Thursday, September 22, 2016

Mark: 4 soils

This week took me through Mark 4:1-23.  Jesus tells the parable of the sower and the seed, explains the parable and then starts his parable of the light.

Amazingly, my last two blogs were about the Word of God.  This parable is about the Word.  It is represented by the seeds.  The farmer scatters it everywhere, I mean everywhere.  It goes on a path where the birds eat it.  It goes on rocky soil where it grows no root and then dies.  It goes on the thorny soil and gets choked by the thorns.  It goes on good soil where it keeps growing.

Jesus told parables to specifically hide his word from people who will not believe.  How do I know?  He says so in verses 11 and 12.  When he speaks, his elect believers will learn, come to know him, and grow in holiness, but at the same time, people who will not believe and be saved will just not understand and simply drown in their sins.  At the same time, the message is offered to everyone without discrimination.

This parable explains God's Word and how it works in people.  It also describes people and how they will react.  As a Sunday School teacher and worker with children, from my perspective, the soils are not in permanent states.  All of the soil needs Christ's Word to grow and to know Jesus.  Not all react at the same rate or in the same way.

The rocky soil grows for a time, but these people do not have their faith based on Jesus.  It is based on their friends, the good programs at church, good music, a great book, but not actually Jesus.  They don't read the Bible throughout the week, and eventually they leave church.  But God can plow the soil, dig up the rocks, and replant his Word, and they can return.  And he can use me to do that.

The thorny soil are people that grow and genuinely believe, but they are so preoccupied with their jobs, their kids' activities, multiple activities in the community and even church, and they never get to sit down and just feed themselves the word and they never seem to grow in knowledge and faith.  God can dig up those weeds and reorient that person so that they can relax and thrive.

Then the path.  It's like they never even hear the Word.  They never set foot in church on purpose, and if anything, these are the true reprobates.  If a church member leaves and never returns before he dies, then it's a good sign that there was a path lying beneath that soil.

Just the same, it is not my job to know.  My job is to spread the Word to the ones that do come, love them, keep hoping in the Master to bring about the growth, and just believe that I will see them for eternity in joy and love.  And I simply love them in the time that I have them under my influence so much that it hurts.  I know God will use that in their lives, too.  Why else would he put me there?

Finally, the lamp.  After 6 years of volunteering at a pregnancy resource center, I cannot do it for now because I got a day job.  I need to find some way to keep trying to reach people outside the church to bring them in.  Internet is a good place to do that.  But I need to find another way to do that or to help someone else.  God will show me the way.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Part Two of "Threw It on the Ground"

And here is the follow-up to "Threw It on the Ground" post and about Christians who accuse people like me of "Bible-olatry" because I dare say that all of the words are Christ's first-hand words to me today and to all believers and non-believers for all time.  People who hear it preached are changed and they lead people to be able to accept Jesus and to be saved.

Does that mean I don't believe in the Holy Spirit?  I'm crazy about him.  All believers have him and are constantly guided by him each and every day.  Here's the thing: sometimes I get him confused with my feelings.  My feelings and the Holy Spirit's guiding are not the same thing.  If I feel him leading me or teaching me something, I need to double check it with something that I know is tangible and objective: the Bible.

Yes, I'm a predestinarian in my beliefs on how each member of the Trinity works to save the elect of God.  It is because of that that I hold so high a view of the Bible.  It is the hallmark of Reformed faith that gets called Calvinism.  People who don't understand simply should not tell me what I believe.

All that aside: here are some verses.

John 1:1, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God."  Jesus is the Word.  His words are recorded in a book.  The book is not him, but it's like his cell phone call to us.  It's like when my husband Tim was in South Korea.  I would Skype with him to communicate.  The computer was not Tim, but it was his connection to me.  And it was tangible and objective.

What about times before the Bible was written?  Hebrews 1:1-2, "Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world."  He spoke through the prophets.  Later, Moses and many writers wrote down words that God told them to write.  Not by mechanical dictation, but by the Holy Spirit guiding their words so that each word was a public proclamation of what God wanted to tell the people.  

