Sunday, May 21, 2017

Mark: After it is finished

Mark 15:33-47

At this point, Jesus breathed his last breath.  The women disciples come take his body down and prep it and then Joseph of Arimathea buys a tomb for him to lay in.

Jesus himself said, "It is finished!"  And after the worst day of his whole eternal existence, Jesus begins the return the glory that he had always had as the second member of the Godhead.

Normally, a criminal who had died by execution would not receive a proper burial but probably be thrown in a garbage dump.  Not Jesus.  One of his closet followers among the Pharisees who did not agree with them in opposing Jesus finally came out asked if he could bury him.  This was his first time publicly showing his faith in our Lord and accepting that Jesus was the Messiah.  Another gospel says that Nicodemus also helped Joseph, another man who was originally silent on his love for Jesus.

Also, the women, who rarely get mentioned, get to shine.  Normally, the male disciples get the attention, but since they all deserted except for John, the women who their love by embalming him.

His resurrection still comes, but now his followers still don't get it.  But slowly, they come back to Jesus and give him the honor he deserves.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Mark: How we know God cares

Mark 15:1-32

In this passage, Jesus is tried before Pontius Pilate.  Pilate is the governor of Judea and in town for Passover.  He sees Jesus as innocent but still condemns him to crucifixion to please the people.  Politics are more important than the right thing as they always seem to be.

As Jesus carries one part of his cross, at some point he can't hold it longer so the guards compel a random man named Simon of Cyrene to carry it.

And at the last, Jesus is at Golgotha hanging on the cross but as verse 32 ends, he has not died yet.

I don't have much to say at this passage.  Many people can articulate it better than me.  But in the world there are unfair politics, innocent people dying, and people even forcing people to carry crosses although they don't need to do so.  Jesus already suffered for you.  You don't need to suffer anymore.

But in this world of death, car wrecks, cancer, infertility, holocausts, abortions, rape, sex trafficking, and other horrors, it is sometimes hard to know if God cares.  Yes, all of these are a result of man turning away from God in Adam and Eve.  Yes, I believe that God has planned all things that happen without being the author of sin or evil.  But one thing is even greater than this.  In all the horror and misery, we can still know that he cares and loves us because he sent Jesus, the only innocent man, to die and suffer hell in the place of those who believe and call on the name of Jesus.

God always initiates reconciliation and grace when we least deserve it.  We can always trust him to carry us by his Holy Spirit until he finally ends this present age with Christ's perfected kingdom.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mark: a streaker, hypocritical religious leaders, and screw-ups with a future

Mark 14:50-end of chapter

This next section starts with unlikely humor in the saddest time in human history.  Jesus has been betrayed and is being taken to an illegal trial when someone runs away from the scene.  Someone takes hold of his clothes and he escapes completely naked.  No more mention is made of this guy.  History says that this is likely a cameo by John Mark, the author, himself.  He is there in all honesty, completely scared and not sure what to do.  He is showing more honesty than the clothed disciples and is much more clothed than the hypocritical religious leaders.

Here are Annas and Caiaphas holding a trial at night, in a house when it is the law to hold it in public in the day.  They are not to make a rushed decision for capital punishment on the eve of a religious festival, but that is exactly what they do.  And why is this?  They don't want to defile themselves before Passover.  Can it be more ironic to be trying our God in the flesh in order not to defile oneself before a festival made to point toward him?

And lastly, Peter, not knowing what to do, sits in a courtyard warming himself.  Three people ask him if he knows Jesus, and each time, he says "no."  This is hours after he declared that he would never leave Jesus even if he had to die.

I find it amazing that this section starts out with a naked man who people think is Mark and ends with Peter.  They were both cowards and runaways who later on became bold in their witness in the Lord, and Peter even trained Mark in the ministry after he ran away from Paul and Barnabas on a mission trip.  Paul would not take him back, but Barnabas took him and he was trained by Peter later on to be very useful to both Peter and Paul and he wrote one of the four gospels.  All the people in this story failed, but Mark and Peter repented and turned to the Lord.

