Watch without fear…

Mark 13:24-31

“At that time, after the anguish of those days,

the sun will be darkened,

the moon will give no light,

the stars will fall from the sky,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then everyone will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.  And he will send out his angels to gather his chosen ones from all over the world —from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.

“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.

 What a visual, what a promise given to His followers!  The destruction is great, the promise is greater.  We are to learn from the fig tree.  We watch nature for signs of season change, in the same way we are to watch for signs of His return for us. There is no need to fear the forecast!  The thought came that it is not necessary for us to believe this in order for it to happen.  It will happen regardless of our belief.  “My words will never pass away.”  What makes the difference is that our belief has us looking, watching, expecting and without fear.

Fear destroyed by knowledge…

Mark 13:12-23

 “A brother will betray his brother to death, a father will betray his own child, and children will rebel against their parents and cause them to be killed.  And everyone will hate you because you are my followers.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

 “The day is coming when you will see the sacrilegious object that causes desecration standing where he  should not be.” (Reader, pay attention!) “Then those in Judea must flee to the hills. A person out on the deck of a roof must not go down into the house to pack.  A person out in the field must not return even to get a coat. How terrible it will be for pregnant women and for nursing mothers in those days. And pray that your flight will not be in winter.  For there will be greater anguish in those days than at any time since God created the world. And it will never be so great again. In fact, unless the Lord shortens that time of calamity, not a single person will survive. But for the sake of his chosen ones he has shortened those days.

 “Then if anyone tells you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah,’ or ‘There he is,’ don’t believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will rise up and perform signs and wonders so as to deceive, if possible, even God’s chosen ones. Watch out! I have warned you about this ahead of time!

 Betrayal, deception, destruction, we have been advised ahead of time this is coming.  Jesus’ words, not another, giving a ‘heads up’ for what is to come.  Can we say we have all experienced tastes of these in our lives?  Is it due to our mind-set, the mind-set that comes when we read the Word and apply it to our lives?  We do not think as those who do not know Christ.  We do not act as those do who do not know Christ.  That puts us at odds with those around us. 

 How can we not be at the effects of this?  “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” plainly shows we need to ‘be in the know.’  We must know and that knowledge is in the Word and in our relationship with the Lord through the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  We are responsible to acquire that knowledge.  We place ourselves at risk when we abdicate our responsibility to another.  We see this happening daily in our government, a good example of what happens when a people give up their own responsibility/responsibilities to others.  Be in the Word!  “Fear of the LORD is the foundation of true knowledge,” and “For the LORD grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding”

Rather than focus on the evil in the world, the evil to come, it is wise to be advised of it and it’s effects, then take the steps to survive it.  The elect will survive, their knowledge of God and His power, their application of His Word, His commands to their daily lives will keep them from allowing this evil to destroy them, deceive them.  We can rise above all this, ” But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

We can let this passage create fear in us or we can let it drive fear out.  God is greater than the coming and present evil in our world.  We are His chosen, under His guidance and He cares for us!  Jesus said fear the One who can destroy our soul.  That fear, the fear of the Lord, will drive out any fear that would attempt to hinder our walk, our relationship with the Lord.

the first of the birth pains…

Mark 13:1-12

As Jesus was leaving the Temple that day, one of his disciples said, “Teacher, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at the impressive stones in the walls.”

Jesus replied, “Yes, look at these great buildings. But they will be completely demolished. Not one stone will be left on top of another!”

Later, Jesus sat on the Mount of Olives across the valley from the Temple. Peter, James, John, and Andrew came to him privately and asked him, “Tell us, when will all this happen? What sign will show us that these things are about to be fulfilled?”

Jesus replied, “Don’t let anyone mislead you, for many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah.’ They will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and threats of wars, but don’t panic. Yes, these things must take place, but the end won’t follow immediately.  Nation will go to war against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in many parts of the world, as well as famines. But this is only the first of the birth pains, with more to come.

“When these things begin to happen, watch out! You will be handed over to the local councils and beaten in the synagogues. You will stand trial before governors and kings because you are my followers. But this will be your opportunity to tell them about me.  For the Good News must first be preached to all nations. But when you are arrested and stand trial, don’t worry in advance about what to say. Just say what God tells you at that time, for it is not you who will be speaking, but the Holy Spirit.

 We read this passage with hindsight.  The statement about the stones of the temple being demolished comes up again at Jesus’ trial.  The temple is made by man, its existence is temporary.  The need for the temple is temporary, Jesus said there would come a time when we would not worship in temples but in spirit and truth.  What is of the Spirit is eternal.  God is eternal.  The teaching and sacrifices that took place in the temple were temporary; they could only serve for a time.  What Christ brought, His message and His sacrifice was for eternity.

