Archive Page 2

07
Apr
14

Journey Through Mark – 10

Ecuador 2013Welcome back to our journey together. I pray that by now this walk is a part of your daily routine. I pray that as we walk together, you are growing closer and closer to our walking companion – Jesus.  Today as we walk in His company, there is much to learn. Some of His teachings are uphill walks and until our spiritual health improves we will have to take these hills slowly. Some of what we learn from Him today, may upset you. That is okay, we all need reminders of who we should be and not just pats on the head telling us, “that’s alright.” Listen as Jesus talks as we walk.

  • Mark 10:1-12 – Jesus teaches about marriage, divorce, and remarriage. He gives only one reason for divorce and remarriage; the other person’s infidelity.
  • Mark 10:13-16 – Jesus welcomes little children to Him. We must become like children in His eyes.
  • Mark 10:17-27 – A wealthy young man learns a hard lesson about material possessions. A lesson we need to take a serious look at.
  • Mark 10:28-31 – Jesus tells about the cost of truly walking with Him.
  • Mark 10:32-34 – Jesus foretells of His death a third time.
  • Mark 10:35-45 – James and John make a mistaken request.
  • Mark 10:46-52 – Bartimaeus receives his sight.

When the disciples understand the wealthy young man’s plight, Peter exclaims, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mar 10:28). As we journey today, take time to reflect on your blessings and what you are willing to give up to walk with Jesus. Are we doing the same at Peter? Do I want to walk with Jesus? If I do, what is the cost?

Honestly, to walk with Jesus does have a cost. Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,” (Mark 10:29). The cost is our earthly ties. To give up our house is to let go of our possessions; what the wealthy young man could not easily do. If my life is build around gaining the world, and laying up treasures on earth (cf. Matt 6:19-21), then following Jesus will be difficult. If I life by the slogan “You Only Live Once,” and use that to do what I want to do and gain what pleases me getting what I can, saving for my long, relaxing, vacationing retirement, then I may have difficulty daily walking with Jesus. Society says to vote for the person and the policy that fattens your wallet and takes care of your wants at little cost to you. Society says to look out for yourself and your life on earth.

Jesus says, No.”  Give all that up and turn your back on your family too. This has to be difficult. My junior high Sunday School teacher converted to Christianity and his family disowned him and considered him “dead” for all practical purposes.

When we commit to this journey with Jesus, people (friends and family) will not understand and some will make your decision difficult. This is part of the persecution Jesus mentions in Mark 10:31. When I told my high school friends, just before graduation that I was going to school to become a minister, I knew some of them would not understand, but there was one I expected to support me. He was a member of a conservative Christian church, a part of the American Restoration Movement. We had very similar religious backgrounds and differed only in some of the specifics of worship.  I thought, he would support me. But it was this friend whose statement stung the hardest. “Why? You are too smart to be a preacher, you could make a lot more money as an medical doctor!”

Yes, the cost of walking with Jesus is high. But high cost equals high rewards. ” . . . receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Mark 10:30-31). Give up your belongings and life to God and know that God will take care of you (cf. Matt 6:25-34). God’s people will not go without necessities and added to that is our eternal inheritance that never fades away or decays! Part of that reality is our new family – those fellow Christians with whom we are so closely connected. I have more “mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers” than I can count. Family I know I can always count on. This family in Christ is a great blessing, one that will follow into eternity.

I high cost? Yes. But an even greater eternal dividend!

- Scott

04
Apr
14

Journey Through Mark – 9

This is our ninth walk as we journey through Mark’s account of the life of Jesus of Nazareth. We are across the half-way point, do not turn back now! We are learning so much from this man, Jesus. He is turning heads and hearts everywhere He goes. During our last walk with Him, He asked His followers a challenging question, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter breaks the silence and confesses that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God! If you believe, with Peter, that such is the case, I am joyful for you.  I hope and pray you commit your life to Jesus as the Christ.

