Friday, October 29, 2010

Hold Tightly to Your Faith

Rev. 2:18-29 NLT  
  18 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Thyatira. This is the message from the Son of God, whose eyes are like flames of fire, whose feet are like polished bronze.
   19 “I know all the things you do. I have seen your love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. And I can see your constant improvement in all these things. 20 “But I have this complaint against you. You are permitting that woman—that Jezebel who calls herself a prophet—to lead my servants astray. She teaches them to commit sexual sin and to eat food offered to idols. 21 I gave her time to repent, but she does not want to turn away from her immorality. 22 “Therefore, I will throw her on a bed of suffering, and those who commit adultery with her will suffer greatly unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds. 23 I will strike her children dead. Then all the churches will know that I am the one who searches out the thoughts and intentions of every person. And I will give to each of you whatever you deserve. 24  “But I also have a message for the rest of you in Thyatira who have not followed this false teaching (‘deeper truths,’ as they call them—depths of Satan, actually). I will ask nothing more of you 25 except that you hold tightly to what you have until I come. 26 To all who are victorious, who obey me to the very end,  To them I will give authority over all the nations. 27 They will rule the nations with an iron rod and smash them like clay pots.
   28 They will have the same authority I received from my Father, and I will also give them the morning star! 29 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.

Church number three, the letter begins with commendations for "love, your faith, your service, and your patient endurance. . . and your constant improvement. . ." How wonderful when our most precious Lord commends us and indicates He is aware of what we are trying to do in His name and by His strength!

Then comes the rest of the Story. Even though many in the church were solid committed, evangelizing believers, the body as a whole had a problem. There were some in the church, including ta type of leader-- a prophetess named "Jezebel" after the Old Testament evil queen of Israel. The sin was the one already discussed with other churches-- tolerating in their midst those who embraced evil--as illustrated by sexual sin.

There is more sin than just sexual sin, but sexual sin is the most commonly cited one. There are even more common sins, however, gossip for one. And those who gossip about the sexual sinner are sinning equally as bad. The Thyatiran Christians were simply looking the other way and not correcting their fellow church members who were affronting God with their blatant disregard for sexual purity according to God's standards. Even though the 'good things' were present in the church, the whole body was being poisoned because they did not correct the evil in their midst. Therein is the challenge. Finding how to correct evil in our church and yet not join evil by abusive gossip and condemnation. We need not add any of our own condemnation to those sinners in our midst- they are condemned already by their behavior. All we must do is pray a lot and then correct them in love according to God's words alone and none of our own.

There would be severe consequence for Jezebel and her fellow revelers, 'unless they repent and turn away from her evil deeds.'  But there was a conciliatory message for the rest. Christ told them to just hand on. Just hold tight to the faith they had 'until I come.'  Christ tells the faithful in our own churches this as well. Just hang on until he comes. Hold tightly to our faith until He comes. Do not relinquish any part of our faith. Do not compromise with sin in any way. Once when I was learning how to be a scuba diver, I was strapped with heavy weights. Then I was fitted with an air vest to hold in my arms. I was tossed into the ocean while fellow divers tried to pull me apart from my vest. As long as I held tightly to it my head stayed above the waives and I could breathe. You can bet my arms gripped around that vest like iron clamps. That is how I picture the meaning of 'hold tightly to your faith.'  Grip it so that it cannot be wrenched out of your arms. Grip it with single minded focus to do so. This leads us to victory. And, as Jesus said, "all who are victorious. . .I will give authority over all the nations. . ." Do you hear and understand what The Spirit says to the churches, and to you?

Your servant,

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Will you be among those who are victorious? You could be!

Rev. 2:12-17 NLT 
  12“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Pergamum. This is the message from the one with the sharp two-edged sword:
  13 “I know that you live in the city where Satan has his throne, yet you have remained loyal to me. You refused to deny me even when Antipas, my faithful witness, was martyred among you there in Satan’s city. 14  “But I have a few complaints against you. You tolerate some among you whose teaching is like that of Balaam, who showed Balak how to trip up the people of Israel. He taught them to sin by eating food offered to idols and by committing sexual sin. 15 In a similar way, you have some Nicolaitans among you who follow the same teaching. 16 Repent of your sin, or I will come to you suddenly and fight against them with the sword of my mouth. 17  “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.

Church number two-- or, perhaps the second type of decline that was to occur across history in Christ's church-- sexual compromise. I don't know about previous centuries but I do know that today's churches are fraught with people who are conflicted in compromise over sin that often involves sex in one way or another. Yes there are other sins too-- gossip and slander are among them to be sure, but in almost any Christian church today you are going to find members violating God's laws about sexual purity. Whether it is married adults involved in adultery or unmarried persons in fornication, or lust, or lewd and lascivious behavior, there are people who think that they can claim to be Christ followers yet violate God's standards for sexual purity.

