Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Mark, Week 36 - Always Close the Blinds

I don’t really like having my window blinds open at night. This is something my wife and I agree on for two different reasons. Her reason is very reasonable: when you’re inside and the lights are on inside, it’s hard to see people outside, but it’s easy for them to see inside. That’s a logical reason, that makes sense from a safety point of view. My reason comes more from a traumatic moment in my life.
I am one of those people that have never really liked scary stories, or being scared in general. In one of my houses, my sister swore that she saw a ghost, and I still don’t know if she was being serious, or just trying to scare me. Unlike me though, my family didn’t mind a good scaring. It was when I moved to another house that my trauma occurred. We moved to an old transfer town, Ione, when I was in 5th grade. The town was founded back when the gold rush days of the 1840. There was an old hotel that supposedly had a ghost haunting it, and a decrepit castle that overlooked the town. Halloween was also a very big event, with multiple haunted houses, and events going on. None of which I really cared for. 
The trauma happened one October night while I was sitting in my living room. I was alone watching some show on TV, what it was, I don’t remember. It was getting late, and I had the blinds of our bay windows opened. Mostly because I didn’t think to shut them. Secure in the recliner, I heard my mom rustling in the kitchen. That’s when I heard the rustling from outside, I turned to look and there right at my head level was a werewolf! My screams echoed through the house as I ran to my room.
I heard the door open and close, with the sound of my dad’s laughter from the front of the house. At 10 years old I shouldn’t have been as frighten as I was, but I was. My dad’s simple prank, has seared into my mind to always close the blinds of my house when the sun goes down. Since then I am usually on my guard to close the windows, even justifying in my mind almost every time I do it.

And it’s a call to be on our guard that Jesus calls us to, as we return to the Gospel of Mark this week. Where we pick up in Mark chapter 13 starting in verse 1.

As we return to the book of Mark, let’s look back to see where we find ourselves. In the last two weeks, we have been in a hostile situation. Jesus had flipped over tables and ran money changers and merchants out of the Temple in Jerusalem. As a result the religious leaders challenged Jesus’ authority to do this. Jesus met their challenge with a challenge of his own. This led to Jesus revealing the heart condition of the religious leaders. They were killing the work of God in their own lives, all the while putting on a show for the people around them.
From there, we saw last week that Jesus was questioned three times about topics that dealt with finances, relationships, and the Scriptures. Each question a “what if” that came from a place of trying to push God’s commands to their limits. Jesus responded with his own question, to which no one gave an answer. It was here that we learned that Jesus wanted us to trust him, getting rid of the “what ifs” that keep us from trusting God.
It is after these hostile encounters that we come to Jesus and his disciples exiting the Temple area. Let’s pick this up in verse 1 of chapter 13.

1 As Jesus was leaving the temple, one of his disciples said to him, “Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!” 2 “Do you see all these great buildings?’ replied Jesus. “Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.”3 As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John and Andrew asked him privately, 4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?” “4 “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign that they are all about to be fulfilled?”

As Jesus and the disciples exit the temple, the disciple’s focus was on the grandness of the buildings that the Jewish people had erected. This outward focus of the religious leaders, and what Jesus had just finished telling the people fell on the deaf ears of his own disciples. Jesus had just told the people in verse 38, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

Just as the religious leaders took pride in what people could see on the outside, the disciples were in the same mindset that the grandness of the building was greater than the problems inside it. 
To Jesus the outside grandness was fleeting. It wouldn’t last long, because it had been corrupted on the inside, and God wouldn’t allow it to stand for long in this way.
This must have unsettled or peeked the interest of some of the disciples, because soon after they asked him,

This is when Jesus speaks. Now, as I read Jesus’ words, I want you to listen for one idea that Jesus keeps bringing up. Because this one idea gives us the reason for why Jesus is giving this insight to his disciples.

5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains.
9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.
14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.
24 “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; 25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.
28 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 29 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. 34 It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch.
35 “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. 36 If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. 37 What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’”

There is so much that we could talk about in Jesus’ words here, but when we started this journey through Mark, we said we were going to focus on the big movements of the Holy Spirit and how the sections of the book flooded into one another. So, my question is, what was the point of this section? What is the main idea that Jesus was trying to get across to his disciples? 
Was it that bad things were coming? Was it to give a complete description of events? Or was it something else? What was the idea that Jesus said again and again throughout this talk?
The answer is, be on your guard. Jesus gives us information about wars, and rumors of wars. He tells us that there will be famines and earthquakes. Jesus tells us that his disciples will be arrested, questioned, and beaten. He tells us how hard it’s going to be, with descriptions of nursing mothers and winter climates. Jesus tells us about fake christs, prophets, and miracles. He tells us about celestial events, about the sun and moon going dark, and stars falling from the sky.  And Jesus tells of his return, mirroring the prophet Daniel’s vision. 
And through all of it and as Jesus closes the revealing of all of this, his emphasis is on one idea: be on your guard. 
Ten times Jesus makes reference to be on your guard. Using terms and phrases like, “Do not believe it”, “You know that it is near”, “Be alert”, “Watch!”
Two times he gives examples of what being on guard, or watching looks like, with the tree’s leaves and the master of the house returning.

Why does Jesus say these things? Why does Jesus answer his disciples request of knowing the destruction of the Temple, by emphasizing how they need to be alert? How they need to be on watch, and be on their guard?
Isn’t because we can easily become complacent in our relationship with God. Making too big of a deal about our surroundings, but not on the work of God?
These disciples were not focused on the work of God, but on the work of man. They are consumed with the creation, but not the Creator. They are living for building greater physical things, not on sprite things like building the kingdom. 
These disciples had the same mindset as the religious leaders, the outward grandness is all that mattered. But to Jesus, all of the outside looks are going to fall, and the question is, are we ready for the world to come crashing down around us, or are we going to crash with it?

We can fall so easily into this mindset in own lives, even in the little things. When children act out, it embarrasses the parents. So we fly into a rage, but in doing so, we mar their understanding of Christ. Discipline is encouraged in Scripture, but provocation isn’t. When the political climate shifts into venomous attacks, and we allow venom to pass our lips, we then mar the witness of Christ we have to others. When we become prideful in what we have built, boosting about all that we have accomplished, rather than giving the praise back to God who has given us everything, we hamper people giving glory back to God as he deserves.
Children grow and move away, politics sways back and forth, what we build gets sold. Are we using our time with these things to promote the kingdom, being on guard for the work of God through them, or are we focusing on things that are of temporary importance? 

