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Archive for April, 2012

“This is the Good News about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God.” – Mark 1:1 (New Living Translation)

The opening line of the Gospel of Mark sets both the tone and the pace for one of the most action-packed depictions of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ offered through the Gospels.  While Mark’s account is counted among the Synoptic Gospels, it still stands out as particular account of Jesus, “the Messiah, the Son of God.” It offers the reader an opportunity to go along for a roller coaster ride of encounters with Jesus as He goes to and fro, teaching, healing and ministering to the people in the area of Palestine.

Rather than a lofty introduction of the book like his counterparts Luke and Matthew, Mark opens with a single verse that sets everything up from there.  He points out that it is about Jesus.  It is about the Messiah.  It is about the Son of God.  He does not get into genealogy like Matthew.  He does not introduce his position in a case statement like Luke where the opening four verses sound almost like a theological thesis for a seminary student to some degree.  Mark hits his main point and begins to spill evidence of that point from that point on and throughout the entire book.

Start studying the Gospel of MarkRead it as part of your daily Bible study or devotional period.  Listen to it on YouVersion or other sites.  Pick up a commentary or Bible study on the Gospel of Mark.  Let it sink in and soak in to your very soul.  Let it speak to you through the Holy Spirit.  Let it help you see Jesus in action and explore it so that you can experience the gospel in a new light.

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The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. – Proverbs 9:10 (NIV)

Start your day in devotion with the Lord.  Pray and seek God’s face earnestly, seeking to hear from Him before you dare venture out beyond your abode.  Take in His Holy Word, the Scriptures.  Let the words from the Most High sink into your heart and ponder them as you go about your day.
Read from the Book of Proverbs daily.  Soak in the wisdom and knowledge that God has to offer us through these words written by Solomon.  Let them guide you through daily activities and interactions.  See how they speak of the things of this life.  Use them as daily meditations as you deal with the things that happen at work and home, even on the highways and byways.
Seek to take them in daily.  Read a chapter for each day of the month.  Study them and reflect on them.  Jot down your thoughts and reflections day by day.  When trouble comes, revisit them.  When you feel down, take a moment to see what God has already shared with you.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom;
teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and
hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your
hearts to the Lord.
– Colossians 3:16 (KJV)

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And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14 (NIV)

The “gospel of the kingdom” is to preached.  It is to penetrate throughout “the whole world as a testimony to all nations.” There is no end of times until this is done

The gospel is to be proclaimed by those of us who believe it and know it as truth.  We cannot expect the world to carry its message forth.  The news media will not do it.  Certainly, we cannot expect the educational system or institutions of higher learning to spread the word about it.  No, we must proclaim it and penetrate the entire world with it, spreading around the seed that must be sown upon this earth.
We must go far and wide with the “gospel of the kingdom.” It cannot remain contained behind the stained glass of our sanctuaries.  It cannot simply rest in our hearts.  It must come forth through our active engagement of sharing it with others. 
Let us approach this task as our primary activity while alive on this earth.  We must approach it with faith and fervor, fueled by the Holy Spirit who sets us afire to speak boldly of His endless grace and eternal love.  Let this gospel go forth out of you for all that God has bestowed upon you as one of His own children.
“We may well be ashamed of our own personal imperfections, but we have no need to be ashamed of our doctrine.” – J.C. Ryle

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“Grace is the expression of his love.”- Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel

Reflect on grace a moment.  Picture where you would be without grace at work in your life. 

Grace gave you an opportunity to be accepted by God beyond anything that you could ever offer God.  You have received grace, so your attitude should go beyond saying that you are grateful.  You should have an attitude of gratitude.

What does an attitude of gratitude look like?

Start by showing grace towards others.  Somebody’s wronged you.  Before you jump up and seek righteous vengeance, reflect back on grace.  In particular, think of the grace that God showed you.  You surely have wronged God one way or another.  That is called sin.  He did not take you out.  He responded with grace and love, forgiveness and mercy.  Show grace towards others as it has been shown to you.

Domonstrate your gratitude by starting with your attitude.

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Do yourself a favor and read this Bible passage below both before and after you read this post, then try to keep it in mind as you go through your day.  May God ever show His presence in your life today. 

We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.

2 Corinthians 4:8-12  (NIV)

Have you ever been down? You know what I mean.  You’re here in every sense of being present physically, but your mind and heart are wrapped up in so much other stuff that neither one of them is really into where you stand.  You have things on your mind and bogging you down.  Your heart is heavy with grief or misery, even some other feeling that you just cannot seem to explain.

