Tuesday, January 31, 2012
The world around us often tries to tell us that "seeing is believing" (especially those of us in the "Show Me" State). But what we find in the Scriptures is that, from God's perspective, "believing is seeing".
The Christians in Rome to whom Mark wrote His Gospel were being persecuted, and were undergoing all kinds of trials and tribulations. They thought, "If only we could go back to the good old days when Jesus was alive and the Apostles were around. If only we could have been there, then it would be alot easier for us to believe." But the truth is, and what Mark's Gospel shows, is that that it was never easy to be a believer or a follower of Jesus. It was hard for those original twelve to believe, let alone those of us who have come hundreds or even thousands of years later. The point is that it's not up to us to have such a great faith in God, but rather it is a great God who has given us faith to believe through His Word. It is and always has been about believing God's Word and receiving His grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
When it comes to our God - seeing isn't believing - believing is seeing.
"Blessed are those who believe even though they do not see."
"Believing Is Seeing" ( A Lenten Series on the Passion of Christ in the Gospel of Mark)
2/22 - "The Final Word" (Ash Wednesday)
2/29 - "It's Not About You"
3/7 - "Seeing In The Dark"
3/14 - "God's Plan Fulfilled In Weakness"
3/21 - "God's Yes"
3/28 - "I'll Show You"
4/1 - "The Parade" (Palm Sunday)
4/5 - "The Passover" (Holy Thursday)
4/6 - "The End (Good Friday)
4/8 - "The Beginning" (Easter Sunday)
Wednesday, January 18, 2012
Perhaps you have been following the unfolding story of the “Costa Concordia,” the cruise liner that capsized off the coast of Italy. So far 40 people are either dead or missing. Nearly 300 years ago another “Concordia” ran into bad weather and disappeared off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean. 130 people on board were lost. More recently, in 2010, another “Concordia” sank off the coast of Brazil, and 64 people were saved.
At that time Dale Meyer, the president of Concordia Seminary, taped the news story to his office door as a reminder that poor leadership can be disastrous when you’re steering a ship or institution named “Concordia.” The captain is the focus of attention in the most recent tragedy. He’s been placed under arrest on charges of manslaughter, shipwreck, and abandoning ship with passengers aboard.
Concordia is a greek word that means peace or harmony. This is what we should strive for in the church as the body of Christ. In 1 Timothy chapter 1 Paul speaks of this wonderful gift of God, and then adds a warning for Timothy and for us -
"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Some have wandered away from this and turned to meaningless talk ... My son, I give you this instruction in keeping with the prophecies once made, so that by following them you may fight the good fight, holding on to faith and a good conscience. Some have rejected these and so have shipwrecked their faith."
May the Lord lead the ark of His church into quiet and peaceful waters ... May we ever follow our Captain regardless of what lies ahead... And may the prevailing wind of the Holy Spirit continue to guide and direct our paths on the sea.
Tuesday, January 17, 2012
What does it mean to follow Jesus?
- to believe in Him and what He has done for you in His life, death, and resurrection
- to confess your sins and receive His forgiveness
- to trust in Him alone for your salvation
- to grow in grace and exercise your faith
- to be in the Word, in prayer, and in worship with His people
- to be called out and sent out
- to be in the world but not of the world
- to love and forgive those who have wronged you
- to serve one another and bear each others' burdens
- to suffer and die
- to rise and live
Thursday, January 12, 2012
Once upon a time ....
That's how all the great stories and fairy tales begin.
But how about you? Where did you begin? Where does your story start?
Most of us think of the day of our birth. That's only natural, but actually each one of our stories goes back much farther. It goes back to when you were conceived, back to when your parents were married, back to when they first met, back to your grandparents and great grandparents generation, back to when your ansestors emigrated to America.
Our stories are connected and intertwined with many others - famiy, friends, neighbors, citizens.
And on a grander scale our stories are connected and caught up into the grand story - the great and grand cosmic story of God's salvation and redemption for all people.
