Archive for April, 2012

Working The System

April 16, 2012

“Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth up.”  Mk 10:20


Question, “Do you ever get tired of the system?”  Certainly this question has been asked innumerable times by people who do not get up the ladder of success fast enough or they have fallen from the ladder.

This was illustrated for me in two different venues:  The first was from ESPN and the other was from the Bible.  In the first venue I read the story of Bobby Paterno who is football coach at Arkansas.  Recently he was caught in a place where all of his fame did not get him a free pass.  I will leave the details of this account to those who write for ESPN.  In the second venue, Mark gives us the details in our More For Christ reading, Mk 10:26-45.  

In this familiar setting we meet a young man who has worked the system.  He has arrived at earthly riches and in his mind, earthly righteousness.  But upon meeting Jesus he discovered all of his working the system had not paid off, “He went away sorrowful.”

The fact is, this man’s refusal to give away his wealth was an indicator of the fact that his life was not submitted to loving the Lord will all of his heart, soul, and mind.  He was willing to come to God on his terms (His system) but not God’s system.

And even greater fact is no man can work his own system to earn eternal life.  Coach Parterno cannot work his way nor can Keith Joseph.  God’s system is a system of relying solely on Jesus Christ for our Salvation.

This day, I rejoice that I do not have to face a day of working the system in hopes that I will make it to the top.  This day, I am relying on Jesus and I am resting in Jesus.

This system gives us peace and purpose as we find ourselves seeking to model the Christ life, “For even the Son of Man came not to be saved but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mk 10:45

This was and is Christ system for our forgiveness and for our eternal life.  May you and I spend this week working this type of system for God’s glory alone.

Those Who Can And Those Who Cannot

April 13, 2012

“So I asked your disciples to cast it out, and they were not able.”  Mark 9:18

It goes without saying, but I will anyway, “There are those who can and there are those who cannot.”  This statement can be applied to many different circumstances.  For example, “There are those who can paint and there are those who cannot.”  It is easy to see the difference by the end result of their work.  But for many people, there is the unwillingness to admit they cannot.

Question, “Are there things in your life that you are saying, “I can,” when in fact you cannot?  Sadly enough, our pride gets the best of us.  This possible could have been the case in the midst of our More For Christ readings, “Mk 9:1-29.”  

In our readings we discover two power moments in the life of Christ.  The first, is the moment labeled as ,”Christ Transfiguration,” Vs: 1-13.  In this moment we see a glimpse of Jesus in His glorified state.  We discover Jesus to be the fulfillment of the law.  He came to deliver us from our lawlessness.  We also see God the Father’s indorsement of Jesus ministry.  In this moment we discover, The only Person who can save us from our sins.

The second moment is labeled as, “The disciples testimony,” Vs: 14-29. In this moment we get a glimpse into the life of a people who could not do anything to help a Father to see his demon possessed son healed.  The scene is of sorrow and shame.  However, we discover Jesus as the one who can.

In these two moments I can powerful understanding for this day:

In this I see a people who cannot-This is me and this is you!!!

In this I see a person who can-Nothing is impossible with God!!!

In this I see the principle of prayer-This happens by prayer!!!

Those who are successful find in prayer the path to power.  We as people who cannot come before the only God who can and we submit to our inability and His ability.  As we pray, God aligns our will to His will.  We pray as He would have us to pray and in these moments, “God works miracle after miracle.”  The reality of this is taught in James 5:13-20.  

Question, “Are you praying about those things you cannot do?”  If so, “Are you praying in the correct way?”  This very morning there were things I could not do.  I have given each of them to Him.  I now rest in the answers that He will give.  I challenge you to do the same.

 

And They Came To Bethsaida

April 12, 2012

“And they came to Bethsaida.  And some people brought to him a blind man and begged him to touch him.” Mark 8:22

Do you have certain places that mean a lot to you?  I mean, they are so special that even the mention of their name stirs up feelings of joy.  I know this is the case for my life.  For example, “If you say, Hilton Head,” I immediately smile because this has been a wonderful place for my family to get away and enjoy each other during the last 8 years of our lives.

This morning I was struck by Mark’s simple statement, “And they came to Bethsaida.”  This place had special meaning to at least three of Jesus disciples.  This was the hometown of Phillip, Peter, and Andrew.  They had heard the call of God in this town and they had often been with Jesus as He did much work in this town.  Our More For Christ Readings come from this town, Mk 8:22-26.  

On this particular occasion Jesus heal’s a blind man.  The healing in this case happens in stages or as one author writes, “It was a gradual process.”  There were other times when Jesus work was instantaneous  (Luke 9:7) when Jesus feeds the 5000.

