Don’t let go…

Mark 7:24-30

 Then Jesus left Galilee and went north to the region of Tyre.  He didn’t want anyone to know which house he was staying in, but he couldn’t keep it a secret. Right away a woman who had heard about him came and fell at his feet. Her little girl was possessed by an evil spirit,  and she begged him to cast out the demon from her daughter.

Since she was a Gentile, born in Syrian Phoenicia, Jesus told her, “First I should feed the children—my own family, the Jews. It isn’t right to take food from the children and throw it to the dogs.”

She replied, “That’s true, Lord, but even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”

“Good answer!” he said. “Now go home, for the demon has left your daughter.”  And when she arrived home, she found her little girl lying quietly in bed, and the demon was gone.

-NLT

 This woman could have taken offense.  This would be a blatantly racist statement in today’s world, the press would have gone wild with it.  Yet she remains focused and undeterred.  She demonstrates belief that has become faith and faith in action.  She does not let personal pride get in the way of her mission.  For her statement she receives what she asked for.  Her statement:  Yes but…even the dogs under the table are allowed to eat the scraps from the children’s plates.”, shows the extent of her faith.  Like the woman who just wanted to touch the hem of his robe, the faith in that statement shows a realization of just how big she believed God to be.  It  wouldn’t take much to heal her daughter.  Something mankind could not do, God could and it wouldn’t require much, just a crumb.

Take away – Belief drives faith, we make our requests known and don’t let obstacles block our focus.  We know who He is, and what He can do; we know who He says we are and what we can do through Him.  This was God’s Word in action and alive, it can be alive and active in us!

Thoughts driven by Dusty’s passing…

Life is short with much to be done.  A gift, this life, given to us by God who loves His creation but does not compromise his standards.  The passing of Dusty so suddenly and without reason, seemingly, makes one look again more closely at what we’ve been given.  Don’t know why there must be a reason.  He is taken  young, and a wife and child are left, dependent now on God to provide.  A love that  was tangible, has become intangible and the change hurts.  Loss happens all around us all the time, but when it is the one who goes to bed with you, gets up with you, laughs and plays with you it hurts.  The sense of being alone can overwhelm.  At that point you realize how big  God is or isn’t in your life. 

 

The bird song is stronger this am.  They sing an anthem.  The sky dawns clear and bright.  Rain came in the night but the sun is here this morning.  The skies cried but we have the healing warmth of the Son in our lives to dry up the tears.  Joy comes in the morning.  The ache will diminish, memories not.  Life will take on a new shape not replace the old.  Life as it was is not changed, it is past.  Life as it is and as it is becoming is different, only that…

clean or unclean…?

Mark 7:9-23

 Then he said, “You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition.  For instance, Moses gave you this law from God: ‘Honor your father and mother,’  and ‘Anyone who speaks disrespectfully of father or mother must be put to death.’ But you say it is all right for people to say to their parents, ‘Sorry, I can’t help you. For I have vowed to give to God what I would have given to you.’ In this way, you let them disregard their needy parents. And so you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. And this is only one example among many others.”

Then Jesus called to the crowd to come and hear. “All of you listen,” he said, “and try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. ”

Then Jesus went into a house to get away from the crowd, and his disciples asked him what he meant by the parable he had just used.  “Don’t you understand either?” he asked. “Can’t you see that the food you put into your body cannot defile you?  Food doesn’t go into your heart, but only passes through the stomach and then goes into the sewer.” (By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.)

 And then he added, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you.”

 “…You skillfully sidestep God’s law in order to hold on to your own tradition…”. We so often confuse the natural with the spiritual.  Jesus points that out here.  Who holds sway, who has importance in our lives, who dictates our behavior, our thoughts and subsequently our feelings?  Mankind’s tradition or God’s law? 

“… try to understand. It’s not what goes into your body that defiles you; you are defiled by what comes from your heart. ”  Sin makes us unclean before God.  The disobedience that rises from the self inside us.  The concept of ‘clean’ or ‘unclean’ is a spiritual one.  Man’s tradition would want us to believe there is something we can do to make ourselves spiritually clean.  Spiritual cleanliness comes only from within, a clean heart, cleansed by the blood of Christ as put forth by the scripture, God’ Word.  Food or washing hands has nothing to do with our thoughts and actions.  To be clean we need to be immersed in God’s Word placing it within our hearts and minds and allowing it to drive our actions and thoughts.  To be clean we need to follow the commands given by God, looking to Him, accepting His Son’s sacrifice.

