Today: Psalms 23; Mark 4:33-41; Mark 5:1-20; Exodus 25-26

Psalms 23 – The Lord is My Shepherd

Sometimes a Bible passage becomes so familiar that we can’t really hear it anymore. Don’t let that happen in your heart with this beautiful Psalm from David. Savor it. Read it slowly. Stop at the end of every sentence and meditate on each image for a few moments. Contemplate our relationship to Jesus, our Shepherd, that is described in this Psalm. He is our protector, our provider, our healing, our guide, our comfort, our safety, our sustenance, our deliverance, our joy, our peace, our shelter. I repeated the word “our” way too many times in that previous sentence intentionally. These promises are to US. They are personal and intimate.

"World's Smallest Seed" painting by James B. Janknegt

Mark 4 – Parable of the Mustard Seed

More gardening imagery! I’m always amazed every year to see what huge plants can grow from tiny seeds. Last year my tomato crop was enormous. I had to wade through tomato vines up to my chest to pick them. It was an incredible harvest of delicious, juicy tomatoes of all different varieties; my best tomato crop ever. What a fantastic miracle that such a massive jungle could grow from a handful of tiny seeds.

The kingdom of heaven is like this. Mustard seeds are tiny too, about the same size as tomato seeds. Yet if they are planted in good soil, watered and cared for, they will produce a huge tree, even larger by far than my tomato jungle. How can this happen? God himself causes it to grow.

"May Jesus Calm This Storm" painting by Jim Melvin

Mark 4 – Jesus Calms the Storm

Jesus tells the fierce storm, “‘Hush, be still,’ and the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.” (v.39) Think about that for a minute. Some of us have heard this story so many times that we don’t really hear it anymore. Jesus talks to a STORM like it is a little child. And it obeys. Wow.

Here we learn more about Jesus’ identity. So far in Mark we’ve learned that Jesus has power to forgive sins, is Lord of the Sabbath, and He also has power to control nature itself. The disciples still do not get it though. “They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who, then, is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?'” (v.41)

Mark 5 – The Demoniac of Gerasenes

What a crazy story! This poor guy was possessed by a legion of demons. That is over 3,000 demons!!! The guy ran around naked, screaming through a graveyard and had superhuman strength. Horror movie stuff!

So many people, including the disciples, did not understand who Jesus really was. But the demons always knew. They immediately recognized Jesus’ deity and His authority over them.

Demons are very real. Jesus certainly believed they were. In every town He visited, Jesus cast demons out of people. He didn’t counsel them about their childhood or give them Prozac. He cast demons out of them. I believe that demonic possession and oppression exist. It is probably much more prevalent than people in our postmodern age suspect.

I believe that many people suffer from demonic oppression today. Satan owns this world and his legions of demons are everywhere, all around us. Of course, we are affected by them.

The good news though is that Jesus is way more powerful than demons. We should know they exist, but we don’t need to be afraid of them if we walk with the Son of God. Demons cower before Him.

"The Walls of Jerusalem" painting by Dan Livni

Exodus 25-26

Isn’t it strange how God gives Moses such detailed instructions for building the tabernacle? Down to specific measurements, placement of items, how many almond blossoms should be included… why was God so picky?

I believe that everything in our natural world has a pure perfect match in heaven. God created our universe in this parallel fashion to allow us to know Him, to teach us about the kingdom of heaven. God’s greatest desire is for us to know Him intimately. So he made all of creation to be an immense puzzle of clues to reveal heaven to us. Isn’t that neat?!

I believe God’s attention to detail for the tabernacle is for the same reason. The author of Hebrews explains that the Jewish temple is “a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: ‘See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain!” (Hebrews 8:5) So God directed Moses to build a COPY of the temple that is in heaven. That is why the instructions are so specific. All of these copies give us glimpses into the kingdom of heaven!