The Apostle John wrote Revelation.  He was the last surviving apostle and Revelation is the last book written in the New Testament canon.  Revelation 22:18-19, "I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book."  It is a very serious thing to claim that your words are directly from Jesus because you are claiming that you are adding to Scripture.  If you are right, then God will make his words available to everyone.  If you are wrong, then you are adding to your doom and leading others astray.

This is why believe that God's revelation to us is complete for now and has ceased until the coming of Christ. 

And finally, Romans 10:17, So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ."  The Bible is so vital to people coming to faith.  Whenever I teach Sunday School, I know that 100% of them need to hear the Bible taught so that the Spirit can convert souls and grow his children in the faith.  And I am guaranteed results despite my failings and incomplete plans and distractions from the kids.  And it is why the Bible is held so highly in my esteems and treated as if it was Christ himself.  Because it is his letter to us.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Threw it on the Ground: Is the Bible Jesus?

Years ago, Saturday Night Live released a video called "I Threw It on the Ground."  It is a silly video.  Andy Samburg is rapping about many ways he expressed himself by throwing something on the ground.  In one scene, somebody hands him a cell phone and says, "It's your dad."  Andy reacts by throwing the cell phone onto the ground, smashing it, and declaring, "My Dad is not a phone!"  I still laugh at this years later.

Here lately, there have been a lot of messages from people who are not necessarily liberals, but who promote a dangerous liberal theology.  It is the idea that the Bible is not Jesus.  Jesus is Jesus, and the Bible is about him, but it is not Jesus and should not be revered as highly as it is by conservatives. To give so much honor to the Bible is called "bibleolatry," or so they say.  But I feel like it is the same reaction that Samburg gave when he threw the cell phone onto the ground.

Suppose my Dad lived somewhere where I would not see him a long time, but he still wanted to communicate with me.  My cell phone would be the sole source of his words to me.  Jesus lives at the right hand of his Father interceding for me in his invisible kingdom where deceased believers already live.  His only communication to me is through his words in the Bible.

I know that God ultimately proved Jesus by raising him from the dead, and it is a historical fact witnessed by many in the 1st century church. This one act proved all the stories of the Old Testament, creation, and our hope in a resurrection for us.  But, how do I know about this today?  I read it in the Bible.

How do I know that Jesus and Paul are of one mind when they speak in the Scriptures?  Because Jesus specifically trained Paul, and those words are in the Bible.

If I feel like the Holy Spirit is leading me to something, but I need something objective to go to, where do I go?  The Bible.

Sure, a cell phone is not my dad, but it is his words to me until I see him again.  A Bible is not Jesus, but they are his words to me, both Old and New Testament, but red and black letters, until I see him again, so we had better take the Bible's words as if they were Jesus speaking to us directly, because they are.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Mark: houses divided, blasphemy against the Spirit, mother and brothers

Mark 3:22-35

The end of this chapter starts with the Pharisees accusing Jesus of casting out demons with the power of demons.  Jesus responds with an, "Oh no, you didn't."  He then told his disciples something that is falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln.  "A house divided against itself cannot stand."  He is not talking about a country, a political party, or a denomination, though that is true of them.  He is talking about Satan and his kingdom.  If Satan really wanted to win his contest against God, then he will not use his own powers to destroy his fellow angels.  They will attack at full force.

Jesus came to destroy Satan and his kingdom and to establish God's kingdom.  He is not going to use demons to destroy demons.  Jesus is the source of all power.  The Pharisees stepped across a point of no return when they accused God Almighty of joining forces with evil to stop evil.  Not only would Satan's kingdom have divided, God's kingdom would have divided.  God's kingdom will not divide, but will last forever and will end Satan when the time is right and all of God's elect are finally saved.

Next, Jesus gives a statement that disturbs many people.  "All sins will be forgiven except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit."  Honestly, I'm still not quite sure what exactly he means by that, but apparently, the Pharisees who accused Jesus of witchcraft had committed it or were in danger of doing so.  Are we in danger of this?  Could I accidentally slip up and blaspheme the Holy Spirit?  I'm going to repost the Coram Deo from Tabletalk on March 3:

     Dr. RC Sproul writes in his commentary Mark,"Worrying about [whether one has committed the        unforgivable sin] is one of the clearest evidences that [the troubled person has] not committed this      sin, for those who commit it are so hardened in their hearts that they do not care that they commit        it."  Blasphemers of the Holy Spirit are so hardened against God that they do not care about sin, so      if we are repentant, we can be sure we have not blasphemed the Spirit.

