We Matter

 

Today’s reading is Mark 16

 

On Monday, Chet wrote about Peter’s betrayal of Jesus and Jesus’ beautiful example of forgiveness of Peter before Peter even betrayed Jesus. Today I want to look at what happened after Peter betrayed Jesus.

Peter told Jesus “Even if everyone else deserts you, I never will.” Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, Peter, this very night, before the rooster crows, you will deny three times that you even know me.” Peter responded, “NO even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!” Then a few verses later in the chapter we find out that on separate occasions, Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times in one night. Peter heard the rooster crow and then Jesus’ words flash through his mind. He was faced with the realization that he had actually done exactly what he had emphatically declared to Jesus’ face that he would never do. He broke down and wept. Does your heart go out to Peter? Mine does! I promise myself and sometimes others that I won’t do or say something, and then before I know it, I find myself doing or saying exactly what I said I wouldn’t. It is bad enough to break a promise to our selves but poor Peter broke a promise to Jesus…and then Jesus was killed! Can you imagine the pain and shame he must have been filled with for the three days that Jesus was gone? Peter had no way to seek forgiveness or reassurance from Jesus because He was dead. I can only imagine how small Peter must have felt before God and his friends. He must have been devastated and broken. Then Mark 16:7 tells us that the angel in Jesus’ grave told the ladies who had come to prepare Jesus’ body for burial that Jesus was risen from the dead. The angel told the ladies to go and tell Jesus’ disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee, you will see Him there. Do you see the forgiveness and redemption in those two words between the commas? The angel said, “including Peter”. God new the shame that was debilitating Peter at this moment in time and He chose to be clear, that Peter was still included in Jesus posy. If this doesn’t display God’s personal love for us, then I don’t know what does. In the midst of our messiest messes he reaches out and offers us help and redemption if we choose to take Him up on His offer. Also proof that we can’t earn His gifts of relationship and forgiveness. He loves us just as we are no matter how broken or messed up we are. The sweet, sweet story of the gospel of Christ!

Let’s sit with that for a moment. We matter to the creator of the universe. Our feelings, thoughts and actions are known to the Almighty, and He acts in our stead to save, protect and love each of us. At this very moment He is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand listening to us, considering our circumstances and guiding those of us who seek Him. I can think of no better way to be encouraged this morning than to spend some time soaking in the truth that I matter to Jesus…so much so that He gave His life to make a way for me to have relationship with Him, His Father, and The Spirit.

Faithfully Forsaken

Mark 15

“My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”  Those were the last words of Jesus. At that moment, he was alone.  He could feel it in his soul.  It was empty and hollow.  The pain was too much to bear.  The physical torture had taken its toll, not to mention the mental anguish.  Just yesterday, his best friends betrayed him.  Not only did they hand him over, but they also denied knowing him.  Even the political system didn’t go in his favor.  Pilate took the simple and self-serving route.  He could have set him free.  He didn’t.  No help.  No people, no angels, no God.

Maybe you have been there?  The circumstances of life have stacked against you and they just keep coming.  Perhaps your friends have betrayed you, just like Jesus.  Maybe it’s illness or financial pressure that keeps you from living a joy-filled life.  It could be death.  For many, it’s more than one at the same time.   That is when we cry, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

Do those words signal the end of our faith?  Are they the suggestion that we have found such ongoing despair that we no longer believe God is good?  Maybe not.  According to John Calvin, these are words of strong faith.  It is only the faithful, in fact, that are able to question God in this manner.  It stems from the foundation of promises that God made to us.  We cry out because we know them to be true.  We want them to be true, we need them to be true.  They are true.

Today, we know that Jesus’ death was temporary (1 Corinthians 15:4).  We know that He now sits at the right hand of God (acts 7:55).  Because of this, we also know that God’s delay was temporary.  It was perfect.  Just enough that Christ would facilitate our redemption.  Today, it is this redemption that we build our lives upon.  While it may not relieve us from the troubles of this world, it does assure that we can have peace, hope, and love, today, forever, and always.

Forgiveness Modeled by Jesus

Last month, I wrote about Matthew 27, the capture, conviction, and crucifixion of Jesus.  The book of Matthew was written by one of Jesus’ closest confidants and a disciple who followed Jesus during His teachings and witnessed the events of Jesus’ life.

