Thursday, September 30, 2010

Called to be New

Mark 2:13-22 NLT  
  13 Then Jesus went out to the lakeshore again and taught the crowds that were coming to him. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Levi got up and followed him.  
  15  Later, Levi invited Jesus and his disciples to his home as dinner guests, along with many tax collectors and other disreputable sinners. (There were many people of this kind among Jesus’ followers.) 16 But when the teachers of religious law who were Pharisees saw him eating with tax collectors and other sinners, they asked his disciples, “Why does he eat with such scum?” 
  17  When Jesus heard this, he told them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do. I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.”
  18 Once when John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting, some people came to Jesus and asked, “Why don’t your disciples fast like John’s disciples and the Pharisees do?” 
  19 Jesus replied, “Do wedding guests fast while celebrating with the groom? Of course not. They can’t fast while the groom is with them. 20 But someday the groom will be taken away from them, and then they will fast.  21 “Besides, who would patch old clothing with new cloth? For the new patch would shrink and rip away from the old cloth, leaving an even bigger tear than before. 22  “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the wine would burst the wine skins, and the wine and the skins would both be lost. New wine calls for new wineskins.”

Levi was considered the lowest of the low by Jewish leaders because he made his living collecting taxes from his countrymen on behalf of the Roman Government. He was a traitor to their nation. However, the Jewish leaders were equally as treasonous because they would not relinquish the authority that Rome had granted them and recognize Jesus as Messiah. For him to be Messiah would require they deny themselves their privileges and the loved their privileges. They were old in their thinking. They could not accept new contents within themselves because they refused to permit God to change their old externals.

Jesus wanted them, and us, to realize that through Faith in Christ we receive new contents that changes us from the inside outward. Our inner nature becomes merged with the Holy Spirit of God who grows our outer nature increasingly into His own image.

The Pharisees desperately hung on to their traditional practices, because with these they could intimidate and control the people of Israel into obeying them. But they objected to the very same tactics by the Roman World Government, though they would not hesitate to use that government for their own personal ends. Old is not compatible with new. God wanted to make them new, as He does us too. Are you new yet? You can be today!

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Sabbath (religious rules) Made to Serve People

Mark 2:27- 3-5  
   2:27 Then Jesus said to them, “The Sabbath was made to meet the needs of people, and not people to meet the requirements of the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord, even over the Sabbath!”
  1 Jesus went into the synagogue again and noticed a man with a deformed hand.  2 Since it was the Sabbath, Jesus’ enemies watched him closely. If he healed the man’s hand, they planned to accuse him of working on the Sabbath.
  3  Jesus said to the man with the deformed hand, “Come and stand in front of everyone.” 4 Then he turned to his critics and asked, “Does the law permit good deeds on the Sabbath, or is it a day for doing evil? Is this a day to save life or to destroy it?” But they wouldn’t answer him.
   5 He looked around at them angrily and was deeply saddened by their hard hearts. Then he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” So the man held out his hand, and it was restored!

Throughout Jesus' ministry the religious leaders continuously attacked him because he-- who is God-- declined to observe their human traditions that had grown up around the notion of 'The Sabbath.'  In fact, Jesus went out of his way to do God's work on The Sabbath, especially where God's work ran contrary to human traditions. He continually trapped the Pharisees in their own arguments about the Sabbath by the quality of His ministry and the results he got. He patiently tried to teach them all but the refused to open their minds to his teaching. To do so would mean they would have to relinquish authority and they were not about to do this. In the previous ten verses, this sort of argument had happened and now in this passage it was happening again. If you can believe it, even 'healing' was considered by Pharisee tradition to be unlawful on the Sabbath. In our passage for today we see Jesus, fully knowing it was sabbath and that he was in a Synagogue where Pharisees would be, 'noticed a man with a deformed hand.'  He really went looking of this man, possibly having seen him before. Jesus called the man up in front. Notice how he took authority in this place supposedly devoted to glorifying God. In this he again demonstrated that He was The Lord. Next he challenged the leaders  about doing good or evil on the Sabbath. They refused his challenge and stood silent, probably holding their collective breath, anticipating what he was about to do.

"He look around at them angrily. . ." Yes the Lord showed the emotion of anger. When people go out of their way to oppose God and prevent good or the release from suffering, that makes God angry! The man's hand was restored, but the hearts of the leaders were made more into cesspools of evil that day. In verse 6 we see how they went to plotting to murder him-- certainly not a behavior we would expect of ministry leaders in any setting.

Are you able to lay aside human traditions that have grown up around your particular church or denomination and embrace the larger 'body of Christ' basics of loving God supremely as demonstrated by serving others unconditionally. Can you release your 'sabbath rules' in favor of whatever God might call you to replace them with?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Have you Heard Him Call Your Name Yet? He is Calling Now!

Mark 3:7-15 NLT  
  7 Jesus went out to the lake with his disciples, and a large crowd followed him. They came from all over Galilee, Judea, 8 Jerusalem, Idumea, from east of the Jordan River, and even from as far north as Tyre and Sidon. The news about his miracles had spread far and wide, and vast numbers of people came to see him. 
  9 Jesus instructed his disciples to have a boat ready so the crowd would not crush him. 10 He had healed many people that day, so all the sick people eagerly pushed forward to touch him. 11 And whenever those possessed by evil spirits caught sight of him, the spirits would throw them to the ground in front of him shrieking, “You are the Son of God!” 12 But Jesus sternly commanded the spirits not to reveal who he was. 13 Afterward Jesus went up on a mountain and called out the ones he wanted to go with him. And they came to him. 14 Then he appointed twelve of them and called them his apostles. They were to accompany him, and he would send them out to preach, 15 giving them authority to cast out demons.

Jesus began his public ministry after 30 years of prayer and preparation. There was not a moment of a day he hadn't prayed for and planned. People heard his message and flocked to him from all across the nation of Israel and surrounding regions. Everywhere the Lord went, the people came to hear him and be touched by him. It quickly became obvious to the Jewish leaders that this 'Messiah' was not going to give them the power and glory they had been yearning for. But the masses came to him instead. And he healed them. There were far more healings than the ones named in scripture who were healed. We know that because of verse 10 "He healed many people that day" We see such phrases throughout the record of his earthly ministry.

