Friday, August 30, 2013

Mark 4:21-34

Have you ever wondered about a seed? Think about an acorn. It has that really thin shell on the bottom and a cool looking little cap on top. If you were to crack open the little shell, it is full of that crumbly almond-colored stuff that tastes very bitter. (don’t act like you have never tried to eat one)
So, I take my acorn and I put it in the ground. I literally just stick it in the dirt. Over the next couple of weeks I make sure it has enough water and sunlight. Then, like a miracle, that little shell cracks open and sends out a twig. Looking at the acorn, you have to ask “Where did that twig come from?” There was no way there was a twig in there before. I have cracked enough of them open to know the little twig wasn’t already in there. So what’s going on?
The little twig is topped with a couple of stiff little leaves. Where did those leaves come from? Those weren’t in the acorn when I put it in the ground. Over the next couple of days the twig continues to grow, and eventually it develops branches. Under the soil, tiny little whisker-like roots fight their way deeper and deeper.
How is this happening? It was just an acorn with dirt. Perhaps it isn’t that mind-boggling for you, but I see it and am borderline mind-blown. The genetic nugget in the middle of the acorn has transformed the nutrients from the dirt and the air into life and growth.
Jesus uses the illustration of this miraculous growth of plants to explain what happens in the hearts and lives of those who hear God’s truth. Just like a seed planted in the ground, the word of God begins an unbelievable transforming work in the life of the person. Before long, their heart is bearing out growth that did not exist before. The word of God is literally creating new desires and new habits, basically, a whole new person.
Knowing then that the word of God is so powerful to transform men’s lives, we should labor to plant the seed in the hearts and minds of those around us. We should strive to water and cultivate their minds and hearts as Paul says “in meekness and in fear” (with gentleness and respect), so that the word of God can flourish in their lives. And all the while we should pray that God will cause the miraculous growth and transformation that Jesus tells us of.

Food For Thought: Read 1 Corinthians 3:5-9. Who does Paul say is the one that ultimately causes the growth in believers lives?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mark 4:1-20

The Pastor spends weeks studying a text, digging out the truth, and crafting a sermon. Sunday morning finally comes and with boldness he proclaims the truth of the text to the congregants. Hundreds are in attendance.
However, the congregation gives mixed responses to the message. Some lean in as intent listeners and receive the truth of God’s word. Others sit with back straight and notebook open, while their poised pen outlines the text as the Pastor preaches it. Several stare blankly at the Pastor, never breaking eye-contact, but never really making full mental-contact. Still more nod, not in agreement but rather in exhaustion, only catching random illustrations as the tension or laughter of the other congregants stirs them from their task of sleep. Finally, an entire segment sits fully awake, but fully distracted with “to do” lists, lunch plans, and social media updates.
The sermon winds down, and the Pastor closes his Bible and prays for the people as one who must give account to God for their souls. The word of God has been proclaimed. God has spoken. He has called His people to holy living, to repentance, to faith, to joy, to hope, to worship; but somehow the effect the proclaimed word has on each of the congregants varies.
How come the same message has different effects on different people? The same truth fell on all of their ears. Why is there differing levels of response? Some would say that the difference in response is based upon the fact that different people get different truths from the passage. Almost as if the purpose of God’s message is contingent upon the desires and perceptions of the hearer.
In Mark 4, Jesus gives a completely different diagnosis. The issue is not that truth is irrelevant to certain listeners in attendance. Rather, Jesus explains the difference between the one who receives the word of God and flourishes in it and the one who “really didn’t get anything,” isn’t a breakdown in the message, but instead a breakdown in the heart of the listener. Using expressions like “full of thorns,” or “hard and stony ground,” Jesus diagnoses the lack of growth as a heart condition of the listener, not a relevancy problem of the text or a preaching problem of the minister.
So when the message is proclaimed, clearly from the text of scripture, not as man’s persuasion but as the authoritative, definitive, purely expressed word of the living God, the preacher has done his job. He has sown the seed of the word of God. Now the work is up to the congregants to receive it and allow the Holy Spirit to implant it. Their lives can be changed, but that change must start with the condition of their hearts.