This coming winter season, the leadership of this church is going to present projects for our congregation to help with renovations that are needed for our building. There’s a lot that needs to be done, so that the ministry God has given us here for the last 40 plus years, can continue to grow.
But this building will fall. These walls will crumble. This floor will be uprooted. None of these will be left on itself. The only reason we keep this building around, is because God has allowed us to use it as a jumping off point for his work. 
But this building is meaningless, if our focus is the same as the disciples. If we look at the building and say, look at the grandness that we have built, we have missed the calling of God in our lives, which is “Be on your guard.”

Changed lives, saved souls, God’s glory, this is the work that we are called to do. This is the work that we come together to accomplish. This is the work that goes beyond these walls. We are to guard against an attitude of creation focus. We are to guard against a lifestyle of complacency. We are to guard against losing sight of what really matters, and that’s the vision that Jesus has called us to. His kingdom above all else.
Bad things will come. Wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution, false christs, the question isn’t will these come, the questions is will we be on our guard, or not?

It is so easy for us to fall into the mindset of the disciples who focused on the grandness of the temple buildings, but God calls us to the mindset of being on our guard for his work. God calls us to use what we have for his kingdom purposes. Our time, our work, our relationships, our finances, our mental faculties, our will. 

This week my challenge to you is this, wrestle with this simple question, “Are you on guard for the work of God, or are you focused on things that will fall?”
Go through your daily routine: your actions and attitudes.
Then make a list of the things you do, words you say, and attitudes you have.
Which ones show that you are on your guard, and which ones show that you are not?
Finally seek God in prayer so that you are more on guard for his work.

When I was a 10 year old boy sitting in my nice comfy cozy recliner, I was not prepared for the fright I received. Since then, I have been on my guard, making sure that never happens again. Are we closing the blinds to the things that don’t matter, so that we may be on guard for the only thing that does matter, the work of God?

Now let us be on guard for the work of God that is happening all around us, and may we trust in his Spirit to accomplish that work. Amen.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Mark, Week 35 - What If...

I have found that one of the most annoying aspects of teaching in any situation, are the “what ifs” that get brought up. Children are notorious for bringing up “what if” scenarios. These “what if” scenarios usually come up when discussing the commandments of God. I’ll be having a discussion on how God says lying is a sin, and the inevitable question arrises, “Well, what if you have to lie to save a person’s life?”
Or, I’ll be having a discussion about stealing, and the question will be asked, “What if your family is starving?” And for almost every situation, there is a “what if” that goes along with it.
I think we bring up these “what if” scenarios, for one of two reasons. First, we are evaluating the validity of the statement being asked. “What if” scenarios help us explore the possible application of what we’re being presented with. If the statement is valid, then it should work in multiply situations. Once we arrive at the conclusion that the statement has truth to it, we move into the second reason for using “what if’s”. Where we use “what if” scenarios to see where the boundaries of the true statement end. We ask “what ifs” so we know how far we’re able to push the statement until it no longer becomes valid. In the examples I gave before, we all agree that lying and stealing are bad, “but”, we ask, “is there a point where they no longer are bad?”

It’s these type of “what if” scenarios, and more specifically this second reason for the scenarios, that we are going to find as we jump back into the book of Mark today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 12, starting in verse 13.

As we open our Bibles to Mark 12:13, let’s bring ourselves up to speed where we find ourselves in the text.
It’s about Monday on the last week of Jesus’ mortal life on earth. In the next several days, Jesus will be betrayed, beaten, executed, and rise from the dead. All of this, Jesus had told his disciples on several occasions.
On this particular Monday, Jesus has already managed to get the religious leaders angry. Jesus did this when he told a parable the was explicitly against these religious leaders. And we’re told that it is because Jesus spoke against them, that they looked for a way to arrest Jesus. So it’s in this climate of hostility toward Jesus, that we come to our text.

As we get into the text, we’re going to focus on the three questions presented to Jesus, then on Jesus’ final response, and what seems to be the application from it all. 

Let’s read the three question one right after another.

The first question starts in verse 13. 

13 Later they sent some of the Pharisees and Herodians to Jesus to catch him in his words. 14 They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know that you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not? 15 Should we pay or shouldn’t we?” 

Let’s drop down to verse 18 and the second question.

18 Then the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection, came to him with a question. 19 “Teacher,” they said, “Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife but no children, the man must marry the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 Now there were seven brothers. The first one married and died without leaving any children. 21 The second one married the widow, but he also died, leaving no child. It was the same with the third. 22 In fact, none of the seven left any children. Last of all, the woman died too. 23 At the resurrection whose wife will she be, since the seven were married to her?”

Finally in verse 28 is the third question.

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Each of these questions deal with God’s word. The first about the coin is a question about worship of other gods. The Romans believed the Emperor to be a god. So, the “what if” scenario is simple: if the command of God is to not worship any other gods, and the person on this coin is considered a god to his people, then should we stop paying taxes? In this way the people wouldn’t be inadvertently worshiping other gods.
Now there is a dubious reason for this question as well, which has to do with catching Jesus in a situation that would look bad on him. If he says don’t pay taxes, then he’ll be in trouble with the Romans, but if he says pay the taxes, well, who really wants to hear that?
Of course Jesus sees through this question and replies with, “Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
It’s a simple answer, with profound implications. Where the religious leaders were trying a “what if” scenario, Jesus gave them a hard lesson in application. If you use the currency, then you should have no problem paying the taxes with it. But if you use anything of God’s then you should have no problem giving it back what God deserves as well.

The second question about the resurrection and marriage, is another “what if” scenario. What if we have a woman that gets married sever times, who’s wife is she in heaven? This is based on the Hebrew tradition of a kinsmen redeemer. Basically what would happen in the Hebrew society, is that the older brother would be married off first. Since men gained the inheritance from their parents, and therefore provided for their families, if a man were to die before he had an heir, his family would not be provided, and his linage would end. Enter the kinsman redeemer. The closest family member would then marry the deceased man’s wife, so that an heir would be produced.
A little convoluted, but it was a mechanism in the society to provide security for widows, and a linage for the deceased.
This question came out of a belief from this particular group of religious leaders that didn’t believe that people were raised to new life. Jesus again gives his answer, “Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God? 25 When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven…27 He is not the God of the dead, but of the living. You are badly mistaken!”
Jesus recognized that the religious leader’s question wasn’t even a good ‘“what if” scenario, because the very premise was wrong.