Then there were the demons. They tried to stir up the crowd by revealing Jesus' true identity before the people would be ready to receive it. Jesus' response can assure us that even today, as you and I may face demons, He has power to stifle them. And through Him so do we if we will but believe and trust. there was a time when Jesus gave the Apostles power to cast out demons. We know from the Book of Acts that other disciples secondary to the Apostles also exercised such ministry of Jesus in themselves. We can trust that if we are called upon to do so, Christ Jesus the Lord will cast out evil beings through us-- but only if He calls to such a ministry. Any time we think ministry is about ourselves we are embracing evil and need to repent. That was the error of the religious leaders of Jesus' day, and of some today as well. When people try to put Jesus into a little box that they, themselves have defined for him, then they deny the limitless power and nature of God in Christ. They try to make God into their own preferred image.

When people surrender to God's touch and call to a moment-by-moment relationship with him-- when people rely on Christ alone to fulfill them and satisfy their innermost desires then they are blessed in ways that exceed their abilities to 'ask or imagine' (Eph 3:20). These are the very ones that Jesus today is calling out from the crowds. Have you heard him call your name yet?
Your servant

Monday, September 27, 2010

Blaspheming the Holy Spirit-- Eternal Consequences.

Mark 3:22-35 NLT  
  22  But the teachers of religious law who had arrived from Jerusalem said, “He’s possessed by Satan, the prince of demons. That’s where he gets the power to cast out demons.” 
  23  Jesus called them over and responded with an illustration. “How can Satan cast out Satan?” he asked.  24 “A kingdom divided by civil war will collapse. 25 Similarly, a family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 26 And if Satan is divided and fights against himself, how can he stand? He would never survive. 27 Let me illustrate this further. Who is powerful enough to enter the house of a strong man like Satan and plunder his goods? Only someone even stronger—someone who could tie him up and then plunder his house.
   28 “I tell you the truth, all sin and blasphemy can be forgiven, 39 but anyone who blasphemes the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. This is a sin with eternal consequences.” 30 He told them this because they were saying, “He’s possessed by an evil spirit.” 
   31  Then Jesus’ mother and brothers came to see him. They stood outside and sent word for him to come out and talk with them. 32 There was a crowd sitting around Jesus, and someone said, “Your mother and your brothers are outside asking for you.” 
   33 Jesus replied, “Who is my mother? Who are my brothers?” 34 Then he looked at those around him and said, “Look, these are my mother and brothers. 35 Anyone who does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

After discussing the futility of a force fighting against itself, Jesus experienced the ultimate rejection, once again. Those who were influenced by Satan not only rejected Christ as God's Son and as God the Redeemer, but they accused him of being aligned with the devil. It is often the way of evil-- to accuse good of, itself being evil. It has been the goal of The Enemy from before creation to take personal credit for what God has done and to discredit the creator in the process. God is unconditionally loving, but it would be futile to think that no matter what you say or do to or against God, there will be no consequences. Jesus went to many great lengths in his parables to illustrate the ultimate outcome of such a direction taken. Thus we have the warning by Christ, Himself, about the one sin that will not be forgiven. In closing this point Jesus made it clear that those who are obedient to do the will of God the Father by trusting in Christ, the Son, would be as close to Him in eternity as would a mother, brothers, sisters would be in a family.

Are your sins forgiven, when you come to faith in Christ and ask? Yes, of course? Are all your earlier rejections of Christ forgiven? Absolutely! Then what is this blasphemy that Jesus spoke of? Many have written that such blasphemy is to hold on to one's rejection of God's Son and our Redeemer up through the end of one's life. Doing this, eliminates any opportunity to be redeemed.  Coming in at the 11th hour, is good, as Jesus pointed out with his parables about laborers hired at different times, or with his word to the believing criminal on the cross beside him.  You and I must consider the question, are we as close to Jesus Christ as a person would be to mother, or siblings? Or are we at a distance? Is Jesus our Lord and King, or merely one of several influences in our life. Are we doing God's will-- to believe and trust completely in Christ? Or are we risking blasphemy of the Holy Spirit yet today?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Friday, September 24, 2010

Which Seed are You?

Mark 4:3-25NLT  
 3  “Listen! A farmer went out to plant some seed.4 As he scattered it across his field, some of the seed fell on a footpath, and the birds came and ate it. 5 Other seed fell on shallow soil with underlying rock. The seed sprouted quickly because the soil was shallow. 6 But the plant soon wilted under the hot sun, and since it didn’t have deep roots, it died. 7 Other seed fell among thorns that grew up and choked out the tender plants so they produced no grain. 8 Still other seeds fell on fertile soil, and they sprouted, grew, and produced a crop that was thirty, sixty, and even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” 9 Then he said, “Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
Later, when Jesus was alone with the twelve disciples and with the others who were gathered around, they asked him what the parables meant. 
 . . .
  13 Then Jesus said to them, “If you can’t understand the meaning of this parable, how will you understand all the other parables? 14 The farmer plants seed by taking God’s word to others. 15 The seed that fell on the footpath represents those who hear the message, only to have Satan come at once and take it away. 16 The seed on the rocky soil represents those who hear the message and immediately receive it with joy. 17 But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long. They fall away as soon as they have problems or are persecuted for believing God’s word. 18 The seed that fell among the thorns represents others who hear God’s word, 19 but all too quickly the message is crowded out by the worries of this life, the lure of wealth, and the desire for other things, so no fruit is produced. 20 And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!”. . . 23 Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand.”
  24  Then he added, “Pay close attention to what you hear. The closer you listen, the more understanding you will be given—and you will receive even more. 25 To those who listen to my teaching, more understanding will be given. But for those who are not listening, even what little understanding they have will be taken away from them.”

There is much I can say about this passage but none of it would be more informative than the Lord's own explanation of it from verses14 to 25. So may I simply suggest you read that section a couple of times through in a prayerful way. And then, consider these questions.
1. Which seed are you now? Why do you think that?
2. Which seed do you want to be now? What will you do now about that?

Your servant in Christ's love

Thursday, September 23, 2010

How well is this seed of faith growing in you today?

Mark 4:26-32 NLT  
  26 Jesus also said, “The Kingdom of God is like a farmer who scatters seed on the ground. 27 Night and day, while he’s asleep or awake, the seed sprouts and grows, but he does not understand how it happens. 28 The earth produces the crops on its own. First a leaf blade pushes through, then the heads of wheat are formed, and finally the grain ripens. 29 And as soon as the grain is ready, the farmer comes and harvests it with a sickle, for the harvest time has come.”
  30  Jesus said, “How can I describe the Kingdom of God? What story should I use to illustrate it? 31 It is like a mustard seed planted in the ground. It is the smallest of all seeds, 32 but it becomes the largest of all garden plants; it grows long branches, and birds can make nests in its shade.”