This church, in Pergamum, Christ said, was where Satan has his throne. This was because Pergamum was the center of four devil worshiping cults that involved sex in worship activities. And some members of Christ's church there were enticed into making compromise with those activities, thinking that to engage in them did not injure their faith in the Lord. But the Lord wanted them, and us today as well, to know that it would hurt them badly. He wants us all to understand that there can be NO compromise with God's standards. It was the sin of those "Nicolaitans," whom Jesus hated, that tricked believers into thinking they could engage in physical lust and sex outside of marriage without conflict in their Faith in Christ. However, when one has faith in Christ, then Christ is Lord. And, since Christ taught that his followers would be doing as HE did, and no longer pursuing our own personal preferred activities-- as He pursued God's priorities-- then it does not sit well with him for a Christian to choose to violate God's laws regarding sexual relations. For the record, NO! One cannot continue to engage in adultery or fornication and still be a man or woman of faith. NO! One cannot engage in homosexual activities and remain a Christian in God's eyes. NO! One cannot engage in violations about relationships with people covered in the commandments, and still be a member of the body of Christ. I am not the one saying so, it is Christ Himself who says so. So, when our brother or sister in Christ is known to be so engaged, we do them disservice by ignoring it. We should really warn them-- that is, if we love them. Christ can deliver us from all sin, if we will let Him.

Will you be among the victorious who receive the "hidden manna" and the new name on a white stone from Christ?

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Do you Have Ears to Hear What the Spirit Says?

Rev. 2:1-7 NLT
  1 “Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
  2  “I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. 3 You have patiently suffered for me without quitting. 4 “But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! 5 Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. 6 But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do. 7 “Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.
In the end of Chapter One, Christ explained the seven lamp stands as being the seven churches. Seven, you recall, means complete Godly perfection. So the seven lamps can represent the perfect body of Christ-- the Church. He explained the seven stars that he held as the 'angles' of the seven churches. But there would be no reason for Christ to dictate a letter through John to angels, he has much more rapid means of communicating with them. These, no doubt represented the leader or pastor of those churches. Today they represent leaders in each and all of our local congregations, national denominations, and regional religious organizations. The warnings to them are explicit. It is clear that God intends to hold accountable those who presume to be leaders in His church. And all of the abuses that have been perpetrated by church and Christian leaders are going to be dealt with by God. The most severe of those will be that in absence of repentance they will lose their place among the lamp stands-- or in The Church.

In today's passage we see the first letter, or the letter to the first phase of The Church of Christ-- the one that begins to drift cold and off target; the one that becomes so obsessed with its religious processes that it loses the Christ compassionate heart; the one that forgets to serve in unconditional love. Here we see a call to the church locked into its 'churchiness' to return to unconditional love for Christ. Do we hear the invitation back to complete surrender of self will, self protection, self promotion? Jesus says that they have fallen far. They can still repent, but if they don't, the consequence will be most severe. He had already said that they had accomplished many good deeds, but good deeds are not the point in the body of Christ. Total surrender, complete obedience, and Christ-centeredness are the what it is all about to live in the Body of Christ.

How about you and me? Do we have ears to hear? Are we listening and understanding what the Spirit is saying to the Churches? Will we be among those who are victorious? Will we receive the fruit from the "Tree of life in the paradise of God?" We can be.

Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When we See Christ, What Will He Look Like to Us?

Rev. 1:7-16 NLT 
7 Look! He comes with the clouds of heaven. And everyone will see him—  even those who pierced him. And all the nations of the world  will mourn for him.  Yes! Amen! '
  8 “I am the Alpha and the Omega—the beginning and the end,” says the Lord God. “I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come—the Almighty One.” 
  9 I, John, am your brother and your partner in suffering and in God’s Kingdom and in the patient endurance to which Jesus calls us. I was exiled to the island of Patmos for preaching the word of God and for my testimony about Jesus. 10 It was the Lord’s Day, and I was worshiping in the Spirit. Suddenly, I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet blast. 11 It said, “Write in a book everything you see, and send it to the seven churches in the cities of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.”
  12 When I turned to see who was speaking to me, I saw seven gold lampstands. 13 And standing in the middle of the lampstands was someone like the Son of Man. He was wearing a long robe with a gold sash across his chest. 14 His head and his hair were white like wool, as white as snow. And his eyes were like flames of fire. 15 His feet were like polished bronze refined in a furnace, and his voice thundered like mighty ocean waves. 16 He held seven stars in his right hand, and a sharp two-edged sword came from his mouth. And his face was like the sun in all its brilliance.

