A Spark – Is Fire Imminent (Part 2)

Drought produces very little except … a fantastic supply of tinder.

Initially, the onset of drought is slow and almost imperceptible.  In humans, studies have shown that a person often mistakes signs of dehydration for hunger which even further confuses matters. As the dryness advances though, it is difficult to deny the overpowering thirst that inevitably comes when cut off from the source of life giving water.

As one might expect, I have gathered the following quote from the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (via wikipedia)  “Controlled or prescribed burning, also known as hazard reduction burning or swailing is a technique sometimes used in forest management, farming, prairie restoration or greenhouse gas abatement. Fire is a natural part of both forest and grassland ecology and controlled fire can be a tool for foresters. Hazard reduction or controlled burning is conducted during the cooler months to reduce fuel buildup and decrease the likelihood of serious hotter fires.[1] Controlled burning stimulates the germination of some desirable forest trees, thus renewing the forest.”

Courtesy of quotesbuddy.com

My own spiritual dehydration so to speak was no different.  Idleness grew into discontentment; discontentment to doubt; and doubt to despair.  Actively participating  in the stagnation of God’s people has stacked a good supply of dry tinder for quick ignition.

For you shall be like an oak whose leaf withers, and like a garden without water. And the strong shall become tinder, and his work a spark, and both of them shall burn together, with none to quench them. (Isaiah 1:30,31)

Fortunately we have a Father in heaven Who has a controlled burn plan.  Despite our apparent failure in providing proper stewardship for His creation, He is faithful to consume us with His cleansing fire.  All that is required now is a spark to the tinder.

So we have established the fact that conditions are perfect for fire.  We are no longer bearing fruit, the wood is dry, and the leaves are turning brown. (Intermission – this is where I stopped writing in 2012)

It seems ridiculous that I am picking this up nearly 2 full years later … and it is still applicable.  I don’t remember exactly what I was thinking back then.  I know that I was fed up with my own stagnation.  I was disillusioned by what I was seeing in the world and in the church.  An overwhelming feeling of internal pressure was building within me and I just knew that I was about to lift a relief valve. (The fire was already burning)

Any who followed this blog or on Facebook  may have noticed that I stay away from controversial topics.  This is not because I don’t have strong opinions.  Amazingly, even the few friends I have don’t really know where I stand on many issues.  How could that be if these are really strongly held opinions?

Let me ‘splain. When I write procedures or directions I often like to “bullet” them out for clarity so let’s just do that with a passage of scripture, Romans 12:9-21.  I think this is well within the purpose and context of this passage.

  • Let love be genuine.
  • Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.
  • Love one another with brotherly affection.
  • Outdo one another in showing honor.
  • Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord.
  • Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer.
  • Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
  • Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.
  • Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.
  • Live in harmony with one another.
  • Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly.
  • Never be wise in your own sight.
  • Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all.
  • If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.

Summary: Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

I am not the first to load my weapon with these bullets.  Although it is sometimes useful to identify points in this manner it can also be rather dangerous.  When reading a list I believe that we often infer the conjunction of our choice.  Is it and or is it or?  Let me make this clear, these are not meant to be bullets  to be loaded as we see fit, one at a time, to pick of the target of our choice.  If this was a multiple choice question, the answer would be all of the above.  It is and not or!

So what does that have to do with me keeping my mouth shut even though I supposedly have strong opinions?  “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.”   I have used this to justify my idleness and compromise.  Ironically (I sure hope I am using that correctly), it is the use of the “Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good”  bullet to justify actions, attitudes, and rants that are, in my opinion, not scripturally justifiable that had me ready to lose it.

