Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Colossians 4

At the end of another year, let's remember Paul's example in this and his other letters.

Appreciate the people in your life and thank them for all they've done.

Appreciate the Lord and thank him for all he's done.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Colossians 3

This chapter is a CliffsNotes version of how to live a Biblical lifestyle.

It is more practical, less theoretical, than much of Paul's other writing.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Colossians 2

Key verse: 8

This is a very difficult thing for me to read, because I really enjoy philosophy.

I suppose this verse could be considered a warning against getting involved in message forums and debates between Christians and atheists. It's advice I should have taken before my three forays into this world.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

One Year Down, Eight to Go

Year two of the nine-year sequence begins with a six-week study of Colossians.

A key verse is 1:21:

You used to be far from God. Your thoughts made you his enemies, and you did evil things (CEV).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Micah 7

The prophet acknowledges that he feels alone in his obedience.

But then he strikes a note of hope in verse 7:

But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me (NIV).

Friday, December 26, 2008

Micah 6

The classic passage of this chapter is verse 8.

Another pair of verses reminds me of the recent bailout of the financial industry, 12-13.

In conservative circles, blame tends to rest upon "social entitlements," but more liberal groups have a biblical basis to criticize the greedy rich as well.

Our nation is in trouble, but there is no single locus of responsibility. Sin is sin, no matter if you're rich or poor.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Micah 5

Israel will be under attack, but a leader from Bethlehem will lead the nation to victory.

This is a great chapter to reflect upon on Christmas day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Micah 4

A better day is coming, one of peace, one in which God's people are victorious.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Micah 3

Leaders and prophets-for-hire are denounced.

Serve faithfully, not selfishly.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Micah 2

Key verse: 11

A prophet who prophesies plenty of wine and beer will be very popular.

A corollary to this verse: a popular prophet is a liar.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Micah 1

Brief Summary:

Israel and Judah, the Lord is really angry with your sin and rebellion.

You're screwed.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Incarnation

I was surprised to find that the word "incarnation" does not appear in the Bible.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Messianic Prophecies in the Minor Prophets

Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Old Testament
OT Text NT Text Subject
Hosea 11:1 Matthew 2:14-15 Jesus to return from Egypt
Joel 2:28-32 Acts 2:14-21 God's Spirit to be poured out
Amos 9:11-12 Acts 15:13-18 Gentiles would believe in the Messiah
Jonah 1:17 Matthew 12:39-40 Messiah to be three days and nights in grave
Micah 5:2 Matthew 2:1-6 The Messiah to be born in Bethlehem
Micah 5:2 Luke 1:32-33 The Messiah as an eternal king
Micah 5:4 John 10:11, 14 The coming shepherd of God's flock
Micah 5:5 Ephesians 2:14-17 The Messian to be a man of peace
Zechariah 9:9 Matthew 21:1-9; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-38; John 12:12-16 The coming ruler on a donkey
Zechariah 11:12-13 Matthew 27:1-10 Thirty pieces of silver for a potter's field
Zechariah 12:10 John 19:37; Revelation 1:7 Looking on the pierced Messiah
Zechariah 13:7 Matthew 26:31; 26:55-56; Mark 14:27; 14:48-50 Striking the coming shepherd, the sheep flee
Malachi 3:1 Matthew 11:7-10; Mark 1:2-4; Luke 7:24-27 The forerunner to the Messiah
Malachi 4:5-6 Matthew 11:14; 17:11-13; Mark 9:11-13; Luke 1:16-17 The forerunner as Elijah returned

Thursday, December 18, 2008

At the End of The Rope

Poor Moses!

Here he is, leading a bunch of whining, ungrateful fools through the desert.

He loses his temper and hits a rock to produce water instead of speaking to it.

God informs Moses that he'll be dying in the desert.

When is the last time I "hit the rock" in anger?

Justifiable anger is not an excuse for disobedience to God. Eeek.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Balaam's Donkey

The other thing I wonder about in this passage is Balaam's interaction with his donkey.

It seems odd that Balaam would reply to his donkey in direct conversation, instead of responding with shock and disbelief. If one of my cats started questioning me, I wouldn't engage her in conversation. I'd back away slowly and keep eye contact until escaping.

Even more curious is verses 32-33:

The angel of the LORD asked him, "Why have you beaten your donkey these three times? I have come here to oppose you because your path is a reckless one before me. The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If she had not turned away, I would certainly have killed you by now, but I would have spared her."

Would the angel have spared the donkey because she is not capable of moral choices, or because she was making an acceptable moral choice by following Balaam's command to keep moving?

"I was just following orders" doesn't seem to excuse humans in other situations, so I don't suppose it would apply to the donkey in this set of circumstances, either.

Therefore, donkeys are not capable of moral decision-making, even when they're allowed to speak.

That's no different a conclusion than I would have drawn before reflecting upon this passage. I find it encouraging that even when faced with an odd story, the Bible is internally consistent.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Balaam

In 22:8, Balaam says that he will give the answer the Lord gives him.

Then, in v. 18, Balaam says that the Lord is his God. This is a phrase used by a committed follower of the God of the Bible.

This is surprising. I'd always assumed Balaam was a pagan prophet.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Renaming Hoshea

In the Bible, names are a powerful expression of a person's core and mission in life. They practically take on a life of their own.

In Numbers 13:16b, we learn that "Moses gave Hoshea (Salvation) son of Nun a new name—Joshua (God-Saves)" (MSG).

I wonder why "God Saves" was a better name than "Salvation?"

Maybe it's because Joshua was an active participant in bringing the Hebrews into the promised land. "God Saves" is a more active statement than "Salvation."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Messianic Prophecies in the Pentateuch

Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Old Testament
OT Text NT Text Subject
Leviticus 15:15-17 Romans 3:25; Hebrews 9:1-14, 24; 1 John 2:2 Atoning sacrifice of blood
Numbers 21:8-9 John 3:14-15 Life through looking at one on a cross
Numbers 24:17 Luke 1:32-33 Coming ruler from Jacob
Numbers 24:17 Revelation 22:16 Coming star out of Jacob
Deuteronomy 18:17 John 6:14; 12:49-50; Acts 3:22-23 Coming prophet sent from God
Deuteronomy 21:23 Galatians 3:13 Messiah cursed for hanging from a tree
Deuteronomy 30:12-14 Romans 10:6-8 Jesus is God's word near to us

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Messianic Prophesies in Exodus

Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Old Testament
12:1-14, 46 John 19:31-36, 1 Corinthians 5:7; 1 Peter 1:19 The Messiah as the Passover Lamb
16:4 John 6:31-33 Messiah to give true bread from heaven
24:8 Hebrews 9:11-28 The Messiah's blood to be shed as sacrifice

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

More Messianic Prophecies in Genesis

Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Old Testament
OT Text NT Text Subject
Genesis 12:3 Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8 Gentiles blessed through Christ as the offspring of Abraham
Genesis 13:15 Galatians 3:15-16, 19 Messiah as the seed of Abraham
Genesis 14:18-20 Hebrews 7 Jesus' priesthood according to the likeness of Melchizedek
Genesis 18:18 Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8 Gentiles blessed through Christ as the offspring of Abraham
Genesis 22:18 Acts 3:25; Galatians 3:8 Gentiles blessed through Christ as the offspring of Abraham
Genesis 49:10 Luke 1:32-33 Coming ruler from Judah

Monday, December 8, 2008

Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary: Vol. 1 OT

There is a four-page listing of OT messianic prophecies in this commentary. Here are the first two of 115:

OT Text NT Text Subject
Genesis 3:15 Luke 22:53 Satan against Jesus
Genesis 3:15 Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 3:8 Jesus' victory over Satan

Prophecies Fulfilled by Christ

One table: http://members.datafast.net.au/sggram/f986.htm

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Messianic Prophecy

For the remainder of the year, in honor of Advent and Christmas, I will review various OT predicitive prophecies about Jesus.

