Week 11

Watching in Waiting | Mark 13:37

What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” Mark 13:37

Waiting is a new tangible reality for us, as many are forced to stay-at-home during the coronavirus pandemic. The world is collectively in a state of waiting and asking a million questions. How will this unfold? What will be around the bend? What in the world is God up to?

Waiting can be very difficult, but Jesus clearly told us waiting is a part of his plan.

In chapter 13, Mark strategically sums up Jesus’ message about awaiting the end of the age with one final word, “gregoreo.” This greek word is jam-packed with meaning. Translators have difficulty getting to its full meaning because it entails staying awake, watching, being on the alert and continually cautious.

As we watch the happenings around the globe and await Jesus’ return, we look to Jesus’ words to teach us something about waiting. Jesus says, “What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘gregoreo!’ (Mark 13:37). Here’s what this might look like as we wait out this pandemic.

  1. “Stay awake!” We may be asked to stay-at-home but that doesn’t give us permission to fall asleep to what’s happening. It’s easy to numb ourselves with Netflix, busyness, cleaning, online shopping, or alcohol – especially when waiting gets hard – but if we fall asleep to negative feelings we also miss out on seeing the beautiful ways God is showing up (Luke 21:28-36).
  2. “Be alert!” Coronavirus has made us aware of a silent and invisible enemy. Like this virus, our enemy sneaks around like a roaring lion seeking out whom he may devour. This is why we need to stay alert and of sober mind to be able to identify the ways the enemy is tempting us – with selfish thoughts, out-of-control emotions, ungodly behavior, etc. Jesus reminds us to watch for the true enemy so we can resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9).
  3. “Be continually cautious!” During this time, we need to be careful to keep ourselves healthy and out of the hospital. We must also be careful about what we listen to on the news and on social media. This cautiousness doesn’t give us permission to be unloving. As we walk down the street, interact with people in the grocery store, write comments online, or make decisions with our families, Jesus calls us to be ready to walk in his way with his heart. This posture is both cautious to identify truth and full of genuine love for others (1 John 4:1-11).

Take a moment to ask Jesus which of these three he would like to see you apply. Then tell a trustworthy friend how you will obey Jesus so you have support to ‘Gregoreo’ this weekend.

By Yvonne Biel

Watching in Waiting | Mark 13:372020-04-02T14:27:04-06:00

Readiness in Waiting | Mark 13:23-31

But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand. “But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven. “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. Mark 13:23-31

There’s no way to recall all the times I heard mom say to me, “Remember? I told you that was going to happen.” From touching the hot stove to drinking hot chocolate too fast, running down hills too fast to popping wheelies on my bike, my injuries met with mom’s healing touch and those words. By the way, the wheelie incident led to my handle bars coming off and riding the bike into the ground. My forehead wasn’t the same for weeks.

Jesus said many things to his twelve disciples along with his many followers. Here, with only a few of his disciples, he reveals this pointed message. At the start of this passage, he’s repeating himself. He gave this message to his disciples before, and here it is again, much the same as my mom reminding me (Mark 13:23, John 13:19, 14:29).

Around 70 AD, Jerusalem was sacked and the temple torn down by Titus and his army, and I’m sure the surviving disciples remembered Jesus’ words. But, as we read these words, they have a still audible ring to them. No, this devotional isn’t about eschatology. Cloudbursts of ink and much paper has been consumed in that discussion. No, this will be about us being ready in waiting. Readiness in waiting.

All across the United States, there are regions ready for natural and unnatural calamities. Fires, floods, earthquakes, toxic spills and hurricanes are but a few. We’re in the midst of another now as COVID-19 runs its course. Can we always be fully prepared, in readiness, for these things? Never fully, but fairly prepared is the course usually taken. We, as followers of Jesus, are also called to be in readiness. Jesus shared his plan with us, but how do we stand ready?

There have been many Christian spiritual practices talked and written about. Practices like prayer, solitude, and meditation are things we’ve been learning. Praying for those around you can place your heart in readiness. Being in a quiet place, in a posture of listening, ready for the message from God can bring solace. Meditating on the scriptures can bring new insights and provide a conduit for God’s speaking to us. If you’ve already started these practices, you’ve begun the wonderful journey towards readiness. If you haven’t, perhaps now, in this difficult time, you might start. You never know what manner of comfort you’ll find in journeying towards readiness!

By Rich Obrecht

Readiness in Waiting | Mark 13:23-312020-04-02T14:23:37-06:00

Endurance in Waiting | Mark 13:12-13

All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. Mark 13:13 NIV

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. Ephesians 6:13-15 NIV

Endurance, perseverance, waiting. These are not words most Americans like very much. Many of us are waiting right now. We are waiting for our country and the world to be “normal” again. Waiting may be seen as passive, but I believe in God’s kingdom, waiting is actually an active term. Waiting often requires that we display perseverance, and endurance in our faith.

We are called to stand firm in our faith, especially in the waiting. This involves practicing our spiritual muscles, it involves doing the next thing to increase our spiritual stamina, and it requires daily and weekly attention. Otherwise, we will lose ground and not build endurance, stamina, and perseverance.

My husband enjoys long bike rides. But in the Spring, as the weather warms up, he does not start with a 50-mile bike ride. First, he rides 10 miles, then he increases his distance to 15 miles. Each week he rides, he will increase his distance 5 miles until he can ride 50 miles or more in one day. He builds his endurance slowly, and consistently.