Interesting metaphors for a Kingdom. The act of a farmer scattering seed, and then the process of seed-growth happening without control by the farmer explains how this Kingdom, in which our Christian faith makes us citizen, is well beyond our capacity to fully understand, or to control. We are subject to it, rather than it being subject to us. We belong to it, it does not belong to us. When Christ changes our human nature and the Spirit of God inhabits us, making us into a new image, then the seeds of God's Kingdom are growing in us. Much about what we are experiencing depends upon our unconditional faith, and trust in God. We cannot control the Christ-likeness that grows up inside us, we can merely submit to it and embrace it as God unfolds His will in our lives.

Another seed- the tiny mustard seed-- about a millimeter in diameter-- represents this Kingdom of God as we allow it to be planted into our life by faith. The planted seed is hardly visible. Yet, when we permit the unseen forces of God to grow it, the ultimate size and benefit to others in the kingdom are beyond imagining. Many can take refuge in the faith growing within us. Many can find peace under the shade of our faith as we build faith in them and disciple them into a closer walk with God.

How well is this seed of faith growing in you today?
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Have you started to Proclaim What Jesus has Done for You?

Mark 5:1-20 NLT  
  1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake, in the region of the Gerasenes. 2 When Jesus climbed out of the boat, a man possessed by an evil spirit came out from a cemetery to meet him. 3 This man lived among the burial caves and could no longer be restrained, even with a chain. 4 Whenever he was put into chains and shackles—as he often was—he snapped the chains from his wrists and smashed the shackles. No one was strong enough to subdue him. 5 Day and night he wandered among the burial caves and in the hills, howling and cutting himself with sharp stones. 
  6  When Jesus was still some distance away, the man saw him, ran to meet him, and bowed low before him. 7 With a shriek, he screamed, “Why are you interfering with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? In the name of God, I beg you, don’t torture me!”  8 For Jesus had already said to the spirit, “Come out of the man, you evil spirit.”
   ( 9 Then Jesus demanded, “What is your name?” . . .10. . .11. . .12. . 13). . . The evil spirits came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the entire herd of about 2,000 pigs plunged down the steep hillside into the lake and drowned in the water.
(14. . .15). . .16 Then those who had seen what happened told the others about the demon-possessed man and the pigs. 17 And the crowd began pleading with Jesus to go away and leave them alone. 
  18 As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon possessed begged to go with him. 19 But Jesus said, “No, go home to your family, and tell them everything the Lord has done for you and how merciful he has been.” 20 So the man started off to visit the Ten Towns of that region and began to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed at what he told them.

There are so many elements of this story that we could focus upon: the demon-possessed man, the demons, the pigs, the herdsmen and towns people, Jesus' intended message etc. Looking at this man is both a sad and a joyous experience. Can we imagine the torment he had been enduring. The test says that he could not be bound by chains, so they must have tried to do so many times! It says he was constantly shrieking and hollering-- so much pain and agony was he experiencing. It says he continuously cut himself with rocks-- possibly trying to end his agony once and for all.

The text says that he came to greet Jesus. The man must have wanted to seek healing and help. It was the demons who threw him to the ground and shrieked out a warning for Jesus to not heal, but too late, Jesus, upon seeing the man, had immediately commanded their exit. The only question was where. Once that was settled they departed and this left just the man sitting at the feet of Jesus. Probably,  Jesus was teaching, encouraging, and soothing this troubled man now made whole, when the people of the village came up to him. Can you believe it? For the preserving of this one human life and cleansing him, but at the expense of their pigs, they asked the King of the Universe to leave them. How much do people value a life made whole? What if it should cost us some of our livestock? How much do people value interacting with the King of the Universe and of all of Time? What if it should cost them some of their personal preferences?

They asked him to leave. Sometimes some of us might ask HIM to leave as well. Whenever we deny His priorities and embrace our own instead, we may come close to being just like these townspeople. But there was the healed man too. His choice was to go with Jesus, wherever, for however much time it would take, to do whatever Jesus wanted to do. And when Jesus gave him the mission of going home to teach his family the truth, the man embraced Gods call upon his life. Not stopping with his family, the Text tells us that this formerly wretched tortured man--now made whole-- evangelized the all throughout the region known as the Decapolis (The Ten Towns). It says he Started off. . ."to proclaim the great things Jesus had done for him; and everyone was amazed. . . " Have you started off to proclaim what Jesus has done for you yet?
Your servant in Christ's Love

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Who has touched Jesus?

Mark 5:25-34 NLT 
  25 A woman in the crowd had suffered for twelve years with constant bleeding. 26 She had suffered a great deal from many doctors, and over the years she had spent everything she had to pay them, but she had gotten no better. In fact, she had gotten worse. 27 She had heard about Jesus, so she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his robe. 28 For she thought to herself, “If I can just touch his robe, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately the bleeding stopped, and she could feel in her body that she had been healed of her terrible condition. 
  30  Jesus realized at once that healing power had gone out from him, so he turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my robe?”
  31 His disciples said to him, “Look at this crowd pressing around you. How can you ask, ‘Who touched me?’” 
  32 But he kept on looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the frightened woman, trembling at the realization of what had happened to her, came and fell to her knees in front of him and told him what she had done. 34 And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.”

Multi-tasking is something most of us are called upon to implement because of all the things we are asked to do. While Jesus was on his mission (that we discussed in the last edition) a new call for miraculous intervention takes place, at first without his planning to do so. The dear suffering lady, having tried all the the leaders of her society had to offer had given up on human promises and turned her life totally to God. She was not even going to ask the Lord to do something, fearing his denial because she saw herself as insignificant and unworthy. Her plan was a good one-- to touch the edge of the robe of the Son of God as he passed by. She didn't even know Jesus, but, like you and me, had only 'heard about' him. Yet she believed. Her countrymen and women, by and enlarge, were not believing but she believed. She believed so strongly that she did not even have to request it directly from the Lord, but merely had to get low to the ground and touch the edge of his robe as he walked by. She must have figured that he wouldn't notice, others wouldn't notice because they didn't notice her anyway. But she trusted that God would heal her, because this was God passing by. God with us, had been sent to do this very thing so she put her entire faith into Him and set her plan in motion.

