Week 9 Bible Readings

New Testament

26 February:  Mark 14:53-72

27 February:  Mark 15:1-21

28 February:  Mark 15:22-47

29 February:  Mark 16

1 March:  Luke 1:1-38

2 March:  Luke 1:39-80

3 March:  Luke 2:1-38

Old Testament

26 February:  Psalm 146, 147

27 February:  Psalm 148-150

28 February:  Genesis 1-3

29 February:  Genesis 4-6

1 March:  Genesis 7-9

2 March:  Genesis 10-12

3 March:  Genesis 13-15

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Week 8 Bible Readings

New Testament

19 February:  Mark 11

20 February:  Mark 12:1-12

21 February:  Mark 12:13-44

22 February:  Mark 13:1-23

23 February:  Mark 13:24-14:11

24 February:  Mark 14:12-31

25 February:  Mark 14:32-52

Old Testament

19 February:  Psalm 126-128

20 February:  Psalm 129-131

21 February:  Psalm 132-134

22 February:  Psalm 135, 136

23 February:  Psalm 137-139

24 February:  Psalm 140-142

25 February:  Psalm 143-145

Week 7 Bible Readings

New Testament

12 February:  Mark 7:1-23

13 February:  Mark 7:24-37

14 February:  Mark 8

15 February:  Mark 9:1-29

16 February:  Mark 9:30-50

17 February:  Mark 10:1-31

18 February:  Mark 10:32-52

Old Testament

12 February:  Psalm 110-112

13 February:  Psalm 113-115

14 February:  Psalm 116-118

15 February:  Psalm 119:1-88

16 February:  Psalm 119:89-176

17 February:  Psalm 120-122

18 February:  Psalm 123-125

Week 6 Bible Readings

New Testament

5 February:  Mark 3:13-35

6 February:  Mark 4:1-25

7 February:  Mark 4:26-41

8 February:  Mark 5:1-20

9 February:  Mark 5:21-43

10 February:  Mark 6:1-32

11 February:  Mark 6:33-56

Old Testament

5 February:  Psalms 91-93

6 February:  Psalms 94-95

7 February:  Psalms 97-99

8 February:  Psalms 100-102

9 February:  Psalms 103, 104

10 February:  Psalms 105, 106

11 February:  Psalms 107-109

Week 5 Bible Readings

New Testament

29 January:  Matthew 26:47-27:10

30 January:  Matthew 27:11-56

31 January:  Matthew 27:57-28:20

1 February:  Mark 1:1-28

2 February:  Mark 1:29-45

3 February:  Mark 2:1-22

4 February:  Mark 2:23-3:12

Old Testament

29 January:  Psalms 74-76

30 January:  Psalms 77, 78

31 January:  Psalms 79, 80

1 February:  Psalms 81-83

2 February:  Psalms 84-86

3 February:  Psalms 87, 88

4 February:  Psalms 89, 90

What did Jesus say about “end times”?

When I was growing up there was a lot of speculation about “end times.” Who was the antichrist? When would Jesus come again? Everyone had a theory and a book to promote it. And with the threat of nuclear holocaust and the cold war looming, it seemed that Armageddon wasn’t far off. Popular interest in the end times were exemplified by movie titles like “The Mark of the Beast,” songs such as “666,” and book series like “Left Behind.”

Does it seem like interest in the end times has waned? To some extent many believers have perhaps given up on the end times. They prefer the widespread eschatological category of “pan-millennial,” that is, “it’s all going to pan out in the end.” But the biblical passages dealing with the end times are still there for us to deal with them. How are we to interpret them?

One such passage is Mark 13. This chapter, sometimes called the “Olivet Discourse” or the “Little Apocalypse,” is the only time in this short gospel in which Jesus teaches his disciples about future events. We would do well to identify which events as well as what it has to do with us. This will be difficult to do in this short article, but I think it might be possible to at least lay the groundwork for understanding what Jesus intended to teach his disciples, and by extension what he wanted us to know.

The entire discourse is in answer to the disciples’ question about the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. Jesus had just told them that the temple complex would be completely destroyed (13:2). If one takes into account the parallel passage in Matthew 24:3 it is clear that the disciples had questions about three things: the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, Jesus’ coming, and the end of the age. In response to these questions Jesus encouraged them in three things: “Do not be alarmed” (13:7), “Be on guard” (13:9, 23, 33), and “Stay awake!” (13:33, 37).

