499.) Mark 4

March 31, 2011

It was Pastor Mark Pries who taught me to love Van Gogh, and this, “Sower with Setting Sun” (1888), is one of my favorites. I guess I am always an Iowa farm girl at heart!

Mark 4 (New Living Translation)

Parable of the Farmer Scattering Seed

1 Once again Jesus began teaching by the lakeshore. A very large crowd soon gathered around him, so he got into a boat. Then he sat in the boat while all the people remained on the shore. 2 He taught them by telling many stories in the form of parables, such as this one:

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)


Jesus was not the only rabbi who told parables.  Most rabbis used traditional motifs, themes that shed light on the parables Jesus told . . . Once we identify the traditional forms of rabbinic parables, we can better understand what Jesus was saying.

Consider the following rabbinic parable:

There are four types among those who sit in the presence of the rabbis:  the sponge, the funnel, the strainer, and the sieve.  “The sponge,” which soaks up everything.  “The funnel,” which takes in at this end and let out at the other.  “The strainer,” which lets out the wine and retains the dregs.  “The sieve,” which lets out the chaff and retains the fine flour.

That is what’s called a “four types” parable, where four kinds of people are compared in their way of living.  It reminds us of Jesus’ parable in Luke 8:4-11 (and in Mark 4:3-20) about the soil that fell in four places:  the rock, the path, the thorns, and the good soil.  Each parable focuses on how various people respond to God’s Word.

In the above parable, the rabbi is saying, contrary to our preconceptions, that the best disciple is not the “sponge,” who retains absolutely everything, but the “sieve,” who sifts through the teaching to retain what is best.  What great advice for Christians!  It reminds us that we are not called to be parrots, unquestioningly repeating whatever we learn from a favorite teacher.  Instead, we are to exercise wisdom and discernment, continually asking questions, weighing answers, seeking understanding, and grounding our beliefs within the context of God’s Word and the wisdom of Christian tradition.

(pp. 30-31)


3 “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed. 4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

10 Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant.

11 He replied, “You are permitted to understand the secret of the Kingdom of God. But I use parables for everything I say to outsiders, 12 so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled:

‘When they see what I do,
they will learn nothing.
When they hear what I say,
they will not understand.
Otherwise, they will turn to me
and be forgiven.’”

13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”

Parable of the Lamp

terracotta oil lamp, found in Jerusalem, 1st century BC

21 Then Jesus asked them, “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed? Of course not! A lamp is placed on a stand, where its light will shine. 22 For everything that is hidden will eventually be brought into the open, and every secret will be brought to light. 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”

24 Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

Charles Spurgeon said, “The hearer of the gospel will get measure for measure, and the measure shall be his own measure.”  And it works out just this way.  To the one with no interest in the gospel, the preaching of the gospel seems uninteresting.  To the one who wants to find fault with the church or the preacher, they find plenty of faults.  On the other hand – the more blessed hand – those who hunger find food, and those who want the solid truth receive something from any faithful ministry.

–David Guzik

Parable of the Growing Seed

26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”

For me, one of the classic interpretations of this Biblical passage about the seed growing automatically (Mark 4:26) was written by Martin Luther when he said about this text: “After I preach my sermon on Sunday, when I return home, I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer and I just let the gospel run its course.” I like that. Luther said that after he pounded on the pulpit and expounded the gospel, he would go home and pull out the Sunday newspaper, and pull out his glass of warm Wittenberg beer and start to drink it and enjoy the afternoon. Luther knew that the power of his sermon was not based on the power of his theological acuity. He knew that the power of his sermon was not based on his eloquence or his abilities. He knew that the power of the sermon would have no effect whatsoever unless the very Word of God got into a person’s heart. Luther knew that he couldn’t do that. It was the Holy Spirit who did that. Luther keenly understood the power of the Word.

–Edward F. Markquart, The Mustard Seed

Parable of the Mustard Seed

30 Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”

33 Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach the people as much as they could understand. 34 In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables; but afterward, when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.

Jesus Calms the Storm

“Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee” by Rembrandt, 1633

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). 37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

“Peace, be Still” by Stephen Gjertson, 1997 (St. John’s Lutheran Church, Mound, MN)

40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Truth is a person, not a concept.  Jesus said He was the Truth (John 14:6).  That means you cannot know the truth of your circumstances unless you have first heard form Jesus.  The disciples thought they were perishing in the storn.  They were fishermen who knew the sea and knew what their condition was.  They had allowed their circumstances to convince them that the “truth” was their imminent death.  But they were wrong.  Truth was asleep in the back of their boat!

When Jesus spoke, the disciples saw the real truth of their situation.  There was absolute calm.

–Henry T. Blackaby

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”



“Be Still, My Soul”  sung by Selah.

“Be Still, My Soul” was the favorite hymn of Eric Liddell.  He is perhaps best known for refusing to run on Sunday in the 1924 Olympics (a story made famous in the film, Chariots of Fire).  But later in life, Liddell would become a missionary to China.  During World War II he was captured and confined to a prisoner of war camp, where he eventually died of a brain tumor.

It was this hymn that he taught to the other prisoners in the camp to provide comfort and hope, to strengthen their faith.  In the midst of loss, disappointment, grief, and fear, Liddell remembered and taught others that the day was coming when all of that would be gone, and Jesus Christ would remain forever.


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Van Gogh.    http://bwfavorites.files.wordpress.com/2009/07/sower.gif?w=450&h=342
farmer scattering seed.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_WcRPTOHdMvs/SY_DQAMJDdI/AAAAAAAAAUM/ncAeEGdFYrU/s400/i09006.jpg
oil lamp.    http://www.ancientresource.com/lots/greek/oil-lamps-greek.html
growing seed.    http://www.dkimages.com/discover/previews/874/30020399.JPG
mustard seed – mustard plant.    http://www.ebibleteacher.com/children%20flip%20charts/mustard/01_plant_1024.jpg
Rembrandt.     http://www.enterthebible.org/media/images/source/Rembrandt_Christ_In_The_Storm_On_The_Sea_Of_Galilee.jpg
Gjertson.    http://www.artrenewal.org/pages/artwork.php?artworkid=2236&size=large

498.) Mark 3

March 30, 2011

The main attraction at Capernaum is the synagogue.  The limestone remains of the synagogue are most likely dated to the fourth century AD, and are built on the remains of a first century AD synagogue made of basalt.  The first century synagogue would have been in existence at the time of Christ.

Mark 3 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath

Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand. 2 Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.

3 Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” 4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.

5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts.

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
–Charles Dickens, in Great Expectations

Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored! 6 At once the Pharisees went away and met with the supporters of Herod to plot how to kill Jesus.

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)


Luke’s gospel tells us that Jesus had been teaching in synagogues even before his ministry formally began (Luke 4:15).  Why is this important?  Because it tells us two things about Jesus’ Jewish reality.  First, Jesus must have been quite learned by the standards of his time.  If not, he would never have been invited to teach.  Even his toughest critics never questioned his scholarship.  Second, Jesus must have been observant of the Torah.  If he hadn’t been, he would have been barred from even attending the synagogue, let alone speaking in it.  So it seems that Jesus was an integral part of the Jewish world of his day, making sophisticated contributions to the high level of conversation that was going on among the rabbis of his time.

