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.

By what Authority?

Today’s Reading : Matthew 21
Why do we have do this? Where are we going? You are not the boss of me? Who put you in charge? For what purpose are we doing this project? Who do they think they are? If I was in charge things would be better. These are a few of the comments that we make or we hear on a daily basis.  We hear these at home, or at the office, or with friends. We are always trying to figure out who has the authority and in what respect are they utilizing their authority in a proper way.
In Matthew chapter 21, we are diving deeper behind the scenes of what is actually happening. This is the time of Passover. Jesus is setting up the new covenant with the disciples. He is fulfilling the scriptures on many levels. We are opening the chapter with one of the most triumphant scenes in Christian history. This is when Christ is coming into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover before his crucifixion.
Matthew shows a snippet of that procession of the Hosanna processional during  Palm Sunday. But Mathew also dives deeper into several images of authority throughout this chapter. I believe that Matthew is showing us the different aspects of Christ authority in all realms of our life.
The first is authority over the Scriptures. We see how Christ shows his authority of the donkey and the Colts being picked up. When the people ask what authority do you take these animals he says “the Lord needs them”.
Matthew shows us Jesus authority over nature when he approaches the fig tree. All creation was made by God through Christ and the Holy Spirit. All nature falls before and gives praises to Jesus and God in all forms. When Jesus approaches this fig tree and the mere presence of his being does not produce any fruit or any praise worthy of Christ, Jesus condemns the tree. It is an act of authority over nature. With the word that he speaks the tree literally withers from a majestic big tree into a sapling and dies. Jesus demonstrates his authority over nature by his words.
And the next piece of authority Jesus shows is his authority over worship. During this time of Passover which only happens once a year this is a very special and very holy event. The act of preparing for the Passover is one that is dictated in the laws of Moses.  There cannot be any corners cut. Everything has to be exact. But the people have become complacent in their worship and they are not devoting their complete love and devotion to God. They are purchasing the things that are supposed to be procured or harvested by themselves. They have become complacent in their worship of God. They are purchasing the things that they did not take time to give into worship God in the temple. Jesus is showing his authority by cleaning the temple from the complacency. We have to acknowledge this at us that we need to clean out our complacency and I worship and give Jesus and God therefore worship.
In these examples of authority we have to recognize the authority Christ has in our lives.  I asked that we acknowledge respect him from what the prophets have told us. We have to see that all nature will shows who has the authority over all.   From every ounce of worship that we give to him we must remember not to become complacent because he has the full authority over us.  He has all the authority and the glory and the power.
Be Blessed

Dig Deeper

 

Today’s Reading: Matthew Chapter 5

As I continue in Biblejournal club, I have continue to grow in my understanding of each blog and each biblical passage. As we enter this new section of the year with the New Testament, I can see each portion in a different perspective. For the majority of my life I have seen the books of the New Testament as the journey of Jesus and the apostles. It tells the different perspectives of Jesus and the many journeys of Paul and his letters to the churches.
As I read through Matthew, my perception has changed and evolve into one that really looks at the author and their experience and their testimony of Jesus and how it relates to me and others today. Each of the writers of the gospel have been appointed by the Holy Spirit to relay the gospel to us, but each had their own backgrounds and those influenced the manner in which they conveyed their experience. Matthew was originally a tax collector. We know that this is a profession that is still not highly adored. The reason is because they have been taught how to look for the most obscure information and gain the most wealth from it. He knew how to dig deep. Matthew in his writing digs deep into some of these experiences of Jesus.
In chapter 5, we are at the sermon in the mount. The beatitudes are given to us here. But in The Message version these become so much clearer and more profound. Jesus is telling us to look deeper at the law and find the true underlying meaning. We sometimes get the crust of the issue, but not the core.
Matthew 5: 3- 10