The Lord Jesus Christ came, humbling himself as a human and accepted the lowliest place among men to live his 33-year sacrificial life. He who owned all that exists left it and accepted abject poverty, powerlessness, and became subject to human authorities. However, John shows us the Risen and Ascended Christ in His grandeur. No longer the simple carpenter from Nazareth, but once again the King of the Universe He had created, Jesus stands before his friend John the beloved and gives a message for His beloved church of believers.

The image before John has lead to endless interpretation but its meaning can be made plainly simple in God's Holy Spirit. After all, it was HE who wanted this message communicated to us. Thus, it could not have been a riddle hard to crack. But it would require a cipher-- the Holy Spirit living within the individual to make its meaning plain and apply it to daily living. The message tells of God--Christ, the King of all. It speaks of lampstands. Jesus commanded us to be lamps lighting the way of others toward Him. So the surrounding lampstands-- seven of them-- are the perfection of the complete Church of Jesus Christ-- lacking none. The seven-fold spirit of God mentioned in earlier verses are reflected in the seven-fold lampstands of the Church. We know they are the church because in later verses the messenger cautions one of the churches that failure to respond would result in losing their 'lampstand,' or their membership in the Church of the Lord Jesus Christ. The King's white hair represents pure wisdom and divine nature, the wool likeness was reminiscent of him being the sacrificial lamb slain for the sins of mankind. His brilliant eyes illustrate judgment of evil and the gold sash marks his role as high priest going before The Father to ask for the forgiveness of believing mankind from sin.

The command to write and to send to the seven churches of Asia minor also represents sending it to the church throughout the Church Age. Each church was real but illustrated a state of the church in one or more of its localities throughout the coming centuries. The words of encouragement and warning were intended to teach, correct, lift up, and clarify that in the Body of Christ there can be no compromise with evil for Christ has conquered evil.
Your servant in Christ's Love

Monday, October 25, 2010

A letter from God to You and me!

Rev. 1:1-6 NLT 
   1 This is a revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants the events that must soon take place. He sent an angel to present this revelation to his servant John, 2 who faithfully reported everything he saw. This is his report of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. 
   3  God blesses the one who reads the words of this prophecy to the church, and he blesses all who listen to its message and obey what it says, for the time is near. 
   4 This letter is from John to the seven churches in the province of Asia. Grace and peace to you from the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come; from the sevenfold Spirit before his throne;  5 and from Jesus Christ. He is the faithful witness to these things, the first to rise from the dead, and the ruler of all the kings of the world. All glory to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by shedding his blood for us. 6 He has made us a Kingdom of priests for God his Father. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Different theologians and Bible Scholars honestly disagree over interpreting the message of this Book-- the Revelation, but there are truths indisputable in it we can draw to guide our Christian living and thinking. The letter could have been written to seven specific churches in Asia Minor between 69 AD to 95 AD. Even that is disputable with honest opinions being expressed. However, one thing is clear.  Jesus is communicating to His body- the Church. He has messages to seven specific churches but they also are good messages to all local congregations in all denominations across the ensuing two thousand years.

The second message (v3) is also clear-- that those who are willing to read Christ's letter to the local church will be blessed. Those who listen and prayerfully apply Christ's letter to their daily living will also be specially blessed by God. The letter was written by John the Apostle-- who was reported to be closest among the Apostles to Jesus. Jesus knew he could give something precious to John for communicating to His Church and John would carry out the mission. The letter was dictated to John by Angelic messengers, probably the 'Angel of God' Himself -- angelic appearance of the Triune God. It tells us that the Spirit of God is a seven-fold Spirit-- meaning all complete. Several images that John will report to us from what he was shown represent the Nature of God: all seeing, all knowing, all powerful, unconditionally loving, Perfect Justice, etc. Jesus Christ is identified as a Cosigner along with God the Father and Spirit of the letter in verse 5. Christ is called "the faithful witness to these things" meaning all that was revealed to John was witnessed to by Christ.

Whether the meaning spans time or applied specifically to them in the first century and then generally to the rest of the Church age, we can't know for sure, but we can know that Jesus witnessed it all, placing him outside of time and Lord over time. Verse 6 affirms our roles in all of this-- we are "Priests for God."  We are the ones who were called to bring others to God-- that is the role of a priest. We are called to pray for others-- that is the role of a priest. We are the ones called to teach others what God has taught us-- that, too is the role of a priest.
Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Accept what God had done, is doing, and will do.