(p. 29)


Crowds Follow Jesus

7 Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him.

9 Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. 10 He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. 11 And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was.



Those demons were told not to tell who Jesus was — but we have been instructed to share this wonderful news! With Matthew West, we say, “You Are Everything.”


Jesus Chooses the Twelve Apostles

13 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, 15 giving them authority to cast out demons. 16 These are the twelve he chose:

Simon (whom he named Peter),
17 James and John (the sons of Zebedee, but Jesus nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder”),
18 Andrew,
James (son of Alphaeus),
Simon (the zealot),
19 Judas Iscariot (who later betrayed him).

Tim Hansel, in his book “Eating Problems for Breakfast,” has a humorous, and should I stress (?) fictional letter to Jesus in his search for the twelve apostles.  Imagining that Jesus hired a management consultant firm to do the picking and choosing of the Twelve, this letter serves to qualify the one who is the best candidate to be a follower of Jesus.  The letter reads:

To: Jesus, Son of Joseph
Woodcrafter’s Carpenter Shop
Nazareth 25922

From: Jordan Management Consultants

Dear Sir:

Thank you for submitting the resumes of the twelve men you have picked for managerial positions in your new organization. All of them have now taken our battery of tests; and we have not only run the results through our computer, but also arranged personal interviews for each of them with our psychologist and vocational aptitude consultant.

The profiles of all tests are included, and you will want to study each of them carefully.

As part of our service, we make some general comments for your guidance, much as an auditor will include some general statements. This is given as a result of staff consultation, and comes without any additional fee.

It is the staff opinion that most of your nominees are lacking in background, education and vocational aptitude for the type of enterprise you are undertaking. They do not have the team concept. We would recommend that you continue your search for persons of experience in managerial ability and proven capability.

Simon Peter is emotionally unstable and given to fits of temper. Andrew has absolutely no qualities of leadership. The two brothers, James and John, the sons of Zebedee, place personal interest above company loyalty. Thomas demonstrates a questioning attitude that would tend to undermine morale. We feel that it is our duty to tell you that Matthew had been blacklisted by the Greater Jerusalem Better Business Bureau; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus definitely have radical leanings, and they both registered a high score on the manic-depressive scale.

One of the candidates, however, shows great potential. He is a man of ability and resourcefulness, meets people well, has a keen business mind, and has contacts in high places. He is highly motivated, ambitious, and responsible. We recommend Judas Iscariot as your controller and right-hand man. All of the other profiles are self-explanatory.

We wish you every success in your new venture.


Jordan Management Consultants  (pg 194-195).

–from   http://www.redeemerlancaster.org/pastorssermons/followingjesuschrist.html


Jesus and the Prince of Demons

20 One time Jesus entered a house, and the crowds began to gather again. Soon he and his disciples couldn’t even find time to eat. 21 When his family heard what was happening, they tried to take him away. “He’s out of his mind,” they said.

22 But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.”

23 Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked. 24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive.

On June 16, 1858, more than 1,000 Republican delegates met in the Springfield, Illinois, statehouse for the Republican State Convention.  At 5:00 PM they chose Abraham Lincoln as their candidate for the U.S. Senate, running against Democrat Stephen A. Douglas.  At 8:00 PM Lincoln delivered an address to his Republican colleagues in the Hall of Representatives.  The speech has become known by a part of its introduction (below), “A house divided against itself cannot stand,” a concept familiar to Lincoln’s audience as a statement by Jesus recorded in Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Mr. President and Gentlemen of the Convention:

If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.

We are now far into the fifth year, since a policy was initiated, with the avowed object, and confident promise, of putting an end to slavery agitation.

Under the operation of that policy, that agitation has not only, not ceased, but has constantly augmented.

In my opinion, it will not cease, until a crisis shall have been reached, and passed.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.”

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently half slave and half free.

I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided.

It will become all one thing or all the other.


27 Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.

28 “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, 29 but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” 30 He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.”

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

Mark 3:5 (King James Version) —   And when he had looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts, he saith unto the man, Stretch forth thine hand. And he stretched it out: and his hand was restored whole as the other.
Mark 3:21-23 (King James Version) —  And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.  And the scribes which came down from Jerusalem said, He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casteth he out devils.  And he called them unto him, and said unto them in parables, How can Satan cast out Satan?

When our Lord had looked round on them in anger, being grieved for their hardness of heart, He said a loving word to a poor man who was probably a good deal troubled because of the excitement in the place.

What do we say when we are grieved and angry?  Do we speak a kind word to someone who need it?

Some said, “He is beside Himself.”  Others declared, “He casts out devils by the prince of the devils.”  But He asked, How can Satan cast out Satan? There was not a word of indignant self-defense, just a quiet question.  It was the overflow of the sweetness and peace of His heart.  When we are unkindly and unjustly accused, perhaps just when we have been helping someone, how do we react?  Perhaps there is not time for a long prayer in that moment of quick temptation, but there is always time for a look up to Him.  “Thy sweetness, Lord.  Thy peace, Lord.”

It will always be given.


The True Family of Jesus

31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.”

33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
synagogue.    http://www.biblearchaeology.org/image.axd?picture=84_9.jpg
hard hearted.     http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_6tSq6JYliqo/TNd7qtIPDXI/AAAAAAAAAxc/mEJ73f-dJ2Y/s1600/Hard_Hearted-rou638-d.jpg
Jesus and 12 disciples fabric art.     http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_yKwDTmqOmJM/Ssi7Vv-m7CI/AAAAAAAAAYw/wumfdESAmIc/s400/JesusAnd12Apostles_Lg.jpg
Judas betraying Christ with a kiss.    http://www.nndb.com/people/843/000101540/judas-iscariot-1-sized.jpg
Abraham Lincoln.    http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_n0kOLTsDBsw/TTpCmY8cvOI/AAAAAAAABNE/xCfgfG-vyqA/s1600/abraham-lincoln-2.jpg
peace of Christ — photo by Myra Johnson.    http://media.photobucket.com/image/peace%20of%20Christ/myragjohnson/Peace-1.jpg
family of Jesus.    http://www.foundationsforfreedom.net/Topics/Abiding/_ResAbiding/FamilyJesus.jpg

497.) Mark 2

March 29, 2011

Mark is full of vivid pictures of Jesus in action!

Mark 2 (New Living Translation)

Jesus Heals a Paralyzed Man

1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”

6 But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!”

8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’?

An interesting question!  Of course, it is impossible for humans to forgive a man all his sins or heal him on the spot of his paralysis.  For God, on the other hand, both are easy.  In another way, though, it is easier to say “You sins are forgiven” because that is invisible.  To say, “Stand up” demands clear proof which would be satisfied only when the man begins walking.