So how do we find this balance? When and how do I speak truth and still live peaceably with all?  Well, I don’t know, but I am going to give it a shot over the next few weeks.  Fortunately, I have not done very good at developing my SEO so I will hopefully only offend a few people. (which could be everyone I know)

 

 

“The Hat” – Remember the Sweat

Many athletes have crazy superstitions. Routines, clothing, food … ridiculous as it seems, these routines bring some sort of confidence to otherwise sane people.  Let’s not limit it to athletes; artists, performers, business professionals, fans, and even preachers often have routines to help get them into their “groove”.  Whatever it takes to make a person comfortable can actually help their performance.  Call it superstition or call it routine, if it helps do it.  OK, a fan’s routines really have no bearing on the outcome of a game or the performance of the athletes (except for during the NCAA Basketball Tournament when it is imperative that we never change our routine as long as UK is winning!)

marathon picThis actually has nothing to do with my subject in this post although it may at first glance seem that way.  I want to tell you about my hat. It is a simple Kentucky blue cotton ball cap with a white ‘UK’ embroidered on the front. Christmas of 2007, I received this ball cap.  If you have not been able to tell from any of my other post, we are a little bit fanatical about our C-A-T-S … CATS! CATS! CATS! so obviously this ball cap became a prized possession. In January of 2008, I began my training for the 2008 Derby Festival Marathon.  The hat became a mainstay in my running apparel.  Actually, I did not wear it for every run since I trained in some sub-freezing weather (UK Blue stocking cap), but any time I could, this hat was a part of the apparel.

This does not seem all that crazy does it?  Well how about the fact that I did not wash that hat … at all.  The closest it came to being cleaned was when I ran in the rain.  By the end of my training the hat was covered in salt. Starting to sound a bit crazy now?  As a matter of fact, I did not wash this hat until I started this new adventure!  Superstition you say?  Not exactly.

When all the nation had finished passing over the Jordan, the Lord said to Joshua, “Take twelve men from the people, from each tribe a man, and command them, saying, ‘Take twelve stones from here out of the midst of the Jordan, from the very place where the priests’ feet stood firmly, and bring them over with you and lay them down in the place where you lodge tonight.’” Then Joshua called the twelve men from the people of Israel, whom he had appointed, a man from each tribe. And Joshua said to them, “Pass on before the ark of the Lord your God into the midst of the Jordan, and take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder, according to the number of the tribes of the people of Israel, that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, ‘What do those stones mean to you?’ then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord. When it passed over the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan were cut off. So these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever.” (Joshua 4:1-7)

One of the things that I discussed in my training journals was how much I hate to run. (Is This Fun?) It was hard, I was out of shape, and if not for the accountability of my teammates and some God given determination I would never have made it through the training.  The 26.2 miles that I ran in April was just the culmination of over 200 miles of training.  It was important when I started that race to remember all of those miles … the pain, freezing cold, the rain & snow, and all of the sweat that it was involved.  That training was my Jordan River that I crossed to escape some really tough years. “The Hat” was my memorial to the process that process that God brought me through.

A few year later, I pulled out “The Hat” for another purpose.  In the Fall of 2011 I began coaching  “The United”.  We had started together as a new team and it was my first experience coaching 11 v 11 soccer.  Few of my players had been coached in the fundamentals of soccer and were in pretty poor physical condition. We were starting from scratch.  We worked hard that Fall and made great strides, but fell short in the tournament loosing to the eventual champions.  In the Spring, we were determined to continue our progress.  We had a good season, but still had a few teams that we just could not handle.  At tournament time, I pulled out “The Hat” and explained the significance of the sweat stains and all that it represented to me.  The United took up the mantra “Remember the Sweat”.   Those guys fought hard and beat teams with superior talent to win the championship.  Not only that season, but the following Spring as well

2011 United

It is not superstition, karma, or Rafiki’s magic that brings about success.  It is the processes that we endure and the resulting character that develops us into the people we were created to be.  Unfortunately, even as we grow, it is easy to forget how far we have come and the storms we have weathered during the journey.  Forgetting often brings discouragement.  Remembering on the other hand brings hope!  What have you done to “Remember the Sweat?”

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us. (Romans 5:1-5)

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does (James 1:22-25)

Strapping on the Feedbag

Yesterday I had a scheduled 7 mile run.  7 miles should not be too difficult at this point in my training although any day brings new aches, pains and stiffness.  In order to save time, I have taken to plotting a course home from work when time allows, so that was my plan on Wednesday.  So I changed and headed down to the street to begin the trek.  The music was rocking  and  my Nike App counted down the start and off I went.

don't walkI started out a little fast even though I was a bit stiff.  I was not feeling it!  I was having a hard time dropping into a steady pace and having a little trouble with my breath control. Running home from downtown during rush hour sometimes offers a challenge to which I am not accustomed … stopping at every corner. I hate stopping, but on this particular day I was welcoming the frequent respites.

