Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Mark, Week 13 - Taking Being a Disciple Seriously

Last week we talked about how we need to be recognizing where God is working and be a part of it. We saw two groups that were blinded by their inability to see God’s work. One used a physical excuse to dismiss Jesus, and the other used a spiritual excuse. And we talked about how if we follow that same path of denying the work of God, it can lead us to commit the unforgivable sin, which is a total denial of God. This is because we have made ourselves blind to him. And then we saw, in Jesus’ words, how to not commit this unforgivable sin, and the answer was simple: be a part of what God is doing. If we haven’t invested ourselves into God’s work, then we have already put ourselves into the beginning stages of denying God. And that’s not where Jesus wants us to be.

Now, as we get into the passage that we’ll be studying today, we’re going to do something slightly different. Instead of starting where we left off, we’re going to jump two chapters in Mark. So if you have your Bibles, we’ll be taking a brief glance at Mark chapter 6, starting in the second part of the verse. The reason why, is this: in order to fully understand chapters four and five, we have to understand this section in chapter 6. If we do not understand where we’re going, we won’t understand why we need to take the path we’re on.

So let’s read quickly chapter 6 of Mark, starting in verse 6b.

Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. 7 Calling the Twelve to him, he began to send them out two by two and gave them authority over impure spirits…12 They went out and preached that people should repent. 13 They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.

Now, we only read verses 6-7 and 12-13. The reason we’re doing this is because, when we eventually get to this passage I’ll need to teach on it, and I don’t want to give away all of what we’re going to be talking about. But it’s these three and half verses that speaks to what we need to understand. From last week, we talked about how we need to be involved in God’s work right? But here’s my question, if that is true, then why does it take so long for Jesus to send out his Twelve? We haven’t been focusing at all on the actual time frame the book of Mark is following, but it’s helpful here. So thinking about it as a timeline of Jesus’ ministry, he called some of these disciples all the way back in chapter 1, when he was walking along the Lake of Galilee  Well, it’s about six months later, when we find ourselves in chapter 3, and it’s then that Jesus appoints the Twelve. Then, it’s a minimum of another six months before we get to chapter 6, and the sending out of the Twelve. That’s about one full year that these guys have been with Jesus. So, why the delay? Why is it taking so long for Jesus to send out these Twelve on their own? I mean, if he really wanted to to get the message out, wouldn’t he send them out earlier?

And like we noticed a few weeks ago, in verse 9 of chapter 3, it was the first time we saw the disciples actually do any work. In other words, it took the disciples six months to do anything, and another six months before Jesus sent them on their own. And the question we should be asking is why? Why so long?

To answer that question, we need to go back to where we left off from last week. So let’s flip back over to chapter 4 and read from verse 1.

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables…

Did you catch it? Did you catch the answer? Let’s back track a little further, and look at  chapter 3 verses 7-9, which is right before Jesus calls the Twelve, and then we’ll re-read chapter 4:1-2. 

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him.

Now contrast that with chapter 4:

1 Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge. 2 He taught them many things by parables…

Isn’t this the same situation? Not in the sense that Mark is repeating himself, but rather these two situations are parallel. Both times we find Jesus at the lake. Both times the crowds are moving in on him. And both times Jesus was in need of a boat. But here’s the difference and the answer to our question of why did it take Jesus so long to send out the Twelve. The first time Jesus told the disciples to get him a boat, but this time he didn’t. Do you see the small difference there? In the first situation, Jesus had to tell his disciples to prepare a boat so that the crowds that were gathering would not crush him. This time, Jesus doesn’t say anything about getting a boat, yet the boat was there. I’m guessing the disciples saw the crowds gathering and had the boat ready, and that’s why Jesus didn’t say anything.
The disciples were learning. And that’s the answer to the question. The disciples had to learn. It took time for them to develop to a point where Jesus felt comfortable enough to send them out on their own. It took time for them to learn from their teacher, to experience with him, to learn to meet his needs before they were needed.