 “You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Salt and light – Allow our life with God to be the seasonings to the others. We should be able to bring the essence of God through our walk.  We should enhance the love and life of others if we are part of God.
Murder – Not only killing the physical person, but stop killing the essence of the person. Don’t degrade your neighbor or kill their spirit.
Adultery and Divorce – these are not just the act, but the moral complexity that are attached. Jesus is telling us not to get raped up with the legal ramifications but look at the moral implications. He is telling us to see the heart more so than the body. The spirit and the soul more than the act.
Empty promises – When we interact with each other, do not put on a facade. Let your words be true and not contrite with useless hopes and religious platitudes. Be real with others and not fake.
Love your enemies – Do good to those that would bro you harm or have done you harm. Loving your enemies doesn’t mean to put yourself in harms way, but it means to not allow hatred and despair make you do things that you wouldn’t want to do. Loving your enemies allows you to control your emotions and actions in the midst of adversity and strife.
In the midst of our daily lives, we have to look at the deeper meaning of the journey.  When we experience joy and happiness, we must look deeper to give the same joy and happiness to others even.  They might be experiencing something traumatic in their lives.  If we are going through some difficult times, we may have to dig deeper to see how is this glorifying God in the midst of our trials.  Sometimes God uses us to be reflections of his amazing grace and love in our most tremulous times.  God is in control, we will show his glory.
Be Blessed.

The Lord is Righteous

Psalms 129

“Greatly[a] have they afflicted me from my youth”—
    let Israel now say—
“Greatly have they afflicted me from my youth,
    yet they have not prevailed against me.
The plowers plowed upon my back;
    they made long their furrows.”
The Lord is righteous;
    he has cut the cords of the wicked.
May all who hate Zion
    be put to shame and turned backward!
Let them be like the grass on the housetops,
    which withers before it grows up,
with which the reaper does not fill his hand
    nor the binder of sheaves his arms,
nor do those who pass by say,
    “The blessing of the Lord be upon you!
    We bless you in the name of the Lord!”

This is one of many songs that is in the Septuagint. This psalm was originally song while making one of the three mandatory annual pilgrimages which is written about in Deuteronomy Chapter 16: The Passover, the Feast of Weeks, and the Feast of Booths. Each of these pilgrimages were to call the people of God back to their main place of worship. This was a way of returning and remembering the goodness and providence of God. The Septuagint consists of the psalms 119-133.

In our western practice of Christianity, these have been used in daily prayers, particularly in the monastic and vesper practices. These prayers are still practiced today in many monasteries and convents. They are part of the three, seven, or nine daily prayers. In these prayers it is similarly the original Hebrew prayers, it is remembering a time in which we were oppressed as a religion and now we have the freedom under God to worship.

In childhood and throughout our lives we all have been the victim of bullies and verbal abuse. Sometimes it is passive, but others times it is overt and harsh. This teasing or demeaning behaviors can have some harsh and irrevocable effects on the individual. We are currently transitioning into a more open and accepting world, but bullying and teasing are still current. We as adults have to listen and console our children and others who are subjected to this unjust behavior. We have to encourage our sons and young men to be sensitive to others needs and be affectionate to others without any stigmas or questions of their masculinity. We need to enrich our daughters in the ways of engineering and backcountry knowledge and help them to become reliable in all situations without a question of their femininity. This psalm reaches out to us to remember our youth and allows us to be emboldened to not have the same ignorance of our past to dictate that of our children. This psalm teaches us to not forget the past but to remember and then move forward.

The main portion of this psalm is hidden in the middle: THE LORD IS RIGHTEOUS. No matter what has afflicted us in the past or what we think should be of the ones that afflicted us, God is righteous and his grace will be given to us all the time. No matter what has been done to us or held from us, we cannot allow this to shape who we are in God’s eyes. He alone is righteous and give this to us. Let us remember the times of our youth: the good, bad, and the ugly. These times make us who we are because God used his righteous to keep us righteous for His sake.

Power in brevity

John 11:35 

Jesus wept. 

This is the shortest verse in the bible.  It has some of the most powerful imagery and connotation that can be given in the Bible.  This is one of the most excruciating moments in Jesus life.  It is summed up in two words.

I have in the past miscounted the simple terms and phrases, but as I reflect on these items I have found they are the most profound.  I have also miscounted the sequences of name and events of their importance.  This is something that we have been conditioned in our society to do.  We have associated brevity as something simple and non-complex.  We have associated the last as the least of the group.

But Christ has changed the system completely.  In the simplest items he has given us the most complex entity  :  Blood :: Salvation. He has also changed the way we see order.  The Spirit of God is not the least of the persons of God, but the unifying presence of the Father and the Son.  The Spirit also unifies time: The Spirit was there in the beginning; in the creation of man; in the conception of Christ; in the resurrection of Christ; in the conversion of Paul; and in us today.