What she hadn't counted upon was that Jesus' sensitivity to others and himself was so finely tuned that he would perceive when power was drawn from him to do good to others. Sure enough, he stopped in his mission, his busy walk in the midst of possibly thousands of people crowding around him to see what he was going to do in the other mission.  The crowds didn't see her, but Jesus sensed her and that his power was healing her. "Who touched me" was his response. Even his disciples and the people around him thought it a silly question because he was being jostled by the mass of human bodies.  But he persisted and then He spotted her. When their eyes met, she was humbled, and a bit afraid so she confessed her plan. I am certain, as he listened to her explanation that he smiled broadly, his eyes twinkled at seeing her unusually great faith, and his heart gladdened that at least one of those whom he had come to save had gotten it.  "IT" is all about unconditional trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus affirmed her for her faith and that her suffering had ended. How did he know about her suffering. Their brief conversation did not cover all those details? He knew because the Spirit of God in him knew about the faith this suffering servant held.

How about your faith? Have you touched Jesus in complete faith for whatever it is that God wants to do?
Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, September 20, 2010

They would not believe! Will you?

Mark 5:22-43 NLT  
  22 Then a leader of the local synagogue, whose name was Jairus, arrived. When he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet, 23 pleading fervently with him. “My little daughter is dying,” he said. “Please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live.” 
. . . 
  35  . . . messengers arrived from the home of Jairus, the leader of the synagogue. They told him, “Your daughter is dead. There’s no use troubling the Teacher now.” 
  36 But Jesus overheard them and said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid. Just have faith.” 37 Then Jesus stopped the crowd and wouldn’t let anyone go with him except Peter, James, and John (the brother of James). 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw much commotion and weeping and wailing. 39 He went inside and asked, “Why all this commotion and weeping? The child isn’t dead; she’s only asleep.”
  40  The crowd laughed at him. But he made them all leave, and he took the girl’s father and mother and his three disciples into the room where the girl was lying. 41 Holding her hand, he said to her, “Talitha koum,” which means “Little girl, get up!” 42 And the girl, who was twelve years old, immediately stood up and walked around! They were overwhelmed and totally amazed.  43 Jesus gave them strict orders not to tell anyone what had happened, and then he told them to give her something to eat.

Disbelief is a terribly restricting thing. Jesus had power to do God's will and God's will is not dependent upon our faith or lack thereof. However, the lack of belief is a poison that spoils everyone around the disbeliever when faith is called for. It was not that their laughter and disbelief would have prevented him from doing this great miracle that Jesus expelled all the family mourners who had gathered to do their religious duty. It was so that they would not interfere with the growing faith of Jairus and his wife. Notice in verse that Jairus had faith to come to Jesus and ask Him to "please come and lay your hands on her; heal her so she can live." No one in those days was known for healing someone and forestalling death from illness. There were doctors who tried this and that but Jairus had undoubtedly tried all those. Jairus came to ask for a supernatural miracle for his precious child.

On the way, Jesus was drawn into a different miracle and at its immediate conclusion, the enemy of our souls attacked Jairus with sad news from messengers about his daughter (v. 35). However, Jesus propped up Jairus in this attack saying "don't be afraid, just have faith."  Jesus tells us the same thing regardless of the threat or crisis we might think we are facing. We have the power to dismiss fear and embrace whatever comes our way when we are walking in the Holy Spirit of God.

As they arrived, the professional wailers were there doing their thing and Jesus stopped them telling them they were premature because the child was simply sleeping. True she was probably sleeping the sleep of death but where God is, all things are possible, even reversing the sleep of death. They would not accept this because they were not ready to accept that Jesus was the Son of God-- their Messiah, very God Himself but with them as a human being. Their laughter did not disturb The King of Kings but he did not want to permit it to shake the faith of the hurting parents and the three disciple witnesses. So the laughing 'mourners' were expelled. And their lack of faith caused them to miss out on the greatest thing they could ever see- Jesus raising the dead and restoring life.

It is no different today. People's unwillingness to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and God, and Savior, miss out on the greatest opportunity of their lifetime. They miss out on Jesus raising THEM from the dead.  We need to help them realize what they are missing and pray for them hear from the Holy Spirit of God. We also must be willing to disciple them. Whom have you shared this great news with recently?
Your Servant in Christ's Love

Friday, September 17, 2010

It is what comes from inside that defiles you

Mark 7:14-23 NLT 
  14 Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. 15 It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart.”
  17  Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used.  18 “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you? 19 Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.) 
  20  And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

This story really began back in Verse 1, where the Pharisees criticized the disciples for failing to follow their own practice of ceremonial washing before eating. Pharisees were very big on ceremony. Jesus lets them know that their ceremonies are the sign of hypocrisy in God's eyes because their faith lacked follow through. They failed to submit self and receive God's will ahead of their own preferred traditions. Jesus pointed out their failure to love unconditionally while calling for ceremonies that obfuscate their people's lives with confusion.

Jesus challenges the Pharisees with a direct message to all the people listening that showed the futility of their food-related ceremonies and preferences. In this simple parable Jesus pointed out that evil has nothing to do with food eaten or how it is eaten, but with attitudes that arise within our nature. Evil, such as sexual immorality, homosexual actions theft, murder lies, envy slander, pride, and foolishness-- the list is long but could be much longer-- comes from a decision to engage in it. We have a choice. And once we have surrendered our will to the Holy Spirit of God who resides within our nature, remaking it into His image, then we have power to say 'no' to such evil. We have power to embrace God's priorities and release our own. So the things that defile us spiritually, are decisions to embrace self-desires for evil, and to deny God's priorities each day.

Single decisions for evil can become habitual decisions and lead us away from the life with the Spirit of God. Once we have been given that life and then left it, one wonders if there can ever be a turning back again. I pray so, but I don't want to risk it myself. How about you? Isn't it more joyful simply to embrace God's will today and not continue walking that fence line?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Thursday, September 16, 2010

How have you demonstrated these truths?

Mark 7:24-30 
  24 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre. He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. 25 Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit,  26 and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter. Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia,  27 Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”
  28  She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”  
  29 “Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.” 30 And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.

Jesus knew hearts and minds of those he encountered. He understood how the Jewish leaders were setting traps for him with everything he did and at every turn. They would spin every so that they could claim Jesus opposed Judaism.  In fact, it was they who were opposing Judaism-- at least the Judaism that God ordained for His people. Jesus pointed this out by his actions and his messages. He turned each challenge into a testimony about God's Grace through his ministry.