Isaiah  2:12-17NLT  
  12 For the LORD of Heaven’s Armies has a day of reckoning. He will punish the proud and mighty and bring down everything that is exalted. 13 He will cut down the tall cedars of Lebanon and all the mighty oaks of Bashan. 14 He will level all the high mountains and all the lofty hills. 15 He will break down every high tower  and every fortified wall. 16 He will destroy all the great trading ships  and every magnificent vessel. 17 Human pride will be humbled, and human arrogance will be brought down.  Only the LORD will be exalted on that day of judgment.

Isaiah continues to unpack the message from God about the long-distant future to his time in 700 BC. This message was written down for us all well over two thousand seven hundred years ago in human time. In God's eternal time, who knows what that might be like. The point is that God had a plan. In fact, the Psalmists wrote about this plan that God had right from the very foundations of creation itself-- thousands, perhaps millions of years prior to Isaiah. God knew what self-authorized humanity would do and what it would take to change things. He could have created nice obedient automatons-- robots-- but that would not be love. God created people who could have the potential to love like God loves-- without condition.

The fall of humanity into sin brought with it, self-centered nature. With that came pride and arrogance. But through the sacrifice of God, those things can be healed and replaced with a new nature. As powerful as fallen sinful nature is, God is more powerful and can change it. God revealed to Isaiah, across the years of his prophetic ministry, that The Messiah, the Sacrificial Lamb of God, the Redeemer, would come and change all that had gone awry. He revealed to the early Apostles, especially John, and early disciples of Jesus Christ, that a time could come any moment when God will sweep away the bondage of evil and all who clink to evil as their preference. The greatest creations of humanity will crumble in the presence of God. And when these have all crumbled, then God will establish the new eternal human order without sin.

As remote as that might seem to us today, looking into the future, imagine how distant that must have seemed to Isaiah 2,700 years ago. Yet he did not doubt for a second. Neither did the Apostle John, 700 years later because he had seen the Messiah and seen Him die-- and saw Him risen, and saw Him again enthroned beyond time. And we have both their testimonials to this. Let us lay aside any and all arrogance that contributes to our personal doubt and simply accept by faith what God has done, what God is doing, and what God will do.
Your servant in Christ's love

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Human Pride Brought Down, Human Arrogance Humbled

Isaiah. 2:1-11 NLT  
  1 This is a vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2  In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house will be the highest of all—  the most important place on earth. It will be raised above the other hills, and people from all over the world will stream there to worship. 3 People from many nations will come and say,  “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of Jacob’s God. There he will teach us his ways, and we will walk in his paths.” For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion; his word will go out from Jerusalem. 4 The LORD will mediate between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into plowshares  and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation,  nor train for war anymore. 5 Come, descendants of Jacob,  let us walk in the light of the LORD! 6 For the LORD has rejected his people, the descendants of Jacob,  because they have filled their land with practices from the East and with sorcerers, as the Philistines do. They have made alliances with pagans. 7  Israel is full of silver and gold;  there is no end to its treasures. Their land is full of warhorses;  there is no end to its chariots. 8 Their land is full of idols;  the people worship things they have made with their own hands. 9 So now they will be humbled,  and all will be brought low—  do not forgive them. 10 Crawl into caves in the rocks. Hide in the dust  from the terror of the LORD  and the glory of his majesty. 11 Human pride will be brought down, and human arrogance will be humbled. Only the LORD will be exalted on that day of judgment.

Since Isaiah was inspired to write this to Israel in about 700 BC Much has transpired on the world scene. Twice, the nation Israel has been destroyed and twice it has been supernaturally restored, in the midst of violent opposition by surrounding nations. Prior to its second destruction God fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah which was about the coming of Messiah and the expanding of "God's People" to include both Jews and Gentiles who trusted in Messiah for salvation rather than works or religious rules. The first warnings were against the people of Israel. The subsequent warnings found over in the Book of Revelation can be considered as focused on all God's followers who have claimed Christ as Savior and Lord.

Throughout its History, never has Jerusalem fulfilled the described circumstance in this passage. It has been taken to mean fulfillment during the time of a physical earthly reign of Messiah from Jerusalem. In the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, and Revelation we understand that time to begin subsequent to Christ's second coming to earth and to last for a thousand-year period prior to a final battle and total re-creation of perfected humanity and the universe. But what would be God's point to reveal such things seven centuries before the Messiah would come and another 20 or more centuries before it would possibly take place? Because I'm asking the question, please do not think I have anything close to an accurate answer.