What is being birthed?  The message that the Messiah has come, the message later that He has paid the supreme sacrifice and there is no need for further sacrifices, the message that mankind can now be reunited in a relationship with the Creator of all,  the message that God is fulfilling His promise and a new covenant is made with His people and all mankind.

Do not be alarmed, do not panic, don’t worry, do not be deceived are all indicators that followers of Christ will face difficult, dangerous, depressive events, situations and times.  They will come, but we do not rely upon our own strength, our own knowledge.  Followers of Christ rely on the Holy Spirit; our trust is in the Lord to assist us in those times. As we continue in the Word, we receive the knowledge given to the disciples, we receive the direction of the Holy Spirit available to all followers of Christ.   We will be given the words to say, it will be the Holy Spirit speaking.  We are to have faith, trust in Him.  Words  of warning, words of caution, words of encouragement and words of direction.

the smallest is the largest

Mark 12:41-44

Jesus sat down near the collection box in the Temple and watched as the crowds dropped in their money. Many rich people put in large amounts. Then a poor widow came and dropped in two small coins.

Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I tell you the truth, this poor widow has given more than all the others who are making contributions. For they gave a tiny part of their surplus, but she, poor as she is, has given everything she had to live on.”

 That’s it?  That’s all there is to it?  A story, a comparison and a conclusion from which we can draw what, an understanding of proportion?  There is no explanation given, no application, just the event described and comparison made.  The least shall be the greatest…catch a  glimpse of some of what is meant by that statement made earlier?  Or do we have an example of another principle?  In her giving was she relying totally upon the Lord to provide?  Would some say she was foolish?  Would some say this just proves what Jesus said when he said the “church” was robbing the widows?

 Many point out that Jesus was honoring the widow in her giving, she has been remembered ever since.  A simple act of honoring the Lord with all she had.  How much do we love the Lord?  Enough to give Him all  that we have?  Enough to totally rely upon His provision?  Who provides for our well-being; ourselves? Our employer? Our family? How do we demonstrate our truly held belief?

 Jesus did not discredit those who gave of their surplus, he made a comparison and that comparison fits the principle he stated earlier, the least shall be the greatest the greatest shall be the least.  How do we make this word active and alive in our lives?  Follow the Spirit’s prompting, understand who your provider is.  We know who He is, and who He says we are.  We know what He can do and what he says we can do through Him.  When we obey, the Word is active and alive within and through us.

Pious cheaters…

Mark 12:35-40

Later, as Jesus was teaching the people in the Temple, he asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law claim that the Messiah is the son of David?  For David himself, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, said,

‘The LORD said to my Lord,

Sit in the place of honor at my right hand

until I humble your enemies beneath your feet.’

Since David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?” The large crowd listened to him with great delight.

Jesus also taught: “Beware of these teachers of religious law! For they like to parade around in flowing robes and receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces. And how they love the seats of honor in the synagogues and the head table at banquets. Yet they shamelessly cheat widows out of their property and then pretend to be pious by making long prayers in public. Because of this, they will be more severely punished.”

 Is this a warning against the teachings of those who teach the Word of God?  At first glance it appears so.  But perhaps it is a statement that emphasized the need for each of us to know the Word intimately so that we can tell if a teaching is of God or not.  This calls for personal responsibility to know the Word and be guided by the Holy Spirit in the understanding of the Scripture.  What do we look for in a teacher?  Rather, what would we not want to see in a teacher of Scripture? 

There are dangers to the self when anyone is elevated, or perceived to be elevated above any other.  Jesus illustrates that David spoke and knew his position in relation to the Christ.  Even though he was one considered to be a great king, ruler and anointed to serve by God. “… David himself called the Messiah ‘my Lord,’ how can the Messiah be his son?”… Pride, the evil that brought down King Saul, is seen in Jesus’ description of the current teachers of the law of His day.  Pride invades the entire being and becomes a hindrance to the will of God.  It can lead to abuses of the teachings in order to perpetuate the prideful nature. There are attitudes that indicate a prideful nature.  Jesus described arrogance, love of show, cheating of the poor (widows), all these done in the name of being called by God or given the position to teach by God.  These attitudes begin to undermine the individual from obedience to God’s Word and His will to doing as seems right in their own eyes, often in order to continue to feed the prideful nature.

 Take away – We continue to keep in mind who He is and who He says we are.  We are who He says we are; not who we say we are.  We continue to keep in mind what He can do and what we can do through Him; not in and of ourselves.  We continue keeping the Word alive and active in us with a humble attitude and obedient nature.