The Syrian woman asking for healing was well within what God would have wanted done, but Jewish leaders would spin that to become an anti-Israel event. So Jesus posed this question in the hearing of the Jewish leaders observing the exchange between him and the burdened Syrian mother. He was really citing many Old Testament passages that said through Israel the rest of humanity could be saved. The truth was that the Jews themselves, would not believe that Scripture. But the Syrian mom did. She confessed her place to be second behind the Jews awaiting God's grace. By doing so, she demonstrated the very kind of humility that Jesus had been teaching since he began his ministry years earlier. By taking her place as 'the dog under the table' to receive the 'crumbs from the children' The lady confirmed two important truths. First, she proved without doubt that she trusted God and accepted His Lordship in her life. Second, she demonstrated acceptance of God's plan and believed God would respond to her great need, even though what Jesus said did not make sense to her as a Syrian citizen who was not a Jew but oppressed by them.

How have you demonstrated these truths-- that you trust God without reason, and that you are willing to lay aside all of your pride based on nationality, class, family, eduction, race, or other factor. Are you willing to be a servant living by God's grace alone?
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why? Because He Loves Us!

Mark 7:31- 37 NLT
 31 Jesus left Tyre and went up to Sidon before going back to the Sea of Galilee and the region of the Ten Towns.  32 A deaf man with a speech impediment was brought to him, and the people begged Jesus to lay his hands on the man to heal him. 
  33 Jesus led him away from the crowd so they could be alone. He put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then, spitting on his own fingers, he touched the man’s tongue.  34 Looking up to heaven, he sighed and said, “Ephphatha,” which means, “Be opened!” 35 Instantly the man could hear perfectly, and his tongue was freed so he could speak plainly! 
  36  Jesus told the crowd not to tell anyone, but the more he told them not to, the more they spread the news. 37 They were completely amazed and said again and again, “Everything he does is wonderful. He even makes the deaf to hear and gives speech to those who cannot speak.”

We can see how people continuously sought to bring challenges to Jesus that would 'stump' him. In the process they used disabled people as fodder for their evil intents. They brought the disabled to Jesus, not because he Could heal them but because they were sure he wouldn't be able.  And, on the off chance that he might, they wanted to see a show. This reminds me of the odd looking, acting, or deformed persons I saw as a young child at local carnivals. People paid money to laugh at their deformities. This was the case of this poor man who was deaf and who could not speak-- as is often the case with hearing impaired persons who have been that way for very long.

Notice that Jesus did not, at this moment, chastise those who had done this. First he took the man away from the crowds. They must have walked some distance before Jesus was sure the lookieloos had given up the chase. They may have had to duck in between some streets and houses, to evade followers. Then Jesus performed the healing with only the man and his disciples to witness. This miracle was not for the masses to marvel at. It was done because God loved the deaf man and wanted his suffering to stop. It may have also been to teach the disciples a lesson they were yet in process of learning-- that ministry is not about greatness and reputations but about love and service.

Why did Jesus moisten his finger with his own saliva and touch the man's ears and tongue before commanding that they "be opened?" The passage does not give that explanation. It does illustrate that the very voice who said "Let there be light. . ." millennia before this tune  now spoke to the closed ears and stilled tongue of this one whom he had created, commanding them to open and be loosed. As with creation, the result was immediate. The man could hear, and could speak? How did he learn to speak-- even that takes time for most people?  Again, the text does not answer us. But we can recall that Jesus has said "with God, all things are possible." Does this illustrate, yet again that Jesus is God? It does for me. When they returned to the crowd with the man hearing and speaking Jesus told people not to bother telling others? Why? Reverse psychology? I don't know, but they did tell? And it only added to the furor of the national leaders to destroy this gifted Son of God who could open closed ears and loose stilled tongues. Yet, Jesus persevered and saved us? Why? Because He Loves Us, that's why!

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How much bread do you have? What can God do with it?

Mark 8:1-9 NLT
  1  About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
  4  His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?” 
  5  Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” “Seven loaves,” they replied. 
  6  So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd.  7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them. 
  8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food.  9 There were about 4,000 people in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten.

Here it is again-- Jesus doing the supernatural to demonstrate both compassion for the needy and just who he really is--God!  It was not lost on the leaders because this record is followed by verse 9 telling how the Pharisees caught up with him across the lake and argued, demanding proof of "his authority." they knew what he was talking about. They understood he was claiming to be their Messiah. They recognized the scripture passages that he was fulfilling. They just did not want to release their personal purposes and prerogatives upon all that scripture. In short, they wanted to rule and not to serve, yet He was demanding that they serve. This was the first time he was to provide food for an impossibly large crowd, seemingly out of just an individuals small snack. This event came just on the heels of his instantaneous and miraculous curing of a deaf and tongue-tied man. ''

It is kind of like people today-- leaders of our nations-- who demand of God to prove that He is God and that he deserves their attention.  It is like the arrogant members of our academies and scientific communities who demand that God prove Himself to their satisfaction. They don't seem to grasp that they are not the creator-- but He is. They don't get it that they are the creature.  They totally miss the understanding that it is we who must plead with Him and not He who must plead with and satisfy us.

From just a sack lunch, Jesus fed 4 thousand people with seven baskets of left-overs. Not one of our world's leaders or academics have even imagined doing such a thing. Most would rather feed themselves that feed starving others. They will, of course, demand that others feed the poor but not they. Why did Jesus do this? He was concerned because these people had listened to his teaching for three days and were now without food. He needed to strengthen them for their journey home. Now, of course, He could have done it like He had for their ancestors during the 40-year wilderness wander. But he chose something a bit more dramatic and with a purpose-- to generate the equivalent of more than 4 thousand more lunches than the small single lunch of seven biscuits that the disciples could scrape together. He was teaching the people and the disciples as well that God will supply our need if we but trust Him.

How much bread to you have? What would you like Jesus to do with it today?

Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, September 13, 2010

"Why could we not cast out that evil spirit?"

