The Gross-Out Factor for Kids

March 22, 2017 at 2:57 pm | Posted in Mark | 1 Comment
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Two of the difficult truths that parents must begin to teach children at a young age are:
1. They are not good kids.
2. Death is real.

A third is:

3. We have to love people who do disgusting things.

Jesus loved the people who didn’t love Him and who did the things He didn’t like. We have to do that, too.

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

Given a limited choice we would rather our children be grossed out by sin than attracted to it. However, we do not want them to be grossed out by sinNERS to such an extent that they are unwilling to love them. Jesus went to where the sinners were. He was not friends “with them” in the sense that He disguised what He thought of their sins, but He was a friend “to them” in the sense that He got very hands-on in their environment and lives.

Christian parents want their children to be surrounded by good influences, and that’s great, but a truly “good” influence is someone who encourages them to love people who are deeply mired in sin – even people who hate their Jesus, and who hate His Word. You can’t simultaneously show kindness and love to someone while giving them the impression that you are disgusted by who they are as a person. Lifeguards don’t swim out to a drowning person flailing in the sea, and immediately start telling him what an idiot he is for going swimming after eating a bucket of fried chicken and drinking a two-liter Pepsi.

Disciples, Defilement, and Division

March 16, 2017 at 3:46 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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Chapters 7 and 8 are sections in the Gospel of Mark which highlight the teaching ministry of Jesus and some of the responses to it. The Pharisees wanted to attack Jesus, so it was natural that they went to what they perceived as one of their greatest strengths: tradition. Jesus was not opposed to traditions UNLESS they were traditions that were contrary to the Word of God.

The Pharisees had taken God’s Levitical laws about cleanliness, which God had given to separate the Jewish people from the Canaanites, and to help keep His people healthy, and had completely stripped them of their spiritual meaning. The Pharisees placed all their emphasis on the outward appearance, and none on the inward heart.

They saw some of Jesus’s disciples eating without washing their hands.

Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him, Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands? He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with [their] lips, but their heart is far from me.

Mark 7:5-6

As a parent, you probably make your children wash their hands before they eat, and that’s a good idea. But would you let your children get away with lying, as long as they washed their hands first? If you caught your child with his hand in the cookie jar after being forbidden from taking a cookie, and the child said, “It’s okay that I’m disobeying you, because I washed my hands first,” would you accept that as a valid excuse?

Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. And when he had called all the people [unto him], he said unto them, Hearken unto me every one [of you], and understand: There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man.

Mark 7:13-15

It’s not that Jesus was interested in stopping people from practicing basic hygiene, or even in changing their diets to more risky fare in terms of “clean” and “unclean” meats. What He was stressing to them was that physical cleanliness and eating healthy foods did not matter if the attitude of their hearts was not right.

And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, [it] cannot defile him; Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mark 7:18-23

Now contrast the attitude of the Pharisees, and their pride, with the attitude of the gentile woman who wanted Jesus to cast a demon out of her daughter.

But Jesus said unto her, Let the children first be filled: for it is not meet to take the children’s bread, and to cast [it] unto the dogs. And she answered and said unto him, Yes, Lord: yet the dogs under the table eat of the children’s crumbs. And he said unto her, For this saying go thy way; the devil is gone out of thy daughter. And when she was come to her house, she found the devil gone out, and her daughter laid upon the bed.

Mark 7:27-30

Remember, Jesus always taught with great authority. He was not a mealy-mouthed teacher. It’s almost as if the crowds who followed Jesus were becoming very divided. There were those who pridefully felt they should have some control over the miracles He was doing, and there were those who very humbly and with great urgency tried to fight through the onlookers and the skeptics and the proud observers because they truly believed Jesus was their only hope. We have this same type of people with us today. Will we block their way? Or will we usher them to Jesus?

Rising Faith

March 3, 2017 at 1:22 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth. And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.

Mark 5:33-34

Jesus responds to people without worldly hope. He responds to even the smallest measure of faith. He made time to help others even when it seemed to interfere with His schedule. Jesus can “make people whole,” which is a greater blessing than physical, mental, or emotional healing. Are we sensitive to those who are afraid to come to Jesus? Are we remembering our prime objective in ministry? Jesus told the woman to “go in peace.” We have the ministry of reconciliation in His name. That is the greatest need of every person – to be reconciled to God – to be at peace with Him – true salvation.

While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further? As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe. And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James. And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly. And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth. And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying. And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise. And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.

Mark 5:35-42

Don’t give up on those who haven’t been healed for a long time. Even if “death” is the end, death is not final for a believer. Death is like sleep for believers. That’s one of the reasons the Resurrection is so important. Jesus demonstrated His power and victory over death. Belief keeps fear at bay, and perfect love casts it out completely. Giving up on the co-called terminally addicted, the terminally sinful, the permanently mentally ill, the permanently physically ill, is not really giving up on THEM. It’s really giving up on GOD (unbelief).

Jesus told the damsel to “arise.” Arise is a command to active, moving faith. The faithless are sleep-walking through life, and we are supposed to “wake them up” – to call them to “arise.”

The Direction of True Faith

March 1, 2017 at 4:28 pm | Posted in Mark | Leave a comment
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If you are familiar with modern television or movie tropes, then you might call this passage in Mark 6 a “flashback sequence” where we learn what happened to John the Baptist.

For Herod feared John, knowing that he was a just man and an holy, and observed him; and when he heard him, he did many things, and heard him gladly.

Mark 6:20

Herod feared John the Baptist, but not enough to repent and “believe” his message. He had John the Baptist killed for his wife’s sake.

And the king was exceeding sorry; yet for his oath’s sake, and for their sakes which sat with him, he would not reject her.

Mark 6:26

Herod feared God a little, but he feared men more. He loved God’s messenger a little, but he loved himself more. This is unbelief, and this was the first step on the way to the unpardonable sin, which the Jewish leaders committed, and into which they led many of their people. They rejected God (John the Baptist, His prophet). They rejected Jesus, God’s Son (consenting to, and helping to instigate, His Crucifixion). And they blasphemed (rejected, always resisting) the Holy Ghost – God’s final witness – when they stoned Stephen.

Even the Disciples – Jesus’s closest followers – had trouble with unbelief.

And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things. And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.

Mark 6:34-36
Jesus was moved with compassion for people. Do we, as followers of Jesus, have genuine compassion? If we do, we will move toward, not away from, people who are suffering. The Disciples saw only the problem. Seeing only the problem is a symptom of unbelief. Jesus saw the potential. Seeing the potential is evidence of faith. False faith sees only problems for God to solve; true faith sees opportunities to minister IN problems. False faith sees only obstacles to be removed, and calls on God only to move us over, past, or around the obstacles without having to deal with them; true faith sees opportunities to stand on the obstacles and get close to God. True faith calls us to stand on the obstacles and proclaim His worth to others.

And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people.

Mark 6:45

Jesus did not send away people who were needy; He sent away people who were greedy. For His Disciples’ sake, He also He sent them away to help them avoid a false “spiritual high.” We often want the excitement of religion. We call it God “moving” or we say we are “experiencing the presence of God” when things tend to get hyped up and emotional during a corporate worship service, but sometimes the best place to experience the presence of God is alone in a quiet place AFTER serving Him publicly, and with the intention of going back to serve Him again.

And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray.

Mark 6:46

Jesus, the Divine Servant, came to serve men – but only as He served God. We must never forget why we’re serving others. It’s because we serve HIM.

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.

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