Monday, May 28, 2018

Mark, Week 22 - Refreshed to Be Used

The winter time is extremely hectic. A million things need to be done, and all of them need to be done yesterday. When I was working solely with the youth, a lot of people assumed that my busiest time was during the winter. Which there was a lot to do during the winter, don’t get me wrong, but the busiest time, was actually during the summer. All of winter is to gear up for our summer activities. 1/2 Nighters, week long trips, making time to hang out with teens. At the height of our summer schedule, I usually spent about 110 hours with teens in one week. And that one week is stressful, and at the end of it, I don’t want to see another teen. And then the next day, I see them at church.
By the time August rolls around, I’m tired. That’s why we usually take our vacation afterwards. Which is a whole ‘nother type of stress.

So there are those stressful times, but then there are those wonderful replenishing times. You finally get to get away for the weekend, or you finally get sometime to yourself. You finally get to work on that hobby you’ve been waiting for. The pastor finally preaches a good sermon. And you feel like you can take on anything after that time of refreshment.

Personally, one of the best getaways should have been the most stressful for me. I had to finish up my ordination back in November, which meant a two hour plus interview. If I failed the interview, I wouldn’t have taken it well. But I passed, the kids were great, and the whole thing turned into a spiritual mountain top for me. I was replenished and came back full of energy.

That’s where we’re at in the Gospel of Mark today. We’re coming to a spiritual mountain top for the disciples. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to pick up from last week in the Gospel of Mark, chapter 6, starting in verse 30. 
And as you open your Bibles up, let’s recap from last week. Up to this point in the Gospel of Mark, we have seen Jesus’ first two phases of ministry. The first phase was Jesus displaying his authority. He spoke in a way that showed he had authority over the word of God. He healed people and calmed storms to show his authority over the physical realm. He cast out and silenced demons to show his authority over the the spiritual realm. All that to prove that he was God come to earth.
The second phase was preparing his disciples to go out in his authority and do the things he did. To preach, to teach, to heal, and to cast out demons. And then he sent them out. That’s Mark chapter 1 thru chapter 6 verse 13. 
Then last week we talked about the odd section of verses, that seemed to come out of nowhere. We went from Jesus and his disciples, to this king named Herod killing a prophet named John. And we discovered how the passage wasn't’ so out of place, but rather it was the Holy Spirit speaking through the writer Mark, to show us that there were people around Jesus’ time who were completely missing the point. And we asked the question are we missing the point today? Are we, like Herod, missing the person and the work of Jesus in our own lives? And I challenged you to go before God, and ask a simple question, what am I missing. I also gave you three areas that your could ask about: locally, nationally, and internationally. 

But this brings us to today and the return of the disciples to Jesus. Let’s pick this up in verse 30 of Mark chapter 6.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 

Now I love this. The disciples come back to Jesus and they’re excited. They’re sharing with Jesus all that they have done. And Jesus’ reaction shows that he wants to hear all about it. He tells them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
And I can just picture this whole interaction.
“Jesus, Jesus we have all these things to tell you. John said this, and Peter healed that person, and Andrew, and Matthew and, and, and…”
And Jesus responds, “That’s great guys, let’s get out of this place, and you can tell me all about it.”

So they go off on a boat, headed for a place to just get away. But a nice quiet solitary place wasn’t a head of them. Let’s pick up in verse 33.

33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.
35 By this time it was late in the day, so his disciples came to him. “This is a remote place,” they said, “and it’s already very late. 36 Send the people away so that they can go to the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.”

Here’s the change of plans. Jesus wanted a little get away with his excited disciples, but that wasn’t to be. And I want us to recognize something here. Even though Jesus’ intention was to get away, the fact that those plans changed, did not interfere with his compassion towards the people. Something I haven’t mastered. And apparently at this point, neither had the disciples. They still wanted to tell Jesus about their trip. They wanted to tell him about all the amazing things that were done. They wanted some alone time with Jesus, without having the stress of dealing with the crowds.
And when their opportunity came to finally send the people away, they took it. And then Jesus turn the tables on them. He says this in verses 37,

37 But he answered, “You give them something to eat.”

And here’s what would be going through my mind. “Us? Weren’t we supposed to take a little retreat? Weren’t we supposed to have a guys weekend? And now we’re just letting anyone come along?” And you can tell the frustration they have with Jesus, because this is how they respond.

They said to him, “That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?”

Oh no, did you see what just happened? Did you see what Jesus challenged them with, and how they responded? Did you see the connection with Herod in these two sentences? Listen to that again, “37 But he answered, ‘You give them something to eat.’ They said to him, ‘That would take more than half a year’s wages! Are we to go and spend that much on bread and give it to them to eat?’

For the past almost two years, Jesus had been showing the disciples miracle after miracle. In the last year, he had specifically called these twelve to be taught deeper things, so that they would go out in Jesus’ authority and do as he had done. They came back full of excitement about all that they had experienced. But when the stress of the work of God interfered with what they had planned. All of what they should have discovered was out the door. 
People need food, Jesus said you feed them. That’s a challenge. It’s almost like Jesus was saying, “Take what you learned and apply it here.” At that moment, all their spiritual victories evaporated. And their response was, “we’re not spending our money on these people.”

But this is us right? We have the tendency to do the same thing. We can have these spiritual mountain top experiences, where everything is possible, and then when we get back to our lives, things all of a sudden become too hard. It’s too hard to hear God, it’s to hard to know what he wants, I don’t have the resources, or the resources I do have, I don’t want to use.

But why? Why do we so easily fall into this mind set of not being able to respond as Jesus desires us to respond? 

Could it be that the disciples were so focused on spending time with Jesus, that they missed out on spending time with Jesus? Think about this. They got on the boat and spent at least a few hours crossing the lake with Jesus. Then they got out and God’s work called. So Jesus started to do what he came to do. But what about the disciples? They’re focus was on getting rid of the people. Why? So they could spend alone time with Jesus?

Now we might say, well they do need to spend time with Jesus. They need to be refreshed. And we might even say, Jeremiah, wasn’t it you who back in Mark chapter 1 verses 35-39, talked about how we need to have time alone with God.
And to that I say, yes, but the disciples did have time with God. They had time with Jesus in the boat. Did they want more? Yes! Did Jesus want more? Yes! Should we want more? Yes!But we need to learn something that the disciple missed. We need to learn to take the opportunities alone with Jesus both purposely and when they come along. Because God has work that needs to be done.
And this is how we can know if we are are not taking time to have these mini-refreshments with God: Jesus responded with compassion, while the disciples responded with contempt. Jesus ministered to the people, while the disciples looked to get rid of them.

And the result of the disciples inability to be refreshed by that small amount of time with Jesus, was that they missed an opportunity to participate in his work. And that can happen to us too. When we miss the mini-refreshment with Jesus, we miss the opportunity to participate in the work he is doing. When we get upset that our quiet time is disturbed are we upset that we missed out, or are we upset because we were interrupted? I think if we’re honest with ourselves, we’re more upset that we were interrupted.

This whole interaction ends like this starting in verse 38.
38 “How many loaves do you have?” he asked. “Go and see.”
When they found out, they said, “Five—and two fish.”
39 Then Jesus directed them to have all the people sit down in groups on the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups of hundreds and fifties. 41 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to distribute to the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. 42 They all ate and were satisfied, 43 and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish. 44 The number of the men who had eaten was five thousand.

