Nehemiah

Nehemiah 1

Nehemiah 2:1-10

Nehemiah 2:11-20

Nehemiah 3

Nehemiah 4:1-9

Nehemiah 4:10-23

Nehemiah 5

Nehemiah 6

Nehemiah 7

Nehemiah 8:1-12

Nehemiah 8:13-18

Nehemiah 9:16-38

Nehemiah 10

Nehemiah 11

Nehemiah 12

Nehemiah 13

Esther

Esther 1

Esther 2

Esther 3

Esther 4

Esther 5-7

Esther 8-10

Mark 4 – Chapter Summary

Jesus now begins to teach in parables. A simple way of looking at parables is an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. These would be everyday experiences that the people would be able to relate to, the only question would be, could they make that spiritual connection? The parable of the Sower, seed, and soils is a perfect place to start.

In order to bear much fruit the condition of the soil is most important. Some hearts are hard, other hearts are shallow, and then there are those hearts whose are crowded. The hard heart is not open to the Word (which is what the seed symbolizes) and the enemy comes and snatches away that Word. The shallow heart gets excited about the Word, but the roots don’t go deep due to lack of depth, and when the trials come, this person withers away. The crowded heart is the one that I’m most concerned with in my life. The Word is sown, but the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the Word and it becomes unfruitful.

O Lord, please grant me the open heart, with soft soil, and good ground for Your Word to fall on. Please weed out ANYTHING that doesn’t belong.

When I think of fruit, I think of both moral and ministry fruit (Galatians 5:22-23; John 15:8, 16). O Lord, I’m not bearing anywhere near 100-fold.

Some see Jesus as trying to hide the truth through parables, but Matthew 13:15 lays the blame on the people, “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes THEY have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”

I’ve always loved the parable of the growing seed: I’ve taken this parable very personally. My job/calling/responsibility is to first receive the message/the seed/the Word from God and then to simply scatter it, and give it to the people. God will do the rest. I can rest in God doing the rest; I don’t know exactly how He does it, but He does! It’s His church and it’s His kingdom! He is working and preparing everything and everyone for that great day of harvest!

The parable of the mustard seed that becomes a tree can be taken to be an abnormal but miraculous growth, which is a good thing for people to come and nest under its shade, but I’ve always seen those birds as bad – and in every church, there will be bad birds in the branches, tares will be planted and hide among the wheat.

Mark closes this chapter with Jesus’ promise to go to the other side (35b). When the storm hits, they should have peacefully woken Him up and asked Jesus for help; instead they freaked out and accused Christ of not caring.

Psalm 44:23 “Awake! Why do You sleep, O Lord? Arise! Do not cast us off forever.”

Mark 3 – Chapter Summary

Jesus continues to prove who He is, His words and works, His message and miracles all point to His identity as the Christ, the Son of the living God, but the religious leaders despise Him.

Jesus is in the Synagogue, and there’s a man with a withered hand; the religious leaders are watching Him to see if He’s going to heal the man, they think it’s wrong to heal him on the Sabbath Day (imagine that). Jesus tries to reason with them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good…” but their hearts are hard, like concrete. Jesus heals the man so they plot to destroy Him.

Multitudes are now following Jesus, so, after praying all night (Luke 6:12) Jesus chooses His 12 Apostles, whom He would train for the next 3 years; their training would consist simply in being “with Him” (3:14; Acts 4:13). That the best training, schooling, and preparation we could ever have, just being with Him!

The hostility continues to escalate, Jesus is now accused of casting out demons by the ruler of the demons, Beelzebub. Jesus points out the foolishness of their claim, if a kingdom is divided against itself, it will fall. On the contrary, Jesus is binding the enemy and plundering his goods (the people held captive by the devil).

His accusers were resisting the voice of the Holy Spirit so Jesus warns them – all sin is able to be forgiven, but the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. The Holy Spirit testifies of Jesus, He convicts us of our sin and convinces us of the judgment to come, and the righteousness found in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:8). The Holy Spirit is the one who draws us to Jesus – there is no hope for salvation if we resist the Him (Acts 7:51).

Wiersbe, “In spite of all that Jesus did and said, they hardened their hearts and resisted His ministry, even to the extent of accusing Him of being in league with Satan. In the end, they cooperated with the evil one!”

When His mother and brothers came looking for Jesus, it’s interesting to note that He identified His mother, brothers, and sisters as those who did the will of the Father.

O Lord, please help me in this.

Mark 2 – Chapter Summary

Word about Jesus travels fast. Jesus is teaching, preaching, and healing with all authority. One day Jesus is ministering in a house that’s completely packed out. It was so packed, that four men who had brought their paralytic friend to Jesus couldn’t get in. Most people would have given up, they would have waited outside, or maybe another day – but not these friends. They cared, so they carried their friend to the top of the house, broke open the roof and let down the stretcher they had him on.

Sandy Adams, “We all need friends with intercessory faith, who will bring us to Jesus when we are too weak to come ourselves.”

Jesus was amazed at their faith, and not only healed him physically, but he met his greatest need, spiritually, and his sins were forgiven.

Wiersbe, “The healing of the body is a great miracle, but it does not last. The forgiveness of sin is God’s greatest miracle, for it lasts forever and accomplishes the greatest good.”

Some of the religious leaders (old wineskins) had a problem with the Christ of the New Covenant, but Jesus proved Himself to them, time and time again.

