Doing Jesus a Favor

Here are a few excerpts of passages from Mark 9-10. Yesterday, I preached a sermon on “Doing Jesus a Favor.” The 12 disciples were committed to following Jesus, and had a lot of great intentions, but their heads were not screwed on straight yet. Jesus had to transform their hearts, and that was going to take a lot of time and events, not to mention the working of the Holy Spirit in their hearts.

The disciples were impressed with a lot of the wrong things. The disciples also many times tried to do Jesus a favor, but Jesus always had another idea for what He wanted from them.

“Let us make 3 tents…” (Mark 9:5). Peter thought it would be great to make 3 tents to memorialize the incredible event of Moses, Elijah and Jesus meeting together. God had different ideas – what God wanted was for Peter to listen to Jesus.

For on the way they had argued with one another about who was the greatest (Mark 9:33-34). Jesus had just told them He was going to be tortured and killed, and it led into a discussion of who the greatest disciple is. Question, are we doing Jesus a favor by serving Him? Jesus says that the greatest in the kingdom will be like a little child.

“We tried to stop him” (Mark 9:38; see also Numbers 11:26-29 & Luke 9:49-56). John thought he was doing Jesus a favor by excluding and stopping others because they were not “following” them. We are not doing Jesus a favor by having a sectarian spirit. Of course, God expects us to stand for truth and to preach sound doctrine, but Jesus wants us to have humble hearts and merciful attitudes toward others.

…and the disciples rebuked them (Mark 10:13). Again the disciples thought they were doing Jesus a favor by keeping the little children away from Jesus. Here is one of a few occasions where Jesus was angry. In fact, the word is “indignant.” Jesus was not impressed by this, He was really angry that His disciples were looking at others, especially kids, in this way.

Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28). Jesus did commend His disciples for leaving everything to follow Him, and He will reward anyone who makes such a sacrifice, but remember that we are not doing Jesus a favor by leaving all to follow Him. Jesus had to remind Peter of a couple things: one is that those rewards come “with persecutions,” and two is that the “first will be last and the last will be first” (Mark 10:30-31).

“Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you” (Mark 10:35). Notice that two times in Mark 10, Jesus asked the question, “What do you want Me to do for you?” (Mark 10:36,51). The first time He asked James and John, and they asked for the vice-president seats. James and John wanted the best seats and positions in the kingdom. The second time Jesus asked this question, it was of the blind man named Bartimaeus. He simply requested in faith for his sight to be restored. The heart of Bartimaeus in his request was 180 degrees opposite from the heart of James and John.

So, where is our heart today? Are we committed to doing “great” things for Jesus. Do we want to do Jesus a favor? Remember that what Jesus is looking for is humility, service and genuine faith. Jesus wants us to see with His eyes when we see others. Instead of arguing who the greatest is, realize that this discussion already has an answer – it is Jesus.

Lessons from 9 and 10 year olds

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
(Mark 10:13-16)

Last week as I was part of a camp, I spent a lot of time with the 9 and 10 year old kids. One of my blessings last week was to teach their Bible class. I truly believe they taught me more than I taught them.

I just wanted to share a couple of things I learned from them last week.

  1. They had a hunger for the word of God. Our Bible class was at 3:10 in the afternoon and these kids had been going strong with activities all day long in the very hot summer weather. Yet, they came alert, ready and excited to study God’s word. They were engaged; they participated, they asked questions. It reminded me of the story of Jesus at 12 (see Luke 2).
  2. Their understanding, knowledge and ability to apply the word of God was a beauty to behold. For a majority of these kids that participated in class, the understanding of God’s word was in no way elementary or shallow. It showed in their comments and questions, they were very familiar with the Scriptures and the principles God wants us to learn from it.

As Jesus said in the passage above in Mark 10, the kingdom of God is made from hearts like these 9-10 year olds. If these young men and women can have such a hunger for God’s word, then those who are older can have it too. If these 9-10 year olds can understand the word of God and what it takes to please God, then God’s word can be understood by any age group.

Don’t ever get caught thinking that those young men and women can’t understand the word of God and the truths you are trying to teach them. They are super smart.

Do you not yet understand? Part 2

Last Monday, we observed several occasions in the gospel accounts when the disciples did not understand the sayings of Jesus. Several reasons are given to us in the Scriptures as to why they did not understand. They are the same reasons we do not understand today.

