Faith in Service

January 11, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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And he went out from thence, and came into his own country; and his disciples follow him.

Mark 6:1

Jesus returned to “His own country,” meaning Nazareth. It had one been one year since He had been there.

And when the sabbath day was come, he began to teach in the synagogue: and many hearing him were astonished, saying, From whence hath this man these things? and what wisdom is this which is given unto him, that even such mighty works are wrought by his hands?

Mark 6:2

Jesus, returning to His home synagogue, was now famous. The people must have known about His miracles through word of mouth, since He had not done them in Nazareth.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honour, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. And he went round about the villages, teaching.

Mark 6:3-6

So, here we find the Servant encountering unbelief – a lack of faith. People “stumbled over Him” – they were scandalized by Him. They knew Him, so they should not have feared Him, but they could not explain Him, so they did fear Him. He didn’t fit into their framework. Sometimes we say that people fear the unknown, but what people really fear is the inexplicable.

In this episode from Mark 6 we also see the difference between today’s fictional version of faith as a mystical force which activates God and somehow “enables” Him to work – to do what WE want Him to do, such as heal us or give us money or get us out of trouble – and real faith.

Remember, in the Book of Mark, we are studying Jesus in the role of Servant. We would expect a servant to serve (and He does), but we would also expect a servant to bring us what we want (and He does not always do this). Jesus is a better Servant – the greatest Servant of all time. So, as He serves us, He brings us what we really NEED – what is BEST for us. Since He is the greatest Servant, He brings the greatest service: forgiveness, freedom, and fulfillment.

Faith is not believing for what we want. Faith is believing that Jesus will bring us what we really need, and it is shown by active belief – acting in accord with Him supplying our needs, not our wants.

And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; And commanded them that they should take nothing for their journey, save a staff only; no scrip, no bread, no money in their purse: But be shod with sandals; and not put on two coats.

Mark 6:7-9

Serving without Fear

December 27, 2016 at 3:25 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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Jesus taught in parables, and, though some of the crowds that heard Him would have tried to judge the parables, the truth is that the parables judged the crowds.

And he taught them many things by parables, and said unto them in his doctrine, Hearken; Behold, there went out a sower to sow: And it came to pass, as he sowed, some fell by the way side, and the fowls of the air came and devoured it up. And some fell on stony ground, where it had not much earth; and immediately it sprang up, because it had no depth of earth: But when the sun was up, it was scorched; and because it had no root, it withered away. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up, and choked it, and it yielded no fruit. And other fell on good ground, and did yield fruit that sprang up and increased; and brought forth, some thirty, and some sixty, and some an hundred.

Mark 4:2-8

Some people who hear the Word of God have hard hearts. Many people and ideas and attachments have trod on these hearts before, and have hardened them the way the earth will become packed and hardened on heavily used walkways. Some people who hear the Word of God have shallow hearts, where it appears to take root briefly, but in reality it is not really “received” on a level where it takes deep roots, and it shrivels and dies under the heat of persecution. Some people who hear the Word of God have crowded hearts. They are full of the vain things of this world, and there is no room for the seed to be truly received. However, some people (praise God!) who hear the Word of God have hearts that have been plowed and prepared and broken up by the Holy Spirit. Here the Word of God takes hold and begins to produce fruit and multiply.

In Mark Chapters 4 and 5 Jesus the Servant showed through four miracles how we are to be good servants in times of danger.

First, He calmed a storm. Good servants should not be afraid of storms because Jesus has promised us victory.

And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.

Mark 4:35

Good servants should not be afraid of storms because Jesus is with us in the storms.

And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?

Mark 4:38

Good servants should not be afraid of storms because Jesus Himself fears no storms.

Second, Jesus cast demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. Good servants need not fear Satan because he and the demons are under the control of our Master. We can seek to serve the demon-possessed or -influenced or -oppressed because our Lord is stronger.

Third, Jesus healed the woman with the issue of blood. Good servants need not fear disease for all the reasons having to do with storms and Satan, AND for the reason that we do not lose our Lord even if we lose our health for His sake. We know that there is great opportunity for sick people to exercise faith, even if they have imperfect faith.

Fourth, Jesus raised Jairus’s daughter from the dead. Good servants need not fear death because, for the one with faith in Jesus, death is not eternal.

And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.

Mark 5:39

Forgiveness, Fulfillment, and Freedom

December 1, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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In demonstrating His role as the greatest servant, Jesus, during His earthly ministry, brought the gifts of healing and miracles, but He also brought the gift of forgiveness.

Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house. And immediately he arose, took up the bed, and went forth before them all; insomuch that they were all amazed, and glorified God, saying, We never saw it on this fashion.

