In Luke 4, Jesus is preparing for His public ministry. Before starting, Jesus walks with the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where Satan is waiting to tempt Jesus. Satan is not easy on Jesus. The temptations are hard. Food for a hungry belly after forty days of fasting and self-denial. The Devil offer Jesus the world at His feet. Gone would be the struggle to conquer hearts and the need for the life transforming work of the cross. Satan offers Jesus the company of angels instead of the press of the people. It is a temptation that speaks to Jesus’ longing for home and the divine connection He shares with God. The only problem with the temptations is that Jesus has to do is walk away from God’s will and serve Himself. In order to accept what Satan offers, Jesus has to rely on Himself, worship the Devil, and test the love of God. It is an unacceptable choice. So what will He do?
Each time Jesus answers the temptations with the Word of God. Jesus knows that His time on earth will be hard. People will flock to Him for the wrong reasons, reject His call, and hang Him on a cross. But Jesus also knows that some will respond. That people will be saved. That for generations to come, man will be able to turn to God and find forgiveness, mercy, and grace. It is in this knowledge and relationship that Jesus has with His Father that calls Jesus to surrender to the hard things of life. It is the desire to walk in the will of God that guides the footsteps of Jesus away from the path of sin.
The Word of God still calls to man. It still stands strong in the face of temptation. It still leads us into the will of God. Embed the Bible this week, and see the power of God at work in your life.
1. What temptations do you struggle with?
2. How does the Word of God encourage and empower you to walk with Jesus?
The cross looms large in the thoughts of Jesus. The time has come. The next few hours, the next few days, will be full of rejection, pain, and death. Jesus goes to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. Amid the olive trees, He seeks the comfort that only God can provide. He draws strength from being in the presence of His Father in prayer. Jesus prays that the will of God will take center stage. It is a difficult prayer to pray. Allowing God to be in charge means giving up self. For Jesus, in this moment, giving Himself means giving up His life on the cross.
As the crowds approach and the disciples flee, Jesus boldly steps up to make a sacrifice. A sacrifice to restore those far away. A sacrifice to offer forgiveness to those in rebellion. A sacrifice that forges a path for man to walk with God. The cross stands in His future, and He goes willingly…for you and me.
The cross still stands. It still calls. Each day we make a decision to follow way of the cross. Each day we decide to live a life of sacrifice. Each day the cross forgives, restores, and shapes our lives. Embedding the Bible means listening to the call to sacrifice self and live with Jesus.
1. In what ways do you need to give up your life in order to walk more closely with God?
2. How does the example of Jesus give you strength to face the cross?
“Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” (Mark 11:17) The words sometimes stun us. The picture is sometimes hard to imagine. Jesus is overturning tables and causing chaos in the Temple. The One who calls men to worship is driving people from the place of worship. His anger is apparent, His message is clear. There is no room for the world in the hearts of those who follow God. We need to take a hard look at our lives and let Jesus clean out the junk that gets in the way of worship and prayer. Habits, attitudes, relationships, it doesn’t matter. If it stands in the way of Jesus, let Him drive it from your life. Sometimes it is difficult. Sometimes it hurts. But Jesus is insistent, “…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30) Embedding Jesus in your life means clearing out the junk and letting Jesus fill your heart.
1. What needs cleaning out in your life?
2. How can Jesus turn pain into healing, hurting into hope?
His name is Bartimaeus, and he is blind. He sits by the road, and begs. The mercy of others is his only hope. In Mark 10:46-52, we encounter his story. Listening as the crowds pass by on the road, Bartimaeus hears that Jesus is coming. He lifts his voice, crying out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” He knows that Jesus can make a difference in his life. Some try to quiet him. The people surrounding him discourage him from seeking Jesus, but Bartimaeus is insistent. He asks to regain his sight, and Jesus heals the blind man. The healing itself is powerful, but I love verse 52. Jesus tells Bartimaeus to go his way, and the Bible says that Batimaeus followed Jesus on the way. Bartimaeus has seen Jesus, and now the way of Jesus is the way of Bartimaeus. Jesus defines his life and his direction. Bartimaeus knows that Jesus can provide all he needs. And that Jesus is willing. This week, as you embed Jesus in your heart, know that your sight will be changed. Your direction will be set. Your heart will long to follow. Just like Bartimaeus.
