It was I who rescued you from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 22:33)

Thought:

I find it terribly difficult to remember that everything comes from God. Also, that I can do nothing with out God’s help. Whether I choose to acknowledge God or not, all I have and all I have achieved, is by the grace of God. Faith in God really does make a difference in life when you realise that everything we have and all that we are, is down to God. If you can acknowledge your need for God’s help, then obedience becomes much easier. With obedience to God’s commands comes a flood of possibility previously dammed up behind walls of denial and pride.

Word:

Leviticus 22:31-33 NLT

“You must faithfully keep all my commands by putting them into practice, for I am the Lord. Do not bring shame on my holy name, for I will display my holiness among the people of Israel. I am the Lord who makes you holy. It was I who rescued you from the land of Egypt, that I might be your God. I am the Lord .”

Psalms 44:1-8 NLT

1 O God, we have heard it with our own ears—
our ancestors have told us of all you did in their day, in days long ago:
2 You drove out the pagan nations by your power and gave all the land to our ancestors.
You crushed their enemies and set our ancestors free.
3 They did not conquer the land with their swords; it was not their own strong arm that gave them victory.
It was your right hand and strong arm and the blinding light from your face that helped them, for you loved them.
4 You are my King and my God. You command victories for Israel.
5 Only by your power can we push back our enemies; only in your name can we trample our foes.
6 I do not trust in my bow; I do not count on my sword to save me.
7 You are the one who gives us victory over our enemies; you disgrace those who hate us.
8 O God, we give glory to you all day long and constantly praise your name.

Goal:

The psalmist sings his praise to the Lord because he can see that his ancestors, just like him, could have achieved nothing without God. It is not by our own effort that we are saved. It is not because of what we can do. It is by the grace of God. My goal for today and everyday, is to try and remember to find time to give thanks for each and everything I have been given by God.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 22:17-23:44, Mark 9:30-10:12, Psalms 44:1-8, Proverbs 10:19

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The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24 )

Thought:

How many of us would be able to claim a more definite faith the the father in the passage below? Jesus’s response is simply to command the spirit to leave, which it does. But then Jesus needs to gently help the boy to his feet as he has been left in a state near to death. After the event, the disciples ask Jesus why they were unable to heal the boy. Jesus’s answer is quite vague – “this kind [of spirit] can be cast out only by prayer”. It seems to me that Jesus is saying that no matter how strong any disciple may be in his faith, there will always be situations where your faith will be stretched to it’s limit. There are some things that only God can do. No matter how hard we might try, we can not heal the sick or cast out demons or any other such thing without the holy spirit of God flowing through us. It is very easy to lose heart or even faith when we see what we can’t do. But just because we will sometimes fail doesn’t mean we will always fail.

Word:

Mark 9:20-29 NLT

So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy. The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!” Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.” But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”

Goal:

Dear Lord and Father, thank you for all the things you have helped me to achieve since I asked you to walk with me. Help me to remember what you have done and what you do everyday in my life. I pray that when I next find myself in a difficult situation in which I feel powerless, you will hear me when I pray. Help me also, to accept the times when my faith fails and I am overcome with doubt. Help me overcome my unbelief. Amen.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 20:22-22:16, Mark 9:1-29, Psalms 43:1-5, Proverbs 10:18

You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don ’t you remember anything at all? (Mark 8:18)

Thought:

Even Jesus got frustrated sometimes. In the passage below, Jesus is tired of being tested by the Pharisees who are constantly trying to catch him out. Jesus is at a low ebb and he appears to vent his frustrations on his disciples as they worry about what Jesus means when he speaks of the yeast of the Pharisees and Herod.

It can be very frustrating when your friends or your family seem to misunderstand you. Sometimes they appear not to remember anything you have been saying or they seem to fail to see the effort you are making. The message of love that Jesus was preaching is really very simple. But very often we over complicate it and we end up lost and frightened and unable to see the wood for the trees!

Word:

Mark 8:11-21 NLT

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had arrived, they came and started to argue with him. Testing him, they demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.
When he heard this, he sighed deeply in his spirit and said, “Why do these people keep demanding a miraculous sign? I tell you the truth, I will not give this generation any such sign.” So he got back into the boat and left them, and he crossed to the other side of the lake. But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat. As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?”
“Twelve,” they said.
“And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?”
“Seven,” they said.
“Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them.

Goal:

I’m sure we can all relate to both sides. There have been times when those we care about seem unable to see the message of love we are trying to share. And also we have felt lost and confused when someone we love vents their frustrations at us. My goal and my prayer is that which ever side of this story most matches where I am today, I will be able to take a little time to imagine where the other person or people might be. I pray that in trying to see the other persons difficulty I might find it easier to let go of my own frustration.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 19:1-20:21, Mark 8:11-38, Psalms 42:1-11, Proverbs 10:17

The people must no longer be unfaithful to the Lord by offering sacrifices to the goat idols. (Leviticus 17:7)

Thought:

These Laws were given to the Israelites while they were still in the wilderness before they got to Canaan, the promised land. God was giving them laws to live by which would make them culturally different from all the other nations around them. They were to shed the customs and idols of Egypt from where they had come and form new customs and practices before driving the Canaanites from the promised land.

These days, as Christians, we no longer make animal sacrifices as part of our confession and worship. But we are required to shed the old ways of the life we led before we heard the gospel and came to faith in Jesus. As Christians it is our fellowship that builds the temple of the Lord. And it is into this temple of fellowship that we should bring our confession and whatever we can give as an offering to God. A life of faith without fellowship is not impossible but it is tough. With no guidance or support from others in the faith it might not be long before the ‘goat idols’ of a previous life or culture might creep back in. In this sense, it is still very much relevant today, that we bring our offering to the entrance of the tabernacle and seek the priests who can present our sacrifices to the Lord.

