Religion vs. the Gospel

It is so easy, and tempting, to be religious and void of the grace of God that leads to a joyful life. In these comparisons, Tim Keller helps us to see the allure of religion and the freedom of a relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Take time to examine yourself on each of these. It’s a lot to take in–and for many a paradigm shift. When we wander, we wander back into works-oriented salvation–not to grace.

RELIGION: I obey-therefore I’m accepted.
THE GOSPEL: I’m accepted-therefore I obey.

RELIGION: Motivation is based on fear and insecurity. 
THE GOSPEL: Motivation is based on grateful joy.

RELIGION: I obey God in order to get things from God.
THE GOSPEL: I obey God to to delight and resemble Him.

RELIGION: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I am angry at God or myself, since I believe, like Job’s friends that anyone who is good deserves a comfortable life.      
THE GOSPEL: When circumstances in my life go wrong, I struggle but I know all my punishment fell on Jesus and that while he may allow this for my training, he will exercise his Fatherly love within my trial.

RELIGION: When I am criticized I am furious or devastated because it is critical that I think of myself as a ‘good person’. Threats to that self-image must be destroyed at all costs. 
THE GOSPEL: When I am criticized I struggle, but it is not critical for me to think of myself as a ‘good person.’ My identity is not built on my record or my performance but on God’s love for me in Christ. I can take criticism.

RELIGION: My prayer life consists largely of petition and it only heats up when I am in a time of need. My main purpose in prayer is control of the environment. 
THE GOSPEL: My prayer life consists of generous stretches of praise and adoration. My main purpose is fellowship with Him.

RELIGION: My self-view swings between two poles. If and when I am living up to my standards, I feel confident, but then I am prone to be proud and unsympathetic to failing people. If and when I am not living up to standards, I feel insecure and inadequate. I’m not confident. I feel like a failure.
 THE GOSPEL: My self-view is not based on a view of myself as a moral achiever. In Christ I am simultaneously sinful and yet accepted in Christ. I am so bad he had to die for me and I am so loved he was glad to die for me. This leads me to deeper and deeper humility and confidence at the same time. Neither swaggering nor sniveling.

RELIGION: My identity and self-worth are based mainly on how hard I work. Or how moral I am, and so I must look down on those I perceive as lazy or immoral. I disdain and feel superior to ‘the other.’ 
THE GOSPEL: My identity and self-worth are centered on the one who died for His enemies, who was excluded from the city for me. I am saved by sheer grace. So I can’t look down on those who believe or practice something different from me. Only by grace I am what I am. I’ve no inner need to win arguments.

RELIGION: Since I look to my own pedigree or performance for my spiritual acceptability, my heart manufactures idols. It may be my talents, my moral record, my personal discipline, my social status, etc. I absolutely have to have them so they serve as my main hope, meaning, happiness, security, and significance, whatever I may say I believe about God. 
THE GOSPEL: I have many good things in my life-family, work, spiritual disciplines, etc. But none of these good things are ultimate things to me. None of them are things I absolutely have to have, so there is a limit to how much anxiety, bitterness, and despondency they can inflict on me when they are threatened and lost.

Seeing Beyond the Walls of the Cave

King David’s early years as king were anything but ideal. Anointed by Samuel, David donned no royal robe, sat on no ornate throne. Rather, he returned to the fields as a shepherd boy. Then came his most famous moment, when with a single sling and stone he killed Goliath the giant. Saul, the sitting king, became insanely jealous. David ran for his life. Into a cave.

