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Faith

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Do you ever question the validity of your faith? Maybe you didn’t pray the right words. Maybe when you believed it didn’t “take”. How can you be sure?

Don Carson answers this question brilliantly. Watch and be blessed!

If you’ve been around church for long, you’ve probably heard the parable of the soils (Mark 4), part of today’s Bible reading. Jesus pointed out that He spoke in parables to reveal secrets of the Kingdom of God to those who would inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:11) Yet His parables cloaked the secrets of the Kingdom from those who would not inherit His Kingdom. (Mark 4:12)

So who will inherit God’s Kingdom? Who can understand the secrets hidden in the parables?

It seems obvious that those whose hearts are “good soil” are the heirs to the Kingdom. They are the ones who will receive God’s Word enthusiastically and apply its teachings to their lives. They are the ones who will protect their hearts from being choked by distractions. They are the ones who will prepare their hearts to give His Word even more depth to grow.

Application

So how do you have good soil? How do you make the most of it?

If you’re asking these questions, you’re on the right track! You position your heart to listen. You position your heart to receive all that God would say in His Word. You do everything you can to clean out those things from your heart that would seek to distract you from letting God’s Word grow deeper. You do everything you can to drink in all of the nourishment from God’s Word so it can grow even more.

Here are some practical ways to “do everything you can”: Implement as many Spiritual Disciplines as you can. Prayer, Bible Study, Bible Reading, Bible Memory, Worship, Fasting, Witnessing, Fellowship with other Believers, Giving of your time, talent, and treasures, and Giving thanks.

That will get you started!

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There seems to be a great concern among some that they have committed the unpardonable sin and are hopelessly doomed to spend eternity in hell for committing one sin. Well thankfully, Jesus addresses the “unpardonable sin” in today’s Bible reading.

As we look at this sin which can never be forgiven, let’s look at what Jesus actually says and let’s look at the immediate context.

Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:28–29 ESV)

So what is blasphemy?

Blasphemy means “to speak against someone in such a way as to harm or injure his or her reputation (occurring in relation to persons as well as to divine beings)—‘to revile, to defame, to blaspheme, reviling”[1] To blaspheme against the Holy Spirit is to slander Him.

Now, look at the context:

“And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” (Mark 3:22 ESV)

From the definition and the context, we can conclude that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to see God’s works occurring before one’s eyes and speak against God in such a way to attribute the works of God to the devil himself.

Application

Have you ever committed the unpardonable sin? Have you sinned so greatly that God will never forgive you? Look at what Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter.” (Mark 3:28 ESV)

Jesus says that God is able to forgive all kinds of sins of all kinds of people. He can and will forgive all of all. Except for one sin: attributing the works of God to the devil. Have you ever done that? Have you ever seen Jesus do the works of God and say, “No, the devil did that!”

It’s important to note something Jesus says in just a few chapters later. “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” Mark 7:21-22 (ESV)

In other words, our lips give away the inclinations of our hearts. An unbelieving heart will speak of its unbelief. And an unbelieving heart will speak against the works of God in such a way to attribute God’s works to the devil.

So have you committed the unpardonable sin? Are you unforgivable? Are you beyond God’s redemption?

The fact that you are concerned enough to ask the question speaks of a heart inclined to believe. An unbelieving heart wouldn’t even care if it had done something so heinous that it couldn’t be forgiven.

So take heart! If you’re concerned that you can’t be forgiven for something, that’s the work of God in your heart to redeem you, not to reject you!

[1] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Albert Nida. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament: Based on Semantic Domains 1996: 433. Print.

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Welcome to a new year of growing in your walk with God. My prayer is that these devotionals will help you to know God better and love Him more.

Our daily Bible readings are from Discipleship Journal’s 5x5x5 Reading Plan. Each day, five times a week, we’ll read the assigned chapter and I’ll post a short devotional thought about that day’s reading. Most of my comments are shorter than that day’s Bible reading. Most people can read the day’s Scripture and my devotional together in less than ten minutes.

If you subscribe to my email newsletter below, you’ll receive these devotionals in your inbox each day we have a reading.