I don’t know his name, but I know his problem. Mark 5 tells us that there was “a man with an evil spirit.” His life is a mess. No clothes, no dignity, his body is ravaged by evil. He is bloody and bruised, a man beaten down by the malevolent spirit that inhabits his life. He runs here and there. No control, no sanity, lost. When Jesus speaks to him, the demons beg for mercy. Jesus has eyes for the man’s pain and torment. He sends the demons into a herd of pigs feeding nearby. The pigs stampede to their death, and a curious group of people come to see what has happened. There sits the man, “dressed and in his right mind.” It is not as uncommon as we like to think. I see people like this every day. I see it in the mirror. People with messy lives. No dignity, no hope, and no chance to fix it by themselves. Thank God that Jesus still moves. That He still heals the broken. That He still vanquishes evil. Thank God that Jesus has the power to bring sanity to my chaos.
1. Where have you experienced the healing of Jesus in the past?
2. What does Jesus need to heal in you today? Is it a relationship, a habit, or maybe a persistent sin.
3. How does Jesus confront the sin in your life? How will you respond to Jesus?
This week we begin the Book of Mark. It is the story of Jesus all over again. But don’t let that stop you from sitting in awe as Jesus embeds His story on your heart this week. As you read, you will find stories of baptism and temptation. The call of men to follow Jesus. You will watch as the masses are fed and individuals are healed. Lepers are cleansed, the lame walk, and the blind see. There are stories of teaching and the call to repentance. Can you imagine knowing one of these people? Every time you see them on the street or in the store, they want to tell you THE story. The place where Jesus healed them. The time when Jesus called them. The moment that Jesus…you can fill in the blank. We love the stories that make a difference in our lives. And the story of Jesus makes a difference.
Each gospel, though similar, is different. Why? Because of who tells the story. The Book of Mark has often been called the gospel of Peter. In fact, several early church fathers clearly state their belief that the Book of Mark found its source in the memoir of Peter. When we look at this relationship we can see that Peter and Mark were both part of the same church in Jerusalem. (Acts 12:12-14) Peter writes that Mark is his “son.” (1 Peter 5:13) This is very much like Paul’s relationship with Timothy. (1 Timothy 1:2) This relationship would have given Mark a first hand account of what it was like to walk with Jesus. This relationship helps us get a better feel for how the Jewish community who became believers in Jesus were able to experience transformation.
Many of us have had to change and grow in our faith. The Book of Mark brings the life of Jesus to the front of our vision. It gives us focus as we look at eh the story of God living with humanity. It gives us a perspective on life and growth. Reading Mark will help embed the Word of God deep in your heart. So get ready, here comes THE story…
1. How has the story of Jesus changed your life?
2. How does living in the story of Jesus give you courage to share THE story?
There is nothing more central to the Christian’s faith than the cross of Jesus. The cross was meant to be a punishment and a humiliation. Jesus changed that. The cross is a place of hope and beauty. It is the place where God gave His Son as a sacrifice to wash away our sin. It is a place of healing and restoration. The cross calls to our deepest need and exposes our greatest shame. The cross reconciles man to God, bringing us together in a relationship that transcends all others. At the cross, we are adopted into the family of God. We gain a new name and a new identity. Matthew 26-28 holds the story of the cross, and what can compare? Only the empty tomb. The promise of life and resurrection. The hope that only a risen Savior can bring. In Matthew 28:20, Jesus makes a promise to His people. “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promises to embed Himself in our hearts and minds. The glory of the cross and the power of the empty tomb still impact the world, and you.
