Daily Devotionals

 
 
 

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Week 12, Thursday, Mark 13:9-27

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Mark 13:9-27

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

This is a passage that is either bypassed or explained away as something in the future that will not affect God’s people. But please pause at this reading. Understand that even now there are some places in the world that Christ-followers experience the catastrophic events and persecution that are mentioned. Go to www.persecution.com or www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution and you will read how real what Jesus said is happening even now. But Jesus also promises that he will come back to rescue those that are suffering for his name. It may not be immediate. And it may come after an anti-Jesus sentiment has risen to very high levels; but he will return. The question is whether adverse circumstances, unpopularity because of belief in Jesus, or danger will shake our faith, and our faithfulness to God’s Kingdom. How do we respond now?

 

Prayer: Forgive me Lord, when I grumble about little discomforts and when I don’t get my way. The truth is that I enjoy a freedom to know you and worship you that I rarely take full advantage of. Help me to understand that there are sisters and brothers around the world that have given their lives to you, Jesus, and are paying a bitter price for it. I know that only you can and have given them the power to remain faithful, and therefore I pray that you will do so. Give me a desire to want your Kingdom to grow beginning at where I live – even if it costs me. I look forward to your return, Lord Jesus, but not before many in the world come to a saving knowledge of you. Amen.

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Week 12, Wednesday, Mark 13:1-8

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

Go to Mark 13:1-8

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

We humans tend to have an “edifice complex”, i.e. we love to put our faith in the grandeur of the architecture of our buildings, like churches, cathedrals, temples… The disciples were no different. Jesus wasn’t being a “party-pooper” when he prophesied the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem. On the one hand that really was going to happen, primarily because the Jewish nation gave more importance to the Temple than the God it stood for and was to be worshiped. But he was also pointing to the time when “the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth” (John 4:23). This destruction of the religious place would also happen because there would come a time when the world would reach such a stage of political, social and spiritual unrest that physical representations of religion like church buildings would no longer be so important. People instead needed to be looking for the transformation that God was going to bring about in individual lives, and in society. Where do we put our trust in? What do we look forward to God transforming?

 

Prayer: I love my buildings, Lord; my church, my house, my workplace… Maybe love them too much. They are, after all, given by you. And they are temporary; at best for a life-time. But you are eternal, O God our Creator. And you are doing something in our world to prepare us for that eternity. Help me to keep my eyes on what you are doing that prepares us for eternity instead of being satisfied with the immediate present. Yes, Lord, I realize that you want us to care for what you have entrusted to us. But you are going to “make all things new”. May I yearn for that with all my heart so that I will not get discouraged when I have to “let go” of those things that are “old”. May you be praised in all things. Amen.

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Week 12, Tuesday, Mark 12:41-44

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

Go to Mark 12:41-44

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

I love the fourth verse of the Christmas carol “In the Bleak Midwinter”: What can I give him, poor as I am? If I were a shepherd, I would bring a lamb; if I were a Wise Man, I would do my part; yet what I can, I give him: give my heart. The attitude is reflective of the widow’s – she gave with her whole heart. Jesus showed the disciples what really pleased the heart of God – it wasn’t the “bigness” of the gifts that are given to him. And usually they were either the surplus of one’s possessions, or a very small percentage of it – what one could “spare”. What Jesus saw was the actual “smallness” (in God’s eyes) of those huge amounts of money the rich gave; and the “bigness” of that widow’s almost negligible amount – because it just wasn’t her giving everything she had, she had given all of herself. I wonder, how will you give to God?

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, you remind me again and again that you did not keep back any of yourself; when you gave, you gave yourself completely, without holding back. How could you be sure that I was/am a “worthy investment”? But that didn’t matter to you, did it Lord? You gave yourself because you loved me, whether or not I would love you in return. Forgive me for my distracted, half-hearted worship. Lord, I give you my heart, soul, mind… everything, especially during difficult time. Amen.

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Week 12, Monday, Mark 12:35-40

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

Go to Mark 12:35-40

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion]

It is Jesus’ turn now to be the one who asks the questions of those so-called religious teachers. Did they really know and understand who this “Messiah” that they were expecting was? Did they really think him to be a human descendant of David, or was he somebody much, much more? I think we can understand what Jesus was trying to say in this way: The way we behave (act) as followers of Jesus is proportional to the way we actually perceive how great and awesome Jesus is. If our perception of Jesus is small then our behavior is likewise small minded. Like the religious teachers’ perception of the Messiah was small – they thought he would be a human descendant of David. They definitely didn’t believe he would be divine (as Jesus was). And so their behavior was likewise so much less than divine – they craved attention and took advantage of the weak; what earthly leaders often tend to do. The person who knows (and experiences) Jesus as He truly is – awesome, almighty, amazing – will behave in like manner. Their thoughts, desires, actions will be far higher and more meaningful than those religious teachers in Jesus’ day. In fact it is such people who are witnesses for Christ, and bring Him pleasure. How big is your perception of your Jesus?