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus claims Isaiah 61:1-2 for himself.

People sometimes suggest that Jesus did not claim to be God, but that would require the reader to ignore many NT statements by Jesus himself.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Leviticus 23 Summary of Festivals

The seven major festivals of the Jewish faith are all outlined in Leviticus 23.

In brief review, Ruth is read at Shavuot, which corresponds to Pentecost.

Concluding Genealogy

The Bible is countercultural in many ways, but Jesus' genealogies honor contemporary NT Jewish culture and expectations.

Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 both connect Jesus through his earthly father Joseph back to King David and Boaz.

This was vitally important to establishing Jesus' spiritual and royal qualifications.

How amazing that Obed's mother, Ruth, was not originally Jewish, but only became one through conversion. This was one clear step on the pathway toward allowing Gentiles into the family of God.

Friday, December 5, 2008

What Was He Thinking?!

The unnamed first-in-line kinsman-redeemer in 4:1-12 blew an opportunity to be the great-grandfather of king David, and a direct ancestor of Jesus!

He stepped aside because of temporary concerns about his estate.

Thus, Boaz receives credit as Obed's father.

This is especially unusual because the firstborn of a kinsman-redeemer is typically credited to the late husband.

Because of Boaz's extraordinary devotion and character, he is honored forever alongside Ruth.

What risks have I refused because they seemed too risky? What may I have lost long-term as a result? What risk should you take, dear Reader?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

People of Action

In chapter 3, we see that Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz are all people comfortable with decisive action.

In under 24 hours, Naomi proposes that Ruth ask Boaz to serve as a kinsman-redeemer, Ruth follows through, and Boaz prepares to bring her proposal to the city elders.

Why wait when there is important business to transact?

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ruth Meets Boaz

Verses 11-12 sum up Boaz's admiration of Ruth.

Why do I admire people? What really impresses me?

Boaz focuses on the core of Ruth's being. That's what ought to impress me, too. But too often it isn't.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Mara

In verses 6-22, we see Naomi leave Moab and return to her hometown, Bethlehem.

Orpah honors Naomi's guidance and returns to her family, but Ruth shares one of the classic statements of faith in verse 16:

Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.

Despite Ruth's loyalty, Naomi changes her name to Mara (lit. "bitter").

Monday, December 1, 2008

Brutal Times

In 1:1-5, we meet Naomi (lit. "pleasant").

She and her husband and two sons moved from Bethlehem to Moab to escape famine in their hometown.

This would have been a temporary move for the family, but Naomi's husband died. Then, within ten years, her sons both died, too. She was left with two kind daughters-in-law, but no source of income or property.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ruth, the Feast of Weeks, and Pentecost

There are seven feasts celebrated in the Old Testament:

  1. First Month: First Coming of Christ
    1. Passover: 15 Nissan
    2. Feast of Unleavened Bread: 15-21 Nissan
    3. Feast of First Fruits: 16 Nissan-6 Sivan
  2. Third Month: Feast of Pentecost, Shavuot: 6-7 Sivan
  3. Seventh Month: Second Coming of Christ
    1. Feast of Trumpets, Rosh Hashanah: 1 Tishrei, Jewish New Year
    2. Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur: 10 Tishrei
    3. Feast of Tabernacles (or Booths or Tabernacles), Sukkot: 15-21 Tishrei
This outline is influenced by information from the following link: http://store.khouse.org/store/catalog/BP011.html?mv_pc=KHAR-101

Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles make up the Shalosh Regalim, or three pilgrimage festivals of Judaism.

Ruth is read during the Jewish celebration of Shavuot, which corresponds to the Christian celebration of Pentecost in Acts 2.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Outline of Ruth

Since I finished up my 45-week first year plan with a few weeks to spare, I have the opportunity to do some additional, unscheduled Bible study.

Here's an outline of the book of Ruth:

  1. Naomi's Awful Time
    1. Her husband dies
    2. Her sons both die
  2. Ruth's Stubborn Streak
    1. Get out of here, Ruth
    2. No way, I'm with you forever, Naomi
    3. No, seriously, go back to your family and gods
    4. "Your people are my people, and your God is my God."
  3. Naomi and Ruth return to Naomi's Hometown
    1. Ruth scavenges from a harvested field
    2. Boaz guarantees Ruth's safety
    3. Boaz is generous to Ruth and Naomi
  4. Boaz is a Kinsman-Redeemer
    1. Naomi directs Ruth to pursue Boaz
    2. Ruth agrees to this plan
      1. Ruth gets dressed up
      2. Ruth goes to the threshing floor
      3. Boaz drinks a lot and goes to bed
      4. Ruth turns up the cloak over Boaz's feet
      5. Boaz wakes up and thanks Ruth for her request
  5. Boaz negotiates with a closer kinsman-redeemer
    1. There is property of Elimelech, Naomi's late husband, for sale
    2. I'll buy it
    3. Then you also inherit Naomi's widowed daughter-in-law. Her children will be credited to Elimelech's son, not you.
    4. Then you buy the land, Boaz. This situation will put my own property at risk.
    5. Cool. Hand me your sandal in the sight of these ten witnesses.
    6. Deal!
  6. Ruth Marries Boaz
    1. They have a son, Jesse
    2. Jesse has a son, King David
    3. David is in the line of Jesus

Friday, November 28, 2008

Achilles' Heel

What is my Achilles' Heel? The thing that I'm unable to give up, even if it costs me dearly?

For Daniel, it was his faith and obedience to God.

Amazing.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Belshazzar's humble...

Belshazzar's humble Thanksgiving key verse. He gave a command for Daniel to be rewarded. Am I thankful when someone shares difficult truth with me? listen

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Daniel chapter five...

Daniel chapter five key verse, keep your gifts or give them to someone else. Just to do the right thing not for the reward. listen

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Nebuchadnezzar Gives Props to Daniel

In chapter 4, Daniel interprets one of the king's dreams accurately.

Even though the consequences were brutally negative, they were true.

Reasonable people appreciate truth, even if it's difficult.

Speaking difficult truth is a large part of what makes Daniel an inspirational character.

Monday, November 24, 2008

An Impossible Demand

In chapter 2, King Nebuchadnezzar demanded that his advisers tell him the details of his dream and then interpret it.

How would I react if someone asked me to tell me their dream and interpret it? How would you, dear Reader? Probably the same way that the advisers responded:

Your Majesty, you are demanding the impossible! No king, not even the most famous and powerful, has ever ordered his advisors, magicians, or wise men to do such a thing (2:10, CEV).
Then, under penalty of death, Daniel asked the king for time and prayed to God for insight.

When God gave him the answer the king required, Daniel saved his own life and the lives of all the other advisers. Just like in the previous chapter, Daniel responded to unimaginable pressure with calm and reason.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Daniel and Friends Put to the Test

In Daniel 1, we meet Daniel and his three friends, captured and recruited for the new political power in town.

It is amazing that Daniel is so wise and tactful without compromising his faith.

When faith collides with the workplace, appeal to data and evidence-based results.

If my faith gets in the way of my work then I'm misapplying my religious beliefs, I'm in the wrong line of work, or I'm employed by the wrong people.

When my faith improves my results, I need to allow it to be put to the test objectively.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Daniel: Character Study

"Daniel" appears 70 times in the NIV. Sixty-three of the 70 are in the book of Daniel. Only one, Matthew 24:15, is in the New Testament.

In the Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary Vol. 1 OT introduction to the book of Daniel, the authors write, "The principal theological emphasis in Daniel is the absolute sovereignty of the Lord, the God of Israel....A second theological emphasis is the power of persistent prayer."

Daniel's life is a case study in the power of God and the power of prayer.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Final Farewell to Mark

As a final farewell to my blog posts related to the book of Mark, I'd like to direct readers to a companion site, the 9-Year Bible wiki.