Finally, Jesus is causing such a stir in the world of Israel that his own mother and brothers are trying to take him home and calm him down.  They tell Jesus that his mother and brothers are outside.  Jesus said, "Who are my mother and brothers?  For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

Jesus never sinned, so he was not disrespecting his mother.  He was just saying that people who are saved are his family.  Not necessarily people who are blood related to him.  And I will be offensive by saying this, but this is one of the many signs that Jesus's mother was not perfect and just another older sister in Christ to me.  She was an impressive lady, but she was just a human who needed salvation as she herself says in he Magnificat in Luke 1:47.  She calls God her Savior, meaning that she also needs to be saved.  

But all believers are God's family and all professing Christians are saints who have direct access to God the Father with only Jesus as our intercessor, making it alright for us to approach God and to not burn in our sins as he took our sins for us and gave us his righteousness in exchange.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Mark: disciples, bouncers, and people who otherwise would not work together

Mark 3:7-21

In this passage Jesus continues to minister.  Because Jesus told people not to tell people who performed their miracles, people are following Jesus in masses and he actually has to preach from a boat so that they don't crush him and his disciples act as bouncers.

Jesus heals demons who know who he is.  He is the Son of God and will burn them in hell forever.  They know who he is.  But at this time, Jesus still does not want to blatantly proclaim himself as the Messiah because he wants people to realize it on their own.

Then he picks disciples.  This is when Jesus baffles me.  He picks people who otherwise should never work together.  He picks Simon the Zealot.  This man loves Israel and hates Romans so much that he is alright with killing a Gentile in the name of Israel.  Along with Simon Zed, he picks Matthew or Levi, the tax collector, an Israelite who compromises with Rome so much that he takes money from his brothers and takes extra for himself.  He has Simon Peter and Andrew, and James and John, more moderate fellows.  He has Judas Iscariot who later betrays Jesus, and Jesus picks him anyway.

Then he has the people following him, mostly because he can heal and give free bread, not because they truly love God and want to follow Jesus.  Then there are the demons who prove that you can believe in Jesus and still hate him.

But isn't church like this?  I am a Protestant, Calvinist, amillennial, paedobaptist, and cessationist (though I'm open to God's mysterious ways).  I'm on choir with people who speak in tongues, believe God tells them things outside the Bible, and people who generally believe whatever is popular.  I go to a church who only baptizes professing believers, but thankfully they won't make me get rebaptized.  People have been horrified to find out I'm a predestinarian, though in all reality, I believe they believe in it even though they don't realize it.  But we all work toward a common goal: glorifying God and proclaiming the Gospel to children.  Yes, I will work alongside people who don't truly believe.  I certainly have emotional ups and downs with God at times.  But Jesus put us all together and he's the one working, not us.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Mark: healings and rules

Mark 2:27 - 3:6

In this section, after just showing the Pharisees that people can feed themselves on the Sabbath, he declares that he is the Lord of the Sabbath.  Here is one of the many instances where Jesus declares himself God.  The Pharisees, however, have been so busy memorizing rules and building rules around the rules, that they never recognized him.

Next time it is the Sabbath, and Jesus sees them, he sees a man with a shriveled hand and asks if it is okay to heal on the Sabbath.  To save life or to kill?  The Pharisees know the right answer but it is not what they have been teaching, so Jesus angrily heals the man.  Next, the Pharisees plot to kill Jesus, on the Sabbath.

In my Sunday School lesson this past Sunday, I was called on to teach about food culture in the Bible.  I taught about the Passover, but I also taught about the clean and unclean foods.  This is one of the ways that the Pharisees built rules around the rules so that they would not accidently commit sin.