Psalm 57 is written while David is looking at the dark walls of a cave. There is no palace, no servants, no acoutrements fit for a king. He’s running for his life, not running the kingdom. Out of that cave David writes:

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,
for in you my soul takes refuge;
in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,
till the storms of destruction pass by.
I cry out to God Most High,
to God who fulfills his purpose for me.
He will send from heaven and save me;
he will put to shame him who tramples on me. Selah
God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness! (Psalm 57:1-3, ESV)
In fear, David cries out to God for mercy. In faith, David sees beyond the walls of the cave. “Be merciful to me…God who fulfills his purpose for me.” Somehow David knows that caves come before crowns, pain often precedes one’s purpose.
My soul is in the midst of lions;
I lie down amid fiery beasts—
the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows,
whose tongues are sharp swords.
Be exalted, O God, above the heavens!
Let your glory be over all the earth! (Psalm 57:4-5, ESV)
David was real about his situation. Beyond the walls of the cave Saul waited for David, trapped inside. But David saw beyond Saul: he saw a God who was above his cave, even above the heavens. David continues.
They set a net for my steps;
my soul was bowed down.
They dug a pit in my way,
but they have fallen into it themselves. Selah
My heart is steadfast, O God,
my heart is steadfast!
I will sing and make melody!
Awake, my glory!
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
For your steadfast love is great to the heavens,
your faithfulness to the clouds. (Psalm 57:6-10, ESV)
Though the cave was dark, somehow David’s heart was not. His soul was bowed down, but his heart was steadfast. His “I will” penetrated the darkness of the cave with a vision of the glory of God! David sang in the cave. And in doing so, he saw beyond it. If you ever sing “among the nations” you will have to sing “in the cave” first. And what will be the theme of your song? The steadfast love and faithfulness of God.
David ultimately wrote 73 of the 150 Psalms…his first ones were written in the cave. Yesterday, driving home from Asheville, Carol Davis played this song on 106.9. I can’t (and don’t want to) get its words and sentiment out of my mind. If you must, sing it today in the cave. One day you will wear a crown.

Forgive or Self Destruct

In today’s sermon (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/grace-community-church/id573563553?mt=2&l=fr&ign-mpt=uo%3D4) I ended talking about the consequences of unresolved forgiveness. Here’s the full information on that, taken from Grace’s marriage counseling resources:

HARD MODEL

H = Hurt

  • Hurts are the origin of most negative behavior
  • Hurt is the response to an external ACT—our RESPONSE to the act is the hurt!
  • Why someone feels hurt:
    • Wounded Feelings—emotional state negatively altered (happy-mad)
    • Threats to self—feel at risk-physically or emotionally (embarrassed, abusive language, lack of trust)
    • Personalizedinjustice—external acts—seem unfair or inappropriate
  • Three reactions to hurt:
    • Repress – deny event happened/deny hurt feelings (Raised in abusive environment as child)
    • Suppress – keep feelings bottled up inside (unfortunately hurts accumulate)(packing clothes in suitcase)
    • Express – Verbally and nonverbally
  • Expressing hurt is when you:
    • Realize the event happened
    • Recognize your hurt feelings because of the event
    • Choose to take some form of action
  • Verbal expressions are very common.
  • Nonverbal expressions are:
    • Withdraw (mild form)
    • Pounding fist on the table (moderate form)
    • Abusive acts toward self or one another (extreme)
      • Affairs, pornography, breaking things
    • Passive-Aggressive

Unresolved hurt leads to…

A = Anger

  • Anger is an emotion (Eph. 4:26-In your anger do not sin)
  • 3 Key aspects of anger:
    • Anger is an emotion
    • Anger is caused
    • Anger is directed somewhere
  • 4 ways people deal with anger:
    • Repress–push into unconsciousness – denying it
    • Suppress—hot thoughts
    • Express in negative way–retaliate
    • Express in a positive way—identify and solve the problem
  • To direct anger properly, it must be managed
  • 3-step process to manage anger:
    • Feel the anger
    • Allow time for the intense feelings to pass (Diffusion time scale 1-10, if 8-10, wait until down to 2)
    • Search for causes (wounded feelings, threats, injustice, embarrassed)
  • Difference between diffusion and suppressed anger (Bottled up over time)
  • Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV)
  • Recall a recent event where you got angry and directed it toward a person who wasn’t the problem—then analyze what was the real problem

Unprocessed anger leads to:

R = Resentment

  • Sunglasses: resentment becomes a filter through which you see everything and everyone
  • The result is negativity.
  • The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:45, ESV)
  • The tongue becomes a thermometer measuring the bitterness of the heart.