Out of the three questions that were asked, it is only the third question who’s speaker isn’t coming at Jesus in a adversarial way.  The third question is actually a question that had been repeated throughout Jewish history, of which commands of God, hold the most moral weight? See, the rabbinical tradition held that out of the roughly 600 commands given by God, there were ones that had greater moral and applicable weight to them. Jesus responds by combining two ideas from the books of Moses. First was the Shema, which is the Jewish confession of faith from Deuteronomy 6:4, “‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’” And an expanded understanding of loving a neighbor from Leviticus 19:18, “‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

This what if scenario was simple “what if” we took the whole of God’s commands and put them into one. And Jesus said, that’s easy, love God and love people. 

With all of these “what if” scenarios, Jesus was very straight forward with his answers, and we can dissect what he said to a great degree. But as I read through this section of Mark’s Gospel, it seems to me that Jesus sees a deeper problem here. And so, even though we get Jesus’ answers to the questions that are presented to him, it is in verses 35-40 that we get Jesus’ answer to the heart of the matter. Let’s pick it up in verse 35.

35 While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, he asked, “Why do the teachers of the law say that the Messiah is the son of David? 36 David himself, speaking by the Holy Spirit, declared:
“‘The Lord said to my Lord: “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.”’
37 David himself calls him ‘Lord.’ How then can he be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with delight.
38 As he taught, Jesus said, “Watch out for the teachers of the law. They like to walk around in flowing robes and be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, 39 and have the most important seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets. 40 They devour widows’ houses and for a show make lengthy prayers. These men will be punished most severely.”

Jesus presents his own question, and we are given no answer. Why? Well, we get the answer to why there is no answer. The answer is, there is no real depth to the religious leaders. They have these questions that are to trick, or to confirm their beliefs, or to answer long debated thoughts, but none of them seek the truth of God. None of the religious leaders crave the God who is vast beyond all measure. Their “what if” scenarios, seek their own status, but not the depths of God.
Jesus brings up a seemly contradictory statement from David, trying to get the people to discover the identity of who he is. But they cannot, because they desire more of the “what ifs”, than the very word of God standing before them.
This is why Jesus tells the people to watch out for these religious leaders. Because their not out for God, their out for themselves. And really, isn’t this the point of “what ifs”? They’re so we can skirt the system. So we can find the loops holes. It’s an us focus. 
Which we have a tendency to do with God. I know I’ve brought up “what if” scenarios with God, because I wanted a way to justify my situation.
I can tell this lie, because it doesn’t have an impact on others. I can look at this picture, because it’s a fake. I can desire that, because God wants me to be prosperous. And the more “what if” scenarios I can come up with, the more ways I can manipulate the word of God to make myself feel better. It’s what we see in the “what if” scenarios presented here, and it’s what we can see in our own lives as well.

Yet, through Jesus’ words directed at the religious leaders, we can see that God wants us to get rid of the “what ifs” in our lives, and trust his word.

The question then is how? How do we get rid of the “what ifs” and trust God more? Following all of these questions is a simple situation. Let’s look at this situation in verse 41.

41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.
43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Listen to these words again, “They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

We have a wealth of “what ifs”, but what we need is a poverty. We need to let the “what ifs” of a immature faith fall to the way side, and put in all that we have into the trust of God. Instead of seconding guessing him, trying to find a loophole, we believe and do what he says.
I wonder if this widow asked her own “what ifs” of her last cents, “What if I can’t eat? “What if I can’t pay for my house? What if…what if…what if?” We don’t know if she asked these “what ifs” or not. What we do know is she puts her trust into God, and let’s the “what ifs” fall. 

Though we started and ended with passages on money, I’m not asking you to give money, I’m asking you to trust Jesus. To trust him with your finances. To trust him with your family. To trust him with your past, present, and future. Let the “what ifs” that surround your mind, fall, and allow the Holy Spirit to guide you into where he wants to take you.

As I read through this section of Scripture, the verse from Psalm 51 echoed in my mind, “You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise (Psalm 51:16-17).”

This week my challenge for you is to look at three areas of your life. Financial, Relational, and Scriptural. These three areas that come from the three question that were asked from the religious leaders. The taxes, the marriages, and the commands. Financial, Relational and Scriptural. Write down the “what ifs” you have in each, and then spend time in prayer. Praying that those “what ifs” would fall away, and all that would be left is trust.

May you trust in Jesus, who has done everything for you, so that your trust in him can be solidified. Amen.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Mark, Week 34 - Being a Dishwasher

Growing up, as far as I remember, I was basically a good kid. Yeah, I got into trouble, like the one time in first grade where I wanted to stay the night at a friend’s house so bad, that I skipped my school bus home and walked to his house. That made my parents a little up set, since we lived about 20 miles away from the school.
But most of my life I didn’t do anything too bad. That’s not until I was a teenager. Now, I don’t know why, but I was a real jerk to my parents when I hit about 13. And that kept going until I was about 17. Those four years or so, I was just rude and disrespectful. I had to clash with my parents over, what seemed like everything. And looking back, my parents were patient and generous, throughout the whole thing. Sure we got into arguments, but where I was coming from a place of disrespect, they were coming from a place that desired me to be better than I was. Of course I couldn’t see that.
It wasn’t until after I accepted Christ that things began to change. I realized that I had been fighting against them, because I didn’t want their authority over me. I didn’t want to submit to them. Instead, I wanted things my way. I wanted to figure things out on my own. I wanted to make my own decisions, and do what I thought was the best for me.
Of course, what I thought was the best for me, was no where near what was best. But my parents saw more clearly than I did. They saw what was best for me, and tried to move me in that direction, even though I would fight back. But once I began to put myself under their authority, things began to change. 
Now, it didn’t happen over night, but I do remember what was the catalyst to my ability to  submit to their authority. It was a decision to start washing dishes. See, my parents worked long hours. My Dad usually worked over 40 hours a week, and from time to time would do side jobs, and take on a second or third job. During the tax season, my mom would leave before I woke up and get home after I went to bed. So I decided to start doing the dishes without being told. This led to doing others things. And after a while my relationship with my parents improved drastically, because I finally started to put myself under their authority.

