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From The Pastor's Desk
40 Days to the Cross: A Devotional for Lent


Confession: Psalm 38:10–15


  My heart throbs violently, my strength leaves me;

  and the light of my eyes, that also is not with me.

  My friends and companions stand aloof from my affliction,

  and my relatives stand afar off.

  Those who seek my life lay snares as well,

  and those intent on my harm speak threats.

  They also plot deceit all day.

  But as for me, like the deaf I cannot hear,

  and I am like the mute who cannot open his mouth.

  And so I am like a man who hears not,

  and in whose mouth there are no retorts.

  Rather for you I wait, O Yahweh.

  You will answer, O Lord my God.



Reading: Mark 12:13–17


And they sent some of the Pharisees and the Herodians to him so that they could catch him unawares in a statement. And when they came, they said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful and you do not care what anyone thinks, because you do not regard the opinion of people but teach the way of God in truth. Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay or should we not pay?” But because he knew their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why are you testing me? Bring me a denarius so that I can look at it!” So they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” And they said to him, “Caesar’s.” And Jesus said to them, “Give to Caesar the things of Caesar, and to God the things of God!” And they were utterly amazed at him.



Reflection


See their craftiness. They do not say, “Tell us what is good, what is expedient, what is lawful?” but, “What do you think?” They looked to this one object: to betray Him and to set Him at enmity with the rulers. And Mark declaring this—and more plainly discovering their self-will and their murderous disposition—affirms them to have said, “Should we pay [Caesar], or should we not?” (Mark 12:15 NRSV) They were breathing anger and travailing with a plot against Him, yet they feigned respect.

What did He say? “Why are you putting me to the test?” (Matt 22:18 NRSV). He talks with them with more than usual severity. Because their wickedness was now complete and manifest, He cuts deeper. He confounds and silences them by publishing their secret thoughts and making their intent clear to all.

He did these things to repulse their wickedness so that they might not suffer hurt in attempting the same things again. And yet their words were full of respect, for they both called Him Master, and bore witness to His truth and said He was no respecter of persons. Jesus, being God, was not deceived by these things. They also ought to have realized that the rebuke was not the result of conjecture, but a sign of His knowing their secret thoughts.


—JOHN CHRYSOSTOM


HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM



Response


God knows all of your secret thoughts. What areas of your life do you need to give over to Him? How can you turn your worship back to Him in these areas?

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40 Days to the Cross: A Devotional for Lent

Confession: Psalm 38:6–9


  I am bowed down; I am bent over greatly.

  All the day I go about mourning.

  For my loins are full of burning,

  and there is no soundness in my flesh.

  I am faint and crushed greatly;

  I groan because of the roaring of my heart.

  O Lord, all my longing is before you,

  and my sighing is not hidden from you.



Reading: Mark 12:1–12


And he began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard, and put a fence around it, and dug a trough for the winepress, and built a watchtower, and leased it to tenant farmers, and went on a journey. And he sent a slave to the tenant farmers at the proper time, so that he could collect some of the fruit of the vineyard from the tenant farmers. And they seized him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. And again he sent to them another slave, and that one they struck on the head and dishonored. And he sent another, and that one they killed. And he sent many others, some of whom they beat and some of whom they killed. He had one more, a beloved son. Last of all he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But those tenant farmers said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours!’ And they seized and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenant farmers and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this scripture:


  ‘The stone which the builders rejected,

   this has become the cornerstone.

  This came about from the Lord,

   and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”


And they were seeking to arrest him, and they were afraid of the crowd, because they knew that he had told the parable with reference to them. And they left him and went away.



Reflection


The very medicine that we don’t like is the medicine that we ought to have, and the very truths that men object to, and that make them angry, are the truths that bring them to the cross of Christ. What we want is to preach Christ in season and out of season—


  “Tell the old, old story

   Of unseen things above,

  Of Jesus and His glory,

   Of Jesus and His love.”