Blog posts encourage daily reflection, but are not ideal for creating a "big picture" view of a book of the Bible.

This new wiki may help me balance day-to-day thoughts with a longer-term approach to understanding what I've read.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Jesus' Last Week

Palm Sunday: parade
Monday: Jesus cleanses the temple
Tuesday: Jesus annointed
Wednesday: strangely silent [what happened? why no public record?]
Maundy Thursday: the Last Supper
Good Friday: the cross
Saturday: despair
Easter Sunday: Resurrection Day

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

One Amazing Week!

Jesus' last week fills Mark 11-16.

It's amazing how much can happen in seven days.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Paralytic Revisited

In 2:1-12, we learn that Jesus is more concerned about our sins than our illnesses.

But as I reflect upon my prayer life, I spend much more time and energy on the physical than the spiritual.

This reflects an imbalance in my priorities.

Monday, November 17, 2008

The Twelve

In 3:13-19, Jesus picks his 12 disciples.

What did Jesus see in Judas? Did he have any redeeming qualities, or was he selected simply because Jesus needed a traitor to betray him?

Would I have been qualified to be one of the twelve? How would I live differently if I were one of the twelve?

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Fishers of Men

In 1:16-20, we see Jesus recruit "fishers of men."

What does it mean for me to be a fisher of men? How about you, dear Reader?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Personality of John Mark

The author of Mark is clearly focused on the concrete, the here-and-now. He spends little time in the abstract beyond the words of Jesus' parables.

I believe that he may have been an Inspector (ISTJ).

Generally speaking, Inspectors are not comfortable with anything that gets too fancy. Their words tend to be plain and down-to-earth, not showy or high-flown (Keirsey.com)

This describes Mark's sparse, concrete narrative. It is quite different in style (though not content) from the other synoptic gospels.

Most measures of personality type separate people into four main categories. There are four gospels.

Maybe I'll discover in further study that the other three gospels were written by people with the other three main personality types.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Chapter-by-Chapter Overview of Mark

  1. John the Baptist, Start of Jesus' Public Ministry
  2. Jesus Heals, Physically and Spiritually
  3. Jesus Picks the 12
  4. Jesus Speaks in Parables
  5. Jesus Heals Again
  6. John the Baptist's Death, Jesus Feeds the 5000 and Walks on Water
  7. The Heart of Man
  8. Peter's Confession of Christ
  9. Transfiguration
  10. Rich Young Ruler
  11. Palm Sunday
  12. Give to Caesar, Widow's Generosity
  13. Eschatology
  14. Maundy Thursday
  15. Good Friday
  16. Easter Sunday

NIV Study Bible Overview of Mark

This is my favorite online study resource. Follow the link for an excellent overview of the book of Mark.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reviewing Mark

The best part about Mark is that it is full of stories.

I look forward to summarizing what I've experienced over the past 17 weeks.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Spiritual Health Assessment

http://www.box.net/shared/7vedblbmpy#Spiritual_Health_Assessment transcribed from the 40 Days of Purpose Study Guide. This tool has generated some excellent discussions in my community group this fall.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Overview of the New Testament

http://www.box.net/shared/9typ7u1ese#Overview_of_NT

Overview of the Old Testament (Prophets)

http://www.box.net/shared/677ffgxdb3#OT_History_Chart_Prophets

Be Amazed

I think it's odd that the angel who greeted Mary and Mary said, "Do not be amazed."

What other reaction is there? Why did the angel say this?

How cool that Peter, the disciple who denied Jesus three times on Thursday night and Friday morning, is specifically singled out for the good news.

It is not possible to dig a hole so deep that you can't get out.

Forgiveness is instantaneous and infinitely powerful.

This is amazing. As we forgive others, we'll experience forgiveness ourselves.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Monday AM

In verses 1-4, we meet Mary and Mary on their way to Jesus' tomb. In their time and culture, the dead were not embalmed but anointed.

In one sense, their act of devotion is impulsive, because they realize a large stone should be in front of the tomb.

On the other hand, their devotion is rewarded in an unimaginable way.

Go ahead and be impulsively loyal and devoted, even in impossible circumstances.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Outline of Mark 16

I'll focus on verses 1-8 since the remainder of the chapter was not in the original manuscripts.

  1. Mary & Mary, Crack of Dawn Monday
  2. How Will We Move the Stone?
  3. Angel Announces: "Jesus Has Risen!"
  4. Mary & Mary: "Holy Crud! What Just Happened?!"

Friday, November 7, 2008

1 Thessalonians 1

Chapter Analysis of I Thessalonians 1



Passage Description


vv.1-3 We [Paul, Silas, and Timothy] remember you fondly in our prayers
vv.4-10 You [Thessalonian Church] are a model of what it means to be Christ's Church


Verse-by-Verse Analysis


(vs) Observation (vs) Question & Answer (vs) Cross-References
(1) Typical greeting (1) Does Paul share authorship in any of his other letters? Yes. (1) I Corinthians w/ Sosthenes; II Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon w/ Timothy; II Thessalonians, like I Thessalonians, also w/ Silas and Timothy; Galatians w/ "all the brothers with me" (v.2)
(2) Paul prays regularly for the churches he's planted

(3) Faith --> Work
Love --> Labor
Hope --> Endurance
(3) What's the difference between work and labor?
(4) Paul "knows" the Thessalonians have been chosen by God (4) How does Paul know this? What evidence does he provide? See (5)'s observation.
(5) The Thessalonians' response to the gospel included power, the Holy Spirit, and deep conviciton

(6) By responding to severe suffering with the Holy Spirit's joy, the Thessalonians imitated Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Christ (6) How do Christians today receive this supernatual joy of the Holy Spirit? (6) II Corinthians 6:4-10 The Holy Spirit often acts in times of great distress
(7,8) The Thessalonians are a model to believers throughout Greece (7,8) What qualifies a church to be a model to believers throughout Monroe County today? (7,8) Matthew 16:15-18 The church is built upon Peter's profession of faith in Jesus
Ephesians 2:19-22 Jesus is the church's chief cornerstone; its foundation is made of apostles and prophets.
NIV Study Bible note on Ephesians 2:22: "The church is to be a people or community in whom the Holy Spirit dwells" (p.1794).
(9) Other Grecian believers are well aware of the Thessalonians' success (9) Is reputation among other churches still a reasonable measure of the health of a congregation? Only with respect to Paul's analysis of the Thessalonian church in vv.5-6,9-10
(10) Thessalonians wait for Jesus (10) How does a person wait for Jesus? Negative Example: Waiting for Godot


Key Term


Greek ekklesia: "church, congregation, assembly; a group of people gathered together. It can refer to the OT assembly of believers (Ac 7:38), or a riotous mob (Ac 19:32), but usually to a Christian assembly, a church, as a totality (Eph 3:10), or in a specific locale (Col. 4:15). In the NT a church is never a building or meeting place" (emphasis mine). (Zondervan NIV Exhaustive Concordance, Greek to English Dictionary and Index: 1711)

Overview of 1 Thessalonians

Overview of I Thessalonians


Chapter 1 Way to go, Thessalonians!
Chapter 2 I'm OK [Paul], You're OK [Thessalonian Church]
Chapter 3 Live Life with Godly Restraint
Chapter 4A Timothy's Visit and Good Report
Chapters 4B-5A Meet the Lord in the Air, Who Cares When?
Chapter 5B Paul's Fortune Cookie Christian Thoughts


Principal Personalities


Paul

Silas (I'm especially intrigued by Silas. Who is he? How did he get involed with both Paul and Peter's mnistries? Why and how did Silas end up with Peter after Paul, not before? The book of Acts emphasizes their ministries in opposite this chronological order.)

