Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath - Mark 3

Jesus Heals on the Sabbath
3 Another time Jesus went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. 2 Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. 3 Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.”

4 Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent.

5 He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. 6 Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus.

Reflection:
On another Sabbath, Jesus again went into the Sabbath, presumably to teach and also show forth his teaching with works of mercy and healing. This time it was a man with a shriveled hand, which probably prevented him from working. The Pharisees had laws about just who could be attended to on the Sabbath, and who could not be based on the severity of their sickness or disability. But in this case, they had an eye to catch Jesus in an offense, rather than having any compassion for the disabled man. Jesus wanted to show forth plainly what he was doing so he had the man stand up. He used it as a teaching example to reveal the hard hearts of the leaders. He asked a simple question. Which was lawful to do good or evil on the Sabbath? To bring life or death? He was hoping that the people would have compassion on the man, but they were so bent on catching him in a trap, they completely missed the point.

And we see Jesus was angry! We might say, how can Jesus get angry? Isn't that a sin? We must remember what Jesus was angry about, their hard hearts and stubbornness. This was all about control. Jesus threatened their power and control and they didn't like it. This is the same stubbornness that would prevent their belief. There are people today who also see the power of Jesus in the lives of people whose hearts and lives have been changed. But they dismiss it, and speak against it because they don't want to lose control either. In the end, Jesus completely heals the man, again showing that the Sabbath was made for man, not man made for the Sabbath. The Law leads to control and death, the Gospel leads to freedom and life.

Notice too that Jesus is distressed or saddened by their spiritual state. He so desires that they will come to a knowledge of the truth. He has taught the truth and showed them the truth, but they are still so obstinate and it makes him angry. Why? Because he knows their hard hearts will lead them to their death, not just now but eternally. Just like the verse in 2 Peter 3:9 says, "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance."

There are two questions we might ask ourselves today? One, where has our heart become hardened to the truth. Where is God showing us His work and we are slow to believe, or would rather stay in control than yield to what God wants in our lives? Second, do we grieve at the stubborn hearts of those we see, who resist the Gospel? Do we look for ways to show them the truth at work in everyday life situations, where Christ can show that He is real and heals today. Do we pray for those with stubborn hearts that they might see God and Christ's deep love for them in what Jesus did to save them? Take some time to pray about these things and how God might use these truths in your life today. Amen.



Monday, July 21, 2014

The Sabbath is Made for Man, Not Man Made for the Sabbath!

Jesus Is Lord of the Sabbath
23 One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and as his disciples walked along, they began to pick some heads of grain. 24 The Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”

25 He answered, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need? 26 In the days of Abiathar the high priest, he entered the house of God and ate the consecrated bread, which is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.”

27 Then he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. 28 So the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Reflection: Note the similarity of the Pharisees' inquisition today with yesterday. Yesterday they accused the disciples of not fasting enough while Jesus was with them. And today they rebuke Jesus for allowing his disciples to eat on the Sabbath day. Note they are only plucking ears of corn, not a full blown feast. They are getting enough sustenance to continue their travel and ministry. But the real point of the story is Jesus' explanation. He says, "The Sabbath is made for man, not man made for the Sabbath."

It is important to know that any commandment God has given is out of love for us and our own benefit, this one as well. The Sabbath was a day of rest for both one's body and soul. A day to rest the body from a week of work, and a time to feed the soul with the things of God. Note it is not a day to put unnecessary strain on the body, and in this case to feed it when it is hungry. The Pharisees had generally made all the laws burdensome to the people by tying heavy loads on their backs and then not lifting a finger to help lift them. Jesus says, "Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest, rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."

So how do we make the Sabbath a burden today or not realize it is made for man not the opposite? Commonly going to church is thought of as the penultimate way to honor the Sabbath. And of course worshipping God on a regular and consistent basis is an important discipline, which not only feeds our soul and but is also a time of rest and reflection on our spiritual life in community with others. But Church is not meant to be a burden. And if going to church is consistently burdensome to you something is amiss.

Secondly, we live in a world where being a work-aholic is accepted if not applauded. Working 50-60 hours a week for many is the norm, including those in full time ministry. And you may ask what is the problem with that? Aren't we supposed to work, didn't God command that? Yes work is good, but when it becomes idolatry it is bad. When it is the most important thing in our lives, it affects our relationship with God, and our family and friends. Do we really think God would want is to work so much that in the meantime our family gets only the leftovers of a tired, worn out person? I don't think so!

It is really wise for us to reflect on Jesus' words today, which are every bit as important to us today as to his disciples back then. Do you have a regular time for resting your body and soul in your weekly rhythm of life? Note it doesn't have to be necessarily on Sunday. The day is not as important as the habit. Secondly, is there a healthy balance between work and the rest of your life? At the end of your life will you look back and say I gave all of myself to work and what do I have to show for it? God's wants us to have the right priorities in our lives so that our lives might have maximum impact in the kingdom and for those who we love, especially our families. Amen.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

New Wine, New Wineskins! Mark 2:18-22

Jesus Questioned About Fasting
18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

19 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. 20 But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

21 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. 22 And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”


Reflection:
In today's passage Jesus gives us a new way to look at spiritual disciplines like reading the bible, praying, silence and solitude, and fasting to name a few. But the Pharisees and John's disciples had missed the purpose of these disciplines which is to be with Jesus. Jesus said, "How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?"
The purpose of the discipline is to connect us with Jesus and His grace, that we might be able to do the things he does. They move us out of reliance on ourselves to reliance on and in Him.

