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‘Then Jesus said to the disciples, “Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.”‘ (Mark 11:22-23 NLT).

March 3, 2018

On the Monday morning of Passion Week, Jesus cursed a fig tree that was barren of fruit. The next morning as He and the disciples passed by the tree, Peter pointed out that it was “withered from the roots up.” In response, Jesus offered a lesser to greater argument (i.e. “fig tree to mountain”) that the disciples would be able to do even greater miracles if they only had faith.

As we consider this amazing promise from Jesus, let us be careful not to misunderstand the doctrine of faith. First, faith is not some neutral force with a power of its own. No, faith requires an object. And as Jesus taught, the object of biblical faith is God. Notice how Jesus began His teaching, “Have faith in God.” Jesus did not teach us to have faith in faith, but to have faith in God. We can believe something with all of our heart, yet nothing will happen unless God acts. Second, having recognized that biblical faith’s object is God, we must recognize that our requests must be according to God’s will. Consider these two Scriptures:

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him” (1 John 5:14-15).

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3).

So, our faith must be in God whose power and will are paramount. Yet, having understood this, we must not forget the point of Christ’s teaching: Our faith in God can move mountains! Don’t focus on the mountain. Focus on the God who can move the mountain! For it’s not the size of your faith, but the size of your God that counts. As Jesus taught, just a little faith in a great God can move mountains!

“For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20).

It is not great faith in God, but faith in a great God that moves mountains!

“They were now on the way up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them” (Mark 10:32 NLT).

March 2, 2018

Jesus led the way up from Jericho to Jerusalem to face his ultimate purpose for coming–– the cross. The walk up from Jericho would take about 6-8 hours as they traveled the Roman road, the ruins of which can still be seen today. It was a steep climb, with an elevation increase of 3400 feet. Jesus walked ahead of his disciples and his other followers, pressing on alone with a look of firm resolve on His face (see Luke 9:51) and a determined step to his gait. Those following him were awestruck and even filled with fear as they tried to keep up with his dogged pace. After some time, Jesus finally took a break and explained once again to his disciples exactly what would happen to him in Jerusalem. From betrayal to torture to death on a Roman cross and rising again three days late, Jesus described in great detail why he was so determined to be in Jerusalem. He was about to complete his mission.

Today, we have this great hope in the One who has gone ahead of us, not only to Jerusalem, but to the Father in heaven on our behalf. As the book of Hebrews says, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, sure and strong. It enters behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place in heaven, where Jesus has gone ahead of us and for us” (Heb. 6:19-20).

“Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him” (Mark 10:21 NLT).

March 1, 2018

When Jesus looked upon the rich man who expressed his desire to be a follower, He loved him. Why did Christ love him? Did the rich man understand that “only God is good?” No, it seemed that he thought he could be good too. Was he able to sell his possessions, give them to the poor, and follow Jesus? No, he went away sad, choosing his possessions over following the Person of Christ. So, what was the trait or condition in this rich man that moved Jesus to look upon him with love? It wasn’t the condition of the rich man, but the unconditional love of Jesus that moved Jesus to love him. As the apostle Paul wrote, “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Jesus loves sinners because He is all love and He loves with an unconditional love (“agape”). As the apostle John wrote, “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

I wonder. Should we love sinners too?

‘But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts.”‘ (Mark 10:5 NLT).

March 1, 2018

Some Pharisees came to Jesus with a question about divorce. He answered with His own question (as was His habit) whether they knew what Moses wrote in the law concerning divorce. They replied that the Mosaic law permitted divorce. Jesus responded that the law was a “concession” to “hard hearts.”

I wonder, wasn’t all the law written because of the hardness of our hearts? For if we could keep the Great Commandment, wouldn’t we have hearts filled with love and therefore no longer require the other laws? Would the one who loves God with all his heart, need to be told not to take the Lord’s name in vain? Would the one who loves their neighbor, need to be instructed not to murder them? If the human heart was not hardened by sin, the written law would have no purpose, for the law of love would already be written on our hearts. Yet, the law was needed because our hearts are hard until the old, sin callous is circumcised by faith in Christ, who is able to give us new and clean hearts filled with love.

“This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” (Mark 9:7 NLT).

February 27, 2018

Peter couldn’t keep quiet in that holy moment on the mountaintop when Jesus was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared with Him. So, a cloud overshadowed Peter, James and John, and the voice of the Father was heard saying, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.”

Peter represents many of us. How often we interrupt holy moments with our own speech, when quiet listening is called for. Even in prayer, we pour out our laundry list of needs to the Father, but forget to be quiet and listen for the voice of His Son. Have you learned to say as young Samuel did, “Speak Lord, your servant is listening” (1 Sam. 3:7)?

“Then Jesus placed his hands on the man’s eyes again, and his eyes were opened. His sight was completely restored, and he could see everything clearly” (Mark 8:25 NLT).

February 26, 2018

Jesus healed many that were blind with a single word or touch, yet in this case, the blind man received a second touch. He saw light without focus on the first touch, but the second touch of Jesus gave him clarity, so that he saw “everything clearly.” We must be careful making a theological comment on this narrative, for Christ gave no explanation. Yet, perhaps this account points to the spiritual reality that some come out of the darkness and into the light, seeing clearly after a single encounter with Jesus. While for others, as in the case of this blind man, it is more of a progression.

“It is what comes from inside that defiles you” (Mark 7:20 NLT).

February 24, 2018

Jesus pointed out the hypocrisy of the Pharisee’s hand-washing rituals. For they were careful to wash their hands before putting food in their bodies, but not mindful of the sinful attitudes that originated within their hearts. Yet, who can cleanse dirty hearts?

Only Christ can cleanse us from the sin that defiles our hearts. As the apostle Paul wrote, “He gave his life to free us from every kind of sin, to cleanse us, and to make us his very own people” (Titus 2:14).

‘But Jesus said, “You feed them.”’ (Mark 6:37 NLT).

February 23, 2018

When the disciples came to Jesus telling Him to send the hungry crowds away to get something to eat, He told the disciples, “You feed them.” You have to be careful what you ask of Jesus. He might just tell you to be the answer to the very need you lifted up to Him. In the case of the disciples, He had them do an inventory of the need, bring what food they discovered to Him to bless it, organize the people in groups, and then distribute the food. Jesus called them to meet the need that they seen with what they had, trusting Him to fill up the difference. 

What can we learn from this?

“And he was amazed at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6 NLT).

February 22, 2018

When Jesus began teaching and performing miracles in His hometown of Nazareth, “He was amazed at their unbelief.” Can you imagine that? That the Son of God was “amazed” at the lack of faith He saw in the very neighbors that should have known Him best?

Those that have grown up going to church and hearing the gospel must be careful to examine their faith. For they are at risk of being like the folks of Nazareth. Although they had known Jesus for years and claimed him as a neighbor, they still did not place their faith in Him. Familiarity is not faith.

‘But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.”’ (Mark 5:36 NLT).

February 21, 2018

Jesus was on His way to heal Jairus’ daughter when messengers came to inform them that she had died. In response, Jesus told Jairus to have faith rather than fear. Jesus often put fear and faith as opposite choices that people could make as an act of the will. When Jesus arrived at Jairus’ house, He raised his daughter from the dead.

Fear seems like an automatic response rather than an act of the will. But Jesus teaches that we can learn to choose faith over fear.

Is this possible? That we can learn to replace our fear with faith?