And this is where we come to the Gospel of Mark this week. A place where the authority of Jesus is questioned. A place where some people are rebelling against the authority of Jesus. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 11 starting in verse 27.

As we jump back into the Gospel of Mark, let’s take a look back and see where we find ourselves.

Two weeks ago we talked about trust, and how the disciples trusted Jesus, only so far as it was within their plans. They were excited about Jesus being the Savior, but were not wanting to hear Jesus’ words about him dying. We talked about how we can have this kind of trust that falters too. Where our trust in God goes only so far, but when he calls us into something hard, our trust can struggle. 
This led us into last week, where we talked about how when trust falters, it’s easy to fall into the trap of looking good on the outside, but not having the fruit, or reverence, or faith on the inside. Yet, when we falter in our trust of God, we can slip into a place where the outside facades become easier to erect, than the dealing with the inner struggles that God calls us into.

But the question is where does this all stem from? That’s what we’re going to examine today. So let’s start reading in Mark chapter 11 verse 27.

27 They arrived again in Jerusalem, and while Jesus was walking in the temple courts, the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders came to him. 28 “By what authority are you doing these things?” they asked. “And who gave you authority to do this?”
29 Jesus replied, “I will ask you one question. Answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I am doing these things. 30 John’s baptism—was it from heaven, or of human origin? Tell me!”
31 They discussed it among themselves and said, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will ask, ‘Then why didn’t you believe him?’ 32 But if we say, ‘Of human origin’ …” (They feared the people, for everyone held that John really was a prophet.)
33 So they answered Jesus, “We don’t know.”
Jesus said, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.”

Now we’re going to stop for a minute, because this interaction sets the stage for everything. Jesus is confronted by some religious leaders. This confrontation is a response to Jesus clearing the temple in the previous passage that we talked about last week.
They have a simple question, where does Jesus get his authority from? In the religious leader’s minds, he has to have some sort of greater power backing him in order to drive people out of the temple. It’s supposed to be a gotcha question. Jesus has no authority from the Romans, and no authority from the High Priest. This question is to make Jesus say that his authority comes from no one but himself.
But Jesus turns the tables on them. Jesus asks them his own question, telling them that they will receive his answer only after they respond. Jesus’ question about John is simple too, where does John’s baptism come from.
But this becomes a problem. If the religious leaders say it’s from heaven, then they have to agree that Jesus is the Christ, because that’s what John preached. Therefore Jesus’ authority comes from heaven.
But if they say it’s from a human, then the people that believe John to be a prophet would revolt against the religious leaders. It’s a catch 22 for them. So they answer simply we don’t know.

Jesus masterfully shows that these religious leaders are not in a position to judge him. He shows that they cannot comprehend John, and therefore are unable to comprehend Jesus as well.
But Jesus doesn’t leave it here. No, instead, Jesus goes after the religious leaders and the real reason they are unable to comprehend either John’s baptism, or Jesus’ authority. Let’s pick this up in verse 1 of chapter 12.  

1Jesus then began to speak to them in parables: “A man planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a pit for the winepress and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and moved to another place. 2 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 But they seized him, beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Then he sent another servant to them; they struck this man on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 He sent still another, and that one they killed. He sent many others; some of them they beat, others they killed.
6 “He had one left to send, a son, whom he loved. He sent him last of all, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’
7 “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 So they took him and killed him, and threw him out of the vineyard.
9 “What then will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Haven’t you read this passage of Scripture:
“‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone;
11 the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 Then the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders looked for a way to arrest him because they knew he had spoken the parable against them. But they were afraid of the crowd; so they left him and went away.

The parable is simple and direct enough that the religious leaders pick up on exactly what Jesus is trying to get across.
The man who planted the vineyard is God. The people who rented the vineyard are the religious leaders. The servants are the prophets, like John the Baptist, the son is Jesus, and the new tenants are the ones who will believe in Jesus.
To the religious leaders, Jesus isn’t holding back any punches here. He’s telling them that they are a part of a group that has been around for ages. This group are those who are constantly fighting against God. God sends a messenger like Isaiah, or Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, or now John, and the people beat and kill them. Then God sends Jesus the Son of God into the world, yet that same group of people are now about to kill him too.
Now, I’m sure that these religious leaders didn’t think that they would put themselves into the same group who killed the prophets of old. I’m sure that these religious leaders wouldn’t put themselves in the same company of Herod who killed John the Baptist. But sure enough they are. It will be these same group of religious leaders that, in just a few days, will beat and kill the Son himself.

And why would they do this? Jesus reveals the reason in the parable. In verse 7 he says, “But the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”
The renters wanted the vineyard for themselves. They didn’t want the Owner, nor the Son to come and take what, in their minds, was rightfully theirs. And Jesus is very poignantly pointing out that the religious leaders are the same way. Not really wanting God, nor the Son of God.
And what’s funny about this whole situation is that in the last few words of this passage we see them respond to Jesus, just as he said they would.

When we take all of this together, we can see that Jesus gives us an insight into why he went about this way of speaking to the religious leaders. We can easily ask, why doesn’t Jesus just answer the question? Why doesn’t he just tell the leaders his authority comes from heaven?
The parable gives us the reason why Jesus doesn’t do this. The renters knew for a fact that the son was from the owner, but that didn’t matter. They knew where the authority of the son came from, but that didn’t matter. What mattered to them was their own self-focus. It is the same with Jesus. It wouldn’t matter if Jesus would have revealed where his authority was from, because they didn’t care. All they wanted was to control their own vineyards, their own lives. They didn’t want the authority of Jesus, and consequently the authority of God, over their lives.
They wanted no other authority than their own.
This led to them allowing the temple of God to be used with the irreverence that we saw from the previous chapter, where merchants were swindling people of out of their money. Where people no longer treated the temple with esteem, but walked through it as if it were nothing. And where the non-Jewish worshipers were being pushed out.

And it can happen to us as well. When we duck the authority of God in our own lives, it can lead us to producing fakeness on the outside. We can do the religious walk, we can talk the religious talk, but our lives inside are dead. And when God sends something our way to bring us back, we kill it. 
We kill the words of Scripture, by ignoring them, or outright disbelieving them. We kill the messengers of God, who’s advice we ask for, but never intend to put into practice. And we kill the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives, because we turn our backs on him as he seeks to teach us.