 

Prayer: Lord Jesus, forgive me for often perceiving you as no greater than a remarkable human. But you are much more than that. You are God; awesome, almighty, glorious. And you have given me the privilege of calling myself your child – a child of the King! I want to represent you in every way O Lord. Teach me to act worthy of my Parentage. I want my desires, thoughts, actions/behavior to show that I belong to a Great God – the God who loves unconditionally, who acts on behalf of the voice-less, who identifies Himself with the marginalized and out-caste, who forgives again, and again, and again… Amen.

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Week 11, Saturday, Mark 12:28-34

Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

Go to Mark 12:28-34

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

Reminder: There will be no daily devotion tomorrow, Sunday. Hopefully most of you will be in a House of Worship listening to God yourselves. Go prepared with open hearts, though!

 

What really is this “Great Commandment”? We know it as “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” Jesus went on to say, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But he wasn’t asking us to make a priority list. We as humans love to “mechanize” our lives with check-lists and priorities so that we can check them off one at a time with a sense of satisfaction, “Done! Now for the next thing…” However Jesus did mean love God with… all of ourselves – our desires, thoughts, actions, relationships… So where does church, family, job, pleasure and all those wonderful things that He has given us fit in? And that’s just the point. I believe we are to love our God more than any of them (he once even said we need to “hate” our family, if we were to follow him – obviously an exaggeration/hyperbole; cf. Luke 14:26). Thus there would be times we would love our families as an expression of loving Him. There would be other times when our love for God’s people (church) would be that expression – even to the apparent detriment to our families. Jesus does not want us to compartmentalize our loves, our lives; instead our lives need to be grace-filled by his Love. How do I know when to love whom as an expression of my love of God? I believe it keeps changing (that’s how Grace works!); but I would think He would show that too. And some of it is obvious – like when I have to go to work, or when my child has a fever, or when there’s a fire in the neighbor’s house…

 

Prayer: Lord, forgive me for choosing the easy way and loving you with only that part of me that seems convenient. Your love was not partial. Thank you Jesus, that when Scripture says you loved us, you gave all of yourself for us, to us. May I do the same to you. Amen.

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Week 11, Friday, Mark 12:18-27

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Mark 12:18-27

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

The Sadducees, a Jewish religious sect that did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, came to Jesus with their trick question. What they described was known as Levirate marriage, where a son-less dead man’s family name would be carried on by his widow marrying his younger brother and having a son by him. The Sadducees theoretical question was meant to put Jesus in knots, but as usual Jesus didn’t just “floor” them, he went to the heart of their own problem of misunderstanding and disbelief. Jesus replied, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” (v.24) But I think that’s true about many of our own questions, doubts, misgivings, impatience with God. Do we really know the Scriptures? Do we really know the power of God? If Scripture is all about God saying, “This is who I am – know about me; know me;” if through Scripture and circumstances God has been trying again and again to show us that He works His power on our behalf, for His children’s good… could it be that it is we who are deaf…and blind?

 

Prayer: Lord, have I been deaf to your voice, blind to your mighty acts of love? Your Word does say “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31) Why then do I question your love so often? Forgive me Jesus, if I have neglected your Word, and that neglect has let to ignorance. And that ignorance has led to deafness. It is even possible that that neglect has blinded me to your acts of love because I have been so taken up by the world. Forgive me, Lord. I know deep within me that every promise in your Word is true. Please teach me so that I can see past my own walls to your face of love. Amen.

 
 

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Week 11, Thursday, Mark 12:13-17

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

Go to Mark 12:13-17

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

I wish I could be so wise in giving people such replies when they try to trap me. But Jesus wasn’t trying to be clever when he answered, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.” Sure, that strange but convenient alliance of the super-religious and the pro-establishment was out to trap Jesus with their trick question of who to pay taxes to. The super-religious would emphasize giving only to the Temple (and thereby to the Jewish nation), and denying Rome; the pro-establishment would say just the opposite in order to keep the status quo (and peace with Rome). But for Jesus it wasn’t a case of just fulfilling your duties or the Law. It never is for God (more later in verses 30 & 31). The deeper question is: How do you see yourself and your possessions in relation to the world, and in relation to God? Yes, to be part of the world we need to fulfill our responsibility to society. But we can best do that by first fulfilling our responsibility to God. And what do you think that is? (Does yesterday’s devotion give a hint?)