For me, I felt the warmth of Christ reminder that the training of these disciples came in stages.  They did not understand everything but they would eventually see clearly.  Brothers and sisters it is the same way in our lives as we often only see part of what God is doing but there will be the day when God will help us to see clearly.

So, allow me to ask, “What is happening in your Bethsaida today?”  Are you in a blind spot?  Do you see just a little bit of what is going on?  Do you stand in need of understanding?  Are you in need of a miracle?

Trust God in your Bethsaida moment. He is working all things for His glory.  There will be a time when you will come to greatly appreciate your Bethsaida moments.

When I think of Hilton Head, I remember the day when it was a difficult moment when I came to that place.  The future was uncertain and the present was very unsettling, but God gave grace and wisdom and I can still remember the peace that passed all understanding.  Brothers and sisters I am praying for you this day!!!

Your Bethsaida moment must be your intimate encounter with Christ.  Just you and Christ.  He is speaking and you are listening.  He is leading and you are following.  This moment will become a precious moment if you hold on in faith.

After Three Days

April 11, 2012

“I have compassion on the crowd because they have been with me three days and have nothing to eat.” Mark 8:2

Years ago someone related the following to me, “visitors in your home are like fish, after three days they stink.”  I can still remember laughing at this observation.  But the more I think about it the less I laugh.  The fact is, the longer I minister to people the more the fragrance of love should be filling my life.   But sadly this is not always true.

However this was always true in the ministry of Christ, Mk 8:1-21.  I was so challenged by this as I found myself in the midst of 4000 people in Mark 8.  Here we see Jesus showing compassion after being with people for 3 days.  It seems to me that the natural tendency of our lives is just the opposite.  It seems that the longer we are with people the less we seem to show compassion.

I must confess that I need to work on compassion as a follower of Christ.  It is so easy to allow failures of others to pile up until we trip over the slightest things.  Maybe even now you find yourself in a situation where you are not speaking to a brother or sister?  Maybe you are angry and staying away from your family over something that seems to others as so silly.  The reality may be that you have forgotten to be kind one-to-another.  This day, I want to be filled with His compassion.

As I stand in this crowd I also see the clarity of Jesus.  The disciples do not know how to meet such a great need.  But our Lord and Savior knew because He is the “Bread of Life.”  May I always have Christ clarity.  Every circumstance is an opportunity for a miracle if we take what we have and submit it into Christ’s hand.  This very day I challenge you to place all you have in Christ hand and trust Him for the result.

Finally, I find myself picturing all of these people eating and enjoying the blessings of Christ.  They were satisfied with all Jesus did.  But notice Jesus.  We see His clear conviction to His purpose.  He continued on from this place not getting trapped in the moment.  He had work to complete.

Lord, help me to be thankful for the moment, but help me to be a person of conviction who daily strives to complete the work Christ has for me.  May I always stay in the boat with Jesus!

Brothers and sisters may we see our need to walk as Christ did.  May we become people of compassion, clarity, and conviction as we do life with people.

 

What’s The Problem?

April 10, 2012

“And He called the people to him again and said to them, ‘Hear me, all of you and understand.”  Mk 7:14

There are moments when I must admit, I scratch my head and wonder, “What’s the problem?”  This happens in many different scenario’s. For example, “Last week I watched the early morning news the day after Kentucky won the National Championship game. I saw footage of people acting crazy on the campus.”  In that moment, I wondered, “What is the problem?”

Still there are other moments when I wonder.  For example, “When our family seems to be at odds with each other.”  In those moments I again wonder, “What is the problem.” I am sure you have the same deal in your life.

In these moments, our answer to this all important question determines our reaction to these moments.  If we only see part of the problem we will be caught in that vicious trap of dealing with the symptom of the problem instead of the source of the problem.

Jesus in our More For Christ readings, Mark 7:14-23 teaches us about the source of our problem.  The source of our problem is the sin in our lives that defiles us on a daily basis.  Jesus said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles them.”  

Oh how often I have forgotten this truth when dealing with people’s lives.  Here Jesus teaches us that man’s greatest need is for Christ to do a work in us.  Here is what Paul wrote, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumision avails anything, only a new creation,” Gal. 6:14.  Christ alone offers us the solution to our problem.  Our problem is sin and only Jesus can deliver us from our sin problem.