If you have screwed up, you can also repent.  Judas Iscariot could have repented had he not given up and committed suicide.  But he did not do that.  Peter did.  Mark did.  You can do the same.  Will you do that?  Tomorrow is never guaranteed.  You need to decide today.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Mark: our intercessor

Mark 14:26-49

This has got to be the second-most agonizing moment in Jesus's life.  Just knowing what he was about to do for all of his elect must have frightened our very human Jesus.  He knew that he would rise again from the dead and he knew he would live forever with the Father and all the people he saved in the Kingdom of the Lord some day, but first he will die on the cross and be forsaken by God the Father to take our punishment and replace it with his righteousness.

And before he does that he takes time to pray for all the believers - past, present, and future - who believe that their Redeemer lives and will intercede for them.  He also asks God if it is possible that he could save them another way.

But no, sin has to be punished, and a just God must punish sins.  Unless someone perfect dies in my place, I must suffer for eternity for my sins against an infinite God.  But God, in his mercy, sent his perfect Son to take my place because he could survive it.

There are two things that insult this loving gift from our God.
1) to say that we still need an intercessor between God and man other than Jesus.  We don't.  Jesus always lives before the Father and mediates between us and we need nobody else.  Nobody else died for my sin and I recognize no other husband for the Church.  We can come directly to him.

2) to say that Christ's sacrifice was divine child abuse.  Theological liberals say this.  The author of "The Shack" says this.  Even NT Wright, from what I understand, has said it.  People who say this don't understand the deity of Christ and don't know how loving our Lord is.  Christ laid his own life down for us.  He even said the he could have called down legions of angels to stop the guards from taking him to trial, but he didn't.  He went through with it.  To say that we don't need this to be saved, that this is merely an example for us, is outright blasphemy, and I question the salvation of anyone who says it.  There was nothing more loving God could have done for us and there is nothing we can do to save ourselves. Without him, we don't even want to be saved.

We need a substitute for our very serious sins if we ever hope to see God and it to be pleasant.  Come to our Lord, and he will change you.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Mark: Mary, Judas, and communion

Mark 14:3-25

In the first story, we have woman who was sinful and never pretended to be righteous that Jesus healed and changed into a Christian.  She knows that somehow it is one of the last times she will see Jesus, so she takes a very expensive jar of perfume, probably worth a lifetime of wages, and breaks it and pours it on his head.  Other Gospels indicate that this is Mary the sister of Martha and Lazarus.  She could possibly be Mary Magdalene, but that is not certain.  Either way, this lady had been saved, her life made more valuable by Jesus, and now she takes her most valuable possession and gives it to him.  Someone, we know it was Judas Iscariot, sees this as a waste, but Jesus says that what Mary did was beautiful and will prepare him for his burial.

What, burial?  Jesus isn't supposed to die.  So, Judas Iscariot, who cares too much about money, decides he's had enough of Jesus and offers to betray him to the priests for 30 pieces of silver.  Judas, who followed Jesus for the past three years pretended to be righteous and did all the right things, but on the inside, he only cared about money and fame.  What a contrast to Mary who started out loving money but surrendered to Jesus.  Judas pretended to love Jesus, but really only cared about himself.

Next Jesus asks his disciples to find a place for them to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem.  This, along with the incident where they found a donkey and her son for Jesus to ride on in the triumphal entry, shows that Jesus specifically planned his last week on earth.  From before creation, God in his threeness: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, planned on sending Jesus to die for his people's sins should they fall like they did in the Garden.  They planned every detail from who would betray him, to which donkey he would ride, to which upper room he would celebrate passover in.  While all the people involved made their own decisions during that week, God orchestrated the whole thing to his glory and to the salvation of his people.  We may not always understand why God plans things the way he does or how our wills and responsibilities fit in with his sovereignty, but he knows what he is doing down to the smallest detail.