10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said, 11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”

from This Day with the Master,
by Dennis F. Kinlaw


The first thing God wants to do for us is to give us his gift of grace and forgiveness.  Even among the people of God, I find a lot of people who live with great guilt.  We will never develop into what God wants us to be until we find out what it means to have God’s forgiveness.  That forgiveness is a gracious gift that we can never earn.  In fact, there is nothing we can do to receive it except to take it from his hand in repentant faith.  When we have accepted his gift, we are on our way to grace and growth.

The story of the paralytic who was lowered through the roof illustrates this beautifully.  This man’s friends brought him to Jesus for physical healing, but Jesus knew what the man’s real need was, so he said to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven.”  Everyone thought Jesus was sidetracked from the real issue of physical healing, but Jesus was the only one who saw the problem clearly.

The forgiveness of our sins is the doorway into a relationship with the Lord Jesus.  Tragically, I have seen some people who cannot accept this gift.  But we will never know any further growth or grace until we can say that our sins are nailed to his cross and that we are forgiven and free.


12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”



Very rarely in the gospel accounts do Jesus and the religious leaders join together in celebration.  That’s about as crazy as Lord of the Rings battles and dancing penguins in the same song!  Tim Hughes and “Greatest Day in History.”

Verse 1:
The greatest day in history, Death is beaten
You have rescued me
Sing it out Jesus is alive
The empty cross, The empty grave
Life eternal You have won the day
Shout it out Jesus is alive
He’s alive

Oh happy day, happy day
You washed my sin away
Oh happy day, happy day
I’ll never be the same
Forever I am changed

Verse 2:
When I stand, in that place
Free at last, meeting face to face
I am Yours Jesus You are mine
Endless joy, perfect peace
Earthly pain finally will cease
Celebrate Jesus is alive
He’s alive

Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious way
That You have saved me
Oh what a glorious day
What a glorious name


Jesus Calls Levi (Matthew)

“The Calling of St. Matthew” by Hendrick Terbrugghen, 1616 (Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest)

13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.

15 Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?”

17 When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)


In Matthew 18:22 Peter says, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive someone who sins against me?  Up to seven times?”

Jesus responded, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times” (italics added).  What did Jesus mean?  Most of us immediately check the footnote in our Bible, which says, “Or, seventy times seven.” We like the fact that 490 is so much larger than 77.  So that’s what Jesus was saying!  Believe it or not, we are still missing the punch line.

The key to understanding Jesus’ meaning is embedded in the passage to which he alluded.  The phrase “seventy-seven times” is found in only one other place in the entire Bible—Genesis 4:24, in the ancient song of Lamech.  But who was this obscure biblical character?  Lamech was a descendant of Cain who had inherited his forefather’s murderous instinct, but who, in his shocking lust for revenge, outdid even Cain:

I have killed a mane for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me;
If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.

Anybody who crosses Lamech would have been paid back big time—not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!  In Scripture, seven is a significant number.  It symbolizes completeness.  But Lamech lusted for a vengeance that went far beyond completeness.

Once you understand Jesus’ reference, you understand the contrast he is making.  He is saying that his followers should be as eager to forgive as Lamech was to take vengeance.  Just as Lamech was vowing a punishment that far exceeded the crime, we should let our forgiveness far exceed the wrong done to us.  We should be Lamech’s polar opposite, making it our goal to forgive as extravagantly and completely as possible.  As Christ did.

(pp. 38-39)


A Discussion about Fasting

18 Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?”

19 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. 20 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.

21 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before.

22 “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wineskins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”

A Discussion about the Sabbath

Shabbat itself is an honored guest, likened to a “queen,” in a Jewish household, so the table for the Sabbath meal must be beautiful.  A lovely tablecloth, challah (traditionally braided), wine, and candles all contribute physical graciousness and enhance spiritual enjoyment.

23 One Sabbath day as Jesus was walking through some grainfields, his disciples began breaking off heads of grain to eat. 24 But the Pharisees said to Jesus, “Look, why are they breaking the law by harvesting grain on the Sabbath?”

25 Jesus said to them, “Haven’t you ever read in the Scriptures what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 26 He went into the house of God (during the days when Abiathar was high priest) and broke the law by eating the sacred loaves of bread that only the priests are allowed to eat. He also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
Christ healing the paralytic.    http://kingofages.files.wordpress.com/2010/04/paralytic.jpg
Terbrugghen.    http://www.wga.hu/art/t/terbrugg/1/matthew1.jpg
Shabbat table – photo by Lisa F. Young.     http://www.pathsofdevotion.com/_wizardimages/shabbat_table.JPG

496.) Mark 1

March 28, 2011

The Gospel of Mark has a special place in my heart, since I have learned it by heart. It takes a bit over two hours to tell the book from beginning to end.

Mark 1 (New Living Translation)

John the Baptist Prepares the Way

1 This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God. It began 2 just as the prophet Isaiah had written:

“Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
and he will prepare your way.
3 He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
Clear the road for him!’”

4 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. 5 All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 6 His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey.

7 John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!”

The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus

“Baptism of the Christ” by Daniel Bonnell points the viewer towards the sacrifice Christ will make on the cross (St. George’s Cathedral, Jerusalem).

9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”

(During Mark, portions of this book will be presented to help us understand our faith more deeply than perhaps we have before.  I hope you enjoy learning more about Jesus as a Jewish man — and through these passages, see and appreciate more clearly the Jewish roots of our Christian faith.)


It is difficult to overestimate the love that the rabbis had for their Bible.  On a good day, they would link text after text after text.  They were said to be “stringing pearls”—bringing together passages from different places in order to explore their great truths.

Believe it or not, God himself seems to enjoy “stringing pearls.”  Do you remember the scene in which Jesus is being baptized by his cousin John?  Listen to how the Father spoke from heaven at Jesus’ baptism (Mark 1:11):  “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”  At face value this seems like a simple, though wonderful, affirmation.  But it’s so much more than that.  Did you catch all the references?  If not, here they are:

  • “You are my Son” is from Psalm 2:7:  “He said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have become your Father.'”
  • “whom I love” is from Genesis 22:2:  “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah.  Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.”
  • “with you I am well pleased”  is from Isaiah 42:1:  “Here is my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations.”

What was God saying by making use of these quotations?  To answer this question, you need to know two things:  the context from which each passage is drawn and the way in which the people of that time understood the passage.  Both Psalm 2 and Isaiah 42 were understood as powerful messianic prophecies.  In Psalm 2, God makes a royal proclamation announcing his Son, the King of kings who would rule over the whole earth.

But in Isaiah 42, God speaks about his “servant” (also understood to be the Messiah).  Paradoxically, God’s Messiah is both a king and a servant.  This passage from Isaiah also proclaims that God’s Spirit is upon his servant.  How fitting since the Father utters these words as the Spirit descends upon Jesus in the Jordan River.

The reference “whom I love” is likely drawn from Genesis 22, one of the most poignant scenes in the Old Testament.  Abraham is about to sacrifice Isaac out of obedience to God.  Genesis heightens the drama by emphasizing how precious Isaac is to Abraham, foreshadowing the Father’s own feelings for his only Son.  When Jesus is baptized in the Jordan, the Father is saying, “Here is my precious son, my Isaac,” hinting at the sacrifice he will soon ask of Jesus.