As usual, around three miles, I finally loosened up and found a good pace … for a bout a mile.  I made wrong turn and had to improvise my route bit, but that is not that unusual when I run in an unfamiliar neighborhood. at about 5 miles the hammer fell.  Legs became lead, breathing a bit difficult, stomach queasy and every step was labored.  I pushed myself through the last couple of miles and finished completely spent.

What in the world!  A 7 mile run should not take that much out of me.  It was a little warm and I was well hydrated so why did I have so much trouble?  I just ran out of gas … bingo! I was out of fuel! I had skipped breakfast and lunch and really had nothing to burn!  I needed to strap on that feed bag.

empty

This is not the first time that I have been dragged down by my lack nutrition.  Many times in my athletic endeavors I have stumbled due to a lack of attention to my body’s needs.  I have discussed the importance of water before. (We are not Camels – Don’t skip the Watering Hole) Lack of food will not take me down quite as quickly, but it really important.  In this case, I was not prepared for the run and started out on empty. In other cases, I was prepared, but due to the length of the run, I depleted everything tank.  On long runs, I have noticed that if I don’t refuel every 5 miles or so, I will begin to feel it at around 7 miles.

In my life, I have not always been all that disciplined about strapping on the spiritual feed bag.  Even at times when I was reading and praying consistently, I still suffered from malnutrition, especially when facing grueling life battles.  I would love to have a dollar for every sermon I have heard that spoke to spiritual disciplines.  Read! Pray! Read! Pray! Read! Pray!  OK I get it!  Question … Does your mind wander when you pray?  Does you read whole chapters and not remember anything you read?   Maybe it is just me, but that is often the result of my planned out “discipline”.  for that matter, I have heard the same basic concept from secular motivational speakers and leadership gurus.  “Read to succeed”  “A Reader is a Leader” blah, blah, blah.

Before you get offended and start a rant, let me say I think study and prayer are important:  But reading for the sake of reading and praying for the sake of praying is just an exercise in futility if the we do not absorb the awesome nutrients that are contained in there.  And what about when you are out on the road?  How are you going to refuel when you are the race course?  (Yeah I know all about praying unceasingly and all that stuff)  Here is my point.  There is no nutritional value in prayer or reading the bible.  No more then there is nutritional value in a plate, a fork, or a feedbag.  The nutrition is in the food!

” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”
 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life;whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:32-35) 
So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.”   (John 6:53-58) 
I need to read with the intention of filling my feed bag with the Bread of Life.  I need to pray so that I can be filled with the Living Water who continually quenches my thirst.

When the Mountains Come to You

 Mark 4:35-41:  Jesus Calms the Storm

Sea story … December 1992 on the USS LY Spear, crossing the Atlantic on our way home from the Persian Gulf. We were experiencing heavy seas for 5 days straight.  The Spear was a flat bottomed, 645 ft monster of a ship.  Being a flat bottomed vessel allowed her to give us an exciting ride with 6 to 10 ft swells.  Standing on the covered quarter deck beneath the helicopter pad made for an interesting ride.  While riding the mountains of ocean, one moment as we rolled to starboard looking down over the side, I could not see the ocean and then as the she rolled back to port I could no longer see the sky.  At first it was a bit novel for most of us who were submarine sailors.  Some of us who had stronger stomachs made fun of those who were sick, after a couple of days, the ship reeked of vomit and all of us where vying for a piece of floor near the waterline where the effects of the waves was the least.

rough-seas1

On day 5 our chaplain, a medal of honor recipient from Vietnam had had about enough.  During his 1700 (5pm for you civilian types) prayer he cried out to God on behalf of the crew. He quoted Mark 4:35-41 and then prayed, “Father, we have had about enough of these crazy seas and we would real appreciate it if you could give us some relief.”  Within the hour, the seas calmed down.  He was an even more beloved chaplain after that.

For 4 chapters, Jesus has been doing amazing miracles and telling stories about the power of this new kingdom.  He tried to explain how little is actually expect of us and that all we need to do is place our faith and confidence Him.  He’s got our back.  He is a little disappointed in their ability to get it.