In Luke 24, we see the word “opened” used 3 times. I heard a sermon by Andy Cantrell where he pointed this out, and it is very helpful to look at how the word “opened” is used in Luke 24.

And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight.
(Luke 24:31)

They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”
(Luke 24:32)

Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures,
(Luke 24:45)

Jesus opened their eyes. He opened their minds. And He opened the Scriptures to them. It was then they understood! The power to understand came from Jesus.

In all of this, as we seek to understand God’s word and the truths therein, we must go to the power of God first to help us understand. Remember that the Holy Spirit is given to each Christian, and He is working within us as well. We have our part, which is to be humble, to pray, to seek, to ask, to be diligent in our studies, and to be vulnerable enough to ask others for guidance (2 Timothy 2:15; Luke 11:8-13). Also be patient with yourself and remind yourself of the grace God is already giving you.

It seems that there are two extremes when folks discuss the topic of understanding God’s word. One extreme is that my understanding of the Word is all God’s power and God’s part, and unless I have some special anointing I won’t even be able to understand the simplest truth. It takes all responsibility away from me. The other extreme is that understanding the word is all my part, and that God is not working in me at all as I try to understand His word. It takes away the power of God working in the inner man. Both extremes are un-Biblical. I have my part (James 1:21-22), God does His (James 1:5,17-18).

We need to “find out what is pleasing to God” (Ephesians 5:10), and that happens when we “read” what has been given through the Holy Spirit to us (Ephesians 3:4). But do not forget that God is working within you, and He helps both to desire and to do what He asks us.

Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (YOUR PART); for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure (GOD’S PART).
(Philippians 2:12-13)

Do you not yet understand? Part 1

And Jesus, aware of this, said to them, “Why are you discussing the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive or understand? Are your hearts hardened? Having eyes do you not see, and having ears do you not hear? And do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” They said to him, “Twelve.” “And the seven for the four thousand, how many baskets full of broken pieces did you take up?” And they said to him, “Seven.” And he said to them, “Do you not yet understand?”
(Mark 8:17-21)

I was looking at several verses about the disciples and the fact that they did not understand what Jesus was saying. There are several reasons mentioned in the gospels as to why they did not understand what Jesus was telling them.

  • Their hearts were hardened (Mark 6:52).
  • Their mindset was on the things of this world; their mindset was not a heavenly one (Mark 8:33).
  • Their faith was weak, and they were slow to believe (Luke 24:35).
  • They were afraid to ask Jesus (Mark 9:32; Luke 9:45).
  • Some things were hidden from them (Luke 9:43-45; 18:31-34).
  • Some things needed time and events (John 2:22; 12:16).
  • Some things they could not “bear” at the time (John 16:12).
  • Jesus had to open their minds and the Scriptures to help them understand (Luke 24:27,45).

There is more to consider, but we will look at it next Monday. But for today, can you find yourself on that list as to why you haven’t understood some of the truths in God’s word? You don’t see it until afterward, usually. We look back and see that we needed time to understand what God was trying to teach us. Maybe we look back and see that our minds were set on worldly, selfish thoughts and that’s why we didn’t get it. It may have been that we needed someone to come along and patiently open the Scriptures with us and show us the truth of God’s word on a matter. But it may be that our faith was weak and we were slow to accept and believe what God said. Regardless, I believe we all can see ourselves in the same condition as the disciples.

More next Monday, Lord willing.


A Little Bit of Jesus’ Spit

Have you ever thought about Jesus’ spit? Crazy question, maybe, but below are three miracles where Jesus used His own spit to perform a miracle. With His spit He healed the blind, the deaf and the mute. After having been touched with Jesus’ spit, they saw clearly, heard clearly and spoke plainly.

Then he returned from the region of Tyre and went through Sidon to the Sea of Galilee, in the region of the Decapolis. And they brought to him a man who was deaf and had a speech impediment, and they begged him to lay his hand on him. And taking him aside from the crowd privately, he put his fingers into his ears, and after spitting touched his tongue. And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly.
(Mark 7:31-35)

And they came to Bethsaida. And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him. And he took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village, and when he had spit on his eyes and laid his hands on him, he asked him, “Do you see anything?” And he looked up and said, “I see people, but they look like trees, walking.” Then Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; and he opened his eyes, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.
(Mark 8:22-25)

Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man’s eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing.
(John 9:6-7)

Here are a few quick thoughts about Jesus’ spit.