 Don’t muddy the concept of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ as it is given to describe mankind before their Creator.  That is a clean and unclean that cannot be impacted by outside, natural actions.  Washing the body removes exterior dirt and one appears clean but the words coming from the mouth can remove that impression.  “It is what comes from inside that defiles you...” We want the spirit to be clean, the heart of who we are.  That cleansing comes from the Word of God.  There we learn the truths and principles that when in place demonstrate a clean heart.”… you cancel the word of God in order to hand down your own tradition. ”  We don’t want to be guilty of nullifying the Word of God by replacing it with tradition. We will keep the Word of God active and alive within us and we will be ‘clean’.

Is it real? God’s commands or man-made tradition…

Mark 7:1-8

 One day some Pharisees and teachers of religious law arrived from Jerusalem to see Jesus.  They noticed that some of his disciples failed to follow the Jewish ritual of hand washing before eating. (The Jews, especially the Pharisees, do not eat until they have poured water over their cupped hands,  as required by their ancient traditions. Similarly, they don’t eat anything from the market until they immerse their hands in water. This is but one of many traditions they have clung to—such as their ceremonial washing of cups, pitchers, and kettles.)

So the Pharisees and teachers of religious law asked him, “Why don’t your disciples follow our age-old tradition? They eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony.”

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites! Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you, for he wrote,

‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me.

Their worship is a farce,

for they teach man-made ideas as commands from God.’

For you ignore God’s law and substitute your own tradition.”NLT

Another translation puts it this way:——————-

“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,

“‘This people honors me with their lips,

but their heart is far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” ESV

 We have tradition vs. the Word of God/His commands.  Do we find ourselves holding on to traditions over God’s Word?  Jesus said that makes us a hypocrite.  We do well to be aware of the origin of what we do.  Hold all before the light of the Word to see if it be of God.  We do well to be sure our energies are put into following His commands over man’s traditions.  We do well to do all things from the heart.  Jesus quotes Isaiah, “These people honor me with their lips.”  Lip service rather than heart service.  Man’s rules rather than God’s laws/commands.  Jesus plainly puts it out there for us.  This worship that is only lip service, traditional man-made, is in vain – it is not from the heart. 

Where is our faith?  In God or man?  What we actually do shows what we actually believe.  How much of what we do is man-based rather than God driven?  We need to be alert to what causes us to do what we do…  Where is our focus and do we spend enough time in the Word to be able to tell the difference?  Is our worship real, genuine?

When we worship is it from the heart?  Do we put as much effort into following God’s commands as we do our traditions?  Do we have the sometimes intense concern to comply with ‘rules’ without considering whether they be of God or man?  Who is Lord…? 

We can know who He is and what He does.  We can know who He says we are, what we can do through Christ.  We can have God’s Word alive and active in us!  Our worship can be real!!

Take courage, I am here….

Mark 6:45-56

Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home.  After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.

 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land.  He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o’clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. They were all terrified when they saw him.

But Jesus spoke to them at once. “Don’t be afraid,” he said. “Take courage! I am here! ”  Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, for they still didn’t understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.

 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore  and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once,  and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was.  Wherever he went—in villages, cities, or the countryside—they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.

 Wonder why Mark didn’t tell about Peter walking to Jesus in his account?   Just curious… 

This account mentions fear again and its connection to faith.  They were afraid when they saw Jesus  walking toward them on the water and that was followed by amazement when the winds calmed.  What does it take for us to realize who He is and what He does?  They just witnessed the feeding of the many, they even participated in the healing of many.  Jesus speaks, gets into the boat, and the sea calms.  They are amazed.  When we ask, he responds, do we react in amazement?  What does it take for us to realize who He is and what He does?

Faith; alive and active…

Mark 6:30-44

The apostles returned to Jesus from their ministry tour and told him all they had done and taught. Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

So they left by boat for a quiet place, where they could be alone. But many people recognized them and saw them leaving, and people from many towns ran ahead along the shore and got there ahead of them. Jesus saw the huge crowd as he stepped from the boat, and he had compassion on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

Late in the afternoon his disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late.  Send the crowds away so they can go to the nearby farms and villages and buy something to eat.”

But Jesus said, “You feed them.”

