Only Steps Away

28 Then one of the scribes came, and having heard them reasoning together, perceiving that He had answered them well, asked Him, “Which is the first commandment of all?” 29 Jesus answered him, “The first of all the commandments is: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ This is the first commandment. 31 And the second, like it, is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” 32 So the scribe said to Him, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth, for there is one God, and there is no other but He. 33 And to love Him with all the heart, with all the understanding, with all the soul, and with all the strength, and to love one’s neighbor as oneself, is more than all the whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.”  34 Now when Jesus saw that he answered wisely, He said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” (Mark 12:  28-34; NKJV)

Today the sermon at South Macomb was a continuation of our working through the four gospels and focused on lessons in Mark 11 and 12.  There were many points to be made but I wanted to focus on a section found in chapter 12.  I encourage you to read the chapter as I am not going to lay down much background but want to focus on this encounter between Jesus and the scribe.  I want to attempt to paint a picture in your mind that was given today and then keep that image in our mind as we work through this week.

The image I want to paint is of a safe place, a dangerous place, and someone caught in the middle.  You might have your own version of this, but I am going to offer one of my own.  Imagine you are in a building and a battle rages outside with gunfire and explosions all around.  There is a group who is safe in their reinforced concrete bunker, with no windows and made to survive the kind of chaos and destruction going on.  They are safe, but someone cracks the door to see what is going on and notices a young man running down the street…unarmed, confused, scared, looking for shelter…to be safe and live.  The one looking out also notices he is wearing the wrong uniform…the uniform of the enemy.  Even more, the one looking is wearing the wrong uniform in the eyes of the man outside…the clothes of his enemy.  But the one inside calls out to him anyways…beckons him to come and be safe.  He hears the call and he sees the caller and even starts making his way to the door.  He is hesitant and unsure what to do as he gets closer.  What if it is a trap?  Even though the bunker gets him out of the gun battle going on outside and everything he has been taught about fighting tells him this is a secure place…how does he know what is inside is safer than outside?  Still the call goes out to him, encourages him, tells him it will be safe.  Others from inside gather with the one and join and shout this same message of safety…of friendship…of hope.  He comes closer and it is clear he really wants to live and wants to be safe and wants to believe that he can be inside the bunker.  He is right there…just a couple more steps and he will be in and safe and can live.  Everyone calls to him but he stops…he looks at them…they want to grab him but the bullets are flying and they can’t quite reach him…if only he would take one more step…but he stops.  Now he is out in the open and all the danger of the situation is upon him though he is only a step or two from safety…he is unsure, and he hesitates.  Surely he was about to come those two steps…they sure want him to…but a bullet hits its mark and he is gone.  It is too late…he was so close to safety…the caller was there to save him…they had a place for him to be safe…they called out to him…they wanted him with them…but his hesitation…his lack of faith in the caller’s intentions, their actions, and the offer left him just a couple steps too far from being saved.

I know you get the point.  So let me just end today with this.  I want us to look at these kinds of situations from three perspectives this week.  Jesus is the one calling out.  We are the ones who join with hHim to encourage.  Those in the world or those of our brethren who are astray are the man in harms way.  You saw that coming right?  But don’t stop there.  Take another look.  Jesus is still calling out, our brethren are still joining in the call, but are we the man in harms way?  That could be a likely scenario…right?  Could it be that it depends in any given situation or stage of our lives or the lives of others?  Read chapter 12.  Paint this image in your head.  Meditate and pray about what we can do about those 2 last steps…whether we are in harms way or with Jesus calling others to safety.  Take some time and work that over in your head and heart and let’s see what we can learn and apply this week.  I love you all…and thankfully Jesus loves us more.

Beautiful Feet

Romans 10:14-15; NKJV:  14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written:  “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”         (Cross-Reference:  Isaiah 52:7)

 This scripture came to my mind as I was thinking about what I might write about for today.  These couple of verses are from a portion of scripture in which Paul is teaching about the fact the Gentiles on the whole had been reconciled to God and had a covenant membership in God’s family by faith.  Along with this, Israel on a whole had not received the same righteousness.  There is a lot here in Romans 9-1 and I don’t want to take away from the bigger message or teaching but am going to pull out the above passage and offer a couple thoughts.

