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Weekly Word

Entries in Bible (3)

Tuesday
Feb192019

Jesus Begins to Minister

Mark 1:14-20.  This sermon was preached by Pastor Marty Bonner on February 17, 2019.

Last week, we saw Jesus preparing to minister to the people of Israel.  In the passage before us today, he begins. 

The preaching of Jesus

The first thing that we see is not miracles and wondrous signs.  Rather, we see Jesus proclaiming or preaching to the people.  Mark focuses on the natural transition point of John the Baptist being imprisoned as when Jesus entered Galilee to minister.

It is important to recognize that throughout the Bible we see that people generally resist a true prophet of the Lord who comes speaking the truth of God.  This general resistance can be overcome.  However, we should recognize its prevalence.  An underlying theme throughout all of this is that God’s Word/Voice cannot be silenced.  If one is imprisoned then another will speak forth.  If one is killed then another will take their place.  It is not just a secular thing.  This world, both secular and religious, often operates in a way to try and silence what the Spirit of God is doing through those who listen to Him.  It hates the fact that they march to the beat of a different drummer.  It hates the message that there is something wrong with it.  It hates the message that people need to turn back to the ways of God because they already feel that they have the truth.  This silencing is sometimes with brute force, imprisonments, and violence.  However, it is sometimes with propaganda, narrative-control, disinformation, and manipulative and seductive memes.

In whatever way this world tries to marginalize the true work of the Spirit of God, it cannot stop what the Spirit is doing.  Those imprisoned just preach to their captives and demonstrate the value of God.  Those who are killed are replaced by others who may be even more powerful than they.  God’s Word cannot be silenced because it is empowered by God Himself.  In another way we can say that it cannot be silenced because it represents real reality, which no one can run from very long without running smack into its stubborn existence.

We must understand this about Christianity.  It is not the institutional trappings that Christ is promoting.  Though it may look like the world is winning, we must understand that we are on the side of the God of the universe.  He will not fail, and I must do my part, whatever it may come to be.  John the Baptist probably did not envision imprisonment and later death (Mark 6), but that is what was asked of Him by the Lord.

Thus the preaching of Jesus comes on the heels of one of the greatest preachers/prophets that Israel had seen in a long time.  Now let’s look at what this preaching proclaimed.

Jesus proclaimed the good news of the Kingdom of God.  All of the Gospels emphasize several things about the teaching of Jesus.  At its core, He was proclaiming the good news that the Kingdom of God was drawing close.  This had been the hope of Israel for over 1400 years, obtaining more and more information from God’s prophets regarding what that would look like along the way.  For the previous 500 years they had specifically suffered under the imperial rule of the kingdoms of Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome, which still ruled over them in the days of Jesus.  The faithful still waited and hoped for God’s Anointed man (Messiah is the Hebrew word for Anointed One) who would judge the nations and rule over the world from Jerusalem.  When would this wait ever end?  John the Baptist had shocked the nation with his insistence that he was a forerunner to the Messiah.  He told them to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord.  Thus Jesus tells them the good news that the Kingdom was drawing close.  The long wait was coming to an end!

In fact, Jesus uses a phrase that the time was fulfilled or completed.  God had determined a particular time in history for the Anointed One to come forth.  Their long wait was done and the transition time was upon them.  Of course, things did not go the direction they all hoped it would go.  We now know that there are two phases to this Kingdom’s arrival on earth.  The first phase focused on spiritually changing those who would be its citizens.  It is a time of invitation and grace.  In this phase Christ rules from heaven over the hearts of those who believe in Him as the number of believers/citizens increases.  The second phase, which will occur at the Second Coming of Christ, is taking up of political control of the earth and removing the wicked leadership of the nations (which will only grow worse and worse).  This is often referred to as the Day of the Lord and as the Judgment of the Nations by the God of heaven.

Believers today live in this strange period where the Kingdom of God is now, but also not yet.  Though we may long for the coming of Christ and His rule upon the earth, we are still in the day of God’s invitation and grace to the people of this world.  Anyone, who so desires, can become a part of God’s Kingdom.  Thus it is important for current believers to keep their hands on the plow and keep working to share the invitation while there is still time.

Like any kingdom, the king has rules as to how one becomes a citizen.  Yes, any who so desired could come forward, but they were called upon to repent and believe in the gospel.  The need for a person to repent literally means to change your mind, or your way of thinking.  In so many personal ways, each person of that day was following the dictates of their own heart and mind.  Some in complete rejection of God’s Word and others with a partial rejection (sound familiar?).  The Spirit of God calls us to change the way that we are thinking, but also in a specific way.  Another metaphor that is used of repentance is turning.  We, who have turned away from God’s Ways into other ways of our own choosing, need to turn back to God in our hearts and minds, and follow His ways.