Timothy


Geography


Achaia

Macedonia

Thessalonica: 200,000 residents, capital city of Rome's Macedonian province, excellent natural harbor, on an important trade route


Purpose

Paul had planted a church in Thessalonica that experienced amazing initial growth. After he left, Jews and Gentiles bad-mouthed Paul. Additionally, the Thessalonian Church was worried about believers who died before the Day of the Lord. Paul wrote in response to these points of confusion.


Themes

Live like the Lord may come today, even though he might wait until you're long "asleep" [dead]

Thessalonian Church, continue to be a model to believers everywhere!


Key Verse and Application

I Thessalonians 5:15 "Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but try to be kind to one another and to everyone else" (NIV).

I take a "get even" approach to life. Jesus says to "turn the other cheek." I don't do this consistently. I justify my sinful responses by saying, "It's their fault. They provoked this response in me." I don't want to "pay back wrong for wrong." Often, the other person's "wrong" against me is only in my imagination anyway.

The next time I feel the urge to "pay back wrong" I'll pray for the Holy Spirit to intervene.


Key Term

eschatology--"[Wrong] attitudes have been encouraged by the separation of eschatology from the rest of Christian life and doctrine. If the 'last things' have been occurring since Jesus' time, they must be far more relevant to the main themes of Christian activity and thought" (p. 436, Holmann Bible Dictionary).

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Jesus' Burial

It must have seemed like a lost cause when Joseph of Arimethea asked for Jesus' body.

The guy is dead. Why go out of your way and risk your reputation after learning that Jesus appears no different than any other wannabe leader?

I suppose you could say that loyalty continues after death. But more importantly, if a goal is in God's will, there is no such thing as a lost cause.

Joseph's loyalty was rewarded three days later when Jesus rose from the dead.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Jesus In Charge

In Jesus' final moments, I'm struck by a small detail I've never noticed before.

Crucifixion made it difficult for people to breathe, yet in verse 37, Jesus "uttered a loud cry" and then died.

This reminds me that even when he appeared most helpless, Jesus was completely in charge of his fate.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Consider the Source

In verses 22-32, we read about Jesus' crucifixion.

The people who wanted to see him dead mocked him in his suffering.

Most telling is what the chief priests and scribes were saying:

He saved others; He cannot save Himself. Let this Christ, the King of Israel, now come down from the cross, so that we may see and believe!

They acknowledge the power Jesus exhibited in his previous miracles. But evidence is irrelevant once people have made up their minds.

Even if Jesus had come down from the cross, they would not have believed.

The next time you are criticized, persecuted, mocked, consider the source. Take courage from Jesus' example.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Jesus Mocked

In verses 16-21, Jesus is mocked as the "King of the Jews." In the midst of the hatred, the soldiers and religious leaders actually continue in the pattern of Jesus' other detractors. They state truth despite their sarcasm.

When do I speak truth in sarcasm? How much better off would I be to speak the same truth in love?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Trial by Mob

In verses 1-15, we see that even at the darkest time of Jesus' life, he is still well aware that nothing happens without God's permission.

Pilate believes that he's in charge, but everything that happens is a result of what was already written about in the OT.

How do we handle our trials by mob? We know that we will face difficulties to help us develop our perseverance and character.

Do I approach these situations with bitterness or with thankfulness? Do you, dear Reader?

My Technorati score recently(?)...

My Technorati score recently(?) doubled from 1 to 2. Ouch. listen

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Saturday, November 1, 2008

Outline of Mark 15

  1. Jesus Tried by Pilate
  2. Jesus Mocked by Soldiers
  3. Jesus Crucified
  4. "ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?"
  5. Jesus Buried by Joseph of Arimethea
Mark 15 Audio

Friday, October 31, 2008

Peter's Denials

At the end of chapter 14, we follow Peter as Peter follows Jesus through his last night on earth before crucifixion.

When Jesus says you're going to fail, don't bother fighting it.

Have I ever sensed Jesus telling me I'd fail? I'm not sure. I don't think so.

But I have gotten into situations where it was clear that things weren't going according to plan. Rather than fighting through the situation, it might sometimes be better to acknowledge that things aren't going well and ask to try again.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Conspiracy

In verses 53-65, we follow Jesus' accusers to the Sanhedrin.

Even a batch of false witnesses couldn't provide the "two or three witnesses" required by Old Testament law to condemn a criminal.

But when pressed by the religious leaders, Jesus repeated back their own words and acknowledged his divinity.

At this point, they all cried out that because of blasphemy, Jesus should be executed.

They would have been right if it were anyone but Jesus. Problem is, to be guilty of blasphemy, you need to be lying.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Kiss of Death

How creepy and evil that Judas identified Jesus' identity with a kiss.

First off, didn't everyone know who Jesus was already? Second, why use a kiss? How about a hearty handshake? Or a simple, courtroom-style, "That's the man I sold out for 30 pieces of silver!"

These verses, 43-52, make me consider when and how I betray people in my life with a kiss.

Anytime I talk behind someone's back, I'm guilty.

Anytime I laugh at someone else's mean-spirited joke, I'm guilty.

Anytime I feel embarrassed by my faith in Christ, I'm guilty.

All I'm left with is the opportunity to respond with sincere repentance.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

More Old Testament Fulfillment

In verse 27, Jesus quotes Zechariah 13:7.

Jesus makes it clear that the reason his disciples will fall away is because that's what the written scriptures say. The written Word of God has real power and influence over events.

Peter insists that he'll be different, but Jesus knows better. Peter means well, but as usual, he is impulsive and can't follow through on his initial commitment.

Peter, James and John go with Jesus to the Garden of Gethsemane. While Jesus pours out his heart to his father in prayer, the others fall asleep three times. Jesus is particularly critical of Peter, and advises him to pray that he'd stay out of temptation.

Praying to stay out of temptation is always a good idea!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Maundy Thursday

As Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, he did not come to abolish the OT scriptures, but to fulfill it. We see this truth illustrated in verses 12-26.

Jesus sent some of his disciples ahead into Jerusalem to prepare for the Passover. They didn't have to make reservations; Jesus gave them directions to find a fully-furnished room. The disciples still had to prepare the meal. Not everything was handed to them. I think this is how God works sometimes. He gives us just enough support for us to complete the tasks laid out before us, but we're expected to finish the job.

It must have torn Jesus apart when he announced that one of the Twelve would betray him. "For the Son of Man is to go just as it is written of Him" (verse 21a). This is a fulfillment of the Old Testament scriptures, not a replacement.

In the midst of the Passover supper, Jesus relabels some of the traditional elements. The unleavened bread becomes his body, and one cup of wine becomes his blood. Again, Jesus is a fulfillment of the Old Testament, not a replacement.

Surprisingly, right after the meal Jesus and his disciples leave for the Mount of Olives. If they'd stayed inside, Jesus would have been protected. But once he stepped over the threshold, he became like one of the Egyptian firstborn sons. And like an Egyptian son, he paid with his life. Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament, he didn't replace it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Intrigue and Annointing

In verses 1-11, we learn about the chief priests' and scribes' desire to have Jesus killed.

Then Jesus is annointed with tears and expensive perfume.

Both events begin to prepare us for Jesus' impending death.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Outline of Mark 14

  1. Temple Intrigue
  2. Jesus Annointed with Perfume and Tears
  3. The Disciples Celebrate the Passover with Jesus for the Last Time
  4. Gethsemane
  5. Betrayal
  6. False Testimony before the High Priest
  7. Peter's Denials

This is a jam-packed chapter. I expect it will take two weeks to analyze.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Haggai 2:10-23

  1. It's easier to become unclean than clean
  2. Take the Lord's hint when you're spinning your wheels
  3. Go Zerubbabel!

I'm so excited about...