And lastly, Jesus institutes the Lord's Supper.  As baptism replaces circumcision, so the Lord's Supper replaces Passover.  No longer will lambs be killed over and over.  Now there is only one sacrifice -- Jesus's death on the cross -- that will forgive sins for all Christians for all time.  No more blood will be shed to atone for sins after this night.  Christians need to celebrate communion to remember this.  Not only does this visual represent Jesus's broken body and his spilled blood, but it transports our spirits to Jesus's body in heaven where we can enjoy him in his realness spiritually.

The really sad thing is that Community Bible Church does not celebrate communion enough.  Jesus said to do it often to remember him.  The church does a lot of things right.  It preaches the Word faithfully and baptizes people frequently, but it neglects the Lord's Supper.  Jesus said to do all of this.  It's like forming a relationship with someone but only going on dates with him twice a year.  This should not be.  We need to commune more than Christmas Eve and Good Friday.  We should do communion at least a week before or after we do baptisms.  It connects us to the Lord and connects us to each other in a very real spiritual way and must not be neglected.

Monday, April 3, 2017

SS: Proverbs lesson: Pride or Humility

Proverbs 3:5-8
Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
    and do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge him,
    and he will make straight your paths.
Be not wise in your own eyes;
    fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your flesh
    and refreshment[c] to your bones.

1. Two Paths: Pride and Humility

First, what does it say not to do?  Do not lean on your own understanding.  Do not be wise in your own eyes.  Don’t follow your heart or rely on your own smarts.  Your trust should be outside of yourself.  And there is a wonderful promise for those who turn away from themselves and turn toward the Lord: It will bring healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.  You will have a peace within yourself.

Proverbs 11:2 says, “When pride comes, then comes disgrace, but with the humble is wisdom.”

Pride – arrogance, conceit, an overly high sense of one’s own value.
Disgrace – loss of respect, honor or esteem.
Humble – to lower in condition, importance, or dignity.  Or, it can mean a lower sense of one’s own value. 

2. Example from another Saul

Let’s study a man named Saul.  Not the king from last week, but someone in the New Testament.  We can read his story in Acts 9:1-19.  When I read this story, if I read the name “Saul”, I want us to go, “rawr!”.  When I say, “Light from heaven,” I want us to sing, “aahh”, like we’re angels.  When I say, “Ananias,” I want us to hold our hands like we’re praying.  When I say, “Scales fell from his eyes,” I want us to wipe our eyes.

But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. And falling to the ground, he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank.
10 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.” 11 And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.” 13 But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem. 14 And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.” 15 But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” 17 So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” 18 And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he rose and was baptized; 19 and taking food, he was strengthened.
First, Saul’s pride was the reason some new Christians were arrested or even killed.  He thought he knew everything and that God approved of his actions.  He was raise a Jewish man and raised to follow every rule.  And when Jesus came and threatened the Jewish way of life, he thought he did the right thing by opposing him and his followers.

But then, Jesus had enough.  He stopped Saul on his way to Damascus and made him blind for a time.  God’s Spirit led him to Ananias who prayed for him.  Scales fell from Saul’s eyes and then he learned under the Apostles for a time.  He changed his name to Paul, brought the non-Jewish world to know Jesus, wrote most of the New Testament, and eventually lost his life to beheading because he followed Jesus. 

At first he thought he was great, but then Jesus humiliated him, and only when he lost everything did he realize that Jesus was better than any of that.  Paul lost his family connections (a Jewish family would disown people who became Christians), his position, his home, and had to make friends with people he originally hated.  In the end, he lost his life.  But in the end, he got more than that because he now has eternal life with Jesus.

Mark 8:35, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.”

3. The mirror

Have a mirror made from foil spread over a cardboard oval. 

Before I leave the house every day, I look in the mirror.  I make sure my hair looks normal, that my make-up is on, and that I don’t look crazy.  Who else looks in the mirror every day?