God calls us to have solitary time with him. Why? So that we may be refreshed. But here’s the thing, sometimes God’s work comes calling and we have to be ready for it. How do we get ready? We take advantage of the mini-refreshments that come along. Why do we think that in 1 Thessalonians 5:17, Paul says, “Pray continually.”?
We need to get to a point in our spiritual lives where we have both the intentional solitary time with God, where we can enjoy him without interruption, and be able to take advantage of the mini-refreshments that come along. Because if we make our uninterrupted time rigid, then when it does get interrupted by God’s work, we will miss out.

This is my challenge for you this week: Write down three places that have potential to be mini-refreshments. Driving in the car, taking a shower, right before a phone call. Whatever is in your life that has the potential to be a mini-refreshment. Then the next time you come to that potential, take it. 
Have this attitude: I want to be ready for the work God has for me today. Because who knows, God might call on you right after you read this, or when you leave your house, or when you go out to lunch. But you must be ready. Take advantage of the mini-refreshments that God brings into your life. And let’s start now. 

May God lead you into times of refreshment through out your day, so that you can be used for the work he has for you. Amen. 

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Mark, Week 21: “Well Actually…”

I don’t know if you have ever had this happen to you when you were raising kids, but this happened to me this past week. I got home around 6 or so on Thursday night. Around 7 is when our kids usually get ready for bed. You know, they brush their teeth, put on their pajamas, that sort of thing. Then they listen to a story, and around 7:30 it’s off to bed. During this time, if Marika is home and not to tired, she does the routine with them. This was one of those nights. So on those type of nights, I usually do something until she’s done and then we watch a movie,  or play a game, or something until we’re ready for bed.
Well on this night I was un-seaming some patches on a costume for our VBC this coming summer. So I’m working away and from the opposite side of the house, where everyone is getting ready I hear, “Well actually…” And it was in the sassy tone of a nine year old. So my ears perk up. The sentence I heard was, “Well actually I was cleaning my room.”
Now, when I’m doing mindless work, like ripping out a seam out, I can focus on more than one thing. And the conversation that proceeded this “well actually…” statement was this,
“I was in here first,” said the little blonde. “I need to go potty.”
“Elisabeth,” said the beautiful mother. “She was in there first, why are you going in there when she is trying to go to the bathroom?”
And it’s at this point where I heard, “Well actually…”
Now, if you have ever dealt with kids you know they’ll fight for no reason at all. Literally, they’ll have no idea why they themselves did what they did to start the fight, they simply just act.
But what was so interesting to me was the fact that my daughter defended her being in the bathroom, when she wasn’t supposed to be, with the reality that she was cleaning her room. What did cleaning her room have to do with being in the bathroom? Nothing. One had nothing to do with the other. Yet, for her, when confronted with the why, her focus changed from the situation at hand, to something more important for her.
See, from her perspective, she was cleaning her room, which her younger sister should have been doing as well. And since the older one did what she was supposed to do, she deserved the bathroom first. 
But for the adults in the conversation, her reason wasn’t expressed that way. Instead it came off as seeming to have nothing to do with the question that was proposed to her. “Why are you going in there,” was the question. “Because I was cleaning my room was the answer.” One did not seem to go with the other.

And this is where we come to our passage today, to an un-seemingly out of place story about Herod and John the Baptist. So if you have your Bibles, were going to be in the Gospel of Mark chapter 6 starting in verse 14. But before we get into Mark chapter 6 verse 14, let’s bring ourselves up to speed.

So we’re returning to our Gospel of Mark where we left off from last summer. Because this will become our summer routine. Every summer will go through a book of the Bible. When the winter starts, will go back to topical preaching, and when summer comes around, we’ll return to the book again, until we finish. Once we finish a book, we’ll start a new one.
We have already worked through 5 chapters in the book of Mark, and the first 13 verses of the 6th chapter. At this rate it will take us three to four summers to finish.

But as we return to the book of Mark chapter 6 verse 14, let’s bring us up to speed. From what we have gone through already, Mark gives us two phases of Jesus’ ministry in these first several chapters. The first phase was Jesus establishing himself as an itinerant preacher. Going from town to town preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God coming. But not only was he preaching, he was gathering specific disciples to follow him. As a teacher, Jesus had confronted the established religious leaders of his day, the Pharisees, speaking with an authority that none of the people had ever heard. But Jesus didn’t only have authority over the words he spoke, but he was healing people from everyday diseases, to things such as paralysis and leprosy. This Jesus had authority of the physical realm. And it didn’t stop there; on top of these physical healings, Jesus was casting out demons that had possessed people’s bodies. This Jesus was unlike anyone the people had seem. His words had authority, his authority extended to the physical world, and not only to the physical realm, but his authority was also over the the spiritual realm as well.

Then, in Jesus’ second phase, He began to focus more on the training of his disciples. Preparing them to go out and share his message, the message that the kingdom of God was at hand. Then, for about a year, Jesus prepared them. Then, about six months into their training, it began to click. The disciples were beginning anticipating their teacher’s actions. And it was at that point that Jesus sent them out. He sent them out with nothing, so they would learn to trust God, just as Jesus had showed them to do.

And that’s were we come to our passage today. To this breather within the text, in Mark chapter 6 starting in verse 14, let’s read.

14 King Herod heard about this, for Jesus’ name had become well known. Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead, and that is why miraculous powers are at work in him.”
15 Others said, “He is Elijah.”
And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
16 But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
17 For Herod himself had given orders to have John arrested, and he had him bound and put in prison. He did this because of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, whom he had married. 18 For John had been saying to Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” 19 So Herodias nursed a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But she was not able to, 20 because Herod feared John and protected him, knowing him to be a righteous and holy man. When Herod heard John, he was greatly puzzled; yet he liked to listen to him.
21 Finally the opportune time came. On his birthday Herod gave a banquet for his high officials and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 When the daughter of Herodias came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his dinner guests.
The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want, and I’ll give it to you.” 23 And he promised her with an oath, “Whatever you ask I will give you, up to half my kingdom.”
24 She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?”
“The head of John the Baptist,” she answered.
25 At once the girl hurried in to the king with the request: “I want you to give me right now the head of John the Baptist on a platter.”
26 The king was greatly distressed, but because of his oaths and his dinner guests, he did not want to refuse her. 27 So he immediately sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head. The man went, beheaded John in the prison, 28 and brought back his head on a platter. He presented it to the girl, and she gave it to her mother. 29 On hearing of this, John’s disciples came and took his body and laid it in a tomb.

Now, does that have anything to do with what we have talked about? If you read from beginning to end of Mark, out of all the chapters, and verses that you read, these 16 verses are the most out of place of any of the other verses in the entire book. Because the next set of verses pick up with the return of the disciples. So these 16 verses between the sending of the 12 and the return of the 12, just seem to come out of nowhere.
When I first read this, my thought was, well maybe Mark is taking a breather? Maybe Mark wanted to let us know about John the Baptist, who was at the beginning of the story? Maybe Mark thought we would be interested in knowing how John died? Maybe Mark had a little bit of ADD, and rabbit trailed a bit?