Mark 9:17-29 NLT  
  17 One of the men in the crowd spoke up and said, “Teacher, I brought my son so you could heal him. He is possessed by an evil spirit that won’t let him talk. 18 And whenever this spirit seizes him, it throws him violently to the ground. Then he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and becomes rigid. So I asked your disciples to cast out the evil spirit, but they couldn’t do it.” 
  19  Jesus said to them, “You faithless people! How long must I be with you? How long must I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”
  20  So they brought the boy. But when the evil spirit saw Jesus, it threw the child into a violent convulsion, and he fell to the ground, writhing and foaming at the mouth. 
  21  “How long has this been happening?” Jesus asked the boy’s father. He replied, “Since he was a little boy.  22 The spirit often throws him into the fire or into water, trying to kill him. Have mercy on us and help us, if you can.” 
  23  “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”
  24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” 
  25 When Jesus saw that the crowd of onlookers was growing, he rebuked the evil spirit. “Listen, you spirit that makes this boy unable to hear and speak,” he said. “I command you to come out of this child and never enter him again!”
  26 Then the spirit screamed and threw the boy into another violent convulsion and left him. The boy appeared to be dead. A murmur ran through the crowd as people said, “He’s dead.”  27 But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him to his feet, and he stood up. 
  28  Afterward, when Jesus was alone in the house with his disciples, they asked him, “Why couldn’t we cast out that evil spirit?” 
  29 Jesus replied, “This kind can be cast out only by prayer.”
Mark chooses to record this event in the life of Christ sort of like a script. The only thing missing would be the character names leading each line. Mark was inspired to capture and reveal to us all the nature of Creator God living in Christ and the purpose of Redeemer Christ in coming to humanity. First we read of the incidental characters, the father, the disciples, even the boy troubled by an evil spirit. Though the father's plea was genuine enough, the rest who brought the father and the boy to the disciples were merely looking for an incident to challenge this 'messiah' and discredit him. They would even use the pain of this boy and his father to attempt that.

Jesus immediately saw through their purpose but did not want the boy or the dad to suffer any more at their hands so he engaged the father's plea. Next we see a wonderful teacher, again teaching ultimate truth with questions.  Who among us would not do as the dad did in asking the question with a conditional clause such as "IF."  No one dared to expect such a request ever could be granted, and for one who possessed such power, no one had reason to dare to believe they deserved that he should exercise it just because they asked. So Jesus challenges the faith of the boy's father with a question. The father passed the test. 'Lord I believe (a little) but please help me to believe a lot!'  No one looking on believed any better and Jesus challenged them as well.

Then, at his command the evil was driven out of the boy and he was lifted up whole again. No more is made of the 'he-said' 'she-said' crowed any longer. They had been put into their place, and revealed for their unbelief. But the father was rewarded even for the bit of faith he desperately held on to.  The disciples were also among those needing further teaching. They had been given power over evil spirits much earlier in the ministry and had been sent out in teams, healing and delivering from evil spirits. But they had failed here, so they wanted to understand why.

Jesus' answer is our answer as well. "This kind can be cast out only by prayer." They were not praying but were exercising their personal authority. They were exercising their granted 'power.' They were motivated, not over concern for the boy but by the ability to heal or cast out a demon. In other words their ministry was motivated by a sense of 'self-importance' instead of obedient humble service. Our lesson in all this story is one we have discussed many times elsewhere in scripture. In the life of the body of Christ, it is always about God and never about ourselves. And prayer is the means for engaging with God, for God's purposes, according to God's plans, in God's time, and through God's power to do His will.
Your servant

Friday, September 10, 2010

Will They Believe?

Mark 8:1-9 NLT  
  1 About this time another large crowd had gathered, and the people ran out of food again. Jesus called his disciples and told them, 2 “I feel sorry for these people. They have been here with me for three days, and they have nothing left to eat. 3 If I send them home hungry, they will faint along the way. For some of them have come a long distance.”
  4  His disciples replied, “How are we supposed to find enough food to feed them out here in the wilderness?” 
  5  Jesus asked, “How much bread do you have?” “Seven loaves,” they replied. 
  6  So Jesus told all the people to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves, thanked God for them, and broke them into pieces. He gave them to his disciples, who distributed the bread to the crowd. 7 A few small fish were found, too, so Jesus also blessed these and told the disciples to distribute them. 
  8 They ate as much as they wanted. Afterward, the disciples picked up seven large baskets of leftover food. 9 There were about 4,000 people in the crowd that day, and Jesus sent them home after they had eaten.

What would you think? This preacher, teaching humility and faith, by trusting in God rather than in powerful people managed to provide lunch for you and 3,999 of your closest neighbors without any food supplies to speak of, beyond a small slack lunch. You didn't see any food trucks deliver food and you know there weren't any buildings within miles. How would you respond to this miracle? Would you listen to the preacher and embrace what he taught? Would you consider him the long promised Messiah? If you added all that you had heard about healing the lame and blind, and even the dead, what would you think then? Why was it so hard for people to embrace Jesus then? Why is it so hard now?

My hunch is that there was no amount of evidence that would convince those who refused to believe. They were committed to their own lordship and unwilling to permit any other person to be Lord over them. We have the same trouble today. Miracles will not make the difference. Only FAITH will make the difference. And this faith must be granted by God for we are not capable of generating such faith. Do you think that everyone who goes to a Christian Church on the weekend and participates in activities called "worship" are living Monday through Friday in ways that clearly demonstrate Jesus Christ is their living Lord, Master, and Best friend? How about you?

Your Servant in Christ's love

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do YOU understand yet?

Mark 8:14-21 NLT  
  14 But the disciples had forgotten to bring any food. They had only one loaf of bread with them in the boat.  15 As they were crossing the lake, Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.”
  16 At this they began to argue with each other because they hadn’t brought any bread. 17 Jesus knew what they were saying, so he said, “Why are you arguing about having no bread? Don’t you know or understand even yet? Are your hearts too hard to take it in? 18 ‘You have eyes—can’t you see? You have ears—can’t you hear?’ Don’t you remember anything at all? 19 When I fed the 5,000 with five loaves of bread, how many baskets of leftovers did you pick up afterward?” “Twelve,” they said. 
  20 “And when I fed the 4,000 with seven loaves, how many large baskets of leftovers did you pick up?” “Seven,” they said. 
  21 “Don’t you understand yet?” he asked them. 

Great teachers use great questions to teach their most important lessons. Jesus and the disciples had crossed the lake in a boat leaving hurriedly to escape the crowds. They arrived on the other side only to find more crowds. Concerned about practical things like food, the disciples lamented not remembering to bring any food for there in the wilderness. Jesus posed a metaphorical warning, citing the 'yeast of the Pharisees" --the pride that causes one to be so self-sufficient that he never realizes his need for God's daily routine intervention and provision.  Jesus had to remind them of the miracles providing bread for the large groups in recent days.

God wants us to know that as we are yielded to His will in our daily living, we need not worry and fuss over provisions. We must seek it from Him and receive with joy what He gives. It will always be sufficient to our daily needs. We can rest in confidence when we trust God. We can rest in confidence when we obey God with decisions about our lives, including how we spend our resources. We can trust God when we are living aligned with His will instead of our own. And when we are resting in confident trust through our obedience to God then we can understand about life and provision for living more than ever before when we were doing it all on our own.

