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.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Mark: healings, Trinitarian mysteries, and such

Mark 1:35-2:12

In this passage, Jesus starts out praying by himself and his disciples look for him.  He says he must continue to travel and preach the gospel to all the towns, not just settle down in one place.

Then he heals a leper.  He tells the leper to not tell anyone, so naturally he tells everyone, and Jesus can no longer do things secretly.

Finally, he is at Peter's house again in Capernaum.  I assume it's Peter's house because he stayed there a lot and I think Peter's mother-in-law would be happy to have him over any time because he healed her.

Four men want to bring their paralyzed friend to be healed but because of that former leper, they cannot even get to the door.  So they dig a hole in the roof and lower him down.  Jesus forgives the man's sins.  The Pharisees around there grumble to themselves that only God can forgive sins.  Jesus, knowing exactly what they are thinking asks, "Which is easier?  To heal him or to forgive him?"  Then he heals the man.

I love Jesus's restlessness to hurry and get the gospel of himself to all the towns of Galilee.  But in his busy moments he still gets up early to pray by himself.  This moment also shows that mystery of the trinity where Jesus and the Father are both one God but they are still separate people.  Jesus still prays to the Father.

I can never tell whether Jesus told the ex-leper not to tell people about his healing because he knew  that he would want to tell or if in his human capacity he really did not realize that the man would still disobey and tell people.  I do know that Jesus chose to heal this man with the knowledge that he would tell people.  And even though he knew he would disobey, he still healed him.  So maybe he did know that word would get out.

The story of the four men and their paralyzed friend is one of my favorites in the Bible.  1) it shows that Jesus heals and forgives based on the faith of someone's friends, not necessarily that person.  That is why it is so important to constantly lift people we love in prayer and to share Jesus with them.

2) It shows that Jesus actually is God.  He can and does forgive people.

3) Jesus died to forgive our sins.  It is easy to simply heal a person.  It is hard to give up yourself to forgive the sins of your enemies and then turn them into your friends.  Jesus died to do both things.  Sickness, death, and disease are all results of Adam and Eve's sins, and they will all find their end in Jesus's sacrifice starting at that moment and still going on today up until Christ finally returns to establish his Kingdom.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mark: the time if fulfilled.

Mark 1:14-24

Mark just spent two whole verses on Jesus's temptation in the wilderness.  Now, Jesus rises in full force.  Now that John the Baptist has proclaimed to the world that Jesus is the Christ, God allows for him to be arrested and Jesus says, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel."

For centuries, Israel had looked to many men to save them from their enemies: Samson, Gideon, Samuel, David, Solomon, Josiah, Isaiah, Elijah, Hezekiah, Daniel, and even John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet.  None of them led sinless lives and none of them could save lost souls from their sins.

Finally, the last prophet before Jesus comes has fulfilled his purpose and will soon lose his head, and Jesus comes on the scene as God's answer to the needs of Israel and the whole human race.

He then proceeds to call disciples to himself.  Many people did this in Jesus's day.  They would call disciples and be their rabbi, and those men would follow that man for a certain amount of years.  Before Jesus came, rabbis would teach under the name of various famous men such as Hillel, Gamaliel, etc.  They never spoke of their own authority.  Jesus changed that and spoke from his own authority.  And then God verified his authority by performing miracles.  He healed a demon-possessed man and then proceeded to heal Simon Peter's mother-in-law of an illness.

Many people today look forward to heaven and define "gospel" in many ways, but heaven is not a place and gospel is not a music style.  They are both one man, and that man is Jesus Christ, God the Son, sent to live the only perfect human life and to give the only perfect sacrifice for the sins of those who believe in him, himself.  This is why Muslims and Jews do not worship the same God as me.  They refuse to believe that Jesus is the one sent from God to save people from their sins, and they will not find salvation from their sins apart from repenting and believing in Jesus alone.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mark: John, baptism, temptation

Mark 1:1-13 establishes John the Baptist's ministry, Christ's baptism, and Christ's temptation.

All four Gospels talk about John and his ministry.  Only Matthew and Luke talk about Christ's birth.  Apparently, when God inspired Scripture, he felt it more important to talk about John the Baptist's launching of Jesus, so to speak, than about Jesus's own birth as important as that is.  Mark starts his Gospel with John.

In John's era, if a non-Jew, aka a Gentile, wanted to take part in the Jewish faith, he had to get baptized and circumcised, and then the could take part in all the benefits of the Jewish church of the time.  When John came, he called both Gentiles and Jews to be baptized for the repentance of their sins.  This shocked and offended the Jews because they thought that being descendants of Abraham already made them perfect.  They did not think they needed repentance.  But John's baptism shows us all that everyone has sins.  Some maybe obvious such as murder or sexual immorality.  Some are like mine: I'm an introvert and do all my sinning on the inside.  I have angry thoughts, I'm judgmental, I have pride, and I often doubt God because I always want more than I currently have.  All of us need to repent of our sins and be baptized if we have not done so already.

Then Jesus comes and is even more shocking.  Jesus is the only man who never sinned.  He disproves the cliche, "To err is human."  Jesus was fully human and never sinned.  Although everyone else does sin, we cannot use the excuse, "I'm only human."  And here Jesus comes to get baptized!  Jesus has never sinned.  John, his cousin, knows that he has never sinned.  In fact, he says, "I need you to baptize me."