In just three brief quotes from the Scriptures, God speaks of Jesus as a king, a servant, and his Son, who will become a sacrifice.  When God speaks, he packs a lot into his words!  And be sure to notice where the three passages come from:  the Torah (Genesis 22), the Prophets (Isaiah 42), and the Psalms (Psalm 2).  Just like the rabbis, God links together the words from the three parts of Scripture.  By quoting all three, he is proclaiming that the entire Scriptures point to Jesus as their fulfillment.

(pp. 43-45)


12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”



Some Taize for our first chapter of Mark!

“The kingdom of God is justice and peace,
and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Come, Lord, and open in us
the gates of your kingdom.”


The First Disciples

16 One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!” 18 And they left their nets at once and followed him.

from My Utmost for His Highest,
by Oswald Chambers


“Come ye after Me.” –Mark 1:17

One of the greatest hindrances in coming to Jesus is the excuse of temperament. We make our temperament and our natural affinities barriers to coming to Jesus. The first thing we realize when we come to Jesus is that He pays no attention whatever to our natural affinities. We have the notion that we can consecrate our gifts to God. You cannot consecrate what is not yours; there is only one thing you can consecrate to God, and that is your right to yourself (Romans 12:1).

If you will give God your right to yourself, He will make a holy experiment out of you. God’s experiments always succeed. The one mark of a saint is the moral originality which springs from abandonment to Jesus Christ. In the life of a saint there is this amazing wellspring of original life all the time; the Spirit of God is a well of water springing up, perennially fresh. The saint realizes that it is God Who engineers circumstances, consequently there is no whine, but a reckless abandon to Jesus. Never make a principle out of your experience; let God be as original with other people as He is with you.

If you abandon to Jesus, and come when He says “Come,” He will continue to say “Come” through you; you will go out into life reproducing the echo of Christ’s “Come.” That is the result in every soul who has abandoned and come to Jesus.

Have I come to Jesus? Will I come now?


19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

Jesus Casts Out an Evil Spirit

21 Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law.

23 Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One sent from God!”

25 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered. 26 At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him.

27 Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority!  Even evil spirits obey his orders!” 28 The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.

Matthew 28:18 (English Standard Version)

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

Jesus Heals Many People

29 After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. 31 So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them.

“Christ healing the mother-in-law of Simon Peter” by John Bridges

32 That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak.

Jesus Preaches in Galilee

35 Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 36 Later Simon and the others went out to find him. 37 When they found him, they said, “Everyone is looking for you.”

38 But Jesus replied, “We must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too. That is why I came.”

John 10:10 (NIV)

I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

39 So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and casting out demons.

Jesus Heals a Man with Leprosy

40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said.

41 Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” 42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning: 44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”

45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.

The leper’s cheerful disobedience caused problems for Jesus.  Christ cured the leper so that such outcasts were no longer confined to secluded places, only to be forced there himself.


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Images courtesy of:
the Gospel of Mark.    http://www.christchurchmesa.org/wp2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Gospel-of-Mark.jpg
Bonnell.   http://www.biblical-art.com/artwork.asp?id_artwork=31453&showmode=Full
Sitting at the Feet of Rabbi Jesus.    http://ourrabbijesus.com/files/2009/12/Rabbi_Jesus_Final_Cover-98×150.jpg
Jesus calls the fishermen.    http://lh4.ggpht.com/_cuCqe7ED9qY/ST7OjsrvtrI/AAAAAAAADqQ/3YVDxaKy-4c/Fishermen.jpg
Bridges.    http://www.impactbiblestudy.com/wp-content/gallery/healings/Jesus%20healing%20Peter%27s%20mother-in-law%20%28by%20John%20Bridges%29.jpg
Jesus heals a leper.    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_pQZf3-JFkdM/StleLODLSgI/AAAAAAAACM4/0am0Nnp6pf8/s320/a_Jesus-heals-the-Leper.jpg

495.) Proverbs 14

March 25, 2011

“Let nothing disturb thee; Let nothing dismay thee;                              All thing  pass; God never changes.                                                         Patience attains All that it strives for.                                                                   He who has God Finds he lacks nothing: God alone suffices.” –wisdom from St. Teresa of Avila (1515-1582)

Proverbs 14

(Contemporary English Version)

Wisdom Makes Good Sense

1A woman’s family

is held together

by her wisdom,

but it can be destroyed

by her foolishness.

2By living right, you show

that you respect the LORD;

by being deceitful, you show

that you despise him.

3Proud fools are punished

for their stupid talk,

but sensible talk

can save your life.

4Without the help of an ox

there can be no crop,

but with a strong ox

a big crop is possible.

5An honest witness

tells the truth;

a dishonest witness

tells nothing but lies.

Don’t ask a man for a vow.  If he has integrity, that’s enough.  If he lacks integrity, no vow can bind him.

–Moishe Rosen, the founder of Jews for Jesus


6Make fun of wisdom,

and you will never find it.

But if you have understanding,

knowledge comes easily.

7Stay away from fools,

or you won’t learn a thing.

8Wise people have enough sense

to find their way,

but stupid fools get lost.

Yes, that just might be me! — (metaphorically speaking!).

9Fools don’t care

if they are wrong,

but God is pleased

when people do right.

10No one else can really know

how sad or happy you are.

11The tent of a good person

stands longer

than the house

of someone evil.

12You may think you are

on the right road

and still end up dead.

Well, if it comes to that, I guess I would rather be dead on the right road than on the wrong one!

“We all want progress. But progress means getting nearer to the place where you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer. If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road…”

— C.S. Lewis in  Mere Christianity


13Sorrow may hide

behind laughter,

and happiness may end

in sorrow.

14You harvest what you plant,

whether good or bad.

15Don’t be stupid

and believe all you hear;

be smart and know

where you are headed.

16Only a stupid fool

is never cautious–

so be extra careful

and stay out of trouble.

17Fools have quick tempers,

and no one likes you

if you can’t be trusted.

18Stupidity leads to foolishness;

be smart and learn.

19The wicked will come crawling

to those who obey God.

20You have no friends

if you are poor,

but you have lots of friends

if you are rich.

21It’s wrong to hate others,

but God blesses everyone

who is kind to the poor.

“Let us touch the dying, the poor, the lonely, and the unwanted according to the graces we have received, and let us not be ashamed or slow to do the humble work.”

— Mother Teresa of Calcutta


22It’s a mistake

to make evil plans,

but you will have loyal friends

if you want to do right.

23Hard work is worthwhile,

but empty talk

will make you poor.

24Wisdom can make you rich,

but foolishness leads

to more foolishness.

25An honest witness

can save your life,

but liars can’t be trusted.

Liars, when they speak the truth, are not believed.



26If you respect the LORD,

you and your children

have a strong fortress

27and a life-giving fountain

that keeps you safe

from deadly traps.

28Rulers of powerful nations

are held in honor;

rulers of weak nations

are nothing at all.

29It’s smart to be patient,

but it’s stupid

to lose your temper.