Unconfessed resentment leads to:

D = Destruction

  • Destruction is the cumulative damage that results from the hurt-anger-resentment cycles over time
  • Destruction surfaces across the three areas of a Christian’s life:
    • Physical Effects: High Stress, High BP, insomnia, sluggishness, headaches, weight loss or gain
    • Soul Effects: Anxiety, confusion, racing thoughts, scrambled thoughts, depression
    • Spiritual Effects:  Relationship with God struggles; unwilling to attend church, join a small group. Feelings of hopelessness and hostility toward God.

Unbelievable Forgiveness

In today’s sermon we heard the first half of Renee’s story. Here’s the rest of the story. I now some of you are wading through forgiving someone who has hurt your deeply. I’ve been so encouraged hearing your stories–so honored to be your pastor. Be encouraged by Renee’s story…and Matthew West’s song.

When I Don’t Want to Forgive

Sometimes forgiveness doesn’t come natural–maybe most of the time. In simple terms, to forgive is to let go, to release someone of the debt they owe you for what they have done to you or to a loved one. Yet Jesus’ addendum to the Lord’s Prayer is unrelenting:

For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14, ESV)

This begs the question: does my forgiveness of others bring about Jesus’ forgiveness of me? The answer is “No!” Jesus’ forgiveness of you comes out of his great grace toward you. When you receive Christ as Savior, you are forgiven, redeemed, justified and free to live a life you never dreamed possible.

But what about those who hurt you? Why should you forgive them? Why would Jesus add such difficult words at the end of such a beautiful prayer?

R. T. Kendall offers these motivations:

  1. Salvation is unconditional; fellowship with the Father is conditional.
  2. Justification before God is unconditional; the anointing of the Spirit is conditional.
  3. Our status in the family of God is unconditional; our intimacy with Christ is conditional.
  4. Our eternal destiny—whether we go to heaven or to hell—is fixed, but receiving an additional reward is conditional.

If your relationship with God is strained, if you struggle to sense God’s Spirit at work in your life, if your intimacy with Christ seems nonexistent, ask yourself if there is someone you haven’t forgiven. And forgive…Now! Do the hard work of forgiveness.

I offer a prayer to help you get started.

Father, I honestly don’t want to forgive ______________________ (the person who has hurt you). They have __________________________ (whatever they’ve done). Yet I want and desperately need your forgiveness. I need your help forgiving _____________________ (the person).  I trust that you, through your Spirit, will give what I need to forgive __________________________ (the person). Thank you for forgiving me.

Spared to Serve

Last Saturday we watched and waited. For days we anticipated what Florence would do. Forecasters warned us about the North Fork River, Mill Creek and Catawba River. The impact of Florence seemed ominous.

We were spared. Florence did not hurt us. The rain came but the flood did not overwhelm us.

Many were not. Pictures of the devastation cause us to gasp. North East Volunteer Fire Department was flooded and all but two of the firemen completely lost their homes.

42212332_2048003068565197_8866770797872545792_o[1]

Many people lost everything. They lost their homes, their businesses, their schools, their county support. Devastating seems too small of a word to describe it. Craig Walker, Director of Operations for our local EOC who has been serving in Dublin County, sent these pictures:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

We were spared to serve. Beginning tomorrow (9/23) morning, our first volunteers will leave from Grace to go serve. Our aim is to send teams as many weeks as we have volunteers available to go serve for the next two years. Also tomorrow afternoon at 2 pm (9/23) a truck will pull out loaded with supplies. At Grace, we are providing diapers and wipes. Come to worship tomorrow with open hearts and arms full.

For more information, or to sign up to serve go to http://www.graceforall.org/relief/.