  1. The way Jesus heals you may not be pleasant or desirable. The way God restores you may temporarily make you uncomfortable. The Great Physician has His own medicine cabinet and how He chooses to heal you is the right prescription every time. If you were blind and Jesus’ spit could heal you, wouldn’t you say, “Jesus, spit on me all day long if that’s what I need”?
  2. Everything that comes from Jesus is divine, holy, merciful and powerful, including His own spit. Contrast the way others used their spit as they mocked and shamed Jesus before His crucifixion. Even Jesus’ spit was used with love and with the glory of God on His mind.
  3. The miracle of this blind man being healed in Mark 8 is a gradual miracle and we can learn a lesson from it. Most of Jesus’ miracles were instantaneous, this one Jesus chose to do gradually. Maybe it is a lesson on how Jesus gradually changes the way we see spiritually. As we grow in Jesus, His spit needs to be on our eyes every day, so that we go from blind to seeing the way God sees. But for a while, we see men like trees walking, not exactly clear, but with enough of the spit and grace of Jesus, we will one day see clearly.

Time, Money, and Energy

Time, Money, and Energy

Here is a chart you may have seen on time money and energy on how it relates to the various stages of life. It may not be true for all people, but it is generally true for a lot of folks.

Whatever applies to you, it comes down to what are you doing with the resources you have been given at this time in your life?

Here is the parable of the talents that Jesus taught in Matthew 25. Let’s meditate upon this today.

“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
(Mat 25:14-30)


Lessons from Herod

But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.”
(Mark 6:21-23)

A lascivious dance, an aroused king, and a hasty vow.

This section of Scripture is part of the explanation of the death of John the Baptist. Herodias, who was married to Herod, wanted John the Baptist dead. John confronted the couple on their unlawful marriage (Herodias was actually Herod’s brother’s wife), and Herodias wanted to kill him. Now she had her chance.

By prompting and using her daughter (Matthew 14:8), she had her daughter dance in front of all of these men. Whatever the nature of that dance was, it “pleased” Herod and led him to offer half his kingdom to her. I don’t think it takes much imagination to conclude this dance was not a square dance.

To make it even more vile, this was his step-daughter, and if this young lady was the daughter of his brother Philip, then she would be Herod’s niece.

The result of this dance, Herod’s “pleasure” and the hasty vow led to the death of John the Baptist.

We can learn several valuable lessons from Herod:

  • Lust kills. It’s not a laughing matter. Lust kills our souls. Lust kills marriages and families. Lust destroys our influence as God’s men. Lust stirs a person up to make commitments that he will forever regret. “Flee youthful lusts…” (2 Timothy 2:22).
  • Our choice in entertainment matters. Herod allowed himself and all his guests to be pleased by the dancing of his step-daughter. Look where it led.
  • Our choice in spouse matters. Herod stole his brother’s wife, and we can see from the heart and choices of Herodias that she was not a godly woman at all. She used her husband and her daughter to accomplish her sinister schemes.

These things are recorded for us in Scripture so that we can learn from them.

Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.
(1 Corinthians 10:11-14)

Make your struggle with lust known, so that a brother in Christ can help you with it.

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people (Ephesians 5:3).

A big splash that cost a lot of cash

Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.
(Mark 5:11-17)

I don’t know if I’ll ever understand why demons asked Jesus to be cast into pigs and then they turned around and led the pigs to drown in the sea. It’s bizarre, but it happened nonetheless. We see in Mark 5 that a man was healed of his demon possession and it led to somebody (or somebodies) losing a lot of money.

Think of 2000 hogs times a couple hundred dollars per hog, and that is a lot of cash! This man’s healing, deliverance and salvation led to others being made very uncomfortable.

That’s not the only time that God’s deliverance led to others being hurt in the pocketbooks. Paul was beaten and put in a Philippian jail because he cast out a demon from a young woman. That demon-possessed young lady was making a large sum of cash for some guys there in Philippi (Acts 16). A riot was started in Ephesus because the conversion of many Ephesians was leading to a downturn in Diana shrine sales (Acts 19). It all goes to show that when you and I become followers of Jesus, others may not like it at all, in fact, it may cost them something they don’t want to pay.

Maybe it is someone who was in a business making money in an ungodly way, and then she becomes a Christian. Will her conversion cost others that were in business with her? Yes? Will they be happy with it? Probably not.