But this isn’t want God wants. God wants us to live under his authority. Because only by submitting to his authority, will we begin to experience the deeper things of God. Only when we submit to his way of thinking, will we begin to know the truth from lies. Only when we submit to his word, will we begin to live a fuller life. Only when we act in accordance with his will, will we be able to see our hearts and minds become transformed to God’s way of thinking.
This is where God wants us. This is what Jesus was trying to get these religious leaders to recognize. They were in rebellion against God’s authority, so even if Jesus would have slapped them in the face with the authority of God, they still wouldn’t be able to understand, because they wanted it their way. And God wants us to realize that we can easily slip into a lifestyle where we are standing against his authority. Which in turn keeps us from experiencing all that he has for us.
And in the end, we don’t even get to keep what we fought him for. He simple takes it away, and we are left with nothing. Just like the renters in the vineyard.

Today, I want to challenge you take part in a double action. The first, is the stack of cards here in front. On one side is a person bowing, on the other side is a verse from 1st Peter 5:6, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.”
My challenge is for you come up during our next song, and take a card. Then when you leave today, post it somewhere where you struggle with God’s authority. It might be in finances, so put it in the check book, or where you keep your debit card. It might be with what you watch on TV, so put on the remote. It might be following the rules of the road, so put it in your car. It might be the way you treat a specific person, so put it where you’ll see it before you see them. Today, let us seek God where we are not allowing his authority in our lives, and place the card there. Then every time you see it, go before God, pray, asking that you would be put under his authority.

Let us not be like the renters who kill the things that come from God, but rather place ourselves under the authority of God, so that he will lift us up. 

Now may the Lord, who’s authority is absolute, bring you under his will today. Amen.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Not Enough Evidence?

A few weeks ago I asked the question of our teens, “Why do you or why do you not believe that Jesus is Savior?” The results were split down the middle in teens that did believe and did not believe. From those who said they didn’t believe, it fell into one of three categories: Bad things happen, He’s unrealistic and contradictory, and he doesn’t seem to be there. 

As we jump into tackling these three categories, we have a simple question to ask of ourselves, “How much evidence do we need to believe in God?”
I ask that, because it’s different for everyone. Some people hardly need any, believing straight away. While others have no end to the amount of evidence they need to believe that God exists, and that if God exists it is the God of the Bible. 
No matter what the evidence is, people that do not want to believe in God will not believe in God, because they have already made up their mind that he does not exist. So, how much evidence do you need to believe that God exists? Because I am about to give you a ton.

Let’s talk about astronomy. Here are three things that point to the universe being made by God. 
First, the current theories of how stars form all have one problem with them: they require stars to exist in order for stars to form. It doesn’t matter if it’s a super-nova, or a black hole. New stars are assumed to come from dead stars, yet they question becomes where did the first stars come from?
Second, our moon is moving away from us at about an 1in 1/2 per year. If we rewind the clock, the moon would have been touching the earth 1.5 million years ago. Yet the make up the moon rocks we have studied, show that the moon is not of earth origin. In addition, the moon is 400x smaller than the sun, and the sun is 400x further away. This gives our moon the distinction of providing the only place in the solar system where a moon allows for a total solar eclipse. Which by we are able to examine the the atmosphere of the sun.
Third, Earth is perfect. It falls into what scientists call the gold locks zone. A few more degrees closer to the sun and our atmosphere would burn up. A few degrees further from the sun and we would freeze. If our rotation was any faster, we would experience violent winds that would cause major destruction. But if our rotation was any slower we would have extreme temperature changes.

This is just some of the amazing evidence that point to us not being here by chance.

Let’s talk about some evidence about the Bible. People will say that the Bible has been changed over time, and that it has contradictions. Let’s tackle both those ideas.

Has the Bible been changed over time? How many of us believe that there were people like the Pharaohs in Egypt? Or Julius Caesar in Rome? Or Alexander the Great in Greece?
The reality is, that the information we have about these people is very small. If we take the average amount of manuscripts we have for anyone person or writing of the ancient world and stack them on top of each other it would stand about 4ft high. 
If we then take all the New Testament writings we have and stack them up it would be about 6,600ft. 
We have over 25,000 manuscripts of the New Testament that we can compare and contrast against each other. And we’re finding more and older ones every year. And the evidence points to the New Testament that we have today, being the same that was written within the first 40 years of Jesus’ life. 
In addition to all the manuscripts we have of the New Testament, we have over 1 million quotations from the early Church fathers that we can connect with the New Testament. That means, if we didn’t have any of the manuscripts we have, we could still put together the New Testament we have today based only on the quotations of these men.

The second point about the Bible, is how the manuscripts of the New Testament vary from each other. Did you know that there are 96 ways to say John loves Mary in Greek? Yet they all mean the same things. This is what we’re talking about when we say that the manuscripts vary from each other. They say the same things, just in a different order. So depending on the background of the scribe, he might use a variation of a sentence, yet meaning the same exact thing. And we can compare the thousands of manuscripts to see just what these variants are.
Finally, let’s talk about contradictions. Here’s a problem we have reading the Bible in modern America 2,000 years removed from the original writings: we read everything from out point of view, rather than from the originals writers point of view.
Here are two examples: Proverbs 26:4-5 reads, “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him. 5 Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”
Seems like a contradiction to us right? But let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a Jewish person reading this. The reality is this is a form of Hebrew parallelism. Where it will say one thing and then reverse it in the next sentence. Which is strange to our way of saying things. We would say it like this, don't do this _______, (verse 4) unless this situation (verse 5).
So in verse 4 it's saying don't get sucked into a fools argument on their terms.
Then in verse 5 it's saying point out their foolish argument.
The first is a reminder to not let yourself fall into a trap. The second is to counter point the fool on your terms.
This contradiction is a really a type of speech we do not use in our modern syntax.
Let’s look at a second contradiction. This one come from Matthew 26:9-10 “9 Then what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: ‘They took the thirty pieces of silver, the price set on him by the people of Israel, 10 and they used them to buy the potter’s field, as the Lord commanded me.’”
The problem? In the book of Jeremiah that Matthew is quoting, there is no quote like this. Instead the only place in Scripture that mentions 30 pieces of silver is in the book of Zechariah. So the Bible is wrong right? 
Again, let’s put ourselves into the writers shoes. First off we need to understand that the order of the Jewish Old Testament and the Christian Old Testament are different. The Jews had the book of Jeremiah ordered first in the prophet section, whereas our Bibles have Isaiah first. Couple this with the common practice of referencing the first book of a section with all the following quotations. Thereby combining quotations from multiple prophets.
But all that to say, is that the point of the passage isn’t dealing with the 30 pieces, but rather the Potter’s field. Which is the focus of two chapters in the book of Jeremiah.