 

Prayer: Father, I remember reading in Proverbs 9:10 that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” You really don’t want me to show the world that I belong to you by giving people clever answers to their (cunning) questions, do you, Lord. Help me to be a witness to them by my genuine (authentic) devotion to you in all that I am (my identity), and through all that I have (my possessions). I know that only by doing this will I reveal my love, respect, and awe of you, and strangely I will also want to fulfill my responsibility to the society I live in – for your sake! Teach me, change me, and work through me, my Savior, Lord, and Holy One. Amen.

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Week 11, Wednesday, Mark 12:1-12

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram

Go to Mark 12:1-12

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Jesus’ parable is pretty straight-forward. The man clearly owned the vineyard. He also did most of the work – put a wall around it to presumably protect it against animals, dug the wine-press pit, built the watchtower. All that was needed were farmers to actually grow the crop – or grapes. And so the man leased out the land, with the only payment being some of the fruit (I’m sure it was a pre-arranged, mutually agreed upon share). Yet you see how strangely the tenant farmers behave with the man’s servants; they even go to the point of killing the owner’s son to take ownership of the land. Why? It’s easy to exclude oneself and explain away that Jesus was speaking only about the Jewish people. But as I look at the larger picture I see myself as one of the tenants as well. As part of a world that is not comfortable with this radical Jesus and his Kingdom methods, have I not also kept from Him what truly belongs to Him? Have I not also turned a deaf ear to His Voice (through His Word and servants) because it interfered with my own plans? Do I not reject His sacrifice every time I reject His mercy and forgiveness from working in me and through me?

 

Prayer: My loving Lord Jesus; how many times have I grieved you when I became so much more engrossed in the gifts rather than the Giver. You love me so much and therefore you give me every good gift. Oh yes, Lord, I know and acknowledge they come from you. I may even thank you for them. But I find it so hard to give some of them back to you. I become obsessed with my gifts – my family, my job, my possessions, my abilities – and I want to hold on to them. Help me understand that by denying you a share of those gifts (which you gave me in the first place), I am actually denying you parts in my life, and rejecting you as Lord. Forgive me, Jesus; I want to love you as Abraham did, who was willing to give back to you the Isaac You gave him. Amen.

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Week 11, Tuesday, Mark 11:27-33

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Mark 11:27-33

[Please read and meditate on the passage before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

Jesus is back in the Temple courts. The Jewish hierarchy comes challenging him to prove the authority with which he cleared the Temple courts (and maybe the royal, Messianic way he entered Jerusalem). Jesus turns the question on to them by asking them about how they viewed (the now dead) John the Baptist’s authority – was John’s authority human-initiated or divine? In refusing to give an honest answer, the Jewish leaders did what a lot of us do – and end up being the losers for it. They allowed their prejudice to blind their senses to the very blessing they had yearned for so long – the Presence of the Messiah! It’s what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:4, “The god of age has blinded the mind of the unbeliever…” And all because Jesus did not fit their image of Messiahship; they missed the blessing. What about you?

 

Prayer: Forgive me Lord when I let my prejudices and personal preferences blind me to the times you pass me by or even stand in front of me – and I don’t see you! I do want to see you clearly Lord, so I shed all that hinders me from doing so. Open my eyes that I may see… You. In the beauty of your holiness. Amen.

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Week 11, Monday, Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

 Mark Devotionals

by, Rev. Sunil Balasundaram
 

Go to Mark 11:12-14

Go to Mark 11:20-25

[Please read and meditate on the passages before (or after) reading the devotion.]

 

The fig tree was in full leaf, which promised at least some fruit on it – even if they were to be unripe, under-developed figs. But a hungry Jesus found absolutely no trace of figs on the tree. And so he “judges” the tree, that it would never have another opportunity to bear fruit and meet a person’s hunger again. Is this a Jesus that we never knew? Actually this is the same Lord of love, yet reminding the disciple/believer of a dire responsibility that is a part of love. Jesus didn’t just come to save us from sin and hell, so that we will go to heaven. He wants to come into our lives, transform us from being dry, thorny bushes to being fruit-full trees that feed the hungry. Two of these fruits are faith (that believes that God can feed the driest soul) and forgiveness (that cancels others’ wrongs against oneself just as God cancelled our wrongs against Him) that are not meant for the tree (disciple) itself, but are meant to be given away to those that need it the most. Every opportunity for not allowing God’s fruit to show in us is an opportunity missed. And one day there will be no more opportunities.

 

Prayer: Gracious and loving God, this is a hard saying. It even frightens me a bit. But that’s not what you intend, do you, Lord? You want me to be reassured that you will always love me, but it’s a love that I need to be consciously and intentionally receiving into my life by allowing it to work in me – because You are that Love. Your Word reminds me repeatedly that when I allow you to work in me, you will bear fruit in and through me. It’s as natural as a fig tree that at the appropriate time brings forth figs. Lord, forgive me when I don’t allow you full control of my life. Maybe those are the times fruit does not show. So my prayer is: More of you, less of me. Amen.

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