Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Blessings from Bonhoeffer

 
Believe him to be the Son of God,
and you will find him wonder upon
wonder, counsel upon counsel.
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer

A few years ago, I was introduced to Dietrich Bonhoeffer through a play that depicted an interaction between Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Ever since that introduction, I have read something by Bonhoeffer at least once a year.


Recently, I continued reading Life Together by Bonhoeffer.  Undoubtedly, it reminds me of the kindred spirit that Bonhoeffer offers me through his discourse on the concept of community to people of faith.  In all fairness, Bonhoeffer shares some inspirational words that should cause us all to pause for a moment and realize the true value of our Christian community despite the shortcomings and mistakes of our humanity.
I also started reading I Want to Live These Days with You, a daily devotional by Bonhoeffer.  I had read through it previously back in 2006 and 2009.  As I prepared for 2013, I decided to return to the devotional once again.  I had done the same with My Utmost for His Highest by Chambers and Morning and Evening by Spurgeon.

I suggest that most believers could glean something from Bonhoeffer's writings.  He provides the reader with both inspiration and insight.

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Friday, November 23, 2012

God is Available


14 Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 
16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

-Hebrews 4:14-16 (NIV)

God is available to us.  We do not have to await a mediator in the form of a priest or anyone else.  Jesus serves as our "great high priest" who "did not sin." He is our mediator, seated at the right hand of the throne of God and advocating for us before God.  


Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 
- Mark 15:38 (NKJV)

He makes our access to God available to us.  The work of Jesus upon the cross brought about the torn veil that led to the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the temple where access to God was limited to those of the priestly order.  That was destroyed and torn in two by the sacrifice of Jesus.  We, as believers through His shed blood, now have access to God.

Take some time and spend it with God, meditating on the sacrifice of Jesus.



Friday, September 28, 2012

Give to Caesar or God

Then Jesus said to them,
“Give back to Caesar what is Caesar’s
and to God what is God’s.”
And they were amazed at him.
- Mark 12:17 (NIV)

Some people sought to trap Jesus.  He knew it from what we learn within the Gospel of Mark.  Just look at verses 13 and 15.  He knew their hearts, their hypocrisy, and their intentions.

This discourse comes right behind Jesus sharing the parable of the tenants who slayed the master's son who was innocent.  That sent a pretty strong message to those who could discern its underlying meaning.  After all, the Lord did say: "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear."

Give back to Caesar what is Caesar's and to God what is God's.

That spells it out.  If taxes and other matters of this world are part of how we are to obey authority, give it to Caesar or the feds, whoever may be in power.  Obviously, Jesus was not into that form of insurrection.  He said for us to give it to Caesar.  Yet, He also shared that we should give God what is His.

What is God due? Is it just tithes and offerings? Is it just our praise? Is it more than that?



When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.
- Mark 12:34, NIV




Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jesus Enters Jerusalem

Our lesson coming up this Sunday is about Jesus entering Jerusalem.  It marks the final days of the Lord before the cross.  This narrative passage of Scriptures depicts Jesus interacting with all kinds of folks, especially His own disciples.  This is the portion of the Lord's ministry where He takes it up a notch by cursing a barren fig tree and cleansing the temple. 

Dig into the Gospel of Mark's latter chapters and see how Jesus hits Jerusalem on His way to Calvary and the ultimate sacrifice for mankind.  Expect great things to come out of studying this section of the Scriptures as we seek to learn more and more about our Lord and Savior.

FYI: Sunday students will shift classrooms from MLK 210 to MLK 301 (inside the building and in the loft).  We will be there from now on.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Left Behind for Jesus

Then Peter began to say unto him,
Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee.

- Mark 10:28 (KJV)

Think about it for a moment.  Peter and Andrew left behind their nets and boats to follow Jesus.  James and John did the same, even leaving their daddy Zebedee behind.  Levi (Matthew) left the tax collecting booth.  Simon the Zealot left behind the rumblings of revolution and uprising against the Romans.  They all left something behind andin the past in order to follow Jesus.


What have you left behind to follow Jesus?

Family and friends?
Your old ways?
Your old hangouts?
How about your habits?


Think it through and see what Jesus offers to those who leave something behind for His sake.

29And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel's, 30But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.  - Mark 10:29-31 (KJV)




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Look at chapter 10's conversation on divorce and answer some questions on our online survey.  We won't disclose any names, but we will discuss and share some of the responses and how we deal with the Word versus the world when it comes to making decisions.
Go to the online survey now. . .

To share the survey with others send the link: http://bit.ly/QjOw88  

Saturday, September 1, 2012

We Got to Keeping Going




And whosoever shall offend one of these little ones that believe in me, it is better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thy foot offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter halt into life, than having two feet to be cast into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.

Jesus was the ultimate master of the teachable moment.  We see that a lot in the Gospel of Mark.  Through encounter after encounter, we are given bits and pieces of what the Lord came to accomplish through his earthly ministry.  Yet, we also see how he handles the short-sighted thoughts of man.  He deals with the limited faith and other aspects of mankind throughout His ministry.