What if Someone Doesn’t Want My Forgiveness

The Unpacking Forgiveness sermon series is bringing up all kinds of questions. I’m so glad. Feel free to email me (jerry@graceforall.org) with your questions. I’ll try to answer them here at enoughfortoday.org.

Can you forgive an unrepentant person? What if someone has hurt you deeply, or is still hurting you, but is unrepentant. They know what they have done (you’ve told them…or it’s obvious) but they refuse to accept responsibility. Can you forgive such a person?

First of all let’s define forgiveness. I’ll give you the short and the long definition. My favorite (short) definition of forgiveness is this: the refusal to punish someone for something they’ve done to you. We punish usually by our words. When someone hurts us we hurt them–by the things we say to them or about them. My favorite (long) definition of forgiveness: “When do we forgive others? When we strive against all thoughts of revenge; when we will not do our enemies mischief, but wish well to them, grieve at their calamities, pray for them, seek reconciliation with them, and show ourselves ready on all occasions to relieve them. (Thomas Watson, Body of Divinity)

Romans 12:18 says, “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”

So what does this mean for the unrepentant person? In short, you can’t give someone what they cannot receive. John Piper says, “When a person who wronged us does not repent with contrition and confession and conversion, he cuts off the full work of forgiveness.” As such, you cannot forgive an unrepentant person. Now I know what some of you are thinking. Whew! I didn’t want to. Now I’m off the hook.

Not so quick! Notice Watson’s definition and Romans 12:18. The phrases “strive against all revenge” and ” so far as it depends on you” show up. While you cannot forgive an unrepentant person, you must release them. Piper again says, “We can still lay down our ill will; we can hand over our anger to God; we can seek to do him good; but we cannot carry through reconciliation or intimacy.”

While you cannot give someone what he is unwilling to receive, the question is are you really willing to give it? Piper breaks down Watson’s definition like this:

Here is forgiveness: when you feel that someone is your enemy or when you simply feel that you or someone you care about has been wronged, forgiveness means:

  1. resisting revenge,
  2. not returning evil for evil,
  3. wishing them well,
  4. grieving at their calamities
  5. praying for their welfare,
  6. seeking reconciliation so far as it depends on you,
  7. and coming to their aid in distress.

Ouch. This requires a real heart check.

Living By the Book: August 27-31

For this entire week the Scripture reading skill is to read with imagination.  This is a remarkably powerful and moving scene. Read this once, and then again. And again. This account is called the Passion for a reason–feel the pain, hear the cries, imagine the hair being ripped from someone’s face. As I type this I am heavily burdened again. What Jesus endured is unbelievable.

Monday, August 27

Scripture: Mark 15:1-20

[1] And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. [2] And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” [3] And the chief priests accused him of many things. [4] And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” [5] But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed. [6] Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. [7] And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. [8] And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. [9] And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” [10] For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. [11] But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. [12] And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” [13] And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” [14] And Pilate said to them, “Why? What evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” [15] So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified. [16] And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor’s headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. [17] And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. [18] And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” [19] And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. [20] And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him. (ESV)

Tuesday, August 28


Scripture: Mark 15:21-41

[21] And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. [22] And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). [23] And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. [24] And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. [25] And it was the third hour when they crucified him. [26] And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” [27] And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. [29] And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, [30] save yourself, and come down from the cross!” [31] So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. [32] Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him. [33] And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. [34] And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” [35] And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” [36] And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” [37] And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last. [38] And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. [39] And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” [40] There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. [41] When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem. (ESV)

Put yourself in this passage. How are you feeling and what are you thinking if you are Mary Magdalene, from whom Jesus cast out demons? Or Mary Jesus’ mother. If you’re  a mother what is going through your mind? How about Simon? How must he have felt being pulled into this unfolding saga–he was simply a passerby. Such passion in this account. Brings me to tears.