And for the last fews months as I have read, and re-read this passage, I kept coming to the same question, “Why is this in here?” Because I don’t believe that God just allowed random thoughts or stories into his word. There has to be a purpose.
Well this week I returned to it again, and as I was working with the interns I read this passage and something hit me. It was from the first five words of verse 14, “King Herod heard about this…”

What did he hear about? Well everything that Jesus was doing. Herod heard about the authority Jesus had in his speaking. How Jesus stood up against the Pharisees. Herod heard about how Jesus was healing all these diseases and handicaps. Herod heard how Jesus was casting out demons from people. Herod heard it all.
But how did Herod respond?  Oh no, John’s back from the dead! John’s come back for me! John’s come to get his vengeance on me for killing him!
Herod’s response to the work of Jesus, was to completely miss the point. Instead of seeking out Jesus, Herod coward back. Instead of seeking the forgiveness for all the wickedness he had done, he dove deeper into it. Instead of seeking the one person he should have sought, Herod’s focus was on himself.

It is almost as if the Holy Spirit through Mark, was saying this: Jesus sent the twelve with his message, now, how are you going to respond? This is how Herod responded, are you going to do the same?
There’s a question here that Jesus himself will ask his disciples later on in chapter 8, and all of Mark is building to that question, so that we may be able to answer it. But here in chapter 6 Mark gives us the first answers to the question, Who do you say Jesus is?
In the second part of verse 14 it reads, “Some were saying, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead…”
Verse 15 says, “Others said, “He is Elijah.”And still others claimed, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of long ago.”
Verse 16 says, “But when Herod heard this, he said, “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised from the dead!”
Herod answered the question, “It’s John come back to get me!” And we can look at Herod and say, “What are you thinking! How can you get that it’s John, the guy’s name is Jesus! He’s been preaching since John was out in the wilderness.”
But Herod’s own sin and guilt blinded him to the truth. This is Jesus the healer. This is Jesus who has authority over the physical and spiritual realm. This is Jesus who has authority greater than the religious leaders. This isn’t John.
But Herod couldn’t see that.

And it’s almost as if God placed this right here in the Gospel of Mark for us to take an look at ourselves, and ask ourselves are we responding to who Jesus is, or are we so engrossed in our own sin, that we cannot distinguish him from someone else?
And this is what we tend to do right? We tend to focus on ourselves, and what we’re dealing with, rather than on Jesus and what he is doing.
We can do this in a lot of ways. We can focus on our sin, on alcohol, drugs, gossip, selfishness, pride, lust. We can focus on our job, our retirement, finances, homes, family. The list goes on and on. But when we focus more on those things, we can easily miss the work of God all around us. And miss answering the question of who is Jesus?
It’s that work of God, that we are supposed to focus on. It’s Jesus’ work that he calls us to. Whether it be accepting him as our Savior, because he died for our sins. He died to bring us out of guilt and shame. He died to give us a new and fulfilling life. Or whether it be for us who have already accepted him as our Savior, so that we would see what he is doing here in our town, or to the ends of the earth. God wants us to look up from our own self-focus, and start looking for who he is and where he is at work.

How can we do that? I can tell you what’s happening in our church. Physically we’d like to build a play structure for our kids. Spiritually, there are about 3,000 people in our town that do not attend any church. So they have either been hurt by a church in the past and don’t want anything to do with them now, or they don’t know Jesus. Either way, there needs to be a work of God through his people for healing, and salvation.
I can tell you about God’s work in our nation. There’s a church over in Watts, California that we have worked with. They have the opportunity to buy their building, but it’s over a million dollars, and they don’t have the money. But they’re the only church doing life changing work in that community, and if they lose their building, the community loses a light of God’s people.
I can tell you about the work of God going on all around the world. But none of what I say matters, if we are not listening to God and saying to him, how can I respond to you Father? How can I walk in the foot steps of Jesus? How can I be lead by the Holy Spirit?

It’s so easy to focus on ourselves, and let the work of God just pass us by. But that’s not what we have been called to. That’s not what we have been saved to. Jesus did not die, so that we could focus on ourselves. He died that we might be his workers, to be a part of the work he is doing.

This week my challenge to you is this. First, answer this question have you recognized who Jesus is? He’s he your Savior or not? If he is not, seek God in his word, come have a conversation with me, come and understand who Jesus is. If he is your Savior, seek God in three areas of his work: Local, that’s in our town. National, somewhere in our country. And international, that’s everywhere else. Seek God in all three, and ask him what he would have you do to be a part of his work. Maybe he wants you to become a prayer partner. Maybe he wants you to go and help out in the ministry. O maybe he wants you to help out financially. Ask God what he would have you do.

Let us not be like Herod, and at the hearing of the work of Jesus, turn to self-focus. But rather, let’s join God in his work, so that he receives the glory that he is deserving. 

Now may God bring you to him, that you may know his work, and glorify him in it. Amen.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Mark, Week 20: Be Prepared to Trust

The best thing about vacation is that for a few days, or weeks, all of the troubles of everyday life seem to melt away. At least that’s what we want right? We want to be able to not worry about the things back home, because we just want to relax. We want to just enjoy not having responsibilities, or people needing something from us. But there can be those nagging thoughts in our minds about forgetting to do something. And we get these questions that can fill our mind, and we don’t relax the way we should. You know those thoughts: did I leave the iron on. Did I lock all the doors? Is there enough food for the animals? And the list and questions go on and on and on in our mind.

I don’t know about you, but that’s why when we leave for a vacation, or leave for over night trips, that we painstakingly prepare. We go through lists of what needs to be done. And we rack our minds to make sure everything that needs to be done is done. And when you’re fully prepared, the weight of worry seems to be lifted from your shoulders, and the trip does what it is supposed to do, relax you. And that feeling is wonderful.

But here’s the thing, that’s not how God necessarily works, and we’re going to see that today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 6 starting in verse 7.

Now we’re coming to a stopping point in the book of Mark. All summer we have been working through Mark. In fact this is our 20th week. And now because Mark takes a bit of a break in it’s progression, it’s the perfect time for us to do it as well. Instead, starting the first Sunday of December, we will begin our walk towards Christmas. And then after that we’ll be jumping fully into the last aspect the vision that God has given us here at the Alliance Church. The life aspect.

But as we get into Mark chapter 6 verse 7, we’re coming to the end of the second phase of Jesus’ ministry. The first phase was Jesus teaching and showing who he was to the general public. The second phase was Jesus starting the preparation of his disciples to participate in his ministry. And that’s where we are, Jesus is about to send his twelve closest disciples off on their own for the first time. Jesus has taught them to be good soil, and they have seen what it means to be hard packed against God, what it means to be shallow in your faith, and what it means to be choked by the things of this world.
They have seen Jesus’ power in healing people, and how he has dealt with demons. They have seen that in order for them to grow in their faith, they have to take this next step of sharing. They have seen Jesus do small things, and enormous things.

Now they have to take everything that Jesus has taught them and put it into practice. No longer are they to be in the background, it’s time for them to do as Jesus does.

So let’s pick up with Jesus’ final command to them before he releases them to the work of the Kingdom. 

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.
8 These were his instructions: “Take nothing for the journey except a staff—no bread, no bag, no money in your belts. 9 Wear sandals but not an extra shirt. 10 Whenever you enter a house, stay there until you leave that town. 11 And if any place will not welcome you or listen to you, leave that place and shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.”
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, because we’re not going to have our sermon discussion tonight, I want to break this passage down a little more than we normally would.