If you are patient in one moment of anger, you will escape a hundred days of sorrow.

–Chinese proverb

He that can have patience, can have what he will.

–Benjamin Franklin

All human wisdom is summed up in two words—hope and wait.

–Alexander Dumas, The Count of Monte Cristo


30It’s healthy to be content,

but envy can eat you up.

Envy is the art of counting the other fellow’s blessings instead of your own.

–Harold Coffin


31If you mistreat the poor,

you insult your Creator;

if you are kind to them,

you show him respect.

32In times of trouble

the wicked are destroyed,

but even at death

the innocent have faith.

33Wisdom is found in the minds

of people with good sense,

but fools don’t know it.



The wise, innocent ones have learned, in the reading of the Word and the living of the life of faith, the difference between what is important and what is not, between what is eternal and what is temporal, between what is “something” and what is “nothing.”

Craig Morgan and “This Ain’t Nothin’.”


34Doing right brings honor

to a nation,

but sin brings disgrace.

35Kings reward servants

who act wisely,

but they punish those

who act foolishly.


Next book:  the story of Jesus, the way MARK told it!  We will be going through the Gospel of Mark chapter by chapter, day by day.  I encourage you to share DWELLING with a friend and read through the oldest, shortest gospel together!


Contemporary English Version (CEV) Copyright © 1995 by American Bible Society

Images courtesy of:
colorful church.     http://sequentialthought.com/sitebuilder/images/18-447×447.jpg
integrity.    http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-VG8ZK0YYH6g/TVV7F2GWkfI/AAAAAAAAALA/QT18Fbkk8cQ/s1600/bible_scriptures_on_trust_and_integrity_business_card-p2407182133128116734j5c_400.jpg
lost.    http://photos.travelblog.org/Photos/24813/103071/t/681559-When-getting-lost-is-worth-it-0.jpg
right way, wrong way.    http://ontherightroad.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/RightWayWrongWaySign.jpg
Kind hearts are the garden . . .   http://www.joyfulheartsfarm.com/graphics/fruittree.gif
verse 17.    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_6iifp1LS9ng/TN-v9X8chMI/AAAAAAAAAIM/Nt3nbQvJVEE/s1600/Proverbs14_17.jpg
Mother Teresa.    http://www.turnbacktogod.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/mother-teresa-pics-0101.jpg
The Boy who cried Wolf. http://www.2littlegirls.co.za/book_pics/Cried%20Wolf.jpg
patient chickens.    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_j4yNrKPIwFY/TIo-pqWZTTI/AAAAAAAAAKI/ugkIhLK2rtk/s320/patient.jpg
envy.    http://www.psychologytoday.com/files/u203/Envy.jpg
the Gospel of Mark.    http://www.christchurchmesa.org/wp2/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/The-Gospel-of-Mark.jpg

494.) Psalms 66 and 67

March 24, 2011

Verse 5 says, “Come and see what God has done.” Have you ever seen the California redwoods?!

Psalm 66 (NRSV)

Praise for God’s Goodness to Israel

1Make a joyful noise to God, all the earth;

2sing the glory of his name; give to him glorious praise.

3Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds! Because of your great power, your enemies cringe before you.

4All the earth worships you; they sing praises to you, sing praises to your name.”


5Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds among mortals.

6He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot.

There we rejoiced in him,

7who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let the rebellious not exalt themselves.


8Bless our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard,

9who has kept us among the living, and has not let our feet slip.

10For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.

Malachi 3:3 (New Living Translation)

He will sit like a refiner of silver, burning away the dross.

A woman called up a silversmith and made an appointment to watch him at work.  As she watched the siversmith, he held a piece of silver over the fire and let it heat up. He explained that in refining silver, one needed to hold the silver in the middle of the fire where the flames were hottest so as to burn away all the impurities.

The woman thought about God holding us in such a hot spot.  Then she thought about the verse, “He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver…”.  She asked the silversmith if it were true that he had to sit there in front of the fire the whole time the silver was being refined.

The man answered yes, he not only had to sit there holding the silver, but he had to keep his eyes on the silver the entire time it was in the fire. For if the silver was left even a moment too long in the flames, it would be destroyed.

The woman was silent for a moment. Then she asked the silversmith, “How do you know when the silver is fully refined?”

He smiled at her and answered, “Oh, that’s the easy part — when I see my image reflected in it.”


11You brought us into the net; you laid burdens on our backs;

12you let people ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a spacious place.

13I will come into your house with burnt offerings; I will pay you my vows,

14those that my lips uttered and my mouth promised when I was in trouble.

15I will offer to you burnt offerings of fatlings, with the smoke of the sacrifice of rams; I will make an offering of bulls and goats.


16Come and hear, all you who fear God, and I will tell what he has done for me.



“What the Lord has done in me”  by Hillsong.


17I cried aloud to him, and he was extolled with my tongue.

18If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

19But truly God has listened; he has given heed to the words of my prayer.

20Blessed be God, because he has not rejected my prayer or removed his steadfast love from me.


Psalm 67   (NRSV)

The Nations Called to Praise God

1May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us,


2that your way may be known upon earth, your saving power among all nations.

Of all of the ways of God, this is the most precious and needful. We should see a perishing world and long for God’s salvation among all nations. This is the reason for blessing. Are you a member of the “bless me” club? Always crying out to God, “Bless me, bless me, bless me!” But your cry is essentially a selfish one, the kind of cry a self-interested child makes. Yes, we unashamedly ask God to bless us – but not only for ourselves, but so His way will be made known on all the earth, and His salvation among all nations!

–Davod Guzik

Matthew 28:18-20 (NIV, ©2011)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.  Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,  and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

3Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

4Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you judge the peoples with equity and guide the nations upon earth.


5Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.

6The earth has yielded its increase; God, our God, has blessed us.

7May God continue to bless us; let all the ends of the earth revere him.


The New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.

Images courtesy of:
California redwoods.    http://college2cali.files.wordpress.com/2009/12/california-redwood-2.jpg
crossing the Red Sea.     http://thehourofrescue.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/crossing-red-sea1.jpg
refiner of silver.    http://inthestreet.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2008/12/refiner.jpg
world map.    http://www.travmed.com/guide/maps/worldmap.gif
skyscrapers.    http://www.beejoyfulquilts.com/images/psalm67-3,4citieslg.jpg

493.) Psalm 65

March 23, 2011

calligraphy by Kathleen Borkowski.

Psalm 65 (The Message)

A David Psalm

1-2 Silence is praise to you, Zion-dwelling God,
And also obedience.
You hear the prayer in it all.

2-8 We all arrive at your doorstep sooner
or later, loaded with guilt,
Our sins too much for us—
but you get rid of them once and for all.

"Risen As He Said" by Florida artist Rick Short

What I know about sinners I know chiefly about me. We did not mean to do the deed, of course. What we have done wrong—they seemed, or mostly seemed, small things at the time. The word of encouragement withheld, the touch of kindness not given, the visit not made, the trust betrayed, the cutting remark so clever and so cruel, the illicit sexual desire so generously entertained, the angry answer, the surge of resentment at being slighted, the time we thought a lie would do no harm. It is such a long and tedious list of little things. Surely not too much should be made of it, we thought to ourselves. But now it has come to this. It has come to the cross. All the trespasses of all the people of all time have gravitated here, to the killing grounds of Calvary.