I am looking forward to getting it.

“By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains,  being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs.You make the going out of the morning and the evening to shout for joy.” (Psalm 65:5-8)”

Jesus and His Rocky Family – Life Making Good Soil

If you are following along in Mark I am a bit behind on my posts, I have not talked about Mark 3:31-35 and Mark 4:1-20. So here is a couple of quick thoughts.

Mark 3:31-35: The Family

I What in the world? Jesus seems to blow off His family.  Actually, if you look back at verse 21, His family had actually tried to restrain Him thinking He was crazy, so obviously, they were missing something. In light of this Jesus’ inference that “Here is my mother, and “Here are my brothers” makes perfect sense. These were the ones who were beginning to receive the gospel and were getting the idea that He might be “The One”. His family just thought He was “special“.

As a dad, I know that at times, I have neglected to recognize the full potential of my children. My own prejudice based on past experience has blinded me to the purposes and plans that God has prepared for them. I may say the right words of encouragement, but they see right through that. Imagine if God’s plan for a family member was to be the Messiah … How do you encourage a purpose and a plan that is higher than anything you can fathom.

I pray that I will not only get out of the way, but will learn to encourage my family, friends and others to strive for all that God has for them and not limit my vision to my own sight.

Mark 4:1-20 The Parable of the Sower

This sort of carries on from this previous thought. Jesus’ family thought the problem might be Jesus, His actions and His words (The Seed), so they tried to restrain Him. The challenge actually rested on the receivers/hearers (The Soil). The Seed is perfect and will grow and bear fruit according to the medium that it is sown. Knowing the rest of the story, it is encouraging that His family, who rejected Him in the beginning (rocky soil), in the end fully excepted the Good News and bore much fruit.

Have you ever been discouraged about the prospects of someone receiving the Gospel? I am even discouraged by my own ability to receive all that God offers me, so of course I have difficulty seeing how God is going to get a seed into some of the rocks I have been praying for. I think we can say with assurance that the Holy Spirit can break up even the hardest ground and turn it into good soil

(He can even take our own waste and turn it into fantastic compost!)

compost-toilet-life-cycle

Sticks, Stones, & Stealing Satan’s Stuff

Mark 3:20-30:  Jesus & Beelzebub

I am not sure if this the origin of the term “demonizing”, but it would make a whole lot of sense if it came from this story.   Jesus, instead of returning venom with venom, kind of teases them with His response, but adds a stiff warning at the end.

bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com
bsgfan4evr.deviantart.com

Now it is not surprising I guess for the family to call Him crazy, I mean, He is the step-child. On the other hand, these other dudes from out of town coming in accusing Him of being a demon or the prince of demons even is quite uncalled for.  First, He breaks down their argument, but with very pointed change of words. He uses the Hebrew word, Satan (accuser) instead of the pagan demon Beelzebub (Lord of the Flies).  This is interesting since they came to him as accusers (and actually were pretty annoying like flies). His argument actually left them with a win-win situation either Satan was in a civil war which would weaken his kingdom or a stronger Man had come along that was going to bring down that kingdom anyway.  WINNING!  Jesus was sort of declaring Himself a thief in Satan’s house.  (A much better thief than Bilbo I think)  If you cannot tell, I find this whole interchange quite amusing.

Then, the hammer falls. Jesus gives a pretty harsh warning about calling God’s work demonic.  Generally, when we hear about the whole blaspheming the Holy Spirit, we isolate as the unforgivable sin and leave it out of the context of the story.  The ‘accusers’ have mocked the works of God and credited His work and His healing power to Beelzebub.  Most of us do not like someone taking credit for our work,but when the one taking the credit stands for the exact opposite of your whole being this is more than enough to send us over the edge.  Pretty serious stuff these experts of the law are doling out.

