of nature, and were truly amazed!
After the private miracle, they then arrived at Gennesaret where they were back in the crowds, and Jesus was again demonstrating His divinity by healing the sick just by means of cloak contact! They were slowly but surely recognizing Jesus’ amazing and divine power.
Is there a challenge that you are facing, where you are straining your arms and striving in your own strength? Have we invited Jesus to climb into our boat?
Do we need to be reminded of God’s amazing and divine power? May God turn our terror into amazement, as we experience more of His miracles in our lives.
Dear God, I may sometimes be slow to understand what you are teaching me about who You are. Open the eyes of my heart to know and experience You more fully. May I not strive in my own strength, but work from a place of full trust in You, knowing that You are in control. Amen.
Write or memorize this verse: Colossians 1:11 “being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience”.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”
“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”
Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”
Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.
He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
Who is Jesus? Many may know Him by name but do we know who Jesus is? As the passage says, people have different answers when asked about who Jesus is. One thing is for sure: He is the Messiah who set us free from our sins.
Peter speaks up in the name of all: “You are the Messiah” This is indeed a dramatic moment. Jesus is not just an ordinary rabbi, not just a prophet. He is the long-awaited Christ, the Messiah, the anointed King of Israel. This is a tremendous breakthrough for the disciples. He was quick and the first to call Jesus, the Messiah. The children of Abraham had been waiting and expecting a Messiah. Prophets had foretold of His coming, but none knew until the Holy Spirit revealed this mystery to Peter, and now to us who believe in Jesus.
Sometimes we are also like Peter. When what we hear is not in our favour, we reject the message of the Lord. We need the Holy Spirit to rebuke us and to put us back on track. We have to be firm with our confession, not be shaken by any circumstances, and always stay focused on the cross. The cross of Jesus is where our hope of salvation comes from. Jesus is our Saviour and Messiah, the Christ who set us free from sins and delivered us from the gates of hell. Jesus is the Messiah, the King of a new Kingdom, one that is perfect and glorious.
In this Kingdom, Jesus speaks of losing our lives for His sake, and for the sake of the gospel. Taking up our cross means being willing to suffer the consequences of following Jesus faithfully, whatever those consequences might be. It means putting Jesus’ priorities and purposes ahead of our own comfort or security. This is true discipleship.
Holding strong to our confession of who Jesus is and professing Him in our words and actions. We who are justified in Christ, continue to live faithfully for Him. Knowing Jesus as our Messiah we are confident in our salvation and can rest in Him.
Come Holy Spirit, open my heart to receive God’s word today. Help me to grasp the truth of who Jesus is, rather than bending Jesus to fit my hopes. Amen.
Listen to the song – Mac Powell – Jesus You Are, and reflect on who Jesus is to you. If you feel led to, write a few more lines on who Jesus is to you.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
Let’s ponder over the passage in its pre-Easter context. The Greek word for “deny” is only found elsewhere in Mark about Peter’s denial of Jesus (Mk 14:30). This is also Mark’s first reference to the “cross” or “crucifixion,” where it depicts a slow, agonising, public, and shameful death. So, to be Jesus’ disciples meant to voluntarily confess and acknowledge Jesus unto death; a radical call to discipleship. Luke says it in another way when he challenges his listeners to love Jesus more than family, estimate the price before building a tower, and calculate the resources and casualties of war before engaging in one (Lk 14:25-33). The call is to forsake all to follow Christ or not to follow at all!
While our “cross” today may not mean literal death, there is an aspect of “death to self” that we must willingly submit to. He is either Lord of all or not Lord at all. Yet, Easter testifies that the life of a believer is the life of resurrection. The cross must lead us to something greater. We die to ourselves so Christ may live in us (Gal 2:20). Too often, believers stop short of living the resurrected life. We deny the pleasures of the flesh but forget the abundant life in Christ (Jn 10:10) that includes victory over sin, torment, disease, and brokenness. While the kingdom of God will not fully consummate until the return of Jesus, it is at hand (Mk 1:15). The Christian should be the most hope-filled and joyful creature on earth, not because we live trouble-free but because we know who we are and the One we belong to. Until we deny ourselves AND embrace the resurrected life, the world is not attracted to Christ in us and the new life we have in him. Christianity will be nothing more than a killjoy, religious dos and don’ts that repel others like in the days of the Pharisees.
1. Have you denied yourself? Is Jesus Lord of all? Ask Holy Spirit to reveal areas that need to yield to Jesus.
2. Are you living the resurrected life? Do you know the hope, the glorious inheritance, and His great power for us (Eph 1:18-19)? Ask Holy Spirit to reveal what it means to be sons and daughters of the King.
Lord Jesus, please give me a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of You. I pray that the eyes of my heart may be enlightened so that I will know what is the hope of Your calling, the riches of the glory of Your inheritance in the saints, and the surpassing greatness of Your power toward us who believe (Eph 1:18-19). I want to die to myself and live the resurrected life. May the life I live be worthy of the price You paid. Amen.
Draw a cross on a piece of paper. On one side, write down the things that you want to die to, on the other side, write down what an abundant and victorious life looks like.
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
Then a cloud appeared and covered them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
Like the disciples, we are often forgetful of who Jesus really is and of how much we can trust Him. In Mark 9, Jesus reveals Himself to three of His disciples in a magnificent way: the transfiguration.
Jesus had told His disciples both of His coming suffering, death and of the cost of following Him. He tells them that He must suffer and die, and that they too will suffer. It’s while they’re processing these things that Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a mountain to show them things that would give them hope and strengthen their faith. Jesus wants to help us persevere.