Food For Thought: Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13. Why did Paul rejoice in God in this text?

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Mark 3:31-35

“All to Jesus I surrender;
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.”
The sermon winds down and the congregants, packed into their assigned pews, and in rote memory, almost chant-like, mumble lifeless words of holy surrender. The passion with which surrender is sung sadly does not match the depth of the words being sung. Still yet the lyric continues on to express what the radically surrendered life looks like:
“Humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken…
Make me, Savior, wholly Thine…
Lord, I give myself to Thee…
I surrender all,
I surrender all;
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all.”
Nothing held back, in humility at the Savior’s nail-scarred feet, turning in repentance away from the sinful desires of the human heart and the immoral temptations of a degrading culture, the one who is truly surrendered, surrenders all.
There is not a chapter of life that is not surrendered. There is no room to the house of life that has a closed door to the Lord. Rather, all areas are submitted: thoughts, motivations, conversations, relationships, ambitions, actions. All of self is brought under subjection to the final authority of Jesus.
And this perspective is not a new one. Jesus has been speaking of this proper prioritization since He began His ministry here on earth two-thousand years ago. Those who desired to be known by Him and to be called His disciples were the ones who surrendered all and were submitted to the holy will of the Father. Hear His voice clearly declaring in Luke 14:33, “whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.” Forsaking all, pursue Jesus. Chase after Him with all that you have surrendered to the pursuit.

Food For Thought: How do your priorities line up with the “all-in” perspective of Jesus? In what ways have you not “surrendered all”?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mark 3:6-30

The alarms resound down the corridors of the west wing of the White House as Secret Service agents burst through the doors of the Presidential residence. With little more explanation than “Mr. President, you have to come with us!” In an instant three agents have secured the President and are evacuating him at an unbelievable rate. Behind him the screams of his family are muffled by the movements of other agents. His little terrier, caught up in the excitement of the moment, nips at the ankles of the fully armed Secret Service agents.
“ I demand to know what is going on!”, the President barks as the elevator doors to the Presidential bunker close. “Tell me now!”
The hesitant answer comes from nowhere and leaves the President reeling.
“Mr. President, we are under attack,” the senior officer responds.
“Who?” The president quips back, “China? Russia? Iran!?”
“No, sir. We will go into a briefing to let you know the extent of the attack, but at this point, sir, as far as we can tell, the United States Navy has launched a major attack against several major American cities along the east and west coast. Currently the Marines are headed towards the capitol to take you into custody. Mr. President, it’s a coup.”
This would be ludicrous! If the United States was attacked by the United States military, there would be no country left. Trust would be shattered, common purpose thwarted, all that made sense would be turned upside down.
This is the assertion that Jesus makes in Mark 3. “A house divided against itself, will not stand.” The accusation had come against Him that His supernatural healing, reviving, demon-banishing power had come from Satan and not from God. The religious leaders could not deny the super-natural, so they sought rather to rationalize it. Satan would not attack his own kingdom. Their disbelief had turned to illogical reasoning. Like Romans 1 says, “professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
But this principle of self-destructive tendencies doesn’t just apply to the kingdom of Satan. No, believers today are subject to the same tragic friendly-fire. It may not be a full onslaught, but Christians, “in the defense of the truth,” attack other Christians. Whether it is over music preferences, secondary theological persuasions, Bible versions, or dress standards, God’s Navy turns its onslaught away from the enemy and trains its tomahawk missiles on God’s Army. In dog-eat-dog fashion that defies logic, Christians attack other Christians. May God save us from the Kingdom impeding self-destructive foolishness! May instead Christians, agreed or disagreed, press on in common purpose proclaiming the message of hope to those who lay in darkness.