Here is a practical out working of this truth:  “When my son decides to argue with his mother in a public place, the gospel must guide my response.  The gospel teaches me that it is not conformity that I am seeking from my son.  It is a heartfelt repentance that says, ‘I have sinned against God and I need to obey my mother because I am a new creation in Christ.  As a new creation, I live according to a different rule than my old nature dictates.'”

Now, I do not now what problem you are facing?  But I do know that the gospel must work in you and through you if you are going to have success.  Follow the gospel and you will have results in your life.

If You Could Walk On Water?

April 9, 2012

“And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.  And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them walking on the sea.  He meant to pass by them.”  Mk 6:48

Question, “If you had the ability to walk on water, how would you market yourself?” Now this certainly seems to be an odd question.  Especially since we as humans are incapable of doing this on our own.  But for our consideration, “What would you do, if you could walk on water?”

Here are some options:  1) Develop a marketing strategy that would attract great audiences.  2) Make a profit from ticket sales as well as tee-shirt sales.  3)  Become famous among those whom you were not famous before.  4) Use it to serve others.

Without a doubt the first three options appeal to the excitement of our old nature (Before Christ).  But only the fourth is pleasing to God.

Our More For Christ reading for this day is Mk 6:45-7:13.  Here Mark continues the action drama of the ministry of Jesus.  In particular I was gripped by the well-known story of Jesus walking on the water.  I challenge you to read the story in context and not just for the wow moment of Jesus walking on the water.

Here is the context.  Jesus is ministering to a crowd of up toward 10,000.  He has just miraculously feed all of them (Mk 6:30-44).  According to John account (6:15-21).  The crowd had their own plans for Jesus life.  They wanted to make him king so that they could have earthly benefit from His kingdom rule.  But in Jesus response we once again see Jesus obedience to the Father’s plan.  Jesus disperses the crowd and sends the disciples across the Sea of Galilee as he goes to the Father in prayer.

The fact is, these guys were probably wanting what the crowd wanted, but Jesus knew this was not the Father’s purpose.  So when evening came the disciples found themselves in the midst of a storm.  The storm was two-fold.  First there is the obvious storm (They were fighting the natural elements and making very little headway.  They were just staying alive).  Second there was the not so obvious storm (Who was Lord).  These guys were still processing who Jesus was and what was His purpose.

So, Jesus comes to these men in their storm walking on the water.  At this moment I say, “Wow.”  The Bible records Jesus words to these men, “Take Heart, it is I, Do not be afraid.”  In this moment Jesus speaks to both storms.  He is Lord over the physical storm and He is Lord over the spiritual storm.  He is the great “I Am.” He is the God-man.

In this we see that Jesus walked on the water for our benefit, not his.  He was already fully God and He had all the glory of heaven.  But He came to this earth to walk through the storms of life so that we could see God (John 1:12-18) and so that we could reach out to God.  Christ became obedient to death and the resurrection.

This very day, I challenge each of you to glory in what Christ has done in your life.  I challenge each of you to submit your gifting to Christ so that your blessing would be a blessing in God’s kingdom work.  Only in the fourth option do we find God’s purpose for our lives!!!

“I Am Glad He Did Not”

April 8, 2012

“So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, ‘He saved others; he cannot save himself.  Let the Christ, the Kings of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Mk. 15:31-32

Brothers and sisters in Christ, “Happy Easter.”  Today we arise to life in Christ because He did not come down from the cross!  This day we have life because our Lord paid in full (It is finished) the debt we owed God.   I cannot thank Him enough for His sufficient work.

Oh how thankful we should be that he did not come down.  The Bible is clear, “we would be without hope in the world,” if Jesus would have come down.  This very day, may all who follow Christ bow before the one who did not come down!

Let’s praise Him on this day and every day for His work on the cross.  

And He Went

April 6, 2012

“And He went with Him… Mk 5:24a

In Mark 5:21-43 we discover 5 different encounters Jesus has with people who have a range of emotions.  These emotions range from pleading to laughing.  In the first case, there is a man who is pleading for help for his daughter.  In the last case, there are people who are laughing at Jesus proclaims, “She is only sleeping.” 

I encourage you to read, for yourself, these action packed verses.  As you read them pay close attention to the emotions of the people.  Then notice Jesus response.  Here is a simple outline that might be of value in this exercise:

1) Jesus responds to pleading, Vs: 22-24

2) Jesus responds to a frightful touch, Vs: 25-34

3) Jesus responds to devastating news, Vs: 35-36

4) Jesus responds to ridicule, Vs: 37-40

5) Jesus responds to amazement, Vs: 41-43

In each of Jesus responses we gain great insight into how we are to respond to the emotions of people we encounter.  Every step of Christ life was ordered in sync with grace.  He was pointing his life toward the cross.  This order was mirrored with grace to those he encountered along the way.  The cross was God’s greatest display of grace.  These encounters were opportunities for people to see the cross being lived out by the man who would be on the cross.