When I consider reasons why the above description does NOT fit our day, I realize that humanity has continued to rush down its path of replacing Creator God with its own created self to sit in the Lordship chair. And even in that, humans cannot agree and continuously conflict with each other as to which of them get to place their god on the universal throne and Crown it over everyone Else's little god. If God's people, the ones chosen through faith in Jesus Christ, will live up to the ways God is recreating them, then the seeds of this perfected life can begin to be sown. However, it will yet take God's full intervention in History to wipe away that portion of humanity dead-set on denying God and being the god of everyone else.

Verses 9-11 reflect a time echoed in the Book of Revelation and describing the people of the world responding to the coming Holy God. Even in that opportunity to repent they refuse and merely pray to boulders to crush them instead. They prefer to die in their sin than repent for eternal life. They are caught up in the lie of the Evil One and refuse to be set free. How about you? Is pride and arrogance something you should ask God to remove from your life?
Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Rebellion of People Whom God Loves

Is. 1:1-9 NLT 
  1 These are the visions that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. He saw these 2 Listen, O heavens! Pay attention, earth! This is what the LORD says: “The children I raised and cared for have rebelled against me. 3  Even an ox knows its owner,  and a donkey recognizes its master’s care— but Israel doesn’t know its master. My people don’t recognize my care for them.” 4  Oh, what a sinful nation they are— loaded down with a burden of guilt. They are evil people,  corrupt children who have rejected the LORD. They have despised the Holy One of Israel  and turned their backs on him. 
   5 Why do you continue to invite punishment?  Must you rebel forever? Your head is injured, and your heart is sick. 6 You are battered from head to foot— covered with bruises, welts, and infected wounds— without any soothing ointments or bandages. 7 Your country lies in ruins, and your towns are burned. Foreigners plunder your fields before your eyes and destroy everything they see. 8 Beautiful Jerusalem stands abandoned like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard, like a lean-to in a cucumber field after the harvest,  like a helpless city under siege. 9  If the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of us,  we would have been wiped out like Sodom,  destroyed like Gomorrah.

We start a challenging investigation when we begin to read the Book of Isaiah. The prophet was famous for telling it like it was, where God was concerned. He didn't play political games with the privileged and the leaders. He was directed to speak for God and that was what he did. Many of us today run scared when it comes to speaking God's written word boldly fearing that the state and its minions will charge us with some crime. We must speak boldly for the Lord according to His inspired written Word. We must never make exception or attempt to soften what God says, but should put it forth accurately. It doesn't matter if other religions don't like what God's Word says. It doesn't matter if groups of people who have chosen to live in defiance of God's moral laws and principals think the Bible is 'hateful' or 'hate-speech.' What matters is that we just speak it forth.

In Isaiah's day the people of God were also trying to make exception for the truth of God's Word. They trying to have privilege for those in control of the government, and the Truth of the Scriptures were often laid to rest in favor of personal privileges for the religious leaders. In his writing of what God instructed, Isaiah condemned the people of Israel for their corruption. Of course not all Israelites were corrupt, just the ruling class. The poor were at their mercy and could do nothing to stop them. The Israeli rulers often cheated and persecuted the poor to line their own pockets. Come to think of it, that may not be so different from some political leaders and top administrators in major church bodies today.

God's Word given to Isaiah is pretty clear that those of us who call ourselves God's people are playing with fire when we live faithless to His teaching, priorities, and principles. The 'Chosen People' of Isaiah's day had to bear some pretty heavy consequences wherein God tried to get their attention. In modern times, the Church of God through faith in Christ may have to bear some consequence for our ineffective lifestyles. Revelation chapters 1-3 contain some pretty stern warnings by Christ to members of His churches, just like Isaiah contained warnings to those 'chosen people' for their own lack of faithfulness. God said they had rebelled.

Have we rebelled as members in the Church of Jesus Christ? Have you?

Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, October 8, 2010

On whom are you focused for living today? Yourself? or God?

Mark 1:4-13 NLT    
  4 This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven. 5 All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins, he baptized them in the Jordan River. 6 His clothes were woven from coarse camel hair, and he wore a leather belt around his waist. For food he ate locusts and wild honey. 
  7 John announced: “Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to stoop down like a slave and untie the straps of his sandals. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit!” 
  9 One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. 10 As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.” 
  12 The Spirit then compelled Jesus to go into the wilderness, 13 where he was tempted by Satan for forty days. He was out among the wild animals, and angels took care of him.