Now let’s catch up to Jesus and the apostles as the walk the dusty roads of the Middle East.

  • Mark 9:1 – Jesus tells of the coming Kingdom
  • Mark 9:2-13 – Jesus’ transfiguration
  • Mark 9:14-29 – Evil spirits, healings, and prayer
  • Mark 9:30-32 – Jesus talks about His death and resurrection
  • Mark 9:33-37 – Who is the greatest in the Kingdom?
  • Mark 9:38-40 – People are either against Jesus or for Him
  • Mark 9:41-50 – Facing temptations, they will come

Walk back and take a look at Mark 9:1. Listen intently to what Jesus says, “Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God after it has come with power.”

Some standing around on that day; some standing there with Jesus would see His Kingdom. I am sure that Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, Matthew, James (son of Alphaeus), Thaddeus, Simon, and Judas were thinking of a physical kingdom with standing armies and a vast treasury. The were considering all the possibilities of being at Jesus side when He ruled over God’s people and even Rome from Jerusalem. They had visions of Jerusalem’s return to world prominence. I am not convinced they had yet fully grasped Jesus’ Kingdom. I know they had not, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6).

Some people in Judaism and in Christendom today still wait for a Messianic Kingdom. Some today still look for a future when Christ will return to reign on the earth. But Jesus said some that stood with Him on that day would see the kingdom come with power. Either Jesus was wrong and the Kingdom did not come, or those who wait today are wrong and the Kingdom did come and does exist – today.20110816-122724.jpg

Jesus was not wrong! The Kingdom did come and it came with power. “When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Act 2:1-4). All of the apostles, except Judas, were resent that day. It was Peter who would stand and declare the arrival of Jesus’ Kingdom (Acts 2:14-36). A few years later, the former persecutor turned preacher, Paul would write, “He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Col 1:13-14).
His Kingdom is His Church on earth. You are welcome to enter His Kingdom. Those whom He adds to His people are part of His Kingdom. Will you allow Him to add you? “And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:47) “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act 2:36-38). So those who received his word were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls” (Acts 2:41). Be added to His Kingdom – today!

02
Apr
14

Journey Through Mark – 8

Welcome to the journey. Today’s trek promises to be busy, educational, and challenging.  This Jesus, that we are walking with and following around the towns and villages is gathering quite the crowds. There are about 4,000 additional followers in today’s story. The more that follow Him, the more opposition He faces from religious authorities.   Take a look around as we walk through Mark 8.

  • Mark 8:1-12, Jesus feeds a crowd of 4,000.
  • Mark 8:11-13, The Pharisees demand to see miraculous proof of who Jesus is.
  • Mark 8:14-21, Jesus warns the 12 about the leavening influence of the Pharisees and Herod.
  • Mark 8:22-26, A blind man at Bethsaida receives his sight in a two-step healing.
  • Mark 8:27-30, Peter confesses that Jesus is the Christ – the Messiah God promised by the prophets.
  • Mark 8:31-33, Peter falls from a great confession to a mistaken pride and misunderstanding of what the role Christ is.
  • Mark 8:34-38, Jesus explains what following Him means.

Following Jesus, this is our journey – the one I am taking you on.  I am asking you to follow Him alongside of me.  Together, you and I, being followers of this Jesus; the one Peter confessed to be Christ. If you plan to follow Him as His disciple, and not as one of the multitude on the edge or as a Pharisee looking to trap Him, there are some warnings from Jesus that you need to know. Look back to Mark 8:34-38:

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

  1. You must deny you.  This is tougher than it sounds.  This means I tell myself, “NO” when my wants, desires, plans, and life are in conflict with the will and word of God.photo
  2. You must CRUCIFY you.  Taking up a cross is not simply carrying a burden, It is heading to your death.  You die to you so you can life for Christ (cf. Gal 2:20; Rom 6:3-6).
  3. Know that there is NOthing in this world that is worth giving up the salvation of your soul (cf. 1 Joh 2:15-17).
  4. Do not be ashamed of Jesus. Be willing to live in a way that seems crazy to those in the world. Do not let fear keep you from speaking Christ’s name, from praying, from shouting “Hallelujah!”, nor from giving God glory for life and salvation.

