Category Archives: Christianity

Mark 9-10; Paradoxes in Christianity

The Gospel of Jesus certainly wasn’t what the 1st Century Jews were expecting They had been living by the “what goes around comes around” philosophy of life, and were expecting the Messiah to give the Romans what was coming to them. Jesus blew that idea right out of the water.

The Gospel isn’t exactly what many 21st Century people expect, either. That all-loving grandpa in the sky who makes bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people doesn’t exist any more than a 1st Century political leader.

Warren Wiersbe, in his With The Word, (Thomas Nelson, 1991, page 660) points out that the true Gospel, in fact, is juxtaposed to the world’s philosophy of life. Just in these two chapters you’ll see several paradoxes that are at the core of our faith.

You’ll see victory out of surrender, when the world would tell you victory comes after hard work and personal effort. You’ll see greatness out of service, when the world would tell you you are great when people serve you.

You’ll see gain out of loss, when the world’s drive is for more possessions, more wealth, more, more, more. Jesus tells us we gain eternal life when we let go of all of that.

And ultimately, you’ll see glory out of suffering. Like Paul in Galatians 6, we can glory in the cross of Christ because, as awful as that death was, as humiliating and degrading, it was there Jesus paid the debt of our sin, the punishment we deserved. Jesus suffered and died for me. And for you. I love that old cross.

To many, the idea of letting go of material things, family members, our health, our reputations, our future, as well as our present, doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t sit well with some to humble ourselves, consider other people more important than ourselves in order to be of service to them. It doesn’t make sense to give up control of our situations and our future, and to trust Someone we can’t even see with it all.

That is, until you do. And you realize the flip side of that coin is amazing. It’s God Himself for today and eternity. Nothing can compare in this life. Nothing!

Paul, in I Corinthians 10 said he was crucified with Christ. He often said he died that day he met Jesus. But in I Corinthians 10:13 he tells us that because Christ lives in him, he is truly alive.

Life out of death might be the ultimate paradox in Christianity. But it’s real. I hope you have died, and know what it’s like to be gloriously alive.

Mark 5-8; He Is That God

These chapters reveal so many precious truths about God through the account of the life of His Son on earth. Please read this Scripture today and get to know Him better.

He is the God even the demons know, respect, and over whom they have no power. He is the God who seeks us out, who comes to us and doesn’t just sit back and wait for us to make the first move.

He has power over sickness and death. He is the God who takes care of our physical needs, and the One who invites us to rest in Him.

He is the God who makes us sinners clean from the inside out. He walks on water, feeds the multitudes, yet has compassion and love for individuals.

We can get to know Him through His Son Jesus. Peter recognized Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God!

He is THAT God!

Mark 1-4; He’s Not That God

The long-awaited Messiah had come! For centuries the Jewish people had looked forward with great anticipation to the day God would send a Savior. They were tired of being abused and looked down upon by the Romans, and every other pagan nation around them. They were God’s chosen people, for crying out loud! And they couldn’t wait until their oppressors got what was coming to them.

They fully expected their Messiah to come with a dramatic flair, crown on head, shiny sword drawn, and riding a white horse, with music blaring in the background, and fireworks exploding overhead. (or the first century equivalent)

But then here comes Jesus. Mark tells us the Messiah’s only herald was some weird looking guy named John who wore camel hair clothes and a leather belt, eating bugs and honey. John wasn’t leading a parade. He was baptizing people in the wilderness.

And Jesus? He wouldn’t even let the demons announce who He was. He surrounded Himself with regular people instead of warriors. He told them He was there to make them fishers of men instead of an army. How could He be their Messiah? He didn’t look like He could win a battle against a pre-school much less a Roman army.  Are you kidding me?

He wasn’t a warrior or a king. He was a preacher! And He didn’t even make sense half the time to the people He was preaching to.

Not my Messiah!

