Monday, September 30, 2013

Mark 10:1-12

Since the beginning, God intended for marriage to be monogamous (with one person), heterosexual (of the opposite gender), for life. The way that He made this clear is the way that He designed the first marriage in Eden. Adam met his wife Eve. There was no other woman. God did not place a couple of “back-up plan” women in the garden. He was the designer. He knew the perfect design. He knew what would bring Adam the most joy and satisfaction, and He joined Adam and Eve together.
This argument was the response of Jesus when He was confronted by some truth-twisting, subversion-motivated Pharisees. They had found a topic of division - divorce, and they wanted to cause Jesus to either go against popular opinion or against the Scripture. Jesus didn’t have any problem going against the popular opinion of the divorce-driven culture around Him. Very swiftly, He referenced a few points from scripture to counter the jaded perspective of the Pharisees. The first, we mentioned above, namely, God created man and woman as one couple, for life, no back-up plan. That is God’s view of marriage - permanent.
Jesus went on to give more answers about the divorce question: “Men and women leave their families and cleave to their spouses. God joins them together, no one should try to unjoin that union.” He argues that to dissolve a marriage is to dissolve something that God put together. His point was as follows: it doesn’t matter what culture tells you, Scripture has something very serious to tell you. We should never be in the business of undoing what God has done. It would be foolishness to see God using a Divine adhesive, and for us to respond by trying to remove that glue. Marriage is something that is done by God, not just by two people making promises. When those two seek to get a divorce, they are not just seeking to undo their own work, they are seeking to undo the very work of God.
In a divorce laden culture, Jesus was willing to push back against the common perspective, and hold to the perspective that God has in Malachi 2:15-16: “…Let no man deal treacherously with his wife, for I hate the putting away (divorce)…” In essence, God said, “I hate divorce.”
God has a completely different design for marriage than divorce. Often, even in our modern day culture, divorce comes at the expense of God’s perfect design. In 1 Peter 3:7, He tells husbands to live with their wives in an understanding way. In Ephesians 5:25, He tells husbands to love their wives in the self-sacrificing way that Christ loves the church. In Proverbs 18:22, He says that every man that finds a wife finds a “good thing, and favor of the Lord.” God is pleased when marriages are intentional, self-sacrificial, loving, and permanent.

Food For Thought: What are some root problems in marriages that lead to people feeling like divorce is their only option?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Mark 9:30-50

He strides down the sidewalk in his black, tailor-fit, pin-striped suit. With each confident stride, his sparkling, freshly-shined, black leather shoes click on the pavement. His narrow tie is pinned to his shirt, and in his hand is a document that he is reading over. It is a folder that is “confidential” and only for his reading. As he arrives at the awning in front of his building, the doorman stands at attention holding the intricately carved brass handle and with it the monstrous glass door.
As he walks through the lobby, everyone turns to greet him with a cadence of one “Good morning, sir!” after another. After closing the briefing that he is holding, he reaches out and pushes the smooth, golden elevator button, and pauses for a moment to straighten his tie in the reflection made by the black marble that encases the elevator entrance.
He is the epitome of greatness in this culture. He is in his building. He is headed up to his office. He has arrived. He has not just physically arrived to his building, but rather socially, financially, and mentally. He has reached a new plateau of “great.” He is “great.” He is a different breed than the low-lifes. He has made himself into something worth being impressed with. He has become something worth worshipping. He is big stuff, and he isn’t afraid to acknowledge that. It took hard work. It took late nights. It took exhaustion and risk. But now, he is on top of the world, and everyone else can grovel at his feet.
But this is just culture’s perception of great. It is how the world defines great. Mark 9 tells us that Jesus had a different definition of what made someone great. While culture says “It’s all about you,” Jesus says, “It’s not about you.” While culture says “Everybody is there to serve you,” Jesus says “you are there to serve others.” While culture says, “You are as important as what you own,” Jesus says in Luke 12, “A man’s life is not valued by the abundance of things which he possesses.” Greatness to the world is you making much of you. True, Christ-like, biblical greatness, however, is you making much of others and serving them. Jesus doesn’t tell His disciples to not pursue greatness; He just helps them to see that the type of greatness that they are pursuing is completely wrong. Furthermore, He lovingly leads them in this newly understood greatness, and fully demonstrates what a life of greatness looks like by being the greatest servant of all.

Food For Thought: According to His definition of greatness, how was Jesus the “greatest” of any man that ever lived? Read Philippians 2:5-11 for help.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mark 9:14-29

The crowd had gathered to watch the spectacle. Jesus, James, John and Peter had come back to the town where the other disciples were staying. The scribes were engaged in a heated conversation with the disciples as Jesus approached the crowd.
“What do you want with my disciples?” Jesus asked.
The One who could hear the thoughts of men’s hearts was not asking for His own benefit, but for to lead them into the truth. The first step to getting help from Jesus is to admit the problem.
“Jesus, this boy has a devastating spirit in him. And your disciples couldn’t cast it out.” The response was one part explanation, and another part under-handed accusation.
Looking to the boy’s father, Jesus asked, “How long has this been happening?”
“Since he was a small child, the spirit has tried to kill my son. Often he leaps into fires to die, or into any water he can find so that he will drown. Jesus, please have compassion on us.” The father’s plea was not just for the boy, but for himself.
Jesus’ answer was simple, “Believe.”
In a moment that would have ripped your heart out, the beleaguered and overwhelmed father cried out, “LORD, I believe!!! Help thou mine unbelief!!” In essence, he was saying,” Jesus I have a faith in you, please give me more faith, that I can trust more fully in you.”
Jesus rebuked the spirit. As it left the young man’s body, Mark said it “rent him sore,” which basically means that it contorted and convulsed him to such a degree that everyone thought it had killed him. Jesus lovingly reached down and helped the young man up off the ground.
What had happened? In order for the saving work to be accomplished, the man had to believe. Beyond that, we see that there was a level of faith that even admitted it didn’t feel like it believed enough, pointing to the idea that Jesus could help him believe even more.
Looking to Jesus as our Savior from our sin, we must believe what He has done, and then place our faith in His accomplishment for us. Where our faith falls short, we, like this father, must cry out to Jesus, “Jesus, I believe! Help my unbelief!” He doesn’t shame those who come in faith. He accepts and loves them. He saves them from the wrath of God.