Psalms 117 

Praise the Lord, all nations!
    Extol him, all peoples!
For great is his steadfast love toward us,
    and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
Praise the Lord!  

This psalm is the shortest chapter in the Bible. It also is the exact middle chapter of the Bible.   It is so powerful in many ways.  Let us not discount this chapter due to its brevity, but let us mediate on this to see how powerful and amazing God will use this chapter in us.

Let this be our anthem for the week; the summer; and the remainder of the year.

Be Blessed

The Shema

Ten things that I have taken for granted is the past:
  • Kissing my kids and wife daily and telling them I love them
  • Talking with my parents and mentors often
  • Taking a shower (hot or warm water that is easily accessible)
  • Having the ability to do laundry whenever I need
  • Being able to walk and move without hesitation
  • Having a job and the ability to get there without any problems
  • Being able to go to the restroom without assistance
  • Being able to sit with my children and just be in their presence
  • Being able to breathe
  • The Lord’s Prayer
By no means is this a complete list, I would not be able to contain the items in finite pages.
Every day we are given blessings that we are not aware or don’t acknowledge. Over the last several years, I have been more aware of my blessings that God has instilled upon my family, my friends, and myself. Sometimes, I take for granted the waking up in my bed or being able to walk from my bed to the restroom or to the kitchen without assistance. Currently, the patients that I serve want to do these activities, but are physically incapable of performing these tasks. When we become more aware and attentive to our surroundings and our privileges, then we are more appreciative of the small things that causes us to be where we are and where we have come from. I have found the more that I am reminded of God’s glory in my everyday life, the more I can give Him more praise and give it unconditionally.
Psalms 105 is a reminder of the hidden blessings that we can take for granted. This psalm is an echo and reminder of the Shema: Deuteronomy 6. The author of this psalm is reminding Israel of the complete promise and fulfillment of the Promise that God gave Abraham. He would give the people of Israel a land that was full of blessings and all they had to do was to enter and remember God’s provisions.
When I first encountered this psalm, I had the feeling of deja vu. As we have prayed through and reflected in the Psalms we are reminded of the promise and liberation and joy of the God. This particularly echos the Shema because in Deuteronomy 6:6-12 it is a statute that we must remember and not take for granted our current situation.
Deuteronomy 6:6-12

Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night. Tie them on your hands and foreheads as a reminder; inscribe them on the doorposts of your homes and on your city gates.

10-12 When God, your God, ushers you into the land he promised through your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob to give you, you’re going to walk into large, bustling cities you didn’t build, well-furnished houses you didn’t buy, come upon wells you didn’t dig, vineyards and olive orchards you didn’t plant. When you take it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don’t forget how you got there—God brought you out of slavery in Egypt.

Each of our current situations, God is in the midst and providing all our needs. Our current situation could be better and it could be worst. We must allow ourselves to see what God is doing and remember what he has brought us through. We must also remember when we are in the wilderness at different times in our lives, God will fulfill his promises if we allow Him to show us in his time.
The main sustenance of Psalms 105 is summed up in the last part of the verse : When you take it it all in and settle down, pleased and content, make sure you don’t forget how you got there.
Be Blessed

The Roaring Sea

Psalm 93 (The Message)

1-2 God is King, robed and ruling,
God is robed and surging with strength.

    And yes, the world is firm, immovable,
    Your throne ever firm—you’re Eternal!

3-4 Sea storms are up, God,
Sea storms wild and roaring,
Sea storms with thunderous breakers.

    Stronger than wild sea storms,
    Mightier than sea-storm breakers,
    Mighty God rules from High Heaven.

What you say goes—it always has.
“Beauty” and “Holy” mark your palace rule,
God, to the very end of time.

Since the beginning of time the seas have always intrigue us. The immense size and depth of the waters continue to perplex us even today. There are many areas and places in the oceans and seas that still have not been discovered. Approximately five percent of the total oceans have been explored. The same can be stated about the many seas that we have on earth. The seas and the oceans have one particular predictability: they can have calm or storms at a moment’s notice and these two (peace and chaos) can happen simultaneously on the same body of water at two different locations.