I’ve shared some of my story before Marika and I moved to Quartzsite. Almost every summer since I was twelve I worked with my dad. Mostly it was hanging sheetrock on side jobs for him, or cleaning up job sites. When I went to college, those summers became full-time jobs. And in those summer jobs I started being trained as an apprentice, learning metal stud framing. We’d work on mostly large commercial buildings, or small tenant improvement jobs at shopping malls. I was always the bottom guy, which meant, I had to do all the cutting, all the carrying, all the moving, and all the prep work. In other words, my job was to make sure that the guy on the rolling scaffold above me didn’t wait around. I had to anticipate what he needed. And it took time for me to learn that. By the time I was a year and half out of college, I had learned both the top and the bottom aspects of the job, and how to read our sets of plans.
Now, I wouldn't consider myself an expert, or a journeyman like my father, but I knew the trade. And because I did, my employers started paying me $22 an hour. At 22 years old, that was a lot of money.

But it takes time to learn, and to experience enough that we are ready to work on our own. And that’s where we find ourselves in the book of Mark. We’re at the learning stages of the disciples. It’s their prep time. Their apprenticeship time.

But here’s the kicker, in six months from now, these disciples are going to be sent out. They don’t know it, but we do because we can skip ahead. And because we can skip ahead, guess what we can learn about these guys? They never stop being Jesus’ disciples. They never stop learning. They never stop being taught.

Let me give you some examples: After the Twelve returned in Mark 6:30, Jesus immediately  teaches them on the scope of God’s power. This is done with the feeding of the 5,000. The disciples didn’t comprehend God’s power so Jesus had to show them. 
Fast forward to after Jesus is resurrected. Mary sees Jesus risen, but it says in verse 11 of chapter 16, “they would not believe her.” The “they” in that sentence is referring to the disciples. Even though Jesus had taught several times on what would happen, they still did not believe Mary. 
Fast forward even further ahead and out of the book of Mark to the book of Acts chapter 10 verses 9-48. Peter is still learning about the scope of God’s saving work, and how God is bringing into the church non-Jewish people. 
Finally, fast forward one more time, all the way to the book of Galatians chapter 2 verses 11-17. Here Peter, again the one whom Mark is writing down his words of this Gospel that we are studying, is confronted by Paul because Peter had not yet learned everything.

So what’s all that have to do with us? It’s simple, you and I are called to be disciples of Jesus. Matthew 28:19 and 20, “19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

We are to be disciples of Jesus. And how do we do that? We are taught. We learn through the teachings of the Word of God, like Paul did in Acts 18. We learn through the instruction of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus instructed us to learn in John 16.
You and I are to always be seeking to learn, to be discipled by the Word of God, so that we may do the work of God. As we go into these next two chapters of Mark, we need to have that heart, we need to have that understanding. Because it all falls back to what we talked about last week. If we are not willing to recognize God’s work, and if we are not willing to be a part of it, then we are in jeopardy of missing out on it, and all the blessings that come with it. But in order to participate, we must be discipled. We must put ourselves under God’s teaching and constantly have a desire to learn, to grow, and to be disciplined. This is why we are here. This is what the Church gathering is for, as Paul puts it in Romans 15, verses 4-6, “4 For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.
5 May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, 6 so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Did you see what he said? Be taught, so that we may be encouraged to have hope. So that our attitude would be like Christ Jesus’, and that we would glorify God in unity.

So here’s the challenge: This week I want each of us to read through chapters 4-5 and come away with one lesson that God wants to teach us from the passages. If God’s word is truly as it says, a living word, that means that no matter where we are at in our walk with God, his word is alive and can speak to our lives where we are at. So read, and re-read, and re-read chapters 4 thru 5 until God shows you what you need to learn, and then put it into practice.

Let us learn so that we may glorify God, and stand in this world as his disciples, ready for the work that stands before us. And may God who is the master, teach us what it means to be his apprentices, his disciples. Amen

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Mark, Week 12 - Recognizing God’s Work

Last week in the book of Mark, we began to see a shift in Jesus’ ministry. Jesus began to call his disciples to do more than just be with him. He started to have them work. Before this, we saw that the disciples kind of took a back seat to what was happening. They were there, but it seemed like they were there for the food, rather than for the work that Jesus was doing. But in verses 7-19 we saw that this isn’t what Jesus had called them to. Jesus doesn’t call his disciples to simply feast with him, but instead Jesus has called them to work alongside him. It is the same calling that he has to each of us.
If we have accepted Jesus as our Savior, then we are not just supposed to be feasting with Jesus. Meaning, we are not just supposed to be going to church, hearing God’s word, eating at potlucks, and being with other believers. Those are all things we should do, but if we are not actually working alongside Jesus in what he is doing, then we are not truly his disciples. Instead we are just there for the feast; there to get what we can from Jesus, but we’re not actually responding to him. 
Last week we also brought up this question, why were the crowds there? We answered with, they wanted to get something from Jesus. We didn’t go into too much detail about that, but here’s the thing: if we are not participating in the work that Jesus is doing, then we are just a member of the crowd who’s only interesting in gaining something from Jesus for our own, momentary benefit, rather than being a life-long disciple.