I'm so excited about the new message series at Church. Our pastor is preaching this Sunday on the book of Haggai. listen

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Thursday, October 23, 2008

Haggai 2:1-9

At the beginning of chapter 2, Haggai reminds the leaders that the temple looks cruddy compared to its former glory.

However, God reassures the leaders--through Haggai--that the temple repaired will look even better than the original.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Haggai 1

I'll take a brief foray into the OT book of Haggai for the next couple of days.

Haggai makes the people aware that they have sinned by neglecting the temple at the expense of their own possessions.

A consequence is that no matter how hard the people work, they struggle to make ends meet.

When do I struggle to succeed, no matter how hard I try?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Jesus' Return

At the end of chapter 13, Jesus explains the uncertainty of the time of his return in a different way.

Keep alert. You never know the exact time of Christ's return.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Fig Tree

In verses 24-33, Jesus gives us parameters for his return:

  1. heavenly signs
  2. stars falling
  3. the Son of Man coming in the clouds
  4. gather the elect
  5. parable of the fig tree
  6. humanity will not pass away before Jesus returns
  7. no one knows the precise time except God the Father

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Telling the Future

In the first 23 verses, we learn a great deal about how to determine when Jesus will return.

There are a few elements that we've already experienced, but many things that haven't.

Until claiming that Jesus is returning, check out these verses for a checklist of prerequisite warning signs:

  1. false Christs
  2. wars and rumors of wars
  3. political turmoil
  4. earthquakes
  5. famines (this is just the beginning)
  6. Christians sent to court
  7. Christians flogged in synagogues
  8. Christians stand before political leaders
  9. gospel must be preached to every nation (this is a tough standard to meet)
  10. Holy Spirit will give Christians the words to testify, without preparation
  11. families will be divided and betray one another, even to death
  12. be hated because of following Christ
  13. Abomination of Desolation
    • don't return home
    • don't return to your field
    • woe to pregnant and nursing mothers
    • pray it won't be winter
    • worst time in the history of humanity
    • even the elect wouldn't survive if God didn't "shorten" this awful time
    • don't believe rumors of Christ's return
    • false Christs will appear
    • false prophets will appear
  14. relax, because Jesus has already given us his game plan and historical outline

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Outline of Mark 13

The Very End of Time

  • Look at the amazing Temple!
  • Someday, this Temple will be utterly destroyed
  • Peter, James, John and Andrew ask for insider information about the end of the world
  • Jesus gives insider information about the end of the world, including signs that it's coming
  • The signs are like leaves on a fig tree in spring

Friday, October 17, 2008

Winning the Crowd

In verses 35-37, Jesus wins over the crowd with his simple, cutting analysis of the temple scribes.

It's similar to why people enjoy Jon Stewart on the Daily Show.

How amazing that Jesus could appeal to the crowds so effectively.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Proportionality

In verses 41-44, Jesus teaches that generosity is proportional.

In other words, the less we have, the greater our sacrifice when we give to the Lord.

I have too much to be like the widow. All I can do is give generously to God's work and pray for the right attitude of sacrifice.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pretentious

In verses 38-40, Jesus warns against being swayed by the long, flowing robes and flamboyant manner of the temple leaders.

How often does this happen in contemporary politics?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Wise Scribe

In verses 28-34, we learn that not all of the scribes were against Jesus.

When your opponent answers wisely, give him the honor due such a response!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Jesus 1,000,000; Opponents, Zero

In verses 18-27, Jesus easily manages the Sadducees' parable challenge.

It's foolish to correlate marriages on earth to relationships in heaven.

We will all be one family, devoted to God, not separated by geography or time or race or any other artificial dividing line.

How does this apply to life on earth in the here and now? How can Christians achieve a heavenly level of unity and love? We sure don't have it now, with dozens of denominations and petty bickering among clergy and lay people.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Render to Caesar

What is Jesus saying in this object lesson, verses 13-17?

  1. Pharisees and Herodians step in to set up Jesus in a trap
  2. They try to butter Jesus up in verse 14
  3. Next, they set their trap, with no time in between
  4. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, to representatives of the non-Jewish government?
  5. Jesus immediately calls out his opponents in their set-up
  6. Don't bother answering a trap question directly, but call out your opponent
  7. Jesus quickly follows up with a question of his own, one that puts his opponents on the defensive
  8. Jesus builds upon the answer to his question to humble his opponents
  9. Paying taxes is not disloyal to God, but holding back my heart from Jesus is disloyal!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ungrateful Employees

In verses 1-12, Jesus tells a story which describes the Jewish religious leaders' historical treatment of God's prophets.

  1. People who build businesses care for their organizations
  2. Owners expect a share of the profits
  3. Owners have a right to a share of the profits
  4. Renters are stewards
  5. Renters perform a service to the owner
  6. Therefore, renters deserve a share of the profits
  7. Owner:Boss::Renter:Employee
  8. This story may have contemporary application to the workplace, not just to spiritual matters
  9. My boss hired me to perform a service
  10. My boss deserves honor and a fair day's work
  11. If Jesus worked for his father in the carpenter's shop, then he was a model employee
  12. Sometimes employees beat up the very people who hire and pay them
  13. This attitude is sinful
  14. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men (Colossians 3:23, NIV)
  15. Does "work at it with all your heart" mean be a workaholic, at the expense of your family?
  16. Of course not. But my attitude toward my employer must be one of humble service, not entitlement and bitterness.
  17. Why would the vineyard owner continue to send people to collect his dues if the renters were untrustworthy to the point of beating and killing the owner's people?
  18. This parallels OT reality, but does not appear to be wise advice for a boss
  19. How does this relate to the concept of "turn the other cheek?"
  20. A boss can turn the other cheek without giving up his ownership stake
  21. A boss can give wayward employees multiple chances to do the right thing
  22. A boss ought to feel pain when his employees don't do the right thing
  23. The evil renters escalated their rebellion to the point of killing the owner's son
  24. The renters' goal was not just to avoid paying the owner, but also to claim the entire estate for themselves
  25. This is a new level of sin and evil, trying to oust your boss and take his or her estate
  26. When and how do I steal from God in this way?
  27. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord (Romans 12:19, NIV).
  28. The verse above quotes Deuteronomy 32:35
  29. The very next verse in Deuteronomy says: The LORD will judge his people / and have compassion on his servants / when he sees their strength is gone / and no one is left, slave or free.
  30. The Lord's judgment and compassion on his servants are simultaneous
  31. My parental judgment and compassion on my children must be simultaneous
  32. The stone which the builders rejected / Has become the chief corner stone (Psalm 118:22, NASB).
  33. There is no escaping the Truth value of the Bible, Old and New Testaments
  34. No matter what I attempt to do in my sin, God's will is going to be accomplished
  35. So why rebel? God will get his way in the end!
  36. If I trust God, and I believe the Bible, then it is in my best interests to obey him completely
  37. Is it in my children's best interests to obey me completely?
  38. If I am doing my job as a parent, then the answer ought to be yes
  39. Why don't I obey God completely?
  40. For the same reasons my children don't obey me completely
  41. Why don't my children obey me completely?
  42. Their selfishness
  43. Because I'm a idiot sometimes
  44. Because they think they know better than me
  45. As I reflect upon challenging interactions with my kids (and my wife and my students and etc.) I ought to reflect upon how this parallels my own rebellion toward God
Lord, I pray that you'll help me learn how to obey you more fully through faith in your Truth and obedience to your Word. Remind me to reflect upon my own sinfulness when I feel wronged!

Outline of Mark 12

  1. Parable of the Ungrateful Vineyard Employees
  2. Give to Caesar What Is Caesar's, and to God What Is God's
  3. Parable of the Black Widow (used to trap Jesus, not teach Truth)
  4. Discussion of the Greatest Commandment
  5. David Prophetically Called the Messiah Lord
  6. Beware Religious Leaders in Flashy Clothing
  7. Poor Widow's Generous Offering

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fickle

It's incredible how fickle crowds are.  Sometimes I get the feeling that American pop culture is a contemporary phenomenon and influenced by technology and our increasing appetite for more and more dirt.