I like this passage because if we take verse 14 in reverse we understand how important it is we who believe Jesus is the only way to salvation and are in a right relationship with God not keep that blessing to ourselves.  This isn’t something we should keep to ourselves but something we should share with others…and we are here in this world to do just that as we shine our light into a corrupt world (Matthew 5:16).  We are sent to share our salvation story.  And because we are sent and we share, then others will hear and having heard with a good and honest heart will believe and they will call on God through their obedience in the Gospel…repenting, confessing Jesus as their Lord, being baptized, and through their faith are saved.  How awesome is that!  And how awesome that we have a part in it!

But we have to stay in shape, put on the right equipment, and get to work.  I chose the above picture because these are athletic type shoes.  Think about when you lounge around the house…maybe in slippers, slides or some other kind of comfy shoes.  Do you wear the same shoes to exercise?  I don’t.  If I am going to work out, I put on tennis shoes.  Same thing with the Gospel and why Paul wrote Ephesians 6:15…because we need to “shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace”…a very important part of the Whole Armor of God so that we can run forward and preach, so others would hear, and hearing believe, and believing respond and in responding find what they need the most of all…forgiveness of sins.  We draw closer to our Father through His word and in doing so put our working shoes on and run about sharing the greatest story of all…the Gospel of Jesus.

With that in mind, the second thing I want you to consider is in vs.15.  “…how beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace…”  I bring this to mind because I want you to think about those you know who dedicate their time (and some their professional life) to proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus.  We all have those in our lives who are committed to saving souls and fully understand the importance of the work that God has given us to do in Jesus.  Take some time, make a list, and make some calls.  Encourage them.  Pray with them.  Share in their work.  Let your life shine…run swift…and fan the flames of another’s light and work for the Glory of God!

 

 

Faith and Humility

And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.
(Matthew 15:21-28, compare to Mark 7:24-30)

What was great about this woman’s faith?

Did you see that the disciples begged Jesus to send this nagging, annoying Gentile woman away from them?

Why did Jesus use the analogy of children and dogs when referring to this woman?

Jesus wasn’t being mean or rude to this woman. He knew exactly what He was going to do, and He knew the heart of this woman already. He did not need to have this event to know the faith that was in her heart. This was a lesson for the disciples and for us. The Gentiles (non-Jewish people) were called dogs by the Jews. The Jews considered themselves as the only children of God, and disregarded anyone else as dogs. Jonah was not the only Jew that did not value the souls of Gentiles.

Jesus’ disciples were always pushing people away and sending people away, while Jesus was calling those same people to Himself. There are scores of examples of this: the children (Mark 10:13-14), the hungry crowds (Mark 6:35-36), Blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:48), and this woman we just read about in Matthew 15.

Send them away? Where is the mercy, disciples? They are hungry people, little kids, and suffering souls! Send them where? Who else has what Jesus has? Send them, why? Are you sending them away because you are bothered by them? Are you sending them away because you don’t value them or see them as Jesus sees them?

This is such a lesson for us. These disciples whom Jesus was training and transforming must understand that faith involves humility. This woman had that kind of faith. She was willing to be that dog who licks up the crumbs under the master’s table. You don’t see her asking for the left or right hand side of Jesus at His throne like the disciples were asking for. She didn’t get into arguments about who the greatest was like the disciples did. She said in her despair, “Lord help me!” This woman of great faith was willing to take any crumb Jesus could give her and she would be grateful for it. The disciples saw her as a Gentile dog woman who annoyed them, and Jesus saw a precious soul with incredible faith and humility.

How do you see others? Do our minds, hearts and eyes need to be transformed to see others (our spouses, our kids, anybody in the community) as Jesus sees them? Let us meditate upon this today and ask for God to help us see others like He helped His disciples to see.

Why trouble the Teacher any further?