With the understanding that we are either a member of the crowd looking for personal gain, or a disciple willing to work, we can move into today’s passage of Mark chapter 3, starting in verse 20. 
And as we start into Make 3:20, I want to lay out where we’re going. Today we’re going to go through the passage twice. First, we’ll go through and explain the passage, then we we’ll go back and connect all the dots. Before we read the passage though, I want us to realize something. Starting last week, we didn’t only see a shift in Jesus’ ministry by him calling the first disciples to become the twelve and start fully participating into his work. No, we saw a shift in Jesus’ teachings as well. We’ll see how this shift really turns as we get into the passage. But for now, let’s just say that the shift is characterized in two ways: First, how people respond to Jesus in the wrong way, and second, Jesus’ teaching on what it means to responds in the right way.

As we get into Mark chapter 3 starting in verse 20, we’ll also see how last week and this week are interconnected. And how our response to Jesus is very important. 

So let’s start reading in verse 20 of chapter 3.

20 Then Jesus entered a house, and again a crowd gathered, so that he and his disciples were not even able to eat. 21 When his family heard about this, they went to take charge of him, for they said, “He is out of his mind.”
22 And the teachers of the law who came down from Jerusalem said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
23 So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables: “How can Satan drive out Satan? 24 If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. 25 If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand. 26 And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come. 27 In fact, no one can enter a strong man’s house without first tying him up. Then he can plunder the strong man’s house. 28 Truly I tell you, people can be forgiven all their sins and every slander they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; they are guilty of an eternal sin.”
30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an impure spirit.”
31 Then Jesus’ mother and brothers arrived. Standing outside, they sent someone in to call him. 32 A crowd was sitting around him, and they told him, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you.”
33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked.
34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”

So, here’s the thing, again we see a passage that is usually split into two; separating verses 20-30 and verses 31-35. But really they shouldn’t be because they are bookended by Jesus’ family and the way they see him. We start off in verses 20-21 with Jesus’ family thinking that there is something wrong with him. That he is, “out of his mind,” as the passage states. And then the family arrives on the scene in verse 31. This is one of those things that connects the passage to help us understand the full implications of what is happening. Because what follows each mention of Jesus’ family, is the crux of what we are meant to understand. Because these are separated by two mentions of the family, we’ll talk about each on their own and then connect them back to each other to get the fully understanding. Let’s start in verse 22.

We see some teachers of the law come up from Jerusalem. Like we learned last week, Jesus’ popularity and word of his miraculous work has been heard up to 100 miles away. Take that, and the fact that the local Pharisees and teachers haven’t been able to answer Jesus, probably means that these guys were sent up to assess the situation and knock Jesus down a few pegs.
As they begin to watch Jesus, he must have cast out a demon because it’s in that context that they speak. They say, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons.”
This is a huge accusation, because if it were true than everything Jesus would be doing, would come from a sinister place. And that means, nothing he says should be trusted. But Jesus doesn’t take it lying down, and instead pokes a whole in their statement. These teachers believe that Jesus can cast out demons because he himself is in league with them. But as Jesus explains, that is a self-defeating work.
Jesus gives them a parable, a story with a point. In this story there are two aspects: the first is the kingdom divided cannot stand, and the second is the tying up of the strong man. The kingdom divided is pretty straight forward. Jesus is telling the teachers that if he were possessed by Satan, then Satan would be working against himself and if there is not unity in Satan’s work, then Satan’s power would begin to crumble. Jesus is therefore saying that if he was possessed by Satan, then he wouldn’t be casting out demons, because it would be a self-defeating work.
Moving on to the second part of Jesus’ parable, is the part I find the most interesting. Because Jesus relates Satan to the strong man, and puts himself in the role of the thief. So, what Jesus is saying is that Satan’s house is this world, in order for Jesus to steal Satan’s possessions, which is humanity, Jesus must tie Satan up. Therefore Jesus must be stronger than Satan in order to do this. Putting both stories together we get this understanding: Satan’s kingdom/house, is this world, if Jesus was in league with Satan, driving out demons, it would mean that this kingdom would be at war with itself. But instead, Jesus has come into this world, into Satan’s kingdom, into his house, to subdue Satan, tying him up so that Jesus may steal us back to himself.

