This is Big

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In the last post on Mark, “Peter Gets it Wrong.”  we saw some interesting things. We saw Peter get it wrong, after being so right on the money only a short time earlier. Remember how he was the first to state out loud who Jesus was: The Messiah, the Son of the living God? Then, as Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection, Peter takes Jesus aside to straighten Him out; no Lord, you mustn’t die… and how Jesus rebukes Peter for his lack of understanding. And then, you might recall how Jesus taught that we must not be concerned with things that are merely of the earthly life, and with earthly views, but rather how we must learn to set all of that aside to follow Him. Yes, we saw many things!

There was one more thing that Jesus told them on that occasion, one more thing that would tie everything else together, a wonderful thing…

And he said to them, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see that the kingdom of God has come with power.”

Mark 9:1

On the Kingdom Tour, Jesus has been teaching that the Kingdom was at hand, and all along the way, he has been doing and saying things that illustrate what the Kingdom would be like, and I have pointed those out to you as we’ve gone along the way. Things like how He was preaching righteousness, healing the sick and lame, driving out demons, forgiving sins, and even is raising someone from the dead. The Kingdom would be like that, for it would remove the penalty for sin through forgiveness, and ultimately it would restore Mankind to the relationship with God that had been lost when Adam and Eve sinned in the garden. Those afflictions like sickness, blindness and the loss of limbs were consequences of that rebellion, as was oppression by evil spirits and even death itself.

It is one thing to say that this Kingdom was at hand, but it was quite another to say that some of you here will see its coming with power.

As we know, He told them the truth, for after His death and resurrection from the dead, the Kingdom came with power at Pentecost, and that Kingdom is here even now. But!! That Kingdom is not of this world. It is manifested on this earth in the church, which is supposed to be a place of healing, love and grace. Of course, we still get sick and die physically, for we are still in this world. Yet we must also remember that we are not of this world, for we are citizens of a heavenly Kingdom. We must not forget that just as Jesus rose bodily from the grave, so will we, for we have received the gift of eternal life and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Finally, we must also keep in mind that the day will come when everything of this world will come to an end.

As it worked out, most of the Jews rejected this whole thing, for they were looking for a different king and a different Kingdom. Amazingly, a great number of Christians today are making the same mistake, looking for an earthly Kingdom that is still to come: There is no earthly Kingdom to come, there is eternity to come.

So many arguments come from this, so many tangled interpretations in which the presupposition is  more important than the Scriptures, robbing so many of the awesome harmony of the Scriptures and creating so much confusion and discord. And the saddest thing of all? So many miss the amazing power of what we have within us right now.

When the Kingdom came with power on that Pentecost so long ago, the world we live in opposed it with everything they could muster. The religious authorities twisted and connived to discredit it, the culture opposed it economically and socially, the civil authorities banned it and persecuted it, demons attacked it, and in the background, Satan himself was pulling the strings… yet they were overcome by the power of weakness and meekness, and so the battle continues today. It is so very different from at first, and yet so very much the same, just as Scriptures predicted.

What will be the outcome of this conflict? Victory, glory and eternity with Christ!

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Weekly Podcast: June 30, 2014

The Will to Not Know

This week, another brief podcast dealing with matters of interpretation, this time with the idea of not wanting to know the truth. This is almost like presuppositions on steroids, and can have far-reaching consequences.

Take a few minutes and join us for something you won’t hear anyplace else, for this is (I can’t believe I’m saying this)

Exclusive Audio!

Listen now

A Tower of Strength

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Our Lord is a tower of strength, but many times we don’t see Him that way.  He rises above everything that we will ever encounter in this life, but we aren’t always conscious of the fact.  His strength is not just a guard against evil, but an empowerment to serve.

I love you, Lord, my strength.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
    my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
    my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

 I called to the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
    and I have been saved from my enemies.

Psalm 18:1-3

The psalmist was delivered from evil many times, both in the form of earthly enemies and in the form of his own weaknesses, and yet he achieved greater things than simply being delivered.  The psalmist was the greatest of earthly kings, an unlikely choice as it happened, but great nevertheless. He established justice in a land torn by conflict and then presided over a time of great prosperity for his people; a time of building within God’s kingdom on earth.

As we go through our lives, I wonder how often we contemplate the similarities between David and ourselves. We also have the influence of evil in our lives, an influence that may take various forms at various times.  We are also unlikely choices to be representatives of God on this earth. We too have been charged with building up God’s Kingdom on the earth, although ours is a different sort of kingdom than David was leading.