–Richard John Neuhaus

1 John 1:8-9 (English Standard Version)

If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.


Blessed are the chosen! Blessed the guest
at home in your place!
We expect our fill of good things
in your house, your heavenly manse.
All your salvation wonders
are on display in your trophy room.
Earth-Tamer, Ocean-Pourer,
Mountain-Maker, Hill-Dresser,
Muzzler of sea storm and wave crash,
of mobs in noisy riot—
Far and wide they’ll come to a stop,
they’ll stare in awe, in wonder.
Dawn and dusk take turns
calling, “Come and worship.”

9-13 Oh, visit the earth,
ask her to join the dance!
Deck her out in spring showers,
fill the God-River with living water.
Paint the wheat fields golden.

"Wheat Field with Cypresses" by Vincent Van Gogh, 1889.

Creation was made for this!
Drench the plowed fields,
soak the dirt clods
With rainfall as harrow and rake
bring her to blossom and fruit.
Snow-crown the peaks with splendor,

Downtown Los Angeles with snow capped mountains. Photograph by Jeff Lowe.

scatter rose petals down your paths,
All through the wild meadows, rose petals.
Set the hills to dancing,
Dress the canyon walls with live sheep,
a drape of flax across the valleys.
Let them shout, and shout, and shout!
Oh, oh, let them sing!



The words for “All Creatures of Our God and King” were written by St. Francis of Assisi in 1225!  The music was composed by Peter von Brachel in 1623.  This arrangement is by Fernando Ortega.


The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Images courtesy of:
Borkowski.     http://www.kathleenborkowski.com/images/about_me/psalm65-8.jpg
Short.     http://www.redbubble.com/people/scenicearth.
Van Gogh.    http://www.yamashitariki.com/i/S02E07.Vincent.Van.Gogh.1889.Wheat.Field.with.Cypresses.jpg
Lowe.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3457/3312907661_d24d937a70.jpg

492.) Psalms 63 and 64

March 22, 2011

Psalm 63 (English Standard Version)

A Psalm of David, when he was in the wilderness of Judah.

1O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;
my soul thirsts for you;
my flesh faints for you,
as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.
2So I have looked upon you in the sanctuary,
beholding your power and glory.
3Because your steadfast love is better than life,
my lips will praise you.
4So I will bless you as long as I live;
in your name I will lift up my hands.



Little Andrew sings “Your lovingkindness is better than life”  —  quite precious!


5My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,
and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,
6when I remember you upon my bed,
and meditate on you in the watches of the night;
7for you have been my help,
and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.
8My soul clings to you;
your right hand upholds me.

the monkey hold

from Whispers of His Power,
by Amy Carmichael

“My soul hangeth upon Thee; Thy right hand upholdeth me.”

Hindu India is divided into two great schools of thought.  One school finds an illustration of what it believes in the baby money clinging to its mother.  The other find its illustration in the mother cat holding her kitten.  Psalm 63:8 unites these two thoughts, for both are true, and both together make the whole truth.

My soul hangeth upon Thee — the monkey hold.  Thy right hand upholdeth me — the cat hold.

Am I tempted to be slack about my Quiet Times, or about something which nobody sees, but which weakens me?  Then the word for me is Hold on.  Don’t be slack.  Be in earnest.  My soul hangeth upon Thee.

Am I tired, tempted to fear, tempted to discouragement?  There is no need to fear.  “Underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).  Thy right hand upholdeth me.


the cat hold


9But those who seek to destroy my life
shall go down into the depths of the earth;
10they shall be given over to the power of the sword;
they shall be a portion for jackals.
11But the king shall rejoice in God;
all who swear by him shall exult,
for the mouths of liars will be stopped.


Psalm 64 (English Standard Version)

To the choirmaster. A Psalm of David.

1Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint;
preserve my life from dread of the enemy.

2Hide me from the secret plots of the wicked,
from the throng of evildoers,
3who whet their tongues like swords,
who aim bitter words like arrows,
4shooting from ambush at the blameless,
shooting at him suddenly and without fear.

Mark 15:12-14 (New Living Translation)

Pilate asked them, “Then what should I do with this man you call the king of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

“Why?” Pilate demanded. “What crime has he committed?”

But the mob roared even louder, “Crucify him!”


5They hold fast to their evil purpose;
they talk of laying snares secretly,
thinking, “Who can see them?”
6They search out injustice,
saying, “We have accomplished a diligent search.”
For the inward mind and heart of a man are deep!

7 But God shoots his arrow at them;
they are wounded suddenly.
8They are brought to ruin, with their own tongues turned against them;
all who see them will wag their heads.
9Then all mankind fears;
they tell what God has brought about
and ponder what he has done.

To ponder, to consider carefully, to reflect deeply — it runs both ways!

Proverbs 21:2 (King James Version)

Every way of a man is right in his own eyes: but the LORD pondereth the hearts.


10Let the righteous one rejoice in the LORD
and take refuge in him!
Let all the upright in heart exult!


English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers.

Images courtesy of:
butterfly.    http://www.mybutterflies.com/images/Bookmarks/6_x_4_Psalm_63-7_copy.jpg
the monkey hold.       http://thundafunda.com/393/?level=picture&id=2563
the cat hold.     http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_ALN7_3uQFD8/TF2V4pf83nI/AAAAAAAAEtc/tlnJAH3dA_U/s1600/CatMothercarryingherkitty.jpg
flowers.    http://image04.webshots.com/4/2/69/72/58726972AKrEBC_ph.jpg
crown of thorns.    http://fc08.deviantart.net/fs15/f/2007/015/1/2/Crucified_Jesus__the_face_by_DevCageR.jpg
pondering statue.     http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-BQrWsH7Tx1c/TXZo1b5kqQI/AAAAAAAAChA/QTSSfKuJEi4/s1600/ponder.jpg

491.) Psalms 61 and 62

March 21, 2011

Psalm 61   (Good News Translation)

1 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer!
2 In despair and far from home I call to you! Take me to a safe refuge,

Psalm 61:2 (King James Version)

When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I.

Most of us know what it is to be overwhelmed in heart, emptied like when a man wipes a dish and turns it upside down, submerged and thrown on our beam-ends like a boat mastered by the storm. Discoveries of inward corruption will do this, if the Lord permits the depth of our depravity to become troubled and cast up mire and dirt. Disappointments and heartbreaks will do this when billow after billow rolls over us, and we are like a broken shell thrown to and fro by the surf.