Repentance is always needed in our lives because we live in a world and a body that continually questions and rejects the ways of the Lord. Christians are not those who repented long ago, but are those who continue to be a repentant people.

So it begins with repentance, but then it moves to faith.  They needed to believe what Jesus was telling them.  Even though Mark emphasizes believing in the good news, Jesus Himself is the good news!  To believe in the Gospel is to believe in Jesus.  God had joined mankind in order to lift us up out of the horrible fate we were plunging towards.  Thus to believe in the Gospel is to believe that God has not abandoned us, and instead He has stepped into the muck and mire with us in order to save us.  This is good news indeed, for who can stop the Lord Almighty!

The disciples of Jesus

In verse 16 Jesus begins to call certain people to follow Him everywhere.  The term disciple is not used here, but they were called to learn from, be students of, Jesus.  In the New Testament, Jesus called 12 disciples to a special task.  They would become his apostles, sent-ones, who would go to the nations and lay the foundation for His Church.  They actually lived and ate with Jesus as they helped Him in His ministry.  Many other people were students and believers of Jesus.  However, they did not live with Jesus day to day.  So we should recognize that even though the outward form may be somewhat different, all of these disciples had one thing in common.  They were now following and listening to Jesus as their master and teacher.

Let’s explore the passage.  Notice that Jesus stands on the shore and calls 2 fishermen to follow him here, and then 2 more fishermen to follow Him there.  These would be the core of the 12 disciples: Peter and Andrew, James and John.  Though Jesus is no longer physically on the earth, he still approaches people through his disciples and calls people to believe upon Him and to follow Him.  None of us today pack up our bags and follow a physical Jesus to Jesus-ville.  However, we do these things spiritually.  To follow Jesus is to quit listening to those things you did before and to start listening to His Words and those of His Apostles.  It is to follow them.  It is to reject the mindset of this world that marginalizes Christ and His teachings, or even hijacks His teachings and twists them to other ends.  To follow Jesus is to have a spiritual journey every day where the Spirit of God leads us, much as Jesus led The Twelve 2,000 years ago.  We must ask ourselves this question each day.  Who am I following?  Am I following a favorite religious leader or philosopher?  Or am I following Jesus and the Spirit of God?

 The second thing about being a disciple of Jesus is that they were called to draw others to Christ.  These men had lived their lives catching fish and thus Jesus uses their life experience as a metaphor for what He was calling them to do.  They would fish for people.  Ultimately their lives would become about drawing people to Christ.

As in any analogy, fishing is a crude one.  God does not use tricks to hook people and drag them to shore in order to eat them.  Thus the metaphor is intended only so far.  God will work with people to live with and speak into the lives of others in order to draw them to Christ, to join His Kingdom.  Part of God’s call on your life is to be a light to the world around you.  You are to be a drawing influence through your life and the worlds you speak.  However, we are not to be drawing people to ourselves, but rather to Christ.

We are told that they dropped their nets and left their father in order to follow Jesus.  This recognizes the sacrifice that is made by all who follow Jesus.  Not every disciple was called to physically leave their families behind in order to follow Jesus.  However, we are all called to spiritually leave our old life behind and the attachments it has made upon us.  If I was a business man before I met Christ, He may call me to become a missionary or a pastor and I would literally leave that life behind.  However, He may simply call me to quit being the old business man that I was and to become a new creation in Christ who runs a business in a whole new way.  Regardless, the point is that if we are truly listening to and following the leadership of Christ, we will leave the old life behind.  I cannot hold on to the old way of living and survive.  I will either be pulled in two, or I will let go of one and cling to the other.  What am I clinging to today?

Let me close by recognizing just who Jesus chose to follow Him.  He was not in Jerusalem picking the top rabbis of the day.  He wasn’t even picking those Pharisees who would even one day believe on Him.  He was in the rural back country of Israel.  He was picking from among the lowly of society.  I do not mean they were lowly in a moral way, though we are all sinners.  1 Corinthians 1:26-29 says it this way, “Consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”

We must quit looking at ourselves and our lives, becoming discouraged, and letting the enemy draw us away from Christ.  Rather we must rejoice that God loves to use the weak and lowly because then it is clear that it is His power working in us and not our own!  Yes, a rich man can be saved and even a powerful politician.  However, they will have to die to their riches and to their power before they can become a disciple of Christ.  Drop your nets (that which hold you back) and follow Jesus today!

