Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Relax and Get Busy!

Blog banner with the image of a highway and the word: "Journey" for the study of the Book of Matthew.
My friends,

We are coming to the close of our journey through Matthew.  Things are coming to a climax for Jesus in his last days of life on earth.  Two weeks ago we witnessed Jesus handing out 7 woes to the religious leaders of his time.  And this Sunday, the very next chapter (Matthew 24), Jesus goes prophetically bananas!  Jesus isn’t bananas in that he is crazy, bananas as in outrageously and graphically prophetic.

As he leaves the temple mount and walks with his disciples outside of temple walls he says, “Do you see all these things?  Not one of these stones will be left on another.”  This is crazy talk – what does he mean?

The disciples are confused too and can’t believe what Jesus is saying.  Jesus then answers their questioning by mixing the description of two very important events that will occur in the future.  One that will happen in 40 years to come, one that the disciples will experience for themselves: the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  The other event Jesus will describe is when he will return to earth in all of his glory at the end of time, an event that hasn’t yet happened.

Jesus descriptions of these events are chilling and can bring on fear.  There have been many attempts by Christians to try and define what Jesus words mean in terms of the how and when of these events.  Some of the conclusions of Christians, especially in recent history, is very descriptive and can generate fear.

I would like to take an approach to Jesus words that may be more descriptive than prescriptive based on clues Jesus gives us about how and when of the event of his return.  Jesus words should not cause fear.  Rather, Jesus words should stimulate two things from us:  “Relax!” and “Get busy!”

Jesus words about the end of all things give us courage, confidence, and purpose.  I will attempt to open up this understanding from Scripture itself.  Our message will be based on Matthew 24.  Read the entire chapter for Sunday and you will be prepared to dive in.  The focus of the message, “Relax and Get Busy!“, will intensify on vs. 36-51.  Download will unpack different interpretations of Jesus return from the history of Christian thought and reflection.

See you Sunday and be prepared for Jesus to go prophetically bananas!

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Adultery? I Say…

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To put it in modern terms, Jesus is nailing it!  Whether its between the eyes or to the doorposts of our hearts – Jesus is bringing the truth.  Last week we looked at his teaching on murder and this week, its adultery.  Just when you thought the challenges couldn’t get more difficult!

In Matthew 5:27-30, Jesus once again teaches the intent of God’s command of long ago by affirming its importance and necessity while at the same time expanding and broadening our understanding of the command.  Is the command to ‘not commit adultery’ only apply to people who are married?  What is the actual scope of the command?  Or in other words, what area of life does this command cover?  And what is all included in the rings around this targeted command?

I’m gonna bring some ‘lies’ about sexuality that our culture tells us all the time in my ‘bag’ of teaching for Sunday.  Can you think of any lies about sexuality that those around us tell us?

In my study this week, I thought of a few Beatitudes that Jesus forgot to say.  “Blessed are those who delight in the continual and creative courting of their marriage partner.”  And another one, “Blessed are those who guard their sexual purity for they shall be truly free.”

Peace out!
See you Sunday.  Be there or be square.

“Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

See you Sunday!Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Anger

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In Matthew 5, Jesus said that he ‘didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.’  One significant way that he accomplishes this is by writing the law of God on our hearts (the intention of God’s law all along).  God’s law has always been about love: love for God and for one another.  Jesus turns the outward acts of obedience or disobedience to God’s law inside out – metaphorically and literally.  For example, each of the 10 commandments describes the center of a bullseye.  Yet there is a scope that surrounds this bullseye that describe it more broadly and more fully.  The Bullseye describes an outward action to refrain from.  But the scope of the command is aimed at the heart.

Jesus now goes on to illustrate this in a couple of ways.  He uses the command “Do not murder’ and ‘Do not commit adultery’ to illustrate his point.  Many people can say they haven’t murdered (killed) someone and therefore would conclude they have obeyed God’s command.  Yet Jesus goes on to say that the scope and intention of this law is the heart.  He likens ‘murder’ to that of holding a grudge or hating someone.