Do you understand that yet?

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Who do YOU say that Jesus Christ is?

Mark 8:27-31 NLT 
  27 . . .As they were walking along, he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”
  28  “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other prophets.” 
  29 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?” Peter replied, “You are the Messiah.” 
  30 But Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him. 
  31  Then Jesus began to tell them that the Son of Man must suffer many terrible things and be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He would be killed, but three days later he would rise from the dead.

Jesus had just moments earlier made a blind man to see, right before their eyes. I don't know how many people they had seen do that but I'd bet it was somewhere between zero and zero. They had seen him do so many supernatural miracles, that it may have become routine, if such a thing were possible.  Ho-hum, another lame man made instantly whole, another demon cast out, another vision restoration, just another day on the road with Jesus.  No, I'm sure they did not think of it in such a way, but they continued to miss some of the very important points of his teaching and purposes of his miracles.

Jesus desired them to recognize him for who he was-- the Son of God, the Messiah, the Redeemer, the Sacrificial Lamb of God sent to atone for the sins of the world. They continued to see him as Jesus the miracle worker, Jesus the promised Prince of Israel who would turn the tables on oppressing nations. They had their Messiah agenda and Jesus had his, but these agenda's differed.  So, upon yet another impossible miracle, Jesus asked them to identify how people spoke about him. Then he nailed them with THE question-- but who do YOU say that I am. 

This was a very special question. If they said Messiah, he would ask them what they expected of Messiah. He had already explained to them about his death and resurrection and would again, though they would miss it one more time. If they said they did not know, he might reject them for not paying attention. They all remained silent until Peter-- the impetuous one, the one who would speak when others remained silent. The one who always spoke even when he should have remained silent. But this time he was right to speak. "You are the Messiah. Undoubtedly there was more to the conversation allowing Peter to explain what he meant by 'The Messiah,' but he must have gotten it mostly right for Jesus told them to sit on that knowledge for a while longer, and then explained, again, about his death and resurrection. Even with this great confession by Peter, he would lose faith one more time as he was confronted with what Jesus had just described would happen. He would struggle to believe in the empty tomb. He was the practical man who lived by practical ways and only could accept what his senses told him and common sense verified. So miracles and ministry were a real stretch for Peter.

In the end, Peter stepped up to what Jesus had prepared him to do and he lead the church, then died with many of its early leaders as a martyr. But who do YOU say Jesus is right now today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The Greatest Truth of the Universe is Yours to Deliver

Mark 9:2-13 NLT  
  2 Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed, 3 and his clothes became dazzling white, far whiter than any earthly bleach could ever make them. 4 Then Elijah and Moses appeared and began talking with Jesus. 
  5  Peter exclaimed, “Rabbi, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 6 He said this because he didn’t really know what else to say, for they were all terrified. 
  7  Then a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” 8 Suddenly, when they looked around, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus with them. 
  9 As they went back down the mountain, he told them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  10 So they kept it to themselves, but they often asked each other what he meant by “rising from the dead.”
  11 Then they asked him, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” 
  12  Jesus responded, “Elijah is indeed coming first to get everything ready. Yet why do the Scriptures say that the Son of Man must suffer greatly and be treated with utter contempt? 13 But I tell you, Elijah has already come, and they chose to abuse him, just as the Scriptures predicted.”

Jesus chose his three future leaders of the Church to witness his transfiguration-- when he would begin to retake his original form from Glory before his incarnation. They saw Jesus the Man and their Rabbi, as the Son of God, and glorified, right before their eyes. It shocked them. Shocked people often say silly things and such was Peter's problem with the idea of building 'shelters.' God wasn't even sidetracked by Peter's response and spoke immediately to their hearing-- "This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to Him." Sure Moses the law-giver was a great prophet, and leader. Sure Elijah was a great prophet. But Jesus was greater as He had been telling them for three years.

Their next challenge was two fold. First they were not to talk about what they had seen for it would only confuse the others and they did not need to hear about things they could not yet understand. Then they were to speak of it after his resurrection but that very statement confused them. True to form, they did not ask what could have been the most important question of their day. Probably because he had told them before and they did not want the teacher to think of them as bad learners.  So they just waited until later events would remind them of their question.  Instead they asked a superficial question about Ezekiel's prophesy of Elijah coming back in the end times.  Jesus points out to them that it has happened and the people mistreated him just like they had done to all of the ancient prophets. They then understood John the Baptist was the one sent in the 'spirit and power of Elijah.'

How clear it is that Jesus is God and that He came to be our redeemer. Since it is so very clear, why are you and I so silent about it. Why do we let anything make us sad or depressed? We have the greatest truth of the universe for all time in our heads and hands and we are given authority to share it with others so that it will also change their lives. With whom should you be sharing it today?

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Greatest, The Servants of God All Together in the Kingdom

Mark 9:33-41 NLT 
  33 After they arrived at Capernaum and settled in a house, Jesus asked his disciples, “What were you discussing out on the road?” 34 But they didn’t answer, because they had been arguing about which of them was the greatest.  35 He sat down, called the twelve disciples over to him, and said, “Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else.”
  36  Then he put a little child among them. Taking the child in his arms, he said to them, 37 “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not only me but also my Father who sent me.”
  38 John said to Jesus, “Teacher, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he wasn’t in our group.” 
  39  “Don’t stop him!” Jesus said. “No one who performs a miracle in my name will soon be able to speak evil of me. 40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded.

Still with the child in their midst that we discussed before, Jesus has what teachers like to call "the teachable moment."  He had overheard the disciples conversation on the road but since they didn't ask him about their topic he didn't impose his thoughts. Now he chose to ask them about it. The text tells us they were silent with guilt for they knew, instinctively, their conversation was inappropriate. Their aim was to determine a pecking order among them and between them and all other believers. They were following this great teacher because his greatness would eventually be associated with them in the eyes of a grateful world. Oh, how much they misunderstood about the Kingdom of God they were now engaged in!