As the seriousness of the situation begins to sink in, I wonder how many times I attribute the greatness of God to other powers.  Maybe I don’t attribute His awesome works to Satan, I do think at times I may take credit myself for things that I had a hand in and withhold glory due to Him.  On the other hand, do I accuse God of being the bringer of evil or difficulty, hanging my head in self pity or shaking my first at Him.  I know that in some degree, I often lose sight of the giver all good gifts and confuse Him with that old liar.  I do not want to make a political statement, but I will tell you that I have to repent of some of the things I have said about people with different view points.  I do not believe that is no place demonizing or disparaging any person or group.  Jesus took the high (obviously) and set an example for us.  The Good News is that He left the door open for every one of us to recognize the great gift of life that He is offering us.  It is our job to keep that door open for those that have not seen it yet and avoid giving them reason to attribute our mean or hateful behavior to a God who knows none of that.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil,

who put darkness for light and light for darkness,

who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!

Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,

and shrewd in their own sight!” (Isaiah 5:20,21)

Assembling the Posse – You do the Math

Mark 3:13-19:  The Twelve are Appointed

Twelve: We all know the biblical significance of the number 12. Obviously, to the people of Jesus time twelve was representative of twelve tribes of Israel and only added the excitement that God was doing a new thing.  From my limited study, apparently 10 tribes were still considered “lost” at this time and reconciling the twelve tribes would be very significant.

Bible history and Jewish significance aside, 12 is a really cool number.  A twelve sided shape is a dodecagon, but a three dimensional shape with three flat sides is a dodecahedron, now that is an awesome name for a shape.  As a matter of fact, some scientist believe that the universe is a dodecahedron.

Twelve ToesMathematically, Twelve can be divided by two, three, four and six, making it one of the easiest low numbers to work with and separate into groups, said Dr. Kristen L. Zacharias, a historian of science and philosophy assistant professor at Albright College.  The Romans loved 12 so much that they measured weight, length, and money in units of 12.  That is all great, but when I think of numbers I usually go the source of all mathematical wisdom … “Schoolhouse Rock”.  “Little Twelve Toes” is not one of my favorites, but it does make you think.  Actually, Some ancient cultures did use 12 as the basis of their numbering system. How could that be practical?

Glad you asked.  They counted the joints on their hands, three joints per finger.  Add a thumb, also made up of three joints and you have a very useful hand to perform just about any task imaginable.

So Jesus gathered HIs fingers together to begin the work.  Maybe no great insight here, but it is apparent that Jesus was setting a precedence early in His ministry that there was work to be done and that His people were going to be a part of it.

Work is not easy and it is especially hard on the fingers.  How many times has the wrench slipped you busted those knuckles.  From jammed fingers and scraped knuckles to losing a nail. Years ago, I ran my hand through an electric pizza roller.  It smashed all four fingers on my left hand to a point where the skin actually split. Our fingers are on the front line of everything we do.

Regardless, I am one of the fingers that Jesus has chosen to carry out the work and I am supposed to be on the front lines.  Often times, I am not that enthusiastic about the whole work thing.  As a matter of fact, I can down-right lazy.

“How long will you lie there, O sluggard? When will you arise from your sleep?” (Prov 6:9)

He created me with a purpose and laziness is not an option.  It is time to get to work.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph 2:10)

working-hands-

Want to start from the beginning of Mark?  Good News with Mark

What an Awesome Justice System

Mark 2:23-29 – Sabbath Snacks

Ancient Fast FoodAnother few verses and another “I never noticed” moment.  Like the whole fasting thing, Jesus was not be accused of doing anything wrong.  He was being questioned about the actions of His disciples.  It was His disciples that were feasting when everyone else was fasting … It was His followers that were plucking grain (reaping) on the Sabbath.  So right from the beginning, He was an advocate for others, answering accusations made against apparent sinners.

And who were these guys following them around looking for ways to discredit the new teacher anyway?  They were guys were just a bunch of intellectuals with no authority, akin to many of the talking heads of today. Masters of the art of influence and persuasion, they could sway public opinion.  Much like a prosecuting attorney without the authority. (Rather Satanic actually).  They were not out for justice, they were more interested in the status that comes from winning.

Jesus came to take on the accuser on our behalf. What an awesome way to begin defining His role as Messiah!   The Messiah is not an accuser. As a matter of fact, there is not an accuser in the Godhead.  Although God demands righteousness, He is not the prosecuting attorney, He is the judge.  He leaves the defense to Jesus.