Word:

Leviticus 17:1-7 NLT

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Give the following instructions to Aaron and his sons and all the people of Israel. This is what the LORD has commanded.
“If any native Israelite sacrifices a bull or a lamb or a goat anywhere inside or outside the camp instead of bringing it to the entrance of the Tabernacle to present it as an offering to the LORD, that person will be as guilty as a murderer. Such a person has shed blood and will be cut off from the community. The purpose of this rule is to stop the Israelites from sacrificing animals in the open fields. It will ensure that they bring their sacrifices to the priest at the entrance of the Tabernacle, so he can present them to the LORD as peace offerings. Then the priest will be able to splatter the blood against the LORD’s altar at the entrance of the Tabernacle, and he will burn the fat as a pleasing aroma to the LORD. The people must no longer be unfaithful to the LORD by offering sacrifices to the goat idols. This is a permanent law for them, to be observed from generation to generation.

Goal:

It has been very difficult to come to terms with all the areas of sin I have found in my life since I began on this journey with Jesus. It continues to be difficult to leave behind some of the idols I worshipped before I came to faith. But I have found that the love and support of my wife and family along with the fellowship of all those I have met at church has really made a huge impact. I still have a very long way to go but I can see that there has been progress. There has been realisation and shame but there has also been transformation and forgiveness. My hope and my goal is simply to let this process continue.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 16:29-18:30, Mark 7:24-8:10, Psalms 41:1-13, Proverbs 10:15-16

It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. ( Mark 7:15)

Thought:

No other person, whoever they may, be can tell you how to be righteous. Neither can any person, other than God or yourself, ever judge your behaviour and then say that you are sinful. There is no valid set of procedures you can go through to show your righteousness or godliness or sinlessness. And no one else can tell you what to do in order not to sin again. No amount of ritual can erase sin if it is in your heart. It is what comes from the heart that counts. Only God can change what you hold in your heart. Only you can ask God to change what comes from your heart.

Word:

Mark 7:5-15 NLT

So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.” Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote, ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship is a farce, for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’ For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.” Then he said, “You skilfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition. For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honour your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.” Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. ”

Goal:

We have habits, traditions and rituals of our own these days, but I hope I can see the value of the traditions without needing to lean the whole weight of my faith on them. I hope that, as I continue to develop a relationship with God, my heart’s desires will grow more and more in line with Jesus.
My goal is to examine my heart and try to keep it clear of that which would defile it.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 15:1-16:28, Mark 7:1-23, Psalms 40:11-17, Proverbs 10:13-14

Their hearts were too hard to take it in. (Mark 6:52)

Thought:

Mark tells us in his gospel that after the miraculous feeding of the five thousand, the disciples just couldn’t absorb what had just happened. He says, “Their hearts were too hard to take it in”. (Mark 6:52) Very often when we read about huge miracles like walking on water or feeding the five thousand it just seems unbelievable. But if we turn our attention to the small everyday things, it doesn’t seem so difficult to imagine. Forget, for a moment, that Jesus was walking past the boat on the water. Focus on the fact that when he saw their fear, he got in the boat with them instead of walking past, as he had intended. Focus on the result of that small act – the wind stopped and everything calmed down. If you don’t think you’ve ever seen a real biblical miracle, think about whether you’ve ever experienced your fear or worry calmed by an unexpected act of kindness. Maybe at that level Jesus isn’t so hard to believe.

Word:

Mark 6:45-52 NLT

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him. But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here! ” Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

Psalms 40:4-5 NLT.

4 Oh, the joys of those who trust the Lord,
who have no confidence in the proud or in those who worship idols.
5 O Lord my God, you have performed many wonders for us.
Your plans for us are too numerous to list. You have no equal.
If I tried to recite all your wonderful deeds, I would never come to the end of them.

Goal:

It seems that the psalmist was happy to believe in the many wonders God performed in his life, who is to say what constitutes a miracle or a wonder. Is there a difference? I think there are many examples I can find of God’s wonders in my life. I’m sure those who are skeptical about faith would rubbish my little everyday ‘miracles’ but I’m confident that I know the Joy of one who trusts the Lord.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 14:1-57, Mark 6:30-56, Psalms 40:1-10, Proverbs 10:11-12

for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him… (Mark 6:20)

Thought:

Who knows how things might have been different if Herod Antipas had not executed John the Baptist. Perhaps Herod himself would have become a disciple of Jesus… But Herod did have John the Baptist beheaded. Why? Because if not, he felt he would have lost face to his wife and daughter in front of his influential guests. It was just easier for him to kill John than justify why he should spare him.

Herod respected John but he was also greatly disturbed by him. I can’t help thinking that given enough time listening to John he might have grown less and less disturbed by what he was being taught. Herod was caught up in the worldly concerns of power, wealth and influence. He felt he had too much to lose if he repented and turned back to God.

Word:

Mark 6:14-20 NLT

Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.” When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.” For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favour to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.” So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

Goal:

The message John preached of the need to turn back to God had resonated with Herod, but the implications for his lifestyle were grave. When it came to it, Herod found it easier to kill John and then carry on life as normal rather than make a stand, and risk losing face. My goal today would be to listen a little longer, read a bit further and try and understand a little more in case I should feel like giving up, rubbishing the whole thing and carrying on as before.

Today’s readings:

Leviticus 13:1-59, Mark 6:1-29, Psalms 39:1-13, Proverbs 10:10