Have you do something to "offend one of these little ones?" I mean, let's be honest.  You know that you can cover a wide range when it comes to how you might "offend" others.  Watch your ways with others with your feet (where you go) and with your eyes (what you see).  Watch it! You may lead someone else down the wrong path with you.

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FYI: Our Sunday S.I.C.L. class will resume in Room 210.  See you there!

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Monday, August 20, 2012

A Metamorphosis in Mark

Mark is an intriguing account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ.  Even the world outside of Christendom has a point of view and perspective on the Gospels due to the fact that Jesus is such an intriguing character.  Look at what PBS says about the Gospel of Mark.

Our last class spent the bulk of its time period with a focus on the transfiguration of Jesus in Mark chapter 9.  The online reference site www.about.com has the following "analysis" of these sections of the Scriptures:

The Gospel According to Mark, Chapter 9 - Analysis and Commentary

The ninth chapter of Mark starts out with one of the most important pre-passion events: Jesus' transfiguration, which reveals something about his true nature to a select inner group of apostles. After this, Jesus continues to work miracles but includes further predictions about his coming death as well as warnings about the dangers inherent in giving in to temptations to sin.

Transfiguration of Jesus (Mark 9:1-8) - Analysis and Commentary

Jesus appears here with two figures: Moses, representing Jewish law and Elijah, representing Jewish prophecy. Moses is important because he was the figure believed to have given the Jews their basic laws and to have written the five books of the Torah - the basis of Judaism itself. Connecting Jesus to Moses thus connects Jesus to the very origins of Judaism, establishing a divinely authorized continuity between the ancient laws and Jesus' teachings.

Reactions to Jesus' Transfiguration (Mark 9:9-13) - Analysis and Commentary

As Jesus returns from the mountaintop with the three apostles, the connection between Jews and Elijah is made more explicit. It is interesting that this is the relationship focused upon most of all and not the relationship with Moses, even though both Moses and Elijah appeared on the mountain with Jesus. It is also interesting that Jesus refers to himself here as 'Son of man' again - twice, in fact.
 
I posted this as "analysis" because you have to consider the source.  Don't get caught up in what the world has to say about Jesus or His Word.  When you see Newsweek and National Geographic, even Time Magazine, making references to Jesus and His ministry on earth, keep in mind the perspective from which they view Christianity and its followers.

What does the Word itself say about Jesus?

Use biblical references such as sites and software for analysis and commentary to assist you in your research once you have read and studied the Word itself.  These do not replace a thorough study of the Scriptures.  Include a view of a chain reference such as Thompson Chain Reference Bible available as a smart phone app and with some Bible software.

At some point, Christians like us will need to have a perspective on the importance of our belief in the accounts of the life of Jesus provided to us through the Gospels.  If we profess and confess Him to be Lord and Savior, the Son of God, then we should be able to point to what confirms our belief in the Scriptures.  IDK (I Don't Know) just will not do for us if we are trying to win souls for Christ.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Moving Along in the Book of Mark

In reading the Book of Mark, I try to keep in mind one major aspect of Bible observation methods; who is speaking to whom.  I try to keep that in mind from two perspectives:
  1. Who is (John ) Mark writing to as the author sharing with an intended audience?
  2. Who is speaking in the biblical text and who is it directed to as a listening audience?
Let's look at the second point.  Look at the end of Mark's chapter 8.

And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. Mark 8:31 (NKJV)

Who is the them who He began to teach? The disciples of Jesus? The Twelve? The multitudes and the disciples? Who is them in this context?

Then, after you find them, go to the passage that reads: When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. (v. 34).  We now have a full view of who He (being Jesus) is talking to at the end of the chapter.  Read it so that it can be understood.

No amount of theological school or seminary will ever wipe out such fundamental study practices like this.  It should be seen as necessary for basic Bible study to be conducted in such a manner to gain an understanding of what is actually happening within the text and who is actually involved, not who is assumed to be involved in it.

As we enter into chapter 9 of Mark, let us continue to keep our eyes attentive to what we read in the text.  See who is involved and how so.  Otherwise, we may start making some errors in interpreting what occurs from verse to verse, even in a straightforward biblical book like Mark.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Looking Back in Mark

Read Mark chapter 1 again.  Read that part between verses 16 through 20, the part where Jesus called them and they responded.  Look at verses 18 and 20.

Immediately they left their nets and followed Him.- Mark 1:18

Jesus called them.  They left their nets.  They left their fishing boats and gear.  They left everything to follow Him.

That was early during the Lord's ministry.  That was before He called them together as the Twelve and gave them power over unclean spirits.  That was way before Jesus fed five thousand or four thousand with fish and bread loaves, leaving baskets of fragments each time.  That was even before Peter spoke up and claimed Jesus to be the Christ.

In fact, that was even before Peter spoke up and said: "We have left everything to follow you!" (Mark 10:28).