There are several seas that are referenced in the Bible. Two particular seas are the Red Sea and the Sea of Galilee. These bodies of water are places of many miracles. For the Red Sea one of the first major miracles was performed by Moses delivering the Israelites from Egypt. On the sea of Galilee there was several miracles that shown by Christ. On the Sea of Galilee, Jesus shows himself to the disciples in the night and Peter understands Christ power as he walks on water. The other miracle is when the disciples are in dismay and angst during the tempest and storm. During the storm Christ is slumbering and has to be woken by the disciples. When he awakens, he silenced the storm with a whisper and a flick of the hand. These are some of the ways God shows us magnificent power over the most complex part of nature. He shows us that He is all powerful and able to control the things where we still do not understand but only 5% of the waters.

This particular psalm is meaningful to me this past week, this past month, and this past year. The Lord reigns over everything and can be heard, even over the roaring and raging seas. The seas of life are raging everywhere. Sometimes we can not hear the love and peace that God has for us because we are listening to the sea and not His voice. In the midst of the roar, we have to remember that Jesus was able to rest in the storm because he knew whom he belonged and who has the power over all things. This coming week, I will rest in Him who has the voice that pierces over the roar of the sea. He who can give me utter peace in the storm. How will you react to the roaring seas this week?

Be blessed

Are we listening?

 

Psalm 81 6-16

    I hear this most gentle whisper from One
    I never guessed would speak to me:

6-7 “I took the world off your shoulders,
    freed you from a life of hard labor.
You called to me in your pain;
    I got you out of a bad place.
I answered you from where the thunder hides,
    I proved you at Meribah Fountain.

8-10 “Listen, dear ones—get this straight;
    O Israel, don’t take this lightly.
Don’t take up with strange gods,
    don’t worship the popular gods.
I’m God, your God, the very God
    who rescued you from doom in Egypt,
Then fed you all you could eat,
    filled your hungry stomachs.

11-12 “But my people didn’t listen,
    Israel paid no attention;
So I let go of the reins and told them, ‘Run!
    Do it your own way!’

13-16 “Oh, dear people, will you listen to me now?
Israel, will you follow my map?
I’ll make short work of your enemies,
give your foes the back of my hand.
I’ll send the God-haters cringing like dogs,
never to be heard from again.
You’ll feast on my fresh-baked bread
spread with butter and rock-pure honey.”

Happy Easter.
God is awesome.
He has given us the amazing opportunity to experience his love and joy. For most of my life I had the perception that Easter was only one day. I knew it as Resurrection Sunday. But as I grew older, I found that Easter was not just a day but it is a season that spans over 40 days after the resurrection of Christ.
In this psalm we see that God is speaking to the children of Israel. In God‘s beautiful providence, he is showing it as directly after the Passover. We are completing the Passover. This is Psalm is directly to speaking to us today. In this song God is telling us again about his love for us and how he has provided for us and how He will continue to provide for us. The one thing you have to remember as his children we need to LISTEN to his direction.
There are so many times in my life where I’ve had my mentors and family members tell me a story. They can tell the story several times. The story can be told so many times it can become an inside joke. We have heard stories so many times that we can tell it word-for-word from the person telling the story. One thing that we cannot do is miss the underlying meaning . We have to acknowledge the story but also remember and analyze the story each time it is told.
In this song the children from Israel have been out of Egypt for several centuries. The meaning of the Passover is to remember the deliverance that God gave their ancestors. But over the years they have forgotten what God has done for them. In this song they are re-telling the story to make sure that we listen.
It is Easter, we have the joy of the resurrection and the blood. Are we listening? What is God telling us? This Easter we were able to celebrate with others, but last Easter we were sheltering in place. This Easter we can celebrate open, last Easter we could not touch each other. This Easter we are able to celebrate at church, last year we were fearful of touching or breathing on each other. What has God revealed to you in this last year and how will it change your relationship with Him? Will we have to have another awakening with verse and psalm centuries from now?
Be blessed.

Why are there enemies?

Enemies.
We all have tried to erase or mitigate the things that are in opposition to us or our interest. It is natural to avoid conflict and come to resolution. In Psalms 69, we are presented with a real dire situation with David. He is being overwhelmed with so many adversaries that he is in complete desperation.
He does not have a friend or any person that can help him. Every where he looks he cannot find any assistance or aid. He then turns to God and acknowledges his weaknesses and sins and is aware of the consequences of these sins.
The themes that are echoed throughout these verses are:

Psalm 69: 4

More in number than the hairs of my head
    are those who hate me without cause;
mighty are those who would destroy me,
    those who attack me with lies.
What I did not steal
    must I now restore?