The Romans had fights to the death in their colosseum.

Early Americans watched public hangings.

Pulp culture is as old as society.

So it's not surprising, but completely consistent with human nature, that the same crowds which praised Jesus on Palm Sunday shouted "Crucify!" on Good Friday,

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Learning By Following Around

In education and business, one management technique is called MBWA, managing by walking around.

The best education in history was learning by walking around with Jesus!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Gotcha, Jesus!

Why bother trying to trap Jesus?  He's too smart, too well-spoken, too quick on his feet.

In verses 27-33, the religious leaders tried to trap Jesus in his own words.

Game.  Set.  Match.

Jesus wins again!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Fig Tree Withered

Poor fig tree.  What did it ever do to deserve a rebuke from Jesus?

The key warning is in verses 25-26, wheree Jesus reminds us that our forgiveness is contingent upon our forgiving others.

As I consider what Jesus and the Father have done for me, there is no excuse for unforgiveness in my heart toward anyone else.

I struggle with the sin of unforgiveness.  More precisely, I want to make sure that people who hurt me and those around me experience suffering themselves.  This is exactly the opposite attitude from what Jesus commands.

It is up to the Lord to avenge.

I must learn to trust God in this important matter.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Triumphal Entry

In verses 8-11, we see Jesus treated the way he should be, as a hero and a savior.

How often do I treat Jesus the way he ought to be treated?

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Greatest Donkey

In verses 1-7, we meet the greatest donkey in all of human history.

Jesus uses the meek and humble for his purposes.

Am I as humble as a donkey? Can Jesus tell in the future that Iwill serve him faithfully?

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Outline of Mark 11

  1. Palm Sunday
  2. Bad Fig Tree, Bad! (Part I)
  3. Den of Robbers, or Jesus Kicks Butt
  4. Bad Fig Tree (Part II)
  5. By Whose Authority?

Friday, October 3, 2008

Bartimaeus

It was Bartimaeus's faith, not his persistence, that led to his healing.

How much faith do I have today?

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Servant

In verses 32-45, we are reminded that Jesus came to serve, not to be served.

Whom do I serve?

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Boanerges

James and John asked to be given special places of honor in the Kingdom of Heaven.

The other ten apostles got really mad about their request.

Rather than taking sides, Jesus wisely got to the core of the issue and shared that the Kingdom of Heaven is not based upon the same values and procedures and worldly kingdoms.

Do I follow the values of God or the values of the world?  How about you, dear Reader?

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Money

In verses 17-31, we learn that Jesus knows money can get in the way of salvation.

When you're financially independent, it's very hard to be spiritually dependent upon God.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Don't Mess With the Children!

In verses 13-16, Jesus makes it clear that he doesn't tolerate preventing children from experiencing his love fully.

Time and again, Jesus makes simple and important points of truth crystal-clear.

Don't mess with children when they approach Jesus with innocence and understanding.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Jesus' Teaching on Divorce

In verses 11-12, Jesus teaches that anyone who divorces and has an ex-spouse who is still living ought not remarry.

Anyone in this circumstance who remarries commits adultery.

If the church is comfortable teaching that people who are homosexual must abstain from sexual activity, then why doesn't it teach that divorcĂ©es ought not remarry?  That would appear to be consistent.

Why isn't theu church consistent on sexual matters, especially when Jesus' teaching is explicit?

Is it convenience?  A misapplication of Jesus' teaching on marital unfaithfulness in Matthew 5:32?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Outline of Mark 10


  1. Once Divorced, Always Divorced

  2. Jesus Loves Children

  3. The Rich Young Ruler

  4. Sit at the Right & Left Hand of God

  5. Blind Bartimaeus Healed

Friday, September 26, 2008

Don't Mess With the Children

In verses 38-50, Jesus makes it clear that one of the worst sins is preventing a child from developing in a spiritually healthy way.

That is a major warning!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Who Is the Greatest?

In verses 33-37, Jesus catches his disciples arguing about which of them is the greatest.

It's telling that the disciples immediately knew that they were busted.  How humbling to be caught doing exactly the wrong thing for exactly the wrong reasons!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rise Three Days Later?

How often do I, like the disciples in verses 30-32, get overwhelmed by the teachings of Jesus and refuse to ask for help or understanding?

There are no dumb questions, so go ahead and ask God for insight and wisdom.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Healing a Demon-Possessed Boy

In verses 14-29, we learn that some obstacles can only be overcome by prayer.

How often do I fast and pray before diving right in to solve a problem?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rise From the Dead?

Until after Jesus' resurrection, even his closest followers did not entirely understand what "rising from the dead" meant.

It seems crystal-clear today, but beforehand, the thought of coming back to life from death must have been incomprehensible.  As I think about it, if I actually saw someone rise from the dead, I'd be pretty freaked out and a bit sceptical.

Before criticizing the disciples for their reaction in verses 9-10, I should consider seriously how difficult a time I'd have beliving and understanding Jesus under the same set of circumstances.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Kingdom of God

In verse 1, Jesus mentions that some people in his presence will see the full power of the Kingdom of God on earth before they die.

Since the Transfiguration occurs just 6 days later, it seems odd that Jesus would mention people's deaths in this context.  I would imagine, reading verse 1 in isolation, that Jesus was referring to what we now refer to as the Second Coming.

Another possibility is that Jesus could be referring to his Resurrection.  That is a definite example of the power of the Kingdom of God.

If we accept Matthew Henry's interpretation of verses 1-13, then the Transfiguration is just one of many examples to which Jesus is referring.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Outline of Mark 9

  1. Jesus' Transfiguration
  2. Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy
  3. Jesus Predicts His Death
  4. Jesus Overhears His Disciples Arguing About Who Is the Greatest
  5. Jesus Teaches Openness to Help
  6. Jesus Says, "Better Maimed and Spiritually Whole Than Physically Whole and Doomed to Hell"

Friday, September 19, 2008

Impulsive Peter

In verses 31-38, Peter again reminds us why he's the most ADHD character in the Bible.

He's just announced that Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Then he begins contradicting Jesus and insisting that he will not die at the hands of the religious leaders and the Romans.

Who do I contradict impulsively and inappropriately?  When do I do this to God.

When do you contradict Jesus, dear Reader?

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Who Am I?

It's interesting that in verses 27-30, Jesus doesn't say directly that he's the Messiah.  He allows his disciples to come to this conclusion on their own.

Peter has the God-given insight, and shares it with Jesus and the other disciples.  Then Jesus commands them to keep this quiet.

It is interesting that God does not allow truth to be made public until exactly the right time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Jesus Heals a Blind Man

In verses 23-26, we find Jesus healing a blind man.

One question I had when I read this chapter last Saturday was why it took two steps to heal the man's sight.

I believe that it is valid to conclude that Jesus will only heal us to the extent that we're prepared to be healed.  Until I'm fully prepared to accept his healing, I will only be partly healed.

This is not to say that a person who is not healed has done anything sinful.  The Bible doesn't teach this one-to-one correlation.  Job contradicts this conclusion.  Jesus himself contradicts this thought.

But if I'm not ready to be fully healed, Jesus won't fully heal me.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Do You Still Not Understand?

In verses 13-21, we read that Jesus' disciples continued to miss the point, even after repeated exposure to his miraculous signs and teaching in parables.

No matter how hard we try, no matter how close to God's will, people will misunderstand us.  If the disciples misunderstood Jesus, how much more any one of us, even when we're in the bullseye of God's will.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Jesus Sighed

It's a really bad sign when Jesus sighs in exasperation at you, isn't it?

The Pharisees, in verses 11-13, manage to get under Jesus' skin by asking him for a sign.