The Apostle Mark had a way of compressing lengthy episodes into a line or two. He would have made a good staff writer for Readers' Digest, I suspect. He gives us three episodes in these few verses, each of which has occupied full length books by other authors.  But, then Mark was writing for an audience of ONE-- the Lord God who inspired him. And he wrote to fulfil God's purpose and communicate God's message so it was not up to him to make the book sell-able. He simply told the story he knew in his heart-- Jesus Christ came from God, became human, fulfilled the long-prophesied sacrifice for humanity's sin, over came death, and returned to God to reconcile all who would believe back to God.

He describes the ordained herald of the Anointed Lamb of God-- John. The key point of John baptising was that Christ submitted himself to be baptized in public view, to fulfil all. While all were confessing their Sins, the One who knew no sin was baptized for their confessions, as he would later pay for their sins with his life. John's own testimony about the Christ was sufficient to settle the matter but the human leaders began to resist from that very point and continued until they had been manipulated by Satan to take the life of the Lamb of God. Of course none of them understood that they could never 'take' what was given so freely by Christ and by God.But John's voice was not the only voice. There was the voice of God, Himself saying "you are my loved Son, and you bring me great Joy."

After the baptism, Mark fast-forwards the story to Christ in the wilderness facing temptation for forty days. Other Gospel writers fill in the details, but they were not as important to Mark. His point was the Christ suffered temptation. In the other Gospel accounts we learn how potentially overpowering those temptations were. Hunger and dehydration after 40 days without food OR water! Who among us could endure that and even live?  Then being challenged to perform miracles to prove his power, if only to satisfy his needs would have been a test that few, if any of us, could have faced in our own strength, had we lived those 40 days. Afterword, the famous short cut-- just worship me and you won't have to go through all this stuff, I'll go away and leave them all alone" was what the Enemy said. Of course he lied. He could do nothing but lie so never can a promise by Satan be taken as worth anything at all. But Mark sums all this up in the phrase "tempted by Satan for 40 days." And when it was over, mark points out that God restored Christ to wholeness after his ordeal by having angels care for him.

There are other Scriptures that mention angels who care for us, as well, though we don't focus on them much and there are only a few. From some we know that even those angels don't want our attention but care for us to help us focus our attention on God and The Lamb of God, The Lord Jesus Christ.

On whom are you focused for living today? Yourself? or God?
Your servant in Christ's love

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ready to Do Some Fishing?

Mark 1:14-20 NLT 
  14 Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. 15 “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!”
  16  One day as Jesus was walking along the shore of the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew throwing a net into the water, for they fished for a living. 17 Jesus called out to them, “Come, follow me, and I will show you how to fish for people!”18 And they left their nets at once and followed him. 
  19 A little farther up the shore Jesus saw Zebedee’s sons, James and John, in a boat repairing their nets. 20 He called them at once, and they also followed him, leaving their father, Zebedee, in the boat with the hired men.

This part of the Gospel story always amazes me. Here were these guys working at their day-jobs and Jesus calls them to follow.  He didn't just invite them to his church on Sunday, or to a one night a week Bible study. He didn't just ask them to simply listen to him preach and reflect. Jesus invited them to stop what they were doing for their full time livelihood and follow Him around, learning to minister in the new way-- through the love of Christ. He invited them to leave the kingdom of this world and step into the Kingdom of God-- which He explained was 'near.' Later on we see him explain to one of the more friendly of the Pharisees that he was "not far form the Kingdom." But these guys are 'near to it and by responding to Christ's invitation they could be stepping directly into it.

To the fisher-persons Jesus invites them to come and learn how to fish for people, catching them for the Kingdom of God. Later in the story, He invites the intellectual Nathanael to come and discover God's greater truths. The hated tax collector was invited to find a place of belonging and 'be my disciple.' You and I are called to follow Christ as well. Notice how these who became apostles responded. They left it all to follow. They had their struggles but they followed. They didn't all become 'apostles' that first day or event the first year. They were trained and chosen according to God's plan. Christ did not reveal to them what their whole life plan was to be in ministry but taught them for three years to learn to live in a day-by-day trusting faith and obedience with what they knew for the moment.

Have you realized that you, too, are called by Christ to follow without reservation? He may not have asked you to leave a job. To the contrary you may want to leave it but He asks you to stay there and be His 'salt' and 'light' in that place. He may not ask you to go to some exotic far off place, but rather to remain where he has planted you to be His witness. The whole world is now a mission field. Down town or suburban Los Angeles is no less dark and lost than the jungles of South America or the plains of Arabia. Darkness fills the earth and we are called to catch persons for God wherever we are.

Ready to do some fishing?

Your servant in Christ's love

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Has the News about Jesus Spread Quickly Throughout your Region?