Let me ask you this: What does your perfect Messiah look like? What kind of God do you have pictured in your mind? A loving God? A God who ought to reward good behavior and punish bad? A God who doesn’t let children starve, or countries go to war? A God who lets people decide for themselves what “truth” is, or how they want to live their own lives? A God who accepts any form of worship, and doesn’t condemn anyone to hell? A God who does what you want him to, who bows to your every whim?

Well, guess what. He’s not that God! And that’s good news!

The God of the Bible is so much more loving and fair and generous and forgiving than you could ever conjure up in your mind. And the Messiah Jesus wasn’t just about rescuing a few people from Roman rule. He was and is about rescuing you from the penalty of sin!

I challenge you to read the book of Mark with me in the next few days, and get to know this Messiah, Jesus the Christ. Put aside what you think He should be like, and see Him for who He really is. Let Him reveal Himself to you through the words He Himself inspired Mark to write. This is what Jesus wants YOU to know about Himself.

I believe with all my heart that if you prayerfully read this book and ask God to show Himself – HE WILL. And when you compare His reality with the god you have created in your mind, you’ll be glad He’s not that god.

 

Matthew 26-28; For You

I know it’s not Easter season, but please read these chapters in God’s Word today. Hear God tell you how much He loves you. Understand that it wasn’t just for the human race that Jesus suffered and died. He did it all for you.

You.

At any time He could have called 10,000 angels to rescue Him, and believe me those 10,000 angels were eagerly waiting for that call. But Jesus didn’t call them because He was thinking about the day you would accept Him as your Savior. That meant everything to Him.

The thought of you is what gave Him the resolve to endure the pain, humiliation, and that very public death. Yes, Jesus died for you.

But He didn’t stay dead! Doesn’t it thrill you to read about His resurrection? That dear body that was crushed for love of you, was again walking on the dirt roads, talking to people just like before He was crucified. He is alive!

This living Savior wants you! Loves you! Can wash you clean and walk with you today. I want to sing: “Amazing love! How can it be that You, my God, would die for me.”

For you.

Matthew 23-25; Looking Ahead

Jesus looks ahead to His second coming. I don’t know about you, but hearing Him tell us about it excites me. From His own mouth, He tells us He’ll appear in the sky with power and glory, accompanied by angels and blaring trumpets. I honestly hope I’m alive to see it and meet Him in the air.

But then Jesus turns His thoughts to the way we believers need to be living until that glorious day, which may or may not be in our lifetime. His description of His Kingdom continues…

The parable of the bridesmaids reminds me I need to live this life prepared for His return. I need to repent of sin, grow in grace, live every day expecting to meet Him. Postponing getting prepared is a chance I’m not willing to take, because when that day happens – the death of this earthly body or His glorious return – that door will be closed, never to open again. He’s not going to “Wait a second” just because I need to take care of some things first. When that door is closed, I want to be on the inside through the precious blood of Jesus.

The parable of the talents encourages me to take stock of the gifts He has given me, and to ask myself if I am being a good steward of those things.

Have you taken one of those surveys lately to identify your gifts? I would suggest you do. There are plenty of them free on the internet. Then, get busy using those gifts for the Kingdom. Because the truth of the matter is, we are going to give an account one day before a Holy God who has told us to go into all the world to share the gospel, to care for widows, to care for the sheep, to give drink to the thirsty, cloth the unclothed, visit those in prison…

Don’t think for a minute God is going to take the “I didn’t know I had that gift” excuse for not using it. He HAS gifted you. And it’s up to you to identify it and put it to work.

How are we doing? God’s Kingdom isn’t a place to sit back and drink in all the blessings. God’s Kingdom is a war zone, a vineyard, a mission field. And God wants us to be active, productive citizens working with one eye on the lost, and one eye on the sky. We need to be changing the present one soul at a time, while looking ahead to that amazing day when we see Jesus face to face.

Matthew 20-22; The Invitation

Jesus sure had a lot to say about the Kingdom of God. I’m learning some things about my own walk with Him as I consider how the Church should look and operate according to the Lord. I want to be an intentionally obedient citizen.