Jesus simply replies, "No."

When I get exasperated, how often do I offer a simple "No" rather than a justification and an explanation?  Sometimes, "No" is enough!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Jesus Feeds the 4000

Again, Jesus miraculously feeds a huge number of people with a tiny offering.

This illustrates that although God can create something out of nothing, there is great value in our bringing our gifts and offerings to him.

God loves a cheerful giver. Am I a cheerful giver?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Outline of Mark 8

  1. Jesus Feeds 4000
    1. 7 loaves and 2 fish
    2. 7 leftover baskets
  2. Pharisees Demand a Sign
    1. Pharisees challenge Jesus
    2. Jesus tells his disciples to "beware the yeast of the Pharisees"
    3. Disciples get confused and think Jesus wants more bread
    4. Note: This is especially comical since Jesus just fed 4000!
  3. Blind Man Healed
    1. First sees trees
    2. Then sees clearly
    3. Question: Why does this healing include two steps? Jesus could have healed the man immediately.
  4. Peter Says Jesus Is the Christ
    1. Peter confesses Jesus' true identity
    2. Jesus explains that he will die
    3. Peter pulls Jesus aside to rebuke him
    4. Jesus calls Peter "Satan"
    5. Note: It's amazing how ADHD Peter is. He hits these amazing spiritual highs, followed immediately by incredible lows.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Bold Leadership

It's a tense time at my school.  We're going through a time of transition.

I pray that we can come through this challenge stronger and bonded more closely, not broken and bitter.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Answering Yesterday's Question

Answer: My internet connection! My working relationship with a new boss. My preparation for a new community group on Saturday.


Each of these things alone is a manageable challenge, but together they feel really big.

I’m so glad that Jesus is my solution and the source of my strength, not my own efforts.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Mark 7:31-37

Jesus even makes spit miraculous! How amazing.


What in my life needs a bit of spit? What's clogged and not functioning properly?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

An Odd Comment

It feels so weird reading in verse 27, "First let the children eat all they want," [Jesus] told her, "for it is not right to take the children's bread and toss it to their dogs."

What a harsh comment when she begs Jesus to help her demon-possessed daughter.  It sounds cruel.

Fortunately, the woman has a wise answer and not a defensive one, so Jesus does in fact heal the child.

But what if she'd replied poorly?  I don't like considering this possibility.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Garbage Out

In verses 14-23, Jesus teaches that the measure of a person's spiritual health is what comes out of them, not what goes into them.

This is very similar to the concept of identifying Christians by their love for one another and by their fruit.

I pray that I will be known by my good fruit and by my love.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Forbidden Corban

In verses 1-13, Jesus strongly criticizes the religious leaders for their tradition of Corban.

It is simple to take rules created by humans and misapply them for selfish purposes, while making them sound spiritual.

How do I use the law of God to cover over my own sinfulness?  How do you, dear Reader?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Outline of Mark 7

  1. Jesus teaches the Pharisees and his disciples about what's "unclean"
  2. Jesus heals a Gentile woman's daughter
  3. Jesus uses his own spit to heal a man who is deaf and mute

Friday, September 5, 2008

Jesus Walks on Water

In verses 45-52, Mark describes the classic story of Jesus' walking on the water toward his disciples and their boat.

In verses 53-56, we learn that Jesus had a "rock star" following.  People came from all over just to catch a tiny bit of his miraculous power.

Jesus is a miracle worker today, just like he was on earth 2000 years ago.  But miracles will not convince anyone who doesn't want to believe.  It is always possible to explain away or ignore the reality of Jesus' power.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

5000 Hungry Men

In verses 33-44, we learn about how Jesus and his disciples miraculously feed thousands and thousands of hungry people with just five loaves of bread and two fish.

This was my favorite miracle when I was a kid.  It's still one of my favorites!

When I hit tough times, I can go to Jesus and ask him to help me.  If he can feed people physically, he can feed me emotionally and spiritually, too.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Seclusion

There are times, like when I read verses 29-32, that I suspect Jesus was an introvert.

It is so wise and energizing to get away from the crowds when accomplishing important goals.  But it seems to be a discipline that is easier for introverts.

I wonder if extraverts would agree with this assessment.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Head on a Platter

We learn about how John the Baptist met his demise in verses 14-28.

How weird that the girl who danced asked for such a gruesome prize.

And why is it that when kings in the Bible offer up to half their kingdoms, people never take them up on the offer?

Don't make a promise you're not willing to keep!  Don't set yourself up by offering an open-ended promise.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Two-By-Two

In verses 7-13, Jesus sends his disciples out in pairs.

This is great leadership.

Don't send your people out to accomplish great tasks in isolation.  Build up teams.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Dissing Jesus

In verses 1-6, we learn that Jesus is rejected not for the content of his learning and teaching, but for the disconnect his neighbors feel between Jesus' past and his present.

We all carry history and baggage with our peers, particularly in our hometowns.

How does this connect to people who are very well-respected and loved in their towns of origin?

This is a special circumstance and should be appreciated!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Outline of Mark 6


  1. Rejection in Jesus' Hometown
  2. 12 Disciples, 2-By-2
  3. Recap: John the Baptist's Execution

    1. Herod confuses Jesus with John the Baptist
    2. Mark reviews John's execution

  4. Jesus and the Disciples Go Into Seclusion
  5. Miraculous 5000-Man Buffet
  6. Jesus Walks on Water
  7. Jesus, Miracle-Healing Rock Star

Friday, August 29, 2008

Full Authority

In verses 41-43, Jesus demonstrates that he has authority over death.

If your boss had true authority over death, would you question any of his other decisions?  I wouldn't!

So why do I hold Jesus to a different standard?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Really?!

The people mourning for the little girl who had just died weren't able to contain their disbelief when Jesus arrived.

They "began laughing at Him" (NASB, v. 40a).

Would I do the same thing?  Would I be laughing derisively or hopefully?

Sadly, I think I'd just label Jesus a lunatic.

Until the girl woke up.

Then I'd be ashamed.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Death is Not the End

In verses 35-36, we learn that the girl Jesus is going to heal has died.

From a human perspective, her death is the final step.  Nothing else will make a difference anymore.

But Jesus reminds the girl's father  that death is not the final step.  Jesus can conquer even death!

This is an amazing promise.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Woman Subject to Bleeding

In verses 25-34, we learn about a miraculous healing.

This poor woman has been bleeding constantly for twelve years.  I can't even begin to imagine the pain and hardship this would create.

On the surface, the woman appears to believe in the magical powers of Jesus' robe.

However, Jesus clarifies and teaches the woman and the crowds that it is her faith, not superstition, that leads to her healing.

Do I trust Jesus enough to accept his healing in impossible circumstances?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Jesus Honors and Honored by Jairus

After Jesus leaves the man healed of demon-possession, he again travels by boat to a new region.

In no time, people discover his location and mob him again.

Jairus, a synagogue offical, risks condemnation of the Jewish leaders and goes to Jesus to request healing for his deathbed-ill daughter.  When your own child's life is on the line, your priorities and true beliefs come to the forefront.