Jesus Ministers audio

Tuesday
Apr072015

This is His Story

Today is the day that we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.  When you think about how much history there is in the world, both that we know about and that which was never recorded, we can forget that all of those things are connected.  Nothing happens in a vacuum.  Thus historians throughout the ages have sought to explain not just the facts of history but also the relationships between them.  Why did the Roman Empire rise to such great power but then fall apart?  Why did Germany fall under the spell of Adolph Hitler?  Of course was WWII a failure or a success?  It all depends upon your view point.  Thus the facts of historical events can all be the same but many different interpretations of the relationships that existed will be promoted today. 

The Bible is a book from history, but it is also a book about history.  In fact it has been stated that the history is really His story (God’s).  You can approach the Bible as the history of mankind from God’s perspective when you think about it in that way.  There are multitudes of viewpoints among mankind, but only one view point of God’s.  Which will you live by?

Thus God gives us a narrative of what is really going on throughout history.  Of course, today, politicians and various groups have learned that you can control people by controlling the narrative that they accept.  So instead of responding to accusations with facts and events, we respond with a “narrative” that the people would rather believe.  We have ceased to be a people who look for truth, but rather a people who believe the story that we like best.  Well, into this pool of narratives, God gives his take.  Many may accuse religions of trying to manipulate the people, but the truth is we manipulate ourselves all the time.  Let’s look at history from God’s perspective

Creation Exists For God’s Purpose

In Genesis 1 we are told, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  Then in verse 26 God says, “let us make man in our own image.”  Here we see that God purposefully created all that we can see including ourselves.  Modern man has embraced the idea that there is no purpose to what we see and probably no real beginning.  We are simply an accident of nature.  But that begs the question, “What was nature an accident of?”    Societies cannot function on a foundation of purposelessness and amorality and so we create a hybrid philosophy that keeps the concept of morality that God gives us and makes society itself as the arbiter of what is good and bad.  Yet, this means our definitions of good and bad will shift from generation to generation.  This shifting sand cannot hold up society very long before it will go through cataclysmic social change, over and over again.  Without God the foundation for defining good and evil will become a quagmire that will never sustain anything we build on it.

God not only tells us that He created us, but that he created mankind to be able to relate with Him.  Thus God places Adam and Eve in a Garden and gives them a purpose.  He also converses with them daily.  This picture of a relationship is central to all that follows in human history.

Now in John 1:1-5 we see that God is the giver of light to mankind.  But that is not just natural light.  Just as he gave natural light, so God has given intellectual and spiritual light to mankind.  It is easy to exist merely on a natural level.  And, yes, God did create all the natural beauty we see around us and wants us to enjoy it.  Yet, there is more to life than just nature.  Some people will say, “I don’t believe in the Bible.  I believe in science.”  But doesn’t science mean knowledge?  The Bible is definitely knowledge.  What is really meant by the above statements is that the person only accepts a certain method of obtaining knowledge.  They categorically reject any knowledge that doesn’t come by the scientific method.  Yet, we cannot put the ultimate questions of life into a test tube.  We can only find circumstantial evidence in regards to the origins of the universe, but nothing by which to determine without a doubt what it really was.  Even our attempts to analyze human psychology and social dynamics has found that such thing evade yielding ultimate answers about ourselves.  Without God, man is doomed to a future of making purpose out of the sand of the beach, only to have it either destroyed by the next generation stomping on it, or by the waves of time crashing on the beach.

But Hebrews 1:1-3 tells us that God has been there all along.  He has been talking to mankind and helping us to understand what is going on.  He even sent Jesus who was the perfect light and knowledge concerning God’s purpose for this world.  Francis Schaeffer, after talking with many college age students, came to the conclusion that many felt that God was not there because they didn’t hear him or see him.  Yet, he stated that, “God is there and He has not been silent.”  Of all the books and teachers of history only Jesus and the Bible have verified themselves with prophecy and resurrection from the dead.  All of history has been God speaking to mankind about its problems and its destiny.  Will you not give it an honest reading?

Man Has Desecrated It And Himself

In Romans 8:19-22 we have a passage that points to creation groaning.  Today many fear and point out that man has the ability to drastically affect the earth.  They arrive at this without the Bible.  Interestingly enough, this is the Bible’s position.  The actions of the first human couple have affected mankind and the world in a negative way.  Though God and man enjoyed a perfect relationship in a perfect world, man rebelled against God after it was manipulated by Satan.  They were seduced by the idea that God was holding out on them.  If they disobeyed God they could become like Him themselves.  Yet, when you read the whole Bible, you see that it was God’s intention to make us like Him all along.  We are on a path to try and make ourselves God’s and yet we do so having rejected a path in which God has promised to make us like Him.  This choice leads in two very different directions.  The Bible pictures mankind as willfully persisting in accomplishing on its own what God has promised for those who love Him and wait upon Him.  Because God is the creator of nature, we find our rebellion against him bleeding into nature.  We do not like the “nature” he has created and thus try to manipulate it into our desire and will.  Sometimes this is innocent enough.  But think about those who are born a certain gender and yet feel like they want to be another gender.  We can reject the way we are naturally and replace it with the way we are mentally.  But this only causes grief and trouble.  When you fight against nature you always find yourself fighting a losing battle.