Let’s paint the picture of what’s going on. In the middle of Jesus’ teaching ministry, he calls the twelve closest disciples and pairs them off with each other. Who went with who, we don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. What matters is that they went two by two. But why doe Jesus do this? Well, Ecclesiastes 4:12 says, “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves…” So Jesus sends them off two-by-two for protection and support. Simple as that.

The text goes on to say that Jesus, “gave them authority over impure spirits.” Jesus is extending his authority to this disciples. This same authority that caused the spirits to be in fear of Jesus, is now extended to his disciples in their work. 

Next Jesus gives them pretty specific instructions. And if you want to see a more detailed account of these instructions, they can also be found in Matthew 10, and Luke 9. But these instructions are important because of the context of Mark. Now think about this, everything we are about to see here, all comes out of what Mark is trying to help us understand about Jesus. About how Jesus interacts with humanity and how we are to respond to God. We are to be good soil, we are to be sharers of God’s word, we are to be reliant on God to grow his word in people. All this is proceeding Jesus’ instructions here. If we fail to see the connecting tissue, we will not grasp the whole of where Jesus is coming from in his direction here.

Starting in verse 8 Jesus gives a list of things to bring and things not to bring on the disciple’s journey. Let’s list them and them analyze them. The first thing Jesus says is to bring a staff. These were usually a self-defense tool. Kind of like today, we carry knives, or conceal carry a firearm. The staff was to fight off bandits and help you hike over difficult ground. This staff goes back to the two by two, that we just talked about. The disciples were to protect each other on this journey. 
But then Jesus lists three things not to bring. No bread, no bag, no money. So what do each of these mean? The bread, the bag, and money are all closely related. The bag was a traveler’s bag, which held provisions for trips. It’s where the bread was stored. If Jesus were to say, don’t bring bread, the disciples might have thought this was a fasting trip. But Jesus couples the bread with the traveler’s bag and with money. Meaning that Jesus wanted them to rely on God for their provision. They were going out with no food, the bread; no supplies, the bag; and no way to get these things on their own, the money. This wasn’t a fasting trip, but a faith trip. They had to rely on God for their provision.

So Jesus is telling his disciples to protect and support each other, but do this by trusting in God. You might have to defend yourselves on the road, but God is the supplier of everything you need. It’s almost as if Jesus is giving them a little comfort by having human support in the way of another person and a staff, but the goal is that they would learn to rely on God for everything. 

Jesus goes on in verse 9 to add one more thing to what not bring, and one more thing to the bring. Jesus says to wear sandals, but to not bring an extra shirt.

Now the shirt is easy. Most travels took an extra shirt when they journeyed, so if they couldn’t find an place to stay for the night, they wouldn’t freeze to death sleeping outside. So Jesus is telling them to again trust God for provision. In this case the provision of housing for the night.
But what about the sandals? And I have to say, I probably spent more time asking this question than I probably needed too. But it seemed so out of the the blue. I mean, take a stick for protection, okay got it. Don’t take certain things to rely on God, okay, got it. But then Jesus says, take sandals. And my question is, wouldn’t that be apparent? Wouldn’t wearing sandals be an obvious thing?

So I began questioning this command of Jesus. And I have to tell you, there isn’t much on the footwear of the common Jewish person circa first century Israel. Out of the four pieces of information that I did find, only one seems to fit within the context of Jesus’ command to wear sandals. At least two times in Scripture footwear is connected with captivity or being a fugitive. David fleeing from his son Absalom in 2 Samuel 15:30, tell us he did so barefoot. In Isaiah 20:2, Isaiah is commanded by God to walk barefoot, as a symbol of the Assyrian’s eminent capture of Israel.

So is Jesus making the point that they are free? That they are not captives to this world and not to worry, because God is taking care of them? Or am I reading to much into it, and Jesus is just stating the obvious, and saying, don’t forget your shoes, like a parent reminds their child?

See, way to much thought on this small part.

But Jesus goes on to tell them how to treat the the town and houses they will come to. If a house accepts them, they are to stay there. If a town rejects their message, then they are to leave there, shaking off the dust from their feet as a sign that the town has chosen to reject the gospel and God.

And then Mark tells us that the disciples went out, and did what Jesus had shown them to do. They preached that people should repent. They cast out demons, with the authority that Jesus had extend to them, and they healed many people.

This was all done, because they did as Jesus commanded them. They followed his instructions. They took what they were supposed to, and left behind the things they were not. And they trusted God for everything.

And here is where it comes to us. Preparation is key to victory. Jesus prepared his disciples for a year. Day in and day out Jesus taught them what they needed to know. Jesus showed them what they needed to see. The disciples saw how Jesus’ teaching worked in the lives of the people he encountered. And when it came time for them to go out on their own, they trusted Jesus’ commands on what to bring and what not to bring. And they were successful.

But here’s the thing, all the preparation that Jesus did with his disciples, all hinged on one thing in the end, trust. Did the disciples trust Jesus? Sure the message was good, and the ability to do amazing works of casting out demons and healing people was miraculous. But none of it was possible, without their trust in Jesus.

The disciples could have easily went out and took bread, the supply bag, and money. They could have take another shirt with them just in case. But they didn’t. All that they had experienced with Jesus: the calming of the storm, the healing of the demon possessed man, the healing of the woman, and bringing the little girl back to life, all of it taught them that the greatest teaching of Christ that they needed to implement in their lives was that they could trust Jesus.
It wasn’t the casting out demons, the preaching, and the healing of people, they needed to learn. It was simply trusting that Jesus wasn’t leading them the wrong way.

And that’s the same for us today. The greatest obstacle that we face in our lives, is not demonic forces, social upheaval, or the unknown of the future, it is simply do we trust Jesus or not?

Do I trust Jesus with my soul? Do I trust Jesus with this nation? Do I trust Jesus with my children, spouse, parents, job and the list goes on and on. Or do I not. Because it’s trust in Jesus that will take us through the hardships that are to come. It is trust in Jesus that will be needed as we look for the provisions we need in our lives.

So the question today is can you trust Jesus or not? It’s our tendency to worry about what is out there and we try to prepare for every problem that might come up. Just like we worry about making everything perfect before we leave on a trip.

Now, we should have the preparation, Jesus prepared his disciples, but in the end, what are we trusting in? It is the preparation, or the God who has prepared us?

My challenge for you this week is simple, I want to invite you to take something. Go and grab an old sandal. And then write on it this verse from Isaiah 52:12, “But you don’t have to be in a hurry. You’re not running from anybody! God is leading you out of here, and the God of Israel is also your rear guard.”

My challenge is to take that sandal, put it up somewhere you see as you leave your home, and every time you see it, ask God to help you trust him as you face the day that is before you. Let us be the people who are prepared to meet the day, but who are also God’s people who trust solely in him.
Now may God help you to trust in him for all that you are in need of, so that he becomes everything you need. Amen.

Mark, Week 19 - Jesus is Bigger than our Perceptions

You know that saying, “You can’t judge a book by it’s cover?” Well, I don’t know about you, but that’s never stopped me from doing it. It’s easy to take a glance at someone and think we know them. First impressions of people are how we proceed in our relationships with them. Amy Cuddy, a social psychologist says that when we meet someone for the first time, we’re trying to evaluate their trustworthiness and confidence. And once we have naturally evaluated these things, we’re left with a perception of who a person is. And in order for that to change, a lot of time and effort has to be made on both parties part to change those perceptions.