God is not made at me and brings no accusation against me.  It is not that He does not care when I stumble, it is that His real goal is to restore me to His image so that I can take me rightful place in the society of His kingdom.  He wanted this so badly that He deployed His Son and Spirit to walk me through my rehab and to protect me from the Accuser.  Can’t beat that for a justice system!

Seriously Man? You Gonna’ Cut My Roof?

Mark 2:1-12 Jesus Heals the Paralytic

Let’s set the stage here:

paparazzi imagesJesus has gone home for the first time since starting his public ministry.  As we saw yesterday, despite trying to keep it under wraps for a little while, the cleansed leper has leaked it to the press and now everybody has heard that Jesus is doing some really amazing things. Hordes of people want to see what all the fuss is out.  The house is full of people wanting a piece of the action. It is not just people wanting a touch from God.  The paparazzi as well as the main stream media (scribes) are hanging around as well trying to get the scoop or bring the hammer down. We can see a little more why Jesus wanted to put this off a little while … can’t a guy get a little privacy!  But that is not the point today.

Through the roofThe house is backed up out the door.  You know there is always going to be “that guy”!  The desperate dude that just can’t wait his turn. (I know the traffic is backed up and the left lane is ending … I will zoom up to the front and force my way in) So these guys take their buddy up to the roof, cut a hole and lower him down to Jesus.  Seriously?  How long has this guy been paralyzed?  He couldn’t wait until Jesus came out?  Catch him on the way to the outhouse or something.  And another thing … whose house is this?  I don’t know this for sure, but the text says Jesus was at home … this was His house.  Dudes, you just cut a hole in the Son of God’s house, really?  You are doing demolition over His head and He don’t even have a hard hat. Give me break!

Most of the time I have heard someone preach about this story, it has been centered around the faith of these guys and their persistence.  Actually, I think the guys were rude, impatient, and inconsiderate!  I think instead of healing the one guy, I might have considered sending out 5 paralytics.  Jesus did not just decide , “hmmm, I think I will push the limits here and say your sins are forgiven instead of be healed”.  These guys had just committed sin right there in front of everyone. Forgiveness of sin was definitely in order.

What a new concept!  We do not have to be bound by sin … our own sin or the sins of others.  If Jesus had allowed justice to be served, not only would this guy not have been healed, but he and his friends would have been carted off to jail.  By releasing them (forgiving them) He was free to bring healing and restoration.

How often do I find myself withholding love from others because of some offense that I have held onto?  Something as simple as a tone of voice or an eye roll can set me off.  Just this week, I withheld blessing from my son for a petty little attitude that he did not even know about.  I am not saying that we should ignore sin. Sin has consequences and that can not be ignored.  (It would not surprise me in the least to find that Jesus immediately sent those guys up to repair the roof.)  The Good News is that sin does not have to bind us from pouring love, compassion and blessing into the lives of others.

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—  but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Rom 8:5)

Father, show me how to see through sin like Jesus so that I can bring the amazing love and grace of Your Good News to everyone I can.

Catching Up – Good News with Mark & Me

Mark for EveryoneI am going to start posting my daily reading and thoughts as a blog entry.  I have structured this like I would train for distance running, short hard sprints during the week with long runs on the weekend. I am taking it small bites so don’t be intimidated.  Anyone can handle 6 to 10 verses/day.  I have adapted the plan to match Tom Wright’s book “Mark for Everyone” which is a great companion for those of us who are a little rusty in our Greek. (By rusty I mean, “it is all Greek to me” kind of rusty).  I started 5 days ago so if you want to catch-up, here are the first 5 days of “my take”.  The weekends are open for catch-up, review, and/or additional study.   I welcome civil comments and reply’s.

Mark 1:1-8 – The Preaching of John the Baptist:

I  love the way Mark and John jump right into the Good News! They are not trying to give us blow-by-blow of the life and times of Jesus, but they want to immerse us in God’s desire to bring us into fellowship with Him through His son.

bed_head_cartoon_girl_ipad_covers-p176104248310747489bhar2_400Israel has been basically asleep for hundreds of years and they are only hanging on as a people through traditions and customs.  The idea of a living God that walks with His people is just distant memory and hope is has turned to despair in most of the nation. Along comes this crazy man with a super-soaker imploring them to shake off the sleep, get cleaned up,  and get ready to be set free!

