Bible Readers

With Pastor Dave Roussel

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Some Of Jesus’ Thoughts On Giving

Today’s Readings – Mark 10-12 and Psalms 44

Mark chapter 12: 28-44 (in part) reads this way; “As he taught, Jesus said, ‘Watch out for the teachers of the law … they devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. Such men will be punished most severely.’ 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 fraction of a penny. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, ‘I tell you the truth; 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.”

The religious law in Israel contained strict rules about how to give, when to give, what percentage to give and what happened if you didn’t give. The obvious problem here was that the poor and destitute were losing their homes and their lands in order to meet the legalistic demands being placed on them by the religious leaders. The widows Jesus was referring to were probably just trying to please God the best way they knew – by giving all that they were told to. Instead of having compassion on the poor, these leaders coveted the little they could get from these widows and orphans. Jesus said they devoured widows’ houses and covered up their sin under a cloak of religion. It’s not so much that God had anything against the poor people giving offerings. In fact some of the great accounts of Scripture have to do with that very thing. The poor widow in this passage put a fraction of a penny in the offering and Jesus got all excited, telling everyone that she gave the biggest offering of all. The widow in 1 Kings 17 was about to die when the prophet asked her to make him a cake first. How insensitive! Yet, God used this offering to not only sustain the widow and her son, but also the man of God who received it from her. Paul commended the Macedonians in 1 Corinthians 8 because they gave out of “extreme poverty”, although he was more excited about their whole hearted surrender to the Lord than in their giving. Giving then is never something to be done from adherence to rules but out of a deep trust in God.

Whatever and whenever He urges us to give, whether it be two “mites” or two million dollars, I believe that our gifts must come from our trust in God. Never has my church seen a greater percentage of giving people than when there was a fresh stirring of the Spirit amongst us – the giving reflected what the Spirit was doing in the people. So too, a true gauge of spiritual life in a person or a church is how that person or church deals with money. Because giving is such a part of the heart of God, it is sure that people who know God will be givers.

 

Questions:

  1. Share about a time in your life when you felt impoverished but the Holy Spirit asked you to give an offering anyway.
  2. Tell a story about a situation you have seen when someone was wonderfully blessed of God after giving in response to the Holy Spirit.

 

 

We Were Spiritually Dead

February 13 – Today’s Readings – Mark 7-9 and Psalms 43

Mark 8: 34-35 reads; “Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

Now come with me to Ephesians 2: 4-6; “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions— it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,”

What is all this talk of dying, taking up a cross, and being “raised” with Christ? It all has to do with a spiritual truth – that of having only one way out from the “Kingdom of Darkness”.

When we “get saved” or are “born again”, we experience “a death” to ourselves so that the “spirit-man” inside of us can live in Jesus. The cross we are to carry is simple – we completely identify with Jesus and the tremendous price He paid when He died on the cross. His cross becomes our cross, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection. We die to an old life where we were held captive in a kingdom of sin and we are raised with Christ to be born a second time spiritually. Ephesians says we then are seated with Christ. This too is a spiritual thing where we are no longer captives but are free – and sitting in a victorious place. After all, where is Christ seated if not in a position of supreme authority!

Yes we lose our lives, but we gain genuine life. Of course we lay down our rights but we gain real authority and freedom. By consent, we no longer go our own way – but we acquire access to the only true way, that of following Jesus.

We can’t have it both ways. We either receive Christ by grace and faith or we continue on trying to live for two masters. It is impossible to please God unless we have faith – faith in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and faith that we now live in Christ, identifying with His death on the cross and His resurrection to eternal life. We can’t serve God in this way and still have our focus on the world and the sin which can so easily entangle us.

What is the conclusion of this matter? Live in Christ and you will drawn irrepressibly to doing the right thing – He has delivered you from all sin that held you down. Follow Him and you will not want to follow another.

Questions:

1. What does it mean to you personally to “take up your cross”?

2. What does it mean to you personally to “be seated with Christ in heavenly realms”?

Why Did Jesus Tell So Many Stories?

February 12 – Today’s Readings – Mark 4-6 and Psalms 42

Did you ever wonder about the Parables and why Jesus used them so often? One hint is given to us in Mark 4:12 – “so that they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!” Sounds confusing doesn’t it? – Almost as if Jesus did not want people to understand the good news and turn to Him.

Now we know that Scripture interprets Scripture and we also know that in the Word, God’s heart for all nations has been plainly revealed from the beginning – just think of John 3:16 as an example. In order to get a clearer view of Mark 4:12, we then need to rely on scholars who have delved into the meanings of words more than we have. Here’s how the passage reads in The Message Paraphrase – “These are people – whose eyes are open but don’t see a thing, whose ears are open but don’t understand a word, who avoid making an about – face and getting forgiven.”

The Amplified Translation of the same verse reads – “In order that they may [indeed] look and look but not see and perceive, and may hear and hear but not grasp and comprehend, lest haply they should turn again, and it [their willful rejection of the truth] should be forgiven them.”

Is it possible that God, who knows the thoughts of people, holds back on certain truth because they are cold-hearted and have rejected His love? When Jesus spoke to the religion-filled, sin-sick world of His time, He used stories to illustrate spiritual truth. Most often when He confronted people directly, it was in dealing with hypocritical religious folk – those who thought they could work or bluff their way to heaven and those who tried to put people under the bondage of heavy religious rules.