The Lord our God, the Lord is one…

Mark 12:28-34

 One of the teachers of religious law was standing there listening to the debate. He realized that Jesus had answered well, so he asked, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The LORD our God is the one and only LORD. And you must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

The teacher of religious law replied, “Well said, Teacher. You have spoken the truth by saying that there is only one God and no other.  And I know it is important to love him with all my heart and all my understanding and all my strength, and to love my neighbor as myself. This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”

 Realizing how much the man understood, Jesus said to him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” And after that, no one dared to ask him any more questions.

 An answer given by Jesus that is directly taken from the Word of God.  His follow-up comment highlights His intimate knowledge of the kingdom of God.  Jesus did not come back this time with another question.  He answered directly and surely.  In His answer we see clearly who God is and our relationship to Him.  God is our Lord, our only Lord, and we respond in love with our whole being when we come to that realization.  He is Lord over our body – strength – our mind – thoughts and consequent actions driven by thoughts – our heart – our spirit and emotions found in the very center of our being.  We have a responsibility to fulfill before Him and that is to love our neighbor as ourselves.  This shows up in our conversation and our actions toward others.

This is more important than to offer all of the burnt offerings and sacrifices required in the law.”  With this statement, the teacher gave a clear understanding of what is important to God.  All our efforts through rituals, legalistic demands, are meaningless if we do not grasp who God is and who He says we are and if we do not surrender the ‘self’ to Him.  What is redemptive and what brings us back into a relationship with Him is the sacrificing of our control over ourselves.  Recognizing that He is Lord and giving honor through obedience to His commands, responding in love to Him is key.

 When we fully realize this concept, we realize we are not our own.  Self does not rule and the giving of ourselves is generated by love.  It is not oppressive but redemptive.  We are not bound but set free.  When we take hold of this and put it into action in our lives we “are not far from the kingdom of God.”

“You don’t know the Scriptures…”

Mark 12:14-27

Then Jesus was approached by some Sadducees—religious leaders who say there is no resurrection from the dead. They posed this question: “Teacher, Moses gave us a law that if a man dies, leaving a wife without children, his brother should marry the widow and have a child who will carry on the brother’s name. Well, suppose there were seven brothers. The oldest one married and then died without children.  So the second brother married the widow, but he also died without children. Then the third brother married her. This continued with all seven of them, and still there were no children. Last of all, the woman also died. So tell us, whose wife will she be in the resurrection? For all seven were married to her.”

Jesus replied, “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures, and you don’t know the power of God.  For when the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage. In this respect they will be like the angels in heaven.

 “But now, as to whether the dead will be raised—haven’t you ever read about this in the writings of Moses, in the story of the burning bush? Long after Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had died, God said to Moses,  ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”

 “Your mistake is that you don’t know the Scriptures,…”  What a telling statement!  Our mistake so often is that we don’t know the Scriptures.  Can Jesus tell us any more clearly the necessity to be in the Word of God, studying, asking for the Holy Spirit to guide, bring to life, give understanding and application?  Do we make the same mistake of taking a thought and trying to build a whole principle, philosophy, ideology around it without a clear understanding of the whole?  Careful here is what can be seen. Careful to be found in the Word, in prayer asking for understanding.  Careful to not add to it or take from it. ” …you don’t know the power of God.”  Do not limit God can be applied in so many ways.  Our limitations do not limit God.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.  God’s Word builds our faith, His power can be our source, but we need to know this and that knowing involves time in God’s Word.  So what did Jesus state about what we have been given?

So he is the God of the living, not the dead. You have made a serious error.”  They had made a serious error through lack of knowledge.  There are things about God and His creation we just do not know.  We have limited knowledge and vision much like the child that Jesus said would inherit the kingdom of God.  What we do know from this is that there is a resurrection, we will be different, and God is a God of the living.  Our belief does not kill the living of life but enhances it; does not create a people who appear to be the living dead but they are active and alive! Now we can exercise/practice our faith, believing in something not seen but stated by Christ.  There is life here and later, after death and neither is inactive.  Let God’s Word be found active and alive in us.

Faithful or not?

Mark 12:1-12

Then Jesus began teaching them with stories: “A man planted a vineyard. He built a wall around it, dug a pit for pressing out the grape juice, and built a lookout tower. Then he leased the vineyard to tenant farmers and moved to another country. At the time of the grape harvest, he sent one of his servants to collect his share of the crop. But the farmers grabbed the servant, beat him up, and sent him back empty-handed.  The owner then sent another servant, but they insulted him and beat him over the head. The next servant he sent was killed. Others he sent were either beaten or killed, until there was only one left—his son whom he loved dearly. The owner finally sent him, thinking, ‘Surely they will respect my son.’

“But the tenant farmers said to one another, ‘Here comes the heir to this estate. Let’s kill him and get the estate for ourselves!’So they grabbed him and murdered him and threw his body out of the vineyard.