Jesus began his discourse by discussing the events leading up to the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem (13:5-23). Imagine Jesus sitting on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the temple mount, explaining what would soon happen to the great city. This is the context in which he taught them. He told them that many would attempt to lead them astray in His name, that there would be wars and rumors of wars, and that there would be various natural disasters. All of these “are but the beginning of the birth pains” (13:8), “but the end is not yet” (13:7). These described the political and natural signs leading to the destruction of Jerusalem.

He then showed them how they would be treated prior to that time. They would be arrested and beaten, testifying before both religious and political authorities. These authorities, in fact, represented the peoples of the known world at that time. The disciples would even be rejected by their own families, hated for the sake of Christ. These signs would occur to the church prior to Jerusalem’s destruction. For a snapshot of how these were fulfilled in the church prior to AD 70, one has only to read how believers were treated in the book of Acts.

Then Jesus referred to “the abomination of desolation.” This apocalyptic language from the book of Daniel is used by Jesus to describe the destruction of Jerusalem. Luke helps us in his parallel passage when he speaks about Jerusalem surrounded by armies. This seems to point to the events of AD 70, when the Jewish people were slaughtered by the waves of Roman soldiers who came through the region of Palestine. But what of the abomination of desolation? This would refer either to the time when zealots murdered the priests in the temple or when the Roman standards were erected over the destroyed site of the temple. The events of this time were devastating, a tribulation that would have completely destroyed His people had God not cut the time short.

Jesus then turned the disciples’ attention to his second coming. Once again he used apocalyptic language to describe his coming, which will be accompanied with cosmic signs. The end of the age is also mentioned in the same context, when “he will send out the angels and gather his elect” (13:27).

The final paragraphs of chapter 13 are illustrations to help his disciples understand that these events will be both expected and sudden. The illustration of the fig tree shows that his disciples could expect the events to unfold naturally from other events. The illustration of the returning master shows that the events will happen suddenly.

Jesus’ words to his disciples—and to us—are not meant to provide us with a detailed play-by-play of end times. In fact, much of what he told his disciples in Mark 13 occurred within the generation of his disciples, within a period of forty years. But what he told his disciples he tells us: Don’t be alarmed by political upheaval and natural disaster. Be on guard against false teaching and prepared to testify to the Gospel and for the sake of Christ. Stay awake and be ready for his coming! With these warnings many of the believers of the first century were able to avoid the devastation of AD 70 and to persevere through persecution. We live in times not very different, for believers everywhere still experience natural disasters, wars and political upheaval, persecution and hatred. We eagerly wait for Christ to come and restore all things under his authority. His warning still applies to us: Don’t be alarmed! Be on guard! Stay awake!

Jesus uses people who refuse to believe

If you want to read about some crazy disbelief then check out today’s reading in Mark 16.

Mark wrote how the disciples responded to the news that Jesus had risen from the dead. How would you expect these eleven men to respond–men who had walked with Jesus for three years, seeing him raise the dead, heal the sick, walk on water and feed the multitudes? Wouldn’t the news of his resurrection be welcomed with joy?

Mary Magdelene was the first to tell them about Jesus (16:10-11). They refused to believe.

Two other disciples then told them they saw Jesus (16:12-13). They still didn’t believe.

They wouldn’t disbelieve for long.

Afterward [Jesus] 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. (Mark 16:14)

Two things struck me about this passage:

1. Remember how Jesus responded to the faith of the bleeding woman in Mark 5. What a difference between that woman and the disciples! Jesus commended the woman for her faith in him, because she heard the reports about him and believed. But Jesus rebuked his own disciples for their “unbelief and hardness of heart,” because they heard the reports of the resurrection and did not believe.

It’s easy to see from these two accounts the kind of faith that Jesus commends and rewards. I wonder which kind of faith in Jesus we exhibit on a regular basis. How often are our hearts hard toward the things of God? How often do we succumb to our circumstances and allow our faith to erode?

But, lest we get discouraged let me share some good news.

2. See how Jesus dealt with his disciples after he rebuked them.

And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:15)

Jesus commissioned those with hard hearts and unbelief with the task of proclaiming the good news to the whole world. Why would he do that? They refused to believe the resurrection witness. Their hearts were hard toward the testimony of their own brothers and sisters. But Jesus restored them to ministry anyway.

That’s good news. That’s grace in action.