Mark 1:21-28 NLT  
  21 Jesus and his companions went to the town of Capernaum. When the Sabbath day came, he went into the synagogue and began to teach.  22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught with real authority—quite unlike the teachers of religious law. 
  23 Suddenly, a man in the synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit began shouting, 24 “Why are you interfering with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” 
  25 Jesus cut him short. “Be quiet! Come out of the man,” he ordered.  26 At that, the evil spirit screamed, threw the man into a convulsion, and then came out of him. 
  27 Amazement gripped the audience, and they began to discuss what had happened. “What sort of new teaching is this?” they asked excitedly. “It has such authority! Even evil spirits obey his orders!” 28 The news about Jesus spread quickly throughout the entire region of Galilee.

God's word tells us in many places about the authority associated with even the name of Jesus Christ. Just his name will eventually bring every being to their knees. The authority of God present was always where Jesus stood. When Jesus spoke, God spoke. Demons recognized this but people were so self-absorbed that they most often could not. The same is try today in the 21st century. God's Word speaks about truth but mankind refutes Truth with man's lies. Demons lie to humans to get them to speak falsehoods to the face of God, though they, themselves are powerless to do so.

Those demons were fearful that Jesus had come to destroy them. One day He will, along with all evil and evil ones, as well as all humans who refuse God's grace and prefer their own lies. It is a foolish thing to deny God. When you hear of the brilliant people of science, Dawkins, Hawking, and the like refute God, remember they are willingly embracing lies. When one embraces lie long enough then one loses the ability to discern truth when faced with it. Our society is lead by people embracing lie and fearing truth. God's people today must pray that His grace will turn the hearts and minds of these who are so confounded by the evil in the world that they cannot sense real Truth.

For whom are you praying today?
Your servant in the Lord's Love

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray

Mark 1:29-35 NLT  
  29 After Jesus left the synagogue with James and John, they went to Simon and Andrew’s home.
Mark 1:30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with a high fever. They told Jesus about her right away. 31 So he went to her bedside, took her by the hand, and helped her sit up. Then the fever left her, and she prepared a meal for them. 
  32 That evening after sunset, many sick and demon-possessed people were brought to Jesus. 33 The whole town gathered at the door to watch. 34 So Jesus healed many people who were sick with various diseases, and he cast out many demons. But because the demons knew who he was, he did not allow them to speak. 35  Before daybreak the next morning, Jesus got up and went out to an isolated place to pray. 

Jesus was on a mission. There were few spare moments in his days. He was going about His Father's Business and there was nothing more important to him.  What was His father's business? Reconciling fallen and lost humanity to God. Problem was, most of humanity didn't want to believe it was lost nor did it want to surrender the self-will necessary to be reconciled. Mark gives us this condensed version of Jesus' ministry hopping from encounter to encounter and painting the busy picture of our busy redeemer. One can well imagine that at the end of his days this man of God was pretty spent. But you rarely saw him show the tell-tale signs of fatigue. He was always giving. Having just delivered a man from demons, he heals Peters mother in law. Having done that, more people came whom he healed and/or delivered from yet more demons. Jesus' who cared about individuals and wanted not to make a show of any person had to endure the 'whole town' looking on, in lack of faith most usually. Powerful demonic forces that had over powered their human captives were no match for him, but they came one after another, after another, after another.

Mark didn't describe how tired Jesus must have been that evening at Peter's house but he did reveal an even more important fact. Verse 35 points out that, in spite of how little sleep Jesus was permitted to get, yet he got up early to go out and be alone with God the Father "in an isolated place." Why? because that was the only time Jesus' days were not jam-packed with needy people seeking him for a myriad of reasons and needs. Even Jesus had to be refreshed, refilled, and restored. Giving out God's power endlessly requires a time when we can be alone with and focus upon God Himself, just for Himself, and for ourselves. Tasks and needs become secondary to our need for communing with God. And most of us neglect that when we don't have to.

Can we forsake an hour of sleep in order to become refilled with the presence of God Himself and be refocused upon God's purposes instead of our own or those of the people who surround us?
Your servant in Christ's love

Monday, October 4, 2010

Asking God, Accepting His Will, Telling Everyone

Mark 1:40-45 NLT  
  40 A man with leprosy came and knelt in front of Jesus, begging to be healed. “If you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean,” he said. 41  Moved with compassion, Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!”42 Instantly the leprosy disappeared, and the man was healed. 43 Then Jesus sent him on his way with a stern warning:  44 “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.”
  45 But the man went and spread the word, proclaiming to everyone what had happened. As a result, large crowds soon surrounded Jesus, and he couldn’t publicly enter a town anywhere. He had to stay out in the secluded places, but people from everywhere kept coming to him.

