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MARK 3:7 – 12

7 Jan

Then Jesus with his disciples withdrew to the seashores.

This was the sabbath. He had just been to the temple where he healed a man.

A great multitude followed him. [They came] from Galilee and from Judaea and from Jerusalem and from Idumaea and from beyond the Jordan and the region of Tyre and Sidon. A great multitude came to him when they heard what he was doing.

News of Jesus ministry (teaching, healing, casting out unclean spirits) had spread throughout the region and people left their homes and sought him out in droves.

He told his disciples they should secure a boat for him, because of the crowd, so that they should not crush him.

Movies about Jesus always show small groups (20 or maybe 100 max) of people gathered around Jesus. A small group could not crush a man. We need to re-envision this more like the mobs of fans waiting for the Beatles or the sea of bodies at Woodstock. There were so many people that were they to be incited Jesus would most certainly be crushed.

He healed many, so that they thrust upon him, to have those who were in torment touch him.

We here this in the case of the bleeding woman as well, that her only desire is to touch his robe so that she might be healed. Superstition, rumors, and quickly traveling news attracted many to him. Jesus needed to break free from the crowds.

The unclean spirits, when they saw him, fell down before him and cried out saying, “You are the son of God.” And he charged them many times not to divulge what he was doing.

Even unclean spirits would break from their possessed to address Jesus. And unlike men, who failed to recognize Christ for who he was. These demons recognized Christ and knew (or at least suspected) the reason that he had come. Christ commands them to be silent. His control extends over their realm as well as the humanly realm.

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Looking at Scripture: Matthew 10

29 Dec

Matthew 10

Then calling to him his twelve disciples, he gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to treat every sickness and every infirmity.

Every time I read this I am floored by this action of extending his authority to the disciples. Because of their firm belief, of their unshakeable faith, he bestows upon them these fantastical gifts of healing and authority over demons. Powers which will dissipate once even a hint of doubt sets in. Much like when Jesus calls Peter out of the boat to walk on water. For the first few steps he does indeed walk on water. But then his confidence and his faith crumble and he begins to sink.

These twelve Jesus sent forth and gave them instructions, saying: Do not go on the road to the Gentiles, and do not go into any city of the Samaritans. Make you way rather to the lost sheep of Israel.

Why not reach out to Gentiles and Samaritans? It is not time. First they must got to the lost sheep of Israel. They must strive to corral them back into the fold of God. It is only later, once Israel refuses the shepherd, Jesus, that the invitation is extended to the lost tribes. I think of the parable of the man who invites his friends to a feast and none of them come, so he then extends the invitation to the town’s beggars who all arrive in fashion; well, all but one.

As you preach and say that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. Heal the infirm, raise up the dead, make lepers clean, cast out demons. You have taken a free gift; give a free gift.

Interesting that Christ sets them up to heal and cast out wicked spirits first. Then he mentions preaching. Preaching the news that the Kingdom of Heaven is near. As they heal the people, they also present the Gospel to them. Entering into such service for Christ is a gift. He heaps upon them these great talents. Because of their belief, their faith, they are able to heal, exorcize demons and preach the Gospel. And yet this gift is short-lived.

We know that when Christ comes down the hill after the transfiguration, the disciples are being confronted because they lack the ability to cast out a demon. Their faith has been shaken. And Christ must being them back into the fold because of their lack of faith. And their need for additional instruction.

My desire is to devote myself to Christ; to develop an unshakeable belief; a faith that is solid—such that I could focus on nurturing God’s gifts to me so that I might give a free gift to others. That I might demonstrate Christ through his word through healing and helping others to loose the demons in their own lives.

Source: The New Testament – translated by Richmond Lattimore

Looking at Scripture: Ephesians 2:1-10

29 Nov

PARAPHRASE
You were dead men: dwelling in sin and selfishness; living for the cares of this world alone; giving into the desires planted in your heart by the spirit of this earth. It was his presence, not God’s, that you felt coursing through you; the lord of the air whose mark is upon the sons of disobedience. But not just you, we too had once abandoned ourselves to the desires of the flesh. We too were natural children of wrath. But God, who is rich in mercy, through his great love brought us out of the realm of the dying; and raised us up to the realm of life in Christ. You have been saved by grace. You have been revived in Christ, so that you may show others the surpassing abundance of grace and kindness that God has given you. For the faith we share does not come from within, but is a gift from God. Our joy comes from nothing we have done, lest we get prideful, but it comes from Him. We are His handiwork, made in His image; called to model Christ and follow his teachings and pursue good works. [Reference: ESV, Lattimore]

EXPOSITION
We tend to dwell in the life. But we must acknowledge our death. For sin is the constant tug at the heart strings towards self involvement and fractured focus towards the desires of this world. So often we fail to see our disobedience. We stash our sin away, but our hearts and eyes give us away. The lord of the air is very aware of our actions, our dark thoughts, our callous words and behaviors. He feeds off of them. He rewards us for our disobedience. But we who proclaim Christ as savior must not get lost in the sinful sea. Our joy is in Christ who cleanses us of our sin. Our faith is in God, in Truth. In His handiwork we see how majestic are his ways. We must learn to recognize the child of God in the mirror and pursue the mind of Christ, by the Spirit, in order to be set free from our sin.