There are many ways to build our spiritual endurance. Some examples are 1. Read and study God’s word, 2. Pray often, 3. Spend time connecting with other believers so we can encourage each other and pray with and for each other, 4. Serve other people in need, 5. Sing or listen to worship music.

While we are in this unique season in our country and our world, evaluate how you are building your spiritual endurance. First, turn off the news, and put down your phone. Then consider, could you spend more time praying for our country’s leaders or praying for our church leaders and the South Fellowship search committee? Perhaps you could read and study a book of the Bible you are not very familiar with. Many people are isolated because of the virus, perhaps you could call, email, visit via Zoom room, or write an actual letter to encourage someone today. We can only experience God’s presence in the present, right now, yesterday is gone and tomorrow is not here yet. Find a way to spend some time today in God’s presence. Perhaps take a walk and pray, perhaps listen to music that helps you worship, perhaps read, study and memorize a psalm, or Ephesians 6:10-18. Choose one of these suggestions to do today, this week, this month to build spiritual endurance while waiting.

By Grace Hunter

Endurance in Waiting | Mark 13:12-132020-04-02T14:11:10-06:00

Witness in Waiting | Mark 13:9-11

 “But be on your guard. For they will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. Mark 13:9-11

One of the Olympic events I’ve found interesting to watch has been fencing. The declaration of ‘En garde!’ begins the match, telling the opponents to ‘be on guard’ or be ready to match skills and wits. This is what comes to mind when I read this passage. Just like the opponents in the fencing match who, on hearing the ‘en garde’ step into their appropriate posture, making ready for what’s to come, there’s a posture we’re to have as Jesus followers, especially when injustices come our way.

Imagine how this message was taken by the disciples, especially after they witness the grilling by the councils, beatings, and all the rest Jesus endured in his crucifixion which he had outlined for them earlier. This had to present, at least for a moment, a bleak view of the future. Knowing they would experience all this too (notice the ‘when’ and not ‘if’), if they were at all like me, their mind might have gone straight to what they’d say and do. All manner of theoretical conversation may have ensued in their minds. The words of Jesus ultimately had to be comforting to all of them:

“…do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.” Mark 13:11b

The part about ‘being on guard’ in verse 9 didn’t concern the words to say to whomever they were standing before. No, it had to do with the reality that it would happen, and their reaction. Truly, the need was for them to be in a spiritual posture before God, prepared for suffering and a ‘ready defense’ for the hope each had to those persecuting them (1 Peter 3:14-16). The really inspirational and cool thing was, the ready defense would be supplied by the Holy Spirit! I sincerely believe it’s still this way today.

Right about now, the COVID-19 virus is coursing its way deeper through our country, causing fear for many people we know and love, as well as many we don’t know. These are all eternal beings loved by God. What a wonderful opportunity for us to share our hope with others! While we’re limited in expressing this in personal contact, if someone you know would benefit in your sharing, by all means, share! It could be a message of hope they need to hear, or you might arrive at an expressed need from them you could fulfill. Either way, be an instrument in the hands of Jesus for helping someone cope.

By Rich Obrecht

Witness in Waiting | Mark 13:9-112020-04-02T14:27:59-06:00

Understanding in Waiting | Mark 13:1-6

And as he came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Jesus said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” And as he sat on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew asked him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished?”  And Jesus began to say to them, “See that no one leads you astray.  Many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he!’ and they will lead many astray.” Mark 13:1-6

After Jesus rode the donkey into Jerusalem, he spent the day talking publicly. And now, in this story, his disciples want to speak to him privately. They have questions to ask him. This is one of the last few quality times he will spend with them before his death. He answers their questions, but not the way they probably expected. This chapter in Mark is famous not only because of what Jesus said but where he was saying it, on the Mount of Olives. It has a past, present and future significance in the Scripture, the life of Jesus and his second coming (Zechariah 14:1-4). Testifying to this fact today is approximately 150,000 graves on the side of the Mount of Olives that have been there for 3,000 years. Those buried there want to be at the holy site to walk to the temple mount in their resurrected bodies.

Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question of “what are the signs?” is “see to it that no one misleads you.” It’s like he is saying, “the signs are not the most important here, it’s your relationship to me. You have been with me, you have learned from, you know me. True disciples will be sure because they are in me.” He gives the warning not to be misled by false teachers or special knowledge, but encourages them to be spiritually alert and prepared. He tells them of near and distant events but not their chronology. He wants his disciples to be bold in their commitment, ready to have their heart and their life tested. And for Peter, James, John and Andrew in the next few days, months and years, it was.

If our goal is to live in the way of Jesus with the heart of Jesus, we must know him as intimately as we can. We must know his voice, his character, his ways. We must seek to understand the truth, our faith, and our identity in him while we are waiting for God’s plans to unfold. Bank Tellers learn to spot counterfeit money by studying the real. Turn your eyes upon Jesus, learn something new about him from being with him today. Try writing a resume for Jesus. Who is he, where did he come from, what does he do, and why? Back it up with as much Scripture as you can.

By Donna Burns

Understanding in Waiting | Mark 13:1-62020-04-02T14:06:11-06:00
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