Thursday, October 13, 2016

Mark: Jesus's first missionary

Mark 5:6-24a
After describing the demon possessed man in the Gadarene region, Mark shows how Jesus healed the man.  He asked the guy's name.  He said, "Legion," because there were many demons in the man.  They begged Jesus not to send them to hell just yet.  Jesus sent them to a herd of pigs who rushed headlong into the sea and drowned.  The rest of the town told Jesus to leave, but not before Jesus made the newly healed man the missionary to that region.

Then, Jesus and company go back to the Jewish side of town and a synagogue ruler, Jairus, asks Jesus to heal his daughter.  Jesus goes with him.

The presence of pigs shows readers that Jesus had taken his disciples to a place where Gentiles lived.  Pigs were unclean to Jews and no Jewish town would keep them as livestock.

After Jesus had just weirded out his disciples by calming the storm, he made things even more weird by taking them to the uncleanest region he could think of.  A Gentile town, with a herd of pigs, in a graveyard, with a demon-possessed man.

Perhaps Jesus was trying to teach them that without his presence, they are just as unclean if not more.  Jesus came to save sinners.  All kinds of sinners.  He came to clean the unclean.  And all people are hopeless until Jesus shows up and changes them in the inside, making them able to love and follow him.

It would take much longer for the disciples to understand that they were to spread the message to non-Jews, too.  Peter had to be shown a vision of a sheet being lowered with unclean animals and God telling him to not call unclean what God has made clean, before he went to see Cornelius with Jesus's Gospel.  But when that happened, he probably remembered this day in the uncleanest graveyard and told Mark to write about it.

When Jesus heals the man, the town not only shows that they are Gentiles, but also the kind of environmentalists that think pigs are more important than people.  This precious man had been bound by Satan for so long, and the demons just kept growing and growing until nobody could control him.  And all they can think about is that their pigs and income are all dead in the Galilean water.

The newly healed man wished to go with Jesus, but Jesus, having mercy on the town, told the man to share the Gospel with this town.  Jesus's first missionary was this man.  He got to be a missionary before the Apostles.  God can to the same for you and your children too.  If anybody you know it hopeless, he or she is not beyond our Lord's healing touch.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Mark: Teacher, do you care?

Mark 4:35-5:1
Jesus calms the storm, and then John Mark describes the situation of the demon-possessed man when Jesus meets him.

I think in this one story and starting of the next of two miracles, the question that pops out at me is, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"  The disciples are in a boat on Lake Galilee, there is a storm, and their little boat seems to be crashing.  In all the chaos, Jesus simply sleeps on a cushion.  And then, when they wake him, he gets up, stops the storm by just talking to it, and then asks the disciples why they were so afraid.  Where is their faith?

I know when my life is chaotic, I often forget that Jesus knows exactly what he's doing.  And, I don't get an immediate answer like these guys did.  In fact, I may have to wait until I'm in heaven for the answer.

Right now, this upcoming election frightens me because we will either have a dictator who will allow abortion to go on unchecked and take all our money, or we will have a man who treats women like property and isn't really pro-life either.  Does Jesus not care that America is still blaspheming God with their lifestyles and their choices?  In my own life, I am a grown, married woman who still lives in the house I grew up in and can't move closer to where I work and go to church.  Doesn't God know how much more I could do if he would allow me to move and also to get a job that matches the fact that I have a master's degree?  Why did my mother die when she was only 50 and leave behind me and my autistic brother who will never know independence and her aging mother who was still alive at the time, not to mention my widowed dad?  Their marriage was the best it had ever been at that point.

Jesus was not asleep on a cushion, I can tell you that.  We live in a fallen world because Adam and Eve sinned, but he also showed his love by dying on the cross for my sins.  The real question is why does he even allow me to live?

Then, we move on to the beginning of the story about the demoniac.  Some people don't have storms on the outside.  Their storm goes on inside.  Some people have mental illness.  Some people are on the autism spectrum and view the world in ways others could never imagine.  I always find it interesting that when we meet a demon-possessed person in the Bible, his description usually reminds me of an autistic, although I would definitely say that autism is not a demon possession.  Sometimes, it's not even really a bad thing.  I've lived with an autistic brother for 26 years and have had to keep him from hurting himself or running into harm many times.

But just the same, Jesus cares about that too.  He may not make my brother able to communicate with speech in this life or get him to where he can lives on his own, bathe himself, feed himself, and many more things.  But he can.  And he will.  We still wait for the complete consummation of Christ's kingdom.  Until then, how can we make life more bearable for people going through storms?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Mark: Light, seeds, mustard, chain reaction

Mark 4:24-34

Jesus says this: 24 “Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 25 Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.”

Then he has a message about seeds and the Word of God and the parable of the mustard tree.

The first part is the second part of his discourse on Christians being the light of the world.  God has blessed us with his saving message.  We have to share that light with the rest of the world.  We have to be good stewards of the gift God has given us because it is the only Word that can save people from damnation. How dare we not care for our neighbors by sharing with them the same Word that God let us hear?

It's like verses 26-29 are more words about seed and the sower.  This is a little different because we are the sower.  And Jesus is assuring us that we are not responsible for results.  We are only responsible to obey him and share the Word of God with the world.  This is good because often I do get scared about what people will say or think about me if I tell people the truth about their sins and about the good news of salvation.  What if they get angry and I scare them away from church for life?  I don't have to worry about that.  Jesus will make sure the seeds will grow.

Finally, I love the mustard seed parable.  I loved teaching this to the first and second grade girls at CBC Sunday school.  I learned how to make a rubber band ball for the first time and had a hard time figuring out how to do it.  But some of the more brilliant kids got it and really, we all had to work together to make it grow.  Christians need to work together to make sure that Jesus and his Gospel come to all people and that people are welcomed.  

I don't know if I could ever do what I have done if it wasn't for help from other people in the church and God guaranteeing that he is in charge of the results.  From supporting and telling the truth to pregnant but unsure women to helping young kids grow in faith, it has all been a group effort with God orchestrating everything.  God's Word is a chain reaction and we simply need to keep it going.

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.