Jesus always showed his love and appreciation of children because of their simple, uncomplicated love. They didn't have hidden agendas, just honest emotions. The Teacher starts with a premise he has taught before but had not yet penetrated their understanding. "Whoever wants to be first must take last place and be the servant of everyone else." Nice sounding words but so shocking that they bounce off of most people. We really are not usually seeking to become 'the servant of everyone else."  Usually we are seeking to be served, revered, lauded, recognized, and appreciated. But Jesus wants us in His kingdom to understand this new supernatural Spiritual truth-- becoming selfless and serving others in God's name and for God's glory alone. So welcoming the child on His behalf is the same as welcoming Jesus, he taught them. What we do for the children in our church life in Jesus name is doing it for Jesus. Our church education programs. taking children to church whose families won't, uplifting and helping in times of trouble without expecting any return other than the smile of a child. These things we do for Jesus, and with children. But like Paul later says in His Epistles, not us, rather it is Christ within us who does these selfless things.

Many times we are reticent to minister to another without feeling like they are a potential candidate for our local congregation. But Jesus wants us to know that anyone who seeks Him is a member of the body of Christ, regardless of what local congregation they might attend. We should rejoice with them for their obedient service, and not seek to link them to benefit our local group. We must embrace their efforts to glorify God. If they seek to do miracles in Christ's name they are one of US. If they seek to praise God and Glorify Him by serving others, they are one of US. If they offer, even small helps to others in needs, as the Spirit of God gives them opportunity, they are one of US in the Kingdom of God. And they are to be enjoyed as a blessing to us as much as they are blessing God.

May this day be a time when you enjoy the ministry of many brothers and sisters in God's Kingdom but not necessarily of your local worship family. The Kingdom of God is large across the world and we are all ONE, in Christ.
Your servant in the Lord's Love

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Into Whose Life Will You Bring Flavor?

Mark 9:40-50 NLT
  40 Anyone who is not against us is for us. 41 If anyone gives you even a cup of water because you belong to the Messiah, I tell you the truth, that person will surely be rewarded. 
  42   “But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck. 43 If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one hand than to go into the unquenchable fires of hell with two hands. 45 If your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It’s better to enter eternal life with only one foot than to be thrown into hell with two feet. 47 And if your eye causes you to sin, gouge it out. It’s better to enter the Kingdom of God with only one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell, 48 ‘where the maggots never die and the fire never goes out.’
  49  “For everyone will be tested with fire. 50 Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? You must have the qualities of salt among yourselves and live in peace with each other.”

What a highly packed lesson Jesus delivers in this package.  And it all started when Jesus began with a child among them, but we will talk about that tomorrow.  There are many, today, who are 'against' Jesus and the Body of Christ followers around the world. Even in this North American nation that, once upon a time, dared to call itself a 'Christian Nation.'  It is hardly that now as God and Christ are rejected at most levels high and low in favor of any other religion at all. In once sense, the only truly revered religion of our nation is politics. And it is an utter failure at giving us peace. The stern warning about anyone who is so much against Christ that he or she would teach children to disbelieve should not be taken lightly, especially by those who have custodial care over children. You may not be required to teach a child about Christ but you are in pretty heavy duty trouble if you teach Against Christ to a child.  Those who insist on doing so better get ready to do some deep see diving without scuba gear, according to the paragraph beginning with verse 42. If our body parts are engaged in sinning against a child, we may want to consider doing without those body parts, Jesus said. We also learn some more about the environmental conditions of "Hell." Apparently maggots overrun the place and limitless fire is ever burning. It is essential that we caution people about what they do to children, where Jesus is concerned.

In the first paragraph, we learn that those who bless Christ's followers will, themselves be blessed.  in the last paragraph, starting with verse 49 Jesus gives us the metaphor of Salt-- one that is most often used in English. We are to be the most commonly used flavoring substance for human relationships. Having the capacity to enrich flavor in relationships requires us to live in peace with others. If we are not bringing peace into the life of another, we may need to question just how much Spiritual flavor we are packing around to share.

Into whose life will you bring flavor today?

Your Servant in Christ's Love

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

How close to sin can I get and still not sin?

Mark 10:2-12 NLT 
2 Some Pharisees came and tried to trap him with this question: “Should a man be allowed to divorce his wife?” 
   3  Jesus answered them with a question: “What did Moses say in the law about divorce?”
   4  “Well, he permitted it,” they replied. “He said a man can give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away.” 
   5  But Jesus responded, “He wrote this commandment only as a concession to your hard hearts. 6 But ‘God made them male and female’ from the beginning of creation. 7 ‘This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, 8 and the two are united into one.’ Since they are no longer two but one, 9 let no one split apart what God has joined together.”
   10  Later, when he was alone with his disciples in the house, they brought up the subject again.  11 He told them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries someone else commits adultery against her. 12 And if a woman divorces her husband and marries someone else, she commits adultery.”

Some so-called 'quetions' about ethics and morality are so blatantly manipulative that they are sure signs of inner ultimate evil.  Any question of the sort that asks "just how close to the limit can I get and still be considered innocent?" is intended on violating the principle in the first place. Any time I move away from dead-center commitment to doing a good thing, in the direction of its antithesis, then I have already left good and entered into evil. These academic leaders are a lot like some in the academy that I know today who challenge all notions of God and God's will and seek to shroud themselves in an illusion of intelligence to enforce their evil opinions. This question is so innocuous to us today where we wrestle against people arguing for homosexual marriages and divorces that it almost brings a chuckle. Human morality has gone so far away from God's standard that there hardly seems to be a shred of decency left in the world.

The question was about divorce. Wrong question. The fact that one was thinking of divorce indicated that one was already departing from God's will. He called us who marry to a life of faithfulness toward our partner as unto God. Would we say that we were thinking about walking away from God? No? then we cannot be asking under what circumstances will God allow us to walk away from the one we have married in His name. But the Pharisees didn't really want to know anything about marriage and divorce. They merely wanted to trip up Jesus with what they thought was an Ethical dilemma. True to His nature, Jesus was not trapped by their question because it was instantly revealed as ignorant and the wrong question to ask.

Even the Disciples were taken up with the question because, apparently, divorce was a problem in those days as it is in our own. In the church we have long settled the matter and we don't allow ourselves to get into knit-picking arguments about the salvation of individuals who have divorced. We don't determine who gets saved-- that is up to God alone. All we do is to love them, serve them, teach them and pray for them in whatever circumstances they are going through. People will go through all sorts of mental anguish and arguments in order to justify themselves for doing what they determine they want to do. And, they will invent all sorts of false theologies and doctrines to give themselves permission in the eyes of others.

The real important point in this passage is, for me, at least, that we make our lives centered on doing God's will, trusting God to give us the grace to endure and to protect us from harm.  It is that we engage in love toward others in ways that demonstrates our love comes from the nature of God rather than mankind's fallen nature. What does this passage say to you for today?
Your Servant in Christ's love
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