Why, the stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The very stone that they would not have was the very stone that God chose, and upon this stone He is building His Church now—upon the Rock of Ages. It is Christ, yes, Christ that men want, and then they will get sure food for eternity.


—DWIGHT L. MOODY


MEDICINE FOR THE SOUL



Response


Is there a time in your life when you found it convenient to reject Jesus? Perhaps you thought you could repent later. What brought you back to the gospel?

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40 Days to the Cross: A Devotional for Lent

Confession: Psalm 38:1–5


  O Yahweh, do not rebuke me in your anger

  or chastise me in your wrath.

  For your arrows have sunk into me,

  and your hand has pressed down on me.

  There is no soundness in my flesh because of your indignation.

  There is no health in my bones because of my sin.

  For my iniquities have passed over my head;

  like a heavy burden they are too heavy for me.

  My wounds start to stink; they rot

  because of my foolishness.



Reading: Mark 11:27–33


And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came up to him and said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority that you do these things?” So Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question. Answer me and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. The baptism of John—was it from heaven or from men? Answer me!” And they began to discuss this with one another, saying, “What should we say? If we say ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From men’ ”—they were afraid of the crowd, because they all looked upon John as truly a prophet. And they replied to Jesus saying, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”



Reflection


Jesus, for the sake of men, desired to have Himself revealed by a lamp to the faith of those who believed, that by means of the same lamp His enemies might be confounded.… And the Lord, because they shut the door against themselves by professing ignorance of what they know, did not open to them because they did not knock. For it is said, “Knock, and the door will be opened for you” (Matt 7:7 NRSV). Not only did these not knock that it might be opened to them, but, by denying that they knew, they barred that door against themselves. And the Lord says to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things” (Matt 21:27 NRSV). And they were confounded by means of John; and in them were the words fulfilled, “I have ordained a lamp for mine anointed. His enemies will I clothe with shame.”


—AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO


LECTURES OR TRACTATES ON THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. JOHN



Response


The exchange between the Pharisees and Jesus in Mark 11:26–33 shows both the Pharisees’ unwillingness to believe in Jesus and their unwillingness to state their beliefs publicly (because of their fear of the crowds). Is there a time in your life when you responded to the gospel in the same way?

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40 Days to the Cross: A Devotional for Lent

Confession: Psalm 32:8–11


  I will instruct you and teach you

  in the way that you should go.

  I will advise you with my eye upon you.

  Do not be like a horse or like a mule, without understanding;

  that needs his tackle—bridle and rein—for restraint

  or he would not come near you.

  Many are the pains of the wicked,

  but for the one who trusts Yahweh

  loyal love surrounds him.

  Be glad in Yahweh and rejoice, you righteous,

  and shout for joy, all you upright of heart.



Reading: Mark 11:20–25


And as they passed by early in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered!” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have faith in God! Truly I say to you that whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted up and thrown into the sea!’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him. For this reason I say to you, whatever you pray and ask for, believe that you have received it, and it will be done for you. And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father who is in heaven will also forgive you your sins.”



Reflection


He showed His power to take vengeance. Wherefore not in any other, but in the moistest of all planted things did He work the miracle, so that hence also the miracle appeared greater.


And that you might learn, that for the disciples’ sakes this was done, that He might train them to feel confidence, hear what He said afterwards. “You also shall do greater things, if you are willing to believe and to be confident in prayer” (John 1:50; Matt 21:22 [paraphrases]). All is done for their sake, so that they might not be afraid and tremble at plots against them? For this reason He said this a second time also, to make them cleave to prayer and faith. “For not this only shall you do, but also shall remove mountains; and many more things shall you do, being confident in faith and prayer” (Matt 21:21–22 [paraphrase]).


—JOHN CHRYSOSTOM


HOMILIES OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM



Response


Do you feel confident in prayer and faith? Do you trust that God is at work in your life? He hears your requests. Today, pray in this confidence.

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40 Days to the Cross: A Devotional for Lent

Confession: Psalm 32:6–7


  Therefore let all the faithful pray to you

  at the time for finding you.