In our time, the kingdom we must build is to be built up by making disciples of Jesus Christ, disciples who will be willing to set aside the things of this life and follow Him.  David’s kingdom was something of a prelude to the work that we must do, and his kingdom is no longer on the world stage as it once was, but the kingdom of Jesus Christ is an eternal one; how much greater is our work!

Our God is our deliverance, our rock and our strength.  He will sustain us through our trials, deliver us from evil and provide us with the strength to accomplish the work He has given us to do.

(This post was first published on July 31, 2013)

A “Programming Note”

I simply wanted to drop in a note to let you know what’s going on around here, and what to expect on The Life Project for the next couple of weeks. My 10-year-old grandson arrived late yesterday from Illinois and will be spending a week here, before we take him home on the 5th.

When I was 10, I would have been thrilled beyond words to fly on an airliner to Washington, Dc by myself… and the little creep just got to do that!

Actually, thinking back on it, I spent the summer I was 10 reading every book in the Public Library on Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War. By the time the summer was over, I had read them all and was ordering more from the main library in downtown LA that they didn’t have in our local branch, and I had those finished by Christmas… the life of a 10-year-old history gook! I can only imagine how excited I would have been to spend a week in Washington that summer, considering that two-thirds of that war was fought within a hundred miles of here… oh the battlefields I would have wanted to visit!

My grandson also has the geek gene, but not for history; he is all about marvel comics characters, a subject that never had the slightest interest for me. To be completely honest, I can only fake being interested in that for so long at a time! :/

So, I have a strategy: Keep the kid busy! If nothing else, he won’t be able to say that he didn’t see the sights, and in the coming week, we will see who has the physical endurance to go everywhere: old ancient me or a bright fresh 10-year-old. If you are a betting man or woman, put your money on the old guy!

So, while we are seeing the sights (today it’s the B & O RR museum in Baltimore, along with the National Aquarium (he likes that kind of stuff) Monday, Mount Vernon, Tuesday he is touring the White House and the Pentagon, courtesy of She Who Must Be Obeyed who has pull these days that I no longer have, Wednesday the monuments… well you get the idea. So, here on the blog, I won’t be around as much as usual, but I’ll still be checking in. There will be the regular features on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and at least one post in our journey with Mark each day. I also might drop in a picture or two and keep you up to date with our adventures.

After that, starting the following week, we’ll be hitting the road and driving back to Illinois. I am really looking forward to visiting my church family there, along with my daughter and son-in-law, and then we need to visit in-laws because it’s “She” Who Must Be Obeyed and not “He”, a trek that will take us into Iowa and Wisconsin, and on the way back here, we’ll stop in and get a first hand update on our “Case Study” from last winter at Franklin Christian Church. Thus, aside from the features, I don’t expect much in the way of posts after the 5th.

Have a great weekend!

Peter Gets it Wrong

He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.

But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Mark 8:31-33

Parallel Texts: Matthew 16:21-28; Luke 9:22-27

Let’s get the timing right: Jesus asks the disciples who people say that He is, and they mention some of the buzz going around. Then He asks them who they say He is and Peter boldly announces that He is the Messiah, the Son of the living God. Jesus asks them to keep that to themselves and then proceeds to tell them He must be rejected, suffer and die… and that He will rise from the grave on the third day, whereupon Peter takes Him aside to rebuke Him!

That’s right dear reader, only moments after acknowledging that Jesus is the Son of the living God, Peter is taking Him aside to straighten Him out! I can be pretty bold myself, but I’ve got nothing on old Peter!

“Get thee behind me Satan!”  How many times have you heard someone repeat this famous line? Maybe you’ve used it yourself a time or two… as I have.  Commentators write page after page about the finer points of meaning that they draw from this statement, preachers preach sermons on it…

That statement is not the point. Speculations about Satan are not the point. How many times do we quote His next remark? “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”

Merely human concerns; yep, the stuff we always think about. Jesus explains this further:

Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”

Mark 8:34-38

Most of the time, this is in a different sermon, but it is Jesus’s reply to Peter telling Him He must allow Himself to be killed; it is the explanation of “Get thee behind me Satan,” Jesus is on the earth for a reason, to accomplish a mission, to do His Father’s bidding, not to live long and prosper; so are you and me. How much time we waste being concerned about our own comfort, how much time we waste being entertained! Is that all there is to life?