Jesus tells us in chapter 20 the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who hires laborers. For one thing, this parable reminds me we all are to be out there working, planting, watering, and harvesting every day.

And, although this parable is talking about the heavenly kingdom and grace, God is revealing some things about Himself. First, He is the boss. Period. How He runs things is really not our business. He’s not sending out a survey asking how we think He’s doing. He doesn’t need our approval. But He wants us to know He is a good boss, a fair boss, as well as a generous boss.

Which leads me to the second thing God is revealing about Himself in this parable: His grace is His to give and I can be sure that, as His child, I will not be cheated. As a citizen of the Kingdom of God, I am assured that my King does all things well. I need to look less at others, and recognize the enormous amount of grace He has shown me. God is generous to me.

The next parable is also about a landowner. This one reveals that the Jews would reject Jesus as the Messiah, and would be responsible for Jesus’ death. The kingdom is no longer a Jewish thing. It’s a believers thing. Praise God!

And that parable is reinforced in the next one, the wedding banquet. God’s kingdom is open to everyone; rich, poor, good, bad…

But, and here is the kicker, only those wearing “wedding clothes” will be granted entrance. The invitation is there. But you can’t be a citizen of God’s Kingdom on your own terms. The Kingdom of God is reserved for those who accept God’s grace through the blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Looking at God’s Kingdom through these chapters reminds me what a privilege it is to belong. It encourages me to get out there, working for a harvest, inviting others to join us who know Jesus as our Savior.

So I’m inviting you!

Matthew 19; A Great Place To Live

My thoughts on the Kingdom of God, the Church, continue as I read what Jesus said here in Matthew 19. What does it mean that His Kingdom is made up of children, and poor people?

Well, first of all, it isn’t. But Jesus teaches us an important lesson about attitude here. Child-like faith is not childish faith.

I’m with my niece from Texas and her two young daughters this weekend. This is only the second time I’ve been with her 18 month old, so it took a while for her to warm up to me. But I’m proud to tell you I can now peel a banana for her, and actually pick her up on occasion. We’re becoming best buds!

Last night we went to my sister’s house for a cookout. There were about 50 people there, none of whom were familiar to Colette. And even though there were children running around the back yard, Colette stayed close to Mommy. She’d venture out a bit, but if things got confusing, she’d run to her mom.

At one point, I held out my arms to “rescue” her when she found herself among grown ups she didn’t know. She looked at me and I could tell she knew who I was. But she shook her head no, then ran to Mommy. She wasn’t upset. She just wanted to be close to her mother.

I think that’s like us who are in God’s family. We live life, venture out, but we also stay close to our Heavenly Parent because when things get confusing, we know where to go. We know who to trust.

Of course, that’s not all there is to a relationship with God. As we mature, our walk with Him deepens, our faith is strengthened, and we become farmers and fishermen like I talked about the other day.

But Jesus is teaching us that our attitude toward Him should be as pure, as innocent, and as complete as a child’s trust in her parent. I never saw Colette even consider handling her fear on her own. Never saw her try to manufacture confidence or power in herself. Her 18 month old self understood what some of us have forgotten: Complete trust outside ourselves.  I believe that’s what God wants of us, too. Just to trust Him. Period. Not to depend on our selves.

Or our possessions.

That wealthy young man was undoubtedly a good man. But he wanted to hold on to God and his money. He wanted to follow Jesus, but he also wanted one foot in the world, too. Jesus tells us that’s not how it can be in His Kingdom.

Everything we have, everything we are, has to be given to Him, nothing held back. There will be people in heaven who had healthy bank accounts while living here. But they will be the ones who held Jesus more tightly than they did their dollar bills. And Jesus warns us that’s not always easy to do.

The Kingdom of God is made up of us who have placed our trust, our very lives in the hands of the Creator. Like a child in the arms of the Father, nothing held back.

The Kingdom of God is a great place to live.