Food For Thought: Why did the scribes say that Jesus had come from Satan? How can we falsely accuse other believers as “coming from Satan”?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Mark 2:21-3:5

Have you ever wondered how an infinitely powerful, self-sustaining, self-sufficient God rests? Exodus 20:11 says “For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day:” But what is this rest about? The word translated “rested” here, simply means “to withdraw oneself.” He had extended His massive universe-creating, life-giving hands, and now they lay folded on His lap. Isaiah 40:28 tells us that “the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary.” He wasn’t exhausted, or tired, He was just done.
Understanding this omnipotent, immutable God certainly leaves us with some definite perspective shifts. Just as He “rested,” establishing a Sabbath, we too should rest. But, contrary to some modern arguments, this Sabbath has less to do with taking a nap all day, and more to do with withdrawing ourselves from the daily, monotonous grind. Exodus 20:11 goes on further to say that God “hallowed” the Sabbath. Literally, He made it “holy.” It was a day that was supposed to draw people toward God and His holiness. It was a day in which people could come apart and in the words of Psalm 46:10, “Be still, and know that I am God.”
The Sabbath had been a day to allow the people to rest. It had been a day that God had given as a gift to all of His people. But overtly self-righteous, self-exalting, self-justifying men had perverted it. They had taken the gift of God and turned it into the burden of God. They had taken the sacred and made it the complicated. Instead of reveling in the rest that God prescribed, they legislated it and became the “holier-than-thou” judges of all of God’s people.
In Mark 2, Jesus pushes back against this false thinking. In an epic rebuttal of the false-thinking and false-teaching of the Pharisees, Jesus said, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” It was a holy, special day, where no longer would they be expected to toil and ache. Instead they could come away for a time of rest, and recuperation, and holy meditation. God’s purposes had been defamed by the religious crowd, and Jesus had finally cleared it up.

Food For Thought: What is the purpose of the Sabbath? What does it say about God that He would give His people a Sabbath?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Mark 2:13-20

Physicians heal patients one at a time. Jesus is the great Physician. And while the droves of people hurried after Him to watch His every move and to hear His every word, He did not glory in the mass attention, but rather continued to exist and operate, never minding the overwhelming audience.
Verse 14 tells that as the crowd followed behind Him, He walked past a publican, Levi. Publicans were a special breed of Roman citizen. The word “publican” comes from the Latin term of the day that would indicate that they were loyal first and foremost to the “Res Publica” (the Roman government known as "the Republic"). Often these Publicans came from lower aristocratic families, and inherited their family’s contract with the Roman Republic to levy taxes and impose tariffs and duties. In essence, they would work amongst their own kin, charging the Roman fees plus a little bit extra for their own pocket book. As far as family business was concerned, these families often became the wealthiest in the community, at the expense of acceptance by all of their own people.
Levi, like his father Alphaeus, had this reputation. He was a swindler. He was a cheat. He was a crook. He used coercion and threats to extort money out of his own neighbors. He may have had the nicest house around, but no self-respecting Jew would darken his doorway. The only types that would associate with him would be the other outcasts, other tax collectors, prostitutes, drunkards, the low-lifes.
But today everything changed. Jesus walked by. The people were pouring over each other trying to reach him, but he kept in stride and moved directly past the booth of taxation. He slowed and spoke to Levi a simple message, “Follow me.” Drawn by a force he could not explain, Levi abandoned his post, never to return again. Later that day they sat at Levi’s house and Jesus taught him the gospel. In repentance and faith, Levi turned from his sinful lifestyle and to the obedience of faith in God.
The physician had made his visit. The patient had been healed. The healing had not been a physical one; it had been a spiritual one. But just because it had been a spiritual one didn’t mean it didn’t have physical consequences. The sinner, Levi, had been converted. His life would never be the same. Jesus called Him that day to be His disciple. For the next three years, Levi (also called “Matthew”) followed Jesus. He would no longer extort God’s people, rather, this disciple would preach to God’s people and ultimately write the first gospel account to God's people. Jesus had chosen Him and called Him to a greater purpose.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 9:9-13. What did Jesus answer the Pharisees when they asked Him why He was with swindlers, prostitutes, and drunkards?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Mark 2:1-12