If you were to meet me today, dressed in a nice suit, you might think of me one way. But if you were to come on Monday during the church clean up, dressing in raggy clothes, you’re perception of me might change. And that’s important to understand and recognize as we dive into Mark today. Because it is perception that can help lead us towards God or away from him. And we’ll see how that plays out today. So if you have your Bibles, we’re going to be in Mark chapter 6, starting in verse 1.

Now as we get into these next five and a half verses, we’re finally coming to a stopping place within the Gospel. So far we have seen two parts of Mark’s Gospel. The first was the long introduction of who Jesus is. Jesus was showing by miracles and teaching, who he was. The second part was Jesus developing his disciples. This started with their call, but really got going when they began taking an active role in Jesus’ work. 

This led Jesus to begin to teach them through parables, so that those that wanted to know more, would seek out more, and those that didn’t care, wouldn’t. This is where Jesus told the parables of the four soils, the lamp, the growing seed, and the mustard seed. From there, we saw three events that challenged the people’s trust in Jesus. The first was the storm that Jesus calmed, this challenged the disciples to realize they didn’t fully understand who Jesus was. The second event was a possessed man being free, this challenged the people in that man’s town to trust Jesus even at the expense of their economic security. Which they decided that they didn’t want Jesus around. Finally, the third event was two-fold, and is the one we talked about last week. A sick daughter, a desperate father, a woman seemingly slowing down Jesus for her own healing, and then the trust of the desperate father in Jesus, which led to his daughter being raised back to life. 

All of this was to grow Jesus’ disciples and help them be the good soil that Jesus had told them they needed to be. But there is still one more event that Jesus takes his disciples through, before releasing them for ministry. And that’s where we pick up today. So let’s read, Mark chapter 6, starting in verse 1.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. 2 When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were amazed.
“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? 3 Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.
4 Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” 5 He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. 6 He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Last week we covered twenty-two verses, today we’re only covering five and half. Why? Because we’re looking at the flow of Scripture, to see how each part connects with the whole. So let’s take this passage and see how it connects to where Mark is leading us.

We start off with Jesus coming back to his home town of Nazareth. And Mark makes sure to note that his disciples were there with him. This is important, because the disciples need to learn a lessons from all of this.
So Jesus comes back home, and as we have seen in the Gospel up to this point, he does his standard practice of going into the synagogue to teach. And, as has happened before, Jesus amazes the people. But their amazement is not the same as the amazement of others in the past.
See in Mark 1:22 it says, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” These people were amazed because they were comparing and contrasting Jesus’ teaching with that of the teachers of the law. Jesus had authority to his teaching, where the others did not.
But that’s not what we’re seeing here. These people are not amazed at his authority, but rather at the challenge that his teaching is doing to their perception of Jesus. What’s that mean? Let’s take a look at how this group responds to Jesus.
They ask a series of questions starting with where did Jesus get these things: this wisdom, and miracles. Which I find odd. I mean from Luke 2:47, we know that at the age of twelve, Jesus was at least astounding the teachers at the temple in Jerusalem with his insights. So why would the people in his home town be wondering where it came from?
I can only assume it’s because Jesus laid off making his wisdom a spectacle, rather he humbled himself to his parents wishes. So maybe these people never heard Jesus’ wisdom because Jesus was waiting for his time.
But as they’re asking these questions, they start to make gabs and insults at Jesus. They say things like, “Isn’t this the carpenter?” Not the carpenter’s son, but the carpenter. What does a carpenter do? They work with their hands, it’s not an academic field. Carpenters weren’t educated in the ivory towers. They weren’t wealthy, and well versed. They were simply, wood workers. A skill passed down, and most were uneducated in the finer ways of religion and the world. So, in a sense, they are calling Jesus dumb.
But it doesn’t end their, the next four words are, “Isn’t this Mary’s son…?” Now, what they should have said was, isn’t this Jospeh’s son, because that was the custom, but they didn’t. So there’s two ways to look at this: First, it could be that Jospeh had died at this point, so Jesus’ only parent was Mary, i.e. Mary’s son. But I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. Because even if your father had died, you would still be called their son, due to the honor that brings. So the other reason they would call him Mary’s son, and the reason why I think they are, is because they’re being derogatory towards Jesus.
They’re saying Mary’s son, because, as we know in the other Gospels, Mary was pregnant before she laid with Jospeh. So what they’re really calling Jesus is, illegitimate. He has no father. 

So the people are amazed that an uneducated, illegitimate guy is able to do all the things that the rumors have said. And this is all accumulated into the phrase, “And they took offense at him.” Those two words, “took offense” in the Greek, is where we get our English word scandalize. Jesus’ standing up in front of them, telling them about who God was, and who he was; this uneducated, unknown parentage Jesus, was a scandal to them. And it was offensive. And these two words, “took offense,” means that this made them stumble.
Now what made them stumble? It wasn’t Jesus himself, but their preconceived ideas about him. To them, he was a uneducated carpenter, who’s mom slept with some guy before getting married. And now, this Jesus was doing miracles and teaching from the Scriptures. And their response was, no. They couldn’t accept it. And they did not want to change their perception of who they thought Jesus was, to who he really was.

And Jesus tells the people, his disciples included, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” Why? Because the perception we have of someone is not easily overcome. 
And if you remember the four soils that Jesus talked about, we have seen each one in these four events. In the boat, the disciples showed they were the shallow soil. After the man was saved from the demon, the people showed they were the hard path. The women, and the distraught father were the good soil. And these home town people, are the soil with thorns and thistles. Except it is their preconceived ideas about Jesus, that is choking his message from their lives.

But there is one more thing I want us to pick up on. In verse 6 is says this, “He was amazed at their lack of faith.” There is only one other time in the Gospels that it says that Jesus was amazed. And that’s the story of the Roman Centurion in both Matthew 8 and Luke 9. In that encounter Jesus was amazed at the centurion’s faith. Here, Jesus is amazed at the lack of faith. Two opposites, but both amazing to Jesus.

But here’s the thing, we can do this to God too. We can have preconceived ideas on what God can and cannot do in a life. What he can change, and what he cannot. This past summer we were having a Bible study, and a lady was there and she shared why she didn’t like to attend a church. This lady has had drug and alcohol problems in the past, and is trying to get clean and right with God. But the last time she tried to attend a church, she was told that she really wasn’t going change, and that she would always be a junkie.

Our preconceived ideas about people can hinder the work of God, in our lives. As it says in verse 5, “He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them.” Does that mean Jesus lost power because of these preconceived ideas? No, but these people didn’t get to experience God’s work, because they shut it off from their lives. And that’s the exact opposite of what God wants from us.
He wants us to be good soil, ready and willing to see his work. But that means that we need to go to him and ask him to strip away any idea that we have of him or we hold towards people, that is hindering his work.

Because, God wants us to be useful, and to experience the work he is doing, but we need to be willing to receive it. And that means having him cut away those things that keep us from seeing it.

So my challenge for you this week is simple, make two lists, one about God and one about someone you know. And write down three negative things that you assume about them, that you don’t know if their right or wrong. But three things that you think are right, but you don’t know for sure. And then this week, everyday return to those things and ask God, if these are wrong, strip them away so that I can see you and your work.