Here is an example.  Since there was a rule about not boiling a young goat in its mother's milk, the Pharisees declared that their people cannot eat milk and meat together.  That means no Hamburger Helper for the Jews even though all the food in it is kosher.

But if a man is hungry and sees grain in a field, they would rather the man starve than to pick the grains and eat them.  And apparently healing is work, so not even God is allowed to heal on the Sabbath.  And it is okay to plot and to kill the Lord of the Sabbath on the Sabbath.  That isn't work.

There is always the constant desire for people to follow the laws of Jesus without following Jesus himself, and in ourselves that will never work.  We get mad at the Pharisees for doing this, but everybody does this.  I will get mad at a child for singing some popular song about being bad, but I myself have listened to and enjoyed popular songs about being bad in my own time.  And I'm thinking about rules and not about truly loving Jesus.

God does not want us to follow rules and never come to him.  They are impossible for us to follow simply so we can look to Jesus and rejoice in the blood he shed for us that covers us and makes us acceptable to approach the Father without being burned for eternity.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Mark: trying to follow rules and principals but forgetting Christ

Mark 2:13-26

In this passage, Jesus calls Levi, a dirty, rotten tax collector who collaborates with Rome and skims money off the top for himself, he calls Levi to be a disciple.  This man calls himself Matthew in Matthew and writes that gospel later on in life.

The Pharisees get mad at Jesus because he called a sinner and ate with him.  Even John the Baptist's disciples are confused because Jesus never fasts.  Jesus says that there is no need to fast because the bridegroom (himself) is here and we should celebrate.  Soon, Jesus will go back to the Father in heaven, and then we can fast, but for now, celebrate and eat.

Next thing you know, it is Saturday, the Sabbath, and Jesus's disciples are hungry and picking grain as they walk through a field to eat, and the Pharisees get their panties in a wad because they consider that work.  Jesus explains that the Sabbath is made to heal people and feed them, not to cause unnecessary rules that place restraints on people.  Even David was fed the showbread from the tabernacle which was allowed for only priests to eat, but it was alright because David and his men were hungry and the priest had compassion on them.

In the last post, I had mentioned the paralyzed man that was lowered down to Jesus by his four friend through a roof (possibly Peter's roof).  The Pharisees were mad because Jesus was forgiving the man for his sins.  In that time, the only way anyone could be forgiven was on the Day of Atonement and that was when they went to the temple and offered a lamb to the priest to be slaughtered to take care of that person's sins for the past year.  Now that Jesus is here, he is presenting a way to be forgiven without having to go to the Temple.  Jesus, the Son of God, is finally here and will forgive sins because sinners are now covered under his blood, a permanent atonement.  There is no more need for a priest, a sacrifice, because Jesus is it.

That is why Christians today should no longer anticipate the rebuilding of the temple.  It is gone away with and Jesus is here and will never go away.  For more, listen to this.

This passage mostly deals with the Pharisees' obsession with the rules.  After the exiled Jews came back from Babylon to their homeland in Canaan, they wanted to make sure that they would never turn their backs on God again.  So they looked at all of his rules in the Torah, built fences around them, and made sure that nobody would risk exile again.  The problem is, they paid so much attention to the rules, that they forgot to notice God or his promise of a Savior from their sins.  And when that Savior actually did come, they did not recognize him because they were too bogged down with rules that the Lord never intended when he gave his people the Law.

Jesus talked about old wineskins and new wineskins.  God established Israel and his Old Covenant Laws for a time when he wanted his people to stand out from the rest of the countries and cultures and also to show them how imperfect they were as they tried to follow the rules in their own efforts.  The wine of the Old Covenant had expanded the wineskin until it burst.  Now, Israel and all of God's Church needed a new wineskin to handle the Law's fulfillment in Jesus.  If you try to follow rules without following our Lord, then that is legalism and you will be crushed under your own efforts.

But if you get to know Jesus and rest in knowing that he has kept the law for you and offered the most perfect sacrifice for you, then you can truly relax and truly enjoy God.  You can also properly obey God's law because you are no longer looking to your own efforts or penances.  It is time to repent of our penances and simply love the Lord.  Keeping the rules will happen as a result of that.