In Mark 2, Jesus travelled back to Peter and Andrew’s hometown, Capernaum, and was most likely staying with them. He had called Peter, Andrew, James and John as His disciples and no doubt there was some theological restructuring that needed to take place in their minds. They had been raised in Judaism. They had learned the faith of their people and were probably doing their best to abide by all the extra standards set out for them by the religious leaders of the day.
Jesus’ teaching must have been liberating. The years of inbred, preference-based standards that had bound the people of Israel disintegrated as Jesus explained how man truly obtains right standing before God. As he taught, people slowly sifted into the room and listened. Soon the room was full and people packed in the doorway to hear His words.
Jesus continued to teach. “The Kingdom of Heaven has nothing to do with…” His message came as a shock to some, but as freedom to most. Suddenly, pinholes of light shone down on Jesus. The listeners looked up in amazement as the roof to the room suddenly started to peel away. Hands were pulling piece by piece off the house. For a moment Jesus paused, as four men lowered a man wrapped in a sheet down to Him.
Without hesitation, Jesus looked at the man in the sheet and said, “Your sins are forgiven.”
The religious crowd that had recently arrived to hear the new theology of Jesus was appalled. In their hearts they were screaming, “Only God can forgive sins!” Knowing their hearts, Jesus looked up to them and said, “Would it have been easier for you if I just healed Him instead of forgiving His sins?” They had no response, so, Jesus continued, “Then to show you that I am the Son of man, watch this.” Jesus turned His gaze back to the poor man who had now been objectified by the religious crowd, “It’s ok, get up. Pick up your sheet. Walk home.” And the man who before was a crippled mess now arose healed, and left.
Jesus truly was the Liberator. He had come to liberate the minds of God’s people from the binding lies of generational ignorance. He had come to liberate the bodies of God’s people from the devastating effects of Adam’s fall. He had come ultimately to liberate the souls of mankind from the horrible consequence of sin. This thing had been broken for long enough. He was here to fix it.

Food For Thought: Reread verse 12. How did the people respond to this miracle of healing? List some ways this entire occurrence differs from the modern-day, charismatic, faith-healer movement.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Mark 1:29-45

We were all created as worshippers. God made all things, great and small, that they might point back to His awesomeness. Whether it is a massive, billion-mile-wide star that hangs on nothing, or the tiny genome that packs intricate instructions into the cells of our bodies, all things audible and inaudible have a voice with which they proclaim the greatness and glory of our God.
Sadly, like C. S. Lewis put it, “we are far too easily pleased” with other things. “We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us.” Instead of finding the joy available to us in the obvious fulfillment of what we were hard-wired for, we pursue fulfillment and joy in anything else. Instead of worshipping God, we find ourselves objectifying (viewing people as “objects to observe and emulate” and not as they actually are, “other human beings with whom we should interact to the glory of God”) and worshipping men.
In Mark 1, the people of Galilee had this same sinful tendency. They began to objectify Jesus. They saw Him as a “healer.” So they flocked to him by the thousands. In compassion, He overlooked these objectifying tendencies and healed the masses.
But He had not come just to heal broken bodies or blinded eyes. He had come to offer spiritual healing. He had come to preach a message. He had come to proclaim the hope of the gospel.
But that message was lost in the crowd. Everywhere He went; his preaching was interrupted by healing. The people yearned to tell Jesus what they wanted, rather than to listen to Him for what they truly needed. Sadly, this objectification impeded His ability to share His message. They were interested in the Jesus that could do the neat little magic tricks. They weren’t interested in the Jesus who called for repentance and faith.
So Jesus healed. And when he healed, he would tell them, “Don’t tell anybody.” Why? Because He knew that the next day when He stood to preach the droves of people that would come would not want Him to lecture, they would just stifle Him and want Him to fix their sore bodies. Like attendees of modern day prayer services, they would offer up a hundred ailments for the great healer to just work His magic on.
But objectification was never God’s desire. He did not send His Son to be stared at. He sent Him to be believed in. He sent Him to proclaim the message of a sovereign God’s unfolding redemptive plan.