Food For Thought: Read Ephesians 2:8-9. According to these verses, what is “the gift of God” that brings men to salvation?

Monday, September 23, 2013

Mark 9:1-13

Mesmerized by the indescribable sights that they were beholding, James, John, and Peter looked on in wonder. The night had turned to the unbelievable and unexpected. These three close friends and disciples of Jesus had followed Him up the mountain that evening. At the top, something unfathomable had happened. They were joined by two more men: Elijah and Moses.
In Jewish culture, if there were two figures that were idolized and adored, it was these two men. It was Moses whom God had chosen to lead the Jewish nation out of its Egyptian bondage. God had later revealed Himself to Moses through the giving of the Torah, the five law books. Moses had become the equivalent embodiment, historically and religiously speaking, of God’s communicated Word to His people. It would have been overwhelming enough to be on the crisp, night mountain with Jesus and Moses, but they were also joined by Elijah. Elijah (‘Elias’ as he is called here in Mark) had been the father of the prophets. It was Elijah who had prayed that rain would stop, and God had closed the skies for three years, devastating the unrepentant, idolatrous nation. It was Elijah who, after three years of famine, prayed to God and saw a nation showered with the raindrops of blessing.
These two were iconic. They were the voices of God. The Law and the Prophets were the revealed word of God to all of His people. Now, Peter, James, and John looked on in wonder as these two giants of the faith spoke to their teacher, Jesus. As they watched, a cloud descended and covered the group. Perhaps the disciples were contemplating the effectiveness of what Jesus’ ministry would be like now that Jesus could have Elijah and Moses as His wingmen. The mouths of the Pharisees could be stopped. The jaws of the scribes would drop when Jesus, Moses, and Elijah would show up in the temple.
But this was not the point of this meeting. Jesus was not recruiting new wingmen. According to John 5, Moses and Elijah were already agreeing with Him. Like Matthew 5 says, Jesus would fulfill all the things that Elijah and Moses had said. Suddenly, the voice of God spoke out of the cloud to the disciples, “This is my beloved Son: hear Him.” The ancient voices of Moses and Elijah had stood in that place, but now God was telling the disciples that the voice that they needed to listen to was that of Jesus, His son. This was a monumental day. There was an importance to the message of Jesus. God had given His divine confirmation of important things that night: 1) Jesus was truly God’s Son as God had already articulated in Mark 1:11, 2) The words of Jesus were vitally important.
It would ultimately be those words that would offer salvation to the world. Through His life, death, resurrection, and then through the power of His word He brought hope to the fallen world. He was here to banish sin, and to heal the broken. It would become very important that all of mankind hear His voice.

Food For Thought: Read John 5:39-47. What did Jesus say about the teachings of Moses in regards to Himself?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Mark 8:22-38

Having spent some time with His disciples, Jesus had the chance to teach them a theology they had never known nor heard. Whether it was through lecture, or illustration, He had explained that without a doubt, He had been sent by God. He had made it quite clear whether they had listened or not, that He was not a run of the mill rabbi. He was not just another teacher to add to the list of special teachers.
Not only through His spoken ministry, but especially through His physical ministry of working miracles, He demonstrated that His power was beyond that of anyone that they had ever heard or seen. No one could heal leprosy. No one could open deaf ears and loosen mute lips. No one could cast out demons. No one could raise people from the dead. No one could turn a few loaves and fishes into a catered meal for thousands. No one could stand on the boat during a midnight storm and speak to it like it was a mischievous child, and have it obey His voice. No one except this One.
He was different than anyone who had come before. Those that were closest to Him saw all of this. This is why when Jesus turns to His disciples and asks who they thought He was, Peter didn’t hesitate for a second, “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the Special One Who will set us free.” And Jesus was. There wasn’t a streak of doubt in Peter. Jesus was Christ. There was no one with more faith than Peter. As 1 John 1 says, “we held Him with our hands, we saw Him with our eyes, we heard His voice with our ears.” This Jesus was the One sent from God.
This truth makes what happens next even more difficult to believe. After confirming that Peter was correct and that Jesus was the Messiah, Jesus went on to tell His disciples that He needed to go into Jerusalem and be murdered by the hateful Jewish leaders. At this Peter “rebuked” Him. Peter didn’t want a Messiah that was going to die. He wanted a Christ that would never die.
In an instant, Jesus squared off with Peter and rebuked him. “Peter you don’t like the things of God, you favor the things that men hold dear.” Peter truly thought that Jesus’ death would impede His “Christ-ness.” Peter would later find out that it was only through Jesus’ sacrificial atoning death that Jesus could truly be the saving Messiah of the world.

Food For Thought: Read Romans 3:23-26. What reason does Paul give for Jesus, the Christ, having to die?