Today, I write about Mark 14.  Mark, also called John Mark, was an early evangelist of the church with Paul.  He is known to have traveled with Paul and Barnabas to spread the Gospel after Jesus’ death and resurrection

Mark 14 outlines the plot to kill Jesus and the final days He spent with His disciples before His capture.  What weights heavy on my heart about this chapter is the betrayal Jesus knew would happen from His closest confidants and yet He still forgave them.

Jesus spoke on Mark 14:18 “assuredly, I say to you, one of you who eats with Me with betray Me.”  During the Passover meal, Jesus knew that Judas would turn Him over to the Jewish authorities. Scripture tells us that Judas was one of the original twelve disciples, and he traveled with Jesus for three years during Jesus’ ministry.  Three years of travel and companionship with anyone would assumedly lead to a productive and positive relationship.  We would suppose that Judas supported Jesus in His ministry and was a confidant of Jesus.  One would think Jesus would grow to know, trust, and like Judas during their ministry.

In Mark 14:30, Jesus said to Peter, “assuredly, I say to you that today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny Me three times.”  Peter was identified in the Bible as one of the closest confidants of Jesus amongst the disciples, as mentioned in Mark 14:33 when Jesus went to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane “And he took Peter, James, and John with Him, and He began to be troubled and deeply distressed.”  Hours before His capture, He brought Peter with Him, knowing the entire time that Peter would “turn his back” on Jesus and deny knowing Him on three separate occasions.

Has someone betrayed you?  Have you been hurt in a relationship, physically, emotionally, or mentally?  The pain caused by the betrayal from others can be devastating and sometimes, life-altering.  Each of us has our own story with likely very good reason to resent, dislike, or mistrust a person. We might resent the way they treated us, abused us, disregarded our relationship, our trust, our friendship, and might have damaged any possible future relationship with them. Unfortunately, carrying the burden or “baggage” from that betrayal can derail our lives. Perhaps we allow one incident to steal our trust, joy, belief, or even happiness in future relationships.  It is difficult to be hurt and not allow that hurt to carry over to other areas of our lives.

But then we read in Mark 14:24, when Jesus institutes the Lord’s Supper and He said, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many.”   At the very same table with Judas and Peter, Jesus forgave them.  He introduced the Lord’s Supper as the act to recognize the “new covenant.”  Luke 22:19-20 describes this event in a bit more detail in verse 19 And He took bread, gave thanks, and broke it, and gave it to them, saying “This is My body which his given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Verse 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying “this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.”

The new covenant was God’s commitment to forgive us of our sins, through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  We can be assured that God forgives us of our sins, no matter how awful, if we confess our sins and ask for forgiveness.  The new covenant provides us the opportunity to spend eternity in Heaven, when we commit to and believe that Jesus died on the cross for our sins.  What a magnificent gift we have been given, for free.

So, during His final hours on earth, knowing that He would be betrayed by two of His closest confidants, He forgave them.  He not only forgave them, but He gave them communion teaching them how to forgive others.

Yes, forgiveness is hard.  We may forgive but we may never forget.  That’s ok but we must resolve and absolve hatred, resentment, animosity, and strife for others.  Jesus modeled for us, hours before His death, the ultimate gesture of forgiveness.  Perhaps we can muster the courage and confidence to forgive others, even when it might seem impossible at the time.

Signs

Mark 13 is a chapter of warnings, teachings, and great insight. Typically, I don’t like to think about the end of times or try to figure out what the tribulation means, let alone try to explain it to somebody else. So, I don’t. What I do is try to recognize the signs around me. Know what’s really going on, who people are, who I am.

I’m very careful about who I follow, what I follow, or just joining in with the crowd. When I first came to know Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior one of the very first things I understood was that I need to be alert and know what God’s word says. Know who I am. This is an ever-growing process for me. My morning time with God is assessing how am I doing in my relationship with God, am I following Him, or doing what I want to do, or not doing what I know God wants me to do.

Mark 13 warns us to watch out! Warns us of false Messiah‘s and false prophets. What does a false Messiah or false prophet look like, talk like? Anyone who suggests God‘s word is outdated, not relevant or not true is projecting themselves as a false prophet. They are leading people astray, getting them to think that they can do whatever they want and not listen to God‘s word. When people follow these false prophets, they are in danger of not being ready when Jesus comes again.