In our time, the idea of denying oneself is entirely foreign, counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Do people make money selling books about self-denial? Do politicians get elected to office by promising that the government will stop handing out money and benefits?

No, not as a rule.

A person who loses his life for Christ and the gospel is a person who puts the interests of others ahead of his own. He or she is someone who serves God by serving others in a way that advances God’s purpose; such a person finds life.  A person who chases after the pleasures of this world loses their soul in the end, for they have not followed the example of Jesus Christ. Oh yes, maybe it’s been quite the ride, but when it’s over, it’s over.

Ask yourself this question: Where would we be if Jesus had taken Peter’s advice? Where would God’s purpose have been if He had listened?

If you are concerned merely with human concerns, who will take the gospel to your neighbors, friends, coworkers… That’s right, what will become of them? Will we act as though we are ashamed of Jesus in the face of opposition in this life? How will Jesus respond to that?

Hint: The answer is in our text!

Featured Blog: Elaine’s Random Thoughts

I came across Elaine’s Random Thoughts  a few months back and I was hooked pretty quickly because it struck me as a blog written by a “real” person. Oh, there’s always a real person writing blogs, unless they have a machine that can do it for you, maybe I should say it struck me as a blog written by the kind of person that I know. No, I’ve never met Elaine… maybe it’s just that we have a lot folks who sound just like Elaine in my church family; yes, that’s it exactly!

The kind of people who care about others, the kind of people who will roll up their sleeves and help out, good down to earth people who aren’t out for fame and fortune, you know “real” people. Well, that’s what I get from Elaine’s writing: real. Here’s what Elaine says about it:

Nothing very interesting to say about me.  I’m a  Mom and a Grandmother and not much of a writer.  I thought it would be a fun thing to learn about blogging and a way to save some of my random thoughts.   I don’t expect many will visit and read but perhaps someone will and something I write will make them smile or be inspired about something.

The world of blogs is proving to be a wonderfully fun experience! As I said before, my writing is just a way of recording random thoughts, most, but not all, related to my walk with the Lord. As I grow closer to the Lord, the happier I become.
I have a lot of fun following the blogs of others! I have “met” some amazing people on here who are an encouragement to me. Thank you everyone! I have learned many new things but still have a LOT to learn!

See what I mean? The woman next door, the woman in the neighborhood who says “hi” when you walk by…

If you like to read down-to-earth and real, with a strong Christian flavor and just the right touch of humor, you have to check this one out!

Oh, one more thing: Elaine, I think you’re a pretty good writer too.

Peter Gets it Right

Mark 8:27-30

Parallel Texts: Matthew 16:13-20; Luke 9:18-21

After Jesus restores sight to a blind man in 8:22-26, Mark cuts to a new scene.  Jesus and the disciples are walking toward  Caesarea Philippi, and along the way Jesus asks them who people say that He is.’ They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”’ (v. 28) Then Jesus drops the big question:

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Mark 8:29

Matthew has it this way:

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.”

Matthew 16:16

Some refer to this as “The Great Confession” for it is upon this confession that the church stands.  As Matthew makes clear in 16:17-20, not only does the church stand upon this foundation, but also our hope of overcoming death itself rests here, for it is only through the belief that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the Son of the Living God that that anyone will receive eternal life.

Sadly, there is much controversy on this passage, but I must remind myself that we are studying Mark, not Matthew! Suffice it say that the rock is the acknowledgement of the truth of Jesus’ identity  and not the poor vessel who first stated it, for in the very next section, Peter will demonstrate his lack of understanding of the totality of what he has said!

Mark finishes this part of the scene by simply stating that Jesus warned the disciples not to tell anyone about this. He does not give a reason for this warning. Maybe we should wait and see if anything will shed light on this as Mark continues.

You might be detecting a subtle shift in Mark’s tone, for while his presentation remains choppy with short scenes moving quickly along, from this point, the tone of Mark’s writing will become more and more serious. He has already begun to provide us with more details more often, and that trend will continue, and though he never provides the amount of in-depth coverage that Matthew and John will provide in parallel texts, Mark will be filling in more details from here on out than he has previously about certain things.

Well, Peter has attained a spiritual high in this text, being the first to say who Jesus is, let’s see if he can stay on that high plane in the next section.