The word transfigured means to be radically changed. While Jesus’ nature didn’t change, His appearance changed dramatically to make His true nature more visible. Even His clothes are dazzling white! It is as if the veil of His flesh is pulled back and the disciples can see the light of the glory of God shining forth. Jesus is God and from Him shines the glory of God.
Elijah and Moses represent the plan and promises of God in the Old Testament. Moses brought the Law of God to the people of God and Elijah is regarded as one of the greatest prophets. They are shadows and pointers to Jesus and when He came He accomplished all that they had foretold. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and of the prophets. He is not part of the story, Jesus is the point of the story.
And God speaks and makes clear that Jesus is the One who is to be honored and heard. God declares that Jesus is His Son and that the disciples should listen to Him. Jesus is not a prophet. He is the beloved Son of God. In 2 Peter 1:16-21 Peter reflects on what he saw on the mountain that day. Based on that experience Peter calls on us to believe that God can be trusted. His Word His true and His promises are certain and so we can have hope. Will we listen to Him?
Listening to and obeying Jesus is not our natural inclination. Following Christ demands perseverance as we are up against our human nature, the world, and forces in the spiritual realms. God knows we need “faith boosts” to press on. Whenever you feel like the task Jesus invites you to is beyond you, remember who asked it of you, who He is, and what He has done. Look for Jesus. He is revealed through the study of His word, spiritual conversations with His people, and persistent prayer.
Lord Jesus Christ, help me to seek You, listen to You, and persevere with the strength and power of Your Holy Spirit. I want to trust You and live each day for You. When I see You and recognize who You are more readily, I am in awe and know that I can press on for You are with me. “Speak Lord, your servant is listening.”
List down 3 things you do to help you remember God’s love and strength in the midst of difficulties. Choose one and do it today (even if you aren’t facing any difficulties!). Exercising these spiritual disciplines will help your faith to grow stronger.
Adapted from Southern Hills Baptist Church devotions
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
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 delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and after three days he will rise.” But they did not understand what he meant and were afraid to ask him about it.
They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.
Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child whom he placed among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, “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.”
“Teacher,” said John, “we saw someone driving out demons in your name and we told him to stop, because he was not one of us.”
“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “For no one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. Truly I tell you, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to the Messiah will certainly not lose their reward.
Jesus as a suffering servant is a crucial theme in the Gospel of Mark. Likewise, believers are called to imitate the life of the selfless Christ by giving instead of taking, and to think about the needs of others. The essence of such leadership is being a servant. “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” We also learn later that Jesus “came not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many” (10:45). We have been served by Christ, therefore, we could live to serve one another.
The way of Christ is the way of “downward mobility”, as Henri Nouwen observed – “The society in which we live suggests in countless ways that the way to go is up. Making it to the top, entering the limelight, breaking the record – that is what draws attention, gets us on the front page of the newspaper, and offers us the rewards of money and fame. The way of Jesus is radically different. It is the way not of upward mobility but of downward mobility. It is going to the bottom, staying behind the sets, and choosing the last place! Why is the way of Jesus worth choosing? Because it is the way to the Kingdom, the way Jesus took, and the way that brings everlasting life.”
1. Based on Jesus’ teaching here, how has your definition of “greatness” or “success” been challenged?
2. What are some ways that you / we can be a better “servant” to serve your family, the church, the community?
“Lord, your message is clear. Ambition that pleases God is shown by humble service of others. Greatness is found not in lording it over other people, but in being the servant of the most insignificant people in society – the poor, the weak, the forgotten, the despised.”
(From Sacred Space)
Think of someone who “serves” you, and serve them instead!
Ξ SCRIPTURE PASSAGE
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
The disciples were amazed when Jesus shared how hard it is to enter the Kingdom of God. Interestingly, they asked ‘Who then can be saved” rather than “What must we do to be saved?” The rich young man had proudly declared to Jesus that he had fulfilled all the laws since a boy. He had deemed himself justified DOING everything that the law commanded.
The term “DOING” may mean keeping His laws, serving in ministry or acts of mercy. Pushed to an extreme, conscientious believers can busy themselves into exhaustion and are then reminded to ‘be’ instead of ‘do’. “BEING”, in this context, is a state rather than an activity. It comes from a heart posture that values connection with God and His presence. This can be as simple as acknowledging His presence while we go about our day or as complex as devoting time for a silent retreat with God.
Being instead of doing implies an unnecessary conflict between the two. We’ve seen this contrast before: by faith, not by works (James 2:17,24), sit at Jesus’ feet like Mary, don’t busy yourself like Martha (Luke 10).
How do we reconcile such teachings? Properly taken together, these scriptures do not espouse competitive truths but are presented as harmonious truths. The solution is found in embracing a both/and rather than an either/or position. We can simultaneously do things for God AND be with God by practicing the ‘presence of God’. We are justified by faith in Christ and we engage in good works as a result. We serve like Martha did and maintain Mary’s heart of listening to Jesus.
The rich young man was devastated that he couldn’t “DO” his way to eternal life, but he needed to acknowledge Jesus as the way to salvation.
So ‘Who then can be saved?”
Answer: Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Acts 2:21)
1. In our faith journey, do we struggle with doing or being, or both?
2. Are we practicing the presence of God in our lives daily? Is God your pillar of cloud by day and pillar of fire by night? Exodus 13:22
Holy Spirit, convict and guide me in my being and doing. May I always be aware of Your presence with me, and carry the fragrance of Christ wherever I go. May I be unceasing in prayer as I go about my day, and be still enough to hear You speak.
Take time throughout today to acknowledge God’s presence. Carve out precious time this week for silence and solitude with God.