Wednesday, August 29


Scripture: Mark 15:42-16:8

[42] And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, [43] Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. [44] Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. [45] And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. [46] And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. [47] Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid. (ESV)

[1] When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. [2] And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. [3] And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” [4] And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. [5] And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. [6] And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. [7] But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” [8] And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Wow, how the mood changes! You can feel it as you read it. Such relief! Such astonishment!

Thursday, August 30


Scripture: Mark 16:9-13

[9] [[Now when he rose early on the first day of the week, he appeared first to Mary Magdalene, from whom he had cast out seven demons. [10] She went and told those who had been with him, as they mourned and wept. [11] But when they heard that he was alive and had been seen by her, they would not believe it. [12] After these things he appeared in another form to two of them, as they were walking into the country. [13] And they went back and told the rest, but they did not believe them. (ESV)

Notice how confused the disciples and followers of Jesus are. They can’t figure out what to think. This is so true to life isn’t it.

Friday, August 31


Scripture:  Mark 16:14-20

[14] Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen. [15] And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. [16] Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. [17] And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; [18] they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” [19] So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. [20] And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]] (ESV)

Note: This is the most disputed passage in the NT. Your translation should tell you that some of the earliest manuscripts do not include it. I would encourage you to read a good commentary on this passage. Daniel Akin has written a recent commentary (Christ-Centered Exposition) on Mark. I recommend it. Space here is insufficient for me to discuss some of the difficulties of this last section.

August 20-24: Living By the Book

Monday, August 20

Scripture: Mark 14:10-21

[10] Then Judas Iscariot, who was one of the twelve, went to the chief priests in order to betray him to them. [11] And when they heard it, they were glad and promised to give him money. And he sought an opportunity to betray him. [12] And on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, his disciples said to him, “Where will you have us go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?” [13] And he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him, [14] and wherever he enters, say to the master of the house, ‘The Teacher says, Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ [15] And he will show you a large upper room furnished and ready; there prepare for us.” [16] And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover. [17] And when it was evening, he came with the twelve. [18] And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” [19] They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?” [20] He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping bread into the dish with me. [21] For the Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: True to life. Sometimes in seeking the theological implications of a story, we miss the things in it that are true to life. What is happening in this Passover meal that is true to everyday life? Don’t miss the details. Allow the story to move along its plot line. Read it and read it again.

Tuesday, August 21


Scripture: Mark 14:22-25

[22] And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” [23] And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. [24] And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. [25] Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Figurative language. Metaphor is a comparison in which one thing represents another. (Hendricks) What represents what in this passage? How does that help you understand the passage more clearly?

Wednesday, August 22


Scripture: Mark 14:26-42

[26] And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. [27] And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ [28] But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” [29] Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” [30] And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” [31] But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same. [32] And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” [33] And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. [34] And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” [35] And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. [36] And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” [37] And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? [38] Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [39] And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. [40] And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. [41] And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [42] Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: This is another passage where you need to look for things that are true to life. What do the disciples do that you yourself might be tempted to do? (Hint: sleep!) Before you judge them, realize your own humanness.

Thursday, August 23


Scripture: Mark 14:43-65

[43] And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. [44] Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” [45] And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. [46] And they laid hands on him and seized him. [47] But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. [48] And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? [49] Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” [50] And they all left him and fled. [51] And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, [52] but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked. [53] And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. [54] And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. [55] Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. [56] For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. [57] And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, [58] “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” [59] Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. [60] And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” [61] But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” [62] And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” [63] And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? [64] You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. [65] And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: I’m not intentionally repeating myself. True to life is the best principle to use in taking in these accounts. I quote Hendricks, “This is where you need to use your sanctified imagination. You need to look for principles. We obviously live in a culture that is dramatically different from the cultures of the biblical era. Yet the same human condition that the biblical characters experienced, we experience. We feel the same kinds of emotions they felt. We have the same kinds of questions they had. They were real, live people who faced the same kinds of struggles, the same kinds of problems, and the same kinds of temptations that you and I face.”

