Tuesday, June 25, 2013

What are you afraid of?

Mark 4:35-5:43

Jesus demonstrated his ultimate power over all creation by conquering three of humanity's primal fears. Paul would later write, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31)

One primal fear is weather. In ancient times people believed that weather related phenomena were the work of the gods. Thunder, lightning, and storms were terrifying and unpredictable. More terrifying still is the destructive force of tsunamis, hurricanes and tornadoes. Science has not conquered nature but Jesus has. Once, on the Sea of Galilee, a terrible storm arose. The disciples were frightened but Jesus said, “Quiet! Be still.” (Mark 4:39)

The storm ended and the disciples asked, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)

Another primal fear is the occult. Stories of ghosts and zombies attempt to describe those dark forces we instinctively fear. Our more scientific minds see these creatures as mythical but the fear is still there. TV shows like Criminal Minds and Hannibal take a secular look at activity that once ascribed to demonic creatures. Truly there must be something demonic in the things that some humans will do to others.

Jesus encountered a man who lived among the tombs and was demon possessed. A true horror story here. The demon recognized Jesus' authority and left the man. The Bible tells us of 6 incidents where Jesus cast out demons.

Jeffrey Dahmer, the infamous serial killer and cannibal from Wisconsin, was transformed by the power of Christ. If Christ can conquer the demons that led this man to such acts of horror, then we have nothing to fear from the occult.

Death, a third primal fear, invokes a terror that is both personal and universal. We will spend a fortune to save our own life or that of a loved one. It is hard to let go. Yet, although medical miracles are more frequent today, we all will die.

Jesus demonstrated His authority over this fear, too. Jesus is called upon to heal a sick girl but she dies before he can get to her. Jesus goes to the girl and restores her life and health. We can live without fear. Jesus said “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25 NIV)

The Lord is my light and my salvation
whom shall I fear
The Lord is the stronghold of my life
of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 27:1 NIV

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Mark 4:30-31

Miss Rosalie spent her life bringing the gospel to inner-city children in Miami. One day, a well-dressed young man approached her and said, “You may not remember me but I was in one of your Bible clubs many years ago. I know I was a handful but you are a big part of the reason that I am a pastor, today.”

She remembered the man as a high-energy little boy who needed constant correction and lots of love.

Jesus said that the Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed. It is tiny and unremarkable yet produces much.

There was nothing remarkable about Miss Rosalie other than her constant sharing of love and the gospel to the children living in the poorest sections of Miami. Her work was not celebrated in the secular nor religious media but she was a hero to everyone whose life she touched. Like so many of God's servants she was quietly planting seeds in the hearts of children.

Like a mustard seed, the Kingdom of God does its work unseen. It is not the pastors and religious celebrities that are changing the world. It is God's people buried deep in the places where the hurting are found, giving words of encouragement that point to Jesus. The Kingdom's influence grows through countless small acts of kindness.

I served alongside her one summer, bringing VBS to the projects of Miami. Her influence led me to attend seminary in urban New Orleans and commit my life to urban ministry. She never knew the impact that she had on my life and, for many years, neither did I.

Like a mustard seed Kingdom work starts out small and continues to grow. Let us not grow weary in our work when we don't see immediate results. It is not about building monuments to our own greatness and making a name for ourselves. The Parable of the Sower teaches us that the power of the gospel lies in the seed not the sower. We should rejoice at small victories, remembering that God's values are different than the world's, and give God the glory.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Spreading Good News

Mark 4:1-20

When God's Word hits fertile ground there is a super harvest. That's why Jesus teaches us that we are to spread God's Word everywhere all the time and trust the Holy Spirit for the results. He makes his point by telling a story from a everyday life about a farmer who walks over his field, scattering the seed with his hands.

He sows the seed indiscriminately because he has plenty. He does not try to change the soil at all. No plowing nor fertilizer; he has one job to do. The sower isn’t responsible for the yield but only for spreading the seed. This was how they planted in Jesus' day.

Jesus explained that the seed represented the Word of God. The soils represented the condition of the hearts of those who hear the Word. The power is in the seed. The soils are God's responsibility.

The seed that fell on the good ground sprouted and grew. It produced a crop 30, 60, 100 times what was expected (Mark 4:20). Even though much of the seed doesn’t produce, the harvest is still huge!

We are to spread God's Word to every heart, ALL the time. The Holy Spirit is at work, preparing the heart's of the hearers. When the time is right, the seed will take root.

There are some easy ways to spread the seed.
  1. share your story (what does God mean to you)
  2. share tracts
  3. invite people to a church event

Create opportunities for the Holy Spirit to work. God promises that spreading His Word will result in a great harvest!

For the word of God is living and powerful,
and sharper than any two-edged sword”
Hebrews 4:12

Thursday, June 13, 2013

A new family

 Mark 3:31-35

Jesus rejected his family when they came to get him. He said that he had a new family. (Mark 3:31-35) Is this a contradiction of the commandment to honor our parents?

Elsewhere in the Gospels Jesus said, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

Jesus is not telling us that family is no longer important. While he was dying on the cross Jesus made provision for his mother's care. The Bible tells us that if a Christian will not care for his own family he is worse than an unbeliever.

In this particular case, Jesus' family came to rescue him. They wanted him to come back home and stop aggravating the religious authorities. Jesus tells us that following God's will is greater than blood ties. His family is all who follow Him.

The gospel spread quickly through the cities of the Middle East and Southern Europe among the slaves and servants who had been separated from their families. Their old social ties had been cut and, in Jesus, they had found a new family. Paul would tell them, “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household... (Ephesians 2:19)”

Onesimus, who was once a slave was now a brother to his former owner, Philemon.

In America it is common for families to be spread across the world by career choices. Some, through a variety of circumstances, find themselves with no family to call upon. Like First Century Christians they are separated from their support group. The church offers an opportunity to be a second family through small groups and Sunday School. Reach out to someone and invite them into your group.

Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.
Mark 3:35

Monday, June 03, 2013

Jesus calls ordinary people to serve him in extraordinary ways

 Mark 3:13-19

Jesus calls out twelve ordinary guys to be his Apostles. They were a diverse group that seemed to only have one thing in common. They were outsiders.

The Bible is filled with unlikely heroes. Rahab was a prostitute who saved the Israelite spies because God had a greater purpose for her. Ruth was a refugee who came to Israel seeking welfare or work. God had a greater purpose for her as well. She became the grandmother of King David and ancestress of Jesus. The Apostles were ordinary people living ordinary lives but Jesus' call gave them a purpose bigger than themselves.

The church is a magnet for outsiders. God uses unlikely people to do his will. He uses preachers that lack a formal education such as William Carey (the father of modern missions) and D.L. Moody, (founder of Chicago's Moody Bible Institute, Moody Church and Moody Radio). He uses convicted felons such as Chuck Colson (founder of Prison Fellowship) Ricky Bueno (ex-gang member and founder of FrontLine Street Intervention). He uses the disabled such as Joni Eareckson Tada (founder of Joni and Friends).

God creates community out of diversity. Racial, economic and social sameness is not always genuine community. The Bible shows the early church struggling with racial inclusion. The Apostles confronted economic diversity. (Acts 6:1-4). Paul urged a slave owner to welcome home his recently converted runaway slave as a brother (Philemon). The church is a place where everyone can fit in. In fact, you can judge a church’s effectiveness by its diversity and how many outsiders feel like they belong.

We must will invest our life in something, or risk throwing it away on nothing. Membership in the Kingdom of heaven means service. Jesus calls us to extraordinary action. He said, "Follow me, and I will make you fish for people." (Matthew 4:19)