Mirrors are great, but they don’t show what is inside.  Sometimes, in the old days, people couldn’t afford mirrors, so they had to look in a lake or a pool of water. 

Proverbs 27:19, “As water reflects a face, so a man or woman’s heart reflects that person.”

The mirror can show what you look like, but it can’t show you what you love, how deep you love it, how good you are, or even if you are saved.

Crumple the foil.  Does this new mirror say that you are crumpled?  No, it just reflects the outside.  Just the same, what you say and do reflect your heart.  If you are doing things to fit in with your friends or society that don’t honor God, then it may reflect that you do not truly know him.  Or if you disobey your teachers that your parents trust over you or are mean to other kids, it may mean you need to spend more time in God’s Word.

Just the same, if you are kind to people, obey teachers, and obey God even when other people make fun of you because of it, then it shows that your heart truly belongs to God. 

Trust in the Lord and don’t lean on your own understanding.  Don’t be wise in your own eyes, but turn away from evil.  It will heal your bones.

I will close with these three paragraphs from World-Tilting Gospel by Dan Phillips:

God set his love on us in eternity past, and granted us to Christ, for him to save us.  In our lifetimes, God the Holy Spirit convinces us of our guilt and of the truth of the Gospel.  God grants us repentance and saving faith, regenerates us, and declares us righteous.  He comes to live within us himself, by means of the person of the Holy Spirit, empowering us to live life on a plane we would not have imagined outside of Christ.

It is literally true, then that God in sovereign grace has given us everything we need in Christ for life and godly living.


How is this a world-tilting truth?  The world is all about pulling itself up by its bootstraps.  It has programs, rules, principles, tips, disciplines, and a thousand other things that promise perfection…or at least marked improvement.  And happiness.  And fulfillment.  And meaning…

I closed with 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Facts about Paul

I decided that since I'm teaching about Paul tomorrow that I would write a blog about facts about him.

1. He was born a Roman citizen.  He was Jewish and Roman from birth.  At one of his trials in Acts 22 starting at verse 22, the crowds go crazy and want him killed, but the authorities want to flog him.  Paul objects by saying that you don't flog Roman citizens.  The tribune says that he bought his citizenship, but in verse 28 Paul declares that he was born a citizen.  Then, they were afraid to flog him.

2. His birth name was Saul.  He descended from Benjamin's tribe and was probably related to King Saul.

3.  He was a Pharisee and hated Christianity.  When he went to Damascus to arrest Christians, it was Jesus who changed his heart and took over his free will.  Paul did not choose Jesus until Jesus changed his heart.  His life is a prime example of the fact that people have free will until God overrides it.  Until then, they will only oppose Jesus.

4. Galatians 1:15-24 explains that after his conversion he went to Arabia, returned to Damascus, and three years later went to Jerusalem to see Peter.  If you are discouraged about seeking ministry and not being where you want to be right now, remember that Paul himself trained for years and was not our Bible-writing missionary for a long time.  You and I have plenty of time.

5. He changed his name to Paul by the time he went on his first missionary journey with Barnabas.

6.  Paul and Barnabas split up over whether they should take Mark the deserter on their next journey.  If you are having a friend break-up, take heart.  Even Paul and the "Son of Encouragement" can have differences, but they remained friends and both came to value Mark who eventually wrote the Gospel with his name.

7.  I think I personally can be more comfortable with Paul than with Jesus.  Maybe it's because Paul is a sinner like me and Jesus was perfect.  Although Jesus is my God and I'll live forever with him, it is good to read Paul and see how a "normal" person does things.

8.  Paul is my husband's middle name.  I like how he is Timothy Paul New, a thoroughly New Testament name.  I'm glad to have New jokes about my name because I used to be a Smith, which is more common.

9.  Paul was executed by Nero in Rome.  There has been confusion in the past about him being beheaded in Jerusalem, but no.  It was in Rome, and probably by beheading since he was a Roman citizen and could not be crucified like Peter.