Professing Christians today old and young are living out of wedlock, engaging in premarital sex, abusing alcohol, smoking marijuana, involved in same-sex relationships and the list goes on and on. People lead astray others saying that these actions and lifestyles are “OK” If you don’t do anything to hurt someone else, or, if no one knows. This is not what God teaches in his word which we know is as relevant today as it ever has been. It’s our plumbob to measure everything in life with. If it goes against what God says, it is driving us away from God. Church attendance alone does not make us a Christian.

Maybe you struggle with 1 or more of these or other sins yourself, does that mean your out? Watch out who you listen to, some may suggest you are out of heaven because you ____________. Sometimes I can’t believe what I’ve done to the point of getting on my knees and confessing to God, praying Psalm 51, the Psalm David wrote after being confronted by the prophet Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba then having her husband killed. David pours out his heart in repentance to God and is forgiven. YES!!! I am forgiven if I’m repentant, recognize that God’s word is sovereign, relevant today and should be followed.

I need to read the signs correctly.

In the mid 70s there was a popular song called signs, the chorus goes:

Sign, sign
Everywhere a sign
Blockin’ out the scenery
Breakin’ my mind
Do this, don’t do that
Can’t you read the sign?

There are signs everywhere telling us we are wrong if we follow God’s word and are faithful to Him.

Blockin God’s truth,

Breakin minds from following God.

Telling us what to believe, what we can’t believe, what we can do and what we can’t do.

Do you see the signs?

Mark 12: Infinite, eternal

We can see differences in our world from finite to infinte (David LaFrance also referred to this on 7/27). To summarize or recap the context from my own perspective, we often think of finite: Winner vs. loser, good or bad, binary (ones and zeros), one or the other.

We put God in the finite box when we doubt his will, his word, his plans, his promises when something “seems” to not go our way. Mankind and even Satan thought of a finite God with the mindset that the death of Jesus was the end of God’s plan (alive vs. dead). But God showed himself to be infinite through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In today’s reading of Mark 12 the chief priests, scribes, elders, and Pharisees question Jesus in an attempt to trap him or prove him wrong in a finite context. Jesus in his infinite wisdom blew them all away each time, leaving the crowd speechless. Here are their various responses (which I’ve bolded for reference):

And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away. (Mark 12:12)

Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him. (Mark 12:17)

And when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And after that no one dared to ask him any more questions. (Mark 12:34)

And the great throng heard him gladly. (Mark 12:37b)

  • Reflect on the responses of those who heard Jesus real-time. What is our response? In what situations do we walk away and when do we hear him gladly?
  • In what ways do we also mistakenly attempt to make God “finite”? Hint: Our sins speak loudest.
  • Spend some time meditating on the infinite and eternal attributes of God. Praise him for what he has done, is doing, and will do in your life. A lowercase finite “god” doesn’t care about you but our infinite loving God loves you and seeks a personal relationship with you! Let him in your heart today.

What’s your “impossible”? Give it over to the God of the possible!

But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26)

Disheartened

Mark 10,11

Several years ago, the state of Illinois changed the title printed on real estate licenses.  Way back when I earned my license, it was titled “Real Estate Salesperson.”  Today, we get the more prestigious title of “Real Estate Broker.”   For some, this is a setup for heartache.  It happens in the first couple of trainings where newly minted licensees learn how to sell.  “Wait a minute.  I’m NOT a salesperson,” is the decree.  A shocking 50% of real estate agents drop out within the first year.  Why?  They become disheartened when they learn what it takes to be a successful salesperson.

The same is true of Christ-followers.  Today, in Mark 10:16-22, we read about the rich young ruler.  He came to Jesus excited.  So excited that he ran up to him.  He even knelt down in front of Jesus so that he could learn the secrets of eternal life.  Unfortunately, he got an answer that he didn’t like.  Jesus told him, simply and lovingly, go and sell all your possessions.  This, sadly, was not something the rich young ruler was willing to do.  The Bible says that upon hearing Jesus’ words, he went away disheartened and sorrowful.

Before you begin thinking that this does not apply to you, take a minute to reflect.  What, exactly, are you willing to endure to follow Christ? In today’s world, it is not unfathomable that you could lose your job for declaring Christ as king.  Is that why you keep quiet?  What about prison, or death?  I took a trip to Morrocco once where there was a real possibility for sharing my faith in Jesus.  It definitely gave me pause!