Let me offer some practical advice on how to do this.  This is what I try to put into practice.  I wish I can say that I am 100% consistent. I am not, but I am getting stronger and more consistent as I go.

  • Start each day with a verbal commitment in prayer saying, “Today is your day, God. Today, I am living for You and doing Your will.”
  • Look at each day’s events and decisions knowing you died to self and are living as a servant of God. Ask yourself, “Am I doing this for my glory and satisfaction or for God?” (cf. Col 3:4, 17).
  • Do only what will strengthen your relationship with God.  Avoid those things which can lead you into the world away from God.
  • Give God credit for the blessings in your life as you talk with co-workers and neighbors. Do not be afraid to sincerely and audibly say, “Thank God for . . .”

Will you continue the journey as a distant follower or as a disciple?

- Scott

Side note: Why do you think Jesus took two steps to heal the blind man in Bethsaida?

01
Apr
14

Journey Through Mark – 7

Good morning, are you ready for our journey to continue?  I missed our walk for the past few days and I am ready to go this morning.  As we come to the seventh chapter of Mark, we walk up on this Jesus as he is teaching those who are following Him.  Pull up a rock, lie back on the grass or the soft sand as we listen and learn from this Teacher as He instructs His students about:

  • Mark 7:1-13, The truth about traditions
  • Mark 7:14-23, What really defiles a person

After these lessons, we join Jesus as he journeys on. Soon we see His compassion as he helps those who are suffering:

  • Mark 7:24-30, The faith of a Gentile woman shames the faith of many, and Jesus casts out a demon for her.
  • Mark 7:31-37. Jesus heals one who is deaf.

“Tradition . . . Tradition!” sings Tevye in The Fiddler on the Roof.  Traditions can be helpful. Traditions bind social groups together. Traditions hold an important place in families.  My family has traditions, some are nearly sacred. Each

year, when my side of the family gathers for our Christmas meal, there is one thing that is always present.  Ever since anyone can remember, my family starts dinner with bowl of gumbo containing chicken, oysters, shrimp, and seasoned with lots of file’ served over rice. This recipe was my great-grandmother’s recipe (she was from southern Louisiana). My grandmother prepared it when I was little, my mother and her sister took over when I was in high school, now my wife and both of my sisters-in-law have had their turns preparing this traditional “Christmas Gumbo.” The few Christmases we skipped the gumbo, seemed, well wrong.

Churches have traditions. Where we worship, we have a new tradition for us. Our men who lead in worship gather in a classroom to make sure everyone is in place and then we pray together before we go out to serve in worship. We did not do this when we first moved here 15 years ago, we began it when we moved into our new building in 2004. We like this tradition, we hope it continues for generations to come.

In Mark 7 we see that the Pharisees had their traditions; they washed their hands before they ate. Come to think of it, I do the same thing for health reasons. Washing hands is not a bad thing, it is really a good thing. But the problem with traditions is when we bind traditions as law and judge people based on our traditions. The Pharisees considered their traditions equal with God’s Law.  When the disciples of Jesus did not ceremonially wash before eating, the Pharisees considered that a crime against Judaism and the God of Judah. It would be like my church family condemning yours because you do not gather to organize and pray before worship. It would be similar to me telling you that if you do not have the exact gumbo I do you are not having real gumbo and that if you do not have it at Christmas, then you are not celebrating Christmas correctly.

By the way, the Pharisees also used traditions to circumvent God’s Law. Jesus pointed out how they neglected their parents by twisting the Law of Moses to their advantage.

“Tradition . . . Tradition!”

  1. Traditions do not over-rule God.
  2. Traditions are not binding.
  3. Traditions, if we are not careful, can become the doctrine of men that hinders others from finding God.