Thursday, September 19, 2013

2013 Missions Emphasis Week, Part 5

Geddie sought, too, to train converts to go forth as Christian teachers and evangelists. After years of patient seed-sowing and cultivation, the missionary began to reap some precious sheaves. From the first he taught the converts that they were saved to win others. Reinforcing his teaching with action, he took them with him on his weekly tours through the island and encouraged them to witness for their Lord to their countrymen.
He taught all his converts to read and love the Word of God. As they developed in the Christian life, he imparted to them his vision of evangelizing the teeming populations of other islands. Scores of them volunteered in the spirit of Isaiah, "Here am I, send me!" and went forth to hazard their lives for Christ on other dark islands. Many of them "loved not their lives even unto death" and perished as martyrs on a foreign shore. Only eternity will reveal the full story of the magnificent heroism of these humble men and women who, like their beloved missionary, impelled by the love of Christ, went forth to labor, suffer and die, sustained by the presence of their Lord and soothed by the assurance that some day the seeds they had sown would be blessed of God to produce a harvest of precious souls.
He journeyed often to other islands. In response to Geddie's ardent plea, friends in Canada and Scotland raised a large sum of money and provided him with a vessel. In this, and sometimes in other vessels, he made extensive journeys through the New Hebrides, New Caledonia and the Loyalty Islands. He settled new workers on various islands and encouraged those already settled. His view of the importance of native workers is thus indicated: "Native agents, under the judicious direction of right-hearted missionaries, will yet accomplish a great work on this and neighboring isles of the sea." He never landed any teachers unless the chiefs solemnly promised to protect them and assist them. Despite these precautions, many of the workers suffered severe privations and died violent deaths. Many others were victims of the ravages of disease. As some fell, others were always ready to take their places and, after years of toil in the night, the dawn began to break on some dark islands.
Natives from other islands were encouraged to visit Aneiteum. Years of labor and prayer brought an amazing transformation on the island. Let Geddie's Journal speak: "For many months after our arrival almost every day brought some new act of theft to light, and altogether we lost property to a considerable amount; but now locks and keys are entirely useless. The natives who attended our Sabbath meetings used to come with their clubs and spears and painted visages; but now we seldom see a weapon on the Sabbath day, and the habit of painting is falling into disuse. I have seen the day when a man who wore a garment was the sport of others, but now every rag in the community is in requisition on the Sabbath day. All this were nothing, however, except as evidence of a change of heart wrought by the Spirit of God." It was a day of rejoicing and thanksgiving when the ordinance of the Lord's Supper was first observed. "This is the first time," says Geddie in a letter, "that the Redeemer's love has been celebrated in this dark land. Oh! that the time may soon arrive when many more of its dark and degraded inhabitants shall join us in this ordinance of love."
Not long after he settled on Aneiteum, Geddie wrote in his Journal, February 9, 1849: "In the darkness, degradation, pollution and misery that surrounds me, I will look forward in the vision of faith to the time when some of these poor islanders will unite in the triumphant song of ransomed souls, 'Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood.'"
This was the text that captivated his heart.
This was the text that animated his labors.
This was the text that irradiated all his days.
The life of John Geddie and his monumental accomplishments in Eastern Melanesia, especially on Aneiteum, constitute an everlasting memorial to the power of the love of Christ to transform savages into saints and the abodes of barbarism into a possession of the Lord.

This biography has been used by permission of It is an excerpt from Blazing the Missionary Trail by Eugene Myers Harrison. Chicago, Ill.: Scripture Press Book Division, ©1949.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

2013 Missions Emphasis Week, Part 4

John Geddie conceived of himself as being on a campaign of conquest for his Lord. Aneiteum was his base of operations, while his parish extended across the vast reaches of Eastern Melanesia with its multitudinous isles. He evolved a five-fold strategy of conquest commensurate with his objective.
Prominent in his thinking was the recruitment of new missionaries. He sent fervent pleas for missionary reinforcements to the Presbyterians of Canada and Scotland and to the London Missionary Society. For years he labored on alone, but eventually other missionaries came to help possess the land. The most eminent of these was John G. Paton.
Geddie worked diligently for the evangelization of the home base. By means of schools, personal conversations and itinerating tours through the island, he was unremitting in his endeavors to win the Aneiteumese. There were many obstacles, many trials, many perils.
Very few attended school at first and these irregularly. Having no comprehension of the value of learning to read and write, many said to him, "How much will you pay me to come and study?" The severest heartaches came when his children, one after another, had to be sent to the homeland for their education and when little Alexander, three years old, sickened and died. As Geddie went through the forests and over the mountains on his evangelistic tours, numerous attempts were made to kill him. Stones, clubs and spears were hurled at him, and several times he was injured. But he kept on telling of the Redeemer's love and exemplifying it in his actions.
From time immemorial war had been the rule in that barbarous realm and peace the exception. This was a great impediment to missionary operations. But Geddie observed one mitigating peculiarity. In the year 1850 he wrote: "During a war on this island they never interfere with the women and children. This is almost more than we could have looked for among savages." Is this not an indictment against the so-called civilized Twentieth Century with its indiscriminate bombing and its threat of future atomic warfare?
One day Geddie came upon a group of women wailing piteously and rubbing a man's corpse with broken leaves. Some were pulling their hair and shrieking violently. The man's widow, an attractive young girl, sat near by expecting to be strangled. Geddie said, "This woman must not be killed," and started leading her from the scene. Immediately some men assaulted him, knocked him to the ground and seized the young widow. While some of the women held down the girl's arms and legs the men proceeded to strangle her. When Geddie again tried to intervene, men with clubs drove him away. The murderous deed was by this time completed. Knowing that the savages were infuriated and that he was further risking his life, he warmly told the people of the foul darkness of their deed. "According to our custom and belief, this is right. Be gone before we kill you!" they shouted. Then he began to tell them of that wondrous love which led the Son of God to give up the praise of the angels for the mockery of men, to exchange the diadem of the ages for a crown of thorns, and to die on the cross that the dark-hearted sinners of earth might be changed and received at last into the heavenly home. As he spoke, clubs were lowered and the people became wistfully attentive, for there is something even in a savage breast that responds to the story of the Saviour's suffering love.