From here, we move into verses 28-30, where Jesus gives an extra warning to these teachers. Using pretty strong language, Jesus tells them that there is one unpardonable sin that can be made, and that’s denying the work of the Holy Spirit. But let’s leave that there, an come back to it.

So that’s the first section that follows the mention of Jesus’ family. The second section is after the family arrives and Jesus responds to the news with something that might seem hurtful. “33 “Who are my mother and my brothers?” he asked. 34 Then he looked at those seated in a circle around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! 35 Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.”
But in the context of what is going on, this statement is not meant to be hurtful, but rather speak to what has happened up to this point.

So are we ready to bring all of this together? Last week we talked about how, to be Jesus’ disciple means we must work alongside him. This leads us into seeing two groups of people coming to Jesus believing his work is not of God. Jesus’ family believes that he is mentally ill. They believe there is a physical reason that what Jesus is doing is not the work of God. The second group, the teachers of the law, believe that Jesus is possessed by Satan. They believe that Jesus’ work is not from God because of a spiritual reason. But both are wrong. Both of these groups are blind to the work of God. If fact, these people, who are not interested in seeing God’s work being carried out are met by two strong statements from Jesus. The unpardonable sin, and those who do God’s will are family. 

So what’s that mean for us? God invites us to be a part of his work, to be in the thick of it. If we are, then we are a part of his family and have access to all that includes. But what God does not want us to do is to see his work and write it off as not being from him. See we have a tendency to see something and go, “well that doesn’t fit with my absolute understanding of who God is, therefore that’s not really God’s work.”
I’ve seen this happen, I’ve experienced it. A few years back we had some people that did not believe that God wanted this church to continue reaching out to the youth of this town. They wanted to strip everything away that we do to reach them. They saw that the finances were tight, and then equated that to, God not being in the work. It was even said that if we continued to go down the path we were, that the church would be closed by the end of the same summer. But in fact, the very next year was the largest giving year we had. And it has only improved since then.

In this passage, we see two groups trying to dismiss God’s work. The first is Jesus’ own family, citing a physical reason why they believe Jesus’ work is not of God. The second are the teachers of the law, who cite a spiritual reason why they believe that Jesus’ work is not from God. To the teacher’s, Jesus gives a strong warning about denying the work of the Holy Spirit. He said that a denial of the work of the Holy Spirit, is an eternal sin. Now, I’m not saying that these teacher’s, or the family, or the group I just mentioned, committed an unpardonable sin. No, what I am saying is that an attitude that rejects the work of God will eventually lead us into a place where we can never return. When we are consistently denying God’s work, equating it to physical reasons, or spiritual reasons, or to chance or to anything that is not giving God the credit he is deserving, then we end up in a place that sees nothing of God, and everything of ourselves.

But instead, God wants us to be able to recognize his work. To recognize what he is doing, and then be a part of it. To do his will, to be a part of his family.

In this passage we read today, we divided it into to two based on the family of Jesus. But it is the end of each section that ties the two together, because they are meant to be taken together. We can either deny the work of God, which leads us to not recognizing God at all, and eventually leads to total separation from him. Or we can participate in the work of God, and show that we are his family, gaining all of the eternal riches that come with it.

So here’s the challenge today. Take a look around you. Do you see any buildings? You might be inside one, or out and about. But find a building and look at it. Find the imperfections, the things that were not fully done in the first construction or that need repair and say this prayer, “Lord help me see what you are building, that I may be apart of it. Amen.”
That building you see needs work done, God has work for you too. The question is, are you willing to be an active disciple, engaged in his work? Or the skeptic on the outside, not truly seeing all that God is doing. I pray that you are at work.
This is a simple prayer, for a simple action. 

Now may the Lord who calls you to action, give you the strength through his Spirit to achieve all that he has before you. Amen.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Week 11, Mark - Bringing God a Boat

Last week in the book of Mark we discussed the three overarching points that Mark is trying to get across to us in his Gospel. We saw all three points incapsulated in the statement that Jesus made where he said, “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” This pointed to Jesus being God, because he fully understands why the Sabbath was created, because he himself is the Creator. This also pointed to Jesus being our example, because he strips away the things that are unneeded, and only those things that he requires of us are left behind. Finally this statement that Jesus makes, points to his authority, because he is the Lord over all and his word on the subject is final.