But here is where Christology comes in.  Jesus did not merely die for our sins.  He lived for us so that his perfect life could be imputed to us.  To do that, Jesus perfectly followed every law.  Jesus came to get baptized to obey the law.  And although Jesus did not need to repent, I do every day.  Jesus repented for me and took on the punishment for my sins.  He performed a perfect repentance that I never could.

After that he goes into the desert to be tempted by Satan, and Mark only uses two verses to talk about that unlike Matthew and Luke.  From there, Jesus continued to perfectly obey the law even when it would be easier to not do so.

How do I boil all this theological goodness down to a 25 minute music session.  I will probably pick songs about baptism.  "The River" by Jordan Feliz is one the kids like.  Also, "River of Life" (gush,gush,gush, gush) is easy for the kindergartners.  There are songs about obedience to God even when life is hard such as "Blessed be the Name" by Matt Redman, "Desert Song," by Brooke Fraser.  Also, although kids laugh at me saying "do", I love the song "Do Lord."  It's easy.  Then, I generally want to sing about God's love without singing about Christ's death quite yet, though it is mentioned.  "Oh the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus" is wordy but rocks.  "O How I need You," by All Sons and Daughters is brand spanking new, and I simply want to sing it.  I feel like it is really easy.

As for more fun songs.  I think I want to teach the younger kids the alphabet.  All ages, even 5th grade like "Apples and Bananas".  Hooked on Phonics had some songs on YouTube that are now pulled due to copyright reasons which is sad for me but smart for them.  I have the "A" Song.  Then, I have some good ole dance songs like "If You're a Kid" or "She'll be Coming Round the Mountain."

That is my plan for next week.  Hope I can keep this up!


Here is my attempt to start and finish another series that will likely take me all year and I won't always feel like updating.

But just the same, another year is starting up where I do music for CCS's after school.  In the past year, I have let a theme guide my song choices, but I never talked about it for fear I would not keep it up.  But I did, so I shall attempt to talk about it.

Tabletalk  magazine has been following the Gospel of Mark in its devotionals this year.  I have been wanting to teach straight through a Bible book but have not been able to do so.  I think after school music can be my one chance to do that, and I think I will base my Christian music selections on each week of devotions from the magazine.  I will also do fun stuff that hopefully teach the kids.

Anyway, going through a Gospel goes well with Ligonier presenting their Christological statement this year.  It has sparked no mere controversy as we can see in the debate over whether Christ has always submitted to the Father or if he did so just so that he could save people from their sins when he came to earth as a man.  I can see both sides of the debate and will not mention it today and really have no desire to do so later.

But knowing Christ is so important.  We will never do so fully or most properly here before Christ returns, but we must attempt to do so as long as we can and God has given us all we need in the Bible and in Church to help us.  I think the main thing to get right regarding Christ and all the trinity is to make sure we protect the both the Trinity's oneness and its threeness.

On the one hand, we must always acknowledge that Christ is God, equal with God the Father and the Spirit and equally to be worshiped.  Mormons do not hold Christ as equal to God and neither to Jehovah's Witnesses.  I cannot consider them true Christians.  They are actually polytheists.  While they are good people who I love, I cannot consider them Christians and will not listen to their music on Pandora.

On the other hand, we must acknowledge that Christ is also fully a man and is a separate person than the Father and the Spirit.  While we do not believe in three gods, and while Christ is completely God, he is still neither the Father, nor the Spirit.  God the Father did not die for my sins.  God the Spirit did not become a man with skin and bones.  Christ became a man and took on all the limitations that humans had.  Do deny Christ's separateness from the other two members of the trinity makes him less than a person and more of a puppet on God's hand.  But no, he is a full man and fully separate from the Father and Spirit but still completely God and not a separate god.  People who officially deny this are Unitarians and will be found in the United Church of Christ and the Oneness Pentecostal group.  I also cannot call people of these groups Christian though I cannot judge their hearts either.  I will also not go and see them speak if they should come to my church, but I have sung their songs.  Phillips, Craig, and Dean have some good songs.

I want to actually go into my first week re-reading through the devos in Tabletalk, but I feel like this blog is getting long.  Next post, I will talk about Mark 1:1-13 and conclusions I've drawn from it at least songwise.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Petition 6: temptation and evil

Q. 106. What do we pray for in the sixth petition?
A. In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, we pray that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.

This one is big.  I know I often want to avoid sin throughout the day but then an angry thought will go past my mind or I will say something without thinking and I've sinned.  How do I prevent this?

I must pray to God to keep me from sin and to deliver me from me when I'm faced with a decision to sin.  Most of the sins we commit are unintentional, but they are still sins and they are still worth of God's judgment.  These are mentioned in Leviticus 5:17 and under the Old Covenant community of Israel there was a whole protection and sacrificial system for it.

Jeremy Pierre wrote about "Involuntary Sins" in last month's Tabletalk magazine.  He talked about trained instincts and fighter pilots.  They are trained to make quick automatic decisions that come from a long time of mental preparation and practice.  "The countless little decisions they make in the cockpit are automatic, but that doesn't mean they're involuntary."

In the same way the sins that we "accidentally" do are also voluntary no matter how automatic.  Since Jesus has died for the sins of every believer, in the New Covenant Church, we retrain our brains through praying that the Lord keeps us from sin and also to read from his Bible every day.  We must remember 2 Timothy 3:16 about Scripture rebuking us, training us, and renewing us.  You will know what he wants and how to ask for it if you do not neglect this vital practice of exploring the Scriptures every day.  Without this, your soul will suffer and perhaps even die.  This is how you put your trained instincts under a new regimen.