Thursday, July 31, 2008

That Makes Sense...What?!

In verses 18-22, the first three verses seem straightforward.

As long as Jesus is around, there's no need to fast.  It's time for a party, for a banquet.

Then Jesus tells two brief parables, about cloth patches and wineskins:

I don't have any ready answer, but I appreciated this post from a pastor in Winkler, Manitoba.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Jesus Came for the Sick

Verses 16-17 are a classic statement of Jesus' perspective on how Christians should interact with other people.

  1. It is easy to question another person's freedom.
  2. This is especially easy for religious, devout people to do.
  3. I do this myself.
  4. I relate easily to the Pharisees' perspective.
  5. Am I jealous of non-Christians' freedoms to do as they wish?
  6. It is reasonable to acknowledge that Christians do have significant restrictions on what they may and may not do.
  7. It is extremely important to remember 1 Corinthians 5:12-13.
  8. Limit judgment calls to people within the church.
  9. This will limit negative coverage about Christians by non-Christians in the secular press.
  10. More importantly, it will help devout believers within the church to focus upon matters that must be debated within the church.
  11. Is it possible to transfer Jesus' acceptance of "sinners" to the contemporary, evangelical church?
  12. Are there certain "unforgivable" sins, even among non-Christians?  Although this is a difficult perspective to support theologically, given Jesus' words here in Mark, in a practical sense this is how many contemporary Christians translate their beliefs into practice.
  13. Which Christians spend time with today's "sinners" and are criticized for it?
  14. Tony Campolo would count himself among this number.
  15. What can I do to honor Jesus in my many relationships?
  16. Look at other people as created in the image of God and act accordingly.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Danger of Proof

Isn't verse 12 introducing a dangerous precedent?

Charlatans can create the illusion of miracles.

How do we strike a healthy balance between the reality that God moves within human history and the danger of trusting our senses to draw spiritual conclusions, dear Reader?

Monday, July 28, 2008

Mark 2:5

I'm as desperate, spiritually, as the paralytic.

So are you, dear Reader, unless you have Jesus Christ in your heart.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Key Verse: Mark 2:17

The verse that stands out to me the most in this chapter is v. 17.

  1. Jesus consistently responded to his critics. He didn't ignore them, and didn't take them lightly, no matter their intentions.
  2. How often do I bury my head in the sand and try to ignore unjust criticism? This is not what Jesus did.
  3. Jesus replies directly to his critics, not through an intermediary.
  4. It is wise to "go to the source" when confronting adversaries. Unelss, of course, I'm really in the wrong and they're right! Then it's best to admit my wrong perspective ASAP.
  5. People go to the doctor when they're sick, not when they're feeling well.
  6. In today's positive culture, there is an attempt to make going to the doctor and dentist feel more like upkeep and maintenance of a quality car. However, and I don't know a statistic for this, I sense that most visits to the doctor today are for illness and not for staying well.
  7. Jesus says, "I did not come to call the righteous." This sounds a bit sarcastic to me. He is taking the point-of-view of his accusers, and speaking as though he agrees with their self-assessment.
  8. The scribes of the Pharisees questioned Jesus' company.
  9. The scribes assumed that the Pharisees were right.
  10. How often do we assume, blindly, that the people we work for are pure in motive?
  11. Actually, in my experience it is more likely that a pure leader's character will be unjustly questioned.
  12. But it's true that there are times that we follow the crowd and our leaders blindly.
  13. According to a framework by Jonathan Zittrain, in his book The Future of the Internet--And How to Stop It, there is a significant difference between discoveries that fit neatly within the existing organizational structures and culture and those qualitatively-new ideas that change our old ways of doing things.
  14. Jesus was facing this conflict with the religious leaders of his day.
  15. Jesus' teaching was true but unexpected.
  16. Jesus' teaching was not compatible with the Pharisees' scribes' belief structure.
  17. Nicholas Wolterstorff, in his book Reason Within the Bounds of Religion, addresses this issue from a philosophical point of view.
  18. It is human nature to see what we expect to see.
  19. It is common human experience that we create organizational structures to fit what we believe to be true.
  20. Even people who claim to be driven by evidence are swayed by emotional responses and personal experience.
  21. Lack of bias is an impossible condition to achieve.
  22. This seems fatalistic. Why bother following logic and evidence if we're bound by our personal experiences and biases?
  23. Notice that in verse 15, Mark writes, "...many tax collectors and sinners were dining with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many of them, and they were following Him."
  24. The key is to examine how established strucutres and relationships benefit me in ways that are independent of my faith.
  25. Then, I must observe people outside the system as well as within the system to seek truth.
  26. Sometimes the crowd is right, like on Palm Sunday.
  27. Sometimes the crowd is wrong, like on Good Friday.
  28. God often uses people perceived by the religious establishment as unworthy to bring about his purposes.
  29. What contemporary groups am I biased against because they don't fit with my expectations?
  30. How will I learn God's truth from them?
  31. I pray, Lord, that you'll send people into my life who keep me on your track of Truth, not the popular trail. Not even the popular Christian trail, unless it's Your Truth!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Outline of Mark 2