This biography has been used by permission of It is an excerpt from Blazing the Missionary Trail by Eugene Myers Harrison. Chicago, Ill.: Scripture Press Book Division, ©1949.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Missions Emphasis Week, part 3

II. The Love of Christ Animated His Missionary Labors

During the course of the long sea voyage, he was much impressed by the appearance of the heavens in the southern latitudes. When he gazed for the first time upon the Southern Cross in its mystic beauty, he wrote in his Journal: "My best enjoyments in time, and my prospects beyond the grave, center in the cross, which is the emblem of redeeming love."
He was thinking of the love of Christ and of the text: "Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood."
On October 17, 1847, after a journey of more than 20,000 miles, the vessel sailed into the harbor of Pango-pango [Pago Pago] Samoa. While awaiting transportation to Eastern Melanesia, Geddie devoted six months to the study of the Samoan language. This knowledge would be of great value to him in communicating with the Samoan teachers who had already been settled on several of the Melanesian islands.
At Tanna the natives were shy and sullen. Inquiry revealed that an Erromangan, who had come to Port Resolution with a sandal wood trader, had landed the previous day and was promptly killed, roasted and eaten by the Tannese. Many Tannese had fallen into the hands of the Erromangans and been eaten, and many Erromangans had suffered a similar fate on Tanna.
At the island of Efate they approached the place where, a few months earlier, the ship British Sovereign had been wrecked and the crew of not less than twenty-two persons had been killed and eaten. Deeds of brutality were not restricted to black men alone. Geddie saw the place where three white men, engaged in the sandal wood trade, had on slight provocation shot about one hundred natives. He also saw the cave into which about one hundred other natives retreated for shelter and where they were smothered by the fire which the white traders built at its entrance. Similar wanton deeds perpetrated throughout the Pacific created much hostility toward all white men, interfered seriously with missionary operations and engendered a passion for revenge which often led to attacks on innocent missionaries and, in numerous instances, to their martyrdom, as in the case of John Williams, Bishop Patteson and others.
Geddie, "the father of Presbyterian missions in the South Seas," landed on the island of Aneiteum [Aneityum], of the New Hebrides group, in 1848. When the John Williams sailed away, the missionaries felt for the first time the stern reality of being abandoned on an island surrounded by a barbarous people from whom they had much to fear and with whom they had little, if anything, in common. But were they despondent? "Though severed now from those with whom we could take sweet counsel," wrote Geddie, "we are not alone. We have His promise, at whose command we have come hither, 'Lo, I am with you alway.'"
Mr. and Mrs. Geddie were soon engrossed in learning the Aneiteumese tongue. The difficulty of the task was increased by the fact that the language had not been reduced to writing and no dictionaries or books of any kind were available. After mastering Aneiteumese, the first assignment was to reduce it to writing and then to print some materials to help enlighten the people.
What was the force that impelled John Geddie to live in circumstances so desolating and that sustained him amid scenes so harrowing? And what was the message with which he expected to touch and transform a people so debased? In one of his home letters he wrote: "The love of Christ sustains us and constrains us. My heart pants to tell this miserable people the wonders of redeeming love." And when the epochal day arrived on which he was able to preach to the natives for the first time, what was the momentous theme of his discourse? "I thank God," he wrote in his Journal, "that I have been spared to see this day when, for the first time, I can tell perishing sinners of the Saviour's love." Again he said: "If ever we win these benighted islanders, we must draw them with cords of love. I know of no power that is adequate to transform their lives except that which transformed my own life, namely, the power of the living Christ who 'loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood.'"
Telling perishing sinners of the Saviour's love!
Drawing benighted islanders with cords of love!
Transforming savages by the wonders of love!
Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins!
Revelation 1:5 is the text and the love of Christ the theme that animated his fervent labors amid the desolation and abominations of barbarism.

This biography has been used by permission of It is an excerpt from Blazing the Missionary Trail by Eugene Myers Harrison. Chicago, Ill.: Scripture Press Book Division, ©1949.

Monday, September 16, 2013

2013 Missions Emphasis Week, Part 2

John Geddie was born in Banff, Scotland, April 10, 1815. His father, a watch and clock maker, was a devout member of the Presbyterian Church. During the great revival under the Haldanes, an Independent Church was formed in Banff. Mr. Geddie attached himself to this church and served as a deacon. His wife, Mary Menzies, the mother of the future missionary, was of a pious Secession family. To this worthy couple four children were born—three daughters and a son.
In 1816 Mr. Geddie emigrated with his family and settled in Pictou, Nova Scotia. Young John and his sisters got their early education in "Hogg's School," so named after the Scotchman who was the teacher. John was an active boy and an eager student. The details of his conversion are not on record. Like John Bunyan, he was powerfully convicted of sin and for some time considered himself beyond the possibility of salvation. Eventually, the love of Christ banished the terrors of the law and on June 22, 1834, at the age of 19, he united with the Presbyterian Church.
Even prior to this, his favorite pastime was the reading of books and articles telling of the triumphs of the gospel in certain far-away places and of the desperate need of the gospel in other vast areas. After completing grammar school and later the Pictou Academy, he entered upon the study of theology. Geddie was small of stature and was often referred to, both at this period and later, as "little Johnnie." His health having seriously declined, he faced the prospect of being compelled to give up the ministry. At this time he solemnly dedicated himself to the Lord, vowing that if his health were restored and the way opened, he would go with the message of salvation to some heathen land. March 13, 1838, he was ordained as pastor of a congregation on Prince Edward Island. The following year he was married to Charlotte McDonald.
While assiduously devoting himself to his pastoral duties, Geddie sought to promote the idea that a Colonial Church might and should engage aggressively in foreign mission work. This was a new idea, for up to this time churches in the British Colonies, instead of sending missionaries abroad, were seeking financial aid for their own work from their brethren in other lands. The Baptists of the Maritime Provinces were then agitating the idea of undertaking foreign mission work and were the first actually to send forth a missionary. Their emissary was Rev. Mr. Burpe, who was sent to labor in connection with the American Baptist Mission in Burma. But to John Geddie belongs the credit of first stirring up a Colonial Church to undertake a mission of its own among the heathen.
This he accomplished in the face of much opposition and only after years of effort. Thousands of hearts were stirred to action by his impassioned plea: "To undertake a mission to the heathen is our solemn duty and our high privilege. The glory of God, the command of Christ and the reproaches of those who have gone to perdition unwarned, call us to it. With 600,000,000 of immortal souls as my clients, I beg you to arouse yourselves and to take a worthy part in this noble enterprise which seems destined, in the arrangement of God, to be instrumental in achieving the redemption of the world."
The church at length committed itself to the establishment of a mission in the South Seas and accepted Mr. and Mrs. Geddie as their first missionaries. Mr. Geddie's mechanical abilities and his knowledge of medicine peculiarly fitted him for work on a pioneer field among Melanesian and Polynesian savages. The two missionaries and their children sailed from Halifax on the 30th of November, 1846. In his parting message Geddie declared: "In accord with the Redeemer's command and assured of His presence, we are going forth to those lands where Satan has established his dark domain. I know that suffering awaits me. But to bear the Redeemer's yoke is an honor to one who has felt the Redeemer's love."