2000 years later you and I have been redeemed by the man on the cross (Jesus Christ).  It is of vital importance that our lives are governed by a correct understanding of the cross and it’s implications.  As we approach, Easter, I plead with you to consider what difference the cross has made in your life and I plead with you to commit your life to the implications of the cross.

May this be the greatest Easter you have ever experienced!!!

Crossing To The Other Side

April 5, 2012

“They came to the other side of the sea…” Mk 5:1

In history there have been many great crossings.  Some have been as significant as Washington’s crossing of the Delaware.  And some have been not so significant as my crossing from one side of the creek to the other as a kid.

But to all of us, there is one crossing that is of eternal significance, “Crossing from condemnation to a relationship with God.”  We know this is impossible without Jesus.

This morning I find in our More For Christ readings, Mk 4:35-5:20 a beautiful picture of what it means to cross to the other side.  Mark 4:35-41 gives us a picture of a physical crossing and Mark 5:1-20 gives us a picture of a spiritual crossing.

Chapter five begins with Jesus encountering a man who is demon possessed.  This man has been able to overcome anyone’s ability to tame him.  He is under Satan-s domain and he is bondage to sin.  Jesus comes and with great authority cast’s out the demon.  Satan has to bow to Jesus.  The passage concludes with this man in his right mind carrying the gospel to his home town.

I was so overjoyed in reading this passage today.  We are just days away from Easter.  Because of Christ’s payment for our sins, we can cross over to the other side.  As we focus on this wonderful day, I want you to think in terms of todays scripture in helping you to see the greatness of Christ sacrifice.

Two things to take away:

1) Never forget the violence on the other side

Jesus came to the other side.  It was a place where Satan dominated.  It was a place where sin resided and where society was at loss as how to help.  This was our state before Jesus.  This day I praise God that Jesus came to the other side so that I would not have to reside on the other side.

2) Never forget the victory on the other side

Jesus did what no one else could do.  Jesus freed this man.  Jesus came to this earth and did what no one else could do. He freed us (Gal 2:15-16) from the bondage of sin and the wrath of God.  Jesus opened the prison doors and set us free.

Jesus we praise you for coming and we praise you for victory!!!

Jesus Answers

April 3, 2012

“And he called them to him and said to them in parables, ‘How can Satan cast out Satan?” Mark 3:23

Last week I watched clips from Tim Teebow’s interview with the press as he was introduced as a new member of the New York Jet’s.  I was amazed at the God-given wisdom he possessed as he was asked questions about his faith.  Here was one of his responses, “If I have to go through a media craze for my faith to be highlighted, then I am ok with it.”

This mornings More For Christ readings cover Mark 3:20-4:12.  In these verses Jesus is questioned by religious leaders and by His family.  The religious leaders accuse Jesus of being a minister of Satan and His family questions if he is out of his mind.

In each case we see the calm and committed responses of Jesus.  Jesus reminds these leaders that it does not make sense for them to say he was of Satan since he was opposing Satan.  In this response we discover that our Lord will forgive people of foolish thoughts and foolish actions.  I am thankful for this because there are have been many times in my life when I have given foolish answers instead of thinking clearly and biblically.

In Jesus response we see only one sin that will not be forgiven.  This sin is the denial of the Holy Spirit’s teaching concerning Jesus Christ.  If someone rejects Jesus that person will not be forgiven.  They cannot be forgiven because only Christ forgives sins and if we reject Christ we have no hope of forgiveness of sins.

In Jesus second encounter we find him responding to his family.  Their desire was for him to give up his ministry and come home.  In their defense we see the love they had in not wanting Jesus to endure all the hardship of ministry.  However they did not have insight to the importance of his ministry. The very things they were asking him to do would if he submitted cost humanity the opportunity to be forgiven of their sins.  Jesus, in his answer, makes it clear that the call of God was greater than the call of his earthly family.

In this I find a great challenge to be careful as I walk through life with my earthly family.  Our earthly family is God’s gift.  But our earthly family does not have the final say concerning our lives. God has the final say!

So, on this day when you may be called to give answers to questions of earthly and eternal matters.  I challenge you to submit to God’s word and stand against those who oppose God’s word.  Here is Jesus final answer, “For whoever does the will of God, he is my brother and sister and mother.”