A Prayer Prompted by Mark 6

Heavenly Father,

We understand that you have called us to lives of ministry, lives of service, here in this world.  Though our gifts may differ, our responsibility is much the same. We need to live completely for you.

We also understand that we will continue to learn as we serve. You do not require our training to be complete before you use us, but rather we expect you to train us as we begin to be used.

At the same time we need to count the cost.  

Jesus was rejected repeatedly in his hometown of Nazareth. People knew him, but allowed their familiarity to get in the way of seeing who he really was.

John the Baptist angered selfish rulers who engaged in immoral behavior. It eventually cost him his life. We can expect the same kind of rejection as we seek to serve you.

In Christ,

Amen.

Misunderstanding and Lies – Mark 3:20-35

Jesus’ family thought he was losing it.  The scribes were convinced he was evil.  Neither was right.  Jesus understood them far better than they understood him.

20 Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

22 And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem were saying, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.” … 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”

31 And his mother and his brothers came, and standing outside they sent to him and called him. 32 And a crowd was sitting around him, and they said to him, “Your mother and your brothers are outside, seeking you.” 33 And he answered them, “Who are my mother and my brothers?” 34 And looking about at those who sat around him, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

If we are going to faithfully follow Jesus there are two accusations that we have to expect.  They were leveled at Christ and we will make easy targets for them too.  They are simply:

  1. You are crazy.  If, as Paul says, “the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing” (1 Cor 1:18), then we can expect those who believe it to be looked upon as fools.  
  2. You are evil.  This is almost the oldest lie in the book, since it echoes the serpent’s slander of God, calling his motives into question in dealing with Adam and Eve.  It is an easy switch to move from slander against God to slander against Christ to slander against God’s people.  Again, we can expect it.

The beauty of all of this misunderstanding and outright falsehood is that Christ endured it first.  In our case some of the misunderstanding is justified, some of the criticism is true and, let’s face it, our motives are rarely altogether pure.  Yet even when we really are completely in the right, if we expect to be treated like Jesus, there will be those people who fail to grasp that.  Some of them will be important, like the scribes, so their criticism will feel very demeaning.  Some of them will be close, like our family, so their misunderstanding will hurt.  We can only imagine how Christ felt.

The beginning of the gospel – Mark 1:1

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

The gospel message, euangelion or “good news,” begins with Jesus Christ.  It is the message about him and his coming and about his work.  Mark’s book gives us the story of his life, death and resurrection.  Unlike the quotation that allegedly comes from St. Francis of Assisi, it is full of words from beginning to end.

You may know the little saying that I am talking about, the one that says,

Preach the gospel at all times; when necessary, use words.

With respect to this saying, a little debunking is in order.  First of all, it is not likely that Francis ever said it.  Second, he did gobs of verbal preaching, so he evidently thought using words was necessary pretty much all the time.  

How on earth can news, bad or good, be faithfully and continuously communicated without words anyway?  This is no criticism of good deeds.  It is simply stating the obvious that deeds and words are different things and the gospel is something that takes words.  That is no doubt why Francis preached so much verbally, out loud and in public.  It is also why Mark wrote a book with words rather than a coloring book or a comic book without captions.

Mark Galli wrote a little biography of St. Francis, which is short and readable enough to enjoy by almost anyone.  It is presently available on Amazon for more money than you want to spend on it.  When I bought it, the price was way lower.  If you want, I might cut you a deal on my own copy, and I’d send it to you for much less than that current high price (and still make a handsome profit).  Then again, even the first few paragraphs of his article on Christianity Today will give you enough information to back up my point about the quotation.  The title alone will help.  It is “Speak the Gospel: Use Deeds When Necessary.”  

For the next few months at our church we will be going through Mark’s Gospel and reading every word, chapter by chapter and verse by verse.  Every week we will look at one more portion of Christ’s life and ministry.  We just finished Matthew and the plan is to go through Luke and John after we finish Mark.  This will be lots of gospel, lots of words and lots of Jesus.  It will also give us lots of good news.

The benefit of a little guilt – Matthew 21:28-32

After entering Jerusalem, Jesus told a parable about two sons.

28 “What do you think? A man had two sons. And he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he changed his mind and went. 30 And he went to the other son and said the same. And he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go.31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him.”

Jesus was speaking here to the chief priests and elders of the people who had just questioned his authority (v.23).  He explained this parable without any request to do so, making sure that his audience knew exactly what he was saying by it.

The lesson has to do with doing God’s will in the end, as a final outcome.  Many people express good intentions.  The chief priests and elders would have been perceived as just the kind of people who were known for doing God’s will.  If that were the case, they should have been the first in line expressing their repentance and receiving the baptism of John. 

When we understand the nature of sin, we realize that we are all in need of repentance.  That sense of guilt would be even more pronounced when coming face-to-face with the likes of John the Baptist.  Yet these guys are so numb that they even question the authority of Christ.  Their relationship with God was little more than a nice show, having no humility or sense of need.

On the other hand, tax collectors like Matthew our author and prostitutes saw their sin.  Like the first son in the parable, they did not do the will of the Father from the beginning, but later changed their mind.  They repented at John’s preaching and followed Jesus with transformed lives.  In a culture obsessed as ours is with not making anyone feel bad, let’s take note that as far as Jesus is concerned a little guilt can be a good thing.  There is no repentance without it.

 

The Old/New Commandment – 1 John 2:7-11

Apostle JohnThe Old/New Commandment     1 John 2:7-11

Love one another.  It really is that simple.

1 John 2.07-11.pdf            

1 John 2.07-11.mp3

 

39 Books: Genesis – The Book of Origins

39 Bks Torah Scroll White

Genesis: The Book of Origins

In Genesis we see the foundations for a biblical worldview and the origin of everything.

 

 

01 Genesis,pdf                01 Genesis.mp3

Central Streaming: Resurrection

The_Vision_of_The_Valley_of_The_Dry_Bones-810x557We serve a God who does not assure us that things will keep moving along nicely.  But he does give us hope that thing, ideas, dreams and people that die will rise again.

Ezekiel 36-37.pdf         Ezekiel 36-37.mp3