Here’s the evidence, and we haven’t even scratched the surface. There is more evidence found in astronomy. More evidence found in textual criticism. And more evidence found in debunking the idea of contradictions.
But does it matter? How much evidence is enough for you? The only person that can answer that is you. My challenge is if you want more evidence, or if you want to strengthen your belief, check out these two videos.

"Our Created Solar System - What You Aren't Being Told”

“How Badly Has the Bible Been Corrupted?” by Dr. Daniel Wallace

Let us boldly come to God with our questions, seeking the Truth, from the God of Truth. Amen.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Mark, Week 33 - Building Forts

Has anyone ever built a fort or a tree house? I’ve been a part of several attempts in my life. One was when I was in 5th grade. It wasn’t very good, just an overgrown tree that we cut some branches out in the middle so we would have enough space to sit. But what got me really wanting a fort, was in sixth grade when I went to a science camp with my school. There we had to build a quick shelter to simulate what it would be like if we got caught in the woods on our own. 
Three friends and I found a hollowed out tree. We put several large pieces of bark for the door, and right before we were going to close off the roof, the time was up. Now, your shelter had to be water proof, well from all four sides it was, but not the roof. To which the counselors poured a gallon of water on top of us. None of us got out of there dry.
Finally, my last attempt at a fort was in junior high, when I helped, and I use that word loosely, my friend build a tree house in his back yard. We got as far as the platform, and yes, it was as bad as you can imagine.
But in our minds, our forts where our castles. They looked like the great forts of the world. Where you could have battles, fight dragons, and storm the gates. Through our perception of what we had built, it was grand. The reality was a whole other story. The forts were ugly, hastily built, and couldn’t hold out a drip of water, let alone an attack.
And that’s where we jump into the Gospel of Mark today. A place where the view looks good to some, but the reality beneath the surface is all but good. So if you have your Bible, we’ll be in Mark chapter 11, starting in verse 12.

As we get into Mark 11:12, let’s catch up to where we’re at. Last week we talked about trusting God in the areas that he is moving us toward. We talked about how the disciples were trusting all that Jesus had done, and the fact that Jesus was the Messiah, but what they weren’t trusting in was Jesus’ words about how he was going to die and raise from the dead. They trusted, only so far as it worked out for them. Which we can do somethings too. We can trust God only so far, but when God starts calling us to places that hurt, it’s there that we can begin to falter. We can also falter when God calls us into places that don’t line up with our perceived plans.
And when we begin to falter in our trust of God, we can get to where we’re at in Mark chapter 11 verse 12. Let’s read.

12 The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. 13 Seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. 14 Then he said to the tree, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard him say it.
15 On reaching Jerusalem, Jesus entered the temple courts and began driving out those who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves, 16 and would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts. 17 And as he taught them, he said, “Is it not written: ‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations’? But you have made it ‘a den of robbers.’”
18 The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.
19 When evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.
20 In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots. 21 Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree you cursed has withered!”
22 “Have faith in God,” Jesus answered. 23 “Truly I tell you, if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and does not doubt in their heart but believes that what they say will happen, it will be done for them. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” [26]

Now let’s break this passage into 3 segments: The first segment is Jesus’ first encounter with the fig tree. This part of the passage is extremely important because it gives us a bases for what is about to happen.
It seems kind of odd that Jesus would be looking for a fig from the tree when it is specifically stated in the passage that it wasn’t the season for figs. I mean, when do we expect to see pumpkins, is it in the cold of the winter, or the cool of the fall? So, if figs weren’t in season, why would Jesus expect to find a fig?
The answer is, it’s because of the leaves. I learned something new this week. A fig tree produces it’s fruit before it produces it’s leaves. I always thought trees produced leaves and then they’re fruit. Well apparently it’s backward with the fig tree. Jesus saw the leaves of the tree, and since the fruit came first he figured that there was also fruit.
So why is this important? Later on we’ll see that Jesus uses this to speak to Peter about faith, but for now, we see a tree that looked good on the outside, but the reality is that it was far from good.

Let’s move on to the second section of the passage, the clearing of the Temple. If you’ve heard this event spoken on before you might know that the people being driven out by Jesus were currency exchangers. Basically what was happening, was the exchangers were doing some shading things. People would come from long distances with their money, but had to exchange it for temple currency to purchase anything at the temple or give to the temple as an offering. So people would have to exchange their regular money for temple money. This was done at an unfair exchange rate. It would be like reversing the exchange rate of the US dollar with that of the Mexican peso. People were getting less for their money than what they should have been.
Now, I have always focused on this aspect of the situation. Jesus is mad because of this injustice. But something has never sat right with me, and we actually deal with this today. If Jesus was upset with the money exchangers in the temple, does that mean we shouldn’t take donations for donuts? Or sell raffle tickets? It’s been a question I’ve asked myself several times, and I’ve been asked by others as well.
But there’s a verse here, that I’ve been understanding wrong. It’s verse 16, “…and [Jesus] would not allow anyone to carry merchandise through the temple courts.” I’ve always understood this to mean that the people were exchanging their money, and selling animals for sacrifice. So Jesus wasn’t allowing them to stay. But there’s more to it.
First, there’s the people carrying merchandise through the temple courts. They’re not carrying merchandise to the courts, nor are they carrying merchandise from the courts. They’re carrying it through the temple courts. What’s happening is the temple courts had become a short cut for the outside market place. Instead of going around, people were simply walking through the area as a quick way to get from point A to point B.
Secondly, what courts were they walking through? It was the court area that was specifically designated to the Gentiles. To the non-Jewish people that had come to worship the God of Israel. This makes Jesus quoting of Isaiah 56:7 make more sense, “‘My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations…’”
So it’s not just that people were exchanging money at an unfair rate, it was that the area given to the Gentiles was being desecrated by the action of the Jews. The Jews had set up a racketeering operation in the Gentile area, making it harder for both Jew and Gentile to worship God, and then on top of that, people were using it, not as a holy site, but rather as a simple walkthrough. These exchangers and merchants were thinking they were good in doing what they were doing, but the reality it was far from good.

