#83: That’s What Friends Are For

On May 15, 2001, I took my first and only ride on a helicopter. I remember the date because that ride was a life-flight—with our fourteen-year-old son, who nearly lost his life that day in a bicycle accident.

He was first taken by ambulance to our local hospital; a few friends came to the hospital immediately when they heard the news. Then in Akron more friends gathered, including our small group. Thirteen years later, I still see each face in the waiting room. I can still name every one who joined hands in the circle, praying. I’m still grateful for the love and support they gave us on that night and after. When we thanked them their common response was, “That’s what friends are for.”

Having been in a position of deep need and felt the love of friends who stayed with us, who prayed for us, who held us, I understand how much friends mean in tough times. Maybe that’s why the lonely picture of Jesus in Gethsemane tears at my heart.

I’m so glad you’ve joined me for this post in our series Knowing Jesus, as we walk with Him into the Garden. There’s an important lesson ahead of us. Read More

82: Falling On My Face

Last Sunday morning, I got an important reminder. Before communion, a man gave a short but powerful devotion. He told about his life before becoming a Christian, how dirty and sin-burdened he’d constantly felt. His face showed the pain of the memory. Then He began to celebrate, testifying to the change that had come over him when Jesus saved him. His face was animated, transformed from grief to joy as he told how it felt to live free from the weight of sin! His delight was plain to see as he gave all glory and praise to Christ.

I sat wondering how long it’d been since I’d really celebrated the change Jesus made in my life. Was I becoming so used to being clothed in His righteousness that I’d begun to think of it as my own?

I believe one of the greatest hazards for us Christians (especially long-time Christians) is self-sufficiency—letting our wonder at Christ’s grace and mercy fade, getting cocky about our ability to resist satan and temptation, forgetting the real source of our salvation and strength. Just at the moment we feel most able to stand, we’re sure to fall.

Thanks for joining me for today’s post in Knowing Jesus, our study of Christ’s life through the inspired pen of Mark. Get your Bible and let’s take a look at a brash moment in the life of Peter. Read More

#81: In Everything Give Thanks

I’m not a “bandwagon” kind of girl. If everyone is raving about something, I tend to shy away from it. But this past year, I made an exception when I read a perspective-changing, heart-shaping book, the best-seller One Thousand Gifts—a present from my son and fellow book-lover Jimmy. (Thanks, Son!)

In her own distinctive style, author Ann Voskamp sets out, on a suggestion from a friend, to write a list of a thousand things for which she’s thankful. Through happy times and troubled times, through bounty and hardship, through births and deaths, Ann makes a literal daily practice of 1 Thessalonians 5:18: “In everything give thanks for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” In the process she realizes how destructive ungratefulness has been in her life, and she experiences the transforming power of eucharisteo.

Eucharisteo is the Greek word for giving thanks. If the word rings familiar to you and you have a church background in certain denominations, you might recognize it as the term for Communion—the Eucharist. So how did the word for thanksgiving become so closely connected with the Lord’s Supper? Get your Bible and let’s find out. Read More

#80: The Beautiful and the Beastly

Skilled writers know how to develop stories using plot sequences. A very simple sequence might have a beginning setting, followed by a series of chronological scenes that lead to a final setting. (Some of us like plots with happy endings best. Others of us love a good tear-jerker!) A more complex plot might have scenes occurring in jumbled order, leaving us to fit the pieces together into a sensible story.

Then there are plot sequences that begin and end in the same time/location, with a related but separate series of events—almost a story of its own—sandwiched in between. The Wizard of Oz, for example, begins and ends with Dorothy on Auntie Em’s Kansas farm, while a whole fantastic Oz adventure occupies the middle of the plot.

Today we’ll look at a passage with the same type of A-B-A feel—one that begins beastly and ends beastly, with a beautiful account in the middle! Thanks for joining me for Knowing Jesus, as we continue our study of Mark’s gospel in chapter 14.

Open your Bible and read Mark 14:1-11, noticing the three “scenes” of this story. See Matthew 26:2-16 and John 12:1-11 for parallel accounts. Read More

#79: Meeting In the Clouds

Luke’s fifteenth chapter holds one of my favorites of Jesus’ parables—the story of the prodigal son (Lk. 15:11-32). My favorite moment is in verse 20, when the father sees off in the distance the son he has missed so much, prayed for so long, ached to hold in his arms. The father doesn’t wait at the door. He doesn’t wait in the driveway. He can’t wait. He drops everything and runs, races toward his son, embracing him and kissing him—ecstatic to be reunited.

Hang on to the vision of that father’s joy, as you pick up your Bible.