This was not the case for the disciples.  Instead, their amazement (Mark 10:32) of Christ led them to push through their fears and successfully live Christ-following lives.

Mark 9

Good morning! My family and I have been on vacation for the past week and we are soaking up the last bits of Summer 2021. We have been swimming, going to the beach, eating out, watching the Olympics,  and spending time with extended family. Late night ice cream runs have become a routine and the conversations on those trips have been sweet. Our kids are at the age where we truly enjoy their company and I have laid in bed many nights thanking God for His provision. As we head back home in a few days we will face the year head on and I anticipate things being busier than ever. I have enjoyed being home with them this summer and I am thinking a lot about what this year holds. My prayers are many and I look forward to seeing how God answers them. Most of the time God, in all His glory and wisdom,  changes my thoughts about situations instead of changing the actual situation. Which is always humbling. I know He will show up, but there is always the internal struggle of how, when, and unfortunately “if” He will. Are my concerns and requests really worthy of the creator of the Universe? 

In Mark 9:14-32 Jesus heals a boy with an evil spirit. The boy’s father brought him to Jesus because the boy had been tormented by an evil spirit from childhood. The disciples tried to drive out the spirit but they were unsuccessful. In Mark 9:22 the father comes to Jesus and says,  “But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us. ‘If you can?’, said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for him who believes’. Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!” And Jesus delivered the boy from the evil spirit.

Why couldn’t the disciples cast out the evil spirit on their own? They had cast out other demons in the past without any problem. Jesus told them in Mark 9:29 that  “this kind of spirit can only come out by prayer.”  This was a reminder to the disciples that their power over demonic spirits was from Jesus and not something they could do on their own. It required prayer and submission to Jesus. 

While my children are not suffering from the same issues as the boy in the chapter of Mark, I relate to the child’s father so much. “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” Since faith is never perfect, belief and unbelief are often mixed. We are always having to choose to trust and believe that Jesus is who He says He is and that His plans are perfect.  And He can help our doubts and unbelief if we ask. Even if things fall apart and do not go the way I want, I still believe that God is in charge. And by prayer I am able to fuel my faith and receive His power to carry on in His name. I do believe in the God who walks alongside us and continues to draw us close to Him in all circumstances. He never promised life would be easy and carefree, but His promise of life everlasting with Him is our ultimate victory. This year will have its mountain top moments and its valleys and I look forward to seeing God work in all the moments. 

 

 

What’s your Yeast?

Daily prayer is for obedience.  We keep an index card with Romans 12:2 written on it from a small group activity years ago.  The world has so much to offer.  An achievement-focused lifestyle can pridefully lift you to where you feel like nothing else matters.  In this breath of life until you realize our eternity.

Today’s Reading: Mark 8 (verse 15 & 34-37)

15 “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”

The world can infect and change your heart and mind.  The same pridefulness that the Pharisees and Herod held can be seen in our world today.  So I ask myself, do I provide lip service and merely admiring the truth?  Or am I singing praises and obeying the truth?  Pastor Charlie Welke rechallenged me this weekend as he talked about our “Domesticated Faith.”  I reflected on the finite nature of our world and the infinite power of God.  Am I allowing any yeast of the world to enter into my life? I prayerfully ask the Lord to search my heart, see if there is any offensive way, and lead me. Psalm 139:23-24

Author MaryLu Tyndall writes about the World system vs. God’s Truth.

The world says it’s all about you. God says it’s all about Him. 

The world says elevate yourself. God says to put others ahead of yourself. 

The world says grab as much power as you can. God says to be a servant. 

The world says to eat, drink, and be merry, for this is all there is. God says you are an eternal being, so be wise with your time. 

The world says the ends justify the means. God says the means will be judged in the end. 

The world says outward beauty is everything. God says those with inner beauty will shine at the end. 

The world says gather as many things as you can. God says only your treasure in Heaven will last. 

The world says truth is relative. God says I am the truth. 

The world says to be tolerant.  God says to call evil, evil. 

The world says it’s all about personal happiness. God says it’s all about personal sacrifice. 

The world says death is the end. God says death is only the beginning. 

 

Just as Jesus will warn us what to stay away from, he points us to the truth.

34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life[b] will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.

God Bless your day!

