Archive for June, 2010

Mark 5

Mark 5 gives us a different look at a couple of stories of Jesus touch on people we read from other gospel writers.  The first involved the man who was filled with the demon “Legion” who was so out of control that nothing or no one could control him.  He wandered around breaking stuff.  The thing that happens when Jesus comes into his life is pretty amazing. “When he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him”.  This guy was out of control yet when he came into the presence of the Lord, he was tamed.  Jesus can do that in our lives too.  Things we struggle to keep under control – bad habits, addictions, attitudes or actions can be worked on by the Master if we allow Him to take control.  He is in the business of making us new creatures.  He wants to change us to become like Himself – holy and godly and righteous in God’s eyes.  We just need to be willing to come to Him with our problems and struggles.  Rather than running away and hiding in shame – we need to run to Him as this guy did and put our struggles at His feet.  Mark tells us a bit more detail on the pig herd that was there – he calls it a “great herd….numbering about two thousand”.  That really is a lot of pigs to run into the sea and drown.  You’ll recall that the locals came and asked Jesus to leave after that.  No real consideration to the miracle He had just done of healing the man whom they all feared and was now sitting quietly at the feet of Jesus.  They were worried because of the unexplained change and the loss of property.  Jesus does change things in our lives.  When He comes in and is given the reins – we should not remain the same.  That is part of our issue here in America about being a Christ Follower.  We settle into a comfortable spot and don’t want anything to rock the boat.  We aren’t looking for miracles and life change – we just want comfort and peace.  That is not the way Jesus does things folks.  He came to make a change that never ends because we are never done becoming what God wants us to become.

The big lesson God showed me today is the instruction that Jesus gives this guy after his world is turned right side up.  “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you”.  He didn’t tell him to go write a book, do an interview with the local media of the day – just go tell your story.  That is exactly what God desires us to do as well.  He doesn’t expect us to be biblical scholars that can argue all the scripture passages as a trained student.  He does want us to know it and treasure it in our heart – but we don’t have to go to seminary so we can talk about His Word.  Our most effective tool as a Christ Follower sharing with others is our personal story – our testimony of God’s faithfulness in our life – as that shows what God had done in us.  No one is more of an expert on that topic than we are.  No one can dispute the power of a changed life.  There is no more important thing to be able to share than what God has done in us and through us.  Have you ever written your testimony out on paper?  It is a powerful experience just for yourself, but once you do it you have a ready story to tell.  That is the one thing Jesus asks this guy to do.  Nothing about going to church or to the religious leaders or anywhere else.  He asks him to go home – and that is where we first need to tell our story – particularly to our kids so they know how God has been at work in our life – but then to our friends.  I find so many never talk about their personal walk with Jesus to their family or friends.  They maybe will say something to a total stranger but many don’t want to admit it at home or with friends.  That is the absolute wrong approach. Jesus is at work in us to impact those in our patch first – those who should see a difference in our life because of His handprints – and are wondering what is up.  That is the power of our story – it explains how we life and have been changed.  Don’t miss that impact.  Go home to your friends and tell your story – what the Lord has done for you!

Mark 4

Mark 4 is another look at the parable of the seeds.  As I see it through Mark’s eyes – the reality of how difficult it is for a seed to actually become productive comes to light.  Mark reminds us we have a very real enemy who is waiting to pluck up the seeds – “Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown”.  We can never forget that we are in a real spiritual battle.  There is a very real enemy with three very clear objectives – to kill, steal and destroy – our lives.  He is out to keep us from taking root and becoming what God intends.  The seeds that fall on rocky soil do not put down roots – “they have no root in themselves…..when tribulation or persecution arises….immediately they fall away”.  Here is a newsflash we all need to pay attention to.  Tribulation, persecution, suffering, challenges, hardship, and struggles – they are all coming our way.  We want to believe that once we become a Christ Follower all those bad things stop but they don’t.  We go through things to help us grow and to drive us to dependence on God.  We need to be pushed out of our comfort zones to require us to have faith and to lean on Him.  How do we endure hardship?  We put down roots – deep roots – into God’s Word and into our relationship with Him so when the winds blow and the storms of life come we can hang on because we are well rooted.  It is critical for us to have deep roots to endure.  In raising corn – more than once I have seen the result of shallow roots.  When the winds blow the corn falls over and it never again is able to regain what it was prior.  That is a critical thing to remember.  Roots into His truth are so important in keeping us on track and ready to handle the reality of life.