 “What do you suppose the owner of the vineyard will do?” Jesus asked. “I’ll tell you—he will come and kill those farmers and lease the vineyard to others.  Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures?

                            ‘The stone that the builders rejected

                            has now become the cornerstone.

                         This is the LORD’s doing,

                        and it is wonderful to see.’ ”

 The religious leaders wanted to arrest Jesus because they realized he was telling the story against them—they were the wicked farmers. But they were afraid of the crowd, so they left him and went away.

 The vineyard was built, prepared and given.  God created the earth, prepared it with good things and left it in the hands of mankind.  Those left in charge of his creation began to elevate themselves to ownership status.  This caused the mistreatment of the ones sent to collect what was due the true owner.  The Jewish nation was given the responsibility to care for God’s message to mankind.  They began to elevate themselves to a status of equality with God through the creation of many of the legalistic requirements they added to God’s contract with them.  They killed the prophets who came to require an explanation of their actions. 

 We are given the care of the message God is sending to mankind.  His message of love and salvation.  Are we aware of the responsibility given to us?  Are we faithful in its execution?  Or do we ‘kill’ the messengers who attempt to correct and place us back in line with His commands?  We are not ‘owners’ of the Word, we did not create it.  We are the keepers of the Word and are responsible to share it and show it in our lives.  We give back what God has given to us when we give in service to those around us, when we live and act in love. 

The vineyard was not given to the tenants without responsibility.  They abused the gift and it was taken from them.  Do we hear a warning here?  Are we hoarding the gift God has given us?  Will we lose it if so?  Are we listening to Him? We have a work to do in sharing and spreading the Word of God.  Are we found faithful?  Is His Word alive and active in us in such a way others can see Him?

Whose is it anyway?

Mark 12:13-17

 Later the leaders sent some Pharisees and supporters of Herod to trap Jesus into saying something for which he could be arrested. “Teacher,” they said, “we know how honest you are. You are impartial and don’t play favorites. You teach the way of God truthfully. Now tell us—is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?  Should we pay them, or shouldn’t we?”

Jesus saw through their hypocrisy and said, “Why are you trying to trap me? Show me a Roman coin,  and I’ll tell you.”  When they handed it to him, he asked, “Whose picture and title are stamped on it?”

“Caesar’s,” they replied.

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.”

His reply completely amazed them. 

Who created the coin? It’s use?  This passage highlights the difference between what is mankind oriented and created and what is God created and oriented.  The use of coins to acquire goods is man’s invention.  Taxation concerns itself with the coin, in most cases.  Tribute used to be collected of goods as well.  God’s requirement of the giving of our first fruits, began with the giving of our gain from His blessings, His creation.  God’s creation provides for our health and well-being.  From that provision we give back the tenth in recognition of the true ownership and in thanksgiving.  The rest is for our continued use to live whole and healthy lives. Whereas the coin allowed for the acquisition of goods, created hoarding and abuse and man’s system of commerce grew from the coin, recognize the origin of the coin and give the system of man its due.  Do not neglect the system of God, however,  through  our immersion in the world system and world view.  Give to Caesar (man)what is his, and give to God what is his.  

Take away –  Honor God with the first fruits of our labor to  recognize his provision and give thanks.  Pay our taxes in recognition of the law we live under. Are we listening to Him?  Are we putting into action what he  commands?  Is the Word of God alive and active in us?


Mark 10:24-31

The disciples were amazed at his words but Jesus said again:  “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus: “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Peter: “We have left everything to follow you!”

Jesus: “I tell you the truth, no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age(homes, brothers, sisters, mother, children and fields – and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life.  But many who are first will be last and the last first.”

 Jesus’ words:  how hard it is…with God all things are possible, no one who has left…will fail to receive, this age…eternal life, first will be last, last first.  All opposites.  The kingdom of God cannot be viewed on mankind’s terms.  Mankind’s terms would make it impossible, in fact by these words, non-existent.  And many today do just that, make it non-existent.  But the kingdom of God is not on mankind’s terms, but God’s. 

This is not our doing.  We let first go first, consistently, and teach it to our children as the polite thing to do.  A camel through the eye of the needle, the name given to a gate to the city.  Camels carry cargo, and must drop the cargo to enter the city.  Rich carry ‘cargo’ and must drop the ‘cargo’ to enter the kingdom.  Hard to do;  “I worked for it, it is mine”…have we heard that? 

Take away – the disciples asked: “Then who can be saved?”  From what? disease, oppression, anything we allow to rule us?  God has already accomplished the impossible.  On His terms…sent Christ, Christ died, rose again and we can receive this gift.  In doing so we receive the impossible.  Again, on His terms.  We become who He says we are and then can do what He says we can through Christ.  His Word is alive and active within and through us.