PRAYER
Lord, the tangle of my sin and my selfishness distract from my devotion to you. I get tangled up in the weeds and fail to bear the fruit you desire. I recognize the sons of disobedience because I was one of them. And I fall too easily back into their behaviors. I feel the lord of the air breathing down my neck and I run back towards my savior. Revive me oh Christ. Let my faith be the filter which keeps me from harm. Let my joy, my hope be in you. Help me to pursue your word, your way, your truth. Amen.

An Expansion of the Previous Post

5 Jan

Who determines our salvation?
It’s not us. No pastor, priest, elder, deacon, bishop or minister can promise this to any man, nor take it away.

Who is the final judge and determiner of our true character?
It’s not us. No one, no matter what their ministerial rank, can place salvific judgment upon a believer or unbeliever.

Is our salvation dependent upon denomination, political views, style of worship, which translation of the Bible we use, which gifts we have demonstrated, etc?
No. While I have great respect for the many traditions and varying worship styles of my brothers in Christ; no one way of worship is held higher than any other in the eyes of God.

I write this because I see, too often, Christians lambasting Christians.

I’ve heard Christians make grand claims that “our way” [insert denomination or church here] is the only right way to worship, to interpret scripture, to live a Christ-centered life.

There are websites a plenty created by Christians in order to condemn and even damn other Christians who: belong to a different denomination, read a different version of the Bible, interpret scripture differently, hold to different religious traditions, ascribe to behaviors that some consider un-Christian.

Is this how Christians treat others who profess faith in Christ?

I can imagine the cheers in Hell as Satan and his demons gather to watch Christians attacking other Christians.

We have taken the focus off our mortal enemy – and placed it on our own selfish motives for how we desire Christianity to be.

Who is the head of the church?
Christ alone.

Who determines our salvation?
Christ alone.

Who is the final judge and determiner of our true character?
Christ alone.

Are we too quick to say, “not them.”

9 Dec

… they wash feet.
… they make statues of Mary.
… they allow homosexuals in their pews.
… they don’t follow the church calendar.
… they don’t require seminary degrees for ordination.
… they drink wine.
… they do not use the King James.
… they do not speak in tongues.
… they…

Who makes the call?
Only one.

… It’s not us.

Living Out the “Seek and Save” Model of Luke 19:10

15 Oct

The son of man came to seek out and save the lost. (Luke 19:10)

This comes from the passage in Luke which talks about Zacchaeus and Christ’s calling him out of the crowd and saying, “Come down, let’s have dinner together and talk.”

I started thinking about the command to: seek out the lost; and save them. Seeking means going out of our way to search for folks who do not believe in Christ, probably not in God, who are not church-goers and wouldn’t call themselves Christians. And yet these folks are looking for answers. They are asking the right questions.

But those who are truly lost are not likely to show up at a “seeker service.” In fact, based on this passage, I think churches who have adopted a “seeker” model have gotten it wrong. The “seeker” is NOT the person who needs Christ. The “seeker” WAS Christ. And this is our charge as well–to seek out those who are hurting and crying out for a savior. And to save them out of their lost condition.

And we do this not by pointing out their condition. They know this. They are crying out for a reason. We need to show them a way out. Call upon that which is good in their lives. That which reflects Christ in their character already. That which is the image of God already reflected through them but needing some polish and cleaning and directing.

My charge to you is to open your ears to the cries, to open your eyes to the conditions of the lost. If you’re not hearing and seeing this first hand you may need to do some seeking. Seeking out those who are looking. Those who are willing to invite you in for dinner and a conversation. And I pray that you might engage in a dialogue that will ultimately bring one of the lost to a saving faith and belief in Christ.

Out of the Miry Bog

30 Aug

PSALM 40 (ESV)
1 I waited patiently for the Lord;

he inclined to me and heard my cry.

2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the Lord.

Why am I alive? Who do I serve? I am a good man. Why am I good? Why is that important to me? Why do people matter for me? If it’s only about me, I shouldn’t care? Is God good? If I am good, am I not God’s? God, are you there? Our father… Christ? Is it true? Are you true? Help me in my time of need. What about…? Why not…? All roads? All roads can’t. They don’t agree. They move in different directions. Some directions lead to the rocky precipice of evil. Been there. Not going back. He called to me on that rocky path and I turned my ear to him. I came humbly before him and offered up prayer. Open my eyes, Lord. And that song came to my lips. As you brought me back. Will they see, Lord? And put their trust in you, God. In Christ. I pray they will.