Mark reminds us that “nothing is hidden…nor is anything secret except to come to light”.  We want to believe we can do things that no one will ever find out about.  That is just not true.  First of all God knows exactly what we are doing.  Be it surfing the web and looking at pornography behind closed doors because it doesn’t hurt anyone (another of Satan’s lies) or striking our spouse because they don’t listen, or verbally abusing our kids because we are tired of their attitude, or taking advantage of someone who isn’t strong enough to stand up for themselves.  There is nothing that happens without God seeing it – every detail – and it will come to light – if not here certainly when we stand before Him on the Day of Judgment.  Are you fooling yourself that way – believing the lie that what happens behind closed doors or in the privacy of your house is ok just because no one else knows?  That is a lie of the enemy.  God will not be mocked.  He will deal with sin and all those things we think we get away with because we are good at hiding them.  It doesn’t have to be the big stuff either.  The word that is spoken inappropriately, the looking at another or stuff with a covetous heart – God will deal with all of it.  We have to live recognizing that He is aware and keeping track – that sin is never excused – it can only be forgiven by the shedding of blood and repentance.  Nothing is hidden.  Bring it into the light and let Jesus deal with it. 

Matthew 8:14-34

In Matthew 8:14-34 Jesus comes to Peter’s house where He finds Peter’s mother in law very sick with a fever.  I love the series of events that happen here.  Check this out:

–       “He touched her hand

–       The fever left her

–       She rose

–       And began to serve Him

Jesus didn’t do anything more than come into Peter’s house – I am sure as his request – and touch his mother in laws hand.  First we need to recognize the power of inviting Jesus into a situation.  So often we wait way too long to ask the Master to be part of what is happening.  After all, we can handle it on our own can’t we?  We only use Jesus in those cases when we have already done everything we can to deal with whatever the issues are.  What a stupid way to live.  Jesus came to give us abundant life – to be in control of our day to day – to provide us so much grace and mercy and love to help us live for Him – and we want to do it all on our own.  Hello world – do you see the ignorance in that approach to life?  Jesus gets involved and things change – not sometime – immediately.  He sets Peter’s mom in law free of the struggle she was facing.  Immediately upon His entry into the situation.  Jesus is still in the miracle business – He is the same Jesus that we read about in scripture – and He wants to have an impact on you and me today.  I love what she does after being healed.  She didn’t lay there and bask in the attention and enjoy the moment.  Scripture says “she rose” – got up and was ready to get in the game.  She demonstrates a very important thing here.  Being involved with Jesus requires action.  As you read scripture you will often see that being a Christ Follower is based on a whole lot of action verbs: go, be, do and on the list goes.  The idea of following Jesus is not – we just sit back and watch Him do His ministry while we observe.  Not at all – we are His hands and feet and we need to be in the middle of what He wants to do.  We see that here.  After Peter’s mom in law got up – she “began to serve Him”.  Does that describe you?  You have been healed from sin if you are a Christ Follower?  Have you arose and gotten active in serving?   We aren’t called to be a bump on a log sitting there quietly on the sidelines.  Jesus died to set us free so we can serve!