Read Mark 13, thinking back over our studies of the past three weeks as we looked at the future plans of Jesus for His followers, His teachings about His return (and the events that would take place in the meantime), and our need to be alert and ready at all times.

Among all His words of prophecy are two wonderful verses:

“And then, they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds
with abundant power and glory. And he will send the
angels and they will assemble his chosen out of the four
winds, from the extremity of earth to the extremity of
heaven.” (Mk. 13:26-27, my translation)

His chosen. Beloved, that’s us He’s talking about! The hosts of heaven will be sure every godly soul from every corner of heaven and earth is present. (The unsaved aren’t invited to this party. They’ll have His attention later, but His first priority will be to celebrate with His own.) Listen as Paul sheds a bit more light on that “Day of the Lord”: Read More

78: Are You Sleeping?

As kids, most of us learned a simple song that went,
“Are you sleeping, are you sleeping,
Brother John, Brother John?
Morning bells are ringing, morning bells are ringing,
Ding ding dong, ding ding dong.”

Remember it? The problem wasn’t that Brother John slept soundly. The problem was that he was sleeping when he ought to be awake!

In today’s post, Jesus gives an eleventh-hour warning to His followers to be alert and awake—always watching for His return. He was about to finish the work He’d come to do, then leave the world. He Himself didn’t know how long He would be away from them (Mk. 13:32). But He knew that the longer time went on, the less watchful they would be.

Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our study through Mark’s gospel. Get your Bible and let’s take a look at today’s passage. Read Mark 13:32-37. (The parallel passage in Matthew 24:36-44 continues with several parables and teachings through the end of chapter 24 and into chapter 25. Luke includes a brief passage in 21:34-36.)

Jesus fills these few verses with a strong message to “wake-up-and-shake-up!” He uses three different words that are each a call to action. Read More

#77: Preparing For the End of Time

December 21, 2012—the end of the Great Cycle in the Mayan calendar—was to be the end of the world. So was May 21, 2011. And Christmas eve, 1955. And March of 1843. And a host of other dates that have come and gone. Since the beginning of time mankind has yearned to know about the end of time.

Sharing the curiosity, centuries of Bible students have studied and debated and argued themselves into end-times camps of premilleniallism, dispensationalism, amilleniallism, postmilleniallism, and variations of each. (Despite a common fascination, most believers these days have no idea what those terms mean or which camp they belong in—only whether or not they liked the “Left Behind” books! If you have strong, defined views you can support with scripture, you’re in a shrinking minority.)

One of the most studied—and misinterpreted—sections of scripture about the world’s end is the one we’ll look at in today’s post. Get your Bible and let’s dig in.

Read Mark 13:3-31. Look in Matthew 24:3-35 and Luke 21:7-36 to find parallel accounts.

The disciples had been mulling over Jesus’ prophecy about the temple’s destruction (Mk. 13:1-2). Later that evening, when Jesus led them up the Mount of Olives to a place overlooking the temple, four of them grabbed the opportunity to quiz Him further. “Tell us,” they prodded, “when will these things be—and what sign when all things are about to be completed?”

The Twelve had felt tensions for a long while, but especially since entering Jerusalem the previous Sunday. Jesus Himself was restless and on guard. Their gut instinct was that the revolution—inaugurating Jesus’ coming kingdom—could commence at any moment. (This was a common feeling; see Luke 19:11b. They had no concept of the church age that was still to come, or what Jesus’ “kingdom” was really to be.) Jesus’ prediction in verse two had them thinking that this Passover, with throngs of Jews gathered in Jerusalem, would be the time. In effect, they were asking, “How will we know when it’s all kicking off? Give us the signal!”

Peter, Andrew, James and John thought they were asking about a single event. Jesus’ answer spanned two events—the destruction of Jerusalem (to occur in 70 A.D.), and the end of all things (for which we still wait).

The debate comes over which of Jesus’ predictions in chapter 13 applies to the first event, and which to the second. Generally speaking, Mark 13:5-23, 30 is thought to refer to Jerusalem’s demise. Mark 13:24-27 (and then on down in 32-37) refers to Jesus’ Second Coming and the end of the world. Verses 28-29 and 31 are teachings about recognizing prophecy as it unfolds.

Though part of this chapter deals with events that happened many centuries ago, the whole passage has value for us today. The cautions about Jerusalem’s fall are relevant for Christians everywhere who face persecution, and the teachings about Christ’s return spur us to be continually faithful and prepared.

