May 6, 2011
In reading Mark, I can’t help but wonder why Jesus told people to be quiet about certain miracles. What’s even more baffling is that they ignore this command. so, for example, in chapter one of Mark Jesus commands grown men to follow him, and they follow (1:17). Jesus effortlessly drives out demons (1:25). Jesus miraculously heals people (1:31). Jesus cures the leprous (1:42). But when Jesus tells the leprous not to tell about it, his command is ignored. This shocks me, coming as it does at the climax of chapter one.
Elsewhere in the Gospel, Jesus commands the sea to be calm (4:39), commands legions of demon to come out (5:8), and commands a dead girl to come back to life (5:41). But when Jesus commands people to be quiet, his command is ignored.
I do not know the answer to this, perhaps I am reading way to much into the text, so let me simply offer an open-ended question: Does the phenomenon of people ignoring Jesus’ commands reveal anything about the nature of man in relation to God? Is it significant that perhaps the only imperative of Jesus in Mark that is not fulfilled is the one given to people?
May 4, 2011
In the next couple of days I hope to write a few posts related to the Gospel of Mark. I don’t plan on writing anything profound, but simply to share some observations that have occurred to me as I’ve recently been reading through this Gospel.
So today my first reflection is on Mark 4:35-41, the passage where Jesus calms the storm. Isn’t it interesting that in this passage the disciples “feared a great fear” in response to Jesus’ ability to calm the sea? Isn’t it also interesting that this is the same phrase used in the story of Jonah, where the sailors “fear a fear” when Jonah is tossed overboard!
I think that I would have also been afraid if I had been on the boat with the disciples. Maybe the disciples’ fear was related to the power of Jesus’ words — the same Jesus who speaks to the wind immediately turns and speaks to them:
4:39, “And he said to the sea, ‘Silence! Stillness!’”
4:40, “And he said to the disciples, ‘Why are you timid? Do you still not have faith?’”
And then the disciples fear. If One with the power to instantly calm the sea by speaking only two short words then turned to me and spoke a twofold rebuke for my lack of faith, I would be afraid too!
How interesting, also, that this account of Jesus’ ability to calm the sea occurs at the end of a series of parables, parables related to the seed — which represents the word (4:14).
April 17, 2011
Identify which of the following statements were said by Jesus in the Gospels. We’ll go over the answers at the end:
-If anyone comes to me, and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.
-Sell everything you possess and distribute it to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven, then come, follow me.
-Before Abraham was born [hundreds and hundreds of years ago] I was already existing.
-Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life.
-Whoever wants to come after me must deny himself, pick up his cross [upon which the Romans brutally execute slaves and non-citizens], and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
-You all are from your father, the devil!
-I am the way, the truth, and the life; anyone who wants access to the Father must come through me and me alone.
-Your sins are forgiven.
-I have come to cast fire upon the earth; and how I wish it were already kindled!
Are you ready now for the answers? All of these are genuine statements of Jesus (see Luke 14:26; 18:22; John 8:58; 6:53; Luke 9:23-24: John 8:44; 14:6; Mark 2:5; Luke 12:49).
Does this surprise you? Many people think that Jesus was simply a nice teacher who went around doing good things and helping people and offering kind advice. But the Jesus of the Bible was quite different. He was radical, and he made it extremely clear that following him was very difficult. In fact, Jesus was so radical that on numerous occasions people tried to kill him. And he often said such difficult things that almost all of his followers left him. He was not afraid to mince words. So, does your notion of Jesus correspond to the picture painted about him in the Bible? If not, perhaps its time to see what the Scriptures say about him. In your Bible, find the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, read this in whatever language you can, and then ask yourself what Jesus was like, and how your idea of him might need to change. And if you do not own a Bible and need help getting one, please let me know and I will do everything I can to help you get one.
October 22, 2010
A buddy of mine posted this today on FB:
”God had one Son on earth without sin, but never one without suffering” – Augustine
October 4, 2010
I think things went alright yesterday in Virgilina, preaching at Florence Avenue Baptist. The congregation seemed to respond well to my message on Philippians 2:5-11.
One particular illustration really seemed to drive home the point I was trying to make. I was speaking about how Christ humbled himself. He did this as God by not grasping at his rights, and as a man by coming as a lowly servant who humbled himself to the extent of the cross.
To illustrate this kind of humility, I referred to the example of American presidents. The president is arguably the most powerful man in the world. Once he has served his term in office, he has reached the pinnacle of his career. What else is left for him? Can he possibly advance beyond that position? But we see that presidents, when they leave the office, generally seek important positions. Some go on speaking tours, others make it their goal to get filthy rich, some use their influence as fund-raisers or important humanitarians. One would look in vain for a president who left the office and became an obscure, insignificant individual.
Yet Christ was no mere president, he was God almighty. All privilege, rights, status, and honor rightfully belonged to him. He chose, however, to let go of all that and come to earth as a servant. To continue the thought of the president, this would be somewhat similar him leaving his job as president and putting in a job application at McDonald’s. And when this president is hired at McDonald’s, he will work for minimum wage, flipping burgers all day over a hot grill, waiting on impatient customers. What a foolish, shameful job for one who has served as the president of America! This, perhaps, gives us just a glimpse of Christ’s humility in choosing to empty himself and come humbly as a servant.
But then, Christ humbled himself even further, dying a shameful death on the cross. This would be like the president working at McDonald’s seeking to do the most filthy, degrading job possible. He is not working as McDonald’s supervisor, or a manager. He is not even running the cash register or flipping burgers. No, the president chooses to work as the janitor. He will spend eight hours a day on his hands and knees cleaning the bathrooms. And as we all know, McDonald’s bathrooms are nothing to be proud of. In fact, most of us deliberately avoid the McDonald’s bathroom unless we are absolutely desperate. We just can’t stand the sticky floor and the stench and the toilet paper strewn everywhere. But the president is on his hands and knees, cleaning the filthy McDonald’s bathroom day after day. What a contrast. He went from serving as the nation’s powerful leader, to McDonald’s janitor.