While he was still speaking, there came from the ruler’s house some who said, “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Teacher any further?”
(Mark 5:35)

Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, had a daughter who was dying. He rushed up to Jesus and put in a 911 call. The need was urgent, but everyone else in the crowd thought their need was urgent, too. They all pressed about Him to get access to Him. Jesus then stopped and began talking to a woman that He had just healed. I can only imagine the urgency in this man’s heart. “Come on, Jesus! Let’s go! My daughter is dying! We don’t have a lot of time!!”

And then the worst news possible comes to Jairus. Your daughter is dead. It’s too late. There’s no need to bother Jesus anymore.

Think about the question that they asked of Jairus, and what it means? “Why trouble the Teacher any further?” This is a lot like the family and friends of Lazarus who saw Jesus as the death-stopper and the great healer, but not as one who could raise a dead person to life (see John 11). That’s just impossible, right?

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not fear, only believe.”
(Mark 5:36)

We need this reminder from Jesus today just as much as Jairus did on that day. Sometimes we make the same kinds of determinations, that Jesus can help me here, but cannot help me there. This situation we can pray about, but that issue we will have to deal with ourselves.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?
(Jeremiah 32:26-27)

Think about this and how it applies to our congregations. What can God do through a group of praying, faith-filled Christians?

  • Through our prayers, God’s spirit will fill us and we will go out and speak the word with boldness (Acts 4:31; Ephesians 6:18-20).
  • Through our prayers with each other, we who are caught up in sin can be healed of our soul-sickness and be restored (James 5:13-20).
  • Through the prayers of a few faithful people, a dead church can come back to life again (Revelation 3:1-6).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, God can raise up and provide godly leaders for our congregations (Acts 13:1-3; 14:23).
  • Through the prayers of God’s people, attitudes can change, people can mature and a new mindset can be formed (Col. 4:12).

Don’t limit God. Let’s not have the attitude of the people in the crowd with Jairus, thinking we’ve troubled Jesus enough.

You also must help us by prayer, so that many will give thanks on our behalf for the blessing granted us through the prayers of many.
(2 Corinthians 1:11)

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.

Some Things Were Just Assumed

When Jesus taught, He often spoke of principles that were just assumed in life. There are some things that go without saying. He didn’t spend a lot of time trying to convince someone about a principle because it is assumed that everyday people understand it.

Here are a few examples of assumed principles in Jesus’ teaching:

  1. If you are sick, you need a physician (Luke 5:31). Jesus really didn’t need to convince us of this principle, but He used it. I have faith in God, but I still go to the doctor at times to seek his help. Our faith is working, but so is the medication and surgery!
  2. Count the cost (Luke 14:25-35). Jesus in His teaching about being a true disciple of His, used the assumed principle of counting the cost. He didn’t spend much time trying to convince us that counting the cost is a good thing, He assumed we already understood that. We have faith in God’s provision, but we still need to plan and budget.
  3. The strong man guards his home (Luke 11:21-22). When Jesus was teaching about His conquering of the Devil and demons, Jesus used the principle of the strong man. He didn’t need to convince people of the need for a person to protect his home, or of the rightness of being “fully armed” to do so, it was assumed in the Jewish mind and according to the Law of Moses (which Jesus wrote) that he would (Exodus 22:3). We have faith in God, but we still lock our doors, get alarm systems, security lights, big dogs, etc. It is assumed that we will provide some level of security for our household.

Some things are just assumed. Jesus didn’t have to say too much about it.

Jesus Our Brother

For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,
(Hebrews 2:10-11)

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
(Hebrews 2:18)

It was “fitting” for Jesus to be made flesh, live like us, and to be made “perfect through suffering.” This makes Him our brother. More than that, it says Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers. He being the Son of God and we being the children of God all have one Father (“source”).

When you are tempted, and when you are suffering, you have a brother who understands. I know that I have a physical brother, Mark, who is also a brother in Christ. When I am struggling or down, I know he will listen, understand, pray for me and give me wise counsel. That is such a comfort. But even more than that, Jesus is my brother. He understands, and He listens, and He brings comfort. Jesus went through all that we have gone through, and He knows our situation completely. When we come to the throne we find mercy and grace because He is our brother.