  Surely at the flood of many waters they will not reach him.

  You are my hiding place;

  from trouble you preserve me.

  With cries of deliverance you surround me. Selah



Reading: Mark 11:12–19


And on the next day as they were departing from Bethany, he was hungry. And when he saw from a distance a fig tree that had leaves, he went to see if perhaps he would find anything on it. And when he came up to it he found nothing except leaves, because it was not the season for figs. And he responded and said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you any more forever!” And his disciples heard it.

And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered into the temple courts and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple courts, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the chairs of those who were selling doves. And he did not permit anyone to carry objects through the temple courts. And he began to teach and was saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all the nations,’ but you have made it a cave of robbers!” And the chief priests and the scribes heard it, and began considering how they could destroy him. For they were afraid of him because the whole crowd was astounded by his teaching. And when evening came they went out of the city.



Reflection


WE see in the beginning of this passage one of the many proofs that our Lord Jesus Christ was really man. We read that “he was hungry” (Mark 11:12). He had a nature and bodily constitution, like our own in all things, sin only excepted. He could weep and rejoice and suffer pain. He could be weary and need rest. He could be thirsty and need drink. He could be hungry and need food.

Expressions like this should teach us the condescension of Christ. How wonderful they are when we reflect upon them! He who is the eternal God—He who made the world and all that it contains—He from whose hand the fruits of the earth, the fish of the sea, the fowls of the air, the beasts of the field, all had their beginning—He, even He was pleased to suffer hunger when He came into the world to save sinners.


—J.C. RYLE


EXPOSITORY THOUGHTS ON MARK



Response


The book of Hebrews tells us that we do not have a great high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses. How is it an encouragement to know that Jesus experienced weakness and temptation just as we do?

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40 Days to the Cross: A Devotional for Lent

Confession: Psalm 32:1–5


  Happy is he whose transgression is taken away,

  whose sin is covered.

  Happy is a person to whom Yahweh does not impute iniquity

  and in whose spirit there is not deceit.

  When I kept silent, my bones were worn out

  due to my groaning all the day.

  For day and night your hand was heavy upon me.

  My vigor was changed into the dry heat of summer. Selah

  I made known my sin to you, and my iniquity I did not cover.

  I said, “I will confess concerning my transgressions to Yahweh,”

  and you took away the guilt of my sin. Selah


Reading: Mark 11:1–11


And when they came near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples and said to them, “Go into the village before you, and right away as you enter into it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. And if anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say ‘The Lord has need of it, and will send it here again at once.’ ” And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. And some of those who were standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” So they told them, just as Jesus had said, and they allowed them to take it. And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, and he sat on it. And many people spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches they had cut from the fields. And those who went ahead and those who were following were shouting,

“Hosanna!

Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!

Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!

Hosanna in the highest heaven!”

And he went into Jerusalem to the temple, and after looking around at everything, because the hour was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.


Reflection


Consider the great virtues Christ showed us by His human nature in this procession: While He was supreme and rich and powerful above all—as the true Son of God according to the divinity—He did not display the excellence of His majesty before the people by worldly pomp. But with much humility and meekness [He] approached the city, rebellious against Him. This is our king, whom John Baptist proclaimed as the lamb, that was to come into the world: Who for the salvation of the human race drew near to the place of suffering to accomplish the work of our redemption, as it had been revealed to the holy patriarchs and prophets.

He did not turn aside from the face of His enemies, nor dread the holy place because of the malice of the people. Yet, with the greatest charity and compassion, [He] approached the envious and enraged to calm their passions. Moreover, for their coming excesses and evil deeds, He mourned and wept.


—THOMAS À KEMPIS


A MEDITATION ON THE INCARNATION OF CHRIST


Response


The people of Jerusalem welcomed Jesus into the city with shouts and praise because they believed He was going to be a political savior. Do you turn to God only in times of personal crisis or when you need something from Him?

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