“With what?” they asked. “We’d have to work for months to earn enough money to buy food for all these people!”

“How much bread do you have?” he asked. “Go and find out.”

They came back and reported, “We have five loaves of bread and two fish.”

Then Jesus told the disciples to have the people sit down in groups on the green grass. So they sat down in groups of fifty or a hundred.

Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, he kept giving the bread to the disciples so they could distribute it to the people. He also divided the fish for everyone to share. They all ate as much as they wanted, and afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftover bread and fish. A total of 5,000 men and their families were fed from those loaves!

 The apostles have returned from their tour and Christ sees the need for rest.  Getting away to a quiet place for rest finds the crowd already there, some having run on ahead while they came by boat!  Jesus has compassion and resumes work, as do the disciples.  It gets late and everyone is hungry but they are in an isolated place.  The disciples voice concern, Jesus tells them to provide.  Caring, Compassion, Concern, Provision.  All attributes of a shepherd taking charge of his flock.  

Jesus did not just step up and take care of the need he saw, he involved the disciples.  They had just returned from  an assignment,  continued to work alongside him upon their return.  They were responsible for finding the resources to feed the crowd and for the distribution of the food and collection after.  Jesus provided the power, they were the arms and feet, reaching and going.  They were his voice speaking his word.  

We are the church.  He is the power behind us.  He has the message; we share it.  We care, have compassion, provide – he directs.  We pass out the ‘food’ of the Word, sometimes the real food to the hungry, His power multiplies it.  He works through us. 

What is required for this to be possible?  Our obedience, willingness to serve, and the foundational knowledge we receive from Him through His Word, teaching and prayer. 

Let’s be active, sharing the message, doing what is needed to show care and concern.  Let God’s Word be active and alive in us!

Power in words…

Mark 6:14-29

 Herod Antipas, the king, soon heard about Jesus, because everyone was talking about him. Some were saying, “This must be John the Baptist raised from the dead. That is why he can do such miracles.” Others said, “He’s the prophet Elijah.” Still others said, “He’s a prophet like the other great prophets of the past.”

 When Herod heard about Jesus, he said, “John, the man I beheaded, has come back from the dead.”

 For Herod had sent soldiers to arrest and imprison John as a favor to Herodias. She had been his brother Philip’s wife, but Herod had married her. John had been telling Herod, “It is against God’s law for you to marry your brother’s wife.”  So Herodias bore a grudge against John and wanted to kill him. But without Herod’s approval she was powerless, for Herod respected John; and knowing that he was a good and holy man, he protected him. Herod was greatly disturbed whenever he talked with John, but even so, he liked to listen to him.

 Herodias’s chance finally came on Herod’s birthday. He gave a party for his high government officials, army officers, and the leading citizens of Galilee. Then his daughter, also named Herodias,  came in and performed a dance that greatly pleased Herod and his guests. “Ask me for anything you like,” the king said to the girl, “and I will give it to you.”  He even vowed, “I will give you whatever you ask, up to half my kingdom!”

 She went out and asked her mother, “What should I ask for?”

Her mother told her, “Ask for the head of John the Baptist!”

So the girl hurried back to the king and told him, “I want the head of John the Baptist, right now, on a tray!”

Then the king deeply regretted what he had said; but because of the vows he had made in front of his guests, he couldn’t refuse her. So he immediately sent an executioner to the prison to cut off John’s head and bring it to him. The soldier beheaded John in the prison,  brought his head on a tray, and gave it to the girl, who took it to her mother.  When John’s disciples heard what had happened, they came to get his body and buried it in a tomb.

 Bound by words, Herod, a king, was required to do what he said.  A king in bondage to his words.  God’s words are omnipotent, all-powerful, man’s words are potent, powerful.  In Proverbs it states we have the power of life  and death in our words.  This story showcases that power.

Faith is demonstrated in the words we use.  The lack of it or the abundance of it.  When we open our mouths to speak, we tell what is in the heart of our being.  Our words are believing words allowing life or words of unbelief denying life.

Words can build up or tear down.  When we use God’s Words, the scripture, we have the added benefit of His power.  Take away:  Be responsible in your speech.  Words are powerful and when we use  God’s Words we have his power added.  God’s Word will not return empty.  We need to know God’s Word, receive God’s Word and use God’s Word.  We will then have God’s Word active and alive in us.