Then, Jesus uses another analogy. He says, "No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment." Meaning we don't put the old with the new, and no one puts new wine in an old wineskins. No they put new wine into new wineskins. The Pharisees were stuck in the old garment of trying to become right with God by observing the Law. The were burdened by the old wineskins, which couldn't hold Jesus.

So how are we like the Pharisees? How do our spiritual disciplines become old and life less, like old clothing and old wineskins. And how can we know? One clear sign is that they have become a burden. If you are like, "Oh I guess I have to pray again. I might as well, after all this is what Christians do!" If this becomes our attitude I think we are missing the point. What was meant to be a grace filled habit that brings us new life and a stronger relationship with Jesus, has become a new burdensome law. If this describes you, maybe you need a break? Maybe you need to try something new. I know I need to be reminded that in these disciplines we meet Jesus and He is the One who changes us.

Another helpful practice might as you pray think of it as you are actually talking to a person. How would you talk to your best friend? What would you share? Now obviously God is in a different category than best friend, but I am saying this to make a point. Many people pray as if no one is really listening, or worse yet no one really cares. They just pray out of duty, or it is the right thing to do. But yet God our Father loves us and wants to meet with us daily. My prayer for me and you is that going to God will be like your daily bread. Just like we would probably not think of missing a meal, my hope is that we would become hungry for God's Word, and hunger for it.

As we seek the living Lord, let us be careful not to pour the new wine into the old wineskins, for if we do we will miss out on the relationship with the One who came to make all things new, including me and you. Amen.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners

Jesus Calls Levi and Eats With Sinners
13 Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. 14 As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector’s booth. “Follow me,” Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.

15 While Jesus was having dinner at Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. 16 When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the sinners and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?”

17 On hearing this, Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Reflection:

As we seek to follow Jesus and emulate the way he lives his life, today we see yet another way in which he reaches out to lost people. When he sees Levi the tax collector, he says follow me. Remember tax collectors were employed to get as much money as they could for the Roman government, and were therefore despised by the Jewish people. But in this case we see Jesus came to seek and save all people, regardless of their past. Levi, also called Matthew, is so intrigued he invites him into his home. For Jesus to go into a home a sinner was a big risk. He cared so much about Matthew, Jesus willingly took the risk.

And while they were eating, there were many other tax collectors and other "sinners" who came to meet Jesus. Notice Jesus meets them on their turf and this is attractional. But the Pharisees aren't so thrilled. When they see him they ask his disciples (notice not Jesus), why Jesus does such a thing? Jesus must have overheard them, after all He was God. And he answers their inquiry by saying, "it is not the healthy who need a doctor but those who are ill." Then, he makes a clarifying statement, which is the main point of the story. He says, "I have not come to call the righteous but sinners."

So what does that look like for us? We are usually more comfortable hanging out with people like us. People who dress like us, drive the same cars, and hang out in the same places. The longer we are in the church, the more detached we get from "people in the world" who don't know Christ. Oftentimes we are sent on missions, which of course is great, especially where there is great need for conversion, as well things like schools and sustainable food programs etc.
But what about those in our backyard, or better yet down our own street. Do we know them? Do we care about their spiritual condition? It is not as if we should go up and say, "Pardon me are you a sinner?" But what would it be like to build a relationship with people as far as we can discern are lost, so as to "earn the right to share the Gospel with them."

A good first step is to pray for those who are in your circle of influence. Secondly, when God gives you the opportunity, be prepared to give a reason for the hope you have in Christ. This is not cramming it down people's throats, but natural conversations that flow out of relationships. One of the most thrilling things in the world is sharing the Good News and have a chance to be part of someone's eternal destiny by God's grace. Amen.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Jesus Forgives and Heals A Paralyzed Man - Mark 2:1-12

Jesus Forgives and Heals a Paralyzed Man
2 A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. 2 They gathered in such large numbers that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. 3 Some men came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them. 4 Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus by digging through it and then lowered the mat the man was lying on. 5 When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” 6 Now some teachers of the law were sitting there, thinking to themselves, 7 “Why does this fellow talk like that? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 8 Immediately Jesus knew in his spirit that this was what they were thinking in their hearts, and he said to them, “Why are you thinking these things? 9 Which is easier: to say to this paralyzed man, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? 10 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the man, 11 “I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” 12 He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all. This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”


Reflection:
As we have said over the past couple of days, Jesus discerned in prayer with the Father that it was time for him to move on to another town. So a few days later he enters Capernaum. Capernaum was a fishing village on the Northern side of the Sea of Galilee. Peter, James, Andrew and John lived there. It was a hub of Jesus' ministry. Jesus was teaching in someone's house and the crowd was so large there was no room to get in. A man who was paralyzed had four friends that wanted him to get healed so badly they not only carried him on a mat, but dug a hole in the roof and lowered him. (Now these were some good friends!) Jesus not only saw the man on the mat, but more importantly he saw a faith that would do whatever it took to get an audience with him.