Let’s look at the third segment: The second encounter at the fig tree. Here Peter sees that the fig tree from a day earlier has begun to wither away. Peter draws Jesus’ attention to the withering tree, but Jesus’ words are kind of complexing here. He says, “Have faith in God…”
Now the verses following focus on faith, prayer, and forgiveness and a bit on how the three work together. Jesus talks about faith that can move a mountain and throw it into the sea. About asking anything in prayer and it will be given. And about forgiving those people that we hold things against.

Let’s put all this together, and see the flow of the passage. The fig tree had leaves but no fruit, the temple was corrupted and used as a pass through with hardly any room for the Gentiles, and now Peter is surprised at Jesus words having power over the fig tree. What does it all have in common?
Isn’t it that their is a false facade in each? The fig tree’s leaves were there, but there was no figs. The temple was there, but there was no reverence. Peter had seen so much, but there was no faith. Each of these segments shows us that there is something that is there, but on a closer examination it is not right. There’s a facade of good, but the reality that each segment is far from good, or where it should be.
The tree should have figs, the temple should have been revered, and Peter should have had the faith Jesus was talking about. Each one had an image of good on the outside, but once looked at more closely that image was seen to be false.

Just like the tree, the temple, and Peter we can have this false facade too. We can act like we have the fruit of God, we can act like we have reverence for him, and we can act like we have faith, but in reality, it’s just a facade.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit isn’t there, our reverence is just lip service, and our faith is only ankle deep. Now this might not be all the time, we might have times of breakthrough, but we can too easily slide into a life where we know the right things to say, and the right things to do. And then we just wear the facade.
But that’s not were God wants us. He wants the facade that we can easily put on to be ripped away. Jesus curses the tree, Jesus runs out the exchangers, and Jesus challenges Peter to tell a mountain to be thrown into the sea.

This gives us an action plan for our own lives.
First, we need our tree cursed. That means we need to call a problem a problem. Let’s stop beating around the bush and making excuse for our wrong actions and attitudes. Let’s be honest. I get angry, I spend too much money, I don’t give enough time to the things I should, and too much time to the things I shouldn’t. We need to be honest with the fruit not being there.
Second, we need to get it cleaned out, and not let it back in. We need to get with people to help us. We need to go deep into the Scriptures. We need to be more aggressive in our prayers.
Finally, we need to have our faith challenged. We need to stop distrusting God, and believe that he is not moving. We need to seek him deeper, and forgive more freely. Letting nothing hinder us from trusting him more.

This week my challenge for you is to walk in each of these steps. 
First, take an inventory of your life, and call out those things that are not of God. Jealously, lust, lies, un-forgiveness, anger, bitterness, hate, selfishness. Whatever it is, call it out and write it down. 
Then, dive into God’s Word. Look up the passages that contain the things that you are dealing with and read them, and then re-read them, and couple this with prayer, asking God to clear these things out of your life. Ask him to not allow you to hold back from him, but to have it cleared out like the temple. 
Finally, trust that he will do it. Trust that he will make good anything that is bad in you. Trust when we tells you to do something, that you do it. That you respond as the Scriptures would have you respond. 

God calls us out of our facades, out of our illusionary forts, to allow him in. So that we become the people he has called us and saved us to be.

May God give you the strength to call out sin, give it over to him, and trust that he will work all things for your good. Amen.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Mark, Week 32 - Bike Trusting God

Watching kids learn how to ride their bikes is a hilarious time. It can bring up memories of our own experiences either teaching, or being taught. Many of us can put ourselves into one or both places. Some of us have been the kid, getting the courage to get on that bike and learning a valuable lesson about being stable, until the inevitable crash happens. Some of us have been that parent who’s kid gets on that bike, and as we let go of them to ride on their own, that crash occurs. And, depending on your state of mind at the time, it’s either a hilarious moment, or a catastrophic one.
What gets me in these times of teaching, whether it be with riding a bike, or learning to drive a car, or when kids turn to their parents for life advice, what gets me is that there is a certain amount of trust children have towards their parents. They trust them to hold onto the bike. They trust them to teach them to drive. They trust them enough to ask for advice. This last one usually comes after years of trying it their own way first.
But trust is built between child and parent over time. I asked my oldest child, Elisa, this past week, what makes you trust someone. Her response was telling. She said that, she trusts because “like Mommy and Daddy, take care of me.”
Trust comes from experience. How has someone taken care of me in the past, is usually directly related to how I trust them now. How have they treated me? Have I relied on them before and they let me down? Have they said they would do something and didn’t? We tend to trust people in the now, because of what they have done in the past. If their trust track record is good, then it is easier to trust them with present and future things. But if they have not been trustworthy in the past, it will be harder for us to trust them in the future.

As we return to the Gospel of Mark this week, that’s where we find ourselves. We find ourselves in a situation of trusting God. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be picking back up in the book of Mark in chapter 11, verse 1.

As we we get back into Mark at the 11th chapter, I want us to focus on two big points that have happened in the book of Mark so far. See we have been studying the book of Mark for 31 weeks. We have gone through 10 chapters and 424 verses to get this point, and because of that there has been a lot we have covered. But moving forward for today, we need to focus on just two points.
First, we have seen Jesus perform many miracles. Anywhere from healing a man’s crippled hand, to feeding thousands of people, to walking on water, and raising a girl from the dead. What we need to take away from this, is that Jesus has shown the miraculous over, and over again in front of many, many people.
Secondly, Jesus has told his disciples, on five separate occasions, that when he gets to Jerusalem he will be killed, but rise again. Where the first point we talked about has dealt with things in the past up to this point, Jesus’ words of his death deal with things of the future. But the disciples weren’t  interested in these words. In fact they had, all five times, brushed off this line of talk from Jesus.

This is where we find ourselves in Mark chapter 11 verse 1. So let’s jump in and starting reading.