1. In what ways do you experience the fulfillment of Jesus’ promise to be with you?
2. How does recognizing that Jesus is with you change the way you live?
3. What do you appreciate most about the cross?
4. How can you share the love that Jesus displayed on the cross with a friend this week?
Matthew 23-26 contains difficult words, but deep truth. Facing the cross, Christ’s final teachings urgently point to our need to fully commit to a
relationship with God. Jesus begins by confronting the religious elite and outlining seven woes or barriers which keep them from living in God’s kingdom
and grace. Jesus then speaks of the uncertainty of life and the difficulty His followers will face in the last days, the time between the crucifixion and
His second coming. Even the parables that Jesus tells at this time are difficult. Virgins, sheep and goats, hidden talents – repeated pictures of
following or denying Christ. What does it all mean? In Matthew 26:26-27, Jesus sits down to eat with His disciples and these difficult words find their
context. Jesus takes bread and wine, painting a picture of sacrifice and devotion. He is willing to give all in order to walk in the lives of those who
desire a relationship with Him. It is an invitation to walk close and be intimate with the Savior. Answering the invitation requires nothing less than a
commitment of our entire selves.
1. Is there anything in your life that is not fully committed to God? How will you begin to surrender that part of your life this week?
2. Which parable speaks most loudly to you? Why?
3. What influences that surround you need to be confronted? How will you stand faithfully with God this week?
4. How does the commitment of Jesus to go to the cross encourage you to walk more closely with Him?
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” The question comes from a group of Pharisees in Matthew 22. Jesus takes them back to center by answering, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Embedded within these words in an invitation to walk closely with God and be changed.
It has been said that Jesus used these words to draw our attention to the fact that God wants to be involved in transforming every part of our lives. Like God called Abraham to put Isaac’s life directly int eh hands of God, He call us to surrender our families to His leadership and authority. He calls for our hearts. As He calls for our souls, we know that our spiritual health and growth are wrapped up In His plan for us. The plan to transform us to look like Jesus and to live eternally with Him, starting with today. Just as Paul called for the renewal of the mind in the Book of Romans, Jesus calls us to think differently than the world about life and priorities. He calls us to seek truth and walk closely with God. Every part of our lives is changed as we walk with Jesus.
The Bible is more than a series of facts, an interesting historical story, or even a moral guidebook. The Bible is God speaking into the lives of His people. Reading and embedding the Bible in our hearts is a path to transformation. God shapes us in the reading when we are open to His leading.
These words of Jesus provide a framework as you read your Bible this week.
1. Every day ask yourself, “How does this passage draw me closer to God?”
2. Meditate on how His words change your views and perceptions of the life we live now and the eternity God has promised.
3. Look closely at how Embedding the Bible transforms your mind. How does it change the way you think?
4. How does the Bible shape your reactions and attitudes?
In Matthew 16:5-12, Jesus has an interesting discussion with His apostles. Traveling to a new place, the disciples realize that they forgot to bring any bread with them. Remember that this moment of hunger is framed by two miracles that specifically involve bread. In each case, thousands were fed and leftovers trumpeted God’s abundance and power. As the disciples talk about bread, Jesus warns them about the yeast of the Pharisees. The disciples are worried about providing for themselves, but Jesus wants them to lift their eyes and see Who is standing with them. The cautioning words of Jesus are meant to pierce the worries and cares of the day, letting His people see that God stands among them. The disciples misunderstand. Jesus explains that what they take in shapes who they are. In this case, the teaching of the Pharisees will not help them see Jesus and the power of God.
Like the disciples, we live with the truth that “we are what we eat.” Embedding the Bible is all about taking in what Jesus offers. Beware of anything that does not lift your eyes to see Jesus. It is only in keeping our eyes on Jesus that we can help other see Jesus. Each of us is yeast in the days of our lives. Each of us leaves a mark on the people we meet. It may be in how we encourage, comfort, or help clarify a life lived with God. Or it may be in the way we tear down, get angry, or live only for self. We too must be aware of how we influence each moment. Will we allow the embedded word of God to shine in our lives? Will we bring salt and light into the world?
1. What area of influence do you need to be most aware of this week?
2. How can you deliberately help others see Jesus this week?