Mark 2:9-12

Jesus healed the man, but first He forgave all his sins. Forgiving sins is the divine Servant’s greatest act of ministry. The forgiveness of sins meets the greatest need, costs the greatest price, and brings the greatest blessing. It also results in the greatest assurance. The religious leaders came to see what Jesus could do, but they came with a critical spirit, and they did not seek the forgiveness of their sins.

In addition to forgiveness, the Servant also brought fulfillment.

And when the scribes and Pharisees saw him eat with publicans and sinners, they said unto his disciples, How is it that he eateth and drinketh with publicans and sinners? When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

Mark 2:16-17

Sick people are patients who need the fulfillment of healing. Lonely people are guests who have not been invited to the party. Single people are people who haven’t committed to someone else. Broken people are not people who need to be patched up; they need to be made new.

The divine Servant brought forgiveness, fulfillment, and freedom.

And he entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there which had a withered hand. And they watched him, whether he would heal him on the sabbath day; that they might accuse him.

Mark 3:12

There was a prohibition against “work” on the Jewish Sabbath, but only about six or seven specific instructions in the Old Testament Scriptures concerning what it meant not to work, so Jewish tradition had come up with 39 acts that were strictly forbidden. This was a form of bondage not intended by the Law.

And he saith unto them, Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace.

Jesus withdrew from the crowds in order to teach His Disciples.

And he goeth up into a mountain, and calleth unto him whom he would: and they came unto him.

Mark 3:13

He called together the leaders of a new “nation:” 12 Apostles representing the 12 tribes of Israel. The people who had known Jesus from His childhood – from the days before He began His outspoken public ministry – began to worry about Him, possibly questioning His sanity. As a Christian, once your unconverted family members start to think you are crazy for living in accordance with your faith in Christ, it may be a sign that you are on the right track doing God’s will.

There came then his brethren and his mother, and, standing without, sent unto him, calling him.

Mark 3:31

Becoming Part of the Family

November 18, 2016 at 9:53 am | Posted in Mark, The Family of Faith | 3 Comments
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You get into an earthly family by being born or by being adopted. You get into God’s family by being born again (regeneration). He also adopts born-again believers into His family (grants them the status of adult children). This is very important to remember, because, as we are trying to do good to those who are outside of our family, the best “good” we can do them is to invite and encourage them to join the family of God.

It is also important to remember, as we minister to our fellow family members in the family of God, that none of us deserve to be in this family. Babies don’t birth themselves, and you can’t adopt yourself into a family. We are only a part of this family by God’s grace – His unmerited favor – His election of us – not our impressive abilities and not our works. We can’t “earn” grace. I’m not proud to be an American because I had nothing to do with where I was born. It would be even more ludicrous for me to be proud to be a Christian, because God is the One Who made me a Christian. I did not make myself one.

This motivates me to do good especially to those who are in the family of faith because they belong to God. If you are my brother in Christ, then you are God’s son, which means God loves you. A good Father protects His children, so I’m placing myself in danger if I fail to treat you the way God wants me to treat you.

And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea.

Mark 9:42

Compassion for the Crowds

November 16, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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In His earthly ministry, Jesus was almost constantly being sought out by lepers and sick people, because of His miraculous ability, and willingness, to heal them.

And at even, when the sun did set, they brought unto him all that were diseased, and them that were possessed with devils. And all the city was gathered together at the door. And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.

Mark 1:32-34

And when they had found him, they said unto him, All men seek for thee. And he said unto them, Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also: for therefore came I forth. And he preached in their synagogues throughout all Galilee, and cast out devils.

Mark 1:37-39

These healings were specific and instantaneous, not like the ambiguous and suspicious so-called healings practiced by “psychic healers” or the religious charlatans in the Word of Faith movement today.

The Lord Jesus in His earthly ministry showed that being a servant is the highest calling. True Christian servants get their authority from God. No one in this world should exercise authority unless he recognizes that he is under authority himself. Jesus also showed that being a good servant requires compassion. The false gospel so often propagated today is based on a false compassion.

… [T]he Gospel of today insists that Christ came not to save men’s souls with a view to their entering Heaven in the future. But to save men’s lives with a view to enriching earth in the present.

J. Stuart Holden, from the sermon, “The Unrecognized Victory in Life’s Flood-tide,” 1913.

Jesus healed multitudes, and this caused crowds to gather, but, sadly, most of the people in these crowds wanted only what Jesus could do for them physically. Perhaps some of them wanted to see a show. Most of them did not want the Truth.