Maybe it is a spouse that becomes a Christian and the other person doesn’t want to follow Jesus. He or she doesn’t want to give up the ways of the world, and the marriage may fall apart. Does that happen? Yes.

It might be an example like what the apostle Peter referenced, that when you become a Christian, you do not live like you used to, and it makes everyone around you uncomfortable. In order for them to keep being your friend, they may have to make some changes, and they may not want to pay that bill. Your salvation and deliverance may cost them more than they want to pay.

For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. With respect to this they are surprised when you do not join them in the same flood of debauchery, and they malign you; but they will give account to him who is ready to judge the living and the dead.
(1 Peter 4:3-5)

One final note on this. Jesus did not permit this man to leave his hometown and escape to follow Jesus. Jesus sent this delivered man right back to these folks to teach them the good news of Jesus (Mark 5:19-20). More will be written about this later, Lord willing.

Break up your fallow ground

Jeremiah 4:3 – For thus says the LORD to the men of Judah and Jerusalem: “Break up your fallow ground, and sow not among thorns.”

Hosea 10:12 – Sow for yourselves righteousness; reap steadfast love; break up your fallow ground, for it is the time to seek the LORD, that he may come and rain righteousness upon you.

Yesterday, I preached from Mark 4, and we looked at the parable of the sower. In that very familiar story, we see four different types of soil, and four very different responses to the preaching of the word.

But here are a couple of questions: Am I predestined to be a certain type of soil? If I am a rocky soil or a thorny/weedy soil, can that condition ever change? Can a person be all four types of soil in his or her life?

I think the above passages from Jeremiah and Hosea answer those questions very clearly. Both prophets use the word picture of ground that was once plowed, but has now sat uncultivated. Weeds and thorns have crept in, and because of laziness and negligence, the good seed was not sown. The people of Israel and Judah did not take care of their hearts (soil), but they had a choice in the matter. They, with repentance and God’s help, could change that condition.

You see, these men were one kind of soil, and God calls them to be another. If you will look in Mark 4, Jesus repeatedly tells His disciples to “listen” and to “be careful how they hear.” The hearers have a good deal of choice and control in what kind of soil they will be.

No, you are not predestined to be a certain kind of soil. You with God’s help can remove the thorns and weeds (distractions of the world). You can remove the rocks and create a depth of character and faith that will endure the trials.

One final thought, if you are honest, can you see times in your life where you have been all 4 types of soil? Haven’t you seen times when God’s teaching went in one ear and out the other? Other times you sprung up quickly and happily but withered during the first test of that teaching? Haven’t you found your heart and soul choked by cares of this world? But then there are the times that God’s word connects in your heart and you really see the fruit growing over time. Yes, we all have been all four kinds of soil in our lives. It’s our choice today what kind of soil we will be. How will we listen to the word today?

Just as He told them

And the disciples set out and went to the city and found it just as he had told them, and they prepared the Passover.
(Mark 14:16)

Just as He told them. The phrase just struck me the other day while reading Mark 14. I then branched out to find all kinds of occasions where Jesus showed that His word was to be trusted.

And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.”
(Luke 22:35)

I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.
(John 13:19)

And now I have told you before it takes place, so that when it does take place you may believe.
(John 14:29)

But I have said these things to you, that when their hour comes you may remember that I told them to you. “I did not say these things to you from the beginning, because I was with you.
(John 16:4)

See, I have told you beforehand.
(Matthew 24:25)

This is what Jesus, being God, did for the people of the Old Testament as well (Isaiah 44:7-8; 46:8-11; 48:3-6). He declared the end from the beginning, laying out exactly how things were going to go, and we can trust that when God says something is going to happen, it will happen.

We as humans really have a hard time with this. Nobody on earth has this kind of power to foresee exactly how things are going to turn out. From weather forecasts, to stock market predictions, to presidential polls that turn out to be wrong. Even our parents, bosses, coaches and other leaders in our lives say things are going to happen and then for some reason they don’t. On top of that a lot of us just don’t keep our word, and leads to further distrust.

So along comes Jesus and says, “Here’s how it’s going to turn out,” and time after time after time every time it turns out just like He told us.

We need to be reminded of that. What God promises will happen. What Jesus told us in advance will happen, even if the circumstances, our environment, people around us, and even our own brains say the exact opposite. Trust Jesus.