This rebellion of mankind has affected not just man, but also the rest of creation.  The creation has been subjected to futility because of man’s sin.  This curse that God placed upon Adam caused something to change in the earth.  It would not grow things like it used to.  Later after the flood we see something else changing to where people did not live as long.  The effects were drastic for us and for the creation.  However, the curse could just as easily be called “The Effects of our Choice.”  We live in a nature in which each choice brings about certain effects.  We don’t always like those effects and try to avoid or counteract them.  But this too has effects.  God does not wish to destroy mankind.  Rather He has promised to fix the problem.  That is why Paul states in Romans 8 that the Creation groans awaiting the revealing of the Sons of God.  God is bringing this broken world to a place where things are going to be fixed.  Yet, mankind persists in trying to fix the problem without Him.  Yet, the problem today is not the perfecting of our forms of governance.  Our founding fathers did their best to create a new and better form of republican governance.  And yet, they testified that it would only work for a godly people.  No matter how much we perfect governance, it will be ran by faulty humans.  Even if we put in their place computers, they will be programmed by faulty humans.  Like the movie “Minority Report” we can build a system to remove all murder and yet someone will learn to game the system. We have a rebellion problem.  Neither can we fix how our society functions because it will always be the interactions of fallen people. 

Our problem is much deeper than DNA, politics, and religion.  As Romans 5:12, 18 says, sin has come into the world and by it death has spread to all men.  We are all sinners and under the judgment of a righteous God, completely condemned.  Our problem is an internal, moral problem.  Some may ridicule looking to an ancient book for wisdom and knowledge in this modern technological age.  However, the moral problem of man has not gotten better with our technology.  We are the same people we were 2,000 years ago.  A people filled with bitterness, hate and anger.  A people still manipulating others in order to get what our flesh wants.   We are still the same actors acting out the same plot lines, only on a different stage with better special effects.  If we could travel 6,000 years into the future and mankind hasn’t destroyed itself by then, we would find people struggling with the same moral issues, in spite of the great technology we will have by then.  Notice that Star Trek and Star Wars still assume people will be morally the same no matter how much we learn about physics.  But God offers a different answer.

God Promises A Re-Creation Of All things

Romans 5 goes on to say in verses 18 and 19 that God has an answer for man’s continual wandering in the wilderness of right and wrong.  God has implemented a plan to fix mankind and the creation and it centers upon Jesus.  All of the Old Testament was God’s attempt to ensure that the world would be able to understand what was going on when Jesus came.  God’s plan starts with a spiritual fix or internal one, and then has a second phase of a physical fix.

Our spiritual problem cannot be fixed through changing our DNA, and any physical problems we are able to fix will only make the spiritual worse.  Thus God promises to transform our spirits and then re-create our bodies.  Notice how the book of Revelation ends with the reality that God will complete His purpose of fixing not only mankind, but all of creation.  We will dwell with God in perfect relationship in a New Heavens and a New Earth (Revelation 21:1-5).  God states unequivocally that this story will have a particular ending.  We will be back in close fellowship with God.  The heavens and the earth will be remade.  This is no reason to abuse the earth, but rather recognition of what God’s desire is.  Will you embrace God’s story today?  There is a place for you within this story.  However, if we reject the Creator of all creation, we not only will find ourselves fighting against nature, but also nature’s God.  The other narrative puts man in the driver’s seat of a vehicle that is careening out of control.

His Story Audio

Tuesday
May222012

Facing the Schemes of the Devil

If you have become a child of God then you will need to learn to deal with temptation and to conquer it.  I don’t say this in a legalistic sense but, as the Bible shows us, we have an enemy who is working to try and either destroy our faith or neutralize it.  Let’s take some time looking at the temptation of Jesus by the devil in Matthew 4:1-11.

There Are Different Kinds Of Temptations

Three different attempts are made to tempt Jesus in this passage and they are very different.  We need to realize that Satan has a whole toolbox of tricks that he uses to trip up believers and unbelievers.  In Ephesians 6:11 the Bible says:

“Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” (NKJV).