Also last week, we talked about the main point of the passage, and what that meant for us. The point of the passage was not about what the Sabbath was, it’s not about when we are suppose to observe it, and it’s not about what we can do on it. The main point of the passage was to help us understand that there are things in our lives that we try to add to God’s word, that shouldn’t be there. It’s these things that we have added, that need to be stripped away, and allow God to speak his truth as it was meant to be spoken. Just like our bodies need water, so too our lives need the pure word of God. Anything else that is added, just needs to be taken away.

As we get into today’s passage starting in Mark 3:7. I want to share with you a glimpse into the struggle of this week for me. The passage we are going to read today, can be taken as two separate passages. And if we were doing a deeper study of these verses, we would do just that. We would take this passage split them in two, because there is a lot that could be dissected. But, the more and more I read this passage, the more and more I felt God laying it on me that we needed to look at it as a whole. Because, that’s what we do on Sunday mornings. We take God’s word and try to look at the verses in a bigger light. This is done so that we can see the overarching points God is trying to make. On Sunday nights at 6pm, that’s when we look to dissect the passage more in depth.

So, we’re going to start in Mark chapter 3 verse 7, and read all the way through verse 19. It’s 13 verses, but in the end I think it is the best approach for today. So let’s start reading in verse 7 of Mark chapter 3.

7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the lake, and a large crowd from Galilee followed. 8 When they heard about all he was doing, many people came to him from Judea, Jerusalem, Id-u-me-a, and the regions across the Jordan and around Ty-re and  Si-don. 9 Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him, to keep the people from crowding him. 10 For he had healed many, so that those with diseases were pushing forward to touch him. 11 Whenever the impure spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 But he gave them strict orders not to tell others about him.

13 Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14 He appointed twelve that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15 and to have authority to drive out demons. 16 These are the twelve he appointed: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter), 17 James son of Zebedee and his brother John (to them he gave the name Bo-an-er-gees, which means “sons of thunder”), 18 Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Al-phee-us, Thad-dee-us, Simon the Zealot 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

So there’s a lot here. There’s the crowds from all over. And we’re not just talking short distances. Some people are traveling up to 100 miles to come see Jesus from places like Idumea, which was in the far-far south. That’s like anyone of us, walking to Yuma or Lake Havasu, or even Buckeye. And to what? Go see Jesus? I don’t know, I’ve never gone out of my way to see any speaker. Life gets in the way too easily. And at this point it’s just rumors and hearsay about this man from Nazareth. People might say that he is healing people of all diseases, but is he really? 100 miles is a long way to walk for a rumor. But people are doing it. So much so, that they’re pushing to get at him, and he has to literally get on a boat so that he has enough room to teach them. 

So on one hand this passage is talking about the huge crowds traveling vast distances to see Jesus. On the other hand, Jesus is still dealing with demons that want to announce that he is the Son of God. Again something that Jesus wants people to realize on their own, and especially not from a demonic source. But that will actually be more important next week. So we have the crowds, and the demons. And all of this is taking place at sea level.

But then we have a third hand. Why a third hand, I don’t know, but it’s the other, other hand. This third hand is Jesus calling of the Twelve. Twelve of his closet disciples, that he is going to send out to preach with the “authority to drive out demons,” as it says in the text. And then it lists exactly who those twelve are. And this is all done on a mountainside.

So we have two hands where Jesus is at the sea. One of those hands is about the crowds from all over the area and beyond. The other hand is about Jesus silencing the demons so that people will know him based on their own understanding. And our weird final hand being the calling of the Twelve closest disciples to preach and cast out demons. So, yeah, there’s a lot going on. But what does that mean for us?

What are we to take away from all of this? Well, as I went through these two separate sections again and again and again, there was one thing that caught my eye. And it’s this little phrase from verse 9, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…”

Now this doesn’t seem like a big deal. And it doesn’t seem like the focus of the passage, but really, I think it is. Not to say that this phrase is the most important thing that is going on. Each of the three hands that we talked about earlier are very important. But my question is why? Why do we get this first section of the crowds and the demons where it is. We know people are following him, so is Mark trying to bolster the idea that Jesus is becoming more and more popular? I don’t think so. Because, why not talk more about it, and give us some numbers? On the other hand, we know that Jesus has power over demons, but we’ve seen it before in chapter 1, why do we need to see it again. Is this to help us know that he has power over many different demons. That could be true, but then why is the calling of the Twelve right after this?
I mean, that seems to be disconnected to the passage after the calling of the Twelve. In fact, it seems even more disconnected, because as we’ll see next week, Mark continues showing us Jesus’ teaching about demons, not focusing at all on the twelve’s work. So why? Why are these two passages of Scripture together?