1 As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage and Bethany at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go to the village ahead of you, and just as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 3 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it and will send it back here shortly.’”
4 They went and found a colt outside in the street, tied at a doorway. As they untied it, 5 some people standing there asked, “What are you doing, untying that colt?” 6 They answered as Jesus had told them to, and the people let them go. 7 When they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks over it, he sat on it. 8 Many people spread their cloaks on the road, while others spread branches they had cut in the fields. 9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted,
“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!
10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

This passage is the same passage we usually talk about on Palm Sunday, the Sunday before Easter. Jesus triumphantly rides into Jerusalem on a donkey. People are ecstatic because they believe Jesus has come to overthrow the Roman government. They believe Jesus has come to bring the Israelite people out of subjugation and put them in their rightful place as rulers over the nations.
Why are they doing this? Because Jesus has shown himself to be the Messiah, the Savior. Jesus’ many miracles point in that direction, and Peter confirms this with Jesus back in chapter 8. And with this deliberate choice on Jesus’ side of entering into Jerusalem on a donkey, solidifies both from Jesus himself and to the people around him that he is indeed the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
How do we know? When Matthew, one of Jesus’ other disciples, writes about this event, he says this, “4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:
5 “Say to Daughter Zion, ‘See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, and on a colt, the foal of a donkey.’”

Jesus purposefully fulfilled a prophecy from the prophet Zechariah made hundreds of years before, and the people understood this. 
So with this purposeful fulfillment of prophecy on Jesus’ part, and all his miracles, why were the disciples still not trusting in Jesus’ words that he would be killed and rise from the dead? 
If we read ahead, we know that the disciples were very proud of the temple. Yet, Jesus told them it would be destroyed. This was to move their thoughts away from the physical temple of God, and refocus them on his death and resurrection. 
We know that the disciples still didn’t take Jesus’ death seriously, when a women would eventually anoint Jesus’ feet, by putting perfumes on him. The disciples saw it as a waste of money, where Jesus saw it as a precursor to his death.
Even at his final meal with his disciples, they still were not taking seriously the words of Jesus about his death. And the question we should ask is why? Why were they not taking Jesus seriously when he talked about his death? I mean they saw the miracles. They saw the fulfillment of prophecy. They believed Jesus was the Messiah. So why not accept what he was saying about his death?
And the answer is simple, they’re trust of Jesus only went so far. They trusted Jesus only as far as they wanted to.  But when the trust required more of them, they stopped. When the trust required them to look at the pain that was ahead, their trust stopped. When the trust required that the good times of plenty where about to end, their trust stopped.
Now they didn’t stop trusting that Jesus was the Messiah. In fact, with Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the donkey, that trust was enforced. Where their trust stopped, was when Jesus started to talk about things that didn’t fit into their plans.
Jesus talking about his death was not what they wanted. They wanted the king. They wanted Israel to return to its former glory. They wanted to rule over nations. They didn’t want a dead Savior. And so their trust stopped, and eventually faltered when the time came. The time of Jesus betrayal, death, and even his resurrection. The trust wasn’t their.

We can do this exact same thing from time to time. We can trust Jesus in a lot of areas, but when that trust is asked to go to hard places, we can falter. We can stop trusting in that area, because it doesn’t fit within what our plans are. We don’t lose our trust in Jesus overall, just not in that one area he is asking us to trust him deep in.

And we can hear verses like “‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).”
Or, “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future (Jeremiah 29:11).’”

And we go, Lord I trust that you know what is best for me. But the application of that trust is where we lose our step. It’s when our plans and our ways, come into conflict with God’s plans and his ways, that we stop trusting. Thinking that our way, our plan is the better way.

Yet God wants us to trust him. Like a child trusts their parent to teach them to ride a bike. Even when it can end in hurt. That child gets back on the bike and asks again for help. They continue to trust that their parent is wanting the best for them. But with the best, their might be hard times, their might be pain. 

So then, how do we trust? How can we get past our own plans and ways, to trust God in those areas where we are faltering? Well, we go back to the question I asked my daughter, how do you trust? And the answer is from experience. And this is three fold:
First, what has God said? How many of us have gone through the Bible specifically looking for the prophecies and promises of God? Did you know that there are around 1,800 prophecies in the Bible. May of them have been fulfilled. Things like the rise of the Greek and then the Roman Empire. Daniel’s first 69 weeks. And around 300 that were specifically about Jesus himself. On top of that, there are about 5,400 promises that God gives in the Bible. Some are general promises that apply to you and me. Some are specific to Abraham, and the nation of Israel. But God has a lot to say, have we listened so that we can better trust? What he has said in the past and has fulfilled, will help us trust him now in the present.
Second, what has God done? What has gone done in the lives of his people. Through the Scriptures, through history, and through our own lives? Have we ever made a list of all the things God has done for us? Have we made a list of all the things he has done for his people? Or a list of all the things he has done in the peoples’ lives found in Scripture? What we have seen him do again and again in the lives of others and our own life, will help us trust him now.
Finally, what is God telling you now? This is where the rubber meets the road. What is the circumstance that God has placed you? Are you in a hard place; financially, relationally, spiritually? Are you wondering what is next? Well, what is the direction do you want to go in? What do you want? Now, what has the first and second experience with God taught you? Once we look at that, then we can begin to ask God, what am I missing?
See the disciples had the first two parts of the experience locked down. They knew what God had said, and they knew what God had done. But what they were missing was listening to God at that moment. Applying their experience with Jesus to their current situation. And this is where we can falter the most. 
God does want good things in our life, but we might need to learn something first, so what is it? God wants us to trust him, but we might be so focused on what we want that we’re missing it, so we might need to step back and ask God to speak to us again. And we might need to ask him to strengthen our trust.

God desires us to trust him, I believe that we desire the same thing, that’s why we’re here right now. The problem comes when our trust is asked to do something we don’t want to do, or seems to hard to do. 

This week, my challenge for us is this, take one of the first two areas of trust that we talked about, what has God said or what has God done, and make a list for one of them. This might take a few days, but be as thorough as possible. Going through the Scriptures researching promises and prophecies. Going through the lives of God’s people and our own for what he has done.
Make that list of which ever of the two you pick to look into, or both for good measure.
Then go to the final area of trust and begin to ask God, where do I need to trust now? Where am I faltering in trust him now? Write down your situation, what you want out of it, and begin to ask God, what he wants in it.

Let us wholly in Jesus, as the kid trusting wholly in their parent as they are taught to ride a bike. When we do, we will be freer to trust Jesus has he has called us to trust.

Now may you trust in God as a child trusts their parent, so that his plans will be worked out in your life. Amen.