Through this passage, Jesus gave several commands challenging us in these last days.
• “Watch out that no one deceives you.” (vs. 5) We need to know the Word and be wise. Ignorance equals vulnerability. Are we scripturally equipped against deception?
• “Do not be alarmed.” (v. 7) Fearful Christians don’t bring honor to God. We don’t have to freak out about every rumor or prediction, seeing threats around every corner. We just need to live trusting, confident lives—developing a demeanor of faith. Then we can face whatever comes with assurance and expectancy. Paul reflected this kind of fearlessness when he wrote, “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil. 1:20)
• “Do not worry beforehand. . .” (vs.11) Luke’s account says, “Make up your mind not to worry beforehand. . .” We need a conscious choice, a mental discipline to not worry about how the future will unfold. If worry is an issue for you, pray for peace. Then strengthen yourself by memorizing scriptures like Psalm 23, Proverbs 3:5-6, Isaiah 26:3, John 14:27, John 16:33, and Philippians 4:6-8.
• “Be on your guard. Be alert!” (vs. 9, 23, 33) This command is repeated three times, showing how important Jesus considered it to be. Peter urged the early Christians, “Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet. 1:13) Are we alert, living in a state of watchfulness, prepared for action? Are we looking forward at all times to meeting Him joyfully?

Jude, the Lord’s half-brother, offered the perfect advice for us. “You, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to bring you to eternal life.” (Jude 20-21)

The next time you hear a predicted date for the world’s end, relax and remember: our job is not to figure out when Jesus will return, our job is to be ready whenever He returns.

Thanks for reading today’s post in our series Knowing Jesus, a study of the gospel of Mark. Be sure to watch for future posts in this series each Wednesday morning. (Past posts are available in the archives.) You’re welcome at any time to subscribe to this Bible study blog by simply entering your email address at right. Your email address will never be sold, traded, or used for any other purpose.

© Diane McLoud 2014

#76: Expecting the Unexpected

Welcome to Knowing Jesus, our journey through the gospel of Mark. We’re out to learn all we can from the life and teachings of Jesus. Come along as we begin chapter 13!

Get your Bible and read Mark 13:1-2. (Luke 21:5-6 records the same account, if you’d like to read it too.)

Jesus was walking away from the temple for the last time. Keeping pace with Him, the disciples looked back at the stately structure. They called His attention to its magnificence. “Just look at it, Teacher!” they said with pride. “What huge stones! What wondrous buildings!”

The temple was built of polished white limestone, shining in the sunlight. Some of its stones were massive, as large as 70 x 18 x 12′. Adorned with ornate gold carvings and other rich designs, it took forty-six years to finish—the combined effort of some 10,000 skilled workers. (Still under construction in Jesus’ day, it wasn’t considered complete until A.D. 64.) The enormous footprint of the temple complex covered about one-sixth of the city of Jerusalem. The Jews saw the holy temple as enduring, spiritually and physically invincible.

Maybe the disciples were subtly baiting Jesus, hoping He’d reveal plans for His coming kingdom and reign. If they were envisioning a future palace for when He’d restored Jerusalem, He stopped them cold. In a statement hard for them to imagine, Jesus said, “A time is coming when not one stone here will be left on another.” Read More

#75: My Heart, His Temple

In Old Testament times, the prophet Ezekiel was assigned a sad task. He had to bring God’s message of judgment to His people, rebellious Israel. As a captive who had been carried off to Babylon, Ezekiel recorded a heartbreaking vision of God’s glory departing from Jerusalem’s beautiful temple back in his homeland (Ez. 10).

Some 600 years later, the glory of the Lord again filled Jerusalem’s temple in the person of Jesus. From the day Mary and Joseph carried the forty-day-old infant Jesus into the temple and placed Him in the arms of a rejoicing Simeon (Lk. 2:25ff), to the day Jesus sat in a quiet corner observing the temple’s givers (Mk. 12:41ff), each time He entered its courts the temple was filled with divine glory.

Take a moment to review Mark 12, thinking back over our studies of the past few weeks. Read More

#74: A Mighty Mite

An old story tells of a conversation between a hen and a hog.

The hen approached the hog one day and said, “Our farmer has been so good to us. We always have plenty to eat. Our barn is warm and clean. We should show him how grateful we are. How about giving him a nice breakfast? I’ll provide the eggs and you provide the bacon.”

The hog backed away, protesting, “For you, that’s a donation. For me, it’s a sacrifice!”

The difference between donation and sacrifice is the level of loss. We “donate” old clothing to Good Will, spare change to the Salvation Army, or a couple dollars to a local school team. But “sacrifice” makes us swallow hard, count the cost. One is quickly forgotten; the other changes our lives—and often the lives of others.

Today’s scripture centers around a famous account of sacrifice known as “The Widow’s Mite.” Get your Bible and read Mark 12:41-44.

Jesus found a good vantage point near the temple treasury boxes and sat down to watch. He saw many who gave donations from their abundance. He saw one who gave a true sacrifice out of her poverty. Read More