Another key thing Jesus teaches us here is what it means to be His follower.  Several approach with a desire to follow Him – at least that is what they say.  Let me do this or that, and then I will follow.  Not how it works.  If we are to be a Christ Follower we have to be willing to do just that – follow Him wholeheartedly and completely.  Being a believer is not a part time gig.  It isn’t something we do as it fits our schedule.  It isn’t a part in deal.  Being a Christ Follower means exactly that – we follow Him and Him alone all the time – 24/7/365 whether it is convenient or easy or simple is not the deal – it is all in all the time following Jesus.  There will be plenty of times that it is far from simple or easy.  But the good thing about being a Christ Follower is that not only do we have a leader who already wrote the story and was the reason for the eternal victory – but He will go so far as empower us to follow when our own human frailty doesn’t get it done.  He carries us in His strength when we can’t do it alone.  He never leaves nor forsakes us – He is always there to encourage us and lead us on.  What is required on our part? To simply follow – to give up self and put Christ on the throne – to turn from our sinful ways – repent – and invite Him to take control in our life.  Are you a Christ Follower?  Is Jesus really sitting on the throne of your heart?  That is what it takes.  Going to church is a good thing but it doesn’t cut it.  Reading your Bible and attending meetings can be good – but that doesn’t save you.  Only a personal and deep relationship with the Savior does it.  Make sure you are there.  Tomorrow may be too late!

Luke 8:26-56

Luke 8:26-56 tells a couple powerful stories about Jesus.  He has sailed across the water and as He arrives He is met by a man who has been demon possessed for many years.  This guy comes up to Jesus and the demons ask Jesus not to banish them to the abyss but to let them move into a herd of pigs that were nearby. Jesus allows that and they come out of the man and into the pigs that immediately “rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned”.  You can imagine what the herdsmen were thinking – jobs on the line – and they rush off to town to tell people what happened.  They were responsible to care for these pigs and now they were in trouble.  The townspeople come to see what has happened and they find the newly freed man “sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind”.  This guy had been out of control for years, unable to be shackled and controlled because of the demons living in him, but now he is sitting there at he feet of the Master and learning.  I can only imagine the awe they would be feeling.  But it was too much to understand, and they “asked Him to depart from them”.  So here is Jesus who has just done a miracle but since the people could not comprehend what He had done, they send Him packing. They don’t want to get outside their comfort zone – God needed to stay in their box – and they send Jesus away.  It is easy to sit here and say they were idiots.  They had seen the power of God manifest in the life of this wild man who was freed from the demons and a history that they all knew.  But because they couldn’t understand or control it, they wanted no part of it.  “So He got into the boat and returned”.  Do you send Jesus away?  When you can’t understand what is going on, do you push Him away or run to Him?  We all need to run to the Savior all the time.

As Jesus gets to the other side the people “were all waiting for him”.  That is quite a contrast isn’t it. One side of the lake chases Him away, the other side is there waiting for Him.  I’ll let you guess where He does His work.  We need to be like these folks who are waiting for Jesus to do a work in us.  As He comes ashore Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, “implored Him to come to His house”.  His daughter was very sick and on the edge of death and he knew that Jesus could fix it.  Jesus begins to move toward Jairus’ house and as he goes a woman who had been struggling with a medical condition for 12 years “came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment and immediately” was healed.  She didn’t talk to Him.  She didn’t pray with Him.  She simply came up behind and touched His garment and Jesus immediately says “someone touched me”.  The disciples can’t understand what the big deal is as they are in the middle of a mob that is pushing to get close to Jesus.  But He knew someone had received the power of healing thorugh faith.  She came trembling and Jesus said “your faith has made you well”.  Did you see that?  It wasn’t the touch of the garment that healed her – it was faith in the Healer.  She believed and when that faith came into contact with Jesus a miracle happened.  As He began to move again toward Jairus’ house, someone comes to deliver the news that the daughter was dead.  Jesus doesn’t even slow down.  He says these words: “Do not fear, only believe, and she will be well”.  How can that be Jesus?  She is dead.  It can be because Jesus has the power over both life and death. He has power over all things.  He is not limited by what we can see or understand.  Jesus tells them that the girl was only sleeping, “and they laughed at Him, knowing that she was dead”.  But someone must have believed because Jesus went into her room and takes her hand and helps her out of bed.  Jesus brings the dead to life.  There is nothing too big for Him to handle in your life or mine.  He is in total and absolute control.  He is God and stands ready to get involved in our life just like He did here.  The question is – are you seeking Him and asking Him to come in and make a difference.  Do you believe?  Don’t miss the power of the Master.  He wants to change our lives.  He wants to make a difference that only He can make.  Don’t miss the power of Jesus!

