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In chapter 1 we are quickly introduced to Jesus through his baptism, temptation, calling of the disciples, and His first miracles. Verses 35-38 tell us so much about Jesus purpose and ministry. First and most importantly, He prayed a lot, because he needed His connection with the Father! Secondly, He didn’t want us to be distracted from His purpose. “let us go somewhere else so I can preach… That is why I have come!” He could’ve stayed and healed people day in and day out in the same place, but He knew He needed to go! His purpose was to tell about His Father, not just heal, even though that was a good thing. God has a purpose for each of us and we need to stay connected to God through prayer in order to not get distracted from that purpose. We may be doing a good thing, but if it is not fulfilling God’s purpose for us, then it is not the best thing!

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Yikes!!! In verse 6 we see that God knows even our thoughts! Those Pharisees were just sitting around thinking negative, unproductive thoughts! Jesus immediately knew in His spirit what they were thinking in their hearts (not minds)! When a person thinks with their heart, they tend to be more passionate about those thoughts. They tend to think irrationally or illogically if thinking with their hearts. They act out of emotions! Those Pharisees were mad! How dare Jesus say He can forgive sins when only God can do that! But immediately Jesus knew what they were thinking, and He addressed their thoughts, giving them a chance to change their way of thinking. That’s what He can do for us… When we get caught up in emotions or false patterns of thinking, He knows immediately! He helps us change our thoughts! Let’s put this into practice today... 2 Corinthians 10:5 says “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” Let Jesus, not your emotions, rule your thoughts today!

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Some of us were blessed to grow up in Christian families. Some of us have families that are just now following Christ. While others of us are the only Christ-followers in our natural family. Jesus gives all of us really great news. In the last paragraph of this chapter, he redefines family relationships. His mother and brothers had come to bring Jesus home, because they thought He was going crazy with all the stress and lack of eating and sleeping! But when they came to get Him, He looked around at His followers and basically said, “you are my family now because whoever does God’s will is my family”. So take heart my brothers and sisters, you are never without family. Let us live and treat one another as if we were true family.

Jesus speaks in parables to His new disciples and they don’t understand! Sometimes I think when Jesus wanted people to understand, He should have made it more clear for them and even for us now! Jesus teaches us in verses 10-12 that those who want to learn and know Jesus, will have complete understanding. He says, “the secret… has been given to you.” How awesome for us! On the other hand, those that are just a little interested, or just around for the show of what Jesus can do for them, will never be able to understand. 

God doesn’t make understanding scripture difficult just to make us confused, He wants us to desire to know Him and His teachings. We value things so much more if we have to work hard to get them! We don’t have to work for our salvation; we get that free from Jesus. But He wants us to put in some effort to get to know Him! Just as you would want to get to know any friend.  This is an encouragement to keep reading a chapter a day and asking God to give us more and more understanding.

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Do you remember the sermon from last month about the two people who had an encounter with Jesus. One was demon possessed and had a very personal experience with Jesus where he was freed from horrible demons. Jesus ordered the demons into the “unclean” pigs, to show the power He had then and has now and will have in the end times over satan and his demons. The other person saw this happen and was so afraid and convicted of his own sin, that he begged Jesus to leave the area. That’s the difference between knowing Jesus and knowing of Jesus. Are there times in your life when you ask Jesus to leave the room?

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“Shake the dust off your feet” v.11. Isn’t it amazing that people did not believe Jesus even when He was standing right in front of them? And that He was unwelcome in His own hometown. Have some of you faced the loss of friends once you choose to follow Jesus. Are people from your earlier years not able to believe that you are a changed person? Even though you live a life following your Lord? Even though you now have changed? Jesus gives us a great example. He tells us to just walk away, don’t let them pull you down. Don’t keep trying when it is useless. Entrust those people to God’s will and move on to a future where you are loved and can share the joy of Christ. Is there a relationship that you need to leave behind in order to move forward?

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This is one of the most convicting passages in the scriptures. In verse 8, Jesus says: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions”. As human beings, we cling to traditions, and we even convince ourselves that letting go of these traditions is against God’s will. Having spent many years on the mission field and having met strong, committed believers from all different countries, I have often had to examine my own beliefs. It has been necessary to check my heart to see if something is biblical or just tradition. Some things we believe are biblical are really just a tradition of the American church.

Do we need to dress up nicely for church or is that just a human tradition? Many people have no other clothes, and they are just as committed to Christ wearing their rags to church. 

Do we need to sing a certain style of music, or is God pleased with any kind of “noise” as long as it is joyfully made unto Him. 

Do we need to worship in a certain format? All over the world Christians worship the same God, but with very different formats. 

Always run a belief through this test… is it truly biblical, or is it just a comfortable tradition that you would not like to change. Challenge yourself to let go of human traditions and hold on ONLY to the commands of God! Is there a tradition that you are holding on to too tightly?

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”..take up your cross and follow me.” v.34 Red letter words out of the mouth of Jesus. What did it mean? Who carried a cross in those days? The common criminal who had to drag it down the long walk of shame where all saw him humiliated and in pain. Why would Jesus tell His disciples something that horrible? Jesus often taught using word pictures, so that we could understand at a deeper level. He was warning us that following Him would not be easy. Those who followed Him would be hurt, hated, laughed at, considered crazy, sometimes even put to death. Certainly in today’s political climate it is often hard to admit to being a Christian, yet why are we surprised? Jesus warned us and promised us that it would be worth it. What do you find to be the hardest part about being a Christ follower?