Some days I get up and take a shower because my hair is sticking to my head and I feel just disgusting. There are also days when I took a shower the night before and yet I still jump in the shower just so I can wake up! (Don’t judge my waste of hot water, I am a work in progress). Likewise, many times I need to repent because I am dirty with sin, other times I need to wash off complacency and just wake-up to the promises and responsibilities that God has placed before me.

I am so glad that He comes new every day. I need to be prepared for the new work He is going to do today!

Mark 1:9-13 Jesus Baptism

Mark is continues the story of the Good News to us.

Jesus walks out His trust in His Father and His Father showers His love on Him. He shows Him the plan, affirms Him, empowers Him, and then deploys Him into the work. Even though Jesus is immediately challenged and opposed, the Father continues to provide help along the way.

Now … If this were just a historical account it would be great, but it is more. This is the Good News! This was not a one-time event meant for Jesus alone. God wants to do the same thing for me! When I place my faith in Him, it is His desire to open my eyes, affirm me, shower His love on me, empower me, and then deploy me into a world that needs to know Him. As opposition arises, He continues to provide the needed help.

Take Away:

1)    I need to live in the realization that Jesus set an example for me as a son and to walk with the assurance that God is pleased with who I am.

2)    My Father God has set the example for me as a Dad and that I need to affirm, love, empower and deploy my own children and then continue to lovingly support them.

I love Good News.

Mark 1:14-20 Getting Started and Getting Help

The Good News starts with a call to repentance and Jesus picked up where John left off.   His call to repentance was much more radical than John’s. More than a turning away from sin, Jesus was calling for turning to a new way of thinking and living. “Immediately” he goes and calls a bunch of fisherman away from the life and family they knew and set them on a completely new path. He did not grab a bunch of guys schooled in Jewish tradition and scripture and then try to redirect them; He grabbed people that would require a completely change in direction. The old life could not be in the peripheral vision to distract them from the kingdom life that He would present to them.

Some months back, I questioned a brother on a social ideology that is often held by Christians these days, that do not seem to line up with the character of Jesus. His response was that if he is wrong then everything he ever learned was wrong. That made me start wondering if many of my strong beliefs were founded in Christian culture and tradition, or are they actually kingdom principals.

So I am going through a process of “repenting” of my old life and the culture that formed the old me and continues to try and mold me in it’s image. I want to get out of the boat and follow Jesus without looking back. I pray that each day as I roll out of bed that I will fix my eyes on Him and leave yesterday’s Chuck behind.

Mark 1:21-34 – Authority

LY Spear imagesYes, another BOB story (Back-on-the-boat) … My second ship was a submarine tender, the USS L.Y. Spear. Our job was to support and repair submarines in port. After completing a long, complicated maintenance process on one submarine, we had turned the ship back over to ships force for testing. (as usual with submarine stories, I would give you more info, but then I would have to kill you). Years of training and experience prepare these sailors to be highly proficient in the operations of reactor and propulsion equipment and even to perform routine testing and maintenance. This testing evolution was far from routine. About 9:30 we received a cal that the ship had experienced a “significant problem” in their testing which required our assistance. As the department lead I reported to the Officer-in-Charge to get a report on the emergency. It was obvious that this problem was beyond their experience and training and they were in disarray. With his permission, my team took control of the situation and were able to quickly assess, stabilize and recover the situation.

It was not normal for us to assume authority aboard a vessel outside our command, but our training and experience prepared us for just these types of situation and the officer in charge immediately recognized this and surrendered his authority to us.

Jesus was fully prepared and empowered to deal with all of the problems of a sinful world. He healed and restored all who came to Him and surrendered their authority to Him. More than that, He has even offered to passed that authority on.

Take Away:

1)    There are many area of my life that are a mess only because I have not surrendered my own authority to Him. (Lordship)

2)       I lack authority in the lives of others because I have not been diligent in allowing Christ to lead, prepare, and train me for the task set before us. (Discipleship)

3)       I was able to easily take charge aboard the submarine because I was confident of my preparation and that of my team. I need to have that same confidence in my walk with Christ if I am ever going to be able to fully take on the authority that He has entrusted to me.