I often think of Jesus as Lord, God, Savior, and Christ, but not as much as my brother and my friend. Maybe you think the same way, I don’t know, but take time to meditate upon Jesus being your brother and what that means for you.

Overcoming Fear

For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
(Rom 10:11-13)

And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.
(Act 15:8-9)

The people of the New Testament churches had a very difficult time grasping the concept that Jesus was Lord of all. He was the Lord of the Jews but He was the same Lord to the Gentiles. They all were saved the same way, by faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. There is no distinction. Jesus cleansed my heart through faith and He cleansed your heart through faith.

I want to take this and apply it to how I see my kids. Is there a distinction between my kids and me when it comes to salvation? No. We are saved the same way. Because I believed in Jesus and obeyed the gospel, I am a Christian. The same is true for my kids.

This also implies that we are all in need of salvation. Our kids will need the saving grace of Jesus Christ. They will sin and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23), because that is the direction of all mankind. I don’t mean to say that we take all hands off as parents because we know they are going to fail anyway. But you can’t keep them from sinning. You are not strong enough nor smart enough. What our kids need from us is the wisdom to give them instruction, the freedom to make their own choices, and the grace to accept and receive them during those times when they fall.

My Lord is their Lord. Jesus loves me and works in my life, and He loves them and He works in their life, too! He has begun a good work in them and He will keep working on them until the final day (Philippians 1:6). What Jesus has done, is doing, and will do for our kids far exceeds anything we could ever do for them. Jesus’ love for our kids is beyond our comprehension. He is no less committed to their salvation as He is committed to mine.

Pray for Jesus to give us as parents the power of faith to overcome our fears. May we always remember the presence and power of Jesus in their lives. We still teach, correct and even at times rebuke, but our faith is not in our power as parents. Nor should our comfort lie in how perfectly our kids turn out. Grace is amazing, because we all are wretched sinners who need the blood of a risen Savior.

Trust – Not Knowing

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.
(Heb 11:8)

Trust. In order to trust another, it by definition means you don’t have all the answers and information. You don’t possess all the details and you are going on the word of someone else.

Abraham was told to take his family and his corporation and go. Go where? Go where God told him to go! That’s not a lot of information to go on, is it? But it was all the information Abraham needed.

Sometimes we really geek out on the details and have to know all the information. God doesn’t work that way with us. He wants us to trust in Him and His promises without having all the facts. You will not be able to know how everything is going to turn out in specificity. The Lord isn’t going to send us a spreadsheet with charts.

I’ll leave you with a short passage from Exodus that tells of the Israelites crossing the Red Sea. They didn’t have all the information and details. Their job was to be silent and go forward. Trust God and let Him take care of the rest.

And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The LORD will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” The LORD said to Moses, “Why do you cry to me? Tell the people of Israel to go forward.
(Exodus 14:13-15)

Mary!

Mary Magdalene had seen Jesus die. She witnessed Jesus’ body taken down from the cross, and she observed Jesus being buried (Matthew 27:55-66). When she same to the tomb Sunday morning, she was looking for the body of Jesus. Three times in John 20, it states that Mary was looking for what happened to Jesus’ body (John 20:2,13,15).

When Jesus came to her and began talking to her, she did not recognize him as Jesus, but “supposed” Him to be the gardener. Here is one of the most tender moments of the Bible. Jesus breaks through all her grief, her expectations and assumptions, her focus on her task, etc., and says, “Mary!”

Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher).
(John 20:14-16)

What an incredible moment for Mary! She was so focused on finding the body of Jesus that she did not see Jesus right in front of her.

I wonder how this may happen for us in our lives today. Can our assumptions or expectations cloud our eyes to the truth before us? Is it possible to be so overcome by grief that we forget the promises God has repeatedly given us through His word? Do we get so focused on a task that we don’t see the bigger picture? Does Jesus have to at times reach through the cloud of all our doubts, grief and fear and renew our faith and focus on Him?  Yes to all the above!

Hopefully we can take a lesson today from Mary Magdalene and Jesus. Thank you Lord, for showing us this example of Mary, and thank you for patiently loving us through those times when our faith and focus needs some renewal!