Food For Thought: In culture today, who are some people that often get sinfully objectified? Does God desire that human beings objectify other human beings?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Mark 1:21-29

“What do we do with him?” His family wondered if there was any way to handle their son that wouldn’t result in him hurting himself or somebody else. “He really is a nice boy if you get to know him,” they would argue as he would terrorize complete strangers. As time progressed, the boy turned into a man, but the fits and episodes only increased.
After his parents passed away, there was no one to take care of him, so the rulers of the synagogue became the only ones gracious enough in all of Galilee to care for a maniac. He was disruptive, but he couldn’t help himself. For as long as they could remember, this was the way he acted.
That is until Jesus showed up. It was the Sabbath and all the people gathered into the synagogue to hear the teaching of one of the Rabbis. Today, Jesus taught, and it was like nothing they had ever heard before. Many of them knew Jesus. He was Joseph’s son. Nothing special. But here recently he had begun to preach more often. And today, as he stood in the synagogue, he preached with authority, as though instead of growing up in a carpenter’s home, he had been trained by one of the Pharisee guilds.
“LEAVE US ALONE!!!” The shrill cry pierced the synagogue. Everyone who had been listening intently to Jesus was jarred by the disruptive scream of the maniac. “WHY DID YOU COME HERE!!!?! TO DESTROY US? JESUS, I KNOW YOU ARE COME FROM GOD!!!” The soul-piercing shrieks of the maniac left everyone in the synagogue obviously shaken. As the synagogue leaders rose from their seat of prominence to handle this disturber, Jesus stepped forward un-phased.
With fiery eyes of intention, the Master engaged the dark forces that bound the maniac, “Stop.” “Stop it!” “Get out of him!!” In an instant the maniac fell to the ground convulsing and screeching. “AAAAAAHHHHH!!!” And he was released. A liberated man lay where only before a hopeless, desperate slave had lain.
The amazement of the worshippers that day would be recounted time and time again. “How did He speak with such authority to the demons?” “Why did they listen to Him?” “What is so special about Him?”
He had begun to reveal Himself. He was one with unusual power. It was not a show. It was not for entertainment. He was here to save the world. He was here to release mankind from the dark bondage that sin and Satan had been enslaving them in for thousands of years. He had come to banish darkness, and no demon-laden maniac would thwart that purpose. Jesus of Nazareth had begun his ministry.

Food For Thought: Read Isaiah 35. What phrases give a glimpse of the Jesus we see in Mark today?

Monday, August 19, 2013

Mark 1:14-20, part 2

“Kill Him!!!Kill Him!!!” The angry mob of righteously indignant Pharisees dragged the disruptive preacher from the middle of the city. Saul was in the pack, and as a Roman citizen, he had something to lose in the “un-authorized” killing of this Jesus-follower. But fear of repercussion did not keep him from holding his friend’s coats as they slung skull-shattering rocks at the one who knelt, mesmerized by a heaven-bursting vision of “Jesus standing on the right-hand of God.”
The sickening “thud” that turned his lights out, left the raging mob, Saul included, feeling a bit embarrassed at their savagery, but justified that they had defended their God once again. Saul had reached a new height of zeal. He would now go from house to house and purge the world of these God-hating liars. Or at least that was the plan.
On the road to Syria, Saul had his own heaven-bursting experience, and this one unsaddled him from his ride and left him on his back, confused, and blinded. The voice of Jesus spoke to him and called Saul into a life of following him. What would he do? What would Gamaliel think? What would his father think? Would he really become one of these fanatical Jesus-followers? So much was at stake, but Saul had to make a decision.
In Mark 1, a similar decision is taking place. Jesus, a nobody, from a nowhere town, shows up and tells several fishermen to leave their family business and follow him. This is ludicrous! There is no way that they would even consider it. Or would they? What would ever make a person give up their future? What would ever make Saul relinquish his prestige in the Jewish community?
What would it take? A greater life purpose; a better, more-satisfying future. One minister said it this way, “if God calls you to serve Him, don’t stoop to be a king.”
Each of these followers of Jesus heard a greater call than the one they were currently committed to. And each saw the hollowness of their current life pursuits and desired something far greater, something that only a life of service for Jesus could bring. Perhaps, it is that we too need to reevaluate our current life calling. Perhaps we need to hear the call of Jesus to be His follower. Maybe today, you need to switch out your lesser dreams for His all-satisfying divine purposes.