Jairus wanted his daughter well more than he wanted the approval of his bosses.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Jesus v. Legion

  1. Jesus and his disciples pull into shore after escaping the terrifying storm
  2. I wonder if people on the land recognized that Jesus had made the storm stop suddenly
  3. The man possessed by Legion came to meet Jesus as soon as he landed
  4. Evil is often more perceptive about spiritual matters than those who are uninterested
  5. This may be related to Revelation 3:14-16, in which Jesus tells the church at Laodicea that he wishes they were either hot or cold, not lukewarm
  6. Evil is physically powerful
  7. Kids who cut themselves are manifesting an ancient cry for spiritual help
  8. Legion begs Jesus not to torture them
  9. Jesus is responsible for torturing demons?
  10. Hell is clearly torture, and Jesus is a prosecuting attorney of justice, so this is a consistent picture of Jesus' holiness
  11. Jesus asked the demons' names
  12. Even when facing evil, it is important to learn its names
  13. What makes names so important?
  14. Genesis 2:19-20: there is great power and authority in a name
  15. Legion begs Jesus for mercy
  16. Do they realize that they'd shown the man they possessed no mercy?
  17. Do they care?
  18. Legion requests to be sent into a herd of pigs
  19. Pigs are an unclean animal to the Jews
  20. Legion limits their request to the immediate physical vicinity
  21. Why didn't they ask to be sent to, say, Africa or South America? Why stay local?
  22. Are demons limited by spacetime the way that humans are? I thought that spirits weren't bound in the same way as physical beings
  23. After the evil spirits possess the swine herd, the pigs stampede and drown in a local pond
  24. Where do Legion go after the pigs die?
  25. The man possessed by Legion experiences an immediate healing
  26. The townspeople are unimpressed by this miracle and beg Jesus to leave
  27. It appears that the people in this region were more concerned with pork profits than with the spiritual and physical health of the possessed man
  28. These priorities are messed up
  29. A single human is worth more than a whole herd of pigs
  30. A single human is worth more than any amount of profit
  31. A single human is worth more than x because humans are "created in the image of God" (cf. Genesis 1:27)
  32. Jesus sends the healed man away, despite his pleas to travel with Jesus
  33. Not every person who wants to serve Jesus in full-time ministry will be accepted, even if his motives are pure and his experience clear
  34. God's plans cannot be fully understood here on earth
  35. However, we can trust that God's plan is the best, no matter what life throws at us!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Jesus Heals: An Outline of Mark 5

  1. Jesus Defeats an Unclean Spirt
    1. Jesus tells Legion to leave the man
    2. Legion announces Jesus' true identity and begs for mercy
    3. Jesus allows Legion to move to a herd of pigs
    4. The pigs stampede down a cliff and drown in a lake (so what happened to Legion after this? what is the interaction between demons and dead animals? was this a dumb move for Legion, or exactly what they wanted?)
    5. The swine owners rush to tell the town
    6. The townspeople freak out and beg Jesus to leave
    7. The healed man begs to follow Jesus
    8. Jesus refuses, but commands the man to tell his story all over
  2. Jesus Defeats Illness
    1. A woman has been bleeding for 12 years
    2. Doctors have been unable to help her
    3. She has no health insurance, so she's broke
    4. The woman has faith, so she sneaks up on Jesus and touches his robe
    5. Jesus feels power come out and stops to address the crowd
    6. I believe that Jesus stops not because he doesn't know the woman, but because he wants to teach the woman and the crowd a lesson
    7. The woman identifies herself
    8. Jesus explains that her faith, not the cloak, healed her (this is a strong case against the power of relics and icons)
  3. Jesus Defeats Death
    1. Jairus, the temple leader, goes to Jesus to beg for his daughter's life
    2. Mourners inform Jairus that his daughter has died
    3. Jesus tells Jairus to continue believing
    4. Jesus brings the dead girl back to life
    5. Jesus orders onlookers not to tell what happened

Friday, August 22, 2008

Whirlwind Wrap-Up of Mark 4

In verses 26-29, Jesus explains that the Kingdom of God grows mysteriously, just like a farmer's seed. It is not my job to explain Jesus' success but to help gather a harvest.

Then, in verses 30-32, Jesus elegantly describes his Kingdom as a mustard seed.  This is a simple way of saying that Christian faith began tiny but became huge.  What in my life starts tiny and seems to take on a life of its own?

Finally, in verses 35-41, Jesus freaks out his disciples by yelling at a dangerous storm to make it stop.  Cool!

I skipped verse 33-34 because it appeared to be a parenthetical comment about Jesus' use of parables.  Jesus' message is mysterious.  There is value in sharing lessons in a way that can only be decoded by the faithful.  How can this apply to my teaching at church?  Is it applicable to my teaching at school?  I don't think so, but I may be missing an important detail here.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Mark 4:24-25

Be careful how you judge and measure other people.  That is how you yourself will be judged and measured.

This demands an incredibly transparent, honest self-assessment.

Matthew Henry suggests that in verse 25, Jesus is making a "use it or lose it" spiritual comment.  If you have a great deal of spiritual insight and use it wisely, your investment will grow.  If you have little spiritual understanding and don't work to improve it, you'll lose what little you have to begin with.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Good Soil, Smart Lights

Verses 20-23 clearly indicate that the healthy Christian life naturally results in a powerful and public witness.

If I hide my light, I may as well be seed planted on lousy soil.

That's not the kind of Christian life I want to live.  It's not the kind of Christian I want to be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Seed Among Thorns

In verses 18-19, Jesus lists the following barriers to responding to the gospel:


  • "worries of the world"
  • "deceitfulness of riches"
  • "desires for other things"


It is very easy to become sidetracked from the Christian life.  That's why it's so important to stay connected with a local church.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rocky Ground

In verses 16 and 17, Jesus compares seeds which fall on rocky soil to people who initially respond to the gospel with joy but quickly lose heart as life's difficulties discourage them.

If you need an easy stretch to become a disciple, then you were not meant to be a disciple.  This is true spiritually and professionally.

Don't bother being a leader in the workplace if you're unwilling to face difficulties and challenges.

Don't bother being a leader in the church if you're unwilling to face severe difficulties and challenges.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Seed on the Road

In verse 15, Jesus interprets the first part of his parable.  Satan sometimes snatches away the good news.

How does this word functionally?  Is it as simple as having bad things happen toseekers on the way home from Sunday services?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Sower

In verse 14, we read that the sower is spreading the Word of God.

Jesus wants crazy farmers spreading his word all over the place, even if the words sometimes land on poor soil.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Parable of the Crazy Farmer

Pastor David Votaw called the story in verses 3-9 the parable of the crazy farmer.

Only a crazy farmer would throw seed around the way Jesus describes.  Normal farmers sow their seed in carefully-plowed rows.


  1. Farmers don't always hit their marks.
  2. Why does Jesus make an incompetent farmer a key character in one of his parables?
  3. There was a road next to the field.  This farmer is based in a more built-up area.
  4. Birds are happy to eat seeds that land on hard ground.
  5. There are immediate consequences for wasting seed on hard ground.
  6. Don't the birds need to eat?  What's wrong with feeding them?
  7. Birds are less important and have less intrinsic value than people.
  8. Rocky soil encourages seed to grow too quickly.
  9. How can a person respond to the gospel too quickly?
  10. This may be similar to generating false enthusiasm about new initiatives at school.  There needs to be reason and buy-in (head and heart) to consider a teacher a true participant in a new activity.
  11. The sun is both a source of life and death for plants.
  12. See 2 Corinthians 2:16
  13. Jesus is the litmus test of life and death for humans.
  14. More specifically, our reaction to Jesus' sacrifice is the litmus test.
  15. Roots protect plants from the harmful effects of the heat of the sun.
  16. Becoming rooted in Jesus protects humans from the harmful effects of unbelief.
  17. Becoming rooted in Jesus protects humans from the harmful effects of sin.
  18. Becoming rooted in Jesus protects humans from the harmful effects of stupid behaviors.
  19. Becoming rooted in Jesus is kind of like SPF 60 sunscreen.
  20. Thorns choke young plants.
  21. What role should parents play in protecting their children from "thorns?"
  22. Jesus seems to teach that it is a moral imperative that children be protected and shielded from "thorns."
  23. How am I at protecting my kids from thorns?  Am I a thorn in their sides sometimes?
  24. Seeds in good soil can yield a 30-60-100X crop.
  25. What is a 100-yield crop?  I know it's amazing, but how does that relate to typical seed and normal crop?
  26. I want to become a 100-yield crop.