Friday, August 24


Scripture:  Mark 14:66-72

[66] And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, [67] and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” [68] But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. [69] And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” [70] But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” [71] But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” [72] And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Again, learning to read the Scripture as it is true to life. I quote Hendricks: “So as I read about them in Scripture, I need to ask myself: What were this person’s ambitions? What were his goals? What problem was he facing? How did he feel? What was his response? What would be my response?”

This will change how you judge Peter.

Living By the Book, August 13-17

Monday, August 13

Scripture: Mark 12:35-40

Mark 12:35–40 And as Jesus taught in the temple, he said, “How can the scribes say that the Christ is the son of David? [36] David himself, in the Holy Spirit, declared,
“‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.”’ [37] David himself calls him Lord. So how is he his son?” And the great throng heard him gladly. [38] And in his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces [39] and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, [40] who devour widows’ houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Remember Hendricks’ hand illustration: Here look for what is repeated. It’s obvious: scribes. Jesus alludes to them in two different ways. Also Hendricks said to look for things that are unlike. Who is being compared/contrasted to whom here?

Tuesday, August 14


Scripture: Mark 12:41-44

[41] And he sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box. Many rich people put in large sums. [42] And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny. [43] And he called his disciples to him and said to them, “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. [44] For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Historical context. You have to ask historical questions here. How did they do the offering? Was it public? How would Jesus know who had given what (other than the fact that he is Jesus!). This gives insight into this passage.

Wednesday, August 15


Scripture: Mark 13:1-13

[1] And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” [2] And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” [3] And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, [4] “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?” [5] And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray. [6] Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray. [7] And when you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. This must take place, but the end is not yet. [8] For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. These are but the beginning of the birth pains. [9] “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. [10] And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. [11] And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. [12] And brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death. [13] And you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: Jesus here teaches about the end of the age–signs. One of the important realities of studying the Gospels is to read parallel passages in the other Gospels. Matthew 24 will shed great light on this passage.

Thursday, August 16


Scripture: Mark 13:14-32

[14] “But when you see the abomination of desolation standing where he ought not to be (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. [15] Let the one who is on the housetop not go down, nor enter his house, to take anything out, [16] and let the one who is in the field not turn back to take his cloak. [17] And alas for women who are pregnant and for those who are nursing infants in those days! [18] Pray that it may not happen in winter. [19] For in those days there will be such tribulation as has not been from the beginning of the creation that God created until now, and never will be. [20] And if the Lord had not cut short the days, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he shortened the days. [21] And then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. [22] For false christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. [23] But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. [24] “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, [25] and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. [26] And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. [27] And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. [28] “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. [29] So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. [30] Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. [31] Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. [32] “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. [33] Be on guard, keep awake. For you do not know when the time will come. [34] It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to stay awake. [35] Therefore stay awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or in the morning—[36] lest he come suddenly and find you asleep. [37] And what I say to you I say to all: Stay awake.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: See notes on Wednesday

Friday, August 17


Scripture:  Mark 14:1-9

[1] It was now two days before the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to arrest him by stealth and kill him, [2] for they said, “Not during the feast, lest there be an uproar from the people.” [3] And while he was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, as he was reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster flask of ointment of pure nard, very costly, and she broke the flask and poured it over his head. [4] There were some who said to themselves indignantly, “Why was the ointment wasted like that? [5] For this ointment could have been sold for more than three hundred denarii and given to the poor.” And they scolded her. [6] But Jesus said, “Leave her alone. Why do you trouble her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. [7] For you always have the poor with you, and whenever you want, you can do good for them. But you will not always have me. [8] She has done what she could; she has anointed my body beforehand for burial. [9] And truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” (ESV)

Scripture Reading Skill: This is a beautiful passage. In order to understand it, you need to know the setting (time and place…see verse 1). You also need to know the importance and effect of leprosy. Also you need to read the parallel passages in the other Gospels–they will shed more light on this passage. This passage will come to life when you do your research on those things. Powerful.