Let’s not just assume we have God and people figured out, but let us be willing to have our preconceived ideas about God and people changed, so we can see God as he truly is, and the people around us, as God sees them. If we can do this, our eyes will be open to see this world as Jesus does, and we will see his great works all around us. 

Now may God challenge and hang those preconceived ideas you have of him and others. May he open you to him, so that his change can move from you into the lives of others. Amen.

Mark, Week 18 - Remembering the Past to Trust for Today

Have you heard the saying, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it?” That was written by philosopher George Santayana around 1905. The younger someone is, the less this statement seems to apply. Children have no concept of time, relegating a week ago to yesterday. Our littlest one does this a lot. Thinking something that happened last week, happened yesterday, or a little while ago. To which our oldest very clearly corrects her that it was in fact last week.
But as we get older we either learn this lesson of learning from our past, or as the axiom goes, we repeat it. And it seems like our society is doing just that at the moment. Repainting old failed ideas for a modern setting, and on track to repeat the same disasters. After I became a Christian this is one area of my life that I wanted to not fail in. It was an area that I spent many hours in prayer, and still do today, asking God to teach me from where I fail so I do not repeat the same failures again. Another quote, most often attributed to Einstein says, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

These sayings are invaluable if we want to better understand what God’s word has for us today. We are going to be diving into Mark chapter 5 starting in verse 21. And as we do, I want to give us a little recap on what has led us to this point.
Starting in chapter 4 of Mark we began to see a shift in Jesus’ teaching ministry. Up until that point Jesus was pretty straightforward with his teachings, with him focusing on who he was and why he came. In chapter 4 we saw the disciples begin to understand what Jesus required of them, and they began to take an active role in his work. It’s at this time that Jesus began to teach heavily with parables. These stories with contrasting points were meant to hide truth from people. The reason for this was to either encourage people to seek out the truth by getting more teaching, or discourage people that were just there for the miracles Jesus provided.
Then we read four parables that were to help the disciples understand their roles within the Kingdom of God. The disciples were to understand that they needed to be good soil, so the word could grow in their lives. Then they needed to understand that their job was to share what God had done in their life with others, and through that they would grow more. Next, their job was to share, and it was God’s job to take that seed planted and grow it. We simply plant, and need to allow God to do his work in people’s lives. Finally, It doesn’t matter how small that seed we plant is, God can grow it into something enormous.
With these four teachings relayed to the disciples, we see these disciples challenged in their faith. With a storm that they knew could kill them, they learned that Jesus was not who they thought he was. In fact, their realization that they didn’t actually know who Jesus, terrified them. That leads us into another group who was terrified of Jesus. This happened after Jesus exorcised a demon out of a man that was a plague of the country side. And instead of embracing Jesus as a Savior, the people dismissed him because of his power. But what we saw was that the man, who had been freed of the demon, was sent out as a missionary to his people. The disciples were still learning, what this man had come to realize, Jesus was the Savior.
This brings us to where we are in Mark chapter 5 verse 21. So if you have your Bibles, we’ll be picking up in verse 21 today.

21 When Jesus had again crossed over by boat to the other side of the lake, a large crowd gathered around him while he was by the lake. 22 Then one of the synagogue leaders, named Jairus, came, and when he saw Jesus, he fell at his feet. 23 He pleaded earnestly with him, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” 24 So Jesus went with him.
A large crowd followed and pressed around him. 25 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. 26 She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. 27 When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, 28 because she thought, “If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.” 29 Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering.
30 At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, “Who touched my clothes?”
31 “You see the people crowding against you,” his disciples answered, “and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’ ”
32 But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. 33 Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. 34 He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”
35 While Jesus was still speaking, some people came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher anymore?”
36 Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
37 He did not let anyone follow him except Peter, James and John the brother of James. 38 When they came to the home of the synagogue leader, Jesus saw a commotion, with people crying and wailing loudly. 39 He went in and said to them, “Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep.” 40 But they laughed at him.
After he put them all out, he took the child’s father and mother and the disciples who were with him, and went in where the child was. 41 He took her by the hand and said to her, “Talitha koum!” (which means “Little girl, I say to you, get up!”). 42 Immediately the girl stood up and began to walk around (she was twelve years old). At this they were completely astonished. 43 He gave strict orders not to let anyone know about this, and told them to give her something to eat.

That was a lot of verses to read, but what we’re trying to do on Sunday mornings is to understand the overarching teaching of Scripture and how one event influences the next. And these two stories are combine for a purpose.

This whole situation starts off with a desperate father coming to Jesus, seeking his help for his dying daughter. This man is not just any person, he is the administrator of the local synagogue, a prominent figure in his town. This man, probably wasn’t rich, but he was well respected and was probably well off for his area. But coming to Jesus, someone who is at the very least not on good terms with the religious ruling party, could send all of that respect, all of that prominence out the window. But this man doesn’t care, his little girl is on her death bed and he is desperate.
And I think any of us would throw everything we had away for our child’s life, wouldn’t we? And this man was at the point were his only option was to trust in the rumors he had heard of Jesus. Rumors that had spread hundreds of miles away, and the man who everyone was talking about had entered his town, what else could he do, but desperately seek this healer?
Jesus accepts Jairus’ plea and goes to meet the little girl. Along the way, Jesus became inundated with people clamoring for him. To heal them, and to fix their problems. And as Jesus is pushed and pulled in so many ways, a diseased women makes her way through the crowd, thinking all she needs is a mere touch of Jesus’ clothes to be healed. She is not seeking anything, but an indirect contact with the healer. 
Now we don’t know what type of disease she had, possibly a tumor. But from the physician Luke in his account of this situation, he know that it was an incurable ailment. But low and behold, that indirect contact with Jesus did heal her, but what happened next was not what she expected.
Jesus knew that the healing had occurred. Jesus knew that something was different. With the crowd swarming him, being pushed and pulled in every direction. People yelling and calling out to each other. In the midst of this chaotic scene, something had happened. But only two people knew about. Everyone else was oblivious to the miracle.
And this is how I picture it. Jesus starts looking around for the person, asking a question to which he already knew the answer. Then people start backing away. Is he angry? They might be thinking. Could he call his great power down on us? Then the women presents herself in fear and trembling before Jesus. Not knowing if she had taken what did not belong to her. Her fear gripping her, maybe the thought of, will he take back my healing, crossed her mind. I could see the disciple recognizing her fear, because it was that same fear that gripped them in the boat. It was that same fear that gripped the people when they saw the possessed man healed.
Then Jesus looks at her, the crowd feeling her pain, and fear. And he says these words to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

These words speaks to the women understanding who Jesus was. Just like the demon possessed man understood who Jesus was. Jesus told her that she had placed her faith in the correct place. And because of that, not only was she healed, but she had gained something even greater. Jesus tells her your faith has healed you, this word healed, means to save. It is the same word that is used elsewhere to talk about salvation. This women put her trust into Jesus as her Savior, both of her physical body, and her spiritual life. And now she was truly free from her suffering, with no condemnation from Jesus, only blessing.
Can you imagine her fear leaving her in that moment? To know that you are no longer bound to suffering, both in this life and in the one to come?