Jesus could have called them on their initial response to His calling them.  He could have said: "Whoa, y'all! Wait a minute.  I thought you wanted to hang out with the Messiah.  I thought you wanted to be part of the change that's taking place.  Was that not real?" He sure could have said that to them.

What could he say to us?

Yo, ________________ (Insert Your Name), whatever happened with that stuff you said about it being about just you and I from here on?

Was that real or just something to say?

Let me know.


Yours truly,   Jesus (the Christ)   Think about it.  It doesn't make Jesus any less powerful.  He still has power and authority.  We just end up looking bad due to our failure to keep our promises to Him.  When we look back, can we have enough faith to stick it out and hang on a little longer with Jesus?   Or, do we have to get Jesus to rebuke us right after He gets done with the wind and the waves?

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Jesus on the Go

Reading the Gospel of Mark reveals the many movements of Jesus in His ministry.  It shows just how mobile Jesus made His earthly ministry.  He kept things moving.  He managed to minister while on the move.

The woman with an issue of blood occurred while Jesus was on the move.  Jesus healing the deaf and mute man in Decapolis happened while He was moving from one place to another.  Much of what Jesus does in the Gospel of Mark shows us that ministry can be mobilized to reach people here and there.

Yes, the Lord does demonstrate how it can work outside of the church.  He shows us how we can serve others with our gifts and abilities as we come and go on this earth.  We see the Lord at work, serving men, woemn and children and meeting needs as He goes about His daily business.

Search through the Gospel of Mark and discover how to minister to others outside of the sanctuary.  See how we can do more outside of the church building to share with others and lead them to Christ.  Read it and see for yourself that the Lord wants us working.  In other words, He wants us serving.

This week we continue in Mark chapter 8 and see a blind man healed, Peter confessing Jesus to be the Christ, and Jesus predicting His own death at the hands of those who will reject Him.  Complete our latest pop-up quiz on Mark today.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Believing Beyond the Bread

Read what the Word says about bread.  It will stimulate your imagination.  Bread is a symbol of sustenance.   Our Lord's model prayer mentions the giving of daily bread by the Father.

The relationship with bread is throughout this section of the Gospels.

Think about these questions as we enter into Mark Chapter 8. . .

Compare the feeding in chapter 8 to the feeding in chapter 6. Beyond the difference in numbers, 4,000 versus 5,000, what are the:


a. Similarities in both feedings?

b. Differences in both feedings?



Look at how Jesus addresses the leaven of the Pharisees in Mark 8:12-16

a. What brings up the matter?

b. Why does Jesus chastise or criticize His disciples about their thoughts on the matter?



"Do you still not understand [who I am]?" (8:17, 21).

a. Why is this question of importance for Jesus’ disciples?
b. Why is it important for us to understand this, too?

Get ready for these and other questions as we go further into the Gospel of Mark this week.  God be with you.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Making Surprisig Moves in the Gospel of Mark

In a previous post, I covered some key issues and insights from Jesus on how we truly become defiled.  Believe it or not, Jesus was pretty direct with what He said.  He didn't leave much wiggle room for other interpretations (Mark 7:1-23).

That shouldn't come as much of a surprise.  That's been pretty standard practice for Jesus during this whole study, hasn't it? I would think so.

Along with that, we had a short survey entitled Who is Jesus? that numerous visitors and subscribers joined in to share their opinions. FYI: we're still taking responses throughout this week.  The results are as follows so far:
  • 89% of respondents said that King Herod believed Jesus to be John the Baptist.  That comes from the king's own personal paranoia about John in Mark 6:14-29.
  • 56% of respondents found it insightful that the Greek woman's daughter was healed, while 22% of respondents selected the woman's response to Jesus' reluctance to help.  See Mark 7:24-30.
  • 44% of respondents were amazed at Jesus' methods for healing the deaf and mute man, while 33% were amazed at the people publishing the report despite Jesus warning against it.  See Mark 7:31-37.

We are moving on to chapter 8 now.  We will hear about signs, predictions and other challenges in this chapter.  Jesus will make some literal moves that may surprise us, too.  Look at where He goes with His disciples.  Bethsaida and Caesarea Philippi take them away from the far west and back along the Jordan River and the Sea of Galilee.  Literally, Jesus is making moves and so are others who seek a sign from Him.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Defiled from the Inside Out

And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. - Mark 7:20

Imagine how it would be if everyone could what was inside of us.

They could see your thoughts.  Every one of your thoughts would play out like a movie scene before every person who came in contact with you.  You would be viewable by anyone and everyone.

People could see what you had in your system.  What you ate for breakfast would be in plain view.  What you put in your system would be apparent to every single person who approached you, both the good and the bad.
That doesn't sound too good.

What about that time when I only had a few drinks? It was just something to do.

How about the time when I  held her close for only one night? Will those smudges of sex and lust still be apparent on my hands and the rest of my body?

Will everything that I laid my eyes be revealed when people look in my eyes? Magazines? Videos? Websites?

Uh-Oh!

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
 
Amen Me!