Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mark: Faith, but in what?

Mark 11:18-25

Jesus just finished turning the temple upside-down because the Jewish elite where preventing Gentiles from worshiping God because their merchandise was in the only place they could congregate.  Also, they made a mockery of God's passover.  Now the Jews looked for a way to kill Jesus.

Meanwhile, the tree Jesus cursed had died.  He used that opportunity to tell the disciples to have faith in God.  If they have faith as small as a mustard seed, they can move mountains.

People use the phrase "moving mountains" to mean any obstacle in their lives.  Do I have an amazing shyness that prevents me from asking people to do stuff?  Maybe that's a mountain that my faith can move.

I agree, faith can move it, but faith in what?  My faith should not be in me or my willpower.  It will fail every time.  My faith should be in the Lord Jesus only.  Only he can change my heart and make me bold.  Only Jesus can take me through situations I'd rather not be in.  I have no power on my own except to rebel against God and do what I want.

This selfish power is what the Jewish leaders had.  They had too much self-esteem and did not notice when God the Son came to the temple and turned over tables.  Self-love and self-faith will only seek to kill Jesus and get rid of God.  True faith will sit and watch while God does all the amazing work in life.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Cat in the Hat plus John Owen

This coming week at Winter Break, I will be at the school doing something musical with the children.  At fall break, they did Peter and the Wolf.  At Christmas Break, they did the Lightlings by RC Sproul.  This week, I think I will do the Cat in the Hat Comes Back, the sequel to the Cat in the Hat.  I'm still trying to figure out music to go with it, but that will come.  Sometimes, the kids can give good suggestions.  They did at Christmas.  Did you know the "Sound of Silence" can be a good song to go with the Lightlings?  It is.  And did you know that I can make a spiritual connection between Dr. Seuss's famous sequel and John Owen?  I can.

First, the Cat in the Hat Comes Back.  Sally and her brother are shoveling snow while mom is out.  The brother narrates and nobody knows his name, so I'll just call him Ted since that is Dr. Seuss's real name.  Ted and Sally are shoveling, and the Cat in the Hat returns, slinks into the house, and starts eating cake in the bath tub.  Ted comes in and chews the cat out.  He drains the tub only to find that it left a pink ring on the tub.

Not to worry, the Cat cleans it up with mom's nice dress.  Then he transfers the pink from the dress to the wall, cleans it with dad's shoes, gets it on the carpet, the bed, and then he gets stuck.  Then he pulls Little Cat A out of his hat and in each cats' hats, is a smaller cat all from A to Z.  They finally get the pink out on the snow but with all their efforts the stain keeps growing and growing and growing until all the snow is one pink blob and still Ted and Sally have made no dent in their shoveling.

Finally, when all is said and done, the Cat announces that he has one last solution.  In Cat Z's hat is a tiny cat named VOOM.  Voom is released and cleans all the snow and perfectly shovels a path to please the kids' mom.

Our lives have stains, too.  I read The Mortification of Sin by John Owen a few times, and really the only thing I can remember from that is his famous line, "Be killing sin or it will be killing you."  Ted and Sally somehow let a cat into their house who stained everything.  Their own efforts were not getting rid of the stain.  The little cat A through Z kept trying to kill it with pop-guns and fans and brooms and lawn mowers and such, but the stain kept growing and growing.  Finally, the Cat in the Hat had to give up.  There was nothing he could do.  Just like that, there is nothing we can do about our sin.  All the penance we can do can only cause it to grow and our pride to swell until we have to give up because on our own efforts, we cannot please an infinitely holy God.  The Cat finally had to get Voom, and we have to surrender to Jesus.  Only Jesus can make our sins white as snow.  His blood is cleaner than us when we've had a shower.  And only his blood can make us perfect like him in time for God to send him back to judge the world.

In fact, he must save you before you even can make a decision to surrender to him.  Without that, you will simply keep shoveling in vain and die in your sins.  He must save you.  There is nothing you contribute to your salvation.  It is all from God.  Read chapter 2 of Ephesians.  It is by grace you are saved and not of your works so that nobody can boast.  We were once dead, and dead people can't make decisions.  But Christ has to make us alive and we have to obey him by getting the Word of God to people's ears so that the Holy Spirit can change their hearts.  He is much better than Voom.  He's real.  And he does all things perfectly.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Mark: The Jesus you like and the Jesus you don't like

Mark 10:46-11:17

After Jesus got done chewing out his disciples again about trying to be the greatest, they came to Jericho.  A blind man interrupted him, and Jesus healed him.  Not without his disciples trying to get the man to shut up, however.  Jesus had to stop them so that he could heal the man.