And there came a leper to him, beseeching him, and kneeling down to him, and saying unto him, If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. And Jesus, moved with compassion, put forth his hand, and touched him, and saith unto him, I will; be thou clean. And as soon as he had spoken, immediately the leprosy departed from him, and he was cleansed. And he straitly charged him, and forthwith sent him away; And saith unto him, See thou say nothing to any man: but go thy way, shew thyself to the priest, and offer for thy cleansing those things which Moses commanded, for a testimony unto them. But he went out, and began to publish it much, and to blaze abroad the matter, insomuch that Jesus could no more openly enter into the city, but was without in desert places: and they came to him from every quarter.

Mark 1:40-45

Jesus commanded people not to tell anyone about Him, but they told everyone. He commands us to tell everyone – but we tell no one!

Especially the Family

November 7, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Posted in Mark, The Family of Faith | 4 Comments
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We have many relationships in our lives: friends, co-workers, acquaintances. But “family” is a special relationship.

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

Galatians 6:10

In the original language the word translated as “household” meant family and those who live together under the same roof. It is used three times in the New Testament, and it refers to Christians who are related as brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Bible says we are to do what is good to people in general. Jesus taught His disciples to love their “neighbor,” and he criticized the religious hypocrites for failing to love their neighbors.

And one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, and perceiving that he had answered them well, asked him, Which is the first commandment of all? And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.

Mark 12:28-31

This is essentially what Galatians 6:10 is saying when it says, “let us do good unto all men.” Should we be nice to people that are easy to be nice to, and mean to people who rub us the wrong way? No, of course not – not according to the Bible. Should we be nice to Christians, but ambivalent toward the unsaved? No! We are to love even our enemies, and even those who persecute us! In fact, that is one of the great indicators (to a lost and watching world) that we belong to Jesus. Anybody can be nice to people who are nice to them first, or when there’s a reward at stake. Jesus loved, and died for, those who HATED Him.

We must bless those who hate us and pray for those who despitefully use us. However, Galatians 6:10 does have a warning word – something of a qualifier. It doesn’t say forget about doing good to all people, but it does say to do good ESPECIALLY to those who are part of the household of faith: fellow Christians – brothers and sisters in Christ – and, in the context of Galatians 6, doing “good” (“the good” in the Greek) means bearing one another’s burdens and sowing to the Spirit (which results in reaping everlasting life) instead of sowing to the flesh (which results in reaping corruption). In other words, we are commanded to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-24) in dealing with our spiritual family members. So, since the Holy Spirit emphasizes the importance of serving in the household of faith, next time we will look at exactly what it means to be a part of this household/family.

Casting FOR Fish, and Casting OUT Fiends

November 1, 2016 at 1:48 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And Jesus said unto them, Come ye after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men. And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.

Mark 1:16-18

Mark stressed the active service of Jesus and His Disciples with the use of the word “straightway.” Jesus called fishermen. Perhaps He knew they would need patience in winning souls. Fishing for recreation can be relaxing; fishing for a living is a get-up-and-get-moving business. But, at the same time, fishing often involves perseverance and waiting.

And they went into Capernaum; and straightway on the sabbath day he entered into the synagogue, and taught. And they were astonished at his doctrine: for he taught them as one that had authority, and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:21-22

People were astonished when Jesus taught, because of His authority. He was Truth personified. He didn’t need to quote other teachers, and when He quoted Scripture, He was quoting Himself.

And there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out;

Mark 1:23

It is not clear whether this demon had revealed himself in this man before, or whether the Jews in the synagogue believed he was mentally ill, but still allowed him to remain. In either case, the demon was exposed as soon as Jesus entered.

Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art, the Holy One of God.

Mark 1:24

The use of plural pronouns (“let us alone; what have we to do with thee”) may have revealed how closely the man identified with the demon. There are church members today who have some knowledge of Who Jesus is, and they will even confess His name with their mouths, but they are terrified of Him because He is their enemy.

And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the unclean spirit had torn him, and cried with a loud voice, he came out of him. And they were all amazed, insomuch that they questioned among themselves, saying, What thing is this? what new doctrine [is] this? for with authority commandeth he even the unclean spirits, and they do obey him. And immediately his fame spread abroad throughout all the region round about Galilee.

Mark 1:25-28

Immediate Service

October 11, 2016 at 12:16 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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When we compare the different viewpoints of the four “Gospels” we see that Matthew shows Jesus as King, and that the Holy Spirit had him write with a Jewish audience primarily in mind. Luke highlights the humanity of Jesus, and is addressed mainly to a Greek audience. John has a broader, more universal audience in mind, and emphasizes Jesus as the Son of God. The Book of Mark (second book of the New Testament) places an emphasis on Jesus’s role as a servant, and seems to be addressed primarily to gentiles in general, and Romans in particular. When we read Mark, Jesus seems to be almost always in motion – on the move. Unlike Matthew and Luke, Mark does not contain the Lord’s earthly genealogy. Nor does it rehearse the Sermon on the Mount.