Blessed be God, at such seasons we are not left without a sufficient solace: Our God is the harbor of weather-beaten sails, the hostel for forlorn pilgrims. He is higher than we are, His mercy higher than our sins, His love higher than our thoughts. It is pitiful to see men putting their trust in something lower than themselves; but our confidence is fixed on an exceedingly high and glorious Lord. He is a Rock since He doesn’t change, and a high Rock because the tempests that overwhelm us roll far beneath His feet; He is not disturbed by them but rules them at His will. If we get under the shelter of this lofty Rock, we may defy the hurricane; all is calm under the lee of that towering cliff. Sadly, the confusion in which the troubled mind is often cast is such that we need piloting to this divine shelter.

Hence the prayer of the text. O Lord, our God, by Your Holy Spirit, teach us the way of faith; lead us into Your rest. The wind blows us out to sea—the helm does not answer to our puny hand; You alone can steer us over the bar between the sunken rocks and safe into the fair haven. We are totally dependent upon You—we need You to bring us to You. To be wisely directed and steered into safety and peace is Your gift, and Yours alone. Tonight be pleased to deal kindly with Your servants.

–Charles Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg


3 for you are my protector, my strong defense against my enemies.

4 Let me live in your sanctuary all my life; let me find safety under your wings.



The Minstrel of Toulinguet performs a traditional gospel melody, “Under His Wings,” at the Northeast Church Museum, Twillingate, Newfoundland, Canada.

Under His wings, under His wings,
Who from His love can sever?
Under His wings my soul shall abide,
Safely abide forever.

Under His wings I am safely abiding,
Though the night deepens and tempests are wild,
Still I can trust Him; I know He will keep me,
He has redeemed me, and I am His child.

Under His wings, what a refuge in sorrow!
How the heart yearningly turns to His rest!
Often when earth has no balm for my healing,
There I find comfort, and there I am blessed.

Under His wings, oh, what precious enjoyment!
There will I hide till life’s trials are o’er;
Sheltered, protected, no evil can harm me,
Resting in Jesus, I’m safe evermore.


5 You have heard my promises, O God, and you have given me what belongs to those who honor you.

6 Add many years to the king’s life; let him live on and on!
7 May he rule forever in your presence, O God; protect him with your constant love and faithfulness.
8 So I will always sing praises to you, as I offer you daily what I have promised.


Psalm 62   (Good News Translation)

1 I wait patiently for God to save me; I depend on him alone.
2 He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender, and I shall never be defeated.

“He alone is my rock and my salvation.” — Psalm 62:2 (NIV)

3 How much longer will all of you attack someone who is no stronger than a broken-down fence?
4 You only want to bring him down from his place of honor; you take pleasure in lies. You speak words of blessing, but in your heart you curse him.

5 I depend on God alone; I put my hope in him.


It is the believer’s privilege to use this language. If he is looking for anything from the world, it is a poor hope indeed. But if he looks to God for the supply of his needs, whether temporal or spiritual blessings, his hope will not be in vain. He may constantly draw from the bank of faith and get his need supplied out of the riches of God’s loving-kindness. I know this: I would rather have God for my banker than all the Rothschilds.

My Lord never fails to honor His promises; and when we bring them to His throne, He never sends them back unanswered. Therefore I will wait only at His door, for He always opens it with the hand of abundant grace. At this hour I will turn to Him afresh.

But we have “hope” beyond this life. We will die soon; and still our “hope is from him.” May we not expect that when we face illness He will send angels to carry us to His bosom? We believe that when the pulse is faint and the heart is weak, some angelic messenger shall stand and look with loving eyes upon us and whisper, “Come away!” As we approach the heavenly gate, we expect to hear the welcome invitation, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” We are expecting harps of gold and crowns of glory; we are hoping soon to be among the company of shining ones before the throne; we are looking forward and longing for the time when we shall be like our glorious Lord–for “We shall see him as he is.”

Then if these are your hopes, O my soul, live for God; live with the desire and resolve to glorify Him from whose grace in your election, redemption, and calling you safely “hope” for the coming glory.

–Charles Spurgeon, revised and updated by Alistair Begg


6 He alone protects and saves me; he is my defender, and I shall never be defeated.
7 My salvation and honor depend on God; he is my strong protector; he is my shelter.
8 Trust in God at all times, my people. Tell him all your troubles, for he is our refuge.

9 Human beings are all like a puff of breath; great and small alike are worthless. Put them on the scales, and they weigh nothing; they are lighter than a mere breath.
10 Don’t put your trust in violence; don’t hope to gain anything by robbery; even if your riches increase, don’t depend on them.

Matthew 6:19-21 (English Standard Version)

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal,  but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


11 More than once I have heard God say that power belongs to him
12 and that his love is constant.  You yourself, O Lord, reward everyone according to their deeds.


Scripture taken from the Good News Translation – Second Edition, Copyright 1992 by American Bible Society.

Images courtesy of:
Psalm 61 drawing.    http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3580/3403674078_4810718f1b.jpg
When my heart is overwhelmed . . .    http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_tHPCHQwXRpQ/SAHW09lcg5I/AAAAAAAAAQ0/MvjJo7OU7Ro/s400/mini-Psalm%2B61v2.jpg
engraved stone.    http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-Zsq3Q1kMYqU/TWUp_Z0V1ZI/AAAAAAAAAUI/SpQKeqLE9p8/s1600/psalm62_1.jpg
big rock at the beach.    http://www.trinityinspirations.com/images/Haystack2.jpg
hearse with uhaul.    http://spiritualblueprint.files.wordpress.com/2011/01/hearseuhaul01-300×225.jpg?w=300&h=225

490.) 2 Kings 25

March 18, 2011

“The Deportation to Babylon” by Eric de Saussure, 1968.

2 Kings 25

(New International Version, ©2011)

The Fall of Jerusalem

Now Zedekiah rebelled against the king of Babylon.

1 So in the ninth year of Zedekiah’s reign, on the tenth day of the tenth month, Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon marched against Jerusalem with his whole army. He encamped outside the city and built siege works all around it. 2 The city was kept under siege until the eleventh year of King Zedekiah.

A siege wall around the city prevented food and supplies from entering the city; eventually the population was starved out.

3 By the ninth day of the fourth month the famine in the city had become so severe that there was no food for the people to eat. 4 Then the city wall was broken through, and the whole army fled at night through the gate between the two walls near the king’s garden, though the Babylonians were surrounding the city. They fled toward the Arabah, 5 but the Babylonian army pursued the king and overtook him in the plains of Jericho. All his soldiers were separated from him and scattered, 6 and he was captured.

Date palms near Jericho.

“It seems ironic that here, at the very spot where Israel first set foot on the Promised Land, the last of the Davidic kings was captured and his monarchy shattered. Here, where Israel experienced her first victory as the walls of Jericho fell before unarmed men who trusted God, was the scene of her last defeat.”
–Russell H. Dilday

He was taken to the king of Babylon at Riblah, where sentence was pronounced on him. 7 They killed the sons of Zedekiah before his eyes. Then they put out his eyes, bound him with bronze shackles and took him to Babylon.

Blinding prisoners was unusual, since most prisoners would be put to work.  But blinding the king had a highly symbolic significance — obviously he could not lead the people now — as well as a dispiriting emotional impact on the deportees.