But while all this was happening, these moments had taken their toll, because even as Jesus was speaking these words of freedom to this women, people had arrived to give the heart-breaking news about the girl.
In my mind, I wonder what thoughts passed through the mind of the father. I would have been thinking, “if Jesus didn’t take his time with this women, my daughter would have been saved.” And it’s almost as if Jesus understood the thoughts that could be creeping into the father’s mind, because Jesus turns and says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”
The fear the disciples felt in the boat, the fear that the people felt after seeing Jesus cleans a man of a demon, and the fear of the woman after Jesus asked who touched him, all these fears were unfounded, because Jesus was there. And now, Jesus was relaying to this father, to not fear, but to trust. Trust that his faith in Jesus was not unfounded, just as the women’s faith was not unfounded.
They arrive at the house, with people already mourning the death of the little girl. These people knew what death was like. They had seen it time and time again. They knew the coldness that came upon a person after life had left their body. But Jesus would have none of it. The Creator was walking among them, and he understood what could and could not be done. So he shuts all the mocking people out. He brings three of his closest disciples in, with the mother and the father.
Taking the girl’s hand Jesus gives a command. In ancient times healers would come and say things like, "Arise from your disease”, which better translated would be more like, ”I wish you would arise.” But Jesus says two words, “Talitha koum!” “Child arise.” It was a command from the Creator to his creation. And the creation responded. The girl got up, walked around, and ate. She was not merely back from the dead, but her health was fully restored.

Two stories of full restoration. Two stories of fear being swept away for joy. Two stories of trust in Jesus tested.

I can imagine the woman, twelve years of suffering possibly falling into depression believing that she would die from her disease.
I can imagine the father, looking at his twelve year old girl dying before his eyes, with no ability to stop it.
Both had sought the doctors of their time, both finding that no one could help them.
Then both hearing of Jesus and his mighty power. One sought Jesus to come and heal his daughter, the other sought to merely have an indirect touch of Jesus. While Jesus was dealing with the lady, the girl died.
Fear had overtaken the woman, her healing on the line. Fear had overtaken the father, his daughter had died.
But it was trust, trust in Jesus that both had. And because of this trust, both experienced Jesus’ saving work that day. And all the while the disciples were watching all of it unfold. From a storm, to a demon, to an incurable disease, to a life restored, they were watching all of it unfold. And they were learning who this Jesus was. They were learning from each experience that Jesus wasn’t just another Rabbi, another teacher, or healer. He was much, much more.

Our experience of God today, can sometimes be stunted by our not trusting in his previous acts. The father could have given up on Jesus, when he heard the news of his daughter’s death. I mean, there had only been one other resurrection recorded in the Scriptures prior to this. And that was hundreds of years prior. But Jesus’ words, “Don’t be afraid; just believe,” spoke of the fear that the woman had, that was unfounded, and her trust in Jesus. And that trust is what the father needed now, trust that he had put his faith in the right person.
We must be like the father, we must be like Jairus. Watching the work of Jesus, learning what he is capable of doing. We need to open our eyes and see what God has done throughout the centuries, and what he is doing right now around us. If we are unwilling to trust what God has done in the past, then we are in a position where we might not be able to see his work in us today.  If we are not willing to see the history of God’s working, how can we expect to see it when it happens to us?

Instead, God wants us to trust him in the present by remembering the past. We must take inventory of God’s works throughout history, throughout other’s lives, and throughout our own, so that we can better trust Jesus today, because of what he did yesterday.

Jairus’ daughter would have stayed dead, if he had not trusted Jesus in that moment. The woman was not merely there for her own benefit, but for the benefit of Jairus. More than likely, Jesus would not have reached the girl in time either way, but the interaction with this women gave Jairus an opportunity to learn that his trust in Jesus was not unfounded.
One of the parts I struggled with in this passage, had nothing to do with anything theological, but rather I kept asking the question, why is the age of the girl brought up? And I believe it is to help us connect the women with the girl. The interaction with the woman, being a part of the healing of the girl. Without the woman, it’s possible that Jairus doesn’t go through with his trust in Jesus. This woman suffered twelve years, the same amount of time as the little girl was alive.
This woman happens to get her healing at the same time, when Jesus is off to heal another. This interaction happens mere seconds before Jairus gets the news of his daughter’s death. All of it compiled together lets Jairus know, God is here, God is working, and all you need to do is trust Jesus.

And that’s what God is calling us to do. Look at all that God has done in the past. In history, in other’s people’s lives, and in our own. And he is calling us to trust. Trust him with what we’re going through now, because of what he has done before. 

Let us remember God’s past works, so that we are not condemned to missing out on his work for today.

My question today is will you trust Jesus with your current situation? With whatever you are going through, with whatever your family is going through, with whatever our country is going through, with whatever our world is going through, will you trust Jesus with it?

Here is my challenge for you this week. Come up with five things God has done. They can be in history, in other people’s lives, in your own life. Today, I gave you four things Jesus has done. Think of your own, write them down on a piece of paper, and every day this week I challenge you to go back to that paper and pray a simple prayer, “God keep me remembering what you have done, so I may trust you today.”
A simple prayer, for a day-to-day trust in Jesus.

Now may the Lord of yesterday’s victory, bring those victories to mind today, so that your trust in him continues to grow tomorrow. Amen.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Standing Against Heresy

In the last 200 years humanity’s technological progress has made huge advancements. Two generations removed from some of us, our world went from riding in a horse draw carriage to watching the landing on the moon. In fact in the last 50-60 years, we’ve taken computers from big immovable objects to handheld devices that we use in everyday life. They even say that one smart phone has more computing power than the Apollo 11 space mission had.
With that advancement in technology, our society as a whole has been changing as well. Most of this societal change has happened in less than 60 years. Whereas our culture once held strong biblical footing, it is now extremely secular and in a lot of cases, hostile towards the biblical worldview. 
With that change we have also seen a rise in anti-biblical teachings. These anti-biblical teachings fall into three categories: religions that are in opposition to the teachings of Scripture, secular humanistic world views and heresy/apostasy. 
With this surge in both opposition religions, secular humanism, and heretical teachings, it can feel like Christianity is being attacked from all sides. It can get discouraging and our natural reaction is to get angry and fight. But today I want us to explore how we are to stand against these attacks against Scripture and see how these attacks are nothing new. More specifically, I want us to deal with one of the three anti-biblical teachings. So today, we’re going to explore what heresy is, and how the New Testament shows us how we should deal with it.
But first and foremost we’re going to discover that this struggle that we face today, is nothing new and the immense flood that is sweeping against modern Christendom has been prophesied about.

So if you would, open your Bibles up to Revelation chapter 3, we’ll be focusing on verses 14-22. As you open your Bibles up to Revelation chapter 3 verse 14, I want to give you a little introduction to this area. Revelation is written in prophetic language and like with most prophetic language it can have dual meanings. Meaning, that it can deal with the circumstances in which it was written, and at the same time, have future implications.
To catch us up to where we need to be, we’ll review what’s happening so far in the first three chapters of Revelation. John, the beloved disciple of Jesus and the writer of the Gospel of John, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, is also our writer here. In the writing, John is taken to heaven and is shown both past and future events. But before that happens Jesus appears to John and requests him to write to seven churches in Asian minor. The first five of these short letters to the churches have a similar structure to them. They have an exultation or encouragement and then they are told of something they need to work on. The sixth church is given and exultation but are given nothing that they need to improve. The seventh and final church is the one we are going to focus on.
The churches at this time were all dealing with their own problems which are addressed in the text, but just like with all prophetic language and illustrations there is more to it. When looking back at these churches and church history we can see parallels between the two. Each church has striking similarities to different times and movements within Church history: Ephesus matches with the Apostolic Church of the first century. Smyrna matches with the persecuted church that was in full force at the end of the first century and continues today. The Pergamum church matches with the rise of the state church around 300 AD, which has since all but dissolved in Europe except maybe Britain. Thyatira matches the rise of the Papal church of the Roman Catholic tradition which is still around to this day. Sardis is similar to the Reformation church that came about in the 1500s. The sixth church, Philadelphia, closely resembles the Missionary Churches that began in the 1700 hundreds and of which we in this church’s denomination, are a product of.
Finally we come to our last church, the church of Laodicea. And it’s here that we pick up in the book of Revelation. Read with me.