Jesus uses people who refuse to believe. He gets a hold of them and turns their world upside down. And then he puts them to work on the only lasting work–the joy of telling others the good news. That’s what he did with his first disciples and that’s what he still does with all who respond to him with faith.

You might think your faith is small. It probably is. That’s good. If it was any larger you might be tempted to believe you don’t need Jesus. But be encouraged by the fact that Jesus uses us for his glory and our joy despite our lack of faith.

And what should our response be to this grace? Praise with grateful hearts, and witness boldly. Because he’s given us great grace.

What’s the Object of your faith?

The other day my wife and I were sharing with a colleague some of our frustrations. We had just moved to a new community and were trying to find a home, frustrated that we weren’t finding one to meet our family’s needs and at the same time be useful in ministry to others. My colleague offered the following encouragement: “If you believe that you need a new home then just walk around like it’s yours.”

He was talking about faith, which caused me to think:

What is the relationship between faith and us and God and the thing we want to happen? What does it mean to have faith that something will happen? Do we only need more faith?

Part of the answer came from a Bible reading the same day of that conversation. The passage was Mark, chapter 5.

Mark told the story of a woman who touched Jesus’ clothes and was healed of her sickness. But what’s really cool is what Jesus said to her:

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well.” (5:34)

On the surface, Jesus’ answer seems to imply that as long as one has faith, that is, believes something will happen, that it will be so.

But I don’t think that’s what Mark intended us to take away from this story. Why? First of all there was no mention of the amount of faith the woman had. Jesus simply stated that she had faith. Second, look at how Mark described the woman in verses 25-28. He first describes her suffering, the fact that this sickness of bleeding had lasted for twelve years, that no doctor was able to heal her, and that she had spent all she had, only to get worse, not better. But something changed for her.

She had heard the reports about Jesus. (5:27)

Let me paraphrase: she heard the Good News. Once she heard about Jesus she had real faith for the first time. In fact, she had such faith that it caused her to risk breaking social and religious taboos in order to be healed. See, in her mind Jesus would never willingly touch her, an unclean woman. If she could only sneak up in the crowd and touch his garment she could be healed. She knew that healing would only come through one man. Jesus.

Jesus was the object of her faith. She didn’t just have faith in healing. If faith in being healed had been enough she wouldn’t have remained infirmed for twelve years. No. She heard the reports about Jesus. And she believed in him. Of course, she believed that he was able to heal her. Absolutely! Our faith is in a God who acts, and rewards those who earnestly seek him (Hebrews 11:6).

But our faith is in him, not merely in his blessings or benefits.

What is the object of your faith? Is it healing? employment? a home? a spouse? children? safety? or anything else?

Let me encourage you to make the Object of your faith Jesus. In fact, go back to what Jesus said and did on your behalf. It’s right there in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Allow that Good News to bolster your faith in him. If anything other than Jesus is the object of your faith than you truly don’t have faith at all.

Week 31 Readings

July 30:  Judges 13; Acts 17 (family); Jeremiah 26; Mark 12 (individual)

July 31:  Judges 14; Acts 18 (family); Jeremiah 27; Mark 13 (individual)

August 1:  Judges 15; Acts 19 (family); Jeremiah 28; Mark 14 (individual)

August 2:  Judges 16; Acts 20 (family); Jeremiah 29; Mark 15 (individual)

August 3:  Judges 17; Acts 21 (family); Jeremiah 30, 31; Mark 16 (individual)

August 4:  Judges 18; Acts 22 (family); Jeremiah 32; Psalm 1, 2 (individual)

August 5:  Judges 19; Acts 23 (family); Jeremiah 33; Psalm 3, 4 (individual)

Week 30 Readings

July 23:  Judges 6; Acts 10 (family); Jeremiah 19; Mark 5 (individual)

July 24:  Judges 7; Acts 11 (family); Jeremiah 20; Mark 6 (individual)

July 25:  Judges 8; Acts 12 (family); Jeremiah 21; Mark 7 (individual)

July 26:  Judges 9; Acts 13 (family); Jeremiah 22; Mark 8 (individual)

July 27:  Judges 10; Acts 14 (family); Jeremiah 23; Mark 9 (individual)

July 28:  Judges 11; Acts 15 (family); Jeremiah 24; Mark 10 (individual)

July 29:  Judges 12; Acts 16 (family); Jeremiah 25; Mark 11 (individual)