  1. Jesus Heals the Paralytic
    • Friends Break Through the Roof
    • Jesus Forgives the Sick Man's Sins
    • Pharisees Grumble Internally
    • Jesus Demonstrates His Divinity
  2. Jesus Guilty by Association
    • Invites Levi (Matthew) to Follow Him
    • Eats with "Sinners and Tax Collectors"
  3. Jesus Breaks All the Rules
    • His Followers Don't Fast
    • Reply: Patches and Wineskins
    • His Followers Pick Heads of Grain on the Sabbath
    • Reply: 1 Samuel 21:2-6.
Note: Special thanks to Joe Burns for the information about creating outlines in HTML at this link.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Outline of Mark 1:16-45

I. Fishers of Men
II. Authoritative Teaching in the Synagogue
III. Word Gets Out
IV. Miraculous Healings
V. Jesus, Morning Introvert
VI. A Miraculous Healing & Word Gets Out, Again & Unwanted

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I Must Become Less

In Mark 1:14-15, we read briefly about how Jesus' public ministry didn't begin until after John was imprisoned.

In John 3:26-30, this story is filled out in John the Baptist's own words.

Do I get out of the way for Jesus?  Or do I create distractions in my desire to be in the spotlight?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Jesus' Temptation

We get very little detail about Jesus' temptation in Mark.  Although, now that I think of it, the three things that are listed in other gospels wouldn't take 40 days, either.

What happened during this time?  Why 40 days?  Why put Jesus through this time of private temptation?  And how did it enter the public record of the gospels?  To whom and when did Jesus tell his story?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Jesus' Baptism

How fascinating, in verse 9, that John baptizes Jesus.

Why?  Jesus had no need to repent or be reborn.

Was the purpose of Jesus' baptism different than that of yours or mine, dear Reader?

It is my understanding that, after Jesus' death and resurrection, Christians take on the holiness of Jesus in the Father's eyes.  Therefore, when God says, "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased" in verse 11, this compliment can be applied to believers everywhere.

That is incredibly encouraging.

Monday, July 21, 2008

John the Baptist's Clothes and Diet

In verse 6, Mark describes John's clothing:

and standard diet:
Why does this matter?  Was the point that readers would know John the Baptist because he looked so odd and acted so differently?  Or is there something deeper and theological about this description?
Jesus and his ministry is superior in quality to John's.  John himself points out that his purpose is to emphasize peoples' sins and need for Jesus.
So why didn't Jesus appear in a way that was more odd?  He seems to have fit right into societal norms, so that the religious leaders even questioned his spiritual health.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Preparing the Way

John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus.

Isaiah prepared the way for John the Baptist.