You are down.  Yet, there is good news still.  You are not defeated.

Paul was trying to share that with the believers at Corinth.  He wrote it so eloquently when he penned the words: We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.  This life may become a drag at times, to paraphrase him, but we have more life in the death of Jesus that should be springing forth out of our every move and action that we cannot afford to become consumed with this life.

Yes, we do get down.  We do feel depressed at times.  It’s part of the ups and downs of this life.  We just have to remember that we are not defeated.

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At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God.  All those who heard him were astonished and asked, “Isn’t he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn’t he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?”
– Acts 9:20-21 (NIV)

When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. – Acts 9:26-27 (NIV)

Look at Paul during his transition from persecutor to preacher.  He was constantly met with opposition to his change.  People repeatedly questioned him.  After all, he had been on his way to persecute the church more than what he had already done.  In their opinions, he was still “the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem.”  From where they stood, he was still a persecutor of the church.

Thank God that Paul didn’t fall for it.  If he had wimped out and succumbed to their views, he would have never accepted going forth with the message as a missionary.  He would have wallowed in self-absorbed pity and kept to himself.  He would never have raised his voice beyond his original detractors.

God inspires us to go beyond the thoughts and ideas of the very people around us.  He inspires us to impact others beyond our family and friends.  He offers us fuel to fortify us against the negative perceptions of the people that we may very well be trying to help and who act like we are not worthy of offering such help.

Think for a minute back to 1992 and the riots in Los Angeles that immediately followed the verdict of the Rodney King trial.  Many will recall the looting and burning of many parts of the city of Los Angeles.  There was Reginald Denny, the white man pulled from his truck and beaten in the streets.  The media made that gruesome footage part of our daily diet as it replayed it again and again. 

However, few will recall the name of the man who stepped in to help Denny.  Bobby Green was his name.  He witnessed the mayhem and decided that enough was enough.  He made the trek about a half a mile from his home to where Denny was being beaten on live television and saved the man’s life.  It is a shame that we cannot recall such a man as Bobby Green, but we surely must understand that we, too, must impact this very world where evil gets splashed on the front page and scandal makes the eleven o’clock news broadcast

Imagine what breaking news it would be if we all started impacting our world because we were inspired to do so.  Don’t simply go with the flow.  At times, God will direct you to simply go against the grain.  Bobby Green did so in our times.  Paul did so in his times.  John the Baptist did so.  Jesus did so. 

Let yourself become inspired to impact others.  Let God use you for you to do so.

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Wherefore Christian was left to tumble in the Slough of Despond alone; but still he endeavored

to struggle to that side of the slough that was farthest from his own house, and next to the wicket-gate;

the which he did, but could not get out because of the burden that was upon his back: but I beheld
in my dream, that a man came to him, whose name was Help, and asked him what he did there.
. . .  Fear followed me so hard that I fled the next way, and fell in.
Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Bunyan’s protagonist is aptly named Christian.  He struggles with which way to go and who to listen to as he searches his way through life.  That may sound familiar to many of us as Christians.  We have spent some time trying to find our own way and the help of others have sometimes led us astray.  That appears to be nothing new.

Pilgrim’s Progress is a book full of symbolism.  Yet, it is a tale that should resonate with most of us.  It should remind us of our constant struggle to stay on the right path.  Through this christian classic, we should remember that life is full of dangers ahead and just around the bend.  It may not simply be the things that we encounter upon the road itself.  It may be the danger of the very people who cross our path along the way.  We may do well to not listen to some of the folks who seem to know so much and cause us so much trouble as we follow their lead.

Paul wrote it this way: “Test everything. Hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21, NIV).  Don’t simply look into what people say and take it as gospel.  The Bible warns us of false teachers and their twisting of the Word of God for their own benefit and gain.  Learn to discern the truth based upon your understanding of the Word and the urging of the Holy Spirit. 

Even in his letters from prison, Paul is careful to state: It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains” (Philippians 1:15-17, NIV).  Jude urged the believer to “contend for the faith,” while John shared that we should imitate and do “what is good.” We cannot spend a lot of time following behind this manipulators and workers of evil.  We have to focus on the good that comes from God that produces love and peace, even joy and forgiveness.  If we do as He has said for us to do, we will uphold the truth that comes from Him and he will destroy that which defies His Word.

Be careful to hold onto the Word of God as truth.  Otherwise, when you least expect it, you will find danger ahead.

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