And this broadens and deepens our understanding of the purpose of God’s law.  Over the next two weeks, we will explore together what Jesus has to say about these two commands.  How will these teachings of Jesus impact us?

Deeply I hope… In these things Jesus invites us, “Follow Me.”

See you Sunday!

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Not Abolish…Fulfill!

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JesusFeetwTextJesus is going to teach one profound thing after another in the weeks to come. Life giving, gut wrenching, spirit challenging, mentally stimulating, life changing, in your face leading, disciple weeding… I could go on.

Our text for Sunday is Matthew 5:17-20. Jesus teaches in a Jewish context with a large mixed group of people that, “He did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” What did he say? First, it sounds like he claimed to have some super authority to be an expert on the law. Second, sounds kind of arrogant to also claim that YOU, meaning HIM, personally can fulfill the law. Third, the law (TORAH) is held in utmost honor, and who is Jesus to even comment on it or mess with its understanding.

The ironic thing about Jesus words is he doesn’t say anything new about the Law itself. God’s intention when giving the 10 commandments or any Old Testament law, from the beginning, was to write God’s law on our hearts. Jesus goes on to affirm the Law of God in three ways in just a couple sentences. And then, lowers the boom, “Unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” WOW! Talk about an impossible saying… and that’s the point… It’s impossible!

In this irony, is Jesus point… The law of God is good, it is to be followed and obeyed. But its not about the outward life of obedience primarily – its about the obedience that springs from the ‘inside-out.’ (From the heart…) And in this, Jesus fulfills the law. More on that Sunday.

We tend to see rules, regulations and laws as restrictions leading to constrictions of freedom. But God’s gracious boundaries (laws) are meant to increase freedom, not limit it. When it comes to law, we tend to be ‘libertarian’ or ‘legalistic.’ And Jesus provides, teaches, lives, and fulfills a third way to live with God’s law.

Can’t wait ’til Sunday, the Word of God (law) is “sweeter than honey and more precious than gold. By them your servant is warned and in keeping them there is great reward.” (Psalm 19:10-11)

Pastor Mark 

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Salt & Light

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Spring Forward!!!

That’s right – this Sunday we adjust to Daylight Savings Time and spring forward our clocks 1 hour on Saturday night.  We will find out who is on top of this happening at worship service at 9:30am!  If you show up at 10:30am, we might suspect you missed it!

We are springing forward into the ‘Sermon from the Valley (Mount)’ this week with our new TQ (Text of the Quarter).  The focus of the message will be Jesus call of his followers being ‘salt and light.’  What does Jesus mean?  What are the qualities of salt and light, how were they used in Jesus day, and what does that have to do with following Jesus?

Understanding this is wrapped up in a couple of things: Identity and Purpose.  Both salt and light have qualities and purpose for why they exist.  What are they and what is it?  The answers to these questions will go deep in understanding what Jesus is saying about us as followers.

If we are like salt to the earth and light to the world, a bigger question bubbles to the surface: Why would God choose to use us to ‘influence’ the earth like salt and to ‘shine’ in the world like light?

In order for salt to be salt it has to be poured out of the saltshaker and make contact with something.  In order for light to be light it has to interact and push back the darkness.  Hmmmm… Jesus says we are ‘salt and light.’

Like it – love it – can’t wait for Sunday, Get a jump on this TQ and learn it by heart – its an easy one!  Communion celebration this Sunday.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Follow Me!

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Our text for Sunday is from Matthew 4:13-25.  As Jesus begins his ministry, he begins to call some disciples to himself.  In Jesus day, it was a high honor and privilege to be asked by a Rabbi to follow them and be their disciple.

I want to highlight a verb in the text.  “As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers…”  Fisherman are on the low end of vocations in terms of status.  And more than that, Simon, Andrew, James and John were engaged in the family business (fishing).  This could mean a couple of things.  One, they were not very educated and second, to this point, a rabbi had not asked for them to be their disciple.

In the culture of Jesus day, a rabbi would ask a few to be their disciple in there early teens, or you could request to study with a rabbi, and they could accept or reject you.  There is good evidence that the disciples were mostly, if not all, teenagers.  It would follow that Simon, Andrew, James and John were already ‘passed over’ by other rabbi’s.  That would mean the disciples of Jesus were the ‘leftovers.’