And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ (Mar 7:6-7)

Is my heart (is your heart) near to God or do we just give Him lip service?  How is your walk?

-Scott

27
Mar
14

Journey Through Mark – 6

We pick up our walking-stick again today as we continue our Journey through Mark. This man Jesus, that Mark writes about is doing great things; crowds are following Him and He is becoming quite the successful Rabbi. As we join Him20111220-090908.jpg today, we walk home to Nazareth with Him. Will the town name streets after Him? Are there children named in honor of Him? Will his name be in paint on the market walls – Vote for Jesus!?

  • Mark 6:1-6, Jesus comes to His hometown to teach about God’s Kingdom
  • Mark 6:7-1, Jesus sends the twelve out to the villages in twos
  • Mark 6:14-29, Herod beheads Jesus’ cousin, John the Immerser
  • Mark 6:30-44, Jesus feeds a multitude of over 5,000
  • Mark 6:45-52, Jesus walks on water
  • Mark 6:53-56, Jesus heals many in Gennesaret

I know something about you. If you are able to access the internet and read this message, I know something. No, I do not have any tracking software on your computer that feeds me information. No, I cannot see you through your web-cam. I am not spying on you. But, I do know something about you. I know that somewhere in your life you FAILED. You have a failed relationship, you failed a test in high school or college, you may have failed an entire class. There was a job or task you simply could not or did not do. You FAILED!

Failure! Failure is common to all of us.  Failure hurts – DEEPLY!  Jesus knows and understands your failure.  He failed too!

No, that is not sacrilegious. Jesus failed in Nazareth.  Read Mark 6:1-6. There are few critics as severe as hometown critics.  “I know Him.” “Who does He think He is?” “Does He think He is better than us?” “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” “He can’t be important, He is one of us.” “He made me a table when He worked with His father, Joseph. The legs didn’t match, I ended up using it as firewood.”

So Jesus could do very few miracles in Nazareth. The attitude and atmosphere of the village was not right. Jesus failed and he faced failure with disappointment. “And he marveled because of their unbelief.” Mark 6:6a. I see Jesus shaking his head and maybe even doing a face-palm. Yet, He stuck to His mission, “And he went about among the villages teaching.” Mark 6:6b.

There are three lessons I learn from Jesus and His failure at Nazareth:

  1. Failure will come to all of us.
  2. Failure does not have to paralyze me, I must keep working.
  3. “Shake off the dust that is on your feet . . .” and move on.

- Scott

25
Mar
14

Journey Through Mark – 5

Weekend ReadingWelcome back to our walk our journey through Mark. Today we will walk beside this man Jesus and watch in amazement as the events unfold. This is a packed chapter of three powerful events.  Please, take time to read this chapter and reflect on the events and the powerful authority of this Jesus.

  • Mark 5:1-20 – Jesus meets a wild man possessed by Legion of demons. After forcing the demons out of the man, Jesus sends this man off as a missionary.
  • Mark 5:21-24; 35-43 – Jairus, a ruler of the Synagogue in that region, has a young daughter who is sick and dying. He asks, Jesus to heal her. There are interruption on the way and the young girl dies before Jesus arrives. Jesus takes here hand in His and raises her from the dead.
  • Mark 5:25-34 – This is the interruption, one that Jairus more than likely did not fully appreciate. A woman with a continual hemorrhage stealthily seeks out Jesus’ healing power.

This is a powerful chapter.  There are numerous lessons from the demon possessed man in the tombs. There are lessons on faith from Jairus. There are lessons about Jesus in all three of these encounters.  Look with me to the interruption, a story within the story. The event of healing that just happens – the woman with the unceasing hemorrhage receiving healing from Jesus (Mark 5:25-34).