The Redeemer's command was his incentive.
The Redeemer's presence was his consolation.
The Redeemer's yoke was his privilege.
The Redeemer's love was his inspiration.

This biography has been used by permission of It is an excerpt from Blazing the Missionary Trail by Eugene Myers Harrison. Chicago, Ill.: Scripture Press Book Division, ©1949.

Friday, September 13, 2013

2013 Missions Emphasis Week, Part 1

John Geddie, Missionary to Melanesia

Hideous shrieks and unearthly wails shattered the stillness of the night.
"Do you hear those horrible cries?" asked the missionary's wife.
"Yes," her husband replied. "Someone has died and, after the custom of this dark island, a relative is being strangled."
Shortly after dawn, on a beach nearby, they saw a group of natives casting into the sea the body of the man who had died a few hours earlier and also the body of his wife who had been strangled. Hastening to the shore, the missionary spoke pointedly to the natives about the wickedness of their conduct. Some of them, having for sometime been under Christian instruction, joined in the condemnation, and then set about to locate the actual murderer. In a few minutes the party returned, dragging the culprit. Seeing the white man he cried out: "Have mercy! Let me go and I will never again strangle a woman."
After an earnest talk with the guilty man, the missionary told the natives to release him. This they were at first unwilling to do, saying that he should be tied to a post for several days while he was flogged and lectured.
"No," said the white man. "Force will not do. Only the compulsion of love will avail. Was it not the love of Christ that softened your hard hearts? Use no weapon but that which our Redeemer uses, the weapons of love. Let us constantly keep our hearts open 'unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins.'"
There we have the man and the text. The man was John Geddie, the year 1851, the place the New Hebrides [Vanuatu] and the text which wrote such a magnificent history, Revelation 1:5: "Unto Him that loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood." Like the Apostle John's his all-absorbing theme was the love of Christ. The stirring annals of John Geddie's life may be summed up in three episodes: the love of Christ captivated his young heart; the love of Christ animated his missionary labors; the love of Christ irradiated all his day.
This biography has been used by permission of It is an excerpt from Blazing the Missionary Trail by Eugene Myers Harrison. Chicago, Ill.: Scripture Press Book Division, ©1949.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mark 8:1-21

“What food do we have with us?” Jesus asked His disciples.
“A few fishes and some loaves of bread,” they replied.
“Then have them all sit, we’ll feed them with this.”
Four thousand people had been following Jesus for the past three days now, and no one had brought any food with them. He was done teaching and was going to send them home, but He knew that in the hot sun, many would faint on their journey home. They needed food. So, in His deity, He took the seven loaves and a few fishes and multiplied it, and fed the thousands.
Mark says that “straightway” or “immediately,” He and His disciples left that area and went to a port called Dalmanutha. As they came ashore, they caught the eye of the Pharisees. The Pharisees were already skeptical of Jesus’ teachings, and they constantly wanted to challenge Him in public. This time, they came to Him and said “Show us a sign.” Basically, they were saying, “Prove you are deity. Do some marvelous work.” This was nonsense. He had just fed 4,000 people with 7 loaves of bread and a few fish. This would be like someone coming up to Michael Jordan and saying, “Here’s a basketball, let’s see if you can make a shot!” Mike could hand them the ball back and say, “Six NBA championships, 30,000 plus points scored in my career, get a VCR and go grab some old playoffs tapes. I don’t need to prove anything to you.”
These Pharisees had completely missed what had just happened possibly even earlier that day. Now they wanted to see for themselves the veracity of His deity claim. But He didn’t play along. He didn’t need to vindicate Himself to them. He didn’t need to prove to these unbelieving antagonists that He was God. He had come to minister and to care, not to stop the mouths of His opponents. His warfare was against Satan, not the spiritually blind, sign-seeking religious crowd. Where they became pawns of Satan, He would correct them, but other than that, He just maintained a healthy distance. Their “prove it to me now, or else” mentality was not the humble faith that He desired to work through. So they left, unchanged, unbelieving, unconverted.