How does that strike you?  When Jesus began calling disciples to follow him it meant total and complete commitment.  Commitment to his teachings, his way of life, everything.  You literally followed in the rabbi’s steps as you lived life together.
Jesus chose his disciples.  And they weren’t necessarily the best of the best.  Same is true for us today.  Isn’t it good to know that Jesus sees us, and calls us to follow him, and he chooses us to be his disciples?

To read more about Jesus day and discipleship, click on this link, www.thattheworldmayknow.com/rabbi-and-talmidim

If you are really ambitious, google “the land of Naphtali and Zebulun.”  And look at a couple maps and other information.  The Land of Naphtali and Zebulun is the region where Jesus did 90% of his geographical ministry and 75% of his teaching ministry.

Its no coincidence… for several reasons!

See you Sunday!

Pastor Mark

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog, Uncategorized

Prepare the Way!

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“Prepare the Way!” John the Baptist cries.  “Repent and be baptized for the Kingdom of Heaven is near!”  People responded to John’s message in droves!  They came from all around the region of Judea to be baptized by John.

What exactly was John preparing the way for?  For who?  For what?  Matthew doesn’t waste any time in answering these questions.  Immediately after 12 short verses about John the Baptist, Jesus comes on the scene.  The text for Sunday is from Matthew 3:13-4:11.

Jesus comes to John to be baptized by him.  And John objects, yet Jesus says this must happen ‘to fulfill all righteousness.’  What does that mean?

After Jesus is baptized a voice from heaven blesses Jesus, “This is my Son; whom I love, with him I am well pleased.”  Why is this so important?

And immediately after Jesus baptism the Spirit leads him into the desert to be tempted by the devil.  Why the desert?  Why 40 days?

Notice how Jesus responds to every temptation.  (Scripture).  Where does Jesus quote from? What book of the Bible?

There is so much going on behind the text.  I’m going to make a claim to you that someone made to me about 10 years ago… “There isn’t a word that Jesus said or a story he told or an action he made that doesn’t have some grounding in the Hebrew Scripture.” (Old Testament)  If this is true, which I have come to believe it is, then dig a little deeper with me.  Are there parallels with Jesus Baptism and Temptations that you can find in the Old Testament?  Scripture references?  Motifs? (like Israel being delivered from Egypt and then led into the dessert to be tested? – for example)  I’ll point you in some directions… Psalm 2, Isaiah 42, Exodus 20 and 24, Deuteronomy  6 and 8… to name a few.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Mark

 

Pastor Mark's Weekly Blog

Starting the Journey

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jordan-river5….4….3….2….1…. wait a minute!

We are about to start on a journey together through the book of Matthew.  Our eyes and our hearts will be focused on Jesus.  We will listen to his teachings, observe the miracles God works through him, watch with agony as Jesus is rejected by his people and crucified.  His death isn’t the end of the story, but I continue to get ahead of myself!!!

Before we blastoff on this Jesus journey, we need to engage in some ‘preparation.’  “Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”  John was a prophetic kind of man who came on the scene before Jesus began his ministry.  He was a relative of Jesus who spoke with boldness a fiery message up and down the Jordan River from the Dead Sea to the Sea of Galilee.

The passage for Sunday’s message comes from Matthew 3:1-12.  As we prepare for ‘Jesus coming’ by learning more about John, check out Mark 1:1-8, Luke 3:1-19, and John 1:1-34.  Every Gospel ‘prepares’ for Jesus coming by talking about this man named John the Baptizer.  And each Gospel mentions John’s mission and message as being a fulfillment of Isaiah 40.  (Read that as well for additional preparation!)

What was John’s core message?  (Something about repentance, baptism, and a ‘Kingdom.’)  And how does this prepare the way for Jesus?  Can’t wait for Sunday.

If you wanna dig deep, google recent news about ’12th Qumran Cave found’, or ‘essene commuity’ and see what you find out.  Its possible that John was a part of this desert community before heading on his baptism tour.

See you Sunday!

Pastor Mark