 

Living in the Margins

Today’s Reading Mark 7
Mark’s gospel is the first gospel that was written in the canon of the Bible. The remaining gospels are synoptic gospels which followed after Mark. The manner in which Mark originally wrote the gospel was from the perspective of the resurrection and retracing the steps of Christ throughout his life. Mark was a contemporary of the apostles Peter and Paul. Mark actually relates to us the life of Jesus from the crucifixion backwards through the miracles. Mark is telling us and showing us how Christ was human and divine throughout his life.
One of the main ways that Mark relays Christ’s divinity and humanity is by taking us inside the margins of Christ life. In Mark Chapter 7, we begin with a discussion between the Pharisees and Christ. In this particular scene, we are see the difference between the traditions and the heart. The Pharisees are caught up on the traditions of everything down to the cleansing of the hands before meals. Christ rebukes them and reveals to them that it is not the traditions and rituals that make us pure or defiled, but it is the heart that can corrupt the person. Christ took the disciples to the margins to reveal the truth about the heart verse the ritual. It’s not the grand things that we do, but the items on the margins of our life that defines us.
Throughout Mark, we see a couple of items were Jesus pulls individuals to everybody the side and gives them small tidbits and nuggets of inspiration and perform miracles. This can be an example for us where we can be with people and interact with our people but at the same time take time out on the margins of our life to do you have a little extra.
The next story, Christ has been with the multitude of the Jewish people. He then is approached by a woman who is on the complete fringes of society and the Jewish people. Many of the multitude “know” of Jesus and his power, but this woman believes and recognizes the full divinity held by Christ. He blesses her in the Margin of the crowd and she is overwhelmed with the miracles.
In the final portion of the chapter, Christ is presented with an man who is deaf and mute. Christ examines him in the presence of the crowd, but then takes him in private and blessed him in the Margins of the crowd. Christ then instructed the man to remain quite about the miracle. But he cannot contain his joy for being freed of his shackles.
In the chapters before and after this chapter Christ interacts with the people and loves the people, but he also takes time in the margins to connect with God to perform miracles to do amazing things in the presence of just a few.
Where in our lives are we being called to work in the margins? During the pandemic and during this current post pandemic era, are we still not addressing the margins of our life? Are we still staying with the crowds and not getting that renewal and refreshment from the margins? What are we not receiving while we are inside of the crowds and we need to be in the margins.
Be blessed.

Rest

A lot happens in the sixth chapter of Mark.  Jesus is rejected in his hometown.  He sends the 12 disciples on mission.  John the Baptist is killed.  Jesus feeds the five thousand and walks on water.  

It is a lot.  Kind of like our lives today.  We face seasons that are just a lot.  The disciples had to be exhausted during these days.  These 12 men had a difficult assignment.  They were commissioned by the Lord to travel in pairs, preaching repentance wherever they went.  Many places they visited they were not welcome.  

The 12 men were not allowed to take any sort of provision for their journey.  They were not even allowed to take a bag with them, no food, no money in their pocket, and not even a change of clothes.  They were to rely soley on God’s provision and His strength.  

During their time of ministry, the disciples didn’t even have time to eat.  Jesus knew how the pressures of ministry would affect them.  He knew what it was like to be tired and thirty, weary and worn out.  The disciples had been so busy ministering to others that they neglected their own bodily needs.  

Jesus knew what these men had been through, he recognized their fatigue.  

There was such a swirl of activity around Jesus, with so many people coming and going, that they were unable to even eat a meal.  So Jesus said to his disciples, “Come, let’s take a break and find a secluded place where you can rest a while.”

Mark 6:31 (TPT)

Just as these men were called to work, Jesus also called them to step aside and rest.  The disciples were facing many stresses.  Just read through the entire chapter of Mark 6 and you will get a glimpse of all these men endured.  Is our life any different?  Think of all that you have faced the past week, the past month, and I know what we have all faced the past year!  

We to need to hear Jesus’ words, “Come, let’s take a break”.  Life’s stresses and pressures can take a toll on our bodies as well as on our relationship with Jesus.  We have to take steps to make sure we take a break with Jesus!  We have to find the secluded place (more times than not, I find this alone in my car) and fix our eyes on Jesus.  Sometimes it is just sitting in His presence.  

With so many demands on our lives, it is easy to push Jesus to the side in the busyness we experience every day.  Jesus asks us to take a break and dwell on Him.  Do you have time to spend with Jesus today?  He will give you rest and refresh your soul.

“Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden?  Come to me.  I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.”  

Matthew 11:28