Food for Thought: What do you plan to do with the rest of your life? What do you think God desires you to do with the rest of your life?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mark 1:14-20, part 1

Growing up in the blazing, pagan, merchant metropolis, Tarsus, didn’t keep him from wanting to learn the faith of his people. As a matter of fact, the ancient Hittite town that he lived in carried with it bits and pieces of history of the empires, past and present – Babylonian, Persian, Greek, and now Roman, that had risen and eventually toppled, while the synagogue that his family worshipped at told of a God Whose kingdom had never fallen.
From a young age, he was convinced that there was no better future than serving the God that was this powerful and this fearful. So, following in his father’s footsteps, he made his life’s pursuit theology and religious study. Eventually, he relocated to the heart of his Judaist faith, Jerusalem, the seed-bed of all the greatest men of the people of Jehovah. Jerusalem was glorious. The great temple with its ongoing sacrifices and worship services was like nothing that the synagogues in Cilicia had offered. Soon he enrolled in the school of the great Gamaliel, probably the greatest theologian of his day.
Life was going terrific, a son of a Pharisee, now himself studied and ready to live life as a Pharisee. Perhaps he would be able to get a wife in a few years and raise his sons to become Pharisees as well. Nothing could be more perfect. Saul, the Benjamite, the Pharisee, would be the next Gamaliel, and Jehovah would use him greatly to accomplish His great purposes.
And those purposes were incredibly clear. Moses had delivered very clearly the desires of Jehovah. God had said, “The Lord thy God is one Lord, and thou shalt love the Lord…” It was clear to anyone with common sense that mankind was created to serve and worship God alone. Saul learned that and it became his passion.
The word “zeal” comes from the root-word for “jealousy”, and Saul was very zealous and jealous for the glory of Jehovah. And it was that zealous passion that earned Saul his new job in the Judaist hierarchy. You see, a new religious sect had popped up over the previous several years. It was a group of followers of a backwoods Galilean named Jesus. He was the cousin of the prophet John. And between those two, there was quite a bit of new-sounding theology that was going around. Saul was tasked with fixing it, and he was not going to let up on these “liars” until they were all in prison or dead.

Food For Thought: Read Acts 23:6-16 and Romans 16:7-13 and list any details given about Paul’s (Saul’s) parents or siblings.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Mark 1:9-13

In his introduction to the story of Jesus, Mark began by telling the story of John the baptizer. This is not an accident. This is actually incredibly important in understanding who Jesus is.
You see, it was by the voice of John that God had broken His silence to His people. In John 1:33, John the baptizer refers to God as “he that sent me.” In a land where the voice of God was absent for four centuries, John was now proclaiming that he had come as a prophet of God. This was not a self-confident claim with no merit, rather, in Matthew 21:26, even the chief priests and elders acknowledge that all of the people “held John as a prophet.”
The people of Israel were no doubt excited that God was speaking to them again, and they rushed out of their cities to hear the message of God. Crowds formed along the river, and John preached the message that he was divinely commissioned to preach: “REPENT!!” The message was a common one amongst prophets. God is a holy God, and He desires that His people constantly be killing their sin.
The silence of God had been broken. People were coming to hear the message. And Mark 1:9 says, “and Jesus came from Nazareth.” Everything had lined up perfectly. Everything was set and ready for the presentation of the Son of God. And at the baptism of John, it took place. Not only was God speaking through His prophet John, but now according to verse 10, God audibly spoke from heaven and said to Jesus, “You are my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
God’s messenger John had come. Then, God had spoken audibly. Now the reality would begin to set in that the actual Son of God was on earth. This was a day of importance. Things were going to change. The world was going to turn upside down. No more would the people of God feel abandoned. Immanuel, “God with us”, had finally come, and he had been authenticated first by the prophet of God, then by the Spirit of God, and finally by the very voice of God. This was Him. He had come and His name was Jesus.