Jesus continued to collect a rather Motley Crew as He calls Matthew the Tax Collector (of all people!). Matthew answered His call, left it all behind and followed Jesus. Jesus continued to shatter the traditional approach as He ate and spent some quality time with sinners. He was criticized sharply for it, but I’ve always loved His response:

Mark 2:17 “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’”

Jesus is then questioned about fasting, but the one thing about fasting is that it must be Spirit-led, it can’t just be regular routines. Jesus responds by saying the day for His disciples to fast would come – primarily when He ascended into heaven, because while He was here in this way, it was a celebration.

Mark 2:19-20 “And Jesus said to them, ‘Can the friends of the bridegroom fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them they cannot fast. But the days will come when the bridegroom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast in those days.’”

Next, they criticized them when they were hungry and in need, and plucked the heads of grain and ate on the Sabbath Day. So often we miss the whole point, the Sabbath was made for man – to bless him, not burden him, to sustain him, not starve him. Jesus pointed them to the written Word in 1 Samuel 21, and then He pointed them to the Living Word – He was right there in their presence, the Christ, the Living Word, Who has the final Word, after all, He is Lord of all!

Wiersbe, “Man’s religious traditions can be a terrible yoke of bondage; but when you follow the Lord, you experience freedom and rest.”

…new wine must be put into new wineskins.

Mark 1 – Chapter Summary

Mark doesn’t mince words. He dives right into it with the prophecies of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3 – prophecies that point to the forerunner to the Messiah fulfilled in John the Baptist who came preaching a baptism of repentance. Virtually “all the land of Judea” went out and were baptized by him, including Jesus Himself. I love the way John lifts up the coming Messiah in comparison to himself in Mark 1:7-8, “And he preached, saying, ‘There comes One after me who is mightier than I, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and loose. I indeed baptized you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’”

After Jesus’ baptism, He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He fasted for 40 days and was tempted by Satan. Jesus defeated the devil and proceeded to go forward in ministry, preaching the Kingdom, declaring His time as the fulfillment of prophecy, and calling on the people to repent and believe (v. 15).

Jesus personally called His Apostles to be fishers of men, rather than fishers of fish. Peter, Andrew, James, and John all left their nets and followed Him.

Jesus went on to teach and preach with authority, to cast out demons, and bring healing to the people. They were astonished (v. 22) and amazed (v. 27) at the way He did all things with such absolute “authority” (see also Matthew 28:18-20).

I’ve always loved the way Mark gives us a glimpse into the secret to Jesus’ power – His prayer life. Mark 1:35, “Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed.” No doubt the best part of prayer for Jesus was just that time He spent alone with His Father, but in prayer He was also empowered and directed by His Father – He was to preach, teach, and heal in other towns as well.

Warren Wiersbe asked and answered, “Where did the Servant get His power? He depended on the Holy Spirit (v. 12) and prayer (v. 35). He did not allow the demands of the work to rob Him of the time He needed to renew His strength. If the holy Son of God needed to pray, how much more do you need to pray!”

Sandy Adams said something similar, “There were reasons Jesus got things done, without coming undone. He rose before daybreak, found a private place, and spent time with God. He fueled His spiritual tank in the morning and ran off high-octane fellowship all day long. We run down because we don’t stop to fill up.”

Two healings from Mark 1 jump out at me. The first is Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law of a fever (may I never forget, nothing’s too small for Jesus to be involved in). The second is Jesus healing the leper; He did so by touching him. I am that leper; I was ostracized, desensitized, and without hope, until the heart and hands of Jesus Christ stretched forth to touch this broken mess of a man…and make me clean.

Thank You Lord!

Romans 1

The book of Romans is not only a Divinely inspired letter, it’s a theological masterpiece. Paul had never been to Rome, so he had a burning desire to go and preach the Gospel to the Romans. Paul would eventually travel to Rome, but it wouldn’t be on any type of pleasure cruise, it would be as a prisoner, chained to a Roman soldier – but even in that, he knew his chains were in Christ.

Paul also knew the power of the Gospel, he wrote in v. 16, “…for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” And then in v. 17, “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’” (Habakkuk 2:4). I like the way the NLT puts it, “…from faith to faith…” “…this is accomplished from start to finish by faith.”

Paul then goes on to reveal the fact that the whole wide world is guilty before God, even those who have never heard…reason being, God’s glory and invisible attributes are clearly seen through creation. Tragically mankind is guilty of suppression, they’ve suppressed the acts and fact of their Creator and have chosen to believe the lie, that there is no creator, mankind is guilty of idolatry – eventually seeing themselves God. Professing to be wise they became fools.

This idolatry has led to perversity. God has granted mankind his desire to live without Him, so God gave them up to uncleanness, and God gave them up to vile passions, such as homosexuality and other perversities. Separation from the Creator continued to spiral out of control, eventually forcing God to mankind up to a debased mind – more and more self-destructive sin.

The list of sins in Romans  1 describe the normal practice of the unsaved, but it also make me check my heart. “Lord please guard me from even the occasional practice of these things, such as covetousness, envy, and strife; may I no longer be proud, undiscerning, unloving, unforgiving, or unmerciful.”

The fallen world knows deep down inside that those who sin like this deserve judgment, but they not only do these things, they also applaud those engrossed in all this activity. Who would have ever imagined – Gay Parades. What used to be done in back alleys, now struts down main street!

How could it get so bad? Warren Wiersbe summed it up by saying, “The greatest judgment God can inflict on us is to let us have our own way.”

I want to know Christ more, and make Him known…