I like the faith of this suffering leper. First, we notice that he kneeled. Jews did not kneel before other people, only God, He recognized Jesus' status as God With us, by his posture. Next he submitted himself to God's will. He was expressing his request to be certain, but also his willingness to be have his request go unanswered because of the greater will of the Lord.
    Our requests are to be as such. "If you are willing, Lord, I ask that________." And we ought to be as equally faithful in accepting God's answer either way it goes, whether in favor of our request or for a greater purpose. It was God's will to heal him and Jesus did so immediately and without fanfare. It happened so quietly that few may have noticed. Jesus speaks to him privately and firmly to fulfill the scriptural requirements for those healed of Leprosy, though so few had ever been healed that it would be surprising to the Pharisees and Priests had he done so first.
    This man's joy spilled out as he went. He could not help testifying to what God had done for him. His joy is understandable, though it did seem to cause Jesus to have to stay out of the towns for a time. We aren't sure if that was by God's design or it was a problem. Nevertheless, I can appreciate this formerly suffering hopeless man now cleansed. When one has NO hope, and then suddenly has ALL hope, staying quiet is not really an option.
     How about you today? Have you presented your request before God in total submission to whatever His will might be? Have you received an answer from God on something? Have you shared that joy with all whom you know? What might happen if you did?
Your servant in Christ's love

Friday, October 1, 2010

Are You Ready to be Amazed and Praise God?

Mark 2:1-12 NLT 
  1 When Jesus returned to Capernaum several days later, the news spread quickly that he was back home. 2 Soon the house where he was staying was so packed with visitors that there was no more room, even outside the door. While he was preaching God’s word to them, 3 four men arrived carrying a paralyzed man on a mat. 4 They couldn’t bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, so they dug a hole through the roof above his head. Then they lowered the man on his mat, right down in front of Jesus. 5 Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralyzed man, “My child, your sins are forgiven.”
  6  But some of the teachers of religious law who were sitting there thought to themselves, 7 “What is he saying? This is blasphemy! Only God can forgive sins!” 
  8 Jesus knew immediately what they were thinking, so he asked them, “Why do you question this in your hearts? 9 Is it easier to say to the paralyzed man ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or ‘Stand up, pick up your mat, and walk’? 10 So I will prove to you that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then Jesus turned to the paralyzed man and said,  11 “Stand up, pick up your mat, and go home!”
  12 And the man jumped up, grabbed his mat, and walked out through the stunned onlookers. They were all amazed and praised God, exclaiming, “We’ve never seen anything like this before!”

Why do you suppose those religious leaders were present? Most people were there to honestly hear Jesus teach. They were present to check to see what He was teaching. It is a bit like when a school teacher is teaching a lesson, sometimes a school leader comes to watch and make sure the teacher is doing it right and with the correct information. Teachers usually don't like that very much because teaching is their task. However, Jesus loved these leaders as much as the others so He taught them. It was only they who usually would ask questions anyway so it proved to be useful. Jesus could count on them asking the hard and challenging questions. A teacher who thoroughly knows his stuff never worries about being challenged but embraces the challenges as teachable moments.

As the Lord was shaping hearts and minds in the crowded room, compassionate friends broke through the roof and lowered their paralyzed friend right in front of the Lord. Notice that neither they nor the man had to say anything!  The friends took a great personal risk damaging another person's roof but they were so convinced Jesus could help this man that they did not hesitate. Apparently they were ready to bear any consequence to bring their friend to a state of wellness and wholeness. This faith impressed Jesus. Staring at so much lack of faith, whenever Jesus saw faith in action, he marveled at it.  But the teachable moment was there in front of him so He first forgave the man's sins. He didn't need to say it to make it happen but he wanted the man to know, and those present to know that He could forgive sins. 

The religious leaders bit the bait and protested. They opened the door for Jesus to give a powerful observable answer. Teachers should always teach with an observable objective in mind and this one was about the forgiving of sins, rather than the healing of a man. So as they protested he responded with their own words used against them and then healed the man as proof that he had authority to forgive sins. They could say nothing more. They did not repent but begin to add all these lost confrontations together, and eventually would decide to kill Jesus because they could not defeat him any other way. What a surprise would await them even then!

The rest of the people present were all amazed and praised God" the passage tells us. How about you? Are you amazed at Jesus Christ? Do you praise God for what Christ did, has done, is doing, and will do in your life?

Your servant
DreamHost reviews