Food For Thought: Read Matthew 21:23-27. What point was Jesus trying to make about Himself in His discussion with the Priests?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Mark 1:1-8

He was a bit more peculiar than his contemporary counterparts. “That’s old man Zacharias’s boy,” they would say. However, much like his favorite cousin, Jesus, he never picked up the family trade from His dad. He had been called of God from before birth to a specific task. It was a task that didn’t include the comforts of an ordinary life.
A dark-brown, coarse, camel-haired mantel draped over his twenty-nine year old shoulders in prophet fashion, and a strap of leather cinched up his waist. His clothes were a bit different than the embroidered linen tunic that his dad wore. Since he didn’t own anything, he never harvested crops. So, his diet became as eccentric as his outfit. Locusts…giant grasshoppers, crunchy, juicy, bitter, prickly…breakfast, lunch, and dinner. At times, wild honey would add a bit of excitement and endurability to his cuisine. He was a strange-looking, strange-acting guy; sort of like a young Uncle Si with a fur coat.
And attached to his peculiar appearance and unusual dinner choices, was a knack for saying things that were less than popular. He preached the same sermon over and over, and generally ruffled the feathers of those around him. His message was entitled, “REPENT!!” Although it wasn’t popular, it was absolutely necessary. God had called him to accomplish the task of preaching this message.
For nearly 400 years God had not spoken through a prophet to his people. He had been eerily silent. The last message he had given through his prophet Malachi promised, “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord whom ye seek, shall suddenly come…” Now, God had sent him. John stood on the side of the river, in the middle of the wilderness, and proclaimed this message. “Repent, God is coming.”
And while his message may have been unusual, and his appearance may have matched it, people listened. And God used him mightily. John the Baptizer prepared the way. As the divinely appointed herald, he announced the coming Savior of the world, Jesus.
Food For Thought: What was John’s attitude toward Jesus in verse 7?

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Introduction to The Gospel According to Mark

The Gospel According to Mark is the telling of the life and character of Jesus. John Mark, the author, tells his story in a fast-paced narrative, revealing the tender and compassionate nature of Jesus. Constantly through his story, John Mark (or just “Mark”) demonstrates that Jesus was the ultimate Servant.
In Philippians 2, Paul explains that Jesus set aside “the form of God,” and “took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” He that was deity sought to fulfill the massive purposes of God and “humbled himself” becoming “obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.” And as Paul indicates, Jesus was the ultimate servant. During His short ministry Jesus spent much of His time travelling from place to place healing the disfigured and diseased, casting out demons, and working a myriad of miracles to meet the needs of the people around Him and to demonstrate His overwhelming power. Finally, Jesus became the “servant of all” when He laid down His life as a sacrifice for all of mankind.
Although Mark was never an apostle himself, he would have been closely associated with several of the early church fathers. Mark was the nephew of Paul’s co-worker Barnabas and is mentioned in the writings of Luke, Paul, and Peter, with Peter referring to him as “my son,” a term that most likely would indicate that Peter had been instrumental in Mark’s coming to faith in Jesus. Church history tells us further that The Gospel According to Mark was most likely the telling of the story of Jesus from Peter’s perspective since Peter no doubt would have shared it with his pupil and son in the faith, John Mark.
The pinnacle thesis statement of The Gospel According to Mark is found in Mark 10:45 where Jesus describing Himself says, “For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Over the next several weeks, follow along as we take a closer look at the selfless example of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, the Servant of God, Who was sent to minister to suffering people and to die for the sins of the whole world.

Food For Thought: Read Philippians 2:5-8 and 1 Peter 2:21-24. How do Paul and Peter describe the ministry of Jesus?