  • When we are in relationship with God the world will be against us. The relationship with God stops us from having a true relationship with the things of this world: list, hate, greed, loss, frustration, etc. When the world recognizes that this relationship has been severed it then comes against us. The world has become our “enemy” since God has become our main focus. Psalm 23: 5 , in order to be blessed you have to have enemies.   Psalms 23:5 : You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

Psalm 69: 5; 19-20

O God, you know my folly;
    the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

You know my reproach,
    and my shame and my dishonor;
    my foes are all known to you.
 Reproaches have broken my heart,
    so that I am in despair.

  • After David tells his situation, he acknowledges his own sins. He recognized that God is the supreme judge and justifier. He knows that man would only give him grace when it is appropriate and good for the other. In the light of God’s eye, the justification is genuine and permanent. No matter how many issues that we face, when we believe in God and the price that Christ paid for us, we will be able to acknowledge all that is wrong in us and have the peace that God can cover all of our transgressions and downfalls .

Psalms 69: 30-31

I will praise the name of God with a song;
    I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

 This will please the Lord more than an ox
    or a bull with horns and hoofs

  • God wants your heart, not the sacrifice. So many times we attempt to do things and make sacrifices to gain better standing with God. But God doesn’t want our deeds, he wants our heart. He wants us to have the relationship with Him and not the objects of sacrifice. Sometimes we get into the “doing” of the things and try to check them off. But we forget why we are doing these “things”. God wants us to remember why we are doing the things for him. What is the mission behind the journey? How will this sacrifice bring God glory?
How can we see the blessings in the midst of our enemies? How can we acknowledge our downfalls to God? How can we bring back the mission to our sacrifices?
Be blessed.

In the face of fear

Psalm 57: 1-3 

Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me,

    for in you my soul takes refuge;

in the shadow of your wings I will take refuge,

    till the storms of destruction pass by.

I cry out to God Most High,

    to God who fulfills his purpose for me.

He will send from heaven and save me;

    he will put to shame him who tramples on me. 

Selah

God will send out his steadfast love and his faithfulness!

 

During our time traveling through the Psalms, we have seen many faces of David revealed in his songs. We have seen joy and adoration. We have seen sorrow and despair. We have seen adultery and murder. In this song we see a different face of David, this is his face and attitude in the presence of fear.

In the beginning of the David story, we see David as a strong young man with confidence and strength. David is on the front lines of the Israelites war, where the entire army of the Israelites are shaking with terror.  But David is strong in his determination to win the battle against Goliath. This courage has been conveyed over the ages as a pinnacle part of courage in the face of fear. In his later years David also experiences fear when his son is king and David is exiled from his kingdom.

But in Psalm 57, this experience of fear is when David is being pursued by Saul the king of Israel. At this time Saul is David’s father-in-law.  David has served as a major general in Saul’s army.  David has been his personal musician.  David is Jonanthan’s best friend.   David knows that king Saul has been anointed by God. Because of this David will not raise a hand against him.  Saul relentlessly pursues David for an extended amount of time upto the point where David hides in the cave.  In this cave, Saul comes within inches of death and harm from David, but David spares his life.  

Psalm 57 illustrates how God protects us in the face of certain death and fear. The only way I can equivocate this setting is if you are standing in front of a tiger who is three feet from you but the tiger does not see you and he does not harm you. The overwhelming presence of that fear can immobilize a person or cause so much fear that the person falls dead. But when God is with us he protects us and gives us calm and peace in the fear.  God protects David in such a way that he blinds the threat and allows no harm to come to David.

There are many people currently that are experiencing such terror and fear in the direct face of opposition and they try to run or fight and do not succeed. This psalm is telling us that when we actually believe that God is in control and He is true to his promise.  We can literally stare at anything that threatens us and be calm. This is not only physical, emotionally, mentally,  financially or spiritually. He is able to comfort us and allow us to rest in the midst of adversity and condemnation if we are in him.

Because of this I am able to smile every day despite what is happening around me. I hope that the Spirit will allow you to rest in him as well.