  1. This woman spent the last 12 years ceremonially unclean. Everyone and everything she touched became unclean, her family and friends, her bed linens, her clothes, if she had a husband he could not lie in bed with her. For 12 years she faced this alone (cf. Leviticus 15:25-28).
  2. For 12 years she spent all she had on the latest treatments and the next physician. Now she was in financial ruin and isolated from all whom she loved.
  3. Now that this new healer was around, she had to see Him. She was willing to risk all the looks and scorn as she worked through the crowd (making all she touched unclean).
  4. Embarrassment or fear forced her to want to hide her intentions, so she simply touches Jesus’ outer garment. Healed!
  5. Jesus knows someone touched him and seeks her out, not to embarrass her but to confirm her. (I love the disciples reaction. Who touched you? Um, Jesus, there is a crowd around you.  A lot of people are touching you.)

The events of this chapter prompted the following poem.

A Simple Touch of Jesus
© B. Scott McCown 1991.

In this world of trouble and crime,

Sin, death, hatred, and strife,

We need a cure to last through time.

One that will change our life.

Satan’s burdens, heavy to bear,

Toilsome, binding, not light,

We need a Friend to show His care,

To move us from wrong to right.

Such a cure came down from above,

Sent down only for us,

He healed the weak, He showed His love,

A simple touch of Jesus!

- Scott

What lessons do you see in this chapter?  Write them down, share them with the rest of us.

24
Mar
14

Journey Through Mark – 4

As we continue our quest we begin to hear this man Jesus teach in a way that the common man can understand basic principles. Jesus begins using parable. Jesus admits that the parables will disguise truth to some and reveal it to others (Mark 4:10-13). The word parable is a compound word in Greek from “para” meaning side by side and “bole” meaning throwing or to throw. The idea communicated by the word parable is to lay things side by side for comparison. Jesus will tell a story using common events and His disciple can learn a spiritual or kingdom truth from that story.  In Mark 4 we have the following events and Jesus lays out the certain parables:

  • Mark 4:1-20111108-084732.jpg9 – The Parable of the Soils
  • Mark 4:10-13 – The reason Jesus uses Parables
  • Mark 4:14-20 – The Parable of the Soils Explained
  • Mark 4:21-25 – Jesus Teaches about Illuminating Light
  • Mark 4:26-29 – The Parable of the Grain
  • Mark 4:30-34 – The Parable of the Mustard Seed
  • Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus Calms a Storm

Today, let’s journey beside the sower as he spreads the seed. As we spend time with him we will stay to watch the seed and the soil it lands on.

  • The Sower is God, any of His agents such as Christ, the apostles, or even Christians today.
  • The Seed as Jesus defines it is the Word of God.  This is the message God wants spread in the world. The message of the Gospel and of the Kingdom. It is a message of the great news concerning salvation (cf. John 1:1; John 12:48).

Now we come to the soils:

  1. The soil of the Path is hard and impenetrable. The Word of God falls on hard hearts and cannot get in deep to germinate and grow. Hard-heated people have their minds made up or are scarred by life and are unwilling to yield to God. Hard earth needs breaking and the dirt turned over to reveal the soft heart still below the surface.
  2. The soil that is rocky can still receive the seed. The Word of God reaches the soft part of the heart, but the soil is not deep. The sun beats down then  dries the plant that has no nourishing water.  The roots cannot go down to drink deeply or to hold fast. When the first torrential rain that comes along will wash the seed or the young plant away.  We must remove the rocks from the soil as we prepare the soil for sowing, helping people with rocky hearts to get rid of the traditions or philosophies that keep them from leaning fully on God.
  3. The soil full of thorns is also soft soil. They hear, obey, and begin to follow the Word of God. But the weeds of the world distract them and choke out what God is growing in their hearts. We must help weed-out those distractions, whatever they might be. We must, as Jesus says, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Mat 6:33-34)
  4. The soil that is good is soil ready for seed and that will have a great harvest. The heart hears, obeys, and follows. They keep growing and as they mature they spread seed for a great harvest.

Which soil are you? What are you doing to prepare your soil and the soil of those around you?

- Scott

What lessons do you see in the other parables in this chapter?




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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, used by permission, all rights reserved.

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