As humbling as it would seem for the president to do a menial task such as that, it gives us only a glimpse of God’s self-emptying nature seen in Christ. I’m making it my goal to emulate Christ’s humility by living as a servant and humbling myself in big and small ways, following his example.
After my message I went up to the sound man who had run things in the service that morning. You see, everyone had come and shaken my hand and thanked me for speaking at their church. I doubt a single person thanked the sound man for his job. I went up and thanked him for what he did. I also told him that if Christ had been physically present in the service that morning, he probably would have opted for the sound board or the nursery, rather than the pulpit. I thanked him for choosing the position of dishonor.
September 28, 2010
Let me ask you a question. If you had one chance, only one, to address a group of believers, what would you say? You will get to speak to them for about thirty minutes. After you’re finished, you will most likely never see them again. You have just this one chance to say something edifying to them. What would you say?
This is a question I’ve been contemplating throughout the week because I have been invited to speak this Sunday at Florence Avenue Baptist in Norlina. After much prayer and contemplation, I think I will speak on Philippians 2:5-11, one of my all time favorite passages. I never cease to be amazed at the humbling, self-emptying nature of God. One of the best parts of the passage is the way it seems to imply, “This is what God is like, so this is what you should be like.” Hopefully I will be able to communicate this to the congregation so that together we can not only marvel at our amazing God, but then follow his example.
So this is what I plan on speaking about. What would you choose if you had just one chance?
September 21, 2010
So, I just checked my Facebook account. There are some people (not only on Facebook, but for the sake of example Facebook makes a good test case) who you can pretty much predict what they will be talking about. What bothers me is when someone writes on their Facebook profile that Jesus is the most important part of their life, yet in their daily posts all they talk about is, say, politics and sports, politics and sports. The message that sends me is that Jesus really is not as important as these other soap-boxes. Or perhaps it communicates that they are a Christian whose real mission is to transform Washington D.C.
So what is my soap-box? Do I reflect through my words that Jesus is really the most important part of my life? Or am I sending the message that Jesus is a part of my life, but this other area is what really matters, what I’m passionate about? My prayer is that I will honestly be able to say, like the New Testament believers who were commanded not to teach in Jesus’ name, “We cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20).
June 5, 2010
The longer I walk with the Lord, the more I become aware of my utter sinfulness. If my salvation depended on me being a good person, I could never attain it; if there was a chance I could ever lose my salvation, I would surely have done it; if God’s forgiveness had a limit, I would have already exhausted it. Thank goodness for a God who justifies the wicked (Rom 4:5) and for his salvation, which begins in faith and remains by faith to the very end (Rom 1:7).
I believe that as one matures in his faith, the more he will be marked by brokenness and humility in light of his sin. When I was a younger believer, I honestly used to think I had it all together. I felt like I was better than just about every other believer, basing my confidence on things such as my quiet times, and figuring I had experienced more victory over sin, and that my spiritual accomplishments were more numerous and weighty. Oh, was I wrong.
Perhaps it could be said that a maturing Christian is one who points out his own short commings, a baby Christian one who points out others short comings, and an unchristian one who points out his own perfections. I think this is why the apostle John so matter of factly states, “If we say we have no sin, we are decieving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). How can one indwellt by the Spirit of conviction claim perfection? In order to do so, he would need to redefine sin, and thus make God out to be a liar (1 Jn 1:10).
This idea of a Christian being marked by his awareness of sin finds a place in the New Testament. James, speaking to brothers, commands, “Continue putting aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness” (1:21). This verse implies that believers do not just have a few bad vices, but that there is all sorts of filth in their lives, and that dealing with these is an ongoing, daily process. Paul likewise instructs believers to put off long lists of sins (Eph 4:31; Col 3:8). Isn’t it interesting that Paul also said, “Jesus came to save sinners, of whom I am chief” (1 Tim 1:15)? Paul does not say he was chief, but that he is chief. A similar theme runs through Revelation, where John teaches that one of the ways believers hold fast to the end is by continuing to repent (Rev 2:5, 16, 21; 3:2, 19; 9:20; 16:9).
And when I consider that Christ bore all my sins, oh the weight upon him! Yet he did not just bear my sin, but the sins of the whole world, everyone who has ever lived. What a sacrifice he made!
May 26, 2010
Who said it (in German):
The question of truth, with which theology is concerned throughout, is the question as to the agreement between the language about God peculiar to the Church and the essence of the Church. The criterion of Christian language, in past and future as well as at the present time, is thus the essence of the church, which is Jesus Christ, God in his gracious approach to man in revelation and reconciliation. Has Christian language its source in Him? Does it lead to Him? Does it conform to Him?
May 18, 2010
Yesterday I was looking at the original Latin of the Famous hymn “Jesus, the very thought of thee.” The translation most people are familiar with is good, but fails to capture some of the word play and ryhme found in the original. Here is my attempt at a translation:
Jesus, sweet memory
filling the heart with joyful glee
but better than anything, to be
in his sweet presence.
Nothing is sung, of such a kind
nothing is heard, so sublime
no sweeter thought will you find,
than Jesus, son of God.
Jesus, hope for the repentant,
How gracious to the persistent!
and to those who seek, consistent;
but what to those who find?
No tongue can say
no pen express;
but to him who’s experienced
what it is to love Jesus
he is able to believe this.
Be, Jesus, our present joy
who art our future prize,
May we glory in you now,
as we shall for the rest of eternity