Food For Thought: Read Romans 1:21-22. What phrase does Paul use to describe the mindset of these wise-feeling Pharisees?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mark 7:24-37

“You’re a dog.” - not the nicest words that you would expect. The truth proclaiming, others-serving, love-giving Jesus that we know from Scripture carried this conversation in a different direction than I would have expected. In Mark 5, He had spoken gently to the little girl that He had revived. In Mark 6 He had offered food to the famished masses and comfort to the fearful disciples. Now, as He engaged the Syrian woman, in no uncertain terms, He called her a dog. Not the compassionate response that we would expect, right?
Culturally speaking, this is a hard thing for us to swallow. We don’t like people using labels to define us in a negative way. Rather, in this age of “bullying”, labels are one of the most destructive and hurtful things. So why then would Jesus call this poor woman a dog? The key difference is culture. In our culture, this type of label stings. But in First Century Jewish culture the term “dog” would be used quite frequently to describe anyone who was an outcast in the Jewish society. This was a term used for beggars, the diseased, and certainly anyone who was of a different race. The term as used in this text is indicating that there was a great divide socially and racially between Jesus and this woman.
But this divide did not keep Him from ministering to her in her hour of need. In spite of His seemingly difficult retort, she persisted on in faith. “Jesus, I may be a dog, but even dogs get to eat crumbs from the table.” Jesus, seeing her faith, responded, “Because of your faith, your daughter is healed.”
She did not retreat from Jesus in disgust at the difficulty of His message. Rather, in faith, trusting that He was the only One Who could help her daughter, she had persisted and believed on Him. Overstepping cultural and racial barriers, Jesus showed that He had not come to simply reach people from His same ethnic group. He had come to be the Savior of the World. He had come to reach the whole world. He had come to minister to Jews and Gentiles alike. All could come to Him in faith, and as John 6 said, He would not “cast them out.” His love was for the entire human race, not just for His Jewish race.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 17:22-29. What reaction do the disciples have that is different than that of Jesus? What reaction can we sometimes have towards those we would consider strange or outcast, that Jesus would not have?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Mark 7:1-23

A few days ago, I was at home and got a little bit thirsty. I opened the cupboard to discover that there were no cups in it. Opening the dishwasher, I grabbed the nearest cup and went to the water spigot to fill it. As I turned the cup to look inside of it, I nearly gagged. At some point past, someone had used this cup for cereal, and there were chunky remnants of that cereal cemented to the inside of the cup. On the outside it glistened with the promise of cleanness and of a good glass of water, but on the inside a completely different reality existed.
In Mark 7, Jesus addresses a similar problem with the Pharisees. These Pharisees had questioned Jesus regarding His disciples’ lack of hand-washing before eating. Now, culturally, what we need to understand is that the hand-washing that the Pharisees were talking about was not as much hygienic as it was ceremonial and religious. They weren’t trying to wash away germs; they were trying to bring on the blessing of God through following a religious tradition of hand-washing. And now, they were trying to indict and accuse the disciples of being irreverent and ungodly because they did not wash their hands before eating.
This was nonsense. The idea that someone is ungodly because they didn’t wash their hands is completely ludicrous. Jesus very quickly revealed the fatal flaw of the Pharisees thinking. In verse 7, He said, “[you] teach for doctrines the commandments of men.” In essence, “you take the precepts that have been conjured up by well-meaning, most-likely God-fearing men, and you make those standards your new law to achieve the favor of God.” This is completely unacceptable.
Christ went on further to reveal the real situation. While the Pharisees strove so hard to maintain a level of outward standard-following, inwardly they were consumed with lust, and pride, and foolishness. God desired that they be clean, but they only washed the outside of the cup.
The danger facing us today, is to walk away from this story and completely condemn those who have outward standards. Outward standards are not the reason that the Pharisees were unclean. The outward standards were ok. It was the lack of personal, soul-deep holiness that made the Pharisees unclean. Be certain to guard your heart, lest you think at some level people with standards are wrong for having extra-biblical standards. But also, guard your mind from believing the fallacy of the Pharisees that extra-biblical standards purchase you a standing with God that the blood of Jesus could not.

Food For Thought: Reread Mark 7:18-23. What does Jesus say will defile a man?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Mark 6:32-56

Following the disciples return to Jesus, they went by boat to a sparsely populated area to rest. Unfortunately, several people caught sight of them as they sailed away. While this was meant to be a secret thing, Mark writes that the people that saw them departing, “outwent” Jesus and His disciples, and were waiting for them on the other side.
No doubt, this frustrated the disciples, who would have been craving physical and spiritual refreshment. Now, instead of resting, they were surrounded by a mob of people that were pushing past them to get to Jesus. Oh, how often the business and exhaustion of life can impede our usefulness for the building of His kingdom.
Jesus, however, never missed an opportunity. One preacher put it this way, “as a fish exists to swim, and birds to fly, mankind exists to give God glory.” Jesus breathed this philosophy and no amount of exhaustion could stop Him from His ministering. He exploited the unexpected to the praise of God’s name and the building of God’s kingdom. He would not end up in frustration, but rather, exhausted, He would end up rejoicing.
Through telling of the feeding of the five thousand, Mark shows in the disciples’ example, what often our natural response to added pressure is. Although they had seen Jesus cast out demons, heal the sick, calm the storm, and much more, when it came time to eat, they reverted back to their natural state of dependence on themselves and on things. “Jesus, we don’t have any food or money,” they said sheepishly to the Master. Their statement lacked faith, but it was not because they didn’t trust Jesus, it was just that they weren’t thinking of everything that He had power over. Distraction and exhaustion had taken its toll on their faith.
Often, we can fall into the same trap of exhaustion or distraction. With life going on around us at such a rapid rate, and with such pounding consequence, we can become overwhelmed by the immediate and forget to trust in the God Who has promised to provide for us all things we need. In moments of fear, we look immediately for resolution instead of the saving hand of an Almighty God. In moments of need, we reach for the pocketbook, and strain and stress, instead of turning to the One who is over all, including necessities and finances. What a wonderful confidence we can have in a God Who is still powerful over all, even though at times, our exhausted eyes may be closed or our distracted gaze may be turned away from Him. He is God, and He is good.