Who prepared the way for Isaiah?

Getting humanity ready for Jesus was a huge task and took many people and thousands of years.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

An Abrupt Beginning

It's interesting to note that the CEV lists Mark 1 as a parallel passage to Matthew 3.1-12; Luke 3.1-18; and John 1.19-28.

There's a whole lot going on in Jesus' life before Mark picks up his story, like Christmas and Jesus' visit to the temple when he's twelve.

I wonder why Mark begins his gospel so far into Jesus' life.  This especially intrigues me because I found in my overview last week that I was drawn to Mark's treatment of Jesus' personality in this gospel.  Why is less more as I strive to understand more what Jesus the human was like when he experienced life on earth?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mark 2:16-17

Jesus is able to parry with the most difficult, sarcastic adversaries.

He always brings the conversation back to truth and what's most important.

I should do this in my role as a summer school teacher.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Jesus' Teaching Style

In Mark 4:33-34, we learn that Jesus often used stories to teach his followers.

It is interesting to me that his lessons are very brief.  Even the Sermon on the Mount would take less than 30 minutes to recite.

Why are teachers (like me) so long-winded these days?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Jesus and the Paralytic

In Mark 2:1-12, we see that Jesus is willing to confront even wrong thinking directly.

I must confront the poor behavior of my summer school students directly as well.

Lord, please continue to give me wisdom and insight into how to turn things around this summer.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jesus' Leadership in Mark 1:22

People with formal authority rarely impress the masses.

As a teacher, I often struggle with this issue.

High school kids discount their teachers' authority unless they are able to establish strong credentials.

It is important that I am well-prepared for summer school; otherwise, I will quickly lose my credibility!

Mark writes that Jesus "taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law" (NIV).

How can I apply this lesson to my work as a teacher leader and as a leader in my classroom?

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mark 1:17

How interesting that Jesus motivated Peter and Andrew to follow him so effortlessly.

This book highlights elements of Jesus' personality that I've never noticed before.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Book of Mark

There were three or four new bits that I noticed reading through this book again.

One thing I wonder about is why Jesus, as he's walking on the water, moves to pass by the boat.  Why didn't he call out, "Hey, guys, help me up into the boat!"  Is this some weird kind of test?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Eighteen Weeks

I'm really excited about getting back into a full book chapter study.  For the remainder of 2008, I will be studying the gospel of Mark.

My goal is to read the entire book today and tomorrow while I'm travelling to and from a family reunion.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Christian Living: Acts 15 Day 3

v. 22: Send important news with many delegates, not just one or two.

v. 26: Highlight people's sacrifices to a cause when you place them at the front of the crowd.

vv. 36-41: Paul and Barnabas disagreed so strongly that they parted company.  This means that even sincere Christians can argue and fail to come to consensus.  Sometimes the right thing to do is break working ties for a period of time.  I wonder, did they ever get back together to serve?  The only positive reference to Barnabas outside of Acts that I can find in Paul's letters is 1 Corinthians 9:6, and even here Paul is a bit cranky with his readers.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Christian Living: Acts 15 Day 2

v. 12: "All the people kept silent."  What a beautiful image, especially as a summer school teacher!  The silence of the first 5 minutes of class is fantastic!  The key is keeping the next 115 minutes engaging enough to keep the kids on track!
As a personal application, I sometimes need to listen more before replying to others' feedback.  I need to learn to be quiet and listen more.

vv. 13-21: James sums up his understanding of the discussion and makes a proposal.  The others agree with his wisdom.  It is my goal to become this kind of leader, one who listens to everyone and then creates a well-respected solution.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Christian Living: Acts 15

There is an enourmous amount of information about "Christian living" to be gleaned from a thorough reading of Acts 15.