Mark, the human instrument which the Holy Spirit used to write the Book of Mark, is the “John Mark” who went went with Paul on his first missionary journey. However, he subsequently abandoned the mission, incurring Paul’s disfavor. He then went with Barnabus, and was reconciled to Paul later.

Words like “straightway” are used with great frequency throughout the Book of Mark. “Straightway” means “immediately” – almost “suddenly” – but there is a spiritual connotation to it, too. Jesus was always on the “straight” way even when it looked to men like He was meandering. Servants “do” more than they “talk.” Their genealogies are irrelevant. They are busy serving someone else.

And immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness. And he was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan; and was with the wild beasts; and the angels ministered unto him.

Mark 1:12-13

Jesus was both led and “driven” by the Spirit into the wilderness. He was an obedient Servant, though He went willingly. Jesus did not delay His trip into the wilderness, although this wilderness would have been especially daunting, given the terrain, the lack of light at night, the wild beasts, the threat of lawlesss and desperate men hiding out. The terrors of the Judean wilderness were certainly formidable, but, on top of that, the Devil was coming to get Him! This is one of many instances in the earthly life of Jesus where He fulfilled all righteousness by performing ever-increasing acts of obedience, though He had no unrighteousness within Himself form which to turn.

Cross-Eyed

March 23, 2016 at 11:32 am | Posted in Biblical Eyesight, Common Expressions, Mark | Leave a comment
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The sight of Jesus hanging on the Cross must have been gut-wrenching for those who followed Him and loved Him (and who had not fled and abandoned Him by this point). For most of the spectators, however, including the chief priests and the scribes, it was an occasion for mocking and cruel derision.

And they that passed by railed on him, wagging their heads, and saying, Ah, thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, Save thyself, and come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking said among themselves with the scribes, He saved others; himself he cannot save.

Mark 15:29-31

They were not at all ashamed to look fixedly at the Cross, jeering and taunting the Lord, making a jest that, if only He could get Himself down from there right in front of their eyes, then they would become believers.

Let Christ the King of Israel descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe. And they that were crucified with him reviled him.

Mark 15:32

You may have heard the expression “cross-eyed,” which is used for a person whose eyes both appear to look independently inward toward his nose, instead of looking in the same direction. Children who are able to make their eyes do this intentionally are sometimes warned by a parent or teacher: “You had better stop making that face, or it will freeze like that!”

Today, as Christians, we ought to look fixedly with our mind’s eye at the Cross, as we consider Christ’s great sacrifice there. Refusing to take the bait and get down from the Cross in His Own power, He instead remained there, paying our sin debt in full, and ultimately laying down His Own life before being taken down and buried, only to rise again victoriously from the grave on the third day! We don’t think of contemplating the Cross of our Savior as “getting stuck like that,” but we should often and regularly meditate upon it with hearts of gratitude, affection, repentance, faith, wonder, amazement, reverence, and obedience. Had He come down from the Cross before death, the religious leaders who mocked Jesus would have no more been convinced of His Deity and glory than they were by His miracles, compassion, and Words of Truth. For us, though, we place our trust in the crucified and resurrected King of Israel because He died and rose again.

Beware the Furious Fiend

December 17, 2014 at 3:41 pm | Posted in Mark, The Fives | 4 Comments
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As Jesus and His followers entered the country of the Gadarenes, they encountered a man possessed by demons. This man, because of his condition, was both pitiful and terrifying.

And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.

Mark 5:5

A person controlled by Satan is a person who is constantly (“always, night and day”) subject to the oppression of his cruel and terrible master.

And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

Ephesians 2:1-3

A demon-controlled person is a person who would exalt himself to a high place of rebellion against God (“in the mountains”).

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.

Isaiah 14:12-14

He has a fascination with death (“in the tombs”).

But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death.

Proverbs 8:36

The pawn of Satan is subject to bouts of depression and abject sorrow (“crying”) and self-abuse (“cutting himself”).

And they [the prophets of Baal] cried aloud, and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lancets, till the blood gushed out upon them.

I Kings 18:28

We get the idea that this demon-possessed man was unpredictable and violent, a scourge upon his community – for which the Gadarenes had no solution. However, Jesus had no fear at all. The man even recognized Him from afar, running toward Him and worshiping Him. Christ cast out the demons, and set the man free, commissioning him to serve the community he had previously tormented.

We must be like Jesus. Do not fear the fury of those who do not yet know Christ. Often the person who is at the greatest pains to show his hatred for God may be the person who is acting out of desperation in an attempt to convince himself or others that he is too fearsome, depraved, or far-gone to be reached with only thing that can really help: the Good News that Jesus saves.

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