So here’s my first devotional.


Our first reading of the year is Mark 1. Tradition says that Mark wrote what Peter reported to him. Many scholars believe that Mark’s was the first Gospel written down and that Matthew and Luke borrowed from Mark and added material from at least one other main source. The bottom line is that Mark recorded what God told him to write and he wrote as he was carried along by the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:21)

Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark doesn’t include a genealogy for Jesus. Matthew sets the stage for Jesus’ arrival by including the story of the Magi traveling from an eastern country, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Luke introduces Jesus in the context of shepherds hearing the angels’ proclamation on a clear night outside Bethlehem.

Instead of introductions, genealogies, and birth narratives, Mark jumps in with both feet! Jesus is already an adult and He’s about to be introduced to the world!

Mark often uses the word, “immediately” and he uses it nine times in Chapter One. It’s as if he’s writing as quickly as he can so that he can write everything down. I remember classes like that in school! It seemed that everything was important and I didn’t want to miss anything.

Perhaps Mark was so excited about the coming of Jesus as God’s Messiah and knew that Jesus would return soon. Not knowing when, Mark wanted to make sure that whoever read his book would know everything necessary in order to come to faith in Christ. And Mark was very excited about that prospect.

Application

How excited are you about Jesus’ return? He is coming back, you know!

How excited are you about people coming to faith in Christ? What can you do today to help someone know about Jesus?

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diamond earrings

In today’s Bible reading, we see two things that are called, “awe-inspiring”: an awe-inspiring sign in heaven (v. 1) and the awe-inspiring works of God (v. 3).

Awe is a word that is foreign to many Believers. We just don’t see things as being “awe-inspiring”.

The things of God tend to be, quite frankly, normal. Boring. Ho-hum. Have we become calloused? Have science and Hollywood so desensitized us to magnificence and a sense of wonder? If so, is there a way to get that sense of wonder back? I think there is. And I think this chapter gives us a clue how.

John tells us that overcoming Believers sang the Song of Moses and the Song of the Lamb. In other words, they sang what’s revealed in Scripture: Moses from the Old Testament and the Lamb in the New Testament.

Reading, meditating, and worshiping based on God’s Revelation can give us a fresh glimpse of what is truly awe-inspiring. God’s Word can give us the true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and praiseworthy things to dwell on. (Philippians 4:8) As we meditate on these things, we see new facets of the things of God as a jeweler sees new facets of a diamond as she peers through a magnifying loop.

Application

When’s the last time you spent time worshiping God in song? I’m not talking about singing about God. I’m talking about singing to God. There’s a world of difference between the two. One references God in the third-person. The other references God in the second-person.

“Great and awe-inspiring are your works, Lord God, the Almighty; just and true are your ways, King of the nations. Lord, who will not fear and glorify your name? For you alone are holy. All the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts have been revealed.” (Revelation 15:3-4 CSB)

Note how their song addresses your works, your ways, your name. You alone are holy. all the nations will come and worship before you because your righteous acts. The overcomers aren’t singing about God. They are singing to God.

The next time you’re in church, note the songs you sing. If your church uses hymnals (or if you have your own), note whether the songs are about God or to God.

A few years ago, as I prepared a sermon on this very issue, I thumbed through the hymnal we used in church. I was shocked to see how few hymns actually addressed God in the second-person. Almost all of the hymns referenced God in the third-person. Now, there’s nothing wrong with singing about God. But singing about God isn’t worship.

Spend some time today singing songs to God. Use your Bible to express your adoration to the lover of your soul. Here are a few places to start. These Scriptures are examples of worshiping God in the second-person.

Psalm 23:4-5
Revelation 4:11
Revelation 5:9–10
Revelation 11:17–18
Revelation 15:3–4

The Psalms are full of praises about God. As you read, ask God to overwhelm you with a fresh glimpse of Himself and His ways. Personalize the Psalms and other passages into second-person references to God.

Finally, spend a few minutes listening to my sermon, Worship in the First and Second Person Singular Present Tense.

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1 2 3 11

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