Food For Thought: Read what Paul writes in Philippians 4:19. Take time today to write out some areas that you should be trusting God in.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Mark 6:7-31

The battle lines had been drawn. For weeks, the troops had been training for their first mission. They would not be going out in a group, but rather, two at a time they would wage warfare. The strategy was clear: be bold, and attack. The battle seemed overwhelming, but these soldiers had seen their leader overcome the enemy on more than one occasion. The enemy was frightening. After seeing the arsenal that the enemy used, the troops were fearful.
Jesus armed His disciples as He prepared to send them out. “The unclean spirits will not be able to withstand you in my name.” After promising them victory, He instructed them, “And don’t take with you any extra money or extra clothes. On this trip, everything you need will be provided for you.”
Until now, they had just been able to follow around in His shadow (a very safe shadow to follow around in). But now, He was looking at them telling them that they must go out and minister. They must go out and face down the dark minions of Satan. They must wage spiritual warfare themselves. But even in this challenge, He did not send them alone. No, rather, He sent them out in pairs, that they might be able to encourage one another along the way.  
And the fighting began. His disciples took their first journey, and they turned the region upside down. They preached repentance, they healed the sick, and they cast out many devils. They were now on dangerously invigorating ground. You see, Mark pauses for a moment to tell of John the Baptist who was recently executed for preaching a message of repentance to the King. Now the disciples were out preaching the same message, waging spiritual combat against the darkness of sin and of Satan.
And they prevailed. Through the power of Jesus, they were victorious. Verses 30 and 31 tell of the disciples return at the end of their journeys. All of them were absolutely energized. Jesus knowing the temptation of the heart of man looked to His disciples, and lest they be tempted with pride said, “Let’s go away for a few days and rest.” Rest and separation were needed lest they fall into temptation. Even at the end of victory, there was danger, and the Master knew that. His wisdom and power were immense. Not only could he personally overcome darkness, but even now, he had given his disciples that same power that they might overcome darkness.

Food For Thought: In Matthew 10, we find the parallel account to this story. Read verses 16-28 and write out some of the warnings that Jesus gives about the harrowing trip that lays ahead of His disciples.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Mark 6:1-6

“He’s back in town!” the excited shouts of the little children could be heard in the streets as they told their friends of his arrival. They were always excited to see Him. He lovingly would engage them and ask them “fun” theology questions. He was always concerned with God, and the kingdom, and heaven. And they always enjoyed it when an adult would pay them the attention that He did.
As He trotted down the dirt path, He passed a heavy-set, old man slouching on a hand-carved bench in front of a white-washed house. “So he comes back to town, and he brings a crowd,” the old man said matter-of-factly. Looking at the group of followers, he offered up, “Old-man Joseph’s boy sure can make a plough! I bet he never told you gentlemen that he could make a mean yoke. Whew! Best carver in town!” Truth be told, in Nazareth, population of a couple hundred, that wasn’t too big of a complement. “Matter of fact, this here bench, whittled down by that fella’ there,” at this he gestured in the general direction of the crowd, not really distinguishing which one, though all of them knew.
Jesus just passed on by.
As the Master followed the familiar path down the main street to the house of His childhood, the interactions with those around Him were all very similar. People welcoming Him home. Others bragging of how He had fixed their door, or their gate, or their cart, or their whatever. Nazareth was different than all the other towns. Everybody was just a bit more familiar with Jesus. Perhaps they were too familiar.
Mary had heard all of the commotion and was waiting at the door, beaming with a smile that seemed to say, “I am so glad you are here,” but with a look in her eyes that said, “I still know you are my Special one.” She always looked at Him like that. She never forgot the angels, the shepherds and the magi.
The townsfolk filtered in all night, sharing with Him their sprained knee, or the scarred hand, the hearing problem, or the sore tooth. One after the other, He graciously touched them and healed them. But they wouldn’t hear His message.
This visit home would be His last though. The people there didn’t see Him as Lord. They saw Him as anything but Lord. They would not listen to His message, instead they told Him what He needed to do for them. Sadly, they beheld the face of God, heard His voice, walked with Him, but didn’t even see Him.
Food For Thought: It has been said that “familiarity breeds contempt.” Why do you think that the people in Nazareth had such a hard time listening to Jesus’ message?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Mark 5:21-43