8 On the seventh day of the fifth month, in the nineteenth year of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon, Nebuzaradan commander of the imperial guard, an official of the king of Babylon, came to Jerusalem. 9 He set fire to the temple of the LORD,

“The Talmud declares that when the Babylonians entered the temple, they held a two-day feast there to desecrate it; then, on the third day, they set fire to the building. The Talmud adds that the fire burned throughout that day and the next.”
–Russell H. Dilday

the royal palace and all the houses of Jerusalem. Every important building he burned down.

Psalm 74:3-8 (New Living Translation)

Walk through the awful ruins of the city;
see how the enemy has destroyed your sanctuary.

There your enemies shouted their victorious battle cries;
there they set up their battle standards.
They swung their axes
like woodcutters in a forest.
With axes and picks,
they smashed the carved paneling.
They burned your sanctuary to the ground.
They defiled the place that bears your name.
Then they thought, “Let’s destroy everything!”
So they burned down all the places where God was worshiped.


10 The whole Babylonian army under the commander of the imperial guard broke down the walls around Jerusalem. 11 Nebuzaradan the commander of the guard carried into exile the people who remained in the city, along with the rest of the populace and those who had deserted to the king of Babylon. 12 But the commander left behind some of the poorest people of the land to work the vineyards and fields.

13 The Babylonians broke up the bronze pillars, the movable stands and the bronze Sea that were at the temple of the LORD and they carried the bronze to Babylon. 14 They also took away the pots, shovels, wick trimmers, dishes and all the bronze articles used in the temple service. 15 The commander of the imperial guard took away the censers and sprinkling bowls—all that were made of pure gold or silver.

“The Chaldees destroy the brazen Sea” by James Tissot, 1900 (Jewish Museum, New York)

16 The bronze from the two pillars, the Sea and the movable stands, which Solomon had made for the temple of the LORD, was more than could be weighed. 17 Each pillar was eighteen cubits high. The bronze capital on top of one pillar was three cubits high and was decorated with a network and pomegranates of bronze all around. The other pillar, with its network, was similar.

18 The commander of the guard took as prisoners Seraiah the chief priest, Zephaniah the priest next in rank and the three doorkeepers. 19 Of those still in the city, he took the officer in charge of the fighting men, and five royal advisers. He also took the secretary who was chief officer in charge of conscripting the people of the land and sixty of the conscripts who were found in the city. 20 Nebuzaradan the commander took them all and brought them to the king of Babylon at Riblah. 21 There at Riblah, in the land of Hamath, the king had them executed.

So Judah went into captivity, away from her land.



“Away from her land.”  Yet — this is not the end of the story!  We rejoice that some Jews will return to Judah, and particularly to Bethlehem in Judah, because not even a total military defeat and deportation to far-off lands will be able to thwart God’s plan of salvation and the coming of Jesus!

from Rachmaninoff’s Vespers, the Robert Shaw Festival Singers.

“Lord, now Thou lettest Thy servant depart,
According to Thy word, in peace.
For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation
Thou has prepared before the face of all people,
A Light to illuminate the Gentiles
And the glory of Thy people Israel.”


22 Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon appointed Gedaliah son of Ahikam, the son of Shaphan, to be over the people he had left behind in Judah. 23 When all the army officers and their men heard that the king of Babylon had appointed Gedaliah as governor, they came to Gedaliah at Mizpah—Ishmael son of Nethaniah, Johanan son of Kareah, Seraiah son of Tanhumeth the Netophathite, Jaazaniah the son of the Maakathite, and their men. 24 Gedaliah took an oath to reassure them and their men. “Do not be afraid of the Babylonian officials,” he said. “Settle down in the land and serve the king of Babylon, and it will go well with you.”

Reasonable and pragmatic advice . . .

25 In the seventh month, however, Ishmael son of Nethaniah, the son of Elishama, who was of royal blood, came with ten men and assassinated Gedaliah and also the men of Judah and the Babylonians who were with him at Mizpah. 26 At this, all the people from the least to the greatest, together with the army officers, fled to Egypt for fear of the Babylonians.

. . . which was considered treason by others . . .

Jehoiachin Released

27 In the thirty-seventh year of the exile of Jehoiachin king of Judah, in the year Awel-Marduk became king of Babylon, he released Jehoiachin king of Judah from prison. He did this on the twenty-seventh day of the twelfth month. 28 He spoke kindly to him and gave him a seat of honor higher than those of the other kings who were with him in Babylon. 29 So Jehoiachin put aside his prison clothes and for the rest of his life ate regularly at the king’s table. 30 Day by day the king gave Jehoiachin a regular allowance as long as he lived.

The End of 2 Kings

Give us this day our daily bread.

from Morning and Evening
by Charles Haddon Spurgeon

“And his allowance was a continual allowance given him of the king, a daily rate for every day, all the days of his life.” — 2 Kings 25:30

Jehoiachin was not sent away from the king’s palace with a store to last him for months, but his provision was given him as a daily pension. Herein he well pictures the happy position of all the Lord’s people. A daily portion is all that a man really wants. We do not need tomorrow’s supplies; that day has not yet dawned, and its wants are as yet unborn. The thirst which we may suffer in the month of June does not need to be quenched in February, for we do not feel it yet; if we have enough for each day as the days arrive we shall never know want.

Sufficient for the day is all that we can enjoy. We cannot eat or drink or wear more than the day’s supply of food and raiment; the surplus gives us the care of storing it, and the anxiety of watching against a thief. One staff aids a traveller, but a bundle of staves is a heavy burden. Enough is not only as good as a feast, but is all that the greatest glutton can truly enjoy.

This is all that we should expect; a craving for more than this is ungrateful. When our Father does not give us more, we should be content with his daily allowance. Jehoiachin’s case is ours, we have a sure portion, a portion given us of the king, a gracious portion, and a perpetual portion. Here is surely ground for thankfulness.

Beloved Christian reader, in matters of grace you need a daily supply. You have no store of strength. Day by day must you seek help from above. It is a very sweet assurance that a daily portion is provided for you. In the word, through the ministry, by meditation, in prayer, and waiting upon God you shall receive renewed strength. In Jesus all needful things are laid up for you. Then enjoy your continual allowance. Never go hungry while the daily bread of grace is on the table of mercy.


New International Version, ©2010 (NIV) Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2010 by Biblica
Images courtesy of:
de Saussure.    http://www.artbible.net/1T/Jer0101_Portrait_misc/source/20%20DE%20SAUSSURE%20JER%20DEPORTATION%20A%20BABYLONE.jpg
date palms.    http://sites.google.com/site/pilgrimstojerusalem/_/rsrc/1226464477774/Home/historical-background/Date_palms.jpg
the destruction of Jerusalem.    http://clintthoughts.files.wordpress.com/2010/03/jerusalem_destruction.jpg
Tissot.     http://www.artres.com/c/htm/CSearchZ.aspx?o=&Total=95&FP=1961974&E=22SIJMX77AAK&SID=JMGEJNIOG0IB&Pic=72&SubE=2UNTWAG8O2QP
loaf of bread.    http://www.availart.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/05/daily-bread.jpg