That's why the Gospel story from Mark about the beginning of Jesus' ministry is connected with the beginning of creation in Genesis 1. We might think the Gospel story begins with Jesus birth which we celebrated at Christmas, or with the Baptism of Jesus as He begins His ministry. But the truth is that the genesis of this story goes back much much farther, and encompasses much much more than we could ever imagine.
Someone once asked the novelist Stephen King if the story of good vs. evil makes the best story.
He replied by saying that not only did it make the best story, but that it may very well be the only story.
The story of good and evil is in a sense the only story. The story all others are based on. It is the divine drama - the grand story of the creation, fall, redemption, and restoration of all people and all things. And that includes you and me here today.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. - Gen. 1:1
The beginning point of the story is God. We have been conditioned in this country to think that all things begin and end with us. But the Bible has a different subject of the story. “God created” “The Spirit of God was hovering” “And God said it was good”. God is the subject, and creation is the object, the recipient.
Many today no longer believe that creation is “good". Many no longer believe in a God who created all things. Our sinful nature wants to place us as the subject of the story; and we begin to live in rebellion against God. It is as though we have lost our story.
But God has not left us alone in our misery. He has not left us to our own devices.
From the very beginning He put into place and set into motion his rescue mission for His creation.
After the fall He called His people out of the darkness of their sin. He spoke words of promise to Abraham, Moses, to the patriarchs and to the prophets. And just as He spoke at the beginning of creation He speaks at the beginning of the restoration of that creation - at Jesus' baptism, announcing him as His Son and proclaiming that His kingdom has now come. He speaks in claiming us as his children in our baptism, burying us with him in a death like his so that we could be raised to life in a resurrection like his.
God comes to bring light into darkness - to bring order out of chaos - to bring life out of death.
That's the significance of the Baptism of Jesus, one of the few events recorded in all four Gospels, as Jesus stand in the Jordan river in our place as the one true Israelite - Israel reduced to one - the one who would set out to do what neither we nor Israel could ever do. To live a perfect life - die a sacrificial death - and rise from the dead - all for us and in our place - all in order to bring us back to God.
And as he does so He makes us righteous and holy before God, acceptable in His sight once again, restoring the relationship between God and man, so that we might come home and live forever in heaven with Him for all eternity.
God comes in Christ to bring salvation, redemption, forgiveness, wholeness, restoration - new creation. And just as before, there is light in the darkness, order in the chaos, life in the midst of death.
And once again, all is well. For in Him we really can live happily ever after ....
Friday, January 6, 2012
Epiphany is the climax of the Advent/Christmas Season and the Twelve Days of Christmas, from December 25th until January 6th.
For many traditions, the season of Epiphany extends from January 6th until Ash Wednesday, which begins the season of Lent leading to Easter.
The term epiphany means "to show", "to reveal", or to "make known".
We remember the coming of the wise men bringing gifts to visit the Christ child, who by doing so "reveal" Jesus to the world as King and Lord of all.
Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Mark begins with these words - "The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God."
This is what it's all about. This is what's important - the foundation, the standard, the primary stuff of the gospel. The entire book of Mark can be seen as the "beginning of the gospel". This is only the beginning. There is much more to come. The end is not yet here. The story continues on and on as the good news of the gospel is proclaimed to all nations.
Join us at Bethany this new year on a Great Adventure from Epiphany to Easter, as we mine the treasures and explore the mysteries within the pages of the Gospel of Mark.
“The Great Adventure of the Gospel of Mark”
1/1 – The Last Year of Your Life
1/8 – The Divine Drama
1/15 – Come and See
1/22 – The Call
1/29 – The Authority
2/5 – The Healing
2/12 – The Cleansing
2/19 – The Transforming
2/26 – The Proclaiming
3/4 – The Turning Point
3/11 – The Law
3/18 – The Gospel
3/25 – The Ransom
4/1 – The Parade (Palm Sunday)
4/5 – The Passover (Holy Thursday)
4/6 – The End (Good Friday)
4/8 – The Beginning (Easter Sunday)