As I prayed about this passage and this phrase, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…”, God took me back away from the passage. I had to go back and think about what we have already read and I realized something. Up to this point, the disciples have done nothing but eat. Jesus heals Peter’s mother-in-law, she served them food. Jesus calls Levi to follow, Levi invites them to a dinner. They’re all walking in the fields, the disciples are eating grain. Man, it seems like when Jesus said fisher’s of men, the thought of food just stuck in their brain. Because, all that it seems they’ve been doing so far, is eating.

So, why does this phrase, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…” from verse 9 stand out? Because it is the first time that the disciples are required to act. It is the first time that we see Jesus giving them something to do. Before this point, the disciples have been on the receiving end. They have been on the feasting end. But now, it’s their time. It’s their time to start working. It’s their time to start participating. It’s their time to start doing what Jesus had called them to do. And it all started with this phrase, “Because of the crowd he told his disciples to have a small boat ready for him…

This is what it all boils down to, you and I need to prepare small boats. What does that mean? It means, that you and I need to start being used by God for something. Something that is needed, but not necessarily something big. I don’t know why Jesus chose the twelve disciples that he did. Was it because they were the first? I don’t know. Was it because he knew certain things were going to play out a certain way, I don’t know. Maybe it was. Maybe they were the ones that got the boat. I don’t know.

But what I do know, is that Mark tells us that Jesus called the disciples to get him a boat, and then Mark tells us that he called the Twelve. And these are the twelve Jesus sent out to be mini-mes of Jesus. Preaching and casting out demons.

And Mark made it a point that only one betrayed Jesus, that means that the other eleven went on to spend the rest of their lives in service to Jesus. In service until they died.

Now, we’re going to get a little uncomfortable here. We in the church too often are at the feast. We are the receivers, just like the disciples were. And some of us, at one time or another did our boat duty. We were getting Jesus all sizes of boats. Big boats, small boats, boats of kids, boats of adults, boats of teaching, and boats of this this-that-and-the-other-thing. But now we’re back in the feast again, thinking that our service is done. The reality is, it’s not. A Jesus disciple’s work is to prepare boats. It’s to do as the master wants. This past week, preparing for something completely different, I came up with 10 different needs, that I now see are boat needs here in our church. Jobs that are not huge, that are not going to break the bank or break anyone’s body to do. Rather, they are small needs, small boats, that need to be done. 

My question is, do we think that it’s okay just to feast with the Savior, without bringing him the boat when needed? This week my challenge is this. Come up with three new boats that you can bring to Jesus. Three things that are needed in the ministry whether at your church up north, or your church down south. Then, work in them. If you are willing to forego the feast and start preparing the boat, then your in a place for Jesus to use you. Just like the disciples whom Jesus used. So that none of us are simply just feasting, without working for the Savior.

Now may God reveal to you the boat he wants you to prepare for him, and may it bring glory to him as we are used for his purposes. Amen

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Mark, Week 10 - Jesus With No Additives

Today we’re going to be jumping back into the second chapter of Mark, picking it up in verse 23. As we get into Mark 2 starting in verse 23, let’s get a little recap of what we’ve been talking about.
Now in the two chapters that we've covered so far in Mark’s book, we've talked about how there are two main points that he is bringing up. First, Jesus is God, which we’ve seen on multiple occasions. From John’s proclamation, to Jesus’ encounter with a demon. Mark is trying to help us understand that Jesus is not just a run of the mill human, but rather God on earth. The second point that Mark emphasizes, is that everything Jesus does, he does for our benefit. So that we have an example to follow. It doesn’t matter if it’s how we are to follow in his steps to be baptized, or if it’s how we are to view the use of the material things that God has given us, such as a building. Jesus’ life is meant to show us how we are to follow him. 
But here’s the thing, there’s another point that Mark has brought up that we haven’t spent too much time on. This point was first made back in chapter 1 verses 21-34. We had talked about how these verses help us to understand Jesus authority. These verses taught us how Jesus had authority over the Scriptures through his teaching, over the physical world by his ability to heal every disease, and over the spiritual world by his ability to silence and cast out the demon.
And as we go through Mark 2:23 thru chapter 3 verse 6 today, we’ll see how, these three points are brought up. So if you have you’re Bible we’ll be starting in verse 23 of Mark chapter 2.