Finally, they reach Jerusalem.  Jesus sends his disciples to get a donkey colt from a man they don't really know.  If anyone asks what they are doing, they are to say, "the Lord needs it," and everything will be fine.

Then, Jesus rides through town on the donkey.  This is what we celebrate on Palm Sunday.  When Jesus comes to Jerusalem this time, it is to die, but his disciples still don't get that.  They are celebrating Jesus, and a bunch of town people are throwing coats and palm branches in front of him like he is a great king.  And he is a great king.  They are shouting, "Hosanna" which means "God save us."  This is the last week of Jesus's earthly life and they don't even know it even though he told them that he would be crucified.

The next day, Jesus does an odd thing.  He looks at a fig tree that apparently has inviting leaves.  He finds not figs.  It is not fig season.  But he kills the fig tree.  Here, we find the Jesus you don't like.  People like the Jesus that heals blind people and the one who rides through town on a donkey that people celebrate.  But when he starts to reveal that he truly is God and not just your homeboy in the sky, then people get scared.

And truly, nobody that God created deserves to live.  All humans have betrayed their creator and done what they should not do and sinned.  We all deserve death and we all start out hellbound until Jesus saves us through is mercy and sends his Spirit to grow us in maturity and holiness.  And sometimes, to show that God does not have to extend mercy, he kills a fig tree.  He is not going to save everybody and he is not required to do so.  Mercy is a gift that God gives freely.

And next, Jesus attacks the Pharisees in the temple because they are selling sheep and animals for Passover sacrifice.  If there is anybody who suffer from entitlement issues with God's mercy, it is the Jewish religious leaders.  They are naturally-born Israelites and have the Law of Moses and follow every jot and tittle and make rules around the rules to make sure they don't fall.  But they get so bogged down with the law that they forget the God they are supposed to serve.  So, Jesus destroys their Black Friday sale, turns tables, gets out a whip, and drives them out of his temple.

People, don't ever become so confident in yourself that you feel like God is happy with whatever you do and that he owes you his love and favor.  He does not owe me anything good.  He has been so gracious to me and he wants to be gracious to you.  Will you humble yourself before the Father and accept Christ's blood shed on your behalf and allow the Spirit to teach you?  Will you put away your sins and stop defending them and let Christ heal you?  Or will you simply set up shop in God's house and act like you've earned the right to be there?

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Mark: They still don't get it and neither do I

Mark 10:31-45

"But many who are first will be last and the last will be first."  This is how Jesus wraps up his conversation with and about the rich young man who went away sad but very rich in worldly things.

He then tells the disciples the third of three times that he will die on a cross and then rise again on the third day.

After that the disciples still don't get it, argue about who is the greatest, and James and John ask Jesus if they could sit at his right and left when they get to glory.  In other gospels, they got their mom to ask him.

They still don't get it.  Only Jesus is the greatest.  He is "the most enjoyable, breath-taking, awe-inspiring Person you will ever know."  But they want to decide if Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew, James, John, etc. are the greatest.  They truly love Jesus, yes, but they also want something from him.

And really, after reading this article by Kelly Needham, I am painfully reminded again that that is what I really want from God.  Not him, just what he can give me.  When will my heart ever be pure?  

And that leaks into my life outside of God.  Do I really love this kid because I want to be a friend and guardian angel or do I want to be a paraprofessional someday?  Do I just not want to clean deep fryers forever because I have master's degree and obviously deserve better?

Do I seek God for God or do I want him to magically move me and Tim closer to Henry county and for Tim to have a job that he earned a degree for?  Do I love Jesus because I love Jesus or do I want to get to heaven some day?

My heart will never be pure and short of a miracle, I will always want my glory and not God's.  But, I also praise Jesus that only he truly had a pure heart and can change mine every day to make me more pure.  And he can do the same for you, too.  Please, seek our Lord and ask him to change your heart to be more pure.