Our society is very hard of hearing when confronted directly. This attitude is rather like a teenager putting both hands over their ears, when “mom” is speaking to them, – and yelling “LA LA LA LA LA LA”! Surely there must be a way to get through to this culture of ours. Perhaps instead of confronting the world with all the “deep truths” of the Word, we should be more like Jesus and use a simplistic approach. “Follow Me”, He said to the disciples, and they did. What they didn’t know was that they were embarking on a life-long journey of faith – a journey that would revolutionize their lives and ultimately change the world.

We too need to engage our world by simply following Jesus and letting our light shine. When the Holy Spirit prompts us, we need to be ready to share “the pearls” of God’s truth and make disciples of all nations. The real task at hand is to listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit so that we know whom we are speaking to.

Questions:

1. Tell of another Gospel parable and comment on its meaning.

2. How can share Christ with people by using modern parables?

Let’s Talk About Unity

February 11 – Today’s Readings – Mark 1-3 and Psalms 41

Welcome to The Book of Mark

Mark 3:24-25 reads, “If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

When speaking these words, Jesus was obviously referring to the kingdom of darkness but the nature of His comments allow us to apply them to other “kingdoms” as well. We know that when there are deep issues of division in a nation, that country becomes consumed with the topic – no matter how insignificant it may seem. The divisions or side issues can captivate peoples’, attention so that they no longer focus on more important business.

The same is true in our homes. If there is turmoil because of division on issues like faith, money, intimacy, honesty, moral integrity,substance abuse etc., the peace and harmony in that home will cease to exist. There are huge spin-off issues that occur from disagreements allowed to persist in the family.

In the Church, unity is something so important that at times we must lay down “pet issues” in order to preserve the “bigger picture”. What do I mean by this? Well, it has to do with individuals insisting on having their own way at the expense of the family of God. We must be willing to “go to the wall” for issues like sin or heresy but not petty issues where we want our own way because of opinion, or self-seeking and childish thinking. We know that one of Satan’s strongest weapons against the Church is to bring discord and division.

How about our personal lives? – How about our relationship with Jesus and the things that can diminish our intimacy with Him? We know that “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39) We also realize however that we must work at keeping our “Spiritual House” in order – it must stand strong because every good and wonderful thing in our lives flows from spiritual wholeness! This is why we allow no “division” to come between the Lord and us. This is why we keep in step with the Holy Spirit. I have learned that healthy spiritual individuals make for healthy families – make for healthy Churches – make for a healthy communities – make for healthy cities. The power that is resident in a “Kingdom” that is NOT divided against itself is incredibly influential. Let’s be part of that miracle!

Questions:

1. Name and give reference to Bible examples where divisions caused unnecessary grief in the Kingdom.

2. Comment (without giving names) on a situation where serious problems could have been avoided if people had not allowed division.

They Searched and Found

February 10 – Today’s Readings – Exodus 39-40 and Psalms 40

Here, in the last chapter of Exodus, we find a group of people who made a concerted effort to approach the Lord with sincere hearts and according to God’s will. He responded, of course, and did wonderful things in their lives. This is a pattern repeated in both the Old and New Testaments. At the dedication of the first Temple in Jerusalem, a very similar supernatural encounter with God occurred. Even in the upper room (Acts 2), the disciples were gathered in unity and constant prayer for several days when they received a great visitation of God. The only instances where God did not respond to people approaching Him with sincerity and fervour were when “other issues” got in the way.

It really is the same today – God responds to those who diligently seek Him – those who turn to Him with pure motives. Do we require the same elaborate preparations that Moses made? No – not at all, but I believe spiritual preparation can be made as we approach God. It has to do with preparing our hearts – an attitude of thanksgiving, praise and worship. It may even entail repentance and a renewed acknowledgment of our relationship with Jesus as our great High Priest – but in this day of grace and living in the love of God, WE ARE the temple of the Holy Spirit. His presence is with us constantly as we live and “abide in the vine”.

Psalms 40 seems to reinforce the manner in which we should approach God – “I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart. Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced”. This passage indicates that we indeed “belong” to the Lord – that we are His treasured possession, if indeed He has become Lord and Christ to us. We have full confidence in approaching God, knowing that he hears us and that as we wait on Him, He responds.

God hasn’t changed – He has always desired to meet with us in intimacy. Do you recall Genesis 3: 8-9 when God came in the cool of the day to commune with Adam and Eve? Scripture does not say so directly but I’m left with the impression that this was an every day event. Tragically, one day, this “meeting” did not go well, as disobedience had separated Adam and Eve from God. Thanks to Jesus; we no longer have a barrier between God and mankind when Christ dwells in us. We live in a wondrous, peace-filled, eternal relationship with the King of Kings who delights in us as we walk with Him. “The glory cloud” of that original tabernacle now rests on you and “the fire” now dwells in you.

Questions:

1. Evaluate the spiritual preparation you personally make when coming to a place of corporate worship.
2. What does the Psalmist mean in Psalm 40 when he says, “Your Law is within my heart”?

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