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“This kind can only come out by prayer.” (v. 29) We all have family and friends who are foaming at the mouth (saying crazy things), gnashing their teeth (worrying and living in fear) are rigid (in their unwillingness to forgive), have convulsions (of addictions or earthly desires). We may not be able to heal them. We may be broken hearted from the decisions they are making or the pain they are in, but we do have power. Jesus reminds of us our power- the power of Prayer. Never, ever underestimate it. Who have you given up praying for? Start praying again today!

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Remember the rich man who wanted to follow Jesus, but he was told to give up everything? He could not do it. Jesus give us the analogy that, “it is easier for a camel to go through an eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (v 25). Some believe He was referring to a very thin passageway where traders had to unload all the bags off the camels to get through. Or it might just have been another story Jesus told us to get us to really think about life. Is it wrong to be rich? No. What is wrong is to put anything above following Jesus. Are you watching TV instead of doing Bible study? Are you spending money on superfluous things instead of helping a hurting friend? Often we are so satisfied with our money that we don’t realize we are spiritually poor. Rich or poor, we all need Christ. What would be difficult for you to do without? Why?

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I love it when Jesus talks about having faith. He makes it sound so simple and natural. In verses 22-25, He had just cursed a fig tree and it died! The disciples are amazed and He tells them if they have faith in God then anything is possible. Then He gives such a simple statement about believing and not doubting, reminding us how much power faith can have in our lives. “Whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Then he segues into a very interesting statement about forgiveness. During that prayer of faith that we were just talking about, if you remember that you are holding a grudge against someone, you need to forgive them. And the real kicker is that you need to forgive SO THAT God can forgive you!!! That’s pretty hard to swallow…there is a distinct link between praying, believing faith, and forgiveness. Ask God today if you have been unforgiving toward anyone and if that is hindering your belief.

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The Sadducees came to Jesus with an important question about the resurrection. They didn’t really believe in the resurrection or a life after death, that is why they were “sad-you-see!” They were just trying to trap Jesus with their question about what Heaven was going to be like. Instead of falling for their trick, Jesus answers their question with a question of His own in an attempt to turn their heads and hearts to the truth of God’s Word. 

What about you? Have you ever found yourself searching the Bible for loopholes in an attempt to get Jesus to do things your way? He will not be deterred. Jesus will continually bring us back to the truth of His Word so that we follow His Gospel and not our own.

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This is actually a pretty scary chapter. The disciples want to know about the future. And which of us, if given the chance, wouldn’t ask Jesus about the future. But I’m not sure this is what they were expecting to hear. He tells them all kinds of terrible things that are going to happen, and then 5 times He tells us to be on guard or to watch out (v. 5, 23, 33, 35, 37). He wants us to be prepared, and He wants us to recognize the purpose of the events, and He wants us to know that these are all signs pointing to something worse, but then ultimately better…the second coming of Christ. In verse 10 we get a great reminder to all of us, “the Gospel must first be preached to all nations.” Christ promises not to return until everyone has had a chance to hear the Gospel. How can you be a part of preaching the Gospel to all nations?

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Jesus knows your future. We know this because He told the disciples exact details about the room that would be waiting for them for the Passover meal, He told them someone was going to betray Him, that they would all be scattered, that the woman who anointed him with perfume would always be remembered, that Peter would betray Him before the rooster crowed three times. He knows you. He knows your future. We can follow Jesus’ path for us by reminding ourselves “ yet not as I will, but as you will.” (v. 36)

What one thing am I worried about in my future? How does it make me feel to know that Jesus already knows?

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Jesus fulfilled over 300 Old Testament prophecies throughout His lifetime. Do you know the odds of that? According to mathematicians…1 person fulfilling:

8 prophecies = 1 in 100,000,000,000,000,000;

48 prophecies= 1 in 10 to the 157th power; 

300+ prophesies= Only Jesus!

Mark 15 is ripe with fulfilled prophecies… He was betrayed by one of His own, He was mocked, He was tried, they gambled for His clothes, He did not defend Himself...

So many details! One of my favorites is “no bone shall be broken”, (Num 9:12 ) We read that Pilate was surprised to hear that Jesus was already dead v 44. That’s because most crucifixions were designed to torture prisoners for a long time. They were not always dead at sundown when everyone headed home. So, it was the custom to break the legs of anyone who hadn’t died so they wouldn’t escape after nightfall. Not Jesus! It happened just as prophecy foretold. 

Do you need anymore proof?

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How many times do we think a task is too big for us, for the church, for anyone to get done? Join the three women who were headed to the tomb to anoint Jesus’ dead body with spices. How heavy that entire situation must have felt. The one they loved was dead and now they had to do such sad work. Plus, how would they ever roll away the huge stone to get into the tomb to do their job?

But when they got there- the stone was already moved! An angel was there to tell them great news and gave them a new job- Go tell the disciples! 

Do you sometimes feel like the work Jesus is giving you is too hard? Persevere and look forward to seeing how He will move the huge stone and give you great news!