But rather than just healing the man, Jesus starts by saying, "Son your sins are forgiven." Jesus saw a need for healing in two areas: spiritual and physical and he addressed the spiritual first. It just so happened that were some teachers of the Law were there, probably Pharisees. When they heard this they accused him of blasphemy. But then realizing this was a teachable moment, Jesus says, "What is easier to say take up your mat and walk", or "your sins are forgiven". But I want you to know the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.

Jesus wanted to show that his authority extended to both the spiritual and physical realm. The same authority that was able to heal the soul of the man was able to heal the body of the man. This is why it is important in any healing ministry to minster to the whole person: body, soul, mind and emotions. And Jesus has authority over all of it. And we see the great faith of the men who do whatever it takes to get the man to Jesus. Where do you or someone else important in your life need healing? What lengths would you do to take it to Jesus? Jesus is not too busy to hear your prayers now. He sees faith and rewards it. Thanks be to God that Jesus brings not only healing to our bodies on earth for this life, but forgives our sins so we might live eternally. Amen.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Jesus Heals A Man With Leprosy - Mark 1:40-45

Jesus Heals a Man With Leprosy
40 A man with leprosy came to him and begged him on his knees, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”

41 Jesus was indignant. He reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” 42 Immediately the leprosy left him and he was cleansed.

43 Jesus sent him away at once with a strong warning: 44 “See that you don’t tell this to anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.” 45 Instead he went out and began to talk freely, spreading the news. As a result, Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places. Yet the people still came to him from everywhere.

Reflection:

The passion shows us a lot about the compassion of Jesus. First of all we see how the leper approaches Jesus. Notice is says he comes on his knees. This shows his absolute humility to put himself at the mercy of Jesus. Also he says "if you are willing you can make me clean". He is completely confident and has faith that Jesus can heal him if he is willing. These are two great attributes: faith and humility as we come to Jesus for healing prayer.

Then notice it says "Jesus was indignant". I was surprised by this phrase. Other translations render this "Jesus was filled with compassion", which at the surface seems more likely given Jesus' character and other incidents of his mercy toward the sick. But we also know from the previous passage that Jesus was getting out of town per the Father's leading, and everyone was looking for him. Also, we see here that as Jesus' popularity rises so dies those looking to kill him rise. He knows his time is limited but in the end says, "I am willing"

This is one of my favorite healing passages for those words, "I am willing!" So often we think our needs are beneath Jesus or it is wrong to ask Jesus to heal us. After all, this is our cross to bear. And sometimes it is. Yet other situations give Jesus a chance to show his power and authority over sickness and disease. Later Jesus will send out his own disciples to do the same things he did, which is to announce the Good News through word and deed.

Though you may not have leprosy, where can you reach out to Jesus with humility and faith for healing. Today's passage reminds us that Jesus is willing, able and makes time for those who need him. May we come to Jesus with humility and faith as we ask him to provide Daily Bread for all of needs. Amen.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place - Mark 1:35-39

Jesus Prays in a Solitary Place
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!” 38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else—to the nearby villages—so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.

Reflection:

It is no accident that this short story is placed exactly where it is in chapter 1. Why? Because we see Jesus has been about preaching the Good News that the kingdom is at hand. He has healed all of the people's various demons and diseases by taking authority over them. And now what does he do? He gets away to a quiet place. He takes time out of the grind of ministry to be with the Father. And what reaction does he get? Simon Peter and the disciples couldn't find him and when they do they say to Jesus, "everybody is looking for you!"

Of course everyone was looking for Jesus, after all the works He had done. But Jesus knew the work was not sustainable without abiding in the Father's love and care, and then listening to Him as to what to do next. So often we get so caught up in the work of ministry, we forget to take time to be with the One who fuels our ministry. And then we wonder why we are out of gas. If we are followers of Jesus, we not only need to follow the way he does ministry but also the way he does rest. We need to model how everything He does comes out of a deep, abiding relationship with His Father in heaven.

And we see the result of this is that the Father directs him to go somewhere else. To the nearby villages in Galilee. If it were up to the people he could have stayed there three years and probably not met all the needs of the people. So God calls him to another village to bring in the Good News of the kingdom because his time was limited.

So the obvious question for today is: is your deep, abiding relationship with Father fueling your ministry? Or are you ruled by the principle of everybody is looking for you. And this I think applies to not just pastors and leaders but any leader of any organization. We all need time to get back to our center, which for Christians is Jesus. The apostle Paul's letters are always marked with the phrase, "In Christ". Paul had a tremendously fruitful and effective life as a missionary and church planter and it was all fueled by his consciously being "in Christ" and led by the Spirit.

My hope is that the Daily Bread is a place for your to re-calibrate your spiritual life and relationship with the Father through Jesus. Let us make time and room to go to the solitary place early and often. Amen.