v. 1: People will teach, whether or not they've been approved and are competent.  Be careful to test the lessons of any teacher before becoming a disciple!
v. 2: Paul and Barnabas together fight the wrong teaching.  It is tempting but often misguided to engage in a moral fight alone.  Our culture encourages this sort of self-sacrifice, but it may be self-serving on some level.  Fight good battles with qualified colleagues.
When necessary, appeal to a trusted higher authority for a ruling.
v. 3: Share good news publicly to encourage others.
vv. 4-7: Vigorous debate is healthy, even within the church.  It is important to remember that personal stories carry a great deal of weight in settling abstract matters and persuading people.  I'm not a lawyer, but it seems that this would be a part of formal legal training.
vv. 7-11: Although Paul is practically deified in some contemporary churches, it is Peter who makes the first defense of the new gentile believers (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:3-11).

I will continue this analysis tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Christian Living

How is it possible to summarize this topic in just four days?

WWJD seems too trite.

Is this topic limited to the New Testament? There must be great examples in the Old Testament, too.

Joseph exemplifies the kind of life I'd like to live.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Hebrews 10:22

In Hebrews 10:22, the author encourages us to draw near to God with an assurance based upon Jesus' sacrifice.

Hebrews 6:11 emphasizes that we can experience the feeling of assurance when we live the Christian life with diligence.  This does not mean that we need to earn salvation, but it does remind me that I'll feel better about my standing with God when I'm doing the right things!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

1 Timothy 3:13

In 1 Timothy 3:13 in the NASB, the word "confidence" is used in place of the NIV's "assurance."

The better one serves Jesus, the more confident a person can become in his faith.

My annual spritual goal this year is to grow in faith.  The way I will achieve this goal is by serving Jesus better and better.

One of the best ways to serve is by teaching my summer school students with excellence.  This is a spiritual discipline because I have been humbled in this position two of the past three years.  I realize that I cannot succeed alone in this challenge.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Job 24:22

In Job 24:22, the author reminds the rich and powerful that without God's active approval, they can lose everything at any moment.

Even living a righteous life, Job lost almost everything in mere minutes.

There is no direct correlation between righteousness and worldly success.

So why bother doing the right thing?

For eternal reward.

There is self-interest in doing the right things for the right reasons.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Esther 9:30

This verse, just like yesterday's, has the word "assurance" only in the NIV.

It is a summary of Mordecai's letter to the Jews, establishing Purim as an annual celebration of their victory over Haman and his murderous plot to exterminate God's chosen people.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

1 Samuel 17:18

The NIV is the only translation which uses the word "assurance" in 1 Samuel 17:18.  This indicates that the word is not being used in the way that the Navigators use the term.

However, I particularly like Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary on the Bible related to this passage.

The link to today's verse and surrounding context is here.

How wise the commentator is to point out that when people do the right thing, it should be no surprise that their motives are questioned. Furthermore, it is typical to be attacked for making decisions based upon integrity and truth.

It is interesting to note that David's arrival at the battleground makes his brothers angry and suspicious.  He must have had a reputation as an annoying, know-it-all little brother.

What's worse, he was entitled to this confident opinion!  This is very difficult for me to accept, because I'm an oldest child.  My younger brother always thought very highly of himself!

If you're curious, a link to Matthew Henry's entire commentary on 1 Samuel 17 is found here.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008


The word "assurance" appears exactly five times in the NIV:
1 Samuel 17:18
Esther 9:30
Job 24:22
1 Timothy 3:13
Hebrews 10:22

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

What Is "Follow-Up?"

According to this post by Chee Min, whose church uses the Alpha outreach series, the Navigators mean "Lessons on Assurance and Christian Living."

I will focus future posts on these two themes.

At the Movies: Wall-E

My dad and I took my four-year-old son to his first movie theater movie this afternoon.

I am finding that as I reflect upon the concept of "follow-up" in the context of Christian faith, I am focusing more upon what I would label "outreach."

Wall-E is a fantastic vehicle for asking people to reflect upon whether or not humanity is basically good or basically evil.

What do you think, dear Reader?