2:23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”
27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

3:1 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”
4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.
5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

So Mark is giving us two distinct situations that dealt with the same theme, in the same context. First off, what is the context in which both of these situations take place? In both situations it’s the Sabbath. Now we’ll get more into the Sabbath later, but for now, let’s just understand that the Sabbath is the last day of the week, where no one was allowed to go to work. Instead they were to rest from work and worship God. This was actually set down as law by God in Exodus 31 and 34. So in other words, both these situations are happening on Saturday when everyone’s supposed to be resting. 

Now, let’s compare the two: First we have Jesus and his disciples walking through a field, it’s probably somewhere between mid-May to mid-July, which is the harvest season in the Middle East. And as the group walks through the area, they’re picking the heads of grain, crushing them and eating them. Now from the Pharisees perspective Jesus’ disciples are breaking the law of the Sabbath. Now breaking the law of the Sabbath wasn’t a small thing. In Exodus 31:14-15 says this, “14 ‘Observe the Sabbath, because it is holy to you. Anyone who desecrates it is to be put to death; those who do any work on that day must be cut off from their people. 15 For six days work is to be done, but the seventh day is a day of sabbath rest, holy to the Lord. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day is to be put to death.’”
That’s pretty strong language. Breaking the Sabbath means death. And so, to the Pharisees this is not a small infraction. But Jesus takes it in stride and brings up a story about King David which is found in the book of 1st Samuel chapters 21 and 22. The story goes that, David was fleeing for his life from the Israelite King, Saul. David goes to the town of Nob to seek guidance from God. While there he and his companions need food. The priest told him that the only food they had was consecrated bread. Meaning, bread that had been offered up to God and was only to be eaten by the priests. We find out later in 1st Samuel chapter 22 , that the priest, after hearing David’s request for food, and knowing that the only food on hand was the consecrated bread, ask God if he should give it to David and his men. God approved and the bread was given to David.
Now the question should be, why does Jesus bring up this story? And the answer is, because it shows that there’s a disconnect in the Pharisees thinking. See the Pharisees based everything they did on a strict interpretation of God’s law. To the point where they would add rules to God’s law to make it more strict. Case in point: There were about 39 additions to the Sabbath law that the Pharisees lived by. Things like: Not being able to weave, extinguishing a fire, starting a fire, transporting an item from a private home to a public area, and writing or erasing two or more letters. These additions can be found in the Mishnah Tractate Shabbat 7:2. None of which is in the Torah, the Law of God.

The second situation sees Jesus in a synagogue, so basically like we are now in the church building, with a bunch of people, one of which has a deformed hand. Jesus takes this opportunity to press the Pharisees on their traditional stance of the Sabbath. Jesus requests that the person with the deformed hand stand up in the middle of everyone, and then directs a question towards the Pharisees, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
Now, let’s put this in perspective of what the Pharisees held to. With those 39 additions that were put on to the Sabbath, one of the exceptions was that a person, who’s life was endanger, could be saved. But other than that, nothing should be done. So Jesus is basically asking them, is it wrong to heal this man? To do good for someone on the day that God says to keep holy? And then Jesus heals the man.

So we have two situations, both happening on the Sabbath, and to which Jesus challenges the way in which the Pharisees deal with God’s day of rest. The Pharisees want to add to the day, to make it as strict as possible. And Jesus challenges them on it. And why does he do that? Because as Jesus himself says in verse 27, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath.”
God intended the Sabbath for a purpose, so that we wouldn’t burn out. Now this isn’t about the Sabbath. This section isn’t about when the Sabbath is, or how to keep it, but rather, the point of this section is all about how we add to what God says. God designed the Sabbath to be a day for humanity to recuperate both physically and spiritually. In Exodus 34:21, God says, “Six days you shall labor, but on the seventh day you shall rest; even during the plowing season and harvest you must rest.”
It’s about taking a break, not becoming a work alcoholic, but instead having our strength renewed both in our physical lives, and in our spiritual lives. God made the Sabbath so that humanity wouldn’t destroy themselves with work. But the Pharisees were now trying to enslave people to the idea of the Sabbath, when, in reality, the Sabbath was to be a freeing time. A day free from the stress of work and labor. Free to enjoy and to do good. Hence why Jesus asks the question, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?”
He’s asking, is the Sabbath meant to bring out good in life, or bad? And the answer is, good. In other words, when we take God at his word, not adding to or taking away from it, his word is always is meant to be for our good. 