Luke 8:1-26

Luke 8:1-26 tells us a couple stories we have looked at previously.  Jesus is on the road ministering in the cities and villages “proclaiming and bringing the good news” to the people.  He had a mission and was singleminded about it.  He shared the truth of the Kingdom of God.  Scripture tells us “the twelve were with Him”.  It is important to note that Jesus had the disciples by His side and poured His life into them daily.  They were together and ministered to the people together.  He was, afterall, the Son of God and really didn’t need their help.  They were mostly observers of His work.  But since God’s plan for the world is to have Christ Followers proclaim and bring the good news just like Jesus did, they needed to be with Him to learn how to do that.  And that is still God’s plan – to have us as Christ Followers share the good news.  We aren’t going to get the luxury of spending three years with the Master watching and learning how to do it.  But we do have the written Word which captures how Jesus shared, and we need to study it and live it so we can share it with those in our patch.  Jesus gives us the story of the sower through Luke’s eyes and one thing that stands out to me in Luke’s writing of it is in regard to the good soil.  When they hear the Word they “hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience”.  We need to grab onto the Word and hold on to it tightly.  It needs to be the center of our life.  And we need to remember that fruit comes over time – not some immediate result – but one that happens as God’s truth grows in us and develops and blooms and then yields a harvest.  It isn’t immediate, but there is fruit if we truly are a Christ Follower.  That is where a lot of us fail today.  We are not committed to bearing fruit.  We want to sit in the stands and watch others do the work of the ministry.  But Jesus taught the twelve to teach truth, and that is what He expects from us.  We are not to be mere spectators, but to share life with those around us so we bear fruit. 

Jesus goes on to say more about that when he says “no one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see light”.  When you become a Christ Follower, a light is lit inside you that needs to shine all about Jesus.  We aren’t to accept Christ as our Savior and then hide that under the bed.  People should not have to guess whether or not Jesus is Lord.  It should be obvious – extremely obvious – to all around us that our light is shining and we have been changed.  Does that describe your faith?  Do people you work with every day know your faith?  Luke goes on to tell us of the boat ride where Jesus falls asleep.  He had been ministering and got on the boat with His disciples and decides to take a nap as they go across the lake.  “A windstorm came down on the lake….they were filling with water and were in danger”.  So what would you do?  Yep – they went and woke Him just like I would have.  Jesus “awoke and rebuked the wind” and things calmed down.  Can you imagine that – picture what happened?  Life feels totally out of control for the twelve and then Jesus steps in and it is calm.  He still does that today in our lives.  He is in control today just like He was then.  Jesus was frustrated with them though.  “Where is your faith” was his question.  Sometime I think the same thing.  They have seen him in action over and over doing miracles and healing people.  How could they doubt He had even this situation under control?  But then I look in the mirror and ask myself the same thing.  When I get all worked up about how something is going, rather than trust Him and take my concern to the One who can actually do something about it, I worry and fret and whine and fail to trust.  That is what God is looking for in us – to trust and obey and walk with Him in His truth.

