Prepare the way!

Happy Tuesday everyone ~ Enjoy this wonderful kickoff of Mark 1 shared by one of our awesome guest writers Kris Walker.   Prayers go out to all our readers and writers.

Prepare the Way!

Mark 1 prepares the way for something amazing! It’s a very brief description of some amazing events. I love how the gospels all focus on different things, their writing styles are all so different and where some focus, others don’t. I feel like we just got a cliff note version of some amazing events! There are so many things in this 1 chapter to take in! It really makes you want to reference all the stories in depth! It was a hard decision what to focus on. So, I had to pick a couple.

The first one, I love the stories of healing and cleansing of demons! What an amazing show of our Father’s power!

“21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us,Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.”

I know it seems silly to make such an amazing point on this, but not only did he make the demon come out, but he silenced it!  I have 4 children, NOT demon possessed, and I can’t ever get them to be silent! Our father SHUT THE MOUTH of a demon! Which we know isn’t a big feat for our God, but can you imagine seeing that in person?? This “man” just told a demon to come out, and told him to shut his mouth, and a demon was forced to listen! What a truly all powerful God we have! I can’t imagine being a member of that crowd and actually seeing this! It would be mind blowing!

“27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.”28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.”

Clearly it made an impression! But another thing is learned about was his power. It’s a loving power, he healed so many people, and even when he wanted seclusion, he still ended up being called to teach the word, and healed people!

The application for me in this is: What am I doing with my power to help those in need? Not only in our community, but in my own home. Jesus was tired and wanted seclusion, but still did his Father’s work! When I’m tired and want seclusion, I tell everyone to leave me alone and let me rest. I have so much to learn, and have so much growing to do. This really stresses to me that I need to strive more daily to be more Christ like and serve my family more.

My other big take away from this is about John and then Jesus’s first disciples. John prepared the way! His job was to tell about Jesus coming. And he did just that! He did not shrink back. He went forth preaching about Jesus coming and baptized in his name!

“4 And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.”

He did all this for Jesus and never once questioned it, and always gave honor to the right place!

“8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

What an amazing example. We then get a glimpse of Jesus getting his first disciples, and the immediately follow him. He biggest part of this for me is:

What am I doing to make disciples? It is our calling! It’s what we are meant to do! Who am I helping in my community? Who am I encouraging to follow our God? Am I being a true disciple?

I know there is so much more to get out of this chapter, but those were my main thoughts after reading through Mark 1. It really just makes me want to be a better servant at home, and a better disciple in my community.

Prayerfully,  we can all strive to do the same!

Dear God, we pray for continued wisdom in our writing as we share your words and not our own. We pray that you continue to guide us in this journey, guide and protect our families, and give us courage to share with others the great news of Jesus through these gospels.  We love you, praise you, and thank you for sending your son to be born, live a life on earth, model your ways, die, and conquer death for us for our sins.  Amen


The Great Stone Face

stonefaces6Deuteronomy 28:20–68; Psalm 119:25–48; Isaiah 55; Matthew 3

In 2011, I attended the Global Leadership Summit.  On the second day, after hearing a half dozen amazing speakers and leaders, the host Bill Hybels, introduced a sweet, unassuming woman named Maggie Gobran. His summary of her life was brief and, as I recall, unremarkable. He explained how Maggie answered God’s calling on her life.  She was to serve the poorest of the poor in Cairo. In obedience, she gave up her upper-middle class life as an academic to become a servant to the children in the slums of Cairo.  She founded an organization called Stephen’s Children that had become world-class. Her efforts even earned her a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. As Bill left the stage, all eyes were keenly focused on Maggie, eager to hear her story and to glean her leadership genius.

Words cannot describe the next several minutes. I remember standing, looking down on the stage and thinking about how small she was. Maybe 5’ tall and 80 pounds. I didn’t see an ear to ear grin, nor did I see a face of anger. I saw depth. As she stood there silently, applause erupted, bringing every person to their feet. Clearly, Maggie was someone special. Rather than dissipating like a normal standing ovation, this one continued to grow. The energy in the room had a presence. As the applause gave way to silence, she knelt and bowed her head. It was as if all the love in the world existed in that single auditorium. The best I can say is that it radiated from her, touching the core of every soul, overpowering even the hardest of hearts.  Dry eyes were impossible.

I can’t help but wonder if John the Baptist was a bit like Maggie Gobran. Based on the description in today’s reading, he wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, most people would never notice him, just like Maggie. Even crazier, “John’s food was locusts and wild honey” (Matthew 3:4 ESV). Despite John’s oddities and seemingly repellent characteristics, people flocked to him, just like Maggie. This is the important thing. What is it that was drawing the people and where did it come from?

You probably already know the answer to that question. Of course, you are going to answer Jesus, right? To be honest, I am not happy with that answer. Of course, I believe that it is the right one, but it’s too simple. The answer is trite. It does not solve the riddle of how I get it. How do I get a pure heart that goes irresistibly into the world? I found the answer to that question in a short story that was originally presented to me by Dr. JK Jones. In his book What the Monks Can Teach Us, he summarizes Nathaniel Hawthorn’s story of The Great Stone Face. The story was so impactful for me that I wanted to share it with you exactly as Dr. Jones has written it in his book.

Hawthorne describes a people living in a valley, shadowed and surrounded by a huge rock formation. The rocks are shaped together in such a manner that if viewed from a proper distance, a great face can be seen. The face appears divine. It seems to express both warmth and sweetness while embracing all people who look upon it. Hawthorne’s main character, Ernest, is a man who has gazed upon the Great Stone Face day after day and year after year. His mother first passed on to Ernest the ancient legend when he was a boy. According to the story there would one day come an incarnation of the great rock. Throughout the narrative rumors surface that a man has appeared who resembles the great stone face. First, Mr. Gathergold, a shrewd and active man whose name identifies his chief ambition in life, is thought to be fulfillment of the prophecy. Though the people of the valley want ot believe that Gathergold is the image of the great face, Ernest knows he is not. Later, a war hero, Old Blood-and-Thunder, is heralded to be the one in whom the likeness is seen. Again, Ernest recognizes what the crowd does not. The general is only a war-worn, weather-beaten hero. Years go by, the people have settled down and now are able to admit the previous two men were not the prophecy’s fulfillment. A third character appears in the story, Old Stony Phiz, a man in whom is found a magical oratory skill. His spoken words are like the sweetest music ever heard. As is expected, the people of the valley once again see in this man the Great Stone Face, and once again Ernest is disappointed. Time reveals that Ernest is correct and the people in error. Years pass by. Ernest is quite old. People come to him from all over seeking the understanding of this simple man that cannot be found in books. From college professors to statesmen they visit with this gentle, sincere soul. One last time Ernest hopes he will meet that special one who has been foretold. A poet does appear that Ernest admires greatly, but both the poet and Ernest realize he is not the one. The story closes with Ernest being asked by neighboring villagers to speak to them and while the golden sun is setting, both the poet and people recognize what Ernest has not and cannot. Ernest, himself, is the fulfillment of the Great Stone Face! In his humility, constant gaze, and unquenchable seeking he has become that which he sought.

As far as I can tell, Maggie Gobran, John the Baptist, even Hawthorn’s Ernest became irresistible in the same way.  In fact, it’s true for all of us.  We become what we seek and serve every day.

When you are ready to seek hard after God, check out this awesome program presented by Dr. JK Jones and the incredible faculty at Lincoln Christian University.