But the Pharisees didn’t understand, because on that Sabbath day, they decided to do evil. On that Sabbath day they decided to kill. In verse 6 it says, “Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.”
When we decide to manipulate God’s word, to add or to take away from it, we become the thing that we try to avoid. We become the one that does not understand who God is, because we try and make ourselves god.
But how do we manipulate God’s word? What are some of the things that we might be doing today that adds to God’s word rather than letting it speak for itself?
Have you heard what happened on August 11-12 of 2017, in Charlottesville Virgin? If you haven’t heard, then you must be living in a cave because it was all over the news. There was a rally where protesters, Neo-Nazis, and White supremacists, clashed with an anti-government, anti-fascist group called ANTIFA. In the aftermath, there have been a lot of different shows covering different kinds of groups that support white supremacy. One of those shows was from Univsion, who’s reporter, a lady named Llia Calderon, interviewed a KKK member. In the interview she asked the man “What would you call yourselves.” He responded with, a Christian group, a group that follows what the Bible teaches and then gave the verse Leviticus 19:18. He quoted it as saying this, “Love thy neighbor of thy people. My people are white. Your people are black. I am what I am, you are what you are.”
Now, I know that the media is notorious for taking quotes out of context. But if this is indeed the correct quote, then he has changed the word to fit what he wants. Here is Leviticus 19:18 from the King James Version, “18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” Taking it in it’s original context the “thy people” that are mentioned, is the nation of Israel. You and I cannot use it to say anything else. But you know who did add to it? Who did interpret it? Jesus. In the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37. A Samaritan was a person despised by the Jews, yet he was the one who was the neighbor who helped out the Jewish traveler. Jesus’ teachings expands Leviticus’ neighbor to everyone. The one that is like us, and the one that is not. 
This KKK guy that was being interviewed, twisted God’s word and disregarded Jesus’ teaching, and by doing so turned it into something that it was not intended to say. But we can do it too. When we require people to dress a certain way, talk a certain way, interpret secondary doctrines a certain way. When we do things like this, we add to God’s word things that are not there. I’ve told this story before. At the first church I ever volunteered at, they asked Marika and I to teach the teens. As we met, God blessed it and the group grew, and all we did was read through the book of Luke and ask questions. When we decided to begin outreach, the Pastor asked to meet with Marika and I, and told us we were not going to do any outreach, because people need to look like us, before they could join us. We left the church, because that’s nowhere in Scripture.
We’ve been been working our way through Mark for 10 weeks, and as we have been doing this we have talked about three points Mark is making. Jesus is God, Jesus is our example, and Jesus has authority. 
In verse 28 of this passage we see all three points that we have been reviewing so far. Jesus says “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” He is God, because he fully understands why the Sabbath was created, because he himself created and is the Lord of it. 
Jesus says “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” He is our example, because he strips away what is unnecessary and says, to follow what is required of us.
Jesus says “So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.” He has authority to lead us, because he is the Lord of all.

If anyone is going to tell us what Scripture means it’s Jesus, because he wrote it.

Here is my challenge today, pour yourself a tall glass of water. With all the liquids we drink there are a lot of additives. Especially with things that soda. Now I love Pepsi, as a lot of you know. And the reason is, is because I think it tastes wonderful, but I’ll be honest it’s not good for me. All those additives that turn water into the gloriousness that is Pepsi, actually are not good for my health. But you know what is always good for you, clean water. Water that has no pollutants in it. No additives. In fact, I was just listening to a guy who's an athletic trainer and his big thing is to cut all types of liquids out of your diet and just drink water. Now I don’t know if I’ll ever get there, but slowly I’ve been trying to cut out Pepsi. We all have our cross to bear, and I guess this is mine.
So the challenge is this, take several drinks of that glass of water, and pray. If you want to commit to seeking God to cut the traditions that you might have, out of your life that try to add to his word. If you want to have God’s word be unpolluted by personal expectations or human additives, then pray that with every drink of water, God would make his word pure in your life. Only allowing Jesus to interpret his word, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Now may the God who seeks to purify us, start by purifying his word in our lives. That we would live by what he has approved, and not by our own additives. Amen.