Matthew 13:31-58

Matthew 13:31-58 continues Jesus teaching in parables.  He talks about the mustard seed which is “the smallest of all seeds” yet when it grows up it is “larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree”.  He also talks about leaven in the flour, the hidden treasure in a field, the pearl of great value, and the fishing net thrown into the sea.  He talks in parables for a reason.  It was “to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet”.  Jesus is fulfilling prophecy as he teaches in parables to the people.  The disciples ask him to go back and explain the parable of the weeds to them.  We read that yesterday so as a refresher – remember that someone comes and sows weeds amongst the wheat crop and they have to be separated at harvest.  Here are the pieces of that parable and Jesus explanation of their role:

–      “One who sows = the Son of Man

–      Field = world

–      Good seed = children of the kingdom

–      Weeds = sons of the evil one

–      Enemy who sowed = the devil

–      Harvest = close of the age

–      Reapers = angels”

Lots of players in this parable, but Jesus is clear as He gives the meaning and it is a very important parable for us to understand.  He teaches: “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned in the fire, so will it be at the close of the age.  The Son of Man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and law-breakers and throw them into the fiery furnace…..then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father”.  Jesus tells us that the day is coming when we will be separated based on how we have dealt with sin.  Those who fail to deal with it will deal with judgment and face a very hot eternity.  This is critical stuff – eternity is a very long time and how we live and deal with our sin problem will determine how we spend it.  Jesus gives another view when He explains the parable of the net.  He says “the angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace”.  It will not be well for those who have not cleaned up their life.  We can’t do that on our own.  It is only by the gift of grace through Jesus that sin can be taken away and we can enter into a right relationship with the Father.  He alone is our way of getting right with God.  We have to make sure we are taking care of the sin in our life.  It isn’t optional. It is the truth of God’s Word that we must address.  Jesus goes back home to teach and preach and finds people unwilling to listen and believe.  In fact, “they took offense at Him” and “He did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief”.  Don’t fall into that response to Jesus.  He is the Savior, the one and only way for us to enter eternity with God.  Don’t be like the people of His hometown and miss the wonder of His grace.  Seek and find Him today!  

Matthew 13:1-30

Matthew 13:1-30 tells the story of Jesus and a couple farm parables.  He is seated on a boat as people are gathered on the beach to hear Him teach.  He teaches in parables – tells them a story with a meaning – and most don’t understand what He is saying.  So He explains it to His disciples.  You may remember this parable about the sower.  He sows seed on four types of soil:

–       “hard ground along the path

–       rocky ground

–       weedy ground

–       good ground

Each type of soil has a different result.  The outcome is based on the kind of soil the seed falls into.  And Jesus is clear about the results:

–       “hard ground – the birds came and devoured them

–       rocky ground – they sprang up….but when the sun rose they were scorched…..they withered away

–       weedy ground – the thorns grew up and choked them

–       good ground – produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty

Jesus makes it clear that we need to make sure the Word of God is planted in good soil.  These soil types are a picture of our heart and how we receive His truth.  He goes on to tell us what the problem is with people and the heart:

 “For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them”.  He is describing the condition of the people then, but it applies to us today.  We allow our spiritual sense to grow dull.  We stop listening to God’s truth and stop seeing His hand and we fall away lie seed on the hard, or rocky or weedy soil.  Jesus is talking to you and me.  We have to be careful not to let His truth fall anywhere but on good soil – on a heart that is receptive and listening and willing to obey.  He goes on to explain in more detail what happens as he interprets the parable for His disciples:

–       “hard ground – the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart

–       rocky ground – receives it with joy….has no root….endures for a while….when tribulation or persecution arises….immediately falls away

–       weedy ground – hears the word….the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word….it proves unfruitful

–       good ground- hears the word and understands it…..bears fruit and yields

Jesus has sown the truth into our lives.  The question is what kind of soil it will find in our heart.  Will that truth fall on good soil that will grow and yield up to a hundredfold?  Or will it be choked out, burned away, or snatched before it bears fruit?  We need to be cultivating our hearts to make sure we are giving Him a good place to plant His Word.  Then it will grow and make a huge harvest.  How is the soil in your heart?  Is it ready to produce fruit leading ot a great harvest?  That is God’s desire!

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