14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. 15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 17 You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. 18 I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.
19 Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. 20 Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.
21 To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne. 22 Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

In this passage we can see the essence of heresy. Tim Lahaye, the co-writer of the Left Behind book series, equates the church of Laodicea with a future representation of the church that will happen in end times. He calls it the Apostate church which, in his timeline, is a church that appeared roughly around the early 1900s. But I disagree. Apostasy has been around from day one of the Church. Apostasy basically means, that people have abandoned the calling of Jesus for their own ideas. This has been happening since the disciples first received the gift of fiery tongues at Pentecost, and ever since then, apostasy has been gnawing at the heels of Jesus’ true Church of born again believers.
In other words, people who fall into apostasy find themselves following teachings that are contrary to that of Jesus. It has been happening since the Church was founded at Pentecost and it will continue until God makes all things new.

As I look at Scripture and as I see the world around us, I see that the apostate church isn’t just now being founded, but rather it is flourishing. But we can be at ease, because this is nothing new. Have you realized that the New Testament, starting in Acts and going through the book of Jude really boil down into two categories? The first is Christian Theology that is to be applied to life; the second category is Christian theology in response to apostasy/heresy.
Much of the New Testament is written as a response to people bringing in different teachings into the Church. Peter tells us in his second letter, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved conduct and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.” 
John echoes this in his second letter, “I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch out that you do not lose what we have worked for, but that you may be rewarded fully. 9 Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
Are we seeing this today? Yes, but it’s nothing new. Heresy and apostasy have been around since the beginning of the church. Rather than being angry and fearful of the apostasy and heresy that surrounds us, we are called on by Scripture to not only know the word of God, but to stand by it, and defend it.
We can see in Scripture that heresy and apostasy has been around since the beginning of the Church. We’re also told in Scripture that it will continue and grow as we get closer to Jesus’ return.
But how can we tell the difference between apostasy and heresy and true teachings of Jesus Christ? Because, I don’t know if you recognize this, but anyone who can put words on a page, can publish a book these days. Anyone who has access to a video camera, can make a video and put it online. Our job as followers of Jesus is to be able to sift through the teachings of this world and hold onto the true Gospel of Christ.

So let’s clarify what heresy and apostasy is and what it isn’t.
A simple definition of heresy is this, “…the appearance of Christianity, yet [it] contradicts its essence.” So, heresy is anything, anything that contradicts the core of Christian belief. To add to this definition of heresy, let’s add apostasy which is, “…one who forsakes his religion or faith…defection, desertion, rebellion.” In other words, someone who has take the core of Christian belief and has moved away from it. 
So apostasy and heresy is what happens when a person starts walking away from the core teachings of Jesus and begin to follow their own ideas.

So what kind of teachings would fall into apostasy and heresy? Well, what about the teaching of Brigham Young in The Journal of Discourse, where he teaches that God was once a mortal man? This teaching is heresy because Scripture states in Numbers 23:19, God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind.
Or what about the teaching from the Jehovah’s Witness’ book, From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, that teaches that a person must be perfectly good to achieve salvation? This is heresy because Scripture states in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Each of these teachings use Scripture to prove their points, but the problem stems from not looking at the Scriptures in it’s context. Each of these teachings were developed by people taking a Scripture out of context of the original writer and out of the context of other passages of Scripture. This is heresy, a tweaking of Scripture and the ideas that it holds.
But what is not apostasy or heresy? We tend to think that anyone that has a difference of opinion on a subject is heretical or an apostate. The reality is that Christianity has a lot of give when it comes to non-essential teachings. Teachings like, is there a rapture and when is it? We get divided on this topic as if it were a core belief of Christianity. But the reality is that this debate within Christianity didn’t even begin until the early 1800s. So how can it be a matter of core Christian teachings?
Rather we need to recognizing that there are about five core teachings of Christianity. These are:
1) God: Creator, Sustainer, the only being who is Needing of Nothing, and Judge. In addition, the Holy Spirit: Is God and not just a force of God’s power.
2) Jesus Christ: Fully God and Fully Man, came to earth through a virgin, lived a physical life, died a physical death, resurrected in a physical body, will return physically and is the only way to salvation.
3) God’s Word the Bible is true and is our light that guides us in this dark world. It contains all that we need to know and follow God 
4) Humans are sinful, breaking the eternal law of God, they are in need of Jesus’ saving work on the cross, once they are saved they are brought into to be apart of the Church and are to grow in their relationship with God.
5) Salvation is a free gift, we cannot earn it. But those who reject the gift will be separated from God for eternity.

Now there is more to those five essentials, but realizing what the core teachings of Christianity is, it shows us that there is a lot of debatable subjects too. So just because someone disagrees with us on the Rapture, doesn’t mean they are a heretic. Yet if someone denies Jesus is fully God and Fully Man, then there’s a real problem. 

Finally, what are we to do about heresy and apostasy? Well, Peter gives us 3 ways of dealing with heresy and apostasy. First, in Peter’s first letter chapter 3, verse 15 we are told, “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…”
In other words, heresy is self made teachings. Teachings that are made up by men to prove their own points. Peter says to revere Christ, or honor him. We need to submit to God’s teaching and leave our own ideas at the door. Also, Peter tells us to be prepared to answer. How do we do that, but to study and learn and apply the words of God to our lives. So when we come into contact with heresy or come into a situation where we can share the truth of the Gospel, we are ready. Thirdly, Peter also tells us to do all this with gentleness and respect. It’s easy for us to condemn someone who is following heretical teachings, but God desires us to show them their errors in a way that lifts them up and not tears them down.
Paul echoes this in 1st Corinthians 16:13-14 where he says, “13 Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be courageous; be strong. 14 Do everything in love.”
We must stand again the heresies and apostasy that enters into the Church. We do this by knowing the truth of Scripture, not worrying about those things that are not core essentials to Christianity and correcting others in love and gentleness.

Heresy and apostasy have been apart of the Church since it’s founding at Pentecost. It continues to be in the Church to this day. God has called his people to recognize what heresy and apostasy are and to be able to stand against it. We can debate the non-essentials of Christianity, and correct those things that go against the core of our Faith. But in doing so, we must remember that the point of correction is to bring others into a deeper relationship with God. We should not run in fear of the heresies of today, Our Lord has victory over all of it and if our faith is true then nothing can stand against us.

Now may the Lord, Who’s Word is eternal, bring you into his understanding. That you may stand firm for his Kingdom, that the world may know him, and bow willing before him. Amen.