Storms and demons. Nothing could stand against the Almighty. In one hand He brought victory, in the other He brought freedom. There was nothing greater than Him. He held the power of the Creator. As Jesus returned to the other side of the sea, He was met by Jairus, the leader of the synagogue.
“Please come quickly, my little girl is sick,” he pleaded. The news of Jesus’s healing power had spread throughout all of the neighboring provinces, this was no secret, and the heartbroken, desperate Jairus had come for help. “The doctors have tried everything, but she hasn’t responded. Please hurry, Jesus, she might die.”
As they rushed along the way, the masses thronged about Him. A woman with her own issues slinked through the mob, fighting to get within arm’s reach of the healer. As the crowd pushed and shoved along behind Jesus, she reached, but could only reach the edge of His robe. Immediately, the healing took place. She felt refreshed and revived as her disease fled away. But Jesus had felt it too. Instantly, He stopped. Turning to the crowd, He entreated the crowd so that she would reveal herself. Weeping, the woman, now healed, came from the crowd and fell at His feet confessing everything.
Jairus must have been thrilled at this demonstration of the power of Jesus. However, as they hurried down the streets towards his house, men with wet cheeks and long faces stopped Jesus and Jairus. “She’s gone. Your little girl is gone, Jairus.” In a dignified culture, the reaction that was to follow was anything but dignified. As the reality of death set into the mind of Jairus and pressed down on his soul, he reached for the collar of his tunic and grasping it with both hands began to pull with force to tear it in half.
“Stop. Don’t be afraid. Only believe.” Jesus felt the gravity of the moment, and comforted Jairus.
“She’s not dead, she’s just sleeping,” He said, as they entered the house. In the face of ridicule, Jesus had much to accomplish. Whether it was to bring her back to life, or to stop her at death’s door, Jesus had come to save this little girl’s life. “Talitha, cumi.” He spoke gently to the little girl, as if she were His own precious daughter. “Arise.” In amazement, both father and mother watched as their little girl sat up, healed and whole.
The storm, an army of demons, an ailment, and now death, there was nothing that could stop God. Jesus was God. He had come and had revealed Himself to all of mankind. And this was the beginning of His ministry. He had come to serve. He had come to set mankind free. The salvation that He brought with Him would be far greater than hushing some weather, or banishing a demon, or even giving life to the sick and dying. The salvation He was going to bring, brought with it a far greater, eternal hope.

Food For Thought: If Jairus was in such a hurry, why do you think that God allowed the woman with the ailment to stop Jesus?

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mark 5:1-20

Alone. Every time he came to himself, he was alone. There were signs of intervention, like the broken chains that dangled from his wrist shackles. He thought to himself, “maybe if I just end it all, this inner storm will cease.” But as brief as the episodes of sanity were, he never could muster the strength to fulfill the action of what seemed like freedom. He never knew the possibility of true freedom, only the one that a desperate mind had created in moments of dark hopelessness.
While the night wore on, the dark storm clouds continued to role across the sea towards Gadara. Soon the familiar flashing and crackling of the lightning broke around him, and he assumed his perch to watch the sea for desperate fishing vessels. He felt a sense of companionship with those he could see stranded in the middle of storms on that deadly sea. Tonight, the storm was especially hot, and in the midst of the storm, a bright flash of lightning shone a small fleet of ships. He watched as they maneuvered against the wind and over the waves, but eventually the crews showed signs of exhaustion as the massive waves battered their boats. All was hopeless. The drowning vessels were done. The storm was too strong for them.
Then, on the forward boat, something strange happened. A man climbed to the bow of the boat and stared down the storm. In the raging wind-driven rain, he yelled.
It all stopped. Everything. The wind that was sweeping over the rocky crags, the rain, the lightning, in that one instant, everything hushed. The night was eerily silent. The man stepped back from the bow and spoke with those on his boat who were obviously overwhelmed and began muttering with one another.
The maniac watched in disbelief. Something special had just happened, and he had witnessed it. As the boat came ashore the darkness of his next demonic episode swirled into his mind, and his amazement melted as Satanic forces recaptured his consciousness. The demons knew who this was. As Jesus approached the maniac, the grotesque figure shrieked at Jesus, “LEAVE US ALONE!” Jesus was not commanded by demons, but rather, demons obeyed His voice. “Get out of HIM!” was the Master’s firm reply.
In an instant, the man was freed as the demons fled in horror. The same One Who calmed the storm on the Sea of Galilee, had calmed the storm that raged in this man’s life. The frustration and aloneness were met with permanent sanity. The separation that had been the definition of his life was replaced by reunion and restoration. He had met the Master, and everything had changed. There would be no more “alone.” Jesus had come and had changed that forever. No storm and no army of demons could stand against God in the flesh.

Food For Thought: Reread verse 14-20. What was the visual indication to those around the man at the time that Jesus truly had cured the man of his demon possession?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Mark 4:35-41

The blackened sky flashed as lightning illumined millions of raindrops. The thunder crackled and boomed, and fear swept over the seasoned sailors. The team of boats began maneuvering away from each other lest the massive waves would crash them into each other. Another flash of lightning broke the darkness to reveal the sailors with buckets frantically bailing out the boat. The waves had been crashing into the boat, rocking it and filling it. Now, the sailors stood in knee-deep water, frantically flinging buckets of sea water over the side. But the storm was too much.
In the hold below the stern, Jesus lay fast asleep. The terror of the storm had not roused Him. The drowning waves had not stirred Him. Rather, in comfort and peace He lay, resting.
Overwhelmed, frustrated, and horrified, Peter burst into the hold where Jesus was sleeping. Originally he had gone to warn Him that the boat was about to sink, but upon finding Him fast asleep, Peter’s fiery temper turned to a sneer, “Master, do you not care that we are perishing?!” The fervor of the moment had caused him to say something cutting to the Master. He would no doubt regret that comment shortly, but in the moment it felt justified.
Immediately, Jesus rose from His bed and stepped out into the rain-laden wind. Fixing His eyes on the clouds and the sea, He scolded them as if they were a little child, “Knock it off!!” The raindrops that had been flying through the air fell to the deck of the boat. The massive rolling waves fell flat. The thick, black clouds melted in the sunshine, and the disciples stood staring at the glass-like sea.
Turning to the disciples, Jesus said, “Why were you so afraid? Don’t you have faith?” The mind-blown disciples stood, frozen in wonder at what they had just seen. The wind and the waves obeyed Him. Their rational minds fought against the truth that their hearts were telling them, “He is God.”
He wasn’t even afraid of the storm. He had stared it down as if He were looking at a misbehaving child. He had rebuked the storm. Nobody rebuked storms. It had listened to His voice. He was so much more than a good teacher. He had to be. There was no other explanation. He must be. He was God.

Food For Thought: I am not afraid of a little lady bug because I am more powerful than it. Using this same line of thinking, why was Jesus not afraid a storm?