“Wiles” comes from the same root that we get the word “method.”  Thus our enemy has methods, strategies, and operations by which he tries to trap us.

Temptation #1, Jesus is tempted to please his flesh above the spiritual.  There is nothing wrong with eating bread.  However, Jesus had been “led” into the wilderness by the Spirit of God.  He was preparing himself for the coming ministry through prayer, fasting, and facing temptation.  Food was not a priority on this mission, but being in concert with the Father was.  The enemy loves to get us to focus on any desire of our flesh above the higher spiritual things of God.  But the stomach of Jesus is not the only target.  Satan target’s the pride of Jesus when he says, “If you are the son of God…”  This trick of the devil manipulates us to prove ourselves.  Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8 that man lives by every word from God’s mouth, not just bread.   When you look into the context of that verse you realize that Moses was telling Israel that God took them through the wilderness and allowed them to thirst and hunger, so that they might look past the bread and seek him.  It was a test.  Thus Jesus doesn’t just throw a bible verse at the devil, rather, he shows that he knows the heart of this temptation.  Good things can get between us and God.

Temptation #2, Jesus is tempted to use God’s Word for selfish gain.  In this temptation the devil takes Jesus to the highest point in the Temple and tries to get him to jump.  The reasoning is that the Bible promises that God will keep the messiah from dashing his foot against a stone.  God will be forced to supernaturally protect Jesus in front of the multitudes at the temple.  Thus Jesus will be accepted.  God’s Word is not given for us to twist to our own ends, or to manipulate God into accomplishing our desires.  This presumes upon the goodness of God.  God will not be played a fool.  Thus Jesus quotes a verse that says you shall not tempt the Lord your God.  How is this tempting God?  You are tempting God to quit giving you his goodness and to judge you.  We can do this today by using the amazing grace of Jesus as a license to sin.  God has promised to forgive us our sins.  Thus I can sin as much as I want and just ask forgiveness after the fact.  In Romans 6 Paul says, “God forbid.”  This kind of attitude is spiritually dangerous and tempts God to judge us.  It is important to note here that the devil can quote scripture.  It is always twisted and perverted out of its context but he makes it look good.  The Bible says that the devil transforms himself into an angel of light.  That means he comes looking as if he is God’s messenger to you.  He carries a bible and quotes scripture.  He may even have a church where he preaches every Sunday.  We need to verify for ourselves that any “teaching” from another really does line up with all the word of God.  Jesus doesn’t argue Satan’s verses.  Instead he points out that there are other Scriptures.  He quotes from Exodus 17 where Moses is reminding them of an incident where they were accusing Moses and God of bringing them into the desert to kill them.  God sent poisonous serpents into the assembly as a judgment to their accusatory demands.  They were in effect rejecting God’s way through the wilderness.  Was Jesus going to reject God’s way, which involved death on a cross, or would he try to force another way?

Temptation #3, Jesus is tempted to idolatry.  Satan doesn’t quote any scripture this time nor does he employ any subtlety either.  This temptation simply comes as a brute force attack.  Following God won’t work.  Just worship me and you will get it all in a far easier way.  Will you stick with God and receive what he has for you or will you worship another to get something “better?”  Many sell their souls to the devil for the fame and wealth of this world.  But it is always far less than it looks and it never satisfies.  Jesus saw through this blatant charade and reminds Satan that man should worship God alone.

God’s Children Will Face These Temptations And More

Whether Satan is subtle or not his temptations are always strong and must be resisted.  Several lessons can be learned as we look at this passage and meditate on it.  First, a battle always comes on the heels of times when we know that God has spoken.  In chapter 3 Jesus had just been baptized as the Holy Spirit descended upon him and the Father spoke from heaven, “This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.”  Yet, immediately the Spirit takes him into the wilderness where the tempter tries to bring him down.

Another lesson is that we need to face temptation privately in our hearts before we can truly conquer it in public.  We should never settle for merely looking like we have avoided temptation.  God will not settle for appearance only.  But on a different note, why live such a life that would not be filled with joy?  Often we need to get alone in prayer and the word and break down the lies of the enemy.  Perhaps we need some mature, godly counsel.  But don’t settle.  Lastly, the devil uses temptation to neutralize our ability to do anything for God.  God’s way makes us useful for others, but his way fixates us on ourselves.  You may be able to find some other lessons upon further study.

Satan uses temptation to try and destroy or at least neutralize our faith.  But, he also uses temptation to keep those who don’t know God trapped in the chains of sin.  Let’s be aware of the methods of the enemy and combat them in our life.  Let’s also be wise in how we approach the lost.  May God help us to demolish the lies of the enemy in their life through love and truth.

Facing the Schemes Audio